The last few weeks have been pretty hectic and as a result I’ve only managed one ride in the last few weeks. We went away on holiday to the Isle of Wight for a week. I did take my mountain bike but only really went for one short ride with Nicky, although that one 4km ride had about the same elevation as my usual 24km loop! Next time we go to the Isle of Wight I’ll definitely try to take my road bike as there’s so many great roads to ride.
Nicky and I did the RideLondon FreeCycle again this year. We managed to do three complete loops for a total of 38.4km which is a bit more than we managed last time. Nicky has definitely got a bit faster and more confident riding in groups. Every time we were stopped to allow pedestrians to cross, he’d weave his way to the front whilst I’d be stuck behind everyone, so when we were allowed to go again he’d have a big head start! We also raced across the finish line on The Mall each time, I won 2-1 (although I might just have let him win his one!)
The route was different to the first time we did it, and it was much improved – there were less hold-ups around Trafalgar Square and we had a nice fast run along the Embankment. Nicky did have a minor crash – I think he was tired and he says his foot came off the pedal. The staff in the Red Cross tent in Green Park were very helpful and patched him up nicely.
The only disappointments on the day were the South Bank festival zone and the climbing wall at Lincoln’s Inn. The climbing wall needed power (it was some kind of “smart” wall) but their generator broke and as the roads were closed they couldn’t get another one (I did make up for this disappointment by getting some free Clif bars). The South Bank zone was just pointless – it wasn’t on the route itself so we had to make our way there, only to be told that bikes weren’t allowed into the zone (and we couldn’t use the bike racks at the entrance of the zone because of health & safety). We only went there so Nicky could get the sticker anyway but it all seemed a bit daft.
Here’s a couple of photos – I haven’t got around to buying the full sets yet:
Last Wednesday saw my long-awaited trip to the Olympic velodrome to cash in my birthday voucher for a taster session. I was both very nervous and excited beforehand – it was going to be brilliant cycling around such an iconic venue, home of Olympic heroics and Wiggo’s hour record. However, I was both a little stressed about getting there in time and about driving a fixed gear bike!
In the end I drove and parked at Westfield, only to find they had parking next to the velodrome. Oh well! We arrived in plenty of time and I had a coffee beforehand. Anna and Nicky sat in the stands whilst I went to get changed and go down to the centre of the track. After a little bit of toing and froing (eventually I decided to hire some cleats) I was given my track bike and was all ready to go. Everyone was in the same boat, a little worried about crashing without having brakes or a freewheel. Our instructor started us off slowly, doing a single lap on the warm-up area, then a couple of laps on the cote, progressing to multiple laps around the black line and red line. In our first multi-lap session I quickly got to grips with things, I had one minor wobble where the rider in front of me slowed unexpectedly and my reaction was to stop pedalling – luckily I remembered just in time! I also went a little too slowly around one of the bends but soon got the hang of the banking.
The only way to describe this session was AMAZING – I have not had so much fun in a long time! It quickly became apparent that I was faster than most and was soon happily overtaking people whilst riding above the blue line (shouting “stay” at every overtake). I lapped most of the field in the first multi-lap session, but this took a little out of me and in the second session I took it a little easier (I was still pretty quick though). It’s difficult to gauge exactly how fast I was going – in the video below I completed a lap in 25s which equates to 36km/h – it looks so slow on the video though! I did do some laps faster than that but I didn’t do any sprinting or anything, I wasn’t quite that confident!
The hour ended far too quickly and I had a huge grin on my face for the rest of the day. I’ll definitely be going back, hopefully I can save up and get my accreditation!
In this video I’m the one in second place, this was early on whilst we were still getting used to riding on the actual track.
I didn’t get a place on the RideLondon 100 this year, so instead myself and Nicky went up to London the day before to take part in the FreeCycle. An 8 mile route around the centre of London is closed off to traffic and for 7 short hours the roads are owned by bikes!
We drove to Upminster and got the mainline train from there. I had been a bit worried about getting the bikes on the train – I had assumed they would be busy with others also trying to get their bikes on the train, but as it turned out there was plenty of room. From Fenchurch Street it was not far to get onto the route.
It was a fantastic day out and very enjoyable – Nicky did brilliantly, at his age I was barely out of stabilisers but he managed 30km and probably could have done more, he was a natural at picking his way through the crowds and only had one ‘off’ when he rubbed tyres with someone in front, but he got straight back on and carried on. I couldn’t be more proud! The festival sites around the route were also good, Nicky had a go at handcycling, and there were stunt bikes and other performances everywhere. Everyone had a smile on their face 🙂
I’ll upload some photos when I get a chance – there are some great ones on marathon-photos.com which I’ll buy at some point. I’ve applied for the sportive again next year but I’m sure we’ll do the FreeCycle again regardless as it was lots of fun!
Date: 31st May 2015 Distance: 175.7km Average speed: 23.7km/h
Well, that was really, really hard. It took me just under 8 hours to finish, the conditions were far from ideal (it was very windy and wet at times) and my legs were sore before I started!
The first 50 miles or so weren’t too bad, although I was in full wet gear due to the forecast of showers (which did appear throughout the day) so I wasn’t as comfortable as I could be. The main reason for the good going was the tailwind, which would soon bite us on the bottom when we turned around for home.
I have been struggling for fitness ever since my health problems last year, and my legs especially are suffering – I think I maybe overdid it at the start of the year and have various aches (my quadriceps tendons and IT bands especially), so for the last half of the ride I struggled whenever the road went uphill. The last stretch from Chelmsford onward was horrible, directly into the wind and my legs had gone, I would crawl along at 16km/h for a while before getting a burst of energy, quickly to fade back to 16km/h again!
Many thanks to Geoff who did the whole ride with me, I’m sure I slowed him down quite a bit. I need to let my legs heal up properly and get properly fit before attempting another century.
The organisation itself was top-notch as always with KILOTOGO – the route was well signposted, food stops were well stocked (and the hot drinks in the last stop were really appreciated!) and the finish line commentary was good for morale! I had a massage at the end which was definitely needed, otherwise I would have been a wreck the next day!
Date: 19th May 2013 Distance: 161.2km Average speed: 26.6km/h
I decided it would be a good idea to try a big event before RideLondon, so that I was a bit more prepared about what might be in store. Doing 100 miles beforehand would also mean I would be less worried about it, as well as gaining experience of riding in groups. So I entered the Wiggle Essex Explorer sportive.
I ended up ordering the Ribble before the event, so that I could better replicate the RideLondon experience – I had always planned on buying a new bike before, so it seemed like a good time to do it. I only had it for a couple of days before the Essex Explorer, but it rode beautifully compared to the Carrera TDF.
The ride went in an anti-clockwise loop around Essex, starting and finishing just outside Shenfield. It was a nice day for it, sunny but not too hot. I remember taking it easy to begin with, getting tows from various groups. However, I made a mistake after about an hour – I had been riding with a couple of blokes when a rather large group overtook and shot off into the distance. I was feeling pretty good at this point so decided to try and catch up. I failed miserably, and was left on my own with no-one in front or behind. I didn’t want to look stupid so soldiered on until I eventually did catch up with another group, but I had burned quite a lot of matches at this point.
It started to hurt around the four hour mark – my earlier efforts were starting to catch up with me and I slowed to a crawl at times. Thankfully there was another rider who was also struggling that I’d seen several times before that day, and we started riding together for a while to try and keep each other motivated!
After the third feed station I was feeling much better (although I had a pretty numb bum when getting back on the bike!) and was able to speed off, with my former partner’s blessing – apparently there were some hills further on which he was not going to be good at so he suggested I go ahead to try and beat the silver award cut-off at 6 hours 30 minutes. The hills were not too bad really and I was able to keep going, eventually finishing with a time several minutes inside the silver cut-off. I was very happy about this, and my companion also came home a few a minutes later also inside the time.
I enjoyed the event very much and would go on to participate again in 2014 (although it had a completely different route). I felt it gave me some much-needed experience of riding events and I think my RideLondon ride was all the better for it.
Date: 17th February 2013 Distance: 82.7km Average speed: 23.9km/h
Link to ride on Strava
After getting a place in the ballot for RideLondon, I thought I should definitely step up my training! I started off in Stanford-le-Hope at my in-laws, and did a loop going via Basildon, Billericay and Brentwood before coming down and completing a few mini-loops around Linford. This took me just over the 50 mile mark, half the distance I’d be doing that August. I remember being absolutely knackered – the route included Langdon Hill which is a steep hill and easily the hardest hill I’d faced up to that point. My average speed for the ride was just under 24km/h (15mph), which was OK but I’d have to get a bit faster as my target for RideLondon was 6 hours, which would require an average of 16.6mph. My hill climbing also needed a lot of work, what with having to face Leith Hill and Box Hill!
I ended up doing this loop a few times in training, thanks to my in-laws for helping look after the kids! Several times I was out in the rain and snow, several times I did wonder ‘why am I doing this?’!
Date: 2nd September 2012 Distance: 59.3km Average speed: 25.3km/h
One of my initial targets had been to complete the Southend Bikeathon, which was 27 miles in length. I thought this would be testing, but by the time I got to September I had already been on rides exceeding 30 miles. Given that the Bikeathon route was fairly flat, I was now more concerned about my performance rather than whether or not I would actually finish!
I rode to the start and there were a couple of hundred people there, of varying abilities. There were quite a few on road bikes with much more expensive equipment than me! I started in the third or fourth wave, and got going quite quickly, overtaking almost everyone who had started in front of me (which would be expected as most people were on mountain bikes).
The main thing I was looking out for was people overtaking me, but that didn’t happen 🙂 The route involved two laps of a 13.5 mile route, and I was one of the first to complete a lap. This of course meant much more overtaking on the second lap. I made very good time and when I got to the end the lady giving me my medal told me I was the first one to finish. I didn’t think that was right as there was at least one person I’d seen who hadn’t stopped at a feed stop, but it wasn’t a race anyway.
I enjoyed being on the road with so many other cyclists, even if I was a bit too fast for the event by this stage. I definitely finished in a much faster time than when I did it in 1996!
Date: 15th April 2012 Distance: 18km Average speed: 23.4km/h
Before I became aware of The Rules, and everything was measured in miles, my immediate target was to do 10 miles. I thought it would take a while to build up to this, given how long I needed to recover after my first ride! My training consisted of cycling small loops near home, building up by going a little further each time.
Date: 21st March 2012 Distance: 2.7km Average speed: 20.8km/h
My first ride lasted all of ten minutes! My initial feeling was of disbelief that I could go so fast for so little effort, and I did several loops around my street. I only did a short ride as I was playing squash that evening, and felt fine on the bike, but I was breathless as soon as I got off and had to sit down for a long time to recover!