Bike Packing Adventures…..

A wheely good evening to you all and as I sit here 5 days after my debut bike packing adventure to Belgium I still cannot believe I have done my first solo trip. All I can say is if you have never tried it then do it as it is an absolute must!!! When I was planning the trip I did not really know what to expect and the packing was a key thing, too much and extra weight is incurred and too little and I would be shopping over there. As it was I got this part down to a tee and I had just what I needed.

As i boarded the ferry at Dover there was one thing I really wanted more than anything, dry weather and bar the last 500 metres 4 days later in Dunkirk I got my wish. My first day took me up to the Dunkirk beaches and then over to Ypres my first stop over point. This was an evening ride and left me with 40 miles in the dark to Ypres. I met Tom Coley on the ferry who was also doing a similar thing to me all be it a longer trip and was great to become friends with a virgin bike packer like myself. The B&B was a welcome sight that evening and although only covered 55 miles on day one it was a challenging day with the night ride.

Day 2 I woke to gorgeous blue skies and sun streaming through the window and today was going to be a great day. First off I rode north to Tynecot cemetery. This is the largest one place that commonwealth soldiers are buried and was a moving experience to say the least. Having served in the Army myself it really brought home to me just what all those men went through serving our country those 100 years ago. After spending some time here I headed south to watch the Great Centenary War Race. The line up for the inaugural edition was good and a chance to see the pros racing on foreign soil. After watching the race in various point including race past Christmas point memorial I got back to the centre of Ypres for the finish. That evening I stayed for the incredible last post ceremony under the Menin gate before another late night ride to get to my next stopover in Avelgem. Arriving at 11pm I was met by Andy my host who I had met through warmshowers.com bike packing website. That day I had put nearly 100 miles in the legs with a fully loaded bike and was ready to sleep and that I did very well in the caravan accommodation in his back garden.

Day 3 again I woke to blue skies and bright sun, just what I needed for this days ride. Today allowed me to ditch all the bags and ride the bike in its naked state, this was needed as 105 miles of Belgian lanes, bergs and cobbles awaited me. Andy had put a great route together for me for this day and it encompassed all the famous areas of this part of Belgium. First up the Koppenberg, followed closely by the Kruisberg, Muur, Taienberg, Kwaremont and finally after 99 miles the 19 percent slopes of the Paterberg. All these climbs are steep brutal narrow cobbled climbs and the cobbles make it a challenge beyond any words one can describe. The one thing that was going for me was it was dry, I really would not want to do this in the wet!!! This ride was just superb and gave me the chance to fulfil my ambition of riding these immense roads. On getting back to base after some 8 hours in the saddle there was only one thing for it…….a piping hot bath and a couple of chilled blonde beers. Bring on day 4!!!!

So day 4 arrived and this was my final day of my mini adventure and the journey home awaited. I had 8 miles ahead to get me and my bike back to Dunkirk and today was dry but windy!!!!! The wind was battering me from all ways and the last 45 miles down the coast was a block headwind. Of course I would rather have had it behind me but it actually served as a really good training tool and allowed me to work on concentrated continuous power output. As I went through the likes of Middlekierk, Nieuwport, De Panne and Dunkirk all I could do was hope the rain stayed away. I knew from social media the UK was battered by storms all day and these were due to come across the channel to Europe so I kept pedalling and as I said earlier beat the rain by the skin of my teeth. All that was left was a ferry and drive from Dover back home to Swindon.

So my bike packing adventure was over and wow it was superb. I have already started to plan the next one and I seriously am considering the Trans Continental in 2020. If you have never done this try it as you will not look back. And all it leaves me to say is ride safe, stay safe and keep those pedals turning. Laters!!!!

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What a wheely good summer on the bike…..

First and foremost a wheely good evening to you all and an apology for the lack of blogs over the last few weeks. I have to say this is down to being out riding my bike so much and boy have I taken on some great rides and trips. I will try and take you through the highlights and what is ahead and I assure you not such a delay on another blog post!!!

Back in June I was out in Mallorca for the first time riding this great island. Everyone had said how majestic it was and what great riding there was well I was not disappointed at all. My goal was the Sa Calobra which I didn’t do just the once but twice while out there. the first time was more a chance to see what this legendary climb and descent is like and get a feel for the road etc. two days later I was back to really go for it and did a 46 minute ascent of the climb which I was very pleased with. Another great descent was off the top of the Puig Major, 9.7 miles of pure smooth flowing tarmac right down into Soller. The other great ride was out to the Cap Formentor lighthouse. This road is a great rolling road all the way out to the headland with some fun switchback turns and hair raising descents. Mallorca really is a cyclist paradise and I will be back soon, all being well for the legendary 312 sportive in April.

Following on from this was two great club rides of a greater distance than normal. One was a return trip over to Chepstow. Riding across the old severn bridge is a spectacle in itself and one I won’t forget in a rush. A week after this we went over to the Isle of Wight. Starting out from the New Forest we rode down to Lymington and then took the ferry over before taking on the island anti clockwise. this is the first time I have does it this way and it was a pleasant challenging change none more so than the heat we had that day.

This brings me to my annual trip to the Alps. The 7 days awaiting me at the end of July was something eagerly anticipated. I love my trips over to this beautiful part of the world and this trip allowed me to try some new rides and also take my club members on some new mountains for all of them. One of these was the Col du Glandon. This is a great challenging climb of nearly 20km and putting this at the end of a tough day in the saddle tested everyone to their limit. Another new climb for me was the pas de confession. This takes you up to the balcony road above Bourg D’Oissans and the views are truly magnificent. From there you come out on to hairpin 6 of the legendary Alpe D’Huez and have the choice of up or down!!! I have said this over an over but if you have never been to the French Alps do it as it is great riding and already I cannot wait for next years trip back out there.

This leaves not much left of the summer but I still have some exciting trips ahead. Shorty I will embark on a short solo bike packing trip around Belgium. I have never done this before but inspired by the great riders of the Trans Continental I want to try this type off riding. Mine will only be a short trip but still self supported carrying all I need with me on the bike. Keep an eye out for future posts on this trip. And then the first week of September it is the Tour of Britain and this race I intend to get away to about five stages, mostly by bike. I have heard Geraint Thomas our newest Tour winner will ride so that will certainly bring the crowds out.

Well until next time which won’t be as long happy riding and stay safe. Laters!!!!!

Hold your line, sock doping, sand bagging and more…..

Good Morning and a wheely good welcome back here at the home of Paul Ashman Cycling. I am writing this about 40,000 feet up in the air en route to Majorca where the Sa Calobra and co awaits. Life here has been busy as ever with school work, club rides, holiday workshops and racing (more on this in a later blog).

 

As the title of this blog suggests cycling conjures up many words and phrases that to non cyclists is like a foreign language. However it is these that make our sport so special and unique and what brings that bond between all lycra lovers. My first time I heard ‘hold your line” with maybe an extra expletive in as well was when I started racing. It can be heard ringing out through the peloton making sure riders don’t deviate across someone else’s path and cause a crash. And there is another word, peloton, probably the most famous word in cycling. Simply meaning the group of riders grouped together riding a race or even a club ride. Riding in a peloton is the first many of us will get to ride in a group and feel that slip stream effect being in someone else’s wheel.

 

So sock doping, what is this I hear you ask? Well socks are fast becoming a very important fashion accessory of any cyclist. A stylish and sometimes loud pair of sock compliments a black outfit and gives it that oooozing of class. A collector of socks or one who loves to show off their socks can be classed as one of these sock dopers. I myself and am partial to a nice pair of socks and only this week will be displaying a couple of new pairs out in the sunnier climates of Majorca.

 

Allez allez allez can often be heard ringing out from fans high up in the mountains on a grand tour. This phrase is simply a shouting of encouragement to the riders as they climb some of cycling races great climbs. These riders encounter mountains that we only see on postcards. We cannot imagine the pain they go through but that vocal shout of belief from the fans must go a long way to help ease the suffering.

And then of course there is sand bagging. Literally sitting in the wheel and not working and then making that break for victory on the last lap. I guess you could call it tactics or just playing the game. Whatever it’s the final result that matters and being on that top step of the podium.

So as I sit here on the plane it gives me chance to think about what’s happening in the PAC world. All is good as I approach the first anniversary of the business. More kids on bikes, moved up to cat 3 racing and developing myself and the business within cycling. All it leaves me to say until the next time is happy riding one and all and of course stay safe. I’ll be back soon with that race update and maybe a few cheeky Majorca pics.

Until then…….laters!!!

Can’t beat a Sportive 🚴🏻👍

A wheely good evening to you all from sat on a minibus on the M5. I am currently on my way back from a weekend at the Tour de Yorkshire. The highlight of the weekend was today’s sportive which with the glorious Yorkshire sun and countryside made it an epic ride.

Lots of people take part in sportives up and down the country every week and never fail to enjoy them. They are not competitive but equally when riding in a group there is always that edge to have the fastest climb up a hill or best average speed. Today’s ride was set in the glorious Yorkshire dales and took in the final part of the pro route which made it feel that extra bit special. It started and finished in Leeds and came over the finish line of the official race which made it feel very professional and like we were pros hehe!!

