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?

Re: You don’t fall off unless you stop pedalling

So I read Jen’s article on clipless pedals and pretty much agreed with everything she said. Until today…

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.

The aftermath

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.