Sunday, 28 October 2012

Insider knowledge

My fixed wheel bike has been hanging from the rafters in my garage all year, unused but not forgotten. I needed to be punished for not using it and today was the planned torture day. 110PSI in the old Vittoria Pave tyres, a quick wipe over, a splash of oil on the chain and I was out on the road at 8:15am.

I had decided to tag along with the Beds Road CC and rode out to central Bedford to join their club run.  I covered the 10 miles to the start a bit slower without gears and the descent of Ampthill hill was done on the brakes - my legs reluctant to agree to spinning at more than 28mph.

At the start point beside the river Great Ouse there were several other Beds club riders and I said my hellos and listened to their discussion on the planned route, a 42 mile circuit finishing in their Cardington club rooms for coffee.  It wasn't quite what I had planned and another rider and I decided a better plan would be to ride out into the headwind, towards Newport Pagnell to find a good cafe.

The two of us set off, riding along beside the river and then out onto the lanes.  I had previously met my pedaling buddy through other cyclist friends and I knew he was a British Cycling Commissaire, so of course the topic of conversation during our pedal was racing.

The stories, the details you don't get to read about, his perceptions of racers, races and routes were all fascinating.  I loved every mile and even the stop to fix my puncture went quickly whilst listening to anecdotes of long lasting tyre recommendations.

50+ miles and my fixed wheel bike gave me a reasonable workout and I realise that I need to use it a bit more to get my legs spinning faster throughout the winter.

I also worked out what magazine subscription to buy - none, just try to arrange more pedals with Trevor who is a lot more insightful.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Off course - rats

Saturday, 6:30am and I'm up preparing for today's cycle sportive: two 800ml bidons (one filled with water only, one with SIS PSP22 added), 1 gel, a pump, CO2 and a spare cannister, Garmin 705, prescription Oakleys, helmet, shoes, ID, telephone, money and my Mopha tool roll with inner tubes, tyre levers, patches and a tool kit).

Oh, and lights as it is still dark!

I was out on the road just after 7am to ride the 16 miles to the start of the cycle sportive. I had put 120PSI into the tyres because the weather forecast was good although there was still a lot of standing water on the roads.

As I left Flitwick and the street lights behind, I realised how dark it still was and I could see a few black objects on the road ahead. I presumed road kill, rabbits or hedgehogs, however as I got closer the objects became illuminated by my headlamp and I could see it was rats and not dead ones. Unlike squirrels they didn't immediately bound off the road and it wasn't until I was almost upon them that they scurried back to the verge and the ditch beyond, some passing under me between my front and rear wheels.  The joys of living in the countryside.

The rest of my ride to the start was uneventful and I paced myself at an average of 15.5mph, saving my legs for the 100km sportive and the pedal home afterwards.  I picked up my friend Jeff on route and we rode to the start together.

After registration we lined up ahead of the timing point. The organisers were letting groups of about 12 riders go every 3 minutes or so. Whilst waiting we were given a few instructions and, I am convinced, a warning about being careful on the Steppingley road crossroads.

Once waved off I waited to see whether there were any fast riders in our group who might set a good initial pace. No one made their way to the front so I upped the speed and Jeff and I rode off the front and began to wind in some of the earlier starters.  My legs were feeling pretty good and I optimistically thought I could do the 100km at an average speed of 20mph.

We hit the first climb at the Three Locks and continued up through Great Brickhill and on to Woburn.  My average speed at the top of the deer park climb was still over 20mph and I was looking forward to the fast descent and upping the speed all the way to Steppingley. I could see a few other cyclists ahead and I put my head down and targeted catching and passing them, but on the road to Eversholt they sat up and were clearly debating whether they had missed a route sign.  I carried on positive we were going all the way to Steppingley.

At the Steppingley road junction I could see signs for the opposite direction and then I realised that the warning at the start must have been for those riding the 100 mile route. I was off course and should have turned left much earlier towards Ridgemont.  Rather than doubling back I rode past the Center Parc site and up to the A507 to get back to Ridgemont. I must have added another 7 miles or so onto the ride. 

I continued riding at a reasonable speed, passing some riders for the second time, but I knew my time was going to be skewed by the added miles. I began to ease up as I approached 15 miles or so to go, my legs were beginning to cramp and I knew I still had to cycle home.

