Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tour de Lantau 2011

Nice to get back on the mountain bike in style today with an all day epic 'Tour de Lantau'. This ride never fails to disappoint, and on a day like today, it's hard to beat.

New 15mm bolt through 120mm travel Fox ready to roll- today was my first serious test of this fork- it proved stiff, confidence inspriring and has pretty much put the icing on the cake to my Turner.

Hillary & Leeps before the average 30% monster climb.

Hillary & Leeps after the average 30% monster climb.

The gang looking pretty worried about being on some semi-legal trails.

Buddha downhill proved as brutal on man & machine as ever.

A quick beer and burger watching the sun go down wrapped off an excellent day.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Maclehose Post Mortem

I posted a couple of weeks ago to give some insight into my transition from pure cyclist to someone just about able to stay on their feet long enough to take on Hong Kong's toughest hiking event- the annual Oxfam Trailwalker. Most will know by now that mission was accomplished- we made it! No fast times (28hrs), but we made it.

Firstly, to say a big thank you for any readers who sponsored team 'Full duck or no dinner'. As a team we raised over $110,000HKD for Oxfam and individually I raised over £600 GBP for Marie Curie- a fantastic contribution to charity and something that wouldn't have been possible without all your combined generosity. We are certainly one of the top 10 fundraisers and should get a mention in the South China Morning Post come December.

Secondly, I thought it may be worth adding a few insights into the event itself and how it may equate to similarly arduous cycling challenges. Completing Trailwalker wasn't the hardest pure physical challenge I've set myself (I think a 240km Etape du Tour wins that), but physiologically and from a pain management point of view, it was certainly the toughest. Clambering up muddy wet slopes in the dark with only a head torch for guidance, sleep deprived, cold, wet and miserable is not easy. When 4am hits it's very difficult to stay focused and awake, and to keep on going. This equates with 'Sleepless in the Saddle'- a UK 24hr endurance mountain bike race I've competed in a couple of times, and similarly, as soon as the sun rises the energy of just having daylight around you gives is an amazing boost. But where 'Sleepless' is deliberatly held on a course that isn't too technical, the fact it rained all night on Trailwalker made it very challenging to stay upright on your feet- people were sliding in the mud on a very technically demanding course left, right and center.

As with any endurance test, the key is generally preparation. Getting the right footwear was the most important element of Trailwalker for me. I wouldn't say my feet came off the training or the event scott free, but I did make it around. To put this into perspective, one of my team mates had to quit at 80km, simply unable to walk as his foot was basically one big blister. He had never suffered anything quite like it, and seemed to suffer from the rain and the wet feet even worse than the rest of us. Of course, the training is key, and you need to be fit, but if you get one element wrong (e.g. footwear, chafing, hydration), then it doesn't matter how much training you've done- you can find yourself going home early. Similarly, on the bike, there's nothing worse than showing up in a race with a badly serviced / low end bike and having to quite because something fails. All cyclists have plenty of stories of this happening to them, but one sticks in my head as my biggest learning experience- Back in around '06 I competed in a stage race in Northern Ireland. On the last day, having not bothered with a warm up (it was raining), I rode out of the car park on the neutralised zone to discover that my headset had seized. Unable to steer properly, I ended up having to climb into the broom wagon and quit the race because of a mechanical. When I got home I discovered a bent steerer. Lesson learned- cheap kit is more likely to break, and no matter what you're using, check it over.

Lastly, I just wanted to emphasize the psychological aspect of completing something like this. If your head isn't there then you won't get the most out of yourself. What doesn't kill you makes you harder. So, when times are tough, I'll take solace from the fact I can look back and think they probably aren't as tough as hauling myself up the back side of Tai Mo Shan in the middle of the night.


Nice to see something you've worked on in print.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


If you have a sad obsession with tubulars you should read Condor cycle's ode to Dugast (scroll down):

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The Road is Long...

This blog is about bikesandbuildings.... However, please forgive me if I diverge off track a little- it will come back to bikes, but for now a little background:

Back at the start of this year I was due to ride 750km in 3 days for charity. Unfortunately, a mash{ed} palm meant I had to withdraw at the last minute and cancel. At the time I was keen to honour the people who'd sponsored me with an event equally difficult. Pretty soon the rugby 7's came around and whilst under the influence of considerable alcohol I was offered a provisional place on a team for November's annual Oxfam Trailwalker event. I said "yes".

The Profile is Spiky

As someone not famed for my walking ability (people often ask if I'm limping when there is nothing wrong with me, and a masseuse once asked me "what is wrong with your legs?") the idea of attempting to walk 100km from coast to coast in Hong Kong over a course profile that blows apart anything the UK has to offer (4500m cumulative elevation for a start) seemed something beyond a mere challenge, this was (drink induced) madness! To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, if I ran 5km on the flat I would ache for quite a few days when I signed up for this. Clearly I would have to try and rapidly change my physiology and conditioning to adapt for such an event.

The Sky is High

Over the past 6 months I have been incorporating more and more running mileage into what is obviously a bike led routine for me. I've also been getting out on 15-25km hikes in a bid to adapt to hills and toughen my feet. I am on pair of trainers number 5 in a bid to find the perfect pair. But slowly, surely, I think I might have got there. Having hauled my way around 50km of an easier route (only 1100m climbing) last weekend, yesterday I did half of the Maclehose trail over the toughest middle section, including 2850m of climbing, finishing in the dark after being out for just over 11hrs. Having done the last 8km without food or water and with a taped up blister giving me a bit of a hobble I was obviously suffering, but in actual fact my legs felt reasonable and the idea of carrying on into the night was grim, but not beyond comprehension. 

The Sun will Set (and we'll be halfway)

So, how does this relate to bikes? Well, on a base training level there are a number of mantras that apply to any sport that I've had to apply to this progression:
  • If you're coming from nowhere (injury / lay-off / new to the sport) don't expect to get there quickly. Build up slow, add the mileage and don't do too much too soon- this will only lead to injury.
  • Good kit makes a difference- as with bikes, fit and comfort trump fancy features.
  • It's hard, but it is rewarding.
Furthermore, there are some observations specific to cyclists that I thought I would share:
  • We have strong hearts and lungs, with legs that will easily go up hill. You will leave walkers behind going uphill and you will think it is easy compared with climbs when you push it on the bike. What is hard, and what we are rubbish at, is going downhill.
  • The muscles we have adapted for pushing on pedals are in direct conflict with the muscles required for back-pedaling (obviously) and there is a direct parallel with the uphill / downhill thing. If you've ever ridden a fixed gear you will notice some muscles hurt a lot more than usual the day after. I believe these are the same as those that will hurt for days after a serious hilly hike.
So, will all this make me a stronger biker? As yet I have no idea- I'm usually too busy trying to recover from a hill walking workout to be able to go full out on the bike, and the number of biking training hours has taken a serious hit as I ramp up to the Maclehose event in just 2 weeks time. We shall see- I expect short term probably not, but hopefully long terms I will be stronger and more muscularly balanced as a result. Whatever, the priority right now for me is to try and survive 24hrs of walking hell. 

If you would like to contribute you can use the gadget on the top right of this page which I set up for the Thai event, or you can open your wallet for Oxfam and have a look at what this training has done for my feet here: