Archive | cycling

Surviving on the roads

Over the years of cycling, I have developed the habit of shouting ‘careful!’ at any danger, annoyance or inconsiderate user of the roads. There are a lot worse things to shout out. It gets the point across without being too confrontational. It has become such an ingrained habit, it happens without thinking. On many occasions, it is really important to shout to raise awareness. A bell can be too slow or quiet. But shouting “Careful!” has definitely woken up some drivers, pedestrians or other cyclists who weren’t paying attention. Mostly, it goes down quite well. The other day I was cycling through town, I shouted ‘careful’ at a driver, and she stopped and waved to say thank you. I am always pleasantly surprised when people thank you – rather than shouting back.

It doesn’t always go down perfectly. I was cycling in Headington and a cyclist was cycling the wrong way the road. I had to swerve out into the road to miss him, so I shouted ‘careful’. In response, he very nicely said: “**** off”.

I inwardly said to myself ‘Welcome to Brexit Britain!’ – which kind of made me laugh so I didn’t get too annoyed. It is a funny trait of human nature that when we wrong somebody – we can simultaneously blame them and be angry at them – even though it is our fault. The worst abuse I have received on the roads is from people who have nearly run me over because of their lack of care. I should say this is very rare given the kilometers I have cycled over the past few decades. Continue Reading →

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Triple puncture

I cycled to a cafe in Oxford and a young lad said to me ‘I’m glad you started writing your blog again.’ It was nice to be recognised but I felt a bit bad. I didn’t have the heart to say I had just updated some broken links in old posts. Rather annoyingly, if I update an old post, the automatic email sender sends out again these posts of dubious value – like on the lightest wheels from 2017.

Anyway, I now feel suitably obliged to write a cycling blog. The problem is I don’t have that much inspiring to write about. March was quite a good month for my cycling – the hip pain was in the background, and I went out to do quite a few miles. Buoyed by this, I tried a short 20-mile hill interval session in New York. It was really tough and my times were 40 seconds down on the peak of a few years ago. It all felt hardwork and rather joyless, but after the ride, the old problems returned so I could do nothing for the next 10 days.

The weather has been so good in the past few days, you feel obliged to try and get on your bike. On Saturday, I did 13 miles to Stanton St John. I was coming back to Oxford under Headington roundabout and I picked up a puncture. I saw the air coming out of a hole in the side of the tyres. When I get a puncture, I have now started to time myself to see how quickly I can mend the puncture. Perhaps it’s part of the gamification of all aspects of cycling. Or maybe it’s just the mindset of a time triallist – always trying to set new PB’s. If you can’t do it on your bike, do it mending a puncture.

I remember the days when a puncture was a real disaster and could take forever to fix. This time I managed to fix in seven minutes, which I was quite pleased with. However, within another 100m, I had got another puncture. It wasn’t a pinch flat, but a piece of glass. I swear despite going for a puncture pb, I checked the inside of the tyre for sharp pieces. But, there it was – another puncture. So I cleared the tyre of the glass and then set to trying to break my puncture PB of 7 minutes. But, alas, my last spare inner tube didn’t want to inflate. My minipump was working – but I couldn’t for the life of me get any air into my last inner tube. Eventually, I had to admit defeat with three useless inner tubes sitting on the bypass grass. Continue Reading →

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Off-road cycling

As a road cyclist, I generally turned my nose up at off-road cycle networks – too slow, bumpy and muddy. But I have been cycling around Oxford and enjoyed following bike paths to different venues.

cycle-path

This is a cycle path from the River Thames down the back of Kennington and the main-railway. It took me to Sandford Lock, another crossing of the River Thames I had never used before. I have cycled all over the country, but am still finding new routes within a few miles of my home.

It was very quiet on this cycle path, and apart from a few trains roaring past, a sense of being deep in the countryside. It’s been a dry March so the path is stone-dry, I don’t know what it would be like after rain. It’definitely has many advantages over the road system. For riding off-road, there are probably better bike set ups than narrow road tyres pumped up to 90psi. I wouldn’t want to cycle all day over this bumpy track.

Inspired by cycling around Oxford, I have made efforts to get back on road bike and do some ‘proper’ cycling. It has gone better than I expected and is quite promising. I have been to a private specialist for my hip.  He gave a Cortiscoid injection which didn’t seem to make any difference (glad in a way – if you know the history of cycling.) More scans. But, whether due to the long break or something else, I have been able to get back on the bike, with less problems than before. We shall see where it goes.

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Bali bicycle

I spent a few weeks in Bali. No cycling, though a little swimming in the ocean, which was nice.

There were not many bicycles in Bali, which is probably due to the dangers of road traffic here.

I did meet this chap cycling on his bike. He was cycling so slowly I could keep up with him by walking very fast. I admired his poise. Impatient traffic was beeping him loudly as they wanted to squeeze past on these narrow roads, but he seemed completely unmoved. If it was me, I might have tried cycling a little faster, but he never altered his speed or position on the road.

In Bali, there are many mopeds on the roads, and you can sometimes see a family of four squeezed onto the back of one – usually without any crash hats.

Roundabouts also have a different meaning in Bali, you don’t go around the roundabout, but just straight to your preferred exit – contraflow so to speak. It was interesting to see – though not something I would be particularly inclined to cycle in.

 

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Comments

Thanks for kind comments on the recent post about retirement. In particular, thanks for those comments from those who have experienced a similar issue and made a recovery. It is very encouraging to hear. Perhaps my initial understanding was overly pessimistic. It seems self-diagnosis on the internet is not an entirely reliable method of medical diagnosis – who would have thought?

Anyway, I will definitely explore all options and hope that sometime I will be writing on something other than this hip.


One golden law of the internet is “Never read the comments” As a general rule, in the internet comment sections lurk the darker side of human nature. But, there is always an exception to any rule, and comments on cyclinguphill have often been very thoughtful and useful.  It’s also good to know people have picked up a few things from the blog over the years. It is a nice coincidence, that since I started blogging about hill climbs there has been an increase in interest and participation (I remember days when you would often get start lists of 9-10 people) with big fields across the country.

When you ponder retirement, you become aware of how much value there is in participating in cycle sport – not so much from the goal of winning and picking up the odd cheque for £20 with a free cup of tea – but to meet fellow cyclists who share a similar love of the sport.

The Cotswolds

As a general rule, I don’t think about the past. But, injury can make you a little more reflective. Sometimes images come of cycling through the Cotswolds, driving up to the Peak District or racing up quiet hills in Yorkshire. It is evocative of good times spent on the bike.

Stang

Well, enough of self-reflection, I have a tickly cough, so I have to go and do some research on the world wide web and find out what major disease I have. (only kidding mother!)

 

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The end of the road

After two years of diligently doing all kinds of exercises only to see a gradual decline in my hip, I went for another X-Ray – thinking there might be some kind of structural defect. This time the doctor said the hip showed femoroacetabular impingement. I think in layman’s terms they mean bone spur, so when the hip moves – bones move against each other causing problems. Unfortunately, no amount of rest or exercises can solve this extra-bone misalignment. Apparently, it is quite common, but if you exercise a lot, it can aggravate the situation and you notice it much earlier than a non-active person.

If it is bad enough – there is the possibility of surgery, but even if I do have surgery, and even if successful, the days of time trials and hill climb intervals are, unfortunately, over. I don’t believe surgery can take you back to complete recovery.

If anything it tends to deteriorate over time, and there is a higher probability of causing osteoarthritis, so the motivation of riding through pain and damaging cartilage is not that appealing.

I did look into Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) – the idea it is mainly false signals from the brain which are sending pain when it is not needed. I was really hoping this was the case. I definitely believe TMS is a real situation, but in my case, many things didn’t add up. I don’t have any kind of meaningful stress which could be causing it. It’s been painful sitting for a long time. Now I understand why I’m always squirming around seats and find long-distance driving a pain.

The funny thing is that since diagnosis, it feels worse – so there is probably some mental aspect in addition. In one sense, it is good to have a diagnosis, but I kind of preferred the previous glimmer of hope and belief there was nothing fundamentally wrong. I’m not sure why the MRI scan I had ten months ago didn’t show anything.

I know it could be a lot worse and all that, but it’s hard to avoid the fact it is a major disappointment. Make a couple of jokes about turning Vet, and before you know it the body has shut up shop 40 years early. I definitely could see myself competing as a ‘super vet.’ Even until this week, I still retained pretensions of being competitive in next years national hill climb championship. Of course, there are always other things to do, but it is hard to replicate the joy of cycling, visiting races, meeting cyclists, taking part and pushing the body to its limits. I have already looked into e-bikes, but was discouraged by a top speed of only 15mph. Anyway, it’s not the same.

I will continue to post a bit about cycling around Oxford.

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British Time Trial Championship 2010

This is a repost of an old blog from my previous website. I’ll repost it here as I have lost access to editing site.

The main point of interest is the top three riders. Who would have predicted the top three would go on to win the Tour de France. 4th Michael Hutchinson was commentating on tv today.

1 Bradley Wiggins Sky Pro Cycling 1:04:55
2 Christopher Froome Sky Pro Cycling 1:06:17
3 Geraint Thomas Sky Pro Cycling 1:06:30

It wasn’t my best race, the only thing I remember was Geraint Thomas talking to me after the race. Seemed a nice chap.

Very happy for Geraint Thomas to win the 2018 Tour de France. A very well deserved victory. Hope he gets lots of cheers on the Champs Elysees!

wiggins-hutchinson

Michael Hutchinson and Bradley Wiggins chat, just after the finish.

Yesterday was the 2010 British Time Trial Championships in Llandeilo, Wales. Apart from closing roads to traffic, it was as close as you can get to a real pro race. The course was testing, for the senior men 52km. For the Masters, Women and juniors – 32km. The women’s race was won by Emma Pooley, just ahead of Julia Shaw and Wendy  Houvenaghel.

In the Men’s race, Bradley Wiggins was the clear winner averaging a phenomenal 30mph for the 52 km. He led in a Sky One, Two, Three, with top domestic rider Michael Hutchinson just edged out of the podium place. In the Senior Men category, I was 24th place in a time of 1:14:24 (26.2mph). At one point Chris Froome (Sky) came flying past me. I was doing 33mph, so he must have been really going fast.

I believe Chris Froome and Andy Tennant

Chris Froome and Andrew Tennant (I think)

There was a short climb through the village of Llandeilo, which was a great buzz as a large crowd were there to cheer on the riders. After finishing, I took my camera and nipped back to the finish to take a couple of photos of the top riders who went off last. I ended up riding back to HQ with Geraint Thomas, who finished 3rd. He seemed a very nice, modest guy, quite at ease talking about cycling. I forgot for a few minutes, this was the guy who at one stage was second in this years Tour. I’m sure he has a great career ahead of him, I’d like to see him do well. Funny, next week he has the Tour of Britain, I have the start of the school term. Later in the year, he has the Commonwealth Games, I will have a few hill climbs. But, it’s a great sport when you can race in the same event as the best athletes in the sport.

wiggins-hutchinson

After getting back from New York, I felt somewhat demotivated from racing. On Saturday, I did my slowest 10 of the year (21:44). I toyed with not starting the BTTC championships, but, glad I made the long trek down to south Wales, a very well organised event and it was good to take part.

