Category Archives: Cycling

10 things that I learnt from riding my bike early morning every day for 40 days

This year for Lent I gave up 90 minutes of time spent in bed and got up at 5am every day (even at the weekend). Instead of wasting this time, I used it constructively by heading out of the house and getting in some riding time, on my Brompton, of course.
So what did I learn from my 40 consecutive days of cycling?

1st – It confirmed that I still love the sport, hobby, activity as much as I did when I took it up all those years ago.

Riding my bike
Looking pretty stylish on my bike in 1976

2nd – Early morning is where it is at for me. I love the tranquillity and the pre-dawn chill, and the treat of seeing the sky brighten in the east as dawn approached. #bestpartoftheday

The pre-dawn glow in the East.

3rd – Knowing that I was getting up at 5am, my evening routine was more focused and structured. No messing, faffing, watching pointless TV, surfing the net. Post supper chores were a breeze.

4th – Preparation is everything. Each evening, before going to bed, I’d prepare everything for the next morning so that I could get up, get dressed and get out without disturbing the rest of the family.

5th – The early start meant that there was minimum disruption to family life. I replaced my morning tea making duties with a Teas Maid (one of those machines that makes your partner’s tea and were very popular in the 1970s. They are still available today). I was usually back for the normal morning routine before I was even missed.

6th – Riding early meant that some days I even got to ride twice, which in my book is an added bonus.

Ride number two of the day. Out with the big wheels.

7th – Once I got into work, I felt good that I had already run some oxygen through the lungs. I love my exercise and sometimes get a bit grumpy if events take over and prevent me from doing some. Exercising early in the morning meant that this could never happen and it was always within my control.

8th – Good nutrition helps massively to ensure that the body recovers and adapts to what you throw at it.

Banana powered.

9th – Ride a bike that it low maintenance and makes you smile – that’s why I ride my Brompton.

Low maintenance and lots of fun – the Brompton really can do it all.

10th – Just do it. I used to check the forecast and find the nicest part of the day to ride. Not anymore. 5.15 was departure time, whatever the weather. No procrastinating, no waiting for the rain to ease, the wind to drop, the rush hour to finish. Taking the procrastination option out of the equation make it so easy. I’m sure that I can learn more from that point alone.

The Monuments: Cycling’s five biggest one-day races

Five of the oldest, longest, toughest and most prestigious one-day professional road races in cycling are known under the heading of The Monuments.

For me, I find The Monuments almost as exciting as the Grand Tours (the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana).

Each of the five races has its own special character, whether it be the savage length (291km for Milan San Remo last year in 2016), cobbles, the sharp climbs or the weather.

The dates for the 2017 editions of the Monuments are as follows:

Milan San Remo.  Also know as La Primavera or The Sprinters’ Classic and takes place in Italy on  Saturday 18 March 2017.

Tour of Flanders.  Also know as De Ronde or Ronde van Vlannnderen and takes place in Belgium on Sunday 2 April 2017.

Paris Roubaix.  Also know as Hell of the North, Queen of Classics or La Pascale and takes place in France  on Sunday 9 April 2017.

Liege Bastogne Liege.  Also known as La Doyenne and takes place in Belgium on Sunday 23 April 2017.

Il Lombardia.  Also know as Giro di Lombardia or Race of the Falling Leaves (as it takes place in autumn rather than spring like the rest of the Monuments).  It takes place in Italy on Saturday 7 October 2017.

Action packed and very entertaining, I will certainly be following them all.

 

Lent – what are you going to give up?

Lent runs from Wednesday 1 March to Saturday 15 April this year (2017).   By observing Lent, Christians are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus, who withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days before his crucifixion.  Traditionally, people have given up certain luxuries as a form of penance.

So for me, I’m going to give up the luxury of sleeping in until at least 6.30am each morning and set my alarm for 5.00am instead (in effect, I am giving up 90 minutes of warm bed action).

Giving up some sleep for Lent

Added to that, I am going to drag my sorry butt out of the front door and ride up the local hill, all before I normally surface.  Hopefully, I will see some nice pre-dawn scenes and even some sunrises as we progress towards spring in the northern hemisphere.

