Local Riders Q&A - Simon Keeton

I'm lucky in that I get to ride by bike with Simon Keeton most weekends as part of the Rutland club runs. He was one of the first people I sent these questions to and although it's taken him nearly eight months to complete them, I always knew his answers and photos would be well worth wait. 

Simon once told me he was like a 'stick-of-rock', in that if you cut him in half he'd be 'Rutland through and through'. He's not ridden for any other club and followed in his father Colin's footsteps by being a stalwart of the club. A rider with a ton of class and great bloke to boot. 

Simon, along with his mate and fellow 'Rutlander' Jon Rickards is a former World Tandem Hour record holder. 

What would you say are the benefits of a new rider joining a proper cycling club?

If you join a proper "Club" that has members who've been riding and racing for years, then you should learn from those members about Club life and all that goes with it, riding skills, road craft, racing, promoting events, how to ride in a bunch and most importantly etiquette when riding in a bunch. What gets me is when people join a “racing team” or a Club that's only been around for about six months, they go out riding with them for a bit and almost overnight they think they’re the next Mark Cavendish and they know everything there is to know about riding and racing a bike.

Mudguards, mudguards and mudflaps or racing bike with clip on guards through winter?

There is absolutely nothing to discuss here, mudguards and the all important rear mud-flap all the time. For the weather that we have in the UK from November through to March and our atrocious roads there is no other option. How people can set off on a ride in the rain with no mudguards is beyond me, they must enjoy getting wet and cold.

Do you enjoy a cafe stop or do you prefer to ride straight round?

I do enjoy a good cafe stop but I'm not always fussed about stopping, just depends who I'm out with, the weather and how I'm feeling. I do our Club’s Saturday morning teacake ride but I don’t usually stop at the café as it’s only a short ride, I prefer to stop at the café on the longer Sunday ride.


Assos, Rapha or neither?

Assos is my preferred choice for most of my cycling wardrobe. I wore Assos bibshorts when I raced as a schoolboy and I've never really worn anything else, I’ve tried a few other makes of shorts but nothing beats Assos, they're just so comfortable despite the high price.

Do you prefer to get your head down on the A6, keep a good tempo going on the B roads or get onto the back-wacks? What about the rough stuff on your road bike?

A good tempo on the A and B roads is good in a group or if you're out on the chain gang but most of the time I like to get out onto the back-wacks and get away from traffic as much as I can. As for rough stuff on your road bike, yes why not, it always makes the ride more interesting and you’re not likely to see any cars which is always a good thing.

What do you think about Strava?

It's alright if you're into thatsort of thing but I'm not really a stats and charts kind of person although I do like to look atwhere I’ve been and probably the average speed for my ride. For training I'm kind of old school, its all about riding your bike and hours in the saddle not looking at how fast someone else can ride on a "segment" of a road. When it comes down to it, speed only really matters when you've got a race number pinned on your back.

What do you think about Sportive rides?

They're alright in that they're getting people out of cars and onto bikes so that's a good thing but I’ve never entered one myself. I can’t really see the point of paying between £20 and £40 to ride with a group of cyclists on roads that I ride anyway and then get a certificate to say that I’ve ridden that specific route of 100km in such and such a time. The way that road racing is going in this country I can see that sportives will become more and more popular and will become “unofficial” races, a bit like reliability rides. With the season long Premier Calendar events down to just a handful of racesa year and so many local races and events just disappearing I can see riders turning to sportives in the not too distant future and treating them as races.

Do you have any cycling pet hates?

People wearing shorts in winter, what’s all that about? Just because it’s sunny in November and you can see some blue sky from your kitchen window why on earth would you go out in shorts?Black socks are another one but that’s the next question and sock length is another debate that could go on forever.  

White, black or coloured socks?

This is a bit like the mudguards in winter question, as white socks are the standard issue for road riding. Black doesn’t and shouldn’t really be an option; if they are then they should only be worn in winter under overshoes. White socks with some colours are perfectly acceptable and socks should only be ankle high. If you want to wear socks half way up your calves or up to you knees then you should be playing tennis, not riding a bike. 

Are there any cycling traditions that you think have been, or are being, lost as a result of changing attitudes and behaviour? And are we better off or worse off as a consequence?

Club riding and etiquette is something that’s been disappearing for quite a while. It’s good that there are more and more people on bikes because this hopefully means less people in cars. The Wiggo, Cavendish and Froome boom can do the sport no harm at all, but its basic club riding that today’s breed of new cyclists seem to be missing out on. Going out and buying all the best tackle that money can buy doesn’t just suddenly turn you into a good biker rider / handler.

Cotton cap or helmet?

Up until recently I was still part of the old school of cotton cap wearers. My Dad was killed in 1999 whilst racing anddied from his head injuries but I still didn’t wear a helmet even after that. A couple of years ago we had an older guy come down on one of the mid-week runs and landed straight on his head and we were only doing about 10mph so after that I started to wear one. I was probably one of five out of the forty or so riders on the run that didn’t wear a helmet so I felt a bit guilty at not wearing one. You could say that it was a like being in a race when you’re out with that amount of riders, only you’re not wearing a helmet and everybody else is. Chris Walker also had a dig at me on the way out to watch Lincoln a couple of years ago for not wearing one so I decided it was probably time to see sense. I must admit though if it was scorching hot and I was in Mallorca on a ride with a few others I think it’d be a cotton cap day.  

The benefits of spinning a low gear compared to mashing a high gear is often discussed. Putting aside the serious, physiological and mechanical aspects, what cadence you think looks right?

Everyone seems to think that they can spin gears like Armstrong and Froome and win like them but they can’t, everybody is different. I’ve always kind of been somewhere in the middle myself, big gears if I’m riding a time trial and then obviously when I’m riding a road race it can be a bit of everything. Froome didn’t look the most elegant of riders last year on Ventoux when he jumped away from Quintana with his legs spinning like bees wings, but it worked for him and he’s obviously capable of sustaining that high cadence for a long period of time.

Frame pump or mini pump?

I used to have a frame pump then I went onto mini pumps but now I’m back on a full size frame pump. I always find that frame pumps work and mini pumps don’t. There’s nothing worse than puncturing in winter, stood freezing at the side of the road trying to blow your tyre up with a three inch pump. You can guarantee that whenever you’re in a group and someone punctures they always end up borrowing someone’s frame pump rather than using their own mini pump. Mini pumps do look good and can always fit in your pocket but I’d rather have a pump I know will work when I puncture.  

What do you like to talk about when you are on a ride with friends/team/club mates? Do you prefer to keep the subjects lightweight or get your teeth into something contentious or controversial?

Nothing in particular really, whatever’s in the news, the weather, racing, anything really but nothing too serious. 

Who would be / is your perfect tandem partner? Would you ride captain or stoker?

I would say that my perfect tandem partner has been the one I’ve been lucky enough to ride many events with, my friend and Club mate Jon Rickards. I’ve ridden with a few different people on the tandem but with Jon we just seemed to “click” together when we rode together. We kind of knew how we both felt when we were racing and how well (or bad) we were both going. As for other tandem partners I would have liked to have had a go with my other Club mate Malc Elliott, maybe there’s still time yet before we both get too old and Jens Voigt would be another candidate. 

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