Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ride 6 - 23 November 2013 - BMX Bike

Not just any BMX bike - oh no. Nothing less than a Raleigh Burner... In the classic blue and yellow - look at that bad boy!!!!
I always wanted one of these as a kid. I had a different Raleigh BMX instead and when I saw one of these on ebay - I thought "that'll do perfectly for the 12 in 12". I picked it up in Fulham, from a lovely fella who was, I think it is fair to say, a bit of a hipster. He said his girlfriend was making him sell it and either there was a bit of sadness in his eyes as I rode it away, or he couldn't believe that he'd got rid of it for cash.

It needed a bit of TLC, new chain ring, new freewheel, a new seatpost (as the seatpost that was on it was about 2cm big and had me riding with my knees around my ears), new cables, new brake pads, a new chain.... But look at it - doesn't it look lovely?!

I probably should have leapt out of bed this morning with the idea of riding this bike, but it was cold and I was nervous about the prospect of riding yet another hideously uncomfortable bike all the way to Brighton.

Indeed, my knees started creaking about 2 miles into the ride, but they didn't seem to get any worse. The problem was that I couldn't extend my legs fully at any stage - the saddle just wouldn't go high enough.

 I was also hanging off of the back of the bike in the saddle position, so pedalling was a bit difficult - and to get out of the saddle, I had to drape myself over the top of the bike. As is usual on these rides, I had to get the magic spanner out just after Croydon as I noticed only one of the back brake pads was on the (Mag) wheel rim and one of the front brake pads was seemingly using the tyre rather than the rim for purchase.

What was nice was the reaction of some people I went past - shouts of "nice bike mate!" from the street and a cabby winding down his window to ask me if it was my actual bike and wishing me luck. What wasn't nice was the impact of the hills which were difficult. The gearing wasn't particularly tough, but I couldn't get any leverage to get power into the wheels and on the first major hill, my legs gave up the ghost and the chain started "misfiring" on the freewheel. My fault of course - I hadn't tightened up the wheel bolts enough and the chain had pulled the wheel forward and lobsided.

I will say this for the Raleigh Burner - it does push well. The other thing that it does well is descend. You'd look at the bike and think (especially in comparison to the TT bike and the recumbent) - that is the most un-aerodynamic bike in the world. Look at your body position. Look at the silly, heavy steel piping, look at those massive nobbly blue tyres (oh yes!) But something about it was just amazing fun to descend. With one gear, there was no point turning my legs over 17mph as I couldn't spin them fast enough to make any difference to my speed - so I "tucked in", made myself as small as possible and enjoyed trying to make the speed as fast as possible. Yes, the speed wasn't that high - but it FELT fast, which is the single most important thing.

Ditchling defeated me again. As did Turner's Hill. But all the rest were climbed (albeit slowly). My legs felt very tired at the end, but those moments going downhill, the time in Brighton where a big hell's angel type roared up to me and shouted "a RALEIGH BURNER!!!! THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!", even the tree surgeon who leant out of his truck to say "That's a sh*t bike mate!" all made me smile. My average speed wasn't horrendous. Whilst I needed a restorative bath for my aching legs when I got home, I can still walk. It was a beautiful sunny day and I'm so happy that I finally got a chance to have a rag (and a very long rag at that) on the bike of my childhood dreams.

Strava details here - 13.3mph average!!!!! I think the max speed of 47mph MUST be wrong!!!!



Friday, 22 November 2013

Ride 5 19 October 2013 Recumbent Bike

Right - my riding has gone a bit skew whiff I'm afraid. I got knocked off by a taxi in the summer and I'd just got over that when I managed to fall off (all my fault), broke a finger, sprained both wrists and then managed to fall off again and did the same thing again to my wrists.

I wasn't 100% better, but needs must, so I got out there and rode!

This was the machine I was on this time round:

So what is it I hear you cry. Well, it is a Challenge Twister Recumbent. It has one big wheel and one small wheel. You sit in the seat, steer under your legs - and pray!

What's the point I hear you ask. Well, a very good question. Generally as far as I can work out, the main advantage is being aerodynamic - you present a much smaller "wall" to the air so you can go faster.

Also, you get a proper seat so you don't have to worry about saddle sores or any other such injuries.

There are a number of unique challenges to the bike though - so we'd better run through them.

Firstly it is the fact that the thing is a bit longer than a normal bike. This leads to a few "manoeuvrability" issues - especially as you can't steer it as hard as a normal bike. Secondly, when you start off, you don't seem to get the immediate balance that you do on a normal bike (granted this may be practice). Thirdly, as an "ordinary" cyclist - it seems incredibly "weird" to be riding lying down - given my recent prangs, being in the position you are normally in shortly before hitting the floor is a bit odd. There was one further issue that I had - but I'll get to that!

The main concern that I had before riding was that I would not be visible enough. This was NOT a concern in the end - people generally were intrigued by this "unusual" looking machine and I think the uniqueness of its look meant it was more visible than a "normal" bike.

As I had a proper seat, there was no need for the lycra padded shorts - so I wore normal knee length ones - I forgot that of course as soon as I got up any speed, the wind went right through them and up the leg of the shorts, rolling them up and making me cold! The other thing was the fact that you are so low that when most cars come past you - their engines are at your head level which was a bit unnerving - I did REALLY like having a mirror though:
There were lots of gears on the recumbent - but after about 30 miles or so, I started to notice a pain at the top of my thighs. Basically the different position was totally testing muscles that I did not normally use on a bike - I was kind of bracing myself between the seat and pedals and what I understand to be my hip flexors were taking the punishment. Things were ok when I was moving, but when I stopped - I was in a LOT of trouble.

I had to get off and walk Ditchling. I was cold, wet, it was windy and I was really struggling with my legs. This was a little concerning as there is still the last hill into Brighton after that - but that was "fine":

As was the lovely downhill into Brighton, but once I'd got into Brighton - I was in real trouble. I couldn't use my right leg to get going. It had seized up so badly that I was lifting it onto the pedal with my hands and then hoping I could send the crankset whizzing around fast enough to keep the momentum going that I could catch it with my left foot again and not use the right. This was fine downhill and where there was no traffic, but just TOO hazardous at the bottom where there is always loads of traffic. I ended up having to walk the last mile to the pier....

 It was such a relief to get there, I didn't mind the final ignominy of pushing it, I was cramping, shaking with cold (despite the mudguards) and very late for my Grandad's birthday party! Thankfully it was all done and that was another "funny" bike ticked off. The cost was the most painful ride that I have ever done. It was like a combination of the hypothermia of the first ride and the discomfort of the Time Trial ride x 1,000!

Strava details here: I think the slow time is a reflection of how much I was suffering in the last 20 or so miles of the ride. I have just seen that my max speed with 43 mph(!) which is certainly the fastest I have been on these rides so far.

Ride 4 Time Trial Bike 17th August 2013

Right. This should be a breeze right? I mean a time trial bike. That's the bike that Bradley Wiggins rode to Olympic glory and gold. This should mean London to Brighton is a stroll in the park.


This is Bradley Wiggins on his time trial bike:

Pro - an example to all.
This is me on my time trial bike: 

Not a lot of similarities there, I think you'll agree - we're both riding a bike, but Wiggins' Time trial bike is a lot spanglier than mine - he has what is termed a "very good shape" on the bike, I don't and he also looks like someone who has been fitted and spent days of training on his bike, honing his position and style in wind tunnels and roads around the world. I look like a bloke who has bought time trial bike bits on the internet, tried to put it together, failed due to the really tricky internal cabling, got help from a nice Australian man called Bruce (seriously) and ridden it once. To Brighton.

Right - let's explain this machine a little bit.
So this is a time trial bike. It is designed to be "slippery" in the wind, to be as aerodynamic and quick through the air as possible. This effect is totally ruined of course when you put a human on it which destroys all the clean lines of the bike. As you can see - the seat tube (where the saddle goes on top of) is designed to fit around the wheel to reduce "drag". The wheels are made of carbon and are "deeper" section to reduce "drag" and also to reduce "drag", you have to lean on the funny bars with your elbows. These are worth looking at in more detail:

Basically, when you are going along, you have your hands on the bits in the middle with your elbows on the pads. If you need to brake, you put your hands on the bits on the outside and hope you've moved quickly enough. The aim is to spend all of your time with your arms on the middle bits. Which after three hours is pretty painful. But it makes you "quicker" (see blurry photo for proof!).

My usual early morning set-off was undertaken with the family still asleep. I hopped onto the bike and headed off. In an attempt to maximise my speed, I had put a contraption on my seat which would hold my water bottles behind my backside (again reducing "drag"). As per usual, this "genius" idea could have done with some prior trialling as I lost my first bottle out of the holding cage going over a speed bump 40m from my front door. By the time I got out of London, this had happened 6 further times and I had to pull over and attach the cages to the frame where they did a faultless job of retaining the bottles. Oh well. 
Apart from the antics of my flying bottles, things were going smoothly - compared to the Dutch Town bike, being on a fast, skinny tyred bike was like driving a Porsche compared to a Fiat Doble. I was flying along and making decent time. I was even able to take a photo of my flying along and of a windmill I spotted for the first time along the way! But the aggressive position was taking it out of me a little bit - I was getting pretty uncomfortable in my neck and shoulders - unused as they were to me being bent double and taking the weight through my forearms.

But to be fair, I was making very good time despite the discomfort - Ditchling Beacon was a challenge dispatched with aplomb and even the sneaky last hill into Brighton was dealt with ok. A very nice man at the top of Ditchling complimented me on my nice bike and I tried to be gracious as I rolled the knots out of my shoulders and arms.

So my analysis of time trial bike is - yes, it is fast. BUT it is also the sort of bike that you should build up to long rides on so that you can get used to the position and I probably should have started/done a couple of short rides before trying a really long one. I doubt very much too that I was considerably faster than I would have been on a road bike (largely because towards the end I was getting out of my "aero" position a lot to try and get comfortable!
Strava details here: getting closer to the 3 hours than the 4 hours plus on the other bikes and the 6 hours off road!