|The Cat and Fiddle|
Heading off for my holidays earlier this month, I was wishing I had my bike packed with me so I could keep the form I was in at the right level. Alas, Rhodes (our holiday destination) is renowned for it's incredibly hot climate and with my pasty skin, it would have meant some very short rides. So, no bike for me for ten nights, missing two weekend rides which would normally rack up around 200 miles.
Plan B. I made a few visits to the gym to sit on the exercise bike for an hour and knock out 20 miles per session, just to keep the tanks topped up. I also did some core exercises each day, particularly planks, aswell as some general stretching as part of my new regime to improve my core conditioning generally.
Each day when I saw a guy roll out on a road bike that he'd brought on his holiday, I hankered after my ride. As it turned out, he was a Swiss domestic professional riding an absolutely beautiful S-Works team bike, complete with Rotor Cranks, Zipp Wheels and Di2. He was called Stefan and said he'd be over in Manchester later this year for the track masters. Cool guy, stunning bike.
Back in the Saddle
Returning home to the UK, I'd be planning to go and do a big ride, using of of my additional days holiday to try and win back some fitness with a long day in the saddle. Plan was to head over to the Peak District and go over the Cat and Fiddle, one classed as 'the most dangerous road in the UK' due to the number of motorcyclists killed there over the years. Along the way, I headed up Swiss Hill (a nasty little local cobbled climb you can read about here).
What was different about this ride for me was that I was riding a 53x39, with a 12-25 cassette on it (to learn more about gear ratios, click here). The bike I would normally take on a climbing day has a 50x34 with 12-27, but I've recently sold that. I did wonder whether I'd be OK, as there is a big difference between those two gear ratios (23%), you need a lot more leg strength and can't 'spin' at the same frequency.
As it turned out, I was fine. Yes, it was a bit more effort to push the gears through and my heart rate perhaps went a little higher than normal, but I enjoyed it. Where 53x39 comes into it's own is on the downhills, where you can push hard get some great speed up.
The new standard?
Since selling my Onix RH Pro, I've done a lot more miles on the standard chainset on my other bike (53x39) and I have to say that I do prefer it to a compact chainset. The gearing seems to suit my cadence and there's a lot less gear changing needed across both levers.
Rolling back home with 100 miles in the bag and around 5,000 feet of ascent, my legs were definitely letting me know that they were tired, the last fifteen miles home were pretty tough as the wind picked up and tiredness increased, however it felt brilliant to be riding again. Average speed was 16mph across it all.
With a days rest, I rolled out and did another 40 miles on Saturday morning, it was clear to me once I got going that I was still fatigued from the Thursday ride. The first ten miles were brutal getting the legs warmed up, but I rode into it, returning home with 18mph avg speed which was remarkable given how I was feeling.
Today (Sunday) I'm resting. You have to listen to your body when you feel fatigued or you risk over-training and getting little benefit. Give the body a chance to rest, recuperate and catch up is as good for your long term fitness as any other piece of on-bike training you can do.
Question for me now is about what gear ratios to order on my new Beacon bike? Standard or compact? One I'm going to think about over the next couple of weeks.