Sunday, 30 November 2014

2014 Gift Ideas for a Road Cyclist

Xmas is coming - what will Santa bring you?
If you have a partner, spouse of relative that loves road cycling and you're already on the hunt for Christmas stocking fillers, let me give you some inspiration on some items that a road cyclist might quite like to unwrap on Christmas day.

Avoid those bad after shaves, knee-high socks and K-Tel CD compilations and put your money into one of these gifts and you'll be assured of a big happy smiling roadie.  They will be super impressed at your insider knowledge of all things cycling and you'll be guaranteed a brownie point filled Christmas day.

I'll keep adding items as I think of them or come across them, additionally if you have any contributions, just leave a comment.  Big thanks to everyone in the 'UK Road Cyclists in Business' Linkedin group who has contributed too.

Gifts Below £10
  • pOcpac phone protector.  Seriously, just buy one of these, everyone who has one loves them.  Protects your phone in the rain and still allows you to swipe the screen through the plastic cover - well worth a tenner (get the tool pac so you can fit all sorts in).  Buy direct here.
  • Purple Harry Bike Floss.  It's good to floss and these will make quick work of a dirty cassette or hard to reach area on the bike,  a simple idea but really effective idea.  Brilliant stocking filler from the kids at only £3.99 a set via Purple Harry.
  • Condor Race Socks.  Super comfortable, got loads of pairs of these - bargain £8.99 a pair.  Details here.
  • Purple Harry cleaner and degreaser.  To keep the pride and joy clean, you need a decent cleaning spray, Purple Harry do the trick with this cleaner/degreaser for less than a tenner.  Buy here.
  • pOcpac Ass Saver.  When we're riding out best bikes the rule is no mudguards.  But if you do get caught in a storm, you'll need one of these.  Bargain at £6.50.  Buy here.
  • Chain links.  You will blow your partner away with these, they'll think you've been on a service course.  Everyone should carry one of these in their saddle bag in case of a chain break.  You just need to know what groupset they run on the bike - Shimano/SRAM or Campagnolo and hey presto.  Available on Wiggle for under a tenner.
  • High Five Zero tablets.  Great electrolyte additive to water.  Around £3.99 a tube, someone will thank you for these.  Available from Wiggle
  • Space Blanket.   With accidents on the rise and slippery roads, you never know when you are going to come across an incident.  A critical thing is to be able to keep someone warm and for around £3.00-£5.00 you can buy a space blanket off of e-bay which you can keep in your back pocket whilst cycling - it could be a life saver.  
  • Chain bath.  Keeping your chain in good order is an essential component of a good drivetrain.  This chainbath from Barbieri will help you keep things nice and clear.  Available here for around £3.95.
Gifts Below £25
  • Book - Rob Hayles - Easy Rider.   One of the nicest former British pro's around and now assistant to Mark Cavendish.  Under a tenner for the paperback on Amazon.
  • Rapha Chamois cream.  Look away now those of a nervous disposition.  This is cream that you wallop all round your nether regions to help prevent saddle sore.  Essential for those long rides and this product from udderly smooth was developed for milking cows.  Enough said, a great stocking filler for a spouse to brag to their mates.  Available from Rapha
  • Cycling themed quality notebooks.  Every person of note has a quality notebook by their bed or in their case ready to catch that next big idea.  A range of different notebooks all under £20 available here.
  • Retro Team Espresso Cups.  If your coffee is simply a shot, then you'll need a quality cup to drink it out of.  These retro cups and saucers are ace.  From £12.50.  Available here
  • One Life ID bracelet.  A QR code with a link to a website detailing all the riders contact and health information available on a variety of things from key-rings or a wrist braceletEssential in case of accident in allowing emergency crews to quickly contact loved ones and identify any existing conditions/allergies.  An essential item for anyone who participates in outdoor sport.  Buy here from £10-£20.
  • Knog Lights.  Great little lights to have on your bike for emergency lighting when you get caught out.  £17.50 on Wiggle.
  • Rapha Merino Boxers.  Mrs J got me a pair of these last year and they are very comfortable indeed.  £24 a pair, so only to be worn on an important occasion like an awards ceremony.  Buy here.
  • Desktop cycling figures.  You're hero on your desk in figurine form.  Around £20.  Buy here.
  • The Obree Way training manual.  The definitive book from one of the UK's greatest ever cyclists.  A legend revealing his methods, this book is available at around £12. Trust me, this one will be a winner.  Available from Amazon website.
