a journal - cycling, sociology, social media

Sunday, 18 October 2020

The tri trilogy - Episode 2: Training

A couple of things about this post before you start reading: It's Episode 2 of 3 of the story of a top level cyclists switching to triathlon and racing over the 70.3 distance in the space of just 3 months. So if you missed the first one you might want to hit this link The Outlaw before carrying on, also this post is a bit longer than normal, that's because there is a lot of  detail included, so take your time or read it twice or both.  

 Jack Rees getting really aero with help from Wattshop and the IPhone skills of Hannah Farran, you can see an action shot of Han taking this picture if you make to the end.

The idea for the post came out of a number of conversations over coffee at The Devenport, Middleton One Row during the last few weeks at the which the main topic, apart from Covid of course has been triathlon training. So to keep the cafe theme going I came up with the brilliant idea of using pictures on the blog that were taken either at the cafe (above) or on the way back from the cafe, although the real reason is that I just didn't have any suitable swim or run pictures to use. 

Be aware that this is not intended as a training plan or an approach suitable for everyone, that's because most people don't have the volume and consistency of training that Jack has accumulated over a long period, hit this link to see what one of his typical weeks looks like 7 Days training. For at least the last ten years his training on the bike has been between 550 and 700 hours a year which would include around 75 race days on average, so he starts his triathlon training already an extremely well conditioned endurance athlete. So over to Jack to fill you in on the details.

Following on from the last episode where I explained a bit of the background leading up to my first triathlon, here I touch on some of the ideas, sessions and structure, that I used to prepare for the race. In June when I started to think about incorporating swimming and running in to my schedule, I had completed around 400hrs of training in the first half of 2020 but it had all been done on the bike. JR

Leisurely Monday morning cafe rides became a thing of the past as things started to get serious. Jack's TT rig and my aero 'Cafe bike' with Scribe 60D wheels parked at the The Devenport 

Swim - Phase 1: Although I swam competitively for two years in my early teens, since then, apart from holidays, I haven't swum at all and I have never done any structured run training. During the first three weeks I was training to train, I just focused on getting a feel for the water, building up the length of the sessions from 800m up to around 2000m. I had some shoulder fatigue during the first phase but it only took three or four sessions before I started to feel OK in the water again. As a cyclist my upper body is not particularly strong so I did a lot of work with paddles to get the most from my fairly low swim volume and build specific swim strength. Drills were also important, and I paid a lot of attention to swimming with good technique, single arm drills, breathing to both sides, working with a pull buoy to isolate the arms and a kick board to isolate and improve the kick. JR

Swim - Phase 2: In terms of swim development things progressed quite quickly. I used CSS (critical swim speed) to track my progress, basically my time for 100m. At the start of phase 2  I was around 1min 45sec CSS and by the last week pre-race that time had gone down down to around 1.33. I swam three times a week, focussing on speed, strength and endurance, swimming between 5000m and 6000m which is very low swim volume compared to serious 70.3 athletes. JR

This swim session was 400m warm up, 40 x 25m off 45sec, 600m warm down

Future: Through October and November which I am defining as the transition phase (Periodisation) I will continue to swim around 6,000 mtrs a week over six sessions before building to 10-15,000 mtrs over four sessions from the end of November. If you read the first episode of this trilogy you may remember that my lack of open water practice and cold water acclimatisation was a major failing in my build up and resulted in a sub par swim on race day, this is a key issue that I will definitely be addressing in the spring. JR

Talking triathlon over alfresco coffees at the The Devenport Jack, yours truly and @hannah_farran  rider and Team Manager at elite women's cycling team Boompods ... and former GB triathlete.

Bike - Phase 1: For me the approach to triathlon bike training can obviously be slightly different than for most people. My plan was to reduce my weekly volume from 14-16 hours a week to around 10 hours a week once I began incorporating running and swimming in to my programme, to allow time for the other two disciplines but also for more recovery time. One change I did make right away was to ride the TT for 75% of the overall bike training time. 

During the first phase of my new bike regime I underwent some aero testing with Wattshop to optimise my position and reduce my CdA to get more aero. CdA is the coefficient of drag multiplied by frontal area and is a representation of how aerodynamically efficient the rider is, simply put the lower the CdA the more aero you are and the faster you will go for a given power output. Following some positional changes my result was a CdA of 0.192 which represented a significant improvement. To put this number in to context an average road cycling position would be around 0.4. JR


As I mentioned earlier a lot of this post is based on conversations in the cafe which Jack rode to on his TT bike. Inevitably these chats reminded me of my own approach to triathlon bike training back in the day. One of the fundamental and most obvious mistakes I made was to not ride my triathlon race bike enough, nowhere near enough. 

    Two of my tri bikes from back then looking good, probably because they didn't get much use. 

When I thought about it I didn't ride them at all in the winter and only once a week or so in the summer. I had several decent triathlon bikes over the years but I never really felt great riding any of them and probably didn't run that well off them either, especially at Ironman ... hindsight - a wonderful thing.

Fortunately for me half way back from the cafe we have to cross a busy dual carriage way, which gives me a chance to catch up, get my breath back and snap a picture for Instagram. 

Bike - Phase 2: Once the other disciplines were embedded I focused specifically on training for the demands of the event. This involved spending a lot of my training time right at my aerobic threshold, the intensity I intended to ride the bike section of the race at, this roughly translated as 150-155bpm, 250-258w. Alongside that I completed a weekly session focused on short intervals above lactic thrshold/LT2. I continued to spend 75% of the weeks training on the time trial bike. The only times that I didn’t ride theTT bike were for the sessions that required efforts above LT2 as the nature of the position on the time trial bike can be a barrier to producing power at the higher zones. 

(above) Aerobic threshold/LT1 development cycling session. 3 x 30 minutes at LT1 during a 2hour 20minute ride. JR
For those readers who like me prefer imperial, that's 56 miles at an average speed of 24.4 mph - solo ! 

Future: My main cycling objective is to improve power and function at my aerobic threshold, whilst maintaining my cycling strength and at the same time maintain my training volume and intensity distribution to compliment the other disciplines. As well as racing triathlons I also want to remain competitive at a national level within cycling, which I have had to factor into my approach. My plan is to balance a season of 70.3 races with 15-25 bike races, which hopefully with careful planning should be achievable. JR

Above Jack's bike at the cafe and even on the easy days it's still all about getting as aero as possible. Apart from the very obvious there are some details in this picture that you might not notice at first glance, like the aero nutrition box on the top tube, the aero brake calipers, the aero cover on the valve stem and aero skewers, details are important in the aero game that's for sure. I featured aerodynamics on the blog a couple of times back in 2017 (although things have moved on significantly since then) so if you are interested in reading a bit more here is a link to an interview I did with the man behind Wattshop 'Mr Aero' himself Dan Bigham and also here a post On getting aero based on a day of testing at Derby velodrome.

Run Phase 1: As well as the mistake of not doing enough open water swimming my other major mistake was in my initial run training. Fairly predictably my enthusiasm to get stuck in prevailed over patience and I increased the load and intensity far too quickly (30km, WK 2).This led to an injury that forced me to take a two week break from running in July. On reflection one thing that I did well in this period (pre-injury) was to include short runs directly off the bike to embed this from the start. JR

Above a run workout from Phase 1 – too fast and too far for my ability at the time. The average heart rate for this run was 168bpm, After two months of consistent run training I could run this distance at this pace at around 150bpm. JR

Run progress - slower speed but controlled HR 151bpm average. JR

A Phase 2 brick run combined with a key bike session that was ridden above Aerobic threshold/LT1 intensity.JR 
Run Phase 2: After recovering from injury I built volume and intensity gradually. Starting at 50 minutes per week over three sessions, and increasing that by 10% each week. I scheduled the run workouts into the weekly plan with a minimum of one day between workouts and spent 80% of the overall run duration under my LT1/aerobic threshold, regardless of pace. Over the five weeks of structured work my running developed well, peaking at a maximum of 34km per week.  
Future: Running consistently all winter is going to be really important, following the transition period I intend to build  up to consistent weeks of 50-60km. I want to be able to run fast, whilst working to build running economy and develop a solid aerobic run foundation. JR

On the way home from the cafe and another opportunity for me to catch up as Hannah takes the 'position analysis' picture that's at the top of the post.

