Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last road ride of 2009

I haven't been out on the bike for a proper ride for a couple of weeks owing to the weather so was eager to get out at the first opportunity on the road rather than being stuck in the garage on the turbo and the last day of the year gave me that opportunity. The weather was still freezing cold but the snow and ice had mostly melted away so I set off for one of my short usual routes around north Cheshire.

Now normally it doesn't take long for my heart rate to shoot up but strangely today despite 15 minutes on the bike and speeds of 20 mph my heart rate only rose into the 70's so I assumed either my HR monitor was on the blink or there wasn't enough moisture (sweat) on the strap contact points. Eventually after a hill my HR settled into the expected range so I'm assuming the problem was a dodgy signal rather than an inability to get my HR up - I hope... Normally when there is not enough moisture on my HR strap I just lose all signal and not get the weird reading I experienced. Strange...

On this ride I didn't go too hard with ice still being around in places but did get a few sprints in for a few intervals. So that's it for 2009, roll on 2010.

My Stats
21.5 miles, 1hr24min, Av Speed 15.4mph, Av/Mx HR 146/171 

Sunday, 27 December 2009

North Cheshire Clarion Christmas run 27 Dec 2009

NCC Christmas Club run

No blog entries for the last week or so with the weather being so bad. My only cycling activities has been the purchase of a new set of road handlebars and a few sessions on the turbo. Today's ride was the scheduled run to initially Tatton Hall but due to the bad weather conditions Dunham Masseys Lavender farm got the nod.

Not as many as expected turned up with just seven hardy individuals braving the elements. Just after 10.30am we set off eastwards to brave the biting winds and stinging freezing rain. We stuck to clear B roads and some A roads dodging slush here and there and no-one came unstuck except Phil who tried to unintentionally carve a path through the slush and nearly came a cropper but a quick recovery saved his bacon. This ride was intentionally ridden slow because it was the clubs xmas run and sociable in nature but the problem I found with travelling at such a slow speed was that I never really warmed up and on occasion I put a spurt on in a vain attempt to get the blood flowing and generate some heat.

The only time we had to give in to the weather was in the attempt to ride up the cobbles to the doors of the cafe stop - sheets of ice everywhere so it was off and walk.

After the cafe stop the weather did improve slightly and I'm sure the sun popped out momentarily but it was still bitterly cold. It was a great relief to get home and dive into a nice warm shower.

My Stat's
24.48 miles, 1hr 53min, Av Spd 13mph, 1188 ft climbing

Monday, 14 December 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 13 Dec 2009

Magical Mystery Tour

Looking out of the window first thing in the morning revealed a nice thick white frost and on the car ice glinting off the windscreen - it was dark and very cold at 7am when I got up for the Sunday run. I'm not one pf these people who can get up at 8am grab a quick bite and be there at the start point for 9, wish I was but I'm not. I like to have a good breakfast a good sit down with a big mug of tea followed by a coffee and a browse of the news on my laptop before I even come alive, then and only then am I ready to face the world the cold and the frost...

So load the car up with bike n gear after giving the car a good defrost first and then drove out to the start point, it was fairly slippy on the side roads so had a good idea that we were in for a hairy time. Stuck all my gear on including a buff that made me look like the invisible man (when he was not invisible if you know what I mean) complete with glasses, cap and helmet - I may have looked a little scary but I didn't care, I was warm and that's all that mattered, the only problem I found out later with having a buff cover up most of your entire face is it's difficult to drink anything unless you want it sieved first - a minor inconvenience...

Setting off from Stretton was a dicey experience, side roads and country lanes thick with white frost meant riding at a slow pace and gingerly navigating bends waiting for a tumble - didn't happen but there was a few times my back wheel spun out. As the miles wore on the temperature changed slightly for the better our confidence rose and the speed upped.

Now this is where the magical mystery tour comes in, around about Moulton our 'guide' took us over water via two wooden frosty bridges, one slip and there was a good chance of a dunking - but it was a very scenic route so well worth it... then we rode some cross country up some semi frozen mud 'trails' (a bit like Arctic tundra), this experience was a bit different and called for some careful navigation to avoid the many HUGE potholes and general loose bits of mud - those potholes are just mere dints in the road for a mountain biker with suspension and fat tyres but to a roadie on 23mm tyres and no suspension aside from bum cheeks, they were huge, HUGE, (no not the bum cheeks)...

A stop off for tea n cake then on again for the homeward bound part of the ride and it's here we observed what looked like a fancy dress time trial, we overtook Little Bo Peep with her sheep and travelling in the opposite direction were 2 Santas and Jimmy Saville complete with cigar, hows about that then!!!

Overall because of the white roads we had a slow start with a low speed run out from Stretton that soon got a little faster as we moved onto the clearer main roads and the sun coming out to play. Then off the main roads as we went wild in the country, next we frightened anglers out of their tranquil musings as we all trundled past topped off later on by a bit of fancy dress passing by - A very different entertaining Sunday ride.

My Stats
43 Miles, 3hrs 3min, Av Speed 14.1mph, 1424 ft climbing.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Bikehike , GPS & TCX

I have been asked a few times about how to transfer a plotted route over to a Garmin 205/305 so here's how you can do it.

1. Using Bikehike plot your route like in the above example (right mouse click and open in new tab to expand illustration)

2. Connect your Garmin via USB and turn on.

3. In Bikehike under Mapping Controls click 'Download Route'

4. A new box will appear, fill out as my example i.e. tick 'tcx' - give the course title a name - tick 'GPS unit' then 'Download Route'

5. A 'Loading Garmin Libraries...' dialogue will pop up (if you haven't got the libraries you need to go get them, probably this from Garmin).

6. A box will pop-up to advise you of success or not.

7. Disconnect USB if you wish.

8. In your Garmin check your course has transferred across properly, go to: Training - Courses - Select your course - Map.

9. When it's time to ride your course go to: Training - Courses - Eureka (name of downloaded course) - Do course.

This is the simple way I prefer to do it, it's real easy and only uses one piece of software. There are many other ways out there that you can find by doing a google search but most use two or more pieces of software - long winded and complicated.

Note: The way I choose to plot my routes does not make use of any coursepoints because on my Garmin 205 there is a screen freeze of 15 seconds or so after a coursepoint warning has sounded and flashed up - obviously not what's needed when navigating a tight series of junctions or to confirm you are on the right road after a turn so I choose not to use any coursepoints if I can help it. Doesn't mean you can't....

Other links to peruse.
Veloriders on the Garmin 705
Frank Kinlan on the 305 and 705

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


For those that failed to ride Swiss Hill in its entirety it's some consolation to know that many others have been beaten into submission by the slick cobbles of Swiss Hill (or a local 4x4). Here's a few ride report quotes from 2009's Cheshire Cat which rode Swiss Hill...

Swiss Hill was the only one that got me (got everyone that I was with)- again, steep, but with wet mossy cobbles - no traction, not nice...

Swiss Hill was a right hoot, few wheelspin moments, and was made a little more difficult by a car trying to come down, whilst riding past walking riders, though give the car driver his due, he did wait patiently for us to pass. I am glad we went up it, and not down it, I know it was cobbled, but that was very rough cobbles, with a few holes....

Swiss Hill got me, but only due to falling off. A car was coming down and forced me into the rough edge area, I almost fell in his window He was nice about it though. Couldn't get started again until the flat middle section, despite a walking cyclist trying to help!...

Swiss Hill was interesting. It is probably the hardest hill I have ever climbed on my road bike. Just because of the gradient, the cobbles and the time in the ride it hit me. Didn't stop though! Made it too the top and then suffered like crazy all the way back to Knutsford...

39-27 did not get me up mow cop or swiss hill...

riding Swiss Hill was fun, very much like Flandrian climbs...

I turned left up the hill, hit the cobbles and everybody was walking in front of me! Cue much swerving and miraculously managing to stay on the bike, I pushed on up, almost hitting a few potholes when a car came down the hill. I finally got to the top and had to adjust the way I dressed after I'd taken a beating in the nether regions from my saddle!...

Slightly baulked at the bottom by a group stopped, dithering as what to do. Couldn't take as much speed into it as i'd have liked. Got halfway up, (avoiding the Range Rover coming down!) but terminal wheelspin meant I had to stop half way. At least I made it past the photographer! Got started again where the cobbles flatten. First time I've not cleared it but it was much greasier than on practice runs. Was the only climb I didn't manage with a 34-25...

A huge group went up in front of me and I thought, what the hell, I'm going for it. I started off ok and got as far as the flats but then the cobbles were so bad, muddle, uneven, slippy and I just fell off. I've got a huge bruise on my knee and hip - that's what is really hurting me now. Thanks to the guys who stopped to pick me up. I walked to just past the flats, got back on and carried on to the top with even more swearing...

Thought that a 39x27 would be enough to lug my lardy ars* up the hills. It wasn't - result = got off on all the major hills (especially Swiss Hill - just how slippy was that!)...

Swiss Hill was a challenge. I had to walk the steep bit on the bend near the houses...

Swiss Hill was my main challenge, as I've ridden it once before but on a MTB, and so i was slightly unsure about the gaps between the cobbles, and also the fact that on my previous run I'd stopped where it bends right thinking that was the end... however pleased with myself that i never had to put a foor down...

Swiss Hill definitely gets my vote for toughest climb of the route, especially with the surprise extra stretch around the corner when you think you're done...

Interesting but useless stuff, but I bet you feel a little better now - just thought I'd share Hehe...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 6 Dec 2009

Swiss hill and all that...

Sundays ride was a ride I was really looking forward to, we had decided to throw in a little challenge along the way and that challenge was to ride up a hill in Alderley Edge called Swiss Hill.

Swiss Hill isn't particularly long and it isn't that steep (mostly) I would say about 12-14% at the most but what makes Swiss Hill a real challenge is all to do with what the surface is made up of - Cobbles - big, uneven, rutted and mossy.

Now I have travelled Swiss Hill before this ride, not by bike but by car and even in the car it looked treacherous enough, the only opportunity I have had to actually ride it by bike was in the
2009 Cheshire Cat but I gave it a miss, I decided to wimp out after walking up most of the hills prior to Swiss Hill due to the fact I had the legs and will power of a custard tart.....

So as i said I was really looking forward to having a bash at this technically challenging hill. Here's a picture I have found that shows the start of Swiss Hill, it shows the cobbles, the worn areas, the moss centre, the mud and the wet leaves. What is doesn't show very well is the steepness - in this shot it looks like a gradual incline but in reality it's a bit more than that. Also on the day we as a club are to ride it, it was certain to be wet from the overnight rain so potentially very slippery indeed.

Setting off as usual from Stretton we arrived at Swiss Hill after 18 miles. We came to a halt just before the hill climb and it's here that as individuals we needed to make the decision of either carrying on and having a go or miss it and meet up around the corner. A bit of umming and arring but all eight of us decided to go for it. So off we set and I thought I'd be clever here by going up as one of the last - my reasoning being that because one member of the club, Andy, had ridden this hill before he knew what line to take amongst the wet uneven cobbles and I was going to watch and learn, O yes watch and learn...

So we all start the climb, I position myself as planned near the back but Andy's well ahead as I come around the bottom corner to start the climb. I see where he's positioned himself but I'm on a different tack, Andy's up ahead in the left rut and I'm on the right, no way am I going to attempt to cross over the mossy centre ridge - never mind I just need to concentrate on not putting any sudden bursts of power through the back wheel and keeping everything nicely smooth and slow. I'm in my lowest gear looking ahead for my line trying not to but not always succeeding in keeping my wheel from sliding into the large joins between the cobbles, every things going OK, a little slide here a bit of wheel spin there but it's all going fine then what a bugger - there's a bloody 4x4 coming down the single track hill. He's not waiting so I have to follow the only option available and just like everyone else - dismount. What a *@#^, he could have at the very least waited for us to go past him but didn't so that's that - climb ruined for most of us.

So now because of this situation most are having to walk to get passed the car, some managed to get back on and carry on and one guy managed to get past Mr4x4 and ride up Swiss Hill I think without stopping. I'm stopped at a steep part now and don't fancy my chances of successfully remounting and clipping in without immediately falling over so I walk a few yards and think bugger it, I've not come all this way for nothing and manage to get back on, clip in and carry on. Didn't last long though I only managed 10 yards or so by the flats you can see near the bend in the shot before my back wheel slid out sideways from under me but a very quick unclip allowed me to get a foot down before I fell down. I decided that there was no point trying again I would probably just fall off again and walked to the first bend before getting back on the bike and riding the not as difficult last few hundred yards of tarmac and cobbles...

Looking back, the hill itself is not that difficult an incline but because of the wet mossy cobbles and the flippin locals it was made more difficult than needs be on the day, this hill is really one for the dry weather not for a wet December day but we had to try it......

Ah well until next time....

My Stats
47.5 miles, 3hrs 22min, Av Sp 14.1mph, 1301 ft climbing

Sunday, 29 November 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 29 Nov 2009

Definitely not southern Jessies!!!

Metcheck had forecast snow showers, 6mm of rain and a temperature of just above zero along with moderate winds but that did nothing to deter ten hardy souls venturing out into the Cheshire countryside with the NCC.

On the day we decided upon riding the reverse of a route we have ridden before but with a few new roads thrown into the mix so setting of from Stretton and two miles into the ride,
a 'ping' saw off one member back home with a busted spoke. So ten became nine as we rode off into a cool winter morning, the snow was a no snow erm show, the wind was next to nowt and I was cruising along with a heart rate in the 120's but that was all about to change, 120bpm shot up near 170bpm on the first drag of a hill but I think it would have been higher if I hadn't been able to put into practice some of the things I've read about when it comes to climbing, specifically proper breathing and sitting farther back in the saddle alternating with my normal position and standing out of the saddle. Doing this seems to work different muscles groups so whilst one set is being worked the others are getting a little bit of R&R. Of course over time ALL the different muscles get fatigued so fatigue will get you in the end and I guess the only things you can do to delay the 'end' is to improve on cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength and they will only come with proper training, rest, nutrition and time.... lots of things I need to work on...

Arriving at our designated stop, the Summertrees Tea rooms in Willington I treated myself to carrot cake and coffee, £3.40 yikes, won't be doing that too often, but it was nice... Sitting there it was noticed that I steamed, yes I steamed - there literally was steam coming from my legs, so it's official I AM HOT!!!... but I think it was more to do with getting a good soaking combined with being a tad warm - but why was it only me, why out of the nine of us was I the only one steaming!!! I sat there fretting waiting to go up in flames - I've heard about this thing called spontaneous human combustion and as I waited for the flames I noted the positions of all the fire extinguishers... just in case...

I did eventually stop smoking and obviously lived to tell the tale so now we set off cold and shivering by descending Chapel lane - a hill we have yet to climb as a club but it's going to take a few scalps when we do I'm sure of it (probably mine and only mine), then back up past Delamere and onto the last two drags of the day and it's here where I was to put a different type of hill climbing to the test. These last two and the first in particular are long steady not too steep inclines, (not as steep as the earlier hills) where settling into a rhythm and getting comfortable are important, go off too hard and you run the risk of blowing up or go off too slow and get left behind but getting left behind is preferable to blowing up - at the very least you will be on your bike rather than walking when you meet up with the rest of the guys waiting for you at the top of the hill. So in my case I was able to settle on a hr of 160-162 with a cadence of around 75 to 80 and worked my way up the hill - my hr moves up to 165, I drop the speed slightly and if my hr goes the other way I'm not working hard enough...

The last few miles start to drag a little and I'm sure it's down to the miserable weather that is now making itself really manifest - we are riding into a little headwind, the heavens are open and the wet stuff is descending in bucket loads now, all miserable stuff but the ride is now over. Back at the car all the wet stuff is just thrown into the car and it's off home for nourishment, heat and a shower, stick the bike in the garage throw the wet gear into the washer and then came a steady stream of food and drink.... protein and banana shake, toasted bagel with butter, a hot cup of honey & lemon, 4 biscuits, a packet of crisps (low fat mind you) and a look in the fridge revealed a jar of olives stuffed with garlic - I will have some of that ta. Now and only now after the hunger has been sated came the shower closely followed by the Mrs coming in FROM SHOPPING you dirty minded gits complete with an order to the get the kettle on. So now it's a cup o tea and a big slab of chrimbo cake, yum yum. Three hours later it's tea time with cheesy topped beef pasta....

Total calories worked off = much less than the total calories consumed after...

My Stats
40.7 miles, 2hrs 55min, Av Spd 14 mph, 1939ft climbing

Sunday, 22 November 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 22 Nov 2009

A ride of two halves

I seem to start a new post talking about the weather and unsurprisingly this one will be no different. Over the last few days the weather has battered parts of the country, in particular we've had massive floods and gale force winds not far from our locality in the Lake district that has destroyed bridges, flooded homes and has unfortunately cost lives so a beady eye was kept on the forecast leading up to Sunday. Things didn't look promising with Metcheck issuing a severe weather warning forecasting many mm's of rain with winds of 20+mph - loony weather, a ride for the brave or is that the stupid hmmm.

Anyway come Sunday morning despite the forecast we had five turn up at Stretton ready to brave the elements. With the weather conditions and the fact we were riding into a heavy wind
we compromised a little by diverting away slightly from the proposed route and chose to avoid the worst of the hills but our route took us over some anyway. We rode through Frodsham village then onto a steady climb up The Ridgeway and then over the rolling hills of New Pale Rd heading for Delamere, Kelsall, Willington and finally 25 miles in we hit the Ice Cream Farm north of Tattenhall. Tea and cakes then off again skirting the base of Beeston Castle before heading through Tarpoley, Oulton Pk, Weaverham and finally back to base.

The ride was tough as we headed west and south to the cake stop, heading into a 16-19mph wind that hit us either head-on or battered us from the side but at least the rain Metcheck had prophesied held off for the duration of the ride so that was a small blessing. A problem I have that affects my riding at times is that I have a low blood count courtesy of my condition. My haemoglobin reading is around 11 but should be between 13 to 18 and my haemocrit is 34% but should be between 42 and 54% so I will always suffer on long hills due to not being able to transport the same amount of oxygen to my muscles as the average bloke, so I pant like a dog and have to ride at my own pace. Yet another problem I have is that I sometimes get a stitch like pain in the area of my surgery whenever I hit the first hill of the day. Today that hill was The Ridgeway so had to climb it nice n steady. The funny thing about this 'stitch' is that after I have gotten it out of the way I'm fine for the rest of the ride, go figure...

So I suffered for the first half of the ride and I know I wasn't alone in this, the wind battered us and the hills sapped the living vitality out of us but after the cake stop I seemed to have had a burst of energy, must have been the coffee and probably aided by an occasional tail wind found the going not as tough... My bikes computer had stopped working - no speed readout, so when I was on the front the only thing I was working with was my heart rate and perceived effort so unfortunately I was either going too fast or too slow so sorry guys if I was working you too hard at times and boring you the other :[

The only other event of the day occurred was when I had a knocking noise suddenly appear that coincided with my pedalling, I really thought that my bottom bracket was on it's way out so we pulled over to investigate only to find that my pump had come loose and was knocking against my pedal - panic over but it's here we had another 'clip-less' moment, whereas the last time this happened it looked funny, this time it didn't - it did look like it may have hurt a little but the rider picked the bike up of the floor, dusted off and carried on like it was nothing :)

Anyway to summarise it was a good but tough ride with some hills thrown in along some picturesque Cheshire back roads, the first half was really energy sapping, the second not so bad. Sitting here writing this my thighs are a little sore but not that bad. This route will be a great route come the warmer weather...

My Stats
50.1 miles, 3hrs 17min, Av Spd 15.3, 2024ft climbing

Sunday, 15 November 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 15 Nov 09

A promising day for the ride, no rain, little wind and some sun along the way. On the clubs message boards there was some discussion regarding the choice of route as all the usual lads that lead from the front were all otherwise occupied and the clubs Secretary had been struck down with the dreaded swine flu. So just in case I stuck some routes on my Garmin however they were not really needed - even though he should have been in bed Mr Secretary turned up, hows that for dedication to his flock!!!

The route that was chosen was a relatively flat route of 42 miles with a café stop at the Lavender Farm 30 miles in so all seven of us set off in a south-east loop for a nice gentle Sunday morning social ride. With all the wind and rain we have had over the last week the roads were not bad at all so that made for a much more pleasurable experience compared to the last few club rides. Nothing of note happened today and no 'clipless' moments boohoo...

One thing I have found through the experience of riding in a group is that at times it can be nearly as tough riding the flats as it is climbing the hills. On your own it's easy to ride to your abilities but in a group it can be hard if you are all riding to the strongest rider and that strong rider is not you. The strongest riders are usually at the front dictating the pace and the problem I find is that if there is a long stretch of flat the pace often gets faster, the heart rate rises and continues to rise and the legs start to tire until a welcome halt or a significant downhill but with a long stretch those breaks are few and far between. This ride was a little tough at times as the pace rose but quite a few took turns on the front, we shared the effort so not too bad. Near the end of the ride we tried to keep the speed down so as to not stretch the group too much and that speed was easily achievable but the final few miles travelled over a gradual climb and trying to maintain that pace on the front into the wind got gradually harder until finding relief upon reaching the traffic lights that marked the end of the ride - phwew...

Personally I had a great ride, I was determined to practice some of the hill climbing tips that I put in my last blog entry, combine that info particularly the sliding back in the saddle bit for more power with the coffee I had before I set out as well as more controlled breathing, I literally stormed up the few hills we came across - well pleased I am... I wish blogspot had the use of emoticons, a few smilies would come in handy here...

My Stats
43.05 miles, 2hrs 46min, Av Spd 15.6mph, 965ft climbing

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hill Climbing...

Following on from a discussion I had with Phil who previously had a discussion with another rider on the subject of hill climbing, I thought I'd have a scout around the net to find something on the subject of making the climbing of hills easier and faster.

There is plenty of advice to be found on the net but this article I found at had a lot in common with the advice Phil was given so have quoted the majority of it here....

NOTE None of the following is any of my work so I take no credit for it except for a copy and paste and some pruning along the way...

Hills/Climbing Tips

Climbing is a power-to-weight activity. World class climbers generally have less than 2 pounds of body weight per inch of height. (For example, if you're 70 inches tall (5-foot- 10), you would weigh less than 140 pounds.) Since achieving this weight is difficult for most of us, here are a few tips for hill climbing. If hills intimidate you, or are your weak link, take it easy. Go 5-10% easier than you think you can as you get into the climb. Conserve. You can always pick it up later.

Although you develop more power while standing (you are taking advantage of all your upper body weight pushing down on the pedals), you also use 10 to 12% more energy as your pelvis isn't in contact with the saddle which means more work for your core and back muscles as you pull up on the unweighted pedal. The net effect is more energy used (less efficient) to climb standing versus to climb seated.

On short climbs, the length of a football field or less, it makes little difference. But on longer climbs, stay in the saddle and spin at 80 - 85 RPM. This is particularly so if you are heavier as standing puts just that much more weight on your leg muscles, while sitting uses the seat to help take the extra upper body weight off your legs.

Staying in the saddle will:

burn less energy - heart rate is approximately 8% lower for any set speed
use your bigger gluteal (butt) and hip muscles to your advantage

Want to train for climbing hills while seated?? Here is a drill you might consider. Go hard up short hills while seated. Find a climb that's moderately steep and takes about 30 seconds to crest. Hit it hard at the bottom in a fairly large gear. Beware of letting your cadence slow by the top. Use a gear that lets you pedal at 90 rpm or more all the way up. Start with two or three reps and increase as your strength improves.That having been said, on long, fairly steep climbs, it may provide a break to alternate sitting and standing to employ different muscle groups. Just before you stand, shift to the next smaller cog, then shift back when you sit. These gear changes will help you maintain a steady pace during cadence changes. And if you are going to stand, let the bike rock side to side under you - an arc of maybe 6 inches side to side. And don't lean too far forward. Stay back so that your weight is directly over the crank.

Being bent over in the drops is the most efficient position on level ground, but hills are different as there is much less aerodynamic resistance. You actually get the most power sitting up as high as you can.

Comfort overrides these comments, but for seated climbing, most riders prefer to keep their hands on top of the bars, perhaps 2 or 3 inches from the center stem. A wide grip on the top of the handlebar reduces breathing restriction. And remember to drop your elbows and relax your upper body.

For out of the saddle climbing or aggressive climbs (where you are accelerating or attacking on the saddle) put your thumbs on the hoods and rest one or two fingers on the levers or wrapped around underneath. And when you get to that descent, most riders will go to the drops (keeping your wrists straight) for the aerodynamic advantages although others prefer the hoods for the feeling of control. But not the top of the bars as your hands will be too far from the brakes.

Keep your upper body quiet - the bike should rock under you (try pulling up on the handlebar opposite of the leg on a down stroke). Too much movement wastes energy. And your shoulders should be back and "open". If not, you are constricting your chest and cannot breathe efficiently.

When you slide back on your seat, you gain a leverage advantage on the pedals. The only time you would want to slide forward is for a short sprint on a small rise.

WHEN YOU MUST STAND - pedaling while standing
If you must stand, remember it's hard to pull up because you aren't in contact with the saddle -- there's nothing to brace your hips to pull against -- and you will to power into BOTH the down and up strokes (12 to 5 o'clock on the down stroke and 7 to 10 o'clock on the upstroke). You should use your body weight to help you push down. Let the bike move fluidly under you. Don’t force it.

The bike should rock rhythmically side to side in an arc of about 6 inches (judged by the movement of the handlebar stem). This gives each leg a direct push against its pedal and makes the best use of your weight. This will help to maintain a smooth stroke and your momentum. Don't lean too far forward. If the nose of your saddle is brushing the back of your thighs, you are just right. Farther forward and you will press the front tire into the pavement and lose power. Stay back a bit and find the front-to-back sweet spot.

This helps center your weight over the crank to drive the pedals as described. And remember to shift up a gear or two just before you stand to take advantage of the extra power you gain from standing (but which you can’t maintain for any length of time).

Remember that if you are in a group, you need to consciously protect those behind you when you stand to climb. How you stand on a hill is very important - do it wrong and the guy behind might suddenly be on the pavement. The issue is the brief deceleration that can occur as you change from sitting to standing incorrectly, which, relative to other riders has the effect of sending your bike backwards and can cause the following rider's front wheel to hit your rear wheel.

On short, rolling hills, the trick is to click to the next higher gear (smaller cog), then stand and pedal over the top with a slightly slower cadence. This keeps quads from loading up with lactate because it helps you pedal with body weight. In fact, it can actually feel like you're stretching and refreshing your legs.

The correct way to stand:
It is good etiquette to announce "Standing!" a couple of pedal strokes before you do so.

Stand smoothly as one foot begins its downward power stroke - don't lunge, keep your effort constant.

As you come off the saddle, push your hands forward a bit. This helps to ensure that the bike won't lose ground.

When returning to the saddle, continue pedaling evenly and again push your hands forward to counteract any tendency to decelerate. This will gain several inches and put the seat right under you.

You can practice your technique with a friend during a training ride. They can ride behind and let you know when you've got the hang to it. That's when the gap between their front wheel and your rear wheel doesn't narrow each time you stand or sit.

Climbing should always be done in your comfort zone. Ride at your own pace - Know your limits and listen to your body. If you become anaerobic, you won't recover, so let faster riders go. It's a common mistake: Trying to keep up with better climbers on the lower slopes, then reaching your limits and losing big hunks of time. Take it a bit easier and you have a much better chance of catching them later. You don’t want to over exert and go anaerobic. If you're nearing your red line on that hill, slow slightly, breathe deeply and continue at a speed within your ability.

Use the right gears and shift early to balance the work of your muscles and aerobic system. New riders often make the mistake of pushing their muscles until they cannot push any more. When they decide to shift to an easier gear -- if they have one -- it is often too late. The muscles are exhausted and unable to continue.

Think about this. If you ride up the hill in two minutes at 60 rpm, you've divided the total work into 120 pieces (consider each revolution of your pedals as a unit of work). But if you spin at 90, there would be 180. As you've done the same elevation gain, but now broken it into smaller bits, there will be less work (and strain on the knees) with each revolution. (And if you do have knee problems, take a break and stand during hills - which will change the biomechanics and give your knees a break).

Gear down before the hill. The goal is to avoid producing large quantities of lactic acid and then pedaling through the pain. You want a sustainable rhythm. Try to keep your cadence above 70 -- any slower puts excess stress on your knees. The optimum spin rates for efficient pedaling are somewhere between 70 and 80. One rider reported that he actually went faster as he increased his cadence in a lower gear. For example, he would maintain 6.5 mph at 50 rpm in one gear and then, as he geared down, he found he maintained 8 mph at 70 rpm without a perceived increase in effort. If you find that things are going well, you can always shift to a harder gear later.

Try to find the cadence that would let you "climb all day". You are pushing too hard if you:
can't keep a smooth pedal stroke
are panting or breathing irregularly Ride your own pace. The energy you save may help you catch someone who started too fast near the summit.


If you start to breathe irregularly, take a deep breath and hold it for a few pedal strokes. Try synchronizing your breathing with your pedal stroke - start by taking a breath every time one foot (your right one for example) reaches the bottom of a stroke. Then try 1 1/2, and finally every two strokes. You will actually deliver more oxygen to your system with a controlled rate than an irregular panting or gasping one.


Cycling-specific weight exercises in the off-season are a great way to improve your climbing power. Two or three sets of 15-25 reps, twice a week is a good general program. The emphasis should be on the legs and back (step-ups, lunges, squats or leg presses. Focus on higher reps and medium weight to develop muscular endurance and minimize the risk of injury - and adding sets of "standing jumps" (standing in place and jumping as high as one can for 20 or more times) after your weight workout will give you the explosiveness to catch your buddy off guard in the spring. And don’t forget to stretch to maintain flexibility.

After you've developed a good strength base in the weight room, the absolutely best way to improve climbing is to get back on the bike in the Spring and work on climbing. Find some rolling hills and use them like intervals with short bursts of climbing followed by spinning on the flats. Start with hills that take about 15 seconds to climb at a cadence of 90 rpm.

Once you have your season base, you might add climbs of 10-15 minutes in a bigger gear that you can maintain easily at 70 rpm - but not if you have a history of knee problems.

If you are going to be riding hills as part of an event or a tour, you might consider building up weekly climbing volume to around 125% of event climbing volume. If it is a one day event, aim to climb at least 60% of event elevation change volume on several rides. For example, if the event has 10,000 feet of climbing, you must climb 6,000 feet in training in one day, several times.
And don't foget to train for technique as well.

Find a hill that's 1/4 to 1/2 mile long - not too steep.
Find the gear that lets you spin at 100 rpm all the way to the top.
Keep your breathing steady. If you start panting, the gear is too high. Then find a higher gear that reduces your cadence to around 50 rpm, but again without causing you to have labored breathing.

Now the exercise:
Climb the hill in the low gear with a fast cadence. Work on spinning smoothly.
Coast back down and then climb the hill in the higher gear (slow cadence) concentrating on applying an equal force all the way around the pedal stroke.
Repeat the cycle (4 total climbs)


We all know that lighter riders climb faster that heavy ones. So remember to watch the weight - both your own and the weight you are carrying on the bike. It costs a lot to reduce the weight of your bike by a pound, but that extra water bottle or weight in your fanny pack could easily add up to a pound and really add up on a ride over hilly terrain.

One trick for weaker climbers in a group is to move near the front of the group near the start of the climb and allow others to pass as the climb continues. In that way, you will be near the back at the top but won't get dropped and have to fight back to close with the group.

Save a little for a short sprint over the top of the hill -- shift up and stand to accelerate and make up some distance.

For those long climbs (the Cascades or the Rockies) don't forget the basics for nutrition and hydration. A long climb inexorably drains your body of glycogen and liquid. Take two big gulps of water or a sports drink every 15 minutes. And eat (or drink) the equivalent of a sports bar (250 calories) every hour.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 8th Nov 2009

Metcheck had forecast a much better day than last weeks run with a temperature of 5'C that would feel more like 2'C owing to a moderate northern wind. With this in mind I came prepared for a cold run wearing 2 baselayers under a windtex type jacket under a boil-in-the-bag waterproof, a cap under my helmet and £5 Aldi gloves. On the day there was a bit of rain but not anything near the 2.6mm Metcheck had forecast for 9am - that's why the boil-in-the-bag waterproof, I had come prepared for the worst.

When I got my bike and all my gear out of the car I thought I had left my riding glasses at home seeing as they were no-where to be found although I was damned sure I had brought them... Still there was always the sunglasses from my car - totally unsuitable with dark lenses in the gloom of an autumn morning but better than mud and stuff in the eyes...

