Personal experience of FAI – what worked

Shortly after finishing my first 12 hour TT in 2016, I started getting pains in my right hip and lower right back, and also delayed muscle fatigue in the right glute.

I assumed it was related to cycling a lot that summer, but cutting back on training and racing didn’t diminish the problem, in fact, it got worse. I went to osteopaths and physiotherapists, they were all confident a bit of massage and physio would make leg stronger and get better. When it didn’t, after a few months my osteopath said he would ask for a second opinion as he felt he couldn’t do any more. (I appreciated his honesty). Another osteopath at the same clinic said it was probably all in your mind. So I tried to think away the pain and carry on, but it didn’t work out.

Then I tried the Egoscue method. Egoscue concentrates on improving your body posture, the logic is that if you out of position, you place strain on joints e.t.c. I was out of position with my head forward, one shoulder higher than the other and a bent back. I religiously did the egoscue exercises for a few months. My posture improved, but the hip issue was unsolved.

Then I heard it might be FAI, so I did an internet search and became convinced that was the end of cycling. However, not all the internet is useless. When I announced my retirement on my blog, a few readers said there were solutions to FAI. I was deeply grateful for those comments as it encouraged me to keep trying.

Read morePersonal experience of FAI – what worked

The end of the long hibernation

After the national hill climb in late October. My cycling went into mini-hibernation. Every ride seemed to get shorter and slower. My mid December I was reduced to a few miles around Oxford here and there. It was a long wet, cold winter, which seemed to fit the mood of third lockdown or whatever number it was. In the past year I have barely noticed when we go in and out of lockdown – it all merges into one long thing.

Since the New Year things have been picking up. I have been going a little quicker, a little further and have been enjoying the lengthening days.

A few weeks ago we had bad flooding around the Thames basin. It was hard to find roads which were not flooded.

I did a u-turn. One cyclist said they managed to cycle along the wood boards, but my drop handlebars didn’t fit and I wasn’t in the mood for slipping off.

Last Sunday was the warmest day of the year. A balmy 11 degrees and it felt warmer in the sun. I did a rare thing – I had a leisurely ride and even stopped off at Brill to eat a banana. There were plenty of cyclists on the roads.

Yesterday, 1 March seemed like a good day to get the time trial bike down from the loft. The roads have dried up and I quickly charged up the electric gears. There are few better things in cycling than to go from your heavy winter training bike with mudguards to a super-fast tt bike. Suddenly you are 3mph faster and it feels really good!

The problem with getting the TT bike is that I don’t want to go back to the slow road bike!

Winnats Pass

WinnatsPass

Winnats Pass is a tough climb in the Peak District from the village of Castleton heading West through a steep limestone cleft.  It averages over 10%, with a considerable section of 20% + near the top.

Winnats pass has featured in the now-defunct Tour of Peak road race and also featured as a venue for the National hill climb Championship on a record ten occasions (most recent 1977). It will also be the venue for 2021. There is now a popular Tour of the Peak sportive, run in May. The sportive offers closed roads for Winnats Pass.

The climb travels through a natural amphitheatre with steep slopes and rock faces on either side of the road. It provides an excellent location and challenge. The main drawback of Winnats pass is that it can be quite busy with motor traffic.  (unfortunately, the old A road through Mam Tor was closed due to subsidence.) Combined with the narrowness of the road, it can become a little crowded. As a result, you are likely to be greeted with the reassuring smell of burning clutch as cars struggle up the 20% inclines.

WinnatsPass
Winnats Pass by Rob Bendall

Winnats Pass old Hill Climb Course

The National Hill Climb Championship has been held on Winnats Pass on ten occasions. They used to be able to get a road closure because the alternative A road to the top was still functioning.

The winning time was around 3.20 – 3.30. It is hard to know the actual course but this is a rough approximation.

2021 National hill climb course

The 2021 National hill climb has been confirmed as Winnat’s Pass. The course is said to be

“Start at first kerbstone on left 5 metres above Cattle Grid. Proceed uphill to finish at Cattle grid sign just before Cattle grid at top. 0.56mile/ 985yds”

Best approximation so far.

