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Injury rehabilitation

October 18, 2014

Over the last few years I’ve been lucky with injuries. Usually a few days of rest have been all I’ve needed to recover. Unfortunately this latest injury has completely knocked the wind out of my sails causing a rethink to my approach to exercise. Focussing exclusively on cycling, often going out 5 or 6 times a week, and doing no other form of exercise has made me a bit lop-sided. As my physiotherapist tried to illustrate – if you imagine three glasses, one being endurance, one strength and one flexibility. My endurance glass is full, the strength glass has a small drop inside and the flexibility glass is empty. Ideally for a normal person they should be equal measures.

Walking

I’ve been getting out and walking when I can

10 years ago I gave up long distance running due to recurring ankle, knee & hip injuries. All I did was run. I spent several years in the gym lifting weights until I got bored. All I ever did was lift weights. And then a few years ago I started cycling, and I cycled and cycled and cycled until I broke.

This week I’ve finally returned to some light exercise. On Tuesday I tried pilates for the first time and feel this would be a sensible addition to my exercise regime. I also went to the gym on Friday and did a light weights workout which reminded me why I used to enjoy strength training. Looking forward I’d like to combine my running, cycling and weights with the new addition of pilates to develop a more balanced approach to exercise. For some reason it has always seems more desirable to become a specialist in one form of exercise (or work), rather than be a ‘jack of all trades’. But this latest injury has served as a bit of a wake-up call.  Fortunately I’ve found some less derogative terms for the lowly jack-of-all-trades: the “Renaissance Man” or “Polymath” would try to become proficient in many areas rather than specialise in just one.

I’m not sure what this means for Bike V Car, but my future plans are to take a few eggs out of my cycling basket and put them in my strength and flexibility glasses, if you’ll excuse the conflicting analogies. I just need to find my running shoes …

You know you’ve been injured a long time when …

October 2, 2014

… you visit the Strava website, just to check what your mates have been up to … and it asks you to enter your password to log in. “Who are you, stranger?”

Trapped a nerve in my back. 3 weeks without cycling. Hopefully back soon ………….

Farewell old friend

September 14, 2014

After 10,000+ miles and many happy years together I decided it was time to bid farewell to my oldest bike. I wasn’t being forced to implement  the S-1 Rule where my total number of bikes was causing matrimonial disharmony, it was purely to free up a bit of space at home and because the old fella wasn’t getting any miles these days. I felt sad seeing him collecting dust and cobwebs in the back corner of the shed and thought he’d be better served as a starter bike or winter hack for another cyclist. The fact that old bikes seem to hold their value on eBay was an added incentive.

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eBay selling photo

I took the time to give the bike a thorough clean, and then probably went above-and-beyond the call of duty by dismantled the head-set to clean and re-grease it. The last time I’d ridden the bike was a rainy day and the headset had spluttered rusty gooze over the top tube. I didn’t want the buyer to think they’d bought a lemon if the same thing happened to them, so it gave me peace of mind to fix the problem.

Buyer beware

Buyer beware – the brand name has worn away from the side of the saddle. Which isn’t the original saddle that came with the bike. This bike clearly has some miles in it

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I made sure to include photos of wear to forewarn potential buyers

With 5 days to go, bidding is already fierce so I’m expecting to recoup some of the expense that’s gone into this bike. If I still lived in a city I think it would be handy to have a number 3 bike for locking and leaving without worrying too much. But living out in the sticks, it would appear that the correct number of bikes to own is 2. One carbon-fibre bike for training and racing, and one steel frame bike with mudguards and rack for winter riding, baby-carrying and errand running. However … I’m not completely ruling out the possibility that the freed up space in the shed could be nicely filled by a shiny new bike.

Spectating a professional cycling race

September 11, 2014

I made my way into Bristol yesterday to watch the finale of Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain. When compared to other sports, watching a cycling event is quite a strange experience. You hang around on the side of the road not really knowing what’s going on in the race, eventually a procession of police motorbikes and press cars come through with sirens and horns blaring which excites the crowd and then finally the riders stream past with everyone clapping, cheering and seeing if they can recognise any of them. Which is generally difficult with their faces concealed beneath sunglasses and helmets. It’s a very fleeting experience which can feel like a bit of an anti-climax. Everyone mills about afterwards for a few minutes chatting about what they thought they’d seen and looking on their phones to find out what was actually happening. And that’s it. It’s finished.

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The race finally arrives

I had a good day out, meeting up with some friends and cycling 40 miles in total. It was also a beautiful, sunny day so hanging around on the side of a road for an hour wasn’t too much of a hardship. It’s also quite amusing to overhear the typically banal chat from other cycling fans discussing the intricacies of their equipment. Being a cyclist really brings out your inner nerd.

There’s definitely something unique about how close you can get to the race. It would be chaos if football fans could touch the players or shout in their faces while they were playing. And it was good to head over to the finish line afterwards and see the riders cooling down outside their team buses. Formula 1 fans pay thousands for that sort of access. Watching cycling is free.

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The Team Sky bus was pulling the biggest crowd

I got caught in a bit of rush hour traffic on the return home. For someone who lives in a little village and does most of his riding on quiet country lanes this is fortunately a rare experience. I was faced with a dilemma: sit behind a mile-long queue of cars breathing in their fumes, or ride up the middle of the road with the motorbikes and face a few shouted comments from white-van-men about riding on the wrong side of the road etc. Nobody likes sitting in traffic so I guess cyclists can provide a focus for some people’s frustration. But I’m not quite sure I understand why nobody minds a motorbike doing the same.

