Cycling UK » cycling Cycling info - advice and tips Tue, 17 Dec 2013 18:15:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I only post new blogs at Mon, 02 Dec 2013 19:05:49 +0000 Now, I only post new blogs at

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Cycling uphill Fri, 27 Sep 2013 07:17:29 +0000 To cut a long story short. I’m going to be trying a new blog.

I’ve already redirected the RSS feed. Hopefully new emails from blog will get sent.

I’ll explain why later.

I’m cycling uphill this weekend at Leith Hill (Kingston Wheelers) and Porlock Hill (Minehead CC)

Both are great events to come along to. Especially Porlock Toll Road which will have closed roads to cyclists until 2pm

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3 days rest works quite well Tue, 17 Sep 2013 20:54:29 +0000
  • A big thing of Obree’s training regime was taking  3-4 days rest in between all out training sessions. Usual I don’t like leaving that long. But, with a little niggle at the weekend, I ended up taking a few days off. When I did train yesterday, I felt in good form, I could train for longer in the ‘race zone’ than usual. Power figures looked good. So maybe there’s something in that philosophy.
  • I enjoyed watching the Tour of Britain climb Honister Pass yesterday. Rivers of water, but a great crowd who showed you can enjoy a cycle race without acting like a lemon and running alongside the riders.
  • honister pass

    Honister pass on a dry day.

    • Today, I was surprised to see one rider (Bardiani) do the time trial on a road bike.
    • Wiggins was simply awesome in todays time trial. There can’t be many cyclists who have the luxury of putting on 8kg to become a real time trial ace. It will be an interesting world time trial championship between Cancellara, Martin and Wiggins at the end of September.
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    Gardenening and cycling don’t mix so well Sat, 14 Sep 2013 13:43:10 +0000 This week the aim was to have a really intense high load training week. In practise, it turned into a bit of a damp squib (and that wasn’t just the weather)


    On Monday, I did nothing more than an hour gentle recovery ride, but the next day  I had a muscle problem in the shin area. I think it was caused by walking 1 mile more than usual (i.e. one mile). I could still ride a bike, but it took the spark off the intensity.

    On Thursday, I watched Vasily Kyrienka climbing up the 20% slopes in the Vuelta whilst seated – not moving so much as a single muscle in his upper body. It was an inspiration to do some panic ‘core strength exercises’

    Core strength exercises are a bit like vitamin pills. We know they are good for us, we just keep forget to taking them. But, when I saw a 74 kilo chap riding up a 20% gradient (@400 watts, he later said) as if he was warming up on rollers, I  remembered that climbing is more than just working on the legs.

    So Friday I do a few crunches (maybe 30) But, then a few hours later I get a twinge in the hamstring; of all things, I was just removing some dog do da from my front garden – It was enough to make you want to say a swearword something rhyming with ‘he’s a bit of a wit.’

    I thought it might be one of those twinges you can ride away. But, this morning, on the preliminary warm up of cycling to a coffee shop, I realised there would be no explosive hill climb this weekend. Alas, I had to dns from the Swindon RC double header near Aldbourne. It included both an 8 minute and 2 minute climb. I was looking forward to both, and it was a nice change to be able to do a hill climb in the south of England. But, as the old Bard of England once remarked  ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’ – on the positive side, I can put my feet up and watch the last stage of the Vuelta. The feared 25% Angliru climb. I hope those guys have done plenty of core strength exercises..

    I have to say I’ve enjoyed watching the Vuelta. Excellent race.

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    This hobby horse will never catch on Sat, 14 Sep 2013 07:04:12 +0000 To celebrate the 196th anniversary of The Running Machine (invented 1817) German designers have gone back to basics and invented the same thing again ‘hoping to design a more environmentally friendly type of transport’.

    The original running bike. Photo by Gun Powder Ma wikipedia

    A prototype of the bicycle were various running machines or ‘hobby horses’. This ‘running machine was developed by German Baron Karl von Drais in 1817



    A potted history of the bicycle from early ‘boneshakers’ and Penny Farthings to the latest models.

    A history of the bicycle in photos



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    The Obree Way – Review Wed, 11 Sep 2013 13:37:47 +0000 I reviewed the Obree Way last year, but it cost £30 (which was a bit pricey even for a good book.) But  I see it’s available in paperback for £11.99 now. The Obree Way at

    BTW: I follow Obree’s world speed record attempts with interest – blog at Cycling Weekley

    The Obree way is Graeme Obree’s unique and distinctive approach to training. It is an approach to training Obree developed himself over many years of his own successful cycling career. The book is worth reading just from the perspective of gaining an insight into the training and mentality of a World Champion, you also gain the feeling the author really put is heart and soul into the book. I think every cyclist will be able to pick up something from this training manual.


    One thing I liked about reading the book is that I always felt Obree was just sat across the room talking about his training. It was like listening to an old club hand share his training secrets. But, in this case the old ‘club hand’ happens to have held the prestigious world hour record on two occasions and also is a former world champion. Obree’s pedigree definitely is important. If some of these training principles were explained by Tom, Dick or Harry you might be tempted to brush them off as being too obvious or too simple. But, if they worked for Obree, you give them much more importance.

    Essential Aspects of the Obree Way.

    Turbo Trainer To Obree, the turbo trainer is a key element of his training. It’s not something just to use when the weather turns icey, but even in the middle of summer. Obree wants to have the ability to very carefully monitor his progress and make sure a training session actually stretches his previous effort; the best way he feels is to use a simple turbo training carefully calibrated to measure exact performance. At this point, in the book I did think perhaps the same could have been achieved from power-meters. But, Obree’s way is largely to ignore computer data. (He says the only time he really uses a heart rate monitor is to make sure on a recovery ride, you stick to a recovery ride.)


    Training Sessions

    Obree doesn’t believe in intervals. To him the best training is to replicate the kind of race you will be doing.

    “Specific training for specific events. Everything else is peripheral and less effective than the base truth of athletic performance enhancement.”

    - G.Obree

    If you are doing 10 mile time trials, a key training session is to do a 20 minute ride on the turbo as go as fast as you can. Later in the training cycle, after a sufficient time period to recover (could be several days). You have another go at this 20 minute ride, but aim to improve on your previous performance. The simple aim is every time you do one of these ‘key’ training sessions you push your limits and go faster than before. This is the simple training principle of ‘stress and recovery‘ You keep pushing your limits, give yourself chance to fully recover and then push your limits again.

    It is beautifully simple. There you won’t find any  ’30 seconds at 95%, 1 min rest; 30 seconds at 95% type training sessions.

    Another important training session for Obree, is the ‘glycogen ride’ This is a two hour ride, where you adapt the body to riding with low sugar levels to improve the body’s use of glycogen stores when racing. He says you should finish this training session really exhausted and ready to devour food (which you have prepared beforehand)

    Obree also advocates incorporating a session of strength training. This involves pushing a huge gear on a gentle hill at a very low cadence.


    One of the most difficult things I found in book was the length of time Obree was willing to devote to recovery. He says some training sessions might take him 4-5 days to recover from. On these recovery days, you can go out and spin your legs. But, it is important to keep it at a recovery level. Obree mentions (without a trace of false modesty) that on one of these recovery rides, he was dropped by guys on mountain bikes. That takes something to be a world champion, but to have the inner confidence to get dropped by some overweight guy on an MTB doing 15mph. That is another element which comes through the book – A single minded determination. To Obree most of your training has to be done on your own, otherwise you won’t be doing the kind of training that you need to gain optimal performance.

    Obree even suggests that to get to the peak of your form, you have to be willing to sacrifice a program of racing every weekend as this seven day  race cycle can interfere in your optimal training program. If you are always racing, you inevitably taper for race, and this prevents the training and sessions which really improve your performance.

    Single-Minded Purpose

    Whatever you think of Obree’s training methods, his thoughts on the mental approach to training are very illumining. You gain a very clear insight into the mentality and approach of a world champion. Obree makes the very astute observation that many people enter sport with the Corinthian ideal of giving it a good shot, and enjoying the social aspect. We may try very hard at times, but we hold back from giving it 100% because we can’t quite get into the mentality of striving to be our absolute best. As Obree says:

    “Learn to challenge the option that says. “I have tried hard enough’ – there is always, regardless how small, some gas left in the tank.

    To Obree, there is a strong correlation between our mental approach and thinking in the right way and also our physical performance. I found quite a few similarities with an article I wrote on pushing the limits.


    One thing I like about this book is the simplicity and honesty. I’d read it in two days, partly because I found it very interesting, but also because it is short. From a commercial perspective, it might have made more sense to pad it out with a few usual things you find in most cycling books. But, you feel Obree only wanted to put in what worked for him. And if it wasn’t relevant – he wasn’t going to put in. There are quite a few personal anecdotes like several references to the benefits of mashed sardines and toast. (though no reference to the ubiquitous marmalade sandwiches which were often touted around world hour record) He doesn’t hold much truck with commercially packaged recovery drinks and food. Obree suggest ‘real food’ as he calls it, can’t be improved upon. He’s also quite honest about equipment making observation, you can spend a lot of money but only make a very minimal difference to your speed.

    Generally, I like the shortness and simplicity. It helps to highlight the essentials. However, one area where I would have liked more details is the training chapter. After reading the chapter, I felt like wanting to ask more specific questions. An example of an actual monthly training diary would have been interesting.


    Obree makes a strong case for stretching everyday. He believes that stretching plays a key role in re-energising muscles and help a smooth pedalling action.

    Pedalling Action

    This is another area Obree believes is important, and Obree gives tips on developing a smooth pedalling action. Also, Obree says crank length is very important, (which made me feel a bit embarrassed for having no idea what crank lengths I ride. I can tell you how much my saddle weighs to the nearest gram, but not something important like my crank length.


    There is a whole chapter devoted to the ‘Obree breathing technique’. This is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. I’ve never come across the idea of trying to improving your breathing technique, which is perhaps surprising given that breathing must be pretty important in an aerobic sport like cycling. I will be trying this.

    What will I take from this book?

    • A commitment to do the four simple stretches he mentions every day.
    • Some greater confidence to really rest and recover when necessary.
    • New simple training sessions.
    • Another look at small things about race to get maximum equipment. e.g. using a bigger front chain ring like 58 rather than 53 to get a better chain line.
    • I will try the Obree breathing technique. More than anything I like the idea of concentrating on breathing during training and racing.
    • I can’t see myself training on the turbo in the middle of summer.
    A good book, of particular interest to time triallists, but also of interest to any cyclist interested in improving their performance.
    Graeme Obree will be doing book signings in England in Jan 2012.
    Kindle download from – The Obree Way – only £6.34
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    Long Hill 2013 Mon, 09 Sep 2013 08:42:35 +0000 In the past few years I’ve become a bit of a regular at Buxton CC’s Long Hill climb. I like the atmosphere, and in a way I like the climb. Despite racing the hill 4 times, I’ve never been able to match my time from 2010 when I set a course record of 12.26. It must have beginner’s luck – that or a roaring tailwind to push me up the climb. At this time of the season, I regularly watch weather forecasts – not so much for sun v rain, but primarily for the wind direction, I try and will the wind around to be a tailwind for any hill climb. But, the wind Gods do their own thing, they must have more important things than course records for hill climbs.


    Long Hill

    But, despite a headwind, it was another beautiful September day. The view from the top of Long Hill is really quite spectacular. I always think Long Hill is one of the best descents in the country. You get such a good view, especially from the top. It’s a nice long 3% decline, only spoiled by perhaps a few more cars than you would like. As a hill climb, it’s firmly in the long time trial variety. Little variation in gradient, just a fairly steady 3% all the way to the top. More on Long Hill here.

    Long Hill  is one of those climb where you can spend ages trying to work out which is best equipment to use. Road bike with tribars vs time trial bike e.t.c. I’m now fairly convinced that into a headwind – a time trial bike is quicker. But, I’m getting attached to my power meter on my road bike and wanted to know my average power for the race. But, in the end, I decided you don’t get any trophies for power readings, only your time. So I just took my time trial bike. At least I didn’t waste any time in the race reading my Garmin.


    I used discwheel and lightweight front wheel and timetrial bike

    We were sharing the HQ with the relatively more sedate world of crown green bowls. When you go to races, it is always interesting to see how other people are spending their Sunday mornings – car boot sales, bowls – all a little more gentle on the legs than racing up a hill. I was only dissappointed not to see more flat caps at the bowls tournament. This is the north of England, but whippets and flat caps weren’t as common as legend would have you believe.


    Anyway, away from the stately world of crown green bowls, I was warming up on the B road by Whaley Bridge. I then spent a few minutes on the rollers before heading over to the start line. It was quite warm and the lower part of the course felt quite fast. But, half way up, the shelter from the trees seemed to disappear. For one section, there was a considerable headwind which slowed down my speed. The last mile is a big horseshoe shape. Finally,  there was  a bit of tailwind and you remember how much difference it makes. Then you swing around back into the wind for the last effort to the line.

    It was a fairly measured effort. I don’t think you can do a 4 mile climb any other way. The finish timekeeper later said, many other riders were dying as they finished the hill, but I looked as if I wasn’t making much effort. Looks can be deceiving! But, I was worried I didn’t quite get everything out. But, then I often think that on Long Hill.

    My time was 13.13.0. Since 13 is my luck number, that was a cool time for the 2013 event. It’s always hard to compare years, but I think it was a relatively good time, on not the easiest day.





    Little Bicycle and packet of crisps


    Back at the HQ I found I had finished 1st, ahead of  an improving Adam Kenway (13.41) Team For my first place, I achieved a lifelong dream to be awarded a King of the Mountains jersey, and also a trophy, a homemade cake (made by Lou Clark, despite giving birth this week, Congratulations!) – I even got an unofficial go on a mini bicycle designed for 3 year old George Clark (future Buxton CC star)


    Trying to explain to the event organisers – when I first started this event, I had a full head of hair

    After polishing off a few more homemade flapjacks, I stuffed the prizes under my jersey went back to my car and then headed off for a bit of a ride. I didn’t feel like doing too much on my time trial bike, so I just went up to Eccles Pike, then to Peaslows and over to the top of Rushup Edge, near Winnats pass.

    Thanks to Bhima Bowden for all the photos, and as usual to all the people at Buxton CC for putting on event.

    Results on Long HIll

    • 2010 – 1st place. 12.26
    • 2011 – 1st place 13.49
    • 2011 – National – 5th – 13.02. (Winner Gunnar Gronlund 12.49)
    • 2012 – 1st place – 13.35
    • 2013 – 1st place – 13.13


    Long Hill

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    Rules and practical advice for negotiating Roundabouts Fri, 06 Sep 2013 08:17:16 +0000

    When in Dublin, I was surprised a friend had no idea about the basic rule of roundabouts. He cycles into town everyday, but didn’t know at roundabouts you are supposed to give way to traffic coming from your right.

    I only noticed because at one roundabout. I waited, and he just cycled on into the path of a car causing it to slow down. He was actually surprised to learn you were supposed to give way. Maybe he spent time in Paris or something, where it really is ‘first come first served’

    The Basic Practical Rules of Roundabouts.

    • Give way to traffic on the roundabout. Only join, when it is safe.
    • If you are taking last exit or effectively turning right, you should signal right and ideally be in the right hand lane.
    • The highway code states that cyclists can stay in the left hand lane, even if taking last exit. If you do stay in the left hand lane it is important to signal right, until before the last exit where you signal left to turn off the roundabout.
    • However, I like to look over my shoulder, and if reasonably safe I will signal right and move into right hand lane. I think this is better than staying in left hand lane. True, the highway code says cyclists can stay in left hand lane, but, in practical terms many motorists may not know (or expect) that.

    Rules When on Roundabouts.

    • When on a roundabout, you should in theory have right of way over cars joining. However, you can’t take it for granted people will follow the rules, especially at mini roundabouts. When I’m on a roundabout, I try to eyeball any driver joining because some may join anyway.
    • Signal left when you come off, and make sure a car isn’t overtaking on the inside.

    If you feel unsafe at very large roundabouts, you can always dismount and go across each intersection.

    Mini Roundabouts

    Mini roundabouts are becoming increasingly common. But, by experience suggests people become even more insecure about who has right of way – or people conveniently forget.


    A Cyclist approaching a mini roundabout.

    If the cyclist was turning right, a majority of motorists do not give way, but keep going straight across the roundabout. If you are not aware that most cars will keep going, an accident is quite likely.For some reason, motorists don’t see the give way markings on the road or don’t really see it as a roundabout.

