Ride hard and rest

There’s nothing quite like an early season time-trial to recalibrate your skewed cycling self-confidence. After putting in the miles this Winter I was starting to feel like the elusive ‘form’ might be on the near horizon. Unfortunately, as it turns out, not only am I slower than I’ve been for the last couple of years, I’m also slower than two-thirds of the club! Hey ho, it’s not easy getting older and being a parent.

Last weekend I rode the Exmoor Beauty 70 mile sportive. In fine sunny weather and with just one ascent to the top of Exmoor it was a relatively light dose of the usually brutal moors. My personal highlight was Ridge Road, a long and relatively car-free descent from Simonsbath to Dulverton with great views. A new one to me and definitely a route to include the next time I visit Exmoor.

Sunny Exmoor

Sunny Exmoor

 

I’ve been averaging 100 miles a week this year taking advantage of both the mild weather and a regular job in Bristol where I can commute by bike a couple of days a week.

Riding the steely in full pannier-juggernaut mode is one thing, but carrying Little Miss BikeVCar in the Toddler Chariot is becoming ever more of a challenge.

I’ll be off to France soon for a week in the Alps before my family then join me for a holiday in Provence. With this in mind I’ve been trying to increase my cycling for the inevitable back-to-back-to-back days on the bike. Immediately after the Exmoor sportive I commuted to Bristol 3 days in a row and then capped this off with my first time trial of the year.

TT

The time trial went ok. Over a lightly undulating 8 miles around Chew Valley Lake I managed to average 21.5mph. Not my fastest but I gave it 100% and is a good marker. The other day someone gave me some advice: “Ride hard and rest”. Personally I’d add “… and eat”. So after riding 200 miles in the last 4 days, now it’s time to take a short break to recover … and eat.

6 hours on Exmoor

I was in Exmoor on Tuesday with a full day to fill with cycling. My life these days is less BikeVCar and more BikeVEverythingElse. Fortunately I’d managed to delegate, dodge, postpone or ignore all my other life-related duties and so I absconded to the moors for a whole responsibility-free day on the bike.

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A beautiful day on the moors

The original plan was to ride 100 miles. It wasn’t until I’d stopped for lunch that I worked out that at my average speed there weren’t enough day-light hours at this time of year to fulfil this ambition. Certainly not when dressed to combat the sub-zero temperatures, climbing the never-ending hills of Exmoor on a steel bike and carrying the excess baggage of an enjoyable Christmas period.

I re-calibrated my ambition.

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The long, steep ride up from Lynmouth

Despite the mileage reduction it was a glorious day. Clear blue skies, sun and very little wind. However, due to the temperatures it was still icy well into the afternoon. I stuck to the main roads which had been gritted.

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Beautiful ice patterns (beautiful from up here, not so beautiful when seen from the floor!)

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… more moors

In the end I rode 72 miles. At an average speed of 13ish mph. Despite the 2000-odd metres of climbing, the hardest part of the day was descending down from the moors to the coast at Porlock. Dropping 400 vertical metres in about 3 miles – I had to stop several times and try to shake some life back into my fingers and was desperately looking forward to the next climb to warm me back up. It was a great day – Exmoor, I’ll be back …

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Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

 

 

 

Injury-free in 2015

With a couple of hours to go this year I feel like it’s hopefully safe to say that I’ve completed my relatively modest goal for the year: to stay injury-free. For me 2014 was a year full of injuries and illness so I decided to apply a little moderation this year to avoid my run of injuries. This meant a bit less cycling which wasn’t very “bike-v-car” and bit more running, strength and flexibility training to balance my approach to exercise.

Anyway, whether through luck or judgement I managed to get out and cycle throughout the whole year. In all I cycled 2500 miles and ran 250 miles, which averaged out at 3 hours of cycling and half an hour of running per week. Not too shabby.

The goal for next year is to try and increase the weekly mileage and maybe get back involved with some competitive cycling again with the local club. And to keep enjoying it. Happy New Year everyone.

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Keep riding 

Garmin battery replacement

I recently replaced the battery in my Garmin 800. It’s 3 or 4 years old and the battery life was down to about 2 hours between charges. Not exactly fit for purpose any more. Sending the unit to Garmin to have the battery replaced was obviously extortionate so I decided to buy a battery online for about £10 and do it myself. It was surprisingly straightforward and I found several online tutorials on Youtube to guide me through the steps. I took a few photos along the way in case I forgot how something was attached.

