Cycling challenges and holidays

  • Rafe's Cycling Terminology

    It can be hard to find motivation and even harder to get out of our comfort zone and push ourselves further, so here are some top tips on achieving both.

    Firstly I need you to think about where you are on your own cycling journey - don't compare yourself to others, but think about your own health, fitness, experience etc. With that in mind, what is your "comfortable distance" (CD) and "slightly scary distance" (SSD)? With regards to your SSD, this might be a distance you've already done, or a distance you'd like to achieve, but it's important that it's your personal goal.

    Sometimes just getting out on the bike is hard even if it's well within our CD range. The faff of getting changed, getting the bike out the shed, thinking of somewhere to go. Much easier to not bother.

    I find the best way round that is to commit to something "comfortable" in the very near future - whether that's agreeing to meet a friend, signing up to one of our social rides, a ride with a local club or something from www.letsride.co.uk Finding the motivation to make that commitment is really quite easy when you're sitting on the sofa in the cozy warm.  Finding the motivation to go out on your own when you're all tucked up in bed on a weekend morning isn't, especially at this time of year. Arguably no-one will care if you actually turn up or not (well, maybe your friend will if you chose that option!) but I find that if I've said I'm doing a ride, then I will and I'm sure you will too.

    So that's your CD rides taken care of... but what about your SSD ride? For that we should take advantage of a human trait known as "construal level theory".

    Put simply, CLT says the further away something is, the less we are able to think about it - we're unable to focus on the details.  For us as cyclists that means we're always going to more optimistic about events that are a good while away. For example, if I asked you to cycle your SSD instead of your CD this weekend, you'll come up with reasons why you cant (if you don't then replace your CD with your SSD and come up with a proper SSD!) - it's too cold, you're not fit enough, you're not sure. However, if I asked you to do it at the end of the summer, you're likely to agree - you've loads of time to get fit, the weather will be better, you'll have done training etc.

    So go and find that SSD event in the summer (preferably The Big Fat Bike Ride 2019!) and sign up for it. Now.

  • Rafe's FLAB Challenge

    Back by popular demand, it's Rafe's FLAB challenge!

    The challenge is simple, but is a great way of taking you out of your comfort zone and boosting your confidence! Follow Rafe's instructions below:

    "I first did this as a very inexperienced cyclist. My wife and I were going to a wedding that was around my max-cycling-distance from home (as the crow flies) and staying the night. I put my bike in the car and drove us there. The next morning my wife drove the car back whilst I cycled. We met half-way for lunch at a pretty little town – my wife had obviously got there before me but not by far and had a nice mooch round whilst I was pedalling. After lunch, I got back on the bike and she got back in the car."

    Instructions:

    1. Think of the maximum distance you feel comfortable cycling unsupported. It doesn’t matter if this is 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 miles/km.
    2. Go to this https://www.doogal.co.uk/Circles.php
    3. Enter your home postcode in the “Find a place” box and hit “Find”
    4. Enter the number from step 1 into the “Distance from centre” box and hit “Show circle/s”.
    5. Be amazed at how far that covers.
    6. Move/zoom the map around to find a place near the edge of the circle that resonates with you. Could be because the train goes there, you’ve a friend there, it’s a nice place, whatever.
    7. Get to the place in step 6 via train or a lift.
    8. Cycle home unsupported.
    9. Realise a) you’ve probably just cycled 25% further than what you identified in step 1 (because roads don’t go in straight lines), b) you’ve got home under your own steam, c) you’re awesome and can do anything you set your mind to.
    10. Be proud.

    Why?

    So many good reasons for doing this challenge:

    1.  Home is a nice destination and you’ll be motivated to get there.
    2.  You have to do the distance as you’re already on the shortest route home.
    3.  At least half of your ride will be in a place you don’t normally ride in (assuming you normally start/end at home).
    4.  People will be shocked/impressed when you tell them you cycled from x back home.
    5.  It’ll open up your eyes to a whole different side to cycling and your abilities.
    6.  Because the distance chosen was the maximum you’re comfortable with, the challenge is as difficult for you as it is anyone else – we’re all equal!

    The Rules:

    There aren’t really any rules, but just to be clear:

    1.  You’re allowed to pre-plan your route/stops (in fact I’d encourage it, getting lost & adding unnecessary miles/hills is no fun).
    2.  You can do it solo or as part of a group.
    3.  In endurance cycling, unsupported means no backup/support car following you or meeting you at pre-arranged places, you must carry everything with you or purchase it on route from shops/cafes that are available to everyone. However, if it means you do it rather than not do it, then feel free to break this rule! NB: Yes I realise the above anecdote seems to contravene this rule, but I took nothing from the car/wife.
  • A day at the Derby Velodrome

    Fancy riding your bike on a nice easy to follow route? No rain, no mud, no puddles? No cars to avoid? No dodgy right turns at junctions? No junctions at all in fact! Just one slight problem.....the corners are on a 42 degree slope. You read that right - 42 degrees! Oh yes, and you won't be on your own bike, you’ll have to borrow one - one with drop bars, one gear, no brakes, no freewheel.

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    Yes - it was Fat Lad (and Lasses) at the Track. After 9 months of trying to get a slot - it is REALLY popular and busy - I managed to get a one hour intro session for my FLAB group at the velodrome at Derby Arena. And from the speed the other 15 places got snapped up, it was obviously something other people were keen to try as well!

    OK, I'll admit that I've done a few of these intro sessions since the track was opened, but I'd not been for the best part of a year. So as we gathered in reception, I recognised that some of the forced smiles and too loud laughter among the group was hiding a slightly hollow feeling of butterflies under the (mostly) on message array of FLAB jerseys we were modelling. Quite big butterflies to be honest.

    It doesn't get any better as you walk out into the arena. Even with the infield being taken over for this year’s Derby pantomime, it's quite an awe inspiring sight as you walk out under the track and take the steps up to the "D" where you meet your coach, your bike, and your destiny. The D is inside the bend of the track. As you sit there in the pre-ride briefing, you only have to look over your shoulder for that 42 degree banking to loom high above you like a wall of Siberian pine. Imagine, if you will, a very open plan sauna. I was certainly beginning to sweat.

    Our coach, Simon, talked everyone through the basics of a track bike - yes, it really doesn't have any brakes, it really does only have one gear and because it's a fixed wheel you really can't stop pedalling. You should always ride on the drops of the handlebars. Oh, and if you don’t go round the banking at 15mph then gravity will have its wicked way with you, so pedal hard in the bends. We took our borrowed bikes and clipped and clopped our way up the ramp in what to many of us were unfamiliar road cleats and onto the flat safety zone that runs round the inside of the track. Coach Simon had recognised me from my previous visits. "You've been before, you know what you're doing," he declared to me and another of the group who is a regular there and fully accredited track rider. "Off you go while I talk to the rest". I really wasn't feeling quite as confident in my abilities, but begging seemed rather undignified in front of the group.

    You don’t even start off like you do on a normal bike. You hold on to the railing with your left hand while you clip in with both feet. Then you realise that the pedals are all at the wrong position and try and back pedal to correct them – except it’s a fixed wheel bike and you can’t just spin the pedals. Unclip both feet, hop off the saddle, lift the rear wheel, rotate the pedals to where you want them, hop back up on to the saddle, clip back in, right hand on the top of the handlebars, reach along the rail with your left hand, grip it tight, look back over your right shoulder to make sure no one is coming up behind you, then in one smooth motion you pull on the rail with your left hand while you push hard on the pedals and you wobble off along the safety zone praying you have enough speed to stay upright.

    That fixed gear seems like hard work until you get up to speed and then suddenly you are moving more steadily. As I come round to complete my first lap on the safety zone I can see the rest of my group wobbling away from the rail one by one, like little ducklings taking to the water for the first time. Which forces me to commit to the first, flat wooden section of track, the light blue “cote d’azur” – get me, with all the fancy terms! – to give us all room. “More speed” Simon instructs me and points to the brown wooden track itself. The one with the big steep bend in it!

    On the back straight I build up my speed and pull on to the track properly, following the black line just up from the safety and security of the flat cote d’azur. I can see the bend approaching, it seems ridiculously steep but at least I’m only a foot or so higher than normal if I come off now! Am I doing 15mph? I’ve no way of telling, so I push harder on the pedals and the bike and I tilt into the bend and due to forces of physics my long forgotten “O” level never really explained to me I have survived and got round the first bend and just as the elation is about to kick in I realise that the next bend is right there in front of me.  On a 250m oval track, the bends come at you thick and fast, so I keep pedalling hard as I bring the bike up to the next, red line, a bit higher up the track and hold it there, feeling more confident each lap as the warm dry air begins to dry my throat at a surprising rate and my legs begin to complain at the fact that they absolutely have to keep pedalling as I simply cannot relax and freewheel.

    The group have had a couple of goes at starting and stopping so Coach Simon signals for me to come in and stop. Stopping is pretty much a reverse of starting – come down the track to the cote d’azur, relax your legs to pedal more slowly and lose speed over 1 or 2 laps until you ease gently up to the railing and reach out to grab the rail with your left hand just as your legs stop turning and the bike stops. Except that I’m still going a bit too fast, overshoot the rail and have to pedal round again for a second, more successful attempt.

    The group are chatting and smiling to each other – they’ve all successfully started and stopped one of these wonderfully weird bikes without mishap. And it wasn’t as bad as they feared. On the flat. And this is where Simon’s excellent coaching skills come in to their own – as he drops some flat cones along the track in the start/finish straight, he explains that we are going to set off again, three bike lengths apart, building up our speed on the cote d’azur, and then when we come into that straight we have to go up the track around the cones and then drop back down. And we do – round on the light blue bit, up on to the wooden track above the cones then drop back down to the light blue for the bend. Easy. Confidence on the bike improves each lap, the speed eases upwards in response, and the cones move further up the straight section of track with each lap until we are riding up towards the outside of the track and dropping back down further towards the start of the bend. Starting to ride the banking without even realising it.

    After another all too brief rest, the cones are removed and we are off around the track in a long line while we build up speed to that magic 15mph – relatively easy with no wind, no traffic, no potholes – and Simon points us out to the black line to follow it around all the way round the track. Round the 42 degree banking. And we do it! You can feel the satisfaction, amazement, delight as we all realise we are really riding the track at a velodrome. Simon guides us further up the track in stages, red line in the straights, down to the black in the bends, blue on the straights, red on the bends. He drums into us the vital skill of checking over your shoulders before you move up and down the track, to call out “Stay!” as you are about to overtake someone so they don’t pull out in front of you, and then he lets us loose, giving us the chance to see what we can do on the track, to discover how much speed you can pick up as you come down off the banking into the straights, how much easier it is to hold the line in the bends the faster you go.

    Then it’s over – our hour is up. We are all pumped with adrenaline, laughing, caught up in that heady feeling of success that in the space of an hour we had gone from – most of us – total novices, track virgins, to riding laps on the banking. And enjoyed it. For all of us, it was a bucket list ticked off – ridden at the velodrome. No one said they hadn’t enjoyed it, a few were happy to leave it as a one off experience, far more were keen to come back and try it again. It is “just riding a bike” but it’s unlike any kind of bike riding I’ve done before – nervy, anxious, exciting, exhilarating all at once.

    A couple of week later I got the chance to go again on a novice session with my local cycle club – same nervous newbies, same routines with the same coach, same delighted reactions at the end. The next time I ride a bike I’m commuting into work – my old familiar bike, brakes, gears, rucksack, traffic. But it feels slightly different somehow. I feel more balanced, more connected with the bike. I pedal faster to speed up rather than changing up and mashing a bigger gear. My pedalling seems smoother, I’m aware of my feet turning circles, pushed by my thighs. It’s the feeling I had on the velodrome.

    Tempted to try the track? Then do it – there are 5 indoor velodromes in the UK (Derby, Manchester, London, Newport and Glasgow) – all offering introductory sessions with great coaches for people just like you, people who ride bikes for the fun of it and want to try something different. But be warned - it gets addictive. In another couple of weeks I’m going back again with the club to do my Level 2 accreditation. And there’s a speculative eBay search for “track bikes” on my account. It’s a slippery slope.

    And it’s 42 degrees.

    Steve Wadey

  • THE BIG FAT BIKE RIDE 2019 - What's your excuse for not signing up?

