As 2016 comes to a close…

Standard

At the start of the year after a lacklustre 2015 cycling-wise, I set myself the target of cycling 10,000 kilometres in 2016. As it turned out, I managed more than 13,000!

I’ve completed a few sportives in the UK (CFC Sportive, Mad March Hare) and rode the Dunwich Dynamo on a restored 1930s singlespeed tandem. I also completed the Festive 500 for the second time, after completing it before in 2014.

I also managed a couple of trips abroad, seemingly centred around Belgium. I went and saw Fleche Wallonne, rode and watched Liege-Bastogne-Liege and cycled from Brussels to Cologne for a beer festival. I also managed a few cheeky miles in Copenhagen for good measure as well.

I’ve got a couple of sportives already signed up for in 2017 such as the Mad March Hare, I’ll repeat the 10,000km target and I’m working out a trip abroad again. I’m also increasingly tinkering with the idea of doing time trials for the first time in 2017 as a way to release some of the competitiveness without having to deal with crashes. I’ll continue to race indoors on Zwift.

Happy New Year and good luck for 2017!

2016 Infographic Strava Veloviewer

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmail

As 2016 comes to a close… was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Cycling to Work – Commuter Racing

Standard

Being a Commuter and Cycling to Work

There’s definitely a few of us who as a commuter are lucky enough to live roughly near to where they work and are foolhardy enough to brave the traffic to commute into work on our bikes. Out on the street you’ll see huge variation in what people use to get to work. From cheap heavy mountain bikes to the odd person still out on their carbon ride in the depths of winter sliding around on the ice.

cycling commuting clothing

Aside from the steed, clothing shows similar amounts of variation. There’s plenty of garish yellowy green hi-vis on show, clippy shoes, smart shoes (and even one person with clippy shoes without the clips – like having football boots without the studs) and even the odd Rapha jersey for some reason. I’ve already covered cycling kit as a whole here, but the commuter kit throws in a whole new world of possibilities.

Personally I go for the tweed jacket with laptop bag ballast, suited and booted approach, which given it has the aerodynamic properties of a woven sail flapping in the wind makes my ride into work just that touch harder. It’s still easier and quicker than having to get changed more than I need to.

rapha tailored jacket stylish cycling commuter

Commuter Racing

It’s only natural then that we want to defeat the others that we come across on our route, some battles get played out repeatedly at the same times and the same places, just on different days. There are different ‘stages’ or ‘tracks’, the most common one for me in Birmingham is the Gooch Street – Pershore Road – Hurst Street bike route blast, however Broad Street was once a happy hunting ground and there’s a special place for beating people up the hill into Kings Heath.

russell road moseley birmingham
The climb to Kings Heath

Everyone has their own route and points where they come across other commuters, but like all cycle racing a hill climb victory is worth more than simply being quicker than someone on the flat. Especially if you’ve got a laptop bag.

Now there are a couple of unofficial rules, going through red lights is a big no-no and an instant disqualification. Being able to then still pass someone who has gone through one of them gives a solid moral victory however. Gaining a sense of achievement by blasting past someone who is going at glacial levels of slowness is not cool, you’d have to blast past about six for one real victory.

Also overtaking and then going immediately left across their path is a bit of a dick move (it’s dangerous enough when drivers do it). Drafting is allowed, but don’t expect much information coming back to you like you would on the club ride. Their last minute swerve around the pothole could see you hit it for instance. The questionable quality of mudguards also makes this practice disadvantageous if it’s a damp day, as you’ll only end up mucky for work.

cycling commuting hi vis pannier

The Commuter Racer Mindset

It takes the right sort of person to initiate a race with someone they don’t know, who probably doesn’t know they’re racing and is just using a bike as a means to get to work. Hyper competitiveness is a must, a turn of speed is very useful, as is the ability to self-justify this behaviour. ‘I’m just doing it to get to work quicker’, ‘this is good training’ and ‘my anaerobic levels are going through the roof!’

Some races start by accident because the number one goal is to get into town and make that train, despite leaving the house 5 minutes later than you should have. Soon you have lots of overtakes and someone smart who has jumped onto your back wheel that you have to try and burn off where possible.

