Monday, 2 December 2013


They say your first century is an important landmark for any cyclist, so when my friend Nick Von Vader scoffed at my proposed London-Brighton-Train ride, and suggested making the 100 mile round trip without taking the train, I couldn't think of a valid excuse. Well not quickly enough anyway.
We'd been on fairly regular 75 mile rides, to the hills of Kent or Surrey, and I had improved my base fitness from poor to less poor. Nick's training regime of beer, fags and 100 mile rides, combined with his relative youth had left him way ahead of wherever I was.
Now I've read a few articles about century rides in my time and one thing I've learned is that you need to eat porridge. Add grapes and banana and you have enough fuel for half the journey right there. 
Top Tip: When it's 3 degrees and it's rained the night before use your winter bike, or at least use winter tyres. Two punctures on the way to Brighton. Didn't go down well with NVV.

Cresting Ditchling Beacon in reasonable shape
So far so good. I'd eaten one energy gel and a bit of a bar up to this point. Wearing thick gloves made eating awkward, and on reflection, I should have eaten more.

The classic 90 mile bonk. Mitcham Junction.
So after 90 miles, just minutes after I'd claimed to be feeling great, the dreaded bonk.
I sat by the side of the road on the metal barrier pictured on the left, shaking like a leaf (the temperature had dipped further), and ate everything in my pockets. I squeezed enough energy out of the gels and bars to get me home but only just, as the dreaded cramp was threatening to seize my thighs with its vice like grip. As I reached the end of my road I saw the family coming towards me in our car and I managed what I thought was a somewhat heroic wave, only for them to drive past without seeing me.

I couldn't see the speedo that said, as it turned out, 154 kms, just 5 miles short of the century. Cycling time was 7hrs 10mins.
I should have cycled round the park for five miles, but there you go.
But the main aim was to raise finds for the Philippines typhoon appeal. The target was £1000.00 and we've just about reached it:

Monday, 4 November 2013

DISCOVERING 'TRAINING' (or going from slow to a bit less slow)

It was a combination of the tube strikes back in November 2010 and my office's proximity to Condor Cycles in London that fired my initial interest in cycling. My early efforts were feeble, but technology intervened as I went from this:

to this:

via this:                                                    and this:


My first encounters with Richmond Park were in not in the least impressive.
On the Charge Plug single speed I ground to a halt half way up Broomfield Hill and almost fell off. It seemed that gears might be quite useful after all.
Then, having purchased the Ribble (the Plug became the commuting bike) I set off once again to the Park, practising clipping in and out of my new proper pedals on the way.
However, despite this new found professionalism I again ground to a halt, this time semi-voluntarily, after I had wobbled up Sawyer's Hill with its maximum 9% gradient. I pretended to be admiring the view at the top, but passing roadies weren't fooled and they shook their heads in pity (or was it disdain?). It seemed that enthusiasm alone wouldn't make me a decent cyclist, and my relatively high weight (82Kgs) in combination with my puny legs, had me at a distinct disadvantage.

I spent a couple of years 'getting the miles in', entering the occasional (shortish) sportive, cycling to work and generally getting a little bit faster (which wasn't hard from such a low base), even up the hills . But to be honest, my progress was slow and a couple of encounters with cramp almost put me off completely. It seemed you can go a bit faster if you get a lighter bike, but only a bit faster.

And then along came this man:               on this:

Don't be fooled by the smiling face, or the pint, this (Nick Von-Vader) is a beast on a bike. No ride is too long, no hill too steep, no weather too foul. He acquainted me with Rule #5 of the Velominati Rules of Cycling ('Harden the Fuck Up') and dragged me kicking and screaming round Surrey and Kent. The gentle delights of Box Hill were replaced by White Down Lane and Titsey Hill, 40 mile rides with 75 mile ones.
At first it felt like I was dying, then (and I have no idea how this happened) I found I wanted more.
The benefits have become apparent quite quickly. I'm losing weight, the stamina and speed are increasing, and my blood pressure (I'm currently on the pills) is lowering.
Tomorrow I'm attempting my first century (+) as we're apparently going to Brighton and back (from Clapham Common). To be honest I'm fairly sure I'll bonk after 70 or 80 miles, but if I do there's always the train of shame. I'll have a better chance if I can persuade Nick to take it easy. Seems unlikely.
I've nicknamed Nick 'El Hobbito' (for obvious reasons) and he nicknamed me 'Quadzilla'. I've got no idea why.

I've discovered the joys of Strava, another aid to motivation, and around a year ago I'd be around 5,500th out of 6,000 round Richmond Park, whereas now I'm more like 4,000th. Pathetic, but less pathetic than before.

[left] I've no idea how this  occurred. I can only imagine there must have been a strong tail wind that day.

We vetoed Brighton on the grounds that Nick's poor tootsies were cold and wet, but instead he put me through the wringer (again):

He lured me up Chalkpit Lane, Titsey Hill, Crockham Hill and the fearsome White Lane, the setting for the annual Bec CC Hill Climb event. I think it also feature in the 100 Greatest Hill Climbs book.
White Lane was a challenge too far and as the gradient ramped up near the end I made a doomed attempt to get out of the saddle a la Contador/Horner. 
I had to walk the last 50 meters but I remounted in time to fool Nick into thinking I made it. 

He snapped me attempting to look fresh as a daisy:
Note the bulging quads

Monday, 9 September 2013


Bradley Wiggins' stated targets for the remains of the 2013 season are the Tour of Britain and the World Time Trial Championship in Tuscany on 25th Sptember.
I just found a few photos from back on 1st July 2012 at the London Olympics, when Wiggins followed up his historic victory in the Tour de France with time trial gold.
Great memories.

I was filming for ITN on the day. I cycled from my home near Clapham Common to the centre of the course with my camera gear in paniers, and filmed some interviews, atmospher shots and vox pops with the crowd after Brad's victory. With ITV being non rightsholders I wasn't allowed to film any of the action. In fact I wasn't even allowed to film any part of the course, even without the cyclists on it, virtually on pain of death! 

I also filmed a quick piece for Channel Four News who seemed to have a thing about Wiggo's sideburns. 
I was so full of adrenaline after a momentous day, that on my way home I took on, and just about held my own against, a group of roadies riding round Richmond Park, heavy bike with paniers and everything. Mind you, it nearly killed me.

Bike Cam. Surly Crosscheck, 10 GEARS - Tiagra
After the euphoria of 2012 this year has been a bit of a comedown for Wiggins, but here's hoping he'll finish the season on a high (or two). Which ever way you want to take that!

Friday, 14 June 2013


A recent visit to the Chelsea Flower Show revealed a surprising number of bikes dotted around exhibits and stands. Not a lot of carbon fibre around, but some nice city bikes/tourers!

Saturday, 8 June 2013


 The Clapham Common parks gardeners got the lawnmowers out and have (possibly accidentally) created a grass track bike race circuit on Clapham Common near the Bandstand Cafe. My son Tommy discovered it and we spend a happy 20 minutes doing circuits. Enjoy it while the weather is nice! There´s a lot more than the part of the track that appears in the video.

Tommy was on his Beinn 20 Islabike and I was using my wife´s Giant Avail.

Also this week I was re-aquainted with the Trott family at Buckingham Palace where Laura received her OBE. They´re a great bunch, and it was nice to meet road racer Emma who races in Europe for Dutch women's professional team, Dolmans-Boels. She deserves more credit for what she is achieving in the very competitive world of women´s bike racing which is badly in need of more television coverage. There´s a video of Laura Trott shwing me how it´s done on the velodrome (outdoor) in the right hand column ....

Saturday, 1 June 2013


After a miserable spring I waited until 29th of May 2013 before getting the new 'Summer' bike out of mothballs. Of course after I'd gone about five miles the heavens opened and for the next hour it poured down. No big deal, but not ideal for a test ride. I only managed about 20 miles before I called it a day.
I'd just recovered from two weeks of (proper) flu, followed by a chest infection, followed by a couple of weeks where I was off work after 'putting my back out', so it was impossible to draw any conclusions about the respective merits of the two bikes.
The Canyon is certainly a lively ride and has a more aggressive riding position than the Tifosi. With the new Mavic Ksyrium SLS the only thing slowing the bike down was me and my lack of fitness after the enforced time of the bike. I took it very easy but was pleasantly surprised to see that I set a PR for the Bathgate Road climb on Strava, when only a few weeks before I'd attacked the climb full gas to set my previous record. The ride is here, although somehow Strava switched itself off after 12 miles or so.
The Zonda hubs are very good but the Mavic hubs are excellent, and the build quality is exceptional. The SLS are also a little stiffer than the Zondas, something you notice the most when climbing.

WEIGHT  I weighed the SLS and Zonda front wheels and the results are below:

Mavic Ksyrium SLS front wheel including Mavic 23mm Yksion Pro tyre: 976g
Mavic advertises the wheel at  875g with tyre, but some of the increase is the magnet from my Blackburn Atom bike computer. But only a little. That's quite disappointing (as punk band 999 used to say - remember them?)

The Zonda front wheel with 23mm Continental Gatorskin Hardshell tyre: 1059g
So there's only around 100g difference between the SLS and the Zonda front wheels.
Swap the Zonda's Gatorskin Hardshells with Ultremos and the difference would probably be negligible. 

The Mavics SLS cost over £700 per wheelset (including tyres) whereas the Zondas cost just over £300.00 without tyres. The Mavics are clearly in a different league than the Zondas in terms of build quality, especially for the more competitive cyclist, but the Zondas are excellent value for money, especially as they can be bough for under £300 if you look around. 
I'll weigh the rear wheel next, and it's quite possible that the difference will be greater. I'll tweet when I add that info to the blog. (@elprezcyclismo)

Monday, 11 February 2013


Have swapped to Ksyriums SLs and the bike, with pedals, now weighs 7.94Kgs (large frame). My only other change will be to swap the bars for my spare 42cms ProVibes, which should also shave off a little more weight.

My Canyon Ultimate AL Di2 came with Mavic Ksyrium Equipe wheels, and fine though those wheels are, I'm tempted to sell them while they're still brand new, and upgrade to something a little lighter. I'm going to want to upgrade at some stage, so it makes sense to get the best price for the Equipes.

I'm probably looking at Mavic Ksyrium SLs but have recently read some good reports of the Velocite Gram SL wheelset. The hubs are supposed to be excellent and the wheels are well built and easy to maintain.
At 1400g they're extremely light and they cost just £569 according to the Velocite website.

They are well reviewed here.
"First ride out of the box was stunning, the hub bearings are ridiculously smooth and spin like silk yarn – super smooth. Against my other wheelsets, the Gram SL’s float along, this alone had me chuckling"

I'll update the blog as I delve back into the arcane world of wheel selection.
I'm also interested in:
Campag's Neutron Ultra (£680, 1529g)
HED Ardennes SL (£760, 1450g)
Strada Handbuilt (c.£700 c.1530g)
Cero AR30 (£449, 1400g)
but will research other options.