A well-earned rest

After covering 225 miles over 7 consecutive days of cycling, tomorrow will be a well-earned rest day. I think. No, it definitely will!

I’m generally not good at resting or keeping still. However this means that I can become incredibly frustrating and grumpy if I get injured so it’s probably best for everyone if I take a rest before my body forces me to. The main reason for the rest is that I have a meeting in the middle of the day that requires smart dress and lots of paperwork so can’t really turn up as ‘Lycra-Man’ with a shirt and a notepad stuffed in my bag. So the car will be claiming a few miles tomorrow but nothing to challenge the bike’s recent domination.

A rest at the top of a hill. How could you cycle past this bench and its view

I had a nice ride on Sunday along the Northern section of the Avon cycleway. It’s a fairly flat route out to the Cotswolds and across towards the Severn Bridge and allowed me to clock my longest ride so far this year at 60 miles. I felt a few aches yesterday morning and also a bit of a sting to the parts of my body that ‘touched the tarmac’ when I was busy looking at a road sign over my shoulder and clipped a kerb.

Note to self - "look in the direction of travel"

Living the dream

What sort of a person would enjoy riding a bike in the dark at -6’C? The same person who’s moaned for months about working away from home for an awful employer. But today that all changed. My interview on Monday was a great success and I was offered the job the same day.

Today was my first day of cycle-commuting. In a few weeks time I will be running a project in Nailsea which is about 8 miles from home; until then I will be based at head office which is a 16 mile journey each way. Despite the cold conditions I enjoyed the ride and not even the ice on the roads and lack of cycle racks or showers at work could dampen my mood.

I conquered the ice at slow speeds, brought my bike into the office to keep it safe and then changed in a toilet cubicle. I hardly broke a sweat on the journey due to the frigid temperatures so managed without a shower. I was however a little thirsty by the time I arrived as the water in my water bottle had frozen!

ice water

Ms Bike V Car

Having been away from wife and home (and bike) for two weeks I was glad to be back in Bristol for the weekend. It was a beautifully crisp and sunny January Saturday and seemed like the ideal opportunity to convince Ms BikeVCar to come out for a cycle. My wife hadn’t ridden a bike for about 15 years since suffering a back injury while rowing which required surgery. Over the last few months she had expressed an interest in cycling again and today she went for it.

Ms Bike V Car

We decided to cycle the Bristol to Bath Railway Path which is a 15 mile tarmac route free from cars and hills. After I changed the pedals, adjusted the saddle and gave a few brief instructions on the gear levers she took off and didn’t look back. We stopped a couple of times along the path to make some further saddle adjustments but there was never any doubt that she had her sights set on reaching Bath. The assurance that we would have burned enough calories to consume a whole plate of pancakes may have added some extra motivation!

A hard earned feast in Bath

In Bath we sat outside a cafe enjoying the sights while consuming coffee and the aforementioned pancakes. And then we turned around and headed back along the path to Bristol arriving home after a total of 36 miles.

Following a nice cup of tea and a whole packet of garibaldi biscuits (aka “squashed fly biscuits”) I was delighted to hear Ms BikeVCar say she wanted to get her own bike.

In less than a month we have achieved one less car in the house, and now potentially have one more cyclist.

One more cyclist .........

‘Belgian Toothpaste’

I went out for a little ride today. I needed to get down to Cheddar and the Sustrans site showed that Route 26 would serve me well. Known as the ‘Strawberry Line’ and billed as traffic-free I was eager to try it out. What I didn’t realise is that it is part gravel pathway and part mud. On a day like today – lots of mud. My bike and back were completely caked in mud and this shot taken early on shows the mud lurgy beginning to spread onto my chest and face.

By the time I got back the bike, clothes and rider were all in serious need of a wash. But my mud-encounter was nothing compared to this epic Merckx picture courtesy of Velominati.

Merckx hiding somewhere beneath some mud

Cold and muddy winter miles

After running a few essential errands on Sunday morning I realised I had a free afternoon so I seized the moment and donned my lycra. One of my favourite Bristol training rides is the Southern section of Route 10, the Avon Cycleway. The route is managed by Sustrans and guides cyclists in a loop around Bristol along a series of minor roads and country lanes. This is the 52 mile section I took today:

The thing with country lanes is that they are incredibly muddy at this time of year. I was glad to be wearing my waterproof overshoes.

