Friday, 30 May 2014

A circuit round Market Harborough with a glut of cat 4 hills

The main aim of today was to try some new roads. In that regard it was a total success and I can say I've unearthed some cracking routes, testing hills and beautiful scenery. The secondary aim was to discover how effective strava routes is as a guidance system. Now that wasn't as good. Fair play it's an addition to an already great free app but I found it quite disappointing. If you zoom in on my map you'll see lots of little spikes. This is where I went wrong. The reason for these errors is the lack of detail on the maps, the fact it keeps zooming out and no indication of when you need to make a turn. In short it is, compared to a sat nav, quite basic. I'm fairly sure if I'd programmed the route into the navigator app on my phone it would be better. So is Strava routes useless? No that would be unfair. It did get me round a route I only really knew a 1/3rd of. Had you asked me that after I went the wrong way and then ended up stuck behind a flock of sheep you'd have got a different answer.

Of those new roads 3329ft in 66 miles is a lot round here. I used granny ring more than anytime I can recall. I say my favourite uppage was the climb into Saddington, short and sharp and about as steep as we get. The top looked highly defendable and had earthworks.  Unfortunately a quick bit of research turned up nothing of note apart from a fictional treacle mine. Strange people in Leicestershire!

Top of climb out of Great Easton
Back towards Eyebrook

It was like this all the way round

Lovely hill just before I had to stop for cows crossing the road

And then there were sheep!

So the morale of the tale that I'm burying at the bottom of the blog in the hope Andy from C&DCYCLES doesn't spot it, is that if you really want a guidance system you probably do need a decent bit of kit like a Garmin. The messing about with a Strava routes dented my confidence and slowed me down. I didn't like that and was so relieved to get to Cold Ashby and roads I know.

Bit busy tomorrow
Happy Peddaling

Ps as if to prove what a beast of a ride it was I tried to stand up after finishing this blog. Both legs locked up with cramp and I was stranded like a turtle on it's back for ten minutes...ouch!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Warwickshire Wanderer 100km Audax + Extended Calender Event 100km

Another guest blog this time it's C&DCYCLES true endurance man, Phil 'The Beast' Broxton. I haven't got his html embed code yet for Strava so I will update this when I do. Until then here's a link to this epic 144 mile ride: strava link

Thanks Richard for the invitation to have a guest blog.

Having had a Dawes Audax bike since 1999, I finally did my first Audax last September. I've managed a few since then in different forms, which need describing in their own blogs.

This was a ride I'd spotted a couple on months ago starting from Meriden, the centre of England and the Memorial for Cyclists that died in the Great War. I first rode to the memorial with a late colleague Guy Barber and members of Northampton CTC in the late 90's.

After a later than planned start at 07:15, I was looking forward to enjoying the comfort of my new bar tape and being able to transfer my watts through a new chain and cassette... before I got to Spratton, my chain started skipping. After a few miles, i realise that my middle ring was worn, so could only use my large or small ring.

I had the option in Audax terms to 'Did Not Start' (DNS)    see for details and ride opportunities. My membership number is n1678 if you'd like to see some of the rides I've completed.

As I rode through Rugby, I forgot not to use my middle chain ring as I went round a right hand bend with a bus behind me as my chain slipped again. Navigating through Coventry was a challenge, following my Garmin took me through some underpasses and rough cyclepaths.

The start time from Meriden was 09:00, I arrived after 09:30 and visited the memorial before checking in. I left the base after 10:00hrs with a time limit of 11:50hrs to get to the first checkpoint in Wellesbourne. Before then I stopped for a photo and treated myself to some sun cream. I then managed to arrive in Wellesbourne and check in at the church hall just in time - they reported that the last cyclists were about 20 minutes ahead of me. After a water refill i hit the road again, my glutes were burning from using my big ring.

I knew that the only significant climb was at Burton Dassett Country Park, which I first road alongside my C&D brothers as part of the Wiggle Circuit Breaker and my first 200km ride last October. It was the same hill, this time there was no wind, the sun was out, I've come to enjoy the challenge of hills, i kept breathing and pedalling.

The next stop was at Harbury Working Men's Club. Outside there were loads of cyclists enjoying their lunches on the grass. As I went in, I was chuffed to see a fellow Sky Ride Leader Ritchie Dixon from MK, who's one of my cycling heroes. Last year he completed the London-Edinburgh-London 1600km Audax in 4 days (over 200 miles per day). As we chomped on the provided cheese rolls, cups of tea and slices of cake, he advised that he'd left MK at 04:00hrs to ride to Meriden to do the 160km ride and planned to be home by 22:00hrs after riding 300kms - no sweat. He does this on his 2011 Ridgeback, which he got a great deal on last year.

I did the returning 30+ miles back to Meriden with Ritchie at a good pace and hit 100 miles. when we got back we were treated to beans on toast and endless tea. I then wished Ritchie a safe journey and headed back to the memorial, where i was interviewed by Ed Holt from CTC, who was riding a nice Pearson Fixie. He told me about 'shadow rides' he went on where he wouldn't plan a route, he'd follow his shadow at junctions, which was nice.

Home time, the ride back through Coventry then Rugby in the evening sun was nice, I stopped at a supermarket after Rugby and treated myself to a forgoodnesshake recovery drink and twin pack of pork pies. I later stopped for a telephone box shot for Xavier, who should be able to tell me where it was - I'd done my 200km target by this point.

I kept going and passes the Oswin's and resisted more water/tea and disrupting kid's bedtimes, then steadily finished my 12 hour ride on my namesake the 'Brixworth Beast'.

cheers Richard      


I love the idea Phil that amongst all the sports nutrition that cheese rolls, beans on toast and pork pies were your fuels of choice. Very athletic indeed! Thanks mate, great guest blog. This place is really taking shape thanks to all the contributions from the club!

Happy Peddaling

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Riding in bad weather is badass, doing it when you don't need to is dumbass!

Rule 9 was tested today and the good people of C&DCYCLES decided on common sense over bravado. Many people would have gone out in the torrential downpour See here or Here. It was a disgusting day when Beans and I went for a New a years Day ride. However today, not riding feels like the right thing to do. There is really no need to risk it. There will always be another chance to ride and as Hightower pointed out, you could ride today and end up missing a lot more than one ride!

A few of us still met at the shop because my splendid wife had created another piece of cake genius to mark Nathan's superb achievement in the Fred Whitton Sportive. I'm spoilt having a wife who not only supports all my biking nonsense but is able to create such amazing masterpieces out of flour, sugar and marg!

As madness say, Tomorrow is another day. I'm looking forward to a ride tomorrow.

Happy Peddaling 

The view from the bedroom window

Moist indeed

Believe or not I still left home to absolutely make sure it was horrible 

In better news I got a new phone cover from the awesome Mrs Lindsley

Nathan you can hide under your pansy umbrella but your about 8ft tall...we know it's you

Mrs lindsley made Hightower a cake to celebrate his Frank Whitton achievement

He's pleased

No idea where to cut it though!

Guest Blog: Olly Crabtree takes on the Mitre London Revolution

Mitre London Revolution 2014
As a group, searching for a new challenge each year, normally ends up in a good night out, and us riding a different route across Britain ( C2C, Way of the Roses etc). Great rides, but this year the theme needed changing. So, after endless hours of research (mainly involving beer), we found a suitably challenging challenge, that will be both physically & mentally challenging - Mitre London Revolution, cycling for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

London Revolution is in its third year and, much like this blog, it does what it says on the tin: circumnavigates London. Run by the same company that run the Deloitte RAB (Threshold sports) our expectations were high. We weren't disappointed! The ride involves 2 days cycling 190+ miles and camping over night at Ascot race course. From start to finish the organisation and planning was impeccable.
After a quick exit from Lee Valley Stadium and London itself, the route headed north along quiet country roads. We arranged to meet up with our supporters club at Old Knebworth, the most northern point of the ride and therefore the closest to home . This was only 25 miles in but the morale boost was very welcome. You could not do a ride like this without the support of family. Encouraging you to go out in all weathers and providing much needed post ride meals. The route continued through the leafy lanes of the home counties. Pit stops were well stocked with the usual sportive snacks and gels. By pit stop two we had had one puncture along side a firing range and cramp had caught me off guard on a hill. Refuelled and re-hydrated (not going to make that mistake again) with 30 odd miles still to go, we set off. By this point my tired legs started to show but my chain gave up before me, getting twisted by a bad gear change 10 miles before Ascot. Fergus stayed back and after removing a few links and hoping for no more hills I set off on a single speed.Jon and Dave were waiting just before the finish line and we all crossed as one.

On paper day 2 is an easier day, it has less miles, and less climbing. However, with 100 miles in the legs and a night in a tent the reality is very different. Part of the package includes a sports massage at the end of day 1 which made the start of day 2 easier. The top of Box Hill was the first pit stop. I was surprised and glad how short this climb was, maybe it was the two trips to the Peak District, but I expected more. I got it later in the ride after we started climbing Chalk Pit Lane. We knew this was the big one and re-grouped at the bottom (Jon had time for a pint of Guinness, and nearly ordered food, in the pub at the bottom he was so far ahead).
As we started climbing the four of us soon split, climbing at our own pace. Yes, I was behind again. But this was one hill I was not going to be defeated on. More and more riders dismounted and walked. But this was personal.
Reaching the top for me was very emotional. We were raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer as Greta was diagnosed in September, in addition 5 of us should have been riding but one sadly passed away while on a training ride. Both were in my mind and I know that's what pushed me through. The remainder of the ride passed back through South London and across Tower Bridge, ending back at Lee Valley.
1,606.7 of training miles and 82,195 ft climbing, culminating in a beautiful weekend of cycling.
Needless to say we didn’t want it to end. The Strava breakdown party was held that night over copious amounts of chinese food and a couple of beers

Great cycling, great atmosphere, great memories.
There is still time to sponsor us if you wish

Olly I'm proud to note the beer you have in your hand. A proper German Lager brewed under reinheitsgebot principles and very firmly allowed under the Velominati rules

Richard's bit at the end:

Olly, mate, brother of C&DCYCLES (where I'm sure you have benefited from Andy's expertise in preparing your noble steed for this epic adventure - we have to mention him or he sulks,) that is a glorious addition to the blog. Thank you so much. 

Cancer is an illness that has very strongly affected my Wife's side of the family. The last time I rode the Cycle4Cynthia I rode as hard as I could because Lee's mum was extremely ill and it just felt like I was doing something. So I partly understand your emotions.

What a great adventure. If you need another team member I would be a willing volunteer if your splendid group would have me. I was pleased to be part of your training and to have watched your progress as a cyclist. As the originator of the phrase 'live strong,' is disgraced I want to share with you a phrase from former Saints and All Blacks coach Wayne Smith "Kia Kaha" it means be strong.

Kia Kaha Olly

Thursday, 22 May 2014

No route to post but hey some good reading!

I started this blog just as a personal record but me being me I now want a bit more. In order to do that I look at other people's blogs, in particular I look at the popular blogs which attract enough traffic to make them commercially successful. Here's some of the things I've been reading this week:

The Guardian cycling page is really really good. Lots of articles and blogs. All areas of cycling are covered and because it has the expertise of a media giant it's very well presented and user friendly. 

In the Guardian, 2 pieces stuck out for me this week. Firstly the progress of the inflatable helmet.
And then something we've all experienced in the anti Lycra venom. Interestingly it talks of the use of cycling paths and mirrors our club discussions. I think we should use cycle paths where available, others at C&DCYCLES think we are entitled to use the road. The blog in question relates to Brisbane, so it's fascinating to know things are similar on the other side of the world. Even more fascinating they talk of the Brisbane cycle loop...if only I was visiting there in just 10 weeks!

This blog is very popular and features on lots of top 10 cycling lists. I can see why, it's a nice blog.

Finally there's a new episode of Radio 5's bespoked. I'm looking forward to listening to this later, probably to get me through the admin I've been avoiding at work.

Back in the saddle tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to it.
Happy Peddaling

Saints boss Jim Mallinder likes cycling too...what?
 Did you really think I was finished with the Saints excitement?

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Vroom Wednesday - Best ride of the year so far for me

Another vroom Wednesday C&DCYCLES club ride where we go faster but remember club LAW 1 no man gets left behind. Tonight's route was planned and led by Chris Barratt and what a great route it was too. Also in the group was big Steve, Ken, Beans, Jonesy and I. A great group of blokes. No arse end Charlie was required as we mostly stayed together with some great group riding and a very healthy average.

I'd say the real feature of tonight's ride was the set of hills between Broughton and Rothwell, through Cransley and Loddington. There are four decent climbs in short succession and wow of wows I got a King of the Mountains on the first climb into Cransley...but then it's a really short segment and a few of us jointly hold that honour. However I don't get many KOM so I'm taking that! I also got a PR on every segment in that sequence. It was just one of those nights when I felt great and I was going to prove it. I wish every ride was like this.

As per usual the behaviour of others was amusing. We had no issues with drivers this evening but leaving Kettering on excited gentleman screamed his appreciation of men in Lycra out of his window. In another village people clapped as we went past. Very odd but quite funny.

Well after all that I'm going to reward myself with a beer.

There will be longer blogs but after such a great ride, sometimes less is more.

Happy Peddaling.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

C&DCYCLES the return of super Sunday

Action shot of the brothers and sister of today's ride

After an already epic weekend, with Friday's massive Saints result, way too much ale, the Saints result, way too little sleep, Saints, a good ride yesterday, Saints and then an excellent Turkish meal at the Old Bank (highly recommended,) Saints plus suffering with a cold, then today's ride felt like a pedal too far. My energy levels felt drained and I didn't think I rode well. Certainly not as well as everyone else. Then you see the stats, another load of PRs so perhaps this was better than I thought.

The ten miles to and from home took the 50 mile shop ride to a 60 mile 100km round trip for me. The route was devised a led by big Steve, Chris Barratt, Iain Tingle and Nathan Gallon took turns looking after me at the back. On a beautiful day, in near perfect riding conditions this trip through East Northants, Bedfordshire and a smidge of Cambridgeshire was picture postcard perfect. This was a quicker ride no time for snaps so I'll use my friend google to give you the idea.


Wymington Church

Remains of Motte and Bailey castle at Yelden

Very posh Kimbolton School

Hargrave village church

Raunds as it still looks today

All in all a very nice ride. The standard for the return of  Sunday rides has been set very high, so well done Steve. Thanks to the special bunch of people who rode today and to George back at the shop for making the tea. Andy (calm down there's your mention,) who still can't shut up about the magnificent Saints victory remarked that I looked a tad jaded. Hmmm that's putting it mildly! What a weekend.

Apparently Saints director of Rugby, Jim Mallinder's face is stuck like this, I know mine is!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

C&DCYCLES Saturday shop ride: the day after the night before.

This morning I may have mentioned something. I may have mentioned that Northampton Saints beat their fiercest rival Leicester Tigers for the first time in a long time and will now play in the Aviva Premiership final. You'll be pleased to know I was there, my voice is wrecked and my ears are still ringing. I think once or twice I said something. I may even have had a chat with Stuart Nicholls, Tigers fan. I am deliriously happy about this and couldn't wait to get out this morning in my Saints cycling jersey.

This morning we split into regular and fast groups. Slow is not accurate because we weren't. The fast group set off after us and caught us eventually. I'm not sure how I rode after about ten pints of ale and four hours sleep so 22 trophies is a surprise. The route today was classic Oundle loop led by Andy, who loves the rugby and talking about the rugby and is thrilled with last nights result. Arse end Charlie was big Steve who is also thrilled that Saints beat Tigers to become the 2014 East Midlands champions. I'm sure I've got that right.

I like this route a lot. For starters the Brigstock bumps are nice down rather than up. It was also beautiful weather, which means the cycling tan is underway. To be honest I'd have been happy in a Blizzard in Siberia I'm so happy today!

The quick lads catch us at Barratt's Corner, Aldwinkle

Quick pic on the roll, my hand wasn't that steady, did I mention why?

Oh how did that get there?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Pedal Norfolk 2014 by Paul Sturgess

Time for another guest blog. This time Paul Sturgess tells us about his two day Pedal Norfolk experience. Thanks for this Paul it's another great edition to the blog.

Pedal Norfolk is now in its second year. Conceived by a couple of lads that had managed to complete over 400km in a weekend around North Norfolk who realised that there was potential to create an event for the wider public.

It’s a cycling festival in the grounds of Holkham Hall with activities for all cycling enthusiast over the May Day bank holiday weekend. Basic campsite facilities are provided, including showers. There was lots of cycling based entertainment for all age groups, trade sales and food outlets. The main events are the sportives with options of 100/50/20 miles on the Saturday and Sunday, then hillier 50 or 20 miles on the Monday.

Deciding which events to do was tricky. My wife Tanya and I are both in our mid-50s. We’ve been road cycling proper now for 2 and a half years, regularly do sportives around 50 miles but we have never done much more than 60 miles in an event and we certainly were not up to doing the full 250 miles over the weekend. We did 340 miles in 7 days in Majorca in February so we know we can cope with moderate day-to-day intensity, but at what pace? In the end we decided to enter the 50 miler on each day, knowing that we could just do a 20 if we were not up to it.

We arrived just after 8:00pm on Friday night after enduring the usual bank holiday traffic on the A47 and were instructed to park the Motorhome where we wanted and proceed to registration asap as it was due to close at 9:00pm. We found a quiet spot on the edge of the campsite and walked over to the registration tent where we were given brief instructions and a timing chip to stick to our helmets. This was the one and only visit to registration as the timing chip covered all three days.
Saturday dawned cool, bright and breezy. One of those days when the temperature varies significantly with the dominance of either warm sunshine or a cool breeze. So the usual dilemma of what to wear, 2 or 3 layers, shorts or tights? As usual, we got it wrong. The sun did not last and we were a bit chilled at the end.

Things started off badly. I stepped out of the Motorhome in my cleats, slipped on the top step (plastic shoe on plastic step) fell against the doorway and ended up in a heap on the ground below just to hear the tannoy saying “calling all 50 milers to the start line”! Nothing to do but get up and get on with it.The bruises are now fading.

I set a mental target of 15 miles per hour average. We have done 50 miles in less than 3 hours (16.7mph) but given the conditions and the need to save something for the next two days, then that seemed about right. It soon became obvious that we were going to be playing catch-up for most of the day. There were already some 20 milers at the start consisting of protective parents with toddlers and old dears on shoppers complete with baskets effectively blocking the narrow estate roads for the first mile or so of the course. Live and let live, but we didn’t factor that in.

The course took us east along the coast road to Blakeney then inland before running back up to HolkhamFairly easy course without any major climbs although the total climbing was nearly 600 meters. There was a decent feed station at 27 miles with all the usual refuelling requirements. What was odd was the 30s themed dress of the official in charge and the weird music from the same era. This is Norfolk though, so you know some things are going to be a bit off at a tangent.

The ride was fairly uneventful. However, one thing erked me a little. We were slowly overtaken by a group of chatting friends that initially blocked me as I was trying to overtake a slow rider, and then 

when they got past they slowed down and held me up. Tanya had managed to get past the slow rider ahead and was now 100 metres up the road. I had no option but to go past them and re-join Tanya ahead. They were totally oblivious to the situation, deeply immersed in their inane banter. Something for group riders to consider.

Saturday afternoon consisted of a gentle wander around the trade stalls and displayed followed by the obligatory cream tea in one of the local cafes. I find eating little and often after a long ride is the best way to get my old body nutrition/hydration balanced again – that’s my excuse for the cream-tea anyway.

The next event was a 6 mile time trial around the estate, open to all. We watched. It was won by professional triathlete Rob Skipper at an average speed of about 27 mph!!! He had earlier cycled the 100 mile sportive.

Later in the evening we visited the bar tent where local girlEmma Pooley was holding a Q&A session after the prize giving. She was there for the weekend using the event to train for the upcoming Friends Life Womens Tour. Her insight and observations about cycling and women’s participation was very interesting.

On the Sunday, the course headed south west inland returning via Sandringham. Except that I spied a direction arrow that I was not supposed to and we ended up back at Holkham after only covering about 10 miles. The arrow was meant for the return route that crossed the outgoing course. Only 7 miles extra 

The weather was a little warmer and less breezy, but taking no chances I wore an extra layer. Guess what? Wrong again, too warm!
The rest of the day followed the usual pattern: food, walk, food, walk, food, drink, sleep. The 8 mile walk to Wells-next-the-Sea and back along the beach was, in hindsight, a step too far for my tiring body.
Monday was supposed to be the hard day. Billed as hilly, so I should have been prepared. The two steep hills were early on. The first one, Bard Hill was away from the coast at Saltburn, topping out at 14% and then a second one, Summer Hill a little further on and not quite so steep. Only short hills, but needed the lowest gears on the bike, 34 front to 28 rear. (Note for Mt Ventoux – Need a 30 rear).

The weather was warmer still, so I went back to 2 layers but with shorts, Guess what? Got it right this time. Third time lucky.

We got up the two hills OK, even had enough energy to outsprint Tanya to the top. I’m not sure what the other riders though of the verbal abuse rained in my direction from mywife’s lips. By the time we got to the feed station, I was absolutely pooped. Not sure why as I had fueled up well with a big breakfast, had an energy bar before the climbs. I took a gel and some flapjack at the feed station but it took a good few miles of drafting Tanya before I could take my turn on the front again. After that we got on well again, taking it steady, chatting with other riders and eating at every opportunity.
One of the best bits of the course was the run in back to the finish line at Holkham Hall on the estate roads. It’s a long straight road, over a mile long, mostly down-hill but with a short steep climb to the obelisk before the final bend down to the Hall. It was the same return route each day and we had developed a bit of competition. We would enter the estate together but after that it was each man to himself. The climb to the obelisk was a great place to launch an attack which you could hold off until the finish line. Not sure what the visiting public thought of two oldies sprinting arse in air through the
 estate though and that was it. We ate, packed the bikes away in the Motorhome garage and drove home.

Both bikes behaved impeccably. No issues whatsoever. In the end we managed over 15 mph average on all three days.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend away. It was hard work, but very enjoyable if you like cycling. Would we do it again next year? Most certainly 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Tingle's in Amsterdam

OK time for another guest blog and this time it comes from a genuine club man in C&DCYCLES Iain Tingle. Iain was often at the back helping less experienced riders long before the rest of us thought this was a good idea. He's also the man who put me onto the excellent 'Dancing up Hills,' biography of Charles Holland the first British rider in the Tour de France.

Here goes:

When I think of the Netherlands I think of 3 things, Tulips, Clogs and Bicycle’s. Now this isn’t trying to be stereotypical or narrow-minded they are just the three things that spring to mind. A word association if you like. Britain does the same Fish and Chips, The queen and Jeremy Kyle (Ashamedly I must say for the latter).

So on a recent business day trip to Amsterdam with a little free time on the side I decided NOT to do the normal stumble around trying NOT to look like a tourist taking photos and cranking my head upwards. This is one thing about try NOT always leads to…you always try to hard and end up being what you set out to avoid. This time I decided to go in feet first swallow my pride and be a total tourist.

Now in the past I must admit I have done a Segway tour of Bruges. To be honest I know I must have looked like a total tourist wally but in all fairness it was some great fun and highly recommended too if you get the chance. So visiting Amsterdam one tour sprang to mind, A city that loves it cycling there is only one way to see it by bike.

Searching online for options one company came up trumps great reviews, excellent response via email and the bonus of reserving via email and paying on the day. Situated in the heart of Amsterdam and roughly a 5 min easy walk form Amsterdam Central Station.

The staff were friendly and helpful. In a group of 8 we had a quick briefing and set about collecting our steed for the day. FYI YELLOW BIKE is exactly that. There is no missing these things.

All set up and ready to roll the tour guide ran off back to the office, returning with a handful of yellow ponchos just in case, as it turns out the best call.

We headed off taking some time to adjust to the European style of bike, front break on the left handlebar and rear break applied by peddling backwards. Even a keen cyclist like me it took a while to come to terms with this set up.

The route was set out and incorporated some of the main sights of what this Dutch capital had to offer. Every 10/20 minutes we would stop at a location, carefully selected to include severely talking points. And before setting off again we were told of areas to look out for on the next part of the ride.

This was a real time travels tour, we saw and heard about Amsterdam past and present. Amazing architecture, lovely views and all described by a tour guide that knew her history but at the same time knew not to over do it.

Now going back to the poncho, I was unlucky enough to pick a day that 1 hour into our tour the heavens opened and it poured, it came down like Amsterdam was going to be reclaimed by the water that once covered it.  The poncho was the saving grace, donning my bright yellow rain cape and looking more and more like a giant banana on wheels the tour continued. Rule number 5 and 9 adhered. This was the only this was the only slight downside to the tour, it is open to the elements but that is no worry some times you have to take the rough with the smooth.

Now I don’t want to go about what we saw and heard, just in case you get the chance to take it on. This is a tour that is perfect if you want an idea of what Amsterdam has to offer. It gave me a chance to see a little of everything from the house that Anne Frank graced to the many stunning bridges over the canal system, the galleries that house masterpieces and are themselves a work of art to look at to a famous coffee shops and everything in between. It is perfect start to a trip and with a few extra days there would have given me a list of places to go a visit with more time.

It showed me how the Dutch embrace cycling, biking in Holland is a way of life and an excellent way to get around. The cycle lanes dominate the cities landscape everywhere you look you see cycling and its culture and you start to understand why the Dutch love pedal power.

If you get the chance and you have day in this amazing city I highly recommend trying one of these tours. I leave you with this, no matter whatever the weather forecast take a tour poncho better safe than sorry.

Cheers Iain that's top blogging!
Happy Pedalling

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

There once was an ugly bracket...

With bearings all rusty and brown,
Clank clank, get out,
Clank clank, get out,
Clank clank, you make me frown!

You may have guessed that my bottom bracket was indeed wrecked to bobbins. Chris at C&DCYCLES kept the evidence for me to see and how that rusty smashed up article got me round the Squires and Spires is in fact a modern day miracle. Still it's all fixed in the space of the day and Clive was super smooth for a splendid vroom Wednesday.

What a ride! Perfect weather. Warm and sunny but not too warm and very light winds. We did have a planned route and right up to Boughton Crossing we stuck to it. Then Steve decided to tinker. His aim for the evening was hill collecting and collect them we did. At Ravensthoroe Steve wanted to head North even further I'm not sure how far he wanted to go but I suspect Scotland. At this point I pointed out I might be expected home at some point and we headed off up the minor lumps through Coton to Guilsborough and then on to that monster climb into Naesby. From there we remembered it's vroom Wednesday and not mountain goat midweek and things got quick. Really quick! I got two 9th places on Strava. That 11t cog does make a difference and I love it.

The scenery tonight was stunning as ever. We passed so many landmarks again with tonight's highlight perhaps being Holdenby_House. An interesting fact about Holdenby House is my daughter Niamh had a living history trip to Holdenby House where she was a kitchen maid for the day. Later that year she did a family tree for school and we discovered that my Nan's great Aunt was actually a kitchen maid at Holdenby House!

Ubiquitous selfie

There not just jelly babies they're M&S jelly babies

Stomachs in boys and check out Olly's Gran Fondo 3 jersey

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

New 105 Casette, quick spin, like the gears...bottom bracket noise sounds terminal!

So I deliberated and deliberated and did some research and in the end decided not to change my chain rings to 52/39 but instead change my cogs from 10 speed 28-12 to 28-11. I did this because I found a gear ratio chart showing I'd gain more top end speed with a 50-11 (4.6) than a 52-12 (4.3) and lose none of my Granniest of Granny gears which I definitely employed on my last epic ride.

I dropped my bike off the day after the brothers and sisters of C&DCYCLES had enjoyed a grand day out at the Women's Tour. I couldn't get the day off an to be honest I'm still sulking. To make matters worse the promised guest blog from that historic occasion and splendid ride has yet to materialize. That was a week ago and as you can imagine I was literally itching to get back on the bike.

The route I chose was deliberate as there were two segments I wanted to test the new ratio out on. The top gear certainly felt like it had more oomph but no PR's this evening. An average of 15.9mph remains pretty ok by my standards.
Shiny new cogs!

However there are bigger fish to fry here. Clive is making odd noises. It sounds like the bottom bracket. In fact it sounds awful but not all the time. It's very weird and I can't blame them in the shop for not noticing it because you can ride for ten minutes or so without a squeak. Then it's clank, clunk, scrape. I keep expecting something to fall off but the only effect it appears to have on the bikes performance is it knocks my confidence and I whittle about the noise rather than get my head down. Anyway Andy at C&DCYCLES (there's your mention Andy,) said get it in first thing and they'll try to have it ready for vroom Wednesday. I hope so as I'm riding to work tomorrow and if there's no bike I'll have to walk home!

On my return to Lindsley 'Home Sweet Home,' I was presented with a slice of the most glorious recovery cake. Lee was experimenting with a new recipe for Orange & Lemon loaf. Bloody handsome!

Happy Peddaling

Monday, 12 May 2014

Hightower does the Fred Whitton Sportive

C&DCYCLES rider Nathan 'Hightower' Gallon took on one of the toughest UK Organised rides in the 112 mile Fred Whitton Sportive. Taking place in the Lake District this ride goes up just about every high pass in the Cumbrian Fells. I've been up those roads a car! I've also done a lot of fell walking and all I can say is chapeau Nathan chapeau!

Here's Nathan's account of the ride and some pictures:

I blame it all on my wife Kate!! She came home from work late last year and said that she had been chatting to one of her patients. Turns out he was a keen cyclist in his youth and said that if her husband fancied a real challenge he should enter the Fred Whitton. A little cycle through the hills of the Lake District. The ride is named after Fred Whitton, a cycling enthusiast and member of The Lakes Club who sadly lost his life to cancer. The event was set up by friends in his memory and has steadily grown in popularity over the years. As a now keen cyclist myself I went straight on-line and looked it up. I saw that it was a 112 mile ride with around 11000ft of ascent, was heard to say ‘don’t be daft’ and shut the laptop lid.

So don't ride up it numpties!

Kate however kept on nagging me to enter and so I looked at it again and again and eventually thought what the hell and entered. So I was in the ballot for a place, fairly confident that I wouldn’t get in as it is a very popular event, with around 2000 riders getting a place. Imagine my surprise when I got the email.... Congratulations on getting a place on the Fred Whitton. 11th May 2014.

No excuses now. A lot of winter training ahead of me and a bit of hill hunting too. A few sportives to boot in the spring and we are only a week away from the event. Disaster strikes when I bust a spoke and my other set of wheels is looking a bit poorly too. Andy and Chris at C&D Cycles really came through for me and put the bike back on the road, ready for the event. Thanks guys.

Rule 5!!!

A smooth journey up to Cumbria finds us at our B&B in Grasmere which is only a stones throw from the start line and after registering it was back to our digs for an early night. The alarm goes of at 4am and already the nerves kick in. Looking out of the window, although it’s not raining, I decide to go for winter clothing and full waterproof jacket. Turns out to be the best decision I made that morning. Out the front door to go to the start line at 6am and the heavens opened. Standing with my bike at the start line, drenched, I wonder what I have let myself in for. I fire up the Garmin, and were off.

OK it does look a bit challenging

The first 6 miles are flat and alongside a beautiful lake, as you would expect in the Lake District. Just ahead I see a marshall with a huge smile on his face and his arm pointing right. I smile cheerily back, make the turn and hit the first hill, Kirkstone Pass. My smile disappears! A 454m ascent over 3 miles. Incredibly steep in places and granny gear all the way. The decent is amazing. Long sweeping downhill, and I had a job to keep it under 40mph. This was followed by two more ascents of Matterdale End and Honister, both climbs of over 350m. 50 miles done and it’s the first feed station. A quick rear tube change which had a slow puncture and I was off again, straight in to Newlands Pass (455m) before reaching the first cut off point with time to spare. 3 miles later and it’s in to the 318m climb of Whinlatter. I was very happy to see my wife at the top of the climb, so stopped for a cheeky little rest before going down the other side. On to Cold Fell with a vicious 1:4 proceeded by a 290m climb. The view from Cold Fell was awesome, being able to see the Isle of Man and Scotland too. 

Cadence up...cadence up

At 83 miles I arrived at the second feed station and after the best cup off tea in the world and a couple of jam sandwiches I set off again. Not long after leaving the feed station there was a sign I had been dreading. Hardknott Pass, 10 miles. You arrive at the bottom of the slope to a lovely set of signs which warn of the approaching climb. I pass over a small bridge and begin peddling in earnest. After about 40 feet or so I stop, get off and start walking. It is so steep, 1:3 in places, I’m struggling to keep the front wheel on the floor and to be perfectly honest, I am about all out of beans. A bloke cycles past me on a fixie before I walk past a bloke who is cycling up!! Massive kudos to all those that cycled it. As I summit, the wind whips up and I see the decent. Scary would be an accurate description. Brakes on all the way down with arms aching from braking and holding on. I reach the bottom, chuffed that I made it, only to hear the Air Ambulance overhead for a cyclist who has fallen at the bottom. He was airlifted with serious hip and back injuries. A beautiful 2 or so mile ride later and it Wrynose Pass. Same as Hardknott, but not quite as steep. Yes, I walked up it. After another scary decent, only 12 miles to go and with renewed vigour I race off, only to find myself in the granny gear again at any kind of hill!! With only 3 miles to go it’s flat again and I see the finish at Grasmere approaching. I turn in to the finish and see Kate amongst all the supporters, dutifully pointing the camera my way to capture the pain and elation in my face. She then yells at me, “The bloody battery has died”. I stop only metres from the line and wait whilst the phone comes out for those all important pictures. I cross the line, exhausted but elated all at the same time.

The big buffoon clearly miles behind everyone else

I could describe the weather for you, but it was typical Lake District all the way round. Wet and windy, but not too much wind which was a relief. The views were stunning throughout. Met some great characters on the route, ranging from fellow officers of the law to managing directors and ground workers. Think he was your long lost twin Steve Major, judging purely by his language about the f###ing weather!!

Jesus he's nearly the size of a mountain!

All in all a fantastic ride, well organised, great camaraderie, great marshalls and all ended with a great feeling of achievement and satisfaction at completing a truly tough, brutal and beautiful ride in Cumbria. Would I do it again? You do it first, then ask me again........ 

Good weather for Eskimos?

Back to me: Well what can I say Nathan. That Kate really has got you by the nadgers if she talked you into this. Great bloggage mate, thanks again and yes you do qualify for one of Mrs Lindsley's very special cakes. Any requests?