Cycling Terminology

Have you started cycling and people are asking you things you have no idea what they mean or get confused with the terminology?  I know that was my experience when I first started and even four years on there are some things I am unsure of so you are not alone!

It is easy when you know this stuff not to think about it too much but there is so much to learn and understand, and it does come with time!

So here is some terminology that you may find useful:

  • Cadence – the number of revolutions (complete turns) of the crank per minute and the rate which you are turning the pedals as you ride (revolutions per minute, RPM).
  • Di2 – Shimano electronic gear system.
  • Crank – the arm that your pedals connect to.
  • Aero – serious cyclists will do anything to be more aero, meaning be more aerodynamic.  This can include many elements not just the bike but also kit and anything to help with less wind resistance for maximum speed.
  • Drops – most road bikes have handlebars with a curved part at the widest point, which is referred to as the drops – used by cyclists mostly for sprinting or on flat roads.
  • Bottle cages – the attachments to the frame to hold your water bottles.
  • Stem – the part of the bike that connects the handlebars to the front fork steerer tube.
  • Lid – another name for your helmet.
  • Chaingang – cyclists riding in a group that rotate turns on the front to share the effort load.
  • Peloton – cyclists riding in a large group.
  • Bibs – shorts or tights worn as cycling kit that have straps that go over your shoulders (they are more comfortable even if you do look like a wrestler).
  • Chamois – the pad in bib shorts/cycling shorts/bib tights.
  • Chamois cream – cream applied to under areas (most polite way of describing the area) to avoid chaffing when cycling.
  • Power – energy you are putting out when cycling, measured in watts.
  • Presta – the valve you can see on your wheel that is used to inflate/deflate the inner tube.
  • Shifters – the gear levers on your handlebars used to change gear.
  • Cleats – the attachment to the cycling shoe that clips in to your pedal.
  • Bike fit – conducted by a specialist or qualified bike shop to ensure the set up of your bike is correct for both comfort and performance.
  • Sit bones – the area that carries most of your weight when sitting, I would recommend having a fit for a saddle where they measure your sit bones to recommend you the best saddle.
  • Drafting – when you ride directly behind another rider and by doing so you use less energy.
  • Tempo – not quite full maximum effort, but roughly 76% to 90%.
  • Bonk – nutrition is key when cycling (as in many other sports) and if you bonk it is basically a sudden loss of energy if you have not fuelled correctly.
  • Chainring – some bikes have a triple chain set up but most are double which has the big ring and little ring.  They are the metal discs with ‘teeth’ that the chain sits on, connected to the crank.
  • Carbon – carbon fibre material used for some bikes, benefits claimed to be a more comfortable ride and they are generally lighter in weight.
  • Clincher – reference for tyres that are used that clinch to the rim of the wheel as the inner tube is inflated.
  • Cassette – rear gears, cogs found attached to the back wheel of the bike.
  • Derailleur – front derailleur guides the chain into either the big or little ring in the front. The rear derailleur guides the chain on to your selected gear while keeping tension in the chain.
  • Granny gear – the little ring often used for climbing.
  • Strava – an app to record your rides – if it’s not on Strava did it even happen?
  • Audax – latin word for bold and in cycling terms refers to a long distance ride that is completed within a set time limit having a brevit card stamped to prove that you have been to necessary check points.
  • Sportive – an organised cycling event.

And lets not forget the acronyms:

  • SPD – Shimano Pedalling Dynamics – one of the many clip in pedal/cleats, more commonly used for mountain biking but often also used for road cycling too.
  • SPD-SL – as above, more commonly found on road bikes.
  • MTB – mountain bike.
  • RPM – revolutions per minute or how many full rotations of the pedal per minute when you are cycling.
  • FTP – functional threshold power – maximum power you can sustain for a given period.
  • AP – average power – what it says really – the average power put out when cycling over a set time/distance.
  • CRIT – criterium race – which is general a short distance, high speed, including many corners type of cycle race.
  • TT – time trial – a ride that covers a set distance and is timed.  These can be done solo or 2-up, which is where you can work with another person. Also known as the race of truth as it is you and the bike!
  • MAMIL – middle aged man in lycra (a term often used by those who are not as fond of cyclists).

