Preview of National Championships

Usually before the national hill climb championships I write a long rambling preview.

This year, though, I can’t really think of anything to say (which regular readers of blog will know is quite unusual). I guess it’s quite open with a few people having a good chance to get in the medals.

The weather looks mixed. Showers and a strong SW tailwind. Forecasts say gusts of up to 40mph, which could be interesting. I’ve got to admit I’m glad there are no forecasts of 40 mph headwinds…

cattle-grid

It should be OK for spectators, a few showers, but at least not the misty conditions of last week.

There’s a double page preview in Cycling Weekly.

 

3

The growth of bike sharing schemes across globe

At last years United States Conference of Mayors, the forum concluded:

“communities that have invested in pedestrian and bicycle projects have benefited from improved quality of life, healthier population, greater local real-estate values, more local travel choices, and reduced air pollution.” (Economist)

Can the country of Henry Ford and eight lane highways really be on the verge of embracing the bicycle? Well words are one thing, action on the ground is another. But, in the past few decades, there has been a remarkable growth in the number of bike sharing schemes across the world.

bike sharing madison-wi-afagen-flickr-51035749109@N01

Photo: Adam Fagen Flickr – Madison – US

Generally bike sharing schemes didn’t get off to the best start. Cities like Amsterdam and Cambridge which offered free bikes, typically saw the noble endeavour of offering 500 free bikes taken up mainly by bike thieves who promptly stole the bikes, leaving only good intentions and critics claiming vindication bike sharing could never work.

However, since then there has been a steady evolution of bike sharing schemes. With better technology and good administration enabling bike sharing schemes to have varying degrees of success. It is no longer a fringe idea of cycling nuts. American mayors are looking to embrace these eye-catching (and possibly vote winning) schemes. Cities with bike sharing schemes have not exactly gone Dutch, there is no cycling nirvana; but t in cities which have really embraced the bike sharing idea, there is a noticeable shift in cycling rates.

The growth of bicycle sharing schemes

update112_program_region-earth-policy-org

Source: Earth Policy

One of the first bike sharing schemes was tried by Amsterdam in 1965, 500 free white bikes left around the city. But, this was not the most auspicious start. Bikes tended to soon disappear, and the scheme was later abandoned. Though, it is worth noting that this was a period where Amsterdam and the Netherlands saw a resurgence in cycling rates. Continue Reading →

3

Beeley Moor Hill Climb

Beeley Moor is a good 2.3 mile climb up from the village of Beeley to the top of the moors, near Chesterfield. It was the first time I had entered the Chesterfield Couriers event, despite it being the type of hill that generally suits me.

Beeley-finish-flag

The problem with this time of the year is that there is a feast of great hill climbs, squashed into a small October window. It is always a difficult choice between doing climbs like Burrington Combe Down in Bristol or heading north for climbs like Cragg Vale and Beeley Moor. I’ve never even got around to riding the double header at Matlock, which is on the same weekend. I did once ride Bank road in the 2008 National championships, but Riber is more up my street, 3 minutes of very steep gradient and twisty hairpins. I have to tick it off the list sometime, but, unfortunately not this year.

Some riders deal with this dilemma just by riding several hill climbs on the same day. Nicola Soden and Matt Clinton rushed off after the event to ride Bank road. And I believe Dave Archer of the Bolsover & District CC managed to do all 3 hills climbs in the space of about 4 hours; that’s impressive devotion to the cause of hill climbing.  But, as much as I love hill climbs, you can have too much of a good thing. There is a vague idea of tapering around this time of the season. After the race, I certainly wasn’t going to go for a 50 mile warm down ride, which I might get away with earlier in September.

beeley2

Beeley Moor seemed a good choice because it’s quite similar in length to the national next week. There was also a very good prize list helped by several generous sponsors. It’s been a good hill climb season, with entries generally on the up. I think 70 entries for Chesterfield Couriers was the highest for quite a while.

Beeley Moor

  • Length: 2.3 miles
  • Average gradient: 6%
  • Max gradient: 10%
  • elevation gain: 722 ft

Whilst Beeley Moor may be similar in length to the Stang, it’s quite a different proposition. Whilst the Stang is all over the place, with steep gradients and downhill sections. Beeley Moor is much more of a steady gradient. Slightly steeper at the bottom, it only gentle levels off towards the top. I guess, you could easily do it with a fixed gear. But, I didn’t see many around. I arrived at the top of the hill, with enough time to descend and get one practise run in before the first starters got under way. It’s a pretty steady 6% most of the way up. If you have to go up a hill 6% is about as popular gradient as it gets for most cyclists. Continue Reading →

7

Grinton moor

  • Distance: 1.9 miles
  • Average gradient: 7%
  • Height gain: 659ft (200m)

Grinton Moor is a testing climb from Reeth towards Leyburn. Starting in the village of Grinton. It climbs sharply out of the village before winding it’s way up the moorside.

Veloviewer

Strava

In July 2014, the Tour de France visited the climb. It was the last categorised climb on stage one, and they rode up at a fair pace.

grinton-moor-adambowie2

Grinton Moor, stage one.  Photo Adam Bowie, flickr

grinton-moor-adambowie

Grinton Moor, stage one.  Photo Adam Bowie, flickr

Report from October 2013

Last Tuesday at the Stang was wet, windy and misty so it was a good to go up to North Yorkshire and see the sun out for a change. Arkengarthdale may be a little remote, but with a bit of sunny weather and it becomes a very nice place to be.  Even the drive over to Reeth was pleasant with the sun out (and gps turned off). I noted the climb out of Reeth towards Leyburn (over Grinton moor) for future reference. It looks a nice 3 mile long climb, with nearly 300 metres of vertical height gain over a super smooth road surface. I got a few photos from the climb and two cyclists obliged by riding into the picture. It was simply gorgeous in the sun.

2-riders-grinton-moor

riders begin the ascent of Grinton Moor

One good thing about riding the hill climb course in the preceding week is that you tend to bump into other people doing the same thing. I spoke to a couple of guys who were out riding the course trying to work out best way of tackling the hill. I even saw a time trial bike by the foot of the climb. I met one reader of the blog, Mick, who was looking forward to riding his first national championship. It’s always nice to meet readers of the blog, though when you realise real people read it, you do feel a bit more obliged to try and think of something interesting to say…

Grinton moor

Looking towards Reeth from Grinton moor

Yesterday, I also got interviewed by Cycling Weekly, who will be doing a preview on the national hill climb championships next week.

Do you think you’ve got a chance of wining?

er, I don’t know

– that was about the height of my lucidity. Don’t miss the big preview next week is all I can say.

By the way, there’s no mobile phone reception near the climb.

Stang in the Sun

Stang

Stang in the sun

The prevailing wind

Tuesday was a fierce headwind, but Thursday was more of a tailwind. Unsurprisingly it’s much quicker with tailwind.

false-flat

One of the false flats on the Stang – you think you’ve made it to the top about 3 times before you actually have.

Stang in the sun

The top of the world. The finish in glorious sun

I’m glad I got a second chance to practise. As hill climbs go, it’s a little on the technical side. A few fast gear changes are required for the sudden changes of gradient, and you need to work out how hard to go on the first steep section of the climb.

I’d hoped that ‘equipment angst’ of Long Hill would be no more. (What’s best bike to use?). But, even after several goes, I couldn’t quite resolve the whole tribars vs non-tribars debate. As soon as you get on them, you’re itching to change gears. There’s probably nothing much in it either way, but the thought of losing a few seconds to the wrong choice does weigh a little on your mind.

Inspired by this years Tour de France Mountain time trial (where riders usually changed time trial bikes half way through) I’ve decided the quickest way to climb the Stang would be to ride a fixed gear to the top of the steep section and then jump on a time trial bike cunningly left by the side of the road.

brompton-racers

The bike changes in the Tour time trial made great TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, all time trials have compulsory bike changes like Formula one to make it more interesting for TV viewers. Or perhaps they should imitate the Brompton World Championships and make people run to their bikes like the old fashioned motor racing. If you can have cobbles in the tour, why not add a few cyclo-cross style fences for riders to jump over?

(Needless to say, I won’t actually be using a bike change.  My time trial bike is in the loft. And I’m sure it’s against CTT regulations about putting your foot down and walking (there is a regulation stating you’re not allowed to get off and walk in a hill climb). But, even if it wasn’t technical disallowed – it’s not quite the spirit of hill climbs…

Related

3

Practise run on the Stang

I drove up to Arkengarthdale yesterday to have a go at the Stang hill climb. Despite being only 40 miles as the crow flies from Menston, my Garmin satnav managed to make the journey last nearly two hours. I seemed to go through every hamlet in North Yorkshire. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say I could have cycled 40 miles quicker myself. I suppose it was good to get a frustrating road journey out of the way before the big event. I came back on the A1 – the journey was further in distance, but quicker and much less stressful than doing 15mph behind a horse box. I’m considering selling my Garmin satnav, it too often sends me on very slow country lanes.

Arkengarthdale really is quite remote. I parked on the road in the village near the CB inn, very few cars went past – which is a good job because I imagine the road will be quite busy with parked cars for the national.

There happened to be a headwind yesterday. It was dry in the village, but once you had climbed the first leg, it was very misty and wet. I got a few photos of the climb, and think have worked out where start and finish are.

Stang start

The start

The start is opposite Northern gate post of entrance to field situated on the East side of unclassified road Stang Lane, leading to Barnard Castle, approximately 100 meters North from Eskeleth Bridge, and just past the turning on the left of the road to Eskeleth.

bottom-steep

The first steep section

Continue Reading →

7

Mow Cop hill climb – Lyme Racing club 2013

After the persistent drizzle of Saturday around Holmfirth, the rain hardened to be a bit heavier for Sunday’s Lyme Racing Mow Cop hill climb. I was still trying to dry off clothes from the day before. I had to dig deep into my old sock draw at my parents house. I only found a very unsuitable long fuzzy pair which looks like they were a novelty Christmas item from many years ago.

mow-cop-rain

Mow Cop in the rain. Great photo from Bhima’s camera gives a good wide angle and gives an impression of how wet it was

It’s amazing how wet everything gets after a few short races. It’s hard work racing in the rain. Back in September the British road team got roundly criticised for not finishing the World Championships because it was ‘a bit wet and hard’. For the armchair critic the British team seemed like sitting ducks for strong criticism. Though my thoughts were muted by the fact I’m sure I would have climbed off  pretty early too. But, I suppose it’s good to have a few races in the rain. It’s good preparation should the nationals be greeted by a downpour. (which is quite possible on the North Yorkshire moors)

mow-cop-pub

Mow Cop is an intriguing climb. It’s one of the most visually spectacular hill climbs because after the first half, if you look up you see the finish 25% segment looming straight ahead of you. It’s looks as intimidating as it is.

After a sorts, I warmed up on the rollers. The rain was fairly light at that point, but as I made my way down to the start line it became heavier. By the level crossing (where the start is), I stripped off several layers of clothes, and left them with the start time keeper. I got off to a good start. After about 7 years of doing hill climbs, I think I’ve finally worked out a good way of starting off. I learnt how to start by watching the track racing at the 2012 Olympics. Basically stand up and put your weight behind saddle. When you here ‘go’ you can push forward and get a bit of momentum. I used to just sit on the saddle. Chris Boardman said a good start can be worth half a second. Us hill climbers always like half a second – especially if it doesn’t cost £500 for a 100 gram weight saving.

