Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review of the Year - 2016

This has been for me a good cycling year.

The annuity distance target was achieved with ease, and indeed, I managed to cycle further in a year than I have ever done previously.

                                      Total Distance   7147 km
                                       Total Ascent     57384 m

even though the total number of rides was down by 5% to 189 outings

Persuaded by a friend to try some Baby Audax ( 100km ) I entered Rutland and Beyond in  early February. The weather was bitter, the hills steep and my friend decided that only fools rode in tose conditions so stayed at home..I rode..and froze. But I did complete it.
This was soon to be followed by another event around  the Three Fields of Alfreton and indeed I had also entered Charnwood in the Spring but went down sick two days before and was forced to withdraw.

The standard Derby Mercury club runs are obviously too quick and too far for me but instead  I started to ride with a group of Derby Mercury Veterans. This group of past cyclists used to race and  tour decades ago before the introduction of these modern new  fangled carbon electronic gear changing things were ever thought about. It is great to listen to stories of races past and places seen.  They travel now more at my pace and every ride involves a cake stop .

Indeed it was with  this group that this year I cycled abroad for the first time when we went to France to watch the TdF and follow in the tyre tracks of Stage 1.

 The atmosphere was great, the food even better though the entire trip did expose my deep lack of linguistic skills .

Whilst I have mentioned that I am too old and slow to go on the normal Mercury rides I did join the 78th Anniversary Ride out to Denstone. This involved for me a 78 km trip alongside about 100 other cyclists from the Club covering the entire age range from 7- 70 years old. The pace was good, no-one got dropped and there was a marvellous BBQ prepared for our return.

I have also tried to integrate myself a little more into the Club by helping out at Time Trials and in particular the epic Everest Challenge undertaken by JK  and taking a few photos

All in all, I have had a good year
Next year I hit 70, and may lead a Social Ride in early March to celebrate the event..we will see

As for my new non-target driven approach, well the Annuity Chart says that 1000 miles ( 1610 km ) needs to be covered..better go and get my bike ready !

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Hills Are Getting Steeper

As I am rapidly approaching my 70th birthday I have noticed a remarkable geographical fact; hills are becoming much steeper and are lengthening in duration!  I may well send this remarkable insight to National Geographic for their education.

To counteract this evolutionary change I have needed to make some dramatic engineering changes to my bike fleet.

Witchcraft, my Giant Advanced TCR SL3 with an Ultegra Di2 Groupset has had a cassette change to give a 32t large cog from the traditional 28t. This was thought to be impossible but my LBS at Bespoke  have weaved some magic and it all works fine.

My beloved Mercian Vincitore Special was equipped with a Campagnolo Chorus Triple which only allows a maximum rear tooth count of 29.  So I have had this upgraded (?) to a Shimano Tiagra Triple with a 34t cassette.

This now means that I have a lowest gear on the Giant at 28 inches whilst on the Mercian it is now 23.3 inches.

I should perhaps point out here that my son thinks this is all needless as I had yet to encounter a hill I could not climb with the original kit.....and I am a bit loathe to confess to him that so far I have got nowhere near my new bottom gears...still I am approaching 70 and regard this as future proofing :-)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Derby Mercury 78th Anniversary Ride

I think there is a feeling amongst cyclists at large that cycling clubs are only for the super fit, with a concentration upon Time Trialing, Road Racing and hurtling around a velodrome at insane speeds.
Others of course prefer to spend their winter afternoons cycling over muddy fields, covered in mud and grime and freezing to death in icy winds..this I am told is the joy of Cyclo Cross.

Now whilst I cannot disagree that Cycling Clubs do engage in all these activities there is a much more social side to it all.

I am old and can never participate in these events but I can, and do, help out as part of the Support Team and find it really enjoyable and , though I am not a ' proper ' cyclist I have been made very welcome.

Occasionally though there are also highly inclusive events where everyone can participate irrespective of age and sporting prowess. Last weekend was such a time when Derby Mercury held their 78th Anniversary Ride.

There were three, or possibly four options; a 78 mile ride out into the back of beyond, a 78km ride to the edges of the Peak District, a 78 furlong option for those who wanted a gentle pootle, and a zero yards option for those who just wanted to partake in the post ride BBQ.

I chose the 78km option out to Denstone, a marvelous place for a mid ride break. I was a little concerned that I might not be fit enough to complete this ride so took a solo practice run a couple of days in advance to ensure I could manage the climbs. Having successfully completed this I felt more confident to go with the group and do the Anniversary Ride

There were over 50 riders on this ride, somewhat fewer on the 78 mile torture fest, but over 100 made it to the BBQ taking into account all the options

Below are a few images and here is a short video taken from the 78km Slow Group

Denstone Farm Shop and the Queue To Refuel

All ages were on the ride

A discussion on just how many punctures one should expect

A very happy me enjoying my ride out with the group

BBQ at Derby Rugby Club post the ride

Tucking In

In cluding my trip to the start and the ride home I managed to cover about 100km and climb just over 1000m. I was happy with that..but whether I will be able to manage 79 km next year remains to be seen

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Mercian goes to France

Being a very late convert to cycling, my experience of touring is limited, and when it comes to cycling abroad, then non-existent.  So, when I received an invite to join a party of Derby Mercury Veterans and Friends on a trip to Normandy I was delighted.

Eighteen of us met up in Derby and York Bike Liners who had made all the travel and accommodation arrangements soon had all our kit loaded onto the coach and trailer

Our trip coincided with the start of the Tour de France and it was our aim to try and watch the Monday Stage which went through Villedieu les Poles, the town where we had our base. But first it was onto Portsnouth and the overnight ferry to Roscoff

before racing down to Hilaire to watch the peleton flash past as can be seen in this short video

The enthusiasm of the local people was a joy to behold and one thing that really struck me was how much more  Cycling Friendly all the drivers were.

To celebrate the visit of Le Tour, Villedieu had put on a street party in the evening

We were there for a week and the group split up into different sections each day as riders were of different abilities and energy levels, but one common theme throughout all the rides was the necessity to try out the local Boulanger and Patisseries

In passing I noticed that the French Letter Boxes were of a similar design to our own with a similar reference system, though they chose a different colour

Stage 1 of Le Tour had started from Mont St Michel and was referred to as a ' flat stage '

Though that would not have been my definition and as I sped along in their tyre tracks it was nice to dream I was actually taking part

The weather was great and for those interested in seeing the scenery then there are a couple of videos

A Trip to Granville and the experience of cycling on cobbles

A Group trip to the Abbe d'Harbye

Being a load of Old Age Pensioners, then all the bikes were traditional with no carbon in sight

But Steel Rules through our Mercians !!

Now for next year..and let us hope that my language skills may improve


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

True Grit and Power - the Ascent of Everest

My last post described how I had acquired some new toys, chief amongst which was a PowerTap which enabled me to have a stream of new numbers but unfortunately did not guarantee any performance improvement.

Now for those who are interested in such things there is a quantity called FTP, Functional Threshold Power, which is the maximum power level the cyclist can maintain for 60 minutes and is operating at the point of complete exhaustion.

THe data which I have been collecting gave me an FTP of 146 watts, but that was when I was hurrying to the cake shop before it closed.  More serious (? ) riding has elevated this figure first to 170 watts and now 189 watts. I was quite pleased with this improving and basking in self honour.

Then I started talking to my friend Jon Knapp who it seems has an FTP of 350 watts, which put my efforts perfectly back into perspective.

Jon was about to embark on an epic day in the saddle;  42 continuous  repetitions up Star Bank, a 4km climb averaging 10 % so that the total ascent would be the equal of climbing Everest on a bike.

