Monday, 8 October 2012

The Night Rider


Winter is here and riding in the dark is a whole new adventure. The dark nights have been slowly creeping up on me over the last few weeks. It all started by being a little bit shady around 9pm, then there was a few weeks of cycling through a few hours of dusk into the darkness. But now we have full on darkness. Well there is about half an hour of gloomyness before lighting up time.

I'm equipped with two Moon front lights (an xpower 500 and an xpower 300) and a Moon Sheild rear light. The front lights do a fantastic job of lighting up the road infront of me, and quite impressively I've had cars and busses flashing at me to dim my lights (at least I'm assuming that was why, could have been to tell me to stop being so stupid as to be riding in the dark). Cars coming towards me slow down, and I've had a few stopping and waiting for me to go past. It could be the brightness of the lights, or just the strange wobbling.

And the rear light throws a great big blanket of red out behind. One of the good things about riding at night is that I think cars can actually notice bikes better. They do at least seem to give me more space when the pass. It is a bit more scary as they are approaching because my sense of hearing is heightened and I can hear them thundering along behind me, and I've no idea if they have seen me or not. I keep having to look back to check that my light is still working so I'm getting a funny strain in my neck.

A strange thing happens to the roads at night, which I never noticed before. The roads get longer, and strange bends and turns appear on otherwise straight roads. Loads of bumps and humps and potholes come out at night as well, I don't know where they hide during the day. My bike also seems to react differently to gravity, it feels like there is slightly more grip in the tyres and it's a little bit harder to balance. It's all very strange – it must be something to do with dark matter, I guess it comes out at night. I have also managed to get lost on roads that I've cycled on loads of time in the daylight so I think some corners must get put away at night.

Sometimes it's all a bit scary, being out in the dark, being a bit lost, and cold and alone. Mostly though it is quite calm and peaceful on the quieter roads or cycle paths, there is a lot more wildlife around – foxes, bats and other various animals (including also the crazy moths, which don't taste anwhere near as nice as midges or flys)

The best times however are when the batteries are a bit low on rainy windy nights and it's hilly interval training time on busy roads. Normally sweeping 40mph descents turn into addrenaline fuelled slippy twisty downhills with zero visibilty at slower speeds than the uphill bits.

Still, won't be long till summer, right?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Great IBC Home Cycle


Every year our company has a stand at the IBC show in Amsterdam, and this year I decided to cycle home. I've done this trip before a couple of years ago, it is hard work after spending days standing or walking around a trade show but great for clearing the mind before going back into work, and far more relaxing than the flight home from the show, which is normally full of the great and good of the digital TV Industry in Bristol. For those of you who may be interested the highlights of the show included ultra high definition TV and 3D without the glasses (and the shiny new Digital TV Labs stand of course!)

This year, I was joined by Simon, one of my colleagues who has slowly been indoctrinated into the ways of the cyclist, and who is the main organiser of our company pre-work cycling trips. We set off from the Rembrandt hotel on a sunny Sunday afternoon, suitably lathered up in sun-screen. We made it approximately zero miles before our first puncture!

Puncture fixed, we set of again, from the Rembrandt hotel on a sunny Sunday afternoon through the streets and past the canals, one of which was hosting some kind of swimming event and we got a lot of strange looks as we seemed to be the only cyclists in the country wearing helmets!

We seemed to manage cycling on the wrong side of the rode fairly well, though 'scuse-me belted out in a culchie accent didn't seem quite so elegant as the local's bike bells as we zipped past the city cyclists, and we did get a few comments shouted back in Dutch – though as Simon pointed out these were probably cries of encouragement for our endeavors.

Using a mixture of brute force, AWB maps, sheer luck and a bit of help from some bewildered Dutchies, we finally made it to the ferry – where we ate – a lot! The ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich is perfect for this kind of trip because it's an overnight ferry so sail and sleep at the same time.

After a suitably massive breakfast, we rolled off the ferry and out of the port to start day 2 with our new friend – Mr Cha the Korean – another cyclist, who was coming to the end of a 2000 mile tour around Europe visiting 10 countries – England, Ireland, er – and 8 more! He joined us for the first 40 miles and nominated me as the road master, a noble honour indeed considering I got us lost withing the first 3 miles (but we did get to see the North Sea) In return for buying us brunch, we agreed to find Cha a campsite somewhere near Chelmsford, and dropped him off up a dark lane in a field with some geese near a train station somewhere in rural Essex.

