Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Dunwich Dynamo 2016

After missing last year's ride I was really excited to be doing the Dun Run for a 3rd time. Nathan was coming down to do it for the first time (although his chosen event is 24 hour mountain biking and I think this was a gentle training ride for him) and Dave and Rob would make four. This year I had a GPS and a light that I could see by. Totally prepared. 

I spent a sweaty hour making sandwiches and snacks so I wouldn't need sugary snacks and picking an outfit for the weather. 

Dave messaged as him and Rob were setting off early to get some pubs in. We'd leave later and try to catch them up  at the last pub. 

Leaving it to the last minute, Nathan and I prepped our bikes at about the time we'd decided we definitely needed to leave by. 

Leaving London is always slow but as we came through Walthamstow we passed the point I crashed the last time I'd done this ride and started to pick up speed. 

A two year period of training to keep up with my faster riding friends seemed to have paid off and we made a cracking pace. As the darkness descended I clicked on the lights I'd bought after a miserably poorly lit previous night ride and lo and behold I could see. 

A brief stop in one of the villages with pubs and a second stop to eat a sandwich and we pressed on. A text from David suggested they were only a few miles ahead and were going to stop, not at the official halfway but at the Sudbury fire station. 

By this point we kept seeing the same riders. In my case I passed them on the flat/downhills only to have them cruise past me on the uphill(ish) sections. I have to admit I'd never seen the point in doing this ride quickly but with decent lights it was a completely different ride. 

Props to the fixie group wearing "fixed beers" tops as they seemed to be riding gears at the top end of my gear choices and became a regular fixture over the next couple of hours. One advantage of following guys with no brakes is that they won't stop too suddenly. 

We had a coffee stop at the market by the lake, which was still dark. I realised at this point I was about 2 hours ahead of my time for previous rides. 

At some point over the next hour I lost everyone I was riding with. Nathan off the front as he'd decided to 'time trial' the last 35 miles and the others I wasn't sure. 

At 7 miles to go, in the now beautiful sunshine, I made a stop to take a couple of photos and shout 'left' to all the riders powering towards the turn to Dunwich. After a few minutes David arrived and we decided to wait for Rob. A few minutes later we got a text from Nathan. He was on the beach. 

I love the last few miles of this route as, living in London, I rarely get to ride small roads like this. 

A text from Rob to say he'd gone a different route. In the queue to book the coach back. 

We got there in 7.5 hours of riding. We saw a 4 person multi storey bike, cycling clubs forcing their way through, vintage racers, the London Brompton riders, a child riding quicker than some adults, Mamils on bikes costing more than cars... Colleagues I didn't know cycled...


More queues. 


Long coach ride. Thank you to the category racers behind me for such entertaining conversations for me to eavesdrop on as I drifted in and out of sleep and a coach stop with a shop to descend on like a plague of Lycra clad locusts. 

One final saga was that we were lucky enough to be on the coach that made it to Surrey Quays early. We pitched in with unloading and guarding/stacking a lorry full of bikes. In difficult circumstances yet another excellent job by southwark cyclists. Thank you for keeping it just organised enough to not be complicated, but disorganised enough to do whatever you want however you want to do it. 

Plus points. Less gel wrappers all over the stops and road. Less massive cycling clubs pushing past. Excellent coach service and those weird veggie fried commas (cup-a-soup flavour) as part of the breakfast. Residents in deck chairs cheering us on. 

Minus points. Just that it was almost impossible to get across London on our return. 

Happy, happy days. 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Winter riding #3: Still no mudguards

Actually I might need to buy some new ones...

So I've actually only been out on the bike once* in February which is not what I planned at all. Although having only got in about 5 foul weather rides means my winter kit will last "forever"

I've had the usual sniffles and days when I should be riding but there are jobs to be done, but nothing to really get in the way. I've got decent enough kit that I arrive home frozen through but not delirious. I think in this instance it might have been nice to be going on club rides. Camaraderie and a group of fellow sufferers.

Another issue with winter riding is timing. In the summer you can get up at 6 or 7 and head off out for 80-90km and still be back by lunch. If it's pitch black at 8 o'clock then you need hi vis and lights. Likewise in the summer if it gets to 3 o'clock and I've finished whatever I'm doing I might head out for a ride. In winter you can start to feel the dark creeping in and an afternoon ride can suddenly become negotiating busy retail areas as they close down for the night.

I have this week, however, been finally allocated a locker in the work shower area so commuting in for a ride out after work as the weather picks up suddenly becomes a real possibility. I'll have to look into routes out of London from tower bridge...

*Once on the road bike. I've done errands and the odd commute on the Brompton

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Winter riding #2: Still not remembered the mudguards on...

I've been getting out every Sunday afternoon now for the last couple of months. A quick 35-45km ride up to the M25 and around a few country lanes, before heading back home. It's been taking me 1.5-2.5 hours because of traffic towards the beginning and end of each ride. What I'm starting to find peculiar is the routine of it. This ride in all it's variations has started to resemble my laps of the park. I can't go much further out because of the time it takes to get back. By 2.5 hours I'm busting for the loo and I've run out of water. A combination I particularly hate.

When riding a sportive or a ride from A to B the first stop is normally a couple of hours in. Go to the loo. Get some more water. Eat a bit. Get going. Repeat. the only ride in London I've done with any regularity, that even comes close to this is the Richmond park run.

The ride from my house to Richmond park is about 25km. Each lap is around 10km with a cafe at one end and a toilet and tap at the other. Effectively this means you can ride down there and then stop for a bite and a drink. Do a few laps (Stopping to use the loo) and then stop for a coffee and sandwich before heading back home. The whole ride is between 50 and 90 km and you feed yourself twice with a couple of loo stops. Basically an "in city" sportive on open roads. The ride there and back can be a little dull and for some reason always takes 90min on the way back.

What astounded me today was that I'm riding in the same kit that I rode spring and late summer rides. Admittedly there's a merino base layer and the gilet isn't coming off... but still. It's been startlingly windy. Enough to stop me dead-in-my-tracks last weekend, but this time last year I was wearing my jacket over a jersey.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Winter riding

Despite not getting around to putting my mudguards back on yet I'm starting to get weirdly excited about riding this winter.

Emma is back from the bike shop with new cables so for the first time since August I will have most of my gears back.  I have enough winter kit -well nearly enough- I've asked Santa for windproof dwr bib tights. I can cope with the conditions. I can do either windproof and warm, or rainy. I have a thick soft shell for very cold weather and a thinner one for most weather. In short I feel prepared. Weatherproof gloves, shoe covers, tights,  bright lights. 

I'll fit the mudguards and plan some winter routes that allow for slower slightly longer distances, some hill climbing but less fast descents. In short I hope that come Late Feb when I have a hilly sportive planned I'll be in better shape than last year. 

I'm hoping regular yoga, running and either swimming or weights will help. We'll see. I might be more stressed by work than I've ever been but I'm happier and healthier than before. I'll review all the kit as I go throughout the winter. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Alienation and your local bike shop

Difficult to believe but just because somebody works in a bike shop it doesn't mean they know a lot about bikes.

I try whenever I can to buy at my local bike shop. I've blogged about it in the past. Sometimes you don't need that part that you've been researching online and whatever is in stock at you local bike shop (LBS) is going to be just fine. My saddle, stem, seatpost and wheels were all bought online after extensive research. My headset, bottle cages, tyres, cables and saddle pack were all bought at an LBS after taking their advice. Absolutely happy with all the above items. I've even bought online and contacted my LBS for fitting costs... And happily swallowed them because labour and skills cost money.

I took Emma in to my LBS to get the parts that had worn out in spectacular fashion last week replaced. The chain was measured...

"You replaced that in June"
"Oh. Have you thought about replacing the groupset?"
"Yes, but not before Christmas. I thought maybe before spring though."
"Well 10 speed is fine but you'd need new wheels for 11..."
"No. There's a spacer fitted by you to run the 9 speed. "

Then he went on to tell me that 105 is 10 speed and tiagra is old but probably what I should fit to a
Bike like mine. Wrong on point 1 and the 2nd is subjective.

I'm not going to name the bike shop because I know full well that if the owner had not been busy trying to serve a tricky customer then he would have called him out on some of this. All I suppose I'm saying is that like many things, the right choice is subjective. If I'd been sold the Claud Butler alu road bike I'd gone into Evans to buy in 2003 I'd have ridden that for LEJOG. As it was I got a specialized commuter that I replaced with Emma in 2011. Ironically that did end up working out for the best but at an extra cost of £600 to me.

Anyway. After assessing what needed to be done (and consulting with the owner) they did what I asked and Emma is waiting for pick up. I have 2 cycling mad friends who won't use my favourite bike shop because of past experiences. Assistants need to be a salesman where an excuse is needed and a solution when money is tight. I'll continue to patronise my LBS because I know Emma will come back to me better for the visit. I know the onsite mechanic loves her too. Just maybe not the floor staff.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

2015 as it nears the end

As we get towards the end of 2015 I can look back from a position I didn't expect to be in.

