Dash saddle review

Dash saddles are an expensive alternative to Adamo saddles. It is a good option for those looking for the anatomic shape of a Adamo, but want something which is lighter and more aerodynamic.

Earlier this year I wrote an enthusiastic review of Adamo saddles – Essentially the shape of Adamo – with the cut out insert – makes cycling much more comfortable – especially when you are in a flat time trial position. The Adamo really made a big difference to time trial comfort. A 100 mile or even 50 mile TT used to be tortuous for squashing of the crotch area. The Adamo relieved this discomfort making long hours in the saddle much more palatable. However, as enthusiastic as I was about Adamo, I was dissappointed when putting it on the scales and seeing it go to over 275 grams. It’s also a bit of a block, creating an aero drag. For many timetrialists and triathletes this weight and shape is not such a big deal, but for a hilly time trial specialist, you don’t want to be wasting 200 grams on a saddle. Also, I didn’t like the rear lip, which is used to hang up a bike in triathlons.

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not how I would design a TT saddle

Another drawback of the Adamo that I noticed after a season of riding – was that you got superficial chaffing on the inside of the thighs, perhaps because the front of the saddle is quite wide. This isn’t really a problem when riding, but after there was a persistent irritation for quite a long time. I could live with it, but still quite annoying. However, the amazing thing about spending a year on an Adamo was not a single saddle sore all year!

To overcome ‘lip’ of the Adamo TT, I decided to buy an Adamo Podium because it looked a bit more aero. However, when I went into UBYK in Oxford, they suggested having a look at the Dash saddles – twice as expensive, but more than half the weight, and they did look a thing of beauty. Sleek, aero and slim.

Dash stage .9

Dash stage .9

I don’t like spending money on new equipment, but this did look like an expense that could be justified. Lighter and more aero and looks beautiful – the only doubt was could it replicate the comfort of the Adamo? Continue Reading →

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Cotswold Veldrijden triple hill climb

Sat 13th September was the Cotswold Veldrijden triple hill climb near the village of Aldbourne. It makes a change to have a local hill climb and not a long trek up the M6. Because it was local and early season I was quite relaxed. In the morning I got absorbed in writing an economics essay (on Scottish independence of all things) and suddenly realised I was well behind schedule. I ended up in a mad – pack everything up in 15 minutes kind of panic – which primarily involves throwing anything you see into a bag and hoping for the best.

Inevitably this speed packing meant forgetting several things. The most irritating thing to forget was my Garmin. After the race I felt bereft at having no power meter file to look at.

Nevermind, I remembered my bike, shoes and wheels, which is the main thing you need to do a cycle race. It was such a nice late Summer day, it was a little hard to imagine the hill climb season has really started. When the wind and rain return, maybe I’ll find it easier to get in the hill climb mindset.

It’s been quite a big week of training since the last hill climb at Buxton last week. Thursday I did several repititions up Chinnor hill before watching the Tour of Britain go up the next day. I didn’t feel tired, but it’s been a lot of hill climb intervals in the legs this week.

The first climb was something of an unknown. It was the first time it had been used in competition and I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. I didn’t have time for a practise run, I just descended and thought this is quite short and not too steep. Even so, the finish still loomed quicker than expected. I managed an impressive sprint, but with still the feeling there was more in the tank – many other riders said the same thing. Next year, I recommend putting it in the big ring and sprinting from the start. I set a course record (by virtue of being first to win an event) in a time of 1.35 – but it’s definitely a course record for the taking.

An hour later was time for a different climb, a fairly steady (3%) climb from Aldbourne to Ogbourne St George. A little steep at the bottom, there is then a steady gradient before quite a fast downhill section near the finish. If it was the only hill, I might have bought my time trial bike. But, with a tailwind, I didn’t think it worth bringing. I rode the hill quite well and set a new course record of 8.11. I overtook my minute man – Robert Borek of the Bristol South CC who was gamely entering all three climbs on a fixed gear bike. I always admire people who ride fixed, even if I’m not so keen to emulate them. There were many other very good times with quite a few riders getting under 9 minutes and a few l sub 8.30. It was a good day for that climb.

After two climbs you begin to feel a little fatigue and it was time for the last short, sharp shock up Snap Hill.

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I was quite happy waiting at the top and watching some of the early riders finish the climb. It was nice to be a spectator in hill climbs for a change. The top of the hill offers great views over Malborough Downs.

snap-hill

There was a light headwind on the climb, which made it a little harder. It is also the most testing of the three climbs with a solid 16% gradient for much of the middle climb. Only towards the end does it level off, allowing a short sprint for those with anything left. I did 2.36 – 6 seconds slower than when I rode the hill two years ago – but that day was a tailwind and I used a TT bike. Continue Reading →

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Alex Dowsett in Tour of Britain

Friday’s stage of the Tour of Britain was a 200km jaunt from Bath to Hemel Hempstead. A few categorised climbs along the way, but the conventional opinion was that it would be a day for the sprinters. But, although professional cycling is often predictable, today the cards were turned upside down as a small three man breakaway stayed out in front for nearly the whole day, finishing two minutes ahead of the peleton and putting British Movistar rider Alex Dowsett into the leaders jersey. It was really an epic stage and a privilege to watch – both in the flesh and on TV (BTW: The Eurosport commentary at ToB is really top notch)

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Alex Dowsett centre, Matthias Brandle far left, Tom Stewart, right

I’ve never seen a stage in the Tour of Britain, but with the recent experience of watching the Tour de France in Yorkshire I definitely didn’t want to miss the race go up my local hills. Yesterday I was training up Chinnor Hill – five interval efforts. Hard work, but a completely different kettle of fish to a 200k stage race.  Still it was nice to see the pros suffer just as much as anyone else.

There was a good crowd on Chinnor Hill with many spectators around the quaisi hairpin bend. I stood nearby and waited for the race to come.

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I’ve never been a particular fan of watching live professional cycling, but my experiences this year have made me change my mind. It really is worth the effort of going out to watch the riders go by.

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an early breakaway

First up was the news that the breakaway was over 8 minutes up on the peleton. This caused a ripple of excitement as 8 minutes is a lot – especially with not that far to go. I was also pleased to hear there were two British riders in the break – Alex Dowsett and Tom Stewart (Madison Genesis). There were riding with the Austrian Matthias Bramble (IAM) who won the previous stage. Continue Reading →

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Chinnor hill

Chinnor hill is a local hill I use for hill climb training. It’s roughly 1 mile long, averaging 7-8%. In the middle section it is fairly steep at around 15% and a tight mini-hairpin halfway up where you turn left.

Chinnor Hill in winter. This is the mini-hairpin and will make a good point to watch the race.

Chinnor Hill in winter. This is the mini-hairpin and will make a good point to watch the race.

It is a gradual ascent as you leave the town of Chinnor. I usually start an effort just after the railway bridge and beyond the new mini roundabout. This makes it a classic hill climb length of 0.8 miles and this is the steepest section of the hill. The gradient never gets really steep, and is fairly consistent.  But you will be out of the saddle on the steepest part. The climb is covered by trees and so the road is often shady and damp.

Chinnor hill (Just the hill)

  • length = 0.8 miles
  • Average gradient: 9%
  • Max gradient: 16%
  • Elevation gain – 393 ft / 120m
  • my best time = 3.45
  • Strava segment

It is a reasonable approximation to Pea Royd Lane and many other hill climbs. It reminds me a bit of Nick O Pendle because the gradient is fairly constant.

From the top of Chinnor Hill, you can go left back down Bledlow Ridge towards Princes Risborough. If you go straight on, you head in the direction of West Wycombe. Whichever way you go there’s plenty of more hills to have a go at.

Chinnor intervals – Thursday

Today, I did five hard intervals up Chinnor hill, with fairly short recovery in between. It’s like doing a 25 mile TT you get a lot of acidosis in the system and a feeling of sickness / nausea. The first interval is always the fastest. But, the second fastest was the fourth. Because the third I had so much acidosis I couldn’t get going. I took a little longer recovery and then did better than 2nd or 3rd. There are benefits to both short recovery and long recovery. Long recovery enable you to go faster. This kind of session must be really good for 25 mile TT training.

