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Reservoir Challenge Audax rides

After quite a few years lacking motivation I finally got around to becoming an audax ride organiser.

My first set of three are a reset of of Richard Daniel’s Reservoir rides last run in 2015. The 200km Triple Reservoir Challenge, a Double Reservoir Challenge slightly lengthened to make an imperial century at 165km and a 100km Single Reservoir Challenge.

The 200 starts from the Joan Strong Centre, Oundle at 8am Sunday 30th April. The 165km starts at 8:30 and the 100km at 9am on the same day. From Oundle they head down to Graham Water with the longer rides adding in Pitsford Reservoir and for the 200, Rutland Water. All three rides will finish at the George Inn, approximately 2km from the start. There is free car parking at the start, toilets and water for filling bidons. There may also be tea and coffee but no guarantee of that yet!

If you are an experienced audaxer you’ll know the drill but for those who are not these are NOT sportives, they are self sufficient rides with no signage, and no ride backup or support. They are also not races but you have to do the ride in the minimum time allowed, which isn’t fast as long as you don’t take too long over the café stops!

Route sheets and GPX files will be available here approximately 2 weeks before the ride date.

Single Reservoir Challenge route map
Single Reservoir Challenge

They think I’m mad! The story of a 12h Time Trial

To set the scene for this year’s attempt on the Kettering CC club 12 hour record we should go back to last year’s effort.

Last season I was aiming to achieve a BBAR certificate for averaging at least 22mph over 50 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours. My plan was to hit 24mph for the 50, 22mph for the 100 and finish it off with a 20mph 12 hour. Also, as the club record for 12 hours is only 240.7 miles, a successful 12 hour for the BBAR would almost certainly be a club record too.

Having managed a 50 in 2:05:04 (23.99 mph), and a 100 in 4:32:15 (22.04 mph) it was all down to the CC Breckland 12 hours in September on the fast B12/3 course.

Then I realised that my fastest 50 was in a non-BBAR counting event so I only had a 2.09.23 (23.19 mph) which meant that I would need 250 miles in the 12 hour, which to be honest, was not very realistic.

Therefore the focus switched to the club record and 240.7 miles as the target.  To cut a long story short, after 10 hours when I was moved off the fast roads to the finish circuit I had done only 197 miles rather than the 200 I needed. 3 miles may not seem a lot but it meant that I had 43 to go. To do 21.5 mph for the next two hours was not going to be possible as I had only averaged 19.7 mph on faster roads so I lost a bit of motivation and ultimately finished with 231.752 miles.

Based on last year’s experience I set myself a schedule to reach 204 miles after 10 hours which would give me an achievable target of 18 mph for the last two hours on the slower finishing circuit.

The B12/3 course is easy to manage for supporters as both main loops have a common turn so my son Ryan, who was helping again this year, after seeing me start, drove down to the Eccles interchange on the A11 and waited for my first appearance there after 55 miles.

12 hour time trials (and 24s) are different from fixed the distance TTs in that although everyone does the same course, faster riders will do more laps of some of the circuits. This is to keep all the riders close together geographically so that you don’t actually know how many laps you will do as you will get directed from one circuit to the next based on when the fastest riders go through.

The CC Breckland event though is not too complicated as it is only “loop B” that is done a variable number of times (until you reach the finish circuit of course).

Course summary:

Event HQ to the Eccles interchange on the A11; 15 miles

Loop B, A11 towards Norwich and back; 20 miles

Loop A, A11 towards Thetford and back; 20 miles

Repeat loop A another four times; then straight on to loop B and repeat as many times as possible before being diverted to the finish circuit.

Then 9 miles of country lanes until you reach the finish circuit which is essentially an out and back 10 course with the race HQ at one end.

Once on the finish circuit there are timekeepers every mile and you just keep going until the timekeeper calls out that you have finished. Your final distance is calculated based on the times you passed the timekeepers immediately before and after your 12 hours are up so you actually ride a few minutes beyond 12 hours to the next timekeeper to maximise your distance. Of course, if you are me you will always finish as far away from the HQ as possible so you have to ride even further before you can eventually stop!

