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Richmond Cycles Journal:

Winter Training with Melissa Tarver

Winter Training Part 2: Rebalance & Reboot

November 30th, 2018

There’s no doubt that we all need a bit of help with motivation over the Winter. But these cold, dark months can also provide a great opportunity – to build strength and improve body conditioning. When you find the right way to train in Winter, you’ll set yourself up for the Spring and Summer.

In our last blog, Cycling Coach, Holly Seear, talked about goal setting and planning your training routine. In this blog we share insights from Personal Trainer, Melissa Tarver from The Training Works, into the huge benefits of strength and conditioning training.

HARD CORE

The primary objective of strength and conditioning training is to prevent injury. Then it is to improve your sports performance by working all of the muscle groups and – crucially – your core.

For cyclists, retaining and building strength often has a lower body focus – it’s your legs you want to stay strong through the Winter. But now is also the opportunity to get balance back into the body after being crouched over the handle bars all Summer.

Many of those who come to us at The Training Works are runners and cyclists. They have decent leg strength but are suffering with back, knee or shoulder pain from repeat exercise. The key is to move in different planes – sideways & rotation – to work less-used muscles with a particular awareness on posture, back and core strength for stabilisation.

When you’re cycling, you will feel the benefit of this stability. If you’ve got a strong core you are able to ride more efficiently by reducing body movement and driving more power through the legs.

COMPLEMENTARY EXERCISE

Yoga and Pilates are a great way to increase your flexibility and use your core – moving sideways, backwards and twisting.

In Yoga the focus is on stretching out and improving flexibility in your whole body while in Pilates you’re working specifically on core, breaking it down to the very basic components of engaging the different core muscle sets.
They also both work the ancillary muscles that stabilise you. This will all help with the cycling confidence techniques Holly highlighted, such as tighter cornering, eating and drinking while you’re on the bike, or adding/removing layers of clothing.

MASSAGE THERAPY

Sometimes no amount of stretching gets the tightness out of your muscles so seeing a massage therapist is really useful. Regular massages reduce tightness and promote circulation. A good massage therapist can actually tell how well you’ve been looking after yourself. In addition to training, if your nutrition is not right, or if you’re dehydrated, knots form in your muscles. It’s really important to have all that straightened out but just bear in mind that it’s not particularly relaxing if you’re having a really good sports massage – consider it part of the training!

SLEEP HYGIENE

People have different sleep disruptors and there’s a lot of talk about sleep hygiene – dark, cool room, warm bath before bed, and so on. It’s easy to get really obsessed about this.
But the main cause of disrupted sleep is overheating/dehydration.

Aim to drink 1.5-3 litres of water a day. Try to load it towards the beginning and the middle of the day so you’re not drinking loads in the evening and then getting up in the night for another reason. For those who want a better nights sleep, a good, straightforward approach is outlined in The Effortless Sleep Method [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Effortless-Sleep-Method-Incredible-Insomnia-ebook/dp/B004UC4ZNM]

NUTRITION THAT WORKS FOR YOU

Some people want to be prescribed timed meals to the gram, and know the exact amounts of protein, fat and carbs they should be having. You eat for energy, and aiming for a balanced diet that covers your additional needs for training should not be too difficult to achieve. Apps like myfitnesspal are great for helping you keep track. If you enjoy snack foods and find that ‘the pack is the portion’… then don’t put the temptation of packets of biscuits or large bags of crisps in your way.

At the most basic level, you can simply aim to keep a proportion of your meals really clean and healthy following an 80:20 rule. This means in a normal week, assuming you have three meals a day, try and keep 17 of them healthy. No junk, mainly vegetables, plus protein and fat. Try and prepare as many of your meals as possible yourself and at home. Stay close to nature. If something needs advertising you probably shouldn’t be eating it. If you are thinking of taking supplements other than a basic multi-vitamin, it’s best to consult a doctor first, or you can do more harm than good.

 

The Training Works

MELISSA’S TRAINING BASICS

If you are cycling through the winter and you want to spend some time in the gym or indoors doing some strength and conditioning I would recommend resistance training twice a week, and altogether with cycling, a maximum of five days with two full rest days. Training should include Pilates and/or Yoga, but you can also do these on your rest days. Here are some specifics on training different muscle groups.

LEGS

You need to Lift to get your legs strong. Squats and deadlifts will work the large leg muscle groups, your glutes, quads and hamstrings. If you’re at home without weights (and no knee issues), you can try some HIIT or plyometric workouts including jumping which are great for increasing strength. Single leg work is really important for stability and strengthening your ankles, knees and hips.
If you’ve been on a Wattbike, or anything that measures your left versus your right power, there normally is a difference. Single leg work can really help bring that back into balance.

BACK

Being stretched over a bike all Summer can lead to stretched, weak muscles and tension around the neck, upper, mid and lower back. Now’s the time to strengthen those muscles and activate the length of the spine. Pulling exercises are great so head for the rowing machine, include lat pulldowns and single arm rows in your workout.

