Why do I love Autumn Cycling?

I am not sure I have the words to answer that question, and they say a picture is worth one thousand words, so watch the video below and hopefully that goes some way to answering the question.

Those cold, crisp, all too rare sunny Autumnal mornings make up for the all too frequent grey, windy and incessantly rainy days. Get the Clothing layers right and get out there and enjoy what is left of Autumn because the long cold, dark, wet, winter is rapidly incoming.

Lakelander Gravel Grinder

The Lakelander Gravel Grinder was a new Cycle event for 2019 and a break from the traditional road Sportive events I have entered numerous times in the past. A 100 kilometre (Big Dog) route with over 80% of the route off-road through gravel forestry roads in County Fermanagh, with the option of a shorter 50km route (little Dog) or for those who entered the big Dog route and found their fitness lacking there was the bailout of a Mongrel route slightly longer than the little Dog.

I knew 100 kilometres off-road was more than a little ambitious for my current fitness levels (I have not being doing many longer days on the saddle for a couple of months) and lack of off-road experience… but I entered that anyway knowing I had the bail out option if needed. Like a young child with a comfort Blanket I guess haha

A lack of endurance miles, working a late shift the night before, an early wakeup on the morning of the event and only time for a small bowl of Porridge, it is fair to say I did not have ideal prep for Lakelander. So despite entering with the aim of completing the full 100 kilometre route I knew early on that that was not going to happen.

The route was constantly going up (steeply) or down, next to no flat sections. Throw in the loose, rutted gravel and it was tough going for legs and cardio. My CAADX Cyclocross bike was a little under-geared but I managed to squeeze on 40mm WTB Nano tyres despite these being wider than Cannondale recommend. It was an inspired choice as despite running them with inner tubes I never punctured once unlike very many other entrants including those running tubeless, as can be seen in the video below.

I completed the Mongrel route in four hours, two minutes and 10 seconds leaving me 18th fastest on the day for the Mongrel route. It was a great experience. A ton of “type two” fun and I intend riding it again next year where I aim to reduce my completion time considerably based on better prep, hopefully a lot lighter bike, better training and putting in to practice things I learned from this years event (I yet again neglected my on-bike fuelling and hydration).

Here is my long video from on the day.

Glens and Coast

Two weeks ago, early on a Sunday Morning I got up and out on the Bicycle to do a longer, hillier route. Much of my Cycling this year has been shorter rides of around two hours in duration so this particular Sunday Morning was a chance to work on the endurance for longer time in the saddle.

A benefit of the early start was quiet roads in to and out of Belfast and up the Duncrue industrial estate to the Loughshore Cycle Path.

It was a chilly but dry Morning but the dark clouds suggested I would be very fortuitous if I managed to stay dry for the entire route. I left the Loughshore Cycle path and out on to the Shore Road then took Troopers lane up on to the B90 climbed up to Beltoy and on to Gleno then descended to Milbrook just outside Larne.

On to the Shanes Hill road at Kilwaughter and then a right turn in to Starbog road for a long steady climb up in to the Glens… and up in to the moist clouds too, visibility came and went and so too a light drizzle of rain, never enough to warrant putting on a rain jacket but enough to dampen everything.

Bleak and desolate up the Starbog road.

Plenty more slow climbs and fast descents followed before I descended down to Glenarm.

I cycled the Antrim Coast road back through Larne and Carrickfergus and home again by the Loughshore cycle path for an 80 mile spin. The video below capturing a few moments of the ride.

Winter is coming!

A little under-dressed, particularly on the extremities for a very chilly, short bicycle ride out through Comber and along the Ballydrain road to watch the Sunrise. The fingers and toes were stinging from the cold as “summer” rushes out and Autumn roars in.

Why the silence?

So the blog has been neglected for a while, a lack of updates but I have still been out and about on the Bicycle.

There have been a few very wet rides.