Although both loops A and B have a common turn, you didn’t come off the A11 when switching between them so you have to bear that in mind when planning your resupply stops. Each stop wasn’t an actual stop but as I approached Ryan waiting on a slight uphill section at the turn I would throw down my empty bottle and take a full one with two gels taped to it from him as he jogged alongside.

Nutrition is very important in long events. As a rule of thumb, you can only absorb about 90-100 g of carbohydrate per hour. This is as long as you use a mix of glucose and a different simple sugar such as fructose in a 2:1 ratio. So my plan was to ensure that I took on that amount every hour. Last year I found solid food hard to manage so this year it was a gel every 30 minutes and 500 ml of homemade energy drink every hour. I wouldn’t see Ryan until the 55 mile mark though so I carried seven gels from the start, and a full 750 ml of energy drink to see me through on this initial leg.

I reached the A11 after 43 minutes (21.4 mph) so was at this point up on schedule. Now 10 miles with the wind on my back before a 20 mile leg into the 15 mph headwind, if I could reach the far south west turn in good time it would give me confidence for the rest of the day. Loop B is a pig though, concrete slabs and potholes littered about like craters on a WW1 battlefield. On the plus side though we had five laps of loop A and 100 miles of smooth roads to look forward to!

Average speed at the south-west end of the course at 45 miles was 21.5 mph, so well up on schedule. A perfect bottle handover at 55 miles, 15 minutes ahead of expected time so luckily Ryan was just about ready, walking down to the planned feed station, last year we dropped just one bottle in the eight attempts, this year we missed none.

Second lap of loop A was a minute faster than the first even though there was traffic backed up for the Snetterton turn off which meant I had to ride between the two lines of traffic keeping eyes open for cars trying to move lanes at short notice. Shortly after starting lap 3 I hit an empty cat’s-eye and punctured my front wheel. Rather than replace the tube I thought it would be quicker to ring Ryan and for him to drive down with a spare wheel. The spare wheel was one I had put in the car only at the last moment as it was a training wheel rather than a race wheel so was significantly wider. That shouldn’t really have been too much of a problem because the workaround would be just not close in the brake QR. However unlike Shimano, Campag have the QR mechanism on the lever not the calliper, and since I had Aero levers on my bars they didn’t have the QR button on them. There was also not sufficient travel in the cable adjuster so it required the quick application of an allen key to loosen the cable a tad and a full 7 minutes after stopping I was back on my way with a Tour de France style push up the road. Seven minutes was worth two and a bit miles but after 95 miles I was on a 21.0 mph average so I had sufficient in hand for the record to fall. I took advantage of the enforced stop to divest myself of all the empty gel wrappers and fill my aero top tube bag with liquorice allsorts (paying homage to the great Beryl Burton). I was feeling good, although various bits were beginning to hurt, particularly in the saddle area. Heart rate was a little less than last year’s event though I was going faster.

Then disaster #2, not another puncture but far worse mentally; I was waved onto loop B instead of making the turn and another two laps of loop A. I guessed this was due to the traffic issues at Snetterton (which it was), but this meant 5 laps of purgatory rather than the 3 that I had mentally prepared for.

I had to give myself a severe talking to on that next lap as I rattled along avoiding all the holes and another potential blow out. Also the traffic was getting ridiculous, very fast and more close passes than was comfortable. (Note to self, NEVER ride this course again!) I did think of packing at this point purely on safety grounds but at the end of the lap I was on a 20.9mph average so still all to play for. As long as average speed showing on my computer didn’t drop by more than 0.1mph per lap I would hit the finish circuit with an overall average of 20.5mph which would allow me my two hours at 18mph taking into account the time lost due to the puncture. In fact, my average speed for that lap was also 20.9mph so it was looking good even though there was still over six hours to ride!

At the end of the second lap of loop B and the average had dropped to 20.7mph, a 62 minute lap which was a full 5 minutes slower than the previous one. It was around this time that I realised that my saddle sores were no longer hurting, but also I realised that that was because I had subconsciously stopped using the aero position and as soon as I got back down into the tuck it was agony again. The next lap was also 62 minutes and my average speed after 156 miles was now only 20.5mph. Almost eight hours in and I had to stop for another application of ibuprofen gel to the knees, which actually were bearing up surprisingly well. I couldn’t use the aerobars at all by this stage which would account for the slower times and I did yet another 62 minute lap so at least I was consistent.

At 176 miles it was with mixed feelings that I was directed off the A11 towards the finishing circuit. At least I wouldn’t have to do yet another lap of the Somme-like Wymondham bypass, but I would have an hour less on the faster roads. My average was now down to 20.2mph so 19.7mph required for the next three and a bit hours, although my schedule assumed 18mph for the finishing circuit maybe it would be more sheltered from the wind and I could pick up the pace and suffer the pain a bit more.

I felt reasonably good on the 11 miles up to the finish circuit but by now my average had dropped to 20.0mph and I could barely hold the bars in any configuration let alone get into a tuck. The base bars on a TT bike are not comfortable to use for hours on end and by this stage I had a lot of pain in my upper arms and shoulders and cramp in the fingers on my right hand.

With over two hours to go I reluctantly decided to call it a day and simply rolled around 2 laps of the finish circuit in order to chalk up 200 miles, which of course was at the far end of the circuit so I still had another 5 miles to go after that! My final total was a very modest 206.360 miles, and I suppose I could have carried on and put another 20-25 miles on that but neither my heart nor my head was prepared to suffer any more.

I would recommend that every time trialist should do a 12h though, they are unlike any other TT (except a 24h which are even more amazing). The applause every rider gets from all the supporters is brilliant, quite a few will take the trouble to learn the riders’ names and cheer you on by name as you pass which is very uplifting. Next year I’ll be back, better prepared and that record WILL fall!

FarSports carbon wheels

FarSports wheel building workshop.

FarSports wheel building workshop.

Unless wheels have come with a bike, I like to build my own wheels. It’s fun to do, and you get exactly the wheels you want. When it came to sourcing some new TT race wheels however, I decided that I needed some carbon deep section rims. As I had never built up carbon rims before I went for a pair of hand built wheels from China, FarSports in Xiamen to be precise. Significant time searching the internet suggested that this company was the most reputable.


Their webshop http://www.wheelsfar.com was easy to navigate and in went my order for a pair of their 60mm x 20.5mm Clincher with DT240S hubs. These would be used only for TTs so nice and thin for speed not comfort, although they were fine in the CC Breckland 12 hour last year. Not only did I set new personal bests at all distances, in one race I hit a pot hole at full speed so hard it trashed both tyres but the rims were not affected at all!

Lacing a new wheel.

Lacing a new wheel.

So pleased was I with these wheels I wanted to try my hand at building my own carbon rimmed wheels so I next ordered some rims. One of the issues I had was that the tyres on the race wheels were not for every day use so I couldn’t use my race wheels except for racing unless I was prepared to continually change tyres. However, changing wheels from my carbon race wheels to the training alloy wheels meant changing the brake blocks, not a long job really, but a good excuse to get a set of carbon rim training wheels!

What to buy? My 60mm rims do catch the wind sometimes so I decided on 50mm deep profiles as I had read that once you go deeper than 50mm you aren’t gaining much, maybe a handful of seconds over 25 miles. I also decided on a wider rim as the roads in Northamptonshire are shockingly bad and I would use these wheels for road racing as well as long distance audax rides. So the rims were set, now the hubs. I have always been a fan of high end Shimano hubs and a 32 hole Ultegra hub would give me a good strong wheel, well suited to anything I may wish to throw at it. That was last year.

Me and my wheel builder!

Me and my wheel builder!

