6 – Less weight, More gears

Race Diet

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been dieting to try to shed a bit of weight ahead of the race.

For the couple of months of training I had been doing 1.5 – 2 hours every day before work and a long ride at the weekend, and my weight remained consistent – around 107 kg (16 St 12 lb). Even though I was burning a lot of calories training, I would be getting to work and having cheese and beans on toast or similar – making up those calories.

And whilst I had no issues with that, the weight is definitely more than what I should be, and it would make it more difficult for the race, especially with the amount of climbing involved. Not good for the knees!

So I decided to do something about it, and for about 8 weeks, I have put myself on the Slim Jim Fast Plan™.

Tonight I weighed myself and am 98.8 kg (15 stones 8 lb). I.e. in 8 weeks I have lost 8kg (18 lbs). I’m quite pleased with this as I didn’t expect to lose so much so quickly.

So what is the Slim Jim Fast Plan™? It’s actually really simple. Monday to Friday I skip breakfast, I have a Huel shake for lunch (Black – Salted Caramel is the best, Black / Normal – Vanilla also very good, Black – Banana is terrible) which is 400 kcalories. If I get super hungry in the afternoon I’ll have a snack bar, such as a Nakd vegan nuts & dates bar. And that’s it. Dinners are normal – which is usually a cooked meal at home – sometimes with wine, and sometimes it is takeaway Fish and Chips or Indian. Sometimes there are cheese and biscuits after dinner, or a dessert. I eat until I am full. And weekends I eat normally too, with regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I typically drink a load of coffee (with oat milk) during the morning, and instant decaf in the afternoon. In the office at the moment it’s quite easy. I’m often the only one there, and I just don’t buy any snacks / food, so there is no option for me to have anything!

And whilst I’ve been dieting I’ve also been training less – I’ve been typically going for three training rides during the week and a long ride at the weekend.

Anyhow, with the race just over a week away, I’ll now be eating normally again and taking things easy, so in theory I’ll be well and rested for the start.

More gears

Having ridden with the Sugino double chainring on a long ride, and on a hills ride, I was happy with the performance, but having to change the chain over with either a deft move of the heel (big chainring to small chainring) or using my fingers to manually move the change over is a bit of a drag and a time-suck.

Last night I fitted a front derailleur. It’s not straightforward – there aren’t any Brompton components to acheive this, so it’s a case of getting other components to work. It’s a bit involved, so I will write this up properly, probably with a video, another time.

Anyhow, I’m pleased to say it performed very well on today’s commute. The worst bit was the £4 front shifter – the way the shifter affixes to the handlebar isn’t great and so it’s a little loose. I will try to imprve this. with some packing. I’ll do a few more rides with it, but fingers crossed it continues to behave. It’s great having the huge range compared with the normal 6 speed range (which is good for pretty much everything, but just lacks a little in range for a loaded bike on mountains).

One Week Left

So with a week to go, most people are super organised and ready. I’m still experimenting with gears, and I haven’t thought about packing yet. This is partly because I’ve done it before and so I can just take the same stuff again and know I should be ok. I have a few minor things to buy – such as buying an emergency foil blanket (no idea where my old one went!), check and replenish first aid kit, buy some antihisitamine, paracetomol, ibuprofen, water purification tablets, a small tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, and so on. Considering buying a portable bluetooth keyboard so I’ll be able to more easily keep a diary during the race.

Anyhow, getting excited now as it’s getting close. There is a certain amount of luck in making around, but if I can go in as prepared as I can be, I improve my odds.

There will be a site during the race which monitors all the riders progress, and updates from the Pan Celtic Race team. I’ll publish details next week.

5 – The Bike – work in progress

Over the years I’ve had a fair amount of issues with my bikes; pedal failures, crank failure, handlebar stem failure, rear triangle failure, seat post bolt failure, rim failure, tyre failure, bottom bracket issues, and of course plenty of punctures! Some of these come under expected wear & tear, and some came as quite a surprise.

However, with all of that, I’ve actually done quite a few miles (and lots in the company of other Brompton riders) and the Brompton bike stands up well in terms of reliability against other bikes. And of course it’s great fun to ride, and comfortable for long distances.

I decided it was time to buy a new one – and hopefully this will better my chances of something not breaking during the race.

When thinking about this a couple of months ago, my ‘dream’ Brompton for the race would be one with a titanium front fork, but a steel rear triangle.

The front fork in titanium really helps absorbs the bumps and avoids me getting ulna nerve issues in my hands on long rides. When I rode the TransAtlantic Way Race in 2018, it was months before I had full feeling again in the 3rd and 4th fingers on both hands.

But the rear triangle in titanium doesn’t really have benefit for me besides it being rust-proof. I am not concerned about the extra increase in weight of steel, and I find the titanium a bit ‘squishy’ feeling on uneven surfaces.

Anyhow I wrote to Brompton and also Brompton Junction asking if they could help – I would be happy to pay the full titanium price but for a bike with a steel rear triangle, and ideally the bike would be in red lacquer or red, to work on a Lanterne Rouge theme.. Unfortunately they were unable to assist, or even sell me any kind of bike until July when I made my enquiry at the end of April.

So I turned to Brompton Bike specialists, Brilliant Bikes in Chobham, Surrey. I have been using Brilliant Bikes for years as my first port-of-call for any spare parts. Their customer service really can’t be beaten and the staff are Brompton enthusiasts. They were able to get me a Raw Lacquer Ti bike in M6R configuration with a telescopic seatpost, which I collected at the end of May. I got the train down to the shop to pick it up, and cycled it back to London. Here it is all shiny during its first ride:

For the TransAtlantic Way Race and Pan Celtic Race 2019 I rode a standard 50T M6R bike. This is my preferred configuration for general riding as it deals with most situations well. However, for the ultra endurance events I’ve found it a bit lacking in mountain-y areas whilst carrying a lot of weight. The problem is the range isn’t wide enough – it doesn’t have a low enough gear for the steep uphills, and on downhills I don’t have a high enough gear. Probably the ideal solution would be to opt for a custom Rohloff conversion from Ben at Kinetics. With a disc brake this would also help the problem of the rims overheating on frequent / long / steep downhill descents. Maybe if I attempt another, this is the way to go.

For the interim I’ve decided to fit a double chainring. I’ve had this fitted now for over a week now and it seems to be ok. It’s a 36/52T. The standard 100 link chain seems to work fine, but I had to fit a narrower Bottom Bracket to improve the chainline when the chain is on the big ring. I did my morning hills ride on the small ring and it was very comfortable, and I’ve used the big ring on a 100 mile ride to Kent last weekend, as well as my usual commuting. No problems so far.

Currently to change gear on the front chainring I have to use my fingers. It’s also possible to kick the chain onto the small ring. Whilst I’ve found this is easy when cycling on the flat, I’ve found it tricky to do whilst already pedalling up a hill. Perhaps I need more practice.

Anyhow, I still have three weeks until the event, so I might see if I can get a front derailleur to work. It would be handy to be able to change gear whilst riding along!

Things I still need to sort out on the bike:

  • Fit dynamo lighting
  • Change to SwissStop brake pads (1 week before the race)
  • Put on fresh Marathon Plus tyres (1 week before the race)
  • Fit front derailleur (maybe)
  • Stickers?

For pedals, I’m tempted to try some MKS Lambda Pedals, but I might also just stick with the Brompton ones – I’m just a little concerned about the reliability of the stock pedals having had several pedals break.

Training Update

For the month before the race, I’ve decided to train a bit less.. i.e. not cycle every day. I’m still commuting every day, and plan to do a longish ride each weekend, and a sprinkle of either hill rides or longer flat rides in the mornings. You can see what I’ve been up to here (the data don’t include my commutes):

Something I am doing at the moment is eating less! During the first couple of months of training I was eating a lot (e.g. having cheese and beans on toast when getting into work after a long ride). In over two months of riding every day my weight remained the same.

It would help if I weighed less for the race, so what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks (and what I’ll be doing for the next two weeks) is, on weekdays, skipping breakfast, then just having a Huel shake for lunch, and maybe an energy bar in the afternoon. Regular dinner. Seems to be working and it is easy enough to do.

Route Update

Just for fun, I made a page where you can visualise the first 200 km of the route in 3D. Enjoy!

Pics from Pan Celtics Race 2019

I thought I’d better stick up pictures from the past event – it’s been almost two years!

My CMS has destroyed the image quality, but it’s better than nothing:
Pan Celtic 2019 photos https://www.jameshouston.com/pan-celtic-race-2019/

And whilst we’re on Pan Celtic theme, you may enjoy a video I made of a meetup we had in North Wales last year:
Pan Celtic revival video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ4HZn7rPCU

And also some photos I took from the gathering where we visited the Enigma bike workshop:
Pan Celtic gathering Dec 2019 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.555145332003223&type=3

4 – The route has arrived – what a relief!

The route for the Pan Celtic has been announced, which will be more-or-less the final version save for any last minute tweaks:

I’ve yet to look at it in detail, but will aim to load it into a 3D viewer so I can fly along the route and get an idea of what’s in store. I also would like to make a note of things like towns, camp sites and public toilets along the route! For my previous long-distance races I didn’t look at the route ahead, which keeps things interesting, but sometimes means I’m not sure if there will be anywhere to stop for food and water.