Since the Trans Alp in 2016 I have been really keen on riding another stage race. The Trans Alp was so tough both mentally and physically but the highs well outweighed the lows and I have been keen to find another adventure and test my body and mind against the odds.
The Carpathian MTB Epic seemed like the perfect adventure. 180KM, 8,100m of lung busting climbing in 4 days, through the land of Dracula in one of Europe’s last genuinely wild mountain regions.
How could I say no!
This year along with taking on this 4-day stage race my life is a little different to when I did the Trans Alp. Back in 2016 I had no dog to look after and I managed to reduce my coaching right down to just the kids club in order to fit in 12 / 14 hour training weeks. This year that wouldn’t be possible! Luna (my German Shepherd) needs her regular walks and runs and my coaching has been booming. I have this year introduced mountain bike retreats for adults as well as taking Pilates classes, so as you can see life is a whole lot busier than 2016 so 12 hour training weeks are a juggling act!
In short I have had to condense my training into one long ride and a sprints or hill session a week. I have also been running and doing kettlebells each week which has helped to increase my muscle strength. Pilates as always is something I do each week and is a great way to strengthen my core and upper body as well as help prevent injuries.
My tips for staying focused on long rides are:
- Set out with a planned route or goal in mind
- Have enough water and snacks for the whole session (If you cannot carry enough water which is likely then know when you can get some on route from a friendly pub or shop)
- Practice eating different snacks on shorter rides and use your favourites for those long sessions, have something salty
- Only focus on the hour ahead, this is especially important if the weather is bad or you’re feeling tired only think as far as the next hour that way you can chunk your ride down
- Use lampposts/trees as little sprint breaks if you’re feeling full of beans or just pick the pace up a little for 2 mins and then drop back down again
The Carpathian MTB Epic is a full-service event running from 16th – 19th August and is the perfect opportunity for an adventure, even for the time crunched like me. If you hurry up and register until July 29 you may catch a good deal as well. Last day for registrations is August 5, 2018.
Cycling has been on a steady rise in the UK for several years now and this increase in popularity and participation is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Cyclists can be found in cities and rural locations throughout the country as we become more aware of our impact on the environment and keeping ourselves fit. With all of this comes an appetite for a cycling adventure where you can test yourself in new surroundings and hopefully sample a little sunshine along the way! If you have never been on a cycling trip however it can be tricky to know where to start. If you find yourself in this category, then here are some tips on how to prepare for your upcoming cycling trip. If you need any more advice please feel free to contact me too I would love to help!
Map It Out
It’s a good idea to know exactly what route you will be taking so you will know the distance and have an idea if how long it will take to get to your end point each day. Knowing the typography of the terrain will also be useful when planning how much food and water you may need to carry, as well as supplies if your climbing high you may need to think about a water/windproof as the mountains can create their own weather. Strike the right balance between having a challenging experience and enjoying yourself.
Take Time To Recover
Recovery days are just important as active days on a lengthy cycling trip. Doing this right can be the difference between having an enjoyable experience and achieving your goals or well, not. Recovery days don’t mean that you can’t do any cycling at all, although if you want you could plan a day of relaxing by the pool or sightseeing, but usually a recovery day just means going on shorter and flatter routes. This will allow you to take it easier and once you have recovered the next day you can go up another couple of gears.
Think Of Your Saddle
This is a pretty important point that lots of people still seem to overlook. If your backside gets sore on your leisurely countryside rides then it’s going to feel a whole lot worse a couple of days into a lengthy cycling trip. Make sure that you find a saddle with extra padding and that your cycling shorts have sufficient padding as well. Give it a test before you set off on the trip and it’s vital that you pack plenty of chamois cream to soothe any aches along the way. Chamois cream is a must, try out a few before you set off.
Think About Transport
One of the biggest questions people have before embarking on their first cycling trip is how they can transport their bike to their destination and ensure that it will still be in one piece when it gets there. If you are travelling by boat, then you should have no problem taking your bike onboard but if you’re flying then it gets a but trickier. Luckily there are luggage shipping services that specialise in shipping items as bikes ahead so that it will actually be waiting on you when you arrive.
When it comes to a cycling trip you’re only as good as your tools and in your case these tools (along with your bike) will be gloves, helmet, eyewear, shoes, shorts and adverse weather clothing. You will probably already have most, if not all of these items but you might want to buy new versions of each one to ensure that you are getting the maximum levels of comfort and durability from them. These two things are equally important on a cycling trip, so you need to find the right balance without sacrificing one for the other.
