Posts Tagged ‘cycling’

York-Leeds-York sportive

Monday, March 19th, 2018 | Sport

Last week, I took part in the Velo 29 York-Leeds-York sportive.

The name suggests that you ride from York to Leeds and back to York. Which you do, if you do the longer routes. However, this only being my second sportive after the Festive Fifty, I decided to do the short route. At 65km, this was still the longest ride I had ever done, albeit be only five additional kilometres.

There was a long queue to get to the start, so, with Bogdan stuck at the back of a slow-moving queue, I set off on my own.

It rained the whole time. By the end of it, everything was soaked. I had to dry out the money inside my waterproof jacket. My waterproof shoe covers had given way and become saturated. I tried my best to maintain a “make the best of it” spirit, but even that got wet eventually.

Velo 29’s event management

I only have Sportive HQ’s event management to compare against, but they seemed a similar standard.

There was lots of parking at the venue and it was easy to find a spot at York Auction Mart. This also created a large indoor space to set off from. They said there would be changing facilities, though this turned out just to be a few toilets with a long queue.

Setting off took a long time: I think Bogdan was 15-20 minute behind me, even though I had been hanging around for a similar timeframe from the start of the race.

The feed station was good. They had sandwiches, pork pies and cakes, as well as energy gels. At the Festive Fifty, they just had drinks and bacon sandwiches. However, I did miss the warm sandwich this time. When we got back, we got a small sausage in a bun. The medal and the free 5-minute massage were a nice touch.

The event was chip timed and matched up well to the time on my watch.

The course itself was a bit surprising. It was predominantly on-road, but sometimes we were taken off-road. This wasn’t a problem on my cross bike, but I would have been quite annoyed if I had been on a road bike.

At times the route was confusing. They make a big thing about the amount of signage they put out and there is a lot. However, there was so much that sometimes it didn’t make it very obvious which signage we were supposed to be following and which was for people going the other way.

My performance

I finished in 3:03:12, including a 12 minute stop at the feed station. This gave me an average speed of 22.8kmph and an average moving speed of 23.4kmph.

I was the 62nd person back overall (in a field of 1,139) but that is meaningless because most people were doing the medium or long route and most people were there to have fun rather than race (including me). Fair play to the seven people who finished the medium route (97km) before I finished the short.

Here is a comparison between my first sportive and this one:

Metric York-Leeds-York Festivity Fifty
Distance 65.13km 49.61km
Moving time 2:48:29 2:14:28
Elevation 221m 146m
Average speed 23.2 kmph 22.1 kmph
Average power 89 W 91 W

I’m not sure how to interpret these figures. I think they’re not great: I did maintain a slightly faster average speed and over a longer distance. And there are some good reasons I might have been slower: the weather was awful, there were some off-road sections, it was a new longest ride, I ran a half marathon the day before and it’s possible that Strava overestimated my speed at the Festive Fifty.

However, there are a bunch of reasons to be disappointed. My estimated average power was lower and there was no massive headwind this time. More importantly, both are just slow. I’ve done a lot of work on the bike over the past four months and yet I’m still barely making the triathlon cut-off pace even on courses as flat as York.


Given how wet and cold it was, I don’t think I did “enjoy” it. However, it was good enough that I think it would be a lot of fun in the warm and dry, so I will be signing up for more when the weather gets warmer.

Spin class

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018 | Sport

Last week I went to my first spin class. I was a bit nervous about going as I worried I would be the only man in a room full of women, and that everyone else would have done a spin class before. It turns out that some fears are justified.

I didn’t really get what it was about. With a regular exercise class, it makes sense. There is an instructor there that tells you to do different things. But what can you do on a bike? Do they just sit at the front shouting “pedal faster”?

The answer to that question is basically yes.

Sometimes you pedal slowly in a high gear. Sometimes you pedal fast in a low gear. Sometimes you stand up and sometimes you sit down. Occasionally you alternate between the two which turns into some kind of press-ups on a bike. The instructor is also there to be a DJ, synchronising the instructions to the music.

I like it as a workout. It pushes you harder than you can push yourself. And there was another guy there. He turned up late and looked like he had only come to support his girlfriend, but technically he was there.

Aero bell

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018 | Sport

If you ask yourself “what is the most ridiculous way you could blow money in order to try and save an insignificant amount of time in your time trial?” you would probably come up with this.

It’s an aero bell. And one review said that it could take 45 seconds off your time trial. So, all I need to do is find 182 other ways to do this and I should be able to beat Chris Froome.

I didn’t really want this on my bike. But, it has been so cold recently, that the bell that came with my bike snapped off. It has a plastic ringer and it just couldn’t handle the cold. So, I tried to find a replacement. And there are lots. If you want a Disney princess bell on your bike.

I didn’t, so I tried to order a small one from Amazon. That didn’t fit. In my desperation to find a search term that would find an adult bell, rather than a child’s, I tried aero bell, thinking it was almost too ridiculous to consider, but having run out of other options. Which is when this turned up.

How much faster does it make me? I’m not sure yet. But hopefully, it will double my average speed.

Never trust Google Maps

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 | Life

On a previous ride to Eccup Resoviour, Google Maps took me on a “public footpath” that was more bog than path and involved me having to shoulder my bike over several fences.

Yet, even this experience, did not prepare me for that happened when I asked Google Maps to route me from Guiseley to Apperley Bridge. The road seemed to be a farm lane. Then a dirt track. Then this:

But it gets worse. After I had traversed this valley of rubble, I then had to ford a river.

I checked to see if I could tell Google Maps to avoid routing me on public footpaths and keep to actual, real roads. But there isn’t.

It’s really a poor experience on their part. On my Garmin sat nav, I can view the map without inputting a destination, and it will automatically move the vehicle and re-centre the map as I drive. Google Maps won’t let me do that, either.

Festive Fifty

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 | Sport

On New Year’s Eve, I took part in my first sportive. It was a 50km spin around Selby to raise money for the Children’s Heart Surgery Fun based at the LGI. Several hundred people turned out for it and the event raised £2,000.

As my first sportive, I didn’t really know what to expect. The race HQ was Squire’s Biker Cafe. It’s basically a pub with food options and seemingly unlimited parking. Both the pub and the organisers, Sportive HQ, did a great job in running everything. It was clear what was going on, there were no big cues and everything ran smoothly.

Plus, the photos they took were available for free. In contrast, you often pay £20-30 at events like Run For All (well, I don’t pay that, obviously, because I’m from Yorkshire).

I made great progress for the first 35km, averaging 24.6kmph. My theories that I was much faster on quiet roads than I was on the canal or the endless traffic lights of inner Leeds was all coming true.

However, for the final 15km, as we headed back to complete the loop, it became clear why I was making such great time: a big headwind, which had presumably been a tailwind on the way out. In the end, my pace clocked in at 22.1kmph, a full .4kmph below where I need to be for triathlon.

It makes you realise just how easy they have it when riding in the peloton in the Tour de France and makes what Thomas De Gendt does even more impossible.

I enjoyed the group riding. My friend Bogdan was riding it, too, and having caught me up at the feed station we rode back together.

I’m looking forward to doing more. Especially once it warms up so that I can take my hat off. I think I lost a few kilometres per hour by having the world’s tallest head.

Parkrun by bike

Sunday, December 24th, 2017 | Sport

I’m still going easy on my ankle so I decided to cycle to Parkrun. It was the first time I have done so, so I thought I would document some of my thoughts.

Padded cycling shorts make a big difference. I went out in my running gear and noticed I felt a little uncomfortable almost as soon as I was on the bike. Then I remembered why: I always wear my cycling shorts on the bike, even for triathlons (no, it doesn’t feel like wearing a nappy, that much). I think investing in some tri shorts for these occasions might be in order.

It’s nice having the bike there because you can carry things like bottled water and a jumper for cold days. Of course, you can’t leave anything valuable on the bike.

My belt makes a better shortage solution than my short pockets, especially for keys. It doesn’t fit my phone in, though, so I need a better solution for that when running off the bike.

Bingley Five Rise Locks

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017 | Sport

If you know what a canal lock is, you can probably work out what Bingley Five Rise is.

It’s quite a climb on a bike. I’m not pretending that it’s long, or it’s anything like what the professional racers are tackling on grand tours (for kilometres at a time). But, compared to the rest of the canal, the 18 metres of climbing is a lot. Wikipedia pegs it at 20%.

Indeed, having done around Eccup and the airport, I would say it’s as short, steep and nasty as anything that Leeds has to offer.

I haven’t been beaten by a climb yet, though, and this one was no exception. A bit of first gear and some riding out of the saddle and bingo, you’re at the top.

Except you’re not at the top. Because, when you get to the top, you run into a gate. Still on the hill, so you can’t just comfortably put your foot down and wheel yourself through. You’re still on the climb, trying to navigate this stupid wooden fence.

And yet, if I were to take a chainsaw to that wooden fence, in the eyes of so-called British justice, I would be the one in the wrong.

Gendered cycling helmets

Sunday, November 12th, 2017 | Sport

Recently, Elina and I bought cycling helmets. You may think that they would just be one design for everyone. After all, men and women have basically the same head. Sure, men have larger heads, on average, but that isn’t a reason to gender them: just make them in a variety of sizes.

