Just got back from Merrye Olde Englande tonight. Quick thoughts:
- Two week vacations are better when you don't spend the first week vomiting green sputum and trying in vain to get a doctor's appointment. Thanks, Nationalized Health Care!
- On the plus side, although you can't get a doctor if you have bronchitis in England, you will be able to get one in the U.S. if you wad up your bike in a crit. Their National Health Service just trained 8,000 doctors, but fired them, claiming the system can't afford any new doctors. They did just ramp up and hire 5,000 new IT professionals to run the new personnel system, however. The big plus side of this is the U.S. and Australia stand to gain roughly 8,000 new doctors, and India can probably supply England with all the IT professionals it needs. They consider this a pretty big scandal. Not as big of a scandal as we consider the most recent missing blond girl, but definitely a bigger scandal than our latest celebrity racist crack.
- If you want to seriously ride in England, you have to really truly frickin' like riding in the rain. I don't mean drizzle; I mean pissing down, shoulda-brought-swim-goggles rain. I got in four rides in the second week when my health was improving. All involved rain.
- Riding on the roads in England will make you faster. They are as wide as Belgian lanes, and as heavily trafficked as the Leesburg Pike at rush hour. The drivers go about 45 MPH in heavily populated urban areas. There aren't any shoulders, either. Consequently, you spend a lot of time really hustling to get wherever it is you are going, just to get away from the cars that keep zipping by two inches away from your right knee.
- I thought riding on the canal towpaths on a mountain bike would be a good workout. It was. I pedaled to my father-in-law's place about two hours away. Counting a half hour wrong turn, it worked out to a nice flat 2.5 hour zone 2 spin. It was easy, except for the puddles every ten feet, dodging other riders on the two foot wide path, and the deep mud over the last five miles as I left Birmingham. I was in very low gear just grinding through wheel-deep mud for the last half hour of the ride. A cross bike would have been hard pressed to keep moving in that with anything short of real mud tires. I had to borrow some of the father-in-laws sweats, and have his wife hose me and the bike off before we could come into the house.
- I fixed up a friend's old Raleigh Flight while I was over there. We had a shifting problem, the chain was jumping. It was a new chain her father had thrown on. I bought a new rear cog block (six speed) and a new chain. The result, with Shimano 600 non-indexed downtube shifters, was the smoothest, sweetest shifting I've ever felt. My old Canondale with 600 shifters and derailers (later rebranded "Ultegra") never shifted as well. Then I looked at the cogs. Turns out the new cogs, even for 6 speeds, are cut with all sorts of funny angles and mini-ramps on them, just like the latest 10 speed cassettes. No wonder the shifting was smooth as buttah. The old cogs... square cut. No ramps, no angles.
-Downtube shifters with a high end gruppo... good stuff. Not as nice as integrated STI's, but still really, really good. There's a reason that system hung in for 70 years, and why the champs still use it on the hill stages where weight is at a premium.
- Coming back to the snow here sucks. I'll be riding tomorrow AM and looking forward desparately to cutting some weight when the weather improves, and meanwhile cramming in rides whenever I can. At this point, my plan of getting in shape late in the season and trying to cherry pick late races is shot, as that is what everybody else will be doing. At this rate, I may have to go to the Coppi training camp just to get some quality miles in. I really don't want to go to that hill-fest *that* fat and out of shape, however.
- Anybody up for a long easy ride this weekend? I may be up for minor traveling for a decent rural ride. Nothing race paced, I'm basically in December, training wise, maybe do a couple hard efforts but mainly interested in cranking out three hours of cruising, 16-18... Hills okay, if you're cool with slow...