Sunday 29 January 2012

Can you get fitter by being a spectator?

I spent Saturday evening eating doughnuts and cookies whilst watching the Revolution 36 at Manchester velodrome.  The racing was exhilarating, particularly the men's sprints with Chris Hoy and Jason Kenny.

I cheered on the Team Sky endurance racers especially Ian Stannard (who came through the youth development of my local club, Team MK) and Alex Dowsett.

The highlight of the evening was the Durney race with eight pacers and 8 cyclists on the track.

The trip to Manchester didn't leave much time for any decent training myself and I only managed to get out on my bicycle to do my 17 mile Long lane route.  I chose the titanium bike to see how the Q-rings would compare.  The outcome - faster than previous and 1.7 mph off my personal best, so spectating (and doughnuts) makes you fitter ;-)

Friday 27 January 2012


44 miles on the commuting bike this week with a new wheel, tyre and sprockets fitted.

I try to look after my bicycles and keep them well maintained and looking new, unless of course they look better when showing signs of my Brooks honey coloured saddle

The Brooks Flyer Special was the best modification to the bike as my journey takes me over the Docklands' cobbled streets and the extra height of the saddle combined with the optional longer seatpost fit me perfectly. I think the saddle can be described as broken-in and the honey coloured leather is now showing a bit of wear or patina.

The rest of the bike is beginning to reflect its' hard use over the last 19 months.  The new rear tyre is the third, it is on the second chain (a Wipperman), the original pedals have been replaced and the mudguards are cracked.  It also needs the pivot bushes replaced and probably a new headset and bottom bracket.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

2012 target

Last year I completed the 133km Time Megeve Mont Blanc cycle sportive.  This year I plan to ride l'Ardechoise.

My target is to complete the 268km Velo Marathon route, the furthest I've ever cycled in one day.
Target weight 90kg.
21 weeks to go!
I predict pain and hunger

Sunday 22 January 2012


Only 50 miles today taking my total for the week to 72 miles with the reduced 2 days commute on the Brompton.

My route today was over Pulloxhill to Barton le Clay and then Hexton climbing the long hill which hits 10%. Then through Lilley and to Whitwell.  I paused briefly in Whitwell to take a photograph of the water cress farm...

I rode my Van Nicholas Chinook today to try out the newly fitted Rotor 3D crankset with compact Q-rings.

Whitwell is a beautiful village and has a great cyclists tea stop but I didn't stop there today and continued following the path of the river Mimram on to Codicote and Old Welwyn.  I passed many cyclists on the way including someone on a recumbent and old Harry from Verulum cycling club.  I have ridden with Harry a few times and he tells great stories, like when he was younger he rode the Paris-Roubaix sportive and gave it full beans because someone told him that if you finished fast enough then you might get to share the famous Roubaix velodrome showers with the women cyclists who had a shorter route.

In Welwyn, I passed my old junior school at the top of the hill and continued towards the Ayots, passing George Bernard Shaw's house and on to Wheathampstead.  From there I went up to Blackmore and across to Kimpton over the short climb to descend back to Whitwell.  I followed my same route back to Lilley but instead of going over Hexton hill again I turned left to the top of the Barton cutting and descended the Sharpenhoe road next to the Clappers. From there I climbed up to Harlington (13%) and then home.

Average speed was a low 16mph, but it was a hilly circuit and did I mention it was Windy!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Classic bicycles

I was given my first road race bike when I was 7 years old.  It was my uncle's bike but he wasn't interested in it and so my grandparents gave it to me.  It was a gold coloured R.J.Quinn bought new from the Quinn cycle shop in Liverpool.  I rode that bicycle everywhere, initially only by sitting on the top tube as it was far too big for me and I couldn't touch the floor when perched on the black Brooks saddle.  I wish I still owned it.

At 15 I bought a new road bike with my own savings.  It was a Raleigh bought from Halfords for £98.  With renewed interest in cycling I joined the local CTC and headed off on Sunday club runs exploring the lanes of Hertfordshire.

My CTC friends had some beautiful bicycles and it wasn't long before I wanted something as good.  On my 18th birthday my parents bought me a new 25" Holdsworth Special frameset. I worked that summer at Lone Star toys and used the money to build up the bike.

I have had my Holdsworth now for nearly 30 years and still ride it regularly.

Friday 20 January 2012

Tour Climbs?

Tour Climbs - The complete guide to every Tour de France mountain climb, by Chris Sidwells

A must-have cycling book for those who like to tick off the historic climbs they've completed.  My ticked off list consists of:
  1. Col d'Izoard
  2. Col de Joux-Plane
  3. Col de la Croix Fry
  4. Col des Aravis
  5. Col du Galibier
  6. Col du Telegraphe
  7. Col du Tourmalet
  8. Mont Ventoux
  9. Courchevel
  10. Alpe d'Huez
  11. Hautacam
  12. Cime de la Bonette
  13. Col de la Madone
  14. Col de la Colombiere
  15. Col des Saisies
  16. Col de Braus
  17. Col de Glandon
And a few other climbs, not listed as traversed by the Tour de France, including this one on Mont Sainte Victoire that I rode on my Wilier race bike:

X = N + 1

In reference to the superb Howies T-shirt where X is the number of bikes needed and N is bikes owned
In my case N = 10 + M.  M is the other 9 bikes owned by my wife and kids.

N = A Brompton, 4 road bikes, 2 mountain bikes, a trike, a tandem and a recumbent!

