Sunday, 11 March 2018

Has Spring sprung?

The world this week has a very different feel to last week. We've gone from a winter wonderland to a definite feeling of new growth and a return of 'shorts weather!'

My opportunities for outside bike rides have been very limited. In fact today was the only day I got out for a short spin. It was great to be out though!

Church at Arthingworth

This is one of my 'before work,' regular rides. I would normally go for a longer ride on a weekend day but hey it's been a busy one. My wife Lee, the Queen of Cakes, had her birthday on Friday and it's Mother's Day today. So as you can imagine we've made the most of it. The healthy eating plan has been put on hold until Monday and you know we've been spoiling our special lady!

Handy smartphone friendly glove

The picture above was possible without removing my glove due to the handy hole in my right index finger. This intrigues there a commercial opportunity for someone to design a cycling glove with an adaptation for smartphone use? I'm not revealing the rest of my ideas because I plan to make my millions designing the ultimate winter cycling gloves...Back in the real world, these are still  my favourite gloves ever. I can't find another pair like them and this makes me sad!

My favourite gate at Harrington

I've taken this picture a lot. I love the view across the valley from this gate. Just around the corner there's a barn conversion with an uninterrupted view of the valley. Whoever that's being built for is a very lucky person!

 At the same gate I decided to take a selfie. As per usual my helmet is on wonky! Everything else is great about that Kasc helmet, so it's probably just that I have a wonky head! Whilst taking this a fellow cyclist stopped to check if I was okay, mistaking my confused picture taking for a ride busting mechanical. I like that us MAMILs look after each other out on the road!

Keep me rolling kit

A story has emerged from the C&D Cycles club ride yesterday regarding punctures and being prepared and all that. Someone has helpfully found a video of the essential things to put in your "saddlebag!" I don't use a saddlebag and I'm not alone in this practise, as many follow this rule from the Velominati:

  1. Saddle bags have no place on a road bike, and are only acceptable on mountain bikes in extreme cases.
Now, the big thing about these rules, are that they're even looser than the pirate code. Less a set of guidelines, more some nonsense to aid cycling based banter. They've even decided to go back on this one themselves! Velominati u-turn based on sponsorship deal...

All packed away

My solution is this really handy 'road caddy,' from Lezyne. You're supposed to put your phone in it but I get mine out too often to use it that way. However I do manage to carry the basics with me should I get a flat or need to do running repairs. The whole thing neatly fits in a jersey pocket. I swap the pump for the CO2 inflator when I have a cartridge!

Rim repair

The other reason for getting out on my road bike today was to test out those tubeless tyres. Andy and Chris from C&D Cycles had another crack at setting these up for me. I probably wrecked the rim tape by putting a tube in after I couldn't re-inflate (because a. it was wrecked, b. It's me that meddles with my bike and c. I read somewhere that needing to use a tube is likely to wreck the rim tape.) Anyway those marvellous chaps have done the job superbly yet again. Those American Classics wheels were super smooth today!

After the ride we headed to my Mum's for the best roast dinner in Northamptonshire. You might think it's mean to get your Mum to cook on Mother's day but my Mum, like everyone in our family, enjoys cooking and as my Nan was there, she was cooking for her Mum too! It was great for all four generations to catch up and also really nice to see the progress of 'Charity,' my parents latest Guide Dog puppy. Charity is the 5th puppy they've had. Like her predecessors, Charity will stay with my parents for about a year until she is ready for her training at Leamington Spa. It's hard to see them go but it's also rewarding to know that as Guide Dogs they do a fantastic job.

Charity the guide dog puppy, she doesn't stay still for long so it's hard to get a focussed picture!

The rest of the week has been about regular sessions on the indoor trainers. Having developed the skill of riding no handed on rollers, I've lost it again. For reasons I can't explain I tip over to the right when I take my hands off. I've tested this out on the road today and had no such problem. It's both frustrating and curious! Sam has been joining me in the mornings and it's been good to hear him yell at himself in encouragement.

