Sunday 30 December 2012

End of a year (2012)

Since my last (permanent) audax, I didn't cycle too many miles. I cycled a lap of the TTT 20 route and finished the year by cycling a lap of the Deer Route. Of course, I would have liked to have cycled more but working nights hampered this.
I would like to end the year with a big thanks and happy new year to all those who have followed my blog, especially those who have contributed to it in some way. A huge shout out goes to my dear wife SJ for allowing me to cycle so much and being the best wife and support a guy could ask for. And a high five goes to all my cycling buddies - you know who you are (and those that read this blog know who you are too)!

For those that are interested, I cycled a total of 4,309 miles this year. This was down quite a few miles from the previous year but, hey, I'm a married man now! I started to record my mileage in 2009, and to date this is what I have cycled:

2009 - 3,160 miles
2010 - 5,287 miles
2011 - 5,207 miles
2012 - 4,309 miles ....... a total of 17,963 in 4 years.

My running never really kicked off, but this year I did manage a total of 118 miles.

What does next year hold?! Well, one will have to check out my next post in the new year to find out my plans for 2013. However, I can inform that I still plan to cycle, hope to become a father and hope to keep this blog going. If anyone has an interesting blog they would like me to follow or a link they would like me to add to my own blog please let me know.

Peace out my friends, I'm sure wheel meet again!
Oh, and one last thing.... I believe my cycling fashion has improved at last!

Monday 17 December 2012

Stroud 5 Valleys 50k Audax (Dec 2012)

December saw me complete the Stroud 5 Valleys 50k Audax Perm. This is a ride that I have rode on several occasions now. Each ride is not without incident.

On the way to the start I saw a dead deer on the road. Although kinda seasonal was still very sad. Rudolph must take better care!

Started at the usual Leisure Centre in Stroud and didn't stop until I reached the first 'proper' control in Haresfield. There were 2 information controls before this point but the information required was already in my head from previous jaunts. These first few hills were cycled up slowly and cycled slowly down too because although not icy, was very very wet. The new neo-guard fitted to the front of the forks worked really well and prevented any water splashing up into my face. Totally rated!
Reached the Painswick control with no real bother. Once at the control though, a Londis Shop, had to wait ages for the shop keeper to serve me. Said shop keeper looked very witch like with her aged face, wart like features and her black and silvery hair. She saw me waiting to be served but continued to talk over the phone (probably discussing spells) for an age. Just as I was about to give up waiting she served me but there was no 'sorry for keeping you waiting'.

Was happy to leave the Witch of Painswick and cycle the hardest part of my journey (in my opinion at least) to Bisley. I shot past one particular right turn and had to back track (was this the witch's doing?). Am pleased I conquered the long steep hill to reach control. The Post Office had ink this time around so my brevet card got stamped!

Left Bisley and flew down the descent to Toadsmoor Valley (sounds witch-like don't you think?). Just after turning left I saw an elderly woman who had fallen on the ground but luckily an ambulance was approaching. I think this made me miss my turn. New hills were cycled and I reached Minchinhampton all the same. It was at this control I saw a geezer on a penny-farthing!
The stretch to Nympsfield was quite dull. I often find this stretch quite boring as it's just a slow up hill climb with little in the way of scenery. At least the skies were blue as opposed to their usual grey on this occasion.

The final section always makes up for the section before. A super zoomy descent back into Stroud. No menace cows blocking the road this time either - bonus! Cycled  a total of 59k this time around, 9k was added due to mishap. I think this was my quickest time round in about 4 hours (though admittedly, I didn't stop for lunch).

Saturday 15 December 2012

Not snow much fun ...

Following last weeks fall off in the icy conditions, I decided to not venture outside in the ice this week. The week proved to be frosty for the most part too. Everywhere looked beautiful and white - strange considering there was no snow. A white Christmas with no snow and that put pay to cycling lots, whatever next?!

Didn't feel comfortable not going out and cycling, or 'training' as I like to call it. With that in mind, I thought I'd do a little alternative training. The first alternative involved a run.

Cody and I ran the Handlebar Route. This route was created a while back when I was into my running (with SJ) and when mapped out formed the shape of a handlebar. We covered 5k running over the fields of Studley. Well, I ran 5k - Cody was lazy and would miss out sections. Cody refused to run up the hill to Studley Castle. This was the first run we had completed together for such a long time. SJ wouldn't run with us just because she was 32 weeks pregnant!

