Postie on a bike

This week, I’ve been cycling around Oxford delivering letters inviting people to a concert. It’s a bit old school to be using snail mail rather than these modern forms of electronic communication. But, in a way its a lot of fun cycling around Oxford looking for addresses. It’s a nice and easy training session. Going up to Kidlington and back gives a good 25 miles, for 2 hours of level 1. It’s not too often I average 12.5mph for a training ride, but it’s something a bit different.

Since the national last week, I’ve had a couple of hand written letters from 2 really old school time triallists. Keith Williams of the Oxford CC, and Brian James of Brighton Mitre. Both these ‘experienced’ riders are regulars of the time trial season. I often bump into them at races and have a chat. Brian James has been my minute man on the Bentley course, more often than you would believe. I used to ride with his son Tom at OUCC.

I wouldn’t want to guess their age, but I imagine they were born in an era where the closest to social networking was the good old fashioned telegraph cable. Hand written letters are so rare – it’s quite a thrill to get something through the post, which isn’t an electricity bill or an estate agent offering to sell your house.

post-bike

The thing about delivering letters, is that the bicycle wins hands down. Delivering on foot would be painfully slow. Delivering by car would be no fun. Always getting stuck in traffic jams, finding somewhere to park, stopping / starting, one way systems. The bicycle is the perfect medium for delivering letters. If you treat it as a low level training session, it doesn’t even matter if you get lost and end up doing U-turns up and down Cumnor hill because you can’t find one road.

Though as much as I love old school technology, I have to admit to sometimes relying on the young pretender of the ‘Google map App’ it is magically good at showing you the way to go. Is it more fun than looking at a map? I’m not sure.

I was kind of lost in Botley, going up and down this hill, stopping to look at a map. A gaggle of young school-children thought it was great fun watching this cyclist going up and down a hill looking for addresses. Their parents spoke to me saying the children thought you must be a great cycling champion. It was interesting how much joy young children were getting – just  from seeing someone just cycling up and down a hill. One thing I can never claim is to be the fastest postie on a bike. That is undeniable Matt Bottrill. Matt works full-time as a postman, but still finds time to train with great focus and intensity. It enabled him to get on the podium of the British Time Trial champion this year, beating quite a few professionals into the bargain. He also recently won his first senior national title, after several years of trying (100 mile TT in 2012) and 50 miles – , and circuit TT in 2013.

But,  delivering letters on bike is far removed from the world of competitive racing. It’s just a good reminder that the bike really is a great invention.

 

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Eric Wilson’s hill climb bike from the 1950 / 60s

A reader (Ken Stott) kindly sent in a few photos of Eric Wilson’s hill climb bike from the 1950s and 1960s. Eric Wilson won four national hill climb championships in 1955, 1957, 1960 and 1964. Four titles over a period of 10 years. Ken still looks after Eric’s bike, though he says he doesn’t ride with quite the speed of Eric Wilson in his prime!

raleigh-fixed

Ken says the bike weighs about 18lbs….. (8.1 kg). That’s about 2.1 kg heavier than the average (geared) bike in the national hill climb 2013!

The bike is of course fixed. Nearly all hill climbers will have ridden fixed in those days. Though gears were starting to become more popular. John Woodburn became the first rider to win the national 25 mile title on fixed in 1961.

The bike looks marvellous. Classic Raleigh red

The front fork has a large rake angle (giving low / zero trail) (good article by David Moulton here on Rake and trail here)

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Hill climb bike – Trek Madone 6.9

hill-climb-bike

My Trek Hill Climb Bike used in National hill climb championship 2013

bought in 2010

FrameOCLV2 SSL Carbon, E2, BB90, internal cable routing
ForkBontrager Race XXX Lite, full carbon
SaddleTune 85 grams
Seat PostBontrager Ride Tuned Carbon
HandlebarsBontrager Race XXX Lite VR,
StemBontrager Race XXX Lite Carbon, (non standard size

Groupset – Shimano Dura Ace. – 39*53 – cassette 23-12

Front Wheel – AX Lightweight rim front wheel – Tune Mig 45 20 hole.  It weighs 365 grams

Rear Wheel – Zipp 202 (604 grams)

TubularsVittoria Chrono tubular (170 grams) Continue Reading →

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Winter training rides

Winter training rides. Do you see winter training rides as something to be endured – long slow miles in cold, wet weather or an opportunity to enjoy the rigours of the British winter and display you’re the Flanderian hard man of your local area? Do you’re winter training rides involve 30 minutes on the rollers once a week or will you clock up 250 miles per week, whatever the weather?

burford-autumn

There are some compensations for riding in winter – especially late Autumn before it gets really bare

Sean Kelly’s attitude to riding through winter, could be summed up by his quote

“I go out on my bike, I do my ride, and when I get back home I decide if it’s too wet or not!”

water-2

a bit of water never hurt anyone

I don’t think Sean Kelly would approve of long fuzzy socks and full length gloves in races… My attitude to winter training rides varies enormously. Sometimes, I’m an amateur who will spend 30 minutes on the rollers rather glad to listen to the rain beating down on the conservatory. Other times, I’m motivated to ‘get the miles in.’ and religiously clock up the miles and write them down in the training log. I become the proverbial mile-eater churning up the lonely Cotswolds miles through eerily quiet countryside and grim weather. After last season’s hill climb championship, my winter break lasted one day, before I couldn’t contain my ambition for next season, and before I knew it I had 2,000 km for November alone. This year, winter training rides are a bit on the back burner. I’m winding up a bit more slowly to those epic 100 mile winter rides. The only problem is that if you leave it too long, winter will fly by before you can say ‘who ate all the pies?’

Secret of Winter training rides

lonely-cyclist-tree-sun-dark

1. Do you need a winter break? It depends on your season and how tired you are physically and mentally. I would take a break, if you really want one or if you have a niggling injury. Winter is a good time to take a break. But, generally I don’t like to take a winter break. The reasons are:

  • After hill climb season of October, I’m actually quite keen to get on the bike and do some ‘normal’ cycling. The end of my season is very low mileage high intensity. If I’d done a 1,000 miles in October, I might feel like a break. But, in last few weeks, you’re not really on your bike that much anyway.
  • Not taking a winter break gives me greater freedom to take days off. If I took three weeks off in November, I would be keener to be quite strict to go out in December and January. But, I tend to find you might get an awful week of weather In January, a cold in December, and another week where there’s so much going on that you give the bike a miss. The winter is one time, where I prioritise non-cycling over cycling. I have even been known to make a vague effort to be sociable. Not taking a winter break works quite well for me because it gives a flexibility for taking time off at odd intervals throughout the worst of the winter. Continue Reading →
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Zappi CC hill climb at Watlington

The Zappi CC hill climb on Watlington hill November 2nd 2013.

The Monty Python sketch goes ‘Another wafer thin mint, Sir?’

In my case, it was another hill climb I just couldn’t resist. I’ve been out on my bike a couple of times this week and had a very strange felling of aimlessness. What do you do in the week after the nationals?

But, I popped into BikeZone in Oxford and had a chat with Steve Avery. He mentioned Zappi CC were having their club hill climb on Saturday and invited me along. Steve Avery is a very good tricylist and he explained one of the advantages of using a tricycle in a hill climb is that you can come to a complete stop and have a breather half way up. That sounded like a good kind of hill climb to end the season on, so I went along to Watlington hill and signed up for last race of the season.

I was having a good time at the top of the hill taking photos of the riders and listening to the encouragement from the spectators at the top. Flavio Zappi was on top form, telling people who didn’t seem to be sprinting 100% to the end of the line they could go back down and have another go.

I nearly missed my start time, arriving only 5 seconds before I was due. It’s nice doing a hill climb without so much pressure. I didn’t even have time to take off my two water bottles and a saddle bag, big enough to go touring with. After two months of lactic acid overdose and sick inducing efforts, I couldn’t quite motivate myself to go eyeballs out. For a hill climb, I took it relatively steady. It was only at the top where I saw the spectators, that I tried to show off and sprint for the line. It was a great friendly event and after the last rider crossed the line, the riders went back down the hill to enjoy some chips at a local pub before the prize ceremony.

Results to come hopefully. But, I think the winner was Matt Steven Zappi CC, 2nd was Chris Baines of Buxton CC, and 3rd was Tejvan Pettinger.

Photos

zappi-roaring-on

Flavio himself roaring on a rider

women-3

A big effort. Why do we do hill climbs again?

tandem

A tandem is not easiest way to ride a hill climb

chris-baines

Chris Baines probably had most stylish bike a beautiful Bob Jackson

zappi-effort

A good gurning effort

Continue Reading →

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Enjoyment of sport

When I look at the football Premiership there always seems to be dissatisfaction bubbling below the surface. Even if you look at the most successful teams in the Premier league – Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea – even at these clubs that win trophies, there always seems to be an underlying under-current of dissatisfaction. A few loses and everyone turns on somebody to blame.  I watch highlights of the Premier League on Match of the Day for the beautiful goals, but usually fast forward through the football punditry in between. ‘The beautiful game’  does seem driven by money and the need for results. That’s the modern game, and perhaps people enjoy the pressure, tension and all that goes with that. But, if I had to choose between the riches of being a professional footballer and an amateur cyclist, I’d jump an the chance to pay £7 to ride up and the A31 before you have chance to say ‘it’s only a game.’

cycle-smile-junction

For me sport is something to be enjoyed, not in the traditional sense of a nice pleasurable experience. It is a very different kind of satisfaction that you get from racing at the limit. I try to do the best I can, and to win is a real bonus. But, that’s not the only motivation for sport. I’d like to think I will keep enjoying cycling, even when the advancing years, start to push me down the results board. Continue Reading →

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Cycling weekly and a future career in sumo wrestling

It’s not often a time triallist gets on the front cover of Cycling Weekly, so I went out and bought a copy from WH Smith.  I share the front page with the rather bizarre sight of Chris Froome taking part in Sumo wrestling – I think the correct term is ‘quiet news week’

Perhaps next year, Chris Froome should be invited to enter the British hill climb season and I can use my natural muscular build to take Japanese sumo wrestling by storm.

Looking at the photo in Cycling Weekly,  I think top of my Christmas list is a new pair of lightweigh aerodynamic racing socks, and a packet of safety pins to be kept in my car at all times.

Also: Interview with Velo UK 

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Just missing out on the medals

I’ve been looking back through my cycling logs to have a look at previous seasons. I must admit I did think quite a bit about what happened in previous national championships and why I was just outside the podium on several occasions. This is a potted history of the past 9 national championships.

1993 – My 1st hill climb at Otley CC (placing unknown, close to last)

2004 – My 1st season racing. My first open was a Cardiff Byways triple hill climb. (3 hill climbs in one day. I finished 2nd out of 11 – a good experience, though I’ve never been back!). I also came second in Burrington Combe (Bristol South CC), with a time of 7.10. I haven’t often beaten that initial time. In retrospect it’s a shame I didn’t go up to  north east for National champs it was won by Jonathan Dayus  just ahead of James Dobbin on Winter’s Gibbet a fairly long climb.

2005 12th (2.39.1) – Rake  – 8 seconds behind 3rd, 12 secs behind 1st. My first national championship was at the Rake. A great experience, I finished 12th. I didn’t quite know what to expect. But, it was great crowd and atmosphere. I rode it pretty well, though I had very bad wheel slip at the steepest climb. (I was still Richard Pettinger in those days. Report at Tejvan.co.uk) | 2005

2006 – 7th (5.18) Peak Hill – 11 seconds behind 3rd, 36 secs behind 1st Devon. I did little racing in 2006. I few slow 10 mile TTs.  so I was pleased to finish 7th, only a few seconds off the podium. I thought if I can keep improving at this rate, I could get on the podium quite soon. James Dobbin was a standout winner from David Clarke. Peak hill was a great hill, flat at the bottom getting steeper and steeper. I remember it was a beautiful warm sunny day. Blog on 2006 national hill climb.

20077th (7.14) Cheddar Gorge –  6 seconds behind 3rd, 23 secs behind 1st Another season of little racing. I only did 2 hill climbs in the lead up to the national championship. My Guru, Sri Chinmoy passed away October 11th and I went to New  York for a week. Hill climbing took a back seat that season. Despite racing only once, I turned up to national championship and finished 7th, just a few seconds behind 3rd place. I was pleased. If I’d had more racing, I could easily have got a few more seconds. But, it didn’t feel important in 2007. It’s a great climb Cheddar Gorge. Steep at the bottom then a long drag to the top. James Dobbin retained his title from David Clarke. A young Alex Dowsett finished 18th.  Results at CTT

bank-road

Bank road Matlock

2008. 14th (2:42) Bank Road, Matlock, Derbyshire. 16 seconds behind 3rd, 18 secs behind 1st – A short and spectacular hill climb through the town of Matlock. Again a light season of racing, and a climb that didn’t really suit me. I remember setting off really fast and being light-headed by half way up. I slowed down utterly exhausted. At least I’d given it everything. I remember being quite taken by experience.  The winner was Matt Clinton ahead of Bill Bell and Jim Henderson. (blog of 2008) | Bank Road Continue Reading →

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Secrets of hill climbs

After the prize ceremony, someone asked what the secret of winning hill climbs was. I don’t really know, but I guess these things help:

tejvan-start-action

Power to weight ratio

In the genetic lottery, I hit the proverbial hill climb jackpot and probably got the best possible frame build for long aerobic climbs. Ironically, I didn’t always appreciate having a stick insect frame and inability to put on weight. I remember once as a teenage getting fed up with the ‘jokes about being an extra from Schlinders list’. I also felt pretty useless for being unable to do a proper press-up.  I  remember once making a half-hearted effort to put on weight. I even went out and bought this ‘weight gain powder’ – It tasted absolutely disgusting so I’m afraid I threw it away after one effort. That was about my only sustained effort to put on weight. But, whatever I eat, I never seem to go over 63kgs, and usually hover around 61-62 kgs. I once went on a weighing scale in Boots, which said my weight was 2.5 stone underweight for my height. I think the technical term is an ectomorph.

I doubt anyone would believe the quantity of carrot cakes / plain chocolate digestives I’ve eaten since the start of the hill climb season on the 1st September. My lodger would believe because he watches with a suitable degree of envy. But, I suppose there’s no justice in this world. If you’re one of those people who puts on weight just by looking at cake, I can only slink away into the corner, feeling a little bit guilty, but secretly just a little bit smug and grateful. It’s probably not much consolation, but being stick thin does make you very prone to the cold. The national 100 was run in a heatwave, I still wore 2 pairs of socks. But, I suppose most people would trade having to wear 2 pairs of socks in summer for a metabolism which burns up sugar like dry leaves in a furnace. There was a time, when I wanted to be just a little less skinny, but now I’m a hill climber, I can’t really complain!

When I read  Tyler Hamilton’s book I was shocked by the drug revelations, but also shocked by the efforts he went to losing weight. I don’t think I could cope with that kind of dietary control. It’s probably a good job I’m not a pro, I think I might become a little unpopular if people saw how many cakes I ate and still looked like I was on starvation rations!

Continue Reading →

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Video of hill climb

I felt for the cameramen out in the rain for 3 hours. The video gives an idea of the race and conditions.

It’s interesting to see the other riders style of riding (which you don’t get to see when you’re racing).

For next year, I will be sawing off the drops. I think cameraman missed me because at that point of the hill I was quite close to catching my minute man Sam Ward.

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