Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Bonus Blog...Doing justice to the Peak District Ride!!!

On Sunday night I bashed out my blog in a quite tired state and frankly I was a bit disappointed with it because I left loads of stuff out. The bit I really want to talk about is our magnificent club ride in the Peak District. There's so much to say about the riding, the banter, the hills, the scenery and what it's inspired. So here goes!

This is Nat's route and frankly all her fault!!!

First things first I need to do some big shout outs. This is Nat's route, she's ridden it several times before and her knowing it really well added greatly to the day. She also totally kicked our butts up those ridiculous hills. Then I must thank Andy Pendred for his magnificent pictures from his infamous bum cam (in case you're worried this is a backwards facing camera that sits under his saddle taking pictures automatically on a timer.) To Andy Ferguson for thinking up the great club that is C&D Cycles CC and for keeping our bikes running. To everyone else I have to say you were just great company so: Pete, Heather, The Marks, Marcus, Steve...cheers for a great ride! The final thank you must go to the weather. It was simply glorious!

Before the ride started I was warned that we would be straight into the hills and that was not wrong! In Northamptonshire the climb out of Bakewell heading towards Chatsworth House would be a local club hill climb course. Here it's just par for the course and goes on forever!

The picture above is the gradient profile from Strava. You can see the first climb. It's a cat 4 straight away...but it's nothing compared to that next big peak you can see! The second peak is Rowsley Bar. 

This is what Rowsley Bar did to Andy F. He wasn't amused by this climb and at that stage no uncertain terms, if this was the ride for him. I'm just pulling into view and felt in a very similar way. I stopped twice on this hill which is a cat 4 or 3 depending on where you count it to. To me it stops at the highest point so it's a cat 3. This hill is famous. It's number 34 on the 100 UK best cycling climbs and has featured in National Hill Climb championships. Here's what the blog has to say. I really struggled up this slope using a 34x28 gear. I'm astounded to read that in 1997 the Hill Climb racers did this on fixed gear bikes and the gear of choice was 42x21 for the winner and 39x20 for the runner up!

After all that uphill we got a bit carried away at times and this groupshot is the confusion of wondering what to do as Marcus had shot off down the road. Luckily Pete was very keen on the day and chased him down to bring him back. It's no wonder he missed this turn though because this 'barely a road,' was about to chuck up loads of fun. Firstly we rode through a tiny ford and then the road became a bit rough, at one point a car appeared and a pedestrian and we were all dodging holes. Bikes were going everywhere. It wasn't dangerous and luckily for us, most of the motorists were very was just mayhem and very very funny!

I think in the picture above Heather was asking Nat about what was coming up. Clearly Nat is just goes up! For a very long time...UP!!!

The road painters in the Peaks have a wicked sense of humour. SLOW! Yeah mate good advice, I was considering a full gas sprint!!! What bum cam also captures is STEEP!

Oh looky here...Nat might be good at hills but I'm keeping up...yeah...I'd imagine this was nearer the bottom than the top.

Having wanted to pack up, go back to the car and wait after Rowsley Bar I really started to enjoy the ride. The views were spectacular and no more hills beat me, despite some similar steep gradients and long climbs. 

This for me is the shot that showcases the terrain we were riding in. You can see the beautiful weather and you can see the hills we've come from.

Now look at Steve's face! We were all loving it. Look again in the background. We'd probably been to the top of that hill too!

I'm fairly sure the Inbetweeners will have visited this road on their tour of naughty street names however Peak haven't got a Bell End like we have in Northamptonshire!

Grind, grind, grind...we're going uphill again. I was thinking at times: "why didn't I bring the CX with it's 42x42 gear?" I guess it would be easier for the uphills but I think I would have missed my Giant Propel on the descents. Pete was also on his Propel. Others had left the aero bike behind. Bairdy and Andy F squabbled about whose made in Taiwan bike was more Italian, Andy's Basso or Bairdy's Bianchi. In the one problem we had with a car all day, Bairdy was sledged with: "you've got a horrible little bike." The driver was in the wrong but for the sake of banter we all agreed about the Bianchi! Back to the debate though...the topic was recently covered by GCN.

I've talked bikes, banter, effort, wattage, fun etc. However the star of the day is captured in the picture above. I cannot believe how good the Peak District is for riding. Just wow!