  • DeFeet oversocks.  For those days when it's cold, but not wet.  Oversocks help keep your feet warm.  Around £12.35 on Wiggle.
  • Great British Bike Rides.  40 magnificent rides in our magnificent country.  All detailed in this paperback book for £25.00.  Buy here.
  • SRAM Garmin GPS mount.  A simple, yet effective extender for handlebars that puts a Garmin device more in line of view.  Around £13.50 on Wiggle
  • Park Tools chain wear checker.  A stretched chain can lead to all sorts of problems for your drivetrain.  One of those things that you need in your toolbox, quality always counts, don't buy cheap, buy this from Wiggle (around £16).
  • 6 Month subscription to Cycling Plus Magazine - £19.99.  Details here.
  • CO2 inflator.  Punctures are a pain, getting yourself repaired and back on the road in the shortest possible time is easier with one of these CO2 inflators which will pump your tyre up to pressure with one squirt.  Less than £20 on Wiggle, re-fills around a tenner which you can buy on e-Bay (works out around a pound a cartridge).
  • Crudguard Mudguards.  Easiest way to get mudguards on a road bike which doesn't have mounting lugs.  Keeps your feet dry and water out of the rider behinds eyes.  You'd seriously impress your partner with these.  Around £20.00 on Wiggle
  • Inner tubes.  Every cyclist always needs inner tubes, a cheap wrap up which will not be going back with the reciept. I think this Continental five pack is a great gift at around £22, order the 700x20-25mm with a 42mm valve.  On Wiggle here.
  • Park Tools Big Wheel Pizza Cutter.  For the person that must have everything cycling themed in their life, Dominos two for Tuesday will never be the same.  £17.99 on Amazon.
  • Super B Torque Wrench.  It's good to torque and this is easily the best value mini-torque wrench out there.  Great to keep your stem and seatpost perfectly tightened for around £23.99.  Available here.
Gifts Below £50
  • Topeak Bike Stand.  When you've invested money in a pride and joy bike, you don't want it to fall over and you'll want it to stand upright whilst you sit and gaze at it for hours in the dining room (note not the garage).  Around £40 on Wiggle.
  • Park Tools Allen keys.  Every cyclist needs to own a decent set of allen keys in their toolkit, these are not the cheapest but they are one of the best and will last forever.  Around £32 on Wiggle.
  • Meccanica Tee.  UK based Meccanica make some lovely cycling themed casualwear.  I own a few of their T-Shirts.  No 'did you get the receipt eyes' with one of these.  Around £40.  Available here.
  • Rapha Winter cycling cap.  It's expensive and they'll probably never wear it but just tell their friends they own it.  Perfect for keeping everything toasty warm.  Buy here for £40.
  • British Cycling Silver Membership.  If you're new to road cycling it's important you're insured and this silver membership provides some of the essential cover you'll need plus a stack of other benefits.  £40 for a year.  Details here.
  • Lezyne Track pump.  Maintaining tyre pressures is key for performance on the road.  A good quality pump will last for ages and is one of those essential bits of kit.  Less than £30 on Wiggle
Gifts £50 Plus
  • Annual subscription to Rouleur - £78.  This isn't a magazine, it's a work of art designed for the most contemporary of coffee tables.  Watch as your partner drools at some stunning pictures, keeping them quiet whilst you dominate the TV remote.  Details here.
  • Workshop stand.  Whether cleaning, maintaining or tinkering a workshop stand is a must have for anyone serious about road cycling.  It will allow you to get in all those nooks and crannies.  This one scored 10/10 in a Cycling Plus review and is available for around £57.59.  Buy here.
  • Park Tools Home Mechanic Starter Set.  High quality tools, everything you need in a neat box.  On Wiggle for £90.  Buy here.
£100 Plus.
  • Campagnolo Corkscrew.  Are you a Campag rider through and through?  Then you need the ultimate Campag accessory, the Campagnolo Corkscrew.  A snip at around £133.  Details here
  • Rapha Leather Washbag.  If you're other half needs everything to have a cycling theme in their life, then this may go down well.  As usual - obscenely expensive - but comes with bragging rights in the changing room.  £145 on the Rapha website.
Money No Object
  • Rapha Rocket Espress machine.  Coffee is a huge part of the sub-culture of cycling.  Impress the neighbours with this ultimate coffee machine.  Not sure whether it should be in the kitchen or in the front room in a cabinet.  A whopping £1,500 and it's yours.  More info here.

November 2014 Mileage


Beautiful Conditions. 

How has the weather been in your neck of the woods?


Conditions here in the North West of England have been positively spring like during November, some stunning clear days and rain staying at bay.  Judging by the number of road cyclists out, lots of folk will be arriving in the Spring with better fitness.

The big positive for me during November is average speed.  Despite riding 45% more ascent, average speed is up 8% vs. the previous year, which is a good indicator of fitness.  Riding a 20km climb in Tenerife in the early part of the month, I felt in a good shape and was able to really motor up, which felt great so long may that continue.

Miles wise I'd hoped to have hit 400 this month as looking at the number of days I had available at the beginning of the month, it all looked good.  Missing one vital ride to an unexpected requirement to be at home with a plumber all morning, meant that fell a wee bit short.

December is always a busy month with lots of engagements, parties and home priorities.  Would be nice to see if the year can finish around 3,750 miles which - all things told - I'd be happy with.

I hope you've been able to take advantage of some decent conditions in your area, you're mileage numbers are on track and it's been a safe year thus far.  Coming up on the blog is the road cyclist Xmas list and best pictures of the year, stay tuned.


Month  to Date

Mileage- 345miles/555km (+22% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 20hrs 34mins 
Ascent - 16,236ft (+45% vs. PY)
Avg. Speed - 17.3mph (+8 vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 148bpm
Calories (estimate) - 14,854
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 47.1 (Undulating) (+18% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 3,488miles/5,613km (-9% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 218hrs 41mins 
Ascent - 136,187ft (-4% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 16.2mph (-1% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 146bpm
Calories (estimate) - 136,187
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.6 (Undulating)(+12% vs. PY)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

October 2014 Mileage


Getting back to business. 

Most of my miles this month have come in the second half of the month with some work commitments getting in the way as we rolled into October.

I don't know about you but of the five rides I've done, four of them have been in blustery conditions with gusts in the 25mph+ range.  The wind can be a great training partner and looking at your heart rate is a good indicator of that extra effort you need to push through.  Checking my heart rate it's up around six beats per minute (+4%) relative to where I would normally end up on a month (around 145bpm).

It's important to keep an eye on your food intake when having to ride in gusty conditions and it's easily overlooked.  That extra 2-5% can be the difference in how your body chooses to fuel and it's easy to bonk, always carry an emergency gel or whatever is your chosen form of fast carbs, for that crucial moment when everything begins to fade.

On the positive side, despite the wind, average speed is reasonably stable with the engine getting back to normal assisted by frequent two and half hour endurance rides.  Miles are a little behind year on year, however that's just a consequence of illness and priority, so easy to let that one go.

As we head into winter and onto our winter bikes, keep yourself visible as much as possible. Stay safe.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 218miles/349km (+50% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 12hrs 34mins 
Ascent - 8,097ft
Avg. Speed - 17.3mph (-3% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 151bpm
Calories (estimate) -8,966
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 37.1 (Flat) (+14% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 3,143miles/5,028km (-11% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 197hrs 06mins 
Ascent - 128,779ft (-2% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 16.1mph (Same vs PY)
Avg. HR - 146bpm
Calories (estimate) - 121,333
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.0(Medium) 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Supplements from @SupplicityUK

I'm a big fan of small businesses and entrepreneurs bringing new products and services to market - even more so if they have a cycling related theme.  

Recently I came across a business called Supplicity which delivers supplements via the post.  Meeting the founder - Jonny Taylor - a personal fitness coach, I heard about the idea behind the business and was impressed by his energy and drive.  A young guy, with a big idea which he's worked hard to manifest.

As we all become busier, convenience is a major factor to creating new habits.  When something is to hand, it's often a key factor in creating the repetition needed to become the norm.  As a regular cyclist I was curious to understand what benefit it would have to me but also the wider benefits in terms of general wellbeing, so asked Jonny to pen a guest post which you can read below.

Having now used the Mojo box for a month, it's been no hassle atall just to grab a strip of a morning before I leave for work, it's second nature now.  As a person with a busy schedule, sustaining energy levels is key and that's the job of the supplements in this box.  Each box contains enough for 30 days and each strip is labelled with a day of the week - nothing to think about.

Cost wise, it works out at £4.50 a week, which is a little more than a daily Cappuccino at Starbucks, delivered to your front door once a month.  Think that's a very reasonable investment if it gives the body a boost.  Anyhow, over to Jonny.  You can find more about them at www.supplicity.co.uk.




DO CYCLISTS NEED SUPPLEMENTS?

Jonny Taylor, health and wellness professional and founder of Supplicity, says not necessarily – but they can make a difference.

Cyclists, just like any athletes and indeed most of the general public, don’t necessarily “need” dietary supplements. The optimal way to get enough nutrients is through a balanced and varied diet, and while supplements are a sensible way of ensuring you get all the vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients you require to support a healthy lifestyle, we would never sell them as a replacement for good diet, nor as a life-or-death essential.

So why might supplements be a good idea for a rider? Because unlike the most disciplined pros, the rest of us don’t live in the ideal world. Most of us don’t have time for the perfect training and diet programmes because we have so much else going on in our lives.

There is no doubt that better diet equates to better performance on the bike. Most of us have felt the immediate effects of sport-specific dietary aids such as energy gels, bars and recovery drinks. But what about those micro nutrients that, if neglected, could be detrimental to performance?

Here are some suggestions to think about:

·        Iron. This sport is all about the red blood cells: the better shape they’re in, the more oxygen gets to your muscles. This mineral plays a vital role in the hemoglobin molecule and thus oxygen carrying capacity.

·        Vitamin D. One of the best things about cycling is it’s a lifelong sport, you can enjoy it – and even compete – well into your old age. So healthy bones are essential, and vitamin D plays an important part in this.

·        B vitamins and magnesium. It’s not just about getting energy sources into your body, it’s also important to think about how you metabolise them – and these two nutrients are crucial for this.

·        Zinc and Vitamin C. These both play a role in immune system support – which is important for so many cyclists as they tend to “bury themselves” on hard rides, training sessions and races.

·        Ginseng. By no means a daily essential, but on dark winter mornings or in periods when you need a bit of a prod to get you out and riding, this is a great natural booster to put a bit of zing into you.

In summary, all of the basic essentials can, and should, be found in a proper diet. But we’ve found that getting into the habit of taking a daily supplement actually forms part of a wider set of healthy habits. When we take small steps such as taking good quality food supplements, we tend also to get into the mind-set of making small changes (marginal gains!) elsewhere too. So supplements end up being part of, rather than a replacement for, a better way of eating.


About supplicity: Supplicity was set up by a personal trainer and a doctor, It offers the best quality, British-produced, MHRA-certified food supplements, in a convenient monthly subscription plan through your letterbox

Sunday, 5 October 2014

September 2014 Mileage


A Month of Two Halves. 

Rolling into September with 400 miles in the legs, hope was to push into September and keep that sort of level.  In the first couple of weekends, rides had seen around 188 miles and all looked promising.   

As usual, events conspired and I caught a virus which wiped out one weekend, then the following weekend I'd strained my hamstring, so chose to rest.  Last weekend of September I attended the Cycleshow exhibition in Birmingham all weekend, so plenty of bike stuff, but none of it on a road!

It's important to get dialled back in as next month I'm travelling to Tenerife for a short break and plan is to ride up Mount Teide, a giant of a volcano standing around 12.6K feet high.  It's a bit of a monster but having ridden on the Island last year it's one I fancied going back to do.  

It was excellent to meet so many readers of the blog at the Cycleshow exhibition, thanks for all your positive words of support about the blog and the tips you've implemented as a result of reading it.   As visits near to 1,000,000 since it's inception, a simple idea to share the things I'd learned with others has far achieved any ambition I'd ever had for it.  Will be a great milestone to hit that 1M figure which will likely happen prior to the end of this year.

Thanks for continuing to come back, visit and spread the word.  You may not be aware but there is a community of people on Linkedin too - over 1,200 people in business who love road cycling.  You're welcome to join the group called 'UK Road Cyclists in Business'.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 188miles/300km (-50% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 10hrs 58mins 
Ascent - 6,666ft
Avg. Speed - 17.1mph (-3% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) -7,720
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 35.5 (Flat) (+10% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,925miles/4,680km (-14% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 184hrs 31mins 
Ascent - 120,682ft (-5% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 16.0mph (Same vs PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) - 112,367
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.3(Medium) 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

August 2014 Mileage


Time to re-build the engine. 

With such an awful mileage month in July, August was all about getting back in the saddle and winning back fitness.

The first couple of rides were tough, exactly as expected but a tough ride in the Pennines of 50M with around 5K of ascent soon got things back to normal.  Weather conditions were awful, the wind gusting at 40-50mph combined with heavy rain meant a character building ride and average speed of around 12.5mph overall. 

It seemed to to be the trigger point to kickstart my engine and the miles since then have felt like they are getting back to normal.  My average year on year on speed for the single month being down as I did less ascent this time last year. 

