Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hotchillee London to Paris 2014

London to Paris 2014
June sees the annual HotChillee London to Paris event and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to ride again by Skoda  to ride as part of their team (big thanks).  

This will be the third time that I've participated in the three day event, previous years riding in Group 4 (2013) and Group 6 (2012), you can read about those experiences by clicking the 'London to Paris' tag in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

In 2014, decision was to train to participate in Group 3, which has an average speed of 27km/h (17mph) for the three days.  I'd focused my training between Jan-May on this; focusing on aerobic capacity and hillier rides to develop the engine needed to sustain this average across the ride and the good news is that my fitness was spot on.  

The key observation was on the climbs I ended up mid-group, with riders who benefit from smaller frames, lighter weight or simply physically stronger, whipping up the bigger climbs much more quickly.  Walking away from the event a little voice in my head was telling me to get to work on dropping some weight, so that's the next target.

Rolling Roads

As usual, organisation was exceptional on the event with all the small details taken care of for such a large event.  The big upside is the rolling roadblock from the moment you leave Imber court in Surrey all the way to the Eiffel tower.  Highly organised groups of motorcycle escort riders are constantly whizzing past at high speeds to stop traffic for the peloton as you roll through roundabouts and junctions, it's quite a buzz to ride in that way.

Each year, there is always a character in the French motorcycle escorts.  This year, we had a rider who had a huge Honda Gold Wing type bike and he had a full PA system on it which he'd blast out as we rode along.  Key moments were hearing tunes like the 'theme tune from Rocky' as we rode up and crested a climb, made for some truly memorable and hilarious moments.

Anyhow, onto the day stages and some key bullets captured at the end of each day.

Day one - London to Folkestone (161KM/100miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage One Ascent Profile
  • Nice weather which made for great riding conditions.
  • Peloton was slightly better drilled than G4 on day one but still messy at times with less experienced group riders moved up and down the pack causing a lot of disruption at the back of the peloton.
  • Poor road conditions leading to constant peloton movement as people cried 'hole'.  Being near the back is painful on the first day as nervousness, poor group riding experience and road conditions leads to start/stopping all day long if you're near the back.
  • Climb of the day was 'The Wall' where the KoM was held (see the ride stripe on the graph).  Went up it much quicker this year than last year.
  • Seeing the 'drone' TV camera flying above us was pretty cool, although group one riders got a little bit too distracted and ended up having a crash.
  • Hilarious dinner where the choice of meal was Meat or Fish accompanied with Mash or Pasta + Natural Yoghurt (note, meat or fish was unspecified).
  • Had a nice quiet hotel room in Calais (last year a rock festival was on) and slept really well.
  • Fellow rider Matt Exley from Team Skoda riding in G1 retained the amateur yellow jersey.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 04mins
  • Ascent - 5,725ft/1,714M
  • Avg. Speed - 17.1mph/27km/h
  • Avg. HR - 146bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 3,332
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 55 (Medium) 

