Thursday, 18 September 2014

The unpacking of Rubic

Dawn broke and I was still sweating in the heat. Looking around my room at the self inflicted chaos of my arrival I resolved to take immediate action. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Two hours time difference isn't much in the global scheme of things but as a man I reserve the right to jet lag, at least until Mid morning.
The Iskele 'open tennis championships' were in full swing at 8am under my window. It makes a real change from the traffic noise at 8am back in the uk.
Opening one eye slowly like a little boy on Christmas morning , my new bike lay in pieces on the floor beside me. Finally it was time to unpack and build up the bike.



On previous trips out here I have ridden Celeste, my bianchi c2c via nirone alu carb. This time however I'm going to be riding my new Cube GTC Agree race 2014 bike. Celeste is taking a well earned rest having served me well on previous trips and all summer in the uk.
I'm still undecided on a name for my new bike. The obvious one is Rubic ( Rubic cube, get it?) I will see if the name sticks and suits its charachter, yes , all bikes have thier own character!
So for now, Rubic, it is.
Re building Rubic took a while. I was very careful to avoid loosing anything or assembling him while in cock up mode. I couldn't see any damage after the flight so all is looking good to go.



So far God Garmin is taking his time finding the orbitting satellite marked Northern Cyprus. Images of a goat in a spacesuit flash through my head. As with most things out here, it will happen 'one day'!
Remarkably I seem to have forgotten absolutly nothing, and it all fitted into the bike bag, bike, clothes, shoes, washkit ( for the weekends) , the lot!
I've got time here, so today is about getting the kit sorted, adjusting to the heat and time difference and generally slobbing out.
Slobbing out is a technical term used by 'pro cyclists of the highest calibre', such as me, for pre ride preparation. It's of course critical for toned Herculean athletes to get in optimum shape, and fine tune and tweak everything at least 20 times before donning lycra and venturing out to boldly go where some have been before.
It's time for me to get real, get out and get riding...

several hours later,,,,

right then, best laid plans and all that. I find my self 'trapped' at the resort for this afternoon as today was the day Cyclops instructed his road work minions to tarmac the road in and out of the resort. Its exactly the kind of tactic I should have expected from him! The tarmac is sticky and in the heat isnt drying . Sticky tarmac on my tyres is a BAD thing becauss it atteacts all kins of glass and rubbish which cause Punctures. These I do not need. Niether did I fancy a day cleaning the wretched stuff off my tyres.

The plus side of this is that the road will be newly surfaced and  the pothole obstacle course to the main road here will have gone. Yay!

So I decided to make the most of this time and get some route planning done.Never let it be said that this entrepid cycle bum goes swimming, to the sauna, jacuzzi, beach when there is work to be done!

Route planning may sound easy, however with today's modern cycle GPS devices being designed by God Garmin , a degree in nuclear physics, nuero surgery and mathematics is a necessity. I have none of those, but I do have something called 'pig headedness'. This skill has been put to the test today, and I have not been found lacking. Plotting a track file of some distance for use in a garmin requires reduction in track points. This is achieved via a gpx editor and a lot of swearing.

Cycling isnt just about turning your cranks these days it seems!

So, job kind of done, I decided to cook a chicken. Its what I man has to do when trapped by tarmac. The chicken deserved better I must say.

Here is a shot of the sunset tonight from the balcony here






Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Heading back to Cyprus

"Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends, we're so glad you could attend come inside come inside"



It's been a good summer in the UK  but now it's time to follow the Sun!

So here I sit at gatport airwick departure lounge ready to fly back to continue my adventures on the island of Cyprus.



This is a strange microcosm of all that is artificial in human life.
All around me people rush around, hang around, and sleep around. Bellies full of overpriced junk food, cabin bags stuffed with unecessary duty free and travel goods on sale in the rip off shopping mall called an international airport. It's all so commercial, infact a better word would be pathetic really. Time to fill my mind with more important thoughts.
I wonder if Gordon has made it to the other side of the road safely yet. Will the goat herders dogs remember me and refrain from eating me? Are there any ' crappy' fruit juices left in the cafe fridge? These are all more important to me.
The guy next to me has less important things to occupy his mind. Like verbally castrating an underling employee for messing up a deal on a print run. The woman opposite smiles at me as we both realize this guy is a loud arrogant pr%ck with no interest in important life issues, such as Gordons epic walk across the road, or the feelings of the underling he is shouting at. Thankfully all this will soon be behind me.

I feel grateful to have survived security here. Belt, shoes, removed I feared for the body searcher as I held up my arms. Would my jeans stay up? Thankfully they were tight enough and I was allowed through.
I lied to easyjet about the bike bag wieght to avoid the inquisition. The illiterate guy on the oversized check in however was having none of it. He new for a fact that golf clubs wieghed more than 18 kilos and regardless of my insistance that i've never played golf in my life wasn't able to stfu for long enough for me to explain that the bloody great big bike logo on the bag was a clue as to its contents. I smiled and pushed the bike through regardless of his ignorance, he dug in and called a lady who could actually speak English who confirmed that a bike symbol on a bag did infact indicate its contents were a bike. My bike was wieghed again and accepted, much to the dislike of the illiterate one. I smiled and wished him a life of happiness at Gatwick.

There are lots if Scots here. I wonder if they fear life under Scottish rule, or didn't they do that yet? I must make an effort to watch a news bulletin One day. Nah, maybe not!

Here one can buy all the necessities of life, including a mobile phone cover bejewelled with fake diamonds for £599 !!  A small bottle of water costs just £1.50 'half price' and its rumoured one can aquire a sandwich for under a fiver if one looks carefully!

Many thanks go to Gav at Quest adventure for saving the day yesterday whe my FSA crank failed just before flying out today! If you want to buy a bike or get one serviced go here!

My thanks also go to Paul for the lift this morning, much appreciated mate. It's good to know I have friends in Mordor, and I will miss you all. And so it is with a belly full of smarty cake and my first card bingo win under my belt that I venture forth once more to foriegn shires.

video

Most of all I will miss Celeste. My true friend. We will ride together again before long. But as I take off,  I'm feeling very lucky to me doing what I am, and wish those that arnt as lucky as me much happiness.

Flying over the Mountains over Austria


Sunset from behind as we approach Cyprus


The flight was quicker than I had expected due to a tailwind, clearly Cyclops was preparing the ground for this entrepid cyclists adventures to come and getting some practice in on providing tailwinds!

Iwas joined by the obligatory stag week gang of cool dudes bound for the joys of aya napa, they managed to behaved well enough for two hours before two of them got caught smoking in the toilets like little boys at school. The crew took a dim view and announced to the cabin what had happened and how they were in breach of civil aviation rules, and should have a little more respect for the lives of all abourd. Too bloody right I thought, although all it seemed to achieve was to elevate the two culprits to God like status in thier group. Hey ho, even I was young once lol!

Sitting here now at midinght Local time its 28 c outside and the stars are out in force, Good things are about to Happen !


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ride Twenty Two - No cars, secluded beaches, perfect roads

8 am and time to roll...I was up and riding pretty quick today, and as usual I didn't decide where I was going until I was on the bike. I decided to go where no 6'4" man on a Bianchi  in a silly hat had ever gone before and boldly set off to discover what I hoped would be a new universe for me. It was.



The first stage of todays ride was the the last section of Mondays 109 mile ride only backwards. Straight along the southern coast of the Karpaz peninsula then inland and up and over the mountain pass I had descended at 51mph two days ago. The wind was with me until I made the left turn to head inland and start the climb. Here Cyclops woke up, noticed my devious plan to catch him unawares by riding while he was asleep, and instructed the wind to do all it could to stop me climbing. My Garmin told me that where I had reached 51mph the other day I was now climbing at 5.1mph, but I was climbing.







A simple climb really without the headwind, with it is a different matter, but as always here in Northern Cyprus when you reach the top it's all worth it!


