2017 Overview…… so far

A while back I wrote that I wanted to avoid quantity and instead go for quality. I think I have done that so far in 2017, but that could all change as I near the end of December.

My mileage has seen a mixture of rides for pure relaxation and fun as well as some physically demanding rides and some big (for me) mileage single rides. Looking at Strava is interesting, but not always an accurate record of how a ride has gone for me. I have done a range of variations on a couple of themes as my routes, some with higher mileage with others, but all my rides have taken on a new dimension by riding my Cinelli Experience. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my Carerra, in fact it will become my Winter Bike when I get amongst the components and get it up to spec again. More about the comparisons another time.

Some of my rides have been a bit specific, but not the number I had hoped. Sometimes the fun of just getting out takes over. I recently borrowed a few books from the library about cycling fitness, and as a consequence I want to tweak things and be a lot more intentional in my rides for the remainder of 2017 and from then onwards. I have to be careful though, I tend to be quite obsessive, especially when I can see a direct link to method and visible changes in fitness and times!

How am I going to go about this? Well, I am in the process of embarking on a program which means better food, and a focus on sessions to improve my endurance, strength, the mystery of lactate thresholds and hill training. All of these over a period of time will hopefully conclude in doing at least one 100 mile distance.

One of my targets for this year was to ride the distance of 50 miles in one go. That was achieved and exceeded by doing two 63 mile rides. I then felt the need to have the aim for an 80 miler which took me to two rides of 78 and 80 miles respectively. Both done on the Cinelli, the latter ride forcing me to take the challenge of climbing Parbold Hill (surprisingly easy after 70 of those miles!).

One of the things I learned from the two rides was that the bike and me are in constant adjustment to get things dialled in. I also need more core strength and much better flexibility (especially the neck and shoulders). The second ride was much better as far as the neck and shoulders were concerned.

As the colder days approach, it looks like the old Saracen is going to be coming out to play off-road. I am looking forward to it, my handling skills should get better and the terrain should help me maintain some kind of fitness.

Health and fitness are two interesting things that seem to be held in tension to each other as far as cycling is concerned. One of the obvious changes visibly is the decrease in wait, neck, arms and facially. Being fit does not mean being healthy, and so I am going to be taking extra note on my weight (I want to climb well but don’t want to be as slightly built as Chris Froome!). The Autumn and Winter is going to include me doing some upper body work. I am currently weighing 11st 11lbs (sorry, I still work in £’s and pence when it comes to weight….. oh and miles).

Targets, yes I have some. I still have a C2C in my head, and would love to do it with my youngest son. Not sure when that may happen though, we are both busy and living 4 hours away from each other.

Well, it is time to call this a day and continue milling over my cycling programme in-the-making. Hopefully is will be SMART and all that kind of stuff!

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My cycling history ….. so far.

I have been away from blog writing for some time by the looks of things, mainly because I didn’t want things to be too repetitive by constantly posting routes and a little bit of information about a place passing through. So, this article is quite different….. her goes!

I have a new bike! Yes, the opportunity came and I managed to convince my bank manager (the wife) that I could justify spending on a bike that was worth the upgrade. Basically, Halfords in Norwich had two Cinelli Experiences hidden away and were currently out on display. Previously they had a price tag of £1,000 when new, and now they were knocked down in price….. my youngest son had just started there and we both came up with the cash to buy them both. One for me, one for him…. All possible via a decent staff discount as well!

All good timing really as I had just worn my rear tyre on my Carrera a couple of weeks ago which then nudged me into getting my mountain bike sorted and in use again in the mean time. So, I have decided to write a bit about my bike history (a bit like on Top Gear with a celebrity but without the screeching of tyres).

Nostalgia here we come……

I learned to ride on a bike belonging to a school buddy at around the age of 8 or 9, it took a few goes on the road outside my house (which was quite busy thinking about it now!). Then, one Christmas Santa brought me a red Raleigh Rodeo with blue mudguards. I loved the freedom it gave me and the ability to get from A to B faster.

