Archive | training

Unadventurous cycling in Queens, New York

Recently, I wrote that an attraction of cycling was taking random roads and hoping for the best. The British countryside can encourage an adventurous spirit – if nothing else you can enjoy a new view, new road – even if you later do a u-turn. But, it’s not always the Yorkshire Dales or the Cotswolds – I also spend four weeks a year in Queens, New York. I’ve written about cycling in New York before – rarely with any degree of praise or recommendation. To cut a long story short, it’s a tough place to cycle – you rarely see cyclists on the road and for good reason too. As a result, I ride defensively and with unerring routine. I basically have two rides, which never go beyond 30 miles.


One ride is to cycle two miles south to Kissena Boulevard outdoor velodrome. Here I cycle around in 250-metre circles for an hour before I can’t take it anymore – and then cycle the two miles back home. I don’t have a power meter in New York, so just try to make sure I keep an average of over 20mph for the velodrome riding. It’s a bit more fun if there are other cyclists there too. Last week a random cyclist latched onto my wheel for quite a few laps. It encouraged me to very slowly raise the pace from 20 to 21mph then 22mph. After about 10 minutes I reached 25 mph and suddenly my wheel sucker friend went pop and lost contact. I didn’t mind, in fact, I was grateful that he gave me the motivation to ride harder than usual. It was a surprisingly good feeling to just ride someone off your wheel by imperceptibly raising the pace. It also reminds you how hard it can be to motivate yourself when cycling on your own. Continue Reading →


Riding through injuries and niggles

Last weekend, I spent three days with no bicycle in Germany and my leg problems got worse. When I got back I actually had to take another day off the bike, at that rate I was despairing of ever seeing an end in sight.

But, at the same time, I was hopeful that I could just ride through and keep going. This weekend I’ve been up in Yorkshire, and it’s been great for a few reasons. The weather is excellent. Yorkshire in spring with the sun out takes some beating. But, at least this weekend, the more I cycle the less I’m getting bothered by old injuries and niggles. Saturday I made a visit to Pateley Bridge for one of my favourite climbs – Greenhow Hill. All told it was 50 miles and just short of 2,000m of climbing. After an easy day going to Grassington, (an easy day in the Yorkshire Dales can still mean 1,000m of climbing) I went south-west towards Silsden and some steep hills around there. This year I’ve done relatively little in terms of volume of training (compared to previous years), But, in the past week, I’ve started to feel in good shape. The top end fitness has come back quite quickly. It is also a psychological boost to get the summer bike out of the loft.


Ellers Road looking back towards Sutton-in-Craven near Keighley.

From Sutton-in-Craven, I went up Ellers Road – a tough climb of 1.4 miles at 10%, with a particularly difficult beginning. It’s a very good test. I also found a new climb just to the south of Ellers Road. It is a climb called ‘Dick Lane’ or the ‘Cote de Dick’ if it gets in the Tour de Yorkshire. It is a very nice climb, 1.4 miles at 7% (and unlike its near neighbour Ellers Road – never too steep.) It is a smooth gradient, decent road surface and outstanding views across the valley to the left. I’ve been cycling in Yorkshire for 25 years but it’s still surprising how you can come across a new climb less than 15 miles from your house. Continue Reading →


Sweet spot vs Interval training

To me, sweet spot training is riding at a high intensity, a little below race pace. (80-90% of FTP) It corresponds to Level 3 in some training manuals. It can also be referred to as ‘threshold training’.

To me, interval training means doing 3-5 mins @ 110-130% of FTP.

If my FTP is around 300, a ‘sweet spot’ ride may average 230-260 watts.

Hill intervals will be around 330-400+ watts.

  • To confuse matters, you can do intervals of ‘sweet spot’, but I never do. I just do 1-4 hours or however long I can maintain it)
  • One other point, this assumes some degree of more traditional endurance base level riding.

Which is best?

