Getting keen for rollers

I have my bike back! For now at least. After spending yesterday evening fitting the replacement headset, brake pads and giving the rest of the bike a bit of TLC this evening was good for a quick ride to blow out the cobwebs.

With the rain and wind tearing at my motivation I gave in and had a two hour session on the rollers instead. This evenings in-flight entertainment was Serenity, and I’m quickly working my way through unseen actiony fodder to help burn the hours away.

The rollers are great because they build up balance and core control as well as working your legs, and they take a hell of a lot more concentration.

It’s not that rollers aren’t fun (they’re not), but sitting in the same place quickly loses its edge. To keep interested I need to set little challenges along the way.

Today’s challenge was to become able to look sideways without falling off, and after a couple of unsuccessful attempts trying to talk to Konrad I managed it a whole minute each way. I’m pretty impressed that Konrad didn’t fire pencils at me continuously! For five bonus points I managed a whole 30 seconds with no hands.

Cobble Crisis!

At the weekend I managed to get out for a ride on both days. On Saturday I set out at about 1pm with the aim to go to Huddersfield and back. Using the national cycle routes, I made my way down towards Mirfield and then onto Huddersfield. The weather was lovely but one downside has to be the sheer amount of greenflies in the air. Cycling on green, thick wooded routes means clouds and clouds of them….so high speeds are difficult when it is imperative that you keep your mouth closed! I dread to think how many I ate / squished / inhaled.

Despite the creepy crawlies I maintained a good average speed of about 12 and completed the 25 mile roundtrip in 2 and a half hours, stopping for a little snack here and there.

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On Sunday I did a longer ride, setting off at about 12pm I headed out towards Haworth. I have fond memories of a primary school residential to Haworth, and thought it would be a nice destination for lunch. The round trip would be 40 miles, to Haworth and back.

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The route was fantastic. I cycled through a couple of lovely parks with cycle paths in great condition, some grim A-roads in horrific condition and some extremely fast main roads with maniac drivers trying to cosy up to me.

The first leg of the ride was out towards Thornton, near Bradford and it is without a doubt the prettiest place I have ever cycled through in West Yorkshire.

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Rolling green hills and endless fields with horses in, the roads were great to cycle on and navigate through. At one point the beauty of the place was however too much, as I had to walk my bike through Thornton’s very own “secret garden”.

(The small blue patch is the path opening!)

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At one point I had to stop at take a photo of the hill I was about to climb. When I reached the top, the descent actually had a (albeit small) hairpin bend. Although it took me by surprise, I did manage to stay on my bike and keep to my side of the road.

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About 5 minutes away from Haworth I reached a T-junction onto the A629 and turned left, thinking “yes, turn left here and I’ll be in Haworth in no longer than 5 minutes”. 15 minutes, a 34 mph descent and two towns later I thought “I should really stop and check the map,because I should really be in Haworth by now”.  Turns out I should’ve turned Right, not left, and I was now in fact in Halifax not Haworth. Change of plan.

After checking the map and finding a route back home again, I finally ate some food. Having missed my Haworth target, I was seriously peckish and needed some energy. The next few roads were horrible in and around Halifax. Cobbled, narrow, steep roads that were difficult to navigate and impossible to cycle down.

I had a wonderful welcome to one particular cobbled hill. Upon turning into the street another cyclist was exiting as I was entering. I said a friendly “Alright there” and smiled optimistically, to which he just replied: “you won’t be at the top of that”. I soon saw what he  was referring to, the mammoth cobbled hill ahead of me. The hill was so mean, my legs actually came to a stop and I only just unclipped in time. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one to admit defeat; I had to take a cheeky snap of the cyclist further on infront of me walking his bike up the hill too.

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So a few steep climbs later I emerged on another a-road that would take me back home. Sundays route actually proved to be the most physically challenging route I have ever done by myself. The uphill climbs were really hard going and maintaining a good speed downhill helped build up my confidence. A pretty good training weekend overall.

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Kerry came over for the weekend too, so being out for rides meant I didn’t get to spend that much time with her. However, I came home from work on Monday evening to find her and dad in the driveway painting the bike trailer for the trip!!

