Best protein bars

Recently, I’ve been taking more protein bars for during, and at the end of a training ride. When I first started cycling, I thought it was all about carbohydrates, but protein is just as important.

I’ve been taking more protein bars because:

  • I like taking food which isn’t all high sugar. This is important for training for long distance riding, improving fat burning energy capacity and not relying on the simple sugars. Then in the race situation, I will take the max Carbohydrate intake, but also will (hopefully) have good capacity to gain energy from the other fat burning source. (Even I have some fat)
  • Many studies show that a good 20grams of protein after hard exercise aids recovery of the muscles. Tde optimum delivery time is said to be within 30 minutes of the end of the exercise. Therefore, for a long session, it seems to make sense to take some during exercise as well as close to the end.
  • Also, as a vegetarian it is good to take supplementary protein, in case you don’t get enough from normal diet.

Best Protein bar

Power bar Protein Plus – Low sugar


These were surprisingly tasty and pleasant to eat (due to sweeteners I found out writing this post); they only having 0.8grams of carb which sugars per bar. They have a light fluffy not sweet texture, which are quite enjoyable and easy to eat mid ride. The protein comes from milk and whey protein. Continue Reading →

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Great smells of cycling

This is really scrapping the bottom of the barrel for new cycling articles. “Great aromas of the cycling world.” On the positive side, I’ve left out the ‘whiff of corruption’ and other poor analogies which leave a bad smell hanging in the air.

The sense of smell is something we tend to forget, but unconsciously it is always there. It’s certainly not the first thing you think about with regard to cycling. It’s more of a visual feast – the peleton strung out alongside an  immaculate French vineyard or the visual pain of seeing cyclists with knee high black socks.

But, as well as the visual joys of cycling, there are some less heralded aromas worth a mention.


1. Deep heat / getting going creams. When I first started time-trialling, everyone seemed to put on this oil over their shaved legs. It was quite an arresting / reassuring aroma for a cold March morning in a village hall. Somehow the smell of deep heat always manages to bring back that right of passage before a time trial. The whole routine of getting your number, complaining about the wind, coming up with excuses for not having trained, squeezing into your skin suit – all these are indelibly linked with that smell of deep heat.

Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown this kind of ‘warm up cream’ is actually counter productive. It just brings blood to the edge of your legs before starting, meaning you lose heat quicker and your legs are more prone to cold. However, despite everything saying it does more harm than good, you still see quite a few old timers slapping on the reassuring balm. I reckon it’s because they just like the smell.


2. Oil. Most aromas are not particularly pleasant. You could think of oil as a rather neutral smell. But, I like it; walk into a bike shop and the feint, but unmistakable, aroma of oil is the underlying presence of the room.

Any cycle fan always loves going into a bike shop, even if he knows he isn’t going to buy anything. We just like looking at the bikes, components and clothes. A true cycling aficionado will always love visiting a bike shop. These days we can get most components for 20% less at an online retailer. But, whilst we may save money, there is no soul, the internet may be convenient, but it hasn’t yet managed to give out that reassuring aroma of bike lube mixed with a few other random aromas.


3. Tea and Toasted Teacakes.  When you’re hungry and cold, the reassuring smell of teacakes being toasted is very attractive. I was brought up on club runs throughout the Yorkshire winter. After 20 miles in the northern winter, you really wanted to go in somewhere warm. Maybe it’s not so much the smell of teashops, but the warmth. I never drank tea before cycling, but after about two club runs, I gave in and took to the tan brew like a duck to water. The thing is it never tastes as good at home. To truly experience the joy of tea, you have to take from a teapot, in china cup after losing 2 degrees body heat cycling up lower Wharfedale.  Then it is marvellous, and naturally the smell of melting butter on a toasted teacake is sheer heaven.

5. The Countryside


Yes, the countryside smells. It smells of cow dung and other stuff. But, we love it. It is that romantic remembrance of the countryside that helps us stay sane in the modern world. We may have a a 4WD trying to run us off the road on a narrow Dales road, but at least we can still enjoy the smell and sensation of the countryside. Modern life hasn’t quite sanitised everything, thankfully. Some people may spend all winter racking up four hour training sessions on a turbo, but, I bet you don’t get to enjoy the smell of well rotted cow dung in your garage.


