Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Rules are Rules

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

I received an email from Andy telling me that, unfortunately, he cannot ‘validate’ my epic 315Km ride as it was ’29Km short’. At first I was quite stunned. What on earth is going on? I did 5% more than required and now I am told that it was, actually, 10% less?? I then remembered the rules – ‘one should take the SHORTEST distance between the controls as the correct measurement for a DIY route. Now check the following routes on a Google map:

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compared to:

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The routes are quite similar – aren’t they? Well, they certainly do not MEASURE the same length. The first is 279Km while the second comes up as 305Km. In reality, as I said, I covered a full 315Km!

So now I know. I have to use the point-to-point measuring first and THEN making any changes or tweaks to it. It will obviously imply an even further ‘detour’, having to bypass and ignore main roads as much as possible, but as the title says ‘Rules are Rules’.

Perhaps sometime in the future the rider will simply upload their GPS ‘trail’ as validation, rather than receipts from stores and bank statements from holes in the walls – but I am not holding my breath 🙂

No. 23 – DIY Golders Green – 315 Km

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

It’s been a week since I did this ride. It wasn’t the ‘shock’ of the distance that prevented me from blogging about it, but I guess it sounds good – so let’s say so!
At this time of the year the nights are getting long – and the days short, and I was finding it harder to do a DAY’s ride – I started at 05:00 for my previous one. This time I wanted to REALLY go for it, perhaps the last ride of such length this winter. So I took advantage of what promised to be a surprisingly mild weather and clear visibility and do a ‘big’ one.

I planed to start at 22:00, but eventually managed to only start at 23:15. We went to see a play (enjoyed that very much), but we only arrived home at around 22:00-ish so had to spend some time preparing for it.

I didn’t take chances on the weather and I was well equipped to brave a very cold night (which it was not supposed to be, but who trusts the forecast this days?) It turned out that as far as temperature is concerned – they were right, and I started to peel off some of my garments within the first 20 minutes of the ride – and never put them back on until the end.

Overall, the ride lasted some 21 hours. From that, about 7-8 were in the dark. I managed quite OK, all considered, and blessed my lighting arrangement numerous times – it’s just fantastically good and extremely bright in the night. Good choice there!

While the temperature WAS mild, the rain that was not supposed to come either – did make an appearance. Unfortunately, I was somewhere near the the middle of the course when it started in earnest – and never stopped for long since. That was tough. And cold. and not pleasant – at all. I decided to tough it out to the end, and I did, but I think I had very few minutes to spare, if any, on arrival to the the finishing line.

I remember quite a lot of scenes from this journey, and while I also remember that it was difficult, I don’t feel that it was so. In fact, I wouldn’t mind trying it again 🙂

That’s where I went:

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On another front – I got me a fixie!

It’s a real gem – made in the UK by a London bike shop called Pearson Touche. It is reviewed here. I bought it second hand, in fantastic condition, for half the price of the new one. I then went to the shop itself on Saturday, and installed mudguards, a carbon seat post (better for shock absorption), new pedals, water bottle cage and a new freewheel gear so that I now have a fixed and a freewheel option on my rear wheel (called ‘flip-flop’). Tomorrow I am going to ride for the first time to work and I am really curious to check it out!!!

I have received two certificates for my achievements this year – all related to me doing in excess of 1000Km. Go me!

Certificate for this ride will be updated later – once received.

No. 11 – Chelsford – 110 Km

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Strangely – I forgot all about this one – at the time. However, as I do have a certificate

it’s clear that I DID do it. Moreover, it was just on the day following the previous event – so it was quite unusual in that sense.

Anyway – good for me.

No. 22 – DIY Golders Green – 211 Km

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

This one I started early – and I mean REALLY early (05:00). Winter is closing in and I thought that it is bad enough to ride one side of it in the dark – I don’t Fancy riding BOTH sides. So I decided to make the ‘dark one’ – the morning. At least there was no fog – I wouldn’t want to repeat that experience. It was cold though. Very cold.

I learned from my experience and I have taken my ‘overshoes’ with me. It was a very wise decision. They create another layer of protection around my shoes, a bit like a diving suit. It has the disadvantage of being absolutely NON breathable, but it does keep the warmth in to a large degree.

I have also tried for the first time to ride with long trousers and a cycling specific nicely padded under garment. It was the most comfortable arrangement so far for my private parts as well as my behind – I’ll buy more of the kind. Finally on the clothing side I have used BOTH the leg warmers and the arm warmers – and did not take them off throughout – which just proves that they were just what the weather ordered.

At some stage during the ride I was thinking to myself that this ride is so uneventful that I will have nothing to write about in my blog. I was proven very wrong (don’t expect any fireworks), but sometime later I noticed that I am riding the distance at a much greater comfort and ease than ever before. It was then that I thought that maybe, just maybe, I WILL be able to do the LEL in July next year. It was only when I arrived at Bishops Staford and turned South (literally), I realised that I may have had some assistance from a friendly wind direction, and it was NOT all about me and my increased fitness level. Having said that, despite battling fairly strong winds on the way back for about a quarter of the way, my overall average speed worked out to be virtually identical to last time (18.5 Km/h). Thus, I do believe that I am getting ever so fitter with any ride I do!

I am obviously unable to do a scientific experiment, but I have in mind two contributing factors. The first being a ‘recovery drink’ from Torq. This is a relatively expensive drink that is supposed to restore muscles to a good form quickly. I have been using it every day when returning from my commuting ride and while the taste leaves a lot to be desired, the effects seem to be quite astonishing. Yes, yes I also know of the placebo effect but what can I say? My body does feel much better after drinking it. Case in point is that ride. I came home VERY tired, and immediately (there is a 15 minutes ‘golden window’ for the recovery drink to be most effective right after exercise) prepared a full portion (8 scoops of powder and 600ml of cold water) of the recovery drink. I gulped it down fairly rapidly, being both hungry and thirsty) and amazingly – within minutes a lot of my soreness and tiredness was gone. I just couldn’t believe it. I was climbing the stairs to go and have a shower with very little effort and discomfort. I am going to stick to it and use it consistently.

The second explanation is my new found fascination with single speed bike. I didn’t buy one (yet – still researching and looking for the ‘perfect’ one), but it occurred to me that while I cannot simulate riding a ‘fixed’ gear with my Road bike, I can certainly simulate ‘single speed’. It is quite easy – just NEVER change gear!

And so I decided to ‘fix’ my bike for commuting distances at gear no 5. As my large front Gear has 50 teeth and gear number 5 has 17, I have a ratio of 2.94. This is more towards the ‘high end’ of the scale. That means that while I can go fast on a flat road it is quite hard to climb. I could change to Gear no. 6 which has 19t, with the ratio of 2.63. That seems to be the ‘golden ratio’ that many fixed and single speed bikes opt for although in reality people just choose something that ‘works’ for them or whatever the supplier has decided would be best.

Back to my ride then. So the bottom line is that I am NOT changing gears. I just ‘tough it out’ whatever comes my way. I think that this has increased my effort level (makes sense – right?) and thus contributed to increase my fitness. Once I get my REAL fixed bike I am hoping that my cadence will improve too (there is no choice but to pedal ALL the time!). Taken together I’ll be a champion 🙂

To finish this posting I must tell you about my first direct encounter with a car passenger. I was riding on a fairly busy road with cars gliding by my side all the time. Suddenly one of them slowed down and the passenger yelled something at me (I did not catch what he was saying) and… pinched my bottom!!! I am not SURE that this is what he did – but that is the closest I can describe how it felt. The car than sped off and I sadly was unable to ask him if I am really so irresistible…

I guess he may have meant to intimidate or frighten me (it was quite sudden), but it only left me smiling. People.

The certificate:

No. 21 – DIY Golders Green – 210 Km

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

I decided that a proper way to atone for my sins in the last year would be to ride a long distance – so I did. As days are getting alarmingly shorter, I made sure I’ll leave home at 06:00, with the view of getting back ‘while there is light’. I almost made it!

So, what new things happened during that ride. Let’s see. First there was the first time I used the Icebreaker skin 200 ‘base layer’. This is a pure Merino wool garment that has proved to be immensely reliable in keeping my body warm and also cool. Nice one, right? It is so ‘breathable’ and so light I hardly feel it but it certainly adds a layer of protection against the chill. Not the wind, of course, but it is not supposed to either.

I also used the ‘leg warmers’, which is a weird kind of long socks that are designed to, well, keep the legs warm.. That they do and quite nicely. I only had short trousers and I am sure that without the leg warmers I would have frozen solid. Almost.

Even with all that precaution I was still cold, particularly my right foot. I think I’ll use overshoes next time I go out so early in the winter. Never tried them with cleats, but I seem to remember that there is a hole there just for that purpose. Need to find out soon as I a planning to do a similar course this Saturday. I think I’ll also go for the ‘arm warmers’ to complete the picture.

I am really eager to go for 300Km, but the prospect of riding in the dark for at least 6 hours doesn’t warm my heart. I mat still brave it!

In the last few days/weeks I have started to seriously look into buying yet another Bicycle – this time a ‘fixie’ (i.e. – no gears – single speed). I was attracted to the notion for some time now, but it seems that it would really do me good to have one. The main advantage, I am told, is that you learn to spin faster. I have tried very hard to improve my cadence with some good results, but nowhere near what I would LIKE to be able to do. Also, it does build up strength (you cannot downshift on the climb) and you can stop with your feet – not just hit the breaks. In the Cycle Show that I visited last Saturday there were quite a number of such bikes and I learned a lot by talking to people there. As it is a rather simple mechanical creation, there are a number of them that can be had for about £200 brand new. Obviously – you can spend more if you so wish but I am not certain what additional and SIGNIFICANT benefits that buys you. Irrespective, I am checking out the Specialized Langster model, which is about £400 new and am looking for second hand bargains. I think I may well find one for £200 or so which seems like a good buy to me.

The certificate: