Woe is Me!

It’s been a long time, a very long time. Too long I would say, but I have finally found the motivation to write about where I have been for the last 6 months.

The easy answer is nowhere, not on the bike anyway.

Where I have been is a bit more complicated and not really something I am going to go into detail on my cycling blog, maybe one day I will write about it on my other blog Loads of Things which talks more about, well, loads of things that aren’t to do with fitness or cycling.

Just to say that I have had a trip to hospital in January, intensive care no less, for a bout of Sepsis and since then have been struggling with an immune system condition which leaves me very tired, lethargic and feeling more than a little unwell from time to time, hence why I haven’t been out on my bike for the best part of six months.

Yes I’ve had the odd ride with the kids, I even took the cubs (my son is part of the local cub group) for a ride out on a local cycle route and had one quick windmill circuit (which nearly killed me!) but apart from that nothing.

Considering the last time I rode in anger was mid December 2014, where I managed just over 30 miles in one go, the last six months have put me back basically to the start. I am also missing three Triathlons (two of which I was looking to enter) and the chance to ride the coast to coast with my brother-in-law.

All of the fitness I had built up, the leg muscle and tone on the calfs now just a distant memory. Will I ever have the stamina and patience to do it all again?

I can’t decide if I want to do it all again, start from the beginning, short rides to build up stamina, feeling like your heart is going to pump out of your chest at the first sign of any kind of exertion.

It could of course all have been worse, I could have died (and no that’s not being mellow dramatic it was a possibility) or I could have been left unable to ride. I should look on the bright side and get myself out there, after all summer is almost here and there will be no better chance than now to get out there and get fit again. I just need to find some motivation and to feel well enough to go out for sustained periods over the next few months.

So woe is me, it’s been a tough six months, but time to put it all behind me and start again.

What is Fitness?

I’ve been riding on and off for just over a year now. I say on and off as I have had a couple of operations and a layoff for an injury so it hasn’t been full on in that time.

I keep asking myself am I getting any fitter? After all that’s one of the reasons I started riding again in the first place, to get fit.

But what is fitness and how can I gauge whether I am getting ‘fitter’?

When I am riding I always have trouble in the first mile or so, heart and lungs screaming and legs burning, I can usually get the breathing under control if I take it steady, especially if I am going up hill. The legs will come back to me (in other words stop burning) after a couple of miles or so, but again I may need to take it steady if I am on a longer climb.

This hasn’t really changed much since I started and I guess I may always be one of those people who struggles? After all the more I do the harder it seems to be. If I go out more than a couple of times a week my legs just can’t take it, my thighs especially take it hard and I need a couple of days or so to recover.

It’s not like I am riding long distances either. Since I started in June 2013 I have ridden 478 miles in 55 outings. 250 of those miles have been done this year, 117 of them in September alone.

But I’m still not ‘fit’ in a sense that things are getting easier or that I can breathe more easily when riding uphill.

I have come a long way though. The second ride I did back in June 2013 I managed 6 miles in just over 43 minutes, earlier this week I did 9.6 miles (around the same place just extended) in around the same time, give or take a few seconds.

Does this mean I am fitter? The fact I can go further than before in the same amount of time? There are two slight differences with the rides, the first is that I have changed bikes, from a cheap MTB (which I have since upgraded to a better one) to a road bike (which I have only ridden once). The other is that I am around 1 stone lighter than I was.

Also the first couple of times I rode I could hardly walk afterwards, now I can come home, get changed and go out without too many problems.

I can also ride further, the other day I went just over 22 miles, a distance that even at the beginning of 2014 was looking a step too far. Is this fitness or just stamina?

I’d like to think I feel ‘fitter’ I can walk further and without getting breathless, I feel generally better in myself, but am I fitter?

I don’t really know the answer and I guess until I understand ‘what is fitness’ I probably never will.

How Not to Choose a Road Bike

I have, over the past couple of months, tried and failed to buy myself a new road bike. I have spent hour upon hour looking, thinking, looking again, changing my mind and looking some more. This is how not to buy anything, let alone a new road bike.

When I bought my MTB it was quite straight forward, find the one I liked, pick a size and then turn to eBay and see what was about. Yes I bought the bike on eBay purely as I didn’t have much budget and in case I packed in riding. Plus I knew I would get more for my money buying second hand and that I would get the spec I wanted for the money. Apply the same rules to a road bike and we are in business. Or so I thought.

Once I had set a small, but in my opinion a reasonable budget (up to £300), a quick look on eBay would show two potential bikes that I would be after. The first was the Giant Defy 5 which has a decent spec at a reasonable price and the second was the Specialized Allez, higher spec and higher price but I thought I could get one at the price I could afford. Being a snob I had already dismissed anything from Halfords which meant the Carrera range was out, although there were plenty about.

The one thing that was always in the back of my mind was that one of the reasons for buying a road bike is to go faster, top speed wise. In order to do this the spec of the bike had to be higher than the MTB I already own, so any old cheap and nasty thing wasn’t going to cut it. I needed something decent and wasn’t going to compromise on that, or so I thought.

After long and fruitless searches, bids and counter bids on eBay I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t afford either the Defy or the Allez, even second hand. I really didn’t  want a Carrera from Halfords (or eBay) so what should I do? Buy a new one!

From not being able to afford a bike on eBay I spotted a website that had the Giant Defy 5 at a decent price but I could pay on 0% finance. Sorted.

So onto size, if I was buying new size mattered, buying on eBay I could get away with one of two sizes as I am kind of in-between a small and medium for Giant bikes, depending on which website you look at. The one I was buying from said small and a friend of my brothers said buy a smaller one as it would be lighter and you can always raise the seat.

But was I really a small or a medium? I decided to pop to my local bike shop to try one out. As soon as I spoke to someone they suggested a medium, I tried a small which seemed to be fine but they suggested I try the medium and ordered one from the warehouse as they didn’t have one in the shop.

In the meantime the site I wanted to buy the bike from, only having small or large in stock sold out of the small. A sign from above?

Never mind I thought, the site in question had a Giant Defy 3 for only another £100 in a medium, I just needed to try the medium out to see if was the right size for me.

So having gone from a budget of around £300 for a second hand bike, I was about to buy a brand new bike for £500 on credit. To top it off the new bike would need pedals and shoes, if you are buying peddles may as well have SPD’s. Total cost of around £560. I dithered some more.

Then I decided to look around to see what else I could get for a decent price (around £400) for a known brand with a decent spec. Resale value was important to me in case I didn’t like road bikes and wanted to sell it, hence wanting a known brand. And so I found one. A Felt F95 with the same gears as the Defy 3 but with a Felt frame, All for just under £400.

But did I need a small or a medium? Looking at the size charts I needed a 54cm and reading the reviews someone with the same inside leg and the same height as me had a 54cm and he was fine. How he knew this I have no idea as I doubt he had it fitted. No point in going to the shop now as the Giant frame and the Felt frame are different so I wouldn’t get the answer I was looking for from sitting on a Defy 4 (don’t ask) in a medium.

So the Felt 95 it was going to be, from Wiggle online, with free delivery and flat pedals so at least I could ride it. All I needed to do was shuffle some cash about, count some birthday money (yes I still get that at my age) and bang it on my credit card. Just my conscience to wrestle with as we had just come back from holiday, raked up a few credit card bills and were short of cash for the rest of the month. How could I justify spending £400 on a bike when I hadn’t even been out on my MTB for nearly a month with little motivation to go out any time soon?

Having wrestled with my conscience, considered buying a Carrera TDF from Halfords for a little over £250 and thought about leaving it until next year I decided to buy a Felt F95. I Just wanted to speak to my bother who I was seeing in a few days to get his opinion, not that it would matter, bit always good to get a second opinion anyway.

So there I was decision sort of made, still not 100% sure that I could justify the cost even though the wife had sanctioned it, about to buy a new road bike. Just to make my day complete the price had gone up, only by £20 but it has gone up, which really doesn’t help when you are worried about cost.

But still no road bike. Not until next year at the earliest.

I have, in my ultimate wisdom decided to buy some SPD pedals, shoes and some road tyres for my MTB and take it out on the road. After all the MTB I have is s decent spec, you can only ride one at a time and I don’t think the performance difference between the MTB and a road bike will be that different if I have semi slick tyres on the MTB.

Is this the end?

I haven’t been out on my bike for just under 2 months now, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly I have a problem with my knee. It came on a few months ago when I completed my last long ride – the triathlon bike course. I couldn’t put any pressure on it, although I can walk OK, I just can’t put any power through the knee so can’t peddle. I’ve tried a couple of times since but it’s still there and I can’t seem to shake it. Maybe time to go and see the doctor and get a diagnosis me thinks.

Secondly my wife isn’t well and has had to spend some time in hospital leaving me to look after the kids alone. Not a problem and it’s part of being a parent. It just means I haven’t been able to get out of the house, to either run or cycle.

We completed the Sport Relief mile a few weeks ago, as a family and I felt good physically, the knee held up so I was kind of happy that I could still make it to the start line for the Triathlon in June. The only problem I have now is that I haven’t been able to do any training, can’t get out of the house for long so can’t ride, run or swim so I think it’s over.

My dream of competing in a Triathlon this year has kind of ended before it has started. I just need to decide if this is the end of my dream or whether I should try again for the Last of the Summer Tri in September which takes in part of the Tour de France Grand Depart route in Holmefirth. I’d love to do it but need to make sure that my knee can take it and that I can get some training in before hand.

So is this the end? I hope not.

A Review of 2013 in Pictures

This is a review of my activity in 2013 through the pictures I have taken whilst out and about.

I only started on riding again on the 9th June 2013, after a chance discussion with a couple of friends about getting fit. Since then I have tried to go out at least once a week when possible, clocking up over 200 miles – below are the stats.

Details for 2013

Number of Rides: 34

Total Distance: 228.1 miles

I didn’t take any pictures in June, too busy trying to stay upright and keep breathing so the pictures start in July.

July 2013

The Windmills at sundown

The Windmills at sundown

August 2013


Sunset looking over Holmfirth


Emley Moor Mast in the sunlight

September 2013

Looking towards Holmfirth

Looking towards Holmfirth

Sunset over home

Sunset over home

October 2013

Close up Windmills

Close up Windmills

Windmills in a row

Windmills in a row

Looking at Emley Moor Mast

Looking at Emley Moor Mast

November 2013

Me covered in a bit of mud

Me covered in a bit of mud

A misty view across the Pennines - one of my favourite views spoilt by the weather

A misty view across the Pennines – one of my favourite views spoilt by the weather

Looking back towards home in the mist

Looking back towards home in the mist

December 2013

A view along the track at the back of Center Parcs

A view along the track at the back of Center Parcs

A simply stunning view across the lake at Center Parcs

A simply stunning view across the lake at Center Parcs

Looking down the track above the farmers field

Looking down the track above the farmers field

Sunlight through the clouds

Sunlight through the clouds

Looking at these views makes it all worth it, so here’s to a successful 2014 with some more pictures and many more miles.

I’m spinning around (move outta of my way!)

I only found out the other day that riding an exercise bike was called spinning, all that time I just thought it was just a plain old exercise bike!

I’ve owned my bike for the best part of 10 years or more, only using it as a clothes horse and a place to dry my towel. Kind of expensive bit of kit to just hang clothes on but hey, I never really took to riding a static bike. I guess that’s why I enjoy riding outside now, being able to look at the views and breath in the fresh air. But not today.

No matter how nice it looked outside there was little chance of me being able to get out in the sunshine. Having taken my son’s under 7 football team just before lunch to a crushing defeat to our local rivals, I was knackered and needed a break. I then took the time to clear the exercise bike of clothes and said towel, so I thought I might as well see how I felt after a few minutes of gentle peddling.

To my surprise I felt really good after the first 10 minutes, the time I used to give up at when I last used the exercise bike. Even at 20 minutes, a personal record, I wasn’t really out of breath. It was only when my mobile rang at just over 25 minutes that I started to feel like I was exercising, taking the call and thus clocking up more km than I intended. I only wanted to ride 10km to see how long it took – on the road around the windmills 10km takes about 30 minutes riding flat out but still taking a breather on some of the downhill sections. On the exercise bike with constant peddling I manged 11.2km in 30 minutes, which included taking the phone call and dropping the tv remote on the floor whilst trying to get the football in HD.

I won’t be blogging about my personal spinning exploits from now on, I just wanted to share my first experience of it in quite some time whilst it was fresh in the memory.

I realise that I will need to push myself a little harder on the exercise bike than I did today to get anywhere near how it feels out on the bike in the winter sun, but for a first time in a long time I don’t think I did too badly.

100 Miles and Counting

I have finally broken the 100 miles ridden on my Strava app this weekend, and no that’s not for one ride, that’s the total I have done in the 3 months I have been riding again.

The main stats are as follows, these are year to date

Distance: 106 miles

Rides: 20

Elevation Gain: 8,556 ft

Time taken: 12 hours 44 mins

I am riding slightly further now as I have decided not to follow set routes and just go where the feeling takes me, hopefully I will get to the next 100 miles a little quicker, in terms of time taken and months.

As the nights draw in, it’s time to get some lights out and cycle routes that are lit, at least partially.

No pictures today as it was very misty when I went out, nothing to see really!