The dream days are the ones where all the lights are green, all the islands are clear and you can smash it to work in 15 minutes without having had to stop on the way.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmail

Cycling to Work – Commuter Racing was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

A Confession: Breaking some of ‘the rules’

Standard

Given the level of cycling education and interest that most roadies have, I’d imagine that we’re all very familar with Velominati’s ‘The Rules‘. For the unitiated, it’s a list of tongue in cheek rules for all serious cyclists to adhere to. Breaking some of them make you stand out like a sore thumb in a group but many others are harmless.

Merckx and De Vlaeminck at Paris Roubaix

In the interests of honesty and confession, there’s a few I just break without caring, effort and forethought.

The Rules

Rule #1 – Obey the Rules
We’re off to a good start…

Rule #14 – Shorts should be black
Style has repeatedly suggested that black is the best colour. The lesson learnt from the production of Beetle Vale Velo Club kit was that green is a terrible shorts colour – great for you, the view into your inner soul from behind less good.

Rule #16 – Respect the jersey
Whilst I will never been seen in a Tour de France jersey or the rainbow stripes, occasionally people have had to double check that I am not, or ever have been, the German national champion.

Rule #17 – Team kit is for members of the team
Again, I may have the jerseys from when I represented Garmin in 2010 or Cofidis in 2003, alternatively the internet might have been involved.

2003 Cofidis Jersey Maillot Trikot

Rule #24 – Speeds and distances shall be referred to and measured in kilometres
Whilst I can convert between the two happily by dividing and multiplying with 5s and 8s, the British side of me always wins over and miles will always win. Audaxes however are the one and only time the Garmin will actually be set to kilometres due to the sheer barrage of metric data.

Rule #26 – Make your bike photogenic
Many people have seen my carbon repair…it’s not pretty, it looks like a sludge of carbon fibre set upon the junction of the chainstay and seatstay.

Rule #29 – No European Posterior Man-Satchels
I use a huge massive red bag that projects itself out a fair bit, primarily for Audaxes where you want one of everything, just in case.

Rule #31 – Spare tubes, multi-tools and repair kits should be stored in jersey pockets
One action, two rules broken.

Rule #33 – Shave the guns
I’ve seen the video, I know it does actually help but I’m also aware it will eat into my non-bike time in such a way that I can’t make the effort. Plus I’m not married and I have been reliably informed by Tinder’s finest that hairy is best.

Rule #37 – The arms of the eyewear shall always be placed over the helmet straps
Always always inside, cannot understand the justification, cannot comply.

Rule #49 – Keep the rubber side down
All punctures or mechanical bashing is so much easier by turning the bike upside down, whilst remembering to take the Garmin off first. You only do that once, regret the scratches and then remember forever (just like learning to ride clipless).

Rule #56 – Espresso or macchiato only
Cafe Nero knows full well I’ll have a latte post-ride, steamed frothy milk is the reward for getting flogged on Tardebigge each week.

Cafe Nero Latte
Frothy milk goodness

Rule #60 – Ditch the washer-nut and valve-stem cap.
Without the nut the valve rattles around the rim weirdly. Caps I can do without. Fun fact, I’ve recently had a doctor and a Masters student tell me that the cap’s job is to keep air in the tyre.

Rule #62 – You shall not ride with earphones
Yeahh I do this but the absence of Beiber and Carly-Rae Jepsen makes it alright. The carefully selected brand of non obvious indie bands lends itself to credibility.

That’s it.

If anyone actually does actually adhere to the all the rules, they’re certainly not enjoying themselves on the bike and take themselves too seriously.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmail

A Confession: Breaking some of ‘the rules’ was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Fixing bikes

Standard
Bike house

How many bikes in this picture?

It’s been a fairly busy time in the ‘workshop’ recently, with my fixie project finished, my housemate George was inspired to do his own project bike and despite many issues with weird measurements of parts at every step, now has it finished.

Housemate's project bike all done

Housemate’s project bike all done

Unlike me, he went for a hub geared approach which required a bit more fiddling and setup than mine.

My fixie also required some work done on it too, the pedal arm fell off of its own accord whilst cycling down Broad Street and meant I had to cycle home one-legged and holding the pedal arm which was fun. It turned out the nut had stripped the thread on the outside of the bottom bracket, it’s now been replaced by a modern one so shouldn’t happen again.

