In this post I will describe what a bike GPS device is and what it can do for cyclists. I’ll talk about the difference between a dedicated device and using the GPS functionality of your phone.
Finally, I’ll share with you a table that I have compiled, which compares the various characteristics (functions, size, weight, battery life etc) of the bike GPS devices currently on the market.
The purpose of the table was to help me choose which GPS device to buy. It certainly helped clarify my own thoughts (I went for a Garmin Edge 510). If you’re looking to purchase your first bike computer, or looking to upgrade, I do hope it will be useful to you as well.
There is only so much progress you can make in your quest for cycle fitness simply by riding further and for longer.
At a certain point, your training will need to become more structured and specific, if you want to maximise your performance at whatever cycling challenge you have set yourself (and by ‘your’, I of course mean ‘my’).
In this post I will identify the resources that you can use either to find a suitable training plan (be that prêt-à-porter or bespoke) or, alternatively, to learn the fundamentals of training, such that you can attempt to build your own.
This is the first of what will hopefully become a series of posts reviewing the sportives in which I have taken part (I say, ‘hopefully’, because it will rely on me pulling my finger out and doing more events!).
My aim is to give you a flavour of the event, so you can decide whether you’d like to do this event, or a similar one, in the future. The account is clearly based on my personal experience of the sportive, and is probably heavily coloured by my low level of experience and fitness. If you’re in the same boat, I do hope it will give you the confidence to enter a sportive. If you’re a super-fit, experienced rider, maybe it will provide some entertainment…
As the name suggests, the Igloo Sportive takes place in the Peak District. More precisely, after starting from the outskirts of Chesterfield, the event visits the eastern portion of the Peak District, covering an area from north-west of Sheffield in the north and Matlock to the south (depending on which route you select).
What is the route like?
I participated in the short event. The route was 68km in length with 1,309m of climbing (which I’ll talk more about below).
The route offered a broad range of sceneries. Within 10km of leaving Chesterfield, we were up into exposed moorland, cycling past trees (and the odd building) growing at 45 degree angles. We then dropped down into the wooded river valley around Grindleford before climbing up the other side into Eyam (questionably branded as the “plague village”). After an undulating trundle through the verdant farmland in and around the Chatsworth estate, we popped back up to another moor, this time the one above Matlock, before finally descending into Chesterfield.
Summarising it like that, I almost forget the 3 and three quarter hours of windswept effort required to get round the route.
The majority of the roads on the course were quiet with few puncture-inducing potholes. The only busier section of road (the A623 coming into Calver) was downhill, lessening the impact of overtaking cars (‘impact’ in the figurative sense).
There were two sections of the road which I did not find particularly pleasant. The first, between Baslow and Rowsley felt more uppy and downy (my main issue being with the uppy) than I had expected. The resultant black mood, worsened by the howling head wind, gave me little tolerance for the large number of cars passing (I assume on the way to donate vast amounts of money to the Duke of Devonshire in order to see his house).
The problem with the second disagreeable section wasn’t the fault of the road (it was flat) or the cars (there were few) but the wind (there was much) and my fitness (there was little). The 10km stretch after the second feed station took place across exposed moorland with wind so strong that I had to lean sharply into it to remain upright. Intermittent gusts conspired to throw me variously into the ditch or into the path of passing or oncoming cars, without giving me a hint as to which direction I would next be flung (except forwards – the wind seemed pretty clear about not wanting to push me forwards).
What was the weather like?
It certainly could have been a great deal worse. The sportive took place only a couple of weeks after residents in the area had been snowed in for days at a time. Temperatures had been bitterly cold almost right up to the event.
It was a pleasant surprise, therefore, to find myself having to unzip my cycle jacket shortly into the ride and soon thereafter discard my gloves (mainly because they were unsuitable fleece ones – my son had ‘tidied away’ my cycling gloves having used them to dress as a superhero the day before).
But, oh the wind.
