Saturday 22 April 2023

Back on the flats

This might be a bit controversial to some. I'm back using flat pedals. 
A few thoughts:

When I was riding as a kid it wasn't a thing. We all just used the pedals that came with the bike. When I returned to cycling in 2005 I used flats because that was all I knew. Anything else was for club riders; and that wasn't me.

I joined Oxted CC in 2020 and raised some eyebrows with my choice. It wasn't a big deal, only eliciting a few comments about how being clipped in was more efficient. I was able to keep up with people in the groups I joined so maintained the status quo.

Late 2021 I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Link to my change. It was okay, I didn't really notice much of an improvement. Then in early 2022 I crashed and broke my hip. When I started riding again the thought of a fail to unclip incident causing a fall on my left side had me going old school again. Also I had a limited range of motion at first; it wasn't comfortable to clamp my foot in place. A year on I don't think I'll be clipping in anytime soon. Even today the worry of not unclipping causes too much anxiety. It has the potential to spoil a ride.

I did notice that I had altered my technique in the short time I was attached to the bike. So it was making more of a difference than I had thought.

It could also be a potential obstacle for a new rider, I wrote some thoughts here about this subject. Much info about cycling on the internet says you don't use flat pedals if you are a serious rider. My club doesn't hold this view, but some might.

I now commute to the London office by bike and I'd be very anxious if I couldn't get a foot down in an emergency. I know it gets easier over time, but for me I know it would be a struggle. 

I do wear shoes to which cleats can be attached, because the sole is stiffer. I saw a picture of me doing a hill climb in trainers which provided the impetus to investigate alternatives. My foot was curled around the pedal. Less compliance from the shoe increases power transfer. My next pair will be more sporty, with and a firmer base.

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Entry is too expensive

Someone new to cycling would look to the internet for advice. What would they find? 

Videos like this. The inference would be that if you take riding seriously you need a carbon fibre bike. There are advantages for sure, but the cheaper end of the market is not much better than metal as far as weight etc is concerned. Just because a bike is made from this wonder material doesn't mean it's much lighter. The frame is more expensive to produce so the other components tend to be lower spec. 

A better video for anyone new to bikes might be this. I'd spend a little more, as they suggest, and get disc brakes. 

Or you can buy second hand, as I did. I upgraded it as parts wore out. I did eventually buy a new carbon fibre bike. But that was because I wanted disc brakes and to compete in TT's. My old bike found a good home. 

The road bike I have is more suited to recreational riding. When I ride into London I take the mountain bike. Another minefield of info is which style of bike to buy.

There are gravel, XC, touring, hybrids, cross country, racers and mountain bikes.

I have two because I returned to cycling with the intention of doing it mostly off road. As time went by I did this less often. I could have sold the bike but it was worth so little it didn't make sense. The Kona Blast is from 2006 and very much old school. Having said that; only the frame and fork are from then. It's now used on a Sunday to meet Matt for coffee; and to commute.

If you mostly ride to work and for errands then a cheap bike might be best.  Especially if you have to leave it in a less secure location.

Buying an expensive bike has its advantages and disadvantages. The components might last longer but will cost more to replace. It's more likely to be stolen. 

Then there is clothing. If you ride for long periods this is important for comfort. But the cost can be incredible. I initially rode with what I had already; but as the distances increased this became impracticle.  So I bought specific clothing from the cheaper end of the scale. It was okay, but there were problems. It didn't fit that well and soon wore out. I couldn't justify the expensive alternatives, so settled for somewhere in the middle. Still expensive but I can appreciate the better fit and longevity. 

Most annoying is that even the more expensive options fall short of their promise. I have yet to find gloves and socks that will keep me completely warm and dry. 

Commuters can probably stop reading the post here.

If you are still with me lets talk food, indoor training, tech, events, and clubs.

I started by eating as I went along, from shops as needed. Then I carried food with me and adding powders to water. I bought sports nutrition as it's called. It was easy to carry, kept me energised and didn't upset my stomach. But it's expensive. Now I make my own or buy what are called breakfast bars. They taste okay and are much cheaper. On hotter days I'll still use electrolyte tablets in the water bottle, otherwise I'll just add sugar to the water.

When the weather is grim you move inside, or you don't ride. For me at first I just stayed in the house. But as I became fitter I ventured out in poor weather. See above about clothing. And I fell off more. I was given a simple trainer that a bike is bolted onto. I use it to this day. It's okay but it can be very boring. Here is were the spending can start once again. You start with a "smart" version of what I have for £100 or so. It links to a cycling computer and takes you on a simulated ride. Or it links to an online world through a web hosted service; monthly charges apply. From there you can spend up to many thousands of pounds on equipment. I'm sticking with what I have.

I use tech on my rides, do I want to use more? Maybe. I have a cycling computer, bought initially for sat nav duties. It can do much more and it use to record my rides for uploading to Strava. My sports watch does this now. I do use a heart rate monitor as well. But it can be linked to a powermeter to monitor my effort as well. The constant upgrades to all of this perpetuates almost endless waste. Manufacturers follow the same rules as all tech companies; telling us the equipment we have is no longer up to the job. Even though when we bought it they told us it was.

By events I mean what are called sportives. Rides over a set route with feed stops, signs and some kind of support. I rarely do them now, they can be expensive. Before cycle computers that provide sat nav a new destination was a hassle so having the hard work of route following done for me was great. Food stops less so, there is nearly always a shop or petrol station nearby. They do sell the illusion of being almost a race. Some participents ride like it is, they can take it too seriously. Another reason I'm put off. They can also use locations seen in pro races around the world. This encourages travel, mostly by air; which is highly polluting.

Clubs are a good choice if you want to expand your cycling world. They provide support and encouragement, new destinations and targets. Knowledge and advice is another advantage. Find a good one, the membership fee will be worth it.

I have participated in most of the purchasing encouraged by the cycling world. Some of it I still use, some not and some I judged not to be worth it. If you have the money to spare, indulge; except for the air travel. 

Cycling is life improving and can reduce pollution. It doesn't have to be expensive.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Wheeling is healing

wheeling is healing

I have often written how much cycling means to me.

How much benefit it provides; both mentally and physically. 

Yesterday I went to see a friend; he's recovering from a broken hip. 

Last year we meet for a catch-up and we talked about his cancer. A phrase he used many times was "wheeling is healing". Cycling had helped him recover: it built fitness and strength, provided a distraction from the hardship and a focus. I thought that it would be a great slogan to print on a cycling jersey.

Finally I had them and the bank holiday weekend seemed an ideal time to deliver his.

I had intended make the journey by bike, but the rain was torrential, so I took public transport. As I finish writing this the weather today is wonderful. Why couldn't it have been like this yesterday?

He cooked a very tasty lunch and he, his partner and myself chatted about cycling, food and how his recovery was going. It was good to swap notes on life after our crashes. We both had mild dread for the daily blood thinning injections we had to perfom for a few weeks. He didn't get the same implant as me; which meant a very different rehab. He stayed longer in hospital, but could put weight on the leg earlier. It was more painful. And he has not yet been given the go ahead to ride outside. 

I hope I helped him stay positive.

It won't be long until he is on the road again. I can sympathise with his frustration at only being able to train inside.

We can then meet for coffee and ride a few laps of Richmond Park. It's a mecca for cyclists and hopefully a good reintroduction to getting out.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Being vegan

There is the saying: "How do you know if someone is a vegan? Don't worry they'll tell you."

Because of that I thought long and hard about writing this post. 

I have written a little about why I made this choice. Previous posts.

My intention is not to tell anyone what to do, just to say why I altered my lifestyle. Please research and reach your own conclusion. A caution I would add is that there are vested interests, and books to sell on both sides. So keep an open mind.

I had always been that person who said the line at the top of this page. I bought into the narrative that we need to eat meat, fish and dairy. A plant based diet couldn't provide everything I needed. Meat was the reason we had bigger brains, and developed the ability to run for long periods; to chase down prey. I now realise this may not be the case.

At the beginning of 2021 I watched Game Changers. Many will say it was the reason they changed. But not me. I didn't like the format. In my opinion it lacks substance. I was looking for persuasive info, I was disappointed. So I didn't change. Later I watched other documentaries: Seaspiracy and Cowspiracy were the first two. Others followed about the effects eating meat and dairy have on health, how animal agriculture damages our planet, and the terrible way animals are treated in food production. So I didn't become vegan until July of that year.

Most people become vegan because of the exploitation of animals. It is the definition of veganism. It wasn't my initial motivation. Now though I can say it's a primary reason along with the pollution it generates. I continue to become more informed about how unhealthy it is.

Fish are often left out of diet discussions. Most of the plastic and waste in our oceans is from the fishing industry. The methods used are incredibly damaging to the ecosystem, the quantity harvested is not sustainable, and the bycatch is incredible. So many dead animals are thrown back. Think about the cost to other species of that piece of seafood you're about to eat.

It's nearly two years now and I wouldn't go back. I did sort of missed meat at the beginning. Or was that just habit? I now can't imagine eating anything other than plant based.

Do I feel better, do I have more energy, am I free from disease, am I stronger? I can only say how it has affected me; your experience maybe different. I do feel better, I have reduced my exploitation of animals, and the burden I place on earth's resources. 

Energy is a difficult one to measure. Other parts of my life affect me and can make me feel low and unmotivated. I do generally feel more energetic.

I can only say at the moment I'm not aware of any diseases that are affecting me. 

I am in better shape than I've ever been. Is that just the food I eat, or the additional exercises I now do? Based on what I read and watch; being plant based reduces inflammation and improves my response to stress. I do feel I recovered very quickly from my crash last year. It's anecdotal I know; but feedback from my club mates suggests that I did. 

A recent blood test confirmed I am eating well. The only concern was low vitamin D, not uncommon this time of year.

This and everything on my blog is my opinion. I'm no expert. It's what I understand from personal experience and research. You can agree, ignore it, or disagree. But I would hope that it at least gave you a little incentive to find out more.

A few science based links that helped me.

World Health Organisation and a vegan diet. Will download a pdf.

Link 1

Link 2.

Search results for a vegan diet.