It’s now just 5 days until we leave for Paris and, despite the slight creeping fear and trepidation of what’s in store, I really can’t wait to get going. My packing, on the other hand, does not reflect that eagerness!
Watching Le Tour has certainly helped to stoke the anticipation. Though we won’t be emulating the feats of Uran in Chambéry or Bardet in Peyragudes, watching these guys at one with their bikes conquering some of the toughest roads in France stirs the imagination and makes you pine for the open road. Seeing their faces contort and twist as they do battle with gradients I’d struggle to walk up always reminds me of this fabulous quote
“It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting for an Olympic gold medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you’re missing the essence of the sport” – Scott Martin
Adam and I obviously have a special reason for doing what we’re doing, an added incentive to keep going until the Eiffel Tower looms into view next Saturday. We have been humbled by the support we have received from all corners and we’re delighted that, going into the ride, we know that the Rainbow Trust will be over £5,000 better off due to the generosity of our friends and colleagues.
Tomorrow I’m planning to go out and do a small recce of part of the route we are going to be doing on the first day. Running from Addington to Seal, the 18 mile stretch climbs gradually for the first 8 miles so it is bound to be a bit of a long drag but it will give me an opportunity to try out my new GoPro set up and have a bit of fun on the bike before the serious stuff starts
After that it really will be about figuring out what to pack! Weather in France looks fairly warm next week so I don’t envisage needing the thermal jacket!
So it really is all downhill to the off from here, I just wish it was all downhill to Paris!
A pause for thought on Walton Bridge this morning!
We have a little over a week until our trip to Paris starts – and I am looking forward to it. Not least with a little trepidation, there is always more training and preparation that could have been done.
I know that it will be wretchedly hard work, yet doing so with a dear friend and for a great cause will make it enjoyable.
While I was out for a ride this morning, I reflected on why we are doing it. I think about Iris a lot, everyday in fact. I truly hope that is case for the rest of my life – because while other children grow older, Iris will always be two and half to Kate and I.
Excuse me while I climb inelegantly onto my political high horse. The reason that the Rainbow Trust rely on idiots like Iain and I for fundraising, is that a tiny fraction of their funding comes from government. They provide an essential service at the toughest possible time, and yet there are hundreds of family’s unable to access it due to demand.
Nonsensical austerity, and tory disdain for anyone other than themselves has had proven appalling results – just look at Grenfell Tower recently. That a charity has sprung up to plug the gap of those that need it is telling of the very best of humanity, it is frustrating that government cannot see it.
The most at need in society should be looked after, and not allow to slip between the gaps, and that is what Rainbow do, regardless of class or wealth.
I cannot imagine how hard our lives would have been without Mary – she was a little Lancastrian whirl wind, making sure we got to hospital, knew what was going on, and was a beacon, of energy, humour and compassion.
Long may Rainbow continue.
See you on the road to Paris,
Love and hugs,
Both Adam and I turn 40 this year and, thanks to our lovely wives, our birthday gifts contained an opportunity to get off the road to do a track taster session on the Olympic track at Lea Valley Velodrome
It is an incredibly impressive structure, £93m of brilliantly engineered track befitting of the GB Olympic triumphs that occurred there in 2012 as well as Sir Wiggo’s Hour Record. Laura Kenny said at the time that the design of the track was so good that you could feel the difference in pursuit circumstances.
The inside was incredibly daunting to be honest, with banking that ranged from the flat safety strip to 42 degrees at the top of the curves the scale up close is so much different to what you see on the TV!
The other more apparent issue to me, at the start, was that I had never ridden a fixie bike with no brakes. I think that was the part of the whole experience that made me the most apprehensive. A few gentle laps of the safety strip and I was starting to get the hang of it, although controlling a steady pace that is comfortable for you can be difficult if the person in front has a comfortable pace that is different to yours! Boo you man in yellow!
As we progressed up the track, onto the Cote (the light blue strip on the edge of the track), then the black line, then the red, the pace increased and we were able to start to overtake with clear instruction to the person in front to hold their line by shouting “Stay!”.
The physics of the velodrome combined with the fixed nature of the bike really punishes you! You have to keep pedalling regardless and the higher you go up the track, the more watts you have to lay down. I had incredible respect for the track riders before this experience but having the chance to experience what they do has elevated them even further in my estimations. It is a tough, relentless sport that requires stamina, power, fitness, concentration and mental fortitude – the speed that the pros go at intensifies all of those requirements.
