Monday 31 December 2012


Rapha Festive 500

I finished the challenge today! Six pedals over eight days, riding through rain and wind, sometimes in the dark, on lanes in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Buckinghamshire.

How do I feel? I'm relieved to have finished, proud to have completed the challenge, knackered and hugely grateful to my family for their support. 

The most essential thing throughout the challenge has been the encouragement and support from my family.

I have no idea what this is.
The Willington dovecote built in 1540.

Sunday 30 December 2012


Rapha Festive 500

Yesterday's ride hurt and my legs ached this morning, so it was a relief to see the weather was good with gusts of only 24mph.  I wasn't going to make the same mistake as yesterday so my planned route today was out into the wind with fresh legs and a return with a good tail wind.

Since it was going to be a dry day I decided to save the bib-longs until tomorrow and wore my Rapha bib-shorts, knee warmers, jersey and soft-shell jacket.  The most effective piece of kit today: embrocation, specifically chamois cream.  I planned to ride another 70 miles and (let's be honest) you should look after your contact points.

Shaw's corner

My ride initially followed the route from Christmas eve but at Codicote I continued to Welwyn village and then climbed up to the Ayots and Shaw's corner, the home of George Bernard Shaw until his death in 1950.

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw.

From the Ayots I cycled up Wheathampstead hill to No Man's Land common and across to Harpenden.  My destination for today's pedal was Simon Barnes' superb cyclists' cafe, The Hub, in Redbourn.

The Hub was suprisingly quiet today and whilst sitting enjoying my double shot latte with a slice of coffee & walnut cake I perused the selection of books and spotted The Cycling Anthology.  I had seen the 5* reviews of this before Christmas and, since I knew Lionel Birnie (the joint editor of the book) frequented The Hub, I had emailed Simon to ask if he planned to arrange a book signing event.  I mentioned my email to be told that Simon was out cycling with Lionel that morning and that he'd signed a copy of his book for me earlier. Result!

My return cycle route took me over Dunstable Downs and then home via Leighton Buzzard and Woburn deer park.

 A topiary Christmas pudding. Excellent!
39 miles left for tomorrow to complete the 500km challenge. And the weather forecast - more rain :-(

Saturday 29 December 2012

Hedgerows are your friend

Rapha Festive 500

Today's weather forecast: 50mph winds, dry until 12pm.  So, the plan was to be out on the bike at 8:30am with a scenic route up to Grafham Water, cross the A1 and then wind my way back via Biggleswade to do a 70 miler, with a chance of getting wet by the end.

Why Biggleswade? I spent a bit of time researching the Ivel bicycle works that were based there in the 1880's and, although the factory has been long gone, I was hopeful of finding some place marker or the Ongley Arms where the founder, Dan Albone, set up his business.

Dan Albone
Me! Photographed and edited by my daughter after I returned from yesterday's pedal

True to forecast the weather was windy and I realised that it was going to be hard work on the return leg.  Riding my titanium bike with deep section wheels would not be wise so I chose my full carbon Wilier with C24 wheels.

The ride out with a strong tail wind was fast. I stopped to take a photograph of the magnificent hangers at Cardington, but I had to hold the bicycle as it kept getting blown over leaning against a post.

Cardington airship hangers - might be recognisable to those who have seen the opening scene in the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises 

The lanes to Grafham Water are some of the best cycling roads in the area, with very little traffic and only a few junctions to traverse.  I reached the huge lake with an average speed approaching my personal best courtesy of the tail wind but that was all to change as soon as my route passed through Buckden and I turned into the wind.

I have never ridden for so long on the drops of my handlebars but it was necessary to make any headway into the relentless wind.  I crouched as low as I could, my chin almost resting on the bars with my head strained back just to see more than ten feet ahead.  My average speed dropped dramatically.

Then it started to rain, just a shower to start with and then harder, much harder.  The rain stung as it hit my face and it was a relief when the road turned and the hedgerows offered some shelter from the wind. 

I'm saddened to report I didn't spot a blue sign or equivalent for Dan Albone in Biggleswade.  There are cycle shaped road furniture but I didn't spot the Ongley Arms or anything else acknowledging the cycle works.  I need to explore and investigate further.

Essential kit today? My wrap around prescription Oakleys protecting my eyes from the lashing rain, but even so the rain stung the side of my eyes when hit by a sidewind between the breaks in the hedgerow. 

71 miles completed today totaling 323km since Christmas Eve and two days remaining to complete the full 500km.

Friday 28 December 2012

Spin and rinse

Rapha Festive 500
Another 50km towards my goal of 500km before New Years day...

I needed a rest and didn't get out on my bike until 8:30am today.  I could hear the rain on the window again which wasn't conducive to leaving the comfort of a warm duvet, but the main reason why I needed a rest was because I drove a 6 hour roundtrip yesterday to see my parents.

Out on the bike it took 9 miles of spinning my legs at over 90rpm before the muscles on the back of my thighs (biceps femoris) began to warm up.  The best thing for stiff legs - a hard climb - and the road up to Sharpenhoe Clappers is one of the local 'ball busters'.

I can't be criticised for finding easy, flat routes for the Festive 500 challenge and, despite the hills and remnants of flooding, I noticed my average speed was better than on my previous two rides.  I don't have an explanation other than perhaps I ride slower in the dark.  
Today's effective piece of kit was the 'Butt Fender' fitted under my saddle.  The rain showers and standing water didn't deter me from taking my titanium bike (sans garde-boue/without mudguards) out again and the fender kept  my backside relatively dry.
Stewartby brick works - for sale. Grade 2 listed chimneys and kiln.
Back at home and my cycling clothes went straight into the washing maching in preparation for the next three days' planned 100km consecutive pedals.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Sunrise in Beds

Rapha Festive 500

Today's weather couldn't have been more of a contrast to Christmas Eve.  The only signs of flooding were the warning triangles at the road sides and some remnants of puddles. I had already plotted a local route taking me out into the headwind with a favourable tailwind for the return, like a good club man would decide. The route would add a further 50km to my 100km from Monday and take me to 30% of the Festive 500 distance.

7am and as I climbed Long Lane I could see the lights of Toddington service station lit up like a distant Christmas garden illumination.  As the road pitched up to 10% I climbed out of the saddle listening to the rumble of my deep section carbon wheels on the road surface and I realised that not even the birds had woken from their hedgerow roosts. 

It felt great to be on my titanium bike and (I must add) with dry shoes - my preparation 8 hours earlier had established that the bar tape on my Basso was still soaked and my shoes still very damp from Christmas Eve, so it was great to have a spare pair of shoes and another bike at my disposal.

 The top of Long Lane in Toddington

 It started to get lighter as I rode passed Milton Bryant and the gateway to Paris House restaurant.
 The sunrise over the fields of Bedfordshire

Monday 24 December 2012

Yule be wet

Rapha Festive 500

6:30am and, as I lay in bed listening to the rain hammering on the window, I contemplated the day ahead... Santa is going to get wet whilst delivering the presents tonight... I wonder what sort of technical fabrics are incorporated in his outfit?  Right, less of that nonsense. Time to get out of bed and get out on the bike. 500km to cycle between today and 31-Dec. Man The Santa Up!

To paraprase the Norwegian proverb 'there is no such thing as bad weather...only bad kit', and the essentials for today's wet and dark solo ride: a casquette, a race cape and a good set of lights.

Clearly today's pedal was going to have a water theme; I knew the roads were going to be flooded, with puddles obscuring pot holes so I chose a route and roads I knew well. Especially since it was going to be dark for the first hour of the day's 100km goal.  As I left the street lights behind and dark country lanes beckoned, I reached behind to check my hand was illuminated red, giving me the comfort that the 70 lumens from the light would be seen by 'car-up' drivers.  A similar wave of my hand ahead of my front lights was unnecessary as the heavy rain was illuminated like silver rods. 

Peering out from under the peak of my cap I had a huge grin on my face; no work for over a week, a green-card from the family to take on the 500km challenge and I was on my bike!  Rain, what rain?

'Hi yih, yippity-yap, merrily I flow' - from The River God poem by Stevie Smith.  At Whitwell water cress farm on the river Mimram.
A brief stop on the bridge over the river Beane in Watton-on-Stone.
Nearing the end of the 100km wet ride :-)

Sunday 23 December 2012

The League of Veteran Racing Cyclists

I have joined the LVRC to race in 40+ age category groups.
The membership is only £20 per year and entry to each race is £10 so I've joined :-)
At LVRC races, you can choose which age category you want to race in but you can only score points for places in your own age group. I fall into Group B, the same as another cycling friend who happens to be 2nd Cat (so I'm going to struggle just holding his wheel in a race).  Knowing my luck, I'd go up a few groups and end up on the start line with someone like Malcolm Elliott.

Next steps - which team/club should I ride for?

Saturday 22 December 2012

Preparing for precipitation

Let's face it, it's going to be a wet Christmas holiday and the year is going to end like it started.

My Basso fitted with Crud RoadRacer guards got the most use at the start of the year and it is likely to get wet again during my attempt at the Rapha Festive 500 starting Monday.  My contingency plan should I have problem with the Basso is the Chinook or the Wilier or the fixed wheel or one of my mountain bikes or the Brompton or the recumbent or one of the many other bikes in my garage.

If one of the other bikes comes out to play and it is precipitating then I'm going to get a wet bum :-)

Or am I?  For a measly £6 I've removed the risk of having a rooster tail sprayed up my backside...

Sunday 16 December 2012

Warming up

The organisers of The Hub Christmas pedal managed to book good weather today, a lot warmer than the freezing temperatures experienced the preceeding week.

Flitwick Tri and Chinook-o members (Chris & Rick) decided to join me (and Eddy Merckx) on Simon Barnes' ride from his superb cafe in Redbourn.
The pace was a leisurely 16mph and the route and company were great.
We regrouped at the top of Tom's Hill.
And the three of us were first back at the Hub for coffee, cakes and hot chocolates:

The distance was about 40 miles and a great warm up for the Rapha Festive 500 starting on the 24th December.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Another kindle book

You know what its like, you finish a great book and desparately try to find something equally as good to stick your nose into.  I didn't have a book lined up so I wandered into Waterstones, passed Michael Palin doing a book signing and bought 'Eddy Merckx the Cannibal' by Daniel Friebe.

I should have bought Michael Palin's book on Brazil because the Eddy Merckx book didn't match my expectations.  I'm not sure what I like about cycling books, maybe revelations like Tyler Hamilton's, perhaps epic rides (possible challenges to consider), great stories or insights, or suggestions on technical improvements.  Either way Daniel Friebe's book on Merckx didn't tick my boxes and I think because it lacked any input from the great man.

In defence of Daniel Friebe, he does state that he tried to involve Merckx but his requests were rejected because of an official autobiography being written. I wish I'd waited.

I did, however, also find a fun book on Kindle which was well worth the 77 pence...

Dave Barter - Obsessive compulsive cycling disorder.
Basically the book is a blog, which appealed to me.  Whilst reading I realised that Dave was similar to myself; a lot of mountain biking progressing to road cycling and trying to find challenges and building the bike and training for the goal.  I liked it. 

It also sparked the competitive instinct in me; I read about Dave's average speed on his road rides and they were similar to mine.  But then I read about his trip up Ventoux and half-wheeling his friend with a final time to the top of 1hr 30mins.  I had to read it again.  My time in 2011 was under 2hrs and I'd have to train some to knock 30 minutes off that.  How did Dave do it?

I looked at the Kindle book cover and then saw why...he's a (sub 12st) whippet.

Friday 7 December 2012

Game on!

Rapha Festive 500 - 2012.

My plan:
  • Monday 24th  - 100km
  • Christmas day  - 0km
  • Boxing day  - 50km
  • Thursday 27th  - 0km
  • Friday 28th - 50km
  • Saturday 29th - 100km
  • Sunday 30th - 100km
  • Monday 31st - 100km
I'm going to have to take 4 days annual leave and keep my fingers firmly crossed that the weather doesn't deteriorate.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Unexpected expense

It has been a crazy week.  Kicking off on Saturday, I cleaned and prepared my Brompton ahead of the planned LBC ride on the Sunday and, whilst pumping up the rear tyre, the entire Schrader valve snapped off.