At the finish, Jeff and others I had initially led out were already there and summised I may have missed the turning after the Woburn deer park. My Garmin indicated my average speed was over 18mph and I had ridden 69miles. My finish time was 3hrs 54min (an hour behind the fastest finisher).

The ride home was slow at an average of 15.1mph, my legs feeling stiff with the 100 miles in them. 

My Wilier after the ride, desperate for a clean:

Friday, 19 October 2012


One of the first cars I bought was an old VW Beetle, complete with 6V electrics and cross ply tyres. The cross ply tyres were soon replaced by a used set of radials and the handling of the little Beetle improved dramatically, that is until I got a puncture. 

I had only bought a set of four replacement tyres and the spare remained a cross ply, so on the occasion I punctured I swapped the flat near-side rear wheel for the spare.

I nearly sh!t myself when I went round the first roundabout with the mixed rear tyres.  The rear of the car slid out dramatically, rally car-style and I drove immediately and gingerly to the nearest tyre fitters for a new radial (the old one was beyond repair).

That rally car broadside moment was reproduced on my Brompton, riding in the wet with the rear Schwalbe Marathon tyre (or at least reproduced the same brown pants net result).

The weather this week has been wet and so I was grateful I had swapped the rear tyre for the Panaracer and am pleased to report that it grips far better. I haven't experienced any wheelspin on wet drain or manhole covers and no broadsides.

Or at least, no rear wheel slides - I did experience a front tyre slide, maybe from diesel on the road, so I'll keep an eye out for another cut price Panaracer to fit on the front.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The road to recovery

I had an entry to the Roman Challenge mountain bike event today but I wasn't feeling capable of doing the ride.  I'm still feeling under the weather after the Flu. I also had a logistical problem (no car) and the 50 miles round trip plus the 30 miles event distance would have killed me before having a chance to tick off more bucket list items.

Instead, I contacted a member of the local Flitwick Tri club via Cycling Buddy and asked if I could tag along on a local pedal. And what a beautiful day for a cycle - the temperature may only have got as high as 9 degrees but we had blue skies and a slight breeze.

We followed our front wheels in the direction of Old Warden.  I wore my chest strap so that I could monitor my heart rate, which I could tell was much higher than normal and I was still feeling a bit wheezy.  I was also having a mechanical issue with my Van Nicholas and the rear derailleur was skipping between a couple of the sprockets.  The problem with the Chinook is that it doesn't have a front cable adjuster and I couldn't be bothered to stop and tweek the rear barrel adjuster.

Our route took us through Old Warden, Northill, Cople, Cardington, Ireland and then to Langford cafe, earlier than the 10:30am opening time, so we went a little further to Broom to check on the progress of the Jordan's visitors centre which is due to open early 2013. We doubled back to Langford cafe for a coffee and some Rocky Road :-)

In the cafe we agreed a good return route would be via Henlow and up Pulloxhill.  I had the typical stiff legs after the short cafe stop but they began to loosen up on the gentle climb out of Henlow and I started to feel a bit less chesty.

As we approached Pulloxhill we were overtaken by a large peloton of mixed club riders who were on a Sportive. They had already ridden 50 miles, so about the same as us, but many of them were unaware of the climb around the next corner.  I couldn't resist attacking them on the hill so I made my way around them and hit the 14% climb out of the saddle. As I put a bike's length into the lead rider my chain slipped and the rear wheel jumped what felt like a foot into the air, but I quickly recovered, flicked it up a sprocket and continued my attack to win the sprint to the summit. Nice, but at a near maximum 171bpm heart rate and with a hole ripped into my Shutt 3/4 bibs where the bar end caught my thigh.

Back at home I put my bike on the workstand and gave the derailleur adjuster a 3/4 turn. Now perfect and I wish I had stopped early in the ride to do it.

That was an expensive scalp winning effort :-(

Thank you to Chris W. for letting me tag along today.  My turn to pay for coffee and cake on the next pedal.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Before and after

My son and I took a look through my old photographs including the 2005 Tour De France stage at Courchevel and found some interesting pictures:

Roberto Heras

and three year's later...

Alberto Contador

and 5 years later...