A good turn out of 12 NCC'ers at Stretton and at 9am we set off heading west for the cafe stop at the Summertrees tea rooms in Willington. On the run up to the cafe the weather wasn't too bad, not much in the way of wind just the usual winter crap on the roads - twigs, leaves, mud and cow/horse poo especially on the narrow back lanes of west Cheshire we traversed. Not much climbing or maybe there was but I've just gotten better at this lark and didn't notice it so much - just Acton Bridge, a few hills around Delamere and Little Leigh stick in my mind.

It was an uneventful ride to the tea rooms keeping a reasonable pace and with very few shouts of 'TAIL!!!' - we really are as a group getting fitter. Obviously there are some who have been playing this game a long time whereas some of us are old and decrepit such as moi and hearing the shout of 'TAIL!!!' is very nice to hear indeed on occasion. Myself generally when it comes to hills I take them at a nice slow pace and get overtaken by some, well mostly everyone :/ I get to the top but at a crawl, I defo need some hints and tips at hill climbing because I want to be up there with the fast boys...

At the tea rooms we had a nice bite to eat and come 11am with it being remembrance day we showed our respects with a minutes silence but just prior to 11am two ladies came in talking to the cashiers. When we became silent and still - all 12 of us, I could see them looking at us whispering and pointing amongst themselves wondering whats going on, we must have looked like something out of The Happening, normal and talking one minute, still and quiet the next - very eerie. It took them a few seconds to click and became silent themselves - they did apologise later.

After the cafe stop came a puncture, a few more hills and another puncture. The highlight of the day for me was seeing someone have a clipless moment, it's not funny I know but it's like hearing someone accidentally fart - it's funny but it shouldn't be and it creases me up every time. One moment he was upright, cycling very slowly waiting for the group to make a decision as to which way we were to go then all of a sudden 'TIMBER!!!' he's on the ground still clipped in - it's childishly hilarious to see it happen, although I really shouldn't laugh because I can't claim to be clipless moment free - It's happened to me twice with the first being the most embarrassing, I came to a T junction waiting to turn left only to be stopped from pulling out of the junction by white van man and then yes you guessed it I had forgotten to unclip before the junction so I slowly toppled onto the verge, I couldn't get my foot out in time to stop the fall. Highly highly embarrassing especially when I caught a glimpse of white van men laughing their socks off...

So all in all a good ride and a good route. When the weather improves this route will be glorious, I look forward to the time I can do this route with the heat on my back and wearing my proper shades which incidentally were in my car after all, hidden in plain view on the dashboard - what a numpty...

My Stats 39.4 miles - 2hrs 30 min - Av Speed 15.7 mph - 1624 ft climbing

Sunday, 1 November 2009

We're not Southern Jessies, are we?

North Cheshire Clarion club run 1st Nov 2009

Driving rain, gale force winds - that was the forecast for Sundays NCC club ride. Out of bed nice and early looked out of the window and yup the forecast of 25mph winds, gusts of 30+mph and 25mm of rain was spot on.

Had breakfast, stuck my race blades on the bike and set off a little late but got to the start point just in time hoping that no one had turned up only to see Giles waiting looking sodden in the rain, bummer we're going to get very very wet...

Got the bike out of my car, stuck ALL of my waterproofs on and rode up to the start point to find Giles had been joined by two other mad ones. So all four of us set off for a flat loop south and east but unfortunately I had forgotten to charge my Garmin and so have no map ride data - good job I had my Cateye for the basics. My waterproofs held out quite well but I eventually got wet, whereas my lower half as expected was soaked within minutes my top half also got wet but not from the rain, more from the boil in the bag effect that comes with hard work and a vent less waterproof.

The pace was as fast as the conditions would allow with the weather being so bad. We had to be constantly on the alert for fallen bits of dead tree, mud, leaves everywhere, potholes, metal grids and puddles but the worst was dealing with the gusty wind, it came from everywhere the side winds literally knocked you sideways at times and later on a headwind that had me crawling along at 10mph.

Ride stats show only 34.5 miles but with that constant gale it sure did feel a lot more and my legs concur - they are definitely a little sore and complaining.... 34.5? nah more like 70...

So are we Southern Jessies? Definitely not - we're well ard...

My Stats
34.5 miles - 2hrs17min - Av Speed 15.1mph - 794ft climbing

Saturday, 31 October 2009

I'm a cheeky Boy

I did something cheeky & sneaky yesterday, wasn't intentional but it happened. I was looking at the Kilotogo website and noticed the Cheshire Cat 2010 page was up with all the rides listed with profiles, GPX's etc and an entry button - this was on Friday, two days before entries are to be opened officially. So clicked the button, paid my money and I was in for the 100 mile version starting from Crew this time rather than last years Knutsford. Got my email confirmations, went back onto the Kilotogo website to see my name on the entered page but I was the only one - strange, I thought there would be at least a dozen or so. Went back a few minutes later to find all those pages had been pulled off the net, I'm a little worried now so check my emails and notice that I had an email from the Kilotogo organiser saying;
Hi Mark - That was slick! We're just doing a few tweaks to the website getting ready for entries opening on Sunday and you crept in and only went and entered the Cheshire Cat. We opened entries for a few moments. Don't worry, you are in OK but hold the unique accolade of entering before entries actually open.
Lol, at the very least I can say that I came first in the Cat, certainly not on the ride itself but definitely in something.

Looking at the routes and profiles for both the 67 and 100 mile rides, the hills start 16 miles in with Mow Cop being the first and Wincle the last but no Macclesfied Forest this time. Last year the 100 miler had nearly 60 miles of Cheshire flat before hitting the hills, 2010's version will be reversed with a 16 mile run in to the hills with the the flats coming last.

Although I've signed up for the 100 miler my plan is if I'm not up for the full fat version after the hills it's easy to bail out onto the 67 mile semi-skimmed and miss the final 27 miles of flat.

Here's a video preview of the 'legendary' Mow Cop. It doesn't do the gradients justice - you will notice by how much when you actually do ride the hill.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

North Cheshire Clarion club run 25 Oct 2009

With the clocks going back an hour for the start of British wintertime we all got an hour extra in bed so at 9am (10am old time) all 7 of us gathered at Stretton for what promised to be a very windy day. Metcheck had winds of 19-23mph for the morning easing off slightly for the afternoon.

No real ride leader for the day but Andy and Dave had some suggestions for the route so it was west into and through Frodsham then over (snigger snigger) Alvanley with it's hill that made a few of us sweat a little before heading through Mouldsworth with a cafe stop at the Elvis transport cafe nr Tarvin complete with a singing reindeer mounted on the wall surrounded by hundreds of Elvis photo's.

After the tea n cake we continued the loop ending up at Willington corner tantalisingly close to Chapel Ln but good common sense prevailed and we did a right missing Chapel lane out and curving round to Delamere Forest, right at Hatchmere through Norley across the A49 before hitting the narrow country lanes once more and on back to Stretton.

The rain held off, the temperature was mild and you kind of got used to a wind that didn't really abate for the duration of the ride. A good run that wasn't too hilly - but certainly not flat. Alvanley hill which was the first hill to make me get off and walk last year not long after I started riding was the only real challenge of the day, but a nice steady slow climb had me up easy enough even though it did get the old ticker working hard.

My stats
41.3 miles, 2hrs37min, Av Speed 15.8, 1588ft climbing.

North Cheshire Clarion club run 18 Oct 2009

A 9am start had me up at 7, porridge a bagel and a mug of tea had me ready to go, ran out to the garage to get the bike ready and it was flippin cold. 2 under layers, a light wind proof jacket, skullcap, biblongs and overshoes was the choice of clothing that served me well for the day. No wind to speak of with a temp of around 5-10'C.

Rode out from home, only 7 miles / 30min at a nice easy pace got me to Stretton - the start point. Andy was the ride leader today and he took us on a loop around Cheshire. A nice easy start had us headed west to Frodsham then we hit a few hills around Delamere which slowed us down a little then on through Kelsall and Willington before having a cafe stop in a nice little place in Cotebrook.

The food looked great but the service came complete with a surly face, a shame really as it was a nice little place to stop for a bite. Moving on we headed north-east past Oulton Park and on to Little Budworth, Weaverham and onto the A49 before doing a right turn and onto the last hill of the day, a hill of around 8% and then the last few miles back to Stretton.

A good nicely balanced route - not too easy or hard definitely a good work out for all 10 of us, I certainly felt it in the legs on the hills around Delamere but overall not too difficult seeing as we bypassed the more challenging hills in the area.

My Ride Stats
Distance 55.26 miles - Time 3hrs36min - Avg Speed 15.3mph - Climbing 1627 ft

Week end ride 11 Oct 2009

No Clarion ride this w/e, the Clarionists meet every two weeks for the road run until the time that there is the demand and numbers for a weekly ride.

So we (myself & Phil) resorted to our own devices and old habits setting off for our usual cafe stop at the Ice Cream Farm near Tattenhall. By old habits I mean finding hills to climb and once climbed then riding at a fair old whack to the next hill. Now in our locality there are hills to climb if you look for them, there is a spine of hills ranging from Frodsham in the north through Helsby and finishing around Willington in the south and our usual route takes us through these areas - deliberately of course simply because not too long ago I in particular was crap on hills and the general advice for improving your hill climbing ability is simple - ride them thar hills, seek out and conquer them. A year on I have improved somewhat, not as much as I would have liked but all the hills I at one time walked up in this area are now conquered every weekend. I'm not saying I'm a mountain goat able to just waltz up em, no, I take the hills at my own slow pace, sometimes out of the saddle more usually in the saddle and in my lowest gear.

Old habits die hard they say and yes they do, but what we have come to understand is that your body mind and spirit needs rest, you cannot continuously go at it 100% all year round, you need to back off and give yourself chance to rest and heal. I have bought a few books over the last year or so looking for training regimes in particular and what I have generally found is that these books are designed for serious 'athletes' who have at least 8 hours per week to spare for training. I have found that my body atm cannot cope with that amount - that's over training to me complete with colds and sleeping problems but in saying that, in these programmes defence - I have not tried to follow them - I just know that going 'at it' as I have done in the past for 8hrs a week wipes me out and is defo no fun - not that these books endorse 'going at it', far from it, I have to sit down read them thoroughly, stick to the plan and make them work for me

Anyway I aim to get some serious training in for next years Sportives so I bought myself 'The Time Crunched Cyclist - Fit, Fast and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week' by Chris Carmichael to help me along. It sounds ideal for me, I'm not a racer nor is my goal to ride some huge foreign Sportive - although that would change if I could pass the required medical. I'm the weekend warrior with a few domestic sportives in the pipeline who enjoys his riding and wants to improve.

This book makes good reading, Carmichael goes into some detail about the theory behind his workouts. He details four different training programmes depending on your goals. He has you go through a 'field test' to determine your average max heart rate or power before you start any of these programmes then gives you a series of ratios to workout the various HR zones or power zones you will be working in. What I have now learnt from working out my zones is that I have gone out too hard every time I have ridden my bike - I have been working at too high a HR for way way too long and that cannot be doing me any good.

So back to old habits and all that, we (myself & Phil) discussed before this ride that following the advice from this book we should be doing 'EMs' - Endurance Miles before starting one of the training programmes which meant taking it easy and avoiding the hills to keep the HR down contrary to our normal habits of 'going for it'. My HR max although not tested properly (i'm no masochist) has peaked at 191 bpm so working out the ratios I need to keep my HR below 150bpm and that is not easy on the hills we needed to ride to get to our cafe stop.

So that was the 'story' behind this ride - keep that HR down even if it meant being overtaken by grandma on her zimmerframe. I think we were mostly successful, for much of the ride we were able to keep to less than 150bpm but of course when we hit the hills our HR's did go up to 160bpm at times, can't be helped on this route I'm afraid, we will just have to work out a few more flat routes for future rides...

My Stats

Distance 44.14 miles - Duration 3:25 - Av Speed 12.9mpg - Climbing 2000ft - Av HR 143bpm

North Cheshire Clarion Club Ride 4 Oct 2009

Myself and Phil drove out to the designated meeting point outside of the Cat & Lion pub in Stretton for the 9am start time. After the hello's all eight of us set off for a nice steady loop south and east of Stretton for the NCC's inaugural road ride. It wasn't long before we had another first of the day - the first puncture which happened somewhere between Antrobus and Budworth Heath. Once that was sorted we set off again on some easy roads heading towards our cafe stop at the Dunham Lavender Farm tea rooms near Altincham. Not knowing how many more miles we were to ride that day we both had some food, beans on toast - lovely stuff. Anthony the cheeky bugger obviously envious of our choice of warm food deviously schemed to separate us from our beans by telling us that somebody was shouting us from the gates in the vain hope we would go and investigate, but we were wise to his ruse and he failed in his dastardly plot to knick our beans...

Setting off from the tea rooms for the final leg the weather didn't look too healthy so I stuck my gillet on just in case - it was a wise decision (ish). Not long after setting off the heavens opened and it lashed down, my gillet kept my torso dry for a really long time - say all of 15 seconds before the cold insidious rain found it's way in. I didn't mind my torso getting wet - no I lie, I did mind but what I mind more is when you feel that cold watery trickle first of all getting into your shoes and then to make matters worse it slowly trickles its way down into your nether regions, you know it's going to happen, you feel the cold icy watery fingers slowly zooming in, but it's still a shock when it does...

Anyway despite the rain we all plugged on like brave little soldiers and after 10 minutes or so the rain eased off, hooray for small mercies. The rest of ride was pretty uneventfully, some of us started to feel the miles and in places we stringed out a little but a shout of 'tail' had us slowing down so we could all regroup, and that was that, we were home, back at Stretton, the inaugural ride of the North West section of the National Clarion was over.

The ride itself was mostly at a nice easy pace. In the early part of the ride my heart rate was at times around 120bpm and that is low for me but the ride did get a little faster as time went on and we did manage to find a couple of 'bumps' along the way. I enjoyed it, it made a change to ride with a group, great to chat with everyone on the way and hopefully a sign of good things to come.

Anyone looking for a friendly bunch to ride with will be well advised to join up with the NCC.

My Stats
Distance 34.5miles - Time 2:16 - Avg Speed 15.2mph - Climbing 1138 ft

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

North Cheshire Clarion

I had been looking for a club to join for yonks and the closest I got was enjoying a Sunday ride with the Weaver Valley Club in Weaverham but apart from that brief foray there was nothing on the cards until this thread appeared on the Bike Radar forums.

The club being promoted is the North Cheshire Clarion - a section of the National Clarion cycling club. It's a brand spanking new club looking for anyone who has a cycling interest but are clubless and on the lookout for a good friendly club or perhaps just starting out into the world of cycling.

I don't live too far away from Warrington so made some enquiries through the forum. Giles one of the club founders was very helpful in answering my questions and I was hopeful that I had now found a local club that would suit me. The invite was there for all those interested to turn up for the clubs inaugural road ride on Sunday 4th October starting from the Cat & Lion pub in Stretton just south of Warrington.

Sportive No 3 September 2009 Manchester 100

The Manchester 100 Sportive/charity ride was the event we chose for our first 100 mile ride. I was told that it would be a flat ride with it being held in the heartland of Cheshire - was it flat? yes it seemed so with the exception of the Delamere section which travelled the same few lanes and hills as the Liverpool Chester Liverpool 'Sportive' but even so there was still some 3600ft of climbing to be done so hardly flat!. Delamere seems to be a popular choice for Sportives and charity rides in this part of the north west and rightly so - beautiful scenery, quiet roads and some moderate hills what's not to like?

So myself and Phil travelled the short distance to Wythenshawe Park for the start. We were there for our designated start time of 7:20am and after getting all our gear on we rolled to the start line, handed in the required paraphernalia, given a basic map in return and we were off. A quick start saw us teaming up with a group of around six riders. I was happy to stay within the group but quite prepared for a turn on the front when it was my turn - as it should be. The guy who was on the front lead for a few miles and seemed to really enjoy being there. I was behind him for a while and then figured that it was my time to have a go on the front so pulled out overtaking him and lead the mini peloton for about 2 minutes before he stuck himself back on the front again - ah well I gave it a shot. When Phil put himself on the front a few minutes later, I watched this guy to see what he'd do. Instead of trusting his lead man who was indicating dangers and was riding at the same pace we had all been travelling at for the last few miles, he rode to one side of Phil with his neck craned to see ahead and again within a few minutes he stuck himself back on the front. He obviously didn't trust anyone or perhaps he wanted to be the hero but whatever - we tried to do our bit, now if he wants to burn himself out on the front then so be it, he's doing us a big favour in doing so....

We rode on through Knutsford and Northwich until 25 miles in and not far from Hatchmere we came to the first feed station. We wanted to be away quick so pulling up outside of the school-yard which hosted the feed stop, we ate our power bars and set off again for the southern part of the ride. Through Delamere up the few hills that there was on this 'Sportive' and on through Kelsall and Tattenhall. The ride now turned east and into a headwind that although wasn't strong, it did slowly sap your strength and here especially we felt the advantages of riding in groups. I remember one group of four we latched onto - we started off on the back with a really strong rider on the front and what happened was over the next few miles the three riders that were behind the leading man pealed away one by one from the group until I was behind him and Phil behind me. After a few minutes just as I was about to take a turn he beckoned me through and as I went past him I could see that he was so absolutely shattered - he was breathing like a horse and looking really ill. I felt bad that he worked himself into oblivion and no-one had helped out. I slowed the pace down a little to give him a rest - we had been riding at over 20mph for ages. After a few minutes I glanced behind only to see he had dropped away completely, it was just me and Phil...

The next feed station was the 'enforced' 30 minute stop at Nantwich approx 56 miles into the ride. Enforced wasn't really accurate to describe the 30 minutes you were supposed to stop. You got your time card stamped by a couple of kids sat at a table - you could then if you so wish walk away, come back 10 minutes later, get it stamped again and be away. I can't recall our exact time but it was near 30 minutes before we set off again for the last feed station. This second to last part was boring, flat roads that just seemed to go on forever but at least a decent speed was easily achievable travelling in a group in excess of 20+mph for miles on end. Again we found ourselves in a small group and again we had someone on the front that was just a mile munching machine. I think he was on a flat bar road bike with flat pedals and trainers, certainly nothing bling about him or his gear which just goes to show that Lance is right, 'it's NOT about the bike...'(but it is nice to have nice stuff).

I later found out through the Bike radar forums that about 70miles in, someone had sprinkled tacks all over the road and a few people came a cropper before the tacks were cleaned up, I didn't see it myself so I don't know if this happened before or after we passed that particular spot but we were thankfully unaffected. The next feed stop at 77 miles was at a pub by the banks of the river Weaver in Middlewich (or was that the Weaver canal?) again we didn't go in but stopped just outside on the road to have a bite or two. By this time I was getting a little tired in the legs and glad of a break.

We quickly moved on for the final 23 miles and again just like the Liverpool - Chester - Liverpool 'Sportive' all the rides came together. In this case there was just the 100k and the 100 mile rides and again there was congestion. When we came to the last hill of the day at Styal, all I remember is being stuck behind a car that in turn was stuck behind a group of mountain bikers from the 100k route walking up the hill. The road was narrow with no room to pass so it was stop start right to the top of the hill, I couldn't judge how steep it was because I didn't actually get to ride it...

The end was now in sight, when we hit the main road which was less than a mile away from the finish line I now had my bearings so put a spurt on only to be stopped by traffic and traffic lights!!!!! the last few hundred yards were reduced to a crawl behind slow moving cars. Crossing the finish line a lad gave us a certificate for completing the 100 miles under 6 hours and a cheap cycling computer that I gave away to someone more needy than me.

So that was that, time to pack up and drive home. I didn't feel too tired, my legs were a bit frazzled but I could have gone on for a few more miles. Would I do it again? I don't really know - it did get boring, miles upon miles of flat is not my thing. I think I would prefer a shorter but hillier route but I may just do it again next year, just have to wait and see...

My Stats
Distance 100.5 miles - Time 5:51 -Av Speed 17.2 - Climbing 3593 ft