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If Lance is fixing punctures can I go on Oprah ?

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Lance Armstrong is now doing instructional videos on how to fix a puncture as can be seen in this link ;

http://www.outsideonline.com/featured-videos/gear-videos/bikes/How-to-Fix-a-Flat–with-Lance-Armstrong.html

He is not the first to do an instructional video on how to fix a puncture

So, I’m  just putting it out there in case Oprah is looking for someone to confess all about the goings on of life as an ex-bike mechanic, I’m available.

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

Clipless pedals

Very often when people are buying a new road bike for the first time they baulk at the suggestion of adding clipless pedals such as Look, Shimano, Speedplay, Time or any other variation. This may well be a mistake.

The main concern they have is the perception that it will be more difficult to release their foot from the pedal which could result in a fall.

However, this is actually one of the main reasons that clipless pedals were designed in the first place.

Below is a picture of Greg Lemond in the 1983 Paris Roubaix. With his feet well strapped into this toe clip pedals he is unable to get his foot out as he falls and suffers a nasty leg injury as a result. The following year he was one of the first riders to test and use Look clipless pedals.

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Plain flat pedals without toe clips can eliminate this possibility but then there is the chance that your foot can slip off altogether at the wrong time which can result in injury to the rider once more.

Clipless pedals do take a spin or two to become accustomed to, but once you do get the hang of pressing forward and down to clip in and flicking your heel out to release there will be no going back.

There is also the added benefit of being more power efficient as being clipped in allows you to pull up on the upstroke giving a more rounded pedal stroke.

Comfort is another advantage. Once you have your cleats positioned correctly with the pedal axle directly under the ball of your foot and free lateral movement on both sides, if using cleats with float, you will be immensely more comfortable than those who pedal with their heels. And for anyone who ever had a numb big toe from the pressure of a steel toe clip, converting to clipless is almost like cycling on air.

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Go clipless and never ‘look’ back !

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

The real Roubaix cobbles

There are many glorious shots floating about showing the cobbles of Roubaix. Most do not show the true harshness of what they are really like and how incompatible they are with any form of bicycle but here are the real Roubaix cobbles and the damage they can inflict

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Barry
www.thecyclingblog.com

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When dreams come true.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation and thought to yourself ‘This is a bit surreal’ ?

I found myself in one of those situations recently when I was sitting with Sean Kelly and who came along but Sam Bennett. We chatted away and then Sean asked Sam what his programme of races was for the next few weeks. Sam listed out a few big races and then finished with ‘and I’m doing Roubaix’

Sean then went on to give Sam a few good pointers and some great advice about riding the race. I was just sitting there thinking ‘this is a bit mad. Here I am sitting between one of the greatest cyclists of all time and one of the brightest cycling prospects in the World, and they are nonchalantly chatting away about Paris Roubaix, the hardest race in the World.’

Sean Kelly Charges Across the Cobbles '84

Paris Roubaix is different from the Tour of Flanders. Whilst they are both cobbled classics and Flanders has plenty of hills thrown in the cobbles are a different variety completely.

The cobbles of Flanders have been put in place with great care and attention. Artisan craftsmen laid them out and whilst they are rough to ride over on a bike, it is manageable.

The cobbles of Roubaix are a different kettle of fish altogether. Most date back to the time of Napoleon. They are haphazard and all over the place. It seems as if many carts of rock were unloaded wherever that fell and over time they flattened into a bit of a track. The cobbles of Paris Roubaix are so bad that over the years towns and villages did not want the race to pass nearby as it would give a bad impression of the roads in the area.

Many of the cobble sectors of the race pass through wide open desolate fields where not even a tree can survive. For 51 weeks of the year the only vehicles to be seen are agricultural tractors. All team vehicles have to be modified for the race.

For all of the pain and suffering associated with the race, it is still the one everyone wants to ride. Just to finish in Roubaix and have a cold shower in the shower block that is the closest thing to a prison camp shower is seen as a reward. To pass blood for days after the race is a badge of honour. This is hard to fathom for many people but when you look into the eyes of every rider who has taken part in the race you see a steely sense of accomplishment. Those guys know that they are the hardest, toughest, most unstoppable men in the World on that day.  They are invincible.

So far this has been an incredible year for Sam Bennett. This is just the middle of April and he has already had six top ten finishes. A win in the Classica de Almeria. Twelfth in Ghent Wevelgem and yesterday an incredible fifth in the GP Scheldeprijs. This has already been a dream start to his career at the pinnacle of the sport.

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Over the years Sam would have been glued to the TV watching Paris Roubaix. He would have read all about it in magazines and online. He would have gone to bed and dreamed about Paris Roubaix. On Sunday another one of his dreams will come true !

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most important week in cycling !

This week is the most important week of the year in the cycling calendar. From the Tour of Flanders last Sunday to Paris Roubaix on Sunday next these 8 days can define the entire career of a rider.

The Tour of the Basque country in Spain is part of the 29 races that are used to make up the UCI World tour rankings and always takes place in the week between the two Classics.  It’s currently led by Alberto Contador.

The Scheldeprijs Classic in Belgium is a major semi-classic which has launched the likes of Mark Cavendish onto the world stage. The start list for tomorrow is like a who’s who of all the current crop of major classics riders.

Fabian Cancellara rode a spectacular race in Flanders to claim his third victory and firmly establish himself in the history books. He even managed a celebratory beer shortly after crossing the finish line.

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This week, just like most of the other riders he has been based in a hotel in Belgium recovering and training for Roubaix next Sunday. He will ride Scheldeprijs tomorrow but will just use it as midweek training for his major goal next weekend.

Rarely does any rider combine the classics and the Tour of the Basque country. Rarely, but there is always an exception to that rule. That exception was a man named Sean Kelly.

In 1986 Kelly once again dominated the early season stage race Paris Nice. This he followed up with victory in the Classic Milan San Remo. Next up for Kelly was The Tour of Flanders where he was narrowly beaten by Adri Van der Poel. For Kelly there was no beer. Just after the finish Kelly changed and jumped into a car to make his way to the airport to catch a plane to Spain. The following morning as his fellow competitors in Flanders awoke with weary limbs and aches all over Kelly was already on the start line of the Tour of the Basque country.

Going in to the final stage time trial Kelly was over three minutes in arrears on a Anselmo Fuerte when he produced the time trial performance of his life to take back all of his time defect and more. That was after having sprinted to victory in the road stage that morning also.

He won the race overall and again made a dash to the airport to catch a plane back up north in time for Paris Roubaix the following day.

Kelly dominated the race to win his second Hell of the North.

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Fabian Cancellara is a legend, the type of rider we only see once in a generation. But Kelly was at another level above that again !

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

10 simple tips for sprinting

CYCLING : SCHELDEPRIJS-VLAANDEREN 2008

1 . Always sprint on the drops.
You will be safer and faster unless it’s a steep uphill finish when it’s acceptable to use the hoods.

2. Look where you’re going.
Keep watching where you are going and what’s in front of you.

3. Train for sprinting.
You will never become good at something that you don’t train for. The same applies to climbing, time trialling, etc. Find a quiet, flat, straight 400 meters of road. Warm up for 20 minutes. Do between 4 and 6 two hundred meter sprints from a standing start at 110%. You should be borderline throwing up and have screaming legs if done correctly. Warm down for 20 mins spinning in a very low gear to flush out the lactic acid. You are now in the top 10% of your category.

4. Sprint to the line.
If you are sprinting for a finish line never ease up until you have crossed that line no matter what position you are in. Many races and placings have been lost by riders who quit before the line.

5. Committ.
Once you begin your sprint give it everything that you have. Be 110% committed and make an effort you can be proud of.

6. The fastest guys don’t always win.
Anything can happen in a sprint. It doesn’t matter if there is a guy much faster than you in the race. If he gets anything wrong you have to be prepared to take your chance to win.

7. Know your bike.
Have your bike in top condition so that you will not have a gear jump or slip when you make your effort. If you doubt your bike you cannot sprint.

8. Know your own sprint.
Know where the point is that you can launch your sprint from and sustain the effort all the way to the line. There is no point having a fantastic sprint for 200 meters if you launch from 300 meters out.

9. Know the finish.
Warm up before the race on the finish straight if possible. Take note of wind direction, surface of the road on different sides, where the potholes are, etc. Is it up or down hill ? What is the last corner like ? What position do you need to be in coming around that corner ?

10. Enjoy it.
There is a great feeling of exhilaration from a sprint finish. Enjoy the rush of adrenaline and savour the moment. You will be reliving it with your club mates for weeks to come.

Barry
www.thecyclingblog.com

A monumental day for Sam

 

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Tomorrow morning when young Sam Bennett from Carrick on Suir wakes up and peels back the curtains it will not be the river Suir that he looks out upon.

He will not be leaving the house at ten to nine alongside his Dad to line up at the old ESB office between O’Mahoney avenue and Sean Kelly square.

He will not be casually chatting with fellow members of Carrick Wheelers or the mixed bag that makes up the Carrick group.

Over the years riders from Carrick and those who train with the group have won just about every domestic race including national championships and the Ras. Many have worn the green jersey with pride overseas. Riders like Bobby, Larry, Paddy, Raymond and Robert Power, Anthony and Dick O’Gorman, Stephen Maher, Tony Ryan, Martin O’Loughlin, Vinny Kelly, Spratty, Fitzy, Clarkie, Kenneally, Butler, Lenny Foley, Hugh Mulhearne, John Dempsey and Ciaran Power to name but a few who have gone before. Sean Hahessy and Michael O’Loughlin who are following on close behind.

The main inspiration for a generation of cyclists around the World. Another Carrick man Sean Kelly is the only one to have reached the heights of taking part in a Cycling Monument or Classic. Of course he did more than just take part. He set the bar so high that he is ranked as the third best Classics rider of all time.

Tomorrow Sam will line up at the start line of a race that is at the pinnacle of our sport and we will all dream of seeing his well practiced victory salute seven hours later. This year that dream may be an outside bet, but it will be a huge stepping stone towards making that dream a reality.

The Tour of Flanders is All Ireland final day for cyclists and when Sam wheels out onto the cobbled pitch in the morning all of our hopes and dreams will ride with him. Ballymac will be covered in record time to ensure all get home to see as much of the race as possible.

His family, girlfriend and friends will all be extremely proud. If you hear a loud Croke park roar during the afternoon that will have been caused by the sight of Sam on Eurosport.

Best of luck Sam, and however you get on tomorrow you will have brightened the day of every cycling fan in Ireland !

Barry
<a href=”http://www.thecyclingblog.com”>www.thecyclingblog.com</a>

Kelly is our favourite, our King !

In his book ‘Visions of Cycling’ photographer Graham Watson speaks very highly of The King

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Tomorrow The King returns to the cobbles of Flanders to ride the Sportive before enthralling us all with his commentary on Eurosport the following day.

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

De Wolf, De Poodle and The 3 Days of De Panne

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Out on the bike this morning with the winner of the 1980 edition of the 3 Days of De Panne, a race that is currently taking place I heard an unusual story about an unusual visitor to the peleton one year during the race.

The Belgian race is designed for hard men and good bike handlers. Going from big wide open main roads to very narrow lanes and back can cause much consternation within the bunch.

As riders jostle for position with much pushing and shoving crashes become inevitable.

Back in a time where Peter Sagan might not have considered trying to gift a stage win to a team-mate, where each of the 4 stages were fought for with the aggression and competitiveness of a one day classic, riders feared crashes but feared loosing even more.