    It’s 2019 and that can mean only one thing: The Big Fat Bike Ride is looming!

    It’s our 4th Up North Sportive, which means we’ve got pretty good at recognising when people are making excuses for not signing up. While some people’s reasons are legitimate (fine, we’ll let you off if you live in Australia...), others have expressed the same worries we hear every year about fitness, confidence, hills and other things that in our opinion, you shouldn’t let stop you!

    And we get it - the Sportive can seem like a daunting event for newcomers. But like joining a new gym class or getting out on your bike for the first time in a while, it’s never as bad as you imagine and you never regret doing it! 

    Here are some of the most common worries riders have surrounding the sportive - and our advice on how to overcome them:

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    1) “I haven’t booked the time off yet” or “I don’t know which mileage to do!”

    Just commit! January can be a pretty bleak time and it’ll make you feel great to get a date in the diary and have something to look forward to. Booking the time off might also give you some extra motivation to train if you’re feeling the post-Christmas slump.

    Unsure which ride to sign up for? Our rule of thumb is that if you can comfortably ride 80% of the distance you’ve signed up for at 10mph, you’ll complete the Sportive no problem! Set yourself a realistic target and consider signing up with a group of similarly-able friends for an added boost of confidence on the day.

    Our Fat Lad team are also here to advise you. Email fatlads@fatladattheback.com with any questions - no matter how silly!

    2)  “I won’t get up the hills!”

    This is perhaps the most common excuse we hear. The main thing to remember about hills is that the worst possible thing that can happen is you have to get off and push. Is that really a problem? Of course not! No matter how slow you go or what place you finish, you’re still lapping everyone on the sofa who didn’t sign up!

    Every year, riders walk up the hills and our Ride Marshals are always there to make sure no-one gets left behind! If you want to volunteer to be a Ride Marshal, email us for more info.

    3) “Something might go wrong with my bike and I won’t know what to do!”

    With 1000 riders taking part, it is inevitable that some will get a puncture - but this isn’t the end of the world! If you don’t know how to fix a puncture, it is worth learning beforehand. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to master after a few practices! There are loads of basic YouTube tutorials with step by step guides on how to change an inner tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwwfV99VV8I

    We do recommend that you carry a puncture repair kit with you just in case. But most importantly, don’t panic! There will always be people willing to stop and help you if it’s not something you can fix yourself.

    4) “I’m not fit/confident enough!”

    If you’re worried about your fitness level, signing up to the Sportive can be a really great way of motivating yourself to get fitter! It’s still 3 months away, so you have plenty of time. Our 25 miler is a great ride for beginners, although don’t expect it to be totally flat - this is Yorkshire after all!

    All participants also have the option of riding in a group supported by one of our FLABulous Ride Marshals. These friendly groups are full of like-minded people all encouraging one another to do their best! If you’d rather ride on your own, each route is fully signposted and can be downloaded before the event. We also make sure to set the longer distance riders off first so you won’t have many people overtaking you!

    Our Sportive is well known for being the most inclusive, friendly event in the cycling calendar. Don’t believe us? Check out our Sportive page to read last year’s reviews: https://fatladattheback.com/sportive/flab-sportive

    Tempted to sign up yet? We hope so. One lad once forgot his shoes and still managed to take part, so you've really got no excuse! We can’t wait to see you all there for the biggest, fattest Sportive yet!

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  • The British Cycle Quest

    Discovering Britain (and re-discovering my passion for cycling) on ‘The British Cycle Quest’

    In late 2016 after a sixteen-year hiatus I bought two bicycles (Road & MTB) and almost immediately stumbled across two things that really spurred me on and encouraged me to get out on my bike. One was the Fat Lad At The Back brand that sold me some functional clothing that wasn’t skin tight and comfortably accommodated the weight I had gained during my absence from the saddle, and the other was ‘The British Cycle Quest’- a challenge devised and administered by Cycling UK.

    I will summarise my first two years on the BCQ and hopefully give you a feel for why I believe this to be one of the hidden gems of Cycling UK’s work.

    What is the BCQ?

    It's probably the most common question I’m asked when I mention it to people, and the nearest short answer I can give is ‘cycle touring combined with an element of orienteering’. Basically, Cycling UK have set up a scheme whereby every county / region in the country (including Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Shetlands, etc) has six checkpoints which need to be visited by bicycle, added to together this forms a complete list of 402 checkpoints.

    Participants in the BCQ are required to visit each checkpoint and answer a question about that checkpoint, answers are then submitted on question cards which are submitted to Cycling UK for validation. Awards in the form of certificates are gained at 10 and 50 checkpoints, and Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum medals are awarded at 100, 200, 300 and 402 checkpoints respectively.

    One of the attractions about the BCQ for me is its relaxed nature – there are no organised events, no specific routes to be ridden, and no time limits, all Questers need to do is submit at least one answer every five years to be listed on the active Questers list. The Questers that have completed all 402 checkpoints (around 20 to date) have generally taken around 8-10 years to complete the Quest, and many Quester will never complete the entire Quest but will always have it as an aspiration.

    How do you get started?

    Participation in the quest is essentially free as the question book can be downloaded from the Cycling UK BCQ page as a PDF. If you wish to submit answers for validation there is a small charge for question cards – each card can accommodate ten answers, and the full set can be purchased for around £15. Certificates are free and there is a small charge to cover the cost of medals when those are gained. But if you don’t want the awards then the Quest is free.

    As there are six checkpoints in every county there is almost certainly going to be some that are local to anyone looking to start the Quest so getting started is easy. The majority of the checkpoints tend to be in places of historic interest such as monuments, listed buildings, churches, National Trust properties etc, and all are publicly assessible without having to pay any additional fee for entry.

    In general a decent day tour of around 40-50 miles will likely be able to take in two or three checkpoints within the same county or in neighbouring counties, and in some places such as Greater London or the Isle of Wight all six can be covered in shorter distances, and because the rules of the BCQ allow you to drive or take public transport to the general area visiting checkpoints can often be combined with other activities such as visiting relatives or going on holiday etc so long as you take your bike to get to the checkpoint – I once even managed to combine going on a training course for work with a quick twenty mile ‘training ride’ in the evening to a local checkpoint.

    Making memories

    The Quest has taken me to some great places in the last couple of years such as the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, the Hardy Monument in Dorset and Culver Down on the IOW both of which where at the top of ferocious climbs but with views of the surrounding country side that made the effort totally worthwhile. There have of course been the inevitably odd bad day, getting drenched in Surrey after the weather forecast got it completely wrong, and getting the front wheel of my bike wiped out by a supermarket home delivery van in Dorset were probably the only two which after more than thirty days spent questing isn’t a bad ratio.

    The checkpoints for the Quest can (in my experience) be visited on any kind of bicycle as they are all in places where any skinny tyre road bike can go, and I’ve even visited checkpoints on a Brompton – most notably in London where I managed to visit all six in one day, combined with a bit of tourist sight seeing and tube riding so if you have a bike then you also have pretty much the minimum amount of equipment required to compete in the Quest.

     

    In the space available on relatively short blog post I really can’t do the Quest justice, so I recommend visiting the BCQ page on the Cycling UK website (link below), downloading the question book and giving it a go – it won’t cost you a penny to try it out but I’m sure you’ll be hooked. If you’re interested in more information I have been keeping a detailed online journal of my questing adventures the link to which is also below.

     

    Cycling UK BCQ page - https://www.cyclinguk.org/british-cycle-quest

    My Questing diary – http://www.quest.nwarwick.co.uk

     

    Neil Warwick is a FLampion organises FLAB Social rides in Berkshire. You can find out more about Neil's social rides here on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/groups/2101517010129959/

  • Top Cycling Trips on a Budget!

