Archive | cycling

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 →


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 →


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.


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.

Continue Reading →


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 →


Time Trial Records

A compilation of time trial records.  Updated to include Alex Dowsett’s breaking of both 10 mile record 01/06/2014.

10 Mile Time Trial

  • Alex Dowsett (Movistar)- 17.20 – Course E2/10 – 01/06/2014
  • Michael Hutchinson – 17-45 – Course – V718  – 26/08/2012 (33.8 mph)
  • Michael Hutchinson  – 17.57 – Course: V718 – 24/07/2010
  • Bradley Wiggins –         17.58 – Course: Levens 16-9-06 (33.4mph)

25 Mile TT

  • Alex Dowsett              – 44.29  – E2/25 –  29/05/16
  • Matt Bottrill –             – 45.43  R25/3L 07/09/14
  • Michael Hutchinson – 45:46  Port Talbot Wheelers 25 09/09/2012
  • Dave McCann           –  45-54Course R25/3 20/09/2009
  • Chris Boardman       –  45.57 – Oxford University
  • Sean Yates                  – 46-57  – H25/13  28/09/1997
  • Alf Engers                    – 49-24 – E72

50 Mile TT

  • Matthew Bottrill …………….1.34.43 (2014) A50/6
  • Michael Hutchinson………  1.35.27 (2008)
  • Kevin Dawson…………………1-37-21……….1997
  • Andy Wilkinson………………1-37-26 ……..1996
  • Graeme Obree…………………1-39-01………..1993

100 Mile TT

  • Charles Taylor             – 3.21:31 (2015) A100/4
  • Kevin Dawson            – 3.22.45 (2003)

12 Hour TT

  • Andy Wilkinson 317.97 (05/08/2012)
  • Adam Topham, High Wycombe C.C. 306.12 (05/08/2012) – done in same event as Andy Wilkinson (2nd highest)
  • Jeff Jones – 305.51 – (2011)
  • Andy Wilkinson        – 302.46 miles (25mph) (2009)
  • Glen Longland…………300.08…………1991

24 Hour TT

  • Andy Wilkinson 541.17 (2011) av. speed 22.5mph
  • Andy Wilkinson   525.07 miles


Note: these are run on open roads, times can be influenced by passing cars creating a drafting effect.

The World Record for 12 hour time trial on a track is is 286 miles. Marko Baloh, 41, Ljubljana-Cmuce, Sep 6, 2008.

Important firsts

First 25 mile TT under 1 hour.

  • Alf Engers – 49.24 (1978) – before tribars

First 100 mile TT under four hours

Ray Booty – 3 hrs. 58 mins. 28 secs (1956)

Women Records

10 Mile TT

  • Julia Shaw – 19-47 – 11/08/12
  • Wendy Houvenhagel – 19.50 –  15/09/07 Andover Whs P613/10
25 Mile TT
  • Julia Shaw – 50.01 – 14/08/11 R25/3L
  • Julia Shaw – 51:08 – 23rd Aug 2009. R25/3H
  • Yvonne McGregor – 51.50  – 2nd June 1996 – E72 Southend & County Wheelers
50 Mile TT
  • Julia Shaw – 1-46-46 – 06/07/2010 P885/50
  • Jill Reames – 1.47.48 – 1997
100 Mile TT
  • Julia Shaw – 03:45:22 – 11/07/2010
  • Jenny Derham – 3-53.04 – 1996
12 Hour
  • Beryl Burton – 277.25 miles – 1967 – before tribars. At the time it was a men’s record as well.
24 Hour
  • Christine Robert 461.45 miles (1993)
  • Lynne Taylor) 459 miles (2007)

Other Time Trial Records

Fastest Prologue Average Speed in Tour de France

  • 1994, Chris Boardman – 7.2km time trial course of 55.152 kph (youtube clip)


Unified World Hour Record

  • Sir Bradley Wiggins – 54.526 June 2015 (London Olympic velodrome)

Women’s World Hour record

  • Evelyn Stevens 47.980km – Colorado Feb 2016


Ultimate World Hour Record

  • 56.375 Km – Chris Boardman  (1996) Note Chris Boardman set 49.4 for the UCI ‘athletes’ world Record   (2000)

External links


Whiteleaf hilly

Whiteleaf is one of the hardest climbs within striking distance of Oxford. It has often been a place for some hill climb training.

There is a hilly event on the course (Hcc212) which includes two ascents of Whiteleaf, promoted by Watford Velo CC on 17th April. Unfortunately, I am away in NY, but was interested to check out the course.


Top of Whiteleaf-hill

I have recovered from a cold, but two weeks of little cycling has reduced form. Still I went out and did a few hill intervals on the way to Princes Risborough. I started at the bottom of Whitleaf, and then followed the 7 mile circuit , which includes quite a few left turns. I finished with a final ascent of Whiteleaf.

