Airport road smashfest

A lovely dry roads kinda Evening tempted me out for a spin directly after Work. Having not ridden with my Cycling Club for many Months I decided to jump back in at the deep end for the Tuesday Evening smash fest doing laps of the Airport road.

The roads around Belfast were even more gridlocked than normal as the crew gathered outside the Premier Inn Hotel in the Titanic Quarter so we decided to do a loop of the Titanic quarter first before venturing over to the Airport road to give the traffic a few extra minutes to disperse a little.

As we left the Titanic Quarter and set off up the Sydenham road it was clear of traffic but halfway along the traffic had backed right up so we decided to veer in to the Cycle path instead of the road to slip up the inside of some of the traffic, alas one of the guys near the front of the group clipped the kerb and down he went.

Man down at very slow speed before we really got motoring

A post shared by Derek (@cleggycyclist) on

A few minutes later with no serious injuries it was time to set off again on to the much quieter Airport road and time to up the pace. As usual the exposed Airport road is prone to some wind in places and if the timing of the group rotation has the misfortune to have you on the front of the group when pulling in to the wind you are guaranteed a tough little workout until the rotation kicks in again. We had a great, tight packed, hard working group going keeping the speed high and the pulls on the front quite short. A great club spin, cold but no rain and lovely dry roads for once.

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Cold, Foggy, Wet drizzle

With freezing fog reducing visibilty, a damp drizzle in the air and a weather forecast of an afternoon of constant rain I opted for a short but reasonably hard effort Cycle this Morning.

Through Dundonald and up the main road to Comber then in to the Hillsborough road up to Moneyreagh and back out on to the main road to Ballygowan keeping the effort high and returning back to Comber for a brisk 15 mile spin then an easy, slow five miles home along the Greenway. It was far from warm and my outer layers were wet from the damp foggy drizzle but a very enjoyable spin.

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Cold, Dry and Sunny

I awoke to see soaking wet roads and a light frost on the Car and all my big ideas of getting out on the Bicycle for an 80 mile spin evaporated. A leisurely Breakfast came and went, multiple cups of Tea came and went and finally as forecasted the Morning dried up and a hint of Sunshine broke through. I finally shook off my lethargy and got some Winter layers on.

Rolling away from the House on dry roads was a real novelty such has been the long cold, wet spell of Weather from Autumn right through. I took the Greenway along to East Link then on to the road through Dundonald and back on to the Greenway at Millmount and all the way in to Comber.

Leaving Comber on the Ballydrain road passing Castle Espie I decided to test the Legs on the long drag up in to Lisbane, the pull of gravity never makes this easy for me but I kept the effort up and set a new personal best time which was more than a little surprising given how few Miles I have managed to clock up this year so far.

Through Lisbane and a right turn in to the Lisbarnett road and keeping the pace up along Moss road I was soon in to Ballygowan. Briefly up the Saintfield road then in to the Ravara road navigating along the rolling Lisdoonan road to Carryduff.

Then the fast descent down the Saintfield road and Ormeau road back to Belfast and a sunny Lagan but I didn’t stop long as the Wind still had a Wintery chill. A short spin home via Victoria Park saw me clock up just over 30 miles in total, there will be many much longer Bike rides to come.

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Finally some Sunshine

Whether it was the Morning Frost or the Wet, filthy Roads the motivation to gear up and get out on the Bicycle this Morning was strangely lacking. Breakfast came and went followed by numerous mugs of tea and still the roads were wet each time I looked out the Window, thoughts even turned to spinning the Hamster Wheel.

But the Hamster Wheel is a poor substitute for riding real roads in the fresh air so somehow I managed to shake off the procrastination, pull on the Winter layers and venture out on the Bicycle to explore a couple of new [to me] roads.

I set off briefly along the Greenway then the Comber road and up the new line, along Eden road, Ballymaglaff road and Gransha road then in to Ballykeel road where the first weak hint of Sunshine started to creep through the overcast Sky. Keeping up a good steady effort I pushed on along the Lisnasallagh, Lisdoonan, Ballyknockan and Ravara roads which brought me in to Ballgowan. Out the Moss road in lovely bright Sunshine in to Lisbarnett road then down the Tullynagee road and on to the main road to Comber and home via the Greenway.

Another short little spin but another good training session stressing the legs to boost the fitness. With the Weather forecast for the coming Week predicting Ice and Snow the Hamster Wheel will keep me occupied in the Evenings after Work.

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Fast to Ballydorn and steady home

Generally Cyclists will set off in to the Wind if doing a circular loop so they can benefit from a blow home from a tailwind. This Morning I set off having paid no attention to the wind direction and as it turned out I was benefitting from a tail wind at the start of my Cycle so I decided to just go with the flow, push on hard out through Dundonald and Comber then the Ballydrain road past Castle Espie and up the hilly lanes to the Strangford Lough Coast at Ballydorn.

It was a fast spin aided and assisted by the wind at my back but even so the data metrics recorded on my Cycle computer were the best figures I have managed to-date in 2018. As I stopped to admire the scenery I decided to take it steadier on the ride home but to also tackle a few short but steep climbs up in to Killinchy.

The series of hills out of Whiterock heading to Killinchy never get easier and they get steeper the further up them you go. I struggle on hills anyway but at this time of year when the air is really cold the pain seems worse as each breath of air chills the lungs but eventually the road levels out and soon you can rest on the descent back down to the main road at Balloo.

From Balloo I took the Ballybunden road to Kilmood and over to the Tullynagee road. Someone had clearly been having a smashing time recently on the Tullynagee road with a couple of Car bumpers in the hedgerows at the side of the road.

Only a short spin today but a good workout for the Legs and the Winter Bike now was in dire need of a wash, the Country roads were Wet and muddy and that mud went all over the Bike and myself.

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Easing back in to it

A whole Week off the Bicycle due to a bad dose of Cold and Flu has curtailed my Cycling activities and completely negated all the fitness gains accumulated from my recent successful attempt at the festive 500 challenge.

So today was just about getting some fresh air and a little, gentle spin with no big efforts. I opted for a mostly traffic-free spin using the City Parks and Greenway for the most part. A damp and very Windy spin but great to get back out again.

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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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