The end of 16 days of cycling

Jen’s knee should be okay! That seems like the best place to start. Jen has to rest for a couple of weeks and do some physio on her knee, but all the important bits are still intact and fine. Happy days!

Almost a week ago we arrived in Locarno, and it feels like things have actually become more hectic since then.

Getting off the bike on day 16 was a mixed-bag of emotions, combining joy and satisfaction at achieving what we’ve been working towards for such a long time with a bit of sadness that it was all over.

I’ll admit that the 30 or so hours we spent at my aunt and uncle’s (thanks again Sue, Rico and Ben for being our destination) were long overdue and it was fantastic to be able to play: jumping in the pool, trying to learn to unicycle, and a load of other things which we couldn’t have justified stopping halfway through France to enjoy.

A Swiss-themed arrival party

A Swiss-themed arrival party

The journey home was a lot less pleasant than the ride. Everyone was pretty worn out and ready for home, but towing a trailer meant being limited to 60mph all the way back. We arrived in Bangor around 24 hours after we left Locarno, all ready for bed!

Shocking the body by switching from cycling 8-10 hours per day for 16 days and then doing all the above probably isn’t the most sensible idea, and by Sunday evening before we left I had pulled something in my left foot (admittedly while trying to leap into the pool through a 2′ hoop feet-first with a run up) and a mosquito bite on my right foot left me with a giant, inflated, itchy foot. It was probably the first sign that I am actually quite worn down by the adventure.

What an adventure!

What an adventure! Exciting roads down the Furka Pass to Andermatt

Around the time we finished I was feeling fit, strong and pretty confident that I could have carried on. Over the 16 day cycle I settled into a rhythm and routine which meant I wasn’t wearing my body out too much. Once we had overcome some of the routing issues and the final few days were attainable and programmed in I felt a lot less mentally strained as well. Now we’re all scattered across the UK again the realisation that I need a little rest is dawning on me. Every day by 6pm I feel shattered and ready for bed, and there’s still a lot of unpacking to do as well as all the “nice” things such as returning the Garmin GPS and GoPro to their respective donors (thanks again Blacks, Rob, and Konrad and Sarah). My plan at the moment is to rest my foot as much as possible so I can ride at the weekend, so lugging around the bags and boxes of cycling kit can wait.

Hopefully we'll get to ride together again soon

Hopefully we’ll get to ride together again soon

Having not done anything particularly physical since getting out of the pool on Saturday, I’m eager to get out and do something, and it’s a side-effect of the trip I like. Being physically active is addictive, and now I want to capitalise on my cycling fitness to make the most of Snowdonia and the rest of North Wales, as well as do a couple of bigger day trips including Bangor to Leeds (150 miles).

I'm going to miss having great views every day

I’m going to miss having great views every day

We’re very close to achieving our target, so if you haven’t already, please donate to MS Trust and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation through JustGiving: http://www.justgiving.com/teams/teampedal. All donations go straight to the charities, whose amazing work hinges on the generosity of its donors.

A rest day after 36 miles to Interlaken

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Enthusiastic after a wet start

Today we cycled from Bern to Interlaken. We woke at 6:30 to cups of tea and the sound of rain. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed a mixed bag. One forecast said it would be light rain today and then thunderstorms for the next two days. yr.no said it would be thunderstorms today, improving for the next couple of days. This left us with a bit of a gamble: do we risk poor weather and do a half day to Interlaken, or push on and attempt the bigggest day of the trip? In the end we opted for a shorter day because Jen’s knees started to play up again.

The ride out of Bern was fairly pleasant. By the time we’d got kitted up and set off it had stopped raining, and pottering around at 12mph wasn’t fast enough to kick up all the standing water. Although we didn’t see the sun for the entire ride, it was a nice change to be cycling in 21 degrees rather than 30. Limiting the ride to just over 30 miles also meant we only needed to stop once for food.

Entering the Bernese Oberland

Entering the Bernese Oberland, our first proper glimpse of the alps

We were supposed to do 32 miles, but a minor detour in Thun took us to a crossing… a rowing boat crossing. Turn around, back into Thun and cross to the right side of the river before pressing on.

The northern side of Thunersee lake is great terrain to ride. There were one or two too many lorries, but gently climbing and descending meant the views were constantly changing.

Around the northern side of Thunersee

Around the northern side of Thunersee, 8 miles from Interlaken

We arrived at Manor Farm campsite before 12:00, the earliest finish of the trip. This campsite has by far the most convoluted pricing system I’ve ever seen, and every pitch has a different price. After setting up we went for a quick swim in the lake before settling in for some last minute photos of the passes to come to get Megan and Jen excited!

The local weather forecast is now that the storms are likely to come in the evenings, so we need an early start tomorrow. This has the added advantage of getting as far as possible in the cool of the morning if the sun does come out.

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Descending down to Interlaken, looking forward to a swim in the lake

Catching a local

Catching a local

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

Looking out over Around the northern side of Thunersee, towards Interlaken

We’re in Bern, whoop!

Today I got up and had five Weetabix again. Getting ready for the days ride involves eating a fair amount of food before getting sorted with suncream, lunches, contact lenses and filled bottles. It’s nice once you’re on the bike and don’t have to keep running through a mental to-do list! Last night we got to bed before 9pm, so with nearly 10 hours sleep we all felt pretty rejuvenated and the start was quite prompt.

Climbing out of Delamont

Climbing out of Delamont

Riding out through Delemont in the cool morning air was a nice change from the hot, sticky afternoon air we arrived in. The only hill climb of note was on the far side of the town, leading up through a winding valley before cutting down to Biel.

It was absolutely amazing to start riding in mountainous terrain, and this climb was kind to us and didn’t get too steep. We arrived at the top with an average speed of around 12mph, with only a couple of short breaks (one of which saw Jen attempt to propel a banana skin into the undergrowth only for it to end up perched on a tree branch ten feet directly above us!).

It's getting hot

It’s getting hot

The descent down to Biel had a section of cycle path alongside a fast dual carriageway, which included a couple of tunnels. Perhaps it was the fear, but we made it through at twice our normal speed. We had met a couple of friendly local cyclists at the top, who warned us in advance which helped.

Leaving the hills behind

Leaving the hills behind

The afternoon saw us slow down considerably. It must have been well over 30 degrees and the heat sapped our energy a bit. What was supposed to have been a 2pm finish ended up being closer to 4pm, although we did have to add on a couple of extra miles because our intended campsite didn’t exist!

More strategic planning

More strategic planning

Making good progress near Biel

Making good progress near Biel

 

Today the Garmin Oregon 600 gave us a few problems. It reset itself a couple of times and I ended up doing this at the side of the road:

Programming the GPS

Programming the GPS

As the Internet failed us the other day, here’s a little video I made as we climbed the Ballon d’Alsace a couple of days ago:

We're having a great time!

We’re having a great time!

Hello Switzerland

Day 12

We set off from Bayon this morning all ready to do 51 miles on another half day of cycling. After our triumph yesterday I was very tired and found today a bit of a struggle. We had some nice roads with a few hills in the early morning but this soon became a steady climb upwards the closer we got to Switzerland. On one particular hill I had to stop quite a few times with knee pain and general tiredness – thankfully Ryan and Megan helped me through with encouragement, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.

It was with great relief that we saw the most beautiful sign I had been waiting the last 12 days to see:

A happy sight

A happy sight

We also couldn’t help having a little fun at the border control:

Hello Switzerland

Where are we?

Where are we?

Hello Switzerland

As I’ve been injury-laden for the last 11 days my main focus has been to make it to the Swiss border. I can’t describe the relief I felt when I realised I had made it, but I think the relief drained my remaining energy and the last 15 miles were an arduous slog. Thankfully, after a little more uphill and some beautiful scenery, we had the descent all the way down into Delemont and the campsite.

Making my way through Switzerland...slowly

Making my way through Switzerland…slowly

Winding Hills

Winding Hills

We have now cycled 823 miles, with a total ascent of 13,670 metres. Tomorrow we start our Swiss adventure, with four more days of cycling before we reach the finish line in Locarno.

