a bloke on a bike

trials and tribulations of an amateur long-distance cyclist

Well, that’s going well

8 months down the line and the whole thing has gone out of the window.

RATN didn’t happen because Covid. I’ve moved house and, due to a new business + frankly mental commute, I no longer have time for anything.

But RRTY starts September. Fingers crossed for some improvements. On the plus side, the new local hills are something else…

A virtual #Festive500

So as anyone who’s even heard of cycling media knows, the surprisingly outsized PR behemoth that is Rapha are running their annual Festive 500 challenge again this year, with the Covid necessitated addition of allowing virtual kilometres. Long story short, the aim is to do 500km in the period between Christmas Eve and the end of New Year’s Eve. (0001 24/12 – 2359 31/12). Fairly simple, log the miles on Strava and in preceding years Rapha give you a roundel to sew onto something (this year, it’s a prize draw). Extra points if you filled in a manual brevet card. A successful Audax calendar event has even been developed – the Full Fat Festive 500 – which sounds lovely until you consider that it’s 500km in 34hrs. From Bristol.

Anyway. This year, I intended to tap out a 100km a day for five days with a break for Christmas Day. Track and trace, however, put paid to that as I was literally rolling the bike out of the door only to see the dreaded “you must self-isolate” notification on the phone.

Well, shit.

Plan B it is, then. Having done the sums and realising that to do a virtual 500km on Sufferfest exercises would be something in the region of 16x 9 Hammers (this is quite a long way from being ideal, don’t even contemplate it), I resurrected the Zwift membership.

There is nothing great about spending time on the trainer, even with the engagement of Zwift, so the plan was 100km, 60km, 120km, 100km, 100km. (Actually it was meant to be 100 x5 skipping Christmas Day, but I got carried away). Flat routes all round to get it out of the way but it did give me a good way to experiment with various bits and pieces (and with an eye on the RaTN, flat is specific training…) and so a few lessons learnt.

  • The new Pace Partners are really annoying. Annoying to find, annoying to hang on to, the only good thing is that you’re effectively in a group so the speed is kept significantly higher but you do end up working hard.
  • Running ERG mode using something like the Endurance + no vid from Sufferfest is a good way to train but it is also really quite hard. As always, far too easy to overcook it on the way out.
  • Using Zwift to control resistance gives you a more realistic ride in terms of micro-breaks, but also gives you the opportunity to try to smash sprints & KOMs, which with 100km in the legs is not the ideal.

Biggest lesson was nutrition. The first 3 100km days were fuelled with High5 in the bidon and variety of bars. Not great, not terrible. The 120km day was bad and I can see the advice of drinking your water and eating your calories. Today’s final ride, however, was an opportunity to try out the Expedition Food strategy I alluded to in previous posts. Rather than a 400cal breakfast and constant liquid fuelling, I took a 1000cal breakfast with water and the option of bars to top up. This was night and day. Strong all the way through, with hills, sprints, KOM efforts and 40 odd minutes on the cat ‘c’ Pace Partner. No top up fuelling, just plenty of water. No GI issues, nothing untoward. I suspect the granola & raspberry one will be fine with cold water, just need to make sure the pack is well shaken up. As such, they’re going in the pack for RATN. Not cheap, but 4000cal in under a kilo is going to go some way to dealing with fuelling problems (especially looking at the food desert that is 550-700km). Will have to have a look at the recipe to see how to make my own for pre-events, because I’m not sure the budget can stretch to one of these packs every time I leave the house! Also, you will need a Lhfoon.

I am conscious that the trainer isn’t entirely realistic, but I’m confident that the effort is higher to make up for the difference between the indoors and out and that this represents a reasonable comparison. I am also conscious that as I’ve not come off with the normal 1000+ calorie deficit, I can’t sit and graze the fridge with impunity…

If you’re more social media’y than me, Expedition Foods are sponsoring endurance athletes. I doubt there’s much interest in a born-again mamil with three followers on instagram, but if you’re all over the instas it might be worth an email!

Thanks, 2020!

That’ll be a Zwifty Festive500, then.

More inspiration

The Jo Burt write-up of a 600km perm


Escape is easy. If you can ride 10 miles you can ride 20 miles. If you can ride 20 miles you can ride 50. If you can ride 50 miles you can ride a hundred and if you can ride a hundred miles then you can ride round the world. It’s really that simple.

Tier 4


That’s the long rides out of the running. 5x 100km for the festive 500 it is. About 4 hours and I can remain entirely self-sufficient, so that keeps it all within the spirit and I’ll just have to busk the T3/4 boundaries…

Shakedown done

So 50k round the Surrey Hills. Bit of headwind, some uphills, some downhills and the robo-gears do their thing, but keeping an eye on the synchro-shift is necessary for the shift between big & small rings. All is as it should be and once I get the power meter I will be a happy bunny. The 27kph I’m looking at as an average is very do-able, notwithstanding the Dutch Hills.

Next step will be to see how we get on over the Festive 500!


The bike returns! Not without issue, and although I’ve made out a bit like a bandit in terms of parts, the shop have fouled up with their quote to an excessive extent and it took some real doing to persuade them to honour their actual price and they decided to make me feel like a bit of a heel in doing so. But fine. It is done and pending the power meter, I don’t need to return so that is that. I’m not going to put up a shit review but I am certainly never going to recommend them to anyone – their workshop has no concept of customer service and it has cost them.

But the RTD returns, with shiny DI2 (which brings with it a whole new set of trials). The headlamp solution works, or at least it stacks up in the house, I’ve yet to take it out into the real world.

Side view
Front view
Cockpit view

It doesn’t look like a massive change, but it’s freed the cockpit up for all manner of changes – sleeping bag, phones, seatback tray….

The 76Project bar is also spot on – plenty of adaptors to get the fit just so, nice and solid and it gets the bike computer up front and out of the way. Cabling (photo to follow) is also easier, if slightly more obvious, but also out of the way of everything else. All in all, something I wish I’d done for the TCR (like so many, many things!)

On the training side, The Sufferfest has added a whole raft of (gasp!) non-HIIT rides! I know, right? Basically recovery up to sub(ish)-tempo rides on top of some documentary films, which makes a real change to the ‘we-need-recovery-in-the-plan-lets-notch-the-suffering-down-to-60%’ rides, which are fine, but not really what GVA intended. NB Holy Week (which follows the Tour Of Flanders) is not an easy ride, as I found out while clinging on for dear life. It is very much at the upper end of sub-tempo, arguably in sweet-spot territory. Good, though.

Speaking of nutrition…

It’s surprisingly easy to get wrong. This post by Susan Barr, et al, is a good start for straight calorie values. For me and my target speeds, I’m looking at trying to get nearly 600 calories an hour down which is going to be a tough old ask. At 16 hours a day (targeted, any way), that comes in at around 9,500cal per day!

On the TCR I was dumping down Fanta at a prodigious rate and I’m quite convinced that my lack of appetite did for me – there’s only so many 7 Days you can cram down you so I’m going to need to do some research about what’s likely to be available in the Netherlands.

I’ve got some Huel bars on order. I’m quite happy with the powder as a meal replacement, but it’s still too bulky to consider as fuel for the bike (and it’s a bugger to mix without a blender), but the bars are coming in at 200cal a pop so it has potential at least for audax purposes – 3 an hour isn’t beyond the realm of possibility (although two is probably more realistic, with the deficit made up from a meal).

RATN is of course a different matter. Because it’s relatively flat as races go, I can consider carrying a bit more weight through the early stages and am pondering the benefit of some high-calorie Expedition Foods – they produce meals in the 1000cal mark which can nominally be prepared with cold water. I imagine that that is liable to be ghastly, but potentially a granola meal in the morning, another meal halfway through and one before sleeping may go some way towards reducing the calorie deficit.

Delays, delays and annual leave

As the dedicated follower will note, the updates are generally fairly sparse. What will come as a particular surprise is the fact that my bike is still in the shop. Something that I am exceedingly grumpy about but I suspect is a combination of bad luck rather than a deliberate campaign by the shop (who will remain nameless unless it doesn’t emerge next week, then they will feel the wrath of my comments on the 5th page of their google results).

Long story short, Shimano appears to fallen over and supply chains are stretched and I’m led to believe that a strange sequence of events has occurred that has meant that the front mech is somehow incompatible with something else. At this stage I’m taking it pretty much on faith.

Anyway, it’s there and I am here. Fortunately I am spending much time on the Sufferfest, and avoiding being distracted by the great outdoors is a very good way of keeping on the straight and narrow with the training plan which I like to think that I’ve been very good with, although will admit to skipping some cadence drills because they are so, so very boring.

The absence of the bike has given me a very good opportunity to consider kit. One issue that I have had is that my dynamo light choice, a B&M Luxos U, while being a very good light with integrated charger, is a pig to mount. Because it is German and is naturally designed to be legal on the road, you can’t simply turn it upside down. On the TCR, it was bar mounted, which limits the use of the aero bars for ancillary stuff lest you block the beam and makes the bags tricky so my ambition was to get the thing forward on the bars.

It turned out that I’m not the only person with this problem and, unlike me, the other person with this problem has got some technical nous and access to a 3D printer which means he has come up with this:

3D printed bracket

This is a 3D bracket designed to mount the light underslung from a go-pro mount, a mount which I have come to establish is now the ubiquitous method of mounting anything on a bike. So I sent it off for 3D printing and it has returned and, if I ever see the bike again, I look forward to seeing how well it works. The files are freely available on Thingiverse so give it a whirl.

This then leads us to the next question, what to mount it to? I disappeared down a bit of a rabbit hole and have ended up settling on 76 Projects’ TT Mount v2.0 because it is a little bit modular and I am convinced that if I were to order a fixed size you will guarantee that the next day I would need to change the bar distances. I was very tempted by the Alden Carbon mount, but this is quite expensive once shipping is considered and will be unaffordable once Brexit hits, even if he was prepared to deal with the VAT nonsense that HMRC have introduced.

Had I the technical nous I would seriously consider licensing the design as although it’s TT orientated, the mount and the hydration tray also solve a number of ultra cycling issues (where to dump Stuff for organisation while on the move) and it’s not actually that expensive compared with a lot of bits and pieces.

In the meantime, I found Jasmijn Muller’s blog about the RATN which, in combination with the preview on dotwatcher.cc, has provided some very useful intel for the planning phase. Apart from ending up with a sleepless night worrying about it, it looks like nutrition is going to be the big issue – we’re so spoilt with our 24hr garages even in the middle of nowhere that we take it for granted that we’ll always be able to get something to eat in the UK at any time of day or night.

I have committed through the booking of some re-rosterable rest days to this year completing the Rapha Festive 500. I could just do 5 100km days, which may be sensible in these times of Covid, because this is 4-5hr jaunt for which I can be completely self reliant, but I am wondering if I can get enough high energy food to do a long ride to St Peter’s Chapel, which is one of the oldest Christian buildings in the country, situated on the bleak Essex coast up near Bradwell-on-sea, a place that I’m particularly fond of. It’s a 275km round trip (which I will absolutely round up) and likely to involve a headwind so would be both festive and specific training for RATN so I will certainly consider it.

And finally, they’ve postponed LEL to 2021. So now I’ve got a chunk of leave in August and nothing to use it on. Tempted to go to La France with the Planet X and do some Col bashing, but watch this space…

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