It seems a long time now since the clocks went back and the dark mornings and early evenings make it more difficult than ever to focus on riding my bike.The enthusiasm of the training for the Alpine Challenge has long gone and a few aches and pains after that particular ride made me rest for a period of time. But over the last month a weight gain of 2 kg and the sight of the bike sitting in the garage silently waiting for me has spurred me on.
I have started by going back to the gym and using the Life-cycle Life fitness bike I have. I’m using it three times a week now for 40 minutes on Hill program level 16. There is enough rugby football and other television saved on the Sky box that will keep me busy. The danger is boredom on an indoor bike and this can make it very difficult. The biggest issue is however the difficulty in getting the shoes on in the first place!
The Sigma Warehouse Sale was really useful this year as it allowed me to load up on winter gear. I have a double glove set that can withstand temperatures around freezing and enough layers and wicks to keep me warm even on the coldest days.
One of the issues though is safety and I’m surrounded by people who’ve broken themselves on cycle rides. One colleague unfortunately slipped on a corner on wet leaves losing his bicycle and falling hard onto his hip sustaining a fracture to the hip in the pelvis that not only kept him off riding for some months but also required major reconstructive surgery and the possibility of arthritis and the need for a hip replacement later. That brings home the importance of staying safe. For me it’s wet leaves on corners that gives me the greatest concern as they looks innocuous but can take the wheel away from you.
Although I’m not psyched out on the road I am often focusing on some of the bad habits that have developed over the year and some of those common mistakes can be easily fixed. I’ve greatly enjoyed using Strava but one of its problems are that it makes me focus solely on the time. There are particular sections that we’ve set up as challenges were we are trying to improve my personal records. I find myself getting slightly anxious in advance of the segment but I’ve found that a constant hard pace doesn’t help me. For me the peaks and troughs the ascents and the descendants make the longer rides much more pleasurable. I think mixing up the ride is important and I do occasionally leave my Garmin at home so that it isn’t distracting me and worrying me. The goals change then and it’s about controlling rhythm and pace looking at the style of riding and safety without worrying about % gradients or time segments.
My second bad habit is using my brakes badly. I tend to over break and this can be bad in many ways. It robs me of speed but also is probably the major cause of crashing.
I started using other ways of breaking – using wind resistance by sitting up a bit more reduced the need to brake. The second area in making mistakes is on slowing down just because I’m getting nervous of the descent. Getting to know the roads and having the confidence of what’s ahead removes this problem.
Because of my nervousness on roads when it’s a bit wet I’ve been using some Continental Four Seasons tyres – these have given me greater grip. I don’t think there’s any loss of speed that I can notice but feels much more comfortable mentally and with that confidence that they give me may become safer in the corners.
I’ve taken the opportunity to get the bike cleaned and serviced because even when I’m not using it so often the mechanics seem to be quieter at this time of year and have struck some really good deals in getting it looked after. Over the year I’ve had a new chain new brake pads because of the above braking issues, and quite a number of times I’ve had to have the gears looked at so I suspect as the bike is three years old I might need to be thinking about the possibility of upgrading my gear set.
I’m also aware that I’m not burning up so many calories now and I’ve just been a bit more careful about what I’m eating and taking a bit of time just to stretch and exercise other body parts. I found this last season that my arms would ache on long rides particularly in situations where I was nervous on the road and I suspect this was because I was gripping too tightly. What I have done now is to use some weight training and over the winter I hope that be better prepared in my upper body to cope with this problem next year. I guess it’s all about preparing for the joy of the end of winter and better weather.
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