Day 2 - Calais to Amiens (170KM/106 miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Two Ascent Profile
  • A dry morning which was welcome.  Previous two years have had poor weather on day two, particularly 2013.   Had a natter with Triple Crown winner Stephen Roche as we readied for departure.
  • You know you are in France straight away due to the driver courtesy and superb road conditions. No more crys of 'hole' - just decent roads to ride on and drivers who pull right over when they see the peloton coming.  Stark contrast to the UK.
  • Peloton positioning at the front became the big issue to prevent the concertina effect at the back.  A big bunch of riders from the iCAP team were determined to roll out of each stop on the front, so some fun had trying to disrupt that.
  • Saying that we had a nightmare exit after lunch on day two and were last out.  The front put the hammer down and we went 45kmh for first 5km or so and it was hard work as the peloton ebbed and flowed trying to keep up, it was brutal on the back as brakes went on then hard accelerations followed.  Still all good fun.
  • Thankfully as the climbs arrived the peloton blew up my fellow G3 Team Skoda rider ' - Tony 'Top Guns' Byers - and I were able to move up the group back into a decent position.
  • Soon after setting out, it rained and we had a succession of punctures in some key sections.  At one point we were slowed then held at the side of the road in a downpour whilst the mechanics dealt with the nightmare scenario of multiple flats at the same time.  Everyone was cold by this point and getting going again was quite tough.
  • The mad French outriders did their bit today, playing suicide with oncoming vehicles and keeping the group going wth the music.  Eye of the Tiger - Yes!
  • There were a couple of crashes in the group, mainly down to slippery roads.  One rider was hurt and taken to hospital but returned to finish the event.  Concentration can be easily lost in a large group.
  • The peloton slowed down a lot in last 20km due to riders off back which meant our average speed dropped as ride captains worked hard to keep people in touch with the group.
  • The leg massage in the evening was agony!  Still no pain, no gain.
My Garmin Ride stats: 
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 09mins
  • Ascent - 5,269ft/1,606M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.8mph/26.9km/h
  • Avg. HR - 135bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,861
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 50 (Medium) 

Day 3 - Amiens to Paris (170KM)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Three Ascent Profile
  • For many the first 100km of day three was one of the highlights of the three days.  The peloton not only worked well, but rode well.  We absolutely whizzed through the first 100km with an average of 21mph/33.6kmh, taking advantage of the terrain.  It's moments like this that you get to experience the impact of a peloton in protecting from wind.
  • Having positioned well in the front of the peloton, I jumped on the front for around 10km and boy did I know it at that pace in the wind.  Very happy to go back in the bunch afterwards I can tell you.  
  • The peloton was slowed heavily around the 100km mark as the groups were catching each other up and due to the way the road closures work, you have to be slowed to hit a specific time window.  It led to our average speed dropping for the whole day, particularly when combined with the 50km procession into Paris which ambles along at 12mph-14mph with such a big peloton.
  • As we went up the climb of the day (red stripe on the profile pic) the now infamous French outrider rode by me with the Van Halen track - 'Jump' playing full blast.  What a moment!  He managed to trump that with 'God save the Queen' as we rolled into the lunch stop.  Quality.
  • After lunch the heavens opened and we rode in Paris in heavy rain, a far cry from the two previous years in beautiful sunshine.  It led to lots of punctures on the route into Paris and some slippery cobbles on the Champs Elysees.
  • As we rolled towards the Eiffel Tower the Skoda team all combined (12 riders) and we rolled in as a single unit, rider Matt Exley taking the amateur yellow jersey for the three day GC in group 1.
  • From there it was slug a bottle of champagne, get a medal, load the bike on the DHL truck and off to the hotel to get our wet kit off, have a bath and then party!  Another L2P in the bag.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 108 miles/172km
  • Ride Time - 6hrs 50mins 
  • Ascent - 4,144ft/1,263M
  • Avg. Speed - 15.8mph/25.2km/h
  • Avg. HR - 134bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,720
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 38 (Flat/Medium) 

My Garmin Ride stats (For the three day event Group 3)
  • Mileage- 315 miles/504km
  • Ride Time - 19hrs 04mins 
  • Ascent - 15,138ft/4,614M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.5mph/26.4km/h
  • Avg. HR - 138bpm(Aerobic Endurance)
  • Calories (estimate) - 8,913
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 48 (Flat/Medium) 

