Saturday, 29 December 2012

A trip to the Eureka Cafe

On 23rd December, a few of us from the Chester Road Club cycled up the Wirral to Thornton Hough for an unofficial, fun, 10 mile Christmas time trial. The circuit was good although at one point the road was partially flooded (which meant we had to slow down a bit). Did a 30 min ride, which is not too bad for this time of year, considering the weather (wet and windy).

Picture below shows us just before the start.

After that we went to the Eureka Cafe (which is a famous cyclist's cafe on the Wirral) to meet up with some other Chester Road Club cyclists who had been on the normal Sunday run. As it was a couple of days before Christmas they were serving mince pies and mulled wine. Very pleasant, and also very packed - Sunday around midday is clearly not the best time to turn up if you want a seat.

Bikehike website

Just recently came across a useful website called bikehike which is at (not surprisingly):

You can upload routes to this website (in various formats) and then download them directly as courses to your cycle computer. The example below shows a route I did in Summer 2012, as a tcx file. You need to go onto Course Creator from the above website (link at top of page) and then press the Load Route link (on the right hand side bottom window). See picture below:

Once the file is uploaded, a map of the route (including elevation data if desired) appears as below:

If you then choose the Save Route option, you have the choice of saving the route to your GPS device - see below.

All in all it's a very useful website for converting from one format to another and for downloading courses to your cycle computer. Well worth using.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Winter training on rollers

It's been an eventful few weeks. Our recent Chester Road Club ride up the Horseshoe Pass on 18 Nov featured in the local paper. The Chester Road Club had it's Annual General Meeting on 30th Nov - we've had approx 20% increase in membership over the last year which is good. Myself and 4 others went out for a ride last Sunday (1st Dec) which perhaps wasn't wise as it was bitterly cold. As we cycled along a country ride in the general direction of Mickle Trafford one of the riders hit black ice and went down heavily, and I also came down. Neither of us were seriously hurt, although I must have bent my thumb in an unusual direction as it swelled up and half my hand was bruised. It's still swollen now almost a week later, but getting better.

Anyhow, I ordered some rollers a few weeks ago, and at last had the chance to try them in earnest. Some photos of the rollers are below:

The rollers themselves are Elite V-Arion Parabolic Inertial Rollers, and they were on offer from Wiggle (cost just over £240 including delivery). The rollers have a shape which keeps the wheels near the middle apparently.

I chose rollers as I had never really liked a turbo trainer. I thought the extra concentration you need for rollers may make such training more interesting.

Anyhow, after holding on to a convenient fence for a few minutes, I finally plucked up courage to let go, and it was surprisingly easy. Did 30 minutes at an average cadence of just over 100 (low gear, with the roller at the back set on the easiest of it's 3 settings).

The rollers also fold up conveniently and are very light. I had to adjust the position of the front roller so the axle of my wheel was over the centre of the roller, but apart from that it was pretty straightforward. Very impressed and much more exciting than riding on a turbo trainer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Horseshoe Pass Part 2 (18th Nov 2012)

Two weeks ago (on 4th Nov) you may recall I wrote about a ride myself and Ian Sutton did over the Horseshoe Pass (link at:

Anyhow, a lot of Chester Road Club riders seemed to like the look of the route, and so a repeat run was planned for the 18th November. The main difference between the two rides was that on this occasion, 18 riders turned up !! The second difference was that the weather was much better - still cold, but blue sky all the way, and quite pleasant at the top of the Horseshoe Pass. The final difference was that we did the ride quite a bit more quickly (I think the average speed on 4th Nov was around 14.5 mph or so, whilst on the 18th Nov it was over 15.5 mph).

All in all a good day out. Photos at start of the ride and at the top of the Horseshoe Pass are below.

There is a link to the gpx file at: Horseshoe Pass route from Chester 18 Nov 2012

What I liked about the route was: (1) It was a fairly flat ride out to Llangollen, (2) the long descent (Sunspot descent) for about 4 miles on the way back to Chester is awesome, (3) the Horseshoe Pass climb is a good work out, (4) the Ponderosa cafe is a good food stop

This ride also took me to over 3000 miles of cycling for the year :)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chilly Ride Over The Horseshoe Pass, 4th Nov 2012

Myself and Ian Sutton (from the Chester Road Club) went for a fairly gentle ride out into the countryside, at least it was fairly gentle until we got to Llangollen, and then we had to go over the Horseshoe Pass.

We set off at 9 am, looking like two Michelin men - due to the number of layers, overshoes, gloves, hats we were wearing, since it was close to zero Centigrade.

It was fairly flat til we got to Ruabon, when it started to get undulating. We took it easy over the Horseshoe Pass and stopped at the Ponderosa Cafe for a quick coffee and cake. It is the first time I've ever been there and not seen another cyclist - however, considering there was frost on the grass, and freezing fog at the top of the Horseshoe Pass it wasn't a big surprise.

Once off the Horseshoe Pass it only took two or three miles to get back into relatively warm, blue skies. We had to do a bit of cyclocross to get through a road closed due to roadworks, but the ride back to the Chester was quite nice, mainly as it was mostly downhill.

Not an excessively fast ride at 14.5 mph, but a good workout given I haven't been on the bike for 3 weeks. Strava summary of ride below (4th Nov ride):

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Samsung Chromebook

I just bought a new Samsung Chromebook, from Amazon, for £229. So far I am liking it a lot. What is particularly impressive of course is the boot up time (around 5 seconds or so). The first time was a bit longer as it was upgrading the operating system.

You can look for apps in the Chrome Web Store (and even organise them so you can see Apps which will work offline).

I have been editing my blog using the Chromebook, and adding photos etc is very straightforward.

Battery life also looks good, in excess of 6 hours.

Only downside so far is that Spotify doesn't work, since there isn't a browser version at present - although there are rumours there will be in the not too distant future, so that may be a short term issue.

All in all it's worth a look - not having to worry about OS updates or antivirus etc is very good.

Also, when you buy one these Chromebooks you get 100 Gb of storage on Google Drive for free for two years.

Some photos of the machine shown below:

Visit to China

For approximately two weeks, from the middle to the end of October (2012) I was in China. Initially I spent 5 days in Shanghai, at an excellent hotel close to Shanghai's domestic airport (Hongqiao). I was speaking at an Industrial Lubricants Technology Forum, believe it or not, which attracted upwards of 300 people.

As part of this event, there was a Ferrari F1 car in the hotel lobby, which is something you don't often see.

The hotel room where we were giving our talks was also quite impressive - see below:

We had some time to go out and have a look around Shanghai. Below is a photo of some of the Shanghai skyscrapers taken from a part of Shanghai known as "The Bund". 

We went into a bar in "The Bund", and somewhat surprisingly there was a sculpture of bicycles going up vertically in the hallway !

We visited some good restaurants whilst in Shanghai, including Jesse's and a chain called Southern Beauty. 

At the end of the week we visited a customer south of Shanghai, near to Ningbo, which meant going across a 30 mile bridge across the sea, which was quite impressive. 

I then flew up to Beijing for the weekend, and we visited one of Beijing's oldest roast duck restaurants (unfortunately I can't remember the name) but Beijing (or Peking) duck is fantastic - I particularly like the way they cook the skin. 

On the Sunday morning I went around the Forbidden City, which is an amazing, enormous, historic place. Unluckily I lost my camera here - so no more photos. I think it fell out of my jacket pocket. (However the camera was about 5 years old, and I had backed up all the photos, so it wasn't the end of the world - when I got home I bought a Panasonic Lumix TZ25 to replace it, which looks very nice.)

On the Sunday afternoon, I went to Baoding (about a 3 hour drive from Beijing) which believe it or not is famous for Donkey Burger, which was not the best thing I ate whilst in China. 

On the Tuesday morning I flew to Chongqing, which is a city of approx 30 million people, in which the cars all run on gas (CNG to be precise). We also went to a restaurant which was famous for spicy hotpot. Basically, a large bowl of water, filled with various chilli's and other hot spices, was brought to the boil, and then different types of raw meat, vegetables, fish were cooked in the sauce, and then eaten. It was so spicy, it numbed the tongue - I could tell it was spicy when I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to drink two bottles of water.

Finally, I went to a place in the far south of China, called Zhuhai (in fact it is very close to Hong Kong) where  I stayed for a couple of days before finally flying back to Europe - in fact the trip back was quite stressful as the flight from Zhuhai to Beijing arrived late and I nearly missed my connection to Frankfurt - I got on the plane about 10 minutes before it was due to take off which was a bit too close for comfort.

Anyhow, I would certainly recommend a trip to China - an interesting country, with lots of good food, and cheap, very good hotels. Plus in most cities, there are usually quite a lot of interesting historic places to visit. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

30th Anniversary Horseshoe Pass Hill Climb, 7th Oct 2012

This event, organized by Fibrax Wrexham Road Club, attracted 101 entrants (including one tandem). Simple really, starts just before the Britannia Inn, straight up the Horseshoe Pass, and finishes just by the first layby as the road flattens off near the top. It was a beautiful day for the climb, although there wasn't the usual tailwind at the finish. The photo below shows the scene an hour or so before the start:

Total distance was 2 miles 585 yards. According to Strava, total amount of climbing was 827 feet, and the average gradient was 6.7%. My official time was 15 mins 50 secs, whilst the Strava version of the course gave 5 mins 39 secs. Anyhow, it was the best part of 40 secs faster than any previous time up here so I'm reasonably happy. See profile of route below:

Good turn out from Chester Road Club with 11 riders, most of whom did between 12 and 14 mins, with Alistair Wrenn being the best CRC rider with 11 mins 25 secs. Dan Evans (Rhos on Sea) was the best time I saw with 9 mins 51 secs.

Group photo of most of the Chester Road Club people who rode below:

Full set of results available here

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hilly Ride Into North Wales, 15th Sept 2012

With my final race of the season coming up (a hill climb up the Horseshoe Pass on 7th Oct 2012) I thought I'd better get some hill climbing in.

So I went out of Chester towards North Wales, up the "Steps" and round towards Llangollen, over the Horseshoe Pass, and then over towards Ruthin, back up "the Shelf" through Llandegla and back to Chester. Route below for those who are interested. Not a great time but quite a tough route. Also discovered that my maximum heart rate is 174 (previous highest I've ever seen was 173). You can cick on the map below to get more details.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Free Maps for Garmin 800

I bought a Garmin Edge 800 package last year which included heart rate monitor, cadence sensor and UK/Europe road maps. I always thought the maps looked a bit bland, and there were a lot of roads I ride on in North Wales which weren't on the maps !

I looked into buying an OS Discovery map but according to the Garmin website a micro SD card with such a map is £199 !

So I looked into some other options. In particular there were a couple of useful blogs here and here. The second of these blogs directed me to the following website:

I happened to have a spare 4 GB micro SD card (from an old mobile phone) so I made sure there was nothing on it, created a folder called GARMIN (I did this when the micro SD card was in a card reader but I guess you could do it if you had put it into the Garmin Edge). Then I downloaded a UK Open Source Map which had contours and was routable (i.e. it should still work as a sat-nav). The download site is at:

It's a 500 MB or so file so may take some time if you have a slow connection.

Once this was copied to a sensible place on my computer, I unzipped the file, and renamed it just GMAPSUPP (it should be an IMG file so filename should be GMAPSUPP.IMG). I then simply copied this into the folder I had created on the micro SD card, unplugged the micro SD card from my Garmin (the one with the UK/Europe maps in) and put the newly created SD card in.

I tried it out today on a route into North Wales from Chester - it is much much better than the other map. All the small roads in North Wales on the route I did were in the map OK. There are also maps available for other countries.

It may not be as good as the OS Discovery maps but considering those cost £199 and the map I got above was free I'm pretty happy with it.

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Secret Race

This book, subtitled "Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-Ups and Winning at All Costs", written by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle, gives a fascinating insight into the life of professional cyclists from the mid 1990's. Reading the book you get some idea of the pressure on riders to perform and why some may have chosen to take performance enhancing drugs.

According to the book, up until about 1998 or 1999, the pro-teams managed their own doping programmes. However, in the 1998 TdF a Festina team car was stopped by customs on the French border and a massive stash of performance enhancing drugs were found. Since taking performance enhancing drugs is illegal in France (unlike many other countries including the UK, USA, Italy and Spain) the police were involved and criminal charges were levelled.

From 1999 onwards, according to the book, riders had to organise their own supplies, and many riders had links to specialist doctors, such as Dr Ferrari and Dr Fuentes. Quite apart from EPO, testosterone and cortisone, according to the book, the donation of blood bags, and the re-infusion just before a race was common. Much later on, when Dr Fuentes' lab was raided, a large number of blood bags were found belonging to many riders in the peloton (at the time). Tyler Hamilton himself failed a doping test because the testers found he had had a blood transfusion from someone else (this was clearly a mix-up since he was supposed to have had his own blood put back in). In addition, Tyler Hamilton recounts how some riders had "echo positives", whereby when the transfused blood was put back in, any doping products that were in there at the time of donation could result in a positive test.

Clearly, a large part of the book implicates other riders at Tyler's own team and others, and of course, Lance Armstrong is mentioned many times.

It is difficult to know how much of the book is true, but the co-author Daniel Coyle said he made sure to corroborate Tyler Hamilton's claims. However the book comes across as more than just plausible, and since I assume this is also what Tyler Hamilton told the US legal and USADA authorities in sworn testimony, it is pretty convincing.

Hopefully, things have changed somewhat now that testing is better, and it seems to be true that times for some of the key mountain stages in major tours are quite a bit slower now than they were in late 90's/early 2000's.

I have to say this is one of the best books I've read on cycling, albeit rather depressing. 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Cheeky Bit of EtapeCymru + Night Riding

Have not blogged for a while due to a bit of travelling with work. Last week for example I was in Leeds all week at a conference (the 39th Leeds-Lyon Symposium on Tribology if you are interested).

Anyhow, I decided to blow the cobwebs away by doing a decent ride on Sunday 9th September. The previous week I had done a good ride out from Chester -> Mold -> Ruthin and back via the Shelf and Llandegla with Tim from the Chester Road Club. For some reason I had felt pretty knackered all the way through the ride (average speed for 46 miles, albeit with 3000 feet of climbing, was only 15.4 mph). So I wanted to try it again, this time though I was on my own. I also knew that because the Etape Cymru was on, the Shelf would be "closed road" conditions.