So this weekend may have been one of indulgence but since Christmas both Lee and I have been using MyFitnessPal. I've always found this weight loss app to work despite recent claims that calorie counting is ineffective. One of the good features on the app is the clean eating links. We've made loads of new healthy foods and have discovered other helpful resources such as FitFoodieFinds on Instagram. Both of us are over a stone (14 pounds or 6.35kg,) lighter and for the first time since 2015 I am currently 13stone 12lbs (88kg, 194 pounds.) 

Okay that's all I have time for .

Happy Pedalling!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Beast from the East? Storm Emma? Snow what? It's great to ride in!

The weather this week has not been kind to us cyclists. It would've been beyond foolish to get the road bikes out this weekend and so for many it was turbo's and rollers, zwift, sufferfest and all that in their dedicated pain caves! Some of us though had other plans.

Andy P proposed a snow ride on Friday night which filled me with excitement. I mean what could go wrong? Well apart from the fact that a few of us have broken bits of ourselves! Nah it'll be fine, there will be a soft landing right? I arranged to meet a few others in Geddington for a snowy assault on the chase and a bit more besides. However those plans were curtailed once I'd walked the dogs.

There was no way for me to get to Geddington without using some roads and I just thought it was too risky to be sharing the highway with slippy slidy cars!

Four of my clubmates did however complete the ride as planned and I will admit to feeling like I missed out. I especially would have enjoyed seeing the Mark B face plant. So I'm going to include some of their ride in my blog.

So Graham, Mark B, Andy P and Danny did the ride above. Their pictures are fabulous and like I said I feel like I missed out.

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Looks great doesn't it!
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Perhaps not this bit!!!

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Those drifts are supercool...they were car height on Friday on my way to work

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Mark is down...someone, possibly Danny...celebrates! (or he could of course be warning others to slow down...)

My decision not to ride was a little bit of a blessing in disguise as my son Sam had a party to get to in Northampton. Remarkably NCC had done a great job of getting the main roads clear so as long as you could get out of your street then travel was very possible. I spent some time with my shovel as the rest of the local community looked on either confused or adding what they may think of as witty comments. (Sorry, personal bugbear, if everyone who is able, did a little bit to help we'd cope a lot better with the snow in the UK!) The other positive was that it looked like I would get to the Northampton Saints rugby match after all as one place the community had rallied was at Franklin's Gardens.

With my family safely on their way it was time for my fun! I only did an hour locally but oh my goodness...snow riding is amazing!!!

I took my bike back to where I'd dog walked earlier, much to the bemused entertainment of other dog walkers and people out for a snowy stroll. The snow wasn't fast to ride on but it was a whole load of fun. Early on I wondered if it was possible to ride through a snow drift. If you're wondering the answer is no!

This is Shotwell Mill Lane. There's a house about half a mile down here! A tractor was sorting it out for them and also a 4X4 with a team of shovellers. They laughed at me too!

These woods are part of my training plan for the MTB race season. Yesterday it was great riding. When the snow is gone they will be claggy mud again for a couple of months. I'm looking forward to it drying out and getting some hard work done.

The fields were the same. The soil here is really soft normally and horrible to ride on at his time of year. Compacted snow and ice sorted that out. It was a bit bumpy though and my camera fell off the bike a couple of times.

How could you not love that?

It was hard work on the uphill bits but still great fun.

I wondered if this field would be ridable? No...not really!

I loved the woods so much I went back in a couple of times

After the woods and fields I decided to go check out the local parks. Lots of families were out sledging and again I got the sort of odd looks reserved for a middle aged man on a bike in the snow!

The snow is looking soggy now and the big thaw is definitely on. The weather warnings have stopped and the flood warning have started. I'm going to take the dogs out again in a bit and if it still looks like fun I may have another snow spin this afternoon. I need to make the most of it or move to Finland, because we never know when this kind of snow will be back! My strava feed is full of people on their indoor trainers. However it's interspersed by others who had a go in the snow. To a person they express their joy for riding on the white stuff.

Later on the Saturday afternoon we did indeed make it to the Saints. The pitch and the stadium were amazing apart from the odd avalanche that came down off the roof! However the team didn't reward the hard work and played possibly their worst ever half of rugby. That is really saying something this season! A much better second half was too little, too late. However the result is only one part of it for me. Much like cycling it's about getting together with your mates.

Me and KCC Cyclone Charlie

Beauty and the Beast

The shorts club...every match no matter the weather...we can't remember why!

Back to the cycling and it's time for some epic shout outs. Firstly to Paul Mellon KCC Cyclones coach. He's just returned from a real adventure in Oman. Paul didn't complete the ride due to a mechanical issue but on return he's planning yet another ultra distance challenge. Another shout out goes to Bethany Spencer of KCC Cyclones. Bethany has had some injury issues from taking a tumble in a CX race. I was in that same race and witnessed the fall. The rumours are not true, I did not push her! Bethany has taken to riding indoors and competed in the Junior National Track Championships. we're very proud of her at Cyclones.

In utterly amazing news, Milton Keynes based rider, Steve Abrahams finishes his one year time trial today. The last big ride he posted on Strava was on 27th February and as usual was another huge 280kms. His water bottles actually froze up!!!! Today he has decided to spend the day in Weatherspoons, you really can't blame him!

Okay then, that's it this week. Here's to dry roads, sunny days and lots more miles...or can we have more of this snow stuff please?

Happy Pedalling

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Bumper half term week off!

I was lucky enough to have the week off for our schools half term holiday and as the kids didn't need me much I decided to get some good miles in. 

My first ride was on Monday and I decided to go with a bit of a classic. I took a direct route to Market Harborough and then joined the Brampton Valley Way. Unlike the day before I'd remembered my lights so the tunnels would be no problem.

The direct route for me took me through the village of Braybrooke, on the Northants/Leicestershire border. I've always been amused by the trickle of a stream they grandly name the River Jordan. Those awful brown signs are inappropriate at the best of times. There's another brown sign in the south of the county which proudly announces us as the 'Rose of the Shires!' It is a pretty place away from the towns, why why why the brown signs????

Onto the Brampton Valley Way which runs on a disused train line from Market Harborough to Northampton. I grew up in sight of the Northampton end and remember when the odd train still ran on the track. These days the BVW makes a nice direct cycling route to my parents house.

Without doubt the tunnels at Great Oxendon and Kelmarsh are the highlight of this route. I can't ride them without lights, despite being able to see the light at the other end of the tunnel. I'm not scared of the dark, I just get disorientated when I can't see my front wheel!

That's a better sign. It's one fo the many National Cycleway markers. I left the BVW at Merry Tom Lane which goes up into Brixworth. It's a fun downhill or a good training climb. I might use Merry Tom Lane a bit more as I get ready for the Friday Night Summer Series.

From there I went round one side of Pitsford Water. I love this place. I've cycled it many times, walked round it, ran round it, sailed on it, fished on it and sledged down the slope from the original car park. When my mates and I started driving we used to have Friday night camp outs with a barbecue and a few beers here too. 

My ride name was 'Chasing the Sun.' That was literally the case as the Sun set on a crisp but dry day.

The next couple of days weren't as good weather wise so I was limited to dog walks as I waited for the dry days to come back.

I still had a good time with my super furry animals.

Thursday was another nice dry day and I decided to leave the MTB at home to venture out on my Giant Propel. Normally this bike stays under wraps until at least Easter but my winter bike was in the shop. I have to keep some of the bikes in the shed and this led to a very stuck seat post. I'd tried many things to shift but had to concede and I took it into C&D Cycles for Andy to have a go. I have to report that my good friend and top bike mechanic has indeed freed the troublesome seat post. This is very good news because I think it will be a good fit for my son Sam very soon. I was hoping for a couple of rides with SuperSam over the half term but he had bigger fish to fry including going to work with his brother for a couple of days.

