ah the memories come flooding back; ten-speed racers were undoubtedly the way to go. though i now have bikes a plenty with shifting systems that do everything apart from actually flick the lever and enough sprockets to worry the wheel dish, nothing quite compares with that very first ten-speed racing bike. the comical part here is my use of the word racing in connection with just such a velocipede; i very much doubt that the cycle to which i refer ever hit anything like the speeds that would have it classified as a competitive machine.
i had been driving to my work a short distance of miles for some months before realising that this was costing me rather a lot for my petrol, and that the motor car sat idle for the bulk of its day. much like most of the cars on the planet, come to that. walking was definitely an option, and quite a pleasant one at that, but the idea of a bicycle seemed eminently more attractive. though the ten-speed racer may have never troubled those smaller cogs, its stance in life made it look as if it could. so mrs washingmachinepost dutifully ordered it from one of those mail order catalogues (i hang my head in shame) and a sleek, white steel bicycle arrived, wrapped studiously in brown paper inside its card box.
i knew nothing of bicycles at that point. it did arrive with a poster depicting a group of gentlemen clad in lycra huddled round a machine remarkably similar to the one i'd just lifted from the box, but i singularly failed to note the reynolds 653 decals that definitely weren't on my plain gauge version. the cycle industry occasionally fibs.
when we moved slightly further round the ayrshire coast, i was presented with a substantially longer ride to work, but also with access to less car-troubled roads for occasional forays into the surrounding countryside. one of those countrysides was the town/village of dundonald, reachable only by climbing a big hill. let me make matters perfectly plain at this point: i was riding a plain gauge steel bicycle (=heavy) with 52/42 chainrings coupled with a 14-21 freewheel, and had just watched robert millar calmly cycle away from his immediate peloton on a ruddy big hill somewhere in southern france. who was to say i couldn't do likewise?
my bicycle looked pretty much identical to that of millar's, i too was born in glasgow, so how hard could it possibly be?
very hard indeed as it turns out. once past the roundabout at loans, it was onto the ascent up past highgrove house, at which point i realised i was considerably out of my depth, stopped mid-cadence and was promptly sick at the side of the road. i am very thankful that i did not own this excellent book around that time, for i now discover that there was a second opportunity for humiliation just round the corner, should i have taken the opportunity to ride up to the radio transmitter atop dundonald hill. thank heaven for small mercies.
for the cycling enthusiast, climbing hills is surely akin to swimming against the tide. utterly pointless unless absolutely necessary, but often darned good fun. this book makes such obstinacy disturbingly easy in a concise yet attractive format. it is sufficiently compact and bijou to stuff in a back pocket, or possibly even one of those zipped efforts that graces the front of many a colourful softshell. each hillclimb is detailed in terms of distance, location, average gradient and the nearest practical railway station should you be in the business of adding to your tick book palmares across the scottish lowlands.
there are one or two others in here that recall local geography from my time on the scottish mainland, though i confess several have only been accomplished from the driver's seat of a car. perhaps one of these days. a total of thirty-six climbs are detailed between page one and page ninety-six; if you live in this area of scotland and occasionally find yourself imbued with robert millar tendencies, £6.99 is a remarkably small price to pay.
my only criticism is a debatable grammatical one. if you check the heading on this review you will note that i have placed the apostrophe in cyclist's to denote reference to a singular member of the peletonese. this is how it is portrayed on the book's cover. however, i am of the opinion that the book is intended to appeal to more than an audience of one, and should thus have been classified as cyclists'. yet another subject for discussion at debbie's.
hillclimbs of the scottish lowland roads can be order direct from pocketmountains.com at a cost of £6.99
posted monday 23 january 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................