Finally, I’m going to be doing all this early morning riding on my Brompton Bicycle – a bike that is one of my favourites and enjoys a mad challenge.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.


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Ride London 100 on a Brompton Bicycle

Iconic bike with iconic background. Both Made In London.
Iconic bike with iconic background. Both Made In London.

Ride London is a fantastic weekend of cycling which takes over the centre of London each summer, and has done since the London Olympics in 2012.  The key event of the weekend is obviously the Brompton World Championships, and well done to both Mark and Issy on their continued dominance.

Brompton outside the Olympic Velodrome at the start of Ride London 100
Brompton outside the Olympic Velodrome at the start of Ride London 100

Another event that takes place is the Ride London 100.  This 100 mile ride starts at the Olympic Stadium, taking a route through London, out into the Surrey Hills and then back into London for a finish on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.  The roads are closed to all traffic, and taken over by 26,000 bicycles.  It is a wonderful, once in a life time experience.  If you think a bike version of the London Marathon, you won’t go far wrong.  Please check out this cool fly through of the route using this Link.

You may or may not know, but I am a huge fan of the Brompton bicycle.  I think that it is a massively capable machine, and with a little bit of extra effort, can easily match the performance of many road bikes.  I also like the reaction I get from people when I ride by them on my small wheeled wonder.  This was particularly apparent on Box Hill, and my calls of “On the right” to get people to pull over and let me pass on the narrow road, were followed by comments of disbelief from the rider that had just been passed.  “Wow, I didn’t know a Brompton could go so fast” or “I’ve just been passed by a Brompton” were the most common.

Box Hill on my Brompton. 295/8564 is not too bad.
Box Hill on my Brompton. 295/8564 is not too bad.

The support out on the road was fantastic throughout the whole event.  The Professional Road Race later in the day obviously draws the crowds, but the crowds were in full swing throughout the event.  And it was lovely to see some other Bromptons out on the route, again showing that the bike is far more than a foldable city bike.  The Brompton, in my opinion, is made for distance, travel, commuting, touring and even racing….. this bike can do it all.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.


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Riding up Mt Ventoux on my Brompton, not once, but three times in a day. Job done.

Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux.  This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.
Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux. This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.

I have been lucky enough to have been riding a Brompton for about seven months now.  I say lucky, because this bike really can do it all, as I hope that I have proved by my latest challenge which involved riding up all three roads to the summit of Mt Ventoux in southern France.

A murky summit shot of the Brompton
A murky summit shot of the Brompton

Some say that Mt Ventoux is one of the hardest climbs in France.  Its brutal reputation was enhanced in 1967 when it claimed the life of the famous British cyclist Tommy Simpson, who collapsed and died just 500 metres away from the summit.  Eddy Merckx, arguably the world’s greatest cyclist, required oxygen at the summit after his battle with the mountain in 1970.  Roland Barthes, a French philosopher said, “Ventoux is the god of evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.”
For me, the appeal of Mt Ventoux is that you actually ride to the summit.  Most mountain stages on the three of the Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta d’Espana) ride over “Cols”, the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks, so you are rarely at the summit of a mountain.  This is logical, as why would road builders and engineers build roads up to the top of mountains, when they don’t need to?  Mt Ventoux is different, because the road goes right over the summit and when you are there you are on the roof of Provence, with no other mountains looming over you.  I find this quite a special feature.
So on a wet Friday lunchtime I got on the Eurostar (a train that goes from London to Paris) with my Brompton packed into the Brompton B Bag.  Once in Paris, I used the Metro to travel from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon where I got on the TGV (a French high speed train) to Avignon.  From Avignon it was just a short journey to my start point in Bedoin.  For me, having been a cyclist for many years now, one of the highlights of the Brompton is the ease with which you can take it anywhere; put it on a train, plane or bus, with minimal fuss and hassle, and have a bike with you at your destination.  In fact, according to both Eurostar and the French Railway Authorities, bikes aren’t even allowed on their high speed trains without prior arrangement.  No such issue when travelling with a Brompton.  Nobody even questioned me, with my Brompton safely packed in its B Bag, which conveniently fits into the luggage racks like a suitcase.  And once at your destination, it is a few seconds to unpack your bike and you are ready to ride – so simple.

