Training plans?

9 04 2013

These generally went to pot last year. I am obviously too much of time crunched cyclist and even Chris C’s plans defeated my random work/life planning. So, I just got out when I could. I used to run at lunchtime many years ago and I’ve resurrected this with some success.
I’ve started with Strava for these rides and stopped using the turbo and heart rate monitor over this winter. I bought some decent winter clobber and some Continental 4 Season tyres and just tried to get out at lunchtime whatever the weather. Generally it’s been good (cold but not too wet) for most of the winter and I’ve been constructing various loops of 20 – 25km to keep me interested and challenged. I usually have a look at the weather forecast and decide on a ride based on the prevailing wind. Round the Great Orme in a SW gale has been a bit scary on the summit and descent!
Strava has been a great ride diary and an encouragement to get out. Nice to see personal improvement, which is what I’ve been after, and the totals for each month are a great motivation.
I bought a Garmin 800 to track all the data and this has been a great bit of kit. I’ve been using it with OS 1:50k mapping too both for road riding and also for route finding offroad. It’s been used for all the winter S24O bikepacking trips and I’m going to start to experiment with a back up USB power supply for longer bikepacking trips. The power seems to last pretty well on the one day trips so far, especially if it’s not on map view all the time. Loads of good stuff on the web relating to the Edge but I particularly liked Frank Kinlans Blog (http://frank.kinlan.co.uk/garmin-edge-800/dummies-guide-to-the-garmin-edge-800/) for some hints and tips.





A new framebag

8 04 2013

The Wildcat frame bag has been great – holds all the long stuff in the top section (pump, poles, sleeping mat etc.) and the bottom section swallows the less frequently needed gear such as tools, spare inner tube and fuel (gas, meths, occasionally petrol/white gas). Never been over stuffed and holds everything very securely with no movement.
Nice touch is the map pocket on the non-drive side. I’ve had maps in there as well as light batteries with an extension cable up to the bars.
Build quality seems to be great – mines holding up very well so far.
Here it is, having been well used on a recent trip out in Derbyshire (December Bivi Ride 12)
Wildcat Frame Bag
and on a more recent bikepacking trip in January (that’s my full winter kit on board – more on the contents in a later post)
Winter Bivi Kit





Another three month goal ticked off… Tour of Flanders

8 04 2013

Long time since I’ve posted on the blog but I have been out and about on the bike with some short, sharp training rides at lunchtime to get the legs spinning before the Tour of Flanders cyclosportif on the Easter weekend. I had only managed a few 100km rides in the run up to the 133km event but I’d been doing lots of short hills (and some longer ones in preparation) so was feeling confident of getting up the hills; I was just hoping my back held out for the distance as I still seem to getting a bit of a sore lower back after three to four hours in the saddle.

Need not have worried really. A cold start at 0830 saw us roll into town (Oudenaarde) from the hotel in Gent and get sorted in a field with a huge mix of other nations, mainly from France, Holland and the host nation, but a lot of Brits were there too.

We’d registered the previous day, after a dash round the bikes shops to replace a damaged stem on one bike, so the actual sprotive departure just entailed rolling over a timing mat and off on a sunny but very chilly bike path and canalside towpath for a good flat 15km warm up before the first berg. We could see it coming – marked by the sea of bobbing bike helmets as everyone bottled necked on the first climb; we were all brought to a standstill followed by a slow push to the top (don’t take your best overshoes!). Back on at the top as this was the last walking I’d be doing all day. I managed to carve a path through the punters on the second berg with some last minute line swapping and lots of shouting (‘Rider’ or ‘Up, Up, Up’ seemed to do the trick). The remainder of the bergs enroute had much thinned out traffic and so were managable by staying on a relatively central line although the smoother cobbles were often to be had at the edges.

We (Jason, Rachel and me) had decided to stick together and make a socialable day of it. We managed a 6.5 hour ride (http://app.strava.com/activities/46821279) and I felt surprisingly OK at the finish. The steep bergs were very rideable at slow speed; I wasn’t finding the cobbles that intimidating and traction was good in the dry.
A berg in Flanders

But lulled into a false sense of security I barrelled down a long undulating 2.4km stretch of cobbles and nearly lost my fillings. Big gear, push hard and keep your bum just off the saddle (“float like a buffalo, sting like a bear”). Pretty tough and at speed you had to keep your eyes peeled for loose or rough patchs as well as all the bottles/pumps/tools/random bits on the road as everyone began shedding stuff. Jason lost a cage bolt and had his bottle swing into his leg on one section. I lost a bottle (that I went back for) on one section but needed this as it was a long way to the next feedstation so I stopped for it (old inner tube on the cage backs next time). The feed stations were well served with Shimano workshops sorting out all the battered bikes and helped out Jason too.

Weather was dry and cold with an easterly breeze all day. We were all starting to feel the chill towards the end of the ride and the long drag home with a few wheelsuckers didn’t help. Nice T-shirt and warming bath in the Gent hotel preceded a traditional Belgian meal and beers.

