Genesis Equilibrium Disc 10 : let’s build a super commuter……

I do a lot of commuting. The avid reader will know it’s about 18 miles each way, day in day out. Not quite 365 days a year, but generally 5 days a week, 40 somethings weeks of it. And if I’m not commuting I’m out on the bike, or writing this stuff.

I waded through my bike history the other day. Some 16 bikes since 2005 or so. That’s not awful given that I use them for racing, CX, MTB, commuting, recreation etc. It’s not even pushing N+1 that hard. Indeed, I seem to have found the happy(ish) medium of N=3. But while wading through that list it struck me that 3 of them have been Genesis bikes and each of those has, broadly, been all about the commuting. Because while you can press a lot of bikes into being used for commuting, some of them seem to be quite naturally sorted for that role.

The first one I bought was a Day One. The one denoting a single speed. But not, thankfully, a fixie. I don’t think my knees would have liked me. It was a tank, in a good way. You could maintain a decent speed on the flat, gradients were ok. I once happened upon a 15% hill on the way home. That’s getting off territory. But it was possible to do shortish 10% sections. It was noticeable, come spring, of how much extra strength there was in my legs. There were issues, dealing with punctures raised the spectre of sliding the rear wheel out and that’s almost impossible with mudguards. So on went Marathon+. That dealt with the risk of punctures but killed the otherwise lush ride.

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And then there was the legendary Croix de Fer. Essentially a geared Day One with discs (Genesis latterly introduced a Day One disc too). It started with Tiagra 10 speed and got SRAMified. The stock wheels went (lots of spoke issues) and some handbuilt H Plus sons Archetype came in. It was bombproof. I miss(ed) it. It was my go to commuter. It was also a bit big for me, the dealers having mistakenly ordered in a 56 instead of a 54. But I survived on it for years……

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I’ve commuted on many different bikes since. A lot of them have been about ‘making do.’ A lot of them have been CX bikes. Great for the rubbish weather, but not as comfortable as they could be.

Enter the Equilibrium Disc 10. Or, to put it another way, the bog standard entry level one. 10 speed Tiagra, steel frame, carbon fork. I’ve made some changes though and I’ll come to those a little later.

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First, the why. I had a perfectly good stable. CAADX for CX and commuting, SuperX for CXing, Supersix for going fast. But, here’s the thing. For me, there’s practically no speed difference on a CX course between a CAADX and a SuperX. So the SuperX got the wet weather road duties, I didn’t mind getting it wet. The CAADX got the commuting duties, I didn’t mind putting guards on it. But, and you might think this to be a silly minor issue, I sometimes used the CAADX on really crappy CX courses, off came the guards, off came the commuting tyres, CX done, reverse process. 1/2 hour or so each occasion, once a week. Irritating, mad, frustrating.

So I thought about it. Was there a fast commuter that I could stick guards on and just leave them there? That I could even use on a summer’s day and not care that there were guards still on it? Something that would take a rack (the CAADX would too I admit). Something that’s not a compromise. And something within the budget of selling the SuperX, keeping a few bits and picking up something without spending any money. Out went the SuperX, in came the Genesis. Yes, I got rid of a superbike for a steel frame commuter. But, it’s not quite as mad as you think.

Genesis know how to make steel bikes. They’re reasonably priced in terms of RRP but it is often better to wait for reductions. Mine was heavily reduced because it was used, but I’ll tell you that story later on. The Equilibrium Disc range runs from the £550 Reynolds 725 frameset to the £1249 Tiagra (10), the £1649 105 (20) and the £1999 Ultegra (30). The latter models gain hydraulic brakes. Mine is a 2016 model when the 20 model had ‘only’ TRP Hy Rd brakes. Otherwise there’s no real difference in terms of performance. All are a bit heavy, all are comfy.