Don't tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag.  Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling
Don’t tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag. Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling

On Saturday morning, I set out to ride all the three routes to the summit. My plan was simple:
• Bedoin to the summit
• Descend to Malaucene
• Eat something
• Malaucene to the summit
• Descend to Sault
• Eat something
• Sault to the summit
• Back to Bedoin.
• Eat, shower and sleep!
• Return home
Please excuse my lack of artistic talent, but this was my pictorial representation of what I was going to do.  You will notice that the total ascent in metres was 4400 (14,400ft), which equals a tough mountain stage in the Tour de France.

The plan for the day
The plan for the day

And I have to say that it all went to plan.  I only took one summit shot, as the weather conditions deteriorated throughout the day, going from light drizzle through to thunderstorms with some hail thrown in for good measure.  But actually, the rain had quite a nice cooling effect on the way up and overheating and dehydration were not going to be an issue.
I also stopped to take a photo of the weather station, getting a good view from the ride up from Malaucene.  I could not help thinking that it looks quite like a giant syringe, a touch ironic given cycling’s shady history with doping.

Weather station or giant syringe?  Mt Ventoux
Weather station or giant syringe? Mont Ventoux

And to reinforce the syringe image, I found this poster in Bedoin…

The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux
The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux

I am constantly amazed at what this bike can do.  Mountains, long distance, commuting, travelling, you name it.  This bike can do it all.  With a bit of modification to carry water bottles, I would happily ride this bike anywhere, any distance, any time.

Bottle carriage on a Brompton
Bottle carriage on a Brompton

Yes, it might be slightly heavier than your average road bike, but it is twice as robust and can travel with you anywhere.  Yes, you may get lots of people asking you about it, but that’s what happens when you are riding a fantastic piece of British innovation.  Yes, you might get a few strange looks, but I say “bring it on” and now ask me how far I’m going?  For me, this all adds to its appeal. I have loved bicycles all of my life.  I have quite a few of them.  And do you know what, knowing what a Brompton is capable of, I could probably sell them all and just ride a Brompton for the rest of my life.

#ImPerfect #ThisBikeCanDoItAll
#ImPerfect
#ThisBikeCanDoItAll
Safely home.  This bike is made for small spaces.
Safely home. This bike is made for small spaces.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.


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Volume vs Intensity – The endurance athlete’s conundrum

volume vs intensity

I think that if you are an endurance athlete of any type, to become good at it you need to do it a lot. Someone once told me that you should train as much as you can without doing any the following:

– breaking down
– burning out
– losing your job
– losing your spouse

Most of the science points to the fact that the sheer amount of time you train has a stronger effect on your performance than any other factor. And according to Matt Fitzgerald, in his very good book called “Racing Weight“, the reason has to do with efficiency. He says that a low-volume, high-intensity approach to training will increase your aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), as much as a high-volume, low intensity program. On a high-intensity programme, however, you stop improving as soon as your VO2 Max hits a genetically defined ceiling, which doesn’t take long (hence the success of time crunched, high intensity programmes, seeing quick gains). But, he argues, with a high-volume programme, you become more and more efficient the longer you keep doing it, and so your race performances keep improving too.

The reason the high volume yields ongoing efficiency gains is that each time you take a stride, or turn the pedals, it is an opportunity to practice that movement. The more you repeat it, the more practice you get. This gives your neuromuscular system chance to find more ways to trim waste from the movement pattern.

So I would conclude that efficiency is what we are striving for.  And that comes from practice, and more practice.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.


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Chamber Rachet Multi-tool by Fabric – product review

Fabric Chamber Multi-Tool
Fabric Chamber Multi-Tool

I don’t think that I have done many product reviews, but this latest purchase is really rather clever and I thought that I’d share it with you.

So the product is the Chamber Rachet Multi-tool made by Fabric. I have to admit to liking clever design, and this ticks almost as many boxes as my Brompton Bicycle on the clever design front.

First off is the smooth finish of the Chamber itself….. this means that it will not snag on your expensive cycling clothing or equipment.

Smooth appearance.
Smooth appearance.

Second is the functionality. Not only does it contain a multi-tool with 13 functions, it builds into an efficient rachet T-bar head. Each of the tools also has 3 different grooves to locate it in the best position for the required job.

13 functions
13 functions
And 3 different positions for the rachet
And 3 different positions for the rachet

Lastly, its aluminium casing and overall look is just cool. Who could ask for more? And weighing in at 168g, the Chamber packs in a lot of functionality.

All weighing in at a respectable 168g
All weighing in at a respectable 168g

Fabric also produce a fixed, non rachet version, which is similar design and slightly cheaper.

List of tools/ functions:
2mm hex
2.5mm hex
3mm hex
4mm hex
5mm hex
6mm hex
8mm hex
SL3
SL5
PH1
PH2
T10
T25

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Mt Ventoux on a Brompton Bicycle – Three Times in One Day

All three ascents of Mt Ventoux in a day
All three ascents of Mt Ventoux in a day

So I have been given the go ahead by my other half to go and ride Mt Ventoux on my Brompton in June.  With an opportunity like that, it would be rude not to take full advantage and ride all three routes to the top in one day, (from Bedoin, Malaucene and Sault) and thereby become a member of the Club des Cingles du Mont Ventoux.  So that is the plan.

I have to say that Mt Ventoux is one of my favourite climbs and I have completed it a number of times on a regular road bike.  I wrote about my last exploits on the mountain a while ago.  Riding up and down it on a Brompton bicycle will certainly add to the challenge.

This could be a good test for both mine and the Brompton's hill climbing abilities.
This could be a good test for both mine and the Brompton’s hill climbing abilities.

Wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.


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Strava – Don’t you just love it?

Strava advert

Strava, you have to hand it to them. They recently sent me an email that went as follows:
Hey,
Studies have shown that Strava athletes with lots of followers live longer, happier and far more glamorous lives. Can you imagine being a spry 140 year old, taking KOMs (King of Mountains) by accident and finishing every day in a hot tub filled with champagne and gold coins?

We know everyone is different, so here’s a menu of pre-written emails to get the ball rolling. Fair warming: some are almost as absurd as this email. Thanks for spreading the word.

Then I was able to click on any of the five options and send them out to friends.

Option 1. COMPETITIVE.
Title – I’m so much faster than you! Prove me wrong on Strava.
Text – Hey, When you’re ready to ride with the big dogs, you should sign up for Strava. It’s a great way to spice up training and get fit. If you join and train hard, maybe in 10 – 15 years you can keep up with me. Give it a shot…. it’s free.

Option 2. ENCOURAGING.
Title – I need you on Strava! It’s just not right without you.
Text – Hey partner, You should really try Strava. It’s made my riding a lot more fun, and I’ve met great people (just like you) and discovered lots of new routes. Plus it’s free… c’mon, just download it! You’ll fit right in.

Option 3. NASTY.
Title – I’m sick of you not being on Strava. Get with it!
Text – Hey, You ride a lot. You talk about riding a lot. “Epic adventure here, hard training day there, blah blah blah…” but none of it is on Strava. Get with the times and sign up already. I’d rather check out your activity in the Strava feed than hear another “you should have been there!” story.

Option 4. NICE.
Title – Please join me on Strava. It’ll be fun!
Text – Hey Friend, I really think you’ll enjoy Strava. It’s the best way to track your rides and connect with other athletes… sort of a tracking app and social network all in one. Give it a try (it’s free) and we can follow each other!

Option 5. IF IT’S NOT ON STRAVA IT DIDN’T HAPPEN.
Title – If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen. Time to legitimize your overconfidence.
Text – Hey, There are two kinds of rides: those recorded on Strava, and those where you thought you were faster than me. Join Strava and show me what you got. It’s fun and free.

Strava logostrava screen shot

So there you have.  And they create really cool little animations of your year.  Here is mine:  My 2015 Strava Adventure

If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

Oh, and if you would like me to live a longer, happier and far more glamourous live, please remember to follow me on Strava by clicking on the button below!


