Flat is Dull

I seem to have broken my resolve to post regularly on here after my weekly rides. I blame the weather. I had a few weekends riding was awful. Either didn’t get out or it was the worst day I’ve ever had on a bike.

The Big Red Ride run by Mansfield Road Club is a popular event with the club I ride with, so I was talked into doing it. The ride itself is a 100km flat ride round north Nottinghamshire. Not really my thing. But it was a chance, with ride in to the start and home again after, to get a 100 mile ride in to early in the year, and ride with my friends in the club.

Of course then it rained, there was wind, and the temperature (excluding wind chill) was barely over freezing. 4 degrees. urgh.

I got dropped accidentally due to a largish group, traffic and a nasty headwind and spent a while solo before matching up with some other riders from the club at a slower pace. I rode on the front of that group mostly, in the wind, in the rain. Freezing cold. No hills to warm me. It was miserable.

I got back to the start, caught up with my friends. Had a coffee and cake before riding off home. Andrew was kind enough to wait for me and make sure I was ok riding most of the way home. I was ok. Just miserable. The cake got me moving again. I’d not been able to eat as my hands were too cold to change gear, let alone fumble food out of my jersey, open it and eat.

Swore off flat rides after that.

In revenge, I took a group out to ride my route titled Evil. I get a lot of stick for being a sadist and only plotting evil hilly rides. I originally put Evil together as a joke. It was 50 miles with 7,500 feet of climb. Very vicious. But then we decided it had to be ridden. Some Martins (three), Jon and I rode it last year and I had a brilliant time. It felt great. The route went out through The Strines to take on Pearoyd Lane, one of the Hundred Greatest Climbs. The Strines is just beautiful. Pearoyd is tough but rewarding.

So we did it again this year, tweaked slightly to allow a cafe stop. We had a bigger group, which I thought was great, seeing my enthusiasm for hills spreading to more riders, some of whom used to loathe hilly rides.

Again I loved it. The fact it was 10 degrees, not 4, and the sun came out and the rain stayed away helped. But hills are just so satisfying.

Got home, sorted out my ride and saw that on the Hundred Greatest leaderboard I’m in the top 10% sitting at four hundred and something out of over four thousand riders.

That’s got me buzzing to get more of the 100 ticked off, and get some better times on segments I’ve done before.

But this weekend, I’ve got to go do a flat ride, because of a club event ūüôĀ

New Hills – Nearly Always a Good Thing

Today, we arranged a group ride outside the club, to go a bit earlier and a bit further and a bit hillier than a regular club ride, with the group of us that rode TOTH and will be riding Shropshire. We had a few people who couldn’t make it, but it was a good group to get together.

I’d plotted a route that took us into The Peak a route I rarely go, plus along a couple of new roads I’d never tried. There aren’t many of them and even less that go up hill. But one of these looked like a good hill.

Of course, I’d been a bit rushed in the week and hadn’t checked streetview to see if it was a proper road.

It did have Tarmac all the way along it, and mostly you could avoid the potholes. But it may have been a¬†bit muddier than is sensible to ride. But we got through it, and up it. Most of us missed the main segments due to a puncture we all stopped to encourage. But it was a nice steep hill. One I’ll plan to re-visit after a good long dry spell in the summer maybe…

We also hit a few more hills I like to climb. Stanton in the Peak is a nice little climb. Steep to start, with a nice extended finish. Froggatt is a good long persistent climb, as is Long Rake.

It was a great ride, brilliant atmosphere riding with that group as always. I think I need new front brake pads now though…

Big Ring VR

A few winters ago I tried a training plan from The Time Crunched Cyclist book. While getting on the Turbo through the winter improved my fitness, making myself slog through a dull turbo session, even one where I was having to hit hard numbers, was tough. It was really hard to hit the numbers too. Keeping going through 5 minutes of pain was just not working for me.

After I got knocked off the bike last year I was desperate not to lose my fitness levels. So I got on the turbo with Zwift. That made for me all the difference. I can ride hard up a mountain for 20 minutes. I can take more pain for much longer when there are bends, ramps, dips and other riders to blast past. It’s been working well for me.

But I got a tweet this week that I checked out:

This needed looking into. BigRingVR are offering an alternative Virtual Reality training option. This one provides streaming videos of iconic climbs which sync the gradient to your turbo, if you have a zwift capable turbo that is.

I figured I’d check it out, because there are some climbs on there I’d just love to do for real, include L’Alpe D’Huez.

The app is in Beta. It’s not as user friendly as Zwift, but they tag their site with user experience focused. I don’t know where they are with their plans, but I think the app needs some work to attract the masses as it’s a bit techie to get started on. Having helped a few club mates get going on Zwift. They’ve got a way to go on that.

Anyway, no bother for me to get it set up and ready to go. I warmed up a bit on Zwift as it looks like all the climbs are pretty much straight into the main course. And a 8.8 mile climb felt like I should warm up.

It works. I was engaged. I had no problem with getting myself to stay on the trainer for the 1hr 7 it took me to complete the climb. There are options to ride against opponents loaded from TCX files (race your own ghost?) but no other riders on the route with you, except from the camera footage they use for the climbs.

The footage was really good high quality footage, but, it’s shot as a vehicle rides a constant speed up. I was slower than that, so everything seems to be in slow motion, which is a bit odd, with a few jumps where they got stuck in traffic/at the road works. But there were other riders to try and catch, and I did. But no idea how hard they were riding, how fast they were. The details in Zwift really helped me there.

Of course, if you’re using real footage, that’s inevitable. But, it just doesn’t feel as natural as the virtual world of Zwift.

Also, as the camera was fixed,¬†the view doesn’t look into the corners like you would in the real world, which felt constrained at points.

Still, it was good, kept me engaged and riding. And it’s in Beta so who knows where it will be when it’s finished. One to keep an eye on as an option.

There are however other similar products out there already. They’ll all have the same weird slow motion experience or not ride at your actual pace. That’s inevitable. And perhaps their UI is even less user friendly. I might check a few out.

I think I’ll have another go at BigRingVR during the week. See what another climb is like and if I can track down a TCX partner to race. But I think Zwift has the edge with other real riders, and the world moving at the right pace.

Pretzel Club

The plan for this morning was to head out into the Peak again for a good ¬†hilly ride. The forecasts I’d seen were for a nippy start and rain kicking in later in the day, but for me, was good enough to think I could get out, ride the route and probably only get soaked for the last 20-30 miles.

Which for me, seemed a fair deal.

Unfortunately, it had been wet yesterday and when I got up to walk the dog I saw that my road had been replaced with an ice laden death trap. And the next road. The next road after that is gritted, but, was still not great.

A new plan was needed.

Matt had mentioned that he was going to ride the Pretzel. This is the uber-segment on Watopia. It takes in both the KOM and Epic climbs as well as the Sprint in both directions and is just over 40 miles long.

The idea of riding that far on the turbo wasn’t a nice one. But it’s there, the Pretzel is a challenge. And that’s enough to get me interested.

I got the garage set up and got on the bike to ride. Mat joined in a bit later, then Darren and JPW. Pretzel club was rolling. A bit of messaging between us to keep us motivated on our individual quests.

Darren quit. Because he’s a quitter. Says he’s got a cold. Some excuse. Matt suffered a Strava crash throwing away most of his ride. JPW took his usual breaks…

It’s done though. I rode the whole thing, my official segment time 2:31:56 and I have no intention of ever trying to improve it! 60-90 minutes is a decent Zwift training session. And mentally do-able for me. It’s so much better than any other indoor training option for keeping me engaged. But not for 2:30. Well not again anyway. Challenge ticked off. Back to normal turbo and hoping for better Sunday weather!

Testing the Legs

So the January Spanker was the first proper ride of the year. I was on the heavy bike with the fast guys so I was slow. I felt strong. But I was lagging behind constantly. I needed a proper test of my fitness. Needed a proper chance to assess how I was on the bike in the depths of the winter fitness slump after not having been able to ride properly since the accident in August.

This was a tricky one. It had to be the Peak District to get a real test. But I didn’t want to start hitting the 100 Climbs. As it was January, there was a risk of ice making roads dangerous.

A bit of thought and poking round with Strava Routes came up with a loop that took in some tough climbs, to give me a test, mainly on bigger roads that I hoped would be well gritted and travelled enough that I’d be safe on the bike.

I prepped the good bike to. The light weight carbon bike. Took it off the turbo, fitted the non-turbo rear. Reindexed the gears. Cleaned and lubed the drive chain. Fitted lights, saddle bag with the right spares. Made sure I was all set.

Sunday came and it was cold, very cold. So I layered up in my finest winter gear, loaded the route and set off to meet my mate.

I think I got the layering about right. We hit snow, rain, sleet, hail and rain. Occasionally it was dry too. It wasn’t too awful out. It felt great to be out riding in the Peak in not-the-greatest weather. Tough. Rule #9 applied.

After the boring bit (with hills) riding out to the real Peak, we had a good cruise across the top of Froggatt before dropping down to Hathersage and steaming along Hope Valley to Bradwell where we hit the climb on the road to Tideswell.

That’s a good road to ride. Starts stead, building the climb, kick and a drop before that final slog to the top. Often a bit busy with traffic, on a cold wet January Sunday it’s quite empty. Felt good. Smashed up it.

We dropped down to Miller’s Dale, which is a nice cruise down, before climbing out via Priestcliffe. Again, good steady climb. And across to Longnor.

