Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Stuart gets a new bike.

Stuart decides that he doesn't have enough bikes* and needs another one.

However he has no money, being €1250 out of pocket blah, blah, blah...

Cognitive dissonance ensues.

Then he meets his old friend Neil in Inverness.

Neil has a spare bike.

Stuart now has Neil's spare bike.

*The ideal number of bikes, i, can be determined by the simple relation:


Where c = number of bikes currently owned, rather than the more-traditional "speed of light in a vacuum" usage. No-one can have (3x10^8) + 1 bikes. Do the math.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Bike geekery 3.

Last one (for now).

Titus Racer-X.

Aluminium full-sus. Fox Float R rear-shock. Thomson Elite seatpost. Errr.. that's it. A drunken eBay "bargain".

This might well be the perfect bike for the Transalp. Very similar to the Motolite but lighter and shorter travel (4" rather than 5"). Paradoxically, I can't afford to build it up yet because I've spent the money needed to do so on entering the race which it would be perfect for...

Dave might contribute some bike geekery in the near future. I counted 18 bikes in his shed last time I was there.

Bike geekery 2.

More of Stuart's bikes.

Titus Motolite.

Aluminium framed full-sus. Shimano XT drivetrain with Shimano XTR shifters. Shimano XT servo-wave brakes. Hope Pro II hubs with Mavic XC717 (front) and XM819 UST (rear) rims. Bontrager Jones ACX tubeless tyres with Stan's sealant. Rockshox Revelation 426 forks. Fox RP3 rear shock. Easton EC70 CNT carbon bars. Thomson Elite stem and seatpost. Chris King headset. SDG Bel-air RL saddle. TIME ATAC XS pedals.

Not a Transalp candidate despite being superb in every way. Very expensive but has proved itself to be money well spent after 3 years and many hundreds of miles. Climbs superbly thanks to 4-bar rear suspension and is very confident and stable on steep, rocky descents. Pretty fast for a full-susser, but just a bit too heavy and too complicated to rely on for 8 days in the Alps.

A thoroughbred.

Bike geekery.

Stuart's bikes.

Kinesis Maxlight XC Pro 2.

Aluminium and carbon hardtail. Shimano XT tubeless wheels with Bontrager Revolt-X tubeless tyres and Stan's sealant. Shimano XT drivetrain and shifters. Shimano XT brakes. Rockshox Reba SL forks. Easton EC70 carbon seatpost. RaceFace NEXT low-riser carbon bar. FSA zero-stack headset. SDG Bel-air RL saddle. TIME ATAC XE pedals.

This is the bike I'll probably ride in the Transalp. It's pretty light and fast and relatively comfortable on all-day rides, but feels sketchy on steep downhills. I'll need to experiment with the setup. Moving the saddle down and forward has made it more comfortable. Next thing to play around with is the stem length - I think it's too long which puts the weight too far forward on descents.

Dave has one of these bikes too. Maybe Kinesis will lavish sponsorship money on us. Then again, maybe they won't, what with the credit crunch and all. I'm sure we were in their plans until the downturn in the economy.

More bike geekery later.

The appliance of science.

My approach to getting fit has always been pretty haphazard. Do enjoyable physical stuff and make moderate fitness gains as a spin-off. Clearly this won't do for the Transalp. This will need a proper, structured approach and a good understanding of the principles of training.

I've been reading "Mountain Bike Fitness Training" by John Metcalfe. After getting over the initial disappointment of reading the review on the back cover "You won't get fit just by reading this book...", I delved inside and got stuck in. After a few pages of what sounded like common sense advice, it suddenly got difficult. All this talk of HR zones based on percentage of HRR left me feeling like I imagine my pupils do when faced with the prospect of learning the difference between partial and non-key dependencies in database normalisation on the night before their exam.

My sketchy understanding is that one needs to vary the training intensity throughout each training micro-cycle whilst keeping sight of the overall macro-cycle. But then there are meso-cycles as well... WTF? I have enough trouble deciding which cycle to go riding on each day.

Feeling baffled, I decide to take it a stage at a time. I need a route where I can control the exercise intensity. It turns out I have the perfect run almost literally on my doorstep - the West Fife Cycle Route from Dunfermline all the way to the Hawaii of Scotland, Alloa. Today's ride is very enjoyable even if it is almost completely flat and entirely on smooth tarmac. There are inevitable clashes with dogs and horses and over-fed families too stupefied by crisps and shite TV to realise that they need to get out of the way of a speeding bike.

Apart from giving in to the urge to chase down a roadie who overtakes me, I keep my heart-rate pretty constant for both legs of the journey. Average 168bpm, which after some Excel wizardry, I learn is in the Aerobic Power zone. Cool.

I need to be more disciplined though. I find it easy to go out for a couple of hours and ride as hard as I can without resting or easing off, but I find it very difficult to go for a recovery ride. That might be tomorrow's experiment.

Distance: 38.14km
Ride time: 1:42
Av. speed: 22.4 km/h
Average HR: 168
Calories: a big fry-up and half a packet of digestives with stilton. And a cream egg.

The next chapter in my book is "Nutrition".

Thursday, 15 January 2009

If it doesn't kill you it must be doing you good.

The holidays went well riding 10 days out of 14. Not bad I thought maybe I can get fit again. Fast forward to Monday the 5th and I start my new job by riding into work. Its 30miles and it hurts right from the start, its not just my legs but every part of me that aches with every pedal stroke. My body is trying to tell me its time to rest its knackered and will not be pushed any further. So I take a day Off

A ride on the Wednesday as part of my TCL night module training is nothing strenuous. It snowed the day before the trails are covered in soft slippy snow and we descend at speed like a bunch of kids skidding and cornering speedway style, excellent fun. At the weekend despite thick ice (from the melting snow freezing) covering most of the trails I get in two hours each day. How far how high and what my hear rate is anyone's guess as my Garmin decides not to switch on. Maybe it knew what was ahead!

Wednesday night my daughter Katy has a 2hr steady MTB ride scheduled in for her training. This is ideal for me I think "a nice steady ride". It all started off so well up the first part of the black climb in Glentress then all of sudden I'm in trouble, Katy is disappearing into the distance and I'm going backwards. My heart rate is at max(the Garmin would have been going ballistic all the way up) and my backpack is killing my back. Its got my full guiding kit in it and I start to think what could I jettison, first aid kit, adjustable spanner, leatherman, light battery, the whole back pack!!!! In the end I make it to the mast with the snow driving into my face and making a nice white clean layer on the ground. With the weather closing in we decide not to do the whole black route(thank god) and head back to the van via the red route. I'm glad I don't have to look at the Garmin download that way I can forget my 15year old daughter just kicked my arse. One steady ride(read 2hr hard ride) down one to go.

Thursdays steady ride is with some of the Scottish Talent team, one of which is on the Olympic development program. I have the same backpack and I'm sure these kids all weigh less than the back pack, I think they could carry it but damn I need it to carry my light battery. Its not too bad going along the fire road and the plan is to take it easy on the climbs and speed along the level bits. Surely that won't be too fast! Wrong, the climb starts and I am breathing really hard, I am at the back and just hanging on. The rider in front of me starts to struggle and a gap forms to the main group, it gives me a chance to recover and we work together to keep within sight. I'm still cycling faster than I have in the past two years and I'm even more aware of how much work there is to do to get ready for the Transalp. The Garmin would have been screaming at me the whole way round. All I need to know is that it was 1.5hrs of riding at a very fast pace and it was hard.

Two hard days, they didn't kill me so hopefully it is doing me some good. Tomorrow another steady ride with a group of kids!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Must try harder.

I've got a parents' evening tomorrow night so I'd be missing the Thursday night ride. I haven't managed to cycle to work yet this week because I've been too lazy to strip down the bottom bracket, a job which can be done in about 4 minutes. Only one thing for it - a Wednesday night ride.

After a great deal of faffing around, the slight drizzle has turned to a relentless, sleety downpour driven in on a cold easterly wind. So I head west. This is easy, I'm flying along uphill without breaking sweat. The GPS is trilling at me to tell me my heart rate is too low!

I turn left down the hill and then left again to pick up the cycle track back into town. Suddenly it's all different. The sleety rain makes it impossible to see and within minutes I can't change gears because my thumbs are numb. I could build up a singlespeed but that might be perceived as a relaxing of my hostility towards bearded bike geeks, and I can't be having that.

Heading back up the street I get a "You're keen pal!" from a local gadgie - fulsome praise - but he doesn't know that I've only been out for 21 minutes and 27 seconds, covering 7.18km with an average HR of 136bpm.


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Some stats.

Thursday night ride with Mike. Dunfermline skate park out to Braefoot and back.

Riding time: 2:03:40

Distance: 30.59km

Ascent: 380m

Average speed: 14.8km/h

Average HR: 148bpm

Calories: 1152

Conditions: soft, muddy

Isn't it amazing what a GPS will tell you?

Half a packet of digestives with some mouldy-for-stilton stilton and the leftover port go some way towards making up the calorie deficit but I'm still hungry. No wonder I'm such a skinny bastard.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Festive Training

Stuart manages to keep the training up over the festive period. Until he gets injured.

The "ride-day, rest-day, repeat" routine is maintained along with plenty of eating and drinking; a training plan which won't be found in the pages of "Mountain Bike Fitness Training" by John Metcalfe, which Stuart finds in his Christmas stocking.

Highlights include a couple of laps of the Strathpuffer circuit in perfect conditions with all the trees covered in several days' build up of rime and not a breath of wind. A foolhardy attempt at the Quarry Drop on the Firetower Trail near Lochgilphead sees a painful fall onto elbow and knee after neglecting to fully clear the runout of ice. There is a lot of swearing, though mostly at tearing his new eVent jacket...

This is followed by a circuit of the Leacann Muir road between Loch Awe and Loch Fyne. Stuart gets too cocky on the descent and failing to learn the lessons of two days ago, slides on ice and falls painfully onto his elbow and knee - the same elbow and knee. This time he swears with real conviction.

Attempts to gain sympathy are met only with abuse and ridicule. Stuart decides to stay off the bike for a couple of days, at least until he can bend his knee.