Old Shoe – Llangollen

The Old Shoe out of Llangollen is a short, steep climb in North Wales. It runs close to the better known Horseshoe Pass. (main A road). But the Old shoe makes an excellent venue for the national hill climb because it is feasible to close the road to traffic and is significantly steeper (an average for 12.% for 1 mile is a real challenge. The road is quite narrow and has a cattle grid, but is relatively quiet, as most cars take the Horseshoe Pass up the valley.

old-shoe-llangollen-lucybulkeley
Source: Lucy’s Lifes and Bikes

Old Shoe out of Llangollen Pass

  • Distance 0.96 miles
  • Avg Grade 12.5%
  • Lowest Elev 677ft
  • Highest Elev 1,314ft
  • Elev Difference 637ft / 194m

Read moreOld Shoe – Llangollen

Surfing the Line – Hill climb film

 
I remember sitting down with Maciek about two years ago (2019). I always enjoy talking about hill climbs, so was happy to take part. We spent quite a few hours and I think Maciek ended up with quite a bit of footage (as an amateur film-maker, I couldn’t guess at the number of hours Maciek must have spent editing all that footage). It was at a time when I wasn’t doing any competitive cycling, so it was nice to relive the old memories, which seemed quite ‘alive’.

On another occasion, we went out to Chinnor Hill in the Chilterns to do a short photoshoot.

I must admit, I then forgot about it for a year until Maciek thought about publishing in 2020. But, he waited another year and interviewed Bithja Jones and Andrew Feather, which was a good addition to the film.

I think it is very good. I like all the contributions and it gives a good insight into the world of hill climbing. It’s often hard watching yourself speak, but there you go.

After the 2021 national hill climb on Winnats Pass and now watching the whole final version, I’m super inspired to go out and cycle up some hills! I hope my body is as enthusiastic and willing as the rest of me! But, I guess that is part of the film, inspiring you to enter a hill climb 362 days until the Old Shoe in Llangollen, North Wales

The film is made by Maciek Tomiczek supported by Hunt.

National Hill Climb Championship 2021 – Results

The National Hill Climb Championship for 2021 was held Winnats Pass. It is an iconic venue for the event because it is an excellent hill (i.e. really hard – 11% average, 20% max gradient). The hill has a natural amphitheatre around the climb meaning there will be a great atmosphere for both riders and spectators.

winnats
Photo Darren Cooling, Bolsover & CC. Winnats 2021

It is also by far the most popular hill climb venue for the National with 10 visits. However, this will be the first visit to Winnats since 1977.

The 2021 race was very popular with many entrants and spectators. It was run under difficult conditions with rain and wind making the steep slopes even harder. In the men’s race Tom Bell, broke the decades old course record to fly up the climb in a time of 3:01.6 pipping last year’s winner Andrew Feather. In the women’s event, Bithja Jones narrowly pipped Mary Wilkinson to the title.

Read moreNational Hill Climb Championship 2021 – Results

Clearing out bike parts – and spare parts for sale

I am currently going through a five year plan of clearing out my stuff. I have sold a lot of books on Ziffit. I have put five skinsuits in the loft and managed to throw away one. It’s amazing how you can accumulate skinsuits. They cost a lot of money but have no re-sell value (especially when the lyrca gets stretched). I don’t want to discard them because I hope to use them again, but who knows when?

The problem with taking a zen approach to your stuff is that with cycling stuff, it is easy to accumulate and difficult to throw away. I’m sure all cyclists can relate to keeping various odd bits in different parts of the house and not knowing when they will come in. You keep just in case and then forget their purpose.

In my loft, I couldn’t believe how many varieties of aero bottles I have lying around. That’s the problem with time trialling, there’s always watts to be saved by splashing some cash. I’m kind of relieved to be off the aero gains money-train. I also always seem to excel in collecting one single glove. I had about 4 right handed gloves with no pair.

gloves-overshoes

Read moreClearing out bike parts – and spare parts for sale

Pros and cons of Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTN)


To my surprise my local area (Cowley, Oxford) where I live has implemented a low traffic neighbourhood. It involves putting

  • Bollards on some roads to block traffic
  • Implementing bus/taxi gates where the road is still open, but taxi’s, buses and emergency vehicles can pass through. (Also quite a lot of cars ignore the signs.)

A few months ago, the council sent a consultation pack through the post, and then this spring, it was implemented in a wide area of Cowley.

ltn-4

It has made quite a big difference to the volume of traffic on the road where I live. It has fallen quite a lot. There is more traffic on the roads around the LTN because it has cut off many ‘rat runs’ (short cuts).

Read morePros and cons of Low traffic neighbourhoods (LTN)

Review of End to End by Paul Jones

end-end End to End by Paul Jones is a book about the people who have attempted the Lands End to John O Groats cycling record. It is also an exploration of the author’s own inner journey framed around his personal efforts to cycle the distance.

I haven’t read too many cycling books recently. Quite a few generic cycling books end up saying similar things. There are only so many books you want to read on the Tour de France, to say nothing of the interminably awful doping confession books I read several years ago.

With Paul Jones’ cycling books, at the very least, you know you are getting to get a new insight on a cycling subject, which has rarely been covered before. I looked forward to getting a copy, which I did from Blackwells.

In the first few chapters, I took some time to get into the book. There were a lot of personal opinions and insights into the author’s views and inner state of mind. (I was really surprised to learn Paul was a headmaster of a school!) There is admirable honesty and frankness, but it isn’t necessarily what I am looking for in a book.

If it is in places a little heavy going with personal stuff and a legitimate sense of injustice, I started to see it as a metaphor for a long distance endurance ride. Sometimes, it rains, but then you turn a corner and you remember why you made the effort.

The strength of Paul Jones as a writer is to take a relatively obscure rider and make their achievements feel impressive and worth knowing about. There are some end to enders I know something about – Eileen Sheridan (Wonder Wheels), John Woodburn (used to often talk about his End to End attempts at local time trials), but there were many new characters who I enjoyed reading about and finding what made them tick and why there were able to achieve something so unique. Like Jones’ other books, you feel a sincere celebration of the unsung amateur club rider. Men and women who achieved remarkable things and in a way that is much more inspiring than many of the so-called modern celebrities.

About halfway through the book I was thinking, it is a good book, but I probably won’t write a review. I’m not suitably enthusiastic about it. But, an interesting thing is that towards the end of the book, I started to feel genuinely inspired. Something clicked and you felt the real value of this great collective effort to transcend the limits through one of the hardest cycling challenges. Paul’s writing brings to life this difficult event and it shines a good light on the diverse characters who have made the end to end.

When I was a teacher I used to fine students 10p for swearing and with some students I made a lot of money! If there was 10p fine for swearing in this book, I think I would have got a 70% reduction on the price of the book. But, the corollary is that sometimes, Paul really hits the sweet spot for certain droll humour, where the words fly effortlessly in a seaming stream of consciousness that sweeps you along. Which living author could write so well about an inconspicuous lay-by, situated in the post-industrial waste that is Wolverhampton, on a gloomy, wet winter evening?

For me, the book was like an end to end, there were bits where you were struggling a little uphill, then flying downhill. But, by the end, you knew you were glad you had done it and really understood something of a very uplifting part of cycling.

Overall, I would recommend the book and it makes a good addition to any cycling library.

***

Appendix 1

Buying books online. During lockdown I have settled into buying everything online and to my great shame usually end up at the greedy monopolist Amazon. But, for books, I make a stand and always buy them elsewhere. Blackwells is a very good alternative to Amazon.

End to End – Blackwells

Appendix 2

I would often talk to the late John Woodburn after local time trials. Actually, it was more him talking to me. He would often bring up the End to End. What I remember is he complained bitterly that his sponsors made him do the record when he was ill (his attempt that failed). He was also incredibly annoyed that when someone broke his record, they did it by the smallest of margins. As usual with John Woodburn, I would listen to his stories with rapt attention and then break out into nervous laughter not knowing whether he was being serious, angry or really happy. The book was worth buying just for the realisation that it wasn’t just me, but everyone found John Woodburn a wonderful enigma.

Appendix 3

I remember when Mike Broadwith broke the End to End, it was a great event.

Appendix 4

Google have closed down their Feedburner email service (you can always rely on Google to close down useful services, if they don’t make $x billion profit per week ) so I switched to another called follow.it – I hope it works and you receive in your inbox.

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!

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

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