Dealing with weight loss

A 3 part series dealing with the topics of body image, emotions and maintenance. Check it out.

Ride Like a Pro

Harwoods Jaguar, Ride Like a Pro Event, West Sussex

My Weight Loss Story

My story of fat to fit by bicycle

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Buff headwear review

Many cyclists use a Buff when riding and I'm one of them.

If you're not familiar with Buffs, they are a tube of stretchy fabric that is typically worn over the head, neck or face. There is such a wide variety of ways to wear one that it's convenient for your whole ride. This ingenious thin and lightweight garment is capable of keeping those parts of the body warm but not too warm even when exercising vigorously. For example, I recently went on a ride that started at 3c and ended up at 14c. I didn't have to take my Buff off once.

Up until now I've been using copycat Buff style headwear that came free with a magazine. The guys at Kitshack sent me their new Reflective Buff in the R-Fire Carbon design. Compared to the cheapo copies I've got, the first thing you notice is the quality of the material. It's feels softer and thicker. It's also a little bigger so covers more. It's based on the Original Buff with the addition of a vertical stripes of retro-reflective Scotchlite on each side. The Reflective Buff ensures you'll be seen at night and in poor light conditions. Exactly what you want when riding a bike. However, if you want something even more visible, they do one in fluro yellow!

Buffs also come treated with Polygiene. It's a silver ion treatment that acts as an anti-bacterial agent. It's skin safe and reduces odours which are common with materials that wick moisture away. Those smells will eventually overcome the Buff. When that happens, just chuck it in the washing machine at a low temperature and drip dry. Being thin it'll dry in no time.

With so many designs available, I can't decide which one to get next. Which one will you choose?

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Having a bad day

Rubbish ride to work this morning.

Thought it was going to be a dry one. 100 yards down the road and it starts raining. As it was light I carried on. Quarter of a mile later, it's getting heavier so I put my waterproof trousers on.

The rain is constant but not a problem. Just under half way to work I get a rear puncture! To my amazement it stops raining. I find the cause of the puncture immediately. A large shard of glass. I take it out, pull the tube out of the side of the tyre and patch the cut. I proceed to pump the tyre back up but upon removing the pump by unscrewing it from the valve it starts undoing the valve core and I lose all the air!

I screw the valve back in tight and try again but no luck. The valve comes out completely. At this exact moment a fellow cyclist comes along and offers help. Yay!

I pump the tyre up, turn the bike over and start riding. It's only a few yards before my tyre is flat again. Grrr!

As the tyre is wet from the puddles on the road I can see a lot of bubbles coming from the same place I had the puncture I'd just fixed. Maybe the patch hadn't held? I take the tube back out. The patch is holding well. I put some air in the tube to find the cause of the deflation and lo and behold, there's a pin prick inline to the original cut. I patch that, put the tube back in the tyre and pump it back up with the borrowed pump. This time it holds and we're on our way.

I'm slightly apprehensive about my back tyre for the rest of my ride but I have a ride buddy for most of my journey as he's going the same way.

When I got to work I realised that I had mud all down my shorts. This was because I put my waterproof over trousers on with muddy shoes. Something that's difficult to avoid when it's already raining.

Lessons learned from today's adventure are:
  • Threadlock all valve cores as my Lezyne pump is annoying.
  • Carry my CO2 pump as a backup
  • Carry a 15mm spanner and a 2mm allen key to get the rear hub off if I need to change the tube (I used to carry this last winter but must have forgotten to repack it)
Edit: I also need superglue the cuts in the tyre when I get home.

Friday, 13 March 2015

5 year anniversary

Today is my anniversary. 5 years ago today I rode the same bike for the first time, on the same route and it changed my life forever. The rest is history.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A year of centuries 2/12

Having completed my first century of the year in January the plan was to complete the second in February.

With having to fit a big ride around other family commitments, it meant that it was either 7th or 21st Feb. With the forecast for 7th being good a few days before I decided to get it over and done with, just two weeks after the last century.

