Ham Street (SFA)

Distance: 72 miles. Elevation: 2209 ft.

Another club run with the Sunday Intermediates. The day started off cloudy but the sun broke through later for a while. Roughly 14-16°C. I wore my arm warmers for the first leg of the ride, but took them off after the café stop, but it wasn’t as warm as I thought and I wished I had them back on again. Guess I may as well concede that Summer is over and it’s time for long sleeves!

I had fitted a 12-30T cassette to my Colnago the day before, to make sure I wouldn’t get caught out on the hills again. However, today’s route turned out to be extremely flat, taking in the Vale of Kent and bits of Romney Marsh.

I decided to cycle to the start this morning instead of driving. When I got to Marden, the group had just set off, so it was good timing. A minute later and I would have missed them! There were eight of us out today and we rode at a good pace of over 17 mph despite a constant fresh westerly breeze. We stopped for food at a garden centre in Ham Street. Scrambled eggs on toast was the popular choice of the day!

The pace on the return journey was even more frantic, at 18.2 mph back to Marden, again with that breeze hindering us much of the time. The average speeds of the Sunday club runs are steadily increasing, it seems, and are now often significantly higher than the 14-16 mph that’s advertised as the norm for this group. This is no doubt helped by the younger riders that have been attending. While these higher averages are nice for those that can manage them, I feel there is a danger that it could deter some members who would otherwise choose to ride with this group.

An enjoyable ride!

Ride notes:

Don’t take your arm-warmers off too early

Remember to re-start the timer on your Garmin when you start riding back
It will save you 90minutes+ of rebuilding the ride data in Excel later!

Michelin Pro 4 Service Course Tyres

I bought these tyres back in December 2012 and have only just fitted them. I hope they turn out to be as reliable as the Mavic Yksion Pro Griplink (front) & Powerlink (rear) tyres that they have replaced. I covered over 2000 miles on the Mavics without a single puncture (actually I did have one puncture but it was on the inside of the tube, so had nothing to do with the tyres).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first fitted these red Michelins to my Giant Defy, I was concerned that they looked a bit too garish.

But I’m getting used to them now and I think the on the frame.

They definitely do not look good, however, on my

Notice that I obeyed  when I fitted them!

Follow-up (28th Oct 2013): After less than 200 miles on these tyres, I suffered a puncture on this ride. During the post-mortem, I saw that there was a split on the side of the inner-tube. So I looked for a corresponding hole in the tyre and saw this:


At first I thought there was a piece of grit lodged in the tyre and I tried to eek it out with my finger nail, but then I realised that it was the inner-tube bursting through a split in the sidewall of the tyre! Damn! I don’t think there’s any reliable way of repairing this, so it looks like a new tyre will be required. It was only when I saw the photo that I noticed that there is another thin cut to the tyre just to the left of the hole. Maybe that happened at the same time. These tyres are known for having ‘flexible’ (i.e. thin) sidewalls, and that’s part of their attraction, performance-wise. I won’t criticise the tyres just yet. It was probably just bad luck – the roads were really covered in lots of autumnal debris that day. I’ll see how they go.

Follow-up (21st April 2014): After about 400 miles on the replacement tyre, I suffered another sidewall puncture on this ride. Exactly the same thing had happened again. But this time I had a in my bag. I stuck the boot to the inside of the tyre to bridge the hole. The boot prevented the inner-tube bulging out of the tyre and I assume it would help prevent the hole getting bigger. Tyre-boots are only intended as a temporary repair, but this time I left it on as I didn’t want to have to go out and buy yet another tyre after only 9 rides!

Follow-up (18th October 2014): The tyre boot has now been in the tyre for 1100 miles and still looks OK. I check it every ride. That certainly allowed me to get more value from this tyre. I’m sure there are loads of cautious types out there who’d say “why risk your life for the sake of a new tyre”, “suppose it blew out on a fast downhill”, etc. I would say to them that these tyres have already blown-out twice when nearly new. Cycling has a certain amount of inherent danger. It’s a matter of weighing the odds. If you want to totally ensure your safety then stop riding a bike!


Red tyres
#40: Tyres are to be mounted with the label centred over the valve stem.

Pro mechanics do it because it makes it easier to find the valve. You do this because that’s the way pro mechanics do it. This will save you precious seconds while your fat ass sits on the roadside fumbling with your CO2 after a flat. It also looks better for photo opportunities. Note: This obviously only applies to clinchers as tubulars don’t give you a choice.

Park Tools Tyre Boot


View from Cotman's Ash Lane

Distance: 41.8 miles. Elevation: 3544 ft.

It was a hazy, lazy, balmy, calm(y) day; a great example of why September is my favourite time of year. A watery sun presided over misty landscapes; far away, smoke rose from small fires as landowners cleared away Summer’s exuberant growth. In the distance, farmers silently went about their Autumn tasks. All of nature seemed in a sleepy mood.