That bike did me for a while until it was eventually replaced by my first drop-handle bike when I negotiated with my parents and turned down a holiday with them for a bike instead. I got it from a large cycle shop which is no more in Leeds next to the Scarborough Inn (locally known as ‘The Scarborough Taps’. I remember going for it with my Dad and riding it the 3 and a bit miles back home to Middleton. Which was great until the heavens opened big style just as I got to Waddingtons on Dewsbury Road in Beeston. Luckily they had a bridge type thing below the walk-way into the front entrance, and I stayed there soaked until it stopped!

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That bike get me about even more, I loved my nice blue Elswick Whirlwind….. and it had dual brake levers and 5 gears! Places like Skipton, Otley, Ilkley, and Malham all got visits from me but I especially loved riding to Otley Chevin via Bramhope and the top of Poole Bank. Poole was another favourite, and I loved the speed of going down there seeing where I used to go fishing with my Dad, I also loved the challenge of getting back up! It was on those days that I discovered small places including Brimham and Folly Foot towards Harrogate. Eventually the bike came with me when in the RAF, eventually selling it to a certain Stevie Bellis whilst we were at RAF Brampton, Huntingdon.

There was quite a gap from 1989 to 1996 without a bike but I decided that I needed another bike. This was the period of mountain bikes, and I got a cheap 2nd hand bike from Watson & Cairns on Lower Briggate, Leeds. That did me for about a year, gradually coming to the conclusion that I needed a new one to continue commuting to work and back. I decided I wanted a MTB with front suspension so that my neck and shoulders wouldn’t take such a battering, so I ventured to Ilkley and visited an excellent shop called JD Cycles, just up from the school and auction rooms as you enter Ilkley. I came away with a Saracen Dirt Trax and I loved it! It was solid, 15 gears, and looked the part. Otley Chevin became my playground as did quite a few routes crossing over into Bradford. Now I was going both on and off-road around Baildon, Shipley, Skipton Ilkley Moor etc etc…. As well as commuting to work and back clocking up 9,000 miles one year!

I still have that bike, and it was great getting back on it….. I love it even though it feels like a tank now, but a very stable, fun bike…… This bike allowed me to enjoy rides with both my lads as youngsters, and even more so with my youngest as an adult…..but I started to get fed up of people passing by me easily on road bikes…. The rolling resistance was too great and too many grey beards were finding routes easy compared to my slow pace on the MTB. I spent a considerable time debating with myself whether I could justify a 2nd bike……. But I eventually convinced myself and got one.

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I relieved Halfords of a Carrera 3 years ago, and eventually collected the kit to feel like a roady, all be it on a budget. Over the next few months I managed to get some clipless pedals and upgrade items of kit. I did a reasonable amount of miles, averaging around 25-30 miles but I recently set myself a target of a 50 miler and did it with a few more in the bank at 63 miles! The ride was duplicated a few weeks later, and I was much happier second time around as I knew where I was going!

When the new opportunity came along, I pretty much had to convince myself that I could justify the expence, but it was difficult to ignore the bargain waiting for me and my son in Norwich, so last wee we drove down, spent some time with Ross and his partner and we both went out on our shiny new bikes around the local lanes of Norwich – I could live in Norwich.

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We managed to get the bike back home courtesy of a cheap bike rack from Halfords which was pretty nerve racking…. So far I have been out for more rides, seat adjustments made, and no doubt some more along the way. I shall give it a review at some stage in the near future. I have to say, I love it, but then again that is expected isn’t it!

Already my smiles are bigger as I go out for my rides on the Cinelli, already those hills don’t seem as steep or as long as they did previously, and already my rides take a few different dimensions having smoother ride, Tiagra components, a slightly wider handlebar and all round better riding position……. yes I love it! This one is for dry days only, with my Carerra waiting for the usual Lancashire weather.

Hang on, its sunny outside…… see you when I get back!

