Monday, December 31, 2012

Have I Offended the Cycling Gods?

I have been off the bike for about 9 days, a combination of holiday travelling and awful weather. However, whilst away I was very busy playing with my  four grandchildren who range from nearly 2 up to 4 and a bit. This crowd seems to have immense stores of energy which is never exhausted when there is someone to play with them.

 Naturally I assumed that all this playing would not only make up for my lack of cycling, but further, the calories used up in playing would more than compensate for the vast amount of mincepies I have consumed.

I was wrong.

Very wrong.

Weight has hit a peak for the year, and with Ride London100 on the horizon something must be done.

So today I ignored my wife's warnings about the weather, ( does she think I am a wimp?? ) and set off for a short tour of the Derbyshire lanes.  I thought at first  perhaps the brakes must be in need of adjustment my speed was so slow, but the bending trees, the cavorting rubbish, inside out umbrellas made me realize that this trip and cycling into a gale force headwind would be no picnic.  The rest of our OAP peleton had wisely stayed at home so this would be a solo Monday Meander. And then the rains began. Noah must have felt like this when he decided to build an ark. My plan was to explore the newly constructed cycle path at Marston on Dove, but today Marston under Dove would have been a better title. Fortunately the flood water was not deep enough to submerge my bottom bracket but the distance was long enough that I had to do a fair amount of pedalling and I was glad of the overshoes.
With the hills and rivers now behind me I was hoping for a smooth run home and perhaps a bit of tail wind but it was not to be. A few miles further on whilst sympathising with the water sodden sheep now visible since the farmer cut his hedges I got a puncture in my new ( and very inflexible ) rear tyre. .Removing the inner tube was quite straightforward even with cold, soaking wet hands but removing the long thorn took a further 20 minutes despite my imprecations for help from the Almighty. New tube in, back wheel re-installed, all that remained was to just pump it up..which was when my get me home pump broke..into lots of bits which flew off into the thick undergrowth.

And so I had to call for the Broom Wagon

Told you you shouldn't go out in this weather. You are mad.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

An OAP's Aspirations for 2013

It is that time of the year when I need to give thought to my cycling aspirations for the coming year and I will try and be realistic.

The main goal will be to cycle a minimum of 2240km, in line with my annuity target ( see last post for an explanation of this ) though I hope to complete 5000km.  This will be the bedrock of my year and if achieved then many of the remaining targets will nearly automatically fall into place.

The overriding event for 2013 will be the  Ride London100 on 4.August where my son and I, travelling as Team Roberts, will attempt to cover the Olympic Road Race Course and raise money in aid of the mental health charity Mind. This will be a huge undertaking for me, travelling further and faster than I have ever done before. If you would like to support us, and in the process obtain a copy of * Cycling Food on the Go- recipes for success * then you can donate at our Virgin site

One of the great things about cycling is the people you meet and the friends that you make. Last year I combined this with exploring new parts of the country and I hope to do the same this coming year. One such challenge is to travel around Rutland Water and I have discovered that there are a couple of routes, the Giant 365,  which will not only allow me to explore some beautiful scenery but, at 100km and 160km, provide excellent training rides for the London adventure. Via twitter I have met a man, Kevin, who lives around that area and who has offered to join me on these trips and so hopefully I will have a local guide. The only thing I will need to watch is that he is much younger than me and I learnt last year, in a painful and exhausting way, that the definition of  *sedate cycling * is a very personal thing!

Since reading about people's  cycling adventures I have been enthused with the idea of touring, nothing dramatic mind, more a few days to explore more deeply a different region. To-date, my aspirations have remained just that, but since I mentioned this in an earlier post, +Trevor Woodford , a highly experienced cyclist has offered to go on a short tour with me. He is much hardier than me and carries tents and stuff on his bike whereas I am more thinking of credit card touring, but perhaps the two can be combined. I have enough trouble moving my own weight never mind increasing the load dramatically!

Like many people I suspect, I hate climbing hills. It can hurt. It can hurt a lot. And as Greg Henderson said, " Hills never get easier, you just get faster ". However I do have to admit that the sense of satisfaction of reaching the top of a gruelling climb and being rewarded with the stunning views can make the effort worthwhile. I am too old now to do no more than dream about the iconic climbs in the Alps and Pyranees, but we do have some of our own iconic climbs much closer to home. One such is Mow Cop and whilst the Killer Mile may be beyond me there are alternative ascents and Mark, who has taken me on other rides in that region has offered to be my domestique on this ascent.

