Return of the Baby Chariot

The weather this past week has been glorious and seemed a perfect opportunity to attach the child seat to my bike and take our young lamb out for her first chariot ride of the year. She’s changed a lot since I last took her out, probably 6 months ago. Mostly she’s learned the word “no” and knows how to stubbornly use it. So it was with slight trepidation that I got us ready.

Sit in here? On the back of that bike?  ... "NO!"

Sit in here? On the back of that bike? … Ha ha … “NO!”

Anyway, despite a few initial complaints about the shoulder straps and the helmet, as soon as we were on our way she started happily chatting away. “Daddy bike … me bike …”

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“As long as you don’t strap my feet in, we’ve got a deal.” 

The big difference from last year is the talking. She was chatting away as we rode. Actually that’s a lie, the big difference from last year is her weight. She’s well over 30lbs now so I avoided any hilly roads! Today’s mission was to find some “baby sheeps”.

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We rode a couple of miles from home before taking a sheep and water break 

Mummy sheep and baby sheep

“Mummy sheep and baby sheep”

It was then time to head back home and I made the same mistake for approximately the millionth time. Asking her a question that really should have been a command. It goes something like, “Ok, shall we get back on the bike?” Answer “No.”

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“Ok, well do you want to walk the 2 miles home?”

As well as dribbling on my water bottle, we’d also shared a banana while we stopped. In theory it’s nice to get her to eat outside the house as it usually avoids any cleaning up. However, rather than eat her piece she firmly gripped it the whole way home before immediately dropping it on the kitchen floor. If this is a game then I’m definitely points down.

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She celebrated her victory by painting her face in “noghurt” 

“Knog Blinder” review

Over the course of this blog I’ve written a handful of cycling product reviews – I try to buy as few cycling products as possible so generally don’t have too much to review. Unfortunately I am now in need of a new rear light as the old one broke. It was a ” Knog Blinder 4 Circle Rear LED” and I can’t say I was too disappointed when it died. I haven’t been overly impressed by it and now have good reason to purchase a replacement. Hopefully I’ll make a better choice this time.

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The Knog Blinder – style over substance?

First the positives – it’s very bright and lives up to the name ‘Blinder’. It has about 5 functions, one being constant and the other 4 being various flashing sequences. Arguably 3 of these are superfluous but maybe some people like to have a choice. It’s easy to clip onto the seat post via a rubber band and metal clip, but it probably wouldn’t attach securely to smaller tubes such as the seat stays if you have a saddle bag. And you certainly couldn’t clip it onto a saddle bag or mudguard. It’s rechargeable via a flip-out USB connector. Onto the negatives. Battery life has always seemed too short. It’s difficult to know exactly how long it lasts, but it’s somewhere between 2 and 3 hours. I’ve been on a few 3 hour rides where I’ve come home to find the light not working. Not only does this seem unsuitable to a sport where people often cycle for several hours, but it also means you need to charge it after every ride. When I was using it for commuting in the Winter I used to charge it twice a day, once at work and again at home just to be sure. This was obviously a nuisance. The USB connection is also a bit temperamental and there have been times when it was plugged in but not receiving charge. The final and terminal flaw with the design was that the rubber band clamp perished. I think I’ve had the light for 18 months. In that time it’s had good use and been subjected to lots of rain, but still, for a light that costs somewhere between £25 to £30 you’d expect better.

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Perished rubber band

I also own a Knog front light, and similarly this has a battery life of about 2 hours. So, going forward I will be looking for a light with a longer battery life. And probably not a Knog. Clearly all of that removing and reattaching to charge this one up has contributed to it wearing out. If anyone can recommend a good rear light (or has better experience of the Knog Blinder) then please feel free to respond in the comments section below.

* After writing this post, I checked out the Knog website and read that all of their products have a 2 year manufacturers guarantee. So I sent the product back to the distributer and was issued a full refund. So despite not being completely happy with the quality of this particular Knog product, I can’t fault the integrity of the company.

Long rides or short rides: a matter of perspective

Several times this year I’ve headed out with the intention of riding 50 miles but have ended up doing 30. Partly because I keep underestimating how long it takes to ride 50 miles, especially at this time of year. And partly because the winter weather gets the better of me after two cold hours in the saddle.

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Up on the grey and threatening hills

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Glimpses of Spring 

Cycling’s a funny hobby – how did it make me think two hours of exercise is a short workout? When I play football, or run, or go to the gym I never do it for more than two hours. Often for much shorter, depending on whether I get tired, substituted or sent off. However, one of the benefits of cycling is that you can be fairly flexible with your timing and do it when you have an opportunity. Plus there’s no travel time, you just ride from the front door for as long as you’ve got. I’m sure when the weather improves and life gets less busy I’ll find the time to ride for longer.

Today was one of those classic English drizzle days. Too warm to wear a rain coat and too wet to go without. I stopped a few times to take it off, put it back on, take it off, etc.  I may have only ridden 30 miles but I made sure to include a good climb. Two miles of constant climbing in warm drizzle wearing too many layers resulted in a boil-in-the bag effect. This was followed by several miles of cold sweat, the sort of feeling you associate with having a fever. It was somewhere in the midst of this unpleasantness that I thought, bugger this I’m going home for a cup of tea.

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Doing the rain coat dance 

I think it’s just a matter of perspective. Two hours of exercise at this time of year is good enough for me. I’ll save my long rides for the summer when you ride for longer because it’s enjoyable.

The Cycling Stuntman

My Dad recently alerted me to this fine piece of vintage cycling comedy. At first viewing I thought it was another modern ‘mockumentary’ of someone being absurdly gauche. But it turns out to be honest 1970s British reporting. The world may not have changed for the better over the last 40 years, but man has it changed. Enjoy:

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-cycling-stunt-man-atv-today-1974-1974/

Evel Knievel he ain’t!

(hopefully the link works outside the UK – international viewers please let me know …)

Not Rule 5

Man, have I gone soft. Or maybe just fussy. Or maybe fussy and soft. Either way I’m definitely not hard. I went out for a ride this afternoon in what looked to be a fine Spring day, but seemed to turn into a harsh Winter within minutes of the ride. Wind and cold and rain and blah blah blah, all the normal things you should expect at this time of year. Rather than becoming a fair-weather cyclist, I seem to have gone the whole hog and become a fair-season cyclist. Basically, today was too cold and I woosed out. I was hoping to ride for a couple of hours but a hail storm in the first half hour completely killed my spirits. Cycling in a hail storm feels like having your face sand-blasted. At least it does if you’re a woosey cyclist who needs to “harden the f**k up”. Anyway, it seems fairly unlikely that I would take up face-sandblasting as a hobby, so maybe hail-storm cycling in freezing weather just isn’t for me. And if that makes me a “fair-weather” cyclist then so be it.

Shortly after the face sand-blasting I turned up a hill. After a few hundred metres the road went from slush to ice. I stopped. Got off the bike and thought: “this is nuts, I’m going home”. And I did.

Roll on Spring …

Two hours plus

I went out for my longest ride of the year today. Which isn’t really saying much, I think it was only my third ride of 2015. I’d put in a full shift looking after our toddler daughter all of last weekend, so in return I was given exclusive rights to my own Saturday today. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that less than 2 years ago I owned exclusive rights to all of every weekend. No wonder I took up cycling as a hobby – I needed something to fill those long, responsibility-free hours. Unfortunately, these days I’m even less imaginative when given total freedom – the world was my oyster and I chose to go for a long cycle and then do some DIY on the house. Rock n roll!

Following my last post, my rest week turned into a rest fortnight. In my normal non-cycling life I split my time between looking after our daughter and working as a part time builder / carpenter. So a break from cycling doesn’t mean I’m being restful. But one of main goals for 2015 is to try and stay injury-free. It’s not good for childcare, it’s bad for work, it puts a stop to cycling and according to Mrs BikeVCar it turns me into “a right grumplestiltskin”. So if I feel like I need another rest week I’ll take another rest week and hopefully enjoy the long-term benefits.

I was intending to ride 50 miles today. It was a plan I’d made after a couple of Friday night beers. For the last few months my longest rides have been around the 30 mile mark. In the winter this takes me a couple of hours. I find 2 hours to be a personal threshold in cycling – riding over 2 hours requires me to take food, in the summer it means an extra water bottle, and in the winter it’s a level of masochism that I’m not normally interested in. But today I went for it.

After a hearty breakfast I layered up and set off. Within the first hour I’d already reduced my goal to 40 miles. And after an hour and a half, on my way up Cheddar Gorge at a painfully slow speed I seriously considered just heading back home and calling it a day at around 30 miles. Enough with this unnecessary torture.

There were a few big groups of teenage lads on the Gorge with these peculiar downhill trikes that I’d never seen before. The trikes looked pretty cool and were essentially bikes so I considered putting a temporary stop to my suffering and having a chat with my cycling brethren. But then I remembered I’m not young anymore and it would have been plainly embarrassing for everyone if I’d tried to start a conversation. Some old guy in dorktastic head-to-toe lycra trying to mix it with the kids. Just leave it and suffer on, I sensibly decided.

Trike Drifting

Trike Drifting is for cool kids and not people who have to come home and do a Google search for “downhill trike” to find out what it’s called

Once on the top of the Mendips for a second and final time, I surprised myself by turning away from home and committing to an extra hour in the saddle. I rode for nearly 3 hours, covering over 40 miles and returned home frozen and completely worn out. For that final hour my stomach gnawed away at me and my fingers froze through my thick gloves – to the point where the gloves felt like they were soaking and had shrunk. I was wearing my winter cycling boots and the thickest socks so at least my feet survived – but in hindsight these additional nerdly items of clothing were another good reason I didn’t stop on the Gorge.

It feels good to get a decent ride under my belt for the year. But it was also reassuring confirmation that winter rides over 2 hours require a level of dedication that I’m currently not feeling. I’ll be waiting for the temperatures to rise significantly before I increase my ride lengths.

The Recovery Week

There are a number of reasons for taking time off from exercise. Allowing your body to heal fully after several weeks of a strenuous programme is one. Taking heed of the sensible advice from a loved one that maybe you’re doing too much too soon after returning from an injury or illness is another. Even if that sensible advice manifests itself as unwelcome nagging. If you think the nagging’s bad, just imagine what the “I told you so’s” are going to feel like.

Endurance sports and weight lifting both tend to recommend a full rest week at least every 8 to 10 weeks to allow muscles to repair and fitness to increase. Other sports such as golf, fishing or darts recommend that you do something strenuous every few weeks just to remind yourself that your sport is actually rest.

This week I am having a recovery week. It’s certainly easier to enforce rest when the weather’s bad and you’ve got lots of other things to keep you busy. I had been out for a long run and a good cycle last week, and despite following the surgeon’s advice about rehabilitation times, I still don’t want to risk overdoing it and injuring any newly healed tissue. This week was also the first time our daughter tried cycling. She was as unhappy about cycling as I am about not cycling. Great teamwork.

I'm only crying because this bike has too many wheels

I’m only crying because this bike has one too many wheels

Next week I hope to return feeling stronger, fitter and mentally refreshed. Well, at least as mentally and physically refreshed as you can feel with a young toddler in the house.