Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Wow it has been a while

Ok so whats going on?

Well I have moved. Basically I have gone from cycling on my own every day to riding with my old club again :D

Before I started writing this blog I was racing for a club in the West Midlands - Stratford CC. Stratford CC is an awesome club with many friendly members. Unfortunately towards the end of 2011 summer  lost my job and by the time Christmas had arrived I had totally run out of money and had to move back home with my parents...

Recently after many painful applications and rejections a friend came through for me and got me a trial day as a chef... Unfortunately I did not perform to the head chefs standards (I was a bit slow, and they were lightning fast), so back to the drawing board it was. After only a couple more applications the same friend rings me and says "Mike we have someone who's leaving on the bar, do you want the position?" I presented this to my parents, I can't say too much because I promised I wouldn't but to cut a story short I am now in Stratford.

There is such a difference when you train with people...

1. Motivation goes through the roof!
2. Boredom factor drops through the floor!
3. The number of missed training days is not worth counting (seriously low)

It is finally sunny in England too! But shhhhhh! You might scare it away...

So life is great, the Giants repairs have not been attempted yet because I have been too busy riding and working  but they will get done soon ... eh-hum hopefully :D

That's all for now but I will send photos soon of the new roads and scenery I now train along, soon :D

Saturday, 12 May 2012

General thought about how my cycling is going so far

Rubbish, < this word pretty much sums up the season I have been having so far. Excellent will be the word that sums up last quarter of the season, I hope to win at least one race this season, I have picked a road race called GT Ellingworth. The race consists of a 48mile course with rolling hills and a couple of tight sections. The race information can be viewed here in more detail.

I have picked this race because I will have entered a fair few races by this point and become more experienced and hopefully my training will have had chance to shine by this point as well. As for the races I will be entering in between now and then well I will just be entering random races as my living situation is not totally stable at this point in time. I am moving around a fair bit (this also affects training) and if I haven't made a solid living base within the next couple of weeks things are only likely to become more unstable.

I have the problem of sorting the Giant as well which looks like the only reasonable solution is to replace the frame. There's one extremely good reason for this which is, the insurance for the bike only gives fair payouts on broken bikes that are new-ish. Putting a new frame on the Giant means money lost in a crash will be significantly reduced. For now though I am going to repair the frame my self as it is relatively easy to do and I have a thing about other people doing mechanical repairs for me. I guess I just like to know the job is done right, if I do it I only have my self to blame.

I am going to do some re-con on the race this week and see what I am getting my self into. I have been on most if not all the roads before but it would be good to see where the danger spots are and where the breaks will happen so a couple of laps on the actual course would be an advantage.

This is all I have for now... One of my future posts will be possible Giant frame replacements...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

My First Race Day this Year

My first race this year was a criterium race held at Barkstone Heath R.A.F air strip by Spalding CC. My dad even came along to show support and take photos for this post - Thanks Dad :D

So the race consisted of 2/3/4th Cat riders which meant this race would be pretty similar to a lot of the races I did last year and boy did it turn out that way. For the first couple of laps I felt really good, I was following wheels well and riding more comfortably than expected, considering the amount of training I had done leading upto this event. This was only a minor race for me so I didn't allow my self much recovery before the race.

There was two hairpin bends on the course and by the 3rd lap I could feel the lactic acid burning every time I accelerated out of those corners which took me by surprise because I was accelerating a whole lot quicker than everyone else and I wasn't even trying. My main thought at this point was to hang on and go for a sprint at the end, unfortunately on the 4th lap people started falling off the back of the pack. I had my work cut out for me because I had been sat at the back most of the time trying to dodge any trouble that may happen in the 1st lap.

Gaps kept opening as people were blowing up and getting shelled out the back, I knew I had made a dumb move sitting at the back. I had to keep bridging gaps and sprinting to catch up with the pack, finally I managed to get back on, it was no use though I had spent all my energy closing gaps and chasing the pack down. So on the 5th lap it was my turn to get shelled :(

I was gutted but I kept riding round as I knew at some point towards the end we would get lapped and I might be able to gain some more pack riding experience for my big race next weekend. There were four riders behind me now who had all been beaten up by the brutal speed of the main group so I decided to sit up and join them in the hope we might recover and possibly even get back on to the main group again. Some other guy dressed in red (I didn't see any writing on his kit) and me gave a few big efforts to catch back on but we got spent pretty quickly and the 3 other guys didn't look like they had left much in them. So we all worked a little to  keep us moving until we got lapped 3 laps before the end (about 8-9 minutes from the end of the race).

We were now back with the pack again and trying desperately to hang on, we all made the mistake of staying at the back once again and the 2 slower guys got spat out really quickly I am not sure what happened to the 3rd guy but he wasn't with us when we joined the pack.

On this course there was 2 hairpin bends at opposite ends of the course and a 90 degree bend that set you up to shoot up a hill and into a really wide 20ft  corner marked off by a cone and then into a long straight for the finish.

After only one lap with the pack I found my self getting pinned in on the really wide 20ft bend marked off by a cone at the back of the pack. I took the inside line on a corner and some idiot who was sitting almost shoulder to shoulder with me accelerated and came across my front wheel. There was almost no time for me to react and I was down before I knew what the hell had just happened. I rolled to a stop, realised that I had just crashed and the disappointment set in instantly. I wasn't hurt, but I looked at my lovely TCR and my brand new Ultegra levers and saw it had taken a battering, my carbon wheels looked ok however. After lying on the grass for a few minutes my dad had wandered over from his photo spot and asked me if I was ok.

When I got up to wander back to the car I noticed a nice new crack in my top tube from where the handle bars had spun round and smashed the pretty carbon frame :(

I am really disappointed with the outcome of the race but I have to say that I had a lot of fun bombing round that track and I wouldn't hesitate to go back and try again with more rest.
As for the the TCR, well I shall have my attempt at repairing her and see how it goes... I WILL NOT GIVE IN! :D

Its all in the Squeeze

If you have read my last post you will know that I have shown some interest in getting some Carbon Kool Stop brake pads. Kool Stops are supposedly the best brake pads on the market, this is because they sell themselves on;
  1. Performance (even when wet)
  2. Price (extremely affordable)
  3. Rim Life (Rim friendly pads = Less time with the bike doctor)
I have not actually bought any Kool Stop pads for my carbon rims yet, but what I have done is bought some Kool Stop SALMON (soft compound) pads for my regular training bike which uses alloy rims obviously.

So yer onto the first impressions, not going to waist any time with this one because THEY ARE AWESOME. I didn't in all fairness think that if I changed my pads that they would make my levers feel different. I WAS WRONG, they make a world of difference. 

  1. Progressive braking
  2. Really good performance in the wet
  3. They make my rims look shiny
Shimano Pads
Something that didn't ever happen for me when I had Shimano Pads was progressive braking, the brakes either felt like they were on or off. When I ride my bike, something that puts the confidence into the way I handle the bike is being able to adjust the speed in which I am slowing down. I feel that this is something Shimano pads 105/Ultegra and Dura Ace (all of which I have used) only allow to happen to a minimal standard. For me this happens because there is no squeeze in the pad, once the brakes are on there is very little give in the lever. 

When you stop with a pair of Kool Stops there is a really nice connection that happens between the rim and the pads. One of the first things that I noticed with the Kool Stops was that they are almost silent... Funnily enough this new found silent braking didn't inspire the question, are the brakes on? This was because I could feel that these bad boys were working their wheel stopping magic. They even provide that squeeze I didn't ever get from my Shimano pads, this long missed squeeze gives me confidence because they provide me with an R.P.E (rate of perceived exertion) that tells me if I squeeze my levers with x amount of force then I should stop in x amount of time or distance.

Kool Stop Pads
 If you ever buy a pair of these pads you will notice the arrow design on them which goes against the direction of the rim, this is to help shed water off the rim so that the lovely soft compound can caress and polish your rims to a nice silent but powerful stop.