Friday 5 June 2015

Psycle Canary Wharf - spin class with a difference

This morning I was woken up by an almighty crash of thunder... closely followed by more very impressive thunder and lightning. At this point it wasn't actually raining and I was still planning on cycling to work however, just as I was digging out my cycling kit it started raining - biblical rain so I decided to have a shower and get the train into work (of course by the time I got out of my shower it stopped raining and cycling would have been fine). This presented a good opportunity to try a new spin class outfit that has just opened in Canary Wharf.

What I was hoping for was something similar to the class that DC Rainmaker covers in this post - a high tech class where power and cadence are measured and displayed on monitors at the front of the class and you can then take the data and add it to Strava / Garmin Connect or whatever.
I think I was hoping for a bit too much here as this isn't what I got. It's still worth a look though.

First off this is on exercise bike - not Wattbikes but normal spin bikes. They are pretty good but not Wattbikes. You can bring your own shoes along with SPDs or if you don't have any they supply shoes so everyone is clipped in. They also supply towels and have a very nice changing room with shaving foam, razors, nice shampoo ect ect.

I was immediately impressed when I went into the studio and found my bike. There was cool lighting and some really good high energy music playing loud enough but not too loud - although I did find it a bit hard to hear the instructor over the music occasionally despite the microphone she had strapped to her head.
The music really got me in the right mood and despite having a poor night's sleep (and this class starting at 7:30) I was wanting to get started and started pedaling before the class began - which I regretted later.

Laura was taking my class and was very welcoming and friendly - in fact all the staff were from the girl at reception to the girl that helped me find my bike. The class started and it was immediately out of the seat - in fact I don't think that Laura used her seat AT ALL!

I was probably a bit foolish to expect that I would be OK doing this class - I ride up to 180 miles a week and have fairly impressive power scores on my Strava Power curve but I REALLY struggled.
I think I went to hard too early, or rather was pedaling too fast too early. My heart rate was over 170 (I very rarely get over 170 at all) for about the first 10 minutes of the class. 10 minutes in I realised that I wouldn't be able to keep that up and sat down for a bit and took it easy until my heart rate recovered (but only slightly).

Looking around at the other people in the room I can pretty much guarantee that I would be able to get higher power outputs for longer than almost any of them - and they were faring much better than me!
I really struggled to keep my cadence low enough. I think initially I was probably around 100 or over most of the time. This is probably getting on for double what most other people were doing. We were also out of the saddle the WHOLE time which I am really not used to. My legs felt fine for the whole class when I was sat down. It was being out of the saddle for so long that killed me!

I don't think that the class is really aimed at cyclists. It does give you a whole body workout and you do press ups on the handlebars on the bike for example, you also have some little weights (2KG for me which was towards the heavier end) that you use at the end.

I had a really good workout - nearly 900 Kcal in 45 minutes. My upper body is feeling like it's had a workout as do my quads. My quads never feel tired after the gym normally!
I actually think that I probably burnt more calories than that. 900 Kcal is a fairly normal commute in or out of work for me and I worked a lot harder here. As there was no power meter though there is no way of actually knowing how much work I did.

So will I go again?

  • Great workout, exercising in a completely different way from on my bike
  • Very friendly & helpful staff
  • Great studio
  • Really good playlist
  • all over body workout
  • I was hoping to get a digital record of my workout. Power, cadence, speed ect. I got heart rate from my Garmin vivofit but that was it.
  • Some of the time when we were moving from side to side and front to back on the bike it didn't feel too stable. The bike was moving around. For most people I am sure this would be fine but as I am currently about 230lb the bike was moving more than I would have liked
  • The weights that we were given got in the way of the handlebars on the bike (you kept them in one of the bottle holders) and fell off a couple of times during the session so I had to get off and go and retrieve.
  • Pretty expensive - £20 for a single session but you can get this down to about £16 if you buy a lot at once.
  • Towels didn't work (OK, that was probably just because I didn't stop sweating profusely until about an hour after the session. Towel was actually very good).
Even though this isn't really targeted at cyclists I think it will massively improve my fitness if I go regularly. It's a great option if you don't want to cycle for some reason.

I think that I will probably go again. I might even try and swap a days cycling for this once a week for a while. It is a shame that it's so expensive though, particularly when I'll be spending more that day on public transport as I won't be cycling in.

Monday 17 June 2013

Sponsored ride update: 1 down, 1 DNF, 2 to go.

By now I should have completed 2 of my 4 2013 sponsored rides unfortunately though that is not the case!


For the first week in June I was preparing for Nightrider and really looking forward to it. I was taking it easy on my normal commuting rides (partly to recover from King of the Downs, partly to be rested for Nightrider), I cut down on the number of my commuting rides and I was also staying up much later at night to get my body clock prepared for my late night ride. On Thursday night I stayed up till midnight and got up at 9. On Friday night I stayed up till 4 and slept till 12.

On Saturday night I was ready and raring to go. My wonderful support crew Linzi dropped me off and at 10:30 I was ready to go well ahead of my 11:10 start time. The event was running a little ahead of time so I was able to start a bit earlier than my allotted time. We had a brief talk about safety and then we were off, along a short access road out of Crystal palace, up to a junction with a main road and off down the first hill. I was really looking forward to my cycle through London through the middle of the night.

Whilst going down this hill, HALF a mile into the ride there was a very loud bang and my rear tyre was completely flat. I managed to stop the bike without falling off and was grateful that I had 3 spare inner tubes on me and a spare tyre - I felt very well prepared. Unfortunately though that wasn't going to help me. My actual wheel had broken, the steel rim had come away from the rest of the wheel...

Well, I didn't have a spare wheel on me! The mechanics at the start point didn't have a spare wheel either so there was nothing I could do - I had to give up. Without a rear wheel I couldn't do the route. I couldn't even wheel my bike along as the broken rim was rubbing on the brakes.

I was really disappointed by this, utterly gutted. This was the ride that I was looking forward to the most. I am doing Nightrider in Paris later in the year but I don't know Paris, it's not my city so it's not as special.

Anyway, these things happen. Time to move on...

London to Brighton

Next up in my series of rides was London to Brighton (L2B). This is the 4th time I've done this ride (the 3rd time I've done it for the British Heart Foundation). It's a nice ride that's not too hard - other than the final hill Ditchling Beacon. I made similar preparations for this ride as I did for Nightrider, took my commuting rides a bit easy and took a few less rides.

Linzi had done a great job putting together a T-shirt for me with Alastair on the front and with a list of all my rides on the back. I do these rides because I enjoy them but I am really pleased to be able to raise money for the BHF in Alastair's memory. This T-shirt lets people know why I am doing the rides.

I had been lucky enough to get a 6:00 AM start which was great as there would be less traffic on the route, it did mean a 4:30 alarm though to give me enough time to get up, get the bike ready, cycle the 10 miles to the start and get there 30 minutes before the start. This didn't quite work out and I was a little bit later than I wanted getting to Clapham Common at about 5:45. There was already a pretty big queue:

I got started at about 6:10 once all the people in front of me got through the narrow gate at the exit of Clapham Common. There were a lot of people in front of me but after 5 miles or so they thinned out quite a bit.

I had a great ride and really enjoyed it. I felt really strong and was going pretty quick for the whole 53 miles. Even right at the end after the tough ascent of Ditchling Beacon I was able to do a sprint finish getting up to 29 MPH to finish in about 10 seconds short of 3 hours 30 minutes. About 30 minutes better than last year.
You can see how many people I was passing during the ride in this time lapse video I uploaded:

For anyone that's interested you can see the full details from this ride on Strava:

That's about it for now. The next ride is the 100 mile London ride in early August. I am planning on doing a 75 mile ride around 3 weeks before that in preparation. I'll do another update after the London 100 as that one is going to be a bit of a challenge. 100 miles is a long way and will be the longest I've ever ridden.

