Laps and Wheelsuckers

Tuesday Evening and the first I have really noticed a little more daylight, even so when I clipped in to the Pedals toCycle down the Greenway to Belfast for the Phoenix CC Airport road laps it was most definitely dark and very chilly, but at least the roads were nice and dry.

Another reason I was thankful for the dry roads was because I was on my “Summer Bike” having been too lazy to reach for the Torque wrench when fettling my Winter Bike and you guessed it I wrung a bolt, on the Seatpost clamp of all things.

Initially there were only six of us gathered for the Airport road session, strangely low given the good evening for it. Six rapidly became five when Scott punctured a tubular tyre and with no sealant with him he had an early finish. The airport road is pan flat bar the speed ramps, hardly the most challenging route but it is exposed and often the wind becomes the biggest challenge.

Tonight the ride was my fastest ride of this year by a considerable margin and yet it felt very easy for me and also felt easier than other Weeks on the same ride. Our group of five soon had other cyclists latching on to the back of our group. Some were willing to join in the rotation and take their pull, however one annonymous randomer (is that even a word?) who latched on to our group just sat on the back all night “wheelsucking”, never once rotating through and taking a pull, benefitting from the slipstream we were creating for him but not contributing.

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And so it begins

2018 came to an end with some consistent, steady miles on the Bicycle with my oul mate Gavin, clocking up around 40miles per day to complete the Rapha Festive 500 challenge for my second year in succession.

The Weather for this years festive 500 being a lot kinder than last years. Damp roads but no Ice and relatively light Winds with the odd blink of Sunshine too all helped with the motivation to get out there every day and maintain some on-bike endurance fitness.

2018 due mostly to a change in personal circumstances afforded me more free time to get out on the Bike, so it was no great surprise that I achieved a new personal best annual distance of a little over 8,000 miles for the year. The equivalent of Cycling from Belfast to Palikir in Micronesia with the same elevation gain as climbing Mount Everest 9.9 times. I had made a conscious effort to be more consistent and get out more frequently on the Bicycle with more back-to-back days and so the longer distance work suffered with me only completing one ride of 100 miles. Maybe I will address that in 2019.

The Winter Miles have taken their toll, to keep on top of the maintenance I recently fitted a new Chain to my Winter Bike for the start of the new Year. Ideally I would have replaced it before the festive 500, but I thought a 300+ mile Week would be better eaked out of the old worn chain.

Due to the Cold, the Wet, the Wind, the early starts for Club spins and any other excuses the voices in my head come up with, motivation to get out and ride is often lacking but once I force myself outside or on to the Hamster Wheel the apathy soon drifts away. To help with the motivation I paid the reduced rate, early bird entry fee for the Spring 60 Sportive in Camlough, County Armagh. I surprised myself last year how well I performed at it so hopefully I can go just as well if not better this March. Only a few more Weeks to build up the fitness for it.

The Festive 500

This festive season I have again, as per last year, taken on the Rapha Festive 500 challenge. The challenge involves Cycling 500KM between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Unlike the horrendous weather of last Year, so far, this year has been an improvement with only the opening day of the challenge seeing temperatures dip below zero.

Christmas Eve on a very cold and foggy Morning got off to a steady start with 46 miles in the bank, the cold, the hills and legs too fresh from a few days rest resulted in a slow spin. I followed that up on Christmas day with a further 44 miles, a much milder day starting out well before daylight but it was all a struggle the Legs just did not want to work.

After too much of this…

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Always room for more badness ๐Ÿคฃ

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…and not enough of this

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Current situation, feet up and recovering

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Day three promised milder and brighter conditions so I left the Winter layers in the House and instead donned some lighter layers and set off in to the still of theMorning. My riding partner Gavin was not ready yet so I started out with a solo 9 miles from Portadown out the Markethill road to Marlacoo and back in to meet Gavin in Tandragee.

We set off out the Mullahead road and onwards to Bleary then out past Craigavon Lakes to Derrytrasna and the Bann Foot.

Home along the Charlestown road and back in to Portadown for a pleasant 38 mile spin which brought the accumulated total up to 200KM… just another 300km to go before the end of New Years Eve!

Sunshine Pootlin

Very cold overnight but a dry bright Morning after a couple of Wet and Windy days so an opportunity to get out on the Bicycle and rack up a few steady base miles just riding around at an easy effort level.

I set off through Dundonald and in to the Belfast road then across the Holywood road to Craigantlet and down the Ballymoney road crossing the Bangor dual carriageway and descending in to Helens Bay and a stop at the Beach. One crazy lady was getting in some swimming despite the cold and the rolling waves.

Setting off again after that short stop I cycled on round to Crawfordsburn Country Park and in to the Park to explore a little.

Leaving the Park I returned along the same roads and back up to Craigantlet then a descent down Bradshaws Brae to Kiltonga Nature Reserve in Newtownards.

Leaving Newtownards and a climb up around Scrabo, down in to Comber and home via the Greenway for a pleasant 35 miles.

Another spin on the Crosser

A dull and dreary day with some light drizzle, motivation to venture out on the winter bike was lacking, so too was the desire to spin the “Hamster Wheel”. Finally at lunch time I got geared up and ventured outside on the Cyclocross bike to explore some local Woodland trail.

Along the Newtownards road and across to Holywood then up Victoria road and the Ballymenoch road to Whinney Hill and a stop at a local reservoir for a nosey. The intention was to see if I could cycle off-road around the perimeter to Creightons Forest but a security guard was at the reservoir scouting for poachers and he was not keen on me cycling there so I decided to leave it until another day.

Along Whinney hill and in to Creightons road until Creightons Forest and more disappointment as the Woodland trails were very short and not really worth the ride over to it.

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Gravel grinding #mycyclingweekend

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A brisk descent of Creightons road to Holywood then through Kinnegar and along the Airport road to Victoria Park crossing the Sam Thompson bridge.

Then heading home via the Connswater Community Greenway to Orangefield Park and finally the Comber Greenway for a 22 mile spin in total.

Out and about on the Crosser

Sometimes you just need a change of road, a need to get off the beaten track. My third and least used Bicycle is my Cyclocross Bike, a fun bike for mixing up tarmac roads, gravel trails, woodland trails etc a go almost anywhere bike. A Bike to ride just for fun, no chasing power figures or average speed.

Some Countries have huge networks of gravel roads, Northern Ireland does not, but there are various places to ride and have fun. Below is a mashup of video clips from Ormeau Park, Belvoir Park, Shaw’s Bridge etc in the greater Belfast area.

County Down always delivers

Yesterday saw another storm hit Northern Ireland, strong winds and torrential rain lasting hours so no Cycling, but the Weekend Weather forecast promised better so I spent a little while in the Kitchen making some ride snacks to bring with me on todays ride.

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Pre-ride preppin #mycyclingweekend

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This Morning I got up with the intention of going on the Phoenix CC club spin but the more I thought about it the more I wanted a solo bike ride, the freedom to stop where and when I wanted to grab a Photograph won out and a solo ride was exactly what I did and a lumpy one at that.

Off up the Castlereagh hills winding my way across towards Moneyreagh and in to Saintfield then out the Ballynahinch road and in to the quieter Ballylone road bypassing Ballynahinch town center and in to the Spa road. The roads were a mess, all yesterdays rain had washed a lot of crap from the fields on to the roads, the rivers were full to bursting and I knew with the roads in that state there would be a very high chance of punctures.

Up the Spa road through Spa village and out on to the Edentariff road it was a nice calm Morning and either it was milder than I expected or I had judged my Clothing layers to perfection. The rolling hills kept on coming as I cycled onwards through Drumaroad and across to Drumvaraghan along Wood road and in to Old Bridge Road where a Boat would have been a better form of transport such was the mass of Water running out of the fields and down the road.

As always the County Down scenery delivered and there was still plenty of signs of Autumn around, Winter has not completely taken over just yet. All I was lacking was some nice Autumnal sunshine rather than the steady light rain I was cycling in.

Soon I was making a right turn in to the Bannastown road and I made the fatal mistake of looking up, what I saw was a wall of tarmac, a long and steep climb upwards. I am a notoriously poor climber on a Bicycle, no uphill speed at all but wierdly I was strangely looking forward to this test. Having never ridden this road before I deliberately set off easy not knowing how long or short the climb was. In the end I paced it quite nicely and arrived at the summit with more in reserve. On a nicer day this climb and the views at the top would be spectacular, I will just have to return again when conditions are more suitable.

I was now at the furthest point from home on my planned route and somehow I managed to avoid punctures so far, amazing given I ridden over and through some really nasty sharp piles of gravel washed out from the sides of the road on numerous occasions. I weaved my way along past Mount Pleasant and a descent of the Leitrim road to Leitrim village and still the rain fell, my Sportful clothing keeping me dry and comfortable in the conditions.

Along the Backaddery road I Cycled over more and more nastiness washed on to the road and felt sure it was only a matter of time until I punctured a tube. Same again on Wood road and still no punctures maybe I would get lucky and make it back home unscathed?

My luck finally ran out on Ballywillwill road went something penetrated the tyre and burst my inner tube deflating it instantly with a loud hiss. An inspection of the tube revealed nothing not even a puncture hole. Careful inspection of the inside of the tyre finally revealed the tiniest of metal shards in the carcass of the tyre, it was firmly embedded too and very hard to extract, I had to improvise and extract it with my teeth. It took longer to find the cause of the puncture and extract it from the tyre than it did to get repaired and back on the road.

I quickly replaced the tube and a Canister of CO2 had me pressurised in seconds and back on the road. But not before almost freezing the fingers of my one non-gloved hand with the CO2 gas, boy does that stuff rapidly cool down when released from the pressurised Canister!

The Dunmore road was next up, more rolling hills, more slowing right down to navigate through flooded sections of road and soon I was back out on to the Edentariff road through Spa to Ballynahinch back to Saintfield and home. A wet day but managing to remain dry and warm thanks to some excellent technical clothing. Over 4,000 feet of elevation gain in a 60 mile ride the legs had got a good workout (265 TSS) and would need a day or two rest to recover so probably no cycling tomorrow, just a very easy spin across town to Photograph the Cyclocross racing instead.

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