Category Archives: Cycling

Back on the bike


The turbo bike

After a few months off I finally got back on the bike on December 31st. 18 miles (at 13mph!) later and I was sore, tired but pleased to have achieved ride #1.

Since then I’ve unpacked the turbo trainer, repaired the turbo bike and bridged the bad weather gap with a couple of easy static sessions.

I’d been worrying (!) that my heart rate was too high for the perceived effort I was making. On reflection I think it’s because this is the first time in years that I’ve been training while REALLY rested (as opposed to barely recovered).

On Sunday I went for a leisure ride with Pat along the new Coastal Connection path between Glyne Gap and St Leonards. The surface is a bit sketchy in places (deep, loose gravel) but I think it will be a popular alternative to the main road. Especially as it has a café on it. We stopped for a brew even though it was only a ten mile ride.

In the afternoon I did a 25 mile circuit through Cooden, Pevensey, Magham Down, Herstmonceux, Ninfield, High Woods and Little Common. I only averaged 14 mph after blowing up in some style with a few miles to go. The Ryvita for lunch was clearly not enough fuel.

And so to today’s session. It was a perfect, mild, windless day. I did the same 25 mile circuit and pushed along about one gear higher. I felt stronger. I did get a bit ragged towards the end, but always in control. It was still only a 15mph run, but that’s progress. I love it when a ride goes well.

If I’m cycling to maintain fitness (rather than to improve racing performance) I think three rides a week should be enough. I’d like to get some more distance work in, but I need to adjust to being back in the saddle before that becomes possible.

Cycling review of 2011

This shouldn’t take long.

I started a new job in May. It has weekend working and a variable schedule which made it difficult to keep to training plans and made weekend racing tricky to programme. So I slowed down then stopped the racing. And then slowed down and then stopped the cycling. I haven’t been on the bike since August.

But it’s not about the job of course. the job was just the excuse pushing at an open door. The racing was getting difficult because I was going slower. Motivation is a problem when there is no incentive. The house move in March meant that I had lost my support network.

Support network sounds grand doesn’t it. What I mean is those people who get after you if you start taking it easy: the Willesden CC, the Minet Ladies CC, the veterans at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, the Imperial Winter Series and so on. Living in a new place means you have to be a self-starter until you find the local networks. I did this for a while… and then stopped doing it.

Will I ride a bike again? I’ve got a hell of a lot invested in kit. That’s probably not enough of an incentive to tempt me out on a day like today (cold, wet and windy).

The one thing that might persuade me back onto the road again is that I’ve started putting on weight. The new job, with its outdoor work and requirement for nervous energy, has kept the pounds off during the season. Since November I’m working less and the pounds are creeping back on. I hate being fat.

If I do race next year I think I’ll stick to club races. There’s a really good calendar of evening events in East Sussex. I do like riding opens, but down here the weekend events always start early in the morning (in most areas the Saturday races are in the afternoon). Two early starts (3-5am say) in a row are no fun, especially if you’re riding like a slug.

I don’t think I can afford to set targets for next year. They get me down and, in the end, become counter productive.

Some statistics for the year:

Fastest 10 miles TT – 25:52 on 9th May on the G10/87 course (compared to a PB of 23:37)

Fastest 25 miles TT – 1:05:33 on 8th May on the Q25/8 course (compared to a PB of 59:07)

16 races ridden. This compares to 48 in 2010.

2,615 miles in training (so far). This compares to 6,786 miles in 2010. I’ve never exceeded 10,000 miles in a year.

633 miles in January was the most miles in a month this year. The disruption of the house move and then new job kicked in around March.

Minet Ladies Cycling Club charity ride

Cycling at Minet Park

photo by Keith Shorten

When we lived in South Harrow I used to help out with the coaching at the Minet Ladies CC on Friday afternoons. It’s a great club and it’s developed really well over the last few years.

Yesterday they ran their annual charity ride at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. I decided to go up for a spin despite not having been on the bike for over a month. It was great to meet up with old friends again.

The riding was hard for me. I tried to keep up with groups who were just too fast for my current state of fitness (i.e. zero). For over half the ride my heart rate was up in the top zone (racing effort). In spite of my lack of form I managed 33 miles (35 laps) before exploding, averaging just over 18mph.

In the group

Hanging on to the fast riders for half a lap. L-R: Kirsten Savage, LW, Tony Woodford, Sean Bannister and John Wheatley. Photo by Keith Shorten

One young rider did 100 laps – 94 miles. Riders ranged in age from 5 to 80+. Altogether they did 2400+ laps and raised nearly £2,000 for the local Acorn Youth Club. Chapeau to everyone who took part, organised, supported and/or helped. It was a great event.

First photo

I know I’m not riding the bike at the moment, but I’ve just bought the first photo of me in the new team kit. It was taken in the last few metres of the damp Don Woodman 25m TT near Abergavenny. You can just make out the not very aerodynamic wooden block under the arm rests that stops them slipping down.


Photo by John Richards

Race #16 – Is that it?

Raglan Castle

Raglan Castle

Last weekend we went to Ross-on-Wye for my now annual attempt to ride the Ross-on-Wye and District CC 25 mile TT. The race is run in memory of my father.

It’s a much longer trip now – over four hours of driving. We stopped at Chedworth Roman Villa on the way there. The torrential rain stopped just as we got there. It’s a fine site and will be amazing next year when the mosaic floors are back on view.

I had thought (hoped?) the rain might lead to the cancellation of Sunday’s ’25’ but it was merely drizzling as the event started. Quite a few riders elected not to ride. I hadn’t ridden in anger for a couple of months and not at all for two or three weeks. This was going to be an ‘exhibition’ ride.

