Easter Sunday – a day of rest! Surprisingly got 10k steps in walking up Dover’s Hill.
Slow 5km run but at least I did something
Work – official rest day. Snap General election announced. This means the justice crusader will be standing for parliament and my training will take a backseat. Clearly we must get rid of the current government so this doesn’t happen again 😂
21 mile bike ride very slowly. Apple crumble Torq gel is delicious and putting hydration tablet in water bottle meant I actually peed when I got home. Neither of those things made me faster, but I definitely recovered better…….
Rest day – lego exhibition of superheroes! 24,000 steps, 3 godsons in a state of perpetual over-excitement and SUPERHEROES!
Election- related tasks
Election related campaigning.
So it is with sincere apologies that this is the last blog post. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and got something from it. Electioneering has taken over until June 8th and then I will need a rest.
If I recover I will post a report from the actual event, because I will need to moan about how much pain we both went through!
Multi-tasking major activities
Easter Sunday – must be a day of rest?
24.95km on the bike and the wonder that is new watch app feature 🙂
3km run including dog collection. (that’s the red splodges indicating slowness)
Well that’s just a turn of phrase. Woman and machine/ person and machine/ human machine and bike, today we reflect (slightly tongue in cheek) on oneness with your bicycle.
Julien Offray de la Mettrie was a materialist philosopher who talked about man as a machine. Certainly you could look at us as fuel in, energy out machines for – doing what exactly? Get on your bike and suddenly you have purpose. You are going somewhere. The bike has all the obvious mechanics but you are the engine.
The goal of this? To become one with your bike – the ultimate biomechanical machine experiencing a state of “flow“.
Of course, that perfect mix of high skill and high challenge doesn’t happen very often. Usually you ride along thinking “ooh, brake now” “oh, why is that pheasant not getting out of my way?” “did he HAVE to pass me so close?” “my butt hurts” “my quads are burning” “I wonder what I should have for tea?” “I’m missing the Archers……..” as you spin around the 8 levels of flow in a state of flux.
But sometimes, you feel the power to the pedals, they seem to turn effortlessly, the wind is in your face not knocking you off and you stream along – man and machine in perfect harmony.
And lastly, to the pedals. Adding to the list of “more things to buy for your bike”. You can go with the pedals that come with your bike.
You should try to wear hard soled shoes if you do that – air-soled running shoes take the wind out of your pushing power. You can add “clips” or little cages for your toes to lock in so you can pull up as well as push down.
This takes a bit of getting used to – remembering when you slow down to stop that your feet aren’t free. Or you can go “clip less”
For the real cycling experience, you need pedals with bike shoes that lock in so that you smoothly pedal with power all round the turn. There are a baffling amount of options, but the basic premise is you “clip in ” as you move off and you unclip by twisting your foot as your roll to a stop. Forget that and you capsize!
Road bike shoes look like this:
With external cleats that make you walk like a duck when you stop at the cafe and are extremely slippy.
MTB shoes look like this:
With recessed cleats so you can walk normally.
The difference is the ease of clipping in and out. Road shoes clip more firmly for better power transfer to the pedals (faster!). But easier to forget or get in a pickle and fall off. MTBs have easier release so perfect for beginners.
Types of pedal
They mostly look like this:
Advantages being that the pressure on the ball of your foot is quite wide, disadvantages (for a novice) being you get clipped in tightly = more falling off potential
But you can get these:
If you want an easier in and out and also you can clip in on either side which might make you feel more confident. You can see these have a smaller area under the ball of your foot so some riders get a “hot spots” of pressure discomfort on a long ride.
There isn’t much theory to add, although there is an Australian study confirming that riders over the age of 26 get more foot pain when clipped in than younger riders. But you didn’t need science to tell you that!
Wheeeeeeeeeels. Help you go wheeeee! You’re all set up with your helmet, frame, sizing and gears but don’t forget your wheels! You might just go with your off-the-peg wheels, but you might want to think about a few things.
You mostly find your wheel rims made of aluminium, spokes can be stainless steel, but you can get carbon wheels for lightness. You know you get what you pay for:
Keith Bontrager famously said of bicycle parts:
“Strong. Light. Cheap. Pick two.”
You pays your money and takes your choice – you could have a heavier frame and pay to upgrade to lighter wheels, that seems to make more sense than having a top of the range light frame & heavy wheels which counteract the benefit.
It’s confusing. However, generally adult road bike wheels are 700mm diameter. There is a thought that smaller frames need smaller wheels (you can get “650”mm) to avoid your toes clipping the edge of the bike wheel as you turn a corner, but then you need different gearing to ensure you can go the same speed as everyone else. You can see that in action on a Brompton bicycle with tiny wheel diameter but a huge great chain ring.
