A positive spin on illness

Being ill is never enjoyable. I’ll spare you the gory details but I haven’t been in a fit enough state to cycle for the past week. Once you gain some sort of perspective on things and remind your pitiful self that you’ll be happily cycling as soon as the illness passes and that your general fitness levels won’t actually suffer from a week off, then it’s hopefully possible to focus on recovery and just enjoy some often needed rest from the bike.

While this past week has been a pain, I’m pleased to note that the niggling pain in my shoulder has subsided. Maybe all it needed was a week’s rest from cycling? In most fitness programmes they usually advocate one week’s rest every 8 – 12 weeks. But I wonder how many cyclists force themselves to rest for a whole week, especially outside of the Winter months. Needless to say I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike next week.

The side effects of drug-taking on an immobile cyclist

I have been struck down by back injury, restricting me to the bed or the floor for the past 3 days. It’s frustrating, but on balance I’ve been relatively injury-free so far this year so have to accept this as part of leading an active life. I can’t think of a particular flash-point which caused the injury, more likely it was a culmination of many stresses. I spent the weekend watching DVDs and then phoned work to call in sick today. When I explained to a colleague that I’d had a boring weekend laying on the sofa watching movies, he replied that he’d had a fantastic weekend doing the very same thing!

To add to the drama I have been relying on my pregnant wife who is due this week to do any lifting or carrying for me. The thought of her going into labour with me in a completely useless state was quite worrying. This morning I phoned my doctor to explain my problem and the unfortunate timing and was prescribed an amazing cocktail of drugs to get me back on my feet. Strong pain killers, muscle-relaxants and anti-inflammatories have worked wonders and this afternoon I was taking my first tentative steps which was a good improvement from crawling around the house on all fours.

Fortunately most of the baby-related DIY projects are now complete and our house is ready for the forthcoming new arrival. The only thing missing was a few colourful pictures so I decided to alleviate the afternoon boredom by doing a little drawing. I’m not sure how much the codeine was kicking in at this point, but a moment of inspiration lead to Eddy Merckx being depicted as a cycling cow.

The cannibal

The cannibal

Eddy Moox

Eddy Moox

Spurred on by this, next on the agenda was a crocodile version:



Cycling animals framed and ready for scaring the baby

Cycling animals framed and ready for scaring a poor little baby

I’d found the frames in a charity shop a few weeks ago had sprayed them gold. I think the pictures should add a bit of colour to the bedroom. But I might wait a few years before confessing to being away with the fairies at the time I drew them.

This evening I was back on my feet and moving around the house. Fingers crossed I’ll be back on the bike again soon.

The first day of shorts

After coming off my bike midweek I took a couple of days rest before getting back on it today. We are up in the Cotswolds for the Easter weekend and the weather is still bitingly cold. Our time is mostly spent in front of the log fire and going out for short country walks, but one of us is also going out cycling in shorts. My healing knee has been going a bit gooey when covered up, so despite the temperatures hovering around freezing, keeping it uncovered in shorts seemed like the most sensible course of action.

Snow in every direction

Snow in every direction

It was a bit sharp on the legs for the first few miles, but once I’d warmed up they felt fine. My fingers, toes and ears all seem to suffer when cycling in the cold and need to be well wrapped, but my legs (including the fresh bald patch around the knee) seemed fine today.


A lesser-spotted Bald-Knee ( a rare winter sighting )

I rode for two hours at an average speed of 18mph. I had a slight headwind on the way out which gave an opportunity for a faster return home. To avoid any potential ice I stuck to the busy main roads which meant dealing with traffic but also enjoying smoother, straighter roads than the back lanes. It’s difficult to say whether it was the tail-wind, the smooth roads or the aerodynamic bald knee which contributed most to the enhanced speed of today’s ride.

Definitely shorts weather

Definitely shorts weather

Crash Bang Wallop

I went out for a chilly ride before work this morning. It was going ok until I headed onto the quiet back lanes and encountered quite a lot of ice. It was initially just small patches which I managed to avoid, however I then came round a bend and encountered ice right across the road and despite slowing down to a near crawl, I still went down like a sack of spuds, ripping a hole in my leggings and my knee. After scraping myself off the ground I got back on the bike and continued until I found a safe place to stop.

