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…

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!

The Lincoln Blast

Sunday sees the Hill’s Angels hosting a C2C Training Milestone ride. The aim is to ride 100 miles, flat not hilly, because by now, if you’re going to C2C in June, you should be able to ride 100 miles, flat, not hilly. 🙂

So, the plan is to head out to Lincoln, climb Michaelgate, one of the Hundred Greatest Cycling Climbs, have a pint, and cycle back.

It’s going to be windy 🙁