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.
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.
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.
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.
Hybrid bikes seek to offer the best combination of the mountain bike and a road bike at an affordable price. Hybrid bikes are great for:
Commuting relatively short distances and getting round town.
Light touring e.g. for the non serious cycle tourer, but who wants to enjoy cycling for a small amount
Cycling on canal paths
The main attraction of a hybrid bike is that they offer good comfort and all round performance for a low price. They tend to have thinner wheels than mountain bikes, meaning that they are quicker on roads – where hybrid bikes are mainly used. Hybrid bikes usually come with up to 27 gears offering a wide range of choice. In practise most people wouldn’t use such a wide range of gears, you would probably be fine with less. However, hybrid bikes try to offer the best compromise between fast road bikes and the greater comfort and stability of a MTB. The best hybrid bike depends on your specific purpose.
Some off road use – consider GT Transeo with suspension and Mountain bike style tyres
Enjoyable Ride – Consider Dawes Diploma or Pashley Sovereign. Slow and heavy but great fun and stately to ride. Bit more expensive but more class and distinction.
Simplicity – consider a single speed such as Charge Plug / Charge Sink
Best value all Round – hard to beat the big brand names like Trek FX hybrids.
Best Hybrid Bikes
The GT Transeo is geared more towards the Mountain bike spectrum of hybrid bikes. If you fancy going off-road or over bumpy roads, these will help give a much more comfortable ride. On smooth roads, it is slower. It comes with chunky 700*40c tyres and tough reinforced aluminium frame. All models have 27 gears and the ability to switch suspension mech on and off. There are many different varieties of GT Transeo. At the top of the range a GT Transeo 1.0 costs £800 and comes with disc brakes. For half the price, you can get a GT Transeo 4.0 for £400 which comes with V Brakes and Shimano Acera. This is a great hybrid if you are looking for greater flexibility in going off road.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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!
My race report from 2010
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 WendyHouvenaghel.
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.
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.
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.
Getting punctures is often a big discouragement for people taking up / continuing with cycling. Several years ago my parents bought some cheap hybrid bikes They had good intentions to start cycling. But, after one or two rides, two tyres got punctures and they have been sitting in the garage ever since; I think the idea is that as the family cyclist I will sometime get round to mending the puncture. But, it hasn’t happened for a long time.
It’s a shame many beginners get put off by punctures because with a bit of preparation, you can make punctures a very rare experience. I blame cycle manufacturers who sell cheap hybrid bikes and put on cheap, useless tyres which are more likely to puncture. I’m sure everybody who buys a bike would prefer to pay an extra £20 to get puncture resistance tyres, but in the pursuit of cheaper bikes, we end up buying cheap tyres – which puncture and then we get put off cycling.
The quick check list for avoiding punctures
Buy the best, puncture resistant tyres.
When replacing an inner tube, be careful to put it on properly. Use fingers not tyre levers (avoid getting inner tube caught between rim and tyre)
Replace worn tyres.
Keep tyres at recommended psi (if too low, they are more likely to get pinch flat)
Avoid the grittiest part of the road, where punctures are more likely.
1. Puncture Resistant tyres
If you buy a road bike / hybrid bike, there are some excellent tyres, which have very strong puncture resistance. This is the best investment and upgrade you can make to any bike. Unless you are racing, don’t worry about the extra weight. You won’t really notice it for a commute into town, but you will appreciate the reduction in punctures.
On a commuting bike, I would suggest something like an Armadillo Specialized All Condition (Armadillo Tyres at Wiggle) or Schwalbe Durano / Marathon
Both tyres are very puncture resistant. I’ve averaged a puncture more than every 3,000 miles using these tyres. They are very rare.
For summer training, racing, I might choose a lighter tyre, with less puncture resistance, but still pretty good. On a training bike, I often use Continental Dura Skin or Continental Grand Prix. You can see reviews of good road tyres here.
Unfortunately, at the moment it is hard to get completely puncture resistant tyres for road bikes. For some bikes you can get solid tyres, which offer a puncture resistant ride, but I wouldn’t want to ride them. When racing I always choose a tyre with good layers of puncture resistance, at least 1 or 2 kevlar belts. For training and even racing, I would rather choose a slightly heavier tyre and have an improved chance of avoiding a puncture. Only on very short hill climbs, will I risk the lightest tubulars.
Good Tubular puncture resistance
If you ride tubulars, a good puncture resistant tubular is Continental Competition (not the fastest) but pretty hardy. This is my Continental competition, I plucked out a sharp piece of glass from the rubber – no puncture. But most other tubs would have punctured because it’s quite big piece of glass.
2. Avoid the grit at the side of the road
Often on busy roads grit and debris accumulate on the side of the road; riding amongst all this grit definitely increases the chance of getting a puncture. Don’t feel pushed into the edge, keep an eye on the road surface and avoid potential problems. (BTW, there is a post here – don’t ride in the gutter, but give yourself a good distance from the edge. This gives you room for manoeuvre when avoiding potholes and thorns.)
Also, it’s important to look out for potholes, if you ride over a pothole, you can puncture or even worse come off and break your wheel.
Also, there have been times, when I’ve got off and walked by a newly cut thorn hedge which the farmer has kindly left on the road.
3. Put on the tyre properly – avoid pinch punctures
The biggest cause of ‘repeat punctures’ is putting on a tyre with tyre levers. This invariably causes a pinching of the inner tube between rim and tyre. To avoid this, it is important to always put a tyre back on with your hands.
This video is good.
One thing I would add is after replacing inner tube and tyre, blow up to 20psi and then go around both sides of the tyre to check you can’t see any inner tube caught between rim and tyre. If it is, make sure you get rid of this, as it will cause a pinch puncture. This is especially important if you used tyre levers.
If you want a really amateur video about putting on a tyre. In the days of a full head of hair, and steel time trial bikes. (it only weighed 6kg!)
4. Tubeless and self-fixing slime
Another option is to go tubeless. Tubeless avoids pinch punctures. Also, you can put self-healing slime into a tubeless, so if you do puncture, the slime should automatically seal the puncture, and avoid 99% of punctures. I’ve gone tubeless on one rear tyre.
5. Correct tyre pressure
At a low tyre pressure, you are more likely to get pinch punctures. This is why mountain bikers are much more likely to use tubeless. By running tubeless, they can run low psi of 30ps – 40psi – without worrying about getting a pinch puncture (inner tube stuck between tyre and rim). If you run ordinary inner tubes and tyres and keep a low psi, you may end up with a pinch puncture.
6. Use new inner tubes
I never use a puncture repair kit. I just buy inner tubes in bulk. At least a failed puncture repair is one less thing to worry about.
8. Check tyres for wear / scratches and embedded grit
I frequently check tyres for wear. I prefer to replace at early signs of wear. I have seen some riders wear tyres down so much, you can actually see the outer layer is completely gone! This Continental GP 4000 has been worn down by riding on rollers. I could get more miles out of it, but, it’s done a good few thousand, so I’d rather replace now.
Another good thing to do is to check for pieces of glass that have got embedded in the tyre. I will use a sharp point (nail or safety pin) and flick the grit out. (watch out for your eyes). This prevents the grit getting pushed further into the tyre and causing a puncture at a later date. I usually tolerate one or two scratches in a tyre, but, when they start to look deep or prevalent, I chuck the tyre out. Better to replace too early and avoid that puncture!
9. Make sure there is rim tape on the wheel.
I’ve had two punctures because the rim tape slipped off the centre of the wheel; this meant the inner tube was in direct contact with metal rim, and this caused a puncture because the metal rim can have sharp edges.
10. Tubulars over inner tubes and tyres
The advantage of tubulars is that they are less likely to suffer from a ‘pinch puncture’. But, overall it really depends on the quality of the tubular. For racing, I use tubulars, not so much for better puncture resistance, but they are lighter. However, when you do puncture it is more expensive. So road tyres and inner tubes are better for training.
11. Never blog about how you never get punctures
I once blogged about not getting punctures and preceded to get 5 punctures in a week. But, sometimes you can go a long time without puncturing.
12. Avoid riding in the rain
People often find that riding in the rain causes an increased chance of puncture. I think this may be due to the fact that the water reduces friction and makes it easier for grit to penetrate the tyre. I guess nobody would choose to ride in the rain unless they can avoid it. But, be prepared for higher risk of puncture if it is wet.
13. Ride a solid wheel
You can now get solid tyres which are 100% puncture-proof. They are a bit slower but will last a long time. No air, so no puncture a Korean Company Tannus is manufacturing them. It will be interesting to see if they catch on.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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