Archive for the ‘bike’ Category

Bring the Giau

The Passo Giao. 9.9km. 29 corners. Close to 10% all the way.

It’s a tough climb. There’s no hiding.

The perfect ride

The Downs, from the crest of the bank.

Ah. How many times do I have to ride in the cold, wet and grey before I get a day like this? Yesterday was a cheat-the-week classic: 3 hours, 45 miles or so, plenty of hills, bits of tempo. I was test-riding the new Easton EA90 SLXs (of which more later), it was warm enough for a single layer, traffic was sparse, my legs felt strong.

My girlfriend asked me, as I was pulling on my lycra after lunch:

Shouldn’t you be working?

My answer was yes, I probably should. However I have a real problem not riding when I’m inside and the sun starts shining. This may be the one factor that prevents me becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg: when he was coding, I was out riding.

Riding comes first. I realised this 45 minutes into the ride, as I broke my first sweat of the day, and heard my phone ringing from my jersey pocket. It was a call from a client. I knew who it was – I had even asked them to call that afternoon, before I decided to go riding. I listened to the call ring off, imagining the testy voicemail, the urgent deadline reminder. At the sound of the message alert I kicked up a gear, filled my chest with air, and rode on into the afternoon sunshine.

Cycling is higher up in my pyramid of needs than work. Naturally, I need some work to have money to buy a bike in the first place – but if you offered me 50% extra salary with no more riding, or even with only 1 ride permitted per fortnight, I’d turn you down flat. I need to ride. Riding bikes has been something fixed in me since I was a young boy. Cycling has been a hobby, then a pursuit, then an obsession. Sometimes it’s a yoke I feel compelled to put my shoulders into (training – it has to happen, lots of it).

Sometimes I wonder if I could ever sit inside on a sunny day with a bike waiting to be ridden, and just not ride. Currently it’s not possible.

2010 – first ride out

The current conditions just north of Potters Bar.

The current conditions just north of Potters Bar.

Yesterday was my first ride out of the new decade. Following a period of 2 months out of the saddle (a trip to Nepal was partly to blame), which itself included a 2 week drinking marathon (the party season) and a 1 week eating marathon (the Mucklow family Christmas), it wasn’t surprising that my form stank.

My leg strength deserted me; my heart rate pootled along in zone 2; my blood sugar levels bonked as my stomach craved cake and turkey trimmings. Compare this graph from yesterday (peak HR 157):

Heart rate graph 2-1-10

Heart rate graph 2-1-10

with this one from 18 July last year (peak HR 177).

Heart rate graph 18-7-09

Heart rate graph 18-7-09

I remember this ride. I never blogged about it because I was just back from La Marmotte and I couldn’t be bothered. But it was the ride of the year. I was out with Millsy on a 4hr+ circuit from Sevenoaks (possibly the Hell of the Ashdown route). I was rested from my trip to France, but still held the form from months of training. I was hitting the hills hard, and just kept feeling stronger. Then came a truly epic half-hour stretch in the closing stages of the ride, on a gradual climb up to Sevenoaks Weald. My heart rate climbed from 160 into the 170s, and I recall looking down at my wrist to check the effort and seeing 177. There was an almost other-worldly absence of pressure.

But back to yesterday. In a nutshell, I followed Millsy all the way up to Woolmer Green, whereupon he binned it on the ice, and I followed his bloodied carcass all the way back to London. My flabby core is so out of shape that it’s all achey today, and I’m saddle-sore into the bargain.

Looks like more snow’s on the way for Wednesday’s ride – sweet!

New pad

The hour approaches for my house move from North to South London. As is the way with house-hunting and flat-hunting and home-buying, last minute glitches and complications make the whole thing a nail-biting experience. However, it will happen. At some point in January I will be hauling my kit from Hornsey Lane N6 to West Norwood – SE27.

One of the reasons I headed south was the proximity to hills. Much as I love being close to Hampstead Heath and training on Regent’s Park and Swain’s Lane, there’s no contest between the quality of riding around say, Stevenage, and the riding around Sevenoaks (comparable distances away from Archway and West Norwood respectively). I’m already planning 3-hour training loops from my door to Toy’s Hill, for example:

View West Norwood foray in a larger map

Not to mention quick spins down to Brighton, training at Crystal Palace and Richmond Park, and the odd razz around the track at Herne Hill. The reality of all this outweighs a good chunk of my anxieties about buying and owning a property.

Autumn Denham classic

One of mine from Japan.

One of mine from Japan.

Millsy and I had a good ride out from Denham today. The weather was overcast, and a bit chilly even in 3/4 fleece-lined bibs and Rapha long sleeve.

We did 67 miles – longer than the distance on Google maps owing to an early map SNAFU on my part – in 4hrs 15. I felt OK, but as the hours wore on I was treated to an extended viewing of Millsy’s ass as he showed some solid form on the flat. I still had the edge over Whiteleaf Hill though.

Kona Lava Dome – the quest continues

Chris's Kona.

Chris's Kona.

In response to my shout out for a midnight blue Kona Lava Dome, Chris from Aldershot got in touch to offer me first refusal (or swapsies) on his purple weapon.

Unfortunately, according to the hazy pics on Bikepedia, I reckon this is 2002 vintage, officially after Kona lost the plot with its frame designs. Let’s keep it old-skool, Chris. But good luck with off-loading the rig – and nice shed by the way!

