Monday, 26 January 2009

Ninja wheels

The Mere 200 Audax yesterday was more than a test for both myself, and the new Mavic Ksyrium Elite rear wheel I have acquired.

I have to say, I am very impressed. It feels as if it 'rolls well' and what's more the freewheel mechanism is almost silent, so you can sneak up ninja-like behind your mates and slipstream them most wickedly. Not that I would personally do such a thing, as I can't usually catch people to slipstream them.

The weather yesterday was particularly kind. Rain on waking (5:15) disappeared by the 8 a.m. start, and the breezy conditions dried up some of the mess on the road. With a share of A roads this ride was ideal for a speed test, and the morning went well, delivering us to a much later food stop than normal at 122km. This was well worth waiting for. Truckstops are GREAT for Audax controls.

The lady owner looked us up and down, and declared that she knew we required beans on toast. Not so. A Full English Breakfast each later, and we were on our way again, albeit a little slower. Thankfully common sense triumphed over bravado, and we only went for the Full English and not the Raven Gut Buster. Finishing may have been severely compromised.

The fine weather led us to 35km from home before lights were required and speeds inevitably dropped. Nonetheless we rolled into Cheadle at 18:50 for my fastest ever 200km Audax.

Obligatory Stats:
208km/129 miles
1638 Memory Map Metres of climbing
Average moving speed 21.9kmh/13.6mph
Riding time 9:29
Elapsed time 10:50
Top speed 47.6kmh/29.6mph
Total calories burned 8,309

And finally, the weight today 107.3kg, a loss of 0.3kg in the last 2 weeks.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I feel the need........

but not for speed, though that may perchance come as standard with a pair of new wheels.

Being a fat bloke, when I obtained the Trek last February, I opted to upgrade the wheelset from the standard Bontrager wheels to a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Equipes. This was on the basis that they were a pretty bomb-proof pair of wheels, and I shouldn't have the spoke snapping problems I had 2 years ago.

This was indeed true, I never snapped a spoke on them. However, they may have been bomb-proof, they weren't bum-proof. After 12 months of hard braking trying (mostly successfully) to arrest the huge momentum of descending lard it appears that it hasn't been just the brake blocks wearing out, but also the wheel rims. The wear indicator is long-gone, and the braking surface is now largely concave, especially on the front wheel. Time to replace them before the rim folds over mid-ride, jams the brake, and brings me to an unexpected messy halt.

I initially toyed with the idea of hand built wheels based on Mavic Open-Pro CD rims (harder braking surface, lasts longer) but in the end was swayed by a just-about second-hand pair of wheels. These wheels had been on a display bike at the bike shop, the bike now being sold, but with the wheels surplus to requirements as the owner had a pair of ridiculously expensive Zipps. The bike shop wanted rid, so I am now the proud owner of a pair of Mavic Ksyrium Elites, a step up from my existing wheels, and a bargain as they were already shod with Michelin Tyres and tubes. A snip at £150 when the RRP of the wheels alone is more than twice that.

Chuffed. Playing with the rear wheel tomorrow, the front can wait 'til the Sportive Season. I still need my handbuilt dynamo-equipped front wheel for Winter Audaxes that finish in the dark.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Perhaps I'm not going quite so badly after all......

After a week of letting it fester in its own filth, I finally got round to cleaning Mr Trek last Sunday.

In many ways, this was harder than an Audax ride because, on an Audax ride, you get to wear warm gloves. On a freezing cold Sunday, with a stiff breeze, hypothermia of the manual digits does not take long to achieve.

All labour saving devices known to man were deployed, including the jet-washer, and the Madone eventually reappeared from under the crud, although the state of the spoke nipples eventually required the services of a toothbrush to bring them clean.

Having reassembled the bike, I noticed something amiss. The front brake would apply, but not release. No amount of cajoling would encourage it. Fingers frozen, I did what anyone would do under the circumstances, and gave up.

Local Bike Shop were engaged, and a few seconds of work later, the siezed calipers were free of the grit causing the problem, and they worked properly again. It is worth noting, however, that with a bar bag on during the Audax, I would not have been able to hear the brake rubbing (especially with the wind as strong as it was). I wonder if that had anything to do with my seemingly slow time, and lack of any response from the bike even when I was pushing hard?

On a better note, I have just completed my first turbo session of the Winter, with results that are semi-comparative to last year. 40km at an average 170 watts last year took 1:16:00 and an average HR of 119. 41km yesterday at 176 watts took 1:17:24 at an HR of 129. 10 BPM on the Heart Rate shows I am not quite where I was last year, but the slightly increased wattage shows I have the unit calibrated slightly differently. Either way, I'm not as far off the pace as I thought I was.

And finally, yesterdays 25 miles took me through the 10,000 miles to date. (albeit in 2 and a half years).

Next ride is the Mere 200 on Sunday, my second 200km ride of January. Insane.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Of Sportive Success and Failure

Already this year I have experienced both, and that's just in entering.

6th January was the long awaited day when entries for both the Fred Whitton Challenge and the Etape du Dales went live. FWC was by post from midnight, and EdD online from midday.

By breakfast time on 6th the Fred Whitton website had already had the paper entry for withdrawn owing to the number of downloads far exceeding capacity. Good thing I printed it off at midnight. Unfortunately, this was all to no avail as I heard this week I didn't get through the ballot. Apparently over 2,000 people applied for the 800 places. At £40 each this shows how much more popular these events are becoming.

Further evidence came in the form of the SportIdent website as the 12:00 time for Etape du Dales entries to go live approached. By 12:03 the website had already crashed under the weight of attempted hits. By 15:25 all 800 places had gone on that event too, but by that time I had one of them.

One out of two ain't bad, and it does free up the weekend of 9th May for my local 200km Audax. "It's an ill wind that blows everybody over" as John Lennon is credited with saying.

The Poor Student

Attached to the wall of my garage is a very nice Trek Madone in a rather fetching mud crust. One day this week, I must get round to cleaning it.

As you can probably tell, last Sunday's Audax was a feast of meteorological excesses. An 8 a.m. start at any time of year some 80 miles from home is going to require a rude awakening. It's even ruder when you realise that its been raining and the roads are filthy. It's ruder still when you drive most of that 80 miles to find that, nearer the event, it was not rain but snow/sleet that was falling.

Thus the promised day of balmy 7 degree forecast temperatures commenced. Oxford dawned to a relatively clear sky, initially watery sunshine, and soggy roads covered in places with a half inch layer of crusty, gritty, icy snow. However, I am bloody-minded, and I had entered, and I have to do a 200 in January, so I started the event with nary a murmur of complaint.

This lasted well through the dreaming spires of the older part of Oxford, and the historic University buildings. It even lasted up Cumnor hill, despite me being among the slower climbers. It didn't last far beyond that, though, as the impact of the 20mph South-Westerly was fully in the face all the way to Malmesbury, and the first proper food stop of the day some 79km distant.

By the time we had arrived in Malmesbury, averaging a measly 20.5kmh, and consumed a leisurely meal, our elapsed average from the start was nearer 18kmh, and the next leg across the Cotswolds did not improve that average overly much. This event only packed in 2,000 Memory Map Metres of climbing, but it seemed much more than that, and the 70km leg to Chipping Campden took 3 hours 15 minutes (21.5kmh with the wind behind). At this point Brett baled for home since it was only 11 miles away, and after a short rest (20 minutes) I set off for the final 58km leg back to Oxford. By this time, it was dark, the wind was again much in evidence, and my bolt was pretty much shot following the initial morning struggle back into the wind.

A darkened lane before Batsford hid a chevroned hill in the gloom beyond my lights, which resulted in the first of two short walks. Moreton, Evenlode and a succession of small villages slowly passed in the murk, and other Audaxers who had spent longer in Chipping Campdens Cafes slowly ground past, lights winking into the far distance, but always seeming to be uphill, despite the overall downhill profile of the last session. A swift descent on an unlit road led to a 'small detour' down a rutted farm track as the road took an unmarked right turn, but rider and bike remained united over the rough stuff, although a second walk was required to the top of the climb as momentum had been lost.

At last, the roads improved, the downhill profile commenced, and a slightly swifter run-in to Oxford services was welcome. Final arrival time was 7:55 p.m. and an elapsed time of 11:55. The last leg of just 58km took an enormous 3 hours 25 (only 17kmh) although there were a couple of faffing stops en route. I'm told Winter rides are harder. I hope to hell that this is true, if not I'm in real trouble as I don't feel I'm going well at all.

The obligatory stats:
Distance covered 208km/129 miles
Average moving speed 18.6kmh/11.5mph
Max speed 60.1kmh/37.3 mph
Cadence average 66, max 102
HR Average 148, Max 170
Calories burned 8,738

Weight on Monday 107.6 (loss of 1.1kg this week)

Only a stoopid loony would do more than one 200km event in January, so I've entered the Mere 200 event on Sunday 25th. Nuff said.

1/4 RTTY and counting

Monday, 5 January 2009

Hopey New Year

Traditionally the first Audax event of the New Year, and always the first opportunity for me to start an annual collection of AAA points (also referred to as 'climbing points' or 'scenery points').

I will admit that it was a test of will on Saturday to actually leave the house when the alarm went off at 5:20 to reveal -3 degrees Centigrade and freezing fog at home. Still, I placed my trust in Metcheck and headed off to Hope (Bradwell this year) for 108km of the Peak Districts more relentless (rather than ferocious) hills and (memory map says) 2,000m of climbing.

On arrival in Bradwell we were greeted with frost free grass, despite the 0 degrees reported on the thermometer. We got away early on the staggered start, and were soon whistling downhill towards Grindleford. Amazingly, I finally got the dress-code correct so I didn't freeze. Mind you, the extra weight of :
1 compression base layer
1 pair bib-shorts
1 pair bib-tights
2 arm warmers
3 pairs of socks
1 long sleeve jersey
1 Gilet
1 winter jacket
1 skull cap
1 pair bootees
2 pairs of gloves
certainly made itself known in the human/bicycle interface. Or maybe its the 111kg weight of me?............

Climbs to Calver Clough and Winster went seemingly slowly but much better than 2 years ago, and Ashbourne was reached in good time. Coffee and a toastie hastily consumed and we were away to the climb out of Mayfield.

Lord knows how far this one goes on for, but it seems forever. Gaggles of cyclists passed on the ascent, only for most to be recaught by descending lard on the descent. Shortly before the turn to Onecote at 70km we ground on past the Windy Ridge Cafe, ignoring the tempting aromas of toast, beans etc.

Big mistake! By 75km a full-on energy bonk was in progress and me & granny (the gear!!) were getting well acquainted. It was a full 15km before I felt even vaguely human again and speeds almost doubled on the draggy climbs. As always the final descent down Bradwell Dale was an absolute blast, and a perfect way to end any Audax.

The Obligatory Stats
108km/67 miles
2087 metres of climb (6847 feet)
Elapsed time 6:30
Riding time 5:43
Average speed 18.8kmh/11.68mph
Top speed 63.7kmh/39.6mph

A far better ride than the first time I rode this course, despite the handicap of my weight, which once again has to be sorted. The diet started today at 108.7kg

22 minutes inside LEL pace seems good, but only over 108km leaves a lot of work to do, but its only January and I am currently hauling a wide load.

Poor Student 200km next weekend. Lets hope the luck we are currently having with the weather holds.