It’s been a cold, wet, windy week in Dungarvan and therefore perfect to do my long-promised review of cycling in Mallorca last October (2016).
Marion and I flew to Palma on October 12th, and the one hour bus journey from the airport to Port de Pollenca at the northern end of the island was the beginning of some firm friendships.
Once we had settled in to the hotel, our next task was to collect our bikes and within ten minutes we were ready for road. As it was 4pm, we decided to simply cycle around town to be sure the bikes were right. We stopped for coffee and an opportunity to watch the world go by, seated outside in sunshine and shorts. Indeed, the little town seemed to operate at a slow pace too. Siesta was just over, and the locals were coming back to life.
Later, we attended a briefing for the 25 new arrivals, at which all was explained and queries were answered.
The evening meal was buffet service, and there certainly was no reason whatsoever for anyone to go hungry!
Day 1: As with dinner last night, breakfast was buffet service. Cyclists need to be fuelled up for the journey. Marion and I decided to cycle together with the easy group. This turned out to be a very social group, and we pedalled along through beautiful flat landscape while chatting with so many interesting people. The group stopped for coffee and cake in Muro, before returning to base for a mid-afternoon swim.
Day 2: to Santa Maria and back with a faster group @29kph approx. A great spin, fairly nippy. I dropped my bottle early on and was relieved that nobody came down trying to avoid it. Later, we stopped at a bike shop in Binnisalem. Guess what I bought?
Day 3: Binnisalem again, this time with Marion’s group. After 30k I had a gear cable malfunction and was unable to use the big ring. No matter, because the route was so flat, and the cycling was easy. We intended doing Selva Gorge after coffee, but the leaders decided against it because of the weather. They were right, as light rain turned very nasty on the return home.
Day 4: Marion took a day off, while I went with Tony, Sean and Siobhan on a short spin to the lighthouse at Formentor, stopping at a beautiful beach on the way to get a glimpse of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s house. Unknown to the others, it wasn’t the house I was really looking for. Later, at the lighthouse, the goat was incorrigible! Advice for visitors: the café at the lighthouse is really expensive.
This spin was very short and we were back before midday, so Marion and I went off-bike visit to the old town of Pollenca for the afternoon.
Day 5: full day in Alcudia, just doing the tourist stuff.
Day 6: The long-awaited highlight of the week was the Sa Collabra route, a 100k round trip including the famous descent to the little port followed by the 8k climb back up. It was very manageable, and nowhere was there any section as steep as some of our Waterford climbs.
Day 7: Return journey to Ireland. We were so glad that we did not have any late drinks with our friends last night. That really would not have been a good way to finish our first cycling holiday together.
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking. He has several international cycling events behind him, but Mallorca is extra special because it’s the first time his wife Marion has joined him. Very likely there will be repeats.
When I started cycling in 1998, I had no goals. I soon progressed to having some very small goals. The first and foremost was to be able to hang in with the group on a club spin, and to finish the spin in a state of not-completely-knackered. This is critical, and I’d assume it’s the main priority of most group riders.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Milestones are important. In general, we measure every aspect of life by milestones. From a very early age a baby’s first milestones are recorded in the heart of a mother. First tooth, first step, first word, first day at school, first sleepover, first pretty-much-everything.
Reminds me of a lovely story from many years ago. I had met an old Kerryman. He was so interesting, and at one point I asked him how old he was?
I’m not exactly sure, but I was born very young!
This may be seen as an example of milestones being rubbished as being unimportant. Indeed, milestones are not unimportant! It is via measuring ourselves against “normal” that we actually come to realise that we are in fact quite normal. Furthermore, anyone with a wee bit of savvy will have realised that “normal” does have quite a wide range, so it does not come as much of a surprise that my first tooth and your first tooth may be separated by weeks or even months.
Yet, there is an important point I feel is worth making. It is this: Each and every one of us is far more than the sum of our milestones. For a moment, let’s move ahead to an adult version of the world, one where we create a goal, and by various means we then set about achieving it. This might be seen as a milestone, yet some adult milestones tend to be seen in a rather less-than-shiny light. For example:
separated or divorced
In particular, because this is a cycling blog, let’s turn our attention to cycling goals. This was mentioned last week, and now it’s time to put some meat on the bones of it. In my case, when I started cycling in 1998, I had no goals. I soon progressed to having some very small goals. The first and foremost was to be able to hang in with the group on a club spin, and to finish the spin in a state of not-completely-knackered. This is critical, and I’d assume it’s the main priority of most group riders. The cycling bug hits us in many an identical manner. What comes next? In my case, moving from being thankful to be able to just stay in the bunch to a higher place: managing just fine in the bunch. This is a goal of many a group rider and is rightly prioritised. In cycling-speak we hear of phrases such as these:
It is just after this euphoric point in a cyclist’s career that things may go pear-shaped. While some are content to remain in this blissful state, others want MORE, in the form of faster or longer or steeper or more challenging. Let’s examine these
Most leisure cyclists want to participate at a level that allows them to enjoy the sport. Indeed, they do want to know their place in the pecking order, and to this end, a little bit of a race up a hill or at the end of a spin is enough to cement ones’s position until the next time. On a more competitive level, cyclists who opt to race are prepared to lay their ambitions open to scrutiny in a winner-takes-all scenario. Finally, truth be told, whether leisure or competitive, there is an upper limit to our ability to go faster. We just get tired sooner, or enjoy it a bit less.
Moving on, some of us prefer longer events. While many sportives offer the three-tier approach (50k, 100k and 160k) there are some that go above and beyond. In 2016 I became a member of Audax Ireland and the event calendar for the coming season looks pretty impressive daunting. Myself and a few buddies will be hoping to tackle 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k between now and August. Beyond this, there’s ultra long, but we won’t go there just yet!
Perhaps there are some out there whose kicks come from harder steeper mountainous rides. I’d not be one of them. The main reason for this is because coffee stops are less regular, and sometimes not available at all. My peak of steepness was back in 2006 at the Alpe d’Huez. Nowadays, I admire the mountain goats rather than pretend to be one.
A beautiful day for cycling saw 11 Group 4 cyclists set off with a new route and a new challenge of longest distance yet. Keith joined us en route as we hit towards Carrick at a brisk pace. The sun on our backs had spirits up and the banter on You’ll NeverWalk/cycle Alone had everybody smiling. After a coffee stop in Kilmeaden it was decided to lengthen proposed spin of 90K by 10 more and as we hit the 100 there were raised hands and shouts of “Yippee my 1st 100K ” from some. The group returned a pace of 24.6kph for 101km and a great day’s cycling was thoroughly enjoyed. This group is open for new members. If you can cycle at approx. 24-25kph pace, you’ll be in good company. (Tony S)
Reading through an interesting running blog recently (link forgotten and seemingly unfindable), the tables are turned. A milestone becomes simply a point in time when, as athletes, we set our sights on the next milestone. So here’s a thought for the group I’m currently cycling with. We are training to participate in and complete the Sean Kelly Tour 160k next August. What if that then becomes the starting point for something more challenging? Perhaps longer. We are limited only by lack of ambition. Could we cycle an extended three-day event? Could we cycle England-Scotland before they tear themselves away from one another? Could we cycle the French Alps?
Perhaps faster? We could decide to cycle with a different faster group. We could decide to race.
We could decide to do whatever it takes to stay motivated. We could decide to enjoy the journey.
Critically, let there be no devastation when setbacks get in the way. Akin to the old Kerryman, let’s do whatever it takes to stay young.
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking. He began the cycling adventure in 1998, and because he was given so much good advice by experienced riders back then, he likes nothing better than to pass on some of it. Many milestones later, Paraig is chasing a few big ones for 2017.
Together with the SMART goal picture above, she has included a selfie cartoon. I’m sticking with the original SMART goals, and including my selfie:
I’ve got a few goals for 2017. My top two are seemingly complete opposites, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens.
Goal #1: do everything necessary to continue enjoying my cycling
Goal #2: complete long-distance Audax events up to and including 600k
It seems very difficult to be SMART about how to achieve enjoyment. Perhaps it’ll just happen if I go with my gut feeling. Perhaps enjoyment cannot be written down, planned or organised.
My second goal will need very specific planning! Writing down the details of this goal and giving them exposure here will be my form of SMART planning, in order to give myself the best possible chance of achieving what I set out to.
