Anybody in the London area who rode a bike yesterday morning could be forgiven for thinking why we bother, even my measly 5km run into Milltag HQ was enough to leave me well and truly soaked. The office resembled a Chinese laundry by the time I stripped off the wet weather gear and every available radiator covered in socks, shoes and jersey. But, regular riding at this time of year has it’s own particular rewards and for those of us attempting a PBP it’s pretty much a necessity. This Saturday sees me lining up for my first qualifier, the charmingly titled Willy Warmer, a 200km run from Chalfont out towards Hungerford and back.
I’ve done a fair few 200km rides in my time but never in January. Aside from the weather which can be unpredictable at best the issue is getting in base miles so that you can ride for 8 hours or so without too much discomfort. It’s fine in Summer with long days and evenings to put the miles in, you can easily build up to longer and longer distances. Without even a decent commute distance i’ve had to rely on a (80-100km) weekend ride, hilly as possible, plus some time in the gym on the static bike and rowing machine. I’m a big advocate of cross training and will discuss this at some future point when, frankly, there isn’t much else to say.
But, there is one other sure-fire way to get maximum bang for your winter riding bucks, and that’s to start riding fixed. We all know that it’s oh-so-fashionable nowadays but if you are serious about your training, want to build leg strength and develop a better and faster pedaling action then this is the only way to go. My Brother in Law spotted an old Falcon steel tourer for sale in his local paper for £15 and picked it up for me. Once i’d stripped off the old running gear, brakes and saddle I went about adding the obligatory front brake plus a cheap set of new wheels. All told, it cost me less than £100 and has undoubtedly been the single best cycling investment i’ve ever made. I know you want to see this bit of kit, get a load of that;
Still a work in progress, you may notice the rather rakish angle of the seat – the frame is a little small for me, plus i’ve not managed to get rid of that outer chainring. I’m running a pretty heavy gear on this thing, a 42/14 (81″ in old money) which is fine for the dash to work but a bit beefy for anything longer. I’ll probably swap this out for a lower gear for some longer rides, i’d love to take this out for a 200km run later in the year if the old knees are up to it. I saw a fair few fixed riders on the LEL trip – 1400km and not a single one of them free, the real hard men of cycling.
So, I wish you all Bonne Chance with your cycling endeavours, hope this encourages some of you back onto the bike. Remember this; Winter Miles = Summer Smiles.