2 Wheels Are Best

I have spent the last week indulging myself by riding a variety of bikes in different locations but all with one thing in common, it was fun!

Starting last weekend I took part in the Brompton World Championship (BWC) race in London, a crit race around St Jame’s park after the Ride London Women’s pro race. The BWC has some rules, one of which id the dress code, a shirt, tie and jacket must be worn and no lycra. This makes for some wonderful sights with people really going to town to dress up.

For me, I went for a pink jacket to add some colour to the occasion.

Bwc_1

To take part in the race you don’t actually have to race, you are more than welcome to just enjoy the ride around the course. However, a race is a race and the opportunity to have a thrash around is too much to resist for me. In terms of competition there were ex-pros Dave Millar and Dr Michael Hutchinson plus various ex winners so there were some fast people. For me I covered the 17km at an average speed of over 36km/h to finish 68th overall, a result I was more than happy with.

Next up I went for a tour round the Chilterns with the aim of having a mid-ride coffee at some gardens, the route I got from a local cycling club and was around 80km in length. I found I was enjoying the ride on my road bike and so when the Garmin said to go straight across a junction I decided I would add some more distance and went left to add around another 20 odd km. The extra loop allowed me to ride through the countryside and do a couple of hills I haven’t done before. On arrival at the gardens I treated myself to a coffee and large slice of ginger cake, I know I am trying to reduce my sugar in take, but I just couldn’t resist.

cake_coffee_1

The ride home after this felt easy and I reckon I was probably grinning as I was going, even the hills to home seemed enjoyable.

Back to the Brompton of army next ride, and this was a couple of hours riding round Silverstone in an event organised by Muscle Help

I did get a few funny looks from some riders when I rolled up to the start on the Brompton, but once we were let loose on the track I think I changed their opinions mainly by riding past them or dropping them out of chain gangs! Some of the more season better riders were complimentary and seemed to enjoy watching me pass people who might have had a nice bike and good gear but no legs!  Riding round Silverstone was interesting as I had never really realised how windy sections of the track could be, and how in real life some of the run off areas are not that big and so stopping an F1 car from ploughing into a face might be tricky. No such issues on the Brompton though!

Brompton_Silverstone

After the fun of racing round a flat motor racing circuit it only seemed right to go and do some hills, so I headed down to Surrey to have a look at some of the famous climbs down there, and also it gave me a chance to recce Boxhill prior to the Ballbuster later in the year.

Now, I do not know the Surrey area at all, and this became apparent when I went came to Dorking and the Garmin seemed to be trying to send me down a way I couldn’t go and I couldn’t see how to get to the road I needed so I ended up following a sign that said Leith Hill, and this turned out to be a great decision as it took me up Coldharbour Lane which was a good climb, although the road was really greasy due to overnight rain and so if you got out of the saddle the rear wheel started to spin, or it could just be I was laying down tremendous amount of power! The countryside was great with some lovely views and I have to say drivers who all seemed happy to give me space so perhaps the stories of all drivers in Surrey hating cyclists isn’t true?

The final part of the ride was the climb back up Boxhill, having only seen this for the first time when I drove to the car park at the top in the morning I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, it didn’t look too steep but did it have some hidden traps? The early part of the climb was easy to get into a rhythm and I had the added advantage of being able to see another cyclist further up the climb who I was able to aim at. The other cyclist I thought initially was going quite quick but i soon gained and passed him leaving me on my own. The hairpins actually enable you to pick up some speed and so it wasn’t long before the climb was done. It seemed fairly easy to keep a steady easy pace and I have to admit to being a little disappointed really I was expecting something a little more, never mind though the views at the top were brilliant and well worth the trip.

Finally it was time to break out the CX bike and do a little off-road riding back in the Chilterns. I have to say I didn’t really push very hard and so the route was easy with a good mix of tarmac and dirt. Possibly the best part was riding along an ancient cart track past a model aircraft club field and seeing them flying some really big planes, impressive things. The rest of this ride was good fun enjoying some climbing and looking forward to that post ride coffee!

The other cycling aspect to the week was visiting both Look Mum No Hands and the Rapha Cafe in London on a trip there, both server excellent coffee and food and are places I will return to when the situation allows.

