For many years my Cannondale mountain bike remained dormant (fallow, having a spell) while I contemplated selling it. It was fun to ride cross country on rough grass fields, but every time I tried any type of dirt riding I felt like I was too high and too ungainly to be safe. That changed on 31 December 2012 when I ventured onto the fire trails near my house and was hooked. I was very sore, but vowed to keep it up.
On 1 January 2012 I tracked my ride with MapMyRide (since converted and uploaded to Strava) and explored more of Mulligan’s Flat. The initial fire trail gave way to narrow tyre tracks and loose quartz on steep (to me) climbs. Despite bursting my lungs and frying my legs I was getting into it.
Mulligans Flat – 12 months on
To celebrate New Year’s I retraced the route from 12 months before. I probably rode at 80% effort to maintain a steady pace and not redline. So how did I do compared to last year? About 40% faster!
- Kangawallafox Climb 5:52 to 3:55
- Mulligan Downhill 1:58 to 1:36
- Left Coach to Standup 6:11 to 4:06. Considering that the fast, hard clay downhill section was metalled and had rain bars cut in during September and used to be a top gear run, that’s a very good performance.
- Standup 1:12 to 0:38
12 months of change
It’s easy to have huge gains in the first year, especially from a low base of activity and fitness, but that’s no reason not to celebrate:
- Weight fell from 115kg to 103kg
- Body fat fell from 30% to 26.5%
- Visceral fat fell from 15 (bottom of unhealthy range) to 14 (in the healthy range, just)
Fitness gains weren’t obvious until October and my weight plateaued at 105kg. While my times were getting faster my heart rate remained high even on medium-high efforts. Suddenly I was smashing out times equal or better than previous bests but with heart rate 10-20bpm lower. I even rode a very steep section between Mt Ainslie and Mt Majura, hit 195bpm at the steepest section and my heart rate dropped to 170bpm as the slope moderated slightly to the peak.
12 months of learning
Things that you learn, often the hard way. Fortunately, there’s help around if you ask and are lucky to have willing coaches.
- Road/MTB: Correct position on the bike is vital. The wrong position will cause pain, suffering and general hatred of cycling. Get measured by an expert and take their advice.
- Adjust gradually. Don’t make too many adjustments too far too quickly.
- Road: If you are not a supremely-fit and flexible athlete or sponsored, get an endurance bike. You will be faster because you will be more comfortable.
- MTB: Tyre pressure makes a big difference. I’m still quite heavy so I leave 35-40psi in tubed tyres.
- MTB: It is the opposite of what seems right, but put weight on the front wheel. Grip and cornering confidence will result. The back wheel can work out things for itself. Often.
- Road/MTB: Ride with others. Whether they are faster or slower or at the same level matters not. Riding with someone else makes the distance shrink, is safer and the coffee tastes better. You’ll learn from others and learn more about your own riding too. Just make sure that at least one of you is carrying a puncture repair kit and a pump.
- Always offer help to fellow cyclists in need.
- Don’t be afraid to extend yourself. It’s only too far and too fast and too difficult until you do it. My longest ride sat at 70km for months until I almost doubled it to 133km on a Saturday morning for fun.
And for 2014?
For 201, I shall be mostly riding, Audax. Plodding along over great distances suits me more than racing. So I’m considering several 100km events this year, culminating in a crack at Fitz’s Challenge. I just have to learn how to climb unremitting hills.
So, what will you be doing this year?