Category Archives: road bike

new bike day

Yesterday evening I collected my new bike and had it fitted having handed over my old bike. Today I was off work and got to ride it for the first time. It was fantastic! There’s nothing quite like riding a brand new bike.

It’s an Orbea Avant M20 Team that comes with Shimano Ultegra disc brakes and 11 Speed groupset. I upgraded the wheels and went for the optional FSA Powerbox power meter.

This is a big upgrade for me and has some new tech for me to get used to. I’ve gone from an entry level aero styled carbon frame to something more mid-range but with endurance geometry that will better suit my riding style and preferences.

Disc brakes are a change I’ve been looking forward to for a while now but especially over the last couple of weeks as the weather turned wetter and I was riding every day. Lots of times I’ve yearned for the control and stopping power of disc vs rim brakes.

The Mavic Cosmic wheels are tubeless which is a change I was less sure about until experiencing the incredible comfort of them today. I was nervous about the ability to seal punctures and I’m still concerned how easy a roadside puncture repair will be but so far the feeling of them is winning out.

The final piece of tech is the power meter. Changing from riding by heart rate to riding by power will take a bit of getting used to. I did do a Zwift FTP Test back in April so I have some information to set training zones but I’ll have to complete a road test and do some more research before I really know what I’m doing and get a score that is up to date. For today I was pleased to see power data and pleasantly surprised to see my average power output.

© strava

To get a feel for the bike I kept my maiden spin to 50km, long enough to know how it feels and short enough in case anything feels off. Nothing did! It was pretty much perfect and such an enjoyable ride.

It’s wonderful to ride a brand new bike, everything just works perfectly and it’s so quiet. The change from 105 to Ultegra is really noticeable with smooth, sharp gear changes, 105 is good but Ultegra is great. The smooth, comfortable feel of the tubeless tyres combined with the improved shock absorption of the frame was amazing. Virtually no discomfort or numbness simply allowed me to enjoy the ride.

It’s a beautiful bike and a pleasure to ride. I’m looking forward to many more rides and testing it on some proper long distance endurance spins.

click the image to view on strava

bicycle evolution

I’ve been able to ride a bike since I was about 10 years old and I used to ride a bike to get to work and college until I got my driving licence and my first car. A bike back then was a way to get around and was soon ditched in favour of the car.

Living in England my bike was stolen from the back of the house but I was riding it so little (never!) that it was gone at least a week before I noticed! It wasn’t until we were married and back home in Ireland that I bought a replacement but I think I rode it less than 10 times in about 10 years.

In February 2013, at the end of 3 months of unemployment I going stir crazy and decided to give cycling a go. 4km on that cheap, heavy MTB nearly killed me and I still had to cycle back home! I kept cycling on a reasonably regular basis but the bike was holding me back. For my 40th birthday I traded in the Barracuda and upgraded to a pretty decent hybrid Carrera Crossfire 2 from Halfords.

I celebrated my birthday by cycling the Great Western Greenway from Achill to Westport.

I put in a lot of miles on that hybrid working my way up to 50km in one spin by the end of the Summer and finally 100km by the end of August 2014.

At this point I decided that I had reached the point where a road bike was the next obvious step and thanks to the Bike to Work scheme I was able to buy a Giant Defy 3 2014 aluminium frame road bike while still holding on to my hybrid for rougher stuff or cycling with the boys.

It was at this stage that I also joined the local cycling club Finn Wheelers which was probably the point where cycling became a permanent part of my life.

In 2016 bits were wearing out and I was easily convinced that a bike upgrade was more sensible than spending money replacing parts. I’d gotten to know the Halfords bike mechanic quite well and he sourced me a great bargain on an end of line carbon road bike with aero styling and a much improved Shimano 105 groupset. The brand was 13, an abandoned experiment by Halfords to create a new brand, and the model was an Intuition Beta.

I’ve had some fantastic times on this bike. Over 4 years I’ve ridden almost 13,000km, got into long distance Audax, completed the Four Provinces Challenge and cycled 210km in my longest spin. Unfortunately through 2019 and the start of 2020 my cycling dropped away considerably but this last month I’ve rediscovered my cycling mojo and enjoyed this bike to the fullest.