Taking notes at work how to measure retro bottom brackets for size

Taking notes at work how to measure retro bottom brackets for size

Bike houseBottom bracket all sorted

Bottom bracket all sorted

Sunday was spent tightening up the cables of my racing bike as the brakes weren’t returning and were ‘sticking on’ a bit. A bit of a clean, copious amount of oil and playing with cable tension got it sorted.

All that left was time for a tidy up of sorts ready for the next incident.

For once, it's tidy...ish

For once, it’s tidy…ish

 

 

Fixing bikes

Standard
Bike house

How many bikes in this picture?

It’s been a fairly busy time in the ‘workshop’ fixing bikes recently, with my fixie project finished, my housemate George was inspired to do his own project bike and despite many issues with weird measurements of parts at every step, now has it finished.

Housemate's project bike all done

Housemate’s project bike all done

Unlike me, he went for a hub geared approach which required a bit more fiddling and setup than mine.

My fixie also required some work done on it too, the pedal arm fell off of its own accord whilst cycling down Broad Street and meant I had to cycle home one-legged whilst holding the pedal arm which was fun. It turned out the nut had stripped the thread on the outside of the bottom bracket, it’s now been replaced by a modern one so shouldn’t happen again.

Taking notes at work how to measure retro bottom brackets for size

Taking notes at work how to measure retro bottom brackets for size

Bike houseBottom bracket all sorted

Bottom bracket all sorted

Sunday was also spent fixing bikes – tightening up the cables of my racing bike as the brakes weren’t returning and were ‘sticking on’ a bit. A bit of a clean, copious amount of oil and playing with cable tension got it sorted.

All that left was time for a tidy up of sorts ready for the next weekend of fixing bikes.

For once, it's tidy...ish

For once, it’s tidy…ish

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmailby feather

Fixing bikes was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Mamil Sportives, valuable or menace?

Standard
MacMillan Shakespeare Autumn 100

Stratford’s Shakespeare Sportive 2014

The sportive sector has exploded in popularity in recent years, from minority venture around 6-8 years ago, there is now a sportive somewhere in the country on any given weekend throughout the year.

Some areas of the UK in particular are becoming heavily saturated with events, the South East and The New Forest being the most publicised regions. The New Forest in particular has seen anti-cyclist guerilla attacks in 2014 with nails left in the road to induce punctures. Even the Tour de France isn’t immune from this sort of treatment with 30 riders suffering punctures from a minefield of carpet tacks in 2012.

Dunwich Dynamo

Dunwich Dynamo

Opponents to sportives claim that these events ruin the ‘tranquility of the area’ as well as riders putting other road users at risk with their hellbent focus on completing the sportive with a good time. The New Forest in particular seems to have reached a saturation point where the events are seen as a problem instead of something that happens seamlessly around them.

In fairness to them, they do have a point. In some of the sportives I’ve ridden I’ve seen countless empty gel wrappers on the road, which is just littering the countryside. I accept that sometimes a jersey pocket is missed or a gel is dropped when quickly avoiding an unseen pothole, but the quantity sometimes is too much to ignore.

Start of the Norwich 100 showing the full range of cyclists

Start of the Norwich 100 showing the full range of cyclists

Sportive riders are often a law unto themselves as well, as a club rider I see lots of weird actions by riders in sportives who clearly aren’t used to riding in great numbers. A large number seem unaware of the basic hand signalling of potholes for riders behind for instance which is an easy step on the learning curve.

As such when starting a sportive, I like to be near the front in order to avoid the sorting out process that happens as slower riders drop back and faster riders go forwards – this can lead to riders being 3 abreast or more as some slower riders ride two abreast with friends and create a bottleneck.

Start of the Great Shakespeare Ride 2014 - I'm actually in this one kinda, green kit visible on the left hand side.

Start of the Great Shakespeare Ride 2014 – I’m actually in this one kinda, green kit visible on the left hand side.

Admittedly it’s not all bad. These events do serve a purpose, with money raised for various charities that run them (although this can often be contentious with entry money not necessarily going to the charity you thought), as well as a target for riders just starting out to achieve a longer distance as 100 miles is still a long ride for anyone. Sportives helps riders push themselves and experience some large group riding they may not necessarily do as well the social side that individual riders may not experience. The rides give cyclists a chance to be guided around a route in a part of the country they may never normally experience especially with plenty of events up and down the country now.

There are plenty of obvious upsides to the mass take up of sportives, however it’s clear there is an issue where the balance between participation and fun has been blurred by the selfish focus that only your end time and result matters. This seems to cause or exacerbate many of the issues that rile non-cyclists and locals as individual mental faculties go out the window. On the other hand, putting nails on the road is a frankly stupid retaliation dangerous to everyone on a bike, on a horse or in a car.

There is a happy medium to be found for the entry-to-all sportive event (it certainly exists already in a stripped back Audax form) and whilst I’m not completely anti, I am aware of their flaws. It doesn’t look like we’ll reach a consensus for a while.

GSRFinish

 

 

Mamil Sportives, Valuable to Cycling or Menace?

Standard
MacMillan Shakespeare Autumn 100

Stratford’s Shakespeare Sportive 2014

The sportive sector has exploded in popularity in recent years, largely thanks to Mamils (middle aged men in lycra) taking up the sport. From a minority venture around 6-8 years ago, there is now a sportive somewhere in the country on any given weekend throughout the year.

Some areas of the UK in particular are becoming heavily saturated with events, the South East and The New Forest being the most publicised regions for mamil sportives. The New Forest in particular has seen anti-cyclist guerilla attacks in 2014 with nails left in the road to induce punctures. Even the Tour de France isn’t immune from this sort of treatment with 30 riders suffering punctures from a minefield of carpet tacks in 2012.

Dunwich Dynamo -anti Mamil

Dunwich Dynamo

Opponents to the mamil filled sportives claim that these events ruin the ‘tranquility of the area’ as well as riders putting other road users at risk with their hell-bent focus on completing the sportive with a good time. The New Forest in particular seems to have reached a saturation point where the events are seen as a problem instead of something that happens seamlessly around them.

In fairness to them, they do have a point. In some of the sportives I’ve ridden I’ve seen countless empty gel wrappers on the road, littering the beautiful countryside. I accept that sometimes a jersey pocket is missed or a gel is dropped when quickly avoiding an unseen pothole, but the quantity sometimes is too much to ignore. It’s an avoidable thing that simply and rightly annoys those who live in the area.

Start of the Norwich 100 showing the full range of cyclists

Start of the Norwich 100 showing the full range of cyclists

Mamil riding

Sportive riders are often a law unto themselves as well, as a club rider I see lots of weird actions by riders in sportives who clearly aren’t used to riding in great numbers. A large number seem unaware of the basic hand signalling of potholes for riders behind for instance which is an easy step on the learning curve. It’s definitely a Mamil trait to seemingly ignore everything that is going on around them.

As such when starting a sportive, I like to be near the front in order to avoid the sorting out process that happens as slower riders drop back and faster riders go forwards – this can lead to riders being 3 abreast or more as some slower riders ride two abreast with friends and create a bottleneck.

Start of the Great Shakespeare Ride 2014 - I'm actually in this one kinda, green kit visible on the left hand side.

Start of the Great Shakespeare Ride 2014 – I’m actually in this one kinda, green kit visible on the left hand side.

However…

Admittedly it’s not all bad. These events do serve a purpose, with money raised for various charities that run them (although this can often be contentious with entry money not necessarily going to the charity you thought), as well as a target for riders just starting out to achieve a longer distance as 100 miles is still a long ride for anyone, even a Mamil! Sportives helps riders push themselves and experience some large group riding they may not necessarily do as well the social side that individual riders may not experience. The rides give cyclists a chance to be guided around a route in a part of the country they may never normally experience especially with plenty of events up and down the country now.

There are plenty of obvious upsides to the mass take up of sportives, however it’s clear there is an issue where the balance between participation and fun has been blurred by the mamil-esque selfish focus that only your end time and result matters. This seems to cause or exacerbate many of the issues that rile non-cyclists and locals as individual mental faculties go out the window. On the other hand, putting nails on the road is a frankly stupid retaliation dangerous to everyone on a bike, on a horse or in a car.

There is a happy medium to be found for the entry-to-all sportive event (it certainly exists already in a stripped back Audax form) and whilst I’m not completely anti, I am aware of their flaws. It doesn’t look like the bad Mamil and everyone else will reach a consensus for a while.

GSRFinish

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusreddittumblrmailby feather

Mamil Sportives, Valuable to Cycling or Menace? was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling