Monday, 22 October 2018

First commute on the Sheffield CycleBoost eBike

Yesterday was my first opportunity to commute to and from the office on the eBike that I received on loan from Sheffield CycleBoost

The route I took followed Abbey Lane down to Abbeydale Road, all the way into town, crossing St Mary's Gate. Then up Eyre, into Arundel and then Angel Street, down through Wicker and on to Savile Street, all the way along this to Brightside Street and right at the roundabout up Hawke Street.

It took me a while to understand how the eBike works. Not how to start it and stop it you understand, but how to get the most out of it, the best experience. All the way down Abbey Lane and Abbeydale road I was fighting the bike, trying to make it perform like my road bikes do, making the odd concession by switching on the electric motor and then thinking if I pedalled harder the bike would work with me and I'd find the perfect balance.

It wasn't until I'd got across St Mary's gate that I realised that it wasn't fatigue from yesterday's Peak District cycling trip that was affecting my performance, but more the way I was riding the eBike. Quite quickly after that, the epiphany hit me and I understood immediately what the eBike is all about and how and why it works. This revelation was a true revelation, and once I'd realised that there is an optimum balance between the amount of power the cyclist uses to pedal the bike, the gear (the Motus has 7 manual gears), the motor setting on the bike, and the terrain being crossed, I relaxed, and the rest of my journey into the office - culminating in the climb up Hawke Street (at the side of Forgemasters) was a far more leisurely and pleasant affair.

It was though the journey home that I was looking forward to. I wanted to understand how the eBike would stand up to the long uphill section that  would get me from the junction at Sheffield Arena all the way up to Meadowhead - around 8km of uphill work, and some of it being quite 'pushy' sometimes.

I needn't have worried. The lessons I'd learnt in the morning proved very beneficial, and although it was very tempting to drop the gearing and to up the motor input, I found a balance that involved hardly any power output on my part, whilst maintaining uphill speed probably faster than I usually acheive through pedalling my road bike; If I didn't beat my PBs on PoW Rad in Strava (a cycling app for recording cycling and running trips) I would be surprised - I'll check later (although if you do use Strava, it's essential to flag all your eBike rides as exactly that, or a heck of a lot of people start to complain, for obvious reasons.

Overall, this first commute was a complete success. I got to work refreshed, and I got home from work earlier than usual and not in the usual sweaty, breathless heap that I usually am. It wouldn't be fun to give away all of the secrets I learnt on today's rides; I think it would be great for every rider to go through the same learning experience because it would mean so much more, and that 'wow!' moment isn't to be missed!

Over the next few days I'll work through some of the Motus finer points including the control centre, but until then I hope you enjoyed reading this and watching the video I threw together. See you next time!


Sunday, 21 October 2018

Feeding the unfit rat

Today was a lovely day, but I couldn’t get out for a ride until after 2PM. It was never going to be big or hard but let’s face it, riding from Sheffield out to the Peak District is always worth waiting for; good roads, stunning scenery, and hills that make your legs bulk and your lungs work to capacity if that’s what you want.

Today was also a day for riding out on Rosie, my Kinesis-framed bike. I wanted to go out, do some hills on the heavier bike; it's the kind of torture I like. Plus, it looked like it might just turn to rain so it could turn into a big, long adventure.

The route started off nicely downhill to the crossing of Abbey Lane and Eccleshall Road, but then the climbing started, firstly up to Whirlowdale, then after a short break, it was up Long Line, a quick flat and then the long climb up to Burbage, and across to what climbers describe as the popular end of Stanage Edge.

Riding along underneath Stanage in drizzle and quite a lot of blustery wind, there were a few cars parked on the verge, and walkers still heading up through the Plantation car park and up to walk along the Edge. What surprised me though was the number of climbers up at the crag, huddled in groups at the bottom, one or two climbing - mostly on top ropes I noticed, and one or two on top. Then it dawned on me that it's still early un the Uni season; there were 5 or 6 minbuses from various universities, and also a large coach parked lengthways covering a multitude of spots at the Popular End car park - obviously university outings, freshers learning the ropes and beginning their own experiences out on the rock.

The coach did surprise me a bit, but as I rode along my mind was cast back to the days when I used to doss at Tremadoc and spend a lot of time kipping on the floor of Geoff Parslow and Bob Drury's caravan opposite Pete's Eats. One night there was a team staying in the barn from Sheffield University Mountaineering Club (I think). We'd met them in the Fleece - I think I recognised one or two of them from the Peak crags. Geoff, Bob and I ambled back from the pub,and were brewing up and eating when we heard the roar of a motor vehicle of some sort thrashing its way at very high speed through Tremadoc. Anyone who's been there will tell you there's a 90-degree bend at the end of the road and at the speed this vehicle was going, this wasn't going to end well. Of course, we thought no more about it, but the following morning there were some VERY hungover people in Eric's Cafe. One of the Sheffield lads told us that they'd got the van up to about 80 - fully laden with boozed-up student climbers - but the driver hadn't had the gumption or foresight to slow down for the bend. They had hit the kerb and gone through the fence into the field beyond.

Intrigued as we were the three of us set off for a look see and the Sheffield lads' description of what had happened (thankfully everyone was fine by the way) was a bit 'undertold'.

The van had clearly taken off and flown - absolutely clear of any contact with the ground - until it had hit a boulder about 20 feet into the field (there were no wheel tracks whatsoever before where the boulder had started off.

The van had pushed the boulder (it was pretty large!) about a further ten feet before van and boulder had come to a dead stop. There was obviously going to be no quietly reversing the bus out and skulking off back to uni with tails between their legs - this was a full on rescue job. Very impressive, and I couldn't help but wonder just how many uni minibuses had gone the same way and if climbing clubs were the worst culprits or whether there was some other kind of uni club - karate maybe, figure skating perhaps - that downed more booze and had more accidents.

Maybe hiring the 45-seater coach was a stroke of genius, brought on by the write-offs of too many vans by a university? Funny the things you think about on the bike sometimes!

Grindeford - Froggatt, looking back up the valley
 Anyway at the far end of the Stanage road there's the chance to climb some more and traverse across to New Road and down into Bamford.

Then it was back along the TT, and into Hathersage, where I decided on the Froggatt loop - down to the Calver crossroads, then back up through Froggatt Hill, past the Grouse and back up to the Owler Bar roundabout that way. From there, down towards Totley, passing Rice Kemper Evans' old house - a name forever etched onto the history of Stanage Edge - then down one side and up the other side of Mickley Lane before nipping home along the Parkway TT (slowly!)

Overall about 47km of riding with around 870m of upwards ascent, the majority of which was between Abbey Lane and Burbage, as well as Froggatt Hill. It was good to get out to stretch the legs, and also to have to climb some hills along the way.

Elevation profile - 869 metre in 47 kilometres. Not a bad (short) ride!

Tomorrow it's my first commute using the eBike loaned by Sheffield Cycle Boost. There won't be as much climbing, but the route back home is far from flat, so let's see how that goes.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Sheffield CycleBoost!

For a couple of years now I've been cycle training regularly, down at Skyhook Cycle Coaching, but due to a few changes, a few weeks ago I had to cut down on some of my training. Work was just getting in the way, but in the grand scheme of things it had to win, and that was that. Or so I thought.

Of the three sports that I concentrate on most as part of being a (sometimes) triathlete, cycling was actually the hardest to even consider sacrificing, but it had to happen.

Since then there have been some times when I've been like a bear with a sore head, a situation made worse by having an almost brand new bike in the house which wasn't getting the quality time it deserved. Sure, I'd commuted a few times on it, but that's so different to training. Not the same in any way.

Then my cycle coach, Steve sent me a text: "Got a plan. It's something I've been thinking about for me and might be your solution too. Catch up later." I was intrigued.

We spoke later and Steve explained that he had been talking to another of his regular clients who was involved with the Sheffield CycleBoost scheme, and that it was going to be starting officially in April 2019, run by ReCycle Bikes, on behalf of Sheffield City Council.The aim of the Council is to continue to promote sustainable travel within the local area and  to encourage people to replace shorter car journeys by travelling to work by bike, thereby saving money, having less of an environmental impact, and getting some exercise whilst you're at it.

Of course to many people the idea of commuting to work can be quite daunting. There's the traffic, the cost, the bits and pieces that you need, and all sorts. CycleBoost fully acknowledges this and provides users with almost everything they need to undertake that first journey to and from work, and to keep you going for the duration of your (free!) cycle hire period - typically between one and three months.