Personal target reached and exceeded!

Yep, despite there being not much going on here on this blog, I have been pretty busy on the bike. I set out to do a minimum of two rides per week which hasn’t been achieved but my target distance on a single ride has……. with a bit of interest!

Since my last blog, I was given a nice little voucher for a discount on a silver service at Halfords. I got it taken in and was told it would be 48 hours before I could pick it up. I knew it would need a new chain and cassette amongst the regular things like new cables, so the final price quoted was very nice thank you very much.

I duly went to collect the bike and the guy was still working on it…… methinks he had just started really. He was struggling to get the gears changing smoothly and silently, and concluded that the rear mech was probably not as straight as it should be so he swapped that free of charge probably knowing that I was visibly content but internally not at all!

Anyway, eventually he coughed to still struggling to get things changing smoothly and that was the best he could do…… so I paid the discounted price and rode off into the distance homeward with clunky gears. I decided the next day to go out and did a regular route, but things were not as they should be in the gear-change department…… so I spent the next day fiddling with cable tensions and learning the mystique and dark arts of the front mech.

Youtube is a wonderful thing isn’t it! I looked around and got things firmly fixed in my head as to what was needed to be done and set about sorting it and in need of some serious physio on the back afterwards (I must buy a bike stand for the future!). I went out for another ride, things were smoother but still not brilliant…. but getting there.

I did manage to ride my furthest of 40 miles and ventured into Wigan……. for future reference, Wigan visibly has a small gene pool! I returned to fiddling with my front mech the next day…… still getting there!

Eventually, I got as happy as I could be and decided to set out on a bid to reach my 50 mile ride….. I set off towards Belmont, decided to add a little bit after Abbey Village and headed off towards the general direction of Southport. I aimed at Rufford and decided to add further and go to Ormskirk and then Skelmersdale hoping to find some rode signs towards either Bolton or Wigan…….. guess what, no signs which to me validates my opinion of Wigan in particular…… nobody wants to go to Wigan or admit it anyway!

I was getting a bit worried because I was on unknown ground now……. I couldn’t see Winter Hill in the distance because of Parbold Hill being in the way but I had a general plan to avoid Parbold Hill and instead shirt around it and head towards Wigan.

After asking directions three times I found myself on a gorgeous, empty road that goes along the valley, thus discovering Appley Bridge and then Shevington before getting to familiar ground at Standish….. then it was decision time…… turn right and add more miles via Wigan or back homeward the normal way from Standish? I took the second option. I was getting a bit tired, and I had ridden so far without a stop and enjoyed it.

By the time I had arrived at my finish line I had been in the saddle for 4 hours and 55 minutes, managed 2,800 ft in elevation and covered 63.3 miles with an average of 13mph, which I didn’t think was bad without a stop and on unkown roads….

Since then I have reverted to familiar routes. The weather is getting warmer, I have actually seen the gold disc in the blue sky quite a few times, so things are looking good for the rest of Summer….. having said that we will be away for 2 weeks minus a bike, but I will be trying to get in as many rides as I can immediately before and after…….

Here is the route:

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2017 so far…..

I wonder how many people actually keep up with their good intentions and do so over a sustained period of time. I n my head (and probably within this blog) I set a target for the year of a number of rides and an aggregate mileage, and to be honest it is worth noting that I am fine with my intentions, but I have been on the wrong end of the dreaded lurgy which put me out of action for about 10 days or so. Sinus problems are wonderful things when it is cold and you struggle in the breathing department. So, since the 1st January I have only managed 3 rides.

So far I have covered 77.4 miles, climbing for a total of 3,051 ft and managed to do that in 6 hours and 4 minutes. My first ride was a bit of intentional adventure that had me guessing where I would suddenly start to recognise where I was! That didn’t happen until I came to a large crossroads at a place called Heapey on the A674 just outside Chorley. I really enjoyed the element of surprise when I got there to the point where I burst out laughing as I thought I was going to emerge within Chorley.

