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    A Dirty Wknd in Sardinia - Ride Report

    A Dirty Wknd in Sardinia - Ride Report

    "... If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!"
    Maximus Decimus Meridius, The Gladiator.

    It's roughly 12:30pm on Sunday, and Russell Crowe's speech from the beginning of Gladiator has just come into my head. I am riding through open fields with the sun on my face and the wind on my back. Having just climbed La Speranza, a 5km climb at an average of 10% and total elevation gain of 500 metres, in 30 degree heat; metaphorically I feel like I might have died! However once the pain had ended, and the epic gradient relented, the road extended before me invitingly, I knew that I wasn't in fact dead, just in cycling heaven! As per Russell's instructions; I certainly wasn't troubled!

    Before I romanticise anymore about Sunday's climbing, let me go back to the beginning of the weekend and start from the top. On Friday 21st of October, members from Dirty Wknd joined Grand Tours Project and Sardinia Grand Tours on the beautiful island of Sardinia for a weekend of epic cycling, quiet roads, ocean vistas, beautiful climbs and even better descents. The sun came out in full force to meet us, with the temperature touching 30 degrees for a perfect weekend of late season riding. On par with the cycling was the hospitality; food and wine aplenty as the locals in the town of Bosa took us into their hearts and their homes and wouldn't let us leave until we were stuffed! We were filled with beautifully cooked and incredibly simple local delicacies, and plyed with similar quantities of local wine. After a great days riding and a nightly feast, getting to sleep in our peaceful seaside hotel certainly wasn't a problem! 

    Cycling beaks in Sardinia

    Day 1 - Arrival, #bikeporn and Cafe Ride.

    The Dirty Wknd crew boarded the Stansted Express at 7:25am, steaming coffees in hand and dreams of sunshine in our hearts! The excitement was palpable; everyone eager to get there and get on the bikes immediately. The flight was less than 2 hours and as unremarkable and smooth as you could possibly hope for. We were met at the airport by Alain from Grand Tours Project and Marcello from Sardinia Grand Tours, along with the Swiss contingent (who turned out to be Canadian). The group was complete, and after a short drive along the most beautiful coast road we'd collectively ever seen, we arrived at our hotel just outside Bosa. When Marcello told us that we would be riding along that same coast road on Sunday, excitement levels went from palpable to uncontrollable!

    After a quick check in and snoop around, we went to inspect the hire bikes. Definitely a worry for a few people - would they fit? Would they be in good condition? Would they be aero enough?! Everyone was thrilled, however, to be greeted by a fleet of nearly new Canyons! As the sun was just beginning to descend, we set off down the hill into Bosa for a 25km leg loosener ride. The short loop took us down into the town and onto the seafront, before winding into the old town centre where we stopped for a quick coffee. Riding 15km and stopping for coffee might seem a bit early to some of you, but much like pro cyclists on a short rest day cafe ride, this was just a leg loosener to size up the bikes. Also, the old town was too pretty not to stop, and if it's good enough for the pros then it's good enough for us too. However, it didn't take long before we remembered we were not pros, and duly substituted coffee for a round of Aperol Spritz!

    Italian Cycling Breaks

    After soaking in as much evening sun as we could, and deciding against a second round of Aperols (serious will power was exerted), we hopped back on the bikes and climbed back up the hill as the sky turned orange and lit up the horizon. Cobbled streets and hillside towns greeted us as the sun went down; a truly unforgettable scene. After a quick turn around at the hotel we were on our way to dinner at 'Trattoria da Riccardo for our first delicious dinner. Fresh, local fish, cheese and ravioli was washed down with plenty of delicious local red wine. It was simple, beautifully cooked and just what we needed. After a quick ride briefing for the next day, we ambled back to the hotel and fell into bed.

    Day 2 - 8km Climbs, Shepherd's Bread and Saturday Night in Bosa.

    Our peaceful 19th century villa hotel did make it a little difficult to get out of bed, but the open road was calling; after a hearty Sardinian breakfast we were once again rolling down the hill towards Bosa in the glorious morning sunshine. Today's ride would total 80km and 1200m of climbing on almost empty roads. The biggest road obstacle we faced turned out to be a flock of sheep being quietly driven up the hill by a relaxed shepherd. Bloody sheep - bet they don't pay road tax!

    How to Getaway for a European Cycling Holiday

    The bulk of Saturdays' climbing was one long stretch, totalling 8km in length and taking us up to nearly 900 metres above sea level. The chance to tackle some 'proper climbs' was one of the biggest draws to riding in the Mediterranean, and we certainly weren't disappointed. Switchback on top of switchback for 8km is just not something you can find in the South of England (and no, Box Hill does not count!). We were rewarded at the top of the climb by a glorious view and Marcello's road side feast. We're pretty used to stopping halfway for cake and coffee on a ride, maybe a bacon sandwich; but we're certainly not used to a mid ride snack of shepherd's bread, fresh olive oil and Pecorino cheese! It was a delicious spread and perfect for the mountain top setting. From the top of the climb, we rolled down the hill to a local town for espresso and a toilet stop, before turning back to the hotel. Passing through quaint, cobbled villages that were almost deserted had become almost commonplace by this point in the ride, until we came to Tinnura that is; the village of the murals!

    cycling weekend in Sardinia

    When I tell you that there were more people painted on the walls than there were people in the village (ourselves included), you'll understand how quiet the area was. With every wall space covered in some incredible murals showing Sardinian history and myth, It was an incredible sight to behold and we could have easily spent hours there. However tummies were rumbling and the desire for food took over! A short ride back to the hotel saw us rewarded with another delicious lunch of homemade pasta and salad by the pool. Certain members of the group (i.e. me) had sworn they were going to swim, however chickened out after paddling in the water. It would've been a great post ride ice bath! After a few hours chilling out (napping), we jumped in the van and drove down to Bosa for a night on the town! A delight of tiny winding streets; as Mediterranean a town as you could hope to find, with a beautiful Old Town square in the centre.

    We were all very surprised however as the Sardinians led us away from the square and through a green door and into an apartment block. It was a little strange, but our trust in our guides paid off as we were greeted by a cellar with just two or three tables in it, complete with fermenting room full of barrels of wine and. Local brothers Emanuela and Luigi make local Sardinian wine, or Malvasia di Bosa, right there in the cellar, and serve local suckling pig on a ginormous cork platter to go with it. the wine, food and setting was incredibly cool; an incredible local experience we would never have found on our own. It was hard to leave the brother's amazing cellar, and we definitely drank too much of their wine; but it was only a short drive back to the hotel where we collapsed into bed, ready to do it all again the next morning.

    Perfect Food for a Sardinian Cycling Break

    Day 3 - Church Bells, The Coast Road and La Speranza! 

    Being a good Catholic country, the Church opposite the hotel rung her bells at exactly 7:30am, ensuring that we were all out of bed and at the breakfast table in good time. Today we were leaving our lovely hotel behind, loading up the support van and riding to the bigger town of Alghero. Of course this meant we would be riding along the epic coast road we had driven down on Friday. The group were eager to get out on the road, particularly because the sun was already fully shining and it was looking like the beginnings of a glorious day. With Alain leading the way, we rolled down to Bosa for the last time and started on the coast road. I've ridden in a few different countries now, and I have to say that this road was up there with the best of them! Reminding me a lot of the Cote D'Azur, we hugged the coast and wound our way up a 12km climb (at a fairly gentle gradient) basking in sunshine and congratulating ourselves on our fantastic life choices. 

    After a quick road side stop to take on some water and look back at the road we'd just covered, we carried on our blissful way, unaware of the beast that was ahead. Marcello and Simone had told us about a tough climb that was coming up, but everyone was too busy taking photos of the scenery to pay any attention. How foolish we were! Turning off the coast road, the gradient immediately pitched up to around 10% and disappeared around the first of many, many corners. Around about 1KM into the climb, I realised that my 'British' style of climbing was not going to cut it as Alain, who lives in a Swiss ski resort and eats Alpine passes for breakfast, sailed past me and disappeared into the sun. Four kilometres,  and what felt like a couple of hours later, I finally reached the top of the pass and begun to question if I was still alive, or as Maximus had predicted, had actually passed into Elysium! It was tough going, but everyone made it up (especially Ren, who definitely bagged the QOM for the day). A very tough climb, but a great challenge, and the 'proper climbs' were exactly what we'd come for!

    The Best Climbs whilst Cycling in Sardinia

    We regrouped after the climb with yet another fantastic Sardinian lunch of bread, cheese, salami and olive oil; this time with the added delight of Fregula, a local dish that's halfway between pasta and couscous. After 60km in the saddle and two big climbs, we were all a little bit glad to hear that it was all down hill to Alghero. What we weren't prepared for was just how incredible of a descent it would be! Around 10 switchbacks on a perfectly paved road meant for an awesome ride down the mountain. Of course, some of us got a bit excited (me again) and took the penultimate bend a little bit fast, ending up in a heap at the side of the road. Luckily, a kindly barrier reduced a lot of my speed, limiting the damage quite a lot. Sadly, a mere 10km from the end, and one corner from the bottom of the hill, my ride was over. Like Contador at the Tour, I climbed into the van and had to watch the others ride off to complete the lap of honour and sprint finish in Alghero old town. The very same road that the Giro D'Italia will depart on in May next year.

    After negronis on the beach whilst the sunset (Katherine and Graham) and a quick dip in the hotel roof top pool (Steve), we made our way into the Old Town for our last dinner. Today's lesson is don't ride too fast down hills and crash at the bottom, you always miss out on some of the fun! After a tour around the Old Town, we arrived at our restaurant on the harbour wall for 3 courses of stingray, seafood linguini and rabbit, all washed down with more lovely local wine. As it had done all weekend, conversation flowed easily for a group of relative strangers; another reminder of cycling's ability to bring great people together in great places!

    Getting away from the UK for a cycling break

    After an evening walk back along the sea front to the hotel, everyone turned in and got a good night's sleep. Well, nearly everyone got a good night's sleep! Steve and I decided that a nightcap was in order and made our way to the seafront bar opposite the hotel to dissect the trip and argue over just which ride was the best! A good few hours, and a couple of negronis later, we stumbled back to the hotel and into bed. Safe to say, some of the group got up for the early morning breakfast ride, and some did not. I'll let you decide which of us made it!

    Day 4 - Breakfast ride, Sightseeing and a Farewells.

    Alain, Renata and Charlotte apparently had a great breakfast ride around Alghero and the surrounding area; Steve and I had very sore heads and massive FOMO! The sad time had come to break up our merry band and go our separate ways. The Swiss contingent had an earlier flight and made their way to the airport, leaving the DW crew to wander into town for coffee and a bit of sightseeing before also heading to the airport and home.

    When the Giro D'Italia announced that it would be starting the 100th edition of the race in Sardinia I have to say I was a little surprised. But after riding on the roads, meeting the people and experiencing the hospitality, I now fully understand! I can't express just how much fun this trip was. Great company, with a group made up of Swiss, Canadians, Americans and Brits, plus great roads and fantastic food make for an unforgettable weekend. The addition of local knowledge from Marcello and Simone meant we were treated to the genuine Sardinian experience! I would like to say a massive thank you to Alain and Grand Tours Project as well as Marcello and Simone for all their organisation and expertise. 

    If you like the sound of a Sardinian weekend cycling and eating delicious food, then make sure to sign up for one of our 2017 trips - I personally can't wait to get back out there, and would love for you to join us! Full details and sign up - Click Here

    Dirty Wknd Cycling Club London

    The Bike Fit Series No. 3 - Look Good, Feel Good, Ride Fast!

    The Bike Fit Series No. 3 - Look Good, Feel Good, Ride Fast!

    Those who have read the previous two editions of this 'Bike Fit Series' of blogs will know that just over 6 weeks ago, I decided to get a professional bike fit with Elliott Richmond at Super Domestique in Shoreditch. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series by clicking on the links. In a nutshell, the discomfort I was feeling during and after rides had caused me to relinquish years of resistance to getting a bike fit, and seek professional help. This is part 3 of the series - the results!

    A quick scan of Strava shows that I have ridden close to 1400km and climbed over 12,000 metres in just under 60 hours since visiting Super Domestique. Of the 5600km I've ridden this year so far, these have been by far the most enjoyable! With little else changing in my riding habits (and believe me when I say I've loved the other 4200 km) I can only put this increased enjoyment down to the bike fit.

    Part of me really wanted it to make no difference to performance or comfort, so all those years of resisting would prove vindicated. However anyone who has ridden with me in the last 6 weeks knows only too well how much of a difference I've noticed, because I haven't been able to shut up about it! Below I have tried to outline the improvements in comfort, handling and performance that I've noticed. If any of these resonate with you then I would suggest looking into getting a bike fit. 

    Super Domestique Bike Fit London

    Ride Comfort:

    Ride discomfort, joint pain and injury are the biggest reasons most people cite for getting a bike fit, and it was no different for me, however I never would have predicted the dramatic (and almost immediate) reduction in discomfort. Before the fit I was getting knee pain, achilles pain and a dull throbbing in the side of my right foot. During the fit we added new orthotic footbeds (below) to my shoes and repositioned my cleats, amongst other things. These 'lower-leg' changes have successfully stabilised my feet and reduced movement in my knees, reducing almost all pain. Only on really long rides (6-8 hours) do I now feel a small amount of pain.

    Thanks to a slightly shorter left leg, diagnosed by Elliott during the fit, I was getting glute and hip flexor pain after a few hours in the saddle, meaning that almost all rides were accompanied by a dull ache. Not enough to stop me riding, but uncomfortable nonetheless. A well placed foot wedge in my left shoe balanced out my legs, completing my pedal stroke, and hugely reducing the pain I was feeling. Further adjustments to seat height and bar position meant that I was better positioned to use my core to support my upper body, as opposed to my arms, shoulders and hands (reducing the pins and needles I was getting before). This has had a huge effect on my comfort, but has also helped to strengthen my core, thereby improving my climbing (more on that later).

    So my overall comfort has improved hugely on both longer and shorter rides, and through a combination of better riding position and looking after myself a bit more (stretching before and after rides), my body is actually changing quite a lot. Getting out of bed and hopping back on the bike after a long ride the day before is certainly much easier! 

    How to improve your cycling performace

    Ride Handling:

    One thing that I noticed during the bike fit was how much my bike 'bounced' around whilst pedalling on the turbo, before we'd adjusted any parts. After Elliott's adjustments however, the bike was almost completely still - with the movement completely gone. Of course, it wasn't the bike that was moving, but rather me bouncing around in the saddle because my ride position was so awful. This type of movement is difficult to notice on the road, but it was having a hugely detrimental effect on comfort and handling. After the fit, the bike sat completely still in the turbo and I was able to pedal smoothly and comfortably. Transfer this to riding on the road and my handling (especially in corners) had improved dramatically; so much so that it felt like I was on a new bike!

    My original handlebar position meant that the drops (the lowest part of the handlebars, below the brake levers) were too far away to reach comfortably, so I just never used them. This meant sprinting on the hoods (terribly bad form), and more importantly descending on the hoods too; leading to sore hands from braking hard and a feeling of being out of control. I know that control whilst descending is very important to most new cyclists, so being able to comfortably get down onto the drops whilst descending has made a huge difference to my speed and control.

    A theme you will have no doubt noticed if you've read the other two editions of these bike fit blogs is that, when it comes to cycling, everything is connected. The excessive movement I was experiencing before the fit was not only hampering my control and handling but also directly contributing to my pain and discomfort. As you can imagine, bouncing around in the saddle for 5 hours can make for a pretty uncomfortable ride. It wasn't until I had the fit however, that I was able to notice the excess movement, and see that it is connected to my discomfort. Sometimes you have to be shown what is right in front of your face! 

    Join a Cycling Club in London

    Performance:

    Unlike the majority of cyclists, I am not a massive stat head. I don't ride with a power meter or heart rate monitor and I don't spend hours pouring over Strava data, so measuring performance in any quantifiable sense is rather difficult. I ride on feel, so comfort and handling are more important to me than power output and max heart rate. However if KOMs are your thing, then a quick scan of my strava data shows that I've improved my PBs on all of the regular segments on our rides, including smashing 1:30 off my Ditchling Beacon time after the fit (*cough* KOM  for the Dirty Wknd strava leaderboard *cough*) 

    As mentioned above, my new ride position means that my core is far more engaged than it was before, something that is absolutely key when it comes to climbing. The fact that I am improving rapidly on every climb is directly down to the bike fit; both from feeling more comfortable and more stable, but also due to a much stronger core. Be warned however, increased engagement of the core did lead to sore abs for a few days right after the fit. On the plus side however, you'll certainly improve your climbing; and who knows, you might even get a six pack ;)

    Conclusion: 

    'Look good, feel good, ride fast' is a gospel cycling truth. If you feel great on the bike you will ride faster, further and for longer, with a great big smile on your face! This can be true of a new set of kit, wheels or even sunglasses - it doesn't take much to give you that buzz to get out on your bike! However, unlike a snazzy new aero jersey, a bike fit will give you a buzz that lasts for years - well after the neon pink on your jersey has faded in the wash! A few people have remarked on the cost, and at first glance it might seem like a lot of cash. However, when you break it down into the number of years you will own the bike for and how many times you will ride it, then it's actually very reasonable. And you can you really put a price on staying injury free, can you?

    I couldn't be more pleased with the results of my fit; I wish I had done it years ago when everyone told me to! I am glad I did it before my discomfort turned into real pain or injury; it was certainly worth the money. I can't recommend Elliott at Super Domestique enough; his passion for cycling is evident and the time taken to explain the process to me, especially the connectivity between bike and rider, ensured that I understood the whole process. My knowledge of the interaction between my body and the bike has greatly improved, making me a much better cyclist overall. It's not just me either; quite a few members have since had a fit at Super Domestique and have been kind enough to email us and give glowing feedback - so thanks for that!

    If anything in the bike fit blog series has struck a chord with you, then get in touch with Super Domestique and discuss how a fit can help you. They are a stone's throw from Liverpool Street, and the 3 hour fit is well worth the trip! If you can't get to London, then do some research into bike fit options in your area, and give them a call to discuss the process. You won't regret it!

    Click this link to request a call back from Super Domestique. Dirty Wknd members get 15% off bike fit labour and orthotics and 10% off any parts. For more info on becoming a member - Click Here

    Dirty Wknd Bike Fit Blog

    A Dirty Wknd In Bath!

    A Dirty Wknd In Bath!

    Bath is the perfect city to see in a weekend; intimate, but packed full of amazing history and a buzzing nightlife. The Abbey, the Roman Baths and Thermae Spa are all must see sights, and thanks to the compact nature of the city, you can do them all in a weekend.

    The North Somerset countryside is a playground for the active weekender! As Bath is a small city, you can be out in the countryside in no time; whether hiking or cycling, the undulating routes provide great views of the city and an amazing day out!

    Friday

    8.30 pm

    1) Late Dinner at Yammo

    In Naples, ‘Yammo!’ means ‘Let’s go…’ so there isn’t a better place to start your active weekend! Head to Yammo for authentic Neapolitan street food. No frills; it’s fun, informal, and exactly what you need after a long week. Yammo! lets the food speak for itself, and it shouts pretty loudly; the pizza’s are the best in Bath!

    Dirty Tip: Have freshly-made arrancini to start, washed down with a Negroni Spagliato. It’s made with Prosecco instead of soda; perfect for starting the weekend off with a bang.

    Saturday

    9:00 am

    2) Early breakfast at Society Cafe

    Start your morning at the Society Cafe for a Shoreditch-esque breakfast. The coffee is excellent and pastries are fresh, and their freshly-made cakes make for the perfect mid ride snack. Opening at 7.30am is ideal if you’re heading out on a ride, and they even have bike parking. Regular art exhibitions mean that there’s always something interesting to discover whilst you prepare for the day.

    Dirty Tip: Ask about the guest coffee. usually an unusual blend, and definitely worth trying. Comes with a free coffee lesson from the barista!

    10:00 am

    3) Morning Ride!

    Whilst it is tempting to spend all morning in bed; you’ll feel so much more relaxed after a cycle. The feeling of achievement afterwards will set you up for a great weekend!

    Both cycling and walking in Somerset is hugely rewarding, due to the challenging terrain (hills) and the beauty of the scenery. There are hidden gems as well, in the shape of iron age forts, 18th Century follies, and fantastic country pubs!

    Dirty Tip: North Somerset is surprisingly hilly, so prepare for climbing, and allow yourself a bit of extra time. Take plenty of water and energy bars.

    Cycle Routes

    Bath to Bradford on Avon Loop (Easy Route)
    A lovely ride out from Bath to the quaint and picturesque village of Bradford on Avon. Stop at one of Bradford’s famous Tea Shops!
    Distance— 44km (2 hours). Route details and map Click Here

    Bath to Cheddar Gorge (Intermediate Route)
    Riding west from Bath, this route takes you into the Mendip Hills Area Of Natural Beauty and finally the cycling mecca of Cheddar Gorge! The Gorge area is quite hilly, so be prepared for climbing! Stop at the Cheddar Gorge tourist centre to refuel.
    Distance— 80km (3.5 hours). Route details and map Click Here

    12:30 pm

    4) Lunch at Sam’s Kitchen

    Head to Walcott Street, Bath’s trendy artisan district, and grab lunch at Sam’s Kitchen. More an open kitchen come deli than a cafe, the food is freshly prepared every day from very local sources, and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Lunch is roasted meat (from the family farm 12 miles away) and/or fresh salads, followed by mouthwatering, made-in-house cakes and pastries. Regular art and music events also keep the diners entertained, so pop in and see what’s on.