    Tilnar challenge ( This Is Life Not A Rehearsal )

    This unique event takes place on 25th June this year between 6am and 9pm.It’s a simple idea, sign up for the event at Tilnar Cycle Challenge select what category you’d like to enter, there’s something for everyone, all ages and abilities and even the option of doing it on a static bike! You ride whatever route and distance you want for as little or as much as you want. So, whether you want to ride a couple of miles with the kids or set yourself a personal challenge of doing your furthest ever distance this is a fantastic idea that In my opinion the most accessible and inclusive event in the cycling year.
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    Entry fee for an Adult is just £2.95 with a £5 donation to charity

    FAT LAD AT THE BACK-THE UP NORTH SPORTIVE- 7th May 2017

    Described by many as 'THE FRIENDLIEST SPORTIVE THEY’VE EVER DONE' our Up North Sportive takes to the roads again and is just the incentive you need to get on yer bike.
    Same routes as last year, the routes have been planned by Fat Lad in Charge Richard Bye, who grew up in Ilkley and has been cycling the surrounding roads for the past 20 years, so you’re in for something exceptional.
    Breathtaking views, historic locations, superbly enjoyable cycling, varying levels of challenge and hills (that goes without saying!).

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    Our emphasis is on enjoying the ride so these routes avoid some of the worst lung stinging climbs available and offer interesting, varied, challenging and well balanced rides, that you only get with local knowledge.

    Our objective is to ensure that you have an ace day out, meet some of the awesome lads and lasses in the FLAB community and leave wanting more. Not more to eat however - our lunch stops are legendary!

    There are 3 options, so there is definitely one for you. The three rides overlap and include sections and drink stops which are shared so you have every chance of meeting up with riders who are on the other 2 routes. £30 entry for the 25 mile route. FLAB up North Sportive

    RIDE TO THE SUN –Sunday 17th June 2017 free entry

    Register here-ridetothesun  After cycling 100 miles through the night you arrive on Cramond beach to watch the sun come up.

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    UK Cycling events

    UK Cycling events offer a huge range of sportives all over the UK. They offer several distances on every route so there’s something for all abilities.

    The C2C2C -29th June 2017 is a 100 mile charity cycle ride that takes you across Linconshire from Castle to Coast to Castle more details can be found HERE

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  • Top Cycling Trips - Splash the Cash

    Lifecycol is the business of Amy and Ian Johnston. They offer pre-organised, structured cycling and fitness breaks. There are two training camps planned in 2017 run in conjunction with Better cycling coaching company and led by Mike Wilson. Bike fitting is on hand to help cyclists improve their riding based on the advice of qualified coaches.

    25th June- 2nd July

    2nd July – 9th July

    Prices start at £550 per person- based on two sharing at their partner chalet down the road which is full catered except for lunch.

    They also offer exclusive, personalised breaks designed for your group’s needs. Prices to stay with Lifecycol at Chalet Avenir start at £835. They are passionate about food and know how extremely important quality nutrition is and offer a 4-course meal with their half board package. Amy is a qualified PT and Yoga teacher and can offer pre and post ride stretching which will help alleviate those aching muscles from climbing the local cols.
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    A 75 minute transfer from Geneva airport, the stunning Chalet Avenir is in Morzine in the French Alps, this awesome alpine location is a world class cycling playground that has hosted a stage of the tour de France and L’Etape du Tour and also has world class mountain biking in Morzine and nearby Les Gets which boasts some of the world’s best downhill trails.

    Hot tub and stunning deck for post ride relaxation.

    Bike hire available nearby with top end road and mountain bikes available.

    Lifecycol’s local knowledge and expertise means they can organise and support you on daily rides on varied terrain.

    Visit the lifecycol website for more details
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    LEJOG-Land’s end to John O’Groats

    An iconic long distance ride the entire distance of the UK approx 1000 miles depending on which route you take. There are many options for this ride, and you can take a few days or a few weeks, do it self-supported using hostels, camping, B&B’s or doing it with a cycling holiday company who organise the route and move all your bags. I used Peak tours for my supported 10 day LEJOG in 2015 and they were superb. There is also a LEJOG pack available from cyclinguk packed full of all the info you need to organise a self-supported trip.
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    Cape town cycle tour

    The annual Cape Town cycletour is the world’s largest timed cycling event with 35,000 riders traveling from all over the world to take part. It’s a 109km route through some spectacular scenery with Table top mountain as a back drop. There are many packages available with some offering guaranteed entry, flights and transfers all included.

    CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 10,  during the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour 2013 on March 10, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa Photo by Greg Beadle/CTCTT/ Gallo Images

     

    San Francisco to LA

    Cycling tour company More Adventure are offering a 500 mile bike ride along the west coast of California starting in San Francisco and finishing in LA. It’s a 13 day trip but with eight days cycling there’ll be plenty of time for sight seeing.

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    L’Etape du Tour

    Etape du Tour is a mass participation event that allows amateur cyclists to ride a stage of the Tour de France on closed roads. The 2017 event takes place on Sunday 16th July where riders will ride stage 18 of the tour in the Alps. This superb package from sports tours international lets you watch the pros in three stages of the tour and ride Etape du Tour.

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    If you don't fancy selling a kidney check out our lower budget suggestions tomorrow!

  • Top Cycling Trips - Middle of the Road

    DIY trip to Paris

    Ever fancied cycling to Paris?  This fantastic route from Donald Hirsch gives you turn by turn instructions on cycling from Dieppe to Paris. It also includes information on accommodation options along the route, getting home via Eurostar and route advice if you want to do the ride in reverse and cycle back to Dieppe. I’ve cycled it three times and what I love about this route is that it’s so quiet and as you get into the suburbs takes you into the city through the old hunting forests that surround Paris. It feels like a mini adventure as you are carrying your own gear and navigating yourself. I’ve taken two, three and four days to do this trip and have had a great experience every time. It also works out very good value for money especially if you’re sharing a room and many of the B&B’s offer an evening meal as part of the package.

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    NORTH COAST 500

    The North coast 500 is a circular route around Scotland starting and finishing in Inverness. A challenging ride in some of the most stunning scenery the UK has to offer. I’m sure this ride will become an iconic must do on every cyclist’s bucket list, it’s certainly on mine and I’m hoping to complete it this year. You can plan your own or Sheffield based Pedal Nation are one of the first cycling companies offering it as a supported trip.

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    French cycling tours

    There are a lot of companies out there offering cycling holidays in France, recommended by a fellow FLAB Green jersey French cycling tours offer loads of supported rides for all tastes and abilities and also offer special interest tours to the battlefields.

    15219630_1199186206840117_6238064061374746847_n  Way of the Roses 

    At 170 miles long this coast to coast ride crosses Lancashire and Yorkshire. Using minor roads, cycle paths and disused railway lines this route has something for all levels of cyclists. You can do it in one day or take a week to do it a leisurely pace. There’s loads of information on the Way of the Roses website for planning your own trip or there are companies offering a fully supported guided trip.

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    Coast 2 Coast

    The 140 mile sea to sea route is best ridden west to east to take advantage of the prevailing wind, it doesn’t happen very often but I once did experience the elusive tailwind…. loads of information is available on the C2C website

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    Check out our blog tomorrow if you are up for splashing the cash on an awesome cycling trip!

  • Ade’s Top Tips - for a supported long distance adventure!

     

    SW1_6746Thinking of taking a cycling trip?

    Combining a holiday and cycling is the ultimate adventure, but there’s a lot to think about, so where do you start?

     We asked experienced cyclist, former Breeze rider and FLambassador, Adrienne Horne for her Top Tips

     

    1:Type of trip

    Choose what type of tour you want. There are usually two types, a led one where the leader will do all the navigating or a self navigated one.

    The advantages of being in a led group is that you will never be on your own so it’s perfect if you like a bit of company and don’t want to worry about navigating or getting lost. The disadvantages are that you’ll have to ride at the groups pace and you will be riding with strangers, which is great if you like meeting new people, but canbe daunting if you’re shy.

    I personally enjoy self navigation, I feel it’s more of an adventure and I can ride at my pace and stop whenever I feel like it, to take photos, loo breaks etc. without feeling like I’m holding up the rest of the group. I also enjoy my own company or very small groups and I don’t enjoy riding in big pelotons.

     

    2: KIT KIT KIT

    Trust me having a couple of pairs of decent padded shorts that you’ve worn on plenty of longer distance rides could make or break your trip. You should try out all your kit and get to know what’s comfortable, during the weeks leading up to your ride. Two days into a ride is not the best time to find out that those new shorts you bought have a seam that rub you in the wrong area!Loads of thin layers that you can put on and take off are also very useful because when you are riding all day the temperature will vary greatly.

