Solo Sunday

Finally a slightly milder day with only a little bit of frost but thankfully no Ice. There was no rain either, although the roads were still soaking from yesterdays rain, and the Sun even put in an appearance. It was still cold and there was still that seemingly ever present wind.

I decided early on that 40 miles would be plenty and I opted to set out in to the Wind and return home with it at my back.

Off I set along the Newtownards road, right through Dundonald Village and out the main road to Comber Town. Gingerly taking a right at the roundabout just in case there was some ice and then the long hilly spin along the main road through Lisbane and Balloo and on to Killyleagh where I stopped to take in the Coastal views and capture a quick image on my Phone.

The Icey biting wind soon had me rolling out again through Killyleagh up past Killyleagh Castle through Shrigley and along the Clea Lough Road. A ninety left at Derryboye saw me now cutting across the wind and that took me across to Crossgar. A right turn in Crossgar saw me now on the smoother tarmac of the main road right in to Saintfield which was a nice respite to hands and butt as I kept a good pace up now aided by a tailwind.

From Saintfield it was a fast spin down in to Ballygowan and onwards to Comber and back to Dundonald. Just over 40 miles clocked up and a nice burn in the leg muscles.

The Winter Bicycle was running like a dream having treated her yesterday to a new Chain, Cassette, Rear Brake Pads and Rear Brake Cable as well as a good clean.

Relive ‘Morning Ride’

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Cycling fitness – the Winter decline

Summer, long bright evenings, plenty of opportunity to get out on the Bicycle without the time consuming Winter ritual of checking the Weather forecast and checking the Cycling Wardrobe to find the perfect layering option for the conditions.

Summer Cycling is simple, Jersey, Shorts, Helmet, Mitts and off you go. Getting the miles in, and with that regularity comes a boost in Cycling fitness. From the start of the Year, through Spring and the great Spring Sixty Sportive onwards in to Summer and my Cycling fitness peaks out each year in August.

From there right through until Spring again the fitness trends downwards at a depressing rate. Less opportunity to get out on the Bicycle, more excuses in the head due to adverse Weather etc and the fitness plummets.

At the tail-end of 2017 I undertook the Rapha Festive 500 challenge, it forced me to get outside each day and chase the 500 Kilometre target. That act of getting out daily on the Bike incurred a lot of training stress on my body [downwards Yellow line in the image below].

But with the stress load came a boost in fitness, that Blue line stopped trending downwards turned around and started to climb upwards again.

Former Pro Cyclist Eddy Merckx once famously said…

and it is true, toughen up, get out there more frequently, be more consistent and the Cycling fitness will stop trending downwards and start to trend back upwards again. Since then I have only ridden indoors on the Hamster Wheel and that Blue line is trending downwards again. It is a never ending battle.

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Some thoughts on the festive 500

Some random thoughts on the festive 500 for anyone considering attempting it in 2018.

  • It is filled with many challenging moments and your inner chimp will say just quit and go home
  • Why am I doing this to myself, for no reward, I could be sat at home in front of a nice warm fire
  • So this is what it feels like to get up and ride a bike every single day
  • My legs are tired (but most likely they were fine and it was just the inner chimp again)
  • A well timed energy gel really can give a boost and your inner chimp will say you got this all under control
  • I still need to work on my in-ride fuelling and especially my hydration, in winter when the contents of your water bottle is Icey it is very easy to neglect the hydration.
  • Cold, Wet Socks are horrible and your inner chimp will say just quit and go home
  • The magic of a great Sunrise and your inner chimp will say you got this all under control
  • UK Winter Weather is unpredictable, exercise caution, it is ok to fail the festive 500
  • It will require a lot of time to complete, will your off the bike commitments afford you that much time
  • Short loops close to home give you a bail-out option if the weather turns really nasty
  • Longer loops with no bail-out option take you to commit to it, but really help eat in to the distance target
  • Bring spare Socks/Gloves for the really wet rides or a spare base layer, or do a short loop, go home change and go back out again
  • Wash your Bike after every ride
  • UK Winter road conditions will eat Brake pads, rims, chain etc

This years festive 500 saw 83,132 participants (I finished in 17,062 nd place last time I checked though not all riders will have uploaded all their data just yet) take on the challenge amassing 19,870,431 Kilometres between them.