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Impressed doesn’t even cover it. They’d stenciled on the logos of our charities and the name and website for Team Pedal. So when I got home we got the paint out and set out on finishing the trailer that evening! The finished result is pretty exciting, and the trip feels very very real now, and soon.  3 and a half weeks to go !

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Me and Dad are responsible for the Calais – Basel section of the expedition so that evening we got cracking on mapping routes through France, and the overall route is coming along nicely !

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I was planning on going to Wales this Sunday, driving down Saturday night after work, to fit in a last 100 mile ride before our trip. However, It turns out I have to work Sunday and there’s no way of covering it … so I’m pretty disappointed.  This also means that I only have one day off this week, so Thursday will have to be VERY productive.

24 days !!!!!!

‘Til next time.

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Megan xx

An unexpected rest

After an amazing ride on Thursday this weekend has been suprisingly inert, with the end result being two beautifully sunny days and zero miles covered.

Bike by Llyn Mymbyr (Plas y Brenin)

Stopping for a swim at Llyn Mymbyr (Plas y Brenin) on the way home (ish) from work

The ongoing headset saga

For the past few months I’ve been tackling a recurring problem with my headset, which connects the forks to the frame of the bike. Even after being tightened it only takes 30-40 miles before there’s play again and the forks can be rocked backwards and forwards slightly.

I have tried the “just carry on” approach, but found to my peril that even a small amount of play in the headset translates to “AAAARRRGHH I’M GOING TO DIEEEEEEEE” when braking from 40 mph downhill. Not doing that again.

Working my way through forums and flame wars it seems that the cause of recurring play in headsets can be narrowed down to:

  1. Stem too loose
  2. Headset not compressed enough prior to stem tightening
  3. No carbon assembly paste
  4. Too many spacers
  5. The stem (though I didn’t find a good reason why)
  6. Crown race not flush against the fork crown
  7. Magic voodoo, because you don’t own a £3000 bike (or because you do)

Prior to this weekend I had worked my way through options 1 to 4, with no real improvement. Replacing the stem seemed a bit of a long shot, but I have been loaned a spare stem to see for sure. I also stripped down the fork and re-seated the crown race.

The crown race did look a little wonky (although I am good at finding faults in perfection) so I’m hoping that will have solved it, but I did the sensible thing and took the bearings out of the headset to check them as well (just in case).

The downside to this sensibility is that I removed the lower bearing in an “alternative manner”, i.e. I fired 100 tiny balls of steel to all four corners of the garage, never to be seen again. Having rendered my bike immobile I now have to wait for my new headset to turn up to see if the maintenance worked!

I found this setback really hard to take, having been worn down by the maintenance required before every ride just to get rid of the shaking for a few miles. It’s only a few weeks before we set off so every mile and every session counts, and to be off the bike for the best part of a week is heartbreaking. Fortunately there are a hundred other tasks I’ve been neglecting while my routine has been bike, rollers, bike, bike, rollers; so now is a good time to focus on those things, and route planning is this evening’s task.

All things being equal I should be back on the road by Thursday evening, ready for a big weekend with Megan visiting on Sunday.

Beware children and puppies.

Additional training weekend in Wales 25/05/13

I had last weekend off work so I quickly made plans with Ryan for me to drive over to Wales after work on the Friday and spend the weekend and bank holiday with him, fitting in some long distance rides.

We were unbelievably lucky and were graced with lovely weather both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday . Day 1:
On Saturday morning the sky was clear and bright blue and the sun was shining , so we smothered ourselves in P20 and set off with Ryan’s friends, Dave and Steph, to do an 80 mile round trip to Pwllheli and back to Rachub.

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I was a little nervous about the ride , as the longest I’d done was the 74 miles to Chester . Also, having recently failed my attempt at the 80 mile trip Leeds – Nottingham, I really needed a successful day of cycling.

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The day went smoothly , we stopped every 15 or 20 miles to eat some bagels and bananas and I found that my energy levels and stamina were greatly improved compared to the last long ride I’d done. So I’m doing something right.
The only drama of the day was when we were riding along the cycle path in Caernarfon and a small child careered into my path. I jolted to the left to get out of his way but he rode straight into me . Good job kids’ heads are ”spongy” as Ryan describes them, because his face literally bounced off of my handlebars . I was really worried about him and couldn’t stop apologising , but there was no blood and he wasn’t hurt badly , thank god.
I’m now incredibly cautious and nervous when cycling near small children, as they’re incredibly unpredictable and veery.

We finished the days ride with 2 strava hills , leading up from Tregarth back to Rachub, so ended the day with a sprint back to Ryan’s house.
When we got back , we did some quick bike maintenance in the sun and sorted them for the following day.

80 miles done and dusted.

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Sunday. Day 2:

So Sunday, I woke up feeling ravenous, which Ryan said was a bad sign as it meant I hadn’t eaten enough the previous day to sustain enough energy , whilst recovering from the previous days’ ride. So, note to self… Eat more.
There were no aches or pains so I was keen to get out on the bike again.

We decided on a route along the coast that followed mainly cycle path from Bethesda to Prestatyn. 40 ish miles there and back , equalling another day of 80 miles.

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It was apparent from quite early on that I was lacking energy, and was constantly hungry. So when we reached the 20 mile mark , to have a quick ‘half-bagel stop’ I actually had to eat a whole bagel, some flapjack and a banana to feel relatively full!

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Once I’d eaten, I felt much better and we pressed on in the sun with the plan of cycling the 40 ish miles to Prestatyn and then turning around and cycling back again.

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As the route was mainly on the sea front, and the weather was glorious, it was extremely busy and I spent the best part of my day weaving in and out of children and dodging baby chihuahuas. At one point I came too close to beheading a puppy , it was very scary! I weaved past it shouting ‘little dog, little dog , little dog’… Not really knowing why, but hoping to get someone’s attention , but no , the 20cm long dog came bounding closer to me, but I missed him by a whisker, so no blood there either.

So apparently I’m a danger to society, a threat to children and puppies. Great.

We finished the day cycling back the way we came , climbing 240 metres from sea level to get back home.

Dramas and hunger aside , the second day of cycling went really well.
We finished Sunday on another 80 miles, totalling the weekend at 160 miles. I’m really pleased with the success and really enjoyed both routes.

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Training & planning diary – 6 weeks to go.

Now we are on the final run up to the big day I thought I would start blogging my weekly training and preparation.  This is to show how difficult it can be to fit training in with life and to highlight ways it can be done, and ways it can fail spectacularly.

Monday 20th May
Back at work after the weekend and today I’m feeling particularly tired (nothing to do with having a big Eurovision party on Saturday night, honest!).  I leave work and turn left, away from my house, and cycle a loop which take me up a few long steep hills and back home 11 miles later.

Cycle to & from work: 14.88 Miles 

Tuesday 21st May
Tonight I have to drive up to Wales, in preparation for an interview in Manchester on Wednesday.  I intended to get up early to try and get something done but in reality, after getting my needed 7 hours sleep, I don’t have enough time to do anything other than breakfast and shower and pack for the next few days.  I managed to fit in some stretching in the morning as I’m trying to spend some time week working on my flexibility.  I also do some arm weight exercises (it’s hard work holding onto those handle bars!)

Cycle to & from work: 6.24 Miles
Stretching & weight exercises

Wednesday 22nd May
I had great plans to go on a run in Wales before setting off for my interview, or when I got back to Oxford, but in reality I was too nervous beforehand to do anything useful, and too tired after the drive home.  Let’s call this a complete rest day.

Thursday 23rd May
Today I work slightly later then usual, so I spend an hour in the morning doing stretching and weight exercises.  I should have done some cycling after work but I always find myself too hungry after getting home at 7 on a Thursday – must do better next week!

Cycle to & from work: 6.68 Miles
Stretching & weight exercises

Friday 24th May
I leave for work 5 minutes later then usual and make it to the end of the drive before I notice I have a flat tyre.  I’m not yet quick enough changing an inner tube in less than 5 minutes so I quickly grab my other bike and set off.

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Trustworthy Emma never lets me down…despite weighing more than a Audi

As this bike is made of lead (not true) and there was a horrendous gale force wind all day (also not true, but about 15 mph winds) I cycle to and from work standing up most of the way as it’s the only way to get any momentum, this feels like a real strenuous workout and I’m more than a little sweaty after powering up the hill back home.
Stretching & weight exercises
Cycle to & from work: 6.46 Miles

Saturday 25th May
I needed to make the most of my one day off this week so I planned a 70 miles route around South Oxfordshire and had set off by 8.30 Saturday morning.  Instead of doing a looped route I decided to come back the same route I went, which I don’t normally like doing but I’ve now realised does have some great advantages – those stretches of road I thought I was just being spectacularly slow on, turns out they were actually hills.  I went slightly off course as I missed a turning off a cycle path that wasn’t signposted and I realised almost immediately that I’d gone too far.  Instead of turning back on myself I thought it would be better to test my navigation by continuing on and still trying to find my way to where I was going.  It meant I got to stop for lunch in interesting places:

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The most epic park bench….for all your keeping dry needs

I did manage to find my way and I wasn’t too far off my original course.  After cycling a trouble free 35 miles down some lovely lanes and cycle paths and up one very steep hill, I turned around and started heading back.  Only 10 miles left to go I was already starting to think how I could maybe extend my day and add on a few extra miles, I knew Ryan and Megan were planning on 80 miles as well so maybe I could equal them.

Unfortunately my rear tyre had other ideas.  I think I probably hadn’t pumped it up hard enough on Friday night, and that combined with a very nasty pot hole meant I had another flat tyre.

Not a problem though, I could do this easily in less then 20 minutes.  I hoped off the bike, removed the tyre and reached for the spare inner tube I had grabbed from the cupboard that morning.  Disaster one, the inner tube was actually for my other bike, a totally different size!  Thankfully I had remembered at the last moment to put in the patches that Ryan had given me.  I managed to find the two holes and patched them up.  Pumping the tyre back up was another story, and another reason why I need to do more weight exercises.  I finally got it as hard as I could and set off….

For 1/2 a mile, until it was flat again.  This is when I realised a few things, such as how I don’t really know anyone in Oxfordshire with a car who could come and rescue me, and how I was in a village that seemed to have no cash machine or shops (and all I had with me was my usual debit card).  I’ve now realised the importance of having some emergency cash and the number of a taxi company!

Taking the tyre off again I could find no other holes, but the patches I’d put on before looked a little loose around the edges, I think they must have been quite old and they were letting air through,  I had one patch left so I stuck it down as best I could over the edges and once again pumped up the tyre.

The ride home was nervewracking and quite exhausting as I was looking carefully at the path in front of me in case any debris caused me further problems.  I could almost see my house and knew I only had two miles to go, I was so happy I was going to be able to complete the full 70 miles….and then my tyre was flat again!

Having no patches left I walked dejectedly for a few moments before I thought…ah ha!  Maybe it’s just got a slow puncture!  If I pump it up maybe I’ll make it the final 2 miles!  I pumped the tyre back up to capacity (those arm muscles again!) and I set off…for about a minute until the tyre was once again flat.  I walked the rest of the way home, depressed at not having made the full 70 miles.

Miles Cycled: 68.13
Miles walked: 2.57
Preparation: Saturday evening I purchased a multipack of inner tubes and a pack of self-adhesive patches.  Also, the last few days have been great practice for puncture repair training!

Sunday 26th May
Because I wasn’t able to cool down and stretch properly after my ride, having to spend 45 minutes walking instead, I woke up on Sunday morning with a lot more aches and pains then I was expecting.  Also, from all the stooping over to fix punctures and pump up tyres, my back and arms were in a lot of pain.  I had planned to do another long cycle on the morning but my lack of inner tube thwarted me.  Instead I did an hour of stretching and gentle back and arm exercises, which certainly made me feel a lot better…then it was off to work for the Sunday shift.

Cycle to & from work: 6.73 Miles
1 hour of Stretching exercises

Thoughts on last week:

It’s difficult trying to fit in really long rides, especially when you have to work 6 days out of 7, so I’m happy I had good weather for Saturday’s ride.  I wish I’d managed the full 70 miles but my pace was pretty good so I know I could have managed more in a reasonable time.

For the next week of training and preparation my goals are:  covering more miles after work; at least one indoor “hill climbing” session; looking into purchasing a new helmet; more stretching and strengthening exercises for my back and arms.

At the end of the next training week I may be doing my furthest distances ever as the whole team gets together for the weekend, so I also need a rest day or two this week…oh, and plenty of pasta eating!

Rochdale and back : attempt number 2 SUCCESS

On Sunday Ryan and I woke up at 7am to set off to cycle to Rochdale and back , and get back home in time for our family roast dinner at 4pm . This was more than enough time for Ryan obviously , but factoring in my navigational skills, a few wrong turns and some initial screaming and nervous yelps on roundabouts it ended up taking us roughly 6 hours .

The route was pretty decent for the first 20 miles , heading along the cycle way, however once into Calderdale the standards of the cycle routes quickly deteriorate . Lots of potholes and cobbled pathways under bridges about a meter wide … Twice Ryan was convinced I was falling into the canal .
To which he said :
‘ I don’t know whether I’d rush you help you out or actually take a photo first ‘
I know what he would do .

Along the way we were met by lots of wonderfully considerate pedestrians , other cyclists, as it was a popular cycle route, and also some crazy dogs that threatened to dart across your path at any moment . A loose boxer dog at the edge of the canal is really quite intimidating .
What’s even more intimidating is cycling past a new mother goose and her ducklings … We had some very over protective, angry geese hissing at us as we went past .

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The rainy , muddy cycle ways were also a hindrance on our average speed and timings . Along the canal at one point we were getting off the bikes every 3 minutes to carry them over running water . ( Ryan has photos in sure he’ll blog them).
This , ofcourse, made me very muddy … As my wheels were kicking up a load of mud and water up my back and legs.

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Overall , it was a successful ride , considering the 55 miles ended with a steep uphill climb for 2.5 miles . Ryan said that I climbed it at a consistently faster pace compared to last time and I now feel my confidence building back up after last weeks badger of a ride.

In preparation for Wednesday’s 77 miles ride down to Nottingham I have purchased a Topeak handlebar IPhone dry bag . So this is the view my iPhone has on long journeys :

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Hopefully this’ll make navigation easier and time effective .

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Bike vs train

Last weekend was less of a Team Training event then a Team Fail, after I was too ill to cycle and Megan realised in an all too painful way that for some motorists we cyclists are wearing invisibility cloaks.  I would say that the weekend started off well, with a stress free and optimistic train journey north with my bike, but I’d be lying.

I feel I should clarify this post by highlighting that not all train companies hate cyclists, and that at least they’re trying…but I’d rather just moan about how horrible the whole experience was.

Online booking? What is this, the 21st century?
To reserve a space for your bike on a train (essential as they only have space for three bikes on every train and only two are bookable) it would be nice to simply click a button whilst booking online which said “Bike reservation required”.  But perhaps this is too much like hard work for the train companies to manage.  Luckily both trains I needed to catch to get from Oxford to Leeds were run by the same company, so I only had to phone up once to book a space.

Can I just put you on hold for a moment?

I don’t know why this particular train company doesn’t allow online reservation for bike space (though none of them do as far as I know) and then insist you phone up to a line that only works Monday-Friday 9-5.  So I found myself using my break time to stand outside the office and speak to a customer service adviser for 30 minutes to book my tickets and bike reservation.  I was put on hold twice, for 5 minutes each time, while she went off to first check that there was availability for my bike, and then to book it for me.  I wasn’t happy about reading out my card details over the phone, in the middle of the street but she refused to let me reserve a bike space without booking my ticket as well.

At the station

Never having travelled alone on the trains with just a bike for company, I noticed a few things I would not have noticed before.  Mainly, there is no where to lock up your bike inside or near the station.  As I had some time to wait for the train it might have been nice to go to the toilet, or queue up for the ticket machine without having to man handle my heavily laden bike into the small queue and not knock anyone over.  Also, if there was more than two of us with bikes there would be no way we could all get into the lifts together to get over to the correct platform.  As it was, I waited 10 minutes whilst others who also needed the lifts (wheelchair users, people with pushchairs and heavy luggage) used them first.  It’s a good job I wasn’t in a hurry to catch my train at this station!

Announcements is also somewhere that the station could help cyclists.  They announce how many carriages, which letter carriage is at the front and which end of the train is first class…but no announcement of which carriage the bike storage was in.  I asked a mildly helpful employee who told me it would be “somewhere in the middle” of the train.  The train arrived and I ran down the platform with my bike as the cycle storage was at the far end of the train.

Why sit in your reserve seat, when you can stand, squished up to someone’s armpit

I think most of us are familiar with squashing onto trains that are standing room only, but this is quite hard when you have a bike.  Generally people with large suitcases stand in the doorways and you have to squeeze past to stand in the aisles…not so easy when you’re getting on with a bike, and the bike storage area is in the doorway….and they’re standing in the bike storage area with their suitcases.  Also not easy when you can’t just wheel your bike into a space, but you have to stand it up and one-wheel it into a small space and then lift it up so that it can hang from the ceiling hook:

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The more spacious of the bike storage on this train

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Because a doorway is the best area to allow cyclists easy access onto and off the train.

I came away from this experience a bit battered and bruised, but eventually the bike was on the train and I was ready to go and find my seat….easier said then done.  The train was so packed that I found myself squished down a central aisle between lots of other people unable to find a seat.  I waited until the train was pulling in to the next station and battled my way back to the door.  On arrival I ran down the platform and jumped onto the carriage with my reserved seat.

So far away

In an ideal world it would be nice if every carriage had bike storage, or even if there was bike storage and the front and back of the train.  Unfortunately Crosscountry Trains don’t live in an ideal world, so as we approached Birmingham New Street station, where I needed to change trains, I had to battle my way back through the standing people from my seat at the front of the train, to my bike at the back.

Which way?

Unfortunately there was a delay in our arrival due to some pesky kids playing on the train track in front of us, not the fault of the train company at all.  As we approached I quickly checked on my phone to see what platform my next train was leaving from, thank heavens for modern technology!  On arrival in Birmingham I really began to discover what it must be like for anyone travelling with lots of heavy luggage or pushchairs, or for the millions of wheelchair users who must miss trains on such a regular basis that there’s little point in travelling by public transport. Getting off the train there were no signs that I could see telling me which way to go for the lifts.  I followed a sign which said “other platforms” but this led to.  I ran on for a bit more before I found the lifts and just managed to squeeze in my standing my bike up on one wheel and slightly terrifying a toddler in a buggy (sorry!).  Looking for the next platform I quickly realised that I could see no signs for a lift to get down there, and realising I had about one minute before the train was departing I flung my heavy pannier bag over one shoulder and grabbed my bike with the other arm and ran down the escalators   Getting on to the very long platform I was hurried by a staff member as the train was at the far end and I ran to where the bike storage was.  Unfortunately the doorway was once again packed with people who stood and looked at me like I was crazy.  I had to call for a member of staff who was incredibly annoyed that I was delaying the train, and this nice man yelled at the passengers to move out of the way so I could get on with my bike.

“We encourage the integrated use of cycles and trains – two convenient and environmentally friendly forms of transport”

I’ve taken a bike on a train before, and it’s fine when you are only going on one train, with no connections, and there is enough seats on the train that passengers don’t have to stand in doorways and block the cycle storage.  Sometimes getting into the station and on to the platform can take a while, with the amount of lifts you have to get to get from one side to the other, but it’s really not too much of an inconvenience.  However, I would dispute the statements from most train companies that they encourage people to bring their bikes onto trains.  In fact, I find this statement laughable.  It seems train companies want to encourage people to use bikes, except when the trains are busy, or when there are more then three bikes (if Team Pedal were travelling by train we couldn’t reserve spaces, as most train companies only have two reservable spaces).

Taking my bike on a train is an option, I don’t have to do it and in future I probably wont unless I can’t avoid it.  However, if instead of a bike I had to do this journey in a wheelchair, there would be no way I would have made that connection.  I don’t know of any wheelchair users who would be able to get up, pick up the chair and run down an escalator with it!

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A vision for the future?

