Tag Archives: road

sights and sounds

Yesterday I went for the longest spin for quite a while outside of the 100km metric challenge spins. It took me across the border into Co. Tyrone to Strabane and Newtownstewart before returning via Castlederg and Drumquin for 80km.

click the image to view on strava

As the weather had been settled and dry all week and I had an extra day off for St. Patrick’s Day I managed to ride my bike for 5 days and this spin brought me to 232km for the week. This spin wasn’t just about the mileage though. It was a great day for the bike with dry, bright weather and very little wind for most of the ride. What made it so enjoyable was the ability to lift my head and take in all around me and enjoy the day.

  • birdsong in all the wooded areas, noisy and full of life.
  • the miniature horse with legs so short and hair so long he looked like he was floating above the ground.
  • the old man out for his slow, careful walk smiling at the nonsense of me taking photos of my bike on the pedestrian bridge in Strabane.
  • the weir at Sion Mills flashing white through the bare trees.
  • newborn lambs bleating in the fields and anxiously staying close to their mothers.
  • the group of swans swimming in a flooded area of a field briefly glimpsed at just the right time across the top of a high hedge.
  • the colourful giant display of a gnome family along the river in Newtownstewart complete with decorated toadstools.
  • meeting an ex work colleague passing through Newtownstewart and stopping for a half hour chat.
  • the brand new display board for the International Appalachian Way in Baronscourt forest.
  • windmills turning lazily, catching and reflecting brief glimpses of sunshine.
  • pigs squealing in a farm shed outside Castlederg making me think of banjos and a film I haven’t actually seen.
  • roadside displays full of bright yellow daffodils.
  • spotting the often seen but recently missing horse from a roadside paddock in a new location in another field.
  • the hound with long ears and short legs that barks and valiantly tries to chase every time I pass his house and making me smile every single time.
source: two castles community festival

Not many photos but lots of memories.

another great cycling week

Over the last fortnight I’ve enjoyed two of the very best cycling weeks I’ve ever had. With a great dry spell I’ve been able to get out every day bar two. One of these was when a storm blew in and the other was yesterday as I went back to work.

In two weeks I’ve managed to cycle slightly over 600km. To put that in context my target to hit 6,000km for the year is 500km per month.

© strava

Apart from my “31 Days of Biking” Challenge in August last year, which was mostly short daily rides I have to go back to the “Every Day in May” Challenge in 2017 to get consistent high mileage like this. That month included one week of 517km which had my first ever Audax event (205km) followed the next day by a 106km Club spin that nearly killed me!

may 2017 © strava

This consistent cycling has also had a significant impact on my fitness. I can feel it in my legs but it’s measurable according to Strava. A score of 79 is probably a lot lower than many other people but my highest score for the last two years (limit of Strava’s charts) was a very brief 81 in October. This time last year it was approximately 30, two years ago it was 12!

© strava

The challenge now is to maintain my great start to the month. These two weeks have put me back on track for my yearly target but this weather won’t last much longer and now that I’m working again I’ll have to be more organised. I have a plan that gets me to 170km per week across 4 days using two mornings before work and my two days off. I also want to start some much needed strength and conditioning training while keeping up with the walking. All of that is in the plan too which starts tomorrow morning.

metric challenge 2021: march

The good weather has stayed around for another week. Not as warm and sunny as last week but despite the grey skies and chilly winds it has stayed dry which is the most important. As my fitness is at a pretty good level and I’m going back to work tomorrow I thought it would be a good idea to get my 100K done nice and early this month, especially as the weather may not last.

I was tempted to go a longer route this month, especially having seen one of the guys in the club doing a great 110K route last week. However, I’m still not comfortable going far from home and having to use garages and shops for comfort breaks and food stops. I decided to stick with a similar route to the last two to be on the safe side and be able to have my break at home again.

I modified it slightly again though. This time I did three overlapping loops. Clady to Ballybofey (37km), Strabane to Killygordon (37km) and Clady to Killygordon (26km). I had my break at 74km which was perfect again. This route worked really well as there was a gusty, cold SE breeze. This was a real hassle on the first loop but the second one used the wind better by going down the sheltered back road and back the main road with a bit of a tailwind. The third loop was OK too but short enough not to matter.

At 52km the sun came out briefly and I stopped to eat a bar and admire the huge 5.5m tall metal sculpture at the border in Strabane. It’s officially called “Let the Dance Begin” but in typical irreverent Irish humour it’s known locally as “The Tinnies” as Tinney is a local surname. The artist is Maurice Harron who is a very far out family relation. The site of the sculpture is highly significant too as it’s the former location of the “Camel’s Hump” British Army border checkpoint from The Troubles and dismantled in 1999 after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement (1998).

click the image to view on strava

The tone of the recent government announcements about lockdown restrictions suggest that we might see some relaxations from early April. I hope to go somewhere more interesting and further away for next month’s challenge🤞

Header image © Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo March.

metric challenge 2021: february

Believe or not completing this on the very last day of the month was according to plan. Since last weekend when it was clear that Spring was coming this week and that cycling was back on the cards I’d planned to do my 100K spin yesterday. However, a bit of over exuberance and lack of thought on route choices on Friday left me with a much bigger week than expected. This forced me to rearrange the weekend and make Saturday a recovery day.