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The Rapha Festive 500 on my Brompton S6L-X

The Brompton Lift to celebrate completion of the Rapha Festive 500, 2015 Edition
The Brompton Lift to celebrate completion of the Rapha Festive 500, 2015 Edition

Since 2010, the Rapha Festive 500 has challenged cyclists to ride a total of 500km on the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This year, I decided to complete the challenge on my Brompton.    This is my journey……

So I am fortunate enough to have a very smart white Brompton S6L-X.  For those of you who don’t understand the S6L-X bit, the S represents the type of handlebars (there are other types available, known as M, P and H types), the 6 represents the number of gears (1, 2, 3 and 6 speed are all options), the L represents that I have mudguards (E is without mudguards and R is with mudguards and rack).  Finally, the X means that I have the extralight version with a  titanium rear triangle and forks.  If you want to have some fun building up your own dream Brompton, their  Build A Brompton tool on the website is very cool.  I added some Schwalbe Marathon tyres for maximum puncture protection, a bottle cage and my Garmin 810 to record my rides, and was all set to take on the Festive 500.

The cockpit
The cockpit

I am staggered by how well this bike performed.  You have to remember that this bike is designed for city riding, its small, 16 inch wheels allowing it to be ingeniously folded into something that you can take into cafes, the office, on the train or on a plane.   My experiences over the last few days have proved that it is a very capable contender for long distance cycling.

I completed the Rapha Festive 500 in five rides, finishing on 29 December (still with two days to spare).  If you are interested in the details of my rides, you can follow me on Strava by clicking on the “Follow me on Strava” tab at the bottom of this post or by clicking here.  Alternatively, you could look at the right hand side or bottom of this blog (depending on whether you are viewing on a desktop or mobile device) to the section entitled Rides.

Ride #1 – 24 December

A short one to ease myself into the challenge.  Just did 51km (32 miles), after all, it was Christmas Eve.

Yes, Brompton's go up hill quite well
Yes, Brompton’s go up hill quite well.

Ride #2 – 26 December

Decided that a nice round 100km (62 miles) would be a good idea on Boxing Day.  Found some new roads that I hadn’t been on before and generally had a nice explore on my Brompton.

Brompton shadow - this bike is capable of anything.
Brompton shadow – this bike is capable of anything.

Ride #3 – 27 December

Rode 81km (50 miles) with a buddy.  He was out on his road bike and was amazed that my Brompton had no problem keeping up.  Infact, towards the end of the ride, I dropped my buddy off and then continued for a few extra clicks, just because the Brompton is so much fun to ride.

Ride #4 – 28 December

The big one.  Rode 162km (100 miles) today.  It’s no secret that I like to ride long distances whenever I get the chance.  I rode all the stages of the Tour de France over a 3 week period last summer (admittedly on my road bike) and have written about how to complete a century ride and what to eat during that ride in previous blog posts.  Today was the day that I was going to test out whether my Brompton was up to the task.  And it most certainly was – 100 miles in 5 hours and 40 minutes is a very respectable achievement.  I averaged at 28.5kph (17.7mph).  It was during this ride that I think that my love of the Brompton evolved.  Not only could it do big distances at decent speeds, it was also comfortable for long days in the saddle.  What is not to like?  I also really like the way you can fold the rear wheel to create a stand, very useful for any comfort breaks on long rides!

Very convenient stand arrangement.
Very convenient stand arrangement.

Ride #5 – 29 December

This was the last ride of my Rapha Festive 500 and all I needed to do was 106km (66 miles) and the challenge was complete.

Oxfordshire countryside.
Oxfordshire countryside.

I planned a lovely route through the Cotswolds and as expected, the little Brompton kept on giving.  I stopped in Bibury, which is a fairly popular tourist spot in the Cotwolds and the bike certainly attracted some attention.  People always want to come and talk to you about the wonderful bike and I had to demonstrate the fold to a number of people.

Posing in Bibury before the crowds arrived.
Posing in Bibury before the crowds arrived.

So there we have it.   My average speed for the 500km was 27.44kph (17mph).  The Rapha Festive 500 completed in style on my Brompton S6L-X.

If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

 


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