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Mid life crisis - I might not grow out of it

There are two aspects to my ongoing crisis I can confess to today - my bike and my athletics.

The bike is still a source of pleasure to me - it looks much more impressive than it actually is, and my familiarity with it is increasing, though only very slowly. I've had insurance on it now for about 4 weeks, in which time I've travelled about 30 miles. Owning a motor bike was always much more just an idea than actually a need for transport. I've managed to mix up the types of miles a fair bit, though. A trip out to Hendon to collect  a jacket my daughter had left in a pub not only served a purpose but also took me onto dual carriageway, through a complex road works and over the bit of road where the North Circular and the A1 share - just a bit scary for a beginner. The trip down to Islington to collect a registered letter from the Almeida Road sorting office (on behalf of a different daughter) took me towards the city centre and dealing with more traffic. I even took the time to go and look at an area where she might be considering buying a flat. So I am gradually building up experience and confidence of different conditions. I'm thinking perhaps I might aim to do the next level of test in April, around about the anniversary of the CBT. I'm using Haringey's subscription to Theory Test Pro to bone up on the Highway Code. I'm not sure though that I'll ever achieve such a confident approach to traffic as that shown by other riders, who always create their own lane of traffic and always go the head a queue.

Clive on one of my earlier blogs recommended a white helmet and a hi-vis vest. Independently and in conversation with the young man in Scooterden on Tottenham Lane I'd reached a similar conclusion, so I do have a white helmet and a jacket with fluorescent yellow patches. Buying motor cycle stuff is quite a dismaying process. Everyone's first comment relates to "when you fall off" - not "if you fall off" or "in the unlikely event of an accident", and all the gear is designed to minimise damage - the jacket has knobbly bits at the elbows and down its back. I guess these are armour designed to minimise damage when I fall off. I still haven't bought leggings, but the ones I tried on had armoured knees. The jacket seems quite well put together with three layers, the outer with the armour and fluorescent patches, a waterproof inner and a separate warm inner.

I do still have two main problems with riding the bike. The first, relatively minor, is a tendency to stall, though not too often. I think it is because I don't like to over rev the engine.

The other is still the cancelling of the indicators. In a sort of half light the other evening this problem was almost solved, in that I could then see the front indicators flashing, which I can't in full daylight.  So I'm thinking I might buy an extra indicator, wire it in to the existing indicators and mount it on top of the faring where I am much more likely to see it. Maybe a buzzer as well.

And as for my athletics, I still cherish the fantasy that I can compete. I turn out for Heathside's B team about once a month, but my next personal goal is the old man's decathlon in September. You may remember, and if you don't I'm certainly going to remind you, that I am the British Bronze Medal holder in the 60-65 age group indoor pentathlon.

In pursuit of this fantasy I try to keep fit, which I do mainly on a cross trainer I keep in the basement, a combination I refer to as "the gym". I've also started to take an interest in the Tour de France. For many years I thought of this bike race as nothing more than a damned nuisance, causing roads to be closed whenever I was on holiday in France, but a couple of years ago it happened to coincide with my going to my gym and I watched in some detail (without something else to think about a cross trainer would become terminally boring). The Tour de France is an astonishing test of skill, strength and determination for each individual rider. It is also a team sport par excellence, and I am now very struck with these two aspects of it.

The skill, strength and determination is not so surprising - they cycle a very long way, almost every day for three weeks and often up very steep hills (the Alps and the Pyrennees). Indeed they cycle so far and so fast and up such steep hills I believe the drugs tests should more probably be looking for anyone who can do it without artificial stimulation.

The team aspect though is wonderful to watch. Each team has nine riders and one of these is designated to be the one most likely to win something. The other eight are designated "domestiques" and it is their job to give the 'winner' every chance of winning. Anyone who has ever raced knows that it is a lot easier to follow than to lead, and it is the job of the other eight to stay just in front of the eventual winner so that he has an easy(!) time of it. This is exemplified by Mark Cavendish, a Manxman, whose team look after him superbly, so that he only actually races and leads over the last 50 metres of each 3 or 4 hour stage, but does so with astonishing speed and acceleration in order to come home first. This year he won several stages and the points classification. And the rest of his team took part as well.

This of course helps me with my motivation on my cross trainer. I try to match my cadence with the Yellow Jersey. I like to kid myself that I am as fit now as I have ever been.


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Tags: athletics, mid-life crisis, motorcycle, tour de france

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Comment by Clive Carter on July 28, 2011 at 9:51

Adrian: when I bought my second hand Honda some years ago it was a bit scary on an A -road coming away from the place of purchase. But although I'd never owned a four-stroke, medium-weight bike before, it seemed kind of stable and safe even though it felt different. I took it gently at first. I never regretted the bike purchase although I have come to loathe the battery and alarm, which need more attention than I imagined. I have never come off. Bikes give a lot more scope for stupidity and if you're a natural risk taker and gambler ... it'd catch you out on a bike. I avoid wet weather as this is much riskier. I'd prefer to ride at night in fine weather than in the middle of the day pouring with rain. I have all the appropriate clothing – except leather leggings, which I should have.

You seem to do a lot of running around for your daughters!

On stalling and engine revving: avoid revving before the engine has warmed up (five minutes? 10 minutes?) or at all if you're concerned with petrol consumption. Otherwise, most Japanese OHC engines love to be revved, which may be less harmful than labouring the engine. And most Honda engines feel unbreakable. The engine in a 320,000 km Honda Accord I owned, felt and sounded like a new one. Regular oil changes are always good.

I'm curious as to what sort of fuel mileage are you getting?


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