Hydration with Electrolytes

Good hydration is an important skill for cycling. It is easier to become de-hydrated and (less frequently) over-hydrated.


When I started cycling, I had very little knowledge of electrolytes and rarely took any. I rarely cramp, but feel moderate electrolyte use is a much better way of keeping well hydrated. I was partly inspired to write this after recent episode of diarrhoea where electrolyte tablets came in handy. Though it has made me look for some without sweeteners. Continue Reading →

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Water bottle hygiene

I was happy with how race went on Sat afternoon. But two hours later I was struck down with fever and diarrhoea. From flying along the A4, to grovelling up the stairs to empty the bowels – the swings and arrow of fortune, as the Bard might say.

I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Possibly I caught a chill when cycling back to HQ in skin suit on a deceptively cold day. But, I’m not sure; I didn’t really feel cold. I didn’t eat anything dodgy – just a few recovery bars. The most likely contender is either I picked up viral infection or it was bacterial infection from a water bottle I used during warm up and recovery.


I remember getting a water bottle out of cupboard and scraping some grime away with finger. In winter, it’s hard not to pick this kind of stuff up. It’s impossible to keep water bottles immaculate. In fact the dispiriting thing about cleaning water bottles is that they can still look quite manky – even after a good clean. Periodically I throw them away, and buy new water bottles. Continue Reading →

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Time trials on the A4

The A4 road from Reading towards Bath has a long history of time trials. Time trials have been held on different sections for perhaps over 100 years. It goes right back to the early days of getting up at the crack of dawn and setting off  surreptitious in all black pretending to be out for solo training ride.

In the days before national championships, the Bath Road Club 100 was seen as one of the premier time trials in the country.


Click to enlarge. Cycling article from 1976

It was in the Bath Road Club 100 that one of the great cycling time trial records of all time was set on this part of the A4. Back in 1956, Ray Booty rode the first sub four hour 100 on the A4 Bath road, running through Pangbourne, Shillingford and Abingdon. Booty set a time of 3hr 58min 28sec. 11 minutes ahead of the second-placed finisher, Stan Brittain

In the days when British Cycling was distinctly an amateur affair, the Daily Record covered the achievement with “Booty the incomparable, the incredible, the indomitable”

After the race, I spoke briefly to Jim Burgin, long time stalwart of London West Cycling Association who remembers in early 1960s, time trials starting on Pangbourne Lane – no roundabout, just T junctions with riders able to enter the road, that had an incomparably different level and type of traffic. Continue Reading →

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Best commuting bike under £500

For £500, you can get a pretty decent commuting bike. Personally, I wouldn’t be keen to spend much more than £500 for a commuting bike. If you lock the bike up in town, there is an increased chance of theft, so with just a £500 you get more peace of mind than you would if you had spent over a £1,000.

I bought a very nice commuting bike in 1999 for about £550 (It was a Trek) but it got stolen from the back of my house. I bought a second hand bike (Trek 1000) from a neighbour for £200 as a temporary stop gap. 17 years later, I’m still riding this temporary stop gap. It is essentially an aluminium road bike, adapted for commuting. I often check out alternative commuting bikes and have test ridden a few, partly for this blog, partly for interest in ‘upgrading’ my commuting bike.

There is a great choice of commuting bikes for under £500. I would separate the choices into:


The most common bike is variations on the hybrid – cross between MTB and road bike, giving maximum functionality needed for commuting.

  1. Classic / Retro Style Bikes – Look cool, great joy to have. Slower. heavier. Bit more expensive. Not great quality at less than £500.
  2. Hybrid Bikes – best value. Most practical, most widely bought. Cheap prices due to economies of scale.
  3. Mountain Bikes – Good for rough terrain like canal paths. Wider tyres are slower. FOr under £500, you won’t get a ‘real’ mountain bike, more like a hybrid geared towards the MTB range.
  4. Road Bikes – Faster, narrower tyres, more aggressive riding position, but less stable than hybrid bikes. Useful for longer commutes and those wishing to combine commuting with training.
  5. Single Speed Bikes – Easy to maintain. Look cool. More expensive (not many under £500). Not good if you have lots of hills!
  6. Foldups – Useful for those commuting by train. Limited choice for under £500. Certainly no Bromptons come under this price range.

Continue Reading →

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Ribble Winter Training Bike for sale

After 13 years of ownership, I am selling another bike – Ribble Alloy Dedacci 7003 road bike with carbon forks. Mostly Shimano 105.


Farwell Mr Ribble

I used this in my first hill climb season. 2004. I remember using it in Otley CC hill climb and Brighton Mitre, but I’ve lost the photo. 12 years is a long time in website history. Continue Reading →

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Charlotteville CC 50 mile TT 2016

The Charlotteville CC 50 mile TT is held on the A31 Bentley course. Today, the weather was unseasonally warm. Good conditions for a time trial, just a light southerly wind.


I haven’t done any ‘flat’ time trials this year, though the A31 has a few long drags which take the edge off your average speed, but give a little encouragement to those who don’t mind the odd lump.

I started well hydrated because I imagined it would be quite thirsty work in the heat. I rode with a 750ml bottle between the tribars. I did toy with running a single chainring for this race. But, didn’t want to risk taking off the front dérailleur on the bumpy A31. I’m investigating a good chain catcher or, even better, a narrow/wide chainring (56 5 arm bot for Dura Ace Quark pm). Last time I did a 100 mile TT on this course, I DNF due to tribars coming loose so you have to make sure everything is well tightened. There are innumerable horizontal ridges in the road which make it quite uncomfortable and lots of clunking. Continue Reading →

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Garsdale Head and Lamps Moss


Deepdale south of Dent in Yorkshire Dales

I was half joking about getting a train into a headwind in post on Tips for riding in wind. I never do it in Oxford, but when visiting Yorkshire, it’s a great way to see a few Yorkshire valleys I wouldn’t otherwise make it to. I cycled a hilly 6 miles to Bingley station and got the ‘slow pacer’ – Leeds to Morecambe train. It reminds me of what train travel was like in the 1980s; quiet, slow, a little dirty, a feeling of neglect, you’re the only passenger who gets off at the station.

However, the Bentham line is popular with cyclists – at different times, there were four different bikes on the train. One young girl took her bike from Skipton to Gargrave where she worked and was going to cycle the 3 miles home in an effort to get fit and lose weight. She said one mile on the bike left her feeling completely out of breath, but she hoped one day to be able to cycle both to and back to Gargrave. I encouraged her by saying – if you keep cycling every day, you will definitely see a big improvement quite quick. We all started with cycling for a couple of miles, and you never know where it may lead you.

Continue Reading →

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Shap Fell hill climb 2016

It is the first hill climb of the year, though the nine mile slog from Kendal to the top of Shap on the A6, never feels like your traditional hill climb. It was also my first race under 25 miles. I haven’t done any 10 mile TT’s yet to gauge efforts.

The important thing for Shap hill climb is the wind direction. The wind from the south makes it “fast”. The wind from the north makes it painfully slow.

Photo Kenny Roberts Photo: Kenny Roberts (2015). I used same wheel and bike combination Zipp disc, and lightweight front wheel without deep section.

Driving over to Kendal, it was quite wet and blustery, but fortunately the weather cleared up for the race, just leaving a nice strong tailwind. Setting off from north of Kendal, I was soon nearly in my top gear of 56*11. That’s a proper hill climb when you can go at 30mph plus. However, even a strong tailwind doesn’t get you up a gradient of 3-10%. The speed still plummets when the road gets steep. Although the average gradient is 3%, there is a considerable bit of flat and also downhill sections, so it means there are some more testing gradients and a lot of variable power efforts. It also goes on for nine miles. With a tailwind, the climb is a rough approximation to a sporting 10 mile time trial. With the wind at your back, I’m always a little uncertain whether to get low or to sit up and benefit from the wind. But, I was on my tribars for most of the ride, apart from the last tricky descent where there was a strong sidewind before the last steepest section to the line. Continue Reading →

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Tips for cycling in the wind

Any cyclist will know that riding into a block headwind can be more difficult than going up a hill. Many tips for riding into a wind are common sense, but it is worth repeating for completeness.


The effect of wind (crosswind causing echelon)

  • Get low and aero. Riding on the drops is more aerodynamic that riding on the tops. Also, if you can bear the pressure, get as low as you can. I spend a lot of time riding on Time trial bike, so have adapted to a relatively lower position. It is a big help for keeping low in headwind riding. See more tips for being more aerodynamic
  • Make sure your clothes are not acting as a wind break. The worst is to have a jacket half zipped up billowing out the back. It is better to have the jacket flapping around than half zipped up to catch the wind and act as a parachute. If possible, take off any surplus jacket, though often when it’s very windy, it’s raining too.
  • Don’t worry about average speed. When riding into a headwind and you’re doing 15mph on a flat bit of road, it can be demoralising. But, the important thing is to maintain a sustainable power, rather than trying to keep a typical average speed. This doesn’t mean you will try keep the same power into headwind as tailwind. You will want to make more effort into headwind, but sometimes, you will just have to go into a lower gear and keep going at a lower speed.
  • Improve quality of group riding. Riding in a group is best way to take some shelter from headwind. Taking it in turns and forming effective paceline. Don’t let gaps appear or let anyone drop off. Stronger riders can take longer turns.

Choosing rides

In very windy conditions.

  • I will tend to ride into headwind, to get tailwind on way back.
  • I will look for routes which are more sheltered and leave the overexposed moors for another day.
  • I have been known to occasionally take a train into a block headwind. e.g. train from Bingley to Clapham North Yorks. It costs £10, but it’s a real treat to miss out on 20 miles of headwind.

Pacing a time trial into headwind/tailwind

Generally, it does pay to make more effort into headwind than tailwind. This is because the aerodynamic cost increases exponentially with speed. You get more effort for increasing power at lower speeds.

I did a 10 mile TT with a 25mph (40km/h) wind. My time was 20.35. Average power of 325 watts. Continue Reading →

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The A59 looking unusually quiet.

It was the Tour de Yorkshire yesterday –  Otley to Doncaster for both the mens and womens races. I could have gone to see the races start in Otley, but I preferred to go on my bike and watch the highlights on telly. Cycling through the Yorkshire Dales went well – though watching the highlights mainly consisted of fast- forwarding through two hours of ATP tennis wondering when the cycling would start. (TV problems apparantely) Yesterday the peleton went up Greenhow Hill. Today it will be Sutton Bank and a few more climbs in the North York Moors. Continue Reading →

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