Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fine Scottish Weather for Cycling

Emails sent mid-week trying to decide on a full group run had lead to a split of folk for Saturday and others for Sunday, so in the spirit of getting more bike miles in, I’d planned on doing both. So Saturday was to be Mark M, Mark C and myself, but Mark C had to pull out, leaving the two us. A rough plan of “40 ish miles” was made, with Mark calculating routes that would allow me to ‘escape’ if my knee injury resurfaced. We met at the BBC building, and headed towards the Paisley road to hit some countryside. We’d barely gone a mile before I showed my inexperience and messed up my stopping by forgetting I was clipped in and toppling over – at least I’ve learnt to fall left (saves the derailleurs from getting bashed) and realised that landing on my gluteus maximus is the best way to go. We soon got on our way, and approached the first hill of the day, a 200m or so ascent around the Glenliffer braes. Up we went in the pouring rain, the wind blowing, Mark sticking with me most of the time to offer advice and encouragement (and a bit of wind protection), but occasionally zipping ahead to get some challange and anaerobic workout for himself. Beyond the ‘summit’ the elements still against us, we picked up the pace a little, and I got some practice at ‘tailing’ Mark as much as I could, but the cross winds and wet conditions were not the best. The view lost in the mist and rain (I’m sure it would be very picturesque if only it could have been seen), I managed a few good stints of sticking to his wheel, but improvement is still required.

Mark was having a problem with his drive train, the chain making an occasional nasty clunk in a worrying fashion and not wanting to switch between the rings at the front, but we forged on to Howwod and then on to Lochwinnoch. Here we hit the second climb of the day, a more gentle incline of around 140m. The roadside ‘watch your speed sign’ picked our speed up as we passed, my regular 6mph climbing pace lit up as I slogged by, Mark flashing up a 12 mph burst. We soon reached the top and were rewarded with a long run down into Bridge of Weir, topping 30mph and making good time, with a fun, slam on the brakes corner to add to the mix. I was after a food break (still can’t eat and ride, need to practice that), so we escaped the rain in a small cafe for coffee/hot chocolate and cake.

mmm cake

mmm cake - free soft focus effect with misted up lens

Refueled, we headed back out, the chill from our damp gear soon gone with a fine pace being set, while playing with the traffic on a busier A-road heading into Paisley. Some stop-start riding while negotiating round-a-bouts and dodging cars – one who decided it was fair game to turn left right in front of me, missed it by inches. The final few miles went without incident, except for a mountain biker who had the audacity to overtake us at the lights, causing Mark to fly off, dragging me behind to ensure we regained our road-bike honour. We split a few miles further along, our homeward routes diverging, but a good 46 miles in the bag, and a decent (considering the weather) 14.2mph moving pace .

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/152687930

My plan for a 2 cycle-outing weekend didn’t come to pass, as Sunday I bailed, feeling worn out, having a slight head cold/ sore throat starting (excuse #145b) so decided to take a rest day rather than push my luck on the main group’s planned 60 miler.

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Krackin’ Kit

Kit 8

You may recall the team kit for the LEJOG ride.  All riders created 2 tops, a vote was made and the winner was chosen – Gio’s red and white number as featured on a previous blog post.

So.  Over the last couple of weeks the team have been asked – get us some sponsors to provide a donation with all proceeds going directly to our dearly held causes – Brain Tumour Action and Epilepsy Scotland.  The bigger the sponsorship, the more prominent the placing on the jersey was the thinking.

Anyway, a big thank you to our sponsors – Profile Projects, DOOSAN Power Systems, The Daily Record, World Challenge, Billy Bilsland Cycles, Adam Laurie Property, The Anvil Inn, Uddingston Anvil AFC, SG Polishing and J Clark Catering.

Getting the sponsors was meant to be the tricky part – not so.  Once the sponsors were in, it was no mean feat getting a vector graphic for each of them that would be able to go onto the jersey and maintain a high level of quality.  In the end, we got the logos required (my Adobe Illustrator skills have improved immeasurably with the logos that had to be created by hand).

