Tuesday 30 November 2010

Moving House

About a week ago my wife and I moved house. We did live in Wimbledon in a fairly small flat.
We decided we wanted a bigger place. To keep to roughly the same budget that meant that we had to move further out.

My old commute was 12 miles so I didn’t want to make it too much longer than that. I started looking within a 15 mile radius of Canary Wharf.

In the end we found a great house near Epsom. My cycle ride is now about 18 miles in each direction. It’s basically the same route as I was doing but with 6 miles extra put on the end.

I’ve only done the whole route in both directions twice. At the moment it’s taking about an hour and twenty minutes to about an hour and thirty minutes.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get it down to about 1:15 eventually once I get used to the route and aren’t struggling against a head wind for an hour and a half.

My extra bit of the route is below.

View Larger Map

Winter Cycling Gear

Over the last few weeks the weather has been getting colder, wetter and generally more unpleasant. A few weeks back we had a very cold few days getting down to about 1°C. My T-Shirt and shorts were starting to feel a little inadequate – especially when it was raining.

One day when I was cycling home it was very hard rain and only about 2-3°C and I got very cold. My feet got soaking and so did my gloves.

At this point I invested in some more cycle gear.

Shoes / Gloves

Feet and hands are the areas that tend to get cold first and I find are the most important areas to keep warm. If you have cold hands or feet your cycle is not going to be fun.

Endura Road Overshoes

These are a neoprene type material much like a wet suit and really keep your feet warm and dry even if it is very cold and very wet. In fact my feet were getting too hot at anything over about 5°C.

Highly recommended: link

Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Gloves

These gloves are not waterproof but they are wind proof. They are quite water resistant though so are fine in light rain. They are very light weight and comfortable and do completely cut out any wind. When you are in medium to heavy rain for a long time your hands will get wet.
They are very comfortable and I recommend them for dry weather or light drizzle. When it is too cold or wet they won’t really do.


Shorts and Tops

Altura Reflex Long Sleeve Jersey

I wear this over the top of my T-shirt. I have 5 T-shirts so wear a clean one every day but as this goes over the top I can make it last a bit longer and don’t need to buy loads of them.
It is nice and warm and stretchy so if you have a less than ideal physique it’ll still zip up!
My only complaint would be that it could be a little bit longer at the back as I tend to get a gap between this and my shorts.


Gore Bike Wear Alp-X GT 3/4 Shorts

Before I got this kit I only had short shorts that left my knees exposed. I was once told that if the temperature gets below 10°C you should cover your knees. The knee joint does not feel cold very much but if it gets too cold you will damage it without realising. I wanted 3/4 length shorts to solve this problem.
These shorts are not particularly warm but they are fantastic in the wet. The water just runs off it and when you get home a quick shake and they are bone dry.
I am “big boned” (like Garfield) so find it difficult to get cycle clothing to fit me – especially shorts. Evans make this a bit easier as they have sizing charts for all the different makes of clothing that they sell. Looking at these Gore and Altura did the biggest sizes. As well as these Gore shorts I also ordered some Altura shorts. I chose the Gore and sent the Altura back as the Gore were a bit roomier and more comfortable. They are still a bit tight but manageable and hopefully I’ll lose more weight and they’ll fit better soon enough.


This kit worked pretty well for temperatures down to about 1-2°C for about an hour. My cycle has recently got longer though – up to about one hour and a half. This morning it was cold and wet and snowing and I was cycling into a headwind for about an hour and a half.
My hands got very wet and cold and my legs really were freezing. Oddly enough my thighs were colder than shins despite my thighs being covered and my skins being exposed.

I plan to carry on cycling throughout the winter pretty much whatever the weather so I thought it was worth investing in some more kit.

Gore Countdown Gloves

These gloves are 100% waterproof. They are quite a bit thicker than the other gloves so changing gear and doing up velcro and so on are trickier but on the way home today my hands were super warm and dry. I will still use my other gloves a lot but when it’s really cold or wet these are the gloves I’ll be using.