Thanks for sticking with it and reading to the end, in the the final episode coming in a couple of weeks Jack takes a detailed look at some 'big ticket items' the crucial things that make the difference, the stuff that any cyclist or multi-sport athlete who wants to optimise their performance really should be thinking about.



Sunday, 4 October 2020

Swim first, then ride, then run - how hard can it be ?

Jack Rees pedalling in the desert for Ribble Weldite at the Saudi Tour in February

You may have guessed from the title that despite the opening picture the sport of triathlon is the topic of this one. This is the first episode of a series of three posts and this one will answer the question: Can a full time cyclist, my son Jack, transition (pun intended) into the sport of triathlon in just three months and compete successfully over the very demanding 70.3 distance at the Outlaw X Triathlon ? a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike concluding with a 13.1 mile run. More accurately can two top level racing cyclists do it ? Jack and Ribble/Weldite team mate Jacob Tipper. Episode two will be a closer look at training and equipment and the final episode is going to be on the 'big ticket items' the crucial things that make the difference, the stuff that any cyclist or multi-sport athlete who wants to optimise their performance should know about.

I have written posts on triathlon and Ironman in the past here Origins of Ironman and A postcard from Lanza a place where I had my toughest ever race day and here Conversation with an Ironman . I have a lot of great memories of my own time in the sport, although I competed for twenty eight consecutive seasons I was never much better than average to be honest, but I definitely had a passion (read obsession) for the sport. One thing that I was pretty decent at though was grinding out a finish and my 100% completion record was probably my best achievement. Looking back now at my training diaries, as research for this post has had me shaking my head in disbelief at the stuff I used to do and the mistakes that I made which I will share you in episode two.

Lake Zurich 07.00 hours 17th July 2005 the start of Ironman Switzerland, yes that's me in the centre of the picture in black wetsuit and yellow swim cap. Not what I would describe as one of my 'Glory Days' I made the classic mistake of starting too near the front and as a result IM athletes from every country in Europe promptly swam straight over the top of me, not a great start to the day but I survived (just) and got round for a finish. 
                     The Ribble Weldite Team at the opening of the Saudi Tour in February Jack centre and Jacob second from the left.

After an impressive showing in Saudi followed by a warm weather training camp, the team were soon back in action at the Eddy Soens Memorial, a classic early season race held at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool and with five riders in the top twenty it was a great result and the 2020 season was shaping up to be their best ever. For more on the team hit this link to my post on last years Tour de Yorkshire

                                        Jacob Tipper taking the win at the Soens for Ribble Weldite (pictures courtesy of  VeloUK)

                                                                                                        Jack at the Soens
Competing consistently at the highest level in one sport is difficult enough but is it possible to add two more disciplines in a very short time and compete in one of the biggest UK triathlons of the (depleted) 2020 season ? I'll let Jack take over from here:

I have been competing nationally and internationally as a cyclist for nearly ten years with the now UCI Continental team, Ribble Weldtite Pro Cycling This year was shaping up to be our biggest yet starting in February with the Saudi Tour a five day stage race with World Tour teams. I followed this up with an intensive two-week training camp in Calpe Spain with the team to prepare for the big races to come. Then everything changed. The uncertainty around COVID slowed things down massively and provided what felt initially like an almost infinite amount of time, the framework, competition and structure of a typical year gone. It felt like an chance to set some new challenges and fresh objectives, initially just as something different to focus on, a distraction as much as anything else. JR

My interest in triathlon no doubt stems from early memories of great family holidays to exotic destinations while 'guess who' pursued his quest for M dots. My own endurance sport journey actually started with swimming which led me to dabbling in multisport for a while in my early teens before developing a real love of cycling, which has been my singular focus for the last fifteen years. JR        

                            The Outlaw start - not the way I remember triathlon starts but we now live and race in very different times.

