Looking back at 2012: turning 60, turning pedals and Bradley winning the tour

At the start of my 60th year I was determined to have a good year’s cycling. I’m not a racer, and not even fast, but I do seem to have the stamina to stay in the saddle for up to 15 hours in a day without feeling totally wrecked at the end of the experience. That opens up opportunities to have fun on a bike, and in 2012 I did. To give you some idea of just how badly I’ve contracted the cycling bug, here’s a  short summary of my five most interesting and challenging rides during the year:

April 1st (my 60th birthday), I set out from Barcelona to ride my 61 year-old Thanet Silverlight back to the place where it was built – Elmdale Road, Bristol. The story is recorded here in my blog of the event. The journey is about the same distance as Lands End to John O’Groats, but sounds further, and the weather is usually better.

Thanet Silverlight
This Thanet Silverlight bike was made in Bristol and first sold on 22nd October 1950

Bike Bath on 24th and 25th June – 100 miles in the Mendips followed by 100 miles in the Cotswolds. Lesson learned: don’t take a road bike on routes planned by a mountain biker! However, it was seriously well organised and great fun. Details of next year’s event are here. I did these rides on my ‘best bike’  –  a Rourke steel frame with Campagnolo components.

Cycling, Cheddar Gorge
Nearing the top of the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset during the Bike Bath Gladiator Challenge, 24th June 2012

July 22nd was forecast to be a glorious sunny day. The other forecast was that Bradley Wiggins would win the Tour de France. He duly obliged of course, becoming the first Englishman ever to do so. I didn’t watch the last stage of the race but instead took the opportunity to have my own little ‘Tour de Wiltshire”, a wonderful ride around my home county on the Wiltshire Cycleway. Usually quoted as somewhere between 160 and 165 miles, I clocked up 173 miles including detours, my longest ever solo one-day ride. Only during the Vatternrundan 13 years earlier had I ridden further in a day, and then there was a lot of support around. The weather was glorious, as is Wiltshire. Try the ride…but take time to savour the sights over 2 or 3 days, that’s what I’ll be doing in 2013.

My last big cycling event of 2012 was L’Eroica. I took my 1965 Hetchins Magnum Opus bike for this classic challenge but in deference to my knees, made up a compact double chain set from TA parts so I could manage most, but not all, of the amazing climbs on the 205km ride, thanks to the lower gearing available. The weather was overcast and reasonably cool for Tuscany, there was even the odd light shower – ideal cycling conditions. The atmosphere was amazing with around 5479 cyclists participating in the event. They were mostly Italians but included 1450 ‘foreigners’ from 33 other countries. Here’s a great blog post about the 2012 event from Wade Wallace (Melbourne, Australia).

I’ve already arranged travel for the 2013 event……

4 thoughts on “Looking back at 2012: turning 60, turning pedals and Bradley winning the tour

  1. Chikashi January 23, 2013 / 1:35 pm

    Your face looked familiar, and your red Rapha jersey in a more recent post got me thinking that you may have been the one on the stunning frog green Hetchins that I saw several times on the 205k route and mentioned in my Eroica ride report. Now I find this post… Well done, Bob. Funny place, this Internet… Perhaps I’ll see you again this year. Which bike will you be riding this year?


  2. Bob Jones January 23, 2013 / 4:58 pm

    I was very, very surprised to be noticed and thanks for the honorary mention in your Eroica ride report. Your description brought back a lot of memories of the event. I didn’t write my blog post until December and had already forgotten a lot…one of the disadvantages of being old enough to be your father 🙂 I’m not sure about next year. It may be the Hetchins again but I really would like to give my 1950 Thanet another outing, probably just on the 38km or 75km rides at most. I want to spend more time enjoying the event and less time being terrified as I hurtle down hill gripping the brakes in terror. Good luck in the lottery – I hope to see you there!


  3. Chikashi January 24, 2013 / 11:16 am

    Actually, you would have been a very young father… 16 to be exact. We actually exchanged words very briefly. I complimented on your Hetchins as I overtook you on one of the climbs (I can’t remember which!), but I am guessing that you received more than a few compliments that day! That Thanet is gorgeous, but it looks like you might need to change the drive train for Eroica? The 75k has a few brutal climbs too. That said, I do recall a young chap on the 205k that was riding an ancient fixed gear path racer, climbing up those hills at impressive speed… I think the 38k may be a bit too short, but the 75k is a balanced option as you can start in daylight, include a long, lazy lunch in or near Radda, still get plenty of the scenery and end in daylight with a beer at one of the cafes. On another note, I think you should consider posting a few photos of your Hetchins here. It would be proper bike porn!


  4. Bob Jones January 24, 2013 / 6:11 pm

    Sorry I didn’t remember you Chikasi but a lot of people overtook me on the climbs. In fact, I can’t think of anyone that I overtook! The trick with the Thanet is to get the gearing right. It has a 4-speed Sturmey with a 22-cog on the back and a relatively small chainring. At 20mph you are freewheeling in the highest gear and on the ride from Barcelona back to the UK, I only needed the lowest gear a handful of times. It will still mean walking up some of the worst climbs at L’Eroica but I think you’re right – the 75km circuit should be quite possible without riding in the dark. I will post some bike porn in due course….


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