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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Stay on the road, don't go near the moors".

When I decided to take part in my first Evans 'Ride it' Sportive I chose Harewood because it was fairly local. Although I knew where the start and the finish were.
I had no idea of the route, not until the day before the event.
An explanation for this is in case the organisers need to make some adjustments for roadworks etc.
Anything that could be considered dangerous to the riders would obviously have to be taken into consideration.

My own belief is that If the course were announced earlier people might make other arrangements.
Like gardening.............or gentle ride out to the pub for a spot of lunch.

I know sportives are meant to be challenging but I don't think that you should be frothing at the mouth like a horse who has just carried an overweight jockey around the grand National course!!

Depending on which calculation I use my maximum heart rate should be between 168 and 174 bpm - not 183 as some ascents dictated.

To say I enjoyed the ride would be similar to saying I enjoy unblocking a toilet.
Whilst the event was taking place it was thoroughly unpleasant and I felt nauseous.
However once it was over there was a definate a sense of achievement, I got through all the crap and cameout the other side and my recovery was instant.

Don't get me wrong I like climbing and descending as it usually occurs in areas of outstanding beauty, where the vantage point is often amazing.

When the slopes of a more extreme nature you see very little going up through the tears and sweat in your eyes and coming down its all a bit of a blur.
So lets recap.....30 minutes climbing ,90 seconds descent....for about 6 and a half hours.
No time for recovery, or for idle chit chat.
Most of my dialogue was in the grunt form, starting with the word 'OH' and followed by words mostly begining with the letters F or S.
To be frank I was not good company for Mark and Bob.

In one of my Favorite films 'The American Werewolf in London', two American backpackers are warned 'Stay on the road, don't go near the Moors'.

I was quite envious of my American Mules who were simultaneously completing the Houston to Austin MS 150 - as I ventured out onto the Moor.

This paarticulaar Moor is same locality that I will have to meet again in June when we do the Coast to Coast Ride.

On the plus side I will have a triple chain set and be on my tourer.

On the downside I will have a heavier bike, two heavily loaded panier's (One with girls stuff!!!!) So even heavier still.

My next sportive in two weeks promises the same amount of climbing but with lower elevations.

I have ordered a new rear cassette which should soften the blow.

I asked if they had any with 100 teeth.

The man in the shop looked at my frame (not the bike frame) and smiled.

Gravity can be a killer you know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Guilt free shopping

After months of training it is now close to action time with my first Sportive next Sunday.

Its a 90 mile sojourn around West Yorkshire, starting at Harewood.

This is organised by Evans cycle retailers and is part of the Evans 'Ride it' series.

As well as looking forward to the ride, I am also interested in evaluating its organisation, as I have never ridden in an Evans 'ride it' series before.

I will be joined by two new Anglo Mules :- Bobby and Mark who keep me fit as I try and hang on to their back wheels.
The beautiful Harewood House
As it is the first proper event of my cycling calender I wanted to make sure that I looked as smart as possible to do the 'Anglo Mules' proud, so decided to invest in some new bibshorts. Ones which could be colour coordinated with my Mule Jersey.
When I looked at what was on offer and the price range, the ones I really wanted just happened to be the more expensive type.

Naturally I had to set that in balance with my newly adopted recession induced, frugal lifestyle.

The result was NO new bib shorts.

Whichever way I looked at it there was no justification for the cost.

So with a sad face it was out with the needle and cotton to darn last years worn garments.

As I punctured my thumb with the sowing needle for the 8th time my white top was starting to take on the appearance of 'The king of the mountains shirt' with circular red blood spots strategically staining the surface.

It was at that point that I had an epiphany.

If my car ever needed a new tyre I would replace it

If it needed gas I would fill it up.

The same would apply for water, oil, and other more specialised fluids.

If the brake pads/discs needed changing or even a costly new cam hand would reluctantly go into my pocket without a moments hesitation.

When the garage was paid Id mutter at the cost and kick my heels.