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What surprised me most was the variation of being in a built up area and then suddenly with the sense of being in the wilderness that was tree lined and lots of tight bends hiding a few quaint country pubs. I then returned to a familiar return but took a different option in Adlington and headed back towards Horwich and up a steady, long climb beginning in Horwich and homeward. I covered a very steady 26 miles in dry conditions, and what a good start to 2017 it was too.

During the following week I was a sickie and off work for what would have been my long weekend in the homeless hostel, and during that I was pointed towards a friend’s blog which I hope you will visit. He commutes to work everyday in N.Yorkshire and has just spent some time restoring a road bike. From what I can see he intends to use it as his regular bike to and from work, and very nice it looks too! Here is the link, I shall put it amongst my links on the side (the first in fact!).

Please find it here,  https://therootsofthemountains.wordpress.com/

My next ride was the post-lurgy trip which covered 13 miles and to be honest I was just glad to get back out on the road….. you can only fail to get past a certain point in Tomb Raider on the PS3 so many times! Having said that I am now brilliant on Gran Turismo 6!

The ride had me wearing a short sleeved jersey over the top of two base layers and arm warmers….. as the ride went on, the neck warmer came off and the arm warmers as it was getting just too hot! I went to Adlington and headed towards Horwich and back basically and that was perfectly fine by me given the time that I had. Again, just nice to get out again.

This weeks ride was one where I had gone through a guilt complex over the weekend. There was one particular day where the weather was just right, the rare kind of day where the sky is blue and quite warm after a few cold, frosty days and nights. So, I decided that this Monday I was going to go out on the bike regardless.

The ride started off in some very fine rain, temperature quite cold (no idea on what number) and I was kitted out minus the arm warmers and a new jersey courtesy of Decathlon (their long-sleeved team jersey) and for the second time of wearing have found it to be an excellent buy. The waterproof was on, but that came off after about 5 miles (this routine of on/off happened 3 times during the ride as rain showers came and went.

It was quite interesting as I went along towards Chorley because I was still quite clueless as to which route I was going to take…. every key point was eliminated until it was decision time as I passed the hospital at Chorley. Do I go left, straight ahead at the round-a-bouts or go through some of them off towards Weeton etc?

I plumbed to aim in the general direction of Southport going via Croston and back homeward via Rufford. If you find yourself in Croston, I must say it looks like a place I would want to live, here is a link to the Wikipedia page for it:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croston

The roads flatten out and remind me of Lincolnshire in many ways, and a nice contrast to get the average speed up! I then turned left and headed towards Rufford Old Hall on the A59, which belongs to the National Trust. I can definitely recommend calling in here as it has some nice gardens and a cafe which is not too badly priced…. I shall remember my membership card the next time! Then it was for a short stop at one of the two marinas called St. Mary’s Marina. Again there is a really nice brasserie there that serves massive pieces of really nice cake! I was starting to feel a bit on the tired side by the time I got there and pulled over for 15 minutes or so eating some of the grub I had brought with me.

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I then went off towards Parbold which has a dirty great big hill to get over – one of my challenges later on in the year, so I decided to take the shorter and still hard climb to the left after Grimshaw Green and up a lane called Bannister Lane and predictably High Moor Lane. Now this is where things caught up with me, I knew it was going to be hard for me this time as the temperature was dropping and I struggled to get up and over. At this point the sky was beginning to clear and from part way up the climb looking back I could see layers of fields and mist that were gradually turning golden the longer I looked…… the sun was getting lower and so was the mercury.

Standish was the next place and up a short but hard climb that was Rectory Lane. Now when I started this bit I was wondering how I would fair, bit I got to the narrow bridge that crosses the canal in reasonable condition and slogged the rest back home.

Looking back on the ride, this was the first time the cold had really got to my legs. As I progressed I found myself struggling due to the cold and despite leg warmers. I got off the bike with my legs really aching, so a hot bath was in order……. 38 miles covered (the furthest of the year) and when I looked at Strava I was shocked to see so many good times towards the latter part of the ride despite me being convinced that it was the slowest!

Next job for me is to give the bike a good clean before the next ride…….. love it!

Steady away……

Last Monday was one of those days where I decided to respond to the guilt trip of blue sky whilst it being a bit on the cold and icey side. I made another decision to go out on the bike earlier in a bid to finish the ride as it was warmer so I set off with all the gear on including cycle shoe covers and headed off towards Blackrod with a list of possible routes going on in my head and not knowing which to choose.

It was decision time when I got near the railway station traffic lights…. do I go right and up Sheephouse Lane or do I carry on towards Chorley. Well, the first choice got the better of me and I headed towards Rivington and my climb up Winter Hill.

All was going well, plenty to drink, nice steady pace, a few vehicles being sensible…. so far so good. I was then coming to a point which is a bit of a measure for me….. a tree on the right and as I was getting to it I hear a larger than car vehicle coming up behind and sounding cautious…… I decided to head slightly to the left to encourage him to go by but I didn’t realise that the water on the road wasn’t water but black ice…… Houston, we have a problem….. my speed is really slow at this point and I have a single picture appearing in my head – me falling into the path of the vehicle if I as much as try to pedal whilst on the ice…. or bale out intentionally to my left, which I did in a controlled thud on the road with a grass bank.

Clearly the van driver was thinking before I was, and he stopped about 5 yards past to see if  all was okay which it was by giving him a wave and a thumbs up….. pleased that he stopped though.

I got on again, carried on over the top and then encountered crushed ice from some casual water on the road in a dip….. steady away, keep a straight line, no pedalling…. and negotiated it with caution but no problems….. Having said that, I still had a fair bit of down hill to go on some pretty shiny surfaces which mean’t I had the slowest downhill segments probably in the existence of Strava!

The rest of the ride was nice and cosy though…… not too cold homeward after 31 miles.

Yesterday was a different story, clear blue sky, sunny but no frost to slip on! Again the same approach to route choice. This time I headed towards Chorley and towards Standish via the nearby villages. A steady away ride, warmer and pretty enjoyable as well. Just before Standish I came across a bloke walking a chocolate Cocker Spaniel….. had to stop for a chat, so I did before heading off again and clocking up a comfortable 31 miles again.

So, clearly my riding opportunities are not as intended as I near year end, but I am quite happy to just get out instead of grinding out meaningless miles. I suspect there won’t be a chance next week after my long weekend at work starting tomorrow night, a trip to Norwich to collect our youngest and then it is Christmas weekend where I am working the Friday and Saturday nights in the homeless hostel. Hey ho. Will let you know if that is how it works out.

Have a good, safe Merry Christmas everyone. Don’t fall over too often!

From <https://wordpress.com/post/cyclingoutandabout.wordpress.com>

I’m back….. honest.

Last few weeks have been a bit busy to say the least….. but I am back. Work, a trip to visit our youngest in Norwich and just not being able to find the time to get out on the bike has been one of those periods that I suspect/sure we all go through living in this crazy world of busyness……. and now we are running up to Christmas.

On a day to day basis I juggle my time to try and squeeze in a 3 hour spot for the bike ride, but I have to admit, I have also been feeling guilty at leaving our black Cocker Spaniel when I do……. he doesn’t bark, he doesn’t wimper, he just goes into his bed when asked and just stares….. and stares….. and stares. He is a dog that wants to be with us both all the time, he is fun, crazy and far more, but it isn’t easy leaving a dog that never complains!

Having said that, I have managed to get out twice this week and do a familiar route but in reverse. I have set out to do it this way around for a reason….. there are less fast down-hill sections and I get a chance to look around a bit more. Here is the 29.8 mile route:

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As always, the route resembles the exact opposite of flat, and I love it! Monday’s ride was in gorgeous sunlight and clear, blue sky, and I actually stopped to take a few piccies with the mobile phone. You probably don’t realise what a challenge that is for someone who was involved in photography for 9 years in the RAF, but a hobby became a job, and when I left in 1989, it took a long time for me to take any photographs since then (2 holidays to Italy and holidays in Cornwall  walking a dog).

The first one is a selfie in the general direction of Preston from outside Abbey Village… I must stress, you will not be seeing many selfies, I have disowned people on Facebook for posting what seemed like nothing more than perpetual selfies……. I hate the word as well!

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There I am, togged up in some warm stuff, all purchased recently. The ears definitely needed to be kept warm as you can probably imagine…. . The second picture is from the same location, but this time looking towards Tockholes…..

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and the next is looking towards Belmont and Winter Hill later on in the ride. This section was a lot colder as I was constantly in the shadows.

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I did the route today, and despite it being dull, damp and waiting to rain, it was still a pleasure to be out there. It gave me a chance to try a variation or two in cycling kit as well. On Monday it was 2 base layers, short sleeve jersey, arm and leg warmers, neck warmer and winter gloves…… today it was warmer so it was one base layer and overshoes in case the wet stuff started to fall. On both days I have felt comfortable. The Endura jersey is a slightly thicker one than my others but not enough to be called a winter jersey by any means. I think my next items to consider to buy will be either/or both a gillet or a genuine winter jersey/jacket. Mainly because my core from the waist upwards does get quite cold.

I wonder what kind of mileage and ride frequency I will conclude the year 2016 with? So far I have done 53 rides covering 13,11.8 miles and climbing 65,440 feet, and whilst I have been writing this I have been multi-tasking and decided to look at the ‘Training’ part of Strava…. more stats to play with!

Just looking towards the weekend (I work nights on weekends), Sunday is a possible maybe for a good short ride, but the plan is to get two rides (maybe short ones) in before my next long week-end at work in the emergency homeless accommodation…..

It will be interesting what my fitness levels will be like later in 2017 when I hope to break the 50 mile or better.

See you soon.

 

Yesterday’s ride….. Winter Hill again.

I have been rather fortunate to have had a run of decent weather on convenient days. For that reason, I looked out of the window in the morning and decided that I was going to give the hill from Rivington to Belmont a blast again and then decide where after that. Time was a little against me as my Cocker Spaniel demands a walk at certain times (I am convinced he is more of an INTJ than me). So off I went for the third time since 19th October.

Blue sky above actually had me doing some blue sky thinking. I set off to do the route clockwise and as I went along I spent a fair bit of time thinking of how I was going to make best of these Autumn/Winter rides so that I can hit the road pedaling when the good weather kicks in. Sheep House Lane is a good measure of how fit a person is, hence why so many cyclists can be seen (they all seem faster than me but I think that is all show when they realise there is somebody around!)

Today was a little bit different from the previous trips though. Today I was sporting winter neck warmer, some clear glasses and some gloves to keep the extremes warm – all courtesy of Decathlon and very nice indeed!

This climb was a little bit harder this time, but I managed to still do it without suffering too much. Part way towards Belmont is a visible reminder of how dangerous this road can be (I mentioned why in a previous post):

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A cyclist was killed by a motorcyclist at some point in the last couple of years at this point, a blind bend where car and motorbike owners like to test there lack of racing skills all too often. I tend to leave the weekends alone along here for that very reason. I have had two motorcyclists blast by my right shoulder missing me by inches over the last year.

After stopping briefly I continued towards Belmont which you can just see in the distance:

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I had a choice when I got to the T-junction, and decided to limit myself to around a 20 mile ride and decided to take a right homeward. Whilst doing so, I came across a cyclist with his bike upside down and did the courteous thing offering help, but he was fine. He had his inner-tube ready for the 2nd time of his ride! So, off I went towards Lostock for a change and home.

I don’t know if it counts as a proper warm down, but a steady walk complete with dog finished off the afternoon before some rain …… good timing!