( I mentioned this fact to my wife whose opinion was that Jon must be certifiable  )

The whole exercise took over 13 hours 20 minutes in the saddle and at various parts of the day, sacrificial domestiques were employed to both shelter Jon from the wind and give him a wheel to follow

However, repeated ascents of this monster can start to take a toll on your legs and the domestiques were gradually burnt off,  Andy claiming that he was conned and had only volunteered for the downhill bits

But for most of the day, Jon rode alone with just his screaming leg muscles for company

All top athletes need a motivational coach and a supporter to set an example of good nutritional and fluid intake requirements.  In this case Dad Knapp provided such a presence from his seat outside the Star Pub

The final statistics tell a tale of true grit and power

Total distance covered  248.8 km
Total Ascent                  9214 m
Moving Time               13 hrs 20 mins
Avg Speed  18.7 kph
Avg Power  197 watts

and amazingly his average heart rate was only 130 bpm with a peak of 155 bpm....  never even out of Zone 3, just a typical Tea Shop run in fact!!!

This was truly an amazing effort...CONGRATULATIONS!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Boys Toys...or Essential Purchases

I just love numbers.

Not that I actually take the analysis of my cycling data and then feed it back into a structured training regime..I leave that to the young road and track  warriors.

I just LOVE numbers

So when I had the chance to grab a BARGAIN ( defined as something I don't need at a price I cannot afford to  refuse ) of a Power Meter I was overjoyed ... loads more data.

Just think of the spreadsheets and graphs I would be able to produce AND I would have proof that cycling up hill into a head wind was hard work :-)

And using something called FTP ( whatever that is ) I will be able to digitally prove that I need a rest after a hard ride and so give my wife true explanations about why I am not able to tackle that list of ' household jobs ' she has constructed.

The PowerTap came fitted to a wheel, and so obviously I needed a matching set, and  so I acquired a new wheel set, Pacenti SL23 rims. Following my purchase of HPlus-Son Archtypes for Witchcraft, my Giant Advanced TCR, I really do like the ride that the wider rim gives and so these Pacenti wheels were an obvious necessary purchase

An other advantage of the Pacenti is that they are made to accommodate Tubeless Tyres.  The lanes around where I live are very badly potholed and the surface is forever covered in thorns from the incessant hedge trimming that the farmers carry out. Punctures are a regular occurence and having nearly lost my fingers to frostbite changing a tube whilst out in the wilds of Dalbury recently I decided that a set of Hutchinson Fusion tyres needed to be added to the list.

I believe that this wheelset with the tubeless tyres may be slightly heavier than my previous tubed Archetypes... but perhaps I will have one less flapjack to compensate :-)

Now it is often said that we Old Age Pensioners talk a good ride but rarely actually get on a bike and go for a ride. This is obviously nonsense as the tea shops of Derbyshire and the surrounding counties would not survive without our trade. But just to prove the point I have also bought another bargain from a friend who deemed it surplus to requirements

This camera is really small and I have mounted it underneath my saddle but am still getting to grips on how best to use it but with luck I will be able to record some of our adventures in France later this year when the Cycling Veterans go looking for mountains

But it does work..as shown here when the Derby Mercury Veterans went to Prison

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Audax Apprentice

Audax is a cycling sport in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. Audax is a non-competitive sport : success in an event is measured by its completion.  Audax has its origins in Italian endurance sport of the late nineteenth century, and the rules were formalized in France in the early twentieth century.

The distances covered can be huge, with some events incorporating overnight stops, but for an Apprentice then the distances I am concerned about are around 100km+, a baby audax if you like.

For those who dont know me, or have not read my profile, then I should say I am a very late comer to cycling, having only taken up cycling after I retired when I was 60 yo, and so have no inbuilt reservoir of core cycling endurance; 100 km is a VERY LONG WAY !

My normal cycling involves much shorter distances and is invariably aimed at discovering new tea shops. However at the beginning of this year a friend, a veteran racing cyclist who is still incredibly fit, told me of his aim to cycle 10 audax events this year and suggested that I should give it a try.

In a moment of foolishness I agreed and the randonneurs at my local cycling club, Derby Mercury RC,  also gave me encouragement.  A previous post described my first adventure and now I have completed a second audax, The Three Fields around Alfreton and the Nottinghamshire lanes which was another 104km and involved another 1100 m of climbing.

