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….
Can I fit a week’s worth of shopping onto my bike?
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.
Except unlike the Louis Armstrong song, we don’t. In less then two months we will be starting to slow down the training in the last week before the long cycle to Switzerland begins.
As my general fitness was quite low when we started this journey its unfortunate for me that just going out for a few cycle rides a week is not enough training to be ready for two weeks of cycling (even if it is “mostly flat”). The problem is, along with my cycle training I have a couple of other commitments: a full time job; studying distance learning for a masters degree; looking for new jobs and applying for them as my one year trainee position comes to an end in August.
The upshot of this is that I have zero time to do anything else, and time spent eating biscuits and drinking tea is being drastically cut into!
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to fit everything in.
One sacrifice I’ve made is using up my annual leave from work in order to study. I’ve booked two days off to give me a long four day weekend, which I would love to spend cycling everyday, adding as many miles to my training schedule as I can fit in. Unfortunately I have two assignments due in the next few weeks which need to be attended to pretty quickly.
It’s hard to know what the best thing is to do. Part of me wants to spend four days studying solidly and get everything done, but I know I can’t take that many days off without cycling. Yesterday I spent all day studying and it made me very grouchy, towards the end of the day my productivity started to slip as well. So today I’ve made sure to incorporate training into my day:
Today’s uninspiring view
I think the important thing for me at the moment is to try and have a balance between all the things I need to do. An hour on the turbo trainer has left me completely sweaty but now I’ve cooled down and am ready for a shower then some lunch, I feel more energised and ready for my afternoon of studying.
I still haven’t decided if I should have another two days of studying to see if I can finish everything, with a few hours of turbo trainer sessions to keep up the training. Or, if I should call it quits tomorrow and spend the whole day out on the bike.
I may have to make a sacrifice on long-distance cycling this week to get these assignments finished, but I know I can’t relax for a moment on the training. I need to keep going and put cycling into every day. I already cycle to work so I can push myself a bit harder on those days and sprint home, plus I’m trying to get out running as well to improve my overall general fitness levels. Cycling indoors is not good enough preparation for spending all day every day for two weeks on a bike but it may have to make do for the next few days.
What I do know is that as soon as I’ve handed these assignments in I have the whole summer off until studying starts again in September. That means I can concentrate on cycling longer distances, cycling more days, cycling quicker, cycling more hills, getting fitter, getting stronger, improving my nutrition and energy…oh, and working full time and finding a new job. But those last two are easy in comparison.
At the time of writing this blog post this is how much time we have left:
Will we be ready in time?
I have no doubt we’ll make it to Switzerland (I’m stubborn enough to never give up!) but I’m under no illusions of how hard it will be. The next 67 days are going to be busy, so lets get on with it…now, pass me the biscuits, I have an assignment to write!
On Saturday I completed my first substantial solo ride of the year: ~90 miles from Bangor to Llanrwst, Denbigh, St Asaph and home. For the first 65 miles I was pondering this blog post and thinking about how I could word a careful apology. After all, we’re going on about training, hardship and challenge. The problem was that nothing really felt like “training”, not for the first two thirds at least.
Genevieve, my trusty steed! Cable-tying my jacket above the bottle cage worked pretty well.
Sure, I was pushing myself and trying to maintain a reasonable pace. And true, I wasn’t hanging around taking pictures or jumping in icy rivers to cool down, but when you’re cruising along quiet B-roads in the countryside with a perfect blue sky and no wind it doesn’t get much better. It certainly doesn’t feel like training and feels a lot more like a great thing to do on a perfect day.
This was my first time riding east of Llanrwst with the exception of the coastal route to Chester, and every hill I crested led to an even more amazing view. The rolling hills strike a marked contrast to the Ogwen valley’s aggressiveness, and I had to make a conscious effort to keep looking at the road and not the countryside.
Above Llanrwst towards Llanddoged. It became much hillier after this point.
Spring (at least when we get the sunny portions) has got to be my favourite time to ride. There’s so much going on around you as you pass through different areas, and at the moment there’s plenty of young lambs running around, fields being bashed, rolled, ploughed and prepared, building work, and so on to keep you thinking.
