Monthly Archives: April 2013

Something beginning with Sh…

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury (Wikipedia Commons)

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury (Wikipedia Commons)

Husband decided we need a new shed. To be fair the one that came with the house is a bit rotten. However, he has been looking wistfully at Steve’s shed at the National Trust Car Park down at Burton Beach for some time now. So this is not going to be any old shed this is going to be a Poultons Heavy Duty Apex shed – like Steve’s.

I was reliably informed that we need to go to Sherborne. Before planning my route I checked the location of the shed place and discovered it is somewhere else beginning with Sh – Shaftesbury. 41 miles and only 4,000 feet of ascent. Just 4 proper hills. In addition there were quite a few ‘flat hills’ as classified by cycling buddy Steve.
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Drug Run

Picture of Lewell Mill, near Dorchester

The very attractive Lewell Mill

I often suffer with cramp particularly after a hard exercise session. It seems to attack me as soon as I relax to go to sleep resulting in me springing out of bed and hobbling around the place much to the amusement of Husband. I also sometimes get cramp at yoga and Alex recommended a homeopathic remedy, Magnesium and phosphate. Well I’m a bit of a sceptic so did nothing about this but miraculously Santa knew I needed these little pills and there was a bottle in my Christmas stocking.

I started using the pills first as a treatment (i.e. whilst hobbling about in agony) and when miraculously it seemed to work, I occasionally remember to take some post exercise as a preventative. It has definitely helped. So to make sure I am prepared for LeJog I decided to make the focus of today’s ride a visit to Galen Homepathics to stock up.

Galen Homepathics is east of Dorchester at Lewell Mill DT2 8AN. (01305 263996). There is no website and they do not accept card payments. However advice is freely given over the phone and it is possible to just call in like I did today. The kindly, white coated pharmacist confirmed that Mag Phos 6 is used as a remedy for cramp so I bought myself £3 worth. While I was at it I got a bottle of Arnica 6 tablets as well – to relieve stress and tiredness.
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Flat on the average!

Picture of author's green Dawes Galaxy touring bike leant against a red fingerpost bearing directions to Chard and Wambrook.

Red signpost close to Wambrook. The reason why some finger posts were painted red was because this marked out the route that prisoners would take on their long march from prison to the docks, where they would be deported to Australia. As many of the prison wardens were illiterate, the signs would tell the wardens that the marching group would need to turn right at the junction.

This being Sunday we have a lie in. It wasn’t raining when I eventually woke up. It was about 1030 when I decided that today I would ride the Audax ‘Coast Roads and Coach Roads’ Permanent 100km. Husband, being helpful, offered to drive me to Uplyme where I could start the circuit. He suggested that to get added value from the day I could ride home after completing the 100km – a further 32km. Audax inform me that this ride attracts 2 altitude points as it is extra hilly.
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Preparing for Scotland?

Dorset gloom

Dorset gloom

It has rained all day and despite the forecast promising that it would stop late afternoon it didn’t. It was also windy and visibility was low.

So at 6pm I decided to put some lights on the bike and just go out up the valley. I would like to ride every day before I start From Lands End on 26th April.

I had a really nice time. OK so it was raining and I couldn’t see very much. But it was quiet. There was no traffic and the air was fresh and clean.

There were daffodils in the cottage gardens and primroses in the hedges. The new lambs at the road side scampered away as I took them by surprise appearing out of the mist. I enjoy these solitary excursions – my mind takes to wandering. I mused that if I was unfortunate enough to encounter such adverse conditions on my E2E adventure it was likely to be in Scotland and I was lucky enough to have had some preparation. How’s that for cup half full!

I went up the Bride Valley staying as low as possible only going up to 600’. This is as close as I can get to a flat ride locally with 1453’ of ascent in the 18 miles. It would have been unsafe to have gone on the B3157 Coast Road in such low visibility. I almost squeezed 20 miles out of my little jolly and I was very pleased to have been out.

Details of the ride can be found here.

