31 January 2012

Ride Report: Tea and Biscuits 100 audax

On Sunday, we rode our first audax of 2012 (and only our second audax ever!). It was the Tea and Biscuits 100, organized by Dave 'El Supremo' Hudson, the same organizer as our first audax, so we had an idea of what to expect.

Having ridden 100km last weekend I knew that I'd be physically capable of doing the distance, so I was just hoping to be able to complete it comfortably and without too much misery! Luckily, this proved to be an achievable goal.

We woke up before 6am to make our train out to Guildford and cycled though London in the dark. At the station in London we encountered a few other audaxers but many more drunk people waiting to get home from their nights out in London -- who seemed bewildered and bemused by our presence in lycra and hi-viz.

We reached the start point at Newlands Corner about 30 minutes before the start time, giving us plenty of time for a hot drink and some light breakfast. We marveled at how many other people could convince themselves to come out for a ride on a cold January day--it was 2 degrees at the start (36 F) and was forecasted to go up to about 5 (41 F). 115 people had signed up for the ride (entry only cost £1) but the organizers weren't sure how many would start. It seemed like quite a few though!

Brave souls ready to battle the cold!

At 9:00 we headed off, not in a mass start, but we ended up in a big group pretty quickly due to the traffic lights in Guildford town centre. Newlands Corner is at the top of a hill which meant an absolutely miserable freezing cold descent three times throughout the day (at the start, after we had looped back there for the halfway stop, and at the end of the day when we headed back to the train station), all of which came after we were thoroughly cooled off from standing around at the feed station. But thankfully that was pretty much the only miserable thing about the day.

The first half of the ride was a loop, with a checkpoint strategically placed in a pub parking lot. For this part of the route many of the riders were in a large, loosely formed group. It would break up a bit on the hills but then tend to re-form again. We tried to stick to other groups for most of the first half of the ride and were largely successful until some hills at the end. We were on bigger roads than Alberto and I normally ride on, but it was still rather early on a Sunday morning so the traffic wasn't too bad until our approach to Newlands Corner for the halfway stop. We arrived at the bottom of the aforementioned hill at about 11am, just in time for everyone who was headed to the Newlands Corner carpark to spend a day in the Surrey Hills. I had to take the hill pretty slowly, and the traffic was not particularly respectful. Still, we made it to the halfway stop without incident and in good time.

Newlands Corner is also popular with walkers and mountain bikers.

After a brief snack we decided to head out again before we got too cold. This would be a basic out-and-back route to Billingshurst, and we cycled most of it alone, the field having spread out quite a bit by then. After our second freezing descent of the day, we hit the hill heading out of Shere towards Ewhurst. The road was relatively quiet, which was lucky because I had to take it really slowly! It wasn't particularly steep, but just seemed to go on forever. This did give me a chance to practice getting out of the saddle and pedaling though, which is pretty much a prerequisite for me learning to get better at hills this year. The hard work was rewarded by a long, fun descent and also a spot of sunshine! We cycled on to Billingshurst where we had an information control (there is a specific question on the brevet card which can in theory only be answered if you have actually been to the place in question - such as identifying some information that is on a road sign there). After a quick banana we turned around to retrace our steps back to the finish at Newlands Corner.

A great sign we spotted en route.
I hate to say this, but it was such a great feeling to pass a large group of cyclists who were still headed in the direction of Billingshurst as we headed back to the finish. It meant that we (hopefully) would not be the last finishers, a big improvement over last year's 200 when we finished about 2 hours behind the rest of the field! The long, fun downhill turned into a pretty arduous uphill on the way back, and I had to stop and rest a few times, but eventually made it all the way up without walking. This was the route we took at the very end of our audax last time around, only everything looked so different in the daylight. I don't blame myself for having to walk up that hill after having cycled nearly 200km already back in September--it was tough!

Anyway, we again cycled up the final hill to Newlands Corner to get our brevet cards stamped one final time. I told Alberto to go ahead and get his card stamped when he reached the top -- he says he only beat me by about five minutes but we'll find out the truth when our brevet cards are returned! We only waited around for a few minutes at the finish in order to make the 2:59 train back to London.

All in all, a great January's day out on the bikes! We finished in about 5 hours 30 minutes (including stopping time), with a moving average of 21.4kph (around 13.5 mph). Our overall average was close to 20 kph -- we only had 30 minutes of stopping time, mainly due to it being so cold! Alberto reached a max speed of 57 kph and I reached 53 kph.

28 January 2012

Itchy Wheels

For some reason this week I have been very restless about cycling. It started on Monday night, when I felt the need to buy some more cycling gear because Evans had some good deals in their online sales. I have already covered that this seems to be a coping mechanism for me, when what I really want to do is ride!

On Tuesday I remembered that I had decided to gift Alberto with a long weekend of credit card touring for his birthday. His birthday is in February, but I was thinking either Easter weekend or the early May bank holiday weekend. I got excited looking at different routes, first thinking of Western Scotland and then Wales, and after breaking down and mentioning it to Alberto, settling (for now) on Northern France and Belgium -- hopefully heading to Roubaix to see the end of the Paris-Roubaix race on Easter Sunday. Researching this took up most of my evening on Tuesday and Wednesday.

I went to dinner with some friends on Thursday and talked about audaxing and how I plan to attempt at least a 300 this year. They were training for various marathons and half-marathons, and talking to them convinced me that I could run home from work occasionally to get some extra cardio in.

Friday I felt well enough to cycle to work. When I arrived home after my return commute and got off the bike, I actually found myself feeling disappointed that my exercise was over for the day. I decided to capitalize on this and quickly changed into my running gear and headed out. I ran 5.5km, which is on the long side for me, and felt great the entire time. I felt great even as I was heading back home--I could have gone on for longer but I decided not to overdo it as we have our first audax of the year on Sunday.

And now it's Saturday, and while Alberto went to work on his PhD for a few hours, I spent the day looking at the Audax UK calendar choosing a few 200 and 300km events that I'd like to do!

This is a new feeling for me. I love cycling, but it's usually Alberto that gets excited about planning mini-tours, pushes me to sign up to events before they sell out,  and generally goads me into cycling a longer or more hiller route than I am comfortable with. I guess I'm just anxious to get back to where I was last season and to keep improving from there. I keep having to remind myself that it's only January!

Does this happen to anyone else? What do you do about it?

27 January 2012

I have entered my first 400 km Audax (The National 400)!

One of my main new years resolutions is to complete a Super Randonneur series. This award is given to riders that complete 200, 300, 400 and 600 km events within the same calendar year.

I have just entered the National 400. Apparently, the 400 km distance is one of the toughest as time limitations do not allow you to get proper sleep. I think the time limit for this ride is about 27h, which means cycling through the whole night. Being a complete newbie in Audaxing, I got attracted by this particular ride when I read this on the web:

400km cycling event starting from Hempnall, Norfolk. A revival of an Audax favourite. This ride is fully supported with lots of TLC at controls. Entry fee includes food at start and finish and all intermediate controls.

So, it sees that food, drinks, and beds are taken care of. All I need to do is pedal almost non-stop for 27 hours or until I complete the 400 km loop. We went to Norfolk and Suffolk last year and loved it there. Flat and light trafficked.

I'm still trying to convince Lucy to come along on this...

Why am I doing this to myself? There's a ride happening in 2013 that goes from London to Edinburgh and back. It clocks up 1400 km. I need to get a feeling for it. And I cannot think of many other better ways of spending a summer weekend other than pedalling...

26 January 2012

25 January 2012

A weekday solo mtb ride

On a very sunny and crisp morning I decided to change my routine. I would go for a ride in the morning, and work in the afternoon and into the evening on my thesis. One of the (very) few advantages of grad school I guess...

Having been to Epping Forest a few days earlier, I knew the conditions would be similar: mud. But very soon I realized that they may actually be a little different. The canals that head North from East London had completely frozen. Not a usual sight in London, but there we go...

-1 degrees C
After 50 min of riding along the canal, I found myself in a very frosty Epping Forest. The puddles and mud were completely frozen. Although quite pleasant initially, it became much worse towards the northern part of the park. Massive furrows had formed in the mud and some had started to melt. That meant at least two falls while trying to ride on that. After less than 1h of riding I was completely exhausted. And I was not even half way through the loop I had planned.

Man it was cold...!

Trying to follow that innocent black path proved nearly impossible due to mud
Eventually I made it up to the top of the park, where you can see, well, hear, the M25. The way back down was a lot of fun. It was already 2 pm and did not want to ride at night on the canal. But there was still plenty of singletrack that I wanted to explore! One of the advantages of cycling by yourself is that you are free to make decisions. So I stuck to the plan and continued on the narrow paths despite risking getting back to London on the late side. Following the gps was difficult however, and many times I was confronted with (the lack of) paths like this one.