CHEST, SHOULDERS & UPPER ARMS

These are the muscles you use when you’re pressing down on the handle bars – so you can get tight in the chest. Focus on chest presses – lying or sitting, you will strengthen the pecs and can stretch them off a little as you release back to the starting position. Shoulder presses work muscles not much used on the bike but important for stabilisation.

CORE

It always comes back to the core, the key to overall strength, conditioning and balance. Side planks are great for working obliques. Lying on your back, try hip hitches to work the TVA (the muscle that works like a corset below your belly button and is the main support for your lumber). Remember, you can work your core every single day because it’s a muscle set that recovers quickly.

For more information about fitness, classes or therapies such as massage or sports nutrition see www.trainingworks.london or call to speak to Melissa or her team on 020 8892 2493

Winter Training

Winter Training Part 1: Goal Setting

November 21st, 2018

Clocks have gone back and it’s already feeling colder, wetter and a whole lot less appealing to get out on the bike. Not only that, there is less daylight to ride by. But we still have aspirations for the Spring and don’t want to lose the momentum we’ve built up so far.

Deciding it was time to get a professional take on what to do, we invited British Cycling coach Holly Seear from Spring Cycle Coaching and Melissa Tarver, Personal Trainer from the Training Works to the shop to share their insights about approaching Winter Training.

Here we share some of Holly’s top advice.

British Cycling Coach Holly Seear
British Cycling Coach Holly Seear

THE GOAL DIFFERENCE

Autumn is a really good time to reflect on what you’ve done this year on your bike. Think about what you enjoyed, what went well, what didn’t go so well, what you are most proud of. Then it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

Your goals don’t have to be massive. But you’ve got to know what you’re aiming for. It helps to plan some stepping stones. Your big, main goal is your A goal, but you also need some B and C goals – smaller events or milestones. If something goes wrong with your A goal, circumstances out of your control mean that it doesn’t happen, you’ve still achieved your Bs and Cs so you’ve still got something to be proud of.

Once you’ve set your A goal, tell the world. Tell your friends, post it on social media, stick it on your fridge – anywhere you’re going to see it all the time over Winter. So when you are in those dark, cold months and things are getting hard, you can remind yourself why you’re actually doing this.

Quick Tip: Make sure your goals are yours and not because someone else wants a buddy. You need to be 100% IN or you’ll be more tempted to back out.

GET PLANNING

You’re highly unlikely to meet your goal if you just wing it. Don’t wake up in the morning, look out the window and think, “It’s sunny out there, maybe I’ll go for a ride.” Spend some time planning your training.

It doesn’t have to be hugely complicated. If you’re training for a sportive in 20 weeks’ time, break that down into five blocks of four weeks. Then make sure your training progressively builds to reflect the demands of the event you’re aiming for. This is called periodisation. The closer you get to your event, the more like the goal the training needs to become.

TIME TO TRAIN

Traditionally in Winter cyclists tend to do lots of high volume, low intensity miles. If you’ve got the time and the weather to do that it’s a great approach to Winter training for endurance. It gives you a solid base and a deep level of aerobic conditioning which you can build on later in the season when you start adding intensity. The disadvantage of these slow, steady Winter miles – apart from the cold, dark conditions – is that you’re only ever going to be good at riding slowly.

MIX THINGS UP

Why not take the opportunity now to mix things up and work on your speed, strength and skills?

What can you be doing to make you a better cyclist, a more confident cyclist, a faster cyclist? How good are you at going round corners, can you click your second foot in without looking down, can you eat and drink while you’re on the bike, or add or remove layers of clothing?

If you usually ride on the road, try mountain biking or cyclocross. Fantastic for fitness, skills and bike handling, you can do them in almost any weather conditions. Don’t fancy being outside? You can do really time efficient, accurate sessions inside on a turbo trainer or on a set of rollers. Or sign up for a session at a velodrome. It’s great fun. And dry and warm.

LOOK AFTER YOURSELF

Constant high intensity and/or high volume training will eventually lead to burn out and injury.  It is important to build some rest and recovery into your training plan. Many riders base their training on a four-week cycle. Three weeks of building fitness, then a week of rest and recovery when volume is significantly reduced – allowing the body to repair and adapt to the training demands.  Complement training with Pilates, Yoga or similar stretching and core conditioning workouts.

And if you’ve had niggles, aches or pains on your bike this year, now is the time to get that sorted. Book yourself in for a Bike Fit and then you can spend the whole Winter training in that new position and adapting to it – especially helpful if you’re thinking about racing or time trials, where you’ll be riding in a more aggressive position.

