Club rides

One month down, 11 to go!

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To me it doesn’t seem long ago that I was blogging about my challenge #philcycles10000kmin2016 and the first month has come and gone. To be on target I needed to have cycled 834km to break even. Thankfully the weather has been kind and I have chalked up 1004km so am ahead of the game going into the second month. I am happy that I was able to cycle on the first and last day of this month with my club as it was a really good way to start the challenge. 

February as we know is the shortest month and to top 1000km this month will be quite an achievement. Even the extra day for the leap year will help but it will require 250km a week, but who knows what will happen. At the end of the month 18 members of the club will set off to our first winter training camp in Majorca for a week of climbs and coastal rides, riding the same roads the pro teams use in preparation for the long season ahead. I am sure the decent and then climb of Sa Collabra will be an amazing experience. How I get on will be another matter, slow and slower probably.  Personally for me it will be a great test for the first weekend in April, when a few of us will cycle the middle route 127km of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) in its centenary edition. Pave and hills! Great I can’t wait but at least it’s another one ticked off the list. This does mean that both the new bikes will have had a European trip under their belt, something my Specialized never achieved. 

I have a feeling that February and as we move into the Spring the weather will start to become a battle for the challenge to stay on track, which is why I am happy of the January gain. In all I just have to remember Rule 9 and 5 and just get out there and ride. 

So tomorrow is the first day of another month, month 2 in fact. A nice gentle recovery ride before an evening of cycling chat and entertainment over a curry with two close friends. Life at the moment is grand. Enjoy the ride.

A new challenge

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2016 could, no most probably will be the year that the world endurance cycle record finally goes as Bruce Berkley attempts to cycle 330km a day to enter the record books. More about his attempt can be read here.

As we approach the end of the year and the time where we reflect upon the past 12 months and having a week of the bike it was a good time for me to reflect on the past year. So far, according to Strava, I have cycled 5668km in 2015, taking in Ride London, Tour of Cambridgeshire and other Sportives, plus a trip to the Yorkshire Dales and Trough of Bowland, as well as officially joining a cycling club.

So as Bruce will be attempting a phenomenal effort to cycle 330km a day and if I could do that in a week it would be a grand effort, I started to think about the distance I could travel in 2016. There are advantages, the extra day will help as its a leap year, and I am completing the same Sportives as major events, plus I will be attending a pre season training camp in Mallorca in March so plenty of opportunities to get the miles in. The question is what to have as a target? If I have cycled nearly 6000km, then I think a conservative, but challenging target should be 10,000km in a year. This would average 192.3km a week which is quite an effort, so I would need to commute to work on the bike as much as possible. Or a more modest 27.39km each day for 365 days, so giving myself one whole day off in the year, well in 2016 anyway. When you put it like that 27.4km a day then yes it sound possible.

So when to start, and what motivational tools to help. Strava has to be a way to keep track of the progress for the year. It does it anyway so doesn’t need any special setting up. Now to set up my rules. All rides would have to be out on the road, not on a trainer or in the gym, otherwise the challenge distance would be too easy. They would also be on my two new bikes as well as this would be a fantastic way to get to use them in the first year of their life. Therefore all rides would need to be recorded in Strava. Then come the motivational part, Stravas challenges. These themselves are hard, but with an overall distance goal in mind for the year might become a little more achievable on a regular basis. If I have to ride 834km each month, which will be a challenge in the cold winter months of January and February, then aiming for the distance challenges in the summer months could be a valuable catch up opportunity if it was required, or spinning this around a chance to get ahead and enjoy the longer summer days.

Why do this in the first place? And who would benefit, apart from me with improved fitness. This brings in another motivational tool and the opportunity with this to raise money for charity. Again I will be raising money for Tennage Cancer Trust, with cycling Ride London, but the 10000km in a year could be an other opportunity to raise some valuable funds for a great charity. This part is still to be finalised and emails need to be send to officially set this up.

So the 2016 challenge has been set. I will make more of an effort to update via the blog about my progress. So this just leaves me to wish you all a happy new year and I hope 2016 us a positive year for you all.

Just 7 months, but what a change

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1st March 2015 I joined my local cycling club, just seven days later I go on my first club ride and get spat out of the back of group four, and I mean spat out. Since then a lot has changed.

First of all I would like to thank the ride leader that day DG who has become a regular face and friend on the Sunday rides as he got me back to the finish. Other club members have helped ove the past seven months and I thank each one of you for your company on our rides and helping me develop, especially those who have taught some to ride in a group (SH, RP, ST, SV and the rest)

I have been cycling the year before with people in the village, but the winter came and the social group when it own ways. I had also completed London to Brighton and Ride London that year so the summer was a good one in the bike, but the lack of training over the 2014/15 winter didn’t help and certainly was a factor of me being out the back door in that first club ride back in March 2015.

The following week I remember thinking work harder and keep on the wheel of the rider I front, it worked as I made it back within the group. Well small progress at least. A few weeks went by and I was getting used to cycling in a group and was coping quite well. A decision needed to be made, group 3? This group moves at an extra 2mph aver age speed and the no drop policy is gone. Oh well the new wheels had arrived and they helped my speed so I made the decision to step up, just one month into my membership! The route was an out and back on a flat and as I know now a fast ride. We reached the out part travelling at 18.5mph average and the previous weeks it was 15mph! Yes this had taken its toll and again I was out the back of group 3 in the last 10 miles, nothing left in the tank and I was empty. It was after this ride that RP had provided some very useful advise via email the following day, use a cadence meter and change the saddle height a bit (upwards), OK advise was great fully received and quite frankly required, as I found myself not good enough for group 3 and not being able to push in group 4. The final bit of advise was the fact me mentioned I would be in group 2 by September. I smiled, but thought this would be a hard ask. The advise worked, no suprise and I was able to stay in the front of group 4 and do most of the work for the next few weeks, before making another attempt at group 3. By now I had been cycling with the club for about six weeks and with the commute to work on the bike I was getting stronger and quicker. However still didn’t believe the “in group 2 by Septemer bit”.

26th April 2015 my second attemp in group 3. Progress, success, not dropped. I felt like I had achieved the first major success at the club, well my success anyway. By now I was loving the club rides and was starting to make new friends which is the other great thing about cycling, the social aspect. There was a dinner and dance the first one the club had organised so it was a good excuse to get to know more people and feel part of the club. A lovely evening was had by all and yeast there was a club ride the following morning to help clear the head. I had also felt more comfortable and had agreed to step up and learn how to lead rides. Within a few weeks I was assisting the group 4 ride and learning the ropes. 

When I was not learning how to lead rides I rode in group 3 trying to learn form the more experience club cyclist as well as push myself forward. After all I was due to Ride London in August so needed to ensure I had the miles in my legs to do myself justice. It is mid May and a few club member s were of participating in various events across the UK and Europe. In just 2 weeks (start of June) the Tour of Cambrideshire was taking place and a large club contingent was going 44 riders, and yes I was one. I had only ever ridden on closed roads once before so the experience was good to pass up. To add extra pressure it was also the UK qualifying leg for the world amatur road race championships in Denmark later in the year. The first two hours flew by with an average over 20mph! Either I was going to set a fast time or burn up. The latter happened and I finished the 88 miles in 4h 50m. Getting faster I thought, after all the goal was Ride London at the start of August.

I was regularly leading rides for group for and now assisting group 3 rides as well as continuing the commute to/from work as often as possible during the week. I continued to soak up advise from experience club members and tried to implement these into my commuting rides. Various levels of success a long with trial and error lead to a continued level of improvement. It would be seen how far I had come on the bike with a three day visit to the Yorksire Dales, just before a ride London with a mate of mine Harv. It was a good trip lots of hills and they are steep and no suprise lots of rain. So much rain in fact even the locals said it was a lot of rain, one gentleman said “it ain’t rained like t’is round ‘ere for years”. After drying out we knew that our legs would cope with Leith and Box Hill that weekend.

Ride London, the big event was here. Again this was a closed road event on the 2012 Olympic Road Race course, and the goal was to finish the whole course (the weather the previous year had lead to the course being shortened for safety) and to set a good time. I was on the front row of our starting wave and although this is not a race I made the decision to be first of of the Olympic park for our wave. The flag went down and I went for it, and achieved my little challenge, although I doubt anyone else was interested, but I was first into the A12 heading towards central London and the Surrey hills. In the previous wave a multiple world champion and 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist from 2012 was riding with her dad, yes it was Laura Trott. I had the pleasure of meeting her at the registration event on the Friday and said I wonder if I would see her again on the ride. Going through Richmond park I heard a very distinctive laugh (if you have heard Laura laugh then you know what ask mean) which had meant somewhere I had already passed her. I know she was not riding flat out but she want going slow either. I took my opportunity and drafted for a bit.  I also managed to have a chat with her about her Rio preparations etc. and I noticed we were moving quite nicely at an average of 22.5mph, slow for Laura but quick for me. I intended to ride with Miss Trott for the rest of the ride as long as I did my turn on the front and all was going well until the first of three punctures. Laura was gone so I was back in the pack. My mate Harv stopped for a chat before we were off again. I admit I did go a bit faster trying to make to hub for some much needed pressure in the front wheel. All in all the work had paid off as I completed the 100 miles in 5h 15m with a nice average speed of 19.1 mph (group 1 pace!).

The club entered a local charity sportive instead of running club rides one Sunday morning and we all joined in. My aim was to see how long I could stay with some of the sesioned club cyclists, and before long we had a large group, of about 30 riders, a mixture of club members and other cyclists. As the ride went on and the pace remained high (19-20mph) the group gradually got smaller. At 36 miles (of 50) I was starting to feel the pressure, but made a big effort not to be dropped and complete the ride with the remaining club members. At 41 miles I had dug deep but knew that I was going  to finishwith the others and I did in 2h 32m. I reminder saying to Russ, that maybe he was right after all and I would be in group 2 by September. He was right as when the ride leader plan for Septmeber was emailed to us, there I was assisting group 2 at the end of the month.

Leading the two’s was never a plan but on 27th September, the date I was supposed to be assisting this group there I was leading the ride. It was also my first group two ride, so added responsibility, and despite a few wrong turns everyone enjoyed the ride and we got back safely. Over a post cycle coffee, I took a moment to review my first seven months with a cycling club, what a journey. The following weekend was a challenge to ride the Trough of Bowland, which I have to say was very, no extremely enjoyable on and off the bike, but the climbing was harder than the trip to the Dales a few months before. One minute you are climbing at 5mph and then descending at 40+mph for three hours (moving time). However can’t wait to go back.

So my first seven months as a member of my local cycling club has been fun, exciting, full of challenges and the opportunity to meet many like minded people, as well as my cycling ability/fitness come on in leaps and bounds. Just the motivation required for a good winter training set and to be ready for the start of 2016!

Below is a graph I have used to track my fitness and to see my improvement.


Ride Leader

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I have been out with the club for about 4 months now and it’s fantastic. I have learnt so much and reminded myself of things I had forgotten from reading blogs and articles last summer. Tomorrow it all comes together when I will lead my first ride at 7.30 am tomorrow morning (UK time). 

Others have faith in my ability to lead the ride, and I am confident I can do a good job. After all I have been assisting in an official capacity as ride assistant for the past few months, learning the ropes, and now I have the opportunity to ensure everyone has a good ride. 

The route is quick and flowing and all going well we should roll quicker than the planned average, but we shall see. We do have a no drop policy for the group I lead tomorrow, so a good opportunity for me to roll through the groups having a chat with people and getting to know more about them and their cycling, and more importantly to ensure everyone gets back safe. 

As normal I have checked the bike over and ensured she is ready for the task, and she received a little more attention than normal to ensure she is looking her best for leadership responsibilities. The kit is ready, drink chilling in the fridge, and the Garmin fulling charged with the route loaded, so we don’t get lost. 

Just now need to chill out with a cold drink this evening and watch the highlights from the first stage of the 102nd Tour de France. 


Enjoy the ride.

Rule#17 And #16 I suppose. 

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Enough said really!   

I received a great email at the weekend to say that my jersey had arrived and I was able to collect. The bib shorts are still on their way and I can’t wait for them to arrive in a few weeks. However I now feel even more part if the club (if that were possible with the phenomenal welcome I have already received). 

I have to say the quality is very impressive. It is clear this is not a cheap Jersey. It feels very light and fits very well, as you would expect from IMP Sports. The pockets are large to fit your ride essentials and some food for the long rides. If your club kit is as good as this then you, like me are a very lucky and happy cyclist. I suppose the question is what next to order after I have taken out a mortgage to pay for it all!

I can’t wait for the commute in the morning so I can get to ride wearing my new club kit for the first time. And yest rule #16 will also be applied, respecting the jersey, after all I am now always on club duty wearing this little number. 

Happy riding.

First sportive of 2015

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Again in 2015 I will be completing the Prudential RideLondon , but this time for Teenage Cancer Trust. This is a fantastic charity and I hope to be able to do all I can to help teenagers and young people, and their families who are dealing with cancer. As I work with teenagers on a daily basis and I get to see first hand how great they can be at a wide range of problems and solutions it feels right to be helping such a great charity. You can help me and them from my fundrasing link here.

So with a centry planned for early August (this year lets hope the rain keeps away so the organisers dont have to cut short the route) I decided to get an early season sportive into my legs and assess the results.

Stansted flyer midi

I originally signed up for the full 101 mile route but I am glad I opted for the slightly less 73 mile route insted. If it was later in the seson or the preperation had been better then the 101 would be on. Also I had the option of rideing with a collegeue from work and as we experienced head and cross winds for most of the ride I was glad I opted for the middle distance. It was a nice warm day and ill take the ave moving time 4.42.46 for the 73 miles.

What would I change?

before I reflect on this I need to remind myself, as well as inform the reader, that May is near the start of the long training rides for August. Yes I am cycling in club rides and the commute to work, but these are not the long rides to help with thr endurance, although they will help. Overall it was a good test of where I am at fitness wise etc. 

So the answer to the question is…

I would change or rediscover the feeding whilst in the ride. The energy sources from high five is great and I dropped a few zero tabs in for good measure due to the heat, but I think I would pop a few more in my pockets for the refill at feed stations. I also need to get used to when I need to take a gel and how often, something I will have to practice on club rides. 

I also would benefit from being able to switch off the wind, as this was a nightmare as it normally is but as I can’t I need to go back to the article about how to ride well in the wind. Saying that is was difficult when there was just the two of us. I do much prefer cycling in a group as it works together, but this is a luxury reserved for club rides.

Apart from these few changes I feel ok for 118.2km without the ideal about of winter and pre season training. Now to get my gear ready for the commute in the morning. 

Happy cycling. 

Club Membership

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I am sure I have blogged before (last summer) about my intentions to join the local cycle club, well there was a lot of procrastination and it never happened, which actually meant that after Ride London last august my cycling took a back seat. Over the winter months the weight went on, the new year came and I decided I would attempt Ride London in 2015! Not a problem, except I was a lot heaver than I was the previous year when I signed up. There was clearly work to be done and the winter training in the gym wasn’t going to cut the mustered.

Action plan 1 – The Turbo Trainer!

January sales and managed to pick up a lovely turbo trainer for the winter months. At last I was back on my bike, rather than the exercise bike in the gym. I could start to measure cadence and HR again and this made me feel better. I knew however I need to get back out on the road and motivation was a little lacking as the weather was not helpful to start the morning commute. At least I know I have this option for the late autumn evenings and I can still get a workout from my bike.

Action Plan 2 – Stop procrastination and join the club

It might have taken until late February to print and post the form and cheque but on 1st March 2015 I received an email confirming my membership,  complete with my membership number and the benefits I am now covered by as a club member. Along with this I was now on the email list to receive weekly ride details. Just get up early on a Sunday morning and see what it is all about. Remember don’t make a fool of yourself and try and fit in.

Well the first club ride came and I was welcomed into the club. In the following months I have starting to make new friends and meet people, as well as gain some very useful tips and guidance to improve my cycling. Some of these have had the desired effect already (higher cadence and higher seat post) and I have managed to step up a group.

I have been made to feel so welcome when the request for ride leaders and ride assistants came, I felt I could not help out. Another part of my cycling education keeping others safe and regulating the pace in the front of a group etc, but all good fun.

So if you are thinking of joining a cycling club, then my advice is go for it. They are all different so you will need to complete some research first, but if your local club is anything like mine then it will be a pleasure when the alarm goes off very early on a Sunday morning.

Happy cycling and keep safe out there.

Joining a club?

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In an ideal world I would now be on my first ride with a club to try out what they have to offer, however whilst I might be out of action for a week or so with a bloody injury to my stomach I have had some time to think. This is a horrible time as I am very frustrated about not being able to ride, even for enjoyment.

I have also been thinking about when I get back on the bike how I can start to improve my performance on a bike and safely. To be fair this thinking process started before my injury, but now I have time to complete some proper research.

Why join a club?

At this stage I won’t be a competitor for the club, just looking for more social rides with like minded people and to be able to gain advice on my riding style, training and more importantly how to ride in a group.

This last point is an important one. Yes I have been involved in mass cycle events I the past, but never received or sought any training on how to ride in a group safely. This will be a vital skill when I cycle RideLondon in August. I’ve picked up a few ideas from the Sunday social rides I’ve done with friends but this area of my cycling is an area I need to know more about.

Well once I’ve recovered from the injury and cleared the other commitments I have at the weekends, I look forward to contacting the club again and getting out with the club, just to see how I get on.