Category Archives: heat

Fast (for me) riding, Portugal and back again

I’m not usually a quick rider, except downhill, but one evening just under a month ago, I just felt great and pushed up the heart rate.

It was misty but I kept pushing those pedals and just whistled along. Just over 25 miles and with 1000 feet of climbing  and lots of twists, turns and road junctions I managed just over 17 mph with an average heart rate of 145 bpm.

So, well chuffed and I felt good at the end.

But enough of stats!

Four days later I was in Portugal. I had arranged bike hire with from the same hirer I had used last year. There was a bit of a hitch that time, and another this time. The hirer had not read my email properly with my change of mobile number, so at the prearranged time at 9 am, no call, no bike. I managed to finally get in touch and the bike eventually got to me at 3 pm. Being from northern climes it was still way too hot to contemplate going out. Later that evening the temperature had cooled down a bit and it was time to go. A short 15 mile ride, with temperature averaging 23º. I went up into the local town of Alvor.

DCIM102MEDIA

Trying to get up the High Street, Alvor

I managed to get a bit(?) mislaid, but landed up down at the sea front.

IMG_1300

Alvor – at the lagoon

I decided to head back along the boardwalk, an interesting choice rattling and bumping along on 23mm tyres, so a wee bit of an adventure for several miles.

IMG_1250

The boardwalk

IMG_1252

Under the boardwalk, still a bit of a way to the cliffs

P1160162

Rock Coves, Prianhia

P1160196

Beaches at Prianhia

P1160256

Algarve sunset

I tootled around, on the back roads as much as I could, doing around 30 miles a day for the next 7 days. It was my sister’s 70th and the family had gathered to celebrate so I could only get out early in the morning. Reasonably cool first thing but the temperatures rose later in the morning, reaching 33º on my last ride.

The riding was very varied, the main roads, when I couldn’t avoid them, were busy but the drivers were mostly good though there were one or two hairy moments. The country roads were brilliant, mostly well surfaced with a couple of exceptions. Down by the coast it was very dry & dusty, quite a parched landscape. In the foothills there were orange groves then higher up eucalyptus plantations and some native woodlands, much cooler to cycle through out of the blaze of the sun.

IMG_1335

A colourful water tower, well lit at night

IMG_1333

Mont Fóia creating its own weather

IMG_1351

I manage to get mislaid in Portamao, my track looking like a heap of spaghetti, but the next day I managed to thread my way through more successfully.

IMG_5964

Portimao

IMG_1255

Portimao marina

IMG_1268

Them be pirates, argh

The ride to Silves was a bit hurried, but some of the wee hills on the route were good fun, despite problems with the lower gears. I adjusted them later and all was OK after that.

IMG_1283

Up above Silves

IMG_1287

Silver castle and cathedral

IMG_1284

The white bridge at Silves

The last day of cycling  was the best. Up to the top of the highest hill in the Algarve, Mont Fóia. I had been up here last year and was looking forward to renewing the acquaintance. The summit is at 902 metres (2,959 ft) and you climb up from the sea to the top, with little respite. The time before it was happed (shrouded) in mist and I didn’t see much. This time it was clear, but that meant hot, hot, hot by the time I got up there. The main climb of over 2,500 feet  is 12.5 miles long at an average gradient of 4% average, but with steep ramps up to 14%. The views got better and better as I climbed, with Storks & their young perched on telegraph poles, snakes roadkill beneath my tyres but very few riders, mainly folk going to work or shopping on their ‘sit up and beg’ bikes.

IMG_1291

One of the many storks, with young

IMG_1372

Snake road kill

So I climbed to Monchique, the village below the mountain. I didn’t stop there but carried on up the final 4.5 mile summit climb. It had steepened up too. Then I heard a puffing sound & a creaking gradually getting nearer. It was a young English guy on a slightly battered mountain bike. We eventually seemed to be going at a similar speed so teamed up and worked our way up the hill, mainly into the wind. At the top the view was spectacular in every direction, apart from the mess of masts and military establishments on the summit as well as a grotty looking cafe.

IMG_1382

A well earned summit rest

IMG_1380

My companion up the final slopes

IMG_1379

South to the Atlantic

IMG_1383

Military occupation of Mont Fóia

IMG_1389

Coming down off Mont Fóia looking north

My companion on the last bit of the climb had descended before me, so after a wee break for water and a bite it was time to go. Except for a brief time in Monchique I didn’t go under 20 mph all the way down, reaching almost 40 mph at one point. It was so exhilarating. By the time I reached Portamao the temperature had rocketed and the traffic increased so I made my way circumspectly back to base. An excellent 47 miles of riding with just that short break up high.

