I can hardly remember why I originally started cycling - I always cycled as a child, to visit friends or just for fun in the street, which progressed to cycling a few miles to get to work, which sooner or later became cycling 'day outs' to see how far I could go in a day, and then cycling holidays.
Like pretty much every cyclist who takes the sport at all seriously I use a bike computer to see speed, average speed and distance travelled. I don't have a flashy model with cadence, GPS, altitude or heartrate but wish I did!
When non-cyclists hear that I happily ride 60, 80, 100 kilometres, just for the sheer pleasure of the ride, they are often amazed. I'm too old to look young and sporty and it seems that for 'non-cyclists' such a 'feat' is beyond imagination - so how is it that we cyclists become so addicted to the sport in the first place?
Most of us who cycle regularly keep some kind of record of our 'achievements' - perhaps just a scribbled record of where we went, or maybe a detailed spreadsheet of distances and routes along with the time taken and the average speed. Enthusiasts will use a more detailed monitoring program, perhaps including a download of the exact details of the route followed.
But we are still left with the basic question - am I getting better at cycling?
I guess most of us are cycling a bit less given the snow and the arctic conditions of the past few weeks! I've still been getting out once a week (no snow here but it's very cold!), and I have been wearing so many clothes I can hardly bend my arms.
A little while ago I found the rear gears were slipping a lot on my Ultegra 2010 fitted Trek 5.5 and I couldn't seem to adjust them properly - the same problem kept happening after just a few miles on the road. Eventually I took it to a bike shop for them to take a look.
A lot of interesting comments get left on the road-bike site in the 'cycling speed' section - interesting because they start to give a picture as to how we cyclists each compare with each other.
But something troubles me. If we are all cycling along at such different speeds why am I not constantly overtaking slower cyclists and being overtaken by faster cyclists? Really it's pretty rare - and that suggests to me that perhaps we all cycle at quite similar speeds when on the same type of terrain.
Just in case you thought road biking was boring here is a video somone just told me about - not sure I'd try it myself on a road bike (or any other bike come to mention it). Seems there is more to road bikes than you might think:
I've found a new way to cycle faster - it's just not very easy to replicate...
This morning I went out for a ride, and had gone about 50 miles - there were 15 miles more before I reached home. My legs were pretty tired because it had been a pretty hilly route but it was a nice sunny morning, not too hot, and things were looking good.
A couple of times recently on the hills near us I've passed a 'couple' out cycling and chatting. Not unusual, except one of the couple is a very small child, perhaps three or four years old and accompanied by dad. Both times I've seen them they've been near the top of a long hill, maybe 2-3km long at 3-4%.
OK so it's not the Alps but it's long enough and steep enough that I know plenty of people who would be puffing and panting, or cycling at less than walking speed! The little girl, on the other hand, looks completely happy, legs spinning around, and no sign of being hassled by the whole thing. Amazing to see!
After three months of not posting I thought I'd best give an update. Unfortunately it doesn't make happy reading.
In March I pulled a muscle in my back (nothing to do with cycling, I was moving plant pots, then helped move a wardrobe before it was better which made things five times worse!) that meant I had a whole month without cycling at all. Then I also had a long spell where work and weather stopped me getting out...net result, a terrible three months for cycling.
I just spent a week cycling in the Dordogne Valley, and it was such a great experience I thought I'd share it - it might inspire you to go there yourself! Just a note first though - the 'valley of the Dordogne' is not in the Dordogne department of south-west France, it is in the Correze department a little to the east, a bit upstream.
I did very well in the middle of February, getting out most days - but then I had to go away for a week (without a bike!).
When I got back it took a few rides to get back to my pre-trip - don't you think it's shocking that even 10 days off the bike can cause so much decline!
I've been thinking about taking a cycling holiday this year, probably in France, but can't decide whether to 'go it alone' (that is, just turn up with my bike, start cycling, and see what happens next!) or to actually book a cycling holiday where the routes are all laid out for me. Or even whether France is the best place to go - or maybe Tuscany or somewhere else?
With a bit of research it seems there are almost as many records for 'fastest cyclist in the world' as there are cyclists - this is because records depend not just on distance covered but also type of bike, altitude, and most important of all - is there a pace vehicle in front of the bike eliminating wind and drag?
I've tracked down a selection of interesting world records related to cycling speed - you can decide which one to aim for yourself:
Presumably it wasn't long after someone had invented the Penny Farthing bike that someone else said that 'Well, it's very nice...but you know, gears would be useful'.
We won't dwell on the challenges of going up a steep hill on one of these bikes, or the terrors of coming down the other side, but not surprisingly it wasn't long before various versions of gears were being applied to bikes, and they were already in occasional use by enthusiasts before the end of the 19th century.
About a month ago I talked about my goals for 2010 but didn't say much about how I was going to do it. Broadly the goals are simple - cycle about 10% faster and 50% further by the end of 2010.
So far things have been going pretty well. I haven't been training as such, but the weather has been good and I've been able to get out on the bike a lot, perhaps 3-4 times a week, rides between 20 and 30 miles each time.
1903 was the first tour de france and there was an amazing amount of cheating - riders taking trains instead of cycling, spectators throwing nails under competitors tyres etc - and in the first year of the tour there were no mechanics, if your bike broke down you had to mend it yourself, even if it ment carrying it miles to find a blacksmiths...
Ok it's the start of a new year, I'll write about what I hope to get done on the bike this year and write updates how I'm getting on each month. Might motivate me to make some progress!!
You're welcome to butt in with comments and tell me what i should be doing differently as the year goes along.
Background for me is that I am 46 years old, work from home (this is good, gives me some time to get out on the bike), and I restarted cycling about three years ago after too many years without doing much exercise. Well OK none at all. I also spent a lot of that time smoking and drinking (I've stopped smoking but still like a drink...).
Bit like buses that never arrive then all come together it's the same with b***y punctures.
Don't think I had one all last year now this year I've had three already, different places in the tyre each time so its not like I've got a nail in the tyre I can't see, its just bad luck this year, hope it doesn't last. If I get three by february that makes about 50 by next christmas