Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Forests not fondos

My cycling goal for 2017

You may remember last year that I aimed to ride all 12 of Strava's fondo challenges. Well, I managed 10 out of 12 and while I was pleased with that, there was also a small amount of "I could do better; room for improvement". So I decided that in 2017 I would attempt it again.

But as January dragged on as it always does, I never rode my road bike, didn't plan a route and to be honest, just didn't feel like doing it. I have no problem with the distances, I know I can do it. It's the time it takes. 5 hours for a 100km ride is a great morning out, but with a 17 week old daughter at home, I do feel like I should be there more at the moment. I think my wife wouldn't mind me going on one big ride out a month, but it doesn't feel right to me currently. Perhaps there was the thought that doing the same thing in consecutive years was a bit unoriginal creeping in there as well.

What I have decided to do instead

In late 2015, I completely refurbished my mountain bike. I spent a good couple of weeks sourcing the replacement parts, waiting for them to arrive and then completely stripping it down to individual components: the fork was serviced at Inspiral Cycles in Bishop Auckland, I fitted new chain rings and cranks, new brake lever innards, new hydraulic brake lines, serviced the callipers, new headset and bottom bracket, polished and touched up the frame and fitted new wheels. I spent a small fortune too. The trouble was, in 2016, I only rode that bike once!

I really enjoyed this project - shame I never really enjoyed the result

It's time I spent a bot more time riding this bike. There's a top class trail centre on my door step at Hamsterley, so I could spend a couple of hours riding there once a month in place of a fondo. I'm out on my bike, I'm close to home, it wins both ways!

Yesterday I had an hour or two spare so I went to the forest and blasted around the blue route, hoping the sun wouldn't go down before I made it back to the car. It didn't and I had a great time. I had the forest to myself and remembered just how awesome it is to ride there.

The finished article, back in 2015. It looks like this now actually, due to the lack of riding!

As it happened, the bike needs a little tweaking: the gears need re-indexing and the front brake squeals like a pig. Next time, I'll have these small annoyances fixed and I'll give myself a little bit more time to really take in the forest.

Here's the first forest ride of 2017

Be sure to check out my Strava page for all my rides.
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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Strava Fondo Challenge 2016 - update

Twelve long, monthly rides

If you read my last post, you'll know about why I set myself this challenge and how my progress was coming along. This post is admitting my failure in yet again not achieving my cycling goals (admittedly with the best excuse I could ever have!).

What I had planned

I was doing fine and had something special lined up for October's fondo. I was going to finish work on Friday 30th September and cycle to a campsite just outside of Newcastle and camp the night. Then on the first of October, I'd get up early and spend all day taking in the sights, sounds and presumably smells of the Northumberland coast and countryside as I rode National Cycle Network route 1 all the way up to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Upon reaching Berwick, I'd camp again and then take the train home from Berwick to Durham, then cycle along the old railways from Durham back home. Sounds ideal! I've never done any of this type of cycling, a sort of mini cycle tour so was really looking forward to it.

What actually happened

Basically, my wife went into labour and gave birth to our daughter, Erin, 7 weeks early! Actually there were signs that the pregnancy was starting to get complicated, so Rebecca needed steroid injections in case the baby came early, one shot on Friday 30th September and one shot on Saturday 1st October. It's just as well as Erin came into the world on Sunday 2nd October.

Tiny toes
Technically, she was born just before 4pm. I was due to be home around 12pm on the Sunday, so I probably could have done the mini-tour and not missed anything! However, that would have been really selfish and ultimately, there are more important things than cycling. Not many, but a few exist!

What is weird and freaked me out a bit lot, is the fact that Erin came as I was about to embark on a cycling trip away from home. When Seth was born, I was supposed to be on a cross country coast to coast trip. On both occasions, I had my bikes prepped, gear packed and all ready for the off.

Going forward

October's distance is not looking too good there...

Well, the Strava challenge is off, but I'll hopefully complete November and December. I will start commuting more regularly as I have barely had any time on the bike since Erin was born. We were through at Durham hospital everyday and with Rebecca having a Cesarean section, she couldn't drive. I did manage one commute and hospital visit by bicycle which felt like a rare old treat! Hopefully I will start to increase my monthly distances again. And if we ever decide to have any more kids, get my cycling trips done the weekend after the positive pregnancy test!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Strava Fondos - 2016

What is a fondo?

According to Wikipedia, a fondo is "a type of long-distance road bicycle race, in which riders are individually chip timed and have the right of way at all intersections". So essentially it is a sportive, according to this definition. The first one was held in 1970 in Italy and nowadays in Italy, they are held every weekend between February and October.

June's fondo

So what has Strava got to do with it?

As we all know, Strava is an activity tracking service, focused mainly on cycling and running. With these types of activities, there is always a challenge element attached, whether it is trying to beat a personal best up a massive climb or just getting out one or two times a week. The challenge part is purely personal. Of course, you do not have to challenge yourself, but I think it is healthy to set goals and try to achieve them.

With that being said, Strava has a specific challenge section, where you can join challenges as you see fit. Some are vary from month to month, according to whatever large event is taking place (think Tour de France, Olympics, marathons etc) and there are regular monthly distance challenges for cycling and running.

There is a monthly challenge series for fondos. This blog post from Strava introduced their fondo challenge "as a way to promote adventure, exploration and camaraderie on the bike". Of course these aren't mass, organised bicycle rides like a sportive, so strays from the original meaning of fondo somewhat.

My challenge

It was fairly simple this year: just complete each month's fondo. This would mean at least one big ride a month; a way for me to keep a relatively high monthly mileage and using my road bike.

So far I have completed all of them. What I should have done is write a short blog post about each one and I would have kept up my blogging efforts at the same time. But hey, life, whatever.

I needed to plan August's ride, so I decided to see where I hadn't been on previous fondos. I like to go somewhere new. So I spent a couple of hours playing around with GPX files from Strava and Google Maps to produce this little beauty:

This map will be updated with the rest of my fondos as the the year progresses. Wish me luck!

Have you been participating in the Strava fondo challenge, or any other challenges you have set yourself? Let me know in the comments below.
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