Foia

The road to Mont Fóia (kms)

So a good 8 days of riding, despite the unwelcome (for me) heat.

P1160209

I thought this tree was wonderful

IMG_1305

Sunset by the sea

After much merriment, good company, food and drink it was back home to 10º average for the next ride, but it was welcome. At least I could dress up for it and not have to smother myself with factor 50 and be laden with water bottles. The next biggish ride was a 60 miler down into the Scottish borders. Still coldish, and it totally poured down at Duns, but warmed up a tiny bit on the way back. A strange thing happened, the Garmin stopped recording the height gain, while still totting up the mileage. At the end of the ride my Garmin had read just over 4,000 feet of ascent while the other saw over 5,400. One of my pals said he had read that there’s a wee hole in the bottom of the Garmin that allows the barometer to sense the pressure. When it is such wet weather this can block and stops the sensor from registering the height properly. Sure enough, when I got home & took the cover off a stream of water poured out from it – problem solved. Strava kindly corrected the data for me at the click of a button and it went up to over 5,400. My Garmin has been fine since.

IMG_1410

Back home to the mist & murk

IMG_1414

A wet Duns – Statue commemorating Wojtek the bear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_(bear)

Since then it has warmed up to a reasonable 16º C so shorts again and some varied riding, with a 50 miler two days ago with the older yoofs retiree gang.

IMG_1471

Our local volcanic hill, Traprain Law (Law is Scots for hill)

IMG_1564

Faside Castle, yet another one visited by Mary Queen of Scots

And I thought that I wrote I would hold back on the stats!! I hope the pics make up for it!

Advertisements

Le Tour de Farce – 1st Edition

Brilliant!!

Brilliant!! Hope you like the not-a-go-pro hanging round my neck!

Last year was the 100th edition of Le Tour de France, so a group of localish riders decided to head out to Alpes d’Huez for this historic event + 5ish days cycling, especially as the Tour was coming up the hill twice. We named our group Le Tour de Farce, and Tour de Farce it was in some ways.

Edinburgh airport, we were all assembled for our flight, bikes at the ready, the queue kept building up, nothing was moving. Finally they came to tell us all the ticketing computers had gone down. Aghghgh, slight panic – cars to collect at the other end. After 2 1/2 hours things were sorted (manually) and we left the ground.

Arrived at Geneva, got bike off the carousel, wandered through customs & passport checks to wait for the others. No-one at first, then some came out – 2 bikes had gone astray and 1 set of luggage, complete with biking gear. Aghghghgh – more slight panic. Decision time, some of us were sent off in one car, while the rest stayed in to see if things could be retrieved.

A few hours later in Alpes d’Huez, we went for a bite, a pizza – darkness coming, so too late for that first evening cycle. Apparently after midnight the rest of the gang arrived having achieved not much.

Next day the bikes were loaned out, but I was left with mine. The gang decided to go down the hill & then pootle back up (if that’s the right word for a 3,00 foot, 21 hairpin climb averaging too many %)

So I got on my bike & climbed up to the twin lakes a mere 1,100 feet above. I had had a break in my riding as my granddaughter had come over from S Africa for a month and we spent so much time together, so I knew this trip would be a struggle – but slowly, slowly . . . . . .

Possibly the best descent of the trip.

Possibly the best descent of the trip from Le Col de Sarenne

The after noon arrived and the 2nd group set off with me in tow to climb over the Col de Sarenne & then Alpes d’Huez. Fabulous weather but hot, hot, hot. On the way up to the Col we had to take to grass riding/ pushing to bypass the folk laying down fresh tarmac for the Tour coming through in 2 days time. We paused at the top and I stayed behind to take photos & videos of the team tentatively going down, then wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! A fantastic descent for the fools like me and with the temperature at 90 degrees + (32+C) a lovely cooling off period. I managed to overtake everyone on the descent so not bad for an old fool.

The it was into Le Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of the big one for a well earned drink & pâtisserie. Then off to climb ‘The Hill’. I set off a tiny bit before the others, but most had passed me by about the 7th bend. Masses and masses of cyclist were toiling upwards. I then suddenly realised I was totally out of it, I was meandering all over the road & with not much between me and the drop beside me I decide recuperation was the order of the day. I later realised the temperature had reached 102 degrees (39C). So I hid under a bush for 20 mins, with a butterfly to keep me company. Once I continued I drank even more & doused myself with water under the roadside waterfalls. I’m from Scotland – we don’t do this sort of heat! But eventually made it back.

