Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 - My Year in Cycling


I'm not normally the type to look back on things like this - I prefer to look forward on what might come next (hence this post). However, I think its fair to say that for me 2013 has been quite a year in cycling terms and it might just be worth a recap - for myself more than anything.

Time on the bike
This year I have clocked up 205 hours in the saddle. Admittedly this includes my daily commute but this is still an increase on 2012 when I managed to put in just 91 hours, although most of which were squeezed into a 4 month period.

I had hoped to clock up around 4k miles before the year was out but I've only managed to reach 3583, which is close but disappointing all the same. In hindsight I think I would now be much closer to this target if I had not gotten a little lazy with extending my daily commute when the autumn hit. I got a bit soft when the weather was bad and just took the shortest route far too many times! Rule 9 needs to be my mantra come commute time in 2014!

Commuting aside, most rides were around 25-35 miles long, so nothing epic, with the longest single ride being 107.7 miles during the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive. This was made an epic ride through a horrible collaboration between the wind and the total ascent of 10,700 ft! This was a testing day by all accounts.

Me above Newport Bay at the ToP 2013

The benefit of all this time in the saddle is that my fitness has been at an all-time high and I think I'll struggle to match what it was over the summer before I headed out to France. Nevertheless, gradually my average speeds for my most common courses has increased, peaking at 21.1mph for a 33 mile ride. This is all pretty irrelevant given that its all dependant on conditions and the route but as a measure of effort and performance its probably not going to be matched any time soon!

Sportives
At the start of the year I had planned on completing at least two sportives (Tour of Pembrokeshire and the Dorking Original Sportive) but only completed one. You'd be forgiven for concluding that the suffering in April had somehow put me off for the rest of the year but the reality is that I didn't use Sportives as my motivation for cycling.....this came instead from the France trip.

France/Pyrenees
This trip was the highlight of my year and something that has gone on to have a profound influence on our thoughts for our future.

Aside from life-changing ideas, taking my bike on our planned holiday and organising some time in the Pyrenees to enjoy the mountains was something I wished I'd done years ago - had I have been so obsessed with cycling back then. I had limited time in the mountains but the two ascents made (Col du Tourmalet and Lac de Cap de Long) were as much a test of my mind as they were my legs.


I had no particular aims (other than to reach the summit) for either ascent but I wanted to reach them feeling like I wasn't completely spent. Looking back, I regret not going a little harder in the final few kilometres but for a first attempt at some long, steep ramps I'm fairly happy. Its hard to train for something like this in and around Coventry but a few ascents of Edge Hill, Sunrising Hill and Maxstoke seemed to be enough to get me through two days and two reasonably steep climbs!

Night Cycling
This was something completely new for me and I think the two things I'll take from this are pretty valuable: Firstly, its meant I went cycling every Tuesday night since July - irrelevant of weather or visibility. Secondly it got me cycling with my neighbour Matt and his (crazy) friend Rich. The group cycling experience is one aspect of this but the other is the training that inevitably comes from cycling with others. The night cycling idea was originally aired to make sure I cycled through the winter, but then whenever I took a chance to go solo I really noticed the difference in my motivation and enjoyment - most likely because I missed the chance to muck about with the lads.

Its hard explain to someone who hasn't cycled through the lanes in the winter nights and even typing it now is going to make me sound like a looney - but its just an incredible experience. Good lighting is essential, but racing through the lanes at 20+mph by torchlight gives an unmatched feeling of speed and adventure. Its eerily quiet away from the city and on nights like bonfire night or when there's a blazing full moon - its every bit as good as a warm, still, summer's evening.

My plan had been to cycle every tuesday night up to Christmas Eve but I managed to squeeze another one in today making it my final Tuesday night of 2013. Roll on the first Tuesday of 2014!

What about 2014?
Plans for the New Year will be to cycle more, drink less and hopefully revisit France. Perhaps more aspirational is that I'm giving some thought to racing. I'm being pestered to give it a go and there seems little reason not to. Now to give Matt some hassle on his return from Whistler in Feb to try it with me.

Anyhoot, I'm going to sign off for now, not least because I'm off to a New Year's party......to carb load ("Obvs"), but hope you all had a great year in cycling and all the best for 2014.

Monday, 11 November 2013

2014 Tour of Pembrokeshire: Act II

Me, in my stealthy Gimp suit, at the ToP 2013

After procrastinating for some time, I've finally decided that I WILL be revisiting St David's for the 2014 Tour of Pembrokeshire Sportive. 100+ miles of Welsh hills and God knows what weather will test the metal again next April.

This was my only sportive of 2013 but turned out to be a great way to keep my motivation for riding through the winter months. Coupled with this, it was also an amazing day's riding over the rolling Pembrokeshire hills and moorland, so it seemed only right to head back to start 2014 in a similar way - by "getting amongst it" with Rule 5 & 9.

Having done a few UK sportives now, I have to say this one is the best so far. It's not just the scenery and the riding, its the location, the route and the organisation that combined to make the day. Its also the little details like the start and finish points, bringing the route through the Cathedral and the free food and drink coupons too!
I will never forget the crowds of people lining the walls of the Cathedral, clapping and cheering as I emerged from the sharp 15% climb in the final metres of the route. I recall thinking that this was move was pure evil after 107 miles of riding in 40mph winds, but the the people waving flags, clapping and lining the streets all the way to the finish line made those hellish few hundred metres like riding down hill with the wind behind me. Of course, all of these people were purely my fans and there to see my long awaited arrival after 7 hours of cycling, but they really didn't mind cheering all the other (quicker) people whilst they were waiting! I really hope 2014 is just as good but I think it will struggle to top this years...

The day had started out badly for me as I'd woken in the early hours at the hotel with a bout of violent sickness that left me feeling awful and, for most of the morning, unable to hold anything down. This was helpfully topped off by a stupid crash which saw me swimming in cow shit and left with a buckled front wheel! Those first 30 miles were perhaps the worst miles I've had on a bike, but by some miracle something changed and, once I realised that my energy drink was happy to stay down and I managed to get to the second feed station where me and banana Malt Loaf got acquainted. To this day I swear this gooey, squidgy banana goodness is what got me through the agony, particularly over the Preseli hills. Talking of which, that descent on the other side is a pure joy, with speeds of around 50mph and at least two slippery cattle grids thrown in for good measure - add to that the buckled wheel and I was really hanging on for dear life at times!

Once I'd gotten over my icky start, the rest of the day was always going to be easier - despite the relative challenge that lay ahead. I was relieved to eat some free stew and down a well-earned beer with the tokens awarded as I crossed the finish line. The sun was out (though still a little chilly) and I just sat about swapping stories with other finishers and generally talking shop whilst waiting for my friend Paul to cross the line. Despite the incessant wind, it was a great day's riding on on a challenging course in comical, if sometimes desperate circumstances!

If its anything like last year, the 2014 tour should be just as epic and training will start in earnest in March - though the key is not to be off the bike for any length of time during the winter months!

For those of this particular persuasion, here's my Strava log of the event in all its gory detail and, for the avoidance of doubt, a Suffer Score of 249 is a personal record!


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

"Maybe we should do something big?"



Come on, we've all said it. I know I have. Admittedly, not necessarily meaning it or intending to do anything about it. Well, I went and said it again just the other day but this time I said it about cycling and there's a strong chance I might have meant it.

I posted a while ago about inspirational cycling videos or films and, it would seem that Charlotte is right and I've been watching too many. The other day I watched the promo videos for both Haute Route films (for at least the 10th time here and here) and it got my legs literally twitching in anticipation. Now, what with plans afoot for much bigger things in life, it breaks my heart to know I'm never going to be able to either of these epic cycling challenges in the immediate future. However, there's no stopping me organising an affordable, challenging bike ride that could be enjoyed by like-minded friends - is there?

With this in mind, I've decided to stop dicking about and actually think properly about what could be done over the course of the next year that will be tough, challenging and most of all - big......or at least fairly big. It won't be as big as say.....cycling around the world like Al Humphrey's or Mark Beaumont, but it can't just be something I can wake up of a morning, down some malt loaf, don some Lycra and colour the roads either.

Features I have in mind so far are:

  • Big
Ok, if I had to be a bit more specific I'd say:

  • Time limited (24-48 hours?)
  • Must cross country borders
  • Group based
  • Minimal cost
  • Limited support or maybe even self-supported
  • Big
  • Arse and legs should hurt for a disproportionate amount of time after the event has passed
  • Once completed and telling anyone who will listen - they should think you're Merckx incarnate or some other cycling God.

I think this gives me something to go on but please feel free to make suggestions or simply add to the list.

For my love of France and all things French, I'm unsurprisingly drawn to something across the water and onto French soil..."hmmmm soil".

Anyway, what I'd like to do is to put this out there for now and I'll at least then have to start thinking more about what this "something big" might be. Maybe a European mountain sportive event of some sort or London to Paris in 24 hours...

Ideas on a post-card, or in the comments box if you prefer.

That is all.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: Lezyne Superdrive XL Bike Light

I love a good torch I do - who doesn't? It reminds me of being a kid and eagerly awaiting the dark so I could use my pitifully dim torch! Not much has changed in me but thankfully a lot has changed in the world of portable lighting.

At the end of last year’s season as the nights were drawing in, I decided I wanted a rechargeable front light for my daily commute. I settled on a Knog Blinder (for its coolness) and because my main priority then was being seen by other road users. The Knog has its place but eventually I came to realise I needed more lumens in my life!

I had no idea what I wanted or needed for night riding but knew that I wanted it to be USB rechargeable and self contained, as opposed to having a separate battery pack. A friend of mine suggested I look at Lezyne. After looking at the site I was fairly happy to try them and as usual I had a budget in mind so finally settled on the Superdrive XL.

Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-8

Bear in mind the new 2014 model has now been released and the version here is the 2013 model. Specs/features are as per below:
  • 500 lumens max output (Blast - brightest setting)
  • 4 modes: Blast, Enduro, Economy and Flash
  • 1.5 – 5hr battery range
  • Battery indicator (4 stage)
  • USB rechargeable (4-6 hours)
  • 137g (inc battery)
  • Handlebar and helmet mount options (provided in '”"Fully Loaded” pack
Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-1
Initial Impressions
I bought the Fully Loaded Pack which includes a spare battery, a helmet mount and comes in a purpose made box. I don’t use the helmet mount, the box has no use once it delivers everything safely and the battery (a LIR 18650) I could just buy online separately - so the pack is only worth it if you get it cheap.

Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-2

The first notable point that struck me on opening the box is that the light looks chunky and weighty but in reality the weight is very good at 137g. It won’t win any design awards but I guess you’ll be using this in the dark so probably won’t be an issue for most!

The handlebar mount is simple, tough and just works. It can be adjusted horizontally for the best possible light position via a swivel plate, but I feel its harder than it should be to get a tight fit as the thumbscrew is hard to tighten with bare hands. Once its on though, you won’t need to adjust it again and mine has stayed put on my oversize bars without issue.

The light itself is very bright and provides enough light to comfortably hurtle down unlit country lanes – albeit with the usual caution! The 500 lumen mode (Blast) is plenty good enough for cycling in complete darkness and the Economy mode perfect for cycling on lit, city roads. Quite handily, there’s a ‘Race’ mode which incorporates these two modes for easy access, rather than having to cycle through all of the modes each time. This is the mode I use most and never really feel the need to revert back to the standard setting.

Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-3

Long-Term Observations
Overall, I love the Superdrive XL - for its function if not for its beauty! I find the chunky looks are just a bit too much, especially when mounted to my compact, narrow-width road bars.
I don’t use this light for commuting anymore but instead use it exclusively for my weekly night ride in the lanes surrounding Coventry. As soon as I leave the suburban lit streets, the light goes from Economy to Blast mode and I alternate between these two settings as necessary. The Race feature is great for this as it reduces button presses when flying down dark lanes – always good!
The battery life is pretty good considering its size and output and I do get the full, claimed 1.5 hours from Blast. In real life though, my night rides are longer than this, but with careful use of the Race mode, I can get in excess of 2 hours riding. I carry a spare just in case but, to date, I’ve never had to use it.
The on-button is also the battery/charge indicator and cycles through 4 different modes to indicate how much charge is left:
  • Solid green – 100-70%
  • Half green/red – 50%
  • Red – 20%
  • Flashing red – 5mins or “GET HOME FAST”
Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-6

Recharge time is around 4 hours if using a USB wall adapter and 6 if charging by laptop/computer. A downside I find is that you have to charge the battery in the light itself (by simply plugging in the USB cable provided), unless you have suitable battery charger, your spare battery can’t be charging one whilst using the other. A bit of an annoyance but not a deal breaker.

Its not just about your lumens, it how you use them…
There’s no denying that on unlit roads you want as much light as you can throw at the tarmac, particularly when some of those roads are single track with a high probability of debris and are poorly maintained. The reality is that 500 lumens doesn’t seem like that much when you look at the highly affordable 700-1200 lumen offerings from X power and Cateye. However, as my cycling brethren have recently discovered, its not just about your lumens! When compared against my neighbours brighter (and lighter) Exposure Axis, the Superdrive XL seems to throw out a far wider and brighter light at its brightest setting. I think this is a combination of the the side cut-outs (to allow a wider beam pattern) and the lens.

Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-7

Instead of the bright, spotlight effect of the Axis, the Superdrive XL sends out a wide, flood-like beam that illuminates the gutters/kerbs as much as the rest of the road. The sad thing is if the Superdrive could look like the Axis then we’d have a perfect combo! The new 2014 version of the Superdrive XL offers 575 lumens for the same run-time and, in this package, can only make it a better light than it already is. For now, this light suits for road cycling after dark and the only addition I’d like to see is a separate charger for the spare battery as part of the Fully Loaded pack.

So, this light along with my Moon Comet rear will see me recklessly racing through the lanes this winter – and, I hope, many more to come. There really is no excuse for cycling without lights (for safety) and now lighting really isn't a reason not to go cycling! At the moment its extending my season when ordinarily I'd be wimping out indoors, so its fair to say I'm loving this light right now and is as good as any in this price range - The 2013 light, mount and battery is currently going for £59 on PedalPedal!

Lezyne_SuperDrive_XL-8

Rear lighting for aero seat posts: Moon Comet R

With the winter drawing in, I had no choice but to start looking at a more elegant fix to my rear light conundrum with my Kuota Kebel.

Moon_Comet-2
There's a bit of history here because, whilst I've been using lights on my commuting bike for a week or so already, lights for my daily workhorse have never been an issue. This is the epitome of simplicity - everything is a standard size, shape or fit so pretty much any make of light is a possibility. The situation has never been quite so bountiful with the Kuota Kebel and ,with its custom aero seat-post, a lot more consideration is required.

Last winter (when my Kebel was my only bike) I had to make do with a very questionable botch involving a Knog Blinder rear light and regular, generous applications of tape! This worked but was never 'right' and when the Knog failed due to water ingress (don't get me started) I decided that next winter would see a proper, neat and effective solution to the problem. More and more manufacturers are employing their own aero seat-post designs (Giant, Bianchi Orbea, Planet X) so this is likely to be a problem that many have and will come across.

When I first started looking into aero clamps for rear lights I saw all manner of bonkers ideas and DIY clamps but none were befitting an Italian, carbon beauty like my Kebel! I started looking again with renewed gusto this September and had a bit of an epiphany when my cycling neighbour mentioned saddle-rail clamps. Kudos has to go to Matt because I doubt I'd have come across it so easily if he hadn't have mentioned the saddle rail type mount that solves this very issue. Simple but perfect.

Enter the Moon Comet R rear light!
Moon_Comet-4
This is a USB rechargeable light that puts out about 35 lumens, can be mounted vertically or horizontally and lasts for a respectable amount of time. Being a weight obsessive you'll not be surprised to learn that I've weighed it and comes in at 36 grams on my digital scales. Its light because of its lithium-ion battery and plastic construction but doesn't feel cheap despite its reasonable price-tag (Mine was put on a birthday list so was free but you can buy it for as little as £28.
Moon_Comet-7 
The light has a narrow profile so when mounted vertically, whilst not truly aero, sits just behind the seat-post in a way that is in-keeping with the aero look and feel of the bike.
Moon_Comet-6Moon_Comet-2-2 Moon_Comet-1-2
There are 6 modes (3 too many in my opinion) all accessible from one on/off switch: Overdrive, high, standard, flashing 100%, flashing 50% and strobe. Moon quote a 1 hour 45 burn time on overdrive and 5hrs 30 on 50% flash. The most useful modes to me are flash, overdrive and high so I left mine on indoors on overdrive after its first full charge and clocked 1hr 51 mins. This was at room temperature though so I expect it will be significantly less in cold conditions when the battery will be under pressure. There is a helpful battery indicator built in and charging takes around 2 hours.
Moon_Comet-8
In terms of performance, I really like the light for its brightness and type of light it throws out. Moon describe the light as a 30-chip LED (demonstrated in the photo) and this gives off a very distinctive red light that's hard to ignore!
Moon_Comet-9(Underexposed to show the LED cluster)
Overdrive is very bright and really only necessary if cycling in busy traffic or in fog, when in fact the flashing modes are more likely to be more visible to other road users anyway? I will most-likely use the high mode since its main use is going to be quiet country lanes where I want to be visible but not to blind others in my group.

You get the saddle-rail mount which is a cinch to fit but you also get the stretchy rubber mount to fit a round seat-post. Because the light is a featherweight I hope the brackets will stand the test of time but Moon do sell spares if the worst does happen.
Moon_Comet-10
Now, I do have some negative observations that I should mention and the first is the on/off switch. Turning on from the seating position is difficult and in gloves I imagine this will be a complete lottery! I'm not sure that Moon could do much about this without making the button stick out more and therefore compromising the design. This won't be a big deal for most people and was an issue I only noticed when I started my ride just before dark and subsequently struggled to turn on whilst maintaining a safe trajectory! The only other thing to note is the side visibility feature - In my opinion this is virtually useless and a bit of a disappointment by all accounts.

Overall it's a great little light, even if the looks are bit on the ‘square’ side. I appreciate the subtlety and prefer the narrow profile to a more radical design. If you want to sex it up a bit you can go for a white version!


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Jaguar: Ride Like a Pro

I like Jaguar's, I do, and I like cycling even more, so when I spotted the opportunity to take part in the Ride Like a Pro event, I fired off the registration form within seconds.

The idea is you register, join the Strava group for your local event and rock up on the day to ride a few miles whilst being supported by the new Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Participants who complete the ride event will then be entered into a random draw to be chosen for a 'Grand Finale' event which involves a time trial on both the bike and the XF Sportbrake. The lucky bugger to complete both in the shortest total time will win a trip to Majorca to train with Team Sky.

Now, clearly I'm under no illusion that this is a massive marketing event for the Sportbrake and I've no chance of getting through to the next round, however I'm thinking I'd enjoy the riding in a large group and, let's face it, you just never know your luck! Actually, in reality I do and it would also be just my luck that one of two scenarios is played out:

1. I'd get through to the TT stage because I've never ridden a TT, don't own a TT bike and would most likely come last! So close and yet so far sort of scenario; and
2. Whilst riding in the group, I somehow clip someone's wheel and go down damaging both me and my beloved carbon frame to leave the event with nothing but injuries and a hefty bill.

In fact, when you think about it both of those situations could end up being quite good because either way I'd need a new bike....*

Anyway, my closest 'local' event takes place this Saturday at 10.30am in Worcester, but aside from that I have no other details about distance, route or numbers. I guess the idea is less about the ride and more about getting you to spend some time considering how much you need the new Jag in your life - which is a bit poo really because I need time to prepare damn-it!

All I can do at the moment is rock up a bit hung-over with a clean bike (having eaten my bodyweight in energy gels) and hope for the best. The one thing I do know is that if I don't get through or somehow do badly, it won't be anything to do with my failures and can instead be attributed to the fact I need some carbon tubular wheels....**

*Charlotte, my beloved Fiancee, if you're reading this I want you to know this is just a silly little joke, honest!
** Charlotte, in contrast, this is not in any way a joke.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Revolights: The future has landed!

It's that time of year again and here at Thirty-something Cyclist, there's been much talk about lighting following a fast, dark Tuesday night ride this week.

Lighting for me has always been an issue, either in terms of brightness, weight, reliability or battery life. Another unfortunate problem for my Kuota Kebel is finding good lights to fit the aero profile seat-post but more on that little saga another time....

Quite a while ago, I came across a Kick-starter project for what I thought was the coolest lighting solution for the commuting cyclist -EVER. Behold Revolights!

These are now available in the UK and if you not seen or heard of these before you need to climb out from under that rock and check these out. They're pricey but maaaaan, they're cool. NEED.

That is all!


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 C24 Carbon Clincher Wheelset: Review

Dura_Ace_9000_C24_banner
Back in March this year I bought a pair of Dura-Ace 9000 series wheels. It's now October and about time I wrote a review!

The story of these wheels goes back to September 2012 when, on a short holiday in France, I happened across the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive event in a magazine and promptly booked a place on the 'Epic' 108 miles route. Whilst not my first 100 mile sportive event, this one was certainly the lumpiest (10,800ft total ascent) and I'd need some new wheels for that - right?  In reality, I was relying on one pair of wheels for commuting and my social rides and the Pyrenees trip also meant I'd need some lightweight climbing wheels too! Up to this point I'd been using the Mavic Aksium Race rims that came as stock on my Kuota Kebel which, I should add, are absolutely bomb-proof!

Once loosely justified and my conscience settled, I set about researching some wheels. That was a long and, frankly, arduous process but soon I knew what I wanted. I was looking for mix of attributes but predominantly I wanted a lightweight, low profile wheel-set with aero features but would offer a good level of durability and affordability at the same time. I wasn't looking for just a climbing wheel but a good all-rounder capable of hitting some hills and making up for my poor climbing abilities! At the time I also wanted carbon (mainly because they sound epic on tarmac) but I hadn't ruled out alloy if the right wheel was out there. Eventually I whittled it down to the Easton EA90, the Campagnolo Shamal Ultra or the Dura-Ace c24's.

Unexpectedly, choosing between the three became quite an easy task: Although the Easton's were the cheapest and best looking, the negative reviews of the poor quality hub immediately put me off. This left the Shimano's or the Campags and since the latter were more expensive by nearly £200 I settled on the Shimano's. Simple!

Dura_Ace_9000_C24-5
A carbon-alloy hybrid clincher, these were the lightest of the 3 (appealing to my obsession for lightweight ‘everything’) but were by no means the best looking. Getting the negative out of the way from the off - these are not the best looking wheels and the under-stated looks and lack of 'in-your-face' decal assault won't suit everyone's tastes - They weren't mine at first either but I have grown to like them more and more over time.
The only other niggle is the sound of the free-hub which, to me, sounds a bit cheap! I'd have liked the whisper-quiet, quality of a Campag hub (not least because it helps to not announce you're freewheeling when drafting fellow cyclists whilst breaking Rule 19 and probably 23!) and the shimano hub is disappointingly loud and crass in comparison.

From these two (fairly petty) cons, you can pretty much guess that everything else I have to say is largely positive and, like me, the first thing you'll say after frantically tearing the tape off  and pulling these from the box will be "jeeping shit, they're light".....or something to that effect. This is because they are and in fact they're so light that I was initially very sceptical that these would take the puny weight of my Kebel, let alone me, without crumbling into a mass of sharp, spindly metal and splintered carbon.
Dura_Ace_9000_C24-1
Relying on just 16 spokes for the front and 20 for the rear it would seem, on paper at least, that Shimano might be taking too many liberties in the weight reduction department! However, having used these wheels now for around a thousand miles, the only downside to so few spokes is how easily they can be knocked out of true. Don't get me wrong, they'll take a good bashing from pot holes, speed humps and other road debris (and have) but a hit from even a slight angle to any of those spokes (as happens when your cycling brethren decide to stop immediately in front of you without warning -  Paul and Fabio shall remain nameless here...) you will be left with a rather wonky wheel. Fortunately, they aren't complicated to put right, as can be the case with some rims, but nevertheless extra care is needed to look after such a lightweight wheel and I think its worth mentioning this if you're thinking you can treat them like your winter training wheels!

Lets get into the nitty gritty of weight next because yes they're light but how light and how is that weight distributed?  Being quite anal and being used to weighing every item of my backpacking gear, The first thing I did was to weight these little beauties with and without tyres.
Dura_Ace_9000_C24-4
Out of the box, the front and rear weigh  596g and 791g respectively on my digital scales. Shod with latex tubes, Continental GP4000s and a SRAM PG1070 10-speed cassette the entire set-up comes in at 2356g - which is pretty impressive at this price range. The free-hub is titanium, so strong and light, and its pretty obvious that the lack of weight at the actual rim is where this wheel excels. It takes almost no effort to get these spinning and keep them spinning - since most of the weight is concentrated at the hub and not the outer rim. Acceleration then is rapid as a result and it feels very much as though all of your power is being used correctly to propel you forwards and is immediately noticeable.  The Mavic set-up weighs 2821g so this little exercise has shaved 465g off my bike weight in one simple exercise, though the actual weight saving doesn't tell the entire story since the weight distribution is equally as important in wheel performance terms.

Quite surprisingly, these wheels are very rigid for their weight and so cornering and handling have improved at the sacrifice of all-out comfort - where the stiffness can take some getting used to.

The aero features are minimal with this wheel but at just 24mm depth you're not going to be surprised at this! I expect that if you want full aero features, you'll no doubt be looking at the deeper 32, 35 or 50mm profiles anyway, so the inclusion of aero spokes and a differential rim profile at the rear isn't going to impress all that much - though every little helps of course! Whilst you don't get the aero benefits associated with deeper rims, you also don't get the inherent handling issues on windier rides and these hold their line whilst taking a battering from cross-winds - as was the case in Pembrokeshire in April.
Dura_Ace_9000_C24-3

Surprisingly, the braking performance of this rim is (somehow) significantly better than my Mavic wheels. As the breaking service is still alloy, there's none of the overheating issues under braking that some full carbon clincher wheels experience, so if you're descending skills are lacking (like mine) and you find yourself on the brakes a lot, you're safer with this combo unless you want to go down the full carbon tubular option. In addition, there's no need for carbon specific brake pads either so for most it will be a simple, straight-forward swap from your existing wheel-set which just takes a bit of the pain away if, like me, you do this regularly.

Overall, I'm very happy with the wheels and particularly as the first upgrade to my Kuota Kebel. They have literally transformed the bike and I've no doubt it made my Pyrenees trip and the Tour of Pembrokeshire sportive a whole lot easier as a result! I've covered over a thousand miles of variable road and weather conditions and the hubs are spinning as freely as the day I opened the box. They're 11-speed compatible too so will suit those thinking of making the jump in the near-future - if this a consideration for you?
 Dura_Ace_9000_C24-2

If you're heading for the hills or fancy a lumpy sportive event and are looking for some new wheels that can do it all - I can seriously recommend these in terms of function, price and reliability - just don't expect them to grab peoples attention in the aesthetics department!

Now, I'm sure I need some deep-profile, full carbon tubulars to really complete my wheel-set armoury. Hmmmm, where to start.......

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cycling in the Pyrenees: My first ascent of the Col du Tourmalet

 

This is a long one guys, so go fetch a tea, a packet of biscuits and get comfy...

tourmalet_summit_pana

Growing keener and keener on all this cycling malarkey and being naturally drawn to mountains (read about all of that other stuff here), it wasn't long before I started researching the sport's greatest climbs. Also, being obsessed with France (we holiday there VERY regularly), it was only right that I started with the French Alps and the Pyrenees.

Now, I live in Coventry which is nothing short of flat, meaning I have to venture to the Lake or Peak Districts to encounter anything considered as a mountain pass. So, with no real experience of cycling up 'big hills', I didn't really know what I'd be letting myself in for.  Of course over the years I've watched the Tour and seen a bunch of crazy men race up most of these revered passes, but I wanted to understand more about what it actually takes to cycle up them and I was only going to get that by cycling up one or two of them!

Given the time I'd happily (try to) cycle up all of the French greats, but alas this wasn't going to be possible so I had to limit my search to something I could fit in with our next trip to France in the the Midi-Pyrenees. Looking at YouTube videos and reading trip reports I soon started to form a mental picture of the main group of monster climbs but, as I was going to be doing this alone and over 2 days, I'd be limited.

After much research (Velo Pyrenees is a good resource) I decided I'd mix it up with an ascent of the famous Col Du Tourmalet and the not so well-known road up to the Lac de Cap de Long - for its scenic appeal alone! I'd have very limited time, just one night in fact, so needed somewhere affordable but in easy reach of the hills. I'd left it quite late to book (as always) and struggled to find anywhere that wasn't fully booked and in the right place. Eventually I stumbled across La Caminade via a Google Maps search and a managed to book the night I needed with no trouble whatsoever.

With all this in place I just had to turn up......oh, and buy some new wheels, a cassette for climbing and a gilet.....oh, and maybe some hill training. My Dura Ace 9000 C24 wheels will be a subject of their own review but I also went for an 11-27 cassette as I guessed I'd need all the help I could get!

Our holiday came soon enough and on the third day I packed up the bike and the rest of the gear and headed off down the Peage to the hills - a 2 hour drive from our rental house near Saint Antonin de Noble Val. The plan today was fairly simple: I'd rock up at Campan and get straight on to tackle the Tourmalet, absorb the views for a bit and then put in a blisteringly fast, death-defying descent back to Saint Marie de Campan to collect the car and find the B&B. Simple? No, not so I'm afraid, as the Tourmalet had been closed due to the flooding that had hit the western slopes but the news from Gerald (owner of La Caminade) by email before I left was that the eastern ascent could still be made! It was ‘on’…

The trip down was fairly uneventful, except of course for the toll booth stops (where I had to get out, dash around to the passenger side, fumble with money, take a ticket and dash back to the drivers seat) and of course stopping to cram in some much needed carbs for later that day. I arrived at around 1pm (later than planned) and managed to park in one of the back streets behind the Town Hall. I was a bit nervous at this point and the anticipation was making me faff about, taking an age to do things I can normally do in minutes! 28 minutes later (28!!!!) I was decked out in Lycra, bike re-assembled, tyres pumped and jersey pockets filled with all I'd need for the next few hours. I clipped in, hit start on the Garmin Edge 810 and set off - seemingly in an upward direction from the first pedal stroke!

Unfortunately this first section of the ride is a bit of a blur in that all I remember is wonderfully smooth tarmac and the sound of my incessant panting! In truth I also remember thinking that the gradient was steeper than I was expecting and I'd need to slow down to make sure I didn't go out too hard - as is normally the case. I could describe my style of riding at the start of big route or a long day as "digital" because its either on or off and nothing in between.

I forced myself to settle down and enjoy the ride and suddenly the scenery started to soak in and the tempo levelled out as I warmed up and wondered what the hell I had to expect - I really can't convey enough how little hill work I'd done up to this point and I was anxious to make sure I got everything right.

The winding, undulating road soon reaches Sainte Marie de Campan (where most people start the climb to the Tourmalet) and the information sign for the Tourmalet loomed into view. At this point my heart sank as I read the sign to say: Col du Tourmalet - Ferme (closed for those who don't speak French) but the road to La Mongie (the Ski Resort at the base) to be open.

tourmalet_ferme_sign-1

I trusted Gerald's information (he's a very keen cycling by all accounts) and having little choice I just pressed on in the hope that the sign was meant to indicate that the col cannot be crossed and descended on to the western slopes - as I'd previously understood it.

From here the road begins to kick up a little more, passing various farm buildings, chambre d'hotes and restaurants which eventually thin out to give way to forest on a stunning valley road. From here I could see that the ascent was shrouded in thick, low cloud and I was glad of my decision to cram the gilet in my pocket. There was little traffic today, both in terms of vehicles and cyclists, and I don't recall seeing anyone else until Gripp. Again, the gradient in this first section had averaged 5% and had me worried as I'd been feeling as though I'd been going a bit hard up to this point and with still 12km to go! The kilometre-spaced countdown signs taunted me with as I slowly rolled past!