Richmond Cycles precision fit system
Richmond Cycles Trek Precision Fit System

MOJO MANAGEMENT

It’s perfectly normal to have a dip in motivation come Winter. You’ve probably done loads of miles this year, all your exciting events have finished, and it’s getting dark and cold. Don’t panic. Even professional riders take a break at this time of year. You’re not going to lose much fitness if you take a couple of weeks off, but you may well find that it’s enough to bring you back to training. You’ll be mentally and physically refreshed and ready to crack on.

Join a club or find a group to ride with in Winter. This is great for motivation, gives safety and visibility in numbers and means that, should you have mechanical issues or similar, you are not on your own in grim conditions. Richmond Cycles have group rides you can join including Friday flats and Sunday climbs. They always involve cake.

Now is also the perfect time to think about getting a cycling coach. They’ll tailor your training plan, help develop your skills and give you motivation through your performance plateaus.

And finally, what better way to increase your motivation in Winter than to invest in some good kit. Decent winter gloves, overshoes, and a really good waterproof jacket will make a big difference to how much you enjoy your Winter riding and how likely you are to keep training. So get your bike serviced, fit those lights, mudguards and decent winter tyres, and get going!


MORE INFO

British Cycling Insight zone

Free training plans that can be tweaked and tailored plus tips on technique, equipment and nutrition.

Cyclist’s Training Bible

For working out a year-long bespoke training plan.

 

 

 

JD and Peter Sagan

When John met Peter…Sagan that is.

October 18th, 2018

The Calling

Following a surprise call from his agent in February: “John, would you like to work with Peter Sagan on his new book? We knew that Richmond Cycles couldn’t stand in the way of the opportunity and waved JD off with a promise he’d spill if not all, then some of the good bits.

Here’s what happened next

I had to be at Granada Airport at 5am on a Monday morning. Peter, his manager Gabriele and I were flying to Bratislava on a private jet. They had put a ring around the flight, the two days in Slovakia and the return flight as ideal dead time for us to talk.

You’ve seen Sagan. He’s a bit of a lad. Which could mean he’s great company, but could alternatively mean he’s a bit of a dick. I have great news: he’s a lovely, lovely man. The sort of chap who, when you meet him for the first time at a Spanish airport at 5am, asks you if you want some breakfast, and when you say yes, goes off to try and find you some himself.

I’ve heard some cautionary tales about ghostwriting. A guy charged with turning out 74,000 words on an England cricketer’s bio never actually met the man, but wrote the whole shebang via email questions and online research. With Peter right in the middle of a punishing pre-season altitude training block in Sierra Nevada, I was half expecting him to sleep for most of our trip, but as soon as we squeezed into our eight seater – they call it eight, but you would definitely want to be one of the first four to get a seat, the others are like bike kid seats – he said: “Where do you want to start?”

John and Peter in Spain

We started at the beginning, and we didn’t stop til we got back. And then it carried on over dinners, training rides and multiple phone calls. You’ll be pleased to hear that many of our conversations started with, “Hey, John, funny story for you…”

Oh, and the lad thing isn’t entirely a myth. Next time a Slovakian cyclist and his brother offer you a beer after they’ve made a pitstop at a service station, pick a can yourself….

Not the one they shook up for five minutes before they got back in the car.

Peter Sagan on Cycling

So, over the course of our spring together, I picked up a few things from the triple World Champion and six-time Tour de France Green Jersey winner about bike riding.

Firstly, Peter is renowned for his bike handling, which many put down to his childhood racing BMX and mountain bikes. “Yes,” says Peter, “it’s down to my childhood, but not so much bike riding. It’s to do with being an outdoor kid, you know? Ok, I was riding my bike, yes, but I was climbing trees, making camps in the woods, running up mountains, sledging down them, swimming in lakes… all of these things made me who I am. Yes, you’re training and getting stronger, but more than that, you’re understanding your body, what it can do, learning about co-ordination and developing all sorts of skills. When my boy Marlon is old enough, I want him out there all the time. Sure, I’ll be biting my fingernails about him being safe like any parent, but being out there is what makes us ready to good things. And it’s fun, right?”

The man who won his first world title in Richmond, Virginia by leaving the best riders in the world behind on a downhill has some tips there too. “People don’t train downhill? Why not? They bury themselves to put a minute into me on a climb, then after we go over the top, they don’t know how to go around a corner and I can just freewheel back to them.”

So… did he really invent that sitting on the top tube and pedalling thing? “Invent? No. I just tried all the different ways of going down the hill and saw what was best. It’s normal. Anybody would realise it if they practiced and experimented.” Yeah. I’m going to stick in the saddle Peto, but I appreciate the sentiment.

And cornering?

Our very own pocket rocket Matt Wallis is putting the Champ’s teaching into practice with some serious testing in Richmond. Peter says that the accepted method of braking before a corner, cutting across the apex and accelerating out of it isn’t necessarily the fastest. In fact, in the course of writing My World together, we studied several instances of what Peter calls his “slingshot” technique. Crucially, you need to know the corner well, so this technique is particularly well suited to a circuit race like the World Championship or a well-known parcours like the Tour of Flanders. The slingshot has helped Peter win these races in the past.

