Saturday, 15 July 2017

Under Pressure...another week of learning on the bike!

If you're anything like me you know have Queen's 'Under Pressure,' as an earworm and if you didn't the power of suggestion probably means you do now. It's a favourite game of mine to plant earworms. On rides I like to put Taylor Swift's 'Shake it Off!' in people's heads. At home I like to plant the Divinyls 'When I Think of You,' in the Queen of Cakes head. It amuses me to think she might absent mindedly sing it to herself at work! Oh the fun...

Anyway back to the cycling. This has been an interesting week! I've only done one outdoor ride, last night's Friday Night Summer Series race at Wadenhoe. Earlier in the week I was restricted to rollers due to time and needing to be at home and today I've turbo trained because I can't put weight through my left wrist!

Some of the things I've learned are: I can ride no handed on the rollers! Tyre pressure is a tricky issue and cows like to watch a bit of Mountain Bike Racing! Then there's stuff I already knew but chose to ignore...this should be the actual Rule #1 of not blindly follow advice on the internet!

As it's the only comment worthy ride of the week this blog will concentrate on the Friday Night Summer Series Round 11 at Wadenhoe. This week it was the turn of Kettering based Mountain Bike Club - Numplumz. This was a fantastic circuit with some challenging features and some clearly marked Strava segments.

As ever I'm grateful to a number of snappers for getting some shots of the race. Pre-race though I met up with Ashley and we got a selfie in. A couple of warm up laps showed this short punchy course was going to be tough on the legs and lungs!

With about 5 minutes to spare a third C&D ride, Chris Barratt appeared in his VW combi. Chris registered quickly and then realised he didn't have his helmet. Luckily this is a very friendly group of riders and a spare was located quickly! His bike was an absolute beauty. He had a retro skinny tubed steel Marin with those now unfashionable 26in wheels. It made me think of my Orange P7 and I do regret selling that bike a bit! There's Chris signing in just before he realised he was missing a helmet!

The star of the night had to be the cow that belongs to the landowners who at this stage I believe is called Peony but I'm waiting for an update on that. This beautiful old beast is a beloved 25 year old pet and was a thoroughly chilled out VIP spectator. Thanks at this stage must be extended to the landowners. Your venue was superb!

The race started and as usual I was near the back but still in touch with many in my age group. It was about half a lap before the best of the grand veterans passed me and then the youngsters flew past a few minutes later. I know I'm way off the pace to be competitive but I don't care, it's great to see the better riders physical ability and ride skills. The other thing that's nice is that all the riders respect each other and accept that occasionally you can't help being in the way.

Due to some comments I'd read I was running my tyres right down at 20psi. I'd tested this out on the trails in Desborough and the improved grip was definitely helping on the short sharp slopes. On the tight grassy corners though my back wheel was misbehaving periodically and I really should have seen what was about to happen! 

I was doing okay. The kid on the fat bike hadn't passed me yet and I hadn't been lapped by too many riders. Then my chain skipped off my granny ring on a slope and just for good measure wedged itself in my crank. I really like the look of these 1x11 systems. It has to help not worrying about your chain rings! This cost me couple of minutes on the lap but I soldiered on. Then I approached the fun little downhill with the tight turn at the bottom...not that technical just fun! My back wheel just slid out underneath me at speed and I went down in a heap! I strongly suspect it was those low tyre pressures.  It must have looked bad because people came running to help. Notably Paul Kelf who I've ridden with many times. I'd broken another rule of falling off and put my hands out. I'm really lucky not to have broken my wrist or collar bone. After that I got back on and dribbled round for two more laps but I couldn't grip fully with my left hand and today I'm bruised and swollen. That'll learn me! I now have an app  for tyre pressure which suggests at my weight, wheels and riding conditions I should be running 30psi front and 35psi rear. To add to my learning it appears I'm confined to the turbo until I can hold handlebars properly again.  I will do my best to be fit for two weeks time in Harrington because I'm flipping loving this FNSS malarkey!

After the race Sam wondered if he could have a go on my bike. It appears with the saddle down low he fits on my focus. Only one thing for it then. Donate Franz to Sam and purchase an XC MTB with that 1x11 drivetrain! 

