While the professional women cyclists were busy cycling the Tour of Britain, Strava laid down the challenge to cycle some 2,310-metres elevation over the five day period between Wednesday to Sunday (7-12th May 2014). A great challenge and an opportunity to test the Falco’s climbing ability. My personal goal was to try to cycle the most meters (of elevation) on Strava - globally. It would certainly be a test of mental and physical endurance and my first real challenge for the Falco Elite.
Strava Climbing Challenge: See here.
During the five day period, I rode 486km over almost 24 hours and accumulated 11,433-metres in elevation. That put me 34th in the World Strava Rankings out of 43,153 active participants - the 2nd placed ranking in Australia.
The Reid Falco Elite stood up superbly to the challenge and didn’t falter at any moment during those 24 hours. Every one of the 20 gears from the Shimano 105 groupset was utilised getting up and down some of the steepest hills the Northern Beaches has to offer, including a monster at the back of Bilgola Plateau, which pinched at 30% gradient (see Strava segment). This is off the scale in terms of difficulty. Climbs such as this are by no means impossible, but do require a certain amount of perseverance. Slow and steady is the key, always cycling within your ability.
An important factor is well tuned gears and brakes. The last thing you need in this situation is gears jumping around on the rear cassette. In this respect, the guys at Reid certainly have done a great job putting the bike together and tuning it up ready for action. The gears shift smoothly and precisely. Feels great to have confidence in your bike. When it comes to hill climbing, what goes up, must come down, so it is important to have a good set of brakes. The Shimano 105 caliper brakes performed brilliantly, a testament to the quality of the components which after 1,500+ kilometres, have required no further tuning so far, aside from the odd drop of oil on the chain.
The Australian Top10 for the Strava Climbing Challenge - 2nd position.
Fueling and Clothing for a long Sunday Ride - Riding for Elevation “The Search for Up”
Sunday I headed for a long ride around the Northern Beaches. Not being blessed with the long and winding hills as they have in the Giro d’Italia and wanting to mix the ride from the usual hill repeats I’ve been doing midweek, I set off in search of “up” from Manly to Palm Beach on all the back roads I knew of and a lot that I didn’t.
With an estimated riding time of five to six hours it is essential to carry adequate food and water to get you through the distance. It ultimately comes down to personal preference as to what you feel is the best thing to eat and how often. The golden rule is to eat before you’re hungry and to drink before you’re thirsty to avoid what cyclists call "bonking” or “hitting the wall”. This is when you are completely depleted of energy, or more specifically, muscular glycogen/carbohydrate and your body starts using fat instead. Apart from feeling completely empty and despondent, you can only physically work at around 40-50% maximum aerobic capacity since fat cannot be burnt any faster than this. You are at risk of “bonking” on any ride greater than 1.5 to 2 hours, as this is your muscles storage capacity. Ideally you should think about eating snacks high in carbohydrate every 20-30 minutes during high intensity exercise, accompanied by water.
Usually, I try to do this after the first hour of cycling since I would normally have something to eat before riding. What works well for me are things like bananas, oat or cereal bars, dried food or nuts. The more natural and “real” the food is, the better. I have even know some riders pack roast potatoes to eat whilst out on a ride. Highly processed foods such as gels have their place, but would be more suitable to more intense situations, such as triathlons or cyclo-sportives. More recently I have started only riding with two bottles of water rather than a sports energy drink. This is a personal preference, to protect my teeth more than anything else. However, if I knew I was heading out for a big ride I would use an energy drink as it is an easy way to ensure you get adequate energy in. Isotonic sports drinks are best as they won’t make you dehydrated.
Back to the ride, the day started cool around 13 degrees celsius, but soon heated up to high of 23. Cycling in the Autumn and Winter in Australia can be a challenge to know what to wear for the best as the temperatures can sometimes more than triple within the space of a couple of hours. This is where layers which you can strip off easily is the key, such as arm and leg warmers work brilliantly. Arm warmers and leg warmers are ideal for mornings starting off at 15 degrees or less.
Cycling the back roads between Newport and Palm Beach, whilst offering up some of the steepest climbing to be found, by virtue of the elevation does present some stunning views, particularly of the Pittwater, Scotland Island and up to Lion Island nestled perfectly in the middle of Broken Bay.
Last hilly ride of the challenge period. A total of 113km and 2,457-metres elevation in total time of 5 hours and 58 minutes (actual riding time 5 hours 26 minutes). Strava activity link.