Training Through

Wednesday night is generally seen as club time trial evening up and down the land. It’s good training, providing the opportunity to blast out an interval prior to the weekend. Over the past few seasons I’ve generally been fairly refreshed and race-ready, but that’s changed this year. Different times and circumstances mean that I’ve made some adaptations to my training. I am racing less and probably training a bit more consistently, this includes training through the midweek races and saving my energy almost resolutely for the weekend.

After Sunday’s horrible hilly i took it fairly steady on Monday, only doing 14 miles. Tuesday was a busier day, a hilly ride on a 68″ gear, about 25 miles for the day. Yesterday I rode to work on the bongo-weapon – Wednesday has become the day of bongo commuting. The 10 mile race ended up being sandwiched with about 60 miles of riding at 21mph. as a result, i felt a little bit off the pace and really struggled to crank it up on the way out. I dribbled back into Bristol a while later, my legs in bits.

bongo commuting

I was kimmaged (famously angry anti-drugs campaigner who blew spectacularly in a Tour stage up the Galibier and was overtaken by a bearded tourist with full panniers) twice today on the way into work; scalped by a fully-laden nodder and some chap on a hybrid. I felt weak and overdone. The only consolation was overtaking a triathlete on his full bongo-weapon on the downs. I was spinning a 65″ gear at about 17mph, replete with Carradice. He had his head down and his shoulders were rolling like a tumultuous sea. I found it strange. I asked him what he was doing. He said ‘intervals’. He rounded the corner and got out of the saddle, churning out the power and pushing up to a blistering 20mph.

The interesting thing about racing less is you tend to get more time to train. I think it’s an approach that should work, but I can’t really tell for sure. We shall see. I’m now taking things very steady in anticipation of the Welsh Championships at the weekend.

A chaos of hard clay

Ashton Court is an old mansion estate on the edge of Bristol. It’s home to various things throughout the year, including the photogenic balloon festival and a large herd of small deer. It’s also been adopted by the local mountain bike community and there are several carefully constructed trails in the woods. I’ve done my best to ignore this aspect of the cycling world for about 36 years, but lately have been surreptitiously dipping a toe into the filthy primordial pondwater of mountain biking. I have assembled a bike for the carrying of the small person; it just so happens that it’s a retrotastic steel framed Orange P7 mountain bike and perfect for riding the sturdy and fast Nova trail in Ashton Court. Penelope has been taking a keen interest in all things cycling and is eagerly tracking the developments in the spring classics.

Well Dad, Boonen might be on the front at Driedaagse Van West-Vlaanderen but i’d wager he hasn’t got the form for a concerted and successful campaign. More milk please.

I’ve been over to Ashton Court twice this week to use it as my recovery ride. It’s a 4 mile circuit through the woods on a track built up and maintained by some ardent trail pixies. It has berms and banks and drops and all sorts of technical features. More importantly, it’s dry and free of the kind of slurry normally associated with this darkest and most vile of sports. I like it because it’s been deserted in the mornings and is a lively, technical ride requiring lots of decisions, a degree of focus but not too much out-and-out effort. It’s also a lot of fun. I learnt some interesting lessons: it’s best to let air out of tyres in order to go faster and gain a semblance of control. Not quite sure how Tim Wilkey of Das Rad Klub fame managed a fixie 120psi loop; courage.

the view from the Nova trail this morning at 10am

Today and last week I didn’t see another soul. On my way out, however, i saw an endless stream of men of a certain age in rather large and expensive looking cars with their large and very expensive mountain bikes in the back. It’s a minor gripe, but these chaps should really be riding to the trails. I’m sure there are a few excuses, but it didn’t look good. I nearly always see people unloading their bikes from the boots of huge cars in Leigh Woods and Clifton. It seems anomalous and not in keeping with the reasons why many people cycle.

That aside, the Nova Trail is the perfect introduction to the disgusting ‘off-road’ realm and I’d recommend it as an ideal workout for those new to such dark pursuits.

Nothing Cold Can Stay

I went out on a training ride today. It was my longest ride for a very long time, which isn’t saying all that much – i only break the 20 mile barrier in races. I managed to eke out 45 miles with some uppity climbs and far too much ice. I assumed it wouldn’t be all that icy. i was mistaken.

Dundry Hill, north of the wall

I had to walk a couple of times on account of hazardous icy descents, especially near Butcombe. The average temperature for the entire ride was a balmy 3 degrees. I managed  4,200 feet of climbing, taking in the scenic cols of Dundry, Blagdon, Shipham, Wrington and Belmont, with a 16mph average. Things were looking great on the way out, but the headwind on the way home had me grovelling.

On the plus side there was a huge twitch going on at Chew Valley Lake. Men in khaki fatigues and expensive binoculars lined the walls of the dam. Today’s unusual visitor was an Osprey, circling the lake in a flash of black and white with outstretched talons. The raptor was returning from Africa to Scotland or Scandinavia.

I’ve just about had enough of winter’s icy grip. Steve Douchebag is heading to Ireland in 4 days time for a saddlebag tour – taking the necessary kit for a sub-zero Nordic biathlon probably defeats the purpose of a saddlebag tour. Mike and chums are somewhere out into the wilds of Hereford as a warm-up for their visit to Belgium and return bike ride. I’m sure like most normal cyclists they anticipated maybe being able to use the armwarmers or a nice gilet, as opposed to the full thermal battlegear they are doubtless currently using.

Even the weatherman on the terrorbox the other day referred to the current unseasonal blast as ‘unprecedented’.

Course au Soleil

I managed to get out on the open road this morning for a quick blast in the rain with two other BSCC chums, Sam and Ed. The ride was made more eventful by Sam’s extremely shonky and useless disc brake set-up, worn away by 2000 miles of heavy commuting. We had to ride on ahead on faster sections and shout warnings to give him enough braking time.

Sam laughs in the face of having a completely inadequate braking system

Most of the club’s road race contingent are out in Majorca enjoying the sun (or snow, judging by today’s pics, hahaha) and wearing their best pro kit. It looks terrific and i’d really like to head over there* one day to get some sunny winter miles in, mixing it up with the pros. Well, hitting max heart rate in order to tag along on their recovery rides.

Darkening Dundry

Despite the persistent rain and grimy filth encrusting the lanes, it was a really enjoyable ride. The weather might be closing in tomorrow, in which case it’s back to the rollers. I’m more than a little bit alarmed that the start sheet for the first race of the season has now been issued.  I have both speed to find and weight to lose.

Ed admires the view over Bristol

*apologies to any early readers for the horrific typo (even worser than usual)

Roller Disco Playlist

The inclement weather has put paid to any vague notion i might have had that I may possibly be able to ride my bike on the road. i am not a fan of ice, it breaks bones and ruins seasons.

I have undertaken a number of constructive roller sessions this week, armed with a bottle of water, a garmin 500 and an ipod. Having a decent playlist makes an enormous difference to the quality of the session. This week’s playlist is an eclectic mix, the faster the better.

Elektrostatik, Plastikman; Sven Vath, Barbarella; Happy Cycling, Boards of Canada; Natural’s Not In It, Gang of Four; Mother Popcorn, James Brown; Spastik, Plastikman; Inaugural Trams, SFA; Stuck Between Stations, The Hold Steady; Beep It, Cornelius.

I’ve mostly been riding in zone 3 or 4.

Riding on Rollers

Riding on rollers isn’t an entirely new experience; some time back I had a particularly shonky pair that someone donated and used to do the odd session on fixed in the depths of winter. One of the drums was decidely wobbly and made a noise like a jet engine taking off which didn’t go down that well with the landlady who lived upstairs. It’s not the best idea to do rollers on fixed; there is more to go wrong, as seen by this youtube comment

“My room mate was all high and mighty about his roller skills and would be all dramatic when he rode them. One day he was huffing and puffing on my track bike and lost control, dropped off and shot into the corner of the room. He torqued my forks and front wheel but at least he shut the fuck up about his skills.”

if bored, you can always search the interweb for ‘roller crashes’.

My new set are the ‘entry level’ elite ghibli parabolic rollers. They have curved edges to stop you riding off the side. They are simple and effective. I used them yesterday and rapidly found my roller-legs, hitting the centre of the drum and finding a suitable cadence. i had one wobble when i slipped a gear, but nothing untoward.

I was using my TT bike and found it relatively easy to get onto the extensions for up to ten minutes at a time, alternating between the base bar and the ski poles to make things more interesting. I didn’t plan to do any intervals, more just 40 minutes or so just below threshold.  Essentially, I’m a bit strapped for time and starting to do some specific time trial work. The rollers are very useful in this respect. It’s great to be uninhibited by the stop-start of the road and just get your head down.

Rollers need to be given a little bit of respect, they are quite tricky to use at first and it’s made worse if you approach it in a tentative manner. You have to jump on and get moving with confidence. Grabbing a drink or a towel, or changing to the extensions, are all challenges. It’s good for your core and efficiency, ensuring a smooth pedal stroke and getting you pedalling in circles, all of which helps. For really hard intervals you need to either find some hills or use a turbo. I found I could get my heart rate up to around 175 fairly easily, this is anaerobic and heading into red line effort territory. Mostly I was working below threshold at an aerobic level.

I try and keep my use of HRM really simple. this chart is of some use.

Hamilton Wheelers Easy Rider

As a club secretary I get lots of emails from cyclists looking to ride a bit more, perhaps join a club and maybe participate in the famous ‘club run’. The main source of anxiety people have is to whether they will be able to last the distance or hold the wheel. In reality, the pace is glacial and the cake stop halfway helps break up the mileage. However, until you’ve ridden 45 or 50 miles there is always an element of doubt in the back of your mind as to how you will cope. To a certain extent this continues as long as you continue cycling; i was anxious before doing a 100 mile time trial (although i probably should have been, it was an unholy shitshow) and yet i made it round. Long road races give me the willies, anything over 60 miles starts to make me worry; how is it possible to ride at 27mph for 70 miles when I can’t break 20mph for 50 in training?

This is where the Hamilton Wheelers Easy Rider comes in. They meet every Sunday, just about, at the Mud Dock Deli in Bristol for a 30 mile loop out into the countryside. It’s flat and mellow, building up the distance and helping newer cyclists gain confidence with their bike, with riding in a bunch and with bigger miles. I’d recommend it if you’re not sure about things and want to dip a toe in the water. Several people also use it as a chilled out Sunday ride, a break from the hectic base club madness and relentless training, which is exactly what I did this morning after a big week. It was also an opportunity to catch up with a few people I hadn’t seen for a while and to talk bikes. There were lots of new people along; including two who for some reason didn’t make it past the cafe at the beginning, i’m not sure why. I hope they make it out again another time.

Easy Rider: A Photostory

The ‘meet up’ is at the Mud Dock Deli, overlooking the harbour and the tops of the cranes
I opted to ride fixed, a popular choice for the day. The Bob is very comfortable and a really lovely bike: steel is real.
Rob bought a huge bag with him containing several packets of Soreen in case of emergencies. Trotters was also on his Bob Jackson Vigorelli.
Tim Wilkey had some sort of HD GoPro. He looked quite stylish in his racing garms.
It was good to see that Sean Yates has found gainful activities to keep in busy in his retirement
At one point the sun came out, it was blissful.
Trotters went full ninja

It was great to meet new and old people and a lovely end to a week of fairly intense cycling.

Closed Road Hill Climb

Base club is very much back on and we have a couple of new members, including the mighty Glyndwr and Tom ‘Zone 2’ Illet. It’s been a purely Bristol South affair; I can’t remember last year if we had any interlopers but the last couple of weeks have been unsullied by the colours of lesser clubs. The roads this morning were populated with lots of cyclists, no doubt swept along by the unceasing enthusiasm for cycling in the UK as it continues its remorseless grip on the mainstream, and also emboldened by resolutions. You can spot those not used to cycling at this time of year by the woefully inadequate kit. I would say the absence of mudguards, but there are hard-bitten racing snakes in the South who refuse to embrace the mudguard. As any fule kno, they ride at the back.

Tom was aiming to stay in zone 2 for the entirety of the distance. This plan was scuppered by our initial ascent of Blagdon from the lake to the top. Kieran hit his max heart rate. I wasn’t far off. I had a better day than earlier on in the week where I wheezed my way up Rhodyate and my legs lost any sense of being independent and fully-functioning limbs. For all sorts of reasons i forwent the extended base jaunt down onto the levels with the chaps and turned right to head back up the Gorge. I had intended to scuttle up Draycott, but it’s a climb that can destroy an entire ride in about 9 minutes: discretion won the day.

Riding up Cheddar Gorge turned out to be brilliant. Several of the other base clubbers had been up over Christmas and found a closed road, devoid of traffic but full of gravel and water. Steve mentioned how it had been the best bit of his ride back from Somerset to Bristol. I crept through the barrier and rode up in silent isolation. I felt the need to stop and observe, to breathe in the experience of being somewhere incredibly beautiful but with the rare luxury of silence and solipsism.

