Mike Cotty’s 1000km Ride

This is a hugely impressive ride and I love routes that have been planned by the riders themselves. Take a look, very unfortunate with the weather for this year in the alps on the whole. Warm winter, wet summer, not great.

The weather messed up Nico Roux’s attempt at the Tour de Mont Blanc Record attempt. He slacked off a bit and only did 12 hours something for the 330 km (9000m vert) route… !!!!

 

Anyway check out Mike in the Mountains

Transcon next year Mike???

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Finishing Kit List for Transcontinental 2014 – What worked and what didn’t | Part I – Bike

The feeling in our hands and feet is slowly coming back and the thought of getting back on a bike is looking more appealing, so a review of the kit that got us through Europe to Istanbul seems appropriate…

BIKE

Charge Bikes – Plug 5

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First things first, it got there. That surely has to be the biggest compliment to it. Many other riders and racers had to abandon as their kit failed around them and they were plagued with mundane, avoidable mechanical issues which really should not have occurred, as well as some rather spectacular mechanical failures.

The bike was run as it would straight out of the factory or shop with only a few small changes to allow us to ride further and longer. The stock bike retails for £1599.00

The front hub was swopped out to an Exposure Revo Dynamo system to power the lights and Supernova Plug III usb charger.

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The original rim from the Plug was used and built into a 32h wheel. The only downside to this was that the rim was quite heavy. It did however, make a very strong wheel which was faultless for the entire trip, no need to retrue or tighten any spokes.

IMG_6321The lighting system was incredible and one of the highlights of the kit that we used. 1000 Lumins out front meant that we could see everything we needed with no issues. It projected a wide beam that was powerful enough to see any holes or glass on the road even when descending at around 50km/h.

An Exposure Joystick was used as a headlight for rummaging around in bags at night, once again, brilliant and once charged, lasted for the whole trip.

Strange to say, but we looked forward to night riding, as the temperatures were cooler and the dawn and dusk views were breathtaking. The only downsides were many shops were closed so it was difficult to get food and water if we ran out and the dogs in Eastern Europe were a little more ‘lively’ at night!

The rear ‘red eye‘ light provided enough to be seen and still functioned, albeit dimmed, after 2 hours of inactivity. This meant that we sometimes would sleep and wake up with the lights still on.

The Alpkit luggage worked very well. The frame bag behind the headtube held spare innertubes (2), zip ties, electrical tape, multitool, chain links, spare brake and gear cable and 1 set of brake pads. Of all the kit that we took, this bag was opened the least, thankfully.

The bag above the top tube held essentials, such as chargers, maps, sweets and painkillers, all easily accessible whilst riding. It also held a iPhone well, even when unzipped, so we could listen to music when riding. A great boost when tired or hungry to get to the next target town.

The rear saddle bag held all the bulk of clothing and spares that we needed to access daily. The bag did have a tendency to swing around when very full but it never rubbed on legs or alter the balance of the bike so was no real issue. It wasn’t as waterproof as you may expect, so clothes did get wet inside if riding in the wet. A different material, similar to the front bag would make a big difference. Some reflective trim or more visible material around it would also help be seen by drivers at night.

The front dry bag held our sleeping kit, although after Italy, we ended up binning this as we wanted to shed some weight from the bikes and this was the easiest way. The position of the dry bags also meant that the only hand position available was on the hoods. Not an issue on the first day, but after the aches and pains started, being able to change hand positions would have made a big difference.

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The Supernova PLUG III could be wired into the Exposure hub to charge any usb units. It worked well, although could not be used in conjunction with the lights and would only charge above 15km/h which meant that you had to be on the flat or descending.

One downside to this unit was the Garmin Touring Plus that was used would automatically power down if the item was charging, then power removed. I.e. if the speed dropped below 15km/h. This became very frustrating as even at corners or junctions the unit would power off and sometimes take a long time to power back up and find our route again.

One solution that we found to this was to use a small power pack to charge the Garmin and leave the dynamo to solely charge the lights.

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This did work well and provided around 4 full chargers until the battery was empty. This could only be charged from a power supply though and after day 4 both our wall chargers broke leaving us without any way of topping up battery levels at restaurants or hotels.

The rear wheel was also changed to an Easton EA90 Cyclocross disc wheel. This was far lighter than the stock wheel and was totally faultless during the whole race. Fewer spokes, but they all stayed tight and true, a sign of quality.

