A charity ride for Autism.

Every couple of years I like to do something dumb on a bicycle. Ride over the Alps or the Rockies or similar, and I usually combine it with raising a bit of money for charity.  I have not figured out why me riding somewhere makes people reach for their wallets, but as it works, I don’t plan to knock it.

This year I signed up for the the Rapha Manchester to London ride on. It is rather long. 220 Miles, which is over 300 kms, in one day.  We are raising money for Ambitious about Autism.

Autism care and research could do with a lot more attention, so hopefully this helps.

Some background

Rapha’s Manchester to London Challenge is a unique one-day event travelling through the heart of the UK. Setting off at dawn from Manchester Velodrome, each rider will attempt to complete the 220-mile parcours before midnight, arriving at the Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. A tough day out for even the most seasoned sportive riders, this will be a celebration of British cycling and culture.

Held on Sunday the 7th September, the route will travel along quiet roads through the Peak District, the Midlands, the Chiltern Hills and across to east London. There will be four feed stops along the route, positioned in quintessentially British villages serving local fare. There will also be roaming mechanical support, but self-sufficiency will be key.

After the success of the Bordeaux-Paris Challenge in 2013, the aim again is to raise money for Ambitious about Autism. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects 1 in 100 people and the charity is one close to Rapha CEO and founder Simon Mottram, whose son Oscar has autism.

I’ll be riding together with my wife’s cousin, James Hart.

Should be fun and pain. I would appreciate your hard earned cash. So head over here and sponsor me please.

I also need to get training. eek.

This also fits in rather nicely with what my employer, SAP,  is up to, with regards to employing people with Autism.




Double Triple Bypass review.

Last weekend I managed to combine a work trip and bike ride. I did the Double Triple Bypass.

Day one started near Denver and finished near Vail, day two the reverse. 240 miles 20,000 feet of climbing in two days. (400 kms 6000 vm.)

I combined the ride with some charity fundraising, so a big thanks to all that contributed.  1350 pounds towards Cancer Research in memory of Hamish.  You can still donate!

Before I go into details about the ride, I need to say thanks to a  number of people.

  • to my long suffering family who have endured my training and preoccupation with dropping that bit of weight for weeks.
  • to Mike, Juergen and Graeme, who, in various ways, have helped me get and stay in shape.
  • to Wheat ridge Cyclery for the bike rental: a sweet Specialized Roubaix. to Joel and family for the overnight stay in Vail.
  • to  the Hilton Garden Inn in Denver, who went the extra mile.
  • to my management and clients who made the business side of the trip happen.
  • To the organizers, volunteers and local police force.

The ride. Day one.

The ride is 120 miles ( 193 kms) from Evergreen (Bergen Park) to Avon over Juniper Pass (11,140 ft.) (3390 m), Loveland Pass (11,990 ft.) (3654m), Swan Mountain and Vail Pass (10,560 ft.) (3218m). There is over 10,000 feet (3000 m) of climbing. details here on mapmyride.

One of the challenges with the ride is the lack of oxygen.  The lowest point of the ride is higher than most Alpine climbs, and I really felt this.  Ideally, one should spend several weeks getting used to the altitude, but anyway…

I got to the start early, and picked up my number. I headed out at about 5.40am, and watched the sunrise as I rode up the first pass. The climb to Juniper was long and steady, at least 20 kms of climbing. The gradient never really got steep, although towards the end it did get harder. This was probably due to the  altitude rather than the road.  I focused on riding exactly on my heart rate anerobic threshold, and I didnt worry about the steady stream riding past me. I hung out with Ned, a geologist, who had done the event several times. At the top there was a well stocked food and drink stop.  The descent was super, nice wide road in pretty good condition. I was able to pass quite a few people on the descent. My lack of speedometer probably meant I went a bit faster than I usually do. The roubaix handling is very comfortable, and gave me a lot of confidence.

After coasting through Idaho springs, I began the gradual climb through Georgetown,Sliver plume, Bakerville towards Loveland pass. The ride moved off the main road onto a bike path. This was lovely, as it meant no traffic and a lot of nature.  I rode a fair bit of this section with Andy, who was doing his 10th ride.   After another stop, I then did the climb up to Loveland. The last 6 miles of this climb were pretty tough.The gradient is a bit more alpine like much less forgiving. Also the lack of shade reminded me of the the second half of Tourmalet. The 27 cassette came in handy.  Loveland is on the continental divide, and is the highest point of the ride.

