Tuesday, 20 December 2016

God Damn Winter.....

Part of me feels like this is some kind of badge of Honour.

Another part of me think's I'm just a lazy bum that doesn't like cleaning his bike. 

There is some Red on that rear Triangle. Fairly sure of it.
This is my better bike. It's a testament to it's capabilities that it doesn't find itself in the shed. I freaking LOVE this bike. In my defence, its wet, cold, dark and crap outside and this thing just keeps on killing it. Everything just works and it's lovely to ride. The only thing I check regularly are the tyres for flints and lube the chain. It will get a wash, at some point.

The weather for tomorrow is actually wall to wall rain, which is perfect as it should wash off most of the muck, so I'm looking forward to riding tomorrow, ironically.

My Allez will get a full Service come March, new chain, cassette, new tyres (onto my currently in the shed, Ultegra wheels). It has the original Axis 2.0 wheel on the rear and some Giant PSL wheel on the front with Gatorskins on both. I'll lose the guards come spring too. Will be like a new bike. Actually its only 5 months old now.

Luckily I don't use the granny ring when I ride, fairly sure with the amount of cack on the front mech, it's not changing.....

I get annoyed at my kids for not respecting their things, perhaps they actually get it from me. Balls.

It should look like this, one day.

Monday, 19 December 2016

The sudden realisation you're not quite going to make it.......

I keep thinking I'll make it up, I'll make it up, I have plenty of time. Turns out, I won't and no, I don't.

I wanted to hit 8k this year, 8000 miles for the year. I won't. It'll be close but not close enough.

I've ridden further. This year I've been able to Work From Home more frequently, more often than not, twice a week. This does really hit your mileage. I used to be really reluctant to WFH. Losing the days mileage was just too much to stomach. Now, I positively Love It. Mostly.

I've slightly upped my commute distance to allow for the additional WFH day. 25 miles each way. It does get a little tiresome. At the end of the day when it bleak outside, dark and pissing down, I don't really want to cycle 25 miles. 15 would be perfect. 25 can be a little much.

So if I ride 3 days on the bounce and get in 150 miles, by the time Thursday rolls around, WFH and staying in bed for 2 hours longer is BLISS, it really is.

Then, Along came Boy.

My social riding has been non existent. I can count on 2 fingers the amount of weekend cycling rides I've gotten in this year.

So, early December I'm chasing the miles, hoping to make up the deficit. June I rode 393 miles in a month. That's at least 300 miles less than I'd have hoped in a normal month. So this is where I missed out on the 8000 for the year but my 2nd Son was born, So I missed out on nothing. I just enjoyed my beautiful boy and his first few weeks.

I then thought 'whats the point' in trying to make up the miles in crap weather. I know exactly where I lost the miles and exactly how to make them up next year. So there it is. Yeah I could make them up, If I wanted too. In dark, foggy conditions. I won't though.

Or I just start again 01/01/2017. Well it won't be, It'll be 03/01/2017. Got Sherlock to sit through first. obvs.

I'd like to be committed enough to take part in the Rapha festive 500 but I'm not and I won't. Christmas isn't about miles. It should be done by then. Christmas is about family, friends, food and fun.

I haven't finished just yet. About 125 to add to my total of 7740 before I sign off for the year. A Close call.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

SealSkins Fix

Do I really need to find a fix for a £160 pair of boots?

Well, its more of a Bodge than a fix and nothing is broken to be fair.

And I do Love these boots. After all, they do this....
Which is completely mental.

No boot will ever be 100% water proof, unless you were to some how buy a pair molded to your very being. I got these in a shop.

My ankle's are poxy. No winter boot I purchased was ever going to fit snuggly around my ankle making it impossible for water to get in, EVER.

I think I have found the perfect solution, in the shape of a hacked up pair of SealSkins mid weight socks. I wouldn't suggest doing this to a new pair of SealSkins, they are far too good a sock for that but mine were on there way out a long time before this happened.

I wore these Specialized Defrosters in minus 7 temperatures last week and they were spot on, ok it was cold but my feet were fine. They do however, have a gap around the ankle, which isn't an issue when its freezing but I knew it would be in the rain.

The boots do have a lot of adjustment round the neck if required but I still get a small gap either way ow and a rubbing boot. These are new so I'm going to 'allow' the rubbing element.

Anyway, whatever. Half the ankle of a mid weight SealSkin and boom. The perfect fix to any potential leakage. My commute is about 1hr 30 so chances are, my feet will get a smidge damp at some point but this has prolonged that massively.

Well, I'm excited.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

We've Been expecting you.....

Garmin Live tracker.....or Group Track

If Only I had buddies, that rode in winter, on similar routes to me, that I could track using this. The idea is so freaking cool.

Ok it was a gimmick to sell a new product. I'm lucky enough to own a Garmin Edge 1000, so knew it would be imminent on their flagship device, rolled out rather quietly.

Now I just need friends.......

Finally, some space......

The wife is always banging on at me to get my bike out of the kitchen......

It's a fair point. Bike's don't live in kitchens. I've got a shed. It's always been there. It's just full of crap that required movement before making space for the bike.

It's been on my list for a while. I don't need to be reminded every 6 weeks, it'll get done yeah....

Ta daaaaaa

There is even this shelf which has the perfect sized slats to fit a road bike wheel, who knew! I've had a bike in the house here for as long as I can remember, part of the furniture. Up against the kitchen wall, its own little carpet, not bothering anyone, next to a radiator to help dry it when its wet. Worked out lovely.

With the addition of our nearly 6 month old baby son, I can't be having a bike ready to fall on him once he's crawling/walking, think of the damage to the bike.........just kidding, its not worth thinking about what could happen in that situation, to the boy obviously!

It's been soooo cold these last few days, I took the chance to work from home today, so this is the result of a free lunch time at home. Space saving. 152 miles ridden this week, I don't want a medal but it would be nice.

Just so pleased I bought my Defrosters when I did, they've been an absolute god send. My feet would have been toast without them. A great addition to the winter wardrobe.

I'm loving this Strava add on for Chrome. At the end of each week I ride, I just about catch up with my yearly total progress, only for it to slip away when I work from home until I start chasing again the following Monday. Great to know your progress though.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

-5 and counting.....

So I needed a test for the new winter boots. 

I had to wait 2 days. Literally my second day of riding in them and its -5. great. 

I mean, 0 would have been ok. I'd have been ok with 0. 0 is cold enough.

It was a cracking morning, my ride didn't get above -4 until I reached the outskirts of Staines where it maxed out at a balmy -2.5

Honestly, the boots were good. It was below freezing and my toes knew that but they were cool with it :) . I could have ridden all day in those temps and my toes wouldn't be uncomfortable. 

So yeah, a decent addition, bought just in time. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Defrosters and the box of bargains!

I ride a lot. Well, a decent amount. In all weather conditions and I'm partial to a good bit of kit.

I don't have a lot of spare cash especially at this time of year. So when I see a bargain, I've got to take advantage.

I rarely spend money on myself, my clothing cupboard is in serious need of an upgrade but when it comes to bike stuff, I can usually make ends meet.

Now I live in Fleet, not by choice but that's where I live. As luck would have it, Fleet happens to be the home of a Kick Ass bike shop called Pedal Heaven It's a Specialized Elite store. They do a cracking bike service and the shop is dripping with beautiful stuff.

Black Friday is usually a painful experience, I want no part of. 300 emails in the space of 48 hours about utter crap you don't need at prices you think you can afford. Whatever, delete, delete, trash, unsubscribe.

So I am currently rocking a set of DHB R1 road shoes and some DBB Shoe covers, which doesn't make sense at this time of year. I need me some winter shoes. Badly. I'll use them, I have no qualms about paying the required price as I hope these will last me 3-5 years and they'll be worn November through to March/April.

So Pedal Heaven had a Black Friday sale. I had a quick peruse for a boot I wanted made by their brand of choice. I bought this lot for £156!!! The Defrosters, some DeFeet Merino socks and a set of SPD SL cleats. What a Bargain. I couldn't say no, honestly, I just couldn't.

Check of the reflectivness of the Defrosters. I mean WOW how cool are these boots! Those pics below are simply taken one with the flash off, the other with the flash on.

The temps round my way will be in the minus figures these next couple of days so It'll be a great test of the boots warmth. Testing of their waterproofness will need to wait for another week. I'm bedding them in for now and have skinny ankles, so just as well really.

Properly made up with the box of bargains above though. Winter feet sorted for many a year to come.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Missing Bridge

Who thought you'd actually miss a Bridge.

I asked m fiance to marry me on a small bridge in a location special to us. I'd miss that bridge if it was to be removed. I chose it because I assumed it wouldn't move. EVER.

I like to re-visit that bridge.

So, a bridge over the M3, Woodlands lane bridge to be precise, went missing this last weekend. I mean, it wasn't stolen, it was planned, it didn't just vanish overnight, look here is the video of them blowing it up....I love blowing stuff up, well I would if I was allowed and fire, Love fire.

The Missing Bridge

I hadn't really thought about the implications. I didn't live near it, ok I'd ridden over it a fair few times but it didn't really bother me.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, in winter, this is one of my best and the quietest routes I can ride. Keeps me away from the traffic and runs adjacent to the A30 from Staines to Camberley. Bit dark but nothing a decent light won't sort. I had a KOM down that way too, not over the bridge, kinda wish I had now, would have stood the test of time, unlike the structure....

My KOM got stolen by 1 second. A guy liked my ride on Strava, then buggered off and stole it. Good skills. I won't get it back now because I would only ride that route if the bridge was there, damn bridge.

Apparently the bridge will be replaced at some point but this could take years. Hopefully something like this one. It is going over a 'Smart Motorway' so it can't be crap.

So if you've read my previous blog post you'll know I'm (we, cyclists, scourge of the masses) not allowed to cycle though Windsor Great Park at night, cause we create so much hassle.

This is a picture of the park at night. It's not accurate as there is no warden and no green flashing lights.

So the fact of the matter is, my two best routes home in the dark are no longer available to me. Which sucks. So I need to ride up the A30, partially at least. I know there is a lot of traffic (boo) but the roads are wide and lit, So at least there is a better chance of being seen and safe.

Now I miss a bridge.

He had flashing lights!

It was a wet and damp night, the wind was picking up, I needed to make a decision on the best route home and fast. History told me the park would be dark, REALLY dark. I remember riding it before and my mind wondering on to Ghosts and Zombies. Cause that's what I need to think about in the dark, when i'm alone.

I have a handful of options but this year it seem's drivers are getting closer and driving faster. I'm not sure why. I didn't want to ride on my best lit route because the roads are crap and the traffic always heavy. The M3 bridge has been taken out on my alternate route so that has now become more dodgy as a result of it. More traffic, less options, brilliant.

That left a solo ride through WGP (Windsor Great Park) as my best option.

Wicked, I got this.

Off I went. As I approached the park from Bishops gate, the road leading to the access gate was dark, I could see the faint light of the guard station on the right and not much else until the large white gates loomed. I knew it was going to be dark but this was bleak. Pitch black beyond those gates. It was a terrible day, so the natural light was very limited.

You know those postcard's you used to get at seaside towns with 'Devon at night' and just a black card. Yeah that Dark.

Screw it, I'm here, I got this. I ventured in. My Lezyne Power Drive was EPIC...., I'd gotten about 500 meters into the park and a warden drove up next to me......he tried to talk to me so I slowed but couldn't hear him, I'm not sure if he thought I was ignoring him or not but he drove faster and then......PUT ON HIS FLASHING GREEN LIGHTS....I mean come on man, WHY does a park warden need flashing lights of any colour?! What kind of power trip are these people on!.

I thought flashing lights were saved for the emergency services, road side assistance and the like, not a poxy park ranger.

This picture says it all. I'm sure cyclists are a big threat to the park......haha erm.

The guy was nice enough, told me I couldn't cycle through the park after dark but he'd allow me to this one time. This did kick off a little panic in my mind thinking 'why can't I be here after dark, what is so bad in here that a cyclist can't witness it', nah I'm so not afraid of the dark.

Ah rules is rules but its so nice to have a route which isn't accessible to public traffic, having it taken away just seems unfair. Honestly, what harm would a cyclist do after dark? I just want to get to the other side.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

This week, I've mostly been doing......nothing

It's Thursday. It's raining and its blowing a gale.

I'm not missing much I know.

I've not ridden my bike since......wait, I need to check Strava....WOW last Thursday. It's been exactly a week and nothing.

I'd usually be climbing the walls by now, the fact I'm not means I'm injured. Not a lot, just a little but enough to keep me off the bike. A recurrence of an old injury, well actually just a niggle to that injury but I really don't want to go back there again. So a week off the bike it is.

I could ride and just use pain killers but whats the point, I'd rather be pain free. Damn it, I've got no goals, so I may as well let it heal.

Odd things back injuries, I think this latest niggle was caused be me bending over and swinging my 5 month old son about in an impromptu game of balloon football with his 7 month old friend at the weekend. It was fun while it lasted.

Actually, last Friday I fitted a Gatorskin onto a narrow rimmed wheel in what seemed like seconds. It was like an out of body experience, like I was outside of my own body watching a master fit this tyre.... It was unworldly.

Look, its there, in all its glory. The mudguards cost £13.49 yeah, don't be judging my install prowess....

I realise that is just a picture of a tyre on a wheel but it really was a thing of beauty. Ask the wife. I'd set aside 2 hours to do this just in case it all went wrong and I used the usual 3 tubes, 4 tyre levers, drawn blood and stamped on something. That's the normal process.

4 years of commuting and it never gets easier, changing tyres. It will always suck. It is nicer in a warm house though as punctures generally happen for me on unlit roads in the pissing rain.

I'm losing about 150 miles sitting here, working from home. I'll make up for it, maybe. Might not even bother. Might. Next week I'll ride 4 days. 200 miles. To make up for it. Couple of cheeky weekend rides, I'll get it back.

Now I want to be riding my bike....

I'm off too eat cheese.

Friday, 11 November 2016

I need some of those.....

Man it's getting cold.

And wet.

When it's both, it sucks. Period.

Tuesday morning was one of those days. I was stood waiting for a ride bud and all was well. It was 3-4 degrees but seemed ok. My ride bud didn't show. Recons he 'overslept'. Hmmn, I recon he looked out the window and thought 'errrrmmmmm, nah I'll stay in bed'. I'd happily have done the same had I of had the choice :)

Then came the rain and it didn't stop. I don't have winter shoes, currently. I have summer road shoes, shoe covers and 2 pairs of socks. One pair of socks are 'SealSkins'. That said, I've worn them for a few winters now, just the one pair. So they both have holes in. A cracking sock though, worn everyday through last winter and since about October this year. They've had better days.

I did plan on replacing the socks but now I've decided I need a proper pair of winter boots. So I'm holding out on the socks. I'm hoping the efficiency of the new boots will mean I'll only need wool socks, which are widely available, as opposed to SealSkins. We'll see.

I did own winter boots. Up until spring. Done me a good few winters but were never quite what i'd hoped for from a winter boot. Dry feet. Ok so I know water will always come through the ankle at some point, it's bound to. Fairly sure my old MTB winter boots leaked through the sole. Took an AGE to dry them out too.

But these look freaking awesome. Esp when a headlight shines upon them. Ok so £160 is a lot of money for a winter boot, actually its not, it's completely justifiable but perhaps it is from a non cycling point of view.

I've ridden 7019 miles this year now. I'm aiming for 8000. I think. Although I'm not sure I'll be too bothered if I don't get there. Lets be honest, no one is going to send me a medal for hitting the 8k mark. Maybe we should get letters from the Queen.....

'Hey Chap, it's HRH, just a quick note to say 'Well Done' for not contributing to our tiny islands ever growing traffic problems. God only knows, there are enough twats on the road without you adding to it'.

I'd take that. She'd make a valid point. Cycling has made me a very impatient driver. So much more aware of whats going on around me than simply looking in the direction I'm driving in. You really do become aware of what people aren't doing, like indicating, or stopping to give way. I'm not sure when it became ok for everyone to ignore the Highway code, perhaps everyone's journey simply is as important as they make out. I doubt it.

Anyway, I need dry feet. 2 freaking days it took to get my shoes dry and my gloves coming to think of it. 2 days of me riding in cold and damp kit. So Defrosters WILL be added to the cycling wardrobe come December. Will be soooo nice not to have to worry about poxy shoe covers and 2 pairs of socks.

I'm excited.

Thursday, 27 October 2016


I love the attached graphic. The comparison of my year on year totals. Really enjoy looking back to see how I stack up year on year. 2014 was always going to be a big year for me, I cycled to Barcelona that June and it was EPIC. Around 950 miles. Beautiful weather, decent roads, stunning scenery. I'd do it all again tomorrow if only I could.

When I returned from Barca (no, I didn't ride back), the month after the event was fairly non eventful when it comes to mileage. That's when I decided to go for 10,000 miles for the year. I'd trained hard for the event, done a couple of big months prior to the 'Grand Depart' and ended up with a few 1000 mile months and anyhow, I still had to commute to work and back for the rest of the year so I may as well have a new target right.

Need a good target, I remember downloading an App and counting down from over 200 days until the moment I left for Barca. Loved that. Shame it was over so quick.

So the target became 10,000 miles. To be fair, I was single at the time, so it helped that I had nothing better to do, literally.

Not really sure of the benefit of adding 2011 but whatever, progress is progress right!

But once you've completed that target, what next? I'm not single anymore (yay), I've got a 4 month old baby (yay). It's been easy this year to drop miles. Miles I'd have been bothered about in years gone by but due to the new arrival, I'm just not. Priorities right.

But where is the ceiling, if you can do 10,000 then why not 12,000 or 15,000 but what's the point, where does it stop?

It's all about getting to and from work for me now. Its still the best part of my work routine. I freaking LOVE my commute. Always will, I enjoy every element of it, Even in the worst conditions. It can be quite gratifying arriving at work, knowing your work out is what got you there. No need to feel guilty for missing a gym session or eating junk. September, when the kids go back, the roads are crap, I love cycling past all the miserable faces creating traffic, sitting alone in their cars, queue after queue. Nah you can keep that thanks.

As a family we own one car. I feel guilty if I take that car and it sits at work for 8 hours when the wife could be using it to take our son out. Weekend riding is a thing of the past, for the most part. So when I think about it, I'm fairly content with my 6608 miles total to date. Well I'm not but it will do.

Ow, having said all that, I have the 'Devils Punch sportive' coming up this weekend. Doing it with a pal, think we'll be doing the short 50 miler, just because its October and neither of us can be bothered to ride any further!

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 again....it'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......

New Rides, New Routes

This has been my single lowest mileage year for 3 years, as Strava keeps telling me. I do like the graphic of the year on year comparison but it does bother me a little, all those lost miles. Not to mention the fact that it sporadically disappears from my page, as it has in this instance.

I had made a conscious decision at the start 2016 that I wouldn't be chasing mileage having done 10, 000 in 2014 and 9,000 in 2015. What with a new baby due in June (now with me and 14 weeks old) there didn't seem the need to chase distance.

I've only ridden over 800 miles in a month, on 2 occasions this year, ow the shame. Life does get in the way, priorities too. Going down to three days in the office per week has helped keep my legs fresh and my mileage total down.

At 38, perhaps its not a bad thing. That's clearly no age for a recreational cyclist mind but all this talk of 5 figure totals, meh, who cares anyway. I'm still enjoying the cycling and the lack of 5 day riding weeks has allowed me to cycle further when I do ride. My commute has become 25 miles each way so 150 miles a week with 3 days in the office. I have actually ridden 4 day weeks in the last 2 weeks for about a 420 mile total. It's reminded me that the 4th day was always the day my legs suffered.

The additional miles on the daily ride has let me find new routes and with new route, comes new opportunity. That opportunity coming in the way of KOM's. Is it shallow to change a route to gain a KOM? This got me thinking, I gained a KOM recently on a segment in which I posted my fastest time over 2 years ago. So I'm either in form now or I couldn't be arsed back then. Could it even be outside influence?! More on that later.

I started the year with A Giant TCR Composite 1 and a Specialized Langster, both of which I no longer own. I now own a Specialized Allez and a Raleigh CX Comp. Fancied a cross bike and never really appreciated the Giant. So here we are, all change for 2016.