With much fewer crowd control barriers at the race compared to the likes of The Tour de France spectators get much closer to the riders, which also adds to the danger and probably the atmosphere too.

One day when the bunch was at ‘full gas’ everyone was fighting for position when suddenly a small white blur of fluff appeared in the middle of the peleton. Kelly saw the small poodle in time and managed to just avoid an impact with the small dog.

Riding behind Kelly, Dirk De Wolf was not as fortunate.

The big Belgian Classics rider and winner of the 1992 Liege Bastogne Liege never even saw the animal until it was inches from his front wheel. Everything happened so fast that he just closed his eyes and hoped for the best.

Not sure what he had just impacted he approached the rider ahead and asked ‘What was that I just hit ?’

Out in the wild the wolf will always outlive the poodle. Within the cycling peleton De Wolf outlived the poodle too.

 

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

 

The Lone Survivors !

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(This pic was actually taken yesterday on The Vee Valley Challenge between Burncourt and Clogheen)

Each and every weekend from now until the end of September there will be Sportive and charity cycles taking place in every corner of the land. Some like the Ring of Kerry will have 9000 people on the 180k route. The Sean Kelly Tour will have over 2000 on the 10k family cycle with 5000 taking on the three distances of 50, 100 and 160k the following day. There will also be the other 4 events of the An Post cycle series and many clubs and charities will also be hosting their own events.

Having spent many an hour both riding in and driving behind these events I have seen cyclists of all shapes sizes and abilities make their way around and whilst I commend those who can cover 180k in five hours or less I always find myself being more impressed by those who take twice as long. The type of cyclist I call ‘The Lone Survivors’

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Yesterday as I drove along doing back up service on the Vee Valley Challenge Sportive in aid of the Clogheen Hospice fund, I had plenty of time to contemplate The Lone Survivors in between fixing punctures and mending broken chains.

Clogheen to Cahir was covered at an average of 40kph. This suited the fitter cyclists but for those without a 3 hour each Sunday Winter base it was a struggle and very soon the gaps began to appear.

I always prefer to be in a nice group on these types of events, especially with the prospect of long open windy Irish countryside looming out ahead. My first thought when I see a rider slipping back early on during a Sportive is that it is going to be a long and lonely day for them. But they always seem to find their pace and settle in for the long hard slog.

Driving behind a race you see a riders position and style and try to gauge how much or how little they are suffering but you rarely notice any major bike positional anomalies. The same does not hold true on a Sportive.

On a Sportive, especially towards the rear of the field you notice a lot. The ‘sawballers’ with their saddles too high and the ‘harleyriders’ with their saddles too low. You learn to recognise those who look like they are struggling but that’s just their riding style and those who sit well on the bike but are under serious pressure.

The front group are often home drinking soup and eating sandwiches at the same time as the back markers are only approaching the half way point of a course. The front riders are changed and having the craic as they load up the cars whilst a Lone Survivor is weaving up a climb with no other rider in sight, but they keep on going.

You look on from the comfort of a warm van as cold rain falls on a weary body in front and contemplate telling them to hop into the van. I have made the offer more than once and it is rarely taken up. When it is you know it is always at a point of collapse. I often feel that the Lone Survivors pain suffering on a long back road climb in Ireland is the same pain that Tour de France riders feel on the likes of Alpe D’Huez.

I am not alone in admiring the Lone Survivors. Yesterday John O’Mahoney from Ardfinnan having completed his 120k rode back out along the course and turned to accompany a Lone Survivor back in towards the finish helping to give encouragement up Knocklofty hill and shelter from the wind on the flat road towards Clogheen.

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Sometimes hours after the barriers are taken away and all the bunting is taken down a Lone Survivor will roll in to the finish. Missing the ceremony and the atmosphere of finishing with the crowds does not matter to them. The satisfaction of completing a challenge that many would have thought was beyond them is all that matters. I have seen the great Sean Kelly shake the hand of a Lone Survivor who finished the 160k into Dungarvan over 10 1/2 hours after starting and 5 hours after the first rider home. They both had a look of mutual respect on their faces.

Always admire the Lone Survivor !

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

 

A change of direction !

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On my first day in secondary school as I walked into the yard of The High School in Clonmel I bumped into the late Patrick Kennedy, the grandson of a neighbour from Grange. It was good to see a familiar friendly face and he brought me over to meet a few of his friends. He introduced me to Raymond Clarke , his neighbour from Marlefield and we found we had a common interest in cycling.

Each day at break time we would meet up and discuss Sean Kelly’s latest victory, the speed of Rays Raleigh Pulsar, the weight of my Dawes Jaguar or the number of spokes on a pair of Mavic GP4 wheels. After school we would go training together with a group of lads, all meeting at the GAA Centre on the Western road.

From second year on Ray and I would always sit next to each other in class, usually down the back in a corner where we could draw pictures of bikes, take a sneaky peek at cycling weekly or spec out our dream bikes in peace.

We socialised together, opened a shop together, were each others best men at our weddings and over the course of 15 years a really solid friendship helped grow an idea for a small bike shop into a now thriving business.

I, however,  have always had a problem with ‘itchy feet’ and restlessness. After 15 years in a bike shop I felt like I needed a change. Just like always I had a chat with Ray and we discussed what to do. Together we agreed that I would step away from the shop in order to pursue other goals that have been festering in my mind.

It wasn’t the easiest decision of my life by a long shot but I decided to take the plunge and see where it leads. Along with having more time to write and blog, I have an opportunity to develop a sector of the tourism industry that would be especially beneficial to cyclists along with a few other projects which should keep me well occupied.

To work alongside my best friend day in day out for the past 15 years has been a privilege very few are lucky enough to have. I will really miss the great atmosphere and sense of satisfaction in the shop and meeting the customers who really became good friends too.

‘Thank you’ seems very little to say for all the support, help, encouragement and custom that everyone has given us over the years.

I have enjoyed every minute of my time in Worldwidecycles and know, that now he has full reign over the business Ray, with the very able help of John, Jack and Eric will bring it to even greater levels of customer service and satisfaction.

 

See you all on the road,

 

Barry

 

 

Local hero raises spirits !

Today in the shop Ray, John and I huddled around the small screen of an iPhone hoping that no customer would walk into the shop for the next five minutes. Commercially this is not a good attitude to have, we depend upon our great customers to make a living but normal everyday life was now suspended for the next five minutes.

The reason for this escapism was a bike race taking place thousands of kilometres away in Italy that was now being beamed into a bicycle workshop via the eurosport player app on an iPhone. This was no ordinary bike race, it was the Tirreno Adriatico, one of the first really big pro races of the season. An added dimension of interest was the participation of Sam, the local lad from Carrick.

It would have been fantastic to watch the race on the small screen and catch the odd glimpse of his NetApp Endura jersey. It would have been a bonus if he managed to get a mention. This alone would be incredible for a rider just weeks into his first season at the highest level of World cycling. But this was Sam, and he was never going to be there riding just to finish.

What actually happened was the inclusion of a familiar name within the commentators repartee as the finish loomed close. Who would it be to win the bunch sprint was a question posed. The answer given was a number of names like Cavendish, Kittell, Greipel, and there included in the list was ‘Bennett’, which led to a shiver of excitement going down my spine.

Inside 3k to go as the tension mounted there was the dreaded word ‘Crash !’ We searched for Sam within the carnage and did not see him. After watching Marcel Kittell launch his bike ‘hammer thrower style’ into the air the camera went back to the bunch and we searched again for Sam. And there he was, fighting, pushing, shoving, taking no shit and giving no quarter. Sam was well up there and our heart rates were right up there with his.

Inside the last K and Sam is boxed in, he has to stop pedalling, readjust and go again. And go he surely does. Making up ground and places. Inside the final 200 meters and he is still there fighting, giving it everything and more. He gets switched again but that does nothing to alter his determination. He readjusts and goes again. The line is now on screen and Sam launches the bike at the line and we launch into fourth, third, fifth !

Sam was confirmed fourth which was just as impressive as his win last week in Spain. Yes, just in case you were visiting Mars last week Sam won the Classica De Almeria which was right on the back of a third on the final stage of the Tour of Oman.

It has been fantastic watching Dan Martin and Nico Roche for the past few years, winning at the highest levels but to watch Sam, the local lad from Carrick adds another dimension altogether.

I still remember Sam’s first road bike. His Mam Helen had ordered the Orbea Larrau from us in plenty of time for Christmas about 10 or 12  years ago. It probably wasn’t a Santa present but his younger brother Scott would have been at a borderline age so Santa may well have been charged with its delivery. We ordered it from our supplier and as the weeks passed by and Christmas came closer we were starting to get a little nervous but were assured that we would have it in time. Then came the week before Christmas and we were told that it would arrive up North on Friday but as Christmas day was the following Tuesday there was no guarantee that we would have it in time. This left only one option as I skipped the Sunday spin and drove the 300 mile round trip to Newry to pick it up and ensure that it would be ready for collection by Santa the following day. Now you know why I’ll always remember Sam’s first bike.

When the previous local hero Sean Kelly was at his peak winning all around we used to have to wait for the following days paper for results and the following weeks cycling weekly for pictures. Now we have it all instantly on twitter, Facebook and Youtube so here it is again just incase you were in a 3G blackspot for the afternoon

Well done Sam. Here’s looking forward to many years of you giving us heart attacks !

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Meet the love of your life in a bike shop

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One busy Saturday afternoon these two people walked in separately into our Clonmel bike shop. Whilst browsing through the selection of bikes their eyes met over a set of handlebars and they struck up a conversation.

Fast forward a year a half later to September last and a wedding that was initiated in a bike shop.

On a romantic stroll this morning they returned to where it all started for them and brightened up our day too .

So, if your looking for love look no further than your local bike shop !

Barry
www.worldwidecycles.com

Is this the perfect bike for Irish roads ?

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Is the Trek Domane (pronounced Doh-Mah-Nay) the perfect bike for Irish roads ? That was the question that I had going around in my head after first seeing one in the flesh last year. The reviews online suggested that it might be. The info and sales pitch on the Trek website were convincing that it would be. But I wasn’t going to be convinced until I had tried one out for myself.

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As a previous owner of  both the on road and off road versions of the Allsop Softride many moons ago I have always been in search of a bike that could make my ride as comfortable as possible.

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Unfortunately the Allosop whilst having a few redeeming characteristics felt like cycling along on one of those big orange space hoppers.

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The handling was also pretty sketchy to say the least. If you were cornering on an up bounce you lost all traction to the rear wheel. But on those rough sections of road where ‘tarmac’ would have been a long forgotten and a totally absent ingredient,  it did occasionally feel much smoother.

Further along my quest for comfort I had a Viner Maxima custom built for me with a custom carbon lay up to cater for my specific type of riding. It is very smooth but I can still feel the jarring effect on the rough Irish roads.

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I regularly ride tubeless tyres in search of the smoother ride that they give. I find them great, a good deal more comfortable than regular clinchers but still notice the vibration on rough roads.

Last year I spent most of the year on an Orbea Orca Silver. The frame has ‘Attraction’ seat stays that absorb the vibration coming from the rear of the bike by twisting the stays which has a similar effect to placing a hand over a tuning fork to deaden the noise that it makes. It was a lovely bike, probably the most comfortable that I had ridden so far and would be a good point of reference for the Domane.

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So, last week our Trek Domane Demo fleet arrived and I couldn’t resist the temptation to be the first to try one out.

The 5.2 features 5 series OCLV tubing with the Domane Iso speed coupler which acts like a suspension. What does OCLV mean? There is a technical explanation but basically if you look at most carbon used in bicycles today under a microscope you will see many air bubbles and tiny holes on the surface of the tubing. All other manufacturers cover these in using a clay like resin paste which can become brittle over time. Trek use an air bladder under extreme high pressure to compress their carbon together which results in the strongest Carbon fibre available on a bicycle frame today. It leads to frames that fatigue less and are stronger which makes it very easy for Trek to offer a lifetime warranty with all of its products.

The Groupset on the 5.2 is the 11 speed Ultegra version that was launched last year. It is almost as good as Dura Ace for half the price. My Viner has Campag Super Record but mechanically I prefer Shimano. Everything fits together without any fuss and it all just works seamlessly. The gears are crisp and precise. I’m used to 11 speed but it is a nice treat for anyone who has been using 9 or even 8 speed all winter. The brakes work well under pressure and are undramatic.

The Bontrager Race Tubeless ready wheels had standard Bontrager R3 25mm tyres which gripped well and were lively enough. I’m looking forward to trying them with tubeless tyres. On my test ride I happened upon a farmer cutting a ditch with a hedge cutter with thorns all over the road and the expected puncture never materialised which impressed.

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I like to have my brakes pretty tight and out of the saddle I often get a little brake rub from the rim touching the brake blocks as I swing the bike side to side. No rubbing from these wheels. The hubs run beautifully smooth, but I guess only time will tell for how long.

WHAT ABOUT THE RIDE ? I hear you say.

Well it was only sublime. Initially the expected sponginess never really materialised. Instead I spent the entire journey from Clonmel to Limerick via Golden, Dundrum and Cappamore feeling as if there was a 5mm cushion of air between the tyres and the road.  Anything less than a 5mm rough patch on the road went by unnoticed whilst anything bigger including sunken manhole covers and drains were barely noticeable.

Cornering with a slightly longer wheelbase is not quiet as razor sharp as a pure race bike but because your weight is constantly pressing down on the rear of the bike over rough surfaces it grips better and actually corners and descends like it’s on train tracks.

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The oversize down tube and bottom bracket area make for a very stiff lower section of the bike. This translates into real high end race responsiveness out of the saddle powering up a hill. It is actually a little disconcerting at first for such a soft comfy bike to have this type of kick when putting the power down through the pedals. It is even noticeable in the saddle if you try powering over the crest of a drag. In car terms it would be like a plush Mercedes S-Class accelerating like a Ferrari.

The front end is pretty good too. The unusual looking kicked back dropouts on the fork do actually work as does the rubber insert on the top of the bars to give the smoothest hand contact area that I have ever used. The drops I found too long. With my big hands reaching in under the levers I noticed that my wrists hit off the top of the bars when swinging the bike out of the saddle. But this was pretty minor as anyone using the bike will be spending 90% of the time up on the hoods or the top of the bars.

I spent three hours on the bike into a block headwind mostly in the rain but still enjoyed the spin. As I reached my destination I wondered how best to describe a 3, 4, or 5 hour spin on a Trek Domane compared to most other bikes. What came to mind was to consider the relief of sitting on a wooden or plastic chair having been standing for most of a morning. It would be a great relief for a while but after 30 minutes or so your ass would get a little uncomfortable and you would begin to shift a little in your seat. After an hour or two you might use the excuse of leaving the room for a moment to gain a little extra relief. Then consider those big plush armchairs in a Cinema and how comfortable they still feel after sitting through a 3 hour movie without a break. The Domane is the bike that could be classed as a Cinema chair.

So is it the perfect bike for Irish roads ?

Without hesitation I would say a resounding Yes. It is perfect for sportive riders who need a bike that’s comfortable enough to spend 6 or 7 hours in the saddle. For anyone racing it is lively and fast in an undramatic way over hard Irish road courses whilst not rattling your bones. That means that you will arrive at the finish that little bit fresher in time to unleash your rapid sprint. If it is good enough for Fabian Cancellara it’s good enough for anyone.

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With prices for the Aluminium Domane starting at €1369 and the bike that I test rode coming in at €3299 they offer serious value for money too.

If you would like to try one out for yourself we now have a Demo fleet of both ladies and gents models available. We also have some nice Giant’s available to test ride with a review coming on those soon. For €50 you get to try a dream bike out for a day, along with receiving a €50 voucher to use towards a new bike or anything else that we have in the shop, so essentially it’s free !

Call us on 052 6121146 or email us on info@worldwidecycles.com to book your test ride now.

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

 

‘Smoo’ Doyle

Cyclists are great for nicknames. The pro’s have Fabian ‘Spartacus’ Cancellara, Tony ‘The Panzerwagon’ Martin, Bradley ‘Wiggo’ Wiggins and  Mark ‘The Manx Missile’ Cavendish.

Even our local training group has Smiler, Iggy Bock, Nana, Gizmo and of course The King.

In the shop we are often an unofficial Tourist information office regularly giving people directions to the Dole Office, the Courthouse, O’Gormans Bakery, the Emperor Chinese resturaunt, Red Nose Wine and Chadwicks to name just a few.

We are also sometimes the first port of call for people looking for long lost cycling friends so when a guy walked in recently and said that he was looking for ‘Smoo’ Doyle I immediately began trawling my minds database.

I thought of Paul Doyle from Baldoyle, Paul Doyle from Trek distributor Centro and Paul Doyle from Fermoy and his brother Jack. All cyclists, but I couldn’t recall any of them having the nickname ‘Smoo’. Zippy Doyle was going well lately in a few cyclocross races and he came to mind, but he’s Zippy and that doesn’t sound like Smoo.

Then I thought of a guy Ray and I were in school with called Donnacha Doyle who still lives locally. A man currently better known for his Ballroom dancing prowess than his cycling ability, although he may have once cycled to the High school. I never heard him called Smoo but still, he was the only one living locally so I asked the guy if it was Donnacha that he was looking for.

He looked at me as if I had two heads.

Eventually he said ‘ ahh no, ’tis just the smoo doyle that I’m looking for.

Now the secret was in the word ‘the’ implying that it might be a thing rather than a person.

So I thought for a moment and then it dawned on me. Smoo Doyle was actually Smooth Oil.

Now I had to think again and getting closer to the mark I asked ‘ Is it chain oil that you might be looking for ?’

Again a quizzical look, but then he explained exactly what he was looking for.

‘Ya know, smood oil for your arms. I’m going doing a few triathlons this year and I saw on the net that the smood oil makes you go faster in the water and on the bike. They use it in the Olympics. It’s supposed to be a right job if you shave your arms before you use it.’

Well, you learn something new everyday.

You have to get on the customers wave-length and I was way off that day.

 

It’s not always easy, when you go from being asked for a clutch for a Honda 50 (which we don’t have) to a pair of look cleat covers (which we do have) and back to an anvil (which we don’t have)

Confusion can happen with repairs too.

Recently we had a guy come in with just one pedal still attached to his bike.

He wanted a new set of pedals fitted. We are used to seeing pedals that have been chewed by dogs but this looked a little different. I asked what had happened to the left hand pedal and was told that he was having trouble taking it off. (left hand pedal, left hand thread, turn clockwise to loosen) He heard that a good way to loosen anything tight was to heat it.

So, he poured a little petrol over the pedal and set fire to it with a match.

It didn’t work.

 

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

 

 

 

 

 

Postmen in Calpe

This week I was fortunate enough to again attend the An Post Sean Kelly Chain Reaction team training camp in Calpe on the coast of Spain. It’s always nice to start the year with a taste of some sunshine cycling and to shorten the Irish winter.

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There are some new faces on the team in Calpe this year with the likes of the Marcus Christie, Conor Dunne and Bobbie Traksel joining the team stalwarts such as Sean Downey and Jack Wilson along with the rest of the boys in green.

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The bikes have changed too with Chain Reaction Cycles now supplying a much sleeker and stiffer looking Vitus which was getting some very good feedback from the riders and mechanics. The Shimano Ultegra 11 group set on the training bikes is a significant improvement of the previous 10 speed version while the race bikes all have the range topping Shimano Dura ace mechanical group sets which is just as smooth and even more precise whilst also being lighter.

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The vision wheels come from the same stable as the FSA bars, stems, seat posts, chain sets and brake calipers and are all stiff, light and fast. Just what the pros need.

Prologo saddles and bar tape make for comfortable contact points whilst the Speedplay pedals were acknowledged by Des from Cadence Performance , who was conducting a three hour bike fit on each rider as being the best pedals on the market.

It was very interesting to watch Des carry out the full precision bike fit. Marcus Christie was the first rider up and every step of the bike fit was intently scrutinised by Kurt, Niko and Sean himself. The owner of Cadence Performance was there overseeing the operation too. Now based in London where he owns and runs the very successful one stop bike shop Frank Beechinor was once a familiar name on the Munster cycling scene competing regularly against the likes of Anthony O’Gorman, Vinnie Kelly and Colm Braham amongst many others.

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Just watching and taking notes of the bike fit I learned many ways that we can improve the bike fitting that we carry out in our own shop and was very impressed.

Another highlight of the early season training camps is the arrival of the new team clothing kit.
Portuguese clothing company Onda are sponsoring the team this year and there was a sense of Christmas morning as bags were opened and the new kit had to be tried on immediately. At least this took place in normal hours unlike an occasion when a former Irish International cyclist was awoken at 3am a few years back by a teammate who was so excited about their new team kit that they had to get up in the middle of the night to try it on and admire themselves.

The white on the jersey and shorts is a new material that will remain pure white with no color run or fade to ‘grey white’ no matter how often it is washed. The Gillets also brought on some impressive comments. The riders now have 3 different styles to choose from. The thermal Gillet has 3 rear pockets as does a lighter version which is made from the same weight material as the short-sleeve jerseys. But it was the lighter version with a wind proof front, and mesh rear that brought the most attention from the team. Both sides of the rear mesh panel have access slots which allow jersey pockets to be accessed without the need to pull up the Gillet.
The team also have a choice of shorts with a winter ‘roubaix’ material providing a layer of warmth for the early season races and the specially developed aero Lycra shorts for use in summer and warmer locations.

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It was interesting to watch Kelly speak to each rider about the gear as they returned from their first spin wearing it. Speaking to Mark McNally he emphasised the importance of having the shorts tight enough in order to stretch the chamois. The problem being that if the chamois were not stretched it could bunch up and cause saddle sores.

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The Kinetica energy and recovery drinks and bars disappeared quickly each day with the riders looking after their nutrition on and off the bike. Comfort seemed to be the main word used in relation to their Specialized helmets and shoes.

Whilst An Post and Chain Reaction Cycles are the two main sponsors other Irish companies are also supporting the team. Jones Engineering has been involved with the team for a number of years now as has another Irish International success story Mercury Engineering. Glenstal Foods based in Murroe  Co. Limerick are a leading Diary products company with an avid cycling workforce whilst Arbelos is a Clonmel based IT company which also has a strong cycling connection.

