Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Solstice 100 Mountain Bike Sportive

I'm writing today's blog basking in the glorious aches and pains you get from completing a hard cycling challenge. Yesterday four good cycling friends and I took on the Solstice 100 Mountain Bike Sportive. This was a 100 mile ride on a combination of surfaces including: tarmac, gravel, mud, forest trails, killer grass, bouncy rocks and five fords!

Here's a link to the event:

My day started with a ride to Kettering at 5.20am. You might think this was a bit mad before a 100 mile ride but there was method to my madness. Firstly it gave me the opportunity to taunt Andy and Chris for making me ride to them BUT most importantly I hadn't had time to test ride my bike and I wanted to find any niggles before we got going. With bikes in Chris' van we set off from Andy B's to meet Andy P and Mark C.

First shout out goes to Andy and Chris at C&D Cycles for preparing my magnificent Forme Calver. They have gone above and beyond to get my tubeless tyres set up just right and those tricky SRAM gears are tuned to perfection. It's a great bike and performed excellently, despite clogging the cogs with grass (sorry Andy, I didn't break it honest!) 

The Sportive started from the Pomfret Arms in Northampton. It was quite an atmosphere to start with around 200 riders and an eclectic collection of hardtails, full suspension and our collective weapon of choice the CX bike. I also bumped into an old friend and colleague Brendan. He was making his first attempt at this distance

In perfect weather we set off along tow paths to head out of Northampton. The swan was not impressed!

I'd say that the perfect bike for this ride does not exist. We certainly had an advantage on our CX bikes on the road and smoother off road sections. There was such a variety of surfaces and terrains though that a MTB would be better sited to and some downhill rocky sections which would be a lot of fun on full sus but a bit tricky on our skinny CX tyres and rigid frames. Early into the ride we encountered a recently mowed field full of upside down bikes. Not really picking up on the problem we obliviously rode on and then all had to stop as the grass had wound round our cogs...oh...that's what was going on!!!

There's one of the types of surface

After a hill that seemed to go on forever it suddenly became obvious that we were leaving Northants  and had arrived at burton-dassett-hills-country-park. This was our first food stop and it was very welcome indeed. We loaded up with bananas, nuts, haribo etc and refilled our camelbaks. 

Andy P eloquently described this as a stone tower!

Picture taken by the fabulous ladies managing the first food stop

I couldn't resist this

Here's some more idea of surface variety

On the way to the tower above which is actually we had a great time in some surprise woodland trails. I think we had our first tumble (Andy P I think but the memory is a bit blurred!) The other thing was I had my first hint of my old nemesis cramp. 

This has to be special moment of the day. I nearly hyperventilated when I arrived at the scene to see Andy P desperately pulling at his front wheel which was buried in the mud. He described the event as receiving a warning from Chris...then his front wheel planted, his bike went up at the back, he miraculously unclipped and sort of run off the front of the bike.

We were a bit behind so missed all the action due to the rocky descent where Andy P had thrown up a  rock which knocked Andy B off his bike. I then cramped and also fell off...much to Mark's amusement! This was just one of those sections where were definitely on the wrong bikes! The video below has some footage from the grass incident and some from the stuck in the mud section. It also has to be said that Chris was by far the most accomplished off road rider. He's the only one who didn't take a tumble and was usually fastest down the hills!

We went through five fords in total. Some were the typical ones on tarmac roads and others were boggy fly infested stink pits.

After around 50 miles my cramp became a real problem. I'm not sure exactly what the issue was but my best guess is that a week of home improvement and no cycling is not good preparation. Everone had a plethora of advice about drinking more, having a gel etc. Andy B questioned my saddle height and adjusting this a few mm higher actually helped for about 15 miles. Then my legs weer just gits. ONe minute I'd feel strong and then suddenly I was paralysed by cramp. The others were very patient with me but the truth is I held them up and we'd have all finished at least an hour earlier if my legs hadn't let us down.

Kindly we had an extra stop at this pub. I really needed it! We also discussed how tempting it would be to settle down for the afternoon and book a taxi to get us home!

posing plonkers

Just a lovely shot

This is not a shot of Andy P post tumble...he's just very relaxed

As I said tumbles aplenty! I had a high speed fall going down a track. I just clipped an edge and lost control. Luckily it was a soft landing and I just have a graze on my elbow and hip. Mark was less lucky and has holes in his club jersey. At the same time as Mark's crash, Chris B had our only puncture of the day...if you don't count Andy B's leaky tubeless issues! All of this happened after our final food stop at 82 miles. Everyone was tired at this point...we ate loads drank loads and then instantly started talking about food and drink. A pint and burger at the Pomfret Arms was calling us!