All in all I feel that I have had a great fun week where I was left to my own devices and so basically just played on bikes. It never ceases to amaze me just how much fun you can have on bikes, regardless of what type, model etc Any bike can go fast it all comes down to your legs, are you able to pedal it. Yes I am lucky in owning several bikes but I enjoy them all and ride them where possible

In conclusion I spent most of the week riding bikes and I loved it!

My Take On The Lapierre White Roads Classic

Last weekend I took part in the White Roads Classic a ride that has it’s roots very firmly based on the Strade Bianche  a pro race that is raced on the white roads of Tuscany, Italy. The ride was 138km, slightly extended due to a course change, and uses both sections of road and off-road. The off-road is on the ridgeway, and the road sed every hill they could find!

For a ride like this the choice of equipment seems to be very important, The blurb says you can use a road bike but recommends wider tyres as the likelihood of punctures was high. I have to admit I spent a fair amount of time considering what bike and tyres to use, and in the end I went for my CX bike and some Conti speed cross tyres, a combination which turned out to be a winner!

The route started from the very pretty setting of Basildon Park, a National Trust property that looks like it would be worth a visit as it had a set of gardens, I think.

Once out on the road the route was very well marked and soon the first off road section appeared, the first of 17 sections, which were counted down Paris Roubaix style.

I saw someone with a puncture on this section an they were certainly not the last!

The route consisted of some memorable climbs, including White Horse Hill, a climb I have never done before and to be honest I won’t be rushing back as it was steep! I am not sure how they did the route design but it did seem to go up a lot more than it ever went down, infant there were sections where you went up , a little flat and then up again.

For me, one of the highlights of the route was riding through Lambourn, the Valley of the Race Horse, riding between the gallops was great and the views across the valley were stunning and even took some of the pain of a long uphill drag.

As the weather was good, the sun was shining the off-road sections were all dry and actually dusty which meant that a good speed could be held on the sections and where there was a down hill the speed went up and so was a good test of the handling skills.

As the day went on the distance went up, so did the road, and the enjoyment continued to increase.

I won’t say the ride was over all too soon as that would be a lie, but I did enjoy it. The biggest problem I had was that as I have been racing duathlons this year I have only really been doing 2 hour rides and so suddenly doing a 6 hour ride meant some pain was involved. I will certainly admit to under-estimating the ride, their website says it was hard, but I didn’t think it was going to be quite as tough as it was. However, saying that I finished it and there were more people behind me than in front plus I didn’t have any punctures!

On finishing the ride you are given a glass of prosecco and there was a table of nice Italian bread etc which was a good way to end the ride

Would I recommend this? Yes, Is it a proper challenge? Yes, Is it well organised? Yes and the most important question, is it fun? YES

Go and check out their website and have a look at the event and start to prepare for next year. The company have a couple of other events which I am sure are equally hard or possibly harder that might interest you.

All in all I had a great time, the route was excellent, very well marked and I am so glad I did it.

2016 Events

As is traditional at this time of year it seems you need to publish the events you are doing in the coming year, so far be it from me to break that.

As it stands these are the events entered so far,

Date Event Name Event Distance Website Event Type
7 Feb Chilterns CX Wild Wood Sportive 60k http://www.cxsportive.com Cycling
20 Feb Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 2 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
20 Mar Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 3 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
16 Apr Windsor & Eton Duathlon Series race 4 5k/20k/5k http://www.f3events.co.uk Duathlon
1 May Kawasaki G100 * 50 miles http://www.gorrick.com Cycling
3 Jul The Lapierre White Roads Classic 110km http://www.cycleclassics.co.uk Cycling
28 Aug 12:12 Torq in your Sleep 6 Hours http://www.gorrick.com Cycling

* Entries not yet open, but will enter once I can

I am looking forward to putting in the hours to get through these and I am sure one or two of you may join me along the way!

 

Chiltern 100 Sportive – Medio Fondo

The Chiltern 100 Medio Fondo, a 76 mile ride through the Chiltern Hills, a ride that takes in great scenery, enough climbs to keep anyone happy and the promise of great views. Well that was the idea, the reality was somewhat different, and here is how it happened for me.