Car collision fun

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So, a disappointing end to the May Team Pedal training weekend. I was in charge of route planning and navigation, and was really excited about the route I’d planned down towards Stocksbridge and then all around Huddersfield, overall racking up 78 miles in good time.

We set off, sans Jen as she was under the weather, in high spirits and I was optimistic that I could finally navigate a whole route successfully.

The first 7 miles were pretty easy as we followed the cycle route towards Dewsbury, and then we quickly got on our way following a few A roads, hitting a couple of hills, getting to a certain point then turning back to take the correct exit. It was an interesting morning and the route was proving to be quite enjoyable.

Me and Ryan were just heading down an A road that connected the two villages we were cycling through, and came to a roundabout. I’m pretty confident with roundabouts, I enter them at speed , I’m comfortable with my signalling and this time was no different. Ryan was about 20ft ahead of me, already at the exit, and I was just rounding the roundabout signalling to exit and a car pulled out onto the roundabout without seeing me. From what I can remember I tried to veer back to hug the centre of the roundabout to get out of the cars way, but not fast enough, the car hit me and knocked me off my bike. Luckily, I was no worse off than a throbbing right side and a sore head, no broken bones or blood (aside from a slight cut to the ankle), but my bike , however, is in the wars.

My rear wheel was pinned under the car causing it to bend, damaging the rear derailleur and the structure of the wheel. Yesterday was spent attempting to truer the wheel, but alas it has to be replaced, along with a new derailleur.

A few more minor damages include my wind jacket and clippy shoes, they were ripped and damaged on the road, and over all my helmet… which has some pretty hefty cracks and dents in the structure. Jen made a very good point on the IMPORTANCE OF HELMETS when she pointed at the crack that now runs all up the right hand side and said: “see, imagine if that was your skull”. The thwack that my head made when it hit the ground (and this was only a very minor accident) was enough to freak me out and give me some rotten headaches for the next day, so thinking about the consequences of not having a helmet on for a fall like that is pretty scary. I’ll definitely be investing in another Giro Monza helmet again, thats for sure.

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Double puncture fun

I should really have known better than to write a blog post about the perfect conditions and great cycling. If I were superstitious I’d be ranting about karma coming to get me, or something like that.

In fairness I’ve been exceptionally lucky with the weather recently. My last post centred around the Welsh micro-summer, and although it was significantly cooler this time round with a chill breeze the sun was still shining and I didn’t feel frostnip setting in! It’s a good job I haven’t been desparate for two days of riding, because (aptly-named) Sundays have been miserable, wet, windy affairs, quickly pushing out all memories of the sun.

Anglesey's picturesque coastline

Anglesey’s picturesque coastline, though it looks a lot warmer than it felt in the wind

During the last ride I made a maintenance to-do list of little niggles:

* The upper limit on the front deraillieur needs adjusting because it sheds the chain when changing to the largest front ring.
* The brake pads need replacing on the front.
* The headset needs to be replace to stop the excessive play.

Of course I got back and got sidetracked, and didn’t touch the bike for the week. The first item is pretty straightforward and isn’t too bad to work around. The other two caused a more substantial issue. When braking, the pads would pulse, binding and releasing a few times a second. This combined with the play in the headset to create a really unnerving situation where the front wheel moved foward and backward a couple of inches as the whole bike shook. Not optimal!

The route around Anglesey

A nice semi-coastal circuit… at least to start with.

Of course I didn’t realise any of this until after I’d set off. My original plan was to do a full circuit of Anglesey, which would come in at around 110 miles. My first impression of the route is that it’s a lot hillier than I expected, with the road winding towards the coast and then back inland, each time losing and re-gaining height. Not that any of that is a bad thing. The views were generally great, the roads quiet and the going good. There was a pretty consistant headwind which made things feel harder, but my average was still around 15mph.

That’s when disaster struck! I picked up a puncture on my front wheel near Cemaes Bay (near the top of Anglesey) so pulled over and started the timer. The innertube swap was seamless and I was feeling pretty good as I put the last 15 PSI in when the valve on the tube snapped in half, right through the thread. I’ve never seen that before.

The offending valve, shortly after it messed with "The Fury"

The offending valve, shortly after it messed with “The Fury”

I rarely pick up punctures (the last one I had was probably a year ago) so I only carry a single spare inner tube, along with some Park Tool self-adhesive patches in case I get a second puncture. This left my in a bit of a poor state when I couldn’t find the source of the leak in the first tube but had little choice but to put it back in and pump it up.

Needless to say I beat a direct route back down the A5 towards home, stopping every five to ten minutes to put some more air in. It was surprising the effect stopping regularly had on me, and the return leg felt many times harder because of it.

The trip taught me a little about how I handle adversity, but the big lesson is that there’s more to cycling than just spinning legs. Knowing how to handle breakdowns and improvise is just as important, otherwise you can be stuck miles from home having to give up an call for help!

Another thing I noticed was that things felt generally harder because I’d not carbo-loaded the night before. It’s easy to fix that for the next training ride, but it provides some insight into how we’ll be a few days into the trip. Once we’re into the cycle (excuse the pun) of replenishing energy in the evening how easy will it be to take on the extra carbs to be fully stocked for the next day.

The Menai Bridge

The Menai Bridge

So now I’m back I’ve stripped down the bike and removed the headset to try to find a replacement, though it’s not as simple as I’d expected. It appears my bike has an obscure set of dimensions which don’t match any standards so after an evening of measuring, Googling, measuring again and scratching my head, I’ve given up and got in touch with Wiggle, who I’m hoping will prove their worth again and get me back on the road. No pressure Wiggle, but it’s the team training weekend coming up, so it needs to be back up and running by Friday evening!

In the absence of being able to work on the bike, I’ve been thinking about potential routes for the weekend. The plan is (roughly) to go to Leeds for Saturday and then to return to Wales for Sunday to get around some logistical problems caused by Jen’s car needing some TLC. The day in Snowdonia is easy (and one of my favourite local loops): a 32 mile loop from Bethesda to Llanberis, Capel and home. Saturday is a little trickier as I’ve not lived there for years. Yet again Google Street View will come in handy!

Now that we’re into the final countdown (not the kazoo version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2Btg7lFlig) it’s really pushing me to get my ducks in a row ready for the weekends so I can guarantee a big ride. It’s time to step it up a bit though, so once the bike’s better I need to start evening rides. These are much easier when it’s an extended trip home, so it’s time to get the drybag and rear rack out and start commuting. 15 miles extra a day will definitely help out, and if I managed 350 miles outside in April what will May bring?

The joys and perils of not having a car

As my poor car is currently in North Wales having its broken bits lovingly tended to by Ryan, my bike is now my only means of transport for all my daily needs.  Ordinarily I would drive the 17 mile round trip to Asda, so without the car I was considering a trip to a much nearer but more expensive shop to buy food.  But keen to incorporate longer bike rids whenever I can, I decided to sacrifice a few hours of my day to cycle there….

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Can I fit a week’s worth of shopping onto my bike?

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Fully packed with an extra 15kg of weight!

I learnt a few things today which I can add to my growing knowledge of cycling:

1) When on a lightweight twitchy bike, that you are clipped in to, with a weeks worth of food weighing you down, it is quite scary when your shoe lace gets trapped in the pedal meaning you can’t move your right foot, or unclip.  Particularly scary when cycling in busy traffic.  Note to self: always check shoe laces are firmly tucked away before setting off.

2) Just because it can fit in the pannier bag, doesn’t mean you should buy it.  Did I need the 1.5kg of flour?  Well yes, that’s why I bought it, but I really should have thought about the weight of everything before buying… especially all those potatoes!

3) Your bike is not as easy to turn sharp corners when fully laden with a week’s worth of shopping…do not attempt to do this or you will nearly fall off and look like an idiot.

4) When lots of people are staring at you as you walk around the supermarket, don’t assume it’s because of the noise of your SPDs, or that you have helmet hair…assume it may be because of the bike grease smeared on your face.

5) Even a supermarket trip can be logged on runkeeper and therefore sneakily counted as ‘training’:

Check out that calorie burn...I should have bought some biscuits to snack on the cycle home.

Check out that calorie burn…I should have bought some biscuits to snack on the cycle home.