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Still biking? Definitely…

“Still biking Grant?” is a question I’ve been asked many times throughout my life, by friends or different people that I’ve met along the way. Riding a bike has been such a big part of what I do, it’s hard to imagine it not being the case. I think it’s the momentum, freedom and just being outside, that I love so much

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Product Review: Torq Recovery

Review by Grant

Although I am not a competitive cyclist, I have a desire to ride frequently, and be healthy. Part of achieving this is to eat good foods which complement an active lifestyle.

I have used Torq nutrition for many years. This is largely due to the amount of effort the brand puts into formulating each product, and the type and quality of ingredients they use. Their range has become very comprehensive, and covers the requirements of energy, hydration, and recovery. Each product is generally offered in a number of different flavours, to cater for differing taste preferences.

Torq formulate their nutrition on scientific research data, and the ingredients they select are natural, and where possible certified as Organic, some have the Fairtrade mark. No artificial flavours, chemical sweeteners, or colours are used.

When the process of recovery is made as effective as possible, the potential to maximise your training or feel good during exercise returns more quickly. I use Torq Recovery as part of achieving this, and consume the product after each bike ride. This also includes after an active recovery ride and stretching, which follows the weekend. Continue reading “Product Review: Torq Recovery”

Favourite Climbs: Luz Ardiden

Favourite Climbs: Luz Ardiden, French Pyrenees-Blog Post by Grant

The climb of Luz Ardiden, within the midi Pyrenees, is firm a favourite of mine.

There are many reasons why I love to visit the piece of road which twists and turns it’s way out of the town of Luz, up to the ski area high above. My first visit was during 2006. The climb formed part of a ride, which featured the Tourmalet as well as Luz Ardiden.

I was relatively new to riding the climbs of Europe at the time, and Luz Ardiden had come to my attention when it featured in the 2003 Tour de France.

This was the year Lance Armstrong had struggled to achieve his usual dominance, and holding on to the Yellow jersey looked doubtful. Some of the drama of the race was played out on Luz Ardiden. When launching an attack, Armstrong snagged a spectator’s musette, which brought him and Iban Mayo crashing to the ground. Armstrong managed to continue with the attack, and there are numerous photos of him crossing line, ashen in colour, eyes bloodshot, but he retained the Yellow Jersey and his lead.

As I climbed Luz Ardiden for the first time, I tried to find some indication of where Armstrong had crashed, and imaged the intensity of the moment, as well the effort required to race up a climb like this. For me, part of what makes cycling so fulfilling and rewarding, is how readily we can immerse ourselves in it. We are able to experience the roads or trails which form part of its history, and there are even instances where the drama of a race plays out as we watch at the roadside or on screen.

The views from a climb can be so rewarding, but I believe it’s the whole experience which make some a little bit special.

Luz Ardiden has always featured later in my ride, and I am normally starting the ascent by late afternoon, with one or two climbs already in my legs. Initially the road is quite tree lined, reasonably wide, and a river can be heard as it flows to the valley floor. I enjoy the slightly cooler temperature of this early section, and breathing in the humid air. Continue reading “Favourite Climbs: Luz Ardiden”

Descending: My Road to Improvement

 Blog Post by Emma

Firstly, I must point out that the aim of this post is to give a little insight and a few tips to any women who might be new to road cycling or riding mountain passes, who find descending a little unnerving, or possibly even terrifying! I’m not a hugely skilful or fast descender, and doubt I ever will be, but I am definitely an IMPROVED descender since my first Alpine cycling adventure back in 2004. So anybody wanting to earn Strava kudos on the downhills……this post may not be for you!

I don’t think I’m alone when it comes to finding descending on the bike a little challenging and if I’m being honest, occasionally a bit scary! The steepness of Honister Pass in the Lake District will always be unnerving for me, even though I’ve ridden down it so many times! It’s been comforting to read on social media, that other women cyclists sometimes find riding downhill tricky too, and at worse traumatising. For example, when riding down Col d’Aspin recently, Grant chatted with a young Australian woman, who commented she wasn’t a fan of the descents, her exact words are not really repeatable! I’m NOT saying women cannot descend well, of course they can.  I know women who have no qualms about hitting 40+mph…..but that is something I’m not likely to achieve!! This is written purely from my own, personal perspective.

Back in 2004 I was very new to cycling, having only owned my road bike for a year, I headed to the French Alps with Grant, to take on Alpe d’Huez and a few other Cols. The ascents were incredibly hard, but I had (just) enough fitness and gearing to ride and enjoy them. The descents were a baptism of fire! I simply hadn’t a clue how to deal with those hairpin bends, but I made it to the bottom, clinging to the brakes, relieved once it was over! There was no real improvement in the few years that followed, I loved the challenge of the climbs, but often worried about the descents and simply “survived them”.

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Classic switchbacks – Luz Ardiden,  French Pyrenees

Eventually, I took a conscious decision that I had to try and improve. Although I’m still slower and more cautious compared to others, I have vastly improved this last three years, and I no longer fear the downhill parts of our European cycling adventures. Here are a few things that have helped me on my way to becoming an “improved descender” ! Continue reading “Descending: My Road to Improvement”

Review: Velobici Verne Jersey & Shorts Set

Review by Grant

Having tried a handful of items from Velobici’s line of road cycling clothing, I was really looking forward to the Verne Jersey and Shorts becoming available. Velobici chose to release the line on St George’s day, the Patron Saint of England, which seems in keeping with the brand sourcing their fabrics and manufacturing within the UK.

At a glance, cycling clothing can look very similar, but as with many things, it’s all in the detail.

After using garments from a number of different brands, I have found that only a small number offer the fit, quality and design details that makes their clothing perform really well. The Velobici Verne Jersey and Shorts are in the top tier of this category.

The Jersey

The Verne Jersey is manufactured from VB/Pro-VR1 (190g) fabric. This is the brand’s lighter jersey fabric grade, and the Verne is described as a Spring, Summer, Autumn garment.

It’s a fabulous fabric and this plays a large part of what makes the Verne such a superb jersey. The VB/Pro-VR1 fabric is soft to the touch, stretches to assist fit, comfort, and ease of movement. It also provides UVA and UVB protection.

When using the jersey, it’s easy to notice how well the fabric transfers moisture, drys quickly and resists the wind. These qualities can really make those long days on the bike more comfortable and enjoyable.

The jersey is close fitting, and is shaped to match the position we take when on the bike. The front of the jersey is shorter to avoid fabric bunching, the rear panel longer to ensure coverage, even when on the drops.

Part of what makes this jersey that little bit special, is its versatility and comfort. I have used it for short evening rides after work, to eight hours plus days in the hills. It’s simply the case of putting the jersey on, place the kit you need in the pockets, after this, the garment seems to disappear. It’s that comfortable. Continue reading “Review: Velobici Verne Jersey & Shorts Set”

Solo Century Ride

Blog Post by Emma

A hilly 100 miles ride, that’s what the Torq Fitness training plan was asking of me last weekend. Thankfully, the weather forecast was kind…..cool, but sunny. I could live with that!

We’d already completed one century ride this year on Good Friday, so I knew I could handle the mileage, but there’s something about riding that distance alone that makes it that bit harder!  Perhaps for many cycling enthusiasts 100 miles is an easy feat, but not for me. Not being the speediest cyclist, the challenge of physically being on the bike for so many hours is enough in itself!

Initially I’d had grand ideas of heading towards Thorncliffe and Flash, super hilly territory on the fringes of the Peak District. However, I put that silly idea back in the box!! Instead I settled on a lumpy route out towards the Staffordshire Moorlands, for the first part of the ride. I love the lanes in this area as they are nice and quiet, and on this sunny Saturday, for much of the ride I barely saw a soul. The terrain was hilly, lots of small climbs, taxing for the legs, but without the brutality of Peak District gradients. Continue reading “Solo Century Ride”

Christmas Riding

Tues 29th Dec – Blog Post by Emma

After a few days off the bike from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day, we were enthused to be out riding again.  Today’s ride took us to the fringes of the Peak District. As the weather was so mild for December with a not too strong southerly breeze, we headed up onto Thorncliffe.