As I've been blogging Chris Froome has just retaken the yellow jersey in the Tour. How cool is that. It's been a funny TdeF2017. It felt ruined when Sagan and Cavendish had to leave. Then it seemed like a Team Sky procession to Paris. Now it's got interesting again.

Well that's it!
Happy Pedalling


So it turns out I did break my wrist after all. I have a fractured scaphoid. I'm in a cast for at least six weeks and currently unable to drive let alone ride a bike! I need to make the best of this. So it's time for some turbo sessions and maybe test that dodgy calf with some running!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Okay I'm going to do a whistle stop tour of another wonderful week of cycling. There's road, off road, me, SuperSam and a competition win to squeeze in.

First ride of the week was just one of my standard morning rides. The weather has been fantastic and it's just great to get out. Surprisingly I got some PRs on segments I ride regularly. Something is working then!

Friday night was back to the wonderful Friday Night Summer Series. This week it was Delapre in Northampton which was a brilliant course. I felt great at the start and was determined to achieve two things this week. First was not to lose a lap to the majority of riders in my age group and secondly to stay in touch for at least one lap. It was all going quite well for about a quarter of the first lap and then inexplicably I fell of the track in a barely technical section. To my embarrassment, everyone went past me and that was the last I saw of everyone who didn't lap me! DOH!!!

I soldiered on around the course for four laps and in reality it was an improvement on my efforts the week before. Hidden in the woods running parallel to London Road was some great single track with berms, pump track and tabletops. Who knew that was there? There was plenty of other good features too with the the splash through and a couple of short sharp steep bits. I did my best and was knackered at the end and even better I only lost a lap to the very best riders. It remains a privilege to ride alongside some of those superfit specimens. Even better still the kid on the fatbike didn't catch me this week!

On Saturday I was on a bit of a mission. I wanted to ride with C&D Cycles but I also needed to get home in plenty of time to get Sam to his races at the Leicester Cycle Circuit. So I set out with the intermediate group on a route that headed out to Castle Ashby and back. However it quickly became apparent that I'd left my legs in Delapre and I was dropping back on the first few hills. I didn't want to hold people up and I really wasn't in the mood to try and keep up. Mark Baird once again dragged me back to the group but my mind was made up and I headed off on my own just before Sywell. I relaxed as I took up my own pace and it struck me what a beautiful day it was. I headed through lovely Holcot, over the causeway and onto Brixworth. At this point I realised I had at least another hour to burn and I came up with the plan of heading through Cottersbrooke and onto Haselbech. No one knows how to pronounce that village but there's a great downhill from there. So obviously I decided to ride up it. The women's tour used this climb as a QOM this year and there were still rider names painted on the road. 

I took the picture above in a stunning sunny Brixworth but have to point out something that is totally bugging me. Why is my helmet never on straight? I've adjusted it loads but it always ends up skewiff! Anyway I had a lovely ride back and was home in plenty of time to get Sam to Leicester.

The event at Leicester Cycle Circuit, a brand new purpose built facility, was organised by Dean Barnett of Welland Valley CC. WVCC invited Leicester Forest CC and KCC Cyclones to join them for races from under 6 through to the over 12's. 

The track is excellent. It also has lights for all year use. There is however, nothing else there yet. The pace just lacks facilities at this stage. Saying that they really have got the most important bit right. The track is superb and it's clear to see how it will be an excellent resource for local cycling. We NEED one of these in Northants.

The quality of the racing was excellent and all of the KCC Cyclones were a credit to the club. Sam was a bit off the pace but tried really hard. He's not done much of this type of racing before and I know he can make some quick gains with a bit of help. What people didn't know was that Sam had had quite a tumble earlier in the day on his BMX at the skate park. Massive credit to him for getting back on his bike to race.

So to the last ride of the week and possibly the most enjoyable. Sam and his friend Joe are loving the Mountain Bike riding. Usually we go to Wakerley but with the recent discovery of single track with jumps and berms just ten minutes ride from home we headed to Desborough.

wonky wonky helmet!!!!

The only thing missing is some proper downhill sections. There was more than enough to keep us interested until our drinks bottles ran out! Check out the videos of the boys having the time of their lives!!!

 It's become traditional for us to have a prank crash shot. The boys thought they'd fooled me with this one until I pointed out that they way they fell didn't make sense! Good try lads!!! To be fair they didn't fall for my attempt either!

I have exciting news...I won some wheels! You know those Facebook competitions where you 'like, share and comment,' to enter? Always wondered if someone wins? Well it turns out they do and in the Forme/American Classic competition that winner was me! I didn't believe it at first but look at the pics...I have new wheels!

These little beauties are American Classics Hurricane Wide road wheels. They're tubeless ready and apparently really quite good! To be truthful these are the wheels I would have chosen and they complete my Giant Propel quite nicely. I just need to wait for Andy to get back from holiday to set them up properly. I did think about doing this myself using my tyres and cassette from my Giant wheels. That would be silly though, why get a great set of wheels and them set them up shoddily? So I think a new cassette and some Schwalbe tubeless tyres are the order of the day. I can't wait to try them!

My stroke of good fortune has given me renewed vigour with regards to competitions. As you can imagine I'm entering everything and anything now! Honestly I feel very very lucky. What a great prize. So my advice to everyone is, especially with so many Tour de France you have to be in it to win it!

Happy Pedaling!

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Big Blog catch up...too much to mention!

Forgive me peddlers for I have sinned. It's been 26 days since my last blog and my goodness there's been some riding since then! I've done a bit, SuperSam is going from strength to strength and some of my clubmates have completed epic challenges! In literally do no know where to start!Oh okay how about Sam!

To put it quite simply I am incredibly proud with Sam's cycling development. He's also very fortunate to be part of KCC cyclones, which, in addition to loaning him a good bike, is giving him a number of really cool opportunities. Recently he was part  of the team (although he didn't ride as he was the reserve,) for the Silverstone TT. He's had a couple of go ride evenings at Rockingham Motor Speedway and there was last weekend's grass track racing. At the grass track he was described as a great team player and possessing an incredible turn of speed when required!

He's clearly loving his cycling. Others are noticing too. Cyclones coach Mark Evans has seen the progress and we had a great chat about it at last night's MTB race. In those Monday night ride outs Sam and I were shown just how much good riding is near us locally. If you haven't found it yet, the offroad  trails in the woods near Desborough Leisure centre are superb.

The woods in question are in the top right of the picture above. They are full of jumps and berms and flowing trails! Who knew hey?

The other place we have been going to regularly has been Wakerley Woods, a forestry commission managed wood with a good little blue trail for Sam and his mate Joe to get their teeth into. It's about half an hour drive from home, has free parking and the trails are well maintained. The only word of warning is not to trust the dog walkers, they can't read and have been known to obliviously wander along the bike trails!

So that's you caught up on SuperSam. I've always thought he would develop into a good rider and recent evidence is that he's on his way! We're going to support him any way we can.

To my riding. Well I didn't even blog a club ride from a few weeks back. So let's start at the beginning and work through. The ride in question was even more notable because my very own Queen of Cakes provided the baked goods for the post ride re-fuel!

I only have a dim recollection of this ride. Needless to say it's a route I really enjoy, especially in the Welland Valley around Eyebrook Reservoir. I got some pics so let's share those!

There's Mark's latest Chinese knock off Bianchi...realistic price tag too!

Selfie/Group shot at that famous viaduct

I've had to miss a few weeks of Friday Night Summer Series and was hoping to get back into it on Friday 23rd of June. However, work got in the way! I found myself in a complete sulk still at work past 7.30pm on a Friday evening. Never mind eh! The rest of the weekend was not good for cycling as we had a festival style wedding to go to and then well I sort of recovered on the Sunday! All of which put a big dent in my Virgin Pulse Global Challenge ambitions. I'm currently 5th in my trust and our team sits in 2nd place. That won't do will it!!! I did however make it back to FNSS MTB racing last night...

Last night's course was too hardcore for the likes of me. The hills were enormous and I was completely outclassed by an amazing field of riders. I had mechanical issues which wrecked my ambition for the evening which was not to lose a lap to the majority of my age group. I'm not sure I'd have done it even if my gears had behaved themselves. You know you're in trouble when a kid on a fat bike overtakes you!!! However, that's not the point! Once again I absolutely loved this. A great venue, very good course and a lovely atmosphere among the riders.

Thanks to the wonder snapper that is Mick Brown for the picture above. It's not as impressive as the time he caught me in mid air and yes I should be riding not walking. Look, it was too steep for me to ride up. Other awesome specimens made it look easy...unfortunately kicking them off as they come past is frowned upon! I'm looking forward to next week at Delapre already, especially because I know there isn't anything that steep there!

To today's ride. I really did wonder what I should do this morning as my legs felt tight. I rocked up at C&D Cycles and was asked 'Fondo Rich?' Anyone with sense would have said...erm no thanks I'll see how I go on the 30 mile ride and maybe do extra if I feel up to it. It's me though isn't it and rather foolishly I just said: "Yeah of course!"

I may have been influenced by the riders I saw before me. I love these guys (don't tell them I said that,) and I wanted to ride with them. I have to say 30 miles in I still felt spritely, was keeping up well and didn't feel my decision had been foolish at all! In the picture above you can even see Mark Baird taking a turn on the front. Unfortunately Bairdy was taking me the wrong way up the A605. The rest of the bunch had turned left behind us!!!

A couple of things to note were that we had a slight tailwind and it was particularly flat for the first half of this ride. We don't come this far out very often and it's seriously beautiful in the East Northants villages. The cottages are different too. The rest of Northants is Old Red Sandstone, in the east it's Limestone. One village in particular, Abethorpe, was stunning. 

As predicted my legs didn't last! We started to hit the hillier bits and they just died! Thanks to the two Marks I had a nice tow down to Harringworth and the truly splendid spokes cafe. This is a pop up cyclist cafe in a lovely cottage courtyard. Very good service, reasonable prices and friendly staff.

The layout of the place is great. It's just a really good idea!

Bairdy, whilst surrounded by things to take pictures of, decided he needed to take another snap of his knock off bike. I have it on authority it's made from papier mache and will melt in a decent downpour. Oh well at least those campagnola components are probably hard wearing!!!

yellow bike

Prince of the mountains?

Ashley also raced FNSS last night. Unlike me he did well in the under 23 category and also unlike me he wasn't suffering as much as I was. He did mention being a bit down on performance but frankly no one else could tell! 

Being a big group we sort of took over a bit. However there was a lot of other cyclists there too. A great deal of variety on show with road bikes, hybrids and even a tandem. Sideshow Bob also turned up. Banter flowed on the benches.

There was as a great deal of cake on offer but I simply couldn't partake! It feels like cheating on my wife to buy someone else's cake so I opted for a solero. Very exotic it was too! The club riders said the cakes were very good but the Guinness and Chocolate cake was second to the Queen of Cakes. Well the one with my foot on his throat did...not really Lee, they do love your cakes best!

I was desperate for the break and the cafe was very nice but it didn't do me much good. The ride up to Seaton was just horrible and I cramped. Andy and Neil dropped back to help me out but I was now really struggling. When my legs are gone they're gone!  Even riding down Stoke Dry hill didn't perk me up and round Eyebrook reservoir, Bairdy took another turn giving me a tow. At which point I looked at the bike computer and realised I didn't need much more for the 100km Fondo. The others were going up Rocky Hill, riding back down and then doing Cottingham too. I knew they'd be waiting for me no end and frankly I wasn't up for those monster hills. So we said our goodbyes and I headed back the most direct way. I half expected them to catch me back up as I dawdled the last five miles.

So that's us caught up! I need to give big Kudos to Chris Barratt on his mad one day 286 mile ride, to Steve and Darren on their fish and chip run to Hunstanton and back, to Heather for her continued Audax rides and to Marcus on his 134 mile ride. Rob Campbell completed the 200+ mile Chase the Sun Sportive which inspired our own D2D in 2015. Even today Neil and Andy Brown headed off for a 100 miler after the cafe stop. There's other stuff too with TT racing and some riders like Jonesy and Stuart building back up to the big miles! It's all good in the club!! (If I've missed anyone just say and I'll edit you in)

In the week on the radio I heard the inspiring tail of Stephen Murray. Check him out here: Staying Strong BMX . He went from being the world's best to a horror accident where he was given a 1% chance of survival. Now paralysed from the neck down he refuses to let things get him down. He truly is staying strong!

That's it!
Happy Peddling

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