The swim was the most challenging part of the day without a shadow of doubt, despite having a bit of a background in swimming as a teenager. In the lead up to the event my pool swim training had gone better than expected, but anyone who has swam in open water vs in a pool can attest to the stark contrast between the two environments. Prior to race day I managed to experience open water swimming for the first time, just once, in hindsight this was a bit of a mistake (lol) and it certainly didn't prepare me well for the big day. JR

The night before the race the decision was made to shorten the swim due to the low air and water temperatures. Because of the current restrictions the swim was an individual start with 6 secondss between each competitor, this was brilliantly managed by the organisers, but meant no time to acclimatises to the water on what was already a pretty cold day (6 degrees at the start time of 7.25). I didn't really race in the lake, it turned out to be a matter of survival and completion. I never really adapted to the water temperature and just got through with of a mix of head up freestyle and panting like an animal. It was an understatement to say I was quite relived to exit the water, and quickly made a mental note to self 'need much more open water practice going forward' JR

I can definitely relate to Jack's 'head up freestyle panting like an animal' comment. In the picture above from 2004 I am at the Wetherby triathlon doing the same thing in the very cold River Wharfe that had been swollen by several weeks of heavy rain ... another day out that didn't start well.
Above Jack on the bike leg at Outlaw he looked fast and he was fast - aerodynamics, one of the 'big ticket items' we will take a close look at in Episode 3
The Outlaw bike leg was one big lap, a mix of undulating country roads and A-road sections. The bike went really well, I focused on riding to speed whilst watching the power on the course. It was really challenging to have no one to race with on the bike, instead I focussed on making my way through the field as best I could. The bike was always going to be my strongest discipline. I finished the bike with the 30th fastest bike split in a field of well over a 1200, which I was pleased with considering my relative inexperience of pacing a 56 mile bike to leave enough energy to run a half marathon after. JR
The run was three laps of the Thoresby Park Estate, a mix of cement roads, grass and trails and was quite undulating. I held together reasonably well running pretty much evenly across the three laps and coming in within 3-4 minutes of what I had hoped for. That makes it sound like it was a formality ... it wasn't ! The run is by far the most demanding of the three disciplines - especially for a bike rider and with the added difficulty of mixed terrain, something else that I hadn't really prepared for. It was not only the furthest that I had ever run off the bike it was the furthest I had run - ever. I was digging pretty deep by the second lap with the off-road sections really taking a toll on my legs. During the third lap there were definitely some dark moments, I just tried to focus on the simple advice "just keep putting one foot in front of the other" JR

So the answer to the question posed at the top of the post is YES and they can do it and pretty well too ! 46th place for Jacob Tipper with a 4 hour 20 minutes and 4 hours 34 minutes for Jack for 102nd from a field of over 1200 finishers is impressive. As you would expect some important lessons learned that we will look at in the next two episodes. Thanks for reading.


Sunday, 13 September 2020

The 'Game Changer' ? ... with changes.

