Lockdown Week 10, 29th May 2020

The first tentative steps out of lockdown are reasonably clear for us in terms of cycling. Following British Cycling’s mid-week clarification, we still have no group rides, but on the road in ones and twos is fine. We are asking that you don’t wear club kit, not from any sense that we’re trying to hide; purely because we don’t want people to get the impression we’re running group rides. If you’ve been on Layhams or Jackass lately, you’ll know it’s hard to distinguish pairs from groups in the general flow!

The Bike Project

Many of you will know or may even have volunteered for a great charity called the Bike Project. They fix up donated bikes and give them to refugees and asylum seekers in London (and now also Birmingham), though they also do up and sell on some of the better quality bike donations, with all revenues put straight back into the charity.

Lockdown has put a dent in their ability to receive bike donations but they recently came up with a workaround. On 17th June in the afternoon they are setting up a pop-up Bike Project donations point near Sydenham Wells Park. Anyone who has an old bike which is surplus to requirements and in good enough condition to be salvaged, can drop it off for this very good cause. The drop-off will all be carefully managed, with social distance maintained at all times.

More details will be shared a few days before 17th June 2020.

To our next guest contributor, a near neighbour of mine whose enthusiasm for and ability to write beautifully about cycling, are an example to us all.

Fear, TurboBeat and ‘Corona’ by Michael Nelson

I joined Penge Cycling Club two and a half years ago. I have never really been a “club” person. I belonged to the Scouts when I was growing up, was in the school orchestra, and in High School joined the Future Doctors of America Club (at my mother’s insistence – how did that go?).

On the other hand, I have always cycled. I remember saying to my mother when I was 7, “I’m just going out for a ride.” When I moved to England in 1971, the first thing I did (almost) was to buy a bike for commuting from Wimbledon (where I lived) to college in central London.

In my 20’s I went everywhere on the bike – before it was fashionable.

I cycled through the early morning from Salisbury station to Stonehenge to watch the sunrise on summer solstice (not a Druid in sight); I cycled from Abergavenny to Porthmadog in North Wales taking in Bwlch y Groes (one of Britain’s classic hills – what was I thinking?). Then, with a young family, I carried on commuting wherever we lived. The best was the ride on the back roads from Winchester to Southampton, 15 miles each way! (Not every day, mind).

But I was almost always on my own. The Lonesome Commuter. I did ride occasionally with friends, the best and most spectacular being from Land’s End to John O’Groats in spring 2016 with my Winchester friend, Nick.

After that, I started riding sporadically with friends to the North Downs but struggled to keep up on my lovely steel-frame Dawes Galaxy, trailing behind their wispy carbon road bikes. For a retirement treat in autumn 2016, I decided to buy a carbon bike. Being a fashion hound, I recognize that 25% of every Mamil is brand lust. So, I read the reviews, and opted for something way above my cycling pay grade. I bought a BMC Granfondo G01. It was the previous year’s model, heavily discounted.

But then a niggle of dissatisfaction began to sully my riding. With my local friends, on these spectacular machines, why were we not out riding every weekend? I tried clubbing: Cadence (too elite); Brixton (too interested in coffee and croissant before a leisurely 9am start). Then on a ride up Layhams, a friend and I passed a group in Penge kit. Ten minutes later, we passed another group in Penge kit. “Didn’t we pass you a few minutes ago?” we asked. “No,” someone replied, “there are seven levels of ride.” “Aha!”, I thought. Perhaps this is what I need.

There are seven levels of ride.

The rest is history, as they say. Except it isn’t. From March 2020 (except for the #stravawankers) most of us have been hunkering down, doing our daily walks, not going more than 5km from our front door on the bike once a week – round the block and round the block and round the block we go, or up and down the South London Alps.

And then, there is Turbobeat. For months, people in the club have been saying to me I should come to the Turbobeat sessions at Crystal Palace. After all, it’s just up the road from West Norwood. Yet every Tuesday evening, there was some reason I couldn’t come: I was too tired; I was meeting friends; I was washing the few remaining hairs on my head. Always something.