Donald Trump has been installed as the 45th president of the United States of America. Has he got a few SMART goals, I wonder? And even if he does, he sure doesn’t have a Bitmoji selfie to match @bikingqueen or myself.
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking, and whenever not on the bike or writing about it, you’ll likely find him in the garden or writing about it. Páraig loves a subtle blend of specific planning to achieve goals and a lazy it’ll-be-grand outlook.
It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t give up when you’re tired. You give up when the gorilla is tired
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Once again it’s short (and sweet?) this week because painting has been prioritised over cycling. The timing was good actually, because the weather turned foul and a week of rest (from the bike) will be good.
Last Sunday our lovely group had an easy week too. The route was shortened as we wanted to keep the bikes clean, so instead of heading to Ballyduff after getting up the tricky little hill near Tallow, we returned directly to base with only the important coffee-stop and group photo to delay us.
Knockroe Hill is just outside Tallow in County Waterford. Yes, it’s a decent hill, and one not normally cycled up or down simply because there’s a longer less steep detour. It’s short at just 1k and registers on the steepometer at 10%. In short, yes it’s a bit tricky.
We conducted a quick survey in in advance, to find that of the 17 in the group, only 2 had completed it. All completed the job very capably, so from here on it’s on to bigger hills!
Climbing an unknown hill can be a bit nerve-wracking. The body must push hard, and sometimes beyond hard. Grit and determination are needed, oftentimes to a degree not shown before. On top of that, the head must send the right messages. The bike must be right too. The last thing a climber wants is some silly mechanical that ruins the long sought-after rhythm. If there’s an element missing the hill becomes torture, and the result may be in the balance. It’s a battle, really. A physical and mental battle. Preparation is key, and it’s a good idea to have a plan. At our level of cycling, it’s not a competition, so the trick is to settle into an easy rhythm. If a cyclist is fit, this alone will get him (her) to the top. What other advice might be helpful?
Cycle against the hill, not against another cyclist
Stand out of the saddle for brief periods (maybe 10-20 seconds) every few minutes
Change position on the saddle. Sit further back for a short while to use different muscles
Focus on breathing. When the gradient becomes very steep, deep breathing is important. Take in a huge amount of air through open mouth, and then force it out quickly
If you have a heart monitor, use it wisely. More on this later
Do not climb in the drops. Some can do this, but the general advice is to avoid it. Oxygen intake is restricted
Zig-zag the road if it’s safe to do so
In life, there are many hills and valleys to pass and you cannot avoid them! The most important thing you need is to know this: You must pass them!
There will be harder hills to come during the year ahead. Many in this Group 4 are targeting the Sean Kelly 160 in August, and apart from the length of the ride, it’s the hills that will get into people’s heads. But, despite tackling this little hill last Sunday, the plan is to have a couple of easy spins until February rolls around. Even then, it’s very early in the process. Late March and April will be time enough to put Power’s the Pot and the Maama Road on the agenda. Mahon Falls will likely be conquered in May, and the dreaded Tickincor in June. July will be spent combining at least two of four these challenges in various combinations.
For now, our Group 4 are content that they’ve climbed a hill harder than any they’ve met before. Time to savour the satisfaction of a job well done, take a few easy spins together and extend the cycling distance to 100k over the next few weeks.
It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t give up when you’re tired. You give up when the gorilla is tired.
Is there a best way to train to become stronger on hills? I’m sure that there are as many ways as there are coaches selling them, but much of the advice may be similar. Over the next few weeks, I’ll pass on some of the advice I’ve been given by experienced riders. Stay tuned, and in the meantime ride that hill!
Happy cycling, and stay safe out there,
About: – Páraig is the author of BurkesBiking, a firm believer that TEAM is the motto (Together Everybody Achieves More) and that life’s obstacles are there to make him stronger. Coffee helps with everything too.
S: Yer man. Would ya look at him! Thinks he’s god almighty. Thinks all dem drivers can see him.
C: But shur, you can see him and I can see him. Wha’s de problem, like?
S: You wouldn’t see a problem if it chased you up a bleedin hill! I’m tellin ya now… He’s gonna be a dead problem right soon.
C: Sounds bad, Spider.
S: I mean like, how bleedin much does it cost to put a light on that bleedin bike?
C: My fella had a light on a bike once, but it got nicked. Never again, he sez.
S: I mean like, isn’t there all dem Road Safety Authority tele videos? You’d think he’d take heed?
C: Who? My fella? He wouldnt’ listen to himself!
S: No, ya dope. Yer man on da bike. Look, he’s gone now. Invisible as a bleedin dodo. I mean like, what is he, maybe 100 yards up the bleedin road, and we can’t even see his arse! Can you? He’s gonna get himself bleedin killed.
C: They gave it a new name. Did ya know that?
S: Wha? Who?
C: The powers that be figured out tha de Road Safety Authority wann’t workin, so they called it…
S: Too right tinn’t workin!. Tinn’t workin for yer invisible dodo up de road. What are they callin it now?
C: Ammm… TII. It’s something something Ireland. Stop the bikes. I’ll google it. I need a break. This cough is gettin to me.
S: I just can’t believe yer man woundn’t hang a few lights on the bleedin bike. Is he savin electricity or wha? I betcha he’s one of dem bleedin naturists.
C: No, your thinkin of somethin else there, Spider. Naturists is dem fellas what wears nothin. Ya couldn’t be a Irish naturist biker! Not with a wind like tha.
S: He’d be grand in da fog, shur, wouldn’t he? Nobody’d see him.
C: Got it. Google sez Transport Inftastructure Ireland. It’s very specific. Would he listen to that, I wonder.
S: Nah, tha way yer man is headin, the only thing he’ll listen to is a fuckin chapel bell. And he’ll be dead so he won’t even hear that.
C: Will we push on again? I want to be home for de spuds.
S: We will, girl. Maybe if we push on harder, we’ll catch that invisible dodo, and we’ll give him a little earful.
C: Ya know, I think he won’t listen to two oul wans. He’s feckin bionic.
S: We’ll sneak up, all quiet like, and scream like bejaysus. That might shake him up a bit.
On the climb out of Clashmore when cyclists dispersed into smaller two’s and three’s, there were some all out verbal attacks cloaked in mysterious tones! Proof that the biting cold wind does actually transfer to characteristic biting remarks.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Lost: a pair of female cycling glasses, somewhere near Rathgormack recently (last August during Sean Kelly Tour, to be precise). If anyone comes across these, please contact Dungarvan Cycling Club, so that glasses and rider can be reunited.
The good news is that the glasses were found by a retired male nurse, but being unaware of the circumstances, he was in the process of retaining said glasses for a year and a day. It is likely that he believes cycling glasses lose their protective UV properties if not subjected to regular daylight and for that reason, he wore them last Wednesday on the Easy Riders spin to Mahon Bridge. Great hilarity ensued as the owner of said glasses saw the light! The penny dropped and the cat was out of the bag.
Introducing Easy Riders
Easy Riders cycle on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from the front of the Tennis Club at 10am. The pace is determined by who is in the group. It is usually composed of regulars from Group 5 and Group 4. Over the past number of weeks, it is has attracted a number of newcomers, especially as the Wednesday pace is generally at about 21kph (or lower if needs be). Mondays and Fridays are a wee bit faster, and all these spins are fuelled by coffee and scones. Therefore, if you like the idea of sorting out the world on a bike, do join them. They will be glad to see you, and they promise to be nice!
Cat And Mouse
Yesterday, (Wednesday) we had a fine group of seven riders who chatted their way to Griffin’s Garage and Mahon Bridge. While most had tea/coffee and a sausage roll at Leamybrien, one wily operator loaded up with coke. Little did we know at the time, but he had a plan! On the return towards Durrow, as agreed, the Group 5 members gave us permission to push on faster. We felt Michael was part of this trap because he sprang up the hill at Halpin’s Cross and the only thing on his mind was the finish line at the Friary Roundabout in Abbeyside!
Tactics were discussed. Counter-measures were analysed and implemented without a fuss. We decided to let the escapee loose, and planned to catch him near Ballinroad, a distance of 10k. We would allow the sausage rolls to digest further before ramping up our effort. At O’Mahoney’s there was no sign of the coke-man, nor could he be seen on the descent to Dalligan Bridge. But once we met the coast road there he was in the distance. We upped the pace and narrowed the gap slowly. Cat and mouse. The mouse usually looks back a few times, but the advantage is with the cat(s).
We did not catch him as planned by Ballinroad Roundabout, but 100 metres before the finish line at the Friary. Job done. As cats do, we played with him rather than committing outright murder, before releasing him to play another day! Perhaps one day, I’ll be the mouse, and Michael will be the head-cat among others revelling in the thrill of the chase. Of course, I’d be a rather experienced mouse, and it’s likely that the frustrated cats would feel as if they’d just lost a life!
Having had a lovely easy pace to the coffee stop, riders were more than happy to note that the chasing average for the 10k was 30.9kph into a slight headwind.
The North Wind Doth Blow
The cobwebs were literally blown away last Sunday (New Year’s Day, 2017) as our intrepid band scaled Colligan into a gale. As arranged, we had been sensible the previous evening, as we saved our celebrations for another day. This was all the more surprising really, as this group is not known for being sensible! Correction: this group is sensible on hills, and this first Sunday of the month (first of 2017 too) is designated as the hilly spin. It was very easy to be sensible on Colligan because the wind would not allow us to go hard.
Later, on the second hill of the day at Clashmore, we surprised ourselves once again by continuing with this sensible resolution. The hill is a long one, and the group disbanded on the lower slopes, only to regroup once again beyond the summit.
Such was the severity of the cold North wind that regular chatting on the bike was down to a minimum, as concentration was required throughout. There were some little exceptions, of course. On the climb out of Clashmore when cyclists dispersed into smaller two’s and three’s, there were some all out verbal attacks cloaked in mysterious tones! Proof that the biting cold wind does actually transfer to characteristic biting remarks.* To an outsider, such remarks seem arrogant and divisive, yet this group does not have any outsiders. No in-laws, outlaws or silent partners. The group does have and is proud to have, cyclists of varying abilities. Some silent, some boisterous, faster, slower, but all handsome! (Pretty is such an overused word). The fact that the slightly faster, stronger members feel duty bound to be considerate of slower (prettier) cyclists is what gels this group together.
On a bright brisk New Year’s morning fourteen Group 4 riders gathered at the Civic Offices with a little apprehension in the air as words hilly spin today and strong winds blowing down Colligan circulated. Nevertheless the group, including newcomers Elia and Cal, rolled out and headed for Master McGrath monument before heading up Colligan. Little talk of Christmas was heard apart from the word overindulgence as the strong breeze and hill quietened most of the group. Beary’s cross was a welcome sight as climbing was over for a while and they got a chance to enjoy the sun shining down on them. As the group headed back through Milstreet, Nora’s home country, the sun was dancing through the trees playing tricks with our eyes and was tough going at times. Crossing the Dungarvan road heading for Whitechurch / Kereen a good pace was set with the thought of coffee in Aglish very welcome before the climb up the mountain road out of Clashmore to N25. For a brief moment panic stations set in as no sign of life was noted at Hurley’s shop and word went out keep going but then word came “it’s open” and we gladly did a u-turn. Following recharging of batteries the group took on the mountain climb and banter was good and all the group made light work of the long climb. On reaching the N25 those with responsibilities at home headed down the Sweep for home while some of the people with no one to answer to cycled into Ring and returned home to Dungarvan. A good start to New Year with a pace of 22.3kph, reduced sensibly because of strong wind and two hills. May I take this occasion to say on behalf of Group 4 thanks to our Road Captain Padraig and all his assistants and happy cycling to all for 2017. (Tony S)
Present were: Majella Keogh, Nora Halley, Judit McNally, Karen Hickson-Walsh, John Coleman, Gearóid Fraher, John Roche, Conor Coleman, Keith McEvoy, Tony Sheehan and myself. Cal, Elia and Darren (Tutty) joined us for the harder first half of the spin.
*Biting remarks is an old pro trick. Basically, it works by getting into another rider’s head, and is used especially on hills, and more particularly if the other rider might be stronger.
By way of advice this week, please take a few moments to check out “Build Strength Before Speed”. With this in mind, we will have a strength test next Sunday. Watch this space!