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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Real Pain In The Arse

I have been riding a bicycle on the road since I was ten years old. I remember my father taking me out on the road to practice, and doing my first right-hand turn in High View in Pinner. I took my cycling proficiency and scored 96%, thereby allowing me to legally cycle on the road. So, I've been riding on the road for thirty years. Four years ago I did a long bike ride, although not as long as this. And I can say that categorically yesterday was the worst day of cycling I've ever had in my life.

The first reason is because of the road burn I got last week. It kept oozing for a few days until it's finally started to scab over. Of course, because it's right next to my knee, as it does so it's now started to crack and pull on itself. So my right knee is profoundly uncomfortable. Never mind the left knee, which I seem to have somehow harmed many weeks ago by not riding with good enough shoes. So now both knees hurt, in differing ways. That's reason number 1. Reason number 2 is that I've had a dramatic weight gain. Jenny reckons it's muscle and I shouldn't be worried, but on the scales it's upsetting.

Reason number 3 is that after three weeks in this new saddle, suddenly I'm in serious pain. Butt pain. I know, the concept of butt pain is kind of funny, except for the pain part. And this isn't just it's uncomfortable riding on a pencil seat. I've actually been quite surprised at how well I adapted to riding on this road bike's seat. But for no particular reason after three weeks, it's started hurting. And I mean, really hurting. It hurts so much that yesterday I went to cycle 50 miles, and could only do 20. And the 20 that I did took as long as I normally take 30, and that's not including the times I stopped and got off the bike for a while. And when I did get off the bike, I actually howled in pain. That's how bad it is. I've never had anything like this.

The pain isn't muscular, it's on my bones. I come from a fairly boney-bummed family (interesting Rabbinic factoid you probably never wanted to know). I feel like I've actually bruised my butt bones, but nothing's happened to cause that. When I fell last week, I didn't even land on my bum. So, this has come out of nowhere.

I was tremendously depressed. I'm only three weeks away from the big ride and I really needed to be cycling 50 miles. Instead, I was howling in pain during 20 miles. In desperation, I took the bike into the shop and changed the seat for my Scott Roadster seat. That's the seat that was originally on my road bike but which I replaced with a MUCH larger mountain bike seat. I've always been used to large mountain bike seats. I like the padding.

It turns out that that large mountain bike seat (right) may have been responsible for me learning to cycle slightly bow-legged which in turn led to part of the issue with my left-knee once I got onto the road bike. It's basically so big that it pushes the knees out. But it is very comfy.

Anyway, I decided this morning to take the Scott seat out for a spin. I had to get over the really depressing ride yesterday and basically get back into the saddle immediately. In my mind, I set a target of just 10 or 15 miles to test the new saddle. But I only made it 5 miles for two reasons - the seat was better and I got a puncture. When I started this blog, I was going to slightly ham it up a little (for lack of a better Rabbinic term) in order to encourage sympathy and larger donations for the ride. But I haven't had to because I've just been plagued with one thing after another. I've never had it this bad cycling.

Near the end of my disastrous ride yesterday, congregant and friend Neil Lyon, who has been helping me through this training, was just about to set out on his 60-mile preparation for Acoma as I was coming home. I pulled alongside him and almost burst into tears. He had a look at my shorts and said that there was nowhere near enough padding. I explained that I had used these shorts for the other long-distance ride I had done 4 years ago. So he had a feel. I must say, it's the first time a congregant has ever touched my bum so deliberately. Neil wants me to point out that he didn't touch my bum, he rubbed it twice! But he said that for thin seats like these, I need more padding. So that afternoon he lent me a pair of his mega-expensive road-racing shorts, which basically have an extra seat in them. They're literally seat-of-the-pants.

Compare my padding (left) with the new padding (right)...

Still, even with the new padding this morning's 5-mile puncture ride was uncomfortable. So when I took the bike into the shop today, I told the guy there that even the Scott seat with new padding wasn't good enough. So he measured my butt. Apparently, the bones in my bum are 155mm apart (interesting Rabbinic factoid you probably never wanted to know #2), which is quite wide. So these seats aren't supporting me properly so I'm probably shifting around and hurting myself slowly. There was only one solution. Behold! My new 155mm road bike saddle!!

I got on in the shop and my bum hurt. He said I should maybe rest for a few days but I explained that with only three weeks to go, I have to train. So my plan is this. Try the new seat and hopefully the pain will go away. If it doesn't, I'm going back to the huge mountain bike seat. I have to be comfortable in the ride. I can't be howling in pain. And if I do go for that one, I'll just have to be very careful how I use my legs so as not to hurt my knee.

So, this has been a really crappy week. I really wanted to give up and I would have done had it not been for the sponsorship, I would have done. If you have not sponsored me, please, please do. I need all the support I can get. You can sponsor me by going to 


I need your help. Please sponsor generously. Thank you.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016


Sunday marked four weeks until the ride so I really needed to be sure I was on the road. Two members of the community called David and Brenda, who do ridiculously long cycle rides, joined me on their tandem. We set out at 6:05 so it was just light enough that we could be seen on the road, although their plethora of glowing safety equipment made sure of that, too!

 I've never actually seen a tandem in action but it was interesting - going uphill it's very slow but downhill the momentum makes it ridiculously fast. The first twenty miles flew by and David and Brenda had to stop after thirty but I was able to continue for my longest continuous ride so far...

