Hill fitness? Don’t make me laugh!

Putting the world behind me one step at a time

Cycling. Is it my thing?

I make my living talking about cycle racing. I have many happy memories of racing a bicycle. Here’s the thing though. I think I may not be a cyclist anymore.

Let’s take a look at my cycling history.

I had a Triang Trike. Bloody loved that thing and then graduated to a Moulton AM-2 ( I think). In my childhood cycling equalled freedom. However as I reached my teens I discovered guitar, and (a bit later) women and cycling took a back seat.

Skip forward a few years and mountains, which had always fascinated me, had become an overwhelming obsession. The bike reappeared as a way to keep fit after my climbing and guitar playing chum Andy Heatlie beat my bus home from his house riding a bike. I thought that was very cool. The crossover between mountaineering fitness and bike fitness was natural.

Later, whilst still a mountaineer, I started working at the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op, and surrounded by a cadre of like minded folk I got drawn into racing. My mountain climbing upper body condemned me to the ranks of time triallists but it was fun. The peer pressure drove us all on to new heights of fitness. Some of the best years of my life.

Then I had a crash that changed everything. I destroyed my left elbow. Couldn’t ride or rock/ice climb, got depressed, drank too much, got fat….yadda, yadda…it’s a common story.

So, here we are. A few decades later and we have a rejuvenated John. Dodgy hip (another story) replaced, able to ride a bike again, with dreams of racing in his head. Except, other than the pure delight of being able to ride a bike and enjoy the scenery again, I’m not really that into it. An hour into a three hour ride last week I was bored. I prefer walking the dog!

Lightbulb moment! My obsession with actually riding a bike has never been about cycling. Other than simple childhood joy it was first about staying fit for mountaineering. Then, when I was in the racing group at Edinburgh Bicycle, it was about competition and peer pressure. I’ve never ridden the bike for it’s own sake as an adult.

So, I remain obsessed with bike racing and bike tech, but as an observer rather than a participant. It’s frankly difficult and slightly baffling to come to terms with.

I’ve no idea why I wrote this other than to empty my head and I’ve no idea where my relationship with our wonderful machine will go, but I know I still enjoy pedalling. I just have to rediscover why.



A Year On

Nearly a year on from the last post on this blog I’m moved to write again. It’s very much related to the last post.

Today I posted a tweet saying I was tempted to pack the car and head off to a sector of Pave tomorrow and I subsequently received a deluge of “Why don’t you?” DM’s and emails.

So, here’s the answer.

When I left the Royal Mail I had a picture in my head. Scott and I would roam the races of the world, a disruptive force within a complacent cycling press. ;o) The first experience we had of that (Paris-Roubaix) convinced us of one thing. We produced better shows if at least one of us is at home base actually following the race on television. It quickly became apparent that nearly all “cycling journalism” was a simple regurgitation of post race interviews.

Visit your preferred sites and contrast and compare. This isn’t a condemnation, just an observation.

In addition we are fans first and foremost, not journos. We don’t have the luxury of having our overheads covered by mainstream press commissions. We have to ask the question. “We could be on site, would it produce better content?” If the answer is “Yes”? (Scott’s superb content produced after he spent a week embedded with Trek Factory Racing at The Classics being a perfect example) then we’ll happily spend money hand over fist to be there. If the answer is “We could be there but the shows wouldn’t be as good.”?  We’ll stay at home. Truth is that if you’re by the side of the road you get a very brief snapshot of the race.

Stage 5 is a perfect example. I WANT to be there. I REALLY WANT to be there. I started packing the car. The fact is that I’ll produce better content if I watch the entire race unfold though. You folk are paying us for our insight. We don’t see the whole race unfold? We don’t produce the best content we can. So, to get the insight and commentary we want to give you we need to watch the race. We can do that in a press room at the race “on location” as most folk following the race do or we can do it at home base and guarantee we can get shows to you in a timely manner every day with a bomb proof internet connection.

That’s a no brainer.

Are we unique in commenting on races at a distance? Well, at a recent Grand Tour one journo’s tweets were geolocated “Hounslow”. ;o) 

We have one focus. To provide you with value for money content.


1947 – 1950: You Want Drama? We’ve Got Drama

A while ago on a podcast I had the pleasure to have a long chat with @festinairl pleasure The Twitter. Her constant questioning has led folk to brand her a shallow single issue troublemaker re doping. Hell, even I’ve lost my patience with her from time to time. 😉
Off mic what came over was a different person. A three dimensional, passionate, informed fan of the sport I love. That comes across here. Great stuff.

