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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

Shack Wrap Frame Protection Review

Blog Post by Grant

Many of us are passionate about our bikes, and like to minimise the effect of either wear and tear or accidental damage. A further plus point to this, is the resale value may remain higher.

Products to protect the finish of a frame and fork are offered in a number of different forms. These range from small pre cut plastic patches, to a larger sheet of frame protection which can be cut to the required size. These options tend to be applied to areas where cable rub, chain slap or other areas of predictable contact or abrasion occur. Products of this type are widely available, and perfectly fine for this purpose.

The potential to protect our frame, forks, and crank arms, has now been taken to another level, as they can be professionally wrapped with clear protection. This can be achieved on either road or mountain bikes.

I was keen to learn more about the system of whole frame protection, and visited Shack Wrap to achieve this. Nick, the owner of Shack Wrap talked me through the frame protection options he offers, and I was able to watch a frame and fork wrap take place.

The clear polyurethane film is available in both Matt and Gloss finishes. It can be applied to road and mountain bikes, although any type of bicycle can be wrapped, with the only exception being, the protection can not be applied to an anodised finish. The thickness of the film is normally reduced for road bikes.

A feature of the protective film Nick uses, is that it has the potential to self repair. Should an instance arise where the film surface gets scuffed, and marking occurs, this will disappear. I have watched a short YouTube video on this. The video demonstrates an area of the protective film being intentionally scuffed. The scuffs are subsequently removed by washing the film with warm water. Continue reading “Shack Wrap Frame Protection Review”

Cyclefit Manchester: Bike Fit and Saddle Pressure Mapping

Cyclefit Manchester: Bike Fit and Saddle Pressure Mapping – Blog Post by Emma

I’m lucky in that my partner Grant does a lot of reading around cycling, and its many facets. Bike fit has been a topic of interest, leading us to make several adjustments in the last year or so.  However, neither of us had ever had a professional bike fit, until my visit to Cyclefit in Manchester, in June.

During the last few years I’ve had an occasional niggle with saddle discomfort on my left side, and I’ve never really got to the source of the problem. When it flared up, I would experience a gnawing, dull discomfort, which would kick in after around 2 hours, always worse on flatter rides.  Changing to a Selle Italia Diva saddle a few years ago helped, along with a sports massage every few weeks from our good friend Maria at MC Sports Services in Stoke-on-Trent.

I’d not had any problems for a few years, but then after a change in bike, which resulted in a different position due to the frame size/design, this niggle became apparent again. We’d visited the Cyclefit shop in Manchester a few months before and had learnt a little about their services.  So in June, with our 3 weeks cycling trip looming, I booked a full bike fit including saddle pressure mapping.

The booking process was simple, you can do it online or over the telephone, and slots are available throughout the day. Although it’s not essential to take your bike with you, it is helpful as it allows any changes to be made on the day, by the Cyclefit team.  So I took my bike with me, along with cycling shorts, jersey and shoes.

When we arrived, we had a quick cuppa before being introduced to Jess who would be doing my fit. I’ve got no stats to back this up, but I suspect that there are not many female bike fitters around, so this was great, and I felt at ease straight away, as Jess explained the format of the session.

To begin, there was an interview, to get a clear picture of me as a rider: the type of cycling I do, frequency of riding, any specific reasons for having the fit, injury history etc. After that, we moved onto the physical evaluation, which involved taking measurements (eg leg length, hamstring length, hip flexion etc), and being asked to perform certain subtle movements, to assess core stability, flexibility and posture.  My feet were also closely examined.

Then it was onto the rig to start the bike fit. By this point I was dotted in stickers, which are used to track your movement during the assessment and fitting process, which uses Dartfish 4-Camera HD Motion Analysis.  The rig was set up to replicate my current bike position, and Jess asked me to start pedalling.

cyclefit-em-on-screen Continue reading “Cyclefit Manchester: Bike Fit and Saddle Pressure Mapping”

Veloforte: Q&A with Founder, Marc Giusti

Blog post by Grant

Introduction

I believe good nutrition forms such an important part of our lives. This encourages me to find ways of eating well when cycling, and learn about healthy foods which can be included in meals when not on the bike.

I had the good fortune to discover Veloforte just before heading to the Pyrenees on a cycling trip with my partner, Emma earlier this year.