After slogging uphill all day behind the skinny riders, the last ten miles was pretty easy actually. Nat lied to us though by saying there were no more hills. There was a least three more! However there was some long flat bits where we got back into a more accustomed rhythm and had a bit of a blast. Then we went down the amazing Beeley Village Descent which is almost two miles long and drops 673ft. I averaged 29mph down this which wasn't the fastest in our group. I blame Andy F for getting in my way and that inconsiderate car that was coming around the bend I passed him on. I got lucky actually...I locked up, went sideways, missed everything and then carried on downhill laughing my head off. Not big or clever really. Andy rightly told me what a silly twerp I am. I just acted like a tellytubby who'd slid down a ski slope...AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN!!!

Back in the carpark I was mistaken for some kind of Peak District Mr. Helpful. Firstly a young lady asked me to help with her bike and as she needed a spanner, Andy had to break out the tools. In return she took a groupshot for us. Seconds later an old lady drove into a deadend in the carpark and insisted I helped her to back out again. It was a very bizarre few the fact we then walked into a rubber duck race really wasn't a surprise!

I took some video which does show how good things were on the day but also unknown to me the lens had a splodge of mud on it. So it's not the greatest footage. Look out for the bloke on the recumbent handbike though! 

All of this uphill effort ha out some silly ideas in my head. Firstly...if Rowsley Bar is climb number 34...can I do all 100? Here's the list, you can also buy a book or get an app...

Yeah but it appears some people are already doing it!!! Not only are hey doing all 100 they are going to do it in one epic journey, riding from climb to climb!

Okay I've probably still forgotten some things I wanted to say but that will do for now. I think that's much closer to describing just how good it was in the Peak District on Sunday!

Morning edit: Yep I forgot something. We rode through Ripley. I didn't twig at the time that my MTB a Forme Ripley is named after the place. I have three Formes with the other two being a Calver and a Longcliffe. Here's Calver and then Longcliffe is a Hamlet near Matlock. Also we passed a beautiful windmill at Heage which I couldn't get a good photo of. Details here:

Happy Pedalling!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Another amazing week of cycling...

Three very different rides to discuss this week with a spin on my new cx, a faster ride around Rockingham Motor Speedway and possibly my favourite ride ever in the Peak district.

Last week I talked of the joy of cycling. On Tuesday I was engulfed in that very joy on my awesome new cyclocross bike.

I had a quick circuit of the area we most recently used for the KCC leg of the central cyclocross league and discovered how much faster that is on a cx bike.

I've given up on getting that Red Kite picture so I went for this instead!

It really was a beautiful morning, I wish I could start every day like this. Just perfect.

On Thursday evening the Cyclones had a training session at Rockingham Motor Speedway. They didn't need me to help so I got to a do a few laps. It's a beautiful surface to ride on and really was in contrast to the ride to come. The kids trained really hard and I think they will go well in the Silverstone 9up time trial in June.

If you think everything feels a bit rushed up to this point then you won't be wrong! This is undoubtedly the main event of the week and possibly my whole road cycling life. Today's club ride in the Peak District was just stunning. 

A great bunch of people met at C&D cycles his morning before travelling in convoy to Bakewell.  The group was led by Nat and included the Andys' Ferguson and Pendred, The Marks, Coleman and Baird, Pete, Steve Minney, Heather and me. Well we started in convoy but then a rest stop and my dodgy sat nav meant we arrived a few minutes apart. It was obvious from the start in the car park that this would be a glorious day. It was also obvious, 5 minutes from the car park that Bakewell is in the bottom of a valley and as Yazz said, the only way is up. Very soon we were into the first ling busting climb of the it happened this was quit minor compared to what was about to come.

We made our way through the stunning grounds of Chatsworth House and then turned left. "Good luck if you're riding up there!" Shouted a local resident as we got stuck into climb number 34 of the UK's 100 greatest climbs. I started okay and felt alright going past the first hairpin. At this point, Marcus stopped. I wondered if I could carry on as it just seemed to get steeper and steeper with no end in sight. Around the 2nd hairpin I felt as though my lungs would burst and my heart explode so I stopped too. I really didn't want to give in and walk so I waited, caught my breath and continued...for about 50 metres and then I stopped again. At this point i wanted to give up and go home but I steeled myself once again and this time carried on with the ride. As is ours clubs ethos I found everyone else waiting for me up the road. You'd think that was enough uphill but after a short break we were heading uphill again!

