Saddle Sore – Reviews, Rides & Rablings – Cycling Blog

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Trying To Get Back In The Saddle

Since February this year the amount I’ve been cycling (if at all) has reduced significantly and there are a few reasons (for reasons read excuses).

  1. CHILDREN It’ll be no coincidence that my cycling started to wind down early February when Etta, child number two, made an appearance – she has a lot to answer for. Like it or not, things change when you have a baby, and more so with a second. As you might expect pretty much everything else comes second to them. Sarcastic thanks to Kitty and Etta. They also have swimming lessons on a Saturday morning/afternoon which would have been a favoured cycling slot for me.
  2. CARS If the girls have been getting us up at night or the cat has vommed on my pillow, when I wake in the morning I just look for the path of least resistance and most coffee – a car and Costa (I’d prefer Starbucks) is that path. In mid 2015 we got a new campervan, in early 2016 I got access to a company car. and in mid 2016 a Costa opened up en route to work
  3. NEW COMMUTE In late 2015 VOXIT (the company I work for and quite possibly the best IT support in the South) moved to lovely new premises in (the pretentiously named) Lee-on-the Solent. This makes my shortest cycle commute 12.1 miles, about 3 miles longer than before. The extra 3 miles contains a horrible long stretch along the A32 and Newgate Lane (B3385); it is very busy and/or very narrow, completely unpleasant to cycle and the disconnected cycle path fragments are in my opinion even more dangerous to use. I have no real problem with the extra miles, it’s just that they are horrible and dangerous miles.
  4. ACHES & PAINS As I started to find cycling a bit of a struggle, minor niggles began to be exacerbated by lack of enthusiasm. I started to feel the bike was the wrong size for me even though it is almost certainly not. My neck/back started to feel sore(r) and the outside of my right foot would hurt. Being on the bike just didn’t feel as confortable or natural as it once did.
  5. OTHER THINGS I’D RATHER BE DOING With having a new (to us) campervan that we could all comfortably go away in it gave me something else to do that I really enjoyed. I love camping and I even love camping with the girls (don’t tell anyone I enjoy spending time with my family). I enjoy going away for a weekend in the van with the fam; previously I would have been out cycling.
  6. MODERATION I’d terrible at doing things in moderation, it’s all or nothing. So when I started not wanting to cycle everyday I felt like not bothering at all.
  7. LOSS OF FITNESS I don’t do much exercise other than cycling so when that stops it starts a bit of a vicious circle. Having said that, I always have my sedentary colleagues at work to make me feel better about myself.
  8. LACK OF INTEREST All of the above results in a lack of interest, and if I’m not interested I’m not going to cycle.

Trying to get it back…

On the first of May a group of us cycled the Isle of Wight Randonnee and I hoped this would reignite the cycling fire. I hadn’t cycled much in the preceeding weeks and months (19 mins running and 52 mins cycling in 12 weeks) but I know the route well and I’d be able to complete it easy enough – or so I thought. I was struggling from the off but by Ventnor I was done (about 20 miles in of a 66 mile ride). It was no fun and it took all I had not to call a taxi. I was with a group of people (I’d struggle to call them friends) who I have cycled many times in the past but I’d always been one of the stronger in the group but this time they were all well above my level – I’d like to think it wasn’t just me getting weaker but also them getting stronger. If anything, this ride did the opposite of boosting me back on bike…boo.

Addressing the reasons…

  1. CHILDREN I asked around informally but no one seems interested in taking them, a lot of people were interested until they found out they were ginger. So that leaves me to try and integrate them into our lives. Anyone with kids will know things change when you have them and equally that as they grow things settle back to some semblance of what was once before. Etta is only 7 months so is slowly stabilising into routine and independance.
  2. CARS Hopefully car use will decrease as things settle down with the kids and I start to feel more ‘up for it’ in the mornings. Though I’ll be kidding myself if I think I won’t be driving when it’s -5 and raining, even though I always regret not cycling. Not much I can do about this one other than improve all the other points so the want to cycle outweighs the ease of the car.
  3. NEW COMMUTE I have 3 options; a) put up with the current route, b) use a new route that is less busy/dangerous but 3 miles longer, c) use the Gosport ferry. Here’s my thoughts on those options; a) If i want to be more positive about cycling I can’t continue on the current route, b) the new new route is about 15 miles long but is much nicer and I think it’s the only practical answer, c) Using the Gosport Ferry would take me on nicer roads and give me an 8.5 mile route, but would cost me £4.60 a day and I just can’t afford to spend that much. A season or bulk ticket would reduce it a bit but not enough to make it viable.
  4. ACHES & PAINS Maybe I’d need to look at a more detailed bike/shoe fit. I think also not carrying a backpack may help. Perhaps I will look to visit a sports injury clinic for advice.
  5. OTHER THINGS I’D RATHER BE DOING This isn’t really a problem is it? Though perhaps I could try and involve everyone in cycling; fix up Kitty’s trailer and get Etta seat.
  6. MODERATION There’s not much to be done about this other than to give myself a slap and get on with what I can do when I have the opportunity.
  7. LOSS OF FITNESS I’ve been trying to run at lunchtime at work on the days I don’t cycle. Maybe I could fit some swimming in somewhere too. I really do hate running but it does seem to get you fit quick (for me at least).
  8. LACK OF INTEREST When all the bits above slowly get sorted the interest and drive will return.

In summary, what I need to do, in no particular order, is:

  • Wait for my kids to stop being pains in the arse.
  • Take the new longer, more pleasant route to work.
  • Move the luggage from my back onto my bike for comfort.
  • Visit a sports injury place.
  • Prepare the family for more cycling activities -sort the trailer and by a seat. Perhaps go on the imminent Glow Ride in Portsmouth.
  • Cycle to work on the nice weather days at least once a week and let the positivity return.
  • Do some other exercise – running and/or swimming.
  • New kit always (usually) builds enthusiasm – I do have a £50 Wiggle voucher to use.

Let’s see how it goes, though now winter is coming I’d better resume my search for bib tights.

Wonderful Wessex: My 1st 300km Audax

Wonderful Wessex Audax

I’ve done 200 miles before and vowed never to do that kind of mileage in one day again, then the 300km Wonderful Wessex Audax came along and I thought why not. Time does dull pain, it must do otherwise people wouldn’t even contemplate having a second child.

This Audax started at Rowlands Castle, about 10 miles from my home, so it seemed silly not to cycle there but that meant a 04:30 alarm call. I was going to be doing it with Tim (my Caramel Hot Chocolate drinking friend) but as someone who drinks Caramel Hot Chocolate would, he pulled out. The night before I felt like I wasn’t going to do it; I went through the motions of bike setup/prep and went to bed telling myself I wouldn’t go it if was raining when I woke.

I woke, and much to my dismay it wasn’t raining, I lay in bed thinking how easy it was to stay laying in bed. Twenty minutes later I somehow found myself up and eating jam on toast. Maybe it was the prospect of the ride, or maybe the thought of the achievement when finished, or maybe it was my 16 month old daughter next door making noises to remind me of what I was in for if I didn’t cycle.

I arrived at the hall with just enough time to collect my Brevet Card and have a cup of tea before time was called at 06:00 and I set off with most of the others.

The first 20 miles were on roads I knew well and from Alfresford to Whitchurch I recognised a few bits from the Whitchurch Winter Wind Down Audax. From Whitchurch (35 miles) onwards the route was all new to me. Whitchurch was our first control point and it was into Tesco Express for food and drink. As I tucked into my Southern Fried Chicken wrap I was disappointed to find I had picked up a Caesar Salad one instead.

I don’t recall much until I hit the next control at Malmesbury. I tagged along with a few groups, dropping off and picking up as their pace varied. At one point I was chatting to a chap who had cycled over to Rowlands Castle and camped just outside Finchdean, he was there to meetup with an old cycling friend (Ricky??) who he used to do a lot of miles with, he told me stories and offered anecdotes – I felt he should have been handing me Werther’s (which I would have gratefully accepted).

At Malmesbury I stopped at a bakery and had a sausage bap (brown sauce), Belgian bun, and a chocolate milkshake (Yazoo I think). Two others stopped with me, one headed off shortly after, the other wanted a toasted sandwich. They didn’t sell toasted sandwiches, I don’t remember what he settled for.

I set off with the toasted sandwich man, who was wearing blue/purple ‘normal’ trousers and a nice pair of mustard socks. It turns out his trousers were Prada. We stayed together ’til Bath, he would pull away on the flats but I would catch on the climbs and decent; it worked out ok. The GPS did me proud as we navigated through Bath and we picked up another chap who I seem to remember looked like a cross between Bill Bailey and Yanto from Stella. We stopped at the County Hotel as a control, for some coffee, and a quick charge of our gizmos.

We exited Bath by the Two Tunnels cycle path, it was a pleasure to cycle this path. The wind seemed to suck us through the cool, smooth, dimly lit tunnels and blew us out at Midford, it gave us about 4 delightful traffic free miles.

We had become a group of 6 and we progressed with speed for a good 5-10 miles, but somewhere in that distance we lost 1, and 3 were too fast for me. That left just me and man who I later found out was called John. John had admitted he had already done a few extra miles due to misnavigation and as we approached Warminster, John carried on when I thought we should turn left. By the time I had made sure, John was a while away and having realised I didn’t know his name I decided the best thing I could do was shout everything I knew about him at the time: “OLD MAN!”. Whether it was because he didn’t hear me or out of offence, he didn’t turn round.

It had been raining on and off from about lunch time and I was constant state of rain jacket limbo, I stopped outside of Sherrington to pack my jacket away and as I set off Old Man John caught me up – I didn’t tell him what I shouted, he didn’t mention it if he heard. I ate the last of my Belgian bun (pictured on my saddle pack above) from Malmesbury.

From there we took various lanes that ran parallel to the A36 into our last control in Salisbury. The city centre was littered with Audaxer’s bikes (you can tell by the Carradice saddle packs), there was a particularly large batch outside Burger King. We opted for Caffe Nero.

The showers were getting harder and somewhere around Colden Common near Marwell Zoo, a car went past and absolutely drenched me.

I’d eaten well all day (contrary to my usual habit of bonking) but with 20 miles to go I lapsed, John gave me half a marmalade sandwich with did me well but with 3 miles to go I was struggling, wobbling all over the place. I had some Clif Shot Bloks that I shoved in and it gave me a pretty instant lift, whether it was psychological or not I don’t know, but it worked.

I got back to the hall and was slightly confused why a small boy was asking about my hot drink preferences but when he returned with a polystyrene cup full of tea I was eternally grateful though I’m still not sure if he actually existed. I followed the tea with a long sit and some delicious butternut squash soup. A few mini Swiss Rolls later I hauled my shivering mass back onto the bike and knocked out the last 10 miles home.

I arrived home about 23:45, cold, wet but happy. Everyone was in bed, I could hear Kitty in her cot reminding me what I was in for the next day.

The Year Record

There are 3 people hoping to challenge for Tommy Godwin’s 75-year-old 75,065 mile year record. To beat TG they need to average about 206 miles a day, every day for a year.

The challengers are: Kurt “Tarzan” Searvogel (USA), William “IronOx” Pruett (USA) and Steven “Steve” Abraham (UK). It’s probably my British reserve, but I’m inclined to dismiss anyone with gratuitous nicknames but that wouldn’t make for good competition so I’ll allow them. Well, I’ll allow Kurt. William doesn’t seem to be a genuine contender and although you might refer to the old Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare – there is going to be a point when the part-time tortoise just wont have the time to catch up with the full-time hares (no matter how many naps they take (if any)). Will has only completed about 1000 miles more than me this year – I just can’t see him doing it.

There are a lot of people beating Kurt up about his lack of climbing compared to Steve, but if you’re offered favourable terrain then why not take it? Would anyone going for a world record choose to make it harder for themselves? Being a Brit I’m keen to keep the record in Britain but if Kurt has what it takes to beat Steve then so be it. If you are going to beast Kurt at least base your attacks on accurate information – have a look below.

Steve started on the 1st of January in the depths of our (UK’s) Winter so will have the Summer to increase mileage in the (hopefully) more favourable conditions, but will be finishing in Winter. I’m no Floridian expert but from what I gather they don’t really have 4 seasons as we see it, but while the conditions may generally more favourably the extremes of the weather can be much worse – not to mention how the turtle nesting season will impact on his mileage. Kurt started on the 10th January 2015 so has 9 days in hand over Steve.



Sky Ride Leaders Course – Level 2

If the level 1 course was a soup of people, then in the period until the level 2 course that people soup had been left to boil so most of the sweetness, subtlety and balance evaporated, leaving a finicky, boring, disagreeable reduction with the odd burnt bit that you had to pick out your teeth. Maybe I had a lack of tolerance because there were no biscuits this time or maybe they really were a punctilious pack of pedants.

The venue had changed from The Stacey Centre of the previous course to the more modern Mountbatten Centre on the West side of the island. It was an icy morning (minus 4 so I heard) and the weather for the afternoon looked decidedly unfriendly. I locked my bike to the empty Sheffield stands outside reception with my eclectic collection of 5 cheap locks (I must buy better locks) and made my way up to the room, where I found everyone else’s bikes warm, safe and secure. The course was led by Howard of Sky Ride Leader Training Level 1 fame.

Oliver, the Road Safety Officer for Portsmouth City Council arrived a little late and after his apologies he made the mistake of telling everyone who is was and what he did. Cue the constant barrage of un Sky Ride related queries and complaints about the roads of Portsmouth that Oliver, too his credit, dealt with positively.

A morning of theory was to precede lunch (for which I remembered my Scotch Egg this time) which was to be followed by a recce of a section of a route that we would later ride as a whole.


For the theory we discussed what makes a quality ride and what we’d need to take into consideration when planning a Sky Ride. I should perhaps mention that the level 2 course is solely about the planning of routes for the Sky Rides. Then followed by what tools we have at our disposal to best plan and plot the routes. A lot of thought and time goes into planning these rides so those who actually go on the rides better appreciate it!

At around 11:30 we were put into pairs and asked to plan a section of 1.5 hour ride. It made sense to do a lap of Portsea Island, Andy and I got the section from Bransbury Park to the Watersports Centre off the Eastern Road – probably the easiest part. After a 14.3 mile round trip we got back to the Mountbatten to write-up the route card and polish of the Scotch Egg.

When everyone was ready we embarked on the route as a whole with each pair leading their respective section. By now the unfriendly weather was well and truly upon us and it made for a pretty miserable ride. I was wearing my Swrve trousers which are water and wind resistant – they made a valiant effort but after an hour and a half of tempestuous conditions I was soaked from the waist down. My torso was covered with an Altura jacket and remained mainly dry – I had two damp patches: 1 looked liked I’d been consistently dribbling, the other like my navel had been leaking.


Having completed our route which was as good as it could have been considering the weather we lugged our bikes up to the room for one last time to be greeted by Jo from British Cycling.

While I sat in my soggy pants, Jo passed on some tips on how to use the online Sky route planning tool that Tommy had shown her. I think she must have some sort of crush on this ‘Tommy’ and not a sentence leaves Jo’s lips that doesn’t include that beloved name; “Tommy has a very hard job”, “Tommy will be able to answer that”, “Tommy has such dreamy eyes”.

The final thing was to assign the routes that will hopefully be coming to the Portsmouth public this summer. This assignation was made quite challenging because it seemed necessary to contest the starting points at every given opportunity. Eventually Jo did manage to get the routes allocated so keep an eye out on the Sky Ride site.

Swrve Cycling Trousers

I think I managed (inadvertently) to guilt Charly (my wife) into buying me another Christmas present by surprising her with a KitchenAid Mixer (which still hasn’t been used, I hope you’re reading this Charly). This guilt easing present happened to be a pair of trousers, not just any pair of trousers mind you, these have a seamless gusseted crotch.

Reflective Belt Loop

Reflective Belt Loop

Swrve make casual cycling apparel, described by themselves – “Form follows function, a dash of elegance and a dash of street”. The sort of clothes you would think you couldn’t go racing around in but probably, quite comfortably, could. They are based in LA, their products are manufactured globally; their wax jacket, for example, in made in the UK.

My guilt trousers are the lightweight wwr regular fit trim trousers (the wwr stands for water and wind repellent) with a 32″ waist and 34″ leg. The make a point of stating that the measurements are accurate and if you order a 32″ waist it will measure 32″; I usually buy a 32″ but I imagine they are a little relaxed, these were a tiny bit tight at the waist but it was just after Christmas and I could’ve probably done with shedding a few KGs. Now in February and they fit perfectly.

Articulated Knee

Articulated Knee

The legs are a trim fit but I still tuck them into my sock or turn them up (the jeans from Swrve have a reflective strip on the inside so when you turn them up you get some hi-vis) on the drive. I mention this habit because usually a trouser leg will pull out of the sock, but these have a magic property of remaining the same length with a straight leg as with a bent – I imagine it has something to do with Paul Daniels or the articulated knees.

The material is a nylon-lycra mix fabric with 4 way stretch and I can confirm its claim of being wind and water-resistant. It feels really light and very soft, so much so I have twice thought I didn’t have and trousers on. They also say that they wont shrink in the wash.

They have other features too which I haven’t as yet mentioned: Reflective belt loops (x2), rear double-welt pockets, rear pocket can fit a mini U-lock, pen pocket, and high cut on the back.

There are a couple of areas that could be improved: The fly could be a little longer (not boasting) and the front pockets could be a little deeper. But they are 2 minor points on a pair of trousers with so many plus points.


Fly – it’s a little bit shallow

At £80 odd they are top end (I usually don’t spend that in a year on clothes) but they are high quality and do perform very well. I don’t think you could find a pair of trousers with a similar spec for less. If you have the money I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, but do consider your actual waist size rather than what you would usually buy.

P.S. The photos aren’t of me.

Portsmouth Sky Ride Leader Course

Sky Ride

This Summer it looks like Portsmouth is going to play host to Sky Ride Local rides, these are guided rides along quiet roads and traffic free routes, not the Sky Ride City rides that take place on closed roads (though there is talk of this in the near future). With the new rides being planned, they need new British Cycling trained Ride Leaders and asked for volunteers. I volunteered.

Two courses were run for the new leaders, each one with a capacity of 20. It’s positive to learn that both courses were oversubscribed, not so positive that there were six no shows on my course.

There were a wide range of people in attendance, from Bikeability instructors to PE teachers, students to the retired. Even people working for an IT support and web company offering services to businesses in and around Portsmouth.

The course started with a little intro, tea, and some theory, we then moved outside onto the MUGA for a warm up/assessment of our bikes and our cycling. As a leader we would be expected to carry out this assessment before the ride to make sure that the bikes and their riders are capable. It just involved an ‘M’ check on the bikes (see the video below), a little pootle around in a circle to check everyone can ride a bike safely and check that all the clothing and equipment is suitable for the ride ahead.

After the assessment we went out on a short (1.5ish miles) ride led by our tutors (Simon & Howard) so we could see how the whole leading process works. In essence this is how it works, one leader at the front, one leader at the back, whenever the group approach a junction the rear leader scoots up to the front and decides if it is safe, ushers the group through then returns to their spot at the rear of the group.

Back to the Stacey Centre (where I went to youth club many years ago (it hasn’t changed much)) for more theory and lunch. I had two ham and salad crusty rolls, some crisps, 2 satsumas, and some Oreo biscuits (not my normal choice of biscuit). I should have had a Scotch Egg too but all I could do was dream of it while it sat forgotten in my fridge.

We spent the afternoon taking turns leading the group around the roads of Anchorage Park and industrial area opposite (8.5ish miles). No one died and there were no near misses so anyone who decides to go on a Sky Ride Local in Portsmouth should be in good hands.

Again back to the community centre for one last theory session and a word from Jo-anne Downing from British Cycling to explain the what the plans for the Sky Rides in Portsmouth are and further afield with British Cycling.

It wasn’t until later I learnt that as ride leaders we get some free (branded) kit (a jacket and a jersey), member to British Cycling and all the benefits that brings and get paid for each ride we lead so that was a nice bonus.

Positive all round except for the Scotch Egg.

I’ll be on the Level 2, route planning course in a couple of weeks time. I’ll let you know how that goes too.

While all the course for Sky Ride leaders have passed, if you are female you could enrol on the Breeze Champion course for Portsmouth on the 11th April 2015. Have a look here if you are interested.

Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket

Altura Night Vision Evo Jacket

Any old waterproof will do when you’re cycling but there are benefits to a cycling specific waterproof shell that make them worth it.

I chose the Altura Night Vision Evo jacket in large, medium was a better fit in the torso but not long enough in the arms. I got it from Tredz (broke my loyalty to Wiggle), at the time it was 40% at £59.99. There is a womens version for £74.99 – that’ll teach you to be female!

I’ve only had it for a week but here are my initial thoughts:

It feels like the zip is on the wrong side, not a problem, just feels a bit weird. The slider is on the left breast. Occasionally the baffle that goes behind the zip gets caught.

The i-Lume light (three modes) that sits on the small of your back doesn’t feel secure and would be obscured if you wore a backpack. There is an anchoring hole on the light so a small tether could be made. Incidently it takes a single CR2032 battery.

There is a soft look and feel to the fabric which gives the impression that it wouldn’t be waterproof but in the showers I’ve been out in the water just beads and rolls off.

It has one of those collar loops for hanging it on coat hooks.

For the perspirers amongst us there is net liner which should help with air flow and comfort as well as the 2 zippable side vents and a lapped vent across the shoulder blades.

Elasticated drawstrings around the collar and waist allow for adjustment while velcro straps adjust the slightly too tight cuffs (only too tight to easily get gloves in).

The side pockets are too small to put your hands in fully, not a problem when you’re cycling but off the bike its nice to get your hands out of the wind without having cold wrists. The ‘map’ pocket on the left breast is too small for a map but it is a pocket. There is a large pocket on the back underneath the integral light.

I also bought the seperate hood (also from Tredz, 20% at £7.99), it attaches using 2 plastic poppers at the knape. It has no reflective panels which is an opportunity missed on Altura’s and safety’s part. I’m not really sure when I would use it on the bike as it is too small to go over a helmet and if it did then the restricted view would be less than ideal for road use.

I chose the black version which is a very dark charcoal. This doesn’t give the day glow of the flouresent yellow, pink, or green, but thats not what I wanted; I wanted some to light me up at night. There are reflective decals in the follow locations: front of the hips, zips of the front and map pockets, back of the sholders, beading the full length of the arms, either side of the rear pocket, front of the sholders, full length of the front zip, velcro cuff straps, front/top of the arms, left collar, left collar and finally top right of the rear pocket.

Having all those relfective decals is impressive but I would have liked to have seen more on the areas of the arms that face traffic when signalling to turn – there is a bit but a lot would have been better.

It has a nice low cut to the back to give protection from spray and wind. I’d have liked the cut just a few inches longer so I could sit on it.

Generally is has a nice cut and feel about it, it’s nice to wear and does it’s job of making you visable at night.

I’ll update this if/when I have more to say.