Monday, 29 August 2011

A Good Brisk Ride

Not having ridden with John for a while I expected yesterday's ride to be more testing than my recent solo efforts and I wasn't disappointed.

That said, it was a very enjoyable ride around some Norfolk lanes that were undiscovered country to me. Norfolk is one of England's flatter counties, but we still found a few gentle inclines, and a longish stretch into the breeze gave us a decent workout.

With John on his mountain bike as well, our speed wasn't quite as high as it might have been and I didn't spend too much of the 28 miles hanging on to his back wheel - for much of the time we were side by side down empty lanes and it was only when we hit more of a main road that I decided to stay behind for safety's sake for a spell.

It was on that stretch that another cyclist on a road bike had the temerity to overtake us. We weren't racing - until that point, anyway - but we had to try to chase him down... We let a gap open before we decided to give chase, so it was a fiull-on effort to get back in touch. John led the chase and I hung on as best I could.

In the end, I was dropped just before John closed the gap, which was just as we reached a right turn. Our opponent probably never knew he was in a race...

It was an excellent two hour ride, though, and dry until the last couple of miles when a heavy shower caught up with us. Overall, we averaged over 15 mph and according to my Garmin I consumed about 1300 Kilo Calories in the process. Here's how the route looks from the Garmin's log:

John will be riding London to Paris in two weeks' time, so for him Sunday's ride was part of his three-day training weekend. For me, it was a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and keep my body in half-decent shape, ready for bigger tests to come - I hope!


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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Just Ticking Over

With no major rides planned, it hasn't been easy to motivate myself to train lately, but a warm afternoon and a bit of work-related stress made an hour on the bike seem a much more attractive proposition on Monday.

There's also the possibility I might get to ride with brother in law John at the weekend and it pays to be at least semi-fit for that!

So I did a fairly gentle 15 miles - I even stopped to pick and eat a few blackberries at halfway - and I remembered right away what I'd been missing. I have been running more in the last few weeks but my cycling legs hadn't completely deserted me!

I didn't even time myself for the outward half, although I had half an eye on my average speed. Fueled by those blackberries, I found the return amazingly smooth. Despite slightly soft tyres and not really 'digging in' I almost exactly matched my last ride on the route while feeling like I was just ticking over for most of it.

I think the running has helped me aerobically, but I expected to feel weaker on the climbs than I did. 

It's encouraging to know I haven't lost too much fitness in the three weeks since I last rode - and running has helped not hindered that - but a bit frustrating, if I dwell on it, to know that I won't be putting it to good use!


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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Revisiting the Dales

Although I didn't bring a bike with me, I have been revisiting the Dales this week and sharing some memories of the hills we climbed last year in the three weekends we spent in this stunning part of Yorkshire.

It's difficult to believe we actually climbed some of them, and nice to be able to reminisce and see the hills in all their spendour over the three days. Some stiff walks and scrambles and an even stiffer run one morning meant I didn't feel too guillty about spending a fair bit of time in the car.

The Yorkshire Dales are all different and all beautiful and each one is a great experience on a bike, while getting from one dale to another is always a test of strength and stamina.

It was in the Dales where we first tested our ability to carry camping kit and supplies in preparation for the Paris to Venice expedition. It was every bit as hard as I feared and I wasn't even fully loaded. In the event, the Alpine climbs were less severe, though much, much longer, but the Dales are an adventure in themselves, and well worth a visit in  their own right, on two wheels, four wheels or none at all.


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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Review of the Vango Trek Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat (Paris to Venice)

Last year's trip necessitated a few new purchases, although I was happy to make do where I could. Having found a tent that seemed up to the job my next priority was a sleeping mat.

I had a sleeping bag already, so the only thing I needed now for a good night's sleep was mat. I'd heard mixed views on whether they were worthwhile but the one thing you need after a long day's cycling is a good sleep.

As with the tent, I read reviews, pitched affordability against quality and took note of weight and pack size, as I still had to work out how I was going to carry it all.

I decided on a full-length Vango Trek, available from various suppliers through Amazon. You can get slightly cheaper mats but reviews suggested the Trek was better value. The best price for quick delivery was around £18-£20.
The mat rolls up into a cyclinder a little fatter but shorter than my tent and they both fitted snugly into one pannier, with a bit of space left over for water bottles and some food.

Inflation is easy. Just unroll the mat and undo the valve and leave it for a few minutes. Add a couple of puffs of air, tighten the valve, and you have a surprisingly comfortable mattress that stays inflated all through the night. Even without air, the foam inside gives you some protection and the skin is surprisingly tough-feeling. I found the Vango Trek at least as good in use as I'd hoped.

You can easily pay £60 or more for a self-inflating mat from specialist outdoor shops, but I'd happily recommend the Vango Trek to other cycle campers and hikers, especially at the price. Like the tent, it returned home as good as new.

You can still buy the Vango Trek for about the same price I paid through Amazon, here:

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