Before this there was an attempt at that…

ASICS trainers

I have mentioned previously that my mountain biking came about by accident a few years ago. Having done various forms of martial art over the years (tae kwon do and shotokan karate), it had been a while since I had done any proper exercise so I decided I would try running. Even the smartphone apps and music couldn’t keep me interested longer than about 3 weeks, so I gave up.

It was going to be some time before I was going to notice any improvement in fitness or ability and I gave up long before either. I don’t regret it as such as I bought a mountain bike and my life changed, but looking back now I wish I had stuck at it a bit longer.

Garmin Vivofit

Different forms of exercise can compliment and benefit each other and a friend of mine recommended I gave it another go to help with cardio fitness. So a few weeks ago I dusted off the trainers and went for a run.

2 miles and the next day my quads were aching! I hadn’t really stretched so I suppose I had it coming, was this a good idea? This time with Strava and some automatically generated goals (best 1km, best 5km etc) and a new found love of stats and of course a desire to get fit I stuck at it.

Gadgets help me and I really like my Garmin Vivofit and the Garmin Connect App. These along with Strava are helping me record my activities and encourage me to get off my back side.

Now only 3 weeks and a handful of runs later I am running 5km under 30mins and I have set my self an adventurous goal of running 10km by the end of the month – that’s only 10 days away!

I have a cold this weekend so I’m not doing anything to make it worse, but 10k by the end of April is a must. While it’s not a cycling goal it’s a fitness goal.

What have I been up to?

It’s been a while since I wrote what I would consider a proper blog post, I have thought about it, just not found the time. So I thought I would fill you in on what’s been going on, mostly from my biking perspective.

Winter is coming (yes I have finally started watching Game of Thrones)… Oh wait no winter has gone, though it keeps dropping in every now and again to say hello, seemingly every time I plan a ride! Since December and the Winter SPAM my riding slowed (who’s doesn’t?), the cold, the wet, the mud and the darkness are not the most helpful of ingredients to encourage you out on your bike.

Winter did linger a bit longer this year and the result is a much less fitter Tim. Memories of last years visit to Mudtrek come back and two recent trips to Wales, one to Cwmcarn and the other to Machen made me realise just how poor my bike fitness is.

I don’t feel too bad, long rides and my general fitness seems ok, but months of short rides with little climbing have certainly weakened my climbing ability and both recent trips to Wales were tough on the legs. My new job has also had an impact.

I know park around 20m from my desk and I’m in an office with no stairs. It might not sound like much but I think that my new job has reduced my walking and stair climbing by enough for me to gain an inch on my waist in 3 months. Add this to the business park environment, rather than high street and the lunch walks have also been on the decline. Oh and they do like tea and biscuits…

So something needs to change as in 2 months time I’m off to Bike Village again.

This will be a week of 50k rides with a minimum of 1000m climbing each day – this year we are also Cycling for Autism – a charity that is very close to the heart of my good friend John as his eldest son has autism. The challenge is to cycle/climb the height of Everest in a week and to raise awareness and money for the charity. Good cause aside for the moment, the trip to Bike Village is going to be tough and I want to be fit enough to enjoy it!

So what am I doing? Well I bought a fancy fitness band / watch from Garmin that is basically a fancy pedometer with a red bar to prompts me to get up and go for a walk. The result is a walk at lunch time, and two short efforts mid morning and afternoon to get away from the desk.

I have also started the occasional run. I tried this a few years ago and rapidly got bored but my basic fitness has made it easier this time round and I have set some small goals to aim towards.

A benefit of the new job and office location is its a little closer making a bike commute require less planning and effort – last week I rode 3 days.

I’ve started to waffle on a bit, so I think it’s time to wrap up with some details and goals:

2 months til Bike Village
I need to lose about 8lbs and get fitter
Watch my food and walk 4-5k every lunch time
Need to ride the bike three times a week (once or more to work)
My 5k target for running is 25mins
My end of April target is to run 10k, and in under an hour by end of May

Support Your Local Trail Centre – NOW!

Support Your Local Trail Center

I am not sure of the full story behind the UK Bike Park closure on 28th February this year but I am sure it can only be down to cold hard cash.

This is sad news for riders and for what was the UK’s premier free ride and down hill bike park. Business rates, complying with health and safety standards, running uplifts and generally maintaining the trails costs money and unless we use these facilities they will close. Our hard earned cash is forever being spread thin between the rising costs of living and the desire to pimp our rides and wear the latest gear. But if we don’t spend our money paying for uplifts, car parks and on site cafe facilities these amazing places will close and fall to rack and ruin.

Cognation has recently brought us new trails in South Wales at Cwmcarn and last year opened Bike Park Wales. These are built at an average cost of £200k – £250k per trail and come with annual maintenance costs in excess of £50k per year per trail.

I hear complaints about the quality of the food at cafes, the rising price of car parks. I am guilty myself – after all its so much easier to take some food than to pay the higher prices at the trail centre! But next time you go – please buy a coffee or tea and slice of cake at least – it all helps and will keep our trail centres open; open for you and me!

Find a trail centre near to you to ride on iBikeRide

I must have a screw loose

Shimano SPD Screw Missing

The plan today come rain or shine was to ride around 15k to join another ride, do that ride and then ride another 15k back home. My wife thought I must have a screw loose!

An ambitious plan to ride 50k considering the conditions and my current level of fitness.  The plans to have some company on this ride failed and for various reasons (mainly the poor weather) meant I set off on my own. I should have gone with my instinct which was to have put the kettle back on, have another cup of tea and watch the ladies Slope Style in Sochi.

The rain was cold and the short steep climb out of Heddington was as tough as its felt in ages. Though after the climb the fun starts as you get to the cheeky bit of single track and the descent in the woods on the Roundway.

At least the fun was supposed to start here!

When I got to the top of the climb I was ready to keep going but decided t o stop to put my glasses away safe as I couldn’t see through them anyway (misted up and rain soaked)! At this point I realised I couldn’t detach my right foot from the pedal. With a bit of wiggling I managed to free it to find that I had indeed set off with a screw loose (see what I did there?)… The cleat was swiveling in the shoe and this meant I couldn’t rotate my foot to get it out easily.

With some tightening of the remaining screw and checking the other shoe I decided it was time to turn back. I didn’t want to damage the shoe or risk a dodgy dismount because my foot became stuck again.

The first ride, albeit short one, in the Shimano AM45 shoes was hardly a test but they were certainly easier to take off than my others and overshoes.

Congratulations to Jenny Jones by the way on the Bronze! - http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/winter-olympics/26056289

pic courtesy of the Telegraph

Jenny Jones wins Bronze

MB Swindon Ride #3

MB Swindon - Cherhill, Yatesbury, Avebury - Wiltshire

Last weekend I took charge of my 3rd ride for MB Swindon. It was rated as Novice Friendly by club definitions. This meant that it wasn’t to be too challenging, technical, long etc – generally a ride that anyone with a reasonable level of fitness could join in. Importantly the ride has to be at a pace that everyone is comfortable with.  Within the first mile we had to get off and push because of the muddy climb. This was then followed by a series of muddy bridleways.

MB Swindon - Cherhill, Yatesbury, Avebury - Wiltshire

While they were tough going in places, mostly they were just slippery and keeping momentum and any sort of speed was the most challenging part of the ride.

MB Swindon - Cherhill, Yatesbury, Avebury - Wiltshire

Thankfully we didn’t have any punctures – not bad for 11 riders travelling 16-17 miles through the occasionally thorny bridleway. Though I did find a puncture caused by an inch long thorn in my rear tyre a few days later. We did however get one snapped chain. This was quickly fixed without  too much difficulty.

MB Swindon - Cherhill, Yatesbury, Avebury - Wiltshire

Despite me trying  to encourage some of the riders to take an alternate route through this section no one seemed up for a dip!

MB Swindon - Cherhill, Yatesbury, Avebury - Wiltshire

It was tough going for a Novice ride and they were all glad when we had chance to let loose down the side of Cherhill in front of the monument.

The weather was great and it stayed dry (at least from the sky) for us. My only regret was we didnt get more photos.

RBS 6 Nations 2014

Leigh Halfpenny Wales Fullback

And so it begins… Today 1st February 2014 the RBS 6 Nations kicks off at 2.30pm with Wales defending their title and playing for a record 3 consecutive RBS trophies. And you know what, they just might do it!

After much of the side being instrumental on the Lions Tour last summer and some encouraging performances in the Autumn International Dove Mens Series against the Southern Hemisphere sides, Wales return to full strength (minus Jon Davies) with Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts back fit and ready to do battle (the Sam starts on the bench today against Italy).

I don’t really watch much sport and I never spend my Saturday or Sunday afternoon in the pub or at a ground – but for 5 weekends a year I am glued to the TV (or pub screen for a big game) for the 6 Nations. Filling my time before the game is challenge. i suspect the wife will hand me a duster or a basket of washing to do at some point… Today the sun is shining and I am going to occupy myself writing a few blog posts and giving the bikes a once over before deciding which one to ride tomorrow, as I lead a short MB Swindon ride to the historic stone circle at Avebury. The sun will encourage a few out, but it’s going to be muddy.

Anyway, back to the rugby and predictions for the weekend.

Ireland v Scotland – I can’t see this being anything but a win for Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. 15 points clear I reckon.

France v England – Both teams will want to win and believe they can win. The fact that the game is in Paris will edge France I think. Though as we are constantly reminded by the pundits “we don’t know which French side will turn up”… A tight game, France by 5 points.

Wales v Italy – The game that on paper every side knows they can and should win, but arguably the game that each side dreads the most. “Are we the team they are gonna upset this year?” A buoyant Wales in Cardiff should run in half a dozen tries so my Welsh heart says a 25 point clear victory.

Here’s Leigh Halfpenny’s thoughts on the match today.

There, I already killed 15 mins. 4 and half hours to go until kick off!

A Change of Pace

MB Swindon Novice Ride

MB Swindon Novice Ride

My plans this weekend changed almost at the last minute. None of my usual Sunday gang were available this weekend so I decided to join MB Swindon for the first time this year on one of the Novice rides.

Next weekend I have volunteered to lead a Novice rated ride on my local tracks and trail. I thought it would be a good idea to go on one myself to get a feel for the pace and perhaps the ability of the potential riders that might join me. I’m glad I did – not least because the weather Saturday morning was so much better than the rest of the weekend!

It was good to go out on a gentle ride for a change. I packed light and due to the slow pace it was good to drift around the group and chat to riders I haven’t seen in a while. I made up for the lack of technical content by riding through as many puddles as possible!

We only did around 25k and it was flat on cycle tracks and bridleways. Our midway point was a cafe in the Cotswold Water Park and after everyone had a tea and slice of cake we headed back. Its important not to forget riders have different levels of fitness and abilities and MB Swindon caters for all levels.

My ride next Sunday will be a little more adventurous but we will take our time, leave no one behind and hopefully everyone will have a some fun, yet have push themselves just a bit.