I knew from the weather forecast that it would be strong. Having to go straight into a time-trial position simply to exit the car park at the start gave me another clue. When I found myself having to pedal in order to maintain momentum whilst cycling downhill, I knew that I was in for a tough day in the saddle.
How much climbing and any hills of note?
Oh, you want a bit more than that?
According to the final route map, there was 1,309m of ascent (and descent, given that it was a loop). This felt like a lot of climbing for the total distance covered, for my novice legs at least (but then what was I expecting, entering a sportive in the Peak District?).
The two long climbs at the start of the course weren’t too bad, considering the first one kicked off right from kilometre zero and the second one seemed to have been thrown in gratuitously to make you climb up twice essentially to the same bit of moorland. They were quite long (for me) but not too steep and I was on (what you might generously describe as) fresh legs.
The real killer climb came at kilometre 38, topping out 4km later, but with the real pain coming in first 1600m. I think the climb is called Rowsley Bar. It features gradients well into the double figures. At least one of the tight left hand hairpins isn’t (for my weak legs) cyclable on the correct side of the road (i.e. the inside of the bend).
I’m afraid to say that I had two ‘little rests’ at strategic points during the ascent (my strategy being to avoid having a connery and falling off the bike).
After finally making it to the top, my legs were shot for the remainder of the ride.
Since the next 10 kilometres were flat to slightly downhill, at first I didn’t realise the full extent of my muscle fatigue. That was until I got out of the saddle for the next climb (my metronomic Team Sky in-saddle climbing isn’t quite there yet). As I stood for a Purito-style dance on the pedals, both quads immediately began the strong wobbles that indicate a cramp is on the way.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never before had a cramp in my quadriceps and I certainly didn’t want to find out what one looked liked on the side of a hill some 15km from Chesterfield. I was forced to sit and attempt to spin up what hills remained in my very lowest gear.
So, yes, more than enough climbing for me!
Organisation and facilities
The event started and finished at Holmebrooke Valley Park, on the outskirts of Chesterfield. It’s a good location. Easy to find, with plenty of parking.
There was a small queue to register but the wait can’t have been more than 5 minutes or so. There were toilet facilities but no sign of the changing rooms that had been referred to in the event information (or rather, they were there but either locked or being used as store cupboards.
The most important factor in any sportive is the volume of calorific snacks at the feed stations and the finish. These didn’t disappoint, with copious amounts of custard creams and bananas (amongst other things) at the course control points, and what looked to be a sufficient quantity of cake, tea and coffee at the end of the event.
But then it was my first sportive of the year (and my first for over 7 years), it was a bright sunny morning (let’s ignore the wind) and I was cycling through an area of outstanding natural beauty just 30 minutes from our new home. What wasn’t to like?
The course featured plenty of climbing overall and one particularly severe ascent – enough to give me a strong sense of satisfaction for having got round and sufficiently encouraged that, with training, I’ll be able to climb hills like these with a great deal more panache in the future.
I’ll probably aim to do it again next year. Who knows, I may even have the legs to do the long course. Perhaps you should all join me!
That’s it from me. Now over to you.
What’s your next sportive?
Are you prepared / excited / squeaky-bottomed?
Is there an event or ride that you are particularly looking forward to this year?
I have a very warm regard for my bike. As a Yorkshireman, that’s about as close a declaration of undying love you’re going to get. But it’s time to consider an upgrade (it’s always time to consider an upgrade!). My bike has been with me for more than 8 years, since I snap-purchased it whilst my then-girlfriend (now wife) sought a heavy hybrid on which to commute (she still has it, but does not seem to have developed an emotional attachment).
Despite not knowing a thing about bikes (beyond what i had learnt as the proud owner of a Raleigh Mini Burner in the 1980s – red and black, since you ask), I made a wise lucky choice.
There goes my first love
It turned out that my unassuming Dawes Giro 400, with its mishmash of Miche and Campagnolo components, would be a sturdy workhorse, carrying me safely (and sometimes quickly) across London’s potholed and white-van-stained streets. The wheels have had to be be trued countless times. The carbon front fork was replaced after an altercation with a bonnet on the Kilburn High Road. A misguided attempt to replace the rear cassette (which turned out to be a strange Campy/Shimano lovechild) has resulted in the Giro now possessing a proud set of new Campagnolo wheels.
We’ve ridden sportives together. We’ve completed London-to-Brighton. We’ve even done a couple of triathlons (he whispers). It has been a trooper.
You’re more than a number in my little red book
But times change. I am looking for a new amor (and a new bike). At this point I planned to list the reasons why I needed a new road bike. Given that I’m an adherent to the bike ownership formula (B = n +1, where B = bikes required and n = current number of bikes owned), you would think I’d simply rattle them off. But the fact is, I don’t NEED a new bike (sharp intake of breath from cyclists everywhere).
However, being now based in Derbyshire, with the Peak District starting just a couple of kilometers north from where I sit, the image in my mind’s eye of powering up (ha!) the region’s many sharp climbs does not feature the gallant Dawes.
It’s not her/him/it/you, it’s me.
I plan to keep my trusty Dawes. It will continue to do its duty as a winter bike. So my new mistress bike will be my summer and events bike.
Which road bike to buy?
I believe my requirements (which I reserve the right to change, volte-face, disregard as and when the mood takes me) are as follows:
Yes, I know, I should be primarily focused on finding the bike that serves my particular needs. But since we have established that I don’t need a new bike at all, one of my particular needs is to satisfy my vanity (and, as we’re on the topic of deadly sins, avarice). But ‘looking cool’ isn’t just visual. Being able to do the job, in my mind, contributes to looking cool.
History and race credibility are also a part of my definition (though why I’m allowing myself to define cool I do not know). For some reason, I deem Canyon (probably due to the association with Purito) and Willier (probably not due to the association with Lampre) to be cool. This might be deemed heresy, but Pinarello don’t do it for me at all.
Steel or carbon
And possibly in that order. I refer the right honourable member to my earlier comments re: looking cool. A clean, thin-tubed steel frame can just look the business.
Whilst one of the attractions of steel is that you can claim some (moral?) superiority over the carbon brigade, I am not totally against going for a carbon frame. I’m sure I’ll appreciate the reduction in weight and some of the frame designs do look nice.
I would include titanium in the list of potential frame materials but when we move onto budget, it’ll be obvious that doing so would simply not be realistic.
Comfort and performance
The fact is, I’m unlikely ever to enter a formal bike race. For most events in which I participate, the priority will be getting to the finish. I want the bike to feel (and look) fast but the most important factor will be comfort.
I have not discussed this with my wife. In fact, until I sat down to write this post, I did not know I was in the market for a new bike.
I think we’re talking £1,500 – £2,000. As the owner of a £500 bike for so long, that’s the range that I’ve always thought I would step up to.
How about a curve ball?
As I admitted above, this is the first time in a while that I’ve thought in detail about getting a new bike. In part it was prompted by seeing an attractive Ritchey steel-framed bike in a recent Cycling Weekly. But then I read the comments below the linked article, talking about Mercian Cycles and Brian Rourke frames.
Thunder crack. Thor descends from thick clouds to strike me with his custom steel hammer.
Given all that I have written above (steel, credibility, history, comfort), surely I should at least investigate the possibility of having a custom steel bike. Surely I should be supporting British craftsmanship and buying local.
Surely… (echo, tumbleweed, the crushing silence of my wife’s displeasure).
Help me get my feet back on the ground
So dear readers (reader?), I seek your guidance. Can you recommend the perfect new road bike for me?
Or maybe you want to encourage me to pursue the custom route?
Does anyone have a feel for how much a fully-built custom steel frame road bike will cost? Will my stated budget just mean that I’ll have to make too many compromises on the component front?
Any and all advice gratefully received.
As always, if you like it, please retweet and share this post.
Grimpeur is in pain. My knee is killing me. I’ll explain why in a bit.