And that will do. You will be able to follow my progress by visiting this blog and also read about the other things I see and do in my cycling year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review of the Year

I love numbers

As such I tend to set myself targets, create spreadsheets to monitor progress and scour articles about gear ratios, rotational mass, power to weight ratios and other arcane things.  Needless to say, none of this affects my personal performance and I potter along as before.As a result of all this my favourite essential cycling accessory is probably my Garmin 800 which provides loads of data to keep me out of mischief for hours.
Having taken up cycling only recently, about 5 years ago now, and being an old age pensioner, I do have to accept that my ability on a bike is only going to go one way...downwards.
The act of retiring, and the receipt of a pension,  gives one a crystal clear perception of one's own mortality. The annuity bean counters make an estimate of one's life expectancy and payout accordingly, in my case they placed their bets on my lasting until I was 73 years old, anything beyond that then I am winning! My son tells me to be more optimistic and so for the purpose of target setting I assumed I would live until I was 80 years old. So, being a cycling novice I decided, at 60,  upon a distance target of 2000 miles ( 3200 km ) a year with the aim of reducing this by 100 miles per year to allow for growing infirmity. This then acts as the main yearly goal and for this year that translates into a minimum distance of  2400 km or  1500 miles .
Having so far ridden 7030 km and climbed over 50000m  then this first target has been achieved.

My second aim was to explore more of our countryside on my bike. Here I count this as a partial success. I have been invited to join in with other cycling groups in Cheshire, Shifnall, Leicester and a lung busting ride in Derbyshire. At all the places I have made new friends and been  made exceedingly welcome despite them all having to travel at a much slower pace than they are used to in order to accommodate me. Thanks go to Mark, Andrew, David and Scott for letting me tag along on  their rides. I was hoping to do a short cycle tour but in this I failed, not wanting to cycle alone and being unable to find others who had the same desire.

One of the main reasons for being wary of cycle touring was my lack of ability as a bike mechanic and a fear of  breaking down in the middle of nowhere. During the year I have tried to address this deficiency and regular readers will have seen my efforts as a Novice Bike Mechanic.

Not having been a lifelong cyclist, I do not possess the fund of stories of the trials and tribulations of times past when all the hills were steeper, the wind was windier, the rain was  wetter and carbon was a thing confined to pencils. Indeed climatic and geographical change seems to have happened in the 40 years prior to my getting on a bike!  One of the things I did learn from these tales of yore was that "Steel is Forever "and that Mercians were the Prince of Cycles. And so the highlight of my year was in obtaining my own handmade, personally fitted Mercian Vincitore Special on my 65th birthday in March. This is an example of engineering beauty and excellence and draws spectators wherever I go.

As my interest in cycling has grown I have become aware of the competitive side to this sport. Whilst I am now too old to take part,  I have enjoyed watching the sleek riders on their aerodynamic machines as they compete in local Time Trials, probably the purest form of cycle racing. At the other end of the spectrum I have revelled in the mud spattered and bedraggled riders as they attempt the Cyclo Cross challenges that our  autumn and winter can throw at them. Muffled up against the driving wind and rain I am glad that I AM now too old to participate in this peculiar form of personal pain.

Perhaps my greatest achievement this year was to undertake Wiggy's Challenge. Wiggy was an excellent and enthusiastic cyclist who for a variety of reasons had fallen into the state of becoming a " Lapsed Cyclist ". His challenge was to resolve this problem by undertaking to ride every single day for a week and he asked others to join him on this venture and share their experiences. I wrote an article about this and as a result of the Challenge I have encouraged many others to get on their abandoned bikes and ride again. It mattered not how far, how fast or how often; the important thing was to cycle again and experience the joy and companionship such an activity can bring. So far I know of about two dozen people who have returned to cycling from me telling them this story.

Finally, this year I learnt something about the importance of nutrition to a cyclist. Whilst there are many tomes written about this and experts a plenty; at my level I have discovered it is all about CAKE. Being the generous sort of guy that I am, I wanted to share this knowledge with others and so have produced a little pdf booklet  entitled " Cycling Food on the Go  - Recipes for Success ". If you would like a copy you can get it from :-

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's all your fault!

It is almost 5 years now since I retired.

Very shortly after that moment, whilst I was wondering what to do with the rest of my life I met someone who has since become a good friend to me.
And he introduced me to cycling.
Whilst I already could ride a bike it had been 40 years since I had done so, and then it was just pottering around the local streets.

If you have read some of my earlier posts you will know of my Mercian stable and perhaps more importantly,  know that I am about to attempt next August what will surely prove to be the biggest athletic challenge of my life, the Ride London100 in aid of the mental health charity,  Mind

How things change.

But when you are an old age pensioner, getting fit,  and retaining that fitness requires a huge effort, and sometimes at a personal cost.  What follows is a note that I sent to my friend after to-day’s cycle ride.

It’s all your fault!!

If you hadn't seduced me into cycling I would never have had to change an inner tube in sub zero temperatures on lanes like ice rinks in the frozen peaks of Derbyshire. . Never mind the fact that I've had to spend ages replacing brake blocks, though this time I did buy the whole piece instead of just the insert which perhaps saved my fingers and my sanity..And the lanes were covered in sheets of glass, apart from those which still remained underwater from the floods. Plus my hands were cold even with liners. As for my toes; well i am still waiting for them to thaw out before I dare look to see if I still retain a full complement. And then after 59k I got too hot from all the hill climbing and no sooner had i unzipped one of the many layers I was wearing than I became  too cold going down the other side. And there was still another 25km to do before I would get home. Now the bike is filthy, the chain needs a good clean and new oil and I am  very tired.

And  it’s all your fault!!!

At least when I did get home I could enjoy a piece of cake made from one of the recipes in the booklet * Cycling Food on the Go * which I have compiled and am giving away in return for a minimum donation of £2 to Mind

If you would like a copy, then please sponsor me by going to

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cycling Food on the Go

My son and I  have been accepted to cycle in the Ride London 100 event on August 4th 2013.  This involves us cycling 100 miles on the route used in the Olympics.

100 miles is a long way!

It is much further than either of us have ever ridden before. And we need to do it at a pace that is 15% quicker than our normal efforts so as to be back in time to let the Elite Race begin.  However, we will give it our best shot and I will train on cake; he being a competitive swimmer and athlete will probably train on something else :-()

We are taking on this challenge to raise money for the Mental Health Charity Mind. It is estimated that one in four people suffer from a mental health condition of one form or another at some point in their lives.  Mind provide help and support for people with such conditions and seek to break down stigma which prevents many people from seeking help.
If you'd like to know more about what Mind does please look at this link.

As an extra incentive, we have put together  a short pamphlet entitled

" Cycling Food on the Go "  

which contains around 20 selected recipes suitable for all cyclists undertaking trips between 1 and 100 miles!

This booklet, which will be distributed in pdf form electronically is now on general release and you can obtain a copy by donating a minimum of £2 ,but we hope donations will be higher if  you are able,  and leaving your email address.

You can donate at

We'd really appreciate any sponsorship for this very worthwhile cause.  Thanks in advance!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Preparing for a Challenge

I have added a Count  Down Clock to my website so that I am continually prompted of how long I have left to get fit for the Ride London 100 that I am doing with my son in aid of the mental health charity Mind. It still seems a long way off but I know deep down that I need to start preparing now if I am to have any hope of meeting this challenge.  The Olympic Road race route, even with only a single ascent of Box Hill, is forbidding to an Old Age Pensioner who has only been cycling for 4 years.
The closest I usually get to professional races is to attend a start and finish, maybe joining with other cyclists to pick up a convenient point or two on the route. For the professionals riding the race, it is a high pressured event, during which they genuinely push themselves to the limit; victory, glory, careers depend upon performance. I will never know what it is to ride a major road race tour but as I ride the Olympic route I can dream.
Pushing my body to the limit? Well the pros are real athletes; my limits are much lower as was brought home to me in forceful fashion when I went on a  training ride with a Time Triallist ( see last blog entry ). As for a finishing time..well Dave Brailsford need not start looking for his phonebook. My major aim is to get back on the same day as I set out.

But this challenge is more, much more, than about me having a cycle ride in the lanes of Surrey. It is about raising awareness, and hopefully some money for Mind.  To this end we have created a fundraising site

Team Roberts

One of the things that I have discovered when cycling is that you need to continually keep refuelling and whilst the professionals have expert nutritional advice, most casual cyclists refuel on cake!  And so,  we have produced a pamphlet, in pdf form,  entitled * Cycling Food on the Go * which we aim to give away to all those people who donate a MINIMUM of £2 , to our fundraising site. In this way we hope to reach a wider audience.

The booklet is currently being finalized and the plan is to start promoting and distributing  it within the next two weeks. I will be launching it using the next post on this blog,

But you can book a copy in advance if you wish, just make a donation :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Murder in the Derbyshire Lanes

I think I am dead.:-()

Tries the Jense test; “ Shut up legs!!! “

No response

I am dead :-(

As part of my training for the LondonRide 100 I need to increase my average speed by about 10% from 19kph to 21kph and sustain it over a very long distance.  
Talking about this requirement to a friend he offered to let me join one of his training rides and tow me along at a speed around about my target level. I should mention here that my    “ friend “ ( ??**!!!?? ) races for Derby Mercury Road Club, is at least 25 years younger than me, is a sub 60 min/25 mile TT rider and is approaching sub 21mins for 10 miles. He also possesses a stable of 7 bikes, made up of a mixture of carbon and titanium frames all equipped with top end kit, i was particularly taken with the power tap he had on his titanium winter bike that  he was using for our ride.

