Monday, 28 May 2012

Training begins...

The Opportunist Cyclist, as I am now increasingly calling myself to all and sundry. Imagine... can I have your name please. Sure, The Opportunist Cyclist - boom! Hey Matt do this, er hey that's not my name sucker. It gives a certain piquancy to office phone calls - I want to speak to Matthew Williams, try again amigo.

Anyway, we all exist for a reason and as I Matthew Williams or The Opportunist Cyclist am coming to the conclusion that life is there to challenge yourself. Mentally - physically - emotionally. Life is there to be a challenge so step up and be challenged.

This all fits in neatly with my later blog post - A YEAR OF PAIN - sounds ominous right, yes yes portentous with a drop of the sinister. In fact it will be young male looking to test himself for a few pennies for a designated charity. It will be tough though you can bet your bottom dollar on that. I love a slogan!

Anyway, going from a low base as I am - I only picked my bike a few months back and if I am going to go through A YEAR OF PAIN then you can imagine that I will want to prepare for it and well that is what I am plan to do.

After all A YEAR OF PAIN incomplete is a challenge failed, so ride/swin/run/crawl (anyway counts for the Opportunist Cyclist - fear the inertia!) with me as a prepare to conquer my challenge.

Good day all.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Week in the life of the Opportunist Cyclist

A week has passed since the Hampshire Hilly - not that you would notice, my last post mistakenly delayed...remember you have to push publish! Since that fateful day on the Hampshire hills, I have pushed forward with my riding. My average speed is soaring as is my belief and confidence in my cycling ability.

The Opportunist Cyclist reverted to two feet last weekend as I was left bikeless on a sojourn to rural Leicestershire. Now the Opportunist Cyclist need to exercise isn't diminished without "betsy" indeed the need for challenge remains constant. So although "betsy" was tucked up in her South London bolthole the opportunist cyclist i.e. me went on a 16 mile run.

I had two dawning realisations. One that running becomes quite boring, when you develop a passion for cycling and that secondly and most importantly - human beings can achieve what they set their minds on doing, this happens quite often apparently. Now the Opportunist Cyclist works for a living, and is doing a fairly good job - though there is always room for improvement, I need to find something else to test me.

I came up with the idea....

A Year of Pain.

The Opportunist Cyclist starts again.

Hampshire Hilly "Hundred"

The Opportunist Cyclist is coming on leaps and bounds or should I said getting on in wheel revolutions get it. I have just finished my first Sportive. For those of you who like me don't know the full range of cycling lexicon, of course you will - you are a wondrous bunch - but just for peace of mind a Sportive is the following...

"A cyclosportive, or often simply sportive, is a short to long distance, organised, mass-participation cycling event, typically held annually."

Hey, thanks Wikipedia. The first Sportive then, the Hampshire Hilly Hundred as it is known formally, well it is to those who do the whole thing. I ducked out and did 80 miles but still pretty good going for a novice like me. For those who want a thorough break down of the route see the linked below but the crux of the route is to start just outside of the village of Sparsholt and finishing again at said village. The route takes in a whole mileau of hills from short punchy hills ranging from 10% to slower grinding leg sappers.

I am still awaiting my details from the day but I have to say that having ridden about 100km in total that I found the race (120km in total) a good challenge but one that I managed to get through without too much bother. True there were a few heartracing moments - the initial climb up Whites Hill where the climb touches 15% was beasty as was the ascent up from the second "feed station" but you know what I survived.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The tools of the trade

Being a new entrant to the world of cycling is a rather alarming experience. Firstly, there is the getting use to the actual physical side of riding - hills/distance/speed and then there is the mental side of things - roads/traffic/dealing with death every few seconds and then there is the technical side of things - what the hell is cadence and does average speed of 21 km/h mean I am quick or does it mean that I am the cycling equivalent of a tortoise.

To comprehend all the minutiae that cycling fanatics judge themselves on I have purchased - or rather more accurately generously been given by way of a birthday present - an all singin' dancin' get ready it's taking over the world speedometer. This thing is so clever that I have at the back of my mind that it is actually going to start riding my bike - if only. Now, I am not one of those dullards who can't comprehend the information that my speedometer is cleverly illustrating for me but I do like to frame my statistics within context of how fast others are to give me an understanding where I am at.

Please bear in mind that I am a novice and I am riding around in London so lots of stopping and starting, but my headline stats are so far...

Opportunist Cycler's stats.
Average speed - 20.2 km/h
Top speed - 39.3 km/h

As well as hopefully getting a few comments, why doesn't anyone love me, I think this is actually quite a neat way of judging my improvement over time and well hopefully as I improve as a cycler.

I will let you know if they improve after tonight's ride around Richmond Park which is key preparation to the Hampshire Hilly this weekend. The Opportunist Cycler is stepping up to the mark, come follow on...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cornering - help me.

Day 2.
In my cycling journey, I am finding that my daily rides throw up one or two challenges. The number one issue currently is cornering. Having now got used to keeping the bike under control on the straight, downhill and uphill - now I just need to work out cornering, which when you think about it is kind of essential.

I find that I lack confidence when turning and often find myself braking down to a snail's pace so that I can keep tight to the curb. If I don't brake and ride gonzo at the corner I tend to find myself careering out into the road and any ideas of staying close to the curb or indeed keeping safe disappear.

Now, I am understand that cornering is as much about speed coming into the corner as it is about riding skill and ability to control the bike but I am really struggling to corner even when my speed is quite flat.

Does anybody have any advice -  I saw this YouTube link below but is there any more to add...

This blog isn't just about sharing it is about receiving so if you do have any tips to help a fledgling road biker on his merry way please do harp up.

Thank you,
The Opportunist Cyclist.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Starting off advice

Day 1.
The role of the opportunist cyclist is to be in a state of readiness to go on and cycle at the first available opportunity. This morning as I woke to find rain slamming hard against the window and a sky that looked more menacing and potent than a lion in the throws of attack I debated whether this mantra is suitable for day one as the opportunist cyclist.

Reluctantly, and under the cloak of my rain-resistant jacket I stormed out of my South London home and onto the rain-lashed streets. The resultant journey was hard - ultimately everything is more difficult in the rain. Poor visibility, braking is harder, motorists are more aggressive and traffic predictably backs up. Making the journey hard-hard-work but after rocking up to work feeling like a wet dog and sitting marooned in wet clothing there is the dawning realisation than man and machine can defeat the weather. The opportunist cyclist delivers a blow against the environment - in a good way!

Top tips for riding in the rain.
1. Leave plenty of room between other cars/cyclists/buses - braking distances are lengthened and an extra few inches will be appreciated when you chomp down hard on your brakes.

2. Be patient. In the rain, it is a marathon not a sprint. Take a holistic view, you may get to your end destination slower but you will get there alive which is depending on where you are heading to in general a good thing.

3. Light up. Motorists struggle enough as it is to see us on the roads. Putting an extra light or two on you person/bike will help make sure that the blessed souls give you plenty of space and room. In theory that is!

Distance covered - 6 miles.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


I bought a bike. She is a beaut - christened Betsy, don't ask me where the name came from let's call it a "moment" between man and bike or perhaps because I live with a farmer...hmmm one of life's mysteries but the name stays on.

Betsy, or Cannondale Caad 8 if you WANT to be technical, is my conduit for a new passion - Cycling. I couldn't be happier. Life is about having interests, passions to add an extra quality to life. Now I am not saying that I am going to turn into Lance Armstrong, or indeed I am not lauding my writing talents but I hope to document my journey as I go from beginner cyclist to racing legend.

Let's begin - time to get pedalling. Ride with me if you will...