You never actually get something you can love for your money.

My car is rarely used now although it is kept for essential journeys - like taking by bike to events!!!!!!

With soaring fuel prices I actually save over £100 per month by using my bike through commuting.

The propulsion mechanism is in fact!!!!!!!!!

I am the engine.

You don't see many cars travelling down the road with their pistons exposed or with the bonnet open.....its totally unheard of.

Engines should be suitably covered at all times!!!

I'm sure there is a law that says so.

So within moments my New Castelli bibshorts were ordered.

Please note, they are not fancy cycle wear

They are my engine casing.

An essential part of human combustion.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Hills

This time last year I was out in Texas training for the Annual MS 150 Houston to Austin Ride.
I was out with the Mules and we were cantering around the plains close to Zube Park.

Paddy (Who by his own admittance was not in great shape for cycling at that time) became quite disconsolate about me 'Racing up the hills'. He insisted that if I had to approach such terrain in that cavalier way, that I should maybe 'slow up at the top'.

I was slightly disgruntled at the time as my speed had not changed and the slight incline that he described as a hill (under 4%) would be flattered to have been regarded as such.

Yesterday I cycled up to Scarborough via Dalby Forrest and Hackness and introduced myself to many hills.

For those of you that know Hackness there is a 'hill' that goes up to Silpho which is about a mile long with an average of 15% gradient. It is an absolute beast and not at all polite, trying to trip you up at every opportunity.

I was with Simon and Bob who see hills in the same way as I see cream cakes.

Upon viewing the ascent, they lick their lips with eager anticipation then devour them.

I however struggle with the forces of gravity, my legs pumping hard, the rest of my body wanting to go down hill.

Although I always enjoy such challenges 'Silpho hill' engages both the masochistic and macho sides of my personality - at the same time.

Not wanting to spoil my other Mulees fun I told them to wait for me at the top.

(Constitution Hill - Swansea featured in Tour of Britain)

The question that is raised from my two experiences is what actually constitutes a hill?

The official definition is vague A hill is a land form that extends above the surrounding terrain. Hills often have a distinct summit, although in areas with scarp/dip topography a hill may refer to a particular section of flat terrain without a massive summit (e.g. Box Hill).

Ok so when does a hill become an actual Mountain?

The actual distinction between a hill and a mountain is unclear and largely subjective, but a hill is generally somewhat lower and less steep than a mountain.

In the United Kingdom geographers historically regarded mountains as hills greater than 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, which formed the basis of the plot of the 1995 film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.

In contrast, hillwalkers have tended to regard mountains as peaks 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level: the Oxford English Dictionary also suggests a limit of 2,000 feet (610 m).

This has led to Cavanal Hill in Poteau, Oklahoma, receive billing as the "World's Tallest Hill" due to its height of 1,999 feet (609 m).

Mountains in Scotland are frequently referred to as "hills" no matter what their height, as reflected in names such as the Cuillin Hills and the Torridon Hills.

In Wales, the distinction is more a term of land use and appearance and has nothing to do with height. A hillock is a small hill.

One thing that most people agree on is that cycling up hills (or mountains) is the hardest part of cycling when you are just starting out. (great article from

Ignoring problems of speed, most new cyclists can manage to go along a flat road for a reasonable distance without any terrible difficulties. But what happens when a hill turns up? Even a small hill can be a big challenge if you don't know what to expect and haven't prepared.

To put the record straight first - hills never get easy.

They get easier with experience, but then you go faster. However casual that cyclist might look as he races past you on the hill, be assured that he is also suffering.

Suffering faster, it is true, but suffering all the same. Hills hurt. Hills for me, are still the greatest pleasure of cycling. They are the best time to really push yourself to the limit, and the pleasure of going 'fast' up a hill that you know you would barely have got up at all a couple of years earlier is very real.

Once you have recognised that hills are and always will be difficult, how should you approach them? Getting Started Find a positive attitude and a hill.