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Pastel colours of Killyleagh #discoverni #outsideisfree

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There was one sunny late afternoon / early evening ride around Strangford Lough that included a ferry crossing.

There has been a few late evening sufferfest sessions up in the Craigantlet Hills.

There was one gloriously warm sunny Sunday Morning spin around the Peninsula.

There has been a couple of rides on my Cyclocross Bike exploring the North Down Coastal Path and watching Seals steal Mackerel caught by the Anglers fishing off the Rocks.

There has also been some time spent indoors on the “Hamster Wheel”

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Ramp test this morning #zwift #mycyclingweekend

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Below is a video I made exploring the North Down Coastal Path late in the evening when it is quieter from Pedestrian footfall traffic.

Over the Quoile

Another Weekend and another Cycling Sportive, this time the “Over the Quoile” sportive promoted by La Lanterne Rouge Cycling Club. Looking out the Window after my nights sleep the ground was soaking wet after a lot of Rain overnight, to make things worse there was also a very strong Westerly wind.

I must admit I did contemplate going back to bed, but the weather forecast was for the day to dry up throughout the Morning, though the strong wind would remain.

With the soaking wet roads I initially opted to cycle this sportive on my disc braked winter bike, but shortly before I needed to load up the car to drive over to the meet up location I noticed the strong wind was already starting to dry the roads and I knew by the time I drove over, got signed on and kitted up ready for the roll out, that it would only get drier still… providing there was no more rain. So last minute I loaded the summer bike in to the back of the car and set off for Loughinisland.

A lot of local cyclists were down in County Galway for the Tour de Connemara Sportive and so numbers for the Over the Quoile were reduced but there was still a reasonable turnout. After the riders briefing we were off. Unlike my previous sportive I had not made my way up to the front group for the start and I also had not gone for a short warmup cycle before the start and so my legs were reluctant to just jump straight in to the effort level required and I very quickly lost sight of the real fast guys.

Undeterred I set in to my rythm, pushing a hard tempo, continually swapping places with a fellow member of Phoenix Cycling Club who kept coming around me on the uphill sections (my perenial weakness!) only for me to pass him straight back on the downhill and flatter sections. I was covering ground quickly through Seaforde and Clough then left in to Blackstaff road and Tyrella road where I managed to catch up to a couple of guys that had lost the tow from the fast group. I sat in behind them for a little bit to recover some energy, then came around them, but they were able to then sit on my wheel and run at my pace in the shelter I was providing.

After Minerstown heading towards Killough there is another longer hill and true to form I was unable to climb it at their speed and I was back on my own again.

Leaving Killough and approaching Ardglass, Martina from Dromara Cycling Club had managed to reel me in, again she was stronger than me on the hills, with me being stronger on the flatter sections and together we worked well sheltering each other on our weaker sections. Before long we were pulling in to the water and food stop at Ballyhornan. Except we had all arrived there quicker than the host club had anticipated and so there was not much food or water to go around.

A small group of 4 or 5 cyclists rolled out whilst the rest remained there fuelling up and chatting, I decided to go with the small group and hopefully get a bit of shared workload on the run round the coast to Strangford. Turning left out of Strangford for the climb up to Castleward the strong wind hit us smack in the face making the climb even slower than normal. The small group was long gone but Martina was still working with me giving me some shelter uphill and me then coming around and giving her shelter on the downhill. No freewheeling on the downhill though, the tough headwind meant I had to keep the power on to make forward progress.

We made it down the Strangford road and around to the Quoile Bridge, the Marshals controlling the traffic permitting us a free run through the junction and some temporary respite from the headwind as we cycled out the Killyleagh road.

Scaddy road was next up, a rolling uphill road but only a cross wind here so progress was reasonable and then a left turn towards Crossgar heading back in to the wind again where we were joined by Gerrard from Crossgar CC.

