Sunday, August 26, 2012

GS Gazzetta goes into Space

My last posting told of a potential battle of MIND over Body, in particular my mind and my body, as I contemplated the challenges which lie ahead for attempting LondonRide100 next summer. While I am a firm believer in the power of the mind, I do recognize that it may need a little help in getting my body to a condition where it can survive this challenge. And so I have devised a training plan, or rather a rough mental idea of some of the things that need to be accomplished. The goal is to be able to ride faster, further and for longer than I have ever previously managed. To achieve this I will also need to pay attention to my dietary requirements both on and off the bike.
So this week I have been on 2 training rides, the first of which was with Mark, a friend from GS Gazzetta, who can always be relied upon to travel fast and push me to my limits and beyond.   The bare statistics of the ride can be found at

My instructions to Mark were quite clear before we started; a flat route and an average speed of ~21kph, my target speed for the London100. To a mountain goat however, flat is a very relative matter and I also discovered that he cannot count despite working at a school. I pity the children!!  Thankfully Mark just pointed out Mow Cop to me as we sped along as it was not on to-day’s route , though he promised me that we could work on my climbing legs next time I visited ( Thanks Mark! ).  The weather was dry and warm and quite a few cyclists had ventured out which seemed to spur some hidden racing instinct into my companion as we were forced to chase down any cyclist ahead of us, especially if they were female, blonde and had a pony tail! I was too exhausted to be distracted. We managed a quick circuit of Jodrell Bank and were travelling at such a speed that I thought the dish was going to track us as we hurtled off into space, or in this case a tea shop which I INSISTED was a mandatory requirement of any ride, a concept alien to Mark ( I wonder if this flaw is common to all GS Gazzetta riders? ) The ride was good and exhilarating and at an average pace of 26kph for 60km it was a good workout, as the average heart rate of 140bpm, which is race pace for me, demonstrated. Thanks Mark.
As an aside, shortly after the ride had finished and we were sitting In Mark’s house, my left calf cramped up solid as a rock. I obviously must pay much closer attention to on-bike nutrition.

Increasing average speed will not by itself be sufficient, endurance is also required. And so my second training ride of the week looked at this aspect. For the past two weeks my regular ride with the Derby CTC Grand Veterans has ventured into the Peak District where the climbing seems relentless. So this week I was expecting a much more gradual affair in the flatter lands of South Derbyshire. It did not turn out quite as planned and the route details can be found at

Rather than meander alongside the River Derwent and remain in the valley we turned towards the hills around Bretby and encompassed the 3 counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Our leader had discovered a ‘short cut ‘ at one point which seemed to entail riding along bridleways and across some fields. I am not fond of this type of cycling. especially on my new Mercian Vincitore which is built for roads, and got dropped. However a combination of phone and Garmin 800 ( I KNEW that it wasn’t just a toy :-) ) meant that we became reunited again. I can now manage 80km rides fairly comfortably but need to increase this range quite dramatically and so as we neared ride’s end I left my companions and put in an extra 25km loop at a fairly quick pace to take me over the metric century.
A good week with a mixture of speed and endurance.

Next week I have entered, I must confess with a lot of trepidation,  a SKY Ride in Leicester. It is the Market Town Ride - Strong Plus which covers 50km but it says at a fast pace, much faster than my normal average. Entering at this level for my first ever GoSKYRide is perhaps being overly optimistic. However I hope it will once again introduce me to some new roads, new people and be another small step on my journey to fitness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Challenge : MIND over Body

The amazing cycling achievements at the Olympics on both track and road have left me in awe. This, combined with the success attained by Team Sky, has inspired many. So, how does all this affect me? And what can I do to build upon this legacy of cycling excellence?

Next summer, just hours before the world's top cyclists race the RideLondon Classic, 20000 cyclists will have the chance to cycle a modified version of the London 2012 Olympic Road Race. This new event offers a unique opportunity to become part of cycling history. Celebrating the legacy for cycling created by London 2012, RideLondon 100 will start in the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, then follow the closed roads through the capital and onto Surrey's stunning country roads and hills. With leg testing climbs and a route recently made famous by the world's best cyclists, this promises to be a truly spectacular event for all involved.