Related

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New LEJOG cycling record – Michael Broadwith

24 Hour Champion Michael Broadwith (Arctic Tacx RT) broke the Land’s End to John ‘O Groat’s cycling record in a time of 43 hours 25 minutes and 13 seconds on 16 June – 17 June 2018

le-m.broadwith

According to reports, Michael was well up on schedule – setting a new RRA 24 hour record of 507-511 miles in the process, but towards the end, heavy cold rain made the effort extremely testing – with unscheduled stops to change clothes and try to keep warm. (End to End 2018)

For the last few hours Michael’s neck gave way and he was using a neck brace – kindly lent by people in the vicinity who heard about ride. In an interview with Cycling Weekly, (pre-ride) he mentioned

“but if I don’t get this record, I doubt it will be my legs that let me down.” but fortunately, the cold, rain and non-working neck didn’t halt the record. Though, with the near Biblical weather, it sounds a good job, he built up a good buffer in the early part of the ride.
Towards the end of the ride, Michael was in great pain from his neck. But he managed to find a way to support neck and keep going.

“I managed to figure out some cock-eyed method where I was propping my head up with my arm on the aerobar rest like Rodin’s The Thinker. At least it meant I could descend under control and fairly fast.

“I had a stern talk to myself; ‘for God’s sake, chances like this come across once in a lifetime. If you don’t carry on you’ll think through this moment forever and wonder why you didn’t ride for another 20 minutes.’  Article at Cycling Time Trials – Frazer Snowden/Paul Jones

On the final long climb to Berridale, he was hopeful of breaking record

“Then I was actually doing it in the early hours of this morning and thinking ‘bloody hell, this is me, in this moment, and I’m climbing up Berridale and I’m going to nail this record, my friend Des running alongside. I have to remember it because it is a perfect moment in life where I’m actually living the moment that I wanted to live in incredible intensity.

M.Broadwith – photo by Tim Bayley.

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A good weekend for cycling

It was a very good weekend for cycling – Tour de Yorkshire, Giro d’Italia and near-perfect weather. It was more than enough to want to get back on the bike.

cofidis-rider

Stephane Rossetto – Cofidis

I never watch cycling live – only record and then fast forward through the boring bits. Using the modern miracle of fast-forward I watched the interesting bits of the first three Giro stages in a combined time of seven minutes.  My favourite bit of yesterday’s Giro stage was seeing the three breakaway riders as they were leaving the peloton. One rider looked back and the peloton had shut up shop – a line of defiance – absolutely no-one else was interested in joining the breakaway of futility. The rider laughed as he realised it would just be three riders for the inevitable 200km long breakaway before getting caught. I wonder if anyone listened to the whole commentary of five hours through the desert – with not even the odd vineyard and local vintage of wine to give Carlton Kirby something to work on.

de-yorkshire-027

Anyway, the Tour de Yorkshire was a completely different. Beautiful scenary, massive crowds, great racing and yesterday an epic stage – I’d never heard of Stephane Rossetto (Cofidis) before, but that was quite a ride. The Giro should try start in Otley.

Photos (by Parents in Otley before the ascent of East Chevin.)

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A good omen

I was going out for one of my feeble one-hour rides at an easy pace. I was cycling out of Oxford up Barracks Lane. It’s a short steep hill. Steep enough for many commuters to get off their bike and push. At the bottom, there was a runner who looked like he was doing hill intervals. Out of curiosity, I rode alongside him at his running pace. I smiled and offered a little encouragement. Then he smiled and said:
“right let’s do this” and he shot off up the hill. It was clear he was inviting me to a race.

Now I’ve been a bit on the crocked side for the past 18 months, but the competitive spirit still lurks. And some of the old dormant speed remains. So like the red rag to the bull. I sprinted up the hill and left the runner far behind. I turned round at the top to give a valedictory wave and the runner – now in the distance – smiled, or perhaps he grimaced.

So that was probably the most exciting 30 seconds of cycling for 2018. After that, it was back to tootling around Oxfordshire before going back to do my yoga exercises and stretches.

Still, I will take it as a good omen. I can still cycle faster than a runner, and that has to count for something.

One thing I’ve always found puzzling – In the Tour de France why can big fat blokes in a mankini run uphill as fast as the lead professional cyclists?

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