Hello Mow Cop my Old Friend

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

I looked out of the window at 7-30am and was greeted with a traditional North Manchester torrential downpour.  And worse, the wind was howling through the trees.  Part of me thought, briefly, about going back to bed, but I knew that if I did I’d be annoyed with myself for the rest of the day.  And anyway, the ride was in Cheshire, and it tends to rain less there!

When I arrived at the lay-by where the club meets there was nobody there.  At least there was no rain but I thought I’d be off on my own.  As it was a few turned up but only one member, Lee, was up for the training ride.

The outbound leg was pretty uneventful.  The wind was behind us which meant coming back would be a bit of a struggle, but we made decent enough time until we reached the familiar level crossing at the bottom of Mow Cop.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

2,561ft of ascent

This was Lee’s first attempt at Mow Cop.  I’d warned him to save something for the ramp, especially as he was on a 34-25 ratio.  But off he went in front of me.  He’s probably 3 or more stone heavier than me so he must have some power as he made it to the foot of the ramp and then powered up that.  If you’ve never done Mow Cop before, it starts off with a steep section from the level crossing before getting marginally easier for a short while.  It then steepens again until you see the ramp and the 25% sign after about a mile of climbing.  The ramp is only about 100 yards or so before that flattens but it’s a real sting in the tail.  So big respect to Lee for getting up on his first try.

The descent was quick and exciting and we stopped at Congleton Garden Centre coffee shop.  They took a fair while to bring our order but I have to say the poached egg on toast was done to perfection.

One more decent hill out of the way and we turned towards home and into the very stiff headwind.  Lee was struggling a little now so tucked in behind me as we pushed into it.  About 10 miles out from the end the inevitable rain started, and my speed involuntarily slowed as the stinging rain drove into my face.

By the time we reached the end we were pretty soaked, and Lee had a fine splattering of mud that had made it past my speedracer mkII mud guards!  Unbelievably that was the first ride of this winter where I have felt cold.

Ride Stats : 61.78 miles in 3hrs 56mins @ 15.7mph average.  2,561ft of ascent, average HR 155bpm and 3,617kcals energy used

Macc Monster 2011

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Remember - the camera adds 10lbs...

On Saturday I was having a bouncing competition with my youngest daughter (don’t ask – she’s a bit childish like that) when I had to stop because of a pain in my lower back.  I thought nothing more of it and it went away.  Until the first real climb of the Macc Monster when it started aching quite badly, and didn’t really stop for the rest of the ride.  Last year I rode the Macc Monster in bright October sunlight, riding in shorts and short sleeves and enjoying a really nice day round the hills of the Macclesfield Forest and edge of the Peaks.  This year it was windy and wet, but still as enjoyable, with the Kidscan charity organising another super event.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

7,087ft climbing

I mistakenly got up an hour earlier than I needed to having misread the registration time so I was there nice and early, with the weather damp but not too bad.  This is a well-organised sportive so we were off pretty much bang on time in a 200 strong peloton heading out from the HQ.  The field rapidly thinned out as we immediately started hitting the hills and I made my way through the field settling (and staying) in the first 30 or so riders.  We seemed to battle a headwind for most of the ride which somehow seems unfair considering it’s two loops but certainly as we hit the peaks the wind was blowing hard.

Not far from, and at the halfway feed station, I started chatting to a chap who introduced himself as Adam who had just joined North Cheshire Clarion.  He looks like the racing snake variety of cyclist and is apparently into time-trials so watch out Giles next year!  Adam, if you are reading this, welcome to the club.

The feed station had the usual basic, but very welcome, food such as banana, flapjack, malt loaf and water/energy drinks and I was soon on my way again.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Photo does not convey how wet and windy it was

The last 2 climbs were pretty tough.  The headwind was now brutal and the rain was being driven into our faces and was actually painful, especially up to the Cat and Fiddle.  But this is a great route and soon we were sweeping down descents towards the finish, and a complimentary steak sandwich and cup of coffee.

I keep recommending these rides – this one and the Peak 100.  They are great value, with well signed and interesting routes, good organisation and value for money.  And any proceeds go to the charity.  Give them a go next year – I will see you there.

By the way, if you like the photos they were taken by Rick Robson at CycleSportPhotos – I think they’re good despite the subject model – especially given the weather conditions.

Ride stats : 64 miles in 4hrs 40m @ 13.7mph average.  7087ft climbing, average HR 150bpm and 4099kcals used.


A Tale of 2 Halves

995ft ascent

North Cheshire Clarion training ride this morning with Anthony and Graeme.  On the way over I noticed that the car was getting buffeted on the motorway and the trees were swaying quite viciously.  Great, the wind again!

Today’s route was pretty flat albeit with one climb out of Alderley Edge (near Swiss Hill), however the northerly wind made the first half pretty tough.  The climb itself was good fun and we went past another group of cyclists, one of whom was riding a beautiful titanium Sabbath that he told me was on its maiden ride, and came highly recommended.

The stop at the Wizard cafe was welcome after the climb and they had a log fire burning which helped dry some of our kit as we sat there steaming.  Fortified with fruit loaf and some of Anthony’s home made flapjack we were leaving as the social group arrived looking very muddy – somebody obviously didn’t have mudguards!

The second half of the ride was somewhat wind assisted which meant we were able to blast round the lanes which were relatively traffic free, and we were pretty lucky in that it didn’t really rain at all.  An interesting statistic that illustrates the effect of the wind – the first 20 miles we averaged 15.2mph, the 26 miles on the second half of the ride we averaged 17.9mph.

Ride stats : 46.2miles in 2hrs 46m @ 16.6mph average.  995ft of climbing, 2269kcals of energy used and average HR of 144bpm

Blowing a Hoolie…

I have to say I have no idea what that means – I’ve just heard Adam and Eleanor use it to describe a windy day.  And windy it was today.

1361ft of ascent

It was the first North Cheshire Clarion social ride I’ve been on since Mark’s accident.  Cutting to the chase, since then I’ve avoided riding in larger groups, sticking to rides with smaller numbers.  I’ll not go into the reasons why but there were 12 out this morning and I was a touch uneasy, especially with the wind as strong as it was.

Anyway, there was a significant headwind for the first 20 miles or so and I got a good workout pulling a couple of big shifts on the front.  The rain, however, didn’t make an appearance and it was pretty warm so not too bad really.

The cafe we were meant to go to was closed so after threatening to throw Graeme in the canal for choosing the route, we made our way on and found an even better place called The Galley at Aquaduct Marina.  Great food and great service – I’m sure we’ll be back, probably in summer!

On the way back something happened that I’ve never encountered before.  We had to stop and allow a herd (flock?) of ducks and geese waddle across the lane to the pond on the other side!

The last part of the ride was wind assisted in a good way so wasn’t a big effort.  Most importantly we got everyone round safely.

For me this has been a good weekends riding – a total of 124 miles!

Ride stats : 72 miles in 4hrs 52m @ 14.8mph. 1361ft of ascent, 3407kcals energy used, average HR 131bpm

A Bit of Sun

1,956ft of ascent

A very cold morning saw just myself Anthony and Phil set off slightly late on the North Cheshire Clarion training run.  The normal social Sunday rides follow the North Cheshire mantra of never leaving a rider behind, which means there are regular stops to regroup , especially at the top of hills.  The training rides are not especially meant to be faster, just a higher intensity.  There’s no stopping to wait, and we try to keep the pace up.  That said it was a very cold morning with ice still on the roads so we tried to keep it steady rather than fast.  Anthony had picked the route because it involved a trip to the Elvis cafe.  I don’t think any of us had realised that this, by North Cheshire standards, was one of the hillier rides.  So all in all we weren’t setting any speed records but we still managed to get to the cafe before it opened!  A quick extra loop of a couple of miles and when we returned it was open.

As we were leaving the social ride arrived and reported problems with both Garmins.  Since the latest upgrade my 705 simply switches itself off when you select navigate at the start of a ride.  However, if you start on the route and select navigate whilst moving it seems to work.  For a piece of kit that costs over £300 the software and reliability is abysmal.

The only problem with the cafe is that it comes at mile 17 of a 44 mile route, meaning the second half of the ride is a bit more than a half, and it includes a fair bit of up!  It also involves a lot of back country roads which at this time of year were full of icy bits in the verge, massive potholes and all sorts of gravel, dirt and mud debris.  However, for the first time this year the sun came out!  Even though it’s pretty weak, and it remained freezing, it’s amazing what a difference it makes psychologically.  It was really nice to see it!