One of my sons is quite athletic across a range of sports and is always looking for the next challenge. To channel this energy, he undertakes events and at the same time raises money for MIND, a mental health charity. Last weekend he phoned me up and persuaded me to join him in entering the London 100 as part of a weekend of the celebration of cycling. It was only after that I had rushed upstairs, filled out the relevant forms and despatched my cash that I realized that this was a 100 miles ride not the 100 kilometres that I had assumed. Furthermore, there was a time cut off as they wanted the finishing place cleared in plenty of time for the elite riders to perform and demonstrate their prowess. Entry to this event is by ballot or at the invitation of one of the chosen charities so it will be awhile before we know for sure whether or not we have been accepted.

Now 100 miles, or 160 kms, is significantly further than I have ever ridden before and to make the time cut off I will need to pedal at least 10% faster than my normal current average. My son informs me that it will be no problem as if half the ride is spent climbing hills the other half can be spent freewheeling down the other side and so, in reality , I will only be pedalling for 80 kms which is within, or rather just at the limit,  of my current endurance.I think there must be a flaw in his logic somewhere :-()  In any event, some serious preparation will be required and it better begin now!

When cycling ; weight kills. So my master plan involves stripping my bike of all the surplus stuff that I carry in my saddle bag and persuade my son to become my super domestique and load him up with spare tubes, pump, multi-tool, chain tool. SRAM link, extra clothing for changeable english weather, suntan cream, anti-insect bite cream, food, drink, maps, cycle lock, keys, mobile phone, etc.

I can then make the bike even lighter by removing the mudguards,  and could this be the excuse to purchase a set of American Classic lightweight wheels which not only will roll faster than my Mavic A417 rims with Miche RC2 Racing Hubs but will also weigh less.

Obviously I will have to address the question of my own personal weight, but perhaps a haircut will suffice in that department.

To achieve this challenge is going to mean that I will have to ride further, faster and for longer than I have ever previously done.  To keep track of my progress I intend to record my training rides on Strava and use the tag , London100T, to distinguish my training efforts from my social cycling.

The target is to ride 150km at an average of at least 21kph and then hope that the sense of the occasion and the tow from the pack will provide the extra push needed to arrive back in central London within the designated time and so complete the Challenge.

I suspect that this really will be a battle of Mind over Body

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Novice Bike Mechanic ( Part 2 )

Part 1 described how I went about removing the chain rings on my 1961 Mercian Audax with the aim of replacing them with a more hilly friendly version as I prepare for a life of cycling in my dotage. One of the main obstacles I encountered was the question of how much force to use to loosen the threads, many of which had seized up over the decades since the bike was last stripped and assembled.
Re-building with new components is in theory a simple process of just reversing the process but life for me never seems that simple and for a bodge-it man could present many challenges. What I needed was a book!   And my GS Gazzetta friends came up with an excellent suggestion

So armed with my new fount of knowledge I started the rebuilding process. Stage 1 was to insert the new Bottom Bracket, having first cleaned out all the accumulated dirt and debris which had collected in the shell. The insertion bit was quite easy and the tightening of the shell thread, enough to pinch tight but not to endanger the thread stipping. Feeling quite good so far.

Just a slight smear of grease on the new crank threads and we were nearly there. I was very wary of over tightening the crank bolt and in the event, after the bike had been ridden for a few kilometres, I had to return to this and tighten a little more. Perhaps the bolt was still bedding down. The smaller chainset meant that I also had to lower the front derailleur changer, all in accordance with my instructions from ZIM

The old big ring was a 52 tooth size whereas now it had shrunk to 46 and so there was a question about chain length but I am convinced that messing about with link removal is something of a black art..literally when you see how I appear to get grease and oil on my wife’s white towels! So I left it alone and just checked that the gear changer still worked,
And the bike was ready to roll!

However, in practice I discovered that the gear changes were not working as smoothly as I would have liked and I think that the position of the rear derailleur with the longer chain was ( partly? ) to blame. And so it was back to ZIM to find out what to do and what was needed. The recommendation of a Park Chain Tool to squeeze the links together when removing a SRAM link was excellent and made the job so much easier. Calculating the new chain length according to ZIM ( my new bike mechanic phrase ) I used another Park Tool to remove a few links and then reassembled everything and tried again

This time everything seems to be working.

Whilst I would not now call myself even a reasonable bike mechanic, I have enjoyed this exercise, made more enjoyable by not being under time pressure as I had another bike to ride. It has also given me a deeper understanding of how the whole thing works..problem is I am now listening out to every creak, groan that my Mercian makes and spend a ride trying to diagnose non-existent problems. Oh, and I do now have the basis for a set of good quality bike tools.