Today however, was my final, farewell ride. Tomorrow, I collect a new bike and trade in this one as part payment. Today was about enjoying that final spin and saying goodbye to my old friend.

click the image to view on strava

challenge complete ✅

Week 4 was the toughest week so far. Week 1 and Week 2 I was really lucky with dry and calm weather that made the early mornings a lot easier. Week 3 turned a bit nasty with Storm Ellen and some pretty damp days. Week 4 was worse! Storm Francis landed on Tuesday and 5 of the 7 days were wet, not just damp but wet. It was hateful.

Storm Francis was well predicted and although we missed the worst of it we were still under an orange warning for most of the day.

I didn’t intend to even try going out Tuesday morning as this was the worst of the rain and wind. I did waken as usual but the rain was battering off the roof. The rain continued for most of the day while I was at work and I’d pretty much decided I wasn’t going to be able to get out at all. Once home though I decided it was starting to fair up slightly and decided to give it a go. Even a short run would have been enough to keep my streak going. In the end the rain was constant but the wind was bearable coming from the South and I completed my normal 25km circuit. Riding in the storm felt almost as big an achievement as the mileage and streak challenge!

soaked but still smiling

Wednesday was my day off and I was able to coordinate my spin with a dry weather window. It was still pretty windy but this was expected. What I didn’t expect was the heavy downpour between Convoy and Kilross that left me soaked through and killed most of the fun of the ride.

© strava

Friday morning was the end of the 4th week and finally the end of the rain. It was such a relief and as the forecast was good for a few days I was feeling good again and ready to push on for the last few days.

My Saturday morning 25km took me past my first challenge marker of 1000km for the month finishing with 1007km.

© garmin

Sunday was the best spin of the whole month. It was a Club event and completed a full lap of the River Finn. It was to replace the Covid19 cancelled Lap The Lough and called Lap The Finn. It was a really good social day, my first Club spin since February and at 128km my longest spin since November 2018.

click the image to view on strava

Setting out on my final spin of the month on Monday morning I was really feeling the day before and regretting the extra 23km up and down from home, all the turns on the front plus the few sprints and hard pushes up hills. It was a really nice morning and a perfect spin to finish out the month but boy was I glad to see home 😆

© garmin

I’m really glad I started this challenge. It’s given me back my motivation to ride again as well as helping me to build my fitness to a level that I haven’t felt for a few years now. I have a new, longer term challenge in mind but I’ll post more details on that over the next week or so.

Yesterday was a planned rest day. Today was forced rest as we’re back under a yellow weather warning again so I made myself feel better by going bike shopping. I’ve a deal done on a fantastic upgrade but until the Bike to Work paperwork is sorted I don’t want to jinx it by posting photos. Watch this space……

metric challenge: august

My original plan was to do my August metric spin on Sunday past. However, a combination of tiredness and general meh! meant I spent the early afternoon with Catriona and the boys visiting Fanad Lighthouse and then went for an enjoyable 40K later in the day.

As the month is clipping along and we already have plans for the coming weekend today really needed to be the day to avoid unnecessary pressure at the end of the month. Morning weather was promising but my planned 8am start was delayed due to initial foggy conditions and subsequent drop in motivation. However, I was eventually on the road for 945am.

My route took me down the valley to Lifford and then along the Foyle through St Johnston and very picturesque Carrigans to Nixon’s Corner.

carrigans retirement village for old bicycles

This first 30K was into a growing breeze and lots of rolling hills that made it a bit more work than normal but once I turned for Newtowncunningham I had the benefit of a pretty good tailwind pushing me along.

My recent short morning spins have created a habit of pushing pretty hard that wasn’t going to suit today’s longer spin. My legs took a while to warmup and I wasn’t long into the ride before I decided I wasn’t going to push too hard and take time to enjoy myself. Part of this was a proper tea break in Newtowncunningham at 50K for a cuppa and scone at an actual table.

After tea the tailwind was still there to help me all the way through Manorcunningham and along the dual carriageway to Dromore and the only real prolonged climb of the day that bypasses the steeper and traffic heavy Lurgybrack hill out of Letterkenny. At this stage I was feeling pretty good and although it wasn’t my best time up Dromore (all set on group spins) I was still pretty pleased with today’s effort.

© strava

After Dromore it’s always a bit of a slog to Trentaboy before dropping down through Drumkeen and into Stranorlar. Despite my decision to take today easy it’s virtually impossible to ignore the temptation of making the most of the descents on this section and I was soon pushing hard on the descents and up the following hills as the road dips up and down all the way to Kilross before a brilliant, fast descent into Stranorlar. At 80K I decided this was a good time for a short stop for a drink and a Snickers.

the power behind most of my audax spins

The last stretch for home was back into the breeze that was strengthening quite a lot as the weather was deteriorating with the imminent arrival of Storm Ellen. This was a bit of a slog as far as Liscooley as the main road is quite exposed. Going straight home was going to leave me 10K short so I crossed the river at Liscooley and pushed on to Castlefinn along the hillier but more sheltered back road. The bonus then was having a tailwind after the turn to take me back towards home and the pleasure of the 100K beep on my Garmin as I came up the drive to the house. Definitely my most enjoyable 100K of the year so far.

click the image to view on strava

metric century: july

This is the first metric challenge ride I’ve done within the proper month since May when I did two in the same week to make up for missing April in the midst of lockdown.

It was also the least motivated I’ve ever been to get out for a spin! Leaving the house required more effort than riding the bike. The weather was almost perfect for cycling with cloudy skies and only a light breeze. Temperatures were in the mid teens so warm enough for comfort without overheating. To pile on the pressure the Halfords mechanic jumped me up the service queue to get the bike serviced and back to me on Sunday. I really couldn’t not go out with all that!

I wish I could say I enjoyed it but it was just grand to be honest. As I haven’t cycled much this month and I’ve picked up a running injury I didn’t want to take on anything with too much climbing. The best option for this was to stay in the Finn Valley between Strabane and Ballybofey doing two repeats of a 50K route, basically a repeat of my February metric spin, but without the snow! It made for a less intensive ride but unfortunately also a less interesting one.

Main thing is that it’s done and coincidentally probably the fastest 100K I’ve done so far, definitely the fastest solo one. All being well August will be more enjoyable and I also have a plan to challenge myself further as I go into the second half of the year.

click the image to view on strava

any way the wind blows

The weather really has played havoc with my cycling this month. I’m limited to my two days off each week, unless I cycle in the evenings after work, and most days it’s been horrible weather. Today was only my third spin this month and one of those I’m counting as June!

The forecast for today was to be better than it has been but still nothing close to what July should be like. 16°C with a blustery 23km/h Westerly wind would have to do as at least it was to be dry with a possibility of intermittent sunny spells.

© rte

The wind made the day “interesting“. In the wind the going was tough and cool, verging on cold, out of the wind or with the wind behind it was easy and pretty warm. Manage the latter in sunshine and it did feel like Summer.

uphill into the headwind coming out of convoy

My route was thrown together late last night based on a desired distance of 60km and combined parts of two more usual routes. Down the main road to Strabane, back road to Clady before taking back roads over the hill to Raphoe and home via Kilross and Ballybofey. Coming into Clady I almost convinced myself to take an easier route, staying in the valley, but managed to overrule that and stuck with the plan. Leaving Clady up a 14% climb I was cursing my decision!

freestyle parking in raphoe

Stopping for a break in Raphoe I was thinking that I should have planned the route in reverse to avoid the headwind on the uphill sections but in the end they weren’t too bad and I really enjoyed finishing with a tailwind rather than a headwind.

click the image to view on strava

Unfortunately that looks to have been my last road spin for a while. My local Halfords store finally reopened on Friday so I took my bike for a much needed service. In 3 days they’re already up to a two week waiting time! I’m hoping that’s a pessimistic waiting time as it was a lot less than predicted last time. I did however manage to finally order the broken derailleur hanger for my MTB and that should be here by the end of the week so at least I should have something to ride next weekend🤞

Finally, there’s no way I can get away with using Queen lyrics in my title and not link to the video! Enjoy 😊

june 31st

All through lockdown the weather was great with lots of settled and sunny days. While it was very welcome and enjoyable it wasn’t possible to enjoy it properly as a cyclist with the travel restrictions that were in place.

Since going back to work on the 8th of June the weather has taken a significant turn for the worse. It has become cooler but also a lot windier and with spells of rain including a couple of unseasonable storms.

The weather, less spare time and tiredness from work has led to reduced cycling opportunities and therefore reduced mileage from May to June.

© garmin connect

I had a plan to complete the June Metric Challenge on Sunday but a weekend of heavy rain, thunderstorms and localised flooding put paid to that. Yesterday was my first day off since meaning this year June has 31 days, I’m calling 2020 a Lockdown Leap Year!