As I said yesterday recovery rides are not my forte. I set out with the best of intentions but it usually ends up a normal ride, slightly slower and with my cadence on the higher side. My legs were tired and achy yesterday which forced me to focus on my form and actually resulted in a proper low power and heart rate spin at a higher cadence. As a result today felt great.

In Covid times I’m still not comfortable being very far from home so I chose to ride a similar route to last month. I shortened it slightly to give me 2 full laps of approx 37km plus a final shorter lap of approx 26km. I felt the meal break at 50km was too early last month but 75km turned out to be perfect today. It was nice to get back to the house, eat something proper and stretch out for a bit. Having a short lap to finish was also a nice mental boost to get going again.

click on the image to view on strava

The nicest part of the day was just under 5km from home. A little girl, about 7 years old, came along the pavement just as I was pulling away from traffic lights. She called out “I saw you this morning too”. She was absolutely delighted with herself and full of happiness. It put a big smile on my face that took me all the way home.

I’m heading back to work on Saturday and the weather is set to be good again all week. If all goes according to plan I hope to repeat this ride on Thursday 🤞

Header image © Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo February 2021.

a week of cycling

Just over a week ago I was complaining about the weather and how it had stopped me cycling for 8 days. Well, that changed this week!

© garmin

To put that in perspective I’ve cycled further in the last seven days than I did for either of the whole months of December (173km) and January (206km). The dramatic change is down to a big improvement in the weather. Spring (or is it “fool’s Spring“) finally arrived on Sunday and somehow managed to hang around all week. Tuesday was the only blip as another storm blew in but it was a price worth paying for the rest of the week.

It’s taken a toll though, going from virtually nothing to this level. Last night I was very tired. My legs were aching and this morning I had an annoying tightness in my calves. My original plan was to get my February Metric Challenge spin done today but yesterday’s spin, with a very tough climb in the middle, was the wrong preparation for that on top of the rest of the week.

click the image to view on strava

I decided to switch my 100km plan to tomorrow and instead went for a 26km recovery spin this morning. My legs are so much happier this evening which should make tomorrow a lot more enjoyable.

I’ve managed to get a decent variety of spins too. Four of them were reasonably hilly varying from 32 to 62km on similar but slightly different routes, one was a cadence interval session on a flatter route and today was an active recovery on the same route.

The last two are something different for me. I’ve never really done a proper interval spin or recovery ride before. The cadence ride was a mix of low/high cadence to build power in my legs and today was a proper high cadence, low power/heart rate ride. Riding slow and easy is more difficult than you would think but I definitely needed it today and focused to make sure I did it properly.

click the image to view on strava

I’ve also managed to keep up the walking. As the evenings are stretching out I’ve been able to get home, get cleaned and changed, eat and relax for at least an hour before going for a decent walk. The last few days though I’ve stopped carrying the additional weight as my legs have tired with the consecutive days of cycling.

© garmin

photos from the week

The weather is set to continue with no rain forecast until Sunday next week and thankfully a respite from the pretty strong winds I fought for most of last week. I also got news that I’m needed back to work at the end of next week so I plan to make the most of this good spell and get March off to a good start while I have the time.

© met eireann

two in a row

It’s been a long time since I rode two days back to back. That was August last year when I was doing the 31 Days of Biking challenge. The majority of those were simple 25km 1 hour spins so it’s even longer since I did this kind of mileage over two consecutive days. It’s nothing ground breaking at just under 100km but considering how little I’ve been riding since the New Year I’m happy with that.

The big push to get out today is because we have yet another storm to hit overnight tonight and tomorrow with the whole country on yellow alert and some areas (not us thankfully!) on orange.

Today’s weather was pretty much like yesterday: mild, dry and windy. Again the wind was stronger than I was fully comfortable with but the day was too good to waste. Following a post from tempocyclist I’ve bought a little Bluetooth clicker and took the opportunity to do some posing also.

click image to view on strava

One of the best things about the last two days has been the ability to drop some of the winter gear. A layer has gone up top, the winter leggings are replaced by leg warmers, the shoe covers are gone and the gloves are now lightweight spring/autumn ones. After the storm the forecast for the rest of the week is looking good again so I’m hoping for a positive cycling finish to the month🤞

© met eireann

has spring sprung?

After all the rain and storms of the last couple of weeks today has seen a change. I’ve been watching the forecast all week hoping it wouldn’t change and despite it being a bit windier this morning than expected I finally got back out on the road bike. It’s been 11 days since my last ride and as that was on the MTB it’s 13 since I was on the road bike. Felt great to be back out today.

The sun was shining and despite a strong headwind (35-40km/hr) for most of the ride it was a really great day to be out. After all the rain the air was so clear and visibility was fantastic. On the top of the valley above Castlederg I could see as far as Errigal and Muckish and The Sperrins on the opposite side.

The route was a new one for me that I found using the Strava Routes option and modified very slightly. Some of it was familiar but the last time I rode the climb out of Clady was 2016! This is definitely a route I’ll ride again as it was a good mix of climbs with good road surfaces and as a bonus I didn’t have to climb the last bit to get home.

click the image to view on strava
very visible moon

Tomorrow the Spring weather is to continue with a little less wind so today was only 30km to spin the legs back up for a longer ride tomorrow.

the postman cometh

Just over a month since Xmas and Santa came again yesterday.

Funkier Pontebba Winter Jacket

Ordered based on a recommendation from a fellow blogger. Reduced from $100 to $19 and $28 for delivery which I felt was still good value. Predicted delivery from US 21-45 days, arrived on 22nd day. Great first impressions and looking forward to testing it over the next couple of weeks.

https://funkierbike.com/product/winter-men-jackets-wj-1314-red/

Podsacs Waterproof Frame Bag

Medium size and bought for Audax spins and possibly bikepacking. Not on an offer (£34.99 from PlanetX) but good value and bought based on the saddle bag I bought in November.

https://www.planetx.co.uk/i/q/CCPDWFB/podsacs-waterproof-frame-bag

Planet X Waterproof Crab Hand Winter Glove 

I’ve looked at similar gloves over the last couple of years and at £9.99 these seemed to be great value. They’re no longer on the website so may have been a clearance price. I hopefully won’t need to wear them too often🤞

Photo by Khwanchai Phanthong from Pexels

metric challenge 2021: january

The way January has developed I was starting to think I’d never get this ride done and that one of my main goals for 2021 was going to fall flat in the first month! I lost a lot of time due to Covid, 10 days isolation plus recovery afterwards ate up about half the month. Then we got snow and I lost at least another week for cycling. I was able to keep walking though so did build and retain some fitness.

For the last few days I’ve been watching the weather forecast pretty closely. The prediction was for it to get a lot milder Wednesday before another band of heavy rain moved in Thursday. I was hoping for a quick thaw to open up the roads again and let me out on the road bike. In the end up the thaw started Tuesday afternoon with most of the snow gone by evening and completely gone by Wednesday morning.

Then the weather gods played the joker! Fog! Clear, mild conditions combined with an almost total lack of wind and high humidity meant that the Finn Valley was shrouded in thick fog all morning and into early afternoon. By the time it cleared I’d lost interest and had become engrossed in my current book. Plus I was going to run out of daylight and I didn’t fancy finishing in the dark.

The forecast held out further hope with a window this morning into the late afternoon between the two bands of heavy rain. It was to be a bit breezier (18-24km/h) so fog was unlikely. All set to go 👍

rain radar 6pm © met eireann

I’d already planned to do my “easy” route. It’s the 50km loop of the Finn Valley between Strabane and Ballybofey using both sides of the river. I also planned to stop at home at the halfway point, have something proper to eat and adapt my clothing if needed.

The weather turned out very mild. I had on thermal leggings over my shorts but could have gotten away with leg warmers instead. The skull cap went at 25km, I changed to a lighter base layer at lunch and also ditched the liner gloves.

The first half was OK but I really paid for my lack of cycling over the last two months and this month in particular. At 40km everything was hurting, shoulders, neck, lower back and ass. Some of it was lack of flexibility, some due to the effects of walking with a weighted backpack this week but to be honest most of it was due to a lack of saddle time. Up until today I only had 278km across 6 rides for the whole of December and January. My ride today pretty much doubled my January total. I was glad to see home at the halfway point and get some anti inflammatories into me as well as a bowl of soup and wheaten bread.

not bad for halfway

I was expecting the second half to be slower but it turned out slightly faster. Coming back from Castlefinn to Killygordon I felt great. There were impressive figures (for me!) showing on the Garmin and I was starting to think there was something in the soup! At the very least the wind had dropped. Turning in Ballybofey to come home on the final 10km I realised that the wind had changed direction slightly, I’d had a bit of a tailwind for the last 20km and I was now finishing into a headwind. The last 10km was tough. Mentally I’d had enough and I was physically tired. The big effort from Castlefinn was now biting back. For the first time ever I thought I wasn’t going to make it up the final hill to home!

done ✅

The roads have been very dirty since October but they were really bad today and I was glad I made the last minute decision to stick on the rear mudguard. The surface has also deteriorated a lot over the winter and especially with the recent ice and snow. There were random patches of grit on the hillier bits as households had dealt with the snow and lots of gravel washed off side roads in the heavy overnight rain. It didn’t make things any easier.

a front mudguard might have helped too 🙈

Header image © Strava. 100KM Gran Fondo January 2021.

back at it

Thursday was the last day of isolation and I’ve been trying to get some kind of fitness back again. Starting with a simple 2km on Friday I’ve walked every day gradually working back up to 6km. Today was my first day back on the bike.

Initially I’d planned a simple 26km loop down as far as Clady and back up to Killygordon. However, coming back into Killygordon I felt pretty good and decided to push on to Stranorlar. It was a really nice day, not much breeze, just the right side of cold and some nice sunny spells.

first 2021 selfie 📸

the roads are filthy!

In the end I finished with just under 40km and feeling way better than I expected. In fact I felt so good I also went for a 4.5km walk later in the afternoon.

click to view on strava