While the team were out training we too were getting our spins in. One day as we headed out from Calpe towards Altea we picked up a local Spanish amateur rider who slotted in alongside me near the rear of our group. As we chatted in my pidgin Spanish and his slightly better English he asked me if any of our group raced. I said that I didn’t do much but pointed to Adrian Hedderman in front of me and said ‘He raced and won the Des Hanlon, a big Classic race in Ireland’. All I got back was a blank stare so I persisted and pointed in front of Adrian to Philip Cassidy and said ‘He won the Ras twice, Ireland’s biggest stage race’ Still nothing more than a stare so I pointed to the rider in front of Philip and said ‘That guy won the Vuelta Espana’ to which I finally got a reaction. He asked ‘Kelly ?’ to which I replied ‘si’ and then the excitement got the better of him as he took of into a machine gun staccato of excited Spanish with a few English words in between the only three of which I caught being ‘ did not recognise’

I am on the way home now but Kelly and the team are still in Calpe planning the year ahead with their new riders, bikes and kit and it looks like this could well be the teams best year yet !

Barry
www.worldwidecycles.com

New beginnings on New years Day

January first is always associated with fresh starts and new beginnings. For some that can mean resolutions broken by mid-day whilst for others it can mean an entire life changing event.

This morning in Carrick on Suir, in a town square named after one of the greatest cyclists of all time a cycling club gathered to recognise a club mate as he set off  to join the elite of World cycling.

The rain eased as the crowd gathered in Sean Kelly square. Old and young members of Iverk Carrick Wheelers came to wish Sam Bennett well for the year ahead as a member of the NetApp Endura pro team. Also present were Sam’s proud and always supporting parents Mike and Helen and girlfriend Tara who were joined by friends and local town councillors who all came to wish him well.

It was a real landmark day for a club which has consistently produced elite riders and National Champions. For the likes of Martin O’Loughlin who coached and developed Sam through the years and Paul Lonergan who is always there in the support car it was an especially satisfying moment. Rory Wyley, Hugh Mulhearn and Sean Hahessy seemed pleased that the multitude of long hard winter miles in their company would now stand Sam in good stead.

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Looking around the square as photographers Joe Cashin, Johnny Troy and Karen Edwards began shooting their cameras I noticed that everyone had a smile on their faces. There was a really good atmosphere and it felt like one of those moments that will be remembered in years to come.

The great Sean Kelly was there enjoying the occasion and the chance to wish Sam well, having spent the past three seasons riding for his An Post Sean Kelly team. The experience gained under the tutelage of Sean and team manager Kurt Bogaerts will surely stand Sam in good stead as he takes the next step up.

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Kellys exploits inspired a generation of Carrick cyclists like Sam and there were a good few young riders there today who are visibly being inspired by Sam with one even willing to put a time frame on how soon he would be following in his wheel tracks. The future of cycling in Carrick looks safe for many years to come.

As the riders lined up to form a guard of honour Sam demonstrated some of his bike handling skills that have seen him compared to Peter Sagan on more than one occasion. First at almost a standstill he raised his arms aloft for the photographers. Then through the narrow gap he rose up his front wheel and wheelied down through the middle again at a speed slow enough to allow enough photos to be taken.

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Then it was time for a spin up to Clonmel and the mountain road. Riding along in the group I wondered to myself how many other sports are there that ordinary sportspeople get to train with the top professionals and World number ones, and was reminded once again just how great a sport cycling really is.

Sam has the best wishes of a nation of cyclists going with him as embarks on the next level of his career and we are all looking forward to cheering him on and screaming at Eurosport on the tv as he notches up many more victories on his way to a glittering career.

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

 

 

 

 

The flat battery !

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As a child I learned how to check the direction of the wind by sucking my baby finger and holding it up in the air. The side that felt cold first was the side where the wind was coming from. Times change and now I press the accuweather app on the screen of my iPhone to tell me the same thing, unless the battery is flat.

This morning I didn’t bother with the app and as I stepped outside the back door I could smell the MDF in the air which meant that the wind was easterly, coming from Carrick, over the Medite factory and on up to Clonmel. So off I set on my bike due east towards the town that cycling and music made famous.

The back road offers more shelter and has a lot less traffic so this was my chosen route. The air was crisp and the pure white frost, coated fields within the Valley of Slievenamon.

As I rode along, occasionally glancing down at the screen of my Garmin 510 I soon noticed the low battery warning flash up. Normally I would have this fully charged but haven’t been on the bike much recently and am out of the normal routine.

Approaching Carrick the screen went blank and a realisation dawned upon me. I would not be able to note my exact time, distance or average speed in a diary. I would not be able to upload the rest of the spin to Garmin connect and most importantly I would be able to ride up the Strava segment up ahead at whatever speed I liked without that little niggle of trying to put in a slightly respectable time. For the rest of the spin in this age of ever more connectedness  I would be totally off the grid.

I decided to just roll along wherever the road would take me at whatever speed felt comfortable. Not that at this time of year anymore is required, it’s just that there is always a compulsion to go that little bit harder when the numbers are there on the screen in front of you.

Crossing Fidown bridge I stopped to watch a lone white swan glide gracefully against the ebbing tide as it floated on up river. On the other side of the bridge a low slung sun fought for it’s piece of the sky against an ever growing army of clouds.

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A deep breath of clean fresh air and I was off moving again soon passing through Piltown, past Kildalton College and then on through the smaller village of Owning. Most houses had a snowman or a Santa somewhere outside whilst a small few had enough to be mistaken for the North Pole. It felt like Christmas.

Riding along quiet roads with little or no traffic, gives a headspace that can be hard to come by during the busy lives we all lead nowadays and I was again struck by the thought that this has much to do with the current popularity of cycling and running. Problems can be  worked out and ideas can be developed when uninterrupted time is afforded to them. I don’t know many cyclists who meditate but this type of freedom and uninterrupted thinking time must have a similar effect to time spent umming on the floor in the lotus position.

Passing by Kiltiernan cottage I decided that I really must venture down soon with the family for Sunday lunch in the spectacular surroundings with the panoramic vista of the Comeragh mountains across the valley.

The next village on my meandering route was Faugheen, a tiny place with a great heritage of two wheels. The Faugheen 50 is a well known motorbike race and the Iverk Carrick wheelers beginners league also takes place on the quiet safe course and has spawned a multitude of great cyclists.

Crossing the main road at Lissadobber headed towards Ballyneale I was reminded of a something that Tom ‘Chops’ Kiely had told me. This road made up part of the route that he and the late Bobby Power used to take as part of their training route in recent years. I became aware that none of us get to ride our bikes for ever and that the ability to head off out on our bikes and enjoy the countryside is something that should not be taken for granted.

Before Ballyneale as I rounded a corner I noticed an old JCB in a field and stopped for a look. I pass here regularly enough but had never really noticed it. Judging by the look of it’s condition it was definitely here when I had passed before but I was probably concentrating too much on the numbers on a screen to notice.

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Todays’ spin was not about numbers or graphs. It was simply about the enjoyment of riding my bike out in the open air, taking in the surroundings and the Christmas atmosphere. Recently I came across a saying that came to mind again today ‘ You don’t stop cycling because you grow old, you grow old because you stop cycling !’

Barry

www.thecyclingblog.com

Let’s get more kids cycling

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Cycling is a fantastic sport for any child to become involved in. It keeps you fit and healthy, it teaches you independence and discipline, it gives you a sense of identity and you make friends that you keep for the rest of your life.

At the height of the Kelly/Roche era Cycling Ireland had a maximum membership of  just over 4000.

In 2013 Cycling Ireland membership has topped 20,000 (Thanks Gary McIlroy for the latest numbers)

The initial boom was sparked by the exploits of Kelly and Roche. Every school kid wanted to emulate their heroes and the bike that they cycled to school on was also the bike that they did their first club spin on.

In 1986 during the previous cycling boom in Ireland over 19,000 girls cycled to school.

In 2011 during the current boom 525 girls cycled to school throughout the whole country.

In the late eighties and early nineties there would be a 53 seater bus from Clonmel and a 53 seater bus from Carrick along with another mini bus and a number of cars going to the races, all stuffed to the max with spotty teenagers. Team Sky may have set a new standard for team busses but the Kavanaghs coach driven by Sean Clarke was better craic with every Mammies good blanket covering all the bikes stacked up at the back of the bus.

Many days in the shop we see a blast from the past. Someone that we raced against underage or as a junior walks in after a 20 year sabbatical and is now ‘back on the bike’

Looking around the group on a Sunday spin many of the faces are now a more worn version of the innocent cherubs of the eighties but the names are still the same, as more and more return to a sport that never leaves the core of who you are.

Many of these ‘returning cyclists’ account for the growth in numbers, along with the ‘Mamils’ who have left the golf clubs in the shed due to having to open the top button of their trousers after a good feed one too many times.

Kelly and Roche gave the inspiration back then and the clubs and volunteers gave the opportunity but it was the bike that you cycled to school or down to your friends house that gave you the physical tool to take part.

With so few kids now cycling to school or cycling anywhere for that matter where will cycling in Ireland be in another 20 years time ?

The main obstacles that we see in the shop that come up time and time again are every parents concern about safety on the roads with the volume of traffic, and the cost of starting cycling. There is no simple answer to safety concerns but there are proactive things that cyclists and parents of cyclists can do.

Cycle with your kids and teach them how to cycle safely on the open road.

Cycle to work, the shops, down town or where ever. Take a bus or other form of public transport and leave the car at home, which is one less car on the road.

Join a cycling club where you and your kids can learn how to cycle safely and where the safest places to cycle are, along with making new friends and becoming part of the cycling community.

Report dangerous drivers and people who park on bike lanes to the police.

Petition local councils for more cycle paths and pedestrian friendly streets, or just ask them to google Holland, Belgium or most of Europe.

Very few people can change the  World but anybody can change their own World, so focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

What can we as a shop do to address the financial concerns ?

We can give every 8 to 18 year old buying their first road bike a 20% discount off the price of the bike and helmet, shoes and clip-less pedals.

We can have a box in the shop with pre loved cycling gear of our own and others who may donate to it, in perfect condition that they can have for free. (If you have some at the bottom of your wardrobe drop it in and we’ll pass it on to any young cyclists who can get some use from it)

We can give their parents a 10% discount on the same package if they are going to go cycling with their child.

We can offer them all the help and advice that they need. We can put them in touch with local cycling clubs.

From today on this offer stands and is open to any young person who wants to take up the most beautiful sport in the World !

(We are also going to retrospectively apply this discount to any Christmas bikes that have been put away with us)

See you on the road,

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Is there safety in numbers ?

 

It is often thought that there is an added degree of safety in numbers. When walking down a dark side street it certainly makes sense but how true is it out on a bike ?

Roads nowadays are busier than ever before. Not just with more cars but also with more people out on their bikes cycling. It is great to see so many people enjoying riding their bikes but as training groups get larger and larger the question arises, how many cyclists in a group is a safe amount to travel along the by-roads of Ireland ?

20 cyclists take up as much road space as a 40 foot lorry, 40 cyclists take up the space of 2 x 40 foot lorries. 60 cyclists are a convoy travelling at 30 kph. The Gardai would not  allow a convoy of  lorries on a by-road in Ireland so is it OK for a group of 40 or 60 cyclists to travel along together ?

Some might say that everyone is entitled to use the open road so it is OK, but in reality it just isn’t safe .

Motorists get frustrated and take chances to get past. This puts everyone in danger. If an oncoming car travelling at speed comes around a corner and sees another car on the wrong side of the road trying to pass the group of cyclists the driver will subconsciously swerve to avoid a collision with the car facing them and what happens to the large group of cyclists then ?

