Sunday, 19 April 2015

Cycling to work....

As the days grow lighter and the weather brightens I have made the effort to cycle to work on a couple of days over the past week. It seems to me the ideal way to save money on fuel and also to get in some much needed miles, our challenges for the year are creeping ever closer and my bike fitness has never been worse!

My route to Leicester City Centre is a mixture of quiet country roads, cycle paths and trails and busy main roads. Like any major city the traffic is heavy, sometimes my journey in the car will take 90 minutes, in the main though I go early and avoid most of the congestion, downside is that I'm at work an hour before I should be - but rather that than sit in a traffic jam. The cycling route is 15 miles door to door, or 17 miles if I avoid one of the many severe hills. The logistics need thorough planning. I have to take in work clothes in the car, washing kit and shoes etc. My plan is to cycle in two days per week initially so I need a change of shirts/socks/pants - all of this is duly stored in the corner of my office and I'm all set to give it a try.

I'm up at 5.15am, dressed and ready to leave by 5.50, unlocking the garage and getting the bike ready, a squirt of oil and I'm off. It's 6.00am - just getting light, to be on the safe side I click on my lights but I'll only need them for 10 minutes or so. There's a swooping descent not far from home and I register 29mph as I career towards the bottom, unfortunately the rise up on the other side is just as dramatic and my speed drops to 6mph. It's a shock to the system at this time in the morning. The roads are quiet, maybe one or two cars pass but nothing more. I pass through the outskirts of Bagworth heading for Thornton, another death defying descent followed by a steep slog into the village. I turn left and pass alongside the reservoir, the water is calm and shines like molten steel as the early morning light reflects off the surface. There's another steep rise now, really challenging, I need all my gears as I crawl toward the top, then its across the road and onto the first cycle track heading to Ratby. This will be beautiful in a week or two, a narrow, smooth surfaced path winding through woodland and across a golf course, its mainly downhill but make a mental note that it will be mainly uphill on my return.

Another steep, swooping descent into Ratby, on either side of the track are ploughed fields lying in a kind of corduroy effect accentuated by the early sunlight. Each foot-deep furrow is walled with gleaming slabs of earth - probably too late now for frosts to break them down.  At the end of this stretch i join the main road before turning left onto another track heading to Glenfield. I pass underneath the M1 and then there's a marvellous, smooth stretch of pristine tarmac. It's pan-flat and a pleasure to ride on. White- barked larches and silver birch populate the verges with fields of sheep and a few ponies beyond a stream running parallel with the route. A few tight corners and I pass underneath the M1 again, this time its a low tunnel with the stream running alongside, another sharp corner and then another stretch of relatively smooth, tree-lined tarmac. There's some industrial units to one side as I get closer to the city, but no sign of anyone at this time in the morning. As I approach the end of the track at Glenfield there are a few dog walkers on the path, everyone greets me with a 'good morning'

I rejoin the main road and cycle up towards the council offices at Gelnfield, then its another drag of a hill up past Glenfield Hospital and then down towards the city centre. Although I'm riding along a very busy main road, I'm actually on a cycle path which takes up a section of the pavement - no people around to worry about so I feel totally safe. After a couple of miles I turn onto the final section of cycle path into the city, through grassy glades with trees and hedges, and allotments and children's play areas I ride alongside the river arriving finally at Bow Bridge - where, up until a couple of years ago, it was thought Richard III's body was thrown into the river after the battle at Bosworth. I'm in the thick of it now, multi-laned traffic, cars and buses everywhere. I stay on the pavement and make my way to the pedestrianised section of the high street, amazingly cycling is allowed here and I glide down towards humberstone gate and then on to work. We have a secure bike shed and shower facilities. I'm in, showered and ready for work by 7.45am - I have to admit, there's a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Sunshine, Carbon and Payback....

March started out a good month for me. I finally got motivated into putting in a few miles. I'd been in a state of virtual hibernation since last November - virtually asleep most of the time and virtually no miles on the bike. To be honest I was dreading getting back on - any excuse would stop me. Its raining, It's been raining, It might rain, Its cold, Too dark, Too windy,  - anything would be better than going out on the bike and it didn't take much to stop me. The trouble is we've got stuff planned - rides looming up, and I know that they come round quick. I had to snap out of it and get the bike out - and I did. I rode to my Mums every Saturday in March, I even managed to cycle into work twice, and did an evening sprint in the dark on one wednesday. I covered almost 300 miles up until the last week - and I thought I might achieve 400 - but then I picked up a mystery bug which confined me to bed for two days and left me feeling tired, achy and worn out for the best part of a week - so i've had just over a week off again - its a set back but the bright sunny day that was Easter Monday gave me no option but to get out and enjoy.