Through Crossgar and Kilmore I looked over my shoulder and I was somehow on my own, I had managed to drop the other two without trying, maybe the town traffic had forced them to stop. Onwards solo for the last 8 or 9 miles back to Loughinisland and a welcome foodstop. This week I did not rush home immediately in an attempt to avoid leg cramps whilst driving, instead I availed of the soup and chicken goujons and a cup of tea then went a short walk to let the leg muscles cool down and relax before driving back home.

Another good sportive and another strong performance by me and no rain until the drive home where I met quite a few cyclists riding the sportive that had not yet finished. Below is a video I created of the Over the Quoile Sportive.

New Trails

Every now and then I like to go out for a fun ride on my off-road / Cyclocross Bicycle, this evening I took a gentle spin up the Comber Greenway but rather than go all the way to Comber I turned in to the Billy Neill soccer school area for a loop around the small lake there and the fields behind.

In the couple of months since I last did that route new off-road singletrack trails have been constructed and are nearing completion, it would have been rude not to try them out.

Salute the Mountain Men

It was a decidedly chilly evening as I sat on the Saddle and clipped in to the pedals setting off for the summit of Divis Mountain overlooking Belfast, in anticipation of some late evening light even though it was overcast when I set off.

Down the Comber Greenway to the Beersbridge road then out on to the Newtownards road, through the City and out the Grosvenor road and up the Springfield road. Then up the upper Springfield road and Divis road before turning in to the traffic free, narrow road up to the summit. Despite it being well in to the evening it was still very busy with walkers, dogs and the usual Mountain roaming cattle. Still no sunshine as I reached the lower transmitter station and started the steepest part of the climb to the summit.

I selected my lowest gear and deliberately held back my effort as I know from past summits of this climb just how steep it gets. I winched my way to the summit and took in the panoramic views. Only small sections of the countryside and city below were bathed in sunshine as there were only a few breaks in the heavy blanket of cloud cover.

With the chilly air and the altitude combined I was quite cold and knew the descent would chill me further. I put on an extra layer of clothing and started to descend, I got down as far as the lower transmitter and the evening light I had hoped for finally appeared but I wasn’t for climbing back up again!

A nice fast descent back to the City and the still evening meant the Lagan was sheltered, the flat calm waters reflecting the city and sky.

Drumbo effort

Today’s Bicycle ride was not about long distance, instead I was going out to keep steady pressure through the pedals and to increase the intensity on one particular longer uphill section. My uphill speed is not that great, never has been, but no harm in doing a hard uphill effort for the potential training benefit.

I set off down the Greenway to the Beersbridge road then along by Ormeau Park to the Ormeau Bridge and up through Stranmillis, out past Lady Dixon Park and Drumbeg then crossed over the Hillhall road and the start of the climb up to Drumbo where I would put a bigger effort down through the pedals.

The climb itself is just over one mile long with an average gradient of 4% or “a little drag” to the good climbers but a significant hill to the likes of myself. I was about a third of the way in to my effort before I remembered to record the video, DOH! Progress was good, I maintained ok power throughout the segment and managed to set a new personal best time, but a look at the overall leaderboard shows just how strong the good climbers are and their times are in no danger from me.

After a brief stop to get the heart rate back down to normal I continued on along the Mealough road to Carryduff then around the lanes to Ballygowan, Lisbane and Comber and back home via the Greenway.

Chucking fluff

I have been enjoying my Cycling that much over the last few years and as a result have not made the time to get out for some fly fishing now and again. This evening I put that right travelling the short distance up in to the Holywood hills for an evening at Donaldsons Lake.

It was warm and overcast when I left home but by the time I was at the lake and had the rod set up the sun had broken through the clouds. Very bright direct sunlight is less than ideal conditions but I still had hopes that as the sun would go down later in the evening that the fish would come up for a feed but alas a chill air set in and the anticipated evening rise did not materialise.

I did come in contact with a couple of fish so it was not a complete waste of time and money on a pleasant enough evening.