The heady aroma of dappled sunlight
The heady aroma of dappled sunlight

OK, OK, so it was a beautiful day already! Get over it! Let’s get onto the nuts and bolts of this ride. And it did involve quite a few nuts and bolts, as I made numerous adjustments and changes to my new bike before setting off:

  1. I fitted my Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. Off the bike, it was easy to feel that the Mavics were noticeably lighter than the Shimano RS30s they were replacing. The only thing was that the red tyres looked terrible on my new frame.P9240535rNo matter, I’ll change the tyres at some later date. I left the SRAM 11-32 cassette on the rear. The di2 electronic shift worked perfectly with it, except it couldn’t cope with the combination of big chain ring and 32T sprocket (it just couldn’t stretch that far), so I had to remember not to use that combination; to do so would risk wrecking the whole drive-train, or even damaging the frame itself!
  2. I changed my handlebar stem to a 100mm version, up from 90mm to see if it felt any better. (It didn’t – I felt like I was slightly too stretched while riding on the hoods.)
  3. I lowered my saddle about 6mm, as I felt it was slightly too high compared with what I was used to.
  4. I fitted my SPD-SL road pedals. After having used my SPD pedals for the past few months to see if they cured a knee problem I was having, I decided to switch back to these to see if the problem recurred.
  5. I changed the cleats on my shoes – to fit the SPD-SL pedals.

So I finally set off on the ride after making all those changes.

Immediately, I felt that the right pedal cleat wasn’t aligned correctly, so I stopped after 13 miles (I was looking for a nice place to stop!) and adjusted it. I was mindful throughout the whole ride to not use 1st gear, as I would not have a gear that low on the new cassette that I’ve recently ordered, so I just wanted to make sure that I could climb all my usual hills on a higher ratio. I managed it OK – even the ridiculously steep Saint Helen’s Lane.

The rest of the ride went without incident. On Strava afterwards, I saw that I had achieved 10 personal bests! And I wasn’t even trying that hard. It’s definitely a fast bike!

Did I mention it was a beautiful day?


View from Cotman's Ash Lane

Ride notes:

White handlebar tape
Already beginning to look grubby after less than 200 miles – who’d have thought? Just as I was coming into West Malling, my chain came off and I got my fingers greasy putting it back on; cautious of not getting the bar tape dirty, I cleaned my hands on the surprisingly strong leaves of a nearby tree!

Since putting the Ksyrium Elites on, the new bike is noticeably less comfortable than it was with the Shimano RS30s. A shame, but such is the price of performance I guess.

Hawkhurst (SFA)

Distance: 51.6 miles. Elevation: 3291 ft.

Another club run with the Sunday Intermediates. It was a very mild, by recent standards, overcast day. There were nine of us this time and we rode a roundabout route to Hawkhurst Fish Farm for our brunch.

It was the first decent ride using my new bike. The bike was great; however, I suffered a bit on the hills with its 11-25 cassette. My other bike, with its 11-32 has two more lower gears. So I was going up hills in what I consider to be third gear! Not impossible, but a lot more effort. I’m definitely going to change the cassette to gain at least a 28 on the back. Two youngsters on the ride were telling me that you can go up any hill with a 25 on the back! I politely explained to them that when they get as old as me they will need lower gears! Regarding the electronic shifting, it worked flawlessly except for two occasions: at one point it dropped the chain off the front small ring, but I managed easily to re-thread it by operating the front mech towards the big ring; at another point in the ride, it wouldn’t switch to the big ring at the front despite repeated efforts on the levers – I ‘fixed’ this by switching to the small ring (even though it was already on it) and then back to the large ring.

The ride back after our food stop was particularly lumpy, and I found this ride pretty tough-going really. We achieved an average of 15.3 mph, which was good considering the amount of hills, some stops, an off-road section and getting lost a couple of times (blame the gps!). There was some joking about my new bike getting dirty and maybe scratched by all the stones flying around as we cycled off-road through some woods near Bedgebury!

As usual, despite the exertion, I still really enjoyed the ride.

Colnago CLX 3.0 di2 2013

I bought this beautiful machine in the September end-of-season sales. It arrived the day after The Circuit of Kent Sportive, at the tale end of a glorious long stretch of hot sunny weather. As soon as it arrived, the weather changed; exactly the same thing that had happened when I bought my Giant Defy Composite 2 last year! With the cold wet weather and other things conspiring against me I wasn’t able to ride it until this evening, 10 days after I got it! That was the longest time off my bike since way back in March.

The ride is wonderfully smooth. It’s very comfortable, even over rough ground, and yet the frame is really stiff. The di2 electronic shifters work well and add to the feeling of luxury. I think I’m going to love riding it!

Only when I’ve have had more time riding it, and over some of my favourite routes, will I be able to comment further on its performance.

This is after I had fitted a shorter H/bar stem and Campag Shamal Ultra wheels

Currently I feel that the handlebar stem is too long so I’m going to try and change that.