I was in the saddle for just shy of three hours, and covered forty miles at the same time. This was really good going as far as I was concerned. The next day, David and Brenda emailed me to give me one really important piece of advice - "Take it easy!" I have a knee injury and, according to them I'm pounding the road at a terrific rate. It's not Tour de France material but then I'm not training for a race, and that's the point. Apparently, I'm cycling as though I'm racing and I'm therefore risking injuring my left knee further. So, what I need to do is chill out.

That's actually quite difficult for me. When I ride, I ride HARD. I try to beat my best last time. I try to push my limits to see what I can do. You may have noticed that by my concentration on times. It's almost certainly what led to the knee injury, if I'm honest. Brenda and David were adamant that instead of "pounding the road" as they say I've been doing that for the final few weeks I should focus on distance. Shorter rides regularly are better than longer rides rarely so that my muscles get used to constant cycling.

So I took their advice and slowed down. This morning, I cycled 5 miles in about 20 minutes, instead of 18. I actually enjoyed it a little more than usual. Then I cycled to work, then to a nearby meeting, then back, and shortly I'm going to cycle home. That will make 11 miles. Then if I add 14 more miles on this evening, that's 25 miles in a day - far further than previously. If I can keep up a few small rides a day I can really pile on the miles. So that's all great.

Well, almost all great. You see, the clips are a problem. The people at the bike shop told me that I would fall off the bike once, learn my lesson and then be really comfortable with them. It turns out that that wasn't true. Today as I was casually cycling a couple of miles back from a meeting, I stopped to check a text, because texting and cycling is really, really stupid. Don't do it, children. I sent my reply and got back on the bike. As always, I clipped in my right foot and pushed off on it. As the right foot went down and I moved forward, I went to clip in the left foot but it didn't go in. That doesn't normally happen. I started unbalancing to the right so I unclipped my right foot to put it down. It came out of the clip but not in enough time. I stretched out my leg quickly and because there's metal on the bottom of the shoes, slipped on the tarmac and did the splits perfectly over my bike which was now on the ground. For half a second I was extremely impressed with myself for being able to do that, and that was when I registered the pain on my right knee. This, people, is a road burn. I got back to the office and applied an alcoholic wipe. That was ridiculously painful - far more painful than the wound itself. It's now covered. It's not a crippling injury but it stings and is annoying because clips really are very difficult to get right. They are exactly the problem that I thought they might be.

Some Rabbis give blood, sweat and tears for their community. After training for this ride, I'm now two-thirds there. Hopefully, we'll be able to avoid the tears, though. But if you haven't yet donated, this is the level of dedication I'm giving this community! Please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575 to sponsor me and show that it was worth it! Every donation helps. Thank you.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


Introducing myself to the new bike was a bit of a comical disaster. I ended up lying in the middle of the road because I had unclipped the wrong foot before stopping. But now I've learned my lesson and I'm able to ride the road bike properly. I cannot believe the difference it has made. It's so light compared to my cross bike, which now feels ridiculously sluggish by comparison. Before looking at my times, here's something else really worth looking at, my training chart.

You can see that in weeks 9 and 10 I cycled virtually nothing because of the bad knee. I've slowly come back to it, although this morning was meant to be another 15 miles but I was too exhausted from a late night. Anyway, in the first 12 weeks I've cycled a total of 335 miles. One week (week 8) I cycled more than the schedule required of me. 

Total Miles on Schedule
Actual Miles Cycled
Total Miles

Check out my weight. I was losing weight slowly and steadily although the drop in activity on the regime has resulted in stagnation. Nonetheless, I've already lost 7lbs. With four weeks to go, I should be able to get that into double figures. So, that's progress. I'm not cycling enough, but I am cycling nonetheless. With four weeks left, I should probably pass 600 miles of training in order to be fully prepared. That's going to take more commitment than I felt this morning!

Now, what about the speed?

5 mile times
10 mile times
15 mile times
20 mile times























Blue is previous personal best (PB), yellow is current. The 15 mile column is about to get filled much more as my thrice-weekly ride is going to shift from 10 to 15 miles. But you can clearly see in the other columns when I shifted from the old bike to the new bike. My 5 mile PB was slashed by two and a half minutes. My 10 mile PB was slashed by 6 minutes. And my 20 mile PB was slashed by 17 minutes. I feel like this when I'm on the bike now...

I've honestly never cycled this fast. I'm going so quickly now that I even registered a reading on a local speed detector (which said I was doing 17mph). Speed isn't everything on a 100-mile race, though. The reason I pay attention to this is because during the Tour of Acoma, road support is withdrawn after about 7 hours and I'd rather have as little of my race as possible without support. An hour or two I can handle, more than that might be an issue.

I do know, though, that endurance is key, and I really need to be working more on that. There have been a couple of 30-mile rides but with 4 weeks to go, I should have at least done one or maybe two 50-mile rides by now. This weekend has to be a minimum of 40 as a result, but I'll push for 50 if I can. The key question is the left knee, which isn't very painful any more but is still aggravating me and still needs ice. 

So, I still have a lot of work to do. I'm now comfortable on the new bike with the new shoes and new way of riding. I say comfortable - the new saddle really hurts my bum. I'm used to more padding. But apart from that, I'm comfortable that I'm not very likely to fall off and hurt myself, even though every bump I hit in the road makes me think about it for a second or two. 

What I need is to build up my endurance. And what I also need is your support. I know without question that the more people sponsor me per mile, the more I'll be pushed to keep going. So please, please, please if you haven't sponsored me already, please go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/655G575 to sponsor me. Thank you.