First training ride of the New Year

I rode in Greece, but it didn’t really feel like a training ride, more a leisure ride. Yesterday, I did a favourite training ride to Charlbury. 42 miles in 2 hours and a bit. For all the interruptions of recent months, I felt reasonably good and was pleased to average over 17 mph.

rainbow

This photo is actually from Wharfedale on Christmas Day 2016, but I never had time to publish.

I was out on my bike (early Christmas morning), but suffering from a little bit of stomach upset. As a consequence I was cycling slowly and not enjoying the ride; because of the stomach ache I stopped to have a look behind. I was rewarded with this view of a rainbow arching over the tree – it was the highlight of the ride – an auspicious sign for Christmas Day.

I didn’t take any photos yesterday on the road to Charlbury; it was one of those grey, gloom days of January where the only mercy is a temperature of over 5 degrees celsius. But, despite less than inspiring weather, it was good to be back on the bike – able to ride for two hours without niggling injuries and interruptions. What comes next in 2017, I’m not sure. But it is great just to be able to get on the bike and blow away a few cobwebs from the mind and body.

42 miles down, 11,958 to go.

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Cycling in Kalamata Greece

I spent 10 days in Kalamata, Greece. It is a great place for cycling, even in mid-Winter.

For various reasons, I ended up not taking my own bike. It was awkward to hire a car which would carry four people, four cases and a big bicycle bag. I thought an VW estate may cope, but when I measured a friends boot, I knew it wouldn’t work and I had to leave the bike at home.

In other years, I may have paid some ridiculous money to hire a people carrier (or my own car), but since I’ve been off the bike during the tail-end of 2016, I thought another 10 days off the bike wouldn’t make much difference. At the best of times it can be a hassle taking a bike on a plane.

hairpins-distance

Hairpins in the distance. Insistently calling climbers

On arriving at Kalamata, our hotel had a magnificent view of the ocean, but also had a view of some beautiful hairpins, engineered into the nearby hillside. The sight of hairpins cut into the hillside made me wistfully regret not having a bike. The next day, I drove the hire car up the hill side and went for a walk. It is not the same, and the longing for a bike grew. It felt perhaps like an alcoholic going for a week of recovery and finding he is living next to a brewery.

trek-domaine
Continue Reading →

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Starting from scratch

I have been going out a few times this week. Wet, grey, windy and cold, but its good to be back on the bike.

road-burnsall

The great thing about cycling in Yorkshire is that you can be greeted by cyclists going the otherway with:

“Ey up”

It beats ‘hi’ anytime. There is always a bit of debate about the cycling etiquette of acknowledging fellow riders going the other way. In the days when cycling was a minority sport, the rarity of the occasion made it easier to do. Nowadays it would be hard work to greet every cyclist on the road. Maybe when I go back down south I will try greeting every cyclist with ‘Ey Up’ and see how it goes down. Continue Reading →

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Winter training bike 2016-17

trek-madone-winter-16

This will be my winter training bike for 2016/17 (assuming I can get out to ride it). It is an old hill climb bike  with a Trek Madone frame – 10 speed Dura Ace groupset. After buying the Emonda, I thought about selling this Trek, but with the growth of 11spd and electronic gears – 10 speed mechanical has devalued in price. The likely selling figure seemed a poor return, so I have kept as a winter training bike.  I also have an attachment to the bike as I used it in 2013 Nat hill climb. Continue Reading →

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Cycling very slowly

The past week or so I’ve been ill again with some kind of sickness. It left me quite ill and weak, but I had an an appointment with an osteopath I wanted to keep – to work on the bad hip. I thought I would drive the 4 miles, but at last minute couldn’t bring myself to drive through the centre of Oxford so got on bike and cycled very slowly.

cyclist-no-arm-warmers-winter

There’s always one person who cycles through mid winter in bare arms (or legs) but rarely both.

 

I’d lost a bit of weight, still recovering from virus and it probably wasn’t the most sensible thing to do. But, after sitting on settee for a few days I felt like a challenge. The main thing is that I cycled very slowly and on any downhill freewheeled. It meant I was getting overtaken by just about everybody on the road, which is quite something. It took half an hour there and half an hour bike. I was probably averaging 8mph. It was interesting experience, but not one I’m particularly keen to repeat.

coaches

Buses traffic jam

Even when still ill, I’d rather cycle than drive through traffic jams. I have some ideological opposition to spend 25 minutes driving somewhere through congested traffic when you can do same distance on a bicycle.

Cycling very slowly is harder work.

I nearly got doored by a van driver opening his car door whilst on mobile phone. I realised that because I was cycling so slowly, I was much closer to the curb than usual. You have less confidence to cycle at a distance from car doors when cycling slowly.

When I got to St Clements roundabout I tried to accelerate. You feel rather isolated cycling around there at 8mph, when everyone else is driving at much higher speed.

That was an experience of cycling very slowly, can’t say I particularly enjoy it.

bus-cyclist

Good job cars are banned from the High Street There seems more pollution around this winter or maybe when you’re ill you become more sensitive to it.

 

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Welcome to old age

Last Monday I turned 40, which is a milestone in the cycling world because it officially marks entry into the veteran category.

Late on Monday I started to come down with a virus which laid me low all week; a fitting end to a four week cold. Life seemed to be saying – in a non too subtle way – welcome to old age, mate. It’s all downhill from here.

Arnold-crimes

On the bright side, I can now look forward to 2017 with an eye on the Veteran categories.  There used to be a time when 40 was considered quite old, and hill climbs, especially, were not considered particularly suitable for those in the latter half of their life. But these days, 40 seems to be the new 30; with many cyclists admirably demonstrating there is still a lot of potential even post-40.

As a philosophy, I like to think age is in the mind, not in the heart – so I guess the next decade will provide an opportunity to test the practical reality of advancing physical years and learn what kind of difference age actually starts to make. I think the secret is not to think about it.

Targets 2017

This year I came 2nd in the national 12 hour TT, and 41st in the national hill climb.  With this kind of result, the obvious direction for a veteran would be to focus on the longer races and leave the quick twitch fibre stuff to the young ‘uns. But, at the moment, I feel more interest in concentrating on hill climbs and hilly time trials than the long distance stuff. Perhaps a prolonged hip problem has discouraged the initial burst of enthusiasm for a 24 hour time trial.

I’m still off bike, but with the weather dipping below freezing, I feel quite calm about the prospect.

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Feet in the Clouds – a tale of running up fells

feet-in-the-cloudsReview of: Feet in the clouds – A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession

‘Feet in the clouds’ is a book about fell running by Richard Askwith, a London journalist, who gets hooked on the sport of fell running. He tells a potted history of the sport, and also his own personal endeavours as a middle of the road aspiring fell runner.

Although there is no mention of cycling, amateur cyclists will see a kinship in many of the things Askwith talks about –  the club scene, the attraction of the great outdoors, the great characters of the sport, to the physical and mental challenge of running up steep hills.

More than any other branch of cycling, it reminded me of the hill climb scene in domestic UK timetrialling. The slightly crazy idea of finding the steepest hills and running / cycling up them. The only difference with fell running, is the even more crazy run back down the mountain.

I didn’t have any recognition of the names in the book. There wasn’t a single fell runner who I recognised, apart from perhaps Ron Hill, who wasn’t really a fell runner. This is perhaps proof of the amateur nature of the sport; a sport, which more or less has avoided the trappings of commercialism.

Though, its not a completely rose-tinted view of the sport. For example, there is a chapter on the senseless amateur / professional divide of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Which to a millennial will make absolutely no sense. Continue Reading →

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Excuses

It’s been a difficult few weeks on the cycling front. Injury, unending cold, and the winter miles bank resolutely empty – you can’t really count the 0.6 miles up Bank Road in the steady miles club.

dales-winter-cold-mist

Apart from that, the highlight of my cycling at the moment has just been swapping the summer bike for winter bike, adjusting my mudguards in anticipation of being able to ride in the wet, and a short commute into town.

2016 has been a funny year (not so much in the humorous sense) In fact since Nov 11th, I haven’t dared look at a newspaper, just in case the tiny 5% chance of Americans electing a President with a silly hair cut came true.  This winter, I shall keep my head buried in back issues of Cycling Weekly, OS Maps 1:50,000 series and Winnie the Pooh books, it’s the only way to stay sane in this crazy world.

On a more positive note, I have been going to see people about my nagging hip injury. I have been to a physiotherapist twice and two different osteopaths. The second osteopath was quite good and seemed to find some imbalances – which hopefully will resolve themselves. He also did something to the neck as apparently there is a connection from as far a field as the neck to hip joint. It is interesting because I had a very bad neck after 12 hour time trial. I’m doing a few exercises and stretches, but it’s amazing how quickly time can pass by without turning a pedal in anger.

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Riding on the right side of the road

Short video by Liam Rees of Ilkley CC.

This year, I didn’t pre-ride Bank Road, or even think about how to ride the hill. When I got to the corner, I think I might have subconsciously tried to avoid going on wrong side of the road.  There was probably a better line to take.

Even though the road was closed to traffic, it’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime and cycle on the wrong side of the road. Continue Reading →

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Hill climb bike 2016 + Video + Photos

Firstly, an on board camera video from Courtney Blockley-Campton.

Courtney finished in a time of 2:37.5 (29th). Perhaps without on-board camera he may have finished in a time of 2.37.4. But, it captures what it is like to race up Bank Road.

You can roughly calculate time saved from weight loss

My 2016 hill climb bike

hill-climb-bike-2016

5.7 kg

This year I didn’t really get into the world of marginal gains. I even left a Shimano Ultegra derailleur on. It is about 500 grams heavier than 2015 Hill climb bike. Continue Reading →

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