Edit (22/9/13): I have now changed the stem from 120mm to 90mm and it is much more comfortable. Although, when I am down on the drops I can see the front wheel hub in front of the handlebars – this usually indicates that the stem is too short. However, another metric for measuring correct bar placement (when placing your elbow touching the front of your saddle, your outstretched fingers should be just shy (1cm or so) of touching the bars) indicates that the new position is correct!

Edit (03/11/13): I have now ridden several hundred miles on this bike and I love it. So far I have:

  • Fitted new wheels – Campagnolo Shamal Ultras with Michelin Pro4 tyres
  • New cassette – 12-30, replacing the original 12-25
  • New stem – 90mm
  • Ultegra 6700 carbon pedals


  • Headset rattle (fixed here)
  • Di2 battery indicator test didn’t work (fixed by re-inserting battery).
  • Di2 sometimes doesn’t shift to small chainwheel

Circuit of Kent 2013

Distance: 79.5 miles. Elevation: 3950 ft.

Looking at the target times for this sportive, I saw that I would have to complete the 79.5 miles (128 km) in 4 hrs 29 mins in order to achieve a gold time; that equates to an average speed of more than 17.7 mph (28.5 km/h). That is really fast! I have never averaged that kind of speed over such a distance before.

The route ends with a steep climb up Carter’s Hill. From previous rides I know how long it takes me to climb that hill. So I calculated the average speed I would need to achieve by the time I reached the foot of the climb in order to finish the ride at the aforementioned 17.7 mph; this gave me a target to aim for during the ride. The answer was a shade over 18 mph! That was really going to take some doing.

The morning was cooler than it had recently been and I pondered wearing a long-sleeve jersey for the first time in months. In the end I didn’t. The weather was a mixture of sunshine and showers. I got quite wet twice on the ride. Although somewhat ‘friendlier’ than others I had competed in, this sportive was maybe not quite as slickly organised. In particular I found the start quite frustrating. Normally you can be on your way shortly after registration, but for this event they only let the riders loose after everyone had signed-in. Consequently there was a huge queue of hundreds of cyclists which meant standing in the cool morning air for over half an hour until I reached the front of the queue.

As is the norm we were released in batches of twenty or so at a time. With my 18 mph target firmly etched into my mind I was on a mission from the start. While others took it easy settling into the ride, I was off and gone. I overtook all of my batch and got on with the job in hand.

A few miles into the ride we were treated to the wonderful mile-long descent down Stumble Hill. Touching speeds of just under 40 mph, this helped me attain a healthy average of 19.8 mph by the five-mile mark. But, with every ‘down’ there must follow an ‘up’, and soon we were grinding up the 400 ft, mile-long climb to the top of Roughway Lane and The Hurst. (Looking at my data later, I saw that I climbed it three minutes quicker than I had done just a few days earlier! That shows the sort of extra effort I was making.) Inevitably my average took a hit and was now down to 16.4! Over the next 8 miles I built it up again to 18 mph, but already I was beginning to realise how difficult it was going to be to keep that up.

At about 16 miles two more ‘lumps’ in the route further conspired against my time. The second of these culminated in the very fast descent of Yalding Hill where I hit 45 mph, which is probably faster than I do it in my car!


The next 30 miles were reasonably flat, as the route made its way into the Vale of Kent, through Staplehurst, Frittenden and Sissinghurst. I missed the first feed station because it was too crowded and I didn’t want to waste time there. Besides, I still had enough energy gels and juice. Despite a concerted effort, I could only manage to raise my average to 17.5 mph. I rode the majority of this sportive solo, although I was able to join a couple of trains at various points. I remember one group of riders going by and I tried to stay on the back of them but just couldn’t manage to hang on. By about 50 miles I realised that I was not going to be able to get my average up to the target 18 mph. After all, I had just done 30 miles of flat and there were more hills to come. That was when I resigned myself to Silver.

By the time I reached 70 miles, my average was 17 mph. Very respectable! Shortly after that I started to ease off a bit because I knew that Carter’s Hill was just eight miles up the road. I was psyching myself up for it; I even emptied-out one of my bidons which was still almost full of water – I didn’t want to cart that extra half a kilo up the hill! When it came to actually climbing it, I was thinking that it’s not actually that bad a hill; I could stay in the saddle for most of it. I mean it’s not as bad as the one at the end of the Mendips Sportive. Nevertheless, many of the other riders, probably most, were walking up it.

With Carter’s Hill done with, the event ended another mile further down the road, after one last-ditch sprint to the line. My final average was 16.2 mph. As I drove home I saw the rest of the field struggling back in dribs and drabs up that hill, this time from the comfort of my car seat. There were moments during the ride when I thought “Never again!” But now it’s over I’m already booking the next one!

Top of The Roughway
Top of The Roughway
Down Yalding Hill
Down Yalding Hill
Fast descent
Fast descent
Carter's Hill
Carter’s Hill slog