We went to see the pro’s racing on Oude Kwaremont the following day – they were looping the last three climbs so they came past three times in an hour and half, then we all crammed into the village square to watch Fabian Cancellara time trial to the finish having lost Peter Sagan on the final climb of the Paterberg (FC seemed to have the measure of PS as he came past us on their last lap)
Oude Kwaremont RVV 2013

I would recommend doing this trip as a self-organised one. We booked a hotel in Gent (great city), travelled over on the Chunnel (just over £100 for a car plus three plus bikes), entered on line for 30 Euros (bargain sportive) and ate like kings in Gent’s restaurants. Make sure you know where the car is on your return from the ride; it’s not easy navigating back out of town when you’re cold and tired and have something warm in the car to change into; we all chilled quickly in the easterly winds once we’d stopped. It all seemed loads less hassle than a Sports Tours type trip (Jason had done this the year before). We could be back in the hotel while they were waiting for the last rider on the bus to finish.

All in all a great weekend and I’ll be doing this again with a faster time in mind for next year. Cheers.
Flanders Sports Recovery Drinks





A delayed lightweight shelter….

17 05 2012

Computer say no! The Germans are having supply issues and SMD are having issues getting the things made BUT they have made some improvements so it looks like once it ships in mid-June I’ll be getting the new, improved 2012 version….. bigger and better! Just a wait and I was hoping to use it this summer on a couple of bigger solo trips. Patience needed.





A lightweight shelter

7 05 2012

I’ve only really used tarps before on sea kayaking trips as lunch/cooking shelters…. these were really effective in a very showery BC when paddling in the northern part of the Vancover Sound, east of Quadra Island. This area is covered in temperate rain forest (rain being the operative word here) so some shelter when cooking and eating communally was useful. Travelling by sea boat is great, esp. when you get the tides right (the cycling equivalent to a permanent tail wind!) as there are less limitations on weight and space compared to bicycle travel, so a massive Canadian-made Serratus tarp of 4m – 4m could be carried easily with a smaller backpacking tent. Lots of trees as supports!

But in recent months I’ve been trying to shave more weight from the kit for bikepacking; the place to save this weight (other than myself!) is on the shelter, the sleeping bag or the mat. I’ve used a Terra Nova Laser Large for two on the LAMM and WRT 2011 which was good in poor conditions, and a Hilleberg Akto too (Mach ‘n’ Back 2012) but these are still over a kilo per person. The Hilleberg can be fitted with a mesh inner which I really like and I used on a trip through to mid Wales in October 2011.

So the question was raised – could I get something like the Akto but lighter and as bug proof. The reason I’m not a fan of the idea of tarps is my issue with midges – I’ve always reacted badly to being bitten (eye lids swollen to the point of near blindness on Skye once) so I’m very wary of tarps in the UK summer – I know I could be wrong but I thought there must be an alternative to a plain tarp.

Then a post on BBB solved the issue. Stu posted on a SMD Lunar Solo (picture below shamelessly nicked until I can get one of my own up) he’d aquired and a supplier in Germany had them listed so I ordered – although I now see that they are not in stock in the US till June so there may be some delays in getting one via Germany! A few emails to Germany (with a bit of Google translate action) says it’s on it’s way but nothing yet…

Looks ideal – It’s only 700g with pole and a few pegs so I feel similar in weight to a tarp/bivi bag combo but with potentially more comfortable living in midge country! Simple design, so quick to pitch, which should be good in Wales and Scotland later in the year. Loads of ventilation and I’ll likely use it like the Akto with bug netting inner; unless it’s raining the flysheet is tied back most of the time for a view from bed.

SMD Lunar Solo





A new framebag

7 05 2012

A few months ago I thought it would be nice to get a fully fitted, bespoke framebag for the Voodoo Zaka (my main bikepacking bike). So rather than go back to the States (Revelate are not doing custom work I don’t think, just for Salsa fat bikes, and I didn’t want to get something from Porcelain Rocket or Carousel Design) it was one of the new UK suppliers for a custom job…. There are a few people like Buggybags in the UK but I’d had contact with Ian B before and his with Beth now makes custom bags with very good reports. They are and based in Brecon and i’m always happy supporting a cottage industry in Wales too.
I sent Beth a pretty poor template of corrugated card that was too thick (the boys pinch all the cereal packets pretty quick), she did really well and translated my thoughts and emails into a very nice bag made to my specs (a bit wider up front with a central divider and a big map pocket on the non-drive side). It’s a great fit and takes a huge volume of gear with no issues. Straps are positioned to not interfere with my Gas Tank too. The upper pocket will take the tent poles or a small tripod on days when I want to get out with a camera too.

Wildcat Gear Frame bag for a Voodoo Zaka





Week 4 – Easter!

15 04 2012

Easter Sunday and a few days away with the kids slowed things down a little. Just an evening MTB and a sunny but very cold Sunday EM ride this week… back still sore and in need of some attention… more stretching of back and hamstrings too as I”m still feeling stiff in the hips after an hour and a half or so. First go with some SIS powdered carb drink today and seems tasteless and harmless enough.

More plans to get out this week by riding home from work the long way (whatever that might be) and back in the following day. Might be on the Trans-Cambrian in a weeks time with Bob as I’ll need to get some more mile in the legs before work looms soon after!

Thursday evening ride on bits of the Marin (with a ?virus thing off the kids so taking it easy) – all cured with a pint of Conwy Ale
Week 4_1

Sunday EM ride – Home – Llangernwy – Llanwrst – Conwy – very chilly northerly head wind on the trip back up the valley!
Week 4_2