Tom Boonen

and at the 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen with Fabian Cancellara...

and a fallen hero (on the wheel of Roger Hammond) also taken at Flanders...
Excellent. Roll on the 2013 season.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Bucket list

I have got Man Flu; feel as though I am on death's door and lo and behold Cycling Weekly publish 26 things to do on two wheels before you die. I need to recover and tick some off:

26. Learn to ride a unicycle - that's not going to happen. I was amazed when I saw a participant riding a large-wheeled unicycle on the Dragon Ride in 2008 but it didn't make me want to go out and buy one.

25. Buy a piece of cycling memorabilia - CHECK (or at least my son has)

24. Ride on tubs - combined with #2 perhaps

23. Ride with a pro - TO DO

22. Ride as many hills from the 100 Greatest Climbs book as you can - TO DO, possibly with the Chinook-O (Which one is next Rick?)

21. Ride 100 miles in a day - CHECK. See Fred Whitton 4 seasons. My next planned metric century is a pilgrimage to Peterborough.

20. Race - CHECK. Gentlemen style ;-)

19. Ride a long-distance trail - CHECK. I rode the South Downs Way

18. Go cycle touring - when I'm older :-)

17. Meet Eddy Merckx - combined with #23 perhaps

16. Go on a training camp - TO DO

15. Join a cycling club - CHECK, but I'd like to think a cycle shop sponsored team might consider signing me up. Then I could do #16 and #20 without wearing a jacket and tie.

14. Sprint down the Champs-Elysees - No WAY. I wouldn't even plan to drive it (again) in a car

13. Watch the Tour de France, French style - CHECK

12. Do a big cycling 'do' - TO DO.

11. Ride a tandem - CHECK

10. Watch a cobbled Classic - CHECK

9. Ride with your kids - CHECK

8. Get 50 people into cycling - Nope. I used to be able to buy family tickets to the velodrome for less than the cost of getting to a premiership football match. I hope cycling gets less popular although I might retract that if I ever fulfill my dream of opening my own cycling shop.

7. Grab a ride in a team car - TO DO

6. Win a sprint - CHECK, but would love to combine it with #15 and #20

5. Ride on a velodrome - CHECK and cannot wait to try London

4. Ride a big British sportive - CHECK

3. Ride on another continent - CHECK. Yawn. I ride on the continent every year and love it. For info, Spanish roads are the smoothest.

2. Find, buy and restore the bike you wanted as a kid - TO DO: 1. I have a dream to have built for me a bespoke fixed wheel bike so that I can... 2. Restore my 1982 Holdsworth Special with a retro pair of #24 tubular wheels to... 3. Ride l'Eroica

1. Ride up Alpe d'Huez and Mont Ventoux - CHECK-CHECK, but not in the same day - now that is a silly bet.

Others that they mention in the editorial:
* Descend at 100km - CHECK. Col d'Izoard :-)
* Tackle the white roads of Tuscany - TO DO - see plans for l'Eroica
* Ride in the snow - CHECK
* Climb Tenerife's Mount Teide - To DO - perhaps on a training camp

Mmm - I need to consider what else is on my personal bucket list?  What's on yours?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hand me downs

An acquaintance in a sports car club once told me that each year he would change the oil in his car, the used oil would then go into his motorbike and the used motorbike oil would go into his lawn mower.

My Brompton is the lawn mower and my Basso (ashamedly) is the metaphoric motorbike.

I took the brake pads out of the Planet X CNC callipers on the Basso and fitted them to the Brompton.  The CNC callipers then went into the 'shit that stinks' box and I fitted the Ultegra callipers handed down from my Chinook.

Somewhere along the line though I had misplaced the brake pads.  In fact, I think they had made their way onto the Brompton and were the worn set I just replaced with the version that don't stick.

I had spotted some very cheap brake cartridges on a pedal to the Grafham Water cycle shop, so I decided to buy from them online even just to get new fittings and cartridges.  The anodized alloy cartridges don't quite match the paintwork but they are a close match to the 'HAND MADE IN ITALY' font colour.

If the pads aren't any good then I shall just buy a set of trusted Shimano replacements and put the old ones on the Brompton.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Foggy cholesterol

In Cav's autobiography he mentions that Nicole has a full English breakfast before racing. If I meet her again I will have to ask if it is true.

