Tag Archives: Bike Guy

Choosing a bike, parkrunning and some exciting post

8 Oct

Following the theft of our bikes in August, we’ve been busy improving our home’s security (along with 1001 other home improvements). We’ve had a burglar alarm installed, locks changed, additional locks installed, secure lock points fitted and various other improvements, so we’re moving in the direction of being able to get new bikes, which means it’s shopping time.

I was really happy with the bikes I had, but it’s not possible to replace like with like, so I’ve had a think about what would best suit my needs. I previously had an aluminium road bike that I used for touring and wet weather riding and a carbon road bike that I used for most of my cycling and triathlons. Some people have recommended getting a tribike, but I don’t have the bike handling skills, like riding in a group and am quite likely to do a reasonably hilly Ironman, so I’d rather have a good aero road bike.

As for my second bike, my Giant Defy was perfect for touring Japan, but with a baby on the way, I’m unlikely to do any multi-day cycling events in the near future, so I don’t have a need for a touring bike. However, I will still want to cycle in winter and I am determined to improve my bike handling skills. I was inspired by watching people do cyclocross training at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre whilst I was at the running track and would really like to give it a go. The events are not very long (under an hour), so it should be possible to fit in some over the winter months. This means that I have decided to purchase a cyclocross bike as my second bike.

A limitation for my second bike is that I would like to purchase it through the Cycle to Work scheme, which means that it needs to cost under £1000. I looked at various options online and narrowed it down to four bikes:

  • Ridley X-Bow 20 disc
  • Giant TCX SLR 1
  • Colnago World Cup Disc
  • Focus 2016 Mares AX Disc 105
Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Stuart has also been researching bikes and has produced a shortlist, so we decided to take our shortlists to Vankru, our fantastic local Retul bike fitters. Although they can make (almost) any bike more comfortable, it definitely better to see Garth and Mark before buying something, so that they can advise which bike’s geometry would suit your build and flexibility best.

After having a good look at my data and the specs of the bikes that I was interested in, Mark advised against the Colnago as it’s quite an aggressive bike, however, the small in the Ridley or Giant or the XS in the Focus would be fine for me. I was also told to bear in mind that the Focus is slightly more aggressive. I asked whether Mark had any further recommendations based on my data (and price range), and so he suggested that I might want to look at a Cannondale CAADX. It was really good to get this feedback, and meant that I was able to rule out the Colnago.

This morning, I was able to fit in Southampton parkrun. I met up with Kim at the start and our friend Kate said that she’d join us for a social run as she’s racing the Royal Parks half marathon tomorrow. (Good luck, Kate!) We had a lovely social run, that I really enjoyed.

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Considering we were chatting (and I’m 39 weeks pregnant), our finish times weren’t too bad either:


Next Saturday is my due date, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in another parkrun before the big event!

After parkrun, Stu and I joined Tobie and Charlotte for some more bike chat. Charlotte ran a PB at parkrun, which was great and Tobie was saving his legs ahead of a cyclocross race tomorrow… which is precisely why Stu and I wanted to chat to him. Not only does Tobie know bikes inside and out as he runs Bike Guy (bicycle servicing), but he also rides and races a lot. So, we’d spoken to the experts about which bikes would fit us and had moved onto another expert who could advise on which bikes have fewer maintenance issues.

Of the four bikes that were left on my shortlist, Tobie advised against the Ridley as it had the lowest spec out of all of the bikes. Apparently, the Giant wheels may buckle under stress, but this is prefer to the Cannondale wheels, which are more likely to end up with broken spokes, which create further problems. Again, Tobie advised that the Focus is a purer cyclocross bike. So, my shortlist was down to the Focus and the Giant.

I’ve seen both of the bikes before, but thought it might help me to make my mind up if I viewed them again. unfortunately, neither bike is in stock in any local bike store. The guys at the Southampton Giant Store (formerly Wessex Cycle World) have always been really helpful, so I went there in the hope that they might be able to order in the Giant for me, but they said they haven’t been able to get any since about June.

I’ve thought about which of the bikes I prefer and the Giant is the one that appeals to me slightly more. Frustratingly, I’ve had a few battles with the online Cyclescheme vouchers, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to order it online next week.

After our visit to the bike shop, Stuart and I went into town to have a look at bike shoes in Decathlon. I currently own two pairs (a lovely pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Flys that I wear for triathlons and a very cheap pair of Specialized shoes that I wear in winter)… but they both work with Speedplay pedals, which aren’t suitable for cyclocross. Aside from my failed visit to the velodrome, I’ve never used any other pedals, so asked Tobie and Charlotte for their advice. They recommended Shimano M520 pedals and Tobie said they were cheaper in Decathlon than anywhere else, so a pair somehow fell into my basket… I also ended up with a new pair of shoes:


I spent quite a while choosing between these and a black pair of Shimano shoes. The Shimano shoes were slightly lighter, but I found the toe box quite wide (and I’m quite partial to turquoise!) So, I’ve got the shoes, now I just need the bike!

When I got home, I found that some exciting post had arrived – an Energy Snacks box of Sports Nutrition products.

Energy snacks img_7883

You can choose whether to sign up for a subscription to this service or just to order a one-off box. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll receive 10% off your first box.

For £21.99 the October box includes:


  • 32Gi – Sport Chews – Orange
  • 32Gi – Sport Gel – Raspberry
  • GU – Energy Gel – Chocolate Outrage
  • GU – Stroopwafel – Caramel Coffee
  • High5 – IsoGel X’treme – Tropical
  • Mule Bar – Energy Bar – Apple Strudel
  • PowerBar – PowerGel Shots – Cola
  • Sweet Peaks – Energy Sweets – Citrus
  • Tribe – Energy Bar – Cacao & Almond


  • OTE – Hydro Tabs – Blackcurrant
  • Virtue – Energy Water – Lemon & Lime


  • PowerBar – Recovery 2.0 – Raspberry Cooler

I’ve tried some of the products before (PowerBar cola PowerGel shots used to be my ‘go to’ for marathon training), but there are other products that I’ve never heard of or seen in the shops.

The items arrived in a lovely package, so it was really exciting to open it up, and it would make a great gift for a friend who has just signed up to train for a longer distance race, such as a half or full marathon. The only slight disappointment for me was that the Stroopwafel is Caramel Coffee flavoured – I love similar products, but cannot stand coffee, so I’ll have to get Stu to be the product tester for that item!

How’s your weekend been so far? Are you watching the Ironman World Championship?




Thunder Run weekend

25 Jul

I’ve been so busy recently that I haven’t been able to fit in as many activities as I’d like to, so sending my bike off for repairs with The Bike Guy meant that I had to ride to work on my road bike. I’ve not used it enough recently, so getting a ride in on a sunny day made me happy 🙂

Post-work road bike ride

Post-work road bike ride

I had hoped to take part in a local cross country race on Wednesday, but a series of medical appointments that over ran meant that I didn’t make it 😦

However, this weekend, Stu and I headed up to Derbyshire Thunder Run – a 24 hour team relay on a tough 10km cross-country race. This is one of the highlight’s in my running calendar as it combines running with camping with friends. We drove up to Derbyshire on Thursday and checked into a hotel for the night as the Thunder Run campsite doesn’t open until Friday. This gave us a bit of time to go out for a walk and enjoy a meal with Kim, Rob, Rikki and our other team mates.

We got up early on Friday and headed to the campsite, so that we could get a good spot close to the course. We pitched our tents as quickly as possible (although I’m sure my tent gets harder to pitch every year!) Some of our team-mates (Pete, Kate, Andy, Mike and Steve) weren’t going to join us until later in the day, so we left a bit of space for their tents. We then headed back to the hotel just after 9am to eat breakfast and shower.

The start of our Thunder Run camp

The start of our Thunder Run camp

As Thunder Run doesn’t start until midday on Saturday, we had plenty of time to spare, so after we checked out of the hotel, we decided to explore the National Memorial Arboretum. It’s a stunning location and the memorials are very moving.


National Memorial Arboretum

National Memorial Arboretum

There was also a children’s play area, so some of our team mates couldn’t resist having a go.

Rikki testing his balance

Rikki testing his balance

This obstacle was just too hard for Rikki

This obstacle was just too hard for Rikki

We stopped off at the local Morrisons to pick up supplies for the weekend and then headed back to the campsite.

The stalls had started to open, so I rushed over to the Buff stand with Rikki. Rikki is a Buff-afficionado who has been known to ‘double buff’ in cold weather (one on his head and one round his neck). Last year he missed out on the limited edition Thunder Run buff, so he didn’t want that to happen again. I had a look at the buff, but the colours didn’t appeal to me, so I decided to save my money this year.

Thunder Run buff 2016

Thunder Run buff 2016

In the evening, we had a barbecue – quorn sausages for me and burgers and sausages for the others. We had camped further down the campsite than last year, so were unaffected by the noise of the generators, but the campers next to us not only had a lot of children with them but they also seemed determined to drink as much alcohol as possible, so we were glad when the 11pm quiet time came around.