At the end we hadn’t turned in a particularly quick average but the intensity was there, especially up the hills, and we all enjoyed the ride.

Footnote – as that’s my last ride in January I notice I’ve done 508.6 miles – which is well on track for my target of 5,200 miles at the end of the year.

Ride stats : 47.3 miles in 3hrs 2mins @ 15.5mph.  1,956ft climbing and 2455kcals energy used.   Average heartrate 143bpm

-6° Celsius!

It was a tad on the chilly side as I left my house, loaded my bike stuff into the car and drove over to Warrington for the North Cheshire Clarion Sunday Club run.  In fact, the outside temperature gauge in the car recorded -6°C.  I thought I was dressed for it as I was wearing base layer, thermal t-shirt, road jersey and windtex jacket, along with thermal socks and overshoes on my feet and two pairs of gloves on my hands.  I also was wearing a thermal cap, buff, cycling cap and helmet.  And I was freezing!

Road to Rufford

By the time we reached the cafe at Rufford Marina I could not feel my toes and my fingers were so cold it was painful going over any bumps in the road.  The drink in my bottle had frozen at the bottom and was like a slushy at the top.

Simple winter fare

The roads were (perhaps understandably) quiet, and they were relative safe.  That said, any water on them had iced over so it still needed a little bit more care and attention.

The cafe was very welcome allowing us to warm up, get a nice hot cup of coffee and some medicinal food to get us going again.

The route back went up Parbold hill and via Upholland which introduced a couple of cheeky hills just to get the old heartbeat up a bit.  In fact, they were very welcome because they warmed me up a treat.

1,724ft of ascent

Gradients - Parbold - 10.2%, Upholland - 12.7%

Eight other hardy souls braved the cold, and only the one puncture today, so well done to those riders – a bit of a change from the recent 20-odd riders turning out.

Ride stats : 49.2 miles, 3hrs 21m @ 14.7mph average.  Average HR 122bpm, 2040kcals used

Who Walked Under a Ladder?

Puncture no. 4 of the day..!

Today’s North Cheshire Clarion club run was supposed to be a long run, it being the first Sunday of the month and all that.  The route was going to take in Swiss Hill in Alderley Edge, the climb up to the Cat and Fiddle and b roughly 75 miles in length.

Following the current trend of Sunday rides being hugely popular, 19 people turned up.  This in itself is amazing, with the longer rides generally having an attendance of between 5 and 10 since they started.  So we needed to split into two groups with Andy W leading one and myself and Sarah leading the other.  Andy’s group set off whilst we waited for the requisite 10 minutes – which also allowed “Lucky” Gaz to fix his first puncture of the day.

When we did set off we managed a staggering 2.3 miles before Gaz had his second puncture of the day.  Meanwhile Martin managed to snap a valve off an inner tube in the pump meaning that the group had now gone through more inner tubes than miles at that point!

I can’t really recall if we had puncture number 3 and then the crash, or the other way around.  Anyway, riding down a lane we came up behind a group of other cyclists and a farm tanker came the other way round a bend rather too fast, spooking this group and causing one of their number to swerve in, and the rest to hit the brakes.  Three of our guys went into them and ended up in a heap on the road.  We stopped for some considerable time whilst one suspected broken finger was strapped up and a buckled wheel and various other problems were repaired.  We’d managed 18 miles in about 2 hours.

We decided it would be prudent to abandon the planned route, head up Swiss Hill and stop at the Wizard Tea Rooms and replan a route back.

Swiss Hill is a cobbled hill with a terrible road surface that peaks at about 16% gradient.  It is very, very technically challenging.  The wet cobbles, moss and damp leaves meant that when stood up on the pedals the back wheel was spinning and I had next to know grip.  Sitting back on the saddle immediately starts to lift the front wheel.  However, I managed it at a reasonable rate and can now tick that one off in my book!

After a stop at the Wizard we plotted a route that would get us back to the start in a sensible time.  Carrying on would’ve had us out in the dark and we didn’t have the right lights.

The rest of the ride back was fairly uneventful apart from two more punctures in quick succession within 5 miles of the finish.  Until then we’d managed a fairly good and quick pace.

Ride stats : 48.6miles in 3hrs 13m – 15mph average riding speed.  Total climb 1184ft, energy used 2006kcals

Perfect Autumn Day

Sunday club run with North Cheshire Clarion.  One of those perfect autumn days today – freezing cold but bright and sunny – I think the word is crisp.  Twenty-odd turned out so we split into 2 groups to make it manageable.  The predicted decrease in numbers over the winter doesn’t seem to be materialising!

A rare northern ride up to the Chapel Tea Rooms at Rivington took in the odd hill or two!

2469ft of ascent - 10% was the highest gradient

The route took us through sprawling urban roads which called for very tight group riding.  With club runs attracting more and more newcomers this can often be a challenge but today it worked brilliantly well, with good communication up and down the line, and sensible close order riding.  We were soon out into the sticks with the clear air offering some stunning views.

Had an enormous slice of Victoria Sponge at the tea rooms, whilst an elderly gentleman played the piano in the background.  It’s a charming place and has the feel of those tea rooms you see in films from the 40’s and 50’s.

One for the ladies...

You can see other photos of the tea-room in the flickr feed to the right.

The route back took us through some of the less salubrious areas of Lancashire and near to the finish a complete tool in a blue Renault Clio veered across the white line and drove at us beeping his horn before swerving back onto the right side of the road.  It was no accident as I could see his big, round, ugly face grinning whilst his passenger was laughing.  Clearly a comedy genius in those parts and probably got mummy/penis issues too.  I’m delighted that my hard-earned taxes probably paid for his car and petrol.  My only concern really is that people like that are allowed to breed.

Still, it didn’t ruin a brilliant ride so thanks to all the riders for making it an enjoyable day.

Ride stats : 49.35miles, 3hrs 24 mins @ 14.5mph. 2469ft ascent and 2428kcals used

Macc Monster

Around 140 riders gathered in Macclesfield for the Macc Monster; a ride organised to support KidsCan, a very worthy  cancer charity.  The entry fee was a quite high £25 but it very quickly became apparent that this was very good value  indeed. Prior to the day, the  organisers had sent out an excellent set of information including route guide, profile and  description of the hills (more later) and  instructions about the day.  A GPX file was also made available for those of us  who are Garmin-enabled.

Plenty of parking at the HQ, ample facilities and sign-on was very smooth indeed, with each rider being given an Alpen  bar and a  choice of SiS powder or Energy Gel.  In addition, we were given a voucher for food and drink at the end.

The mass start at a fraction after 9am saw us turn immediately into the first hill of the day out of Macclesfield.  I have to say that the  route was absolutely beautiful. Although it was a windy day, it was bright and sunny and the route took in some amazing countryside and breathtaking views – some of the best that Cheshire and the Peak District have to offer.  And, added bonus, considering it was a really nice day the roads selected had little traffic on them.

The first feed stop was equally well organised.  More gels and powders, loads of water, tea/coffee, bananas, malt loaf and cake – a really good selection. As I mentioned the hills had been set out in a  document that was emailed before the event – I’ve included the relevant details here.


Start @ mile 0.1 Finish @ mile 2.0 Distance 1.9 Elevation at start 450ft Elevation at finish 8000ft Vertical ascent 350ft An easy start to the day.


Start @ mile 4.7 Finish @ mile 6.7 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 660ft Elevation at finish 1200ft Vertical ascent 580ft First proper climb, selections forming.


Start @ mile 8.2 Finish @ mile 10.2 Distance 2.0 Elevation at start 870ft Elevation at finish 1544ft Vertical ascent 675ft Stunning, unbroken views to the right, famous Windgather Rocks to the left.


Start @ mile 12.4 Finish @ mile 15.1 Distance 2.7 Elevation at start 960ft Elevation at finish 1550ft Vertical ascent 590ft Our favourite, this climb has everything.


Start @ mile 19.6 Finish @ mile 20.8 Distance 1.2 Elevation at start 780ft Elevation at finish 1150ft Vertical ascent 370ft Surprisingly difficult for such a short climb.


Start @ mile 25.1 Finish @ mile 26.7 Distance 1.6 Elevation at start 390ft Elevation at finish 945ft Vertical ascent 555ft Through the trees, then hugging the escarpment to the summit.


Start @ mile 38.8 Finish @ mile 39.9 Distance 1.1 Elevation at start 995ft Elevation at finish 1532ft Vertical ascent 540ft A brute. Featureless and open, broken many a poor soul.


Start @ mile 50.0 Finish @ mile 53.6 Distance 3.6 Elevation at start 930ft Elevation at finish 1680ft Vertical ascent 720ft Varied, limestone gorge to start, giving way to moorland and the (in)famous Cat and Fiddle PH.

6541ft of ascent

Max gradient 13.7%

The hills came thick and fast and were somewhat relentless.  They were advertised as 7,400ft of ascent but my GPS software made it 6,541ft.  Either way, it was a lot!  There were some tricky sections but the worst was No. 7 above, Thorncliffe.  You actually start going up at around 37 miles and don’t actually stop until 41!  As the guide says, it is very open and the wind was howling down it directly into our faces.  The worst part of the climb is nearly 14% and into a headwind it was perhaps the most unpleasant experience I’ve had on a bike this year.  Horrible, horrible, horrible.  Still, I made it up but at great cost to my legs, which felt like someone else’s for about 5 miles afterwards!

However, with uphill comes downhill.  Today’s ride had some of the best descents I’ve ridden.  Absolute screamers and I hit 45.8mph at peak, but the best one was between mile 17 and mile 19 where my average speed was 34mph!  Brilliant!

At the finish there was a burger van waiting for us – so I used my voucher for a steak sandwich and diet coke.  Like I said – great value.

Overall, an excellent ride.  Somebody at the end told me that the guy who organised it, from PEAK cyclesport, had only organised one before.  If that’s true then chapeau to you sir because it was really well done.

Ride stats : 63.63miles in 4hrs 43mins at 13.5mph average.  6541ft of climbing and 4,018 kcals used

My First 10 Mile Time-Trial

Today I entered my first ever 10 mile TT.  Quite a few of the North Cheshire Clarion guys have been doing time-trials all summer and have been bitten by the bug to the point that there are various time-trial bike projects secretly being built in and around the environs of Warrington!  So I thought I’d see what the fuss was all about, entering The League International Sporting Open Championship in Cheshire.

All of my training and riding over the summer has been about distance, climbing and endurance so I figured that I wouldn’t be especially good at this, but that my fitness would carry me through it at a reasonable pace.  Added to that I’ve done 10 mile laps on longer rides at around 27 and 28 minutes so I was aiming to beat that.  However, spending all of Friday afternoon in the pub had left me feeling tired and listless this morning so I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

I have no frame of reference but I was told that this is a “sporting” course.  When I turned into the car park I immediately suspected I was out of my depth.  By some way.  There were more pointy hats than at a KKK rally!  Virtually everyone had the full gear – pointy hat, skinsuit, TT bike – and they were whirring away on turbo-trainers getting warmed up.  I on the other hand had my normal road bike, my normal helmet and a pair of baggy arm warmers!

A very nice time-trial bike. Thing the owner came 2nd

Met up with Gaz from the club and we did a few warm up runs up and down the lanes.  After one full-on burst I didn’t feel too good so carried on warming up a bit more sedately.  I was off 28 and Gaz was my minute-man, being off at 29.  Number 30 owns the bike above!

Anyway, my time to start came and I clipped in.  The guy holding me counted down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO!  And I was off and immediately left into a narrow lane.  I tried to keep my heart-rate at around 175bpm.  Anthony and some of the other guys had said to ignore the computer and just go for it – but I can’t work without data.  I can’t remember too much about the course – there were a few downs and a few ups, a few left turns which I tried to take as fast as I could.  It also felt quite breezy.  At 4.5 miles number 30 came streaking past me.  At 6.5 miles number 31 did too!  I was expected number 33 to come past around 9 miles but nobody else overtook me.  Several times going up inclines my heart-rate alarm (set at 185bpm) went off and at the end the finish line couldn’t come soon enough.  I was knackered.

Photo by Jon Williams. Me looking knackered

My time was, I think, 28 minutes 42 seconds which I am quite disappointed about.  The winner did it in 22 minutes, and there were a lot in the 24 and 25 minute bracket.  I’m not sure the bug has caught me but I want to do it again simply to see if I can do better next time.  My average speed was therefore only 21mph.

Here’s the route profile

157 feet of ascent

Here’s the profile of my heart-rate

Average 179bpm, energy used 539kcalories

Ah well.  Next time I do one, probably next year now, I’ll try and do a bit more preparation and see if that helps.  I’ve got a target to aim for now, and hopefully I can improve.