One thing I forgot to tell you. CycleBoost is effectively a loan scheme, a FREE loan scheme at that. But that's not all! No, you don't get just any bike. You get the loan of a good quality, rugged, well-built eBike! Now that alone will start to turn some heads when the scheme kicks off in April next year, for sure.

Steve mentioned that I might be interested in taking a look at what CycleBoost were offering, and lo and behold! today I took a trip down to ReCycle Bikes to meet Angela Walker, who is managing the scheme for ReCycle Bikes. Angela had kindly agreed to my loaning a CycleBoost bike ahead of the official launch of the scheme proper. Arriving that ReCycle's building at Thirwell Road in Heeley, Angela was busy preparing my bike - a  lovely Raleigh 'Motus Tour' machine of a bike!

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm a normal bike kind of a guy. I have 2 straight road bikes, one built for speed and the other for comfort, so when Angela took me out onto the public highway and told me to hop on, I had a mix of emotions. I've always been sceptical about electric bikes, but coupled with that I was kind of worried that if everything went well, I'd be hooked on the eBike and spend less time cycling and even less time cycle training. It almost felt like betrayal if you like.

"Put it in a low gear and head off over there", said Angela, so I did. "Press the 'plus' button and it'll start to kick in" she added after a few yards, so I did, and in response the Motus' motor started to work and there as a definite easing in the effort I was putting into the pedalling versus the ground I was covering. 

At this point, it's worth pointing out that the Motus Tour comes with a variety of manual/motor settings - 5 to be exact: 'Off' (no motorised involvement) right through to 'Turbo' (maximum motor input).

I'd started out on the flat and with the bike set to 'off' but as I rode and changed the normal gearing system (hub-based gears BTW) and also went up and down the motor options, you could really feel the assistance the motor was providing.

"Stick it in the lowest gear and pedal round that corner and as the hill start, turn it up to turbo".

A Raleigh Motus Tour eBike
Well, that was indeed a revelation. As a newcomer to electric bikes it was a new feeling altogether. It was almost like sitting on a jumbo jet as the engines fire up and it begins its trip down the runway in pursuit of V1, then V2 and takeoff. Initially a bit disconcerting but quickly "oh, this is fun!."

I left Angela at ReCycle Bikes and headed home, really looking forward to trying out 'Miranda' again (what better name for a bike - her name is even emblazoned on the cranks).

Later, I came up with a plan. My wife was going to the supermarket later; I decided to scupper that plan, quickly devised a shopping list, got out the D-Lock and tools (by the way, each bike is delivered with pump, D-Lock and 'trouser rings' - cycle clips to me - oh, and a charger. There are integral lights on the Motus Tour as well, both controlled from the central control unit. More on this control unit in a future blog entry.

The journey to the supermarket - 2.5km of it - is almost completely downhill, and that can only mean one thing - it's completely uphill on the way back!

Once at the supermarket, the bike was locked up. Sadly it was the only bike in the stands at the time. The car park was chocka but Miranda sadly had no company whatsoever. Mind you, it's not everyone that shops for groceries by bike these days.

Power turned off, I headed inside after detaching the panniers so I could stuff them with purchases in-store. The panniers themselves featured quick release buckles and handy carrying straps, and are mad of robust waterproof material; ideal for winter commuting I decided.

After shopping and paying, I said to the lad on the self-service checkout that I hoped everything would fit in the panniers, but there was no need to worry, everything I had purchased fitted in with no issues whatsoever, and with plenty of room to spare. This bodes well for commuting during the week with laptop and assorted cables, mouse, office clothes and gear for running at lunch (and shower afterwards).

Packed up and ready for the ride home.
Starting off back, I had no idea really how the motor would cope with my nearly 13 stone weight coupled with the weight of 4 pints of milk, a load of natural yoghurt, 2 bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and some other stuff. What I really didn't fancy was stuggling up a steep hill with a bike that by necessity was much heavier than probably both my own bikes added together, PLUS the weight of the groceries. It was a real leap of faith.

I needn't have worried though. At the bottom of Hutcliffe Wood Road I dropped a couple of gears and switched on the motor. Usually climbing this hill on my road bike is a full-on piece of work, and usually by the top I'm back in my seat pushing for all I'm worth with lungs not bursting but certainly working well.
The Motus coped admirably. At the crest of the hill I wasn't even out of breath. The pedals were turning quickly and there wasn't a sign of strain at all. Further on, the next hill or two also went without concern. The Bosch motor on the Motus was easily coping with everything I was throwing at it, and I wasn't cranking it up to the maximum power (Turbo) setting at all, apart from just trying it out to see how it would feel.

Not light...
Arriving back at home, I honestly couldn't tell I'd just ridden the hills I had; I would never normally even consider riding to and from the supermarket; it's just not an enjoyable ride even without the groceries!

In conclusion, as I said earlier, the panniers on the Motus are really spacious (and equipped with great quick release buckles and handles) They will easily fit everything I need for a day at the office and I'm really looking forward to starting to commute using the eBike starting on Monday. It's a comfortable ride, with disc brakes that offer very good stopping capability, the motor seems to take everything you can throw at it, and the supplied 32mm tyres provide as soft a ride as you can imagine. Overall a great first ride (albeit short) with this bike. On Monday it's an 13km downhill/flatish commute in to work down Abbeydale Road and through the centre of Sheffield. Then later it's a more direct 12km uphill journey via Prince of Wales Road to get home - I'll post details of that ride hopefully that evening.

If you're at all interested in the Sheffield CycleBoost scheme, either as an individual or an employer try visiting their web site at or by getting in toch with ReCycle Bikes in Sheffield and asking about the scheme. I'm sure they would love to help!

RockArchivist: Stoney Cafe New Route Book, 1986


Plenty of interesting stuff in this book; first ascents Dawes, Pollitt, and many, many others, stealing of bolts from Horseshoe Quarry, plenty of controversy, AND the DBMC (the de-bolting mountaineering club) makes a stand.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Let's try Watopia

Today's plan?

Swim and run. That's what Fink says for a Tuesday.

Well, that's not what happened, and at about 3.30 I finally got to jump on my training bike for a spin around Watopia. Something I'd never really done apart from the odd snatched moment.

I decided to dedicate an hour - yes, a whole hour! - to it and to see how things went. 

I don't know you you've used Zwift, but periodically it allows you to choose a change of route, a turning or whatever. My plan today was to just ride the defaults. Well, that's how it started, until the question popped up with the option to turn left (not the default) towards something called 'Epic KOM'.

It's be rude not to try it I thought; might be the only chance I ever get. So that's what I did. Battled out the final couple of kilometres with the screen showing the times of people just ahead, in a blatant effort for you to virtually chase down their times. I missed a few for sure, but I was happy to complete the challenge and get to the top, and to be able to almost coast back down to head back to the beginning. Well, not quite because my hour was up.

Still, 24k of cycling and 476m of virtual climbing wasn't too bad. I can't say it was great fun, and it's not something to make a habit of, but it passed an hour and allowed me to de-stress.

Not the same as riding a bike outside though, that's for sure.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Out of the Doldrums (well, it's a start)

Things have been a bit quiet since Ironman. To be fair, I lost a lot of motivation with having nothing to train for, and also because the achilles injury I picked up in early July (yes, that's just before Ironman!) was - and still is - ongoing.

The next major event on the horizon is the Coles Bay Half triathlon in Tasmania in February, and rather than corrupting a full distance Ironman training plan, I decided to buy Don Fink's half iron distance book and work to that; the plan starts in earnest on 5th of November but does - of course - assume a certain level of commitment and fitness ahead of getting to that point.

Last week I commuted to and from work a few times, but nothing specific apart from that (and mending a puncture - always useful to practice), but overall it felt good to be out and about riding, especially as the return journey is in effect a 10km hill, and riding the heavier Kinesis-framed bike it's actually pretty hard work. I also had a run session on Friday which was fun, especially as it was raining pretty hard at the time.

This week it's time to start to increase the workload a little, while still being in a fairly free-form mode. I went out for an early swim today up at the local pool. If anything just to start to add some more distance and to start to get used to regular swimming sessions once more.

There were times earlier in the year when I was really happy with my swimming, and I used to look forward to spending an hour or more in the pool, just enjoying the process of learning to swim further, to cover the iron distance, but not necessarily faster.

More recently though I've not looked forward to it, and it's become something of a chore. Swim distances have suffered, as has speed, but I know it's mostly in my head and that a hefty dose of Rule 5 is called for.
Well, it was dark when I arrived!

Today was different though. I set myself a target, which was to just get to 500m and enjoy the session; no more, no less. This I achieved with no worries or problems but I could feel form had dissipated and I wasn't really using my arms convincingly.

One of the other swimmers came over for a chat as he was leaving and said I was over-extending both arms during the entry phase. I'd worked on this mid-year but in my haste to 'just swim' this had all been forgotten and I was right back to just 2 arms flailing uselessly, causing probably more issues than they were solving.

According to Don Fink's 'Be Iron Fit' book, hands should contact the water above the head and in front of the shoulder and should *then* extend whilst at the same point rolling the body. He also explains that over-reaching is a big cause of swimmers slowing down as there is a tendency for the hand to cross the centre line, causing the body to inherit more drag from the resulting fishtail motion. 

I guess that swimming is just like the biomechanics associated with running and cycling, where a negative effect in one area will have a knock-on effect in other areas.

My session was done by this point but there was no harm in just reminding myself of the form by doing a couple of extra lengths. The upshot was that cadence increased, and time decreased considerably over a 100m distance.

Time will tell now as to how well I can continue with this form, not let it dissipate again and make sure I build on it moving forwards into Fink's structured sessions in a couple of weeks. Between now and then though there's a lot of swimming to be done and I'm happy about that!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

RockArchivist: Pete's Eats 1978-1983

It's taken me a while to figure out how to deal with the old new route books since I closed down the RockArchivist web site. The easiest way to deal with them is to create a simple video of each one and just publish the videos individually on YouTube, so that's the plan moving forwards.

As with all of these videos, view full screen and use the pause button to stop the video to read the page.

This first offering is the new route book from Pete's Eats in Llanberis ranging from 1978 to 1983. Some historic first ascents included in this book - A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lord of the Flies, The Axe, The Atomic Finger Flake, Strawberries... It also sees the first developments by Andy Pollitt and Jerry Moffatt and starts to chart the major developments at Pen Trwyn and North Wales limestone.

One interesting page actually isn't in the book - the original write up of Redhead's 'Tormented Ejaculation' on Cloggy. Instead there is a replacement page where 'persons unknown' removed the original. A few pages further on however Tormented Ejaculation is resurrected by Redhead and given a grade of E8 7a. Big numbers for the time, and probably well-deserved!

The first few pages of this book all seem to be written in the late Paul Williams' handwriting. Why Paul did this I don't know but maybe we was transcribing from somewhere else, but no idea what. Zippy did the same with one of the Stoney cafe books in the mid 1980s; that'll be online in the next few weeks too.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

The New Bike!

A couple of weeks ago I picked up my new bike. I'd been looking out for a while for a bike that would be good for general riding, and also comfortable enough for longer rides.

Finding a bike based on the GTD frameset proved impossible, I just couldn't find one anywhere despite the YouTube videos showing them being tested and quoting specifications etc. Looking round at dealers there didn't seem to be many options there either but then I struck gold - well, green actually!

An old friend of mine owns a well-respected cycle shop in Horwich, just north of Bolton - Green Machine Bike Shop ( I hadn't seen much of John over the years since we'd been in venture scouts and occasionally climbed together, but I'd popped in to see him on the Grumpie's inaugural Lancashire ride in March 2016 and also the day before Ironman this year, when I was with Kate, who also used to hang about in the same circles back in the day.

The venture scouts at the Cantilever Stone c1978
Learning via the web that John was a registered Kinesis UK dealership, I immediately called him and asked him to build be a bike based on the Kinesis GTD (for 'Go the Distance') frameset. I opted for a simple Ultegra chainset (50/34 and 11/30) but allowed myself two luxuries; a PowerTap G3 hub-based power meter and a SON 18 hub dynamo for those long days in the saddle when losing power to your Garmin and mobile phone would be the last thing you want to happen.

To be honest I didn't have much (well, none) experience of the hub dynamo market and John was great, looking into the subject himself, running through a couple of options before opting for the SON device.