If you're planning to ride the HotChillee London to Paris event, here's my quick summary and tips: -
  • You'll have a great time, meet lots of new people and remember the experience of riding into Paris in a huge peloton forever.
  • Training is key.  London to Paris is not a flat route as many people often remark.  You have over 15k feet/4.6K M of ascent to do over the three days and the biggest hold up for the event is people that haven't trained to go up hills.
  • Nutrition planning is key.  You get access to food on the event via a good breakfast, lunch stops and evening dinner.  You might not need as much energy food as you think and you should have completed two or three hundred mile events in advance of riding the event to gauge what you need as fuel.  People often carry too much in my experience.
  • Get your bike sorted technically.  Lots of mechanicals can occur en route through people rocking up with poorly maintained bikes.  Put on new tyres, a new chain and get your bike serviced before you ride.
  • Be honest about your ride speed when selecting a group.   You should do your training on similar ascent profiles to the L2P to get a real gauge of your average, it's no good training on flat roads or you will end up being in the wrong group.  As you can see from my consolidated stats, it's very close to the expected average and would have been spot on 27kmh if the peloton was not slowed on day 3.  You need to be training with an ascent profile of 50 ft per mile on average.  If you ignore this you'll get the 'spot of shame' as a ride captain demotes you to a lower group.  The speed is an average so you'll be riding faster than that on the flat stuff (22mph/35km/h) when combined with the climbs.
  • Book your bike onto the Purple Harry bike cleaning service.  Each morning your steed is spangly clean giving you more time to rest, eat or socialise.  It saves time and means you roll out ready for action, particularly good if it's been wet the day before and your bike is full of road debris.
  • Get a massage if you can at the end of each day.  Specialists from The TriTouch are on hand to ease your aching muscles.  It hurts like hell when your legs are sore but always does the job when you get back on the bike.  They can get busy so make it your priority to be on the list.
  • Say 'hello' first when you ride with someone.  The ride can be very sociable if you start a conversation and you get to meet some really interesting people.  Had loads of great chats about bikes plus work, with lots of banter on top.
  • Book on the after ride dinner and awards night.  HotChillee always put on a good party and it's a great to blow off some steam with your fellow riders, as you can see from my pic below picking up the Champagne for amateur yellow jersey winner - Matt Exley.  Went to bed at a reasonably sensible time ready for the early train back to London the next day.
You can see the video summary of the event below.  I'd like to thank Skoda for the invitation to ride with them and for all they continue to do investing in all areas of cycling from the UK scene through to the world tour.  The sport needs committed sponsors at all levels and they continue to invest heavily. 

London Paris 2014 - Event Video from HotChillee on Vimeo.

Big credit to the photographers on the event for the use of the pictures.  You can see the individual decks taken by each of the photographers by clicking on the links below: -

Sunday, 6 July 2014

June 2014 Mileage

Two new PB's in June.  One for total distance in a month and the other for total ascent.

When thinking about how the year was going to play out, this one was on the cards with the Tour de Precky (effectively the two stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire) and London to Paris both falling in the same month and pushing both distance and ascent numbers to a new high.

As you can see from the numbers, average speed was down by 3%, ascent (climbing) was up 27% with average heart rate sitting in zone 3 (aerobic endurance).  All my training had been building up to this point, so according to the numbers I had the right fitness levels to complete the challenges the month brought.

June 2014 Mileage and Ride Ascent Ratio - www.race-pace.net

Chatting with a fellow rider on the London to Paris ride about training, Jan - March was all about flat miles to build a base, with April to June having increased intensity (more ascent).  This simple methodology worked for me last year and it worked again this year.

In terms of the whole year, I'd forecasted to have done around 2,242 miles (3,587km) by this point in the year, actual outcome was 2,268 miles (3,629), so just ahead of plan. 

Key learning for June was about weight.  Seeing what guys three stone lighter than you can do going up a big hill really brings home the magical power to weight ratio impact and the importance of strength and conditioning.  Time to tweak the training I think.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 656 miles/1,050km (+5% vs PY)
Ride Time - 43hrs 17mins 
Ascent - 38,583ft (+27% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 15.2mph (-3% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 140bpm
Calories (estimate) -22,107
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 58.8 (Medium) (+20% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,339 miles/3,742km (same as PY)
Ride Time - 145hrs 33mins 
Ascent - 96,116ft
Avg. Speed - 16.1mph (+2.5% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) -86,347
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.6 (Medium) (+6% vs. PY)

Friday, 4 July 2014

St. John Ambulance - Cycling Accident App

We all run the risk of accident, simply via statistical probability.  Whether yourself or a fellow rider, acting quickly in the event is vital, seconds can count if someone is seriously injured and it's important to know what action to take.

