Tuesday, 22 January 2013


.... the thing is I'm kinda sorry about all this Lance stuff. I marvelled at Lance's achievements not only on the bike but what he also achieved with the Livestrong stuff - and it's sad that it's come out that he cheated - but I temper that with the sure knowledge that at that time everyone else was doing the same anyway - cycling has always been a drug fuelled sport - way back when the Tour was in its infancy riders took stimulants - it was the only way to get through the event - it was 'par for the course' and excepted until the 1960's (even then it continued) - drug culture is endemic in sport generally, cycling might be at the forefront but just today there was a mention on radio that tennis may have a drug culture, certainly we know that athletics is tainted - it's a never ending spiral - has anyone thought of testing the darts players?

I think I still believe that Lance was the best of the bunch at that time - I'm pretty sure that his opponents would have all been using the same stimulants. The thing is we now know that the Lance bubble is most definitely burst - but we also know that cycling has been exposed under the brightest of spotlights - there can't possibly be a sport more rigorously examined - As for cycling right now - I'm 100% confident that the Sky riders are drug free and that cycling in general is as clean as it possibly could be - and that will do for me.

As for Lance - good that he owned up. Let's move on.


This last weekend has been a write-off. It took me almost three hours to get home on Friday evening, battling through the snow. And I'd been kind of toying with a cold/fever - well that took hold properly on Saturday - I lay about on the sofa all day drifting in and out of consciousness. I took a swig of 'Night-Nurse' - wowza!!! - I went to bed and drifted quickly into the arms of Morpheus - it was the best nights sleep I've had for months. Still struggling today though. No cycling whatsoever.

I've been pondering the Lance Armstrong interview on Oprah - I saw a couple of clips and I've been reading the press reports. Not really sure what to make of it all. I'll think about it and write more later - right now I need more sleep....

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Battery powered gloves.....

We've had snow. As I surveyed the scene from the bedroom window I could see that an early morning ride was not feasible. Instead I chose the more civilised option: cooked breakfast and newspapers – always a great way to start Sunday. After that there was the Christmas decs to pack away into the loft – plus some annoying work stuff that keeps coming back to haunt me. By lunchtime most of my chores were complete, and the snow had given way to bright clear blue sky and sunshine. The roads were clear but the footpaths and verges were coated in snowy dust. I changed into my riding kit, plenty of layers was the order of the day plus it seemed the ideal opportunity to test out my new winter gloves. The blond bought me these as a Christmas present – they look suitably thick and invitingly warm – but the additional ‘can’t wait to try them’ attraction is that they are heated! Oh yes!
I imagine someone turning up on Dragon’s Den with this idea – winter gloves with a stitched in electrical element powered by batteries that when switched on emit just enough power to keep your hands nice and toasty when out in the cold – of course they’re not just for cyclists – anyone venturing out at this time of year would reap the rewards. 

Ok – first impression, they fit well, there’s an adjustable Velcro strap to ensure a tight fit, they’re maybe a bit bulky for changing gears but that can be true of any winter gloves. I pressed the small button to switch them on, a red light confirms everything is in order and then I’m on my way. As I pick up speed the cold cuts through me like a knife – my ears are stinging, my nose, my teeth even my eyebrows feel cold. I’m thinking I should have put on a balaclava under the helmet – and an extra pair of socks – and my hands are cold?
As I make progress up the long drag into Market Bosworth the effort helps to raise my body temperature and I feel warmer – and now the gloves feel warmer too. Maybe they need time to build up heat? I roll down to the Congerstone turn, less effort and the wind-chill effect means I’m cold again, although my hands are still okay – the gloves are doing a good job!

My circuit lasted for around 15 miles - the effort and my gradual acclimatisation meant I felt generally okay - but the little lights have gone off on the gloves? - What?, first time out for an hour and the batteries are flat? - that can't be right. I stop and click the button - nothing. There is then a period of about 10 seconds worth of frantic clicking - but still nothing. No matter, I'm warm and nearly home. I'll change the batteries and try again another day.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Turbo Training....

I woke at 7.00am with all good intentions - i would join the Sunday Club Run - didn’t matter where it was going too. My plan lasted about 14 seconds then I remembered I haven’t made it to a Sunday club run for about two years - and I decided I didn’t want to go on a club run in this weather anyway - whatever the weather was. 

