Sunday 26 August 2012

You aint got no engine mate

So this week, it was time to try a full Palace to Palace distance ride to see how my training programme is progressing.  I'm following the Carmichael Training Systems Time Crunched Cyclist training programme designed to get people up to a level of fitness to ride century endurance events.

My training so far has consisted of Interval Training through the week (short rides with combinations of  Fast Pedals, High Cadence Cycling, Heart Rate Zone Cycling designed as a Cardio programme and to increase lactate thresholds etc).

Then Friday, after work, a short endurance ride (1-2 hours), which is typically in the region of around 18 miles and Sunday a longer endurance ride usually (2-3 hours and in the region of 30 miles or so).

So today, I decided, being several weeks into the programme, measuring my progress regularly with fitness tests etc, that it was time to try to ride the full Palace to Palace distance.  Now to do this, I chose to ride the Trans Pennine Trail (one of my favourites) and ride out till I reach 23 miles then turn around and head back.

Equipped with 3 Lucozade sport drinks, and dressed to impress in my new cycling bib 3 quarter length tights, cycling jersey, a new pair of cycling gloves (no we couldn't find a left handed one - see my article the Sunday Cycle Ride) and new cycling socks (all bought for me by loving wife yesterday and now theres definitely no chance my son is ever coming cycling with me again) I headed out.

On the outbound trip, I found three separate families who practiced sacrificial rites with their children.  In each case, I would ride and move over to the left (cos we brits drive on the left, so I assumed on a path I would do the same),  only to find the parents push their children to left right in front of me and in one case the toddler must have been about two.  Now seeing a lycra clad behemoth descending on him at a great rate of notts, this kid is going to have nightmares for weeks to come.

Also on the way out, I met and cycled along with two couples who were riding the North to South section of the Trans Pennine Trail today and tomorrow (ending in Chesterfield tomorrow afternoon and camping on the way, what a great way to spend the bank holiday). Now their panniers were loaded down, however, they also knew where they were going so I tagged along for a while.

So I reached the 23 mile point in just under 2 hours, ate my prized banana and had a drink and started on the way back.  Now anyone who rides endurance rides will tell you that one thing you need to do is stock plenty of fuel (snacks, lunch etc and I didn't), and it got to lunch time and I realised I was hungry and had neglected to bring any other snacks.

But not to worry,  just to the south of Barnsley at the side of the trail, is a McDonalds so I decided a McChicken sandwich would set me up for the ride back home.  Now, as well as not remembering food, I also had neglected to pack my bike lock so decided to queue on the drive thru instead.  Now imagine the sight, a BMW, a Porsche, a lycra clad cyclist and a beat up old ford escort all queued for food.

The two cars in front ordered, and I then cycled up to the order point, and the guy said "Sorry Mate, can't serve you here".  "Why" was my short and polite reply, to which he then leaned out of the booth pointed down to my trusty steed and said "You ain't got no engine mate !".  Now, my trusty folder has been called many things, but it's never been refused service because I havent got an engine. I then pointed out that, if any of the cars in the queue were as old as the engine driving my bike, then it would be classed as vintage and would command greater respect. Also, I never realised that an internal combustion engine was a pre-requisite for a McDonalds Drive Thru, consider, my trusty steed is also a road going vehicle, so whats the problem?

Now, there was no way I was leaving my bike outside whilst I went in for my sandwich, cos the chances of it still being there when I came out were second to none.  So I then cycled up the road to a petrol station, and believe it or not, they served me a sandwich (from a place that's designed to put fuel in vehicles with engines) which then fuelled me up for the remainder of my ride.

Total time out was 4 hours 30 minutes (which included 5 minutes in the McDonalds queue and 10 minutes eating my sarny). A total of 45.68 miles, 2844 calories burned and an average cadence now in the 80's.  So today was another good ride.  Shame on you McDonalds for refusing my custom !

Saturday 25 August 2012

Father and Son Ride

So I finally got my son to come on a ride, even though I was wearing my gear (read the Sunday Cycle Ride) for details of how he tried to avoid a ride in the past.

He came home from University and decided to borrow my wifes new bike (I bought her a Dahon Espresso folding hybrid at the same time as I bought mine).  But, it was not as good an idea as it seemed at the start.

Firstly, for the wife to feel comfy,  she has a saddle that is so big, well not big,  it is WIDE.  Its like riding on a park bench, you expect to fall off at any point and for guys, well, lets just say its not too comfortable (if you get what I mean). She's not big (only a uk size 10) but she aint going to ride unless she can take the sofa with her.

So we get the griping out of the way and set off.  Less than a mile from home theres a long downhill section which I decided to sprint down.  The speedo touched 35 and I was gaining on a car in front when it stopped at some traffic lights and I rammed on.  Now wifey hasnt been out on her bike for a while, and being new the brake cables have stretched, or at least thats what I think James was saying as he tried to avoid hitting the back of the car.

So lights turn green, brakes get a quick adjustment, and we're off again.

Next few miles are great, I'm riding along at a reasonable rate and keeping check that James is keeping up.  After around half an hour we spot a young lady at the side of the road, her moped on its side and jumping up and down hysterically. So we pull in and ask her if she is ok.

She then explains that she had only bought the bike the day before, and when riding home an ant crawled onto her hand causing her to leap from the moped. She was doing some kind of rain dance which I guess she hoped would scare the ants away.  So being a yorkshireman and chivalry not being dead, we pick the moped up.  At this point we find the stand has been ripped off, the engine wont start and she is afraid of calling her motor biking partner but she relents and gives him a call.

We make sure she is ok wait for friend to come and collect her before setting off again.  I cant believe just how eventfull cycling can be.

So we ride for a while longer, down another steep hill but this time I go slower not wanting to see my son unable to stop again, I really need to make sure I take him home in one piece.

James informs me he knows of a short cut, and having stood around for half an hour with the ant dancer I decide to go for it. After ten minutes i don't have a clue where I am and then  we hit The Hill.

Hill climbing is great for fitness building, and my technique is to put myhead down and go for it, and this one was a monster.  When I reach the top I remember my cycling buddy who is 23 years my younger, huffing and puffing pushing his bike up the hill, I bet it sounded like a steam train under full load in yesteryear. On greater discussion he informs me its the seats fault.  I think its so big it must be just heavy.

Well, the rest of our ride is pretty uneventfull, although it may be a while before my son comes with me again.  Only 12 miles but a deep understanding of how Adam Ant learnt his dance moves.

Monday 20 August 2012

Trans Pennine Trail - Wakefield to Royston

Well, this Sunday I was limited by time, so decided to try part of the Trans Pennine Trail.  This is a cycle route that traverses the pennines from east to west coast and has a number of extremely well signposted and mapped sections.

One such section is that from Wakefield to Sheffield.  It is an ideal route for beginners as it is flat and on cycle tracks most of the way although you do have to cross a few roads.  You also need to be aware of on-comers,  during my ride this week I rounded a corner to see a young boy heading straight at me, I braked and stopped, he braked and stopped but his father who was taking in the scenery and following didnt.  He veered off at the last minute and nearly ended up in a nice pile of nettles, and he then blamed his son.

Also, met up with a group of 4 Mamils (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), riding their Carbon Framed Mountain Bikes (no Mr Carbon strikes again).  All bragging how there's was lightest, avoiding insults I had a quick stop for drink and then me and my trusty steed passed them by.

Lovely Path Sections Make the Pennine Trail and ideal weekend ride

The Pennine Trail can be picked up just to the South of Wakefield heading towards Doncaster on the A638.  Turn right just under the bridge on the way out of Wakefield and turn left onto the trail. So its just a mile and half from Wakefield City Centre and maybe 5 miles from home. There is a car park at the Walton Colliery Nature Reserve if you want to drive there, but me, driving would not help my fitness regime so I decided to cycle there.