The top of the hill revealed the reward for all that effort. The view was just superb. Pete promptly fell off his bike so that was entertaining too!

That harsh introduction dialed our legs in for what was a very hard day of riding. Over 52 miles we climbed over 6000ft. To put this in context we had a what we thought was a hilly ride a couple of weeks ago in Rutland. That was 62 miles and just 4000ft.

It was relentless at times...hills...more that the top of the, more hills! At others it was lovely to sweep down lengthy descents. There were tonnes of other cyclists out too and most had a friendly greeting. Many motorists were also incredibly patient with us.

After all of those hills we were given the ultimate reward with my longest ever descent. It was utterly exhilarating. We then made our way back to Bakewell, up more hills of course.

Today was just brilliant. Hard work, stunning scenery, thrills, spills and relentless banter! I can't wait to do it again!

Happy Pedalling

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The Joy of Cycling

For those of you of a certain age, the title of my blog today will have brought a titter. However this was not my intention. I just want to discuss the pure joy that is riding a bike, wrapped up in my cycling adventures of the week.

So what is the joy of cycling? Is it going fast? Is it the social aspect? Is it setting yourself challenges? Is it racing? Is it coffee and cake rides? Is it a new bike? Is it flying downhill? Is it blasting uphill? Does it matter??? To me...YES...yes it does! I bloody love cycling. If I'm on  my bike and pedalling then it won't be long until I'm smiling. And if you're wondering...for me it's all of the above!

So on Saturday morning it was once again time for yet another C&D Cycles CC shop ride. This is not where I discovered the joy of cycling but it is without a doubt where I went from an enthusiastic occasional rider to a fully fledged Lycra Loonie. It is also where the joy volume got completely turned up to 11.

Once again I joined the fast group and off we set for a really good ride around some of my very favourite roads. It was similar to a couple of weeks ago but in the other direction and with some slight variations. 

The highlight of the day had to be riding down Haselbech hill. At the bottom of that glorious hill, we, the so called fast group decided to chase down a fellow cyclist from outside our group. With maximum effort we caught 'today's fox!' At this point I should point out that our target was a Dad on his mountain bike riding with a child seat with his toddler daughter on the back. I have no idea who this man was but I'm certain he's one hell of a cyclist! The little girl was also beaming from ear to ear due to her Dad's efforts. I asked her if she had just come down the big hill and the YES I got was explosive. She was 100% experiencing the joy of cycling!

We had a great ride and made to back to the shop within a couple of hours. The usual coffee and banter was in full flow. Some newbies had joined us and I hope they'll come back next week. 

In the shop we encountered this weird contraption. It's a kind of ugly beautiful. I don't want one but I also can see how it's owner loves it! What I will say, is that the copper dove bottle cage is a stunning detail.

Today I woke up without a plan and with no advertised rides on the club page. So I made a post asking what everybody else was up to and before you know it a plan emerged! Claire was heading out to watch the racing at Medbourne, Neil said he'd like to join her and I also got in on the group.

We met at the C&D Cycles shop where we also bumped into our old friend Mr Major. Steve was already done for the day having done a solid 30 miles on his steel flip flop. That bike weighs at tonne and it's more like weight training than cycling! Then Steve Wong also appeared and our little group became four.

The abundance of sunny days plus yesterday's rain have clearly done some good to the countryside. I don't ever think I've seen the place look so green.

The racing was in the heart of the Welland valley so we made our way out to Ashley and then on to Medbourne. Our plan was to ride the reverse of the race group and therefore get to see them on their laps.

We cycled up the seven sisters in a direction I'd never encountered before. Which is kind of a good point. there's loads of good roads around here! This route would definitely make a very good club ride. It was great to see the racing. Those lads definitely can shift! I didn't hang around for the finish though as I had more excitement to come.

You know those annoying PPI cold calls? Well we just let one of them look into our financial history. It paid out!!! In addition to paying for a load of home improvements we had some spare cash for a new bike and the bike I wanted to complete the collection was a cyclo-cross! I'd had a chat with Andy at C&D Cycles and he recommended the Forme Calver. I knew of this bike from seeing Andy Brown in action on his and reading about it being a proven race winner.

