Category Archives: cycling

back on track

river finn from killygordon bridge

Having successfully completed May’s Metric Challenge spin on Friday I was more determined than ever to remedy the fact I missed out on April. That was done this morning with a repeat of Friday’s route.

click the image to view on strava

Not much changed from Friday. It felt a lot warmer at the start, the breeze was definitely stronger but there was significantly less traffic and a lot more bikes.

It seems like everyone has given up on the 5kfromhome limit but at least the majority were solo, in pairs or groups of 4 with at least an effort at social distancing. I only saw one large group of 9/10 who were tightly grouped and giving no regard to the restrictions.

Today’s spin has also given me a monthly total of 472km. Admittedly more than half of that has been in the last week but that’s my biggest monthly total since October 2018. I have to go back to 2016 to see consistently high mileage like that with only 3 months exceeding this month, or getting close, between now and December 2016.

image from garmin connect

Phase 2 of the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions is due to start on June 8th and from that date we will be allowed to travel up to 20km from home for exercise. There’s also talk in the media that this may be removed completely ahead of schedule but even at 20km my June Metric spin should be less repetitive and more like a traditional ride.

2020 metric challenge: may

My March 100km spin was done under the 2km lockdown restriction. This was still in place up to the end of April and I just couldn’t raise the motivation to repeat the March experience which wasn’t enjoyable at all.

This month the restriction was relaxed to 5km from home. Doesn’t sound like much but it opened up one good route. It also allows the option of the main road between Killygordon and Castlefinn. Combining this and the hillier route over the last couple of weeks I’ve managed to get my cycling back up to a decent level again and have even begun to enjoy it! In April I’d only managed 161km but up until yesterday morning I had almost 270km for May.

All this additional cycling had given me the legs, the confidence and the motivation to make sure I didn’t miss the May 100km.

Yesterday was forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures set to hit 25-28°C during the afternoon. That might seem low to many but for us it’s about 10°C warmer than usual. I didn’t want to have much climbing so I decided to use the figure 8 loop I’d used for shorter spins. This goes between Killygordon and Castlefinn using both sides of the river and an additional crossing in approximately the middle at Liscooley. It’s a rolly kind of road with a couple of short steep climbs but at 135m of elevation in 17km it’s as flat as it gets around here.

I decided that I also didn’t fancy the climb up to our house for breaks or at the finish so drove down and parked the car at the picnic stop just outside Killygordon. This worked really well as I was able to break the spin into 3 chunks. At 35km I stopped for a quick break to replenish my bottle and eat a bar. At 70km I stopped for a proper break and something more substantial. A cool bag with food and water in the boot was perfect to keep everything chilled and provide me with a cold bottle each time I stopped. Lunch sitting under the shade of a tree was very pleasant and there was a much reduced temptation to stop altogether as I wasn’t at home.

As an additional bonus I was able to finish the final loop slightly shorter, avoid the climb up from Liscooley Bridge and stay on the main road all the way from Castlefinn to Killygordon.

In the end up I felt pretty good at the finish. There was a bit of a breeze (about 20km/hr from SSE) that was a pain when it was a headwind but the short loop meant it didn’t last long and it helped reduce the effects of the worst of the heat and gave me a nice boost on the opposite side of the loop. Last night my legs were tired but with the lack of climbing it was very little compared to other recent and shorter spins and didn’t prevent me going for a run this morning. All in a very enjoyable spin and a completely different experience to March!

click the image to view on strava

bikepacking

Bikepacking has become my new obsession! I’ve been aware of it for a while and it’s always attracted me as it combines so many elements from activities that interest me. A combination of cycling, hiking, camping and backpacking. It appeals to the boyish attraction of adventure and unknown – possibly a mid life crisis at this stage though!

image from bikepacking.com

Over the last couple of years I’ve read various articles about bikepacking but this week I’ve fallen down the YouTube and Google rabbit holes and have spent hours watching videos and reading articles. I’ve become a theoretical expert on the best camping options, packing variations, kit options and bag suppliers. I even have a shopping list for kit that I don’t have yet, food options and a few ideas for places to go!

It must be the enforced lockdown bringing on the urge to travel and explore and it’s definitely the extra time that has given the opportunity to research but I’m determined to take at least one short trip before the end of the Summer.

image from pinterest.com

Header image from ilovebicycling.com

new boundary

On Tuesday last week our restrictions were relaxed to allow us to exercise up to 5km from home as opposed to the original 2km. Apart from an aborted MTB spin it took me a full week to yesterday to get motivated to get out on my road bike.

I had identified what looked like a pretty decent route that used some familiar roads but also threw in a few completely unknown sections to give a distance of 35-45km that could easily be stretched to 60km with a little bit of repetition.

