I don’t belong.

22 02 2016

I don’t belong out here just yet.

It has been a while since I last felt at home, out here.

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I’m out of the woods, literally. Whatever robbed me of capacity to exercise seems to have dissipated and it is time to get some fitness back. By hook or by crook.

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So I am out here, riding. Two hours in and the pedal strokes still seem to be coming strong. I’m going to ascend Conic Hill, drop down the other side, to the banks of Loch Lomond, then head for home.

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In the woods, where I have been riding this last few months, it is all upper body, direction and balance work. Brief, hard efforts, but mostly trying to find my flow in-between  the trees. Not much use for building endurance. Good fun, though.

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The first ride where I need to push the pedals for more than an hour without a break is always strange. It usually comes just as the frustration of winter confinement reaches a new level of insufferablility. I often struggle to break through, to become used to hours of effort rather than seconds. It signals the slow grind to fitness for spring and summer riding. Next will come the ‘time accelerating’ part. I will ride and before I know it four hours will pass. Then six and so on.

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I struggle to ride Conic Hill, the 32:36 is nowhere near as low as I have become used to. There must be something to these extended range cassettes. Either that, or I am truly in a sorry place.

Four hours hurt today, but it is good. I don’t belong just yet, but I will soon.

 





#S.M.A.T

13 02 2016

#SMAT, or the Social Media Adventure Team, is a ‘project’, for want of a better word, started (I believe) by Rick Hunter, in order to gently and irreverently poke fun at the concept of using social media to advertise (or adventurtise). In other words, to sell outdoor gear. Rick has significant chops when it comes to long distance self supported riding and bike touring. Reading about his exploits is a fine way to generate some wanderlust and more than a few laughs.

This photo was lifted from the 8lumens feed – a finer posse of champs you may never meet. Go to http://8lumens.bigcartel.com

I got to thinking about this concept recently after reading this piece by Bedrock & Paradox and a conversation with a friend about social media advertising in general and indeed how people represent themselves on social media.

Take this blog, for instance. I am relatively selective about the information and stories I portray here. It probably paints a certain picture of me and I have mixed feelings about that. Without experiencing the ‘whole me’ assumptions about what I do, where, how often and in what style will be made. You, kind reader, generate a subjective view. I have no idea if what I type here is a true and valid reflection or some sort of self-aggrandising, internet-tough-guy bullshit. Hopefully, it is the former!

As ever, there are some very divisive examples and one is Specialised Bicycles and their #goAWOL and ‘seek and enjoy‘ programs. These involve some cool folk doing cool things on bikes. It looks like a lot of fun and I am, quite frankly, jealous. I suspect, at least partly, that is the desired effect. Maybe I will go and buy the bike and therefore attain the lifestyle.

Of course the issue here is one of authenticity. As everyone knows, you can’t buy authenticity.

Specialized also have some credibility issues due to their fierce and renowned habit of legally defending what they deem to be their intellectual and trademarked property. Rightly, or wrongly, it tends to rub people up the wrong way. One such example was forcing a well known and bona fide, adventuring bag maker to change his companies name.

A few years later and they are supporting ambassadors, out there, doing epic things and producing spiffy, design concepts.

Of course, everybody just wants to have fun and perhaps make some money. So, social media advertising is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is beginning to take over my instagram feed. Brand ambassadors are an important part of most companies product exposure efforts these days. Beautiful people in beautiful places. A (branded) mug of coffee steaming at sunrise next to a precipitously pitched tent and a trail leading off into the distance. Mind fodder. Dream building. Lust inducing. And perhaps, sometimes, slightly fraudulent.





Saturation.

8 02 2016

I am at my limit. Again. Another year and I still cannot get my head around the seemingly endless crappy weather-and-hence-trail-conditions we have on the west coast of Scotland. True enough, plenty of other folk on this fair (ish) isle have had a rougher time. The north of England, I’m talking about you.

But February is proving to be a looooong month as the rain just refuses to subside for more than a few hours. The Met Office, whose pic I have used above, reported December’s rainfall as being, well, a hell of a lot. I quote: ‘For Scotland, this is already the wettest ever calendar month in our series since 1910, with 333 mm in the first 29 days easily beating the previous record of 301 mm which was set as recently as December 2013.’ and with regards to January, for ‘Scotland it was the second wettest calendar month in the series, with December 2015 having been the wettest.’

Ugh.

The incredibly mild weather means none of the moisture is being locked down and as a result the trails are turning to slop. Every time it rains, the water just sits on the saturated ground. The trails become streams with the wear and tear only rushing water can create.

Anyway. We try. We go and surf around in the puddles and muck. Claw globs of soaking, gritty mud from clothes and skin afterwards and slip into idle dreams of a kind spring, a gentle spring as reward for putting up with this crap.

I have some miles to get back. My body is finally responding as it ought to and I don’t want to spend the next 6 weeks blistering my hands raw on the ergo. Please.

Please.