Shimano electric gears

Somehow I can’t see myself every forking out for battery-powered gears. But then we all said that about bar-ends and carbon-fibre…

Looking forward to heading to the Cycle Show at Earl’s Court this Sunday.

Commuting: dawn of a new era


Box fresh: the Edinburgh Bicycle Revolution Courier Race.

I have a new hack. Soak it up.

For the last 5 or so years of living in London, I’ve got by on a motley crew of unreliable commute bikes, piecing together old broken frames with hand-me-down componentry and bottom-dollar bits. I’ve only ever ridden nice, smooth bikes on the weekend. No longer.

I bought the Edinburgh Bicycle Revolution Courier Race in a hurry following the sudden demise of the Ballistic. Slightly gutting was today’s realisation that had I waited 2 days I could have cashed in on the EB sale, saving ¬£50 (15% off). F@*K.

Anyhow, I’ve now ridden the bike home. First impressions:

  • it’s heavy (frankly)
  • pretty wishy-washy steering BUT
  • it’s sturdy
  • it’s fast
  • the brakes are solid
  • it fits

The steering issue is probably more to do with my having ridden a bike with bent forks for 18 months, and I’ll get used to it over time. I’ve now fitted mudguards, SPDs and light mounts – bring on the autumn!

Kona Lava Dome wanted

If this is your bike, we need to talk.

If this is your bike, we need to talk.

I passed this bike chained to a railing on Mortimer Street today. It was a near-mint condition 1995 Kona Lava Dome in midnight blue, the exact same bike I received for Christmas in 1995. This was the rig that truly launched my lifelong love of bikes and biking.

I’m just going to pause a moment to remember this bike, and how great it was (for me, and probably a generation of others):

  • the Lava Dome was – up until 2007, when it was mysteriously retired – the classic entry-level MTB in the Kona stable, RRP ¬£500.
  • the 1995 version had stunning understated good looks (IMHO Kona’s paint jobs have just got gaudier – check out the offensive 2006 version, perhaps the reason why it didn’t sell and Kona withdrew it?).
  • the Tange Infinity cromoly double butted frame, with its signature sloping top tube and tight rear triangle, rode like a dream – it climbed well, it loved singletrack.

I had this bike for 11 years. A few highlights from its rise and fall:

  • 1996: upgrade to Pace RC35 suspension forks
  • 1996: 6 days bike touring in the Scottish highlands
  • 1997: flew with me to Vancouver, Canada for a year of north shore trail-riding
  • 1998: 24 hours of Adrenalin, Whistler, B.C.
  • 1998: big bike tour down the west coast of the US, hitting some classic singletrack in Washington and Oregon
Riding Mount St Helens in 1998 - has there ever been a better advert for this bike?

Riding Mount St Helens in 1998 - has there ever been a better advert for this bike?

  • 1998: frame bent on the flight back to UK, cannibalised for bits
  • 1998-2001: frame hangs in my shed in Stoke
  • 2002: the Lava Dome returns as a singlespeed hack for the streets of Edinburgh
  • 2003-06: the hack moves to London
  • 2006: after weeks of cracking, the frame snaps at the rear drive-side drop-out. The broken frame is deposited in a skip near Brick Lane.
Surveying the damage up close in 2006.

Surveying the damage up close in 2006.

You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced on seeing this bike in the street. Frankly, I was on the phone to somebody and had to hang up. I realised that I would pay over the odds to ride this bike again. If it’s yours, leave a comment!

Update @24-8-09

Andy Booth has alerted me to this retro bikes site, and in particular to this beautifully restored 1993 Lava Dome. Sweet.

Top end outage

I rode 90 minutes this morning when I was supposed to be working not cheating the week (ssshh, don’t tell work). I wanted to punish myself. 5 and a half weeks since the Marmotte and any really serious riding, and the layoff is getting to me. The first 3 weeks were OK – a relief in fact – but the last fortnight has been increasingly rough. Despite pinging it around town on the hack as often and as fast as possible, weekend commitments have kept me off the Wilier – stood reproachful, and a bit grubby, in my bedroom – and my general mood graph has recorded a marked slump.

Clearly, I need to set a new goal. Clearly, I need to get back on my bike, pronto. To this end I headed out today, aiming for a 6/4 Regent’s / Swain’s (in layman’s terms, 6 laps of regent’s Park followed by 4 hill repeats up Swain’s Lane. Here’s the graph:


I felt like my batteries were fairly flat from the start – even though my eating and sleeping have been fine over the last few days. In the end I managed 3/4, i.e. only 3 hard intervals on Regent’s Park. I was climbing OK, but my power output felt about 30% lower than I remember it being last time I did one of these sessions.¬†Compare the above graph with a similar ride I did on June 24th, just prior to the Marmotte, or this one around Easter time. On both of these, I remember / blogged that I felt good, my heart rate went higher, and I did 5/6 or 6/6.

So evidently my top-end fitness has taken a hit over the last month or so, while my weight remains constant (or even slightly less, incredibly), my endurance is solid, and I can still climb. It seems like the most fragile, short-lived part of my form, that needs to be kept topped up lest it wane. It’s time to bring back the power.