Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Dartmare !!

So, to start I will advise that the blog title is tongue in cheek. Dartmoor can indeed be a Dartmare, but actually, it is a place I am learning more about riding wise and overall enjoying the test, which it undoubtedly is.  As I have said many times, it is unrelenting, sharp, steep, long, busy, but above all a great place to ride your bike once there and when the conditions curry favour.

We set off from Steve's house three up, which today included Mark, who is prepping for the Dartmoor classic - 100 miles of hill after hill. In isolation, each climb is doable, but when you string them together, it can be pretty hellish and very fatiguing on all body parts, legs, lungs, neck and shoulders. Today's highlight is a rapid and big improvement for me with reference to what is known as the Doccombe climb, a climb which equates to approx. 6 miles from Steps Bridge, peaking at Mortonhampstead. I shaved 9 minutes 30 seconds off the climb today which is born out fitness rather than profound weight loss.  It is a wonderful climb. Evidently the road was re-tarmaced for the tour of Britain. Smooth and as close as you'll get to a French col within the UK in my opinion. 

We had a quick brew in Morton where bike chat ensued with other cyclists outside the cafe and we were again on our way, slightly stoney legged after a stop. Mark took us across country on one of the Mid Devon secret rat runs, which in turn warranted gravel bikes !!! This brought us out on the base of Haytor, but at the far side, passing Hound tour before cresting Haytor from 600 feet up to 1300 feet approx. Much easier than the ride up from Bovey. All three of us rode 'down' Haytor full gas with Steve really letting his Dogma fly. Fearless. It really is a fast descent and riding smart required.  A bit like Burrington Coombe, but far more dangerous.

Interestingly, once out of Bovey, I started to feel very strong and the ride back from Haytor to Newton was great, I felt fit and lively after all the climbing and could have gone into TT mode for a while. In all, another great day on the bike in Devon. 43.6 miles, 3035 feet ascended and some lovely descents encountered too. The sun was out and on the whole the wind was a non issue. It is days like today we 'train' for. The first tan lines of summer have been cultivated on Devon's answer to Moordor. The bike's performed wonderfully, but in reality, there can be only one. Overall, getting around these hills a huge success. I had a third of the veins removed from my left leg 15 years ago and the right leg is as bad. It makes climbing harder than it should be or could be due to a lack of oxygen moving around in the old pins, but hey ho, life goes on.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Dartmoor inc. Haytor ....

So today we wheeled out the climbing bikes which despite being labelled as climbing bikes, are just good do it all bikes sans deep section wheels and heavy gears, more spritely in the way they ride shod with compact chainsets and broad gears. Aside from Steve who decided to tackle the 3.2 miles of Haytor with a 12-25.  Loco loco. Dartmoor is a vast expanse of nothingness. Barren in its landscape, I find it foreboding and intimidating at times, such is its ley. Straight out of a Dickensian novel or even a Charlotte Bronte muse of whom I quote, somewhat aptly for riding a bike on Dartmoor - "It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it..."

I was on my 'new' 'used' Emonda which is shaping up to be a beautiful bike and an excellent cost effective build as a climbing bike.  It has all the hallmarks of TREK quality control though made by Giant (note from editor; no it is made in the USA by TREK as 'level 6 carbon'. Steve was on his Pinarello Dogma F8, a super bike if ever there was one, and super in design and use, not just super in the adverb / superlative used to describe it. "That really is a super bike Mr. !" Catch my drift ? "Thanks son, It is a Dogma, go tell your friends". The differences for both of us going up were palpable from aero-bikes which whilst fast, in my opinion just do not climb like round tubes on bikes. 

On a personal note, I managed to shave nearly 8 minutes off my Haytor PB which is great news which ever way you look at it. It is a tough climb which you can almost split into three points. To my mind it is inherently harder than my old friend Cheddar - slightly longer steeper as a whole thing though nothing quite as sharp as steep corner at Cheddar. I cite Cheddar as a well worn path and one of the local cycling 'mecca' sites that attract infamy and sometimes misinformation. One mans easy is another mans hard. One thing to note is Haytor fools the rider umpteen times thinking you have nailed it, only to corner and find more 'fake' flat snaking away, pointing up. The climb only really stops when you get to the highest point past the monolithic stones and start thinking about the way down. Steve rode ahead of me by design as he is a lighter rider shaping up for a great 2017 on the bike. To get up Haytor 12-25 is some achievement for a recreational rider shackled by the reality of life. Out on the bike, home, then the school run, then fish fingers and mash etc etc. No massage, no soigneurs to massage us once off the bike, just us, just life. Wash the bike when you get two minutes. Probably the best way though. As Bradley says on his new Skoda advert his greatest achievements happened off the bike along with the cool millions Skoda are no doubt lining his pockets with.

