Tag Archives: new bike

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?




Catching up

11 Sep

The last few weeks have been hard work, which is why I haven’t been blogging regularly. It’s taken me a while to shake off the despondency of having my bikes stolen. Fortunately, I have my work bike back, so I can cycle to work. We’ve improved the security on our garage and are seeing a specialist about additional measures this week. This has been prioritised over getting new bikes as I know a number of people who’ve replaced stolen bikes only to be hit again a few months later.

A friend has recognised that the photo of my bike that was shared on Gumtree was taken outside the Bright Water Inn (Wetherspoons) in Shirley, Southampton. If any of you live in that area and can keep an eye out for my bike (or any of the other 3 that are still missing), I’d be really grateful.

I’ve been quite tired recently and am looking forward to finishing work in 3 weeks time. I’ve been doing parkrun every weekend, but haven’t done as much other training as I’d like.


Southampton parkrun 27th August

Southampton parkrun 3rd September

Southampton parkrun 3rd September


Southampton parkrun 10th September

I’m a bit annoyed with my time for the last run as I recorded a quicker time on my Garmin and the friend I ran with (and finished with) had a finish time that was quite a bit faster. We’ll just have to make sure we go faster next weekend! I find it strange that running is more comfortable than swimming – I seem to get out of breath a lot faster in the pool, but perhaps it’s because we’re all more competitive there.

I fitted in a track session with Southampton Tri Club this week and really enjoyed it. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the track, but it’s one of my favourite types of running.

I had a bit of excitement recently as Runners’ World sent out a photographer to take pictures for an article that will probably be in the October 2016 issue. It’s about ‘running inspiration’ and running with friends. I was interviewed about how my friend, Jez, inspired me to start running and how that has made me go on to run 5 marathons and become a Run Leader before becoming a coach. The photo shoot was great fun – Jez and I went down to the track, which was fortunately very quiet.  We had to do all sorts of posed pictures including ‘tying our shoelaces’ (I had elastic laces on) and stretching whilst holding onto each other. I can’t share any photos yet, but after the embargo is over, I should be able to post a few here. There were also a few photos taken of us running together, and then we came back to my garden to have a few more pictures taken in front of a white screen. I laughed throughout the whole shoot, whereas poor Jez found it rather awkward. I also made sure that I dressed in my finest for the pictures – my 2016 SOAS team vest and shorts with my matching Brooks trainers.

Although I haven’t been doing my usual amount of training, I have spent hours in my garden and have managed to turn it from a derelict wasteland to something that doesn’t look too bad. I just need the weather to stay nice so that I can spend a couple more days outside. (I’d also make more progress if I could get rid of the garden waste more easily).

Tidier garden

I really should have taken before and after pictures… and since taking this, I’ve removed the enormous bush on the right hand side.

I’ve also painted a few rooms and my mum has been up to help finish off my kitchen renovations. My fitted bench seat finally has cushions on it, which looks really good and is much more comfortable than just chipboard!

Having spent most of this weekend decorating (changing our bedroom from a hideous shade of rose-pink to pale blue has taken hours), we decided that we needed to do something fun, so Stu and I went off to look at bikes in a couple of local bike shops. I’ve got a few bikes in mind, but none of them are as unusual as this bike I saw when we were in Denmark:

wooden bike in Denmark

Sadly, none of the bikes that were stolen can be replaced like-for-like as they’re not available any more, so Stu and I are both having to make some tough decisions about what we want. I think I’d like to get a nice carbon road bike (but perhaps with tri bars) to replace my Kuota, and a cyclocross bike to replace my Giant Defy. It’s been a few years since I bought a bike on the cycle to work scheme, so I may see whether I can find an appropriate cyclocross bike in a local shop.

First of all, we went to Hargroves Cycles in Totton. We’ve looked at their bikes online and have visited the store previously, but I was disappointed to find that they had a disproportionate number of mountain bikes in stock, with relatively few road and cyclocross bikes. Also, most of the bikes didn’t have their sale prices on them, so we had to look a few up on the Hargroves website. However, it was refreshing to see a female member of staff who was really lovely.

