Stoke Hammond ’10’  11/5/16

There was rain forecast for this day, but nothing prepared us for the scale of the late afternoon downpour! Fortunately the rain had long stopped by the time we assembled for this evening’s club event, which had been relocated from the scheduled course to the Stoke Hammond course due to roadworks. The prospect of splashing through water seemed to have put off some riders, so we had a reduced field of 6.

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Norlond ’50’ 8/5/16

This event was held on the F1B/50, and was my first ’50’ for a few years. It was also a lovely morning, though a bit chilly at the start - it was enough for me to put arm warmers on, though I later regretted that as conditions warmed up during the race.

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Astwood ’10’ 4/5/16

At last, we had a splendid sunny and war evening, and 29 riders turned out, including several new members! Not too much to report (particularly since I am posting this several days after the event!), but I recall feeling pretty good. We reverted to the old start/finish in Astwood since the BikeBus was closed on this evening, which meant the finish line was back to being at the top of the climb into Astwood.

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Cambridge CC '10' 30/4/16

This event was on the F2D/10, and had a full field, with 17 women and two mixed tandems. The women all started as a block near the start of the event. NBRC had three riders on the startsheet: David Price and Debbie Vanner had also entered, though David DNS’d due to a bad cold. I went over with Katja, who was to start some 77 minutes before me.It was a bit breezy with a stiff breeze that made the outbound leg much quicker than the return. To add insult to injury, the middle of the field were caught in a nasty rain squall with significantly tougher wind. I could barely steer the bike while warming up. Fortunately the A428 has decently high embankments either side which offer some shelter. I had a clear run through, particularly at the turn, which is really quite good - you can see it on the Garmin trace. The only traffic issues were right after the start - you head west on the old A428 and turn sharp left at the roundabout to go down the sliproad to the A428. There was a learner driver being quite cautious, with a lorry and another car behind them. I don’t suppose it caused too much delay, but it always feels like it does. And no doubt the learner driver was being a bit anxious about all the TT bikes wobbling around.As expected, the outbound leg was really quick, and the return a fair bit slower. The trispoke was a bit of a handful at times with the headwind on the return leg. The finish is a bit annoying, because you have to go up the sliproad, turn left at a RAB and finish a little way down the road. Last time I rode this course I got stopped at the RAB in a big gear - this year I had no trouble.I was tied in 18th place with 22:18 judging from the provisional results posted online. Debbie finished in 26:26. Katja won the women’s prize with 23:19, 38th place overall.Here are the top 20 finishers:

1Simon Norman110Bedfordshire Road CC00:20:02
2John Mulvey101Cambridge University CC00:20:32
3David McGaw90Cambridge CC00:20:34
4Carl Whitwell100St Ives CC00:20:37
5Tom Trimble70CC Ashwell00:20:44
6John Gull71Expresso Library00:20:46
7Oliver Milk25Tri-Anglia Triathlon Club00:20:57
8Matthew Eley115Ely & District CC00:21:16
9William Smith60CC Ashwell00:21:29
10Ken Platts105Cambridge CC00:21:38
11Andy Whale65CC Ashwell00:21:41
12Ian Short112API - Metrow00:21:47
13Matt Meek72Cambridge University CC00:21:48
14Neil Wood102Did Deep Coaching00:21:53
15Rory Havis85St Ives CC00:22:00
16Tim Davies75Icknield RC00:22:10
17Hugo Hocknell106Team
18Andrew Grant27Cambridge CC00:22:18
19Robert Saunders97North Bucks RC00:22:18
20Keith Dorling77Team Bottrill00:22:26

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Stony '11.4' 13/4/16

After the unpleasant conditions for last week's time trial on the Astwood course, and the ensuing white knuckle ride home, I was a little apprehensive about this evening's event. It's a bit of a hike to ride out to Stony from work and then back home, and the forecast showers didn't enthuse me. In the end, it was a delightful warm spring evening, sunny and with only a light breeze.The out bound leg was pretty good, marred by my usual selection of too high a gear in the climb to Nash - when will I ever learn? This was despite my change from 57/46 rings to 53/39! I spotted Claire Stanton taking photos on the course (they are here).  Once round the turn, I had a pretty clear run back. Unfortunately, I did get a bit held up by an excessively cautious 4x4 driver (such things do exist, it would seem) who was driving along behind Nathan. This was a bit annoying, as I was at that point gaining on Andy, who'd managed to get past Nathan.Anyway that soon resolved itself after the driver plucked up the courage to pass Nathan. I finished in 27:31 for fourth place, and in 1st place on veteran standard. Full results at the NBRC website.

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Bedfordshire Road CC '25' 10/4/16

This event was my first solo '25' of 2016, and was run on the F1B/25. I was anxiously looking at the weather forecast, but I was caught out by the hard frost on the morning!The North Bucks had four riders in this event, including new member Debbie. I travelled over to Tempsford with David, who took this photo showing the frost on the grass:[caption id="attachment_3655" align="alignnone" width="540"] Frost at Tempsford[/caption]So my warmup consisted mostly of trying not to get too cold! Nevertheless, my full finger gloves weren't sufficient to prevent my fingers from feeling severely cold by the time I reached the start lines. Fortunately, within a mile or so I was quite warm! As usual, the outbound leg of the F1B/25 was quite hard, even though there was only the slightest of head winds. I got through all the roundabouts without holdups and reached the turn in a little under 30 minutes.Davey Jones was at the slip road back up to the A1 taking pictures. The return leg was very much quicker, though I did get stopped at the penultimate roundabout. I finished in 57:32 (9th place). Andy  and David recorded 59:30 and 1:0:13 respectively, while Debbie won the ladies competition with 1:08:42.

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Astwood '10' 6/4/16

Rather a pleasant if somewhat blustery evening for the ride up to the Bike Bus for our first evening event of 2016. It was fully subscribed at 20 riders. Unfortunately, the wind continued to strengthen, so those of us with trispokes and very deep rimmed front wheels found the first half of the race rather difficult. I didn't really use the aero bars until after Chicheley.Once through Chicheley, my speed went up considerably, but not enough to avoid being caught for 2 minutes at the halfway point by eventual winner Graham Knight (Equipe Velo). I finished in 25:34 for 7th place (1st on vets standard)If conditions for the race were bad, I was rather shocked by the white knuckle ride home in the dark as strengthening winds and lashing rain threatened to throw me off the road. Horrid.Full results at the NBRC website. There's a gallery of photos taken by Claire Stanton.

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Icknield RC 30k sporting course TT 3/4/16

This event has seen a variety of courses over the years I’ve been riding it, and this year was no exception. Faced with a succession of roadworks, the organiser worked hard to keep the event running, to the extent that we received details of three course modifications in the days leading up to the event. It’s to the organiser’s particular credit that not only did the event go ahead, but the replacement course was excellent, and very well marshalled.I’d ridden out to the event, so was quite cold and shivering by the time I lined up at the start, but by the time I’d passed through Cheddington I was nicely warm. I stayed in the big ring through the climb to Mentmore and back down the other side (pretty poor road surface on the descent) and through Mentmore crossroads, where I barely had to slow, such was the marshalling there. Then it was on up the long drag to Wing before turning left on the Aylesbury road to Wingrave crossroads. From there it was up into Wingrave, then a long fast descent dodging road imperfections and shooting through the Mentmore crossroads before turning sharp right after Ledburn.The course then rose, gently at first then with a sharp steep section to Mentmore once again (I was thankful of the 39T ring at this point). From Mentmore we descended to the finish just a bit short of Cheddington crossroads.I finished with 34:24 on a course that measured 13.78 miles on my Garmin. Until I see the full results, I’m not sure of my placing, or indeed who the eventual winner was.

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SRAM eTap Aero

I’ve been something of a retro-Luddite when it comes to gear-shifting technology. Party this is because I had several 9 speed race wheels, and I wanted to maintain interchangeability between bikes, and (I am embarrassed to admit) I found it difficult to figure out which parts I'd need to buy to set up a TT bike with Shimano Di2.Enter SRAM’s new electronic gear system, eTap. For road bikes, this is a pretty straightforward system. Each brake lever has one gear change switch, and it operates the derailleurs wirelessly. Satellite shifting switches (the ‘’blips”) allow shifting from the top of the bars or clip-on aero bars. The right hand control shifts the rear mech up, the left control down. Pressing both controls at the same time changes the front mech either down or up, depending on which position the mech is currently in.This spring, SRAM released the eTap Aero, intended for use on TT and triathlon bikes. I decided it was time to (a) get modern, and (b) get 11 speed. So I set my Wiggle profile to email me when the eTap aero was available. Ages later, I got an email saying it was in stock. I popped over to the Wiggle website to find four sets were available. I ordered one, along with an 11-speed Dura-Ace cassette and an 11-speed SRAM chain.The box.A few days later a vast box arrived at work. The post room called saying they thought a wheel had arrived for me! Inside was the cassette and chain, and an enormous and very heavy black and red box that just exudes quality.[caption id="attachment_3638" align="alignnone" width="474"] This image shows the six smaller boxes (sourced from the Slowtwitch forum, and edited)[/caption]Inside that were six smaller but equally robust boxes containing:

  1. USB battery charger. This comes with all sorts of wall socket adapters, and is for charging the derailleur batteries.
  2. The rear derailleur,  with the battery detached. The red part covers and protects the attachment point of the battery: there's a complementary part to protect the battery - the front derailleur comes with identical parts.
  3. The blipbox. This is quite small, and has a Garmin style twist mount, there are several included. Neither mount with self adhesive pads matches the curvature of the top plate of my aerobar, so I used the normal Garmin mount held in place with stretchy bands (but see below).
  4.  One USB stick for firmware updates. Just the USB stick. Nothing else other than a few scraps of paper.
  5.  The front derailleur. This has the battery detached for transport, and a buch of weird little wedgy things, about which more later. Also, it has a horribly alarming sticker saying you MUST read installation instructions before using it. You need to retrieve said instructions from the SRAM website.
  6. Two sets of 'blips' (i.e. four blips in total). These are the switches that connect to the 'blipbox', which actually controls the derailleurs wirelessly. So, not much in that box.
Underneath these six boxes is a set of brake cables (inners and outers), the presence of which completely mystifies me. I assume that the eTap aero set would be bought either to upgrade a TT bike (as I did) or for a new build. Neither scenario would seem to require a set of brake cables to be supplied, though no doubt they will come in useful in due course for another bike project (my TT bike has hydraulic brakes).Sadly, no Haribo gummy sweets were present.InstallationI began by fully charging the derailleur batteries. Because the front and rear derailleurs use exactly the same type of battery, if the rear runs out of juice, you could always swap in the front mech battery. The instructions provided observe that when the battery is detached, both the battery and derailleur need to be protected by the plastic parts supplied to protect the connection parts. I believe the system is activated by motion sensors, and the recommendation when transporting the bike by car is to remove the batteries to avoid unintended discharge.Installation turned out to be stupidly straightforward. In fact, the biggest hassle was feeding the blip cables through the base bars, but a little ingenuity sorted that out. Pairing the three components (rear and front mech, and the blipbox) took less than 30 seconds. On my TT bike, the wires from the blips pass through handlebar setup internally, using the pre-existing slots cut for gear and brake cables (the P5's hydraulic hoses are entirely internal). Deciding where to place the blips on the base bars and aero extensions took a few minutes, before I taped the bars. And then a test. Well, the controls worked well, though the rear mech wasn't quite aligned with the sprockets. A quick perusal of the manual showed how to fine-tune that. Then all was done.You might be wondering about that alarming sticker on the front mech. I can only assume that refers to the funny little wedge pieces that apparently brace the mech against the seat tube of the frame. It's not obvious why these are needed, but I complied.UsageSo, I'm using a Campagnolo Record chainset with TA rings, SRAM mechs, SRAM chain and Dura-Ace cassette. Does that combination work? Well, on the basis of riding out to a 10 mile time trial, riding the event, and riding back, I'd say so. Shifting was very smooth (I might even suggest too smooth - I did miss the positive click of my old Dura-Ace levers), and I found the usage of the blip switches really very intuitive. I made no inadvertant gear changes, though to be frank I didn't do many changes with the front mech.Battery life presumably depends on the number of shifts you do. The blipbox uses a CR2032 cell, which i supposed to be good for over a year. Each derailleur has a rechargeable battery supposedly good for 1000km/60h of use. The system uses the same battery design for both mechs, so they are interchangeable.In the week following my first ride with the system, I revisited the mounting of the blipbox. Its garmin mount section is threaded for a screw, so I drilled the top plate of my aero bars, and fix it in place that way. It's a fair bit neater than the elastic bands!I rode the system in the NBRC Hardriders club '20', and did have some hassle with my mongrel transmission - the chain didn't want to seat properly on the inner ring. Hopefully I can sort this out without resorting to a new chainset.Worth it?Well, it's nice. It works well (faultlessly so far on my limited riding to date). I now have 11-speed on this TT bike. It doesn't require any guddling around persuading cables to pass through the frame. I am pleased with it. But does it represent a major performance improvement over the old style mechanical Dura-Ace it replaced? Well, I'm not sure, though I very much like having a second set of controls near the brake levers. I can say, though, that were I to spec out a new road bike, a SRAM eTap group would be high on my "to buy" list.Longer term, I'll do an update on performance (part 2!).

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NBRC Hardriders '20' 27/3/16

A cold and blustery morning greeted the riders who showed up for the annual NBRC Hardriders club event. There was an interesting mix of road bikes and TT bikes, possibly reflecting the confidence (or not) in muscling a TT bike up the Bow Brickhill climb not once, but twice. Some, myself included, felt the advantages elsewhere on the course merited a potentially slower ride up the hill on a TT bike.As it happened I found the second trip up the hill a bit easier than the first - though I had to get off at the bottom to make the chain seat properly on the small chainring (I think due to operator error). At the steepest part of the climb, Richard Wood came scooting past, with David Price not far behind.[caption id="attachment_3641" align="alignnone" width="500"] Just been caught! I think this picture conveys something of the gradient. Photo - Nathan Gallavan[/caption]The wind wasn't too bad, though there were some quite alarming high speed twitches of my front trispoke. Notably, the fast section just before Woburn was a bit iffy - I thought I was going to take off.This isn't a course I'm keen on - dubious road surfaces, other road users and horses. I was caught for three minutes by number 12 in Woburn Sands, and he executed an impressive pavement manoeuvre to avoid a car that backed out across the road!At least the rain held off until just before I got home.Full results at the NBRC website.

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