Nonetheless I worked my way around the route at a decent pace and without major incident. I was dreading the two mile climb along the route (approx. at the 20 mile marker below) however its gradient isn’t too steep (5 – 10%) and bizarrely I actually found myself enjoying the ascent. Any enjoyment was shot to pieces a few miles later when I had to fight my way up a series of short, sharp climbs on the narrow roads. To compound the difficulty my rear derailleur decided to take on a personality of its own and shift gear several times while I was stood out of the saddle fighting up 15%+ climbs. I found myself shouting a few choice words at this inanimate object before stopping to make a minor adjustment.

The hills seemed to destroy me today and the last 10 flat miles were completed at a relatively slow pace. Three miles from home the heavens then opened and I found myself drenched in the freezing rain. On the plus side it cleaned all the mud off my bike and legs, but it made the inevitable struggle up Park Street even more so. As I trudged through the front door doing my best impression of a drowned rat my mood was immediately lifted by my wife who had run me a hot bath and baked a tray of chocolate brownies. What more could a cold, wet and exhausted cyclist wish for?

Heart rate monitoring

I went out for a 30 mile ride this weekend on the wet & muddy Autumn roads around Bristol. I took the southern section of the Route 10 Avon Cycleway from Clevedon around to Bristol Airport before heading back to Clifton via Ashton Park.

Like most rides around Bristol this has a few hilly sections which get the heart rate going. I have recently been trying to get a better understanding of heart rate monitoring. Instead of my usual plan of thrashing it until I burn out I have been trying to find a level I can maintain, thus increasing my endurance ability. This seems to be around the 160 – 170 bpm range. When I hit 180 bpm I can feel the burn in my legs and I know it’s time to slow it down (unless I’m halfway up a hill and then I’m not sure what else to do but keep going)

I have also been trying to monitor my resting heart rate which is in the range of 55 – 60 bpm. However the biggest obstacle to monitoring my resting rate is that I don’t seem to stop moving long enough. Maybe once I retire next year I’ll have more time to rest.

Cycling Centurion – The Avon Cycleway

This Saturday I completed the full circuit of the Avon Cycleway – an 85 mile loop around Bristol. Including the 10 miles each way to reach the cycleway (and about five miles getting lost around Avonmouth) I rode my first 100 miles. My total distance on the day was 109 miles which required plenty of grit, determination and … flapjacks.

I rode the route anti-clockwise, heading down the Bristol to Bath Railway Path and up into the Cotswolds. I encountered plenty of tractors, hikers and horse riders along the mostly car-free route – other than the odd bug flying into my mouth it was a pleasant start to the journey (conscious of my limited nutritional supplies I obviously chewed and swallowed the bugs for the extra protein).

From the Cotswolds the route heads West towards Wales and I caught a few brief glimpses of the Severn Bridge, before heading South towards Avonmouth. To add to the difficulty of the ride I encountered a road closure where I climbed two barbed wire fences and headed across a field with the bike. I then found myself cycling off-road for a mile which wasn’t too steady on a road bike with thin tyres. And soon after, the signage along the route disappeared leaving me lost on an industrial estate. Using my iPhone I managed to navigate myself to the cycle path on the M5 road bridge at Avonmouth which took me up and over Bristol Harbour.

From here I was back on familiar ground for the Southern section of the Avon Cycleway. At this point I had cycled 60 miles and knew I had about another 50 to go. I had set off with 2 x one-litre water bottles on the bike, 2 x 0.5 litre water bottles in my jersey, 2 x flapjacks, 1 x chocolate brownie, 5 x energy gels and 2 x cereal bars in the back pocket of my jersey. I had looked like a bit of a camel with a huge hump on my back, however after 60 miles my hump had depleted so I stopped in Clevedon to restock. Two giant flapjacks, a Mars Bar and a bottle of Lucozade later I was back on my way.

The Southern section of the cycleway is quite hilly and somewhere around the 90 mile mark I struggled my way up one too many hills and totally ran out of steam. For the most part, my average speed had been 16mph, but for the next 5 miles I was unable to ride quicker than 11mph on the flat. I decided to stop and rest … and take this photo to document my worn out face!

Following this stop I clumsily mounted the bike and got the pedals going again for the last few miles. The climb back up Park Street amongst the Saturday shoppers was a notable struggle but I made it home all in one piece 8 hours after setting off. I felt wrecked and confused and only just managed to stop myself from putting my cycle jersey in the bin, thinking that it was the washing machine! After a big plate of pasta and then laying on the sofa I headed down the pub to swap stories with our cycling neighbours. I made sure we stood at the bar as I felt a bit too tender to take a seat …

This took my weekly cycling total to 174 miles … 4 miles further than I drove in the car. A small victory.