Thursday, 31 December 2015

December 2015 and Year End Mileage

So today was the last training session of 2015, wrapping up a record year in terms of miles covered.  

Squeezing a quick post internal session recovery ride in for coffee today, it was a good time to reflect and how much more progress I was able to make whilst working with a coach.  It also came to mind just how wet and windy it's been this winter and how many of the miles (1,934) had been indoors. 

2016 brings new opportunity as always and the plan is to maintain my new lower weight, build core strength and muscle where required and continue to use cycling as a way of staying healthy, both physically and mentally.  Simple.

I hope it's been a great year for you and wish you safe miles in 2016.  Thanks for continuing to visit the blog and I hope to see you on the road sometime.

Month to Date

Mileage- 760 miles/1,216km (+344% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 37hrs 03mins 
Ascent - 4,960ft
Avg. Speed - 20.5mph/32.8km/h
Avg. HR - 129bpm 

Wattbike Miles- 557
Road Miles - 175

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 24 (Flat) 

Year to Date

Mileage- 5,789 miles/9,262km (+58% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 320rs 02mins 
Ascent - 119,347ft (-17% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 18.1mph (+9.6% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 134bpm

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Losing Weight Through Cycling - How I Lost 10kg in 10 Weeks

If you've ever read any books by Tony Robbins you'll understand the concept of the 'syntax of success', in other words what sequence did someone else who has successfully already achieved what you want to achieve, then replicate it.  Another way of looking at is is what I call 'winning patterns' - what patterns of success can you install to get you more quickly to your goals.

For those that follow me on social media, they'll know that I reduced my weight by 10kg in 10 weeks in preparation to cycle up Mount Teide in Tenerife by focusing on a kg a week as my weight loss target.  No crash or fad diets, just discipline and work combined with good diet and lots of targeted exercise.  Lots of people have asked how I achieved it, so today I'm sharing some of my 'syntax of success' with you.

I achieved this under the guidance of a professional coach (@propulse on twitter) - who developed a personal training plan, individualised to my ergometrics and designed around my work schedule. 
He monitored my progress daily, including assisting me through a period of food poisoning and a cold.  We did this virtually using Whatsapp and through monitoring and evaluating each day's training session using Garmin connect (power, HR data etc) aswell as other data from my Fitbit (resting Heart Rate). Before we start on some details, let me just say this:-

  • Always consult a health professional before attempting any strenuous activity.
  • Get a good quality coach/professional who can advise you and monitor your progress.
  • If ever in discomfort, stop and seek medical assistance.
Setting the Goal

At the basics of motivation are having a goal to achieve, something you want. It's why many fall off the weight loss wagon, particular at New Year.  I've always liked this graphic which gives it some clear perspective, you need to be able to fill in all the boxes and it makes it easy to ensure you have all the boxes ticked.

Questions to ask yourself?
  • How badly do I want this?
  • What am I prepared to give up/sacrifice?
  • What am I prepared to invest?
I also shared my goal with my wife. Her understanding and support was key as the evening training commitment meant disruption to our usual routines.

  • I have used a Fitbit Surge watch for a while now which monitors your movement and resting heart rate.  I also own the Fitbit wireless scales which automatically update your weight and body fat into the application.  This gave me a good baseline for my daily movements and added motivation to keep moving, such as having a short walk at lunchtime aswell as good progress tracking.
  • I use Garmin Connect for logging rides and use MyFitness Pal for food logging.  With API's, these are all linked and it means my Fitbit dashboard shows me the consolidated view of all of my activity. Calories in, all exercise, the calorie deficit and my sleeping patterns plus resting heart rates - pretty much everything you need to understand how your body works.
  • I'm into data, so monitoring has been a big part of having a 360 degree view of the pathway and sharing that with the coach.  All training sessions were conducted with a heart rate monitor on and we also kept a close eye on my resting heart rate to ensure the load was well calibrated and within my capacity.  Taking each step with certainty.
Food Logging
  • By logging what you eat you can quickly get to grips with what you're eating and how to take corrective action to re- configure what you eat. Barcode scanning the things you eat (or looking them up) you can better get an angle on portion size and make more more positive choices about what goes in.  It leads to a lot of trading off, trust me.  MyFitnessPal has been superb for this.
  • At the simplest level, a pound of fat is around 3,500 calories, give or take, so if you want to lose two pounds you have to create around 7,000 calories of deficit without your body thinking you're on a desert island and hungry.  This was a key piece of info for me when starting out as it gave me a number to focus on.
  • By fuelling your body with what it needs you create the platform for the cardio work you need to do complete to create the weekly deficit you need.  I got a lot of advice from the coach on this, including supplements and specific eating strategies for periods of load.
  • We identified I needed more protein in my daily diet, so reviewing my daily calories, it was about prioritising more intake.  This was provided via supplements, the rest through protein rich food.
A Typical Eating Day

