Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chasing Targets – The Numbers Game

This is a blog for everyone who regularly rides with a cycle computer. The moment you fit one, ever ride will be as the French put it so beautifully, ‘contre la montre’. Whether it be your regular CTT, or a ride over a known route, this small and simple device changes the game.

In direct contravention of Rule #74 I’ve been using a Garmin Edge for a number of years now, and I would not be without it. As a true believer in the spirit on n+1, I wanted something that I could easily switch from bike to bike, and the Edge fitted the bill perfectly.

It wasn’t until late 2009 though that I started to use it more seriously to keep a track of all the Kms covered, and in 2010 I set up a log to keep a closer eye on what I was doing. Setting up a ‘km log’(please note I am not operating a training log!) is quite a significant step, and gives you the opportunity to set, and measure your progress against targets. My initial targets were modest, 100km a week. This would give me over 5000km for the year. I’d started……

Just having a target changed the way I rode. Go home the long way? Why not? An extra lap of the town? Go on then. All in the pursuit of the target. It quickly became clear that I’d been quite conservative in my initial target, and mid year I was just shy of 4000km, and was close to 150km/week. I kept up the pace, and in spite of a few problems towards the end of the year ended up clocking up 6863Km for the year. Not too shabby, and this in itself had raised the bar for 2011.

So, 2011. After not all that much deliberation, I settled on 160km/week, which would equate to 8000km for the year.

Things started well, and after the first couple of months I was well ahead of target. I was trying hard not to start thinking about adjusting it upwards but the temptation was proving difficult to resist. March and April were shaping up to be big cycling months, with the first ever Shifnal Sportive planned, as well as a trip to Paris-Roubaix, and the Spring Boston(Lincs) to Shifnal Epic. Things were going well, so I upped the target to 200km/week, and a nice round 10,000km for the year.

June and July flew by, and included a truly epic trip to the Tour.  Not one but two assaults on the legendary Alpe D’Huez, as well as the Col du Lautaret for good measure. Truly awesome cycling! If you ever get the opportunity to cycle in the Alps grab it with both hands.

Summer Holidays meant that August was a pretty quiet month, but September and October more than made up for it. The inaugural Shifnal Cycling Society Sportive was the highlight of September, whilst October included another first, the Tour de Shropshire. 210 km over two days taking in some of the finest roads the county has to offer.

On the surface it was just another of our regular Tuesday night rides, but on 22nd November, just as we were coming back into Shifnal, the target was passed. With over a month in hand, I’d passed the 10,000km marker for the year. To some this may seem like a modest achievement, but I’m well pleased.

I’ve now got a month to think about what I’ll be aiming for in 2012…….

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shifnal Cycling Society at Revolution Round 2

Everything fell into place perfectly for SCS’s trip to round 2 of the Revolution Track Cycling competition. The icing on the cake being a guest appearance by none other than ‘Cav’, the 2011 UCI Road Race World Champion. It promised to be a great night of cycling.

Velomihotties in tow, and having completed pre event hydration in Fallowfield, @SJ1202 and I headed off to the Manchester Velodrome. Walking up the stairs to the entrance, I began to think just what’s been achieved by British cyclists since this venue was built back in 1994. The list goes on and on. On the track, on the road, and even on the BMX track, we really are living through a golden age of British Cycling.

We arrived just as ‘Cav’ was being introduced to the crowd and the atmosphere was electric. What a year it’s been for Cav. After a difficult start, he’s just gone from strength to strength. Two stage wins in the Giro, five stage wins as well as the Green Jersey in the Tour, two more wins at the Tour of Britain, and then the big one, the World Road Race Championship. Our first world champion since 1965.  It ever there was any doubt, 2011 has really cemented Cav’s place at the top table of world cycling. Bring on 2012!!

It was a sell out crowd, and we watched the first few races at the barrier as the riders came into the last corner. The sheer speed of the riders was amazing. It also meant were we ideally placed to be reminded of the dangers of track cycling. During the boys race a fall towards the front of the pack triggered a series of riders to go down. Most got up pretty quickly but a couple of the lads sustained significant injuries, and at least one looked to have popped their collarbone. Ouch.

Behind our initial vantage point us was a bookstall, featuring a signing by an author and journalist that I greatly admire, William Fotheringham - @Willfoth to tweeters out there. If he hadn’t been such a miserable git I may well have purchased another of his books. I guess we all have off days.

I was somewhat surprised, as well as pleased, to see that Cav was riding in the World Champions jersey. My understanding is that you’re only allowed to where the jersey in the discipline in which it was won, and as such Cav was bending the rules a little. Cillian Kelly’s has got an excellent piece on this very subject. Check it out if you get the chance.

As mentioned earlier, it’s the sheer speed of the riders that I find so impressive, and this was never more in evidence than during the 200metre sprint races. After a couple of laps gathering speed at the very top of the banking, the riders swoop down and cross the start line in a blur. The start of the 200m is midway round turn 1, and from then on it’s a full bore, eyeballs out sprint for the line. Seeing riders clocking low 10s was impressive, and then we were treated to a sub 10s run. This equates to an average speed of over 70km/h! Unreal!

One excellent event followed another, and the quickfire nature of track cycling meets meant that there was always something going on.

My only regret was that we missed possibly the highlight of the night when Cav outsprinted the field to take the final event of the evening, the men’s scratch race. We made an early escape and were off to our old stomping ground of Didsbury to quench our thirsts…..

All in all a great night out, and I’d recommend Revolution to anyone.


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

On Tour in Hertfordshire with ottmountainbike!

A meeting in central London on Tuesday scuppered this week’s regular ride, so instead I made a guest appearance with . My brother in law is one of the leading lights of this loose amalgam of Hertfordshire off roaders, and you can always guarantee a good ride with them.

It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with this group, and having spent most of the year on the road, I wasn’t really sure how I’d fair. A good sized group turned out, and I think we numbered 10 or 11. My pre ride plan was to stick at the back and see how things panned out, but that didn’t last long.

The pace was pretty quick from the off, and a couple of lads were really pushing the pace. I consoled myself with the facts that I was probably giving away the best part of 20 years to a couple of them, not to mention a good few kilos.

I never ceased to be impressed with the routes that Si puts together. This one had a bit of everything, from draggy climbs, to fast flowing singletrack, to fast fire road blasts.

I’d also forgotten how different an experience it is riding off road in large groups, to road cycling. Short(ish) sharp(ish) bursts of effort are interspersed with re-grouping, which give ample chance to take a breather.

It’s difficult to give any real detail about the route due to the fact it was pitch black, and I had absolutely no idea where I was. Fortunately the faithful Edge had everything under control, and a summary is below.

Full details can be viewed here.

As a fully paid up bike geek, riding with a new group gives the opportunity to check out a whole new collection of bikes. The group was a real mixed bag, and although dominated by Specialized, included a Marin, a Lapierre, as well as the ubiquitous On-One Inbred. Some minor rule violations were noted, including mudguards, wheel reflectors, as well as a dork disc, and I’m relying on my brother in law to show these miscreants the light.

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable ride, and it you’re ever in or around the St Albans area on a Tuesday night with your mountain bike, this is a group well worth tagging along with.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Bikes Part 3 – Specialized Langster

Purchased on a whim from eBay one Saturday afternoon a couple of years ago, this has developed into a real favourite of mine. Winter bike, bad weather bike, time trial bike, and much much more, let me introduce my Specialized Langster.

Excuse the mess!

Much has been changed since I first purchased this bike, and it now sports some of the nicest cycling componentry out there. At least in my opinion…..

As a fully paid up cycling geek, and a lover of exquisitely engineered cycling bits and bobs, it’s the back wheel of this bike that I find so pleasing. A Goldtec Pro Track hub, laced to a Mavic CXP33 rim, finished off with a White Industries ENO Freewheel(18T)/15T fixed option.  Just about the best SS/Fixed road wheel available; quite lovely!

Other highlights include:
  • Shimano 105 brakes – Not too sure how you could improve on these,
  • Hope Mono Front hub – bombproof,
  • Salsa Seatpost – Mtb derived I know, but the best saddle adjustment mechanism I’ve ever used by some distance,
  • Specialized BG Toupe Saddle – I can’t see me ever using anything else.
It’s a bike used all year round, takes all that’s thrown at it, including carrying me to a series of PBs in this year’s Wrekin Sport Summer Time Trial Series.

I love it, even though it could do with a damned good clean.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The CTT – Commuter Time Trial

Anyone who regularly commutes to work on a bike does it, no matter how hard they might try not to, the commuter time trial, the CTT.  Before we know it, we’re aiming for the first checkpoint, especially if the traffic’s kind to you, or you just find yourself with good legs. A PB? Apply a large dose of “The Five”, and push on.

Today was one of those days…….

It didn’t start too well as I got slightly baulked by the traffic on Innage Road. This cleared and I was soon spinning along on Haughton Lane. The legs felt pretty good, but it was too soon to think too far ahead. The crucial part of the ride was upon me. It might only look like a small rise, but the Haughton Road cutting is key to determining a good time. I hit it quite hard, and as I came over the rise I glanced down down at my V-meter. A shade over 5:30, very promising. Checkpoint 1 is officially designated as the lamppost on cycle path that crosses Junction 4 of the M54. Anything Sub 9 mins is good, and 8:08 was a new PB but some distance!

Thanks to a very courteous driver in a quite lovely Porsche 997 I made it across the junction with no hold ups, and I was soon heading to Checkpoint 2, the bridge that crooses the M54 alongside DHL. The uphill drag along Stafford Park 7 often suffers a block headwind, but not today and I was easily holding 25km/h plus. Checkpoint 2 passed in 13:05, another PB. It was well and truly on!

Phase 3 of my CTT is the best bit by far. Fast, a little dangerous truth be told, but when done properly very exhilarating. As I joined the A5, a long queue of traffic was backed up all the way from the Hollinswood interchange, and the lights were on red. Perfect.

Passing all the glum looking people sat in their tin boxes, it’s always difficult not to feel smug, and to appreciate what it is to be a cycling commuter.

As I closed in on the lights they went green, one last final effort. Across the island in a blur, the final set of lights was all that stood before me and a PB. Five metres from the lights they went red. Fuck it, head down and I was on my way up the hill to the Asda Island. 15:03 at the top, it was in the bag. As I pulled up in the car park I looked down, 15:28!!! A massive PB.