Sunday, January 31, 2010


View Hong Kong bikesandbuildings in a larger map

A varient on the usual MAD100 this morning. Instead of riding 100kms around the New Territories at a MAD pace with lots of Chinese guys, Glen and I missed the start and hence rode at our own pace. A couple of photos from the ride, including the spot in Tai Mei Tuk where you could buy about 500 bikes if needed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keep It Colonial: Day 3

Day 3: Monday

Greated by morning mist at the top of Fraser's Hill we descended the first single track 8 km of yesterday's final climb with plenty of caution. Tropical tarmac does have it's hazards.

As the sun came up and the gradient eased we were then treated to a further 30km of road bike descending heaven. A nice easy gradient, a good surface, swooping corners, very little braking required and virtually no traffic. I'd rank this descent up there with some of the best I've ridden.

All good things must come to an end, however. And soon enough we were back on the flats heading for our final climb of the holiday: Genting.

Genting is the usually the decider on the Tour of Langkawi and has cracked many a European who isn't used to extreme heat, ridiculous gradients and 25km climbs. Brutal is not the word on this one. Everyone who'd ridden it before was banging on about how steep the final 8km were. But they forgot to mention the long stretches of 10-12% to beat you into submission in the 17km leading up to it. Soon enough it was a war of attrition as one by one each of us dropped off the pace setter- Glossoti. That was until Colin came steaming past, having taken a few minutes out to remove his brake blocks from his wobbly wheel. I wish I'd stopped to take a photo of the horrific resort visible from the base of the mountain, emerging from the mist. But I was worried I'd get dropped...

By the time the fabled final 8km came it was just me and Glossoti, with Colin well gone up the road. A little dig in a bid not to fall over backwards on the 17% gradients unhitched Glossoti and we crawled up the remaining kms seperated by a constant 50m. Dripping in sweat we found the coffee shop with Colin tucking into a muffin. We followed suit as the other guys rolled in. Pain is temporary, having climbed that hill is forever!

Of course we cannot forget the First World Hotel, even more horrific in the flesh that I thought.

But look the other way and for all the Chinese tourists gambling in the mini Macau on a mountain, Genting is still a beautiful place. Not a match for Cameron or Fraser but a hill that had to be climbed. Just the 90km covered today but a great way to round off a superb trip before it was time to pack the bikes, grab some lunch and jump back in a van and head off to KL International. 3 days, 3 hills with 7 great guys / SIRs. Something to remember.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Keep it Colonial: Day 2

Sunday: Day 2
The Lakehouse car park saw some tired legs and some full stomachs roll out to descend back down yesterday's mammoth climb.

The pace was pretty slow on the descent so it was a nice opportunity for me to grab some photos on the way down like this abandoned car and these village children: 


A very nice descent on quiet roads at a civilised hour was a good mental break from Hong Kong, where typically we have to stay alert for Mini Buses trying to run us over.

Raynard, our resident 'SIR' Mexican, descending. Bet you don't get too much Mock Tudor in Mexico City.

The views across the Cameron Highlands were quite spectacular. Alas it couldn't last and we were back on the flats and heading for lunch soon enough. Highlights included skirting aorund the outskirts of Proton world. Hopwever, luckily enough for me, the pace had reduced to 'recovery'- just a 36kph average...and we had a tailwind and life was good. Colin served time for talking about how reliable his Mavic wheels were over dinner last night with a broken spoke but even a wobbly wheel couldn't slow him down.

After lunch, Keggy & I jumped on the Colin express and opened up a couple of minutes gap before the next refuel at the petrol station. Coke, caffeine sweets and jelly beans were stuffed in the back pocket and in true SIR spirit I thought 'stuff waiting around for this lot- I'm off'. I was pretty sure that Colin would catch me, but after yesterday's performance I felt like I needed a head start. Of course it's not a race.

Pounding the pedals for the next hour I was feeling good- I'd clocked 20km in the hour, going uphill. Someone's bike computer had recorded 42 degrees in the full midday sun but for once a headwind felt OK, as it had a cooling effect. The problems started when my bottles were running empty and I still had 10km uphill before the next probable water stop. I reached for my phone to see where Ronnie & his van were, but no reception! Next stop was to flag down a car. This being Malaysia and Proton world being just down the road, you can guess what car stopped for me- yes a 20 year old Proton full of locals who'd probably filled up their 2litre bottle with p*ss, I mean tap water. Still- beggars can't be choosers and with no sign of Ronnie I took on some more fluids.

