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We all know that participation and interest in cycling is going through a boom period in the UK. We see more and more cyclists on the road every day, for pleasure, for commuting or as their means of transport.
For example years ago I ago there was a young guy at work who used to arrive on a skateboard (he was a graphic designer which we all felt explained this behaviour). We both left this employment and next time I saw him to say hello he was on his daily commute on his road bike to catch the train. The time after that he was cycling through town towing his toddler behind him and on Saturday I saw him on his bike with his food shopping poking out of a rucksack! That is dedication to the cause.
It’s the Ride London – Surrey 100 today, the biggest closed road cycle event in the UK. I didn’t enter the ballot this year and have regretted that decision for some period of time – until I saw the weather forecast. With torrential rain, gales and storms forecast, I can’t say I feel like I’m missing out. Good luck to everyone rolling over the start line today.
So here I am, slightly sheepishly sat at home having also chosen to give the club run a miss today.
Am I a fair-weather cyclist? I don’t think so. I don’t mind riding in a bit of rain or cold weather. But I do admit that knowing it’s going to be raining HARD for the entire time I’m out is a bit of a deal-breaker for me. After four or five hours getting wet, it doesn’t matter how good your waterproof gear is – you are going to be cold and pretty miserable. Certainly I would be.
On top of that, high winds are probably the most dangerous conditions to ride in. Side gusts can quickly move you off line (into the path of approaching vehicles), or stick you in the ditch. With the likelihood of standing water making riding close to the kerb even harder – I just decided that today the risks outweighed the rewards. Was I right?
I have to confess I am really enjoying the nightly Tour de France Highlights programme on ITV4. Normally I am completely faithful to Eurosport for cycling coverage as the commentary is better (particularly if Magnus Backstedt has been persuaded to get off his bike and come into the studio) but the ITV4 Highlights show has excellent special features and analysis from Chris Boardman. The interviews by Ned Boulting are also a welcome relief from the Eurosport (or should that be Eurotrash) presenters!
I regularly mention that I needed to improve my descending skills and as if he had heard my plea Boardman did a special feature on descending last week which you can access via the ITV website here:
Now a lot of it is really analysing techniques pro cyclists should be employing to descend at speed and in a peloton but there were still a few tips in there for mere mortals.
When he talks about aerodynamics (1.30 in) I think we can all agree the safest descending position for an amateur is what he calls the traditional heads down, bum up position. Sitting on the crossbar is definitely best left to the professionals and the underarm grip position to Peter Sagan!
The section I found most useful was the breakdown of the sections of the corner into – deceleration zone, freewheel zone and acceleration zone (1.57). I tend to still be breaking as I go around the bend which is highly undesirable.
Also notice how the riders switch their weight to the outside leg as they go around the corner. This is fundamental to safe cornering and you must put your full weight on this outside leg. I realised recently I hadn’t been putting enough weight down through this outside leg to stabilise my cornering. I have been concentrating on this recently and feel much safer.
He also mentioned well known hazards in the wet i.e. do remember to avoid cycling over white lines on the road (and manhole covers) as these surfaces are extra slippy in these conditions. And don’t break when going through the water
If you are, like me, not the most skilled descender on a bike the story of Thibaut Pinot may be of some comfort. Identified as one of France’s future grand tour winners his Achilles heel has been his self confessed terror of descending due to a bad crash when he was younger that led him to question his place on the Tour last year.
Pinot spent time in May in a training camp in the Pyrenees to banish his descending demons and also reportedly retrained his approach to corners by driving a racing car. Whatever he has done he has demonstrated it is possible to get over a fundamental fear as in the 2014 Tour he is no longer losing time on the descents.
Does anyone have the number for the Stig?
Since taking up cycling I have found it really useful to have a big goal ahead both to keep me motivated and to take me out of my comfort zone.