You’re welcome – now chat like a cycling pro!

British Cycling Level 1 Coaching

I recently passed my British Cycling Level 1 Coaching qualification and added a post about this on my Instagram and Facebook.

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So what is this course?  Well British Cycling have a number of qualifications you can get to develop your skills.  In terms of the coaching qualifications on offer these run sequentially and Level 1 is the Foundation Coaching Cycling which covers the following in relation to delivering the essential techniques of cycling and coaching:

  • safety and risk assessment
  • safe coaching environments
  • getting to know the riders
  • equipment checks
  • warm up exercises both on and off the bike
  • planning, reviewing and delivering sessions
  • techniques and skills

To pass and use the qualification you also need:

  • to sign and agree to the British Cycling Code of Practice
  • emergency first aid qualification
  • safeguarding for young people and vulnerable adults
  • DBS check (a criminal record check)

So you can rest assured coaches with British Cycling have all necessary additional qualification and checks completed for safety and peace of mind.

The course includes two practical training days – one being a development day and the other the main assessment day.  Both days include working with others on the course and delivering sessions, getting feedback from others before the main assessment.  For the main assessment I had to complete:

  • risk assessment documentation
  • document a 60 minute session plan on the technique of leading and following on the bike (including warm up on and off the bike, the main session, cool down and feedback/evaluation)
  • deliver a clothing check to the group
  • write and deliver a 15 minute session plan on the technique of cornering

Working with other like minded individuals is great and I found on my course we were all from different areas within the sport of cycling with some having raced mountain bikes, being bmx riders, part of cycling clubs of just adults, just children or both with differing levels of experience.

As well as the two face to face days there are a number of online modules to study and complete including an online theory assessment.  Don’t underestimate the online modules as they definitely help with the two face to face days and there is a lot of information to cover if you want to do it properly and as you work through the modules you get links for the different documentation you will use as a coach including, for example, session plans, evaluation forms and incident report forms.

You receive two books as part of the course which are:

  • Coaching Handbook
  • Coaching Workbook

And why did I want this qualification?  I share a lot of my experiences on my social media, my blog is my journey and I thought gaining this qualification would enable me to share more knowledge with others both online and also face to face.

I chose this course with British Cycling as they are the national governing body for cycling in Great Britain.  Being someone who is passionate about cycling I admire the many initiatives that British Cycling have put in place to encourage more people into cycling and make it more accessible.  Some of the initiatives include:

  • Breeze Rides – free led bike rides for women
  • Go Ride – helping encourage young people into the sport as part of cycling clubs and also within schools
  • Bikeability –
  • One In A Million – campaign to get one million women on bikes, which was achieved earlier this month
  • Places to Ride – funding for organisations to develop a national network of cycling facilities also including equipment.

And yes I will be looking to do Level 2, which focuses on developing coaching skills.  Level 1 enables you to deliver the sessions and techniques set by British Cycling and Level 2 allows me to write my own sessions and deliver them.

So can I interest you in getting on a bike?

Talking Weight Loss

On my journey I am the first to admit that I became obsessed with losing weight and lost the fun out of being active.  When I shifted my focus to concentrating on being healthier and happier I became just that.

However, why is it so taboo now to want to lose weight?  I won’t go back to being obsessive about it, but if it is done in a healthy way why is that wrong?  I debated writing this for a while as I knew I would probably get some push back but this is my journey and as per my strapline ‘be fearlessly unapologetically you’ I am doing just that.

I will use myself as an example.  I want to lose weight.  I am not currently comfortable in my own skin, in fact far from it. There I said it and I will not apologise for it either.

I want to be stronger on the bike and make sure when I complete my endurance events I feel confident in my training and myself too.

I know from previous experience what works to get the results I want to see on the bike and one area to use an example is to be better on the hills.  Less weight helps with this and the biggest weight on the bike?  Me!

Now don’t get me wrong I have a blog called Fat Girl Fit and I do not fit into the norm for what sporty people look like and honestly I don’t care!  I embrace what my body has achieved and will continue to achieve.  I love people I have met through social media on my journey and those I love engaging with the most are those who are real, honest, true and relatable.  Perfect hair, make up, tiny waist, fuelling on low calorie foods for sporting events, never breaking a sweat or embracing that sweaty selfie?  Influencers that have a huge following but clearly don’t know anything about the sport or kit their promoting but fit the mould so brands use them to promote their products and it sticks out like a sore thumb? Yeah I am not following you, you are not for me and I am probably not for you either and that is fine with me!

I’ve seen the benefits of strength and conditioning training in my cycling and will be ensuring I regularly incorporate this into my training schedule again, initially with weight loss in mind also.  I am lucky that one of my best friends is also a fab personal trainer and is helping me with this, as she previously did.  I can’t recommend this enough and know many people who have worked with her and seen the benefits.

In short my opinion is that if you want to lose weight and are doing it in a healthy balanced way that is fine.  An important point in that sentence is in a healthy way, how you choose to do this really tells if it is the right thing to do and coming from the right place and don’t forget appearance doesn’t equal health.  I do not want to lose weight to look a certain way or because I loathe myself.  I know why I want to lose weight and it doesn’t change any feelings I have about my own self worth.  I have a healthy relationship with fitness. And I am good with all that.

I started a new six week training plan as of today so will update in due course!

Indoor Trainers for Cycling

Love them or hate them turbo trainers definitely serve a purpose for cycle training.  It may be that with recent dire weather it is safer to continue training indoors than risk coming off in the severe wind and rain we have been experiencing in the UK, or you may opt to use a turbo trainer to get in a more structured workout.  I have had this post in my drafts since February but given the current situation with COVID-19 I know I for one have been using mine more then ever and so it seemed timely to post.

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I have included detail previously about how I use my turbo trainer to get in more structured workouts that are better completed using a turbo trainer than on the road where there are too many variables.

Depending on the sort of turbo trainer you use you could see a difference in performance compared to on the road.  As noted above this can be down to variables outside of your control.  What do I mean by variables?  I mean stopping at junctions and traffic lights, build up of traffic, weather, diversions, punctures or mechanical’s to name a few.  The other difference (which honestly can be huge) is whether or not you are not using a smart trainer.  One of our first turbo trainers that I used was not a smart trainer and you controlled the resistance yourself and I could do an hour session and my average speed would be 25mph and upwards.  This is not my ability when on the road (I wish)!  It was a massive shock to the system when i got a smart trainer let me tell you!

So what is a smart trainer?  When you use a smart turbo trainer you will connect to some technology to help you get more from your workout.  These turbo trainers will adjust the resistance according to the workout so for example if you are on a hilly course the resistance will increase to simulate the same effort as if you were on the road and riding up a hill.  You will also hear the term ERG mode and this basically means that the trainer adjusts the resistance for you to help you hit a certain target power level without needing to change gear.

Some people opt for standard turbo trainers and use these with power meters though you will not experience the change in resistance as mentioned above and you will need to change gears to replicate this yourself.  With a standard turbo trainer you will not be able to connect to programmes such as Zwift, Sufferfest or Trainer Road (or similar) unless you have additional items like cadence sensor or speed sensor.

Of course smart trainers are more expensive but once you have experienced the difference between the two you will almost certainly be sold on the smart trainer, or at least speaking from personal experience I can say that is true for me.

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We have had a number of turbo trainers to date including the following:

  • Rollers – Tacx Antares £164.99.  Now rollers require balance and are something of a fine art, in my opinion, which is why I have never used them!  My husband, however, has (albeit also needing some time to master them) and they do not attach to the bike in any way, you simply ride on the rollers.
  • Smart rollers – Elite Arion Smart B digital £348 – these are my husbands and no I would not attempt these as I would be on the floor pretty quickly but I am always pretty mesmerised by those who use rollers and appear to do so effortlessly with perfect balance!  Smart rollers like a smart turbo will adjust resistance so balance and power are required at the same time here.
  • Turbo Trainer – Tacx Blue Matic magnetic turbo trainer £139.99.  This is a trainer where you leave your rear wheel on the bike and attach to the trainer.  I’d recommend using a turbo tyre for this as the make up on them is slightly different and they are designed to stop overheating.
  • Smart fixed wheel turbo trainer – Bkool Smart Go.  Like the above where you leave the rear wheel on but have the additional functionality of resistance from being a smart trainer.
  • Smart direct drive turbo trainer – Wahoo Kickr £999 – we have two of these, which sounds like a massive luxury but we first got one 5 years ago and it is still going strong and as we often find we both are training on this equipment we invested in a second so my husband and I have one each.  Direct drive turbos are basically where you mount your bike directly on the turbo by removing the back wheel.  Your chain will then run on the cassette attached to the trainer.