Looking at this photo there was a serious amount of ice on the road, but I didn't see it until it was too late

There was a serious amount of ice on the corner which I didn’t see it until it was too late

Torn tights

Torn tights

I rolled up my tattered leggings and used my water bottle to try and spray the worst of the gravel out of my knee. This happened about an hour into an intended two hour ride and despite feeling good enough to carry on, I decided that maybe I should just head back home and clean up before the adrenaline wore off and it started to hurt.


By the time I arrived home it was looking a bit gory

By the time I arrived home it was looking a bit gory

I’m not sure what was more unpleasant out of picking bits of skin from the inside of my leggings, or bits of gravel out of my knee. But I sensibly used a red towel after showering to ensure my wife didn’t inflict more serious physical harm on me for ruining the white towels. White towels and cycle people should never be combined.

The white towels are reserved for non-greasy or bloody people

The white towels are reserved for non-greasy or bloody people

Assessing the damage a few hours later: most importantly, the bike is ok. The knee hasn’t really stopped bleeding so I may try using a “spray-on plaster” to seal it all up. If I shave off the leg hair around the wound does this technically constitute ‘stepping over the line’ in terms of cycling and leg-shaving? My hip is a bit grazed and bruised but should be fine. The worst part of it seems to be my neck which could be a minor bit of whip-lash. I can’t really remember whether my head hit the ground as I was wearing a helmet, but I wasn’t travelling very quickly. Fingers crossed I should be feeling ok to get back on the bike this long weekend. But I’m now 150% sick of this cold weather. Urgh

Getting back out there

The last few weekends I haven’t been able to get out on the bike due to an annoying lower back injury. This week I was starting to feel much better and not even the forecast rain and thunder was going to stop me cycling. So when I woke this morning to see the sun shining and no niggling pain in my back it didn’t take long to get ready for a ride.

View of Chew Lake from halfway up the Mendips

View of the Chew Valley from halfway up the Mendips

I decided to head up onto the Mendip hills for some steady riding on the quiet and peaceful lanes. The only problem is getting up there. Every route I’ve tried from the Chew Lakes involves sustained steep climbing. Wanting to protect my back I went looking for an easier climb. On this occasion I tried a new route – a tiny, unassuming-looking little lane from West Harptree. I immediately regretted this decision as it ramped up to something vicious with mud, leaves, potholes, stones and running water on the road. After a couple of little switchbacks the road started going downhill very steeply. Knowing that any distance descended would have to be climbed again, this wasn’t great news. At the foot of the descent the road was flooded from the recent rain which had also washed the contents of someone’s stone driveway into the road. Skinny tyres on a rocky riverbed isn’t ideal but I made it across with just a few ungainly wiggles.

A river in a road. A road-river

A river in a road. A road-river

After more climbing I reached the top of the Mendips and was rewarded with some spectacular views, and chilly winds. I took it easy and covered about 45km in total including a quick loop of the Chew Lake on the way home. My back thankfully feels fine, in fact strong enough to cut and chop a couple of wheelbarrow loads of logs to take to my Mum’s for Christmas next weekend. I haven’t decided whether I will be taking the bike …

A nice day for riding

A nice day for riding


Every morning after I’ve scraped the ice off the windscreen I embark on a terrifying drive along the dark and tight little country lanes from my house. I barely recognise them from the roads I used to cycle along.


The view from my car this morning did not make me feel like I should be cycling

On top of suffering from ‘seasonal affective disorder’ I have also been injured which required a first visit to an osteopath. I then spent a week abstaining from exercise which was more difficult than abstaining from a beer on a Friday evening, but yesterday I did feel strong enough to go for a run. This was probably only the second time I’ve run for several months and it was fairly ok – although running along freezing cold and pitch black country lanes required wearing a hideous outfit of man-tights and a high vis top, like I was some sort of ballet-dancing builder. However, when topped off by the pinnacle of all geekiness – the head torch, I was quite frankly embarrassed just walking past our neighbours house. Luckily it was too dark to be recognised by anyone, but I still pulled my beanie hat over my head just to be sure. Last weekend we also went walking in the Cotswolds which was another enjoyable semi-substitute for cycling.

