Beyond the Bike 2015/16 - Bamboo with a View.
How do you train for a 10 month+, 10,000km+ bike ride?
People keep asking me this and I really do not know how to answer. Those who have done similar things (Stuart, on his last trip, Tom, the Hungry Cyclist) say that you cannot really train for something like this - 'the training is done during the first couple of weeks'….this is a very nice idea and I do hope it is true! I am really hoping that the places we go and the people will meet will take my mind off my sore legs and bum!
Some people would go all out and be super bike fit - think of Mark Beaumont who recently cycled Cairo to Cape Town - over 10,000km - in less than 42 days. Luckily we are not trying to break any records! Then the other extreme is Anne Mustoe who, as a retired headmistress cycled around the world and wrote some brilliant books about her adventures. Stu and I are somewhere in-between these two, well, I am closer to Anne and Stu to Mark, but hopefully we will work things out, and maybe even write a Mustoeque book afterwards…
Anne Mustoe and Mark Beaumont - cycling heros!
Here are just a few things about the my training:
The first time I went on any bike in years and the first time ever on a road bike was April 2014 when Stu and I cycled up the famous Col de la Columbiere which was still closed to cars due to the snow. I was very pleasantly surprised, it was amazingly doable, although we went very slowly. Fast forward 16 months and we are back in the Alps and have been up the Col twice, from both sides, and rather worryingly I found it so much harder, there is a lot to be said for being a complete novice and not having any idea of what is going on…Stu is mostly very patient, although conversations such as this were rather trying: ME: ' If you just do the Col it is not too bad'. STU: 'Tour de France riders race up it at the end of a 150km day'. ME: 'I'm not a (insert rude word) Tour de France rider'! If anyone fancies a quick training weekend at the bottome of the Col do check out BikeWeekender.
Riding up the Col for the first time (it is officially closed!) and then again last week.
Which brings me to three main issues I need to get over pretty quickly:
Issue #1 - trying not to get too disheartened when 'Super-Stu' disappears over the top of yet another hill and leaves me panting and sweating my way up, cursing (him) and crying! Training ride 1 in the Alps was an example of this - 'let's do a nice 60km circuit and go up the Col de la Columbiere from the other side' said Stuart. I thought the sounded OK, only three hills, 2100m climbing (didn't think about that), the first hill was horrible, very narrow, lots of gravel so I was slipping everywhere , with climbs that were about 18% . I had to admit defeat (not easy for me) and get off and walk twice. I know that I need to stop comparing myself to Stu and be honest with him about how I am finding things, we will have to see how that works out! The other option is to put rocks in his panniers to make his bike even heavier...
Issue #2 - breaking in my Brooks saddle, these are made of very hard leather and are meant to mould to your bum ensuring that they are the most comfortable (in the end). I have been using mine for about two months now and must have done several hundred km but the saddle is still SO HARD! After a big ride I cannot sit down properly! Slightly worried about how much longer it will take to break in - watch this space, I am sure stories of my bum will continue…!
A beautiful Brooks saddle - it WILL be very comfortable soon!
Issue #3 - getting the right bike! My beautiful bamboo bike is finished - the wonderful Rich Chapman has done an amazing job continuing on what the wonderful Kasoma started in Uganda. We decided that riding it around the Alps would be a bit silly - a heavy touring bike would not do much for my confidence! So I was riding my old road bike which has dodgy gears, a dodgy back wheel (man in bike shop: ' it will break soon, but you may as well keep riding it until it does!') and on a fast descent down from Col de Croix-Fry two spokes broke, I heard a strange noise but kept on wobbling down the hill - oops, better be more careful next time! Back in London I have ridden the bamboo for the first time in the torrential rain, not really a fair first outing and so I am champing at the bit to get on it again and ride it properly.
My finished bike and Kasoma with the frame.
In all seriousness, in terms of training, it is about being sensible and ensuring we do go for rides and do some back to back days but there is not much more to it than that (I hope!). Stuart did say one evening that maybe we should be trying to 'fatten up' before we go so that has been the perfect excuse to eat and drink a lot! It will be very interesting to see what happens to my body as the months go on…everyone keeps joking about how big my legs are going to get (and will Stuart mind…!). Mentally things are bound to change too and I know I need to become much more relaxed and not think to much about things…I think it will be good for me!
So what else have we been doing in the run up - very important things like sorting out kit and so massive thank yous to Halfords, P20, Serious Stuff, Precision Hydration, Natural Peak and many more. Also, LOTS OF ADMIN, which I love, I have made so many lists! Sorting out the educational resource side of things, the fundraising stuff, the warm up ride to Amsterdam, our leaving party! I do sometimes wonder what I would be doing if we weren't about to head off on this great adventure!
Also, very excitingly I have actually been able to write a Economics blog and get some Classics in too, I am sure that this will be the only time I am allowed near the Economic cycle though - but do check it out.
My next blog will actually be from the bamboo bike (hopefully with a name!) and I will be able to write about Kasoma and the 'bamboo boys' when we get to his workshop in Uganda!