However, a smaller wheel is also lighter, which might suit a smaller rider.
Just as you can vary wheel size you can vary the number of spokes. There is all sorts of physics involved – from less resistance and lighter to better strength and you can read more (much more!) here, if you’re planning on building your own bike.
So, you can also spend your pennies on deep rims to reduce drag. However, whilst that’s fine when you’re cycling forwards on the flat in a windless day, get a side wind up a hill and you may be over in seconds. Get the feeling there’s a lot of money for old rope going on in wheel choices!?
Road bike tyres are also an infinite discussion. One of the worries beginners have is the narrowness and the lack of tread. You can go for a mountain bike with fat tyres:
but the resistance of all that friction against the road might mean you can’t even move forwards -and look at the weight of it! Skinny tyres (23mm) are light and no tread means less friction and it all means faster! You can be reassured that bike tyres are too narrow to aquaplane at speeds below about 200mph. However, they are vulnerable to skidding on gravel and sand on the road . Also, you pump them up to 100PSi which means puncture-tasticness, especially if you end up hugging the kerb when a tractor overtakes you.
One option, now, is a slightly wider road tyre (25-27mm) with less pressure in it. The theory being that it moulds over any potentially puncturing bits of gravel and where it’s wider the bit of tyre in road contact is shallower meaning the same of less overall rolling resistance. I don’t know what the truth is, but that’s what I’ve gone because as a nervous beginner used to mountain bike tyres it makes me feel more stable!
When you first decide to start cycling again, you can go alone, with someone, or with a group. Depending on what sort of personality you are, you might have a preference, but it probably benefits us all to do both.
Going it alone
It’s really good to be able to brave getting out on your own. You need to be more organised and prepared – if anything goes wrong there’s no-one to help you and you are totally responsible for route finding. You need to be a “self-starter”, in order to get out of the door.
How to do find the motivation? One way would be to have a chore to do in the next door town that you would normally drive to. Get on your bike instead. Plan yourself a treat when you get there – coffee (and a cake if you rode fast enough!). Venturing further afield might need some added motivation – something to see or do when you get there, a friend to meet for lunch.
But once you’re out on the road on your own, the benefits are felt immediately – you can hear the birds, you can go at your own pace, you can stop and start as you wish, you can take a diversion and you can whip that strava segment into submission (!?)
Cycling alone gives you the chance to experiment with pace, style, speed and distance in your own way to build your confidence up. You also have to do all the work so you build up your fitness quickly.
But if you’re low on self-motivation, committing to going out in a group could really help.
Just planning a ride with one friend immediately increases the chances you’ll do it! You have someone to chat to, someone to help you change a punctured tyre and someone to have coffee with. You can both motivate each other if one is flagging, but you do have to go at the pace of the slower rider. Sometimes, this is a relief, sometimes it can be frustrating! The advantage is all there for the beginner – your cycling mate gives you tips and technique and encourages you to do more and try harder, they’re rooting for you and pulling you on.
Group rides tend to feel more threatening to beginners. Your mate knows you and your weaknesses, but in a group you have to get on with it. However, in a group ride you can learn all sorts of useful things for your sportive or race. Drafting – where you tuck into the slipstream of the person in front can save your legs, helpful warnings about potholes and turns, the joy of no responsibility for the route and the planned pitstop are all bonuses. Generally, clubs tend to have 2 or three groups going at different stated speeds (e.g. 12mph average, 15mph average and 18mph average) so you can start of in the slowest group and often go up or down as you progress or tire.
Finding a cycling group
There are lots of UK cycling organisations that can help, try theselinks
33.65 miles on the new bike in glorious sunshine! 1343 kCal burned – more than my daily intake…….lesson one – take more fuel, had to walk up one hill due to exhaustion and Kendal mint cake had not yet kicked in.
Rest day – working
We’ve decided real superheroes only train 3 days a week! (see below)
“active recovery” day (yes, I did make that up!) a bit of treadmill at work at 3km/hr which I’m counting as active recovery. Oh, and a mad dash over to a heart attack on the ward……which wasn’t!
6km run in 40 minutes, which is OK. Didn’t have time for more as had leaflets to deliver for the justice crusader. 23091 steps in all today!
Bought a range of energy gels and hydration tablets for training bike ride tomorrow with super-bikegirl (the competition) – learning from my mistakes 😉
31 mile bike ride with super-bikegirl in unexpectedly good weather – have tripled my average bike mileage this week! I like riding with girls – we do civilised things like stop for coffee and stop for lunch! No walking up hills this time.
Did try the Torq rhubarb & custard gel which was addictively delicious & highly recommended and also the mango chew which saved me from shaky legs after a 9 mile top speed dash for the train home! However, then I got a sugar crash 2 hours later despite milk and nuts for protein. More fuel testing required!
Rest day – with leaflets which don’t seem to deliver themselves 🙁
Ran 11km of a 12km loop. Orange-banana torq gel during the 1km walk – effective but not very nice! It was hard work in the Cotswolds: hills don’t really feature in Suffolk. Had a rehydration tab after which was great and an Ote protein bar which I wouldn’t have again (a bit like a milky way…..). Need to start thinking about a hydration belt……..
Multi-tasking Major activities
It’s official. Running and biking hurts my knees. Real superheroes only run once a week and train 3 days a week. Overtraining syndrome is a thing, right? So we’re avoiding that!
New routine – 30 minutes biking and running on a Monday
Rest day – spoiled by having to shout at children
Walked 20km (that’s 12 of your old -fashioned miles!)
Shouting at kids instead of cycling with the hobbit & super-bikegirl – a bit cross.
We’ve talked about gears this week. Good gearing gets you up hills with less effort, but what do you need psychologically to climb hills? What is your hill philosophy? Should you adapt it?
Sisyphus (so the myth has it) was an ancient Greek who so loved life he put death in chains. This angered the Gods who released death (they wanted to be the only immortals) and condemned Sisyphus to an eternity of pushing a rock up a hill, only to see it roll back down again. What’s this got to do with cycling? Albert Camus, an “absurdist” writer, considered Sisyphus and decided that far from bemoaning his fate
“one must consider Sisyphus happy”
Some cyclists can well imagine his delight: rather than any sense of futility in the task. They deliberately set out to toil up hills, for the joy of freewheeling down them again. Psychologically it’s short term pain for a quick gain.
Others find the adrenaline rush of the downhill a bit overwhelming but like the achievement of steaming up a steep hill and getting to the top, passing Sisypheans on the way. But what do you need to get up the hill? The right gear and fuel in the tank! Preparation to be in the right gear before you need it when you see the hill coming is an investment and fuelling all ride, knowing there are hills ahead, is a wise strategy to adopt. Psychologically this is taking the long view of your journey.
Of course you could plan a hill-free route. Just go flat out on the flat. Ignorance is bliss? But if you never experience the pain of climbing you never get the joy (or a chance to rest your weary legs) of zooming down.
Finally, do you gear mash all the way on your tiptoes or sit back and spin? Or do you see the hill ahead, understand the size of the task start seated and slow and as you rise higher and higher and get nearer and nearer your goal do you change up, stand up and push for the top? That’s probably what superheroes do.
Now that you’ve got your helmet, your frame and your wet weather gear, you’ll want to be picking your gear-set for your bike. You might go with what you’re given, or you might want to customise.
Gears make ALL the difference to your energy expenditure. If you’re planning a long ride, or a run afterwards, you want to save your legs as much as possible. So here’s the low down!
Gear Geek Corner
If you want to read all about it you can try this. Or you can follow our random ramble through the gears:
You might decide it’s all a bit complex. You want to keep things simple and you don’t go up or downhill much. You can get a bike with only one gear ratio. You can have a “single-speed” bike where you can freewheel or you can have a single-speed bike with a fixed gear. Fixed gear bikes (fixies) are “bang on trend” (as Cosmo would have it) with cute colours, retro styling and a subculture of reckless speed and perversity: you can’t coast so you have to keep pedalling (thus getting faster!), some people don’t even add brakes they just slowly stop pedalling/skip or skid to a stop. If you go uphill you work harder.
Recommended for – hipster wannabes
Not recommended for – the Lake district
This is what you will commonly find on a road bike. You can have multiple sprockets on the back (3-11) and up to three chain rings on the front to give you from 3 to 33 gear ratios. Why do you want that? So that if you cycle uphill the gears take the hard work out of your legs. Like driving your car you change down to go uphill and “spin” your legs around faster but more easily and when you’re zooming downhill you can “change up” and get more power through your legs to make the bike go faster and faster.
Recommended for – long journeys and hills
Not recommended for – the easily confused 😉
Assuming you’ve gone for a derailleur system you need to learn how and when to change gears. Some of it is a matter of preference, some is common sense. It’s easy to push the pedals round when the front cog is small and the back cog is large – it will slow you down but get you up a hill easily. If both are medium sized you can roll along a flat road feeling a nice power transition and pedalling smoothly. If you get a big front cog and small back you are working harder, but going faster.
So for a short to medium undulating ride you want to be in a middle gear on the flat, change down in advance of any hills and change up at the top to whizz down.
But some people going for 60+ miles like to “spin” their legs all the time at a high cadence (rate of pedalling) and a low gear. This saves the quads from working too hard & “feeling the burn” so you can endure the long ride.
You’ve got two choices. Sit down and spin or stand up & mash. (or a bit of both?!)
Sit down & spin: the theory is that sitting down keeps your weight evenly distributed over the front and back wheel keeping contact with the road evenly spreading the friction and being more aerodynamic. Also, bodyweight supported by the saddle = less energy expended. You change down to a low gear at the bottom of the hill and spin your legs with a fast cadence allowing you to persevere up any hill.
proponents – Chris Froome, heavyweights
Stand up and mash: also known as “dancing on the pedals”, but I guess that’s a matter of framing! This is where you stay in a higher gear and stand up and even start to rock the bike underneath you as you climb with a slower cadence. Harder work on the quads but potentially less strain on your back and allows you to use more muscles to power up the hill. Less aerodynamic.
proponents – Alberto Contador, flyweights
A bit of both: probably the best thing to do is start seated in a low gear and slowly get up the hill. As you reach the top and know you’ve got some “oomph” left in you and it gets steeper than 10% you might want to stand up and push the last little bit.
So, you’ve got your helmet and you’re researching what bike frame size you’ll need within your budget. Your budget might determine what your bike frame is made of, but if you have a choice – how to decide!?
You’ve got 4 main options, and there is a LOT of controversy out there about the pros and cons of each. In the end it probably just comes down to preference – but here are a few things to consider:
If you want a cheap bike aluminium’s your pick. It’s a bit light, it’s a bit stiff it’s moderately long lasting. It’s the compromise at the cheap end of the range, and it might mean you can get pricier components if you self-build. (or get your friendly bike shop to do it!)
Carbon frames were all the rage, until they were all the rage and now people want something that isn’t ubiquitous. They are not cheap, but they are cheaper than they were and they are light (very light if you pay!), fast and strong in the right direction. This is good for light, small people like hobbits who don’t need to be pushing a bike that weighs more than they do……however, they are brittle if you crash, but they don’t rust!
If you want a workhorse, steel might be your answer. They are heavy, unless you pay squillions, but they last a long time and you can crash and they might dent but it’s repairable. They “dampen” road bumps so they are good for commuting but also long-distance comfort. If you’re a larger bloke with powerhouse quads from a winter of turbo training you can move a steel bike and this might be your pick. (They look “retro” cool, too). Just don’t forget to clean it properly after a bad weather ride.
If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket and you are an experienced rider so you know what size frame works for you then investing in titanium could be your bike for life. Beautiful, uncorrodable, light, super-dampening of nasty road surfaces and comfortable it’s the best of all possible worlds! They can be custom built for you and the lack of corrosion means they suit British winter riding!
and yes, you really can buy a bamboo bike – a sustainable material, this is light and handsome – perfect for the eco-warrior in your life.
We get a lot of it in the UK. Weather. When it’s fine our motivation to get out on the bike is high, when it’s cold, wet and windy we want to stay at home.
Benefits of exercise outdoors
You intuitively know outdoor exercise is good for you – the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, even getting a bit damp but then coming back in to a warm house and a warm bath make you feel wonderful afterwards. It’s backed up by evidence, too. Plus, vitamin D!
No such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing
But how do you motivate yourself and prepare yourself to go out when it’s wet and windy and maybe cold? Firstly,
“failing to prepare is preparing to fail”
If you’re training and you have to go out and clock up your scheduled ride you know you could get on the indoor bike or turbo trainer instead (and sometimes discretion is the better part of valour), but start preparing yourself and you might even get out of the door. This video is sage advice and don’t forget it’s rare to experience it raining as hard on you as it looks through the window!
Get the right bike set up, the right clothing and plan your route and just get out of the door. You can tell yourself you’re only going to do 10 miles and you might end up enjoying it and doing the loop twice!
Don’t forget safety when you’re cycling in the rain. This is in the preparation as well as the execution. Rain tends to wash puncture-inducing items onto the road so make sure you have a spare inner tube and know how to change it quickly. The right clothing is about safety as well as comfort – denim and cotton get wet and stay cold and wet – you might not want to be a “MAMIL” but there are sound reasons why the gear is used. This video helps with braking technique in the wet and this one covers the rest of the issues – drop your tyre pressure would be my top tip!
Amazingly, now we’re in April, we’ve got really good weather – so there’s no excuse not to be out there! But if the famed April showers do come along, we’ll still see you out there 🙂