Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Day 1: Brix to Bayeux

Posts about other days on this tour: 

On Saturday morning, we needed to be ready to leave the Ibis Hotel at 8.15am. Gordon and Martin* would lead us all to Brix for the Official Tour Start at 9am. 

We woke at our usual time of 6.15am and set about showering, dressing and packing. We had found out the night before that breakfast options in the hotel would be severely limited (i.e. only croissants, which I can't eat) so we would need to seek out breakfast elsewhere. Also, our bicycles were locked in the beverages storage room in the hotel, a factor we had to account for as we packed. 

At 7am, we presented ourselves to the McDonald's next door, to find the driver of a delivery truck the only sign of life. Aha, the sign on the door said it opened at 7.30. Half an hour is an awkward period to fill, when you are mostly packed up but can't retrieve your bicycle yet to finish off and load up. So we watched a little television (what?!) and then went back. 

Three cyclists were inside, having already ordered and sat down. Ironically, they were the only ones in the entire group I did not know at all**. We exchanged nods and smiles. Our main focus of attention however was this -- 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Bike Sizing: Stack And Reach

When it comes to bike size and fit, the industry has suddenly started talking a new language. And high time too. 

I am flying out to Oregon in a few weeks and for the first time intend to cycle while I'm there. Details are still to be confirmed but one option I've been looking into is hiring ('renting' for the Americans) a road bicycle from a bike shop. But my bitter experience has taught me that stock sizes provided by mainstream manufacturers simply do not fit me. Nonetheless, I have indulged in two short periods of daydreaming about renting a bicycle utterly different from my own, just for the sake of it. 

As it happens, the only two models of bicycle available for me to hire are
  • the Raleigh Capri (year/model and precise build not known)

the 2015 Raleigh Capri Carbon 1 (not available in the UK)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Fridays' Tour de Normandie 2015 -- Prologue

Posts about other days on this tour: 

The tour officially started 9am on Saturday in Brix, Normandy -- about 15km from the Cherbourg ferry. However, as almost all of the 31 people in the group were booked onto the same ferry and 21 of those into the same hotel (about 8km from the ferry) on the Friday night, Simon (the organiser) and Susie (his wife and co-conspirator) met us off the ferry and led us through Cherbourg all the way to our hotel. Simon & Susie had come over a day or two beforehand and were staying elsewhere (probably for the peace and quiet!)

Our day started at 10am when we set off to catch the train from Luton to Portsmouth, via East Croydon. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

N+1 -- or, The London Town Bike Revolving Door

There's a story to be told -- actually, 2-3 stories -- and these will follow in due course but I'll lay the groundwork now with a few announcements: 

Astrid the Viking will be retired before next winter. 

Astrid has done surprisingly well in the role of London Town Bike but she has one fatal weakness and I have another vision for her. This won't be pursued until next winter, at which time I will give a long-term review.

I've acquired another Puch Princess, in astonishingly original condition. (One careful lady owner from new, etc etc.)

In a few weeks' time, she will look somewhat different. (As will Lorelei.)

Monday, 18 May 2015

Making Lemonade -- or, Escaping from the Great Escape

I am not entirely new to the world of audax but I have yet to complete one "successfully", that is, within the time limits with a fully completed brevet card.  

Coming into yesterday's event, my audax CV (résumé for the Americans) consisted of just two attempts:  the Flitchbikes 100 from Great Dunmow, Essex, in June 2011 and the For Those Who Don't Do Hills 100 from Polegate, East Sussex, in April 2012.  On the Flitchbikes 100, I rode my Surly Cross Check and finished out of time, mostly due to an unexpectedly long lunch break -- a friend and colleague had tragically died in Spain two days before and I spent nearly an hour on the phone with a mutual friend who was very distraught. On the "No Hills 100", I had just taken delivery of my new Surly Pacer. The first few miles became a "shake down" ride trying to figure out all the various things that weren't working correctly, gear changing being the main one. I bailed fairly early on and became a tourist for the day, taking in Pevensey Castle and other local sights before making my way back to Polegate for the train home. 

So I'm not what you'd call 'accomplished' at this audax lark.  

