Saturday, 12 April 2014

SCS On The Boards – Velodrome Report

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The Results Are In!

Cycling takes many forms, and this weekend we were fortunate enough to experience one of its more extreme variants, riding on an indoor Velodrome. No brakes, no gears, and no freewheeling, what could go wrong?
Two of our group had been before, but the rest were track virgins. Nervous laughter filled the air as we entered track centre as it dawned on us all what we were about to undertake. The steepness of the banking never ceases to amaze me; it’s something that the television doesn’t do justice. As the previous group’s session drew to a close it was time to meet Jodie, who would be our coach for our 2 hour track experience. Bikes selected, and faffage completed, Jodie briefed the group on the basics before getting us out on the track.
Lined up against the guard rail, I took a few moments to appreciate the bikes. Whilst most bikes are weighed down with all manner of componentry, the track version is perhaps its purist form. Quite beautiful; built without a single compromise, and utterly focussed on the task in hand.
Jodie started us off slowly, but we quickly graduated to the Cote D’Azur, the name given to the metre of so wide blue piece of the track which lies between the concrete track centre, and the track proper with its distinctive black, red, and blue lines.
Our speed and confidence grew in equal measure as we made it up to the blue line and beyond, and it’s up here that the steepness of the track makes itself felt. Speed is the key to holding a high line, and I found it helpful to accelerate ever so slightly into the corners and to use the straights for an all too brief recovery. The novices of all but half an hour ago, were now riding the boards with confidence.
After a break for drinks Jodie put us through our paces with a couple of drills. The first saw us riding on the black, or sprinters line, as a group, and then taking a lap on the front before swinging up the track and re-joining at the back once everyone had passed. Looking down on the group below from high up on the banking is something else.
Our second drill saw us working as group again, this time circling the track high up on the blue line. On the whistle the front man dropped to the sprinters line and accelerated to gain a lap before re-joining the back of the group. All I can say is that this is much, much harder than it sounds, and really took its toll on me. However, the sight of the back of the group acted as a magnet, and offered that last incentive to bridge the gap.
A last break and the mood amongst the group was buoyant, and everyone was clearly enjoying the experience, even Spider. The sight of him out of the pedals, and control, as he weaved up and down the banking was the perfect reminder to not stop pedalling!
With our two hour session drawing all too quickly to a close, Jodie informed us that to finish off we were all going to take on a 500m challenge. From a standing start, we had about 15 metres to the ‘start’ line, and from here it was full bore for two laps. I lined up 5th man, and in no time at all I was on. The first challenge was to get the gear turning as quickly as possible. I was up to speed on the back straight and the feeling of speed as I flew into the banking was just awesome. Lap 1 completed and my legs were burning. Into the back straight for the final time, and I was flagging fast. Time to dig deep for one last push and I was over the line. I’m sure it felt a whole lot faster than it was.
With the final challenge completed it was time for the results. It was all fairly close and only 5 seconds covered the entire group. However in any competition there has to be a winner, and @SJ1202 was narrowly beaten into runners up spot by @DaipacCycling but a mere 0.17 seconds. @DaipacCycling covered the 500m in a very creditable 41.02 seconds @ 43.88km/h(that’s a shade over 27mph in old money) to be crowned the inaugural ShifnalCyclingSociety Track Champion in the 500m Time Trial. Well Done.
A fantastic way to end a fantastic day. When can we do it all again?
Vive la Velo!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Newport CC Reliability Trial 2014 Ride Report

From the off this had all the makings of a special ride. With numbers undoubtedly swollen by the fine weather, we had a few minutes to sign on, catch up with a few of the familiar faces dotted around the car park, before the scratch group lined up at the ‘start line’(Remember – This is a Reliability Trial and NOT a race – honestly). Some of the area’s strongest riders were amongst this group, and in an instant they were gone.
Next up, the ‘B’ or middle group were called to the start. Dai, Johnny, and I shuffled towards the start. This was going to be a very large group out on the road, and it was decision time. Getting stuck towards the back of wasn’t really where I wanted to be, so I decided to make a fairly quick start, and see what happened. Traffic at the very first island split the group, but the good news was that Dai and I were on the front of the chasing bunch. As we passed through Forton we could see the front group and they we were coming back to us. We pushed on a little, and crossed the gap.
Although fast, the pace was comfortable and I was able to pick my way through the group towards the front. The familiar figure of Nova Raider @Middy_Middy was amongst those pushing the pace along at the front in spite of a lack of gears, and I was glad of the shelter offered by the leading half a dozen or so riders. We passed through Eccleshall without any problems, and I comfortably held position as we neared the turn onto the A51.

As we headed west towards Woore, the long flat sections offered the stronger riders the opportunity to really put the pressure on. It was on this section that perhaps my biggest weakness was apparent, a lack of top end speed on the flat. It was time to dig deep and hang in there for all I was worth. The group had thinned by now, and thankfully Dai was still with us. We exchanged a few words of encouragement as we clung on towards the back of the group. The good news was that we were still there; the speed was, for me at least, fairly ferocious.
As we passed through Woore, the pace seemed to go up a notch and I was in trouble. Looking behind me all I could see was road. I’d lost the wheel of the man in front of me, and the gap was growing. To get dropped now would be a disaster, and it would be a long ride back.

Fortunately, as we made the turn for home just past Woore, the terrain changed in my favour, as the roads narrowed and encountered a series of small but rolling hills. The group dangling just in front was getting closer, and after one final big effort I was back with them. Time to take a well earned breather in the shelter of the pack.
As Audlem passed and we headed towards Market Drayton I started feeling stronger, and as the roads undulated I made my way back up towards the front end of the group. Could I hang in there all the way back to Newport? I was certainly going to give it a shot. One final nagging climb up to Cheswardine was the last hill of the day, and from there it was just a downhill blast back to Newport. As we got onto the hill, it was clear that I wasn’t alone in my suffering as riders all around dug deep to keep with the group.

As we reached Cheswardine little did I know that I was about to experience one of the finest finishes to a ride I’ll ever experienced. 30 or so riders were left in the group as we sped down the lanes, the familiar roads passing underneath me quicker than ever before. With no traffic coming the other way, the group made full use of the road. Whilst not a race, it was perhaps the closest I’ll ever come to the feeling of one as the group rode 3 and 4 abreast using the whole road. The pace was manic as we swept past some of the slower riders completing the 30 mile loop. As we turned onto the A41 for the final mile or so, I decided to empty the tank. As I hit the front I knew I’d gone too early but the sheer ehxileration of the experience made it all worthwhile. I was swallowed up by the remainder of the group as we approached the ‘finish line’, my legs were screaming at me and on the point of cramping. A fitting way to finish an absolutely awesome ride.
When I checked my watch I was genuinely shocked to see that we’d got back to the start before 12. That meant we’d made it round in under the 2hrs 20 mins mark. Bloody hell! Then I checked my average speed – 35.1km/h! I’ve not managed all that much quicker than that on a 10mile TT. Amazing.

Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever experienced.
Vive la Velo!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Hammer or Nail?

To truly savour success one must have experienced failure, and in the last week I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy both of these emotions.

One of the appeals of cycling, to me at least, is the fact it offers us the ability to regularly experience both of these extremes in (almost)equal measure. As the saying goes, some days you’re the hammer, others the nail.

Let’s consider failure first. Never planned, but always a possibility, even the greats of our sport experience it. Think Cav on the Champs Elysees last year, or perhaps Sir Twiggins at the 2011 tour. Our failures may be smaller, but nevertheless a fail is a fail.

Good planning is no guarantee of success, just ask the team GB road race team at the 2012 olympics, and our failure in the #TwoShiresEnduro is no reflection on the preparation. The route was meticulously planned, and the objective was clear. One day dedicated to the objective of an off road metric century. Whilst 100km on the road is nothing out of the ordinary, on a #Mtb with big fat tyres, and on muddy trails, it’s a different story.
This was a very personal objective for me. I’d got close a number of times before, but like a test batsman stuck in the ‘nervous nineties’, I’d never been able to convert an off road ride into the magic three digits.

As we rolled away from the start the mood in the group was optimistic, and early progress was good. We were approaching the 35km mark when we turned onto a unassuming and innocent looking canal tow path which would take us to potentially the highlight of the days route, Cannock Chase. I immediately noticed the hedge trimmings that littered the path, but the Stan’s Tyre milk sloshing around in my tubes meant I wasn’t overly concerned. Not everyone however, had discovered its magic. As the first puncture of the day was being fixed it quickly became apparent that we had a far larger problem.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it before; puncture after puncture after puncture. In a short three mile stretch of canal tow path, 7 of the group of ten experienced in excess of 20 punctures. All available tubes used, puncture repair kits were called into action.

As we re-grouped in Milford on the very edge of Cannock Chase, it dawned on us all that our target for the day was slipping away from us. Cold, hungry, and dejected, we took the difficult decision to abort, and to return to Newport. As we re-fuelled at KFC(surely a measure of how low we were), the consensus was that although we’d sealed our failure, we’d made the right decision. On that day, we were most certainly the nail.
Fast forward a week, and this time a very different objective was in my sights. I’m by no means a Strava lover, but I do find its challenges intriguing, and its Gran Fondo 1 challenge had piqued my interest. To ride 130km in a day. Not the longest ride granted, but in January in the UK, the weather was almost certainly going to be the toughest part.

It turned out this was to be a solo affair, but this only added to the challenge in my mind. As much as I enjoy riding in a group, sometimes lone efforts are the most rewarding.

With the rain beating down on the Velux windows it wasn’t looking good. Postpone maybe, but a final check of the forecast was more encouraging. Rule #9 conditions could only add to the experience. My descision was made!

Early progress was good, and without a doubt aided by a significant, but at the time unknown, tailwind. An added bonus, and one that was entirely unplanned, was my first solo ‘Project 330’ ride. 100km in under 3 hours 30 minutes. It was over coffee and cake in Market Drayton that I realised this was in the bag. The last 30km was all about hanging in there and just making it over the line.

As I passed through Sheriffhales, the 130km mark was passed, and less than a week after failure came success. On this day at least, I was the hammer!

Vive la Velo

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Highlights of 2013

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I’ve just logged the details of my final couple of rides of 2013 and it seems like the perfect time to reflect on what’s been a quite incredible cycling year.
From a personal viewpoint the most pleasing aspect of 2013 is the way that our society has grown. We’ve picked up a number of riders as the year’s passed, and collectively we’ve completed hundreds of rides and many tens of thousands of kilometres.

Testament to how great a year it’s been is how hard it’s been to pick a couple of highlights to share. A trip to Le Tour in Alps, as well as a day in the Pyrenees are just two of the experiences which have both missed the cut. Time Trial PBs, crashes, a first ever double imperial century, and the quite unique Telford Toothpaste are also left lying on the cutting room floor. I just hope you enjoy reading about the two that made it.

My first highlight was from earlier in the year, and was a very personal experience. It featured a solo, two day, near 400km ride from our current base, to my hometown of Margate.  A vicious head wind was my companion for what seemed like the entire two days, but it was the snow that so very nearly broke my will. However, the Golden Arches came to my rescue(and not for the first time), and thankfully the snow flurries passed. Riding into and out of London was a highpoint of the ride, especially with the knowledge of having started out northwest of Birmingham. As I rode along the promenade in Margate I can safely say I’ve never been so pleased to see its old Victorian clock tower. An epic in every sense of the word.
The second highlight was also an A2B ride, and was an experience I’ll never forget. London to Paris, a ride that I cannot recommend highly enough. Three days of pure unadulterated cycling pleasure. It was all @ASL191’s idea as a way of marking a significant birthday which she celebrated in 2013. Five of us undertook the challenge, and my role was one of chief mechanic and the logistics & route planner, as well as being a general source of encouragement along the way. Highpoints along the ride are too numerous to detail, but an abiding memory is from day 2, as we enjoyed mile after mile of lightly traffic’ed French countryside. As the French would say, Chapeau!

What’s for certain is that 2014 has much to live up to!
Vive la Velo

Saturday, 21 December 2013

ShifnalCyclingSociety AGM 2013

Amongst the many mundane e-mails that i received on Wednesday was one from Society fellow Adamski. It simply read, "Hopefully attached are the ramblings of a madman".

Unbeknown to me, Adamski had minuted the previous night's meeting. What follows is all his own work. Thankyou Sir!



Club HQ Tuesday 17th December
Persons present: @936ADL(AL)(Chair), @SJ1202(SJ), @ObsessiveJohn(JS) , @AlScott(AL), @DaipacCycling(DL), @MaxWhite65(MW), @MartynbroVVn(MB), DangerousBrIan(IS), @woodsdrycleaner(AC), Sanjay(father of @SJ1202), Tat.

Apologies. -  None. Society members never ever apologise.

The pre-meeting off road ride was preceded by the Inaugural Shifnal Cycling Society best dressed bike competition.

The children of the Chair voted JS bike the winner. The society congratulated JS and commiserated with members who missed the judging area.
Matters Arising:

DL proposed we all buy Obsessive Compulsive Cyling Disorder, available from Amazon and more legit retailers. DL then gave us his top 50 books. AS, JS, AC, and SJ all pointed out that DL admitted he doesn’t like reading. It was agreed not to purchase the book.

AC suggested that the SCS put forward a team to enter the Shrewsbury Grand Prix. The Chair raised concerns that the ability of our potential team may not reach the high standards associated with this historical event. SJ wanted to know where the event would take place, JS mentioned the clue in the name of the event. Once AC pointed out that the event would welcome participants of varying cycling standards it was almost ready to be put to vote.
Before it went to vote DL challenged AC that his pronunciation of Shrewsbury was incorrect. The next one hour of the meeting was very difficult to record. The Taming of the Shrew, beau, small welsh town, in or out of the city walls, town coat of arms and many more phrases and words were thrown across the table. JS asked Marika, one of our bar girls, to decide which pronunciation was correct. AC objected strongly that Marika was unqualified to decide. The Chair agreed, but far more quietly.   

The matter will carry on until the next AGM, the SCS did not confirm the club position on Shrew/Shrow.
AS mentioned he would like to ride 100k off road. The Chair agreed to do this with him in 2014.

The society will undertake a coast 2 coast ride in July. A date for the Wales top to bottom has yet to be decided.  AC suggested we get some horses to see which the faster mode of transport is.

I can’t remember if The Society agreed or not to purchase a wine bar in Shifnal. It was agreed by all members to look into a Society van. JS knows someone round the back of ASDA that could paint it. MB pointed out we would need a driver.
SJ was elected treasurer. His Dad on hearing this news left very promptly.

AS and AC are going to set up a base camp in the Yorkshire Dales in readiness for Le Tour.

AC is to segment the BMX track. He can’t remember how.
AS suggested we head up there after the meeting. We agreed not to.

The meeting ended when the beer stopped flowing. We all agreed it was a most excellent meeting.


Vive la Velo

Monday, 2 December 2013

SingleSpeed Imperial Century Ride Report

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Just Numbers

The picture above is little more than a collection of numbers, and none even come close to doing this ride justice. A truly awesome day on the bike, all devoted to the purity of the SingleSpeed and the pursuit of an imperial century.

Originally hatched as a plan between myself and @NovaRaidersCC’s @Middy_Middy, the objective was a simple one. Ride one hundred miles, on one single gear. We set a date, bizarrely in December, and I planned a route. Shropshire’s flatter northern territories were ideal; nice fast roads, and nothing too nasty in the way of hills.

One of our newest SingleSpeed recruits, @DaipacCycling, threw his casquette into the ring, and so on the day, there was three.

Riding to the pre-arranged start point I was nervous. I’d an idea of my riding companion’s pace, and I was a little worried. I was just hoping that we’d all be able to stick together and enjoy the ride.
The early miles passed easily, and spirits were high as we got to know each other. Stories and anecdotes were exchanged, and the pace was healthy. Push on was the consensus, and after riding some of my favourite Shropshire roads it was time for a coffee and cake stop in Ellesmere.
Leaving the Café, December made its presence felt and we were glad of the climb that followed to get some warmth back into legs. The metric century was passed, and I was feeling good. We each took our turn on the front and the strong pace was maintained.

@Middy_Middy’s view was that the ride was really finished at the 80 mile marker. His rationale being that the last 20 were a breeze after you’d completed 80. I liked it, and as we passed the ‘finish line’ my spirits were high with only just over an hour to go.

As with so many great rides, this one had a sting in its tail and this one’s known locally as the Abbey Road. Running from Lillieshall up towards Heath Hill, it’s a pig of a road, even more so on a SingleSpeed. The final ramp is a real killer, but at the top I was greeted by a real sense of euphoria. All that remained was a roll off the hill to complete our goal for the day, and I think it’s fair to say we’d managed it in some style.

 An absolutely fantastic day’s ridiing, in great company. When are we going to do it again?

Vive la Velo


Sunday, 24 November 2013

The #Chaingang

An industrial estate in Shropshire; a late November evening; a diverse group of cyclists meeting in a layby. This can only mean one thing, a chaingang session is about to get  underway.

I’ve been meaning to make it along to one of these for a while now, and on Thursday night I finally popped my chaingang cherry. As I made it towards the start I really wasn’t at all sure what to expect. Would I keep up ? There was only one way to find out.

The main protagonists were known only to me by their Strava or Twitter pseudonyms, but they were a friendly bunch and readily accepted me into their ranks.

The circuit was a pan flat 2.5km loop around the industrial estate, well lit, and a decent, albeit damp, surface.

I set off in the first group whilst a few performed their final pre-ride faffage rituals. The pace was fast, but relatively comfortable. The first couple of laps I spent trying to make mental notes of any drain covers and pot holes on the circuit as the pace gently increased.

With the chaingang up to full strength we settled into a steady, and fast(for me at least) pace. I was however, managing to hang on in there, and even spent some time on the front of the group. I found that the corners were key, and holding speed through them was crucial to keeping a consistent pace. Leg sapping accelerations out of them was best avoided.

I looked down at my Garmin, and in what seemed like no time at all it was showing over 30km had been covered! Even more surprising was the average speed we were maintaining, over 32km/h. And I was still feeling comfortable.
Lap after lap was spent chatting to various members of the ‘gang, and it’s fair to say we were a fairly diverse bunch. From cat 1 road racers, to middle aged life long cyclists, with a Team GB Downhill Mtb rider thrown in for good measure.

After just under two hours I called it a day, said my goodbyes, and headed for home. Over 62 covered! Full details here - 

Whenever I try something new I ask myself two simple questions, 1)Did I enjoy the experience, and 2)Am I intending to do it again. It’s a resounding yes on both accounts.
Vive la Velo