It was a brilliant experience and I will definitely head back there for another go…. maybe I’ll incorporate the BMX track next time too!
It’s been over a month since I wrote on this blog but a lot has happened in that time and we are hurtling towards our very own D-Day
Firstly, Adam and I (plus my future brother in law Ash and my friends Ben & Jenny) completed the Pearson London to Brighton run. Ben is training for L’Etape Du Tour which will see him climb the Col d’Izoard at the end of brutal Alps Tour stage so he and Ash did the reverse journey too, but getting up and over Ditchling Beacon was enough for me and Adam!
Secondly, I turned 40 on the 23rd May. I decided that this milestone should be celebrated with another milestone so I took the day off work and challenged myself to cycle up Box Hill. I made sure that I took it fairly steady as I wanted to reach the top (plus I did stop to take a photo on the Zig Zag Road) so I completed the hill in twelve and a half minutes which I was pretty happy about.
On the way home I punctured and, while changing the inner tube at a BP garage, I got to thinking that I could definitely do Box Hill quicker so I made a plan to revisit it on the following Sunday. The second attempt was much easier and I knocked nearly four minutes off my previous time, I was delighted to do it in under nine minutes!
Last week Ash, Ben and I took part in the Evans Cycles Ride It Woking Sportive. Ash and Ben took on the 90 mile course while I settled for the middle distance 60 miles. It was a lovely route, not too hilly but a couple of punchy bits and the weather was kind to us. I was impressed by the set up of the event, the food stations were well stocked and had lots of variety, parking and registration was painless and the route (in the main) was well signposted. I completed my 60 miles in 4 hours and 21 minutes (including stops). My only annoyance was missing out on a ‘Gold’ average speed of 14mph, coming in at 13.4mph. I didn’t need the second feed stop really (10 miles from the end) and then I took a wrong turn, I’m sure I would’ve been over 14mph if I hadn’t hae done those two things!
With little over a month to go I knew that I needed to step up my efforts and my distance so, on Saturday, I devised a route that would see me complete my first 100km ride. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and the route was great but the windy conditions and the 5,725ft of climbing made it really challenging. The attempt on Toys Hill, 60 miles in, was particularly difficult and I had to stop a couple of times. However, climb and you shall be rewarded – the views over Ashdown Forest were amazing
I completed 71.2 miles (114km) in a total time of 6 hours and 13 minutes which would’ve been a bit quicker in less blustery condiditions, but I was really pleased with myself that I completed the 100km.
In a couple of weeks time Adam and I are taking on a different cycling experience. For our birthdays, our better halves have bought us a taster session on track bikes at the Lea Valley VeloPark – I am both excited and apprehensive in equal measure! The thought of a bike with no brakes isn’t exactly normal!
After that it will be all systems go for Paris
I’d been told by various people that a professional bike fit was a very worthwhile exercise so, with a long distance in the saddle on the horizon, I decided to book myself in for one. My hope was that the adjustments made would not only improve my comfort on the bike, but also the efficiency of my output to make sure I got every last bit of power that I was generating.
I think, as with most things, it is best for your own peace of mind that you go somewhere that you are familiar with and that you trust. I made my appointment at Pearson Cycles in Sutton as they have been in business for over 150 years, plus I used to go there a lot as a kid and I trust their knowledge and expertise. Their ‘on the bike fit’ costs £125 (£25 deposit payable in advance) and lasts for around one and a half hours, though the cost may rise if you purchase components that they recommend to improve your fit. It is worth noting that, should you buy those components at the time, they will be fitted free of workshop costs so it is worth considering.
The process itself starts a mini interview so that the fitter can understand what your goals are (endurance, racing etc) and also take your measurements. As I found out, this wasn’t just a case of the fitter measuring your inside leg, they want to understand your flexibility through measuring leg raise and hip flexion as well as the width of your seat bones for saddle purposes and other pertinent info. Foot measurements, including arch heights, were taken so that the fitter could position the cleats correctly and ascertain whether wedges or insoles were required. It was a much more detailed process than I had expected but I was intrigued by the science and eager to find out what the final result would be.
After the cleat placement it was onto the bike, hooked up to a turbo trainer. Gustavo, my fitter, got me to pedal as I would normally while he observed and stuck a few stickers on me. Upon questioning, Gustavo told me that he had to qualify to become a bike fitter by completing a 10 day course and then it took completing at least 50 fits before he was able to identify issues almost straight away with the naked eye. Gustavo took some measurements, asked me a few questions about how I felt and then got to work adjusting my bike
From my untrained eye my bike looked perfectly fine but here’s a list!