I don't normally do product reviews on the blog as other people can do them a lot better than I can, but because it is a little bit different I've decided to do one on my new gravel bike the Topstone Carbon Black 105 from Cannondale. When I say a  review I've made a few changes to the bike since I got it so this post is also about the bits I've changed as much as what I think of the bike. Before I continue I should make it clear that I bought the bike, I got a good deal on the bike, from EPIC CYCLES who I don't have any association with and it's the first time that I have ever bought anything from them, they were great to deal with though and I would happily buy from them again. It's also my first Cannondale  and I bought it on a bit of whim just because I liked the idea of a bit of rear suspension on a gravel bike (and because it was black) so my 'review' is independent and just my impressions. Also bear in mind that I am definitely not a 'tech head' when it comes to bikes, basically I like riding them and I like my bikes to look good for Instagram pictures ... obviously. 
I'm not new to gravel bikes, I've been riding an aluminium Giant Revolt since 2015 and its been a great bike which I still use. My off-road riding is pretty tame stuff really, mostly on a combination of cycle paths, gravel trails and bridleways so with a lot of changes in surface which for me is the perfect environment for a carbon gravel bike with rear suspension, hence my impulsive decision to click the mouse button on the Topstone
The Cannondale King Pin suspension system is basically a pivot point where the specially shaped chain stay meets the seat tube giving 30 mm of rear travel. It doesn't really feel like a suspension system when you are riding and there is definitely no 'bounce'. If you were to ride it for the first time with a blindfold on (not sure why you would ?) I'm pretty sure the majority of people wouldn't identify it as having any rear suspension at all as it's a very subtle set up. Even when you get out of the saddle or press hard on the pedals on the road it actually feels stiff and really fast, with smooth tyres I would think it's performance would be comparable to the average mid range carbon road bike. 
The Topstone has been described as a 'Game Changer' by some cycling journalists, I'm not sure about that, to be honest, but who am I to argue ? In my experience the performance of the rear end is definitely a bit special and it copes with changes in surface unbelievably well. There is rarely any loss of traction at the back wheel so you can maintain your hard earned speed more easily and that perfectly suits the style of riding that I do, which is great. The only slight problem with having a superbly performing rear end is that it makes the front end performance feel just a bit ... well, ordinary to be honest. 
After a few weeks of riding and a bit of trial and error with tyre pressures I decided to upgrade the tyres on the Topstone mainly to try and even out the ride sensations but also because I wanted a tubeless set up. Hutchinson have been making bike tyres since 1890 and are the leaders in tubeless tyres so were the obvious choice and I am now rolling on their excellent Touareg's and I've gone up in size from 37- 40 mm. I now run the front tyre at a slightly lower pressure than the rear and what a difference this set up has made. With the bigger Hutchinson tubeless tyres straight away the front end sensations felt smoother and overall the ride was more even in terms of quality and more comfortable. Not only that but I think I gained more grip too and felt like I was able to carry even more speed over whatever surfaces I was on. 
The tan revolution continues. I have been really impressed with the Hutchinsontires tyres so much so that I now have them on my #2 gravel bike the Giant Revolt and on both my road bikes ... and my MTB. 
There is nothing ordinary about the way the front end feels or looks now that I have it fully equipped for endurance riding. The bar bag and bolt-on aero bars are both from Australian company who specialise in endurance inspired bike solutions and who have a great range of well designed innovate products. This bag is just the right size and and secures with a couple of velcro straps. I now use it on my road bikes too, so that my rain jacket, multi-tool and a couple of emergency gels are there if I need them.
A closer look at the Farr aero bolt-on bars that weigh in at only 98 grams and are a superb bit of kit. I have been asked a few times about the aero benefit of these bars on a gravel bike and is there any point?  Well in my opinion 100% yes there is, especially if you assume an aero postion. The bars offer multiple hand positions which allow me to drop my forearms and tuck my elbows in, with shrugged shoulders and head low I can go quicker on any surface thanks to the aero bars, no doubt about it. On days when I am not really pushing the pace the range of hand positions available means that I can always always get into a relaxed position and I ride on them a lot of the time, especially on tarmac. 
Touareg tan walls from Hutchinson meant that brown bar tape was a must, I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea but I really like it, this is from Californian brand Supacaz which I have never used before and is apparently Peter Sagan's favourite. It's got that really grippy feel and it also comes with bar end plugs that are secured with an expansion bolt which is always a sign of quality tape. The top tube box was from Wiggle/Prime and I bought simply because the Topstone has the bolts in the top tube to fit it but it has turned out to be really useful. 
As you might expect I take my mid-ride nutrition requirements really seriously ... and my Jelly Babies have never travelled in such style.

