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 🙁

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…

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…

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!

Lincoln Blast

Purpose of this ride is to get stamina up. On the flat you pedal the whole way. Which is a different kind of energy sapping than riding hills. Plus on a Lincoln Blast, it usually ends up with suffering into a headwind.

Idea is to ride from the usual B&DCC start at the Cenotaph in Bolsover on Sunday the 18th of January. 9am start. Ride out to Lincoln, smash up Michaelgate. Then back the scenic route.

No cafe stop planned at the moment, last few times we’ve done this we just stopped at a shop to pick up more fluids and snacks and cracked on. Depending on the weather, warming coffee may be desired though.

Route on Strava.