Basking in the evening sunshine

It is not often I get an opportunity to organise an evening ride but as it is currently half term in the south of the country, I decided to get out on the bike.  We had a few members of Back On Track Cycling, the rest were on shift, plus Dunmow Velo attended and some new faces from the local area.  In total 10 fellow cyclists started to pedal the back lanes of Dunmow.

The plan was for a social ride, curbing the speed that Back On Track have a habit of, you know the one, ‘let’s take it easy’, someone says then taking off like a wippet out of the gate.  It was a cracking ride and there were a few opportuities for hill sprints, well as much as Essex can do a hill.  It was great to see so many people out and something I will aim to do again

 

Mr Forgetful

Tech is a major player within the cycle industry and new stuff, good or bad, arrives on the market nearly every day. The tech we could carry when riding is close to weighing more than the bike.
Does tech over run our cycling enjoyment? “If it is not on Strava it does not count.” You can hear the words being echo’d.

All this aside, I love a gadget, I use Strava, Garmin, Zwift, Beeline to name but a few. Plus I am partial to all things Apple. Yes I am one of those people. 

Lainey worries about me when I am at work and when I am riding my bike. Imagine how high her heart rate must be when I combine the two and ride to work. I try to put her mind at ease, I have set up Live Tracking (Garmin) and Beacon (Strava). Most may have used these notification services, for those who do not, it allows you to enter your chosen email addresses and once you start riding it sends a message, via your phones Bluetooth, advising a loved one that you have started riding and your location. Between us we utilise Find Friends on the iPhone, just in case the others do not work and now makes us sound look like we stalk each other.
So imagine the day I rode 35 miles into the centre of London for a night shift and to return home the following morning with no phone, no ID and no money. I had packed all the mentioned items in my pOcpac dry pouch and duly left them on the worktop at home. This I did not realise until I arrived at work. I opened my work emails to send Lainey a message, let her know I had arrived safe and sound and apologising for my forgetfulness. She had beaten me to it, informing me of my stupidity and the words that followed even turned the Fire Station blue.
Swearing and profanities aside, justifiable of course, the lack of contact did start to make me feel a little uncomfortable and vulnerable. The requirement to ride home out of London and onto the quiet roads of Essex started to concern me. I had left my OneLifeID band at work so I had identification and the means for my rescuers to contact Lainey. At which point she would have killed me if I was injured.  
Reading this back seems to suggest I forget a lot!!!!
With the tech I have, or did not the day in question, there was no way of contacting Lainey if I needed help, no way to pay for cab home or call for one, or if the worst had happened for someone not to know my location. We sometimes moan about tech but it is engrained in our lives. It does play an important part. I do not need it but like it to be there just in case I do. Anyway, imagine the stat of my cleats and the bottom of my shoes if I had to walk home. Priorities people!!!!

Please note; I have been asked to add a disclaimer. I have not asked Lainey to proof read this entry, as stated in a previous blog. If there are any spelling mistakes or errors then it is purely my fault. 

A Blue Egg Recovery

The weather was not as nice as yesterday but 3 decided to head out on the weekly Back On Track Cycling Road Ride.  Nothing too heavy after Hell of the Ashdown at the weekend, I think my legs would appreciate a gentle spin.

A windy and wet ride but all helped with CAKE and COFFEE

Salted Caramel Slice and a Black Americano

Hell of the Ashdown

I am not a natural climber, Essex does not have the hills. I have become acclimatised to the flat, rolling bumps of my surroundings. So I have to go hill hunting.

It was an early start for the Catford CC ride, my alarm sounded at 0540, all had been sorted the night before so breakfast, wash and a final check and all ready to go. The drive to Biggin Hill didn’t take long, just over an hour and the car park at the Charles Darwin School, our host for the day, had not even started to fill so I was guided to a half empty parking area.

Once registered, I was handed my rider number and wrist band. It was back to the van to prep the bike, fit the number, get changed and then time for the off.

The start line

I had been lucky to receive the first time slot available so I sat at the start gate. I was the only one and concerned that I may have to set the pace for the whole race. The organisation from Catford CC is fantastic and will only allow a small number of riders to leave at any one time; approximately 10 riders left at 08:00. There was no time to get comfortable or warm up, within the 1st mile we descended around 150ft then began to climb 250ft at 12.7%. Nothing like giving you a baptism of fire but then the name does not say ‘fluffy bunny bike ride.’

My aim was to pass the 1st feed stop at 32 miles and head straight to the one at 55 miles. The start of the ride had been harder than the previous attempt, mainly due to the change of start location. I need to work on my endurance levels and with further hills looming, I decided not to push it. The people offering their time at the feed stops deserve a special mention and a big thank you. A ride like this and you get a warm welcome, hot tea and coffee, malt loaf, bananas, flapjacks but no full English breakfast that I did request.

32 mile stop

The stop was a short one as I wanted to stay warm for the descent and the climb up Kidds Hill, aptly known as The Wall, just under a mile at 8.5%. This was just a teaser for things to come. The next 20 miles consisting of going downhill, very fast then of course, what goes down must come up and it did so. Very steeply! I hit a wobbly top speed of 41.6 mph and ended up braking as the bike started to feel a bit twitchy. Lycra clad and typical English winter affected roads do not make for a happy ending and Lainey would have killed me if I ended up in hospital.

My miss timed eating schedule had played havoc with my guts. So some adjustment is required. I had split the hour into 3 x 20 minute alarms. 2 would consist of a bite of an energy bar and on the hour, a gel. With the continuous hydration, I felt as if it was all swilling around and I craved savory instead of the sweetness. With a short 7% climb to the 55 mile stop I hunted for what I craved. Sitting there on the table, with angels singing harmoniously in the background, was a plate of cheesy bites, I nearly ate the lot. The last time we arrived at this stop we only had 8 miles to go so my spirits were up beat.

