I struggled right from the start. Originally I’d intended to try and get a really fast time on the 100k route, but as soon as we hit the first climb my legs felt heavy. So I decided to Stick with Lump and Andy, as they were going at a reasonable pace and were doing the 100k too.
We got to the first food stop and found Den and Chris who’d set off earlier on the 132k route. Den had damaged his wheel rim and cut the sidewall off his tyre. As he was running tubeless, he’d gone to fit his spare tube, only to find it was a 29″ tube and the bike he was riding had 26″ wheels…. oh how we chuckled!
We also found out why Lump kept losing his chain off his front chainring…. a bent tooth. This was extracted using some pliers. This helped alot and the regular stops to refit his chain became regular stops to water the scenery….
All was well till just after the first food stop at 40 kilometers…. then my legs just died. I could plod along in a spinning gear, but as soon as I hit any kind of hill or anywhere that required me to up the power I just couldn’t do it. It felt like I was riding through glue!
For the next 40k I just about hung onto them, it was only the last 20 that my legs came back a bit, and then only for short periods. I managed to complete the course in 5h 30m, which isn’t a bad time, but I’m sure I could have done it in just over 5 hours if my legs had been OK….
In the words of Forrest Gump “That’s about all I got to say bout that.”
That’s Friday Night Summer series to those not in the know….
“What’s that?” I hear you ask…. (so taken directly from the FNSS website http://fnssmtb.com/)
What’s FNSS mean?
Friday Night Summer Series, it does what it says on the tin. A summer race series for mountainbikes. Sorry no Cyclocross bikes allowed.
Why Fridays I want to go out on the beer?
Good question, could be that Public places are quieter on Fri Eve’s as most people are out doing just that. It could be the fact that you and the organisers get a chance for a good rest on Saturday if you don’t work. The real reason is that this series was started by Road Cycling clubs getting together. They already had road stuff on Tues, Weds and Thurs and nobody wants to race on Monday now do they!
OK what’s it all about then?
The Friday night Summer series is a group of races organised by individual people, in 2013 it has it’s 22nd continuous year of running. It has the same central Insurance cover and one Uber head Honcho ..Neil Holman. This ensures a proper centrally organized setup and admin to enable easier accounting. But still all races are slightly different in format as each organiser adds his/her own touch.
How far’s a race?
The basic format is that everybody races together in one mass start on a 45 minute plus one lap format. (due to larger race entries this can now be split into two starts generally Senior/Junior then Vets/Ladies) This method means no matter what level of fitness you are you will not race for much more than an hour. This means only about 13-15 miles for even the fastest riders, and each race starts no earlier than 7.15.
What if the leaders lap me?
When the organiser works it out he’ll shout out last lap at the leader as he passes, and then at all following racers. When the race leader returns to massive applause for the win; all the following riders are deemed to have finished, No mater how many laps behind they are. All riders crossing the line receive a finishing position and some series points. Note; smart riders will have worked out that if the leader is catching you towards the end of the race, you can save having to do another lap if he passes you before you cross the line.
Can I do it – I have no flash kit or any race license?
Anyone can race, all you need is a bike and a helmet, and no special bike or kit either. All Youths and Juniors must have parental consent. Mudguards, racks, toeclips, pink Emmelles, tandems, cut off jeans, we have seen them all and they add to the event. Nobody will laugh at you here, we’ve all been there trust me. There’s no need for any licence or club membership, just you and a bike.
So there you go, there are 13 rounds in the series, and your best 6 results count towards your final place in the standings. You can race as many rounds as you like, but less than 6 and you’ll not feature in the final standings. As usual, a combination of holiday and afternoon shifts mean I can only race in 3 rounds On the positive side, I can race in round 11 on August 2nd at Delapre Abbey, Northampton. The course there is simply stunning
So round 1 was at Borough Hill, Daventry. Originally home to a BBC transmitting station, and site of the first ever practical demonstration of RADAR on 26th Feb 1935. The course is a superb mixture of open grassland, fast woodland, gravel track and steep twisty woods. The finish being below the 600′ radio mast that dominates the site.