Here I am at the top

The descent was fast, as the first part was on the main road. Very few cars, thanks to the work of the organizers.  The next rest stop was in Keystone.   There is a nasty little climb that they forgot to tell me about. Swan mountain. It is short, but I didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did.  The ride from Frisco up to the top of Vail pass was a gentle, winding climb along a bike path, for the best part of 20 miles (38kms).   Despite the gentle gradient I was riding in the easy gear. It rained a bit between Frisco and Vail pass, but nothing heavy.

The descent to the finish was a mix of  bike trail and main road. The road was in mixed condition, but I descended as fast as I could anyway. Close to Vail town the clouds opened and it poured down with rain.  The last 10 miles or so, although a gentle downhill were pretty miserable.  I was really pleased to get into the finish and hook up with Joel and Dale.  They were both quicker than me by a considerable margin.    According to the polar I used 6832 Kcal.  I think I averaged 22km/h  for the day.

After a quick bike to eat, we headed to the condo and the hottub.The pizza for dinner didn’t touch sides.

Day two

Next morning we woke early and headed out from the condo. The rain had cleared. The climb up to Vail pass wasn’t as bad as I had expected.  I didn’t spend much time at the rest stops on the second day, as I figured that it might rain again.  Loveland was equally tough as on the first day, started off easy and then got nasty near the top. Descent was brilliant. I should ride without a speedometer more often.   For the section between Loveland and the base of Juniper pass I managed to get on the back of a larger group.   I lurked at the back, doing as little as possible time at the front.  Nevertheless, by the time I got to Idaho springs my legs weren’t happy campers.

I was worried about the last climb, as I was now pretty beat.  I got into a comfortable gear and plodded on up.  The climb was long, roughly 20 miles, but it never really got steep.  I did stop to look at the view (nudge nudge)  The last three miles near the  top is a bit frustrating as there are a couple of false summits. It drizzled a bit on the way up, but that wasn’t really an issue.

The descent to the finish was great, but parts of the road weren’t in great condition. The rain held off.

Weirdly, I was quicker on day two than day one.

The welcome at the finish was noisy, lots of folks clapping. I picked up the medal and dashed back to Denver to drop the bike off.

Thanks again to all that made this possible. A really memorable event. Very well run. I hope to be back.

Cancer and a bike ride.

I’ve got a little ride planned in the Rockies on  the 14th and 15th of  July with my mate John. For the cycling types, the ride is roughly 120 miles a day, with over 10,000 feet of climbing per day.

  I figured it would be good idea to combine it with a dose of fundraising, but I’d not got around to getting things set up until now.

In the past few months, I have been to  services for people close to me who died from cancer, one for my uncle Alec and the other a dear friend, Hamish, from my SAP days.  At a very moving service last weekend in Jussy, many people  came to say goodbye to Hamish.  He was one of the good guys. He will be  sorely missed by his family and many friends.  

Hearing the Burns poem, A Mother’s Lament for her son’s death, focuses one’s mind. I have got my act into gear over at justgiving.com 

I’m convinced that eventually scientific research will help  beat the disease.  Please  head over to the justgiving.com page and take out your credit card.  Your dosh will go straight to cancer research.

For those that have not read the poem, here it is.

 I  hope you never have to hear a mother read it.

 A Mother’s Lament for her Son’s Death
 by Robert Burns
FATE gave the word, the arrow sped,
And pierc’d my darling’s heart;
And with him all the joys are fled
Life can to me impart.By cruel hands the sapling drops,
In dust dishonour’d laid;
So fell the pride of all my hopes,
My age’s future shade.

The mother-linnet in the brake
Bewails her ravish’d young;
So I, for my lost darling’s sake,
Lament the live-day long.

Death, oft I’ve feared thy fatal blow.
Now, fond, I bare my breast;
O, do thou kindly lay me low
With him I love, at rest!

Of Rhinos, old friends, Mountain bike rides.

This clever and moving video arrived on my facebook wall a few days ago. It is worth taking a moment to watch it.

And then this morning a dear friend from South Africa pinged me that he was seeking sponsorship, raising money for the Wildlands Conservation Trust.  David got me into cycling many years ago, introducing me to the joys of the high end bike shop, and the Berkshire and Surrey countryside.  After years of hanging on his back wheel, the least I could do was sponsor him while he rides his mountain bike around Giant’s Castle.

If you would like to help, head over to David’s website for details.  He is only riding 75kms, but it is for a good cause!-)

I wish this sort of thing happened more often. A cycling moment.

This week I was in foggy England for work.

The Sky pro cycling team were staying in my hotel in Egham.  I took the opportunity to wish Brad Wiggins best of luck for Col du Galibier and the tour.  While waiting for my taxi the next morning  I chatted with a couple of  mechanics. I don’t think they were expecting a discussion about Dura-Ace Di2 with a bloke in a suit, but they were really friendly. They let me take some photos of the bikes.

Pinarello Dogma 60.1 frame, with lots of Shimano components.  I only had a quick look, but I didn’t see anything exotic, all off the shelf components.






The mechanics were really upbeat about Di2 electronic shifters. They have had no issues with them at all. The battery typically lasts 1000 miles or so. I remain unconvinced though, I’ll stick with manual world for now. I have enough electronics in my life.

The Birkebiener (Birkebeinerrittet 2010) aka mud, glorious mud.

More cycling.

Ha! Another opportunity to combine a ride with some work, this time in Norway. I got to do  the birkebeinerrittet, the world’s largest Mountain Bike race.

My good friend Mark has recently moved to Norway with his family. I’ve ridden with him on a number other events, including the UK stage tour de France Sportif, and the Grand Fondo Pinarello. He pretends not to train, and then kicks my butt.  Legs like tree trunks, lungs of steel and a missing pain gene.  Rinse and repeat.  Mark’s mate Joel came over from New Mexico to ride it.  He is wickedly fit and descends with vim and vigour.

After a busy week with Workday and SAP I got in from San Francisco via Frankfurt in the afternoon. We checked out the rental bike, changed tyres and pedals,  and then took the night train to Rena.  Norwegian trains are excellent. Clean and punctual.  I actually got some sleep. We woke to seriously grim weather. Even the Norwegians were saying it was grim. And they are a tough lot.

The Birkenbeiner is not just a race, it commemorates a significant event in Norwegian history. It is run as a bike, run and ski race at different times of the year.

There was a civil war in Norway. Faction pitted itself against faction in fight for the throne. One faction was the birkebeiners. They were the underdogs, often in such dire need that they had nothing but the bark of the birch-trees as foot-wear. The word birkebeiner, birch-leg, has come to mean a man strong in adversity, never daunted by trials and hardship.

The birkebeiners had gained ascendancy over great parts of the country, but the rival faction, the baglers, prevailed in the East of Norway. After the birkebeiner chieftain Haakon died on New Years Day in 1204,  the baglers saw a dangerous rival pretender in his son Haakon Haakonsson , who was born in 1204, a few weeks after his fathers death. His life was at stake, and the birkebeiners wanted to bring him to safety in Trondheim.

On Christmas Day in 1205 the party came to a small farm at Lillehammer, where they stayed in hiding over Christmas. They found it too risky to follow the route up the Gudbrandsdal valley, so they cut across the mountains to the neighbour valley in east, Østerdalen. Due to bad weather and difficult snow conditions the two best skiers,

Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka had to go ahead with the two year old prince.

“On this trip they suffered much from the cold, snow and wind”. Behind this succinct account of the saga lies a deed of valour and strength with an appeal to skiers of all ages and nations. The 3,5 kilo pack carried by the present day birkebeiners symbolizes the prince, who later became king Haakon. He made an end of the civil war, and under him Norway had a heyday in the Middle Age. The birkebeiner expedition made history.

Here are the original Birkenbeiners.

You have to carry a backpack of 3,5 kgs to symbolize the prince. This was a good excuse for  an investment in a Jack Wolfskin backpack with Camelback compatibility, and a heavy duty raincoat.

As is tradition, I had left something important at home, this time it was my polar watch.

We were due to start at 13.30, but we were worried about not making the train back. The pouring rain had turned a lot of the route into a quagmire, so thoughts of a 4 hour time for the 94kms went out the window.  The friendly folks at the registration kindly moved us up by  30 minutes, but we still reckoned we would need another plan to get back. Anyway, that was the least of our worries. The maximum temp was forecast to be 8 degrees.  I figured that a time around 5 hours would be good going, but I didn’t really know what I was getting myself in for.

I wore most of the clothes I’d brought with me.  The rain just kept pouring down for most of the morning.  We lurked in a coffee shop, sipping lattes and chomping energy bars and sandwiches.

The race is well organized, with 17,000 odd entrants it needs to be.  We started at exactly 13h00

The first part is a long steady climb, for about 11 kms, this is not too bad, although Mark and Joel set a pace that I felt was too quick for me. I blamed jetlag.

It then started to rain again.

We regrouped at the top of the hill.  Sometime in the next 20kms I managed to lose a lens from my glasses, and get mud in the opposite eye. The mud scratched my eyeball, so I began to have trouble seeing, especially when descending.

The middle section involves a lot of mud, some of it so deep that it was impossible to ride in.

I let Mark and Joel get on with it, and I stopped at the first aid point and had my eye washed out, but it didn’t really help.  Uphill was okay, but I was battling on the downhills. All the folks I passed on the way up, passed me on the way down.  I stopped at 4-5 first aid stops on the way, but despite their excellent best efforts, my vision got steadily worse, given the rain and the mud.  I was determined to finish though.

The last section is a fast downhill, some tarmac, and some mud. At out 80kms, my back brake on the rental bike gave up the ghost, so I ended up walking in places I would normally have been riding, and doing the rest really slowly.

I finally got to the finish in 6.10,  tired and cold,  slightly disappointed with my time but really satisfied to have hung in and finished. Mark and Joel finished nearly an hour before me.


(being a good copyright citizen, I bought the photo)

Notice the Mario Cipollini Aqua Sapone look. Bit short on the Sapone.

At the finish we got hosed down, as we were so muddy the showers couldn’t cope.

Here is some video of the event.

and this one.

That wasn’t even the muddiest section. If I find some pics, I’ll add them.

After a quick shower, we figured we had missed the train, but we managed to cage a ride back to Oslo  on a bus.  The next day I had a lovely time with Mark and Joel’s families, thanks to them for a special weekend.  Special thanks to Mark for making this happen and organizing everything.

Monday was  a work day in Oslo. Most of the people I met asked me about the race, and several colleagues and clients had also done the race.

I plan to be back to do it again, perhaps next year. I do hope that the sun shines, but this is an epic event.  The organization is impeccable and the atmosphere is brilliant.  The staff were friendly and professional and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.

From a social software point of view, Sig watched the race on-line, and tweeted my progress or more accurately, lack thereof.  Norwegian TV and the organizers make impressive use of mobile and social technologies.  Have a look at the website.

I’d recommend it to any reasonably fit cyclist.  10 out of 10.

A very sweet ride

Occasionally I manage to combine work and a ride. I especially like a ride in California, nothing better to beat the jetlag.

Sunday was one of those occasions.  I got to ride with my friends Andrew, his wife Beth  and Jeremiah, as well as bunch of guys from Workday.  A very friendly gang indeed (Ned, Nick, Seth and Sean).

This was my first ride in the East Bay. We rode up the Calaveras Road, and then out  past the reservoir. A lovely route, relatively quiet, and a gentle climb, winding up a couple of relatively gentle  hills.  The route has featured on the Tour of California.  There were lots of cyclists out, and very few cars or motorbikes.  The weather was perfect, not too hot, hardly any wind.  I spent a lot of the ride sitting on Seth’s wheel. 

However, the main reason for this post is the sweet bike Andrew arranged for me. I got to ride a Specialized Tarmac 2011 pro. It isn’t even in the shop or on the website yet.  I don’t know how he managed to borrow it.

The closest approximation is the pro SL SRAM in terms of spec, but the 2011 version uses the newer frame SL3.


This is the same frame that Contador and Schleck rode on the tour. Components included a mainly SRAM red drivetrain, TRM brakes, and Roval Fusee 28 wheels. Many of the other components were Specialized specific, tyres, seat etc.

The Roval fusee 28 wheels, they weigh 1695g, which is not that light, but they are very stiff. With a frame of this quality, I’d probably go for a more high end wheelset for big climbs (lightweights), with the fusee as a training wheelset, but then this bike is close to the UCI weight limit as it is.


SRAM Red shifters.  the hoods are very comfortable, but I found the reach to the brakes a bit long when riding in the drops, but that is probably just a set up thing.  This was my first ride with SRAM, and once I got used to it, I found it really easy to use, very smooth changes.


Specialized stem and bar. These were aluminum, and if it was my bike, I’d probably upgrade these to carbon (probably to the richley that I have now). 

Cane creek headset.




I spent the day in the big chain ring, as the hills were nice and gentle.  50/34 compact is ideal for amateurs like me.  Force front derailleur, rather than Red. The drive train was smooth, no creaks or groans.

TRP brakes.


These guys are known for their cyclo-cross brakes, but they have a road bike option too. Very light. Wondering if these will be standard though.

This is the most comfortable ride I have ever ridden, even though I didn’t really carefully set up the bike for seat height, reach etc.  Specialized seat was very comfortable too, similar to the SLR.  The bike corners immaculately and I felt that every little watt I had transferred to the road. This is good, as I’m short in the watt department.


This is one sweet bike, and one happy cyclist.  Thanks to Andrew and friends and to Specialized for the loan.