November and Season 5 (2017) in Review

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VTTA Manchester & NW 2017 Awards Luncheon

Season 5 Roundup

I raced slightly less this year due to a number of reasons.  I was ill and forced to miss some races, I had a DNS (mechanical) and some races were simply cancelled due to roadworks – probably more than all of my previous seasons combined.  In the end I competed in 33 open races in total.  Doing fewer races probably contributed to me being more competitive at the end of the season in comparison to previous years, where my form and fitness were dropping off a cliff, especially after the 12 hour.  This year the 12 hour seemed to give me a form boost, which was a pleasant surprise.  That all said, I still raced for 1,393 miles at an average speed of 25.7mph, which used around 53,190kcals – a decent wedge of cake!  That’s made up of twelve 10s, one 15, ten 25s, six 50s, three 100s and a 12hr.  (I don’t include club 10’s as I treat them as training – but there were a further 14 of them)

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Freezing cold and wet in August – British Summer! (© Ellen Isherwood)

At the start of the season I’d had my best ever winter training and my numbers on the turbo were better than ever.  I’d also done some testing and had a new position that was pretty aero.  It was disheartening to then find out that I couldn’t transfer either the power numbers or the racing position to where it really mattered – in races!  My times were fine – in fact I posted course bests on many occasions – but the improvement I’d been expecting just wasn’t there.  I struggled on for a bit, adjusting my position to see if that helped, but in the end I realised that I wasn’t going to significantly increase my power in races during the year, and I could only edge towards the aggressive aero position, so the only other option open to me was to better manage my weight.  My thinking was that this would increase my W/Kg figure and my VO2 max but also reduce my frontal area to increase my W/CdA.  It would also hopefully allow me to maintain a more aero position for longer.  So I set about using an app called myfitnesspal to monitor my net nutrient intake.  In previous seasons I’d entered the season at race weight and then not really bothered about it during the year and I’d find that my weight drifted up so that at the end of the season I’d be as much as 3 or 4kg heavier.  I performed some tests in May at the University of Chester (read about it here) and I got a bit of a rude awakening due to my weight and bodyfat %.  Anyway, the results of taking it seriously are there to see

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Weight & Bodyfat % during Season 5 – 2017

I managed to lose a significant amount of weight and bodyfat.  My power dropped a bit as expected but my times and performances improved, and eventually the power returned.  In monitoring my food intake I’ve found I’m eating more – but it is generally better food, although I haven’t been going without treats or feeling deprived.  The net result is I’m now about 5kg lighter than I was earlier in April/May.  For what it’s worth, in April I rode a 10 and averaged 305W at 67.5kg, or 4.52W/Kg.  The last 10 I rode I averaged 304W at 61.2kg, or 4.97W/Kg.  I don’t know what the fastest riders are riding at but I suspect it’s nearer 6W/Kg which at my age is not going to happen!  And I’m not sure if 61kg is taking it too far so I’d be happy to maintain wight at anything around 63kg (10st) going forwards (which is where I am now).

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A rare hot day! Courtesy of and © Ellen Isherwood

In summary it felt like an up and down year.  If I average my results out I probably did slightly worse this season – I certainly only managed 2 podium places versus 1 win and 5 podiums the year before, and my percentage of top ten finishes was about 5% lower.  And I lost the Cheshire Points Series by 6 points rather than 4 – the gap is widening (although Ben must be nearly 20 years younger than me!)  He also beat me into 2nd place in the M&DTTA BAR as well, but at least a bronze medal last year becomes a silver this time.

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Last year 4 points, this year 6!!

I did manage to set personal course bests on most of the courses I’ve ridden this year, and I’ve had a very successful season with the VTTA Manchester & NW group, winning the BAR and a number of other trophies.  It’s always nice to see your name engraved on a trophy that goes back many, many years although I still feel out of place next to many of the names also on them.

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What has been clear is that everyone has moved on and it’s getting harder and harder to keep pace so I guess I should be satisfied, especially given that I’m getting on a bit!

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The dreaded roadworks appeared more than ever!

As mentioned above and frequently this year, roadworks have featured more often than I can remember in any previous season, resulting in changed courses and cancelled events.  The weather has felt worse too.  It’s definitely been wetter than last year and although there haven’t been more very windy days, there have hardly been any days where there was no real wind to speak of.  It seems like wet and windy summers are the new norm so I guess we’ll just have to get used to them.

So what of my targets for the year?  Well, I hit some and I missed some.