This was our third day of riding, having bagged some flatter, endurance miles on Sunday and then rolling hills in Cheadle’s surrounding countryside the day before……our legs were feeling it.  My legs were saying “a flattish 50 please” but with such a fantastic forecast, my heart was saying “head to the hills”.  In the past I’ve avoided multiple days on the bike, knowing it’d be tough on the legs.   These days I listen to Grant’s sound words…..”Don’t know what you’re worrying about, you’ll be fine” and it always rings true!

Do you ever have fun / silly names for different points on your rides? We do, Grant and his friends are great at coining these!  My favourite one is the affectionately named “Dip of Doom” !!  It really isn’t anything to fear, it’s a very short incline that you have to ride up following a dip in the road out near Wetley Rocks.  However, it features at a point in the ride where you still have about 20 miles to go, your legs are screaming “no more hills please” and your mind is wandering to matters such as dinner, a hot bath and a cuppa!

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The Dip of Doom…..survived one more time….all in all a really great December ride, a must-do on such a fabulous day……before Storm Frank brings an enforced, but much needed, rest day.

Swinnerton Cycles – Celebrating 100 Years

Blog Post by Grant

Swinnerton Cycles is a family owned business located in the heart of Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.

The shop has been present for as long as I can remember, and it’s a place my parents took me to when I was quite a young boy, to choose a bike for Christmas.

When I recently learned of an event to celebrate the shop’s 100th anniversary, this confirmed just how long the shop has been a part of cycling, both locally and nationally.

The celebration was on a Friday evening and on arrival the shop was already full to the brim with people. Barney Swinnerton greeted people at the door, and weaving my way into the main area of the shop it was great to see many of the Swinnerton family and other familiar faces dotted around.

Continue reading “Swinnerton Cycles – Celebrating 100 Years”

Monte Zoncolan

Blog post by Grant: Monte Zoncolan Tuesday 21/07/15

Monte Zoncolan was another climb that had grabbed my interest when watching the Giro d’Italia on TV several years ago. I recall Simoni riding for Saeco on a Cannondale and I think Pantani was trying to re-establish himself after a ban.

There are seemingly a couple of roads that climb to the top of Monte Zoncolan, but the one used most recently in the Giro and deemed the most challenging approach, starts in the town of Ovaro.

Ovaro is about seventy miles from where we were staying in Arabba. That sort of distance can take more time to travel than you might think, as the mountain roads can make travelling by car quite a slow (but beautiful) process. The journey took about three hours, but the scenery remained mountainous and spectacular throughout, so the time passed quickly.

The outbound trip contained a couple of minor incidents, the first being grumbled at by a cantankerous bus driver after we stopped for just a few moments in what must have been a bus stop. Unfortunately, the combination of being reprimanded in Italian and attempting to apologise in English achieved little, but thankfully we managed to get back on track quite quickly! The second incident involved us being flagged down by the Police. This was just a simple check of my driving licence. The process still felt a little unnerving as we’re just not used to seeing guns when in the UK, and the Italian police are armed. Having these two occurrences within the first half of the drive started to make me silently question…..what next?

Continue reading “Monte Zoncolan”

Test Day at Torq Fitness

Blog Post by Grant

A friend introduced us to Torq Fitness around eight years ago. At the time, Torq were based near to Shrewsbury and were offering training packages that suited our needs. Putting a little more structure to our fitness training seemed the right thing to do, so Emma and I took the plunge, booked an assessment day, bought a six-month plan and have been heading back to Torq every year since then.

Torq relocated to a premises in Powys around a year ago. We visited the new place just after they moved in November 2014. They were still settling in, but it looked good, with a much larger, specific area for the fitness testing well under development.  That was twelve months ago, but now fully completed…..it’s superb. The fitness assessment area has a blend of equipment to enable testing, a teaching/discussion room, soft seating, and a very stylish shower area.  Nutritional information and the actual range of Torq products are also on show.  All in all it provides the basis for a great day.

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Continue reading “Test Day at Torq Fitness”

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