Archive | cycling

Nick ‘O Pendle Hill climb

nick-in-distance

The Nick O Pendle hill climb is a testing climb from the village of Sabden Village up to the moors of Nick O Pendle.  (#72 on 100 hill climbs). The climb averages approx 10%, but at the start there are a few sections of 16%. It has been used several times for the National Hill Climb Championship, including 1988 when a young Chris Boardman won his first hill climb championship, setting a course record of 3.29 (he used a 60 inch fixed). A 19 year old Malcolm Elliot was also national champion on this hill in 1980.

nick-o-pendle

Course Description

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Start at the lamp-post outside the apartment block on the site of the old garage in Sabden Village. Proceed up the hill to FINISH at the large stone at the start of parking area and approximately 50 yards before the crest of the hill.The course is approximately 1350 yards long and has a maximum gradient of 1 in 6.

Nick ‘O Pendle Hill climb (from Sabden)

  • Distance 1.2km
  • Avg Grade 11.1%
  • Max Gradient: 16%
  • Elev Gain 135m
  • Height 1,514 ft – 461 metres
  • Course Record: Chris Boardman 3.29 (1988 – hill climb championship)
  • My PB: 3.35 (2011)
  • 100 climbs #74

Veloviewer

Strava

National Hill Climb Championships at Nick o Pendle

1988

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A youthful Chris Boardman takes his first National hill climb championship in 1988.

Chris Boardman had finished second by less than one second to Paul Curran in 1987. But, after winning in 1988, he told Cycling Weekly: “I’m quite satisfied with the ride. It’s nerve racking to get it all out in three minutes. Some start too fast.

1980

Malcolm Elliot 1980

19 year old Malcolm Elliot (Rutland CC) on his way to the 1980 championship.

Malcolm Eliot hill climb

Last man Jeff Williams (and 1979 Champion) in the 1980 hill climb championships. He broke his nose before the race and did the race with blood coming down his nose. At half way he was four seconds up on Elliot, but by the finish had lost out by just 0.2 seconds. A very close championship. Cycling Weekly estimated a crowd of 5,000.

  • 1980 – 1st Malcolm Elliot – 3.33.4,  2nd Jeff Williams 3.33.6, 3rd Gareth Armitage 3.36.6 Continue Reading →
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Do supplements actually work?

I’m currently reading M.Hutchinson’s ‘Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck behind the World’s fastest cyclists‘ (at Amazon on 27th March), I got mine from Waterstones) – I’m half way through already – it’s a good entertaining read, I’ll do a full review soon.

But, at times I think aloud. ‘Very good,  but can’t you just give me a list of things to buy which will make me go faster.‘ I’m not one of those who needs to understand the science behind going faster. I just want to know what I have to buy and do – preferably with a minimum of work and cost.

supplements

Supplements

One of the ways to go faster is buying food supplements. (the legal supplements of course) Over the years, I’ve bought all kinds of recommended supplements, which very confident sounding people have claimed will make ‘all the difference’. Beetroot juice, Beta Alanine, Cod liver oil, Creatine, tumeric powder e.t.c. The problem is that although I’m very good at buying supplements, I’m very bad at actually taking them. I have a cupboard full of 3/4 full tablet jars. I buy supplements with good intentions, but somehow I always forget to take them after the first few weeks of enthusiasm dies off. Every five years I go through the cupboard and throw away everything which has gone well past its Best Before date.

Beetroot juice was promising

A few seasons ago, I was convinced that drinking a litre of beetroot juice before a race was worth at least 30 seconds in a 10 mile time trial. I clung to this rather unscientific theory because one day, after gorging on the purple stuff, I’d managed to take 3 seconds off my 10 mile pb on the F20/10.

The only problem with this wonder product, was that it rather reliably gave an unpleasant case of diarrhea. It’s one thing to lose a bit of weight before a race, it’s another to lose all your minerals and salts. Although I liked the idea of Beetroot juice and was pretty attached to the concept Beetroot juice made you go faster, even I had to admit it was interupting my pre-race routine. Alas, I had to give up this wonder supplement, but fortunately, it didn’t seem to make any difference to my 10 mile time trials. A few weeks later, I went up north to ride the V718 and took nearly a minute off my 10 pb from 20.00 to 19.07. So much for beetroot juice, when you can ride on a motorway.

Supplements chapter

Anyway back to reading Hutchinson’s book ‘Faster’, I was nervously getting half way through the book when those insistent voices were getting louder. ‘But, what can I do to actually make ME go faster?‘ Jokes are fine, but I want something to make me faster, preferably with not too much work.

Thank-fully, Hutchinson came to the rescue saying that some supplements are generally agreed to really make you go faster. He mentioned three, Beetroot juice, Beta Alanine and Fish oil.

Wonderful, I had all these in my cabinet, completely untouched for the past ten months (I actually bought some Beetroot pills once). Without daring to look at the best before date, I popped the pills and got prepared for an interval session. My skin was tingling with all the beta alanine.  This was psychologically reassuring – If it makes your skin tingle, it really must work! Continue Reading →

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What kind of cyclist are you?

What kind of cyclist are you?

oxford-cyclist-scarf

exhibit A

 

Do you ever wear lycra on a bike?

a) Cyclists how wear lycra give us a bad image
b) I cycle to work in lycra shorts and then change into my work clothes.
c) I started shaving my legs, just so it would go better with my lycra shorts
d) I  have spent £250 on a semi- see-through – figure hugging skinsuit.

How do you respond to a question about which is better – Shimano Di2 or SRAM Red mechanical?

riders-behind

a) Is Shimano the thing which moves the chain?

b) It is only for those who have more money than sense.

c) Although SRAM red is 150grams lighter than Di2, on balance the easy of shifting will save me 1 or 2 watts in a race.

d) I have to ride Campagnolo

 

What is your favourite speed for cycling?

 

a) I don’t know what speed I go at, but it is faster than walking pace
b) I cycle at a steady 15-17mph.
c) I once did 50 mph down a steep hill in Yorkshire.
d) The fastest speed I can go at without passing out.

 

Do You Wait at Traffic Lights When They are Red?

broad-st-traffic-lights

a) It’s always nice to have a chance to stop and get your breath back
b) Yes, Unless no one is looking.
c) I thought red lights didn’t apply to cyclists?
d) You don’t get red lights if you do a proper race (or on a dual carriageway).

How Much Did you Spend on Your Latest Bike?

a) £25 6 shillings and 3 pence.
b) £1000 from local bike shop
c) £7,000
d) Free bike from team.

How do You Feel When Another Cyclist Goes Past You?

two-cyclists-touring

a) I feel sorry for those cyclists who arrive at work all sweaty.
b) Indifferent
c) I’ll just draft behind them for a few minutes before leaving them for dead on the long hill past the traffic lights.
d) A recovery ride is a recovery ride.

How long do you spend watching the Tour de France?

a) Well, I quite like the mountain scenery in the Alps. But, why I don’t understand why only one rider is wearing a yellow jersey.
b) I’m never in during the day
c) I can recite the most memorable lines of David Duffield and Phil Ligget by heart.
d) Only the highlights to see how I did in the stage.

So What Type of Cyclist are You?

  • Mostly A’s – You would fit nicely into the slow cycling movement. More concerned with looking good than going fast. You’ve learnt the art of enjoying the bike
  • Mostly B’s – You’re a good old fashioned cyclist who just rides the bike because you like doing it. You probably remember the days, when people used to cycle to youth hostels, with little more than a few pence in the pocket and a spare pair of socks.
  • Mostly C’s – If fate had been different, you could easily have been a Tour de France rider, but you’ve made up for a lack of pro wins  by sprinting for village road signs on Winter Training runs. At least you look the part and have better bike handling skills than triathletes.
  • Mostly D’s – The real deal. Congratulations on your new contract with Team Rupert Murdoch professional cycling team!
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10 reasons to love cyclists

I don’t know why but apparently, there are some people who hate cyclists . I can’t understand. As a motorist I find many excellent reasons to love cyclists. Here are a few, I’m sure you can add a few more.

1. Target Practise – A cyclist helps develops our advanced motoring skills. For example, how close can you get to a cyclist without knocking them off? This is quite an art – best practised in a white van whilst travelling 15mph above the speed limit and with mobile phone in your right hand. You have to be careful though because occasionally, cyclists may make ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ like move 10 cm to the right to avoid a pothole in the road. If they have the audacity to move more than 1 foot from the edge of the road see no.2.

scarf

2. Practise Your Musical Rhythms
. If you see a cyclist in the road, this is an excellent reason to practise sounding your horn. You can practise the art of playing your horn very loudly or you could just practise a simple rhythm like repeatedly holding the horn down. Unfortunately, this can often lead to disappointment as for some reason, beeping a horn is insufficient to make a cyclist disappear from OUR roads.

3. Feeling of Superiority. Now, some cyclists can having that annoying air of self-righteous superiority. They think they are saving the planet by eating home grown leeks and cycling to work. But, whilst we can tolerate their imaginary fantasies, we actually know it is us motorists who are saving the environment because of our decision to use unleaded petrol and occasionally buying 40% recycled plastic in our car air fresheners.

4. Funny To Splash People. This is related to no.1 but actually more fun. With driving over a puddle we get to see more physical evidence of our driving skills. When the road is waterlogged if you drive really fast over a puddle, a big stream of water gets sprayed over other road users and pedestrians. Just watch the face of a cyclist after he gets soaked with your puddle – priceless!

5. Odds Are in Our Favour. Crashes are inevitable on our roads, well at least they are inevitable if we don’t pay attention whilst driving and try to send a text or fall asleep at the wheel. In fact vehicles on British roads kill over 3,000 people a year, but, when you do crash into a cyclist, the odds are heavily in your favour. Their lycra shorts may make a dint in our paintwork, but, this can usually be fixed. Just image if cyclists drove Sherman tanks – when we knocked them down we would have more than a bit of dinted paintwork to deal with! Now that wouldn’t at all be fair – so we should be grateful to cyclists for not threatening our reinforced steel SUVs with nothing more than a thin layer of slightly ridiculous lycra.

6. Humour. Driving is a pretty boring affair. I mean we get stuck in endless traffic jams and it can take one hour to travel just a few miles in Central London. Now it’s pretty annoying that cyclists don’t get so caught up in the traffic congestion – often sneaking up on the inside in these ridiculous cycle lanes. But, next time your stuck in a traffic jam feeling miserable that other people won’t leave their car at home, why not pass the time laughing at other road users. Cyclists are bound to be wearing some ridiculous clothing, or maybe they’re just getting wet. Look on the funny side of these absurd cyclists and suddenly those interminable traffic jams will fly by!

7. Cyclists don’t Wear Down the Road.

No one like potholes, (unless you have one of those 4*4s and like to show off your off-road skills). But, cyclists don’t wear down the road because their bikes weigh very little. Nevertheless, even though cyclists don’t create negative externalities, we can still complain cyclists don’t pay road tax (the fact it was abolished in 1937 doesn’t really matter, having a go at cyclists is usually a pretty easy way to get a contract with a major newspaper, even if you are just a half baked TV chef…)

8. Cyclists don’t Pollute the Environment.

No one likes the exhaust fumes created by cars. It is unpleasant and can cause health problems like asthma, not to mention the problems of global warming. But cyclists don’t create any pollution, at least if you don’t count the by product of all those organic baked beans, these hippie, sandal-wearing cyclists often eat.

9. Cyclists don’t take up Valuable Parking Space
space
(space taken by cars and bikes)

Try parking in Central London, – a nightmare. You can spend hours driving around looking for a spot. Just imagine if every bike took the space of a car. We would never be able to park!

10. Cyclists don’t Cause Congestion.

Congestion would be even worse if cyclists started driving. Every cyclist means quicker journey times for us.

Next week – 10 Reasons to Love Motorists

 

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Fitting a stem to handlebars

screw-mess

Last week I broke a stem due to tightening up the four bolts at different angles.

Not wanting to miss a day’s training, I bought a new stem on Monday for £14.99. However, I didn’t make a good job of fitting it. Firstly, the tribars are the old standard diameter of 26.0mm. But, most stems these days are the ‘oversize’ 31.8mm.
spacer

Therefore, I’ve been using some spacers to make the standard size of the tribars / handlebars fit the bigger stem.

When trying to fit the new stem, I found great difficulty in putting the bolts in straight. I could have done with another pair of hands. The problem was it was very difficult to tighten up the four screws at equal angle. The stem kept slipping. Also, the spacers aren’t perfect. It means it felt like a botched job. Continue Reading →

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Cycling through the rain photos

Some selected photos from the wettest winter since King Canute went on a canoeing trip up to the fjords and waterfalls of the Lake District.

wrapped-up-against-rain

Nice mac and Wellington boots to keep dry.

sun-raind-close-up

There must be a rainbow somewhere. This delivery guy rides through the rain, with the sun shining through in the background.

rain-buggy-carriage

It’s alright in the buggy carriage

fast-wet

One way to avoid the rain – cycle faster.

Welcome to the floods

flood-car-park

Please keep access clear for the flood waters. Continue Reading →

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Clip on SKS Mudguards review

For the past four years, I’ve been using different types of SKS mudguards on my winter training bikes. Overall, I’m very pleased with the product. They do the main job of keeping the worst spray off your clothes. They are also quite easy to fit and adjust. They have also proved satisfactorily resilient.

Original SKS race blades.

I bought these original SKS race blades about four or five years ago. I can’t remember how many years, but they are still going strong.

After a few years, I once had a problem with the black supports coming away from the metal mudguard, but a bit of super-glue did the trick and they are still working on this Ribble.

mudguards-winter-training-bike

SKS Race blade mudguard

This came out about two years ago. I was sent a free review copy. I was pleased to get a free review copy because I probably would have been willing to buy. They are an improved version of the original race blades. They have better adjust ability and a bit longer protection at the end, with those clip on flaps. They look pretty elegant with a smart carbon finish.

sks-race-blade-black

Advantages of SKS race blades

  • They are quick to fit on. No tools are needed. Just adjust with your hands. If they do rub, it is usually easy to fix by moving the different parts of the adjustable mudguards.
  • You don’t have to take off brakes to fit.
  • They are good for road bikes with narrow clearance between wheel and frame/brake
  • They are light only 250 grams, and are quite unobtrusive on the bike.
  • They are quiet with no rattle, like I used to get on the old fashioned mudguards.
  • They are like quick release wheels. It’s less than 30 seconds  to take off, and perhaps a minute or two to fit on. Excellent if packing a bike up.
  • They have proved quite robust.
  • You can choose the wide road version or narrow road version depending on size of road tyres. The narrow are for 25″ and less.sks-race-blade-front
  • With a bit of fiddling, they fitted my unusually shaped forks on this Ribble. There is also quite a narrow clearance between wheel and frame on this bike. Though whether they fit all bikes, I’m not sure.

Disadvantages

  • Unlike traditional mudguards they don’t offer all round wheel protection. You get even more water and mud flying out by the rear brake, so it needs a bit of cleaning.
  • They are not quite as solid as the more traditional muguards. If you lean your bike against wall with mudguards, they may get put out of shape, requiring adjustment. Continue Reading →
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Cycling, mood and happiness

It’s not often I get too excited about 20 minutes on the turbo. But, after a few weeks off the bike any kind of exercise is welcome.

One of the attractions of cycling is the benefit to general mood. After a day spent working at the desk, going out for a bike ride can blow a lot of the mental and physical cobwebs out of the system.

There is the basic chemical benefit of exercise, the slow release of serotonin – the natural ‘high’. Nature’s reward for overcoming lethargy and the hard work of exercise. Given that exercise can significantly improve health, it is perhaps unsurprising evolution has given some reward to those who partake exercise.

50mph-speed-limit

Cycling in the sweet spot

One of the best types of rides is a constant couple of hours, at an intensity which may be loosely be described as the ‘sweat spot’. It’s an effort level below lactic threshold and close to aerobic capacity. This intensity of exercise is not excessively painful nor does it do any real damage to muscles. You are not overly stressing the body, but giving it a very good work out. It’s a good training session because it can give high training returns, but doesn’t require extensive recovery.

This kind of session requires concentration to keep the pace high. If you don’t have concentration, you can slip off the target intensity and end up a level 1. But, when you can get in the groove and spend two hours of cycling at this intensity, there is a real buzz. Especially, if the weather is good, the road smooth and you’re in good shape, you can do an impressive average speed without killing yourself. This session gives everything, the feeling of speed, movement and all the chemical and mental benefits of exercise.

In terms of legal, natural mood enhancements, there aren’t many better suggestions that cycling for 1-2 hours in that ‘sweet spot’

Racing

Many people would be happy to cycle at a steady pace, rarely doing anything more than training at their aerobic capacity. But, others are drawn to the extreme of racing and training at the maximum intensity. The whole point of racing is to see how far you can test yourself. By nature it is physically painful because you are trying to push past the bodies warning signals of what is comfortable. Dealing with this pain and discomfort can be mentally challenging. But, at the same time, there is a underlying sense of satisfaction and a different kind of happiness. Some people say that when racing, it really feels like you’re living on the edge, there is a heightened sense of awareness and living. It may be torture when you’re doing it, but there is usually a welcome afterglow of achievement.

The mind and the mood

Not all cycle rides are the same. Sometimes you go out and everything slips into place. It is one of those proverbial float days, where the cycling is exhilarating and you get a tremendous benefit. Other times, the ride can feel hard work, and rather than improving your mood, it feels a struggle to get round and you begin to wonder what you are doing.

To a large extent, we can just get on the bike and cycle, but there is also a need to be aware of the train of thoughts we allow into our mind. If we become absorbed in a negative train of thought, like ‘this is a useless ride’ ‘why am I so slow?’ ‘Why can’t I beat X?’ – the joy of cycling evaporates. There have been the odd times when I’ve stopped by the side of the road to restart my mind and get ride of a certain train of thought. I often used to be out cycling, and I’d get worked up by Lance Armstrong getting away with taking drugs or something. It used to really eat into me. I had to make a conscious effort to get away from that and not even start to think of that topic. Otherwise when you’re cycling on you’re own you can start thinking in circles and the ideas get stronger. Continue Reading →

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Postie on a bike

This week, I’ve been cycling around Oxford delivering letters inviting people to a concert. It’s a bit old school to be using snail mail rather than these modern forms of electronic communication. But, in a way its a lot of fun cycling around Oxford looking for addresses. It’s a nice and easy training session. Going up to Kidlington and back gives a good 25 miles, for 2 hours of level 1. It’s not too often I average 12.5mph for a training ride, but it’s something a bit different.

Since the national last week, I’ve had a couple of hand written letters from 2 really old school time triallists. Keith Williams of the Oxford CC, and Brian James of Brighton Mitre. Both these ‘experienced’ riders are regulars of the time trial season. I often bump into them at races and have a chat. Brian James has been my minute man on the Bentley course, more often than you would believe. I used to ride with his son Tom at OUCC.

I wouldn’t want to guess their age, but I imagine they were born in an era where the closest to social networking was the good old fashioned telegraph cable. Hand written letters are so rare – it’s quite a thrill to get something through the post, which isn’t an electricity bill or an estate agent offering to sell your house.

post-bike

The thing about delivering letters, is that the bicycle wins hands down. Delivering on foot would be painfully slow. Delivering by car would be no fun. Always getting stuck in traffic jams, finding somewhere to park, stopping / starting, one way systems. The bicycle is the perfect medium for delivering letters. If you treat it as a low level training session, it doesn’t even matter if you get lost and end up doing U-turns up and down Cumnor hill because you can’t find one road.

Though as much as I love old school technology, I have to admit to sometimes relying on the young pretender of the ‘Google map App’ it is magically good at showing you the way to go. Is it more fun than looking at a map? I’m not sure.

I was kind of lost in Botley, going up and down this hill, stopping to look at a map. A gaggle of young school-children thought it was great fun watching this cyclist going up and down a hill looking for addresses. Their parents spoke to me saying the children thought you must be a great cycling champion. It was interesting how much joy young children were getting – just  from seeing someone just cycling up and down a hill. One thing I can never claim is to be the fastest postie on a bike. That is undeniable Matt Bottrill. Matt works full-time as a postman, but still finds time to train with great focus and intensity. It enabled him to get on the podium of the British Time Trial champion this year, beating quite a few professionals into the bargain. He also recently won his first senior national title, after several years of trying (100 mile TT in 2012) and 50 miles – , and circuit TT in 2013.

But,  delivering letters on bike is far removed from the world of competitive racing. It’s just a good reminder that the bike really is a great invention.

 

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New chain for new climbs

This weekend is 3 new hill climbs. Holme Moss (Holme Valley Wheelers), Jackson Bridge (Granville Sydney Memorial event, Huddersfield Star Wheelers) and Mow Cop (Lyme Racing CC) on Sunday. They all look interesting climbs. I’m hoping the gales in the north are blowing the right way up the hills. The hills may either be slow or very slow depending on the direction of the wind. Holme Moss is one of the highest hill climbs in England at 524m. Next year the Tour de France will pass over Holme Moss, probably with greater fan fare than tomorrow morning. But, it’s all happening up in Yorkshire.

The start sheet for the National Hill climb was published yesterday. I’m off number 174, (14.54) There are a lot of familiar names around. My minute man is ironically Sam Ward who inspired me to do my first hill climb over 20 years ago… 180 riders in total. Roads will be closed. More on Nat Hill climb

With the national championships two weeks away, it’s time to start making the last preparations to bike. (rule no.1 is never leave it to the night before) Last year I spent nearly £1,000 on trying to make the bike lighter. This year I spent nothing and sold the lightweight stem and handlebars, preferring to have some extra money than some 100 grams saving. The only thing I bought this year was the Quark power meter, which broke after four weeks. (Keep your money in your pocket is always a good Yorkshire man’s motto)

new-chain

However, since I’ve had a relatively frugal year of bike components, I did treat myself to a new chain. There are some things which you shouldn’t skimp on a cyclist. Firstly is tyres. Secondly is changing your chain regularly. On my racing bike, I change every 1,000 miles, and always before a big event. You don’t want to lose any power to a worn chain. I don’t usually spend £50 on a chain. But, if there’s ever a time to justify spending £50 on a lightweight chain, this would be it. I bought SRAM because I have snapped a Dura Ace chain doing hill intervals. In other circumstances it may sound cool to say you put down so much power you broke a Dura Ace chain, but if there was ever a time you didn’t want to snap your chain, this would be it.

bar-tape-amateur

how not to do your bar tape. Amateurish effort with cellotape

I also treated myself to a new handlebar tape. I was sold on the packaging which said ‘thin tape with almost zero added weight’ – Those are words that instantly  appeal to any hill climber. ‘Almost zero added weight’ and I’ve bought before you can say ‘how much does it weigh?’

Sometimes at national champs, you see bikes without any handlebar tape at all. Every gram stripped from the bike. There is a certain Zen appeal to a bare, stripped down bike. But, for the Stang, you may be on different parts of the handlebars including the drops. If it only weighs a couple of grams there is greater benefit from having a better grip. It could be cold and wet up in North Yorkshire. There are more important factors than even a few grams of extra weight.

How to change bar tape

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