I couldn’t have reached this far without the support of all my team, Richard, Chris, Megan and espically Ryan have been so wonderful in helping me to rest and nurse my knee injury and to make it through the cycling.

Thank you to everyone who has supported and followed us this far, we only have four days of our journey but these four days include three alpine passes and another ~240 miles of cycling.

Half way across France

Post by Jen, photo legwork and interblogopipage by Ryan:

We have now made it to Verdun and are at our third French campsite and 256 miles in to France. In total we have now cycled 641 miles, with a total elevation ascent of 9906 m. If we were cycling 24 hours a day, we’d have so far cycled for three and a half days straight. Thankfully we’re not cycling all day, we give ourselves a few hours sleep a night.

Day 7 of cycling saw us set off from St Omer and cover 93.6 miles. The skies were completely clear and temperatures reached 30 degrees. With very little shade we were all soon melting. We cycled well for the first 30 miles but after a particularly busy section, through a major intersection and a few hills, my knee completely gave up and we had to stop until I regained some movement. The rest of the team were great supporting me, especally Ryan, who also has to navigate us as well as look out for me.

We arrived at the campsite in Frasnoy to find ourselves surrounded by very enthusiastic kids, one of whom asked Ryan if we were part of the Tour de France. I don’t know much French, but I think he said we weren’t!

One great thing about cycling through France at the moment is that lots of people are enthusistically cheering us on as we pass…and occasionlly just yelling “Tour de France!!” at us in a very relaxed French manner. It creates a great atmosphere.

Day 8 was our second big day of cycling in a row, with 84 miles planned from the campsite in Frasnoy to Attigny. The morning was the best yet of the trip, as it was overcast and quite cold – such a relief after these hot temperatures. For the first time since day one we needed to wear jackets for the morning. Around lunchtime the sun came out with a vengence, but we also had a good tailwind for a portion of the journey, which really upped our overall speed.

We also had our first experience of cycling on cobbles, a somewhat unpleasant experience that I’m in no hurry to repeat!

About 10 miles away from the campsite I stopped to stretch my knee out a bit, which was lucky because we noticed a text from the support team saying the campsite had been changed as it was no good, we now had to head in a slightly different direction. Lucky we stopped really, or we would have turned up to find a field without any camping and our beds no where to be found.

The last 10 miles were excruciating for me. My knee seems to flucuate between mildly uncomfortable and incredibly painful, which is fine as long as it goes back down to the less painful side again… unfortunately sometimes it just refuses! I have never been more happy to arrive at a campsite than I was yesterday, it was a relief to be able to sit down with an ice block on my knee. I think we’ve accepted that my knee is unlikely to get better on this trip as it probably needs a good month of rest. I intend to keep going until I absolutely have to stop, but for the moment I’m being helped along by all this wonderful team, and my friends Ibuprofen, Codeine, Ibuprofen gel, Deep Freeze, ice, compression knee support and lots and lots of chocolate chip brioche.

Day 9 was a half rest day for us, with only 55 miles to do in the morning, before we could take the whole afternoon off. We made it to Verdun around 2pm after quite a nice morning. My knee didn’t really hurt that much, with only a few twinges towards the end of the cycle, so we could make some good speed. We were able to get some rest this afternoon whilst preparing our lunch, drinks, and the route for tomorrow.

The plan for tomorrow is 77.5 miles, though we still need to work out if the campsite we’re headed towards actually exists. Hopefully we will be able to update more tomorrow, if we have an internet connection.

Here’s a few pictures from the past few days:

Wednesday's lunge photo

Wednesday’s lunge photo

Almost there?

Almost there?

Megan sprinting

Megan sprinting

More hill climbing

More hill climbing

Megan at the top of a hill, somewhere.

Megan at the top of a hill, somewhere.

Jen pushing through

Jen pushing through

Thursday's Lunge photo (it's not falling... honest)

Thursday’s Lunge photo (it’s not falling… honest)

Support team Ahoy!

