Friday, 21 October 2016

Sound advice pt I...The safety pin

Hmmn, I've not cycled today.

This makes me partially sad. I need my bike, it's my form of Release. It helps me clear my mind and set the pieces straight in my head. I had allocated lunch time for a short spin, I like to ride 25 miles on each commute. I can ride a shorter route but 50 for the day is a nice number. If I ride 4 days, I want to hit 200, 3 days its 150 you get the picture. I've ridden 3 days this week, 145.7 miles. Not happy about the dropped miles. In the grand scheme of things, it means nothing but it gets on my tits all the same.

...instead I went to Sainsburys and spent too much money on the kids in the half price toy sale. Priorities right.

I wasted my entire lunch break doing this, I didn't even have time for buying food. The wife had to go back for that....

Anyway, so advice. ALWAYS carry a safety pin in your saddle bag.

A friend asked me the other day if I check my tyres before every ride. I said ' I do but it's pointless if you don't because i'll be waiting for you anyway', We were riding together and I was commenting on his lack of checking and potentially avoidable puncture. Neither happened thankfully.

So I thought 'screw it' and didn't bother checking mine. Got to the cross roads about 5 minutes into my commute, stopped for the train and noticed a flint in my tyre. Leant the bike against a wall and out comes the safety pin. Lesson learnt.

I've picked a good number of flints from my tyres before setting off for a ride and always think to myself 'wear that you little bugger' before flicking the flint at a mates parked bike....nah that would be silly. Cause you know he'd be fine, I'd park in his space the following day and, yeah you guessed it, I puncture.

But seriously, very worthy addition to the saddle bag that safety pin, nothing gets flint out quite like it. Just make sure you have a steady hand.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Generic Muck

Generally speaking, the generic tyres that come with any bike/set of wheels are, by default, a touch pants.

Always been the case. Whatever bike, whichever set of wheels, the tyres are always set to a price point. I assume they provide them knowing they'll instantly get replaced with the riders preferred rubber of choice. A bit like pedals, no decent bike comes with pedals nowadays as there is so much choice and each rider has a different preference.

I've bought a few set's of Mavic rims in my time, the generic tyres are good for about a 1000 miles, as an unwritten rule. When they start to cut and or puncture, get rid.

When I bought the Allez, the bike came with these. The Specialized Espoir Elite.

Specialized's detail here. Specialized class them as an 'Extremely reliable road tyre'. I have the 700x25's on my bike.

Now I changed the wheels on my bike as soon as I bought it, changing out the standard wheels for Shimano Ultegra 6800 road wheels, personal choice but I moved the Specialized tyres on to the new rims. Generally a good tyre with decent puncture protection has stiff sidewalls and fights to get on the rim. Not these, safe to say this was the easiest tyre change I've ever done.

I held out little hope of these tyres lasting any distance. I thought 'well, if i get 500 miles it's a start'.

Now I know this is tempting fate and its Friday and I will bloody curse this blog if I puncture BUT 1976 miles so far without a p******e (if I don't say it, its ok right) is bloody good going.

I keep a safety pin in my saddle bag and I do check my tyres before EVERY ride for any debris that is waiting to take me down. I have pulled shards of flint and glass from the tyres on at least 3 occasions, all credit to Specialized's 'BlackBelt Flat Protection' belt for keeping me rolling.

Honestly, these are a cracking summer tyre. I'm not a delicate rider by any means, British roads don't allow me to be. I will be buying these again.

I do intend to put the standard wheels back on the bike with a set of Gatorskins to see me through the winter but these tyres will adorn my summer wheels for years to come as I've become a real fan. A very dependable tyre, with a great level of grip, low rolling resistance and good puncture protection. Who Knew!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Ow Man....and the weekend

So its that time of year's bloody cold. Ok so its dry but its bloody cold.

My daily commute starts at 6:50am, that might change mind as the showers are always full when I arrive, 10 minutes later and nothing. I swear I'm being watched. If I come in later, the same happens. How can all the showers always be in use when I turn up, yet when I finish, I'm the only one down there???? I'm defo being watched.

Anyway, 6;50am. I had 1.5 degree's on the Garmin before 7am. Ok so I ride through some fairly remote areas which accounts for it but man its cold out there. I assume that's correct. My Garmin is outside, its on my handle bars, it has to be correct, right?

My car driving colleagues always moan it was cold but their car's always state it's about 5 degree's warmer than my Garmin. Come on man there is a FREAKING ENGINE by the sensor, how correct can it actually be. I'm right. My Garmin is right. Jacket wearing, car driving weaklings.

Did this Sunday. Was a nice ride. Decent weather. Cold start. It was interesting seeing what everyone decided to start the ride wearing. A proper mixed bag. Some in full winter gear, some in summer shorts and short sleeve jerseys. Either Brave or Stupid. It got warmer but only about 11 degrees at best.

Do you have to be rotund to wear Rapha? Obviously Rapha wearers can't keep that stuff covered up. I mean, if you're buying Rapha, you need the world to see it. Perhaps its better to to look good and be freezing than dress for the conditions, what do I know!

To Clarify I wore Bibs and a Long sleeve jersey, with under shorts, knee warmers, a gillet, full winter gloves and a skull cap. The majority of my clobber is Dhb but I ride daily so Rapha isn't on my radar. Dhb kit is spot on, great value and hard wearing. I literally look no where else.

Seems there is a trend nowadays to kick off a start up and charge £200 for a long sleeve jersey, well if Rapha can......Not spent £50 on a jersey yet, long sleeved or otherwise. I think my single most expensive piece of kit is my jacket or my bib longs. Both fully justified and both needed, more importantly actually used.

Anyway, The BoxHill original was a lovely ride, a cracking route. Quite climby. Me and a bud did the standard route of 65 (ish) miles. Over 4500ft of climbing in that distance. Some well stocked feed stations along the route. First one was 35 miles in, felt like that should have been at 25-30 to be fair.

A lot more women cycling than I've ever noticed before, which is awesome. I haven't ridden a sportive for a couple of years but I don't ever remember seeing this many girls. Must be the Olympic bug or Laura Kenny smashing up every event she ever enters. Either way, great seeing more girls on bikes.

Yay a medal. My bud got home, showed his nearly 3 yr old daughter his medal, her first reaction upon seeing it was raising her hand to Hi Five her Dad. No words needed. EPIC.

Friday, 30 September 2016

New Bike, New Mileage pt 2

So the Giant's gone and I'm pondering a new purchase.

Now I don't have bag's of money to spend. I can't justify anything above £1300 to be fair as I'll just ruin it. I have no real concept of maintenance, I'm more of a break fix man. Even then, I'd rather buy lunch for one of my bike club buddies to fit new shiz or fix my bike for me. Even a bike shop, its nice to have someone else to blame. No, I'm not currently a people manager.

So the cycle to work scheme it is. I'll use Evans this time cause its just easy. I know what I want. For what i'm willing to spend, it's not carbon. I want a Cannondale Caad 8. Alu frame, Carbon forks, race geometry. Happy days. 105 is fine for me. Lots bleat about Ultegra but as long as it works when I need it to, I couldn't care less.

So I looked at the new Caad 8 but the colour scheme was uninspiring. Do you ever go back. It wouldn't be the same. Can we ever love again? I loved my previous 2012 version as it was perfect for me then.

But the 2016 colour is some kind of burnt red, almost burgundy. No. Not happening.

So to this

My 2016 Allez SL Comp.

Look at that finish. What a thing of beauty.

Possibly with a cheeky wheel upgrade. (depending on who is reading this, they may or may not have come with the bike)

So full aluminium frame and a carbon fork. In that respect it is similar to my Caad but this is a cracking bike for the money. 25% off at Evans to make it £900 then using the scheme, I think I calculated £620 over the year. Which is ridiculous.

Needed the Ultegra wheels though, the standard wheels weigh 2.9KG! (with tyres) In comparison, the Ultegra wheels are 1.6kg without tyres. So a saving of 1kg in rolling weight at least.

So unashamedly metal. I love the look of it. Mixed bag of kit. Specialized class it as 105 but the brakes are Axis 2.0 (whatever that means) and the cranks are FSA. Brakes are decent though so no need to replace so too the cranks. Break fix at best there.

Chain ring is a 52 tooth, this is classed as Semi-compact. Took a bit of getting used too but I like to think it's added power to my straight line speed. It hasn't but everyone try's harder on a new bike right, to justify its existence.

34 days in and the bike has done 1660 miles. No sign of the Giant and I don't care. I hope its gone to a good home but other than that. I prefer the Allez. 100%.

Not washed it yet mind. Need to do that before it goes away for the winter. Man I hate maintenance.

New Bike, New Mileage

And the thought process that goes with it.

Now, I am seldom happy with my lot.

Since I've started this blog I've owned a fair few road bikes. Only ever 2 at a time but very rarely the same 2. I've had a couple of Langsters as winter bikes and 3 separate summer bikes.

Spring this year I thought I'd buck my recent trend of riding winters on a Single Speed and buy a Cross bike. I saw a nice Raleigh RX Comp on ebay and paid £400 for it. Ironically I've never ridden it with knobbly tyres on, only ever the 28mm Durano's it came with. I hope to change that this winter as I can't help but look on envious at others riding cross bikes with disks when the weather really sets in.

This Raleigh is a real mixed bag when it comes to components. Its got Dura Ace levers, ok old but still, Ultegra rear mech and SRAM cranks. Very odd but it all works well enough. Previous owner used to be a mechanic, so when stuff broke, it got replaced with whatever was laying about.

Not overly convinced by the bottom bracket mind, lots of bad reviews of those on Wiggle. They don't really seem to like getting wet, so a good winter on them might be a bit testing. I've already had to change it out once.

So that's my winter choice. Now I started off the year with a Giant TCR composite 1 as my summer bike. Now I never really fell in love with this bike, which I guess is an odd thing to say because, it's a bike, who cares but there does need to be an affection to the machine to get the best from it.

Ok, so it looks pretty cool in this image. But in fairness, it was probably always too small for me. Tell you what my biggest issue with this bike was, it's inability to live up to its promises or my expectations. Full carbon (ok, not a great weave but still) I wanted my money to provide me with lightness unequaled by aluminium. I expected too much.

My Giant was replacing my beloved Cannondale Caad 8. Still wish I'd kept the Cannondale. Honestly, side by side, weight wise, there was little difference. Both were 8kg's (ish) so instantly I was a little disappointed.

The Giant was my Barca bike, I rode it from London (well Staines) to Barcelona, in 9 wonderful days in 2014. Still it wasn't what I wanted. The frame got a nice chip on it in transit on the way home. That did it for me. Lost all interest. Still wanted my Cannondale back.

At one point I only had one bike.....The Horror! It was the Raleigh. The Raleigh felt awesome and bullet proof and sturdy. I thought it was all i'd ever need in a bike. Man was I off point. Turns out, its fine to have a barge like bike when you can pull something lighter out of the garage when you start getting passed by weekend warriors. Having your only steed be 11kg's was soul destroying. It played on my mind constantly....

Christ, I've not even mentioned the new bike yet.

Not a real post, post.

I LOVE my commute, always have.

Whatever the weather, which ever route I take, it's always the best part of my working day. Without doubt.

I'm fairly sure I couldn't drive my commute with a better average speed than I get on the bike. 19+ mph average on my better days, which also depends massively on traffic and traffic lights.

But its not simply about that. Speed. It's more the freedom of it. Of Not being sat in a car, of Not being traffic, of not sitting behind some clown, of not being stuck in road works. The list is endless.

This is this morning's route, a perfect 25 miles. It's Friday morning so I wasn't going for it, it was just a lovely crisp bright morning. Perfect for cycling. 

The best part about the ride is always Windsor Great Park, for me, about an hour into the ride. 3-4 miles with no traffic and nothing but beautiful surroundings and wildlife. 

Cows, Sheep, Pheasants, Deer to name a few. So privileged to be able to ride here daily.  A small piece of heaven lurking just outside the M25. 

That Windsor Castle, how exciting.

I never really stop to take pictures on my rides, I should do it more to capture the moment but most the time, I can't really be bothered and then there is the average speed to keep up....

Anyway, that rocked.

Was a bit chilly at 7am though. 8 degrees in parts. Its coming. Its defo coming.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Protégé and ramblings

People come and go, in all walks of life. Friends, Family, colleagues. Especially Colleagues.

My Cycle club at work seems to have its groups ie. its Fast, medium and slow riders. We're not a 'club' so to speak, only a handful of us ride together but we all post our rides into a 'club' on Strava.

You've got your newbies that flirt with the idea of cycling when the sun shines never to be seen again as soon as there is a cloud in the sky. There tend to be quite a few of these as the office headcount changes fairly frequently. You offer advice, which is barely listened too and they end up back down the gym because its what they know and its dry. Possibly slightly less terrifying than cycling through Staines in rush hour traffic for the first time. Stick with what you know.

Actually, forget that, there isn't fast, medium and slow groups at all, there is 'the committed' and the 'not so committed'. Everyone has the potential to be fast, whether its on the flat or in the hills, its what you put into it and your build and maybe your diet (or lack there of ).

I seem to be decent at climbing, sometimes. I like it, no doubt and I appear to be faster than my group at it. Ok I'm light but I have no real finesse about me, no technique to speak of. For me, no one actually likes hills. It's just about how long you want the pain to last and I want the pain to last for as little an amount of time as possible. It's that simple. Ride hard, it's over sooner. Nothing more to it.

Only a couple of the riders to pass through have come close. So, a couple of the guys I ride with can smash me on the flat, to the point I am literally holding on (not dropped, I never said dropped). We had an age group British champion with us for a while, thankfully, I never had the chance to ride with him (cough) and he rarely posts his data to Strava for obvious reason (phew). I'm fairly confident he'd have kicked my ass up any chosen rise, so as this never happened, my pride is still in tack, partially.

I say partially because there is always someone just around the corner waiting to ride away from you at that very point when there is nothing left in the tank. That exact point where the usual suspects are no where to be seen and you allow yourself to back off. Which brings me on to the Protégé. Now this isn't a term I used, I heard it as a reference point for a buddy I work and cycle with. One of those guys that actually enjoys cycling, to the point where I can see him becoming stronger than me. (over my dead body). Someone who takes the advice and actually listens. Becoming all the better for it.

It's great to see someones progress over time, from an occasional cyclist, to the second strongest rider you know ;)

Also seeing others acknowledge it too, is pretty cool. Not that i'm taking any credit for it but it is nice to think that maybe just a little bit of what you do has rubbed off.

We ride a similar route, so it's good company and add's an element of competitiveness to the ride's. Now this chap started riding a couple of days here and there, so I thought i'd take him under my wing, riding the same direction from work, it seemed rude not too. No real mileage in the last couple of years, with the exception of a few summer sportives meant initially we'd just ride and chat to manage the pace. You add a little, you get a response, you add a little more. And this is where it all starts. 4-5 months later, I lead him out on flat segments (3 KOM's to date) and he'll lead me out on climbs (again, 3 KOM's to date).

So far, So good. Until a recent recce of a certain hill. I rode my best time up this hill about 2 years ago and haven't touched it since, can't really remember why, possibly because it was a b**ch. Now I have a lead out man, we can smash this right. hmmm. We attempt the lead out and I can't even hold his wheel! Ok so he has a great kick but I'm fairly sure I can outpace him on any climb, so we try it again, the same thing happens. Now, he is clearly faster than me on these given days on this particular climb but isn't close to my PB.

So it must be me, right? I've built this climb up now, so much so, I avoid it. Haha. need to grow a pair and get back up there. Or the order has changed, we shall see......