Basically, you don’t need to brake. Don’t cut the corner. Sail around the outside, holding your speed, but still accelerate out. Watch videos of Peter in Virginia or in Norway and you’ll see him make up ten or even twenty places, then shoot away as the others try to recoup the speed they scrubbed off.

Does it work on Kingston Gate, Matt? Watch this space.

Of course this doesn’t cover why JD is now sporting a new Sagan brand tattoo….he’s going to be back in TW1 for a book talk at the shop on Dec 6th (7-9pm) so make sure you get him to explain that one away!

Book Tour kicks off

Queen of the road

September 27th, 2018

“Women in cycling tend to be very fit but very underconfident,” says Belinda Scott, Richmond Cycles staffer and founder of women’s cycle club BellaVelo.

A passionate exponent of equality in cycling Belinda is a key part of the Richmond Cycles team and a ride leader, putting us through our paces on the Café Ride every Friday morning. It will come as no surprise that she’s one of Cycling UK’s Top 100 Women in Cycling 2018. She’s also warm, approachable and inspiring. And she knows her stuff.

When we got together for a chat at the shop earlier this year she had just returned from providing support on Chase The Sun. This 205 mile ride sets off at 4:40am at the Isle of Sheppey and finishes on the other side of the country at Burnham on Sea. “It was just incredible, a really nice event,” she says. “It’s what I would call old school. You didn’t have to pay for it, you didn’t have timing chips, all you had was the timing of the sun rising and the sun setting.”

Belinda and Bella Velo
Belinda and Bella Velo

Chase The Sun was just one of many rides that Belinda has taken part in with BellaVelo. Others this year include the Berlin Velothon and L’Etape du Tour. But BellaVelo is not all about competitive racing or sportives. What started as a Facebook group has built into a community of 800 members with a club website, 140 club members and regular rides as well as bigger events. Belinda and her BellaVelo partner Alison Dex also run ride leader training and maintenance courses.

With anything from five to 20 people in a group, BellaVelo sessions are open to everyone. Choose from park laps (in Richmond Park), interval training and Saturday club rides. “We’ve had a few people who say, ‘I’ve been following your Facebook group and I just haven’t plucked up the courage to come along.’” Belinda says. “One of those people turned up today. She has cycled but she was quite slow on hills, so we had three groups – fast, intermediate and slow. If you’ve never ridden in a group before then someone will ride with you one-on-one. Afterwards I asked this lady how she’d found it and she said, ‘I don’t know why I was so scared.’ We are a pretty welcoming group.”

 

For a lot of women, BellaVelo is just the thing they’ve been looking for to indulge their love of cycling. “It’s made me realise – I’ve always just cycled, with whoever I could cycle with or on my own. And I’ve been very lucky,” she admits. “I met a guy and fell in love and we’ve cycled together all over the world, but other women haven’t necessarily had that opportunity. Women who are my age now who I cycle with never did what I did in their thirties because, for example, they had kids. But now they are discovering cycling.”


Belinda on Richmond Cycles

“I find it awful to hear stories about people being ignored or patronised in bike shops. When I met the guys at Richmond Cycles – when I was a customer – I thought, ‘What a nice bunch of people. Knowledgeable, but not arrogant, not cocky.’ We have a whole range of customers and I think we treat them equally, whether they’ve got a shopper bike or a fantastic race bike. And we have kit that’s specifically designed for both men and women. We cater for everyone. But if women cyclists see a woman in the shop I think it helps.”


Belinda on women cyclists

“We were in the park the other day and a guy said, ‘If I wear a skirt can I come and cycle with you?’. I just thought, ‘How patronising can you be?’. A lot of women come to us because they don’t like the ethos that some men’s clubs have of ‘we’re going to chew the handlebars, I’m going to show you how quick I am.’ But we’ve got some really fast women in our group and it’s funny when we go out on rides and we’ve overtaken guys. It’s called being ‘chicked’ if you’re overtaken by a woman. Some of them are great about it but some of them are like, ‘Grrrr…’


Links

http://www.bellavelo.cc

https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/belinda-scott

 

 

 

Class Bob's Bike Show

Classic Bob’s Bike Show

July 25th, 2018

On a warm evening in July, vintage bike enthusiast and Cicli Artigianali club member Bob Johnson joined us at the shop. He brought along a few of his favourite bikes from the 1930s to the 1980s and talked about his love of Campagnolo through a history of the derailleur. Bike geek heaven.

“I came across Bob about 7 or 8 years ago,” explains Richard, by way of introduction. “We’d been out riding a few times when I was invited round to see his workshop. I was absolutely blown away. From the outside it looks like a single car garage, but you go inside and it feels ten times bigger. It’s like the Bat Cave. And it’s all in perfect order. I really must get our mechanics to have a look…”

We’ve had one or two of Bob’s bikes displayed in the shop since we opened and are often asked about them so decided it was time to get Bob in to tell all.

