Malcolm in the Middle

A blog by Mick Claridge:

Day Infinity   (Subtitle: Malcolm in Trouble)

As we rode into Laverna it had always been the plan to take the long way round the mountains, rather than go over them.  Riding south along the range, I began to sing, starting with ‘She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes’, followed by ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.   We hit the southern tip of the range, rounded the edge and headed north. 

The headwind hit me like a freight train.  I stopped whistling.  I stopped singing. I even stopped saying hi to cyclists coming the other way.

This headwind was all Malcolm’s fault.  He had booked us into a monastery. This monastery meant we had to cycle into this headwind.  How could he have done this to us?  (Anyone with kids will be familiar with this logic.)

A rear tire explosion meant we had to stop at at small town where we spotted the van – and Malcolm and Denese swanning around like they owned the place. I quietly changed the tire and gave Malcolm the odd scowl. 

We hit the road again….and ran directly into a 9% gradient climb.  A monastery into a headwind and at the top of a mountain….Malcolm’s demise suddenly went from hypothetical to essential, and the details began to take shape.  He had to be stopped, and I was the one to do it.   The Reaper was nothing compared to me this day! 

Looking at the climb ahead, in the lowest gear already with another 3 miles to go,  I murmured to myself,

‘I’m gonna kill him.’

Then I said it louder,

‘I’m gonna kill him!’

Then for no reason I began to laugh aloud, like an evil Bond film baddie:


Half way up the hill now. 6 mph, breathing like a wounded rhino…..

I spoke aloud once more but this time with more detail. 

‘I’m gonna kill him. Then I’m gonna bury him. Then I’m gonna dig him up. Re-animate his body……THEN I’M GONNA KILL HIM AGAIN!   BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE. THEN I’M GONNA DRIVE A STEAM ROLLER OVER HIM AND FEED HIM TO ALL THE LITTLE HEDGEHOGS. MUAHAHAHA!!’

I’d seriously lost the plot.

The summit and monastery appeared just in time.

But something had changed. The Reaper was still on my back.  But now I was the Reapers Apprentice on Malcolm’s back. 

Would we ever be the same again? Would Malcolm ever redeem himself?

Read on. 

Day Infinity +1  (Subtitle: Malcolm’s Redemption)

Perugia to Assisi

13 miles and a day of riding for the whole team.  And a sight to never forget. Was it the view of Assisi in the distance, standing like a giant on the horizon?  The cake -tea – cake combo fed to me at the cafe?  The beautiful Italian countryside bordering a dead straight Roman road, or the fluffy white cloud-filled sky? 

No.  It was something more spectacular.

The plan was for all six of us to ride the route that day and send Mike Burton back for the van.   The van was parked and Denese emerged fully kitted up.  Then the door opened….. and a calf muscle appeared. Then another.  Dragging my eyes upward, I realised the person operating those calves was vaguely familiar.  It was the bottom half of Arnold Schwarzenegger joined to the top half of………… Malcolm.

What twisted alchemist had Malcolm been visiting to grow these enormities?

Just then he turned his back to the road. This was a bad move. A car swerved across the middle lane and an ice cream van spilled its load trying to miss the car. Doors and windows slammed shut and people ran inside screaming.  A woman emerged from a doorway, pointed at Malcolm and howled, “The prophecy!  IT’S THE PROPHECY!!”  A man ran past shouting, “PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” 

 When the smoke cleared, Malcolm climbed on his bike.  He pedalled once and the clouds parted.  It felt like an earthquake. We could do nothing but bow down to the magnificence of these two steam engines powering the pedals.  Before we knew it, we were on the road with Malcolm leading…and me following, hypnotised by the movement taking place under that smooth skin.   Malcolm was pounding out 16.8 mph on a flat surface into a headwind. This was not the plan for the day.  It was supposed to be a nice easy 13 miler for the whole team.  We did the ride in 45 minutes.  Well, at least Malcolm did. 

I will NEVER trust that man again for as long as I live. Those calves are the real thing.

I’m truly glad he’s on our side!

This video doesn’t exist


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Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

A naive reader might suppose that a successful tour requires only that each rider sustains his inner Mike through good food, the right clothing and not getting [too] lost going from A to B each day. But spare a thought for the bike – two thin wheels, a light frame and a chain – that has to carry a substantial load up and down hills every day. Although usually stalwart and uncomplaining, the Bikes of the Mikes occasionally have a wobble and need to lay down. Literally. Bike punctures, chain problems, broken wheels and worn-out brakes have been some of the Tour events to date, which is why having Lydia, Malcolm & Denese on hand is so helpful to provide cycle triage. Bike maintenance is an ongoing requirement for such a long ride, and the Mikes are now adept at adjusting chainsets, cranks and derailleurs.

Mick making sure his bike gets a good night’s rest.

