Saturday, 2 December 2017

Like a wrecking ball....

Long time since my last post. This is due to illness hammering me like a wrecking ball and effectively putting an end to my predicted 2017 mileage of 4500 miles. But it happens and I cannot ignore what an effective year I have had on the bike with 4100 miles logged and with a huge variance in the type of riding. It has been a good year.

The illness started on or around 14th November. Steve and I decided to ride the South Hams, a district of Southern Devon which sits between Newton Abbott and Plymouth with towns such as Totnes and Dartington sandwiched in between. The roads here are incredibly odd. Hard to convey in words, but imagine a bunch of roads like a roller-coaster ride.  You go up, you go down, you go up, you go down. To me, roads like this make for tricky riding as you gain speed going down so you hammer the bike into the bike ring and then coast up and then drop it into the small ring to get up the climb. Hard to find tempo or rhythm on the bike like this and certainly tricky when you are ill. But we plod about the ride netting 35 miles with 3,000 feet of climbing breaking down as 1000 feet for every ten or so miles. Lumpy. I just felt odd that day, like I had no power. From then on I have been beset by an absolute stinker of a cold and having a very hard time shaking it off and it has turned into a rotten cough on my chest. I have thrown in two estuary loops which have been tempered by the cold and that is it. In the meantime I have set a bike up on the smart turbo for winter and will use this for various workouts over the coming three months combined with my single speed to commute and build power on.  I have just literally done a Wahoo pre-planned mixed interval / pyramid session on the turbo over 40 minutes.

Being honest illness has robbed me of some verve and passion but 2018 looms and the key to remaining committed to your chosen sport is rebooting and going again. I am looking forward to 2018 for sure. Roll on the spring.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Dartmoor Dividends ....

Yesterday we had an early morning shakedown to Dartmoor via the Teign Valley and climbed from the from bottom of Steps Bridge to Moretonhampstead - a great climb on the whole with a couple of super steep sharp sections offset by a decent long climb on good tarmac, washed down with a fast decent into the base of Morton before a 20% hill asks you questions as you actually arrive in Moreton, a typical damp Dartmoor village.  Mildly slower over the three miles but there was a nasty head wind pushing us back and post 85 miles on Tuesday it was nice to spin up the legs.

This kind of ride asks questions of the rider and the kit as it is one of those days when a climbing bike is required heading up, but once at the top, a team car would be ideal and you can transition to an aero-bike and super deep wheels to enjoy the way down as the road currys favour..

That said I took the TCR over the F8 yesterday as it suits this ride. It is something else. We literally buried it on the Lustleigh road coming back and whilst topping out at 40.3 mph on the flat I held 20.7 mph for 6 miles. Again a bit boom or bust bike riding as I call it but 'Devon dividends' can be like that, what you lose you gain. There are too many great descents for overtly controlled bike riding going down and the thrill of hammering the bike is just great.  This segment or section of road has become and all time favourite of mine and begs for the beanz though care has to be taken as you do get the Saturday and Sunday car drivers pottling about, unaware that we are holding 35-40 mph in sections going down. In the year 2017 I have shaved 8 minutes off this decent simply by getting fitter and thus faster as the year progresses. But do not let the image of the segment below trick you, as fast as it is, there are some very heavy switch backs and a couple of off camber 15% climbs which bring any speed to a brake shuddering halt which is a shame.

My kit was flawless yesterday and again winter looms so it is nice to enjoy the 'A' bikes before the single speed comes out to play. It is a real luxury having an SL TCR and a Dogma F8 in the stable. I am a lucky lad. The 303's stay on the TCR and the Spin wheels stay on the Dogma. Horses for courses. A wasp to a bumble bee. They are very different bikes set up with different kit. Short reach bars on the TCR as longer reach (39.5cm) as a bike frame, where as the Dogma has a longer stem and a long reach, long drop classic bar for comfort and position as a shorter reach bike overall at (38.5cm) reach which is great for long fast cruising miles and super fast descending with a mildly slacker head tube. That said both bikes light up at fast speeds as you would expect from a race bike. At 15-18 mph they basically ride the same. Go north of 18mph and the after burners engage, which is how pro bike riders feel 24/7. I will smash through my 400 miles a month target for October and will see how November pans out. I only did 170 miles last November after crashing the bike in between Ashcombe and Dawlish Water with terribly greasy roads rendering my traction moot after a car appeared from nowhere. Of course the clocks have changed now and really where are in what I feel is winter for the British bike rider now. However, it is glorious sunshine today. Result.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Visit Barnstaple.

Strapline; Visit Barnstaple. It may be shitting it down, but the coffee is great.

So, today we had our annual run to the sun which is a paradox as we live in 'Southish Devon' where it is habitually sunny most of the year. Our run to the Sun takes us to North Devon where typically topically en-route it started shitting it down.  I've no issue with rain. I hate wind. It was windy as heck coming back. The issue regarding rain in so much is we set off cross country from Stoke Canon as I came up with the idea of going the back way to Crediton from James' front door which whilst in ethos was sound, in practice the back lanes were so caked in farmers mud our steeds were ratty as hell within the first 5 miles. Rain only compounds this and honestly, by the time we got to Barney we were covered and wet though the typical mizzle did not soak us through. Wet but dry. Hard to explain. The bikes however were filthy.

The ride up was great. We smashed it in fact and for long spells we were riding tempo on the flat with examples of good averages for long spells (pictured) such as 59 minutes at 20.4 mph - effectively 20 odd miles at 20 mph. Nice riding.  Not hard when James is on the front. I can imagine what a pro rider feels like when Tony Martin is pulling on the front or signs for your team. "Here come the hurt". James has no threshold. However, speed is not the be all and end all for development, and data tells me I logged 170 watts for 59 minutes for an average cadence of 82 is about right on a rolling road as a 'club rider', which is why I took the TCR today. It delivers wattage in a different way and requires less torque but favours cadence. The absurd thing is that this is a flat Devon ride yet we still did 4,384 feet of climbing. Nuts.  Naturally we lost speed with the wet roads.  It was great to see Barnstaple Long Bridge as we made it. Kinda reminds me of Bridge on the River Kwai. It is a lovely sight and allegedly it was built in or around 1280ad. Despite its shortcomings the arrival is a nice view across the Taw and the chance to recover, recharge and go again.

Into Barney, James' home place of birth we stopped at Bike Shed for two coffees and a slice of cake. I took the pragmatic decision to buy some Endura toe covers as my socks were soaked and my feet were getting colder. They worked a treat. Bike Shed a great shop. So much to see. As I say want and need are not best mates ! 

Heading back smack on 56 miles someone flicked a switch and I noticed my cadence dropping off and being frank, I felt like a cooked goose which is not like me. I rode 13 odd miles battling through it and I know that a lack of nutrition on the way up buried me on the way back. Thankfully James gave me a flap jack and along with a gel that got me the full 84 miles home. I feel today's ride was tempered by mistakes on my part. 

One going the back way.

Two not wearing overshoes.

Three not fuelling enough. 

Even as a seasoned bike rider you learn all the time and it wont happen again. In context North Bristol to South Devon easier than this as I eat all the way back. Remedial stuff. 

All told it was a great few hours in the saddle and James was again great company though I leave you with the quote of the day "Pete - see that lay by over there ? I have had sex in it".

First up James, that's called dogging. Secondly I suppose you can take the boy out of Barney but you'll never take the Barney outta the boy ...! Quality comment Jamesy.

A great shift to end the long rides in 2018.  190 watts over 84 miles & 106 pb's on Strava of which 80 were gold. Mental. Note the clocks go back this weekend.  Roll on March 2018.

 Til' next time.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren't enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress - Viggo Mortensen.

I smashed out a 'fast' Devon 43 miler on Tuesday with the first 40 miles being great. Riding back into the Pinhoe side of Exeter was dreadful. Another new housing estate to add more traffic is being built and the road was split by temporary traffic lights. Pain. I ended up getting every red light coming home which again dropped the average speed, but I treated it as a nice warm down. 

Interestingly I hit 40 rolling miles at 2.20 which is slower than normal, but it was fresh, overcast and damp. Picked up a solid PB from Exeter to Stoke Canon at 12 mins and had a solid reverse triangle of which I still sit at 5th fastest in Devon for my age group approaching 50. The question my co-rider Steve quite rightly asks is why do Strava not allow us to differentiate solo vs. group rides. Two is faster than one, three up faster than two and so on. Anyway, overall, despite not realising it on the bike, I cite a headwind coming back as I lost 4 minutes here and there. 2018's big goal for me is to go sub 2.05 for 40 on this loop. Is it doable ? We shall see. I can remember going sub 2 hours for 30 miles ten years ago approx on Strada shop rides in a group before Garmin was popular (first 705 bought 2009) so I feel that to attain this is Devon where NOWHERE is flat is great going but I cannot recall the data as it is not there.

However, this Tuesday, post ride, I felt f**ked ! A soreness in my quads I have not felt in a long time. So, I went into recovery mode and had some eggs on toast once in the door. In the evening I drove up to Tesco to buy some REGO recovery 'sauce' as my legs felt spent. I also decided to ride to work this week and spin the legs up riding in the small ring only and stay in zone 1 where at all possible.  Classic Zone 1 recovery stuff. Slow to go fast. I assume that I went over the edge fatigue wise though I monitor my TSS / fatigue regularly, though it would seem accumulative fatigue has caught up. But, with some smart off the bike time, recovery and common sense the legs will recover in earnest to our late pilgrimage to Barnstaple (next week) which shakes down as the best part of 100 miles. It is the last hurrah before the clocks change and a lovely ride with a tea stop at the bike shed, a cool bike shop situated in Barney. The big shift in my riding in the last couple of years is opening up the tanks solo and burying myself on the bike for development rather than just riding around. Historically, before I moved I was a strong bike rider, good at riding a bike, that is all. I used to enjoy endurance zone 1 / 2 stuff but in all likely hood fell onto the trap of not developing. I admit I have no desire to race a bike what so ever, but I do have personal goals to manage and attain and that is great. As bike riders we live life and manage our time well. We are not drinkers, gamblers, abusive partners. We simply enjoy the raw brutality of a solid bike ride. Wonderful stuff.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Mid point October ....