St John Ambulance has today launched a new free first aid app for cyclists.  With three million people now cycling three times a week or more[1], they have created the app to ensure cyclists are equipped with the essential skills to help others in an emergency.

This comes on the day the Department for Transport[2] announces a rise in the number of all cycling casualties, up 2% from 2012, in comparison to the falling number of injuries/fatalities for all other road user types. The highest increase in casualties is amongst adults aged 18-59 years reporting a 5% rise. Overall killed and seriously injured figures have come down (by 10%) but slightly injured figures have risen by 3%, and this is where first aid can be the difference.  

The app was created using the expertise of the charity’s medically trained staff and SJA’s Cycle Response Unit, their team of highly trained first aid volunteers who use specially equipped mountain bikes, and can be first at the scene of an accident.

To put some context around it, St John Ambulance have provided some statistics below: -

Figures on cycling accidents[3]
·         Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
·         Around half of cyclist fatalities occur on rural roads
·         75% happen at, or near, a road junction
·         80% occur in daylight
·         80% of cyclist casualties are male
·         Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children
·         Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries.

With the data being in the form of an app, it's easy to access and provides plain, easy to understand instructions for you to follow, I'#d recommend you download it.  For further information visit www.sja.org.uk/cycling.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Yorkshire Tour de France Stages

Can you remember your hardest day in the saddle?  For sure mine was the Fred Whitton sportive back in 2011, you can read the story of that day here. Day two of the Yorkshire Tour de France stages came very close to that day, read on for details.

The Stunning Yorkshire Scenery
Raising funds for the Steve Prescott Foundation, I was one of around  50 riders who set out to do the Etape de Yorkshire earlier this month, taking in the bulk of the planned route for the Tour de France stages later this month.

Day One

Day One Ascent Profile
As we headed out from Leeds, conditions for the first day spirits were high.  The group quickly split into three and settled into a rhythm. It was fascinating to see how Yorkshire was preparing for the upcoming Tour de France with loads of yellow sprayed bikes alongside the road and in the Villages as you rolled through.

Weather conditions were OK to begin with but the day deteriorated quickly with heavy rain and wind with strong gusts which made the going much tougher than it might normally be – at times the crosswinds were simply brutal.  

The day was pretty rolling with three key climbs of note, most of which come in the mid section of the day.  The big climb of the day was Buttertubs, a long 2.5 mile steep climb with a 1 in 8 ramp at the end which came at the 72 mile mark. 

As we stopped  in a cafĂ© for lunch, wet through, muscles began to cool and a few stiff looking legs could be seen.  Copious amounts of food was put away, particularly by many of the former rugby players riding the event, washed down with tea and coffee. 

Walking back out into the pouring rain and wind, the back 50 miles were hard work.  As we clicked over the 100 mile mark, mentally your brain and body starts to think ‘finish line’ given most long distance sportives stop at this point.  The run into Harrogate was rolling and we were all pretty pleased to be greeted by some superb catering with real cooked food, not an energy bar in sight. 

Day One Summary

Distance:             125 miles
Ascent:                 7,690 ft
Avg Heart Rate:  146bpm
Avg Speed:         14.3mph
RAR:                     61 (Medium/Undulating)

Day Two

Day Two Ascent Profile
What a tough day, effectively a Fred Whitton in distance and ascent profile.  Having done a ten hour day in the saddle previously, a lot of tired legs rolled out of Tadcaster, in trepidation of a big day ahead and it didn’t disappoint.

Thankfully the weather was nice, it would have been really miserable in the wet and wind, particularly with the climbing profile.  The route looped West then swung back South into a headwind for most of the day.