If it is a club group made up solely of members of the same club a senior rider can dictate that the group is split into 2 or 3 different smaller groups each 500m to 1k apart, or they can take different routes. But if you have a group made up of individual cyclists or members of a number of different clubs, who decides what happens then? In this age of litigation no individual wants to place themselves in charge of a group and be held responsible for everyone else’s conduct and safety.

With the huge upsurge in Cycling Ireland membership, most now have licences in these motley crew groups so perhaps this is an issue that Cycling Ireland could give a little guidance on. The guidelines are there for races and organised events, but the issue of large training groups seems to fall between the cracks.

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

What can Specialized do next ?

We used to be specialized dealers. We’re not any longer. Not because we didn’t like the product or the company. It was just a matter of their brand commitment requirements not matching what we felt suited our business best. I really liked many of their products and still do.

Logging in to social media and cycling websites this afternoon my timelines were dominated by one issue. Specialized’s roubaix trademark dispute with a small independent retailer in Canada who named his store Cafe Roubaix. The main story can be found here

I think every marketing department of every large company should take note of how this issue is playing out. The power of social media now changes the balance of power in ‘common sense’ disputes.

Legally Specialized are probably in the right, but outside of their Lawyers office, out on the Tarmac (another Specialized model that may well be patented too) ordinary bike riders are not impressed with big bike corporations appearing to bully a small bike shop. If this is not handled well it will affect the sales of their products and their bottom line.

So, without a ‘back to the future Delorean’ time travel machine, what can Specialized do to fix this situation ?

Well, I have no expertise whatsoever in corporate public relations but I’m lucky enough to meet ordinary people with common sense every day over the counter of a bike shop and here is how some of those ordinary people might handle it.

Get Mike Sinyard who started the company by bringing European components to America in a rucksack and cycling around to local bike shops, to fly up to Canada and go straight to Cafe Roubaix first thing tomorrow morning. He might bring along an S-Works Roubaix to give to the owner of Cafe Roubaix and hold his hands up and say ‘sorry we let our legal department loose the run of itself and please accept this bike as a token of how sorry we are. We’d also like to invite you down to California to see our facilities and ride with us out on the road. We will of course cover all your expenses and you can bring a friend along too’

Dan Richter’s store Cafe Roubaix has become the worlds best known local bike store in the space of 24 hours. It was estimated that it would have cost him $150,000 to fight the case in a court of law. In the court of public opinion he fought for free and has probably  received over $150,000 worth of Global exposure, so this knowledge along with a genuine apology from the head of the company might make him open to this course of resolution.

He has more twitter followers and Facebook page likes than some of the largest bike stores in the World and if he were to use the Specialized Roubaix bike he might even extoll its virtues to his followers, many of those who may have been disenfranchised by his experience but also might now value his opinions.

Who knows what will happen next, but it has been an educational process to watch from a distance and a valuable lesson to companies who let the legal department act without contacting the common sense department first.

Barry
www.worldwidecycles.com

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The great escape

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Life is so full nowadays that we rarely get a chance to take a break from its momentum.

For many the day begins with a sleepy arm outstretched whilst a hand searches for a smooth rectangular object. A button is pressed and a screen lights up. Emails are checked for important work updates that just cannot wait. Twitter is scrolled to get up to the second info on all that’s right or wrong in the world. Facebook is consulted for the important updates on who did what with who when and where.

Then it’s time to get up and start the day.

The family breakfast is consumed with breakfast tv feeding the mind with as much benefit as the rushed breakfast cereal that is hoovered up has for the body. There is very little chance for a family conversation as all statuses must be updated and more communication takes place on the phone screen than across the table.

Everyone then rushes out the door into the cars as all set off for the day ahead in an already agitated state as that link to a video on Facebook took over 6 minutes and was too good to press pause and now everyone is running late.

Plenty of economic and violent ‘bad’ news on the car radio sets the tone for the day ahead as kids get dropped off in school and parents head off to work. Traffic delays cause blood pressure to rise and heart rates to hit levels that would need a 20 minute warm up on the bike to achieve.

Sitting down at the desk emails are once again checked and at least once per hour a sneaky peek at Facebook ends up lasting over 5 or 10 minutes.

There is so much work to be done that lunch must be taken at the desk but at least twitter and Facebook can now be open without the risk of the boss raising an eyebrow as he walks past.
Funnily enough over 30 mins is spent looking up these networks, time which could have afforded a break from the office, but sure it makes you look more dedicated to stay sitting at the desk.

5pm eventually ticks forward on the big white clock and the mass exodus begins. Everyone is in an enormous hurry to get home as if their houses are on fire.
Drive time radio in the car gives the latest stats that we should all be worried about as the slow moving traffic causes yet another build up of frustration that can only be dissipated by reaching for a packet of crisps and a can of coke.

The family know that the evening meal is ready when they hear the familiar ping from the microwave and then comes a balancing act that would be at home in the circus, as plates, glasses of coke, remote controls, phones, laptops and iPads are all precariously balanced on knees and arms of couches while the latest soap opera drama unfolds on the tv. Forks (knives are too much trouble) in one hand compete with phones in the other for supremacy with more than one person being known to have dipped their iphone5 into a Findus shepherds pie in a moment of distraction.

Bedtime comes but it is followed by an hour or two of surfing before sleep finally arrives and the whole routine can begin again.

All of the above may seem a little extreme but within lies a major contributing force for the enormous numbers that can now be seen jogging down every town by-pass in their hi-viz vests and the preponderance of well stretched cycling outfits that pass them by in bunches.

On a bike or when out running there is no Facebook or twitter (until you get home and tell all your friends how much you’ve done). Emails cannot be checked and many phones are even put on silent so calls cannot be answered. They cannot be left at home of course or how would Strava and runkeeper work. Most people with headphones are listening to music and not the ‘bad’ news. People training together actually have a chat and they feel good about the world.

Many who never before took part in any sport are now out there on the roads. The reason given is usually that they want to ‘get fit’ but I often wonder if somewhere deep down it’s the great escape from the full on connected intensity of everyday modern life that keeps them at it.

Some wise old Zen bloke once said ‘When you eat, eat. When you walk, walk’. That was back in the days well before iPhones and laptops but it still makes sense today, maybe even moreso !

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Super Sam steps up a gear !

Sam Bennett was born with a talent. His family and clubs, teams and coaches helped him develop that talent and this week it all came together.

Every cycling fan in Ireland felt the hairs on the back of their necks tingle as their heart rates increased to match the readings on Sams’ Garmin as he climbed and sprinted to a fantastic second place on last Mondays stage.

On Thursday in front of televisions throughout the land grown men subconsciously pedalled with their hands and stomped their feet on the floor in an effort of help propel Sam to the line first. He didn’t really need any help as he made it look easy dispatching some of the Worlds top riders as he cruised to victory ahead of such a select group. The feeling of elation that everyone felt was very close but not quiet up to that felt by his team manager Kurt Bogaerts.

Then came today and a stage finish that contained all the drama of the greatest of Tour de France sprint finishes.

Mark Cavendish is one of the greatest pure sprinters of all time. With 2k to go his Omega Pharma team were setting him up for the final mad dash to the line. Every other sprinter from all the top teams knew that his wheel was the one to follow and the fight to get on his wheel began. Pro Tour team Cannondale set their train to full steam ahead in an effort deposit their sprinter Elia Viviani on Cavendishs’ wheel. But another train was also on the track. Third division An Post ChainReaction cycles were not going to be intimidated by the Pro Tour big money big guns. They had Sam. They had Sean Kellys name on their backs and the words of Kurt Bogaerts ringing in their ears. They would not be intimidated, and neither would Sam.

Sam and Viviani both went for Cav’s wheel at the same time. I jumped from the couch as I saw Sam stick out the elbow as Viviani tried to bully him off the wheel. Three times one of the most experienced vicious sprinters in the World tried to bully, shove and bounce the young 22 year old from Carrick on Suir off the wheel and everytime he met with a raging dogged determination that made the vastly more experienced Italian back off. He was also probably a little bit frightened.

Rounding the final corner as ‘Ale’ Jet’ launched Cav for the line it was Super Sam who was glued to the Manxmans wheel and who didn’t loose an inch from there to the line. He wasn’t able to come around Cav but finishing second was still an absolutely incredible result and coupled with the previous stage win made sure that the name Sam Bennett is now well known to all Pro Tour managers in the World.

But the drama did not end there. In an incredible similarity to the stage of the 1975 Milk Race where the great Sean Kelly announced his arrival on to the World stage with a win against some of the best in the World at the time, and where the Swede Bernt Johannsen attacked Kelly after the stage. Superstar Primadonnas do not like to be beaten by third division riders and Johannsen took issue with Kelly. Kelly did not back down and look how he turned out !

Today after the stage Viviani challenged Sam, who also was taking none of it and did not back down.

Sam has arrived and with his fighting determination and spirit the cycling World may have witnessed the arrival of a new superstar !

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Results !

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I was asked recently how someone should go about getting a result in a normal Sunday race. I put my thinking cap on and this is what I came up with. This will be more applicable to those racing A4 or A3 races but certain points are consistent amongst all levels.

Long term Preparation :

Cycling is the ultimate ‘pay it forward’ sport. Experienced riders are always willing to give help and advice, sometimes when it is asked for and other times without it even being requested. Soak it all up and ask plenty of questions. Almost every club or training group in the country has a few riders who were good in their day, and many who still are. They all have something to offer and whilst some will be more subtle than others in how they impart their knowledge take it all on board in the spirit that it is meant and process it later to see what might be of benefit to you. The long steady group spins during the winter are great for building up a base but are also a fantastic place to ask questions and learn.

Plan for success :

Write down a list of your goals for the season. It might sound a bit airy fairy if you have not done this before but all top riders begin planning for the season ahead by identifying what their goals are and working towards them. This is applicable in everyday life too.

Success leaves clues. This is a shortcut :

Those who have won races before have done so in a particular way. Find out how they did it and you will save a huge amount of time on the learning curve. You could just go up and ask them what training they did and how they approach the races or you could look at their Strava or Garmin connect account. If you are already racing against a rider who has won races or who is consistently getting results watch how they place themselves within the bunch, where and when they attack. How often do they eat and drink and how do  they conduct themselves within the bunch.

Short term preparation :

Get your bike in ‘as new’ condition .

50 % of punctures are caused by underinflated tyres that get pinch flats, tyres that have pieces of glass or flint imbedded from a previous days training ride or just plain old worn tyres.

A spotlessly clean bike with a smooth running chain and nice crisp gear changes runs better and is good for morale too.

All your clothing, shoes and helmet should be fresh and clean too.

Pin your numbers on your jersey and pack your bag the night before. All you should have to do on the morning of a race is eat your breakfast and travel to the race. This cuts down on the stress level when you might be feeling a little edgy anyway.

Training :

Train to race not to ride a 100k time trial at 30 kph.

In a race you will be sprinting out of corners, sprinting when attacking, sprinting across to breakaway groups and sprinting at the finish. You must do sprint training !

Find a quiet straight stretch of road with a flat section of at least 2oo meters. Warm up for 20 minutes then sprint from a standing start at least 4 or 6 times. If you are fit enough and doing it right you will almost puke at the end and the ride home will only be possible in the lowest gear on your bike.

If at all possible you should also incorporate the finish straight of your Sunday race into a training spin and work out where you can launch your sprint from and be able to maintain your effort all the way to the line.

