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:

capture

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!

A Ride, Thoughts, and Planning for 2017

I have read a few articles recently and have been thinking how to get the best of bike rides during the cold and wet stuff which is pretty much upon us. In general I have a leaning towards the obsessive in what I take on, so getting a balance is pretty important, especially when the daylight window is decreasing and yet my bike riding has increased.

My weekly timetable errs towards morning/early afternoon rides and I have a great choice in the kind of riding I could do within reason. To the west I can ride on flat, windswept roads , and to the east I can go for the climbs and quick descents (I don’t particularly fancy quick descents on wet pot holed roads though). I also have a choice in duration, but generally I would like to stick to a ride of over 2 hours but less than 3.

The questions I have been asking myself are:

  1. Quality over quantity?
  2. Ticking over miles or pushing?

Of course these questions will be dictated by what I am wanting to gain from cycling. I enjoy just getting out in the elements and the challenges it brings by doing so, but I also have a fitness motivation. I want to be able to do the miles I already do better and with that faster. I want to see improvement and gain some achievement. I also want to break the 50 barrier (preferably on a regular basis) and that would also mean upping my average speed over all terrains.

With all of the above in mind, I am going to try and do rides that are quite specific, improve my food intake and gain those marginal gains that Team Sky seem to be famous for. Strava is going to be invaluable for measuring and developing challenges and identifying those segments to concentrate on. I am also very conscious of becoming obsessed with number crunching instead of enjoying, so I am going to be determined to get the phone out more often and take photographs of my travels.

So, there are a few big ideas thrown in there, yes, I am even considering a sportive as a concluding target to aim for, and I have wanted to do a C2C for a while now. You never know, they might happen!

This week…… so far.

Wednesday was a good day. Usual morning walk in the park, it was unusually sunny but with a bit of a breeze considering the strong winds and downpours the days before. I decided that I was going to get out on the bike and make the most of the opportunity whilst I could.

I rushed around getting my kit sorted whilst still trying to decide what kit to wear…… short sleeve, base layer with arm and leg warmers? Thicker long sleeve with base layer and leg warmers? Gloves…… Regular fingerless or Thinsulate warmies? I went for the long sleeve and warmies with leg warmers…… thankfully not looking like a Jane Fonda video in the ’80’s!

I then made another decision (steady!)….. not a lot to eat, just a banana, whole meal bar and some water before a really strong coffee….. and out I went. It felt chilly at first but the temperature levelled out and things were good. The sun was still sunny.

I decided to do something a little bit different on this ride even further….. tackle the climb from Rivington Barn, over the top and to Belmont. I would decide my route after that depending on how badly I felt as I was sure I would need more food inside me to do my regular route from there.  Anti-clockwise I go:

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In the past I have done this route usually in the opposite direction but it has been one of my challenges and markers for how fit I am by doing it the hard way. I find the road surface pretty dangerous when vaguely damp, and you get a lot of boy-racers out on motorbikes and weekend soft-top drivers. Strava says it is a combination of Cat 3 and 4, which is interesting. Do these numbers match a unified scale of silliness up hill? I managed to find something that explains all: http://sportivecyclist.com/strava-mapmyride-cycling-climb-categories/.

So, uphill I go at a nice steady pace, knowing that it is usually more than a challenge to get to the bad left hand bend, let alone the steep bit immediately before and after. I stayed focussed on the road a few yards ahead of my front wheel and just kept a steady pace. I got up to a particular tree which I use to measure things, and the next thing I know I am with 10 yards of the steepest bit and still sat in the saddle! My morale was high, and I stood out of the saddle to negotiate the steepest part and realised that I had done it without too much trouble….. all is well with the world, my world anyway!

Below is the section:

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There I am in the table ….(not saying where!). Clearly there are a number of people who are a strange genetic mixture of sheep, mountain goat and human……. but then again we are in Lancashire, which is nearer to Wales than good old Yorkshire.

I decided to drop down to Belmont and continue towards Abbey Village instead of the Tockholes turning and loop around from the M65 roundabout to Wheelton, Chorley and home.

I was actually quite shocked how good I felt all the way around. Was it the time of day? Do I consume too much food before a ride? Was it just one of those days? I am not sure, but when I got back and looked up segments on Strava, my times were okay, some PB’s but not that many really and yet it felt so comfortable, pretty fast and enjoyable. For me it is in the challenge without obsession with stats and the enjoyment of getting out and about. Mission accomplished.