“I rode bikes when I was a kid and I used to build bikes for other kids at school,” says Bob. “I’d make grass track bikes and we’d race them – with no brakes obviously – on the track behind our playing fields. I built and rode bikes until I was 16. At which point you buy a Lambretta and get a girlfriend and you don’t ride any more.”

He took up riding again in his 40s when his friend and business partner bought Hetchins Cycles. “We had an office in South Kensington and I turned the downstairs garage into a bike store. We had maybe 60 or 70. We must have had 50 Hetchins down there. I started riding again and renewed my interest in Italian bikes.”

Hence the beautiful display of celeste Bianchis we had before us. Starting with the 1938 Bovet model complete with the same equipment as ridden to victory in the Tour de France by Gino Bartali.  “Up until 1937 no gears were allowed in the Tour. That’s the first gear that was allowed in. It’s a Vittoria Margherita gear, it’s three speed, and it’s completely rubbish to operate,” he laughs.

Bianchi derailleur 1937
Bianchi derailleur 1937

In 1927 an Italian racer called Tullio Campagnolo (you might have heard of him) came up with an idea that was a true game changer. “In those days you didn’t have derailleurs. You had a cog on each side of the back wheel,  large and small. The wheel was held in the frame by wing nuts.  Larger cog (lower gear) for climbing and you would have to turn the wheel around at the top of a hill to descend and ride the flatter sections,” explains Bob. “One day it was so cold that Tullio couldn’t undo his wing nuts. He got overtaken and lost the race. So he went back to his workshop and invented the quick release hub.” The story goes that he travelled around Italy with a bag of them, selling them to racers and fitting them himself. The design was patented in 1930 and by 1933 he had also patented the Cambio Corsa. Which leads us neatly to Bob’s next bike.

“This was made in 1946, we’ve moved up to 4 gears here. That’s the Cambio Corsa that Campagnolo came up with incorporating his quick release system,” he says, showing how the rear wheel moves forward or backwards in the drop-outs as the axle and drop-outs have teeth to keep the wheel aligned. “Your weight tensions the chain as you go along so it won’t work if you’re not sitting on it. And as soon as you’ve got the next gear you have to lock the quick release again otherwise the wheel’s going to fall out,” he explains, adding, “I’ve not ridden this one yet..!”

In 1949 Campagnolo continued to refine his invention, making it more streamlined by giving it one lever and an internal spring. “I built this bike,” says Bob of the 1951 Bianchi in his display, “and I’ve tried 50 times to change gear on it. Never managed it. I’ve actually had the wheel come out as I’ve back pedaled. I’ve fallen off withthe wheel.”

Bianchi Cambio Corsa
Bianchi Cambio Corsa

Fortunately Fausto Coppi had more luck changing gear than Bob. He rode it at Paris Roubaix in 1950, he won and they renamed it the Paris Roubaix gear after that.

As we move along to his 1953 Bianchi Campione del Mondo, Bob gets animated. “Ta dah! This is the gear. This is the one. In 1950 Campagnolo invented the parallelogram derailleur, the Gran Sport. Every derailleur on every bike ever since, every bike in this building, and every bike you see on the road is based on this idea.

“Everybody used it. The whole of the peloton used it. It was revolutionary. In 1953 Coppi won the Tour de France on it, he won the Giro d’Italia on it, he won just about everything on it. It was just fantastic.”

Next up in the  collection is his 1963 Bianchi Competizione fitted with the last of the chromed bronze derailleurs by Campagnolo, which came out in 1963 and ran until the early 1970s.

Then we come to the first Super Record rear derailleur. “This Bianchi Specialissima is exactly like the bike Felice Gimondi won the 1976 Giro on. This gear is what Merckx used in his 1972 and ’74 Tour wins. This bike is a fantastic piece of kit. In the 1970s this was top of the range. A very modern looking frame. It’s got almost straight forks, a short wheel base, very responsive, very light. Out of all of these, that’s the most ridable bike.”

Favourite Bianchis Bikes
Favourite Bianchis Bikes

Lastly, we move on to a 1986 Bianchi X4 Argentin which is fitted with the last group set  before indexing was introduced. “I like this one, this is the Campagnolo Corsa Record aero group set. The cranks are shaped, the mechs are both shaped. Everything’s made aero. It’s become about the most expensive piece of Campag kit you can get.”

So which of these classic beauties does Bob actually ride? He points to the ’63 Competizione “Our club just rode La Mitica in Italy on these bikes. It’s a ride celebrating Fausto Coppi’s life, starting and finishing at his memorial in his home village of Castellania. If you ride one of these old Bianchis you get free beer. It’s a fantastic event. Unfortunately he lived at the top of a hill…”

See more of Bob’s classic bikes at http://www.cicliartigianali.co.uk

 

 

 

Digging deep to ride up the majestic Mont Faron

March 26th, 2018

Quote from Sean Yates

” I had the yellow jersey by some two minutes going into the 88 edition of Paris-Nice stage and managed to hang onto it by one second by the end. The start was steep, the road is narrow and rough, the run in was dangerous, position was key. So no time to settle in, by the second hairpin there were always guys everywhere. The climb settled down in the second half but by that time the race had already been won and lost.”

Extract from Stubble & Steel by our visiting author,  Tony Blake

 

Today Toulon sprawls across the bay from the smaller tourist harbours to the industrial shipyards and the quiet cove beaches. The town spreads to the foothills of the mountain and comes to an abrupt halt before the ‘Area of Natural Protection’. The town is densely built, and any gap in the buildings is bridged by the white limestone backdrop of the majestic Mont Faron.

This outcrop acts as a natural boundary overlooking Toulon, rising up to a calcareous summit peak at 580 metres above sea level.

Mont Faron is part of a chain of mountains protecting Toulon from the cold Mistral north-west wind which sweeps through Provence. It’s magnificent profile can be seen at the summit of Mont Ventoux several hundred miles north, the mistral blowing the mountain top barren two hundred days of the year. This range of mountains by the coast create the localised microclimate.
There are three ways up to the summit of Mont Faron, a footpath, the road and Téléphérique (cable car).  The road gave me a choice of two right hand turns. Rue Valès or the Chemin du Fort Rouge.

Rue Valès starts to rise dramatically close to the cable car station and touches 15% several times before the actual mountain road begins. This was a slight relief, dropping to 12%.

The Chemin du Fort Rouge road had similar gradients but was shorter. The start of the climb is well signed from either route.
There were wider hairpins, presumably to let larger vehicles through, but ideal as a staging point to launch an attack by riding through the apex as I stood on the pedals.  The gradient was constant, but enough to bite and the asphalt road was a little rough and cracked in places. Recent rains had washed stones and shingle into the middle of the path.
The climb is quite repetitive with long zig-zag sections broken by hairpins with short retaining walls. The edges of the straights were often marked by these discarded rocks and shingle unless the edge was particular precarious and a short wooden barrier would offer a little security for cars that were desperate to overtake.
The climb afforded little shade. The soil erosion from the steep slopes was most likely the cause for the stunted Bonzai pines which allowed views of the port from the very start making a beautiful distraction from the gradient and the effort. Every hairpin offered a new view across the bay. The light of the autumnal sun reflected up from the sea only to strike the white limestone walls of the Mont Faron and send those rays straight back out to sea. The clarity of the light was intense even with eye protection.

Overhead the Téléphérique cables hummed to signal to look up as the cable carts passed over the route heading to the summit.

 The cars run for much of the year but if the winds picked up tourists could be stuck at the top looking for an alternative ride down. The fact they were running today was a good indicator that the Mistral winds were being tamed by the mountain.
Finally the pine trees began to thin and I hoped this was a clue to indicate I must be getting nearer the top. However, the higher I climbed the more exposed I was to the winds. And then the most definitive visual cue –  I caught a glimpse of mountains inland- and from that point the final bend soon arrived and I could see the cable car station that marked the top. With a final look out across the bay of Toulon I was able to take in the full panorama as the road turned away from the sea into a forest area just above upper the Téléphérique cart landing station.

The official top of the climb complete…and as with the end of all good adventures my next thoughts turned to ice cool beverages.

Viva Mallorca: The Lighthouse Ride

January 31st, 2018

There’s something intangibly compelling about travelling to the very end of somewhere. To John O’Groats. To Key West. In cycling, that will often mean to the top too, like Ventoux, or the great dead-end Pyrenees roads to Hautacam or Luz-Ardiden.

On Mallorca, this feeling transmutes itself perfectly into the shape of the Cap de Formentor, otherwise known as the Lighthouse Ride.

Mallorca sits in the Mediterranean like an angel fish forever swimming west towards Valencia. At the very top tip of its diamond shape, the trailing edge of dorsal fin cuts through the sea in a series of breathtaking cliffs and beaches known as the Formentor Peninsula, named for the frothing opposing tides that crash into each other at the Cap.

Zigzagging up from the cyclist enclave of Puerto Pollenca, this is literally the road to nowhere, and bikes outnumber motorised traffic all year round. The last habitation seen at this end of the road is the stunning complex that played Richard Roper’s house in the lavish BBC drama The Night Manager. After that, it’s just you and the mountain. Peaking initially at the Mirador (viewpoint) Colomer, the road offers you a choice. The brave will take a right turn here to continue upwards on cracked tarmac to gaze down from the old Roman lookouts that still stand sentry on the heights of the peninsula. Those intrepid travellers may be rewarded with a glimpse of the island’s rare black vultures before dropping back down to the col where they left the Lighthouse Road.

But the real joy of this road is the roller coaster dash to the end of the world at Cap de Formentor.

The genius 1930s engineer Antonio Parietti made both this road and its better-known brother, Sa Calobra, mixing enough craziness in with the beauty to remind you that he came from the same cultural explosion as Dali and Bunuel.

No sense of anti-climax could ever overcome the arrival at the lighthouse itself, perched like a citadel on the last bit of rock on Mallorca. And there’s a bar. You scaled 1500 metres in 20 kilometres to get here. All you have to do now is enjoy it all again in the other direction.

Competition Time

WIN a Cycling Holiday in Mallorca courtesy of Richmond Cycles and Viva Velo  HERE

Entries must be submitted by midnight 14.02.18 to be counted.

 

Richmond Cycles precision fit system

Richmond Cycles: Our precision fit system

December 12th, 2017

A dirty word?

When the more elderly of our battle-hardened Richmond Cycles crew first started selling bikes – it was in black and white and round here it was all fields – “fit” was a dirty word. Most bike shops’ idea of fitting was along the lines of:

“What is the right size bike for me?”

“That one you’re standing next to is perfect.

Fast forward to 2017 and you can find any number of experts who will use lasers and wind tunnels to shave seconds off your personal best in exchange for a week’s salary. And the ones who charge the most must give the best fit, right?

What we didn’t do

We have a slightly different take on it. We take bike fitting extraordinarily seriously, and we spend many hours discussing it. Within the team at the shop we have two sports scientists, another guy who was once assured by the original mass-market fit system that he had personally measured more cyclists than anyone else they had come across in Europe, another guy who found his life transformed after surgery and a new bike fit, and some others who just find the whole thing absolutely absorbing.

click here to read more

Winter Warmers…more than just socks

December 8th, 2017

There are few tasks more enjoyable in the bike trade than picking clothes. It’s like vicarious shopping on a grand scale.

And one of the great things about riding in winter is that you get to wear more clothes. More clothes! If Imelda Marcos had been a cyclist she’d never have got out of the house.

The TMKS Phenomenon

Everybody at Richmond Cycles has experienced the phenomenon of TMKS at some point. That’s right: Too Much Kit Syndrome. You may well wince when you see that guy in football shorts riding over Richmond Bridge on a frosty morning, especially when you realise the raw pork chops he’s carrying on his handlebars are actually his gloveless hands. That’s because he wears the same thing every day, no matter what. Laugh at your peril: he’s never been late to meet his friends for a ride because he couldn’t decide which of his five merino neck-warmers to wear. You have, haven’t you? Well, we all have.

click here to read more

Richmond Cycles Shop Front

What a year 2017 has been

December 4th, 2017

Happy Birthday to Us

It’s now a full year and a bit since we rolled up the shutters for the first time and re-opened Richmond Cycles as its new owners. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve lost a small fortune, fixed a few bikes, made some new friends, done some great rides… and that was all on the first morning.

We’re tempted to say that we think we’re beginning to get the hang of it, but we have a feeling that in 12 months’ time we’ll be saying, “NOW we think we’re beginning to get the hang of it.” And 12 months after that, “NOWWWWW…” That’s if we’re still here to begin getting the hang of it, touch wood.

We try to trim the ship every day without losing sight of our main idea: the right bikes, the right stuff and the right workshop for riding bikes in Richmond. We’ve made a fair few changes the year… bigger workshop capacity and more pairs of clever hands, fewer mountain bikes (for the high peaks of the Twickenham Highlands), more titanium and many more interesting bits of stuff.

“The prospect of being a bike shop owner in Richmond was exciting and scary, and it still is,” says our proud proprietor Richard Roberts. “There is a strong ‘wellness’ community in Richmond that fits perfectly with our own approach. We don’t just sell bikes, we ride them. Especially on Fridays at 10am and Sundays at 8.30am. That’s been the best thing about having this shop: riding a bike with other people at least twice a week.”

Hope to see you on one of our rides (or even one of our bikes) soon. 

Dear Santa…

December 2nd, 2017

Seen something you’d like for Christmas?

Take a card from our Christmas Wish Box, put your name on it, and write down your three favourite things. You can put sizes and colours on if you like. Pop it back in our box and tell your nearest and dearest to venture in to the shop between now and late December.

We’ll rescue your card and make sure they take home exactly what you asked for. And we can tick them off to avoid you getting the same thing from Martha and Arthur this Christmas.

If they’re STILL stuck, we’ll write them a custom Richmond Cycles Gift Voucher for any amount they want.

It’s not a John Lewis advert, we know, but it’s a hell of a lot more conducive to a happy family Christmas than monsters under your kids’ beds.