Then off for a pizza, now when in France I love to eat nice French food, in a lovely restaurant, but ‘the gang’ had other ideas. Not sure about the general Europop around the village either, but hey?

Breakfast at Boirg d'Oisans, French style

Breakfast at Boirg d’Oisans, French style

Next day the delayed bikes had arrived & it was the big one. The Col de Galibier beckoned. This time a mere 7,000 ft of ascent. At least the start was a a blast down from Huez and a lovely French breakfast in the village below.

At 13% a real sting in the tail

The team arrive up the final slope, at 13% a real sting in the tail

Several hours, 26.7 miles and 6144 feet later we were at the top, feeling fabulous.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

La Meije, my acquaintance from 30+ years ago.

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit 1985, maybe looking ovet to Galibier?

Descending from La Meije Oriental summit, 1985, maybe looking over to Galibier on the left?

On the way up we had views of the Meije Oriental, which I had climbed nearly 30 years ago. Then it was wooshing away back down. We stopped at La Grave for a late lunch and as we finished a huge downpour started. But, it was warm, so we set off anyway splashing our way down. I wimped out of the Huez climb again having already 70 miles and a car being available, but the others were braver than I. That night pizzas (though I opted for Lasagne), beer and Europop – no comment.

Next day, the great day arrived. Whizz, down to the bottom, breakfast at the cafe then the ascent before the Tour arrived. There were probably 20,000 or so of us peddling up those hairpins and 250,00 of spectators on the slopes. With my white beard & Scottish flag flying from the back of the bike I was greeted with cries of Ah, Le Diablo Ecosse (after an eccentric Italian who follows the Tour every year nicknamed Le Diablo). Loads of bravos, cheers, europop blaring out, manic Dutch corner, wee pushes and a wee diversion near the top away from the final finish. A really great but bizarre experience.

Alpes d'Huez - the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d’Huez – the leaders arrive first time round

Alpes d'Huez, arrival of le peleton

Alpes d’Huez, arrival of le peleton

A quick sandwich & the down to the village to see Le Tour come through, accompanied by Europop, cheers that drowned out the music(?) and a fantastic atmosphere.

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d'Huez 2nd time round

Le Pelton coming through Alpes d’Huez 2nd time round

Then up to our apartments to watch progress on the TV & Le Tour coming through a second time beneath out balcony.

Then later, back down to the village for more beer and? (I’m sure you can guess by now)

Next day, up too late for a final ride, bikes dismantled the night before, then smooth progress back to Scotland.

An amazing if strange experience, would I do it again? Well this year it was the Giro d’Italia starting off in Dublin & I declined, But I’m glad I experience Le Farce & I’d try to be fitter next time.

Sharing my bath and other nasties

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith,  winter sunrise

In Nambiti Game Park, South Africa, near Ladysmith, winter sunrise

I know, I know, ‘they’ recommend a cold bath, even with ice after a hard ride.

I know, I know a shower is the thing to get you clean and flush away the debris of a long ride.

But, I love to soak in a hot bath for a long time (topping it up occasionally), finishing a few chapters of my latest book.

But after a 90+ mile, very hilly ride I decided warm water relax would be just the thing.

It had been a hot ride (31 degrees for a while – and this is Scotland!), I’d been very, very slow. Dehydrated despite drinking litres of fluid, but legs felt OK.

So into the bath, ah bliss. Then a noticed the wee black dots around me in the water. The berry bug season has started. These tiny wee flies are not a good thing, they crawl into the tight areas of clothing and take a tiny bite out of you. The result – red, itchy spots for days after. Luckily when cycling they don’t seem to bite, just crawl, so maybe the induced wind keeps them at bay?

So ignore the things, with all that water they aren’t surviving anyway, make sure I rinse at the end and goodbye to my shared bathing experience.

In the middle of the ride I had got slightly off route. I came across this ford and started to ride across, slowly luckily. After a metre the bike started sliding all over the place. In a feat worthy of Danny MacAskill, I managed to regain my balance, unclip and get my feet on the ground. Then on foot I ploutered across the ford with the bike, still slipping & sliding all the way, but without falling into the river, just. So, it was soaking wet feet for the next 45 miles.

Finally, they’ve been spraying tar and gravel chips onto some of my favourite routes locally. One road was resurfaced about a year or two ago and was a pure delight, a ribbon of tarmac. It’s a wee quiet back road so now it’ll be a while before it will be properly rideable again.

Ah well.