Tracking spin classes with a Garmin; and some thoughts on cycle sportives

So, as I hit the half-way point in an 8-week block of 90 minute Endurance Spin classes with Jason Martindale (@martindale72) – and with the nights drawing in and winter weather making road cycling less attractive – it’s time to start planning my winter training schedule.

I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a turbo-trainer for a while, and I’ve just ordered a Jet Black Z1 Fluid Pro though UK stock seems to be hard to track down. I’ll also be giving Zwift a try (though I may have to wait for the iOS version to ship as I don’t have any spare PCs with a suitable spec that I can move to the garage, where the bike and turbo will be).

In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit about my experience of using my Garmin Edge 810 in spin sessions…

Spinning with Garmin

Riding on a spin bike means there’s no speed/cadence recording – and being stationary in a spin studio means there’s no distance – but I still log my workouts on Strava (if only to keep a training record). I can still record my heart rate though (which remains stubbornly low – even if I think I’m working hard). I’ve set up new bike and activity profiles in the Garmin and then all it needs is for me to remember to turn off the GPS in the System Settings before starting the workout.

The end result looks something like this:

So, what’s the point of all this training? Apart from general fitness, I don’t want to have to go back to zero again when I get my bike out of the garage next spring and I like to fit a couple of sportives in each year, which leads me onto some more ramblings…

Some thoughts on the big closed road sportives

This year I rode the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 again (this time it wasn’t cut short for me – though many riders had their ride massively reduced due to delays). The verdict: too many people; too much variety in capabilities; too dangerous; won’t be riding this one again (I had more fun in the Ride Staffs 68 earlier in the summer).

The trouble with Ride London (apart from the ballot system and the having to make a separate trip to London to pick up the registration pack) is that it’s just too popular. “How can a sportive be too popular?”, you may ask.

Well 27,000 riders is a lot of people and although the organisers try to set people off according to ability, some overestimate their skills (and crash – even though 33 injuries from that many riders is a pretty good ratio, 33 is still too many); others clearly didn’t read the rider pack and ride in the middle or on the right side of the road, making it difficult to pass safely; and others chain-gang through in mini-peletons as if they are a professional team. That mix makes things dangerous. Coming off some of the hills I was having to shout “coming through on the right” to get slower riders to move left (the bicycling equivalent of a motorway, with everyone driving in  the middle lane, the left lane empty, and lane 3 backing up…). And in one place I came to a dead halt because but then I got marooned on the wrong side of the road at the bottom of an incline and needed to wait for a gap to cross back to the left of the road as a steady stream of 30-40mph riders came off the hill I’d just come down.  Yes, the public whose neighbourhoods we rode through were great, and the atmosphere riding on closed roads through central London is epic, but on balance it was a pain to get to and a long day that could have been more enjoyable than it was.

I hit my goal of riding the full route in under 6 hours, according to Strava rather than the official time (with stops for accidents, etc.) so I feel I’ve done London now. Someone else can have the place next year…

I could do the Tour of Cambridgeshire again, but last time I did that (in 2015) it took nearly an hour to get over the start line and I missed the cutoff for the full route (though riding at a decent pace) – which kind of put me off that event…

So, 2017 will see me riding Vélo Birmingham, a new closed road sportive, with just 15,000 riders. Many people seem to be put off by the price but the way I see it is:

  • Staging events (particularly on closed roads) have an associated cost.
  • Ride London-Surrey is an example of what happens if you have too many people.
  • Reducing the number of riders by 40% is bound to mean each entrant has to pay more…

So what’s next on my bucket list. Well John O’Groats to Lands End for sure – but that’s probably a few years away. The near future’s more likely to include London Revolution (though I can’t make the 2017 dates), England Coast to Coast (possibly in a day, though more likely over a couple) and then maybe Wales in a Day (I’ll need to build up to that).

Reflecting on riding the #RideStaffs 68-mile sportive

Back in 2013, when I bought my first road bike since the “racer” of my teens, the first sportive I took part in was the Tour [of Britain] Ride in Staffordshire – setting out from Stoke-on-Trent. Now I work for a Stafford-based IT services company and when I heard we were sponsoring the Staffordshire Cycling Festival (@RideStaffs) it gave me a chance to a return visit, although a little further south this time!

(Ironically, the Tour Ride has moved to my home county of Northamptonshire this year… but I can’t make it.)

So, last Sunday, blessed with some summer sunshine (at last!) I rocked up at Shugborough Hall wearing my risual orange jersey, the only one of the team joining the 68 mile sportive (though quite a few of the guys took part in the 22 miler).

With rolling hills from the off, at Milford we took a sharp left and then Bang! we hit the climb up onto Cannock Chase. The first 30 minutes were slow, grinding my way up onto the Chase until we turned left on Brindley Heath and headed down towards Rugeley. I’d just got going at full speed (hitting just over 60kph) when I realised I needed to take a left turn half way down a hill and grabbed the brakes hard – no discs on my road bike! I managed to scrub off speed and make the turn, then hooked onto the back of a small peloton with 2 other riders down towards Rugeley. After taking turns for a while, we hit the A51 and missed the route sign – but it seemed wrong to be heading west so quickly and, as we were heading back towards Shugborough, I turned around and retraced my steps, picking up the correct route again a mile back down the road and passing my hotel from the previous night!

The next section took in mostly flat roads near Lichfield and Alrewas, nipping over the border into Derbyshire before turning over the River Trent and up to the first stop at Barton-under-Needwood. After taking on water and flapjack I started chatting with the owners of two beautifully restored 1970s Colnagos with glorious etching and chromework, one of whom even had a traditional wool jersey, cap (no helmets in the ’70s I guess) and leather saddle bag!

Despite my slow start, I’d averaged over 27kph but realised why as we set off again towards Uttoxeter – turning into the wind that had previously been helping me along (though Hanbury Bank offered a welcome break) . To make matters worse my bike seemed to be grinding from the bottom bracket… time to see Kev at Olney Bikes again for repairs…

After another stop in Uttoxeter (where one rider was conducting the town band – he later told me they split over “musical differences”!) we set off again over some undulating terrain towards the last major climb at Sandon (and what a killer that was).

I skipped the final stop (it was only for water and was carrying plenty of fluids) and pushed on with a large group riding into Stafford – past the Technology Park where our offices are – but was dropped again as we turned left up past the University. From there it was a steady ride on into Shugborough… ending slightly-extended 68 mile ride!

As I crossed the line, I was handed my goody bag musette style, including a variety of items but most importantly a beer token!  My official time was a respectable 5 hours 8 minutes, but Strava told me I’d only been moving for 4 hours and 39, climbing 1235 metres in the process.

Even though I’d missed the rest of the risual riders (the 22 mile sportive set off later and obviously got back sooner!) I stuck around for a while to watch some of the Tour de France coverage and got some lunch from the wood fired pizza stand (a long wait but nice pizza), before heading home… wishing I hadn’t picked a sportive quite so far away!

All in all, it was a fantastic day – and I was very lucky with the weather. Paul at Leadout Cycling organised a great event and I hope to make it back another year. It was also a timely reminder that, even without heading up onto the North Staffordshire Moorlands, there are still plenty of hills around Staffordshire and that my normal routes around South Northants, North Bucks and Beds are relatively flat by comparison…

…as well as that it’s just 4 more weeks until my next sportive – 100 miles from London to Surrey and back again (hopefully not cut short this year)!