Trying to decide which way to go

Not a bad place for a weekday morning...
Right before leaving the park I found an interesting sight...Difficult to imagine how bad the wind was the day this tree collapsed...

I guess it was the wind!?
Past 3 pm I was already riding back along the canal. But before reaching home, I had to do the English thing and stopped for tea (coffee) and cake. It really tasted great! Overall, I was on the bike for 4 h, rode about 64 km from door to door (of which 30 km were on gravel and ~20 km on muddy singletrack). The average speed was 15.7 km/h (substantially lower than that of any normal road ride). Somewhere on that day I hit 42 km/h. This park is really quite nice, but not very suitable for winter riding especially those singletracky sections. And all within the M25! At 5 pm I was back typing on my laptop. The route was as shown below:

23 January 2012

A 100 km pootle into the Chilterns

We really need to put some winter miles in. Not only do we have our first audax of the year next week, but also need to get fitter for the Camino.

Lucy's been slightly ill this week, but somehow I managed to convince her at 7:00 am that maybe an easy ride would help. With temperatures rising over 10 degrees, sunny spells and no rain forecasted...she could not say no. It really worked, and by 9:30 am we were pedalling out of Potters Bar, this time heading West. We normally do loops towards the north and even east of Potters Bar, but never been West yet. We've heard many good things about that corner of the UK, so I thought it would be worth trying. The loop I came up with last night looked like this:

The first bits were familiar to us, passing through a few posh (or should I say "smart") residential areas. As we were heading West we noticed the lumpiness of the area. All very nice and green English countryside, cute villages and farmlands.

Again, a lovely sunny day in January
The roads until past Aldbury were incredibly nice and seemed to be a part of the Chilterns cycleway. Maybe something we can do in the summer months as it's a pretty long route at 170 miles? Maybe an audax DIY300 (Lucy's looking at me as if was crazy). Also, we saw an incredible amount of cyclists today, probably more than 100 I would say. They kept coming past us all the time, literally. The first time we've seen more cyclists than cars! It must be a popular area for Sunday club runs I reckon...

Lucy tackles the descent into Aldbury
Then we hit Chesham. That town is truly horrible, and we got stuck in Sunday traffic as we were going through it. The ride after that was very smooth and back on mostly quiet country lanes, we even enjoyed a tailwind pretty much all the way back. We were averaging more than 30 km/h in this section, until Lucy's legs could not cope more. It was the first long-ish ride of the year and her body was feeling it. A few more crossings of the M1, M25 and A1 brought as back to Potters Bar in time to merge with the Arsenal supporters on their way to Finsbury Park.

Back in Hertfordshire, near Potters Bar, dealing with the last hills
All in all, a very pleasant ride, especially the bits in the Chilterns. The analysis says 3300 feet climb, alyhough we can hardly believe it as it was quite flat. We averaged 22.5 km/h and rode for 108 km during 4h and 40 min approx. I topped 51.3 km/h this time.

Fingers crossed for more winter days like these!

21 January 2012

Bike Storage Solutions from Ikea

Space is hard to come by in London, and living in a shared flat with two other human flatmates and seven bicycle flatmates (six of them belonging to us) doesn't make it any easier! We've been talking for a while about building some sort of bike rack, but we recently saw a post by Travelling Two that gave us the confidence to do it!

The bike stand that they built is an Ikea Hack -- it takes parts from Ikea that are meant for another piece of furniture and repurposes them into a bike rack. We wrote down the parts that were needed: the Broder post, height extension post and foot, and two brackets, as well as four Stolmen hooks, and headed off to Ikea. We then found out that even though it was indicated as "in stock", the height extension post and foot was nowhere to be found on the shelves. We checked with some staff members and learned that the part is actually being discontinued! (So hurry up and make your own stand soon!) But also that there was a large quantity at another London Ikea. So, after two trips to Ikea in three days, we finally had all the parts we needed and set about building it!

It was relatively straightforward--just two screws in the ceiling, and the post supports itself via a tension spring. We glued pieces of inner tubes on the inside of the hooks to prevent the bikes from getting scratched, loaded the bikes up, and have been living much more spaciously ever since!

The Broder brackets and Stolmen hooks with inner tubes glued to the inside.
The only problem was that my road bike's crossbar is not round all the way along it and therefore does not fit into the hook. No problem, we just put the mountain bike there instead, and turned the handlebars so that they wouldn't jut out into the hallway too much. We are thinking about building a second one, and if so we'll need to either bend the hook, or find another solution so that my road bike can fit in the brackets (suggestions welcome!). But for now, we are very happy with our bike storage solution!

Our new bike rack!

17 January 2012

Mud, Sweat, and Gears

On Sunday we took the mountain bikes out for their first ride of 2012. We know we'll have to put in a lot of kilometers on them when we do the Camino, so we figured we'd better get started training!

We're experiencing somewhat of a cold snap right now (or maybe it's just an 'average' snap rather than the above average temperatures we've had so far this winter), so I was definitely apprehensive about the weather.  Hearing Alberto's stories of his frozen water bottle and painful hands from the day before did not help! We layered up our jerseys, Buffs, even our gloves and filled our Camelbaks. I reminisced about last year at this time, when I told Alberto that I was unwilling to ride in anything lower than 10 degrees C (50 F) -- hah! Here I am heading out on a day with a forecasted high of 6 degrees (42 F)!

All layered up

We waited until about 10:30 to get on the road, by which time most of the frost was gone from central London, and headed up to Epping Forest, our favorite mountain biking destination within easy reach of London. It takes about an hour by bike to get there, but it's a pleasant ride, mainly along canal towpaths.

Once in Epping, we mainly stayed on the larger trails, which had the advantage of allowing us to go faster, thus using some aerobic energy and keeping us warm, but had the disadvantage of being popular with walkers (with associated dogs and children) and horse riders. Oh well, we better get used to it for the Camino!

Epping Forest is famous for its muddy conditions in the winter, so we were not surprised to encounter mud--on the single track sections but also on the bigger paths. Some of it was frozen over, but other parts were definitely not! Alberto said my tires are better for muddy conditions, because they allow the mud to escape rather than getting trapped in the treads, but it seemed to me that the mud was just 'escaping' all over me! By the time we were done with the ride my entire body was covered in mud splatter -- but I guess that's what real mountain biking is all about.

This is why mudguards were invented
There are a lot of great hills in Epping Forest, which was good because we both need to get back in shape! The hills were tough and by the end of the day we were both really feeling it in our legs. But it was so great to be back on the bikes again, and a great way to enjoy a rare sunny winter's day.

15 January 2012

Cycling the Olympic road race route

We have enjoyed a very pleasant winter in London so far, with mild temperatures, sun, and very little rain. But the forecasts for Saturday predicted below 0 degrees, although sun throughout the day.

I had signed up to join a group that was cycling the route of the Olympic road race to be held in London as a part of the Olympic games this coming summer 2012. With the only difference that we would not be circling around Box Hill for nine consecutive times! It was going to be a ~130 km (80 miles) loop from Hyde Park Corner, in central London, out to the Surrey area and back. You can see it below.

I prepared for a cold day out on the bike. Thick winter bib tights, thermal shirt, short-sleeved jersey, windstopper top, 2x Buffs, neoprene overshoes, and...long winter gloves. Set the bike up for night riding assuming that we were likely to be returning after sunset. Filled the water bottles and got the saddle bag ready. Surpringly enough, I kind of forgot the prepping routine; it's been more than two months since we did our last proper long ride!

Alarm set off at 7 am. Well, Lucy poked me to tell that the alarm was off at 7 am. Porridge was cooked and I was off to Hyde Park corner by 8:05 am. Cars had a thick layer of frost near home, and I have not seen that for a while. I was very worried about encountering black ice, but we were lucky we did not hit any. It was the coldest day of the winter so far, no doubt.

Regents Park also had some frost, and we would find the same throughout the route. Shortly after 8:30 am we departed from Hyde Park Corner and headed for Putney and Richmond. The traffic lights slowed us down considerably, and took us almost 2h to get out into the countryside. However, the views were well worth the early wake up and cold temperatures. Fingers were not so happy though. Cold turned into a lot of pain, and the fingers got swollen. I could barely break or change gears and at some point the idea of bailing out did not seem that bad...but I applied rule number 5 - "harden the f*** up, Alberto" (see this hilarious website for further details). I definitely need better gloves and/or liners. Most of the other riders wore skiing gloves. Apart from that, I was feeling ok and quite toasty!