The route was exceptional and the organisation second to none. As for the hills…….wow!!! 6500 feet of elevated climbing over 129km made it a very tough one and a ride that worked the legs. If you have never done a sportive get out and do one as they are fun, challenging and most of all a chance to ride your bike in a professional setting with many others all wanting the same thing, a great day out on the bike. Here are a few pictures from the day and until next time happy riding and get booked on a sportive.

Another Paris Roubaix ticked off….

A wheely good evening from Paul Ashman cycling aboard a P&O ferry heading back from France. The last three days have seen me taken in arguably the greatest one day classic there is, the cobbled Paris Roubaix race.

It all started early hours Friday morning when we were picked up at 2:30am as we had a 6:00am crossing across the channel. We left the white cliffs behind us bathed in sunshine and this was the shape of things to come as for the whole trip it didn’t drop below 18 degrees and we had wall to wall sun.

Friday we decided to head to the Ardennes and take in the first day of the Circuit of Ardennes classic race. This is a second tier race but still had a good field of riders. The Ardennes is a truly beautiful part of Belgium and a new area for me to visit. The race itself had a gruelling first stage with no less than seven categorised climbs and a classic sprint finish in the small town of Bazeilles. We got to see the race three times in the mountains and still got back to the finish for a well earned beer in the sun as the riders entered the finishing circuit. This day was a cracking start to the weekend which only got better.

So Saturday we woke to more sun streaming through the windows and what a day in store ahead of us. It was team presentation day of the 2018 Paris Roubaix and the setting the glorious square of the beautiful town of Compiegne just north of Paris. As the teams arrived aboard the stunning team buses the fans were buzzing to see the classics specialists who 24 hours later would be embarking on the 254 km ride to Roubaix. As well as the team presentation there was a quirky little bike jumble which gave ample opportunities to pick up some cycling bargains and memorabilia, just the two pairs of mitts and a book for me this year. Oh and of course the mandatory bottles and road signs that have become a customary part of the trips abroad. The highlight for me was getting some more signatures on my yellow and pink jerseys as well as meeting some new riders I have never met before. Before long the presentation came to an end and it seemed fitting to find a cafe and sit outside in the early evening sun with a Belgian fruit beer. All in all a fabulous day and still race day to come.

Sunday came and yes more sunshine so we knew we were in for a hot dusty day out on the pave sectors of the race. We spent some time at the arrival of the teams and it is always special to see their bikes all cleaned and gleaming aboard the cars, including Peter Sagan’s limited edition gold S-Works Tarmac. This was just the start of our day on the cobbles. We had a plan to hit three sections but would it come off? Well with Clewes at the wheel and Ashman with the map how could this fail?!? First up was sector one and the pave at Inchy. This was a challenging opening start for the riders with a tight ninety degree turn and a fast exit. Like any of these roads it brings it’s danger and this was no different with a pile up bringing down Geraint Thomas of Team Sky amongst others. This is my first time out on the cobbles and I was amazed in the flesh just how demanding and rough this surface really is.

Onwards for us and we hit the famous Arenberg forest and this is probably the most well known sector. There were literally 1000’s of fans four deep either side of the barrier once we got there awaiting the riders and there was only one place to view the race……….ten feet up a tree in the branches. Now I am no monkey but when there is a bike race to be seen I can scale a tree like any creature. Watching the riders take on this fabled cobbled sector was an experience that I’ll long remember knowing they followed the footsteps of many legends before them. The break passed us and one by one the chasers battled by. This was leaving us one more place to visit, the legendary Carrefore L’Arbre five start sector. We parked up and were faced with a one and a half mile walk to the sector but boy was it worth it. When we arrived it was packed and buzzing for the arrival of the race. We had heard on race radio Sagan was in the break so the anticipation to see the rainbow bands pass by on the dust and cobbles was almost too much to take. If the give away from the helicopter above wasn’t enough as the riders approached the noise from the crowd steadily increased to a volume almost unbearable. Sure enough Sagan was out front with Dillier and the Swiss National champ was literally hanging onto his wheel. These two had over a minute on the chasing group and with only 15 km remaining who’d bet against them taking the top two steps of the podium. We ventured over to the big screen to see the last part of the race unfold.

The gap grew out to a minute and before long the two of them entered the outdoor velodrome to a barrage of noise. The game of cat and mouse began, who would pounce first. The tension was building, the line getting closer. As the metres counted down 400, 350, 300 come on who would jump. And then with 200 metres to go the man himself went and the three time current world champion Peter Sagan came over the line arms aloft. He was the 2018 Paris Roubaix champion and a deserved one at that taking his second monument.