My next training session was indoors. Indoor and on a bike! I had borrowed Ron's turbo trainer. This turbo trainer allowed me to cycle my bike (used Scotty, my geared mountain bike) in my kitchen and allowed me to alter the resistance. I cycled for 30 minutes in a high gear and medium resistance and was absolutely whacked and dripping in sweat. Plan to look at turbo training sessions and use this trainer more frequently if the weather remains nasty over the winter period.

By the time the weekend came around, the weather had shifted. Not glorious weather, but not bad and certainly no ice. Taking advantage of these better days, I completed a lap of the TTT 20 route using Florence. My time was slow, but it would have been slower if we did have snow! Hey ho!

Monday 10 December 2012

Kings, Castles, Priests & Churches 200k Audax (Dec 2012)

Last weekend saw me complete the Kings, Castles, Priests and Churches audax. This was a 202k Black Sheep event that I have ridden at least one time before. This time around, I had the company of Aid, Chris and Ron. What was more – I rode using Slinky, my new cycle machine. The map below demonstrates the basic route.

The event started in Tewkesbury, with the official off time being 8 a.m, though riders were ‘allowed’ to start at 7.30 a.m if they preferred. My gang and I were just 4 of 36 riders to start this event. The organiser (Mark Rigby aka Black Sheep) gave us all these bright day/night glow strip things that could be snapped around an arm or leg (or bars and bag in my case) just before we set off. I wonder if he was expecting us to get lost or something?

It was a good start, just light enough to not require lights and not freezing or raining either. The past few days and weeks had seen awful weather and freezing conditions. The roads were wet, but Slinky was equipped with new mud-guards that Chris had fitted the night before. The new guards meant I had to remove my new front tyre (grrr) as a 700 x 23/25 tyre was too fat for said guards. My trusty, gimpy looking 700 x 23 yellow tyre had pride of place back on the front wheel.

I felt a little redundant on this ride as I usually  navigate. Chris and Ron navigated this time. Ron used GPS and Chris used both GPS and a traditional route sheet (mine) that he had placed in his funky home-made route sheet holder. I was not navigating as my route sheet holder had not yet been placed on my new bars.

My new bars (Easton AC 70’s) were great. They were able to offer numerous hand positions and felt comfy and awesome. The top of the bars are flat and my palms felt comfortable resting there. Because the bars were flat though, it meant that there was less room for all my gadgets. I had placed my speedo and Lezyne light on the bars but there was not room for my Ay-Up lights or my route sheet holder. Maybe a GPS unit on the bar stem would free up a little room?!

As Chris and Ron were navigating, I didn’t pay too much attention to where we were or where we were going. Ron and Chris would cycle ahead and Aid and I would follow. The first stretch passed okay with no major issues, concerns or things of note, except Aid’s bag. Aid was carrying a huge back pack full of water, gels, chocolates and goodness knows what else. Am convinced he will not carry the same again! Our first stretch took us to Bromyard. Our ‘usual’ café in Bromyard (the one that serves a hot curry) was packed full of cyclists so we ate at another just opposite. We all ate beans on toast (proper audax food) with egg for good measure. This was swiftly washed down with a cup of tea.
 The next proper control was in Ludlow. We stopped just outside the castle but didn’t stop to eat as the café was busy and Ron and Chris were keen to bounce this control. I ate one of Chris’s flap jack’s though and wow, they were his best yet! Whilst Chris and Ron went in search of a cash-point I chatted with Mary. Mary often cycles 200k events and we had caught her at this control – she had started the event at 7.30 a.m.
 Since I was not navigating, place names just came and went and remembering my adventure has proved a little difficult. Hills followed the Ludlow control, that’s for sure. I think Aid wished he didn’t have his big bag and I bet he had hoped we ate at the last control. None of the hills were overly steep but they did drag on a while. Ron’s wheel (or hub) was making funny sounds throughout and it would only be a matter of time before his wheel collapsed. Aid and I had a sneaky chocolate bar (from his bag!) when Ron stopped to inspect his wheel one time. The graph below represents the hilliness of the ride.
Ron had much misfortune. At one point in the ride an elderly gentleman with white mutton chops (looking a little Santa like) reversed into Ron (acting a little Satan like) and knocked him off his bike. The OAP then preceded to reverse into a vehicle and appeared oblivious to it all.

A little misfortune befell upon us all. A bridge had been washed away in the menace floods that hit this part of the country a short while back. This meant we all had to get muddy feet and cross over a man-made causeway. This was like something from the Bear Bones adventure. We all found this fun really, though a certain few 'others' complained big time (refer to YACF forum).
If my memory serves correct, we reached the penultimate control just as it was getting dark. We were in a lovely cafe called 'The Chocolate Box' in Kington. We all ate different foods, I chose a plough-mans lunch. This lunch of mine was peculiar in that it was vegetarian. The waitress kindly gave me extra baps too which she made a point of showing to all. After much eating we were off.
The next stretch took us to Wormlow Tump, which was such an excellent place name. Cycling in the dark freaked me out a little. We had spotted ice earlier and loose tarmac was difficult to pedal over and now it was dark too! Am sure we all took precautions - my brakes were held tight on the steeper descents. Just before the control, Chris was faffing with his lights, so Ron and Aid carried on whilst I waited for Chris to fix his issues. Once fixed, Chris and I reached said control and awarded ourselves with chocomilk. Poor Aid and Ron never found control and went without!

Chris and I were not sure how far ahead Aid and Ron were and just as we were discussing this we found them. Because they missed control, they stopped to take a photo of a pub for POP purposes. Once a four again we sped off. This last section was not as demanding as the earlier ones and am sure our pace picked up. Ron's wheel was not sounding good. Am not sure how but just before the end, we were down to 3 - Aid had gotten a second wind and sped off. I thought Aid was going to pip us all to the post, but he didn't. Aid waited for us all to rejoin and then we reached the arrivee as a group of four. As Ron turned the last corner, his wheel collapsed. We were the last guys back (I blame Chris ;) ) but we all made it within the cut off time and were pleased with our efforts. 202k cycled, 2 AUK points awarded, 1.75 AAA points awarded and a pat on the back!

ps No one liked my cycling sense of fashion...

Wednesday 5 December 2012


The weather this past week was pants. We all know December is often wintery and cold, but this past week sucked. The roads were frozen over but the fields did not freeze solid, they just remained mega sludgy. This made mountain biking quite difficult.

Fed up with getting a wet bum all the while, I purchased a mudguard for Queenie (my single speed mountain bike). A new Raleigh rear light was also purchased as these were at sale price. With Queenie all made up, I decided to take her for a spin.
As noted above, the weather was pants and I decided a road route was probably my best option. I figured I'd take Queenie around the tried and tested Deer Route. This was the obvious choice really - I have ridden this route all year round, in all conditions. Frosty and frozen patches were present all along the route so I took extra care and cycled at a slower, sensible pace. The few off road sections were great and I liked the sound the frozen puddles made as they were cracked open with the weight of Queenie and I. It was a chilly ride and I should have added more layers. I was virtually home before too long so the cold feeling wasn't too much bother. As I turned the final corner to reach my abode - crash, bang, wallop! Ouch! I was down, the icy conditions beat me. I ripped my pants and had a nice road rash across my thigh and cut my elbow open. My new rear light smashed and even a bar plug came un-plugged. All in all, I was okay and was able to recover the bits that went astray. 

Cyclists beware - the ice is out there!

Saturday 1 December 2012

The 'Mountain' / A New Machine

Visited Aid in Newbury for my first cycle ride of the week. We took our mountain bikes (mine being my trusty single speed) around a route Aid had devised and called 'The Mountain'. The Mountain is essentially a big hill along a lovely stretch of road near Aid's home. Aid informed me of highest points, parachute landings and other bits of trivia surrounding this mountain. Neither Aid or I thought I would be able to beat this hill on a heavy single speed bike, but smashed I did! Ha! Not sure what the gradient was, but fair to say it was steep and one was awarded with awesome views once at the top. Following this lovely view point we cycled along road and towpath till we found a suitable place to eat - a lovely Burger King. Perfect. After much munching we cycled more road, towpath and canal - the canal had burst it's banks and the towpath was under water. Nice ride that covered about 40k.

Another reason for visiting Aid in Newbury was to convert my road bike. We visited a Specialized concept store and essentially removed all the bits and pieces from Cayo (my 'old' road bike) and placed them on a new frame. This new frame was a Specialized S-Works SL3 frame set. In addition, new bars (Easton EC70), new front tyre (Roubaix Armadillo Elite) and a saddle (Brooks Titanium Swallow) were added and 'Slinky' was born. Slinky looked awesome and after new brake blocks were fitted and her wheels trued, she felt awesome too! Plan to convert Cayo into a single speed machine (watch this space, my buddy Chris Hodge has already agreed to perform this operation).
Took Slinky out for her debut ride on Saturday. I cycled my TTT 20 route. Slinky felt like a completely new bike. The bars felt wider and further forward. Weight was noticeably reduced and it felt easier to speed up ascents. My bum felt happy but the new saddle was quite slippery. Felt a slight niggle in lower back but feel after little tweaks here and there, Slinky really will be my dream machine. Completed the TTT 20 route in an average time of 1 hour and 12 minutes. Happy days!

Cycled a total of 47 miles.

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