I planned the route the night before, and came up with a few options, mostly staying within the confines of Snowdonia. This route piqued my interest though because it was predominantly in areas I didn’t know, and calm, sunny days are the best to go exploring. Google Street View is now in my list of indispensable tools for cycling and probably helped me save half an hour over the course of the day by looking at each major turn I needed to make in advance. I didn’t try to commit each one to memory like I did the town names I was passing through, but each time I’d be riding along and think “this looks familiar” before seeing the turn and taking it. No faff, far less map-checking and generally improved enjoyment that comes with the confidence that you’re on the right track.
Needing to check the map. This junction beat me and I had to resort to the map.
The one big mistake I did make, and am still paying for, was forgetting sun cream. As I pootled down towards Aber I remembered and thought “aah, I’m not going back now, I faffed too much before I set off”. Bad Idea. My arms and legs are still bright red two days on, with razor sharp lines where my jersey, shorts, gloves and socks end. It did make me think about how ridiculous we’re going to look when we arrive in Locarno. Fingerless gloves are going to leave an interesting semi-permanent tan.
So the questions is: what happened after 66 miles which made it feel like training? The answer is two-fold: Conwy council and a lack of food. The latter wasn’t too serious, but I took half a sandwich too few so spent the last hour feeling like it was harder work than it should have been. Lesson learned. The former was much less pleasant.
Whenever I’ve cycled the national cycle route from Bangor to Chester I’ve always headed up through Old Colwyn towards Llysfaen, skipping out the Colywn Bay seafront. This was generally not on purpose. On the way home I thought I’d follow the front, but was quickly disappointed as the cyclepath deteriorated from high-quality smooth tarmac to a broken, rough, uneven path which weaved around lampposts making it clear the cycle lane was an unimportant afterthought. In fairness some sections had good intentions, with one including a cycle lane separated from the road and the pedestrian area with low concrete bollards, but the thin layer of red tarmac that was applied to make the cycle lane obvious has rapidly fallen into disrepair, and was so juddery I came out the other side with bruised palms and a sore back.
Perfect cycle path at Llanddulas. If only Colwyn Bay was like this!
Overall a great day out, and once I’d eaten and recovered definitely felt like another day would be feasible. Of course the “Welsh summer” had something to say about it and Sunday morning was a windy rainfest of epic proportions. Fingers’ crossed for another few days like that before we set off!
As Team Pedal all live in different parts of the country, it’s not that often that we get to cycle together. Today was one of those lonely days, when I only had myself for motivation to get up and go out on a bike ride this morning.
Most of my lone cycle rides this far have either been: less than 15 miles (so I could fit any necessary snacks in my tiny saddle bag); more than 15 miles in bad weather (more snacks needed for the duration, but needing to wear a jacket due to freezing wind/rain/snow meant I had pockets to put food in). Today is gloriously sunny (no coat necessary) and my plan for a 50 mile route meant the dilemma I had this morning was what to do with the much needed food. Not yet having a cycle jersey (that come with pockets on the back) and having the smallest saddle bag in the world (which needs to hold anything necessary to fix a puncture or a chain breakage) meant I had to improvise somewhat:
Jam sandwiches and bananas safely attached
I took the bag that normally hold my inflatable camping pillow and secured it around the middle with elastic bands. I was impressed with how well this worked….until I started to eat the food, and found my bananas very squished!
Last night I spent over two hours planning the route. As most of you should now be aware, my navigation skills leave a lot to be desired. I first used the website Runkeeper to plot a route. This is useful because you can place markers and map out exactly where you want to go. Once this route is saved you can then use it to your advantage when your navigation fails whilst out on the bike. Runkeeper has an app you can use on your phone which will record the route you’re on, if you add the saved route as another layer on this map you can see both the route you’re supposed to take and the route you’re actually taking:
Oops, shouldn’t have turned right there
This has in the past come in useful, today I only noticed I’d gone the wrong route a long time after I’d done it, as it was all heading in the right direction.
Second I use Google Street View, which I find invaluable when route planning. You can have a look at Street View for any junctions on your route and see landmarks and roadsigns. I find this a lot easier to remember then just to look at a map and remember what towns I need to go to. Although I do seem to be getting better at remembering town names as a few times today I took wrong turnings following signs for villages I know I had to go to (as the map above shows). It took me off the planned route, but I ended up in the right place after all.
After the half-way point I realised my route took me back onto the National Cycle route into Oxford, so I didn’t bother using street view or planning this much, assuming it would be easier to follow signs. I will soon write another blog post about how much I generally dislike following National Cycle Route signs, and today has really added fuel to my dislike. Today saw 20 minutes spent wandering around a busy town, lost and unable to find any route signs; following a path that took me through a busy park (with lots of children and dogs running around so I thought it was safer to get off the bike and walk for 10 minutes; at least an hour on paths so bumpy and unstable that I was worried I might be damaging the bike. I think this added a lot of extra time to the journey that wasn’t really necessary – though I now know some beautiful routes to go for a walk or a non-road bike cycle.
The weather today in Oxfordshire is beautiful, but setting off at 7am meant it was a bit cold and frosty at first. I stubbornly refused to go back for my gloves, despite my hands frosting to the handlebars for the first half an hour, because I knew I wouldn’t need them later. I’m glad I persevered because it turned into a beautiful sunny day.
Today was possibly one of the nicest cycle rides I’ve been on. I wasn’t familiar with the route so I spent a lot of time winding down the country lanes beside open fields muttering “wow….this is so beautiful”. Don’t tell Ryan, but I saw a few nice houses for sale in these villages, enough rooms for the whole family to live together, but perhaps a bit out of our price range!
For my second snack stop I found a nice bench, shaded under a tree, and sat down to eat my jam sandwiches and have a chat with a lovely lady who’d just come from the church fete next door…I think she thought I was crazy when I told her how far I’d cycled (40 miles by that point).
I don’t think the lovely weather and the great views helped me go any quicker, but I was home for lunch and I had a great morning out. Oh, and the detours meant I covered nearly 57 miles..not too bad for a saturday morning.
Happy to be outside at 7am for a bike ride…must be mad!
So I could write a bit of a post rehashing the events of last weekend and adding to Jen’s disaster list that I *almost* destroyed my iPhone by putting it in my jacket pocket while it was 1/2 full of water (cheers Isle of Wight Freelander driver who aimed for that puddle!), but this evening’s sunshine has pushed all thoughts of winter, wind and rain from my mind.
It’s hard to believe that only two weeks ago Llyn Ogwen was frozen and half of Snowdonia was snowbound when I spent this evening on the driveway fitting a new chain and giving the bike a good bit of TLC. The weather looks good for tomorrow, a little cloudy but with almost no wind. Perfect conditions for a long ride down the coast.
The first thing to deal with was fitting the new chain. The Shimano chain which came with the bike has seen over 3000 miles and is starting to look a bit worn. By taking a tape measure and measuring 12″ of chain it’s possible to see roughly how worn the chain is. Measuring from the center of the first pin, as the chain wears the nearest pin to 12″ moves slightly further away. It seems to be generally advised that if it’s over 1/16th of an inch further to the center of the pin it’s time to replace the cassette and the chain. Mine was just under 1/16th, so a new chain should do (phew, those Ultegra cassettes aren’t cheap!).
Starting from the 1″ marker means the play from the end of the tape measure doesn’t affect your measurement
The downside to winter riding is that it takes a toll on your kit. Inspecting the bike after the chain was fitted I noticed that the headset and bottom bracket both need replacing. Definitely a job for another day!
Now that summer’s here* I’m feeling much more excited about getting out on the road. Everything’s much more pleasant when you can stop for ice cream every hour!
* Summer in North Wales is traditionally 2 weeks in March, then back to rain until winter…
The Team headed to the Isle of Wight this weekend on a plan to cycle around the island in a day, at just over 60 miles this seemed more than achievable and we were all looking forward to the fun day out cycling in the sunshine…..
Meeting Megan on the island on Saturday morning, Ryan and myself were half an hour late arriving due to a delayed ferry – there’s not a lot you can do when you reply on public transport! Setting off on the ride at 11.30am shouldn’t have been too much of a problem, we were still determined to make it most of, if not all, the way around.
Disaster #1 is otherwise known as Jen’s navigation skills. The Isle of Wight has a ’round the island’ route which is handily marked out with road signs. I say ‘handily’, but actually I lie. There are two routes, one clockwise and one anticlockwise, that both have very similar signs to direct you.
As you can see from this picture, the signs are not at all confusing (“was it white on a blue background or blue on a white background we’re supposed to be following?”). Not so easy to navigate when you’re in an unfamiliar place and you’re swimming around the cycle route (more on that later).