So, to the race…. I always struggle with the start, more in where to be in the pack…. as you just line up on a 4(ish) bike wide track. I’ve headed for the front before, but the fast guys leave you for dead, and mentally it beats you up, you almost feel like you’re going backwards. So I usually aim for mid pack. At Daventry I ended up a bit further back than I’d have liked (should have got to the start earlier!)
The seniors headed off first, and 2 minutes later so did we. Straight away I started passing people, in a tight bunch it’s not easy, and I knew I should have been 10 or 15 riders further forward at the start. Not much I could do now but get my head down and ride. Into the first lot of woods it was single file, but as it rides pretty quick it wasn’t too bad.
Out of woods and it was onto a gravel track…. and into a headwind. On my practice lap the wind had almost stopped me dead here and I’d made a decision that on every lap I’d draft someone (ride in their slipstream) all the way along it. It worked, I hung behind a couple of slower riders all the way, and just as we were about to turn behind a hedge I accellerated past. Mental note – do that every lap if possible!
The next set of woods are quite tight and twisty and the pace slowed, with only one real line through the trees it was frustrating. All I could do was have a breather as we crawled along. The exit of the woods was a quick steep climb. We’d now caught a couple of Senior catagory backmarkers, and they were trying and failing to ride it. Trouble was they were in the way so I had no choice but to pick the pick the bike up and run through the scrub at the side of the track.
Back on open grassland again I found myself catching two Rugby Velo Riders. Over the line, lap two. They were my target, so I pushed hard, I had to, out on the open grassland they were quick. Into the fast woods and I’d got up to them, and now heading onto the gravel I was right in behind them. Turning off the gravel I tried to overtake, but the headwind hit me hard and pushed me back. Now into the twisty woods… they were slower, but not slow enough to be able to get past. At the few overtaking points I’d spotted I could get almost level but hadn’t got enough to edge in front and take the line.
Out onto the grassland and I made my move, I was now in a Rugby Velo sandwich, but I lost my rhythm on the bumpy section on the run in to the line. Lap three, I was behind them both again. Halfway round the lap I spotted Dusty Dan a mate who was riding in the Senior class, he’d started two minutes before me, and he was catchable. I hung behind the Rubgy Velo guys, trying to gauge if we were going to catch Dan. At this rate it was possible. More position swapping with the Velo guys followed.
As we crossed the line the last lap bell rang, I could see Dan, he was close, but I was unsure if we’d catch him. I had to go now, out of a rough section I tried to be as close as possible behind the Velo guys. I was too close, they swerved to miss a mound, I hit it and was all over the place. I dropped off them…. “F**k! Agggghhhh! All that effort. “Come On!! Pedal!!! Head down, I put every ounce of effort I could into it. On their tail again somehow, but slowly one of the Velo guys pulled away. Dan was close now, as we exited the woods he was there. I overtook the lone Velo rider and went past Dan.
Onto the gravel I had no one to draft. I pushed again hoping to drop Dan. But Velo man was there still. The bike felt weird, a puncture? I looked down and back at the rear tyre… it was OK. “It’s in your head! Push on!” As we dropped into the woods he overtook me. He was holding me up in the twisty stuff, but we were still catching and overtaking a couple of slower riders. Dan wasn’t directly behind me now, I had a buffer. Out onto the grassland for the final time, my legs were like jelly. Velo man pulled away, and a rider I’d overtaken in the woods crept past. A glance back and Dan was closing… pedal!!!!!! Another look back and he was closer PEDAL!!!!!! Across the line, chequered flag…. roll to a stop, lean over the bars and feel like I’m about to throw up!
1 hour 7 minutes 45 seconds…… Dan crossed the line 5 seconds after me! But in reality that’s 2 minutes 5 seconds
So I ended up in 38th place, not bad, my lap times were OK (15:12, 15:29, 15:20) apart from my first (21:45). It’s a longer lap due to the start straight, but everyone who finished around me had a first lap time about a minute shorter. I’m sure that was due to the traffic in the first set of woods, and if I’d started further up the pack I’d have managed a lap in the high 20s….. which would have put me up around 31/32nd…..