    2:30 pm

    5) Visit the Roman Baths and Thermae Spa

    Sunday afternoon is the perfect time to visit Bath’s must see sites. After brunch head to Bath Abbey to see where England’s first king was crowned. The Abbey is closed from 2:30–4:30pm on Sundays, so get in early. After the Abbey it’s onto the Roman Baths for a tour of this World Heritage Site — an amazing glimpse into Roman life in 70AD! Get a free audio guide and listen to American author Bill Bryson’s insightful commentary.

    Dirty Tip: Buy a ‘Spas ancient and modern pass’ for access to the ancient baths, champagne tea in the Pump Room and bathing in the modern Thermae Spa and rooftop pool! Perfect for recovering after yesterdays cycle.

    7:30 pm

    6) Dinner at Sotto Sotto

    Now the exercise and culture part are out of the way, the real fun can begin! After the Spa, head to Chandos Deli for a glass of wine (or two) and some nibbles before dinner. The two best places to eat in Bath are Circus or Sotto Sotto (book in advance). Circus is a modern British restaurant that prides itself on locally sourced, fresh ingredients and its reputation as Bath’s best family run eatery. Subterranean Sotto Sotto (above) recently won ‘Bath’s best Italian’ for its fresh, traditional Italian dishes, with a contemporary twist. The setting is beautiful, and the food fabulous!

    Dirty Tip: Head to Cheap Street after dinner for a Romantic stroll around the lit Abbey — It’s quieter at night and less touristy; you won’t be disappointed!

    Sunday

    10:30 am

    7) Brunch at Wild Café

    Tucked away down a tiny cobbled street in the city centre, Wild Café is the perfect place for a lazy Sunday morning. They produce the freshest and most local brunch in Bath with the motto being ‘west is best’. Have the fair-trade organic coffee, poached eggs and ‘Bath pig’ chorizo. The café is also run on 100% renewable electricity, and future plans include the first zero carbon Eggs Benedict! After a delicious brunch and a wander around the town, head back home feeling relaxed and ready for Monday morning!

    Dirty Tip: You can’t book at Wild Café, so grab the Sunday papers and relax in the café’s waiting area.

    Where to Stay

    ££ Dorian House

    This boutique B&B is a 10 minute walk from the centre and boasts great views of Bath. The staff couldn’t be more helpful and the breakfast, served in the Japanese inspired garden, is delicious. The rooms are an eclectic mix of modern decors, boasting Asian antiques and a vast modern art collection. White Company products, marble bathrooms, power showers and a coffee machine can be found in all rooms.

    Dirty Tip: Secure bike storage is possible, just let the house know you will be bringing them when booking.

    Travel

    By Car:
    Bath is very accessible by car, only 2.5 hours drive down the M4 from London. We recommend leaving early if you can, as the traffic can get quite bad. Exit the M4 at Junction 18 and just follow the signs for Bath!

    By Train:
    Bath is also incredibly easy by train, and it’s also really simple (and free) to book your bicycle on as well. The best way is to phone The Train Line and book your ticket and bike space all at the same time. Check train times online (www.thetrainline.com) but then call 0871 244 1545 to book. Remember to book bike(s) space, as if you don’t, they might not let you on the train with them when you arrive.

    Summer Might Be Over, But The Party's Just Getting Started!

    Summer Might Be Over, But The Party's Just Getting Started!

    Pinch, Punch...get out on your bike!

    Summer is not really over; summer is a state of mind. If you're lucky enough to be a cyclist then you have access to that state of mind every single day. All you've got to do is swing your leg over your bike and get out on the road. Summer is year round when you're a cyclist!

    Whilst we're sure you all agree with the above, some of you have asked what the plan is now that autumn is upon us. Well the answer is more of the same and a lot more besides! See below for an outline of what we've got planned for the next few months (and we've already started planning for 2017 too).

    Dirty Wknd Group Rides - join a fun and social group

    Rides Rides Rides!

    That's right; we will continue to run as many rides as we possibly can throughout the autumn. We love taking you guys out on the road and helping you to grow in confidence, take on new challenges and meet other cyclists. A slightly cooler temperature ain't gonna stop us (rule #9 is the most important rule). Weekend rides will be continuing as normal, with a view to create even more rides in more places!

    Obviously with some uncontrollable factors (like that pesky daylight) we are having to make some changes to our rides, but we relish the challenge. We've had to be creative with our offering to deliver our members real value. Some plans below:

    - Morning Rides
    From laps of Regents and Richmond Park to hill reps of Swains lane; autumn training = early mornings! Trust us,it's a great feeling to get to your desk having already ridden!

    - Indoor Rides
    From spin classes to track sessions, we will be running a few indoor rides over the next couple of months, including trips to the Olympic Velodrome, the Velopark and Herne Hill. As well as indoor rides, we hope to be running some yoga, pilates and fitness classes specifically for cycling. Details are still to be finalised, watch this space. 

    -Member-led Rides
    We want to expand our rides to more cyclists in new places all over the country. To do this, we need your help! If you want to set up a ride in your area, please just email us with the details and we'll put it on the site.

    Adding Brands to the Dirty Wknd Membership

    We've already got Queen of the Mountains, Super Domestique and Yellow Jersey on board, but we're not stopping there. We've listened to your feedback and have a host of exciting brands ready to join the membership and offer you discounts. We weren't able to convince everyone to join (Rapha gave us a very polite 'no thanks'!), but we hope that you'll be pleased with who we're getting on board. If you're not, or you want someone specific added, then please get in touch.

    Dirty Wknd Sardinia winter cycling

    Sardinia Winter Training Camp!

    This Oct and next Feb/March we will be running a long Dirty Wknd in Sardinia. This will be Fri - Mon and consist of 4 rides on the beautiful island, 3 square meals and accommodation in a lovely 3 star Italian hotel. Details will be released in the next few days, with the 1st trip taking place on the 21st - 24th Oct. There will also be a 'non-rider' package, so loved ones and friends who don't ride can come along. Book it off now! 

    Dirty Wknd Club Kit!

    Final designs have been submitted and the kit will soon be ready to pre-order. We're incredibly excited to show you, especially as so many of you helped to design it. The kit will be extremely high quality, incredibly reasonable (with extra 10% off for members) and we really hope you're going to like it!

    Summer Party For Cyclists

    End of Summer Party!

    Like Sir Brad & co above (photo: Daily Mail), we will be throwing an end of summer party to celebrate everyone's amazing achievements over the last few months. It will be open to all friends and family; basically anyone who wants to come along for a good old knees up! Dates and venue are being confirmed, but will likely be a Friday at the end of Sept/early Oct.

    Dirty Wknd Walks!

    Now it's certainly true that cycling is our first love, however we also really enjoy a good autumn walk. Picture the scene: a short train ride out into the countryside, followed by a long group walk (with a pub stop for lunch, of course) before another short trip back into London. Sounds pretty good to us! More details to follow, but please email us if you'd like to hear more about Dirty Wknd Walks!

    Join a walking group in London

    As you can see we've got a lot planned for the next few months, and we'd love you to be a part of it. As previously stated, Dirty Wknd members get access to all of the above for discounted prices (even free in some cases), as well as discounts from our awesome partner brands. For full info and to sign up please - Click Here

    Finally, we'd just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who's ridden with us, emailed in, tweeted us and generally just been involved. We've loved every second of it, and can't wait to ride with you in the next few months and beyond. As we said, 2017 planning is already underway!

    Happy Pedalling!

    David & Emma
    Dirty Wknd 

    The Bike Fit Series No. 2: Getting A Bike Fit

    The Bike Fit Series No. 2: Getting A Bike Fit

    When I left you last time I'd decided that I was going to get a professional bike fit and orthotics from Super Domestique in Shoreditch. In short, I'd decided to get a bike fit, mostly due to some sustained joint pain, but also just to see what all the fuss was about! It is fair to say that 100% of cyclists I know that have got a bike fit in the past have raved about it. Can it really make that much of a difference, or were they just waxing lyrical due to the sheer amount of money they'd spent? Well, let's find out...

    Pre Bike Assessment

    I arrive at Super Domestique a little unsure of what to expect. I assume that I will be strapped to a turbo and made to pedal, whilst the fitter takes notes and adjusts bits of my bike. I couldn't be more wrong! I am met by Elliott Richmond, owner and head fitter, who duly tells me that we won't be touching the bike for a good hour at least. This is the first indication that there might be more to this bike fit lark than I had thought. The first thing that Elliott is keen to stress is that a bike fit is a very personal and bespoke process, and that everyone gets something different out of it. Best to have an open mind then.

    We sit down over coffee from Hex next door (part of the service) and discuss my entire cycling, sporting and injury history; as well as what I want to achieve from getting a bike fit and from cycling in general. Again Elliott stresses that there is no blueprint for this - it's about me and what my body is telling me, but also what I want to achieve from riding my bike. As I list all of the injuries I've sustained over the years I begin to wonder how I'm still upright; broken ankle and collarbone from riding motorbikes, patella damage from playing rugby - all of which, Elliott tells me, will be potentially having an effect on my cycling position, comfort and overall output. 'Surely you can't compensate for an ankle I broke 5 years ago', I think? Again, how wrong I am! Listening to me list all my past injuries, alongside any aches, pains and niggles I am experiencing on and off the bike at the moment, Elliott is formulating a picture in his head (you can pretty much see the cogs turning). 

    Dirty Wknd Bike Fit Blog

    Still no sign of touching the bike yet. Elliott tells me we're going to start with my feet, and moulding the custom made orthotic footbeds. This is partly because they take time to mould and set to the shape of my foot, but also because making sure our feet are supported and have a solid base to push from is one of the most important things we can do when it comes to cycling. Elliott tells me that our feet (and our bodies in general, actually) haven't really evolved for cycling. Running and walking yes, but cycling, not so much. Orthotic footbeds are a heat moulded insole that is shaped to your foot, set hard, and then cut to fit into your existing shoes. The moulding process can be seen in the picture above. 

    "The orthotics bridge the gap between the sole of your shoe and your foot, essentially bringing the shoe up to your foot, making a rigid lever that is ideally needed for cycling" is how he puts it. He goes on to tell me that the orthotics also help to hold my foot in place; the less my foot moves around in my shoe, the less my knees have to move to compensate for the foot movement. This added stability to the leg serves to align my knees and feet, giving me a more natural pedal stroke. Orthotic footbeds improve efficiency and output, but more importantly help to control and limit the stress on the joints in the kinetic chain (foot, knee, hip etc). "One or two millimetres of movement in your shoe can easily become ten millimetres in your knees and even more in your hips, lower back etc. All the way up to pain in your upper back, neck, shoulders and even hands; often this is rooted in your feet not being secure and stable enough, so other body parts overcompensate." I think about the pins and needles I've been suffering in my hands on longer rides. Never in a million years would I have thought this could be due to me feet being unsupported! Elliott also tells me that many saddle complaints actually occur in the feet; so if you're having saddle issues, you might want to look to your shoes! You can see the difference in the photo below: the black insoles are the new orthotic footbeds, and the blue ones are the original insoles. The difference in contour and rigidity is huge.

    Dirty Wknd Blog - Getting a Bike Fit in London

    Physical Assessment

    Whilst the footbeds are setting, you'd think it would be time to jump on the bike and start measuring. Like me, you'd be wrong. At this point I really realise just how thorough Elliott is, and also just how complex this process is. Next is the physical assessment, where Elliott examines my posture, flexibility and range of motion; both standing and on the physio bed. Range of motion stretches tell Elliott pretty much everything he needs to know about how tight certain muscles and joints are, adding to the knowledge he's building up about my body, even before he's seen me spin one pedal rotation. In my case the tightness occurs in my hip flexors and IT band. More on this hip tightness later.

    For his next magic trick, Elliott works out that my left leg is fractionally shorter than my right. Not a major problem I think, it's not like I'm walking around in circles, or have even noticed before: what's the big deal? Again I'm surprised to learn that is a pretty big deal, is having a massive effect on my cycling, and is actually quite common. Thinking about any pain I'm getting whilst riding, it becomes clear that it's all on my lefthand side. He then points out that the left hand side of my saddle is actually sagging a tiny bit where I've been leaning over to extend my left leg. How on earth have I not noticed this before?!

    What can be done about having one shorter leg, I hear you ask? Nothing I would assume. Of course, I am wrong again. If you have SPD SL road pedals (clip in one one side) then Elliott can add a 'block' under your cleat to address the balance. If like me you have SPD pedals (mountain bike pedals, clip in on both sides) then a wedge can be added under the orthotic to the same effect. This balancing of the leg length serves to make the pedal stroke more natural and more circular, and should help to alleviate a lot of the pain I'd been suffering.

    Riding, Adjusting and Riding Some More!

    Super Domestique Bike Fit London

    Finally it is time to jump on the bike and let Elliott confirm his suspicions based on my history and range of motion. Nothing on the bike has been adjusted at this point and we've put the old insoles back into my shoes. This way Elliott can check that his assumptions are correct before starts to adjust the bike. He sticks small squares of tape to my ankles, knees and shoulder blade to help with filming and measuring. Elliott asks me to cycle for about 5 minutes at a decent tempo to replicate the stresses and movements my body goes through whilst cycling. When concentrating on body position, form and pedal stroke I can just about make it look like cycling - Elliott wants to see me when I'm out of breath, my form has fallen apart and I'm only thinking about breathing in and out, not my pedal stroke. I.e. my normal cycling form! 

    Whilst I'm on the bike Elliott is walking around me, looking at different angles and body parts, muttering under his breath and making notes. When I've got my breath back I ask him what he was looking at. "Everything" is the answer! He is looking at the movement of my feet, the extension of my ankles, the angle of my knees; how much side to side movement there is in my knees. The list goes on, but he notices everything; the tiniest movements are all incredibly important he tells me. We then analyse the video footage and measure the angles of my legs, ankles and back during the pedal stroke (see below). I ask Elliott if there's a perfect angle for all of the above. Yes and no, is the answer; again, it depends on what you want from the fit. A pro racer will have a very different desired angle to a social rider, because they want to get into a more aero position (and also because their body is likely to be more flexible and able to handle it). This I think is one of the most valuable things about getting a proper bike fit. There are plenty of youtube videos out there that tell you to set up your bike between X and Y angles (trust me, I've watched them all) - but a bespoke fit will ensure that your bike is set up to the angle that best suits you - not just somewhere within an acceptable range.

    How a Bike Fit can Improve Your Cycling

    After analysing the angles Elliott adjusts my seat height, bar angle and hood/brake lever position. He also moves my cleats back in my shoes; this is to reduce the stretch that my foot is making on each pedal stroke. I have been getting achilles pain - this should not only prevent that, but also increase my power due to a more stable 'pushing' position. We put the newly moulded orthotics into my shoes and it's back on the bike for more measuring and testing. The difference in my feet is immediate! It feels weird at first, like I'm wearing new shoes (in reality they practically are, such is the difference). My feet feel so much more supported - the bottom of my foot touching the insole at all points, rather than just at the heel and ball of the foot as before. It's too early to tell if there's a material difference in my power/efficiency, but they are certainly a lot more comfortable. More adjustments followed by more peddling and measuring. This goes on for a while until Elliott is happy he's got everything just right. Again, there's no blueprint; it take's as long as it takes (although they rarely go over the suggested 3 hours, he says).

    One of the best things about this whole process is just how much input I get. This is all about me, and Elliott goes to great length to ensure that I not only know what's going on at all times, but that I'm happy with all the adjustments. It's reassuring to know that he hasn't just set my bike to a certain angle and then kicked me out of the door. He also makes me pedal at really high resistance to ensure the new set up doesn't cause any immediate injury. Elliott describes the process as a "conversation, not a dictation." I think I was expecting to be dictated to, so it's a real relief to know that I have a big say in what we're doing. After all, it's me who'll be riding the bike everyday.

    Why you should get a bike fit in London

    Another part of the 'conversation' that is my bike fit that really surprises me is how we decide to set my bike up in an 'aspirational' way, that will allow my body to develop and grow into the fit. By this I mean that we're giving me a chance to work on flexibility (specifically my tight hips, remember them), which will allow me to get into a more aero position and generally be more comfortable on the bike. Elliott could easily set me up for how my body is currently, but I want to improve my position, so after a conversation, we leave the bike set up with a bit of room to grow. Elliott tells me that this type of fit is great for newer cyclists, as their bodies are going to change loads as they start cycling more and more. If Elliott sets up a new cyclist to fit their body exactly as it is, they will be back in a few months because their body has changed a lot and the original fit is no longer correct. If he leaves a little bit of room to grow, it means that the body can develop into the bike fit, meaning they shouldn't need any additional adjustments for a lot longer.

    If I'm not able to work on my hip tightness in the next couple of months, I'll go back in and Elliott will make the necessary changes. Part of Super Domestique's service is that if you notice any pain or discomfort right after the fit you can come back and they will make more adjustments until it's right, with no extra charge. Reassuring to know that I'm not stuck in an uncomfortable position if I start to feel any pain. As Elliott says, it sometimes takes a few weeks of riding a new fit, and a few more minor adjustments, before it's right.

    Three hours has flown by! I feel like I've learnt loads, not only about my bike and riding position, but also about my body and also the mechanics of cycling itself - I genuinely feel like a better cyclist from having undergone the process. Now, time will tell if it does actually make me a better cyclist. After a couple of weeks of riding around on the new fit I will report back in part 3 of the Bike Fit Series, including more on Elliot's background and training. 

    If you think you need a fit, or just want to have a chat with Elliott about the process and what he can do for you, click the link below and request a call back. Remember that Dirty Wknd members get 15% off Bike Fit labour, 20% of workshop labour and 10% off any parts! Become a member - Click Here.

    Request a call back from Super Domestique - Click Here.

     Dirty Wknd Cycling Community

    The Bike Fit Series No 1: Why I eventually decided to get a Bike Fit

    The Bike Fit Series No 1: Why I eventually decided to get a Bike Fit

    I have a confession to make. Despite having cycled my entire life, usually averaging 200 - 300km a week, I've never had a proper bike fit! I've always been one of those riders who smirks at Jonny Club-Rider as he explains (in detail) the benefit of a fit, thinking I know better; that watching youtube videos and adjusting parts myself is just as good. Why would I want to spend £250 on a fit when I can just adjust a bit here and there depending on how the bike (and my body) feels. Can't make that much difference, can it?

    This is blog number 1 of 3 in the 'bike fit series'. Read blog 2 (getting the fit) here, and blog 3 (results of the fit) here.

    Why You Need a Bike Fit Blog

    The truth is I'm not the best at listening to my body. For a while now I've been trying to ignore achey knees and pins and needles in my hands, putting it down to the relatively high mileage I'm doing every week. Surely, I thought, I just need to do a bit more warming up and stretching and I'll be able to work out those aches and pains? However, during Ride London last weekend, the pain in my left knee became pretty much unbearable! Every peddle stroke was agony and I had to back off until the pain had subsided, thereby dashing my chances of hitting my target time.

    The nagging in my knee was almost as bad as the nagging in my brain; 'should've got that bike fit' I kept saying to myself. Would it have made a difference? Would it have meant that I would've been able to push hard without pain? It's hard to say, but I certainly wish I'd at least tried to find out.  

    A few days after Ride London I checked my event photos from the day and they all pretty much looked the same. Arms locked completely straight, back completely upright and shoulders hunched over; head right down trying to ease an aching neck. This, I thought to myself, is not how Peter Sagan looks on his bike. I thought back to all of the people who've commented on my body position, many of whom are very experienced cyclists, and wondered why I never listened to them before? Probably because they always ended their commentary with 'you really need to get a bike fit.' I have now resigned myself to the fact that they might just be right!

    One Pro Cycling Bike Fit London

    To be honest the cost of a bike fit has also been a barrier in the past. £250 always seemed like an awful lot to shell out for someone to adjust your saddle height! Or at least this is how it has always seemed, but I guess it's this sort of thinking that has left me with achey knees! When you stop to work out the actual cost based on the length of time you own the bike, it doesn't look that bad. What's £200* if I'm cycling 300km a week and I keep hold of the bike for 2 years? Quick maths will tell you that it works out at 0.6 pence per KM! On paper that seems like a much better investment than those new wheels I've been eyeing up. After all, what use is shaving 100 grams of weight if my knees are shot to bits!

    So I've taken the plunge and booked a fit. After some research (there are quite a few options now) and a personal recommendation from Mason (club member, ride leader and all round good guy) I got in touch with Super Domestique in Shoreditch. They are the bike fitters of choice for the One Pro Cycling Team (pic above), so if it's good enough for them, I'm sure it'll be fine for me! They were incredibly helpful and managed to book me in for the following week. After a useful email exchange, where they allayed my fears of having to buy a new frame and loads of expensive parts, I am really looking forward to the fit.

    So check back on Wednesday when I will post blog number 2 of the Bike Fit Series; how the actual fit went, what I learnt during the process and just exactly what Orthotics are!

    *As Super Domestique have come on board as our official bike fit partner, DW members now get 15% off bike fit labour and orthotics, 20% off workshop labour and 10% off any parts. Check out our Club Membership HERE

    Benefits of Getting a Bike Fit in London