In a race you will be riding at 8/10 and 9/10 effort for anything from 3 to 20 minute periods of time. Trying to close a 30 second gap to a breakaway group, attacking the bunch or the breakaway group alone in a solo bid for glory or in a small group requires the ability to endure sustained periods of pain and suffering. This has to be trained for. You must do interval training.

It can be very hard mentally to hold a long timed effort alone on flat road training spins. Find a 20 minute climb that you can climb out of the saddle and another not quiet as steep that you can ride in the saddle in a big gear for power training.

Another good one is to find a 1 kilometre straight and ride it flat out as if attacking in the final kilometre of a race. This too should be repeated 4 or 6 times and you should be in a world of pain afterwards.

A top domestic rider once told me that his training sessions were harder than his Sunday races which he won a large amount of.

Train for pain.

When training picture yourself in your mind’s eye experiencing race situations. Sprint for the win with an imaginary bunch hot on your heels rather than just galloping for that lonely yellow signpost. Attack all out and give 100% effort to hold off the chasing bunch as you enter the final 3k of a race. This helps to push yourself that little bit more and also trains your brain too.

It’s all in the mind !

Bike racing is 70% mental and 30% physical. In general the strongest most physically talented rider will not win more than 20 to 30% of the races that they are capable of winning.

If 100 riders line up at noon on any given Sunday, 10 will genuinely believe that they can win the race. They will have the training and preparation done and will be confident in their abilities. Another 20 will believe that they are capable of finishing in the top 6. The rest is made up of those aiming to just finish the race and others who have fingers crossed for some miracle to occur which lands them across the line in the placings.

If you are one of the 30 who are actually racing what can you do to improve your numbers further ?

If it is a very cold or wet day and you have not let the weather have any effect on your training programme you are now in a group of 20 who are there to race. Those who don’t train in the rain will  never race to their full potential in the rain, and often it will be the naturally talented riders who avoid training in the rain as they will still be fit enough to actually race. However they will feel uncomfortable and less motivated.

Now you are down to a race against just nineteen or twenty other competitors what can you do to improve these odds even further ?

Start the race at the very front right behind the lead car if possible. Stay in the top 15 to 20 of the bunch at all times. You will see all that is going on and also avoid many of the crashes that can occur in the middle of the bunch.

Eat and drink enough. Don’t arrive at the finish in a great position only to have the first stages of ‘the bonk’ deprive you of a good result.

Don’t waste your efforts. You have only a certain amount of matches in your matchbox. Every time you light one that’s one less for later in the race. The race is won in the last hour not the first. Do your fair share but no more than is necessary.

Ask yourself ‘Who here can beat me?’ and follow their moves. Do not let them get up the road in a breakaway group without you, but take any opportunity that comes along to leave them behind.

Know that if you are suffering so too is everybody else and don’t give up. An extra 20 or 30 seconds of hanging on when others throw the head can be the difference between winning and loosing a race.

Be positive and do not get involved with either negative tactics or criticism of other riders within the race. This will only distract your focus and leave a bad taste when the race is over.

You do not need to be talented to get results in cycling !

I was born with a severe club foot and my parents were told that I would probably never be able to cycle a bike. They ignored the diagnoses and I was operated on when I was 2. My left foot and leg never developed fully and I now basically cycle on one and a half legs. I am also asthmatic. On paper I should not be able to compete but cycling is unlike other sports. Those without natural talent or ability just have to train more and work a little harder but can still set goals in cycling and achieve results. I was able to win a few races underage and as a junior. My friends were much more talented and won a lot more races but by working hard and being inspired by Sean Kelly to suffer like a dog I was able to be competitive. I raced for two months as a first year senior and won a stage of the Blarney 3 day, my last race for a long, long time. 14 years later I decided that I wanted to ride the Ras and set a 15 month goal to be in good enough condition to compete for the senior B category in the 2005 Ras. I won that category and once again put away my racing license.

This year, 8 years later, in my second year as an eligible Veteran having put in a decent winter which was mainly based around cycling to and from work, I decided to ride a few races and see what happened. Having had only a club competition license for a few years I had an A4 license for the past 2 years with a vague notion of riding a few races. I could have availed of an amnesty this year to upgrade to A3 but felt that if I were good enough I would score enough points to upgrade and if not A4 was where I belonged. Looking at A4′s in training groups over the past few years who were very strong I wondered if I would be fit enough to race against them. I wasn’t too serious about racing a full season but still set a few goals and trained purposefully towards them, rode 3 races as an A4 and won 2 of them. There were at least 10 riders who were stronger and fitter than me in each race, but I had a goal and tried to use my head and was willing to suffer. I rode one race as an A3 before concentrating on my next goal for the season. 2 Weeks ago along with 9 others of all abilities I cycled from Malin head to Mizen head in 2 days, a total distance of 595km. If I can win a race or cycle 595k in 2 days pretty much anybody can !

Cycling is a sport for everybody and any result is possible on a bike !

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Malin to Mizen in 2 days

Many cyclists have a ‘bucket list’, a back of the mind list of challenges that they would like to undertake and complete before they ‘kick the bucket’. To cycle from one extremity of Ireland to the other extremity is well up there on plenty of those lists. Whilst the record for the cycle from Malin to Mizen is just 19 hours and 3 minutes, most cyclists tend to undertake the challenge in 4 or 5 days. Last weekend a group of 10 of us set out from Malin head shortly after five am with the aim of reaching Mizen head the following evening.

With a prevailing south-westerly wind the normal route tends to be from South to North which lends itself to a high probability of a tailwind for the journey. Our trip went from North to South, against the normal trend but with the benefit of a much shorter drive home when the cycling part of the journey was complete.

Our group of ten was a great mix of a cross-section of cyclists. Kevin, Noel, Mick and Sheamus from the famous Ronde van Cork club were joined by Bernard, Paddy, Ken and Liam from the newly formed and ever expanding South Tipp Cycling club. Legend of Irish cycling Robert Power took time out from a busy photography business in Dungarvan to join the challenge and I rounded out the ‘Tenacious ten’.

(Liam, Noel, Mick, Sheamus, Ken, Kevin, Paddy, me, Bernard and Robert)

With ages from late twenties to early sixties and experience levels ranging from one member of the team who only took up cycling last July to another who is a former Olympian and multiple National champion it was amazing over the two days to see how remarkably similar all cyclists are when push comes to shove.

(A photo of our photographer Catriona in Malin Head at 5 am )

We set off from Malin at a very windy and icy cold 5.20 am. Within the first 100 meters we had one foot clipped out to avoid falling on the short icy descent from the tiny car park. The sun was rising in the blood red sky as the wind whipped up waves along the bay as we headed back towards the village of Malin itself. On through Carndonagh as the cold wind buffeted our momentum we had our first puncture. Noel quickly changed the tube and with a shot of Co2 he was back up and running by the time the rest of us answered a call of nature. Amazingly this was to be our only puncture for the entire journey.

Through Muff with the obligatory photo stop at the sign welcoming visitors to the village and we were on to Lifford for the first refuelling stop of the day after 80k. On a journey like this it is so important to stay well hydrated and well fed.

After passing through Castlederg with the signpost for Pettigo I was reminded that Lough Derg was nearby. A place of pilgrimage where people go without food and sleep to clear their heads. Chances were that our heads would be pretty clear by the time we reached our destination too.

We hit the 200k mark near Longford and realised that with such a strong headwind it was going to be a real slog for the next 110k to Birr, but to a man we all ploughed on together. Through the midlands past Athlone the road dragged on and on. Bodies were tired and heads were weary. The straight bog roads that seemed to go on for ever on the road to Birr were soul destroying. Eventually we came to a signpost for a bend in the road and soon after came a junction onto the main road into the town. The Garmins were now over the 300k mark and with over 12 hours of saddle time, not including stops bodies were tired and weary. The County Arms hotel was an oasis in the desert and we were all relieved to finally arrive. How we were going to be able to do this all over again in less than twelve hours was beyond comprehension at that point.

As we ‘walked’ from the lift towards our room Robert remarked that the day had been his hardest ever on a bike. This, coming from a guy who has raced at the very highest level against many of the best in the World put into perspective the achievement of the entire group.

The hotel looked after us very well and Bernard’s niece Aoife and her colleague Carmel drove the long journey up to give us all a very welcome massage. The recovery process was under way.

The 5.30 wake up time the next morning was almost like a lie in. Breakfast was consumed but underneath the surface the question remained, how could we possibly manage another 300 odd kilometers into a block headwind ?

It was almost 7.30 when we rolled out of Birr. On the road to Nenagh we met two groups coming against us. The first led by Gerry Murray were doing a 32 County Challenge whilst a second group were doing Mizen to Malin in the opposite direction to us and were joined by a large contingent from North tipp Wheelers to get them on their way towards Athlone. We were envious of the tailwind both groups seemed to be enjoying as we slogged our way along.

We went over some of the climbs used in the Visit Nenagh classic as we rode on to Newport where we had a welcome food stop. Then on towards more familiar roads as we passed through Kilmallock and on to Charleville for the next stop. The sun came out for 20 minutes and spirits were lifted as we set off again towards Kanturk where the Corkman 3 day was in full swing. The 10k approaching the town was unbelievably rough. Robert remarked that if Dan Curtain comes up with a rider that goes Pro Tour he will be straight into the bookies to back him for Paris Roubaix.

Turning Left in Rathmore heading towards Glenflesk gave a stark realisation of just how spectacular the Kerry scenery truly is. After trudging through the midlands on flat straight roads with very little to observe, the rugged beauty of the Kerry countryside was like a tonic. The 500k mark saw us on the Healy Rae motorway to Kilgarvan where we headed left up and over the Boren Valley. The biggest climb of our journey was a steady slog but the reward of a nice descent made it worthwhile.

Bantry and Durrus saw an air of anticipation as the finish loomed ahead in what was now turning to darkness. The final few hilly kilometers provided our only heavy rainfall which was compounded by the darkness.

Finally at 9.45 pm we reached our destination with a feeling of relief. The long steady 200k training spins were now worth the effort and time. We had cycled the full length of the country in 2 days against the wind. A feat that not many have done before and we all started and finished together.

We could not and would not have been able to get there without the encouragement and help of our support crew. Mick’s wife Ger, Noel’s wife Nora and son Shane, Paddy’s fiancé Maura and South Tipp club secretary Catriona all put in a huge effort to help us through. Kevin and Paddy did a fantastic job on the logistics.

Cycling and suffering build character and respect. To set a goal that seems slightly out of reach and to get there in the company of a great bunch of people lends itself to a sense of satisfaction that will be long remembered.

Now, what next ?

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Ryaner

The year I started cycling Joe Lonergan brought myself and his son Bernard down to Carrick on Suir for a cycling coaching weekend run by Tony Ryan and Carrick Wheelers. Young cyclists had come from all over the country to learn and many hoped to follow in the pedal tracks of his most successful protegé, the great Sean Kelly.

At the time Tony was into his forties and still racing at the highest level in Ireland. He was also the top coach in the country and I was enthralled by every word he spoke.

There was no waffle or preamble. He just got straight to the point and was very informative about what had to be done to succeed on the bike and inspirational when telling anecdotes about Kelly.

kelly and ryan

( Tony Ryan and Sean Kelly ride side by side )

A few weeks later I went for my first training spin with what was known as ‘Ryaners gang’ and was just as awestruck to be cycling alongside Tony Ryan as I was to be cycling with the great Sean Kelly who was also there that day.

Over the years I was privileged to get to know Tony and must have cycled alongside him hundreds of times. On each and every occasion I learned something. Whether it was your position on the bike, how to ride over the top of a climb, where to get shelter from the wind or how to bend your elbows, Ryaner was always passing on his knowledge to younger, less experienced riders.

For a number of years I drifted away from the bike. Then one Sunday I headed back out with the group. Tony rolled up beside me, gave me a warm hello and said ‘good to see you back’. That, coming from Tony made me feel at home and made me want to be back out again the following Sunday.

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( Tony at the centre of things keeping us all in order )

Tony and Sean Lally were the first two ‘super vets’. Men who used their strength, experience and ability to beat others half their age at the peak of their powers. One of Tony’s most famous victories was in the Harding Grand Prix in Cork. As one of the most prestigious races on the domestic calendar at the time a quality field was always in attendance but when that years full Irish Olympic contingent with the likes of Stephen Spratt, Philip Cassidy and John McQuaid lined up at the start line the race was almost decided before it had begun. But not in Tony’s mind. When the break established itself, Tony was alert enough to spot the danger and jumped across. As the strongest riders in the country piled on the pressure up the climb lap after lap he was still there and on the final lap when they were all looking at each other Tony seized the opportunity and attacked. With perfect timing he established a gap and buried himself to make it to the line and take a huge victory.

I remember standing at the side of the road that day on the Carrigrohane straight and it felt like the Champs Elysees such was the level of excitement of all those watching when they saw the legend from Carrick showing the young guns how it was done.

Tony was always a great man for time . 9 o’clock was 9 o’clock never two minutes past. It was often said that he would leave his back gate in O’Mahoney avenue at eighteen seconds to nine and roll past the ESB offices where the gang would be gathered at exactly nine o’clock and just keep on rolling. If you were two minutes late you had a hard chase up the Clonmel road ahead of you. This was always a great life lesson for all cyclists, both young and old.

In recent years since Tony stopped coming out with the Sunday morning group there are often times when confusion erupts as the group approaches a junction in the road. Some will shout ‘right’ others might shout ‘left’ but there will always be someone else who shouts ‘Bring back Ryaner’ .Tony always decided the spin on the evening before and even when Kelly himself was around it was still Tony who decided the spin. Everyone would know exactly where the spin was going. There would also be no letting wheels go, half wheeling or riding three and four abreast on the road. He ran the group with subtle military precision.

I remember him racing on a gleaming 753 Raleigh and he always looked like a ‘pro’ with tanned legs and immaculate gear. He was always a great man for equipment and was ahead of his time when it came to bike fitting. Hundreds of young cyclists came from all over to be fitted by Tony on their new bikes. If he could get you set up right he would, but he would also tell you straight if you were after going off and wasting a load of money on a shiny new bike that was the wrong size .

In the winter time he ran a gym on Tuesday nights in the Foresters hall. I used to travel down with Anthony in the green beetle and arrive for seven to do the thirty minute warm up run around the park in Carrick. Then it would be in to the hall where everyone was supposed to put their pound in the biscuit tin inside the door. There would always be a discrepancy between the number of coins and the number of bodies and Ryaner would always let everyone know that he knew. There were occasions when a pound or two were omitted just for the reaction. The hall would be full of local cyclists and even Sean Kelly would be there.

When he stopped going out with the Sunday group he continued to ride his bike three or four times per week. If Peggy was in Clonmel shopping Tony would call in to Ray and myself in the shop then over to Anthony and Dick in the bakery. It was always a pleasure to see him walking in the door. He had a 22 mile loop around  Faugheen and he was always able to tell you exactly what time he was doing the loop in, usually around 1 hour 14 minutes or so. He was never one for looking in over ditches when out on the bike.

Tony Ryan was a straight talking Carrick man who would look you in the eye and shake your hand when he met you off the bike. On the bike he would generously share his vast experience and knowledge with any cyclist who showed an interest in learning. Tony was more than a great coach or a top class cyclist. To many of us he was a trusted friend that you always look forward to meeting and looked up to. He will be sorely missed for a long time to come but for as long as there are cyclists in Carrick ‘Ryaner’ will never be forgotten.

Rest in Peace Tony,

Barry

The Ups and Downs of bike racing !

Just after 10 this morning Fitzy stormed up the driveway in the Subaru. Today was a going to be a long one and families were left behind as we headed off on a lads day out. Whilst other Lads days out might encompass mini busses, matches, pubs, clubs and maybe a little lycra, our Lads day out would encompass a van, 2 bikes, 4 hot legs and a lot of lycra.

The straight forward trip to Carlow takes almost eighty minutes but with Fitzy in the passenger seat it often feels more like Jules Vernes ‘Around the World in eighty minutes’ . First stop was a trip to France and ACBB, then on to DCM in Belgium, a quick trip home for the Ras before heading off again to Langkawi and then on to Australia.

Fitzy has raced with the best, fought with some and thought something to the rest. Petacchi, Taffi, O’Grady and McKewan have all felt the pressure of Fitzys breath down their necks. An eighty minute drive to a race with him in the passenger seat flies by as I am entertained and educated in equal measures, along with having a pain in my side from laughing. The day was starting well.

Today was the day of ‘The Des’ if your from Carlow or ‘The Hanlon’ for those beyond the county boundary. One of the toughest one day races on the Irish racing calendar. Well placed sign posts brought us to the sign on. Hopping out of the van it was cold but dry. A good day for a hard race. We got changed and lashed on a good bit of Hot embrocation to the legs.

The A1′s and 2′s headed off first and then the A 3′s were next. This was my first day as an A3 but I still lined up as close to the front as possible. My morale was good and I was ready to race. During the week I was hearing all about how strong the current crop of juniors are so had a slight plan to try to get up the road ahead of them before we hit the climbs after Castlecomer.

From the gun George Doyle from Tralee BC attacked and I rolled up after him. We did a few turns and got a gap. A guy in a red Gillet came across and was soon followed by Ian Redmond from Fermoy. We all worked well together and the gap began to grow. This could be a good move as the reputation of the difficulty of the race could discourage many riders from mounting any concerted chase at this early stage which could allow us to open a decent gap before the climbs.

After 10k we had 35 seconds and hit a few drags where we lost the guy with the red gillet. Then just after Pedigree corner Ian was distanced which just left 2 of us ahead. With a group of about 8 seemingly coming across and the bunch not far behind we kept the pressure on. Then two riders did make it across and as George said ‘the cavalry are here’. Four was much better than two and the gap began to stretch out again as Brian McArdle from Orwell and a strong guy with a Rocky Mountain jersey both rode 100%.

After turning into the hill in Castlecomer we were joined by Shem Cullen from Iverk and Shane Scully a mountain goat from Visit Nenagh. The gap still hovered around thirty to forty seconds until we hit a good twisty section and the bunch stalled. Suddenly the gap was up to over 2 minutes and with all 6 of us rolling through nicely there was now a good chance we could stay away to the finish.

Then on the descent before the final climb of the lap disaster struck for me. I clipped a stone and immediately felt my rear tyre go flat. I may have been overheard to emit a phrase similar to ‘well duck’ quiet forcibly.

No time for theatrics. With no service car behind I pulled over as I dropped the chain into the smallest sprocket on the rear, stopped and pulled off the wheel. I fished out the tube and tyre levers from my pocket which were held together with some insulating tape. My fingers were too cold to open the tape so I ripped it off with my teeth. Then years as a bike mechanic came in handy as I popped the tyre off without having to use the levers. I pulled out the old tube, gave the new one a shot of air and fitted it into the tyre, and popped the tyre back on. I was just beginning to pump it up when the bunch came screaming past. I was tempted to just lash in the wheel with just about 20psi in but knew that would only spell disaster further on.

By the time I had the tyre hard enough the bunch were well out of sight and gone for the day. I pedalled on and Joe Hahessy pulled up alongside in the Iverk team car which had a full house. I leaned lightly on the passenger door whilst garnering some important information as the car drifted up the hill. I soon caught up to Dave Butler from Comeragh and we rode in to the finish together. I didn’t want to chance the extra lap on my own with no spare tube and the morale ship had taken on a lot of water too.

A quick change was followed by the sight of a few kind ladies in the clubhouse serving nice strong hot coffee, sandwiches and whisky cake, all of which were gladly sampled.

The long wait for Fitzy who was doing the three laps of the A1,A2 race passed quickly with time spent catching up with the lads after the race and meeting the lady who captured many of my exploits this year on camera Karen M Edwards.

Fitzy arrived in battered and bruised after a hard day and a fall, or bounce as it may be referred to seeing that he is always back up on the bike so quickly after a crash.

Then it was time for home along with our new passenger ‘The Greene Machine’ who had taken a CIE bus to the race like the men of old would have done.

Another entertaining journey followed during which I’m sure that wherever in the World Jean Francois Bernard might now reside his ears were surely burning.

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

Carrick and What I learned as an A4

St. Patrick’s day in Ireland is all about Parades, Mass, Shamrocks and hang over creation, but in Carrick on Suir and within the cycling community for the past 59 years St. Patrick’s day is all about ‘The Paddy’s day race’. Over the years many of the country’s top riders have been first across the line and many more have finished the race with a much clearer picture of where their form is at.

As usual Iverk Carrick Wheelers put on a fabulous days racing for all the competitors with super slick organisation thanks to the ever-present team of volunteers headed up by Paul Lonergan. The Tea, Coffee, sandwiches, home-made cake and malteasers were in abundance after the race thanks to Tara O’Donnell and her team and there seemed to be a full buffet to choose from no matter how many people kept coming back for more.

Last year it was Irish professional Stephen Halpin who took the spoils whilst this year it was former An Post sprinter and all round hard man Paudie O’Brien now the team leader of Planet Tri, who once again had the opportunity to display his famous one hand victory salute. Simon Ryan of Visit Nenagh made Paudi fight hard for the win whilst Michael Lucey gave the promoting Iverk Carrick Wheelers something to cheer for by rounding out the podium.

The A3 race was won by the very impressive Dylan Foley who soloed to another fantastic victory. His Nicholas Roche performance team manager Philip Finnegan must be really delighted with how well this new development team is able to consistently deliver results. The one and only Dennis O’Shea of the big little bike shop in Killarney was next home followed by Eoin ‘The greene machine’ Greene who once again came up with the goods by rounding out the podium for the promoting club.

The A4 race turned out to be my third and final race as an A4. Starting the race I only needed 2 more points for the upgrade so a target was set. The pace was fast and furious from the gun with many riders trying their luck but the headwind combined with the eagerness of the chasing peloton meant that no breakaway was allowed to stick. Strong riding by the likes of Donncha Galvin, Steven Vauls, Shane Power, Paul Smith and Graham Loughman amongst others never managed to split the field by very much and it looked to be coming down to a bunch sprint as we passed the 5k to go sign. That was when a few Clonmel CC jerseys appeared near the front which was great to see with the likes of Brian Dennehy and young Jamie Blanchfield riding their first race and being well up in the action.

Rounding the final corner facing the hill up to the finish as the bunch wound up for the sprint I waited until a point that I had picked out on the previous Tuesdays training spin to launch my sprint and kicked as hard as I could. That morning 5 year old Kate had asked me to try to finish the race as fast as I could so that we wouldn’t miss the parade. I promised her and her big sister Laura that I would try my best. With both of them standing right at the finish line I went as fast as I could and managed to make it to the line first and give them a two-handed wave.

