Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rapha Festive 500 2015

Tom and I have completed the #Festive 500 twice before, and this year we had planned something a bit different. We wanted to do the ride over 3 days, and have Christmas Day with the rest of our family.

Things however turned out very differently to our plans.

Day 1.

Our plan was to ride just over 100 miles out to the East coast with the wind at our backs. We left the house at 5am. We stopped for breakfast just before 9am and had already completed 45 miles.

As we prepared to leave the cafe it started to rain, and soon it was torrential.

Thankfully the rain only lasted a couple of hours, as forecast the storm outran us.

Tom's Rapha Hard Shell kept him nice and dry, so as usual he was smiling.

Flat roads, and a following wind meant that we had a relatively easy day, and on reaching the seafront at Hornsea, we had clocked up 176 kilometres.

The girls picked us up there, and that was it until Boxing Day.

Day 2.

The plan for days 2 and 3 were to ride from home in the Peak District, South to London to meet family down there. Our route was that of the Rapha Manchester to London ride. Day 2 was longish around 200km, and unlike day one we were heading in exactly the same direction as the wind was coming from.
As on the first day we stopped for a cooked breakfast.

Rain, wind, and plenty of big puddles.

In the afternoon the rain passed, the wind though was our constant companion. Tom as ever though is smiling.

With 196 kilometres ridden it was time for a pizza takeaway for supper, quickly followed by much needed sleep.

Day 3.

There was 128km left to do, which considering the previous 2 rides was a shorter easy day. The alarm went off at 6am, we were both tired, so we turned the alarm off and went back to sleep for an extra couple of hours.

We left around 9am, and, yes it was raining again.

The roads were quiet though.

It might have been a wet winter here, but it has been warm.

Other than stopping to take photos and chat about things, a fairly uneventful day.

At about 4:15pm, with 15km left to do, though our day changed.

I was riding a few metres ahead of Tom and I heard a faint thud followed by Tom shouting. 2 cars raced past me which I narrowly avoided being hit by.

I turned round, and Tom and his bike were by the side of the road. He was shouting, that was good. I checked him over. His helmet had cracked, and he was sore where his body had hit the ground. From the rear wheel, it appeared that the bike had taken most of the car's impact.

A police car was there within seconds. Apparently one of the cars that had passed by had phoned the police earlier to say that the driver of the other car was swerving from side to side of the road. The good samaritan later told me that he'd chased the other driver down, and confiscated his keys until the police came to deal with him.

The police had called an ambulance which took a while to arrive. During our wait, it became clear that Tom might be very sore, but his helmet and his Sky hat had saved his head, and it looked like he should be OK. As you can imagine, a huge relief.

Tom was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to complete the Festive 500 after coming so close. I told him to wait and see what the paramedics had to say, but I was already coming up with a plan should they give him the all clear.

The paramedics said it looked like he'd not broken anything advising a trip for an X-ray if his foot continued to hurt.

That was enough of an all clear to put out a request for a small bike on twitter.

Day 4

Helen had offered a bike and helmet that Tom could borrow. Herself and her husband Mark then kindly guided us on a ride round London to see some of the sights.

The kindness of people we didn't until then know, made our day.

It was such a lovely ride that we went past the 500Km.

So, our 3rd Festive 500 finished. More importantly, as Tom said just after the crash "It's great to be alive"

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Ice Cold Century.

This time of year it is easy to look at the weather forecast and decide that the day would be better spent indoors rather than doing a big ride on the bike. However with the weekends being the only daylight hours available to us for riding, we will usually wrap up and go ride anyway.

Our plan for the weekend was to cycle across the country from Bowness on Solway to Tynemouth on Saturday, then ride back on the Sunday. A trip we did when Tom was 7, which back then took us 4 days.

I'd set the alarm to wake me at 2:45am on Saturday. We packed the bikes and our clothes quickly in the car. As we left it started to snow.

Not ideal cycling conditions, but I figured things may be better up North.

After an uneventful drive, some 2 1/2 hours later we parked up near Bowness on Solway, and there was no snow, though it was only 1 degree above freezing.

A quick picture just as the sun was beginning to rise, and we were on our way Eastwards.