Sunday dawned raining, cold and generally miserable, so it was on with the 3/4 length tights, overshoes, arm warmers, waterproof jacket, gloves, cap and a smile. Well, a smile might be pushing it a little bit.

Once on site, met up with the Gary, Dave, Simon, Colin, John & Gary and we were ready for the off. As if to give us a little extra motivation it decided to rain hard.

The route started gently enough and we rolled along chatting and trying to be positive about the rain, hoping it would relent and give us some sunshine.

As is normal when you have a largish group it tends to split up a bit and soon we had sub-divided into pairs or 3’s and the first few climbs had been and gone, the rain hadn’t!

There was an unfortunate accident for one rider who was left in the road and wasn’t moving, ambulances were soon on the scene, and I wish him well. I have no idea what happened to him.

We carried on and spirits were generally ok, after about 60km we pulled into the first feed station. Once stopped you instantly realised just how cold it was, it didn’t take long to wish to get going again, and that is where the day took a funny turn.

We left the feed station together, or so I thought, and I slowly rolled off down the road hoping to generate some warmth again. After a few minutes I looked round and realised I was on my own, no matter I thought they will roll up to me in a minute as I am not pushing the pace along. A few more miles went by, I looked back again and thought I can’t see anybody. This is where I will admit I had a choice and that was either stop and wait or just keep going and see if they catch up. Well as the weather was so miserable I decided to keep going, on reflection it was a selfish decision but at the time I was only really interested in myself.

I kept on going, and soon approached the backend of the ride which was back loaded with the classic Chiltern climbs, the Crong, Whiteleaf Cross and Wardrobes Lane. As I live in the area these hills are all very familiar to me and so I knew I would get up them, maybe not in any real style or with any pace but I wouldn’t have to walk!

The sight on Whiteleaf cross of cyclists strewn all over the road was something I hadn’t expected, some were walking others, me included, were just plodding our way up, not pretty but all things considered effective.

Once the hills were done it was a case of riding to the finish, a couple of short climbs, and it was back to the start.

On finishing you are given a nice medal, and that is that.

I was wet and had not really enjoyed the ride, I felt slightly bad at leaving the guys I was riding with, but I soon found my car, put the bike in it and went home.

The performance of the other guys is not for me to write about, as given I left them I only know what they told me since of their experience and it isn’t for me to comment on here really.

So, would I do this event again, probably not, it has nothing to do with the organisation which was excellent, plenty of roving marshals, food at the feed stations and helpful people when you finished, it is more of why would I pay to ride on the roads I train on. If sunshine was guaranteed then I might and perhaps even do the full length ride, but that is a decision for another day.

2015 Events

It is that time of the year again when you have to decide what events you want to do in the following year, what takes your fancy, what challenges do you fancy.

Well for me, there is one main aim and several smaller ones, my main focus is going to be my attempt at my first ultra marathon, it is 50km off-road through the Chilterns. Now, some readers amy be aware that I have never run a marathon or really fancied one that much, but this event just appeals to me, it is off-road and will provide a very stiff challenge.

I am looking forward to doing a couple of duathlons in March and April, these should provide an interesting contrast to the triathlons I did last year.

It will not escape your notice that there are no triathlons on the list for this year, well that is simply because I am in a bit of a quandary with them, I struggle with the swimming and really for me I need to improve even if I just want to do sprints rather than longer distances. I will still be doing swim sessions, mainly for cross training.

The list of events currently is as follows:

Date Race Name Distance
18 January 2015 Hot Chocolate Run Series – Race 1 10k
21 February 2015 Rail To Trail West 10k
7 March 2015 Gatorade Eton Duathlon Race 3 5k/20k/5k
4 April 2015 Gatorade Eton Duathlon Race 4 5k/20k/5k
31 May 2015 Chiltern 100 Sportive 122k
11 July 2015 Chiltern Challenge Ultra 2015 50k

This is the plan, and the hard work has already started and will continue in 2015

Ride London 100

Sunday 10th August was a date that should have been a day where the sun was shining and I enjoyed a ride round London and Surrey on closed roads, enjoying the weather and scenery.