Commuting in Cardiff on my Trek Cross Rip 3

October 19th, 2017

I’m still bouncing back and forth between my life in the shop and my life in the theatre quite happily. This past month has been my first chance to travel with my bike and be a proper commuter though. Luckily, I’ve had enough time at Richmond Cycles to kit myself out with the right stuff – and it’s made a difference

I managed to find a room in Llandaff with an opera loving couple an easy twenty-five minute ride from work in Cardiff Bay, where I had a short contract with Welsh National Opera.  My commute was mostly through a park along a river or along dedicated cycle way. It was lovely. Here are a few tips my little experience taught me.

Get your bike there

You need to book your bike on Great Western Railways. I did it over the phone and had the usual five minute dance with a computer before getting through to a friendly human being who gave me a reservation number for the train I was planning to catch. I booked the return space for the bike at the Cardiff Central station the day before and was able to change that to a different train about thirty minutes before departure. It’s a small hassle with a big payoff because there is no better way to get to know a city that to discover it on two wheels.

click here to read more

Strava Club

July 18th, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing the Richmond Cycles club page on Strava, the Social Network for Athletes. It’s a great place for us to advertise the finer details of our shop rides, post general updates about rides and events. As a club member it is a good place for discussion and to generally keep up with what sort of rides others are recording.

Each week we have shop rides for all abilities every Friday and Sunday. You can either click the “I’m in” button on the page, or contact the shop in person, through phone or email to let us know of your interest.

Strava is a great way of recording your activities and sharing rides with friends. If you’re not already a member, we’d recommend having a look, it’s free to sign up and use!

Please click THIS LINK to check out our page.

Seven ways to improve bike riding for your kids

December 12th, 2016

Kids will keep doing things they enjoy and the more they do something, the better and more confident they will become. So how can picking the right bike help? Here are a few of our top tips, but please come by the shop to discuss what’s right for your child.

  1. Always bring your child in to try a bike before you buy a bike. Your kids are unique and the bike should be set up to fit them not the other way round. And trying on a helmet to find the right one is just as important. click here to read more

Optimise your performance with the Trek Domane

November 21st, 2016

Trek’s carbon fibre road bike range contains three different families of performance machine. For the aerodynamic speed freaks, there is the Madone. For the climbers and slender types, the Emonda is one of the world’s lightest frames. Then there is the bike designed for the very finest return on your effort despite bad roads, cobbles or many, many hours in the saddle: the Domane.

Richmond Cycles are all over the Domane. There is a broad range of bikes, including a completely redesigned women’s alternative under the banner of Silque. From the rarified atmosphere of their team issue bike so beloved of Fabian Cancellara, they go right down to the stunning quality of the £1400 Domane S4.

The real defining feature of the Domane is kits use of Trek’s clever IsoSpeed couplings, designed to dramatically increase comfort without any loss of power or steering quality. click here to read more

JOHN’S BLOG: A biking weekend in the Highlands

November 15th, 2016

We’re lucky in Richmond to have so many lovely roads we can ride from the front door. But there is a shortage of plunging vistas and a distinct lack of wilderness, mountain or coastline.

In the course of writing 12 Months in the Saddle with Phil Ashley a few years ago, we visited some pretty wonderful riding destinations – Ventoux, Tuscany, Flanders etc – but our unanimous choice of best chapter was the weekend we spent in North West Scotland. click here to read more

Enigma Etape

Let the Enigma Etape catch your imagination.

October 27th, 2016

Enigma are renowned for their exquisite titanium frames, but one bike seems to catch the imagination more than the rest: the Etape.

When we were looking at new brands to bring to Richmond Cycles, one conversation struck a chord. We were talking to our friends at Bicycle Works in Edinburgh, who told us the Enigma Etape was unique.

“The guy who wants class and quality. Something that will last. Something he can use to smash his pals on the Sunday club run. Something that will carry him round the Marmotte or the Maratona without breaking him. But he can also sling a pair of mudguards on it, tyres with a bit of bite and ride it from Cornwall to Sutherland without touching a main road. That guy will buy an Etape, because there’s nothing like it.” click here to read more

John’s Blog: Cobbles were made for titanium

October 21st, 2016

First stop, Flanders

Armed with our demo Enigma Etape, we made a journey that we’re very familiar with at Richmond Cycles. M3, M25, M20, Eurotunnel, A16/E40 and into the heart of Flanders.

This particular pair of legs has been over the bergs of the Tour of Flanders nine times – not always in the saddle, it must be confessed. Sometimes the gradient, the cobbles and the sheer relentless intensity of the repetitive short hills just gang up on you and far better riders than this have found themselves walking. As veterans of this particular humiliation, we favour mountain bike shoes and SPDs for Flanders. At least then, if we have to walk, we can walk.

Technique is everything on the pavé. Stay relaxed, take more weight on your feet by riding a slightly heavier gear than usual, and focus on the distance to stay steady and smooth in your style. click here to read more

Winter Training with Melissa Tarver