Gore Bike Wear Power Tights

I was trying to get though my cycling career without buying tights! I have succumbed though and bought these on the way home today. They feel really confortable and I think they will keep me nice and warm. They are not padded so I plan to wear these over my padded undershorts and then wear my other 3/4 length shorts over the top. 3 layers on my legs should keep them as warm as my top half.


I hope that this kit will be enough to keep me going through the winter. I have spent probably £200 - £300 on all this kit but I think it is worth it. I do cycle 36 miles a day and commute to work 3 days a week so I think good cycle gear is important and a worthwhile investment.

All I need now is some more knobbly tyres as I slipped over this morning. My current almost slick tyres really offer no grip at all on non-gritted cycle paths.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Bike Shopping

Although Oliver has served me very well over the past 18 months I am beginning to think that it’s time to upgrade. I have thought for a while that the 57” frame is really too small for me. I’ve also been having some issues with the bottom of the range group set (gears and brakes ect).

Today a new Evans Cycles opened in Wimbledon and they had a 10% discount offer so I went along to have a look. I was looking for another hybrid but I was persuaded to give a proper road bike with drop handle bars a try.

I have to say it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. The test ride was only round the block but it felt pretty good.
The bike I tested was a 58” frame and the sales assistant thought it still looked too small so they have ordered a couple of 60” frame bikes in for me to try.

As I might be moving house and increasing my commute by half as much again a quicker road bike should help me cover the extra miles in as short a time as possible.

Moving House

Linzi (the wife) and I have decided that we need to move house. We’re not very good adults (in fact I don’t think either of us have grown up at all) and need lots of space for all the rubbish we accumulate and never get round to putting away. Our 2 bedroom flat in Wimbledon is too small.

Finding a new place to live is never easy. We wanted somewhere that had 3 bedrooms and was generally a bit bigger – and it had to have good parking for my other hobby. We also needed a place that would be ok with our 2 cats.

These are all pretty normal house buying requirements but I had another one that I really wasn’t going to shift on. It needed to be within cycling distance of Canary Wharf.

This does limit us a bit. A good friend of ours has just bought a house in Woking. This seemed ideal – lots of space, good train service ect but way too far to cycle.

This morning we looked at a place that seems very promising – 3 good sized bedrooms, a garden, garage ect but it’s going to be about an 18 mile cycle. I reckon that’s going to add nearly an hour on to my commuting in a day. Also cycling nearly 40 miles a day is pretty hardcore.

At the moment I am working from home 2 days a week so actually my weekly distance will be around the same as it was when I was cycling 24 miles a day 5 days a week but there is no guarantee that working from home will continue.

How far is too far to commute by bike?

Monday 2 August 2010

No more tubes

For the last 2 weeks I've not been cycling into work but have been getting the train instead. This was in preparation for and recovering from the Big Red Ride.

After last week I was feeling recovered enough to ride again and I was looking forward to getting back on the bike.

The ride this morning was fantastic - it felt really easy. I smashed my record with a ride time of less than 48 minutes. Total time was less than 50:30 despite lots of traffic lights.

Previously my goal was to get the ride time under 50 minutes. I think now I'll have to try and get the door to door time under 50 minutes.

I saw my first London cycle hire bikes this morning but they were all in their docks, I've not seen any being ridden yet.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Big Red Ride Report

Well, I did it! Last Sunday I completed 83 miles cycling from London Blackheath Hill to Eastbourne. The ride took me about 8 and a half hours total.

The ride was tough – a lot harder than I thought it would be and a lot harder than the 53 miles that I did on my London to Brighton ride.

The first 30 – 35 miles were fine. From around 35 miles up to I think about 57 miles it was ALL hills. Literally. I was either struggling up a hill at around 5 or 6 MPH or flying down a hill at around 30 MPH dodging oncoming traffic. Obviously it took a lot longer going up the hills than it did to come back down again.

After about 57 miles the ride was pretty good again apart from one steepish hill and Beachy Head which was a very long but not very steep climb. It was very tough though as it was right at the end and pretty much every part of my body was hurting by then.

The last mile or so was fantastic as it was downhill all the way right to the finish line. It was a real relief to finish.