This year I wanted to build up a track bike so ordered some track wheels, again from FarSports. I am currently writing this post from Xiamen, having spent the morning visiting the company on a rare day off during a rather hectic business trip that involves visiting 9 cities in 10 days, 7 internal flights and two high speed train journeys.

The taxi ride took about 40′ including a couple of phone calls to Sandy at FarSports so that she could explain to the driver exactly where he had to go to. I suspect not many tourists ask to go out into the industrial areas. Sandy came out to meet me on the street and take me up to their office/workshop on the second floor of the building. My first impression was that is was a much smaller operation than I expected. Chatting over tea with Sandy and Mae, the owner, we spent half the time talking about their wheels and cycling, and the other half about my school and the difference between education in China and the UK!

My track wheels boxed and ready to be sent to Shanghai.

My track wheels boxed and ready to be sent to Shanghai.

This half of the operation is where the wheels are assembled, the rims being manufactured at a another location about an hour away, overseen by Mae’s brother Ben. Each wheel is hand built in what is essentially a two man operation, one laces up the rim and the other tensions and trues the wheel. My track wheels were built and already boxed, just waiting for an extra 88mm rim to be included in the box that I had at the last minute ordered. Mae showed me some very new rims of their own design which I can’t show you, but they looked absolutely fantastic. Also on the racks were the lightest wheels I have ever handled! Built around Italian Extralite hubs they come in at around 770g a pair, yes…a pair! Only suitable for hill climbing though, I wouldn’t want to hit a pot hole at speed with those under me.

Although FarSports will happily sell to individuals, most of their production will go to resellers and distributors across the globe with their main market being in Europe. I imagine that there are many cyclists riding FarSports wheels without even knowing it. Mae was very coy about giving any names out, for example when I asked if they did any wind tunnel testing she said no they didn’t but she had results from a company in Europe they make wheels for that showed that their rims were as good as certain popular American wheels.

My verdict on this company? Well, to be honest, I was already a fan, with one pair of their wheels and another set of rims built up coping well with the rubbish roads around here. Their wheels are not cheap “Chinese carbon” but you are paying for quality rims handbuilt onto great hubs. Actually you can opt for cheaper hubs but if you are spending this sort of money you should go for at least the DTSwiss.

My 2016 TT season

I told Helen when I got back on my bike 5 years ago that I wouldn’t be racing and I’d stick to my first love of touring. So how did it happen that I rode more races this year than any other apart from when I was a teenager?

It started slowly with a local club 10 on a sporting circuit where I did a 29:11. This was April 2014, 23 years since my last race, 26:30 in a Kettering Amateur CC club 10 on the now defunct Brigstock-Islip course. Martin Bailey won that race in 1991, his dad Tom is still racing at 79 years of age!

I did the Peterborough CC open 10 the following month expecting to go better on a flatter course, the N1/10 which back in the day being on the traffic assisted A1 could a superfast course. Now though, although still flattish, it is a quiet road running alongside the A1(M), with many roundabouts and a slow road surface. I was very disappointed with my 28:50. A third attempt, back on the sporting Woodnewton circuit in August yielded an even slower 29:21. Three races, three disappointing times, but I had a lot of miles in my legs by the end of the year as I was working towards the 2015 Paris-Brest-Paris.

For the 2015 season I joined Kettering CC as my previous year’s club, the Army Cycling Union, was not offering a local community feel, i.e. local club events. Focusing on distance and not doing any speed training I managed to record 26:39 for a 10 on the A43 Broughton course. I was pleased with this as at the start of the year I told Helen that my target would be a 27’, i.e. 27:59, to which she scoffed and said I should be looking to beat 27:00! Three weeks earlier I had set a club record in the National 24 hour Championship with a fairly modest 368.33 miles.

I then failed to finish the Paris-Brest-Paris, DNF after ~550 miles with tendonitis in my achilles which basically brought a halt to any serious riding. After two months rest I started training for the 2016 season. My target was the club’s 12 hour record, currently standing at a shade over 240 miles. To achieve this I would need to maintain my long distance capability but also substantially increase my speed. A rough calculation gave a 20W (~10%) power increase required so a training plan was prepared, based on my twice weekly 60 mile commute for endurance, and 2-3 one hour turbo sessions for speed/power.

The plan was going OK until my first commute of the new year and an unexpected fall on ice resulting in a broken hand. This meant that endurance work went out the window and it was 5-6 turbo sessions per week. Up until now i had been doing a variety of available workouts using the TrainerRoad system, but now I started following a more specific plan using workouts created myself based on research papers I had read, primarily by Stephen Seiler and Veronique Billat, with an emphasis on improving VO2max and anaerobic threshold.

This work was clearly having a very positive effect as in April I recorded 1:04:36 in the Beds CC open 25 mile time trial, followed a month later with 2:09:23 in the Norlond Combine open 50 mile TT which was a PB beating my 1988 time by just over 20 minutes. I thought after the 25 result I could possibly aim to beat the hour next year, and after the 50 I was now thinking that a BBAR certificate would be nice.

The BBAR (Best British All Rounder) competition is a season long competition based on your best average speeds for 50 miles, 100 miles, and 12 hour time trials. There were trophies and medals for the top 12 but everyone who manages a 22mph average gets a certificate. This certificate became my secondary target after the club 12 hour record. Assuming I make 241 miles in the 12 hour (20mph), then if I can do 2:05:00 for a 50 (24mph) I’d only need to do 22mph for a 100!

A week after the Norlond 50 I rode the Peterborough CC 10, again on the N1/10 but this time I finished in 26:13, well over two minutes faster than two years ago, and on a much slower day. Things were going well, which was confirmed two weeks later when I recorded a 24:37 on the A43 Broughton course. Another two weeks on and the next race was a 25 on the superfast (if the wind is kind) E2 yielded a 59:19, a PB and beating the hour for the first time. My previous best was in 1989, a 1:01:53 in the Fenland Clarion open 25 on the N10/25 (Peterborough Parkways) course. That race had been won by Rod Ellingworth in 54:37, who is perhaps better know as Mark Cavendish’s coach in recent years.

Three days after beating the hour I thought I’d see what I could do in the 45RC club 10 on the Rushden bypass, unfortunately the forecast thunderstorms and heavy rain cancelled the event but as I approached Oundle the weather looked a little better so I decided on riding the KCF club 10 on the hilly Woodnewton circuit as I was all dressed up and ready to race! As I drove to the start though I changed my mind at least 4 times, the newly laid gravel road surface in Fotheringhay didn’t look kind to my 20mm slick Conti Supersonics, then it started raining again, rain after a dry spell usually means slippy corners. By the time I got to the start I decided I may as well give it a go but take it a bit easy on the corners. I was pleased with the resulting 26:42 a two and a half minute beating of my course best from two years ago, particularly as I had done a hour interval training session at 5:30am earlier in the day.

The following Saturday was my key 50 mile TT of the year, so to be at my best I reduced this week’s volume but kept the intensity. Tuesday’s efforts were followed by a rest day, a 30 mile level 3 ride home on Thursday, and just 20 minutes of hard intervals on the turbo on Friday. I was aiming for 24mph and as usual would pace it on heart rate. Unfortunately my HR monitor was playing up and didn’t budge from 99bpm all race so I had to ride on RPE instead. A reasonable if not brilliant day yielded 2:05:04 and another PB, 4 seconds short of my 24 mph target but I was very happy with that.

Next up was a weekend away riding the Hemel Hempstead open 10 and open 25. These were not key targets so it was a quite a hard training week of three hour long turbo interval sessions and one 60 mile commuting day. The Saturday afternoon 10 was on a fast course so I was targeting my 1989 PB of 23:56. It was going well for the first two miles, then I had a crisis of confidence, I knew I needed to come off the dual carriageway but I could see my minute man and his very distinctive Fou4th Scorpion TT special rear light. He had carried on so I followed him, then he slowed and stopped and it became clear that he had missed the turn. I had gone too far to walk back to the off slip road by now so decided to ride on and walk down the on slip road. Here I found a nice bike lane looking margin on the right hand side so rode down this at least until in sight of the marshal at the bottom. Walking the final 10-20 metres down to the underpass I then remounted and carried on finally finishing in 26:02. Analysis using Strava later would indicate that without the extra bit I would have done around about 23:45ish so I was a little disappointed to say the least.

Next day was a typical early Sunday morning start so the idea was I would race then get back to the hotel (one village away from the race HQ) just in time for breakfast so Helen could have a lie in. Like yesterday it didn’t quite go to plan as about half way back from the turn I hit a huge pothole and suffered a double blow out about 8 miles from home. Only one tube under the saddle meant it was a rescue call to Helen to pick me up. Stopping briefly at the HQ to return number and pick up my bag we got back to the hotel just after breakfast had ended so had to sweet talk the chef for a well deserved full English. As romantic weekends away go, I don’t think Helen was that impressed.

I hadn’t managed to get a ride in my first choice 100, being on the popular, fast (and over subscribed) E2, so had to drive up to Darlington for the National Championship 100 mile TT in July. For this race I would be racing my new TT bike, bought second hand from a guy in Holland, this was a 2006 T-Mobile team issue bike. Lovely to ride but with only one bottle cage I added a between the tri-bars aero bottle to supplement the down tube bottle and hid a 750ml bottle at 50 miles. In order to hit my 22mph target I’d need to finish inside 4:32:44, quite a tall order with the wind on quite an exposed rolling course. On schedule at 50 miles I stopped briefly to refill my aero bottle with energy drink and ploughed on. With about ten miles to go I ran out of drink and started to suffer but convinced myself that it was just another two miles of uphill and then the last eight was pretty much all downhill. That was enough motivation to get me through and even though the finish seemed to take forever to come once I’d left the main road, my final time was 4:32:15!

So just the 20mph 12 hour to crack and both season’s targets will be achieved. Then after browsing the CTT website I realise that my 50 time won’t count for the BBAR because it was an association event and not a BBAR qualifying event. My best counting 50 would be the 2:09:23 which would mean that a certificate was now pretty much out of reach. Oh well; my next three races were the Mersey Roads 24 hour National Championship and a 400 mile target, another PB attempt on the Tring F11/10, and finally the main target for the year, the CC Breckland 12 hour.

The 24 started well and on schedule for 400 miles but after 8 hours and 150 miles I called it a day, the knee issue that had manifested itself during the 100 was causing some pain so in order to protect it for the 12 hour I decided not to continue. A tough call, particularly considering the time and effort that goes into preparing and supporting an all dayer, but this race wasn’t my main target…

Five weeks to go, but with a two week holiday coming up, fitness was going to take a hit. Carefully balancing required endurance training against knee care, while still adding in some speed sessions, I went into the VC10 open 10 with not a lot of confidence so was very pleased to record 23:54 beating my 1989 PB by all of two seconds!

One week later and it was time for the CC Breckland 12. My eldest son Ryan was doing my support, which mainly consisted of running alongside me every 20 miles and handing up a new bottle of energy drink. Unfortunately although it was the fastest course used for all of this year’s 12 hour options, the strong wind made for a very tough day. Needing to average 20mph overall, for the first half I was ending each 10 mile tailwind section ahead of schedule but dropping behind at the end of each headwind section. As time went on, the averages fell and by the time I left the fast loops heading to the finishing circuit at 10 hours I was 3 miles behind schedule with only 197 miles covered (19.7mph). I was not going to be able to make this deficit up in the final 2 hours on slower roads so lost motivation for a while. It was only after getting to the finish circuit that I decided that 230 miles sounds significantly better that 220something that I started working hard again and finally finished with 231.752 miles.

So how did my season pan out? I failed in my main target (and my extra BBAR target) but beat my 27 year old 10 mile and 25 mile PBs, getting under the hour for the first time, as well as a huge beating of my 50 mile PB and setting reasonable marks for 100 miles and 12 hours. Overall, considering the broken hand and knee issues, I can be pleased with those results. Although I am clearly faster in TTs, I “bought” a lot of that speed and I reckon I am still between 1-2mph below where I was in 1989, but I am also 12+kg heavier so still lots of improvement room. I would still like to get back into road racing but I’m not near that level yet, I’d be dropped as soon as the road went uphill. I have set my main target for next year, so now just need to lose some weight and push up my power!

Training with Heart Rate

I bought my first HRM in around 1988’ish, a Polar Sport Tester. These were quite expensive at that time, so it was an advantage that I could buy it for the club I was coaching riders in. We used it mainly to collect data in races and then use that info to set target HRs for different interval training sessions. It only took a little bit of trial and error to find the anaerobic threshold and set levels from that. (The book Training, Lactate and Pulse Rate (Peter Janssen) was very useful.) Then, after a few sessions training with HR enabled riders to more accurately judge efforts by feel alone (RPE).


This graphic shows how HR varies at constant power output during the third eight minute interval of a set of four at slightly over FTP. After two minutes the HR remains very constant (+/- 1bpm) until near the end when it increases very slightly due to a slight increase in power.

The key to successful training with a HRM is to understand oxygen deficit. Immediately on starting an effort, the muscles work harder than the rate of oxygen is supplied for aerobic respiration so the muscles work anaerobically initially until the heart rate catches up and the blood supplies enough oxygen. This takes typically about 2 minutes, after which HR may continue to rise but very gradually for a bit longer until reaching a plateau. Therefore, for the first 2-3 minutes of an effort, you should go on RPE not HR. In a TT, assuming you didn’t start too fast, you settle into your desired effort after the first mile and from then on your HR shouldn’t vary too much. If it drops below your target range you increase your effort, and if it climbs too high you ease a little.

Cardiac drift can occur if you are dehydrated, particularly in hot and humid conditions. This is when HR increases even though the power output remains constant, this is thought to be caused by decreased plasma volume and increased blood supply to the extremities to aid cooling.

Power meter evangelists point to the two effects above as reasons why training with power it so much better than HR, but I would contend than as long as you understand the practical effects of oxygen deficit and cardiac drift a PM doesn’t gain you much if anything, over a HRM unless doing intervals shorter than 8-10 minutes.

However, having both HR and PM data to compare post ride is very useful. HR can tell you hard you worked, but together they can give you a measure of current fitness.

Training with power

I like numbers! A power meter was inevitable, it was just a matter of when. When the price was right, and when I had completed my research. As my other half will attest, I don’t make impulsive purchases, in fact it can take literally years before I commit to spending, and the more it costs the longer it takes.

I had been scouring the internet for about two years, discounting a number of options due to reports of inaccuracies or unreliability. For example, the Stages left hand crank based PM, popularised by the Sky team, was reasonably priced but it’s only one sided (therefore not that accurate) and suffers many reports of unreliability. The problem with one sided PMs is that the left/right balance can vary with total output. To get total power they simply double the power reading from one side. If the left leg is supplying 49% of the total power then the PM will under report the total power by 2%. This in itself is not too much of an issue as long as the imbalance remains constant, but if for example, at a higher degree of effort the left and right legs become more even, supplying 50% each then you no longer have consistently in your readings.

So I was after a PM that measured total power, was reliable, accurate, and reasonably priced. So when I saw a Powertap GS hub at a bargain price of £300 I was all over it like a rash. That was less than half the advertised price at a popular online retailer (or anywhere else come to that). Even better, when it arrived, it came with the dual cap, i.e. it sends out not only ANT+ but also Bluetooth signals, according to the manufacturers website this was listed as an ~£50 upgrade. RESULT!

Eventually my rim and spokes arrived from Germany (actually this took less than a week) and a wheel was built.