The purpose of this post is to provide a bit more intelligence on the RideLondon route, specifically the two main climbs up Leith Hill and Box Hill.
You may have seen that I already wrote a post on the RideLondon route (if you didn’t, then you can read it here).
My initial analysis was mainly based on using the official summary route, plotting it into a route-planning website and then commenting on the elevation and gradient chart outputs. Helpfully this prompted a bunch of people with knowledge of the two main climbs (Leith Hill and Box Hill) to comment on their length and severity.
That was good and I know a lot of people that hadn’t ridden Leith Hill or Box Hill were grateful for the intel (whether it terrified or comforted them).
But, dear readers, I didn’t feel that was good enough for you. You want real, live, on-the-ground information. And I want to give it to you. Ahem.
So, with a view to providing more than just a ‘cyber reconnaissance’ of the route, I set off for Surrey. Via Croydon. Unfortunately.
Grimpeur Analyses the RideLondon Route: Redux
I may as well tell you the punchline now. You don’t have to worry about the climbs on RideLondon.
You do have to worry about something else though. More of that later.
In the meantime, let’s look at the section of the route I did, which was :
• from Abinger Hammer down towards Forest Green then looping back north up Leith Hill Road to the A25;
• the section of the A25 to Dorking; and
• up Box Hill on the Zig Zag Road and on through Box Hill village
Climbing Leith Hill – Putting Down the Abinger Hammer
If, like me, you had concerns about Leith Hill, you may as well stop worrying.
If you seriously think you can ride 100 miles / ~160km in a day (as a RideLondon participant, I’m assuming that’s what you’re training to do), then you won’t find Leith Hill a particular problem, even with 60 or so miles in your legs.
Starting from Abinger Hammer, the route heads south through Holmebury Saint Mary. You climb around 70 metres over the course of 4km, at pretty gentle gradients, before a nice long descent to the foot of the Leith Hill climb. The longish descent gives you a chance to spin out the legs and have a little rest.
The official (summary) route map suggests you climb Leith Hill from the south.
(Disclaimer: this is based on my best guess of the route – I might have read the map wrong / it might change etc).
The ascent starts on Ockley Road before quickly turning left onto Etherley Hill. Then it’s pretty much straight up for 2 kilometres, with gradients hitting 10-11% in places.
Having read the comments on my earlier post, I was expecting a long slog, but it was over surprisingly quickly.
I was passed on the climb by someone that looked as if he knew what he was doing (a cyclist, rather than a noticeably-competent rambler).
“Long way still to the top is it?”, I aspirated.
“Just round the corner and straight up”
I took this to mean that the climb started just round the corner, and sank into a depressed funk.
The next thing I knew he had turned around and was coasting back down towards me. He had meant that the top was literally around the corner and up a short ramp.
Having built the climb up in my head, I actually felt a bit short-changed. (This is of course folly – I really don’t want to have to empty myself getting up a climb when I still have 40 miles of the route remaining).
Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box (Hill)
Most people are pretty familiar with Box Hill. A quick internet search gets lots of great information.
My observations, for what they’re worth:
• The Zig Zag Road is a beautifully smooth piece of tarmac – the climb offers blissful respite from the judders and shudders of the road surface in the rest of southern England;
• The smooth surface and relatively constant gradient makes it easy to get into a nice rhythm as you climb – this certainly beats the potholes and sharp ramps that you’ll encounter when climbing Leith Hill;
• You get to enjoy the graffiti on the road, much of which was created to encourage Cav et al during the Olympic road race – without wishing to sound overly-emotional, thinking back to that period of British cycling success (albeit not in that particular race) does give you an extra bit of bounce as you make the climb;
• But be warned – the climb doesn’t finish at the National Trust Cafe or the viewpoint. The road continues to rise, albeit at a lower gradient, into and through Box Hill village. Even though I’d ridden Box Hill before, I forgot this – hilarity additional pain ensued.
Relax about the climbs, it really is all about the length
My RideLondon reconnaissance ride taught me a few things.
Firstly, if you can, it’s better to ride a route (or a section of it), than try to establish what it will be like by mapping the route on the internet. Comments from other people are helpful, but those comments are not spoken by someone at your fitness level or experience (he says, thereby negating the point of this post entirely).
Secondly, if you want to record a route on Strava for more than four hours, using your phone is not the way to do it. Trying to navigate my way home after my phone died somewhere near Epsom was somewhat trying.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the main issue for me with RideLondon will be length of the route, not the amount of climbing. 100 miles (~160km) is a seriously long distance.
My ride out to Surrey was in fact my first ever metric century ride (Ride With GPS puts it at just over 101km). I am obviously delighted to have broken through this mental barrier – less delighted that a significant proportion of my first century took place in Croydon.
The painful knee I mentioned way back at the beginning of this post started to twinge at around kilometre 85. I had been increasing my mileage gradually, but this ride was 40km longer than my previous best. Clearly it was a jump too far. I will need to continue building gradually to the 160km target.
The impact of long distance cycling manifests itself in other parts of your body, not just the legs. The last quarter of this ride was spent with a dull ache in my neck – the sort of neck ache that tends towards making you feel sick. I certainly need to make sure I am strengthening and stretching my neck and back as part of my RideLondon training programme.
C’est Tout, Voila
It is perhaps fitting that this ride (being both my first metric century and a recon ride ahead of RideLondon) will be my last as an honorary Londoner. This week, Famille Grimpeur is making its big move out of the city and towards the green and verdant hillsides of Derbyshire.
The climbs of the Peak District and beyond await, as does (we hope) an increase in the amount of cycling we do as a family.
The next time the wheels of my mighty Dawes steed hit London’s gold-paved streets will be in August, for RideLondon itself. I’m looking forward to it immensely.
Please Retweet Me, Let Me Go
As always, if you have enjoyed this article I would really appreciate it if you could share it via Twitter or Facebook.
If you have something to add on Leith Hill, Box Hill or anything at all, leave a comment below.
Are you more worried about the climbs or the total ride length, or both?
Finally, do sign up to receive the Grimpeur by email. Go on, you know you want to.
I like to look at maps. I like to plan routes. I am quite obsessed with knowing where I have been.
Not all who wander are lost – JRR Tolkien
When I first moved to London, I used to walk excessive distances on a weekend, taking delight in piecing together seemingly disjointed sections of the tube map, beginning to understand how it all fitted together.
I also like data (to a degree – nothing against stats nerds, but I’m not one).
One of my first purchases after getting my road bike (to commute on, primarily), after the obligatory lights, locks and helmet, was a cycle computer. I wanted to know how far I’d been and how fast I’d travelled (or not, as the case may be).
When I upgraded to my next cycle computer (a Polar CS200), I fastidiously logged in to the Polar website at the conclusion of each commute, in order to record each data point it had captured during the pothole- and profanity-strewn ride.
I never logged cadence though, since this is a mythical piece of data that no human-built machine is capable of sensing or recording. I digress.
Cycling apps on a smartphone (in my case a labouring iPhone 3GS) were made for me.
Readers of my blog will know that I talk a good game. I’ve talked about the cycling event that I’m doing. I’ve analysed the route. I’ve talked a bit about how I’ve broken the challenge down into its constituent parts.
But where, you might ask, is the evidence that I’ve actually DONE anything?
Motivation this, crippling fears that. That’s all fine, but we all need to train for whatever cycling challenge we are undertaking (well I do at least).
What training have I done? Well, I’m going to tell you. In this post. Perhaps the title gave it away.
Objectives (or, in this case, objective)
Apparently, objectives should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely (i.e. set to be achieved within a given time frame).
My objective for this phase of my training, which is to DO MORE CYCLING, only meets some of these criteria, and then only in a loose sense.
I think the setting of effective objectives will improve my riding and my satisfaction with the process. I will return to this topic in future posts.
So have I done MORE CYCLING?
Training stats (everyone loves a good set of training stats, don’t they?)