Chinnor Hill (Tour of Britain)

On Friday, the Tour of Britain will be going up Chinnor Hill as part of the stage 6 – Bath to Hemel Hempstead. It will come through Chinnor at about 14.22 (see map and ETA of Stage Six)

Shortly after Chinnor Hill, the route goes to Princes Risborough and up Kop Hill – to reach the top of Whiteleaf Hill.

Chinnor Hill will be a good place to watch. The road is wider than Kop hill and at the steep part, the peleton should be slowed down quite a bit.

Chinnor hill (Tour of Britain)

It’s pretty cool the Tour of Britain is coming to Chinnor Hill – especially after ascending the A40 climb  (Aston Hill) to Stokenchurch and descending down Kingston Hill. I’ve used that combination of hill so often in training. It’s excellent territory around the Chiltern ridge if you’re looking for 4-5 minute steady climb.

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White Lane – Bec CC hill climb

White Lane is a short 700 yards climb. Mostly 1 in 6, it has an average gradient of 13%.

At the start it isn’t so steeper, but gets steeper as you go up. Perhaps just over 20% at it’s steepest before a slight decrease in gradient before the top.

It is in 100 climbs #16. The climb is situated just to the north of the southern section of the M25 by the village of Titsey.

White Lane has a height gain of just over 79 metres in 0.4 miles.

Perhaps not the most remarkable climb in the country, but it has become well known due to featuring in the annual Bec CC hill Climb. 2014 will be the 59th annual running of the event, which started in 1955. It is usually run on the same day as the Catford CC hill climb – The Catford CC can make a claim to be the oldest race in the world. The Catford CC event first started on Westerham Hill on August 20th 1887. It now takes place on York Lane. If makes a good double hill climb header. Though some of the top riders decide to ride one or the other.

Bec CC Hill Climb

Photo Dave Hayward Flickr

– Pete Tadros riding fixed up White Lane in the wet. Photo Dave Hayward Flickr

 

The mighty Bristol South

The mighty Bristol South. Photo Dave Hayward.

jack-pullar-dave-hayward

Course record breaker – Jack Pullar photo dave-hayward

David Millar to ride Bec CC hill climb in 2014

After 18 years as a professional cyclist, David Millar will be riding his last event in the Bec CC hill climb. Millar has chosen a domestic hill climb as a way to mark the end of a long professional career, which has seen many highs and lows, which has included four individual stages of the Tour de France and five stages in the Vuelta a Espagne.

David Millar explains his choice of his final race.

“I’m not just going to ride uphill & wave goodbye. ’m going to have a crack at setting a new ‘White Lane’ record in what will be my first ever Hill Climb TT, as well as my last race.. “It’ll be like going full circle on my cycling career”.

Most Brits start in a Cycling Club as I did, so its fitting to end my career at a British Clubs event.. I’m really looking forward to it, although ‘Gazza’ my friend, Soigneur & organiser of the event, tells me Hill Climbs are not always that easy & it takes a certain knack to hit the Hill just right! He also tells me they bloody hurt, even though its only a sub 2 minute ride.. Maybe I’ll enjoy it & not retire after all & just ride Hill Climbs!” (Velo UK)

Should be a great event!

Continue Reading →

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Steep hills

Even though I’ve done a lot of cycling around Yorkshire and Oxford, I still love to spend time looking at map trying to find the steepest possible hills. I know it’s probably more efficient to google and search Strava, but in my mind, it can’t beat the fun of looking at a real map and all those contour gradients. Any double arrow always raises a little excitement, especially if you haven’t been up that hill before.

At the moment, steep hills make great training for the hill climb season and the national championship in particular. But, even if I wasn’t training there is some attraction of battling against the steepest gradients. In one sense it doesn’t make sense to seek out the steepest hills, but there’s nothing like looking over your shoulder and seeing the road snaking below you.

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Robin Hood climb near Silsden

 

Another kind of benefit of going up really steep hills is that you can get magnified power figures. For the life of me, I couldn’t do 450 watts on the flat, but when it’s 25% + it’s kind of hard not to!

The steepest hill I’ve been up is Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, a definite 30%, with the additional challenge of coming at the end of a pretty challenging hill in its own right.

Other really steep hills that have been quite memorable include Park Rash, Wrynose Pass, Bushcombe Lane to name but a few. I keep meaning to go over to the North York Moors, where 30% gradients seem to be a speciality.

Today I was in Menston, West Yorkshire, and there’s plenty of steep hills to choose from. I decided to go over the moors to Silsden. Where just a couple of months ago, I was one of millions lining the side of the road for Le Tour de France.

crowds-silsden-small

It’s hard to believe. But, yes this really did happen. Silsden closed down for the day to welcome Le Tour!

Le Tour didn’t go up the steepest hills in the district, the roads would have been too narrow and awkward for the Tour caravan. Continue Reading →

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Pacing on a climb

It was interesting to watch the Vuelta Espagne stage to La Camperona on Saturday.

  • 1.9 miles. Average gradient of 13%. But, with ramps of over 20%.
  • 1,295ft / 395m  of uphill ascent in less than two miles.
  • Strava segment of La Camperona

On Strava, Robert Gesink is the quickest with 13.59. An average speed of 8.2mph. 399 watts average. A VAM of 1,694.0

The interesting thing was watching the climb unfold on Eurosport. At the bottom Valverde attacked, gaining a 20 second advantage. Froome was dropped from the main contenders and slipped away. But, as the climb unfolded, Valverde blew and Froome came back in contention. Picking off the favourites who had gone hard from the start; on that climb it was Froome who was the best of the GC contenders.

At 12-13 minutes, it’s quite a long climb. Also, at an average speed of 8.2mph, there is much less aero benefit from sitting in the wheels than usual. Therefore, there is less downside to getting dropped and going at your own pace. Froome likes looking at his stem and power meter, but bbviously sometimes there must be a benefit to looking at your power meter in a climb. Or at least be very confident in your ability to pace a climb.

I would say a power meter can be helpful, but it is important training to learn the art of pacing, without looking at a computer.

Blowing up on a climb

Everyone knows that awful feeling of getting carried away on the bottom of a really steep hill and then having to grovel all the way to the top. It happened to me this summer on Bushcombe Lane – with 25% gradient. It takes a certain patience to ride within yourself and make sure you can go all the way to the top at your best pace

Yesterday, after the race, I did some hill efforts, but purposefully kept to a lower power than usual for doing hill climbs. It was a nice feeling to be able to go all the way up the climb, knowing at any stage you can pick it up if necessary.

It all depends on the climb. Take a traditional British hill climb 3-4 minutes, and it requires a very different pacing to a 13-14 minute climb. But, even on a three minute climb, you can still blow up badly, if you get pacing completely wrong. Chris Boardman in his hill climb tips, always recommended riding a hill climb leaving a little for a sprint in the last half.

But, that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I dont really have a sprint to speak of. If I wait for a last minute sprint, I would never do my best hill climbs. I need to ride close to the limit for as long as I can.

The only real way to learn how to pace hill climbs, is to experiment and do real hill climbs in practice. Forget intervals on turbo, go out and find a suitable hill and do a few efforts. If you can measure your time, power and heart rate, it gives even more data to work with. Try your favourite hill in different ways. One day go like a madman from the start, another day pick it up after half way.

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Pacing long hill on Saturday. Photo Ken Norbury.

Thanks to Ken Norbury for this photo from yesterday. (album on Google Plus)

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Women in cycling

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La Course 2014 – photo by Liakada flickr

Helped by the Olympic success of female cyclists, women’s cycling has been on the up in recent years. The great thing about the Olympics is that a gold medal is a gold medal. Whether you’re a £250,000 a week professional footballer or a privately supported amateur, one Olympic gold medal is the same value as another gold medal – that is a wonderful equalising force. For many years, the Olympics didn’t allow women to run in events longer than 1,500m – though that kind of ‘perceived wisdom’ – all seems a bit embarrassingly outdated now. In cycling up until 2012, there were fewer Olympic events for women. Often situations, such as this are for no particular reason, except that is how it has happened in the past. But, the Olympic movement has moved on and has perhaps unwittingly become one of the strongest forces for promoting equality in sport between men and women. It has certainly helped boost professional women’s cycling in Britain.

I’ve been cycling (mostly time trials) for the past 8 years, and never really given much thought to women’s cycling. Women are generally a minority in time trials – perhaps making 10% of the field on a good day. But, this year I’ve noticed a shift to reconsider certain things. And it generally seems a progressive change.

Placings

One of the strange things about the time trials is lumping results of men and women together. 1st, 2nd and 3rd women deserve more appreciation than mid table anonymity of 45th overall or something. For me time trials are not just about time. I do like to see how I compare against my peers. It would be a big de-motivation if my placing in the final results felt rather random. This is particularly important for national championships. e.g. National Hill Climb Championship 2013 results. The Women’s champion Maryka Sennema (Kingston Wheelers) is listed only in the middle of the overall (63rd). In my blog, I did try to pick out the top women. It should be like this 100 Mile 2014  Women’s results. Hopefully, the CTT will do this for future hill climb championships. Continue Reading →

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Long Hill

Today was the Trevor Yeoman memorial Buxton CC Long Hill.

sky-rider-long-hill

Long Hill is a steady long climb. Fairly constant, averaging only 3%. The wind direction can make a difference.

Long Hill from Whaley Bridge

  • Distance – 4.44 miles
  • Average gradient – 3%
  • Height gain – 195m –  425m (approx 230m)

I first did Long Hill in 2010, I set a course record of 12.26, there was quite a helpful tailwind that day. Since then I’ve ridden a total of 6 times in competition. Each time, I’ve tried a different equipment combination. My first record was set on a road bike, no tri bars. This year, I went for full time trial bike with discwheel. It was an opportunity to use the Trek Speed Concept before putting it away for the year. It’s probably the heaviest bike I’ve taken to Long Hill.

view-from-west-low-rest

The only downside to taking TT bike was no power meter, but sometimes it’s good to remember what it is like to ride on feel. If anything I rode rather conservatively, not wanting to really blow up too early like last week at Snake Pass. I took it fairly steady all the way up, just around the threshold level which is close to what is tolerable. It was only on the last horseshoe corner that I increased effort a little. For a short while there was a mild headwind, before the final last minute and half to the top.

Continue Reading →

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Garmin mount options

There are various options for mounting your Garmin. Where space on your handlebars is a premium there are some extensions which give a wider choice of use, leaving more room for other stuff. Also, a forward mount can leave the Garmin in a better position for easier viewing whilst riding. It will save looking down on the stem (a la Froome) and can make a safer ride.

On my time trial bike, I needed a Garmin extension because there was nowhere suitable for a conventional mount. I looked at a few and in the end got the K Edge TT aluminium option for Beeline.

Traditional Garmin mount

Garmin-Quarter-Turn-Bike-Mount-500x500

The traditional Garmin mount is a nice piece of design. Easy to use, it can be set up pretty quick and moved between bikes fairly easily.

Edge 200, 205, 500, 605, 705, and 800.

Note for the Garmin 1000, you need a specific mount. They are not compatible.

I’ve had it on both stems and handlebars.  But, it does take up space.

K Edge – TT Garmin Mount

The K Edge Garmin mount is a little heavier 35 grams – because it’s made out of aluminium.

garmin-mount-2

The K Edge TT model has a locking mechanism underneath. This is suitable for awkward positions – you don’t have to twist the Garmin, put you can twist a locking mechanism underneath the Garmin mount instead. This was good for placing the Garmin between the tribar extensions. It is quite adjustable.

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A nice and smooth looking piece of kit.

Fitting is not too bad, it just took a few minutes.

I’m fairly happy with the position. It’s mostly out of the windflow, though a little lower than optimal. Continue Reading →

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