Monthly Archives: February 2018

Bournemouth beach

Something that isn’t (entirely) cycling!

If you like beaches in the summer, you might wonder what happens to them in the winter. The answer is that the diggers arrive for their holidays.


I didn’t spot the sand castles but they must be huge

This is Bournemouth beach in February. The beach has just been voted the best beach in the United Kingdom – my guess is that they didn’t have just now in mind.


Looking towards Hengistbury Head – its beach was voted 7th best in the UK. In the distance is the southern part of the Isle of Wight

They are replacing groynes (the wooden walls that help to stop the wind and waves moving the sand along the beach) – no doubt it will be ready for the holiday months!

We plan to be down there for a weekend in early April with friends, including my maddest cycling friend, Philip. With luck he and I may be able to cycle back to Oxfordshire together – probably a bit over 80 miles (c. 130 km) so good training for the White Horse Challenge in April and the ride out to the alps in July.


Extreme turbo – a metric century


It’s like a ‘spot the difference’ competition – tri bars now attached

After a day off on Tuesday, I was back on the turbo on Wednesday for an hour at 44.3 kph (27.53 mph). It was very hard and I finished in a pool of sweat.

Without trying to do anything different, I noticed that I seem to pedal a bit faster when on the hoods compared to sitting up, and faster on the drops compared to being on the hoods. With no wind effect, it must be that my core muscles that form the ‘base’ from which I push is least effective when sitting up.

After another two days off on Thursday and Friday (I’m getting good at these days off), I got back on the turbo this afternoon. There were two 6 Nations Rugby Championship matches on (Ireland v Wales and Scotland v England) and I went into the session with the very stupid idea of seeing if I could do a metric century.

It was tough but the time went surprisingly quickly (not helped by an abject display by England) and I clocked up a fraction over 100km (62.2 miles) in 2 hours 23 minutes.

I know it’s a bit of a soft 100km – the bike computer is working fine but the turbo is very low-tech and not exactly ‘real world’ … but I’ll take it.

I put the tri bars on for the session. It’s not that the wind resistance in the conservatory is an issue, it was more to get some time on them to get used to the riding position – I’m going to need them on the attempt at cycling out to the alps in July. They are not adjusted quite right – but I suppose even that is useful learning.

On the turbo, being on the drops is particularly good as my knees massage the spare flesh around my waist. Having peaked at c. 71.5 kg (158 lbs) last weekend, my weight is coming down – now under 70 kg (154 lbs) with a target of under 66kg (145 lbs) by the end of March, ready for the White Horse Challenge in April.

The intention is to join the local gym next week.


Back on the turbo, with surprising (and unbelievable) results


I put an old cycle computer on the bike which is attached to the turbo (remembering to fix it on the rear wheel).

According to the computer, yesterday’s hour session produced an average speed of 41 kph (25.48 mph) with a maximum speed of 71 kph (44.12 mph) – and that was having lost top gear after 20 minutes.

Either my lay-off has really improved my cycling or the turbo is not exactly ‘real world’. Sadly, I think I know which it is.

I had no idea if that’s good on a turbo (or this particular turbo) – but it seemed sensible to ignore the actual figures and just use them as a comparison by which I can see whether or not I’m working hard on future sessions.

This afternoon I managed 44.6 kph over the hour (27.72 mph). – at least, that was the pace as calculated by the computer. Good to be able to gauge my effort – but I fear that I’ll always to want to beat my previous best.

I think I’ve just created a rod for my own back.

Weight training for cyclists – necessary evil, or just evil?


A mighty 12.1 kg (26.67 lbs) each that I use for lunges. Surely, weights don’t come any heavier?

I’ve never been clear about the role of the gym in improving cycling performance. It seems self-evident that cycling must use all the muscles that are necessary for cycling so weight training cannot be necessary to be a cyclist but that can’t be the whole story.

Looking at Chris Hoy, it’s possible to conclude that to be a top sprinter, you need really big thighs. Perhaps lots of cycling sprints would produce those but how long would that take? That suggests that weight training can have some real benefits in terms of isolating specific muscles that need developing and working on them faster than cycling would by itself.