Now to fit them on the kit – NO CHANCE.  Kit 8 as chosen was simply not up to the task of bearing the names of all the chosen sponsors in any kind of attractive manner.

So back to the drawing board, integrate the logos, throw the design back and forward to the ever so helpful Lauren at Owayo (still throwing it back and forward a little but nearly there) and voila, our masterpiece.

Not quite kit 8, but a bit of a belter.  Eh no?

Rolling with the Big Beasts

Lat Saturday’s ride was a rerun of the previous week – The Kirkhouse Inn and heading to Aberfoyle and the Duke’s Pass.  On to Callendar and then to Kippen (I believe this hill is known as the “Top of the World?), before heading up the Crow Road and back to the Kirkhouse.  60 miles which allow the team to stick together for much of the way in a nice, fluid train – assuming there are enough ‘carriages’ for said train.

So, a rerun of last week except that 5 bodies were down to 3 for a variety of reasons – me, Gio and Sammy, the hardcore members of the team.

The first 10 miles left the omens not looking to clever.  A strong wind had us blowing early on.  Then the sleet came down prompting Gio to enquire of plan B – there is no plan when riding with the A team.  After 20 miles his words seemed ludicrous with a gentle breeze at our back (always a gentle breeze at the back but a howling gale when in the face), warming sunshine and simply glorious scenery.

At the end of the day, a fine run was had by all with no punctures and no mechanicals meaning little in the way of meaningful copy. A nice average of 16.6 mph, a wondrous For Goodness Shake post-ride and a nice wee bath afterwards.  Very nice.

Solo Sunday

The LEJOG training run for this week was set for Saturday, which I couldn’t make – had a stag-do to go to (2pm kick-off for beer, followed by curry, more beer, then some more beer). Hang-over was manageable, seemed to have recovered by late morning,  so swapped my came-with-the-bike tyres for some Conti Gatorskins. I only ordered them on Friday, so was pleasantly suprised when they turned up on Saturday – nice one Wiggle. These tyres have a kevlar layer and are supposed to reduce the chance of getting a puncture, recommended by other LEJOGers, so seemed a good idea as I didn’t want a repeat of last week’s flat. Took me a while to work out how to get the old ones off, new tyres went on easy enough, then headed out to do some laps of Glasgow Green.

conti gatorskin tyre

shiny new puncture proof-ish tyres

I adapted my 2.5-ish mile running loop for a more cycle friendly version (dodging the steps and a few kerb drops) and attempted to get something approaching a steady rhythm. I’d not quite appreciated how busy the paths were going to be though, as a little bit of sunshine and half of Glasgow seemed to have headed out to enjoy it, dogs, kids and generally not paying enough attention pedestrians making any chance of keeping a steady pace impossible. One particular dog owner thought nothing of calling their dog towards them as I was belting toward them both, causing me to jam on the brakes and come to a near halt, with a “sorry” from them and a “no problem” from me, quietly cursing them under my breath as I stood up in the pedals, moving away in the high gear I was left in. Certain parts of the loop, where the paths are wider, I was able to zip along at a comfortable 18-20mph, but on some of the narrower sections and switchbacks, was barely moving at all. After approaching the hour mark, and around 6 laps, decided to give it up. Not quite the 60 miler of the Saturday bunch, but got in a decent 15 miles @15.6mph average and my knee niggle from last week seems to be away.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/150803495

Agoknee

Another Sunday, another LEJOG training run. Not such a big turnout this time, but four of this summer’s seven riders made the early 8.15 am start (Brian, Gio, John and myself), and were joined by a friend & colleague of Gio’s, Stuart (or is it Stewart?); though Sammy turned up in person to give his apologies.  We set off from Strathblane at a solid pace, but had barely got going before we hit our first hitch – Brian’s cleat on his left shoe was just not engaging in the pedal properly. A bit of faffing around didn’t completely fix the problem, but his decision was to go on.  We soon got into a good rhythm, with each rider taking their 0.5 mile or so leading the train over a good 15 mile stretch.

dodgy cleat in the Trossachs

We reached Aberfoyle and our first hill of the day, comfortably under the hour – the Duke’s Pass – a new hill for me, and a new challenge. I took it slow, tucking in behind Stu and Brian as I got a feel for the slope. As the climb continued, Stu slipped back and the two of us chatted about running, work and my cycling experience (or lack of!) . The gradient was not so bad, no real thigh-burning sections, and we made the summit without too much effort, though Brian, just ahead of us most of the way up, was still having a bit of bother with that left cleat.  A quick respite at the top, with a waiting Gio & John, then a nice downward stretch skirting round Loch Achray. Well, nice except for the tourist filled bus that came at me round a blind bend – in the middle of my side of the road, half-way down the hill. My brakes worked well, so collision avoided.

We were now again on gently rolling roads, so back into ‘train’ formation all the way to Callander, where we attempted to find a bike shop, with no luck. We headed south, toward Kippen and the second hill of the day. I took up my command position at the rear, again with Stu for company and we worked our way up the incline, the occasional zipvit energy chew and drink to keep us going. Just as were cresting the last rise, I was the lucky recipient of my first puncture. A thorn (or something spiky) into my back tyre, flattening it instantly. Another master class in tube changing commenced, with Gio in control, taking care to ensure the last bits of the thorn were removed from the tyre (nothing would be worse than replacing the tube for it too to be damaged). Brian got to try out his new gas cannister toy to fill the new tube, then we were on our way, downhill for a good stretch, working the pedals to get the chill from our stop out of our bodies. We soon arrived at Fintry, and a quick refuel stop (I must practice eating on the move) before taking on the Crow Road (“the right way round”). At this point my left knee decided to join Brian’s cleat in not working quite right. After a few of the early turns in the ascent, every rotation of the pedals was causing a sharp niggling pain just under my kneecap. As the hill continued, so did the pain, so reaching the top and being able to freewheel down was a great relief. The last 4 miles back to the cars was less than fun for me, trundling along barely breaking 10mph (unless going downhill). Still, got to the end in pretty much one piece and just over 60 miles in the bag:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/149188679

Stuck an ice pack (good old Birdseye frozen peas) on knee at home, and hoping it goes away with a couple of days rest. Seems ok today, but will give it until Wed to ‘test’ it on a run.

From LE to JOG

The route is complete.  The final version (mibbe) can be viewed on the Route page.  What do you think?

come on.  LET’S BE HAVING YOU!

Premier septet

Sunday. 12:30 (ish). A full seven-man cycle team ready to go on a cold Scottish afternoon. The LEJOG’s first full group cycle started off with a minor disagreement, quickly settled, over course and group options. This was soon overshadowed by issues with David’s bike (a loan from Mark Snr), as something was not quite right with the steering and brakes. Some head scratching and minor adjustments with a multi-tool, and it was deemed safe for him to continue (with caution) and to take it easy on the downhills. Our first target, the climb up the Crow Road, a route I now have done a couple of times, making tackling the hill a less daunting prospect.  We set off with the intention of staggering the climb, so that everyone arrived at the top at roughly the same time to avoid cooling down too much. I ended up solo for the first half of the ascent, but could see Mark M, David and Brian in the distance, a target to slowly work towards, knowing that behind me Sammy, John and Gio would soon have me in their sights. I’ve somewhat improved in my climbing ability, not having to resort to my lowest gear at all, while still turning the pedals comfortably. Upwards I trudged, enjoying the scenery and watching some sort of bird of prey circling overhead, knocking back a few slugs of lucozade on the lesser inclines. About half-way Mark M dropped back to join me, and the two of us chatted away while making steady progress towards the leading pair. As we crested the last rise or so, John and Gio powered up to us, with Sammy not far behind, and a quick pit-stop at the top was the order of the day. I began to roll to a stop, unclipping my shoe and attempted to put down my left foot (my foot of choice in such stopping situations) but hadn’t realised my shoe had re-engaged itself, so gracefully tipped completely over into the snow-covered verge, much to the amusement of my riding team. I was glad it was a soft fall, so neither bike nor me took any damage.

saddle adjustment

steering, brakes, and now the saddle needed a fix

Top of the Crow

Top of the Crow Rd, nice weather for cycling...

Some further adjustments to David’s bike and some refueling and we were off again, taking it easy on the descent due to the roads being only partially clear of snow – riding in the clear tracks left by cars. I took to the back with David on his hobbled machine, him braking hard to avoid picking up too much speed as we headed down into the valley. We regrouped at the bottom and set off 2 abreast in an attempt to stop cars from splitting us while overtaking.

replacing a tube

How many cyclists does it take to change an inner tube?

Not much further on, Fintry-ish, a puncture hit Mark M’s front, so we all stopped to pitch in, me keen to see  how a repair (or rather a swap) is done. Rather than a masterclass in what (I’m told) is an easy enough procedure, a sticking tyre and issues with inners and pumps resulted in a good 20 minutes and many hands not making so much light work of the change. Still, I reckon I now know how it should be done, so can head out solo (once the nights get a bit lighter) confident I can tackle a change of tube (well, as long as its the front, getting the back wheel off is a whole different matter).

We moved on, the group splitting again as time passed, the stronger riders striking out leaving the stragglers a short distance back, I fell in with the back group, enjoying the company at the back, a welcome change from my previous outings when the back group was usually me, solo. A short distance on, a regroup for a junction and direction choice, followed by a short hill which split the group again. Finding myself feeling ok, decided to chase the leading group, just to see if I could catch them. I reeled them in and was soon tucked in behind John, in a train with Gio & Sammy, and we sped on. As my turn at the front hit (“is it a mile or half-mile at the front?”) we arrived at some direction choices, so we stopped to allow everyone to regroup before moving on, assured everyone was heading the right way home.

As the light began to fail, and the back slowed some more, I took advantage of my luminous jacket, hat and bike tails lights to be the “rear-guard”.  The roads were getting busy with cars, some of whom don’t feel they need to give you much space as they go by, and I doubted the ability of some drivers to even notice my less colourfully garbed compatriots. It also let me take the last few miles easy, to be sure I’d complete a full training run (3rd time lucky!).

We arrived back a satisfied bunch, 49 miles or so and the first full team outing in the bag.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/147478672

A productive LEJOG planning meeting (with the obligatory curry) was to follow, with Mark Snr and Cameron joining the riders at ‘the clubhouse’ (Gio’s place). The support van sorted, route now fixed (near enough), accommodation booking jobs handed out and a few more organised group runs pencilled in to calendars, including a coast to coast and a ‘2 days of doing a 100 miles so we know we can do it’. Its all coming together, all I have to do now is convince everyone that this bike is the best way to do the 1000 miles this summer.

Tablet – Scotland’s greatest invention

For those unaccustomed to the world of long (or short for me at the moment) distance cycling, there exists a ‘condition’ known as the bonk (or Fringale as the French put it).  Essentially, if you don’t eat properly before the cycle and during the cycle your body can pretty much shut down and it makes it difficult to keep going at any sort of pace.

Unfortunately, I found myself in this position in yesterdays group training run.  This was a momentous occasion anyway as all of the magnificent 7 cyclists for Le Jog turned out (a blog entry in itself).  However, I found myself after 35 miles going along quite happily in the front group talking to Sammy only to find myself quickly staring into his back light (otherwise known as the abyss) which was getting smaller by the second, gallantly counting down from 10 to try and keep my pedals moving.  I am soon caught by the back group who initially think I am being a team player in helping them along but I thought the game was up for me.  I struggled on vainly to Strathblane where the rest of the guys were waiting.  I explained my predicament and out of David’s pocket came a block of tablet.  This peculiarly Scottish delicacy consists of sugar, butter and condensed milk formed into a hard block and if it came from a posh shop maybe a drop of vanilla.  One section was taken and then another and eventually David knew he wasn’t getting any back and the whole bar was gone.  Slowly, we set off again and life started to seep back into my body, and the pedals started to flow again and life was good.  The big nutrition companies will try and convince you that their latest sports gel will keep you going and has been formulated to the max but I think the Scots have known the formula for years….

See link below further about this, it can even happen to the best –  try Lance Armstrong.

http://www.30bananasaday.com/forum/topics/have-you-ever-bonked-real-hard