I arrived at the bottom of the Shelf from the Ruthin side, and the marshals seemed a bit surprised when I turned up the road from the wrong direction!. I think I was slightly ahead of the leading group of 8 or so riders who went up quite quickly and soon overtook me (although I was then only overtaken by another 5 or so riders as I went up the ride). Once through Llandegla I turned left and went back to Chester whilst the Etape Cymru went straight on. If anyone saw me, I was the one wearing a Chester Road Club top. I don't feel too guilty about doing this since I did the Etape Cymru in 2011, and the Shelf was supposed to be on the route but was missed off (however if anyone really is offended by what I did, I'm perfectly happy to cough up the £3 I probably owe - 5 miles or so of the 92 mile route !). This was much better than the week before, and I knocked off around 7 minutes and had an average speed of approx 16 mph. Map of the ride is below:

For what it's worth, for the bit of the Etape Cymru I saw, it looked a lot better organised and marshalled than the 2011 event. If you were in it I hope you enjoyed it. Personally I felt it was quite expensive, considering I ride most of these roads all year around. The Broken Spoke and the Circle of Hope Charity Ride are much better value in my opinion (even if they are not closed roads).

Anyhow, enough of Sunday's ride. The week before, Thursday 30th August I think, that I joined a few people from the Chester Road Club in a "night ride". We set off about 6:50 pm and I got back home around 9:30. For most of the ride we needed our lights, and it was a novel experience riding as a group down narrow country lanes. Very enjoyable and I will probably do it again (there was a ride on Thursday 6th Sept but I couldn't go as I was in Leeds. Route for the ride below:

Friday, 24 August 2012

Time Trial Results 2012

Summary of my time trial results so far for 2012. Just one more to do in 2012 - the Horseshoe Pass hill climb on Oct 9th (DHC/1). I think I'm getting better compared to the start of the season - at least there's something to build on for next year :)

Date Distance Course Time  Position Average Speed (mph) comments
18th Feb 2012 14.3 D14/1 44 mins 17 secs 20/22 19.4 windy
25th Feb 2012 14.3 D14/1 43 mins 53 secs 53/65 19.6 windy
17th March 2012 17 D18/2R 1 hour 1 min 13 secs 37/50 16.7 wet
15th April 2012 24 D24/1 1 hour 32 mins 38 secs 47/66 15.5
17th May 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 20 secs 28/33 21.2
24th May 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 6 secs not known 21.4
10th June 2012 25 D25/8(E) 1 hour 14 mins 8 secs not known 20.2
20th June 2012 10 D2/7 29 mins 15 secs 8/10 20.5 VERY WET
19th July 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 53 secs 16/20 20.8
26th July 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 31 secs not known 21.0 WINDY
2nd August 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 19 secs not known 21.2 WET/WINDY
9th August 2012 10 D2/7 27 mins 47 secs 27/35 21.6
17th August 2012 10 D2/7 28 mins 19 secs 21/37 21.2

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Horse Shoe Pass (yet again !)

Did a good ride out into North Wales on Saturday 21st July. Total mileage was approx 53.5 miles with about 3500 feet of climbing, and I did a time of 3 hours 17 mins - which is about 4 mins faster than the last time I did this route. Details from Strava below:

Also did a 10 mile time trial on Thursday 19th July on the Saighton circuit. It was slightly wet and quite windy, and I did a pretty awful time of 28:53. Hopefully will do a better ride next Thursday in the Chester Road Club event.

On Tuesday 17th July I did the Chester Road Club chain gang (twice around the 7 mile Saighton circuit) where I averaged about 21 mph.

Lastly, on Sunday 15th July, went out with 69 Cycles and we did a good ride out to Connah's Quay (along the Chester cycle path) up Pioneer Hill and then back through Buckley and Hawarden. Reasonably high average speed for this route - see below:

Will go out with 69 Cycles again on Sunday 22nd July - if I keep this level of activity I should start seeing some benefits in terms of faster TT times. 

Victoria Pendleton Documentary

Watched the documentary earlier in the week, on BBC1, about Victoria Pendleton. It was pretty inspirational stuff. It showed the amount of work and dedication needed if you want to get to the top in sport. Often you see the glamorous photo shoots or adverts or podium presentations, but you rarely see all the unglamorous stuff going on in the background, which was shown in the documentary.

It should be said that her achievements are even greater when you realise that, according to the documentary, the Britsh Cycling Management Team seemed completely devoid of any kind of emotional support.You got the impression they would be happier managing a team of robots rather than real human beings.

Firstly there was the romance with her coach. Work place romances are commonplace and are not illegal, nor morally wrong. Often management turn a blind eye, which rather sensibly seems to have been done in the first instance. However, why the manager chose the day she won a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics to tell everyone in the cycling team about their relationship - despite the fact it was none of their business - seems to be a case study of not how to handle such an issue. Let's be perfectly clear, neither VP or her coach have done anything wrong and have absolutely nothing to apologise for. In fact, despite raising some sort of initial moral issues, and sending the coach off to the swimming team, the management can't have too many scruples as they've brought him back into the team.

Secondly, just after she won the 2012 world championship, she collapsed to the floor, and Dave Brailsford, instead of hugging her or showing some empathy, shouted "Steve" - who is the psychiatrist - clearly anything to do with emotion is done by him - to sort the situation out !! He seemed quite a nice chap, but you got the impression he has his work cut out after the riders have been through the tough training regime that is in place.