But I didn’t, and if I ate less and didn’t have the odd pint or two, and trained more, and had never smoked etc etc…. I’d probably win every race….
Right, next event, the Bucks Off Road Sportive…. 100k (62 miles) in the Chilterns…..
Oh, and I did have a puncture. I got home and my front was flat!
So, the Dyfi Enduro, a punishing 37 mile route around the Dyfi forest…… An event I’d never done before. It’s got a really good reputation, and this is shown by the fact it sold out in 20 minutes! That’s 860 entries!
It’s based in Machynlleth, on May Bank Holiday weekend and is the same weekend as their comedy festival, so the town has a really good atmosphere.
After spending a late Friday night at Sara’s friends in Tywyn I headed to Machynlleth late Saturday morning. There was quite a wind blowing up the Dyfi Valley when I arrived so rather than battle to put my tent up I opted to sleep in the back of the car. After waiting for some drizzle to clear I headed out on the bike to make sure the new rear deraillieur I’d fitted after the “Peaks Incident” was working OK.
After heading up to the Hollywood style Machynlleth sign above town (painted pink this year in memory of April Jones), I headed out to join up with one of the Mach 3 trails that we regularly ride. I rode to the point where the trail crosses Glyndŵr’s Way and followed this till it gets to the ‘golf course’ descent we’d discovered on a previous trip. Having ridden it, this would make a superb finish to our version of the Mach 3 trail.
I then followed Glyndŵr’s Way along the ridge overlooking the Enduro/Comedy festival campsite (visible the other side of town in the photo above) eventually dropping down at the far end of town. Back at the tent no one was about, Lump had arrived as his car was parked next to the tents. A quick phone call located them in the White Lion…. 10 minutes later I was supping a refreshing pint. And after a beer it was Chips O’clock!
Saturday evening was a relaxed affair, if a little cold. There was plenty going on in and around the campsite, but twice we had to venture off site to warm up at a local hostelry.
Saturday night wasn’t so relaxed. I got into the back of the car only to find the air bed was flat, so I pumped it up. It stayed up so I got into my sleeping bad and got my head down. About an hour later I woke up, it was flat again. Pump it up, back to sleep. This happened a few times before I gave up and tried to sleep with it flat…. Needless to say I woke up feeling like I’d had next to no sleep!
The thought of trying to ride the event fast was not appealing at all. It was Lump’s first big event and talking to him in the morning he was a bit apprehensive about it, so I decided I’d ride it with him. OK, I’d be slower, but I’d get time on a bike, and hopefully this may help on the ‘long day’ that will be the Dragon Ride in June.
So, at just before 11 we wished the other guys luck and headed for the start, lining up about 3/4 back. Soon we started moving forward, the event was on….. The roads were closed, allowing us to follow a long procession of riders out of town and over the river Dyfi.
The first road climb was quite slow due sheer number of riders, but soon the riders thinned out and before long we were at the bottom of the first fireroad climb up into the Dyfi Forest. I’m not sure quite what Lump was expecting, but this is one seriously long tough climb, especially as just when you’re legs are screaming stop, you come out of the trees and can see the line of riders way off in the distance, at least the same distance again as you’ve climbed from the valley floor!
This kind of mental torture is repeated over and over again, but the descents between are simply stunning, and make the big climbs worthwhile (but not when you’re halfway up, at that point you’re questioning your sanity!)
Right from the start Lump was having problems with the shock on his bike. It wouldn’t lockout, allowing the bike to bob up and down as he pedalled, a percentage of every pedal stroke being wasted. This was a problem we couldn’t fix, and unfortunately he’d just have to put up with it.
We reached the food stop at 2/3 distance in 4 hours, so in theory we should finish the event in 6 hours. By now Lump was really struggling. I could see in his face that demons were now shouting in his head, massive negative thoughts brought on by exhaustion. He looked at the minibus with a bike trailer attached….for taking retirees back to the campsite. I suggested that if he wanted to use that he’d have to kick his rear deraillieur through his back wheel so his bike was unrideable…. and if he didn’t want to do it, I would.
We pressed on, I stayed with him on the climbs now rather that going at my own pace and then waiting. Conciously trying to keep the chat going on the climbs, hoping to keep his demons at bay. More stunning descents followed, although now I was leaving him behind on them and having to wait. Descending rocky terrain is hardwork at the best of times, but when you’re shattered the sensible thing is to slow it down a bit.
Onto another climb, I’d resisted the temptation to look at the distance on my cycle computer earlier. It had now died, with a low battery, so taking a peek was not an option. But even though I didn’t recognise where we were, I was sure we couldn’t be far away from the top of Dicko’s Descent. Suddenly the fireroad turned sharp left. “We’re there mate, top of Dicko’s that’s the last real climb! It’s all downhill from here!” Sure enough, 100m further on we were at the top. “See you at the bottom!”
Dicko’s Bar, a disco they setup at the bottom had run out of beer, but the DJ in his gold jumpsuit continued to play, the smoke machines in full flow! We’d looked forward to a half at Dicko’s Bar at several points during the day, but I don’t think either of us were that bothered that they’d run out! Rolling down the fireroad back to the road we saw a familiar figure. It was Rob, now showered and in clean clothes, who’d come to find us on his nice shiney clean fat bike…. Lump wanted a hug, but Rob refused. A bit of a chase ensued with Rob trying to avoid us getting mud on him or his bike but I just managed to get next to him as we reached a big puddle… bingo! Direct hit!
Onto the main road we rode together, me and Lump tucking in behind Rob, allowing him to do the hard work and make a nice hole in the air. Into Mach, through the gates into the park and head for the Finish Banner…… and the well earned finishers Mug.
“I won’t be doing that again” said Lump as he lay next to his bike clutching his finishers mug….. less than 24 hours later I had a meassage “So…. whilst cleaning the bike and kit today, I think I’ve set myself a goal to knock an hour off it next year “
A weekend in my riding diary…….
A road ride with Rob dodging heavy showers on Saturday. We just about managed it, 62 miles around Warwickshire and Leicstershire, and we just caught the edge of about 2. I was chased back into Coventry by a huge black cloud, and had just got into the house when it threw it down!
Saturday evening I was at a loose end so thought I’d head out to Church Wood on the Meriden to Tamworth road. It was a sunny evening and I thought I’d maybe get some nice sunset photos through the trees…. but no, just as I got there a cloud blocked out the sunset and that was that. It was good fun being back in those woods though, the trails are great fun to ride, and the ground was dry, but showers during day meant it wasn’t totally dry so there was a nice amount of grip to be had.
Sunday was a Dark Peak trip, 3 of us headed up there in the Astra. the forecast was a bit iffy, but the weather was kind and we had broken sunshine most of the day. It eventually clouded over, but only started to spit with rain as we loaded the bikes back onto the car!
Oh, and I broke my bike…. Peak District Rock 1, Sram X7 rear deraillieur 0….. As you can see from the photo below, the rear deraillieur ended up in a very strange mangled mess! Oh well, it was towards the end of the ride and about a 100 yards from the road that runs from Edale back into Hope village, not exactly the end of the ride I was expecting, but easy to limp the bike back to Hope and the car.
And this week…. I don’t often bother with the Club’s Wednesday night ride, but a combination of decent weather and the ride being Nuneaton based made me dust off the Mukluk and make the effort to go.
There was quite a decent turnout for the usual enjoyable blast round the woods and bridleways of North Warwickshire.
The Trek is now repaired ready for the Dyfi Enduro this coming weekend (Sunday 5th May)…. for some reason I really can’t get motivated, but I’m sure once I’m there I’ll be fine…
With only 47 days till the Dragon Ride today was supposed to be a big ‘out and back’ ride, heading West into the wind.
I did one last Friday, managed 58 miles, and got to just past Lichfield. It was hard work, heading out into a headwind really does slow you down. I rode for two hours out, then turned round and retraced my tracks back to Coventry. One hour, thirty six minutes to get back. It just shows what difference the wind makes! Mind you, for the last 15 miles I really was struggling.
So the plan was to head out towards Droitwich on the back lanes and do another ”two hours out” ride…. but a sore throat and snotty nose before I went to bed were a sign of things to come.
Sure enough I woke up feeling like my batteries were only half charged, and the centre of my face had become a snot pump… Oh well, bin the “big ride” and have a leisurely one… it’d be rude not to, as the sun was out and this was probably the first real day of “spring” where I could get out on the bike.
I still managed a repectable 26 miles…. but that unfortunately is part of the problem, I always manage between 25 and 35 miles…. and rarely get above that. The Lichfield ride proved that, I was great till about 40 miles…. then my legs went to bits….. On the Dragon that would leave me 88 miles short!
I must ride further, I must ride further, I must ride further……
I had this drop through my letterbox yesterday….
They’ve finally decided to drop the parking fine I got while riding Harlech beach….
I love the bit about it being the drivers responsibility to ensure the ticket is displayed in a prominent position… I was tempted to write back and suggest that they get their Parking Gestapo some new glasses and train them to take their ‘evidence’ photo showing the drivers side of the car not just the passenger side!
So there you have it, my victory….. now for the Request….
As you may or may not know I’ve entered the Wiggle Dragon Ride, and not believing in doing things by halves I’ve entered the “Gran Fondo”…. the big route.
That’s 206km (128 miles) with 3350m (10990ft) of climbing… So putting that into some kind of context, that’s Coventry to York, and going up and down Mt. Snowdon three times along the way!
So click on the Wiggle Dragon logo below to take you to my JustGiving web page and donate some money, alternatively let me know and I’ll do a training ride round to your house and pick up some good old fashioned cash!
With the weather in the UK being…. well, bloody horrible, Sara decided that a weekend break abroad would be ideal. She booked a Ryanair flight to Barcelona…. but Ryanair are quite clever and classify Reus airport as ‘Barcelona’, even though it’s about 50 miles away from the city. Bit cheeky really, but having done some research on Ryanair, cheeky seems to be their middle name. Odd cabin luggage sizes, low cabin luggage weights, compulsory online check-ins to name but a few are all designed to catch you out and earn them some cheeky charges.
A bit of web research and it seemed easier to scrub the idea of going to stay in Barcelona, and head for the coast instead. A bus runs from Reus airport to Salou and on to Cambrils so that seemed to be an ideal way to go. Once again the web research pointed to Cambrils to be the place to go rather than the ‘Brits abroad’ haven of Salou.
And what a total gem Cambrils turned out to be! One or two British accents, quite a few German, but mainly Spanish. It seems like it’s where the Spanish go to when they want to head to the coast….
I fancied hiring a bike for an hour at some point, so on Saturday dinnertime we walked past the bike hire place on the sea front to have a look, and there it was, the ideal steed, a Viking Saratoga…. Tandem!
And so it was that we wobbled (to start with) to Salou, cycle paths all the way. To be honest it was a lot easier than I expected, communication is definitely the key to riding a tandem. Get that right and you really can fly along! We only hired it for two hours, stopping a few times on the way for a break. Soon we were at Cap de Salou, looked at the time and realised we had about 45 mintes to get back. So heads down, we flew back along the coast to Cambrils, and got back just in time to hand it back.
Sunday dawned pretrty much the same as Saturday, bit of a breeze, but warm, and sunny…. what to do? We decided we’d enjoyed the Saturday ride so much we’d hire the tandem again (if it was there) and head the other way, South, down the coast.
When we got to the rental shop there she was, and so we parted with 16 Euros and hired her for 4 hours! Off along the cycle lane again, we soon came to the end of Cambrils… The cycle path ended…decision time. Turn back or press on across a dried river bed and up onto the N340 coast road.
With the spirit of adventure and the Viking Saratoga we carried on. Confident in our tandem skills we hit the road! The sun shone and we flew down the road, stopping for refreshments at the Spanish equivalent of a greasy truckers cafe. Quite what they though of two Brits on a tandem, one in a Valentino Rossi shirt, the other wearing a “You only live once” top I don’t know, but it probably gave them something to talk about later.
