First MTB ride

Construction of single track mountain bike route in Buck Wood.

I had my first ride on my mountain bike yesterday morning, about an hour and 20 minutes total on a route through Calverley Woods and then along the canal to Shipley and back on the road. The wooded section was the hardest with very muddy climbs and descents and leaves covering tree roots and rocks. After several days heavy rain the ground in the woods was soaked and very muddy in areas. One difficulty I found is that the thick carpet of dead leaves made the surface look the same pretty well everywhere and covered up the tree roots and rocks. This was probably not the ideal time or place for a novice to have a first ride! I was very pleased with how the tyres and low gears coped with this. It would have been impossible on my hybrid. I didn’t actually fall off but stalled a couple of times in deep mud partly through lack of speed and partly lack of technique and confidence. The section at the bottom of the valley near the river – narrow winding rocky paths through mainly holly bushes – was particular muddy and difficult. After that the tow path to Shipley was doddle and much more stable and comfortable than on the hybrid. The climb on the road up to Thackley was slower than on the hyrbrid, not surprisingly, but no problem given the gearing of the bike. The descent to Greengates was also slower but I still managed 20+ without too much effort. Not really what the bike is built for I guess. Both me and the bike were absolutely blathered in mud – all part of the fun I suppose. I should have given the bike a wash straight away but was too tired and wet so did it this morning. Easy enough with a hose, some bike cleaner and brushes. I left the forks on the intermediate ‘trail’ setting for the ride as I didn’t feel what I did really qualified for the ‘downhill’ setting but I will try all these in due course to see what difference they make. I have begun to look for other routes in my area and it seems I live in a bit of a hotspot for off-road riding. I found this link on the BikeRadar forum with some useful information [Getting off-road in Bradford area]. One of the links goes to a map of a route called the Bingley Bash. Coincidently I was talking to our window cleaner, Darren, who is a keen mountain biker earlier this afternoon and he mentioned most of the places discussed in the forum including the Bingley Bash. Buck Woods and Dawsons Wood are both about 5 minutes ride from home, as is Calverley Woods so it looks like I have plenty to go at. Here is a video showing a group riding some of the Bingley Bash. They seem to great fun falling off and laughing at each other’s misfortune! 

New mountain bike

017Today I collected a new mountain bike, a Giant Talon 0 from Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op in Chapel Allerton Leeds, partly paid for by the very generous collection my work colleagues made for me when I retired just over a year ago. I’ve done some easy off-road stuff on my hybrid bike over the years but it isn’t really suitable when the going gets a bit more rugged and technical so I’ve been thinking of getting a mountain bike for some time. The Talon seemed to be as good a specification as you can get for the money and better than quite a few. Reviews of earlier models suggested that the biggest weakness (and therefore the first candidate for upgrading) was the forks but the 2015 model has the Fox Float EVO CTD (CTD stand for 3 fork settings – climb, trail and descend) which is highly regarded. In fact the price for the forks alone is round £500, about half the RRP for the bike. It is the first bike I have had with disc brakes and the gears seem ridiculously low to a roady but I’m sure I’ll need them! Bottom gear seems to be 18 inches! For the full range of gears see the link below.

I’ve been invited out for a ride round Calverley Woods and the general area by a group of riders from the Airedale Olympic Cycling Club on Sunday December 7th who I contacted for advice on Facebook. I must admit to being rather nervous about this but I will go and at least introduce myself and see how far I get. The ride will be from Apperley Bridge will also take in the Canal to Rodley – Cragg Wood – Nunn Wood to Esholt – and back up onto the canal and take about one and a half hours. I’ll take my bike into Calverly Woods in the next day or two and see what it feels like. This video of a ride there does not fill me with confidence!

