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I’m back…

…The truth is I never left, work just got in the way!

 

Much has happened over the past eleven months, so there is much to tell. My only problem is where to start???

I intend to disclose the good, bad and the ugly. Everything from saddle sores to great personal achievements (IMHO)

I’ve been learning a lot since I’ve been back on the bike and feel that I’ve progressed and am seeing steady improvements in my performance. I believe though, I am reaching a level now, where I may have to make changes to my lifestyle to be able to achieve these performance gains. These being diet and alcohol consumption.

However, this blog will not be giving a blow by blow account of my marginal gains and how I’ve eked out a few seconds here and there at the expense of my love of food and the odd tipple!

No, this blog is about my love of cycling, warts and all. I’ll pull no punches and say it how it is.

So far this year I’ve ridden over 8000 km and climbed almost 124,000 m.

I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden in two countries (not including Spain).

I’ve had a few punctures, most of which occurred during what I now refer to as the week of hell!

I suffered a most prolonged saddle sore, that resulted in almost a month off the bike.

I’ve hit the wall/bonked spectacularly and far from home on two (possibly three) occasions.

Two broken spokes and not on the same ride.

Tackled some real steep short climbs at over 30% and my knees survived to tell the tale.

I went on my first marcha cicloturista or organised bike ride / bike race here in Spain

And much, much more…

Stay tuned and make an excuse to get out and ride!

giant river

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Saddle bags

The humble saddle bag, essential partner or aesthetic disruptor?

I have long been a silent proponent of the saddle bag and to be truthful, for a very long time never thought to do without it. It was a necessary cycling companion as necessary in fact as rubber on wheels.

However, last summer when my parents came to visit, my father, to my surprise, had done away with this indispensable piece of kit and carried all that is needed in his jersey’s pockets! Revolutionary, earth shattering I shouted to myself (this was a big move for my father) and what could possibly be the benefits?

My first thoughts turned to the negatives of relegating my dearly beloved cycling-bum bag (fanny pack for American readers) to the trash heap of cycling fashion.

Negatives:

  1. Would I have enough room in my rear pockets to fit all that resided in my bag? As it turns out, yes…more than enough space.
  2. Would my jersey get dirty from putting tubes, levers and tools in it? No, not if using a zip-lock bag.
  3. What if I needed space to put something else? Reality check…you, don’t need extra space, minimalism is the new frugal.

Benefits:

  1. The bag I was using was a little wide and because of my bike fit, my inner thighs would rub against it, so I was always found myself pushing it out of the way in order to avoid this. Removing saddle bag would solve this problem.
  2. In inclement weather the bag would become waterlogged and dirty requiring periodic draining and cleaning.
  3. For none other than pure aesthetic reasons the CBB (Cycling Bum Bag) can ruin the beautiful clean and elegant lines that we all so adore.

So, in conclusion I have consigned my CBB to the dustbin of my cycling history and can honestly say that i am happy with the decision and to those who helped me get there.

Cleaner lines…don’t you think?

 

 

The month of December

It’s winter here as you all know, however, I was surprised at how many kilometres I was able to clock up during the festive season, you can see these over on Strava Training.  For those who can’t wait to find out, I rode 1001 km and climbed 18,547m these numbers were brought to you by “Global Warming” without whose help, my great cycling December would not have been possible 😉

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But seriously…this summer, sorry I mean this winter has been so far, very mild with little rain, a tad fresh perhaps in the mornings but perfect for getting out and riding. I managed to tackle a wee climb that had been on my wishlist for a while and had been told endlessly about…lack of cars and wonderful views etc… The opportunity arose and I went out and attacked it solo.

The climb rises immediately from the coast, it is a 6.8 km ascent with an average grade of 7%. I climbed it on the old 8 speed MMR Sprint with a 39/30t. Overall, the climb went well and I felt comfortable climbing with the setup on the bike.The folks who had told me about this climb were right. I experienced zero traffic and the beautiful views of the coast and Atlantic (I didn’t stop to take a descent picture) took my mind off the effort.

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So far this winter we have been spoiled by the magnificent weather here and now with the solstice  behind us, I am almost not looking forward to the long, hot, sun drenched summer days which bring forth copious quantities of blinding sweat to mine eyes! Oh well, I must not complain…can’t have the best of both worlds…can I (we)..?

A late Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

New Helmet – Specialized Align

Well, I’ve gone and bought myself an early Xmas present!

I’ve yet to take it out on the road, so this post is not a review (that’ll come later) but more of a heads up.

I bought the lid from our local Specialized bike shop (supporting the locals) here in Vigo and paid about €4 more than I would have online and besides, it gave me a reason to take out the “weekday” and ride there and back (not that you need a reason) on a lovely winter morning, combining riding and human interaction…what more can you ask for!

This afternoon I’ll be inaugurating my new acquisition.

Below: My best modelling efforts pre-ride!

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Reaching new heights!

It’s nine months to the day that I started cycling again after my long break and I’d like to take a little time with this post and talk about how far I’ve come over that time.