The day had seven major climbs including the longest climb in the Country – Cragg Vale – an 8km long drag with a brilliant descent which then took you straight back into steep ramps.  One of things I do love about hard days are the descents where you can hit some terrific speeds, Steve Prescotts brother – Neil – recorded just over 60 mph on that descent.  Not for the faint hearted!

In between that was a combination of some killer steep ramps and long climbs including Holme Moss which saw your heart rate soar.  At one point, the neutral service car pulled alongside me and I quite happily grabbed the rear window for a natter for about 200m, sticky bottle city.

Finishing Up

As we rolled off of Holme Moss down towards  and over Woodhead Pass heading towards Sheffield, mentally you’re thinking “I’m on the backstraight”.   How wrong  you could be.  The sting in the tail was a right turn off into a killer of a last 25 miles with around 3,000 feet of climbing, thankfully on freshly layed tarmac, some of the best I’ve ever ridden on. 

Ramp after ramp seemed to arrive, with every corner bringing a new surprise.  With over 220 miles in the legs, it took a big effort to get up and over everything.   I was on my own on this section having opted to miss the last stop and push on so a real mental and physical test.

You often watch the Pro’s on TV and wonder how the legs might feel having done the big mountain stages whilst racing.  As an amateur crawling up some of the steep ramps at 3mph and needing about four days for my legs to recover from the soreness and fatigue, you have to marvel at the levels of fitness and recovery required to be a pro.

Rolling into Sheffield, my tank was pretty empty after the final effort.  Rolling through those big efforts I had the words of Steve Prescott in my head.  When alive and struggling with his battle against a terminal illness he undertook a series of physical fundraising challenges and was attributed with this saying - “What the mind believes, the body achieves.”

Day Two Summary

Distance:             121 miles
Ascent:                12,316 ft
Avg Heart Rate:  135bpm
Avg Speed:         12mph

RAR:                     101 (Very Hard)

Yorkshire is Ready

Visit Yorkshire have done a good job of getting everyone in the region behind the Tour.  Building, villages and hillsides are decorated, roads re-layed, cafes adorned with cycling memorabilia.  The views and landscapes are simply stunning, hard to ride but beautiful to be amongst.

I’d recommend anyone to ride the two days, however you  will need to train hard for it.  I’ve previously written about something I describe as ‘Ride Ascent Ratio’.  Day one I would describe as ‘rolling’ and day two ‘hard’ for the average cyclist, albeit they are described as pretty ‘flat’ stages on the Tour.  You’ll need to be able to climb relentlessly on day two, requiring strength and conditioning plus a big dose of attitude.

A superb experience which will test riders of all ability.  I'm pleased to tick it off the bucket list.

Overall Ride Summary

Distance:             245 miles
Ascent:                20,007 ft
Avg Heart Rate:  140 bpm
Avg Speed:         12.9 mph

RAR:                     81 (Hard)

Saturday, 31 May 2014

May 2014 Mileage

2014 is back on track in terms of year to date mileage.  

Back in January I'd set a target of 1,618 miles by the end of May and with this months mileage closed the account at 1,612 miles.

926 of those miles have been over April and May, with 35,720 feet of ascent, plan being to come into June with the right level of fitness ready to take on the two day leg of the Yorkshire Tour de France and London to Paris later in the month.

The two day Tour de France route covers 240 miles (384km) over two days with around 15K of ascent (4.5K metres), it's a tough couple of days with some steep climbs so training has been focused on hillier miles during the month.  The event, raising money for the Steve Prescott foundation, is on the first weekend of June, so expect a write up post-event.

Investing in a new set of wheels from legendary wheelbuilder - Pete Matthews - during the month, I've managed to get a couple of hundred miles in on them already and they are doing a good job.  The attributes of the wheels are perfect for the Tour de France route with rock solid stability, predictable handling on descending and comfort.  I'll be posting a review up on them in the very near future, explaining why.

Weather has been a bit better in May, with a couple of really good sunny days in amongst the rain and wind, it made for some pleasant riding - more of that please! 

Month  to Date

Mileage- 420 miles (+16% vs PY)
Ride Time - 24hrs 58mins 
Ascent - 14,755ft
Avg. Speed - 16.8mph (+0.8% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 146bpm
Calories (estimate) -15,285
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 35 (Medium) (-8% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 1,613 miles (-5% vs PY)
Ride Time - 98hrs 33mins 
Ascent - 55,663ft
Avg. Speed - 16.4mph (+6% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 147bpm
Calories (estimate) -55,663
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 34.5 (Flat) (+0% vs. PY)

Audio Interview with Bikmo Founder - David George

Cycling website - Bikmo - is currently undergoing a round of Seedrs funding which gives you the chance to own a piece of the business.  I invited their CEO - David George - along to talk to me about the business for any of you interested in investing.

You can find out more via the links below:
  • Bikmo website:  www.bikmo.com
  • Seedrs Platform: Click here.
  • David George on Twitter: Click here.
  • Bikmo on Twitter: Click here.
The team are also holding some meet ups, if you want to ask further questions: -
  • Manchester - Monday 2nd June.  Details here.
  • London - Wednesday 4th June.  Details here.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

British Cycling Related Businesses

With the cycling sector booming and with a lot of money up for grabs from affluent buyers, it inevitably leads to a number of new business opportunities for entrepreneurs and business owners to launch new products and services.

If you prefer to invest some of your hard earned money into these British businesses and start-ups or offer support in terms of spreading the word, here's just a few that I recommend and have personal experience of,  I'll keep updating this list as I meet more businesses on my travels: -

Bikmo.  Price comparison website for cyclists aggregating lots of deals from various suppliers.  www.bikmo.com

Hope Technology.  Manufacturing Disc Brakes , Seat Stems,  Wheels, Bottom Brackets - LED Lights and Hubs to name but a few in Barnoldswick since 1989.  I run Hope hubs on a set of wheels which roll very well.  www.hopetech.com

Meccanica. High quality British cycle related fashion clothing.  I've recently invested in some of their T-Shirts.  Based in Knutsford.  www.meccanica.com

One Life ID. Personal identify products such as bracelets, labels and bands which store your important identify and health attributes.  Never ride without mine on.  www.onelifeid.com
PocPac.  A range of products from phone protectors to the Ass Saver mudguard.  I use the iPhone cover, which is a neat product which keeps your phone dry but still allows you to use it whilst in the protective zip up pocket.  www.thepocpac.co.uk

Pete Matthews Wheelbuilders.  Rather than buy an off the peg set of wheels which may not suit your weight or riding style, for around £400 you can have your own set built by this Liverpool based master wheelbuilder.  www.petematthews.com

Purple Harry Cleaning Products.  Retailing a range of cleaning products for your bike.  I'm a particular fan of their 'bike floss' products which allow you to effectively clean hard to reach areas like cassettes.  www.purpleharry.co.uk

Sunday, 27 April 2014

April 2014 Mileage

April 2014 has been my second highest single mileage month since I started road cycling nearly five years ago.  Ably assisted by a long bank holiday weekend (extra two days cycling) and some longer rides, monthly miles have come in at just over 500M (800km).

Repeating last years model of bumping up the ascent in April through hillier rides, ascent per mile in April has been around 42% higher than the previous three months, with average ride speed dropping around 5% to accomodate the harder profile.

Last year I followed the same pattern building up to June when the London to Paris event took place, gradually increasing ride profile and strength which I'll look to repeat in May.  Highlight of the month was the Lune Coal road ride which replicates well the ride profile for the June Tour de France stages in Yorkshire, so good training.  

Also hit my fastest ever speed on the bike of 49.3mph (78km/h) which was exhilarating and pretty scary at the same time as a gust of wind hit my deep section wheels and sent me into a high speed wobble.  Can't even begin to think of what that would have looked like if I'd not got the bike under control, definitely one of the lives used up there.

As with previous months the wind has continued to be a constant presence here in the NW of England with omnipresent gusts almost every time you set out the front door.  Yesterday was a fine example of that with 20mph constant wind with added 40mph gusts, after 70 miles in it, legs were ready to fall off when I arrived home.  It's meant that average speeds have suffered.

So, April exit I'm really happy with.  It's also brought the year to date target back into view, managing only 687 miles(1100km)  between Jan-March, the April numbers have got me back within 50 miles of the original target I'd set of 1,250 miles.

May is going to be all about keeping it moving and maintaining the momentum to arrive into June in good shape, fit and well and raring to go. 

Month  to Date

Mileage- 506 miles (+44% vs PY)
Ride Time - 32hrs 07mins 
Ascent - 20,965ft
Avg. Speed - 15.8mph (+0.6% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 144bpm
Calories (estimate) -19,163
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41 (Medium/Undulating) (-6% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 1,193 miles (-4% vs PY)
Ride Time - 73hrs 34mins 
Ascent - 40,908ft
Avg. Speed - 16.2mph (+5% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 148bpm
Calories (estimate) - 46,463
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 34.3 (Flat) (+2% vs. PY)

Monday, 21 April 2014

Lune Coal Road Ride

Starting in Lancashire and looping over to the Yorkshire Dales and then back via Cumbria, this sixty-five mile ride was one of the best I've ever ridden.  With rolling countryside, killer climbs, hidden villages and stunning scenery (see picture), it truly was four hours in the saddle well spent.

Without the prompt of Toby Cummins who had travelled North to spend the weekend at his in-laws and had offered an invite to join him and friend Deborah on the route, I'd never have got to discover this hidden gem of a ride called the 'Lune Coal Road Challenge.'

The Only Way Is Up

Setting off into a tough headwind which remained with us for much of the thirty miles as we headed East, the route steadily climbs for 25 miles, where you then get a break before hitting the big climb of the day called 'Garsdale Head' which is a steep climb around the 38 mile mark.  

222M high and 3.8km long, it's one of those where you just have to push the pedals through, with 20% gradients at points. It's one of the climbs that features in Simon Warrens book - 'The 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs'.  This was definitely the hardest hill of the day for me and I hit my heart rate max of 185bpm as I crested the top!

Route Profile for Lune Coal Road Challenge
It was well worth the pain as the descent from the other side was stunning.  You had to be on the brakes pretty much the whole way down as the slingshot speed was ridiculous, if you like descending fast, you'd love it.  There were some switchbacks where you could get caught out near the bottom but for the thrill lovers it was awesome.  I had carbon 50mm wheels on so had to take it easy in the winds, still managed 38mph with brakes on though!

Climb number two was heading out of the village of Dent around the 45M mark, called 'Barbondale' which was profile wise similar to Garsdale head but not quite as long.  The upside of that climb was a piece of road which dropped down into a valley, literally straight where you could just hit big speed.  As you can see from the route profile above, it was about five to six miles long and exhilarating to fly down after a tough couple of climbs.
Cobbled main street of Dent

 With the wind on our backs we pushed on to a lovely cafe in Kirkby Lonsdale, which fellow rider - Debbie - had up her sleeve, which had a good selection of hot food, cakes and more importantly - tea!  Pretty place and very much on the tourist route, very busy.  Heading back towards the start point in Caton, we picked the pace up and averaged around 20mph for the five miles running in, which was thoroughly enjoyable.
Stunning views on the Yorkshire Dales
Only an hour away from Manchester, this was really worth the drive up to ride.  Although windy, the scenery, roads and climbs just made for a perfect recipe of cycling.  Arriving back, the distance was 65 miles with just short of 5K ascent, giving a ride ascent ratio of 76 which is 'hilly/hard.'

