Icy Roads

Today’s ride with North Cheshire Clarion was not the official Sunday club run but a slightly brisker and earlier ride.  The aim was to do a 17mph-ish average meaning that we’d all have to work that little bit harder than normal club runs. The conditions, however, conspired to make that difficult, with a -3°C temperature and a freezing fog.

Five of us set off down the icy country roads taking it pretty gingerly whilst trying to establish a decent pace and rhythm.  It was okay in a straight line as the wheels cut a line through the frost layer but at each turn we had to slow right down and take them very carefully.  Riding through the fog resulted in us all being covered in a layer of frost on the leading edges of our bikes and bodies – arms, legs, frozen eyebrows!

25 or so miles in and the sun was rising and melting the top layer of frost.  This seemed to make things worse.  First Gaz came off going relatively slowly round a left hander.  A quick stop to check bruises, bike and dust himself off and we carried on another couple of miles before taking a right-hander into a lane.  This time I was behind Gaz and his wheels went from under him again in front of me causing me to instinctively tap the brakes – at which point my front wheel went from under me and I hit the road!  Thankfully we were both okay and the cafe was just down the road so a hot cup of coffee and some cake helped.  I’ve now got some nice road-rash and large associated bruise on my right hip, knee and elbow – Gaz will presumably have the same but on both sides.

10 mile lap splits

No further incidents in the final 10 miles or so and we managed a decent pace overall.  The average for each 10 miles was 16.8mph, 17.7mph, 17.5mph and 15.5mph respectively.  It’s worth noting the 15.5mph included the offs and the cafe – so both clearly disrupted the rhythm we’d established.

Did the ride achieve my goals?  Well the average was 16.8mph which given the conditions I am pretty happy with.  Over the previous 5 Sunday club runs my average heart-rate has been 125bpm.  My average today was 149bpm so it definitely made me work harder.

Today's heart-rate profile - 149bpm average

Sunday club run heart-rate - 7th November - 125bpm average

The size of group also made life a little bit easier in terms of going quickly – hopefully I’ll be doing more rides like this – weather permitting!

Ride stats : 42.9 miles in 2hrs 33m @ 16.8mph.  762ft of ascent and 2202kcals energy used

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Chilly Commuting

I’ve not been on my bike every day – what with the snow and also doing a bit of travelling away from the office, but the temperature on my last 3 commutes (6 rides covering morning and evening) has been

  • -4.2°C
  • 1.2°C
  • -11.3°C
  • -1.7°C
  • -8.4°C
  • -7.4°C

What my fingers felt like...

Ridiculous really.  I have to say that hands and feet have been extremely cold.  I’ve solved the hands problem (idea courtesy of Dave Mitchell of North Cheshire Clarion) by wearing a pair of woollen gloves inside a pair of skiing mittens.  The equivalent tip for feet involves freezer bags – not sure whether I’ll give that a go or not.

94 Very Windy Miles

Sunday club run with 10 other riders from North Cheshire Clarion.  I was up at 6-20am, porridge and out by 7am on what was a very blustery and chilly early morning.  Rode the 25 miles to Stretton down the East Lancs road into a fierce headwind.  Met up with the club, and after Andy’s clipless moment (ouch!) we were off.

A couple of the guys from the club write cycling blogs which are interesting and informative reads.  Phil’s can be found here, and Mark’s can be found here.  To complete the set, the club blog can be found here!

The loop took us into the headwind and then down through Weaverham and round to our stop at Allostock, with the wind now behind us.

2010ft of climbing

North Cheshire Clarion Tea Stop - picture by Phil Jones

Carrot cake - helps you see in the dark

Suitably refreshed we set off north past Knutsford and through Tabley which then saw us turn back into the headwind and back up to Appleton and Stretton.  Mark won one of the sprints so honourable mention to him!

Setting off back home there were a few of us going through Warrington.  We met a guy called Dave Smith cycling on day 3 of his Land’s End to John o’ Groats ride, so we rode with him through Warrington.  This guy was an absolute inspiration.  He told me that his daughter had been treated for cancer and as a thank you he wanted to do something for the hospital in Somerset that had treated her.  So he’d raised £2,500 in sponsorship and set off on his LEJOG solo – his friend he should have been riding with had been taken ill.  Dave is 72 years old!  Best of luck to Dave.

As I turned onto the East Lancs I thought I’d do a bit of extra training so I hit the lap button on the Garmin and went for it.  Now I know I had a tailwind, but at that point I’d already done 77 miles and I had to stop and start at 3 sets of traffic lights and 2 roundabouts.  Anyway, I did 10.19 miles in 28m 35s at an average speed of 21.4mph – so very pleased with that.

Overall 94 miles in 5hrs 45mins.  Average speed 16.2mph and 4295kcals used.

Summertrees – Closed on a Friday!

Built a route today around one of my favourite tea rooms in Cheshire – Summertrees.  When I got there it was closed.  Still, lovely day for a ride.  Started off dark and cloudy, then the sun came out.  Pretty breezy so whilst it was nice in the sun, it’s was a bit chilly in the shade or when it went behind a rogue cloud!

Today’s route was meant to be flatter but still had the odd lump or two

2140ft of climbing

A nice ride – the last 9 miles on the East Lancs Road was done at an average of over 19mph.

79 miles in 4hrs 57m average 16mph.  3813kcals used.

#lejog Training – Wet, Windy and Yet More Hills

Woke up to a cold and damp morning with my legs feeling particularly heavy from yesterday’s hill-fest in Lancashire.  I guess this is what the actual journey is going to feel like at times (only worse) although I’m hoping that excitement and adrenaline will play their part.  Had to be back early today so decided on a shorter route but still with some “lumps” to get over.  The route heads north towards Blackburn over the Grane Road and then turns back on itself and down to Bury and home.  It’s a favourite of mine.

It was made a bit harder by the rain and the headwind as I headed north.  The north bit is the uphill bit – so just what I needed was an added headwind.  One of the reasons that Land’s End to John o’ Groats is considered easier than the other way round is that generally the prevailing wind is south-westerly giving you a push.  However, having followed the weather closely for the last few months there seems to be an awful lot of northerly winds which will be a nightmare if it turns out like that at the end of June!

Much of making it over hills is in the mind.  Quite often your body has plenty in reserve but your mind tells you to stop.  I decided today I’d do some “mental training” by staying on the big ring up all the hills.  The temptation would be there to make life easier and go to the granny ring but this would be good for mind over matter, not to mention helping build up the power in my legs.

1749ft of climbing

I have to say it was a struggle, what with the headwind and the rain, but I did it.  And I beat my best time on this route.  In May last year I did this route in 2 hours and 39 minutes, averaging 12.1mph.  In February this year, as my only training ride of the week, I did it in 2 hours and 14 minutes, averaging 14.4mph.  Today I did it in 2 hours and 8 minutes, averaging 15mph which I am very pleased with, especially after yesterday and the conditions.  Interestingly, in February I used 2109kcals of energy and had an average heart-rate of 148bpm.  Today I used 1761kcals with an average heart-rate of  135bpm.  I think these are good indicators of how far I’ve come.  My next target will be to beat 2 hours on this route!

#lejog Training – Simulating Cornwall!

Got  a few days off work so I have the opportunity to get some extra training in.  Today I decided to get back up the hills and picked a route that I hoped would give me a taste of the Cornwall leg of the journey.  Plenty of people assume that Cornwall is relatively flat.  In fact it is very, very hilly.  Of all 8 days we will be riding, we will do the most climbing on day 1 through Cornwall – even more than the final day through the Scottish Highlands – probably between 5500ft and 6000ft.  So the route I selected would give me over 5000ft of climbing.

The weather has cooled down considerably today and was probably a good 15 degrees colder as I set off north up through Bury, Haslingden and Accrington and heading towards Clitheroe.  Or rather past it and then turning north into the Forest of Bowland.  I spent many a happy hour as a lad in the Trough of Bowland in the early 70’s.  Me, Dad and Grandad would race sticks down the streams whilst Mum and Gran fussed over sandwiches and boiled eggs!  Happy days.  Anyway I headed towards Slaidburn for a spot of refreshment at the Riverbank Tea Rooms.

Coffee - my cake of choice...

It wasn’t just me that thought it was time for a drink

The village of Slaidburn, and all the surrounding farms, are apparently owned by an eccentric Squire who keeps the rents low and subsidises the village to make sure the way of life is not lost.  Well worth a visit.

As I left Slaidburn full of cake and coffee I didn’t really want to see something like this but I guess it was my choice

I hate signs like this!

The hills started coming thick and fast, like a roller coaster.  The worst one was Jeffrey Hill which at 20% was a real struggle

...and, it became clear, slightly overweight cyclists!

Halfway up, the view down doesn't do it justice

Sign on the way down - no similar "up" sign at the bottom!

Reaching the top gave some really lovely views of the Ribble Valley.  But the hills didn’t stop there.  I headed over towards Longridge and via Ribchester and Wilpshire back through Blackburn.  There were still some stinkers to get up and it had started to rain.  Tried my Altura Pocket Rocket showerproof jacket which worked really well, keeping me warm and dry.

Again, photo doesn't do it justice but believe me it was a horrible hill

Had a few chain/gear issues which suggests that my chain needs replacing so on the way home popped into Cooksons to book the bike in for a servicing.

Overall managed 80 miles at an average of 14.3mph.  5196ft of climbing using 4543kcals.

A trip to the seaside. Well, to Southport anyway

You know what it’s like.  Bank Holiday Monday and up at 6.30am to go to the seaside.  The sun shining in bright, blue, clear skies.  Except it was absolutely freezing!  I’m a slow-starter anyway, perhaps taking 45 minutes to warm up and get into a decent rhythm (oh please – stop sniggering at the back) but I was 20 miles in today before I started to feel okay.  I was looking for a decent ride but not too hilly, and with the weather forecast predicting strong northerly winds I opted to go to Southport rather than south to Cheshire.

I did make a mistake in the route because it ended up including a couple of nasty climbs of the 7% and 1.5 miles kind.

How did I miss those hills?

Those familiar with Southport will know that going there is no guarantee of seeing the sea as the tide seems to retreat miles from shore.  The skies were clear and visibility was excellent, so even Blackpool Tower was visible some 10 miles to the North.  The wind was pretty strong, and what had been a slight headwind as I headed north-west to the start of Marine Drive became a welcome tailwind as I turned South.  As I rode down the Esplanade I realised that the old wooden roller coaster had been demolished.  I stopped for a bite to eat at the end of Lord Street – which looks a bit downmarket these days.  Another sign of the times maybe?  Keen followers of the cakes I eat on my rides will be disappointed that I had to make do with an energy bar and a gel.

I retraced virtually the same route back resulting in a ride of nearly 77 miles at an average speed of 14.8mph.  My flat course contained 2567ft of climbing (oops) which took 4130kcals.

50 hilly miles with Pete and Ian

After a week’s enforced rest I’ve been itching to get back in the saddle so on a cold a chilly Sunday morning Pete, Ian and I set off for a 50 mile ride covering a couple of decent climbs.  My knee improved during the week with no twinges although it did feel like it wasn’t quite right still.  So I was a little nervous as we set off.  The route we took went north out through Bury and then up the Rossendale valley through Bacup and up over to Todmorden.

Bacup to Tod was the first real climb.  Quite long and decently steep in places it’s a good place to get your climbing legs!  Or down the other side a long and fast descent into the town of Todmorden where we found a nice cafe called Costermongers, and a nice slice of coffee and walnut cake!

It'd be rude not to...

The wind was quite strong at times and considering it’s May it was freezing as we headed through Hebden Bridge, turning right at Mytholmroyd.  That brought us to the bottom of Cragg Vale and a sign which states “Start of the Longest Continuous Gradient in England – Rises 968 feet over 5.5 miles”. I decided to test my knee at this point so I went up the hill on the big ring and thought I was doing pretty well near the summit at 11.5mph when two young guys steamed past me with a cheery “morning!”

I stopped at the peak to take some pictures of Pete and Ian as they reached the top.

We then descended from the White House at Littleborough down to Hollingworth Lake.  This is a short but fast downhill section – with a slight tailwind I hit a top speed of 43.7mph which felt great.  Past the lake and then back through Rochdale, Heywood and finally home.  A total of 50.79 miles, 2683ft of climbing at an average of 14.3mph, burning over 3000kcals.  Ice bath when I got home and some slight saddle adjustments.  Knee is aching now but not really painful like it was last week.  Fingers crossed.

#lejog Lumps of ice for feet

What a beautiful morning.  Clear skies and sunshine (requiring sunglasses!).  And absolutely freezing.  Went out for a quick ride round Ramsbottom and within 10 minutes I couldn’t feel my toes.  Anyway I did 21 miles at an average of 14.6mph.  935ft of climbing and 1212kcal used.  Nice blast for a Sunday morning.

#LEJOG Training Update – Mow Cop Mistake

I didn’t particularly sleep well last night.  The animals were having a “howl at the moon” night.  Still, I was up early and getting ready to go out on the bike.  I’d picked a route I use quite often, but with a twist in the middle.  Mow Cop.  Now I’ve read about it, and I’ve seen pictures of it and even a video.  And it’s part of the course for the Cheshire Cat at the end of March.  So I thought I’d see for myself.

The first 30 odd miles felt pretty good.  I had a cold last weekend which took it out of me but today I felt much better.  I wasn’t even annoyed when Rio Ferdinand in an Audi A8 pulled out in front of me in Alderley Edge.  I was comfortable and making good progress as I turned off the A34 towards the dreaded hill.  There’s a level crossing which had to wait at as two trains went past.  I got a theatrical start as the lights flashed and the gates lifted.

So enough and cut to the chase.  Mow Cop is the steepest hill I have ever seen.  Pictures do not do it justice.  Videos do not do it justice.  In fact, pictures make you think the steep bit is quite short.  It’s not.  I had to stop 3 times before I reached the top.  The climb started at the 33 mile point for me, at an elevation of 938ft.  1 mile later I was at 1500ft – which is an average over a mile of 11.2% or 1 in 9 in old money.  The section at the pub, which is by no means unique, was a staggering 40%

Mow Cop Elevation

Although I had a rest at the top and something to eat, and the downward ride was great fun, the big mistake was that attempting to climb that kind of hill after 30 miles simply sapped my legs of anything left, so that the remaining 40 miles were a real struggle when faced with even slight inclines.  However, I battled on and at about 50 miles got a second wind which helped carry me home.  I was quite lucky with the weather.  Few spots of rain and even my feet (in socks and freezer bags) were warmer.  I was also lucky with my bike.  About 300 yards from home I heard a loud PING!  Looking down I couldn’t see anything but when I got home I could see that a spoke on the rear wheel had snapped.  Local bike shop replaced all of them for me because they’d been damaged by the chain coming off at the top when the bike was new and the gears weren’t indexing correctly.  A lucky escape.

The total ride was 71.2 miles at an average of 14.8mph.  4 hours, 49 minutes and 4382 kCals.  Slightly disappointed – I need to be fitter and stronger going up hills.