Many years ago (about 50 years) I rode a couple of seasons of cyclo-cross, cross-country racing (rather like the running version) on basically road bikes with lower gears, knobbly tubular tyres and a bit of old inner tube tied across the angle of the frame in front of the saddle to make the bike more comfortable on your shoulder when you had to run with it. The idea of cyclo-cross for riders like me – roadies and trackies – was a bit of fun and keeping fit in the winter. I was a bit heavy for the sport and spent quite a lot of time on my face in the mud with other riders riding over me! This was what decided me to take up squash as a winter sport instead, something I’ve revived recently in the guise of racketball. It will be interesting to see how I take to mountain biking. Although I’ve lost about 4 stone in the last 2 years I’m still pretty heavy and it’ll help when I’ve lost another half stone or so. I want to try out some of the mountain biking centre trails such as those at Dalby Forest but I’m sure there is lots to go at in and around Leeds and Bradford.

For the full set of gears on the bike – 24/38 with 11, 13, 15, 17, 21, 24, 28, 32, 36

27 months activity report

Up to now I have posted an update every 3 months or so but the last one was at the beginning of March this year, 9 months ago. In that one I reported I had plateaued at 14 stone 7 lbs, a weight I had been at, more or less, since August 2013. In the last report I determined to try and get down to 13 stone 7 lb by Spring 2015 with 14 stone being a significant milestone along the way. Now, 9 months later, I can report that I’m currently at 13 stone 8 lb and now hope to make it to 13 stone for next Spring. Through April until the end of September I lost another 3 pounds, bringing it down to 14 stone 4 lb but the breakthrough came at the end of September when I started using MyFitnessPal to record my food, calories and exercise. Through October and November I have lost a further 10 lbs (approximately 1.25 lb per week) and as I write this post I’m 13 stone 8 lb. To be brief, the system gives me a daily target of calories to lose one pound a week until I reach my target weight, 13 stone, and a comprehensive database of food types and meals to make it easy to calculate and record what I’ve had. Currently my daily target is 1,520 calories per day but any exercise I record lifts this. For example, because I played racketball today for 40 minutes I burnt 350 calories (a conservative estimate) and so I could consume 1,930 calories and still be on target for a pound a week weight loss. Even on days without cycling, walking or racketball and restricted to 1,520 calories I am not finding this at particularly difficult, using a combination of meals from the Hairy Dieters books and the Sainsbury’s ‘Be Good To Yourself’ healthy eating range of ready meals (3 for £6!). I’ve cut down on alcohol a bit but still enjoy a glass of wine most nights. I’ve also had to be a bit careful when eating out but the odd ‘bad’ day is not a problem as long as there are not too many of them. For the ‘badge’ below I’ve back-filled data to July 2012 so the loss recorded is over the last 2 years and 4 months although I’ve only been using the system since September this year.

18 months activity report

This post reports on activity for December 2013, January and February 2014. The previous 3 months (September, October and November) my  finish weight was 14 stone 7 lb. At the end of the current 3 months I am still 14 stone 7 lb so no loss or gain. Apart from a brief rise to 14 stone 10 lb at Christmas my weight has remained pretty constant since the end of August 2013. I lost 3 stone in the 12 months up to August 2013. I knew it would get more difficult to lose weight as it came down but I should be able to lose another stone over the remainder of this year or next spring latest. This gives me a target of 13 stone 7 lbs with 14 stone a significant milestone along the way.

December 2013 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo  1 hr 35 mins,  877 calories
Walking 30.3 miles 2625 calories
Total weight gain 1 lb (final 14 stone 8 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1 lb so diet and other exercise =  +2 lb

January 2014 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo 1 hour 35 mins, 877 calories
Walking 30.3 miles, 2625 calories
Total weight loss 0 lb (final 14 stone 8 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1.0 lb  so diet plus other exercise = +1 lb

February 2014 summary

Road 0 miles, 0 calories
Turbo 20 mins, 192 calories
Walking 56 miles, 4639 calories
Total weight loss 1 lb (final 14 stone 7 lb)
Exercise 3502 calories = 1.4 lb  so diet plus other exercise = +0.4 lb

The pattern of no road cycling and frequent short walks continues. I have continued to play racketball about twice a week over this period and played in a few tournaments. My intention is still to get down to 14 stone by this summer, perhaps sometime in July, so I will need to start cycling again this month and pay more attention to my diet.