The trouble with riding with someone sat astride an F8 is a bit like going out in a quality motor yourself and your mate/co-rider is in an F1 car. The F8 simply wants to go and in Steve words, it is dirty fast. To me it/they looked like a rabid dog attacking at each chance, whether up, down or across. I would snag my water bottle for a sip, look down and boom he was gone. Fair play Steve it really is some bike. This of course is no disservice to the Emonda, again a wonderful bike, but within the pantheon of super bikes, one or two spring to mind - and the current Dogma stable in it various guises has to be included in this list. Pinarello has shaved the meat from the bone since the Dogma was reborn as a carbon frame in 2010 at the behest of Team SKY and made a super light, super stiff, super fast bike that looks stunning from every angle. So many great details in the frame.

Figures from today blotted by my lack of power meter. My HR monitor has died to so today was a novel ride in the art of just riding. Never one to stare at the stem like Chris Froome, I do enjoy the analytical side of power. It has given me a better understanding of the sport. Riding without it a mindset shift change, but I suppose it can be like spending time without pants on. Dependant on the wind direction it can be quite nice ! However, for spot the ball fans it pans out as 32.2 miles, 2,339 feet of climbing, average speed 13.7 mph and fastest mph going down 37.4. The descent into Ashburton is rapid and caution has to be taken. I've really started enjoying my riding again and I am getting to grips with Devon riding. It has taken me two years, and been here 4 years this year. It is bloody testing, tough, sheer and unrelenting, but I am stronger now than ever, I just carry a bit more timber and am slightly less fit though my legs are feeling bigger, stronger and as wide as ever. 2017 is all about 2018 anyway !!! Another great 2 hrs 21 on the bike with Steve. What a positively decent riding buddy / friend / cycling nut /co-rider he has become. Images below.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Nailing a KOM ....

I have said it before, but going after Strava segments not really my bag or ideology on a bike. However, the beauty of Strava is that some segments appeal, fall into your lap as on a route or loop and thus become a real challenge or frustration. One such challenge is / was Roubaix Lane, a devilishly testing 1.9 mile section joining Mamhead to Kenn Lane. It is challenging for several reasons. Up and down, a typical Devon lane, narrow, sketchy and on the wrong day riddled with traffic using the back lanes as a rat run to avoid the traffic / road works in and around Exeter, the next 'big city' but far enough away to be a lane.

Up until now, I have had mixed results, never really attempted to nail it I have simply hit the segment with 'good legs'. Average times and speeds, usually curtailed by a steep mid point, horses or tractors. Today though, the stars aligned and I managed to nail the segment without encroachment from cars in any form and I had good legs so just kept the hammer down up and down and attacked. In the end the yield was as follows - 

1.9 miles at 22.5 mph with an average power output of 232 watts. This scored a time of 5.17 mins, thus propelling me to the top of the pile, the KOM on Strava which has had 1,833 attempts by 657 people. The paradox ? I did this carrying my bag to work ! It can get quicker. Images below.

To me, that is a massive result. Sometimes, moving to Devon was the hardest thing I could have done as a bike rider due to the terrain, I used to hate this 'segment' but but moments like this remind you it is worth while and you can reinvent the wheel. Heck, I am not suddenly a champion hill climber as the lane played into my hands and style. I would imagine someone somewhere may try and 'take it back' now which is fair enough. It is in the public domain and quite rightly so. I dedicate today's effort to my father in law, Alan, who sadly passed away yesterday. He was a cricket and golf fanatic, but always had time to talk cycling with me. RIP Alan.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Breaking away, breaking up ....

Cycling is to my mind the most paradoxical sport on the planet. How so many millions of us end up choosing cycling as our 'go to' sport is a mystery and often people cite cycling for the loner, the lost and the people coming back from or riding towards something. Who knows, though the beauty of being a rider is that yes, I admit I can be a solitary soul happy in my own company but as a cyclist you are never far from a network of other riders, events and discussion.  Brilliant !

But what I have found odd and occasionally complex about cycling is that it can be one huge paradox in so many ways. First of all, performance. How can you ride like an unleashed dog one day and a drugged cat the next ? Why is it deep wheels are ultimately no faster than shallow wheels ? Why is it I am riding on the absolute rivet and yet I feel I get no faster ? How are some people hitting 3000 miles in May already and how come some people are simply just better it riding a bike than me.

Such is life. Everyone can excel at somethings, others not so. It does not mean I do not love riding a bike. The beauty is that I am at one with myself capability wise and realise that in performance terms at 45 years old I am on a downward slope though I have years of riding full gas left in the tank. Guys in their 20's, heck -even their teens have no idea how blessed they are to be riding carbon 11 speed bikes with decent wheels. The tech has come so far on and off the bike and what has occurred is frankly crazy. But, the mad thing about bicycle sales is that since the boom which I think began in 2008, the volume shifted has nothing like the impact bicycle sales in the 1930's and again 1970 through to 1973ish where millions and I mean literally millions of bikes were sold. 2008 to 2013 when the road market slowed back down is just a drop in the ocean compared to the massive volume unboxed for the buying public 1930's with social mobility and in the 1970's with cost effective bikes being churned out by the big guns before the Taiwanese conglomerates got in on the act. The new world order have been making bikes for just over 40 years. They are just babies in a strange kind of way.

Anyway, maybe, ultimately, as a person I am to self critical, self aware or self deprecating as there are millions of middle aged men up and down the land sitting on sofa's getting ill and not even realising it. I have a saying - "Live fast, die slowly or live slowly, die fast". 

Perhaps I just need to lighten up about my ability. I know I am average, hence the title of this blog. Doubtful though as at 45 that horse has bolted. In the words of De La Soul "I wish I was a little bit taller", though I change the lyrics to faster. That is the paradox of cycling, there is always a bigger fish, born to ride a bike with faster legs. Life goes on. It turns out that the fast Tuesday crew are all in the top ten on the Tuesday ride/route on Strava this year ? The route chainganged / hammered by many is frankly a little mecca locally simply due to the fact it is really about as 'flat'  as a route gets in Devon - 1800 feet over 30 miles. It really is a lumpy county.

Is that failure ? Of course not, it is a massive success and it is all about perspective. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Fast Tuesday 5; 3 it's the magic number ....

Fast Tuesday has again been and gone and it was another resounding success with another PB achieved along with a new FTP for myself, now at 236 watts for 20 minutes.

James was back on board again today and frankly it was good to have him out as three seems to make a big difference to a two up which I will come back to later. The same ethos was applied as last week with a beginning middle and end being logged onto Strava as three different rides. I think fairs fair and all that. It is a much better exercise in getting decent times recorded in relevance to the actual effort as riding across town can lose time and power. 

I had good legs today. I felt powerful and in control for the 26 fast miles and never felt like I was over extending compared to last week. I did suffer slightly on the two mirror climbs, but naturally popped it into the small ring, span up, crested, got back into zone 2 before opening up the tanks and going full gas again in the big ring. To be honest, James pretty much held the front going up and coming back, which is fine by me. Smart riders ride smart and of course, James is happy smashing the front. He has no threshold, he is an animal. Steve rode fantastically as ever and put in another good shift on the propel with very good form and technique despite advising us that he was not feeling 100%. Fair play though we all literally hammered it. The longest Strava segment reveals the full gas tomfoolery - 11.4 miles at 21.7 miles an hour for 31 mins 30 secs (pic below). Interestingly, I was 4 minutes quicker this week on that section. I knew I had heavy legs last week and this reminds me. What a difference.

In summary, as below 26 miles in just under 1 hour 17. A new FTP and a PB for the course which is delightful. Average speed 20.6 miles an hour. Think about it. That is 20.6 miles an hour for 26 miles. Brilliant. The TCR was faultless today. Shod with narrow wheels it was no less fast without deep wheels or an aero bike of which I had convinced myself the TCR would not ride like the Madone. Not true, just as fast in recreational land. The Giant in house carbon wheels are just fantastic, super stiff, super light and super fast though I remain a hung jury on the Giant 'stock' tyres. They seem sticky/grippy compared to my Schwalbe one's which appear to have been discontinued. Bummer.

Going back to the two vs. three. Here is the crazy bit. I / we felt like we rode hammer down all the way home, because actually we did. The crazy thing ? Compared to last week we were at 26 miles in 1 hr 19 and 43 secs where as today, paradoxically, we were 26 miles at 1 hour 17 and 08 secs. A difference of 2 minutes 35 seconds quicker. It felt inherently faster but a simple reminder that as discussed before recreational bike riders can look for minutes. Pro's look for seconds and formula one guys look for tenths. We are just regular guys who like riding bikes. To some that makes us irregular.  These people of which one we encountered in a road rage incident today do not ride bikes. He was swiftly dispatched with a blast from my water bottle. As they say in Australia, he looked like a proper crack head bogan.  What a fool.

Fast Tuesday has become a wonderful part of the week. Great company, great bike riding. You gotta love it. Roll on next week.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

A rest is as good as a change ....

Rest. An important by word in world sport.

Recovery. Another important by word.

Rest and recovery go together. The trouble is as bike riders sometimes, I think we simply forget to rest. We do recover. That starts the minute we step off the bike with the correct procedure. Good nutrition, ablutions including stretching and compression, sleep and feet up ! 

But the the thing I have come to realise is that rest is as important as recovery and I think sometimes us bike riders simply ride, ride and ride some more. Yes, the fitness increases and yes form can change, but fatigue can accumulate and thus render heavy, sore legs and you can effectively over reach, before the over training kicks in. 

This is where data comes in. The appliance of science. I have been looking at my numbers for the year so far and I decided to have a few days off the bike this week as I felt tired and overly sore in the legs and my threshold despite attaining a new FTP felt lower than it should have on Tuesday. Strava tells me that on Saturday, my 'form', a division of the aforementioned fatigue and fitness will reset to zero which basically means I should have good legs. This is the result of 400 - 500 miles a month on the bike and why I chose to work with power and heart rate. I am told form should hover around +10 through to -10.

I figure a body builder would not always go to the gym and do bicep curls daily as it would simply just hurt, look stupid and in turn give him very sore muscles. I think the same can go for bike riding. We used to use mileage and speed as a barometer for 'fitness' but times have changed and power allows us to ride smart. Remember to rest people.

Over and out.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Fast Tuesday Part 4. Bicycle Redux.

Fast Tuesday; Bicycle Redux as today is known was about doing fast tuesday on the TCR ADV with my 404's shod on the frame as the Madone 9 has moved on to a lovely new home as I needed to shrink the fleet and keep  my 'Devon bike'. Not a diservice to the Madone, simply that it is better suited to different terrain.  I took a slightly different slant to the actual ride itself today in so much that we had established the busy ride across Newton from one side to another and back in post full gas shenanigans was actually having a negative effect on time and speed. So, the actual ride was segmented into a warm up, the actual fast tuesday part and of course a warm down. Jolly sensible.

What this meant in the end is that the valuable part of the ride, the middle portion was a big success today with some solid numbers appearing on the Garmin post ride and subsquently on Strava. 

These are -

26.0 miles in 1 hour 19 & 43 seconds.

Average speed 19.6 mph.

Average weighted power of 223 watts.

A new 20 minute FTP of 233 watts.

All of these numbers stack up to be a decent shift on the bike despite not feeling great. I felt very tired after a very busy bank holiday weekend and even thought about rain checking the ride, but they only come around once a week and next week is 7 days away. I have had a mysterious virus and an odd lump above my nose which I suspect is sinus related which is usually a sign of being run down. Snoring a bit too, a huge barometer for my partner who prods me in the night. Basically, if I snore, I am shattered. End of.

It was great to ride with Steve again. Monstering along on his Propel ADV SL - it is some bike. It turned heads today and we had two 'old women' commenting on how lovely it was. Steve; take note !!! He is in truly great shape and both of us, mid to latter 40 somethings are making good use of our time on the bike with busy family life away from the two wheeled wonder machines. Steve likes to use the pain cave and get on Zwift through the week. I would do the same. Trouble is my broadband is woeful. Less than 1 meg on an evening would render it pointless. I will stick to the commute riding and I am going to rustle up the single speed this week and put some miles on that as not ridden it since Feb. I intend on resting a bit now as feeling it today. Overall, despite getting a new FTP I did not feel fast. Strava inferred that I was a little 'jet lagged' and how I felt backs this up. The legs were heavy and testament to this was the ride back was three minutes slower over the 11.5 miles - see image below. Windy again but more to do with my legs than the weather today. Fish and chip suppers do not a bike rider make, but they do taste bloody lovely.

Monday, 1 May 2017

April in review ....

April 2017 has been and gone and was a good solid productive month of riding, 507 miles logged, the largest months riding since May 2013 and August 2012 before it, with a real mix in the bag. Long rides, interim rides, full gas rides and some solid commute rides thrown in - all with power, what many consider to be the holy grail and the opening of the door cycling wise. Off the bike I managed to manage my eating and food regime well over Easter where it becomes to easy to eat stupid amounts of chocolate. But, the weight loss continues, if a little slower. Going back to power, I find it hard to moderate it on hills such is the location, but is is fuelling a better understanding of how and where to use it. For example, I nailed a PB on a segment called 'climb out of Starcross' (pic below) a small harbour side village in Devon, and I now know that to better it again, 220 watts for the duration on the fake flat for 6 minutes should do. Easier said than done of course, but with power, you have a real tool for improvement because you can break down the effort and see where and how you rode. There are a lot of variables involved. Fitness, increased threshold and weight loss but most of all, simply getting stronger due to the love of riding a bike.

Highlights of the month passed include some new personal bests along with aforementioned climbs here and there and some very enjoyable fast rides. Best of all, I managed to snag a top ten on Strava on one of the local punchy climbs 'Roubaix Lane'. 2 miles long and up and down like a fiddlers elbow. Well, I smashed it to pieces. Second fastest this year and 8th all time, which to a fat middle aged guy on a bike is simply wonderful. Like running a marathon. The funny thing, I never went out there 'Strava hunting' as it is known, I simply knew I had good legs from the minute I turned into the segment so opened the tanks and thankfully met no agricultural vehicles.

Small things and all that. Works out as 183 watts for 2 miles, average speed 20.8 miles an hour. To me this is a huge thing to achieve given how hard I found Devon as a location to ride a bike in with the move South. I took the TCR out on this way rather than the Madone. Absolutey nowhere near as fast as the Madone and a totally different bike in the way it rides and feels. To use a poor analogy, the TCR is a wasp, the Madone is a big old Bee. Much the same but hugely different. Nothing can top the Madone for flat out speed and this faster it gets the faster it goes riding though the TCR is perfectly suited to the Ardenne nature of Devon lanes sharp, punchy and battered.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Fast Tuesday III'rd. On a Monday.

Elizabeth II.
Henry 8th.
Edwards 1st.
Fast Tuesday III.

All famous in their own right, aside from Fast Tuesday III'rd which happened on a Monday. Steve and I met for a Newton Abbot to Steps Bridge shakedown ride and frankly, we hammered it. Looking at times, we are improving fitness, getting 'faster', holding threshold and tempo for longer and generally looking quite strong considering mid April. As Steve said yesterday, what will we be doing in a few months time. There you go people. Cyclists, eternal optimists and forward thinking people.

The nett result of Fast Tuesday on a Monday was effectively 30 miles in 1 hour 30. Fast going for two middle aged chaps recently ejected from Britains Got Talent. We did not even make the auditions on X-Factor despite me playing 'Nothing else matters' note for note and Steve singing 'Let it go -The Devon version; unplugged'. So, we set our sights on getting quicker rather than global infamy on a TV show.

Overall Strava highlights some interesting bits n' bobs. Average speed 19mph, 210 watts average power, topping out a 629 watts, which is not a lot as not sprinting, just likely climbing a punchy climb hard. The Newton to Steps Bridge route is a roller, there are no flat roads in Devon and the way back is better than the way up for me, despite the road being a mirror image when looked at. It is not unlike an ink splot or a Rorschach test for those of you who may have had medical intervention !

Pictured below, some highlights going up North bound, 19.1 mph for 19.14 minutes. Note the top ten times and note number 1, Steve Lampier, a seasoned pro, paid to ride a bike 5/6/7 days a week. Coming back faster, 20 mph for 34 minutes. 4 minutes off the top ten, but evidence enough that the road currys favour when heading away from Dartmoor. All told, we got home happy, much beer and food was consumed. Bunting was hung and children danced in the street to celebrate hitting 19mph average on a ride. First time since 2012 I think. Personally, I have no idea how much faster I can get. The wind had an impact again yesterday, but I have resigned myself to the fact that Devon is effectively a much harder place to ride a bike than other UK places I have been. As they say in Belgium, it can bring you on, make you strong, which is true as frankly I would love a fast ride elsewhere to see how the numbers stack up.

Anyway that's about it, just one last thing. Last week a woman at work asked me if I got bored riding from Bristol to Exminster two weeks ago. You should have seen the look on my face. I was speechless. "Bored ?" I said. I nearly fainted. 

Finally, a few images below. Steve looking dapper in his kit. The man is a cycling animal !

Monday, 17 April 2017

When the wind blows ....

To my mind 2017 has been very very windy. Again. 2016 was and 2015 before it. I am not sure if we notice wind more than non cyclists as we do monitor weather but of late, 2017 has been super windy. I live in South Devon in the heart of an estuary and I am fully aware that coastal areas are windier than other places due to the vortex the cold air of the sea and the warm air of the land can create but even in land it has been hellish. Global warming, the gulf stream, estuary living or something else. All rather odd and very testing when on a bike. The head wind riding back yesterday was simply brutal. Wattage and HR ramping up just JRA as they say.