Winter shadows on frozen fields

Winter shadows on frozen fields

I have not updated the bike v car graph for a few weeks as the recent car-dominance may not look good. Hopefully it will however be good motivation to get back on the catch-up trail come Spring.

Ugh … pain … head

After an unhealthy and debauched weekend of birthday celebrations, stag dos and football, this morning’s cycle commute to work was no fun. Added to this, my last ride had been on the new bike so clambering back on The Ox was never going to feel great anyway.

The weather was crappy all morning, but it dried up in the afternoon and by home time we were enjoying some rare sunshine. I was laden down with a heavy backpack of groceries and so sensibly decided to take it easy going home. However, 30 seconds into the ride I was moving fast and enjoying it so I decided to maintain the speed. After another 30 seconds I decided to see how long I could maintain my maximum effort level. I have been toying with the idea of trying a time trial at some point and so thought it would be good to try riding hard for a prolonged period.

In the end, I went full throttle for 15 minutes until I was struck by a killer headache. I immediately slowed to a pootle and struggled the last 10 minutes home before collapsing on the lounge floor where I was discovered 15 minutes later by a bemused Ms BikeVCar.

A broken man


Unsure whether it was the exertion, dehydration in the sunny conditions or a delayed hangover from the weekend I lay on the floor quietly groaning at my foolishness.

Ms BikeVCar – “what’s happened to you?”

Me – “Ugh … Pain … head. Went too hard”

Ms BikeVCar – “You should have taken it easy”

A few glasses of water and a short while later I peeled myself off the floor and went for a shower. Next time I plan to take it easy I should listen to myself more carefully.

Can exercise make you ill?

I am ill. After the title of my last post this is somewhat ironic. And when I am ill, I do what any internet-savvy hypercondriac would do – I Google my symptoms to make sure I am not at death’s door.

If the best type of debilitating condition meant that you weren’t allowed to be around other people (i.e. at work) but that fresh air and exercise (i.e. cycling) were needed, and the worst type meant that it wasn’t contagious and you could just about struggle into work by borrowing your wife’s car, then I would definitely be suffering from the worst type of illness.

From further paranoid hunting on the triple-W, research suggests that although moderate exercise may help protect athletes from sickness, training for too long at too high an intensity appears to make athletes more susceptible to illness. Lab research shows that athletes exercising at a high intensity for 90 minutes or more experience a steep drop in immune function that can last up to 24 hours. The drop in immune function appears to be caused by the elevation of stress hormones released during and following heavy exertion. This is what exercise immunologists believe allows viruses already in the body to spread and gain a foothold.

This image was clearly chosen to attract more sympathy

Managing expectations

My plan for this weekend had been to try and ride 60 miles three days in a row as preparation for the Tour of Wessex where I’ll need to ride over 100 miles on three consecutive days.

For a number of reasons things didn’t quite go to plan but there were also some positives so I thought I’d analyse the results.

  • Day 1 – 35 miles ridden, 1242 metres climbed, 2 hours 42 minutes (including 16 minutes stop time)
  • Day 2 – 60 miles ridden, 880 metres climbed, 3 hours 51 minutes (including 15 minutes stop time)
  • Day 2 – 28 miles ridden, 665 metres climbed, 1 hour 52 minutes (including 12 minutes stop time)

Day 1 was cut short by a mechanical issues (broken chain) and Day 3 was cut short due to psychological issues (broken spirit).

Over these three days I covered 37% of the TOW distance and climbed 38% of its ascents.

The rider thinks "10 out of 10 for effort", the Garmin says "3.8 out of 10 for achievement - why have you stopped pedalling?"

On the plus side I learned how to repair a broken chain, and the fairly obvious fact that three long days of cycling is very hard work. I also made it home on Sunday to catch the last hour of Paris-Roubaix, the race distance being further than my 3 days added together but over extremely poor terrain. Just incase the pro teams come knocking, I will try and remember not to enter that event next year!

Saddle sore – say no more

As predicted, my over-exuberance on the bike has resulted in some enforced time off. Fortunately I am working from home this week so don’t need to cycle, however it is still frustrating.

There are a million articles online about this particular ailment so I don’t think this blog needs to add to the mix. The less said the better. I will therefore have to take a few days rest from the bike which is a real pain in the a…