I’d been itching to get back out on my bike since we got back from holiday so I braved the cold weather on Saturday morning and went for a short, 20 mile ride. It was an absolutely stunning morning, the neck tube/winter cap/toe covers kept the biting cold at bay and even a road closed sign couldn’t dampen my enjoyment at being back out on the bike.
I went out on my usual route and I’m glad that I did because it looks as though the ‘Beast From The East’ may scupper rides for the near future. Snow arrived today and more is forecast so I better get that Zwift setup right again!
I received an email today confirming my charity place on the Prudential Ride London 100 so it is now official! No going back! No wimping out!
I’d better start increasing the mileage and getting serious about completing this mammoth challenge.
……in the meantime, while it snows, I’ll sit and look at new bikes on the internet!
I’ve always been very fortunate to have decent holidays and this February half term is no different. 10 of us, my family and my in laws, have jetted off to Jolly Beach in Antigua for some much needed sunshine. You may think that may be a good excuse to let up a bit but I’m not going to let that happen, as the pic below shows I made use of the hotel’s gym facilities this morning!
Following that I thought about going for a walk to warm down a bit, so I headed down the beach towards the marina.
It was a lovely walk, Antigua had some amazing scenery with small to large boats coming from everywhere to enjoy the overwhelming beauty of the island. What I hadn’t really expected was a real yearning for my bike, but I found some roads that rose out of the sea like monsters. Paths heading to the top of steep hills where large houses were built to enjoy every last ounce of the wondrous view of the Caribbean sea and it’s brilliant blue waters. I would’ve loved to have a bike with me to have a crack at the below but instead I had to walk up it. The breeze across the island would’ve prevented it from being a sweat fest but I’m sure I’d have got close to using all available gears!
As with everything, what goes up must come down and the descent would’ve been equally thrilling, the harbour hurtling towards you promising a refreshing dip in the sea at the end
I think I’ll check out Strava when I get home to have a look at the gradients involved but these were certainly punchy climbs that would’ve required a sizeable effort. Maybe one day I’ll return with a bike!
Much is always made of the pro team kits when they are released for the new season. For sure, there are some absolute horrors that keep occurring (AG2R La Mondiale I’m looking at you!) but there are some good ones too (I really like the new EF Education First Drapac and Movistar 2018 kits)
Fortunately (I think), I’m not a pro tour rider so I don’t worry about which horrendous, over sponsored kit I have to wear on a daily basis! The downside is that I don’t have the cash to kit myself out in the frequently overpriced brands like Castelli, Assos and Rapha and anyway most of those aren’t exactly made for someone of my shape! I have, however, found a few brands that deliver on both quality and price and have designs to suit every cyclist from the classic to the extroverted. Here are my favourites:
Fat Lad At The Back – www.fatladattheback.com
It’s not just a clever name, they really do produce gear for lads (and lasses) that is more accommodating for people of a slightly larger shape, not the svelte whippets with 0% body fat! Made for people with between a 36″ and 52″ chest, I found them perfect when I took up cycling again as they afforded me the room to move and breathe. There’s some great, fun designs alongside some with more classic stylings
Both Adam and I are massive fans of this British brand and their attitude to getting people of all shapes and sizes back into the enjoyment of riding a bike.
Stolen Goat – www.stolengoat.com
Possibly my favourite cycling kit brand ever. A big statement but they have super cool designs to suit every taste from classic to quirky and they’re at the forefront of kit doping in my book. I started wearing their gear when I’d started losing a few pounds but their Bodyline series is still pretty accommodating.
I received an email for a sneak peak to their Spring/Summer 2018 range this week and it looks as though my bank balance is going to take another hammering! They have some great new products and can kit you out from head to toe at a very reasonable price. You can be sure of quality and comfort from another British brand
Chapeau! – www.chapeau.cc
Despite the French name this is another British brand, but it does carry all of the coolness that you would expect of a Gallic brand. Avid cycling fans will know that a shout of “Chapeau!” is an indication of respect for a cyclist’s effort or achievement and the brand use this to create their ranges for ‘The first timers, the cafe riders, club racers and dedicated trainers’. Their style is simple, minimal but ultra cool and effective. My favourite pieces are the club jerseys, of which I own a couple, because they have a great fit and are extremely good summer jerseys but all of their lines carry the same quality led production
So, there you have it. My three favourite cycling kit brands and it feels great to say that all of them are British, showing that cycling and cycling culture is alive and well in the lanes and B roads of GB. If you need new kit check them out, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed
I’ve learnt a lot since taking up cycling. I’ve learnt a lot about the mechanics of a bike, I’ve learnt a lot about the importance of the cake stop, I’ve learnt a lot about the camaraderie between complete strangers that cycling facilitates and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and how far I can push this knackered old carcass. If I had to pick my top 3 things that I’ve learnt, they would be as follows
The third one on that list is what brings me to this post as, a while back, I learnt this the hard way. I’d been suffering all week with a bog standard cold, not enough to keep me off work but enough for it to be incredibly annoying. The weekend was heralded by a glorious, sunny morning and I was feeling better so I decided to make the most of it and headed out on my bike. There is a Strava segment that I mention a lot (you’ll notice), not 3 miles from my house, called ‘Nasty Little Rise’ which, as the name suggests, is enough to get the heart and legs pumping nicely. On that particular day that segment took every ounce of energy out of my body, at the top of the rise I had to dismount and sit down because I was fearing the dreaded ‘bonk’. I’d started to feel a bit feint and not at all right so I turned tail and headed back home. Lesson learnt – don’t ride when you’re ill.