“He had never liked October. Ever since he had first lay in the autumn leaves before his grandmother's house many years ago and heard the wind and saw the empty trees. It had made him cry, without a reason. And a little of that sadness returned each year to him. It always went away with spring."

Mid October bares down on the British rider like a Kamikaze pilot. The darkness looms. Two weekends til' the clocks change. Lights will be shod upon the single speed and the best bikes will be squirrelled away for safety unless we have an Indian summer and dog days extend. So far it has been a reasonable month on the bike though beset by illness and road works in and around our stomping ground. September concluded as a positive months riding with the most feet ascended since I started using a bike computer in 2009. Prior to that I just rode. I have carried the desire to 'practice' climbing into October and come to realise that getting PB's is a hard thing to attain as there are so many variables on local climbs including weather, wind, legs, heart and lungs. I did Mamhead today and was a good 4 minutes off my best, but today it seems I could not find the right gear. Even on the flat I was battling cadence, but the heart and head felt fine. Tired I suppose. In a way, November and the next two or three months allow the body and mind to recharge as 4000 miles this year is a great figure to attain and as before, I am not a spring chicken. Presently I sit at 180 miles with a target of 270 miles to attain last years figure. I have already beaten the climbing figure which is nice and shows a culture shift in my 'Devon' riding. A new PB on the local Doccombe climb 300 feet to 1000 feet over 21 mins at 231 watts average power. Pleased with that. The descent into Bovey from Morton is something else and again, a gold was attained here. Last week we threw in fast Tuesday and nailed 28 miles in sub 1.30 in windy conditions on a rolling road so that was nice. Still unsure if fast hellish miles beat long ploddy miles, but I suppose the two work well together. Still monstering the bike along is worth every second post ride.

Still half the month to go but apparently a huge storm and 100 mile winds are around the corner which in turn may render this week a total write off. Time will tell. In the meantime, love to all x

Monday, 2 October 2017

September in review ....

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer's wreckage. We will welcome summer's ghost.”  ― Henry Rollins

So, September has succumbed to October and as per normal it was a good month on and off the bike. Oddly, a terrible stomach bug curtailed my ambition of hitting 450-500 miles which I was well on target for, but a painful bug from the depths of hell itself robbed me of bicycle time and 2 leg loosener commutes as I was too ill to ride a bike. However, data shakes down as follows -

419 miles ridden.

21,800 feet ascended.

28 hours logged over 25 rides.

I was on course for a higher climbing figure, but Steve and I had a lamentable day trying to do Dartmoor last week as there were road works everywhere and Haytor was like Piccadilly circus which was a huge shame as that is the long climb to build the data up when you set yourself a goal. 

In the end, I rode the aforementioned Mamhead once every week and attained a new PB of 21.10 from 21.15 on the cat 3 climb over 3.6 miles on the Strava segment.  Just a mere 5 seconds and 23.10 from 23.18 from my 'private segment'. 8 seconds ! It really is a test of a climb and one that I feel I would only snare more time on my shaving the weight off the body which I am kind of over right now. At 45 I spend too many years worrying about my weight and sage advice from Steve has helped me deal with it. Ultimately, there are too many variables on this hill, but in context I am training on it to aid other rides and other hills which may be hugely shorter.  

Last week we rode from Bovey to Morton which was a 6 mile climb at 44 minutes and it was not hard, just kept turning the pedals and riding up. The descent was immense, 3 odd miles at 28 miles an hour. Magical. As before, in Devon you learn to ride in a different way and use the small ring and cadence to great effect. I went for a ride in my old stomping ground last Saturday and in all honestly, it felt pan flat. 900 feet over 31 miles where as here I do 3000 feet or thereabouts in the same distance. Still riding a bike, but in a different way. Managed to throw in a 'Fast Tuesday' too with a moving average of 19.9 mph at 214 watts for 25.5 miles in 1 hour 17. Sub 1 hour 15 has to be a goal really though I think we have done it already.