My big focus has been to lose some weight following a full BUPA fitness review in August.  In terms of cardiac fitness I'm in the top 10% for my age and my lung age is apparently 29.  However, my body fat was at 26%, what the doctor described as 'fat and fit' (ouch).  

To look at me, you probably wouldn't guess that.  I'm 6ft 2 inches tall, however the ratio they look at (waist width vs. height), then combined with the BMI doesn't lie and I'm in the red bit of their charts.  So focus is reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass and progress thus far is promising (seven pounds off and bodyfat from 26% to under 20% in around 7 weeks).

Losing Weight - The Approach


I got a Fitbit, some Fitbit scales and then started logging everything I eat in MyFitnessPal, which is also hooked up to my Garmin Connect. The dashboard gives you real clarity on what you eat, it's composition and calories vs. your goals.  It also logs your steps, sleep and other exercise, so you get a holistic view on your calories in vs. calories burned. 

Being a data driven person, seeing the data in this way has given new clarity to what steps I need to take and progress, which is a real motivator.  The Fitbit scales are pretty neat, they hook into your wireless network and then send  your weight and body fat % straight into the application - saving loads of time.

As September closes in on us, my main effort is to lose some weight so it may mean a few slower rides and more visits to the gym.  Annual mileage might take a knock, however in the big picture establishing a better power to weight ratio is key.


Month  to Date

Mileage- 397miles/635km (+10% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 27hrs 52mins 
Ascent - 17,900ft
Avg. Speed - 15.0mph (-15% vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 150bpm
Calories (estimate) -18,300
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 45.1 (Medium/Undulating) (+32% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,737 miles/4,379km (-10% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 173hrs 32mins 
Ascent - 114,016ft (Same vs. PY)
Avg. Speed - 15.9mph (-2% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 146bpm
Calories (estimate) - 104,647
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.7 (Medium) 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Upgrading Your New Road Bike





Pulling up alongside a new rider recently, a discussion ensued about future upgrades for his bike.  The rider concerned was riding a Specialized Allez, which I have to say is a very good first bike (the bike I got started on).  My answer to him was to focus on contact points on the bike and to work on those first.  What do I mean: -

Bike Bits
  • Tyres (contact with the ground).
  • Brake blocks (contact with the rims).
  • Saddle (contact with your backside).

Clothing Bits
  • Gloves (contact with the bars).
  • Shoes (contact with the pedals).
  • Bib shorts (contact with the saddle).
When you've just bought your first bike, it's really difficult to know the difference on any of the things above - a bike is a bike, isn't it?  But like everything in life, there is a big difference in choice, comfort and capability when you dig beneath the surface.

There are lots of products to choose from, a few recommendations from my side would be: -

Bike Bits
  •  Tyres - Continental GP4000S 25MM (good puncture protection, rolling resistance and comfort.
  • Brake Blocks - Shimano Ultegra or Kool Stop.
  • Saddle - I use Selle Italia (fits my sit bones best).  More about choosing the right saddle here.
Clothing Bits
  • Gloves.  You'll need a few pairs of gloves for different riding conditions.  I always keep an eye out in the sales on the main on-line retailers.  Look for well known brands like Castelli and see if you can grab a bargain.
  • Shoes.  A good pair to get started with are the Specialized Sport Road shoe (particularly if you have wide feet) for around £60 (exc cleats).  I owned a pair of these for three years and they did the job.  Consider buying the foot inserts too for around £20, they make the world of difference.
  • Bib shorts.  Don't buy cheap here!  Read the reviews carefully on sites like Wiggle or Chain Reaction cycles first, see what other cyclists are saying.  I've used Bioracer for years as they are very comfortable and technically very good.  Expect to spend £70+ to get a decent pair.
You'll quickly realise that your new hobby gets you on addiction train of new stuff and bike upgrades.  If you focus on tyres and brake blocks first, you'll see a big improvement in the bike - a good quick win for your new ride.

Monday, 4 August 2014

July 2014 Mileage


It had to happen following my best month ever - one of my worst. 

I knew July was always going to be challenging as we were going on holiday and it was a short month in terms of weekends with the first weekend occurring on the 5th of the month (Yorkshire Tour de France stages).

It was always my plan to watch the Tour de France in Yorkshire from beginning to end, having ridden it a few weeks before (blogpost here).  It meant ride time was squeezed that weekend, but I managed to squeeze in 70 miles at a decent pace.  And that's where it begun and ended.

The following weekend I was carrying a very heavy cold + virus, so completely off the bike, the weekend after we flew off on holiday on the Sunday , Saturday was packing, so that was July done and dusted.  

Having finished June with such good form and fitness, it was a real blow to be ill.  Thinking I could catch some fitness up in the hotel gym on holiday, my heart sunk when all they had was a cross trainer for €10 per use.

First weekend back and I nipped up to Beacon Bikes in Whalley to attend a demo weekend.  Asked to take my kit and bike up, I ended up out with Rob Hayles (former pro and test rider) in front of me whilst riding with some potential customers.  My first ride in five weeks, in the hilly lumps of the Trough of Bowland for an hour - ouch.  A baptism of fire.

Still, the engine re-build begins here.  Got a couple of lumpy rides coming up, so all to train for.  Happy days, into July we go.


Month  to Date

Mileage- 70miles/112km (-80% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 3hrs 41mins 
Ascent - 1,870ft
Avg. Speed - 18.4mph (Same vs. PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) -2,492
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 26.7 (Flat) (-14% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,387 miles/3,819km (-11% vs. PY)
Ride Time - 151hrs 54mins 
Ascent - 98,219ft (-3.6% vs. PY)
Avg. Speed - 15.8mph (-1% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) -90,158
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.1 (Medium) 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hotchillee London to Paris 2014


London to Paris 2014
June sees the annual HotChillee London to Paris event and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to ride again by Skoda  to ride as part of their team (big thanks).  

This will be the third time that I've participated in the three day event, previous years riding in Group 4 (2013) and Group 6 (2012), you can read about those experiences by clicking the 'London to Paris' tag in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

In 2014, decision was to train to participate in Group 3, which has an average speed of 27km/h (17mph) for the three days.  I'd focused my training between Jan-May on this; focusing on aerobic capacity and hillier rides to develop the engine needed to sustain this average across the ride and the good news is that my fitness was spot on.  

The key observation was on the climbs I ended up mid-group, with riders who benefit from smaller frames, lighter weight or simply physically stronger, whipping up the bigger climbs much more quickly.  Walking away from the event a little voice in my head was telling me to get to work on dropping some weight, so that's the next target.


Rolling Roads

As usual, organisation was exceptional on the event with all the small details taken care of for such a large event.  The big upside is the rolling roadblock from the moment you leave Imber court in Surrey all the way to the Eiffel tower.  Highly organised groups of motorcycle escort riders are constantly whizzing past at high speeds to stop traffic for the peloton as you roll through roundabouts and junctions, it's quite a buzz to ride in that way.

Each year, there is always a character in the French motorcycle escorts.  This year, we had a rider who had a huge Honda Gold Wing type bike and he had a full PA system on it which he'd blast out as we rode along.  Key moments were hearing tunes like the 'theme tune from Rocky' as we rode up and crested a climb, made for some truly memorable and hilarious moments.

Anyhow, onto the day stages and some key bullets captured at the end of each day.

Day one - London to Folkestone (161KM/100miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage One Ascent Profile
  • Nice weather which made for great riding conditions.
  • Peloton was slightly better drilled than G4 on day one but still messy at times with less experienced group riders moved up and down the pack causing a lot of disruption at the back of the peloton.
  • Poor road conditions leading to constant peloton movement as people cried 'hole'.  Being near the back is painful on the first day as nervousness, poor group riding experience and road conditions leads to start/stopping all day long if you're near the back.
  • Climb of the day was 'The Wall' where the KoM was held (see the ride stripe on the graph).  Went up it much quicker this year than last year.
  • Seeing the 'drone' TV camera flying above us was pretty cool, although group one riders got a little bit too distracted and ended up having a crash.
  • Hilarious dinner where the choice of meal was Meat or Fish accompanied with Mash or Pasta + Natural Yoghurt (note, meat or fish was unspecified).
  • Had a nice quiet hotel room in Calais (last year a rock festival was on) and slept really well.
  • Fellow rider Matt Exley from Team Skoda riding in G1 retained the amateur yellow jersey.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 04mins
  • Ascent - 5,725ft/1,714M
  • Avg. Speed - 17.1mph/27km/h
  • Avg. HR - 146bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 3,332
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 55 (Medium) 

Day 2 - Calais to Amiens (170KM/106 miles)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Two Ascent Profile
  • A dry morning which was welcome.  Previous two years have had poor weather on day two, particularly 2013.   Had a natter with Triple Crown winner Stephen Roche as we readied for departure.
  • You know you are in France straight away due to the driver courtesy and superb road conditions. No more crys of 'hole' - just decent roads to ride on and drivers who pull right over when they see the peloton coming.  Stark contrast to the UK.
  • Peloton positioning at the front became the big issue to prevent the concertina effect at the back.  A big bunch of riders from the iCAP team were determined to roll out of each stop on the front, so some fun had trying to disrupt that.
  • Saying that we had a nightmare exit after lunch on day two and were last out.  The front put the hammer down and we went 45kmh for first 5km or so and it was hard work as the peloton ebbed and flowed trying to keep up, it was brutal on the back as brakes went on then hard accelerations followed.  Still all good fun.
  • Thankfully as the climbs arrived the peloton blew up my fellow G3 Team Skoda rider ' - Tony 'Top Guns' Byers - and I were able to move up the group back into a decent position.
  • Soon after setting out, it rained and we had a succession of punctures in some key sections.  At one point we were slowed then held at the side of the road in a downpour whilst the mechanics dealt with the nightmare scenario of multiple flats at the same time.  Everyone was cold by this point and getting going again was quite tough.
  • The mad French outriders did their bit today, playing suicide with oncoming vehicles and keeping the group going wth the music.  Eye of the Tiger - Yes!
  • There were a couple of crashes in the group, mainly down to slippery roads.  One rider was hurt and taken to hospital but returned to finish the event.  Concentration can be easily lost in a large group.
  • The peloton slowed down a lot in last 20km due to riders off back which meant our average speed dropped as ride captains worked hard to keep people in touch with the group.
  • The leg massage in the evening was agony!  Still no pain, no gain.
My Garmin Ride stats: 
  • Mileage- 104 miles/166km
  • Ride Time -6hrs 09mins
  • Ascent - 5,269ft/1,606M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.8mph/26.9km/h
  • Avg. HR - 135bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,861
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 50 (Medium) 

Day 3 - Amiens to Paris (170KM)

London to Paris 2014 Stage Three Ascent Profile
  • For many the first 100km of day three was one of the highlights of the three days.  The peloton not only worked well, but rode well.  We absolutely whizzed through the first 100km with an average of 21mph/33.6kmh, taking advantage of the terrain.  It's moments like this that you get to experience the impact of a peloton in protecting from wind.
  • Having positioned well in the front of the peloton, I jumped on the front for around 10km and boy did I know it at that pace in the wind.  Very happy to go back in the bunch afterwards I can tell you.  
  • The peloton was slowed heavily around the 100km mark as the groups were catching each other up and due to the way the road closures work, you have to be slowed to hit a specific time window.  It led to our average speed dropping for the whole day, particularly when combined with the 50km procession into Paris which ambles along at 12mph-14mph with such a big peloton.
  • As we went up the climb of the day (red stripe on the profile pic) the now infamous French outrider rode by me with the Van Halen track - 'Jump' playing full blast.  What a moment!  He managed to trump that with 'God save the Queen' as we rolled into the lunch stop.  Quality.
  • After lunch the heavens opened and we rode in Paris in heavy rain, a far cry from the two previous years in beautiful sunshine.  It led to lots of punctures on the route into Paris and some slippery cobbles on the Champs Elysees.
  • As we rolled towards the Eiffel Tower the Skoda team all combined (12 riders) and we rolled in as a single unit, rider Matt Exley taking the amateur yellow jersey for the three day GC in group 1.
  • From there it was slug a bottle of champagne, get a medal, load the bike on the DHL truck and off to the hotel to get our wet kit off, have a bath and then party!  Another L2P in the bag.
My Garmin Ride stats:
  • Mileage- 108 miles/172km
  • Ride Time - 6hrs 50mins 
  • Ascent - 4,144ft/1,263M
  • Avg. Speed - 15.8mph/25.2km/h
  • Avg. HR - 134bpm
  • Calories (estimate) - 2,720
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 38 (Flat/Medium) 

My Garmin Ride stats (For the three day event Group 3)
  • Mileage- 315 miles/504km
  • Ride Time - 19hrs 04mins 
  • Ascent - 15,138ft/4,614M
  • Avg. Speed - 16.5mph/26.4km/h
  • Avg. HR - 138bpm(Aerobic Endurance)
  • Calories (estimate) - 8,913
  • Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 48 (Flat/Medium) 

If you're planning to ride the HotChillee London to Paris event, here's my quick summary and tips: -
  • You'll have a great time, meet lots of new people and remember the experience of riding into Paris in a huge peloton forever.
  • Training is key.  London to Paris is not a flat route as many people often remark.  You have over 15k feet/4.6K M of ascent to do over the three days and the biggest hold up for the event is people that haven't trained to go up hills.
  • Nutrition planning is key.  You get access to food on the event via a good breakfast, lunch stops and evening dinner.  You might not need as much energy food as you think and you should have completed two or three hundred mile events in advance of riding the event to gauge what you need as fuel.  People often carry too much in my experience.
  • Get your bike sorted technically.  Lots of mechanicals can occur en route through people rocking up with poorly maintained bikes.  Put on new tyres, a new chain and get your bike serviced before you ride.
  • Be honest about your ride speed when selecting a group.   You should do your training on similar ascent profiles to the L2P to get a real gauge of your average, it's no good training on flat roads or you will end up being in the wrong group.  As you can see from my consolidated stats, it's very close to the expected average and would have been spot on 27kmh if the peloton was not slowed on day 3.  You need to be training with an ascent profile of 50 ft per mile on average.  If you ignore this you'll get the 'spot of shame' as a ride captain demotes you to a lower group.  The speed is an average so you'll be riding faster than that on the flat stuff (22mph/35km/h) when combined with the climbs.
  • Book your bike onto the Purple Harry bike cleaning service.  Each morning your steed is spangly clean giving you more time to rest, eat or socialise.  It saves time and means you roll out ready for action, particularly good if it's been wet the day before and your bike is full of road debris.
  • Get a massage if you can at the end of each day.  Specialists from The TriTouch are on hand to ease your aching muscles.  It hurts like hell when your legs are sore but always does the job when you get back on the bike.  They can get busy so make it your priority to be on the list.
  • Say 'hello' first when you ride with someone.  The ride can be very sociable if you start a conversation and you get to meet some really interesting people.  Had loads of great chats about bikes plus work, with lots of banter on top.
  • Book on the after ride dinner and awards night.  HotChillee always put on a good party and it's a great to blow off some steam with your fellow riders, as you can see from my pic below picking up the Champagne for amateur yellow jersey winner - Matt Exley.  Went to bed at a reasonably sensible time ready for the early train back to London the next day.
 
 
You can see the video summary of the event below.  I'd like to thank Skoda for the invitation to ride with them and for all they continue to do investing in all areas of cycling from the UK scene through to the world tour.  The sport needs committed sponsors at all levels and they continue to invest heavily. 


London Paris 2014 - Event Video from HotChillee on Vimeo.

Big credit to the photographers on the event for the use of the pictures.  You can see the individual decks taken by each of the photographers by clicking on the links below: -

Sunday, 6 July 2014

June 2014 Mileage


Two new PB's in June.  One for total distance in a month and the other for total ascent.

When thinking about how the year was going to play out, this one was on the cards with the Tour de Precky (effectively the two stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire) and London to Paris both falling in the same month and pushing both distance and ascent numbers to a new high.

As you can see from the numbers, average speed was down by 3%, ascent (climbing) was up 27% with average heart rate sitting in zone 3 (aerobic endurance).  All my training had been building up to this point, so according to the numbers I had the right fitness levels to complete the challenges the month brought.
 

June 2014 Mileage and Ride Ascent Ratio - www.race-pace.net

Chatting with a fellow rider on the London to Paris ride about training, Jan - March was all about flat miles to build a base, with April to June having increased intensity (more ascent).  This simple methodology worked for me last year and it worked again this year.

In terms of the whole year, I'd forecasted to have done around 2,242 miles (3,587km) by this point in the year, actual outcome was 2,268 miles (3,629), so just ahead of plan. 

Key learning for June was about weight.  Seeing what guys three stone lighter than you can do going up a big hill really brings home the magical power to weight ratio impact and the importance of strength and conditioning.  Time to tweak the training I think.

Month  to Date

Mileage- 656 miles/1,050km (+5% vs PY)
Ride Time - 43hrs 17mins 
Ascent - 38,583ft (+27% vs PY)
Avg. Speed - 15.2mph (-3% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 140bpm
Calories (estimate) -22,107
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 58.8 (Medium) (+20% vs. PY)

Year to Date

Mileage- 2,339 miles/3,742km (same as PY)
Ride Time - 145hrs 33mins 
Ascent - 96,116ft
Avg. Speed - 16.1mph (+2.5% vs PY)
Avg. HR - 145bpm
Calories (estimate) -86,347
Ride Ascent Ratio (Ascent/Miles) - 41.6 (Medium) (+6% vs. PY)