No time to go out

We are coming to the end of a number of projects at work and as a part of this I need to be working for most of the weekend, leaving little time to get out on the bike and train. I’m trying to put out of my head the ‘fact’ I read somewhere that you lose your fitness twice as fast as you gain it. I hope that’s not true. I’m going to try and squeeze as many additional turbo sessions in as I can over the next few days to make up for it; as boring as they are I am so glad I have the option of doing something.

I’m drawing some comfort that Veloviewer is telling me that I have never started a year so well in terms of distance covered on the bike. The graph below is very motivating to me and I’m determined to keep the 2015 line as far ahead of 2014 as possible.

Next weekend I’ll hopefully be taking part in another 100km reliability ride and will be able to get that line on a better trajectory. Can’t wait.

Making Strava last on a long bike ride

Strava is a fantastic service that seems to be ubiquitous in the cycling world for tracking your speed and route as you go along on your bike ride. I’ve been using Strava ever since I started cycling again and it has been great to look at how I’ve progressed. I have a Drybag strapped to the front of my bike to keep my iPhone safe and happy as it tracks my rides.

One problem with using Strava is the pathetic iPhone battery. It would be very disappointing to finish an epic ride only to find that your phone switched itself off some hours before. I’ve found a couple of things that you can do in order to make your phone last:

  • Switch off Wifi and Bluetooth. From the home screen, swipe up from the bottom to view the Control Center. You need to press the two icons shown below to make sure they are off. Your iPhone or the Strava app may moan at you that GPS accuracy may be reduced without Wifi being on but in practice I’ve found that this makes very little difference. One thing you do need to think about is if you use any other Bluetooth devices with your iPhone (e.g. cadence sensors or heart rate monitors), in which case leave Bluetooth on.

  • Turn off mobile data. To find this go to Settings > Mobile. Turning off mobile data effectively takes you off of the data grid when you are out and about. Your phone will still be able to send and receive calls and SMS messages but not iMessage or WhatsApp messages etc. In practice I find that this makes the biggest difference to my battery as my phone isn’t constantly searching for a data signal as I pootle along country lanes.
Once I have done both of these things I find that I can tackle a 5-hour bike ride, starting with 100% battery in my year-old iPhone 5s, and end up with over 70% battery at the end.
Remember that once you have finished your ride you will need to turn on an appropriate data connection again (mobile data or wifi) before trying to upload your data to Strava. You can switch to the settings app (double-click the home button to fast-switch between apps), turn on mobile data and then switch back to Strava before clicking the chequered-flag ‘finish’ button.

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.

Stock car racing

Mid-air rollLast Sunday my wife, Mat and I went over to Bovingdon airfield to watch the stock car racing. My wife and I went at the end of the season last year and I remember giving Mat a call to tell him what a great day we were having as he was planning on moving to Berko at the time. It was meant to be yet another incentive to move here. Well, he and Steph have been here for quite a few months now and I thought it was about time that we paid Bovingdon another visit.

It was a gorgeous sunny September day so we took a big picnic blanket and lots of goodies. The racing really speaks for itself in the photos that my wife and I took. The first time we went I thought it was pretty insane with one ‘destruction derby’ race starting with cars lined up on three-quarters of the total track space. I didn’t think it could get any more crazy with cars going off left, right and centre and on one occasion bursting into flames. But they seemed to eclipse the level of nuts-ness this time with the introduction of a ramp halfway through the day that various cars, some decorated as mice, used to try and flip and roll over as far down the back straight as they can to score points. Unbelievable. I’m sure we’ll be back.

You can find fixtures for Bovingdon here and even rent a car for the next event if you wish!

Jenson Button wins in Hungary!

Fantastic stuff – Jenson Button has broken his duck and had the first win of his Formula One career in Hungary. It was an absolutely brilliant race, the best one I’ve seen for ages, with wet weather, lots of overtaking and some big crashes and mistakes. I don’t think this was a fluke; Jenson made his way up the field from 14th place at the start and was right up there with Alonso before the Renault driver had his drive-shaft failure. Let’s hope he can now go on to be one of the great British F1 drivers.

Congratulations Jenson!

Chloe Catling Cycle Challenge 2006

Dead tyreA few weekends back my wife, my dad, and a few uncles and cousins of mine all took part in the Chloe Catling Cycle Challenge to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust on behalf of Chloe Catling, a relative of mine who has CF. We had a great day out and managed to complete the 25-mile course in under two hours, which I didn’t think was too bad a time.

Jez, the event organiser, had a problem when his tyre burst on the first mile so we all scooted past him while his friends hunted around for a bike shop that was open early on a Saturday morning. The rest of the ride was pretty much problem free. Jez had roped in a number of friends and family to help with registration, signage, marshalling along the course etc and they all contributed loads to a making it a really enjoyable event. It was great to get out and about; I’m tempted to try some more charity rides this summer – watch this space.

Thanks so much to everyone who donated to or sponsored the ride – it’s all really appreciated. If anyone still wishes to contribute some sponsorship money you can do so at the page. Thanks!

See you on the ride next year?

Cycle for Cystic Fibrosis

Chloe Catling Cycle ChallengeSpeaking of cousins, one of my relatives has organised a sponsored cycle ride around West London on Saturday 24 June 2006 to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. My cousin Chloe suffers from the disease and has to undergo a lot of physiotherapy, drugs and spells in hospital – by raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust we hope to help her and others.

If you’re not doing anything on the 24 June why not join us for a ride? If you’re not a rider you can still donate using the page. Every penny helps!

Broomball again

Last night was the turn of our second team to take to the ice at Broadgate for our broomball matches. Things didn’t go right from the start – one of our team members had a slip during the warm-up and did something nasty to his hamstring, ending his evening before it even began. We then went on to lose all four matches! Well, at least it was lots of fun. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to enter again next year.


Broomball at BroadgateI seem to be able to count the years passing by the number of times the ice rink at Broadgate gets assembled and dismantled. A few years ago a few of us from work entered a couple of teams into the broomball competition and this year I thought it would be a good idea to do it again. We’ve got two teams and tonight was the starring debut of The Frosty Balls. The team had loads of fun and although I wasn’t playing it was great to watch. If put up some pictures in a Flickr photoset. Unfortunately they didn’t make it to the next round but they did win one of their matches very convincingly.

My team play next Wednesday from 18:00 – you can catch the games on the fab webcams if you like!

Ashes on the desktop

Ashes on the desktopAt work yesterday morning I received an email telling me that due to the “high level of interest” in the Ashes we would be allowed to watch it on our desktop using an internal feed! Fantastic! This comes at a great time when we’re trying to get our new system live and hitting a few teething problems; it’s a welcome distraction.

F1 at Indianapolis

Well, by now even those not even vaguely interested in F1 will know what a debacle the Indianapolis GP was yesterday. Metro made it their cover story and it was all over the national news. It was quite a shocking event – in all my 15 or so years of following F1 I have never seen anything quite like it. It’s a shame all round – for the crowd who had paid lots of cash to be there, for the drivers, for the fans at home and for the sport itself.

To add my opinion, the blame for the problem lies squarely with Michelin, a view that is reinforced by reading their correspondence with Charlie Whiting at the FIA – see also the FIA’s summary.
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Button takes pole in Canada!

Unbelievable! I didn’t manage to catch the qualifying, but I can’t wait for tomorrow’s race. It’ll be on ITV1 from 17:00 with the race starting at 18:00. Schumacher has also qualified much higher than he has done in recent races, so I’m hoping that it’ll be edge-of-the-seat stuff. It’s been an amazing F1 season so far and the championship is wide open. Who knows what will happen?