Eileen Sheridan – Wonder Wheels

Wonder Wheels is the autobiography of British cyclist Eileen Sheridan. Originally published in 1956, it was republished in 2009 by Mercian Manuals.

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Eileen Sheridan was a female cyclist who turned professional in the 1950s and successfully broke all 21 long distance time trial records – including a new record for Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

This is an excellent cycling book and gives an insight into the spirit of amateur time trials and the ‘golden age’ of British cycling in the 1940s and 1950s. Sheridan’s autobiography is fairly short, but it conveys her love of cycling, intrepid determination and cheerful disposition.

Like many people in that era, Sheridan got into cycling after becoming a leisure cyclist – joining a local club, taking part in touring rides and then graduating to racing. It was on these long club rides that she started to surprise both herself and other male cyclists with her unexpected capacity for maintaining high speed on these long rides through the Warwickshire countryside and beyond.

At the moment, there is a good degree of nostalgia about the 1950s, a nostalgia which can be misplaced. But, reading Sheridan’s book you do get a glimpse of a simpler time, where the joy of cycling and the Corinthian ethos of club life were well embedded. It’s hard not to read without an appreciation for the old style Sunday Club Run and touring – even if it is hard to relate to the austerity of the age.

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After outperforming many male club members on long rides, Sheridan was encouraged to enter her first time trial – a club 10 mile TT. She almost wasn’t allowed to start (failing to meet strict the RTTC rules about all black clothes) Fortunately, a club mate lent her a regulation black jacket. And despite the oversize jacket billowing in the wind, Sheridan won her first time trial. From there, she made rapid progress becoming 25 mile and 50 mile champion in 1950. She won the newly created Best All Rounder 1950/1951; set a new record at 12 hours and was given the prestigious Birdlike Memorial Prize in 1950. Continue Reading →

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Yorkshire

This weekend I’m up north. This was during a cycle from Pateley Bridge towards Grassington. A good 50 mile ride with quite a few hills. Furthest I’ve cycled for quite a time. The ride was good.

The top of Guise Edge gives a good view; you don’t always spend too much time appreciating this in the hill climb season.

The back road between Bolton Abbey and Ilkley.

Cyclist.

A good cycling road.

The Yorkshire Dales at Easter is great, especially when the weather was good like on Sunday. March/early April is lambing time. This lamb seemed quite interested in my bicycle, though his parents more suspicious.

 

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Broken chain and broken chain tools

The other day I was riding up Brill hill, with a nice tailwind at my back. At the steepest point of the hill, I stamped on the pedals and promptly broke the chain. Fortunately, because I was going quite slowly I stayed upright and didn’t fall on the ground.

broken chain

I would like to think it was due to an extraordinary transfer of power, but it was nothing that should have broken a chain. It is the third Dura Ace chain I have broken in as many years. It is possible, I am not fixing them correctly. But I don’t think so. There was a bad change of gears just before, and then the increase in power snapped through.

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I always carry a chain splitter with me. Usually as part of a multitool. I got a new multitool for Christmas and this was the first time I’d taken it out on a ride. The problem was the multitool didn’t work at all. It couldn’t move the pin in the chain even an iota. Despite standing on the multi-tool to try and get more leverage, nothing worked. I gave it up as a bad job and called a taxi. £45 for a taxi from Oakley to Oxford was an expensive bike ride. I think it’s the first time I’ve called a taxi whilst cycling, I can’t remember a previous occasion. At £45 a pop, I hope it’s another 20 years to the next one. The one crumb of comfort is that I had a tailwind on the way out from Oxford – I didn’t have to ride back into headwind but that is really clutching at straws to try and look on the bright side. Continue Reading →

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Cycling bits

Usually, by this stage in the season, I have a few hilly time trials under my belt. This year the only thing under my belt is a very slightly expanding waistline. 2017 has been all about pies, peas and stretching exercises, so far.

I have been able to get out every now and then. Spring threatened to break-out last week, with some very enjoyable riding conditions. I’ve been cycling up a few hills, just to remind myself how hard it is. I realise that to reach your top potential, you need to be in good shape physically and mentally. With a few aches and pains, it holds you back in more ways than one. I haven’t entered any races yet, though I have started to compare times on hills to previous years. This process of comparison has brought some dispiriting realisations that you have to work really hard to get up climbs in short time. Continue Reading →

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Start of the Cycling Season

Last week I turned on Eurosport for the first time since last October. It was the Tour of Dubai, a flat stage over the deserts of Dubai –  reminiscent of the rather forgettable World Championship in Qatar.