No bike is perfect so you are probably thinking that there must be something that I don't like about the Topstone well there isn't really. The only slight issue I had when I first got it was that on some coarse tarmac there was a slight hum/buzz from the front fork which turned out to be from the internally routed hydraulic line. On smooth roads it wasn't there and off road I couldn't hear it due to the additional tyre noise, any way it irritated me for a while but a bit of 'gaffer tape' on the inside of the fork where the line exited, along with the tyre upgrade solved it. 
To say that's the only issue I've had is not strictly true because on my very first ride and only three miles from home I managed to snap the rear derailleur hanger clean in two. No fault could be attributed to the bike for this unfortunate mechanical mishap however, I hold my hands up and confess that I was completely to blame (I still don't like to talk about it to be honest) but if you are that way inclined you can read the full tragic tale here Secrets of the balancing bike trick.
I've told you about the front end improvement so I had include a picture of the Topstone's artistically enhanced rear end, a personalised Asssaver Kaliedo probably a love it or hate it addition but I think I might stick with it. I also have a little Asssaver at the front which is more for looks than function although it probably stops a bit of spray and stops the some off-road gunge from getting to the headset.
Suspension on a gravel bike is something relatively new so  the jury is probably still out on whether it's actually necessary or not. The more I ride the Topstone the more highly I rate it and after three months and a fair few miles my final comment on the Topstone, I absolutely love it !


Sunday, 16 August 2020

Wearwell CC a brand with history - revived.

The Covid-pandemic has thrown up a lot of challenges for all of us and lots of folks have missed out the things that they would have enjoyed during the summer, for me that means no racing season for the first time in thirty six years, I did manage half a dozen low key events in January and February so at least I've pinned a number on this year which is more than most people. 

It now seems clear that there will be no 'meaningful' bike racing in the UK for the whole of 2020, there are some time trials around of course but to be honest any race format that doesn't allow me to keep my beard out of the wind is a none starter for me (just saying) So a full year of racing has been lost and it's been a big blow to a lot of people, me included. Missing the whole season is also likely to have put the future of some of our longest standing events at risk. So if one year is a big loss and damaging to the sport what effect would sixty years without racing on the roads have ? why the question ? because that was the length of time up to the middle of the last century that road racing in the UK didn't happen. Bike racing on Britain's roads was effectively banned in 1890, a ban that was put in place by the then governing body of cycling the National Cyclists Union (NCU) and driven by increasing hostility towards racing on public roads (sound familiar ?).
                                                    Wearwell a historic British cycling brand now revived after a gap of over forty years.

I have been reflecting on this situation and it prompted me to do a bit of research to remind myself of the full story and the circumstances behind it, in doing that I came across a website called Tour Racing which is a great resource if you have any interest at all in the history of cycling's big races from the 1950's onward's. There are some great pictures on the Tour-Racing site and one that caught my attention (above) led me to some British cycling history that I had never heard of, the story of a historic cycling brand called Wearwell Cycles I'm not a cycling historian by any means, although I have written a couple of cycling history posts in the past, including this one on women's cycling from Bloomers to Boom-Pods 

What I like about the Wearwell story is that it has all the ingredients of a classic cycling saga, a bitter feud, intrigue and betrayal and triumph against the odds. It's a story definitely worthy of re-telling but as it is recounted in detail on the Wearwell CC website there is no need for me to cover it all here, so I will just touch on a little of Wearwell's history and their participation in the very early editions of the Tour of Britain. 
The original Wearwell Cycle Company Ltd was established in Wolverhampton in 1889 as a bicycle manufacturer and was owned from 1922 by a man called George Alexander Waine, I'll come back to old George a little later. The Wearwell story starts with a company called the Cogent Cycle Company was founded by Henry Clarke in 1867 unfortunately Henry died prematurely and the business was taken over by his five sons who promptly had a family feud over how the company should be run. At this point The Wearwell Cycle Company was formed by four of the Clarke brothers who wanted the brand to stand for quality, honesty and integrity. By the early 1900's Wearwell were producing over five hundred bikes per week and exporting them all over the world. Unfortunately this is where the intrigue and betrayal part of the story happened and you can read about that here Wearwell History

I love this picture from the Tour of Britain: the spectators, the cap, the bottle (and stopper), the knitted Wearwell jersey over what looks like a wool crew neck base layer, really cool  ... or perhaps not ? 

So going back to the start, why was racing banned in the first place ? well it was essentially an issue of social class, racing events on public roads had quickly become very popular and were regarded by many as disruptive working class gatherings that disturbed the weekend tranquillity of the countryside. Obviously these were very different times but not too difficult to see the similarities with  the current amateur racing scene (pre-Covid) and the difficulties that race organisers face in some parts of the country. Anyway, in its wisdom the NCU decided that it was their duty to preserve cycling as a gentleman’s leisure pursuit as they were concerned that the unpopularity of racing with the public, would lead to a total ban on cycling as a recreational activity, sounds odd now but that was their reasoning.

It wasn't until 1922 when the Road Racing Council (RRC) was formed that racing on public roads in Britain was officially sanctioned, and then only in the form of time trials against the clock. Follow this link to my post on the origins and history of UK time trialling with the rather catchy title Scorching - and pretending not to race. (if you read the post and you will understand) Even with time trials now taking place bunch racing remained confined to motor racing circuits or private roads.

This situation remained until Percy Thornley Stallard a Wolverhampton bicycle shop owner, instigated the re-introduction of road racing in the UK by staging an ‘illegal' road race from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on 7th June 1942. The NCU promptly suspended all those involved and in response Stallard founded the British League of Racing Cyclists (BLRC). It was this organisation that re-introduced massed start road racing in Britain by attracting sponsorship and publicity following the continental format and it was this approach that eventually led to the first Tour of Britain in 1951 under the sponsorship of The Daily Express.

In 1952 Wearwell sent their first sponsored team to compete in the second edition of The Tour of Britain although the young and fairly inexperienced squad failed to make their mark despite regularly placing riders in breakaways, the next year was to be completely different story with a much stronger team of Trevor Fenwick, Johnny Welch, John Pottier, Les Scales and Ian Greenfield.

In the 1953 edition of the tour the Wearwell Cycles squad became champions of Britain winning the Team Classification by taking four podium places on the General Classification and Les Scales taking 2nd and 3rd John Pottier 3rd having been the first British rider to wear the Yellow jersey against continental opposition. In 1954 Wearwell were again represented at the now thirteen stage Tour of Britain with a stronger six man squad this time taking three stage wins and a six podiums.  

 "The Wearwell riders took team honours. theirs was no fluke victory. Study the result lists and you will find no team more consistent in its placings, each man playing his part at the right time. They derved every minute of their win. And there are a quite a lot of minutes in 210 hours 28 minutes 2 secs"
                                                                                       The Bicycle 23rd September 1953

Unfortunately during the difficult economic times of the 1970's coupled with a rapid increase in car ownership bike sales took a huge hit and after struggling on until 1975 the Wearwell company finally closed its doors and that was the end of the 100 year history of the Wearwell brand - until recently.

The current Wearwell kit, you can always tell when people are serious about what they are doing with a brand from the effort that they put in to the small details, when the packaging and presentation are first class you just know the contents are going to be good. It's not just about the packaging though, anybody can do that, what particularly impressed me is the effort made to make the link to Wearwell's history, like enclosing a picture of  John Pottier, yellow jersey wearer at the 1953 Tour of Britain with an account of Stage 6, the 151 miles from Newcastle to Glasgow, along with a post card sized image of the Wearwell Tour squad.
  I have been riding in Wearwell kit it for a couple of weeks now and posting pictures on Instagram obviously, the quality is top notch and everything about it gives you the feeling that Will Laughton and Alex Joynson the guys behind Wearwell really do care passionately about the brand and it's revival. Possibly not too surprising in Alex's case as  Wearwell CC  represents the re-birth of his family business and an opportunity to contribute to the family cycling legacy, remember George Alexander Waine at the top of the post who bought the company in 1922 well that was Alex's great-great Grandfather.



Sunday, 21 June 2020

Secrets of the balancing bike trick - revealed.