We usually try out a local parkrun on Saturday morning, but I’m trying not to over do it at the moment, so we decided to go open water swimming instead. We had intended to swim at Barton Marina with Derby Tri Club, but because of water quality issues, swimming is temporarily suspended there. A quick google found that we were only a few miles from Meynell Valley Hunters Tri Club’s home lake in Hilton, so we headed off there instead.

Hilton lake Hilton lake

The lake has basic facilities (a burger van in the parking area and a shipping container for the admin tea to use), but the sun was shining and the lake looked beautiful. It was 21C in the water and the swimming loop was 550m. I’ve not been OWS without my wetsuit so far this year, so this was a pleasant introduction. I did a few laps before getting out and watching Stu for a bit. He has quite a distinctive swimming style and it amused me to see his bare arms whizzing past all of the others who were wearing wetsuits.

We then headed back to Catton Park for the start of Thunder Run at midday, but were too slow to make it into the team photo 😦

Thunder Run 2016 team mates

Thunder Run 2016 team mates

Marafun (the organisers of Southampton and Winchester Half Marathons) kindly gave us some t-shirts. Kelly’s Heroes Rebooted had the red-sleeved tops; Brontophobics (my team) had the turquoise-sleeved tops.

Start of Thunder Run 2016

Start of Thunder Run 2016

It was incredibly hot, so I was glad that I was 4th in the line up for my team. I started my first lap at 3:30pm and decided that I would take a bottle of water with me, but this was a bad decision. I never usually run with water, so it just annoyed me and I ended up abandoning the bottle at the 5.5km drinks station. Luckily, Stu had bought me a ‘Secret Training’ bottle, which entitled me to free refills. There were a range of falvours on offer, including watermelon and blackcurrant & elderflower, both of which I liked. I didn’t like the lemon and lime flavour as it was too strong. I also didn’t love the mango flavour.

Secret Training

My 2nd lap was at 11:45pm, which was a lot cooler. I’ve got a good head torch, but was extremely careful (i.e. slow!) in the technical tree section as I didn’t want to fall or twist an ankle like my friend Liz did last year. I really enjoyed the night time lap, although I was glad to be able to get into bed. I hoped that I would get to sleep quickly, but despite it being a warm night, my feet felt very cold. I was so glad when Stu got into bed as he’s a great foot-warmer!

My next lap was at 7am, but I didn’t get much sleep as I Stu and Rikki were running at completely different times from me and so they had to come and go from the tent. It was cooler than my previous day-time lap, but was still warmer than I like running in and also my ankles were starting to ache. I wasn’t as quick as I’d hoped to be, but no-one minded.

I then agreed to do a 4th and final lap at 9:30am with Michela. It was really hot by that time, so again it was a slow lap. We got back just in time for Aaron to go out for a final lap.

End of Thunder Run 2016

(L-R: Pete, Kim, Kate, Tamsyn & Rikki – Aaron and Michela were getting drinks!)

We then had to pack our belongings and take down the tent as well as collect our medals. My ankles were really sore and tired by this point, so I was grateful to be able to remove my trainers and put on my Oofos recovery flipflops. They are so soft and comfortable.

I can strongly recommend this event. Stu and I have taken part every year for the last 5 years. It has grown massively in that time, but is still as friendly as the first time we took part.

Thunder Run t-shirt, race number and medal

Thunder Run t-shirt, race number and medal





Injuries – 1; First week of Challenge Weymouth training schedule – 0

16 May

I was meant to start the first week of my first half iron distance triathlon training schedule this week, but I’m still struggling with arm pain and my swollen knee doesn’t seem to be deflating, so I’m already behind schedule.

I should have been doing an hour on my turbo trainer yesterday, which might have been manageable, but my bike was off with The Bike Guy getting new brakes and bar tape fitted, so I couldn’t do that. Tonight’s session is meant to be a 2km swim (which might be further than I’ve ever done in an hour), but my arm is just too painful to risk swimming. I feel like I’m being terribly lazy, but I’m also trying to heed my doctor’s words of resting for 2-3 weeks. I think I’ll be ready to train sooner than that, but I don’t want to risk making my arm worse.

