Cycling

Strava: Just Look At That Cyclist Go!

In order to cycle the length of Japan (more details here), one of my priorities needs to be to get fit again. I’ve got plenty of time; 2020 is my planned departure date. Prior to all three of the long European cycles, I was cycling on a regular basis to and from work and it was this daily ride that was keeping me fit. It was a 14 miles / 22 km round trip across a pretty corner of Oxfordshire from Reading to Henley-on-Thames and back again. It was not without its challenges with a couple of steep hills to contend with in both directions:

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Here’s a flavour of that ride in a video from late 2014, shortly before I quit my job to head off across the continent for the third time:

My commute since returning to Yorkshire has been tweaked several times: you can watch one version of the ride when I was working at the local school here. Now, however, my professional life is more complicated and cycling every day is simply not an option. This morning, for example, I received a call at 7:40am asking me to go to a school in Todmorden at the other end of the Calder Valley. Had I cycled, I wouldn’t have arrived in time to start teaching. And then there would be the issues of storing the bike and changing. Excuses, I know, but reasonable ones. However, at least twice – often three times – a week I work at Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax. This gives me the opportunity to get back into regularly commuting by bike and I have been doing so, on and off, for the past six months.

Now I’m no martyr at the altar of speed. My trundles across Europe and elsewhere have been at a sedate pace, punctuated by very occasional forays into the land of the racing cyclists, usually when going downhill. I have, however, always tried to record my routes and all the associated statistics using a GPS app. For the 2013 and 2015 rides from Greece to Portugal and from Spain to Norway respectively, this was Cyclemeter. It has served me well and has been of particular use when writing the books with its easy to use links back to Google Maps, Google Streetview and, if needed, Google Earth. About a year or so ago, however, I did enter the murky world of Strava…

Love it or hate it (I’m a fan, with caveats), it does a cracking job of not only recording your riding (or running or even swimming) but comparing your rides to similar ones of others. It’s interesting, if a tad dispiriting, to see how slow you are compared with one of the ‘KOM’ or ‘QOM’ speedsters. Fortunately, you can also compare yourself to, well, the only person you should ever compare yourself to: yourself. The ‘segments’ into which your Strava rides are chopped are many and varied; some very short (ridiculously so at times), other much longer. Since starting to record my rides to and from Halifax from my home near the village of Stainland, there is one segment upon which I have become increasingly, well, obsessed. It’s this one:

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If maps and profile charts aren’t your thing, as I was driving up the road earlier today, I made this short video:

As you can see, after about 750 metres on the flat it’s a long, steady climb between 7% and 8% before it flattens off slightly to around 4% in the final 200 metres. Here is the segment online should you wish to see the detail (no login required) and here are my recorded attempts at the segment:

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 07.37.44

If it were a school report, I’d be commenting upon the gradual improvement, despite the odd dip (most recently earlier this week). My slowest time is 16 mins 22 secs, my fastest is 13 mins 1 sec. The King of the Mountain is Kieran Manchester who claimed his titled with an astonishing time of 6 mins 30 secs (I would have loved to see him fly up the road!) and the Queen of the Mountain Nikola Matthews with a time of 9 mins 26 secs. Here is Kieran:

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 07.41.36

He’s clearly built for speed. I’m not. So I’m not aiming for anywhere near 6 mins 30 secs. I do think, however, that a long-term target of 10 minutes for the 2.72 km climb is not unreasonable. Challenging, yes, but not impossible. It is something to aim for and, if successful, I’ll be speeding up Mount Fuji in Japan in the summer of 2020 faster than you can say そのサイクリストを見てください!

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Categories: Cycling, Japan 2020

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