I was very sore. My legs were sore, my knees were very painful whenever I moved them, my back, arms and neck were sore and could no longer find a pain-free way of sitting on my saddle.

At the finish line the Red Cross provided a masseuse who did help my back. We also got a goody bag with a medal in and a water bottle.

Honestly most of this ride was hell and wasn’t enjoyable. There weren’t that many people either and although I chatted to a few people for a lot of the ride it was just me with no other cyclists visible.

I am not sure I’ll do it again next year. Having said that I should be fitter and have lost more weight by then so it should be easier. I think I will do the London to Brighton Ride net year as it is fairly easy and I think very popular.

I did very well with my sponsorship and was the second or third highest fund raiser and raised a total of £530.

Many thanks to all the people who sponsored me.

This week I have not been cycling as I am still saddle sore. I am really looking forward to getting back on the bike next week though.

There are a few photos of the day here.

Exercise Time: 8:34:56
kcal: 5994
Distance: 83 miles
Average Speed: 11.2
Max Speed: 37.6
Ride Time: 7:18:56

Tuesday 13 July 2010

London to Brighton

As it’s only 2 weeks to go before the Big Red Ride I need to rack up the miles a bit in preparation. Last week I did the Peak District Ride and although it was hilly and hard work it was only just over 40 miles.

As I wasn’t doing anything this weekend I decided to do the London to Brighton ride. This is a popular charity ride that many people take part in. I didn’t do the actual charity ride that was a few weeks ago so it was just me on Sunday but I did follow the same route.

The route generally wasn’t too hilly except for Ditchling Beacon at the end which is very steep, although no worse than the Peak District ride.

I did enjoy the ride but I was quite pleased when it was over. My legs did get pretty tired and were quite sore the next day. I also got pretty uncomfortable on my saddle at about the halfway point.

It has given me more confidence that I’ll be able to do the Big Red Ride but it has also highlighted that it’s going to be tough.

This is taken from the bottom of Ditchling Beacon. You have to climb all the way up to the top of those hills in the distance:

And the view from the top:

Total Time: 5:10.48
Average Heart Rate: 132
Max Heart Rate 169
Kcal 3366
Miles: 53.6
Average Speed: 12.9
Max Speed: 40
Ride time: 4:08.08

Monday 5 July 2010

Evans Ride it – Peak District

Yesterday – Sunday 4th July I did another Evans Ride It event. My first was a few weeks ago when I did the Dorking Downs Run.

The last run I did was the short route, about 30 miles. This run was supposed to be 60 miles which is fairly close to the 80 on the Big Red Ride. If I could do 60 miles then I would be fairly confident that I could do 80. The routes for the Peaks were changed though because of the amount of climbing. The medium route was reduced to 43 miles.

I did think that maybe I could do the long route (about 68 miles) but I am very glad I didn’t.

For most of the route I wasn’t too bad. I had some energy bars and some energy drink which I think must have helped. Up to about 30 miles I was doing ok. There was LOTS of climbing – but mostly it was long not too steep climbs instead of short very steep climbs.

Despite the weather forecast reporting heavy rain I didn’t get rained on at all. The weather did have it’s part to play though and it was INCREDIBLY windy! At the top of one of the 2 huge climbs I actually had to pedal down the other side of the hill just to get to 15 MPH because it was so windy. The wind frequently pushed me off course when it was sideways.

The last 10 miles was really tough. There were a couple of climbs, the first was fairly long but not too steep. The second, in the last 2 miles of the route was short but it was really steep. For the entire 43 miles I didn’t walk at all but I did have to stop about 3 times on that last climb.

My legs were very tired at the end of the ride. I was expecting them to be very sore today but they were actually fine. In fact I broke my record for best time cycling into work today and I think I probably broke my record cycling back as well. I wasn’t really trying to go quick, I just didn’t hold back as I was last week in an effort to save my legs.

The fact that I was still able to cycle today has made me think that the 80 mile ride will be fine. I would like to do a 60 mile ride between now and then but I am running out of weekends. I’ll see if I feel like it this Saturday but it would be nice to just have a relaxed weekend this time round.

View Peak District in a larger map

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Richmond Park

Today I worked from home so was deprived from cycling into and back from work! To make sure my graph keeps going in the right direction I decided to go for a cycle after work.

I finally made it to RIchmond Park. It’s a fantastic place to cycle – very quite, not much traffic, nice and open and it has deer!

It is also quite a challenging ride with some pretty steep gradients. The route I took was about 16.5 miles and a total elevation increase of nearly 1000ft. It’s right on my door stop so a good place to go for a quick ride then the weather is nice.

View Richmond Park in a larger map

Training / Sponsorship update

The sponsorship really is going so much better than I thought it was going to. So far I have raised £460 so thank you very much to everyone who has sponsored me.

My preparation for the sponsored ride is going pretty well. My main preparation is trying to lose weight. I am aiming to lose a total of 40 lbs over 2 months. You can see from this graph that I am losing weight, just not as much as I had planned! I tend to do well during the week but not as well at the weekends. Last weekend for example I was deliberately giving my legs a rest but we had a few meals out…

I’m not concerned though, as long as I still lose some weight that’s fine. what I plan to lose is only a guideline. I have lost a stone in the month since I started.

Chain Woes

Yesterday (Monday) I had another broken chain on the way into work. Luckily I had my new multi-tool with me that actually has a chain breaker on it.
I’d never done it before but I actually managed to fix the chain – kind of… I did manage to get the chain joined up but I had threaded it through the derailleur incorrectly. It worked but it made a horrible noise, then it jammed and didn’t work any more.

I pulled over to fix the chain again – this time though I couldn’t get it back together (I now know the trick of not pushing the pin all the way out). Luckily I was quite close to Evans Clapham so I walked there.
On the way the chain fell off the bike. It was knackered with at least 2 other dodgy links that  could see without even looking for them. I threw the chain away.

Evans opened at 8 and luckily they were able to supply and fit a new chain there and then. I was only about an hour and a half later for work in the end.

The shop did warn me that I might need a new cassette as it wears together with the chain. I didn’t have time for them to fit one in the morning but sure enough the chain kept slipping in the gears that I use most.

Today I bought a new cassette and had it fitted. I think the ratios are a bit lower than the ones I had which is annoying, if anything I would have liked higher. Apart from that the bike is working great again.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Dilemma – upgrade parts or new bike?

Today on the Dorking Downs run I had a few technical issues.

My front wheel bearing seems to have gone so the wheel knocked a lot as it floated around on the worn out bearings. This also meant that I couldn’t get the brakes adjusted very close to the wheel so the brakes didn’t work very well – which was a problem on the long steep descents.

I also had problems with my gears. Shifting on the front gears was not good at all – in fact it wouldn’t change down if I was putting any power through the pedals. Sometimes when I was just spinning the pedals and not actually pushing it still wouldn’t change. This was why I had to walk up one of the hills.
I’ve had issues with the gears before as well, slipping between gears, breaking the chain recently.

Basically I want a whole new gear set up and probably need a new front wheel to match my new rear wheel.

Other things I don’t like about the bike:

  • It’s heavy
  • I don’t like the old style brakes, I would prefer the disc brakes
  • I think it might be a bit small for me

So basically I’m wondering if I should spend a few hundred on upgrading the wheel and gears on my existing bike or bite the bullet and go for a new bike.

Dorking Downs

I did my first organised run today with Evans Ride It. I did the Dorking & North Downs short run. That’s 30 miles which is long for me but the medium is 60 miles and long is 90 miles.

I had originally booked the fun ride which is only 12 miles but a few days ago I decided to do the short. I am glad I did. I do 12 miles twice a day whenever I commute. My only hesitation was that the route was supposed to be very hilly. It really was hilly!

I did enjoy the run although I was counting down how far I had left for most of the day. The hills really were tough. I only walked up one of the hills as I had some problem with my gears and couldn’t get down into the lowest ratio. On the other big ascents I pedalled all the way but was in first gear a lot doing around 5 or 6 MPH.

I am really pleased that I managed to finish the day and it’s given me more confidence about doing the 60 mile Evans run at the start of July and the 80 mile sponsored event at the end of July.

Total Distance: 30 Miles
Top Speed: 30.2 MPH
Total Time: 2:59:50
Average Speed: 10.11 MPH
Moving Time: 2:31:29
Average Moving Speed: 11.92 MPH
Elevation Gain: 2,408 ft
Min Elevation: 301 ft
Max Elevation: 890 ft

New Shoes

On Wednesday I finally got round to getting some proper cycling shoes. I have been meaning to do this for a while. The trainers I have been using have been fairly comfortable but I did used to get sore balls of my feet after a long cycle and my socks tended to bunch up around my toes which was uncomfortable (I also now have some proper cycling socks as well).

I got some Shimano mountain bike shoes. I got the mountain bike shoes as they are easier to walk in when you are not cycling. I also got pedals that have the SPD clips on one side and are normal pedals on the other side.

The shoes felt really comfortable in the shop and I was really looking forward to trying them out properly.

My first ride with the shoes was a bit odd. I was setting off from a part of London that I didn’t know so I got lost. This meant lots of stopping and starting – not very easy when you are getting used to clipping in and out.
The ride home felt odd. I didn’t feel I could get any power through the pedals at higher cadences. I also felt like my toes should point out more.

When I got home I adjusted the cleats so that I was more toe out. On the ride in on Thursday morning the adjustment definitely helped and felt a lot better. For the first few miles it still felt odd but after that it just seemed to click and it felt fantastic!

I can really feel how much these shoes are going to help me. At the moment my legs are feeling more tired than usual as my muscles get used to being used in a slightly different way. When I get used to it though I think that it’s really going to help.

I am getting better at clipping in. Quite a lot of the time my foot just finds the right place by itself and I hear the click as I apply power. Sometime though when I don’t get it first time it can take a long time to get clipped in. As the pedals only have clips on one side sometimes I am trying to clip in on the wrong side as well but this doesn’t happen very often.

I’m glad I’ve finally bitten the bullet and have gone for these.

Monday 7 June 2010

Nightmare Commute

This morning I had pretty much the worse ride in to work I can imagine (I hope I’m not tempting fate by saying that).

The ride started off pretty well – I was going quick and felt strong. When I got to Oval tube I was in the ASL box and in front of other queuing cyclists so when the lights went green I pushed hard to get out of their way. As I was changing up through the gears I heard a ping and the pedals went slack – I had broken my chain!

At this point in my journey I had 6 miles left to get to work and at this time in the morning – around 7:15 there are no cycle shops open.

I started walking…

I was looking out for a taxi but the only ones I saw were on the other side of the road and didn’t see me – or didn’t want to.

After 2 miles in Elephant & Castle a very kind cyclist stopped to try and help me out. He had a chain tool but unfortunately after trying for a while he wasn’t able to fix the chain – it was too fiddly and the link seemed to be damaged. I thanked him for trying to help out. He suggested I go to On Your Bike which by now had opened. I did try and phone them but they said all the mechanics were busy and they wouldn’t be able to look at the bike till lunch.

I carried on walking…

After walking about 3 miles I got to Tower Bridge, only to find it opening. I had to wait until a huge cruise liner went past before it closed again and then had to wait for all the other ambling pedestrians thinned out so I could get past.

I walked some more…

After walking around 5 miles in total I got to the swing bridge on Narrow Street – and guess what, it was opening too!

I only had another mile to go after that. I walked a total of 6 miles and was about 2.5 hours later than I would have been if I hadn’t had the broken chain. I managed to persuade Evans to fix the chain at lunch time.

Luckily my cycle home was without incident. It was actually really good. I was really fast and was flying up the hills.

The Long Way Home

As the first ride as part of my preparation for the Big Red Ride I took a longer route home that usual on Saturday. There were after work drinks on Friday night so I had left my bike at work. On Saturday I got the tube in to ride home.

View London Bridges in a larger map

The route I took was a combination of 2 of the routes in my new eBook: 25 London Cycle Routes. I managed to load the route onto my phone so I could check up where I was whilst I was cycling without needing to take a load of print outs with me. To get gpx files on your android phone I would recommend the Apps My Tracks and Linda Manager ( a file manager).

I enjoyed my cycle. The routes generally worked pretty well. There was one bit where I couldn’t get onto London Bridge using the exact co-ordinates but it was easy enough to work it out when I was there. I was actually running the route backwards which probably didn’t help.

The weather was gorgeous and I covered 20 miles in around 2 hours. I did have to stop quite a bit to check up on my route which was a bit annoying but a phone mount for my bike which I have ordered should sort that.

I saw some lovely bits of London that I would never normally have come across. I even came across 2 of the Elephant Parade elephants on my route (right). I also saw the temple pictured above. I look forward to trying some of the more challenging routes from the ebook.

Next week I have a 30 mile trip planned with Evans. Here’s hoping for good weather. I am looking forward to it.

Sponsorship / Training Update

Sponsorship for my Big Red Ride has gone very well and I am up to £250 so far - £100 more than that amount I had to raise as a minimum. Many thanks to all of you who have generously contributed.

My “training” is going quite well – I’m not really doing proper training but cycling in general is going well and I am getting much stronger and seem to cope with hills much better.

I had my first weight loss target on Saturday. I did miss my target weight by a few pounds but I am not too concerned about that. It doesn’t have a big impact on me reaching my final target. If I even get close to my final target I’ll be very pleased, if I don’t quite make it it doesn’t matter.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Big Red Ride

I realise that I’ve not been blogging on here recently but nothing of much interest has happened. I am still cycling and my bike has now done more than 2200 miles. This week I started cycling again after 3 weeks off because of a cold. My legs felt really strong when I got back on the bike and my average speeds on the way in were 13.9, 14.4 and 14.9 MPH which I’m really pleased with. I am for 15 but rarely get very close.

Anyway, on twitter the other day I saw a link to the Red Cross’ Big Red Ride… and I signed up – for the long one.

So I have agreed to cycle 80 miles from London to Eastbourne at the end of July! This is quite a scary prospect as the furthest I have ever ridden in on go in the past is about 14 miles.

I am not too concerned about my legs, I think they are pretty strong and I hope they will last ok. Riding in the country will be a lot easier than commuting where I have to stop for traffic lights so frequently.
What I am concerned about is getting saddle sore sitting on the saddle for that long and I am concerned about hills which I have never been too good at.

For training I am going to ride a different route to work that has some steeper hills. I am also going to try to loose a good bit of weight. I do this better when I have a target (I might even bore you with some graphs if I get round to doing them).

I have also booked a couple of cycle events organised by Evans Cycles. The first one is only 12 miles but is hilly. The second is less hilly and is 60 miles – close to the distance for the charity run.

How can you help? Well I’m doing this for charity so of course you can help by donating! If people sponsor me then I am going to be far less inclined to give up half way. Please give as much as you can using the widget below or by visiting my just giving page.

Monday 18 January 2010

Back in the saddle

Today was the first cycle of the year. The last time I cycled was on the 11th of December so it’s been over a month.

Overall I a pretty pleased with how well I did – I did manage the full 24 miles all the way in and back but I was pretty tired at the end. On the way out my average speed was still 13.8 which isn’t too bad. My average heart rate is quite a bit higher than it was – compare with 1st September which was a really fast cycle (15.1 average) and my average heart rate was only 139.

On the way back my legs did feel a bit tired and I was definitely struggling more on hills. On the plus side it was much lighter than it was last time I cycled.

The bike feels like it needs a bit of TLC – the gear shifts are a bit sluggish and it feels a bit sticky. The brakes are also a bit loose so I’ve booked it into Evans tomorrow for a service.

O: HRav:146 kCal:773 D:12.1 Av:13.8 Max:21.3 T:52:51.8
R: HRav:140 kCal:809 D:11.9 Av:11.8 Max:22.1 T:1:00:45