While the 20, 30 and frameset only options are all Reynolds 725 steel, the 10 is not. Boo! But it is Genesis’ own Mjölnir Seamless Double-Butted Cromoly. Yes, it’s made from the same stuff as Thor’s hammer. So, it should be good enough for the Welsh roads as long as I’m canny enough to avoid the Asgardian Goddess Hela. Is it less comfortable or springy than the higher models? I’ve not tested them back to back, but it compares well to the steel bikes I’ve owned (Condor, Genesis and Ritchey). It’s not quite as zingy as the Ritchey Swiss Cross but it’s not far off. It’s not light either, coming in at almost 11kg. But it moves in a manner which belies that weight. The carbon fork is beefy and seems well damped. It’s just a nice thing to be on.

Frame detailing is nice. The colour is lustrous and seems pretty good at warding off chips and scratches so far.

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It’s well equipped. I have to say, returning to my experience of Tiagra on that old Genesis Croix de Fer, 105 on my current CAADX and Ultegra 6800 on my Supersix, that Tiagra 4700 is absolutely bloody lovely. If the theory about Shimano trickledown is correct, i.e. that 4700 is old 105 10 speed, then they are indistinguishable. Frankly, the difference between feel and shifting is little different to 6800 Ultegra. Being 10 speed I can’t easily swap wheels with my 105 CAADX. But, there we are. CRC are knocking out the non disc for £270. If weight bothers you, it’s not for you. But it’s a fantastic groupset for that money. If you’re building something for winter I’d not bother with anything else.

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The wheels supplied are Fulcrum’s formerly OEM Racing DB CX. £150 ish to buy and just over 1800g. That’s heavy, real world, but in relation to stock wheels actually a fairly lightweight choice. I’ve swapped them out in favour of the 100g or so lighter Fulcrum 5 disc because they’re a little better but, frankly, I needn’t have bothered. The DB CX have gone onto the CAADX to take advantage of the double seals in poor conditions. But that’s a reason why they’d work well for commuting in the wet too. I may even put the 5’s back on the CAADX to save some CX weight and put the DB CX back on here.

The brakes are TRP Spyre, cable operated. They work particularly well. They don’t self adjust so you have to dial them in with an allen key. That procedure is prone to be affected by damp so you have to keep them clean. This year’s model has the Hy-Rd instead. I’ll probably swap them out for some Juin Tech in due course. There’s a revised version of the R1 out there. But for now, good enough. One thing to note is that the bike comes with 160mm front and 140mm rear. So I added a convertor to make the back into 160mm rather than buy new rotors.

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Finishing kit is good. Genesis’ own bars, stem, post and saddle. The saddle is flat, decently comfortable if a little narrow. The cables are compressionless Jagwire items which add to the effectiveness of the cable brakes.

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Out the saddle went in favour of a Brooks C15 Cambium. That has the effect of increasing the weight of the bike by another 200g or so (The Brooks is 405g) but it does wonders for comfort. The Brooks is very sensitive to position and angle. Mine is fairly flat, slight nose down, set back to the right place. It didn’t start that way, it was a little pitched up. It’s also important to get it dead straight because, given the slightly wider than normal nose, you’ll notice a bit of thigh rubbing if you don’t. I had one previously and wasn’t keen on the finishing at the hull/side as it had a tendency to abrade bibshorts. That seems to have been fixed. It’s a cracking little saddle. RRP is £104.99 and it should outlast you.

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The guards are SKS chromoplastic P35 versions. The bike initially ships with 28c tyres (Conti Gran Sport Race which are surprisingly good). I found it very difficult indeed to get the mudguards to fit using 28c tyres. A call to Genesis to find that they recommend 25c with guards. So off the Race went and on came the venerable GP4000iiS tyres in 25c. Clearance is still tight, comfort has been marginally reduced, but it works. And then some. Indeed, even on the dry days recently the almost half the weight Supersix has been left in the garage and I’ve gone out on this. I’ve also been tackling some 10-20% gradients and it handles those with little fuss. The gearing is compact (50/34) with a 11-28 cassette. It should be possible to squeeze a 30t rear cog in there with minor adjustments. Swap out the mech and a 11/12-32 will go on easily. That’s actually an easier climbing gear than a triple with a 28 cassette. So this is more than capable of being a good tourer and it’s especially good as an audax prospect. I’d like slightly better clearances for 28/30c tyres, but, there we are.

The ride is very good, very safe and quite laid back. It’s not super tourer and it’s not crit ready either. It’s snappy enough to dart around but not twitchy. A good compromise. Despite its weight it’s not limited. Sure, 100 miles of hauling it round will require a bit more, but it’s pretty great. I bought it because it was cheap. £595. From an original price of £1249. But you can even get discounted new ones for £799 or so. And I think that a) I nabbed a massive bargain and b) there are plenty of bargains still out there. It also has the benefit of being so cheap that it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get money out of it in the future meaning I’ll want to keep it. But, at the moment, I’m so bowled over by it, that keep it I will.

There have been other modifications.

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The rack was a mega bargain. It’s a Blackburn interlock rear rack. It’s made from 6061 aluminium. It’s RRP is £80 but I paid a mere £22 from Chain Reaction. That might be bargain of the year. It’s my first rack but fitting was a piece of cake. There are two mounting holes on the rear of the frame so I am using both. But it’s easy enough to mount the rack then mount the guards to it. Or bolt through the rack and guard holes into the frame. Getting it level is a piece of cake, the bottom section has a number of different height settings and the cross member slides up and down and is tightened by an allen key. Capacity is 20kg or so. Which is fine and almost twice the weight of the bike so I don’t fancy having that on there anyway.

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The interlock refers to the metal plate which hinges up, slide your bag over it, then lock it back down again. Removing the bag is a cinch. There are holes at the back to attach your rear lights. Indeed, this is something I’m going to need to look at. I normally run a pair, including my see sense on the seatpost. That’s not going to work now, so I’ll look at some way to put the see sense on the rack.

The bag is Blackburn’s central trunk bag. That cost me about £20 too.

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It has a 9 litre storage capacity though you can stuff it a little more. There are removeable compartments, pockets etc. Open up the bottom pocket and there’s a rain proof cover. It’s tidy and nicely appointed. It’s water resistant for most of the time but not water proof, hence the rain cover (which is bright orange). It’s interlock compatible so putting it on is just a case of lifting the hinge and sliding it on. To sort out all that storage for £40 is pretty good IMO.

And there we are. A super commuter/audax/tourer for a very reasonable price. It’s something I’m bound to use and the weight should give me a decent workout over the winter to make sure that when I get onto my light bike come Spring, it really should be easy to push along. I always loved my Croix De Fer, but this tops it. It’s become almost the default choice to come out of the garage. And I can’t think of higher praise than that.

The Taff Trail : Cardiff’s Jewel in the Crown, or…….

As I started writing this I came across a tweet which had some data on it of car usage in Cardiff. Get a chair, sit down. Though I doubt this will surprise you. There are 15,000 people in Cardiff using a car to get to work. Nothing all that surprising in that. But, get this, 15,000 people using a car to get to work for less than 2km distance. 2000 metres. The distance of a not particularly difficult swim session. And that’s a bloody disgrace. Among that 15,000 will be people who have valid excuses. And there will be those who believe they do. And those who have none whatsoever. Commuting needs a sea change. Give the people something to use, or something to disincentive.  Perhaps a combination of both. But, in the end, the change is a trigger. Once you decide to make that change, only when a person decides to change do they actually do so.

Excuse the locality of this particular piece. But it might well apply to you too. After all, we all have those areas of our rides or commutes where we’re provided with a thing for which we should be thankful, it should be the perfect thing, but that promise remains unfulfilled in so many ways.