The downhill was fast and long, with lovely views to my right of the northern coastline. At the end of the descent I turned right at the big roundabout. Here the two cars I had seen up until now, vanished. The road opened up to me, and me alone. NO CARS AT ALL.



 

The surface was perfect, with wide clean shoulders and spectacular views. The wind was with me here and the road just rolled along gently undulating as it hugged the coastline.




Looking to me left I passed bay after bay of small secluded deserted beaches. The sea here is blue like sapphire and I was tempted to strip off and go for a swim, only in my experience riding a bike covered in sand and  salt after a dip in the sea is uncomfortable.



I passed the usual goat herds and rocky out crops. Here there are what look like caves up on the mountain faces, I had a good look around for Raquel Welch in her 2000 years BC Bikini but she never showed up, eaten by a dinosaur no doubt. Curse you Cyclops.

                                                

Goat herds here are often protected by dogs. Two of these took an instant dislike to me and I cruised silently along the main highway, the only vehicle they would have seen all day for sure. These two worried me as they were not barking yet running flat out towards me. Big dogs with at least 50% Alsatian in them, the rest Jack Russell or something equally embarrassing in the Canine world. One vanished, one took the high ground on the road embankment, racing along the top to out pace me. I knew it would attack as we reached the lower end of the embankment. I have seen this behaviour from dogs before in Kentucky USA so I was ready. It came at me snarling and launched at my left leg. I was already unclipped and kicked it in the ribs, it retreated, then came again. This time I squirted it full in the face with water from my bike bottles, this confused it totally. Clearly nobody else had offered it a cool drink at the peak of it's attack. I shouted aggressively at it and stopped to face it. Placing the bike between me and it we faced each other off in the middle of the traffic free main highway. Tumble weed rolled across the road as the theme from the good the bad and the ugly echoed around the high surrounding rocks. Clearly he wanted more water. Now this stretch of road is free of any markets and it was hot, so no way was I going to waste any more water on this jerk. Screaming wasn't working, so I went for plan C. Plan C involved standing perfectly still and staring the dam thing out. This worked which was lucky because I'd left my colt 45 in Kentucky.

Muttley retreated back to his goats and I rode on laughing having once again outwitted Cyclops.

The ride was easy here, just cruising along taking in the scenery without having to think about idiot drivers, perfect. There were small multi coloured birds flying low in front of my handlebars in a squadron like formation. I was reminded of how I had seen dolphins swimming through the bow wave of a Yacht on a Greek flotilla holiday many moons ago.




The climbs back over the mountains to the other side of the island here are IRO 10% gradients and extend for about a kilometre. However with a perfect road surface this was a lot easier than it may sound.

Up and over we cruised, well cruised may be an exaggeration, so let's agree on plodded. But we did Plod.

At the crest of the pass I looked down across the plain and a small village with it's white Mosque and it's houses with unfinished roofs as advised by tax advisers all over the island I guessed. Oh to be a roofer in Cyprus when that tax loophole gets closed!



I rolled up outside the first Market store I had seen all morning. Inside the cashier was feeding her baby and shouting at the short smelly Coca Cola delivery driver who had woken her baby up by shouting across the shop instead of walking up to her and speaking to her like an educated non peasant surely would. I bought a Pepsi to show solidarity with her cause and left.


The wind was now picking up and was coming at me from the south, a cross wind from my left hand side. I was once again down on the aero bars for long periods in some vain attempt to increase my speed and save my legs. But I was feeling strong.This wasn't a long ride by recent standards.




I rolled into the small fishing Port of Bogaz and took half an hour to just 'be' and listen to the sea and soak up the place before heading back along to Iskele and Caesar resort.






After the ride past Nicossia recently I wanted a peaceful ride, clearly I had attracted one today.