Saying goodbye to the city

Saying goodbye to the city

Bike v Wine

September 1, 2014

We are currently away on a family holiday in France where I’ve discovered the beauty of riding a terrible bike. The beauty being its help in forever appreciating a good one. Being our first holiday with a baby, we were tight for space in the car and so I faced a tough choice. If I squeezed in the bike and its associated kit, there would be no room to bring home wine. It was a choice between a few short cycles around the Loire Valley on my own bike, or a year’s supply of fine wine at cellar-door prices. Fortunately I managed to find a nice holiday gite with bikes available to borrow, so this somewhat lessened the blow.

The bike cave

A bike cave 

Naturally, upon arriving one of the first things I did was headed off to investigate the bike situation. I discovered a cave full of ‘family bikes’. In preparation for this likely outcome I hadn’t come prepared to cycle any long distances – in fact the only cycling item I’d brought from home was a water bottle. Ironically, none the bikes had a bottle cage so my token effort was wasted.

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Inappropriate clothing alert – when the nose of your saddle protrudes beneath your running shorts, that’s officially indecent 

 

Forget

Forget your Alpine ascents on lightweight carbon fibre bikes. Riding this beast up a small hill left me gasping for breath

I’d chosen the most rigid looking of the bikes, pumped up its enormous tyres and set off. Its squeakiness made me feel like the Pied Piper leading an army of noisy rats across the Loire Valley while changing gears seemed to result in a machine-gun rattle for a random period of time before settling onto the cog.

More grip than a Chinese burn on these tyres

These beefy tyres would be good on my car 

Sleepy

Peeling render and closed shutters – picturesque French villages 

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Enjoyable summer cycling 

Bobbing head, grimacing, etc. just to climb a small lump on the landscape

Bobbing head, grimacing, etc. just to climb a small lump on the landscape

I only went for a shortish ride – 14 miles through sleepy French villages, amongst the sunflowers and vineyards. And despite disturbing the peace like some sort of rampaging army of out-of-breath rats erratically firing their machine guns, it was enjoyable to back in the saddle covering miles and feeling the sun on my back. And when your average speed is significantly less than 14 miles per hour, 14 miles isn’t such a short ride either. At least we’ll have plenty of room for wine on the way home.

Challenge complete

July 30, 2014

Last week I completed the climbing challenge which turned out to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. This was mostly because I’d completed a similar challenge last year while on a cycling holiday in the French Alps. Not to say that climbing mountains is easy, but having a weeks holiday to climb 4 or 5 mountains with your mates is a bit different to climbing the local hill 40 times while trying to lead a normal life.

To put the challenge in context, this year I have averaged about 70 miles a week with 3,000 ft of climbing. I went for 5 rides in the space of 8 days, riding 260 miles and climbing 29,000 ft.

All so that I’d have a little badge to stitch on my bag.

New badge on its way

A badge

A reader of this blog showed interest in my cycling badges (a blatant fabrication) and asked to see them (not true) and so here they are in all their glory:

Badgeman's bag

Badgeman’s bag

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Saumur-Amboise-Saumur was a 200km ride. Alpe d’Huez & Mont Ventoux were holidays in the mountains

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Previous Rapha Rising badges and more mountains 

It was only while taking these photos that I noticed this year’s Rapha Rising challenge was a lot more climbing than previous years. This gave me some comfort in finding it so difficult. I’m not sure why I have two Mont Ventoux badges, maybe one of them belongs to Winnie, the naughty bear?

I closed out the challenge by taking the little one up our local hill for a picnic. It was nice to be back to quiet and slow cycles with no purpose other than to just enjoy the ride.

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“Let’s not ride any hills this week”

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Picnic in the sun

New climbing challenge

July 20, 2014

Now in its third year, Rapha and Strava have once again teamed up to challenge cyclists to climb a dizzying height on their bikes. This year the challenge is 8,800m (28,870 ft) in nine days. This equates to three stages of this year’s Tour de France and is roughly the same height as Mount Everest. The prize for completing the challenge is a commemorative woven badge which has been quite rightly mocked by a club-mate for being a bit Boy Scouts, but sometimes you’ve just got to geek-out and stitch your badge on your cycling bag with pride.

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Today’s ride was a full tour of the steep Mendip hills

Knowing that time-constraints later in the week will probably lead me to the evil but efficient practice of hill-repeats, I started off with a ride I’d been contemplating for some time. A complete circuit of the Mendip Hills going up or down every road I know. It turned out to be a 62 miler, but the horizontal distance was inconsequential. The real result was over 6000 ft of climbing. This took me four hours and provided some spectacular views of Somerset and the Chew Valley. It also left me battling the mental challenge of the oncoming ‘bonk’ for the last hour as my energy reserves depleted.

Somerset Levels

Heading down towards the Somerset Levels 

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I may need to replace my brake blocks after this challenge

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Another narrow, windy descent

Towards Blagdon

Towards Blagdon Lake in the Chew Valley

Cake consumption was the immediate priority on my return home

Cake consumption was the immediate priority upon my return home

After today’s 62 miler returned 6000 ft of climbing, and yesterday’s 35 miler gave me 4500 ft I’m about a third of the way into the challenge. Tomorrow I will be giving the legs some much-needed rest, knowing that there’s still some way to go before I can reach for the victorious needle and thread.

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