The Taff Trail is a wonderful idea but, as yet, not a wonderful thing. It runs from Brecon to Cardiff, a stretch of about 55 miles. You can see the map here. It’s separated from traffic for large parts of its length. It’s quiet, it’s generally safe, it should be a Nirvana. But it’s not. It’s barely Nickelback in its current form. It’s about not meeting its potential.  The trail is also an active travel route (see here for Cardiff Council’s identification of existing active travel routes), it appears not only on the current plans but on future infrastructure plans. It’s existence in those plans suggests that it somehow meets active travel guidance, that it’s good enough for the future. It isn’t and relying on it as an active travel route is part of the problem. A lazy get out. Identify something that’s usable to meet your obligations but don’t set out about making it something that everyone would want to use. It’s lazy and it’s short sighted. It doesn’t make the person using it for the first time want to change.

This first piece about the Taff Trail will be about the stretch from Tongwynlais, just north of Cardiff, to the City Centre. It’s not far, 5-6 miles or so? The route actually continues, in broken form, add in a few more and you can get all the way to Cardiff Bay. It’s a commuter stretch. In due course, with some other fine contributors, I’ll be looking at the issues that plague the Trail along its length generally, but for now, this is a local rant.

Cardiff has a traffic problem. It’s choked by traffic. There are rat runs. There are choke points. Everyone is in a rush. There are very few places to park cheaply. Parking outside my office would cost me a staggering £10 per day. And that’s one of the cheaper areas. I could probably afford those parking charges, many cannot, yet still they do. In some ways it’s good to disincentivise, if there are viable alternatives. I don’t dislike driving, I like cars, but if you want to arrive in work any later than 7 am, it is a soulless, frustrating experience. And my average commute time home by bike is the same as my average rush hour drive. And that’s a 17 mile commute. In some of the worst cases it’s taken me 2 hours plus to get home. My average ride is 55 minutes. Even when my drive is shorter in time, I don’t get that exercise, that feeling of being at one with the world, it’s a no brainer.

Having a traffic free solution in a City Centre is a quite wonderful opportunity. If it could just deal with its imperfections. Despite some efforts in Cardiff to make cycle lanes and safe spaces it’s still plainly dangerous out there. The car free trail, well away from roads, is the perfect solution, or it should be.

If you live north of Cardiff you have an issue. It’s difficult to legally enter Cardiff on a bike. You cannot use the A470 (a busy dual carriageway) because it’s subject to a traffic regulation order that prohibits bikes. You cannot use the ‘Coryton roundabout’ for the same reason. The only legal entrance is either a complicated series of underpasses which, once negotiated, take you back onto the main roads, or you can use the Taff Trail. The trail isn’t well supported by branches, it’s simply a North – South straight line with little or no inter-connectivity. If you live on the far east of Cardiff, it’s no practical use to you. As much is evident in the current integrated network map. The green and yellow caterpillar (8-7 onwards) is the Taff Trail, mostly. There are breaks, there are few places where it’s obvious how you get to the ‘main branch.’ And if you can, can you do so safely?

The Taff Trail is also shared use along its length. Shared use paths are, of course, the great cost saver. But there is a tension where paths are shared. Who has rights of way? Who has better rights? Who IS right? And does it matter if you’re right when it all goes wrong. Even shared divided paths cause issues. They separate the walker and cyclist, reduced the room available for both, cause issues as to legality, mess things up even more. It’s an imperfect solution. But I don’t think there’s any escape from that, it is what it is. We just have to get along. But, in certain places, dog walkers and cyclists, while not in outright war, are at least involved in an ongoing conflict. In the school holidays it’s awash with families, as it should be. But any sense of ‘lane discipline’ is lost. It’s hard to make progress as a travel route, much easier for a sightseeing one. It doesn’t fit all. It suits very few.

Let’s start with getting on the trail. You hang a right at Tongwynlais school, down the road, under the A470, round to the right and……..and that’s where the issues start. A quite spectacularly poor surface. Rutted, bits missing, mud, used by utility vehicles who service the electricity sub station.

