Category Archives: challenges

Stop Press: it’s possible to cycle OUTDOORS


After an hour and a half in the gym on Saturday lifting (for me) heavy weights, Mrs O and I went for a run on Sunday morning. About 6.3 km (4 miles) but most notably it was the first time I’ve been outside for exercise for just over 4 months, what with the sciatica, holidays, and terrible weather.

I have noticed how fatigued my legs are for a day or two after the gym – so I must be doing something right (or wrong) … but at least I’m doing something. On Sunday I couldn’t do the ‘stand up from dining chair using only one leg’ with either leg. Monday morning I tried again and could do it easily with both.

Monday was very wet so I went to the gym again and worked pretty hard with increasing weights.

Even more radically, on Tuesday morning I got on a bike which wasn’t attached to the turbo trainer … and went for a ride outdoors. This was the first such ride since 9 November (when I fell off). Happily, this time I did not fall off, something that made a real contribution to the enjoyability of the whole experience.

The aim wasn’t to go too far, too fast or too hilly – and I rose to the challenge of delivering on all three of those. In the end I was out for a couple of hours riding 55km at 27kph with 282m of climbing (34.5 miles at 16.8mph and 925 ft).

Not too bad with the training wheels and a certain amount of excess me. I started off feeling fairly strong – but tired towards the end which might simply have been the run and gym session in the legs from the last two days.

This cycling outdoors idea could catch on.


Does doing a turbo session count double if you really didn’t want to do it?


After Tuesday’s hedge planting and Wednesday’s gym session, I drove to London and back today, getting home early evening.

I really didn’t feel like doing anything strenuous but tomorrow I’m back up to London for a ‘sportsman’s lunch’, Saturday looks to be wet and Sunday is Mother’s day. I knew I should do something so I got on the turbo for an hour, covering 42.1km  (26miles).

The hardest part was getting changed and getting on the machine. Once I was going it was fine – almost enjoyable.

It makes me realise that exercising when you really do not want to does not count double physically …. but it does have a real psychological payback.

I shouldn’t be surprised – I had the same thing last summer at 4.30am when I very nearly didn’t leave the apartment to start the everesting attempt (everesting, French Alps July 2017).

It would have been easy to go back to bed because I was sure I couldn’t do it – and sure as hell I didn’t want to even try at that moment – but having the resolve to give it a go meant it all worked better than I could have expected.

It really doesn’t matter how good your legs are if you don’t get on the bike. They say that the most important 4 inches in golf are the ones between your ears – in my book, that’s pretty well applicable to all sports …. and life in general.

No resting on the laurels (but planting 55 of them)


Weird – the fields are almost clear but it looks like the snow was just shipped in and dumped on the track.

This has been a further period of ‘other than cycling’ exercise.

Following the happy hour shovelling snow from the small hill in the village on Saturday, it was back into the gym on Monday (for a fairly restful session in comparison – that snow shovelling was hard).

After a substantial thaw over the weekend, Tuesday saw two and a half hours planting a new laurel hedge which, again, made the gym feel relatively tame. More digging proved to be another good all-body workout.

Over the weekend I did some reading to try to get to the bottom of the ‘low reps, high weights’ vs ‘ high reps, low weights’ debate. As I understood it, the wisdom used to be that low reps with high weights was the formula for body building – but now thinking has changed. I’m still a total layman but, with acknowledgement to the blog written by Pedal Strength, it seems that heavy strength training can develop fast-twitch fibres which can be very beneficial for cyclists.

Apparently, heavier weights, with low repetition, can significantly increase strength without adding large amounts of muscle. Increasing strength in this way can improve endurance, power production, and resilience to injury.

After a 40 minute walk this morning with Mrs O, it was back into the gym this afternoon for an hour with heavier weights and lower reps. Strangely, it was very enjoyable – there is satisfaction to be gained from lifting close to as much as you can (even if it isn’t that much by the standards of others).

I’m concentrating mainly on legs and core and trying to do the exercises properly.

Interestingly, on the adductor and abductor machines (working the muscles used to move the knees together and apart) I can use all the weights available on the machines (60kg – 132lbs) but with the leg press, extension and curl machines I’ve still got some weights unused.

I’d have thought my quads and hamstrings might be (relatively) better than my adductors and abductors – but apparently not. Equally, if a 62 year old tipping the scales at under 154lbs can use all the weights available, it may just be that some of the machines are themselves a bit lightweight?

Of course, the weights sessions must be accompanied by aerobic exercise – I’ve seen the suggestion that up to 3 weights sessions a week with 8 hours of cycling should work well. Clearly, I need to restart running and the turbo needs to take a bit of a beating, but I’m going to have to be careful to ensure that the weights don’t fatigue my legs too much to do that properly.

I’ve still not been out on the bike but I can feel the day fast approaching ….

Forget the turbo and the gym, shovel s*** (snow)


The weather has continued to be a real pain – on Thursday night motorists were trapped overnight for 11 hours on a road about 12 miles (under 20 km) from here. My sympathy to everyone affected by the bad weather – wherever they might be.

It was back to the turbo on yesterday, made all the more bearable by the re-run of an old episode of the original Japanese ‘Ninja Warrior’ and then coverage of the World Track Cycling from Holland.

Although my legs were still protesting about the weights session on Wednesday, they behaved quite well on a what was a bit of a recovery ride of 42km (26 miles) in the hour.

Attaching the old bike computer to the turbo bike has been a very good idea. It has pushed me to increase my base pedalling speed and has harnessed my usual competitive instincts by posting measurable performances to beat on future rides.

It confirms what we used to say about incentive schemes during my working years ‘you get what you measure’ (or, more cynically, ‘ you get what you pay for’).

Today saw a rather different type of exercise as I spent an hour, with a few others, shovelling snow from the small hill in the village. To be honest, I think that hour was harder than the one spent in the gym on Wednesday or most spent on the turbo trainer.

Happily our efforts and the start of a thaw have worked wonders and the village is re-connected with the outside world.

I’m not sure that the outside world had noticed our absence, or cares about our presence.


The ‘Beast from the East’, Storm Emma and cheating in the gym


Not exactly outdoor cycling weather – not as severe as many folks face regularly … but we are so bad at dealing with it because it’s fairly rare

Another turbo session on Tuesday – a personal best 45.3 km (28.12miles) in an hour.

On Wednesday I joined the local gym, hurried along by the fact that if I’d have joined the following day the ‘no joining fee’ offer would have expired. On Thursday I did the induction session when they explained how not to kill myself on the machines (by mechanical accident, rather than over-exertion).

After that I did an hour on the weights – which I really enjoyed. I know I’ve got to be careful to make sure that the gym doesn’t hurt my cycling but I think the variation, some strength work and the fact that this is not exactly cycling weather will work in my favour.

The best news is that I’ve already learnt how to cheat on the weights! The leg press  machine should be used with the board that you push with your feet pretty close when you start. Doing it that way I was operating with something under 100kg (220 pounds) but by sliding the seat further back I can press the machine’s maximum weight of 200kg.

I know that cheating isn’t very beneficial – but seeing the next user wonder how the rather scrawny old bloke who just got off the machine was pushing that weight is entertaining. Childish, I know, but you have to take your fun where you can.

One thing I see immediately is how the legs in particular get fatigued by the exercise – they would not thank me for a hard ride at the moment but I’m taking that with a pinch of salt. There is no doubt that the weights will have to be eased off well before any ‘serious’ cycling.

Since then we’ve been struggling under the ‘beast from the east’ weather coming over from Russia. It’s been snowing since Thursday night – no hot water for most of yesterday morning due to a frozen pipe, happily fixed now.

Driving back from Oxford last night took twice as long as normal, on completely ungritted roads. At the moment, we are might (just) be able to get out of the village, but matters are not helped by Storm Emma, with strong winds up to 40 mph (64kph) causing drifting.


Cold enough for the metal urn to be cracked – I guess by expansion of freezing water that hadn’t drained out of it

It looks like a turbo session tonight and the gym at the weekend, weather permitting.

The worst thing is that our sons were coming back from London tonight so we could all drive up to Lancashire tomorrow to take my father out for lunch. That’s simply not going to be possible, with more snow forecast, which is a real shame.

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.