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Cycling challenge

Little Boxes

By in Cycling challenge, Mountain Biking, Sports & Fitness Comments Off on Little Boxes

As our programme grows we find ourselves visiting more and more new places; in 2016 we will take people cycling in over 20 countries.  Many of these trips start or end at a foreign airport and the topic of how best to transport one’s bike is a contentious one.  Hard sided cases provide great protection but:

  1. They are expensive
  2. Considerable dismantling of the bike is required
  3. They are very bulky to haul in the support vehicle during the trip

Regrettably, for reason 3 above, we cannot accept hard cases on most of our trips. 

Soft bike bags address most of the above problems but the protection they afford is poor.  The manufacturers response to this now seems to be the fitting of an internal cage, rendering them as bulky and unacceptable as hard cases.

The bike you purchased was almost certainly manufactured in the Far East, stacked 10 high in a container, hauled by truck to a port, loaded onto a ship, unloaded at the other end and trucked to a distributor.  From there it was removed from the container and placed in a warehouse to later be loaded onto another tuck and delivered to your Local Bike Shop.  This was all achieved using nothing more than a cardboard box and a bit of careful packing! 

Not least because I am a notorious ‘tightwad’, I am a big fan of the humble cardboard bike box to protect my pride and joy when travelling.  The key to the whole thing is the ‘careful packing’, which finally brings me to my point.  I am shortly off on a cycling adventure (more in the next blog) and I thought it might be worth sharing with you the process of converting my vulnerable and fragile collection of exotic metals into an airline proof parcel.

Step 1:  Select Your Box

Bike shops are usually delighted to give away boxes – they have loads and would otherwise have to pay for them to be disposed of.  Pop in a couple of weeks before the trip and ask them to put a suitable one aside.  If you are feeling generous slip them fiver, it is a good long-term investment.

The crucial trick is to get the optimum size and the most common mistake is to assume that bigger is better.  The BEST box is one that is JUST big enough to contain the bike when collapsed as described below.  Your bike will fit so snugly that it shouldn’t require any packing materials at all!  If necessary do a trial pack as described, measure the result and take these measurements with you to the shop.

Step 2:  Remove The Sticky Outy Bits 

If you use mudguards remove the front one (the rear should be OK) and remove any racks (you may find there is room for the rack to remain, in which case your box is probably bigger than it needs to be!).  Where possible return the removed bolts and washers to their threaded holes – you won’t lose them and you will know what goes where.

Also remove the pedals and the front wheel.  Take a moment to apply a little grease to the pedal threads – it will make removing them at the end of the trip much easier.

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Take the skewer out of the front wheel and make a bag of the pedals, skewer and any other left-over bits.  Tie this bag to the crossbar.

Remove the saddle/seatpost/saddle bag as one unit.  Re-tighten the seatpost clamp so it doesn’t fall off.

NOTE:  There is absolutely no real reason to let air out of the tyres.  Most airlines now know this but some still ask.  I have found that the simplest thing is to leave them inflated and just lie when asked about it!

Step 3: Pack The Main Bit

As well as the box, your Local Bike Shop may be able to give you the bits of plastic that the manufacturer uses for shipping.  There is a plastic bar that sits in the front fork drop outs and a plastic gizmo that sits on the end of the rear skewer to protect the derailleur.  These are not essential – I never use them and have never had a problem.  

Put the bike in bottom gear (little ring front, bike cog back).  This pulls all the vulnerable bits in close to the frame.  Remove the handlebars and stem as one piece (this preserves the position of the bars on the stem):  undo the bolt/cap on the top of the fork steerer tube, loosen the bolts that clamp the stem to the steerer and pull the stem upwards. Once removed replace the bolt/cap in the top of the steerer.

Turn the forks through 90 degrees.

Suspend the handlebars from the cross bar – this is the only tricky part, see the picture.  Depending on the type of bars and frame size the best position may vary.  Usually this can be done so that the only parts in contact with the frame are those wrapped in handlebar tape but if you are worried wrap a bit of old towel round the frame first.

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Pick the bike up with one hand, holding the handlebars in position with the other.  Hold the box open with a third hand….or get someone to help.

The whole thing should drop in neatly and snugly.

Step 4:  Pack The Leftover Bits

The front wheel should fit down one side – you may need to experiment with whether the handlebar hangs on the left or right and exactly where the crank arms rest to create the optimum space.

