Winter gear

Wintry weather has officially arrived in the Cape, and with almost perfect timing also came my Mum’s visit from the UK with my new cycling gear for cold and wet weather in her suitcase.

Wednesday’s Wannabees ride was the perfect opportunity to give some of the new kit a try out. Free-wheeling away from our house the morning was still dark, and as I picked up speed down the hill to our rendezvous point the wind chill added a nasty bite to the already cold air. I can’t say I was toasty, but the new Endura Laser gilet and FS260 Pro arm warmers did a pretty good job at keeping the worst of it out.
 
I had expected to be taking them off quite soon into the ride, in fact I’d originally thought they’d only be on as far as our start point and wouldn’t be needed after that. On the first few kilometres to Stellenbosch though, the morning stubbornly refused to warm up, a sure sign that summer weather was now fully behind us. As we climbed the short ramp by Techno Park, Nadine commented how much colder the hollows felt as you sped down into them – something I had noticed moments earlier as we went through the bottom of the dip.

So the gear stayed on. Even at the top of Helshoogte, I resisted the temptation to shed them having built up a nice warm sweat on the climb. And I was glad I had as we rushed down the other side into shadows and more chilly air on the road through Pniel. Despite the early cold though, the day could not have been more glorious – truly a day where it was a privilege to have to be to out riding and enjoying the stunning scenery and magnificent autumn colours. Finally, on the last stretches of the outbound ride into Franschhoek, the day started to warm up and I began to feel over dressed. Luckily, Wednesday is very much an LSD ride, so there was a welcome cafe stop after we’d observed club tradition by visiting the Huguenot monument before turning around. By this stage, it was just myself, Penny, Adolfo and Tom riding, Nadine having turned back at Stellenbosch due to time constraints.

After enjoying a decent cappuccino at Traumerei, and some good banter about the DC and other riding stories, we started back. The gilet went in my jersey pocket for the ride home, it had done the job well, keeping off the worst of the wind chill without weighing me down or building up any nasty sweatiness.

The arm warmers stayed on, their job for the return leg being to keep the sun off as I’d forgotten to put any sunscreen on. One minor failing did come out of this – not in my comfort level, which was just as good on the return leg. They cover  my watch face, and I lost track of time. Our pace was already relaxed, and we lost some time with a snake bite puncture from the railway track crossing heading out of Franschhoek. So by the time I got home Yoli was beginning to stress that something had happened to me, and was also a little annoyed that we were going to be late for our vineyard lunch.

All in all though, a lovely ride and great initial impressions from two of the bits of new gear. I should have tried the full rain jacket, leg warmers and shoe covers on my very rainy hill laps session on Friday. Sadly sense did not prevail, and so I returned wet and cold. I won’t be making that mistake again, so with wet weather likely to be a feature of my training rides it won’t be long before I’ll be able to report back on their effectiveness.

I just wish I’d taken some pictures of the stunning day and ride, although in truth I doubt any quickly snatched snapshot would have captured it well.

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Hel’s Hills

This weeks particular torture served up by the autumn and winter training programme was hill intervals. Suffice to say, that my first attempt at these resulted in a lot of sweating, gasping, and a peak heart rate of 175bpm. In theory that is 2bpm more than 100% heart rate, assuming of course that you believe the standard age based calculation of 220-age.

Anyhow, back to the hill laps – I devised a nice little circuit that I have called Hel’s Hills. It loops around various angles of the hillside on which we live, the Helderberg.  The benefit of being local is that I’m training almost as soon as I leave the gate. The downside is, well, the circuit! Parel Vallei road starts out with a decent climb, steep but manageable. As it swings into Silwerboom road though the gradient pitches upward sharply  and it’s a battle even on the small blade and 25 tooth rear cog to keep any kind of momentum going. First lap around I was sucking in gulps of air and battling pretty much all of the last and steepest section in a standing climb for. Second lap around I managed better, staying in a seated climb for most of the hill, with just an occasional standing surge to stretch out and keep my speed above a crawl.

I decided my legs needed a more gradual ascent between laps to loosen the legs before the next assault, so threw in a short loop down to Old Stellenbosch road and back up Irene avenue. The extra section making each lap into a figure of eight, and adding a nice gradual hill that you can steadily work up a good pace on. The only part of the circuit I’m less than sold on is the tearing descent down the other side of Irene, very steep and a badly placed 4 way stop and left turn mean that instead of running down it at speed, I end at the bottom with seriously over heating brake blocks. It’ll do for now though, 11km per lap and 300m of climbing, this week’s session being 2 laps making for a respectable start of 600 vertical meters for my first week of hill laps. Hopefully over the coming weeks I can speed up each lap and build up to 3 and 4 laps in the time clawed back from each faster lap.

This week had a few other cycling related highlights too. The hub forum served a considerable amount of interest in LEL 2013. It seems quite a number of SA based cyclists have an interest in taking part, one of whom also lives in Somerset West which could tie up nicely for training sessions. Also via a thread on the hub, it looks like we have the makings of a team for the Double Century in November. Our group will be meeting for an inaugural ride together on 22nd April.  More on these in future entries as they develop.

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