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.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The London Bike Show

This Sunday David and I went to the London bike show and neither of us bought much. In fact I only bought some electrolite tabs as they were half price and I'd been meaning to get some for when the weather picks up a bit.

David had been threatening to buy a bike, but good sense prevailed and so we drooled and enquired, oooohed and aaahhhd, discussed the various merits and asked a lot of questions. One thing that really struck me was how passionate and loyal to the brand they work  for many of the staff are.

I went expecting to see the Canyon Endurace and be smitten by it's sensible German attitude and equipment. It is a very good bike, but there was a real  lack of passion at the stand. All the Canyons collectively displayed in their incredibly competent and good value spec lacked a bit of sparkle.


In my quest to find a helmet that I can't get burnt through and is  comfortable on a bald head I spent a fair bit of time looking at helmets.


We made the mistake of heading to the Dolan stall early in the morning. To get there we had to pass the Starley stall with their beautiful Stainless Steel bike blocking my path. Beautiful but I don't need a race bike so I'm able to resist. We're heading to the Dolan stall to look at the Tuono but I'm immediately stopped dead in my tracks by the Dolan ADX ti. Very pretty in the flesh and with a really great spec on the show model very unfair. All through the day I kept coming back to it in my mind.

The Kinesis and Enigma both had better frames... The Orro and the Canyon a much  more affordable type of performance... but the Dolan had it. 


That weird thing that happens when a bike is just right. The Dolan staff are an absolute credit to the company, being both knowledgeable and passionate whilst remaining helpful and unobtrusive. 

The lovely Kask Protone 

 Giro space age commuter helmet

 The Kinesis Racelite GF_Ti

Orro Oxygen

The very pretty Dolan ADX Ti

Front view
 Campagnolo Chorus fitted to the Dolan ADX ti

Friday, 6 February 2015

Already looking forward to the London bike show.

I'd really like to buy a new bike this year. My trusty Kona is a lovely bike but...

  • The wheels are heavy and nearly worn through at the rim,
  • The chain set is a little shonky (It's actually fallen apart once on a ride)
  • The rear derailler is bent beyond repair (by that I mean I've been told not to straighten it again)
  • The brakes are awful (I realised the brakes on the brompton are much, much better)
I looked at replacing all the worn parts and I'm looking at a few hundred quid, which I might still do if I'm allowed to have 3 bikes.

David and I are off to the London bike show ostensibly to get him a new bike, and whilst I'm not in the position to buy one yet, I'm using the opportunity to see some possibles and some unobtainables in the flesh (carbon,steel and ti)

What do I need from this bike?
  • Light. It's all relative isn't it? I mean around 8-9kgs for steel or ti and 7-8kgs for a carbon offering
  • Comfortable. I'm going to ride it for 20 out of 24 hours in August
  • Reliable. See above.
  • Something I'm proud to ride.
I'm probably going to carry 2-3 water bottles a snack and a jacket, tool, 2 tubes, snacks, batteries, more food, and a first aid kit (did I mention snacks?). I'm thinking that it'll need to be sturdy.

My list at the moment is...
  • Canyon Endurace (probably the Ultegra but I'd love the Campagnolo Chorus)
  • Orro Oxygen
  • Van Nicholas Ventus
  • Starley (something unmemorable like a number)
  • Planet X - RT58
I'd also like to look at lots of others. Weirdly the endurace in a size small is almost the exact same proportions and dimensions as my Kona...

Monday, 26 January 2015

New rules of the road: #2 Addison Lee

Rule #2

Addison Lee

Addison Lee vehicles to be confined to the far left hand lane in all circumstances: Except when actually turning right after an appropriate signal. If this fails to limit the amount of sudden breaking and turning without signalling then a secondary offence of "impersonating an actual cab" should be brought into  play.

New Rules of the Road: #1 Hi Vis

On my journey to work this morning, I was inspired to come up with a couple of ideas that I think would dramatically improve the highway code. I made myself agree that they would target all road users and be for the greater good...

Rule #1

Hi Vis

Hi Vis clothing should be only worn by cyclists and those working in or near roads and trainlines. Hi Vis should only be worn in such a way as to draw appropriate attention to one's location. There is no excuse for looking like you're going to a rave in the early 90's.

Cars are not painted Neon green. They have lights. Try getting lights.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cycling in 2015

In my first post of the year I talked about 3 decisions for 2015. Decisions 1 and 2 are progressing nicely with my leaving date getting closer and my first application activity getting under way so onto...

Decision 3: Do a cycling event that pushes me harder than I've been pushed on a bike.

I've signed up to do the Newcastle to London ride.

"Hey!" I hear you thinking. "That's not further than you've ridden before?"

That's right. It's only about 300 miles (483 kilometres). Lands end to John O'Groats is further. This event however has a target time of  24 hours; Which means I  need to average 20 kms an hour over 24 hours. I'll have a couple of hours off the bike and stops every few hours to refill water and snack supplies so my average will need to be nearer 25 kms an hour.

This is a much bigger ride than I've ever managed before. To achieve this I'm going to need to get some progressively bigger distances in between now and August. This is basically the Dunwich Dynamo 2.5 times in one go.

I've got the Velothon  in Cardiff  which is 50 kms as my first mass participation ride of the year and I'm thinking of the Ride to the Sun as an overnight practise run at about half the distance. In between I think I'm going to have to do some hill based interval training and some London-Brighton-London or London-Cambridge-London weekend rides leading up to it.

There is also the small matter of directions....

Thursday, 15 January 2015

BONT Vaypor shoes - A first look

Just before Christmas (because timing is everything) I treated myself to a new pair of shoes for cycling in. I had to stop using the basic Shimano shoes/Cleats/Pedals combo I had purchased for the LEJOG ride back in 2011 as the soles were very flexible by 2014 and had contributed to my foot injuries.

After much research I decided upon a pair of BONT shoes as they have a wide fitting last and are heat moldable. They are of course preposterously expensive for a non-pro non-racer. I measured myself using their on line fitting tool and followed the advise to go a half size up on the charts.then I hit the Internet. In December I could only find the BONT Riot at an affordable price until I hit eBay.

An eBay user was selling 2 pairs of BONT Vaypour in exactly the size I was looking for. 1 slightly scuffed looking pair in the perfect colour and a pristine looking pair in a flouro lime green. I swallowed my pride and went for the pristine pair.

In Fluorescent lime green.

To be clear I don't normally buy second hand footwear as it can already have molded to the foot shape of the original owner and be full of bacteria... However These are heated in the oven to 70C(That should kill any bacteria) and then you wear them to mold them to your own feet.

Anyway the molding process is quite simple: First remove the cleats, bolts and fittings. Then:

"Pre-heat the oven to 70C/160F. Place the shoe in the oven for 20 minutes. Higher temperatures will void your warranty and may damage your boot. Caution: Do not place your feet in the hot shoes or you may burn your feet. Let them cool a little and test the shoe temperature with your hand before placing your feet in the shoes. Tighten the straps and allow to cool. If you have any lumps or bunions on your feet or if there are any areas causing discomfort, while the shoe is hot you can use the round end of a screwdriver to press out any part of the boot. You can heat mold the shoes as many times as you like."

Followed the advice and it worked. I can feel the depression under the ball of my foot and the sole feels in contact with my foot the whole way around.

I've only ridden once with them so far so a review is a fair way off, but I'm impressed with the fit, comfort, stiffness and construction so far. A word of warning though - Check you know how to undo the ratchet system before you put them on or you will be asking your significant other to google "undo-ing BONT Shoes" before you know it.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

First post of 2015

At the risk of pretending anybody reads this...

Happy New Year!! Happy New Shoes!!

So since my last post I've discovered that I can indeed take voluntary redundancy and have accepted and then emailed the recipient of the letter to check they'd got it. As of the beginning of march I am no longer working at my current employer. I work in Local Government and gradually the similarities between this line of work and the problems facing the cast of "Parks and Recreation" are becoming too similar to bear.

So decision 1 has been made.

Decision 1 - Leave my current job

This ties neatly into  decision 2 which is...

Decision 2 - Develop an exit strategy for my current sector

Decision 3 was a little harder. I am back running again after my broken foot, but I have done little cycling as I've had to buy new shoes and pedals and they are not tuned in yet. It got me thinking though. I love cycling, I enjoy running and I can tolerate swimming. I should do more cycling and less of the other two. Last year I did little cycling as I needed to get my running and swimming up to "survival standard" to complete my chosen event.

I can do this now. I got a respectable time.

I'm going to do some of the Aquathlons and Duathlons in the Lee Valley area over the spring and summer to keep my strength and overall fitness up. I will continue to run and swim because I can but mostly I want to cycle.

An injury free year where I am doing some running, should build up a bit more strength. The Pilates has really helped here so that must continue. Swimming should help my back and upper body strength...

Decision 3 - Do a cycling event that pushes me harder than I've been pushed on a bike.

I've got lots of ideas but I won't post until I'm committed to an event.