“Like riding on ice”

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Upon first reading the instructions for my new ELITE Parabolic Roller turbo trainer, they liken the experience to “cycling on ice”. Promising start. I then optimistically jump on, realising that the bike is in no way supported and I have to juggle balance, speed and direction all in one go and when you pedal , you wiggle … A LOT.

Reaction number 1 to my new “Roller” turbo trainer:

This is ridiculous, this is crazy, what…I dont get it, eh how do I stay upright?, that’s mental, who in their right mind would do this
Then I tried it…and after eagerly awaiting its arrival in the post I felt like crying in frustration in true 8year old Megan “I CAAAAAAN’T” style familiar to all Brooks family members.
That’s stupid, how ridiculous is that, NO WAY, It IS like skating on ice! , Thats impossible!

Safe to say it went straight back into its box and was going to be refunded the hell out of.

Then Dad says, well it isn’t impossible because people have mastered it, it just takes practice. It’s the best one out there.

Then I rang Ryan and he told me to persevere because it’s the most beneficial way to turbo train as it builds your core strength and muscles and also improves your balance.

Reaction number 2 to my new turbo trainer:

Whether it was sheer arrogance or determination, after it defeated me so quickly, I got it back out and gave it another shot. As my dad was holding onto my saddle loosely and “spotting” me whilst i built up my speed, I was screaming “DAD DO NOT LET GO, DON’T YOU DARE LET GO, I WILL FALL”
Ten minutes or so later I actually started pedalling in a (relatively) straight line and Dad was no longer holding my saddle like I was a 4 year old riding my first stabiliser bike!

I will persevere with this nutjob contraption, simply because it opened my eyes to actual cycling skill. I mean .. I thought I WAS cycling in a “straight” line when on roads, but this turbo trainer just actually shows you how hard it is to keep a bike going precisely straight. So , theoretically if i get better at this, then I’ll be riding in a straighter, safer line out on the roads. Less chance of bike-van collision. Win, win situation.

Can you beat the power of optimism?

So we’ve been planning our first official training session, and there’s a number of options. So far the best option seems to be going from Bangor to Chester.Directions

 

Now, the first thing that’s been pointed out is that this is somewhat further than we originally agreed. When I say “somewhat”, I mean 30 miles further, but there’s method behind the madness!

With a generally westerly wind and a pretty much flat profile it makes an ideal low-resistance run. Add to that the North Wales train line zipping handily back to Bangor, and you’ve got a low commitment option just in case things go bad.
Elevation profileOver the past few years the North Wales coastal route has seen some pretty great improvements. When I first rode it there was a pretty horrific single-file section near Conwy right next to the A55. Thanks to some fairly significant investment the route now has a well maintained windy path through the sand dunes and a series of bridges to keep you off the expressway.

The main question now is: how far can we go, and does having the railway so accessible make giving up easier? Being the first big ride we’re doing together it’s easy to start with optimism, but after a couple of hours the novelty wears off a little and you start thinking “there’s still quite a way to go yet”. For the bigger rides, it’s always nice to get the remaining miles down to 15-20, and suddenly its back to the original self confidence as I get back into the comfort zone. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the ride (it is the reason I ride after all!), but I guess without that challenge it wouldn’t feel like such an accomplishment afterwards!

 

Curb your Van-Fear

So. ever since I got my shiny new road bike the weather has persisted to prevent me going out. Snow, ice and compressed slush just isn’t  my friend. Credit to Super-Jen who has got out in the snowy conditions for 14 mile cycles, however I have zilch experience in road-awareness and cycling safety so I’ve been waiting for milder, clearer riding conditions.

I got out this morning hoping for a 10 mile ride, as Ryan said that would be a good starting point to gain some road experience and get used to the gears. Ideally, I wanted to cycle along the cycle way nearby, which would factor out traffic and navigation and would allow me to concentrate solely on getting used to gears and building up my speed and confidence. However, the entire cycleway has turned into an ice-rink….so roads it is.