Cycling, walking, hitting a ball

I must confess to having lapsed a bit on the cycling this last couple of months. This is only temporary and I am no less enthusiastic about social and leisure cycling and as a means of transport. The relative lapse is due in some part to how successful cycling has been as part of my retirement strategy to lose weight and get fit. As I’ve got lighter and fitter I have started to enjoy walking again and have been tempted back on to the squash court. I gave up regular squash and cycling at much the same time at the age of about 40, the beginning of my slippery slope to obesity and sloth.

I'm on the right of the picture, shell shocked after finishing as runner up in a handicap racketball tournament.

I’m on the right of the picture, shell shocked after finishing as runner up in a handicap racketball tournament.

Since August I have been playing racketball, similar to squash and played on the same indoor courts. I’ve joined the Bradford U3A racketball group and we play twice a week. I still seem to have a good squash brain and my speed around the court and stroke play are getting better. I have managed to win a small local U3A handicap tournament and was runner up in another. This was partly due to me being at the time an unknown and playing in some old track bottoms and plimsolls. All this led to a generous handicap!  I have added to my list of targets, alongside some sportives, to enter the Yorkshire Closed Racketball Championships in the over 65 category next September. And as of this week I am the U3A national racketball advisor with the role of networking and developing racketball in other U3A regions. Racketball can be just as competitive and demanding as squash but because it is easier to learn and play decent rallies it is particularly good for beginners of all ages. I enjoy very much the sessions with the ‘mixed ability’ U3A group. Several of us are ex-squash players but most are new to racket sports. We have an excellent coach, Saeed, and an extensive repertoire of skills practice routines and various ways of playing games that allow individuals of widely varying ability to play on near equal terms. We all get plenty of exercise in a safe and supportive environment and enjoy the social side when we finish a session and go to the club cafe and bar. Some of the keener members have joined the club that hosts our U3A sessions so they can play in the club ladders and mini-leagues.

In addition to this I have developed a range of walks from my home though the greenbelt of the Aire Valley. These make use of an extensive network of paths and bridleways through mixed pasture and woodland. They range in length between 2 and 6 miles, nearly all off road, and typically I do them non-stop at an average speed of 3.5 miles an hour. I’m doing these walks about 3 time a week. This with the racketball and the occasional session on my turbo rollers is helping me get a bit fitter and not put on any weight.

I have definitely lapsed on the diet side of things. I got down to 14 stone 3 lb early in the summer but have stabilised at 14 stone 7 for the last 3 months. I’m not unhappy about this and in any case I couldn’t go on losing weight at the same rate as I had for the first year when I started at 17 stone 7 lbs. I’ll be happy to get through the winter at about where I am now and have a push to lose another stone by spring. I’m not anticipating too much trouble achieving this as I will get more exercise from racketball as I improve and get more involved in competitive play and  I will be increasing my cycling as soon as the weather takes a turn for the better.

Ridgeback project (2)

I got around sometime ago to fitting the new cassette and chains that I mentioned in the first post Ridgeback project. All seemed to go well but the gears still didn’t change very well so I took the bike to the Pedallars Arms to join and get advice on adjusting the gears. The Pedallers Arms is a non-profit co-op that offers advice and use of tools but doesn’t fix things for you. They show and help but the idea is that you learn to do your own maintenance and repairs. With Bill’s help I shortened the chain as it was about 3 links too long (I hadn’t shortened the new chain when fitting it) and adjusted the cable and stop screws. (I am keeping a full record of all this on a maintenance page). When this was completed the rear gears changed perfectly. I still had the problem of not being able to get the big chain ring. This has not been a problem as the sort of riding I have been doing has been fine just using the small and middle ring so far. Bill confirmed that the problem was with the handlebar change mechanism rather than the front changer or cable adjustment. A search of his spare parts box didn’t come up with a suitable replacement so I left this for another day.

A few days later I took the bike into Woodrups and they confirmed the issue was with the handlebar mechanisms but the 7 speed Shimano Alivio levers were now obsolete. I would have to buy a complete pair of handlebar mechs and levers and also a new pair of brakes as the existing ones wouldn’t work with the new levers. I decided to try and find a second hand replacement for the malfunctioning front change lever mechanism in due course and manage without for the moment.

However, last Monday I popped into Ellis Briggs during a ride along the canal and they fixed my front changer by squirting loads of penetrating oil into the handlebar change mechanism and working the lever until it clicked into the 3rd position and moved the chain onto the big ring. Apparently there are small pawl springs in the index ratchet mechanism and if the bike is in storage and unused for a long time they can seize up. This is clearly what happened in this case. So now I have a fully functioning set of 21 gears on my Ridgeback. The chap from Ellis Briggs would not charge for his service – the job took about 5 minutes and we did it on the pavement outside the shop. This certainly inclines me to use them again – it is probably the easiest bike shop for me to cycle to. It was, and I think still is, a family owned business, like Woodrups in Leeds. I first did business with them in the late 1970s when I bought the Holdsworth Avanti that now sits on my turbo trainer which I alos bought from them.

I still need to replace the mudguards and perhaps renew some cables but otherwise the bike seems to be OK for the immediate future. The rear wheel has a light buckle but this has got no worse over the last year. And the tyres are pretty worn now, not surprising since they are the originals and therefore at least 15 years old!

Report after 12 months activity

This post reports on activity for June, July and August and completes the first year’s progress. At the beginning of this 3 months my weight was 14 stone 4 lb and, as this was my weight at the end, I clearly lost no weight over the period. In face I put on about 8 lbs over the 2 holidays I had – cycling in Islay and 2 weeks in France. So arguably I lost 8 lbs, sort of!

June Summary:
Road  168 miles,  9183 calories
Turbo 1 hours 45 mins, 782 calories
Weight 14 stone 3 lb, weight loss 1 lb
Exercise 9965 calories = 2.85 lb so diet = +1.85 lb
Note: put on about 6 lbs on Islay 1st week!

July Summary:
Road 52.3miles, 3353 calories
Turbo 45 mins, 445calories
Weight 14 stone 3 lb; total weight loss 0 lb
Exercise 9965 calories = 2.85 lb so diet = +2.85 lb

August Summary:
Road 99.4 miles, 6,206 calories
Turbo 30 mins, 265 calories
Total weight gain 1 lb; final 14 stone 4 lb
Exercise 6471 calories = 1.85 lb  so diet = + 0.85 lb

The overall effect of gaining weight on holiday, sliding a bit more generally in between times and not doing as much cycling as I had hoped means that I have plateaued at 14 stone 4 lb. I had a bad and recurring cold over this period too that curtailed my activity. However, overall weight loss for the year is 3 stone 1 lb, leaving me in a good place to start the next push to get down to 13 stone 7 lb.

Report after 9 months activity

This post follows on from the previous 2 activity reports – the first 3 months activity (summarising September, October and November) and  December to February activity. This post will summarises my activity for March, April and May after which I was 14 stone 4 lb. It has been a good 3 months with 8 lb weight loss. However, cycling activity has tailed off in June so fitness is probably static.

Turbo sessions, 3 hours 41 minutes, 1875 calories
Road rides, 51 miles, 4 hours 33 minutes, 3467 calories
End weight 14 stone 9 lb
Total weight loss 3 lb
Exercise 1.5 lb, diet 1.5 lb
Calories per minute 12.7 road,  8.5 turbo

Turbo sessions, 4 hours 1 mins, 1812 calories
Road rides,114.7 miles, 7427 calories
End weight 14 stone 7 lbs
Total weight loss 2 lb
Exercise 9239 calories = 2.6 lb so diet = +0.6 lb

Turbo sessions 2 hours 33 mins, 985 calories
Road rides 18.4 miles 1,269 calories
Weight loss 3 lb
Total weight loss
Exercise calories 2254 = 0.6 lb, diet weight loss = 2.4 lb

Weight at end of month, 14 stone 4 lb.

Ridgeback project

Shimano HG20 7-Speed Cassette Sprocket 12-32T

The bike I have used most this last year (and intermittently over the last 15 or so years) has been my old Ridgeback Adventurer hybrid. It has been badly neglected since I bought it from Woodrups in Leeds and still has the original equipment and tyres. I jammed the rear mechanism in Islay earlier this year and it hasn’t been quite the same since although it still works. And on last Saturday’s ride to Temple Newsam with Julia and the Leeds Cycling Campaign easy rider group it started  jumping gears whenever I put any pressure on up hills. So I’ve decided to do the old bike up. Even if it costs £100 or a bit more it will be worth it as the equivalent bike now is probably about £450 or so. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t last another 20 years, which is more than I am likely to. So I popped into Woodrups today and bought a new set of sprockets and a new chain, the old ones are badly worn and stretched and may well be part of the jumping problem. I also bought the necessary tools –  a Shimano cassette tool and chain whip for removing the locking ring and a chain link tool. The free body seems OK so I will just change the sprockets and chain and see how that goes. I have bought a 12-32 rather than the current 11-28 to give me some lower gears. The the following video shows the technique of removing and replacing sprockets on the free body. It also shows how to change the free body too but I don’t think I will need to be doing this. But one day, you never know. I’ll try to find appropriate video demonstrations of all the various refurb tasks I undertake.

Shimano Hg 6/7/8 Spd 116 chain £9.99
Shimano Cassette HG20 7 spd 12-32 £12.32

Fat Spanner Chainwip £9.99
Fat Spanner Cassette wrench (Shimano) £12.99
Fat Spanner Workshop large link extractor £22.99. This item is quite expensive and cheaper ones are available. However, this is heavy duty with replaceable pins so should last. I’ll get a cheaper light weight one in due course for a travelling tool kit.

I’m not counting the cost of tools as part of the project as I intend to use them on furbishing Julia’s Ridgeback hybrid in due course and other bike projects in the future. I bought a Park Tools PCS-9 – Home Mechanic Repair workshop stand a couple of months ago for £89.99.

I’m keeping a record and notes on the project and other maintenance issues on a page Maintenance. It is commentable so any advice or shared experiences are welcome.

Return to Laveyssière

We have just returned from another visit to Matt and Judy at Laveyssière where last August I was inspired to get back into cycling again after a long break of 25 or more years and a long slide into obesity and unfitness. That trip was mentioned in the first post to this blog last October, Starting Again. That post describes the 4.5 mile circuit from their house and how I got on. My best time then was 28 minutes. One year later, 3 stone lighter, my best time was 20 minutes and 40 seconds. The route and stats can be viewed at I also uploaded the data to Strava to get the additional information on gradients and power outputs. At the same time I defined the climb from Matt and Judy’s house to the D4 as a segment. This means if any other Strava users do the same climb it will create a leader board that records other times for comparison. At the moment I am the only one to have done this so I am top of the leader board for the Laveyssiere climb and therefore King of the Mountain!

I managed to put on about 4 lbs over the 2 weeks of our holiday but this is not as bad as I feared, given the drink and the great hospitality we received. I did the route 5 times in all burning about 1500 calories – less than 0.5 lb! – and would have done more but it was mostly too hot for me. Daily temperatures peaked between 35 and 38 and made cycling after 9.00am uncomfortable on the hills especially. We hope to return, perhaps a bit earlier in the year, and do some longer rides with Judy and Matt if possible. Their house is in a fantastic area for cycling and it would be great to work out and explore some routes. This might be of interest to other visitors as well.

The Loire a Velo

On the way back to Dieppe we stayed over night at Tours, a fantastic town to visit and spend more time at. We stayed in the Hotel Mirabeau where there was a lock-up garage to keep our bikes. This had quite a few others as well and we discovered that the Mirabeau, like many others in the Loire, had geared up for cyclists riding the Loire à Vélo paths and routes. This is a route made up of dedicated cycles paths and minor roads along the Loire for 800 kilometres, designed for exploring the beautiful Loire area and easy family friendly cycling. It is the westward part of the bigger Eurovélo 6 route from the Atlantic to the Black Sea that follows 3 major rivers, crosses 10 countries and extends 3,600 kilometres. Julia and I will certainly be returning to Tours to do some of this route. From mid June to mid September there is train service along the route that will carry bikes free and without having to make reservations. So, for instance, an ideal trip for a few days would be by train from Tours to Orleans and cycle back to Tours. There are also a range or pre-packaged tours with full accommodation and support if required.