( As an aside, when I got home I described to my wife my awe and admiration for this set of kit. Her comment “ I bet he is not married ! “  He’s not )

Now with the crew I normally cycle with, my heart rate averages around Zone 2 as I zoom along in the middle ring, occasionally it might rise to zone 3 if we encounter one of the derbyshire peaks but it very soon drops back down to more acceptable levels.  It became rapidly apparent on this ride that Zone 2 and middle ring would not suffice! Thankfully the course was flat as over the first few kilometres my garmin 800 indicated a continuous speed of 30kph+, the inner ring was abandoned for the big ring and the little sprockets on the cassette were engaged for the first time in their life.

The external temperature was just hovering above zero and the wind chill lowered the effective temperature further, but despite this I soon began to work up a sweat.  Glancing at my heart rate I noticed it was 150bpm!  This is zone 5 and we were on the flat, and it was not dropping back!  Some serious effort was being extended here, at least by me.
The head wind did not help as the trees were shedding leaves like a snow storm. I tried the wheel sucking trick but to no avail as everytime I got within a couple of metres Scott thought I wanted to speed up and did so! Even the traffic lights were not on my side, conveniently changing to green as we rapidly approached them. The only respite came when we came across a train crossing and the barrier made us stop for a few seconds allowing my heart rate to drop for a minute. But then we were off again, blasting through the villages, overtaking other cyclists, slow moving cars and the occasional bus.
And then it was over. The entire ride had been done cycling continuously in Zone 5 and at a highest ever average speed for me.  The details can be seen at

The cycle home seemed tame by comparison as I dawdled along reflecting on what had been a great experience. Thanks to Scott for taking me along with him. For him it had been nothing but a saunter and probably a waste of good training time. I do appreciate our time together. Once home it was straight to the cake tin for a slice of Bara Brith , great cycling recovery food !

And the murderer, well , have you seen this man?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mud, Sweat and Tears

Last weekend I saw in the newspaper that there was a cyclo cross race being held close to where I live.  I have never seen one of these but some of my friends tell me that they use it as part of their winter training regime. And so I decided to wander along and see what it was all about. The event was Round 5 of the Notts and Derby Cyclo Cross League and was held in Allestree Park in Derby. Whilst there had been some rain on the previous few days, the race day itself was fine with occasional glimpses of sun.
Cycling seems to be booming in Derbyshire and before the main event got underway, Cycle Derby  , an organization aimed at promoting cycling for all ages, ran some mini cyclo cross events for newcomers to the sport and attracted about 100 people.

The main event consisted of 4 events and first up was the Under-9 race.  I was amazed to see that the youngest rider was only 3 years old and he was pedalling! About 65 children took part in this and, though the hill was very minor it still seemed very steep for those with little legs

An abiding memory from the day was that Cyclo Cross is very much a family affair, and the announcer emphasized this fact with his many references to this or that clan, and reminiscences of the old timers whose progeny were there racing to-day.

The local clubs are obviously training their young stars well and there were many examples of teamwork with riders working to-gether to share the load between them

I keep off all this rough stuff, and as the races proceeded the rough stuff got rougher as the ground began to churn up and riders began to slip and slide and the bikes themselves started to get hammered under the strain. Not all could withstand this battering from the elements and so for some their race ended early.

n total there were about 180 riders in the main  junior events and I admire them all for both their enthusiasm and the efforts they put in.

The senior race consisted of around 220 riders with a women’s race of about 25 contestants embedded within the field. Seniors seemed to range in age from the exceedingly fit 20 year olds to those of much more mature years, though I did not spot any old age pensioners reinforcing my personal view that this was not an event for me! I was also amazed to see that many, if not all, the riders had two bikes, plus spare sets of wheels and the pit area was chocked  full of bike porn.
I had seen disc brakes on bikes before but have never been a fan, being worried that they may be too severe and catapult me over the bars; but as I watched the riders race around the course and saw how their bikes changed colour from, say, electric blue to muddy blackish brown I began to understand the advantages that discs could bring. The derailleur gears also seemed to get clogged up and battered, especially through the wooded sections where the attempts to highlight the roots with white paint soon proved to have been a futile effort

As the race proceeded and riders became progressively more tired, the strain began to show on their faces. The ruts got deeper, the mud more slimey but they all battled on

Well done to them all. For me a great day out and thanks to all the organizers for putting on such an event which attracted over 600 people riding during the day

But I am still going to stick to just watching :-)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Leicester GoSkyRide Strong Plus