Overall the positives outweigh the negatives and though I lost a £40 tyre after just three rides and got a few soakings, being out on the bike is simply awesome. I have ridden 3500 miles so far this year, the equivalent of Exminster to New York. This is the most I have ridden since 2013. Before that like most recreational riders 4000 - 6000 miles outside was very doable and often done. Not too shabby. I hope to hit 4000 miles no problem so long as the light and the weather look after us. Ultimately it kinda means nothing, but it is part of my life and something I enjoy a lot. Buddy and Bella have me walking three miles each evening too ! They are simply joyful.

'Til next time.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Milking Mamhead ....

Over the years I have often wondered what it would be like to live near or next to an iconic climb. Haytor, Cheddar for example though noting we do not have mountain ranges within the UK. Just yesterday on the Tour of Britain live they discussed how much of Britain's road went up and over rather than around as per France, Italy and co. I have always wondered if it would compel the rider to hit it as much as possible and decide to monster the climb as often as possible. The old adage of hills hurt rings true, but the question I ask myself would you get better at it, faster, easier or burn out ? I suspect that in relative terms speed would come, but that could be based on the rider weight and ability.  

In reference to living near a mecca climb, it has not happened, as Cheddar and Haytor have always been a ride away or a drive away if you want to start at the bottom. However, I had a rubicon moment last week when I realised I do indeed have a great climb ten minutes from my door which is the lamentable Mamhead. The climb that gave me the fear for the best part of three years. I am not the only one, a lot of local riders worry about it, but perhaps a tad unduly. I have ridden harder roads for sure. But and it is a big but I have decided to take on the climb as much as possible and given I had some time off work and thus feeling much fresher legged I rode it four times last week and I intend on riding it once a week  at least til' the weather renders it otherwise.

I created a private segment on Strava which I called golf club cross roads to t junction as to me, this is the complete climb before I turn right and head towards Exeter race course. The metrics are as follows -

1. Sea Level to 790 feet.

2. The latter part I suspect is 8/9% to the top - some corners feel steeper, I must use the Garmin to evaluate.

3. After the cross roads a false flat leads you to the very top of Haldon where again you hit 834 feet approx give or take Garmin and it's in ability to deal with height.

Now, in relative terms this is not a huge climb. Haytor is 1350 feet, Gospel pass is 1350, Cheddar is 802 feet once up-to Charterhouse, Frocester Hill is 778 feet,  So it is a good 500 feet less that the two big boys, but it is steep and relentless and there is corner after corner, shrouded in tree line and mist most of the time. You feel like you have ridden into Forks; Washington as featured in Twilight !

In the 5 times I have ridden it every ascent felt different and I had no memory recall of where the 'end' of the climb proper is as I call it. It is a test for sure and hopefully it will put me in good stead for some of the aforementioned bigger climbs when the time comes. I still do not know if I will develop as a climber by doing this. The usual cycling idioms apply when training hard but in reality, if I can get a sub 20 minute time going up then I would be delighted. Regarding development I did 13,000 feet this week - in context the most I have ascended in one month is 23,000 feet as when you convince yourself you cannot climb, you avoid the climbs.

My current PB sits at 23.18 mins - I have gained 2 mins already, but lost time on another day ! What I am yet to work out is do I monster the first half and smash that as fast as possible then drop back into recovery and suffer in zone 1/2 going up or try it the other way around. The first half is the easier half but you need to spend energy wisely. 

Time will tell. I love cycling. I need a climbing bike !

Friday, 1 September 2017

August and everything after, but before ....

So, August has been and gone. The endless summer did not appear and surf is not up. But, it was a progressive month with some good consumer miles put on the bike. I managed to bank 448 miles which I feel bar the odd shoddy commute were 'good' miles. Nothing wasted. A few full gas efforts on my summer Tiverton blast where I attained a sub 2.10 for 40 rolling miles. Bristol to Exminster was a long shift and I did not take it over the 100 miles for the sake of it.  I did add in a couple of taper rides to keep the legs turning over in zone 1 and this paid off. As ever, the desire to ride everyday is there but one has to be smart and pragmatic and not. I am not 20 anymore. Oddly however, I felt incredibly fit mid week this week after the long ride, but long rides do that and I feel that they elevate fitness double quick time. Interestingly a new FTP attained this week at 250 watts for 20 minutes when 'just riding along' rather than beasting myself on a 20 min threshold test.

I set myself a target of 400 miles a month and met it, which is nice. That is a minimum of 400 miles bagged every month since February - smashed it in fact. I have decided to now hit the climbs locally and do as much climbing as I can over September and October before the cold weather bites. It has always been my achille's heel - going up but I am liking the local hell climbs which can be very rewarding.

I am loving the Dogma and its current guise, the bike  very good at climbing, but such is its character going down and across I often cite it as the best bike I have ever ridden. It is something else.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Bristol to Exminster. Again.

So today was a long shift, Bristol to Exminster. A 6.00 am start due to a light morning and good weather, which in turn turned into a mini heat wave.  I was in bed by 8.30pm on Saturday evening after stopping over at Mum and Dads.

I woke up with a head-ache, a strange nagging viral headache which I have had for about a week. I do not feel ill, but oddly, as soon as you ride you realise that your HR is elevated and your power zones are thrown slightly out. But, I decided to press on and hopefully ride it out as they say. In the end 97.4 miles with a 'moving time' of 6 hours 5 mins.

The actual ride was a massive success with huge dividends made on the last ride back in April. Two things were at play here. One being '6' months fitter than in April and actually being on my Dogma F8 / Spin 45 combo over the Madone 9 / zipp combo. The Madone was beautiful, fast and efficient but I felt very nervous on it when shod with Zipp's when the road pointed down. Testament to this is the fastest I descended in April was 30 mph where as today I hit 44 mph no problem. The F8 out descends anything I have ridden up to date my hand built spin wheels ride with incredible assurance and they handle beautifully. No wobble, no issues, just stiff, fast, light and strong. Great wheels give you the confidence to drop at speed. My Vittoria tyres are just sublime too.

Timing (not moving) were as follows -

10 miles 39.38

20 miles 1.16

30 miles 1.51

40 miles 2.32

50 miles 3.14

60 miles 3.56

70 miles 5.03

80 miles 5.33

90 miles 6.19

Aprils times were as follows -

10 miles 42.14

20 miles 1.22

30 miles 2.01

40 miles 2.52

50 miles 3.39

60 miles 4.21

70 miles 5.45

80 miles 6.40

90 miles 7.28

Certainly some marginal to big gains made. I have certainly nailed a faster 40 miles in Devon, but factor in traffic lights leaving Bristol and things add up. My route takes me through the centre of Bristol and the reprobates were out all heading home from Night clubs as I rode by. You have to laugh. You would have thought it was the middle of the day. Looking at 60 - 80 mile timings, the overall timing difference are borne out of two things, fitness and common sense in using the A30 out of Chard rather than going 'across country'. The Yarcombe climb is a massive ball ache, two 900 feet climbs but the beauty of it is the fast descent into the back end of Honiton. It is a very high road at the top of the Blackdown Hills and an easterly wind chopped about, looking down to my right reveals the Otter Valley, not great when you get occasional vertigo on a bike, but I beavered (clever - Ed) away and descended well with bank holiday traffic not too bad overall. I also rode smart by hopping straight back onto the A30 leaving Honiton and time trialled to the Ottery exit rather than ride halfway to Sidmouth via the huge climb I call Tesco hill. There is no doubt that arriving in East Devon via Chard is a big ask in bike riding terms as the ride takes on a different dynamic if you are an average climber 70 miles into a long solo ride but to my mind, it is the best route. Riding across to Taunton and around the top and on to Tivvy is cheating, but I think I will do that next to test the actual mileage.

In reference to power output, my aforementioned headache had things slightly skewed and I felt like I rode in a zone higher than I would have, but data as follows. Oddly the bulk was in zone 1 which I can only assume was when the pedals were not turning. Zone 2 ideal on a long ride. One caveat to note is that historically, I always find portions of a long ride when I zone out and today the strange thing about hitting the Somerset levels south of Cheddar is that it is effectively so flat and unrewarding that you actually lose speed an thus time rather than gain it as I suppose the beauty of hilly terrain is what goes up etc. Flat riding unless TT'ing can now be a bit mundane though riding two or three up may be better. I think that being a good endurance rider is not about riding as fast as f**k everywhere you go, but learning to moderate the ride and make the power count. The turtle and the hare stuff.  I was, by my own admittance a bit boom or bust today, but that was due to my head and simply wanting to attain a better time. Staying in zone 2 where possible requires massive discipline. Credit to the serious long haul riders out there. If you do not know power understand that you can ride all day in the right zone with nutrition. Clever stuff. On the subject of nutrition, I had 2 bananas, 1 energy bar, 4 slices of pre-cut malt loaf, 5 energy gels and 6 bottles of water at 800ml. Nice !

Overall, it was a great ride. The Dogma is great, the only caveat I level is that is really is a super stiff bike and a couple of days off the bike required. It certainly sends more feedback into the rider than the Madone did. Sportive / endurance bikes likely a better bet than this this style of frame, but then they don't get the work done when it matters.  I would like to try something like a Canyon or a new Synapse on this route, but to be frank, I am not binning my 'fast' bike for two or three rides a year. I felt a little more 'beat' than I expected, but I set off in overshoes, knee warmers and a long sleeve base layer and in reality I could have lost them by 8.30 am such was the warmth - after 90 miles I was a cooked goose with white marks mirroring the shape of my sunglasses and my lips dryer than a Nuns front garden.

Anyway, job done. 2017 is all about 2018 now. Cheers.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

This is Anfield. Sort of ....

Way back when in the 1970's and 1980's Liverpool football club dominated everything. They swept all aside and won pretty much everything you could win as a club side. Something interesting arose during that time; mind games. Famed for big characters of the era, Clough and so on, mind games were nothing new, but it ramped up a notch and the fact that many teams travelled to Liverpool and 'bottled' it as they walked out to the pitch under the famous 'this is anfield' sign. The game was effectively lost before they even set foot onto the turf. It is all in the head.

Hills have the same effect on cyclists. The mental aspect of a hill can more often than not supersede the actual demands of the hill in question and today, there is no better example of this as I nailed Mamhead, another mythical Devon climb that has given me the the heebeegeebees since I moved here. It had me in the head so to speak and for the last three years, I have turned right before the climb proper begins. It was after all once used in the UK National hill climb championship so yes, it is a test.

Being frank I have no idea why I worried so much. It was far from a breeze, but I have ridden much harder hills and frankly I look forward to using it more as it is literally ten minutes from my door. Similar to Cheddar with a couple of steep corners, it climbs 3.6 miles from sea level to a smidge under 800 feet. Not that high, but sharp rather than long and the first half is a very elusive false flat. I averaged 221 watts at 9.4 mph for the climb and span up though interestingly, I did not get into the 32 tooth cog as my bike was slipping and would not hold the gear, so rather than risk the chain spilling I rode one cog down. That is a result. This in itself could make the new Ultegra 11-30 appealing one day. Even Dura Ace, mmmm, lovely.

My bike as ever rode beautifully and no complaints apart from the howling wind on the top of Haldon Ridge, the hinterland between the coast and Dartmoor. Have said it before, but you can reinvent yourself as a climber within the realms of your natural skill set on a push bike. 

I have never raced a bike competitively, but one thing I can assure you is that no one wins a training ride. It is simply the joy of being on the bike and days like today are joyful.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

wheel update .... loco loco.

So first things first, a decent Estuary loop this morning. Ploddy though, I felt tired from the off so did not go out and hammer it, simply just went for a decent bike ride. It was busy out, stupidly busy but these are Devon coastal roads mid August. It is to be expected. I did get an interesting PB on the last sharp steep section of the Woodbury road which again proves that my wheels have been a solid investment and a decent buy. The road which is a test, the long draggy climb to four firs cross road ended up being a silver PB without actually giving it the beans. I could not - too much holiday traffic and I was behind a funeral cortege. Respect is due. But a segment within a segment reveals a PB with the main drag up coming in at 5.06 mins, 242 watts average power and an average speed of 8.9 mph on a cat 4 climb. Have said it over and over, I am not a climber. Never have been, never will be, but things like this please me. I would top out at 220 watts on my Zipp 303 and start to slow down, which I can assume was based on flex ? Sustaining speed mattered to me, over outright climbing acceleration.

I have had a couple of questions from people regarding the wheels and the facts are as follows. The Zipp wheels were very flexy at the hub. Something was not working for me with them and a couple of fellow riders noted it out on the bike. The rub is that the rims are probably very good, we all know what sapim cx ray spokes are about, but somehow the build and performance did not warrant the money Zipp and the relevant distributors charge for the wheelset. Simple as that. 70 marketing, 20% VAT and 10% wheel.

Being honest, a few things to note that is that in certain situations the two wheel sets are very similar, but to my mind, the Spin 45's do out perform the Zipps for a fraction of the cost. I use evidence; data including power, time and speed to analyse this and it is there, all be it on occasion, marginal to paraphrase big Dave. The oddity comes from the fact that they 'feel' very different and this must be down to the stiffness of the Spin 45's.

What these wheels do do is hold speed, stay stiff and keep the bike going fast on the right roads hence my reverse triangle times getting faster and faster.  Another thing to note is that the Spin wheels feel inherently safer than the Zipps which get blown all over the road despite every review, sound bite and critic saying how great they are in side winds. Not true. The 404's I had before the 303's were the most dangerous set of wheels I have ever experienced to the point that I would stop the bike at the top of hills and not want to descend. I felt like Mike Windgren, the character Elvis Presley played in Fun in Acapulco, a trapeze artist who moves to mexico to become a high cliff diver beset with panic attacks. Not funny. The 404's were moved on and 303's came in. What a gutter. You live and learn. My mate James said Zipp are s**t - I should have listened.

The thing to remember is I tasked Drew at Spin to build some stiff wheels akin to a 303, and speed is a bonus, but evidently, it seems that the two go together.  Since the wheels have been shod on the bike, I have had to put a 52 back on the front as it felt hugely under geared with a 50 on the front. You cannot say more than that as a testament to performance. Happy days.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The faster I was the faster I went ....

Speed. A funny old thing. We crave it and try and create, nurture it and try to simply get faster on our bikes -  and more often than not we do, within the realms of our physical capabilities. In reference to speed, due to commitments off the bike, this week, I decided to get two sharp rides to Tivvy and back in and the results are different with the latter ride from this morning yielding a PB, a decent average speed and a broad smile.

Going back to Tuesday, it started with the weather forecast. Rain predicted though thankfully it stayed away. Over shoes, rain coat and hat were worn in earnest however. The roads were wet and this curtailed times, but overall, 42.2 miles bagged in 2.32 with the 40 mile marker banked at 2.28 - a full 10 minutes slower than the last attempt which was simply due to sopping wet roads. But today at 5.15 am it was clear, dry and still and though I nearly pressed snooze on the alarm when it went off as Buddy might not wake me, I decided to get up and get at it. In the end I smashed another 'PB' and made the 40 mile marker at 2.10 - the fastest 40 on that loop yet. 18.5 miles per hour for 43 miles and 18.7 mph for 'reverse triangle' one of the local Exeter Wheeler segments. Thrilled with that and also thrilled with my ascension up the Strava table as it now reads.

1.11th fastest this year in all age groups, not just 45+. 

2. 5th fastest 46 - 54 years. 

To many, Strava an abject waste of time, but for the solo rider a great tool when used in context. That is not too shabby at 45.5 years old.  It is far from flat, rolling in fact and a good test for any bike rider capable or not. Do not forget I effectively packed cycling in and did not ride a bike over a year 2013 into 2015 ! Smart !

It was a cold, fresh start to the day and the fog was lovely lying low in the valley enroute to Tiverton. I needed to ride within myself across to Halberton as the fog was super thick and I could not see 50 yards. I normally cain the bike down hill here, so again, scope to go faster. Everything clicked into place going up and coming back. 

What I would say is if my Spin DM8 45's roll like this, I wonder what a set of 58's would do. I roll with 45's due to the wind in Devon but actually, over the last week or two it has been better and a 58 set up would have flown today. I am only chasing time, my time, but it is self improvement and the love of cycling, testing myself and getting out there staying fit internally and externally that matters.  As someone in a bike shop somewhere in the world likely just said "I ain't no professional" though my bike is cleaned, maintained and looked after and looks fairly pro ! In reference to my wheels, they are simply sublime. They reward power, relentless cycling and deliver speed in a way that the Zipps did not. As before, the Zipps would bottom out, drop off and speed would drop away on a rolling climb where as knocking the cassette down two and then dropping into the small ring allows the bike to power along, crest, smash it into the big ring and power up. Brilliant !

Anyway, in context, locally, there are people who could drop me in a heart beat and I am cool with that. Devon is a serious place to ride a bike, talented or not.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

And all through the house not a mouse was stirring ....

Except for Pete and Buddy the puppy ...!

So, Buddy has at 12 weeks has become my alarm clock. He wakes up everyday at 5.15 gives me a whimper call from across the landing upon which I remove myself from bed when I am on shift. He goes out, has a wee, comes in, has a bite to eat, goes out, has a poo, comes in and then goes back to bed. Idyllic. He is an awesome little dog and the perfect fodder to Bella our 7 month old black lab. They have become best friends. It is however interesting how two dogs can be so different due to the intrinsic nature of the breed. Bella retrieves, Buddy herds. 

Anyway, the beauty of an early start means I can throw in an early ride. Hammer the ride, get some full gas shenanigans in the tank and be home by 9. Out at 6am today, home by 8.30 and 43 miles bagged with a marginal gain at 40 miles - 2 hours 18 over 2 hours 20 on Tuesday.  Aggregate riding as I call it. Some Strava segments were quicker, some segments were slower, but overall mildly quicker which is always nice with a headwind.  I wore knee warmers and a base layer today as though at the height of summer it is very nippy early doors.  My Vittoria corsa g+ 25mm tan side walls ( jesus - that is a mouthful - ed) had their maiden voyage and all seems fine. I note that they lack the hum of the previous Vittoria tyres I have used tub and clincher wise, but they roll well and will no doubt roll faster once they bed in. I was unsure on tan side walls til the were shod onto the wheels but god they look super fly. So, 85 miles bagged in two rides this week. I will commute tomorrow with a zone 1 leg loosener in and out of work and a top up of the miles and wrap up another great week on and off the bike. As an aside my progression for time and pace continues and the triangle segment as it is known is down to 1 hour 46 mins (pic below) and can get faster. The brilliant thing is that I have entered the all time top ten fastest at my age group which is a great surprise and topically, there is life in the old dog yet !

The thing holding me back is me. Simple. But, do not forget there is 1,614 feet of climbing on this loop which is about as flat as it gets in Devon. It is funny, but as a bike rider you cultivate routes and this one has become my go to test ride as it suits me and I enjoy it much more than dragging myself up 22% hills in and around Dartmoor, though the two can compliment each other.

My Spin wheels have been a revelation. Life is good, Buddy and Bella bring so much joy to our lives and my Dogma F8 is simply wonderful as bikes go.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Spin Doctor ....

Growing up, in 1992, aged 20, there was a semi dreadful song by the Spin Doctors called 'Two Princes'. I call it semi dreadful as it was ploddy at best and one of those songs that gets into the public domain and becomes a sleeper hit. Heck, we used to jam it at band practice such was its rudimentary structure. However, fast forward some 25 years.  The spin doctor can be applied to my wheel builder, Drew at who has equipped me with two princes indeed - which are far from the aforementioned ploddy. 

45mm DM8 fatboys shod with in house hubs and hand made spokes. My remit to Drew was to build me a set of fast everyday wheels stiff enough to take my 14.5 stone on some of the local climbs without bending. I will never be Carlos Sastre in size, but I can and do ride my bike full gas - and I bloody love it. The first thing advised was to move away from bladed spokes which bend in motion (take a plastic fork and twist - you'll get the idea - I know aeroplane wings have the same issue).  The next objective was the rim, which we decided would be a 45 due to the lamentable wind here in Devon. 58's were calling me Mordoor style but 2017 has been bad, but such is life in between an Estuary and Dartmoor. The hubs are wonderful to, akin to King R45 in shape with great pawl engagement and snap as well as some lovely support on the splines to save cassettes biting in and eating away at it akin to some other famous brands.  Lovely graphics to boot and you have one smart wheel-set ready to ride, handmade in the UK, on the cusp of the Cotswolds. 

Of course, we all know wheels can look good, but if they ride like a bag of spanners the quest can restart as soon as you have spent the money and frankly I have had my fill of factory wheels with rider weight limits in excess of 250 lbs that actually can 'support' a rider but not really perform.  A triumph of marketing over engineering for sure. I am  not alone in entering the paradox in the assumption that lighter is better but if I rewind back to 2010 I had a great couple of years on 32 spoke 3 cross Mavic Open Pro before moving to 11 speed in 2013. Mildly heavier but like my Fat Boys, hugely stiffer though not a patch on my new wheels for abject speed when the road opens up. 30 mph into a head wind - that'll do nicely. The stiffness is noted in the use of the cassette. Noodly wheels constantly push you into lower gears, effectively robbing the rider of 'power' over cadence. Stiff wheels reward you by engaging the torque you put through the pedals and thus leap to life in the smaller sprockets on the rear but maintain the cadence. It is win win. Nice.

Now, I ride with power and as such, I use power, time and speed to barometer my performance and see what is what. To cut to the chase, these wheels are absurdly good. I really mean it.  Strava PB's have been attained in multiple places. Days Pottles Lane, nailed. the wozzer, nailed. (see pics attached). To a skilled climber these hills are short and sharp, to a clyde on a bike, a royal pain and with the wrong kit, no fun at all.  But this is Devon and 90% of the riding is exactly that. Sharp  and steep. The stiffness in the back wheel is exactly what I had been missing and testament to this is the fact that I did Days Pottles Lane in 7.47 at 13.4 mph with 209 watts going into the pedals. That is a result, I usually top out at 220 ish climbing and start to slow down as my FTP 261 watts for 20 mins. Going up was a revelation as I noted the increase in speed climbing. I am far from the worlds most analytical rider, but if you pay for this kit, then use it, pre, during and post ride. 40 miles in sub 2.20 today, happy with that at 46 years old and carrying a bit of timber and dealing with chopsy 65kg 17 year old's at work who don't even remember 10 speed let alone anything before that.

Now, here is the science bit. Great wheels work on great roads, but also perform better on terrible roads. That said, slow roads are slow roads and we all know one or two. But on the flipside we all know the roads that light up underneath us a allow us to monster the bike along - carbon rims transmitting the swoosh of a quality tube and tyre thus eeking more power out of your legs. I had that experience today nailing a PB on a sharp 43 miler to Tiverton and back with the reverse triangle on Strava coming in at 1 hour 37 mins and a jump in mph noted - I shaved 7 minutes off the overall segmented loop. Worth. every. penny. I got into the zone today one of those rides when you think 'did I do that road - I can't remember it?' to yourself as you are simply at one with your kit and fitness and end up flying. There is no bigger testament to the right kit and the right wheels.

I am old enough and wise enough to know that this may not happen every time I ride. If it did, I would give Dave Brailsford a tinkle and offer myself up as a replacement for Landa. But, the proof is in the pudding and these wheels are frankly fantastic in so many ways. They have above all else done exactly what I wanted them to do and that is testament to Drew at ridefullgas who listened to what I wanted from a wheel-set.  A seriously top drawer build, service and support. They say in sales you buy the salesman first and perhaps you do. Watch this video from 5.4 mins.  Drew knows his lemons for sure.

Ultimately, they have transformed my Dogma with excessive buzz removed but no loss of speed or verve on my part. Finally, given that they are stiff, light, strong and fast, pick 4 - one wonders what the 58's would ride like ... time to reconvene the cookie jar of savings.