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Monday, 9 July 2012

Reduction and purpose

This blog has been static for too long due to a raft of reasons. Among them is the fact that, except going over old ground there would have been little to report. Another trip to Coniston gave me a PB over that course, and a trip to the Greater Manchester Marathon ended in near hypothermia at the finish line.
However, putting together some thoughts on my personal take on cyclocross for article not to be of this parish has given me space to think, and a couple of ideas follow.

1. Reduction


I've posted before about my love of the one geared bike. One of my reasons for a lack of posting has been spending time with my young daughter. And because of this the bike which needs next to zero maintenance has become as invaluable as it is loved. As Matt Chester had pointed out on 5mod, there is more probably waffle than truth written about how riders of old road heroic distances and gradients on their fixed machines. However, this doesn't detract from the fact that a 1-by-X drive train is simpler, and less prone to break down than an Y-by-X drive train. And as X is reduced to one, there's even less to go wrong. I think this form equipment reductionism kicks against the current trend in cycling for Formula 1 frames and ever more complex equipment choices. Choice is, of course, the buzzword of society in the 21st Century Western world. But when it boils down to it, what is it that you need from your bike and what is it that you desire based on it being ridden by the latest incarnation of your favourite pro team or the glossiest of adverts in the latest magazine?


I appreciate that this line of thinking won't be followed by everyone, but it is how I have got to where I am today, with "as little bike as possible". And even the biggest of corporations are remembering the original state of the art: witness SRAM's XX1 groupset officially launched last week. 



While I was out cyclocross training with some club mates yesterday I was asked if riding singlespeed doesn't just make it harder. Harder may not be the right word. Different is probably right. But it does bring me to my second point.


2. Purpose

Back with Matt Chester, and his Redux article on offroad drop bar setup. I've now forgotten the reason I was re-reading this article, but one phrase reached out and struck me as I did. "This is all important, but there's really no substitute for getting yourself in shape". Now, I like to think of myself as being reasonably fit through running regularly and riding a little less so. I'm also a reasonable rider uphill on tarmac. However, I have been looking to find a bit more in my climbing on grass and dirt and in particular I have been trying to climb in the drops on these surfaces rather than on the hoods or tops of my bars. Following Matt Chester's advice I have begun trying to add some core strength training into my day. Who knows if it was psychosomatic or not, but yesterday I did feel like I was getting up some grassy slopes much better than before.


But I'd go further as well. If you want to be fit for whatever reason, a real lifestyle choice needs to be made. What's your killer? For me, it's the chocolates and sweets that people bring back from work trips to share with the office; for you it might be the extra pint or pie. The decision to be made is to spend your way to a possible improvement or to live your way to a definite gain. Jez Hastings and I have talked about this several times in conversation: most of us just need to live more like athletes in order to fulfil our sporting dreams and ambitions and spend less on glamorous kit, which while lovely offers little to no actual benefit.


And so, reduction and purpose have become intertwined in my mind. There may be too much thought behind this. It may be overblown. But I sincerely hope not.

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