Galaxy Test Drive

The newly refurbed Galaxy on test drive

The newly refurbed Galaxy on test drive

It was good to be back out on the bike after 2 weeks off. Over Easter we had been away camping and sea kayaking on the Isles of Scilly and I had returned from that with a nasty virus which made even walking up the stairs exhausting. I picked up the Galaxy from Toby of Pedals and Paddles after its refurb ready for LeJog and this was it’s first outing.

The bike was good. It felt solid which I suppose is because of a new bottom bracket. I have got new 25mm tyres to replace the 28mm and they are much quieter and maybe a bit quicker. It was very nice to have a silent drive train.
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Fitness testing

Cycle erg measuring excercise capacity

Cycle erg measuring excercise capacity

I have spent the last 2 days at Kings College London at the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Science, taking part in a research project. The study title is, ‘Defining the benchmark for optimal human ageing’. They are trying to find out more about how much the body changes as a result of the ageing  process and the optimal level of physical activity that is needed to allow us to age without being affected by the negative effects of inactivity.

I signed up for this research project a few months ago and it was a coincidence that my testing dates are not long before the start of the big LeJog ride.

The research project is making a detailed study of healthy cyclists who undertake as much physical activity as could reasonably be expected.  The study is testing the relationship between age and physiological function in vigorous exercisers.
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What to wear and what to take.

Enough gear for 16 days riding

Enough gear for 16 days riding

The winter through 2012/2013 has been very cold and we have got used to cycling in a lot of gear. I will be taking plenty of thermals, long trousers, and a big jacket. This together with double gloves, buff, beanie for under my helmet, and overshoes should keep out the worst of the weather.  The extra thermals will double up as evening wear. I might take some shorts.

The gear will go into Ortlieb backroller panniers and an Ortlieb front box mounted on the handlebars.
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Planning for Lands End to John O’ Groats.

The green Galaxy. Oldbat's steed for Lands End to John O' Groats.

The green Galaxy. Oldbat’s steed for Lands End to John O’ Groats.

The basic ideas were sorted out.  There were two cyclists – Steve and the oldbat.  We had known each other for a year or so and had cycled a few thousand miles together. We were pretty sure we are compatible on and off the bike.

My bike is an old Dawes Galaxy with the standard Deore group set.  A few weeks before the start date I have it refurbished by my friend Toby Willcocks.  Toby replaces the tyres, bottom bracket, cassette, chain, some cables and brake blocks. Everything else has been checked and deemed fit for purpose.  The new tyres are Schwalbe Durano 25mm. My bike has mud guards, a rear pannier rack and a front box. It has lights, 2 bottle cages, a small pump, and a mount for my Garmin Edge 800.  It has straight handlebars with Ergon grips.  I quite like it but it is rather heavy.  I will be keeping the weight in the panniers down to a minimum.
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More recently. October 2012 to April 2013. (2)

In the summer of 2012 I had enjoyed increasingly longer day rides and had gained experience in looking after my bike and eating and drinking whilst out riding.  I had some experience in riding in a group.  The attraction of cycling Lands End to John O’ Groats had been the reason why I started cycling about 18 months previously and I started to formulate a plan to realise this ambition.  This was to be my trip.  My route, my time-table.  I didn’t want to join a commercial trip and I was attracted to the idea of just going on my own so I had no one else to consider.  Camping would release me from a strict itinerary and I had the idea of just pottering along at about 100 miles a day and putting my tent up wherever I happened to find myself when I had ridden far enough.  I had a nice little tent and other lightweight camping equipment from trekking adventures.

October 21st 2012 was quite a nice dry day and I woke up early.   I spontaneously decided to go off on a 100 mile ride round Dorset.  I went east to Poole and that way reduced the amount of elevation.  I got my eating wrong, by having that urge to keep going just a bit longer and seriously ‘ran out of sparks’ at about 70 miles. It took a while to restore energy levels and I got quite cold.  However I finished strongly and even rode past our road end to tip the clock over the 100 miles rather than finishing on 99.

After this ride I changed my ideas on my E2E (End 2 End).  Riding alone has its attractions but having a buddy to share the wind and the decisions is also good.  100 miles in a day is OK occasionally but doing that distance every day for a couple of weeks is not so much fun.  The idea of riding all day and then wild camping in my minuscule tent was also losing its attraction.  Time for a rethink of the plan.

