Saturday, 14 February 2015

OK commuter....

Soooo, a bit of a different post today not really related to the TCR or training - just a bit of a reflection on current situations and stuff - ignore this one if you want a tale of how rubbish I am at committing to things and getting my training done (another non-riding day today by the way).....

As children brought up in the rural countryside in Suffolk, there wasn't a lot for my brother and I to do.  With cousins heavily into cars, lorries and all things mechanical we both had an avid interest in anything engine related - I can still tell you the make and model of a truck just from the rear mudguards - I kid you not.

Anyway, our house had a garden that pretty much ran the entire perimeter of the property and it allow us to set up a race track.  I say pretty much, as there was a small foot high wall on one side that required a plank place precariously that would allow us to charge full bore into the back garden, sweeping round the silver birch and then plummeting down the steps on the other side of the house to complete a lap.  Many, many hours were spent racing laps, Ben on his trusty Emmelle with 20 inch wheels and me on my Universal with new at the time 26 inch wheels.  After a Sunday lunch and avoiding any homework I decided to put in a few hot laps.  Head down racing for the plank, I missed it and piled straight into the wall.  I pulled a clean front flip without the bike and landed on my feet, very much in shock.  The bike didn't, having taken full force through the forks bending the down tube and top tube at roughly 45 degrees.  My mum and dad went ape shit, sending me to my room and giving me a thorough bollocking in the process.  The Universal was done, the front wheel touching the down tube, it's days of hot laps were finished.

Following a miserable summer with no bike, my parents finally allowed me to buy a second hand racer from a grubby little bike shop in Stowmarket.  Steel 531 frame, alloy wheels and such, it was pretty awesome for £95...yes, ninety five sterling.  I spend more than that on a tyre these days...Anyway, after doing 'the 7 miler' a number of times, a friend of the family who happened to be a big time trialer suggested I join the local club and start doing TT's on a Wednesday night.  The local club, The Wolsey Road club, was run by two truly lovely people - Don and Olive Forsbrooke.  Both of them were old school riders and by old school, I mean they rode everywhere.  I remember going to their house once (I would have been about 16) for club mince pies and sherry at Christmas and got talking to one of the old boys of the club.  He was 84 at the time, still rode a fixed gear and still raced 12 and 24 hour time trials.  I was blown away, I'd only ever managed 10 and at a push, 25 mile time trials and here was this old boy still smashing out mega miles each week.  Don and Olive were the same, Olive was well into her 60's when I first met them and throughout my teenage years and into my early twenties I'd see her riding to and from Ipswich with her panniers laden up with shopping.  Whatever the weather, Olive would be out there smashing the miles out.

Don's garage was the stuff of legends.  Multiple bikes of all different disciplines hung on the wall, tool chests and bike stands ready to service whatever needed servicing.  When I couldn't fix my bike with the hammer, wood chisels and flat head screwdriver that my dad had in his garage, I'd push my bike to Don's in the nearby village and ask him to help me.  The man was an artist when it came to fixing bikes.  No amount of superlatives could do him justice, he was like a surgeon.  I remember opening a drawer in his toolbox and seeing no less than 7 different bottom bracket tools - remember, this was in the day when 'standards' were just that and you didn't have press fit, external or any of that rubbish.  I asked him why so many, and his reply was 'Right tool for the job'.

Don passed away a few years ago and sadly Olive also died at the tail end of last year - two people who I wish I'd made more of an effort to see before their passing.

Anyway - why am I boring you with this??  Well, I've been without a car for the past couple of weeks due to...well, buying a shit car.  So I've had to resort to doing everything via the bike.  Shopping, getting to the station in a morning, running errands - all by bike.  I've also picked the worst part of the year to do this, its bloody cold and often raining.  However, its awesome.  Yes I feel smug, and quite self righteous and I also feel like a bit of a tramp when I pull into Tesco's with my panniers and park up with all the old drunks who've ridden there to buy their scotch.  But I reckon I'm a fair bit quicker than those in cars and I'm also getting extra miles in when I'd just be sat there getting angry at Nick friggin Grimshaw and wondering if the noise my car is making is a noise it should be making.

