Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Segregated Cyclepaths and me.

I Think I had better start this post with a disclaimer:

"I am 100% in support of segregated cycle pathways - I have no doubt that it will increase the number of everyday cyclists and offer safer routes for a majority of cyclists - at a personal level though, I have a different opinion (runs and ducks for cover).

As mentioned above - and I will say it again (just in case some readers were perplexed and enraged when they read it, and didn't fully take it in). This post is about my own personal views on segregated cycleways and how they may be better for the general good of cycling but PERSONALLY they may not be for me.

It is fairly clear, to even the less than perceptive reader of this Blog, that I am a MAMIL - I like to ride as fast as my tired and aged body will carry me, I have to travel a reasonable distance to and from work (24 miles) and I am inherently idle and therefore like to get up as late as possible - this means I am always racing against the clock to get to the office on time or home to meet my loving family.

I have very little experience of cycle paths - only those in Lewisham - come to think of it, I can't imagine many UK cyclists having much experience on segregated cycle paths! My experience in Lewisham (my bete noir) is of a cycle path infested with people who seem incapable of walking on the pedestrian part of the pavement (even though it is far more luxuriously paved). I have change the use of this cycle path from one of risk free and joyful cycling, to it being a mid-point breather, this is because I can go no more than 10mph due to people wandering out around in front of me for most of its length. I have no desire to damage a pedestrian and more importantly (given they are people are probably from Lewisham) myself.

I have seen pictures of those wonderful segregated lanes in utopia (better known to most people as Denmark and the Netherlands) with a large number of people happily pootling their sensible bikes along safe and friendly paths, it is without question the way cycling should be - enjoyable and safe. But it just isn't what I want! Yes I want the safety, but I don't want the gentle ride into work. I guess, I don't ride for the need to get from A to B in a practical way. I ride for exercise, I like going fast and I like feeling tired at the end. No this does not mean I take stupid risks and break laws, it means that I like the exercise (in fact it is the only regular exercise I get).

If someone like me wants to ride on these utopian paths, I would not be welcome - I would add speed and risk to other uses, in a place where risk should not be. So what would the other option be - well the same as it is now, the roads. Only this time there would be less cyclists and far more angry drivers wondering why I am blocking "their road" when there is a perfectly accessible cycle path. But if I am cycling 25 - 30 mph on the road I will be within the law, whereas on a  cycle path I am sure I will breaking some new man made speed limit.

It occurred to me yesterday as I drove to the airport at 1am. that there is an ton of pointless man made traffic controlling measures (yes fine during the day when there is lots of traffic) but as I sat there at the 15th set of red lights waiting for no traffic to pass from the other direction before being able to set off again, and seeing someone, coming from the other direction, get flashed by one of the 40 or so traffic cameras en route (the road was dry and totally empty) it occurred to me just how much those in control, feel the need to control every facet of our lives - long gone is the belief that people can act sensibly depending on the situation. Sadly this is probably true given the idiocy of 50% of people - but it is still sad and limiting.

Cycle pathways I am sure, will be the same. As time passes, more rules will inevitably follow, if you want to ride on the cycle path I foresee a 10 to 15 mph speed limit being one of the first things to be implemented. No doubt we will get policemen, looking to make up their pension fund, hiding behind bushes with speed cameras and helmet avoidance awareness pamphlets.  While health and safety is laudable, it will remove one of the most important elements that cycling offer me and others like me - freedom.

Edit: For reasons of fairness and because I have no axe to grind on any subject (I'll leave that to others) I feel I should link this article HERE - which basically says all I have written above is wrong (it is not written with reference to my humble Blog post though). But I would like to point out that judging by the videos posted as evidence, the writer has a very different view of what constitutes "fast cycling" than I have.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

H.I.T. Training

So I have seen the TV programmes, I have read the articles, "H.I.T. training is the way forward", I have done a reasonable amount of base fitness training (1 hour Heart rate zone 2 and 3 sessions on the turbo and a couple of visits to the gym) and this coupled with my 24 mile commute has meant that whilst in no way am I fit I am at a bearable level for a 47 year old cyclist.
It is winter and damn cold out there right now! So what better time to get on the turbo trainer and try to build on the base fitness?
I have been using the heart rate monitor on my Garmin Edge 800 and as mentioned previously it has added a new level of gadgetry to my training. It has made using the turbo trainer a far more absorbing thing (though that still isn’t saying much). I have been making workouts on my Garmin which I then carry out in the evening when I get home in the garage.

Three weeks ago I set up a HIT training workout and have dutifully carried it out three times. The workout is like this:
1) 25 mins warm up (Heart Rate Zone2)
2) 40 seconds flat out
3) 5 mins recovery (eventually getting to HRZ2)
4) 40 seconds flat out
5) 5 mins recovery
6) 40 seconds flat out
7) 5 mins recovery
8) 40 seconds flat out
9) 5 mins recovery
10) 40 seconds flat out
11) 15 mins warm down

OK so that all seems sensible!

