2017 good for you? Or you looking back thinking I should of done better?! For us, it was a mix of both. We cycled and climbed the furthest we have done in a year, our new commute has topped up the mileage which has helped but when compared to our buddies on social media, we fail in comparison. We don't do regrets but when you do reminisce on your cycling endeavours, you do wonder what could of took it that step further? So we thought we'd help you out with your 2018 goals but throwing you some tips and suggestions of our own, some we've done before, some we still need to tick off, some from the darkness corners of our cycling soul! What will you conquer this year?
We thought we'd start with the most simple but arguably most individual difficult challenge you can attempt, the race against the clock. Wiggo brought the infamous challenge into the public limelight a few years ago but for you anoraks out there, Boardman's supeman attempt probably stands out as the pinnacle moment in the history of the Hour Record. Well no one is expecting you to achieve Wiggo's sum of 54.526km (33.8mph), pushing yourself to the limit for the hour will result yes a lot of pain, but also so much satisfaction that it was all down to you. We've given the Hour Record a go a couple of times and peaked a couple of years ago at 22.8mph which for us at the time was a great result. It did help if you can see it this way having a guy on our wheel for 45mins of the hour who paid me a compliment after (it is cheating if you're drafting someone so stay true to the challenge!). Obviously if you're near an outdoor track like Lee Valley or the free to use Hillingdon Cycle Circuit where you can rock up and off you go, you've got an advantage over others. If you don't have this luxury, research a flat local route you can focus on (left turns a must, you don't want to be wasting time crossing traffic if you can help it). Another tip, check the weather, you don't want to be batting with a wind so try to wait for a calm cool day (cycling for an hour in 30C is another avoidance).
This one is inspired by our good pal Nick Boyle who a couple of years ago achieved all the Strava challenges for each month (surely that's worth a free jersey guys?!). Smash the elevation, distance and gran fondo challenges and your trophy case will be overflowing with badges. Tip for this would be get some big rides in early each month so you're ahead of yourself. Obviously boredom of usual routes may creep in so fresh it up with trips to more hillier places so grab those climbing numbers. Extend your commute even by a few miles each day will also help with the distance.
Beat Your Previous
If you're like us and like to compare months from previous years, a good little challenge would to take these Strava challenges and personalise them by trying to outride and outclimb the month from your previous year. Weather and holidays are usually our excuses so maybe target those months where the numbers look more like a 20/20 score rather than a 5 day test slog!
For the seasoned rider, sportive maybe a thing of the past but there's still a market out there and the whole feel of a sportive has changed in recent years. We used to ride 3-4 a year (mostly local based) but as we now know the roads well, there's no reason for us to part with our money for a route we probably offer here on the site anyway. But thanks to events such as the Dulux Trade London Revolution have placed hospitality at the heart of it's sportives and you are really looked after well. On the other hand though, do look out for your local clubs or charities who run their own sportives during the year. One we would like to help out on this year is the Little Lumpy Sportive in Surrey held in May.
Hit The Track
We have to thank Mrs Notinthepeloton for this as this was brought as a birthday present a few years ago and if a velodrome was on our doorstep, we would seriously consider track riding. To even have the chance to ride on an Olympic track coated in glory from 2012 was a great feeling in itself. Track riding though is a completely different kettle of fish and if you're transitioning over from the road, you will do the novice thing of forgetting there's no brakes and you might jolt a few times in your seat. Once you get your bearings ok and you start to apply some speed, god it's fun. Hard work but when you're hitting the banking and looking for the next draft, it's a rush hard to replicate on a Sunday morning ride!
Take Up The Other Discipline
Getting bored with the drops? MTB is another option. We're in the UK, we're surrounded by forests and trails so accessibility is not an issue. It is though a completely different skill set. Lots to do with how to carry speed and working with the terrain rather than trying to beat it. We had our own MTB adventure thanks to Bikes Direct in Dorking but to cut a long story short, we fell off 5 times! And then when even my good mates took us on a lil MTB day in North Wales, even when we felt we was finally getting the hang of off-roading, on a downhill section we had to throw ourselves off to avoid a tree stump! Take the falls away for a second and you're left with opportunities to visit places not accessible for the skinny tyres, the quietness hits you too and very cliche to say but throws you back into nature. Just don't come off-roading with us!
This year we took part in our first endurance event in the form of the Red Bull Timelaps. Technically. it was a 25hr race because it was held in October when the clocks were turned back resulting in an extra hour of cycling. It was a great experience but think we underestimated it's demands on the body. Lots to learn from our end but the team we put in put on a great showing. It hasn't been confirmed yet whether it'll be running again but the Revolve24 has caught our eye this year and especially as it's held at the legendary Brands Hatch, the notinthepeloton team may again pop out for some more racing! If endurance races are your thing, these need to be on your palmares list.
Often you may be asked what's the furthest you've ridden? Depending what stage you are in your cycling career, achieving the milestones is what you're looking for: 10, 25, 50, 100, 200+ miles is the usual list. With our good pal Ali, we hit 142 miles a couple of years ago all in aid for the Tilnar Cycle Challenge. 9 hours in the saddle was tough going and we put the success down to the greasy fish and chips we had in Brighton. We hit our second longest ride with Sam and Chris last year roughly on the same route but hitting 123miles instead. The question is do we really want to ride for longer?! For those who do like the feel of the saddle rather than the sofa, check out Audax UK for some really hardcore endurance challenges!