There’s a brilliant cafe at Longnor, but we were on a no-cafe-stop ride. No fannying around. It’s winter. Get the hills ridden and get home.

After Longnor is one of my favourite Peak District climbs. Crowdecote is half a mile. It’s steep. It has hair pins. It’s a beautiful place. That was shrouded in fog and drizzle this week.

I got my 4th best time up there. Which I thought was great going for January. My legs were starting to try and attract my attention by then though. Hope to set a PR up it in a few months, on a nice day. I do love that climb.

Cracked on from there, back to Bakewell, Bradwell and then using Owler Bar as the best option to climb back out of the Peak. I paced steady up that. Save what was left in the legs.

It was just great getting out for a proper ride. At points, when the snow was light and proper snow, settling on the edges of the road and fields, it was magical. At others, like the hail facial tattoo, it was a bit grim. But generally it was great.

I’m not in peak form, it’s January. I need to keep the Zwift sessions going in the week and work on the fitness. But I’m ready for proper long rides in the Peak. Well. Ready to start building the stamina better. My back is not used to that long on a bike any more and is killing me…

Zwift vs Reality

If you ride a bike you can’t avoid hearing about Zwift. Virtual Reality riding linked to your smart trainer to make that winter training more bearable. For some, including me, it’s a massive win keeping me motivated to sit on my turbo for over an hour this evening trying to set some new PRs on some virtual hills.

For others, they can’t understand why we’re not out in the cold wet and dark getting killed by winter motorists as well as cold wet and miserable.

But each to their own…

Big bone of contention is that Zwift racks up your mileage and climb totals for the year on Strava, which annoys the hell out of people.

So, should it count? Is it close enough to reality?

I only really care about going up hills, so let’s look at that. First, I remember Ben at Veloviewer.com¬†posting an article about how to find segments you’ve ridden that are like a climb of interest you won’t get to ride. It’s here. So we can use that to find a segment that suits us for comparison.

To save me the bother, Andrew pointed out that Half China¬†is quite a lot like Carr Lane. Which is a segment B&DCC, the club we ride with, runs a hill climb up so we’re quite familiar with.

How to compare? Well I figure VAM is a good one. I’ve only ridden Carr Lane 7 times, which is nothing compared to Andrew who is over 80 repeats. My VAM ranges from 652.4 3 and a half years ago to just over 1000 for my PR and last April.

My VAM for Half China goes from 844 a few days ago to just over 1000 just before I got ill late last year and slumped my fitness.

I’d say that’s a pretty fair comparison and climb on Zwift counts then.

I checked one or two other segments, seems close enough to me.

January Spanker

So 2017 outdoor cycling got underway today with my first real ride of the year. I was planning on getting out new years day, but it was too icy to be safe, so just the one turbo session in the week so far.

As well as aiming for doing as many of the 100 Greatest Climbs as I can this year, for me, it’s about exploring and enjoying being out on the bike. Going new places. That’s part of why I’m tackling the 100 Greatest. It gives me a set of places to go and ride. Ok I’ve been to some of them before, but I want to push the count up. New roads, new places.

The¬†other idea that is on the list, is visiting as many local places as we can with funny names. So today Andrew used his local knowledge of the area to the south of us to route us up Spanker Lane. I’m childish enough to prefer to stop and take a picture of the street name, than worry about my time up the hill. And we turned on the road part way up the main segment anyway!

Which was extra useful, as today I was riding the old commute bike. I’m still wary of my collar bone which I broke last year. So the 28mm tyres and aluminium frame as well as the more upright position make it preferable to riding the carbon fibre bike with it’s 23mm 110psi tyres.

And the disc brakes are a reassurance too. I’ve lost a ton of descending confidence since the accident, with the time off too. So being able to stop better really helps.

But that bike is heavy, it’s at least 3kg heavier than the carbon bike. I need to re-weigh them both as I’ve made some changes and can’t remember what I had on the bikes when I weighed them. But I think¬†with water bottles the carbon bike is 9kg. Wheras with the pannier rack on, the commuter bike is 12kg.

Plus, something had got my gears out of wack and I didn’t want to jinx the ride adjusting them. So my best rear gear was a 28, not the 32 the bike has.

Thankfully this route was lumpy, not hilly. The total climb racks in well over my threshold of 100ft/mile which defines a tough ride, but, there was nothing super evil. Just an unending lumpy up and down. But even so I was slow. I felt strong. Stamina was fine. I could put the power down and push hard and get some speed out up a hill. Just not as much as the fitter guys with lighter bikes I rode with!

I’m thinking next week, a proper hilly peak ride. I don’t want to hit one of the local 100 climbs as it’s too early and I’ll be no where near my PR. But I want to ride a few really tough hills to give myself a good test.