It was 7.9 miles, average speed 17.7 mph, average power 274 watts. I was already a bit tired by the time I got to Princes Risborough, but that is a very slow average speed for a circuit. It is up and down with a few left hand turns you have to slow down for. Whiteleaf really kills your average speed.

The real course starts on the top of Whiteleaf hill and does two laps 14 miles, with two ascents of Whiteleaf. The course could be amended to make it 15 miles and 3 ascents of Whiteleaf. But, I’m not sure how popular that would be!

Maybe next year I will be around to do. It’s a shame to miss out on a time trial course which has two ascents of a climb like Whiteleaf.



Friday is Buxton Mountain Time Trial, but then there is a big gap in racing because Circuit of the Dales has been cancelled.



Cold, medications and WADA lists

It’s been a real stop-start season. Last week I was busy with other things, such as Peace Run coming to Oxford. This week, it’s another cold/flu. Unfortunately, I’ll probably miss first round of RTTC series 1, which is a shame. The early season hillies are the main target of year for .

Medication and anti-doping

Recently, there’s been a lot of press about the role of (both legal and illegal) medication and its use for performance enhancing properties. As an athlete, I’m fortunate to be quite healthy, and I rarely take any medication or supplements. I would not feel comfortable taking medication where there is a potential performance enhancing effect – even if legal. The main thing is to follow the rules, but I also believe there is such a thing as the spirit of the laws and not doing anything you wouldn’t be happy for other competitors to know about.  Continue Reading →


How to learn about cycling?

Most cyclists are self-taught. We learn on the job – when the bike stops working, we either read a manual and try and fix or we give up and take to a bike shop. Some people are quick learners, and are adept at learning all the necessary requirements to look after a bike. Others, like me, are a little embarrassed that after 20 years of cycling we’re still not 100% sure where the seat tube is.

How to train – is a whole different learning curve. In the beginning, you can get faster by riding a bike, but then you become aware of a whole world of heart rates, training zones and recovery. So you try and read a few books and absorb the information which you like the sound of.

But, just as you think you’re getting to know all about cycling, there is a scientific revolution, leaving a battery of new training terms related to power and critical threshold power. Just to increase the complexity, usually, these training terminology are abbreviated to three letters like FTP, CTL, and TSS.

If you can wade through that, you are now ready to worry about your  CdA (aerodynamics) and Watt / CdA. Which requires several hours of testing, plus the required computer skills to punch in the numbers and get something meaningful out of the other side.

How to learn about cycling

I remember reading Ned Boulting’s ‘How I won the Yellow Jumper – an entertaining look at someone thrown in at the deep end of professional cycling. Boulting was asked to cover the Tour de France with pretty much zero knowledge of cycling, Ned endured a crash course in how to talk about a sport you don’t really know anything about. (Ned was doing pretty well, until he got the Yellow Jersey and the Yellow jumper mixed up)

Cycling is one of those subjects where you have to learn everything by the process of osmosis – slowly picking up on the jargon and knowledge as you go along – without ever really admitting you didn’t know about it in the first place. It’s very rare someone will sit and down and explain the mechanics of adjusting your gear cable or even worse – Never try asking what a peleton is, 1 km from the finish of a Tour de France stage (note to family members! see also: Explaining the Tour de France) The only way to learn about the jargon of the Tour de France is to  many hours ever day for three weeks over several summers, like I did. I don’t see why anyone should get any shortcuts.


From: Aaron’s site

It is only fairly recently that I’ve worked out the different parts of a bicycle – and that was thanks to a pretty handily marked diagram. Continue Reading →


Waiting for the rain to clear


A typical weather forecast for the past few weeks. Trying to find a bit of dry weather to go cycling. I went out at 14.00 and got lucky. Proof you shouldn’t always trust the weather forecast.

Sometimes, when I see a weather forecast I don’t like, I try another one, until I see something a bit more promising. Any cyclist becomes a devotee of rain forecasts. The ones I use are

More weather sites recommended by readers

Often, once you get on the bike, rain isn’t so bad. But, when it’s raining outside, its tempting to try and find better things to do, and hope it clears up.


This week has been quite light on training, a few winter niggles still playing up. It’s that kind of niggle, that you can probably ride through, but you’re not entirely sure. It makes you think of Daniel Sturridge – a career plagued by injuries. Football pundits say he should just keep playing and stop being so soft. But, it’s hard to know unless you have the injuries yourself. But, this isn’t pain, just tiredness. Unfortunately, my sport physio seems to have closed down.

With the prospect of rain looming, I went to the Cow and Calf Ilkley, just five miles from Menston and a good climb. Mostly cross / tailwind up the climb. A few hard five minutes efforts. But, not 100%.


Cow and Calf


Cow and Calf – 1.2 miles @11% Continue Reading →


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