Hang a left and, bit of gravel, bit of missing tarmac, barrier, grind on gears, get onto main path. Phew, we’re done. And then, then it’s ok. Nice surface, some rooted sections, but ok. Well, it’s ok NOW. But for well over a year, to deal with improvements to the Radyr weir, cyclists were taken off the trail and sent all around the shop. The war on motorists rarely sees such closures.

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But, actually, it’s fairly nice. Sure, it’s a bit narrow, a bit windy, it’s pitch black in the winter, so you need good lights, that’s when the LED wars begin. But, yes, it’s good. And on a bright summer morning, 6 am, sunrise, no wind, good temperatures I tell you there’s nowhere better to be commuting. There’s a river along the entire length, wildlife, beauty. Perhaps I should take that as the default position because, frankly, on the best days, it’s simply brilliant.

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But then Autumn comes and the scene changes massively.

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And that’s a pretty good shot. Minimal leaf intrusion. But that’s a good day because most of the time it’s leaf carpet, then leaf mulch, then massive danger. Cardiff City Council DO clean it, but how much, how often and how well is up for discussion. My view is that it’s not enough and never enough. And there are some legal issues, is the trail a highway within section 41 of the Highways Act 1980?

You see, there are some advantages if it were. It would be maintainable at the public expense (indeed that is the definition of a highway in the Act) and that would create a duty to clean it and to keep it clear of ice in winter. It is cleaned but it certainly isn’t kept free of ice. Not ever, not at all. There’s no doubt that there’s a right of way over the path. Interestingly, in the cases of conflict cyclists have been called on to respect the Highway Code. It’s not a footpath, it’s not a cycle track. It’s just a way. I could probably work through the legalities with some time, and some parts of the trail might be treated differently to others. But, for now, we have to assume that no duty arises. So ad hoc cleaning and no maintenance. Money is apparently spent, though it’s quite hard to see where it all goes. Now, I take huge care of my bike. It gets used in all weathers. It’s cleaned daily. But there’s no excuse for an active travel section where, on the worst bits, your bike looks like a particularly grim CX session in 400 yards. And, if it does, it’s not about the bike. It’s about safety. Sure, you can slow down, take more care, but sometimes the inevitable happens. Chuck in some chicanes and locked gates and being dirty isn’t just about the dirt. It’s about being fit for purpose.

It’s not just cycling remember. Active travel routes are for travel. That includes walking. And it’s as stunning a walk on a lovely day as it is for cycling. But the same comments about maintenance apply to walking too. It’s all very well being able to walk but if you arrive at your destination filthy and covered in mud and leaf detritus, that’s off putting. If you have to make a detour because a bridge underpass is flooded for a week, that’s ridiculous, particularly when the ‘straight’ route is across a busy dual carriageway. If you don’t feel safe because of the lack of lighting then that’s problematic. And there have been troubling attacks on the taff trail too. It’s difficult to know what to do about that. Increased policing perhaps, but lighting would go some way towards helping. It would also go some way towards reducing the arms race in bike and personal lighting. But, realism demands that we reflect that such things cost money. A lot of it. There are energy saving solutions though. Solar, LED, there are even solar storing reflective paths. Not good, of course, if their under cover or covered in stuff…

On we go.

At Forest Farm you exit the trail temporarily (this happens along its length), past Cardiff High School Old Boys RFC, then you pick the trail up again. Through a gated section, a mini muddy chicane with a slippy wood border, and 1/2km or so of tight corners. Eventually you exit back onto the road again.

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Another 1/2km or so and you’re into Hailey Park. Welcome, everyone, to Hailey Park. The war zone. Because it’s here, in the vast open green spaces, that the conflicts arise. Fast cyclists, poor cyclists, good cyclists, slow cyclists, pedestrians, dogs and dog walkers. Some people are idiots. And that transcends their mode of transport. Ring a bell to warn and you’ll get an acknowledgement from some and a scowl from others. Shout a cheery hello, where’s your bell? It’s hard to predict what will happen. Hell is other people.