What that little list of actions of steps does not show though, is just how frightening and painful those “40 seconds” are. The first one you feel a bit of a buzz, after the second one you are hurting quite a bit, by the end of the 3rd one you are feeling sick, and by the 4th one you worry that you may be having a cardiac arrest (for sure you are at your heart rate max).  The 5th one seems to involve tears, praying to your God and wishing that a car would run you over taking you out of your misery, though this is not going to happen on the turbo trainer, but you can still hope.
The great thing about HIT training (so I read) is that it is supposed to lead to on-going weight loss and increased aerobic fitness also it is quite a quick exercise to carry out and you need do it only once a week (though a maniac like me is still going to be doing at least 4 other non- HIT sessions a week). I personally have a feeling that it is like child birth – you go through what I can only describe as unimaginable pain – yet a week later you forget that pain and happily skip off to the turbo to do it all again, by the 3rd 40 second interval you suddenly remember how painful it all is.
I am not sure what writing this article is going to achieve? If I write this all down, then maybe it will remind me of the pain and I will never do it again? I hope I can bear with it for a few months and then come the sunny weather I will notice the benefit. I have a real dream to complete a few 70 mile rides and a few 100 mile rides this year, I really want to go up a level in distance and also being able to do the distance with more ease, though all it will mean is I will go faster and still be as tired at the end of the ride!

I think given I am 47 that it really is now or never that I push myself to a higher standard. The first year was just getting used to exercise - the second year it became much easier and the distances greater - now I want to up that distance and then next year my cunning plan is to be able to do long rides back to back (then the TDF beckons - not)! Cycling is only going to give back what you put into it and the benefits of reduced body fat etc. are a nice bonus.

I will report back on firstly whether I keep it HIT and secondly whether the benefits were felt - I suppose this curiosity is what will keep me going with it. Either way I don't suppose it is going to harm me (though during the 5th interval I do sometimes doubt that).

My "Dig Deeper Wimp" steerer cap arrived in the post and I have screwed it on - time to see if it works!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Into 2013 and beyond!

Wake me up when 2012 ends.
It has been a long time since I last made a post but to be honest, it has been fairly dull on the biking front recently (this is ignoring the LA doping, Olympics and TDF etc.  fairly deftly, but to be honest you don't need my ill informed opinion on these matters).

2012 was an awful year if we are honest – far too much rain (as confirmed by the met office saying it was the second wettest year ever since records started). It was more of a case of just cycling in when it wasn’t too wet out there and the motivation of having something to aim for was not there either  as I had not signed up for any events after the night ride. My weekend riding partner had hung up his pedals for the year straight after the night rider event so I had no-one to cycle with on the weekend. I still haven’t made the step (giant leap in my case) of joining a cycle club – this is down to wanting to make sure I have weekend free if called upon by the family to take someone to a school match or do some job or other and a fair amount of laziness and certain amount of personal “lone wolf” syndrome. This year will be no different but I think next year (time permitting and required amount of MTFU’ing, I will make the plunge).

In 2012 having made it through the first “organised ride” of my life and realising that not only could I keep up with most people but in fact was faster than most (though these are very amateur riders mostly) I am therefore planning a spread of events (3 or 4 in the 75 to 125 mile area) across the Spring / Summer to keep the motivation up throughout the season. Last year the ability to ride into work everyday move from the motivational category to the mundane.

My new secret weapon for this year is a Gamin Edge 800 that I got as a Christmas present. Apart from the ability to keep on course in events, my training is taking on a far more structured form with the use of heart rate zones.

So are the heart rate zones of any use? Well after using the device about 10 times I can say I do feel there is a quicker advance in my training and what’s more, you are able to better measure the improvements. But there have also been a few surprising benefits, none more so than I am actually using the turbo trainer now! This is down to the simple fact that playing with heart rates gives you something to do other than look at cadence all the time – this breaks up the boredom and has removed the thought of me setting an old telly up in the garage to keep me entertained. The other benefit is I no longer feel the need to race every day I commute into work – now I just do the ride in the HR zone I think I need and pace myself according to that. With the excuse running through my head that I don’t need to race that person who just shot past me as I am doing scientific training. This my brain has decided is a viable excuse and therefore does not set me off in a sweating / panting frenzy trying to overtake the guy again.

So I have started the year off as I hope I will complete it – I hope to fit into my week one HIT training session (which I can no longer fool myself into thinking I have done because the ride data will confirm or deny it). One cross training session (thus making use of the gym membership I never use) one longer ride of 3 hours plus and a couple of 1 hour gentle sessions ending in a 10 minute burnout. This coupled with riding into work, this year at a more sensible rate (well mostly) I hope will make me into a fitter person generally speaking and hopefully a better rider.

I am fast thinking though that I need to have two stores of online ride data – one for turbo sessions and another for road riding. I think the turbo trainer I bought, has a dodgy resistance gauge because even on its lowest setting I can only use the small front chain ring if I want to ride for more than 5 minutes without being totally knackered.  The speed figures that come out between on road ride data and those from Turbo trainer sessions vary by about 300%.

What I have noticed though is that I am a bit of a wimp! I never push hard enough and rely heavily on high cadence rather than raw power. There is no way I am forking out for a power meter to confirm this but my lack of hill climbing speed would confirm what is fairly obvious to me and all those passing me on the hills – I really need to work on keeping the cadence but adding more muscle into it. Never having been one to miss out on a gimmick, I have covered this problem with an astute £5 purchase of a steerer tube cap which has “DIG DEEPER WIMP” written on it – that should do the trick!