The tyres were changed to Continental GP 4 Seasons (25c on front and 28c on back) from the stock Kenda tread. These were faster rolling and lighter. They both had around 1000km of training rides in them before we set off and still have loads of life left. Brilliant tyres and very strongly recommend for this style of event. We were confident in their puncture resistance even when we did stray off the roads at times…

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In Switzerland we ended up on trails and cycle paths like these for around 60km. At the time, these were a nightmare as we felt they weren’t fast enough for us, but looking back, they were a welcome brake from the traffic.

The disc brakes, in my humble opinion, were a necessity on this race and they performed superbly. Descending the Stelvio, at 7am, in -7degrees with cold hands and loaded bikes was no major issue with discs. A real plus point for the bike.

IMG_6323The Fabric Scoop saddle was far more comfortable than it’s racy image would let you believe. Day 4/5 were pretty uncomfortable as we had spent close to 70 hours on the bikes so far, but either my bum start to fit the saddle more or the shape finally ‘broke’ in, but it was totally pain free after than for the following 2000km. Very strongly recommended. There are three shapes available; flat, shallow and radius. I was using the shallow.

My one gripe about the bike was that when tired, the Sram gears felt very heavy to shift due to the doubletap action, especially on the front. A huge effort was often required to change gear and some serious thought was put in if it was necessary. This may have had something to do with achilles tendon issues as I was frequently standing up on the pedals to climb to avoid changing gear.

Two punctures and a worn out bottom bracket. That is all that went wrong on a 12 day, 3600km adventure. Not worrying about the bike is such a huge relief when there are so many other things that need thinking about; navigating, eating, sleeping, drinking, riding, enjoying ourselves….

A brilliant, versatile, reliable, efficient bike…I would happily use it again for this style of event.

Matthias Wjst Photography

We met some brilliant new friends along our 12 days adventure, one of whom, was the official Race Photographer, Matthias Wjst.

If you think the riders had it hard, he had to stay awake longer and be more attentive than any of the competitors to snap all of the moments in time that can pass so quickly.

He has a beautiful collection of images from the event. The ones at Check Point 2 at the Stelvio are worth searching out and show just how tough the conditions were for so many of the riders, including us.

You can find his website and gallery HERE.

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Women’s only events- will they take off ??

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Most cycling events are held as opens, usually dominated by men with a few women in the mix. Making the experience of an event completely different between genders. As a man competing when you cross the start line its full speed from the word go and often the first part of the event will be the most intense as you want to catch a group that is going to be pedaling at your level- if you miss the good groups there is a good chance that you wont be able to catch them. Once you have found your group everything settles down a bit and spreads out. The group will then work together taking it in turns to lead and work there way around the course and finishing with a sprint for the line.

For Women the start is similar you also need to find your group, but once you have you can relax. Often, once you have got in to a group you are looked after by the men you can sit and draft on the flats and aren’t often expected to have your turn up front in the wind. What often separates the level of ladies is the climbs, you have to climb yourself and keep up with the group in order to not be dropped. Don’t get me wrong events for women are still hard, you are still exhausted when you cross the finish but to an extent you feel looked after.

So what happens when there are no men ….
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2 weeks ago at Vercors myself and about 150 other women lined up ready to take on the challenge Vercors, 120km rolling route with one main climb. The start felt quite mellow compared with the larger mixed events but I think this was more to do with a smaller number of participants. We were lead out by a team of motorbikes through the town after about 3km they sped off ahead and we were off. I had pre race nerves on the start line and was now full of adrenalin an ready to give it my all. But nothing happened no one sped up, no one attacked, everyone maintained their pace and started up the first climb. I was completely thrown off having never done an all female event before, tactically I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t make a move and stayed with the front group waiting to see what would happen. For me I found the pace frustrating which meant a few times I started to pedal but that meant leading. I was then worried that I was going to be tiring my self out whilst everyone else sat behind so i tried to pull out to the right to let someone else come through, it didn’t happen no one came through.

So for the first 30km I was on and off the front, tossing a coin in my head trying to decide whether to stay where I was and wait for someone to take control of the race or whether that should be me?

We then headed into a small village down a decent, the course was weaving through the national park so the roads were quite narrow and a bit rough. we all started rolling over a series of speed bumps and grates closely packed together. That was it I felt something touch my back wheel, i jolted forward over my bars, wobbled, tried to get my balance back, didn’t…. I had 2 seconds where I remember thinking Sh*t here I go. Smash down to the left then bounced over onto the right and skidded down the road.

I crawled to the side of the road and up onto the pavement to get out of the way of the cyclists coming through. I laid on the pavement absolutely gutted- not getting to find out how the rest of the event would go, worried that part if not all of my bike would be written off and becoming more and more conscious that I was missing quite a bit of skin.

The medical team came did there initial checks making sure nothing was broken and that my head was ok. Then they picked me up put me inside the ambulance and began cleaning my wounds. Anyone who had ever had road rash will no how much this STINGS, they have to make sure that the area is disinfected and all the gravel is removed before they can get it covered up.

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Thankfully one of my friends who was supporting his wife in the event was in the town and saw me come off. Once I was out of the ambulance they gave me a lift back to the campsite. I wanted to show my support despite not finishing to the other ladies in the events so with the help of Ben I slowly limped down to the finish line to watch everyone come in. The first lady came in at 4hours 07 Minuits. Fast. Around 30kmh. That means the pace must have shot up, most likely someone attacking up the climb and pulling off forming a fast group. Most of the ladies were coming over the line either in small groups, pairs of quite often alone.

Each lady was presented with a rose a glass of fizz for finishing. The atmosphere in the village was buzzing, it was an awesome event to be part of the sense of achievement amount the women was huge. I think events like this are really important in the development of women’s cycling and hope to get the change to take part in something similar again in the future.

I can’t wait for the next one to show what I’ve got.

Heels on Wheels – meeting ladies who ride FAST in the French Alps

I first got a road bike from my parents when I was 17 and rode to raise money for The British Heart foundation from London to Paris. After that my bike collected a bit of dust before becoming a cheaper, faster alternative to public transport in London.

I was introduced to the mountains at a young age, my Mum did a season when she was younger and is a great skier so I have plenty of memories of building snowmen & attempted igloos when I was small.

peakSunrise in the Alps

Living & working in London was amazing, so much fun. Brilliant friends and working as a personal trainer there are so many opportunities. Although the lifestyle is full on, I fancied trying something different and headed to the Alps for what was supposed to be a single winter season.

5 years later i’m still here. I came out for the snowboarding but the longer I have been here the more I have discovered, I now own a lot of kit and have met so many inspiring people. 2 years ago I brought my road bike over for the summer as I was leading cycling trips for ladies round Lake Annecy. A whole new style of cycling opened up to me, I was used to razzing round London dodging buses, waiting at traffic lights and weaving through pedestrians. But out in the Alps you can head up into the mountains, hardly see any cars, get away from the ski resorts into little villages, conquering big climbs then flying down fast weaving descents.

anacyCycling in Annecy (Alpine Fit Club)

Its a steep learning curve though – climbing is challenging. I spent my first summer road biking pedaling up hill as far as possible then when my legs stopped working descending back to the front door. Near the end of the summer I drove to Alp D’Huez and decided it was time to try a ‘proper’ climb. It was hard 21 bends over 12km but I did it – got to the top celebrated with a beer and decided then that I wanted to get better and better and not have to relive the initial struggle to gain enough strength and fitness. From that moment on I’ve been addicted….

bridgeEmily, Colin and me. 2 of my good friends who introduced me to Alpine Cycling

Since then I have been out on my bike year round sun, rain and snow! Last summer I took on my first multi day challenge riding from Bourg to the Beach, over Europe’s highest Cols and Passes. This summer I decided I wanted to step up my riding and start entering events. I didn’t know what to expect as a girl riding mixed events. I’ve also mainly cycled with groups of men so wasn’t sure how i would shape up in comparison to other women.

road ridingWinter training in the snow

I’ve now completed my first event of the summer in Imola, Italy, entering both the 15km Time Trial and Gran Fondo. All my trainig seems to be paying off I can 3rd in the Time Trial and completed the 160km Gran Fondo in 6H15 (quicker than I was aiming for).

podiumThird place at the Imola Time Trial

I really enjoyed riding with ladies, you feel as though you are on a level playing field and are in a position to be competitive. Since being back in Bourg this summer I have joined a group called ‘ Birds on Bikes’ it really motivating to know that there are lots of other women in the Valley riding bikes, training hard and exploring the mountains. There moto is ‘ Girls in the Tarentaise valley who like to meet up for road bike rides. Boys/hubbies are allowed to join the rides provided they ride WITH us and pay for the coffees!!!!!’.

One of the ‘Birds’ and I went on a 100km ride this week and it was awesome time flew, chatting the whole way, stopping for coffees and lunch but keeping a good pace. Its reassuring to ride with someone your level and chat about bikes, events and cycling from a female prospective. There is a women’s event being held in Vercours on the 24th May which I have entered, I’m super excited to be part of a women’s only race and even more now that I know there will be some familiar faces en route 🙂

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