Would I do it again? In a warm, dry climate yes but in the UK… probably not.

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First of the first

Out early this Morning for a short, very easy cycle to spin the legs out, no effort just turning the pedals over gently, letting the legs and body recover from the festive 500 fatigue.

It looked a pleasant enough Morning but it was bitter cold sure you wouldn’t be long getting frostbit I thought each time I took off my gloves to operate the trusty Nikon. For a brief moment there was some pleasing early Morning sunlight breaking through, but as quick as it arrived it was gone again… followed shortly after by Rain.

Below are a few of the images I captured around Belfast this Morning.

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2017 Cycling Stats.

As 2017 draws to a close, here is a nice little summary of what I managed to do on the Bicycle this year. Not bad for an old fat lad with an addiction to chocolate.

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Festive 500 day 7

I awoke this Morning before daylight to a fresh dusting of Snow on all the vehicles, the UK Winter Weather certainly was not going to make the festive 500 any easier for me. I wanted to make an early start to give me more daylight time to rack up a few extra miles today and hopefully finish the festive 500 challenge one day early, I really did not want to have to get up tomorrow to chase the remaining distance required to complete it.

A cooked Breakfast and a hot mug of Tea got me off to a decent start then the deliberation over what layers to put on for a bigger day in the Saddle. As well as some Snow and Rain showers I would also have to again do battle with a very strong Wind.

I set off along the Newtownards road, through Dundonald Village and out the main road to Comber then keeping on the main road ascended up over numerous small hills to Lisbane. The local Petrol station was open so I stopped for a Star Bar to keep the energy levels topped up and also bought a Mars bar and put it in the pocket for a little treat later on.

Leaving Lisbane and on through Balloo and then Killyleagh passing Delamont and onwards to Downpatrick the wind picking up all the time making it hard going. From Downpatrick it was on to Ballynahinch with the Snow that previously was confined to the fields and hedgerows was now covering part of the road too.

Leaving Ballynahinch I opted to stay on the busy main road all the way to Temple crossroads before swinging right at the roundabout for a nice wind assisted spin down in to Saintfield and onwards to Comber. A gentle spin up the Greenway saw me back in Dundonald but I still needed another 14 miles so it was down in to Belfast through Ormeau Park, back up the embankment across the short strand round by the SSE arena over Dee Street Bridge and back home via the Greenway to successfully conclude the festive 500 challenge one day early.

Time now to relax. Rest. Recover.

Below is a very short video I made summarising my festive 500 challenge.

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Just quit, go home

A lazy morning of procrastination not having any great desire to throw a leg over the Saddle and set off in to the Wind and Rain but at the same time I knew that I needed to get out and chalk off a few more kilometres from the target because the clock is still ticking.

A late brunch did not help with the motivation but eventually I got changed, donned the Waterproof Jacket and ventured out in to the elements. I set off along the Newtownards road to the Ulster Hospital and then the main road to Comber the Rain a constant companion. Along the way I saw no sign of Ice so decided to risk the Ballydrain road round by Castle Espie where the Rain temporarily abated and a Rainbow appeared on the horizon.

It was another Windy day not what weary legs, body and mind needed. As I turned to ascend up towards Lisbane that wind blasted me head on, I was down to my easiest gear and making very little progress. The inner Chimp filled my head with thoughts of quitting and going home but I knew if I bailed out today it would only make completing this challenge infinitely harder.

From Lisbane I took the main road back towards Comber each gap in the hedge saw me battered by a cross-wind trying to blow me off line so I took to the lanes again down to the Ballydrain road in the forlorn hope of a bit of shelter from that wind. Down the Greenway back to Dundonald with a little over 20 miles done, thoughts again turned to calling it a day and going home. At that point my mate Gavin sent me this picture, it almost cracked me! But I knew I needed a bit more distance to keep me on track to successfully complete the festive 500 challenge.

Down the Greenway to the Beersbridge road and on came the Rain again, through the streets then through Ormeau Park then back down the Ormeau embankment. Through the short strand to the SSE Arena and finally for a brief moment I caught a tailwind on the Sydenham road and what a tailwind it was the Bicycle almost pedalling itself.

