The over-enthusiastic cyclist

If it involves pedalling then I'm probably into it…

Manchester 100 – annual fun on the fixie

On Sunday I rode the Manchester 100 for the sixth time. It’s an odd event for many reasons. Firstly, it starts 7 miles to the south of Manchester but then mercifully heads off away from the city towards the the quiet roads of the Cheshire plains, which is a wise direction to take. The other aspect that make the event odd, is the range of people who take part. The event is a charity ride, not a sportive – there’s no timing chips or results posted online, but it doesn’t stop the thousands of amateur cyclists turning up on their £2000+ carbon bikes complete with deep section carbon rims. Many of these riders have splashed out on full pro-team kit, whether they have the figure for it or not.

At the other end of the scale are the riders who are actually doing it for charity – sometimes massively overweight people on cheap bikes, grinding away with their feet flat on the pedals, knees sticking out and their torso’s rocking with the effort. But they’re the real stars of the day. They’ve raised lots of money for the event’s charity (The Christie, a cancer support charity) and some of them have gone to the trouble of getting t-shirts made to commemorate their departed loved ones, sometimes complete with photos. Fair play to them.

And me? Satisfied that (at least some of) my entry fee is going to charity, I turn up to hammer my way round the 100 miles on a fixed gear bike and hopefully bump into a few people I know. It’s become a bit of a tradition and I’m convinced that it’s a good form of training and an ideal build up to the mountain bike event in two weeks time. This year I decided to further handicap myself by pedalling from my new home in Macclesfield, taking the daily total to 114miles (183km). Despite a crap nights sleep, I felt great as I set off at 7.45am and was raring to go when I got to the start. It seems that I’d definitely ‘brought the good legs’ as Hugh Porter would say*.

In the absence of my fast riding colleague of previous years, I’d decided to start late and hopefully bump into a couple of other mates on the way round. Unfortunately, it turned out that they’d set off even later than me so consequently I spent the 100 miles on my own looking out for them. But it didn’t really matter though as I was flying round and having a great time on my own. There’s something about riding fixed that’s just really, really enjoyable and it will probably get written about on here in a rather evangelical style sooner or later. The Dolan Pre Cursa was feeling fast and the only irritation was the congestion, which seemed worse than usual. This might have been due to setting off later, but usually after the first 10 miles it thins out nicely. There was a lot of riders two and three abreast who weren’t bothered to check behind them to see if any car or rider wanted to overtake. It really started to get a bit irritating as the day wore on, but hey, it’s not a race or even a sportive!

Despite it not being a sportive, there were some quality sights. Here’s my favourites:

  • I was thoroughly entertained by one aging rider who had donned a proper aerodynamic time trial helmet with long tail fin. He managed to turn this marginal gain into a definite loss by riding with his head down, trailing the fin through the air and negating any possible benefit. His compression socks also deserve an honourable mention.
  • The man who was ‘riding’ what could only be described as a cross trainer on wheels. I think it was one of these. Respect!
  • The lady smoking a cigarette whilst cycling caught my eye. Particularly ironic given the charity she was supporting.
  • I didn’t get to see the rider, but I saw a very high end bike with very expensive deep section rims at the lunch stop, though I thought the mountain bike mudguard hanging off the seat post spoilt the aesthetic a little.

I worked with a few other riders, but mostly just cracked on alone, only stopping to fill bottles at feed stops. I finished the day with an average moving speed of 18.2mph (29kph) which given the congestion wasn’t too bad at all. There’s always a good vibe at the finish and even a few people cheering you on along the way, so long as you don’t take it too seriously it’s a really fun day out, highly recommended. I might have to shave my legs for next year to fit in with the more serious types though…

* Hugh Porter is arguably the worst cycling commentator from the UK, possibly even the world. Despite his trademark style of getting riders names wrong in his irritating Wolverhampton accent, he still gets regular employment with the BBC, who incredibly now let him apply the same treatment to swimming.

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