  • New PBs at all distances ridden with the exception of 10M – I missed that by 5s
  • I wanted power PBs at all distances.  I only managed those at 50M and 12 hour
  • I wanted to win the M&DTTA Cheshire Points Series – I came 2nd again!
  • I wanted to win one of the VTTA M&NW trophies which I did, including the BAR
  • I wanted to win the main Seamons club competitions – I won the Timetrial and BAR (Best All Rounder) but came 2nd in the Club 10 Series
  • I wanted to set a club record which I duly did and I only narrowly missed a couple of others during the season
  • I wanted to win at least one of the club championships and I managed to win the 25, 50, 100 and 12 hours (which is an improvement on last year when I won the 50 and 12 hour)
  • I wanted to finish top 20 in the UK Best All-Rounder (BAR) competition.  I was 22nd with an average speed of 26.027mph across 50M, 100M and 12 hour (versus 35th in 2016)
  • I wanted to win more prize money than 2016 – I fell slightly short but still won over £700

In addition, I was delighted to be part of a winning team on 11 occasions – I’m very proud to ride for Seamons CC, a club with a long and rich TT history.  I was also part of the teams that broke the club team records for 25M, 50M, 100M and 12 hours.

I don’t get a lot of satisfaction in my professional life these days so I make no apologies for taking pride in the things I’ve managed to achieve, and even in those where I have fallen short – because I know I gave it my best.  The key, as with everything, is hard work, application and effort and as I’ve said before – if I can do it, so can pretty much anyone.


November

My November training has been going well.  I completed Sweetspot Base I and started Base II – I managed to record a modest FTP increase in the 6 weeks.  I’m down on power versus this time last year but up on W/Kg (see above!) and I’m taking it more steadily this year and managing my own expectations.  I did suffer from some knee pain after a couple of long rides one weekend only to notice that my seat post had slipped and dropped my saddle by over 1cm.  It’s a lesson I’ve been taught many times – a sudden onset of pain is usually the result of some form of equipment change or malfunction.

In November I managed 425 miles outdoors with 25,430ft ascent at around 15.7mph average, which used up around 15,954kcals. I spent 32 hours and 50 minutes on the turbo using a further 23,629kcals. Total for the month was 3,178 TSS

This will be my last post before Christmas so I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a peaceful and happy time.  And if you are riding the Rapha 500, good luck and stay safe.

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When is Waterproof not Waterproof…?

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Not me riding in the rain

You could legitimately argue that waterproof gear is necessary at any time of year in the UK.  However, as we flash through autumn and rapidly approach the winter months it definitely becomes more important.  Cycling technology has moved on rapidly in the last few years meaning that the well known Alfred Wainwright quote is more relevant than ever

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

So lots of cycling kit is marketed to allow you to ride in all sorts of weather, but does that marketing blurb actually stack up?  Well there are many websites out there that can describe the scientific detail behind all of this better than I can but here is a relatively quick overview.

Waterproof

There is a British Standard so whilst many things might be labelled as waterproof you should check whether it is to a British Standard (or comparable International one).  Essentially a hydrostatic test of a fabric must resist over 1500mm of water across a 1 inch diameter tube for 24 hours.  So a jacket with a test value of >1500mm is considered waterproof, but not all waterproofing is created equally.  For example, a jacket that resists 20,000mm will be considerably more waterproof than one at 1500mm.  Eh?  Surely it’s either waterproof or it isn’t?  Well no.  At a molecular level very few things are completely waterproof – the amount of water, pressure at which it is applied and time it is exposed to water all come into play.  So a bigger number is better.  But cycling is an active sport, so it’s all very well being clad in something that stops water passing into it (a bin bag?) but that also means that when you sweat it stops the moisture passing out.  And that can give the impression that you are “cooking” or simply get wet anyway, albeit not from the rain.  So there’s a balance to be struck and most manufacturers have developed technical fabrics that tread the fine line between waterproofing and breathability.  The final consideration with waterproofing is the fact that clothing involves complicated shapes that are joined together,  Seams, zips, cuffs are all traditional weakspots for waterproofing, so the overall capability of an article of clothing can be compromised if these are not considered properly.

Water Resistant

Some garments are not even labelled waterproof.  They are described as water resistant.  These items generally rely on a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating – water forms a bead on it and runs off before it can soak through.  Typically this coating will erode over time and use and washing and need re-applying but it generally works well for showers.  It can, however, be overwhelmed by persistent rain.

So what is the reality of all of this.  Here’s a short, subjective review of all the decent waterproof kit I’ve tried over the years, from the bottom to the top.


Socks, shoes and overshoes

Northwave Fahrenheit Winter Boots

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These use a Gore-Tex membrane to claim to be totally waterproof and breathable.  That may, in fact, be absolutely true but the water runs down your legs, or wicks down if wearing tights or leg-warmers, and your feet can get wet from the inside.  Once they’re wet, they stay wet, as the membrane keeps the water in.  In sustained heavy rain they can keep my feet dry for about an hour. In drizzle I’ve done rides of around four hours with dry feet.

Sealskinz Socks – these are totally waterproof.  I can attest to that fact because when the water somehow gets down into them (and it usually does) it forms pools of cold water around your feet.  When you take them off you can pour the water out.  However, they work well in all but the heaviest rain.

Sealskinz Overshoes – again, these appear to be waterproof but the water gets in around the cuff which is pretty loose.  That, or I have very delicate ankles and narrow calves.


