trials and tribulations of an amateur long-distance cyclist

Category: Training

Thanks, 2020!

That’ll be a Zwifty Festive500, then.

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, 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…


Part of the Sufferlandria fitness plan is the setting of a ‘Mount Sufferlandria’. Sounds a bit cheesy, but the idea of the mental strength component is dealing with the motivation to actually get the training done.

Anyway, mine is to do the RaTN 2021 in under five days. Which is a big ask – ~450km a day, all day, for four days. And LEL opens in January ‘21, so that’s something else to look forward to – AL booked, bike’s in good shape, thighs are like iron (2wks into a 12wk ‘general purpose’ plan, anyway, with a custom plan in the offing at the other side).

Speaking of bikes, the RTD is in the shop for a bit of GRX DI2 action. Decided that the 1x at 41t isn’t quite where I want to be, but a 50/34 ultegra continues to have the ‘I’m not touching the big ring’ issue, so 48/31 with a chuffing great 42t on the back should be the way. Could reasonably drop it to a 32 for a flat race (cough RaTN cough).

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