My first tentative steps back into my favourite sport began back in April and my rides consisted of coastal excursions, which specifically avoided any and all inclines as if my life depended on it! My elevation would be around 130m-500m but these astronomical heights are only brought about by the undulating nature of the road + distance travelled. Now, I thoroughly enjoy these rides, with the Atlantic ocean lapping the shore on one side and towering peaks looming ominously on the other. Those peaks cannot be ignored forever and delightful pleasant coastal roads can quickly become somewhat mundane…

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My reasons (excuses) for avoiding them before came from a deep dark fear of failing. I was afraid of heading up one of those monsters and find myself having to dismount, put tail between legs and head home…the fear was palpable…

I decided to face my fear and chose a hill that I’d heard a lot about, “in fact it is the highest peak in the immediate area” and being within cycling distance was ripe for the picking! Strava measures it at 620m Elevation 11.1km Length 6% Gradient. To read about this epic climb and find out if I made it…click the link below!

Epic Climb

It wasn’t until my father came who is now the other side of 70 that I saw the need to head for the hills with more vigour! During our rides together he would easily waltz away from me on all but the easiest climb, so I took it upon myself to embrace the mountainous terrain of my adoptive land and quickly found that I actually enjoyed it. Of course, the GIANT and its 39×28 setup is a far cry from the MMR’s 39×26. It may not seem like a lot but throw in the GIANT’s 2.5kg weight difference and things certainly become more interesting. Obviously the GIANT has made it easier for me to summit the peaks and while well being is generally preferable to suffering…if it’s not hurting, it’s not working 😉

I’m now averaging 4000 m Elevation a week and love searching out new climbs and having the locals lead me on mystery rides where you never know what’s round the next corner…

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P.S. I have since changed the cassette on the MMR and will be posting about this soon!

 

Teething problems

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The first day I decide to take out the GIANT for its inaugural ride with its new owner, it decides to rain, albeit at the beginning of the ride down by the beach. I sought shelter from the ever imminent el chapparon (downpour) just in time and ten minutes later I was back underway.

It would be a gross understatement to say that the GIANT is better than my old MMR. Bike manufacturing technology has obviously come along way since the heady days when aluminium and chromoly ruled the racing roost, where many thought of carbon as a cheap plastic alternative that would never last. The GIANT firmly stands heads and shoulders above the rest.

The bike is responsive, too responsive, something I had no issues with on the MMR. At 59cm the MMR was steady and sure if perhaps a bit slow, more gentile, while on the other hand, the carbon wonder twitches and darts at the slightest touch. I’ve almost come a cropper on two occasions already. This is not a complaint about the bike, more a realisation that I have lost touch and need to seriously polish my cycling skills. A lot to learn about this marvel of modern cycling technology, I must.

Back to the first ride. I noticed after only a few kilometres in that my right knee was not sitting comfortably at all and a dull pain was slowly surfacing to the right of the patella. Now, I had been using a pair of old Look Delta cleats on the MMR the GIANT was fitted with a pair of Shimano R540s so I went and bought a second pair and fitted them to the GIANT and transferred the old Shimano pedals from the GIANT to the MMR. Look Delta cleats have a 9° float whereas the Shimano have 6° – I was worried that my new purchase would be in vain and I’d be stuck with pedals I no longer needed! Needless to say I made many a google search to solve the problem and fretted during many sleepless nights that I would not be able to ride with knee free pain! But, my worry was misplaced and after a few minor tweaks, made by re-positioning the cleats on the shoe and also raising the seat post, I was surprised at how quickly the problem resolved itself. If you find yourself in a similar situation don’t give up, just persevere and you’ll get there.

I’ve now ridden over 1800km on the GIANT and haven’t had a quibble from my knees. There has been the odd occasion when I have had  some pain but that might have something to do with climbing  28% gradients with 39-28 setup. More about that in another post…

Riding with Dad

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The weather here this summer has been sensational.

Last Friday, we said goodbye to my parents who had been staying with us for the previous 4 weeks. Farewells are always tough, especially when you live as far as you can travel from your home, before you start heading back.

I was told many horror stories regarding the weather here in Vigo during the month of August and how it usually rains, now having spent the previous 9 years living through each summer here, I have found them to be generously summery. I can only imagine that due to climate change (or long term weather variation) summers have become drier and the old adage no longer holds true.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had come down with pneumonia and was on a course of antibiotics, so getting out on the bike was postponed until things had cleared up. That day fell on the 6th August and it involved a leisurely roll down the coast a mere 30km but it felt like a 100 for me!

Being out on the bike again with dad had been a long time coming, almost 18yrs. It was great to finally be out on the road again with him. Although it was met with a little trepidation on my part. My dad has had very little experience riding on the other side of the road and now that he is in his 6th decade + one, I was perhaps experiencing heightened levels of anxiety 😉 But on the whole, things went swimmingly, except for one unfortunate incident with a concrete barrier that makes up part of a cycle path along the coast, fortunately Dad came through the fall with only superficial abrasions. I won’t go into details about massive concrete structures making up a cycle path on a main road, that will be a topic for another post.

It certainly was really great to be able to reconnect with Dad, who by the way, had not stopped rolling those wheels during my hiatus. We shared some great moments and now have wonderful memories. A big thanks to Mum too for letting Dad come out with me! I know she would be out with us if she could 😉 Love you Mum!

Meanwhile, here is Dad on our first ride after all those years, striking one of many poses whilst wearing CHB Cycling kit!

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Oh, the GIANT TCR Advanced 1 that Dad brought over instead of my old bike, well, it has found a new home and I am very thankful. Love you Dad!