Biarritz to Barcelona – we made it.

B2B 2017 –  we did it! It wasn’t quite the fun that the last one was but there is a great sense of achievement when you do something that is tough. As we were starting late in the season we knew that the weather could be bad but did not expect to land in Biarritz in the pouring rain. We met up with Jordi and Javi our Spanish support crew and they loaded the van and took us in two trips to our first hotel in Souraide. We assembled our bikes in the rain and then were treated to our first massage. Ouch! (Here’s the route)

PA010019Day one started grey and damp but before long the rain came down. It started as we left the support van after a feed and minor bike fix.  So it was easy to ride back and don waterproof jackets. It didn’t stop raining until well into the next day’s ride.

On the second long climb, the Col de Soudet, the rain was really heavy and the two of us with the routes on our Garmins were at the back. The leaders went the wrong way choosing an 18km smooth and fast hairpin descent to a little village with a warm bar. This diversion avoided the Marie Blanc which saved us time as we were rapidly running out of light. By the time that we climbed out of Laruns to Eaux Bonnes on the Aubisque it was dark and too late for any massages. Luckily there was a washing machine but as was our luck, no dryer. The rain kept on coming down and, by then, my legs were a dead as my Garmin and the ride had only just begun.

PA010055The first day’s rain, the 9 hours, 186km, 3802m and the forecast caused a rethink and we opted to skirt the Aubisque and Tourmalet and head straight for the Aspin which, in big col terms, is a gentle and easy one. We finished the day the way we started hammer down and through ‘n’ off but this time in sunshine. That night’s hotel must have had a refurb. circa 1962 and was definitely showing signs of wear. We got our massages and some great food and conversation, however the discourse was confined to those that spoke French and the calf’s tongue in the bolognaise was not to everyone’s taste.

PA020122Day three began chill but dry and we headed up the Col de Peyresourde, Col du Portillon and then the killer 25km Port de la Bonaigua topping out around 2100m. The descent was awesome but when we regrouped in the valley it was full gasdown to Tarlan. I kept telling myself that is was downhill all the way but we were on a mission: flat out and my legs were screaming. We finished  the 184km in 7 and a half tough hours. We were staying in an old bunk house in a tiny village atop a conical hill (yes, another climb to finish us off). The dormitory was school like but the showers good and food just what we needed. The local black pudding was a delight.

PA30237Day four started badly with the one Di2 bike not wanting to play the game. That was tough on Simon as he was probably the fittest member of the team. Once over the disappointment he squeezed into the van and spent the day trying to keep us motivated. This was the day that I was dreading. When asked to print out the profiles this one filled me with horror. The was just one big climb, the Comiols per Isona¸ which was not too much trouble, but from then on there were countless small climbs which would count as good hills for Sussex but looked like nothing over the whole of our trip. I suffered big time. Our stop came at about 150km with the consolation that the last 35km would generally be down. I ate as much as I could and ended up enjoying the final fling, and yes, you guessed it, hammer down and through and off to the end!

PA30243Day five was sheer bliss. The hotel was comfortable and in the centre of Cava country. So, we all drank Cava. We started for the first time on the whole trip without arm warmers and gilets. There was one climb which David knew well as a local Strava and training blast. The hill was gentle, the pace that we tried to ride up it was nothing but gentle. The pain of the climb gave way to the joy of riding, first through the Penedes vineyards and then through gently rolling and twisty roads in a forest of Mediterranean pines. This a popular training route for Catalans and we rode through listening to and obeying David’s commands of “Big ring, big ring!”. We even bumped into a training and work colleague of his for the final run down to the sea and there we picnicked in style. The final run into Barcelona was flat and fast and a mixture of airport service roads and motorway. That was not much fun but then Barcelona is a big and busy city.

PA50298

The statistics

As my Garmin died in the rain I had no record but compiled some data from the rest of PA50340the teams figures. There is some debate as to the amout of climbing as the mountains ridden over were shown as much high on the route planned out on Strava.

The highs

Pro support: Jordi and Javi spend their years working for pro teams as soigneur or mechanic and their support was invaluable from the food bags, massages, clean kit and serviced bikes!

Jordi’s massage was incredible and as the days passed so our pain thresholds increased.

Hairpin descents. We did at least 11 long descents with 7 of around 20km or longer. Aaaaawsome!

W2W: Weapon to win. Jordi’s warm up balm that he applied every morning. The warmth lasted for hours even in the rain and got hotter as the temperature got colder.

Perfect bikes: Mine is always perfect but each morning all the bikes looked clean and ready to go. Javi worked the evenings and mornings to get them ready for us each day.

The company: we all ride together and ride with a similar approach. I felt a bit weak but they never made me feel that I was holding the rest back.

The food bags: Every day Jordi and Javi would package up little bits of food into our respective named bags ready for each days fuelling just as they do for the pros that they work with.

The Pyrenees: they are really beautiful.

My legs feel awesome now that I have rested.

The lows

The rain on the first two days.

My Garmin dying on day one so no records.

The long distances, but that was really just down to my fitness.

Port de la Bonaigua: This was my bad climb, on reflection the rest weren’t too bad but such was the personal trauma of this climb that I let it taint my view of the whole trip.

Biarritz to Barcelona in pictures

You can find mosty of the pictures from the trip on the Quest Adventure Facebook page.

Would I do it again? Yes. If you had asked me the week after I would have said no but on reflection I merely lacked the miles in my legs. I would remedy that for the next one.

Posted in Bad weather, Biarritz to Barcelona, Raid Pyrenees, Riding in the rain, Road rides | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Biarritz to Barcelona in October 2017

Profile-day-2Last year a group of us arrange a cycle trip from St Malo to Santander. It was 1,000 miles over 10 days. It was going to the E2E Land’s End to John O’Groats but the weather and British drivers scared us off. In fact we are tough enough for the weather but not the great Britsh driver. Over 1,000 miles, ten days and on some busy roads, one, yes only one vehicle passed us close. Maybe the driver was a Brit.

We never thought that we could do it especially the consecutive days but surprised ourselves and so are going back for more. The next trip is a condensed version halving the time but beating the elevation.

We will climb over 18,000 metres over approximately 700 kilometres. We will be going over some of the most iconic mountains in cycling and like last time will ride it with support. Even though we have no claim to be pro riders we can enjoy riding it light weight and quick enjoying every moment. Get a puncture, raise you hand…… Can’t wait.

There’s and full break down of the route on our Quest Adventure website.

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Wilier Cento 10 Air Review

I have a couple of Wiliers and have been lucky enough to have ridden other models whilst in Italy under the Italian hospitality of Wilier. After my first trip I came home having ordered a bike and the same happened on the last trip. There must be something working well in their hospitality department.

Wilier Cento 10 Air Chorus

Wilier Cento 10 Air Chorus

I ride the Cento Uno or Cento 1 SR the newer version. They are both stiff racing machines and are fast, light and exciting. In fact I’d describe the Cento 1 SR as wild, like a teenager. When I tested the GTR Race SL it felt more of a downhill bike: super light, really comfortable and with a laid back geometry suited to shredding hair pins in the Alps or, more appropriately, the Dolomites.

The Wilier Cento 10 Air is the grown up version of the wild Cento 1 SR. The geometry is the same but the moment you hit the road you notice how smooth it is. It has taken the race feel of the Cento 1 and combined it with the comfort of the GTR SL. The Cento 10 Air is Wilier’s third generation aero bike. The Cento 10 Air is the coming of age for the Centos and has replaced them as the race team’s bike. Its key asset is the comfort of the ride. In order for the Pros the go faster designers have realised that by keeping them comfortable helps them keep going for longer and harder. The Cento 10 Air does just that.

Wilier Cento 10 Air kamtail profile

Wilier Cento 10 Air kamtail profile

Wilier use a Kamtail design to ensure that the frame is aerodynamic but keep the tubes relatively wide. Gone are the days when thinner meant faster as thin frames flex (this was the case in the first Cento Air). They are using their best grade 60 ton carbon to make a monocoque frame so that no watt is wasted on a sprint or powering up a climb. To enhance the aero features of the bike Wilier looked and the bar and stem combo and came up with the Alabarda. This is slim and keeps the gear cables hidden passing them through the bar, stem and headset into the frame.

Wilier Alabarda handle bar/stem combo

Wilier Alabarda handle bar/stem combo

I like to set my bars up flat as the brakes are more efficient this way (I love descending and set the brakes up just so). The Alabarda bar is flat and super thin too, over 33% thinner than a regular handlebar. The brakes are direct mount which adds even more power to an already powerful brake. The bike tested has Campagnolo brakes which used to be the most powerful although recent Shimano brakes are on a par. The frame uses 60 Ton carbon with unique tube dimensions for each frame size and will take up to 28mm tyres.

There is a clear difference between the top end frames as supplied to race teams and those that are there to hit magical price points on the internet. Once you are in the upper echelons of performance frames there is a price to pay and lots of choice. My view is that if you can afford this sort of bike then why not buy one with the looks, class, uniqueness, history and style to match your spend.

You can read more on our website: Wilier Cento 10 Air

Posted in Road bike reviews, Wilier Cento Uno | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Drivers should be the best campaigners for segregated cycle routes

I thought I ought to write to the local paper as Worthing’s enjoyment to drive is soon going to be a thing of the past. Despite the endeavours of the County and Borough Councils cycling will, just as it has everywhere else, come to Worthing. We might not have any cycle routes but we have riders, pavements, cycle racks and even town hire bikes. Virtually the entire executive of the borough council is pro cycling. It is only a matter of time.

I thought that I should sound a wakeup call. So here is my letter (below). Why do I do this? Well, nothing is going to happen…. yet. Nothing ever does in Worthing but at least we ought to be talking about it. If someone disagrees enough to be angry they will notice me  and, as far as I am concerned, if I am noticed, I am seen and that is a lot safer than not being seen!

For the record, West Sussex had double the KSIs (killed or Seriously Injured) on its roads and Worthing had the same a Brighton which has five time the population!

This letter was published in the 17th August 2017 edition.

Dear Herald,

Worthing has always been a great place to drive and has not had to endure the traffic calming or restrictions that other towns in the county have had to put up with. It has not even had any discussion on alternatives such as cycling or buses as the town functions, or has, so smoothly with the car. We must be the envy of other towns in the county.

Our freedom to roam has been impacted by the desire of outsiders to pass through using the A27 and also by the very popularity of driving. Our journeys are affected by the extra burden on the A27 but, luckily the excess numbers within the town have been accommodated by the tolerance of the town to pavement parking. We must be the luckiest place in the county as pavement parking everywhere else is illegal.

Despite our greatest efforts our freedom to drive is being eroded and even with West Sussex County Council’s staunch support for the car the county and town may soon succumb to the ways of the rest of the country. We may even go the way of Surrey and be overrun with bikes. This will be a disaster and will hit us worse than any other town because Worthing has never needed cycle routes. It has none! The roads may well begin to be clogged with bikes. Imagine the disruption, first the A27 and then bikes! The cyclists will inevitably become the biggest problem.

Drivers need to act now. You need clear roads and your wing mirrors need protection from pavement riders. If you value the freedom to drive that Worthing offers, campaign for cycle routes now! It is in your interest to ensure that when the cycle tsunami hits that there is some where for bicycles to go; and away from the roads. It is only a matter of time.

What can you do? Contact your borough and county councillors and ask them for help before it’s too late.

Yours JP

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The stone age answer to the A27 traffic issue

Here’s a quick summary of the proposals in the A27 upgrade scheme Public Consultation Brochure. Anything in quotation marks “” is the exact wording from the document. My text is in italics.

Grove Lodge roundabout

Grove Lodge roundabout

Walking and cycling

“We intend to maintain current walking and cycling routes (What? There are none! OK, the Grove Lodge roundabout circumnavigation!!!) and where possible improve access for people walking, cycling and horse riding in the area when designing the scheme. This will encourage greater use of sustainable transport for local journeys.

We (Highways England) welcome your thoughts on any potential improvements to the current facilities. Detailed proposals will be discussed with the relevant authorities, cycling and walking groups.”

Most parties agree that there is a traffic problem in the area but, to date, there is not a single scheme, idea or suggestion that cycling could help reduce car traffic in what is a small flat town! Any town in Europe must be laughing at our ineptitude.

Statistics

The document has some staggering, although not unexpected, statistics regarding modes of transport (don’t forget that Worthing is small and flat).

  • “63% of those Worthing district residents currently in employment drive (or are driven) to work by a car / van
  • 14% walk
  • 6% travel by train
  • 5% cycle
  • 3% travel by bus, minibus or coach
  • 1% travel by motorcycle”

Trains

It seems that rail transport is not the answer.

“We (Highways England) have no evidence to suggest that there will be any significant switch from road to rail along the A27 corridor between Chichester and Brighton that would meet the overall future demand for travel, which demonstrates the need to improve the A27 at Worthing and Lancing.”

The proposed junction changes

Unless you look carefully you’ll find it hard to see the difference between the new and the old other than the increase in Toucan crossings.  Walkers and cyclist will have to add time to their journeys waiting for the Toucan lights to change. In fact most commuter cyclist would have to remain on the carriage way as none of the cycle routes flow and the main carriageway enjoys priority which allows for faster journeys.

This is the wording for each junction:

 1. Durrington Hill / Salvington Hill

“Convert the existing priority junctions to a traffic signalled cross road junction. Widening on Durrington Hill and on the A27 to accommodate a two lane approach, which would require some land acquisition.”

 Durrington-Offington-jctn

  1. Offington Corner Junction roundabout – A24 Findon Road/ Offington Lane (Durrington Cemetery)

“Convert the existing roundabout to a traffic signalled cross road junction. Widening on all approaches and some exits to accommodate extra slip roads and lanes, which would require some land acquisition. Access to the A24 from Fontwell Close remains but access to the A27 from Goodwood Road would be closed.”

  1. Grove Lodge Junction

“Widening of the approaches and circulation lanes to accommodate two lanes of traffic through the junction. Would require some land acquisition.”

 Grove-Lodge-junction

4a. Lyons Farm Retail Part 1 Junction (Sompting Road) and 4b Lyons Farm Retail Part 2 Junction (Lyons Way)

“Widening of the existing junctions to accommodate more lanes. Provide new turning arrangements at both junctions. Right turns from the A27 eastbound into Sompting Road and from Pines Avenue onto the A27 would be banned. Dedicated left-turn lane from the A27 eastbound into the retail park removed. Access to the A27 from Hadley Avenue closed. Widening would require some land acquisition.”

 Lyons-Farm---Busticale-Lane

  1. Busticle Lane / Halewick Lane Junction

“Provide new junction to the west of the existing junction for access to / from Halewick Lane. This would require some land acquisition, some of which is within the South Downs National Park.”

 Grinstead Lane / Manor Road Junction

“Widen the existing junction approaches and convert the existing roundabout to a new traffi c signal controlled junction for traffic turning from Manor Road onto the A27. Would require some land acquisition from nearby properties. Traffic coming from the Brighton direction would not be able to make U-turns.

Note: all proposed new traffic signals would incorporate toucan crossings (allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross together), which would increase the provision for people walking and cycling in a number of locations.”

Manor-Lancing-jctn

As for walkers and cyclists

“The footway / cycleway areas on the plans show where we are looking at improvements for people walking and cycling. These designs are still being developed.”

Still being developed??? Surely you’d look at these first to try to reduce car traffic before modifying the junctions?

What about the longer term?

This quote is unbelievable.

“The improved junctions do not have sufficient capacity to cater well for peak period traffic in the longer term, due to planned developments and natural growth in population. Local authorities would need to consider measures to reduce long term growth such as traffic restraint policies, improvements to public transport and increased cycling and walking.”

There is no mention of the Ikea and 600 new homes just east of the Manor/Grinstead lane junction.

Of course we live in Worthing which is in West Susses and both the Borough Council and County Council have (in the past) never done anything to either promote cycling let alone create any infrastructure for cyclists in the area. Let’s see if this is going to change now that Highways England are throwing the responsibility for the success of their A27 scheme onto the local authorities shoulders. Nice to have some one to blame, eh?

Safety

“The scheme will reduce accidents by drawing traffic away from minor junctions and local roads. Toucan crossings at junctions will provide protected crossing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, and new traffic signals at roundabouts will improve safety for cyclists.”

Written, I presume by someone who has never cycled! Of course it will be safer as all the cyclists will be standing by the side of the road waiting for the lights to change instead of riding to work or school. As a cycle commuter I fail to see how it is practical to use the proposed cycle route as cycling is supposed to be the quicker option to driving or walking in a town. Toucans don’t work for cyclists even if the change instantly.

How much time will you save driving the A27?

“Peak period journey times should reduce despite the projected growth in traffic. We estimate the following journey time savings in 2041 (average / vehicle): Morning peak – eastbound and westbound: 3 minutes. Evening peak – eastbound and westbound: 5 minutes.”

Please note I have asked Highways England to confirm whether 2041 is correct especially since they have said that the improvements will not cope with the expected increase is usage.

So there you have it:

£100 million to save 3 minutes and  only in the short term!

 Come on people! Get on your bike and save time, money, the environment and your lives!

When? 2022!

What can you do?

You need to write to Highways England:  Highways England e-mail.

 Complete their survey. A27 proposal survey

Above all you need to contact, e-mail, call, meet with your Worthing Borough councillors, Adur Borough Councillors and your West Sussex County Councillors and ask them what is their stratergy for walking and cycling in the town.

My final comment to those of you that have to drive; which is going to be all of us on some days. As a driver you should be campaigning more than any other group for the improvement in cycling infrastructure as it is proven that, if a good and linking, segregated cycle route is created it will be used. If it is used then that leaves more space on the roads for those who want / need to drive.

Easy travelling on E-bikes

For those of you still in the Stone Age, this is what humans look like when they take the easy option. Photo: Whyte Bikes

www.questadventure.co.uk

 

Posted in A27 traffic scheme, Commuting, Cycling in Worthing, Road Traffic Accidents, Safer roads | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

South Downs Way – A wake up call

This morning I headed off on the train to get to know the first part of the South Downs Way. I was full of optimism. That didn’t last! As the ride was going to be a lot shorter than the whole thing I thought I would ride is as fast as I could. I may have started well but faded really badly. I actually finished the ride is a far worse state the when I have ridden the whole thing. I even got my nutrition wrong! Over confident??

Wake up call!

I am hoping that I am still tired from my mountain walking and that my PT session on Wednesday evening was just too hard. If those excuses are wrong then I have a real problem looming on the 15th July.

As for my 30 minute buffer I’ll never get that as gaining that time was easy when riding in a group at an average of 17 kph. At a 19 kph average I am pretty close to maximum already so I only had about 10 minutes at QECP, 5 minutes at A285 and nothing spare at Amberley Mount. I even walked the main part of Amberley Mount. I have never done that before.

I don’t know what sort of visualising I can do to get over such poor form. Who believes in crossing fingers?

Here’s the ride.

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South Downs Way – final prep

As is usual the calendar has rolled by and I’ve run out of time to improve my strength and fitness. I don’t seem to have done the miles that I usually do. Let’s hope that less ok more holds true. I have, however, dotted just about all of the “Is” and crossed all of the “Ts” in preparation.
The major things were my break off the bike , the Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup and the personal trainer (it worked for N1NO). I’ve worked on nutrition and even tested shorts. Tyres have been changed for tougher versions as what is the point of having the fastest wheels if you puncture? I’ve got a better helmet Scott Centric and even got a K-Edge Garmin mount.
There is one thing that I have been doing for month’s and that is to visualise every climb and section. I used to do this as a windsurfer and I know it works. I’d visualise a manoeuvre sometimes for month’s before the day arrived with the right wind and waves.
20170630_054746_001

I’d seen my toes, knees, the droplets of water on my thigh, the spray in my face, the sun, the muscle pain in my arms….. everything in HD slo-mo perfection. Each time no matter how hard I’d pull it off. No problem. Job done.
I’m doing the same with the South Downs Way. I run through every bit on the OS map or Google Earth. Nothing will faze me on the day, no climb too long or too steep. However, I do not know the first section: Winchester to QECP. All I know is it’s the fastest and easiest bit where I can make up a 30 minute safety buffer. It is also an add on so it lacks the flow of the rest that follows the spine of the South Downs. It’s poorly marked, zig-zags all over the place and it is easy to take a wrong turn. I don’t get it. So today I’m getting the train over to ride it. Then I will be able to “visualise “ and ensure my 30 minute buffer without wasting any energy need for the finish.

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