Now some turbo trainers can be loud!  I have friends that were worried to use at home for fear of upsetting the neighbours.  We are lucky ours are in our home gym so won’t offend anyone and to be honest I am so used to it now I couldn’t tell you if they are noisy or not.

I have a mat under mine as I find it is a total sweat fest.  Invest in some good padded bib shorts, always have a hand towel, bottle of water and a fan!

If you have someone who will write you a plan and sessions that are tailored for your training then fabulous!  If not you can do an FTP test and follow one of the many plans from the programme you choose and they are also very effective.  I use Zwift and there are different routes and sessions available to use.  Doing an FTP will ensure you are getting the most from the workout at the levels that are suitable for you.  Handy hint – there is no need to do the long FTP test – it has a longer warm up period and that is it, the short version complete serves the purpose!  I also have friends who do the Ramp Test instead of FTP though I have not yet tried this so cannot comment.

I am on week three of working from home and I have been starting every day with an hour on the turbo trainer, which has started my day nicely though I do need to remind myself to rest also!  My husband and I also thought it was funny to call this our daily commute (the pic was a joke and we do not actually wear our helmets, coats or bags!).

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Do you have a turbo trainer? Love it or hate it?

 

Start of our adventures with our camper van!

My husband and I have discussed getting a camper van for some time now and last year that became a reality.

We had been leasing a car for a number of years and as that came up to the end the discussions about getting a camper got more serious and we figured why not?

There are so many options when looking for a camper van and it’s so easy to get lost in it all so we decided to start from basics and focus on what we would be using her for (it would seem I have decided the van is a her).

Our son is now 21 (yes we were young) and so whilst a lot of our friends have young children we have more time on our hands.  We knew we wanted something we could travel, sleep, and relax in just the two of us but also with our dog and should our son wish to go with us to also have room for him too.

There are so many makes a models available and then there is the option of buying to complete as a project or buying already converted.

After many many many hours of research and you tube videos and discussions with other van owners (mainly by my husband I admit) we had a wish list and started looking with some seriousness.

We had decided on a Volkswagen T5.1 and knew we wanted one that had either already been converted or to find someone who could do this for us.  We have previously owned a Volkswagen Beetle that was a project but life got in the way and it never was financially possible 10 years ago, so we knew this option would be best for us and also mean we had it ready to use quickest.

We wanted the following:

  • 6 speed
  • air conditioning
  • electric windows
  • pop top but would have had the right camper without
  • not lowered (lowered versions seem to be more popular but we knew we wanted to be driving it off the beaten track sometimes and so we were looking more at the off road look with a higher ground clearance)
  • fridge/freezer
  • sink
  • hob
  • gas hook up
  • storage
  • double bed

We found someone who came highly recommended and they kept coming up in comments on social media and located in Wales – SW Vans and they were super helpful!  My husband explained what we wanted and what our budget was.  After a couple of months chatting with them they were unable to find the 4Motion van we wanted converting.  They were either reserved at the auctions or stupidly over priced.  Terry at SW Vans suggested for what we wanted a 2 wheel drive was more than good enough.  So after a short trip to wales and a test drive we had picked our van.

Since purchasing we have added the following:

  • black out blinds made and fitted
  • side steps on both sides
  • new wheels and off road tyres
  • wind defectors on the front windows and bonnet
  • dash camera and reverse cameras installed
  • new head unit (stereo)
  • additional lights on the front for better illumination when wild camping
  • this weekend we bought a fixed Thule awning at the camping show, just waiting for it to be installed.

So far we have used it for day trips and taken the bikes out in it too and have loved every minute of it.