mow-cop1

The bottom half of the climb soon becomes quite steep. The first ramp gets up to 20% and it makes you work very hard early on. From then on the gradient eases off a little, but it’s still a hard climb because you already went hard at the bottom. I got in to a good rhythm for the first half – in and out of the saddle but pedalling a decent cadence. After about half way, I made a small mistake of looking up at the finish, which loomed on the horizon. I also made the mistake of looking down at which gear I was in – I was already  in the bottom sprocket (39*23) and the steep bit was still to come. It was a bit of lost concentration, but I soon forgot about it and went back to getting up the final really steep part. At one point, I experienced a bit of wheel slip (I had reduced tyre pressure to 90PS) but maybe that was still too high). On the steep bit, there was a quite a crowd cheering you on. There was even a runner, running alongside for a while. Although, it was all a bit of blur at this point, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t dressed up as a tomato or wearing a mankini like you might see in some of the Grand Tours. Continue Reading →

7

Huddersfield Star Wheelers hill climb

 

2013 race report –

Saturday was another two hill climbs promoted by Holme Valley Wheelers (Holme Moss) and Huddersfield Star Wheelers (Jackson Bridge). It was deep in the heartland of Yorkshire hill climb country. As Simon Warren once said in his hill climb book, throw an arrow at a map around this neck of the woods, and you’ll probably land on a decent hill climb. They don’t really do flat roads her, but they do have plenty of 20% gradients.

I’d never ridden either climb before, but was lured up north by the prospect of Holme Moss and the chance to compete in the Granville Sydney Memorial hill climb.

Holme Moss Clouded out

sing-top

Holme Moss in better days.

Next year the Tour de France will be flying up Holme Moss, watched by a global TV audience of millions and 100,000s of spectators by the road side. It was a slightly different set up this weekend, but fundamentally both events do involve cycling up a hill until it hurts really quite a lot.

The Indian summer has well and truly finished. We are now being treated to a very English autumn. It was one of those days where there was a perpetual drizzle. Not ideal conditions for a double hill climb; I came back with a car full of wet stuff. But, they are made of stern stuff up this part of the world. I didn’t see many dns. I guess, if you’re going to do a hill climb, a light drizzle is the least of your concerns.

Unfortunately, Holme Moss is so high up (524m) that the clouds had descended and the thick fog made it unsafe to race. This meant switching to another hill climb course, which was steep and high up, but not sufficiently misty to get lost in the clouds. Fortunately, the reserve hill climb course was just 0.5 miles away (proving the old – throw an arrow at a map and find a hill climb course – theory to be working pretty well)

The drawback of the alternative hill climb course was that it was significantly shorter than Holme Moss. This year I’ve studiously avoided entering any hill climb where the course record is less than 3.30. But, fate wasn’t going to allow me to get away with it. This was, to all intents and purposes a 2 minute hill climb – shorter even than the rake.

2 minute hill climbs just mean you can hurt yourself even more than a long climb, the only saving grace being that it’s over quicker. I didn’t hold back and gave it everything from the start. It was good enough for 2nd place in a time of 2.12. Richard Handley (Rapha CC) showing that chasing Nairo Quintana and Dan Martin up Caerphilly Mountain does wonders for your hill climbing form. He won in a time of 2.06 – not bad for a wiry thin chap like me. Photos at: flamming photography

After a wet and soggy marmite sandwich it was back to the Fleece for a cup of tea, before heading off to the Old Red Lion in Jackson Bridge for part two.

 

jackson-bridge

I don’t know if this photo adequately says how grim, wet, and murky it was in Yorkshire. A perfect day for riding up hills…

Continue Reading →

10

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

2

Rusty bike art

rusty-bike-art

“You are probably thinking that I’m just a rusty old bicycle. But look again and observe carefully I’ve actually been purposely made to look like a rusty bike – a work of art”

– I never thought much to modern art. -It has no soul – just trying to be clever, but actually failing.

My favourite bit on modern art is when some no hoper who knew nothing about art had to pretend that a random rubbish bin was his work of modern art.

It is annoying the number of abandoned rusty bikes in Oxford. It means I can never find a parking space because the bike racks are fully of rusty old bikes which have been there for over a year.

bike-parking-blackwells-2

On the plus side it’s made it to the Oxford deceased bicycles pool

0