I went back to sleep careful to ignore the sunlight flooding through the gaps in the curtains.
An hour later with my second cup of tea and whilst browsing the morning papers I began to contemplate what sort of ride might best compensate for my lack of club run, in fact for my total lack of recent effort. (New years resolutions have crumbled to dust). A long one I thought - nice and easy, enjoy the air, the sun, perhaps stop at a pub, In fact the only thing missing would be a couple of friends to while away the miles. I abandoned that idea based on the fact that if that was what i wanted I’d have joined the club run and there must have been some reason why I didn’t.

Instead I decided I would research the optimum training day. I was amazed I hadn’t thought of it before. I would work out exactly what was missing from my physiology and I would find just the ride to fix it - through the medium of the always accurate, consise and reliable information available on the internet.

I isolated the problem after an hour on the iPad. The problem is that I can’t go as fast as I want for as long as I want. Another hour revealed the reason - I needed the legs of Bradley Wiggins. The great thing with the Web is that the answer is never far away, and, sure enough another half hour or so revealed the solution. I need the aggregation of marginal gains, proper nutrition, rest and recovery, training at altitude, the support of a team of physiologists, psychologists and coaches. And a time machine to knock 30 years off my age. That’s it - simple. I have to admit though, I was kind of hoping for something more like; ride steady for a couple of hours.

I decided to continue my training day with a restricted carbohydrate regime. Ironically this was torpedoed by the packet of jaffa cakes I ate whilst conducting the research. But at last, galvanised into action, I went for a nice afternoon nap on a comfortable sofa and let the afternoon slip away like a memory.

After a nice glass of sherry I finally felt ready for another glass of sherry and I realised sunset wasn’t very far away. Then I remembered my excellent lights - these make training in the dark an absolute pleasure - I thought of the exhileration of hurtling down a dark lane and had another glass of sherry. I remembered my lights hadn’t been charged - I knew this because last weekend had presented an identical scenario and they hadn’t been charged then either. And so, as night fell I trudged to the garage and got on the turbo - this is self-coaching for the blithering idiot - perfect.

I’ve been using the turbo-trainer lately, I’ve had the contraption for a few years, an impulse purchase from e-bay , but have used it only once. Frankly I didn’t like it, it didn’t feel right and I was bored sitting there and getting nowhere. However, circumstances of late have led to me having to reconsider my options – I don’t have much time to get out on the road in daylight and the weather makes it generally miserable when I do – time to give the TT another chance then.
I know there are cyclists out there who swear by the benefits of indoor training - and I admit they do sound convincing. Weather is not a problem, the bike doesn't get covered in filth, you don't need to get dressed like an eskimo and results can be dramatic. People hook up their turbo trainers to computers and pedal away to a synchronised screening of an assent of Mont Ventoux, or a stage of the Giro - it looks good - looks like it could be fun - but at entry level it really is a drudge - the whirring noise of the machine - the complete lack of any change of scenery, looking at the back of a garage door simply does not stimulate in the same way as a proper ride - then there's the problem of sweat. On the road sweating is kept under control by air-flow - only in the heights of summer does it become anything to notice - and even then its never a worry. On the turbo you need someone to mop up after a session. The bike gets covered, the floor, clothes - I come out of the garage looking like i've been for a swim.

I've done about 50 miles on the turbo over the past week or two - I don't look forward to my next session - I'm longing for the open road.

Monday, 7 January 2013


There was a thick blanket of mist this morning, heavily moist and insulating so that there seemed to be no distant sounds at all. I set off with lights on a 20 mile circuit - more miles would be better but, as usual, I'm time deficient. The roads are sticky and coated with a film of brown detritus from the surrounding fields. As I rise to the first junction I hear the tearing, ripping sound of a hedgecutter at work, soon I see evidence of shards of wood strewn across the road - I try to avoid the debris, often the cause of punctures at this time of year, and swerve and twist my way along the road like a sailor on the deck of storm-tossed ship.

I climb up to Market Bosworth as the church bells ring and turn right heading through the town and the down hill stretch towards the sailing club. I'm overtaken by someone; it spurns me into action and I make the effort to keep up with him on the fast descent - I manage it easily enough - going uphill would have been a different story. He carries on as I turn right to Congerstone - I try to blast it along the slightly rising road - but my speed soon drops and my legs feel tired and shaky. 

