Thursday, 7 August 2008



The choice: trade team style or classic cycling style like Coppi. Which one? At the moment Im swaying to the retro team kit of La Vie Claire. After all, it was alright for Hinault and Lemond wasnt it?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Ventoux Videos

The descent...

Simpson dying...

This is not very believable...

80's style

Monday, 4 August 2008

Rides in Devon

My First 100 miler

I did this ride in trainers in the summer of 1990. I probably had my Z kit on with PDM track mitts. First of all I rode down to a friends in Chawleigh with some other friends. After some food they headed back, but I headed to Exmoor via Tiverton. I had some Kendal mint cake with me, but that was about it, and that ran out around Exford. I remember managing to reset the bike computer on one of the descents by getting into one of those aero tucks you see the pros doing coming off the Tourmalet or wherever. When I got near Lynton Cross I had completely blown, so I had a lie down in the hedge. A car came past, jammed on its brakes and reversed - the driver asking me if I was OK. I said I was fine, but really should have asked for some food. I managed to get to Knowle and went in the garage to feast on crisps, coke and chocolate - even though I only lived about 2 miles away.

Bike route 278214 - powered by Bikemap 

Lynton Cross

This used to be a great little ride, short enough to fit in after the Tour finished on Channel 4 at 7pm but with an alpinesque climb to make the ride worth it. You can do it either way, but I preferred going up to Lynton Cross via Muddiford as its a nicer climb. I used to try and do it under the hour, but traffic lights in Barnstaple often put paid to that.

Bike route 268098 - powered by Bikemap


This is a variation on the Lynton Cross ride but involves going down into Ilfracombe. I didnt do it that often because the road down into Ilfracombe isnt that nice, but the climb out - 'two pots - is a classic. The descent down Cemetery Hill into Georgeham is pretty tricky, and the little climb out of Croyde around to Saunton always reminds me of the Poggio in Milan-San Remo, even though its only about half a mile.

Bike route 268102 - powered by Bikemap


I did this ride with Kevin Hunt when we were both in the Barnstaple Imperial Wheelers. It must have been around the summer of 1994/5. The climb up to Bratton Fleming is hard. I used it for interval training for a while to do short hard rides in my lunch time whilst working in Tarka Trail Cycle Hire - it must have worked because I did some good times afterwards. This ride was great, right across the spine of Exmoor and into Minehead then Porlock. We werent stupid enough to ride up Porlock hill so went up the toll road instead which is great, just like an alpine climb with hairpins, the lot. Then a mental descent into Lynmouth and back up past Watersmeet. A pretty good day.

Bike route 269305 - powered by Bikemap

Rides in France

My First Alps

I went to France in September 1991 with my Dad's pub cycling team - assorted builders, decorators and other miscreants. We flew to Geneva and then rode from there to Annecy. I had only just recovered from glandular fever so wasnt going particularly well, but in this company it wasnt going to matter. The main ride was to be up to La Clusaz. We rode up via Alex and either stopped there or Thones and had a drink outside a pub (this was a theme of the trip). The was a flower pot with some kind of large hovering insect by the flowers, although my Dad seemed to think it was a hummingbird. We then climbed up to La Clusaz but at St Jean de Sixt I turned left to climb up the Col de la Columbiere. Looking back, this could have been a disaster: I had no pump or inner tube and no money. Thankfully I didnt have a puncture. At the top of the climb I felt great having conquered my first Col. I laid my bike down and went into the shop and bought a postcard as proof. I was now looking forward to the descent. Unbeknown to me, when I put my bike down Id also managed to slacken off the brake callipers. I sprinted towards the first hairpin only to find that my braking power had been vastly reduced. Fortunately I rectified the matter and enjoyed the rest of the descent. But leaving Le Grand Bornard I was faced with the long drag up to La Clusaz. I blew up but managed to get to La Clusaz to find the pub cyclists sat outside 'Le Coin de Feu', a restaurant in the town. They had been instructed by my Dad to only have something light to eat, but to their amusement I needed more so had the best Steak Frites ever.

We then took the easy route, going up the Col de la Croix Fry the easy way in a cable car. At the top of the Croix Fry there is another restaurant which, of course necessitated more refreshment for les cyclistes du pub. As we were about to leave, a group of French club riders came over the top and began the descent. My Dad suggested that we take it easy on the descent, but builder friend Pete Balment had other ideas. He shot off down the descent to capture the froggies. Aided by 80s style athletic shorts, builders cleavage and a lack of brake blocks, he caught and passed the group fairly quickly. I was desperately trying to catch up, but my lack of weight blunted my descending speed. I caught up and then we even over took some cars towards the bottom where we waited, exulted for the rest of the group. We then carried on to Faverges and St Jorioz where a puncture forced another beverage break. We then had a burn up into Annecy where we decamped to a restaurant and pub to consume cocktails. I dont remember much of the evening, but my Dad had great fun cleaning the bathroom the next day.

In the morning we took a bus up to St Jean de Sixt and then rode back to Geneva. Two funny things happened on the way. My Dad was dressed in full Castorama kit. His balding pate and glasses made him a dead ringer for Laurent Fignon, sans ponytail and a couple of stones heavier. At our first pub stop it was obvious that he had his cycling shorts on back to front! Perhaps he wasnt the only one to have had his memory affected by alcohol consumption? Then, on arrival at Geneva airport, two French blokes leaving the terminal saw my Dad arriving on his bike. They exclaimed, 'C'est Fignon! Laurent Fignon!' to great mirth!

Bike route 268148 - powered by Bikemap

Alpe d'huez

What can be said about the alpe, a mystical shrine of cycling? We were on holiday in La Clusaz in about 1999. Pantani had just been done for having too many red blood cells at the Giro (he should have been more careful: according to the great David Duffield, if you take EPO your blood turns to strawberry jam and you wake up in the middle of the night dead) and we had come to see some of the Dauphine Libere stage race. That race featured a time trial up Mont Ventoux (won by Jonathan Vaughters) and then headed up towards Annecy for a finish in either Morzine or Cluses. We spent the week riding up some of the local cols (see below) but there was to be a challenge later on - the alpe. It took most of the day to get there, primarily because we decided to go via the Telegraphe and the Galibier - fantastic climbs. By the time we got to the Alpe it must have been nearly 6 in the evening. At the last minute I decided to change my wheel meaning that my lowest gear was 39x25. Sitting in a car for most of the afternoon wasnt the best way to prepare for this climb. Nevertheless I attacked the bottom climb with gusto, just as you would any normal climb back home. The bottom of the alpe is of course the steepest part. The hardest part. I had had no warm up. There was still 12km to go all uphill. It took a while to get over that. But once into the hairpins everything seemed to be quite easy, and on the last steep section into the village I felt ecstatic. My rough timing was under an hour. After finding the top, I descended to find Debbie struggling up the climb and helped her make it to the last hairpin, after which we went and had some food.

Bike route 268170 - powered by Bikemap

Col de la Croix Fry, Aravis and Les Confins

On the same holiday as above, I climbed some of the other cols in the area. The Aravis from La Clusaz is a fairly easy climb. So easy I once did it on a Mountain bike in the snow during a skiing trip. The climb up to Les Confins is short, but it is also steep - more of a typical climb you might find in Exmoor.

The Col de la Croix Fry though I thought was more like Alpe d'huez, at least when climbed from Thones. It is similar in length and altitude gained. If the tour comes over here then it is usually a cat 1, just like the alpe would be if it wasnt always at the end of the stage. The main difference is that it gets harder towards the end: unlike the alpe the bottom is fairly easy, but the top kicks up through a series of hairpins that are quite vicious. There is also a fairly flat bit in the middle where you can big ring it. But once over, the descent back down into La Clusaz is great.

Bike route 268177 - powered by Bikemap

Bike route 268283 - powered by Bikemap

Rides in Wales

The Gower

When I lived in Swansea most of my cycling was spent on the Gower. There were great roads and climbs to keep you occupied. If you really wanted you get about 50 miles out of it but still always be close to Swansea in case you blew up. Most of the time I'd head out along the north Gower road and back along the south road. This was better than the other way round because you'd start off along on flat roads and hit some drags towards the end that you could power up. You'd get a headwind to start with, but I find that preferable. The descent down into Parkmill is good, although a bit twitchy at the top and the climb out is pretty cool. I once dropped Louise Jones coming up there on a reliability ride. Id spent most of my time moving up from group to group because I was at the back when the group split in traffic lights on the way up to fforestfach. I caught up with LJs group after coming over Reynoldstone - that is another good climb, where I first went over 50mph on my bike: it was a bit scary because I came round a corner and a sheep was in the middle of the road. Anyway, I got into the group and missed a turn at which point old LJ went nuts. So I decided to do some pretty hard turns instead and left them behind. Coming back into Swansea there are allsorts of options - like going down into Caswell bay, although the climb out of there is tough. But once you're in Mumbles the rest of the way is dead flat with a tailwind, and you can even go on the cycle path if you want to. I spent most of my time on the main road because you get up to 30 on the flat quite easily.

Bike route 268276 - powered by Bikemap

Longest Ride

This was the longest ride Ive ever done in a day. I think it was about 112 miles in total - there are some little diversions not included on this map, like going to the forestry commission on the way down from Storey Arms to get some water. I must have done this in about may/june 1994 because I was living in Tal-y-bont student halls. I took most of the day really easy and went out to Usk which is a great cycling area. I then worked my way up to Brecon before tackling Storey Arms which is more of a drag from this side, rather than the 'steps' on the other side. I was still pretty fresh when I got back so could have gone a lot further if Id wanted to.

Bike route 268126 - powered by Bikemap

First Time Over Bwlch and Rhigos

The Bwlch and the Rhigos are classic mountain climbs in south Wales, part of the folklore of Welsh cycling. Everyone has a tale of going over the Bwlch and Rhigos! Other than the Black Mountain, they are the closest we've got to proper alpine climbs. Living in Swansea, both are in reach, probably more so than from Cardiff. I decided to give them a go in March 1991. Leaving the student village it was already raining and windy but I pressed on. I think I went through Neath and over the Cimla climb. However, I may gone down to Port Talbot to the very start of the road over the Bwlch. Anyway, I got up the climb OK and then down into Treherbert: now it was time for the Rhigos. By the time I got to the top it was snowing. I was well wrapped up, but the visibility wasnt too good, particularly when I went round a hairpin straight into a gale force wind. I got down to Glyn Neath and had a Mars Bar under the flyover. The climb past seven sisters and down to the Swansea valley was fine, although wet, but coming into Swansea the sun was trying to come out. Through Pontardawe and into Swansea and the sun really was out, it was a lovely day. Hard work, bad weather - a classic Bwlch and Rhigos story.

Bike route 269314 - powered by Bikemap 

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Wish List

If Im going to conquer Ventoux, Im going to need some new kit. Here's what I need, want and just fancy.


Saturday, 2 August 2008

Le Mont Ventoux

There's loads of stuff on the internet about the legend of Mont Ventoux - try google or wikipedia for starters.

But if you want to see what its all about, watch this - its in a car, so its cheating but gives a sense of the length and difficulty of the ascent

The Challenge

Favourite Rides

Here are my favourite rides by location.

Rides in Devon

Rides in Wales

Rides in France

My Bikes

Ive had a lot of bikes. Here are the ones that I remember.

No. 1.
The bike I learnt to ride on was small with white tyres, filled with milk to stop them puncturing. I rode for the first time down Quantocks in Braunton. I think I was about 5.

No 2.
After that, I think I had somesort of handmedown from my sister. Dad put somesort of fake cross bar on it to make it look like it wasnt a girls bike.

No. 3.
My first proper bike was a Commando. A brilliant bike, just like an early BMX. Best thing about it was the loudhailer and microphone on the handlebars. It was like being in CHiPs.

No. 4.
A 'proper' BMX. I use proper advisedly because it was from Halfords - called a "roughrider" - and weighed a tonne. I had it for my 10th birthday, but my mum and dad bought it a few weeks before my birthday. They kept it in the boot of their car in the garage, and until my birthday I was allowed to go and sit on it, still in the boot. Years later when I started a paper round, this was the bike that was used, complete with front shopping basket - just like in ET.

Two notable incidents happened with this bike. The first was my face-plant along Pixie Dell. I was riding with Darren Wood from his house on Homer Road. We went down the alley way and then along Pixie Dell. There was a little dip in the road where a gas pipe had been laid and as I rode over it I pulled a wheelie. At this point the front wheel shot out and I landed on my face. Fortunately, Barbara Davey was on her way to the shop and saw what happened so took me home until my Mum returned from Marks and Spencers. The other thing I remember happening with is almost snapping the stem. I'd been doing jumps in the rec and could feel the handlebars rocking back and forwards. I thought I'd better go home to be safe, where my Dad discovered a huge crack in the stem. As the bike got older various bits were updated. In the end it was sprayed white and even had a layback seat post. But it still had a dodgy chainset with cotterpins.

No. 5.
For Christmas when I was about 12 or 13 I received my first racing bike. It was a Harry Quinn - red with 10 gears. I remember my first ride on it was down lower park road. This got used a lot because my school arranged cycling rides instead of PE when I was 15 and 16.

No. 6 and 7
Technically these weren't mine - they were my Dad's but I got to use them. No. 6 was his Amocco racing bike. This had 12 gears and a white saddle. It was too big for me, but I could ride it with the saddle down. No. 7 though took me into the modern era. My Dad was after a new bike and I managed to persuade him to buy a new 531 Raleigh. He got it from Chris Harris Cycles in Cardiff. Chris sold it to Dad at a reduced rate, stating several times that he wasnt a 'greedy man'. The bike had 14 'index gears', but the best thing were the 'aero' brake levers that spelt SPEED. The year must have been 1989 - Greg Lemond had just won the Tour, and this bike was going to take me places fast. At least it would when I could borrow it.

No. 8.
Tired of having his bike borrowed all the time, my Dad helped me buy a new bike. I cant remember who paid for it. I think I must have been about 18 and about to go to University. The bike of choice was a 56cm 531c Holdsworth with a Shimano 105 groupset. It was advertised in Cycling Weekly, complete with Wolber tyres and a fluted seatpost. Great. Some of the equipment on this bike stayed with me for a long time. In fact I still have one of the brake levers on the bike I ride to work on now. This bike really did take me places. It was my first proper training bike. It took me over the Col de la Colombiere, the Black Mountain and around North Devon. Most of all, it was the bike I used in my first ever race - a 32 mile hilly time trial organised by Barnstape Imperial Wheelers. I think I did a 1-32 in freezing rain. Not bad for a beginner. But it met an untimely end a few weeks later: riding along the Strand in Barnstaple I rode into the back of a lorry. I was alright, but the frame was bent. My sister had to come and collect me in her Metro. When I rode my next race, a 30 mile time trial out at Llandovery, I had to borrow a bike from a friend, as my new frame was yet to arrive...

No. 9.
The upshot of crashing the Holdsworth was that it was too big for me - I needed a 54cms frame really. This was the size of the new frame I bought from Orbit - a 531c frame sprayed blue and grey. I transfered the groupset and wheels from the Holdsworth. The date must have been 1991/2 because I was living in Swansea and to get the headset fitted a cycling friend - Barry Williams - helped insert it using a hammer and various pieces of wood. I dont think it was ever fitted properly as it always had a tightspot. But this was the bike that I would do most of my racing on: I went under the hour on it; I went under 2 hours on it; it took me to 4th in the Abergavenny Handicap (my best ever race) and 2nd in a road race in Cornwall. But it was also the bike I broke my collar bone on, as well as its forks, after a mishap down the flats. I cant say much more about that for legal reasons, but the compensation was useful. Overall though this bike was the best. I dont know why I ever got rid of it. And if I could have it back, I would.

No. 10
About this time, I also bought a mountain bike. I'd been using my Dad's old Emmelle ATB to get me from the Student Village in Swansea down to college, usually beating the bus that went the same way. But I needed something better because super cyclists rode their MTBs in the winter. There was that famous interview with Robert Millar in cycling weekly to prove that. So I ended up with a diamond back MTB, bought from the back of the comic. This lasted about 12 months - it was nicked from outside the Natural Science Building in Swansea University. At least the insurance money came in handy

No. 11
As I was doing more and more training, logic dictated that I needed a training bike - one with mudguards to keep me dry in the winter. The first one was another bargain from the comic: a 501 frame with RX100 components. This did me fine until I crashed it. Or rather a woman pulled out in front of the Civic Centre car park in Barnstaple straight into me. I banged me knees a bit and cut my chin but was otherwise alright, but the bike was a right off. It was a nice little bike, just right for training. I remember riding up to the Rhigos when I first had it to watch the Welsh hill climb. On the way back down the Neath valley I blew away the guy on my wheel who was riding his best 753 peugeot. Later he was heard to remark how he couldnt understand how Id dropped him on that bike. Again, though, the insurance money came in handy.

No. 12
With no. 11 in bike heaven I needed a replacement for training purposes. And again, CW proved a reliable source of cheap bikes that no-one else wanted. It was another Raleigh 501, but with the most appalling tyres ever - those were soon changed. But so were the inner tubes: on my first ride I had about 6 punctures by the time Id got to Port Talbot. I thought it was the tyres, but it turned out the rim tape wasnt even covering the spoke nipples. Great. At least Sheffield Cycles agreed to send me some inner tubes to make up for it. I have no idea what happened to this bike in the end. I imagine it ended up with some Maindy Flyer.

No. 13
Im not sure what happened to the Orbit. I think it was sold to a Maindy Flyer when I was helping Debbie establish the most successful Welsh Cycling club ever, producing talents like Geraint Thomas and the like. Anyway, I ended up buying an 853 Graham Weigh. A nice bike, and I had a Campag chorus chainset - although Ive always been more of a Shimano person really. The frame was very stiff - I remember that. But the main problem with it was that it had horizontal dropouts - I wanted vertical ones - and the rear brake cable was routed across the top tube - not very elegant. I think this ended up with the Maindy Flyers too.

No. 14.
By this time I had moved to Cardiff and had started to ride the track. One night at the CC Cardiff club dinner I was asked if I wanted to ride the track at Manchester the following day. I was supposed to be riding the Cardiff 100 milers 100 in 8, but instead found myself in Manchester riding on fixed for the first time, around a steeply banked velodrome for the first time. I didnt crash or wipe anyone out, and even beat Sarah Phillips who rode for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games in a 'race'. Oh yes, I was flying. All this was on a borrowed bike, so I needed a track bike. As a student, I needed the cheapest, and that came from Ribble. They took a long time to send the frame down. It was 653 and came with a 'sprinter' stem - i.e. it sloped downwards - but I was no sprinter, even if the wheels that Id got from Chris Williams Cycles in Grangetown were tied and soldered. The hubs were campag, but the chainset was Miche which restricted my gearing options to 81, 88 or 94: everyone else's chainrings were for Campag chainsets, and I was too tight to buy any others to alter the gear by a couple of inches - it didnt matter that much did it? With the Ribble I rode the Maindy track league with distinction, one night even winning the warm-up race with an attack 2 laps out. I also rode the nationals. But the real claim to fame for this bike was that it ended up as Geraint Thomas' first track bike. Yes thats right. If it wasnt for me, Geraint Thomas would not have ended up as an Olympic Gold Medalist. No doubt about it. After all, where else could he have got a track bike from?

No. 15
When I sold the track bike to Geraint's dad, I only did so because I knew that it would result in Wales first Olympic track gold medallist. Otherwise I would have kept it. To replace it I bought another frame from Graham Weigh - 853 with the same colour scheme as the road bike. I also got a new campag chainset. I still have this bike but it hasnt been used in ages.UPDATE - the frame and bits from this bike were sold on Ebay in 2011. The frame went to someone in london, nd the chainset to someone in Holland.

No. 16
This one should come earlier in the list really. When I thought I was going to be a tester, I decided to get a proper time trial bike - a lo-pro. I duly purchased a 653 time trial bike from Orbit. I even rigged up some tri-bars with gear shifters in the end. When it came down to it, I think I only ever raced it twice. I did a prety good time for a 10 in Barnstaple, but my testing days were already over - I was destined for the track and so the bike went in part exchange for my new Graham Weigh road bike.

No. 17
About 1996 I decided I wanted a really decent training bike. One that I could ride Lands End John O'Groats on if I ever wanted. Something I could panniers on. That bike turned out to be my Thorn Audax. I still have this bike, it takes me to work everyday, and it is the most comfy bike I have ever owned. I remember driving down to Bridgewater one saturday afternoon to pick it up with Debbie. The bits I got with it are now wearing out, but its a great bike if a little old fashioned to look at.

No. 18
By 2002 I'd got tired of the Graham Weigh. It had taken me up Alpe d'huez and to other places cyclists can only dream about, but I wanted something that looked cool - one of those new aluminium compact frames. I ended up with a Terry Dolan. I dont know much about aluminium. So all I can say about it is that its white and black. Its alright, but I think Id prefer something real, something made of steel. I still have this bike and I'll be using it in preparation for the Ventoux.

No. 19 and 20
About 5 years ago I was provided with a new Trek mountain bike. I liked it so much, I got another one and gave the old one away. I dont do much mountain biking, so this one's for ebay. UPDATE: this one definitely was for Ebay and went to someone up north.

No. 21
My first bike bought from ebay was a cyclo-cross bike. Of course, Im not going to do any racing. This one is for taking Evan out in his childseat up the Taff trail. Its also my first bike with 10 gears (on the cassette).

So far then, twenty-one bikes. Not bad, but maybe a couple more to come yet...


2010 saw some new equipment being added to bike No. 18. Of course Id have preferred a new bike - one of those nice Cube Agree GTCs from Chain Reaction Cycles looked good, and reasonable price too. Instead, EBay was my friend and provided me with some new 10 speed Ultegra STIs; a new compact Ultegra Chainset; and some nice silver Ultegra brake calipers to replace my old ultegra 600s. I managed to sell the old stuff on Ebay too for a tidy sum so it didnt really cost me much.

Before Ventoux