It's just a stunning looking bike and I couldn't wait to get it home and go for a quick spin. Andy had done a splendid job putting the bike together. They don't come as complete bikes, you can only buy the the frame and forks. the rest is a custom build.

I only went for a quick spin and the first order of the day was a bit of gravel track around Prologis Park.

The bike did not disappoint. It was lively, accurate, responsive and frankly just a great big load of fun!

From there I decided to introduce my new bike to Weekly Woods. I mentioned earlier about joy. This was pure joy!

I then decided to go the Rushton and check out the Llamas. Oh yeah and it was a good excuse to take another bike picture.

So there you go. That's my joy of cycling! This sport keeps me sane. It can make me smile on the very worst days. I get my buzz. I feel so healthy through cycling. I have great cycling friends. I enjoy the challenges. What could be better?

Happy Pedaling

Monday, 7 May 2018

Bank Holiday Bicycling Bonanza...Another weather turnaround this time it's a heatwave!

In glorious weather this weekend I got out on my bikes and wow, just wow! 3 days, 3 different rides, lots of fun!

Ride one was the traditional C&D Cycles CC Saturday shop ride. I just knew it would be a lovely ride as I headed in to Kettering via that short sharp beast that is Bunker Hill. I felt great, which I really had no right to after following the Dan Lloyd guide to hydration and massively overdoing the Friday night "mineral waters!"

With all that good feeling I elected once again to go with the quick group. For me it was very very quick! Marcus decided to bail at Woodford and waited for the banter bunch. Neil and Andy B set the pace the rest of us held on as well as we could. We had a go at a bit of chain ganging and at times we got it right, steaming along.

There wasn't much time for banter until we eventually stopped for a rest at in the impressive gateway near Pilton which I've never understood in terms of history or relevance. It looks like it leads to a big house. My most recent research uncovered nothing at all apart from this picture...

Now you're wondering why is there a picture of a Red Kite? Well on the 'pictures of Pilton,' page, there's this stunning picture of a Red Kite. I'm constantly trying to get a good pic of these stunning birds whilst we're out on a ride. One has even swooped in front of us and I still missed it. Here's one I took yesterday...

Not quite the same is it?

Back to the cycling stuff. At the break my average for about 25 miles of cycling was over 19mph. That's faster than I've ever ridden. It's not especially quick compared to many people I ride with or indeed the really good riders who've moved on. However, that's a big improvement for me and maybe with a few less mineral waters on a Friday night I could've maintained this for the whole ride.

It has to be said that I let the side down jersey choice wise in this week. They're all in C& D jerseys I'm wearing my Giant Sunshine Coast top. I don't why anyone else didn't make this choice, haven't they been to Mooloolaba? It was pointed out that the jersey in question matches Neil's Giant Propel better than mine but...get your own mate! It was also at this point that someone slipped a banana skin into Bairdy's pocket...what cheeky fun!

The rest of the ride wasn't what I would call a struggle, I just couldn't keep up with the lads at the front. Neil and Andy B tore off. Andy F, Mark C and Bairdy were not far behind. Steve, Graham and I were a bit broken! My average dropped down to 17mph, something a few months ago I would have been very happy with BUT looking at Strava later I discovered I was still getting personal records. Back at the shop we had time for a chat, a laugh and of course that cycling superfood cake!

With tired legs my cycle home was a slow saunter. I took the dogs out for a recovery walk. This glorious weather is good for us, Harvey though was getting a bit too hot!

The next order of the day was a trip to the Saints for the last match of the season. It's been disappointing to say the least this year but we've had some high points. Beating the Tigers twice can never be a bad thing. The big thing today though was saying goodbye to some very good players. It's the end of an era and it all got quite emotional!

Ben Foden deservedly got most of the attention but I can't believe after 12 years of seeing off some of the best fly halves in the world that we won't see Stephen Myler do this again. I can't recall a penalty that was ever cheered so enthusiastically.

Sorry for all that eggchasing...I'll get back to cycling now!

On Sunday I decided it was time to switch bikes and get out on the trails. So I stuck my Forme Ripley on top of the car and headed over to Wakerley Woods. My plan was to do a warm up lap over the road at Fineshade Woods and then come back to Wakerley Woods for a couple of the Scar Tree trail. With  the lovely weather we're having the trails were almost dry so this was the ideal time for this type of ride.

I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking for this one. The woods were spectacular in this gorgeous weather and just a joy to cycle around. Lots of people were about enjoying the sunshine and also lots of kids on bikes!

Fineshade welcome posters

Fineshade family trail start

Got to love the skills loops

Back at the Wakerley Woods Scar Tree Trail

Beautiful bike in the Bluebells

Not everyone had a good day...

On one of my laps of the Scar Tree trail I came across a couple of blokes with an upside down bike. I asked if they needed help and they replied that they thought that would be a good idea. One look at this rear derailleur old me all I needed to know. He'd snapped his cage and bent the rear hanger. My advice "you're pushing that mate!"

After that great ride I got myself home because we were off for lunch with friends at the Old White Horse in Old! I've ridden past this pub often and always thought it looked like a good place to go. I wasn't wrong. This is a high quality boozer with great food too!

This bike belonged to a regular

Best sign on a pub ever!

Best sign in a pub ever?

So we arrive at today...knowing that I'd spent Sunday in a sunny pub garden you'd think I might be a bit worse for wear? Nah...I was fine! I was almost late for the ride though. My problem is I need to fill every minute with activity. Before the 9am start this morning, I'd dismantled Sam's disappointing bed, done a load of washing and got it out on the line. Thankfully they hadn't left so we're all good.

The weather was once again simply stunning. Hot actually and before long my helmet was dripping with sweat. My plan had been to study he route this morning but all those other things had reduced my chances to do that.However I knew the route as far as East Carlton but was struggling after that. We were heading into hilly Rutland and my local knowledge ran out!

Stunning leafy lanes

Rolling hills

Group shot at a duck pond next to the Fox Inn at Hallaton (another good looking pub!)

Quack, quack...luckily Mark C and I are fluent in Mallard Duck


At Belton in Rutland it all went a bit wrong. Heather had designed a great route but Garmin had struck again to send us off road on road bikes. Whilst we stood and debated a plan, Chris rode off. He found a bridleway, walked a bit and then got back on the planned route...The rest of us headed off ion a way around the problem. It got more and more confusing with committee meetings at almost every also got very lumpy and we did more hills than I thought possible this close to Northamptonshire. Poor Heather, it wasn't her fault, as per usual where sympathy was required, we just took the mickey!

After a couple of phonecalls, a roundabout route and a very lucky near miss with passing cars, we found our way to the Rutland Garden Centre where Chris was waiting for us. He'd been there long enough to write this blog for me and was enjoying some very nice food and drink. We joined him for a well earned beverage or two and those milkshakes in glass welly boots were very popular.

Milkshake in a boot!

Earlier in the day I realised I'd forgotten a hayfever tablet and I was suffering quite a bit. Mark C recommended local honey and I found some at the garden centre. It was pointed out that it wouldn't work because the Northants bees don't cross the county line!

Bairdy needed a wee and the gents was taken so we encouraged him to use the ladies. With no other option he did just that. For some reason he couldn't get out...I was literally hyperventilating when he knocked on the door and then started shouting: "help, let me out!"

After the break it was hills, hills, hills. The closer I got to home the more shattered I became. However this was an awesome day of riding. Great route, lovely weather, very good company. For the last few miles I started to feel sick. I wasn't sure if this was the heat or the effort. However if the cure is any indication of the cause, I was hungry!!!

Following the ride it was round to my inlaws for a barbecue. I wasn't keen on food but a cold beer was welcome. Then I ate, and the sickness just went away in an instant. It's obvious really isn't it? According to my fitbit I've burned 4,759 calories today. That has to come from somewhere and you can't just go: "happy days that's a few pounds lost!" Your body needs some back!

What a stunning weekend. I feel lucky and privileged to have such a wonderful life! It caps a great week really. In addition to the cycling we've had some great family time. Other highlights were seeing Infinity War on Monday and doing the Trapp'd escape room 'Maine State Prison,' on Thursday. I might need a boring week next week to recover!!!

In the wider cycling world, I really enjoyed this years Tour de Yorkshire and the Giro is also in full swing. 

That's it, I need a lie down!

Happy Pedalling