Through Shackerstone fields and paths are submerged by a muddy inundation, and trees, hedges and bushes mark out what is more usually land. The low lying flat land adjacent to the canal is in spate; its usual placid grassy surface seethes with currents, shifting liquid sheets, and eddies concoct miniature whirlpools.

The canal close to the road bridge has burst its bank. The towpath is totally submerged and the scene is lakelike. These floods are expressive reminders that we cannot shape the countryside just as we like. The patterns of weather and climate have to be accommodated in our crowded landscape. Recently I read that we are still building on floodplains - seemingly short-term optimism enables local councils to permit building for which the nation later picks up the tab on its flood defence bill and home insurance costs. 

The mist has not lifted at all by the time I arrive back - one thing though, it is not at all cold - particularly not for the time of year. I notice how much I've sweated as I peel off my layers - the mild spell means a chance to get out more and get some much needed miles into the bank - I have some work to do or else I might have carried on. Maybe next weekend.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


Robert Marchand climbed onto his bike and set off around a cycle track. Four hours 17 minutes and 27 seconds later he climbed off having covered 100km at an average speed of 14.5mph.

Impressed? - It doesn't seem remarkable - until you realise that Marchand is 100 years old. His feat, over 300 laps of a velodrome in Lyons, southeast France, gave him the distance record for a centenarian: 100 over 100 - you must admit it has a certain ring to it.

Robert Marchland in action
Robert Marchand is just 5ft tall and weighs a wispy 8 stone - He claims no particular secret for maintaining such fitness in old age - he started cycling aged 14 but he hasn't ridden on a track for 80 years! "I have never drunk or smoked except for festive occasions" he said "And in women, I did not indulge too much"

Might his velodrome performance have been enhanced by something else then? "The only doping for me is water with a spoonful of honey - that's it"

But surely, advancing years have somewhat curtailed his vigour? - Does he think about easing up a little? Five years ago at 95 Marchand decided to limit his rides to a mere 100km - "There's no point in going overboard" he said "Iwant to keep cycling for some time yet"

Now let's not pretend that we shall all be matching Monsieur Marchand's performance when we hit 100. At that age I suspect most of us will be cruising around that great velodrome in the sky - but there are lessons for all of us. Regular cycling is excellent for maintaining good health. One large-scale study has found that people who cycled at least 20 miles per week were roughly half as likely to suffer from heart disease as those who didn't - and the finding was independent of other factors such as obesity, high blood pressure etc - in very crude terms someone who cycles regularly is likely to have the cardiovascular fitness of a non-cyclist who is 10 years younger.

So, take Robert Marchand as your inspiration and keep pedalling!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Years Day 2013...

The crawl towards spring seemed more like a sprint today, the day dawned clear, with bright sunshine by mid-morning. My New Year revelry was such that I awoke with a totally clear head - possibly the best nights sleep I've had over the entire festive season. As the sun streamed in through the open window I decided a bike ride would be the right start for 2013 - plus it is my youngest daughters birthday tomorrow - I needed to drop off her birthday card .... and money.

I set off accompanied by the most exquisite light; soft and buttery and holding some warmth. I sought shelter along the hedgerows from the strong breeze pushing across the hollow of farmland to my left. Long shadows stretch out from the birch trees and I find myself riding along and lifting my face to the sun. No one can be euphoric with the days so short, but on a clear winter's day, with the sun shining and the shadows so long, I take a considered pleasure in the moment, knowing it can't last long.

Like all creatures we have our requirements for surviving short days and cold temperatures. We find the warmth we need in centrally heated homes, or as migrants flying south to where the sun's angle is loftier. But the "symptoms" we experience in a northern winter – a stronger appetite, an unwillingness to get out of bed – seem to me good strategies for survival, and sufficiently rehearsed across the centuries to become second nature. But not today - the first day of the year.

After visiting my daughter and heading back, many pounds lighter, I became tangled up with various 'walkers' out enjoying the sun and clearing their heads from last nights celebrations. Couples, families, push-chairs, dogs - all variations were covered and the lane from Snarestone to Shackerstone has never been busier. Quite a few cyclists out too. I arrived back having covered just over 25 miles - an ideal start to the new year.

For those interested in such things - my total bike mileage for 2012 was 3,152 - Not good enough!