A Game of Two Halves

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Hopey New Year is a 104km audax with 1.75AAA points.  I was on my own for this one and was off on time and heading south.  The first 30 or so miles flew by and by the halfway point I was averaging 17.3mph.  It was really very pleasant, and I even had a fox running along the road in front of me for a short distance.  And then we left Ashbourne, climbed the big hill out and turned north west directly into a tremendous blocking headwind.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

Spot the turn into the headwind...

At that point my speed dropped to around 6mph going uphill, and on the flat it was barely above 9mph, grinding away in the small ring!  At one point I was pedalling hard downhill and managing 15mph.  The Windy Ridge Cafe (aptly name) couldn’t come kick enough for some welcome food and respite from the wind.  Each rider coming in was looking almost shell-shocked, but I took the opportunity to chat with audax stalwarts from Saddleworth Clarion and Derby Mercury.

Leaving the cafe it was a short push until a 90° turn made making headway easier but now meant there was a vicious sidewind.  At one point on a descent I thought I’d lost it as the wind started an oscillation in my front wheel that genuinely scared the living daylights out of me.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

5,664ft of ascent

About 13 miles out from the finish there was a massive bang and my rear wheel instantly deflated.  Fantastic.  When I got the wheel off I was pretty concerned as the tyre had a half inch split in it.  I changed the tube and put a couple of patches inside and outside the tyre.

Ade's Road Cycling Blog

The final 13 miles was nerve-wracking, wondering if the tyre would split further.  This is the second Schwalbe Ultremo DD that’s done this to me and I suspect that the Speedracer mudguards I use rub slightly and then punctures actually tear the tyre.  Regardless, the mudguards are now off (apologies to anyone riding behind me) and I’ll be changing to a different brand of tyre.

About a quarter of a mile from the end the tyre started to go down but I limped to the finish and realised my legs were absolutely battered.  All good miles in the legs!

Ride stats : 66 miles in 4hrs 50m @ 13.7mph average.  5,664ft of ascent and 3,675kcals used.  Ft/Mile climb ratio = 85.8


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

#Lejog Day 6 – Hawick to Perth (Scone)

A hearty breakfast at Hizzy’s (highly recommended – nothing too much trouble, even our washing!) saw us ready to leave Hawick.  A couple of mornings ago Ian had joked that his now-fabled rear tyre was flat, and apparently my face was a picture.  Unfortunately this morning, it was flat again.  We pumped it up and it seemed to hold the pressure so we set off immediately up a large climb on the A7.

Our first stop was in Stow and lo and behold the tyre had lost pressure, so Ian had the wheel off and put yet another inner tube into it.  Whilst he was fiddling with that, a nice old lady who had been chatting to us gave us a pound towards the charity.  People really are nice.

Whilst Ian went to the toilet, Pete let his tyre down and then we stood waiting for him, cameras at the ready.  Suffice to say he took it in good spirits whilst we rolled around laughing.

Our route took us through Edinburgh so we stopped for a photo on the Royal Mile.  We absolutely did not get lost, and we absolutely did not need to ask for directions.  We then went to go over the Forth Road Bridge.  For such a blooming great bridge finding the route to it (for bikes) was nigh on impossible.  The roads were car only and the cycle track was a half-overgrown path which took us to a road with concrete blocks and a “Road Closed” sign on it.  We were forced to ask for directions and then when we got to the bridge the cycle path on our side was closed, so we went under the subway and set off across the bridge.  It’s very high, very windy and it shakes in the middle.  I was fine on it until I happened to look down and to my right and saw the sea several hundred feet below.  At that point my vertigo kicked in and I picked up the pace to get off the bridge!  Despite that, the views are stunning.

We then headed past Loch Leven and through Kinross.  Pete needed some new cycling glasses so called at Loch Leven Cycles, who were extremely helpful, so many thanks to them.

The wind had been mostly behind us today, but had also been in our faces and a crosswind too at various times.  As we swung west towards Perth we ran straight into it, which made life hard for a good few miles.

We’re staying at the SkyLodge at Perth Airport tonight.  Dinner in the Aviator Club was excellent, with great service.

Garmin stats

  • 7hrs 36m
  • 99.3 miles
  • 5734 kcals
  • 4662ft climbed
  • 13.1mph average

Today felt pretty easy.  I don’t know if it was a lack of effort on my part, or improving fitness, but my average heart-rate for the ride was 106bpm.  I didn’t really enjoy today as much as earlier days.  I think it’s because I’m tired – I tend to be up late completing this blog and I haven’t had an unbroken nights sleep yet.  Hopefully tomorrow will be back on track – it’s a monster of a day with 132 miles over the Cairngorms through Newtonmore and Aviemore.  Wish us luck…

Last day of hill training for #Lejog

7-30am this morning and Pete, Andy and I were getting ready to set off on my Cornwall Simulator route.  The route goes north through Accrington into the Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland, through Slaidburn, Longridge and Ribchester, then back via Blackburn and Bury.

The reason I call it a Cornwall simulator is that although it is 30 miles shy of our day 1 Lejog, it packs in a similar amount of climbing.  Here’s the two elevation profiles side-by-side for comparison

Slaidburn loop - 5098ft of climbing

Day 1 Cornwall - 5600ft of climbing

As you can see both routes are pretty much roller-coaster rides.  In fact, todays route is probably the harder of the two, with gradients that we will rarely, if at all, see on the Lejog.  Here’s the gradient profile side-by-side


Day 1 - Cornwall

Today’s ride had 7 climbs with a gradient > 10%, 3 of which were > 12.5% and 1 of which was > 15%.  Cornwall will see only 3 climbs > 10% with the worst being 12.5%.  Whilst that isn’t the whole story obviously, the point is that doing today’s ride is a good indicator of how it will feel on day 1.

Pete is recovering from a chest infection and so had peeled off prior to the big hills so it left Andy and I to tackle them.  It’s fair to say he was having a harder time and then we worked out that whilst I was running on a 50-34 compact with my new 12-27 cassette, he has a 53-39 with a 12-25.  What does that mean? Well, in simple terms and assuming we have the same crank lengths (we both run 700x23c wheels)

  • each turn of my crank would turn the rear wheel 34/27 times = 1.26
  • each turn of Andy’s crank would turn the rear wheel 39/25 times = 1.56
  • which means I had 19% lower gearing than Andy
  • he has to work much harder than I do going up very steep hills

We stopped at 2 cafe’s.  The Riverbank Tea Room in Slaidburn, where I had a very nice tea cake

And then in Ribchester at the Carmen Rose Tea Room, where I had coffee & walnut cake and Andy got stuck into chocolate fudge cake.

The day was pretty hot – ideal weather for cycling with minimal breeze.  On the downhill stretch to home Andy got a puncture in his rear tyre – a huge bent nail sticking out of it.  His own fault because at the start he was singing the praises of his Armadillo tyres which “had never had a puncture.”  To be fair the nail would have gone through a car tyre so I don’t think any bike tyre would have helped – but shows the importance of not tempting fate!

Overall we did 78 miles in 5hrs and 39 mins which is an average of 13.9mph.  Total calories used 4181.

Coffee Cake and Clicking Pedal

A beautiful morning for a bike ride today, albeit a little bit windy.  I met up with 4 other members of North Cheshire Clarion in Stretton and set off for a leisurely loop south down through Delamere Forest.  The wind was quite strong but the sun came out making it a really nice day for cycling through some scenic back lanes in Cheshire.  One slight hiccup (puncture for one of the group) was soon overcome and we continued on our way.  There were plenty of people out on horses and bikes taking advantage of the weather and the holiday.  Near Willington we were due to stop at a cafe but the first one we visited was closed.  The second, up a steep hill and tucked away, was open.  It turns out that it is right on the Sandstone Trail and is very popular.  I think it was called Somerton Farm.  The choice of home-made cakes (I chose coffee cake) and fresh brewed coffee made it a very pleasant stop indeed.

Back to matters in hand, we got to freewheel at great speed down the hill we had just climbed and turned northwards to complete the loop we had started some hours earlier.  A very pleasant and enjoyable morning’s cycling.

Overall we spent 2hrs 54mins riding a total of 42 miles at an average speed of 14.4mph – which wasn’t bad considering that by necessity we picked our way through some pretty bumpy, gravelly back lanes at slow speed.  A good 1573ft of climbing and 2090kcals used.  My third ride of the weekend on subsequent days and my legs feel pretty good – nothing like the distances to be covered on the lejog but good to know anyway.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was a clicking noise on each pedal stroke which resulted in the LBS stripping and cleaning the bottom bracket.  To no avail as it was back with a vengeance.  So it was driving me mad today, and indeed, several people riding with me!  Several people had mentioned that it could be the pedal so when I got home I swapped the pedals I had on (Shimano SPD-SL road) for MTB SPD pedals just to test it.  Sure enough the noise disappeared.  So I have a choice of buying new road pedals (likely!), putting up with the noise (unlikely!) or getting hold of a Shimano remover tool so that I can take the axles out of the pedals and grease/check the inner bearings and workings (less likely still!).  Time to check out Wiggle I think…

Puncture x2

Up and out very early this morning.  Decided not to put my contacts in to give my eyes a break.  My legs felt very heavy after yesterday but I was determined to do a decent distance.  Fate, however, had a different plan.  I’d just passed through Farnworth heading west when the front wheel went flat.  Got it changed but struggled to get enough pressure in with my Lezyne pump.  And then that one went flat!  I thought I’d checked the tyre but clearly I hadn’t.  Maybe no contacts didn’t help but for the second time I had the wheel off and put my final spare tube in.  Decided to head home – filthy hands and any thoughts of longer distance long gone.  Good job I did because the tyre was flat by the time I got home – so a full forensic examination of the tyre revealed several smaller shards of glass barely poking through the rubber.  So a bit of a wash-out – only 14 miles done!