I knew I had the hairpin section before La Mongie next and I also knew the gradient from hereon in was going to average 9%, top out at 10.2% and even more on the inside line of the tighter, steeper bends. I realised here that the technical details were largely irrelevant  - I was on my way and wouldn't be stopping until I hit the summit!

I must've settled in a little better after this as I found a rhythm which took me through the tree lined hair-pin and up to La Mongie. To me, this looked like a deserted “once-was” town now all the snow had gone and a little out of place compared to the mountains that surrounded it. In the winter season I imagine this is a very different place but I failed to see any appeal as I plodded on up past the various ski and outdoors shops, hotels, apartments and bars. Fortunately this bit didn't last and I was soon out the other side and left with the faceless apartment blocks sinking lower and lower as I continued the climb.

tourmalet_bends

It wasn't long after this that I spotted the faded names painted onto the road and it was hard not to think about the incredible talent that had ascended this legendary hill. I don’t know whether this inspired or intimidated me! Here, the cycling traffic started to pick up as I began passing one cyclist after another, using each bobbing figure ahead of me as the next target to chase down!

By now I was working quite hard and my glasses started slip of my face and annoy me. Trying to take these off, secure them behind my helmet and trying to maintain momentum on a 9% gradient was nothing short of a chore. How the pros do this I'll never know!

tourmalet_bends_1 

Every now and then I'd glance down at my Garmin and spot my heart-rate, which gave me some hope that I still had more in the tank and could push harder if necessary - particularly as the kilometre markers were now displaying much more pleasing numbers! Annoyingly though, this introduced an unexpected dilemma...

Before putting rubber on tarmac at the Campan I just wanted to get up and get down and enjoy the experience but now, as the miles to the summit ticked down, I was suddenly thinking about pushing hard and seeing if I could improve my time! Luckily, realising this was a cocky, silly thing to do on the first ascent, I went back to just riding at my most 'comfortable' pace, watching my average speed plummet the further I ascended. The weather wasn't great and the low cloud added a thick silence to the whole affair with only the sound of rushing water in the clefts and tunnels breaking through the sound of my panting!

The road was in various states of repair, starting mainly at the La Mongie, but at points here it was almost all covered in fresh, loose gravel and not something I was relishing on the cold, fast descent!

Slowly and steadily I began to pass more and more people, all of whom (like me) were fighting through their own personal demons in pursuit of reaching the summit. Each time I’d say “bonjour” or “hello” but I only recall one response in particular – which said it all really: “c’est grave, non?” to which there could be only one response: “Oui”! This chap held my wheel for a time but there were no more words - just our rhythmic breathing until I looked around to find he’d dropped back and I was, once again, left to fight the battle alone. I was hoping we’d nurse each other to the top and have some sort of Anglo-French celebration at the summit but I never saw him again – not even at the top!

Suddenly, the 1km marker just appeared and a wave of relief and excitement took over. I suddenly found a burst of energy and almost involuntarily I was out of the saddle as the gradient kicked up in the final few bends with me dancing away on the pedals like a madman! There was one last wheel ahead of me and I made a decision not to chase it and just soak up the final 500 metres before the top. The clouds were thicker than ever and a cold wind pushed up behind me as I began to see the grey silhouettes of people in the road. Hoping it was a welcome party of my loved-ones, friends and fans I was most disappointed to find it was just two local Gendarmes who were seemingly guarding the summit. They waved me past and gave me a slow clap, which I still can’t decide if it was celebratory or patronising!

As if out of my dreams, I rounded the final bend and gave the final push to the summit plateau which was, unbelievably, bathed in sun with the most the most amazing vista opening out before me. Other cyclists had already made themselves comfortable above the famous “Col du Tourmalet sign and they clapped and cheered as I emerged from the clouds.*

summit_tourmatet

The views to the west were just incredible and an ascent from this side would have been a completely different experience…..except of course it was closed!

route_baree_tourmalet

Feeling quite proud, I unclipped and set my weight down on my jelly-like legs. Trying to look unaffected to my fellow cyclists, I made a poor attempt at a casual swagger to absorb the view and take some photos. I was tired and glad to be at the top and just stood and took it all in whilst the sun warmed and soothed my aching legs. More and people began to reach the summit and as they emerged it felt only natural and proper that I should join in the clapping and encouragement being dished out with gay abandon. A couple must’ve felt sorry for me as I tried to take my self-portrait with wobbly hands and kindly took my photo – making me look even shorter than normal!

thirty_something_cyclist_tourmalet

 tourmalet_super_bareges

I hung around for a while and looked in the souvenir shop,  the sounds of clapping and cheering could still be heard inside to mark the arrival of more triumphant finishers. I soon realised that I had to be going so, donned my Mavic gilet, checked my brakes and clipped in for the fun part – the descent! Sadly this was hampered somewhat as we were all instructed to await the arrival of a Convoi Exceptionel as it struggled its way up the mountain with heavy-lifting equipment, presumably needed for the major road repairs on the other side at Luz Saint Sauveur since the flooding. This 10 minute wait on the cloudy side just served to let the chill kick in and by the time we were given the all-clear I was shivering!

The descent was fairly fast and quite dangerous. In part this was due to my love of speed but also due to the poor traction caused by the gravel-ridden sections. Wherever possible I tried to keep my speed up but soon got stuck behind an elderly chap in a Fiat Panda, who seemed to love to drive in the middle of the road – as appears customary in France. Soon there was a queue of us itching to get past and I finally decided to take my chance as we hit a straight. Several others followed and it felt incredible to be hammering down the mountain and over-taking cars! Reckless perhaps but it was fun and I was caught in the moment.

As is always the case, the descent was over far too quickly and I was soon having to brake hard as I approached La Mongie once again. By this point my fingers and face were freezing so I decided not to stop for a drink and instead to press on to Campan and keep my momentum. The ride from here is nothing short of amazing as it’s a long, fast and sweeping descent which meant I was back at the car in no time and wanting to go back and do it all again.

Overall I’d enjoyed my first attempt at the Tourmalet and indeed at a proper “categorised climb” in general. I’d have to wait to reflect on the whole experience because I had to find La Caminade and prepare for the Lac de Cap de Long the next day. More on that to follow…

Here’s the Strava page for the ride:

 

* Its a crying shame that I can only imagine how epic I must have looked!

UCI Road World Championships 2013

I cannot believe my luck I've just read that all this week the BBC are covering the UCI Road World Championships via the red button service and BBC2. I'm not sure how the red button service works in terms of viewing online but I'll be trying to work this out today! Looks like I'll be taking late lunches for the rest of the week!

The official UCI YouTube channel is to show highlights and some live coverage so perhaps that also provides an option?

More info on the iPlayer coverage of the TT here, Red Button service here, and the UCI YouTube page here.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Inspiration: Cycling or commuting in bad weather

After that incredible summer it was only going to take a mere whiff of cold air and the slightest patter of rain to set me off trying to harden myself up, psychologically of course, for the wet, windy and bitingly cold winter days. Make no mistake people – it's coming!

It’s around this time of year (just before my birthday) that I start looking at winter socks, gloves and overshoes to attempt to soften the blow because, as we all know, new shizzle makes you look epic and that counteracts the cold…*

It was 8.5 degrees (Celsius) the other morning and I stupidly headed out in a lightweight summer jersey for my morning commute. On leaving the house I immediately noticed the cold, followed by that first shiver of the new season! Luckily I came in via the 9 mile 'scenic' route otherwise I'd have not got going enough to get the internal fire going at all, but I'd already started to dread the damp, cold starts that will inevitably follow in the coming weeks.

Rule 9 clearly states, and I quote: "If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are badass. Period"; I think this is possibly enough for most people but some may need that little bit more encouragement... So, if buying more gear for the coming season just can't be justified or its a mental battle you have going on in there I bestow upon you the following advice: Fetch your arm/leg warmers, overshoes and other body-armour you feel necessary and whilst you're wrestling them on just sit and watch the short-film below. Everyone knows Rapha makes a great (but massively pretentious) cycling films and this one is no different in that it just made me want to go out and ride my bike! Love or hate em, you can't knock em for that!


Still sat in all your gear and needing more inspiration or motivation? Well, as a last resort I'd suggest watching this next short film, again from Rapha. However, please exercise extreme caution before just diving in and pressing 'play' and observe the recommended limit of a maximum of two Rapha films per sitting. This is for your own sanity and financial security so don't say I didn't warn you!



If you're not out cycling by now, I can only suggest that you acquaint yourself with Rule 5 or sell your bike!

*for about 3 minutes until you realise that cold is cold and no matter how well you match your overshoes to your helmet or how ‘Roubaix’ your arm-warmers claim to be.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Cycling the Coventry Ring Road - Godiva Awakes Homecoming

Some of you may have had the opportunity to see the Godiva Awakes cavalcade as it toured around the UK following the Olympics last year. If not, you can find out more here. The consortium behind this incredible (and weird) art-work organised a Homecoming event on 10 August 2013 to welcome Lady Godiva back to the city and part of this event was the closing of the Coventry Ring Road for the exclusive use of cyclists. I know, pretty damn amazing!

This closure commenced with the opportunity for an advanced group of the city's cyclists to ride the ring-road for 40 mins before the day's main events began to kick off. Now, clearly, this wasn't marketed by the event management as a 'race' as such but there was never any doubt in my mind that there would be a lot of people rocking up to have a shot at owning the Strava KOM on Coventry's ring road - I wasn't wrong!



At 8.30am Joel and I rocked up to sign-in and collect some free goodies from the reception desk as people began to arrive and the mutual bike appreciation/envy began among the forming crowds! There were quite a few people and of all ages and abilities and it was a great thing to see so many people turning up to support cycling in Coventry  - and at such an unfriendly hour.

We stood around outside the Welcome Centre trying to decide whether taking our free 'Cycle Coventry' backpacks was going to put us at an aerodynamic disadvantage but, we soon manned-up, emptied the contents and stuffed them into jersey pockets. No, this really happened! The free water bottle was stowed in my spare bottle cage and everything was set with less excuses for a terrible ‘performance - if indeed that was what we were here to do but who knew?

photo 1

Cycle Coventry, the cities new initiative to promote all things cycling, did a fantastic job of organising us all and before we knew it were were being lined up to be led out for the start. A short (and cringe-worthy) warm-up from some local fitness instructors and we were off to the entry ramp at Junction 5 for the madness to begin. The organisers had chosen to use the re-surfaced, anti-clockwise carriageway and this made for a surprisingly smooth ride. If you've ever driven around the ring-road you'll appreciate this point!

photo 3

I, somewhat naively, thought we'd just ‘pootle’ around for the first lap or two and then the pace would inevitably crank up as people started to get a feel for how it was going to go. Instead, a few at the front (Joel included) shot down the ramp and got things started pretty abruptly. Whilst all  of this happened ahead of me, I was blissfully unaware and got chatting with another lad who seemed pretty excited about the chance to have a blast around Coventry's notorious Ring Road. The moment I noticed the gap had formed it was nothing short of a frickin effort to get on the last wheel in the line of about 20 riders. It took me just over a lap (2.2 miles) to work my way up to Joel and do my turn at the front. Now, Joel nor I have done any serious group riding and it was an amazing feeling to be cycling at some pace in a decent group. Around 5 of us seemed pretty happy to keep pushing forward and take turns in the wind. By the the 4th lap things were settling down a little but this meant that gaps started forming with some unable to stay on the wheel or to bring it back. “Is it a race” I thought?" “What’s the worst that can happen if this gap widens?”. These thoughts didn’t last long before my competitive side kicked in when I realised that Joel was in that front group and we had to finish together for my own self-preservation! Not even sure if I had the legs to stay there if I could close the gap of about 20 metres, I got into my best Fabian Cancellara position:

Fabian_Cancellara 

….sorry, no I mean:

Fabian-Cancellara-aero-position

  and managed to get back onto the wheel behind Joel. A quick glance to my left and could see someone had taken a tow up behind me and was annoyed to soon notice it was the chap who’d let the gap form in the first place – wasn’t happy and decided that the first chance I got I would try and drop him…..which then didn’t happen. Best laid plans and all that!

photo

Screenshot from Youtube footage taken by user shawry1970 – can be viewed here.

This happened again at almost the same point in the next lap and once again I completely buried myself to close the gap. This was supposed to a leisurely pootle around the ring with a blast at the Strava segment, not the flippin Word Hour Record! Nevertheless I was having fun, heck it looked like we all were, and this carried until we got the final lap warning from the marshals as we entered the ramp off junction 5 for the penultimate time. Then all hell broke loose and people were just sprinting at all points throughout the lap, including Joel who fancied chasing down a solo break from a Coventry Road Club Jersey! Just managing to hang on, a group of 5 of us climbed the ramp for the final time, Joel the first to cross the imaginary finish line for a ‘victory’!

Re-grouping at the Welcome Centre, we chatted among ourselves and by all accounts everyone had had good blast around. Clearly a few of us had taken this more seriously than others but everyone had taken something from the event, with quite a few going straight back out for the second wave or ‘leisure’ ride which followed before the main cavalcade event.

Joel and I opted for coffee and cake, as should always follow a ride when its too early (or inappropriate) for beer. This time was then used, predominantly by Joel, to check the Strava situation, who was elated to find that he had the KOM for the segment…..for at least 2 minutes….. until everyone else uploaded their rides and we both watched as we were both pushed down the rankings – Bad times!

photo 2 Nom nom!

All of this unofficial scoring and competition business aside, this had been a truly well-organised and fun event and we talked with one of the marshals about the possibility of an organised race event on the ring-road. We managed to determine that the event was an unofficial pilot for a larger event in the future – but nobody would say any more than that. Personally I think this could be an amazing way of promoting cycling in the city and could draw a decent crowd. The beauty of the ring-road, love or hate it, is that there are two carriageways allowing the closure of one whilst the other remains open.

All in, this was a surprisingly good event and made so by all of the volunteers, the City Council and the cyclists who turned up on the day. Whilst the rest of the day’s  events continued within the City, I cycled home to type an email to the Council about next year’s event…..

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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Cycle to Work Day 2013

So, it turns out today is (officially) Cycle to Work Day. I can be forgiven for not noticing this since, like many others, every day is my own personal cycle to work day.

Now, I literally annoy the hell out of everyone I know with how enthusiastic I can be about everything cycling. I've found a hidden ability to steer most conversations with non-cycling humans (the "Chumps") to suddenly be about cycling. I'm now so good at it that I'm sure they don't even realise I've done it. The point of all this is that I can't help but try to encourage the Chumps to think more about cycling and so naturally love the fact that lots is being done to promote cycling in the UK following the Olympics and double Tour de France wins. However, I'm really struggling to understand why the organisers decided that the national Cycle to Work Day should be mid-September?

Looking at the pledges on the event website lots of people haven't minded this so much (at the time of writing there are almost 250k miles pledged) but I can't help thinking this might have been even more successful as a mid-summer initiative. I think its fair to say that generally people don't like getting wet, cold and wind-blown and especially not if they are new to cycling to work or are trying it for the first time!

Fingers crossed for a dry return journey folks and, if you are unfortunate enough to get rained on on the return journey - or even this morning on the way in - at least you know what to expect the next 6 months!

Joking aside, its great to see initiatives like this popping up to encourage people to consider cycling as a means of getting about and using that once-loved-but-now-forgotten bike at the back of the garage or, even better, getting a new one on the Cycle to Work Scheme. After all, as any self- respecting cyclist knows, the Rules state that the correct number of bikes to own is n+1 - where 'n' is the current number of bikes owned!

Now, Lycra yourselves up people and enjoy the trip home!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

A good cycling blog is hard to find and this one won’t stop the search!

 

Me ruining a perfectly good photo of my steed!Hello, it’s me ‘int it.

So, I’m Marcus and, no prizes for guessing, I’m a thirty-something cyclist. I’ve not always been thirty-something (thank the Gods) and, I’m sad to say, I’ve not always been a cyclist! Like most of us, I had bikes as a kid and loved them but I can’t say I’ve been as keen on cycling as I have been in recent years.

My ‘cycling life’ started when my employer started the Cycle to Work scheme and I bought a GT mountain bike and clung to this whilst throwing myself down forest trails for a season with a friend. I used this bike to commute the 2.5 miles to work for a bit and one day I got talking to another Cycle to Work victim colleague who had just bought a Bianchi road bike to commute 16 miles to work. At the time I remember thinking this was complete madness and he was a bit tapped (sorry Paul)! This conversation led to me giving him a lift to the bike shop to collect this ‘Bianchi’ I’d never heard of and things took a turn for the worse from thereon in!

I started by replacing the tyres on my GT with hybrid tyres and added a few miles to my commute each day - feeling the new found efficiency of these strange new tyres. I did this for a few months until I’d paid off the bike on the scheme and then I cracked.

I promptly bought myself a stunning Bianchi Via Nirone 7 in celest, black and white through the Cycle to Work Scheme, once again, and my road cycling life/obsession had, unbeknown to me at the time, began to grow in earnest!

Bianchi_via_nirone galleryMy Biachi doing it’s best catalogue pose for eBay…not sure I’m obeying Rule 44

I used this to do, what I considered at the time, as my first serious miles over the end of that summer and the feeling of speed - and looking frickin awesome - well and truly had me hooked. I remember the freedom of being self-powered and feeling able to go anywhere just making me want to ride and, just as I was getting fitter and used to that “stupidly-hard seat” I went and seriously damaged some nerves in my right arm from a shoulder dislocation whilst learning to ski! I was completely devastated and it then took me 5 weeks to get the feeling back in my arm and hand and then a further 3 months of pretty intense physio before I could think about getting on the bike again. I think the God’s felt sorry for me after this because I was barely back on the bike for 3 months when they presented me with an offer I just could not refuse….

….I’d been looking at carbon frames (as any self-respecting road cyclist should and let’s not forget Rule 4) and happened to come across a guy selling an unused 2012 Kuota Kebel with SRAM groupo. I’d not heard of Kuota but the price had already got me interested so Googling it was only going to fuel this costly interest and before I could say Muck-off, I was driving down to Northamptonshire and had parted with £1500 for a brand-new, full carbon beauty. Now, weeks of discussions then ensued with my Fiancée as to exactly why I needed this bike when I’d barely ridden the Bianchi…but all of this is now moot point since I was then ‘encouraged’ to sell the Bianchi and that conversation promptly went away when we parted company. That was a sad, sad day – we won’t talk about that any more on here – fact!

So, that’s a not-so-brief intro to me and my cycling puberty. I’ve come a long way since then and had so many, simply incredible experiences on my bike since the start and I feel like I’m only just getting started – which I am!

The next question is likely going to be “why write a blog about it” and the answer is simply because I can and because I like to keep a diary of my experiences to account for the beer-induced memory-loss I seem to be experiencing in increasing intensity! I also have another blog over at www.alittlebitaboutnotalot.co.uk and I think its only fair that I blog about my other obsession with as much gusto!

With all of that out of the way, on to blogging about some actual stuff.

That is all.

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