Category Archives: Cycling

Olympics and Plantar Fasciitis

I’ve been unable to go out running for a few weeks now, as I’m nursing a foot suffering from Plantar Fasciitis – self diagnosed from previous experience and google, so how could it be wrong. However if there was ever a time to not be out running, and avoiding the boredom of TV, then this is it. Everyday, for what seems like weeks, brings new sporting success. From the joy of the Tour de France, and the talents of Team Sky to the excellence of Team GB in the Olympics. Its been great spending time in the garage balancing myself and my bike precariously on the rollers, whilst watching iplayer on my laptop, equally dangerously balanced on boxes in front. Whether its Mo Farah, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, or Rebecca Adlington, watching the joys and the sorrows as the events unfold has been priceless. Also, on those occasions where the Olympics have taken second place, I’ve still managed the odd spin round County Down, on those rare sunny evenings.

Cycling with the Tour

Since coming back from vacation, and with incessant rain in Ireland, I can admit, with only some embarrassment, that I have been enjoying cycling in the garage almost as much as the few opportunities I’ve had around the local lanes of County Down. I did however have a great blast outdoors on Sunday morning, down to Sketrick castle and back, enjoying the road along Strangford. However, I’ve also been enjoying the rollers, having precariously set up the laptop on a box infront of the bike, and thanks to ITV4 I’ve been joining the Sky Team on many an epic stage of the Tour de France. The coverage has been excellent, and an otherwise monotonous 40 minute spin on the rollers, as been transformed into a motivated speed, or tempo session. I’ve been using the, all too numerous, advert breaks to launch a fast spin, or higher geared attack, or upped the pace as a break away takes place on a climb or sprint. You still can’t beat getting out on the road, but when short on time, and disappointed with the weather, it does give another training option.

Wiggins wins the Tour de France

Legendary success from Team Sky in the Tour de France culminates in this afternoon’s epic stage win by Mark Cavendish, and overall win by Bradley Wiggins. Today is a proud day for Team Sky, and the UK as a whole, with stage wins over the last three weeks from Sky’s Wiggins, Cavendish, Froome, and Garmin’s Millar. This is a great day for UK cycling, and the culmination of years of dedication, faith and hardwork by Dave Brailsford. Check out the footage on ITV4.

Cycle up Slieve Croob

Saturday morning was a cool and bright start to the weekend, and a perfect day for a cycle. We took the fine weather as the perfect opportunity to struggle up the steep climb of Slieve Croob. Slieve Croob or in Irish, Sliabh Crúb — the mountain of the hoof — rises to a height of 534 metres (1,755 feet) and is the source of the River Lagan.

Once at the top there is a car park, and we headed through the ‘kissing gate’ (though we all maintained a safe distance from one another), and continued up a winding, and at times broken, tarmac path, still struggling on our bikes to the very top. The view on the way was spectacular, and well worth a visit. For runners, or walkers, there are a number of stiles that may be hopped over to continue along the remaining Dromara Hills. The descent was fast, and we made a top speed of 45 mph, which was fairly hairy on two wheels, but we held on tight, and loved it.

Let it Roll

Personally I prefer being outside, rather than being stuck indoors, especially when cycling. However, our weather in Northern Ireland, even in the summer can be unpredictable. When the rain is coming down by the bucket load, it is still often easier, and safer to get a good workout indoors rather than outside. Many people are fans of turbo trainers, and whilst they offer a great, and safe means to train at all levels I prefer riding rollers. Without a doubt rollers take some getting used to, and there are some excellent videos of the falls people suffer whilst trying to balance on them, but there are benefits. Firstly and most importantly they require concentration, and for me this helps pass the time. Then once you are in the groove, with music or a DVD to watch, you can settle in and spin at high speed or just simply tick over. For me they are a worthwhile investment, and 30 minutes of interval sessions can be slotted in to a busy day very easily, and give some real training benefits. I use TACX rollers on the attached advert and find them very stable, with curved rollers to help resist drifting off the roller edges. Initially you will find yourself bouncing on the bike as you hit the higher speeds but you soon learn a more fluid style, as you can feel and hear the tyre/roller contact – these improvements will be noticeable on the road. I love using my fixed wheel bike, with the hope of achieving the smoothness of riding style that the French call ‘souplesse’ – clearly I have a long way to go – by alternating between a fast spin, and an insane spin for one minute intervals. I also believe the fast turnover on a fixed wheel offers some real benefits and cross over for running. Geared bikes work well too, again using shorter intervals at different gears, or aiming for a longer time at a gear that can just be held. Whichever way you train on rollers take care, certainly initially.

Northern Ireland Mountain Biking

Whilst over the water the temperatures are in the high 20’s, Northern Ireland enjoys the balmy delights of 15 degrees and torrential rain today. In this weather its a good chance to dust down the mountain bike, which hasn’t been used since early winter last year. A short drive to Shaw’s Bridge and the paths run alongside the river open up to give easy cycling on a very wet day. Check out Belvoir Forest, and others, on the excellent Trailbadger site.

County Down Cycle

It was a perfect Saturday morning for cycling: sun shining, 15 degrees, and a gentle breeze. On a day like this the legs feel no effort, even from the short, sharp climbs of the hills of County Down and the conversation flows. We took a trip round the often sign-less, smaller side roads to the west of Strangford, along White Rock, and stopping at Daft Eddie’s in Killinchy for a welcome coffee and scone. The location, and food for that matter, was great, and with the sun gracing the top of the water we turned and headed back following Florida road back through Kilmood.

The Hour

Michael Hutchinson, an accomplished time-trialer in his own right, decides to aim for sporting immortality by beating the world record for cycling as far as possible within an hour, on the sloped track of a velodrome. His book, detailing his attempt is a light hearted, but heartfelt journey to his big attempt. On the way he both imparts his love for all things bike related, and the enchanting history of the most curious of records. No description of his challenge would be complete without more than a nod at one of Scotland’s most famous cyclists, Graeme Obree, who riding a handmade bicycle, famously including the bearings from a washing machine, aimed and suceeded at beating the then record of 51 kilometres. The DVD ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is a must-have for any cycling fans, and gives great insight into the single-minded, driven approach to overcome many setbacks, including over zealous officials and depression.