We did the Sky Ride and got a free rubber duck!!

Being a member of British Cycling brings plenty of benefits but in a recent email I received was the most useful thing yet.  It was a reminder to get involved in the local Sky Rides that happen right across the country.  This weekend there was a ride in Leicester and I took the family in to town to see what it is all about.

After a short train journey we were soon sporting fluorescent yellow bibs and joining thousands of other families to enjoy a 6k, traffic free route that took us right around Leicester city centre.

I can’t talk highly enough about the event and have told everyone I’ve spoken to about how good it was.  6k is a perfect distance for my eldest daughter to ride and with several stops along the route we were never far from a little break or some entertainment.  Most of the stops included the opportunity to do something else cycling related.  Team Sky had an exhibition stand where people were testing their strength on some Watt Bikes, and we had a family shot on the podium on front of an Arc de Triomphe backdrop.  Halfords was offering some free bike servicing and the Leicester Tigers were giving out goody bags (including RAF styled rubber ducks!!??) and taking pictures of families with the Premiership Trophy.

All this was combined with a carnival atmosphere that encouraged novice cyclists and families to get involved.  There were activities for kids of all ages so my eldest took part in a short bike handling course while the youngest scooted around on a balance bike.

There were a couple of points through the route where we got a little congested but the busiest part was also the highlight of the ride when we were able to cycle through the Curve theatre in the citys Cultural Quarter.  Aside from one or two over eager lycra clad speed freaks, the other cyclists demonstrated the type of courtesy and respect that you’d hope for when cycling with a 6 year old.

All in all, the Sky Ride is a great way to spend a few hours with the kids and there were plenty of things to help get people on their bikes a bit more.  The only thing that could make it any better now is if my girls get to see themselves riding their bikes on Sky as they are now expecting …..

I had my mojo, lost my mojo and then found it again!

My early season cycling activity was full of drive and enthusiasm, resulting in a great ride to Skegness and my first triathlon.

And then I lost my mojo!

OK, I could blame work for getting busy but where there’s a will there’s a way and I just lost the will to train.  Even the road races I’d entered didn’t spur me on and after a dismal half marathon I spent most of July off the bike and doing no exercise.

What causes these total attitude changes? I’ve read a few articles and not really uncovered the answer.  The “get your ass in gear, loser” approach doesn’t really float my boat. In the past I’ve entered events to artificially urge myself in to action, but have either not trained or not performed if my mojo was missing.

Even introducing the element of competition hasn’t worked in the past, although being just a little bit faster than my mates from time to time is a great feeling.

I reckon the keys to motivation lie in your values as a person. I’ve never been particularly vain and for years carrying my belly around was disappointing but not destabilising.  Now that I’m surrounded by a beautiful family of my own fitness is important but I’m not old enough to worry about keeping up with the kids in the way that you read on many other blogs.

What is important to me is to feel a sense of achievement or pride, and to share those achievements with my family.  I’m delighted that my eldest daughter is loving her bike at the moment, and am proud that my cycling provides a point of reference for her.   As her Dad, she’d look up to me about pretty much anything. But I want her to look up to me for things that I am proud of myself.

The London Marathon, Skegness, Paris and the triathlon are all things that I’ve been able to share with my family and I can share them with pride when I perform well.  I figure that the secret to finding and retaining my mojo is in remembering how good it feels to take part in a challenge and perform well in completing it. Remember the sense of pride when all my hard work pays off … as hard work invariably has the habit of doing.

Reading the articles that my Google search found all tell you to set goals, measure progress, do things for charity.  They may work for some people, but you can’t use other people’s motivation to push your own buttons.

So, even though it is one of the seven deadly sins (why?) a sense of pride is what will help me find and keep my mojo. I wonder what REALLY motivates other people?

How do you get kids balancing on balance bikes?

We’ve just come back from our amazing holiday in France.  Whilst we were there, the whole family enjoyed going for bike rides and our favourite is undoubtedly the one we did with a picnic to a grassy little spot under a tree on the side of the Loire.

At the moment, my youngest is still in the child seat shouting “faster, Daddy, faster” but my eldest is now super proficient on her 14 inch wheels.  During the holiday she has also mastered cycling out of the saddle, cycling with one hand and (crucially) she has a great sprinting face and fast elbows!  Anyone who missed Wiggos fast elbows in the Tour de Romandie last year can see the final sprint on You Tube

Anyway.  We’ve arrived back to Blighty and the little one has decided she wants to get cracking on her balance bike.   We’ve decided to opt out of stabilisers given the types of advice we’re read on places like Isla Bikes and discussion forums such as Bike Radar. But how do you get the little ones started on a balance bike?

Our first attempt has resulted in back ache for me and very little balancing for the little one!  Maybe it is just patience but if anyone reads this and has a bright idea I’d be happy to hear it!

 

Last years Big French Bike Ride…

Last year me and my mate Stu did something amazing and rode from our village in Leicestershire to Paris.

Me, Stu & Mr Tim

Me, Stu & Mr Tim

Supported by Mrs G and our friend Mr Tim, we arrived in Paris the day before the end of the Tour de France and enjoyed the magical end to the first Tour ever won by a Brit

It was awesome and can’t be described in a short blog.  Which is why I wrote a full account of it when we got home.

If you find a spare 15 minutes, have a read and see how we ended up on the Champs Elysees with Brad, Cav and Froome Dog

The Story of Stoney Stanton to Paris 

I’m a Boris Bike fan…

I’ve been in London for a couple of days and have managed to avoid the tubes for every journey.  Instead I’ve been using a Boris bike (or Barclays Bikes to give them their official titles) to get around central London.  It was only a few weeks go that I used one for the first time and now I am hooked as they have become my favoured form of transport in London.

dockingstation

It’s dead easy.  You just have to find a bike that is free at one of the docking stations (like the one shown in the TfL picture) and to get going, you just have to put your debit card in one of the payment pillars (then take it out again before starting the registration process) and once you’ve signed up paying your £2 fixed charge, a 5 digit code will be printed out to use to unlock a bike from the dock.

The bikes have got a handy rack at the front which are sized conveniently to secure anything as small as a folder, a briefcase or (as I found today) a boxed laptop.  The luggage is secured with a tough rubber strap which gives piece of mind but can make the front of the bike more difficult to balance if there is a lot stowed in front of the handlebars.

I’ve downloaded the Barclays Bike app and its pretty good to help with routes because I’m a relative stranger to London, but it could be better if it had some audio instructions because at the moment I’ve been stopping to check I am on the right route.

My mate with our Boris bikes

My mate with our Boris bikes

Many of the roads across town have a cycle lane on them now and there seems to be an acknowledgement among cabbies and bus drivers that cyclists are part of the road using community so I’ve not had any problems with traffic.  It’s just worth being vigilant because there’s a lot going on and it’s not uncommon for herds of pedestrians to start crossing at traffic lights regardless of what colour they are shining.

The best thing I’ve found is that I don’t get sweated up on a Boris bike in the same way that I do on a racer because it is far more upright and relaxed.  In fact, I even managed to get my mate Ricardo to have a go when we were on the way out to a swanky dinner.  We must’ve looked like a right pair of plums cycling to an awards dinner all suited and booted but anything is better than the tube, right?

Surely it is time for doping cheats to be banned … for good?

Two more high profile professional cyclists have tested positive for doping during a time when we are led to believe that there has been a change to the culture in the professional peloton.

I have to say that I believe in the changes.  A zero tolerance policy from teams like Sky and Orica Green Edge feels a harsh approach but has helped restore confidence in the integrity of leading teams.  With the doping debate more open and honest than ever, the tide has turned against the omerta culture that has been so widely reported and young cyclists are now empowered to speak out against drugs in the sport.

It is no longer the norm for riders to receive a medical bag after each stage in a Grand Tour.  The concept of athletes

Your victory means nothing, Mauro

Your victory means nothing, Mauro

using needles to self administer “vitamins” dished out by shady “doctors” is alien to riders coming in to todays professional ranks.  And with these changes must be shift in the peer pressure and social norms that made it acceptable to use performance enhancing drugs because “everyone else is doing it”.  I suppose my point is that if the culture has changed, then all the excuses we have heard from Tyler Hamilton and others in cyclings doping generation are no longer valid.

So having normalised a “clean” culture, how can anyone possibly excuse Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio for their postive tests for EPO?  No. I don’t mean excuse them because I don’t see or hear anyone doing that.  What I think I mean is this.  How can those riders ever contemplate coming back to this sport now that they have bought it in to disrepute again, just after it has hauled itself to its knees after the darkest days any sport has ever seen.

Regardless of talent, work rate, experience or commercial value, these riders mustn’t ever be allowed to pull on the garishly coloured  lycra of a professional cycling team because of the damage they could do by being accepted back in to the peloton.  Young, clean riders need to see a zero tolerance of proven, malicious dopers.

This zero tolerance approach of course brings in to question the validity of the tests and the impact of the detected substance.  Does a positive test for traces of metolazone (a diuretic named in the 2013 WADA banned substance list) constitute the same gravity of offence as a positive test for EPO?  Probably not, so is a tiered punishment system required?  But that approach is undermined by the fact that some substances are taken to mask the traces of other performance enhancing substances.

What if some of these performance enhancers really can be accidentally ingested through contaminated beef?  Should

Clenbuterol Cows!!

Clenbuterol Cows!!

athletes lose their career for traces of banned substances that could enter the food chain without their control?

It’s because of the ambiguities in every case that WADA, the UCI or whoever wants to take control, should have a proper hearing panel that reviews the evidence with the opportunity to finish the careers of the dopers.  It shouldn’t be “three strikes and you’re out” because Di Luca doesn’t deserve three bites of the cherry.  If a rider is clearly guilty of doping to improve their performance (and let’s face it, why else would they be taking EPO?) they should not have the opportunity to cheat in that sport again.  In the words of (a younger) Bradley Wiggins: “You are a bunch of cheating b******* and I hope one day they catch the lot of you and ban you all for life”

…and the wind blew us to Skegness

On Saturday morning at 5.30 I was amongst a group of about 70 local cyclists heading out from The Blue Bell car park in Stanton to Skegness MedalStoney Stanton. With a real mix of experience and a wide range of ages we were all heading on our annual trip to Skegness.

I was late, of course, and barely had time to attach my number before the peleton hit the road.  Which meant I missed out on my bacon sandwich but plenty of others had tucked in and were well fueled before they left.  Most of us were buoyant about the prospects of a fast (or at least easier)  ride due to the forecast of a following wind, but rain was scheduled to be across the Midlands by lunchtime.  So the aim was clear – ride with wind and beat the rain!
Normally the first few miles of the ride are pretty steady. Everyone takes a bit of time to warm up that early in the

Me in black (to match my bike), Dickie in red (to match his bike)

Me in black (to match my bike), Dickie in red (to match his bike)

morning and its good to chat with people you don’t usually ride with. But this year went slightly differently. After a couple of miles I was chatting to a guy I met a few weeks ago who had raised over £1100 for charity by doing the ride, then I looked up the road and saw a group of about 8 people had already started taking things seriously. At the back of the group was the flashing rear light of Dickies bike. So, regrettably, I decided the social ride would have to wait and got my head down to join the front group.  It took me another couple of miles to get on to the wheel and that effort was an unwelcome leg burner, but we settled in to a good pace heading in to Leicester.