Through the Park, round the back of the Welsh school and then it’s well surfaced. Nice. Pick your times and it can be quiet. Hit it at 8.30 am and it’s teeming with students walking to class and two way cycling. And that’s equally great, because walking should be a default choice, but also illustrates the issue with shared use paths, two way cycling commuters and, well, path sense. I cycle as I drive, I hope. But much of what would be good discipline is lost by many users.

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But it is nice. Look at it. Just watch out for debris from fallen leaves, branches or even the trees themselves. Because, in winter, it can get pretty hairy indeed.

That river is generally 3-4 metres lower than that. It’s rare for it to intrude on the trail. But sometimes it does. And it’s this section, with so many trees, that annoys me most of all. It’s filthy. The Council claim monthly cleaning. Of course, we have to be realistic, but that’s not enough, nowhere near enough. I’ve cycled back up the trail with a clean bike that’s turned into something akin to CX. Back onto the wet main roads and it then cleans itself. That’s an issue, and it’s dangerous. So easy to crash, particularly when that mush turns to ice. I have, once or twice, when being extraordinarily careful. It happens. No real damage done thankfully.

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And that’s the kind of thing you get in the rain, often extending across the path. There are horses allowed here too. And they spread mud and horse stuff. And it’s allowed to stay there until you complain, loudly, on twitter. It’s not good enough.

From there, it’s all good. Some of the year, anyway. Because, this week, the first of the twitter announcements from Bute Park. The closure of the section you see above, the nice ish bit (beyond the puddle) right down to Cardiff Castle is tied to sunset. So, as the days grow shorter, the entrance points close earlier. Today, the park closes at 8.30pm. 41 minutes before sunset, around an hour before actual darkness. And so it goes on, on an ever increasing spiral to mid December when the park closes at around 3.15pm at a time when it’s never dark.

Safety is, apparently, the reason. But what safety? You can actually still enter Bute Park at various points which are unsecured such as the North Road bridge and the ambulance station entrance. All that happens is that you can’t exit if you go southbound and, if you go northbound, you have to carry your bike over a stye. Or, if you like, you can use the adjacent part of the trail (confusingly this is properly designated as being the trail). And a more wretched path of scum and villainy you’d be hard pressed to find. Mud, rutted parts, potholes, standing water, leaf scum, confusing shared use sides which put cyclists on a narrow space next to each other. A mess. So, if you’re a 9-5 commuter, you lose access to one of the better bits after early Autumn. The clock is already ticking.

All of this is hugely negative. It’s negative because, with just a bit of imagination and effort, it could be so much better. Why not widen certain sections? Clean the damn thing more often? Keep parts of it open or, if you want to close parts off, make the other usable bits safer. Because, at the moment, you’re actually better off using one of the many new 20 mph zones around parts of Cardiff, cycle in the middle of the lane at 20 to avoid being put in danger. Possibly safer, not quite as easy, but you’d almost certainly arrive at your destination an awful lot cleaner.

The Taff Trail, it’s a wonderfully brilliant, amazing, inspiring, horrible, nasty, useless thing. Let’s sort it out.

The Marmotte Diary : Day 1

Oh God. I’ve done it. Well, I’ve not actually entered it yet. But only because entries don’t open for a while. But I’ve done everything else. Booked the accommodation (well, Jon did, our base in Bourg D’Oisans). I’ve booked the flights. I’ve looked at bike boxes. I’ve decided how to get to Heathrow. And in making this diary public I can’t back out. Well, not unless my GP decides against giving me a medical certificate. Perhaps if I tell him just how hard it is, he’ll oblige.

I did back out last year. For a variety of boring and mundane reasons but also a bit of fear. But, well, screw you fear. I mean, it’s only 174km and 5000m of climbing. Post Brexit remember that’s only a shade over 100 miles and 16,000 feet. Jon’s Strava has his Marmotte at 18,300ft this year. That’s more accurate it would appear. But, hey, I did 1000ft of climbing on my 20 mile commute to work today, how hard can it possibly be?

The answer is, brutal. Brutal in isolation, brutal depending on the weather. And, really, the weather is as the weather is. Wet and windy and it’s going to be horrible. Cold? Well, at least that’ll keep you cool. Warm and dry? That presents its own problems. The ideal conditions for the Marmotte do exist, but you’d have to be very lucky to get them. It’s been wet, it’s been baking. No to either I say, but you can’t choose. All you can do is hope.

But, I’m in now. No backing out. So an autumn and winter of hill repeats and upping fitness beckons.

The Marmotte is a challenge. Unlike the Etape du Tour, it remains the same year on year. It starts in Bourg D’Oisans at the foot of Alp d’Huez. The “route is considered to be one of the hardest of any cyclosportive and comparable to the most challenging high mountain stages of the Tour De France.” So says Wiki and, why the hell am I doing this again?

Climbs? Iconic. Glandon, Telegraph, Galibier, Alp d’Huez. F**k. I mean, just look at that. If you know cycling you know that four. This isn’t a ride with some random Tour now and again climbs chucked in. It’s the iconic stuff. Being done by a 45 year old bloke who’s never cycled outside Wales. That, in itself, is odd. I’ve done absolutely loads of cycling of many different disciplines but never ventured out of the country on a bike. Probably because Wales has pretty much all you need on a bike. Apart from that romanticism, apart from that draw, it’s France, it’s the Alpes, it’s the Tour.

So, the Marmotte.

Starting in Bourg D’Oisans, the first climb begins about 8km in. Since we’re abroad we will be using the metric system. From there the climbing starts. Le Rivier becomes the Col de Glandon. 700 metres at the start to 1920 metres at the 35km point. Then it’s downhill for, well, ages and ages before the hard(er) stuff starts in earnest.

At the 80km-110km mark it’s the business end. The climbs of the Telegraph and Galibier. A climb of almost 2000m in 30km. Which should tickle the legs somewhat. Then back downhill into Bourg D’Oisans (with some bumps along the way) to prepare for the climb to Alp D’Huez. Nowhere near the height of the Galibier or Glandon and you start from a higher place. But, at that point, I am reliably informed that you’re done in. Switchback, switchback, rest, switchback, throw self in river, get on, finish. Oh, there’s a cut off too, if you don’t get to the Alp d’Huez by a certain time then you’re done. Well, they will let you finish, but your chip gets removed and you’re into the realms of DNF. But, if it’s on Strava..

So, training begins in earnest. Alcohol will have to go at some point and be cut down some time soon (though not on holiday). Food will have to be carefully considered, weight will have to be dropped. I intend to be the lightest I’ve been on a bike before we kick off. Sub 80kg if possible. One of my riding partners, who got a gold time last year, will recommence his low (to no) carb diet. That’s not for me. Moderation is key. And there will be equipment choices, what stuff to take, what to wear, refuelling strategy, etc etc.

But it’s the training that will make all the difference. I’ll keep the commute, that’s base miles, keeps you going. It’s not flat, that helps. But there will have to be some serious investment in climbing. Stuff in the 10,000 ft range to even think about preparing. The Dragon Ride route should sort that out, 132 miles, 10,500 ft. But doing it once isn’t going to be enough, it will have to be done a few times. Perhaps even adding some more mountains at the end. CX over the winter will stay, it’s good for anaerobic and digging in for those extra minutes, but it’s short, 45 minutes, so I’ll need to be better at it to improve generally. Come winter and I’ll have to ignore the weather and climb mountains. Stay close to home, climb them multiple times. I’ll need a plan though, this is all too ad hoc. I’ll see what’s out there and keep updating the diary. I expect I’m going to learn a lot about myself.

But what’s really got me is the focus of actually booking stuff. I’m in now. There’s no turning back. This is a public statement of intent. Just under a year to go. It starts now.