Twitter – Winnats Pass

Strava – Hill climb course Winnats Pass


Winnats Pass Full climb:

After leaving the village of Castleton you turn left. Initially, the climb is not too steep, but the gradient increases until you come to a fairly constant section of 20%, which lasts for quite a bit.

winnats-jon-bendall
Winnats Pass – Jon Bendall

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Wheel spin in hill climbs

Wheelspin is not a pleasant experience, it can throw you off rhythm and make you feel like you are going nowhere. A reader asked for any advice after experieing several wheel slips on Streatley.

Rake photo Paul Jones (from 2012)

Factors which make wheelspin more like include

  • The steeper the hill it is
  • Riding style. Big jerky effort, low cadence, out of the saddle efforts may make wheelslip more likely
  • Rear tyre pumped up high

Personal experience of wheel spin

The first time I had bad wheel spin was 2005 National hill climb on the Rake. The ground was damp and it was the first time I had raced on a climb as steep as the Rake (22%) It really knocked my rhythm. It felt like you were grounding to a halt. Since then I might have had some at the Cat and Bec hill climbs, which are also similarly steep but I can’t remember now.

When I went back to the Rake in 2012, I didn’t have any wheelspin, I think I reduced tyre pressure to 65psi because it was damp.

How to avoid wheelspin

  • I find the best way to avoid wheel spin is to avoid entering climbs like the Rake or Cat and Bec!
  • On a serious note, I’m not an expert on avoiding wheelspin, because I preferred longer climbs rather than the very short and steep. A few riders say they experienced wheel spin on Streatley Hill (max gradient 18%) but I never have. Possibly because I spin slightly higher cadence than average or my tubs are good. In 2020 on Streatley, I reduced tyre pressure to 80psi – but only because others were talking about wheelspin.
  • Of course, if you can remain seated whilst climbing, wheelspin will not occur. But, this is not really useful advice as no-one wants to climb the Rake or Streatley seated. (For what it is worth I did the first 150m of Streatley seated and then the rest of the climb out of the saddle)
  • Lower psi to 60psi. If you think wheelspin is a big issue, the best is to ride 25″ tyres and reduce tyre pressure to as low as 60psi. Choosing wider tyres gives more traction

Best tyres to avoid wheelspin?

After the 2005 experience, I spent a long time researching the best tyres to avoid wheelspin. I eventually asked Jim Henderson and he advised some particiular tubulars as being fantastic for avoiding wheelspin, I regret to say I can’t remember what he said!

Since 2011 I have used

  • Vittoria Chrono Evo tubulars (165g) 22″ which are super light and have been very good for avoiding wheelspin. For me these have been good, but there might be better. I’m not sure whether the Chrono Evo are still available.

My Vittoria may need replacing, and if it is Winnat’s Pass next year, it will be another steep one. If any reader has any tyre recommendations please share!

2020 National Hill Climb Championship

The 2020 National Hill Climb was held on Streatley Hill and was promoted by Reading CC. In many ways, it was quite an innovative event. Chip timing, live stream, live commentary (good quality) And perhaps most impressively 479 riders signed up, with a special effort to encourage more women to enter. I believe over 109 women and 104 juniors were on the startsheet, which is impressive growth from a few years ago. For quite a few years, the Hill climb championships has seen increased interest and growth, but this year’s event has set a new standard. The organising team did an excellent job in difficult circumstance. It will be interesting to see how it progresses in the future.

streatley hill
Bithja Jones (Women’s champion from Sept club event)

The depth of the field is also reflected in the standard of this year’s hill climbing. I’ve come back after four years out of the sport, and on coming back, it seems the bar has been raised quite a bit. Of course, like everything else, the event has been overshadowed by the current Covid-19 situation and I think we have to be thankful the event was able to go ahead. Fortunately, time trials are more suited to socially distancing than the majority of amateur sports, but it must have required quite a few last-minute organisational changes to keep the event on track. The event was not without some Covid casualties. I know of two Welsh riders (Ed Laverack men’s defending champion) and Rebecca Richardson (3rd women 2019) who were unable to attend due to Welsh lockdown. But still, around 400 riders were able to start in an event which did as much as possible to minimise any risk.

Read more2020 National Hill Climb Championship

Burrington Combe 2020

Today was my 10th entry for the Bristol South CC promotion on Burrington Combe.

burrington-combe

It’s always a hill climb I enjoy riding. A good long climb, nice scenery and, over the years, I have got to know quite a few riders and organisers from the Bristol scene. It also helps that the climb historically suited my riding style. The last eight times I have entered – going all the way back to 2005 – I came first. It was an unbeaten run that was more than overdue to be broken. Since I was last here in 2016, a lot has happened. And it’s not just me getting older.

I thought the conditions were quite good. 12 degrees, hardly any wind, maybe 1 mph headwind at the top, but not noticeable. My race went fairly well. I warmed up on the road, switched to the lighter racing wheels and went off to the start. I got into a good rhythm and I paced it reasonably well. I made quite a good effort, riding as hard as I could for 7+ minutes and making an extra effort at the steep bits. The only downside to the race was that my time was about 30 seconds slower than I would have liked. As a great French philosopher once said “That’s life, mate!”

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Brighton Mitre Hill Climbs 2020

Saturday was Brighton Mitre CC hill climbs on Steyning Borstal and Mill Hill. I raced these hills back in 2004-2006, but haven’t been back for 14 years.

Mill Hill
Mill Hill

First up is Steyning Borstal, a tough climb with three distinct sections. Steep, flat and then steep again.

It is a technical climb in that pacing is not straightforward because of the variable gradient. I had a good warm up and was reasonably pleased with the effort. I thought I paced it relatively well. I wanted to go fairly fast on the first and second part but make the biggest effort on the last section where it gets to 17%. I finished in a time of 4.06. I believe there was a slight headwind at the top of climb, though Alice Lethbridge set new women’s course pb of 4:55.3 and Lukas Nerurkar set junior record 3:54.2.

My time: 4.06. Power: 421 watts. Av speed 14.0 mph. max speed 2.4

steyning power

Read moreBrighton Mitre Hill Climbs 2020

Bowden Hill

Last Saturday was Bowden Hill climb organised by Chippenham Wheelers. It was raining all day. I think it had been raining for 3 days solid, though it is easy to forget exactly how many days.

It is not a climb I have done before. Even in the murk and grey, wet skies, Laycock and Bowden Hill seemed an attractive part of the world. In better weather, I may have gone for a longer rider after. But, as it was, after finishing and descending the hill, I was pretty cold so I didn’t hang around.

The climb was OK, I had problems with some sprocket so my gears were slipping at an awkward moment. I don’t think it affects time too much, but it does affect the momentum and you are left feeling you could have done better.

My average power was 400 watts, quite a bit less than previous power outputs for 4 to 5 minute (maybe because the hill wasn’t that steep 6.6% average).

Form was good last Sun and Mon, but then dipped on Wed. Let’s hope it goes back up this week.

I still enjoyed getting out despite the rain and cold.

Rear light woe

These days rear lights are required for racing in CTT events. On a murky day like Sat, you can understand why the rule was brought in. On the startline, there seemed to be a lot of equipment failure, with rear lights not working (perhaps the rain was playing a part, though it shouldn’t) and I heard quite a few last minute requests to borrow a rear light.

I think you will never regret bringing spare clip on rear light to the start of a race. My light just about lasted the race. I thought it wasn’t working properly when it kept fading away this week, but then I realised I had been trying to recharge the USB the wrong way around! Now I’ve charged it with the right side facing up, it’s good to last a long time!

Read moreBowden Hill

Streatley Hill Climb (national warm up event)

Today was a club event, promoted by Didcot Phoenix, on Streatley hill. It was partly a test run for the 2020 National hill climb which is scheduled for the end of October.

streatley1

Streatley hill is one of the closest open hill climbs to Oxford. Just 18 miles, if you take the direct route. It would make a good training hill, but I’ve never really liked Streatley for some reason! I prefer the slightly longer climbs in the Chilterns and Brill. Anyway, I was grateful for the opportunity to have a go and am glad I had a test run. The last time I raced Streatley was in 2012.

I wasn’t sure whether to drive or cycle to the event. In the end, I decided to cycle and was glad I did. There was strong northerly wind, so the ride there was nice and easy. Though the return leg after racing was a long slog. I picked up my number and did one or two half-hearted efforts up Goring hill. I was already well warmed up, it was more a case of not getting cold. Goring is quite a busy place with parked cars so you have to be patient to get through the village. Also to get to Streatley hill there is traffic light across an A-road. (which if you were late for your start could seem lasts a long time).

Read moreStreatley Hill Climb (national warm up event)