So as we leave the ferry for the journey back to Swindon all I can say is you have not witnessed this race in the flesh do it.  That’s two years in succession now and I’ll be back next year and I am going to try the sportive myself next year. For now all I can say is happy riding and I’ll be back soon with more news from Paul Ashman Cycling including some recent race reports I have been involved in. Laters!!!

More kids on bikes…..

A wheely good evening from Paul Ashman Cycling. I hope you’re all enjoying the increase in temperature and getting out on your bikes more, I certainly am and even nicer to be a bit warmer on the playgrounds of Swindon schools. Apologies for the lack of blogging recently, I blame it on bikes, cycling and out training too much!

This blog is an update on the current schools work and also about the inaugural Paul Ashman Cycling Easter holiday camp. The Swindon schools that I am working in are taking on the cycling at an alarming rate and more and more children are on bikes and enjoying the sense of two wheels and the fresh air more and more. Recently I have been busy expanding into new areas and in particular within the White Horse Federation including soon to be visiting schools across the county. Things are certainly expanding at a phenomenal rate and it is great to have Jennifer Purcell on board to help deliver the projects. Currently we see nearly 700 children a week and this will only increase. As I always say get more kids on bikes and let’s see more riders out on the roads. Only too often I see adults not riding or out enjoying cycling and I firmly believe this stems from grass roots level so my mission is get that sorted and we will have so many more out cycling the Swindon cycle paths and roads. Let’s aim for less car use and more bike use. If you have any questions or enquiries around Cycling in schools please get in touch.

As you can see from the poster we have the first Paul Ashman Cycling holiday camp coming up in a few weeks time. There are just a few places left so please get in touch if you want to sign your child up. The aim of the day is to have fun with challenges, games and competitions, learn more about cycling skills and maintenance and take the children on to local bike paths and trails. It promises to be a fun filled action packed day.

Until next time cycle safely and most of all enjoy it. Laters!!!

BIKE FIT – why do you need one?

A wheely good afternoon to you all from the world of Paul Ashman Cycling. I hope you are all well and if like me willing this cold weather to end. I have to say the last couple of rides have been freezing and last weeks race allowed me to very quickly lose feeling in my fingers and toes. Never mind only 15 weeks and I’ll be out riding in that Majorca sunshine 🙂

So onto my blog for today and it’s all about bike fits. Many people will ask the question do I need one or will it help me? The answer hands down is yes. We all suffer with aches and pains when we ride and those little niggles that won’t go away and most of those is an ill fitting bike. Believe it or not a small thing like seat too high or low, cleat angle wrong or stem length incorrect can have a massive impact on your position on the bike and lead to all sorts of issues.

I had my first one some years ago and back then it sorted me out. Since then I know my position due to weight loss and being fitter has changed so I thought best get checked over again. Also having a new bike can make the difference as every angle of geometry affects the set up. So I took a visit to Danny Clayton my sports therapist who is also a qualified bike fit specialist ( http://www.dc-injury clinic.co.uk ).

The bike fit took in three stages to fully access and look at every aspect. To start with general body shape and posture was looked at. Here it was noted that I lean over onto the outer part of my right foot this due to a bunion and previous ankle injuries. This as a result can have a knock on effect and could be the cause of occasional knee pain I get on the inside of my right joint so this was the first area to address, more on this later.

Secondly Danny assessed my body flexibility and strength in various parts of the body. This was done by means of various flexing and restraint type manoeuvres. This highlighted a slightly weak hamstring but otherwise I am in a good shape which pleased me. That showed me that despite my age my body is in good order and this bodes well for future goals and targets. It’s all about marginal gains and even though this term is a myth to some it clearly does work and every little step makes a difference.

Finally it was time to jump on the bike set up on the turbo. This allowed us to check all angles and position when riding. There is a set of parameters as a guide and sitting in between these measures for a well set up ride position. My angles all work well and showed stem length, saddle height and crank arm length correct for what I need. There is room for a slight raise of the seat post in the future to increase power but this is when my hamstrings strengthen. Back to the knee pain I occasionally get it was decided to address this by way of 1mm shims. These sit under the cleats and raise the inner part of the foot by 1mm increments to offset the outer foot lowering. I will add a shim very two weeks up to a maximum of three to see how this goes but hopefully it will have an impact. Danny has also given me a set of exercises to do each day to build up the hamstring strength.

The overall fit took two hours and was an incredibly interesting and fruitful session. I personally learnt lots and to come away with data, pictures, a full report and ways to improve is a great bonus. I can’t tell anyone how to spend their money but would totally recommend this and certainly suggest give Danny a call and see how he can help you with bike fit or other sports related injuries.

Until next time happy riding and enjoy ticking the miles off rolling the tarmac!