In light of the wind, my decision to run a 303 on the front was well vindicated yesterday as by the time we finished work it was blowing a gale in what seemed like every direction despite trying to pinpoint a direction. However, James William Ward and I had a decent bimble home and it was a nice reminder of the fitness level now attained as I personally got 3 pb's on Strava riding across Roubaix lane and then a PB smashing the fast road from Mamhead crossroads to Starcross golf club with some fast times. 27mph for almost 4 minutes and I managed to get a tidy 35mph on the flat despite the blustery conditions. 303 = money well spent though the 404 will certainly come out to play as and when, they are too good not to. The time shaved on various segments is the self improvement thing I have talked about before. Not going out to target segments, just getting fitter week after week and getting stronger with a raised threshold. Some days I feel like the rider of old as I was back in / up to 2012/13 before the long break did all the damage. Paradoxically, living in Devon has I think started making me a better rider. If I went back to Bristol to do a Strada Shop ride for example (bottom picture), with my current fitness based on terrain, I would smash it. It is pan flat. In perspective 29 miles equates to 817 feet where as last week on Monday I did 1700 feet in 31 miles. Hills hurt but they can make the difference to fitness I suspect. Worth noting I still have the KOM for the Strada shop ride ! You can take the boy out of Bristol and all that....

A few images below. Happy days. If anyone can explain why the wind is as bad as it is please send a postcard to the usual address. The first postcard picked wins a mystery prize which I have not yet chosen such is its mystery. Ahem.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The long and the short of it ....

Another reasonable week on the bike with less commute miles but a couple of decent Estuary shifts added to my training log. I felt strong on the bike today. A fitter guy dropped me after the Mount Pleasant climb into Dawlish to remind me how superior he was as I did say hello before he clunked clunked his gears to go past me, but hey ho he was riding hard on a Specialized bike and never judge a man when training. He looked lean. Credit to him. Specialized bikes are topical in the cycling news and press given the PR shit storm they now face after their new fanfare bike the 2017 Roubaix bicycle, reinvented with a 'front shock TM Specialized' on the headset fell apart at Paris - Roubaix, thus throwing classics specialist Nik Terpstra off his machine. Bloody dangerous, an awful crash and a PR nightmare for the worlds greatest marketing machine.  Like every brand out there, they make some great bikes, they also make some shit bikes. Anyway, I am happy to admit there are far better bike riders out there. I am just racing myself. The endurance bike theme is interesting though, hence the title of the today's blog. Oddly, I nailed Exminster to Dawlish (see attached below 6 odd miles at 18.5 mph is nice given the wind)  today, and got a sliver PB but incredibly, I have done this long segment faster on a Cannonadle Synapse (last summer as below) which bodes the question are these bikes quicker in real world terms on battered roads ? I've no idea really as fast legs make a bike fast but it will fascinate me for a long time yet. There are too many variables to compare really, but ultimately, it is apples for apples. A braeburn to a Golden delicious perhaps ?

Monday, 10 April 2017

Averaging the average; hell is for heroes.

I did some retrospective examining of last weeks long ride and put together some data which I found very interesting but also slightly puzzling though I feel that the answers on time gained and time lost are held within a. the use of power over a long ride and b. hitting the unexpected Blackdown hill climbs. Last years ride of the same venture and this years ride break down as such -

Ride A 2016

10 miles 51.52

20 miles 1.31

30 miles 2.11

40 miles 2.54

50 miles 3.37

60 miles 4.15

Ride B 2017

10 miles 42.14

20 miles 1.22

30 miles 2.01

40 miles 2.52

50 miles 3.39 (two minutes down - hills taking effect).

60 miles 4.21

The interesting data is that I was a mere 2 minutes up at 40 miles, but the caveat being that I left Bristol way later in the day last year and effectively rode full gas from the get go even though the fitness and form was not quite there due to the late depart. I was also riding a little bit panic stricken as I knew I was going to lose the light hence going to Taunton to get on a train, rather than completing the ride. I was doing a there and back on the same day but the motorway going up was hellish. The 50 miles difference is a surprise though this is why data comparison ends at 60 miles. There was a cat 4 climb leaving Low Ham which again would have made the difference between climbing and riding tempo westward on the flat. 6 minutes down at 60 miles though I had a couple of map reference stops and a food break. I always find a section on an endurance ride where I sort of zone out and just ride probably losing time, but enjoying the bike. Oddly on ride b. sixty miles is where the hills started ramping up on ride a and this will of no doubt had an effect on an endurance ride.

But, all things being equal I do feel that the use of zone 1 and 2 with power paid off on last weeks ride as I was very very fresh and strong riding into Exeter at 85 miles + rather than spent, had I misused my effort and gone tempo or moderate for longer which I likely did last year. It is the old turtle and the hair scenario on the bike with oneself but there is no doubt that the road across to Taunton from Ilminster was hugely easier last year as largely flat going across country, skimming the Blackdowns. Another thing to factor in that I am back on a race bike and whilst I do not buy into accumulated seated fatigue when on the bike, it may come to pass that as per the press hyperbole, you do indeed get quicker and stay fresher on an endurance bike further into the ride. Perhaps however, I just went a tad too slowly for the first 40 miles keeping my powder dry for the long haul. Food for thought though worth remembering that the difference between the metric 100 (60ish miles) and 100 miles on a bike is massive so riding smart, alone takes precedent.

I do enjoy using data and analysis and as ever proof in the pudding is timing for betterment and when I do this ride again I would be looking at improved dividends without over doing it. I would be looking for a faster time and likely use the same route, but go straight out of Chard to Honiton via the A30 decent rather than the multiple climbs I faced leaving Chard the 'backway'. It felt like I went up Haytor 5 times. If you look at the image below, 5 cat 4 climbs within 65 miles to 80 miles chart shows the 5 peaks that topped out at 900 - 1000 feet approx 5 times before heading down into Honiton. I have no idea how pro's do it. In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin...."Hellacious"

Friday, 7 April 2017

Bristol to Exminster ....

Fortune favours the brave and today I was brave. Or stupid. I always think of the New Zealand film 'Once were Warriors' on days like today as I was one once though the days of me smashing out 75 miles on a Wednesday and the same on a Sunday with Team Concept out of Specialized Bristol have long since gone and in many respects I do not miss it as at times, as fit as I was, it was aimless. What was I training for ? Life perhaps or just a love of cycling. 

So, when the chance to ride Bristol (my former home) to Exminster (my home) arrives every now and again I take the chance with both hands and given this was the first one of the year, I feel that on the whole it went well. Fast Tuesday's and before that a few decent shifts on the bike building up some mileage paid off and back home after 95.6 miles banked I can reflect on the days events. 

Leaving my parents front door in North Bristol at 7am was fine if a little fresh.  The route, Southbound, out through South Bristol into Long Ashton, Nailsea, Yatton etal went well and as usual the early morning city traffic was hellish but I rode smart. The roads down to Cheddar went well and then on from Cheddar onto a mist laden Mendip levels was nice and the weather was fantastic with no wind present and by about 8.40am as I passed Cheddar on my left the sun was coming up to take the nip off the toes. I do dislike the fast decent into the top end of Cheddar one of those exposed steep roads where the wind can catch the rider - hence riding smart. Turning right, Glastonbury Tor to my left was lit up like a beacon. Beautiful. These roads are deceptive. They are flat on the whole, but the 'Somerset' levels to my mind is in three stages and not pan flat. A few nice hills, the climb out of Low Ham into High Ham is huge but perfectly doable. Despite having a Garmin on the bike I often refer to a paper map in my pocket and so far so good. I steamed through to Langport and down to Ilminster passing multiple Somerset hamlets and villages. Beautiful. Exiting Ilminster was the first test, a huge unexpected head wind on the busy road to Chard pushed me back, but I rode smart, spinning up and using power to stay in zone's 1 & 2.  Once into Chard, 64 miles in at 4 hours 40 I realised I had dropped a clanger. Getting out of Chard was and is a nightmare. I have / had never realised Chard is at the bottom of a huge valley as cant say I go there often and whilst I tried to cut across country as best I could by peeling left to get off the A30 to get to Honiton the back way it came to be that I was riding hills I had not expected. I had thought the Blackdowns were further west having ridden them before (Corfe hill; Taunton), but I ended up on the cusp of the eastern tip and likely the steepest parts I could have encountered. Cat 4 climb after cat 4 climb. I went from 64 miles in 4.45 approx to 73 ish miles in 6 hours. I basically lost 1 hour 20 odd to 12 miles of frankly hellish hills with gradients that were 22-26% perhaps even steeper going up and back down and then straight back up. I kid you not, it was like riding up and down walls. Bonkers. In moderation I can climb slowly but this was steep as shit and no fun as it was so steep coming down the triceps and shoulders were beginning to suffer. Chard, Cricket St. Thomas, Noel Edmonds, Mr. Blobby - you can poke it as far as I am concerned. The decent into Honiton was mayhem too, steep as f**k but I was glad to see the bunting on the main road and ride through knowing I was back into my chartered territory. South Glos, Avon, North Somerset, Somerset, Dorset, East Devon, Devon. I had scheduled a cheeky Costa coffee in Honiton, but due to losing time I carried on, turned left and went up Tesco hill, the steep climb to Sidmouth, but turned right into Ottery St. Mary, a lovely East Devon post card town preceeded by yet another brutal 22% decent (into Ottery) where the local butcher kindly gave me a top up on my water. Ottery 'felt' around the corner from home but it was still a plod back towards the Exeter road and finally, I managed to get on the fast Rockbeare road and go into a time trial mode holding tempo in zone 3 (18 mph for 15 minutes at the tail end of today's ride into a head wind shows the old endurance magic still there) before passing Cranbrook (strange place, middle of nowhere) and into a very busy Exeter via Sowton and then onto my front door. Typically, it was blowing a gale in Devon. Standard.

Overall 95.6 miles in 6 hours 56 moving time (quicker next time) with 6,129 feet climbed. 6 full bottles of water, 2 bananas, one energy bar and 4 energy gels consumed to tick along. Likely the most I have climbed since August 2012. On the whole I enjoyed the journey and the first 4.40 was immense and what I enjoy. To lose excess time climbing unexpected hills not great but when you are racing yourself, you just want to get home, as far as it seems at time. I used power and HR to my advantage today and considering the distance the use of zones was valid and the bulk of the workload was in zone 1 and zone 2, (pictures below) recovery and endurance with a little bit of everything else. I felt disappointed in myself at times, but try and keep it in perspective as I hit 45 last week and irrespective of age, unless you are a pro paid to ride 7 hours a day week in week out,  25% hills 70 miles in are gonna hurt.

In perspective today due to the aforementioned hills I think a disc brake road bike would have been ideal ?!?! I suspect I took 6 months off the life of my Zipp wheels, but hey ho such is life. They go well on the flat and going up. My Trek Madone was flawless and is truly a great bike. If Carling made road bikes and all that. In stack and reach terms it is an endurance road bike. In performance terms it is simply incredible. Stiff, light, fast, strong. Pick 4.  

Finally, walking in the door to my awesome partner with a huge cold Milkshake in her hand was just great, as was coming home to Bella, the worlds greatest puppy. 

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Fast Tuesday Part Deux #windy.

Another fast Tuesday and another crazy wind blowing around the Teign Valley though not too disruptive as in the end, some excellent data logged which equates to an improved FTP, some serious recreational power put through the pedals by both Steve and I. James was busy doing nothing waiting for a delivery to arrive and thus off the bike.

Today we had a slightly calmer start with a decent plod out of Newton which was as busy as usual.

The headwind blowing us back was again somewhat lamentable so we had a steady ride up which was still fast in perspective though not the 24 mph madness of last week. In light of this, Steve and I swapped bikes so he could test ride my Madone as he has one lined up. Suitably impressed, as I was with his SL Propel though the fit was slightly skewed for both of us. It can remind you of how dialled into your own rig you become once back on it. 

A quick respite stop for a chat at Steps Bridge; Dartmoor, some jelly beans and an energy gel saw us turn around and open up the tanks with some serious full gas shenanigans unleashed with both parties putting in huge shifts on the front with what seemed like an omni present wind; neither side, nor rear or head on. Just swirling and occasionally whipping under both aero bikes rendering our collective bottoms to parp once or twice. Once home we concluded it were a sharp ride and as per usual data backs that up. My legs felt inherently fresher than last week, my heart rate was under control, 42 minutes in zone 4 though I think I have a naturally high HR (???) As an example segment, sustained power of 21.4 mph for 32 minutes is good enough for me (images below, click to make big). In context years back, I can remember thinking 14 mph was fast, then 15, then 16. You get the picture. Exponential speed is a hard thing to attain, you really have to work hard for it, but it'll do for now. The ideology of a fast Tuesday is to bring us on and ultimately, creep up those numbers. Interestingly today I was holding 100 rpm cadence at a speed of 28 mph. Happy days.

Overall, this weeks ride is literally seconds apart from last weeks three up. I want to discount the slow in and out however, which is where your lap button comes in handy on the garmin. I netted 61 pb's today of which a huge portion were gold. My FTP increased by 6 watts and my 20 minute power currently sits at 224 watts which week by week I hope to increase as my fitness progresses. In 4 weeks alone I have increased it by 24 watts. FTP (functional threshold power), figure is like a virtual carrot 25 yards in front of the bike. It always stays that distance away, but as your FTP increases your zone's go up, you ride harder and thus impact your own capability which is why riding with power makes so much sense in performance terms and rest terms. My goal is to become a 300 watt FTP rider. I often get asked how to ride a bike 'fast' and there is only one answer. You have to suffer now and again but the net result, that post ride buzz is worth every second as Steve and I mulled the merits of life over coffee and choccy biscuits. 

A couple of days off now before I embark on Bristol to Exminster, 100 miles approx. It is looking good performance wise and weather wise. Blog to follow no doubt.