Flight of fancy

Displaying photo.JPG Ace addition: the new crankset gets the traditional weigh-in in my kitchen

Map reference: home spinning, and quick Richmond Park flip

Carbs and caffeine: homemade chocolate chip cake seems to be disappearing, but the kids are home…

In the last four days since we got back from Flanders, I’ve done 125km, but only 18k outside. Why? The sun is shining, the bike is in perfect condition, I’m not injured … no, it’s the school holidays. I’ve been hopping on the turbo every morning after Husband leaves for work, and ploughing through my turbo challenges, pedalling between an hour and 90 mins, at a rate of 30k/h. Very, very dull.

But I do have to tell you about my Richmond Park flip on Tuesday. I left my bike at Velosport http://www.velosport.co.uk/ over the Easter weekend, along with a new crankset (Dura-Ace with shorter cranks than standard, at 170cm, and 11-speed cassette), Dura-Ace Shimano brakes and the beautiful 38cm 3T handlebars that I introduced in a previous blog. Velosport fitted all this for £40, which impressed me.

But what impressed me more was the ride afterwards. In fact it was less like cycling and more like flying. I don’t know whether being forced off the training for a few days while we were away left me extra fresh, but my Strava (for the uninitiated, it’s a website that compares your ride to previous rides, and to other people) gave me 70 pieces of bling, composed of strings of personal bests. And it felt blingy all the way round.

The first thing I noticed on leaving the shop were the new brakes. To actually be able to feel the pads engage is a delight. No excuses now, I’m going to have to improve my descents.

Once I got to the park and could stretch my legs, the bike just seemed to take off. Was it the fresh legs? Or was it the shorter cranks? Whatever it was, the sensation of flying was wonderful, peeling past people, and sensing Husband slipping off the back (with his tired legs, I will concede). Pure, childish joy. This is why cycle is addictive.

The final change puzzled me at first. There are little mini bricked humps as you pass by Ham Gate towards Pembroke Lodge, travelling clockwise, and the bike was so smooth over them that I started looking at my tyres, wondering whether they were flat. I hadn’t checked them when I picked up the bike. Surely the shop would check them, I fretted? Then I remembered my bars are now carbon. I was, for the first time, getting the full carbon experience. And now I get it. Over distance, the smoothness will make a huge difference, it isn’t just the weight, it’s the ride.

So the bike is finished. Apart from changing the bottle cages – I really hate the silly Italian ones I was palmed off with a few weeks ago, I won’t be visiting that shop again – it is as light as I can possibly justify. Now it’s all down to me.

Note to self: call in some favours, you need to get rid of the kids and get out.

Are we sitting comfortably ..?

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Blog power: The LaPierre is finally comfortable, thanks to a borrowed saddle

Map reference: circuit of Richmond Park, followed by quick spin at home

Carbs and caffeine: toast with tuna, avocado and tomato, at home but worth the effort

Through the magic of blogging, my friend Lucy got to hear about my saddle difficulties and offered me her spare Specialized Lithia Comp gel. What bliss to settle into the curves I am used to. It is padded slightly more sparingly than my original saddle and comes in at 130g (yes, I weighed it myself on the kitchen scales). Although this is not super light, the bottom line (geddit?) is I need to be comfortable. And I was.

I only did one circuit of Richmond Park today is it was gusting horribly. In fact I nearly turned back before I got there as I was being driven into the middle of the road, despite gripping the bars. Luckily, in the park you can see the gust arriving, marked by a flurry of crispy brown leaves. Traffic was sparse but I kept the speed right down in deference to the wind, and enjoyed that lovely childish sense of flying that comes with a relaxed cycle.

I’ve realised today that it is only four and a half months until the Etape du Tour, and three and a half until the Dragon ride which, at 220k, will be at least as much of a test. There’s a slight training hitch as one of my riding partners, Neil, has gone AWOL for a month. Jacqui is also gone for two weeks but she is lending me her husband, which is only fair I think.

Note to self: hit the stationers, this definitely calls for a chart… maybe even some stickers

Rock bottom…

On my hit list: Specialized Lithia Comp gel, similar to my usual saddle

Map reference: Velosport, Putney

Carbs and caffeine: declined a cup of tea as I’ve wasted enough of Nick’s time

A couple of laps around Richmond Park yesterday left me in no doubt that the Adamo and I were not friends after all. In fact we are now intimately classified as enemies. So I took myself back to Velosport, where Nick tried me on another saddle and generally shuffled me about. Apparently I sit too far back on the Adamo to get the benefit of it’s design. Eventually I trotted home to collect the Giant I have been riding for four years and we swapped the saddles over, not before Nick took careful note of the angle I had been riding the saddle at. Apparently 6% down is pretty extreme and not recommended. Oh, ignorance is bliss.

So finally comfortable on the LaPierre, I suggested that we hunt the shop for a similar saddle. To his credit, Nick instead pulled up the Specialized website, and suggest I buy a racier version of the saddle I was comfortable on. He says his reading around fitting for women has taught him that women are particularly difficult in the saddle area, whereas he has never found a saddle he couldn’t sit on. There you go, men are from Mars…

I said I was going home to spin. Nick told me not to be such a fool with my still aching back and charged me with stretching instead. So I have done four YouTube workouts. In the end, Sugarpop http://www.popsugar.com/fitness seemed the best, but there are thousands to go for. The thumbnail pictures are interesting for some, suggesting they are not necessarily aimed at middle-aged Domestiques.

Yes, Nick you are right, my ITB http://www.active.com/cycling/articles/tight-it-band-3-simple-exercises-to-fix-it-now is very tight (hence the odd left leg stroke), and my hip flexors too.

Note to self: see if the Specialized Concept store will let you try before buying

Tucked behind my shopping basket

Map reference: Kingston shopping trip, through Richmond Park

Carbs and Caffeine: restrained myself, despite being starving. Cold carbanara left from kids’ supper waiting at home

I did a little over an hour on the spinning bike and then decided I needed fresh air, and a shopping cycle to Kingston on my mountain bike could do no harm. Little did I realise how windy it was. Really hairy, with gusts making me wobble like a child and a wind that was virtually blowing me to a standstill going downhill.

In Richmond Park, heading east I was making next to no headway at all. I badly missed my drops and tried to hunch down as much as possible, with my head just about in my shopping basket. I even toyed with trying to hold the basket, time trial style, but it was too fragile.

I was extremely relieved to get to Kingston as a light drizzle set in. I’m rubbish at shopping, but eventually Sports Direct provided me with some rigid-soled trainers to spin in. I’ve been getting achy feet and I think it’s the soft-soled things I have been using. The shoes are incredibly cheap, even for Sports Direct, because they are incredibly ugly. Still, if they do the job, I don’t care.

Note to self: Wednesday is the only nice day this week. You need to find someone to pedal with

Out … And in again

Map reference: Richmond Park
Carbs and caffeine: Roehampton Gate Cafe
I’m three days late with this post, so pre-tests are finally taking their toll. That and the whole back-to-school malarkey. One down two to go on that front.
Anyway, back to Saturday. Bealsey had organised an all-comers post-festive 90k circuit to Box Hill. Unfortunately someone forgot to order the weather. I had invited my brother and was unable to stall him as his mobile phone is on the blink. So he and I had some coffee and narrowed our horizons to Richmond Park. I had invited Jacqui too, and so she headed that way too. We made no arrangement to meet her, but with us going clockwise and she going anti-clockwise we met and joined up for a final lap. Clever, eh?
By this stage my brother was freezing in his running shoes. He has a nice Cube bike but has been slow off the mark on cleats. Never again. I was feeling the frost in my winter booties, he was way beyond uncomfortable.
Jacqui headed home and Angus and I stopped at Roehampton cafe. Coffee for me and a few stolen bites of the cake I had packed for our longer run. I made Angus eat most of it as he needed fuel to reheat himself.
Strangely he then submitted himself to another lap, and I pedalled with him to Putney Bridge to see him safely on his way home.
Note to self: must persuade brother to buy into cleats… And normal cycling clothes. Baggy shorts slowing him down

Does it count?

Map reference: Richmond Park
Carb and caffeine: not out long enough to indulge
Just a short spin round Richmond Park today, with Big One picking up a school friend. Big One has managed to suddenly outgrow his bike and now has possession of Husband Bike #2. Husband is gutted.
I feel for him, as I feel quite miffed when Big One wears my socks… And I get them back. This is a bike. It’s a one way trip. The seat has been lowered and the pedals swapped to match his cleats. And he certainly looks good on it. Yup that’s it, no return.

Note to self: one week to Middle Son’s pre-tests. Am I spending too much time on the bike?

Cold …. Yikes

Map reference: Richmond Park to Ham, family outing, 22k

Carbs and caffeine: Hansel and Pretzel, German bakery in Ham

We were desperate to get out in the sunshine after a Christmas kept inside. Husband’s father can no longer walk any distance so it seems rude to leave him in the house alone.
So today we muffled up as best we could and headed out into a wintery day. It transpires none of our mountain bikes are really roadworthy on the brakes front, but we all managed to keep safe. The real problem was the biting cold, which had daughter, 7, in tears. She is on a tagalong and forgets to keep pedalling. Middle son had his Christmas present hand warmers so we stuffed those into her gloves, which just about got us to the coffee shop. There, the very kind staff gave us a warm mug of water for her to hold to thaw her hands and we bought hotdogs to fuel our journey home.
It wasn’t our best ever outing, but legs were turned and that can only be a good thing.

An airing

Managed to get a couple of flips round Richmond Park, against all odds. I’m juggling guests and 11+ revision at the moment, as well as wasting a lot of time trying to find somewhere to stay (with kids + childcare) for the Etape. Anyway, a window appeared after lunch, when my husband accidentally found himself taking four children out to try Middle Son’s birthday remote control car. He had intended to just take MS, but our other kids and a French cousin popped themselves in the car expectantly and he didn’t have the heart to unpack them. So that was his challenge.
Mine was to stay motivated for a short run. I did 30k in an hour and 15mins, which is pretty ordinary, although there was quite a stiff wind against. Next challenge, dinner for eight! The pub calls…