There should a nice space somewhere for the saddle/seatpost combo.  You may want to use a little bubblewrap to keep is secure and protect the frame.

Mudguard can usually be placed around the front wheel.

There should be enough space to tuck in the rack (often just sitting on the rear wheel) and, with a bit of creativity, you will probably still find room for your helmet and cycling shoes.

Step 5: Seal

Packing tape does a good job.  Be careful not to tape over the handholds that are usually cut into the sides and end of the box.  If you are a ‘belt and braces’ sort of person add a couple of luggage straps.  A useful by product of doing this is that you can attach a shoulder strap to them giving you a means of hauling everything to check-in.

 

I cannot guarantee that a bike packed this way will emerge unscathed but you have given it the best possible chance. 

The Long and Winding Road

By in Cycling challenge, Sports & Fitness Comments Off on The Long and Winding Road

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The longest-standing record in cycling (and probably in athletic endeavor of ANY kind) is the Highest Annual Mileage record, or HAMR.  Or rather is WAS! In 1939, Tom Godwin (a Brit) rode an astonishing 75,065 miles and for most of the last 76 years it looked like the record would stand forever.  However, on Monday an American named Kurt Searvogel (aka ‘Tarzan’) notched up his 75,066th mile since starting his attempt on the record on January 10th 2015.

I don’t want to belittle Kurt’s efforts (they are truly incredible ) but:

  1. His final tally will probably only exceed Tommy’s by about 1000 miles despite having access to the very best kit the 21st century has to offer.  Tommy Godwin set the record long before Lycra, carbon composites, high intensity LED lights and 22 speed gear sets.   
  1. Kurt has been riding in the US, where he can chase the good weather.  He has mostly been riding in Florida and I can tell you from a recent trip out there – it isn’t the same as plugging away through a British winter! 

There is obviously no way of making a meaningful comparison between the two efforts.  Kurt is the new record holder and deserves to bask in the glory but what Tommy Godwin achieved remains, in my book, the greatest cycling feat since the dawn of time.

Kurt better enjoy his moment in the spotlight because it may be brief.  Until April another Brit, Steve Abraham, was snapping at his heels when a prat on a moped knocked him off resulting in a broken ankle. Steve kept riding but, having lost about 6 weeks while it mended, the attempt was effectively dead in the water.  The beauty of the HAMR is that it doesn’t have to be a calendar year, so Steve re-set his trip meter in August and effectively started again.  This means that, at the end of this new 12-month period, he will have been riding 200+ miles per day for 19 months!!!  The man is clearly bonkers but you can’t help admire him.  Anyone whose response to a broken ankle isn’t ‘bollocks to that – I think I’ll stop’ but ‘OK, I’ll just cycle an extra 36,000 miles’  is clearly pretty determined and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a new record holder come August.

If all of this has pricked your conscience, or you have already resolved to up the mileage a bit this year, take a look at Bike Adventure’s longer-distance ‘epic’ trips.  The US Pacific Coast Highway, New Zealand Middle Earth Tour or London to Venice (or even London to Dubrovnik) would all make a splendid 1200+ mile contribution to your own personal HAMR in 2016!

 

The core to cycling.

By in Cycling challenge, Sports & Fitness Comments Off on The core to cycling.

A stronger core can help improve your cycling.

Core MusclesThis is an undisputed fact, but why is it that many cyclists only concentrate on working their leg muscles? Often it is because they don’t really understand the relevance of a strong core in relation to cycling; either that or it’s a time issue.

For cycling you need power (i.e. the production of watts). Power is an integral part of cycling and strength is the main component of power. When we say strength, we don’t mean bulking up to look like a muscle-bound meathead, we mean lean and strong.

Even amazing leg strength is not enough, as without a strong stable core you will not be able to properly utilise that strength. This quote from Graeme Street sums this up perfectly – ‘It’s like having the body of Ferrari with a Fiat chassis underneath’.

So now that we have established that a strong core is essential for great cycling, surely we should understand the reasons why? Having a solid core will help reduce unnecessary upper-body movement; this in turn will deliver the energy you produce from your legs into a smooth pedal stroke. 

The traditional cycling position requires the core to support you, however it doesn’t really develop your core whilst riding. Without a strong core, a long ride will often finish early or become a real problem due to some kind of pain in your body other than your legs, usually your back or neck. This will normally come from your abdominals, obliques, latissius dorsi and the muscles around the spine quitting before your leg muscles.

Cycling, just like any other sport, should be fun and we should enjoy it. Pain takes the pleasure away from most sports – building a stronger core could help solve many pain issues for cyclists. 

So how can you improve your core? There are a vast array of different core exercises out there and you just need to pick routines that work with you and your lifestyle. The great thing about strengthening your core is that you don’t have to have much time, any equipment (unless you choose) or much room. You can strengthen your core from home if you choose, and by not having to attend fitness classes or a gym you will be quids in. Those savings can be used to put towards equipment for your bike or maybe a cycling tour!

Starting out on a new regime to improve your core? Google ‘exercises for the core for cyclists’ and I think you will be amazed how many different sites, boards etc. there are. If you were to pick just one exercise to do, then it would have to be the basic plank ,also called a hover. The plank will work more than just your abdominals, it also works the glutes and hamstrings, supporting proper posture and improving balance. Here’s how to perform the plank:

  • Lie face down on the floor. Raise the body up with the forearms while balancing the lower body on the toes.
  • Do not sag around the abdominal region. Keep the body as rigid as possible.
  • To hold this position, you will notice that you need to brace and contract the abdominal muscles.
  • Hold for 30 seconds (less if that’s all you can do), lower and then raise again. Do 10 repetitions or less to start with.
  • Alternatively, hold until failure (you flop down), or three minutes, whatever comes first. Do three of these in a set. You will feel the abs burn.
  • Test yourself to find what your maximum time to hold the Plank position is, and then try to beat it as you develop strength. If you can hold for three minutes, you are doing well.Plank by Jaykayfit

 

(Don’t forget to breathe. If you feel pain in your lower back then you need to lower it and rest as the abdominals have stopped working.)

Remember preparation & prevention are essential for longevity in cycling; if you are planning any of our wonderful cycle touring experiences then being ‘core ready’ will ensure your cycling is so much more enjoyable.

 

 

 

 

 

Has the ‘Tour’ inspired you?

By in Cycling challenge Comments Off on Has the ‘Tour’ inspired you?

Has the ‘Tour’ inspired you?

I don’t know about you but whenever I watch a fellow cyclist, or any other sports person do well I cannot help but feel that warm fuzzy feeling of achievement on their behalf.  One thing is for certain:   Chris Froome deserves the glory and should be soaking it all up and taking a well-earned rest.  Winning the Tour twice is an astonishing feat.

All the excitement has boosted my urge to get out and cycle, and I know it will have had the same effect on many people who are maybe looking to set themselves a challenge for the coming year.  Did you know that in the latest survey (http://www.cyclinguk.org/resources/cycling-uk-cycling-statistics) about 8% of the population aged five+ cycle three or more times a week – that equates to around 4.64 million people.

There is obviously a big difference between just cycling to get to work or taking on a cycling challenge.  The dedication required to cycle the Land’s End to John O’Groats route is way higher than that of the leisure cyclist who cycles to the pub and back on a Sunday afternoon, but many people decide on this particular tour as the first one to do.  By riding for charity it adds to the incentives to get out on your bike even when we seem to have endless days of rain and other poor conditions. 

Many of our team have been on the journey of getting back to fitness and completing a challenge after a period of injury, illness or just to push ourselves further.  We can help guide you, offer training and kit advice but at the end of the day it is down to you.  So here are our top 5 inspirational tips we are going to pass on from Chris Froome’s performance on the Tour –

  • Set your goal and enter the challenge – you cannot complete it if you have not entered!
  • Believe in yourself – Chris overcame much criticism and abuse to win.
  • Get kitted out – it need not be expensive but the right kit can make training more comfortable and effective plus cycling in your undies can turn heads – you need to think about road safety here!
  • Join a club – Chris could certainly not have won on his own, team Sky were phenomenal. The advice, support and experience will advance your training physically and mentally.
  • Enjoy it – relish the new fitter you, boast about how many miles you cycled before breakfast and be sure to flood your Facebook page with images of you at the end of your challenge.

 

P.S. remember to also share them with us so we can share your glory too…

Go get ‘em tiger…..