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Echelon

As I turned on, literally the first piece of commentary of the year was Carlton Kirby talking about how to tickle a camel on the top of the head. This mind-blowing piece of advice lasted a few minutes as the riders trundled through the dust and bare environment. I like Kirby’s esoteric commentary as much as the next person, but it didn’t seem an auspicious start to the cycling season. A flat stage to Dubai, where the greatest excitement is ruminating over the ticklish parts of camels. Why do I watch cycling anyway? Continue Reading →

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At the top of White Horse Hill

Yesterday, there was a strong southerly wind, so I headed towards Lambourne.

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There is a long 3% drag from Lambourne towards Wantage; it is the kind of climb which is good when there is a strong tailwind. Looking for a new way to get to Lambourne, I tried the technique for taking unknown roads and hoping it would take me into the next valley. From Bishopstone, there was a nice deserted climb. At the top, I found the road was deserted for good reason. It petered out by a pig farm on the top of the Ridgeway. There was nothing to do but go back down and take the main road from Ashbury.

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Ashbury

Unfortunately, by the time I got to the top of this climb from Ashbury, it was raining quite hard, and for some reason, my rain jacket wasn’t in my saddle bag. I hid under an old tree for a few minutes and ate an energy bar. Continue Reading →

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Knog Oi Bike Bell – Review

The Knog Oi Bike Bell is marketed as a bicycle bell which doesn’t look like or sound like an ordinary bike bell. The most striking thing about the new Oi Bell is that it has a very slim profile. This makes it easy to fit on the handlebars.

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The sound is quite pleasing (a bit like a glockenspiel) and quieter than an ordinary bell. The ringer is also small and the first few times when I reached for the bell I missed the ringer at first glance. This was due to my reflexes being used to reach for my previous bigger bell. After getting used to the new position on handlebars it is fine.

Optimal sound of a bicycle bell

Sometimes when I ring an ordinary bell, people jump out of their skins which probably makes them think ‘Bloody cyclist using my roads e.t.c.”

But then, on the other hand, you can ring your bell three times and the people are immobile – standing in the road or cycle path; when you go past, they mutter sarcastically ‘Don’t you have a bell?’ The problem with this bell is that it is quieter than ordinary bells. On a windy day on the footpath or during noisy traffic, the sound is easily lost in the environment.

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When using this cycle path by River Thames I often timidly ring my bell because I don’t want to sound like a menacing cyclist wanting people to jump out of the way. But, when I timidly ring the bell, they often don’t hear.

This Knog bell is quite good if you want to err on side of not ringing too loudly. The sound is certainly not threatening, but at a distance might not be heard at all. The problem is if people don’t hear, the bell becomes a mere ornament. Continue Reading →

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Cycling Climbs of South West England

cycling-climbs-south-west‘Cycling climbs of South West England’ is the latest instalment of Simon Warren’s 100 Best Cycling Climbs Series. The format is similar to previous books, such as 100 Greatest Climbs. It is the same handy size with photo and description of climbs. Some climbs are featured in the original book, but there are many more which may or may not be well-known to those who live in this area.

Cycling Climbs of South West England at Amazon.co.uk

More interesting is to review the climbs themselves. For me, the region can be split in two. The first is the ‘deep’ South West – Cornwall, Dorset and Devon. Places which I am yet to visit on a bike.

The second section is the ‘north east’ of the South West – Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset. This section has climbs which feel like an extension of my own local roads. I’ve raced up Burrington Combe so often, I have developed quite an affinity with ‘The Combe’ and other roads around the Mendips. Continue Reading →

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Part-time Cyclist

I’m a bit of a part-time cyclist at the moment. Still some lingering hip troubles so I just do the odd ride here and there. It’s not as much fun with nagging problems, but it’s still a relief to be able to get out and do something.

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I visited Clee Hill at the weekend.

I keep trying different things. I visited a third osteopath last week. The second osteopath did very deep tissue massage – quite painful. The 3rd osteopath just held his hands at various pressure points on the back. It was quite meditative lying back looking at the sky. It barely felt like anything happened. Very different approaches, I wonder which one works best? If you go to a physiotherapist, they say it is one thing; if you go to an osteopath, they say something else. Everyone offers a diagnosis from their perspective. Continue Reading →

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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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Endurance

Continue Reading →

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