Lockdown Week 11, 5th June 2020

No question, it’s been a difficult week at a time when difficult weeks are not in short supply. I’m not sure this email is a platform for making weighty observations about the ills of the world, more a haven of relentless optimism and encouragement to get on your bikes.

It is, however, hard to ignore the extraordinary events in the US this week that have found their echo here. This amidst rising tensions with this bloody pandemic making us all a little fractious. I will say this though. We probably expect appalling human rights, the suppression of free speech and institutional injustice from less enlightened parts of the world, but we expect higher standards from the leaders of the free world, and I think it’s ok to express solidarity. If that mean posting a meme on social media, fine. If it means doing something more meaningful, even better. I don’t mean breaking shop windows and nicking stuff, I mean finding ways we can make a positive contribution.

One person who has made a difference for a severely disadvantaged group during the lockdown, and who has inspired others to support him (like doing a monster 6-hour turbo session last Sunday), is Paul Mill. His appeal has now raised over £7,000 for Shelter and those people due to be turfed out of their temporary homes shortly will have cause to thank Paul and all those supporters in the weeks to come.

To our next guest contributor. I was reminded of when I first met this person as I rode up World’s End Lane a couple of weeks back. I recalled Niki doing that climb on her first ever ride with Penge CC. She wasn’t the cycling titan and veteran of PBP and countless monstrous audax rides that she is now, but I won’t forget the steely determination that was plain to see even then. I wish she’d start writing books too, because I could read her stuff all day.

Head for the Hills by Niki Wilson

Those of you who know me in real life will know I’m a bit of a hill-avoider. I don’t hate hills. In fact, I quite like climbing mountains and would never shy away from a long, steady climb. What’s not to love about those switchback roads you get in Europe? I’m just not very good at it, often at the back on group rides, and when anything steep kicks in, my bike basically goes backwards. It’s fine, someone has to be the slowest and I make a good back-marker. And what I lack in short bursts of power I make up for with endurance.

Being in lockdown means I’ve had to get creative with route planning to avoid doing the same routes every time I go out, and to keep things interesting. I can’t go up Star Hill for the tenth time this month! And I like a ride with a purpose, whether it’s to a cafe (impossible at the moment), to forage wild garlic (I seem to now have a freezer full of the stuff) or to collect some audax points for the club.

And so a list of local hills I’ve never conquered was drawn up, and routes planned. The only thing I was lacking was confidence. I’ve been known to lie awake at night worrying about bike rides involving steep hills, so something had to be done: I popped a bike on my very basic turbo trainer and shelled out for a Trainer Road subscription.

For the next few weeks every morning involved an hour long Trainer Road session, sometimes alone (sort of hellish), but mainly with friends – the group sessions are really excellent. You get to chat with your pals and see them having a horrible time on video as well! Unsurprisingly, being disciplined with structured training improved my road riding almost immediately; I’m actually shocked at the results as it doesn’t feel like I’ve put that much effort into it. My average speeds have gone up while my average heart rate has gone down. As has my weight, which is a total mystery to me given how much bread I’ve been eating since working from home.

So much bread.

And so it was time to unleash my newfound fitness on the hills of Kent. First up was Vigo Hill: conquered with some difficulty but the bridge marker made it easy to gauge progress. Secondly came Chalkpit, which given the club has its own “Chalkpit Challenge” gave me the heebie jeebies before I even clipped into my bike. But again, no bother; I actually wondered what all the fuss was about with that one if I’m honest.

I was getting cocky now. With Chalkpit defeated, I thought it might be time to try and conquer my nemesis: Cudham Test Hill. You all know the one, the really steep sharp ramp with the 25% sign at the top, near the rec where we hold the time trials. I’ve actively avoided this since I’ve been riding around Kent, favouring every single other way to Cudham rather than this tiny bit of road. I’ve been “up” it twice, maybe three times, but I’ve never made it all the way up on two wheels. My brain has a funny five minutes and I always end up unclipping and doing the walk of shame. I know I can do it, and I know the hard bit must barely be fifty metres long, but I just can’t.

I’d love to say that last Saturday I ventured out to conquer my nemesis and yes, I slayed my awful steep nemesis, but that would be a lie. I didn’t. I failed again, and again I don’t think it was my legs or my lungs, I think it was my brain. In fact, I know it was my brain. I felt sort of rubbish for the rest of the ride, inadequate as a cyclist, and disappointed that yet again I couldn’t muster the courage to just put some effort in for a minute or so to just make it up the thing. I made myself feel better by knocking thirty seconds off my Hogtrough PB, and then riding home and eating a lot of bread.

So much bread.

And when I got home, I realised, well it doesn’t actually matter, does it? There’s no shame in unclipping and walking up. There’s no shame in not enjoying hills sometimes. There’s no shame in taking the long way round to avoid them. And Cudham Test Hill, and all the other hills I’ve been avoiding will always be there, after this silly virus is gone, and they’ll be there for me to conquer with my Penge CC pals.

Indoor Cycling

Still plenty of indoor riding on offer and a great way of being socially responsible whilst riding with your pals – or even to make new pals that you might not normally ride with.

Turbo Beat Live

We’re now into business as usual and these continue to be excellent. Sessions run at the following times:

  • Monday 7am
  • Tuesday 6pm
  • Wednesday 7am & 6pm
  • Thursday 6pm
  • Friday 7am

The morning sessions are a slightly more gentle workout than the evening sessions, which can be pretty tough.

A variety of tickets are available on Eventbright so you can buy into these by session, monthly etc.

Zwift Racing

So far so good, but if there is anyone else who can join, it would be great to see if we can blag some silverware. Races are on Tuesdays and Thursdays with some evening and others at lunchtime. Keep an eye out on Facebook or get yourself onto the messenger group to get involved.

There is also an eRoad race being organised for 7th June 2020 by London Dynamo and there will be another Team Time Trial.

How to join?

Details of how to log into the Turbobeat sessions and how to join in the fun on Zwift are on the club website.

Closing thoughts

Have a great weekend.

James Hanscomb, Chair of Penge Cycle Club.