We set off again and it was with some relief for me that we made it back to the towpath on the Blisworth arm. My legs picked up for a while until we left the canal and entered Hunsbury Park. With less than two miles to go my legs then decided to misbehave again. I had the indignity of Chris  pushing my bike up the hill whilst I did that highly amusing shuffle that is the only thing that eases cramp at times. 

Some more classic bikes at the Pomfret Arms

Finally we were back at the pub where the pint and burger were very very welcome! 

Warning: There is some swearing on the following video. Do not watch if you are sensitive to colourful language

Some big thanks need to go to MTB Epics and Northants Outkasts MTB for organsing such a great event. The course was brilliant, a really well linked clever mix of surfaces. They said "see you next year when we left and I'd say that's likely!"

My biggest thanks go to my ride companions today. A great bunch of blokes on a great day's cycling!

Happy Pedalling

Friday, 22 June 2018

Last minute too much to say blog...#britishsummer #homeimprovement #needtogetoutonmybike #family

Okay so this is going to be a very quick blog to catch up with the last few weeks which have involved a tiny bit of cycling (comparatively for me,) lots of family time and a house project which is coming together nicely! Oh and who am I trying to won't be quick!

So way back on the 8th of June my son, Sam, and the other cyclones had a team time trial training session at Leicester Cycle Circuit. With a small group and plenty of coaches this gave me the chance to just go for a spin. I set out to see if I could average 20mph over an hour and then had a a sub goal of not letting Jamie Stockham catch me. I failed on both counts although Jamie was kind enough to say I was getting harder to catch! My average was 19.9mph. That's good for me but just like a cricketer who loses his wicket on's never going to be good enough. The cyclones meanwhile, coached well by Brian and Roland, had a really good training session. 

On June the 9th I took part in my first ever Parkrun! Yeah I know...running!!! Running on a Saturday when I should be out cycling with my clubmates!!! Well people who've read my blog before will know I do occasionally go for a run. I don't enjoy it as much as cycling but it's still great fun. 

This was a very special Parkrun as it was the designated #NHS70 Parkrun day. All over the country people ran who either worked for or supported the NHS. My Parkrun of choice was Market Harborough. The reason for this is that I was going to run with workmates one of whom lives in Leicester but this didn't work out. Market Harborough is the 2nd closest Parkrun to my house being less than 10 miles from Rothwell. I really didn't know what I was doing so I turned up clutching my barcode looking nervous. A lovely volunteer called Jane helped me and before I knew it I was in a crowd of runners on a start line. It's a great atmosphere. Before we started they asked who worked for the NHS and got us to say hello. There was also a celebration of people reaching milestones. The one person I knew vaguely from work was Anne who got to say she worked for he NHS and celebrate her 50th Parkrun. There was also a runner of the month and things like introducing guided runners. 

Parkruns ask people to place themselves at the start according to the time they expect to run. There are also pace volunteers so people can work out where to start. I estimated that I would take around 30 minutes as this was my first run since November. Well I really underestimated myself and spent most of the first lap overtaking people. On the second lap I overtook the 29 minute pace runner. On the way round the run is really made by enthusiastic marshalls  and all the runners are very friendly. For the last 100 metres I was suddenly being passed by people for the first time...oh yeah finish strong for a good time. So I stretched my legs a little but let's not get carried away and call it a sprint! At the finish line they hand you tag with a barcode and then you get it scanned with your personal barcode and you're done! My official time was 26.06 and I'm pleased with that for a first effort. I'll definitely try one of these again but it's not going to replace cycling...maybe it's an idea for winter days when cycling becomes foolish.

On Monday 11th it was time for a bit more paying it forward with the Cyclones. Sam was off training with the other Time triallers so I helped out with a bit of off road skills training at Prologis Park. This venue is perfect for cyclocross and cross country mountain bike racing. You just have to be mindful of other users, especially dog walkers. It was a beuatiful evening but hey May and June have been ful of those haven't they?

Those ginormous picture dodging Red Kites are also very prevalent here.As ever I didn't get a good photo but the snaps of the venue are okay!

