Monday, 24 February 2014

North Road Hardriders

So first ride of the year is DONE. It involved vomiting, crying, a very homemade TT bike, an excellent pointy helmet so can only be qualified as a GREAT SUCCESS.

The race in question was a 25 mile time trial in Hertfordshire, best described as "sporting" (i.e. hilly) or "fucking horrific" if your name is Anna Railton and you are ROWER SIZED with a catastrophic lack of climbing ability.

Two hours the day before cleaning up the "TT bike" - i.e. this bike with a different cockpit and wheels on it (and different groupset come to think of it) and shovelling it in the car with Wojciech's bike for company and we were READY. Getting up at rower o'clock again (i.e. 0530) was a bit of a shock to the system but a couple of coffees (and a coke in the car, then caffeinated energy gels ha) sorted that right out.

Matured over the winter in a cellar (much like tubular tyres).

Number pinned on (getting marginally better at pinning numbers on skinsuit before putting it on but naturally it still needed redoing as I am still largely incompetant at this key cyclist skill) ,CHECK. Courage legs dug out the box and securely attached, CHECK. An all too short warm up done and I was at the start waiting for my time to go off. I was amused to see that my resting heart rate on the start was a mere 150bpm. I guess the three energy gels thrown down my throat pre race were working then! Let's get this show on the road!

[Man holds me up].

[Man with clip board and stopwatch starts the countdown]




(160bpm, start Garmin).









You'd better make cleaning your chain and cassette for an hour worth it, Railton. 

I didn't fall off, or start in the wrong gear so start was successful at least. A fast drag downwards then the climbing began. All thoughts about being in the big ring for the whole time trial were quickly shelved!

Three miles in and I'm swallowing vomit. Brilliant. Good one Railton. Guess you should've only had two gels, ejit.

With thanks to the esteemed Davey Jones of Cambridge CC for this excellent shot! As you can see, I am about as aerodynamic as a house brick and still have rower shoulders to force through the air :)

Four miles and I glimpse my minute-woman (i.e. the woman who went off a minute in front of me). Number 73, YOUR ASS IS MINE. I AM GOING TO HUNT YOU DOWN.


I see the luminous yellow number on the climbs, getting steadily closer. YOU ARE MINE.


Cadence? 95rpm. Good. Heart rate? Ermmmm yes. It's fine you are TOTALLY not going to die doing that for over an hour, it's fine. HONEST.


I pull myself a little further into the time trial bars. Stick a few more watts down. You can totally do this Railton. This is GOOD.


Another climb that feels like a brick wall. Small ring. More pressure on the pedals. Keep the power on over the crest of the hill MUST CONSERVE MOMENTUM. MUST REMAIN AERO AT ALL COSTS. MUST BE FAST.

6 miles. Casually pass #73. Try to look cool while snot pouring out of nose all over face. Effortless cool. I like it.

Bracing the core, must keep still in the saddle and smoooooth. Must be FASTER.


OK, horse passed and 100% no death. Good. 8 miles in. That's like a third! Woo! GO RAILTON.

[SHIT 16 MILES TO GO* D: D: D: D: D:]

* Course was shorted to 24 miles due to road work. This pleased me as 24 has more factors than 25 allowing for more "oh you are X% through the TT calculations to keep my mind off the pain and my looming death.

IS THAT ANOTHER RIDER AHEAD? *cue evil laughing*


[Memory fails me, not sure what happens 8-19 miles. It was probably painful.]


Some sort of blur of lactic acid and lung burn passes and I see the 5 miles to go sign. Thank FUCK for that.

Of course, this last five miles is into a headwind, naturally. SLOG SLOG.

Four miles to go.


Three miles to go. I ride into what feels like the side of a cliff. OH GOD THERE'S A MASSIVE HILL FUCK MY LIFE.

Photo credit Ian Lambert of North Road CC (??). I have quite a strangely small head. 

Hill is longer than a minute. This is BAD. I am already very deep into the pain cave and the door has been sealed long ago. The only way is deeper, darker.

I start to click up the cassette. Into the small ring. Into smaller gears and still it continues.

People are cheering at the side of the road, shouting "dig deep!" at me. I want to shout at them "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK I'M DOING!?!?!?" but there was no spare oxygen for such fripperies. I needed all the oxygen I could get to remain actually alive and travelling up this BASTARD FUCKING ENDLESS HILL.




Mercifully, the hill did actually end, as geography usually dictates. An age seemingly passes before the "2 miles to finish" but by this time my soul has long since dropped out my arse and I am blinking back tears. There is no natural light in the pain cave any more. Not even a flickering bulb hanging from the roof. It is all black. I bump into a black cat painted black wearing a black hat. Heavy metal is playing I think. WHERE IS OXYGEN? IS THAT A BAT?!?

 I push on.

One mile to go. Another small hill. Instantly small ring, grinding up it. There is no souplesse, no thought of form any more. This just needs to end, soon.

A group of cyclists out for a Sunday pootle. I go wide to pass them and see the finish board. I aim myself at it.




I throw my bike towards the line (which is just kind of pointless and very ineffective in time trial bars but habits from the track die hard) and it is over. I push the 'Stop' button on my Garmin, nearly crashing in the process and there it is. That was what I, Anna Railton, can produce for 24 miles up and down some hills.

I ride back to the car at walking pace, sort of quietly pleased with myself because I was totally fucked, which was precisely of the object of the exercise.

"I should do this again next year, it was fun" I thought to myself, coughing up bits of lung.

I shove a banana down my face when back at the car then put on all the clothes I own. I contort to take my number off my back under all these new clothes. I am intelligent.

I cycle the 150m to the HQ (because fuck me am I walking anywhere at this point), abandon my bike next to a wheelie bin, crawl up the stairs and attempt to swap said number for a cup of coffee.

"Black or white?"

*blinks at nice lady manning the tea and coffee*

"Would you like black or white coffee?"

*blinks again*

"ERMMMMMMMMM" I don't understand this question what is going on.

*random pointing*

*I receive white coffee* (This is fortunate as I don't actually like black coffee).

"ERMMMMM thanks?" Is that the right word for this situation?

I glance at the time board, note that Lucy "The Goss" Gossage has smashed everyone. Then I sort of do the "controlled falling" method of getting down the stairs, spill coffee on my fleece and retrieve my bike from next to the bins. Somehow I manage to drink the coffee while cycling. I head out on the road again to try and get some of this 24 miles of hell out my legs before I need to drive home.

A few miles of walking pace cycling down the road and I meet The Goss, out for a run. There I am, totally shafted, and Lucy has just turned it into a brick session.






What can I say, professional Iron Man athletes are ... well, a bit mental. In a good way, naturally. I informed her she won and went on my way, probably cycling a damn site slower than she was running. I reminded myself never to take up Iron Man.

I eventually made it back to the HQ and saw to my (quite considerable surprise) that I managed to be the third fastest woman so I was £40 richer! HURRAH!

And thus the 2014 season began. And it was good. Two weeks time = Belgium!

(Also, many thanks to North Road CC for such a great event, too - I *will* be back next year!)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

London Bike Show

So, with some considerable irony, my late night zero degree centigrade bike build extravaganza left me waking up at the weekend with a mental resting heart rate, a nice sore throat and general feeling like shit-ness. BRILLIANT. Played it safe and bailed on the team ride on the Saturday and gave up my place in the Bike Show crit the following day to my teammate Jasmine.

However I still went along to the show, self-relegated from racing to a more "being there with safety pins and allen keys" role.


[Photo credit Adrian]

As you can see I GOT A NEW CAP. And, despite me sort of thinking I can pull of cycling caps, I still can't. It won't stop me wearing them, but I know deep down I can't pull them off and never will. SIGH. I just don't have the cheekbones or am not Italian enough or something.

Bryony's gloves. Bit overtly feminine for my taste :D

Jasmine, with racing bandana and a really craply pinned on number (my fault, out of practice!) 


Doing deals on the Aprire stand...

With the obligatory "OH SHIT MY BIKE DOESN'T WORK" panic a few minutes before the race out the way (resolved thanks to my allen keys), the three riders from Velosport-Pasta Montegrappa got away round the course. And by course I mean "barriered off bit of the arena". It was basically: straight  - U turn on slippy surface - U turn on slippy surface - straight. Repeat. A lot. 


 Bryony got unlucky when someone came down in front of her in the first few laps <OOF>

Yep, nowhere to go...
Yep, going down...
OOF, down :(
With Bryony out the running, a lead group of four went clear out the front, containing both Jasmine and Lydia. Hurrah! Lydia forged ahead and the remaining three became two and the race was decided then; one rider out ahead gradually putting in more and more distance between her and the pack and Jasmine in the chasing two, making the other girl do all the chasing like the pro she is :)

At the finish, Jasmine nips round the Trek Bicycle Coventry rider (Maxine Filby) to clinch a 1-2 for our team. Great success!

L-R: Jasmine Dotti, Lydia Boylan, Maxine Filby
Other highlights of the Bike Show included making multiple passes past the Clif stall (protein bar YES PLEASE) and buying more "Friend of Herne Hill Velodrome" stuff (I love that colour scheme SO MUCH and they are lovely people).

I also recently passed quite a cool milestone on my Garmin the other day:

So I got my Garmin in March 2012? 12 000 miles in 2 years isn't too bad in my opinion, especially when you consider this includes no commuting miles at all (at least 5 miles a day) and no miles done on my track bike (which probably added up to quite a lot last year).

Got my first race FOR REAL THIS TIME on Sunday (North Road Hardriders - basically a hilly and technical 25 mile time trial) I will be unpacking the COURAGE LEGS from their box (along with my moustache TT helmet) brushing off the packing peanuts and removing random bits of sellotape stuck to them, and unleashing seven shades of hell fire fucking hell badgering rage all over that. Really looking forward to it, which I'm taking to be a good thing. Who knows, given my current level of blog writing form you may even get ANOTHER post out it.

I am spoiling you all with this "more than one post a year" stuff! :D

Friday, 14 February 2014

Yet another bike build post


A quick post because EXCITING NEWS my team bike arrived last night! Therefore I've spent many hours over the last 24 fiddling with it and swearing at internal cable routing and why I seem unable of cutting cable housing to the correct length, ever.

Also, I did resolve to myself to WRITE MOAR POSTS (after my one post in 2013, I mean FFS) so here you go. A POST. WITH 57% MORE ADDED CARBON.

Exciting boxes!
I gingerly start taking stuff out of boxes. Everything looks carbon and expensive. OH GOD I SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED WITH THIS.

As you can see, it is very important to have old toothbrushes and pyjama bottoms lying around because I'm pretty sure that is what pro mechanics use for degreasing stuff.

Those bars are carbon. At this point I was developing a great fear.

The frame makes it out the box. I like orange, and I like this orange A LOT. Also note the Q rings (i.e. slightly elliptical chainrings for DAT PEDALING EFFICIENCY). This installs more fear in me because I need to make a front mech work with that!

Nice touch of team name graphics on top. 
Box #1 has yielded its goodies, now time for box #2!

I am pretty certain I am not a good enough bike rider to deserve these wheels.

I take them out the box, realise they weigh nothing and carefully put them back. I step away.

*deep breath*

I woman the fuck up and got the wheels out the box and tape, tube and tyre them up. They look...dangerous.

I sadly have no cassette for them so back in the box they go for the time being. From now on this build will feature a pair of my shit winter bombproof wheels (SWBWs).

I start putting the groupset on my bike. It is late. It is *very* cold and I am listening to Radio 4. The later it got, the weirder it became. I periodically left to get more clothes, to drink tea and to lament my not owning fingerless gloves. The mechs and shifters went on, then I had the arduous and time consuming task of measuring everything to get everything the same height and distance apart as all my other bikes.

You'd think this would be a 2s job with a tape measure.

It's not.

It takes fucking ages. Half the problem is of course that bikes don't tend to stand up perpendicular on their own so there is usually lots of awkward leaning against stuff and swearing when you realise you've been measuring everything while the bike is leaning 10 degrees over to the left.

By this time it was about 10pm and I hated everything. Especially retracting tape measures and saddles and shifter hoods that were all slightly different to each other. Radio 4 was talking about Belgian child euthanasia and I was really starting to lose the plot.

And THEN the internal cable routing started. Now this can be tricky at the best of time without you being (a) tired (b) cold and (c) listening to progressively weird shit on the radio. It nearly broke me. Honest to god.

I slowly iterated to the correct cabling solution (cost: MY SOUL). Some of them are definitely a touch short but I'm human and my soul was dying so I think I can be excused.

Finally FINALLY cabling was done and all that needed to be done was gear/brake adjustment and bar taping. ON THE HOME STRAIGHT YAAAAAAAAAAY.

The front mech + elliptical chainring adjustment was definitely entertaining, especially with the hilariously bad instructions from ROTOR which I can neatly summarise as:

1) Install front mech. Make sure it is parallel to the chainrings (dur)
2) Adjust front mech correctly.
3) Here are some unhelpful diagrams that are both low resolution, incredibly small and completely devoid of ANY INFORMATION WHATSOEVER.


I therefore binned the "instructions" and followed the standard applied mathematician approach of iterating to the correct solution, changing things a few mm at a time until it worked, then stepping the fuck away from it sharpish when it did and saving it to your external hard drive.

Taping up, thank fuck for that. 
Indexing stuff = done. Adjusting brakes so I don't die = done. Now just some bar taping and DONE DONE DONE.

Dat campag. Dat Ritchey and Aprire loveliness. Dat lack of feeling in my hands and OH FUCK did I just slice my hand open with a Stanley knife? (A: Yes, yes I did).

Time to step back and appreciate the lines.
Just to prove that the bike did actually work, here it is hiding in my office after getting wet in some seriously biblical rain :'(

So there you go! Just got to get used to it now before my first race at the London Bike Show on Sunday! This is by far the most quality carbon I have ever ridden (not worthy, not worthy) so I am interested to see how it feels compared to my other bikes (a mixture of steel, alloy and cheap carbon).

Hopefully I'll get a post out about the Bike Show race (which I do really hope doesn't include me failing to get round the first corner and taking out a crash barrier). Watch this space!