54.1 miles
Max speed 40mph
Ascent 850m

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ride Twenty One Lefkosa Nicosia, Kyrenia Girne


Ride date 28 04 2014

I woke up, fell asleep, then overslept.  As soon as I left the apartment I knew 100% I was capable of a very long ride today. It's funny how I am so confident in  my abilities on a bicycle. Others often worry because they care and because they don't know how I operate out there. I am calm, rational and in control on a bike. I am a very experienced road cyclist and know my limits. I have the equipment I need and nothing else. I adapt, persevere, challenge myself, ride safely, and above I enjoy every minute on each ride. I know what I am doing. Others don't get that. That is why they worry and fuss. This I do not like, because it is counter productive, serves no practical purpose for me and affects my own confidence. That is why I ignore the 'what ifs' . Those that imagine the dangers attract dangers. I know I am safe out there, so I am safe. Fear is a destructive and contagious thing, and those afflicted with it infect others. The way to live life is to follow the advice of Nike and Just do it. Which is what I do each time I ride alone.
My plan today was to ride in excess of a hundred miles taking in Nicosia, Kyrenia and include the two Mountain crossings necessary to get me there and back to Iskele. I pre hydrated with a litre of water and a high  five isotonic tablet. Breakfast was two Bananas and some green tea.  I made sure Celeste was up for a good session, inflated her to 120psi, and checked everything was tight and fitting properly. Kick off was later than I would have liked but on this occasion it wasn't the 'ladies' fault.

Some may wonder about the sanity of a guy who is clearly in a relationship with his bicycle. To me we are a team, niether one of us functions on maximum without the other. Out there on our own we depend on each other, achieve great things together, laugh, sweat, scream, yell, and trust each other. When we ride we are in the moment, there is no past or future, just the now. We are totally alive!
That is what a relationship should be.

I set off from Iskele and followed a familiar route along the Mesaoria plain. My first target for today was to get around the Capital city of Cyprus, Nicosia/Lefkosa.

The road to Nicossia from Iskele is familier to me. It runs directly across the Mesaoria plain with the mountain range on my right as I ride. I made one stop and was delighted to meet an old friend from my Trans American cycle ride recently. Arizona tea with honey had re entered my life!




 Here the traffic is calm. Approaching a city as a road cyclist presents several challenges. All cities are the same in this regard. Classic approach signs are a marked increase in driver stress, aggression, and careless driving. The road surface deteriorates rapidly, shoulders where most needed, vanish, and navigation becomes difficult as sadly, as with much in modern life, it's all about driver convenience. This is not the case outside of the big Cities here in Northern Cyprus where 90% of the roads are a dream for a road cyclist.


These City approach warning signs trigger a change in how I ride. I am on hyper alert, but totally calm. I ride knowing I am safe, untouchable, and claim my space on the road as if I were in a car. I use a 360 degree vision device I have installed, called ears. The shoulder surface disintegrated into rubble as soon as the traffic defaulted to moron mode. Most passed within centimetres of my right arm. The worst culprits, as in all cities, are heavy goods lorries and taxi drivers, the so called 'professional drivers'. I made a mental note to ban these particular species of sub humanoids from all roads when I am prime minister, along with all city road planners!



Clearly today Cyclops (The God of all things Cycling) had decided to test me under pressure. Little did he know that I've cycled through Montpellier in August!

I dashed from one crater to the next, towards the front line trench ahead. The sound of battle all around me became dull and distant as I fought for survival through the onslaught of  crossfire driving. A green 'enemy' tank like truck grazed my shoulder. Blocking his way forward I delivered a return salvo of internationally recognised hand gestures. I rushed ahead to higher ground at the lights. Again he came at me, I took another chance to progress him along the evolutionary scale. Riding fast and assertively in primary position he held back. When I deemed it safe for him to pass, I allowed him. He passed wider and slower. I gave him a thumbs up, he returned the gesture. Clearly my road skills awareness lesson had worked. He surrendered as we laughed in the heat of battle, even mortal enemies can connect here in Northern Cyprus when life is to short!