Support team Ahoy!

Jen in lovely (flatish) winding roads in Meuse

Jen in lovely (flatish) winding roads in Meuse

A friend with knees is a friend indeed

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

Team Pedal, complete and in Dover

We’re in France! We weren’t lucky enough to have internet last night so here’s the progress from the past couple of days. Jen and Megan have finally made way for me to write an update, so grab yourself some hot chocolate and settle in for the long haul.

Yesterday was day 5, and the second big day in a row since Jen’s knee went. Things didn’t start particularly well when I realised the route I’d painstakingly planned in on the laptop hadn’t been transferred to the GPS, so I had to organise a new route hunched over the 3″ GPS display. After leaving Blacklands campsite (http://www.blacklandsfarm.co.uk/) (who generously donated to the team and had great facilities) we made a good pace, and our slightly-before-mid-point of Tunbridge Wells drew closer and closer. The route through Sussex and Kent has been picturesque, and it’s a shame we couldn’t spend longer touring around the back roads and checking out the many sights we had to shoot past, but we are on a mission so there’s no time to lose.

We met the support team in Tunbridge Wells and stocked up on suncream and water, as well as giving Jen’s knee a much-needed ice session. While sat at a set of traffic lights someone from a couple of cars back had dashed up to our car, thrust in £20 and said “Good luck!”. There have been so many incidents like this that it’s been a really great experience travelling through the UK and we’ve all been blown away by the support we’ve seen.

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Jen pushing on near Folkstone

Unfortunately our day took a turn for the worse, and with around 40 miles to go Jen’s knee went on the pain scale from 2 (out of 10) to 8. We were about 3/4 of the way up our second major hill climb, which apparantly gets used for the Tour de France, so limped off the side of the road and took refuge outside the Green Cross Inn (URL). We owe them a pint or two because as soon as we arrived they offered a bag of ice and a teatowel, and didn’t mind at all that we were obviously cheapskate cyclists with our own food. Dad and Chris arrived a couple of minutes later with more Voltarol gel and some giant ibuprofen. When the pain had subsided a little we pushed on, but made (literally) painfully slow progress until 3 miles out of Folkstone when Jen’s knee gave up for the day and brought us to a grinding halt. Anyone struggling to choose who to sponsor should definitely pick Jen (http://www.justgiving.com/Jen-Gallagher1) who’s not just having to do a huge distance each day but is also going through a fair amount of hardship at the same time.

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Expert medical aid at the Green Cross Inn

Day 6 has been much easier, and we had time to meet up with Barry, a family friend and who works for Dover Community Radio (http://www.dovercommunityradio.co.uk/). We got a couple of great team photos and a quick radio interview, as well as a long overdue catch up.

We did cheat a little here, and had to jump in the car to get through customs and onto the ferry. We had intended to cycle those 500m, but thought an extra £90 was a little extortionate for such a short distance. We’ll make it up by making a wrong turn somewhere!

Cycling to our current campsite near St Omer was an absolute pleasure. With less than 200m of height gain it was a welcome relief to Jen and we made the campsite in good time, ready for an afternoon off. I did find that leading the group around Calais I was constantly second guessing myself. Am I on the right side of the road? Is this guy going to give way to me? Am I going the wrong way down a one-way street? Once we hit the countryside I was much more relaxed and settled in to a gentle pace. So far French drivers have given us a good wide berth even on busy roads. Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve got English text all over our cycling lycra – everyone just assumes we have no idea what we’re doing and steers clear!

Cycle on the right...

Cycle on the right…

So we’re now 408 miles into the trip, with roughly 680 to go. We have climbed around 1500m most days, totalling 6742m, and have cycled for approximately 55 hours (including stops). With the exception of our start in North Wales it’s been brilliant sun and clear skies, and we’ve cycled through the hottest day of 2013 so far. Fortunately noone’s burned, and we’re building up some excellent (read: ridiculous) tans. So far we’ve had 3 punctures (so far Jen is winning the “best deflation sound” award) and I’m turning them around in under 5 minutes. It was definitely worth the practice.

