Saturday, 26 February 2011

Live at the Pokey Hole!!!

For a long time Gary and I have been attending gigs at our local music club 'The Pokey Hole' (, and I, in my other guise as a failed rock-star have played there many times with my band 'Simply Crap' (you'll find us on YouTube) - Pete Birks who runs the club had offered us some sponsorship at the onset and on Friday last he invited us to the club and made a great speech promoting the ride and inviting donations and sponsorships from the audience. Also we took our bikes so that anyone interested could take a closer look and have a chat about the trip - it worked well we raised £370 on the night and distributed a number of sponsorship forms which we hope will raise further funds - here's a video clip of us on stage...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Forgot to mention....

Remember I said I was having trouble with my old winter bike?

I'd had a new hub on the back wheel fitted by a LBS in Loughborough - but I was never happy with it - the wheel rattled, it was noisy, the gears didn't work properly... I took it back a couple of times but it didn't really get any better. Then, just before Christmas I visited my really local bike shop - 'Bikes and Sports' in Hinckley - the guy there was friendly and helpful and I bought a really powerful front light off him. I knew he did servicing so I took my old banger in to him last Friday afternoon - he told me the hub was really cheap and nasty but he'd have a look at it - he called me later that afternoon to tell me that 4 spokes had sheared off from the hub and that basically it was useless - we decided a new back wheel was the best bet and he sorted out the gear alignment and serviced the brakes as well - all done and dusted and ready to pick up Saturday morning - a really excellent service and at a reasonable price too.

If you're anywhere near Hinckley I'd recommend 'Bikes and Sports'

It's like summer!!!!!

Wow! - what a beautiful day!

Suddenly, after all the rain, frost, wind, snow..... a day comes along that really raises your spirits. And today was that day.

The sun was shining, the sky was crystal clear,not only that it was actually warm too. I couldn't resist it - I sloped off work at 2.30pm, got my shorts out and..... wait for it.... the new Trek!!!

Immediately it all felt sooooo good. The bike was comfortable, the roads were dry and clear and I seemed to fly! I was bombing along with a smile on my face enjoying every minute. I covered 26 miles at an average of 16.9mph - pretty good considering the hills and all the stops and starts at junctions etc. Top speed was 34mph slowest about 10mph. The only problem i had was my saddle worked itself loose somehow? - and I forgot my tool kit - by the end I was slipping off the back and it was rather uncomfortable - but its fixed now and I'm looking forward to the same again very soon!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

On track....

I've just gone through the 300 mile barrier for February - and still a week to go - maybe I'll manage 400?? - It's been quite tough at times but today was pleasant and warm - I actually worked up a keen sweat!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

'The Butcher' at Work

Sorry about the quality of the video, it was shot very quickly from a mobile phone. Machete Mick is trying not to look at 'The Butcher's' chopper.

Monday, 21 February 2011

We take to the hills....

It had to happen, we may have tried to shy away from facing up to it, but this weekend it was time to face reality.

Gary has spent considerable time and expertise working on our LeJog route for June. He has been mulling over it, tweaking it, thinking about it, changing it, changing it again.... but in the end there is a fact we can't escape from... there's going to be a lot of climbing.

Now, some of you might like riding uphill but for us its probably the worst thing about cycling - neither of us are built for climbing - we are more naturally configured to the flat; preferably in a pub somewhere! But Gary's latest route planning has revealed that we are faced with something like 16,000 metres of climbing - now that may not sound too bad - in fact it's twice the height of Mount Everest! - So, we felt we needed to start practising.

It was a grey morning, as I arrived at Gary's, it looked like we might be riding in the rain, thankfully that scenario never materialised. We set off via Donisthorpe towards Ashby de la Zouch, steady climbing all the way, from there through to Lount, turning left towards Melbourne and more climbing - then it was left again adjacent to Calke Abbey and a welcome descent before a viscious climb up the Pistern Hills - this was serious, lung bursting, leg burning stuff! - we saw the road winding away before us, disappearing into the mist - it looked like an alpine stage from the Tour de France! - we needed the lowest gears we had and even then it was struggle - we made it but it hurt!

After that and a pause for a well earned drink from our bidons we headed into Ticknall and then out past Foremark Reservoir to Milton, turning left and another steep rise to Repton. Then it was more climbing to Newton Solney, Burton on Trent, Stapenhill, Rosliston and finally back to Netherseal - it was a bit disappointing to find we'd only travelled about 35 miles and more so that our total ascent was somewhere around 700 metres - especially when we know that the first two days of LeJog will each involve climbing of around 2500 metres!!! - Oh well - plenty of time to build up to that!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Mid Feb....

It is February. The wind drives the rain, the rain obscures your vision, the cold freezes your fingers and toes, the mud covers you and your bike... and hides the potholes.....

No question, its tough out there, I keep telling myself that the hardship now will make things easier later on... but! .... It's bloody miserable most days!

To make matters worse my winter bike is annoying me - Ok its old and battered and creaky but its developed a few new noises of late. I thought it was probably the build up of mud and salt so I decided to clean it. That just seemed to make things worse - and the noises are hard to identify; sometimes they seem to be emanating from the back wheel, or is it the bottom bracket? - wait, maybe its the front wheel, or is it the front mech? - it's impossible to pinpoint. Anyway its going to have to be taken to the doctors.
Leicestershire - 16/02/2011

My mission/goal for February is to ride every day. It seemed like a good challenge. And here we are Feb 17th and I'm on course. Total mileage so far is 287 - I'm hoping for 400 plus which will be okay for a 28 day month at this time of year.

Yesterday was a great sunrise here. I took a snap on my iPhone...

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Calm at last....

 At last the howling gales have subsided - this morning I set out on my usual route and for the first time in a week I didn't have to fight and claw my way up the road from the cottage.

There is a hint of movement in the air: buds are swelling on the blackthorn and the first green shoots are sprouting on sunny banks. In truth, the grip of winter is still upon us and this morning, whilst calm and still, saw a sprinkling of frost. The winter sun, low and heatless gives rise to long shadows along the rural lanes with their bare, wooded verges, and in the fields there was a swarming mass of foraging pheasants

As I cycled to the top of the first green ridge, with the sun in my eyes, the broad frieze of the brown, winter fields stood sharp as cut glass under the palest blue sky.
In the distance it was as if a water‑colourist had passed a wet brush across the top of the horizon to introduce an alien, beige stroke.

As I went along the quiet, sunlit roads, the light turned through lemon to gold and a sound caused me to look heavenwards to see a squadron of wild geese at great height, heading out towards the sun. At that moment I thought how thoroughly fortunate I was to be out on such a glorious morning.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A weekend away...

I've spent the weekend in Lincoln - never been there before and I was pleasantly surprised. I took Trek 1 in the back of the car hoping to get in a few miles, my research telling me that the roads are generally flat. On Saturday we went to look around the Cathedral and wandered around the adjoining streets enjoying some wonderful little shops - i particularly liked the one selling all manner of little note books - I've got a bit of a fetish for notebooks. I noticed a couple of independent wine shops as well, one being particularly well stocked with fine burgundy (make a note JG!)

As for riding... well it was the weather really. Saturday rained relentlessly - I did manage to get out and got thoroughly soaked - on top of that the wind was formidable too - it felt like riding up the hardest of hills even though I was in fact on a flat road. Into the wind the best I could do was about 12mph - mostly it was more like 10mph.

On Sunday I managed to get out again - this time no rain but the wind was even stronger than yesterday. I rode through Skellingthorpe onto Eagle Moor and then North Scarle before circling back. The outward journey was impossible. Frustrating and totally demoralising - I could barely move forward - it was almost laughable, in fact it did make me laugh! - I couldn't believe that the wind could do such a good job of stopping me. The upside was that at the turnround point and with the wind behind me I flew back - it was such a delight, hardly any effort at all and I was travelling at 25mph - I passed a local group on their way out, all heads down and grumpy - I knew how they were hurting!

Only 35 miles done this weekend - but over 100 for the first week in Feb - a reasonable effort I think!

The Wind, The Wind, The Wind !!

After a good couple of weekends for putting in some decent mileages, this weekend has been tough. The wind has been relentless for the last three days and has made cycling very hard. It seems that the wind is always against me whatever the direction I ride, however when I checked my average speeds compared with last year they seem to be up by 1 to 1.5 mph so something must be going OK. The mid week sessions on the trainer are hard but I guess they must be doing some good.

Last night was the Village Quiz, in aid of the flowers for the village. Paul and I put the questions together and the night went pretty well.
A bit latter in the year there will be a skittles night with all proceeds towards our LEJOG charities.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

More from the Dark Side... and info on calories!

I've been out every morning in February so far!! - okay it's only three days - but it's the thought!

This morning I set off at 5.30 - pitch black, quiet and peaceful. I rode 13.5 miles and I think in all that time I saw only 3 cars! - and one other cyclist!

The more i manage to get out in the dark the more i realise how enjoyable it is. It's strangely peaceful compared to daytime riding, and i've come to appreciate the environment in a new way. Sometimes, if the moon is bright enough to cast shadows across the landscape, new textures are revealed - even on familiar routes. As your vision is reduced you become more aware of your other senses. Surface and gradient changes seem more pronounced, the texture and the scent of the air is different as are the sounds. I have heard many owls and seen 2 or 3 barn owls, their eerie, ghost like shapes catching my front light as they swoop across the road in front of me.

I feel super-fast in the dark too! As the night rushes past and my light creates a natural focus I find I have little in the way of distractions. Give it a try! - the more times you manage to get out in the dark the better your chances of adjusting yourself and becoming comfortable with it - it's well worth it, and the extra miles will benefit you later on.

I was reading a useful article yesterday about how many calories are burnt on a ride, and how you can calculate what you are using.
The basic principal is that you use a 'cycling speed coefficient' which is based on your average speed. This gives you a figure of calories burnt per minute.
So, average speed 15mph = 0.0561, 16mph=0.0615, 17mph=0.0675, 18mph=0.0740, 19mph=0.0811, 20mph=0.0891

After you have identified your average speed and the relative coefficient value, then multiply the coefficient by your weight in pounds by the time spent cycling in minutes. This will give you your cycling calories.

Eg. 0.0561(coefficient) x 182lbs(weight) x 60(1hour cycling) = 612.61 calories used in that hour.

To be super accurate you should subtract the calories you would normally use during that hour - eg 612.61 - 100 = 512.61

So for a 3 hour ride averaging 15mph you would burn 1537.8 calories, over and above what you'd burn normally. (based on a weight of 182lb)

That might be useful for those of us who don't have a Garmin to work all this stuff out automatically.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Wheels of Chance....

"Only those who toil six long days out of the seven, and all the year round, save for one brief glorious fortnight or ten days in the summer time, know the exquisite sensations of the First Holiday Morning. All the dreary, uninteresting routine drops from you suddenly, your chains fall about your feet...There were thrushes in the Richmond Road, and a lark on Putney Heath. The freshness of dew was in the air; dew or the relics of an overnight shower glittered on the leaves and grass...He wheeled his machine up Putney Hill, and his heart sang within him"

from 'The Wheels of Chance' by H.G. Wells - written in the late 1800's!!

Rise of the Mamils.....

Flashy sports cars are out, now no mid-life crisis is complete without a souped-up road bike...... Why?

Every weekend, across the nation's rolling countryside, watch out for the Mamils: middle-aged men in lycra. And ladies, if you have a man at home taking an unusual interest in how you shave your legs, you may have a Mamil in the making too.

Research conducted by the retail analyst Mintel suggests there has been a surge in the number of middle-aged men choosing to get on two wheels.
Given the number of men aged 35-44 who are buying upmarket road racing machines, is this a 21st Century mid-life crisis? Has the silence of skinny tyres and carbon fibre framesets replaced the thunderous noise of motorbikes?

Back in the day, when some men with a bit of disposable income reached a certain age, they did some strange things. The grind of the office and home life convinced some that the answer to an expanding midriff lay in a pair of designer jeans and a flashy but cheap Japanese sports car. Teenage daughters ran away screaming. Sons were deprived of the role models seen in adverts for shaving products.
Gents, our womenfolk were right all along. It wasn't a good look. And did it do anything for the beer belly?

But then came a confluence of coincidences that gave a man an option other than looking like a gigolo cruising Italy's glitzy Lake Como. The past three years have seen the rise of the uber-techno, super-flashy, full-carbon fibre, bobby-dazzler road bike. The market for these bikes has expanded faster than a 45-year-old's waistline, partly thanks to the success of the British cycling stars at the Beijing Olympics. Marketing departments have produced smart advertising messages that encourage a bit of freedom, elite performance and memories of teenage derring-do.
And the result can be seen on Saturday and Sunday mornings as middle-aged blokes polish the rear derailleur, lower the mirrored shades and pedal into the hills. Every couple of weeks, you'll see a girth of Mamils gathering to race a "Sportive", a form of amateur competing that has taken the British cycling world by storm.

No Mamil's life is complete without the spiritual journey to the mountains

Robbie McIntosh is 45 and has spent much of the past year clad in lycra after being talked into cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats with a group of fellow Mamils.
Ten days of pain, rain and groin strain later, he decided he was ready for Mont Ventoux. This mountain, the Giant of Provence, is one of the toughest climbs in the world - 23km straight up. British cycling legend Tom Simpson died on its slopes in 1967. Last month, with terror in his belly, Robbie began turning the wheels.
"I wanted so much to say I'd climbed the Ventoux. It's an amazing mountain and a serious challenge.
"I was surprised at my nerves but I had a sense that if I could do this on a bike I could do anything and that was a feeling I wanted so much."
And make it he did. He wasn't as balletic as the local, young French riders - but he stood alongside them at the 1,910m summit and surveyed the world.
"Cycling has given me an opportunity to feel sporting achievement of the very highest level," says Robbie. "It doesn't matter that the pros ride up Mont Ventoux at twice the speed or more. I can scale the same sporting heights as the best cyclists on the planet. I can walk with giants."

So a man becomes fitter and happier. Where's the midlife crisis in that?..... Ah. The costs...... Ladies, look away now.

Men who seriously cycle typically spend about £3,000 to live that dream. For a time, at least. That sum will cover the set-up and the first year, then about £1,000 a year, at least, on top of that.
The must-have bike of the summer is the Pinarello Dogma, the bike used by the British Team Sky in the Tour de France. Yours for about £7,000. Grown men stop and stare at this machine, like seven-year-old lads pressed against the toy shop window.

Thankfully, most Mamils don't have that kind of money to burn. But it hasn't stopped the rapid growth of a suburban money-laundering operation. It goes something like this. Man dribbles while looking at £100 bib shorts on cycling website - they're the kind that make you look like a wrestler. Partner says no, think about the starving children. Man continues to look at bib shorts and decides they will help conceal his 38 inch waist. He calculates that three weeks of hard pedalling will help on the belly front - which is coincidentally the same time it takes to receive a secret new credit card to pay for the shorts. Job done. Platinum status achieved with the online cycling retailer. Discounts on more kit, all of which is sent directly to the office rather than home. And let's not forget, there's a look to strive for, expensive kit and excuses for weekends away. It's about becoming a happier and healthier person rather than sliding towards mediocre oblivion at the bottom of a pint glass.

But I conclude with a message from a 'Mrs Mamil' to other cycling widows. She's discovered a precise form of retaliation. If your portly husband buys another stupid fluorescent jersey, buy yourself another pair of shoes.

That way, at least one of you can look good.

From an article on cycling from the BBC website