2013 was a bit of  a mixed bag for me cycling-wise. In terms of results, my racing was decidedly sub-par. We didn’t have our usual cycle tour in Scotland. But I did at least hang in there and not give up!

Time Trials. Once again, illness and injury really hammered my season, and I found form very difficult to come by. I suppose my advancing years didn’t help! Things were looking really good up until Christmas 2012, when I fell ill with a horrid cold that left me with a hacking deep cough that took an age to shift. Then when it did shift, I put my back out (once again) that set my training back to at least April. Most of the year seemed to be spent desperately trying to get under the hour for 25 miles, which was not good at all! I didn’t race at any distance above 25 miles this year, and in fact rode only a few open events, probably my lowest number in any season in the last decade.

Once resumed, training seemed to go pretty well, though I was still far from fully fit when Team Grumpy regrouped for the 2013 Duo Normand. We were therefore rather pleased with our second place in the Corporate category since one of us was rather unwell, and we had no realistic chance of beating the eventual winning team anyway.

New tandem. Following our second front tyre blowout on the Dawes touring tandem, and taking into account the bike’s age, we decided to take the plunge and fork out a wad for a new Thorn tandem. This was quite a big step, and we made the most of it when specifying the kit for the tandem. Notably, we plumped for S&S couplings, which means we can transport the tandem inside our car (albeit with the back seats folded down) rather than on a roof rack. You can see my multi-part review of the tandem elsewhere on the site (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5). Suffice it to say that six months down the line we’re still happy with the tandem, though the flat stoker bars had to go. Needless to say, the Dawes hasn’t been disposed of, and we now house three tandems!

Changes to our work calendar meant that we had no Scottish cycle tour this year, but two trips to Normandy compensated. We took the new tandem to France and had a great time in very nice (some would say too hot) weather. Plenty of excellent food, too.

Team Grumpy. As far as I can recall, the 2013 Duo Normand was the only 2-up outing for Team Grumpy in 2013. We did regroup for the Port Talbot Wheelers ’25’ in early March (our usual season-opener), but unfortunately my back was so painful I could barely stand. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t ride. Anyway, given Team Grumpy’s lack of form, the Duo went pretty well, indeed better than we might have expected, particularly given the aftermath of a nasty cold suffered by one of us. We to second place in the Corporate category (behind a team that we frankly had no chance of beating, barring misadventure).

New kit. For the last few years, I’d been using the ‘poor man’s power meter’ – the Polar system that uses chain tension and vibration to estimate power output. When it worked, it did well, with consistent data values (though perhaps on the high side). Unfortunately it was so unreliable as to be pretty much useless on a day to day basis. Eventually I cracked and coughed up for a Hed Disc with a Powertap hub. I selected this over other systems for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted an ANT+ power meter so I could hook it up to my Garmin Edge 500. Secondly, I wanted something that could be easily transferred between bikes. Reading up on the ANT+ Garmin pedal based system led me to believe that switching the pedals between bikes might not be so straightforward, and the crank-based systems aren’t really an option for rapid shift between bike.

The Hed disc wheel was quite pricey, but is so much easier to use than the Polar system. It delivers data to the Garmin Edge 500 via ANT+, connects reliably and calibrates easily. I’ve been using this not only for time trials but for turbo training as well (it’s effectively a spoked wheel with bonded on carbon sheets). I still don’t believe that training to specific power levels is necessarily the best way, and actually think that training to a measure of one’s physiology is smarter – i.e. heart rate.