At least my frame size was the right one!
There were things that I could never have fixed with the original factory components, for example the setback seatpost supplied would not allow the saddle to move far enough forward for me and the 42cm bars were too wide for my shoulders. I wanted to be in the best position that I could so I agreed to making all of the changes that Gustavo had recommended except for the crank size change which he said wasn’t necessary. It is worth mentioning again that it is likely that you will have to buy parts because factory made bikes are made with a one size fits all approach and it is incredibly unlikely you’ll match that spec, so take extra cash or a credit card with you. I sat and watched as Gustavo changed my seatpost, stem and handlebars, pausing at several points to get me on the trainer to check his measurements and the positioning.
The final result was amazing and that is not an exaggeration, it felt completely different to sit on let alone ride. My considerable mass was now over the bottom bracket and the shorter stem and narrower bars made my cycling position more compact. I noticed that my arms were no longer prone to locking at the elbow, something that Gustavo told me had been changed by the correct positioning of the seat, stem and bars. I was extremely happy with the result so I paid up, bid Gustavo farewell and set off on my ride home. It was during that ride that I could really sense the difference as my effort seemed to be rewarded with more response from the bike, I hate to think how much energy I wasted with the old bike fit.
This morning I went out and completed a 30 mile route around Surrey. I noticed a benefit in climbing (probably through the power transfer improving) but mostly that the ache I used to get through my shoulders was completely gone, all through handlebars that were 2cm narrower.
If you have bought a decent bike off the peg online and are planning to do a lot of cycling it is a very worthwhile exercise to get a proper fit done. I enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot about myself as well as the setup of a bike. Everyone should get a Cycle Fit report (as per the picture) as part of the process so any future bike purchased can be set up exactly to your specification without the need for another fitting.
Recently, I finally got around to catching up with a few things on my TiVo box as they were starting to pile up. One thing caught my eye that I had been meaning to watch for some time, Pedalling Dreams: The Raleigh Story.
The documentary itself was an incredibly interesting insight into the rise and fall of one of the largest manufacturers, in any field, that this country has ever seen. Many of the technologies that are still used on bikes today were pioneered by designers and engineers at the Raleigh cycle plant in Nottingham and it was interesting to see how they evolved to keep cycling relevant, from battling the rise of the car to the introduction of trends like BMX and mountain bikes. They were also amongst the first to use sports stars of the day to promote their bikes.
You can still watch the documentary here, it is well worth it:
Now I was a tad too young to own the iconic Raleigh Chopper (though I did ride a fair few that belonged to brothers and sisters of my friends) but Raleigh bikes were a massive part of my childhood and it got me reminiscing about the Raleighs I owned as a kid
What 80’s kid didn’t want to be Andy Ruffel?! The BMX champion rode his last season in the Raleigh colours. That bike with the white mag wheels, don’t try and convince me on the yellow ones, was the coolest thing around. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t do any tricks on it, you just looked slick!
With the BMX craze dying out bikes started to revert back to traditional types. We wanted to cycle to school, we wanted to pass the cycling proficiency test and we were told we needed sensible bikes! I got this Raleigh Racer and it was anything but sensible, I could absolutely fly down the hills where I lived (no helmets in those days) and, following a school trip to France where we witnessed Le Tour in full flight, I would spend hours hurtling round the roads where I lived, pretending to be Sean Yates, Greg LeMond or Laurent Fignon. It was a fabulously made bike and probably my favourite.
The mountain bike craze broke big time when I was in senior school, it had come over from the US with all the razzmatazz you would expect of an American bred sport. Adverts were bright and loud, as were the bikes and the clothes that went with it and we embraced all of it. I was bought a Raleigh MTB Team bike for my birthday and proceeded to take my cycling offroad which was great fun. It was around this time that we became aware of other brands such as Ridgeback, Diamondback and Muddy Fox but most of us rode Raleigh’s (although some poor souls got the garish Raleigh Lizard, below)
Raleigh is no longer a British company though it is still headquartered in Nottingham, but it is good to know it is in safe hands and hands that know a thing or two about bikes and the history of the brand. Accell, the current owners, also own the Lapierre and Ghost brands which make lovely bicycles so the future looks good. It is also good to see a Raleigh Bike Team back up and competing and I will be supporting them in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series when it rolls into Croydon in May, check the link below to see if the Tour Series has an event near you
There are so many bike brands to chose from these days that it is difficult to remember a time where that one brand mattered so much but Raleigh did, well to me anyway.