So, after about 20 rides and 30+ hours, what are my conclusions?
1. Generating all this extra data is fun, or rather the post ride analysis gains an extra dimension.
2. For most types of training, using heart rate is more effective.
3. For short intervals a PM is definitely more useful than a HRM but I do those on a turbo trainer anyway.
4. The PM is very motivating for sprint training, making you dig deeper to hit the numbers every effort, and telling you when your effort falls below the level that tells you it’s time to go home.

I’ve not tried it in a race yet but my plan was to rebuild it into a race wheel for next season. I suspect that for TTs it may give a little extra help for pacing. Mind you at £300 I am so tempted to buy another one and have both a training wheel and a race wheel with power.

Postscript: Power meters were not around until after I had stopped riding and coaching in the early ’90s so I had to do a fair bit of reading to catch up. There is so much information on the internet now though that by the time I bought the much quoted tome ”Racing and Training with Power” by Hunter and Allen there was almost nothing in it I didn’t already know, however this book is a good place to start if you know nothing about power meters.

Oundle Winter Hill Climb Challenge

This is a handicap based challenge using 12 uphill Strava segments within approximately 10 miles of Oundle. The competition segments will be revealed on 1 September.

The challenge starts on 1 September and ends on 28 February 2017.

Each competitor’s best time on each hill prior to 1 September is taken as their base time, the aim is to improve your time on each uphill segment during the next six months.

The overall winner will be the rider who has improved their times by the greatest aggregate amount. This can be done by either improving fitness or reducing fatness!

The segments have been chosen such that they are:

  • All uphill to minimise the effect of group riding and wind direction.
  • Close to Oundle so that all competitors are likely to already done them often enough to have achieved reasonable times commensurate with their current level of ability and fitness.
  • Avoid main roads and dangerous junctions.


  1. The best 8 improvements from the 12 possible hills are counted.
  2. Each month bonus points are awarded for the top three single segment improvements.
  3. Group riding is allowed but no pushes or any other outside assistance.
  4. Rides must be uploaded to Strava by the end of each month to be considered for the monthly bonus points.
  5. Riders must join the “Oundle Hill Climb Challenge” group before 1 September 2016. (I may be prepared to add one or two latecomers after this date but because of the extra work that would entail I am not promising…)


  1. The total number of seconds improvement over your base time for the best 8 segments are counted
  2. Each month three bonuses are awarded for the best improvements, valued at 20s, 10s and 5s. (Only one bonus per person per month.)
  3. The winner is the rider with the greatest overall improvement over 8 segments plus any bonuses.

Puch Mistral Royal Force


1986 Columbus SL frame and Shimano 600 equipped.

Project 12h

Last year I set a club record for the 24h TT with 368.33 miles, this year I aim to improve that to 400+. A far more challenging target is the club 12h record which stands at 240 miles.

In order to beat 240 miles I need to improve on the 200 miles I managed in the first 12 hours of last years 24h. How can I do this?

1. Aero benefits of wheels and helmet should increase speed by up to 1 mph. 200 -> 212

2. A faster course could add another 0.5 mph. 212 -> 218

3. Not stop. I stopped for a total of 30′ last year in the first 12h, that will give me 9 miles. 218 – 227

So that leaves 13 miles to find from increased fitness, which is approximately 1mph extra. Putting some guesstimate data into www.cyclingpowerlab.com suggests that I need to find an extra 20W to go from 19mph to the 20mph I need for 240miles.

Is it reasonable to assume that if I can increase my FTP by 20W, my cruising power will also increase by the same?

Also, I don’t know what my FTP was last July. It was 200W at the end of November and is 207W today…

Since I did only endurance work last year and no sustained power training I would guess 200W is close to what it was in July, however to be conservative let’s say my current value is nearer the mark, and round that up to 210W while we’re at it. Therefore I need to increase FTP to 230W before the end of August, that sounds very achievable.

Waymarked Trails Website

I have just discovered this tool for planning cycle routes in unfamiliar locations. A major plus is the ability to download gpx files!

Waymarked Trails: Routes

Good coverage of UK, Belgium, Holland and a few others, more patchy in most European countries but the major routes such as the North Sea Route and the Danube Cycle path are included.