Tuesday 12th of June was a very rare morning this month. I went out on my own before work! This time it was to test those lovely trails in Desborough as a bit of mountain bike training. However I'm not sure what I'm training for because the rest of my life is getting in the way of this years #FNSS XC MTB racing.

Love that bike

Trails are good and dry!

Lovely planned community space

The ride to Desborough is nice too!

Friday the 15th of June was a very big day as it was my Nan's 90th birthday. In between all the DIYSOS we have going on at home I managed to get out with my family including my sister visiting from Australia for a picnic on the Brampton Valley Way. 

Clockwise from the left: Dad, Jayne, Pap, Nan, Mum and Bruce!

When you're 91 these wheels are permissable!!!

The other reason for taking the day off work was to make sure I got Sam to Silverstone on time fro the 9up Team Time Trial. This event, organised by Bicester Milennium Cycling Club has to be seen to be believed. It's three laps of the famous old Grand Prix circuit in teams of 9 where 5 riders need to finish to set a time. There are around 90 teams taking part including handbikes and junior teams. There's a LOT of very expensive carbon on show!!!

Sam is still developing as a cyclist so he doesn't have the speed yet to stay on for three laps (yet...I really mean's coming!)

The marshalls do a great job and all riders get a standing start. We were really proud of the Cyclones who smashed out a really good time, taking minutes of their time from last year. I think we discussed this last year too but we have had the idea of entering a 'Dad's' team next year. I'm sure the kids could help us with some training!

On Saturday I had a hair transplant. I think I look like a famous person...unfortunately it's Donald Trump. Okay so this was a birthday meal with for my Nan. They started with my sister's hair and then decided I'd look better as a blonde!

On Saturday Sam and I took part in the first ever Cycle4Cransley. Cransley Hospice is for terminally ill cancer patients and on one of the sites where I work. It has a sister unit in Northampton called Cynthia Spencer. Cycle4Cynthia is a well established charity ride/sportive and we all hope Cycle4 Cransley can emulate their success. There's a blog or two in here somewhere from the few times we've done Cycle4Cynthia.

We opted for the 25 mile ride as to date it's the longest ride Sam has done. No doubt about it, he wil be ready for 50 miles next year.

Our C&D Cycles CC leader, Andy Ferguson did a great deal of work for this ride. Just the day before he was putting out the direction signs supplied by another great cycling friend Any Pendred. Completing a trio of things I know about was Mike Deely, who sponsored the event through his company KLM Taxis.

Out on the road we joined with the Crabtree's...but after Sam crashed into the back of Greta we decided to push on alone. Poor Sam got confused between signalling right and breaking. He's not used to group riding so some more training is needed. I very much think the tumble that grazed his knee will be a good lesson though. Sam to his credit got back on. 

Ubiquitous cycling selfie

At Woodford we caught up with the older Crabtree's and George Deely. We then made our way to the glorious cake stop that is Woodford Mill. Better still they do Dirty Chai Latte's, the choice of the discerning cyclist!!!

Cake stop at Woodford Mill

Father's Day cycling socks

From the cafe stop I agreed to look after the older kids. Initially I was racing Charlie Crabtree for village signs but that young man is way too quick for me! For the last few miles I set a pace for Sam and George to draft. They both did exceptionally well to keep up. Then the cheeky blighters sprint finished claiming victory over the old man!!!!

At the end Andy gave me a token for a free pint. With all of his organising it should've been the other way around! It was very welcome!!!

It was also Father's day and I did very well this year. Cheers to Lee and the kids for my Cycology Jersey and matching socks, the fire basket and my traditional toblerone!

Okay...many things beckon. Not least of which is a 100 mile off road ride tomorrow. I've got this blog done because I think tomorrow might need a blog all of it's own...I've missed loads of stuff like mentioning the Women's Tour was in Northamptonshire again.

Anyway must go...stuff to do...Happy Pedalling.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Home improvement reduces opportunities but still some great riding!

I was expecting to get another round of the Friday Night Summer Series MTB racing in this Friday but home improvement projects got in the way. However I've still been out on my bikes and got some great riding in. The weather has been great again so I really can't complain.

On Saturday I went out with C&D Cycles CC for one of our favourite routes. I've said before that we're lucky in Northants to have some great road riding. It's true we have a pot hole epidemic right now with some road holes having their own postcode but we still have plenty of quiet roads, rolling hills and stunning countryside.

The route starts with a lengthy spin down the A43 into Corby. After that though the countryside starts and we enjoyed the delights of the Welland Valley.

In ride selfies are now mandatory

On the ride we enjoyed the fast descent into Harringworth. We stopped and regrouped on the corner where two amazing things happened. Firstly another club zipped past us with some of our cycling buddies in it. Then the second group caught up with us. This wasn't a surprise, we hadn't gone out as fast and banter groups we just split in two for safety reasons. At this point Richard Golding made the first of the two funniest comments of the day. This man has banter of the very highest quality!

During our break I noticed Ken's magnificent jersey. One of the many he has collected whilst on holiday.

Harringworth is home to a magnificent viaduct. It's a famous landmark which has featured often in this blog. Most recently the Top Gear team went for a spin round here. If you want to know more here's a link to it's wikipedia page

Viaduct Selfie

The ride finished with a bit of a quick blast along Glendon Road. As we headed into Ketering we were heckled by a pedestrian convinced we were going the wrong way down a one way street. At the risk of sounding a  bit Dom's a cycle lane mate!

Back at the shop we got a good look at Andy Ferguson's 'blingdacious,' new chainring. It's a beauty isn't it? What certainly isn't blingdacious, is my badly messed up bar tape. However Andy sorted that for me too.

There he goes sorting out the tattiness. After Andy's attention it was all good again, well except my white bar tape was very grubby indeed. 

White bar tape used to be very desirable until everyone caught on that it gets mucky very quickly. This video from GCN is helpful for keeping your bartape clean...

Or is it? In the comments they point out that it's more of a promotional video for Muc Off

Dirty bar tape

Much better!

What the video doesn't show you is that the best and easiest way to clean white bar tape is baby wipes. It took me 5 minutes to get my tape clean using about 6 wipes!

A while back Andy P and I decided we needed to do a Summer CX ride. No one else wanted to join us, well no one else who had permission from their SWMBO. So Andy and I set off together to rediscover he routes that were thick mud in the winter.

First stop was Geddington and a spin down the chase. I had never taken my Forme Calver down here before and it certainly was a different experience from a MTB with suspension. I was also worried that not having tubeless tyres was asking for it...I was about to be right!

Good off road track

practising those CX skills

At the bottom of the chase I had my first puncture. This was a pinch flat on my rear tyre. The new tube went in and off we set again. Andy was very patient as I made the change.

At the Brigstock end of the chase we made our way to Lyveden New Bield. I upset a National Trust volunteer by riding on the grass before putting more air in the rear tyre and we set off again. On the track heading towards Aldwinkle I joked with Andy that we had lots of tumbles on this bridleway before. I even taunted Andy as I picked a better line and shot off own the hill. Pride does indeed come before a fall and I overestimated my ability, dropped into a big tyre track rut and went flying over my handlebars. I smashed my front wheel into the rut and caused yet another pinch flat! I had to borrow a spare tube off of Andy but remarkably my wheel was undamaged. Clearly these Hunt wheels are sturdy hoops!

We then opted to go a different way to previously and found a challenging but fun track. In places the track was a very tricky (see below,) and this was good for me as I'm still learning how to ride this awesome bike.

After the track we headed back to Kettering via Cranford. We did a lot of these tracks earlier in the year and I have to say it's a lot easier on the Calver than my Ripley MTB. Possibly the only time I felt I was on the wrong bike was the rocky sections in Geddington Chase. The other thing of difference was the sticky mud has been replaced with hard rutted ground which you can't see properly due to all the vegetation!
It was overgrown...

Really overgrown...

Andy brought some vegetation back with him!

This final pic is actually in the middle of Kettering on Ise Lodge. Moments later we were back on tarmac and despite seeing the pothole my wheel was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Bang! Another pinch flat. Luckily Andy had another spare tube which I put in to make it the final two minutes back to C&D Cycles!

Back at the shop we enjoyed some banter with Andy F and I very much enquired about getting my tubeless set up sorted. I also made use of the shop track pump because I wanted to get home without further incident! Big thanks to Andy P for splendid company, patience and those spare tubes!

It was a quick spin home and a clean of my bike before heading off to Mum and Dad's for dinner. That was very welcome because my house currently looks like this!

The remains of the old kitchen

This wall is about to be knocked down!

It's going to be a very hectic few weeks at home but we're heading towards what will feel like a new house with some very cool features. To stay sane I will need to keep cycling though!!!

Happy Pedalling