The Rapha Festive 500

It’s that time of year when Rapha sponsor a Strava challenge – 500km in eight days over Christmas. I had completed this particular challenge four times in the past, and each time Rapha have sent me a nice roundel (cloth badge).

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I can add that I have completed the 2016 edition, so I will be able to add one more roundel to my collection. This year wasn’t too bad, with only one really cold day, and two rides with strong winds, which was better than previous years. Last year was wet for much of it, and 2014 was freezing. The 500 also presents other challenges, as a couple of years I have had to work and in 2014 I finished work on New Year’s Eve and once home had another 50km to do. 2012 I visited my parents for Christmas and didn’t take a bike, so only had five days to complete the challenge. In 2012 there were less than 4000 people who finished it, which shows how ubiquitous Strava has become. This year went relatively smoothly in-comparison, as can be seen in the Veloviewer wheel for the eight days.

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Most years I have crawled over the finish line with barely one km to spare, but this year I managed 523km. In total I have done 2535.6km over the five challenges. This year was also the first time that I had done the whole challenge on the same bike, my Scott. Below is a percentage breakdown of how much each of my bikes has been used over the Festive challenges.

  • Trek Cobia 112.7 km 4.4%
  • Cannondale 145.9 km 5.8%
  • Forme 219.2 km 8.6%
  • Scott 1004.4 km 39.6%
  • Colnago 1051.9 km 41.5%

I would expect to still have my Scott for the 2017 edition of the Festive 500, and would also therefore expect it to take a commanding lead in the stats.

December stats and end of year stats should follow in blog entries in the next few days, and if I don’t see you, have a great 2017.

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Product Review

My first product review, which I’m sure will be well received. Three products to look at;

Bontrager RXL Thermal Gloves, Endura Zipless Overshores, and Specialized Armadillo Tires.

First up, the gloves, and what a pair of gloves they are. Absolutely brilliant. Perfect for when the weather is cold, but not freezing, probably good down to 4 or 5 degrees. Incredibly comfortable, grippy and very bright, although they are available in black as well.20161218_154535

I’ve had mine for a few months and have used them almost every day, hence why they are a little mucky. They were also not expensive at only £15. Without doubt the best pair of – cold/but not freezing – pair of gloves that I own.

Overshoes are unfortunately a necessary evil in the winter. The zips had broken on my last pair, which had done me two winters, so it was time for some new ones. At The Edge Cycleworks in Lancaster they had the winter’s selection in, and the zipless pair caught my eye. The idea being that most returns that Endura get for overshoes are from broken zips.

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I wasn’t sure how easy they would be to get on and off, so one of the guys in the shop tried them on, and they seemed to be OK. When I went out for my first ride with them, this didn’t prove to be the case, especially with Shimano road cleats. There appears to be a knack to getting them on where you roll them half way inside out, although I have found it to still be a struggle. Once on, they perform as to be expected, keeping the worst of the cold and rain at bay, but after only a few rides I do have a small hole in one of them, so I’m not sure how long they will last.

Finally, some tires from Specialized. For many years now I have used Continetal GP 4000’s on my road bikes, but back in May I cycled over a bottle, and put a huge gash in my front tire. I had a big race coming up and my usual bike shop was closed due to flooding, so I went to ‘the other’ bike shop in Lancaster, as I didn’t want to wait a few days from buying online. They don’t sell Conti’s, so I bought a Specialized Armadillo. When I was checking my rear tire I noticed that there were loads of small cuts, so I decided to replace it, also with an Armadillo, that way the bike would be in symmetry. I wasn’t expecting much from them, but I was told that they would be good against punctures, and with a 300+ mile ride coming up I thought they might do alright. I’m not a speed merchant, so for me a tire that is grippy in the wet and puncture proof is exactly what I’m looking for. It also helps if the tire isn’t impossible to get on with cold hands.

It is now 6 months later, and the tires have done over 3,000 miles, and I haven’t had a single puncture, front or rear. Not only that, but they really do grip in the wet. A good test for a tire is a steep climb, on a smooth road surface, in the wet. I used to find that Conti Gatorskins would slip under those conditions, although they were seemingly bomb proof. Yesterday I was climbing up the steep side of the Trough of Bowland, in the wet, and not even the slightest slippage. I am genuinely sold on these tires.

But, I have got hold of a Bontrager AW3 Hard-case road tire.

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The AW3 is an all weather, low rolling resistant, puncture proof tire. I will be replacing the rear Armadillo soon, and this will go on, and it will be interesting to see how they compare, especially as it has received mixed reviews.

That is the end of my first product review, and if Colnago want to send me a C60 to review I will be more than happy, as well as being not in the slightest bit impartial.

More nonsense soon.

To Huddersfield

Me and my lovely wife were off to Huddersfield to see her eldest playing a gig. I had a quick look at the map and realised that it was only approximately 75 miles from Lancaster, so I would cycle there while Helen drove.

I set off via Garstang to say ‘hello’ to friends from Garstang CC, who were doing a rufty tufty route. It appears that many of my friends have road and cross bikes with flat bars, while I appear to have a mountain bike with drops. After a quick chat we went our separate ways, and I soon had my first problem. The road from Longridge to Ribchester was closed. The alternative route wasn’t any longer, but it was a little lumpier. The same thing happened after Whalley, giving me a detour to Sabden, home of the Pendle Witches, which was apt as I had watched two TV programs about the pendle witch trials in the last couple of weeks. This detour again added in more lumps, although the descent into Padiham was great. From there I joined the Leeds to Liverpool canal through Burnley. Another issue here with my route taking me down a flight of steps, and then my Garmin switched off. This has happened before and I’ve ended up losing some of my ride, so I turned it back on, saved the ride up to that point and then restarted it.

I knew that from Burnley the route would get seriously hilly, and I had already done 71.8km with 779m of climbing. Past Turf Moore and then straight up for mile after mile, as I climbed over the moor. Fortunately it wasn’t windy or icy. I took the more direct route down into Hebden Bridge, which is not a descent for the faint hearted, very steep, with plenty of hairpin bends. I was glad I had disc brakes and 2 inch tyres. That particular hill is climb #139 in Simon Warren’s book Another 100 greatest cycling climbs, and is given 10/10 for difficulty. One day I will have to go up it instead of down.

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Hebden Bridge was full of traffic so I was pleased to have plotted a route off the main road, and while it was a through road for bikes, it was also more lumpy. After Sowerby Bridge there was another horrific climb before I headed towards Saddleworth Moor. I ducked under the M62 and rode alongside the motorway and the Scammonden Reservoir.

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Less than 10 miles to go, a quick text to Helen’s son to let him know I was nearly there and my last gel. It was mostly downhill as well, with a great section through Golcar, into Huddersfield, more dodgy traffic and taking the wrong road a couple more times, and then I was done.

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The section from Burnley was only 52km, but had over 1000m of climbing, giving me 124km and 1800m of climbing for the whole day.

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A tough day in the saddle, but plenty of the ride was on roads that I had never ridden before and it did give me another 40 explorer tiles from Veloviewer. Oh, and the gig was brilliant, you should keep an eye out for The Orchid Family.