Sunday, 29 August 2010

That's it for training rides!

I've done three rides the last three days: 24 miles on Friday, 34 miles yesterday and 54 miles today. (I don't know what's so special about number 4, it just happened that way!) Today was probably the toughest ride I've done as it was very windy. Just cycling along the flat straight by the reservoir, I had to pedal as hard as I could to maintain 10 mph, lugging 8 kg of water in my panniers. The wind was particularly bad on the open ground by Little Baddow, so my average speed of 12.3 mph was pretty respectable. I just hope it's not too windy up in the mountains when I get to Spain. On the plus side, I had a nice slice of coffee and walnut cake at the Paper Mill Lock tea room, and a lovely chicken club sandwich at the General's Arms. I think I've got my eating and drinking sorted now. Whilst it was hard work today, I could quite easily have cycled another 15-20 miles.

So no more training rides - today's ride is hopefully on a par with the non-mountain stages on my route. I'm going to box my bike up tomorrow, as I will have a busy week at work, and might not get enough time. If I can, I'll go out for a couple of evening rides on my bike with the curly bars, just to keep the legs ticking over.

The Vuelta A España started yesterday, so I shall be watching that. Mark Cavendish is in the red jersey after two stages.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


I've been out for a couple of rides this week, but have been limited by the atrocious weather.

I had a bit of a nightmare with my route. About a week ago I started writing up the directions for each stage, so that I don't keep having to stop to get the book or map out. It soon became apparent that the book is very out of date (written in 2003 and updated in 2006). There has been a massive road building programme in Spain over the last few years, and I found that the road used in the book to get out of Madrid has now been turned into a motorway. There are also other places which were not suitable for cyclists, so I've therefore spent loads of time over the past week poring over paper maps, and Google maps/satellite/streetview, putting together a revised route, and I'm now a lot happier with it. I've also googled all of the bike shops en-route in case I get any mechanical problems which I can't fix myself.

My bike has been making an intermittent clicking noise ever since I had it serviced earlier in the year which has been steadily getting worse, driving me nuts. It sounded like the noise was coming from the front mech, but adjusting this didn't work. I'd already taken it back to the shop once and they adjusted it, which seemed to fix it for a while, but I took it back again yesterday and they had a proper look at it, and found that the clicking noise was actually coming from the seat clamp, and was resonating through the frame. They've sorted this so that's hopefully put an end to the clicking noise.

I'm hoping to get out for a ride today, but it's very grey outside so I'll wait to see if it blows over. The forecast is for rain all day today, but good from tomorrow through to Monday, so I'm aiming to get plenty of miles in before I go back to work on Tuesday.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Back from holiday

We had a great break in Lisbon and did loads of walking - we must have walked several miles each day. Lisbon is very hilly, and the pavements and roads in the city centre are all cobbles, so my legs - and my calves in particular - still ache a bit.

Yesterday I went out for my first ride for a week and a half. Only a short one - a lap of the reservoir - but I did load up my panniers with eight litres of water which, I seem to recall from my schoolboy science lessons, is the equivalent of eight kilos in weight, which should more than reflect the weight of my panniers once I'm in Spain. Today I did a longer, 23 mile circuit.

The BBC weather forecast for the next few days is heavy rain, but they have been very unreliable recently and I hope that they've got it wrong again as I'd like to get over to Paper Mill Lock this weekend to have a few climbs up North Hill, and try another of the cakes in the tea shop.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

No cycling...

The weather's been wet this week, and I had a couple of nights out too, so I didn't get to go out for a ride. It rained again yesterday, and today I go on holiday for a few days. I will be back on Thursday, and as I'm on two weeks leave, I should be able to do a lot more cycling from then.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Back to Paper Mill Lock

The weather forecasts recently haven't been very accurate at all. Today the weather was supposed to be cloudy with sunny intervals, but when I got up this morning, the sky was very grey. I decided to take the risk and chance it. I had a big bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast then set off on a cut down version of yesterday's ride.

I've now put the panniers on my bike, but left them empty mainly because I couldn't be arsed finding stuff to put in them. At the start of the ride, my legs still felt tired from yesterday's exertions. It was also rather windy - the blustery sort of wind which felt like I was cycling into it which ever direction I went - I hope it won't be so windy in Spain. I made it to Paper Mill Lock in reasonable time, looking forward to a slice of carrot cake and a cup of tea.

As promised yesterday, here's a pic showing all of the cakes on the counter:

And here's my carrot cake, which was delicious, and didn't disappoint.

I made it home without any problems, and the breakfast seemed to do the trick, as I didn't feel like I was going to bonk. It didn't rain in the end, and as I arrived home the promised sunny intervals appeared.

Last night I booked up the final night's accommodation, in Ávila. I'd found a good looking hotel a week or so ago, which is close to the cathedral, and costs €35, which isn't bad for a tourist city. I did send them an e-mail a week ago but didn't get a reply, so I phoned them up to check that they had somewhere secure to lock my bike overnight. The guy who answered the phone could hardly understand any of my best Spanish, so he put me onto a lady, who couldn't understand me either. She put me onto another lady who spoke some English, and we had a rather strange conversation in Spanglish, but we got there in the end. They did have somewhere to lock my bike, and so that's all my accommodation sorted.

The ride into Ávila is the shortest stage, and is just over halfway through the trip, so I'm thinking of booking myself in for a sports massage while I'm there. Google has thrown up a few promising responses, so time to get the dictionary out!

Saturday, 7 August 2010


I wanted to go for a ride last night but the forecast wasn't good, and it did indeed rain, so I spent some time fitting the rack and bar bag clamp to my bike - the latter was a pain in the bum but I got there in the end.

Today, I went on a new route which I'd worked out - 46 miles/72km - which went up North Hill at Paper Mill Lock (the biggest hill round here) three times. The profile of today's route still isn't a patch on any of the climbs I'll face in Spain. I did start getting worried about the steeper climbs, but then thought that there's no point in getting worked up about it. I'll have all day to get to the top, and the downhills should be fun.

This photo shows North Hill from a distance. You'll see it isn't that big, but it's the steepest round here, climing up for more than two miles with a steep gradient in places.

The ride was quite hard work, I think because I haven't got my food and drink right yet. I didn't bonk but I don't think I was far off. I didn't have a big enough breakfast, so was always playing catch up, and I didn't drink enough liquid. I've been out and bought some cereal which I'm going to eat a good 45 minutes before I go out tomorrow, with a couple of bananas, which should hopefully do the trick, and I'll also take two water bottles with me.

The scenery was great though, as the route wound through some lovely countryside on very quiet lanes, and love finding quaint villages like this one:

There's a tea room at Paper Mill Lock which is superb. I stopped for a cup of tea and a sandwich, but on the counter they also had about ten homemade cakes, all of which looked fantastic. I managed to resist, but tomorrow I'm going to go back and will try the carrot cake. I'll take some photos of the cakes when I'm there, and post one on here!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A tough ride...

I went for a ride to Blackmore this morning - 38 miles - and found it really hard work. I just had no power in my legs and everything felt really heavy. It's probably because I had a big fatboy curry for dinner last night, washed down with a couple of beers, and I didn't have a great breakfast before leaving this morning - just a couple of slices of toast. I'll eat sensibly before my next ride and hopefully that will make a difference.

I did stop off at the tea shop in Blackmore and this time it was open, so I had a cup of tea and a slice of cake, and very nice it was too.

I'm going to start loading my bike up on my rides out, so I get used to carrying the bar bag and panniers. And I'm going to work out some trickier rides with long, slow climbs.