The navigation woes started as soon as we set off and I immediately headed in the wrong direction Ryan realised this but wanted me to learn to be more confident in my navigating…by not telling me I was navigating for the first 20 minutes. Team Pedal then meandered around the Isle of Wight for a good 30 minutes, getting lost and heading around the same roundabouts several times before finding our way….mostly.
Disaster #2 was the snapping of Ryan’s chain. Just after I’d got us lost for the fourth time we set off to cycle over a particularly busy roundabout only to have Ryan’s chain snap just as he was moving out into traffic. I found it a lot scarier then he did, and we grabbed the bike and broken bits and huddled down in an underpass to fix it. Whilst Ryan nipped off to a nearby shop to use their facilities Megan and I started on the chain fixing – a real team effort!
Disaster #3 has to be the weather. After seeing the weekend weather forecast we were under no illusions that the day would be a wet cycle. For Megan this was the first time she had cycled in the rain. I’m used to cycling in the rain now, doing it quite frequently on my commute to work. However, I don’t think any of us were strong enough to cycle past the warm dry cake selling cafe after cycling for 16 miles in torrential rain.
Home comforts at 16 miles
We have to thank The Dairy Deli for welcoming three very drenched cyclists and comforting us with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and home made cakes. It was a very welcome break from the downpour and we were all a little reluctant to get back on the bikes.
At this point we had spent a lot of the day lost in navigation hell, fixing broken chains, and being drenched by cars deliberately driving through deep puddles to soak us…we faced the reality that we would not have the time to make it around the whole island. Instead, we decided to start heading back to base and cut it short to 30 miles, with an option of an extended loop should we be up for it once we’d continued a bit further.
Back out in the rain we jumped on the bikes…and Megan instantly fell off again. I was concerned briefly that she may have hurt herself until I realised she was lying on the floor laughing.
Back on the road we made it up to 27 miles before I pulled over to the side of the road to make sure we were definitely heading in the right direction again. Ryan spotted a bus shelter where we could huddle away from the rain to check the map and I attempted to push my bike over the centimetre high kerb to go towards the shelter. I say attempted, because I promptly fell sideways landed heavily on my knee. (Disaster number…what are we up to now?)
Hobblingly along I decided I didn’t really want to do that extra loop and was quite happy with 30 miles thank you very much.
Setting off again Ryan and Megan soon sailed in to the distance as I made another emergency stop to deal with my chain jammed for the third time that day (Disaster number 4824732462). I caught them up for the last few miles and we returned to base looking rather like we’d spent the day underwater cycling, which is frankly what it felt like.
The Wet Look
Overall it was a weekend of mixed fortunes. We all got some good experience in cycling in torrential rain. Megan got some great experience in on road cycling in the rain. Megan and I got some great experience in falling off (again). Most importantly we got to do a lot of route planning, eating good food, spending time with wonderful family and planning ways to make cycling to Switzerland more enjoyable for everyone….
This weekend was never set to be a great cycling weekend. Freezing conditions and a 30mph wind are enough to put off all but the hardiest cyclists. After a full day of chores and burning things (garden waste, I’m not that much of a pyromaniac), I woke up this morning and quickly dismissed the idea of going out. Fortunately there’s always a plan B, and for me that meant a session on the rollers.
The rollers are a new acquisition, fuelled partly by Meg’s amazing video of her first go (which had me in stitches) and partly by Jen stealing my Tacx Satori turbo trainer. My selection process was pretty much “what’s the cheapest one”, and thanks to Wiggle I’ve now got an Elite Arion in classic (read: reduced price) Italian national colours. The evening they turned up I had a quick go, following the usual advice of setting the rollers up in a doorway so you can hold on and get some stability. That didn’t work too well for me, and the proximity of the door frame just made me nervous and not want to let go.
That’s when I bit the bullet and set the rollers up in the middle of the room, with no support around it. This made all the difference to me! I’m not that bothered by the prospect of falling off the bike, so just spent 20 minutes trying to get on, then trying to stay on, then working out how to make it feel easier. The key for me was starting as I meant to go on. I could see that other people use the rollers this way, so I should be able to too. Even using cleats it only took one session to get up and running, and once you’ve figured out the balance-thing you’re cooking with gas.
I made things a little more interesting for session two, setting up an interval training video and attempting that. That made things more difficult, particularly because when I saw someone go round a sharp alpine corner I leant in to follow the road – not a good idea. I was also not quite as good as I thought at getting on and staying on, so it was hard to keep a rhythm.
Back to today, and it seemed a good idea to try to get through an entire Sufferfest video. These videos are basically interval training sessions with videos of cycling races and good music to keep you motivated. And motivated I was. Alternating between gears to get the desired effort/cadence mix, I managed 42 minutes on the bike. No stopping. No hitting the side and bailing out.
Not until the end of the 42nd minute. The 42nd minute was about a minute into a section where the video tells you to stand and push a little harder. Standing on the rollers is hard. Very hard. At first I found it okay, and was suspending myself in a position which kept a reasonably even power transfer. Without that I was getting the bike to jump forward and back as I applied pressure and climbed up the roller a bit, which I figure is poor form. After a minute or so my form went a bit and the bike jigged from side to side. This is okay. I can control it. Almost got it back. Almost.
And then I learnt the next important lesson of rollers: make sure you have enough space to fall over, even if you don’t think you will.
I’m not sure what happened, but I ended up diving towards my fireplace when my SPD-SL cleat didn’t release (I do need new cleats though).
After making a big deal of it and realising there was no-one to give me sympathy, I picked my sorry self off the floor and inspected the damage. The first casualty was my pride, but that can’t be helped. Other than that I have a big bruise where I smacked my arm on the fireplace, but all the equipment is fine (phew!).
So next time I think I’ll set up perpendicular to that attempt. The carpet is a lot more accommodating than the road of course.
I don’t think Claude Pepper, the American politician, quite had SPD shoes in mind when he said this, but I’m sure Einstein was definitely thinking of clippy pedals when he said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.“ But if two wise historical figures both said it, then it must be true. In a thoroughly scientific experiment this weekend I proved both these men correct, by taking to the bike with my feet clipped on…and by falling off three times whilst stationary.
I was very confused when starting to look at purchasing myself some SPD equipment that they were often referred to as “clipless pedals”. Surely a shoe that is clipped onto a pedal is the very antithesis of “clipless”? But apparently the “clipless” refers to the shoe no longer being in a pedal cage but instead having a locking mechanism on the bottom.
I have known for some time that I would have to get myself some clipless pedals, mostly due to Ryan constantly saying to me “you need to get yourself some clipless pedals” but also because everything I have read in every cycling book/website/magazine says the same thing. Attaching your feet to the pedals may sound scary (it is!) but it also a more efficient way of cycling. Instead of pushing down on flat pedals you can rotate your legs in a smooth circle and the pedals come with you. Using clipless pedals means you use less energy for the same effect.
Left with very little choice, I took the plunge and bought myself some SPD shoes.
I choose some which are designed for commuting/touring and look more like trainers then cycle shoes, this will be useful as I don’t need a change of shoes to walk around in when not on the bike, and the clip is recessed so it’s easier to walk on (anyone who has seen Ryan waddle around on his pointy clippy shoes knows what I’m talking about!)
Ryan kindly gave me some old pedals which we attached to my bike Saturday morning, just in time for our 60 mile ride around Oxfordshire. When I decided to make the switch to SPDs I had envisaged trying them out first, maybe on the stationary bike, or on a nice short ride…right before setting off on a whole day of riding was not my idea of good planning, but that was how it turned out and I swallowed my fear and went for it.
The positives: I was most worried about unclipping in time for busy junctions when riding through town, but this turned out to be the easiest time as you can see junctions and traffic lights quite far away. I was unclipping quite early for these, but I think with more use and more confidence I won’t be panic unclipping at the whiff of a junction in the distance. Although I wasn’t racing up hills with the vigour of the Brooks pair, I was a lot faster overall than I had been on previous rides, and I think that had a lot to do with the clipless pedals.
The downsides: Ouch. We were coming to a stop at a gate and I managed to unclip on the right but struggling on the left I looked down and toppled myself over, into poor unsuspecting Megan. I have a very nice large bruise on the left thigh from this tumble. Undeterred we got through the gate and continued cycling only for me to notice my saddle had been knocked and my body was twisted to the left. I unclipped on the left but found I couldn’t quite manage on the right due to the twist of the saddle, I promptly came off again less than a minute after the first time. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. It’s a shame Ryan didn’t have his camera out as he heard a yell and turned to see me lying on the floor, legs in the air, laugh/crying and unable to get up. The third tumble happened five minutes later, and was a little less funny as I landed hard on the sharp pointy edge of a manhole cover. I had a brief sulk and we continued on our way.
There were a few more stumbles as I unclipped whilst falling sideways, but I managed to stay upright, admittedly with little dignity as each time I looked like I was attempting a drug-induced dance involving trying to jump away from a bike as it attacked me.
Overall, I’m quite happy with being attached to my pedals as the benefits far outweigh the negatives and I haven’t been deterred. I even made Ryan take away my flat pedals so I wouldn’t be tempted to swap them back for commuting. On Sunday we went out for our second ride of the weekend, 30 miles, and I managed to stay upright at all times thus proving the Pepper/Einstein theory to be true….just keep pedalling and you’ll be okay.
“It’s mostly flat” Ryan told me when we planned our first cycling holiday, a three day tour around Mull. When Ryan convinced me and Megan to Cycle the 70 miles to Chester, “it’s mostly flat” he said. You may have noticed if you’ve read the other posts already on this blog that neither of these routes are flat and that therefore….Ryan lies.
Trying to pretend I didn’t fall off going up a hill and desperately trying to get back on before Ryan could take a photo
Now don’t worry, I may be only an arts graduate but I’m not that stupid that I think the Alps are actually flat, in fact, I am fully terrified about how much hill climbing we’re going to have to do when we get to the Alps. What’s concerning is what Ryan says about cycling through France…you guessed it, “it’s mostly flat”. That and “it’s down hill all the way”.
As if the distance and having to cycle for 16 days wasn’t a challenge enough, we also have hills to contend with. In addition to hills, we have Alpine passes to contend with. As more of a ‘coasting downhill’ kind of girl I have always known that the hills were going to be my biggest uphill struggle (see what I did there).
My inability to get up hills without dying was brought into sharp focus on our training session last weekend when Megan The Demon Hill Climber was unleashed upon us. I was incredibly impressed with Megan’s ability, not simply to get up the hills in one piece, but to attack them with all the vigour of a starving man at a buffet (apologies I couldn’t think of a better analogy). I really struggled to get up the hills last weekend and although I made it up most of them without needing to walk (see above photo for evidence of my only failure) the effort made me so tired the next day I couldn’t have done that 70 miles again.
With this new knowledge in mind I decided I need to do more hill training, which is where living in North Wales would have come in handy. Unfortunately I live in Oxford where there are a lot fewer hills and most of them slight inclines compared to what I need. Thankfully Ryan has gone skiing for two weeks which meant I could kidnap his turbo trainer and bring it back to Oxford with me.
Today I sacrificed going on a long cycle ride to have a shorter session indoors. In order to simulate the hot Alpine summer temperatures I turned the heat up and kept the windows closed, sweating my way through an hour of turbo training. I downloaded a really basic app which allowed me to set interval timers and alternated between 5 minutes of easy to medium cycling and 5 minutes of steep hill.
I absolutely loved this training session and I think I got more benefit out of it then I would have cycling around town desperately trying to find a hill. Some highlights were:
– I wasn’t allowed to coast down hill and had to keep up the pedalling and intensity even when I turned down the resistance.
– I tried to keep peddling continuously for an hour which was great psychological training for me as I’m really good at coasting wherever possible.
– I could practise standing up cycling and balancing one-handed without any real threat I was going to fall off and injure myself.
– I could also practise removing the water bottle from the holder whilst pedalling, not something I think I’ve ever done before.
Overall I can conclude from today’s training that I need to get myself a turbo trainer (or convince Ryan he’s lost his and not lent it to me). I was expecting to be able to do a long stint on the trainer today but in actual fact it’s so exhausting that I think 1 hour on the bike was equivalent to 3 hours or more outdoors. Because of this I wish I’d done a hill session a few times during the week and gone on an all day ride today, but it was still incredibly beneficial and I learnt a lot.
We’ve reached the end of Team Pedal’s first official training weekend. In fact it was a weekend of firsts, not least being the first time we’ve all cycled together and the first substantial trip for Megan’s new bike.
There was a bit of contention on the route choice, and part of my winning argument included the fact that there’s generally a good tailwind on the route. For Megan this was going to be a big step up: going from a previous personal best of 6 miles to 70 is no small undertaking, and similarly Jen hadn’t tackled more than around 35-40 before.
Despite this I was optimistic and kept repeating the vital statistics: even if we travel at 10 mph it’ll only take 7 hours. 7 hours is enough to do it entirely in daylight, and we’ll probably be aiming for more like 23-15 mph average. Definitely. And pushing for 70 miles gives us a good idea of how we can hold up to the sort of distance we’ll be covering on the big ride and how we’ll feel on day 2.
Let’s do it!
Feeling good and ready to ride
So we set off at 10am, a little after sunrise (and then some), but it made sense to get a good night’s sleep after late arrivals from Jen and Megan. There were a couple of initial hiccups, including Jen’s realisation that she’d forgotten her trainers so had to do the ride in casual runners and stopping to raise Megan’s saddle about 6 inches, but soon we were underway, and the progress was good. We rode with Dave and Steph, who turned up in significantly warmer attire than we’d chosen, particularly me in my 3/4 length thick lycra, cycling t-shirt and thin windproof. Although it started off as a pretty brisk morning, the sun was soon out and it was almost like a spring day. Good clothing choice. Win #1.
One of the nice things about the North Wales cycle route is how much time you spend on completely flat ground right by the sea. We undertook a couple of ascents, the first one up through Colwyn Bay and the second cutting inland after Prestatyn. Both hill climbs were on quiet roads, and as I said previously the improvements to the route for cyclists has been great in the past few years. Only Shotton high street remains as a busy on-road adventure, but hopefully that can be phased out in the near future.
Cycling by the sea
It was only when were neared Shotton that I realised there was no way we’d make Chester before dark. Initially I thought this wouldn’t be a major problem, after all we had a few lights between us, but with the sun went the warmth. Once we joined the cycle path down the old railway line into Chester there were no streetlights, and our puny front lights meant we couldn’t go above 7-8mph (with the exception of Dave, who brought a portable star!) so we settled into a slow, cold grind for the last hour.
I can’t say the last section was particularly pleasurable, but it did teach me a valuable lesson: always assume the worst and take an extra layer, or at least gloves and shoes not designed for summer racing!
When we got ourselves to Chester station we were in a bit of a state. Too cold to stand around, Jen was shivering too much to talk properly, and Megan’s face said it all. They ran off to Costa to order hot chocolate as I went in search of train tickets. Now it’s a little off-topic, but I’ve got to say that £20 each to get from Chester to Bangor is a massive rip off, and anyone trying to promote the use of public transport in government should really be able to see that people won’t choose to jump on train to go 70 miles when it costs almost a full tank of fuel for a car which could take you 500.
How many tickets?
Well deserved hot chocolates. Try to smile Meg!
Once we’d figured out the Virgin cycle ticket process (one for you, one for your bike, one for you for your bike) we settled in while the train covered 70 miles in the time it took us to cover 10. We talked about things we’d learned, how we felt about it, what we’d eat when we got in, but mostly how much we’d enjoyed the trip. Yes, even with the cold harshness of the final few miles.
Overall I was really impressed with both Megan and Jen. In the past few months they’ve put in a lot more effort than I have and it really showed. Megan was fearlessly attacking hills and generally took the ride as it came. Jen didn’t have to stop on a single hill and kept her average speed even though we doubled the mileage. All good pointers, and good motivation to keep on improving on the (long) road to being ready for the big ride.
A big thank-you has to go to Luke, who very kindly picked us up from Bangor train station and saved us the ride home. We also got in to discover dinner was already prepared and ready to go. You can’t beat that when all you want to do is sink into a chair and fall asleep!
Day 2: clean up
It took a bit of proddling, but we got out on a quick ride for day two of the training weekend, just to see what it felt like. At 4.5 miles it was nothing to worry about, and we were back in under 30 minutes. This time though, I took my own advice and wrapped up a little warmer. With mountain gloves, a thick jumper and a waterproof jacket I was at just the right temperature. That all changed when we reached the hill to Rachub and I realised it was a segment in Strava. It only took a minute of sprinting for me to have the jacket open, pulling at the Buff on my head thinking “extra layers are stupid”. There’s just no pleasing some people.
Ready for day 2
Megan getting the derailleur really clean
What weekend would be complete without a bit of cleaning! After all those miles I figured it was the perfect excuse to give Megan a lesson on bike maintenance. I think I got away with getting Megan to clean my bike as well. Jackpot.