Along with this wearable gear you should also pack plenty of high energy snacks and fluids to keep you fuelled along the way. I recommend dates, salted peanuts and malt loaf as good riding snacks and Dyrolyte is a brilliant way to stay hydrated without using the sweet tasting hydration drinks on the market. Getting punctures is an inevitable part cycling and so you will want to learn how to fix a flat tyre before you set off. Even if you have fixed a flat in the past you should practice again on your own bike just to refresh yourself, believe me this could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
A cycling trip should be a fun experience, sure it will be challenging but if you prepare in the right way then those challenges should still be enjoyable and manageable, so preparation really is key.
Stuart Cooke is from Uni Baggage, a luggage delivery service who help cyclists all over the world send their bikes ahead so that they can challenge themselves on new adventures.
A holiday in Bali needn’t just consist of lazing on a beach. Cycling is one the best ways to explore the island’s natural and cultural sights. There are hundreds of cycle tours that you can take, which are great opportunities to meet new people. Alternatively, you can rent a bike and make your own route. Here are just some of the best ways to go biking in Bali.
Biking along the beachfront
Cycling along the beachfront in Bali is an incredible experience, especially at sunrise and sunset. There are plenty of vacation villas in Bali situated on the seafront which could be great bases for cycling from. The most popular route takes you through Sanur village where you’ll find a scenic 7km beach path – there are tours that can take you via this path whilst also stopping at sights such as the Taman Festival ghost town and the Beatles Mania Cavern.
Taking a temple tour
Bali’s temples are all situated at the top of hills – many tours start at these temples and work their way down, although if you’re feeling brave you can try an uphill cycle ending at one of these temples (electric bicycles are favoured across the island and will make the hilly terrain easier to tackle). A trip via Kintamani is definitely worthwhile – this town is located near the top of a volcano and has several epic temples located nearby including the huge complex of Besakih the Hindu temple of Tirta Empul featuring a ritual bath.
Pedalling through the rice paddies
One of the most popular cycle routes starts from Ubud and takes you through the scenic rice terraces of Tegalalang – these rice paddies are UNESCO-listed due to their cultural significance and stunning appearance. Sunrise is one the best times to cycle through these plantations as not only will everything be coated in a golden glow, there’s also a lot less road traffic to contend with. The owners of these plantations often charge an entrance fee for cycling through them which is about 10,000 RP (roughly about $1!). Whilst cycling around Ubud, you may be able to incorporate a few of the island’s most scenic waterfalls into your trip. Ubud Monkey Forest is also worth making a detour for – this is the island’s best spot for seeing long-tailed monkeys.
Exploring the towns
Cycling around Bali’s largest towns such as Denpasar and Kuta should be done with caution – the traffic is a bit chaotic and can be dangerous to those that aren’t used to it. That said, there are many villages across the island that are cycle-friendly, plus its worth touring the outskirts of many of the larger towns. It’s in the towns that you’ll find many of the cycle hire shops and tour operators. Shop around for pricing and always do an inspection of the bikes and equipment so that you know you’re getting something good quality.
* SPONSOED CONTENT *
Here is my latest guest blog from Ken.
I’m Ken, a librarian originally from Perth in Scotland but now living in Portsmouth. I played quite a few different sports as a child with rugby definitely being my favourite, and if my knees and ankles were a bit more robust I would still play. I’d had a road bike from my early teens so it was probably inevitable that I’d get back into cycling eventually. I got a new road bike in 2013 but didn’t really start riding regularly until the summer of 2014 when a picture of me with my youngest nephew made me realise just how much weight I’d put on. Since that time I’ve really been bitten by the bug to the extent that I’ve completed the London 2 Paris Sportive twice and in September 2018 am doing the Deloitte Ride Across Britain.
On May 20th I, along with 2700 others, took part in the Etape Caledonia a closed road sportive based in the lovely highland Perthshire town of Pitlochry. This was my 3rd time taking part and it was a relatively late decision to do so as initially the route wasn’t going to change so the challenge wasn’t quite there but when my Dad entered I decided that I’d go back and attempt to set my best time over the 81 miles.
After entering the organisers made some interesting changes to the route by adding in an extra 4 miles to the 81 miles. This was a new climb up towards Trinafour which added in around 1,000 feet of climbing and then a fun descent back down to Dunalastair Water to rejoin the route from the previous 2 years. With this climb added the route became much more of a training ride for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain in September and my goal changed from setting my best time to seeing how the legs recovered for the Schiehallion climb after a ride around Loch Rannoch.
Riding around the shores of Loch Rannoch was one of the highlights of the ride this year as it showed the camaraderie of the road brilliantly. Leaving the first feed station into a headwind I found myself being drafted by quite a few cyclists, I’m a relatively large chap with the characteristics of a diesel engine so act as a good wind break and tractor. After a mile what had been a bunch of complete strangers formed themselves into a cohesive group working together into the wind. This gave me a time of 1:00:14 for the timed Lord and Lady of the Loch section of the ride.
From the 2nd feed station on the south shore of Loch Rannoch your mind is focussed on the upcoming climb of Schiehallion, the signature climb, and the location of the timed King of the Mountain section. The timed section is 1.46 miles long with an average gradient of 6% but the full climb rolls over a plateau for almost 5 miles after that. My time on the timed section of the climb was 00:11:31 which was 35 seconds slower than 2017 showing the effect of the earlier climb.
What goes up must come down and this is where it being a closed road event is great because you can use the whole road on a descent which flows very nicely with only a couple of corners you have to be wary of, but these are well marked and well marshalled. Once off of the descent the rest of the ride is fairly flat and fast apart from the last 5 miles from Logierait to Pitlochry which has 3 steep, but thankfully short, sections in it.
This is definitely a ride that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in cycling and one which is achievable by most people with some training. I am intending to do again in 2019 with the aim of beating my moving time of 05:18:24. If the thought of 85 miles is too much then the organisers added a 40 mile route option for 2018 and I hope that they do this again as it is a lot less daunting although it does include a different route up Schiehallion which I’ll have to find an excuse to do during the summer.
Getting into Enduro Racing by Helen Mather
My first ever long ride, and by long ride I mean more than 5 miles, was taking part in the London to Brighton charity ride. 75miles off road, something I’d never done before but was naïve to think I could just hop on a bike and ride it. After completing the distance in under 10 hours, I took up the sport more seriously. New bike, gear and accessories. Riding the trails gave me freedom, was distressing and challenging. The adrenaline rush down hill is my drive for the sport, so what better way than to push my boundaries with Enduro racing.
Race day. I arrived early. I can already feel the excitement. it was a cold morning yet sunny. The ground crisp. After unloading the bike and checking it over I took a walk into the race village. The smell of coffee and nattering of ‘bike talk’ builds my excitement. At registration I queue amongst fellow riders. Everyone is so friendly. I get my number and timing chip, which I attach to my bike. As a local I have ridden in the area, however not the particular trails that will be used in the race, so along with others I walk some of the trials.
Looking up and the steep incline, tight corners and loose soil, nerves start to take over. ‘How will I get round that corner?’, ‘How will I stay on over those roots?’ The trails seemed daunting. ‘What have I set myself up for?’ Taking mental notes for an attempt to help improve my run I walk the other trails.
Riders are called to the start line, as we set off across the timing matt to start our first transition, my heart is pounding, palms sweating………..And we are off. 100’s of riders, mostly men, mount there bikes, the sound of cleats echo’s through the trees. As we are climbing we start to disperse, each rider at there own pace, I may not the be quickest but hey, why tire yourself out now?
At the top my heart is racing. The queue in front of me is moving quick, not helping my nerves, but everyone around me is supportive and talkative. Everyone talks to everyone. There’s no judgement just pure encouragement. I tell the marshal I’m worried and he smiles and says ‘you’ll be fine’ and starts counting down for my first run.
I go, pedalling hard, trying to remember what I saw on the trail walk. I’m round the 1st corner, speeding up, round the second corner, speeding up, then bang…..I’m off. On my hands and knees and off the bike , I’m annoyed, 30 seconds in and I’m off, thiscant be right (luckily my partner behind forgot to turn the go pro on for this stage). I reach for the bike, and with encouragement from a marshal and my partner I’m back on, confidence knocked as I attempt to navigate down the steepest part of the trail, not the part I was looking forward too but adrenaline pumping I’m back into the swing of it and fly down the remainder of the stage cheered on by my family watching. My pride is overwhelming.
3 stages, 2 runs each, I manage to complete 5 more runs without any major mishaps. Waiting in anticipation for the results, I talk over my runs with friends and my other half, who followed me down each run. The feel good factor swarms the race village, all with their own stories to tell. Good and bad. No one passes judgment, its all a laugh.
Once every rider has complete, the results are in. With 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for each category a crowd forms round the podium. Cheers and applause for each rider called out. Then my name….. 3rd, in Womens fun! Who would have known?! I went from a bag of nerves to 3rd place. What an achievement. My biggest achievement. But everyone is a winner. To be part of the experience, to be accepted in an male dominated sport, to gain self belief, I would recommend it to anyone.
My top tips would be:
Practice techniques, repetition is key to perfection
Set your bike up correctly, the small things can make a big difference
Walk/ride the trails before racing so you know what to expect
Look ahead, where you look is where you go
Stay relaxed, keep the ‘ready position’, let the momentum take you
The Alps are famous for their snowy pistes that keep keen skiers and snowboarders returning year after year. What you may not know is that the Alps have plenty to offer all sports-lover’s all year round. The mountain range is also home to many exciting cycling routes! Here are some top mountain bike destinations in the Alps
As the weather gets warmer, those visiting the Alps swap their skis for wheels.
So, if you’re tempted to do the same, here are the best biking routes in the Alps.
Le Tour, Chamonix, France
Le Tour is a legendary biking route located in Chamonix.
Famed for its breath-taking views that cyclists can admire en route, Le Tour is a trail you don’t want to miss.
If you haven’t been mountain biking in the Alps before, this is a great place to start. While there’s some tough terrain that will put you through your paces, most of the trail is gentle. This makes it the ideal starting place for those just getting to grips with cycling through the Alps.
One piece of advice: make sure you’re armed with a map!
Super Sauze, Sauze D’Oulx, Italy
Sauze D’Oulx isn’t home to a huge biking area, but, keen pedal-pushers should give it a visit at least once.
What the bike park lacks in size it certainly makes up for in terrain! The terrain suits every kind of biker, from amateurs to experts.
Not sure which trail to choose? The Super Sauze is one of the best routes in the area!
Some more good news? The Super Sauze has a thrilling, rather than scary, nature. So, it’s one adrenaline-junkies don’t want to miss.
If that wasn’t enough, the views of the French-Italian Alps are unparalleled.
Balcony Trail, Saint-Luc, Switzerland
Against a backdrop of some stunning views, the Balcony Trail is a cycling gem located in the Swiss Alps. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s located near the famous ski resort Zermatt.
Saint-Luc is home to many exciting biking trails, from wooded areas to bike parks, but the Balcony Trail is by far one of the best routes.
Complete with mixed terrain, staggering sights and dizzying heights, the Balcony Trail is one of most thrilling trails the Alps has to offer.
Keep your eyes peeled for the sights! There are glaciers and rocky areas for you to spot and admire at your leisure along the way.
Col du Glandon, Bourg d’Oisans, France
Bourg d’Oisans is a small French town that has been transformed by its love for mountain biking. In fact, the area has been made up for cyclists, home to a number of famous routes.
Col du Glandon is just one of these. At first glance, the trail may look simple, as the gradient isn’t particularly steep. But, looks can be deceiving! Col du Glandon boasts several difficult downhill sections that would present any cyclist with a challenge.
The scenery might not be the best in the Alps, but cycling along one of the most famous biking trails is a reward in itself. It’s one you don’t want to miss!
Flaine to Samoëns, Samoëns and the Grand Massif, France
Boasting a varied and huge range of biking trails, Samoëns and the Grand Massif are must-visit destinations for keen cyclists.
Flaine to Samoëns is one of the best routes in this area, highly recommended by those who have given it a try. If you fancy taking in views of the stunning French Alps, including spectacular views of Mont Blanc and the Grand Massif, you’re in luck. It’s the perfect chance to admire the Alpine backcountry on two wheels!
But, the views aren’t all this route has to offer. Flaine to Samoëns is home to huge descents, which provide a challenge as well as a thrill. So, it’s easy to see why this route is one of the most popular in France.
Tempted to head to the Alps and put your cycling abilities to the test? Book your transfer from the airport in advance to secure the best deals!
Solden a destination to get outdoors all year round.
Nestled within the Ötztal Valley, in the Austrian state of Tyrol lyes the valley town of Solden. A great base for active people looking for fun and adventure all year round.
Solden is leading the way in environmentally friendly trail building using small diggers to remove the top soil and then hand crews to shape the lines then re applying the top soil so natural habitats are not lost. Over boggy and marshy ground bridges and tunnels are created to ensure good drainage and also to keep those habitats safe for the wildlife that lives there. Whilst on the trail we saw loads of wildlife including deer which added to the adventure.
Read about my adventure to Solden with Grip Grab here