Gloves

Gloves tend to be problematic.  The shape means there are lots of seams and joins which don’t help with waterproofing.  There is also the problem of the cuff – outside the jacket and water can wick down the sleeve, under the jacket and it’s pretty bulky to get on and off.  And, of course, they are a point of contact with the handlebars which are themselves wet and the introduction of capillary action or osmosis or whatever the correct scientific term is.

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Sealskinz Gloves

When the mercury drops I wear the Sealskinz heavyweight winter gloves because I really feel the cold in my hands.  These are about the best waterproof gloves I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot).  They can last in drizzle for hour after hour.  In very heavy rain you may get an hour out of them, which is generally much longer than other gloves.  The lobster gloves are equally waterproof and toastie warm in winter when worn with under-gloves.

Endura Deluge Gloves

Lighter gloves and the name is more of a hope than a reality.  They don’t keep water out for long and certainly not in a deluge.  Autumn showers gloves rather than winter gloves.

Altura Waterproof Gloves

They just aren’t.  They will resist some drizzle, and an occasional shower but they aren’t waterproof – but they do have the word “waterproof” printed on them so what do I know.


Bibshorts and leg warmers

Sportful Fiandre No-rain leg warmers

These work pretty well with the rain beading off at first.  Can be overwhelmed by heavier downpours and also inadvertently direct the rain down into your boots/shoes.

dhb Aeron rain defence bib shorts

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Very decent, especially when combined with the leg warmers above.  They are good shorts, comfortable with a good chamois and plain black, which I like.  Water will bead but not for a sustained period.


Jerseys and Jackets

Gore Oxygen Jacket

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They say you get what you pay for and this is absolutely the best waterproof item of clothing I own.  It has never let me down.  It fits well, the sleeves come down to cover the cuffs of gloves (and thus stop rain running into them) and it has a longer tail at the back if you’re one of those lunatics that insists on not using mudguards in the winter.  It doesn’t, however, pack down into a size that is easily portable so it’s a put-on-at-the-start-of-your-ride jacket.  Which brings me to…

Sportful Hotpack

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This is a great packable waterproof.  The water beads off it and it will withstand strong showers.  It will pack down into it’s own pocket to then fit into a jersey or jacket pocket.  This is the jacket I carry on my bike/person during most of the year in this country – it’s a just-in-case jacket.

Sportful Fiandre No-rain Winter Jacket

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This is a very warm jacket which I think is ideal for winter in this country.  It’s a racing fit and so far it has held the rain at bay when I’ve needed it too.  The rain beads at first but then appears to soak in a bit but it doesn’t get through.  Did I mention it’s pretty warm too?

Rapha Classic Winter Jacket (Tricolour Version)

Ade's Road Cycling BlogWhat a great jacket.  Another put-on-at-the-start-of-your-ride; it’s windproof and weatherproof.  I’ve worn it in four hours of drizzle/rain and gusty wind and it’s kept me warm and dry.  The fit and cut is everything you expect from Rapha with nice detailing touches.  In comparison to the Fiandre above it’s not quite as snug a fit and not quite as warm but that’s a subjective view.  In the dry it appears to wick sweat away really well.  It is expensive but if you use vouchers and sales (I’ve never bought Rapha full-price ever) it’s a great jacket that will do a job for ages.

Pactimo Storm Jacket (club kit)

This is a strange jacket.  It has short sleeves and a pair of arm warmers.  The body is meant to be water-repellant and it does so to a certain extent.  It certainly isn’t waterproof and though the body is warm enough (roubaix-type lining) the arm warmers don’t really cut it in winter.  So I tend to use it for Spring and Autumn.

Commuting Jackets

Both the Altura NightVision and the Proviz jacket I use in winter are waterproof in the heaviest rain but then my commute doesn’t last very long!  I’d say you’d be dry in either for a commute up to an hour.  Both have hi-viz reflective detailing (the whole Proviz is reflective!) and therefore stand out in the dark and help make you more visible.

Stolen Goat Orkaan Race Tech Jersey

This is a super racy fit mid-sleeve length jersey.  It’s warm and is water-proof although the seams are a weak point.  It’s great for those spring and autumn days when the weather doesn’t know what to do.

Le Col Aquazero Winter Jersey

Great quality, super-warm and water-repellent.  Excellent winter jersey and looks amazing too, which always helps.


Finally, I’ve tried a whole host of cheap alternatives to the above over the years and they generally don’t work.  Technical bike-wear has come on tremendously in the recent past and you do usually get what you pay for.  I have found out to my cost that mostly, if you buy cheap you buy twice.

To sum up – if you do very long rides in the rain, sooner or later your waterproof clothing will fail you as water always finds the weak point – like a seam, a zip or an opening.  How long that takes will be a combination of the conditions and the product.  If you are doing shorter training rides there are a lot of good products out there that will very effectively keep you dry.  My comments are based on my own experience of both types of ride.


If you decide to buy any of this gear you can get cashback by joining here and then clicking through to various online bike shops including Wiggle, Chainreaction, Evans etc.  Ade's Road Cycling BlogIf you buy a lot of gear online (or anything really), the cash back really is worth it.