Keep the rubber side down: Things I apparently haven’t learned about cycling

On Cycling Crashes

So it’s now three months since The Incident – i.e. doing an endo on my road bike at about 35 kph. Full disclosure: two km into my first club ride with Sarum Velo I decided to  shift from the brake hoods to the drops to negotiate an upcoming turn, and (it would appear) hit the brake lever in the process. One moment happy, the next moment upside down skidding down the pavement on my soft pink skin. It was, said the following riders, spectacular.

The result of a moment’s inattention was two broken bones, a bunch of road rash and a whole lot of torn muscles. I have broken a fair amount of bones in my day – these were #10 and 11 I believe – mostly as a result of excess enthusiasm (Broom-i-Loo comes to mind) and a broken rib or two is par for the course for cycling crashes.  The fractured acromion was a new one. For those not up on anatomy the acromion is the bit of the scapula that connects to the collarbone at the self-evidently named acromio-clavicular (AC) joint. I was somewhat dismayed when my fortyish orthopedic surgeon stated that he had never seen a broken acromion – one is always more confident when they have seen a million of them! A bit of research showed why. Only 3% of traumatic injuries involve a fracture to the shoulder area, and of these only 3% include a broken acromion. If you break an acromion you are 20% likely to have been killed in the process. So OK, I this was a special one.

The result was eight weeks in a sling, then a gradual process of physio and strengthening. Tom, my Army-supplied therapist, is really good and as a triathlete he totally gets that I want to get back on the bike ASAP. He is doing his best to manage expectations, but sometime this week I am cleared to try a flat ride of 10-15 km.

The prognosis is full recovery, with the bone recovering full strength at the six month point, and full muscle strength (such as it is!) recovered after five months.

The Gios, you will be pleased to hear, has had a much easier road to recovery. The fine folk at Stonehenge Cycles have got her fully back to fighting form and she looks at me every day hoping to be let out of the barn.

Gios Cinquantenairo

So, is there a moral to all of this? Well, I could conclude that riding bikes is for the young and easily healed, but that ain’t happening. In the soft coddled lives that we lead there needs to be some sort of challenge to maintain a connection between the real world and the unreal virtual world where I write emails for a living. Riding a bike fast is glorious, but it wouldn’t have the same value if it didn’t have the element of real risk. To get all Kierkegaardian about it, fear, danger and occasional massive pain seem to be the price to pay to be in the real world, driving the horse cart home instead of falling asleep and letting the horse take the lead. Just the same, I could have gotten the same reality-value out of a near miss, so… perhaps a I will try to be a bit more prudent in future. At least until I’m back at race pace! 🙂

The easily fixable damage:

Cinelli handlebar

Selle Italia SLR saddle

Lazer helmet (though sadly not as perfect a match for my bike colours that the now-dented Bell Alchera on the right)

Cycling crashes - Bike helmets

Internal bits of the shifters (Thanks to Campagnolo for making spare parts available, unlike that other component manufacturer…)

Brake hood covers (ditto)

Shifter cables and bar tape

Bib shorts

Not replaceable:

My favourite jersey

Cycling crashes - Bike Jersey

My faithful 14-year old Cyclomaster 409 computer

Moon X Power 500 Cycling Headlight

Moon X Power 500 Cycling Headlight

The winter days are very short in my current location so I asked the guys at Stonehenge Cycles for a recommendation on lights for night riding. I don’t generally ride more than 90 minutes at night so a hub generator would be overkill, but I do need bright lights for the narrow country lanes around Salisbury. And I’m tired of cheap lights that corrode into uselessness because they aren’t watertight. They recommended the Moon X Power 500. The price was £80 at time of purchase, but this has now dropped to the £60 range.

Moon X Power 500 Cycling Light
Moon headlight and taillight

 

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Rôti de porc poêlé

Rôti de porc poêlé

(Adapted from Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1)

This has become one of our all-time favourite recipes and a great option for small dinner parties, but we came across it in an odd way. We were planning a big dinner because my sister Marianne was coming to visit us in Edmonton. I had come across a recipe for pork roast that sounded great – the sauce included madeira and three kinds of mushrooms. We were in Safeway picking out some chanterelles when Lynn said “does Marianne eat mushrooms?” Zut! She hates them and has been known to pick them off of pizza before eating it. So what to do with the large pork roast we had already acquired? A quick scan through the cooking “bibles” led us to this recipe. It is easy to make, delicious and not at all fiddly. With the exception of a bit of mashing at the end, the work is done and cleaned up long before the guests arrive.