And I did. It was warm - almost 20 degrees here - and I put on shorts and a short-sleeve top for the first time this year. My 'new' carbon bike has been hanging on the wall in the garage since last October - it desperately needs a service - but the mood was so optimistic that I couldn't resist pulling her down, pumping up the tyres and setting off regardless. And it felt good - so fast and smooth - its always a great revelation jumping back onto a thoroughbred after spending the winter pushing an old nag around - the difference is incredible. I didn't go very far - 15 miles or so, but it was so much easier, faster and smoother - it made me smile. Best of all I sped past at least four other cyclists - as if they were stationary - payback for all the times I've been the dawdler!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Steve Abraham - One Year Time Trial.....

I'm been meaning to mention Steve Abraham on this blog for a while now - never seem to get round to it - but I have now.

I often wonder who is looking at these pages? - I imagine Gary and I make up the majority of visits, but then there have been over 43,000 hits since we started - take out the 30,000 for me and Gaz and that still leaves a few thousand people - are they cyclists? - in the main probably yes. But then there may be a few people who find the site by chance, who are maybe considering the Le Jog challenge and doing a bit of online research - the reason I mention this is because I think that anyone with more than a passing interest in cycling will already know about Steve Abraham and what he is attempting. But for those who don't, the passing blow-in who is starting out, the idle browser.... here is an introduction to Steve Abraham and his 'One Year Time Trial'.

First a bit of history.

Tommy Godwin in action
In 1939 a cyclist called Tommy Godwin set the world record for miles cycled in a year. Incredibly he cycled 75.065 miles. Just consider that for a minute. Averaging 205 miles a day - every day, Christmas Day, through snow, rain wind, no matter if he was ill, feeling tired or just fed up - every single day out there on the bike.... anyone who has cycled a hundred miles will know how it feels at the end of the day, a few will have managed 150 or even (fewer still) 200 miles. The idea of doing that every day for a year is mind boggling - it just doesn't seem possible, outside the bounds of human endurance? But not only did Tommy achieve it, he set the record that's stood the test of time, he did it on a steel bike with only 4 gears and when he ended his record breaking year - what did he do? - He carried on. Becoming the record holder for the fastest man to achieve 100,000 miles. At that point he called it a day and set about learning to walk again.

Steve Abraham
Fast forward to 4.00am January 1st 2015 and Steve Abraham, 40 years old and already a legendary long distance rider within the Audax fraternity, sets off with the aim of beating the 76 year old record. He has been planning it for 2 years and has a year off work to make it happen. For the next twelve months he will toil long and hard on the roads around his home town of Milton Keynes, occasionally travelling out to stay overnight with a volunteer who will feed him and give him a bed for the night. It's a relentless schedule but by the end of March Steve has racked up 16,888 miles (that's right, in just 3 months) compared to Tommy Godwins total of 14,364 at the same point - it's all looking remarkably good. And then disaster, Steve is struck by a moped and falls from his bike breaking his ankle in two places. Amazingly he carries on for a few hours until the pain becomes unbearable - a trip to hospital confirms the extent of his injuries and he undergoes an operation to fix the broken bones. He's now in plaster. For mere mortals this would surely be the end of a valiant attempt? But for Steve - No.

This just gets more and more unbelievable. He decides to carry on the attempt. Riding a specially adapted recumbent bicycle (one of those bikes that looks like the rider is lying on the floor). The bike is adapted so that his broken ankle is in a 'resting' position - not unlike lying on a sofa - whilst his other 'good' leg does all the pedalling - its not ideal but apparently he's hoping to ride 100 miles a day with just the one leg. And being outside in the sunlight will aid his recovery - the Vitamin D will help the healing process. The 'advantage' miles he had built up since New Years day will disappear - but in 6 weeks or so he should be able to cycle with two legs again - then he has the summer to get back on track.

It's just an incredible story - I'm hoping someone is following with cameras and that there'll be a documentary at the end - and if he achieves it, breaks the record, I should think some sort of honour would be inevitable - after all Bradley became a knight and he only rode a couple of thousand miles when he won The Tour!

Keep track of how Steve is doing at: