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