Crash diets rarely work as your body thinks it's starving and holds on to the fat you're trying to lose or eats into your muscle for the fuel it needs.  Eating close to your daily metabolic rate is key, particularly with a training load.  Mine is around 2250 calories, I chose to ensure I eat at least 1950 calories per day (7 x 300 = 2,100 calories a week saved or around a pound).  

I can genuinely say I rarely felt hungry with this food pattern and - more importantly - avoided the sugar crashes that have you reaching for chocolate, biscuits or crisps, a previous regular feature around 5pm and 9pm in my life.
  • Breakfast - Sugar free Alpen muesli with blueberries, skimmed milk or natural yoghurt. Pint of water. Range of supplements C, D, E, Fish Oil. Double espresso (a treat).
  • Mid morning - 750 ML whey protein shake (50g protein).
  • Lunch - Couple of slices of ham, couple of boiled eggs, small portion of pasta, plenty of salad.
  • Mid afternoon - piece of fruit.
  • Evening - Chicken or Fish and salad/small portion of carbohydrate.
  • Around 9pm - 750 ML whey protein shake (50g protein).
  • Water - around 3L per day.
  • No caffeine after 2pm.
  • Around 75 minutes per weekday cardio on a Wattbike with intervals. The intervals were designed around specific heart rate zones to achieve specific outcomes with varying load.
  • Saturday ride around 3 hours with some intervals and sprints of increase increasing intensity as time elapsed.
  • Sunday ride around 4 hours with some intervals and sprints of increase increasing intensity as time elapsed.
  • Total around 13-14 hours per week with specificity in the design.

Just doing the math. If you think an hour of decent cardio should give you around 550 burned calories, 13 x 550 = 7,150 calories plus the daily deficit of 2,100 from diet (see point above) = 9,250 deficit per week.

With long rides at the weekend, they need fuelling, plus there are times in the week when you may go over your daily rate or need extra fuel for a training session, knock off 2,250 calories and you're left with about 7,000 calorie deficit (which give or take give you around a kg).

That at its simplest level is the basic formula I worked to in my head when looking at what I eat vs. the exercise and how to generate this gap whilst still giving the body all the essentials it needs to cope with the load.

Starting weight/body fat  = 205 pounds or 93 KG /25% body fat
Current weight/body fat = 182 pounds or 82.5 KG/21% body fat

Looking at my overall performance, my previous average speed on the bike I can produce with around -7% less heart rate effort, meaning greater efficiency. My resting heart rate is now 46 and my VO2 max around 53.  
I've broken just about every Strava record I've ever set in the previous five years in the last four weeks showing the impact of reduced weight, whilst building resiliency and threshold based tempo.

Quick Wins I Implemented to assist with weight loss
  • Switched from flat white coffee to Espresso (130 calories per day in a Flat White to Double Espresso around 6 calories per day).  7 x 124 = 868 calories.
  • Passed on bread. No sandwiches, toast or wraps.
  • Skipped deserts when out at business dinners.
  • If on a night out, alternated between alcohol and soda water every other drink (cuts out 50% whilst not living like a monk).
  • Cut down on overall alcohol intake (generally around 180 calories plus in a pint of anything so if you have a ceiling of 1,850 you can quickly burst through it).  My 12 week period included a heavy three day session in Palma for a friends 50th birthday, however I offset a lot of it by walking for 10 miles a day and drinking a lot of water in between beers (all about offsetting if you're going to go for it).
  • Always have some positive food on hand in your fridge if you get the munchies. It's better for you and long lasting in terms of effect.  For me, this was mostly chicken.
  • If going away on business, I booked at hotels with gyms to train, also took food with me if necessary to avoid the easy burger and fries choice.
  • Drove more to evening business functions rather than take taxis, meant alcohol was off the choice list.
Commentary from Niko (The Coach)

"Successful business people have similar characteristics to pro-cyclists. Dedication, targets, discipline are already there. The coach has to have the ability to transfer these into an effective combination of training plan and correct food intake while monitoring the training load, heart rates and recovery times. This is not easy. The very busy schedule of a CEO doesn't leave any time to waste - every moment is precious. Phil managed and continues to manage everything in a unique way.
Nobody should crack under pressure if a plan is well calculated, keeping the energy stores always recharged and the training load well balanced. The discipline of following a rigourous training plan should pay dividends for successful business people in their work lives, by enabling even greater energy, clear thinking and focus - but it still takes strong dedication to stick to the plan and achieve the results. "


So that's it.  After the 10 weeks you develop the winning mindset of eating better, finding time to train and better understanding the relationship between what you eat and what you burn.  On the bike, you get faster, more efficiently and climb better too.  You're body shape changes, leading to new clothes and increased confidence.  It's well worth the investments you make to get the returns.  
As with all things, this is what worked for me.  It may or may not work for you, always seek advice from a professional before embarking on any big training loads and good luck if you fancy doing something like this yourself.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

November 2015 Mileage

November was the big one with my trip to Tenerife to take on some of the lumps of the Island aligned with some winter sun and a week at a Northern Soul event.

Having been putting in a big shift in training for the previous twelve weeks and got my weight goal in the bag, it was time to crack on with some climbing.

Day one of having the bike I did a warm up ride of around 15 miles.  The thing is about Tenerife is that you don't ride far without encountering a climb.  On this short haul, there was 1,742ft of ascent with a ride ascent ratio of 116ft per mile, which would qualify for hilly back here in the UK.

Day two was the day that I wanted to climb Teide.  Setting off at 8am with a route that the Garmin said was a round trip of 61 miles, by the time I got to the base of the climb I'd already covered 47 miles and 4,964ft of climbing (RAR 105).  It soon dawned on me that the route mileage was wrong.  It was a hot day, 29 degrees and I was already feeling pretty tired by this point, time to man up and go up.  

Teide is a relentless climb of 6-9% and long, in fact it's the longest single climb in Europe. After 11 miles of further climbing, I'd covered another 3,930 feet (RAR 357 which was really hard), by this time it was 3.15pm in the afternoon and I saw a sign that said 'Summit 27km'.   
Nightmare of nightmares.  I'm now 58 miles from the hotel, with no lights on the bike and the sun due to set at 6.15pm and riding at an average of around 10mph given the heat and the ascent.  I knew I wouldn't make it back before dark.

Management decision time.  I put on my arm and leg warmers, spun the bike round and flew down the 11 mile climb taking full use of the disc brakes on the BMC bike I'd hired.  The thing about Tenerife though is that there are only two routes to get back to the hotel, the motorway or exactly the way I'd just come, yes the same 47 miles and 4.9K of climbing (if you've done the math, I'd already covered 69 miles and 8,894 feet of climbing) so after seven hours in the saddle, in the heat, I had those miles to cover again. 

Thank god I'd trained so hard.  All those intervals paid a handsome dividendMy engine was good, strength was good and I covered a further 20 miles all in all after the descent, including a stop at a bakery to tip another bottle of water over my head, have an espresso and eat as many cakes as I could eat!  

It was too dark and treachorous to carry on, so I pushed on until I came to a village, found a taxi rank and cabbed it back to the hotel.  All in it was a 90 mile day with around 12,000ft of climbing (RAR 133).  Am amazing day and probably the hardest I've ever done on a bike given the heat and the overall ascent relevant to the distance.

After a couple of days rest, I rode up to Adeje for a leg loosener (18.6 miles with 2.1K ascent - RAR 117).

Day after that I went up to San Miguel which is a peach of a climb, around 10km long at 6%. It had an amazing four mile descent, so I went down, climbed back up again and did it again.  The loop from the hotel was 43 miles with 3,911ft of ascent (RAR 90).

Over the four days that I rode, I managed to cover 167 miles (268km) and climb 18,900ft (5760M) with an overall RAR of 113ft per mile.  It was glorious riding in the warm, the roads were quiet, the climbs long and steady and a perfect way to segway some cycling in with a holiday.  

Although I didn't climb Teide in its entirety in the end, the overall distance and ascent given the route planning boo boo, still gave me the virtual climb I guess.  Think I have some unfinished business with that Volcano, bring on 2016.
Month  to Date

Mileage- 727miles/1,170km (+70% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 19hrs 57mins 
Ascent - 24,045ft
Avg. Speed - 16.2mph/26km/h
Avg. HR - 126bpm 

Wattbike Miles-428
Road Miles -299

Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Road Miles) - 80 (Hilly

Year to Date

Mileage- 5,028 miles/8,091km (+44% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 282rs 58mins 
Ascent - 114,386ft (-21% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 18.1mph (+6.6% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 135bpm

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BMC GF01 Di2 Disc Review

Regular readers of the blog will know that I recently rode in Tenerife, hiring a bike out there, rather than taking my own.  There are a few providers on the island however closest to me in resort was a business called Bike Point Tenerife in the resort of Las Americas.

Checking out the range of bikes on their website for hire, the BMC GF01 Disc with Ultegra Di2 took my fancy, primarily for three reasons.
  • Tenerife is a hilly island and I thought the disc brakes would come in very useful on the long, fast descents.
  • I'd never ridden Di2 before and thought this a good opportunity to try it out.
  • I'd never ridden a BMC before and wanted to see how the bike performed.

The GF in the model name stands for Gran Fondo, taken from the description for bike races in Italy where budding future pros go head to head, the races often feature a lot of climbing as part of their profile.  This gave me the confidence to hire the bike, which retails at around £2,500.  It's had rave reviews here in the UK, including Cycling Plus 2015 bike of the year.

Riding Conditions

I rode the bike for around 150 miles and 17,000 ft of climbing over three days of riding, the longest day being 80 miles and 11,500 feet, so a decent day to test the bike out, this included an eleven mile climb with around 4,000 ft of vertical ascent, so steep by most standards.

Initial Thoughts

Picking the bike up from the shop, the first thing that struck me was how heavy it was.  With a toolbag on, it came in around 19 pounds, I thought it would be lighter given its credentials as a climbing bike.  I'm glad I'd shifted a bit of weight in advance of my trip!

The second thing that struck me was how the front wheel, in it's neutral position, wanted to settle at 90 degrees to the headtube, either left or right.  If you held the bike by the saddle, the front wheel naturally would want to flip flop to either side (more on this in a minute).

Overall the spec of the bike was good, including a very hand 34/32 gear ratio for steep climbs (enough for just about anyone to get up anything).  I took my own saddle with me (Selle Italia C2 Gel Flow) as I didn't want to find I'd hired a bike where the saddle was uncomfortable. 

The bike looked the part, with 28mm tyres, disc brakes and Di2.

On the Road

Setting off on the bike, I spent the first while getting used to the Di2 gearset, which was effortless.  Just a touch of a level and up and down the gears the bike went, I can see why people are appealed by electronic groupsets, however my conclusion was that it's a nice to have rather than essential.  I did enjoy the smooth changing, particularly on steep climbs when you're reaching for your lowest gear quickly.  If you're thinking of buying the bike, perhaps test ride the mechanical version too and make your own choice.

I noticed quickly the amount of road vibration the bike picked up.  The frameset is quite stiff and the road surface in Tenerife is very mixed, some of it beautifully smooth, others poorly kept.  Lots of the marketing blurb talks about the comfort of the bike however I have to say that this was one marked thing about the bike I noticed.  Descending a hitting a patch of rough surface, was bone shaking at times, with each lump and bump finding its way through the bike frame to the bars.  At least twice, one of my hands came away from the bars in such circumstances, the frame being so stiff that everything seemed to transfer to  the rider, along with a lot of rattling.

The issue I picked up with the front wheel not sitting to centre above was the real drawback of the bike, particularly when climbing.  With many of the climbs in Tenerife simply being long, with around 6-9% gradient, you noticed how much pressure you had to put on the bars to keep the front wheel in a straight line.  When things got really steep, say 17-20%, it was very distracting as you are climbing much more slowly and the effect was exaggerated.  This really did surprise me and it was very noticeable.

The disc brakes were excellent.  Plummeting down a -6% gradient, 15km descent with switchbacks, meant you needed to have full confidence in the braking system of the bike.  The disc brakes were powerful, meaning you could brake hard and late when entering a tight bend and the descending was really exhilarating as a result (this is where disc brakes come into their own). 28mm tyres gave you a lot of rubber on the road too for fast cornering.


For the specification, the BMC is well kitted out and it looks a great bike.  Stopping at cafes, lots of people commented on it, primarily because of it having Di2 and disc brakes, I guess much of the latest tech in many peoples eyes.

There's a lot to like about the bike, however It's not a bike I'd buy myself.  It's got a great spec, BMC have a great name and aesthetically it's OK.  However, due to its weight and the front wheel issue of it not assuming a neutral position plus the amount of road vibration you experience as a rider, it would rule it out for me.

If you want a solid commuter, then this would fit the bill, albeit it's at the top end of the price range for such a bike.   If you're after a really good bike for climbing, then there are better, lighter options out there in my opinon.  Nevertheless, the 34/32 gear ratio is perfect for the steepest of climbs and very welcome when considering the overall weight of the bike. 

My overall conclusion was that there is a lot to like about it, however for this sort of money, there is a lot of choice in the market and you should consider a number of options before departing with your hard earned for this bike.  

Other experienced testers have ridden this bike and rated it highly, this is only my personal opinion, riding on specific roads and perhaps offering some pointers as to things that I picked up.  As always, go and ride the bike and judge for yourself.  If I were giving it a star rating out of five I would probably go something like this: -

Specification 4/5
Comfort 3.5/5
Value 3.5/5
Overall 3.5/5

Bike Specification
  • Frame:TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction- DTi cable routing, compatible with mechanical and electronic groupsets- Integrated chain catcher- Disc only: post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Fork:Compliance fork, TCC and angle compliance full carbon construction – 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" tapered steerer tube- Disc only: Post mount 140 mm brake attachment
  • Front Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra FD-6870
  • Rear Derailleur:Shimano Ultegra RD-6870
  • Number of Gears:22
  • Shifters:Shimano ST-R785
  • Chainset:Shimano Ultegra FC-6800
  • Chainrings:50/34T
  • Bottom Bracket:BB86 Shimano press fit
  • Cassette:Shimano Ultegra CS-6800, 11-32T
  • Brakeset:Shimano BR-R785 w/ SM-RT98-SS 140mm Rotor F & R
  • Brake Levers:Shimano ST-R785
  • Handlebars:3T Ergosum Team
  • Stem:3T ARX 2 Team
  • Wheelset:DT Swiss X-1900 Spline, Centerlock
  • Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 700 × 28C Folding
  • Fizik Aliante Delta Wingflex braided
  • Seatpost:Compliancepost, pure carbon, with TCC, 18mm offset
  • Weight: 8.2 Kg (around 18 pounds)