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Catching up with the Mikes

After their rest in Venice, the Mikes went silent and the Editor feared the worst. After all, they were riding in a country with the only active volcanoes in Europe, whose national animal was the wolf, and where there were half a million visits to exorcists each year. Mick still had Grims on his tail, Fr Michael might have been gang-pressed into active duty, and there was that matter of the free 24-hour red wine fountain in Caldari di Ortona. The potential for disaster was high.

Readers will be relieved that none of these dangers arose and the team arrived on schedule in Ferrara on Monday (47 miles) and went to Tole on Tuesday (54 miles). They visited the Ferrari circuit and the classic car museum, and had another rainy ride. But no lava, ravenous beasts or ghostly figures in black were encountered.

On to Florence today; the LASR hopes for further pictures soon. The Tour is raising money for the London & Slough Run; you can make a donation at:

The Animals Come in Two by Two

The LASR asks readers to cast their minds back two days to Saturday (we realise this is difficult on a bank holiday weekend, but please do try). The Four Mikes are riding to Padua and the storm clouds are gathered low. Then the deluge hits, with thunder and lightning and buckets of rain. The Mikes decide to shelter under the safest place in a storm – a big tree. (At this point in the story, the Editor is having strong reservations about their collective judgement, but we digress). Whilst huddling together for warmth, they notice an ostrich walk by. This was followed by an other ostrich, two tortoises, a giraffe, and a couple of wildebeest. Clearly the local zoo had flooded, and soon enough, a harassed-looking hipster guy with an illegible name tag (“N—“) came running out of the woods yelling “You haven’t seen two camels have you?”

Being the Good Samaritans they are, the Mikes helped the Zookeeper round up his animals and herd them back in the zoo enclosure, which oddly enough, seemed to be floating. Mick claims Fr Michael was a natural at all this – particularly with the lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) The Zookeeper offered them a lift (“There is room for two more”) but they politely declined and carried on their ride.

(As related by Mick Claridge, all rights reserved.)

Four Mikes After the Deluge

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Viva l’Italia!

On Friday the Four Mikes crossed from Austria into Italy over Brenner Pass (4,495 ft), on their way to Borgo Valusugano (53 miles). The scenery continued to be beautiful and the weather thankfully dry. As the Mikes are coping well with the long miles, weather conditions, steep climbs and bike repairs, it was clearly time for an additional challenge, and fortunately, Italian motorists are there to oblige. Embracing Mario Andretti’s advice that “if everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough”, the local drivers are ensuring the Mikes keep their wits about them. Although Mike Burton says its is still a calmer experience than cycling the A412.

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Don’t Fear The Reaper

Readers may recall from an earlier post that Mick Claridge reported seeing an unearthly figure on one of his training rides. It seems that individual – we’ll call him Grims – has taken a shine to our Mick, or to Mick’s cycle. (It is hard to tell which.) During a recent rain-filled climb on the mountain, Mick once again spotted his new friend. This time Grims was close behind him – evidently even a Reaper needs to conserve energy by drafting once in a while. Mick told the LASR:

I knew he was behind me, I was too scared to look around so I pretended it was Fr Mike! But it was him – it was the Reaper! I could hear his bony feet hitting the pedals. Doesn’t that guy wear shoes I thought?”

Once they crested the hill, Mick lost his companion on the descent. It appears that Reapers, like most sensible cyclists, are not that keen on speeds greater than 40mph. Good to know.

Mick & Grims enjoying the climb

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The Hills are Alive….

Wednesday brought an end to the perpetual rain of the past few days, and not a minute too soon, as the Four Mikes on Bikes Tour left Germany today for a 51-mile ride to Steinach-am-Brenner in Austria.  Mike Burton gave the LASR an update on the day:

Today we saw something that had been severely lacking so far – SUNSHINE !!! 
After a slightly cold drizzly start from Garmisch Partenkirken we were soon climbing the 1300 metres up the mountain towards Seefeld. The drizzle was a blessing as the climb was hot work, and it was nice to put away the heavy “waterproof” coats from the last few days. 
The suffering of the last few days, out in the cold with no respite and no alternative, made me think about the homeless people we are helping, who have to deal with that sort of thing every day. 
As we headed down towards Innsbruck we were now on the South facing side of the mountains, in sunlight rather than shade, hence a luxurious 19C temperature. 
The sun meant nice dry roads, so no more tip-toe-ing around slippery corners, we could finally let the bikes loose and make up for the slow 2-3 hour grind up the hill by travelling down at 8-10 times that speed.  Top prize goes to Mick at over 52 mph –  I could only manage 48.6!  Of course we keep brakes and tyres in good order so that such treats are quite safe.

Normally, the Editor rejects all photos that don’t include a member of the Tour, but she is bending this rule for today’s post.

weds start jpeg

Ready set go!


Tag, you’re it!


Emergency Haribo rations





mikes diner

Dinner time

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