Archive for 2010

In it to spin it

Spin - not for the hungover.

Spin - not for the hungover.

A few weeks before Christmas I was schooled by a spin class. This was the true low point of my cycling year in 2010 (I’m working on the highlights).

Spin – it’s a cake walk, right? You turn up, you spin, you sweat, you leave. Good cardio, but for 30 mins, nothing on the scale of a fast sportive? Such were my naïve preconceptions on arriving at the gym for my first spin class.

In terms of fitness, I was hardly at my peak, but I figured I still had a handle on things – at least a vestige of late-season form. I swaggered into the spin ‘arena’ in a stained t-shirt and my gardening trainers, confident in the knowledge that I would be kicking everyone’s ass, including the instructor’s, within a few minutes’ time. I chose a bike in the front row and started pedalling.

I made 12 minutes of the session. I honestly had expected some kind of warm up, but was denied – we were straight in at 70% of max resistance . The instructor instructed me to work it, so I worked it. Well, first of all I dismounted and made a Mr.Bean-style hash of adjusting the saddle and stem height on my rig, then I worked it.

My heart rate went from about 100 to I guess at least 175 (I wasn’t wearing a monitor) in the first 2 minutes of the workout. At 4 minutes in, I was on the rivet. At 8 minutes, the instructor told us to kick the resistance up a notch. I was starting to feel seriously stressed out – my heart and lungs were pumping way too hard, but short of stopping completely I didn’t see how I could recover. When I started to feel faint, I realised I had to bail. I made some kind of risible ‘A-OK’ sign at the instructor before almost falling off the bike and out of the class. I very nearly vomited into a bin.

I will be going back, hopefully this week, and will be keeping the following tips in mind:

  1. Warm up on your own before the spin class for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Ignore the instructor.
  3. Get a bike in the back row, near the exit.
  4. Don’t go on even the second day after a festive party. You need a full, clean tank of gas.

Chasing Legends

I went to see a screening of Chasing Legends at the Empire Leicester Square last night with two of my long-time riding compadres Ewan and Millsy. Essentially it was a biopic of Team HTC Columbia during the 2009 Tour de France. This was the one with 6 Cav sprint wins, the big Jens Voigt faceplant (I can’t believe I had to watch it again), the Hincapie-Garmin blowout, and Contador getting his second overall victory.

The production was high quality – there was great rider-POV footage of fast sprints and especially the team time trial in Montpellier. Cav was the star of the show, and he came across well on camera. Phil Liggett, veteran of 30-something tours, was awesome. The highlight was possibly an interview with the old-timer (what was his name?) who finished 7th in 1950 having competed before the war, fought the Germans during the war, then returned to competitive cycling.

I could have done with seeing more footage of the mountain stages; but aside from Tony ‘Panzerwagen’ Martin’s perfomance on Mont Ventoux, HTC Columbia kept a low profile on the climbs. I enjoyed the comic banter between directeurs sportif Rolf Aldag and Brian Holm.

But if I experienced a few minor adrenaline wibbles during the 90 minute film, I bonked during the live Q&A. This was billed as the highlight of the evening – a live satellite broadcast beamed to screens across the country, Phil Liggett interviewing sprint legend Cav with support from the film’s director and the Chuckle Brothers Rolf and Brian.

I’m afraid it didn’t really work out. Liggett performed stoically in front of the blazing white lights of the O2 theatre; Rolf and Brian cracked a few jokes; the director contributed something or other – but we always came back to Cav. I actually rate Cav more highly than I used to, I think he’s cooler than everyone reckons – but the panel was crying out for the intelligent insight of a David Millar or a Michael Barry. We all sneaked out before the end.

I’d really love to see Rapha make a similar film using archive footage from classic Tours de France (1989 for example). Or perhaps a series of Tour Legends docs focussing on each member of the Club de Cinque: Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, Indurain and Armstrong.

Life Cycles trailer

Life Cycles OFFICIAL Trailer from Life Cycles on Vimeo.

I recently bought a mountain bike, and soon I’m going to be shredding some mean-ass gnarly shit like the fine riders on this Life Cycles trailer. Watch me crash and burn.

Tour of Britain – Stoke Tour Ride

Top class goodie bag.

My 2010 Tour of Britain tour ride was not the end-of-season finale I’d hoped for. Struck down by a virus shortly after returning from holiday in early September, I still hadn’t made a full recovery, and opted for the 50-mile ‘Challenge’ circuit instead of the full 161km route.

It was a shame, but a sensible call. I didn’t go too badly for the first 40km, but was off the pace I would have been at. I envisaged a quicker, healthier (possibly semi-transparent) version of myself riding ahead, while the real me lagged behind. It’s kind of crushing, that drop-off of form. Your body cannot produce the strength and speed that your mind (which assumes you still are as fit as you used to be a few weeks ago) wills it to, and there’s no way round that. Your fitter, stronger self seems like a figment of your imagination.

The route began about a mile from my back door, and followed roads that I’ve ridden over for many years. The TOB organisation was impeccable – definitely a must in the sportive calendar for me. After the cut-off with the long route, I was solo all the way back to base. Apart from the chilly headwind, it was a breeze. AND I had some roadside support from the Mucklows, who were anxious to regain face after missing me on the Tour of the Peak District.

As per the photo, the goodie bag was the best haul of free kit from any sportive apart from the Maratona dles Dolomites. It included:

  • A £5 Wiggle voucher
  • A copy of Cycling Weekly
  • Anti-chafing gel (binned it actually)
  • Er – Gillette shave gel
  • 1 x Kelloggs Elevenses
  • Pomegranate juice (needs diluting)
  • A t-shirt (like I need another sportive t-shirt)
  • Highlighted route maps from the Stoke and Devon legs of the 2010 Tour

The maps were the cherry on top.

Tour of Britain 2010

Photo: Joolze Dymond

On Constitution Hill, Swansea, stage 3. Photo: Joolze Dymond

I really enjoyed watching the highlights of this year’s Tour of Britain. The 8 stages saw plenty of aggressive racing, breakaways, bunch sprints and some impressive solo victories. Having 6-man teams (as opposed to perhaps 9-10 on the Tour de France) made it harder for one team to control the race, and resulted in more dynamic racing.

The queen stage was probably stage 3 into Swansea, which culminated in a win for eventual winner Michael Albasini up the steep cobbles of Constitution Hill – although my digibox picked that precise day to malfunction, so I missed it (thanks Virgin Media). Albasini held on to the yellow jersey thanks to some dogged defending by HTC, despite his own bout of ‘dysentery’ after the Swansea stage, and the team’s being reduced to 4 men mid-way through the Tour.

I’m looking forward to a potential sprint showdown in next year’s Tour de France, between former HTC teammates Mark Cavendish and André Griepel (aka The Gorilla) [Honestly, he’s an animal – even from the aerial footage of a bunch sprint you can spot his massive lower body]. Griepel, who I’d never heard of before, won 3 stages in the Tour of Britain, but has never ridden the Tour de France. Now Griepel moves to Omega-Pharma-Lotto, where he’ll be well placed for a head-to-head against Cav next summer.

Retro bikes – Kona Muni-Mula

1998* Kona Muni-Mula.

1998* Kona Muni-Mula (August 2005).

I’ve been getting all misty-eyed about retro bikes lately – check out my homages to Ross’s Marin and Andy’s Klein. It seems only appropriate to look back at my old Kona Muni-Mula in her heyday.

The shot above was taken just before heading up to the Lake District for an ex-UYCC camping and bike trip in August 2005. By this point the spec was roughly as follows:

  • Mavic 719(?) rims
  • Hope hubs
  • Panaracer Trailblasters
  • Raceface XY seatpost (still the best seatpost ever made, full stop)
  • Raceface stem
  • WTB saddle
  • Gripshift (I always was a fan)
  • Carbon brake levers
  • XTR V-brakes
  • Marzocchi Bomber fork
  • XT drivetrain
  • Ringlé bottle cage

You have to admit it looks pretty goddamn fly. Probably a unique build as well, especially since the frame – which I got on insurance after my Lava Dome was bent on the flight back from Vancouver – had an experimental paint-job, and this particular colour was never distributed widely (check Bikepedia for the Muni-Mula’s off-the-peg contemporaries).

I’ll be interested to see how the new Kona Kula Deluxe handles by comparison…

Retro bikes – Marin Mount Vision

1999 Marin Mount Vision

1999 Marin Mount Vision.

Ross Peat sold off his Marin Mount Vision a couple of months ago. The former UYCC captain and recent energy-gel addict pleaded a ‘lack of space’ as the reason for sale in the ad – but clearly, the thing had to go.

Back in the day, Ross was the organisational lynchpin of the bike club. He was head honcho when I turned up in Goodricke carpark in October 1998 for my first ever ride, and was generally adept in and out of the saddle. To be honest, without him at the wheel, it’s hard to see how our motley crew would have gone riding at all. Always a calm head in a crisis, Ross was expert at weighing the benefits of riding versus, say, heading to the pub – faced with low-lying mist half a mile from the carpark, he knew when to bail.

When I first met him Ross was riding a burgundy-red Kona Explosif, a la this:

1995 Kona Explosif frame.

1995 Kona Explosif frame.

– a few models up from my old 1995 Lava Dome, and from the same classic Kona vintage. But the Explosif was stolen by some Tang Hall lowlife, and Ross was forced to purchase a new rig (after a suitable grieving period). Enter the Marin.

Clean lines: the Marin's pro flight-deck

Clean lines: the Marin's pro flight-deck.

At the time, the Marin Mount Vision was high-end cross-country full-suspension, and fairly eye-catching thanks to its M-shaped frame geometry and girder-like yellow swingarm. Furthermore it was XTR-equipped. The club was impressed.

Added value: take a second look at the Salsa seat clamp.

Added value: the Salsa quick-release seat clamp.

Over years of faifhful service, however, the once-sharp blade became dulled. 10 years after the Marin first hit the scene, I took it for a ride on an off-road social with Tom, Andy and Ross (who by then had of course upgraded to something else). From my experience riding hardtails and road bikes, riding the Marin uphill was like pedalling a canoe with a knackered drivetrain.

The bike went for £250, a ‘freakin’ bargain’ according to one happy Retrobike customer.

Rollapaluza record

This is unbelievable. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘high cadence’.

Rapha films online

Don’t miss the full-length edition of this movie – about Sean Kelly – screening on this Friday, 20 August. I missed the Yohan Museeuw one last Friday, but on 27th there’s a 3rd screening, about Dario Pegoretti.

I just love the way Rapha keep getting cooler.

Woodcote sportive

As anticipated, today’s 135km Woodcote sportive was hard and fast. On a technical, hilly route with lots of gravel, many flatted – but my Conti GP4000s once again proved their worth.

By my reckoning my average speed was 18.6 mph, compared with 18.2 mph on the 100-mile Great Western sportive in June. It was a shorter distance, so this makes sense, considering both events were similarly hilly. However, being in a smaller group today meant doing more pulls on the front – so the speed increase is encouraging. (more…)