Oh, took me about 2 minutes to fix the gear shift when I got home!

2017 Goals

2016 was an epic cycling year for me. The main aim of the year was the completion of the inaugural running of the Tour of the Highlands Sportive, which is an awesome three day, 300+ mile event with a ton of climbing. I also aimed to hit my highest ever annual mileage cycling. I planned to commute on the bike 3-4 days a week, depending on weather to get 15 miles each commute day, plus a 100km+ ride every Sunday with the club. Unless the weather prevented it. At least 100 miles a week on average through the year.

I was doing great, right up until I did a ride to the coast with B&DCC. That ride was too flat. Not enough hills. I got bored of cycling. 120 miles in I’d had enough with another 20 to go. I had plenty of power left to ride. I was just fed up of actually riding. That led me to deciding to cut back the cycling for a week or two, then start training to do some hill climbs when the season started.

I love riding up hills. That’s my thing. I know that. A big long challenging flat ride is ok, but I’ve done the coast and back a few times so I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a new challenge. I’ve done a 200+ mile flat sportive. That was tough. But I’ve done 200 miles. I know I can just keep riding, if I fuel right. It’s boring. I need the hills!

So the idea was to hit the hill climbs. I know I’m not going to be competitive. I’m not interested in proper structured training, I just like to explore, enjoy and ride upwards. But I’ve done a couple of hill climbs before, they’re a bit of fun. It was something to aim for to get me excited about riding again.

Then I got knocked off my bike by a dog on my Commute the day before my family holiday. I broke my collar bone quite badly, requiring surgery. I did get back on the indoor trainer as soon as I could, to keep the fitness, but it was 4 months before I was fit to ride outside again. This kind of destroyed my cycling year, and got me banned from cycle commuting, as it’s the second time I’ve ended up in hospital as a result.

I need a goal for 2017, something to keep me motivated and excited to ride. I always ride year round, except in the dangerous weather. Rule #5 and Rule #9 are really important to me. So I generally keep going, but I just need something to look for to help that.

We’ve got another three day tour planned for the year, that’s going to be great, riding in Shropshire with most of the group I rode TOTH with and a couple of other good cycling friends. But that’s fairly early in the year (end of May) so I need something to keep me going all year.

I’ve been keen on Simon Warren’s book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, and the follow up Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs for some time. I’ve now ridden 18 of them over the years I’ve been riding. As I live near the Peak District, there’s a good cluster I’ve ridden many times.

So my aim this year is to ride as many of the 100 Greatest Climbs I can in the year. Not just looking to ride ones I’ve never done, but to get as many in as I can. So, I am to complete all the Midlands climbs. That’s easy, I can ride to them all from home. There’s a few Yorkshire ones I can get to from home yet to tick off also. The trip to Shropshire includes a couple. So now I’m looking around to see which other hills I can get to in a day trip with the car. Some of the Lake District hills to revisit, and hopefully the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors could get a visit. I’m also looking at using the train to get from home to somewhere, then ride up some of the hills on the way back.

It’s got me dead excited!

Setting Up Your Garmin for Navigation

You’d think once you have put the GPX/TCX file on your Garmin, you could just ride it right? Wrong. Unless you change a few settings, navigation is a bit sketchy, trying to route you random ways, down footpaths, all sorts of rubbish.

What you need to set depends on your device. If you have a device that supports maps, but only have the basemap and not the expensive Navigation Bundle. You can get free, legal, fantastic maps. See my post on free maps.

Garmin 605/705

  1. Turn off recalculate route, with this on it will shortcut you home. Which is the start. Which is a short ride as you’re already there!
  2. Turn on Settings -> Map -> Lock on Road to keep you on road.

Took me some time to crack that. I had fun for a while, but with that everything is fantastic.

Garmin 800/810

  1. Routing => Bicycle
  2. Guidance Method => On Road
  3. Lock on Road => No
  4. Recalculate => Off or Prompted

I don’t have an 800/810, so I am not 100% sure of this. So if you know better, let me know.

Garmin 1000

  1. Click the Settings Icon at the bottom of the home screen
  2. Select Activity Profiles then select your preferred profile
  3. Select Navigation, then select Routing
  4. Set Routing Mode to Road Cycling
  5. Set Calculation Method to Minimize Distance (though Minimize Time shouldn’t be too different)
  6. Ensure Lock On Road is set to On
  7. Select Avoidance Setup and make sure all options are disabled. Since we are loading pre-planned routes onto the Edge, we don’t want it recalculating the route on us if it thinks there may be a toll, highway etc.
  8. Set Recalculation to Disabled.

Garmin Touring

Don’t know, sorry ūüôā

Garmin 500

It doesn’t do fancy navigation and maps, it just points an arrow. No further setup required.