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

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A year of centuries 3/12

The centuries are not getting easier!

With the forecast being sunny but windy I chose another familiar route. The wind was west/south westerly and with only one proper hill I decided to take it easy on the way out with the wind helping me and even easier on the way back. The destination was Folkestone.

The route out to Folkestone is flat and open so is often windy and exposed. There's not many places for shelter along the way. The temperature was to be quite warm for early March so I wore arm warmers and a gilet along with my new Buff.

The first 15 miles or so to Hastings was uneventful. This is where the only hill of the ride is. The hill to get out of Hastings is easier than the return, coming over the other side. The legs felt good and I was soon at the top. I stopped for a wee at Hastings Country Park and then it's straight into a fast descent into Fairlight before a lovely fast flat along Pett Level.

I spotted this stately home at the top of Battery Hill. Never noticed it before.
I was soon at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Early mornings are great for riding the smooth tarmac fast as there's practically no one around. Not long and you arrive in Rye but only for a few moments as you're quickly out the other side and on to the open roads heading for Kent.

There's lots of little country lanes that are part of the National Cycle Network so you can stay away from the traffic. Most little villages look the same along the way and it's difficult to know how far you've got to go without looking at your bike computer.

It wasn't long and I arrived at Hythe and stopped at the cafe next to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway station. It's an old fashioned cafe that is a regular for local cyclists.

Having hit 50 miles I pondered for a moment about continuing to Folkestone. The roads get quite a bit busier from here and with the weather being so good I was worried I'd jut get frustrated with the traffic. I thought while my legs were good, I'd start to head back.

About 5 miles into the return leg I got a puncture! Never mind though, I'd fix it and soon be on my way. A few moments after I began riding again my left knee started hurting. It'd hurt on the other two centuries but I thought by keeping the riding gentle I might be able to stop the knee from hurting. Every pedal stoke into the wind hurt. It was like a twinge. I tried selecting a lower gear to keep the cadence up and the pressure down but that only helped a little and made my pace very slow.

All I could do is persevere. I used the scenery to take my mind off it. The downside with the flat geography is that there is no natural rest time for down hill sections. Instead it was constant pedalling.

As I headed toward Lydd there was a half marathon being held on the same roads I was riding so I was slowly over taking a number of runners. When I got to the centre of the village I stopped at a shop to buy chocolate. I thought this might perk me up. It did briefly. Each time I stopped for a few minutes the pain would subside momentarily when I got back on the bike.

Just after leaving Lydd my backside was now hurting. It was a little sore so I had another distraction from the knee. I wasn't sure which was better! As I pushed through the desolate Jury's Gap and headed for Camber I wanted it to end. However, I remembered the farm shop in East Guldeford and how good their coffee was. I'd considered stopping there earlier in the morning but I passed through about 30 mins before they opened. After a decent stop I was back on the road again.

As I headed back through Rye I had a decision to make. Do I go back through Pett Level and up the infamous Battery Hill or do I take the back route through Winchelsea and into Pett? I decided to take the latter as I'd not done it for 18 months. I also thought it was less hilly. OK, so it wasn't but it was worth it as the hills were short and took the pain away from the knee as I was standing up to do them.

The climb to Ore was a slow and painful one but the finish was in sight. It was all down hill or flat from now on. Old London Road into Hastings is a fast one but can be busy. There's a speed camera at the bottom of the hill and I've always wanted to set it off. I thought I'd wait for there to be a gap in the traffic and give it a go. The wait seemed like forever. I set off and started building up speed. I got to about 37mph but with the speed camera up ahead the car in front decided to slow down and stop to turn right, totally scuppering my plans! Never mind, there's always next time.

The ride along Hastings seafront was slow as was Bexhill and Cooden. By the time I got to Westham, the level crossing gates were down so I made a longer stop than normal and sat on a wall for several minutes. The last couple miles home were at a respectable pace. Wanting to get home gives you something extra.

I finished the ride in just over 10 hours with just short of 8 hours riding time. Not a fast ride by any means but I've ticked the box for March. I need to work out what is causing my knee to hurt into the ride.

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