At this point in the article, we could easily start to rapidly descend. When Miguel Indurain was asked his worst moment on a bike. It wasn’t getting dropped by, Bjarne ‘Mr 60%’ Riis, to lose the yellow jersey after five consecutive years winning the Tour de France; it wasn’t any horrendous crash – His worst moment was sitting on the wheel of Tony Rominger when he had a bad bout of diarrhoea and wouldn’t stop to lose his place in the GC. (I might have got the two mixed up but, I think you get the idea).

The other overwhelming aroma of cycling is that product of all our toil and effort. Good old fashioned sweat. When it is our own, we don’t mind, we even can become quite proud – forget power meters, heart rates, and average speeds, the real sign of a good work out is how much did we sweat? How much can we stink out the place? Alas, our friends and partners fail to see anything either heroic or romantic about smelling. But, for us it can become symbolic of our heroic effort; even if our average speeds and power meter results are laughable, at least we can smell like we’ve tried hard.

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DeFeet e-touch dura gloves review

I have owned several pairs of DeFeet gloves in the past years, and like to race with them on. A new version has been brought out – DeFeet e-touch dura gloves – so have bought two pairs.


de-feet-e-touch dura gloves. An old one underneath. White isn’t best for dealing with dirty wheels.

Advantages of the DeFeet e-touch gloves

  • Grip is very good. A big benefit of these gloves is the rubber type grip on the inside of the gloves. This is particularly useful for riding with my Trek Speed Concept bars (without any bar tape). Other wooly gloves can be really quite slippy on these carbon bars, so it is a useful addition.
  • Warmth. I get cold hands so am quite sensitive to warmth of gloves. These are quite warm without the bulk of a big ski glove. I can wear them down to 5 or 6 degrees for racing. The temp guide by manufacturer is 6-16 degrees.
  • Long cuffs. In theory, the gloves go down to the end of your wrist helping to cover up that gap between the end of gloves and the start of arm warmers. Keeping your wrists warm definitely helps keep your hands warm too.
  • Breathable. They are quite breathable and I can wear into early summer, even in double digits temperatures (10 degrees plus) without getting too hot.
  • E-touch. I do sometimes use iPhone whilst riding, the e-tap at the end of thumb and forefingers means you can leave your gloves on to swipe away. This is a useful addition to the old version.
  • Aerodynamics. Most cyclists won’t worry too much about aerodynamics of gloves, but it is an issue for me. Better than bigger stockier gloves, but it is no aero glove. Yesterday, when racing I put a pair of large aerogloves over the top of these.

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Beacon R.C Little Mountain Time Trial

Today was Beacon Roads Mountain Time trial. 39.5 miles, including two tough climbs. The first 16 miles is rolling, then the second lap gets more hilly. The last climb of the day is Ankerdine, pretty steep on a TT bike when you’ve already raced 34 miles.

My last race was Buxton CC Mountain Time trial, nearly a month ago. It’s quite a long break from racing and I wasn’t sure how I’d go. Riding around a bumpy velodrome in New York at 22mph for an hour is a poor preparation for real racing.

The weather was decent, though colder than a month ago in Buxton, a northerly wind making it a little difficult in places.

My warm up was pretty good. I use nopinz arm bands, custom designed for super thin arms. They are easy to use than old fashioned safety pins. Though for some reason once I put the number in, I put them in my jacket pocket ‘to put on later’. Everything was going well with warm up. At five minutes to the  start time, I was heading off to start, when for some reason, something jolted my memory and realised I’d left arm bands in a jacket pocket back in my car. It was time for quick choice – do the race without armbands and get disqualified or do a quick u-turn ride 500m to car, get arm bands and have a 50% chance of missing my start time. I felt like a gamble so turned round sprinted back to car, got out armbands and sprinted back to start line. I arrived and the guy said 1 minute to go. But, I still had to get my pusher off to zip up my skin suit (it’s impossible to do on your own), then it was squeezing the arm bands on. With 15 seconds to go, they were just about in place. Just time to tuck socks into overshoes and it was 5 seconds to go. It was a close call, and I just made it. Thanks to pusher off who helped just in the nick of time. Continue Reading →

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Going around in circles at Kissena velodrome

I have spent the past two weeks in New York. I’ve written before about cycling in Jamaica, Queens, NY, so won’t repeat it all. But it’s a tough place to cycle; even supposedly quiet residential roads can have cars (nearly always SUVs) accelerating at top speed. It’s a little scary place to cycle, which is probably why it’s so rare to see a cyclist in Queens.

But, the one great piece of good fortune is the outdoor velodrome of Kissena Boulevard. It is bumpy concrete, but it is traffic free and a safe place to cycle. It seems always open, and perhaps just one or two other cyclists going around during the week day.


The only training during the two weeks was to cycle two miles to the velodrome then ride for an hour at varying degrees of intensity. It’s no joke cycling around a velodrome for an hour. Not as boring as being on a turbo, but it gave a new respect for track cyclists. I was caught between gratitude for having a velodrome to cycle on and the difficulty in motivating myself to keep riding around in circles. Continue Reading →

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The hills of the North York Moors

The North York Moors is a national park in North East Yorkshire. It has the largest expanse of heather moorland in the UK, but in cycling terms is more famed for the abundance of very steep climbs, with plenty of 25% gradient signs, and the odd 1 in 3 – if you’re lucky!


The North York Moors is only 40 miles from Menston, but I’ve never been before. It’s just out of range, and with the Yorkshire Dales nearby, there’s always other hills to do. But, I’ve been reading about some of the climbs like Boltby Bank and Rosedale Chimney and so finally made it over.

I drove to Sutton Bank and saw many signs welcoming the Tour de Yorkshire on the 1st May. I think the race route goes down Sutton Bank, but to many people’s disappointment it avoids any of the really epic 25% climbs. Perhaps a decision made not for benefit of cyclists, but for the calvacade of cars, which could get stuck on the hairpins of Rosedale Chimney.

Boltby Bank


First up was Boltby Bank. A one mile climb with a significant 25% gradient at the end. It looks imposing from the distance as you descend into Boltby. Don’t go off too hard, as it gets tougher near the top. Continue Reading →

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Slow is the new fast

After a lot of climbing in the rain on Wed, today was a slow plod in the sun. An excuse to go slow, admire the Yorkshire Dales and take a few photos.


It’s quite nice to go slow for a change.

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Bowland Knotts and beyond


Bikes on the Leeds to Morecambe train.

The weather forecast for today was sun and westerley wind. I thought I would be clever and get a train from Bingley to Clapham and avoid a long slog into a headwind. It partly worked out because the wind was strong, but ‘light occasional showers’ obviously means something very different west of Settle.bowland-knotts-moor

First up was a new climb south from Clapham towards the Trough of Bowland called Bowland Knotts. It is a climb from 100 climbs, and I probably wouldn’t have thought of taking this road without a desire to tick off a few more climbs in the book. The road was certainly very isolated and quiet. In a long ascent and descent, I think I only saw one car, four people and a dog. It’s not mid-summer, but if you’re looking for traffic free roads, this is as good as it gets.


The climb is a long drag of 4 miles plus – averaging only 4%, but with a strong side wind, it was tough going, though some great views partly compensated. Looking back down the hill, it reminded me somewhat of the bleak open climb of the Stang in North Yorkshire. Though this climb has no 17% gradient to start off with. Continue Reading →

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Cycle training for long distances

I remember when I was 13, going on a cycle holiday with a friend to Lofthouse. One day, we rode 75 miles on mountain bikes, including Greenhow hill and Trapping Hill in Nidderdale (which seemed like mountains at the time). The furthest we had been before was about 20 miles. It was an epic ride and for about four days after, we couldn’t walk properly. It was kind of an interesting experience to do something so far out of my comfort zone and capacity. In the whole of my cycling career, I have never been so shattered or literally crawled into a sleeping bag after a long bike ride. Perhaps because of this chastening experience, I’ve always prepared carefully for long distance riding  – making sure I’m sufficiently trained before making a big jump in mileage. In a nutshell, you can always try and do long distances untrained, but it’s a lot more pleasant if you can make sufficient training to get used to the long distance.


two riders on the Tumble in February.

Training for long distance sportives

Quite a few people ask about advice for doing a big ride, perhaps a hilly 100 mile sportive. There is no particular set training plan you need to follow, but as a few guiding principles, I would suggest.

If you’re starting from no training at all, any cycling is going to help build up fitness. The first thing is just to go out on the bike, increase the distance each time and get used to being in the saddle for a longer time. If you start off with a 30 mile ride, each week try to add another 10 miles on.

Long rides. For a sportive that might take 6-7 hours, if you can manage to do training rides of 3-4 hours, you will be a long way to getting ready for the endurance. If possible, try and do a few 5 hour rides. The more you can do the better, but a weekly long ride of 3-4 hours will be reasonable preparation.

Decent intensity. If you are time pressed and struggling to find time for a long ride, to some extent, you can make up for the lack of miles, by increasing the intensity of cycling. For some of the training rides, try and maintain a good pace – just below your threshold. This maybe around 18-20mph on a flatish course or 90% of FTP, 80-85% max heart rate.  Some call it sweet spot training. You may find that you can only maintain this level for an hour, then you start to slow down. Training at this higher level has a bigger training benefit, but has the added benefit of not being as tiring like full on intervals.

Mix up training. If you are able to get some base fitness from riding for a couple of months, it will then be helpful to mix up the training – not just plodding along at same effort all the time. You can start to do some hill intervals. You don’t have to go at 100% all out pace, but it will be good practise for the hills on the big ride.

Stress and recovery. The basic principle of training is stress and recovery. You stress muscles by doing more than before – recovery then allows your muscles to become stronger. If you are tired from training too much, rest and recovery will be the biggest help. It depends how many hours you have to train. If it is only a small number, you are unlikely to be over-training.

How long to prepare?

The longer you can prepare, the better. For a 100 mile sportive, you could just about get ready in a couple of months. But, if you can have some base fitness over winter, then you will be in a much better position, rather than having to start from scratch in April. Continue Reading →

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Training vs racing

A good question is whether racing makes good training or whether to be in the best form for races, you should do less racing and more training. And the other thing is what to do when you haven’t got any races.

Often when watching Eurosport you will hear people talk about riders lacking race fitness. For example, you can spend four weeks on a training camp, but it is only doing actual races that really brings about top form. For example, Chris Froome came to the Tour of Catalunya after a big training block in South Africa, but compared to his usual form, looked a little off the pace. However, at other times, riders like Quintana have come out of training in Columbia and gone straight into good racing form in races.


Follow that wheel

The other school of thought is that too much racing can interfere with gaining peak performance. For example, in Graeme Obree’s training book – he talks about the need to cut back on racing so that it doesn’t interfere with his training schedule. But, Obree had a really unique approach to training – go all out for an hour then spend 2-4 days recovering.

I’m thinking about this issue because my next race won’t be for a month, which is quite a long time at this stage in the season.

Advantages of racing as training

  • You can guarantee in a race, you will have the best motivation to go as hard as you can for the race duration. I sometimes do private time trials where I ride around roads and measure my time. But, I never seem to go as hard as in a race. Often in these private time trials, I even give up after 75% of the imagined course. There’s no one there to make you get to the finish.
  • A key element of getting to peak performance is stretching yourself and making more effort than previously. To get this new peak, a race can be an excellent way of getting more out of yourself.
  • Technical aspects of racing. Whether time trials or road racing, a big component is the technical aspect – tactics and pacing. If you rely on training, these other aspects can become rusty. Racing a course like Buxton yesterday, forces you to think about pacing (wrong again), and technical aspects of cornering. It is also a test for things like equipment, clothes and pre-race strategy. These things can take more practise than you might imagine. As an amateur with no one to hand clothes, I’m often fumbling around in the back of the car with 20 minutes to go looking for some item of clothing e.t.c.

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