Archive for the ‘ Cycling ’ Category

Norfolk Recumbenting

Gentle ride in the country between Norwich, Dereham and Fakenham.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1764858558

Children Cycling Adventures

A recent family holiday to Devon meant we had easy access to the excellent Tarka Tail. For the first time, the kids were really into the cycling.

First we did a couple of full family rides where the 5 year old gave a good account of himself. I had had the genius idea of giving him the Garmin and he greatly enjoyed calling out the distance, which, being km, built nice and quickly. The plan was to go from Great Torrington to Bideford, however, he wanted to go on to make 10k, so that we’d have 20k total: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555934.

He also did an excellent grind back up the 3% “Tunnel Hill” with his mum. A great stoic expression.

The next day we took the path the other way to the excellent Yarde Orchard cafe. The path this way is much rougher with a big climb: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555949.

The little one was not impressed by the very slow building of the km, but he made it and the descent meant the return journey was less than half the time.

Having met some older kids at the holiday cottages, the big one fancied a crack at Torrington to Barnstable. I warned him it’d take a long time, but he was still game. The first 10k he went like the clappers, then the stopping started to creep in. We stopped for lunch past Instow. I was expecting that he’d want to turn back after lunch, but the sandwiches (and cookies) evidently revived him and we pressed on to Barnstable. We made it and I took the lead on the way back so that the boy could take my wheel. This meant far fewer stops and we completed the 45km in just under 5 hours: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555973.

Most importantly, he learned to eat ice creme like a true Audaxer:

The evidently gave him some energy, because we flew up the “Tunnel Hill” and he said “was that it?” at the top!

 

Bad Start to 2017 Cycling

It all seems to have gone wrong at once cycling wise for the first quarter of 2017.

Firstly, there was a spate of punctures. I averaged about one inner tube change every 3 days after managing 2016 with none! In retrospect, I think the rear tyre had worn out as, having changed it, I’ve had no more trouble.

Then there was a strange disc brake malfunction, where the caliper got tangled in the rotor. Not a big deal to fix (new caliper), but a terrible noise on the way into work.

There was also another disc brake problem where the calipers started rubbing on the rotor whatever the adjustment. I called East Street Cycles to boot it in for a look, but the mechanic explained how to correct the problem, so another job done.

In the middle of this, one icy day, I took the old mountain bike to work with ice tyres. Exactly half way through the journey, the chain snapped! I carry spare chain links, but that’s for my normal 10 speed, not the 7 speed on the MTB. Also in retrospect, I think I should have just thrown one of the 10 speed ones in hand hoped for the best, but I thought scooting wouldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t apart from one piece of road (A325 from Farnborough to Frimley) where there was no real pavement.

Having got through all these mechanicals, I was ready for abit of un-troubled cycling. Then without warning something happened in my back. There wasn’t a great deal of pain, but my left leg started spasming like it did in 2015. Unlike in 2015 however, I then lost power and feeling in my left knee. It was a very strange sensation not being able to push my leg downwards. More worryingly, visiting the GP, they told me that because of the lack of pain, it probably meant it wasn’t a trapped nerve, but nerve damage and might well not get better! Not being able to run, cycle or walk up stairs at 37 would be no joke.

Fortunately, the power has been returning slowly. It seems that gentle bike riding loosens up the muscles and helps a little, so I’ve embarked on my own cycle based physiotherapy regimen. Touch wood the improvements will continue. The commute to work today was almost back to normal, so I’m hopeful, though I don’t think I’ll be doing anything “epic” for a while.

Audax 2016 – 200k – Oxford Countryside

For the final ride of my SR series, I thought I would explore Oxfordshire again. A friend of mine (Matt) recently completed Ride London and has been steadily getting into his cycling, so I thought it would be good to get him along for an Audax. Dave also wanted to come along to bookend the SR series.