Solo cycling is fine but the enjoyment for me is magnified when cycling with others. An opportunity to share past experiences, discuss future ambitions and someone to listen when you are moaning about the steepness of the latest hill. In addition for me, I find that I need to ride with cyclists who are fitter and stronger than me to take me out of my comfort zone where the average heart rate rarely, if ever, gets out of Zone 2. And so this year I have taken to seeking out groups to ride with in various parts of the country in order to meet new friends and explore different parts of the country. The added benefit is that I ride harder, faster and for longer which is what I need if I am ever going to be able to complete LondonRide100 with my son next year.
And so it was that David suggest I tried a SkyRide, and in particular the Leicester GoSkyRide Strong Plus. Reading the blurb this promised a 50km ride at a fast place, the lower limit of which was still 10% greater than my normal average. However, with David’s encouragement, I entered and got my bike prepared for the day.
However it was not a very auspicious start even though the weather was fine and the forecast good. I live about 70km from the start point and don’t know Leicester City centre at all so decided to set off early to give myself plenty of time to park and reach the start venue. In preparation I had identified a local car park near to my destination and printed off a map to get me from car to start. I arrived in Leicester about 45minutes before the ride was due to commence..only to discover that the car park was closed! I was then forced to follow the one way system around the city racing circuit until I at last espied another Car Park which was open. Time was ticking on and whilst parked, I was also lost. The local denizens had never heard of Western Boulevard and so it was Android Phone to the rescue (?) as I attempted to navigate myself across the city. By now it was 09-10 and the ride was scheduled to commence at 09-00. I was about to give up and go home when I turned a corner and saw a group of men in lycra!  Could it be them? It was and they were just setting off, so with a quick hello I tagged on with the Assistant Leader waiting for me and bridging me back to the peleton. Making up a gap of only a few hundred metres can still be damned hard as the fresh legs in front sped along.
There were about 12 on the ride but after about 3km, two dropped out as they discovered that the step up from Sky EasyRide to Strong Plus was bigger than they had anticipated. We were soon out out of the city streets and heading for the country lanes towards Market Bosworth. The Leaders were excellent, setting a fast but  steady pace with one always acting as Lanterne Rouge to coax and encourage anyone who was in danger of becoming detached. Despite once again giving most of them 20+ years I  was surprised  but grateful to manage to hold my own. The halfway point was at Market Bosworth and when we arrived the place was crammed with cyclists taking part in some road race. You could distinguish them from us as they had numbers inked onto their arms, had bikes to drool over and looked incredibly fit. Indeed it made me feel properly worn out as I sat there eating my cake and watching them storm past.
But soon we were on our way again. The route was fairly mild compared to the Derbyshire  Peak District and one could chat quite easily as we rode along. There was more cycle trail riding than I had expected which tended to slow the pace down but that was probably good for me as it allowed recovery time.  As we headed back to Leicester and into the back streets we turned a corner and suddenly I espied the car park where I had been forced o park. Not sure if i would ever find it again, I said my goodbyes and dismounted.
For me, an excellent ride and a very good work out with average  heart rate in Zone 3.
Thanks to the Leaders for the company and encouragement and I would recommend these rides to everyone.

Details of the route are

Now to find another group to impose myself on for a day :-)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

GS Gazzetta goes into Space

My last posting told of a potential battle of MIND over Body, in particular my mind and my body, as I contemplated the challenges which lie ahead for attempting LondonRide100 next summer. While I am a firm believer in the power of the mind, I do recognize that it may need a little help in getting my body to a condition where it can survive this challenge. And so I have devised a training plan, or rather a rough mental idea of some of the things that need to be accomplished. The goal is to be able to ride faster, further and for longer than I have ever previously managed. To achieve this I will also need to pay attention to my dietary requirements both on and off the bike.
So this week I have been on 2 training rides, the first of which was with Mark, a friend from GS Gazzetta, who can always be relied upon to travel fast and push me to my limits and beyond.   The bare statistics of the ride can be found at

My instructions to Mark were quite clear before we started; a flat route and an average speed of ~21kph, my target speed for the London100. To a mountain goat however, flat is a very relative matter and I also discovered that he cannot count despite working at a school. I pity the children!!  Thankfully Mark just pointed out Mow Cop to me as we sped along as it was not on to-day’s route , though he promised me that we could work on my climbing legs next time I visited ( Thanks Mark! ).  The weather was dry and warm and quite a few cyclists had ventured out which seemed to spur some hidden racing instinct into my companion as we were forced to chase down any cyclist ahead of us, especially if they were female, blonde and had a pony tail! I was too exhausted to be distracted. We managed a quick circuit of Jodrell Bank and were travelling at such a speed that I thought the dish was going to track us as we hurtled off into space, or in this case a tea shop which I INSISTED was a mandatory requirement of any ride, a concept alien to Mark ( I wonder if this flaw is common to all GS Gazzetta riders? ) The ride was good and exhilarating and at an average pace of 26kph for 60km it was a good workout, as the average heart rate of 140bpm, which is race pace for me, demonstrated. Thanks Mark.
As an aside, shortly after the ride had finished and we were sitting In Mark’s house, my left calf cramped up solid as a rock. I obviously must pay much closer attention to on-bike nutrition.

Increasing average speed will not by itself be sufficient, endurance is also required. And so my second training ride of the week looked at this aspect. For the past two weeks my regular ride with the Derby CTC Grand Veterans has ventured into the Peak District where the climbing seems relentless. So this week I was expecting a much more gradual affair in the flatter lands of South Derbyshire. It did not turn out quite as planned and the route details can be found at

Rather than meander alongside the River Derwent and remain in the valley we turned towards the hills around Bretby and encompassed the 3 counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Our leader had discovered a ‘short cut ‘ at one point which seemed to entail riding along bridleways and across some fields. I am not fond of this type of cycling. especially on my new Mercian Vincitore which is built for roads, and got dropped. However a combination of phone and Garmin 800 ( I KNEW that it wasn’t just a toy :-) ) meant that we became reunited again. I can now manage 80km rides fairly comfortably but need to increase this range quite dramatically and so as we neared ride’s end I left my companions and put in an extra 25km loop at a fairly quick pace to take me over the metric century.
A good week with a mixture of speed and endurance.

Next week I have entered, I must confess with a lot of trepidation,  a SKY Ride in Leicester. It is the Market Town Ride - Strong Plus which covers 50km but it says at a fast pace, much faster than my normal average. Entering at this level for my first ever GoSKYRide is perhaps being overly optimistic. However I hope it will once again introduce me to some new roads, new people and be another small step on my journey to fitness.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Challenge : MIND over Body

The amazing cycling achievements at the Olympics on both track and road have left me in awe. This, combined with the success attained by Team Sky, has inspired many. So, how does all this affect me? And what can I do to build upon this legacy of cycling excellence?

Next summer, just hours before the world's top cyclists race the RideLondon Classic, 20000 cyclists will have the chance to cycle a modified version of the London 2012 Olympic Road Race. This new event offers a unique opportunity to become part of cycling history. Celebrating the legacy for cycling created by London 2012, RideLondon 100 will start in the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic park, then follow the closed roads through the capital and onto Surrey's stunning country roads and hills. With leg testing climbs and a route recently made famous by the world's best cyclists, this promises to be a truly spectacular event for all involved.

One of my sons is quite athletic across a range of sports and is always looking for the next challenge. To channel this energy, he undertakes events and at the same time raises money for MIND, a mental health charity. Last weekend he phoned me up and persuaded me to join him in entering the London 100 as part of a weekend of the celebration of cycling. It was only after that I had rushed upstairs, filled out the relevant forms and despatched my cash that I realized that this was a 100 miles ride not the 100 kilometres that I had assumed. Furthermore, there was a time cut off as they wanted the finishing place cleared in plenty of time for the elite riders to perform and demonstrate their prowess. Entry to this event is by ballot or at the invitation of one of the chosen charities so it will be awhile before we know for sure whether or not we have been accepted.

Now 100 miles, or 160 kms, is significantly further than I have ever ridden before and to make the time cut off I will need to pedal at least 10% faster than my normal current average. My son informs me that it will be no problem as if half the ride is spent climbing hills the other half can be spent freewheeling down the other side and so, in reality , I will only be pedalling for 80 kms which is within, or rather just at the limit,  of my current endurance.I think there must be a flaw in his logic somewhere :-()  In any event, some serious preparation will be required and it better begin now!

When cycling ; weight kills. So my master plan involves stripping my bike of all the surplus stuff that I carry in my saddle bag and persuade my son to become my super domestique and load him up with spare tubes, pump, multi-tool, chain tool. SRAM link, extra clothing for changeable english weather, suntan cream, anti-insect bite cream, food, drink, maps, cycle lock, keys, mobile phone, etc.

I can then make the bike even lighter by removing the mudguards,  and could this be the excuse to purchase a set of American Classic lightweight wheels which not only will roll faster than my Mavic A417 rims with Miche RC2 Racing Hubs but will also weigh less.

Obviously I will have to address the question of my own personal weight, but perhaps a haircut will suffice in that department.

To achieve this challenge is going to mean that I will have to ride further, faster and for longer than I have ever previously done.  To keep track of my progress I intend to record my training rides on Strava and use the tag , London100T, to distinguish my training efforts from my social cycling.

The target is to ride 150km at an average of at least 21kph and then hope that the sense of the occasion and the tow from the pack will provide the extra push needed to arrive back in central London within the designated time and so complete the Challenge.

I suspect that this really will be a battle of Mind over Body

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Novice Bike Mechanic ( Part 2 )

Part 1 described how I went about removing the chain rings on my 1961 Mercian Audax with the aim of replacing them with a more hilly friendly version as I prepare for a life of cycling in my dotage. One of the main obstacles I encountered was the question of how much force to use to loosen the threads, many of which had seized up over the decades since the bike was last stripped and assembled.
Re-building with new components is in theory a simple process of just reversing the process but life for me never seems that simple and for a bodge-it man could present many challenges. What I needed was a book!   And my GS Gazzetta friends came up with an excellent suggestion

So armed with my new fount of knowledge I started the rebuilding process. Stage 1 was to insert the new Bottom Bracket, having first cleaned out all the accumulated dirt and debris which had collected in the shell. The insertion bit was quite easy and the tightening of the shell thread, enough to pinch tight but not to endanger the thread stipping. Feeling quite good so far.

Just a slight smear of grease on the new crank threads and we were nearly there. I was very wary of over tightening the crank bolt and in the event, after the bike had been ridden for a few kilometres, I had to return to this and tighten a little more. Perhaps the bolt was still bedding down. The smaller chainset meant that I also had to lower the front derailleur changer, all in accordance with my instructions from ZIM

The old big ring was a 52 tooth size whereas now it had shrunk to 46 and so there was a question about chain length but I am convinced that messing about with link removal is something of a black art..literally when you see how I appear to get grease and oil on my wife’s white towels! So I left it alone and just checked that the gear changer still worked,
And the bike was ready to roll!

However, in practice I discovered that the gear changes were not working as smoothly as I would have liked and I think that the position of the rear derailleur with the longer chain was ( partly? ) to blame. And so it was back to ZIM to find out what to do and what was needed. The recommendation of a Park Chain Tool to squeeze the links together when removing a SRAM link was excellent and made the job so much easier. Calculating the new chain length according to ZIM ( my new bike mechanic phrase ) I used another Park Tool to remove a few links and then reassembled everything and tried again

This time everything seems to be working.

Whilst I would not now call myself even a reasonable bike mechanic, I have enjoyed this exercise, made more enjoyable by not being under time pressure as I had another bike to ride. It has also given me a deeper understanding of how the whole thing works..problem is I am now listening out to every creak, groan that my Mercian makes and spend a ride trying to diagnose non-existent problems. Oh, and I do now have the basis for a set of good quality bike tools.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

GS Gazzetta on Tour

One of the best things about cycling are the people that you meet. They tend to be a friendly, helpful bunch and riding in a group with others has become a really enjoyable pastime in my retirement. And so, when I received an invitation to ride with the Shifnall Cycling Society on their Summer Social Ride I was delighted; but a bit apprehensive as well.
' Not to worry ', Andrew said, ' we wont be travelling at more that 20kph and the route that I have in mind is  mostly flat'  ( I should not be writing this next bit but I will ! ) ' Besides, some of the ladies will be with us and that will keep everything slower'  ( No more chocalate cookies for you Andrew! )
On reflection I should have known better I suppose.  Half the group had been training in the Alps the previous week, climbing the Col du Telegraphe before proceeding to the 2645m summit of the Col du Galibier and then onto the Col du Lautaret, never more than 4 Cols per day they said modestly. Not all of them had been to the Alps, some had remained behind to train for triathalons and cross country events, indded a fair few had been out running prior to joining to-day's ride.
With thighs of a size that would have made even Chris Hoy tremble with fear ( not the ladies I hasten to add, they were more Lizzie Armitage shape ) these lean , mean racing machines were ready to roll.
I was at least 25 years older than the eldest member of this peleton and my legs were beginning to shake with the fear of what was to come.
As our group assembled in the glorious sunshine

Wiggins, Froome, Cavendish and the rest of the TdF were leaving on their triumphal ride to Paris.
It is worth noting here the similarities between our peleton and that of the TdF; with the exception of myself, none of the other riders' bikes had mudguards and large saddle bags stuffed with the essential cycling accessopries such as cake! My Thursday CTC veteran crew would not have approved!
And so we rode, undulating would be a better description that flat but the maximum gradient was never more than 8%. There are some beautiful villages in this part of the world as we sped through Shropshire ans crossed into Staffordshire. The lanes were packed with cyclists ranging from the road warriors in their matching lycra gear to leisure cyclists out enjoying the summer sun, indeed I waslucky enough to meet another Mercian devotee who had loving assembled his machine.
The total ride was around 63km with an ascent of 620m and so Andrew had been true to his word and kept it well within my scope. My average heart rate at 141bpm with am peak at 162 was at continuous race effort for me but led to a wonderful and joyous day.
A big thanks to all at Shifnall Cycling Society for giving me such a warm and generous welcome.
I amn really enjoying travelling to meet and ride with other cycling groups but perhaps with my limited capabilities I should stick to those who travel at a more sedate place. I fear that I am holding these youngsters back.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Wiggys Challenge

Paul is the chairman of G S Gazzetta and is a powerful and enthusiastic cyclist; or rather he used to be.. Things have not gone to plan just lately and so, in order to get back on track he issued the following challenge to others whose good intentions did not match reality.

"Calling lapsed cyclists like I am at the minute - I challenge you to cycle everyday for the next week starting today for 5 days. Let's get back on our bikes and in the routine together for one week. If, like me, you've had a difficult time getting into the routine of cycling after illness, injury or just not felt like it then join me for the next 5 days as we help each other get back on our bikes"

On your bike, turbo trainer or spinning classes count too, let's get everyone moving again.  2 miles, 2 hours or 200 miles, every little helps.

This note describes my attempt to respond to the challenge.

Day 1.
Mondays is the day when our group of four Old Age Pensioners, including me, go for a gentle meander around some of the local derbyshire lanes but this day was different. Torrential rain, with more promised, had left reports of many roads flooded with chaos everywhere. So two of our number had decided to stay at home and so Alan and I, intrepid members of Derby CTC, set off to view the watery landscape. Leaving Mickleover we headed along the NSN68 to Derby and then rode alongside the River Derwent. Whilst high and moving fast, the river was contained and just gave the hint of suppressed power. Leaving the river we turned and headed towards Swarkestone and its ancient causeway, the idea being to turn off and follow the road up to Milton where a new tea shop had been opened. However, around here the banks of the River Trent are higher than the surrounding roads and these banks had burst.  Abandoned cars littered the roads where intrepid drivers had tried to drive through the flooded road. The water still looked deep and so we made a detour across the causeway and up through Stanton with the aim of rejoining our route the other side of the flooded stretch. Principle fine, execution poor.  We rejoined the road only to find further floods and so the only way was to brave the elements.

nce through the floods we climbed to Milton, and then ventured over the top through Ticknall and Calke before descending into Breedon for a well deserved lunch. From there it was up the wall to Breedon Church and then down to join the Cloud Trail and head back home.

Total journey was 66km with 500m ascent. See for details.

Day 2

I am beginning to think there should be a prize awarded for the completion of this challenge.  Yesterday, and last week, I ventured into Leicestershire and on both occasions got thoroughly drenched. Soaking shorts in combination with a soaking wet leather Brooks saddle has had a detrimental effect on my undercarriage :-()  They say that as you get older you revert to childhood and I have reverted to the use of Sudo Cream to ease the pain. Never-the-less, the challenge continues.
Today’s ride went round the local lanes but the floods had not relented..indeed over night the rain had come down worse than ever. One of the main problems after the storms is that  gravel is strewn all over the lanes making descending trecherous, and I am not very good at that anyway. More flooded roads again caused a route diversion and to compound my woe, no toasted tea cakes at the tea shop where I had taken refuge from the latest deluge.

Todays statistics, 30km with 212m ascent. See

To-morrow may be an even  shorter ride to give my body time to heal

Day 3

This was as hard as I had expected. Not the distance which at 18km was short, nor the ascent of 217m, but , despite some extra padding it was an uncomfortable ride. At least it was dry and the tea shop at Meynell Langley is always worth a visit. I know; stopping for a tea and cake stop in midst a short journey is not really on, but this was an exceptional day.
To-morrow is my usual day for a long ride with the Derby CTC veterans. I will see how the body feels.

To-days statistics, see

Day 4

A lot of advice received overnight on how to both treat saddle sores and prevent them occurring in the first place. So, with layers of sudo cream, vaseline barrier, extra padding and a decent set of padded shorts, I determined to at least meet the rest of the crew at the starting point. We ride weekly and the members of the Derby CTC Thursday peleton come from all corners of the city environs and so we have recently taken to meeting up in a different tea shop each week to share out the pre-start ride time. To-day we were due to meet in Denby which though one of the longest pre-rides for me is fairly flat. The idea was to then climb some of the derbyshire peaks in a 80km ride which, for me , would have meant a round trip of ~120km which is close to my limit on good days. So I decided to leave them and return home following the cake stop. It is well known that I am not a natural climber and must moan more than most when the peleton veterans decide on a hilly route day. But, on the way back I purposely sought out the biggest hills just to test my legs, I just hope that none of the Thursday crew read this or I will never live it down.

Todays statistics 38km, with 210m ascent, see

One day to go!  I am still on course to complete the challenge.

Day 5


It is pouring with rain and i do not want to push my body through another drenching.

I have enjoyed attempting this challenge despite my inability to complete it. On the positive side I have met a number of lapsed cyclists at the tea shop stops on my tours and told them what I was attempting. Many of them have said that they have a bike in their garage or shed and would get out and ride. They may not become fervent cyclists but even if only one starts cycling again then some good will have come from my week’s efforts.