    This is on my commute home. It is very rare a car, will stop to allow you to go round the mini roundabout and come off. If you want to avoid an accident, the onus seems to be on the cyclist to give way to the motorist driving straight on. I’ve learnt from experience, never expect the car to give way.

    car mini roundabout

    Really big roundabouts that deter cyclists

    Cycle Paths

    Some roundabouts are just too big, busy for cyclists to feel safe. This can be a major deterant for cyclists making a journey to work. This is Headington roundabout in East Oxford. There is actually an underpass under the roundabout. It is not ideal, because signs tell you to dismount, it takes ages to walk.  But, it’s worth taking the safer underground route.

    Cycle PathsUnfortunately, the lack of planning has left many roundabouts which are deter ants for cyclists. But, usually there is a solution, such as avoiding the roundabout or walking around.


    The Highway code on Roundabouts

    160. On approaching a roundabout take notice and act on all the information available to you, including traffic signs, traffic lights and lane markings which direct you into the correct lane. You should

    • use Mirrors – Signal – Manoeuvre at all stages
    • decide as early as possible which exit you need to take
    • give an appropriate signal (see Rule 162). Time your signals so as not to confuse other road users
    • get into the correct lane
    • adjust your speed and position to fit in with traffic conditions
    • be aware of the speed and position of all the traffic around you.

    161. When reaching the roundabout you should

    • give priority to traffic approaching from your right, unless directed otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights
    • check whether road markings allow you to enter the roundabout without giving way. If so, proceed, but still look to the right before joining
    • watch out for vehicles already on the roundabout; be aware they may not be signalling correctly or at all
    • look forward before moving off to make sure traffic in front has moved off.

    162. Signals and position, unless signs or markings indicate otherwise.

    When taking the first exit
    • signal left and approach in the left-hand lane
    • keep to the left on the roundabout and continue signalling left to leave.

    When taking any intermediate exit
    • select the appropriate lane on approach to and on the roundabout, signalling as necessary
    • stay in this lane until you need to alter course to exit the roundabout
    • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

    When taking the last exit or going full circle
    • signal right and approach in the right-hand lane
    • keep to the right on the roundabout until you need to change lanes to exit the roundabout
    • signal left after you have passed the exit before the one you want.

    When there are more than three lanes at the entrance to a roundabout, use the most appropriate lane on approach and through it

    163. In all cases watch out for and give plenty of room to

    • pedestrians who may be crossing the approach and exit roads
    • traffic crossing in front of you on the roundabout, especially vehicles intending to leave by the next exit
    • traffic which may be straddling lanes or positioned incorrectly
    • motorcyclists
    • cyclists and horse riders who may stay in the left-hand lane and signal right if they intend to continue round the roundabout
    • long vehicles (including those towing trailers) which might have to take a different course approaching or on the roundabout because of their length. Watch out for their signals.

    164. Mini-roundabouts Approach these in the same way as normal roundabouts. All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so. Remember, there is less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal. Beware of vehicles making U-turns.


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    Ride the lights – Blackpool Tue, 03 Sep 2013 14:50:40 +0000

    As part of Blackpool illuminations, upto 12,000 cyclists were able to ride up and down the promenade on the evening they were switched on.

    Looks a lot of fun.
    An exciting preview of Blackpool Illuminations between 7pm and 10pm.

    Blackpool illuminations

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    NY interlude Thu, 29 Aug 2013 13:02:55 +0000 I’m currently on holiday for a ‘training camp’ in Jamaica, Queens. It’s all focused on the hill climb season now. As part of my training, I cycle 2 miles to an outside velodrome at Kissena Park and try and so some kind of intervals over the lumpy concrete track. If I’m really feeling adventurous, I travel over to ‘sanitation hill’ – a short hill by a sanitation department. It’s not exactly the Chilterns; if you really go for it, you can climb the hill in 1:40. But, it makes a change from doing another lap around the track.


    My first race of the hill climb season is this Sunday. Glossop Kinder Velo’s promotion of Snake Pass. 6 km of climbing at 6%. It’s a far cry from here in New York. But, at least I will be acclimatised for any potential heatwave the Pennines may unexpectedly experience in early September.

    Normal blogging should be resumed next week.


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