Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Bank Holiday Biking

Not much to report for a while - last weekend was very lazy as I just felt very jaded so no real activity of note at all.

After a noise began to emanate from the bottom bracket of my new bike it was time to book it in to the LBS for a check and revert to my old bike. I'd forgotten just how harsh it is to ride, it clatters over bumps rather than glides. Got my bike back on Thursday - it was a slightly loose cup on the bottom bracket. Also got a lecture about looking after it! :-(

With nothing really planned for the Bank Holiday weekend, Saturday saw Cath heading off for some mountain biking around Bingley so with the forecast rain not appearing I headed off for a quick spin up to Rylstone, Airton, Otterburn, Gargrave and back. I have to say that the road leading to Rylestone is in pretty poor shape and I just don't seem able to keep a good pace on that sort of surface. Got home in 1hr47 so not too bad.

Sunday I'd been invited on a ride with Andy and Andrew Herbert, just a mere 65 miles. We set off from Gargrave and immediately were heading in to a strong wind. At Airton we headed up over the fell road to Settle, some big showers were passing over the next part of our route but we stayed dry if a little cool. We'd planned a tea stop at Slaidburn and just got caught by a shower as we pulled up to the tea room - with another shower just after Slaidburn this was the only wet weather we had on the ride. The bridge out of Slaidburn was being repaired but there was a footbridge to let us past.

The climb up to The Cross o Greet is one of the main climbs of the day and the wind was again full in our face and made even the few flat sections hard work. It wasn't any easier on the descent as it was now a full on gale blowing from the side which made bike handling a little tricky. Fortunately things eased once we dropped off the moor and headed to Keasden. Then it was uphill again on a road I'd never been on before as we headed over to Gisburn Forest. This time the wind was from our side but it didn't make the climb any easier. Again the descent was interesting with the side wind but we were soon in the forest and heading to Bolton by Bowland for our second food stop.

The last section was known territory back through Halton West, no loose heifers this time, and Bank Newton to Gargrave. The two Andrews were finishing here but I had one more climb to get home, finally reached with 117Km and 5hrs30 on the clock. Rather tiring!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Lothersdale Alps

Just south of Skipton is a small area of hills with the village of Lothersdale nestled in its centre, leading over the hills sometimes dropping in to the village are over a dozen paved roads. Time for some hill action!

The first hill, Cowling Hill Lane, is probably the longest at around 3km of continuous uphill and with the steepest section close to the top but with fresh legs it wasn't too bad though the next section up to the pub at Black Lane Ends was a bit steeper. A long blast down to Colne then along to Earby and one of the roads that I'd not ridden before - Coolham Lane. Unfortunately the lower section of the lane is complete with speed bumps, quite annoying at 12KmPH! A short effort and the first of the steep sections is done with but there was a long way to go and another couple of steep sections before things eased off.

Then it was down in to Lothersdale itself and another blast up Side Gate Lane that I'd done the other day. A couple of minutes quicker this time even with meeting a couple of SUVs on the narrow lane. Not much time to recover as my route cut down to the dale again and the only bit of the road I'll do twice to get to Mitton Lane. I hadn't biked this one before and it's hard work from the start but it's the middle section that's hardest. Fortunately it's short and then it's down to Earby and immediately back up one of the longer hills of the route on Moor Lane.

Steady away sees me at the summit crossroads. One more hill to do so down to Carleton via a fast blast before knuckling down and setting off up Park Rd. I've done this a few times, it's never easy but this time I was in a gear lower than normal - the previous hills having had some effect. Finally the top and just a downhill and blast home in a time of 2hrs14.

With just over two weeks to the Skipton Sportive, I reckon I need a bit more distance and hill work to make it feel comfortable.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Competitive Male Instinct

What is is with blokes? This morning I was cycling in to work and just pulling away from a set of traffic lights when I heard the sound of changing gears on another bike. A quick glance showed a rider in light blue-green. Slowly I began to up the pace and then in to the upper chainring and soon I was tearing along at 40kph with my shadow close behind. All this wouldn't have been so bad if there wasn't the one uphill section of my commute ahead, not a steep slope but an uneven surface in places and just long enough to catch you out if you don't pace yourself.

True to form I tore at it, barely dropping below 38kph, by the time I reached the crest I was in severe oxygen debt but no time to stop and we hurtled on to the next set of lights which turned green just in time - I was turning left and my shadow went by with a cheery "see ya!" I looked across at a beanstalk and managed a croak in return. And I was meant to be taking it easy!

Most of this week's activities have been biking related. Saturday I went for a ride over to Bolton by Bowland and back via Gargrave. I set off early in the hope of avoiding the heavy rain forecast for later in the day. I just caught the edge of a shower when leaving Gisburn, not enough to worry about putting a waterproof on for, then it was all clear back to Gargrave (except for the two groups of heifers that had escaped on to the road and calling in on the farmer to let him know). Gargrave to home meant the big hill of the day and I was nearing the summit when I heard the first rumble of thunder, then the first spots of rain. By the time I reached the summit a minute later it was chucking it down, since I was already wet the last couple of Km didn't really matter so I got home soaked. Five minutes earlier and I'd have been home and dry :-(

Sitting at home drying out and the thunderstorm zapped our phone line so our internet connection has been somewhat flakey for the past few days. I rang the ISP who tested the line and couldn't see anything wrong with it (they aren't BT so there's often a finger pointing exercise between the two companies) but after getting passed around a couple of departments I was informed I was on the wrong tariff and that our monthly bill would now be £10 less! Result!! (When I got home this evening the line has been fine all along- strange)

Following Andy's assertion that Eller's Bank above Sutton is the meanest, gnarliest road climb in the area I had to test it, so after work last night I came up with a circuit that also included Side Gate Lane out of Lothersdale which I reckoned could be just as tough. As it turned out the toughest part of the ride was along the tops to Earl Crag right in to the face of the strong westerly. Both climbs felt about equal in difficulty taking 13 minutes a piece to climb.

There's one other road locally that is a steep and reasonably long climb, also climbing out of Sutton: West Lane. So given the strong wind again I decided to try it on the way home from work. It's quite a bit harder than either Eller's Bank or Side Gate Lane and I was glad there was no traffic coming down the zig-zags on the steepest part near the top. Not sure how long I took to climb this one but I was certainly in a lower gear.

All this hill training should help with the Skipton Sportive in a couple of weeks.