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Riding like the wind – or, more accurately, riding in the wind.

The Great Coxwell Tithe Barn (an older picture as I don’t have the tri-bars on the bike at the moment

After the gym and some mass mowing on Tuesday, on Wednesday I had to drive up to London for an errand – I took my running kit but it didn’t stop raining and I wimped out.

As penance, I got on the turbo in the evening for half an hour @ 31.6kph. A short ride but so much faster than the two sessions at 24/25kph that I managed a couple of weeks ago. Not necessarily wise as I’d arranged a Thursday morning ride with a friend (one of those I go out to the alps with each year).

He’s been a friend for 20 years or so and is probably the person who was most instrumental in getting me into cycling in the first place. He’s cycled all his life and the two of us went out to the alps in 2003 for my first taste of Le Tour. I took a mountain bike (the only bike I owned) and was totally unable to ride it up any significant climbs – but we saw the tour on the côte d’Arâches and (at the bottom of) Alpe d’Huez, and I’ve not looked back since.

Happily, it was dry when we got away at just after 9am but it was very windy. It was all a bit unstructured as we hadn’t discussed a route – or even a distance. Perhaps that’s a good thing as we weren’t training for anything – just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip, or so I thought.

However, Philip is a strong cyclist and was soon setting a fast pace with me hanging on grimly – grateful that I had the Ride London miles in my legs. We rode for 73.5km at 27.3kph (45.6miles at 17mph). I ended up with 25 Strava achievements, including 15 PRs and a 6th overall.

So much for the ‘just going out on the bikes for the pleasure of the trip’ – although it certainly was enjoyable, and it suggests that I’ve not ruined the fit of the bike by changing the stem earlier in the week.

I drove to the gym on Friday morning – I don’t mind cycling in a bit of rain but I don’t want to arrive wet for an hour’s workout. I stuck with the usual weights and a short run on the treadmill to finish with but it was very hard. Not too surprising perhaps as that’s two gym sessions, a turbo session and a ‘proper’ bike ride in four days.

If age means anything, it seems to mean slower recovery from an accumulation of days of exercise. At the moment the exercise doesn’t seem to have any better purpose than keeping fit. I’ve been thinking about the next challenges (probably for 2020 now as I am still in the year of my promise of ‘no stupid solo challenges’) and will see if I can firm up on those soon. It will be good to have some more focus.

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That’s made two bikes better – or two bikes worse?

Peas in a pod. Black is the new ….. black?

Early in the year, my usual gym companion and I ran to the gym. After he hurt his foot we started to drive. Friday we cycled – it’s about 2 miles – why on earth haven’t we been doing that all summer?

It’s odd, but I guess I think of the bike as a hobby and not as an everyday means of transport. How stupid of me. It was a really good hour at the gym – and very enjoyable.

We went to Bournemouth later on Friday – we are ‘lending’ the house to some friends and needed to make sure it was clean and ready for them. A tough couple of days but there is something about the sea that makes you feel like you’ve had a holiday, even if it’s been spent cleaning. It was windy and wet but we had a great time, not least finding a restaurant we’d not tried before – a Spanish Tapas bar – which was brilliant.

Back home on Sunday (without even time for a run down the promenade) and I couldn’t wind myself up sufficiently to get on the turbo that evening – and felt all the better for that. I thoroughly enjoy exercise – running, cycling, gym or otherwise – but there are time when not exercising is even better. In fact, it was so good I ended up doing nothing on Monday either. It’s rare that I don’t exercise for four days but perhaps I needed it?

On Tuesday I cycled to the gym and spent a happy 50 minutes there. With a decently quick cycle there I can focus on the weights rather than the cardio. Mainly, I use the leg machines but am incorporating sit-ups, the plank regime, some machines for the arms and some stretches (just for show, of course).

In the afternoon, I tinkered – a word to strike terror into anything tinkered with. This time it was both my carbon bikes – the Rose X Lite and the Giant TCR2.

I bought the Giant from ebay and got a M/L size. It had a 130mm stem on the bars – too much of a stretch for me, but I didn’t know any better.

When I bought the Rose, I was between frame sizes – the UK rep said go a size up, the German advice was to go a size down. I followed the German advice but bought a longer stem to compensate, if necessary.

