Once more into the fray

An actual ride on actual roads (more or less, given the state of Herts County Council finances). I have been irritating myself with a continued resistance to getting out on the bike, with some anxiety about whether my knee/leg would cope, and how I’d get home if it didn’t. The turbo has the key advantage that I can just get off …

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So far, so good. Or something. Second cortisone/lubricant knee injection of the year, as it was all getting rather clunky again. I’ve been walking rather than cycling this week, partly a question of opportunity and partly because I still have a crocked gravel bike and the road bike is distinctly not suitable for this weather/roads (and the mountain bike is heavy and cumbersome). The crocked gravel bike has a fix date – the kit has arrived, but the workshop is busy so it’s had to wait for an open slot. I would replace it myself, but I’m not going to try and figure out hydraulic brakes myself without supervision the first time. One day I will find a full hydraulic disc brake course, but today is not that day (lots that deal with replacing pads etc. I can do that. It’s the actual hydraulics I want some reassurance on).

21kg off as well, mostly due to increased protein intake (as far as I can tell; it’s the only really changed variable. I’m eating less, but that seems to be because of the increased protein). It’s slowed a bit recently, probably because I keep second-guessing myself and playing the “if that works, this must be even better” game. It usually isn’t better or, at least, isn’t as sustainable. Back to the whey protein isolate, methinks.

Train stopped play

Audax and a rail strike, not entirely optimal. I’d signed up to do the Herts Greenways 100k – a distinctly low-stress audax, intended for pootling through back lanes and greenways (the clue is in the name), long enough ago that (a) my gravel bike had not yet acquired it’s J-shaped derailleur cage (replacement due Any Day Now. I hope) and (b) the rail strike summer of 2023 had not started/been announced.

I had intended to ride the gravel bike – it’s ideal for this terrain. That was out of the question with the cage in the condition it’s in right now; I need the three gears that the cage cannot now reach, or my knee will be distinctly unhappy on anything that isn’t pretty much flat. The road bike is a nope; it can’t take tyres wider than 25mm and, although it was ok on one of the greenways a week or so back, we’ve had rain since then and I really don’t dare ride sketchy terrain on skinny tyres. If I fall on my left knee one more time (and any bike fall is always to the left, for me) there’s a fair possibility that I won’t walk away from it, or indeed walk for some considerable time afterwards.

So, that left the mountain bike. Which is a lovely bike but as aero as a brick and accordingly slow, and exhausting. To be fair, it’s not really intended for trying to ride at any sort of speed and I have no real experience of riding it longer distances – I tend to do 25-30 km rides on trails/tracks around this area. As there was a fair possibility that I simply wouldn’t finish the ride on this bike, I didn’t want to drive to the start so that I could bail without having to beg a lift from family back to the start to retrieve my car – and playing into all of this was the fact that the audax route passes about 50m from home …

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Another milestone: pub rides are go, for me, again

Stage manager duties finally finished for the season, and I now get a break through until the end of October, so pub rides are back. The distance is fine – I did 100k a few weeks ago – but my speed is still a work in progress.

Checking the Strava stats of a couple of other participants, though, I concluded I would probably not hold up the pack too much and so ventured out last night.

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Back to audax

Yes, I’ve been a bit absent here – the back issues have been a pest, although it’s now beginning to seem more likely that they are now not back issues (they were definitely back issues last year and the year before) but have become knee issues. The problems morphed a bit but were still somewhat similar to back issue symptoms, but a recent MRI shows my knee is a little bit toast. This seems more likely trauma (an MTB accident three years ago) than arthritis. I suppose that’s good?

I’ve been back on the turbo for a while, and back to strength training. I’ve been doing mobility work as well and that seems to be paying off in that I definitely have more mobility (dynamic cyclist program – not sponsored, not an ad, I just like it).

I went, I rode. I dithered the night before, worrying whether I’d be fit enough etc etc. I decided to drop from the 100k to the 50k, from some caution – I haven’t ridden for much more than an hour, even on the turbo, this year. I don’t think I’ve ridden more then 30km or so either, so 50k seemed a manageable increase, whereas 100k was possibly overdoing it.

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Reboot the noodle

bike at Old GorhamburyOnce more into the fray etc – or, at least, the first time this year into the fray on a drop-bar bike. Not covid, but a somewhat broken back (apparently literally at some point, according to the MRI scan …) and spinal nerve issues etc have been getting in the way. Much physio, some steroid injections and rather more painkillers/anti-inflammatories/muscle relaxants etc later, and things are beginning to get back to normal.

ETA: this is not the same disc issues from the last post – just in case anyone was wondering. Those got sorted out fairly fast and did not cause anything like the same degree of problems – this was a fresh batch in January. Lack of posts last year was due to a global pandemic and generally not doing anything interesting on the bike, not due to back!

I still can’t walk all that far without a cane (but that’s an improvement on crutches) and I did get out on the flat-bar bike a month or so back, but this was the first time out on drop-bars. It has to be this bike as this is the least-aggressively set up of the two options open to me, and I need to be careful on back flexion.

Various things done to try to make this a little safer – I was already running tubeless, but have added Airliners so that, even if a tyre flats completely, I can still ride home/to the nearest train station – the insert reduces the risk of certain types of puncture, and provides enough support etc to be able to still ride. The problem is principally that I’m not entirely sure that I could manage to deal with the tyre/inner tube etc without quite a lot of pain – this effectively adds some security. I’ve also adjusted the stem for height so that my back flexes less, and running the tyres at a little less pressure for comfort/shock absorption. I’m thinking about getting a suspension seatpost as well (the stem already has suspension).

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Discs and discs

I had been riding; no particular excuse for not writing for the last month or so though – other than general malaise.

The summer passed in a blur of rides, and then onto Penzance and thence to Lands End for my fourth attempt on Lands End-John O’Groats (two successful so far, the third abandoned when an off stopped play). This was, again, Threshold’s Deloitte Ride Across Britain – given time constraints, it’s simpler to just have the logistics etc all dealt with.

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London to Paris

I have, in fact, been riding. One of the reasons this blog has been quiet is precisely that: I’ve been on my bike, not on my computer.

The riding has been mostly long stuff, interspersed with gym sessions and pub rides and turbo when nothing else is feasible. Long stuff = 200k audaxes, the club annual century ride, that sort of thing.

This weekend, the “long stuff” went a bit further – I resolved about three months ago to tackle London to Paris in under 24 hours. It’s one of those somewhat iconic rides that gets mentioned as a must do. So, I must did. Obviously.

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Random review

Torq have brought out a line of flapjacks (called Explore) – apparently launched in April, so I’m surprisingly up to date. I found them in a running store near to work and decided that they looked potentially bike-worthy.

For some background – I lose my appetite on long rides and also get flavour fatigue on those long rides. Not a good combination. So I tend to keep an eye out for possible on-bike foodstuffs to be able to have a selection of things on a given ride (and preferably not always the same selection of things).

The apple-strudel flapjack makes the cut – it’s not dry, but not too damp; not dripping butter/oil/random goo; it’s easy to chomp off a bite and the flavour is good. Not bland, not weird. It tastes reasonably home-made, in fact.

One bar = 263 cals, 43g carbs. That’s reasonable, overall. I try to aim for 60g if carbs per hour, with about 1/3 from hypotonic hydration. I don’t eat a full bar of the flapjack per hour, as I mix it with other food (babybel, mini pepperami, skratch bars, Veloforte bites, random sweet things etc etc).

Generally recommended – the apple-strudel flavour, anyway. I’ve tried the carrot cake as well, but that was less successful. Whatever spices are in there don’t work with my tastebuds; the texture etc is all fine (similar to the apple flapjacks) but I would have difficulty persuading myself to eat the carrot cake version mid-ride.

(As usual, no-one’s paying me to say this. I bought the bars myself).

Catching up is hard to do

Things I have learnt in 2019 – I can run (well, jog) 10k. I cannot jog 10k without aching for 48 hours afterwards, however.

Why running and not cycling? Mostly an experiment to work out cross-training; running has the merit of impact which, with a history of osteoporosis in the family, seems like a useful thing to do.

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