There is a debate between the different methods of training. Some coaches and riders, place a lot of faith in ‘sweet spot’, others put more focus on intervals. I know riders who, at different times, have talked about the superiority of both! Perhaps I fall into that category too. In recent years, I have done more sweet spot training than I used to.

In a sense, ‘sweet spot’ is pushing from below. Intervals are pulling from above. Both can give benefits to race performance but in different ways.

Advantages of Sweet Spot



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Cold winter miles


Cycling in the cold doesn’t have too much to recommend it, especially if you are 61kg and 190cm. Or in old money – 9½ stone and 6 foot 3″ (135lbs for American visitors). On Friday I went out with the temperature hovering just below 2 degrees. I didn’t enjoy the ride at all. After a few miles, I did a u-turn and went back home. When hands are freezing to the handlebars, I don’t worry about trying to take any photos; but today the weather was a little more clement and it made a big difference.


I rode out towards Knaresborough and Harrogate because the forecast in the East was drier than in the West. But, despite the lack of rain, I still got wet cycling over a lot of small lanes covered in wet greasy farm manure. You just have to surrender to getting wet and dirty this time of the year. Still it was a mistake to take only one pair of legwarmers up north (originally colour of white) Continue Reading →


Off the beaten tracks

As a partial follow up to finding cycle routes, sometimes I will take a short detour from roads frequently travelled. After spending 20 years cycling along a road, inquisitiveness makes the better of me and I will go up a side road, even if it is a dead end. It’s like wanting to tick off all the roads in the local area.

In trainspotting circles, there is something called a ‘line basher’ – it means you endeavour to travel over every railway line. Apparantely, you used to be able to do the whole London Underground network in a day, if you travelled non-stop. I’ll take their word for it. But, after 20 years cycling over the same terrain, there is part of me which wants to go down that road I’ve always gone straight past, just because – well it’s there.

Quite often these dead-ends are just that. Another road to nowhere, but sometimes it can give a rewarding view, interesting location or even unexpected climb.


View from above Oxford Eynsham road

Last Saturday I was on the road from Eynsham to Oxford, after 50 miles in the Cotswolds. It is a flat, rather uninspiring road – a narrow B road, with a constant stream of cars overtaking at 50mph plus. For cyclists going back to West Oxford, it is a road much travelled as there are not too many alternatives. When you get on this road, there is no relaxation or admiring of the scenery. It is the kind of road which is head down and get home as quick as you can. Continue Reading →


Self massage with rollers

At the end of last year I received treatment from an osteopath for my saw hip. He felt the problem was primarily in my right gluteus muscles. A lot of the treatment involved deep massage – working on the tender muscle. He was trying to loosen the knotiness.

When he did a similar deep massage on the left glute, it wasn’t painful. So it was reassuring, in the sense that he found something which wasn’t right. The interesting thing is that when cycling, the problem manifested itself near the hip. (sacroiliac joint was mentioned a lot.)

A few years ago, I bought one of these massage foam rollers from Amazon.  Trigger Point Performance Foam Roller (£30)



Initially I bought to work on some tight hamstrings. But, it was recommended by osteopath for working on the glute as well.

It’s fairly easy to use, just roll around and work the muscles you want to give a bit of a massage.

At around £30, it is certainly much cheaper than paying for a daily massage. It was useful to use over Christmas holidays when I was abroad.


For those of us who do not have access to daily sports massage (like the pros) this is a good second-best solution. I feel the massage of glutes has helped to work through the problem. It is still there a little, but I will persevere with steady training and a bit of self-massage.

In retrospect, I wish I had used more massage back in June after big mileage month and the 12 hour.


First training ride of the New Year

I rode in Greece, but it didn’t really feel like a training ride, more a leisure ride. Yesterday, I did a favourite training ride to Charlbury. 42 miles in 2 hours and a bit. For all the interruptions of recent months, I felt reasonably good and was pleased to average over 17 mph.