In fact the only person in the documentary who seemed to have even less emotion that the above people was the mysterious Swiss coach, who came across as some sort of "Terminator" type character. 

Anyhow, hope VP wins gold in London. Whatever happens, she is a legend in British cycling.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Recent Bike Rides

Had quite a bit of traveling with work during June, so didn't do as much cycling as I would like. I am now back in the office for a few weeks so hopefully will settle into the following routine:
  • Saturday - longish ride 50-70 miles
  • Sunday - 30 mile ride with 69 Cycles (Chester)
  • Tuesday - 14 miles - chaingang with Chester Road Club (CRC)
  • Thursday - 10 miles - Time Trial, Saighton course (D2/7)
 Yesterday, I went out with a couple of  CRC riders (Neil and Tim) and we did a good ride out to Ellesmere - which looked quite nice - we stopped by a lake in Ellesmere for something to eat and drink. Did a reasonable 17.5 mph average for a "rolling" 60 miles or so. Route below:

On Sunday 8th July, a group of 6 of us went out for the 69 Cycles Sunday Sort Out (69 Cycles is a bike shop in Chester: website at: We did a pleasant ride out to Delamere and back: Route below:

Need to decide what TT/sportives to do next - still undecided about the Etape Cymru (which I did last year). Will have a think about my schedule in Aug/Sept/Oct and update in the next blog.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

69 Cycles Sunday Sort Out Ride 17th June 2012

Went along to this as the time/distance were convenient (8 am start, finish by 1015 or so). Good turn out of around 15 cyclists. We did a pretty challenging route over to Brymbo in North Wales and then up to Bwlchgwyn before heading (mainly downhill) back to Chester. Good average speed for that course of around 17.6 mph.

Good crowd of cyclists, good atmosphere, well recommended - although quite challenging on return to Chester. Good for speed work. Will definitely come out on this again. 

Alf Jones Memorial 25 mile TT, 10th June 2012

This was the first 25 mile time trial I've ever done. It was on Sunday 10th June 2012, and my start time was 0705 (!!). It was also about half an hour's drive from Chester, so it was a pretty early start. Start and finish was close to the A41/A49 roundabout near Prees, with the HQ being at the Raven Cafe. I didn't particularly enjoy the course, as the A41 is pretty heavy with traffic, at least towards the end of the race, and there were three roundabouts you had to go round pretty much all the way.

Anyhow, my aim was to keep above 20 mph, so I was aiming for 1 hr 15 mins or less.

As it turned out, did a 1:14:08 - which was above 20 mph, but not by much. I only overtook one person on the race, who I beat by 5 minutes, but it turned out he was 67 ! Looking back at the ride stats, I think I could have gone harder - as it turns out I was still feeling OK so did another 20 mile ride on the same afternoon. I seemed to be catching people up on the hilly sections, but then falling back on the flat sections, possibly because I am not using a high enough gear. Anyhow plenty of room for improvement next time.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sometimes it's better when it's grim !

Sunday 3rd June - instead of staying in to watch the procession of boats down the Thames, I decided to go out on a short bike ride. Had dithered about whether to go out most of the day as it was pouring down with rain and I am still suffering from the last vestiges of a cold. At 7 am I had decided not to go out (was possibly going to go on a ride from 69 Cycles in Chester, which starts at 8 am every Sunday).

Anyhow once I got out on the bike, I quite enjoyed it. Although it was raining it was not particularly cold, and the bad weather meant there were less cars around than usual. Did my standard route out to North Wales down Lache Lane, and felt like I was flying, getting from the start of Lache Lane to the Wrexham road near Hope in under 26 mins. When I got there, I realised I was flying because the wind was behind me !

Anyhow all in all a good work out. Route below:

For what it's worth, this ride was nowhere near as grim as the Mad March Hare Sportive 2012.
That was both very wet, very cold, and very hilly, with all the hills coming near the end.

Looking back at 2012, the Oswestry Hilly 17 mile time trial was also a bit grim, with torrential rain soon after I started. I did reasonably well in that one.

So the lesson is, even when it looks grim before you start off, it is rarely quite as grim when you are actually out there on the bike.

Earlier in the week, (Tuesday 29th May) I did the usual Chester Road Club chain gang out at Saighton near Chester. Unfortunately, one of the riders fell off, and I think they broke their collar bone, so David, if you're reading this hope you get better soon. Luckily one of the other Chester Road Club riders had their wife parked nearby and they took him to A&E.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Broken Spoke Sportive 2012

I'm not good at cycling when it's hot. Also although I can get up most climbs, I'm not fast up hill. I've also discovered that I much prefer courses where the hard bits are at the beginning and it's easier at the end. So all in all I was going to find the Broken Spoke Sportive difficult - and I did.

It didn't help that we did 21 miles in the first hour (at least it was fairly cool then) - and I thought to myself then that I would pay for that later.

