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15 October 2013

Riding the Apollona Round with Wu

Almost 100km of cycling fun on Naxos
Between Stavros Keramotis and Apollona

This sunday I went for a big bike ride with my friend Wu. The local gang of cyclists call this ride the "round of Naxos", but since it does not go around all the island (it can't, there are no suitable round-trip roads in the south), I call it the "Apollona round". I've ridden it a couple of times. This time though, I was going to ride it with Wu. He isn't such an experienced cyclist (yet), the longest rides he had done so far was 26km on his own and 36km a few days ago with me. So this was going to be a bit of an adventure.

The track of the ride

We started out at a nice and easy pace. Soon we discovered that it was windy (and with the north wind, it was in our front), so a quick lesson in "riding on the wheel of someone" was called for. (For those not into the bike riding thing: if you "draft" - ride right behind another cyclist - you get a bit of protection from the wind, saving around 20% of your energy). As usual, after Chalki, the wind was blocked by the mountains. We took the big climb to Apeiranthos slowly, as Wu hadn't climbed something like this before. Arriving there, we called our car-driving friends where they were... they hadn't even started yet.

On we went, more climbing, and again more wind near the Stavros. Lots of wind. We made it to Skado, where we had some lemonade and a toast at the cafe.

Clouds in the mountains, going down from Koronida to Apollona

From there the plan was to take the road from Mesi, which is shorter. Instead we decided on the longer road from Koronida, since our friends would be delayed longer. This choice brought us by some really nice areas and then on the looong downhill to Apollona. "Payday!" for all the climbing. At Apollona we visited the "Kouros", when our friends called that they had arrived in the village. Down there we went.

We sat down with them for some coffee and snacks, but my club sandwich turned out to be a huge plate. Carbo-bombed, we went on to the long, long north coast road. That road seems to never end. First with a climb from sea level up to ~ 250m, then down and up and down and up and... almost endless. What you get back are spectacular views over little gulfs and coves.

Wu on the north coast road, a bit after Apollona

When we finally made it to town, we stopped for some sweets and met our friends again for lunch. A long lunch, with more carbohydrates.

Here we looked at our kilometers and decided they were almost going to add up to 100. So we decided another small detour, passing by Agia Anna. Which was a good choice since it goes up more gently and it was a wonderful ride in the evening light. This was an experience.

97.9km, 1748m of ascent, 5:25 hours riding time, 18.1km/h average speed while riding, 10:06 hours total time with all the breaks.

Posted by betabug at 10:16 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
12 November 2013

Saturday Ride Report: Dervenohoria

Some decent climbing, not so decent climber
Map of our Dervenohoria ride

Last Saturday I was out riding with my friend George. We went to some mountains to the north-west of Athens. First we had to pass a lot of industrialized areas in direction to Elefsina, riding on the shoulder of big roads, not really my preferred thing. Then we passed through the plain near Aspropirgos. Here we had smaller roads and with much less traffic.

Then the climbing started: At first on a long, straight stretch that is still part of the plain, with a gradient of 1-2%. Then getting bit by bit steeper up, and finally arriving in the forested slopes of the mountains. After a bridge, the real climb starts: 8.3km with an average gradient of 5.7%. Less steep at first, more steep towards the end. Shortly before the top there is the first "peak" which marks the arrival at the pass height, the road going almost down a bit and then one last climb to the road's peak.

At first George and me had started the climb together, but after the first kilometers I lost him - his higher gearing definitely doesn't help there. So I soldiered on by myself. Lots of trucks passed, but in generally with enough space on the road to be ok. One of the truck pushed out a huge cloud of exhaust, both in passing me and continuing on uphill. The fume lingered on, which was very tough to ride on and one of the times where I wished for a bit more wind to get it away. By that time I was also already feeling exhausted, mustering my strength just to not stop till I reached the peak. When I got there, I waited for George and had some time to recover.

Down we went, onto a high plateau and a village where we filled up on water. We had the best of weather, sunny but still fresh. The plateau was very interesting. It looked to me like a forgotten place. Empty and forgotten so close to the big city. We continued through the plain to the exit on the south-east. First some more climbing to get over the "border" of the plateau, then a huge downhill ride. This part again was forested and looked empty and forgotten, except for one town with a collection of huge tavernas advertising lamb chops and stuff like that. We hadn't seen a sheep in all the ride, so I guess the taverna customers don't mind that their meat arrives on the same roads as they do.

We kept on our return, through ever slightly more crowded streets, through the industrial areas again. In the Athens neighborhoods we hit on Saturday shopping traffic, but after having lunch at George's place, everything was calm on the way back to my place. I felt tired and done, but had no sore legs. I just wanted to go out again as soon as possible and get this climb done properly.

Distance: 110km, 1470m elevation gain, 4:40 riding time, average speed riding (without the stops): 23.6km/h.

Posted by betabug at 12:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
21 December 2013

Ein Weblog war mal sowas wie ein Tagebuch

Aus dem Tritt geraten

Ûber viele Jahre war dieses Weblog für mich fast so etwas wie ein Tagebuch. Zwar habe ich nie alle persönlichen Gedanken oder Erlebnisse aufgeschrieben, aber viele Eckpunkte des Lebens waren doch wiederzufinden. Sehr, wehr oft habe ich im Blog nachgeschaut, wann ein bestimmtes Ereignis genau war ("wann war ich nochmal in X?")

Das ist etwas verloren gegangen. Ich bin nicht mehr so aktiv am schreiben, so sind auch nicht mehr alle Ereignisse da. Ich denke häufig drüber nach, an was es liegt. Ein stärkerer Wunsch nach Privatsphäre spielt sicher mit, doch andererseits habe ich auch früher nicht allzu persönliches aufgeschrieben. Vielleicht ist auch einfach der Wunsch etwas eingeschlafen, Zeiten ändern sich, andere Interessen kommen auf, wer weiss.

Vielleicht sollte ich die Frage "wie schreibe ich wieder mehr auf dem Weblog?" ändern in "wie müsste mein Weblog sein, damit es mich wieder interessiert, mehr zu schreiben?"

Eine ähnliche Funktion als Tagebuch, aber in etwas speziellerem Rahmen, haben Sites wie endomondo und Strava. Hier verfolge ich meine Velo-Eskapaden und auch hier gehe ich manchmal "in der Zeit zurück", um zu sehen wann ich was gemacht habe. Ein grosser Unterschied hier, diese "Plattformen" sind zu unterschiedlichem Grade "gesperrt", d.h. nicht jeder kann alles sehen. Das hat seine guten Seiten, von wegen Privatsphäre. Aber es widerspricht auch dem fundamentalen Gedanken des freien Zugangs auf dem Internet. Ich meine damit nicht nur den Zugang fremder auf meine (freiwillig freigestellten) Informationen. Ich meine damit auch meinen eigenen, zukünftigen Zugriff auf meine eigenen Informationen. Solche "geschlossenen" Plattformen haben nämlich die Angewohnheit, dass nicht alles was man reintut auch immer wieder rauskommt. Die Bezeichnung für solche Sites ist "walled garden".

In diesem Fall ist das nicht ganz so tragisch, da die GPS-Dateien meiner Velofahrten in einem dokumentierten Format vorliegen.

Zurück zum Weblog: Jetzt gäbe es natürlich die Möglichkeit, dass ich alle meine Touren (oder zumindest die etwas grösseren) auch hier aufführe... aber ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob sich dadurch nicht eine gewisse Monotonie und ein Wechsel des Characters des Blogs ergäbe. Wenn ich es schaffe, einen Mix mit anderen Texten und Gedanken zu machen, dann könnte es gut sein, auch wenn manchmal mehr Velo als Text da ist. Ich denke mal noch drüber nach.

Posted by betabug at 15:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 December 2013

Warm Winter Weather Cycling

There you go

On the 26th, there was a spot of sunshine coming out, so time for half of Athens' sport cyclists to take their "Fred Sleds" out. I'm no exception there. Now, such days aren't so exceptional here, having sunny days with 20 degrees Celsius is quiet common in December.

As I was dressing up in my fancy cycling clothes, I made the mistake of putting on long tights, which are made for colder temperatures and rain. Even as I went out the door, I thought: "This is too warm", but didn't make the effort to go back inside to change again. As I start with a long downhill, I usually wear a rain jacket too, until I warm up when I hit the first few meters of uphill roads.

Now I reached that point very fast, off goes the rain jacket. Arriving down at the coastal road there were lots of cyclists, as expected. Now, Athenian cyclists don't like the cold. Many times I've been out with shorts (and sometimes with a short sleeve jersey) when I see them wearing long pants and jackets, gloves, even shawls over the face, not to forget thick caps under the helmet. I can't believe they are not boiling over in all that stuff - while they probably look at me as that madman who runs around in shorts in winter.

This obviously is because temperature is to some part a psychological thing, partly because probably my metabolism runs warmer and I just like to run faster on the bike if I'm feeling too cold. This time I was really uncomfortably warm. So after having passed a couple of guys, I stopped to take off at least my baselayer undershirt, giving me some relieve. As I was changing, they passed me again.

I went back on the bike to go after them, passing them on the long, easy uphill after Agia Marina. After going through the little "holes of Karamanlis" tunnels, I said hello to the one that was in front, mentioning how nice the weather was and that I was too warm. He said he had noticed, and that he himself was happy for it to be so warm and to even then be dressed warm enough, as he's more of a "κρυουλιάρης" (kryouliaris), someone who gets easily cold.

I said "that's nice" and put the hammer down, speeding away, since they were travelling at an obviously slower pace than me.

Posted by betabug at 13:37 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 January 2014

Trading Pulls

Having fun in the wind

Last week my friend George messaged me with the proposition to go for a ride on Monday morning. Now I'm more free with my working hours since I'm a freelancer, but it's not like I throw all my hours around. Still, I couldn't refuse. This January is unusually warm, the weather report promised partly cloudy 17c, but with a strong wind of 5 Beaufort from the South.

When I got up and looked out the report seemed to have missed a few facts. It was dark with stormy clouds and looked like it could rain. I dressed up accordingly and went out to our meeting place. Soon I stopped and removed the rain jacket and leg warmers - it was warmer than it looked - and soon after the sun was out. As George arrived, we exchanged remarks about "that bit of wind".

The "bit of wind" on the coast road was enough to make riding work. So what can a cyclist do? When you're alone, all you can do is make yourself small and put on a stoic face. But when there are two (or more) of you, it's time to trade pulls. Get into a line, one rider 0.3 to 1m behind the other's wheel and the behind rider is sheltered from the wind by the front rider. The front rider does all the work, while the rear one feels as if he was pulled along. When you're tired, it's a huge relief.

Too long at the front though, and your energy saps out fast. So the stronger the wind, the shorter the "pulls" at the front. In our case, we went for roughly 2 minute turns. After a few tries we had the exchange procedure clean and efficient. Work a bit in the wind, exchange to get a bit of rest.

After a while we spotted another cyclist ahead. He seemed to move funny. At first we thought he was sprinting, standing on the pedals, moving his bike wildly from side to side. But that didn't make sense, not in this weather. Getting closer, he almost looked like being drunk. George suggested that he must be tired.

When we passed him, we exchanged greetings and I offered him to "stick to our wheel" to get a bit of a rest. At the next "changing of the engine ahead", he looked a bit confused. He wasn't used to our drill, so I had to signal to him to keep on.. George and me kept on doing the locomotive, not expecting him to take part in the work. He kept on sitting in our slipstream and got a good rest from the wind, later turning off to wherever he went. As he was off, we laughed, talking about this guy who got a looky break and a free ride.

Turning back at the agreed place, we had it easier, with the wind mostly from the back (mostly, because coastal roads tend to twist and turn). Still we kept on trading pulls, because it just felt good to go this fast. We didn't get so much to chat like this, but we sure had a good time working together for a common good.

Posted by betabug at 16:36 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
01 February 2014

200km Brevet Elefsina-Nemea-Elefsina

There and back
At the start in Elefsina, waiting in line to have my card stamped

Last Saturday, January 25, I was out to ride a Brevet, a cycling event that would take riders on a course of 200km. The course on this day was from Elefsina (a bit out of Athens), over the Canal of Korinth, into the hills near Nemea, and back to Elefsina. It was the first time for me to do such a distance or that type of event. So far I had done 147km on my own. As I was planning and preparing for this right, I also thought about how long it had been that I had subjected myself to any similar "test", with set rules and a protocol to follow. The preparations started with a lot of unknowns...

Starting with a sunny day and lots of riders passing

First of all, I had started the procedure to sign up very late. I had to officially sign a paper and get it stamped at a municipality office, then send it in by mail. Once it arrived, I would receive a confirmation mail and then need to pick up my "brevet card". The mail didn't arrive and didn't arrive... when it finally arrived, there was only one last chance to get the card, and the office to get it was in the middle of nowhere on the other side of Athens. Another adventure, but with the help of a friendly taxi driver I made it.

I also had to organize to get me and my bike to the start point. As one cyclist I met pointed out, "it's only about 30km to get there" - but would I want to add another 30km at the start of a day with my first 200km ride? Not really, so I shanghaied my friend Panos into the job of waking up very early, mounting his bike rack on his car and playing the bike taxi for me. Thank you Panos! We arrived in good time and with the help of lots of cyclists all over the place found the start point easily.

My sportive preparation was to cram a few more rides into the previous weekend, that way having done about 360km in 8 days. One of the rides was the one where George and me were trading pulls in the wind, which was a good preparation. Then I took off 3 days totally from riding, letting my legs relax and recover. The day before the event, I just rode a few kilometers in town, at a very easy pace. My legs felt good at that point.

So, there I was at the start, waiting in line to get my card stamped. Once the time was written down, the clock would start ticking for me. I didn't know anybody there, but I'd just find my way and join groups of cyclists as the need would be. The day started sunny and warm enough. I took the picture above while I peeled off my rain jacket (which I was wearing because waiting in line in the early morning was cold).

I followed the stream of cyclists as they moved along, not really having to look at the "road book" with the driving instructions. I had set up my cycling GPS to give me a little line to follow, warning me when I'd be "off course". I jumped on the wheels of a couple of cyclists here, a small group there. After a short while, we came into the first climbing region.

Now the usual problem with beginners in brevets is to start too fast and then run out of juice - that's what I've been told many times over. So here I was on this uphill stretch, feeling great and zipping along with some fast riders, passing by lots of others. I wasn't redlining it (neither according to my legs, nor to my heart rate monitor), but all the warning lamps should have gone off. I didn't care, I had great fun!

After we crested and went down the hills again, we came into flatter parts and into a strong headwind. At first I soldiered on by myself. Then, while I had the camera out to take some pictures, along came this group and someone told me to glue onto their rear. Damn right, that's what I did, no use to battle the wind alone.

Along comes a group to give me some shelter from the wind

They weren't really doing any organized turns in the wind, just from time to time some people switching around. I was happy sitting in the slipstream. From time to time I was moving some positions up, and in the end I managed to do a turn pulling at the front. When we passed the canal of Korinthos, a part of the group decided to make a food stop there, I stayed on. Soon we turned inland, starting to climb again. The group fell apart instantly, with some of the people obviously being much stronger climbers than the others. At first I stayed with the slower ones, aiming to take it easy. But then I sensed them to be way too slow for me, so I sped up and caught the faster climbers again.

Things had splintered so much though, that the group was basically dissolved. I hung out with Theodore, a guy with a really nice steel bike, and stayed with him for a while. Later we met Dimitris, a guy who was in the previous group and we rode on for a while the 3 of us, with people coming and going, as seems to be the habit in brevet riding. At some point I felt in need for a rest, but Theodores suggested to stop at a cafe in the next village, where he wanted to meet a friend who is the cafe's owner. I kept on for a little, but enjoyed the rest a lot and the fuelling up even more.

Theodore's business there seemed to take a bit longer, so Dimitri and me went on. Not long before the first control (at km 105), we felt a few first drops of rain. We made it to the control, got our cards stamped, more food into us and I enjoyed sitting down for some minutes. At that point it started to rain for real. People were discussing to wait there in case it would stop again - something which I did not expect to happen at all. Dimitri's father had cought up with us, and they pressed on because it was also getting cold and we were cooling down a lot.

I put my rain jacket back on (Mavic Vision, which also doubles as a high-viz "vest", a very good piece of kit), donned my shoe covers and off I went. My rain tights (from Decathlon), fenders, and a cycling cap under the helmet completed my rain gear and made me very comfortable in the rain.

Since few people had fenders, and those who had didn't have low mudguards on them, there was a lot of spray in my face. At some point where the rain had washed the soil on the road, it was mud-spray. I had to stop to put on rain gloves, because my hands started to get cold. After that it took me some time and energy to catch up again to Dimitri and his father. Even after I caught them and their group, it wasn't good to draft directly, too much spray in the face!

Still we kept on riding together, with a small group of people. At one point they turned off to the right on a smaller road. My GPS warned me to be "off track", but as I told them, they insisted that this was the right way. Until a few km down, they noticed that it can't possibly have been the right way. We asked a farmer and turned back to where we were. I guess we put in an extra 4 km there. Given that I never had to search for the route, still it's better than what I would have managed on my own.

We made it to the second control, another fuel up, another little rest. The rain lasted for about 2 to 3 hours, thinning out to the end. The wet roads continued to be annoying for most of the ride. Riding in the rain lessened my desire to stop, and most problematic, with the thicker gloves it made eating on the bike a lot more difficult.

Dimitri and his father on the canal of Korinth

At the crossing of the canal of Korinth, we stopped for pictures. Here we see Dimitri and his father performing for the famous "bike-lifting" picture. As we settled our way back on the coast road, the "old national road", a lot of memories came to me, of having been on this road as a child, and later with the 2CV. It's much emptier now that the big, new highway is there.

Our group shrank and grew and shrank again. Towards the end it was thinning out more and more and suddenly I found Theodore again and was riding along mostly with him for a while. By now there was no more headwind. I felt pretty flat and empty. No matter what I was eating, it didn't help... I was dreaming of having a lemonade, I was sure that would help. In the end I dragged myself to the finish more or less following Theodore, who did a bit of an extra lap, putting another 0.5 extra km on my counter.

So here I was, after riding about 210km (official course: 205km), I was getting my card stamped for the finish. My clock showed about 9 hours 35 minutes after stamping. I went to the next kiosk and got me a lemonade... ahhhh, that was the ticket. I instantly felt better. After a 2nd one and a bit of rest I was able to ride to the train station in the next village, putting another few kilometers on the clock. As I was heading out, it was nice to see other riders coming in. I also saw other riders packing up and loading bikes on cars. With a little bit of asking around, I found my own drive (the train station) and headed back home, for a shower, a change of clothes and a huuuge fillup at the "therapy" restaurant near my place.

There and back... all the way
Total distance covered: 215.7km
Total time: 10:14 hours
Moving time: 8:47 hours
Total elevation gain: 1878m (only, not a lot of climbing)
Estimated avg. Power: 166W (from Strava)
Average speed while moving: 24.5 km/h
Average speed overall: 21.0 km/h
Average speed overall over the official brevet distance / time: 21.5 km/h

A few days after the ride, the official times were announced. They had me with 9:13 hours. The only way I can explain that is that somebody switched the ciphers 3 and 1 when transferring from the card to the computer. Once I'll get the card back I'll investigate.

No matter of 9:31 or even 9:13, this is a great time for my first brevet. My idea was that I would be satisfied with a time under 12 hours and that a time under 10 hours would be very good. There I was!

Posted by betabug at 16:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 April 2014

Ride report: Mountains and sunset at Orko

Endurance ... or really just a fun ride
Sunset on the road to Orko

Despite having plans to do some recovery days, I went out for an endurance ride. First, because I was just feeling like doing a nice, slow ride to drive out the cold, then because I want to beat my high score for km/month. I dressed up warm with long sleeves, thermal base layer, and took leg warmers, rain jacket, and long gloves with me. As I went out, starting really slowly, I noticed that I'm feeling just fine and enjoying things a lot.

