Sunday, 20 September 2009

From tears to cheers

Today I had planned on going to the London Skyride with Tatia and Seraphina, but those wonderful people at C2C rail who delight in their engineering works, decided today would be a good day for yet more and replaced trains with buses along part of the route. This meant we were unable to go.

But every could has a silver lining and I went off on a 25 mile training run which was just about as perfect as a bike ride is ever going to be. The sun had come out but there was still an autumn chill on the air which kept me nice and cool. The wind was blowing from the north which meant no headwinds along the seafront, either coming or going, I climbed a hill a normally hit fairly easily and actually enjoyed it! A car actually stopped and gave way to me where parked cars would have made it difficult to pass and the driver of a car that pulled out in front of me at a round about actually waved, smiled and shouted “sorry” out of his window.

After a shower and quick bite to eat it was out on the mountain bike this time with Seraphina’s trailer bike and Tatia on her bike. We had a nice easy ride along the sea-front with an ice-cream, and beer stop (8.5 miles in 2 hours). That must have been one of my slowest rides ever, but still great fun. Especially with Seraphina pedalling as hard as she could to try and get as fast we could go. Needless to say, I gently applied the brakes when we topped 15mph.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

No fat tyres

Funny how things turn out isn’t it. It should have been my last sponsored ride of the year today – the Foulness Bike Ride. I have to admit the name doesn’t sound very attractive does it? Well, Foulness Island is owned by the MOD and is rich in wildlife and a haven for birds. Apparently there was a god chance of seeing avocet, geese, herons, kestrels, merlins and many other birds. And with no cars at all on the roads, it seemed like a good way to end the sponsored ride season.

So I was up at 7.30, tucking into my usual pre-ride porridge when I read the small print: “he four mile circuit beyond the village includes a short stretch of gravelled road suitable only for touring cycles or mountain bikes with stout tyres”. Unfortunately the tyres on my road bike don’t quite fall into that category. I suppose I could have unhooked Seri’s trailer bike from my mountain bike and used that, but I thought to hell with it and set off out along the seas front.

And what a bloody great ride it was. Hardly any wind and what there was was bowing from the north (from inland) so there were hardly headwinds. The sky was overcast and the temperature ideal for a Sunday morning ride. And even the hills in Leigh-on-sea didn’t seem too bad.

So as it turned out, I was very pleased that I didn’t do the Foulness bike ride.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Beginner technique: Five common cycling mistakes


If you want to be faster and more confident on your bike, it's not just a matter of putting the miles in and getting fitter. You also need to think about good technique and preparation.

Simple mistakes can cost you valuable time and effort on the road or the trails, but with a bit of practice these can be easily corrected, resulting in more confidence, less energy consumption and higher speeds, so you'll no longer be lagging behind your mates or limping over the finish line way off the pace.

Poor cornering technique

You want to be able to take corners smoothly and without losing too much pace, so adjust your speed as you approach the turn – do not brake while cornering.

Make sure your inside pedal is up and press down on the outside pedal. Lean the bike, as opposed to steering it, keeping your body weight centred over the bike. Always look where you’re heading.

If you're on a road or track that's closed to traffic then use the whole space: drift across to reach the apex of the corner and then accelerate out of the turn.

Sharp braking on descents

Applying light gradual pressure on both brakes at the same time is more effective when you're learning to ride than slamming them on. Braking too sharply on a descent can make you lose control.

Try the on/off technique to prevent brakes overheating. On the road, try sitting up instead of braking, as this increases wind resistance and will slow you down.

Practise on hills you’re familiar with, each time applying the brakes a little less. Also practise with experienced riders and try to follow their line of travel.

Wrong gears on climbs

You must be in the correct gear approaching a climb. Don’t leave it too late. If you have to switch from a high gear to a low one once you start climbing then you risk dropping the chain.

Cycling up a hill in a high gear means your muscles recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibres. Fast-twitch fibres fatigue quickly and take a long time to recover. If you change to an easier gear and higher cadence, you conserve energy and save your fast-twitch fibres for later.
Saddle too high or too low

The correct saddle height is crucial.

You risk injury if it’s too high or too low, and reduce the power you can generate. Here’s a simple test: sit on the bike, and at the bottom of the pedal-stroke the leg should be almost straight but the heel should stay on the pedal without stretching.
Bike isn't prepared or maintained

Now that you’ve improved your skills, don’t mess it up with poor pre-ride or pre-race preparation. Ensure you’ve checked your bike over – that all bolts are tight and pedals are secure, chain is oiled and saddle is at correct angle.

Check tyres are free from cuts or glass and tyres are pumped up.

Ensure brakes are not touching the wheel and that it spins freely. Check that brake pads/blocks aren't worn. Finally, the caliper brakes found on road bikes can get knocked in transport, so check before setting off.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Southend Bikathon 2009

There’s something rather strange about me and the Southend bikeathon in that it never quite goes according to plan.

Take this year for example, I had planned to ride it with Seri on her trailer bike and Tatia. The evening before I drive them round the route and half way through Seri announces that it looks a “bit far” and doesn’t think she’ll do it after all. Then promptly falls asleep. The next morning, she proclaims that she has a pain “inside” her neck. So the best laid plans of us riding the bikeathon as a family disappear with the morning dew.

My third bike with Seri's trailer bike attached

So it’s off to the start with Tatia and Seri coming along to support rather than take part. As I make my way to the start line, oh joy, my bike computer won’t turn on. I should have seen that one coming as I don’t think I have managed to ride the bikeathon with it working – last year it packed up half way through.

Well, what with now doing it on my own, and without my trusty Garmin, I thought that might as well go all out and do the course as fast as I can – not that I could time myself, pace myself, or have the faintest idea how well I was doing!

Still, I was able to make a rough estimate. The bikeathon route is also my regular training route so I know that it’s about 26.5 miles. I started at about 9.02 and know from the photograph Tatia took when I finished that it was… You know what, even the camera failed to save the date and time of the photograph! So the best I can do is Tatia thinks it was about 10.50 which means I took about 1 hours 45 minutes giving an average speed of 15 miles per hour. Well at least that sounds about right!