Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Product Review: Ass Saver rear mudguard

Some products are so simple, when you first use it you smack your forehead and say, "Why didn't anyone think of this before?!"  Firmly in this category is the Ass Saver 'emergency rear mudguard'...

With all the wet weather around in South-East Queensland over the last few months, I have gotten very sick of getting home with a wet bum and wet, muddy back (or backpack!) from all the puddles and damp roads I've ridden through.

While a proper fender is the obvious solution to this - it is not a viable solution for my roadbike.  They are a pain to fit, there are no lugs on my bike, and they look ridiculous.  While shopping for a few bits and pieces, I stumbled across these Ass Saver mudguards at Cell Bikes, and so I added one to my shopping cart to give them a try.

This review can be summed up very briefly - these things are cheap, but totally awesome! My Ass Saver (in blue to match my bike, but they come in 10 different colours) was fitted to my bike in literally less than 10 seconds. It looked sharp, and it did a fantastic job of keeping my back & bottom dry.

On my roadie - looks great & is very effective.

They fit a huge range of saddles. I have four different saddles at home (my normal roadie, the mountain bike, the fixie, and a spare saddle), and the Ass Saver fit easily on all of them.

On my spare saddle - so you can see how it 'clips' to the saddle rails...

The Ass Saver is also super-light, weighing a tiny 15 grams. Plus it looks really good on the bike, which is a bonus.  It turned some heads at the work bike-rack, everyone wanted to know what it was and were impressed by it.  To top it all of, it is Euro-approved - these Ass Saver mudguards were used by both the Lotto-Belisol and Vacansoleil teams during this year's wet and windy Milan-San Remo Classic.

You can see the red Ass Saver on the saddle of Andre Greipel here...

If you ever take your bike out on wet roads - do yourself a favour and buy an Ass Saver.  I bought mine from Cell Bikes for the princely sum of only $9. They have all 10 colours available, so you can colour match to your bike (or be boring and buy black).

So in summary - buy this product!!  It gets 10/10 dry bums from me...  :)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Jan-Feb-Mar 2013 Review

This year, I committed myself to a few things - the first being to make the Quarter 1 of 2013 a long base building period, with the aim of setting myself up for the remaining 9 months of the year.

While I wouldn't call it a raging success, it went OK:

January - 300km / 13hrs
February - 452km  / 20hrs
March - 341km / 20hrs

January was a bit of a mess.  I tried to change a heap of my training patterns, but the bottom line was the changes just wouldn't work - I couldn't integrate them into my work/family life. So for February, I reverted back to my more usual training patterns - and that worked well for a 50% jump in mileage and a solid increase in training hours.

March was 'messy'. Bad weather and a long work trip meant mileage fell - but on the upside, that 341km was done in the last two weeks of the month, which was a very solid effort! I also managed to keep up the training hours level by integrating some long walks into my program while I was away from home.

The toughest part of all was the mental aspect. By committing to just base training and not racing or doing much effort-wise, I found myself getting a bit bored with it all.  I still loved riding, but I really wanted to stretch my legs out in a race.  So for next year, I'll limit the base period to just one month - lesson learnt.

What happened then

I am pretty disappointed with the first couple of weeks of April - I still haven't ridden my bike this month at all!! 

I wrecked the first week thanks to a little bit of over-enthusiasm. I bought my kids a slip'n'slide - and spent an afternoon in the frontyard with them launching myself at full pelt along the 5m long soap-covered runway.  As it turns out, my almost-40yo back didn't like this at all (go figure?!), and I spent the next 7 days chewing down anti-inflammatories trying to curb the intense lower-back pain...

Slip'n'Slide - for kids, not 39yo men who think they are still a kid...

Then the rain came. Any readers who live in South-East Queensland will know what I mean by that! So for the next week and a bit, it pretty much poured rain. Plus a large chunk of that was spent on a camping trip near Kenilworth.

So tomorrow, the 16th day of the month, will be my first real chance to get back on the bike.  I'm a bit bummed about the off-bike-time, I'm hoping it hasn't ruined all that time & effort I put into the 3-month stint of base training.  But there's not much I can do about it...

What's next - training

I'm not sure what the 'optimal' training approach is from here.  But what I really want to do is train hard, smash my legs with some interval work, and get racing again - so that's what I'm going to do!

The plan will be to work in steadily-increasing interval efforts into my daily commutes, plus try again with joining some fast group rides.  I also want to start a "Mt Gravatt once-a-week" habit to do hill reps. Club criterium racing is also back on the agenda, with the aim of doing at least one race every two weeks.

In terms of training events, I'm also hoping to do the Troy Bayliss Gran Fondo at Canungra on May 19. Its only a 36km event - but it includes the tough 25km climb up to O'Reilly's. It'll be a great last tough hit out before the Metro Champs on the next weekend.

What's next - racing

I have two big Open events coming up, and I am keen to do relatively well (for me!) in both of them.

May 26 - MAP Financials Metropolitan Championships road race at Mt Alford.  I got dropped in this event last year within the first 5km! The aim this year will be to last further with the peloton than last time. I've got about 5 weeks to squeeze some solid training in to do that - with some luck and consistency I'll get there in half-decent shape...

June 16 - Lifecycle Classic (80km hanidicap) at Lowood.  My big target event for the year. I have two months to build for this - that is plenty of time if I can show the dedication and consistency I know I'm capable of.

Juggling it all

So the equation is pretty simple really  - smash myself on the bike, get the mileage up (to at least 500km/month every month), rest & recover properly, and rediscover my form from late last year!

Probably the toughest bit of all this will be juggling in the kids' commitments. My oldest daughter is moving into cross country season, which involves lots of weekend sporting commitments. But that's nothing new - I'll just have to try and squeeze it all in!

Wish me luck! :-)

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Race 1/2013 - BSMC Cyclocross, Murarrie.

Not the race report I was expecting to write for my first event for 2013.  The two key unexpected words - Cyclocross and Podium!

On Saturday, I celebrated the end (finally!) of my 3-month base period by lining up for my very first event of the year.  I had stumbled across a cyclocross event being run by the BSMC mountain-bike club at Murarrie Rec Reserve (where I usually race the Saturday morning criteriums).

I've never raced cyclocross before, and it sounded like fun.  A quick read of the QLDCX website revealed it was to be a pretty relaxed affair aimed at introducing people to the fun of cyclocross.  There were no restrictions on bike-types, and they just wanted riders to get involved.  Sounded like the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

I rolled up at 2:30pm, and registered.  I also signed up my two daughters for the junior race (which rolled off first) - their first ever bike races!

Course recon seemed like a good idea - so I rode a couple of laps.  It was mainly on grass, and included a ditch (not too deep), a couple of wooden obstacles that you needed to carry the bike over, and some tricky off-camber hill turns.

This was also my first ever 'race' using my mountain bike.  I've only ever 'cruised' on my Merida, and riding it aggressively took a lot of getting used to.  I'll need to tweak my position on it, but that's something for another day...

So the girls' raced kicked off (approx 20min). I spent their race madly running around the course, cheering madly and handing off water-bottles for them to drink.  They were both exhausted at the end, but had smiles on their faces.  Even my 12yo, who had a bad stack on her 2nd lap and DNF'ed, was smiling not long after and talking about next time.

Soon enough, it came time for my race.  I was entered in Open (the 'first-timers' category), and they decided to race all categories together, adding A and B grades in at the same time. We all started together (around 20 competitors in total), but results were to be split by category.

The first lap felt brutal.  After not doing any hard efforts in so long, my legs were screaming! Plus pushing hard through the long grass just added to the stress on the legs.  The combo of the technical sections of the course, the lack of racing in my legs, and the relatively unfamiliar bike had my heart rate maxing out straight away.

Most importantly though - it was incredible fun! It was so much harder than crit racing, as there was never a moment you could relax or catch a breath in the shelter of the peloton. Plus you had to be mentally switched on the whole time due to the surface and off-camber turns.  But the combo was just a terrific environment to be racing in.

Adding to the atmosphere, plenty of the spectators had cow-bells they were madly ringing throughout the race!  It may not have been a snowy Belgian winter, but the spirit was there... 

Real cyclocross!! Our race looked nothing like this...  :)

I managed to complete 9 tough laps in the allotted 30 minutes of racing. That was enough for 2nd place in the Open category!! But let's just ignore the fact there were only 2 Open entrants... ;) 

For my trouble, I walked away with a great prize pack consisting of a Champ-Sys musette, a $10 gift voucher for Bicycle Riders Morningside, a sachet of Aussie Butt Cream, and a Specialized water bottle - plus of course my silver 2nd-place cow-bell!  Not bad for a $10 entry fee!

Complete results list - here.

I would highly recommend everyone giving this race series a try. The event is very much focused on giving riders a new style of event to try, and it adds a great bit of variety to your cycling.  Most people used their normal road bikes, and they were fine for the course.  There were also a handful of proper cyclocross bikes, and a couple (including myself) used mountain bikes.  Next time, if it hasn't been raining (ie it's not muddy!), I'll take my road bike instead.