Friday, 23 December 2011

Coming soon...Project Bianchi

I figure I'll be needing a nice lightweight bike for the really steep climbs next year and I just happen to have the frame from an old Bianchi road bike laying around in the garage. It was a great bike when it was new and hopefully will, seven years on, be a decent bike once again. Its an aluminium frame and still seems in pretty good condition bar the odd scuff and scrape. Just got to decide what bits to build it up with.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

World's Smallest Voice Recorder... least that is what it said on the box that I had delivered. I was a bit worried as I thought I had ordered a very small video camera that I could mount on my bike helmet to film my sufferfest of steep hill climbing. Turns out the package I received from Morgan Computers is a Somertek Micro Digital Camcorder; its just that nobody told the box designer. Turns out nobody taught him how to speak English properly either:

“Airframe stylish compact design to blend with the unique use of multi-function clip for your portable installation more convenient and can be caught in the backpack, hat, clothing or any other place you want the location of any implementation point of view the whole scene video/ monitor, but also easily applicable to a variety of occasions, recording/ monitoring”

The above is exactly what is printed on the top of the box. In fact the whole box is pretty amusing to read but I was more concerned if the £25 I had spent was a waste of money. I know that more expensive helmet cameras are available but I thought I would dip my toe in the water with a cheap option. Plus I'm tight.

Well, it is certainly small, in fact it is too small for any of the buttons to be labelled but after stabbing away at them I can confirm it does record video and it does it pretty well. Numerous lights also flash, I've no idea why though as the same person who designed the box was obviously let loose on the manual. The microphone is quite sensitive (that'll be the voice recording “unique use of multi-function” coming to the fore). In fact the microphone is so sensitive that my grunting, gasping and spluttering up the steepest parts of my test ride were picked up quite clearly. I obviously have some work to do on building up my fitness if the video of my first ride out of the hundred up Porlock hill next March is not to be overshadowed by the sound of a fat man gasping for breath.

The helmet/ handle bar mounts have seemingly been designed with nothing cycling related in mind and attempting to fit them to my bike helmet required a generous length of boot lace. I would post up my first attempt at filming to demonstrate the quality of the camera but I only managed to film the two feet of road/ trail in front of my bike. Some fiddling around with the angle of the mount is clearly needed.

All in all though I'm quite chuffed with it. It is small, very light and appears to work. Downloading the video footage to my laptop is also easy. Just got to get some riding in now.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A perfect autumn day

I took the Swift out for a ride along the Tarka Trail for a flattish ride today. I wanted to avoid the traffic and also to take in some of the autumn colours before they get turned to a muddy brown by the onset of winter.

As ever my trusty Singular Swift was fast and comfortable on the sometimes broken surfaces. It made a change to ride on the flat for once. I didn't get a single beep out of my HRM although it was still a good training ride. Everybody I encountered on the trail was cheerful which made a change. Must have been the perfect weather for this time of year bringing out the best in people.

Friday, 18 November 2011

I'm on Google Streetview

I was cycling on the Tarka Trail with some friends about six months ago when our leisurely ride was interrupted when some pillock driving a car with a camera mast mounted on the roof came towards us on what is a pretty narrow bit of the track.  A few choice comments were made by all of us on the trail as the guy didn't give us much space or seem too apologetic for forcing most of us on the trail at that time into the bushes.

This week the resultant photos of the Tarka Trail have finally been released on Google Streetview and I'm pleased to see Google have captured my best side; the back of my head!

I suspect any views of my front would have included a well known hand gesture used to show displeasure. This is probably why I only appear as I ride away from the camera car. Oh well, its fame of sorts...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011



That's the sound of my heart about to explode. At least is is according to my cheap heart rate monitor. Every time a hill sends my heart rate up to 185bpm the damn thing decides thats's it, no more work and starts beeping at me like a mad thing. Its very irritating and rather off putting as I usually have the more pressing issues of a steep gradient and gravity to deal with once the noise starts. The beeping is also quite loud so fairly embarrassing:

"whats that noise mummy?"

"Don't worry dear it's just the noise of that fat man on the bike about to explode".

 I clearly need to work on my aerobic levels. I'm carrying too much weight, both on me and on the bike, but I hope by the end of February to have shed a bit of weight and upped my power.

December isn't far away and is a time of year I normally spend off the bike. I've got an old turbo trainer to set up in the garage and hopefully I'll get some decent walks in as well.

Anyway, about the heart rate monitor. Its one of Lidl's finest and for under £20 it isn't actually too bad. It doesn't just tell me through the medium of urgent beeping that I am unfit; it also records my max, average and minimum heart rate on any ride. The chest strap is quite comfy and it is possible to replace the battery in the chest unit yourself unlike more expensive brands. I'm averaging about 140 – 145 bpm on a hilly ride which I don't think is too bad. Anyway, on with the training. Actually on with the garage clearance as I need to shift a load of crap out of the garage before I can set up my turbo trainer in there. That should work up a sweat.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Time to get going on this project I guess...

Right, its been a while since I registered this blog and did my first posting, now its time to get it under way.

First things first, I have a start date for my marathon hill climbing extravaganza, and a timescale.

I'm doing this series of hill climbs in memory of my late mother and so it seems only fitting that I start off this whole thing next year in March. Her 67th birthday would have been on the 17th March. Because my dad and I will want to do a few things to remember my mum on her birthday I'll be kicking things off on the 18th. Its a Sunday and I should have enough time to tackle Porlock Hill and Dunkerry beacon. Thats my target. In terms of overall timescale I'm intending to tackle each region in turn. That is going to require a lot of travelling and as I have to work full time I'm of the mindset that taking a year and a half to tackle all of the climbs is a fair enough time scale to work to.

As far as the charity I'll be supporting goes there will be two. The first is Cyclists FightingCancer. Its a damn good cause and I guess in my own small way I am a cyclist fighting cancer. The charity does a lot of work to help children and young people (and their families) get cycling, usually by providing bikes. I remember the joy of my first bike and it will be good to help others share that feeling. The second will be CancerResearch UK as one thing seems clear to me; there is still a lot more work to be done in the clinical fight against cancer. All money received will be split evenly between the two, seems the fairest way to do it.

Ok, thats the semi official stuff out of the way. After a summer of not enough cycling I'm only just starting to get some focussed mileage in. My rides are focussed mainly on short rides with lots of hills at the moment. I'm a porky bugger who has consumed too much beer over the last six months and I figure I need to slowly build up to the sort of rides that will let me really improve my aerobic fitness. To try and get a measure of what my fitness is actually like I've undertaken a three day blood pressure monitoring exercise under the watchful eye of my GP and it is surprisingly low. That's the good news. The bad news is that I've started riding with a heart rate monitor (HRM) and I get alarmingly high up my threshold very quickly once the roads start getting steep. I can get up them quickly (god bless triple chainsets) but it is at the risk of exploding.

I got my HRM from Lidl (home of the cheap deal) and I've been very impressed with it so far. Its solid and gives out information like my average heart rate as well as my highest and lowest on any given training ride. If the readings weren't so scary I'd be quite chuffed with it...

The bike I'll be training on over the winter is my trusty Surly Cross Check. Its tough, versatile and has very low gears for the steep bits. I also have very powerful V brakes on it for the more enjoyable steep bits. I'm still trying to decide what bike to take on the climbs with. For the first few the Surly will probably be pressed into service as I have some road wheels in the garage going spare. The Cross Check is a bike I built specifically for hilly terrain so you never know it may make it all the way round the hundred climbs.

For when the winter weather really starts to bite I will have the choice of either a 9 speed mountain bike (Singular Swift) or my drop handle bar Karate Monkey. I'm in the process of getting my Karate Monkey ready for any icy weather by fitting studded ice tyres to it. Hopefully won't need them but they were going cheap in a sale and look really cool.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

So whats all this about then?

I thought I would start this blog with a bit of scene setting. I like cycling and I'm lucky enough to live in beautiful North Devon. I also like beer and food so despite riding my bike up various steep hills on every ride I'm built like a man who knows how to live well.

Despite being 'optimised for gravity' I have a love of cycling in hilly terrain and was really pleased when the book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclists Guide to Britains Hills was brought out just over a year ago. I figured the book offered a good target for me to aim at, namely riding all of the hills featured in it, which would be a great project to try and complete and undoubtedly good for my fitness.

Sadly my cycling over the last 18 months has been sporadic. My plans to get going on the hills nearest to me last summer took a backseat as tragedy hit my family and we lost my mum to breast cancer. The depression and grief I have felt since my mum's death has started to fade into the background and so I've decided now is the time to ressurect my plans. Cycling is, after all, good for the soul.

Completing my self imposed challenge of riding all one hundred hills also has another dimension for me now as I would like to use it as an opportunity to raise money for charity. I'm still in the process of setting up the sponsorship links and planning which hills to tackle and when so watch this space. It is my intention to start next Spring so I have a fair bit of time to get in shape.

Stay tuned for details on how the training goes and how the fund raising for charity progresses. For die hard cycling fans I'll be sorting out a helmet cam so you can watch the countryside creep past slowly to the soundtrack of a fat man having a physical breakdown...

Oh and the name of the blog? "The elastic has snapped" is a term used by the cycling commentator Paul Sherwin a lot when the Tour de France gets to the high mountain stages. Apparently even the best cyclists suffer from this when the road goes up. I suspect I won't be immune in the coming months.