Richmond Park at 9am is covered by frost
At some point on our way to Woking, the group decided to stop at a cafe for a quick rest. I was so glad I could feel my fingers again. Thermometers showed -1 degrees C and my water bottles confirmed it with ice floating.

Unwanted ice cubes in January!
From then on, it was actually ok. We went down the A25, with a little climb towards Newlands Corner (where we started our first 200 km Audax, and where we will be in again in a couple weeks time for another 100 km pootle), down to Shere and soon arrived in Golsham. There's a nice pub there, with plenty of space to leave the bikes and the food was really nice (and that's not so often that I say that about pub food!). It's always comforting to chat about bikes and rides, and especially to realize that I am not the only one obsessed about it. One of the riders was not too shy to admit that we has more than 10 working bikes sitting in his kitchen!

The sun in the UK winter does not go much higher than this
From here, it was a short ride until we hit Box Hill. Although it is a very gentle and easy climb, I struggled a bit. It's amazing how quickly you lose fitness. Two months without a proper ride and it feels like starting from scratch again. My quads were killing me, and I was on the lowest cog pretty much all the way. Really need to do a lot of training for our Pyrinean crossing in May!

After we took in some nice vistas from the top of Box Hill, it was an easy downhill along quiet lanes of the Surrey Hills. Soon we were crossing the M25, which meant we were back in London. Traffic picked up as we approached Kingston. Richmond Park followed, and it was a pleasure to cycle with little traffic given that the Park closes its gates to cars by sunset. However, a gigantic traffic jam formed to exit it as they only left one of the gates open. I was so glad to be on a bike. After all, I would not like to be stuck in a park at 5 pm, on a Saturday, but apparently some folk do.

Passing Putney and then Chelsea was not too bad, despite the noisy Aston Martins/Ferraris/Mercedes that are so common there. Love looking at the "smart" (i.e. posh) people in their fancy vehicles and annoyed faces, while we were all so happy after having nearly completed the ride on the coldest day of the 2011/12 winter!

Back to Wellington Arch, it felt as if we were about to start a Friday Night Ride to the Coast: blinking lights, riders, and darkness. The first of those rides is in March and we cannot wait!

Back at Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner
Overall it was a pleasant ride, but not particularly recommend the route as the roads are busy and slow out of London. The bit in Surrey is quite nice though, but the roads need resurfacing before the summer event, which I believe they're doing after winter.

The stats were: 140 km (door to door), 22.2 km/h average (due to traffic lights in London), 6h 20 min riding time and 62 km/h maximum speed. I reckon the professional machacas doing the race in the summer will complete it in under 4 hours...

11 January 2012

One Year Later: My review of the 2010 Boardman Road Comp fi

It's hard to believe it, but exactly one year ago today I brought home my Boardman Road Comp fi from Halfords (at the time, Halfords was the exclusive retailer of Boardman bikes). It was a 2010 model, purchased at a steep discount, and it was my first road bike, so I will admit I don't have much to compare it to. That said, I thought I'd record how it has served me over the past 2,850 kilometers.

The Boardman in the early days.
Overall, this has been a great entry-level road bike for me. It has survived short rides and long ones; day rides and night; rain, cold, heat, and wind; two clipless moments; and a fair few accidental excursions onto surfaces that cannot by referred to as 'roads'! I'm thrilled with it. But I have had to make a few alterations to make it perfect...

Initial Changes
There were a few things on the bike that we changed almost immediately (and when I say "we", I mean Alberto!):
  • Pedals: The bike came with some generic plastic pedals, but we decided to switch them out for some clipless pedals as part of the whole now-you're-a-real-cyclist thing. 
  • Saddle: The saddle that came with the bike was absolutely unrideable. Just sitting on the saddle to practice clipping in and out was painful after a few minutes, and after my first 30km ride in Richmond Park, I knew I would need a change. It's not just me--every time I meet a fellow Boardman rider, male or female, we inevitably have a conversation about how awful the saddle was. After much research, I settled on the Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow saddle that I have already reviewed.
  • Spacers: Alberto noticed that there were't enough spacers on the steering tube, resulting in the headset being loose. This might have to do with the way the bike was assembled at Halford's, we'll never know. Since spacers are pretty cheap, we just bought a new set and replaced them. It was a shame, because I liked the subtle pattern on the original spacers better than the plain black ones we replaced them with. 
Further Changes
After going on several longer rides, a few more changes became necessary:
  • Brake pads: From the beginning, I never felt comfortable braking on this bike. At first, I thought it might be because I wasn't used to drop handlebars. We tried changing the angle of the handlebars so that I could squeeze the brakes better, but this only had a minimal effect. Even in the drops, I couldn't really come to a quick stop. Eventually we decided to buy some brake pads for wet conditions. This made a big difference, but I still can't really do an emergency stop, or stop myself completely on a steep downhill, unless I ride in the drops. As a result, I tend to ride in the drops whenever we're in London traffic or going down even the slightest of hills. Alberto thinks it might be down to my rims, which are pretty thin. I still think it might be because I have small hands! Either way, I've developed a system that works for me. 
  • Tires: The original tires were Continental Ultrasport, which were fine for the first 750km; no punctures at all. Then, between 750 and 1000km, I got three or four punctures in short succession (including the puncture from hell, let's not talk about it!). We replaced them with Continental Gatorskins, and I don't want to jinx myself by announcing how many punctures I've had on them so far--let's just say it is less than one.
After a wet ride!
Ultimately, none of the issues I've had with the Boardman have been significant and I've been happy with the solutions that we have devised. The bike was good value for money, so I don't mind having to make a few, relatively inexpensive, changes. I understand that the 2011/2012 model has even better specs (and is a bit pricier to match). It still seems to be a great value, like all Boardman bikes--I predict Boardman will be inching up the market share even more over the next few years. 

PS: In case it isn't obvious, we don't get paid for our reviews and we only review products we have bought ourselves unless otherwise stated!

09 January 2012

First Ride of 2012

On Saturday afternoon, we took the Overground out to Richmond Park for our first ride of 2012. It was actually our first 'real' (non-commuting) bike ride in about seven weeks, due to all the craziness of Thailand and Christmas, so we didn't have high expectations for performance!

It was a relatively sunny day, and mild for this time of year (the high was 10 degrees C, or 50 F), and the park was absolutely full of cyclists! Everyone must have resolved to cycle more in 2012. Unfortunately, it was rather full of cars as well, so it wasn't the most relaxing of rides.

The first lap around the park went surprisingly well for me,  I struggled up the one major hill, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. The second time around was more challenging--my legs didn't seem to want to put very much effort in!

Starting to struggle up the hills!
The last segment of each lap is a long, gradual uphill with a steeper kick at the very end. This is always disheartening as you watch your speed decrease. So by the end of the second lap I really didn't feel like going through it all over again. The sun was also starting to dip below the trees so the temperature was dropping. Alberto still wanted to get another lap in, so we reached a compromise -- I cycled the 3 minutes back to the train station and had a nice hot tea while he did a final lap and then came to meet me. I ended up with around 30km for the day, and Alberto more like 40. Our average speed was all right at 23kph (14.3mph), but it's clear that my endurance has suffered over the winter!

This was a nice chance to test some of my new cycling gear -- the Pearl Izumi tights I bought worked well. My bum is a little sore today, but I can hardly blame that on the tights after not having been on the bike in ages. It didn't rain, but my waterproof jacket proved to be the right level of warmth for the day, worn with a short sleeved jersey and arm warmers that I pulled down almost as soon as we climbed our first hill. We also wore our new matching jerseys, Christmas gifts from Alberto's parents, which are from the cycling club in Benasque (Spanish Pyrenees), where Alberto's family holidays. Unfortunately this meant that I was wearing three different shades of pink/purple on my upper body (my new Buff being the third) but hey, what can you do.

Showing off our Benasque jerseys on the train home
It will be hard to get longer rides in over the next few weeks, since we only have eight hours of daylight at the moment, but we're looking forward to a 100km Audax on Jan 29th to really whip us into shape!

Sun starting to set as Alberto heads back to the station, 3:00pm.

08 January 2012

A Friday night lecture on world travels (on a penny farthing!)

Friday 6:30 pm, somewhere in Farringdon. Lucy and I cycled from work searching for a place called "The Gallery". It was not well signed, but eventually found a bunch of fancy touring and antique bikes (including the very first Moultons) all parked in a narrow alley. It seemed obvious that we had arrived at the right venue. We were attending a talk by Joff, a guy that had cycled round the world on a penny farthing.

Waiting for the talk to begin
The lecture was organised as a fundraising event by Sustrans. Upon arrival we found around 80 people awaiting Joff's talk. Most of them you could tell were cyclists, and it was very pleasant not to feel weird in our bright yellow jackets. Bromptoms were lining up near the walls. Helmets were everywhere. Wine and food were provided for £1 donations, so that was a good start.

This was the first time that we had seen a world traveller in the flesh. We follow loads of round the world travellers on the net, and we've even read some of the books, but seeing one live was a novelty. With Joff was his home-made penny farthing.

The bike, appropriately named "Penny"
I had to have a closer look at the machine. To me, it seemed simple. No chains, no gears. Just a massive wheel with plenty of spokes (which turned out to be regular spokes, but joined together to form a single one), and solid tyres. Also, he fitted a front light to the big wheel's front hub. Not sure how it worked while in motion, but it seemed loose on the hub so as to prevent it from turning. He also managed to carry all his stuff in just two small panniers! We definitely have to travel light on our Camino de Santiago!

The talk itself was inspiring and funny at times. Yet it could have done with a better organisation, especially regarding the pictures. Too much talking and not coordinated pictures. Also, we felt that it lacked a bit of the planning and the "post-journey" emotions when he returned home. We laughed at the first question from the audience: "which fuel did you use!?" Clearly the audience was looking for more practical advice!

All in all, an enjoyable way of spending an evening. And an even better way to find some extra motivation for riding in 2012! It's only January, but the season has officially started for us!

02 January 2012

Lucy's Cycling Goals for 2012

Well, having read about Alberto's cycling goals it's safe to say I'm a little overwhelmed! I will not be joining him on all of those rides! However, I do have a few of my own goals for cycling in 2012:
  • First and foremost, I want to keep challenging myself and keep having fun! The rest of these goals are just ideas of how I might achieve that. 
  • Complete a 300km audax and maybe a 400, depending how the 300 goes. 
  • Gain more confidence on the mountain bike and improve my bike handling skills.
  • Get better at riding up hills!
  • Ride the Camino de Santiago from Bordeaux and swim in the Atlantic at Cape Finisterre.
There are lots of other rides I'd like to complete this year, like the Dunwich Dynamo, some FNRttC's, some weekend mini-tours in the UK, and maybe some other rides overseas, but these are the main goals that I will really have to work hard at if I want to achieve them!

01 January 2012

Alberto's New Years resolution (or the rides I want to do!)

Right, so 2012 means new objectives. The first one is to get the PhD out of the way. But that is way too boring and not too exciting at the moment. So instead, these are some of the rides I intend to do in 2012. Bring on the miles!

- Super Randonneur series: a 200, 300, 400 and 600 km cycle ride, all in one go. So far I have decided on two out of four. The 300 will be a return journey from Hull to London. The 400 a gigantic loop around Norwich in the National 400. The 200 does not worry me much as there's plenty all year round, but the 600 will be a big deal and there are not so many close to us, and logistics can be difficult. Any ideas anyone?
- Dunwich Dynamo. We enjoyed it so much last year that we cannot miss it this coming June. The annual 200 km night ride to the Suffolk coast is a must do for every cyclist. We may even try to go camping afterwards, or even attempt to cycle back to the Smoke or to Ipswich. Read our last year's report here.
- Rolling to the Stones (night ride to Stonehenge, from central London): learnt about it on the Bikeshow , it consists of a ride through the night to Stonehenge, on June 20th. You get to the ruins by 4 am, before the sun rises on the longest day of the year. It is one of the very few days that you can actually go in to the ruins.
- Way of Roses (Coast to Coast): a coast to coast ride in the UK, a classic.
- 2 day loop in the Yorkshire Dales
- Southdown way 2 days: this will be one of our preparation rides for our Camino de Santiago in May.
- London to Lille (Paris Roubaix) then down to Paris. This will be as a part of our cycle ride to Paris, something I did a few years ago, but Lucy still has to tick her box.
- Camino de Santiago from Bordeaux
- Northestern coast from Berwick-upon-Tweed
- Long weekend in Scottish Highlands
- Exmouth Exodus: the Western equivalent to the Dunwich Dynamo. Hillier and shorter though.
- Various Friday Night Rides to the Coast (Fnrttc) and Smrttm (Saturday Morning Ride to the Smoke). The Smrttm are new to us, but we will certainly give them a go in 2012.
- Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG): before we leave the UK we need to do this classic. It goes from the very southwest of the UK to the northernmost pint in Scotland. A long-ish tour that has been rated amongst the top 10 cycle tours to do in the world by National Geographic.