(Not this One 'Mow Cop' on Cheshire cat left me traumatised for three months)

Ideally your cycling practice will start with a hill 2-3 kilometres long and rising about 30-50m per kilometre, but we all have to take what is near us. Choose a nice relaxing gear, at which you can pedal up your hill at 65-80 rpm, keeping a consistent speed, and try to go up steadily.

At first, you don't need to worry about racing up, just focus on maintaining a constant speed. You should be able to speak if necessary, but singing should be beyond you. Depending on your fitness even a small hill can be very difficult at first.

Remember: it is better to start out too gently and have some energy left for a last minute surge than to start cycling up the hill too fast and then completely run out of steam half way up. Over-exertion for the first part of a climb is very common, especially when you are unfamiliar with the hill. Try not to look at the top of the hill until it is quite close.

I always stare at the road immediately ahead, or the side of the road, or an intermediate point on the road. The goal is to avoid panicking about the hill, but to just take it one section after another. For the time being try and do all this while remaining seated on the saddle.

Focus on breathing out regularly. Don't worry about breathing in, that will happen naturally when you breathe out!

Most hills have several sections, try and think about finishing the section you are on, rather than worrying about the whole hill.

If you can look down, and concentrate on your breathing and the rhythm of your pedalling, the hill will pass in no time. Initially the goal is simply to reach the top

- nothing is more demotivating than failing to reach the end of the hill, so first worry about finishing the hill, then later about improving speed.

Getting better

The next step is to slowly improve your cycling speed. After a few weeks of the above, you will find that hills are becoming slightly easier, that your speed (and more importantly your confidence) improves, and you can use slightly harder gears.

Now would be the time to start setting goals. Find a hill that you are familiar with, and two or three times a week do the same hill, noting which gear you are in and what average speed you can do. Try and do it a little faster by using a harder gear. Sooner or later you will reach the point where your willpower and new found abilities takes over, and you WANT to go and beat that hill.

You will know what speed you can keep going at, and be able to judge for yourself if you can go faster. The hill is no longer a scary place, it's where you want to be! Getting even better At this point you can think about interval training on the hill. More or less, this means cycling up the hill for perhaps 10 minutes, then going back down gently and doing it again. Perhaps three times. This stretches your legs to the limit, because just as they finish recovering from one exertion along comes the next.

Standing up cycling

Sometimes it is necessary to stand up

(cycling, not pushing!) for the steepest parts of a hill, but this uses more energy and raises your heart rate, so it should be saved for occasional use only. Having said that, when I restarted cycling after several years away from the sport, I found I couldn't cycle more than about 50 metres up-hill standing-up. If this is the case, you should practice this skill also. Probably your hill has one or two shorter, steeper parts. If you change to standing position for those sections, it uses different muscles and gives the others a brief moment of welcome rest. But ultimately, standing-up is more demanding than sitting down. Change to a harder gear when you are about to stand up, and an easier gear when you are about to sit down again. Try and maintain the same cadence (number of turns of the pedals per minute) whether standing or seated. Pull up on the handlebars as you push down with your pedal. After a few tiles, try and use a harder gear. Soon you will be able to burst up short sharp sections of hill on your bike. Standing-up cycling is also commonly used for short-sharp hills, especially when you can maintain the gear you are already using. Instead of changing to an easier gear for the short climb, stand-up and keep using the same gear. Keep pedalling until you are over the top of the hill.

Many cyclists stop the effort a few metres before the top, and 'cruise' over the brow. You lose valuable seconds doing this, and also lose important speed for the following section.

Overall With regular practice, the shallower hills that you once struggled up will start to seem like flat sections of road, and big hills will get much easier. If you really have no hills at all near you, there is one way that you can still practice. Wait for a windy day, and go and cycle straight into the wind. Almost as much fun as a mountain.

I got this book for Christmas and its now my in bucket list to complete all 100

Happy cycling