100 Tours 100 Tales


1947 tour de france

It started – and ended – with drama. And an aeroplane – covering the race for Equipe for the first time – fell out of the skies in the Pyrenees…

1947 – the Tour of Liberation – was surely the year of the ‘Roi Rene‘. Vietto pulled off a veritable exploit in winning stage 2, the 182 km from Lille – Brussels, escaping with 180km to race and riding the last 130km alone. He held the Maillot Jaune for virtually the rest of the race after staging an admirable defence in the mountains. He was home free, just the little matter of a 139km TT through Brittany to deal with…

And he cracked. He lost the Jersey to Brambilla who had ridden strongly through the mountains – he took the meilleur grimpeur prize – and it looked like Brambilla would…

View original post 1,730 more words

Getting Old

Today, around one p.m., I took a call from my eldest boy. He’d finished his last exam and was about to hit the pub with his course mates. The wee boy who fitted in my palm when he was born had finished his university course, Seems only yesterday he was playing on the beach with Meagaidh.
With his younger brother currently in China for a year teaching English?
and the youngest child stretching her intellect and boundaries…..
I feel old. Know what though? If you’d told me Ailsa and I could have raised such wonderful kids? I’d have laughed in your face.

Back to reasoned comment soon. For now? Bursting with pride.


I’d planned to start a discussion with Andy of BikePure via this blog today but had to see a doctor re my dodgy hip. I’ll endeavour to do the BikePure post tomorrow.

Funny thing today, the doctor I got was a delightfully blunt Dutch women. Never mind calling a spade a spade, she calls it a “fucking shovel”.

Prognosis is that there is significant wear in the joint and rotation is compromised. Flexion however is relatively unaffected so after appropriate pain relief I should be able to ride.

Pain relief started.

Advice to others? Please don’t enjoy outdoor activities, you’ll regret it when you’re older and the life affirming experiences you’ll have really aren’t worth it. *sarcasm*

Physical stuff aside? I’m nearly fifty and I really get the feeling that next year is going to be one of the most exciting ones to date.

I’ll keep in touch.

Dirty Dopers and Damn Assumptions.

Today Juan Jose Cobo Acebo won the 2011 Vuelta Espana after a total of 3295km of racing. Twitter has been afire with suspicions about his murky past. Hell, he beat our new British hero (was unaware that bits of Africa still counted as British) Chris Froome and relegated our Brad to third!

He must be cheating!

Given the number of folk citing his dodgy history I’m surprised there’s any doubt in folk’s minds.

So. Cobo as doper? Well, during the Ricco “golden years” of Saunier Duval? As Riccardo and Piepoli danced up the mountains fuelled by blood the consistency of molasses? Cobo was there. Doped to the gills in a team dirty as a dirty thing’s dirty bits. Dirty rider IMHO. No proof, just opinion, but the differences were HUGE.

This year, on this Vuelta though? Given the tentatively brave new world of possibly, maybe, might just be credible, clean racing?

Let’s take a look at some of those assumptions and assertions.

“His ride to take the red jersey was “incredible””

Well he won the Angliru stage but, on the most heinous stage on the Modern Grand Tour circuit, he managed to wrestle a whole 48 seconds from a Chris Froome who’d clearly waited on the hill for Wiggins.

48 seconds?

A damning indictment! What are we to make of riders who gain more than that gap on any easier stage? Dopers all?

Let’s look at the finish of the three weeks.

After 3295km of racing he beat Froome ( a denizen of Her Majesty’s Empire so obviously squeaky clean) by a whole 13 seconds. That’s 0.0949924127 seconds per kilometer. Clear justification for hints of dopage. Hell, all those thousands of Euros paid to the likes of Fuentes for less than .1 of a second per kilometer? Money well spent. Is 0.0949924127 seconds per kilometer the difference between doper and paragon?

OK, all this Reductio ad absurdum shit is fun but the bottom line is that we live in changing times and our attitudes need to change with those times.

Rider who doped may be clean now whatever they did in the past.

Intelligent training may have narrowed the gap.

Big races have been more credible.

Constant cynicism is killing the sport we love. Doping is worse but why bother watching a sport in which every exceptional performance is greeted with scepticism?

My position? My bottom line given the current situation?

I don’t think I could express it better than I did in this tweet to my chum Stu Maclean this evening.

“Actually what this all comes down to is due process. I’m sick of the UCI applying rulings as they see fit. I’m sick of folk slandering riders and trying them in the court of public opinion. I want a fair, transparent, process that riders and public alike can trust. I want change.”

If you’re unhappy with an aspect of our sport? Strive to make a difference.

If you’re just moaning or speculating? STFU!

Dopers suck, so do haters.

Stuff from the hut. Part one ;o)

OK in no particular order I have the following stuff to get rid of. Will post to eBay later today so if you’re interested drop me a mail or DM. Any vaguely reasonable offer accepted.

58 cm Dave Yates 653 frameset with Alpina full carbon fork. 1″ Campy aheadset. Adaptor sleeve for 1 1/8th stems. 56 cm top tube. Metallic purple good condition.

Velocity Aerohead rims on Ultegra hubs 32 hole. 3x rear wheel, radial front wheel with bladed spokes. Not built by me but I’ll check them over before despatch.V Good condition.

Dura Ace Octalink Crankset. No rings. 172.5 mm. V V Good condition.

Italian thread Dura Ace Bottom Bracket to suit the above.

USE Alien titanium seatpost, Cyclops fitting.

Look Keo pedals. Carbon body, Cromoly axle.

The following bits of an Ultegra 9 speed Groupset

Crankset. 172.5 mm

DP brakes

rear mech

27.2 seatpost

A cuddly toy

A set of 9 speed 105 STI units double not triple front shifter.. Winter bike fodder. Scraped up but working fine.

Deda 250 Anatomic bars 44 cm 26.0 clamp

Cinelli Spinacci bars, silver.

Mail me at john.galloway @lineone.net or DM me on Twitter. All shipping at cost. More to follow. ;o)

Well Done Chum!

Ancient history. 

Back in the mists of time Scott and I started The Velocast and sent our voices out into the ether. We saw that folk were downloading the show around the world and the numbers were growing steadily. We were operating in a vacuum though, the show was the social equivalent of one hand clapping.

One day though a “bong” announced the arrival of an email.

The world had started to talk back!

The email had arrived from a native of Hawick, although he was now an ex-pat living in St Albans in deepest Englandshire.

A native of Hawick, 32 miles from Peebles. We’re downloaded worldwide and the first person we hear from was born 32 miles away???? I was slightly deflated.

I shouldn’t have been.

That email started a virtual friendship which has been a thread that has run through me learning to use social media and continues to the present day.

That email was from the legend that is Fun Run Robbie.

FRR is a podcast enthusiast. 

The 2 John’s podcast and The Velo Club Don Logan ‘cast also received FRR’s enthusiastic mails as well as the wee surprises that arrive from FRR in the post. Mugs, customised to suit their recipient, badges, custom birthday cards etc all accompanied by notes that make you smile. I laughed aloud when the first parcel arrived, simply addressed to “John Galloway, The Fastest Postie in Peeblesshire”.

FRR just has a lust for life and can’t help sharing it.

That’s just background to this post though.

FRR and I are both what he likes to call “Big Boned Borderers“.

He’s being kind.

I like to call us “Formerly Very Fit Blokes Who Got Fat.”

Me? Raced bikes. Tolerable time-trialist but crap road racer. This was the result of an upper body that was a result of a decade of rock climbing and mountaineering. On the hill if we didn’t cut the guide book time for an approach to a route in half we weren’t trying. ;o)

FRR? Top end club runner, sub three hour marathon runner.

That’s Where the Similarities End

Some time ago, I think probably a year or so, FRR started exercising again. Now I still ride fairly often and I’ve toyed with the idea of getting properly fit again but it’s hard. When you’ve been good at something it’s hard to be inspired by aspirations to mediocrity. Hard to suffer so much to grind up climbs you used to fly up. Just plain demoralising. So, I’ve slunk back to my sofa and said “Next time”.

FRR though has stuck with it. From the initial “Soft shoe shuffle” runs to his epic battle with his own Moby Dick “The Dutchman” on his commute to his introduction to the fine art of time trialling he’s stuck with it and kept us all informed via Twitter.

This last weekend he traveled back to the place of his birth and tackled the 55 mile version of the Ken Laidlaw Sportive. 55 miles? Pah eh? These 55 miles have teeth though, particularly if you still have a few pounds to lose as FRR himself admits. Climbs in the Border country of Scotland that hurt like hell when I was race fit. Climbs that have featured in hilly time trials won by some of the greats of Scottish cycling.

FRR started way below ground zero compared to his peak fitness days. He stuck with it  through all weathers and he achieved the goals he set himself.

Call him what you like.

Podcast groupie? ;o) Certainly.

Slightly bonkers? Undoubtedly.

