The plan today come rain or shine was to ride around 15k to join another ride, do that ride and then ride another 15k back home. My wife thought I must have a screw loose!
An ambitious plan to ride 50k considering the conditions and my current level of fitness. The plans to have some company on this ride failed and for various reasons (mainly the poor weather) meant I set off on my own. I should have gone with my instinct which was to have put the kettle back on, have another cup of tea and watch the ladies Slope Style in Sochi.
The rain was cold and the short steep climb out of Heddington was as tough as its felt in ages. Though after the climb the fun starts as you get to the cheeky bit of single track and the descent in the woods on the Roundway.
At least the fun was supposed to start here!
When I got to the top of the climb I was ready to keep going but decided t o stop to put my glasses away safe as I couldn’t see through them anyway (misted up and rain soaked)! At this point I realised I couldn’t detach my right foot from the pedal. With a bit of wiggling I managed to free it to find that I had indeed set off with a screw loose (see what I did there?)… The cleat was swiveling in the shoe and this meant I couldn’t rotate my foot to get it out easily.
With some tightening of the remaining screw and checking the other shoe I decided it was time to turn back. I didn’t want to damage the shoe or risk a dodgy dismount because my foot became stuck again.
The first ride, albeit short one, in the Shimano AM45 shoes was hardly a test but they were certainly easier to take off than my others and overshoes.
We all sat impatiently glued to our iPads and computer screens in mid October waiting for the clouds to part and the wind to drop in Virgin, Utah as we wanted to see what Cam Zink and Kyle Strait had up thier sleeves for their second run in the 2013 RedBull Rampage. We waited and didn’t happen. The winds were to strong which made the riding too dangerous and the last few riders didn’t get a second go. While it was enough for Strait to claim the prize and for Zink and Mcgarry to show some of the most amazing tricks ever performed, many were disappointed and typed on various social media forums “why didn’t they just get on with it” – they have obviously never ridden bikes in high winds.
I have seen gusts blow riders off a trail in front of me and have been knocked to the ground myself while being caught unawares coming out of shelter into a high wind. Its serious stuff and a wind in any direction could have resulted in major casualties or worse at the Rampage.
That was the dramatic and enticing start to my blog post, now I’m going to have a moan about how hard it was riding in the wind this weekend!
We set off at about 9.30am knowing we had around 50km to cover and maybe around 600m of climbing. This sort of distance (maybe not the climb) is often classed as an Epic if it was billed as a MTB or XC event and its a big ride by our local standards. Our local terrain isn’t too tough but at this time of the year the puddles get deeper and the rutts get softer and muddier. Winter/mud tyres help to cut through the quagmire but long grassy tracks feel like sponge and suck the speed out of the bike and energy out of you as you have to push harder into the pedals.
Add to this the wind. Yes the same wind I waxed lyrically about at the beginning of this post that prevented us seeing more spectacular stunts in Utah in October. This same wind made our ride really tough yesterday. Cross winds drove rain into us at right angles to the track and obscured our goal as we climbed the ridge line to Barbury Castle yesterday. We had to lean into the wind to stay upright and combined with the boggy ground and wet blasts made it one of the slowest rides of the year. (I may be over egging this but it was hardwork.)
Going along the flat was an effort and even going downhill required a few turns of the pedals to keep the momentum up. By the time we finished the ride we figured we were about 40 mins behind the expected finish time. Was the ride bigger than expected? Was the average speed ambitious? Was it the wind? It was without doubt the wind. Significantly adding to the required effort we figured we lost a fair bit of time not due to punctures or waiting for riders to regroup – simply put it was the wind.
So here are some Gear Factor tips for riding in the wind:
1. Keep you chin up. Well down is better really, but what I mean here is be positive and try not to let it beat you mentally. Consider it a challenge or a training aid. If you can beat that climb or Strava segment in these conditions imagine what you can do on a still day!
2. Keep your chin down! Minimise the wind resistance by making yourself as aerodynamic as possible. We are all mountain bikers here aren’t we? Therefore at this time of the year you are probably wearing a coat and baggies with multiple layers etc – you might as well be a kite! If you know you are going out in high winds try to wear clothing with less flap!
3. Treat the wind like a hill. You wouldn’t push hard up a hill in too high a gear – the same should go for the wind.
4. Trust the gust. (I just thought of that!) Lean into a cross wind, trust its power and rather than use up extra energy trying to stay upright let the wind hold you up. Just remember to stop leaning when the wind stops!
5. Find shelter. If your route lends itself to a sheltered detour then take it. Ride within the shelter of bushes and tree lines when possible and you will find this so much easier.
6. Pedal downhill. You might find you have no choice if the wind is blowing straight into your face, but pedalling will give you some added stability. The added traction and power delivered to the bike will keep you on course and prevent the wind taking you off your line.
I am sure this may seem obvious to you but honestly the ride was a tough ride… I tried to search for some science and find calculations as to the effects of high winds on your speed and found so many different accounts and variations I gave up. I am pretty convinced that the wind at least doubled the effort at some points and my legs today agree!
You don’t have to look far for a winter jacket before coming across Altura. One of the leading brands in cycling specific clothing offer a wide range of styles and colours for all weather conditions. The Mayhem waterproof is pretty simple but very effective. Rain bounces off and the seams are well made meaning that the 4 pockets are sealed well to protect their contents from the elements too.
Lets start with the pockets. There are as you would expect two deep side pockets for you to stuff your hands in while waiting for your ride partners to faff about or to keep a few essentials, such as an energy bar or two, a beanie or dry spare set of gloves. The single pocket in the chest area is also handy for a bit of food, or your phone or a small camera.
There is a rear/back pocket that is traditional in cycling clothing, but one I rarely use as more often than not I’m wearing a back pack. However it’s a well designed pocket with dual zip access that makes it easy for left or right handed riders.
The hood is removable and will fit in the rear pocket if you want to have it accessible for a long stop in the rain.
The collar is high and will keep your neck protected from the elements and the cuffs fit snuggly around your wrists with help from some velcro straps to keep the cold wind and rain out. As stated above the Mayhem jacket is superbly waterproof and warm, so warm that even in the coldest conditions I found that just a long sleeve base layer was enough. This may put some people off if you are looking for a waterproof layer above all else, however there are some vent zips to keep you cool if do start to heat up. It’s perhaps a little too large to take off and stuff in your pack so it’s a jacket that you will reserve for the wettest and coldest of days but on those days it’s a superb choice.
If there’s a negative it is perhaps not the slimmest fitting jacket so we would advise you try before you buy to get the fit right, but coming in a selection of colours and sizes, and at a reasonable price (under £90 at most retailers) this is a sturdy, well made and very capable waterproof jacket.
Nothing was going to stop me going for a ride this evening, but luckily it was nice, the sun was shining and as I was on my first climb of the evening I was thinking of stripping my top layer at the top.
However, at the top of my first climb it started to spit with a bit of rain. I realised rapidly that there was a huge cloud coming my way and the rain was about to dump on me.
With the rain we have had this week it didn’t take long for the trail to get very slippery indeed, and yours truly didn’t have mud tyres on! I had to push and shortly the back wheel stopped going round altogether. Mud clearance on my bike isn’t great and as you can see it was clogged good and proper.
Within minutes the rain got heavy, seriously heavy and it was time to find shelter. Was not prepared with a water proof of any description and I was soaked through instantly.
Still I got out for a few miles and by the time I got home thankfully the sun came out and I could clean the bike properly in the sun!
Mondays are pretty dull so I am going to just recall the events of yesterday’s bike ride.
Oh wait, there weren’t any events! Can this be true?
There were 18 of us which means there were 36 wheels and not one of them had a puncture, no one broke a mech hanger, no one had an off. Well there was one! But there was no major incident to report, no major faffing, no rain, no huge puddles, no punctures and well frankly it was pretty ordinary.
That’s unfair – it wasn’t a dull ride it was just incident free. This concerns me as 15 miles times 18 riders is 270 miles – karma is out there waiting for one of us…
Oh the off… Here it is, Richard caught a pedal in a rut and caught the whole thing on his helmet mounted GoPro. Photo courtesy of Richard Ford.