I’m still getting used to the gears on my new bike, and I’m aware that looking down at the chain whilst doing 20mph on an A-road isn’t ideal, so I tried my best to anticipate gear changes and not twist my chain by going too high or too low. Ryan actually gave me a theory lesson in gears yesterday, to help me get my head around what gears are needed for what terrain. This was his diagram :

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Now, I’ve never cycled on busy roads before in my life aside from a mandatory “road cycling safety” class in primary school that taught us to balance when sticking our arms out to indicate turning. That lesson actually came in very useful today. Thank you Miss Hill.

The vans and cars zooming past me at 30mph was quite daunting at first, and judging the space between them and the curb takes some concentration, but I felt more at ease even after 5 minutes.  I need to build up my speed, stamina and become more comfortable with gear changes, but that’s what this training is all about. I think I keep forgetting that I only started cycling 3 months ago, and make myself feel bad for not being an experienced cyclist yet, but it’ll take time. Hopefully not longer than 5 months!

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Ryan and Jen are more advanced in their training than I am, but they have done cycling holidays before and been cycling for longer than I have. This coming weekend is our first official training weekend where we will meet up and cycle 60 miles from wales-Chester ( I believe) and i’ll be able to see if my training so far has paid off, and how I need to change/step up my training regime.

After cycling on the roads today amongst cars, lorries and vans and indeed facing the ‘van-fear’, I thought i’d delve this out and re-award myself with the ‘trained cyclist’ badge I received aged 9. well done me.

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Now for some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast. yuum 🙂

How hard can it be?

 

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It’s easy to forget how difficult you found the simple things when you first started. Today I taught Megan how to change an inner tube on a road bike. From Megan’s expression you can see it’s not quite as straightforward as I made out, but we got there in the end.

 

image One problem I’ve not had to contend with is geting the tyres up to pressure. 100psi is pretty hard work using a track stand, but when you’re as light (and dainty) as Meg, it can become an almost impossible task, requiring unbecoming levels of bounce and grunt.

There’s got to be an easier way, and Dad pointed it out, sorting his own flat tyre issue with an electric pump and a smug grin of self-satisfaction. When will we learn?

The whole experience was (hopefully) worthwhile, and next time Megan’s sat at the side of the road with a flat tyre it’ll be like a recreation of a Formula 1 pit stop.

One thing we both learnt was just how fragile the presta valve is. It’s far too easy to knock it, twist it, or just drop the pump and bend it, and that just ruins the feng-shui of the bike. Fortunately this afternoon the bend was minor enough that we could still tighten it up and carry on. Megan certainly looks pretty happy with the end result:

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Unfortunately I didn’t have my bike with me as the forecast was for heavy rain all Sunday. That’s definitely a lesson for me: take the bike wherever you go, there’s always the opportunity for a ride when you least expect it. Instead I’ll have to make do with a turbo-training session tomorrow after work.

Onwards!

Trapped by the snow

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Wading through this with my bike

 

This weekend has been a difficult one for cycling but at least I managed to get out yesterday simply by going up and down all the main roads in Oxford. The snow wasn’t that much of a problem yesterday as all the main roads were fine, so as long as I stuck to these I could stay on the bike instead of resorting to walking.  The problem comes with how far I can go. Pretty soon I ran out of roads that weren’t either impassable country lanes (on my thin no grip tyres) or dual carriage ways.  I’m sorry to say that I’m not strong willed enough to just go up and down the same roads repeatedly so I only managed 14 miles.

This weekend hasn’t been a total loss though, I have learnt a few more things:

– I can’t rely on doing all my miles on a weekend, because sometimes things get in the way and I can’t do as much as I’d hoped. I’ve decided I need to add more miles during the week and I think the best way is to extend my journey home by going the long way (which in reality means going in the opposite direction for a while).  This should add a few more miles every day as well as to train my mind to cycle when it really just wants to go home.

 
– I need to get contact lenses, or perhaps some windscreen wipers for my glasses.  On days like today, with falling snow, I only manage to cycle for a few minutes before I can’t see anything!

 
– Thermal socks.  I need thermal socks.

– Drivers don’t behave how you’d expect them to when it’s been snowing.  They go slow and then speed up suddenly, or stop for what seems to be no reason.  They also dont seem to expect a cyclist to be out on the roads in snow and don’t seem to know how to react to that.  I know now that if I’m cycling in the snow I need to be extra cautious and observant of traffic.

Will I ever be warm again?

IMG_2400I’ve come up to Wales for this weekends cycling and this morning me and Ryan went out for a couple of hours, cycling down the coastal path and back home for a 20-mile round trip.  Increasing my distance is great training because I am learning a lot about myself and my cycling every time I go out.

On today’s trip I learnt:

  • I actually go a lot faster then I think I do, managing 7 mph up hill was not something I thought myself capable of.
  • My lungs/head will not in fact explode if I keep cycling up very steep hills instead of stopping.
  • I can’t wait to get my bike changed so that it fits me properly, because after an hour the pain in myshoulders and bike was incredibly…well…painful.
  • When cycling in to incredibly strong winds watch out for parked vans, being thrown in to them by an angry gust is not fun.
  •  I need to get some thermal socks for cycling in cold weather, when we got back I couldn’t feel my feet for about an hour.
  • No matter how cold it is and how much I’d rather stay in bed, it feels so much better to be outside getting some air in the lungs. Being back home after trying to warm up also feels pretty good.
  • Standing in a boiling hot shower to warm up your icicle toes just makes them hurt more.

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Tomorrow we’re going to stay indoors and do some hours on the turbo trainer, working on sprints to help increase my fitness.  I can’t quite believe that I’m volunteering to do this when it is so very unlike me, but change is a positive thing and I’m embracing it.  It should be just as exhausting as today, but with less icy wind hopefully!

Cycling ill

Given I spend the majority of my time with one ailment or another if I let this get in the way of training I’d never be out on the bike.  With this in mind I dragged my poorly self out of bed yesterday after sleeping a good 20 hours and nursed my chest infection with some honey tea before climbing on the bike for a quick 15 mile tour around Oxford.

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I picked a route that had the least uphill and the most weeeeeeeee going downhill.  I think I learnt a lot dragging myself out of bed and on to the bike and here’s a summary:

– no matter how sniffly and ill I feel, it always seems better zooming down a steep hill
– it’s okay to get lost cycling around the city, all roads eventually lead somewhere
– for a city that prides itself on its cycle routes Oxford has a hell of a lot of pot holes, broken road surfaces and cycle paths that end abruptly

-cycling down flooded tow paths can be fun

 

 

I also stopped off at a cycle shop to discuss with them getting my bike adjusted so that it actually fits me better:

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I went in to Warlands and I will definitely be going back to get work done on the bike as they were the friendliest most knowledgeable bike shop I have found in Oxford.  Hopefully the adjustments we can make will mean I have a much more comfortable bike for long distance rides.

Hopefully I can go on two long rides next weekend and really get this training started!

Sunday morning cycle before work.

As a result of last weeks very first outdoor ride in Wales, I started today with a 6am gym cycle with the target of reaching 100rpm with the resistance whacked up to create a ‘hill’ training session.
The ride in Wales made me realise that a real road hill is much more challenging than it can seem on a static bike in the gym , when you have the luxury of lowering the resistance when you find it too hard. The brutal truth about the real deal is that if you get tired half way up that steep hill, you’re stuck halfway up that steep hill!

So I had a very rewarding training session , I cycled for an hour keeping my rpm’s between 80-110 and kept increasing my resistance to make it harder work on my legs.

I’ve begun to see an improvement in my uphill stamina and I recover quicker from fast uphill climbs now, which is good! Lots of work to do though, it’ll take longer than an hour to cycle up the Alps!

Megan x