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Swiss Steak – Eleanor Kerr’s Recipe

Simple and delicious! This recipe comes from my late and dearly missed mother-in-law, Eleanor Kerr. Unlike most Swiss Steak recipes there is no tomato included – just pure beef for beef lovers. It must be served with mashed potatoes so you can mop up the gravy.

This could be made with the finest artisanal heritage locally sourced Wagyu beef, but actually it works really well with whatever you have.

Ingredients

  •  1 lb round steak
  • 1 good-sized onion
  • Beef stock or red wine
  • Flour to coat
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fat. The best thing is to get a piece of beef fat from the butcher. Otherwise render the fat from your beef and add oil to make up the required amount.

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Vortex Razor HD telescope

When you start getting serious about birding you will want to get a telescope. If you want to look at waders (shorebirds, in North American parlance) and see more than just grey dots you will need a ‘scope, and it’s also the only way of getting the close-in views you need to confirm your identification of difficult birds. On a recent trip to Cyprus we were able to identify several sub-species of yellow wagtail because we could “grill” them at length from far enough away that we didn’t spook them.

There’s a direct relationship between price and quality, so as the birding mania bites deeply you may start thinking about one of the top-end telescopes. I had a decent mid-range ‘scope that served me well for several years, but there were many times I had to look through my mates’ Leicas, Swarovskis, Zeiss’s and Kowas to see things that the good old Opticron was missing. The issue with upgrading is that the really good telescopes are eye-wateringly expensive. Buy a new top of the line Swaro and you won’t get much change back from £3000.[1] The best ‘scopes are clearly superior equipment, but they are priced like other kinds of man toys (e.g. golf clubs) – you pay a significant premium for the bragging rights of owning the best.

There was a niche to be filled for a ‘scope with optical quality to match the best, but without the same level of greedy mark-up. Enter the Vortex Razor HD.

Vortex Razor HD, Sahara Desert near Merzouga
Vortex Razor HD, Sahara Desert near Merzouga

 

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The best chocolate brownies ever (Recipe)

Chocolate Brownies (Jane Kaduck) These are the Best Brownies Ever, but don’t skimp on the ingredients! Use butter (not margarine or any other substitute) and good chocolate. Baker’s is the standard but you could push the boat out a bit more and go for Valrhona.

1.  Melt: 4 sq unsweetened chocolate with 1 cup butter

2. Sift together: 1 ½ cup white flour, ½  tsp baking powder, ½  tsp salt

3.  In a large bowl: Cream together: 4 eggs and 2 cups white sugar Beat in: 2 tsp vanilla, 1 Tbsp corn syrup Then beat in melted chocolate/butter, followed by the flour mixture.

4.  Bake in a greased 9×13 pan at 350F for 20 – 25 minutes. Brownies are done when they test done (with a toothpick) about 2 inches from the edge of the pan (not the centre).   (They continue to cook in their own heat after removing from oven).   In British ovens you may need to cook an extra 5 minutes or so with a piece of aluminium foil draped loosely over the top to prevent over-browning on top.

Top Tip: Don’t overcook these brownies. They should be very moist, Cool.  Frost with chocolate icing if desired.

Chocolate Frosting Melt: 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tbsp butter, 1 ½ to 2 cups icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp (approx) milk. Beat together.  Add more icing sugar/milk to achieve desired consistency.

Venice Overview

Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore
Venice from San Giorgio Maggiore

We are just back from a long weekend in Venice. It was Lynn’s first visit, and barring a two hour dash through with Hank Adams and Scott Larese in 1998, mine as well. I’m going to post some restaurant reviews and a “Venice How-To” guide over the next few days, so this one will be just an overview aimed at first time visitors

So first, why should you go to Venice? It seems to be on everyone’s bucket list and if you have the chance to make multiple trips to Italy you should certainly include it sooner or later. However it’s important to know where it fits in the priority list.

Point number one – Venice makes a nice weekend trip but it ain’t Rome or Florence. The city itself is unique and attractive but it does not have anything like the megawatt artistic and cultural attractions of those places. And it has some significant disadvantages, which I will get back to in a moment.

There are three first rate things to see in Venice: the Basilica San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale (aka the Doge’s Palace), and … Venice itself. Beyond that there are a number of good-but-not-great galleries and museums, some interesting churches, and a lot of very swish and usually very expensive shops selling the best of Italian design, fashion and jewelry.

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