Sunday, 23 September 2012

When did a Cafe and back ride become a 50 mile spin?

Summer has definitely gone. Not that it was ever really here! Knee warmers, Arm warmers and even the winter jacket have had outings this week! What is good though is that there are still a high number of riders out in the cold wet windy dark night rides.

Mrs Palefish was working all weekend, so I had to rely on my fantastic in laws to look after the boys this morning. I promised to be back before lunch, which meant a 7am start for the club ride today.
There was a definite nip in the air this morning, in hindsight I should have worn some overshoes too, but I was only planning a quick Cafe and Back spin so didn't think it was necessary.

I was joined at the 12th Man by 11 other mad riders in the 4 degree chill. We rode up to Irby, then on to Thornton and Raby where we met up with Tim. We had an hour to waste until Eureka opened, so we rode through the lanes, including the Missing Link, or "Sh1t alley" as it is locally known, and on to Little Sutton, then back to the Cycle Path and never Ending Lane reaching Eureka just on 8.30. Anne questioned our mental state for being up so early, and was a little worried as she hadn't expected to have 13 people turn up at opening time, and had given her staff a lie in till 9o'clock! She coped fantastically and we were all warming up with steaming cups of coffee and the best pick of Cake in no time at all!

Palefish CC first at the bar!

Any excuse for an Instagram Photo!

We left Eureka as it started to fill up and headed back through Puddington, Burton and Ness, including Denhall lane climb, just for fun! After a dip down to Park Gate and the climb back out up Boathouse, we headed into Lower Heswall and decided it would be a good idea to go up School Hill, a jolly little bump that climbs up out of Lower Heswall!
From this point we started to shed riders peeling off as we rode near to their homes, and after a fast run from Heswall to Caldy and then a ride into the wind along the front at Hoylake 6 of us arrived back at the 12th Man, as planned at 11o'clock. It is a good measure of haw far we have come as a group of riders. When we first started, 25 miles was the cafe and back distance. Today we did more miles after the Cafe stop than before and the whole ride totalled 50 miles!

I popped in to the 12th Man to let them know that the noisy bikers who disrupt their car park three times a week were actually going to spend some money in their premises on Tuesday night, for the 2nd club social. They have kindly agreed to reserve a quiet corner for us to be rowdy in! If you are around the Greasby Area on Tuesday night why not pop in and join us?

It looks like next week will be a quiet week in the saddle for me. Social on Tuesday, Going to Newquay and back on Thursday, so I don't think I will make the Club ride, and the Cycle Show on Sunday in Birmingham! I wonder what goodies will be on display this year? Photo's and thoughts in the next update.

I have been messing about with a free web builder this week, as I think eventually the club will need a site, rather than the FaceBook group page. Have a look and feel free to comment, and offer advice. (it needs Flash player so don't look at it on your Phone or iPad)
You will have also noticed the new Blog format. I really liked the old one, but it somehow became corrupted and didn't layout correctly any more. Again, any comments or ideas please let me know.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The last throes of Summer?

I had the weekend off from the bike last week to go back to Scotland for a family wedding. We stayed in a fantastic lodge, and discovered some great roads and routes to explore in the future. Possibly the first Palefish CC tour next year?

The week night club rides are still well attended, even though the light is rapidly disappearing. I think some of the lads have taken it as an excuse to indulge in some retail therapy. Lots of new bright lights on show last week! The temperature is also disappearing, not that it was ever that high through the summer. I even dug out my arm and knee warmers on Thursday night!! 

The weather forecast for the weekend looked good, so to celebrate possibly the last dry, warmish day of the  summer I planed a route into Wales that would be a challenge and offer us some stunning views.
There were three rendezvous points, the Twelfth Man at 7, The Glegg Arms at 7.25 and Eureka Cafe at 7.45. We must be getting better at organising ourselves as we met each time nearly dead on. 

So, 14 of us headed down towards the Dee path and into Wales. This was the first trip into this area for a couple of the lads. 

regrouping on the Dee Path

It wasn't long until we started to climb up into the hills. The first sections up to Hope are nice and steady, but then the first of the real climbs comes up quickly.
The Steps rise just over 500ft in three and a half miles. It is difficult to get into a steady rhythm, as the name suggests, the climb rises in stages, with some false flats in between each ramp. Using the new found climbing technique I discovered in Scotland I didn't break any  speed records but I did get up without using up all my energy!

Laz at the top of the Steps.
From the Steps we rode on to the Worlds End climb. This is another tough climb, over 600ft in just over 2 miles. But the views are worth every square pedal stroke!

The start of the Descent

Palefish on top of the Worlds end
The descent into Llangollen is a tricky one, with some loose gravely single track roads, and even a ford right across the middle of a bend at the bottom of the steepest section!

The last big climb of the day was the Horseshoe Pass. I have ridden this a few times before, and never made it up without stopping for a breather! I was determined to make the 3.0 mile 1000ft climb in one go, even if it was at a snails pace! I did it, and even got a PR on strava!!
I think that I am actually getting to like climbing, and if I keep practising, and not worrying about how fast I make the distance, in time I will get quicker by default! (there is always hope!)

At the top of the climb we stopped at the Ponderosa for a coffee and to refuel ( Chip butty was the order of the day for most!) However, Laz showed us how much effort he had put with an exceptionally large refuel!! 

The benefit of all the climbing that we had done to get to the Horseshoe pass, and just over halfway round the ride, was that for the most part, it is all down hill to get home, except for the up bits!
We got back to Eureka, where we had planned to stop for a quick pit stop, but everyone, except Laz who needed to charge his phone, and himself as he had decided to go on and do a hundred miles, chose to continue and get back home.
I am very happy to say that Laz exceeded his goal and rode 127 miles, a fantastic achievement, especially with all the climbing in the morning.

I can also report that Palefish CC rider Dave Lindesay has successfully completed his Lands end John O'groats ride. Now that's a challenge I may have to rise to one day!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Asthma UK Loch to Loch day 2

I woke on Sunday morning, feeling surprisingly good. The temperature hadn't dropped too much over night so it was quite comfortable in the tent, and sleeping on the ground seemed to have helped stretch out tired muscles. There was an option of a sports massage the previous night, but I don't think I could handle one. I am so ticklish I even laugh when I put my socks on!!
I was a little concerned when I put my head out of the tent at the amount of people wearing mosquito net hats around the camp, but soon became jealous of them as the little blighter's sought out fresh blood. A quick spray of repellent, which seemed to effect the others in the tent more than the midges, helped to get across the field to the main tent for breakfast. The food was once again fantastic, and there was plenty of it. I chose to have a sausage and bacon butty, and a bowl of authentic Scottish porridge (with salt YUK!)

After breakfast we got ready for the days ride, and I took advantage of the free mechanic service, and added a little lube to the chain, as the previous days rain had done a good job of removing any signs of lubrication! We were optimistic that the rain would hold off for a while, which it did, well for about 15 minutes! As we lined up to leave the camp site I felt a little rain in the air, so I decided to put on my Rain coat. This was a god idea, as we turned out of the road from the camp and turned to head north to Kilmartin the heavens opened again and the Sportful Hot pack was put to the test again, and it didn't let me down. I did however get wet feet as it didn't seem worth putting wet overshoes on. We tackled the first climb of the day and were treated to a fast sweeping descent to the coast and then as the rain had stopped and the sky cleared  I was able to stop and take some scenic pictures!

Salmon Farm at Kames Bay

I even managed a smile for the Official Photographer!
The first stop of the day was just before Kilmelford and we were treated to some more great cake! I think I will need to go on another diet to compensate for all the chocolate goodness!

Ken and I ready to burn some post cake calories

From the cake stop we rode on towards our northerly destination, again surrounded by stunning scenery.

The lunch stop was at Kilmore, and this time we were offered some more gourmet sandwiches, I chose Duck in hoisin sauce! really tasty and probably the last thing you would expect on a bike ride.

Loch Nell
The next part of the ride was similar to some of the Welsh lanes we ride in. It was a single track with some steep inclines. The view at the top of the road was stunning, once you got past the grumpy looking bull stood at the top of the climb!

On the descent one of the group hit a large pot hole and cracked his frame. A real blow to his trip, but credit to him, he waited for the support vehicle, took the pedals off his bike and fitted them to a spare (hybrid bike) and completed the ride! To add insult to injury, Warren had been the fastest finisher the day before!!

We skirted behind Oban and then started following the Sustrans number 78 route. For the majority of the route we followed, the surface was better than the road, and obviously there was no threat from traffic. There were times when I think I would have been faster on the road, and maybe safer, as there were some leaves and moss on the path under the trees, and a couple of the group did fall on slippery bridges.

We had been told that there was a surprise stop in the afternoon, and as we had suspected, David was waiting in a lay by 15 miles from the finish with his now infamous Cheese Board. A luck tourist cyclist happened to be passing and was welcomed to join us in a little al fresco dining!

Wild Fox Events vehicle of choice to carry the Cheese Board!
The view across Loch Linnhe was stunning as the sun began to break from behind the cloud.

We followed the cycle path for a little longer,and as you can see from the photo below, the surface was great in places.

After a little detour due to a collapsed bridge on the path we made the final descent to the banks of Loch Leven, and it was all over! I couldn't really believe it was finished. We received our medals and champagne from the Asthma UK team, and then started thinking about getting ready for he return journey to Balloch.

The journey had been great, the company was fantastic and the organisation was brilliant. There was a real sense of achievement within the group, from the seasoned riders to the first time adventurers, everyone had worked together either on the road, or at the stops to encourage each other on and motivate tired legs and bodies.

The Bikes were loaded onto the van for the return journey, Ken and I made sure they understood how important the bikes are to us and what may happen if there was any damage in transit. But true to the form they had set over the weekend the team delivered our bikes back to Balloch safe and sound. 

The location of the finish was stunning, surrounded by high hills and right at the end of the Loch. a fitting place to share our stories from the previous two days.
As we drove through Glencoe and headed south Ken and I discussed that we could have stayed for a night at the hotel where we finished, and then ride back to Balloch. It sounded like a good plan, but these things always do in principle!

We arrived in Balloch just ahead of the bikes, but we were met by Mrs Palefish's Cousin who lives near Stirling. It was nice to see a friendly face and have someone to share our exploits with over a fish and chip tea!

After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast we loaded the car and headed back down south.

I hope that Asthma UK decide to do another event like this next year as it was by far the best delivered event I have taken part in so far.

Please consider sponsoring me, as that was the point of taking on the challenge: and thank you so much to every one who has sponsored me so far.

Day 2 Route:

For the official photos from Wild Fox for the weekend please follow this LINK

Monday, 3 September 2012

Asthma UK Loch to Loch Day 1

I cant believe it's over! I know it is a funny way to start a blog post but it feels like an awfully long time ago that I signed up for the ride, and now it is done! 140 miles through some of the most stunning scenery in the country. but more of that later. All I will ask is that once you have read the blog, please remember that this was a CHARITY RIDE and I am trying to raise as much as I can for this great charity which could really make a difference to my sons life, and also maybe to mine!

If you know me you will know that I work well under pressure, so having to decide what to take, pack it, after finding the bag I wanted to pack it in, fit new tyres to the bike, go and pay for the tyres and pick up spare inner tubes from The Bike Shop, all before 12 o'clock. I didn't do too bad and finally left at one to go and pick up Ken.

To say we were like a couple of excited school kids is an understatement. Ken rode the London to Paris last year, so he is used to consecutive day riding but I have never taken part in a two day event before, although I did go out for two consecutive rides a couple of weeks ago. The thing we were looking forward to was riding new roads, and facing new challenging climbs. (neither of us are natural climbers!)

The drive up to Balloch was uneventful, except for hitting the rush hour round Glasgow, which to be honest only held us up for half an hour. The weather was the only thing to literally dampen our spirits. It did not bode well for the weekend as it got wetter the further into Scotland we drove.

The base for the weekend was the Palombos of Balloch B&B. The staff were great, very welcoming and obviously used to cyclists and their weird habits! They even started early for us on Saturday so we could have Breakfast before the check in time for the ride.

As the rooms are above a chipy, I decided that my carb loading had to include Chips, and settled on Battered Haggis and Chips. I have to say, it was a great meal, but not the best pre ride fuel!!

Check in was just round the corner from the B&B. As expected it was raining, but that didn't seem to be affecting the sense of excitement buzzing around the car park as people checked in their luggage for the overnight stop, picked up their ride numbers and did some last minute bike checks.

Asthma UK gave a quick welcome message to the 65 riders and then handed over to the event organisers Wild Fox Events who gave us a safety briefing and an outline of the type of terrain we would be up against. Sarah Perry from Tour De Force, who organise rides that follow the Tour de France route was riding with us and gave us some good tips and advice for achieving our target.

At 8.30 we set off from Balloch and headed towards the shores of Loch Lomond. We rode around the west side of the Loch to Duck Bay where we turned left to head west towards Garelochhead. We met our first climb of the ride, a 7 mile gradual incline that was made a little nastier with a head wind and rain! But to my surprise, I found a good gear and span up, no way the fastest, but much more comfortable than usual. Things were looking good for the dreaded "rest and be thankful"!

We were treated to a fast descent and then another Loch side ride to the first water stop at Arrochar. We were greeted by some local musical talent, which was fantastic, and as water stops go this was up among the best I have seen in many sportives. There was Tea and Coffee, and most importantly, CAKE! As well as water and energy drinks. The organisers had put a lot of thought into the stops, and what people really want to keep them going.

After refuelling we set off round the Loch to the start of the Climb up to "Rest and be thankful"
To be fair, The Horseshoe Pass at 4 miles with an average incline of 4.8% and an elevation gain of 1022ft is tougher than the "Rest" which was 5 miles at an average of 3% and an elevation gain of 814ft (all figures are approx and based on Strava data) but I was still glad to be at the top, and welcomed by David from Wild Fox to what he called a "Gucci" stop! Once again the organisers had got it right and rewarded riders with a little treat at the top of the climb, including a great cheese board and range of chocolate goodness. 
The weather had also cleared up, well it wasn't raining any more, so I was able to shed the Sportful Hot Pack and loose the arm warmers. I did however manage to undo all the good work my new Mavic overshoes had done to keep the rain out of my shoes. As I stood at the feed stop, a managed to find a particularly spongy bit of grass that seemed to be holding enough water to completely fill both my shoes via the venting on the bottom of the sole! If there is one thing that makes cycling uncomfortable, it is wet shoes.

The road we took is the one on the far left (as you look at the picture)

The start of the fun bit!
From the "Gucci" stop we descended, fast, and then rode round the coast line to Inveraray for the lunch stop.

Some one said at the evening meal that they had never been on a ride that had so many ups, followed by pointless downs, which sort of sums up the roads in Scotland. I don't think we did any actual flat riding all weekend! Anyway, after a rolling ride to the grounds of Inveraray Castle we were treated to some Gourmet Sandwiches and Soup and probably the Best Caramel shortbread I have ever tasted (sorry Eureka Cafe)
If you get the chance, I would recommend a visit to Inveraray and why not call in to Brambles  and see for yourself?

After lunch we carried on along the coast road,taking in another climb or two before finally heading North through Lochgilphead and on to our over night stop. I don't think I have ever been as happy as I was to see the white peaks of the tents, and the promise of some warm, dry socks.

Loch2Loch Campsite

Once checked in I headed to our tent, locked the bikes up, had a shower and put some dry socks on! Surprising what a difference it made. The weather turned nasty again not long after we arrived and it didn't stop all night. The big tent became a hive of activity as riders arrived and sat listening to the band, but one thing was missing. The one thing, apart from dry socks, you want when you get in from a long ride is some food to replace what you have used up. This was one area the organisation was a little off the mark. For all the right reasons the meal was planned for 7pm, once all the riders had arrived. what this didn't take into account was the faster hungrier riders who had to wait 4 hours for something to eat! Maybe just a plate of beans on toast on arrival would have helped, but there were a few hungry, tired riders by 7 and it was quite funny as the lids were lifted from the serving dishes to watch the sprinters find some energy from somewhere to get to the front of the line! The food was great, and there was certainly enough to fill us up, and prepare us for the next days riding. There was even a Bar, which I avoided, but was well used by the rest of the group. I decided to get an early night, and make sure I had plenty of sleep before Day 2 presented it's challenges. 

Day 2 to follow.