Later on, we stopped for a hearty lunch of some manky sandwiches beside a river full of shopping trolleys, and continued on our merry way through the windy lanes. At this point I would like to point out that the prevailing winds in the UK are westerly and we were travelling mostly easterly resulting in an average speed of approximately slow.

We made it to beautiful Hertfordshire on the edge of darkness and I heartily enjoyed cycling past Hemel Hempstead, my old stomping ground, before finishing off the day on what seemed to be a 10 mile uphill on our way to our Hotel in Amersham. Poor Simon at this point was hallucinating with tiredness and seeing Dragons in the fields, but did a sterling job of leading us in to our destination.

Day 3 started with a big fry and an uphill start through the commuter belt at rush hour. Our trusty Garmin500 guided us OVER the motorways, which was a nice change from the last time I did this trip and ended up cycling ON a motorway for a few miles. We had a nice break for our second puncture of the trip, and continued on our merry way up the A4 towards home (still into that headwind) Not much happens on the A4, it's wide, open and windy – that's all, but we got to the end of it in Chippenham and swiftly circumnavigated the ring road and onto the A420 which should in theory take us straight back into Bristol.

We stopped for some emergency ice-cream at a petrol station, and much to the amusement of the locals, Simon whipped of his jersey and danced around the forecourt rubbing his legs (well as much dancing as was possible after cycling 250miles)

Slacking finished, we headed for home, the final stretch – 15miles which turned into 25miles of hills, and arrived on the outskirts of Bristol just in time for the rush hour. I suggested we do a few laps of the ring road followed by a sprint up park street to emulate our Tour de France heroes on the Champs Elysees but Simon was having none of it.

And that's it – the IBC Home Cycle complete for another year. 280 miles in total, 279 miles of which were into a headwind!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I love summer

This summer is great. Here are the reasons...

1. I've got my waterproof overshoes out, my rain cape is getting a good workout and my waterproof rucksack cover is getting a good airing. I have also put mudguards back on the bike. This is all good because otherwise all of this kit would just be sitting in the cupboard not being used, and now I am getting much better value for the money I have spent on these purchases.

2. When I'm out cycling, I cycle faster because I want to get places quicker to get out of the rain, this includes cycling into headwinds. Rain = harder training = happy me.

3. That lovely feeling that you get in the winter when you come in from the cold and wet, and get dry and warm? Now we have it every day!

4. Corners and descents are wet and slippy, and my brakes aren't working so good in the wet, and in conjunction with number 2, my bike handling skills are improving so the next time I have to race someone from milder climes I'll be able to kick his ass.

5. Due to bike parts wearing out quicker in the crappy conditions, I get to do more bike part shopping.

6. My skin is getting weather beaten from the constant pummeling from the rain (especially at the high speeds I cycle at). This looks a little bit like a tan, saving money on the fake tan that would otherwise be required to intimidate the opposition.

7. The constant rain pummeling also results in a great deal of cycling with poor visibility or (more commonly) closed eyes leading to accelerated development of a "sixth sense" when it comes to other road users.

8. Constant mouthfuls of rain water means I no longer need to carry a water bottle = lighter bike = faster cycling!

Happy days.

Can't think of any disadvantages really, I hope this weather keeps up for a long long time. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Half Year Report

This years tour has started and I'm more interested in the other peoples trips around the route than in the racing (http://onedayahead.co.uk/ and http://gritandglimmer.com) That also means there is around one year until I get to ride it myself.

So far the training is going well, I've ridden more than 2600 miles this year, that has included a few rides over 100 miles, two races and plenty of hills which is good, will need to step up a bit now though!

I'm doing around 200 miles per week now, hoping to get over 250 in the coming weeks. That doesn't leave much time for blogging though! Where is my bike?

Monday, 26 March 2012

TDF Benchmark 3

Right, done a few weeks tough training with plenty of climbing. New benchmark for 20 mile route is 1hr 6mins - 6mins faster than last time. Have also crossed off the distances of 5 of this years tour stages (prologue and stages 9 11, 19 and 20. Thats all - time to get back to the bike. Bye.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Benchmark 2

What a horrible cycle, felt pretty bad the whole way round, however managed to smash my first benchmark time, coming in at 1hr 12mins. Thats a 9 minute improvement over 20 miles in just over 2 months. Can't complain about that!