My regular cycling buddy Steve had taken part in a large scale charity ride from John O’ Groats to Lands End a few years previously.  He had also done many other tours over the years both in the UK and abroad.  Crucially he had not cycled the whole of the West Coast of Scotland.  I had been bouncing my E2E plans off Steve as they were formulating and although he didn’t say so, he had considered my original plan of riding 100 mile days, on my own and wild camping, as been a bit ‘out there’ and a trip he wouldn’t be interested in doing.

Initially Steve thought he would like to join me at Keswick and cycle Scotland with me and then he decided we might as well do the whole thing together.  Time for some detailed planning.

Steve and I decided to try to maintain our cycling fitness over the winter and aimed at 100 miles a week minimum.  We did quite well with this to begin with and in late November an opportunity presented itself to ride from Cornwall back to Dorset.  Daylight was the restricting factor but we rode 86 miles with 8,600’ of ascent across Dartmoor and the East Devon coast. We were still fit.

Wintry conditions near Minterne Magna February 2013

Wintry conditions near Minterne Magna February 2013

The weather through the winter was extremely wet.  We were out on the touring bikes on wet muddy lanes a lot of the time but most weeks we exceeded the 100 mile target.  We were lucky to be free from the daily commitment of working and so could usually take advantage of the occasional dry day.

In December 2012 I joined Audax.
I decided that taking part in some local events would be a good way of helping to keep motivated to do longer rides and would also mean I would discover new routes in the South West.

January 2013 was cold, wet and windy and the 100 miles a week target was not achieved. The roads were often icy and Steve had a bad fall on an icy road.

We were aware of the first Audax ride looming up, the Glastonbury 100 miler from Honiton on 16th February.  The day of the event was dry, cold but sometimes sunny and 60 riders enjoyed a grand day out.  Steve had a puncture but apart from that we completed in a very respectable time and enjoyed it.  Audax events are non-competitive. (Yeah right.)

The following week Steve was busy being a gorilla (star turn at a Grandson’s birthday party) so I went along to the Primrose Path 100k Audax event by myself.  It was a very cold day with ice around but it remained dry.  I was riding my Dawes Galaxy and by riding steadily and keeping stop times to a minimum I was able to complete successfully.  This was a very hilly ride from Corscombe in Dorset and attracted Audax AAA points. At this stage I do not have any understanding of the Audax awards or the acronyms.

Mountain biking above Abbotsbury March 2013

Mountain biking above Abbotsbury March 2013

On 3rd March Steve and I did the Audax Coast and Quantocks from Exeter.  This was my first 200k ride.  Again it was cold and dry but following the strategy of keeping going steadily, eating regularly but keeping stop times to a minimum we completed successfully and much quicker than many much more experienced riders.  In these first three Audax rides I noticed that there are very few women riders.

March 27th was my first effort up Abbotsbury Hill of the year.  It doesn’t get any easier.  The following day I had an opportunity for a one way ride from Liskeard in Cornwall down to Penzance. This was 75 miles with 7,000’ of ascent.  This was quite a tough ride on a cold and windy day but I do love a journey.

The following week was spent sea kayaking and camping on the Isles of Scilly which brings me to the present.  Unfortunately I have a virus which has laid me low. The only silver lining is that it gives me time to get this blog up and running as I have no energy to do very much else. It’s a shame really because it’s a sunny day and is much warmer than it has been so far this year and I would just love to be out on my bike.

More recently. October 2011 to October 2012. (1).

In the Autumn of 2011 I carried on riding.  I rode from home to Bude on my own one day. A hilly 92 miles.  I still rode on my own a lot but increasingly went out with Steve.  Steve is a very experienced cyclist and he gently passed on top tips and encouragement giving me more confidence.  With him I started tackling bigger hills.  Getting out of Lyme Regis was a turning point.  I started to believe that I could climb hills. Eggardon became a part of most rides now – though I still avoided the coast road and the dreaded Abbotsbury Hill.

During the winter of 2011/2012 my Roubaix was stripped down – thoroughly cleaned and put in the loft and out came the old Ribble.  Surprise surprise – the Ribble could go up hills too. It wasn’t as comfy or as fun but I was riding it much better. December found me success on Portesham Hill – almost as steep and as long as Abbotsbury.  Steve said I could get up anything now!!!

Through the winter of 2011/2012 I continued to ride around the local hilly roads in West Dorset.  I also went to spinning classes at Bridport Leisure Centre through the winter.   In the early part of 2012 I didn’t ride very much and it wasn’t until April 2012 when I brought the Specialised Roubaix down from the loft that I began to ride regularly again.  I diary note from this time records that 21 miles felt like a very long way.

At the end of April I had a notable a ride on a 72 miles circuit around North Somerset with two friend of Steve, Derek and Ted.  Ted was on a Dawes Super Galaxy as he was preparing for  a tour across the Pyrenees.  It was a cold wet day and the pace was slow due to Teds weighty bike and also due to multiple punctures.  More lessons learned.

I changed my tyres to Continental Gatorskin and from 23mm to 25mm.  These tyres have proved to be very puncture resistant and the extra 2mm does not seem to make any difference to my speed.

At the end of May I rode 108 miles in a day.  There is an annual ride organised by Dorset Air Ambulance from Watchet to West Bay.  To solve the problem of getting to Watchet in the first place I decided to ride both ways.  It was quite a chilly windy day.

Finishing the Dorset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast ride 20/5/2012

Finishing the Dorset Air Ambulance Coast to Coast ride 20/5/2012

The ride up to Watchet early in the morning on my own was not as much fun as the ride back in company with the other cyclists and at times benefiting from drafting behind groups of large men.   A few days after this ride Steve coaxed me up the dreaded Abbotsbury hill.  A big tick in the box for me.  Its not that its amazingly steep – only 17% – its just a long hill with the steepest part towards the top.  A month later in June 2012 I was up it again – without Steve holding my hand.

Around this time I found a deserving home for the old Ribble racer. The partner of one of my daughters is a very good runner but had reached a stage in his life, at the grand old age of 21, when 100 mile weeks were starting to take their toll and he was thinking about cross training.  Here you are Steve – (another Steve) – have my old bike – that will get you started.

So for a winter bike I decided that I needed something that I could also tour on.  Ted – who was on the North Somerset ride– had recently returned from crossing the Pyrenees and he had a Dawes Super Galaxy.  This seemed like a suitable way to go and I found a Dawes Galaxy on ebay for £150.  It was well used and very filthy.  Crucially, husband – though not interested in riding – was becoming interested in bikes as machines and this turned into a bit of a project for him. With quite a lot of TLC the Green Galaxy became my winter bike and also a machine I could plan to touring on.

Our good friends Dave and Kelly have done some very long tours.  Their most recent – before baby Iris put in an appearance was from Argentinia to Mexico..  I talked to them about their bikes and their gear.  The Galaxy had straight bars which were new t me but after talking to Dave I decided to get some Ergon grips and try the straight bars.  Although the choice of riding position is limited I have found the straight bars to be quite comfortable.  I also followed their advice on Ortileb panniers and a front box.

Towards the end of the summer of 2012 my weekly distances were increasing.  I went on some notable rides.  The first was 80 miles on the South Somerset Way with Steve.The second was a 72 miles tour around the Isle of Wight with Steve Ted and Derek.. The third was a ride from home to Burgh Island in the South Hams of Devon – I enjoyed this solo 82 mile one way journey a lot.

At the end of August Steve and I were out on the Specialised and got caught out in heavy rain with flash floods.  I comment in my diary that it is good that Steve is as mad as me.  The day after we were out again this time in sunshine and my back hub started making very strange noises.  We limped home to discover that the ball bearings had corroded and the adjustable race was badly pitted and scored.  This was a revelation to me.  I had no idea that there were parts of a new (ish) bike that would disintegrate and need replacing.

The Specialized was repaired and thoroughly serviced in the next couple of days by husband just in time for me to participate in my first Sportive.  The Moor 2 Sea event started at Haldon racecourse near Exeter.  The route was 66 hilly miles across Dartmoor and back along the South Devon Coast.  I rode well and enjoyed the day.  I was starting to learn what suited my body in terms of food and hydration on long events and realising that getting this right was very important to enjoying longer rides.