How much faster is a TT bike compared to a road bike on a hilly circuit?

This question comes up periodically. I’ve always known the answer: it’s substantially quicker to ride a TT bike in almost all races, with the only exception being hill climbs.

Today i opted for my road bike with no aero equipment at all and pitched up at a rank bongo-fest near Marshfield. I did this for training purposes. Interestingly, it took the pressure off to ‘do a ride’. I found it much tougher on the road bike and lost oodles of time on any flat or downhill section, in fact, on anything other than a particularly steep wall. There weren’t any steep walls.

My maximum speed was 39mph, average was a shade under 23mph for the 22 mile circuit with 1500ft of climbing. Average heartrate was 168bpm, it says max was 210bpm but this is a damned lie.

I was around 4 or 5 minutes slower than i might have expected if i’d come in fancy dress. It’s a bit like turning up to drag race on a tractor. Perfect for tilling the fields, not much good at flat line speed. Nevertheless, either side of and including the race, i managed 61.5 miles at 20mph average speed. It’s all a desperate attempt at training and endurance ahead of a longer race at the end of the month.

Graham misjudged the finish. Dan laughed at him. Trotters looked away in disgust. 


Exactly what the Orange C16r was designed and built for

I raced this weekend. I went quite quickly. 3 people went even more quickly than i went. I went downhill at 54.1 miles per hour whilst holding on to the bongo-poles and spinning out on the 54 tooth chainring. Simon Williams managed 58.6mph. He has 40 kilos on me.

The weather on Sunday was beautiful and we took the opportunity to go out on the first traumfamille bike ride. It was amazing. I jerry-built the Orange with Adam’s old Co-Pilot bike seat, put the small beast into the straps and then headed off to the park. My main aim was to see if the addition of a few extra kilos i might be able to knock over Simon Williams’ paltry 58mph on the downhill section of Victoria Park. Maybe if i attach some bongo poles and equip the small passenger with a taser.

The steed prepped and ready to go. I even oiled the chain. Armchair ride all the way to the finish for Traumbébé

See you at the bottom, Mum. Dad says we’re gonna top out at 59mph and Simon Williams is gonna be toast. HIT IT, DAD.

Not being funny Dad, but that wasn’t even, like, 15mph, let alone 58.


Winding it up in the (not very) big ring

For Dads thinking of doing something similar:

It helps having a bike as sturdy, stable and well-balanced as the Orange. It’s a mid 1990s rigid mountain bike and it rides beautifully. The addition of the co-pilot on the back didn’t affect the handling noticeably, there was no fish-tail effect and the bike didn’t feel top heavy either. I had expected a degree of nervousness and a general fear about carrying le p’tit on the bike, but it felt absolutely fine. I’ve stuck a bar bag on the front because I thought it might be more practical and avoided having things on the back to whack the passenger in the face. Speaking of face-whacks, it’s possible to boot the little one in the head when getting on the bike in the usual way. There are a couple of other ‘learned’ bike riding things that need to be unlearned, but if you’ve ever ridden a fully-laden tourer the same rules apply. Apart from all of that, it’s a wondrous experience to out riding on bikes with the family and a crafty way to expand upon the n+1. Start scouring retrobike now!


The season comes round quickly. One minute it’s cakes and chocolate orange, copious bottles of Bishop’s Ringpiece or whatever other craft ale floats your boat, a a resting heart-rate enlivened only by the gladiatorial combat of a game of yahtzee; the next minute you’re hurtling along a country road in pissing rain with a brutal headwind, all in the hallowed name of ‘amateur cyclesport’.

The season-opener proper is the Chippenham Hilly. The big beasts emerge blinking from their sweaty turbo-sheds, ready to do battle with the elements and with each other. This year was no exception and a field of sallow, lithe, pasty-faced lycra warriors duly signed on in a village called Sutton Langley, or Kington Benger, or something like that.

I opted to ride to the start; it’s a 24 mile schlep up and out of Bristol. I then did the race, a 24 mile schlep around Wotton Basset and Dauntsey. I then rode home, a 24 mile schlep back across the darklands of Wick and Marshfield. Oddly, the rerouted Severn Bridge Road Race used a stretch of the same parcours, but in the opposite direction. I came across the first lap of the elite race, where scary look group of Rapha Condor and assorted roadmen had already gained 20 seconds over the chasing bunch. One of the riders was called ‘the tank’, on account of being 6″9 and weighing 97 kilos.

Russell Downing and James ‘Tank’ Lewis

I thought i’d done well in the race, setting a course PB by over a minute; things were looking ok until everyone else also set whopping course PBs and made me look a bit shabby. I ended up 5th or thereabouts, but not disheartened. That came later, on the ride home, when i wanted to cry and lie down in the ditch with only 17 caffeinated energy gels for company. It was raining and windy and by mile 60 of 80 i was shot to pieces. I had one of those difficult moments where it’s quite hard to get off the bike at the end of the ride without collapsing or suffering a violent attack of cramp. I then struggled to lift the bike up the stairs. it was a pathetic sight.

I took one photo. It is a salutary warning of the tight-fitting nature of bongohelmets.

Steve Clark’s bongohelmet damn near sliced his ears off.

Tomorrow i shall rest and reconsider my policy of riding to events. I’ll be doing well to ride out and back next weekend; it’s the Gillingham Hilly.


on the pain of the first race and how the wind tore my pins out

Yesterday was beautifully calm and sunny. Given that this is officially the worst winter since the quaternary glaciation, it felt like summer had arrived. Which made it all the more inevitable that today’s race would be run off in a darkening, ferocious gale with the omnipresent threat of rain.

Having been frozen out by the weather at this time of year in ice ages past, i again opted for discretion over valour. I wore a full length, long sleeve merino base layer over a short sleeve merino baselayer, with a long sleeve skinsuit, full legwarmers, winter gloves and industrial strength winter neoprene overshoes. I took no chances. I also wore my spangly new helmet, which fits very snugly and weighs next to nothing.

so how many Megabloks can i get for this one space helmet, Dad?

The Severn Road Club use the U17, it’s a tough course with about 1300 feet of undulations. The roar surface is pitted and getting beyond repair. They’ve done that thing where it looks a giant with an enormous tub of gritty black polyfilla has scraped over a huge hole. If you measured the distance and took into account the size of the depth of the fissures and tectonic gaps you’d find the course is significantly further than 25 miles. I think this is known as self-similarity, but i might be misremembering my studies into Chaos Theory.

One of the smaller potholes on the A38

I took it relatively easy on the way out, emboldened slightly by the mother of all tailwinds, but nervous about the last 9 miles after the turn and the savage assault to come. At 5 or so miles I had an average speed of 32mph. This dropped around the two short loops where the course deviates into the Alveston badlands, but heading for the turn i was up to a tidy 27mph, which i felt was perfectly reasonable given the swirling tornado. By this point my number was flapping violently in the gale, the wind had torn the pins out on one side.

I circumnavigated the roundabout at Slimbridge with a degree of caution. It’s a big roundabout. By the time I’d started to turn into the wind it became clear that things were about to change for the worse. I was using a Hed 3 trispoke on the front. It always raises an eyebrow on a windy day. I had a few spicy moments when a gap in the hedge made me wobble slightly, but generally it was within tolerance, whatever tolerance is. Some people really don’t cope with a gusting crosswind. I don’t mind it too much.

The journey back from the turn was an exercise in damage limitation; i had one overriding desire: to come in under the hour. I haven’t gone over the hour since i used a road bike and didn’t want to start now. I turned the Garmin screen off and clung on, trying desperately to make up time on any sheltered and downhill bits. It seemed just about manageable, but the drag up towards Stone was exhausting. The wind picked up and it was squeaky bum time; the bike was starting to do strange things, flick and twitch. Once through the funnel of doom I pushed to the line and managed a 59.32. It’s by far my slowest 25 for about 4 years, discounting any hilly courses, and shows just how hard a day it was. I scraped a 22mph average for the return leg. Nevertheless, it was the same for everyone and it was good enough for the win, with only one other rider coming in under the hour. There were several 2-up teams out on the course, Ben Anstie and James Cartridge glided round to a 55.30, making the most of company riding with a superlative effort.

Clubmate Jo Knight took the women’s prize with a 1.14, an incredible effort in the circumstances. She was going to ride home, a piffling 19 more miles into the teeth of the headwind; i gave her a lift.

It’s peculiar to take a win in the first event of the season. The pressure’s off, I guess. It’s also good to be racing and seeing the familiar faces coming out of hibernation.

Jo battles the elements on a team-issue weapon, with sensible wheels

slightly less sensible wheel choice

Simon did the 2-up. The faraway look in his eye tells a tale of bravery, supreme physical effort and an unfettered devotion to the sport.

Next week the hilly season starts, with the Chippenham Hardrider. I am silently hoping for benign weather.

6 Days of Paris

There is a series of Cartier-Bresson photos taken at the 1957 Paris 6-Day. They are up to view at the Magnum website. The Meeting took place at the Velodrome D’Hiver and seems to be from the era when “6 Days” meant 6 full days and nights of racing. The Velodrome was destroyed by fire in 1959. It’s also notorious as being the site of the Vel D’Hiv Roundup.

Slightly Hilly Legtester

When the weather has been horribly stinky for such a long time it seems almost anomalous to be out in glorious sunshine. I’ve taken to using my rain jacket as the default piece of cycling gear, but today was able to wear a soft shell. Even then i felt slightly overdressed. By way of overcompensating for the absence of horrible conditions i opted for a horrible route, including several of the steepest and nastiest climbs in the Mendips. Most of them began with the letter ‘D’; Dundry, Deer Leap, Draycott…

The silver strip in the middle is the Levels; an inland sea

Priddy amazing signpost

All chick-hens accounted for

The first race of the season is on Sunday; it’s a 25. I tried the time trial bike yesterday; it seemed to still work, which is more than can be said for my ageing legs.