Just the word throws you back in your chair. It is probably the ultimate psychological and physiological challenge you can attempt. We don't know many who have done but when you hear of children Everesting Ventoux, you do question your climbing ability?! This challenge does need a lot of prep', you'll be riding half in the dark because the 29,029ft you have to ascend won't be smashed in a couple of climbs on Boxhill! You also need to be wise on your choice of climb, do you go for something steep to get the elevation increasing quicker but making it more telling on the legs or go for something milder but thus increasing the overall distance and time of being on the bike?! This challenge has sat in the back of our mind but that's where it stays for now...
The One v4.0
When we set out to create the ultimate hill ride, we did it as a laugh but it kinda spiralled to an unofficial sportive. Versions 1, 2 and 3 have came, gone and conquered but the Surrey Hills have now been milked dry, it's time to take this baby on the road and we've kept it in the vicinity of the capital. The Chilterns will be the host of The One series this year (date to be confirmed but we are looking at late Spring). Thanks to Chilterns guru Mike, we've got a few routes on offer with a couple of killer climbs which are included on that infamous list we all now know (see next suggestion!). We have a soft spot for the Chilterns and will be putting details out soon so you lot can put it into your calendar. So if you fancy becoming a Onesie and taking on a series of climbs which often result in KOM/QOM competitions, come join us and others who like a climb or 13, 15 or 17!
Hands up if you were one of the lucky ones who made Tracy Island and received the sought after Blue Peter Badge?! This is like that but for cyclists! Simon Warren's list of UK climbs contains some that will make even your bike shake! To tick off every one does make you part of an exclusive club though (we just checked - there's only 17 members!). This challenge does involve a bit of travelling to climb them all but you'll get to see some great corners of the UK. We've also checked how many we've climbed....10! Better get researching then...
Looking For Something Different?
Look hard enough and you'll find some unique challenges out there here and abroad. A few suggestions from us would be checking out Coast2Coast (riding from one side of the UK to the other), Ride The Trafalgar Way, an epic and 500km ride into the past cross country ride from Falmouth to the heart of London following the 1805 route taken by John Richards Lapenotiere who delivered the news of Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar (Eurosport meets History Channel!), a summer solstice ride up North taking on the Ride To The Sun, a free but overnight ride from Carlisle to Cramond or if you're a southerner, try the well established Dunwich Dynamo which finishes with an optional paddle in the sea!
Cycle Abroad/Climb A Mountain
We can technically say we ticked one of these off last year, well we did have to cross the Irish Sea and enter another country. If you can't count the Gran Fondo Northern Ireland as cycling abroad, then what about a bike excursion with Mrs Notinthepeloton in Thailand?! We're reaching here aren't we?! Places like Belgium and France should be on everyone's list but as Sam and Chris discovered last year, islands like Gran Canaria offer some very testing climbs which only the Alps and Pyrenees can compete with. Catch some deals in the off season and you can really get your moneys worth. Now we've checked it and have climbed a couple of mountains this year over in the Mournes in Norn Iron but to climb Ventoux or Huez is where the glory really lies.
We have dabbled in a bit of TTing even though it was in an open race circling Richmond Park at 6.30am in the morning. It's one of those things we think you need to experience just to say you've tried it, it's like marmite, you'll either love it and be hooked it or hate it and want to take up Zwifting! Although it was a race, we won't count Red Bull Timelaps as a proper racing experience. That's not being disrespectful to anyone but even if you ask our good pal Sam if it's the same experience, he'd have to agree. Close knit racing in a fast peloton flying around a circuit with attacks going left, right and centre, finding the right wheel to hold onto, when to attack, when to hold back, avoiding crashes, it sound scary but we're not going to lie, it's been at the forefront of our mind but we need to be at peak fitness and have a decent bike to race with, something we don't have either of! First step you can take though is check out British Cycling or CTT to find out if racing or TTing is your cup of tea.
Join a Club
We have given the club thing a go but was put off by the clicky atmosphere of this particular club (we won't name names as it might not be a true reflection of them now) but when you were left with a puncture all to yourself then ignored at the cafe stop when you finally caught them up is not the best way to include new members. But please don't let our experience put you off as cycling clubs are popping up everywhere all with different appeals to people. We would definitely suggest our good friends over at Dirty Wknd as somewhere to look into, they really do cater for all and put on some great trips without being in your face and a very inclusive atmosphere. For us, we're a social butterfly when it comes to cycling, we do enjoy the group rides but we also enjoy the individual rides when you can just go where anywhere you want, use this year to find your social feet in the cycling world!
Last but not least and this one is dedicated to James Ward on Twitter who amazingly climbed 1,000,000ft last year! Do you commute to the top of a mountain or something?! If you think you can do as well or better, join James as a millionaire this year!
Obviously there are hundreds more goals or challenges you can attempt, these were ones we would like to tick off ourselves or have done so already. Either way, there's no pressure when it comes to cycling. People often mention the 'rules' when it comes to riding....be a rebel this year, break the rules!
“It doesn’t matter if you’re sprinting for an Olympic gold medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you’re missing the essence of the sport”