This photo is actually from Wharfedale on Christmas Day 2016, but I never had time to publish.

I was out on my bike (early Christmas morning), but suffering from a little bit of stomach upset. As a consequence I was cycling slowly and not enjoying the ride; because of the stomach ache I stopped to have a look behind. I was rewarded with this view of a rainbow arching over the tree – it was the highlight of the ride – an auspicious sign for Christmas Day.

I didn’t take any photos yesterday on the road to Charlbury; it was one of those grey, gloom days of January where the only mercy is a temperature of over 5 degrees celsius. But, despite less than inspiring weather, it was good to be back on the bike – able to ride for two hours without niggling injuries and interruptions. What comes next in 2017, I’m not sure. But it is great just to be able to get on the bike and blow away a few cobwebs from the mind and body.

42 miles down, 11,958 to go.


Cycling in Kalamata Greece

I spent 10 days in Kalamata, Greece. It is a great place for cycling, even in mid-Winter.

For various reasons, I ended up not taking my own bike. It was awkward to hire a car which would carry four people, four cases and a big bicycle bag. I thought an VW estate may cope, but when I measured a friends boot, I knew it wouldn’t work and I had to leave the bike at home.

In other years, I may have paid some ridiculous money to hire a people carrier (or my own car), but since I’ve been off the bike during the tail-end of 2016, I thought another 10 days off the bike wouldn’t make much difference. At the best of times it can be a hassle taking a bike on a plane.


Hairpins in the distance. Insistently calling climbers

On arriving at Kalamata, our hotel had a magnificent view of the ocean, but also had a view of some beautiful hairpins, engineered into the nearby hillside. The sight of hairpins cut into the hillside made me wistfully regret not having a bike. The next day, I drove the hire car up the hill side and went for a walk. It is not the same, and the longing for a bike grew. It felt perhaps like an alcoholic going for a week of recovery and finding he is living next to a brewery.

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Preparing for long distance ride

For a long ride of 3-4 hours +, it is worth making some preparations and calcuations about how much energy to try and take on.


  • For anything of 100 mile plus, I will eat more carbs in the day or two before. For example, if I go out for a 1-2 hour ‘warm-up ride’ Normally I wouldn’t take any energy drink or food. But, in this case I would take a 750ml energy drink, to take on more carbs than usual.
  • I haven’t researched carbo-loading enough, but you have to be careful not to place undo stress on stomach by eating much more than usual.
  • It is also important to be well hydrated the day before and for the morning of the race.



Carbohydrate consumption

  • The first issue is what is the maximum amount of carbohydrate that the body can absorb per hour?
  • The most common figure I have seen is 60 grams of carbohydrate.
  • However, recently, energy drinks manufacturers have cited research that if you take a mixture of maltodextrin and fructose, you can take up to 80-90 grams. Increasingly energy drinks have maltodextrin and fructose in the ratio of 2:1. But, high quantities of fructose can be problematic for the stomach, you would have to test on yourself to see your tolerance.

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Keeping track of position on bike

When I went for Aero Testing on Friday, Xavier said, make sure you keep measurements of your new set up.

Fortunately, I took his advice seriously and did actually do it. Two days later, my aerobars fell apart and, without those measurements, I’d be back to square one.

One way is to take photos with a ruler by the side. Always worth writing down on paper too.

Even if you are not a racer, but just someone who enjoys riding a bike –  it is still worth doing for things like saddle height, fore-aft saddle. If you get a new bike, knowing past measurements is important for keeping continuity between bikes. Big changes in position can cause discomfort, loss of power, even injury.

It’s not the most glamorous job, but important to do.

If you’re a time triallist and looking to eke out marginal gains, it is even more important. Small changes of a few cm, can have big impact on drag factors.

These are my measurements, which will be of no particular interest to anyone, but if I post to my cycling blog, it makes it easier for me to find. And I’m going to use as I put my aerobars back together. Continue Reading →