I made it to the 1974 war memorial in Nicosia. No way was it even worth contemplating riding into the city centre. It had no upside and lots of downside for Celeste and I. From here you can see the huge Turkish flag on the mountain 'wall'  to the north of Nicosia, or Lefkosa to give it it's local name.



I took time out to recover from my dash into town across 'no man's land' and contemplated erecting a memorial here for all those cyclists who never made it.

Let me emphasise here that riding around Nicosia was a decision I took in full knowledge of the likely road conditions. It is a big City and not ideal for road cycling. The rest of Northern Cyprus, outside of the Cities most definitely is!

I turned right and rode north towards the looming mountains. The next target, Kyrenia (Girne) lay on the other side. The traffic calmed a little as I peddled away from Nicosia. The road here is a straight line highway from the 'cyclists memorial' to the mountain.




At the foot of the mountain I looked up. Holy mother of Christ! 



I did what I always do when faced with such a challenge. Eat. I sat outside the supermarket (in towns they are supermarkets, outside towns they are mere 'markets') and ate a bar of galaxy chocolate, drank a tin of monster energy and decided although I could not yet see it from there, the climb would be easy.



I took just ten minutes to down the 'evil foul disgusting' Chocolate bar forced upon me by Cyclops and start the climb.

Almost instantly the road made a sharp right turn a revealed the full nature of the climb. Cyclops my old mate, you are a star I thought. This was going to be easier than I thought. It's still a challenging climb, but nothing like the gradiants on mount Olympus or at Kantara. This climb was built for cars. Cars, unlike goat herders, are lazy, this is why this climb was easier than it looked from a far.

Approaching the top I was faced with a decision. Yikes, not one of those! Here I could turn left and ride 5km up, and I mean UP, to the castle at St.Hilarion, or continue down into Girne (Kyrenia).



Having left late this morning, and being aware of the lengthy ride back I consulted my navigation god. Garmin informed me that if I wanted to get back before sunset I.had better leave the castle climb for another day and leg it down that hill PDQ (pretty dam quick).








Decisions like this are often not understood by non cyclists. Why not 'just' ride up to a beautiful castle?
'Just' is an easy word to say. In a car we don't need to think. You don't need to listen to your body, pace yourself or operate within your physical or mental limits. Taking this decision was the right thing for me at that moment. The castle  has been there for thousands of years, it will be there when I come back.


Riding into Kyrenia was a lot more fun than riding around Nicosia earlier. It's still a big town, but it's got a better 'vibe' in my opinion. The usual issues with cycling in a busy town apply, but it's all worth it when you head as I did directly down to the old Castle and port.








Here I pulled up outside a restaurant  where Popeye was having lunch with Olive oil. Complete with white beard and Captains sailors hat he sat smoking his pipe and pondering his next Atlantic crossing, while Olive oil eyed up the big bloke on a bike asking if he could take their photograph. Olive oil, referred me to her Captain, who sucked on his pipe debating the question at length in his mind. After an authoritative pause the Captains permission was refused. Olive oil averted her eyes from my thighs and concentrated once again on her Kalimari. I shipped anchor and moored up at the old Castle. Here at the entrance men played games under Olive trees on there smart phones while life in the old port went about it's daily business.




I spent some time here soaking up the place once again, nothing had changed in the few days since my last ride here, strange that!

The Belly's, English tourists, had just arrived on holiday here. The boat trip excursion seller would have been better advised to think more about the safety of his sea faring vessel than extracting the cash from Mr bellys' wallet. Clearly Mr & Mrs Belly had read the tourist manual. Haggling was what they wanted, not a sailing boat trip out on the ocean waves with Popeye. The excursion seller, although Turkish, spoke better English than the Bellys, smoked a lot less during the battle and eventually lost the deal because the bellys' arms were shorter than their waistlines and couldn't reach out far enough to hand him the cash. Time for Celeste and I to move on from the bemused stares of British tourists on their 'turf' and get back where we belonged, on the open road.

God Garmin got us out of town in a flash. Here the road side is adorned with houses, Casinos, markets, kebab houses and bars.