The energy bars they offer are made from 100% natural ingredients, and are formulated to provide a sustained source of energy.  The bars sounded exactly what we were looking for. Having used the Veloforte bars throughout the bike trip, both Emma and I found all three flavours to be delicious, and the energy provided by them really suited our cycling. The Veloforte bars will certainly be part of our future ride nutrition.

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I was keen to learn more about the brand and the products. On contacting Marc at Veloforte, he welcomed the idea of an article and I was fortunate to have a fascinating conversation with him and his wife Lara, about the brand and their love of cycling.

1) Does cycling and creating food form part of your family history, or are these passions individual to you?

My family are from Italy, near Florence. Creating delicious food, family life, stylish products and high quality ingredients all form a large part of Italian culture. I have many fond memories of family meals, recipes being passed down through generations and always discovering amazing Italian brands and specialities. Add to that mix my wife Lara, (a multiple award-winning chef) and the food thing is pretty well covered!

Cycling came into my life later on. Since then it has become a dominant backdrop to everything we’re doing personally and professionally. I discovered cycling initially through a close friend who’d been riding for years, and it formed part of a long recovery process I had after a major operation. My love of being on the bike, and my understanding of the importance of building up endurance and strength, grew from there.

2) What inspired the creation of Veloforte?

A whole host of different things seemed to come together all at once. Firstly, I was training for the Rapha Manchester to London challenge in 2015 to try and regain my strength. I was looking for the right nutrition and yet everything in the shops was synthesised “gloop” and just tasted disgusting. All I wanted was something real, delicious, high quality and natural, not processed, dehydrated sludge.

Secondly, Lara was getting serious about developing her culinary success, having just been nominated for three awards at the Great Taste Awards. We should mention that prior to becoming a multiple award-winning chef, Lara was a Heart & Lung Respiratory Specialist.

So, when you add my training ambitions and frustrations, Lara’s medical and physiological experience and culinary success together, the idea to create a natural, hand-made nutrition brand seemed the obvious thing to do. So we created Veloforte.

3) Within the Veloforte website there is reference to an ancient Italian recipe called “Panforte”.  Can you tell us a little more about this, and how it influenced the energy bars you offer?

Panforte nowadays is just seen as a speciality food from Sienna, in Tuscany. However, its history is much more rugged and intriguing. It’s an extremely old Italian recipe, dating back before the Crusades. It was used to power Roman Legions and fortify the Aristocracy through its use of herbs, spices and fruits. It was carried, stored and constantly updated with new ingredients and herbs from the growing Roman Empire. It’s as if it was the first energy food.

Continue reading “Veloforte: Q&A with Founder, Marc Giusti”

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”

Pyrenees Triple Col Loop

Blog Post by Emma

We’ve visited the Midi Pyrenees in France five times now. On our first two trips, we spent just one week here, before moving onto other destinations in the French Northern or Southern Alps. However, every time we moved on, we both felt a deep longing to stay. Since then, we’ve extended our time here, and have certainly not been bored when spending three weeks in the Saint Lary Soulan area.

There are so many fantastic rides from Saint Lary Soulan, with many of the climbs made famous (or notorious) by the Tour de France, within easy reach. One of our favourites is a loop that comprises of three Cols: the Horquette d’Ancizan, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aspin.

From Saint Lary Soulan, it’s only a few miles to the pretty village of Ancizan, much of which you can do away from the main valley road. The main Cols are signed for, so you can easily spot the left turn which indicates the start of the Horquette. Helpful markers will tell you how far it is to the summit, and the average gradient of the next kilometre awaiting you! I love having this info, but on occasions it can make you groan, when you keep seeing 10% average, marker after marker. This isn’t the case on the Horquette, but certainly can be on other climbs in this area.

This early slopes of the Horquette are tree lined, and it’s been very quiet on the occasions we’ve ridden it. It’s gradient is challenging but does not contain anything too brutal, but it’s a very constant climb, winding up and up, for around 10km.

After approximately 4 km, the gradient eases a little and you head out of the trees. A spectacular view of the snow tipped mountains opens out, and you can look down on the pretty towns below. This allows you to take a breather and enjoy the landscape, before the road takes you back into the trees, with the gradient increasing again.

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The panorama at the summit is stunning, and we were lucky to experience a cloud inversion on our recent ascent of this beautiful mountain. We could just see the Pic du Midi, but the tip was only visible for a short time, amidst a wisp of grey cloud.

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Horquette d’Ancizan looking towards Pic du Midi, hidden by cloud

Continue reading “Pyrenees Triple Col Loop”

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”

Peak District 100: Part 2

Blog Post By Grant.  To read Part 1, please check out our Blog/Home Page

It was late afternoon by now, but if we kept going at the same pace, there was enough time to finish the ride on dusk. This was reliant on a bit of luck, as a puncture or mechanical was not factored in to this.

Many of our bike rides after work end up riding into dimming light, so we we were comfortable with the situation, and we had some small lights as back up. So that was it, decision made.  Basing the car in the middle of the route created a really useful stop off point. In readiness for G2 (the first half of the ride we nicknamed “G1”, the G coming from the name of our good friend Phil Gayes who showed us this route a few years ago), pockets were emptied of wrappers and filled with bars and gels. Bottles were refilled and we were set to go. Gunn Hill, here we come.

The climb of Gunn Hill has featured in the Tour of Britain on a number of occasions. It’s steep, but not particularly long. Today, we were riding it from the Meerbrook village side.  The gradient gradually ramps up as you head into its tree shrouded beginning. The surface is pitted and tends to be damp. After the first steep section, a series of short steep ramps lead to the top. At this point the climb is more open, and your efforts are rewarded with views of rolling countryside, and hill tops clad in heather. There are times when the heather gives the hillsides in this area a fabulous purple glow. When this happens, it’s difficult not to spend time admiring the views and taking photos.

A place called Wincle comes next. It’s located within a narrow, wooded, steep sided valley. It’s home to a brewery, a pub and a couple of houses. I love passing through here, as it’s such a pretty place. I think the trees play a big part in this, deep green in Summer, golden brown in Autumn. Continue reading “Peak District 100: Part 2”

The Tour Comes to Sailhan

Blog Post by Grant:  The Day the Tour Passed through the Pyrenean Village of Sailhan

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The sound of the Tour cavalcade could be heard in the valley as we walked up to the village.

This parade of quirky vehicles and the friendly folks they transport along the route of the race, really gives the Tour the appearance and feel of a travelling carnival.

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The atmosphere within the village intensifies as the riders in the break pass by. The cheers of support are fabulous to hear, and be part of. Rafal Majka was the first rider through. Having watched him so many times on televised races, it was a little surreal to see him ride past within a few metres of where we were standing.

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The “big favourites” were next. Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador sped past. The riders had slowed slightly to take a bend in the road, but the pace they were travelling at was incredible. It’s wonderful to watch, and there are just a few moments when it seems possible to breathe in the whole intensity of the race. Continue reading “The Tour Comes to Sailhan”

Mountain Madness

Blog Post by Emma

Grant and I have been cycling in the mountains for our summer holidays for the last 13 years. We simply love it, and cannot imagine the main focal point of the year being anything other than our trip.  The areas we have cycled are within France (Pyrenees, Northern and Southern Alps) and Italy (Dolomites and Italian Alps).

However, many non-cyclists I know simply cannot comprehend why we want to ride up such arduous, mountain roads, and they find it laughable that we call this a holiday! On our recent trip, we chatted to a guy who was on a mountain road tour, but a driving one, in his McLaren road car.  He found it incredible that when driving over Mont Ventoux, he saw so many cyclists.  “They must be mad, it took me 20 minutes in the car.  It’ll take them forever” he exclaimed!  I can vouch that it does seem like an eternity, having trundled up it in around two hours, several years ago!

Sometimes, I do wonder why we do it! When you see fellow cyclists working their way up the climbs, contorted faces, sweat pouring and every aspect of body language indicating they are NOT having a good time!  I suspect I look like this on many occasions! Recently on Col du Soulour, in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, an elderly French gentleman hollered at me from his picnic table; I only caught the last few words “faire de la cuisine”……this means “to do the cooking”.  I did wonder if he was telling me that perhaps I should stick to that particular task, rather than cycling up mountain passes!  Cheeky!

Continue reading “Mountain Madness”

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