Anyway - why the lengthy nonsense at the start?  Right tool for the job...When I first moved to the London area proper I thought I needed a folding bike like all londoners.  I couldn't stomach paying a grand for a piece of hi-tensile steel also known as a brompton, so I bought a tern folder.  Nice spec, 20 inch wheels and v brakes.  It was and is utter shit.  For those that have never tried one - don't.  20 inch wheels and a big hinge in the middle do not a good bike make.  I risked life and limb on it for a year before sticking it in the attic and buying a proper bike on the bikes to work scheme.  I work in Canary Wharf, there's an Evans in Canary Wharf. And my bikes to work thing uses Evans.  A peruse of their website gave many options but the one that stood out was a Charge Grater.  Internal hub gear (OK, its an Alfine 8 rather than a Rholoff), hydro disc brakes and 700c wheels sounded pretty good for £650 notes.  Not something I can get excited about but adequate for what I needed.  It turned up and I collected it with Ben.   Ben seemed impressed.  I fitted a rack I had lying about, changed the saddle for an old Fizik Gobi that I love (there was nothing wrong with the Charge Spoon fitted but I do like a Gobi) and changed the stem for a longer one I had in the spares box.  I also purchased some Ortlib panniers on the insistence of Ben, who said they're the nuts.  Turns out, they are! Who knew...

Anyway, after a year of riding to the station every day , plus going into town on it and running various errands I'm smitten.  It's my most ridden bike.  In the past two weeks I've worked out I've ridden about 150 miles on it getting to work and getting shopping and the like.  Yes, at times I've got wet and yes, my legs hurt a bit when I go out training but thats 150 miles essentially for free.

Additionally I have to pay to park my car at the station, £5 a day.  In a year, there are 253 working days (for 2015), minus my holiday of 25 days plus any sick days or working from home leaves about 220 days.  Multiply that out and you're left with £1100.  And remember, thats just parking and not accounting for petrol to and from.  Not bad eh!

Ahh, I hear you say - but what about maintenance on the bike.  Well, I've had it a year now and so far its cost me...nowt.  I've pumped the tyres up twice and swapped the grips out for some crazy expensive Ergon ones with built in bar ends and I've also swapped the pedals for some clip less ones I had in the spares box.  Other than that, nowt.  The internal hub gear means that the chain doesn't see nearly as much strain compared to a normal setup, hell I've not even oiled it.

I've not washed it, fettled it or done anything to it.  It gets dumped outside the station all day whatever the weather, bashed into by other less careful commuters and still comes back for more.  To be fair, when I got it, I did strip it down and re-grease everything and tighten all the bolts as I don't trust Evans.  But other than that, nowt.  Its fricken brilliant and easily my most used bike.

I don't wear lycra, I don't even wear a helmet (naughty).  Sat on the sofa thinking I need a few beers and some stuff for tea, I just grab it and head to the shops.  Lights wise I use a couple of Leyzene type affairs that are ok, and the lock is a simple combination thing - neither of which are great but do the job.  There's a Garmin mount attached but I've yet to put my Garmin on it.  Why would I, its just one more thing to have nicked when I forget to take it off.

Its a lovely thing, riding along not watching my heart rate or thinking that I need to do another loop to get the miles in.  I wear stuff that I can be seen in public in, with the panniers I can do a full shop and get it all back before my beer has got warm or my ice cream has defrosted.  Obviously being the massive bike geek I've thought about maybe changing the hub to a Rholoff one and maybe rebuilding the wheels onto some carbon rims.  And maybe changing the seat post to a carbon one and putting some flasher bars on it.  But then that would ruin it, it would be something I'd worry about when I chain it up at the station and what benefit would I get?  It would be a bit easier to pedal up the hill from the station?  So what...

It's the one bike I'll never sell.  In my opinion, if everyone got over the idea that they need a Wiggins replica for the Sunday poodle, this is the bike most people need.  It's the right tool for the job and it does that job very well.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Possibly the most exciting post ever....

....or not

Tyres - yeah, what's better than a post on tyres? Two posts of course!

Above is a picture of my rear tyre after 400 miles.  Yeah, just 400 miles and none of them on the turbo.  I love the Vittoria's, I really do.  But 400 miles to do that isn't great by any stretch.  Especially when you're looking at 3000+ miles during the course of one race.  Oh and if you thought it was just an issue with the Open Pave's...

...that red/orange stuff is tyre.  That should be still attached to the tyre.  I wouldn't mind but thats a turbo specific tyre and the dust is after one long session.  I've now got mounds of the stuff covering the spare bedroom and anything in the spare bedroom.  I even emptied some out of my keyboard the other day, it gets everywhere.

So some sort of slightly more resilient tyre is needed.  I hate heavy stiff tyres though, they feel awful to ride.  Once the weather gets nicer I'll give some Conti GP4000's a try as everyone raves about them, until then I'll just keep destroying tyres from the Kitch Tyre museum....

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Not too bad...

...How do

So, after my mini meltdown the other night, I've pushed on to try and make amends.  So far this week I'm sticking to the plan.  Turbo sessions have been turbo'd, swim sessions have been swimmed (?) and I'm starting to feel a bit more like I'm making some headway into it.  Albeit still a long way off.

I've handed my notice in at work today and its been agreed that remaining holiday can be used up by taking each friday off.  So quieter roads, hopefully some half decent weather and some big routes are planned.  Additionally, between starting the new job and finishing the old, I can take a week out (I didn't agree that with anyone by the way, just decided on it - like a boss!) so I've got BIG things planned for that week.  I don't know what those BIG THINGS are, but they're going to be BIG.  Good, glad I've cleared that up.

On the bike front - I've still not managed to go get the Crap Dem from my mums so I'm sat here looking at a group set and wheels with nothing to hang them on.  I bought a Di2 group set ages ago, stripped off a bike sat in my mate Rob's shop.  I'm currently weighing up the idea of using it, although cables being snagged and batteries going flat does worry me somewhat.   I can always get another battery if needed and the shifts are sooooo smooth I think its a gamble worth taking.  What this also means is that I'll need to shave all the unneeded mounts off the Crap Dem and drill a few holes to feed the cables through - yes I could use an external kit but I've used one of those before and it looks a bit messy.

I toyed with the idea of trying to find a frame a bit more current - see one of my previous posts - but to be honest, unless I want a cross bike I'm a bit limited.  Add in the need for Di2 compatibility and you've got an even smaller group to choose from.  I could go custom but thats muchos expensive and I'm a bit off custom.  There's a local brand who've started making a proper disc road bike but its a bit of an unknown quantity which is the last thing I need - they're not due for delivery until end of March by which point I'm cutting it a bit fine.  I say that. but its only 6 weeks away but even so I'd rather get something sorted soon.  The other thing worth a mention is that the Crap Dem is a standard 1 1/8 head tube, where as all carbon disc forks bar the Ritchey one seem to be tapered.  What to do....1st world problems eh....

Hour session on the turbo tonight watching a few episodes of Sons of Anarchy.  Which is possibly the best turbo TV ever, mainly because you don't need to know/hear what they're saying to understand what's going on.  House of Cards wouldn't work nearly as well.  I also choose not to switch the fan on as I like to sweat it all out, makes me feel like I'm trying harder.  It also means I'm destroying the paint on the bed room floor boards, but again I think that adds Man Points.  Anything destroyed by sweat is man points - bar tape, headset bearings, paint - its all fair game.

I'm procrastinating again so best I don the lycra (old stuff, relegated to turbo duties) and get on it.  Outstanding....

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Time for a change..or A Few home truths...

I looked in the mirror this morning.  Well, I say this morning - it was about 12.20pm but I had just got up.  Banging headache after too much gin last night, the reflection of myself only made my headache much worse.

Things are not really going to plan as I'd hoped.  Mega Mileage Feb hasnt even got off the ground, I've done nothing this week.  My diet is still poor - rubbish food and too much of it - and I'm still drinking.  But above all, I'm not riding my bike enough.

I've been reading other blogs and fellow entrants are doing MUCH more than me.  Not just sessions on the turbo or any sessions on the turbo.  Lots of long long rides and what have I done this weekend?  Nothing, at all.  Apart from celebrate my new job.  I've got about 5 months left now and I'm no where near where I need to be.  I don't have the bike sorted, I don't have sleeping arrangements sorted, kit, nutrition - any of it.  Christ, I'm struggling with anything more than 50 miles and I'm still fat.  In fact, maybe even fatter.

I need to start manning up - and probably doing less blogging - and getting out on the bike in the evenings.  Drivers round here are terrible, dangerous in fact but I can pick routes that are much more favourable to a cyclist at night and just get out there.  Its not like I don't have a batch of nice lights and decent gear - I'm just being lazy.  If I don't start doing this I'm going to be no where near where I need to be and Flanders will just be another place I pitch up to where I don't finish and embarrass myself.

I don't know what the solution is - I need to find my mojo for riding again.  And I need to be doing way more in the week.  And at the weekend - after this zero mileage weekend and fairly low miles last weekend its not looking good.

Less whinging, more riding.  I'm not happy and I need to do something about it so the plan below is what I intend to do this week

  • Monday - up early and ride to the closest station I can get to in an hour.  On the train, into work and shower/iron a shirt.  Same on the way home.  2 hrs
  • Tuesday - Normal start, swim at lunch then turbo session in the evening.  1.5 hrs
  • Wednesday - repeat Monday. 2hrs
  • Thursday - Repeat tuesday. 1.5 hrs
  • Friday - ride into work, then train home after the bike ban (7pm) - 2.5hrs
  • Saturday - 26 mile loop for recovery. 1.5 hrs
  • Sunday - 80 mile ride with local club.  3.5 hours

Week total: 14.5 hours

Its not anywhere near where I need to be, but its a start. Lets get through this and see where I stand at the end of it.

Milestones I want to reach
March - century ride to Lincoln from my mums.
April  - century ride each way on back to back days
May - a week of commuting the full distance by bike.

I also need to get a big week of back to back big rides in to test kit and see what I can do.  I'm thinking riding down through France and back. I have a months notice at work rather than the usual 3 and my new employer is happy to wait, so possibly a weeks unpaid leave between finishing and starting will give me what I need.  If I can afford a week without pay that is!

The big thing for me is that I look for the easy way out.  If the bike isn't set up on the turbo when I get home, I have an excuse to bin it off for another night.  If I don't have my kit lined up in the morning ready to just chuck the pannier on the bike, I'll bin it off and spend another hour in bed.  I'm massively lazy and a super procastinator so if theres an excuse, I'll grab it with both podgy hands.

Speaking of podgy hands, diet.  I need to start properly looking at what I'm eating as when I'm not sucking it in, I've got a right gut on me now.  I'm always guilty of eating utter shite in the week that's quick to cook, that doesn't fill me up then I supplement with toast and other stuff that just adds weight.  So I need to cook properly, but smaller portions.  I need to get some tupperware so I can box up left overs and reheat rather than resorting to another ready meal.  Make's me feel dirty even typing ready meal.  And no booze - no if's, no buts - booze is now a no show.

I don't need to spend any money doing the above.  I can't buy the fitness I need and I already have everything I need to accomplish it.  I just need to get my finger out of my arse and get on with it.  Otherwise I have to seriously consider that I won't be ready for July and call it now.  Which is something I'm not prepared to let happen.

Angry Kitch yeah!

Monday, 2 February 2015

He came, he saw, he rode round in the mud for an hour...

Personal life apart, things are going well.  Despite much trepidation, yesterday I loaded up the car with bike, kit and jet wash for a trip to the local Cross club championships.  For the day, I was a member of a local club (to make numbers up) and pitched up on my MTB to what was a very well attended event at a local private school.

Firstly - my megastar friend Jen, who had never seen a cycle-race before said she would come along and offer moral support.  'Pitting' in cross is quite a big thing, but only really if you have a couple of bikes to swap between.  I didn't and was determined to go without a drink so Jen just shouted 'Show me your War face' and other inspiring phrases to keep me from getting off and getting back in the car.

It was cold, BLOODY cold and whilst it didn't rain, the water logged course soon became a mud bath.  Whilst I don't have a cross bike currently, with the course how it was it was very much swings and roundabouts as to whether I'd have benefitted or not.   There was a fallen log type affair in the woods which I could clear but almost everyone else got off and ran over, followed by a pretty steep drop which again I could stay on for.  On the flip side, there was a horrible gradual climb up a field, and then a wobbly rutted descent back down said field where I was definitely at a disadvantage.  To try and get any sort of grip, I ran a fairly narrow spike on the front and ran really low pressures (20psi) which gave me about as much grip as I was going to get.

Anyway, after a frantic start I'd made up quite a few places from my lowly spot on the grid and held my own, swapping places over the course of the lap with a couple of lads on cross bikes.  I lapped a few people which was nice and a definite improvement on my previous ride where I seemed to be dead last.  One of the problems with riding an MTB is the accumulation of mud, and by halfway through there was enough welded to my frame and wheels to stop the rear mech working.  I was reduced to two gears but in all fairness I only really needed two so no real hardship.  Coming round to what I thought was the penultimate lap, I saw the flag hung out and realised that it was over.  Bit disappointing because I'd been saving a bit for a final lap push, but at the same time relieved it was over - I was cold, wet and absolutely COVERED in mud.  Think rice pudding made of mud and you wouldn't be far wrong.  I didn't wait about to find out where I come and as of now they still haven't posted the full results - the thought of clean clothes and beating the rush out the carpark was far more tempting.

It made a huge difference having Jen there, much nicer going to an event with someone to cheer you on and chat through the race with afterwards rather than driving home on your own.  Hell, two laps in I'd have got off and gone home had she not been there.

Dropping her off, I drove to the local Sainsburys to jet wash the bike (I know I know, bearing life...) and rolled home about 4pm.  Stuff in the washing machine, I popped round some friends for dinner before coming home, having a huge argument with my girlfriend on the phone and going to bed with a cluster headache and eventually, migraine.  Mint.

Today, head aside I feel ok.  Back is a bit tight and my legs are quite heavy, but I'm in no way ruined. Maybe a session on the turbo later on might finish them off...

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Snow...lots of snow

Well, not that much snow actually.  My mate Jimbo is in New York at the moment, so I can't grumble about a light dusting of the white stuff when its SNOWMAGGEDON weather BOMB over there.  But it's still forcing me to sit here with a coffee writing this rather than getting my dose of MTFU on and heading out in the grimness.

Amateur dramatics aside, it does pose the question - is it better to head out and ride on proper roads or sit inside and do a quality session on the turbo?  Which should be fairly straight forward to answer - get your kit on and get outside.  However I've done quite a bit of Turbo work lately and in the time vs quality argument makes things slightly less clear.

Going out on the road last weekend after three sessions on the turbo during the week, I felt much stronger on the hills.  I also got back not feeling completely toasted which makes a nice change.  I was actually quicker too, not that it matters in the long run.  I think its fair to say that if you've only got an hour or so spare, you can get much better quality sat on the turbo than going out in the dark.  However, for the longer rides obviously the road is an improvement.

It goes without saying that if its icy out then its safer on the turbo, similarly if its dark you're running less of a risk not going out, especially in Kent where they (drivers) seem to aim for you.  But then theres the boredom element.  I've managed 2 hours as my longest turbo ride so far and despite all the music and Netflix in the world, it felt like I'd had a lobotomy of some sorts after getting off.   Maybe a mixture of the two is needed - a compromise, who'd have thought....

So, as I've alluded to in previous threads I need to get some big rides in over the next few months.  I'm going for quantity rather than quality which sounds the opposite of what an expert would tell you, but I'm no expert and I'm also not doing enough riding.  So more miles it is.

First off, introducing MEGA MILES FEB...the plan being to do as many miles as is possible starting tomorrow.  Ideally I'd want to get in 1000 miles.  In 28 days.  In one of the coldest months of the year.  Still, at least its getting lighter in the evenings.  Turbo miles will count (its my challenge so I make the rules yeah!) but even then obviously I'm looking at 250 a week.  I've also maybe got a weekend away towards the end of the month, so it'll certainly be a challenge.  What hopefully it will do is force me to recover properly and eat properly as I'm still eating rubbish.  Coincidentally MEGA MILES FEB also coincides with DRY NO BOOZE FEB, who'd have thought eh!

So what are my plans for big rides during MMF?  Well I'm kicking off the month with an endurance race well known by keen ultra-endurance riders - a cross race.  Yeah, 1 solid hour of riding round a muddy field.  I'll be doing it on an MTB so should manage at least 10 miles.  Awesome.  I've got my friend Jen coming to pit for me, so hopefully I can convince her to drive my car back and I'll ride home, just to up the mileage.  However what will probably happen is that I'll be cold, muddy and wet and want a sunday lunch.  So Sunday evening turbo session for me.

Its not started well this has it...?

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Lots of different things

Bit of a Bitsa post this one, like the bike you build out of your parts box that ends up with an MTB crank set, road mech's and inline seatpost, just because you've got a set of tyres you want to use.

Firstly, Everesting.  A craze that seems to get mentioned quite a bit, it even has its own website now - Moody.  I was expecting grainy pictures, tattoo's and some sort of facial hair and looking at the shop pictures, I wasn't disappointed.  However, the challenge itself seems to fit right in with the mindset needed for the TCR so I think I should maybe have a punt.  Or at least try and increase my 'maximum height gained in a ride' record on Garmin Connect.  I think I'm at about 3000m for a ride so far, so that needs to be improved.  Its just living in the south east, I'm not sure I can face riding Box hill 97 times or whatever it is - not because of the climb but because of all the local hero's 'strava'ing' up it. Anyway, I'm being negative and I need to stop that - roll on finding a big hill eh!

Next subject - training, under training and over training.  Now, I know I'm a long way off over-training in the 'take six months off and do nothing' type of thing.  But I do wonder if after putting in a decent turbo session on say Tuesday night, I then repeat the session on Wednesday?  I'm conscious that I don't want to over do it too early on, but I managed a couple of big rides at the weekend, a turbo session last night and now questioning if I have the legs for another tonight.  I know its just under 6 months to go now so I need to start upping the mileage, but I also don't want to over do it and get ill.  Maybe a night off tonight and a big session tomorrow then....or maybe I should MTFU..

Bike - so I'm now dead set on using the Crap Dem.  However, there are a few teething issues. I need desperately to replace the nasty Project II steel fork with something a bit lighter and non-rusty.  However, carbon disc road forks that aren't tapered seem to be a bit like rocking horse poo, in that there aren't any.  Well, apart from a Ritchey one which is roughly a million pounds, or a Chinese version that, well...looks a bit moody.  So the search continues.  If I have to spend the money on the Ritchey then I will (at some point), but I'd rather not as I still don't know whether the frame will be suitable.  From memory it was pretty comfy, but at the time I was a lot fitter and less broken.  So maybe build up with the existing fork and see how I get on.....look at me ACTUALLY planning...

Finally, this blog has tripped over the 5000 view point.  Five Thousand.  Fair play to anyone reading, I bore myself so how you've managed it I have no idea.  I should celebrate somehow as I feel this is a momentous occasion - maybe I'll get the caffeinated Zero tabs rather than the plain ones....I KNOW!