Friday, 9 December 2011

A Lesson Learnt...

I tried a new route today, I headed east away from the moor and along the coast. It means riding on the main A39 for a couple of miles which is nice and flat and a good warm up just a bit busy. I turned off in Carhampton and headed up the hill to Blue Anchor, its short and sharp and gets the blood pumping. From there its a quick descent into the village over the railway line and onto the seafront. I was feeling good today, think I was starting to get used to the new bike set up and could feel the revolutions as I pedalled if you get my drift. Another up past the pub at the end, steep to start then it eases off and I got into a good rhythm and headed along the top towards the ancient port of Watchet, past the industrial sprawl of the paper mill down below me and down the hill towards the harbour.
A trip to Watchet apparently inspired Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write the poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" but I'm sure Iron Maiden wrote it first. A lovely statue to commemorate the story sits on the esplanade but there is no mention of the Maiden, more on headbanging later on. I headed through Watchet and then the back road at Doniford to Williton, there was a bit of a headwind but I didn't mind I was enjoying the ride in the late winter sunshine.

Instead of sticking to the main road I took a detour a through the pretty hamlet of Stream, I think the definition of a hamlet is a place with no church but cigars or something like that. It was a couple of ups and down into Monksilver and up the hill and over the crossroads and down past the cider farm at Torre. After a quick breather at Cleeve Abbey it was back onto the main road at Washford.
Its a busy road but luckily today relatively traffic free and most of all its pretty flat, so I could actually get on the big ring and push for home. I negotiated the tricky bits and was going along quite well until I made the decision to get off the road and onto the cycle path in Carhampton. I slowed down to get off the road and wallop, the bike wiped out from underneath and I hit the deck with a thump. My head and shoulder took most of the impact, and Lance got scratched too. A nice man in a white van stopped to scrape me off the floor and check on me and a lovely couple who must have been behind me insisted on taking me home. Its nice to see the good side of human nature and I'm eternally grateful for their concern and kindness. My helmet did its job, its knackered now but I'm not, anyone who cycles who reads this take note, WEAR A HELMET ! Don't make your kids wear one and then not wear one yourself either.

My darling wife took me to the lovely new community hospital where they checked me over and told me that I'd badly bruised my shoulder and prescribed pain relief and told me it would probably get worse before it gets better, I hate pain nearly as much as hills and wind ;) but luckily thanks to my helmet I can sit here and reflect on a lesson learnt.

No stats yet, my computer was still on when I got a lift, top speed 50mph I wish !

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

To the end and back...

I didn't go far today the wind wouldn't let me. The wind was blowing hard in these parts and the thought of riding the main roads with winds gusting up to 30mph didn't really appeal. I decided to ride the hill which forms part of the Minehead landscape, North Hill, about five miles long and exposed to the elements but low on traffic this time of year so basically I was doing a five mile hill climb, into the wind, I hate hills, and the wind ??

I wound my way up past the church and up the hill, the first initial climb of about five hundred yards is sheltered but I knew what was around the hairpin bend. The wind hit me like a brick wall, I always struggle at the start of a ride as my lungs need to warm up and this climb was only about five minutes in. I was struggling to catch my breath, the wind was strong, I started getting dark thoughts about turning around and heading back down. I had to stop, my lungs were screaming for air, I didn't feel good, they always go on about power to weight ratios in cycling, I'm all weight and no power, I was beginning to get angry with myself for being a useless fat prick. I carried on, the wind wasn't going to beat me, I'd done the steep bit and the hill was undulating to the end.
I hit the first little downhill section about halfway along the hill, pedalling down it I was just touching 8mph, downhill, even the Exmoor ponies who reside up here were running in the opposite direction using the tailwind ! I was glad I wasn't riding some exotic carbon steed with fancy lightweight wheels it would have been blown away. I carried on knowing I'd be using that tailwind on the way back. I got to the end and stopped to take a pic. I could hardly stand, the wind was so strong.
I didn't stop and admire the view, I had that tailwind to play with. As soon as I turned around it was pushing me back towards Minehead, the roar was replaced with peaceful calm. It was still a bit sketchy heading down, the road meanders its way along the hill and the cross winds were a bit scary in places, so glad this wasn't the main road. I did a quick spin along the seafront, with the wind at your back you get a really good feeling. spinning away, some would probably call it karma or nirvana, then you turn around and realise it was mother nature giving you a push, oh well.

No stats today, too embarrassing :(

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Wet and Windy

It was a day to hit the rough stuff, the weather was a bit iffy but you have to get out and ride. Bonus put off his hibernation and No1 came along for the ride. I wrapped up for the conditions wearing my new softshell from Mountain Warehouse, I always like their stuff, its cheap and functional and doesn't fall to bits. No1 wasn't impressed by my decision to wear my Ron Hill leggings "I thought we were going mountain biking" think he thought I was dressed too roadie ! He was wearing baggy shorts, proper mountain biker ;)

We set off from the house of Bonus and wound our way through the back roads of Minehead and onto the track that would take us up the slopes of North Hill. Its a regular route and a nice steady climb, a few years ago I'd be huffing and puffing and stopping every five minutes to catch my breath, I can now ride at a much better pace and don't even use my granny ring on this climb. Bonus seemed to be struggling a bit early on but I think he had been partying the night before, it was nice to have someone to chat to though as we made our way up the leafy track.
Its sheltered this side of the hill and as we approached the top we could feel the wind whipping around the headland. After a quick breather we headed along the top into the head wind, it was a bit overcast but not too bad. As we made our way towards Selworthy Beacon the skies darkened, we stopped to add layers and made the decision to make a detour, then as we set off the heavens opened. I don't know if it was hailing or it was just the rain bouncing off the road because I couldn't see but we stopped and dived under a gorse bush to shelter and discuss route options.
We decided to head back, No1 was looking a bit cold, he would wear shorts ! We still hit some good tracks on the way back and the sun came out as we crashed and splashed through the puddles. We made our way towards what is known locally as the "Tank Tracks" a relic of a world war 2 tank training area. Its more a case of dodging dog eggs rather than rocks on this part of the hill as its the dog toilet of Minehead.
No1 was really feeling the effects of the elements now, he does tend to suffer with the cold but as all parents know, you can't tell them. After a quick downhill and blast around Jim's path we decided to take the road home and get No1 back into the warmth. It was wet, windy and cold but still good fun, you can't beat cycling around these parts.
That'll need some Muc off !

Friday, 2 December 2011

If the bike fits....

Lance and I haven't been getting on. It's partly my fault, it was a bit of an impulse buy, I shouldn't be allowed in large bicycle shops there's too much to tempt and I end up a drooling wreck. If and when I buy another bike I won't wear jeans and trainers and I'll ask for a fit. I tinker too much, adjusting the seat height, the seat position until I get to a point where I don't know where I started and I'm uncomfortable on the bike. On Monday's ride my back was aching so I lowered the seat, that helped but that lead to my knees aching after the ride, Lance and I needed counselling.

So after contacting Bicycle Chain in Taunton where I bought the bike and explaining my problems they kindly offered a free basic fit for Lance and I. Alex the Trek trained bike fitter chatted about my riding, I think he was a bit surprised at the distances I was doing and my time on the bike, must have been my athletic frame impressing him. After demonstrating  my complete lack of flexibility Lance was set up on a turbo and Alex watched me spin. He then proceeded to check leg angles with a big angle checker thing, cleat position and hung plumb lines from the knees. I don't know if I've got one leg longer than the other or one is less tight than the other. I put this down to driving fork trucks for twelve hours a day and twisting to one side, perhaps I need a truck fit ?

After an hour or so we had it sorted. Lance was fitted with a shorter stem to reduce my reach and the saddle height was raised far higher than what I would have done and moved back a bit to what it was, I might need some stabilisers ? Alex also advised on some exercises to help my lower back. I was itching to get on the bike, so as soon as I got back I went for quick spin on my Wootton Courtenay lap. The bike definitely felt easier to spin if you know what I mean ? It might take some getting used to in the next couple of weeks, I'm probably using some different muscles now and stretching the hamstrings a bit more. My time ? 13 seconds quicker, it all counts ;)