I only did a little 20 mile loop using one of my favourite training routes. This one will feature heavily as a before work ride when the mornings get some good light. I've learned my lesson the hard way about trying to do this too early in the year as I've broken a wheel on a pothole in the dark and one one frosty morning took a tumble and ruined a rear derailleur. 

Once again my ride took me through the picture postcard villages we have around here with red phone boxes, impressive churches, thatched cottages and an abundance of Northamptonshire Old Red Sandstone.

Friday was not being my friend as we had some family issues to attend to. I had a good walk with the dogs and my wife Lee at east Carlton Park much later than we had intended. we also had an extra dog with us. Bruce our Black Lab had his first ever swim in the lake, once he'd worked out that swimming was just running with your legs off the ground!

We were home by 2pm so I decided I did still have time to ride afterall. I zipped around as quick as possible to get over to Wakerley Woods where one of our very few dedicated bike trails, The Scar Tree Trail, is a good place to test your skills. It's also a good place to work on the fitness as 'Cardiac Hill,' is very well named!

I gave myself a break from riding on Saturday as it was another dog walk with Mrs Lindsley in the morning and more swimming for Bruce. In the afternoon it was a home match for Northampton Saints who just managed to squeeze past bottom club London Irish. It's been a frustrating year following our great old Rugby Club! We'd got used to being a top team for a few years and in the wise words of James: "If I hadn't seen such riches I could live with being poor!"

Having questioned my sanity last week it will come as no surprise that once again it was time for a Sunday mud fest. I wasn't sure about going really, there was a good cricket match on the telly, it was cold and foggy out and did I really want to exhaust myself in the mud again? The ride to C&D Cycles to meet Andy and Josh Brown plus Chris B was all I needed to sort out my Sunday morning melancholy. It's weird how this affects me at times. I love cycling, why would I ever want to avoid it? I know if I had stayed home I would have been disappointed later.

This route was the reverse of last Sunday but without me getting bits wrong and Andy Brown is completely right. It's a much nicer ride this way around!

This selfie early into the ride shows how misty it was. We saw a few other groups out, mostly road riders and waved a cheery hello to the KCC social ride gathering in the bus shelter at Sainsbury's. Josh made sure he put on a good show by zooming past.

I'm not sure why someone has coloured in this bend marker but hey it's Saints colours! We were having a really nice ride as we'd passed through Rushton and made our way to Desborough. Chris was on a new steed which shows what great bargains are to be had if you go for the currently unfashionable 26" wheels. Having owned 26, 29 and now 27.5 I have to say my jury is currently out. My favourite MTB ever remains my 26" wheeled, no front suspension Orange P7. However my current MTB, which is way less expensive possibly only because of the brand, is very good too! That's the other thing on bargains. Some big or well known brand bikes are better. Not all of them though. On that...I really like Andy Brown's Forme Calver.

There goes our club mountain goat on that lovely CX bike.

In parts, some of us had to push....

Not all of us though!!!

Here's Chris's new bike. Sunn had quite a reputation in the MTB world. The history makes good reading here!

After a spin down the Brampton Valley Way we made our way back to Lamport and across the fields via Faxton to Mill Lane, still my favourite cycling road. I left the others and made my way home from here by road via Orton. I stopped at the church because there's a geocache there which keeps evading me. Amazingly on this occasion I found it in seconds. It was also a good excuse to take a picture of my bike in front of yet another impressive church.

Look at the state of the filthy beast!

Ten minutes later it was all shiny and I made sure the chain had plenty of lube!

Right then. That's a great week of cycling and a really big chunk of my #NHS1000miles completed. Back to work tomorrow and the rollers in the mornings. I can't complain though. My weight is going in the right direction and I'm feeling fitter.

Time to make Sunday dinner!

Happy Pedalling!!!