We found a turning down to the beach and after several wrong turns ended up at a small cafe on a stunning section of beach. Time for a siesta and ‘Dos Cokes, por favor’
Soon we were 2 hours into our 4 hour rental, time to head back, with the wind now behind us we did the road section in no time, and soon we were back onto the familiar cycle path of Cambrils. We arrived at the bike rental shop 1/2 hour early… and would have carried on for a bit, but the silly padded saddles had taken their toll. So we gave the bike back early, strolled up the beach and headed back to the hotel for a well earned rest.
Several hours later we headed past the rental place on the bus taking us back to the airport. There she was, ‘our’ tandem, she may be knackered, have a front derailieur that didn’t work properly, a non existent front brake, and bald tyres, but she’ll always have a place in our hearts.
Due to poor mobile signal in the bunkhouse I couldn’t update the blog every day….
Anyway, rather than bore you with a load of waffle, here’s some photos. These ones are from Saturday when we tried to ride from Machynlleth over the Plynlimon mountains to Nant-Yr-Arian. We ended having to abandon the idea as the snowdrifts made riding conditions almost impossible.
The next two are from Sunday, Rob took his dog to Coed-Y-Brenin, while me and Steve did a 36 mile road ”Tour of Tarrenhendre”
At just before 8pm on Sunday we headed out to the Dyfi Forest to ride some of the trails at night….. cold but fun!
This shot was taken lower down, but high up on Moel Heulen the snow was quite deep and frozen so it’d turned to ice crystals… all very scenic. But if you think I was going to mess about with a camera when there was an icy blast coming from the East you’re very much mistaken! Everything was freezing up anyway, I had only 3 gears as my rear deraillieur was frozen, Robs front deraillieur had too, and Steve’s SPD pedals wouldn’t let him clip in. Steve was very lucky, as when we got to the bunkhouse there was a huge slice in his tyre with a bubble of innertube poking out!
We woke on Monday morning, we were all shattered, the sky was grey, it was cold and the East wind was making it feel even colder! So rather than ride in the morning, we packed up and headed home.
So, the plan was to ride the mountain road to Llandiloes, then the main road to Aberystwyth and finally the coast road back to Machynlleth.
Fraz a mate from Mach, had suggested that it probably wasn’t the best route, and when we got to the bike shop in town, Jonny Pickles the local bike guru suggested we forget the idea….
So, with local knowledge saying forget it, we went for it anyway!
All was well for the first 5-6 miles, then the gritter must have stopped… we pressed on. Soon we were trudging through snow….. a snow plough had continued on after the gritter had stopped, but had left a patchy ice all the way up. We stopped for photos, and realised that we were only halfway up.
The ‘tour’ was still on, but we decided to head back to Mach, and ride the main roads towards Llandiloes and then cut off on a B road past Llyn Clywedog. The cold wind had been right into our face all ride and getting to the Lake we decided that trying to complete the lap of Plynlimon would be too much.
Instead, we’d head up over the mountain road back to Mach. We’d passed the end of it earlier, and the sign had showed 11 miles. We’d already ridden nearly 6 miles from the other direction before turning back. So we decided to keep track of our mileage from the junction and see just how far we could get before the snow stopped us riding. If the distance of ‘hike a bike’ was reasonable, we’d go for it.
Soon we were riding sections that were tarmac, and then pushing over snow.
Soon we reached the end of the road….. we worked out we were about 2 to 1.5 miles from were we’d got to. Testing the snow, we found it could support our weight…. so we went for it! The next 2 miles were a mixture of push, scoot and riding the bikes, spotting abandoned cars as we went!
Soon we were descending, but the mix of snowdrift, and tarmac carried on. We even bumped into three roadies pushing in the opposite direction! They seemed as suprised to see us as we did them…. we told them what to expect and they carried on. Fingers crossed there won’t be an item on the news tomorrow about three cyclists from Bangor University freezing to death in Mid Wales!
We suddenly crested a rise and there was proper tarmac, and the point we’d got to several hours earlier! Now just a easy roll back down to Machynlleth and a warm shower!
We may not have managed to do the ‘Tour’, but we’d had a hell of an adventure anyway!