Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Early Season Hilly Time Trials - How Hard Are They ?

Just for fun, I thought I would compare and contrast some of the early season hilly time trials I have been entering. These are all mainly in the Cheshire or North Wales border region.

The ones I have entered in 2013 are:
  • Chester Hilly 14 (23rd Feb 2013 - snow !)
  • Oswestry Paragons Hilly 17 (16th March 2013 -wet)
  • Birkenhead North End Cycling Club Hilly 22 (Good Friday 2013 - very very cold)
  • Wrexham Mountain Time Trial - 24 miles (takes place on 14th April 2013)
I also did these in 2012 (apart from the BNECC one).

I've graphed below the profile of each of these time trials - I've normalised the altitude so the start point of the time trial is always at zero.


Clearly, the Chester Hilly TT looks fairly flat compared to the others, whereas the Oswestry Hilly 17 and the Wrexham Hilly 24 look pretty challenging.

If I take the "reported" elevation gains (from a Garmin 800), I find the following results:
  • Chester Hilly 17, elevation gain approx 180 feet: Height gain (feet) per mile = 12.4
  • BNECC Hilly 22, elevation gain approx 480 feet: Height gain (feet) per mile = 22.8
  • Oswestry Hilly 17, elevation gain approx 920 feet: Height gain (feet) per mile = 54.2
  • Wrexham Hilly 24, elevation gain approx 1950 feet: Height gain (feet) per mile = 81.2
If I plot my speed in these events, and the median speed, and the maximum speed, there is an approximate straight line fit (decreasing with increasing height gain per mile).

I assume the different lines are simply due to the different power/weight ratio of the riders. If you assume the power/weight ratio of competitors is distributed normally (i.e. like a Gaussian distribution) you would expect roughly a normal distribution of times in one of these time trials and this seems to be roughly true (see below 2012 results from the Oswestry Hilly 17).

Anyhow the reason for doing all this is I wanted to know what sort of speed I should expect for hilly time trials - by looking at the height gain (feet) per mile, I can get a pretty good idea of what speed I should be aiming for, and whether the ride is a good, average or poor one.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Timetrialling in the snow !

Not posted on here for a while - probably because the weather in January and February 2013 was mostly dire. Managed to get a few good rides in despite the wind/rain/snow/ice.

The season started again officially, for me, on 16th Feb with the Chester Road Club Hilly 14 club event. On this particular weekend, it was warm enough for cycle shorts, and no gloves. We had a strong wind behind us on the A41 section (first 5 miles or so) but unfortunately that meant we had the wind against us on the rest of the course. I managed a time of 43 mins 33 seconds, which was almost a minute better than the same event in 2012. The winner did a time just a few seconds under 36 mins.

The week after saw the Chester Road Club Hilly 14 again, but this time the Open event - with a total of 95 entries ! This weekend was however, much colder than the one before, and there was snow during the event, although luckily not enough to stick to the road. This was the first time trial I've done where I've worn cycling tights rather than shorts, with about 4 layers on + gloves. Most riders went slower than the week before, but somewhat bizarrely, given the grim conditions, I actually went faster, with a final time of 43 mins 22 seconds - which I make to be an average speed of 19.8 mph. The winner (from Wrexham Road Club) did 32 mins 39 seconds.

Strava details below:

Someone was also kind enough to take a photo of me - I was clearly enjoying the good weather (NOT) !

I guess this means the cycling season has officially started. So far in 2013, according to Strava I've done 517 miles and 22,000 feet of climbing.

Next events up are the Oswestry Hilly 17 on March 16th and the WCTTCA 10 mile time trial near Doddleston (March 24th).

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A trip to the Eureka Cafe

On 23rd December, a few of us from the Chester Road Club cycled up the Wirral to Thornton Hough for an unofficial, fun, 10 mile Christmas time trial. The circuit was good although at one point the road was partially flooded (which meant we had to slow down a bit). Did a 30 min ride, which is not too bad for this time of year, considering the weather (wet and windy).

Picture below shows us just before the start.

After that we went to the Eureka Cafe (which is a famous cyclist's cafe on the Wirral) to meet up with some other Chester Road Club cyclists who had been on the normal Sunday run. As it was a couple of days before Christmas they were serving mince pies and mulled wine. Very pleasant, and also very packed - Sunday around midday is clearly not the best time to turn up if you want a seat.

Bikehike website

Just recently came across a useful website called bikehike which is at (not surprisingly):

You can upload routes to this website (in various formats) and then download them directly as courses to your cycle computer. The example below shows a route I did in Summer 2012, as a tcx file. You need to go onto Course Creator from the above website (link at top of page) and then press the Load Route link (on the right hand side bottom window). See picture below:

Once the file is uploaded, a map of the route (including elevation data if desired) appears as below:

If you then choose the Save Route option, you have the choice of saving the route to your GPS device - see below.

All in all it's a very useful website for converting from one format to another and for downloading courses to your cycle computer. Well worth using.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Winter training on rollers

It's been an eventful few weeks. Our recent Chester Road Club ride up the Horseshoe Pass on 18 Nov featured in the local paper. The Chester Road Club had it's Annual General Meeting on 30th Nov - we've had approx 20% increase in membership over the last year which is good. Myself and 4 others went out for a ride last Sunday (1st Dec) which perhaps wasn't wise as it was bitterly cold. As we cycled along a country ride in the general direction of Mickle Trafford one of the riders hit black ice and went down heavily, and I also came down. Neither of us were seriously hurt, although I must have bent my thumb in an unusual direction as it swelled up and half my hand was bruised. It's still swollen now almost a week later, but getting better.

Anyhow, I ordered some rollers a few weeks ago, and at last had the chance to try them in earnest. Some photos of the rollers are below:

The rollers themselves are Elite V-Arion Parabolic Inertial Rollers, and they were on offer from Wiggle (cost just over £240 including delivery). The rollers have a shape which keeps the wheels near the middle apparently.

I chose rollers as I had never really liked a turbo trainer. I thought the extra concentration you need for rollers may make such training more interesting.

Anyhow, after holding on to a convenient fence for a few minutes, I finally plucked up courage to let go, and it was surprisingly easy. Did 30 minutes at an average cadence of just over 100 (low gear, with the roller at the back set on the easiest of it's 3 settings).

The rollers also fold up conveniently and are very light. I had to adjust the position of the front roller so the axle of my wheel was over the centre of the roller, but apart from that it was pretty straightforward. Very impressed and much more exciting than riding on a turbo trainer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Horseshoe Pass Part 2 (18th Nov 2012)

Two weeks ago (on 4th Nov) you may recall I wrote about a ride myself and Ian Sutton did over the Horseshoe Pass (link at:

Anyhow, a lot of Chester Road Club riders seemed to like the look of the route, and so a repeat run was planned for the 18th November. The main difference between the two rides was that on this occasion, 18 riders turned up !! The second difference was that the weather was much better - still cold, but blue sky all the way, and quite pleasant at the top of the Horseshoe Pass. The final difference was that we did the ride quite a bit more quickly (I think the average speed on 4th Nov was around 14.5 mph or so, whilst on the 18th Nov it was over 15.5 mph).

All in all a good day out. Photos at start of the ride and at the top of the Horseshoe Pass are below.

There is a link to the gpx file at: Horseshoe Pass route from Chester 18 Nov 2012

What I liked about the route was: (1) It was a fairly flat ride out to Llangollen, (2) the long descent (Sunspot descent) for about 4 miles on the way back to Chester is awesome, (3) the Horseshoe Pass climb is a good work out, (4) the Ponderosa cafe is a good food stop

This ride also took me to over 3000 miles of cycling for the year :)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chilly Ride Over The Horseshoe Pass, 4th Nov 2012

Myself and Ian Sutton (from the Chester Road Club) went for a fairly gentle ride out into the countryside, at least it was fairly gentle until we got to Llangollen, and then we had to go over the Horseshoe Pass.

We set off at 9 am, looking like two Michelin men - due to the number of layers, overshoes, gloves, hats we were wearing, since it was close to zero Centigrade.

It was fairly flat til we got to Ruabon, when it started to get undulating. We took it easy over the Horseshoe Pass and stopped at the Ponderosa Cafe for a quick coffee and cake. It is the first time I've ever been there and not seen another cyclist - however, considering there was frost on the grass, and freezing fog at the top of the Horseshoe Pass it wasn't a big surprise.

Once off the Horseshoe Pass it only took two or three miles to get back into relatively warm, blue skies. We had to do a bit of cyclocross to get through a road closed due to roadworks, but the ride back to the Chester was quite nice, mainly as it was mostly downhill.

Not an excessively fast ride at 14.5 mph, but a good workout given I haven't been on the bike for 3 weeks. Strava summary of ride below (4th Nov ride):