Well, actually yes, I have been doing quite a bit of cycling.
Here are my summary ride statistics. Prepare yourself for a VERY funky table.
I know. I know. Some of you do those sorts of numbers in one or two rides. But I don’t.
I have been aiming to ride consistently (i.e. every 2-3 days), to increase the length of my ‘longer rides’ and to include more climbing (okay, I did have some sub-objectives after all).
Even the trend is in the right direction: I’ve done more of everything in the first 15 days of March than in all of February.
I’m quite pleased with progress so far and confident that I can build upon it to go further and higher (I’m going to need to).
Things I have learnt so far
First, there is nothing like giving yourself some added motivation (when will he give it a rest about motivation?).
My main event for the year (RideLondon) is in August. Five months felt like a long way off (even though realistically it isn’t), so I signed up for another sportive in the meantime – the Igloo Peak District Cyclosportive (short) on Sunday 14th April.
Whilst the short course is ‘only’ 68.7 km (42.6 miles), it features 1,359 m (4,458 ft) of ascent. That’s about the same amount of climbing as the RideLondon event. Needless to say, with this potential cycling disaster on the near-term horizon, I have been motivated to get out on the bike and climb.
Second learning point: it’s worth the effort to take your bike on holiday with you (within reason – it’s not going to be much use on a cruise or a Las Vegas gambling trip).
Last week we went on holiday-cum-random-trip-around-England-to-see-friends-and-family. I took the bike. I enjoyed a change in cycling scenery whilst there were other people around to distract the children and not place all the burden of my absence on my wife.
The cost of all that extra petrol consumed by having a bike strapped to the roof of our petit Golf meant I had to use the damn thing.
I did use it – three times, two of which were pretty substantial rides (again, for me).
What do I need to do next?
Buy a new bike.
This is not what I will ACTUALLY do next. But if we’re talking about the first ‘need’ that pops into my head, then it is a new bike. Since this is not happening any time soon, we’ll move swiftly on.
My serious objective (which, I’m afraid to say it, is still not SMART) is to continue riding at this level of frequency for the remainder of March and early April.
Famille Grimpeur are in the process of moving all most of our worldly possessions from south east London to Ashbourne in Derbyshire.
Readers of this blog will know that this is due to my decision to start taking my riding seriously and to try to break into the pro ranks. At 33 (and, more importantly, with my natural level of fitness) it’s going to be a tall order, but Jens Voigt is still doing it at 40+, so I think I have 6 or 7 good seasons left in me.
With all the organisation of the move, plus the bonfire of the vanities that I intend to hold to eliminate 50% of my wife’s possessions, time for riding will be limited. I need to maintain my current volume and frequency of riding and do what I can to reduce the pain in April’s Peak District Sportive (gulp).
Finally, as weather conditions improve (ha!), I need to clean my bike. I should probably have been doing this throughout the winter but… er… haven’t.
It (she?) has been running like a relative dream (for a cheap Dawes road bike and if you ignore the annoying rustle of my inexpertly-fitted mud guards) ever since I had to buy a new set of wheels before Christmas (now there’s a story of (my own) incompetence and folly). I also washed it thoroughly at about the same time. It would be nice if it could stay this way, rather than revert to its previous squeak and grind soundtrack.
That’s probably enough now….
I appreciate that some of you are not that interested in reading about my inadequate training ‘regime’. Unfortunately that is not going to stop me writing more posts on the topic. Neo-sportive riders that are reading this blog can at least see there is someone else in the same boat (and probably one with more leaks).
Please like me
I would really love any feedback. Let me know what I can do better – you can leave a comment below.
If you could Tweet the post on Twitter or ‘Like’ it on Facebook, that would be awesome. All you need to do is click the buttons below (or at the top of the post).
It’s March and the weather is improving (supposedly).
You’re considering getting the bike out of the garage/shed/cupboard.
(What, you mean you haven’t spent the winter amassing base miles and doing interval sessions on the turbo trainer?)
Now that you’ve got the bike all ready to go, do you want a surefire way to avoid the ‘its slightly damp, I’ll stay inside’ attitude?
Of course you do.
And the good news is that it is can be achieved in 3 EASY STEPS:
1. Pour your alcoholic beverage of choice
2. Open your wallet and your Internet browser
3. Sign up for a sportive
A word on drink and the commitment to undertake future physical challenges
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]”Ah, push it – push it good; Ah, push it – p-push it real good” – Salt ‘n’ Pepa[/quote]It would probably be sensible to ignore instruction 1 if the sun hasn’t yet passed the yard arm.
Otherwise, alcohol is a recognised motivational aid, encouraging you to sign up for the event that is just beyond your current capabilities.
This then provides the fear. When you are sober, it is the fear that provides the primary motivation.
A second word on drink and the commitment to undertake future physical challenges
Do not drink too much. You might find you have entered for the Race Across America.
Do I practice what I preach?
Kingston-upon-Hull yeah! Of course I do.
I’ve signed up to one of the sportives mentioned below, in order to give myself that extra bit of focus over the next month or so.
You’ll have to read through them to see which one…. (hint: it’s the shortest)
Six UK sportives you could enter right now (along with some interesting associated facts)
Peak District – Eastern Moors Sportive
When: Sunday 14th April 2013
Why: There is a lot of climbing packed into a relatively short route (at least in the case of the 43-mile shorter route); because the Grimpeur Heureux will be riding!
Interesting fact: The Crystal Palace was originally built in Hyde Park. It was only after the Great Exhibition finished that it was taken down and rebuilt in south-east London. For some reason, Crystal Palace FC play in Croydon…
When: 8th September 2013
Why: You want a big event that is going to focus your training throughout the summer; it’s a closed road event, so all you have to worry about is getting around the course
In this post, I will try to turn this general sense of disquiet into a specific set of concerns, each of which I can confront and prepare for. In doing so, not only will I allay my fears, but I will also identify those factors that will contribute to a strong performance (and maximum enjoyment) on the day.
An aggregation of marginal gains you say? If it’s good enough for Sir Dave of Brailsford….
Why should you care about my irrational fears?
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt[/quote]
Some of you may currently be in the same “oh sh&t, what have I just signed up for” phase. Perhaps my methodology may help address your fears by breaking down the challenge into more manageable chunks.
Whilst I am looking at performance from my own perspective, some of the factors I identify could be ones that you too wish to focus on as you prepare for riding sportives in 2013.
If you’re a semi-pro already, and you’re less concerned about actually finishing the course, maybe this post will serve as a reminder that it’s always a good idea to reflect on your performance from time to time, in order to identify and focus upon abilities that can be improved.
Who’s afraid of the big bad hill?
Today’s mission is to identify the component parts that will make up my RideLondon performance. In future posts I will take a detailed look at how I’m going to deal with each component, concern or fear.
Let’s start identifying, people.
When I think about being able to cycle 100 miles in a single ride, fitness (or the lack thereof) springs immediately to mind. I’m sure it is the main concern of many first-time long distance sportive riders.
Clearly I will need to train. The scale of the undertaking means that this will need to be quite organised, in order to take me from my current fitness level to that required on the day.
But as I select the training programme to follow, can I be more specific about the nature of the fitness that I require?
It strikes me that my fitness requirement can be broken down into 3 capabilities.
In even the most optimistic scenarios, I will need to cycle for well over 7 hours. My body still needs to be capable of continuing to propel me at 17mph (ever the optimist), having already cycled 80 miles.
As we saw in this previous post, RideLondon features two major climbs (and a few more smaller ones) in its middle section. I need to be able to ride up these hills at a reasonable pace, having already cycled 55 miles and, once Box Hill is summitted, with 35 miles still to ride. Ideally I’d like to be able to do this with a certain amount of panache.
Speed on the flat
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself – Hermione Granger[/quote]
Ninety per cent of the RideLondon route is flat. There will only be so much time I can lose on the climbs. Being slow on the flat, or being unable to battle against any wind on the day, could make the difference between staying in front of or being swept up by the broom wagon.
You could define technique in a number of ways (for instance I looked specifically at pedalling technique in this post here).
For this post, I am using ‘technique’ to describe those general on-bike skills that will be useful (in some cases vital) for cyclists undertaking a mass-participation or long distance event.
Being able to ride in a group
There will be a lot of cyclists on the road. At the very least I need to be able to ride safely in a pack to avoid injuring myself and others. More than that, with the drafting effect being able to offer an energy saving of up to 30% versus cycling head on into the wind, I want a piece of that action.
Eating and drinking whilst riding
I can just about drink from a water bottle at slow speed on a flat road. I’ve been known to drop water bottles as I try to replace them in the cage. I’m not sure I’ve tried eating anything on the move. Given the energy requirement on the day and the potential for high temperatures, I’d like to at least have on-bike drinking and eating as an option.
Being able to control my effort (in other words, not getting too excited at the start of the ride) is going to be a huge contributor to my enjoyment of the day
Blow out too early and the Surrey climbs will be unpleasant and the yomp back through south west London is going to be a nauseous blur.
Of course, I could end the ride thinking that I hadn’t fully emptied the tank, but I imagine the risk of this is low.
A number of things may go wrong with the bike over the course of the event. Some will be out of my control (visions of wheels buckling or bottom brackets exploding). Others will not.
If I get a flat, I need to i) make sure I have the necessary spares and tools with me; and ii) know how to fix the problem as quickly as possible.
I think there will be mechanical support on the day but if I can fix such problems in a not-too-incompetent fashion, this has to be quicker than waiting for a support mechanic to appear.
Whilst I would like to think I would stop to help a distressed recipient of a puncture (I might… maybe… depending on my time), I can at least aim not to use up the time of a mechanic, who might otherwise be fixing the bike of someone more needy.
Over the course of RideLondon, I will burn over 4,000 calories (maybe more?). I need to make sure that I have sufficient fuel to get round. I certainly don’t want to have a calorie deficit on any of the climbs.
So I need to think about my total energy requirement.
I also need to think about how that energy will be delivered (or, to use less w£nky language, what I am going to eat).
Finally, and most importantly, I need to think about how I am going to remember to keep eating on a regular basis. In all the excitement, and with Leith Hill playing on my mind, remembering to keep popping the Haribos (other sugar-based treats are available) might go by the wayside.
I don’t want to bonk on the Mall. No one wants to see that.
… or ‘drinking enough’. You’ve got to believe that I will find regular drinking easier to achieve than remembering to eat early enough. But still an area worth thinking about, not least because weeing from the saddle is neither possible (I will crash) or socially acceptable.
This is a bit of a catch-all classification for those concerns that are related to the ride, but are not to do with the actual cycling.
So, for me, these concerns (or, more correctly, arrangements to be made) include:
Accommodation over the weekend (the Grimpeur et famille will have moved out of London by then – a topic for another post)
Getting to the ride start in the Olympic Park and getting back from the Mall (likely in a state of profound distress)
Whether or not my children will be there to distractstress me out support me
The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light
It is interesting that as I thought about my list of sportive concerns, and began to formulate them into a list for this post, I became increasingly reluctant to use the term ‘fears’.
I have not said (or even really thought about) what I will do to address each concern, but simply by writing them down, it feels as if each ‘fear’ has become an ‘an identified thing, ready to be addressed’. The event as a whole has already become a lot less frightening.
Hopefully, by reading this post, you have seen some of your own fears allayed. If you don’t share the same specific concerns as me, perhaps you have still seen some value in my methodology.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any particular fears that I or one of the other readers can address? Did you have a concern before your first sportive that you subsequently found to be unfounded. Please do let me know in the comments below.
As always, if you liked this article or found it useful, please do share it on Twitter and Facebook, particularly with friends and colleagues that might be tackling RideLondon or other cyclosportives this year.