Pretty much every update we write needs to have a huge thanks to the support team. Chris and Dad have worked tirelessly to make and break camp, keep us fed and watered, shadow us taking pictures and being on hand for emergency calls when injuries need tending to. When they volunteered I’m sure they were under the impression that they’d have hours to kill and could go off on little adventures. Little did they realise they’d be working harder than us!

Tonight we sit here optimistic. There are hurdles ahead and we’re at the behest of Jen’s knee, but the hills for the next couple of days are likely to be fewer and gentler. We have two big days (80-100 miles each) before our next half day.

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Nice flat roads in Northern France

Thanks, a last minute appeal, and GoPro testing

On Thursday we set off for our 1000 mile cycle to Switzerland. We’ve made good progress with sponsorship but we still need a bit more to reach our targets so spread the word and gently coerce everyone into helping out!

We’ve been helped along the way by too many people to list, and we haven’t even set off yet, so if you’ve provided technical assistance, gadgetry, donations, moral support or even just friendly banter: cheers! Your reward is getting to see me looking silly for a couple of minutes… enjoy:

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.

Training & planning diary – 4 weeks to go

After the set backs of last week I was hoping to make some good steps forward in my training and get one really long cycle ride done.  Here’s a summary of what I did this last week:

Monday 3rd June
Still in Wales this morning after the weekend so I’ve picked today as my first rest day of the week.  Ryan and I spend a lot of the morning talking about the new purchases I need to make (new bike frame mostly).  I drive back to Oxford intending to get a lot of planning done in the evening, but the bad traffic means my usual four hour journey takes six hours and I’m back just in time for bed!  But before I can go to sleep I first need to buy myself a new bike frame.  The order is placed, and it will hopefully arrive some time in the next 10 days.

Tuesday 4th June
Determined to get the week off to a good start I set out straight from work for a cycle ride.  As I stupidly left my pannier rack in Leeds over the weekend I’m having to cycle with a back pack into work.  A rather unpleasant experience that gives me a sweaty back.  Cycling after work with a backpack on meant I also had back pain after a relatively short ride, so I wont be doing that again.  Even with the uncomfortable back it was still a lovely evening, and I saw lots of clubs out racing – always wonderful to see so many cyclists about.  I also had to turn back around to get proof of this usual level of friendliness towards cyclists:

image

Well done Panshill Cafe for being so friendly to cyclists!

The best thing about the evening was going down a very steep hill at 28mph and having to brake heavily to avoid going over the 20mph speed limit at the bottom of the hill….wonderful feeling!

Cycle to work: 3.22 miles
Cycle ride after work: 32.58 miles
Minutes of stretching to shake off the back pain: 45

Wednesday 5th June
Learning my lesson from yesterday I returned home after work, changed, and set off out again to do another long ride.  I tried a different route this time, and one that I don’t think I’ll try again.  Cycle paths too narrow to cycle on, others strewn with glass – it really wasn’t very pleasant at all.  I also encountered lots of cycle paths that followed the usual trend of not really understanding the point of a cycle path:

image

…and this is why we cycle on the road.

Cycle to & from work: 5.45 miles
Cycle after work: 24.94 miles

Thursday 6th June
Thursday’s are traditionally my rest day as I work later then usual, but as I’m going on a long ride on Saturday I need Friday to rest.  With less time then I usually have I decide to get in from work and do some indoor cycling.  I try to mix fast peddling with steep uphill climbs and keep going for 52 minutes before it’s time for dinner.  Indoor cycling is always hard work as you can really push yourself to your limits….and not having a fan indoors makes it seem like middle of July alps temperatures, so that’s good training too.

I also spent my entire lunch break mapping the route through the UK and trying to save it to send to the rest of the team, but my browser crashed every time I tried. Very frustrating!

Cycle to and from work: 6.42 miles
Time on turbo trainer: 52 minutes
Time stretching: 25 minutes

Friday 7th June
Rest day today.  I started to plan my route for Saturday, as I want to do a bigger ride then I’ve ever done before I know it would be best to go on a familiar route so I can do it quickly.  Unfortunately I don’t know any routes that are very long, so I decide to stick to a national cycle route that will take me away form Oxford and up towards Northamptonshire.  To add a bit of extra interest I decide to divert off route to cycle past some beautiful scenery (see pictures below).  I’m aiming for 100 miles in total, and I really hope I can make it.  I make sure all my kit is ready to go first thing in the morning.

Saturday 8th June
Up at 7 am and straight downstairs for breakfast. I’m anticipating this is going to be an exhausting one….so I have 5 Weetabix.  I’m getting used to nerves before a big ride and today is no exception, I feel quite sick before I set off, but I don’t let that put me off. Just after 8am I’m ready to go and out the door.  After smothering myself in sun protection it’s a little disappointing to find that it’s actually overcast and very windy.  The first 20 miles were really hard as I made my way up through Bicester and out towards Buckingham.  There were lots of cyclists about in the morning, and everyone was very friendly today.  Despite the cloud coverage it was still very warm so I was able to put away the high-vis jacket and enjoy the warm hurricane breeze on my arms….I exaggerate, as usual.  However, there was a very strong headwind the entire journey which made the going very tough.  With lots of sensibly placed stops for snacks I eventually made it to the beautiful scenery I was hoping to see:

image

The podium near the final corner on the Silverstone circuit

image

Aaah what a beautiful welcoming sight

I can’t believe you can actually see the podium from the roundabout outside the circuit!!  Anyway, after wasting a bit of time meandering outside Silverstone and watching some cars racing over the fence, I continued onwards and made it to my half way point.  I realised somewhere around 40 miles that I may have taken a wrong turning but I wasn’t too concerned as the main objective was to reach 100 miles today, no matter what the route.  However, after passing two cyclists I’d passed earlier on in the day I got out my phone to discover exactly what kind of a mistake I’d done:

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 21.27.57

Not quite what I’d intended

Instead of going left after Silverstone village I’d followed a road which took me back down towards Buckingham.  Now I was faced with knowing that where I’d stopped was actually on a road which went back down to Buckingham, so I could just go straight down there to get home – it would be quicker.  The old Jennifer would have certainly taken the quicker easier route and continued on that road, but I was determined to get to 100 miles and so I turned around and went back the way I’d come.

Today’s other brilliant sights included this gem:

image

I think maybe they’ve misunderstood the point of a CYCLE route

I made it back home 9 hours and 6 minutes after I’d set off, with a total moving time of 7 hours 57 minutes (with stops for lunch and snacks).

I am very happy that I made it to the full 100 miles, and even more happy that I could still move the next day!

Total miles cycled: 100.55

Sunday 9th June
As my biggest concern with this trip is being able to cycle consecutive long days I would have loved to get out for another 70+ miles and see how I fared.  Unfortunately I had to work today, so instead I got up at 7am to set out for a 15 mile ride before work.  In my last 10 miles yesterday I got what I thought was a bug in my eye, but I’m thinking now it might have been a bit of grit.  At the time I had to stop to try and get whatever it was out, but had to cycle for the last 10 miles with my right eye streaming with water and stinging a lot.  Last night I had a very restless sleep as every time my eye moved I woke up in pain.  Today it doesn’t seem much better and was watering a lot on the ride, so I stuck to the safety of meandering around the streets of Oxford and got to 17 miles before it was time to get ready for work.

Cycle in the morning: 17.64 miles
Cycle to and from work: 6.75 miles

Thoughts on the week
I’m really happy with how much training I’ve done this week, and that I not only did a 100 mile ride myself, but also in a pretty decent time.  On Sunday I didn’t feel too bad out on the bike, my knees were a bit achy and my legs a bit stiff for the first five miles, but generally I felt like I could keep going for a lot more miles.  Next week I need to finish the route mapping for the UK leg of our trip, I tried it twice this week and had problems with browsers crashing, so I need to persevere with that.  Hopefully my new frame will arrive by the end of next week and Ryan and I can start to plan getting it fitted to my bike.

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?