Mick Crowley from Blarney riding for Planet Tri took a strong second and Killarneys’ Patrick Clifford took a very stylish third which he seemed to enjoy, just ahead of Waterford racing clubs classy Paul Smith in fourth. Kevin Sheehan from Bandon CC took fifth ahead of Shane O’Neill of the professional set up that is Team Aqua Blue. Iverk Carrick wheelers had two riders up in the placings with young Conor Hennebry aka ‘Phillipe Gilbert’ edging out Paul Bourke whose father Billy I raced with many moons ago.

I was delighted and the kids were delighted. Them on two counts, I won the race and they would get to see the parade.

As I move on from A4 looking back at what I  learned from what some riders do and what others don’t could be summed up as follows ;

1 – Wash your bike (helmet and shoes if necessary) the day before the race.

2- Shave your legs. Not because it will be easier to clean cuts if you fall, or to make it easier to get a rub from your masseur after the race. Do it as a sign of how serious you are about racing not touring.

3- Practice sprinting. To get out of a corner quickly you have to sprint. To make an attack and escape the bunch you have to sprint. To get in the results at the finish you have to sprint. Being able to do a 140k training spin will never win you an A4 race but being able to sprint might .

4- Don’t shout. Some riders in any A4 bunch will not have been in a bunch at speed before. Shouting at them if they switch or wobble will only make them more nervous and wobble even more. Everyone who pins on a number deserves respect !

5- Keep going right to the line. Don’t look around during the last 200 meters of a race. Focus only on that thin white line up ahead and get there as fast as you can. Every week places and points are lost by riders looking around too much.

6- Know the last 3k. If possible do a few sprints on the finish straight before race day and find out what point you can launch your sprint from where you can keep it going right to the line. This can also be done during your warm up on the morning of the race.

7- Go up hard and over easy. If you are in a breakaway or just going up and over at the front do your turn and as soon as you pull over start lowering your speed. The guy coming up behind wants to help, don’t try to kill him. Also as you start to head back up the line call  ’last man’ to the guy ahead as you pass him on the way back up so that he can jump straight onto your wheel and keep the momentum going .

8- Enjoy the race. Try your best, leave nothing on the road and be satisfied heading home knowing that no matter what position you finish in you gave it 100% !

A fantastic addition to modern racing is the selection of photos that are available each week. Some of which can be found at ;

blackumbrellaphotography on Stickybottle,  facebook and flickr

Karen M Edwards on facebook, twitter and irishcyclingphotos.com

John Troy on facebook 

Roll on Carlow and the A3′s

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com

My Week in Cycling

Monday : Cycled the 2.5k to the shop in the morning. Spent the day catching up on repairs from the weekend. Cycled home in the evening by the riverbank and through the Town park 3.5k

Tuesday : Cycled to work. Built a few bikes which had customers waiting on them via the cycle to work scheme. Cycled home for lunch and then popped on speedplay flat adaptors onto my new Orbea Orca and cycled it back down to the shop with my gear on my back so that I could go training after work. Closed up the shop at 5.30, got changed as fast as superman and headed out to do some sprint training. 20 min warm up, then a 2 min effort on a Strava section. 10 more minutes and it was down to business. 6 x 200m standing start sprints with 5 on the flat and 1 on a hill similar to what I am expecting for the race in Limerick on Sunday. By sprint number 4 I could taste the bile in my throat and was close to throwing up but a thought struck me – Sometimes you have to do the training that you hate in order to be able to ride the races that you will love – and so I finished out the last 2. Really struggled to get up the hill home with two jelly legs, but felt satisfied with my evening. Was also really impressed with the stiffness of the new bike when sprinting. At first I was concerned that it was a bit spongy as it really soaked up much of the harshness on a rough road, but as soon as I put full pressure in a 53 x 15 from a standing start I was amazed how well it transferred the energy to propel me forward. I went from liking the Orca to really loving it.
2013 Orbea Orca with 9070 Di2

Wednesday : Cycled to work. Busy day in the shop with repairs but still managed to get out the door by 5.30. This time still in my work clothes on the hybrid complete with carrier and mudguards. Headed up the mountain road and turned right up by the lay-by. Another Strava segment and I pushed it on to see how I could do in my work clothes. Ended up 5th fastest by the top just as the rain got heavier and darkness bagan to fall. Dropped down Powers the Pot and turned right for Rathgormack as the rain continued to fall. My work cargo pants were getting heavier and heavier as they soaked up the water. Pitch dark turning left at Daruas cross headed for Carrick on a Hybrid in the lashing rain and I was happy. If it rains on Sunday it won’t be any worse than this. Through Carrick, out passed the Circus and headed for home with the wind on my back. Even the rain began to ease. Passed Ray on the way into Clonmel as he was heading home after his cross-fit class. Put my cargo pants on the scales when I got home to find that they now weighed 1.4kg. Slept well that night.

Thursday. Busy all day in the shop and had to stay on late to get repairs and new bikes ready for collection at the weekend. Had planned to do some interval training but then as time passed I changed the plan to the turbo. By the time I got home and did a few jobs along with a few chapters of James and the Giant peach and Bears big day out I was too lazy to head out onto the turbo. Hoped that this wouldn’t cost me on Sunday but did do 30 mins of stretching and foam roller.

Friday : Spent the morning in Dungarvan at committee meeting for the Sean Kelly Tour. The organisation of the event goes on all year round not just the two days of the event itself but everyone on the committee is great to work with and that makes it very enjoyable. Be sure to pencil it in on your calendar August 24th for the family 10k cycle and August 25th for the 50,100 and 160k events. Managed to get a 40 minute window in the afternoon to get out to test wheels on my new bike. As the Dura Ace 9070 Di2 groupset is so new I wanted to find out which of my current wheels would work with it. I was delighted to find that my Fulcrum Racing 1 two-way fit with an 11 speed campag cassette worked perfectly. The Dura ace 11 speed cassettes are just shy of €300 so the fact that the groupset works with campag 11 speed opens a huge range of options for both training and racing wheel set ups at budgets to suit all needs. Drove to Limerick on Friday night to stay with Ciara’s family for the weekend.

Saturday : Wanted to do a 2 hour spin so where better to do it than to ride the 10k out to tomorrows race course in Caherconlish and do a lap to check it out. Took note of corners, wind direction and where it could change enough to affect the race. Did 2 sprints at full gas up the to the finish and found exactly where the sign on was going to be located. I even checked where would be a good place to park the car. Saw the unmistakable Ritchie Clifford of Limerick CC out marking pot holes and sweeping the corners along with Shane O’Hara’s dad. Being in Limerick when Ireland were playing France in the Rugby necessitated a trip to a pub to watch the match. 2 pints of Guinness were followed by a sparkling water.

Sunday : Won the race !

Some photos of which can be found on www.irishcyclingphotos.com taken by the very artistic Karen M Edwards

Sure I can’t just leave it at that :-)

Arrived an hour before the planned start time with enough time to sign on and get ready without having to hang around too long. It was very cold and raining but all I was thinking was that it wasn’t half as bad as Wednesday night plus there was daylight !

Lined up at the front and stayed there for the first 6k which was neutralised. Met Billy Reidy from Athea who raced against my buddies Anthony and Dick O’Gorman in the past. Another man on the comeback trail.

When the flag dropped I launched a bit of an attack to get things going. Today was not a sportive. I looked around to find Neil Power from Dungarvan on my wheel who told me that his brother Ronan from our local Skoda dealership had told him to watch me in the race today. Those Car dealers know everything.

We had a crosswind from the left heading out towards Bruff, then a block headwind over to Herbertstown before turning back in the direction of Caherconlish where it was a crosswind from the right and I had noted this part of the course the day before as a good place to attack. After 4 or 5 k lined out in the gutter with the wind coming from the right legs would be getting a bit dull. Attacks were coming and going and I tried a few but about 5k out from Caherconlish I saw a guy from Visit  Nenagh opening a gap and jumped across. He was strong and we worked well together but only had about 100m as we approached the village at the end of the first lap. At the left turn there was a slight backlog of lead cars and in the confusion I looked back passing the Church to find my visit Nenagh companion being replaced by a Limerick CC rider, Owen O’Donoghue who was looking strong. We drove on up passed the finish line and with the tailwind on the twisty road opened up a gap of about 15 seconds. Owen was strong and seemed experienced and whilst we worked well together the bunch was never  far behind. After Ballyneety another Visit Nenagh rider Kevin Moyles jumped across to us.

Three was much better than two as we turned into the headwind section with the bunch still very much chomping at our heels. We were managing to hold off the bunch as we came out onto the main road at Herbertstown again and Kevin did a few strong turns. On one drag with about 5k to go if he had put us in the gutter and gone 2k faster I knew that I could not have held on, and wasn’t sure about Owen either. Luckily Kevin did not realise this and we were still together as I led into the final corner with the bunch now just a matter of meters behind us. Coming out of the corner Owen attacked and I jumped straight onto his wheel. I was expecting this move as a local rider will always be very keen to win their home race. Passing the school I glanced left and to my horror saw John Brosnan from Killarney. We were caught almost in sight of the line. My plan had been to launch my sprint 200 meters out which was doable considering the tailwind but that had to change now. 250 meters out I decided that it was time to go and to try to hold off as much of the bunch as possible. I took off in a 53 x 15. 150 meters out I saw Ciara and the girls along with more family and I dropped it down from the 15 to the 14. If I was going to lose this race in front of my kids it wouldn’t be for the want of trying. 50 meters to go and I couldn’t stay out of the saddle any longer. I had to sit and try to keep the gear going. I glanced around expecting to see a few riders coming passed but was delighted to see a gap of about 10 bike lengths. I was ecstatic. I was going to win a race in front of my kids. This moment was what all the dark wet nights spent flogging myself up and down the back roads of Clonmel and Carrick was all about. I threw both arms high in the air and savoured every second of it. I had forgotten how good it feels to win a race but now it all came flooding back.

5 year old Kate ran up and gave me a big hug and said ‘I knew you were going to win Daddy’. I’m glad that I proved her right.

On down to the millennium hall for the nicest warmest bowl of hotel style vegetable soup that I have had in a long time. Plenty of soup and delicious sandwiches were on offer for not just the riders but all the families too. Local people giving up their Sunday afternoon to feed a bunch of weary cyclists and their families is something that should never be taken for granted and I thought that it was a really nice touch when Limerick CC presented the local ladies with a fine big bunch of flowers.

I was presented with the M.Fogarty Ras Luimni perpetual cup by Liam Hickey who had a few uncles who lived around Clonmel and raced against Tom ‘Chops’ Kiely and Don Clarke.

The A3 winner Cathal Moynihan was presented with the David Hourigan perpetual cup by Davey’s brother Ger. The last time I raced in Caherconlish was as a junior when the late great Davey and myself ended up in the race winning break. The biggest gear a junior could ride at the time was a 52 x 15 and that was the only gear that I saw Davey use that day. Two up sprints can be a bit of a lottery and that day I managed to get by him to take it by half a wheel on the line, the only time I ever beat him in a race. It was great to see his memory being honoured today and anyone who wins that cup in the future can be proud to have their name etched on a cup bearing David Hourigans name.

Sean Lacey won the A1/A2 race in fine style once again. He is up each morning at 5 am to drive to work where he gets two hours training done before work and 1 hour after. There are no short cuts to cycling success !

Limerick CC pulled out all the stops today to run a great race and their team of volunteers who stood out in freezing rain for the day were very much appreciated by all the riders.

Barry

www.worldwidecycles.com