But that isn’t how it works. Men, who presumably spend more money on such gear, get a range of sizes. And features. Mine, for example, has MIPS. This is the latest safety standard to protect my head in the event of a crash.

Sounds good.

Elina on the other hand, bought a woman’s helmet. Here is what hers has:

Yep, it has a little hole where you can put your hair through. It’s not even special. I can do that with my helmet.

This is why we can’t have nice things in Leeds

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 | Photos

I carry around two bike locks so that I can secure my frame and both of my wheels. But how are you supposed to defend your handlebars or your saddle?

Here is why you need every single cycling accessory

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 | Sport

Every bike shop is stacked to the rafters with expensive accessories. But, wanting to be frugal, I rejected the idea that you needed them. I bought a bike and nothing else. No accessories at all. I refused to be pulled into this expensive world.

And then the real world hit me, and I realised how wrong I was.

This is my story. A story of how you actually do need a bunch of accessories, and will massively regret it if you don’t get them.


True, you don’t really need these. Just like you don’t need a cup even if someone is going to kick you in the genitals over and over again. But any sustained time on the bike and you’re going to start getting sore.

I managed one ride. By the end of the first hour, my bottom was regretting it. Padded shorts are well worth the investment.

Bottle cage

Human beings literally die if they don’t get water on a regular basis. Even by re-using a sports bottle that I already owned, I still had to buy a cage to put it in.


Oh, you want to fit that cage to your bike? Too bad, because the Allen key size doesn’t quite match the six different ones you have left over from Ikea. So, you have two options. One is to go cap in hand around to your dad’s every time you want to change your saddle height. Or two is to buy a multitool.

I tried to get away with option one. But my parents go on holiday too often for it to work.


Great, so, I’ve now got my water, but nowhere to put an energy bar. Or my wallet or keys, or basically anything. This is because if you have a regular pocket on a bike, things fall out of it. So, you either need to use shorts or trousers will jip pockets (of which I do not have loads), or buy something with pockets.

Like a jersey. Which has three. For things like keys. It’s that or use some kind of elaborate wave system to try and tell your wife you’re home and want to be let back in.

Inner tube, pump

On my fifth bike ride, my back wheel fell off. I don’t know how to change a wheel. But even if I did, it wouldn’t have been much use because I don’t own a pump or a spare inner tube. Useful purchases, then.

Saddle bag

Oh, you want to have those things for when you need them in an emergency? Looks like you will be buying a saddle back to store them in, then.


Now we’re rocking and rolling. Sure, we’ve had to give in and buy seven accessories, but now we’re set, right?

Well, yes, unless you have any friends. Or want to ride your back to any kind of location. Because if you wanted to do any of that, you’re going to need a bike lock to lock it up at your destination.

Again, you have options.

You could get your friend to use their bike lock to secure both your bikes, for example. In which case, hope you have a generous friend with a suitably flexible bike lock.

Or you could move to Oxford, where nobody really uses them.

Short of that, you will be investing in an expensive lock because even the expensive ones only provide about a minute’s protection from determined thieves. And one lock is pretty much a starting point: you will want to get a second one to try and hang on to your wheels as well.


Now your bike is covered in expensive things in a country where it rains all of the time. Maybe you have an indoor storage area. We live in a flat, so the bikes have to live on the balcony. That means investing in a rain cover.


I don’t bother with a helmet because the evidence for them is mixed. But a lot of people look at my weirdly. And if I want to ride any organised events or competitions, a helmet will be mandatory.


Lights are optional, unless, of course, you ever plan on commuting on your bike. In which case, you best hope you only work 10 am to 3 pm, otherwise, you’ll be riding to and from work illegally.


Glasses aren’t required unless you want to a) see where you are going in the sun and b) ever ride near a canal or river. If you do want to ride by a waterway, you have the choice of either wearing some glasses or repeatedly being hit in the eye by insects until you blindly ride your bike into said waterway.


You can live without gloves unless you want to be able to use your hands at the end of the cycle. For example, being able to use a keyboard in the office or operate your keys to unlock your front door when you get home.

In either of these scenarios seem likely, you will want to ensure there is at least some heat left in your hands when you arrive at your destination.

Mud guards

I don’t care about getting muddy when I go cycling. However, if you ever plan on riding when anyone else, you might start to care. And, if you go out with a cycling club, they are likely to be mandatory.

Things you don’t need

There is one thing you genuinely don’t need to buy for your bike, and that is a computer. The one thing that is actually fun and interesting. Which really digs the claw in. If you want to be frugal, you need to buy every single cycling accessory except the one you actually want.


People sometimes say that you should avoid spending a fortune on cycling accessories.

However, that is a little unrealistic. I tried it. I bought zero accessories for my bike. But, one after another, I was forced to invest in them. Cycling is a tricky thing to do on a budget.