Monthly Archives: June 2014

Gripes, Gripes and Some More Gripes

Before I start here’s a date for your diaries… On Saturday 12 July, at the Colliton Club, Dorchester, I’m organising a Back to School Disco. The event includes a disco, games and raffle – school uniform to be worn. Tickets are £4 and are available from the Colliton Club – all proceeds go to Julia’s House. Please check out the event page on the Tour Challenge website.

Anyhow less of that…

It’s been a long week, with 425km covered over the weekend, two 170km rides during the week before work; I’ve also been to a 21st birthday party, missed most of fathers day, had a trip to watch the Eagles in London which includes the obligatory late night plus all the palaver that comes with my job. I’ve also been actively busy organising fundraising activities. But it’s not all that bad, it’s time to recover so I’ve got 2 light weeks of training to come before the intensity ramps up throughout July.

So while I’m in a moaning mood, I feel it’s right that I get some of the things that wind me up on the bike off my chest.

I suppose the place to start is the pot hole – they’re everywhere and are often difficult to spot. There’s 3 options to deal with them: swerve (after checking its safe), try and jump them or take the hit. The later can be quite painful, particularly  you don’t see them as there’s no chance to raise the derriere off the saddle and in some cases I’ve needed to check to see if my bits are still intact. For any of you new to cycling in the wet – one rule for you, if you don’t have to,  never ride through a puddle as you don’t know what might be lurking beneath it!

Gravel and general debris on the road is something I’m wary of, if you’re turning and go over loose material then the chances of losing control of the bike are increased. I generally tend to bike around this, but if I have to go over it  I will try and slow down in advance and hit the material with the bike as upright as feasible. The exact same principles apply to drain covers in the wet.

Living in a rural county I do encounter a lot of farm vehicles, the vast majority of farmers are generous and give me plenty of space. However I was unfortunate on one ride to encounter the annual muck spreading –  it seems that just as muck is spread on the roads as the fields. In essence, unbeknown to myself, I turned from a sweaty cyclist into a high speed cow turd.  It wasn’t until I got home and popped the bike in the house, and came back downstairs after a shower that I caught whiff of the bike – and the missus wasn’t to happy with me.  It took a week to remove the smell off the bike and since I’d been drinking from my bottles over the course of the ride – I ended up on dry rations for a few days!

Crosswinds can be challenging, particularly when riding along ridge lines. Having been out on the road throughout the winter, there have been occasions when I’ve had to bike on the wrong side of the road, so when the crosswind hits I’ve plenty of room to manoeuvre. Quick tip: if you’re out in similar conditions be wary of any gaps in hedgerows as this is when you can get a real blast from the weather.

I’m really aware of pedestrians, as many don’t look but only listen when crossing the road and I’ve had many near misses – in Cerne Abbas on one ride I had 3 different groups walk out in front of me in less than 500 yards.

The vast majority of drivers on the road are respectful to cyclists and leave plenty of space when overtaking, although I do believe that some underestimate the speed of cyclists. My favourite worst encounter with a driver, which I now look on with fondness, involved a near collision on a roundabout in Dorchester. Having made my way onto the roundabout, a driver of a van decided to pull out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and stopped about 20cms from the driver side door – incredibly he also had a trailer on the back. My real admiration for the driver was his ability to multi-task by navigating the roundabout and simultaneously wind down his window to fire some insults at me.  It is a good insomnia topic for me to determine the rational used by said driver to think he was entitled to fire back some insults – if you’re out there please feel free to get in touch as it’s still nagging me!

As you’ll see from above, cycling involves a lot of concentration – I won’t ride no handed as if you hit a pot hole, wet drain cover, debris or a cross wind chances are you’ll come off. With my history of shoulder injuries it’s a risk I’m not prepared to take – more on that in my next blog!

Cheers for reading.


The Long Drag!

Hi everyone, as I stated in my last blog, I’d cover my longer training ride in this blog and I’m glad to say I’ve kept my word!

As my Tour route contains 10 stages which are longer than 190km, I try to include in my weekly training routine at least one ride of 200km. Every third week or so, I also include double or triple rides all of which include rides of 175km plus. In amongst these rides I have scheduled in 5 rides of approximately 225km, to help me prepare for the longest stages on the challenge.

A key characteristic of my Tour route  is that it contains 8 mountain stages, so all my longer rides have to contain a significant amount of ascent – typically 3000-4000 metres per ride. Fortunately, I live in hilly West Dorset, so that isn’t much of a problem, although it’s simply not possible to replicate a large mountain ascent as the highest hills in Dorset only reach around 270 metres – more on that later.

Starting the ride is always a real drag as I’m carrying a big bag of food around 4.5 litres of drinks and I know I’ve got 7-9 hours before I’ll be home again (to see my wife and baby girl). Its even worse if the weather is bad -I do ride in all weathers and on some bad weather days I haven’t seen another cyclist on the entire route! Riding in cold weather also plays havoc with the bladder and I’ve been caught many a time marking my territory on local landmarks.

For me to complete a ride of this length is 25% preparation, 25% fitness and 50% psychological. Mentally it’s always a challenge, I have to ignore any negative thoughts, to do this I think about the end goal of completing the challenge; I also know how moody  I would be for the rest of the weekend if I did give up on a ride early and how good I would feel after completing the ride – so those 2 polar opposites are a good motivator.

Sorry for those not familiar with Dorset, but friends are always asking me about the route I ride, so here’s a bit of an overview…The route takes me out from Dorchester towards Bridport where I then head on the back roads into Devon, before re-entering Dorset and heading back through Beaminster and back towards Uploders where I have my first food stop, normally guzzling a packet of salt and vinegar chip sticks.

A savoury snack is a real treat as I normally only get to eat sweeter food due to the need for fast release carbohydrates – in a typical ride I’ll eat 6 Jaffa cakes, 4 chunks of malt loaf, a mini pack of haribo, 2 banana’s, 3 energy gels, 1 energy bar and 1 cereal bar, in France I’ll raid the local boulangerie for some tasty alternatives;  I’ll also add a slow release carb based lunch such as pasta with some fruit/veg and a little tuna, chicken for a touch of protein.


200km route Map

Moving on… I then head off towards Eggardon Hill, Maiden Newton and Cerne Abbas, this contains a sequence of 4 tough hills, all with sections of gradient exceeding 15%. After hitting Blandford and heading up Bulbarrow Hill I then tackle the same 4 hills from the opposite direction – this is one way in which I overcome Dorset’s distinct lack of 2000m mountains.


200km Ride Elevation

To finish the ride I then head along Roman Road, into Martinstown and back to Dorchester for a well earned protein shake, shower, some noodles and a cup of coffee. After which I prepare the bike for my next days ride and then finally put the feet up and then eat a well balanced, but very large dinner!

Thanks for reading, in my next blog I’ll be venting some of my frustrations about biking on the roads!