Walton Colliery Nature Reserve - With Parking Nearby

Now, on the fitness side, currently I am doing the Time Crunched Cyclist Fitness Training from Carmichael Training, and I am doing the one for Century Riding.  It's based on the training programme Lance Armstrong followed following his recovery from Cancer and planning his Tour de France comeback.  One technique is high cadence riding, so being limited on time, I decided this was my plan this week.

So off I go at 90-100 spm as opposed to my usual 80, which meant I was totally knackered by the time I got home, but managed to get all the way to Royston in Barnsley.  

At Royston you cycle alongside the Royston Canal so it's a little more open (but strangely for a cycle route has regular gates that are too narrow for bikes).

Royston Canal

Here it's pretty open, and this was where it started to rain (it couldn't rain in the other areas).  So this was my turnaround point, heading back the way I came and keeping up the high cadence cycling on the return journey as well.

Also, there are couple of narrow points to the path, make sure you use your bell otherwise you may meet someone doing high cadence cycling the other way.  I was unfortunate enough to meet a riding club at this point and had to stop and wait for around 20 riders to ride by (and being friendly northerners, saying good morning to each one as they filter by).

Watch the narrow sections for people coming the other way

Also you get a lot of 'sorry' as people ignore their pets or kids, allow them to wander in front of you causing you to lock up the brakes trying to avoid them.  One of these days someone will be sorry as a cyclist is going to take one out (one dog ambled in front of me and the other MAMILS and I was amazed that it's suicidal tendencies hadn't been successful.

For further info on the Trans Pennine Trail, take a look here  

So I completed just under 28 miles in under 2 hours 30 minutes, and including photo's and Mamil socialising, I was really pleased with my ride.  For details of the Carmichael Time Crunched Cyclist check out at amazon

Friday 10 August 2012

The Monsal Trail

Imagine Bakewell in the Peak District, steam trains chugging along through tunnels and then over huge brick built bridges.  Then imagine the steam trains being no more, no rails and a limestone base where the tracks once were, open for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and you have the Monsal Trail.

Set in the Peak District, and with just under ten miles of cycling heaven, the Monsal Trail is an absolute must.  It's a few weeks ago now since my wife and I found ourselves at home at the weekend with both kids away.  We've both been on this fitness and slimming plan, and decided to take a ride along the Monsal Trail (Cycling Active had done an article on it a few weeks before and I had been itching to go ever since,  and having been once,  I'm just itching to go back again).

We started at the Monsal Centre at Hassop Station, just outside Bakewell, here an old station has been converted into a Cafe, Car Park, Gift Shop and Cycle Hire.  The Cycle Hire is excellent if you dont have your own bike, they even have trailers for young kids, and electric bikes for Grandma and Grandpa (although they did mention that the electric bikes are booked up well in advance so book early) their details can be found here.

BTW, we turned left at first, rode for a mile or so into Bakewell with my wife telling me I had gone the wrong way (my map reading was bad again), and I hate to say it but she was right and we had to do another of my famous 180 degree about turns after asking for directions.  My wife told me though that shouting at someone is a sign of affection,  guess she really loved the person that pushed into the queue in front of her when shopping the other week.

You travel along from Bakewell towards Blackwell, passing through tunnels (which are lit, but quite dimly, causing my wife to shout "Help I'm Blind" as we entered the first one from bright sunshine to darkness whilst wearing her prescription sun glasses. She then took them off while riding (like a Tour de France specialist), hooked them on the top of her top and when leaving the tunnel, subsequently dropped them causing a major disruption whilst she found them).  As well as tunnels there are old stations (some of which are converted into cafe's, toilets and information centres, others are just platforms on either side of the trail where onlookers watch people pass by) and, of course, the bridges with spectacular views over the countryside.

View Monsal Trail in a larger map

Now one of the tunnels is closed as you approach Blackwell so theres only so far you can go.  However, that doesn't spoil the experience at all.  If like us, you travel by car and then hit the trail by bike, you'll do just under 20 miles by going to the end and then riding back to the car, of course if you go the wrong way you can add another mile or too for fun.

It's pretty easy going with only slight inclines (I guess the old puffer trains would have had trouble back then if it were too steep, so it's good for the old puffer cyclists now).

If theres one, easy Sunday cycle ride, or walk, then this is one for the bucket list.

Above is my wife on one of the bridges having just come out of the tunnel behind her.

The views over the valleys behind me are just spectacular. Excuse my imitation of being a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).

Over the coming weeks I plan to try out and blog about other excellent bike rides that we do and update you on my map reading skills as we go. Some will be in the company with my wife (the days when the weather is good), and some on my own (when the weather is more suspect). So check back regularly to see where I have got to next time.

I use a Motoactv to log workouts and rides, check out the details at

Thursday 9 August 2012

The Sunday Cycle Ride

OK, so I feel as though I have made progress this year.  Starting out the year a little overweight and extremely unfit I decided that this 45 year old needed to do something.  Therefore I invested in a fold-up bike (A little Dahon D7), for me to ride to work from the hotel that I stay in when I work away.  Well, it's only a mile and half, but those first weeks were torture and I needed Gas and Air and a huge recovery from such a short ride. The WeightWatchers diet definitely got my weight down, but the road to fitness was going to take longer.

Now, well 7 months in, 3 stone lighter and regularly riding 20+ miles I feel as though I'm making progress.  To be perfectly honest I'm probably fitter now than I was in my twenties and planning on a 45 mile charity ride in October, it's time to start regular training and get myself prepared.  One such preparation is my religious planning for the Sunday morning ride,  take this weekend for example:-

Saturday night my wife checks the weather forecast for Yorkshire "It's going to be nice tomorrow!" she says to me and thats all the encouragement I need, my cycle ride is on.  My son is home from University so I decide it's a great opportunity to rope him in on my fitness plans, this starts with his question "You're not going to wear those cycling shorts that you have are you ?".  Stupid question, course I am, that's why I bought them so I reply "Yes son, are you coming".  At that point suddenly in five minutes on Saturday Evening he is flooded with demands of for his time, revising, girlfriend, car to wash, home brew to bottle, hoover to fix for his mum, extra sleep, bad leg (if the truth be told he just doesn't want to be seen out with the old man dressed like that).

So Sunday morning I wake, the sun rakes through the bedroom windows even though the curtains are shut the room is bright (the wife was right, it's going to be great).  A sneak downstairs later, a quick light breakfast + taking my wife her's in bed, it's time to start preparations.

First it's up to the Garden Shed to get my bike.  It's still a folder, but it's now a rather nice Dahon Espresso Hybrid, 26" wheels still allowing me to throw it in the boot of my car but allowing me to carry out what others call "A Proper Ride".  I stand it up on the patio ready for the preparations to begin.

2 Sports Drinks prepared and in pannier, helmet in place, cycle computer primed, trainers on,  I'm ready for the off, however, I seem to have lost one of my gloves.  No one has seen it, and this just doesn't bode well. (My wife later tells me I must have lost it, but if I know of a shop that sells left handed ones she's more than happy to buy me a left handed glove to match the right handed one I still own).

Preparations complete, and possibly taking as long as any athlete planning a stage of the Tour de France, I lock the back door quietly, move around the side of the house only to realise that the side gate is still locked.  I then return to the patio, take off my shoes, unlock the house, go inside, find the keys to the gate, so far preparations have taken me over an hour.

So I hit the road, the first five miles just disappear in no time as I head out past the built up areas into the countryside (today I'm gonna do 2 thirds of my charity ride distance so 30 miles is on the cards).  I am now riding from Rothwell to Castleford and stop briefly for a drink, the sun is pounding down and I am glad my preparations included the liberal application of sun cream, my wife's words ringing in my ear "it's going to be a great day".