For me, cycling is a hobby and I will never be a sprinter (being old and largely devoid of fast-twitch muscle fibres). If I’m anything, I’m a cyclist who does endurance and climbing – simply because those are the only things I seem to be OK at (and I do love cycling in the mountains).

So, to build extra muscle in the gym would only be useful for me if it pays its way when climbing. Vanity muscle that only adds weight will be no use to me for cycling – in the mountains, power to weight ratio is king.

The other key attributes for cycling are enjoyment, sociability, aerobic efficiency, bike handling and pedalling style – and weight training isn’t likely to help any of those – indeed, it can hurt them if weights sessions replace cycling time.

All that seems to suggest that doing weights in the gym would not be sensible for me if they replace cycling – but could be beneficial if they complement cycling and focus on the muscles that are most beneficial … which I assume are legs and core.

The gym sounds to be a more sensible during bad weather when it won’t replace ‘proper’ cycling. If it then tapers off and gives way to miles out on the road before taking on any testing rides, it looks like it might well work.

Of course, this is all entirely self-serving reasoning as a friend has signed up to the local gym and has suggested that I join him … I’m just looking for justification to do that. He cycles and runs and is hoping that some strength work will help him with injuries – I’m quite keen to see if weights will help with my cycling.

I’m conscious of the general ‘if you carry on doing the same thing, you get the same results’ theory, and guess that I don’t have a lot to lose.

So, situation normal – I don’t really know what I’m doing but I think I’ll give it a go anyway. I’m just hoping that the gym isn’t full of body builders who will make the efforts of this rather puny 62 year old look even worse than they certainly will be.


Not quite spring – but perhaps a very gentle bounce


Rather sums it up – shoots on the rose, ice in the urn in the early afternoon

I’ve just fixed my third puncture in the last 10 months …. on the turbo trainer. I’d like to claim that it is due to the incredible power I generate such that it’s more a surprise that the drive chain of the bike can stand up to it – but that would fool nobody.

The punctures have all been due to failures along inner-tube seams but it’s still a bit confusing as to how that happens – is the heat generated a factor?

Anyway, the 9 sessions (10 hours) in the last two weeks have gone well although I have no empirical measures as the turbo is very rudimentary. The sessions now include three 9 minute ‘intervals’ of increasing speed so they should be doing some good. I plan to get an old-style bike computer and fit it to the rear wheel so I can at least measure speed and distance to make sure I’m not fooling myself that I’m putting in proper effort.

Still no rides outside but there are signs of improvement in the weather so I may not be able to put it off too much longer.



Plans are forming for the ride out to the alps in the summer. Looks like a ferry from Portsmouth to Caen – leaving late evening and arriving just before 7am. That should give me a full day’s cycling that day.

The aim will be to do the trip – just over 500 miles (800 km) in 3 days but I have no idea whether that’s realistic. Is three days, each with 10 hours of riding at an average of 27km (nearly 17mph), possible for me?

The furthest I’ve been in a day is 282 km (176 miles) when I ‘everested’ last summer but that was all up or down so isn’t necessarily representative.

The world’s hardest turbo session?


Yesterday we had an excellent early evening meal in the restaurant at the top of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, followed by a terrific production of ‘The Kite Runner” (a book I really enjoyed) at the Playhouse. A great Christmas present from our sons – but it meant that half of last week’s wight loss was put back on.

With rain and temperatures still in low single figures, the plan had already been to use the turbo today but in a fine exhibition of poor judgement I decided to see if I could do a session for the whole of the Ireland v Italy match in the 6 Nations Rugby Union Championship.

To make it a bit tougher (no, I don’t know why that was necessary) and inject some variety I made another bad decision to sprint (that’s a 62 year-old’s sprint, mind you and by the end they were pretty slow) for 35 pedal revolutions for each point scored. A fundamentally stupid idea, but at least I negotiated myself down from 50 revs per point in expectation of an Irish points-fest.

A game of rugby lasts for 80 minutes with a half time break of up to 15 minutes – but the clock stops for injuries and some other stoppages. As it was, the match lasted for a total of 1 hour 47 minutes and the score was 56-19 making 2625 sprint revolutions.

OK – it wasn’t the world’s hardest turbo session …. but if you’ll forgive me for being solipsistic (and for using the word solipsistic) it was the hardest I’ve ever done and am ever likely to do.

This is being written by an almost broken man. After that experience I feel I should have words of advice to anyone thinking of doing the same thing. I have only one word of advice ….. don’t.

Slightly interesting things from the turbo


Photo from before Christmas. For the horticulturalists, the geraniums are still doing well and the hyacinths have just come out but they are blue when they were supposed to be white

Thanks to sciatica, a fall, skiing, Christmas and bad weather (yes, I know, excuses, excuses) it’s 3 months since I rode outside. However, now the sciatica is 95% OK,  and thanks largely to the 6 Nations Rugby and the FA cup on TV, I have done 4 one hour sessions on the turbo trainer in the last 6 days.

It’s going quite well but it’s early days in getting back into the cycling groove – very necessary with the White Horse Challenge 10 weeks away and the ride out to the alps only 5 months off.

Two (slightly) interesting things from training on the turbo:

  • first, listening carefully, I can certainly detect a ‘lopsidedness’ in my pedalling. I guess I don’t pedal efficiently at the ‘flat spot’ when the pedals are around 6 and 12 o’clock. The result is that the noise of the turbo is more of a whoowhoowhoo instead of a whooooooooo (if you know what I mean). I guess that a smoother action will be much more efficient so I’m trying hard to deliver that as I don’t have much else to focus on (other than the sport).
  • secondly, I’ve noticed the effect of adrenaline. Without intending to, momentarily, I certainly pedal a bit faster when something really exciting happens on the TV. It’s not obvious from pedal speed but the change in the note from the turbo is certainly detectible. Happily, with England scoring 7 tries on Sunday, I had some good opportunities to observe this phenomenon.

Two skis good, two wheels better?


From the top of Les Carroz looking down on the cloud-filled valley

After the drive back from skiing in Meribel between Christmas and New Year re-aggravated my sciatica, the walking in the Lake District went remarkably well.

Having survived that, the sensible thing would have been to rested the creaking body for a while but the day after the Lakes was my aunt’s funeral – and the day after that we left to drive back to the alps for a second skiing holiday. Ridiculously decadent, I know, but this one had been planned before we received the kind invitation to Meribel.

The drive out was good – I remembered to sit as far back into the seat as possible to keep my back supported and no damage was done on the 712 mile journey.

We were out for over two weeks – joined by some friends for 4 days over the first weekend and by our older son and his girlfriend for 4 days over the second.

Initially we had a huge amount of new snow and dodgy visibility but then the sun came out to play and the new snow was a real treat. I was pathetically pleased to record over 60 mph on skis for the first time – only to see that my son had hit 82.3 mph. They are a great reality check, children.

A great holiday all round – it was our son’s girlfriend’s first time out on the slopes and she took to it really well, so another recruit to the happy world of skiing.

Here’s a photo I took on my ‘everesting’ last summer (Everesting, summer 2017) and a photo taken from the ski lift looking back to the point where the first was taken.



The only blot on it all was putting the snow chains on and off – most notably on the decent leaving the resort. It had snowed in the night and the rear wheel drive and ordinary tyres produced almost no grip at all – lord how I wished I’d put them on in the warm, dry garage before leaving. (Reinforced note to self: 4 wheel drive and winter tyres next year).

The drive back went well too – it looks like the seating position is key to helping both the back and the sciatica. Less happily, this morning I weighed in at just over 70kg – the specialities of the Savoie (particularly cheese, bread and potatoes) have taken their toll.

I’m sure the skiing is a relatively poor exercise – the Garmin typically records me as burning off 3500-5000 calories in a day out on the slopes …. but that’s recorded without the knowledge that I’m on a ski lift for the uphill bits!

So, enough of the skiing and back to the cycling – something I’ve not done on the road since early November (during which time I’ve only done 2 hours on the trainer). It’s going to come as a bit of a shock to the system – but a necessary shock, I fear.