Sunday, 28 June 2009

That was an eventful 40 miles

What a ride that was. Enjoyable, frustrating, fascinating, and embarrassing.

Why embarrassing? Because I fell off. Didn’t crash, didn’t hit anything, no mechanical failure. Just fell off. How come? Well, I recently bought a new pair of pedals which my shoes clip into (go figure). Stories abound on forums and at my cycling club that just falling over with clipless pedals is quite a common occurrence while trying to get used to them. Anticipation is everything. And failing to anticipate that I might need to put my foot on the ground was certainly the cause of the problem in my case.

This isn’t as dumb as it sounds. Picture this. I was cycling up a hill with a roundabout at the top. There was a queue of cars which I cycled up the inside of. Then, when I got to the roundabout, I was second guessing if the car in front would go so that I could follow him round. Well, it turned out that he wasn’t going to move off and as I was still having to pedal quite hard (I was going up hill remember), I didn’t try to free my shoes until the last minute. Then panic sets in and there is no way they are ever going to unclip. And I have to admit, I felt like the dumbest idiot ever to get on a bike. I simply came to a halt and toppled over onto the pavement. Luckily ending up with nothing more serious than road rash on my left shin. But why bother with clipless pedals? (although I refute the statement that it’s safer):

and just how dumb did I look? A bit like this:

And so to frustrating. For some reason, and I know not what, the spokes on my front wheel decided to take it in turns to come lose. And there is nothing more irritating than hearing a bussing sound while riding. To be exact, any roadie will tell, the bike should be silent apart from the noise of the tyres. It’s one of the golden rules of road cycling. Similar to your bike having to be at least 10 times shinier than when you bought it. I must have stopped at least four or five times to tighten the spokes. Time for a service I think.

And fascinating? I didn’t have any particular route planned and turned off of the main road, following a sign to Fambridge. No idea why and the road didn’t go any further than Fambridge anyway. But I came across this which I can only describe as a cross between a tombstone and an obelisk.

It certainly wasn’t a long lived airfield, only having been open for 9 months but it does claim to have been the first in England. I suppose opening and closing an airfield wasn’t that much of big thing back in 1909 either. A quick Google search revealed that:

It marks the site of what was almost certainly Britain’s earliest dedicated airfield. ... [But] Fambridge proved a failure, except as a bog. The rickety flying machines, far from heading into the skies, tended to get mired down in the Essex mud.
And just down the road the claim for the control and rule of England was settled by a battle which took place at Ashingdon in 1016 AD, when Canute fought Edmund and won both the battle and soon after, secured the Kingdom of all England including the Saxon Wessex and their territories.

All that from taking a right turn and exploring a little.

And enjoyable? Any time spent riding a bike is enjoyable, no matter what.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Health and Fitness Benefits of Cycling

The following article is courtsey of NHS Choices

Cycling is the third most popular sport in the UK with an estimated 3.1 million people riding a bike each month.

The number of cyclists in London has increased by 91% since 2000, according to Transport for London (TFL).

As a form of exercise, cycling has broad appeal. From toddler to pensioner, able-bodied or disabled, practically everyone can enjoy cycling, provided they have the right equipment. The Everyday Cycling website has advice for first-time bike buyers (see Useful links).

Cycling is one of the easiest ways to fit exercise into your daily routine as it can double up as a form of transport. That means it saves you money, gets you fit and contributes to a cleaner environment.

It's a low-impact exercise and therefore easier on your joints than running or other high-impact aerobic activities, but still helps you get into shape.

For example, someone weighing 80kg (12.6 stones) will burn off more than 650 calories with an hour’s riding as well as tone their legs and bottom. If you go up hills or off-road, you'll also work your upper body.

The best way to build your cardiovascular fitness on the bike is to consistently ride twice during the week and then do a longer ride at the weekend. You will soon feel the benefits.

Cycling calendar

The Everyday Cycling website (see Useful links) is aimed at recreational cyclists. It has help and hints on everything you need to enjoy cycling whether you’re a commuter, mountain biker, mega-fit road rider or cycling for the first time.

The site includes a national leisure cycling calendar listing everything from charity events to multi-day challenges, and advice on training, maintenance and improving fitness.

It also has suggested routes for you to ride in your area and a function where you can map where you've ridden, log the miles you've travelled and rank yourself against other riders.

To take your cycling one step further, you could join a club in your area where you can go on organised bike rides. To find a club, visit the British Cycling website (see Useful links).

If you want to turn your hobby into something a little more competitive, there are around 2,500 races registered with British Cycling, the sport's governing body, each year. There are all sorts of different bike races including BMX, cycle speedway, cyclo-cross, mountain bike news, road and track.

Visit the events section on the British Cycling website to find a race near you to either watch or take part in.

Kit checklist

Wearing a cycling helmet will significantly reduce your risk of serious head injury in the event of an accident. For a proper fit, the helmet should fit snugly and shouldn’t allow any sideways movement.

Before you head out on your bike, it’s important for you to check you have the right kit, and that your bike is in good working order.

Make sure your tyres are pumped up and test out your brakes before you get on to the road.

Check that your saddle should be at the correct riding position for your height. If your saddle is too low, it will make it more difficult for you to pedal and you’ll tire quicker.

To get the right height, adjust the saddle until you can stretch your leg out and comfortably place the ball of your foot on the ground. This means that when your pedal is at its lowest position, your leg should be slightly bent.

If your leg is completely straight when your pedal is at the lowest position, your saddle is probably too high.

If you’re cycling after dark, it’s important to make sure you can be seen by other road users. Wear reflective clothing and make sure the lights on the front and back of your bike are both in working order. You should also use your lights when the visibility is low, such as in bad weather.

For expert advice on cycling equipment and correct riding position speak to the staff at your local bike shop.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Orchid Cycle Ride

So how did the Orchid Cycle Ride go? Absolutely fantastic. It was one of the best rides of the year and, thanks to the weather, so much better than the Essex Countryside ride. I did though opt for the 40 mile rather than 75 mile course.

It was one of those days when everything seemed to come together. The training had delivered what I wanted it to deliver. It was a gloriously sunny day right from the kick-off. I wasn’t late for the start which meant no hassle, and the marshalling on the route was second to none – well apart from one small hic-sup which I’ll come back to later. The new pedals seemed to work a treat with no falling over due to note being able to get my feet out – although there was one close call. They definitely made a difference and I was able to climb hills easier.

The first few miles of the course saw a policeman at every junction stopping traffic for us, and once we were underway, there was someone at every road junction telling us which way to go.

However, confusion reigned at one point when our route coincided with a cycle race (bet they were pleased!). The problem arose when one set of marshals from the bike race didn’t realise we weren’t part of the race and so pointed for us to turn left when we should have gone straight on. Very luckily for me, the person I was riding with at the time knew the area well and realised we were off course. So we retraced our footsteps and got back on the right course only having done an extra couple of miles or so.

There was also one of those curious coincidences (or synchronicities) that I love so much. At one point, there was a pair of riders in front of me with rider numbers of 52 and 53. Mine was 51 so as I passed them we read 51, 52, 53 from left to right. It couldn’t have planned better could it?

Tatia and Seraphina came along to this one to offer their support and gave me a resounding cheer when the starting gun went off. But, alas, the support was soon forgotten as when I arrived back, the bouncy castle had been inflated and that was much more fun then cheering Daddy back :-)

The time was not as good as I had hoped: 38.8 miles in 2 hours 47 minutes (an average of 13.9 mph). Must try and do better on the London to Southend ride.

Click on map title to enlarge

Saturday, 13 June 2009

New Pedals

I have always been quite happy with my old style toe clip pedals. Yes it’s true that they may not be the latest thing, but then I have heard so many tales of people falling over because they can’t unclip their feet from clipless pedals (a bit of an anomaly there as you clip into clipless pedals) that I have always decided against them. Well up until now that is. I have to admit I have been wondering if they could improve my performance as it is claimed they can do but someone started a discussion about pedals on a forum I go to now and again. And then there came this post:

“Using toe straps is an invitation for people who work in bike shops to patronise and humiliate you.”

Followd by

“Unless you have a beard and a urine stain on your baggy shorts when they will understand.”
So that was it, off to the bike shop today to buy a pair of clipless pedals. I am doing a sponsored ride tomorrow so will write about how many times I fall off because I can’t get my feet out!

So, what are clipless pedals? * clears throat while everyone logs off *

Clipless pedal systems are an improvement over the toe clip and strap in many ways, comfort, safety and speed to name a few. Comfort was improved as there is no need for a strap holding the foot in place, therefore bloodflow is not affected and constant strap adjustment is no longer required. Safety is improved as the need to reach up and down to adjust straps when starting and stopping is no longer required, you simply twist the foot to disengage the pedal when approaching your stopping point whilst still holding the bars with both hands. Setting off is the reverse, just push down on the pedal and you are clipped in, all the time keeping both hands on the bars and your eyes on the road. Speed is also improved as you clip in and forget, no straps to tighten or adjust. Built into most clipless pedal systems is a technology called float, float is the amount of degrees your foot can move from side to side when clipped into the pedal, this float is essential as it allows the knee to move naturally during the pedalling motion. Most pedals will have different cleats available or adjustable float to adapt the amount of movement.