So in Halki I turned for the "longer choice", to go up Apeirantho. It was a bit cloudy, but nice. Rounded the mountain to get to Stavro, then up again to Moni, where I turned towards Kinidaro. There I put on all the clothes I had brought for the long downhill. I even extended the downhill going towards Eggares. There I dressed down again and turned towards Hora.

In Hora I visited Giannis (at the bikeshop), then went on towards Agia Anna. Here again I turned for the longer and much more scenic route towards Agios Prokopios, the road next to the sea below the airport. In Ag. Prok. I was faced with the choice of going up towards home again... but what the heck, I went on the new road towards M. Vigla, there is a road that connects up from the end of it, a bit steep. But even there I didn't have enough, instead I turned right on the dirt road towards Orko and Mikri Vigla, right by the sea, right at sunset time. This reminded me of some very special days with friends there, on that particular road.

By the time I had arrived at the road up from M. Vigla, it had gotten dark. With a bit of tailwind I went up from there, towards home. Big smile on my face for almost all the ride.

71km, 1166m altitude gain, 3:06 riding time, 4 hours with all the stops.

Posted by betabug at 10:45 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
26 June 2014

Danakos Climbing Gym

Time to get back into shape
The smaller part of the Danakos Climbing Gym

After my trip to Austria I stayed off the bike for some more, to a total of 3 weeks, since my bike was on Naxos and I was in Athens. So when I hopped on the bike again back on Naxos I felt totally out of shape. In my experience, after an intense training period, taking one week off the bike is great, after two weeks I feel totally relaxed, but three weeks was too much. Something else that might have played part was that it has become summer for real now, and the heat doesn't make things easier.

So I had to devise a plan to get back in shape. The first part was easy to decide on: I had to build back the "base", which means to just put in the hours in the saddle, without trying to go too hard. This took a lot of patience, as I felt like things didn't improve at all, nothing moved. Patience was the keyword though, it just took time, to go out again and again.

I'm still not at the level that I was before, so I'm slowly starting into the next phase, to actually start to train again. Last year, what brought me the most progress were "hill climbing repeats", or as I named them "climbing gym" rides. Going up a tough climbing section three times in a row. I did that in Athens on the Kremastos Lagos climb.

Here on Naxos I found another candidate, the Danakos Climbing Gym. There is a small road that turns off from the road to Apeirantho, goes up steep for some hairpin turns (0.8km at average 7%, the one shown in the photo), then down to the village of Danakos. There I turn and head back up, for about 1.8km at an average of 8%. There are many sections of more than 10%, which is what makes this thing interesting. Another good aspect is that in the late afternoon the road is in the shade of the mountain, so less heat.

The point is that I have to go out of my comfort zone to go up here. I've done it once, going all out. Yesterday evening I went again, doing two runs, limiting myself to a Zone 4 effort. I did feel my legs afterwards, but I also felt good from the effort. My goal is to go and do three runs in a line.

Posted by betabug at 18:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 July 2014

Backyard Adventure

Puncture No. 4 and a snapped gear cable

I did not have any plans for a ride this evening, but there was a forgotten item at our lunch table in town today, so I "offered" to go to town to get it. Immediately I noticed I need to take it easy, as my legs were still stiff from the Sunday ride. When I was in the flatter part before Glinado, I felt a squishiness from my rear tire. I stopped to have a look and indeed... another puncture (I think number 4 now within 10 days). Walked a few steps to a spot with concrete on the side of the road and fixed it. Again the puncture was in the same spot, on the inside of the wheel.

In town I went straight to Giannis and we decided to pull out both wheels and replace the rim tape (a line of tape that protects the tube from the spoke ends inside the wheel.

This took us some time, because we had 2 tubes explode in our faces. Our ears were ringing. I'm not sure those tubes he had ordered are ok, they appear to be too long.

In the end I picked up the missing item and headed back home. Leaving the shop, I forgot my water bottle there. Not so important, it was night and not so hot. At the long stretch just before reaching home, I hit the switch to shift gears on the rear, heard a "twang" and the gear lever went into "empty space". The gear cable had snapped again. (This has happened to me in winter in Athens, so I have a suspicion the replacement wasn't mounted quite right. The mechanic there didn't appear to be very sure of what he was doing himself.)

I took the last kilometer or so in the low gear, standing quite a bit. I was laughing all the way though. Other people pay lots of money to go to far away countries to have adventures, I have them right here in our backyard!

Posted by betabug at 08:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
25 November 2014

Cycling to Sounion

A bit farther off on a sunny day
At the temple of Poseidon in Sounion

Since Myshkin is doing much better now (yay! [knocks on wood]), for a few weeks now I have been able to get back more to cycling. I had more or less two months where I hadn't done anything. Getting back was the usual drag, made worse by at first not really having much time. But I was not going to let that stop me. I started with one and two hour rides, and finally, two weeks ago, I ventured out a bit farther.

I didn't have a set plan, I just went with an easy rhythm. Not having been out for a long ride in a while, it's important not to overestimate your strength. After 1:20 hours, I called home and learned that things were fine with Myshkin and I could stay out longer and go further. To which I replied that it's also a matter of how long I'd feel able to go...

The good thing was that there was no wind. It was quite fresh, but sunny, all combined ideal cycling weather. I was wearing a windbreaker jersey that prooved a tiny bit too warm, but since it's convertible to short sleeve, that helped.

Catching a first glimpse of the temple

So I went on easily, never stressing myself on the uphill parts. And I just went on. Finally I decided that I was pretty close to Sounion anyway, so let's go. It was a great decision, even with the risk of being too exhausted to return. The roads and the scenery in the last part to Sounion is the most beautiful part of all the coast road. There is less traffic too.

From the moment I caught the first glimpse of the temple (see picture) the smile on my face doubled. I have been there by bike before, but it has been a long time, and after my forced cycling break it feels good to be able to do this again.

I made it to the temple. Obviously I didn't take the bike inside to visit the archeological site, but I stopped in front of the cafe (top picture). Being conscious of my absence at home, I decided against having something at the cafe. Instead I just opened another sesame/honey bar (greek power food perfect for cycling), and went on the way back. The scenery hadn't lost any of its beauty.

Getting home was still a bit taxing. I wasn't in such great shape and there was a lot of road to ride back on. I was happy to be back home, but also happy to have gone so far.

Distance: 111km
Total ascent: 995m (not much for this distance)
Average speed: 26.7km (not fast either)
Moving time: 4h 10min
Elapsed time: 4h 40min

Posted by betabug at 08:50 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 December 2014

Chewy Stuff Puncture

Not good for the stomach
Which patch will match this puncture?

I'm not really sure which of my patches will match this puncture. Should I try the largest that I have, or would it be better to try multiple smaller ones?

I had a puncture about a week ago, and after I came home and inspected the punctured tube, I left it carelessly lying around. Should have patched it right away and put it aside. What happens next was that Myshkin (our cat) seems to have gotten to it. I noticed only much later, when he had spent a few miserable days without appetite and had been dragged to the vet for it.

It appears he is feeling better now, hopefully no long term problems from eating yet more stuff that should not be eaten by little cats. We had some serious problems in that respect before, so I'm sure I won't leave bicycle tubes lying around any more.

Posted by betabug at 10:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
06 December 2014

Athens Group Ride Culture

Come and ride along
Starting to a group ride

Since restarting my cycling life early last year, I've come to appreciate some of the aspects of the group ride culture here in Athens. What I take part in has changed a lot, but I think all of these things are worth a try and can be good fun, and a way to explore Athens on a bike. Athens is not very bike friendly, so a group ride can make these things safer and more enjoyable.

I started with a commuter bike, and at first I went to the "Freeday" massive group rides on Friday evening, starting from Thisio. The first few times there were between hundred and a few hundred cyclists there, because it was winter. As soon as the weather got warmer, numbers increased, and when it got to close to a thousand, that group ride got to unwieldy and slow for me. Being in such a large group means having to stop and wait a lot. Still it's a fun experience, being in that sea of cyclists, having all the road for you (and the other thousand of you).

Next I found a little neighborhood, "casual" group ride. We're not talking about "dudes in latex on racing bikes" here. These are small groups of normal cyclists, usually on commuting bikes (city bikes, some mountain bikes, some people even on racing bikes), who make tours typically in the range of 30-40km, in an easy speed and waiting for all the members of the group. Usually there is a stop at the "endpoint", but I guess most of them don't stop at a cafe, first for economic reasons, second probably because greek coffee culture takes more time. In winter the stop probably is reduced to 10 minutes of rest.

I don't ride very often with the local group, since my schedule does not always allow it, but there are some people who are always there. On there is a calendar and a map helping you to find a group (in greek). Still I like to join in from time to time, to have an easy ride with company. There are some people who have prepared a route, and there are people who check that everybody stays together and nobody gets lost on a traffic light.

After getting a "fast bike", I started looking at more "sportive" group rides. Here there is also a range of options, but I don't know of any website listing them all (some are appearing also on the site). There are some well known "chain gangs" starting in Kalamaki at the parking space of the "Ble" club (where Alimou and Poseidonos avenues meet), and these groups usually follow the coast road in direction to Sounion. Wednesday evenings, and Saturday/Sunday mornings are typical times.

I've been about 4 times out with some of those groups. Sometimes I like it for getting an easier way to get a lot of kilometers done (drafting in a big group makes a huge difference), but other times I prefer to be out there on my own instead of having to concentrate on the wheel in front of me. I guess each thing has their advantage. One day when I was out alone on the coast road and hit a headwind on the way back, I was passed by a cycling club from Nea Ionia and was invited to sit in at the end... free shelter from the wind, getting me almost all the way home quickly!