     

    3: Food and water

    This has been a big issue for me, as I don’t feel hungry on the bike and all of the electrolyte drinks and energy gels give me tummy ache. I like to eat proper food that I can digest easily but this is such a personnel thing. You need to find out what works best for you during your training rides. I take small zip lock bags with salted nuts, dried fruit, sweeties and cereal bars. Depending on the terrain/distance I try to eat little and often (every 10-15 miles) and drink water or squash. This is just what works best for me, you will have to go out and experiment to see what works best for you.

    ade diet

    4:Be kind to yourself

    You will get tired and if you ask anyone who’s ever ridden a long distance with me I get GRUMPY!! and you know what? That’s ok!I used to get annoyed with myself for having a bad day or struggling up a hill that on any other day I wouldn’t have noticed and I’d have a whole conversation with myself about how I couldn’t do it and how stupid I was to think that I could and how much I hated cycling! I’ve learnt to accept the negative thoughts and just remind myself that I’m human, middle aged and have just ridden 300 miles so it’s okay to have a bad day, feel tired and have aches and pains.

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    5: Training

    Before you sign up for a big trip, be realistic about how much free time you have to train. It’s a huge commitment and you will have to decline social events etc., as you’ll need every weekend, especially in the weeks before your trip to train. The fitter you are beforehand, the more pleasant an experience you’ll have. Remember that hours in the saddle are more important than average speed and you need to train specifically for your trip, so if there are going to be loads of short sharp climbs, or long gradual climbs, ensure that you train accordingly.

     

    6: Feed stop game

    You will probably think I’m mad but this is a little mind game I always play on long distance training rides and it has been my savior on those really hard days when I’m tired, everything hurts and the thoughts of another long day cycling is filling me with dread.My favorite tea stop is Tanhouse Farm, which is a 25-mile ride, 13 miles there and 12 miles back. So I break all my long days into four either cycling to Tanhouse or home from there as it’s in small 12/13 mile chunks. So I divide my day up as follows:

     

    100 miles is divided into four stops,

     

    25 miles = Morning food

    back on bike but only for another 25 miles until

    50 miles = Lunch

    back on bike but it’s only another 25 miles until

    75 miles = Afternoon feed

    back on bike only another 25 miles until100 miles= cold beer and more food of course

     

     

    7: ENJOY !!!

  • Two Lasses in France

    franceOver the last few winters a pattern has occurred, I can’t ride my bike as it’s too cold/wet/dark/icy… I feel miserable as spring seems so far away and I start reminiscing about warm summer days on the bike and how I miss it. So to motivate myself to keep riding I say to myself “mmm if I have a cycling adventure to look forward to it will keep me training over the next few dreary months”.

    On a bleak Sunday in January this year I decided that cycling across France would be a pretty awesome cycling trip. I like an adventure but unlike a lot of intrepid explorers who’re willing to camp and carry their own gear I like a comfortable adventure, which means a warm bed and luggage transfers. I decided to use a company called Peak tours and luckily for me one of my cycling buddies Jo decided she’d join me on my trip.

    We trained as much as we could, which for me, working Mon-Fri was usually restricted to weekends! But I go to the gym during the week and over the months we increased our distances, would ride Saturday and Sunday and find as many hills as we could on our routes. September came around all too quickly and I felt I’d over eaten and undertrained as we arrived in Portsmouth for the ferry to Caen.france 1

    14 days, 874 miles and 65,533ft climbing later…We had an awesome trip there were mountains that I was dreading, as I’m built for descending not ascending, but to my surprise I loved them!! Sometimes we’d be climbing up for miles but they were long gradual climbs with switchbacks and just the odd short steep section. The descents were breathtaking! I even managed to do Mount Ventoux, which believe me were words I never thought would pass my lips.france 2

    I embraced every minute of my trip, even the dark moments when tiredness and my sense of humor was left on the last hill. I’m not super fit, or the fastest cyclist, I’m just an ordinary middle aged women who loves cycling and I feel so lucky every time I swing my leg over “ Doris” ( my bike ) and ride off for 5 or 500 miles, every pedal stroke to me is the start of an adventure.

    In my next blog entry I’ll give you my top tips for doing a supported cycling adventure.

    Ade

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