John kindly built the bike and I picked it up a couple of weeks later, taking a day off from work specially.

Whilst there, John offered to set the bike up for me with a fitting, but I had to be back in Sheffield quite quickly but also the following day, I had booked a bike fit with another friend, Matt Withycombe of Bikefly (

Matt and I train together at Steve Harrop's Skyhook Coaching Services (https://skyhookcoaching.comand Matt has recently taken advantage of the available spare room in Steve's offices and expanded his bike fitting services based on years of experience in the field, as a cyclist and triathlete himself and also as a practising physiotherapist.

We initially looked at the cleat position (I use Speedplay pedals and cleats) and they seemed fine with the pedal spindle just behind the big toe joint. Matt noted that I also had a wide stance and the cleats were already in (shoe out) as far as they could go to give the widest possible stance without extending the pedal spindle length.  

The initial observations were that it looked a little overstretched when trying to get to a riding position 'on the hoods.' This in part looked exaggerated as you tend to sit with your pelvis rotated backwards with your upper back more flexed. It's probably a position I sit in a lot at work, spending hours staring at computer screens, and is possibly partly my default spinal posture.

Having said that' things weren't too bad in other areas. The knee angle at the bottom of the pedal stroke wasn’t too far off (recommend is between 35-40 degrees) at 40.6 degrees (180-139.4).

Matt only made a few small adjustments to the saddle position. We went slightly forwards and up. 

The handlebars were also tilted slightly backwards to take some strain off the wrists (it surprised me how different and comfortable this difference made when riding a few days later).

Below is Matt's final photo after the corrections. The knee angle is approx. 38 degrees at the bottom of the pedal stroke. The knee over foot position was better and we both agreed that I looked - and felt - much less stretched and in a very comfortable riding position.

I've ridden the Kinesis a few times since picking it up and having it fitted. It's a lovely bike; very comfortable and it feels as though it's going to be just the job for long days in the saddle. I'm really looking forward to spending time on it and I'm sure there will be more blog posts that involve it in the future.

Hi there!

I've had this blog for years but it's always seemed too much of a chore to really bother with. To be honest though I was thinking the same thing today about the Airfix 'Lancaster bomber' kit that's sat on top of the wardrobe for the past five or so years, together with about 15 pots of modelling paint, glues, masking tape, scalpels and other stuff, all more than likely never to get used and to reach their full potential.

Don't get me wrong, I love doing models and I love writing, but these days there are just too many demands on whatever time is available and so some things tend to get sidelined. Hopefully moving forward this blog won't, but let's see about that Lancaster; maybe one day...

I'd like to concentrate in this blog on a few of my passions in life; triathlon, cycling and rock climbing history. I'll try to keep an even balance, but I suspect at certain times it might get a bit skewed in favour of one subject in particular, triathlon, or more specifically Ironman.

I completed my first full distance Ironman event earlier this year, in Bolton. Yes - Bolton! The town where I had my first ever job (in fact the finishing line was directly outside my old offices, the town hall!) and used to travel through almost every day in transit to the local gritstone quarries where I did so much rock climbing in my youth.

Soloing Betty's Wall (HardVS 5a) around 1982. Photo by Mark Griffiths

Over the past couple of years I've got more and more into cycling. Initially to support the triathlons, but as time has gone on, it's become more and more important to me and I love the process of training and then reaping the rewards once out on the road. If you choose to revisit this blog regularly you'll no doubt spot this as a recurring theme!

Cycling-wise there is quite a healthy group of old climbing buddies who regularly get out, meet up and have some fantastic ride. My time with these guys (the 'Grumpy Old Climber's Bike Club' on Facebook) is at a premium, and I'd love to do it more, but when you're growing up there are lots of other pulls on your time. Hopefully though there will be more over the coming years, and not only that but we should get better at recording them as well. This short video is from a ride put together by John Hartley which was originally called 'Six of the Best' but as only John completed it by doing all 6 of the hills it entailed, I took the liberty of renaming the video.

Anyway, enough of this free-form waffling. In the future I'll try to focus a bit more. I'm just about to start training for the Coles Bay Half (half Iron distance) race in Tasmania at the end of February so expect some training updates. I'm also planning a couple of long distance bike rides and other stuff so there should be plenty to write about.

Stay tuned. It might just be interesting.