Then we went over to the Giant Store. I bought two of my three bikes there when it was CycleWorld Wessex, so I know the staff are good. It also has a reasonable range of Liv bikes, including some of the triathlon and road bikes that I wanted to see. The Envie Advanced Tri bike sounds like a good option – it’s a lovely aero road bike with tri bars, but I don’t love the colours!

Reduced Liv Envie Advanced Tri

I love the colour scheme of the Liv Avow Advanced Pro (black, jade and purple), but don’t think a TT bike is right for me. I don’t have the bike handling skills and also I like to take part in group rides.

I managed to identify my Kuota on Gumtree fairly quickly as not only did it have a women-specific saddle on it (plain black instead of the usual black and white), but it also had my name visible on the crossbar. I hated this when I first got it (especially as the font was unattractive and didn’t match the rest of the bike), but it served as a good identifier, so I’ll make sure my next bike has some distinguishing features. Orbea bikes can be completely customised and I’m keen to look at the new range from Ridley (but their website hasn’t been fully updated yet). Have you seen any interesting or unusual bikes that have caught your eye? I definitely want something that isn’t too common.

I’m also interested in getting an anti-theft bike tracker. A few years ago, there was a surge of these (mainly through kick-starter projects), but none of them seem to be available any more. Ideally I’d like something discreet, such as a spybike top cap tracker, as that would be unlikely to be noticed by an ordinary bike thief. A friend has recommended TrackR. It’s for sale in the UK and there seem to be some local users. This review was interesting: https://bikeindex.org/news/bike-index-meets-trackr-a-review-ensues If anyone can recommend a similar product, I’d love to know about it.

Recently, I’ve been eating Dr Zak’s high protein peanut spread on toast. I love porridge, but just can’t eat very much in the morning at the moment, so this has been a life saver. I’ve tried it in two flavours:

  • sweet banoffee pie
  • chocolate fudge brownie

Dr Zaks peanut butter

I can’t decide which I like best. They both taste good, but I think the sweet banoffee pie one spreads a little more easily. They’re also both suitable for vegetarians and do not contain palm oil, so I don’t feel guilty consuming them. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered there are five other flavours, which sound equally delicious:

  • Salted Caramel
  • White Chocolate & Coconut
  • Apple & Cinnamon
  • Cherry Bakewell
  • Fresh Raspberry

…and I’m sure I saw pictures of some other new flavours on Twitter. Yummy! Have you tried any of the new flavours?

I’ve now only got 10.5 days left at work before I go on maternity leave, so I’m starting to think about my plans for next year (alongside the challenges I’m likely to face). I’m looking whether it will be possible to do some training courses whilst I’m on maternity leave to get me closer to my goals. ideally, I’d like to find something that is distance learning or else a blend of online and evening/weekend sessions. I’m looking at the following:

I’d really like towards becoming a personal trainer. I’ve also looked at a lot of nutrition and dietetics courses. Sadly, I don’t have the time or money to go back to university for another degree (and can’t afford a part-time/online degree), so I’m thinking of doing a Precision Nutrition course. I’ve worked with a Precision Nutritionist before (Sam) and found him to be very helpful.

I also need to think about my race goals for next year. I have no idea how long it will take me to get back to training, but would really love to do Southampton Marathon in April 2017, and am still considering doing Ironman Weymouth in September 2017 (as per my original plan)… but if Stuart would like to have a fair shot at an Ironman next year, I wouldn’t stand in his way as I was so disappointed on his behalf by what happened around his attempt at Ironman Copenhagen. When I’ve firmed up my plans, I’ll decide whether I’m going to work with a coach, or whether I’m going to go it alone. I’m also keen to take part in some cyclocross training in Southampton and perhaps enter some races.

Have you started thinking about your race goals for 2017? What will be your A race?