Behaving like a professional sportsman … but not a good one

We are in the Cotswolds for Christmas. I brought the bike and went out for a short ride the other morning. It was wet and windy and I was thankful for mudguards as I splashed through endless muck and puddles. However, severe weather warnings were in place for today so I decided to run instead of cycle. Fear of slipping on wet roads or being blown off made it seem a more sensible option.

I ran 5 miles along the remains of an old Roman Road. Part of the route was solid trail, but mostly it was slippery and wet with ankle-deep mud. Hills, wind, driving rain and my lack of fitness all added to the challenge. Just when I thought it was going ok, I completely lost my footing and crashed to the ground, landing in the foetal position in a giant puddle, smashing my knee on a rock and screaming in agony like the little baby I looked like. In fact, it was worse than that: I reacted like a Premier League footballer who’d been touched in the penalty area, clutching my knee and screaming at the sky. With nobody for miles, my pathetic cries were instantly absorbed by the bleak surroundings. The rain continued to fall, the wind whipped the puddle into my face and after a few more futile shouts of pain mixed with frustration mixed with humiliation, I dragged myself to my feet and hobble-jogged the last mile home.

It's difficult to say which annoyed me more. Ripping a hole in my tights, or ripping a hole in my knee

It’s difficult to say what annoyed me more: ripping a hole in my tights or my knee

Back home, I cleaned myself up, bandaged my knee and tried to ignore the nagging feeling that I’d probably over-reacted just a little bit. It hurt, I was tired, it was cold, I landed in a puddle. But were the blood-curdling screams like I’d been shot really necessary? I behaved like a bloody footballer. If all this outdoor exercise is supposed to make you tough, then I’ve still got a long way to go …

Snow & hills

I’ve just noticed that I’ve ridden 1999.9 kilometres this year. While this endless Winter has mostly limited my cycling endurance to a maximum of two hour rides, all of those difficult rides have already added up to a satisfying sub-total for 2013. Last year I had ridden just over 1000 km at this point so this is a nice improvement already.

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Any opportunity at the moment to give yourself a warm feeling inside should be grasped

We are still in the Cotswolds for the long Easter weekend and enjoying the bracing weather. Yesterday we went for a walk to Broadway Tower from the aptly-named ‘Snowshill’. This is one of the highest points of the Cotswolds and the snow was several inches deep. My bike was also tucked away in the boot of my wife’s car and following our walk, Mrs BikeVCar drove home and I pedalled my way.

"What are ewe looking at?" Lambing season is upon us

“What are ewe looking at?” Lambing season is upon us, much to Mrs BikeVCar’s delight

Broadway Tower on snowy Snowshill

Broadway Tower on snowy Snowshill

Before heading home, I couldn’t resist a few climbs of Dovers Hill. The¬†little winding road has been used for several National Hill Climb championships and is quite a challenge. At just over one mile in length and an average gradient of 10% it’s tough and seemed an ideal destination for my first attempt this year at the soul-destroying activity of hill-repeats. After the third and final climb I was slumped over the bars trying to catch my breath when a little old lady drove past honking her horn and giving me the thumbs up which made me smile and wave back. It was nice receiving a friendly gesture from a car driver and reminded me of being back in France last summer.

Interesting cycling conditions

Interesting cycling conditions

Rewarding views after a hard climb

Rewarding views after a hard climb

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After the climbing I got back on the main road and tried to find a fast rhythm for the 15 km back to Stow on the Wold. I have recently joined a local cycling club in Bristol and am hoping to participate in a few of their time trials this season. I managed to maintain just over 20mph for half an hour which felt good and will hopefully give me enough confidence to attend their first event next week. I’ve been doing this cycling lark for long enough now – it’s time to rub Lycra with a few other nutcases.

Stopping for a rest by a peaceful 11th Century church in Lower Oddington

Stopping for a rest by a peaceful 11th Century church in Lower Oddington

The first day of shorts

After coming off my bike midweek I took a couple of days rest before getting back on it today. We are up in the Cotswolds for the Easter weekend and the weather is still bitingly cold. Our time is mostly spent in front of the log fire and going out for short country walks, but one of us is also going out cycling in shorts. My healing knee has been going a bit gooey when covered up, so despite the temperatures hovering around freezing, keeping it uncovered in shorts seemed like the most sensible course of action.

Snow in every direction

Snow in every direction

It was a bit sharp on the legs for the first few miles, but once I’d warmed up they felt fine. My fingers, toes and ears all seem to suffer when cycling in the cold and need to be well wrapped, but my legs (including the fresh bald patch around the knee) seemed fine today.

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A lesser-spotted Bald-Knee ( a rare winter sighting )

I rode for two hours at an average speed of 18mph. I had a slight headwind on the way out which gave an opportunity for a faster return home. To avoid any potential ice I stuck to the busy main roads which meant dealing with traffic but also enjoying smoother, straighter roads than the back lanes. It’s difficult to say whether it was the tail-wind, the smooth roads or the aerodynamic bald knee which contributed most to the enhanced speed of today’s ride.

Definitely shorts weather

Definitely shorts weather

A wintry century

I was a free man this weekend so decided it was a suitable occasion for a first attempt of the year at riding 100 miles. However, with daytime temperatures currently hovering around freezing and my bike with mudguards currently out of action I was having second thoughts this morning.

The nice bike received some winter abuse today

The favourite bike received some winter abuse today

The first few miles were uncomfortable. It was snowing lightly, my face was burning from the cold and the bike was making a strange buzzing noise. I needed to stop three times to twist and turn a few bits before managing to stop the worst of the buzzing noise. I also adjusted my head buff so that it was covering my face and ears. A balaclava might have been more appropriate headwear today.

Uncomfortable but effective

Uncomfortable but necessary

I opted for two different 50 mile loops so that I could return to the house at lunch to warm myself up with soup, toast and tea. Leaving the house again after lunch I bumped into a neighbour walking his dog. He remarked that it was too cold to cycle and asked how far I was going. I said around three hours, to which he replied that I was mad. He was probably right so I decided not to tell him I’d already been out for three and half hours in the morning.

Hills and light snow

Hills and light snow

The furthest I’d ridden over the last few months was two hours. So today’s ride of 6 & 1/2 hours really took me beyond my threshold. The endless hills left my legs with little strength in the last hour and the cold seemed to keep finding its way up my sleeves, down my collar and into my face.

Two separate loops with a midway lunch stop

Two separate loops with a midway lunch stop

The Cotswolds is typically uphill and downhill with little flat riding

The Cotswolds is typically very hilly with little flat riding. In total I climbed 2200 metres today

The final test was arriving home for the second time with 96 miles on the clock. I rode past the house and down the hill for 2 miles knowing I would have to climb my way back to finish. By the time I arrived home I felt completely deflated. I’d been out from 8am to 3:30pm, it had snowed for most of the time and the temperature had never risen above 0’C. So I lit the fire, poured myself a beer and collapsed onto the sofa. This ride will certainly have put my body under quite a lot of stress so I’m planning to take a few days off the bike to fully recover. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.

Winter in the Cotswolds

Winter in the Cotswolds – I’m looking forward to Spring …

Non-update

Every morning after I’ve scraped the ice off the windscreen I embark on a terrifying drive along the dark and tight little country lanes from my house. I barely recognise them from the roads I used to cycle along.

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The view from my car this morning did not make me feel like I should be cycling

On top of suffering from ‘seasonal affective disorder’ I have also been injured which required a first visit to an osteopath. I then spent a week abstaining from exercise which was more difficult than abstaining from a beer on a Friday evening, but yesterday I did feel strong enough to go for a run. This was probably only the second time I’ve run for several months and it was fairly ok – although running along freezing cold and pitch black country lanes required wearing a hideous outfit of man-tights and a high vis top, like I was some sort of ballet-dancing builder. However, when topped off by the pinnacle of all geekiness – the head torch, I was quite frankly embarrassed just walking past our neighbours house. Luckily it was too dark to be recognised by anyone, but I still pulled my beanie hat over my head just to be sure.¬†Last weekend we also went walking in the Cotswolds which was another enjoyable semi-substitute for cycling.

Winter shadows on frozen fields

Winter shadows on frozen fields

I have not updated the bike v car graph for a few weeks as the recent car-dominance may not look good. Hopefully it will however be good motivation to get back on the catch-up trail come Spring.

Blenheim Palace 100 mile Sportive

After the painful intensity of Saturday’s time-trial, the fact that Mike & I had also signed up for a 100 mile sportive the next day didn’t seem like such a big deal.

Saturday’s TT in the grandeur estates of Blenheim Palace

The 20k time trial was a great event and there was also something nice about having participated in a cycling event but still having the best part of the day left to enjoy yourself. We spent Saturday afternoon with our ladies, out and about in the Cotswolds and ensuring not to lose athletic-focus by ‘carb-loading’ with several fine local ales. There was a bit of banter on the assumption that I had stolen a few seconds off Mike, much to both of our surprise. We were unable to find any official results from the TT online so we went into Sunday’s 100 mile event thinking that he needed to recover about 3 seconds on me.