As I left the feed stop I spoke with the marshalls, I asked for some clarification on distance and they responded with 13. I’m thinking 13km is close to 8 miles, happy days. My legs were feeling it but I felt OK. A marshall tried to hand me an energy gel and with a devilish twinkle in his eye said, “you’ll need this for Star Hill.” I did not take it as I had enough churning around. Turned right I began to climb again for a further 2 miles. I should have clarified whether the distance was in kilometers or miles, it was in fact 13 miles and some of the steepest climbs were ready to chew me up and spit me out.

It was time to dig in. Getting back on a level road, I could easily return to a steady 17/18mph. As soon as a hill appeared the speed rapidly dropped off. What didn’t help either was passing the finishing spot from the previous year plus having someone pass our small group as if we were standing still. I did not even attempt to get on his wheel.
After descending a segment called Suicide Drop it was time to climb, who wants to finish a ride on a sprint. Hogtrough Hill started at 9% for 0.7 miles and then to add a final kick ramped up to 13% for the last 0.2 miles, no one wants it easy. Returning to familiar ground, as we had followed the same route earlier in the day but from the other direction. I stupidly thought that morning, this would be nice to climb so on the return leg we did, the final half a mile at 9% with a steep switchback.

I was glad to see the finish but nothing left in my legs for a final push but happy with the 4hrs41 to complete the 67.5 but highlighted deficiencies in my riding.

I’m done

There needs to be more preparation before The Fred Whitton Challenge in May;

I need to do more hills, Essex has an abundance of these!!!!!

I need to get my eating plan right and with the right food. Mudguards weighed me down, creating unnecessary drag, that’s my excuse.

I need to improve endurance and spend more quality time in the saddle.

The Hell of the Ashdown is a ride I’d recommend to all. Decent hills allow you to get into a steady rhythm and will test you. Especially if you normally ride in flat areas.

Fog, no brakes and The Blue Egg

Today was one of the first road rides for Back On Track that involved more than two riders.  It is always great to get out but even better when there are more of you.

I’d been watching the forecast and decided to delay the start of the ride. The walk to school had demonstrated the amount of ice under foot and it was a slippery affair.  Also according to the weather app I utilise, the fog was clearing at 1100.  I’d looked at another app and it clearly stated there was no fog, I wonder where they got their information from?

At 10am we met in the usual spot and decided on a nice gentle ride out to the Blue Egg.  A popular coffee shop/post office/garden centre with cyclists.  Good food, cracking coffee and a warm welcome.  I say a nice gentle ride, we all seem to have a different dictionary definition.

A foggy and cold morning so off we headed.  One of the guys had washed his bike since the last ride and discovered he still had the brake quick release open.  This became evident whilst descending Tilty Hill, not a particularly steep hill but with no brakes and a T junction at the end, does provide a bottom clenching moment.  Obviously we showed our concern with the usual smiles and asking if he needed to change his cycling shorts.

Attached is a short video, still playing with the GoPro and editing software.

Feeling slightly moist from the dampness in the air, the Blue Egg was a welcomed break.  Wet cleats and a tiled floor is always a test for a cyclist’s ability to walk.  Funnily enough we picked a table closest to the door, avoiding any Bambi embarrassment.  After warming up, a couple of coffees a piece plus cake, it was time to head home.  The fog had closed in and the temperature had dropped.  So the best thing to do was cycle home faster than we arrived, the old let’s take it easy approach.  It never fails.

The ride home was hard and the weight of good cake was starting to be noticed.  That is my excuse and I will stick to it.

Finally home and I could begin to thaw out, once the bike had been washed, of course.

Don’t think much to the Essex Road Mudpack

Who are the Back On Track Cycling Club?

So how did Back On Track Cycling start? A question that has yet to be asked by the most powerful minds of the world.

I have a main job that consists of shifts so a 48 hour week is completed in 4 days.  I was looking for something to fill my time.  I have always ridden bikes and attempted my own repairs, sometimes successfully but as a kid it’s the only way to learn.

As a family we moved to a new estate and many of my new neighbours had bikes.  Suddenly I began to assist with theirs, from this Back On Track Repairs was born.  I am lucky to have had help from C&D Cycles, based in Kettering.  This is an independent shop that is run by my best friend, he offered some guidance and I spent a week working with him and honing my skills.

Back On Track as a repair business has grown and even though I enjoy seeing people back on their bikes, my main love is cycling.  Through local repairs I have met others whose work patterns also consist of shifts and we started to ride during the week.  Just a few of us to start off with and now we have a regular turn out for cycling, coffee (some in the group even drink tea!!!) and cake.  We are still small and have 54 cyclists on the Strava group but looking forward to the summer when more will join us.  Rides are posted out on the Strava group including details of speed and distance.

I organised a ride New Years Day and another local club Dunmow Velo joined us.  In total we had 14 riders for a 30 mile loop, a nice leisure spin of 15mph average and such a pleasant ride.  Hopefully later in the year, when the weather is warmer and the sun is shining another ride will be organised, a little more of an endurance ride.

Plus our cycling kit has been approved by British Cycling and submission is ready to be entered for affiliation.

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Ian Appleby the Adonis
Back On Track at a local charity ride
A ride out
The old and new cycling jersey
Roadside puncture repair
Back On Track Cycling lead out
Where it all started, Back On Track Repairs