This morning I set my alarm to get up early, with a view to riding the route of the forthcoming Leighton Buzzard cycle club's reliability ride, approximately 75 miles for me.  However, when I opened the curtains the thick fog wasn't what Siri had forecasted the night before, so I decided to delay my start with the hope that the fog might lift.

Whilst waiting I emulated Nicole and had a bacon and fried egg sandwich for breakfast :-)

The visibility had improved by about 9am so I retrieved my bicycle from the garage and put some lights on.  I also realised how cold it was so I quickly added some knee warmers to my Rapha shorts, socks, long sleeve jersey and softshell jacket ensemble.  I planned to stay toasty.

I had downloaded the GPX route for the reliability ride to my Garmin but it took nearly 8 miles before it managed to get the navigation sorted.  I joined the route near Woburn Sands so the Bow Brickhill climb was the first shocker and a few other cyclists were congregating near the start, so it may be the annual hill climb for the North Bucks Road Club.  I didn't hang about to find out.

I continued on the route following the beeps and instructions from the Garmin but around Linslade it all went wrong and the Garmin began directing back towards home instead of South and into the Chilterns.  I turned the navigation off at that point and decided to head back towards Clophill to have a crack at the so-called Clophill Ball Breaker on Strava before heading home.

Through Ampthill I tried to get the speed camera to flash on the descent passed Redborne school but I guess a 31mph cyclist doesn't trigger it - must try to go another 3mph quicker to see if that works ;-)

On my way back into Flitwick I was giving my legs a final thrashing and a motorcyclist came alongside me, gave me the thumbs up and said I was breaking the speed limit. LOL.

Total ride distance: 50+ miles
Average speed: 18mph
Clophill Ball Breaker: 13th position but 5mph off KOM - maybe I shouldn't have had the bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast ;-)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

European posteria Man-satchel alternative

Rule #29 of the Velominati states saddle bags have no place on a road bike.

However, I have learned a few lessons in all of my years of riding and I like to be prepared for any punctures or mechanicals. So I carry ID, a phone, money, two inner tubes, patches, tools, a CO2 canister and inflator.  All of which could go in my jersey pocket but I've also experienced crashes and landing on your back with a pocket full of tools tends to hurt. 

I have decided that some sort of tool bag is essential but wanted to try avoiding breaking rule #29. The photograph of The Boot gave me an idea.

I decided on a tool roll which would give me the option of mounting it under my saddle or in a bottle cage (if I was on a shorter ride).

Rapha sell a tool roll, but when I was searching on the interweb I found the Mopha which had positive reviews. I pressed buy it now and waited for a little over two weeks for it to arrive from Seattle.

I'm quite pleased with the tool roll. Retrospectively the price of (some) exclusivity might be a tad high and perhaps I should have purchased the Rapha version.

For information:
Mopha tool roll £29.90
USPS P&P £6.34

The add-on which tips it over the comparable price:

"Customs charges are applied to imports into the EU with a value over £15 for VAT. All items valued over £135 will attract import duty. Imported gifts valued over £40 sent between private individuals will also attract VAT".

Excise duty £4.76
Royal Mail international fee £8.00

Total cost £49.00. 

Be prepared

I cleaned my Brompton today and, in preparation for the Winter, I replaced the deadly Schwalbe Marathon rear tyre. Putting the 16" tyre onto the rim isn't easy and metal tyre levers are essential.

The Lezyne Saber Levers are superb for the job and, combined with having a 15mm wrench, they are ideal for the Brompton.  I always carry them when I commute on the Brompton.

I made the decision to try out a new tyre brand and snapped up a Panaracer Crosstown at a discounted price of £15.99
The tyre has the reflective sidewall, a decent tread pattern and claims to be puncture resistant.  It is still heavy at 400g, so not ideal for racing.
The maximum tyre pressure is 65PSI and I have inflated it initially to this.  Let's see whether it grips in the wet.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

"The Boot"

I read the obituary of Ray Booty recently. In 1956 he became the first rider to complete a 100-mile event in under four hours.

I started to search for further information on his incredible achievements and came across Paul and Gary's blog with a piece on The Boot -

We definitely need more blue plaques to remember the achievements of people like The Boot. 

Mmm - I wonder how many miles a pilgrimage to Ray's once home town of Peterborough and back would be?