My chosen route was an extension of my last longish ride and a route I haven’t ridden since October 2017 taking me across the border to Castlederg and home via Newtownstewart and Strabane. Total distance was to be 107km.

Everything was going well until the 60K mark, between Castlederg and Newtownstewart. I started feeling queasy and my energy levels were starting to drop. The first half of the spin was fast with a 29.9km/h average at 50K. I was starting to think I’d gone out too hard and was having my first “bonk“. I managed to crawl my way to Newtownstewart where I’d decided to have a break, eat a sandwich and have a can of Coke.

Unfortunately my sandwich choice wasn’t as plain as I’d expected with lots of mayonnaise and onions that wasn’t exactly what my queasy stomach needed. Initially when I left Newtownstewart I felt a little better and with 75K done I was confident of getting home in decent shape. However, with a bit of a headwind and a rolling hilly road my batteries were soon depleted again and I was in limp mode all the way to Strabane and 90K.

I pulled into a shop, got a cup of tea to try and settle my stomach, worked out that 10K would take me to Castlefinn and made arrangements for Catriona to come and pick me up there. With that decision made and a bit of relief from the breeze I pushed on with my head down and simply ground out the final 10K to get across the 100K line.

click the image to view on strava

I’m still not feeling 100% today, a kind of hungover type feeling. I have a feeling that I’ve picked up a mild bug, probably at work, and hopefully will be back to normal again soon with a few days of rest and TLC.

getting back to normal

On Friday last week the government announced that we were moving forward into Phase 2 of the “Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business” on Monday as expected. What wasn’t expected was that the roadmap would be adjusted from 5 to 4 phases and with some accelerated restriction relaxation giving us the snappily named “Phase 2 Plus“.

What was expected was that retail stores were finally allowed to re-open meaning I was fully back to work on Monday morning.

It was very weird going back to work. Everyone was quite anxious about what it would be like, how busy it would be, how we would all cope with the new requirements and changes and how safe everyone would be. This was compounded by the physical changes in the store as a lot of the store had been refitted and painted during lockdown and lots of the displays had been rearranged. It was great to see everyone again and catch up with them but it was amazing how much I’d forgotten about products and the computer system. To me it felt like we had all started a new job on the same day.

In general we’ve been very busy. Nothing unmanageable and so far we haven’t needed to close the doors or enforce a queue outside. It’s been fairly steady and most people know pretty much what they want before coming in. Wednesday was one of the biggest sales days for many years and Saturday was the same. The other days have been like a series of very busy Saturdays and even busier than a peak period like January Sale. I had my own biggest ever personal sales day yesterday so I’ve bounced back pretty quickly and haven’t lost it completely during lockdown.

The downside of all this work business is that it is now interfering with my fitness training 😆 The level of business is tiring as is just being back to work, my step count is way up and I could really feel it at the end of each day in terms of lack of energy as well as tired and sore feet and legs. Work also means less free time and mix that with bad weather on my day off on Wednesday and today is the first time I’ve been able to get out on my bike for over a week.

It has been much easier to keep running and I’ve now finished WK10 of None2Run meaning this week I’ve been running a full non-stop 20min after my warmup walk which I’m really pleased with. I went out twice this week at 6am and the plan is to do that 3 times each week. I much prefer the mornings rather than trying to muster the energy and motivation in the evenings after work.

© Garmin Connect

The surprise change in the government’s announcement was that instead of relaxing the 5km limit to 20km we are now permitted unrestricted movement within our own county and 20km into another county if we live close to a county border. This meant that today’s spin was a much more normal route taking in towns and roads that I haven’t ridden for a very long time – September 2019!

© Garmin Connect

After a break of 10 days and working all week I had pretty low expectations for today but managed to surprise myself. All the extra steps and running must have had a positive impact as I had an average speed of 27.6km/h over 72km with 505m of climbing. Pretty sure it was my fastest time over that route and I really enjoyed it despite getting soaked twice in very heavy thundery showers. It was a pleasure to ride a regular route without repetition and to be able to stop for a tea break 3/4 of the way around.

i’m just havin’ a break

The incoming week is forecast to be dry again so the plan is to keep up the running and get two, possibly three, spins on the bike.

click on the image to view on strava

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.