Posted by betabug at 15:34 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
31 December 2014

This Thing Called New Year's Resolutions

Next year for sure I will...
Village in the mountains of Naxos, on a winter day

For all my life I never remember having taken new year's resolutiions seriously. Except that one time where I set myself the task to set up this weblog and write every day (or in the worst case every second day) in it. I managed to do that and you're reading this on the resulting blog. If you look at the last few posts, it's obvious I haven't stuck to the once per day rule lately - but I kept at it for many years in that rhythm. Now I'm at it more to the tune of "never a month without at least one post".

So, what made that new year's resolution work? I guess it could have just as well been any point in time that I would have decided to "do this". The motivation was there, publishing this stuff and getting feedback (stats, comments, direct feedback) made me stick to it. If I'd slack too much, it would show... so I didn't want to let that happen and I would sit down to write something. Even if it was something small - in fact, whenever I was planning a big super, great article was when things would get stuck.

A while ago, when I was laying in bed with that cold, I had a lot of time to think about doing another new year's resolution. Candidates where to revive the weblog, or maybe to set a target (10 - 12 hours per week) for the training on the bike. In the end I'm not going to do that. If I feel the motivation to write more on the blog, that will happen. Likewise with the bike: When things work out, I'll get the hours in, I'll enjoy myself and the training happens. When I'm travelling, when things go upside down in life, training stops. I'm not training for something, so in fact, "training" is just being out riding, having fun.

When I can, I'm trying to get in 3 to 4 rides per week. At that point, after a while, I start to be in a shape where riding gets easy, and when it gets easy, it becomes a lot of fun. No need to make me a rule about it. Who needs a plan to ride in a place like the one in the picture?

Posted by betabug at 19:38 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
02 January 2015

Cold Weather Bike Wear Review

It's not that cold in Greece anyway

There is not much cold weather in Greece (unless you go to the mountains and the north of Greece), so I guess most roadies just stay home for a few days when things get unpleasantly wet and cold. Myself, I like to be outside in "fresh" weather. I think unless you really reach levels that threaten your body temperature falling, and as long as you have halfway decent clothing, it's nice to "brave the elements".

On December 31st and on New Year's day we had some cold weather, with temperatures around 4 degrees Celsius (yepp, not that cold if you're from the north of Europe), lots of wind, and that stingy, cold rain. I was out riding on both days. Here are some notes on the gear I was using...

BBB BWS-04 Overshoes / Shoe covers

I wore these BBB overshoes over MTB shoes. They are meant for wet and cold weather. The result was that my shoes stayed completely dry and I didn't have even slightly cold feet. I was wearing thick wool socks too though, which would have helped. Initially I wanted to buy overshoes for "wet, but not cold" weather, but the shop was out of those. I wanted to buy from a real shop, because I didn't want to mess with the size not matching to my shoes (I took the shoes with me and we tried them right there and then). They might be too warm for warm, rainy days, but at 4c they did well. They are apparently made from neopren with a waterproof layer on top. I like the Kevlar reinfored tip and heel. My bike has mudguards, but they fall a bit short and I don't yet have mudflaps, so the overshoes did have some water to fend off.

BBB ColdZone Winter gloves

Aparently this model has been superseded, couldn't find them on the BBB site. From descriptions from some online dealers, I learned that these are "made of wind- and waterproof Trioxx fabric", with only the cuffs being made from neoprene. I also got them from the Fidusa shop in Neo Heraklion (together with the overshoes), so I could try them on. Let's say they did "well enough". At the start of my ride I am going down 200m of altitude, so it can get a bit cold at first. Here I felt a bit cold on some of my fingers. Later, as soon as I started moving, they were warm enough. With the rain, my hands were wet at some point, but kept on being warm. Even after stopping to eat at my "turn around point", I had no cold fingers. I do have more of a tendency for numbness in my left hands when wearing these gloves, compared to not wearing gloves. I would say these gloves do the job for me, but if you have a tendency to get cold hands easily, they might not be your magic gloves.

Tigths "Collant 700 Membrane" from Decathlon

I got these tights from Decathlon in France. They have a "membrane" area over the upper legs and lower belly. This keeps your core body dry and warm - unless it's so warm that you sweat a lot. They are doing a good job in the temperatures given, and wind and drizzling cold rain were no problem at all. I must say that I have mudguards on my bike, but no mudflaps, so shoes and lower legs have to fend off some more water. In combination with the overshoes, these tights worked fine, with only the back of my lower legs sometimes being a bit fresh (but not really cold). Note that these are not advertised as waterproof or even water repellent, except for the "mebrane" areas. I wore these tights also last January on a 200km Brevet, where we had a couple of hours of rain with slightly higher temperatures. I was very comfortable there.

Gore Bike Wear Phantom 2.0 SO Wind Jacket / Vest screaming yellow-black

I'm a bit reluctant to write something about this piece of equipment, because I don't like it very much, and I probably wouldn't buy it again. This thing is supposed to use this magic Windstopper fabric, that stops the wind, is mostly water repellent, yet does not get you sweaty. I haven't yet found in what temperature range it's meant to work. The site where I bought it says "from 0 to 10 degrees Celsius", but at 4c it needed 2 layers of stuff underneath. Anything close or above 10 degrees, and even with one base layer I get turned into a sweat bath. Anytime going uphill for a longer time, even in cold temperature, a lot of sweat is trapped. On my first test ride I was tempted to stop and take off one of the layers on the way back, as I had heated up - I didn't, because it's unpleasant and even a bit a dangerous in the cold when you're already sweaty.