The first half of the race is mostly downhill and had a tailwind. I reached the turn in around 31 minutes, so I knew it was going to be hard coming back. In fact it got progressively harder – the wind rising and the rain increasing as the slope went up. I was pretty much on my knees at the end. Last year I did a 1:3:14, this year a 1:8:53. It’s true that training makes a difference then.

Race stats: Time: 1:8:53 (21.78mph). First 12.5 miles: 31:09, last 12.5 miles: 37:44. Top speed: 30.4mph. Slowest mile (19): 3:22 (17.82mph), fastest mile (2): 2:14 (26.87mph). Average HR: 166bpm, maximum HR: 173bpm. Average cadence: 74rpm. 28th of 34 finishers. Winner: Simon Harradine ( 55:14

A big thank you to organiser Paul Stephens and his team, particularly the marshalls who got a real soaking while directing us around the course.

I have no more races planned now.

It was good to catch up with family and friends. We finished the trip with a visit to Raglan Castle before heading home. I may write about Raglan later.

One more race (at least)

I haven’t ridden a bike for a couple of weeks. Do I feel guilty? Well, yes I do… a bit.

This season had been difficult with the house move, but I’d caught up with my training and the fitness levels were good. When the new job came along it allowed plenty of time for training and the commuting potential would add another element to my schedules.

So why quit? I guess that I was looking for an excuse. My performances this year have been dire. Without the positive feedback of any improvement – in fact a deterioration in performance – sustaining interest was always going to be difficult when another obsession offered itself.

I love making progress, whether that be physical fitness or learning a new subject. I’ve taught myself to persist more than I used to when things get difficult, but there seems to be a limit. And I’ve reached that with the bike at the moment.

I’ve entered my dad’s memorial race on Sunday 17th July. It’s organised by his last club – Ross-on-Wye and District CC. It starts and finished in the splendidly named Llanvihangel Crucorney sitting below Skirrid mountain. It looks as if I’ll be riding it on memory rather than proper preparation. That’ll work.

I’m just wondering whether it’ll be my last ever race.

Why no races?

I haven’t ridden any cycle races recently. When the new job started I stopped entering open events. I reckoned that I needed to devote attention to my new role. I did think, however, that I would keep training and riding club events in the evenings when I was free. This hasn’t happened so far. Why?

I think I was looking for an reason to kick back. This season has been disappointing. It’s taken me longer to get fit and, even when I did get the numbers up to the right level, the race performances were poor. When an excuse offered itself I jumped at it. The fact that a lot of people manage to work full time and race at a high level was neither here nor there. I couldn’t cut it.

I don’t like to quit. But I wasn’t getting anywhere. The reason I race is to get positive feedback. I’ve learnt to persevere through the lean times, but this season has – so far – been beyond lean.

Ross-on-Wye and Dist CCI do hope to ride Ross‘s open events in Mid-July. They were my Dad’s club and the Sunday ’25’ is his memorial event. With this modest target in mind I have to start building up the mileage again and trying to get some race sharpness with the evening club tens.


Commuting through history

I’ve ridden into work and back a couple of times this week. It’s just over 15 miles each way, so not too strenuous. Or it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately the route that looks so straight on the map seems to go up and down every stream valley between here and the Castle. 2773 feet of climbing in the 31.5 miles gives me a feet climbed per mile figure of 88 – the hilliest rides I have in my training diary. The previous hardest was about 75 ft/ml. There’s a 15%er in there as well – 1 in 6.

The route to work

Profile of the route to work

I have never been a mountain goat and trip one (on Tuesday) was an epic. I didn’t know the terrain and got the gears wrong on every climb. I wasn’t helped by being on the heavy Winter bike with a carrier and pannier on as well.

I whimped out on Wednesday but did the ride again today. It was better. I hardly hit the red zone at all.

It is a ride through history: from the neolithic boat and dinosaurs fossils of Bexhill, through the early nineteenth century smugglers’ territory of Sidley towards Ninfield, where William the Conqueror raised his standard. From there the route rises to Battle (as in 1066) and heads for Bodiam where relics of the Roman navy have been found. The Castle itself has echos of the Hundred Years War, The Peasants Revolt, The Wars of the Roses and The English Civil War.

I just wish it was flatter.

Excuses, excuses

Still no miles on the bike this week. I’m not riding today’s race either, despite it being a day off work. We had a long meeting at the Rye Writer Hub and I didn’t get back in time.

Bodiam Castle

My walk to work

Bank Holiday Monday at Bodiam Castle was pretty busy. I enjoyed the French Castle builders from Guédelon. They’re building a medieval castle from scratch in Burgundy. Chapeau as we say in cycling.


Eric, the castle squirrel

I am currently reading as much as I can about Bodiam and its historical context. I’m also researching medieval cooking, baking and dining. It’s great talking to people who have a passion for the subject. I love this sort of work – immersing oneself in a strange world. There’s a strange energy in obsessive research. I just have to make sure that it doesn’t lock everything else out.

First week in the new job

I’m just back from 1385. I’ve worked three days at the Castle now and I’m enjoying it very much. It’s mostly an outdoor job. I’ve been sunburnt, rained on, overheated and deep-chilled already. The building is, of course, superb and it’s great to see how people relate to it.

The bike has had to take a back seat this week. I’ll miss Sunday’s event because I’m working. I do hope to build up a commuting bike today though. Back in the saddle soon perhaps?