Touring on Two Wheels

Another day, another slow ride along the canal. I am starting to lean into my hybrid touring bike now. It’s definitely the best bike I have for city hopping, relatively easy trails and off road cycling. I recommend that all road racers like me use one too.

Strava

General Data

Map

Segments

Lockdown Lifestyle

So, here we are, a family in a semi rural town with time on our hands. Of course I have been hiking and cycling.

Climbing Ingleborough

Strava Data

Map and Splits

Pace, Heart Rate and Cadence

This was a hard slog for whatever reason, but ultimately rewarding. I am definitely not 100% healthy, my immunity is low and I feel a background malaise but still it was great to get out hiking. Isolation from the rest of the world is the thing I love about hiking the most so it is obviously fine in respect to social distancing. I think we saw perhaps three other people, two at the summit and one on his mountain bike ascending after us.

Cycling

As I previously posted, I bought myself a folding bicycle so naturally the thing to do is buy another bike also, which I did – a tourer hybrid. This means that I can now go cycling off road. It’s no good for mountains or whatever but for towpaths and dirt tracks it’s just fine. The Leeds-Liverpool canal is like an artery running through my town, linking it to almost all of the North West of England so it’s useful to be able to access it, not only for my convenience but also because it is much safer for taking the kids cycling. My daughters love it. The oldest is the cautious, cerebral one and we cycle more or less together. All the while her younger sister – the absolute little shitbag – slams the pedals hard and flies off into the distance. I love her bravery and fearlessness as much as I love her sister’s gentle, caring nature. It’s fascinating how different they can be. Anyway, below are data for a couple of rides. I have done more - you can visit my Strava if you really want to see the lot.

May 12th 2020

Bolton Map

This ride was very strange. Firstly I was testing out my tourer over distance. It’s not only a slow ride compared to what I would have done on my racer, but also because the last eight miles were me cycling slowly, hopelessly lost. For some reason, once I arrived near to my destination my Garmin Edge 1000 took me on an eight mile track which was basically an orbit of my actual intended destination. It was the most bizarre navigation error I have ever experienced.

In terms of features the Edge 1000 is streets ahead of the Edge 800 it replaced, but the navigation performance has been very iffy. The 800 was genuinely a fantastic addition to my gear. Every single destination I used to to reach was in there and I arrived literally at the front door every time. The 1000 has taken me on some exceptionally unusual routes. For example, when I was working in Todmorden it took me over an unbelievably difficult and hilly ride because it was around .25 miles shorter than the much flatter, faster alternative. Obviously the hills added a lot of time to the journey, and I can’t believe that the Garmin algorithm did that. Now it has taken me eight miles around my destination for no reason, and when I was plotting the route originally it struggled to find the address. The 800 always accepted the postcode and took me there. For me the jury is out right now on the 1000. I got it because the 800 has no Bluetooth or WiFi and I used to have to boot my computer and plug it in just to upload routes which drove me batty in the wireless era of technology. Right now I would happily go back rather than have the current issues I am facing. I hope that things improve quickly.

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.

Week in Review, Plus First Running Readings from Vivoactive HR

After the bizarre readings I took the first time I clocked a swim with my Garmin Vivoactive HR watch I am relieved to have gotten accurate, good quality data when running with it for the first time. It will be interesting to see what happens when I swim again. Hopefully it is just a teething issue but let’s wait and see. My cycling is hovering around the 6 mile mark at 12 minute miles, and to be honest I could cycle 25 miles tomorrow easily so right now my focus is on my weaker sports. I have also maintained my 16/8 fasting routine whilst trying various new recipes, all of which are posted here and on my Instagram.

This week I have pushed my swimming up to 100 metre interval drills, hitting the 700 metre mark. My run below is the longest yet, having added roughly 33% in distance to the last one. The one caveat here is that I ran during storm Clara and thus had to stop a couple of times to avoid torrential rain soaking me wet through.

Garmin Connect Data

Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary
Garmin Connect Data Summary

Data Breakdown

Detailed Data Breakdown
Detailed Data Breakdown

Split Times

Split Times
Split Times

Graphs for Heart Rate, Cadence, Heart Rate Zones and So Forth

Cadence, Elevation and Heart Rate Zones

Cadence, Elevation and Heart Rate Zones

Pace and Heart Rate
Pace and Heart Rate

Strava Data

Strava Data
Strava Data

View on Strava and follow me here to get a follow back.

Week in Review & Pushing Forward

Sports

Last week I couldn’t hike as the weather stank. I ran and swam, and when running I hit that feeling when you suddenly start enjoying it. It happened during my previous run that was spuriously recorded as 3.99 miles when it was actually closer to 1.5. This is not the first time my Garmin Vivoactive has done this and my tweeting Garmin about it was ignored. I have remedied the situation, however, by upgrading to a Garmin Vivoactive HR. It arrived in the mail today so hopefully that will be a step forward that solves this. It’s an obviously better watch with or without the heart rate monitor, but more data can only be a good thing so I look forward to seeing my readings on that front.

Swimming

I am pushing this hard as I enjoy swimming enormously. My latest progress is below, including times, interval splits and frankly more data than I am ever going to need, but here it is anyway.

Summary

Interval Splits and More

Pace, Strokes & Swolf

Cycling

Holding at just over 12mph average. That will change with the weather

Running

Positive growth but I am not going to post spurious GPS data. That would be pointless. Suffice to say my new watch should do better.

Better, Faster, Stronger – Bonus: Now with Strava!

Below is the dazzling array of data that Garmin Connect very kindly compiled from today’s ride. I have also linked my Strava account to Garmin Connect so I now get segments detailing climbs, speeds and so forth. This is fascinating stuff. I have long known that the way to increase the overall speed of my cycling, and to also get fitter and do it quickly is to put lots of effort into climbs. This yields results at a high rate of change.

The human body is a remarkable thing. Being back on the saddle has brought forth some sort of muscle memory that blows my mind. I can literally feel myself getting better, faster, stronger and it is not taking me long to do so at all. I have only been recording this stuff for a week but already I feel ten times the man I was over Christmas. From last summer where I had a horrendous, sedentary time looking after my son, who had it even worse the poor little fella, suddenly everything is changing. As the kids grow older I find I have more time to myself so I can push harder than I ever did before.

Garmin Data

Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Time, Distance and Calorie Burn
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data for Speed and Elevation
Garmin Data Breakdown
Garmin Data Breakdown

Strava Segments

Strava Segments - Climbs and Blasts
Strava Segments – Climbs and Blasts

What Strava refers to as blasts are segments of flat or downhill cycling. Due to speed limits and traffic picking up speed on these segments is largely impossible, hence the climbing is so important. It’s also useful in the long term because it is resistance exercise. The hills in Lancashire are steep and they are everywhere. There is a reason that Bradley Wiggins trained in the Trough of Bowland – it’s as hard as it gets to ride on a bicycle. Having ridden two 101 mile sportive races through the Trough I can attest that it is just about the biggest challenge ever. If you want to raise your base metabolic rate and build muscle then this is perfect. I don’t mean muscle like weightlifting, I mean muscle mass that does not change your body shape. It is hard to think of a type of exercise that works the whole body better, so if you want to have a powerful core, sinewy, strong upper body and also powerful legs then cycle hilly routes. We all know those ridiculous guys at the gym with torsos like Greek gods and chicken legs - cycling doesn’t do that. life on two wheels will take care of everything below the waste for you.

There is no resistance work like cycling, so get moving on your bicycle.

Week in Review

Last week I picked up my schedule for the first time in 2020 after a pretty awful 2019. I got Twitter and Instagram accounts, and in addition to easing back into the outdoors I started to further expand my nutritional horizons. I love cooking and it’s a great way to express one’s creativity. I remain on a 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule and I am more than ever committed to a vegan diet that contains little to no sugar and is not processed wherever possible.

I cycled twice but only over short distances. I don’t pay too much attention to statistics and data for rides under five miles as cycling in Lancashire is so roly-poly, hilly and stop-start that it is difficult to build up a decent cadence and pick up a good cruising speed for any meaningful length of time. I was hoping to post some swimming data but I have been held up by the supplier of a replacement strap for my Garmin Vivoactive watch, which has yet to arrive and is now six days late. Thanks useless eBay parts supplier.

Today’s Cycle
Today’s Cycle

I have cycled today already, again just a short town ride on an errand, the virtue of which I extolled last week. My focus this week is to begin to add swimming to my cycling again. I hope to strengthen my lower back after hurting it quite badly last year, such was the sedentary nature of caring for my crocked little boy.

Small beginnings yield massive outcomes. Let’s destroy 2020.

Workout is Dead – Long Live Lifestyle!

The dumbest thing anyone ever does to be healthy is one hour of workout and then sit around all day. National Geographic some time ago commissioned a study that became a book called Blue Zones. Essentially they studied the places on Earth where the greatest concentration of people live the longest lives and experience the least chronic illness. I recommend the book and the YouTube talks about it. One of the things that was found is that these people never worked out. They had no gyms, they were usually poor and they did not attempt to live long, healthy, happy lives. Of the many factors that were pertinent, one thing they did do is move constantly. This means that their metabolisms never dropped as low as a sedentary westerner. They lived de- convenienced lives. I have been living this way for years. Now that I am once again cycling even though it is a bitterly cold January here in England I am again combining lifestyle and exercise.

I do not work out. I live.

In the spirit of minimalism and frugal living I often take my clothes to the seamstress – a lady I have known since primary school incidentally – to be adjusted or fitted rather than simply throwing them away. Conventionally a person in a UK town would drive there, drop them off and then drive home. I did not. Since I needed to go I cycled. I did not allot an hour in my day to workout. I simply lived. I think that the Blue Zone way is a better one and we all ought to embrace it. Instead of constantly rushing to save time – not that you can put time in the bank – it is surely better to live in such a way that one is never in a rush, to whatever extent one can live in such a way.