If you haven't sponsored me yet and would like to please visit my Just Giving page:

Monday 3 June 2013

2013 Sponsorship and Training update

Well the sponsorship effort is going pretty well so far so thank you to everyone who has donated. I have raised £970 of my chosen target of £1000 so far so very close to reaching it. I am confident that by the time I have completed all my events I'll get there.

Yesterday (Sunday) I did my first and only proper training ride this year. This was The King of the Downs, a ride organised by Evans cycles that I did last year. It is a 55 mile ride with 5 tough hills. This is actually probably tougher than all of my rides except for the 100 mile ride in August.
I was really pleased with my performance on the ride. I managed to shave nearly half an hour off my moving time (4ish hours down to 3 and a half) from last year and pretty much an hour off my total time. This was largely because I only stopped once and didn't walk up any of the hills.
As well as improvements in the overall time I got much better times on all the hills in the ride. This is not really a surprise as I am over 40lbs (about 18 kgs) lighter this time round than last year. That is quite a lot of extra weight to haul up the hills so I had a big advantage this time!
The ride details are here if you want a look:

Other than this ride I haven't done any specific training at all but I have been doing my normal commute to work - this is up to 180 miles a week if I ride all 5 days. In a normal week I will cycle all 5 days.
In May there was a challenge on Strava to do 1000km in one month. I thought that I was going to reach this but missed by only about a day's commute! Too many bank holidays and things to get to after work! I shouldn't have a problem getting to 1000km in June though with all my charity rides.

This Saturday is the first charity ride. It's the London Nightrider which I am really looking forward to. Last year was great fun and I hope it'll be just as good this year.
The weekend after that is the London to Brighton ride which I am looking forward to as well. I've got a nice early start (6:00 AM) so shouldn't have problems with traffic getting in my way.

I think the weekend after that I'll have a bit of a rest after 3 weekends filled with 50 mile plus rides!

That's it for now. I'll do another update and let you know how the first lot of charity rides go.

Sunday 28 April 2013

2013 Sponsored Ride Update

Hello! (if there are any other readers left out there).

I am resurrecting the blog to update you on my sponsored rides that I am doing in 2013 (and hopefully persuade a few of you to sponsor me!).

Since my last update in 2011 I've cycled very nearly 10,000 miles on my new bike (although really not very new anymore) and have lost over 50 lbs so am now slightly less of a Big Bloke on a Bike!

2012 was a difficult year for my wife and I as my father in law died very unexpectedly in February at the age of 60. He had a heart condition which we did know about but had no idea how serious it was.

In 2012 I cycled in support of the British Heart Foundation in memory of Alastair and I will be doing so again in 2013. Last year I managed to raise a massive £1697 thanks to many friend's and families generosity.

Me after the 2012 London Nightrider

Alastair's death was a huge shock to all of us and obviously caused a lot of upheaval in the McNair family. He was a wonderful man and we all miss him very much. I hope that by supporting the BHF I can help to prevent this happening to another family.

This year I am upping the bar a little and will be doing 4 events totaling 277 miles!

These events are:

  • Nightrider London 8th June - 100 KM (62 miles) round London starting at around midnight 
  • London to Brighton 16th June - 53 miles from Clapham Common to Brighton 
  • London 100 4th August - 100 miles starting at the Olympic park, round the Olympic cycle route on closed roads finishing on the Mall 
  • Nightrider Paris 21st September - 100 KM (62 miles) round Paris starting at around midnight This is quite a step up from the 2 events that I did last year. 

100 miles in one ride is a long way so I need to prepare for this. The first two rides should be fairly easy without any preparation and they will be good preparation for the long ride in themselves. I am also doing King of the Downs the week before Nightrider. That's a 115 mile or 50 mile ride over 10 big hills around the Epsom Downs. I'll be doing the shortened 50 mile, 5 hill ride and then hopefully recover in time for Nightrider the following week.

Between London to Brighton (which is the week after Nightrider) and the London 100 I've got nearly 2 months. I've got a couple of free weekends then so I'm planning on doing a 75 mile or so to get ready for the big 100.

So far I've not really done any specific training. I've had 3 weeks back on the bike after being ill for a few weeks. In those 3 weeks I've done over 500 miles which is some pretty good training, particularly as I had some very strong head winds.

Anyway, I think that'll do for now. I'll try to post updates with how I am doing in my preparations for the big ride.

If you would like to donate to the British Heart Foundation and make all I am doing worthwhile please visit my just giving page here:

Sunday 29 May 2011

New Bike Update / Box Hill

I have now had my new bike for about 2 weeks. In that time I’ve done nearly 200 miles.

Generally I love the bike and it is making my commute an awful lot easier and I’m saving up to about 20 minutes each way!

On my hybrid my goal was to average 15 MPH on the way into work which equated to a moving time of just over 1 hour and 10 minutes and a total time of around 1 hour 20 up to about 1 hour 30.
I only managed to average 15 MPH 2 or 3 times.

My goal on the new bike is to average 17 MPH and I have done this twice and it wasn’t incredibly difficult! My ride time these 2 times was 1 hour and 3 minutes with total time around 1 hour and 7 minutes.

The bike is SO much easier to pedal. You do notice a hill or a headwind but just push on the pedals a bit harder and you fly up the hill!

Today I did a 25 mile route on the bike including Box Hill. This is the longest I have ridden on the bike in one go and the saddle was fine. My arms and shoulders did get quite tired as they are still getting used to the new riding position. Generally on my commute my arms are ok so they are definitely getting used to the new bike gradually.

I was pretty pleased with the Box Hill climb today. I did Box Hill last year on an Evans Ride. I say in that blog that the hills were tough and that I was in the lowest gear a lot doing 5 MPH. Today the ascent wasn’t easy – particularly the start which was hovering around a grade of 7 – 8% but I was doing around 7 or 8 MPH most of the time not 5 or 6 (which I know is a small difference but it’s a significant one). What is more significant is that I didn’t have to use my Granny gear at all and stayed in the middle gear for the whole cycle.
The start of the ride was quite tough as I was battling against a headwind of 16 MPH gusting to 32MPH!

Here is the ride details in full:

So, in summary: I am loving the new bike and wish I’d got it sooner!

Sunday 15 May 2011

Garmin 800

When I got my new bike I also got a new bike computer. A Garmin 800. I’ve wanted one of these for quite a while but as they are pretty expensive I’ve not got round to getting one. When I bought my new bike I could get a discount on any accessories I ordered so it made sense to get buy it at the same time.

My last cycle computer had many of the features that the 800 does:

  • Speed
  • distance
  • Cadence
  • heart rate
  • calories
  • heart rate limits

It kept records of the last 8 rides that I had done with distance, average and max speed and cadence ect but that was it, it only recorded totals and averages not details of the route itself.

The Garmin 800 records all of the same data but it records all these points for the whole ride so that you get graphs of all these over the ride along with a map of where you have been. The Garmin also records temperature and elevation. It also calculates calories more accurately using heart rate.

All this data is uploaded to a website and you can share the page with anyone you would like in many different ways.

Here is a sample ride that I did today:

If you click on View Details you’ll see all the information recorded. There are graphs of Speed, Elevation, Heart Rate, Cadence and Temperature. If you click on player you can plot 2 of these data sets against each other and play the route back.

If you upload all your rides you can also get reports of miles per week over the last year for example.

I am a gadget geek and like quantifying things. I like getting all this data about my rides. I also like knowing how hot it is when I am out for a ride and knowing what grade I am currently going up or down.

As well as all this data you get the cycle computer is a full blown sat nav that you can use to navigate home or to navigate cross country through a track through a forest.
If I do another Evans ride I can download a GPX file before that ride. I can then upload it to my cycle computer and then just follow the directions on the cycle computer rather than have to look out for arrows and rely on maps (which didn’t always work).

Another feature is a virtual training partner that you can race against. This can either be a previous recorded route that you are doing again and you want to race yourself the last time you did it or you can just set a speed that the virtual partner will stick to.

The computer is also very configurable. On the timer pages you can display up 10 different data fields from a selection of about 50! My first page is set up like this:

This shows:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Average Speed
  • Heart Rate
  • Cadence
  • Grade

These are all the fields that I am most interested in as I am cycling along to see how I am performing.

My second timer screen looks like this:

This shows:

  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Calories burnt
  • Time elapsed
  • Temperature
  • Time of day

These are fields that I only want to look at a few times on my ride. I include Speed and Distance again as these are the 2 most important and I always want to see these,

I could if I wanted to set up another 2 screens like this but this is plenty for me.

There are also a whole load of other things that you can do with the computer but these are the features that I am most interested in.

I’m really pleased with the computer and I look forward to it telling me in a years time how my weekly mileage has varied over the winter for example and to keep track of my performance on routes which I do a lot such as my commute.

Scott Speedster S30

Yesterday I picked up my new bike. A Scott Speedster S30. In the tradition of naming Oliver I had to name this bike as well. As he is a Scott Linzi (my Scottish wife) suggested Angus so Angus it is.

I had originally wanted an S35 which is a UK version of the S30. I think all it adds is mounts for mud guards. I don’t think I am going to be adding mud guards to this bike and there were no S35s in stock anywhere so an S30 in fine. I have added a pannier as I need it to take stuff into work but I plan to use Oliver when it’s very wet or icy in the winter so mudguards on this bike are less important.

When I picked the bike up from bikelab the pannier had already been added and the bike had already been setup for me based on my bike fit that I had done last week. I had also asked for SPD pedals for my cycle shoes and for a couple of water bottle cages.

I had also ordered a Garmin Edge 800. I had wanted a cycle computer like that for a long time. I did have a plan to write an application that did most of the same things for my phone but I just never got time and it would have never been quite as good. Ordering this with the bike meant that I could negotiate a discount so it was sensible to order at this point.

I was a bit nervous about riding a proper drop handle bar road bike. I was concerned about a few things with a road bike:

  • bent over riding position causing legs to hit gut all the time
  • sore back from being bent over so far
  • saddle comfort
  • gears not low enough to cope with hills

I still struggle with hills a little more than most cyclists as I still have a bit more ballast than most to lug around.

I had possibly foolishly decided to cycle back from bikelab on my brand new bike that I was not used to. I also took a bit of a detour through Richmond Park:

The route was about 11 miles all in so long enough to work out how well I was going to get on with the bike.

I was surprised how well I got on right from the off. Bikelab had obviously done a great job setting the bike to my requirements. The bike also felt really easy to ride, the power train felt much smoother and much easier to get the power to the road.

Pretty much all of my concerns were unfounded. I’ve done about 27 miles on the bike since I got it and have been very surprised with the saddle comfort. In fact I think my backside is more comfortable on this bike than my hybrid! My back has also been fine and my gut doesn’t get in the way at all!

I have gone up a few inclines, the steepest of which was 6% and I have still not had to go down into the lowest front sprocket so I still have some low gears in reserve for steep hills like Ditchling Beacon that I am going to come across on my charity ride.

The only problem I am having on the bike is getting sore hands and arms. My hands are already adapting and I didn’t have a problem with them today but my triceps are getting quite sore. They’re not used to my arms reaching so far forward and taking some of my weight. I am pretty sure that this will get better quite quickly.

I am also not quite as confident nipping through traffic as I feel a little unstable because of the sensitive steering.

I did a second ride on the bike today:

I was marginally quicker on this route than I was on the hybrid but only by about 5 seconds! I am actually quite pleased with this though as today on the road bike it was quite windy and I had half my rear brake on for the first half of the ride. My legs were also pretty sore from a hard ride I had on Thursday and the rides I have done since then. I should be able to go much quicker when I am better prepared.

I am very happy with my new bike and am looking forward to comparing my commuting times on it compared to my hybrid.