You can take off the sleeves, which helps when conditions change. In my two test rides, It worked well enough, I wasn't cold, and the layers below weren't too wet - I can only guess that part of the wetness was from the rain, part from sweat. I don't think the material is really that breathable, in my experience it isn't much better than a hardshell rain jacket.

Apart from that I have two pet complaints with this garment: The first is that the site where I bought it described it as "tight fit". Now it could be their fault, or it could be the fault of the sizing table (or me reading the sizing table), but this thing fits like an old garbage bag. I guess it would be a tight fit if I was weighting at least 15kg more. The second is the quality of the zipper. For a long time I was of the oppinion that they used the cheapest zip that they could possibly find. I don't believe that anymore. I believe they deliberately searched and found a zip that is even worse than the cheapest one. I just hope I'll never have to try to close the jacket when I'm out somewhere on the road with frozen fingers.

On the plus side, the jacket is in a screaming neon yellow, and hasn't let off any of that shine despite a lot of washings. It also has some token reflective elements. Now if they had added real reflective elements, conforming to EN1150 standard, you could wear this in a Brevet ride without an additional reflective vest - but it seems no bike wear manufacturer is thinking that far any more (since Mavic stopped making their "Vision" series of stuff).

Posted by betabug at 15:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 February 2015

A Month of Recovery

It will still take time, but getting there
A month of recovery with physio exercises, walking, and indoor cycling

After I broke my leg in January, there was a time when I was just glad to rest. The thought of going cycling was far off. Before the surgery they had told me "the next day after surgery you can walk". That was indeed true, but not in the way you'd expect from such a sentence. In fact the physiotherapists passed by my hospital bed and with their instructions I managed to do two steps with crutches and back to my bed. They also gave me some exercises to do with the leg. The next day I managed to do 20 steps and I've ever increased since then. The last month I've been on a physio training program.

Lots of exercises. Lots of walking with the crutches, putting a bit of weight on the hurt leg, increasing that weight ever so slightly. Now I'm still walking with crutches, but it goes much better and I'm already feeling stronger. But there is still a long way to go and I'll need a lot of patience yet before I can walk normally.

A "turbo trainer" setup

I also got myself a "turbo trainer", which is a contraption that you insert your bicycle into, and then you have a static training bike. After the physiotherapist said that I could try carefully to start with this, I gave it a try a few days ago. It was a test just to get on the bike initially. It did felt safe to sit on it though, nothing moves at all. I'm also pedalling very soft.

It feels good to be on the bike, and it feels good to have an exercise that gets the heart pumping a little bit. I'm of course very careful with it. After a bike "ride", I feel less discomfort compared to what I get after a long walk. So I think it will help me get the muscles to become stronger again, while also beating the boredom of my current, unfortunately forced couch-existence a bit.

Posted by betabug at 10:01 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 April 2015

Going Nowhere Fast

Getting and using a static bike trainer

Did I mention I broke my leg in January? Right, I did. Well, I'm still in the process of recovery, and (as I also mentioned already) to help with that, I bought a bike trainer (aka "turbo trainer"). This is a device you enter your bicycle into, to turn it into a static bike. When I went out to buy this thing, I spent an awefull long time to consider all the options. There are a lot of options, at least in theory.

There are bike trainers with different mechanisms to produce the resistance to your wheel (magnetic, fluid, air/ventilator), each with their own advantages and disadvantages. There are very simple systems that do not allow to vary the resistance, some that you vary it in a mechanical way, and some that do it electronically (and the fluid trainers vary it with the speed of your wheel. And then there are those that vary it electronically, while being connected to a computer (or tablet computer), which gives way to all kind of funny games, like showing a video that will change speed as you pedal faster, and increase the resistance if you're going uphill in the video.

OK to buying one, but... buying one in Greece?

So what should I buy? I had another problem to that: Since I am living in a far, far away place, on the end of the map (so to speak), in Greece where shops have only a limited choice of products, and often these products are more expensive and a bit outdated... a lot of the stuff reviewed on the Interwebz is not available. It is a tiny bit understandable, given the good weather here, a trainer is not that useful.

So my choices came down to buy something simple here and now, or order something fancy over the Internet. A trainer is a heavy and big item though, so ordering it would have taken a long time. I went for the simple and as-cheap-as-possible choice. I got the cheapest magnetic trainer I could find readily in a shop near me. The result is that I have a trainer that not even the company that made it lists on their website. In Greek there is an expression "not even its mother knows it", pretty fitting here.

It does the job so far. For now, all I'm doing is 30 minutes of riding two or three times a week. I tried watching some cycling videos on the laptop, but most of the time it doesn't inspire me. It detracts from the riding and it detracts from the cycling video. Maybe if I would be doing 2 hour rides I would be more tempted to try something that works like a game. Right now spinning away on the bike and feeling my legs move is entertaining enough.

Posted by betabug at 19:45 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
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