One of the reasons for leaving so early in the morning is to avoid traffic on the busy ring road in Leicester and most years we are the only people on the road. This, and cycling as part of a group, usually creates an almost-acceptable approach to the traffic light and roundabout systems.  As a rule of thumb, if there is no traffic on the road anywhere near us, we’ll tend to run through a red light.  But this year the attitude of some of the guys was different and they didn’t stop for anything.  At one point, two of them rode on to a roundabout in front of a car just waving it down to stop.  That’s not acceptable in my book because if you start pissing off drivers, they show less consideration to you as a cyclist and their cars are harder and faster than my bike!
Anyway, moan over!
Pretty quickly we were through Leicester, briefly stopping to give our numbers at the first check point, and headed on through to Melton Mowbray. There are only 3 notable hills on the ride so the pace was still pretty high along the rolling roads and the sun was shining to take the chill from the morning air. Melton came and went and when we hit the third checkpoint I started feeling confident and declared that, given the conditions, we should target a 20mph average speed now we only had flat ground to cover.
We’d been working reasonably well as a little group.  A guy on the front shouting out if there was gravel or pot holes meant we were able to stay on each others wheels. But when we hit the main road, one fella really put the hammer down and we all struggled to keep on the wheel.  The dreadful road surface on a 20 mile stretch of the A52 made things a lot harder than they needed to be. It was boneshakingly bad and when the guy in front dodged a pot hole, both Dickie and I ploughed straight in to it.  After a couple of minutes of general swearing, Dickies front tyre started deflating and our progress was halted for a quick inner tube change before continuing on the road as a pair rather than a group.
With about 35 miles to go the long, flat, grinding road started to get more difficult and heading through lanes around Boston my legs got heavy and some cross winds knocked some momentum out of us.  We had one last stop, grabbed a banana each, topped up the water and headed on through the flat countryside for the last stretch. Even though my legs were now seriously aching, when we got back on the A52 for the last 5 miles, the following wind kept us ticking along at over 20 mph.
Slightly disappointingly in the end we did a 19.8 moving average, with a ride time of about 4hrs 55 mins. But we rolled

The Clock Tower on our arrival

The Clock Tower on our arrival

down Skegness High Street well before 11am which was earlier than ever before.  After a quick loop of the Clock Tower (because it looks good on the GPS) it wasn’t long before Mrs G and the kids arrived while Dickie and I were enjoying a pint in Wolfies Wine Bar.

People rolled in over the next few hours and, as always there were some great achievements from first timers and veterans alike.  Dave and Gareth, who organise the ride each year, were handing out medals long after I’d been to my hotel and got changed. Each year they make the ride easy for us to do and somehow this year they got a reporter along from the local paper, their families helped out at the stops and Dave even drove the route a few days earlier to spray arrows on the roads to help everyones navigation ….we all owe them a pint.
So that’s Skegness done for another year.  We’ve set a record time that might be tough to beat in future years.  Most people had a day in the pubs and watched the FA Cup final.  I spent a great afternoon with the kids at the Pleasure Beach and was fast asleep by 9pm!

Simpson and my Giro Tee

imageI was hooked as soon as I saw the limited edition Simpson Giro T-Shirt last week and ordered one immediately.  It looks good doesn’t it?

Just as I had started to wonder when it would arrive, I got an email from Terry at Simpson magazine telling me of a short delay.  When he knew I wanted to show it off after riding to Skegness this weekend, I got an email straight back to tell me he had arranged a special delivery for today and wishing me a good ride tomorrow.

A personal touch and a great recovery from a little blip means I now feel like I have had a brilliant service and am already a fan of the magazine despite having only read their blog!

The top is now safely packed in the car for Mrs G to bring over to Skeggy and I’m looking forward to posing about in it during the Cup Final tomorrow afternoon.

Fair weather cyclist?

When I got home this evening, I had a choice to make.  Sit down eat the sweet ‘n’ sour pork stir fry that Mrs G had made and play with two tired kids, or dash about the house trying to find my kit (that was still strewn all over the place after the weekends triathlon) and make a quick 15 minute turn around to go and meet on our cross roads for a ride.  Sometimes I make good choices.  Tonight I made a bad choice and got the bike out.

Dax stings your eyes

Dax stings your eyes

Turning up late never goes down well and my 15 minute turn around had actually taken more like 25.  A group of lads had already gone on ahead and just two of us remained.  It didn’t take long for us to catch everyone up with the wind behind us, and we arrived at Mallory Park in good time.  After a quick chat and paying our £2 we set off on the lap to find an annoying head wind all the way down the start and finish straight.  By the time we hit the hairpin for the first time it was raining and after just one flying lap I was soaked through and put my rain coat on 5 minutes too late for it to keep me warm or dry.  Then, after a busy day at work forgetting to drink, I got cramp in my calf.

Only a couple of laps later and the lure of a hot shower and my sweet ‘n’ sour pork won.  My mate Dickie and I moaned all the way home and trundled along at an uncharacteristically slow

Definitely wonky

Definitely wonky

pace.  My eyes were stinging because the rain was washing all the crap (it’s not crap, it’s Dax) out of my hair and in to my eyes, my feet were cold and I couldn’t see out of my glasses.  I couldn’t even put my specs on my  helmet in a way that looked cool.  They were lopsided.  And the end of the arm hurt my head.  My nose was running and I was nearly drowning in snot.

There were no consolation prizes today.  It was windy, wet, cold and slow.  I’ve enjoyed my hot shower and my sweet ‘n’ sour pork.  And now I am enjoying a glass of red wine whilst ranting on here.  There were plenty of people still at Mallory Park when we left and we passed a few more cyclists on the way home.  Let’s face it, they must be more dedicated than me and I must be a fair weather cyclist.

 

Tips From My First Triathlon

What better thing to doing a Bank Holiday Sunday than swim, bike and run around Nottinghamshire in the Southwell sprint triathlon?

 
A triathlon is a great way of testing yourself and your fitness over a shorter space of time than a sportive and less impact on your body than a half marathon.  Another good motivation for doing it was that the family can come along, see Dad (or Mum) doing all the bits and pieces whilst enjoying some time out in the fresh air.  A triathlon is a much better spectator sport than just cycling or running alone and yesterday was perfect as the kids demolished a picnic while cheering me on.
 
It was my first triathlon in 22 years after having a go at one as a teenager with my Dad.  Training has involved all my normal cycle training, a few runs and a visit to the pool to swim about 1000 meters every 4 or 5 days.  It’s fair to say there will be better training plans available elsewhere on the internet but I felt reasonable confident about the activities themselves but was uncharacteristically nervous about the more technical aspects of the event.Image
 
I’d invested in a pair of Tri-shorts and elastic laces for my trainers so had satisfied my kit urges …. until we arrived.  90% of the people there had Tri-suits of some description so I instantly felt under prepared and felt a bit amateurish.  Despite practicing the swim-to-bike transition at home after a shower and a bath (much to my wife’s dismay) I was still lacking in confidence and made a daft mistake of switching the top I had planned to wear.  This meant that rather than putting a technical t-shirt on, I pinned the numbers on to a cycling top and with the grippy hem material, this got stuck when I tried to put it on after the swim.  It took me 2 attempts to get on, I ripped the number off on one side which meant I had to reattach it and probably cost me 30 seconds.
 
The ride was a lumpy, straight, out-and-back route but started with a tricky climb.  I hadn’t practiced cycling after swimming and really noticed a weakness in my upper arms on that first climb.  It was a strange sensation that wore off after 5 minutes but cost me some time on that first hill.  I was pleased to have taken a sports drink and gel with me because it got warm and you soon start to feel worn out putting that level of effort in. 
 
The run was a 2 lap affair and started with a 300 yard hill.  The laps were a good feature for me because they meant I got to see Mrs G and the kids 4 times on the run and once the first lap is complete you’re know exactly what to expect (another 300 yard hill!!).  A bit of concentration is needed to make sure you navigate the finish area effectively, but with a name check over the PA it was good to reach the end…..and see what scraps of picnic the kids had left me!
 
Driving home I reflected on how brilliantly organised the event was.  As a novice, I haven’t got much of a benchmark, but everything worked, I knew where I needed to be and everything went of completely on schedule.  I’ve now got a time to try and beat, can see where I could save time on another one and learnt a lot. 
 
My tips to myself are:
 
Get a Tri-top and number band (the right kit is the right kit for a good reason)
Practice the exit from the pool after race pace training (I rolled out like a beached whale)
Tri-bars would be useful on the bike but by no means essential 
Practice the swim to bike activity more
Take a smaller bag/rucksack because space at transition is limited
Keep a towel on the floor near the bike
Combine training more often to overcome the jelly legs!
 
The Southwell Triathlon is part of the Midlands Sprint Triathlon series and the next one is at Woodhall Spa on 21 July in case anyone fancies it?
 
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