This means that I’ve had a bit more time at home than I would usually have, so I’ve entered my first race for 2015. I’ve entered the ballot for London Marathon, but even with a second chance via my running club’s ballot, I probably won’t get a place. As a consequence, I’ve now signed myself up for Marafun Southampton, which is the first half marathon to take place in the city for many years. I am familiar with much of the route:

Marafun Southampton route

Marafun Southampton route

The bridge over the river (Itchen Bridge) is likely to be the most challenging part of the run, although Burgess Road, which is the long straight at the top of the map, is also a long hill. For me, the massive advantage is that it’s a distance that I like and I’ll be able to train in familiar surroundings. I am likely to practise the route in chunks, so that by the time race day comes I am feeling really well prepared.

Today’s other ‘excitement’ was that I got myself organised to use the peak flow meter that I was prescribed. I have to blow into it three times a day and record the data, to see whether my asthma is being controlled. Apparently a normal reading for a woman who is my age and height should be about 442l/min. This morning’s reading was 290l/min, this afternoon it was 450l/min, and tonight it was 480l/min. It’ll be interesting to see how it compares tomorrow.

I also received an exciting parcel today: odlo Evolution sports underwear for women. They’re a fairly long base-layer that I want to try out under indecently short running shorts. I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

My blog has also received a lot of traffic from Poland this week. I don’t speak Polish, but a quick use of Google Translate suggests that I was being used on a forum as an example of someone who is 30kg overweight, but is still able to exercise. The topic was about the persecution of obese people. I don’t mind being used as an example, but I object to the suggestion that I am (or have been) 30kg overweight… if I only weighed 6st (84lbs/39kg) then I would be severely underweight! Maybe I’ve misunderstood the article. If any of my readers speaks Polish, I’d love to know what the discussion was all about: http://forum.gazeta.pl/forum/w,567,150970875,,Dyskryminacja_otylych_wreszcie_ktos_glosno_walczy.html?v=2

My husband shared the following interview with junior pro-cyclist Jasper Styuven with me: http://www.manualforspeed.com/development/blue-or-blue/ He knows how much I love my clothing/bike etc to match!

I’ve been failing in my diet this week, as I’ve been feeling down about being injured and unable to exercise, however, I thought this article on Greatist was worth reading: 67 Science-backed ways to lose weight What do you think? Do you follow any of these tips?


Day 1 of Pyrenees Tri Camp with Embrace Sports

1 May

It’s been a while since I’ve had a break, so I was really looking forward to our second Tri Camp with Embrace Sports. The day before, Tobie from BikeGuy came over to help Stu and I disassemble our bikes and pack them in our cases. As we’ve both had bike fits, we had to mark settings very carefully… you can just about see my handlebar marks on the image below.

Bike in a box

Bike in a box

After packing our cases, we travelled up to Gatwick, to spend the night at a hotel there before getting an early flight the next day.

We arrived at the airport quite early and after checking in our oversized cases, we ate breakfast before heading to the departure lounge. I was busy answering work emails, when Stu noticed a girl carrying an Ironman branded rucksack chatting to a sporty looking guy. He guessed that they might be on our holiday, so he went over and spoke to them. Stu’s guess was correct: Bernadette and Jose were also going to be on our holiday.

After a short flight to Toulouse, we gathered our luggage and headed towards the meeting point where Neil and Graeme were waiting for us. Poppy, who we know from our last triathlon holiday, was also there. We then headed to the minibuses for the 90 minute drive to the farmhouse. Stu ended up in the newer minibus whereas I was in ‘Van Rouge’ with Bernadette, Lou, Elena, Alex and Jose.

When we arrived at the farmhouse, we put our cases in our rooms and then prepared a hearty lunch with some delicious French bread. We also had time to look at the schedule for the week…

Pyrenees Tri Schedule

…as well as the more detailed plan for the day.

Embrace plan for Thursday

Embrace plan for Thursday

After eating, we all headed out to a covered area to set up our bikes. I managed to put most of my bike together, but I needed a little help from Stu to attach the back wheel. I then got Graeme to have a look at my bike. He swiftly realised that I had failed to tighten almost every part sufficiently, so he got out his torque wrench and sorted everything out for me.

It was then time for our first ride – a trip up Col de Coupe. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to manage my first climb of the trip, although I wasn’t quite as fast as some of the others when I was descending. I was aware that I wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but I was relieved that I wasn’t a long way behind everyone 🙂

As soon as we got back to the farm-house, we went out for a 5km brick run. I didn’t quite manage to maintain the pace I had hoped to keep up, but it wasn’t too bad.

When I got back, there was time for a shower and some photos of the beautiful scenery before Alan served his spaghetti Bolognese.

View from the Farmhouse

View from the Farmhouse

Overall, it was a fantastic first day, but after the early start, I felt exhausted and was grateful to get into bed!