10 miles into the ride I head south to cross under the M62 motorway and around 1/2 mile from the motorway the most vicious thunderstorm in history hits, I pound away like mad so I can reach and huddle under the underpass with another cyclist as we watch the road gradually flood outside. The downpour only last a few minutes, so it's back on the bike and up through the industrial estate ready to ride in towards wakefield and the rain starts again.

This time there's a bus shelter just ahead with 4 four people from the local riding club who are all crammed in (bikes and all), but we're a friendly lot in Yorkshire and never leave anyone out, so I dive in.  A 6th guy try's to fit in behind me and shouts "Come on shove up, my bikes worth more than your lot together so make room" we all shuffle up.  The riding club admire the beautiful carbon framed bike that has joined us, I only wonder why my Dahon did not earn equal respect when I joined them.  The owner went on to tell us how light it is and how great it is for climbing hills (a very useful thing in Yorkshire).

The rain stops, and in reverse order, Mr Carbon Frame sets off, then me, then the cycling club who pass me by within minutes as we start a steep hill climb.  Then I find myself passing and pulling away from Mr Carbon Frame as I cycle up the hill as fast as possible. I then hear the jeers from the cycling club at the top of the hill shouting at Mr Carbon Frame and telling him of the embarrassment of being beaten by an old guy on a folder, I'm not sure which one of us is insulted the most (and am not sure whether I'm upset for being called old, or, the insult aimed at my trusty bike) but I don't care, the sun is out, I'm over the top and on the downhill stretch heading in to Wakefield.  Just a right turn at the bottom to head in to town and 3 miles or so from there home, but, I've only done an hour of riding (plus half an hour bravely sheltering for the rain to stop) and only 15 miles, so I turn left into the countryside and away from town, I gotta get my 30 miles in.

Mr Carbon Frame's Arch Nemesis - The Dahon Folder

I cut through a couple of villages and then on to the Pennine Trail which I know heads into Wakefield. 3 Miles further on I meet someone and ask how far to Wakefield, he replies "A long time going this way mate, but if you do a 180 degree about face and go back the way you came, it's about 8 miles".  OK, my 30 miles is easily achievable now, I've been riding in the wrong direction for the last ten minutes. Then the rain starts again, this time I'm brave, I put on my waterproof jacket and ride under the trees to Wakefield.

The Pennine Trail is wonderful. Flat paths, straight from Royston to Walton, overhanging trees limiting the soaking I am receiving and hardly anyone else stupid enough to be out in this weather.

As I pass the Walton Golf Club, they comment that they are sure they saw me riding in the Olympics the night before, didn't I take gold? As if an old wheezer like me could manage that, I'd probably get lost there too plus they think I'm crazy out in the rain on a bike, and then realise they are also out in the rain, hitting little balls around a field with big sticks. But then all of sudden it hits me, my fitness better improve before my charity ride, but my map reading needs to have a miraculous improvement otherwise I'm doing a lot more than 45 miles.

Arriving home (3 hours and 33 miles after I left) , I humbly explain to my wife about the rain, the wrong turn, Mr Carbon Frame and how hard it was with no gloves but she simply repeats her offer to buy me a left glove.  Anyone know where I can get one ?

But I did 33 miles, I planned on 30, so it's been a good day (even if I am soaking wet, cold, dressed so embarrassedly) , I wonder how wet Mr Carbon Frame got and whether he's also blogging about the old wheezer on the fold-up that beat him up the hill.

Incidentally, on the Wakefield news, a Tornado Funnel was spotted quite close to where I live just after I got back, it didn't touch the ground but it did look pretty cool, maybe we cyclists are crazy after all.

BTW If you think this is funny and can spare a couple of quid, please feel free to sponsor me (the old wheezer) on my charity ride here.

If you're interested in Dahon bikes, check them out at