You may have seen pictures in cycling magazines of bikes mysteriously standing up on their own and if you are an Instagram user you will definitely have seen seen lots of pictures of balancing bikes. I don't know how professional photographers do it for their pictures in the glossy bike mags but I've developed my own method that works pretty well all be it with a bit of risk ... to the bike, not to me.
Here is one of my Instagram: tony_rees123 shots of my trusty Giant 29er seemingly balanced on its own, strategically positioned in front of a puddle with a cloudy sky in the background to get the maximum reflection effect - but how is it done ?
Sometimes people just balance their bikes by putting something under a pedal, a water bottle (tricky) or their helmet (not ideal) or on whatever is to hand when they are taking the picture, something like a half inflated football, although you're probably not going to come across one of those very often. Of course none these are strictly speaking balance bike shots because we can see how its done.
But in the very unlikely event that you do come across an abandoned football you can get a much better picture if you know the balancing bike trick.
There are a couple of key elements to a good balancing bike picture and number one is a good location, bridges are good, as are subways and nice empty roads work well, but anywhere will do as long as you have the second most important thing - a windless day ! don't try this in anything other than the stillest conditions, it will end in tears, trust me I know.
When I said at the start of this post that this trick is not without risk I was speaking from my own recent painful experience. Above is picture of my brand new Cannondale Topstone gravel bike pictured (balancing) at one of my favourite Instagram locations, a graffiti covered subway which is only a few minutes ride from where I live. I took this picture on my very first ride on the new bike and I was so keen to take some pictures of it that I decided to go for a balance bike shot ... in less than optimal conditions, you can probably guess what happened - yes a split second after taking this shot my shiny new and expensive gravel bike that I had ridden all of three miles fell over, worst of all it fell towards me but I wasn't quick enough to catch it and it hit the concrete hard and snapped the rear derailleur hanger clean off, I kid you not ! 
Multiple expletives followed and then a call to Mrs Rees to come and pick me up, but first I had a fifteen minute walk across fields to the nearest road carrying my brand new (broken) gravel bike, muttering away to myself the whole way, not how I expected my first ride on the new machine to end. Fortunately the only other damage was a bit of a scuff on the bar tape and I had a new hanger fitted within a couple of days and the Topstone was sorted. 
 I will be doing a full review on the Cannondale (a gravel bike with suspension) on the blog as soon as I have done a few more rides on it and taken a few more pictures obviously. Although after my upsetting maiden ride episode I decided not to take any chances and ordered another replacement hanger for it and one for each of my other bikes too ... just in case.
OK so I have kept you waiting long enough, hands up if you want to know how to do your own balancing bike pictures.

You will probably not be too surprised if I tell you that bikes won't stand up on their own, well not for more than a second anyway, something to do with gravity apparently, so you will need some way of supporting the bike in a vertical position. I use a custom made device designed and manufactured to the most exacting specification specifically for the job - a bit of metal tube with the end bent over.
In this picture I have supported the bike where the chain stay joins the seat tube but I also have a shorter tube that does the job, cut to length to fit underneath the rear bottle cage. The shorter support is useful as it fits inside my pack pack which is handy, with the long tube getting it to the my chosen location is a bit trickier, I generally tape it to the top tube wrapped it in some pipe insulation, can't be too careful, there is enough potential for damage taking the pics without scratching the bike on the way to take them.
Once you have taken your picture, hopefully without the bike hitting the deck all you have to do is remove the support from the picture and as with most things in life these days you can get an app for that. The one I use is called RETOUCH which is free to download for the Iphone and is fairly simple, you just use the 'quick brush' feature to get rid of your support. What the app actually does is move parts of the image around to cover up what you want to disappear, so there is a bit of a knack to and it does take a little bit of practice. When you take your picture if you position your support so that it will be against a plain background (as above) you can make it disappear in a way that is almost impossible to detect.

So that's it, I have let you in on all of my balancing bike picture taking secrets, well ... almost all.
Probably best not to attempt this one until you've had a bit of practice as you could easily end up breaking a lot more than just a derailleur hanger. Thanks for reading.

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