I almost ended up with no companions as the weather forecasts became more and more dire. However, once I told Dave the ride was “official” he said he had to do it and Matt took it as an opportunity to buy in a ton of wet weather gear. Good thing he did really, because the weather was pretty much as forecast, with continuous drizzle, interspersed with heavy showers. This is the reason that there are very few pictures because the stunning landscapes were continuously shrouded in mist.

The shonky weather meant we “missioned” round the route more than we would have otherwise, so ended up with very good averages and moving averages: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1351766528.

We had an interesting episode approaching Lechlade on Thames, where we spotted a bunch of riders up ahead, clearly in a race of some kind (they were turning at a marshalled “hairpin” to u-turn back down the road). We of course had to race them and managed to pass about 5 of them but were passed by one chap on the TT bars really going for it and for once decided to back it off with 120k to go. While we were among these riders and seeing some coming the other way, we came to the conclusion that they looked rather muscly for cyclists and also seemed to not be wearing enough clothes. I think they were part of a triathlon.

Our only major stops were, of course McDonalds, and the Wellington Farm Shop:

mcdonalds

bikes-2

My only problem was a particularly large pothole, which I hit badly. This shifted my left hood downwards and inwards, which meant the position felt strange and shifting and breaking were more difficult. I was tempted to try to fix it, but not in the poring rain. In the end I decided to live with it and we made it back in just over 9 hours.

victory

Audax 2016 – 300k – Norfolk Circuit

As I like cycling around Norfolk & we were on holiday there, I thought it’d be nice to take in the majority of it on a 300k. https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1324011772

It turned out to be a ride of several parts.

Having woken up at 5:30am and gotten ready, I opened the door to discover that what I had thought was wind in the trees was in fact rain! So, on with the new rain coat and overshoes. The rain persisted all the way to Great Yarmouth, which was a shame as this section was probably the most picturesque. I had a quick stop in Mundesley.

Mundesley

The picture doesn’t really show the rain, but it was sufficient to get into my trunk bag and make the bag containing flapjack soggy!

From Great Yarmouth to Bury St Edmunds was the least pleasant section. It was 50 miles, slogging into a headwind on the A143. Fortunately, it was mostly wide enough that people could pass without trouble, but there were several sections that had been re-sealed with gravel, which made the going even harder and meant that I was occasionally pelted with stones by people coming the other way, not to mention becoming slightly grey from the dust. I had a quick stop for a pasty along this road.

Arriving in Bury St Edmunds was a great relief as this meant I was turning out of the headwind, added to that were the lovely gardens in the town centre, replete with yarn bombing!

Burry St Edmunds

Yarn bomb

The route to Thetford was on nice but busy roads until the awesome section from Elveden to Thetford. This took in the old A11, which has been converted to have large cycle lanes, then a beautifully surfaced cycle path alongside the new A11.

A11 CP2 A11 CP

Of course, this excellent piece of infrastructure vomits you out onto a horrible road into Thetford, but this was bearable, as it was the site of my McDonalds stop!

After lunch I really enjoyed swooping down a section of the new A11 to the next roundabout, downhill with a tailwind!

Thetford to Kings Lyn was un-memorable, though I now know to deffinitely avoid the A10 into Kings Lyn as it was very busy and narrow. Fortunately I had forseen this and planned the route to take a more scenic route into the town. It was busy with rush-hour traffic and I enjoyed blowing away several cycle commuters before stopping for a Subway outside the station (tucking half into my bag for later).

KL

The route around the coast was again very pleasant, including a stop at Wells to eat the other half of my Subway.

Hunstanton Wells

I enjoyed the final run into Plumstead through dark lanes apart from the hordes of bugs that would occasionally attack me!

In the end, I though my moving average was excellent considering the stiff wind. I’m surprised I stopped for 2.5 hours in total. It didn’t feel like that, as I’d been careful not to let any stop drag on and I only really had four sit down stops, which I’m sure were all 15 minutes, apart from the McDonalds. Maybe I should set an alarm, but that might make the ride more of a “mission” than necessary.

Audax 2016 – 400k – Naseby & North Norfolk

 

After the 600k ordeal, I though I’d keep up the SR challenge with my longest solo ride to date. I stuck to fairly familiar ground with a route to Norwich via the fens: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1283758359.

I was pleased with my overall and moving average. At this pace, the 600 would have been a much more reasonable 30 hours, leaving 10 hours to sleep! However, it was definitely a ride of parts. The first 100k or so went well and I was on my normal 100k Audax pace! Then I seemed to hit a cliff and the next 100k was a real struggle, I even walked up a hill before Daventry! From about Oakham onwards, at 200k, things went better and I was able to keep a very  constant pace for the rest of the ride. I’m not sure why it went this way. Perhaps a combination of excessive speed early on (though it didn’t feel like it), then a headwind and choppy hills. I turned into a small tailwind at Oakham and thing flattened out, at least into climbs I could do in the middle ring and descents where I didn’t have to use my brakes.

I hadn’t realised Silverstone was less than a 100k from home, so though the masses of pimped up cars passing me was some local show, but then I hit a couple of roundabouts and there is was:

Silverstone

You can just see the huge traffic jam on the other side of the road going into the circuit.

Around Daventry, when I was feeling at my lowest, I was caught and passed by a cycle club. I tried to hang onto their wheels for a little, but I had no hope and they disappeared up the road. About 15 minutes later, I spied them in my mirror again and the same thing happened. This went on for ages with me passing them while they were stopped at shops or taking other routes. Finally, at Naseby, they were all parked outside a village shop and I was running low on water, so I decided to stop as well. We got chatting and they were impressed with my distance, but I was still amazed by their speed over their 150k club run.

Cycle club

Very soon after this, I had a nice break at the Cromwell monument, bag one more Cycle Quest answer!

Naseby

The area around Naseby was very picturesque, but I was really struggling with the hills and rutted roads. This estate road made me feel like I was on a welsh mountain (though not from the gradient).

Sheep

The ride through the Fens was hard, but decently quick, culminating in my second McDonalds at Long Sutton, the site of me and Dave hiding from the rain.

McDonalds

I still really rate McDonalds for Audaxes. There are lots of them, the service is quick, food is high calorie (if not super wholesome) and you can see your bike from inside. Also, I’ve always found the staff to be really friendly.

The North Norfolk coast was predictably pleasant, with some stunning sunset views (in the first of these, over the Wash from Hunstanton, you can just make out the giant wind farm):

The Wash

Sunset

On a small side road, where I stopped for a “break” on the way to Hunstanton, I found some semi-wild chickens, including this fine fellow:

Rooster

There’s not much I’d change with the route or timings. I managed to have quiet roads for most of the ride (not Silverstone), leaving the house at 4am and getting far out into the countryside by the time everyone had woken up. Also, I was tired getting in at midnight, but not in a state of complete collapse as if I’d had to go through the night. Seeing how wide the A17 was, I would also be tempted to follow it further to Kings Lyn as it’d save a few km.

I now get to add a new line to my speed analysis graph:

Audax speed analysis 201608

Audax Speed Analysis

I though I’d do some analysis of how I gain and lose time through an Audax event against the minimum speed (15kph) target.

After tinkering with spreadsheets for a while, I came up with the unit: minutes in hand per km travelled. So a value of 1 after 100km would mean I had 100 minutes in hand, so 1hr 40.

This is useful measure than simply time in hand, because, if I keep a consistent average speed, the line on a graph will be flat the further I go, whereas time in hand would keep increasing.

So here are the plots for all the audaxes I’ve done 300k or over:

Audax speed analysis

I’m not sure what it means, other than how essential it is to build time in hand early on, when you’re quicker as you’re not going to be able to do much later. This is clearly something we suffered from on our failed Wales adventure. We actually lost time more slowly after 200k than the Skegness ride, but had somehow failed to build much of a buffer early on through the fairly benign terrain of Oxfordshire with a tailwind.