The road bike currently getting the most use is my Basso Viper. I built it up last Autumn using a NOS frameset and an assortment of new and spare components:

59cm Viper Racing Light
FSA finishing kit
Jagwire Racer yellow cables
Shimano 6603 groupset
Fizik Arione saddle and matching bar tape
Shimano (de-stickered) RS80 wheelset
Vittoria Open Corsa evo CX tyres
Chinese imported carbon bottle cages
Planet-X CNC brake calipers

The frame was handmade in Italy in 2000, with silver fillet brazed lugwork and 7 layers of paint. The carbon fork has been part painted to match the frame and has a 1" steel steerer to which I fitted a shim to use a more modern 130mm reach FSA K-Force bar stem.  The seat tube is an unusual 30mm and also has a shim fitted to be able to use an FSA 27.2mm seatpost.

It is a beautiful frameset deserving of a much better groupset, like the black Campagnolo Record, but my intention was to build it up using as many spare parts that I currently had.

I have only ridden it a few hundred kilometres and it is firmer than I expected from steel and not as comfortable on long distance rides as my titanium road bike.

Monday 16 January 2012

Worst day of the year is behind me

You couldn't make this up:

Monday morning, freezing cold and twiddling to work on my Brompton and I hear the dreaded hiss of a puncture.  It was the same wheel as last week so the slash in the tyre from the glass shard was clearly worse than I thought.  I knew where the slash was so determined it would be a straightforward patch without the need to remove the wheel so I stopped in the Southwark bridge tunnel to make good.  Coincidentally the walls of the tunnel are covered in a frieze depicting the Thames frost fairs.

I repaired the puncture pretty swiftly and resumed my cold cycle to work but only got beyond London bridge when the tyre exploded with a sound like a gun being fired.  It certainly gave the nearby pedestrians an early morning jolt.

Without a spare inner tube, I had no choice but to fold the Brompton up, put it in it's bag and lug it to the nearby Monument station to catch the DLR.  £8.40!!!

This clearly wasn't to be my lucky day...  Having bought my ticket, carried the 10kg bike down to the DLR platform I then found the service wasn't; points failure meant that the trains were running slowly and busily and I eventually got to my office one hour later than normal.

A quick trip to Evans Cycles at lunch time revealed that they didn't have any spare inner tubes in stock (despite admitting that they sell huge numbers of Bromptons.) I bought a replacement tyre and recalled having a spare inner tube at home, so the return DLR ticket was going to come in handy.

DLR to Bank was straightforward but I wasn't too happy at the thought of carrying the bike down the length of Cheapside to get to City Thameslink so I decided to continue on the Northern line to St.Pancras where I was met with a crowd of people being turned away from the Thameslink platforms due to signal failures.  I made the decision to travel on the next running Midlands Mainline train to Bedford and hope that a City Thameslink service would be running to get me back to home.

I eventually got home 2.5 hours after leaving the office.  A total of nearly 5 hours commute!

Saturday 14 January 2012

Historic landmarks

A short pedal this afternoon bringing my total to only about 85 miles this week.
Today's weather was frosty but, with the sun low in the very blue sky, I had a great cycle around the quiet lanes of Cardington, Willington and Old Warden.

"I don't have any more bad days. I have good days and I have great days." - Lance Armstrong.

One of the two late 19th century shelters in the village of Old Warden.

My Basso Viper in front of the vast airship hangars at Cardington.

The dovecote at Willington.

I shall write a posting specifically on my Basso at some point, but today I spotted an advert on ebay for a bicycle with the same frameset.  It is not in as good condition as mine but it should be interesting to see how much it sells for.

Friday 13 January 2012

Muck, Sweat & Gears by Alan Anderson

...a great book you can pick up, read a couple of snippets and then quote knowledgeably:

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.  Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked him to forgive me." - Emo Philips.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Chunky (_!_)

I should be on a diet as I'm about 7kg heavier than I was in June 2011.  I'd like to be the same weight as Big Mig before he lost weight, i.e. 90kg'ish when he first won the Tour de France in 1991 and not the (unachievable for me) 78kg when he won his fifth.

One member of my cycling club is a Nutritionalist and he has written an article providing a few tips on losing weight.

The benefit of being lighter (other than not putting people off their dinner when they see you in lycra) - you should be able to climb faster.  I found a few climbing tips here.

So, I need to set a cycling target, get training and dieting.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Long lane to Toddington

My 17 mile, lunchtime training ride passes through the village of Tingrith

It is only a short ride but has a few climbs (10% maximum gradient), some technical corners (descending at 30mph+ from Milton Bryan) and uses quiet lanes.  I use it to gauge my fitness (ignoring the weather and the fact that I swap which bike I use) and simply compare average speeds.

Today's was an improvement on my previous pedal this year but still 2.5mph less than my personal best from June last year.

Monday 9 January 2012


Last year I used my Brompton S2L to commute on approximately 175 days, covering about 2,000 miles.  The alternative would be to use the DLR at a cost of £900 per annum.

The fun part of the day for me is my cycle home and the Silly Commuting Racing.  I think many other cyclists are surprised at how fast a small-wheeled folding bicycle can travel and I regularly 'win the scalps' of other cyclists.

In general, the little bicycle has been reliable but today, the 5th commuting day of 2012, a puncture!

Repairing a puncture on a Brompton is not simple and not something you'd like to do on the roadside, especially the job of getting the tyre back on the rim.  The ideal tool for the job is the Var tyre lever.  On this occasion (only the 2nd puncture in 18 months) it happened on my doorstep.

Sunday 8 January 2012

40'ish miles

The second road ride of the year following a route I'd plotted last week, starting in Flitwick with a stop en route for a coffee and chocolate & pecan brownie.  Map my ride route.
Average moving speed 16.9 mph.

A beautiful, dry day, I rode the Basso Viper fitted with new Vittoria Open Pave tyres (expensive but long lasting) and wore long Gore bib tights, 2 jerseys, a buff, a softshell jacket and long fingered Specialized gloves.

Anyone else care to join me for a pedal?