On the far side of Carlisle we started to encounter patches of black ice on the road, though with care they were avoidable.

A few miles further and the roads were covered in ice. If your wheel was anything but vertical, as Tom found out, you were quickly lying on the ground. He'd been on the deck 3 times before I took this picture.

We persevered, we walked some bits, and rode others gingerly. 

However when we arrived at this sign, the depth of snow, and ice, made it clear that trying to get across the country in one day on this day was not going to happen. Even the busy A69 had ice along its edges.

So we formulated plan B. Back to the car would take our mileage up to around 50 miles, From there we would try and do the same again whilst clinging to the coast roads, which appeared to have avoided the worst of the weather. Our plan B was to ride the same distance we would have done on the C2C, 100 miles.

The sun came out and we enjoyed the virtually traffic free roads.

At Allonby our turn around point, we stopped for chips.

The hot food was just what we needed. The last 25 miles flew by.

Tom has wanted to ride a century for a long time now, and was so happy when his GPS showed "100 miles".

We celebrated with Pizza before the drive back home.

We only did a few miles the following day, but I thought it amusing that we did more hills in 13 miles, than we did in 102 the day before.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ride 'til you puke, Relentless 2015, then ride some more.

Just after Tom had finished his first 24 hour race at Strathpuffer this year, he was asking what other 24 hour races he might be able to do. I sent an email to No Fuss Events to see if he could ride at Relentless 24 in October, to which they replied yes, but with the proviso we rode our Alpkit tandem.

We left the Peak District early on Friday morning and drove the 350 miles North to Fort William. We arrived in plenty of time to put up our pit tent in daylight, get our race number, chat to some friends, then adjourn to a Travelodge for a comfy nights sleep.

Overnight the weather had changed a little from the unseasonal warm still conditions the night before.

We arrived back at race HQ to find our tent partially collapsed, and some of our stuff soaked through. I was glad we had plenty of time in hand that morning, as it took a while to get the tent pitched solidly again. Thanks must go some of our neighbours who did their best to save the tent at 4am, then some others who gave us some bomber tent stakes which helped make sure it didn't blow down again.

Tent sorted, we got dressed to ride, were briefed about the race, and lined up for the start, amusingly far nearer the front than we ought to have been as the first bit went straight up a hill.

We didn't hold people up though on the hill as there was lots of passing space. I was a bit concerned though that the tandem would be a liability on some of the tight turns others had told me about. Oh, but something  was actually scaring me, and that was the raised wooden boardwalk (North Shore) sections. If the curves on any of those were too tight then the back of the tandem wouldn't get round and we would probably get hurt.

I won't give a turn by turn account, but will say that we rode every bit of the course at least once. We didn't fall off the North Shore. The uphill sections were hard work on the tandem, the downhill sections an absolute blast.

We did crash a few times into trees and rocks, but didn't get badly hurt. Though after one particularly spectacular off, there were some tricky bits that we thereafter elected to walk.

The course was hard and there were only a couple of bits that you could relax on with the tandem. We did have a good system though where Tom was in charge of food and drink, so we got to refuel whilst riding as well as back in the pits.

As we were organised for food and had a pair of Exposure Toro lights to keep us going , nearly 12 hours of the 24 had passed before we took a proper break. Tom was a bit tired so we decided that we'd have 3 hours sleep before heading out again.

3:30AM and  we are good to go again, except that Tom doesn't fancy eating anything. I put this down to tiredness, so we took a bit of extra food in our pockets as we set off up the hill for later.

Our ascent was interspersed by Tom making loud belching noises, and him grumbling about his stomach. At the top of the climb he asked if we could stop for a moment (I thought for a wee). He dismounted the tandem, then emptied his guts over the floor.

Pictured above is the caption on his Team JMC  race jersey. Apt eh? The thing is we were only about a 1/3rd of the way round the lap, so he would have to ride some more.
I made him sip some water, and he was soon feeling better. We rode back down to the arena (at 2/3rd distance) where he could have retreated, but instead he said we should ride back up and down the hill to finish that lap.
Tom still wasn't liking the idea of food though, so I decided we'd have a few more hours off, then maybe ride a last lap in the morning to finish.

9am, and the extra rest had done him good. He ate ham and cheese toasted wraps and a bowl of cereal for breakfast accompanied by hot chocolate.

He even stopped for a bite to eat on the way round.

We finished our last lap nearly bang on 24 hours after we started to make a total of 11.

One of the best things about these events is the opportunity to catch up with so many friends in one weekend. Great to see you all.

Many thanks to all the competitors who we didn't know and their supporters for cheering us on.

A big thanks to the race organisers for letting Tom take part.and of course to our sponsors.

Last of all thanks to my wife and daughter for being our pit crew!

(Photo Credits No Fuss FB page)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Alpkit Tandem

I'm normally very good about writing up things as they happen for this blog. However, I am a bit late telling our latest news, as Tom and I have been busy either riding or tweaking the set up of a new bike, the Alpkit Tandem.

Tom riding solo.

I met Dave, one of the guys from Alpkit a while back at a party, and during our conversation I mentioned that Tom and I were planning on doing the Tour Divide on a tandem in 2016. I didn't realise at the time, but Alpkit were in the planning stage of having some bikes made to compliment their other products. Dave said that they might be able to help us by getting a custom tandem made.

Brant at helped with the design and a couple of weeks ago I took delivery of a very red tandem frame made to accommodate 29" or 650B+ wheels, and a box of parts from which I would build a bike.

My gear shifter and stoker.
The build went well except that the shifter cables I had were not long enough. This didn't stop Tom and I taking the bike out for a test ride, it just meant that when we wanted to change gear, Tom had to get off and change gear with a spanner. Longer cables were ordered, and a couple of days later, fitted.

It's too early yet to write a full review, but since it has been built up we have been out on it at every spare moment.  It is an absolute hoot to ride. It is red, and of course that means it is fast. It flys downhill, and it is just as well that the brakes are great. Tandems are renowned for their relative slowness heading back up the hill, but we've found that this bike will get up a lot of stuff that I'd not get up on a solo bike.

We'll be fitting a full set of  Alpkit luggage soon, and will let you know how it rides when laden.

Specification -

Alpkit custom frame.

Rohloff Gear 36 hole Hub with an 18 sprocket

Middleburn Chainsets 170/165mm. 38 Drive ring, 28 teeth same side timing rings.

8 speed chains.

Rockshox Pike Solo Air Forks set to 100mm

Use Vybe Suspension seatpost for Tom.

Hope Tech 3 V4 disc brakes with 203mm rotors

29" 36 Hole Halo rims (Front Hope Pro 2 15mm hub)

Tyres Continental Mountain King 2.4"

Truvativ Stem, bars, pilot's seatpost.

Weight 20.4 Kgs

Loads of Clearance.

USE Vybe Suspension seatpost.

Drive and Timing chains.

Rear end.

Monday, July 27, 2015

#RaphaRising 2015

This was the third time we'd taken on the Rapha Rising climbing challenge. This year the target was 9366 metres, and there were 9 days in which to complete it.

Tom ambitiously thought it might be possible to do it one ride, and so it was we left the house near midnight on day one to start the challenge.

We drove a short way from home to leave the car packed with food and drink as a feed station, and then embarked on riding reps up Holme Moss. 3.5K at a steady 8%.

It was a clear night.With our Exposure lights providing more than enough light.

....and it did not seem to be long before dawn was on its way.

The weather played nice and dawn soon turned to sunshine. We were also joined by Alison, who brought coffee, and who rode with us for a while. Tim also did a couple of reps with us.

The obligatory summit picture.

After 19 reps, 4,932 metres and 122 kilometres, Tom's knees were getting sore, so we headed home for the day.

Next day, Sunday, a recovery ride, 495 metres and a visit to  the pub.

Day 3 and another easy ride of a few reps up a local hill. 549 metres.

Day 4, 616 metres and some peculiar local art.

Day 5. An after school ride taking in some of the local classics including Winnnats Pass. 1149 metres.

Day 6 dawned and we resolved to finish the challenge.

9 hill reps of Highgate road and a bridleway gave us 1669 metres.

After 7 reps Tom was desperate for food though. We just made the chip shop in time.

A grand total of 9410 metres. Challenge completed!