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.