Let’s talk cobbles. Why oh why would anyone think riding over gap strewn paving would be fun? It’s pure evil I tell you!
I went cycling in Flanders recently, heading to Belgium to ride the famous climbs and routes from the Tour of Flanders, or Ronde van Vlaanderen, as it’s known to the cycling mad locals, or simply The Ronde. Here’s my routes, along with an insight into cycling in Belgium, riding the cobbles, bergs (hills), and wind, plus a certain type of cyclist.
Cobbles and cycling. Belgium right? The Classics of the early season calendar. Moules et frites. Passionate fans, grim weather, steep climbs. Not Halifax, England. Pie and chips, bleak post-industrial landscapes and well, cobbles, steep climbs and the desolate moorland.
This is the scene for the Ronde Van Calderdale route, a tribute to the Spring Classic races in Belgium but most definitely British. The route climbs a whopping 3,000 metres over 75 miles, many of which are up very, very steep cobbled climbs.
Who is the creature who returns home exhausted, depleted? Dry salt caking face, heavy black rings lacing eyes, more aches and pains in legs than your average nursing home. This is the cyclist who has ridden too far, too high. Bitten off more than they can chew. The route too big for their legs.
The clue is in the name. Peak District. The road is either up or down, rarely flat. Hard up, terrifying down. Short yet sharp climbs to test the legs followed by twisting, snaking descents to test your grip on the brake levers.
Yet the ever changing landscape is magnificent, one minute rolling moorland, the next craggy cliff faces, a twist and turn here, there, a glorious ravine, a wooded valley, a bustling twee village blurring on by.
Is a time trial a race? A race of truth say some. No wheel sucking, no team to power you to the line. Was I racing others? Yes and no. I was very pleased with my position in the race and the er, first prize money of my budding career, he says, just shy of veteran age!
Yet I wasn’t really racing others. How could I, riding a TT on a road bike, loaded with two water bottles, a saddle bag, and a full loaf of Soreen bulging out of my jersey pocket. What? Some of us were heading off for a proper ride after the TT.
Brutal. Coast to coast, sea to sea, and back again, in two days. 224 miles. Easy. 5,800 metres of climbing. Ouch. Heavy rain and riding into a 43 mph headwind hour after hour. Eugh. What the hell was I thinking?
Truth is, I have no idea why I attempted a double C2C ride in March, the tailend of the UK winter. The classic sea to sea route doubled as I figured it was logistically easier to drive to the centre of the route and ride each way and back. A lot of effort to avoid taking panniers or catching a train!
Yet once an idea forms, it becomes difficult to shake, even with the daunting prospect of howling headwinds and more rain than Noah’s nightmares.
The FTP test is the cornerstone of cycle training plans and workouts. Without knowing your Functional Threshold Power you’ll never know which power zones you are training in and as such your workouts are likely to be less effective. Knowing your FTP will also help you pace efforts on the road or in a race.
Consider this blog a beginner’s guide to FTP, focusing on the different kinds of FTP tests, providing FTP test tips and strategies, plus a look at the best ways to improve your FTP score with better pacing.
Ding, ding, bike on the road! Ding ding, careful now. Ding ding, excuse me and my two wheeled contraption. Ding ding, look away from your phone and focus on the road you’re crossing. Ding ding ding ding, is this annoying? Ding ding ding ding ding, why are you angry I have alerted you to my presence? Ding! What the hell is bicycle bell etiquette?
I’ve fitted a bell to my commuter bike. My oh my. Who’d have thought such a simple act would be so fraught with existential questions?!
Old school. A village hall in the middle of nowhere marks the start of most Reliability Trials. Instant coffee in a polystyrene cup. Bottomless, for an extra 50p. Pre-ride cake. Mid-ride cake. Post-ride cake.
There’s no gel handouts on a reliability ride, no electrolytes, no timing chip, just a piece of paper and a home printed certificate to acknowledge your ride. Pah, it’s almost as if Strava doesn’t exist. Come the end there’s no medal to hang around your neck. I know, it was news to me that I’m no hero for riding a bike.
Reliability Trials flirt with a certain romance of days gone by, a chance to revel in nostalgia, for this is club cycling’s heritage, when men were men and bikes were steel. Roar! Yet a Reliability Trial is far removed from the machismo and competitive nature of many cycling events. It’s refreshing to be a part of something that’s very much, well, nothing, more so in this sportive filled age of epic bike rides and boutique cycling festivals.
I don’t know how it began, nor why. Before I knew it I was clocking up monster winter rides every weekend, 100 miles minimum. December through January. In the UK. Nuts?
Average ride temperatures between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius, 8 hours of daylight if you’re lucky, or if you actually bothered to set your alarm, which I didn’t. Setting off late morning into the gloom, the day already darkening. Part of some grand training plan? Kind of, but not really. I was simply enjoying myself. Why?