Having learned a few lessons from century number 1, I chose a smaller more convenient lock for the bike and had a fuelling strategy. I got out of the door just before 7 and followed the route on my Garmin.

The route I chose was one I had done 18 months previously. The reason for this was lack of time for route planning and familiarity. Keeping to roads I was familiar with meant I was mentally prepared for what was coming every step of the way. This is important if spirits get low later in the ride.

The ride starts off flat and easy. 5 miles in however I realised I hadn't eaten the breakfast I made myself! Not to worry. It wouldn't be long before I could stop at a shop and get some extra sustenance.

As I headed further inland the narrow country lanes were littered with ice patches. This was generally not a problem as I could just move to the other side of the road. The first 'moment' though was when I was riding up a hill and had a car coming the other way. I had to slowly wait for him to pass and move to the opposite gutter and ride in the running water to avoid sliding off my bike. As I moved across, the back wheel slipped but I maintained control. Phew! As the ride progressed and the temperature increased the ice disappeared.

Having climbed several hills, I was finally at the highest point of the ride, Brightling reservoir. I stopped for my second food stop and had a wee before continuing. Knowing the route, I had a long steep descent coming up followed by and very steep incline. Being a stubborn bloke, I wouldn't dare use my granny ring on my triple chainset so the lowest gear available to me was a 39x23t. I was huffing, puffing and grinding my way up the hill.

After another long descent, it was back into a climb. This time it was a longer more gradual climb and by the time I got to the top, it was a right turn to start heading east. Once I reached Flimwell, it was a short southerly detour down the A21. I stopped at a petrol station and with the thought of a quick coffee and a snack I was feeling good. However, the vending machine was out of order so I consoled myself with a chocolate bar.

Back onto less busy roads, I arrived in Peasmarsh just past the halfway point and was ready to stop at the Cock Inn for lunch but it didn't look open so I carried on. As I left Rye and entered East Guldeford I saw a cafe and considered stopping there for lunch. Instead I decided to press on to Camber and thought about having fish and chips instead. However, the prospect not being able to sit in relative comfort eating fish and chips in the cold was not a good one. Camber was my most easterly point and the only way back west was to go via East Guldeford and Rye. This meant I could stop at the cafe I'd passed. As I turned into the cafe car park, which is next to a farm shop, I saw signs saying it was closed. Luckily, the farm shop did food so I went inside and ordered a bacon bap and a much needed coffee.

Back on the road I now had a tail wind and as I headed into Rye Harbour the riding was fast and easy. Heading back onto roads the wind was still behind me as I flew along through Winchelsea Beach and into Pett Level. Next up was the climb I was dreading. Chick Hill is a 25% climb which is a challenge at any time but more so 75 miles into a ride. With a not so low gear I was grinding away at the pedals and cursing all the way. At the top it levels off before a very gradual climb up to the A259.

I entered Hastings briefly before heading downhill towards Westfield. I stopped at a convenience store and bought some water, and another snack. It wasn't long before the last proper climb of the ride, back into Hastings from the north on the A21 again. I then headed to Crowhurst which has a series of fast descents before a short climb out of the village. Skirting Hastings for the final time it was downhill before heading back home via Bexhill courtesy of a tailwind.

The ride finished at 102.1 miles and I hit a magical 25,000 miles since I started cycling in 2010. That's the same and circling the Earth!

I was suffering a little knee ligament pain during and after the ride. I think this was due to pushing too hard a gear. I don't think I'll do the same next month.

Brightling reservoir

Monday, 26 January 2015

1st century of the year

I somewhat foolishly decided to set myself the challenge to ride a single 100 mile ride every month in 2015.

Riding 100 miles isn't necessarily a difficult task if you're a fit regular cyclist. The challenge however is riding it early in the year. It's hard for a couple of reasons. Firstly, cycling fitness tends to be low in the winter as you ride less when it gets cold and dark. Secondly, the weather and light is poor in the winter and the conditions can make or break you when you get out there.

Choosing the date for January's century was pretty much decided for me. The first weekend in January I rode 25 miles. The second weekend I rode 50. The third weekend I didn't ride so I had fourth weekend or the final Saturday. As the forecast for the final full weekend was good, I decided I had to go for it.

Choosing where to ride for my first century was fairly easy. I had an ulterior motive as I wanted to visit the Giant Concept store in Shoreham-by-Sea, as the next bike I'm planning to get is a Giant, and I wanted to find which frame size I needed. As Shoreham is only 35 miles away I knew even with a few detours I'd need to go a bit further. With that in mind I planned to ride past Shoreham and onto Worthing before heading back.

Preparation is the key to a successful long distance ride. Bike, clothing, equipment and nutrition must be right. I always prepare my stuff the night before and check I have everything before I go to bed. A couple of additions to this ride thanks to the guys at 2pure was a POC Essential cycling cap and some Osmo sports nutrition. I made up the drink in my bottle and put the cap with my clothing for the morning.

I got up at 6am, had breakfast and donned my cycling gear. After forgetting to fix the mount for my front light to the bike, I finally got out of the door at 7.17am. It was cold and dark outside, 4c according to my Garmin. Apart from my feet, which always suffer in the cold, I was appropriately clothed for the conditions.

I started off by doing a loop via Normans bay. By the time I got to Eastbourne Pier, about 13 miles in, I had to stop and do a bit of a dance to try and get the blood back to my feet. With the wind chill, the temperature was about 0c. About 23 miles in I stopped in Seaford for an energy gel and a wee. The cold often makes me need to go!

About 30 miles in, I stopped at Subway for a second breakfast and a coffee and a chance to warm my feet back up again. Back on the road again I headed into Brighton. I had no time to hang around and continued to Shoreham. When I arrived in Shoreham I spotted the Giant store but decided to continue on to Worthing and stop in Shoreham on the way back.

By the time I arrived in Worthing my legs were feeling a little tired. I think it was riding into a headwind that was the reason and I was about to turn around so wasn't overly concerned at this point. Having never been to Worthing seafront I stopped to take a picture of the pier as the weather was so nice.

Worthing pier. Wish you were here!
Soon enough I was back in Shoreham and headed for the Giant store. As you'd expect being a concept store, they have everything Giant. I was interested in the Defy 0 and the helpful assistant in the store showed me the bike and helped me find which frame size was right for me. Whilst there I bought a couple of energy gels and some glueless patches.

I got back on the bike and headed in search of some lunch. I didn't have to go far. I grabbed a bottle of water with lunch and filled my bidon back up. I was soon rolling into Brighton again and using the cycle lanes I was overtaking the cars that kept getting caught at the traffic lights. It wasn't long before I was back in Peacehaven and passing Subway where I noticed I was two thirds of the way into my ride.

When I got back to Seaford, I split to take a different route back home to get the extra miles in. I headed north through Alfriston and then north east to Hailsham. When I got to Hailsham I stopped at the local Tesco to get more water and checked the route to see if I was on target for 100 miles. It seemed I would be a little short if I went straight home so I needed to make a little detour first.

Heading down Hailsham high street at almost 20 mph my front light fell off my bike and rolled down the road bouncing as it went! I picked the light up, checked it over and after the relief that it was still working I fixed it back onto my bike.

As I turned on to Rickney Lane heading to Pevensey the roads were waterlogged and muddy. The first I'd had all day. Several miles of this ensued but I wasn't too bothered and neither were my tyres. As I headed back to Normans Bay the level crossing gates were just closing. The crossing attendant said they'd be closed for about 8 minutes so with tired legs and the air getting colder I thought it better to turn around and take a new route back home. I was on the home straight and the finish was in sight. I pulled up outside my house with 100.47 miles on the Garmin.

January DONE!

What I learned from my first century of 2015 is this;
  • 100 miles after such a long break from endurance riding is more a mental challenge than physical
  • Have a nutrition plan and stick to it
  • Cycle lanes are as much a convenience as an inconvenience
  • I must change hand position more often as my hands started to go numb and tingly
  • Road surfaces are always bad no matter where you ride