However, the reality was somewhat different. The rain came in and it stayed and came down so hard it was almost biblical in proportions. I have cycled in rain before, but I have never seen anything like it it was ridiculous.

Back to the event, for me this was a first as I didn’t do this last year and so the whole set up was a bit different to normal races or sportives.

First up, to collect my number meant a trip to the Expo, an idea they use at the London marathon and Ironman events to. The actual expo was ok to wonder round for a while, and yes I did buy something. I took the opportunity to replace my summer waterproof jacket as the existing one had a hole in it. Numbers etc collected, now just to do the event.

I had booked a car park space at Lea Valley Ice centre as on paper it looked the easiest to get to and home from, and this was true to a point. Certainly easy to get to in the morning, but getting out wasn’t great, 45 minutes to go a couple of miles, London traffic I guess.

Riding to the start from the car park was easy, just follow the signs, in fact there was a group of us and so we all went down together.

Once at the start pen, I found Gary and we waited to start. Gary did this ride for charity having raised a large amount of money for Macmillan Cancer charity.

Once we started the ride through London was really enjoyable, the sight of the poppies at the Tower of London was certainly impressive. Going the wrong way through a tunnel was a weird experience, I kept waiting for a car to appear!

The rain started just as went went past a Thames Water place near Walton, ironic really! Unfortunately the rain never really stopped until near the end, and how it rained!

Due to the predicted weather, the organisers removed the climbs of Box Hill and Leith Hill in the interests of safety. To be fair, whilst I would have love to have done the climbs it was the right decision to remove the descents which could have proved difficult for some.

Coming back into London was great, seeing the sights and not having to dodge traffic, and this all lead to the Mall. It was here that Gary stopped to greet his family and I could not resist the opportunity to do a Cavendish style sprint down the Mall, I loved that bit.

Once over the line, I was given a medal that weighs a tonnes and a goodie bag, and then it was the next challenge, find my car.

Now, this is where I am going to say I think the organisers let the riders down, I would imagine I am like many of the riders who don’t live in London and don’t know the roads that well. So, getting from the Mall back to Lea Valley, was a journey done following google maps, this meant effectively riding one handed through London following the directions. Would it have been too much to have some signs to direct you to one of the many car parks they used?

The day was a long one, I got up at 4am and got home just before 4pm, I had cycled over 100 miles, including to and from the car park, got soaked had some laughs.

There is one final thing to mention, and that is the people who stood on the sides supporting, they were stood there cheering and clapping in the pouring rain. To the charity supporters and the other people I tip my hat to you, you were truly amazing!

Will I look to do this event next year? I doubt it, I don’t see the point of repeating it, I can go and ride the missing hills anytime and I wouldn’t fancy my chances of a ballot place again, who could be lucky twice?

In conclusion, a great day, spent with a good guy in Gary riding my bike and despite the rain it was fun. What more could I ask for?

Brompton World Championship Race 2014

Goodwood Race Circuit in Southern England was the venue for the 2014 Brompton World Championship Race, an event that captures many of the things that make people think the English are a little odd at times.

For anyone not aware the Brompton Bicycle is a folding bike with small wheels that is often the favourite vehicle of the cycling commuter who has to combine the bike with bus or train. For even more info go to the Brompton website.

On the day, there are actually 3 events, the meander, a ride in the countryside on your Brompton, then the sprint, a 500m sprint and finally the world championship race.

The race takes place over 4 laps of the Goodwod motor racing circuit and is 9.6 miles (15.2 km) and is basically a time trial.

However, as this is a world championship race there are rules, and these rules have to be adhered to. Firstly, the start, all bikes have to be left folded up, and at the sound of the horn you run to your bike, Le Mans style, unfold it and away you go.

Secondly, the dress code, all competitors must wear a shirt, tie and jacket, style is important.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, have fun!

This was my third time doing the race, my previous two entries were at the previous venue of Blenheim Palace, so this was a new circuit for me.

My race went pretty well, the horn went and I got to my folded bike, unfolded and was away, the timing chip only starts when you cross the timing mat at the start/finish line, early on you I was trying to get a bit o momentum to pass people to make progress. There is one very important tactic in this race, and that is you have to draft people, without drafting you are really fighting. About halfway round my first lap I got onto a good wheel and was pulled along for a while. Unfortunately, I lost the wheel when I was baulked getting out of the chicane. From then on it was a case of trying to tag onto either a faster wheel or just use slower riders for a bit of wind protection.

It is worth pointing out that towards the end of the race I was passed by a pack of 10-12 riders who were all working together, I tried to hang onto them for a while but didn’t have the speed to hold on for too long.

All too soon the race was over I crossed the finish, dripping with sweat and wondering if I had done a reasonable performance. I picked up my medal, a nice metal affair, and the bottle of water, which was very welcome.

Well, in terms of my performance, I finished 112 out of over 500 in a time of 28:01 for the 9.6 miles, so a decent performance, could it have been better, of course it could, but if I was totally satisfied would I be a racer?

If you want to see what the event is all abut, have a look at the official Brompton video, it does a good job of showing the fun and games of the day.

Bicycle Racing

Over the next few weeks I have two bikes events to take part in. Firstly the Brompton World Championships at Goodwood Racing circuit and then the Ride 100 London.

The Brompton race is probably the most fun even tI have done in the past, you get about 800 people with Bromptons, provide them with a proper racing circuit, make them fold up their bikes and have a Le Mans style start, and then you have fun. Oh yes, there is one more very important factor, the event has a very strict dress code, for the gentlemen a shirt, tie and jacket are required, yes really a jacket and tie!

For those who are thinking this event is a bit of a joke, the past winner winners included Roberto Herras and more recently Michael Hutchinson, the former elite time trial list (I think he may still be racing just perhaps not quite so fast!).

For me, the Goodwood circuit is a new event for me, as previously I took part when it was held at Blenheim, so I am really looking forward to it.

The second event is the Ride 100 London, I got a place in this event via the ballot and for those who don’t know it takes place on closed roads starting in the Olympic Park and going through Surrey before finishing on the Mall.

There are some downsides to this event, firstly it has a very early start, around 7:30am which means getting there around 7:00am, which in turns leaving home around 4:45am to get to the car park etc. Then after the finish there is the issue of finding my way back to the car park form the Mall, they say it will be sign posted, lets hope so!

I know a couple of people who did the event last year and they say it is really good, the crowds, the closed roads and the general atmosphere amongst the riders, I will see but hopefully it will live up to the expectations.

I will probably write reviews on both events so watch this space!

Evans – Chiltern Sportive

On sunday, myself and a couple of friends entered the Evans Ride It Chilterns Sportive, the medium 62.5 mile route.

The day dawned sunny with a beautiful blue sky, who would have thought October would have produced such a day?

We decided to meet at my house, and in the best tradition I served up a pre-ride breakfast of coffee and bacon rolls, how else would you start the day? After this we rode the 5 minutes to the start. Registration was simple and within a couple of minutes we had the timing sticker attached to our helmets.

We walked to the start funnel and then listened to the pre-ride briefing and then we were away. The early route was a bit of an oddity to me, as it was on roads I know well, but would never normally join them together in that order to get to the point, but there again I haven’t had to organise a route of certain distance either.

There were a couple of early hills and then we headed out into the small roads in the Chilterns, heading through Cholesbury towards Tring and onto Albury. At Albury we hit the first steep climb and after getting up here the we were treated to some great views.

There was a welcome drink and cake stop in Mentmore, some great free cake and both water and energy drink plus bananas and jelly babies!

Once we decided we had better go off we went again, more great views and out to the furtherest point of the loop. The return leg had several hills in it, including the climb up past Aston Hill, a long steep climb that makes you grovel your way up it, after this a good decent into the Hale.

Well it would have been a good decent, had I not got a front wheel puncture on the way down, this left me fighting to stay upright and also to stop the bike. I ended up using a combination of the back brake and the bank to slow me down enough to stop!

Once the repair was done it was just a climb into Dunsmore, followed by the return to the start.

All in all a really good ride, no a well thought out route on a simply lovely day, not sure there was a better way to spend a Sunday,