This week I’ve been ill. A similar situation to the above with an annoying cold that has gone round the office laying waste to even the hardiest of souls. Remembering my previous mistake I shelved my plans for a Saturday ride in favour of a turbo session in the shed (it rained anyway so I didn’t feel so bad). I’ve got the setup just about right now
I have the Tacx Flow T2240 Smart trainer (which I bought for £200 from Halfords) linked up to Zwift on my Macbook via a Wahoo Blue SC speed and cadence sensor. I also bought the Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor, mostly through curiosity rather than knowing what to do with the data! All I need now is a floor standing fan to keep me cool as it gets warm in that little shed, whatever the weather outside!
I did a 10 mile warm up, about half an hour, on the Watopia flat route as I wasn’t sure how I’d manage but I felt ok so I was pleased. I then did a few intervals to try and really blow the cold away. I managed a few, 4 minutes average speed then 30 seconds full gas, so in the circumstances I considered that a triumph!
Hopefully I can get rid of the cold so I can get out on my bike before we go away on holiday on Thursday!
Worn through your tyres on the turbo trainer over winter? Convinced yourself that it is the bike rather than the extra pounds acquired over Christmas that are making the hills more difficult? Looking for that extra motivation to complete a 100, the Étape or just your first Sportive? Well, the great news is that this seems to be the perfect time to buy a new bicycle!
Manufacturers tempt all cyclists out of the Winter hibernation by showing them pictures of shiny new bikes, drawing lustful looks and an inadvertent collection of appreciative noises. Pictures are passed around and drooled over at cake stops, finances are recalculated and specs are pored over and compared.
Its that last point that brings me to my title, it really is the best time to buy a bike. For all of the glossy marketing and new paint jobs, the manufacturers need somewhere for these bikes to go and that means the retailers clearing out the previous year’s models. For those of you with more money than you know what to do with, stop reading now. For those who like a bit of extra bang for their buck, keep reading. Usually there is very little difference between models year on year, sometimes a newer version of a groupset and/or a new paint job is all that separates them, but the prices are wildly different.
The below shows the differences between the Cannondale Supersix Evo Ultegra Disc road bike, with 2017 on the left and 2018 on the right
I apologise for the small print within the image but, in essence, the only real differences between them are the paintwork, the updated R8020 disc brakes and the inclusion of the new, updated Ultegra R8000 groupset. The R8000 benefits from the ideas and design behind Dura Ace and can accommodate a 34 tooth sprocket but the 6800 is still an excellent option that will suit most casual cyclists, certainly those upgrading from Shimano’s 105 range. The real difference is in the price, the new model carries a RRP of £2,699 but after shopping around I have found examples of the 2017 model for £1,649, some £1,050 cheaper! For the differences in play I know which model I would go for.
So there it is, go and buy a new bike but shop around and don’t be afraid of last year’s model! Remember, as the old saying goes…..
The correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned
I followed up my first ride of 2018 with another one the weekend after. In my experience it’s foolish to try to go too far too soon so I kept the distance to a relatively short 20 miles on roads that I knew well. I’m very conscious that I’ve done little since October so this seems like the best strategy!
Though it may be cold, sometimes wet and often dark, I love riding in the winter months. I find it refreshing for the soul and quite often the low sun that appears casts a completely different light over roads and scenery that passes me by in the summer months. I also like to see the other cyclists that have emerged from turbo trainers in sheds across the county as the nods of appreciation somehow mean more, a ‘well done’ for getting out in the cold and getting back on the roads.
……..all that said the following weekend was appalling, torrential rain so there was no way I was venturing out, however appreciative the nods may have been. I retreated to my turbo for an SST session through Watopia and, by the sheer numbers flying past me, I don’t think I was the only one!
We’d had a fair bit of rain during the last week but I was determined to get out yesterday. I’d planned to keep the distance fairly similar, around 20 odd miles, but the route I’d chosen had far more lumps in it so I knew it would test my legs. I’m going with quality over quantity at the moment!
It turned out to be a beautiful morning round the Surrey/Kent lanes. I drifted easily up to Tatsfield as the sun started to shine over the North Downs, with only the ‘Nasty Little Rise’ Strava segment providing any real resistance. I headed towards the village of Downe, using the lanes to bypass Cudham and Biggin Hill, passing a lot of cyclists on my way, most of them responding to a cheery hello and a wave. At Downe I turned left, descending the delightfully titled Jackass Lane, before turning back towards home at Nash and then on towards Featherbed Lane via the equally delightful North Pole Lane. I finished with my usual climb up Addington Road to Selsdon and then Sanderstead roundabout.
The lanes were lovely and quiet apart from the odd car and the whirr of bicycle wheels, but the previous week’s rain had washed some gravel and mud onto the edges and the centre of the tarmac so it was incredibly important to be attentive, particularly on the downhills at speed. As you can see from the video below, taken between Park Road and The White Bear at Fickleshole, there was a fair bit of debris that pushed me further towards the centre of the road
I know I have a great deal of work to do before July but I’m feeling fairly confident. I’ve been going to the gym twice a week, mixing strength work (squats, leg raises, hamstring curls) with cardio (rowing machine is my favourite!), I’ve been challenging myself to drink more water and I have been keeping a food diary recently which is helping me to regulate what I eat and it’s keeping me honest!
The best thing is that I’ve enjoyed being back on my bike so I know that I’ll be happy and motivated when the longer distances come around. I’ve signed up for a couple of sportives to ensure that I’m hitting targets along the way, both are rides that I’ve done before but the longer versions!
Pearson Brighton & Back Sportive – 144km route including the infamous Ditchling Beacon climb
Evans Ride It Woking – 136km route around the Surrey and Hampshire countryside
The weather looks good for next weekend so I hope to push that distance a little further still and continue my progression. Till then I will busy myself with cleaning the current bike and looking at pictures of potential next bikes!
A lot has happened since I last updated this blog of ours. For one, that newborn baby isn’t so ‘newborn’ anymore, he’s four months old (feels like he’s been around for ages!) and sleep patterns are finally getting back to some kind of normality. I tried to go for a bike ride late last year, following one of the most uninterrupted sleeps that we’d had, but I had absolutely nothing in the legs and an overwhelming sense of exhaustion made me turn for home just 8 miles into my ride.
Despite the lack of sleep, Adam and I completed the Thames Bridges Bike Ride organised by the Stroke Association. The start point was close to the cemetery where Iris is buried so we stopped for a moment of silent introspection and it was in that moment that the scale of what we achieved in France really hit me. From the start we criss-crossed London over 18 of the bridges that cross the Thames on the 55 mile route, it was fun and good to get back out together after the Paris run but I think we were both glad when it ended!
Secondly, I met royalty in the form of HRH Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. Pretty impressive, huh? I was invited to a charity gala dinner at Buckingham Palace by a supplier of mine who work closely with the Prince’s charity, In Kind Direct. The charity works with retailers and manufacturers to deliver excess stock or products to places where they are really needed, most recently the people displaced by the havoc wreaked by the hurricanes across the Caribbean. It was a wonderful night and a real privilege to get to see the inner workings of one of the most famous buildings in the world, I even got to meet the man himself!
Adam and I also attended the Rouler Classic, held just off Bloomsbury Square. Dedicated to the Classics there were some fantastic pieces of cycling history on show as well as all of the new tech that is coming for 2018.
Unfortunately Adam had to leave early and missed out on the best bit, I met Fabian Cancellara! What a legend!
So what now for 2018? Well, as per a previous post, my main goal is the Prudential Ride London Surrey Classic at the end of July and that is what I’ll be working towards. I went on my first ride of 2018 this morning and it became clear that I have much to do! I’m on the same bike but a lot heavier than I was so I’ll be working to lose a fair few kilos over the coming weeks. It was only 15 miles but it felt further and the wind was pretty persistent in its annoyance factor so I’m glad to get it under my belt.
I’m sure I’ll fit in a few sportives here and there, I’m already planning to ride the Pearson Cycles Brighton & Back in May which is run for the benefit of the Royal Marsden Hospital. That will give me a good idea of where I am fitness wise with a couple of months to go
Happy New Year and happy trails!