After a while, I realised the real reason I didn’t go was fear. Fear of being last. Fear of being ritually publicly humiliated by all these amazingly fit cyclists who would outstrip my performance on every parameter. Fear of being shown up for the pathetic weedy cyclist I am.

Except, now I know, it isn’t like that. Paul Mill, Elite Cycling’s founder, head coach, and guru, took me to one side, and explained in language that a three-year-old could understand how, by some miracle of modern tech, “The Wall” on which I was expecting to be so cruelly exposed brought everyone to the same level. Yes, you had to work, but it was to your own standard that you were working. He then cunningly sold me a turbo trainer and related kit for a bargain price so I could join his online sessions from home.

Since then, I have been faithfully joining the Turbobeat sessions from my back room. They are brilliant. But there is more to it than just getting fitter. It is, once again, a group activity. Tiny faces on Zoom stare out from my laptop perched on the mantelpiece while I squint to try and read the names. There is chatter and banter and jokes. The titans of Penge that I recognize from the club rides (in the faster groups, mind) are there too, suffering as I seem to. At the end of a session, someone will usually say, “Thanks Paul, that was terrible.” Or we’ll applaud.

“Thanks Paul, that was terrible.”

So, I have faced my fear. And as with corona virus, it isn’t a battle, or winning. It is joining with others to be the best we can. In recent weeks, I have been allowing myself longer in-real-life rides. I hear Paul’s voice in my head: “Dig, dig. Push, push.” Or my favourite, “You’ve got this. You can do this.” At the end of our last online session, I mused out loud, “Why am I doing this?” Paul replied, “Because you don’t have anything better to do.” Which is the perfect reply. There isn’t anything better to do than cycling.

So as the strain of lockdown continues, and everyone seems to be getting a bit tetchy, I know the qualities that will get us through are bravery and courage and compassion and humour. We can do this.

Indoor Cycling

A change of gear this week and still plenty of indoor riding. I don’t think I’m alone in believing this has been an absolute life-saver in these difficult times. #lovemyshed

TurboBeat Live

From next week, Paul is charging for these classes – in fact he is pivoting his business to make this a permanent thing. He deserves all the support we can give him; he’s a tremendous coach and these sessions are a bargain. Sessions run at the following times:

  • Monday 7am
  • Tuesday 6pm
  • Wednesday 7am & 6pm
  • Thursday 6pm
  • Friday 7am

The morning sessions are a slightly more gentle workout than the evening sessions, which can be pretty tough.

A variety of tickets are available on Eventbright so you can buy into these by session, monthly and so on.

TurboBeat 6-Hour Special on 31 May 2020 at 9am

To wrap up a fantastic fundraising effort, Paul is running a special one-off 6-hour Turbothon. So far, the free sessions in April and May have raised approaching £4,000 for the homeless charity, Shelter. Drop in on the hour for an hour or more – or even for the whole session and help get that total funding up.

You can support Paul’s effort for Shelter on Justgiving.

Time to dig out your Penge tops for this please. Let’s say thank you to Paul for putting so much into this and for being so relentlessly positive.

Zwift Racing

The next set of British Cycling South-East (BCSE) racing started this week and Penge CC has got off to a strong start, placed 3rd. Let’s see how many we can get out and if we can win some silverware. Thanks once more to John Haile for organising this.

Races are on Tuesdays and Thursdays with some evening and others at lunchtime. Keep an eye out on Facebook or get yourself onto the messenger group to get involved.

There is also an eRoad race being organised for 7th June 2020 by London Dynamo and there will be another Team Time Trial.

How to Join?

Details of how to log into the Turbobeat sessions and how to join in the fun on Zwift are on the club website.

Closing Thoughts

Enjoy another sunny weekend and keep well.

James Hanscomb, Chair of Penge Cycle Club.