Yesterday, I rode The Great Escape 200km with my partner Adam and our friend Sonia. For both of them, this was their very first exposure to the audax 'scene'.  Adam was basically in it for a long day ride in nice weather but was happy to take on the role of pacesetter and navigator. Sonia and I came prepared with route sheets and maps, determined to hang on to Adam's wheel (if we could) but most of all excited to test ourselves with a challenging distance. 

So - take three people, all quite experienced at social group rides but with no relevant experience at riding to time limits - and you can guess what happened!

First - the start at Look Mum No Hands! This was extremely well organised by Islington CC. (Shocking to find out afterwards though that, out of 400 entrants, 130 did not turn up.) We arrived in good time and greeted lots of friends (most of whom were going to be in much faster groups well ahead of us).  

Arriving at LMNH about 07.20

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Unprepared But Ready

Tomorrow I will ride The Great Escape 200km audax. It will be my first audax event since March 2012 and my first attempt at a 200km ride since July 2010. 

Am I ready?  Well, if knowing myself, my bike, my kit, the route, how I need to fuel, hydrate and pace myself equals readiness, then yes, I'm ready. 

Am I prepared? Looking back over the past few months at my ride data -- time, distances, frequency -- then no, I'm not as prepared as I could be or indeed would like to be. 

Last Saturday, I rode nearly 100km on Lorelei the Puch Princess on a casual group ride. That was the first (and only) ride this year longer than 25 miles. After 50 miles, discomfort from being a bit too stretched out for my liking began to kick in but otherwise I felt good and got up the next day feeling I could do the same again. 

Tomorrow will be very different. Crucially, I will be on a bike that fits me, one I trust to give a comfortable ride all day long. I will have a handlebar bag to carry snacks and to stuff items of clothing in as the day wears on, with no need to stop -- likewise with water bottles. Perhaps most importantly, I will be wearing stiff-soled cycling shoes and using clipless pedals. That makes all the difference to my legs, particularly knees, in terms of stability and degree of fatigue. 

So compared to last weekend, I should be a bit faster and more efficient. As long as I can school myself to keep stops to a minimum and not 'faff about', I should be okay. 

Ideally, I would have done 5-6 rides of 100km by now, as well as 1-2 in the 140-160km region. But, although I may not have as many miles behind me as I would have liked, I think I have adequate 'time in the saddle' and sufficient conditioning to spend a long day in the saddle fairly comfortably. 

Some of our friends are talking about completing the course in 8 hours. My goal is just to finish within the fixed time limits!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Fridays Go To Normandy (Again)

I am counting down the days to our mini cycling tour in France at the end of the month -- just 10 days to go! Here's a preview* of our route and hints at the scenery we'll be cycling through.

After a night in Cherbourg with a few other Fridays peeps, we will cycle 5km to Brix to meet up with everyone else - outside the boulangerie of course! Then we set off for Bayeux.


Valognes - earmarked as possible mid-morning coffee stop

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Cycling Mini Tour: Just What The Doctor Ordered

First day of my first cycle tour. Smell the excitement!

With the last assignment of my law course now behind me and the final exam itself just one month away, the next item on the calendar is...

An extended weekend cycling with friends in northern France. 

The Fridays On Tour 2014.  (C) Andrew Brennan
(full photo set on Flickr)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Update on Womens Bib Shorts

I posted recently on my experiences with a variety of women's bib shorts from brands making an effort -- with varying degrees of success -- to create innovative designs enabling toilet breaks without the need to completely strip off (not fun on a night ride, whether in suburbia or out in a dark country lane with the foxes and frogs). While some (such as Gore) do not differentiate the way they market to men and women, they do, I think, quietly "get it". Others (like Pearl Izumi), on the other hand, trumpet their women's specific designs as a unique selling point yet miss that point in some crucial aspect. 

Fortunately, more brands are having a go at designing solutions to this challenge. I stumbled across an article in Outside Online magazine today applauding women's bib shorts designs from six cycling brands. I have not personally tried all six, but again it looks like a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the rather silly. Here are my initial impressions, along with UK pricing details. Where possible, I am including from the manufacturers' own websites photos that show the specific "bio-break" design features, rather than simply an overall front view. 

My favourite Gore Power 2.0 bib shorts are at the top of the list. At £99, they are the second cheapest pair of shorts featured and very good value. The placement of the zips has been altered in the latest update to this design, so I cannot comment on that. I would caution that the keyhole front dips below the belly button, which for some women will not be the most flattering look. 

Photo: Gore

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