Monday, 5 June 2017

This week's cycling's got the lot!

Wow wow wow have I had some fun on my bike in the last seven days! I've been in an MTB race, been on a club ride, been out with SuperSam and done a few training rides too not to mention a cheeky roller session with Sam tonight. It's been all go!

This lovely little loop is one of my favourites for an hour spin in the morning. It's got some quick bits a few little climbs and a bit of downhill too. I'm not sure why but I keep having Strava fails on my phone. Luckily I've learnt the hard way and I always have at least one device as back up. This time my cateye bike computer came to the rescue!

On Thursday morning I was really short on time and needed something worth doing in just 45 minutes. There's a nasty short sharp ramp going out of town known as Bunker Hill and with a loop back round from Rushton it's repeated every four miles. That certainly gave my legs a workout!

On Friday I made it to my second Friday Night Summer Series Mountain Bike race. This time the venue was Hicks Lodge near Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire. The course itself mostly utilised a blue route called the Shell Brook Trail. More info on this Forestry Commission Site can be found HERE

Wahey look at me go! I put a lot of effort in for this shot taken by Mick Brown so I'm really pleased it worked out. If you check out the other photo's on the FNSS Facebook Page you'll see some far more impressive air being caught! But hey have you ever seen a blue whale fly?

As for the race, it was a shame I didn't get there earlier because I didn't get time for a warm up lap. A bit of course knowledge would have helped. I'm disappointed that I made such a cautious start because, after a sharp climb, there was plenty of time to get my breath back. However my goal for the night was just to improve on my last go. I achieved that so I'm happy. I still lost a lap to the main field though so that's my next aim...complete as many laps as the best riders in my age group. All that takes away from the main feeling from this event. I had a lot of fun! I'm really looking forward to next time but will miss out on this week due to Sam riding in the Silverstone 9up team time trial. That's a pity because it's on Harrington airfield just a few miles from my house!

On Saturday morning my legs felt fresh (more evidence I could've pushed harder at FNSS,) so I joined my mates at C&D Cycles CC for our club ride. There were two rides on offer this week. A Gran Fondo ride,which I didn't do and a banter ride on our familiar Oundle loop.

Due to surface dressing, surely the bane of all cyclists we left Kettering via the backstreets and headed to Geddington. As is typical when we head that way, the pace was respectable! 

In posh old Oundle we paused for breath and for team photos. I'm not sure what the residents think when us Lycra Louts gather on this spot, luckily they've never complained! As ever Mark likes to be the centre of attention and go himself to the front in the picture!

Shop manager, Andy, has been riding with the club a lot more recently and we're glad to have his expertise out on the ride. However those socks are a violation. Our diverse bunch included the 14 year old son of Mike. As well as learning lots of new words from Steve he also showed good strength. So I decided to go on a recruiting drive for KCC Cyclones. Hopefully he'll join us on Thursday at the Rockingham Go Ride.

Back at the shop we had some good cake courtesy of Steve's good lady and from Heather. I washed mine down with this incredibly refreshing iced coffee. Very tasty indeed! It was also made clear in the shop that a lack of cakes this year from my Queen of Cakes has not gone unnoticed. Andy has raised the Lack of Cake Complaint Level from 'miffed,' to 'disappointed.' I can tell you all now that Lee is planning to make both Guinness Cake and cupcakes for the shop this week.  

I rode home in Steve's good company feeling really good after a great ride in even better company. When I got home the day got better still. Sam has been telling his mate Joe about Wakerley woods and when offered, they jumped at the chance to check out the trails. 

It took some jenga skills to get three bikes on the rack but once secured we headed out. Sam and Joe had a great time and I enjoyed seeing them really enjoy themselves.

Wakerley is ideal for kids like them because it's just challenging enough to keep them interested without getting too extreme. They described the trails as 'sick.' It was wonderful to watch their confidence grow around berms and over the jumps.

We did three laps of the Scartree Trail with the boys getting more adventurous each time. The powerslide competition was something to behold. They can't wait to go again and to be fair I can't wait to take them. 

On Sunday morning I felt a bit heavy legged and it took me a long time, a ponderous dog walk and several cups of tea before I decided that enough was enough it was time for Rockingham Hill!

It was a lovely day so I decided it was time for some camera action to capture beautiful Northants. This one is heading into Rushton past that famous Hall with it's ties to the Gunpowder Plot.

This one is on the way through Pipewell (pronounced Pip-well.) 

The first bit of huff and puff took me up the hill to Bringhurst. Someone has marked out the KOM segment on the road. Clearly this is popular with local cyclists and just round the corner from Neville Holt.

The route took me around Eyebrook Reservoir which was just glorious. At the end of this road though is a nasty hill at Stoke Dry. I'm not sure how this village was named but it does just sound like bad advice! It's a hill that feels never ending and was just a granny gear grind for my descending favouring legs!

The other side of the hill is Lyddington. Another beautiful village stuffed full of history. The pub pictured above is well worth a visit.

I've taken loads of pics of this feature. I've blogged before about why it's there and more explanation can be found here - The Bishop's Eye 

Finally I got to the main point of this ride which is that hard climb up Rockingham Hill. This will feature this week as a QOM stage in the Women's Tour. I have to work on Wednesday so I will miss watching those impressive professionals make light work of arguably Northamptonshire's toughest climb. This hill gets into my head and makes me want to give up! If you're trying it my best advice is to keep looking forward. A glance to the side makes it look even worse than it is. I also kind of love it too. One of my favourite training rides!

Finally I've put a cheeky little video together inspired by another video posted on our club page. I often boast about being the fastest downhill rider in the club. I don't actually think I am, all I know is my additional bulk really helps with gravity assisted momentum!

Happy Pedaling

Monday, 29 May 2017

Another bank holiday biking bonanza!

Today's blog records another amazing bank holiday of cycling with nearly 180km covered over three days with two club road rides sandwiching a solo off road ride.

On Saturday I made it to my first C&D Cycles CC club rides in a few weeks. As per usual the mocking started early with people referring to me as the newbie. The gathering was so large that we had to split into three groups. Feeling rusty I was grateful to join the banter bunch as we headed out on a typically lumpy Andy Brown route.

There was a vast array of jerseys on display in addition to our blue club colours. Mark B wins tasteless jersey of the day, although to be fair the banana crossed with a melon inspired outfit, kind of suited him. 

The route took us out through the less than scenic Kettering backstreets but no matter we'd soon be in that glorious Northants countryside which is perfect for road riding. 

There, that's better isn't it? I don't know why but all the pictures I have are on the flat. We were headed to the Welland Valley and in particular Neville Holt, the hill used by Kettering Cycling Club for their annual hill climb race. It's well chosen because it's a nasty steep slope. I have to keep my weight forward on climbs like that because sitting back in the saddle ends up with me pulling unintentional wheelies!

Neville wasn't the only climb. Possibly harder still was the climb from Ashley to Stoke Albany, Harrington Hill which was the QOM segment in the ladies tour and the climb from Rothwell into Orton. All good and much needed hill training which I'm hoping will benefit my overall fitness.

In good company on this excellent route the ride just flew by. On the way into Kettering we had a bit of an incident with two young men in a car. I'm not sure what initially upset them but driving up close to riders, blowing their horn and hurling obscenities was uncalled for. I actually think they just thought they'd have some fun shouting at cyclists. Well the last laugh was on them because they got held up in the traffic and got surrounded by us less than lightweight lycra loonies. This sort of thing is thankfully uncommon now. Drivers and cyclists have become far more respectful of each other.

I thought I'd ridden okay but was still struggling with the hills compared to others. However my Strava data shows a load of PRs with Neville Holt being one of those. So it must have been better than I'd thought!

Back at the shop it was the usual good banter and coffee hosted by Andy and Chris in a very busy shop. One poor kid was shown an old wreck of a BMX by Chris and was pretending he was okay with it until Chris let on he was joking and got him a nice new Haro out. I did feel sorry for the kid but I also thought it was a funny prank!

On Sunday I went to head to Wakerley but my tyres weren't right and they were also being difficult to sort out. A quick check of my valve cores showed that sealant had gunked them up so they were neither sealing properly or allowing inflation! Luckily for me I have so many bikes, wheels and spare tubes lying around I managed to scavenge some un-gunked cores! I guess this might be one of the drawbacks of tubeless tyres.

Once I made it to Wakerley I did my standard 4 laps of the blue route. The place looked great with nice dry trails and a very green late Spring canopy. I had two aims. A PR for the whole lap and a PR for cardiac hill. I got both of those so I'm happy with that. All good training for the FNSS...I hope!

The last ride of the weekend was Nat's Bank Holiday Monday 50 miler with the absolute promise of a well rated and open cafe at Long Bucky. There were many likes indicating attendance on Facebook but an even bigger turnout at the shop for this bonus club ride. I was a little late, having set off in plenty of time and then having to turn back for money. You know, for this amazing cafe!

Soon into the ride we encountered, or I should say, Marcus encountered his first puncture. After some lengthy fiddling about we were on our way again on some of my favourite roads as we headed through Orton and brushed Harrington on our way to Kelmarsh. From there we looped round to historical Naesby along a road where you're likely to encounter the English Civil War Re-enactment group, the Sealed Knot. They weren't around today unfortunately!

On our way there Marcus encountered his second puncture. It inspired the joke: "How many C&Ders does it take to fix a puncture. The answer is five, with at least ten more offering unhelpful advice and taking the mickey. 

We made it safely to Long Buckby to discover a traditional C&D bank holiday problem...the cafe was shut! No matter though, some quick googling revealed that Wilton Locks Marina Cafe was only a couple of miles away. It might not have been the cappafrappacino half fat skinny mocha latte joint we were acustomed to but a proper cup of tea was very welcome. I didn't have cake because it feels like I'm cheating on the Queen of Cakes (and because I am still trying to lose weight zzzzzzzzzz.) It looked like good stuff though. 

It's quite an interesting place too with it's large Marina of narrow boats. As cafe's go it wasn't a bad place to stop at all!

I'd started to tighten up as we set off again. The hills got harder and I realised I really haven't done a long ride yet this year! Bizarre when you consider in 2015 we were in training for a 200 mile ride and I'd done things like 80 miles on an MTB and then 120 miles at the Spires and Squires sportive the very next day.

As I tired I was well looked after by clubmates who helped me get back to the group every time I dropped off the back. Again I was quite down on myself about this and again the Strava data made a fool of me with another stack of Personal Records!

On some of the rolling roads we managed to get quite a whizz on. The best of which was from East Haddon through to Church Brampton.

We headed back to the shop via Pitsford, Holcot, Hannington, Orlingbury and Pytchley. All lovely villages showing the Sandstone characteristics of our beautiful County.

Image result for northamptonshire village

Due to several stoppages we were back at the shop later than expected but still treated to good hospitality from C&D shop manager, Andy. There was time for a bit more banter before heading home. As I arrived home I realised I'd topped 100km for the day and achieved the May Strava Grand Fondo, which was nice. 

In addition to just enjoying a good ride I am also part of the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. This is great for cyclist because we get a step bonus of 4500 steps for every 15km ridden. That means I will have a huge total tomorrow as our over competitive team at works sets out to show the youngsters how it's done!

Okay that's it, I've got quite a lot to do before the day's out including taking care of our splendid puppy. First though I think I've earned my steak and wedges for tea!

Happy Pedaling!!!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Friday Night Summer Series Round 3 - Prologis Park Kettering

On Friday night I took the plunge and had a go in a mountain bike race. A mountain bike race in Northants? Well yes! In fact not only do we have MTB races, the Friday Night Summer Series (FNSS,) is in it's 26th year and as such is the longest running race series of it's type in the universe! In addition to the main event there was also a GO Ride event hosted by KCC Cyclones which my very own SuperSam took part in.

I haven't got much time today so here's a quick few words to mark this great event before I get cracking on what should be a fantastic Saturday with a trip to the Saints and a nice evening with good friends. Jerk chicken is already marinating and the fridge is getting to work on the drinks!

Look, see I'm in a race, got a number and everything!

The course layout was superb. This did not come as a surprise to me as, KCC Cyclones head coach, Mark Evans was in charge. This was a bit like a reverse of the CX route we had in November with some added MTB features for good measure! This course was too technical for me in parts and there were some areas where I had to get off and push like in CX. However the quality of the field meant there were also some riders who rode up everything with ease!

I don't think it's a coincidence that my age group, Veteran 40-49 has grey numbers. I'm guessing they see us as the oldies and the grand vets with yellow numbers as the golden oldies! My aim for the night was not to come last, which, I achieved by one place! Do I care about the results? Well no! It was my first go and I know I'm still in my post month long holiday shape. Also it's never about winning for me, it's about having fun and I can tell you I had a LOT of fun! My overall plan is to use the FNSS to get fit(ter) for start of the CX season. I have to say after one go, I think I like FNSS slightly more than CX!!!

Before the race I had a quick practise spin and there was some good banter with the other riders trying things out. SuperSam also went round the main track with his mates and described it as 'Harder than Wakerley!' I was also thankful for my tubeless tyre set up as a big set of thorns got embedded. I pulled them out, there was a brief hiss and then the sealant did it's job! 

The kids didn't need to do the full circuit but they did have a bit of fun with a half lap. Andy Brown and I assisted with a two lap race where some real strength, character and skill was shown by our little Cyclones. Sam though had to drop out. He's been ill all week, still has a croaky voice and his energy levels just dropped like a stone!

To the race and things started at quite a pace and I was quickly left behind by the rest of my field. I had expected to keep up for a lap or two but I guess I have much to learn! Hilariously one of the riders managed to tangle some football netting in his back wheel and dragged it along for about 100 metres. He did disentangle without any damage so that was good. As usual in a group of cyclists, the acceptable form of assistance is laughter and banter. Comment of the night being: "he's gone fishing already!"

In some ways I love this picture. It captures the landscape and the wind turbines in the background are a lovely feature. However it also captures my excess lardiness...this blog at times is becoming Bridget Jones Diary...I'm trying to lose the weight, I really am trying...then I remember I like beer, crisps, pies and chocolate and anyway I'm a cyclist...I'll ride it off, won't I???

A couple of C&D mates also took part in the event. Ashley did really well in the under 23's and Paul Kelf went well in the Grand Veterans. Some of those golden oldies also passed me on my first lap and then lapped me too! It must be the additional practise that comes with age!

SuperSam set up his viewing position right here with Charlie Stockham. Dad, Jamie Stockham was the other side of this tricky feature. I enjoyed the encouragement I got from all of the KCC Cyclones family but just here it was particularly encouraging. Sam reliably informs me that lots of people didn't make it through this bit and that he was proud that I managed it every time. 

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Here's a feature I didn't make it up but as mentioned quite a few riders did. At one point a very skillful rider weaved in between about four of us as we pushed up the slope!

Image may contain: people riding bicycles, plant, tree, bicycle, motorcycle, outdoor and nature

This feature was particularly tricky with a steep slope and a sharp turn at the bottom. Thankfully I managed it safely five times. It was good to see Stuart at the bottom and his tips on lines were gratefully received! There were some people who backed out of the drop and walked down, I couldn't do that because too many people I knew were watching!!!

I need to give thanks to the following snappers for the pics: Mark Evans, Liz Panter, Malc Jones, Jamie Stockham and Dean Barnett.

So that's my first FNSS race and I have to say I will be back for more. It was a great way to start the weekend and I can't wait to do it all again.

For more info on FNSS check out their facebook page here: 

Happy Pedaling

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bank Holiday Biking Bonanza

If anything ever was going to cure my post Australia blues it was this weekend. It was one of those that felt like a week off even though it was only three days. It started with us getting our new puppy, then a couple of good rides, then a family trip to the cinema to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and finally Sam and I had a great ride on the Silverstone circuit.

Ride one was an Andy Brown route with one missing Andy Brown. Actually it was strangely quite a low turnout and we only had one group!

During the week I'd been on a course with people from all over the country in Corby. They'd stumbled across Rushton and were surprised that there was somewhere 'as nice as that,' around here! This saddens me because a bit of exploring would have shown them that Northants, in contrast to it's mediocre towns, is stuffed full of beautiful villages, rolling countryside and quiet country roads perfect for road cycling. 

Out of Kettering we sped through pretty little Weekly and on to Geddington, a place with more history than you can shake a stick at! Then yeah we got to Corby. Yes Corby is a bit uneasy on the eye BUT the tag of unhappiest place in the UK is unfair. The other thing is we were back into the countryside before you knew it, onto another lovely village at Gretton and then down a fast descent to Harringworth where the impressive viaduct the 'Welland Owd' spans the Welland valley. Then we were out of Northants for a bit and into Rutland.

Those downhills are still my favourite bit (as long as the skinny lads get out of the way.) However the price you pay is the uphills. Another thing people on the course said was that they didn't think there would be tough hills around here. We were half a mile from Rocky Hill! Toughest uphill bit of the day was the Little Seaton segment where it's no surprise to see me ranked 1155th! Thankfully the group was patient and waited for me at the top of each hill.

With all this beauty around you have to wonder why I was in selfie mode, especially with my calamitous wonky eyewear. In the background Andy F is holding a can of Special Brew (not recommended for pre, during or post ride.) Some of us even had the wit not to fall for 'hold this for me?" Standard banter. On we rode around Eyebrook where everyone has a uniform. We have our lycra, then there was ramblers, bird watchers/twitchers (never known the difference,) and fly fisherman. All this followed another quality descent! Then through Middleton and on past East Carlton Park some of those Lycra Loonies took a left up school lane for added masochism. I got in granny and ground...This was a great ride and the perfect start to a weekend of riding. Thanks to all at C&DCycles CC for some top company!

On Sunday I felt it was time to get some MTB practise is. I have this crazy idea to have a go in a Friday Night Summer Series race and as KCC host one of these on May 19th it is time to get busy! So it was off on a tried and tested route on my tried and tested 29r. A quick trip through Weekly Woods put me back in historical old Geddington. I wonder what Edward longshanks would have thought of me leaning my bike against his tribute to his wife for yet another selfie? I do believe my head would have found it's way to a spike!

Geddington Chase is the star of this ride and as it's currently dry, it's well worth the effort. We used the chase earlier in the year when it it was swampy in parts. Those rides may have been funny but it's more fun when you bounce rather than sink! Because I wanted to beast myself a bit I turned round at the bottom and rode straight back up. Reports of a huffing puffing wildebeest are likely just to have been me...

On Monday SuperSam and I joined some of his KCC Cyclones teammates at Silverstone Racing circuit for a two hour charity ride. Due to Australia Sam hasn't ridden his bike much so this was going to be tough on him. It started with wheel envy as I fitted the Mavic Fulcrums' to his club loan bike. Sam was more interested in four wheel matters as he oggled at the Porshe garage on the way in and then the Ferrari and Aston Martin in our registration area.

It was a bit chilly at Silverstone with a biting wind. So we headed upstairs to a well laid out food, drink and activity area. We also found some of the Cyclones mums talking to Alice Barnes and her mum!

At 6pm we were allowed out onto that famous track. I've done this before so I knew how enjoyable the supersmooth tarmac is to ride on. Sam and I set off and I let him draft me. He was awesome. I got him up to 21mph in places and he completed 21 miles (7 laps,) in an hour and three quarters.

There was a nasty headwind in places but that also became a nice tailwind in others. Sam allowed me to have one last lap on my own at then end for a "fast lap." Well I tried but fast really would be a stretch! It was fun and Sam definitely deserved the KFC on the way home!

I'm going to finish the blog with a puppy picture collage...just because I can!

Happy Pedaling

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Back on it! Fantastic group ride in Northamptonshire's leafy lanes!

We've been back from Awesome Australia for just over a week and whilst almost everything there is better, there are some things that make life in the UK feel great too. Perhaps the biggest back to blighty bonus is getting out with my mates from C&D Cycles CC for a Saturday road ride. (Other clubs and types of riding are available, they're all good too!) The other bonus is that there's no risk of attack from a snake and even if they did you'd need 8 litres of their venom to feel a little bit out of sorts!

For one reason and another I had not been on a club ride for a very long time. In fact Christmas Eve was the last time I had been out on the road with C&DCCC! There are various reasons for that, not least my broken ribs from Cannock the day before New Years Eve. When I'd recovered it was cyclocross on Saturday's for a few weeks. Anyway my post holiday resolution is to get to as many Saturday clubrides as I can.

wait for me!

Today's route was decided democratically by Andy Brown offering a set of options and going with the majority. A little ironic given the current state of play in Brexit Bound Broken Britain. This poll was successful though as a lovely route was selected along the leafy quiet lanes of East Northants which are perfect for group rides. Mr Brown was unable to join us as he was racing at the NCRA Road Race at Old. Good skills Andy!

C&D's power couple

Before setting off we split into fast and banter. Clearly the majority valued fun over performance as only three volunteered for the fast group. Also decided by general consensus, we sent Bairdy to join the three magnificent specimens in the quick group. Too right too, he's the most improved rider in the club over the last year (as long as it's on tarmac.) The banter bunch was also swelled with people wanting to know all about Ken's holiday adventure's which make even our trip to Queensland look a bit standard! As per usual the laughs flowed and if the hedgerows could talk they'd have a lot to say about those rowdy Lycra Loonies!

Ken and Andy P discuss worldwide adventures

I felt great for about 20 miles and then my legs started to complain. True to the values of the club I was assisted by mates who were very tolerant of me being a big wetty for the last ten miles. I've done plenty to keep myself fit with running, MTB rides and the plethora of activities we did in Australia but at the end of the day the only way to be road bike fit is to follow the advice of the great Eddie Merckx. Anyway the truth is I need to put the miles in and also sweat out the month of beer, wine and great food that it would have been rude not to indulge in whilst away!

Image result for eddy merckx quotes

One of the advantages of having Andy from C&D out on the ride with us is that he get's to hear our bikes. Since I bought it my Giant Propel has had an annoying clanky noise that has proven to be a mystery. Anyway Andy heard it, diagnosed it and when we got back to the shop fixed it. I can report that my dawdle back home was the smoothest and quietest I've ever experienced. Great service as per usual!

For today's ride my holiday bike jersey got it's first outing. I was delighted to find Giant bikes in Mooloolaba. I really like this jersey, it goes with our club kit and it goes with my bike and it says Sunshine Coast on it and we had a great time on the Sunshine Coast. So it ticks almost all of the boxes!

However I'm also aware that buying a jersey from the big boys is a bit of a sell out! To balance that I should tell you I visited Bike Obsession in Brisbane which is a family owned business. I wanted the jersey above but they were out of stock. They took my email and did indeed let me know they were back in stock but unfortunately it was after we came home. I also visited Cycle Zone in Mooloolaba but again they were out of Jersey's.

On our return from Oz Sam had one last birthday surprise waiting as his new BMX was sat waiting for him! It remains as important to me to promote Sam's riding as much as my own. We didn't get any pics of him whilst away in his KCC Cyclones top because our big day on the bike was ruined by Cyclone Debbie (more irony, the Cyclone prevented the Cyclone from riding!) I'm looking forward to him getting back to Cyclones as I'm sure there's lots for us to catch up on.

Right then. I'm back. SuperSam is back. The blog is back. Let's get riding!

Happy Pedaling