Team Mercury were again out in force making an early arrival at the food stop

I have to say that stopping at this Church Hall was a delight; the local church ladies had provided streams of tea and coffee all supplemented by a vast array of home made cakes. It seemed a shame to leave but leave I must and so on towards Holocaust Hill and then some splendid  scenic views

Cyclists need food, lots of it, when attempting long distance rides and I treated myself to a wonderful plate of beans on toast with a fried egg on top at Southwell...true rocket fuel

It has been explained ( INSTRUCTED!! )  that all audaxers should have a rear mudflap on their bikes, the use of mudguards is of course not up for debate, and so, in an attempt to obey ' the rules '  my Mercian now proudly boasts a rear mudflap in Mercury Blue.

This was an excellent ride, though I could have dome without the loss of my climbing gears on the last 10km hilly climb to the finish, big gear hill climbing is not to be recommended for Old Age Pensioners, but Mercian have now fixed this problem for me and replaced the ruined gear cable.

Next up will be Charnwood In The Spring, another baby audax but with hopefully slightly less climbing and somewhat warmer weather.

I doubt that I will complete 10  events but I am certainly enjoying new rides around the country.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Derby Divas

I have mentioned before that my cycling is mainly of the Tea Shop Tours variety but not all cyclists follow my excellent example.  Last year some of the members of my club, Derby Mercury RC,  entered the LVRC National Track Championships. Derby now has its own velodrome and many in our club have been inspired to take up track cycling, gain the necessary accreditation and race in the Track League.... with some very encouraging results. So much so they entered the LVRC National Championships held at Newport last October and came back with quite a sizable medal haul.

Not to be outdone, some of the ladies in the Club also decided to take up Track Cycling and entered the Track League, again with quite a degree of success.  So, inspired by the veteran men's effort last year, the Derby Divas were formed and are aiming for the Masters Track Championships to be held in July, again in Newport.

Now this is a significant step up in class from the local league and some serious training and dedication will be required.

Track cycling is to cycling what 'track and field' is to athletics, with racing for a wide range of riders and body types, from short, timed, solo sprint races to long high endurance bunch races. Track cycling is all about speed, technique, tactics and nerve; all the things I lack which is why I admire the efforts of those brave enough to compete.

The Divas formed last year and were prominent in the local Track League where often they could be seen hunting as a pack......

..... before pouncing for the kill.

All of this requires plenty of desire and grit, especially in the solo events when the legs are shrieking for you to stop.

But fast times require the power to be applied from the off...

..with the coach keeping a benevolent eye on your technique

I am looking forward to following their progress and  the Russian Steps exercises should in particular be a really great photographic opportunity...indeed I could almost, though only almost, feel sorry for what lies in wait for these girls.

Thank you ladies for inviting me along to watch.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rutland and Beyond.... an OAP's Adventure

For those of you who read my last post, Driven by Targets,  you will know that following last year's abject failure to achieve the objectives, I have decided to become even less competitive and just pootle around.  However a friend, a keen audaxer, has set himself the target to complete 10 Baby Audaxes ( 100km or less ) this year and after many discussions in a local coffee shop he persuaded me to join him on the first one, the Leicester Forest Cycling Club's  Rutland and Beyond Audax.. A gentle introduction with some beautiful scenery he said.

The weather forecast promised arctic weather and high NE winds, with the winds having the cruel capability to alter direction dependent upon the cyclists heading.

In the event my friend decided that the combination of zero temperatures, high winds, and a very early start made staying in bed at home a preferable option, leaving me to attempt a solo ride with the aid of my trusty garmin and an old fashioned bit of paper with writing on it .. I eschewed maps as I can never read them properly, but more of navigational issues later.

I have joined Derby Mercury RC this last  year, not with the intent of cycling with them, far out of my league but just to help out as a gofer at events, and I mentioned that I was undertaking this event. This inspired Team Mercury to also have a go and so Mark, Debbie, Phil and Nigel, the Mercury Marvels, entered.. For this foolhardy crew, a mere 100km was not worth getting out of bed for and so they decided to ride both to and from the event to raise a more respectable 200km ride.  In order to assist them they had recruited two sacrificial lambs in Mark and Sarah from Cycle Derby to act as their lead out team.

