Thoughts on Foldies

In the midst of the COVID–19 outbreak I took stock of various things and realised that, since my current commute is fewer than two miles in distance, to use my carbon fibre racing bicycle to do that journey is bonkers. So, to cut a long story short, I did some research, a cost benefit analysis and as a result I now own a Holborn Challenge, 20″ wheel diameter, six geared folding bicycle.

I have ridden my foldie twice and it is a wildly different prospect to my racer, which is obviously going to be the case. Here and here is Strava data recorded using my Vivoactive HR watch from my first two rides. I forgot to press stop on my watch when I stopped for prolonged times so take the mileage numbers with a massive pinch of salt.

Foldies

  • You will never break any speed records on a foldie, but they are absolutely perfect for zipping around town, covering short distances, urban commuting and suchlike where there will be loads of turning, starting and stopping.
  • You cannot rest at speed like you would in ‘cruise control’ on a racer, where you are going fast but not putting in much effort because you are carrying momentum.
  • You can’t really bonk.
  • Going downhill means you freewheel. With six gears you just can’t go very fast before you start pedal spinning. A 20″ diameter doesn’t allow for much pace.
  • Aside from downhill freewheeling will slow you down quickly, so prepare to pedal all the time.
  • Different frame geometry means using different muscles, or the same ones in a different way and at different angles.
  • It turns on a sixpence, so be careful when signalling as it’s easy to drift into the road.
  • You look kind of funny as they are a novel design, but that’s okay really.

One day into riding a foldie and it’s nice to be able to go short distances at a leisurely pace. I don’t have to wear cleats or aerodynamic clothing. I clock rides using my watch rather my Garmin Edge 1000 as it is all just for fun really. I can’t mount my expensive Hope lights on it so I just bought a decent set on sale.

Using a foldie has reconnected me with leisure cycling. All cycling is pleasurable for me, however this does not go fast so I get to see the scenery a little. It’s just good fun instead of endorphins and adrenaline, and I don’t wear out my much more expensive bike on two and three mile rides here and there.

Expensive Shoes and Ridiculous Diagnoses

I am currently learning several bitterly painful and unpleasant lessons. My last post was a seven mile run. Sadly the day after I awoke with what I had assumed to be the most scorching case of metatarsalgia that I have ever had. Presuming that it would go away with time and rest as it always does, I recuperated for seven days, sadly to no avail. After seven days of rest I hobbled to casualty, fearing the dreaded metatarsal stress fracture. I now await an appointment with my GP for a second opinion on the most unlikely diagnosis I have ever received. I am all but teetotal, vegan, nonstop active and with zero lifestyle questioning in his differential diagnosis the hospital doctor spat out one word: gout.

GOUT.

I hate being that guy who argues with the doctor, but come on, seriously? I have zero lifestyle risk factors, I’m in shape, I’ve never drank a ton, am a vegan and when I wasn’t ate meat sparingly and he came back with gout. I just don’t buy it. Not for a nanosecond. Whatever the reality is, however, I remain injured. What do I take from this? Firstly, never assume when it comes to injury. I should have sought medical assistance immediately. Waiting just left me in pain. Secondly, doctors are rushed and there is no shame in asking for a second opinion, which I should have done at the hospital. I didn’t, however, so now I have to go to my GP to get one. In future I will get medical attention straight away and listen to my body when it hurts.

However, I have learned a bitter lesson in regard to thrift. There is an old saying that one should always pay attention to what lies between one’s body and the earth. Therefore one should have excellent bedsheets, tyres and shoes. I did not. I have historically bought whatever I thought I could get away with. I wasn’t cheap, just infused with the financial sensibility of a working class male. I always get air soles but I haven’t put a great deal of thought into my shoes and once I found what I thought was my line, I would spend the least I could. So here I am, for the third time with an inflamed ball joint in the same foot as soon as I started to hit serious distance running.

Ultimately I have been dumb, albeit with the caveat that my perspective was skewed. I prioritised financial health over my physical wellbeing and I now get to think about that long and hard whilst I wait for my foot to stop throbbing and I can finally walk properly again.

Thus ends the tale of this sad, sorry blog post. Don’t do what I did folks. If you go cheap you will be going to hospital. A LOT. Don’t buy cheap shoes. Don’t buy the most expensive shoes. Buy the right shoes. Get them fitted properly and replace them before they wear out.

And don’t take a doctor’s word as infallible truth. They’re just human beings after all. It might be gout, but it would be a remarkable case. Lack of questioning in a rushed department during a coronavirus outbreak reeks of rushed thinking and taking the path of least resistance.

I am now going shoe shopping.

Weathering the Storm

So, here in northern England it has not only been three storms in a row but it is also so cold that the arthritis in my toe is painful even when I am just sitting around. Not to be undone, however, I managed to improvise. During storm Dennis I couldn’t run distance in such high winds, so I decided to run a mile as quickly as I could, with a pathetic time of 9:32, as you can see below.

Posting detailed Garmin metrics for this is pointless, but you see the point, that I am a painfully slow runner. I always have been, but I am pushing for endurance rather than speed. I would like both of course and I hope that as I keep stretching myself I can pick up speed. It will be genuinely fascinating to see the difference in pace when I run on a flat course though. Right now I have in mind to run from where I live to the city of Preston. This is mostly a flattish course that will clock in at around 24 miles, so clearly I have some training to do yet to hit that. The point is that I want to see what difference the course makes to my average speed. Right now I run locally as I am not passing 10 mile distances yet, which means I do some moderate climbing. This is because where I live it is more or less uphill in every direction. The exception is down into the town centre but obviously I won’t run there, so that leaves courses that always have a substantive elevation gain. I bet that when I am fit enough I will run to Preston and the pace will be better than my local running. This has certainly been the truth for cycling where I have found cycling great distances insanely easy when on a flat course. This brings to mind the time I did the inaugural Wiggo Sportive race and a bunch of Londoners couldn’t finish it because they cycled distance but not hills. Slackers.

So, yesterday I pushed up to six miles and it was a hard run. My muscles were achy, it was absolutely freezing cold, thus I was sluggish and my muscles needed to contract constantly. Data below.

Data Summary

Splits

Graph Data

In addition to thinking about how courses might affect my times and pace, hopefully just the change in the weather as it gets warmer should give me better times. I’m pretty pleased at how my distances are improving quickly in difficult, cold weather conditions and also I hope that my arthritis calms down, because that is very painful, right in the ball joint of the big toe I broke as a wee nipper. That can be very unpleasant, I can tell you. I hope that in roughly two weeks I will have pushed through ten mile distance running, heading towards my personal best distance of 15 miles by the end of April. That puts me on course, presuming I have no health issues, injuries or otherwise unforeseen events, to hit marathon distances by the summer holidays.

The other positive side of things is my health, my clothes are starting to hang off me! This is a great problem to have but I also have to start replacing my wardrobe. My waist diameter is down two inches already. After the horrible summer I had last year this is exceedingly gratifying. I feel like I am striking back at the challenges of life and hitting it harder than it hits me. I hate being cooped up inside the house so to have had to endure months of it was dreadful, but what is past is prologue. If I can hit marathon distances in time for winter then the great lost summer of 2019 will be nothing but a distant memory.