Four years later I got around to fitting the new stem. I’d measured the two bikes, saddle tip to bars, and found that there was about 6cm difference between them (the Giant being the bigger). Swapping the Giant’s 130mm stem for the Rose’s 90cm and putting the new 110cm stem on the Rose means that measurement is now the same for them both.

The ‘rough and ready’ guide that when cycling up on the handlebars, the bars themselves should block out the front axle is now satisfied on both bikes (having been satisfied on neither before). But have I improved both or just messed them both up?

As I refine the angle of the bars, and find out if any consequential changes are needed, I’ll find out. I’m a bit nervous, I must admit.

Getting ready for Ride London

I managed an hour on the turbo on Wednesday and Thursday. Both sessions were hot and hard and I’m a bit surprised I managed to last for the full hour both times.

With another hour at the gym on Friday, that was it for the training for the Ride London 100 miler on Sunday. There is a bit of a theme developing – I really should have got on a bike outside and gone for a long ride, but didn’t. Again, I’m not sure why I’ve failed so badly.

I think in part it’s that my heart isn’t really in the ride on Sunday, not helped by that fact that I need to be in the starting pen by 5.48am for a start at 6.28am. At least the current weather forecast is for a warm day with sunny intervals and a gentle breeze.

Assuming I survive, that will be it for the current challenges for the year. If I can’t motivate myself to get out on the bike for a 100 mile sportive, what hope do I have for getting out there with no big target to aim for? Sounds like I need a target.

Run, gym and (minor) bike mechanics

After the sportive it was London on Sunday to take our sons for lunch to celebrate the older boy’s birthday. On Monday morning I ran down the Thames Path, 7km (4.3 miles), surprisingly at sub 4 hour marathon pace.

It was a very good run in warm, but not stupidly hot, weather. The only down-sides are a slightly sore left knee and painful calf muscles. I guess that I’ve not been exercising them very much while I’ve been protecting the Achilles tendons. I’m sure it will all improve.

I am continuing my one-man attempt to bring to London the habit of saying ‘hello’ to other runners as you pass by. On this run I got a response from 5 out of the 13 runners I saw. Admittedly, a lot were wearing headphones or earpieces of one sort or another and might not have heard me, but I’ll keep at it.

Gym on Tuesday for a bit over an hour. It was very good apart from the chap who insisted on singing along (rather tunelessly) to the music on his headphones. I don’t mean to be a miserable old git but if I wanted karaoke …

As part of the gym exercises I did the planks routine and then decided to see if I could do a straight 5 minutes of plank as well. The good news is that I can, the bad news is that my lower back was sore for the rest of the day so I missed the evening’s planned turbo session. I suppose the other bit of good news is that my painful back took my mind off my painful calf muscles.

They say that people perform better if the ‘package’ feels good – decent kit, nicely maintained and presented equipment. I don’t know if it’s true but I washed and oiled the bike and put new bar tape on it on Wednesday. The old tape was the original from when I bought the bike 4 years ago and was tatty beyond words. More workman-like than expert, I replaced it like-for-like with black tape. I’m sure it will make the bike go faster (though not as fast as if it had red tape, of course).

I’m going to need all the help I can get on the Ride London sportive, surely the new tape will help?

My heartfelt congratulations to:

  • Egan Bernal for his Tour win (the first of many, all being well),
  • Geraint Thomas for his immensely graceful acceptance of second place
  • Juilan Alaphilippe for lighting up the whole race
  • the Irish cricket team for giving England plenty to worry about in the early stages of their recent test match
  • Fiona Kolbinger, the first woman ever to be in the lead of the Transcontinental Race. 4 days 7 hours in, she is in front by 35km having stopped for less than 20 hours in total.

Gym, gym and the club’s sportive. Back in the swing of cycling?

A sportive with some great countryside and lovely views

My usual gym buddy couldn’t do this week so I went alone Thursday. His plans then changed so I went with him on Friday. The afternoon was spent putting out route markers for the club sportive on Saturday.

We were looking after the 30 mile pre-loop for the 100 mile distance (it then joins the 70 mile ride) but it still took quite some time and effort. It’s surprising how much pressure you feel doing something like that which (although I expect most riders doing the long route will have their own satellite navigation) could make a big difference to someone’s enjoyment of the day.

The whole event went really well – and still features the best food I’ve ever seen at a UK sportive (admittedly the wine and stew on the Tuscany L’Eroica might run it close for the European title).

I rode the 35 mile route (turned out to be 36.6 miles – 59km) with my wife and another friend, acting as pacer. We had a very pleasant temperature with light rain on and off (the sort that is actually quite welcome and hardly seems enough to get you very wet) and the whole ride was really enjoyable. With the trip to and back from the start we rode a bit over 41 miles at a steady pace – which is pretty impressive as my wife had only done one ride of 13 miles (about 21km) since last summer.

… and all the route markers were still there, in the right places, and visible!

So, a very good few days, and I only have to do three times the sportive distance to complete the Ride London next Sunday. How hard can that be …?

Fear, manual labour, gym, turbo, run and chickens in peril

A less than secure chicken run

I think I’ve only ever ridden five imperial centuries – my everest in 2017 (176 miles – 282km), the first three days cycling out to the alps last year (160, 150 and 135 miles respectively) and the Dragon Ride back in 2014 (140 miles – 224km).

For all of those I’d trained reasonably well. The Prudential Ride London Sportive, in less than two weeks time, is also 100 miles but this year my cycle training has been poor to non-existent. Fear is a great motivator and it’s started to focus my mind – either train or have a difficult day in the saddle. At this late stage, it might be ‘train and have a slightly less difficult day in the saddle’.

After yet more manual labour at the cycle park on Monday afternoon (laying industrial strength paving slabs at 43kg each – 95lbs) I was not up for the evening’s planned turbo ride, but was back in the gym for an hour on Tuesday morning.

The gym must be doing something as I’ve just increased the weights on every exercise – but whether it’s doing the right something is another matter.

I did make it on to the turbo on a ridiculously hot Tuesday evening and dripped my way through 30 minutes at an average 26.8kph (16.65mph) watching the end of Le Tour, stage 16. It was hard from the start – I guess I can’t expect to move bigger weights in the gym (now 200kg – 441 pounds – on the leg press machine) and cycle fast later in the day?

I ran with my wife early on Wednesday morning to avoid the worst of the heat – about 3.8 miles (6.1km). The running is OK but the Achilles tendons are still problem children, hurting first thing in the mornings but easing as I start to get moving. The shoulder I hurt skiing in January is almost right now but I’m feeling a bit jaded from the increased exercise regime.

While mowing later on, I discovered that all was not well at the end of the garden. The storm the previous night had brought down a sizeable branch from one of the beech trees – about a thick as my (thickening) waist. It had destroyed part of the shed (which was already in a poor state, admittedly) and flattened part of the chicken run fencing. Luckily, no foxes had realised this.

I have tried teaching the chickens self defence against foxes but they remain of the view that homeland security is my responsibility. Accordingly, I spent a happy (?) couple of hours sawing through branches to clear them from the netting around the run and restoring the safety of the occupants.

I’m happy to say that no chickens were hurt in the making of this drama.

Navvy, run, gym, odd-job man, run, cycle

I barrowed concrete at the cycle park Tuesday and ran with my wife on Wednesday. A gentle run but it underlined the bitter irony of how hard it is to get fit, and how fast the fitness goes.

I’m sure I remember running a marathon in April but based on current performance I don’t know how I might have done that. The concrete shifting was not to the liking of my knees or Achilles tendons but, if the legs hold up, I’ve got to keep going with the regular gym, planks, running and cycling if I want to stay fit and get around the Ride London sportive in reasonable comfort early next month.

I did a gym session on Thursday morning before we headed to Southampton to help one of my brothers-in-law moving into his new place. Sadly, we didn’t have the Guiness Book of Records on hand but I claim a world best of 30 pictures, one clock, one key rack and three clothes racks hung, a bathroom cabinet assembled and hung, a washing machine sorted and four dining chairs re-assembled. He’s a really fine chap but not a diy man.

The three of us ran on Friday and we came back home via Bournemouth to close up the house after it being used by one of my wife’s goddaughters. Judging by the instagram pictures seen by one of our sons (we would not think of intruding on that generation’s Facebook or other social media) she and her friends had a great time in excellent weather.

Sunday I was ‘on duty’ for the club’s family ride . My wife came along too (the club sportive is a week away and we have both signed up for it with another friend, but my wife has realised that she hasn’t cycled for many months) and the whole thing was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

To increase the training benefit I took the mountain bike. Not the easiest ride up the hills with the weight and off-road tyres – but the saddle is more comfortable than the carbon fibre on the Rose.