I signed up to do the Newcastle to London this year but dropped out after my partner asked me to. I wasn't prepared and it wouldn't have gone well. I did spend the year doing sportives for the first time. I did 4 this year totalling 300 miles riding at speed. This is something I intend to keep up and I've already booked my first for next year. Regularly pushing myself with a group of friends meant I went out most weeks and rode hard. On my own.

I didn't do another triathlon. After the broken foot I was scared to. But I'll be back and I already have a duathlon booked for the end of next year.

I've lost weight through the regular exercise and I've done almost as much yoga as I have cycling. I've found the calm, intense, slow stretching and introspection good for improving both my physical and mental flexibility and resilience.

I didn't buy a new bike. Emma is still going strong although she has a few new parts. Some of the remaining original parts have got to be replaced after last weeks adventures.

I now work in a different field for different people at a different organisation. 12 years at Lewisham and now 6 months in a new job.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

A lovely day out

I don't get to ride with Jonny very often and this day out had been planned for a couple of months. Quite simply I was going to ride up to his, have a cup of tea with the family, go for a ride, pub lunch and back. 

Inauspiciously I had been out to Camden to enjoy all that Camden had to offer the previous night. For those of you that don't know, Camden mostly offers loud music, greasy food and beer. I may not have been in peak physical form at the point of departure. 

To get to Jonny's house I have to climb out of Stoke Newington up the Holloway Road, and up through Highgate. The first 3 miles are mostly climbing. 

At mile 4 a horrible crunching noise preceded my bike changing itself into top gear. My rear derailleur cable had snapped. 

Never one to let a problem like only having 2 gears get in the way of a nice day out I carried on. The thinking was that I'd bodge it into a medium gear at Jonny's and just get on with riding. 

At Jonny's after a brief respite for cheese on toast and tea I preceded to discover that there was nothing to be done about the gearing. I'd got 2 gears (50x11 and 34x11) and I was 13 km from home. 

Not ideal but I'd survive if there wasn't too much climbing. There were 2 large hills at the beginning and then a few flat miles and shallow swooping descents. By the time we reached the pub there was a loud grinding noise from chain rub at the front derailleur and a clattering as the chain loosely wove through the jockey wheels at the back. I checked the GPS. Another 14.6km done. 

We were at the edge of the M25 so I couldn't be too far from home. 

We looked into the pub. Mostly Middle-Aged, tweed-wearing and definitely not in sweaty Lycra. We sat outside until Debs and A arrived. 

A pleasant lunch with some fine ale followed. The sitting changes and more families arrived. We felt just about OK in Lycra. 

By the time we left the pub, the evening was drawing in. I'd only got prescription sunglasses with me and I realised as it got progressively darker that I'd need to lose them shortly. 

An improbably long descent followed. I must really check how it's possible, but the journey from the pub right back to my house had 2 short climbs. The rest I did in the larger (and less noisy) gear. All 23.5 kms. 

All told, an improbably sunny day and fine riding despite the odds being against us. I'd always wondered how people managed to do long rides like the Dunwich Dynamo on a singlespeed and I think the answer is simply psychological. When I started riding I always worried that I didn't have enough low gears. I don;t worry about that so much now. Some hills are just too steep and long for me to manage, but very few these days. The question is "Can I do this?" not "Should I?" or "Do I want to?"

Monday, 22 June 2015

Tour De Essex

Shall we hire a minivan or cycle?




To get to the start for 07:45 David and I would need to meet at 06:45, which in turn meant getting up at 05:45 on a Sunday morning. Not helped by the fact that I went to bed at about 23:30 and David and I had that conversation whilst he was on a pub crawl.

On the face of it the "Tour De Essex" looked like it might be a nice little ride. We picked the 72 mile route as it is one step closer to the century Sportive than we had tried so far and only two months before the Ride London 100 team event. The website boasted:

"2014 was a unique year for the County of Essex and for all who cycle on her. The third stage of the Tour headed through many of the wonderfully road bike friendly roads that we at SportiveUK cycle on a regular basis.The Tour De Essex features a 42, 72, and 110 mile choice of routes that utilise many of the same spectacular roads as the 2014 Tour de France.
The Tour had a huge effect on this area of countryside, many roads were updated to accommodate the peloton. These immaculate surfaces will get your wheels spinning making for an impressive average speed."
On the day they had to add a couple more miles on due to roadworks. I must say that having the Garmin tour bleep as junctions approach is worth the price alone. I nearly missed a couple of turns and had one rider thank me for signalling a turn as we hurtled down a hill towards it.