As we rode these gradually diluted allowing the stunning backdrop of the mountains we had just crossed to dominate the skyline again. I had to question what man was thinking when he decided Casinos were more fun than the Mountains.



Onwards we travelled, both strong and just happy to be alive, out here and part of this beautiful place. Here again the road rolls gently along the coast. I rode with the Mountains to my right now and the Northern coast of the island to my left. It was hot and the sun was directly above me. I was grateful I had decided to carry sunblock with me and covered the back of my legs and neck with it. Stopping for water at a market I sat down and filled up my bottles next to a group of loud, tattoo covered English holiday makers from the North East of our green and sceptic isle. Now, no offence, I know Geordie's are some of the nicest people around but give the locals some chance eh? Continuing to shout slowly at a Cypriot market owner for 'Acuawldbyalikeyabugger' doesn't help our glorious nations image abroad. As they started their second pack of cigarettes that hour I moved on, happy in my decision to pretend I was Italian or French or German, anything but English at that moment.



I rode past some of the new resorts being  build on this side of the coast. Some look nice, some don't. Some are finished some probably never will be. I saw a new resort of what had to be well over 200 flats being built by just two old fellas working with trowels and hammers at the speed of light. I suspected this was a job for life Cyprus style.

It was time for Ice cream. I saw a nice pool from afar and headed there to the cafe and devoured a strawberry cornetto and a coke. Here I met two Brits smoking and drinking themselves into an early hospital admission while trying to 'learn the internet'. Friendly enough, we discussed my cycling trips and their sixty a day habit which they could stop whenever they wanted to. I made friends with the little black dog there. Initially he had decided to attack Celeste, like most dogs, scared of anything unfamiliar. However once he discovered I had familiar ice cream he became much more welcoming.


This resort looked nice, but it is nothing compared to the Caesar resort I am based at in Iskele  which is far better and has more facilities, especially for families and sports enthusiasts. It does however come with emergency access to these on the street corners for chain smoking drivers and knackered cyclists!



It was time for this cowboy to saddle up and ride on out to the big country again!




TURN YOUR VOLUME DOWN FOR THIS VIDEO!














The wind here was from the North, a cross wind and thankfully not that bad to ride with. The miles passed by quicker the less I looked at my Odometer on the Garmin and soon my shadow became longer on the road in front of me as sun started to set behind me. I still had about thirty miles to ride and a Mountain to ride over to get back. I rode past the easy crossing, got back to Kaplica and decided I had many miles more in my legs so I continued on down to the lower end of the Mountains and took the climb there.

Here the next 'casualty' of the trip occurred. My trusty saddle bag of many years finally gave up the will to live, detached itself form Celeste and tore my shorts on my inner thigh. Emergency repairs were effected and the bag relocated to Celestes' top tube temporarily.

Here the final climb on this route is easily manageable for a reasonably fit rider. The road surface is again superb with a good shoulder and no traffic. The road winds gradually to the pass at the top, without the need for the tight switchbacks on climbs like Kantara.





At the top of the pass I knew it was job done. The wind would be behind me on the Way back along the coast and it was going to be mostly downhill from here on in. Downhill is right. I let go of Celestes brakes and hit 51 mph on the descent! This is what life is about on two wheels! 

At the bottom I ran out of land and turned right along the coast road with a cool powerful tailwind to blow me home. This was my reward for being nice to Cyclops today.

As I passed the power station I saw the odometer pass 100 miles with the sun setting behind the Mountains on the the Horizon I had just ridden over for the second time today. Life was good.


 I was almost home, but I wanted to shoot into Bogaz and watch the sun set from the old fishing port there. I rode past the familiar restaurants and and spent  ten minutes watching the sunset with Celeste. The waves were lapping on the harbour wall and the smell of fish and diesel fuel from the fishing boats wafted across the harbour. 

A quick sprint back to Caesar resort and it was mission accomplished, and Pizza time!!




109 Miles
Maximum speed 50.9 mph

Superb!