At their steepest, the sides of the gorge stand ominously on either side, two towering periglacial walls. I gazed up at the crows and jackdaws circling above the parapet of the cliffs and was struck by the majesty of the surroundings. With startling speed and ferocity a Peregrine Falcon swooped down in front of the cliff edge and attempted to take a bird out of the air. It was the sound that made me look up – of the swoop echoing against the limestone battlements,  the air rushing past the tucked body of the bird hurtling downwards at anything up to 200mph. 

The Falcon then climbed up out and circled around the top of the Gorge for a few minutes, scaring and harassing the other birds. I’ve been taking my nice camera out on rides lately, but this morning opted to leave it at home. I managed to get some phone shots.

Hurtling towards the murder of crows
Chaos and a scattering

After a few more moments of awed twitching, I pressed on up the Gorge and made my way back to Bristol. Nothing before or after compared with the peregrine falcon.

More Epic Base Miles Featuring a Veritable Harras of Horses

I have been building up slowly in anticipation of the New Year and the epic miles to come. Today I managed 34 miles and was just nudging 14mph for the totality of the ride. It was a blustery and damp morning and a visit to the Mendips was in order. The sun emerged at one point, startling the landscape and animals queuing up for paired tickets into the big wooden boat moored at Dundry.

The view from Dundry across towards Chew Valley Lake

There was a staggering amount of water cascading down from the hills, forming  torrents across the roads and pouring out of hedgerows and eddying in newly formed plunge pools in the tarmac. The road surface of many of the narrower lanes had been scoured by the abrasive action of endless rainfall, taking away the topping and leaving instead silty gravel traps at the bottom of hills. The damage seems far worse than any winter I can remember, with the edges of the roads being eaten away at an alarming rate and pot-holes forming everywhere. Several roads were closed.

Rain related chaos near Butcombe

The random and infinitely strange world of the early Sunday morning bike ride made its presence felt on a narrow road near Butcombe. I was descending gingerly, trying to find a line between the run-off and the gravel and not doing a very good job, when I came across 5 ponies happily chewing the hedges. My training as an agricultural farmhand at Truro cattle market back in the late 1980s suddenly came good (truefact). I helped a lady (who seemed to be on first name terms with the herd) to get them back in the field. I used my Mercian as an impromptu gate across the road (might have been better using a Baines) whilst she somehow snuck past them further down to drive them back up. The exercise took about half an hour. We were going well until some utter schmuck drove up the hill and scattered the wild beasts all about, rather than stopping and offering to help or even blocking off the road to stop them from heading straight into the Augean gloom of Blagdon and eating the locals. Maybe the dumbass in the massive silver car presumed I was some kind of livery expert, what with my horseherd’s uniform of lycra, red jacket and Mercian bicycle.

It’s a warning, it’s in every tongue. Gotta stop them crazy horses on the run…

One thing i noticed is that Horses descend steep, damp, tarmacked hills about as gracefully as I do, which was strangely comforting. Their hooves skittered and skidded across the surface and they looked really jittery.


After the unscheduled pet rescue I opted to head straight up Blagdon hill. I regretted this immediately but pressed on, breaking into the 27t sprocket I save for very special occasions. After about 15 minutes of pain and suffering I made it to the main road where I stopped for a banana. A couple of gents came up Burrington and stopped to chat for a while. They asked me if I knew the climb, said it was a tough one. All humility went out the window and I told them I knew it quite well having won the open hill climb on there riding a 65″ gear a few months back. I would be hard pushed to get up it in under 10 minutes at the moment, such is my wheezy, corpulent and christmassy form. One of the other chaps rode for the Clevedon and we talked about Argos bicycles. I mentioned that the Argos was a popular choice amongst the South, to which he replied, ‘I do believe Ernie Janes’ young lad rides a nice low pro’. I’m sure Allen will be flattered.

Young lad Allen’s tidy low-pro

My chance encounters weren’t quite finished for the day; descending Harptree Hill I came across the Severn Club Run. They are attracting big numbers at this time of year; there were two of them. One of them was the National Hill Climb Champion, Neil Blessitt. The other one was John. I imagine there might have been some waiting at the top of hills.

Neil pauses to catch up. It’s unusual to see him outside of September or October.

Maybe, just maybe I might break the 40 mile barrier before the holiday period ends.

Blog at

Up ↑