Not all borders are open to tourists…

Climbing out of Risan above the bay of Kotor, Montenegro

I was up and out at sun rise, leaving the rented apartment in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and the relaxed holiday atmosphere for a slightly ambitious adventure. My wife had flow out to the start of my bike tour and rented an apartment, making this first day of cycling luggage free, before setting off for real (and fully loaded) tomorrow. We’d made dinner reservations for the evening to make the most of us both being in Croatia, all I had to do was make it back in time. Continue reading

Pearl Izumi PI DRY – First Look + Video

I’ve managed to get my hands on, or rather my “legs in” some of the Pearl Izumi PI DRY fabric. The fabric has every single strand coated with a water repellent coating before weaving into the fabric. So the theory is that the garment can be fully breathable (as breathable as standard dry weather fabrics) whilst providing water protection, avoiding that clammy feeling of waterproof clothing and keeping the rider warm and comfortable. Continue reading

Book Review – The Cyclist’s Tale – Kevin R. Haylett

I like short stories, and I like cycling, so we’re off to a good start. I’m busy, so my reading time is snatched moments of self-indulgence amongst the endless list of things I’m supposed to be doing. So to read a whole story in these moments suits me just fine. A short story should be a simple point; something funny, witty inspiring or thought provoking. I first read this book two months ago and I can honestly say I can remember every story. They’ve stayed with me and that says something really doesn’t it?  Continue reading

Turbine – Sports Breathing Technology – Review

I’ve been testing out Turbine, a breathing assistance device, over the past few months. You may have seen some bloke on the telly using it over the past few years, Froome or something. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? He won a yellow jumper or something. Or perhaps like me you just though he had his nose pierced and wore a ring in it? Anyway, that’s a pretty big endorsement. So whatever I say about it you’re already intrigued right?  Continue reading

The Dragon Ride – Dragon Devil Route – 305km

The Dragon Devil route is a long and hilly day in the saddle. And when I say day, I mean all day!

For me a cycling event is not a “challenge” unless I’m unsure if I can actually finish it, that’s the point of a challenge right? It has to be personally challenging. Many sportives pick a route of similar length to a cycling club’s Sunday ride and give you a medal at the end. Now to many that is a challenge (everybody is different, lets not get elitist here) but I have enough confidence in my abilities to know that I could finish an 80 or 100mile (160km) route even if it has a lot of climbing. The Dragon Ride offered something I found truly challenging, the longest single day route; the Dragon Devil offering  189 miles (305km) with something like 4000m of climbing. Now I don’t know about you, but that sounded pretty daunting. That would be one sportive medal I would be proud to earn.

Continue reading

Ventoux – The Play – Review – 2 Magpies Theatre

 It’s glorious sunshine outside, with temperatures above 20°C. It’s a beautiful evening for a ride, but I booked the tickets to this a month ago, I’d better go and sit in a dark theatre.  Ventoux by 2 Magpies Theatre, a play about stage 12 of the Tour de France in the year 2000. Where Marco Pantani comes back to cycling to challenge Armstrong after Armstrong’s first Tour de France win, a win that many thought was a fluke; a fluke because there were no previous grand tour winners to compete against. Continue reading

White Peak – Peak District – My New Favourite Cycling Route

Beautiful road descending into Glutten Bridge

This is probably my favourite ride, not just in the Peak District, but probably in England. I like to think of it as a ride through the quiet back roads of the White Peak, the mainly Limestone valleys of the South and West of the National Park. I love a single track road with grass growing out of the middle, I love the deserted lanes where Sheep and Ramblers are the main traffic problem. In one of the most visited National Parks in the UK it is still possible to feel in the middle of nowhere and do some pretty amazing riding too.  Continue reading

Is PI Dry the holy grail of cycling kit?

Even inside out the PI Dry fabric repels water

Waterproof and breathable, the holy grail of outdoor sports clothing. It’s something that’s claimed when marketing most technical clothing, but it’s always a trade off between the two. Just how breathable or how waterproof do things need to be to be classified as just that? What we really want is something that’s as waterproof as a hardshell jacket, and as breathable as a normal cycling top. But that’s just fantasy right? Well maybe not anymore… Continue reading

Book Review – Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky

“First you shave your legs, and now you’re reading romantic fiction? What has happened to you?” My fiancée politely asks. “It’s about cycling really, the romance bit is just… erm a bit of it” I protest. I’m reading Wheeler, a fictitious tale about an elite female cyclist’s racing season. Or more accurately it’s about her life on and off the bike throughout the season. Continue reading

900 Miles With a Homemade Tent

tent_homemade_03
Camping beside Lake Como Italy. I’d crossed the Swiss Alps with a homemade tent

I had this preconceived idea of what bicycle based adventures would be like before I’d even done one. I dreamt of freedom, 100s of miles of beautiful winding back roads and setting up my wild camp as the sun started to set. Before setting off on my first adventure I channeled my enthusiasm into riding a lot, getting fitter; and spent many evenings making my own tent to spend the night in. I wanted to cycle Lands End (South West England) to John O’groats (North East Scotland), and I wanted to do 100 miles a day with wild camping  every night (wild camping is not technically legal in England where most of the journey would take place).

I was not adverse to buying a nice lightweight tent, I just couldn’t afford the ones I wanted. All I wanted was a small lightweight tent, something around 1kg. Less material should mean less money, but we all know that’s not how things work; less is often so much more! So whilst I wouldn’t be able to come up with something of professional quality, making it myself would keep it within my tiny budget and I also had a few ideas about saving excess weight, it all made perfect sense at the time. This is the story of the homemade tent, to act as a warning to many and inspiration to the brave – 900 miles with a homemade tent.   Continue reading

Track Bike – Team GB

I was fortunate enough to stumble upon one of the Team GB track bike frames used in the Rio Olympics at a recent motorsport engineering show that I was attending for work. Having recently read Chris Boardman’s book and learnt about the “Secret Squirrel” program developing the equipment for the next Olympics and the Team GB medal factory. It was fascinating to see the latest creation, the product of wind tunnel testing and computer based aerodynamic modelling simulations. At this point in time it’s probably the most aerodynamic bike frame in the world, until the next Olympics that is. With aerodynamics being one of the most important factors in performance cycling and the general public having no more insight into the drag coefficients than the sales brochures; it’s fascinating to see the pinnacle of the current development if only as a visual reference point. I wanted to share this as I find not just the engineering, but also the process interesting. Continue reading

North Yorkshire Moors – Free Route Download

33

It has become increasingly apparent over the last few years, that Yorkshire is a bit special when it comes to cycling. Having grown up in the North York Moors National Park, I have to say that I did just find the relentless and ridiculously steep hills quite hard work. It is only now, as a passionate and travelled cyclist, that I appreciate how unique the terrain is back in North Yorkshire.

I have put together a little route as a great introduction to North Yorkshire cycling. Download the file for your Garmin (other navigation systems are available) from the links below.  Continue reading

Trigger’s Winter Bike

trigger.jpg

As I approached the blind corner I get out of the saddle, kicking a bit harder to help me up the hill that lay around the bend. With a car tucked in tightly behind me, waiting impatiently for a clear road, I heard a loud ping from behind me. Nowhere to stop and check, I glance down: Garmin and lights, still there; saddle bag, in place. In the light of the car headlights I see my wheel weaving wildly beneath me. Another spoke gone, the third one in 5 weeks. These wheels are done! Damn it, this cheap winter bike is becoming a bit “Triggers Broom”*.

There will be no awards for me saving money. I’ve only just replaced the frame! Now I’m looking at a new set of wheels. It’s a fixed wheel winter hack; nothing to go wrong they tell me. Except so far the frame has snapped, the chain and sprockets have worn out and the rear wheel has had enough. So apart from that, and few punctures; yeah apart from all that it’s been very reliable. And with a list like that, you will be asking the same question as they did about Trigger’s broom: “So how is it the same broom(bike) then?”

Continue reading

Winterproof Cycling Routes

Winnats Pass (Peak District) with a sprinkling of snow

The forecast temperature doesn’t always tell the whole story; wind and wind direction, clouds, sun, freezing fog, humidity and rain can all affect the “feels like” temperature on a long ride. Often it’s fingers and toes that suffer in the cold and I lose the ability to brake and change gears, but sometimes I overdress and experience the “boil in the bag” effect. With too few pockets to contain an unwanted layer what am I supposed to do? Eat it? Tie it round my neck like a super hero’s cape? In short it’s a true skill to get the kit right every time, and the more I buy the more choices I have to make. On a short ride I can tolerate the discomfort, but I’ve had an idea about how to “design” longer winter rides to optimise my clothing for the day’s conditions, let me explain… Continue reading

Book Review – The Rider by Tim Krabbé

rider

I first became aware of this book when I was reading Bert Wagendorp’s Ventoux. As the main character describes how his cycling obsession began “The urge to sit on a racing bike again came back later. That was after I had read The Rider by Tim Krabbé. I was 15, read it at one sitting, and knew instantly what I had to do.” With both books being originally written in Dutch I suppose it was inevitable that the later would mention the original Dutch cycling classic. Continue reading

Ireland, The Highlights – Ireland Part 3

Cycling the majority of the Wild Atlantic Way, from Cork to the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. Here are some of the highlights of the 1089 mile journey:

The Beer

You can’t visit Ireland and not drink a few pints of the black stuff. Apparently it’s for strength and it’s good for you. I drank a few of these along the way and I made it to the end, so it didn’t hinder my progress too much.

g_web
Guinness Brewery, Dublin

Continue reading

Cycling the wild places – Ireland Part 2 

the_burren
The Burren, wet and gale force winds but still stopping to take photos after camping in a storm in Doolin

The West Coast of Ireland (Wild Atlantic Way), a wild and rugged coastline, battered and eroded by huge waves and driving storms. Littered with islands, lighthouses and wildlife. There is certainly plenty to see here: whales, dolphins, puffins, 20,000 gannets, you can even go looking for Luke Skywalker (I didn’t manage see him on my boat trip to the Skelligs).

The landscape of this coastline has been shaped by its weather, and in my opinion the unpredictability of the weather actually adds something to the excitement of cycling here. Continue reading

Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail! – Ireland Part 1

There were many things that I worried about in preparation for my 1000+mile cycling trip around Ireland. My trusty Tubus steel rack was looking a little worse for wear after five winters of commuting, so was promptly upgraded to a corrosion resistant titanium one. I had a last minute panic to replace the rear derailleur hours before I set off because it was a bit stiff and not changing properly, an issue that just days ago I thought would be fine with the help of some WD40. Continue reading

Castelli 24 Ore (Hour) Race – Feltre, Italy

c24_climb

“Do you fancy doing a 24 hour race in Italy?” Just sounded like a better experience than “are you doing the crit on Tuesday night? looks like it might rain”. Not that I had to choose between one or the other, but I personally needed something a bit more exotic to inspire me to keep cycling/training through the depths of the British winter. The Castelli 24 Ore (hour) race in Feltre, Italy; on the edge of the Dolomites national park, is a criterium race run on a 1.9km circuit in the centre of the city. The race runs for 24 hours and can be ridden either solo or as part of a team (8 – 12 people).   Continue reading

The Best of The Peak District

DSCN0289
Mortimer Road, some of the best tarmac in the country?

If you had to show one of your oldest cycling friends one route to show off the best of your local National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, what would you include? It had better be good to make it worth them travelling over for, and there had better be some cake stops and a pub lunch! Hills bring stunning views and descents, and we’d want some tight twisting descents as well as epic fully tucked charges. This varied route through the North of the Peak District National Park is littered with reservoirs and takes in what could arguably be one of the best bits of tarmac in the whole country: Tarmac initially laid for the Tour De France Grand Depart (but with the entire 16km section of Mortimer road now being freshly laid and unbelievably smooth). Continue reading

Film Review: Battle Mountain – Graeme Obree’s Story

Obree

Mention Graeme Obree and the first two things that spring to mind are the hour record and washing machine parts. It is his unique approach to doing things that have earned him his reputation as an eccentric genius. A hero to many, mad entertainer to others, and downright annoying to one Chris Boardman.  With world records, world championships and two successful hour record attempts under his belt his unorthodox approach has certainly worked. 20 years after his last world record Graeme is attempting another in the only way he knows how.  Continue reading

Roads Were Not Built For Cars by Carlton Reid – Book Review

DSC06113_RNBFC

You may recognise the name of the author from his popular website ipayroadtax.com. I stumbled upon this particular website when looking for the facts about road tax after being  shouted at from a white van (like most cyclist will have been at some point) about cyclists not paying road tax. As I’m sure you’re aware there is no such thing as “Road Tax”, if however this is news to you, may I suggest you visit the aforementioned website before reading the rest of this book review.

Road tax is just one of the many modern myths or misunderstandings that surrounds road use today, and this book sets out to set things straight, starting with the title!  Continue reading

British Cycling Coaching Session

bc_coaching_small.jpg

I must admit that it’s been a while since I’ve really pushed a bike to its limits. As I do most of my riding on public roads the greasy damp tarmac and diesel spills have caught me out far too many times. The result of which has left my confidence in cornering traction, more often than not, on the cautious side. So I jumped at the chance to improve these now rusty skills by attending a British Cycling coached road racing skills session. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be more in tune with the bike, feeling the way the bike reacts as tyres grip firmly on the fresh clean tarmac.  Continue reading

Weather to cycle (or not)

rain

Cycling and the weather; the endless worry of a cyclist. Finding those precious hours of optimum (or just about acceptable) conditions to get out and feel the sensation of speed. The effortless tail wind, flattering your ability, on that sun soaked morning before returning home to errands and reality. Weather can make your day, or break your sprit. If you’ve ever had to change gear with the other hand because your fingers have stopped working, numbed through cold and rain, then you’ll know how important it is to be prepared for what the weather has in store. Continue reading

You never forget your first Alp

38049_450370416647_7732161_nThere is something special about your first Alpine pass. The moment you experience the scale of the challenge, dwarfing all those local neighbourhood climbs you once feared. Climbing in dense cloud I was oblivious to the scale of the challenge throughout, as I couldn’t see the summit at any point, but that didn’t detract from the experience. This is the story of my first mountain pass, the Sustenpass in Switzerland, a Hors Catégorie climb (“beyond categorization” or incredibly difficult). I should point out that I knew nothing at all about the climb prior to attempting it, it was just in the way, and going around it didn’t look to be an option.  Continue reading

Book review – Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp

ventouxbookweb

A work of fiction about cycling? With plenty of real cycling tales being told is there room for cycling fiction? With fictional novels being very subjective I’ll try my best to give an idea of the story’s appeal without spoiling the plot – if it appeals, read it. Personally; I wasn’t sure at first, but I have read it and I have to say, for me it was a bit of a page turner. I was engrossed. If I was to sum up what it’s about I’d say friendship and growing up, but it’s also contains sex, drugs, poetry and cycling.  Intrigued? I thought you might be.  Continue reading

Planning the next adventure

Christmas is here and we’re supposed to put our feet up, eat a lot and have a drink or 2. This enforced break from work also gives plenty of time to reflect on your year, and plan for next. A few days of sitting around talking to friends and family and the relaxed mind starts to form new ideas and new challenges. A few drinks with old friends can turn into a sportive/race/challenge recruitment drive followed by a drunken bet and before you know it you’re looking at the cost of flights or ferries and checking out google maps. Welcome the excitement of planning adventures.  Continue reading

Winter Cycling Motivation

Winter_cycle
Frozen canals and frosty foliage on a winter morning

Winter Cycling Requires Motivation

Staying motivated over the winter months has to be the hardest thing as a UK cyclist. When it’s cold, windy and normally raining it’s so easy to just put off your riding time and sink into a nice warm and comfortable lack of training rut. Often the promise of a session on the turbo trainer becomes a reason not to join friends on that cold morning ride, and if you don’t enjoy the turbo trainer sessions your riding time slowly reduces to almost nothing.  Continue reading

Book review – Alpe D’Huez, cycling’s greatest climb by Peter Cossins

AlpeDRabbit
Rabbits have nothing at all to do with cycling or Alpe d’Huez, they just really like books.

Cycling has a rich history and the history of the Tour de France has to be the most frequently referenced of it all. History is respected in cycling, and the Tour de France loves to publicise it, so it stands to reason that as obsessive cyclists we could do to know at least a little about cycling history. Continue reading

The Infamous Rosedale Chimney

Chimney_03
Dangerous hill, cyclists please dismount

The infamous Chimney bank, often referred to as the steepest or joint steepest road in England (Not Wales they have a steeper 40% climb). The internet is full of comments about chains snapping on the way up and professional cyclists having to walk up it during the tour of Britain/milk race. If you’re oblivious to all this there is no ignoring the very obvious sign at the top warning of a “Dangerous Hill” and politely requesting that cyclists dismount to descend it. There is however no direct warning about cycling up it, the sign stating that it is a 1 in 3 hill should be warning enough to most. Continue reading

Book Review – The World of Cycling According to G, by Geraint Thomas

CSlsUyPXIAAGcJ3
The rabbit is of no relevance to the book’s content. She just really likes books

The peloton’s most straight talking cyclist has written a book, and it’s very entertaining. It’s not the usual autobiography that you might expect from a successful cyclist, but a collection of thoughts on every aspect of road and track cycling and life on the road. Though inevitably the book does cover Geraint’s own experiences and anecdotes, so there is some degree of biography present. With no story line running through the book, and short sections/chapters it’s really easy to fit into a normal busy day. Making the “Be with you in a minute, just let me finish this chapter” challenge quick and easily achievable. Continue reading

Sognefjellsvegen – Norway

DSC_1750 copy
Glaciers on the summit of the Sognefjell

“Oh you’re heading North? Over the Sognefjellsvegen? Wow, Good luck!” the man said, as I borrowed some change for the showers at the camp site. I’m just over 540km into my journey (not yet half way), and tomorrow I’ll ride the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe. In 36 degree heat; carrying all my camping kit, cooking equipment, food and clothes more suited to typical Norwegian weather than the record breaking temperatures I’m sweltering in.  Continue reading

1000 words, or just 14

You Can't Buy Happiness
You Can’t Buy Happiness
Anatomy of a bicycle
Anatomy of a bicycle

Sometimes it’s just not possible to be riding a bike. Sometimes you just have to sit down and eat dinner, watch TV with your partner and do all manner of household chores. By decorating your home with bicycle related images or paraphernalia you can keep you mind focused on your obsession. Next time you hear “I think we should redecorate”, don’t think about the time out from your training schedule, think about how many bicycle related items you can squeeze into the room. Continue reading

Take the long way home

commute.jpg

I’ve always had more than one commuting route. I used to let some traffic lights decide if I should turn left and go through the smaller roads, or straight on along the busy but more direct main road. With fresh legs on a direct route I challenge myself to hit the rolling hills as fast as possible; the feeling of nausea as I crest the most challenging hills now a familiar feeling so soon after my morning bowl of porridge. By the tail end of the week the overwhelming feeling is the disappointment I feel when my legs complain about the aching and my will power gives in, changing down a gear to make it easier. “It’s a recovery ride” I tell myself. But cycling doesn’t just have to just be about speed and suffering, whatever happened to fun and adventure? Continue reading

Mont Ventoux – The Mythical Mountain

SONY DSC

The American accent cuts through the conversations on Bedoin’s main street, it’s early evening and the restaurant’s outside seating is full of diners in full conversation. “Have you rode up the mountain yet?” I overhear, “We rode up this afternoon” the American voice proclaims. They are a retired couple from America, in their late 60s, touring Europe and they had Mont Ventoux on their to do list. The giant of Provence seems to captivate the attention of so many as a cycling mountain, not just cyclists either, but anybody young and old who wants to challenge themselves. The array of people who attempt this mountain, on all manner of bicycles from basic mountain bikes to serious road bikes, is really something to behold. Continue reading

How to cycle Alpe d’Huez

12028751_10153510836951648_8727409138819963286_o

We arrived in the early afternoon and set about finding a hotel for the coming night. It was going to be a flying visit, a single ascent of Alpe d’Huez followed by a refreshing shower and some dinner. The village of Bourg d’Oisans lies at the foot of the legendary alp and after a quick walk around town we settled on the Hotel Des Alpes on the main pedestrianised street. The hotel looks to be in the process of a renovation, the deluxe rooms being nicely finished but the rest of the hotel and standard rooms looking a little unloved and out dated (the owners are friendly and a room is provided for bike storage in the basement).

There wasn’t time for lunch so I stuffed down an energy bar whilst assembling my bike in the car park, and prepared to see what all the fuss is about this “legendary alp”. First impressions were that it looked pretty unspectacular, you can see the ski resort from the valley roads and it didn’t look all that far away. The statistics also didn’t sound that bad: 1118m elevation gain, from 742m to 1860m and an average gradient of 8.1%. That all sounded quite acceptable when reading it on paper, so just what made this worthy of the Hors catégorie status? After all it’s far from the longest or the highest climb in the area. Continue reading