23 September 2008

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Cycling Through the Winter – Part Two

Last week this column focused on the recreational side of cycling and in particular the lure of the ‘grand tour’.  It seems that some North Down members decided to take a ‘long tour’ last Saturday, leaving the club rooms at 9 am and cycling to Downpatrick before taking the Marie Curie charity cycle.  According to event organiser, Terry Nicoletti, the whole affair was a great success, with thirty club members completing the trip. 

The route to Downpatrick was navigated through mainly minor roads in dry and sunny conditions (summer has arrived).  However, no one had informed the farming community and their cattle that there would also be cyclists using the roads; hence there were some dirty bikes on arrival at the ‘sign on’. 


The official charity tour proceeded via Tyrella to Killough for lunch, returning to Downpatrick through Ardglass and Strangford.  North Down CC riders then cycled back to Bangor after some refreshments, giving an overall distance for the day of 94 miles!


The Grand Tour

Last week some pointers as to planning a big tour were mentioned, and bearing in mind the trip last Saturday it’s worth bearing in mind that you should know your limitations. It's easy to get carried away. Trying to bite off more than you can chew will make it miserable. If this is going to be your very first tour, make it a modest few days in relatively easy terrain and climate. If your heart is set on a more ambitious project, at least allow yourself the time to build up fitness and get in a couple of days of practice beforehand. 


One former member of North Down Cycling Club planned his first European tour on the strength of one cycle to Donaghadee and back!  He worked out a route and a schedule which took him across England before catching the ferry to Holland.  His planned cycle then was to take him through Germany, Belgium and France before crossing to Dover and cycling back up through England.  However, his tour became a saga when he found that he could not maintain his expected average of twenty miles per hour with a fully laden bike and mountainous terrain! 



Once you've decided where and how you want to go, it's time to check over some of the details. How will you get there and back? Will you need to make any transfers during the tour (e.g. ferry connections, border crossings etc)? What are the costs? When are services available? What is the prevailing wind direction? Do all this early on to avoid any nasty surprises later down the line and also to build up the excitement which planning can stimulate.

If travelling at a busy time of year or on a tight schedule, you might want to book some accommodation. This will involve a degree of advance route planning. Schedule reservations carefully, being conservative with the distances you might cover. Remember laden bikes go slower and unfamiliar areas can throw up difficult terrain. The weather, mechanicals and that extra glass of wine at lunch might slow you up. Do you really want to see nightfall with 25 miles of nagging headwind still to go?

But one of the best things about touring is the freewheeling nature of it all, so try to be as flexible as your itinerary will allow and you are comfortable with. Maybe you'll see a turn-off you fancy taking. Perhaps you'll make new friends you want to hang-out with a little longer.

If you think you can get away with route planning on a day to day basis, do so. But don't let it become a stress either – you don't want to spend all day worrying that you won't find a bed at your destination. You can always tread the middle ground of following only a vague itinerary and booking ahead, a day or two in advance, while on the road.  Don't forget you might also want some days off the bike.

Maintenance  Course

All club members are invited to the first bike maintenance course this Friday (26th September) in the clubrooms.  To book your place you m ust make contact with the event organiser Noel Boyce  (noel@kestrelp.fslife.co.uk). The course, which will be taken by bike mechanic extraordinaire, Declan McMackin, will last from 7pm – 9pm and will happen on a bi-weekly basis.  The content of the course will be geared (excuse the pun) to the needs of the group.  For example, it will cover simple tasks, such as road side repairs to more advanced maintenance like headset replacement. This certainly promises to be a very worthwhile venture which will be appealing to many, especially the recent converts to the sport.

National Vets’ Championships


Paul Swenarton finished off a very successful season by travelling to Dublin for the Vets’ Track Championship. In the 500 Time Trial he was 5th in a time of 40.18.  In the 200m TT he went one better taking 4th spot in a time of 13.49.  As a noted time trialist, Paul was looking forward to the 3 km pursuit and he wasn’t disappointed taking the silver in 4.34.13.  However, it was in the team sprint where he eventually struck gold, being ably assisted by Hugh Davis and Willie Cannon.  A fine set of results from the unassuming Bangor man.

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