Briefly out the Airport road then across the Sam Thompson Bridge in to Victoria Park, round the Park, along the Connswater to C.S. Lewis Square and home by the Greenway for a hard earned 36 miles.

With two days of the festive 500 remaining I need a little over 100 kilometres to complete the challenge. If I was fresh and well rested, which by this stage I very definitely am not, I could ride that in just a Morning. But tomorrow and Sunday has more strong wind forecast which will exhaust what little energy is left.

Relive ‘Grimmer than grim – #festive500 day 6 ?’

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Festive 500 day five

This Morning turned out to be a whole lot Icier than yesterday Morning 🙁 I decided to play the long game and sit it out until lunchtime before risking going out on the Bicycle to chip a few more miles off the total for the festive 500 challenge.

With the Icey conditions so bad, I plotted out a short route using only A roads of just under 24 miles. I thought if I got 24 miles in it would be a bonus and I could go longer later in the week to make up the deficit if weather conditions permit.

I set off on the Newtownards road then along the Knock road before climbing up the Saintfield road to Carryduff where the strong Sunshine reflecting off the wet road was making visibility difficult, so no surprise then that the Police were attending to an RTA at Knockbracken.

From Carryduff it was main road all the way to Saintfield then down in to Ballygowan and Comber and back to Dundonald. The Weather was holding up ok and the legs were feeling ok so I decided to throw in an extra loop across to Holywood, in the Airport road and turn round and back the same route to boost the days mileage up to 42. The temperature dropped noticeably on this route, or maybe I just wasn’t working hard enough.

With 335 Kilometres clocked up I now have three days of the festive 500 challenge remaining to cycle the remaining 164 Kilometres. A wet day is forecast tomorrow so I might use that as a recovery day and then finish the challenge at the Weekend. From starting out on the challenge thinking it would be beyond me, it is now looking likely that I will succeed 🙂

Relive ‘Rapha #festive500 day 5 ?’

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Festive 500 day four

A heavy frost overnight saw me treat myself to an extra hour in bed and I also delayed going out on the Bicycle until almost lunchtime in the hope that all the Ice would be gone.

Leaving home I kept to the salted main roads to start with, through Dundonald Village out to Comber through the town and out on to the dual carriageway before doing a little loop inland and coming back up the carriageway, through the town again and then I decided to chance the Greenway back to Dundonald. Not one of my better decisions as there were many long icey stretches but exercising a lot of caution I made it through unscathed.

I then took a spin through Orangefield Park and Greenville Park then along the Connswater to Victoria Park up the Airport road to Holywood and along the Beach path to Cultra before returning back up to Victoria park.

Returning home via the Parks and Greenway saw me clock up another 37 miles helping me pass the halfway distance in the Rapha festive 500 challenge.

Relive ‘Rapha #festive500 day four’

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Festive 500 day Three

This Morning saw a huge drop in temperature requiring a couple of extra layers on to combat the cold as I set off on the Bicycle at daybreak.

With the ambient temperature so low I was wary of frost or ice so kept to main roads for safety reasons. Through Dundonald to Comber then the dual Carriageway down in to Newtownards and out the Peninsula which is generally free from ice as it is right beside Strangford Lough. The Sun came out and cast a nice glow over the sky, I pulled in to take a Photograph with my Phone only to realise I had left my Phone at home… no emergency rescue phone calls this morning then if I have a bad mechanical.

I was time restricted today due to having to travel for a family dinner so I only continued another couple of miles up the Peninsula before making a u-turn and going back to Dundonald the same way that I had cam,e other than utilising the Greenway once I got to Comber. Quite a few sections of road on the way home were in to a headwind requiring more effort through the pedals something the now weary legs were protesting about. Shut up Legs!

A few video screen grabs from this Morning's #festive500

A post shared by Derek (@v4honda) on

Back home and only 29 miles clocked up so I grabbed my phone and back out on the bike down to C.S. Lewis Square and in to Victoria Park and home again to bump up the miles a little more to keep me on track for the festive 500 target of 500KM.

207KM completed, only 292KM still to go…

Relive ‘Rapha #festive500 day three’

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