My wife came to my rescue and I got an early Christmas present:

Monday morning I was about to set off to work on my Brompton and realised my front tyre was completely flat.  It was too much effort to fix at 6am and I needed to be in work early, so the DLR beckoned. £8.40 return ticket.

Monday night I set about fixing the puncture, found a small piece of flint in the tyre and realised that the tyre had had its day. It was the original tyre from new with approximately 5,000 miles under its belt, so I can't grumble. Without a replacement tyre to hand I have given the Schwalbe Marathon a reprisal. I previously criticised it when fitted to the rear so I hope it offers better grip on the front.

I patched the inner tube with my last Lezyne stick on patch - note to self to buy more - but didn't have to re-fit it as my wife gave me two further spare inner tubes as advanced Christmas presents.

Tuesday, my legs felt fantastic in the Silly Commuter Racing from a day off the bike. I got home from work at 9:30pm and as I drifted off to sleep my wife mentioned something about the weatherman forecasting sleet overnight.

Wednesday morning, up at 5:30am and I was shocked to find it had been snowing during the night and virgin snow, 3" deep lay everywhere.  There was no way I was going to risk cycling in it, so a quick check on-line that the trains were running ok and I set off sans Brompton. The DLR beckoned - another £8.40 :-(

As well as some new puncture repair patches I need to buy a Presta to Schrader valve adapter. My wife had done her homework and bought new tubes with the better Presta valve and although I carry a CO2 cannister with adaptor to fit both types of valves, I think the standard Brompton frame pump only fits Schrader.

Sunday 2 December 2012

London Brompton Club adventure in Central Bedfordshire

My organised guided cycle around some of the lanes of Central Bedfordshire was today.  It was an almost perfect day, slightly tainted by an accident on black ice near the village of Upper Gravenhurst.

I tried to deliver a bit of information about some of the villages and sites on the route.

Start and finish: Flitwick:
  • Flitwick was made famous by J.K.Rowling in her Harry Potter books.  She named her character Professor Flitwick by allegedly randomly sticking a pin into a map of the UK to come up with his name.
  • Flitwick (East End) water mill – there has been a water mill on this site on the river Flit as far back as 1065. It is mentioned in the Doomsday book as being run by the monks from Dunstable priory.  The current building dates back from the early 19th century and up until recently was owned by the Goodman family, generations of which have lived on the site since 1720.
  • The church in Flitton dates back to 1440
  • Behind the church is the de Grey Mausoleum, built in 1614. The Mausoleum contains over 20 monuments to the de Grey family who lived at Wrest park
  • It has a bit of a hill and everyone had fresh legs and made it up

  • Clophill is probably known for two reasons; Firstly the A6 murder in 1961 by James Hanratty who became the last man hanged in Britain and secondly for the remains of St. Mary’s church at the top of Dead Man’s hill, a well known site for black magic and witchcraft.
Haynes Park:
  • The park and a stately home have been here since 1312. The current manor house was built in 1720 and lies in 800 acre of parkland. The house was originally owned by the Carteret family and then was the home of Lord John Thynne. In 1929 it became a public girl’s school and then was bought by Clarenden School. After the school went into liquidation in 1992 the house and park were bought by an Indian mystic sect for £1,000,000 – apparently raised by £1 donations from each of its members.
  • RAF Chicksands was used during WWII as a signal intelligence collection unit, known as Y station. If you look on an OS map you can see where there was a huge ring of radio masts which were used to intercept German signals which were then passed to Bletchley Park for deciphering.
  • Rowney Warren woods is a well known mountain biking centre - and we received a few race challenges ;-)
Old Warden - Shuttleworth collection:
  • Everyone said they would like to return and spend more time exploring the museum and the bird of prey centre.
Warden Winery:
  • Free mince pies and lots of wine tasting
  • £4 for a bottle of very good wine. Say no more.
  • A puncture repair
  • The name Shefford is derived from sheep-ford due to the fact there had been a sheep market and ford crossings over the river Flit and the river Hit that run through the town.
Wrest Park:

  • Wrest Park is a grade 1 listed home and gardens. The manor house was built in 1834 by the Earl de Grey. The 92 acre gardens were designed by Capability Brown.
  • We had a great off-road cycle/walk:

Saturday 1 December 2012

Brompton upgrade

I have been in a dilema for a while. 

My S2L Brompton is over 2 years old and has covered approximately 5,000 commuter miles and about 25 race miles with little fettling required and certainly no upgrades. I have been considering whether to embark on some changes or buy a new bike.

Possible upgrades (with a focus on improving the bike for racing - clearly the priority):
  • Gearing - I contacted Graham at Tiller Cycles about his 8-speed conversion and Graham even kindly offered to lend me his demo bike to race at the BWC.  Sadly it was set up with a small chainring and I wanted a longer race gear, so I declined his offer and deferred making a decision on the £275 upgrade which would also add about 1.5Kg to the bike weight.
  • Handlebar grips - purely cosmetic and the Tiller 8-speed kit comes with new grips, although I still like the idea of having a matching Brooks saddle and grips (collar and cuffs, so to speak).
  • Brake levers - the Brompton brake levers are cheap and nasty. I'm lusting over a set of Paul Components Love levers
  • Titanium replacement parts: I love titanium bikes and components! In no particular order I was thinking of replacing the handlebar, the seatpost and then one by one swap the Brompton frame extremeties for the (-X) available titanium extremeties (2nd hand).  All of these might offset the 1.5Kg incremental gearing weight.
I suspect all of the above might cost me nearly £1,000 before I even start to look at a Chris King headset, Velocity wheel rims and any Brompfication goodies.

Alternatively a new bike (with a more practical consideration for my ongoing commute and a little bit of racing)...

Brompton's marketing department started teasing would be buyers with pictures of their planned 2013 upgrades as early as August this year.  The brake lever and chainset got a complete makeover and I began to think about a new bike, possibly a 6 speed, maybe titanium and a change of colour.  Brompton had increased the price of the 2013 bicycles by about £55 and a casual look at a bike with the specification I dreamt about revealed a price tag approaching £1,500. Ouch - that would take nearly 2 years to be cost effective over the price of using public transport for my part commute.

Then my firm's annual cycle scheme came around and the provider confirmed they could offer me a Brompton :-)  It was a no-brainer, I could choose a bespoke 2013 Brompton providing it was under the £1,111.11 price limit.

I have gone ahead and ordered a bespoke S6L at a cost of £970.  The cycle scheme operates so that I make 12 monthly repayments out of my gross salary and my firm have confirmed they will gift the bike to me at the end of the year (sometimes there is a final payment).  I will end up making a saving of about £460 when you consider the tax.

And the colour...I've chosen Black extremeties with Turkish Green (which looks very much like Bianchi celeste).
 The downside:
  • I will have to wait approximately 12 weeks for the new Brompton to be built and delivered.
  • Brompton are reporting supply issues with the new chainset, so there is a risk that my bike will not have it.  This will be a huge disappointment so I have asked for the order to state that I'm prepared to wait and I have also sent an email to Brompton marketing.
  • I will also have to sell my current S2L Brompton :-(


Sunday 25 November 2012

1 month to Christmas

The UK has been struck by more gales and heavy rain, however the forecast for today was good and at 9am the rain had stopped.  I hadn't planned a cycle route although I needed to check some of the lanes ahead of the London Brompton Club pedal I have arranged for next week.

9:15am, I rode out towards Old Warden conscious I had a 27mph tailwind and knowing it was going to be hardwork on the return leg.

There was a lot of debris on the road; fallen rotten branches, twigs and autumnal leaves and some puddles but not too much flooding around C.Bedfordshire.

The tree nursery at Southhill was preparing a delivery of trees which I thought looked very Christmas-like with their blue and green strapping...

Whilst enjoying the blue sky and beautiful country views I started to think about what routes I would cycle for this year's Rapha Festive 500.  Rapha recently announced that they were going ahead with it this year and the challenge is to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. I think it is inclusive of the two Mondays, so 8 days to ride over 310 miles.

I began to wonder whether I could complete the challenge and ride a different bicycle from my collection on each day.  Then I started to think more seriously, in particular about what I'd wear.

I guess it is pretty obvious why Rapha set a challenge like the Festive 500 - their marketing department want cyclists to consider their wardrobe requirements for up to 8 consecutive days of cycling, panic and then add Rapha winter goodies to their Christmas list..."Dear Santa, I've been a good cyclist".

I think I've got sufficient clothing to cope but the washing machine may well be in action throughout the holidays ;-)

Thursday 22 November 2012

Tyler Hamilton

In 2008, at the Tour of Britain I booed Tyler Hamilton and the other ex-dopers in the Rock Racing team.

Then, earlier this year I read the newspaper article where Pat McQuaid labelled Hamilton a 'scumbag' and went on to criticise him for writing a book as a personal mission to raise money for himself.

I made the decision not to buy the book.

...until two cycling friends (including the British Cycling Commissaire) urged me to read it.

OMG! I haven't been able to put it down. In fact I searched out slow running trains on my commute just so that I could continue reading.  And when I finished I wanted to read it all over again.

I decided to let my wife read it first and we've had several debates regarding the revelations in the book.

I urge you to read it. You can borrow my copy (if you don't want Hamilton to have your cash) - as soon as I have read it once more.

Sunday 18 November 2012


Another 100km+ ride today.  My 3rd for November, so my Metric Century Challenge is looking good.

A crisp, winter morning and I caught the train to West Hampstead to ride some different roads. I climbed up to Hampstead and rode around the Heath to get to Highgate. I followed the Great North Road through Finchley, Oakleigh Park, Barnet, Potters Bar, Brookmans Park, Welham Green, Hatfield and on to Welwyn Garden City.

I had a quick stop in Welwyn Garden City to look at the outdoor cycle track at Gosling Stadium, the home of Welwyn Wheelers.

From WGC I rode through Lemsford village, past Brocket Hall and on to Wheathampstead. From there I climbed to Harpenden and then over to Redbourn.

I wanted to visit the cyclists' cafe that a friend of mine had opened - 'The HUB'
I met Simon Barnes a few years back, when he was CEO of Plowman Craven and the company sponsored a pro cycle team.  My family and I cheered for the Plowman Craven team at the Halfords tour series and other races and Simon very kindly gave me the team kit and invited me to a corporate hospitality event at the Manchester Revolution series.  Sadly the team were disbanded during the recession after initially moving to Madison as the sponsor.
Now Simon runs his own small coffee shop which is clearly a mecca for local cyclists.  The coffee is superb and the latte with a double shot (that Simon recommended) is the ideal get-you-home cyclists drink.  The cake selection is fantastic and Simon mentioned that some of them are baked locally by a person who was on the Great British Bake Off television program. The lemon cake that I sampled was very, very nice :-)
Simon shared some of his big plans - he has a 'Christmas Cracker Ride' organised for 16th December, he is having evening Do's with pro riders and fun events with Tacx turbo training races. He has also had approval from the local council to schedule a closed road criterium race around Redbourn common.
I suspect I shall be exploring the lanes to find good routes to Simon's cafe in future.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Metric century challenge

You're fired!

I've set myself the 100km challenge.  At the very minimum I have to ride one metric century (100 km, 62.18 miles) in every month to succesfully complete the full challenge. Only single continuous rides of at least 100km qualify, not a daily or weekly total of several shorter rides that exceed 100km. Tea stops are allowed.

My target is to comfortably exceed the minimum of one century ride per month, starting November and finishing October 2013.

So far I've completed two over the last weekends.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Don't tar me with the same brush

I introduced a colleague, the London Cycle Campaign photographer, to one of the founder members of the London Brompton Club (LBC). The pictures and article are going to appear in a forthcoming edition of LCC.

During the interview, the LBC member mentioned he drove a bus for a living and commuted to work on his Brompton, which probably gives a great perspective on road users.  His view was that there are good and bad bus drivers as much as there are good and bad cyclists.

I acknowledge there are bad cyclists but I get annoyed when I read about misleading statistics depicting all cyclists in a bad light, such as those that trigger articles stating the majority of cyclists jump red traffic lights.  I witness RLJing every day and there are a lot of cyclists that do, but I don't. I welcome a red traffic light as the opportunity to stop and bring my heart rate down, to rest my legs or to loosen my jacket to cool down.

On Friday though, I waited at a red traffic light and another cyclist collided with me - coming from the opposite direction!  I watched it all in slow motion as he came from the opposite side of a busy London junction jumped the red light, then realised the traffic to his left was approaching quicker than he anticipated so he accelerated and moved to his right to gain some distance. By doing so (and still trying to go straight over the junction) he found himself on the wrong side of the road. He narrowly avoided hitting a pedestrian crossing in front of me (observing the green man symbol) and then he tried to bunny-hop onto the central reservation to cross to the correct side of the road. He lost his balance executing the bunny-hop and fell onto me and my bike.  Unbelievable and I was speechless (for a change).

I looked around afterwards and I could see drivers shaking their heads in disbelief, mouthing 'f-ing cyclists'.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Central or peripheral physiology limits?

Heart or Legs?

I attribute my level of fitness to having to commute by bike. My short cycle on the Brompton at least four times a week is the equivalent of interval training.

Racing between traffic lights, I push myself as hard as possible until either my legs or my heart rate scream at me to stop and only when I reach a red traffic light do I give myself time to recover.

Early in the week, after an endurance pedal on the Sunday, my legs are normally the first to scream loudest.  But by the end of the week my legs tend to have recovered and I then find I reach my maximum heart rate, like bouncing off a rev limiter in a car.

This week, my legs are grumbling more than usual even though I only rode 70+ miles on Sunday.  I suspect that when they begin to recover I will hit a different limit - over heating!

The English temperature has fallen and my merino wool jumper now adds another layer beneath my high-viz, (no longer) waterproof jacket. If it gets colder I have a BaaBaa merino beenie and full finger gloves but at the moment the jumper is proving fine for the mornings and a tad hot in the evenings.

Changing the subject - I stopped behind a wide vehicle whilst recovering (from hitting my periphal physiological limit) at a set of traffic lights and photographed the haulage operator's attempts to mitigate the risk of cyclists undertaking at junctions...

Effective deterrent?

Sunday 4 November 2012

Total saturation

I rode the Leighton Buzzard reliability ride today. Well I think I did.

I set off in the rain at 7am to ride the 13miles to the start and it was pouring down.  I rode my Basso, still fitted with the clip-on rear mudguard so my bum stayed dry (but nothing else did).

The rain never stopped and it was like deja vu from the spring Evans Ride-It Hatfield event. I peered out beneath the peak of my cap and over the top of my misted up prescription Oakleys trying to navigate around the route.

True to form, I got off-route. I climbed Mentmore hill twice, recall riding up the Crong and spent the wet and very windy morning riding through flooded roads navigating by arrows at the road junctions.

I got soaked through and I soon realised I was following black arrows on yellow signs from other sportives.  The Chilterns is clearly a popular place for cycle events and, quite possibly, organisers are a tad lazy when it comes to clearing up their signage.  I spotted four different types of event signs, not including the LBRCC arrows.

Have cycle sportives/reliability rides reached saturation point?

Unusual bike spotting

A friend of mine has got a great idea involving classic bicycles. I won't go into details as it is his intellectual property, however I have been looking at old bikes with a lot more interest since he mentioned it.

I spotted this superb Hetchins on a family day trip to London. I love the Moustache handle bars.
This Holdsworth also caught my eye.  The frameset and original groupset, brakes, saddle and finishing kit still looking good after 30+ years.

Friday 2 November 2012

Winter creeps up on you

A week off work and my plans to fit in a few pedals were optimistic.  The weather has turned cold and excuses were easily found, especially without target events to train for.

Every year I say to myself that I will try to keep fit throughout the winter and emerge race ready in the spring.  It never happens.

2012-2013 will be different and this week's break and the diet indiscretion at Toby's carvery is behind me.  I need to plan for some ongoing challenges whilst I consider my target(s).

* Leighton Buzzard cycle club reliability ride
* 100km training ride with the Flitwick Tri club
* London Brompton Club tour of central Beds
* Peterborough pilgrimage
* Rapha festive 500

* Chiltern classics

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.