We have the following trips planned so far:

  • Ireland to do the Cuilcagh Boardwalk Trail
  • Sweden for the Vatternrundan bike ride
  • Norway for one of the Styrkeprøven bike events
  • Ben Nevis for hiking
  • Scafell Pike for hiking
  • and who knows where else!

We have also had many trips to shops looking at items we need for the van and it seems we are creating an endless list – do you have a camper?  Any hints or tips on things that are essential?

Happy camping!

Bib Tight Review

Whilst we are supposedly coming into Spring it is safe to say the weather does not feel spring like or as if it will be close to that any time soon.  More and more training plans are being adapted for indoor cycling because of strong winds, rain and icy conditions.  However, when it is safe to venture outside layers are key and aside from indoor turbo sessions I have not had my cycling bib shorts on for outside training for months now.  So let’s talk bib tights!

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So I have bib tights from four brands that I am rotating as follows:

  • BioRacer Tempest – £132 – product can be seen here
  • DHB Aeron – £85 – product can be seen here
  • FDX TS Womens – £25.99 – product can be seen here
  • Sundried Peloton – £60 – product can be seen here

So my riding and experience using some of the above varies from commuting to local rides and club rides to endurance events which I am qualifying as 100 miles or more.

Generally I get the bib tights out post summer months and when I have really gone past the bib short appropriate weather.  And yes I am a bib tight girl rather than cycling leggings, however, I was impressed with Anna’s Legs cycling leggings.  So I am wanting them to do the following:

  • keep me warm in cold weather, wind and rain – my preference would always be for material where the water beads off.
  • be breathable – nothing worse than sweating and then getting cold and ending up feeling a chill (don’t assume that because it is a cooler/winter month that you will not sweat still)
  • be comfortable – winter training sees more layers and to avoid chaffing and moving of layers comfort is important!
  • have a good chamois pad – this is not specific to bib tights to be honest as I would look for the same in bib shorts.

Now I am not generally one who assumes the more expensive the item the better but I am equally happy to pay more for kit that will last.  Cycling kit is not cheap and there are so many options too and I would much rather go by a recommendation too.  So here is a little review of each of the above:

BioRacer Tempest:

  • Price – £132, which is the most expensive of the four, however, I have had these for five years now so well worth the investment in my opinion!
  • Warmth – these are fleece lined, windproof and waterproof with the water beading off when wet so always up to any weather I have experienced.
  • Comfort – I’ve used these for endurance rides and they would be my go to.  I am a huge fan of the BioRacer kit and would always recommend.  They look slightly odd when hung up as there are additional panels on the knee for ease of movement.  They don’t move about when riding either which is a huge bonus for me.  I have these in custom club kit and they have reflective pixel technology which is great for winter riding.
  • Chamois – the BioRacer vapor pad, which uses material that is breathable, friction reducing and remains dry.
  • Score – 9/10 – definitely my go to choice for all areas I am looking at and they are tried and tested and still amazing!

DHB Aeron:

  • Price – £85, however, these were gifted to me but I would happily pay this price for these.
  • Warmth – these are fleece lined, and really super soft with a luxury feel.  I did find in the wet my legs still got muddy through the material, which was a surprise as I was toasty warm when riding so didn’t think anything had penetrated.
  • Comfort – super soft, although first pair I have had with the cross bib straps but once I figured out how they went was very impressed.  They also don’t move about when riding either which as I noted above is a huge bonus for me.  Not comfort related but they also have reflective accents on the legs which is great for winter riding.
  • Chamois – Elastic Interface® pad, which at first I was concerned with as it is thinner than the pads I usually wear but super comfortable.
  • Score – 8/10 – now I think this score could increase but I have not used for any endurance cycling as yet, with 68 miles being the furthest distance and I marked down slightly as the mud/water penetrated the material a bit.

FDX TS Womens:

  • Price – £25.99, the cheapest of the four and a chance find at an expo.
  • Warmth – not fleece lined and you can tell, but I much prefer bib tights to leg warmers but they are made of a thermal fabric and so serve the purpose just fine.
  • Comfort – when I first came across this brand I was slightly worried that they were so cheap they would not be any good but whilst I would not use for long distance riding I have used up to 50 miles and they’ve been fab.
  • Chamois – DuPont 3D Anti-bac gel padding, which is very thin but actually very comfortable.
  • Score – 7/10 – these would not be my choice for longer distance rides but for shorter rides and commutes these are perfect.

Sundried Peloton:

  • Price – £60, however, these were gifted to me.
  • Warmth – now although these are marketed as ideal for winter and colder climates they are definitely the least thermal of all four if at all.  I was disappointed with the material and although it is breathable lycra I would liken it to gym leggings with a pad in it and after using for my 14/15 mile commute I was pretty cold.
  • Comfort – I was advised to size up, which I did but actually they are too big and this probably contributed to the discomfort I experienced as there was too much movement including of the pad and lets just say it has left me very very very sore.
  • Chamois – I couldn’t find detail on the pad though when I looked on the website I saw some other cycling kit refer to a gel pad.  The bib tights are listed as mens but I was told they would be fine, however, the pad felt too big and there was too much movement when cycling.
  • Score – 5/10 – this score may seem harsh but when I say these left me sore I really mean it and I would have marked a lot lower but I do appreciate a size down may have had a slightly different effect I am still not sold on the material or the pad so unfortunately would be my last choice.

I should note that the DHB and Sundried bib tights were gifted to me but all opinions are my own.

Why I train off cadence with cycling

CADENCE! It’s the favourite thing for my husband to say to me when on the bike, mainly because I train to cadence and my sweet spot, that I’m used to, is always a lower than it should be. He says it makes for more efficient riding and to help make me a more consistent cyclist.  I know this and what he is saying,  but as I said it is my sweet spot and where I feel most comfortable when riding but this doesn’t stop him shouting this at me with a smile on his face.

I push a big gear – always have and I know it’s not the most efficient but I find spinning leaves me with lower power and speed. But pushing a tough gear leaves me fatigued quicker.  Think of it as a barbell on your shoulders and you have to hold this and do squats for 10 minutes straight, you wouldn’t go for your max weight, you’d choose a weight which is still a challenge but you can complete for the whole time.  However, I also find on hills (which is the area I struggle most on the bike) that I get up them just slower than others, even on the recent Zwift race series I completed, I found I could hold my own until I hit a hill and at these points I would gradually see people pass me. I should probably concentrate on that cadence a little more and better gear selection as this will enable me to be more consistent on them hills, which I love so much.

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So what is cadence?  In the basic form cadence is the number of revolutions (complete turns) of the crank per minute and the rate which you are turning the pedals as you ride (revolutions per minute, RPM).  The theory behind training using cadence is to improve efficiency when cycling.  If you ride a bike you will have cadence and if you have a bike computer you will be able to see what your cadence is as you ride by using a cadence sensor.

Some people train off heart rate, some off power, some off cadence and some off feel.  There are pros and cons to each and my advice would always be for people to do what works for them, but give them all a go and see what works for you and hopefully you’ll see an improvement  We are all different and what works for one may not be right for someone else.  I don’t have a power meter on my road bike though I do use power when using my indoor turbo trainer as it has the ability measure it.

If you find you are bouncing about on your saddle as you cycle then you are probably in a gear with very little resistance and this results in a very high cadence. If you are struggling turning the pedals then you are probably in a gear with a very high resistance resulting in a very low cadence.  The idea of using cadence will see you cycling for optimum efficiency to your own ability.  I choose to cycle off cadence as my main rides for this year, and recent years, are endurance events and I want to ensure that I will complete those in the most efficient way possible.  No one wants to finish an event feeling absolutely ruined and for me I have found cadence really helps me.

When cycling to a higher cadence of between 80-90 its very important to find the gear that you can just keep spinning in.  This gear will be one that you can still feel a resistance in but isn’t high enough that you cant manage for most of your ride and you tire very quickly in.  The theory behind this is that if you can spin at 85 RPM you should be able to do this on any gradient as long as you choose the correct gear selection.  Obviously if you are going up a hill and in your easiest gear, small ring at the front and big at the back, and can’t hit your rate (this is the area I need work in) there’s nothing you can do other than your best.  The only time you can afford to push a big gear and low cadence is going downhill, as you have gravity working for you.  If you are exhausted at the top of the hill its very important to pedal on the way down to aid recovery as well.

That is not to say sessions with low cadence and high cadence do not have their place in a training schedule either as they certainly do.  Some sessions, often referred to as high gear, will see low cadence and  high resistance, and this can help develop both core and leg strength.  Equally a session using lower gears will see high cadence and can help with cardiovascular fitness and smooth pedal stroke.

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You may have heard of the saying ‘spin to win’ and this is something I say going up hills!  But this is said with cadence in mind – spin up in a gear that is manageable in order to preserve energy.

Although research into this area will largely see numerous stats that focus on optimal cadence being between 80 to 90 RPM, I have not included a breakdown of figures because this will differ for various reasons but some of which are:

  • type of riding
  • level of ability
  • training or event
  • performance
  • fatigue

And, of course, as always when riding outside the conditions you ride in dictate performance – there are so many variable factors with weather and traffic to name a couple that will always affect performance results but above all enjoy riding.

Happy spinning!

Top 5 Cycling Essentials

It’s as simple as riding a bike!  And it is but, for most, your cycling experience will naturally evolve.  When I first started cycling I maintained I would not be one of those cyclists head to toe in lycra (I am now), and that I would never clip in to my pedals (I now don’t cycle without cleats).

There are many different types of cycling, including (but not limited to) mountain biking, cyclo cross, track, racing, and road.  My preference is road riding and below is a list of my top 5 essential equipment for when I ride, particularly for longer rides:

  1. Bike – kind of obvious but without it you won’t be getting very far and as I mentioned above depending on the type of ride you are doing the right bike is key, as is set up.  For endurance events you want to ensure you are comfortable and in the correct position on the bike and a bike fit, in my opinion, is worth every penny.  I have a blog post on the importance of a bike fit that you can read here.
  2. Helmet – whilst this is not a legal requirement, I personally would not cycle without one.  Ensure it fits properly, is positioned as intended on your head and straps at the correct length.  I have a blog post on helmets that can be read here.
  3. Saddle bag – some people opt to carry items, some use a canister that sits in the bottle cage and some a saddle bag, which is what I do.  When cycling I would advise a minimum list of kit that may be useful when out and about including spare inner tube, tyre levers, gas canister and adaptor, and multi tool so that you are covered for most eventualities that may occur.  I have a blog post on what I carry in my saddle bag that can be read here.
  4. Nutrition – event day is not the time to try new things and so nutrition I plan to use on event day is used during training also.  Longer rides will have rest stops with food and drink also but for my main nutrition I stick with what I know works for me.  I also always ride with my wahoo bike computer and have an alarm that makes a noise every 20 minutes to remind me to drink and eat.  Little and often is a plan I stick with and I have found that if I get hungry on the bike it is too late.  I carry some in jersey pockets and also have a bag that is easily accessible on my down tube that I put bite sized pieces into so I can dip in and out as I ride.  Avoid the bonk and fuel properly.
  5. Kit – longer rides can see early starts, late finishes and often through the night so kit being carried may need to cater for different temperatures and visibility.  Layering up is important when riding and some items are easy to put on/take off and carry such as arm warmers, leg warmers, buff, gillet, waterproof jacket.  These items are generally smaller and pack away for easy storage in jersey pockets.  You may also choose for these to be reflective to ensure you are safe and seen and charged lights if night riding!

One last thing which is not technically kit but an absolute essential is knowledge.  If you are going out on the road to cycle you should be aware of the road rules and follow them.  Be courteous to other road users, ensure you signal so other road users are aware of your intentions and always be safe.

ShowersPass Kit Review

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing choices and that can be very true!

The lovely people at ShowersPass kindly sent me some of their kit to try out and as we’ve recently been having rain, and cooler weather I have had all the opportunities to utilise these items.  So heading out on my road bike on a very grey day, with moisture in the air and puddles on the road was perfect conditions for this kit.

I always find it hard to go out if it is raining but if I am out and get wet then I just think well I am wet anyway so enjoy it!  And so it was quite fun to go out and splash through the puddles in the new kit – I mean if you are going to test out waterproof items you have to get wet right?

Showerspass kit
Showerspass top and socks

First up was the socks – waterproof socks.  I didn’t know that was even a thing and although I had heard of water resistant socks I was dubious as to whether or not they really would be waterproof.  I needn’t have been worried as these socks are amazing – literally no water got in.  I have done Ride London four times and the first was the year of Hurricane Bertha where they closed Box Hill and Leith Hill due to flooding for safety, but other parts of the route were so wet that all riders were pretty much soaked from head to toe and for me when my feet are wet the rest of me feels cold.  These socks are amazing for training during the winter months that is for sure!  I also wore these when I was hiking in the Peak District in snow and my feet were not cold or wet once, so there may even be some additional pairs added to my kit wardrobe.

Now the socks retail at £31 and whilst I originally thought this to be expensive I also wore during a night obstacle run that was extremely muddy and extremely wet and never have I been so pleased for these socks.  The photo below does not do it justice but I was surprised how well they held up (and I should note they are not designed for obstacle running) and not only that but they washed up amazingly too.

showerspassmud

Next up was a shirt.  This could be used as a base layer in colder months or as a stand alone top (I have done both).  When moving to winter kit it can always feel slightly odd as you may have had months since you had a need to wear either arm warmers or long sleeves and getting layering correct is key so you don’t overheat as I do tend to get hot pretty quickly but again it was pretty much perfect.  Super soft and comfortable and although longer sleeved it was lightweight, or as ShowersPass describe ‘summer weight’, and also provides UPF 40 protection from the sun.  Although no back pockets like a regular cycling jersey there is a cleverly concealed pocket on the side, which was perfect for me to take my phone along on the ride.  I have also worn this under my cycling jacket for commuting and again no complaints at all.

Showerspass Top
Showerspass Top

The shirt retails at £73 and I will admit I have other base layers equally as good that come in at a much lower price point and are just as good.

When I transition from summer to winter riding there is generally a period where additional layers are added ie moving to thicker socks, arm warmers, gillets, long sleeved jerseys, full fingered gloves, jackets and then bib tights and so these socks and top have been ideal in recent months and as the weather has cooled. They have also been a god send for my winter commuting when the weather is always considerably lower in the earlier hours of the morning especially.

I was really impressed by both items and I am sure I will be getting more than good use of both over the coming months and through the year too.

Thanks 2019 – A Little Round Up

I said 2019 was going to be all about the bike and it most certainly was!  I am sure on Instagram I have used the quote before ‘find what you love and do that’ and I feel like that is precisely what I did this year so really no complaints from me!

Cycling shots
Cycling pics from activities in 2019

I have suffered again with my knee, I think I said last year I didn’t realise how long it would linger and I certainly was hoping I wouldn’t see a recurrence this year but sadly that was not the case.  It didn’t stop me just made me change course slightly and try some of that old practice what you preach mentality.

I spent a lot of time in Sweden and I truly love that country, with more planned for 2020.

My favourite events must be those from the Vatternrundan series and this year I completed:

And I can’t not include:

  • Ironman Jonkoping 70.3 – bike leg of the relay (56 miles), with my friend Gemma doing the swim and run, and our team ‘Don’t Be Shit’ came third in the relay!
Ironman 70.3 Jonkoping Relay Award
Medal and award from the Ironman 70.3 Jonkoping relay

There were many other events and I set myself a goal of completing 5,000 miles this year and I am not quite there yet with about 100 miles to go and I will get it – so close!

I also made it to the shortlist for finalists for both the Sundried and UK Blog Awards for Sport and Fitness, and whilst I did not win it was amazing to make the shortlist.

I have enjoyed supporting friends as they achieve big goals and also my husband who completed Half Marathon de Sables this year despite having primary lymphedema in his left leg.

We have finished 2019 with a new camper van and with that comes so much opportunity for travels and adventure so definitely watch this space!

Van life
T5 VW Camper Van

2020 will almost certainly have more bike involved and I am pleased to start another year as a Foher ambassador.

Whatever you have done and achieved in 2019 well done and best of luck for the coming year also.