Ride For Michael Sportive

Yes, it’s roadies, but skiny tyres is still bikes and if there was a cause for lycra on the front page of Ride.io this is it…

A couple of years ago I rocked up to Michael Bonney’s house to catch a lift up in the Orange van to the Endurance DH event at Fort William. Always wanting to show off the latest kit, Michael pulled a new carbon road bike out of his garage. This, it turned out, was one of the first prototypes of what became the ‘Carb-O’. Standing there with Orange’s  graphic design supremo, John Chennells ,we agreed that this was a bold move, but this is what Michael is about and this is what Orange bikes and the wider biking community has benefitted from during his years of dedication to the industry.

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Fast forward to 2013 and with the news that Michael, who had given so much to biking, had a life changing accident, those of us who knew him, along with many others who just saw him as part of the family, wanted to give back. With that in mind the ‘Ride For Michael’ campaign started to gather pace and one of the first events to be added to the calendar was last weekend’s 60 mile Sportive around the hilly country roads of Michael’s adopted home of Penrith.

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Now I am no skinny tyred lycra clad missile. In fact, apart from falling off my older brother’s road bike in the 80’s, I have been on nobbly mountain bikes since day one. However, two wheels are two wheels and as Michael has been clear to point out, it’s all about getting out riding. I signed up early and after a chat with the very supportive guys at Madison and I found myself astride a road riding dream machine from Genesis and kitted out with kit so streamlined it would get me banned from a UCI DH competition.

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Needless to say, having never ridden in a Sportive before I wasn’t sure what to expect. However after only a few training rides, I found myself with another 400 people standing at Penrith Leisure Centre in the late summer sun, ready to take on the challenge of 60 miles in the hills.

I soon found out that the format is pretty simple. It’s not a race, it’s a ride. Groups of 20 or so set off at intervals and then it is a simple case of making sure you follow the signs to get you back for tea and biscuits.

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From the off I soon realised that riding a road bike is about consistency, power down all the time and for a long time. No slacking or freewheeling allowed!  Apart from the complexities of using water bottles on the move and stuck with pointless rim brakes, it was soon pretty obvious why the Pro Downhillers and Enduro riders use it as a training tool in the off season. Yes, I still looked at the trails as we wizzed by, planning future missions to the area, but this was pure old skool riding and it was bloody fast on the downs too.

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All sorts of bikes were out, from carbon TdF machines through to full suspension trail bikes and ending with fold up commuting bikes. The Genesis I was riding worked perfectly, it looked classy, rode easily and felt solid between my hairy legs.  After not too long out I actually found myself  in full on tour zone and at one point I was pretty sure I caught myself pretending to be Wiggo, but with a better haircut.

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At about half way, we pulled in to Appleby for large doses of cake and coffee, not quite the tea rooms I was expecting from a roadie event, but it was still very welcome and the sugar levels were pumped to the max.

Pulling away from the cake was hard work, regardless of how awesome my steed was, my body has spent too many years with various types of springy forks and frames, so it was beginning to tell me off for not riding more. Then I looked down at my stem and focused on one of my #ride4MB stickers.  This was enough to give my lycra clad butt a good kick and I was soon back giving it some cranked action up, down and around the hills.

Not too long after that we rode past an event sign. This, along with a stencil on the road, marked where Michael’s crash had been. I could have stopped for a moment’s reflection, I’m sure others did. But Michael is going to keep moving forward with his fight and the moment was taken whilst the cranks kept turning. We were after all, riding for Michael.

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After 4 hours of MAMIL action I found myself beeping over the finishing mat and smiling from ear to ear. Yes, this wasn’t riding a Triple Crown Bruiser in Whistler. Yes, this wasn’t ragging an Enduro Speederbike in Alp D’Huez. But step back and it’s all just two wheels and it’s all riding.

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But I’ll be b*ggered if I am ever going to shave my legs!

To find out more about the Ride for Michael campaign including future events and stuff to buy, please visit here https://www.facebook.com/RideForMichael

Thanks to Will, Bert and Rus at Madison / Genesis for a kick ass bike and lycra that didn’t make me look like a gimp.

Words and Pictures – Tim Sadler