June brings some big rides in the diary, so hard days with hilly profiles are a pre-requisite of building fitness and strength.  As my training builds I'll be doing hilly rides on a Saturday and flatter rides on a Sunday.  With the long Easter holiday here in the UK, it's meant a decent training block of 170 miles (272KM) with 7.5K of ascent (2300M).

You can find the link to the route here.  Thanks to Toby for the invite and pictures, plus Debbie for the route and cafe.  My Garmin data you can see here.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Preparing for a multi-day cycling event

So many people are doing so much for good causes right now and with the growth in cycling, inevitably more and more multi-day events are cropping up.  Common questions I get asked via the comments section of the blog relate to the preparation, kit and training required so thought it high time to get a post up with some pointers.  Here's 10 tips and links to other related posts: -

  1. If you're BMI is over 25 lose some weight.  The lighter you are, the better your power to weight ratio which will make you ride faster and climb quicker.  Give yourself plenty of time to do this, losing 1-2 pounds a week as your goal.
  2. Put 25MM tyres on your bike.  They are more comfortable, better for grip and more puncture resistant.  I ride Continental GP4000 tyres.
  3. Get fitted on your bike.  If you're multi-day event involves long distances of 80M or more, you need to get your fit spot-on.  By doing this you will avoid niggles, aches and pains or injury.
  4. Ride appropriate route profiles.  If you're doing a Lands End to John O' Groats for example, you need to be able to climb hills.  Work hills into your training, don't just ride flat routes.  Read this blog about ride ascent ratio to see what I mean.
  5. Understand your route in advance.  On a multi-day event, each day can bring a different profile or challenge. Think about the requirements of each day in advance in terms of your clothing, nutrition and effort.  When you are going to stop and re-fuel.  What your weather contingencies might be and sunrise/sunset, all to be taken into account.  Key thing is to know which are the easy and hard days.
  6. Learn how to ride efficiently as a group.  If a group of you are doing the event, then learning to ride efficiently as a group will reduce your energy requirements and get you there with less effort.  You should be able to ride 2x2, riding in a tightly formed group with three or four inches between you and the rider in front (wheel distance).  This will save you around 20-25% of effort if you deploy correctly and share the load amongst the group.  Watch cycling on the TV and see how the professionals do it and pratice.
  7. Get your bike serviced.  Your bike should be in tip top condition in readiness for the challenge. Seen so many times riders arrive on bikes they've borrowed or bikes in poor mechanical condition.  The bottom line is you will slow the whole group down if you experience mechanical problems en route which could be avoided. 
  8. Invest in good quality clothing and equipment.  Nipping into Decathlon for some cheap shorts won't cut it if you're doing a 10 day x 100 mile event.  Invest in the best you can afford, particularly for contact points like your backside, hands and feet!  Read 10 items of cycling clothing you should own.  Blog here.
  9. Build up your miles and aerobic engine.  Multi-day events require a large aerobic and stamina base.  If you're doing a multi-day event of 100 miles per day over three or ten days, you must build your engine on the bike through long miles.  At least three to four months away from the event you need to be putting in 80M-100M per week in the saddle to build up your base.
  10. Work on your core strength off the bike.  Working on your core strength will help you cope with the demands on your body the event will bring. A strong core gives the stable base you'll need for climbing and long days of pedalling.  Blog on developing your core strength here.
You may also benefit from reading the blogposts below, the key thing is to not underestimate what you have signed up for.  Treat it seriously, plan, train and arrive on the line ready to fulfill the ambitions of the people you are doing it for.  Good luck!

  • 50 tips for a new road cyclist.  Blog here.
  • Getting the right saddle position.  Blog here.
  • Getting the right saddle height.  Blog here.
  • Tips for saddle comfort.  Blog here
  • 10 tips for replacing an inner tube.  Blog here.
  • 10 things to carry on your bike in your saddle bag.  Blog here.
  • Gear ratios for new road cyclists.  Blog here.
  • 10 foods to boost energy.  Blog here.
  • Choosing the right saddle.  Blog here.