Harp Hilly Hundred

The temperature managed to stay just above freezing on Sunday morning and the roads didn’t seem to be icy, so it was with some zeal that I set out at 8am kitted out in winter gear ready to tackle the 2015 Harp Hilly Hundred.

This ride is one of a series of ‘Reliability Rides’ held throughout the winter. I don’t quite understand what that means but I assume that it alludes to the harsher winter conditions and the possibility that your bike might break down. The Hilly Hundred has been run every year since 1954 and (thankfully) at some point was reduced from its original 100mi length to a more reasonable 100km.

It was a tough ride, taking us through lots of hills in the surrounding area—Bison Hill near Whipsnade, Aston Hill near Wendover, Ivinghoe Beacon and a personal favourite of mine, Durrants Lane in Berkhamsted. I managed to get around whist consuming the contents of two drinks bottles, three energy gels and three energy bars and still had room for a massive plate of sandwiches and a pastry that was laid on at the end of the ride.

Looking at the Strava times for the Harp Hilly Hundred 2015 ‘segment’ my conclusion is—just as I thought—that I’m not very good. I’ve never done much group riding before and every time I try and keep up with a group I end up falling behind and dropping out. As well as physical strength there is a psychological factor to it and I much prefer to go at my own pace. The only time I managed to pass anyone was towards the end when riders were suffering from cramp (and I had to stop to help one of the guys out by giving him a spare energy gel as he was on his last legs!)


I’m taking my bike for a small service on Friday. As part of that I will be changing the rear cassette from a 12-28 to an 11-30 which should give me both a larger and smaller gear than what I have now, the smaller being something I think I might need for our long climb into the Alps in May. I am also considering changing the chain rings from 46×36 to a 50×34 which is more ‘roadie’ although I am not sure how much difference this will make to my speed. Any advice gratefully received!

Ice and snow

A few years ago on a very cold morning I went for a pootle on my old mountain bike. Halfway around my route I strayed too close to where the road asphalt met the grass, hit a patch of ice and went down hard onto the floor. It all happened in a split second and was scary because I ended up in the middle of the road. I was so grateful that there were no cars around.

Along with a few cuts and a bang to my helmet I did something to my backside—it never showed any signs of bruising but hurt on the right cheek for about six months.

Since then I’ve decided that going out in freezing conditions is not worth the risk. I don’t mind the cold—you soon warm up when you’re moving—but I don’t want to risk a broken bone or something worse.

The pic below shows that riding is out of the picture today so more turbo sessions await me.


Unplanned maintenance

As I said in my last post, when I signed up to Ride 999 I assumed that the big challenges would be achieving the sponsorship goals and getting enough miles on the bike to be fit enough for the ride. What I didn’t factor in whatsoever was the amount of bike maintenance that will be required in the run up to the event.

I’ve ridden just over 2,000 miles since I bought my bike 18 months ago. The London Revolution and Ride 999 add up to a total of approximately 1,100 miles in the space of just over two weeks. Between now and the start of the London Revolution there are about 17 weeks. If (and it’s a bit of a big ‘if’!) I can stick to the advice and try to be doing 100 miles a week in training now or very soon, ramping up to 200 closer to the event this will add up to 2,000 miles in training alone. That’s a daunting amount of miles and will take its toll on the bike.

@riderstuart has been very kind in giving me a list of things I need to plan for. I’ve also added a few of my own. They are:

  • A new chain. Apparently it is normal to get 1,500–2,000 miles out of a chain and it is obviously better to get a new one before the old one breaks. Mine is therefore overdue.
  • A new cassette. This is the set of gears on the rear wheel and normally you replace these every time you fit a new chain. They aren’t as expensive as I would have initially thought but I do need to think about what gears I need (i.e. a very small gear for climbing up into the Alps) and then whether this would be compatible with the rear derailleur on my bike (I can’t afford a new one of those so I will need to get one that fits what I have). If I change the gears I assume I also need to change the length of chain.
  • Some new chain rings. These are the big ‘front gears’ by the pedals. From my extensive* (*one hour of) research it looks as though you don’t need to change these as often as the chain and the cassette but it is a good idea to do so as they can be very dangerous when worn. This is a relatively expensive component.
  • New brake blocks. I think mine are still okay but I am sure I will wear through them between now and the event.
  • New cables. I’ve already had a rear derailleur cable replaced in the past year and they will probably all need changing at some point in the run-up to the rides.
  • New tyres. I replaced my rear tyre at Christmas as I had started to get punctures on a regular basis. I’m using cyclocross tyres for now as I have assumed these will be better over the winter and have invested in some Continental Gatorskins that I will switch to when it gets a bit warmer. They are meant to be very puncture-resistant and should be better at rolling along the road than the tyres I have on right now.
  • Cleaning and re-greasing of the bike’s bearings in the wheels, bottom bracket and the pedals. Basically, a bike service or two that I will need to plan with Lovelo, my local bike shop.
  • New cleats for my shoes. Mine are a year old and look a bit worn (I’ve lost a couple of the yellow plastic pieces on them that keep the cleats off the pavement when walking around) and I’m not sure they will go the distance between now and the start of June. Hopefully this is something cheap to replace.
  • A cheap spare back wheel, with the same cassette as the one on my main wheel. This is for use indoors on my turbo trainer with an old tyre so that I can try and avoid wearing out my main rear tyre. I’ll make use of my turbo when it is too dangerous to go out or during the middle of the week where I don’t have time to venture beyond the front door.
  • A decent front light for riding in the rain and in tunnels. My handlebars are tapered so it isn’t easy to fit anything onto them and I’ll need to get some advice on what will work best.

If (and only if) I can get the advised miles in I will need to replace some of the components twice between now and the event. None of this was budgeted for when I signed up so I am going to have to do some shopping around and take some advice as to what will fit my bike, be reliable and safe but also relatively cheap!

Lovelo can expect a visit from me very soon…

Training starts here

Since I signed up to Ride 999 I’ve had an anxiousness in my stomach that I haven’t been able to shake. It kept me up most of the night after I hit ‘join’ and hasn’t really gone away. I think it’s down to three things:

  1. What have I committed to?! Will I really be able to ride 900 miles in nine days?
  2. Will people sponsor me so that I reach the required £2,000 that the charity needs from me?
  3. I need to get cracking on training! (I still have @riderstuart‘s voice ringing in my ears from a call we had yesterday where he said I need to be doing 100 miles a week at this point).

Number 1 is done-and-dusted and not worth worrying about. Number 2 is where my friends, family and the Internet comes in. The only one I can do anything about is Number 3. So, in that spirit, training starts here.

I have two young boys of 7 and 5 years of age and like most families like us we have lots of weekend commitments. I am going to try and keep as many of them as I can whilst doing as many miles as I can. So, at 8am I’m going out in this to cycle a long route over to my eldest son’s football match:

Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Although the ride was cold, I soon warmed up. The 25 miles out to football felt great. I had a protein bar, watched 40 minutes of football and got chilly. The 15 miles back were a real slog—my thighs were burning and I was slow and hungry. Clearly I have a lot of work to do.