The Broken Spoke Sportive started and finished at the Catholic High School in Chester - so there was the novelty that I could actually cycle to the start (only 2 miles from where I live). There was a quick check in, and some freebie gels and energy bars. There were two rides: the long route (85 miles) and a shorter route (55 miles). I chose the long route. The ride out to Bangor-on-Dee and St Martins was flat and quick. There was a well stocked food stop at St Martins (after about 28 miles).

Once we turned right at Pontfadog, the climbing began. I'd never been up this climb before, and got most of the way up it until it became too steep and I had to walk for 100 yards or so. However there was a great technical descent on the way down to Llangollen. I somehow managed to get lost and myself and another rider had to ride into Llangollen, over the bridge, and do the Horseshoe Pass right from the bottom. There always seems to a wind against you when you climb up the Horseshoe and today was no exception (!). Once over the top it was a fast descent into Ruthin, where there was another well stocked food stop - including baked beans on toast, coffee, buns, bananas and soft drinks.

Once out of Ruthin, we went over another hill I have never previously been up - and I never want to see it again. It's called Old Bwlch and it was another one I had to get off and walk. Although I managed to get back on again near the top so I was photographed cycling over the highest point.

Once after that there was a rolling route back to Chester, with one or two unexpected climbs along the way.

Positives: Very challenging route, great motorcycle marshalling, the best stocked food stops I've seen on a sportive, and good value for money (approx £20). Also the event raised money for the school which must be good. And last but not least, there was a friendly group of cyclists on the ride who mainly knew how to ride in a group.

Negatives (for me): Pretty awful time - and too hot - would prefer this on a day which was about 10 degrees cooler. At least I've now got well tanned arms and legs

Route below:

Earlier in the week, on Thursday 24th May to be precise, I did the Chester Road Club 10 mile TT on the Saighton course (D2/7). I tried using tri-bars this time - although I'm still not keen on using them. Got a time of 28:06 which was an improvement on the previous week (28:20). Will try to get down to sub 28 minutes next week. Good entry of 44 riders. Results are here

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Preparing for Broken Spoke Sportive

Have the Broken Spoke Sportive next week. Starts and finishes in Chester, so will have the novelty of being able to cycle to the start (probably only 2 miles from where I live). Have been mixing it up a bit this week with a Chester Road Club Chain Gang on Tuesday 15th May, followed by a club 10 mile time trial on the Saighton course, on Thursday 17th May (organised by the Birkenhead Victoria Cycling Club), then a quick ride out to Hope/Llay and back (18 miles) on Saturday 19th May, followed by the same route on Sunday with an added loop out to Frodsham and back (around 40 miles).

The Thursday night time trial went OK for my first time - did 28:20 on my road bike (no tri-bars). Will be doing this again next week so have a target to beat. Route below:

Full results can be seen here

Quite pleased with the Sunday ride - route shown below. Considering the route including come back through the centre of Chester, an average of 17.6 mph was OK particularly as the route wasn't flat.

Will be doing a Chester Road Club 10 mile time trial on Thursday 24th May, then have the Broken Spoke Sportive on Sunday 27th May - this is an 85 mile route out into North Wales (over the Horseshoe Pass and down into Ruthin and then back to Chester - should be good fun !)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Windy Days

Did a couple of ride this weekend (12/13th May). On Saturday I went out with a couple of others for a ride out towards Nantwich and back through Delamere (stopping at the Station Cafe) and then back through Frodsham to home. The outbound ride was great, but when we turned towards Delamere we realised why - because we had a strong wind against us all the way back. Still, a reasonable average speed for such a ride (17.2 mph average for 52 mile ride). Route below:

I also went out Sunday, just for a short ride (18 miles or so) on my usual route out to Hope/Llay and back through Rossett/Doddleston etc). Had a strong wind against me as I was cycling out to Hope, but had a great ride back into Chester. Reached a max speed of over 43 mph on the steep downhill just before the A483. Must have recovered from Saturday as my average speed was 17.6 mph.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Circle of Hope 2012 Ride

The Circle of Hope charity ride in aid of Clatterbridge Hospital took place on Sunday 6th May. Around 200-300 cyclists took part, some doing a 15 mile ride, some doing a 50 mile ride and some of us (who are clearly mad) decided to do the 100 mile route. Start and finish was in Hope (North Wales) and the route headed out to Corwen, back towards Llangollen, over World's End, and then went out to Malpas, Beeston Castle etc before heading back to Hope via Aldford, Farndon, Gresford etc.

Map of the route from Strava is shown below:

 As you can see, it was slightly less than 100 miles, and was quite hilly particularly in the first 40 miles or so. Going out towards Cheshire, the roads were fairly flat so we could pick up some speed. Reasonably happy with a time less than 6 hours, and an average speed of 16.2 mph.

Some others from where I work also did the 50 mile ride, and all finished fine (although they had a few mechanical issues along the way).

Will post some photos when I get them.

Also managed to raise £168 for Clatterbridge Hospital. 

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Preparing for Circle of Hope bike ride

I'm doing the Circle of Hope bike ride on Sunday 6th May, a charity bike ride in aid of Clatterbridge Hospital. I decided to do the 100 mile route, which seemed a good idea at the time. You can find out more about the bike ride at:

To get in shape did a fairly hilly ride (last Sunday) out from Chester over "The Steps" to Minera and the down towards Llangollen, and then turned off the main road to go over The Garth up to Panorama Walk and then over World's End. At least it was all down hill to Chester after that. I felt a bit knackered before I set out, and the time wasn't great.

Also went out for a quick spin on Saturday 28th April - just out to Hope and back to Chester via Llay, and then out to Frodsham and back. At least that was a bit faster (average speed over 17 mph for around 40 miles)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Wrexham Fibrax Hilly 24 MIle Time Trial, 15th April 2012

The 2012 Wrexham Fibrax Hilly 24 mile time trial started about 0.5 mile before the Britannia Inn on the approach to the Horseshoe Pass. The route went over the Horseshoe Pass (where the riders were timed) and then down into Ruthin (via the Nant Y Garth road), and then back, to finish at the Ponderosa Cafe at the top of the Horseshoe Pass.
I have ridden over the Horseshoe Pass plenty of times, but usually have cycled 30 miles or so to get there, so this was a chance to get a reasonable time.
There is a long history behind the Wrexham hilly time trials which you can read about here.

In 2012 there were approx 65 riders entered, including Ryan Mullen and Andy Wilkinson who were the two main favourites.

I went off too fast, and went into the red zone halfway up the Horseshoe Pass and had to back off a bit. Once over the top, it was fairly fast into Ruthin although we had the wind against us. This turned out to be quite good since we had the wind behind us most of the way back.

Anyhow, ended up doing just over 1 hr 32 mins. Not great but at least I got around, and wasn't last. There were 7 of us entered from Chester Road Club, and three of us were around the same time (1 hr 31 min or 1 hr 32 min), so we should get plenty of points towards the West Cheshire Time Trials Cycling Association (WCTTCA) points competition. Details of ride from Strava below:

If you fancy doing this, look at a picture of the profile of the route below !!!

Incidentally, Ryan Mullen won and Andy Wilkinson was 2nd. Not sure who won the prime up the Horseshoe Pass. Results are here.

To prepare for this time trial, I did a fairly long hilly training ride on Wednesday (I had the week off because of the Easter school holidays) - see below:

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Chester Road Club Chain Gang

Tuesday 10th April saw the start of the 2012 Chester Road Club chain gangs. The idea is to ride as groups - on this occasion there was a "slow" group and a "fast" group. I was in the "slow" group and there were 6 of us led by Phil. We rode taking turns on the front and peeling off. After 5 minutes or so we got the hang of it and got into a good rhythym. We did two laps of the Saighton circuit, approximately 14 miles or so. The "slow" group did 40 mins and 9 seconds according to Gerry (who was timing us) and the "fast" group did about 38 minutes.

There was a good turn out of approx 12 riders and it ended up being a good work out - good preparation for the Wrexham hilly 24 coming up on Sunday 15th April.

Strava summary is below.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Rides up til 8th April

Did a 53 mile ride down from Chester over the Steps and then over the Horseshoe Pass and back to Chester (details below). Apparently I was 4th overall on "Puncture Alley" according to Strava. Also set my best time over the Horseshoe Pass (quite timely as I'm in the Wrexham Hilly 24 on Sunday 15th April which goes over the Horseshoe Pass). However my best time is still not great (25 mins or so).

Reasonably happy with this ride, as I also did a couple of short, reasonably fast rides in both of the days before, one of which is shown below:

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Cycling Schedule April/May 2012

Have entered the following events in the next few months:
In addition, the Chester Road Club chain gangs start every Tuesday evening (from 7 pm) from mid-April (two laps of Saighton circuit - approx 7 miles per lap).

Had a lot on in the last week or so, so have only managed my short training loop to Hope and back via Rossett etc. Details below from Strava:

Saturday, 24 March 2012

World's End 24th March

Did part of the 2011 Etape Cymru route. Road out from Chester, out into North Wales and over the Steps, through Minera, over to Rhosllanerchrugog, through Acre Fair, and then over the Garth (which is quite a steep long climb which was the first real hill on last year's Etape Cymru. Once over that, the ride on Panorama Walk is really good - particularly as it was a warm sunny day - and there was very little traffic about. After Panorama Walk there is a drop down into the Eglwyseg valley and up over World's End. I tend to get off at the Ford and carry my bike over, as I once fell off there and was off the bike for 4 or 5 weeks with a bad hip/leg.

Good fast ride all the way back into Chester after that :)

Details of route below from Garmin Connect:

And also from Strava - which told me I'd done a personal best up the Steps.

Not a great average speed (15.3 mph) but there was quite a lot of climbing.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Oswestry Hilly 17 Time Trial 17th March 2012

Entered the Oswestry 17 Time Trial a few weeks ago. Tried to cycle around the course last week but my chain snapped (!) after 5 miles. Weather was not great, it started pouring with rain at the start, but brightened up later on. There was a great big hill after 0.5 mile or so (Blodwel Bank), and it was mainly uphill for the first 6 miles.