Urban cycling is not fast unfortunately. Too many turns, short hills, too much traffic and so forth. You just can’t pick up much speed in the urban north of England as there are few straight stretches of road in an old mill town like mine. However, with a lot of short, steep hills my body got what it needs and loves, which is plenty of resistance and out of breath pedalling, raised heart rate, delicious endorphins and I got outside in the greenery and fresh air, even if it was cold enough to crack a ball bearing.

Stats

Slow Cooker Chickpea Curry with Lime and Coriander Rice Recipe

Just look at it. Is this not the most appetising thing you have ever seen? If you would like to eat it then read on.

Chickpea curry with lime and coriander rice

Chickpea curry with lime and coriander rice

This dish is very healthy and hearty. The brown rice is much more flavoursome than white and takes longer to digest. The chickpeas are full of good fats and thus filling and satisfying. The longer you leave it in the slow cooker, the more tasty it will be as the ingredients marinate and infuse. This recipe is intended to serve four adults but I find that it goes further as it is so satisfying. The rice is a refreshing variation on lemon rice. The meaty umami flavours of chickpeas and brown rice get your nose and the flavour populates your mouth.

Turmeric is a natural anti inflammatory and I put it in everything.

Ingredients

The Rice

  • 300 grams of long grain brown rice
  • Zest and juice of a lime
  • Olive oil
  • A vegetable stock cube
  • Fresh coriander, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

The Curry

  • Two cups of dried chickpeas, hydrated and boiled for twenty minutes
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp dried chillis
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • Fresh coriander, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To cook the curry it is very simple. Throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker, give it a good stir to mix it all, and then cook for four hours minimum. If you go longer and it dries out a little then just add some stock.

To prepare the rice:

  • Boil in water and the stock cube for thirty minutes.
  • Drain and hot water
  • Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil
  • Turn off the heat and add the rice, stirring well to coat it all in the oil
  • Stir in the lime juice, zest and coriander
  • Season to your taste preference

Serve as either half a bowl each as above or make a bed from the rice with the curry on top.

Cashews: The Vegan’s Best Friend

If there is one thing that has forced me to learn about nutrition and think seriously about cooking it is having gone vegan over a decade ago. When you have to make food with restrictions on what goes into it you either learn quickly what you can do to adapt and make delicious food, or you are constantly hungry and eventually give up. Hunger pangs were one of the first challenges I encountered and I quickly realised that I was primarily lacking enough fat to feel full. I needed a way to stave off hunger to avoid bingeing. Enter the humble cashew nut.

Just to annoy everyone in the world: a tomato is a fruit, a banana is a berry and a cashew is actually a seed. Not that it makes the slightest difference. What does matter is that for somebody wishing to eat yummy vegan food the cashew is a healthy, nutritious staple that is the basis of so many delicious meals, snacks and condiments.

To unlock the magical properties of this nut one must turn it into cashew cream. That makes for one of the most versatile foodstuffs imaginable.

Things I Make Using Cashew Cream

  • Sour cream
  • Cheese sauce
  • Maple cream
  • “Cream ofsoups
  • Curries
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Cheesecake fillings
Cashew Sour Cream
Cashew Sour Cream

That list is just off the top of my head. How do you make cashew cream? Simple. Soak them in boiling water for ten minutes, drain, then add a little non-dairy milk and pulverise in the blender until smooth, adding milk where necessary. That’s it. From there you can either sweeten it using maple syrup, vanilla etc, or sour it using salt and lemon juice. You can make it cheesy with nutritional yeast or you can make it umami with marmite. If you want an easy cheesecake filling then mix in vanilla, coconut milk, coconut oil to set it and whatever flavour you like. Add it to a curry to thicken the sauce and give it a richer flavour. Chuck in maple syrup and serve as sweet cream on pancakes. The list goes on and on. The simple rule is that if you can make it with cream then you can make it with cashews. I have never eaten better comfort food in all my years than cashew cheese sauce with fried potatoes, served as a savoury fondue type dish. Good lord, if you are sick or – heavens forfend – hungover then it will hit the spot but without the food hangover, the greasy stodge or the digestive *ahem* challenges. You can put the savoury versions on toast, baked potatoes, dip tortillas or use it as a sandwich sauce. Even cheesy pizza sauce works. It never ends.

Chocolate Cups with a Minty Cashew Filling
Chocolate Cups with a Minty Cashew Filling

The beauty of cashews in sauces and soups is that they have high fat content and thus when you eat them you will feel satiated and full for longer, not to mention the vitamin K and the nutrients they contain. The carbohydrates in them are almost all starch, very little sugar and they are loaded with thiamin and vitamin B6. What’s not to like?

Vegan Cheesecake with Fruit Coulis
Vegan Cheesecake with Fruit Coulis

To give an example of what to use cashew cream for: take leek and potato soup. This dish is as simple as it gets. Onion, leeks, potatoes and stock, plus a little seasoning. That’s it, but if you add cashew cream it makes the soup creamy and a bowl becomes ridiculously filling. It’s the same with tomato soup. In fact I use this trick in parsnip soup, squash soup, mushroom soup and so on. In my experience it’s impossible to overeat with cashews. They fill you up so quickly that you can’t eat enough to get bloated.

So what are you waiting for? Get stuck in to some cashews!