Just before the final 8km kicker where things get steep on Fraser Hill (named after some Scotsman) I was able to swap out my p*ss water for some real stuff- half of which went over the head and then onto the food the woman I bought it from was serving. Never mind- I had one last hill to climb and I was still out front!

To my amazement, my 2hr solo 'breakaway' had succeeded. To celebrate, I ordered a tuna sandwich with chips at the nicest looking place I could find. Turns out I the official post ride meeting venue was just round the corner but to be honest I wasn't really capable of speech anyhow. That was the furthest I've dug myself in many months and I was quite happy to collapse in peace. 

Another day, another classic mock Tudor venue. This time 'The Smokehouse'- built at the turn of the Century by the miltary and probably last seen a coat of paint / menu update in 1980. Still, tea & scones are timeless.

I wrote about 'The Smokehouse' and published a quick sketch in my blog post a day or so ago. I've been thinking one of the things I liked so much about this trip was the couple of hours to myself in the afternoon to recouperate and soak in my surroundings. It's still a hard day's riding but it's not taking the p*ss.

Ok so the chairs are a bit OAP home but hey, that's OK for a night.

Not a bad terrace.

Much of the dinner chat was about how important a good pair of shorts are. Glossoti, who'd been on good form was now walking like John Wayne, and talking about First Aid. To top it off, he'd ripped the brake boss off his Pinarello. One of those days for him.

Still , for me it'd been a great day. And, to top the day off, a Beef Wellington. Well deserved and well digested. I passed on the prawn cocktail starter...

182km covered
6hr ride time
1125m ascended
8900 garmin calories burned
1 obvious conclusion: don't talk about how good your bike is.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keep It Colonial: Day 1

Saturday: Day 1

Seven SIRs made the annual (ish) pilgramige to the Malaysian Highlands to sample some epic climbs, sweat off some XMas kilos and most importantly, drink tea and eat scones on the terraces of some fabulous colonial hill top retreats.

Having flown into KL and made the transfer to Genting the night before, we started with a descent down to the valley, the mist just clearing off some beautiful hilltops that we shall re-visit on Day 3.

As the morning went on the temperature went up, so did the pace. We got a good taste of how the next few day's riding would pan out, with Colin off the front and the rest of us battling not to fall off the back. As I started to shake off my jet lag legs I made the mistake of joining Colin for some 40+kph pace line action that soon degenerated into a 2 man time trial before lunch. The prospect of a 40km climb after lunch had somehow slipped my memory.

Refueling from Ronnie's van for the afternoon ahead, there was a sense of trepidation at the prospect ahead- everyone said the climb into Cameron wasn't too steep but I don't think there's such a thing as an easy 40km climb. Not when you've got 130km in your legs already.

A rare photo of Colin (left) actually riding with us.

Winding up the climb the pace started to rise as some of those who'd been quietly absent in the morning turned the screw. I hung on for around 20kms in the hope that if I got my camera out they might slow down. They didn't and I cracked, putting it into 'reverse' for the remaining kms in an effort to save a little energy for the following day. Funnily enough, now I wasn't breathing out of every orifice I could sit back, enjoy the scenery and suffer in silence.

I passed a village where the Mk.1 Land Rover is still the vehicle of choice, which prepped the nostalgia buttons just nicely for what was to appear around the following corner. Like an apparition, I could now see our accomodation for the evening, overlooking the lake. You can just make it out in the photo beneath.

'The Lakehouse' makes quite the place to sit down in sweaty lycra and enjoy a post ride snack. In this case, bring on the tea (locally grown) and serve me those scones! Have either of these ever tasted as good as when you've covered 172km and you've climbed a hill from hell?

A nice soak in a rolltop bathtub and I was ready to go and have another sit down and some more scones. This time in front of the log fire. It was down to 20 degrees after all!

Some bike chat over roast beef and yorkshire pudding, swilled down with a few glasses of anti-oxidants and the day was over. A fantastic day's riding followed up by an equally relaxing late afternoon / early evening. Like the UK only without the rubbish bits (chavs, rude staff and bad weather).

173km covered
5hrs48mins ride time
1050m ascended
9000 garmin calories burned
1 obvious conclusion: keep it colonial.

The Smoke House

Just back from an amazing weekend's riding in Malaysia. Full report with photos to follow but here's a little post ride sketch I made whilst sitting in the window of 'The Smoke House'- a slightly surreal colonial throwback that bought back memories of my parent's home in Gloucestershire- right down to the brass door knobs and the hot water running out.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Only in Asia

Would they build a 6000 room hotel in the middle of a 100 million year old rain forest. And what a colour scheme!!! Truly hideous, but secretly I'm quite looking forward to seeing this monster of the jungle. We're not staying there but I'll see it this weekend when I go on 'training camp' riding through the somewhat more attractive looking surrounding countryside on the roads made famous by the Tour of Langkawi. More to come next week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tour Upside Down

All hail the start of the 2010 pro bike calendar. Predictably enough, Andre Griepel won the first stage of the Tour Upside Down yesterday, despite being beaten in the warm up crit by the Team Sky boys. I enjoyed the pre-race interview where the gentle giant said how the only reason he got beaten in the crit was because it was only 50km and everyone was fresh. Once the proper racing started he'd be there. Looking at these legs (!) I can see why he was so confident. What a beast!

image sourced from

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Time for Lime

I'm a big fan of Time bikes if only for the fact they produce their own carbon fibre. The black & lime colour scheme tops off this uberbike just nicely. is worth a browse also.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Accidental Architecture

Reading through The Curious Fellow, I stumbled across this post on the old P&O building in London building, being dismantled from the bottom up due to the nature of it's construction. Mid demolition, as this shot shows, the building reminds me of Milan's Torre_Velasca - a brute if ever there was one, but a building I quite like (now we can call it 'of it's time'). More recently, the concept of smaller footprint at ground, larger footprint in the sky has been executed rather nicely by the Chileans in the Cruz del Sur building by Izquierdo Lehmann.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Training: SportTracks Training Load 2009 Review

As I start to plan the year ahead in the bikeospehere of my bikesandbuildings world (OK a poncey way of saying 'forming a training plan') I thought I'd look back at 2009 and see what I can learn from my first year of keeping digital logs of all my rides.

Firstly, an introduction on what these fancy charts above mean. It's basically my year in cycling fitness expressed as 2 graphs- the first as January to June, the second as July to December. Each time I go for a ride (or a run) with my Garmin and upload it into SportTracks it automatically analyses my heart rate data and gives it a score to objectively say how hard it was depending on time spent in heart rate zones. Therefore a 1hr time trail might score more points than a casual 2 hour ride. It's worth noting that if you didn't bring along your Garmin / the batteries died you can enter a manual value.

The blue block represents my long term fitness as a result of these efforts. This is accumulated over 45 days so you can pretty much write off the first 2 months of data collection unless you were standing still for the 2 months previous to starting keeping these records. It stands to reason that the peak of this blue block came at the end of the Trans Pyrenees, an 8 day, 10hrs / day mountain biking epic through the Pyrenees, which is pretty recognisable as a big peak in the middle of August. The second highest 'peak' was the Tour of Friendship in Thailand, another stage race type event, this time on the road at the start of May.

It also stands to reason that my freshness was at it's lowest after these events (yup the legs were knackered in each case for some days), which is where the green line comes in. This measures freshness and is the direct mirror to your 7 day 'fitness'- the red line. The way you can use this to your advantage is to use it as a way of projecting a taper in the lead up to a big event- you sacrifice your short term 'fitness' and a little long term fitness in order to arrive fresh and willing to give your all. If you look at the graphs you will see I did this for both of these events as there is a little spike just before Day 1.

Of course, there is a point at which your freshness gets so high you're just losing fitness, which is basically my December. But you know what? Everyone needs a break and now it's January 2010, I'm motivated to train and I have goals. Making the move to keep all my training logged in this way at the start of 2009 was one of the smartest moves I've made as a rider and has been worth so more to me than any fancy wheels as it essentially allows me to self coach. That's not to say I do it as well as a professional coach would but it's not bad considering it's free. I've learned a lot about myself this past year as a result of using this system, and while I don't think these graphs are the be all and end all, they do help visualise what you're doing, the gains / losses you're making and provide a motivational way to 'stay on track'. Let's see how 2010 goes.

n.b. that was about 500hrs of training and 9500kms covered in all disciplines over 2009... yikes!

Ferrari World

More Middle Eastern Madness, as featured in Air Asia Magazine (the glamour!). The logo is 65m across- think how big this building is - though at least it doesn't have 50 storeys of plant. I prefer my theme parks with a large dose of irony. Shudder to think of the gift shop.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eddy + DS

= excellent photo. Le Tour 1969 style- it must have been better. Thanks Matt.