Mike, Tim, Chris & Tom waiting to start …

… and six hours of sitting on a slim, plastic wedge gets underway

The first hill of the day draws a few sharp breaths

We rode the first 30 miles with Tom and Chris who were doing the 60 mile version. At the first feed stop we had a quick bite and then departed with Tim on the 100 mile route via Cheltenham. It was a hilly extra 40 miles and we worked as a team.

A warm day in the Cotswolds

I’d been waiting for it to happen and finally, after nearly 6 hours it did – Mike went for a break for the finishing line. Although, actually it might have been me who started it. All I remember is that the two of us were suddenly taking it in turns bursting to escape and then laughing when we looked behind and saw the other stuck on our tail. It ended with me flying through the grounds of Blenheim Palace thinking I’d done enough to escape, only for Mike to sprint past me with a few metres to go and then thank me for ‘leading him out’.

The end of a good weekend of cycling

We had to wait until Monday evening for the official results to arrive. First was the 100 mile sportive – Mike had snatched the 3 seconds we thought he needed, finishing in a time just shy of 6 hours. Then the 20km TT results came in and I had finished in 33:50 to claim 9th placed novice in the 300-strong event … and 6 seconds ahead of Mike. So after six and a half hours of riding, we were separated by just 3 seconds. Great fun and incredibly close.

Spreading the bike bug

Just over a year ago we had no bikes and two cars in our household. Then I got a new car and bought my first road bike on the same day … and the BikeVCar blog was born.

5 months ago I quit my awful job, handed back my company car and found a local job that I could cycle to. At this point it was Bike 1 – 1 Car.

Yesterday, Ms BikeVCar collected her new road bike from the local bike shop “one nil down … two-one up!!”

I’m currently also very close to buying a second bike which will represent even further two-wheeled domination.

Ms BikeVCar’s new bike is a thing of beauty and certainly a lot nicer than my bike – justifiable grounds for my upgrade, methinks

Today was the first outing by Ms BikeVCar on her new machine. We chose a 35 km loop from Stow on the Wold which mostly avoided main roads. It didn’t mostly avoid hills, but seeing as ‘wold’ roughly translates as ‘hilly area’ it’s always going to be difficult to avoid hills around Stow on the Wold, in the Cotswolds.

A relaxing, mostly traffic-free loop of the Cotswolds

Today’s route elevation – about as flat as it comes around Stow on the Wold

When it comes to cycling, Ms BikeVCar already possesses an amazing, cycling-specific skill – cake baking. And over the last year I have developed an amazing capacity for cake-eating which is purely out of respect to true cycling values.

Only a cyclist could consume this amount of Ms BikeVCar’s homemade chocolate brownie in one day and not feel the slightest pang of guilt

Those who know anything about recreational cycling will know that cakes represent one of the Five Holy Pillars of Cycling. The other four being:

  • dressing head-to-toe in Lycra so revealing that it would make any non-cyclist feel naked
  • understanding the importance of sartorial elegance on the bike (even if you think nothing of wearing black shoes and a brown belt in normal everyday life, you would never allow the colours of your bike frame, bar tape, jersey and helmet not carefully match and complement each other)
  • the evidently infinite amount of gear and equipment that one must strive to acquire
  • accepting a completely new cost-value ratio that any rational person not indoctrinated in the world of cycling would not comprehend – “you could buy a good car for the cost of your bike” is a typical comment

Ms BikeVCar displaying fine sartorial elegance. Stylish bike, retro jersey and the whole outfit containing just 3 colours – white, black and pink. She means business!

The ride today was an enjoyable spin in some rare sunshine. After several weeks of heavy rain it was a pleasure to have some favourable weather. The speed of the journey was possibly slightly slower than Mr BikeVCar is normally used to, but other than the one occasion when Ms BikeVCar made him lose his cool by stopping to squeal at baby lambs he managed to behave in a gentlemanly and patient manner.

She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes

We stopped in the quaint village of Moreton-in-Marsh for cups of tea and a slice of cake before the long climb home to Stow on the hill.

Cake and tea stop … more cake? Yes, of course more cake

We were out for three hours which provided some excellent bum-conditioning for Ms BikeVCar. Now that she has her own bike correctly set up for her, the next phase of cycling development will be overcoming the discomfort of spending hours perched on a thin wedge of plastic. Who knows what will follow after that – Bike V Car part 2 ?