And so, around 160 cyclists converged on Ride HQ at 08-15

I had a plan. Not to be put off by all these fit young people and to ride at my own pace. I know I dont climb well and there were plenty of climbs on the course so I had stocked up with my home made malt loaf and flapjcks and a bottle full of fluid to lessen the risk of dying completely on some far forgotten hill. Eat little and often was my moto.

And so, positioning myself at the rear of the peleton we set off and encountered the first climb after 800m. It became apparent that perhaps I am not the world's worst climber as some seemed to start suffering already, indeed quite a few people never managed to complete the course.

Navigation is another skill I lack and as I  approached Rutland Water a couple of riders in front of me whom I had caught up, suddenly veered off left against all the advice of my Garmin!   It was then I discovered that not all riders out on a Sunday morning cycling around Rutland Water are neccessarily in the audax.  And so to the first Control Point

Lots of people came over to chat to me, but it seems it was not my scintillating wit they were interested in, but my Mercian Vincitore Special.

The Mercury Marvels had stormed past me on the hill into Rutland Water, resplendent in their kit, my Mercury jersey was well covered in multiple layers so as not to degrade the image and also I needed layers to keep warm.

Loving numbers, I had flipped through the garmin screens, a big mistake!  From here on in my turn by turn instructions vanished and I had to resort to following cyclists butts ( not always a pretty sight ) or when alone relying upon the cue sheet with its original Egyptian Hieroglyphics

The hills kept on coming and I was beginning to wish that I had chosen a Shimano Groupset instead of the Campagnolo as that would have allowed a much lower bottom gear (30/29 is my lowest ) and though I rarely engaged that bottom gear I did at times  envy the people twirling away on the steepest climbs.

There is a reward from the hills though. At one point the view into the valley with the viaduct stretching out across the peaks is a marvellous sight. It was around here that I saw a large red kite flying low in the sky espying out the young lambs as a potential lunch..or perhaps he was waiting for me to fall.

Just prior to the third control point is The Hill, a leg sapping lung busting monster for an OAP. I was determined not to let it beat me and though my brain was telling me to get off and push, my inner self would not relent, and indeed I passed another couple of riders on this climb.

For those who reached the check point and cafe early there was plenty of food

Some even were treated to a Valentine Lunch!

However by the time I arrived the place was packed with sunday tourists and stifling hot with wait times up to 45 minutes...so a gel, a piece of malt loaf and I soldiered on

The last section was probably the toughest for me, the wind was horrendous and the terrain very exposed...but I made it!!

For those who like statistics the Strava Ride is here 

To give an indication of how I coped, my normal ' Suffer Score '; for my T-Shop Pootles is around 50...this ride was 388  .... I have never been tis close to the edge before

But did I enjoy it?  Yes

Did I feel a sense of achievement ?  Yes

Would I do another Audax ?    Well.......

Friday, January 22, 2016

Driven by Targets

For most of my working life I was driven by targets...targets usually set by others.
 So much so that it became to be part of me.
 Now retired, and fully away from the business world I have found that since I took up cycling a load of self set targets came along with the package.

But after my  last year's abysmal performance ( See the last blog post )  I determined that ' Targets ' would be assigned to the bin of history...

.... except for the Annuity Distance Target which stands at 1771 km this year

and then a friend suggested I might join him on a few audax rides...nothing too arduous you understand, just around the 100 km mark

and then another friend said I expect you to come to Harogate and have Tea and Cakes at Betty's this year

...and really, 1771 km is not THAT much..perhaps 5000 km would be more of a challenge

..and then another friend said how about getting fit enough to cycle with us for a week in France

..and that Brompton you have just acquired...you really should use it to explore by train and bike

...and I noticed that my time over a favourite segment was down on what it used to be...not that I am competitive of course any more

Anyway, I am no longer driven by Targets