Guest Post – Etape Caledonia by Ken

Guest Post – Etape Caledonia by Ken

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.

Rider Development Sessions with Breeze

Rider Development Sessions with Breeze

Over the past two months I have been working with Breeze and Energise Me, running Rider Development sessions for ladies who want to feel more confident and able on their bikes.

When we were younger we could pretend and visualise anything we wanted, we could be dragon slayers or in a rock band. This ability to imagine is what helps children to learn. When I coach children we often talk about cones being trees and wiping mud off our shoes to visualise the bottom of the pedal stroke.

Going from coaching children to adults was a new challenge. As adults we tend to be less imaginative which can make learning feel harder.

I adapted my coaching techniques to accommodate for the way the ladies wanted to learn, using short demonstrations with plenty of practise and time for questions and feedback on how they felt. It was interesting, usually if you ask children if they have a question very rarely will they say yes, so I have to ask a lot of direct questions to check for understanding, the ladies were very different. If they were not sure they would double check they had understood correctly by asking questions, which as a coach was very helpful and meant we had plenty of practises and reinforcement of techniques.

The three sessions where all about building skill and confidence,  so each week we re-capped the coaching points from the week before and embedded them before moving onto the next skill.

Over the three weeks we covered braking, cornering and gear selection thinking about real life situations where these techniques would be used. The skills section was followed by going out in a led ride to put it all into practise. This proved a winning formula, it worked very well and showed the importance of programs like Breeze to help develop grass roots cycling.

The feedback from the three weeks was good and I am hoping to do more sessions very soon.

To enquire about these coaching sessions please contact Hannah

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

At the weekend I travelled to Henham in Suffolk for my first cross country race of the season. I have not been feeling great for the last few weeks, my body and mind have felt tired and I have found things have been getting on top of me in all aspects of my life.

Training between 6 and 12 hours a week, working full time and running your own business does not leave a lot of recovery time, and I think I have now officially burnt out!

I have been ignoring the ‘warning’ signs that this was coming. I have been really tired even though getting plenty of sleep. I had a few little colds, not felt like training and training was certainly not going how I wanted it too and to top it all I felt mega emotional!

This all caught up with me at Henham. I did a practice lap and after the great inspiring session with Steve Manser the day before I felt confident on the course.

My start was not great I missed my pedal and everyone else shot off. Where I can usually recover from moments like this, this time my head was telling my body it was game over and my legs were in complete agreement.

I finished my first lap knowing that the first lap I usually find hard, but this was different. When I pushed down on the pedals I had no power, I felt like I was going backwards, after another lap I decided that I should listen to my body and stop.

I have never pulled out of a race and this was such a hard thing to do I kept wondering whether I made the right choice, was I just being a wimp?

Looking back on my decision it was the right one. My body needs some recovery time and trying to push it too hard on Sunday was just going to mean I would need more time off.

My plan now is a training free four days when I can concentrate on letting my body recover fully.

It has been a steep learning curve for me, I have been training so hard spending every spare moment I have on the bike, working on my endurance doing 5 hour rides and dedicating my time to becoming the best mountain biker I can be. So it is really frustrating when you get to the start of a race not feeling your best and not able to perform in the way you feel you should.

What I have learnt from this is to look out for the signs of overtraining and workout a way with my coach that I can focus on training for the Trans Alp in the most efficient way possible.

Part of my challenge is I am always pushing myself, which isn’t a bad thing, but part of that is I am not very good at saying no and take on too much.

Anyway in every situation there is a chance to learn and improve. I am now on my last recovery day feeling a lot happier and rested.

I look forward to what tomorrow brings….


Training in January

Training in January

I can’t believe today is the 1st February! January has gone so quickly at this rate the Trans Alp will be here very quickly…

I started January feeling positive about the improvements in my knee and mega excited about being supported by Specialized for 2016. When I got the phone call from Olivia to say when I could come in for my bike fit it felt like Christmas all over again!

I went up to Specialized HQ to have my bike fit at the start of January it went really well and I was amazed at how the minute changes made such a difference to my riding position and comfort. Red more about my bike fit here.


Since my bike fit I have really pushed my training to the next level, (apart from a blip week getting over a cold) I have been increasing my training load and pushing my body out of my comfort zone.

The last two weeks Michelle and I have combined our long distance training rides, on Saturday I went to Guildford and we rode around the Surrey Hills up Leith Hill and Newlands Corner getting in some great single-track sections in Peaslake and Holmbury Hill. We climbed over 1,200m over 4 hours which was good going, I think we might need to do more sessions like this!


I feel my stamina and fitness is really improving and I am looking forward to increasing the miles over the coming weeks.


So far in January I have ridden 384.41 miles burning 11,913 calories in 35 hours.

Although I have only been able to ride my new bike off-road a couple of times, I have found the 29er more efficient over rough ground it doesn’t feel like I lose as much power.

I had never ridden a full suspension bike, doing XC racing my bike choice has always been down to weight and how much power I can transfer through the pedals, something a ‘normal’ full suspension is less effective at. Enter the brain! The brain is built around an inertia valve which can tell the difference between me pedalling and moving around to a bump coming from the ground. (A weighted mass sits on a light spring, limiting the flow of oil. On smooth terrain, this means oil is not flowing, so the suspension stays firm for efficient pedalling. When the wheel strikes a bump, the weighted mass overcomes the spring, immediately allowing oil to flow and the shock to become active. Once the compression of the bump is complete, the rebound action combined with the spring push the mass back in place, limiting the oil flow again, and instantly putting the shock back to firm.) So far this has been really amazing I have been really surprised going uphill on smooth stuff I don’t feel like I am losing any power and then as soon as I hit the single-track the suspension kicks in allowing the bike to maintain momentum over rough ground and has improved my control and confidence when things getting a bit hairy!


Looking forward to testing my new bike on more trails over the next few weeks.

National Cross Country Series Round 3, Fforest fields

National Cross Country Series Round 3, Fforest fields

This weekend I travelled to Wales for the third round of the British Cycling Cross Country Series. Arriving at the venue on Saturday it was clear there was going to be some good climbs ahead! I set off on my practise lap eager to get in a couple of practises, as the course turned out of the arena you were it with the first climb the first section was a bit muddy this crossed a fire road where it then opened out and started to climb more steeply after the second bend my body was ready for some down! The next section was good fun singletrack weaving through the trees to an A/B line. I felt good so went for the A line it was steep and twisty but as long as you looked ahead and kept the bike moving it was manageable, I made a note to come back and practise it again!

After this came an open fire road and then more climbing! After the second climb came my favourite section a fast descent through the trees with some technical roots and steep off camber sections. The next part included obstacles such as a stream crossing, log jump and a little more climbing!

I felt happy with the course and went and chilled out with Vanessa from Arrow Cycles.


Race day came quickly and I was soon being called into grinding in between Mel and Vanessa on the back row. I got a good start as the riders in front piled into the tight grassy bend I followed Vanessa on the outside, thanks Nessie! I pushed hard on my first climb but as always found this first explosive start left me with a bit of an energy debt which I needed to pay back and climbing this monster hill was not helping me do so!


The singletrack came as a relief and I worked hard to catch the rest of my category with a few riders in sight I kept pushing on, my first two laps seemed to go in a daze, I worked hard to catch and pass Emma and new I needed to get enough distance between us on the climbs as she was fast coming downhill. On the third lap in the final section a girl in the expert category crashed badly in front of me and after moving her bike out of the trail and looking at her knee I decided I had to help her to a Marshall, a few riders including Emma passed me and said they would go get help, thanks to those who did! Heulwen who had crashed and I made our way gingerly down the trail using my bike to support us both until a Marshall came running towards us, I left Heulwen and got back on a little cold but glad she was now in good hands and could get some proper first aid. I carried on but new my next lap would be hard as I felt like my body needed to warm up again!


Overall there were lots of positives from my race, my climbing improved as I went on, where I sometimes find steep off camber turns hard and enjoyed the challenge and felt faster in technical areas.

Also my nutrition was a lot better than usual I managed to eat more pre and post-race and benefited from this.

Thank you Emma for talking to the marshal’s and exchanging places!

Thank you to Bike Fixers for keeping my Silverback Syncra 2 in tip top condition. Thanks also to Grip Grab, Dog Tag and Arrow Cycles for once again adopting me!

Lap times:

Lap 1: 00:25:56

Lap 2: 00:24:43

Lap 3: 00:26:32

Lap 4: 00:26:28