Limitations of stretching

As a side dish to the hip problem. I’ve had a bad hamstring for the past 12 months. I was doing some exercises to strengthen muscles last year when the next day I had a mild hamstring strain. It was one of those strains which is not really painful, and you think it should get better in a few days, weeks. But, whatever I did, it hung around. When I tried to cycle hard, it got worse. I tried

  • Rest – including no exercise for two months over winter.
  • Stretching – frequent and persistent stretching. When I first tried, I couldn’t reach my ankles. But, now I can get all fingers to the ground. I stretched hamstring three times a day for nine months.
  • Strength training. I progressed slowly and steadily with the Hungarian dead-lift – which is a good exercise for strengthening the hamstrings. I also bought a balance ball for another hamstring exercise. I did other exercises for all-round balanced leg and hip strength.

Since none of this made a difference. I tried osteopath and massage. I also tried trigger point therapy, where you feel for painful parts in the muscles and press it – to relieve the pressure. I did this self trigger point therapy quite a few times. One osteopath was good, and it got better for a few days, but within a week it had returned exactly the same as before.

I couldn’t understand why if you do all these things you are supposed to do, it remained stubbornly the same. Anyway, a friend in New York recommended a practitioner who offers an alternative to physical therapy – based on kinesiology. It was reassuringly expensive at $500. But, since I’ve not been buying any expensive bike components in the past few years, I thought why not. I’ve spent more on medical treatments, which haven’t worked. Continue Reading →

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Kettlewell to Ilkley

Yesterday I made it up to Kettlewell, which is the furthest I’ve ridden for a long while. I had an operation on my hip this May, which went reasonably well. I still have a few persistent niggles, so it is a bit start and stop. But, yesterday was an enjoyable ride.

On a good September afternoon, with a light tailwind pushing you along – the run from Kettlewell, Grassington, Burnsall, Ilkley, Menston is one of the great joys of cycling. A few short hills, long winding fast descents. If you have the power to get up the little drags, you can really fly home as the amazing scenery wizzes by. Some of the run from Burnsall look different to the last time I was up here as trees have been chopped down on one side and have grown on the other.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, my Shimano Dura-Ace battery started to die on the way out. I don’t think I’ve charged it up all year. The problem with not cycling very much is you get out of the habit. I don’t think I’ve changed the chain for two years… But it seems to keep moving. Continue Reading →

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Why are breakaways nearly always caught – and when do they succeed?

I was chatting to some ‘non-cyclists’ interested in trying to understand why breakaways nearly always get caught a few km from the finish. I thought it would be a quick and simple thing to explain, but I ended up writing a lot.

In cycling, the biggest drag on effort is aerodynamics (up to 90% of drag when travelling at 50km/h). Therefore, you save considerable energy riding in the middle of the peloton. One study suggested that riding in the middle of the peloton can mean you only need 5% of the energy you would if you rode alone. You can be doing 50 km/h, but the effort is similar to 12 km/h. If you ride in the peloton all day, you can get to the last 10 km relatively fresh and ready to make a big effort.

Flowing data

 

If you ride in a small breakaway, you are making much more effort throughout the day, you will get some drafting benefit, but you will have to ride with your nose in the front for considerably more. When you get to the last 10km – the breakaway riders will be closer to exhaustion than the riders in the peloton. Then in the last 10km, there are fresh riders ready to chase down the breakaway and set up a sprint.

There will usually be many teams with a motivation to chase down the breakaway. The best sprinters will have a team willing to ride and bring back the breakaway. If a team doesn’t have someone in the breakaway, they might as well contribute to bringing back the breakaway – otherwise, they will have no chance of winning.

Secondly, if it is a one day race like the World Championships, the best riders will tend not go in the breakaway. Therefore, it becomes self-fulfilling, weaker riders enter the breakaway – either for tactical reasons or perhaps just to get some tv exposure.

A breakaway would have more chance of winning if there were more people in the breakaway and stronger riders were in it. But, at the start of the race, teams will be looking to control who gets in the breakaway. If a strong favourite tried to sneak into the breakaway, the peloton may chase down the breakaway and bring the favourite back – rather than let the break get established.

A more interesting question is what enables a breakaway to succeed?

What enables a breakaway to succeed?

Miscalculation. Teams may use a rough rule of thumb. For example, a fast-moving peloton may feel that it can bring back 1.30 for every 10km. If there are 20km to go, and the breakaway has a gap of 3.00 – it is touch and go, so they may start making more of an effort to bring it back. However, it may be that the peloton miscalculate the strength of the breakaway and leave it too late. Continue Reading →

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Tour de France 2019

The 2019 Tour de France was a memorable edition of the race. Team Ineos were relatively weak but still walked away with first and second place. After Alaphillipe and Thibaut Pinot lit up the race to the excitement of the home nation, the only French podium was Romain Bardet – not something you could have predicted from the stage on the Tourmalet. There were many highlights of the race, but the sight of Alaphillipe racing away on short climbs to nab the yellow jersey and then hold on for such a long time, were probably the best. It’s not often you get excited about time trials, but Alaphillipe racing up the final climb of the TT stage with thousands of French roaring him on was a goose-pimple moment – he was going so fast, he could have been doing a 1-minute British hill climb. Continue Reading →

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Supporting the French

It’s been a really great Tour de France. I’ve even found myself supporting the French! But, now it reaches the third week, I hope Geraint Thomas comes strong and nips past both the French riders on the last day in the Alps. I don’t think it is so much supporting the French as hoping for an interesting race, where many riders are in contention and with each stage, you can never be sure how it unfolds. Also, it makes a huge difference when one team doesn’t have a dominant mountain train to discourage any and every attack.

Tour de France stage 2

It has always been a shame that the Tour de France is usually the ‘flattest’ of all Grand Tours. The Giro and Vuelta rarely fail to give real interest in the GC, but – despite the odd edition, the Tour de France GC usually ends up being fairly predictable. But, this year it is all up in the air and there seems to be a lot more positive energy around the tour. Crashes are down; there isn’t even any doping saga hanging over the tour.

I think the organisers are finally cottoning on to the idea that seven flat sprint stages don’t make for great tv. I expect for the next few years; there will be a lot of Alaphillipe style stages with short viciously steeps climbs just before the finish. If the Tour is short of ideas, I would recommend going back to Yorkshire for a good week!

tormalet

Watching the tour go up the Tourmalet was a great experience. It is one of the few Alpine* style climbs I’ve ridden – what an amazing amphitheatre for sport. In terms of drama, it couldn’t match Sunday and other previous stages, but I was just enthralled by the spectacle and scenery. How I would like to be climbing up the Tourmalet on top form.

Nobody can predict with any certainty how the next week will unfold, but there is an old adage in the tour, that the best guide is a rider’s record in previous Grand Tours. Form and panache are one thing, but does the rider have the staying power for three weeks? With this in mind, I would put my money on Geraint Thomas – but not very much. He’s still struggling to gain the leadership of Team Ineos. But, a big thing in his favour is the proven ability to stay strong for a whole three-week tour. It is possible that the Alpine climbs (which are not quite as steep as the Pyrenees, will suit Thomas more than the Pyrenees.

Bernal, Alaphillipe, Buchman, Landa and to a lesser extent Kruijswijk all look very good, but as of yet, they don’t have a strong track record of winning a Grand Tour. If Alaphillipe cracks in the Alps, it will be easy to say we all expected it. But, if he doesn’t crack we will also say – well he had such good form why would he crack? It always looks obvious after the event. Anyway, the school holidays are here. A rest day today, Tuesday flat stage, but who knows a strong wind could make it very interesting.

 

(* I know the Tourmalet is in the Pyrenees, but I always find Pyreanean an intimidating word to spell.)

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The importance of cyclists taking out 3rd party insurance

The case of a cyclist Robert Hazeldean who collided with a pedestrian – whilst she stepped out onto the road whilst looking at her mobile phone has created a lot of media interest – especially with Hazeldean facing a legal bill of up to £100,000

It touches on a few trigger points for modern life.

  • People distracted by mobile phones.
  • Litigation culture which encourages people to sue, even if they are wholly or partially to blame. (and penalising those who fail to counter-sue)
  • Conflict on the roads between different groups – cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

As a cyclist, you might assume if you follow the rules of the road and if a distracted pedestrian steps out in front the law would protect you. But, in this case, the judge ruled that cyclists

“must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”

Third Party Insurance

The easiest take away from this case, is the desirability for cyclists to get third party insurance. One of the easiest ways is to get it through membership of a cycling organisation like British Cycling or Cycling UK. I used to be covered through British Cycling, but since I am not racing, I have allowed my membership to lapse (though I could have got their commuter license). As a direct result of this case, today I signed up to Cycling UK. £46 a year seems a reasonable investment, and you get to support a cycling advocacy organisation too.

It’s difficult to accurately pass judgement on a case, where you only hear third party snippets. But, I instinctively prefer to side with the cyclist and not the pedestrian distracted by their phone. However, whatever the fairness or justice of the case – it is a reminder that, as road users we need to be careful.

The judge also made the comment

“Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.”

Continue Reading →

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Rear mounted bottle cages

A rear mounted bottle cage is generally a good aerodynamic place to carry an extra bottle. For long distance riding, it is a good option, though a little awkward (and un-aerodynamic) to get from behind saddle.

One challenge with 100 mile time trials is working out how to carry enough fluid. I’ve done 100s on two bottles, but often felt it was insufficient and suffered as a result. A rear mounted saddle is a good place as it is generally out of the wind.

An important note is to make sure the bottle is secured. I have had experiences with bottles ejecting themselves. Make sure you test over suitably bumpy roads – before the big race!

Most aerodynamic position for a bottle

I’ve seen quite a few aero tests and suggestions that the optimal position for a water bottle is in this order

  1. Between the tribars at the front of the bike (Tribar mounted waterbottle)
  2. Behind the saddle (rear-mounted)
  3. On the downtube
  4. On the seat tube

The first two have little aero drag. Some claim that having a bottle between the arms on the tribars reduces aerodrag. On the downtube, aero drag could cost 45g for a standard water bottle (according to tri-radar)

Testing water-bottles depends on how the bottle interacts with the frame and rider. Some TT bike designs have been specifically designed to make the water bottle more aerodynamic.

Rear mounted bottle cages are also said to be quite good in limiting aero drag, so I thought it would be good to get one. I did use one many years ago, it might have been my first 100 mile TT in 2005. But, the bottle jumped out and I never got to drink it. I think I threw away in disgust and have never revisited rear bottle mounts until a few years ago

Bontrager Race Lite Rear Cage Holder

I bought a Bontrager Race Lite Mount rear mounted bottle cage. It cost £35 from a local bike shop. The advantage is that you can have two water bottles or one in the middle. It also has two places to screw in CO2 cylinders.

profile-aqua-rear-mounted-bottle-cage

using one bottle option

I have chosen to have just one bottle cage.  It’s fairly easy to set up and fairly sturdy. (It weighed 170gram with one water bottle.

The difficulty I had is that with the Adamo saddle, there is limited room to fit. This means I had to have it at an angle of 45 degrees. I would preferred to have it at 90 degrees because the bottle would be less likely to fall out.

This is a drawback of the Adamo saddle. – A comfortable shape for long-distance timetrialling, but you have to be careful which water bottle system you get.

bontrager-rear-bottle

Since I first posted this blog, I have got a new saddle. A Dash saddle, which still has a long tail making it hard to get a bottle vertical.

However, it is quite aerodynamic and easy to set up.

bontrager-rear-bottle

My concern about use long-term is that it is all held together by four Allen bolts. Two gripping cage to saddle. And two holding angle of the cage. I am testing in training, and its held up, though there is some small degree of slip. They really should have bolts on the other side of the side screws. You want to check pre-ride.

Strong Grip bottle cage for rear set up

I chose a Gorilla X-Lab water bottle cage and ditched the Bontrager because it has extra gripping power. I think this is important for rear mounted bottle cages at an angle. The risk of bottle ejection is quite high. I have used the Gorilla X-Lab bottle cage for many races and it is very reliable in having a strong grip. In fact, sometimes, you have to get used to the stickiness of the bottle cage.

 

By contrast the first time I used this Bontrager Rear Bottle Mounted Cage  the bottle ejected 5 miles into the ECCA 100 mile, 2014. It is relatively cheap compared to others)

Xlab Delta 400

xlab-delta-bottle-cage

I have also been testing this XLab Delta 400, hoping it would be better than the cheaper Bontrager version. Firstly, it is quite hard work to set up. You need a suitable sized spanner to hold locking nut in place. However, this time of set up gives a very strong and sturdy set up (more reliable than Bontrager). The angle of cage is also adaptable, though it is limited by my saddle.

xlab-delta-400

It is a pretty secure system. If you tighten to correct torque, you will have no problems.

bontrager-vs-xlab-bottle-cage

I got the Bontrager one to be higher up. The X-Lab Delta is more in the wind. (possibly due to shape of long Dash saddle.

Unfortunately, compared to the Bontrager it holds the bottle lower down, exposing more of the water bottle to the air. So although it is lighter, better built and a lot more expensive, I am better off using the Bontrager because it will be more aerodynamic.

X-Lab 400 rear mounted at Wiggle £79. –

The X-Lab Super Wings seems to hold up bottles higher.

X-Lab-rear-mounted-bottle

Profile Aqua rear mounted bottle cage

profile-design

Source: Rear mounted systems

This has a different design and works well with the popular Adamo saddles. It is similar to the Bontrager system, but has a different fitting system which makes it easier to fit

Stopping bottles jumping out

  • Firstly have the bottle cage at 90 degrees, don’t risk anything like 45 degrees – even if it is easier to get to.
  • Choose a water bottle which is tight-fitting on the bottle
  • Be wary of using carbon fibre bottle cages which are more prone to breaking. You’re better off choosing a standard sturdy bottle cage rather than a 17gram special lightweight.
  • If you think it might fall out, try putting an elastic band around the bottle. This will make the bottle wider and more sticky. (Though it didn’t work for me!)

Other points about using rear mounted bottles

  • In long distance time trialling – hydration generally outweighs any aero penalty.
  • Weight isn’t such a big issue.
  • Another issue is that in the race, you can forget to drink. When you are so absorbed in the effort of racing, it can be hard to pick up a bottle from behind the seat. This is another advantage of water bottle between the tribars – you can’t forget about it because it’s always in your face. If you do have a bottle behind the saddle make sure you don’t forget about it.
  • Test before a race! Go for a ride over bumpy terrain and see if your bottle stays in. If you test in a race you might find yourself one or two bottles down.
  • Always be prepared for mechanical mishaps. Even if you are carrying three bottles, ideally you will have a spare one by the side of the road, just in case one does fall out.
  • Make sure you tighten the bolts to the correct torque. This will make it less likely to fall out.

In triathlon community, the X-Lab rear mounted bottle system has good reviews. It offers quite a comprehensive choice of carrying options. Its design also means it fits nearly any saddle.

I was put off by the cost £69.99. But, if you are going to be doing a lot of long distance cycling, this may be a good option.

Conclusion

I’m using Bontrager water bottle cage, but I’m not entirely happy with it. It’s not 100% secure and I had to buy alternative water bottle cage (Gorilla). But, it does OK in aero testing.

Related

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Small changes to road infrastructure make big difference

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post (my old blog) about a lack of integration between two cycle paths. My complaint was that there was a good cycle path, but it ends at a narrow section of road where cars can come quite fast.

“The cycle path runs parallel to the Oxford Ring Road. It is a good cycle path for avoiding a very busy road. The cycle path then joins Iffley road, where the council have recently painted a cycle lane on. But cars often come off the roundabout at quite a high speed. At the end of the cycle path, you have to take great care joining the road, as it is quite narrow.”

If only the council would extend the cycle path a little, they could make it a much better transition to the on road cycle-path.

Nine years later

Nine years later, the council have done it! They have extended the cycle path along the grass verge. When the new cycle path ends, it is safer for entering the road. it is wider, and at this point, there is a cycle path painted on the road.

short-cycle-path

It makes for a seamless transfer from the cycle path which goes around the ring road and onto Iffley Road.

Sometimes as cycle bloggers, we make fun of short cycle lanes which don’t really go anywhere.

shortest-cycle-path

But, this one in Oxford is an example of a short cycle path which makes a positive difference.

Of course, I still think there is room to keep the cycle path going along the grass verge so you don’t have to go on the road. This might encourage more people to cycle if it is segregated lane – rather than integrated with road. But, then beyond the end of this picture, there is a junction where you would have to rejoin the road anyway.

It’s nice to be able to complement improved cycle provision – even if it is only a modest improvement.

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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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