So, 8 months after Back In The Saddle, here is the much anticipated sequel “back in the saddle 2”. The initial enthusiasm about having a lot more time to train was quickly replaced by the looming deadlines of my Masters and all that. So, while there was the occasional burst on the turbo, these were far and few between. And instead of writing the odd post (like I’ve done for the past 2 years) I decided to wait until I was actually in the saddle properly this time.
So here I am: a few spins out and about, nothing major, but at least I’m back to pretty much where I was in April 2011 (which was really the one year I actually did some cycling). Without the commuting and with the masters completed, there is a lot more free-time, especially in the evenings. So, with all that I have 2, possibly 3 big cycles starting in 1month (all 100 mile spins), and therefore mild panic has set in! It’s going to be a massive ask compared to 2 years ago, where I would have had another 6 weeks training from the same condition i’m in now, but if i don’t set myself pretty big (but not impossible) targets I’ll just keep slacking off.
Numbers wise I’ve barely broken 300 miles on the road , so a long way to go to the target of 3000 for the year, (again, I need something to aim for something to keep me cycling into the autumn & winter). The weight numbers are, um, nasty. Probably safe to say I won’t be aiming for polka dot jersey’s in any of the sportives: but then again one of the main reasons for taking up cycling to start with was to drop a few pounds, so if all goes to plan this should be less of an issue as the weeks/months go on.
So, after 6 months of commuting 3 hours a day, zero miles on the bike and about 20lbs weight gain, I’m finally back on the bike!
I’ve moved to a new place so only a 15 minute stroll to work, so at least now I should get back some time that I can put towards the turbo. Nearly all of the gains have been completely lost, but I’m starting back now to get in shape for next season. The flattest 10 miles in Ireland was cycled on Saturday, and it was tough, but delighted to be back! Hopefully I can press on now.
A good look at reducing traffic congestion from Brussels, through the eyes of a bike messenger
I’m a bit disappointed to hear the news on Friday that the Etape Hibernia is to be cancelled, but I’m not really surprised.
For those of you not in the know, the Etape Hibernia is one of a series of events, following on from other successful events such as the Etape Caledonia. But what really set it apart from others was that it was a closed road event, covering 84 miles around County Clare. Normally this wouldn’t really be a factor for me, in that I tend to stick to quiet roads anyway. But without doubt the most spectacular scenery I have cycled around was the Clare coast, so I was really looking forward to seeing what it was like on closed roads.
Having said that, while the concept was good the organisers had completely shot themselves in the foot with the timing. Regardless of how well it is run on the day, the extra cost over other events (I think it was over €50 for entry) would be enough to put off a lot of people. But factor in that the event was always run on the same weekend as one of the flagship Irish sportives, the Sean Kelly tour, well there was ever only going to be one winner. Looks like I’ll be cycling in Waterford in August (NB that’s a good thing!)
I think from reading the blog it’s fairly obvious that I’m as interested in the gear as much as I am in cycling itself. So I thought it was worth doing a piece on a few apps on the iPad that are really useful for keeping up to speed with cycling.
First off, I’m probably a bit atypical in that I have a fairly decent (20mb) broadband connection, but due to poor coverage in the apartment I don’t actually have a standard TV setup. Rather I use online TV services, such as the RTE player (for Irish TV) and more recently Netflix for TV watching.But 2 months ago I bought an iPad, and while initially I I had some ideas on what I would use it for, it quickly became apparent that’s it’s also ideal as a small TV.
I cover the exact set-up I use over on my techie blog, but for here I’ll mention the Eurosport app. It costs €37 for 12 months on the iPad, but given that over the weekend I was able to watch some of the Strade Bianche and Paris-Nice wherever I wanted in the house, I can’t really find fault the price at all (although the fact that because it’s in ireland once again I’m gouged over a Sterling-Euro “conversion” that doesn’t detract from teh usefulness). One point is that a lot of people have complained that this pricing is standalone from peoples’ Sky accounts, but in my situation that doesn’t apply at all. Also, I have read reports that there are issues over 3G, but again that’s not something I use, so I can’t comment.
Next up the Rouleur magazine. I said I’d try it for six months (€18.49 (as opposed to €12.70 for a single print issue from wiggle), and it’s a bit of a disappointment. The magazine itself is a stunnning high-end publication, with a real emphasis on design. And while the iPad version is an exact copy, this is it’s downfall. In portrait mode one page at a time is displayed, and while this makes it the font easier to read, when you only see half a picture on each page it’s kind of annoying. But then in landscape mode it’s a 2 page layout, but again this has its pitfalls. While the 2-page photos are stunning, the font is too small to read. Overall while the content is good, the app design isn’t up to par. While design is of paramount importance to the print edition, the designers should know that mobile apps have different requirements. Add in the fact that the app is very buggy (I find that if I open the app and then come do other work, if I try and come back to it later it often takes a restart of the iPad to open)- again a disappointment.
But one app that really works on the iPad (or iPhone for that matter) is the cycling news app.It’s nice, clean and simple, exactly what’s needed in a mobile app. The font is a decent size, and easy to read, while there is a button at the foot of each article linking to the pictures. It’s simple, and because of this it works. Rouleur could learn a lot about how to design an app from this
As per usual lately, there is a big gap between cycles. So a 5 mile spin on the flat turns feels like I’m going up the Tourmalet on the big ring, and yesterday was no exception. But I have about 10 weeks to my first 100km cycle for the year, and even though things are fairly chaotic time-wise, that’s more than enough to start getting miles in.
With that in mind I said I’d potter off yesterday for a handy 15 miles or so. As per usual I thought I couldn’t possibly be as weak or unfit as I felt after 5 miles, but very slowly I started to feel a (little) bit better. The breathing got a bit easier, speed picked up and I was able to enjoy things. I was actually thinking to myself how much better I was feeling when the heavens started to open. It was only a shower although quite heavy, and since i was about 4 miles from home I said I’d up the tempo and try find a bit of shelter. As I turned a corner I saw a wall just off the road, just enough to shelter, so I started to sprint the 200m or so to it. I just started to unclip and brake as I pulled off the road, BANG! Bloody gravel! Straight down on my knee, hip, shoulder.
Doing what any self-respecting man would do, the first thing I did was jump up and look around, make sure nobody saw it. But of course there was a little Mondeo with an elderly couple about 200 yards away. By the time I had stood up and dragged the bike off the road they had stopped and wound down the window: she looked quite upset. But once I figured that nothing was broken (first I checked the collarbone, then the bike) I gave a thumbs and off they went.I was a bit sore on the way home, and it took a mile to loosen out, thankfully it was only 4 rather than 40 miles!
Now, this isn’t exactly a hardcore story of someone cycling a 20-stage race with 3 broken ribs or something. But considering this was the first time I fell off a bike in about 20 years (apart from the first day I was clipped in and forgot about it, but that was a very low-speed maneuver but generally I’m very cautious), it was a bit of a shock. I’m very lucky that nothing is broken, and apart from being a pretty stiff knee and sore elbow I couldn’t have gotten off much lighter (16 stone at 15 mph is a lot of momentum! Plus a lot of that went through the shoulder, so the very first thing I checked was my collarbone). The main thing is it’s a reminder to pay attention.
Good news for cyclists in Limerick: it was announced yesterday that Limerick was one of the winners of a National Competition for Smarter Travel Areas, along with Dungarvan and Westport.Spread over 5 years, the Limerick proportion will be €9 million). Among the aims of the project, according to the Irish Government website http://www.smartertravel.ie, are:
- improved cycling ways, including safe routes to school and to key business and workplace zones;
- secure cycle parking in town centres or at public transport nodes;
- better walking facilities, including pedestrianisation;
- lower speed limits in residential and town centre areas;
- school and workplace travel planning
- car clubs
- the City Centre
- Castletroy (including the National Technology Park and University)
- And Southill.
- Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs): These basically give cyclists a head start at junctions, making the cyclist more visible, especially to left-turning traffic.
- As some of these ASLs hand & foot rails will be installed, to help balance at stops.
- Bike Pool schemes at certain employers
- A public bike hire scheme
- Cycle safety training for adults
Ended up back at home (ie Ballybunion) for the weekend, fortunately I brought the bike. Ran out of time on Sunday, but considering it was the third spin of the year I was happy with it.
Considering the weather (20-30 mph winds and with the wind chill it was 3c) it was hard to get out. But after some motivation (big cheers to Gerry for the encouragement!), I picked a route that was about 30 miles. I was planning on only doing 20 milers for another few weeks, but after realising that I need to keep getting the miles in I decided on Ballybunion->Listowel->Ballylongford and home.
It’s funny, 2 years ago I thought that kind of route would be the equivalent of doing a week on the Tour de France! Even when i was fit (you know, 15, 150lbs etc) I had never even tried cycling to Listowel before, thinking it was a day expedition. But with the 25 mph tailwind I was there in 25 minutes on Saturday! Of course I knew that the return leg would be much tougher. Because Ballybunion is located right on the Atlantic coast, any time I cycle home it is inevitably into the wind. And trying to keep the heart rate down, it meant having to spin VERY slow, 30×25 at times.
So, so far for the year I’ve managed 2 x20 mile cycles, and 1 x 30. The really surprising thing is that the speed (about 12 mph) is very constant, but the the average heart rate over the 3 cycles was 168, 168 and 167! About 40 bpm higher than I’m aiming for, but really surprised that they’re so close! Anyway, I’m happy to be at least getting out once a weekend, although there is plenty of scope to get in both days at weekends, and the food intake is atrocious. But at least I’m more active than I was this time last year.
Hmmm, some of this is way too familiar!