Route below is from Garmin Connect:

Also uploaded this to Strava - see below:

Strava reported this as only 900 feet of climbing, whilst Garmin Connect with elevation correction on reported it as 1400 feet (which I think is more accurate).

Finished with a time of 1.01.13 (to be confirmed) which works out an average of 16.5 mph. I was hoping to do under an hour but lost a bit of time as I had trouble with my gears on one of the climbs. It also didn't help that it was the first time I'd ridden around the course.

The second half of the course was quite enjoyable (max speed was almost 40 mph at one point) apart from a few dodgy S-bends.

There were also coffee and cakes at the end in Llanblodwel Village Hall which was good.

Full results available here:

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Horseshoe Pass

Felt pretty good on Sunday 11th March (after a disastrous Saturday - see below), so set off just before 9 am to go out to North Wales, over the Steps, to Minera, and round to Rhosllanerchrugog down into Llangollen, over the Horseshoe Pass, and then back to Chester. Pretty pleased with an average of 15.9 mph (according to my Garmin 800) for this ride. Strava reported it as 15.8 mph :(.

I'm trying to get some "hard" miles in as I have entered the Oswestry Hilly 17 next Saturday (17th March). So I drove down to Oswestry Saturday morning to ride around the course (D18/2). You can see the course map here.
The whole exercise was a bit of a disaster, since I had a puncture right at the start (although this had the side benefit that I now know my small portable pump works OK), and then after 7 miles of the course my chain snapped ! Couldn't sort it out with the small Parks tool I had so had to freewheel back to the car. Have now put a stronger chain on. I can confirm that the first 7 miles of the course are VERY HILLY. Will be happy to do less than 1.05 next week.

Friday, 9 March 2012

New wheels on spare bike

I got some Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels for my spare bike. They are very good.

Did a short ride out to Frodsham and back and the wheels certainly seem fast - quite a good average speed considering some of the hills on the route.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mad March Hare Sportive Sunday 4th March 2012

I entered the Mad March Hare Sportive some time ago - I think it was described as a gentle, mid-distance, introduction to the Sportive season.
It is easy to get to, just south of Birmingham, easy to park, and only £12. The route was also very good, and would be quite enjoyable in good weather.
Unfortunately the weather was awful, and I hadn't realised that for the first 50 miles or so (which I did in just over 3 hours) we had the wind behind us and hadn't done most of the climbs.
It was very cold, very wet, windy, and it even snowed as we climbed the most difficult hill (out of Willersley).
To make matters worse, close to the finish me and a few others went off-course and did an extra 7 miles (the official distance is around 75 miles and I ended up doing 82 miles).
The bacon buttie and hot coffee at the end was good.

Details of the ride from Strava are below:

If you are going to enter a sportive like the Mad March Hare, then don't prepare like I did. Rather stupidly, I went out with someone from Chester Road Club on Saturday 3rd March (the day before the Sportive) and did a fairly rapid 52 miles around the Cheshire lanes. I did eat and drink a lot Saturday afternoon and evening, but I think I would have rode more strongly if I hadn't done the Saturday ride. Details of Saturday's ride below:

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Discovered Strava

Did the Chester Road Club Hilly 14 Open event on 25th Feb - ended up being 24 seconds faster than the week before. I tried out some new clip on tri-bars but it was a bit windy and I only used them for five minutes at the most.

I joined Strava and uploaded the ride below:

Still felt OK after the race on 25th Feb so did a longish ride (53 miles) into North Wales, up the "Steps" to Coedpoeth, then through Wrexham and back to Chester and then did a quick loop out to Frodsham and back. Needed to get some miles in for the Mad March Hare Sportive which I've entered on 4th March

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Chester Road Club Hilly 14 TT (18 Feb 2012) + other rides

Used my new bike on the Chester Road Club hilly 14 mile Time Trial on Saturday 18th Feb. Managed to go around in 44 mins and 17 seconds, which I was reasonably pleased with, as it was only the second time I've ridden around the circuit (the first time being the week before when I took over 51 mins on my old bike) and also I seemed to be the only rider who entered (out of 22) who wasn't using tri-bars. I will be riding the same course on 25th Feb (the Open event organised by CRC) so will try to beat this time (and I may see if I can get some tri-bars sorted out mid-week). PS - my max heart rate is around 172 or so, so my average of 161 was around 94% of my max, so was trying reasonably hard. Also think I need to push higher gears next week.

On 19th Feb also went around my usual training route to Llay and back, on my new bike. For the same amount of calories, my average speed is around 2 mph more than on my other bike. Averaged around 17.5 mph, which considering the wind and cold weather, was pretty good for this time of year.

On Valentine's Day, I rode out (on my old bike) to Coedpoeth and back via Wrexham, going up the "steps" from Cefn Y Bedd to Coedpoeth. Once at the top it is around 30+ mph all the way down into Wrexham.