Sunday 26 March 2023


It's early in the year, but I'm feeling stronger on the bike. Now that the weather is getting better, although I am writing this as the rain lashes down. The longer club rides have started, and the meet up time will return to 08:30 next week.

I worry that just exercising on the trainer doesn't build or maintain my capabilities.

The last few Saturdays have boosted my confidence, especially yesterday. It was a T4 ride, with plenty of hills. I was able to almost sprint up the climbs, something I don't normally do. A climb is more usually at a steady pace, if anyone accelerates away I let them go. I lacked confidence that I'd have energy left at the end to climb the final hill to my house. It's become clear this year that Portley Wood Lane is no longer the barrier to pushing it during the preceding miles.

Without wishing to sound too boastful, yesterday was fairly easy despite the strong headwind. I tried not to ride in the draft of others too much. I had the route on my head unit so I could lead as often as I wanted.

A few times as I settled into a comfortable pace on the front I heard requests to easy off, especially towards the end of the ride. I never want to put others under pressure, I've been there myself. There is nothing worse than seeing the group pull away knowing I haven't the strength to keep up. It's especially hard with a strong headwind. Once out of the slipstream it quickly becomes exhausting to close the gap.

I really hope I didn't spoil anyone's ride.

What could have caused this extra performance, bearing in mind I'm getting older.

I think it's a combination of many things:

My new bike. Info here. I definitely felt a speed and efficiency improvement from the first ride, and then again when the mudguards came off.

My diet. Since becoming vegan I have at times found it hard to get enough calories. This could have impacted endurance and muscle development. Although I think I recovered from my broken hip last year pretty quickly, so I can't have been far off. It may even have hastened that come-back according to the research I have done. Recently I bought a sports watch to track heart rate and activity when off the bike. The info combines with a food tracking app allowing me to more easily spot when I might be under eating. It's shown me I'm mostly about right. I now know that the Saturday club rides have caused a deficit that it takes a few days to catch-up. 

Exercise off the bike. Late 2020 I started doing press-ups, not many at first, twenty was as much as I could manage. This has built to 180, spread across the day in sessions of thirty. Then in May last year I started sit-ups, again only doing a few at first. Now it's 120 through the day. I don't want big upper body muscles, just a strong core. As a cyclist I need light weight, strong legs, good heart and lungs; and a stable mid section for efficient power transfer.

A reassurance about the changes I have made over the last few years came as a result of a chest infection. A visit to the doctor included a check of heart rate and blood pressure. The BP was okay with oxygen saturation of 100%; the HR, was low at around 45 bpm. My new watch had been tracking it so I asked if there might be a problem. The considered healthy range is 60 to 100. I mentioned the amount of activity I build into my day and being vegan. An ECG was booked, this found no problems, but a blood test was then arranged. It seems being a healthy weight and a vegan had the doctor concerned I may be deficient in something. 

The conversation about the results with my doctor revealed I was slightly low in vitamin D and could probably eat a bit more protein. The low HR was likely a result of my active lifestyle and nothing to worry about. More sunlight and a supplement will sort out the vitamin concern and I'm eating more beans and pulses to increase protein. He wished more of his patients looked after themselves as well as I do.