I've nothing to complain about from the organisers point of view except the description of the road surfaces. I've only ridden such gravel strewn, pot holed roads on the LEJOG ride a few years back. The ride itself was relatively well thought out with 2 rest stops for food, toilets and filling of water bottles (with pre-mixed energy drink, tea, coffee and water all available). The volunteers were wonderful, cheerful folk, admittedly the first rest stop was about 35 miles in, which was tiring to get to. The scenery was stunning...

So what was it that made it hell on wheels for the five of us? 

Was it the short descents taking all of the climbing height out in a few yards? Was it the wind that knocked you back on the flats? Was it the roads surfaces which needed a careful eye? The range rovers passing closely by?

Perhaps all of these but at least this time I remembered to take lunch.

A great day was had by all... Well I enjoyed myself... even the painful bits. 24 hours later most of the pain has subsided anyway. So I had a few pints when I got back and spent the evening in compression clothing... so what?

Quick update

Things that I have done since my last post...

  • Officially left my job
  • Had a few weeks off
  • Changed the saddle, seatpost, forks and wheels on my bike (Kona)
  • Visited my parents
  • Visited my brother, sister in law and niece
  • Started a new job
  • Gone on Holibobs
  • Ridden the Cardiff Velothon
  • Ridden the Tour De Essex

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Ware's Cambridge

This last Sunday I rode my very first ever sportive. Wares Cambridge. I refuse to be drawn on either the pun or my navigation skills in relation to this name. I had felt a small amount of snobbery towards these types of events, in the past, as effectively it is a big bike ride on open roads. You can do this for free anytime you want. There are refreshments and signage, timing chips and a mildly competitive atmosphere. It isn’t a race, it isn’t a leisure ride and it doesn’t have the navigation/problem solving issues surrounding Audax.

We signed up for the 50 mile route as it is early in the year (still have arteries full of christmas cheer) and I duly downloaded the TCX file on the Saturday afternoon... I should say at this point that I had my leaving do from my job on the Friday which involved 6 hours of drinking… then cleaned my bike and packed my kit.

David and I met up at Finsbury park station and got the train up to Hertford North. It was chilly and overcast and I had forgotten my leg warmers so I was chilled through after our brief wait on the platform. We tagged along with some other riders and soon found the start. Once there we met up with the other two riders who will make up our Ride London relay team.

We made a motley crew. Phil and his brother had carbon road bikes (Mekk and a very aero looking Rose) whilst David had his trusty Condor touring bike (sneakily fitted with new race wheels) and I on the Kona.

Once we got going I soon realised I was going to be doing this ride (mostly) alone as the other 3 sped off into the distance. I didn’t go flat out as it was my first 50 miler of the year, but I wasn’t overtaken much either. I’d got my Garmin programmed with the route but as I hadn’t tested the pre-programmed route function I was glad of the very effective signage. 

As I pulled into the first refreshment stop at 26kms (yes I was doing a ride measured in miles, but I’d calibrated in kms) I spotted the other three and we had a little chat, a few cream crackers and cheddar and set off. I got dropped about a mile in again.

This section was much more open and windier. I really enjoyed this and the next section as the sun had come out and there were some proper ups and downs. At one point I got down to 8kms and at another up to 50kms an hour. There are no really big climbs but you get around 800m of climbing and the same of descending.

I followed the pattern of catching the guys briefly at stops and then getting dropped, enjoying being out in the countryside, and the cheese and crackers until finally I realised we were nearly back. 

I was half an hour outside the bronze time for my age group, but to be fair we hadn’t really been trying. My rolling time was within the gold time so if I eat less cheese and hadn’t had that last cup of tea who knows… but then that’s it isn’t it? There is the competitive part, if you want it, but you can ignore it if you want.

I was fascinated to discover that mine was by far and away not the worst bike choice for this event. All sorts of velocipedes and been roped in for the event with kit ranging from what looked like an ex-team sky pinarello and full team sky kit to one fellow who looked dressed for arctic exploration.

As it is I had a great time (the journey back was frustrating but not difficult) and I felt I got my money’s worth to the degree that I might just sign up to their other events this year. I realise as well that I had packed way too much. Ok so i needed the tubes in case of punctures but I could have got 2 tubes and repair kit plus all the food I ate in my jersey pockets... Next time... That's bound to shave half an hour off isn't it.