I call him Stewart Barker though and he’s living proof that these relationships we build up via social media aren’t in some way fake or trivial.

I’m proud to call him friend.

I Knew He Looked Familiar!

For the last 4 years I’ve collected mail from a local business. Every day I turn up at around the same time and the warehouse guy and I trip out the same old platitudes.

“Not a bad day”

“The weather’s shite”

etc etc.

Today there was a glitch in the matrix.

Warehouse guy said “I’ve got an international item, it’s got to go to Belgium”

Almost as a reflex I recited the  the old saw. “Name a famous Belgian!” Quick as a flash warehouse guy said “Eddy Merckx!”

“Whoa!” thought I. He’s heard of Eddy!

What followed was a delightful ten minute conversation.

I started cycling to keep fit for mountaineering.

He drifted away from cycling to start mountaineering.

We both had a relationship with the bike that dated back to our earliest memories.

We’d raced against each other FFS!

Moral of the story? Well, everybody looks different with their helmet off. ;o)………and talk to people. This guy I’d taken for granted for the last few years was really interesting and our paths had crossed many times. Yet I had no idea.

It’s a small world.

“Cyclists” Are Dicks.

Great things are afoot in the cycling world. Scotty has been more than ably commenting on it on The Velocast Journal (still feels weird seeing content from Velocast without an  [S] or [J] involved). However, whilst the great and the good get on with the business of Professional Cycling I’m going to talk about matters closer to home. Demographically as much as Geographically.

I’m lucky enough to live in Peebles, the jewel in the crown of The 7 Stanes. Home of world class mountain biking trails and gateway to road routes that are as good as anything available in the UK. A cyclist’s paradise.

A honeypot. A flytrap. If it’s on two wheels and self powered it’ll make it’s way to Peebles.

“Aye, there’s the rub”

I started in bicycle retail at a time when if you were engaged enough to visit a shop like The Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative as it was in then, as opposed to the hugely successful retail behemoth it is now, then I’d give you the benefit of the doubt. I am notably intolerant (ask Scotty) but if you walked through those doors I had something in common with you. We were cyclists. Simplistic? Yes but generally true.

Commuter? Cyclist.

Tourer? Cyclist.

Mountain biker? Trailblazer and cyclist, often a mountaineer or hillwalker as well.

Racer? Cyclist.

etc, etc,

These groups weren’t mutually exclusive, usually any given customer spanned two or three of these facets of enjoying the bike.

However at some point mountain biking moved from a thing cyclists did to an “extreme” sport/pastime. I know this is a sweeping generalization and that most of the folk who are taking the trouble to read this grumpy old man rant are folk I would have enjoyed having as customers back in the day but the shift happened.

Let’s take a wee trip back in time.

The approach to the outdoors drummed into me as a young ‘un can be neatly encapsulated in the phrase “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints” (may be a Steppenwolf lyric)

Backpacking? If you carry it in then carry it out. Leave no avoidable trace.

Climbing? Same deal.

Cycling? Ditto.

So, why am I angry today? Well it’s been a week of disappointment for me. As my two collies and I wander the hills around Peebles we cover every kind of terrain from remote, narrow trails through unfrequented forests to the cycling skateparks of The 7 Stanes. Here’s this week’s observations.

Monday: Glentress. Came back from a two hour walk with a rucsac full of discarded juice bottles, crisp bags, discarded energy gels………..

Tuesday: Plora. Two discarded inner tubes. Damn tasty for a deer I’d think.

Wednesday: Harehope. A good day, only rubbish I saw was a discarded condom wrapper. Kudos for some obscure outdoor nookie! ;o)

Thurday: Nether Stewarton forest. Delicate bog plants ripped apart by mountain bike tyre tracks, damage to small paths caused by resultant tyre rut drainage channels.

Friday: Glentress again, more litter.

Today: Saw a road cyclist run onto the verge by a car carrying a Giant XTC and an Anthem. Saw a Peebles town centre road blocked by a Golf with three hardcore bikes on the rack. The occupants had gone for chips. Last year I mentioned on the Velocast how, whilst out on the road bike, I’d been given the finger and run off the road by a car which had a Commencal and a Santa Cruz on the back.

Bottom line? We’re a community here and you no doubt share my disgust but for the normal man in the street? These folk are “cyclists” and damage the land, litter and generally behave like dicks and we’re all tarred with the same brush. These arseholes affect us all and the bicycle advocates can have all of the “interesting debates” they want amongst themselves but it wont make a jot of difference to how we’re treated.

A Velocast title from last year. “The Battle is Lost in Britain”