I had planned to go out shortly after lunch but my motivation was still low and with the weather looking poorer than the last few days, it took until 3pm before I forcibly pealed myself off the sofa.

There was a noticeably sharp edge to the wind that created a dither about clothes and I eventually settled on jersey and gillet with arm warmers based on the fact it allowed me to remove layers if needed. Turned out I needed them all, especially on the descents and the only change was opening zips on the longer climbs. Definite change to my last few spins.

For a route that was chosen from a map based simply on the 5km radius it turned out pretty good. There are a good mix of climbs and descents, some short, some long and apart from a couple of short sections good surfaces. Turned out to be way more climbing than I expected though and with tired and achy legs and a reasonably strong Northerly breeze I really struggled and it felt much harder than it should have and despite it being my first proper cycle since 26th March I didn’t really enjoy it. I ended up taking the shorter option of 35km instead of the 45ish I had originally planned.

Despite all this moaning and complaining it is a good route, one I will be repeating over the next few weeks of continued restrictions and possibly beyond when I want a short but challenging spin.

One stretch is really enjoyable. Although it’s uphill it’s lined with fairly mature conifers on both sides and almost up to the edge of the road. It creates a great tunnel effect and a reasonably unusual sight around here as a lot of the mature forestry has been harvested over the last few years and the new plantings are still very young. Worth stopping for a photo

#lifebehindbars
just trees

Strava link for the header image.

a mechanical in lockdown

I’m not the handiest person when it comes to bicycle repair and maintenance and my main cycling fear during lockdown is that I would break something beyond my basic repair skills. That happened yesterday!

My cycling mileage has steadily decreased over the 8 weeks of restrictions but the MTB has been neglected the most. Apart from a short and uninspiring spin around the local roads my MTB hasn’t seen much use since since the end of March.

On Tuesday our exercise restriction was relaxed to allow us to go up to 5km from home for exercise. This covers two and most of a third forestry area that are perfect for a 60-90min blast on the MTB. On our last couple of visits to Monellan for walking we also discovered 2 new trails off the main tracks and perfect for a bit of “natural” MTBing.

On Friday I managed to shake off my resurgent cycling ennui and decided to dust off the MTB. Down the road, across a rough farm track, back on the road for 2km and into the woods. The first bit of trail runs down the side of the river and along the original estate wall before meeting up with another trail. Along the wall the trail passes through a number of narrow gaps between trees and on some of these someone has added piles of small branches to create small jumps for ponies. These also make perfect small jumps for a MTB. The third jump has been made too big to take with a bike so I detoured to the left to avoid it. As I passed I didn’t see the end of one of the branches sticking out that managed to catch my rear wheel and drivetrain. By the time I realised what had happened the damage was done!

Thankfully the hanger did its job and broke before the derailleur itself was damaged. A bit of online research and it looks like an easy repair but getting the part will be the tricky bit. There are a multitude of hangers available to buy and you need to buy the exact one to match your frame.

Normally a quick call to Halfords and I would have one within a couple of days. Unfortunately all the Halfords stores are currently closed in RoI and services in NI are highly limited plus my nearest NI stores are approx 45min away.

An online chat with the UK website resulted in a recommendation to contact a store and discuss with store staff as the online rep was working from home with limited access to information. I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to try and make sure I get a more experienced member of staff on shift.

At least getting home was easier. Catriona and Conor were walking in Monellan so a short wait for them to appear on the trail and I was able to head to the car park, load the bike into the back of the car and wait for them to finish. A 4km walk home pushing a broken bike wouldn’t have been much fun!

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

cycling in lockdown

For the last three weeks Ireland has been in pretty much complete lockdown and it’s going to last for at least another two. The majority of businesses and services are closed, unless they are deemed essential, all journeys are prohibited unless they are for a selected list of essential travel reasons and although exercise is permitted we must remain within 2km of our home.

2km seems excessively restrictive at first glance but, depending where you live, this gives decent scope for walking and running. I have two 6km walking routes that stay within the 2km radius and I’ve restarted the None2Run program last week so I’ve been able to get out pretty much every day and vary my exercise to make some attempt to keep it fresh.

the obligatory n2r selfie for the facebook group

I really do miss cycling though! Within the 2km radius I have a number of road options and I have been able to put together an 11km route that I have ridden for a 50km spin and modified for a 100km spin. I didn’t really enjoy them though. The roads are a bad mix of steep hills and rough surfaces and the constant repetition gets boring very quickly. I really do miss the 2-3 hour spins with constantly changing scenery and views that these loops simply don’t provide.

I’ve also dipped my toe in the virtual indoor training world of Zwift. I’ve borrowed a trainer from a friend and have had a couple of short plays as well as completing an FTP fitness test. That was horrible! I’ve done one before based on heart rate so knew what to expect but was curious to find out what my power based training zones were. As the borrowed trainer was a smart trainer it registers power and allowed me to put myself through this form of torture. At the end of the test my FTP was 178 which equates to 2.1w/kg which is definitely towards the lower end of performance. It was a disappointing but not entirely unexpected result based on my declining levels of cycling over the last couple of years. I’ve signed up for Zwift for a month so I’ll give it a few more goes before I make up my mind on how much I like/dislike it.

indoor cycling – outdoors!

I was going to give Zwift another go this morning but really wanted to feel the breeze and that I was out of the house. I didn’t fancy the previous loops as I didn’t want either the hills or the rough surface so I decided to try repeats of the better stretch of road between Crossroads village and Meenlougher which are the two furthest points of this road within the 2km circle and 3km apart. While far from ideal it gave me a short interval route with the breeze against me one way and with me the other. There are a couple of small climbs that can be made more challenging by over-gearing and the surface is OK. I figured that 50km would have led to a repeat of the boredom of my first lockdown route so I kept it to just over the hour and 32.5km in total.

click the image to view on strava

It was about as enjoyable as I could make it but more importantly the sun was shining, I was able to get out in short sleeves and shorts for the first time this year and I was riding my bike 😊

round and round and round they go

In January I did my metric century almost by mistake. In February I squeezed it in before going to Switzerland. This month we’re in lockdown so March was going to be a bit difficult.

On Saturday I managed a 51km cycle without leaving the 2km distance from home that we’re now limited to under the latest Irish government lockdown restrictions.

Tempocyclist suggested in a comment that I should ride that loop as a “keep it local” 100km. It was already at the back of my mind but a couple of things were putting me off:

  • My motivation took a nosedive at the weekend. After two weeks the confinement was finally getting to me.
  • I was supposed to be back at work on Monday and the lack of social contact and money concerns sent me into a bit of a funk.
  • I was concerned that I would be in breach of the spirit of the restrictions by doing way more than “brief exercise, no more than 2km from your home”

Monday evening I read on the Audax Ireland WhatsApp group where one of the members was stopped by the Gardai while doing local loops, was challenged for being out cycling and given the all clear when he explained where he lived and what he was doing. I thought fuck it and fuck feeling sorry for myself. I lubed up my chain, charged my Garmin, filled my water bottle and left my kit ready for the morning.

I set an alarm for Tuesday to give me a kick start. I figured if I lay on I’d get lazy and talk myself out of it again. A hearty breakfast and a shower to waken me and I was on the road by 10am (I know, it hardly qualifies as early!). I rode a slightly modified version of Saturday’s loop. It involved riding shorter 5km mini loops with a more gradual 60m elevation increase in the middle of the larger loop. I didn’t fancy riding that big hill 9 times in the one day.

Even with this modification it was tough! It was almost 1300m total elevation which is probably the most climbing I’ve done on that distance. The roads are partly secondary R roads but mostly rural L roads with poor surfaces, almost constant bumps and rattles and two short sections with large portholes and gravel on lots of corners.

With all the physical challenges this was also a big mental challenge. The reason I cycle is at least partly to enjoy the scenery and I love riding new routes and roads. This was the complete opposite, riding a remarkably uninteresting and difficult route over and over with no opportunity to relax concentration and being close enough to home to throw the head and pack it all in at any time.

The one advantage of riding so close to home is the ability to ride “light“. No rain gear, no extra clothes, no food, no tools, spare tubes, CO2 or pump and only one water bottle. Everything was <2km away if the weather changed or I got a puncture and the plan was to break about halfway at home for food and a water refill.

In the end I didn’t break until just over 72km. My breakfast carried me farther than I thought and I became concerned that stopping too early would make it difficult to restart. I was aiming for 75km as that would bring out my stubborn streak to finish and would involve only one final climb of the big hill.

I had no problem restarting after a short break but the last 28km was really hard. I was tired, my lower back was starting to spasm, my ass and shoulders were feeling the near constant road vibration and I was finding concentration difficult to maintain. I made two mistakes on the spin, one almost going into the ditch when I looked away from the road to check my speed on a fast narrow descent at about 60km and the second in the last 15km when I went wide to take a corner without checking over my shoulder when an unexpected van was overtaking me. Both were lack of concentration due to tiredness.

I eventually finished after 4.5hrs with 1287m in 101km and an average speed of 22.6km/h. I would love to say I finished with a sense of achievement but it was more like relief. I don’t think I enjoyed a single minute of the full ride and I really hope I have another option when it comes to April. I am glad I did it though and managed to keep my metric streak running.

click the image to view on strava