Unit dismantled

Unit dismantled

New battery installed - power on

New battery installed – power on

The unit has a touch-screen but this is just a simple internal attachment. It took about 10 minutes to complete the changeover and has breathed new life into my old unit. Here’s to another few years of use hopefully. Although with Winter looming and the clocks going back, the prospect of rides over 2 hours for the next few months are not necessarily looking too promising…

Renewed unit

Renewed unit

Farewell fair-weather cyclist

I worked from home last Winter so missed out on the masochistic fun of commuting by bike. This inevitably caused me to become a bit of a fair-weather pansy, carefully choosing to cycle only when the sun shone. I used to think all those hours of toil, cycling to and from work in the cold, wet and dark months were cumulatively adding to my toughness. But unfortunately this was not the case – just a short time of selective, sunny cycling have been enough to soften me up nicely.

Winter cycling - need more lights

Winter cycling – need more lights

This year I’m back working in the city and have quickly realised that I’m constitutionally unsuitable to sitting in cars in traffic jams. However, not only am I now jointly responsible for ferrying a small person to nursery but also my job sometimes involves travelling distances and carrying materials which are beyond my cycling capabilities. So opportunities to cycling instead of drive are few and far between.

So when a window of opportunity happened to coincide with some nasty weather it was time to ditch the fair-weather approach.

As it turned out, cycling in the rain and in the dark is quite exhilarating. It’s fun but also slightly unnerving. Also, turning up on a construction site and asking the site manager if you can commandeer his meeting room as your own personal laundry drying room also gets a few laughs. The heaters mostly did their trick and I was left with just a few random patches of moistness in my kit for the return home.

Kit hung, heaters up, sit back and enjoy the sweet smells of drying sports kit

Kit hung, heaters up … sit back and enjoy the sweet aroma of drying sports gear

This weekend I also headed out to support the Bristol South Cycling Club annual hill climb race up Burrington Combe. We checked out the infamous ‘Cowbell Corner’, the little one bringing her favourite cowbells. It was good to see a few familiar faces including PJ, who having recently published a book on riding hill climbs was now demonstrating how to properly support them.

Ring the bells there's a cyclist coming

Ring the bells there’s a mad cyclist coming

PJ in full supporter mode

PJ showing how it’s done (from the roadside)

If you haven’t read his book I’d recommend it for its well-written and thorough coverage of the history of the National Hill Climb Championship. I was enlightened and entertained reading it, and also realised I’m also constitutionally unsuitable for competitive hill climbing – drinking beer, eating cake and riding only in fair weather don’t really seem to be part of the ethos.

A Corinthian Endeavour

A Corinthian Endeavour

A birthday surprise – perfect weather on Exmoor in September

For my birthday I gave myself the gift of zero responsibilities. This was mostly a gift from my wife who took care of business for the day while I skived off and went cycling. It wasn’t very “bikevcar”, but I decided to drive down to Exmoor for a long afternoon of cycling.

Glorious Exmoor

Glorious Exmoor

My previous cycling trips to Exmoor have been ‘sportives’, i.e. organised, mass-participation events. Today’s ride was the antithesis of a sportive – no early start because I do not like waking up early at the weekend, no other people because how can you enjoy the peaceful beauty of a national park when you’re surrounded by other cyclists, and no restrictions on my distance or route which was ideal as I hate being told what to do. It was perfect.

I parked the car at a place called Watchet, mostly because the name made me laugh but also because I’d had enough of driving. And then got on my bike and climbed straight up into the moors. The roads around Exmoor can be bonkers-steep – a 20% gradient seems fairly standard for these parts. At one point I almost fell off when the road ramped up so suddenly that I was caught with my hands relaxed on the tops of the bars and didn’t have time to switch to the hoods so that I could stand up. Clearly my concentration and bike handling skills still need some work.

Up up and away

Up up and … then round the corner and up some more

There were a few notable climbs that I’d wanted to find (Dunkery Beacon and the Porlock Toll Road) but other than that I had no aim. Just a photocopy of a road map to avoid getting lost and jersey pockets stuffed full of food to keep me going.

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The moors

The moors

In the end I managed 70 miles and around 6,500 feet of climbing. But it was just one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time. Exmoor in September in crisp, beautiful sun. A glorious 5 hours on the bike followed by a pint of ale in a classic English pub garden beside a river. For a man who loves to moan,  it’s fairly epic when I have a day with nothing to moan about!

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The White Horse Inn, Washford – post ride beer in a pub garden beside the river

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Frothy pint of ale – perfect day