A Zwift Tour

The weather recently has been pretty horrible and that, coupled with a shortage of time, has meant that not many miles have been covered on my bike. I have a turbo trainer that lives in my shed and have been doing some HIIT workouts on it but turbo sessions are pretty dull at the best of times.

I’d heard a bit about Zwift through a colleague at work who had bought a Tacx smart trainer and signed up for the online cycling world. I’d initially discarded it as I wasn’t prepared to shell out £200 for a new smart trainer but after a bit more reading I signed up for the 7 day free trial and watched a bit of the action online. It looked fun so I decided to attempt the budget route!

I bought a Wahoo Blue SC Speed & Cadence Sensor for £49.99 to track my exertions, a Lifeline ANT+ USB Dongle for £25 and a USB Extension Cable for £2.99 off Ebay.

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The kit needed to make a trainer smart!

Fortunately my WiFi signal is decent enough that it reaches to my shed, if yours doesn’t you may need a WiFi range extender.

I found the setup incredibly easy and straightforward. Obviously I had already downloaded Zwift and signed up so that didn’t need doing and the most difficult bit was getting my pedal off, but that was only because I couldn’t find my pedal spanner!

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Excuse the mess!

I picked the London8 route for my first foray into Zwift territory as I know those roads incredibly well and I was interested to see how well they had been replicated. The maps and scenery are incredibly detailed and, although some creative licence has been taken (Box Hill is in Central London according to the Strava map and I don’t remember the Olympic road race going through the Tube) it is a lot of fun and an hour on the trainer went a lot quicker. There are different challenges within each of the maps, much like any cycling event (KOM, Sprint etc) so you can challenge yourself in different disciplines.

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One of the great sprint challenges down The Mall, London

The only major downside to the budget setup is that you have to adjust your gears and resistance manually to reflect the change in terrain, smart trainers alter resistance automatically. It took me a while to get used to that but it was soon second nature.

There is a good communication system within Zwift and downloading the Zwift app for mobile (iOS or Android) adds to the functionality as you can perform a variety of tasks from it without leaving your saddle.

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The Zwift app interface

Some maps also have left or right turn choices to make and the app helps here as well, turn left and turn right buttons appear at the top of the screen (above) so you can quickly tap which way you want to go.

One of the guys who is also doing the London to Paris ride also jumped on at the same time (you can follow friends, find out when they’re online and what map they’re on). It was easy to communicate through the text function and I was soon on his wheel as he led me out up Box Hill.

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For smart trainer users, drafting yields a real benefit

I really enjoyed my first hour on Zwift, it certainly went by quicker than a normal turbo session. I’ll definitely be back on it soon to explore some of the other maps attempt some of the challenges like ‘Ride California’.

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Nice day down by the Thames

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Excellent map detailing

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Morning Liz!

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The start of Box Hill’s torturous climb

If you are considering Zwift and and don’t already own a turbo trainer then you’d probably be better off buying a smart trainer straight off, it will be a lot easier to connect and get going. However, for those with trainers, the budget route I took is still effective and enjoyable without the extra outlay.

Feel free to add me on Zwift, Iain Sisson. See you out there

Ride on!

IAIN

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A Guide To My Bike Cleaning Kit

I realise that I may be in the minority but I actually really enjoy cleaning my bike. As a kid I would spend more time in my parents’ garage taking my bike apart and cleaning it than out on the road riding it. I would delight in tinkering with the components, with the resulting finely tuned machine a result of trial an error rather than following specific You Tube videos. A trip to Pearson Cycles in Sutton would quite often occur to upgrade the handlebar grips, bottle cages, seat or pump – huge upgrades for a generally moneyless kid!

Years later I still like cleaning and tinkering with my bike but I’ve got a bit more knowledge and a bit more money to spend these days. It’s incredibly important too so I decided to write a blog post about it! From the day the first leaf drops in autumn, bikes start to pick up the grit, grime, mud and dirt that accumulates in cooler, wetter weather so a good cleaning regime is a must to keep your bike in prime working order over the winter. Here are a few products that have permanent residence in my bike shed.

Lifeline Essential Maintenance Stand

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This great little stand is only £5.99 from Wiggle and it is perfect for propping up your bike while you clean the rear elements of the bike, especially the chain and drive train.

Muc Off Bike Cleaner

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Nano technology apparently! Whatever it is this is great for shifting stubborn dirt and grime without loads of elbow grease, a must have. 1 litre retails for about £9

Muc Off Chain Cleaner Plus Attachment

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It’s really important to keep your chain free from dirt and grime and to prevent rusting of the links. This chain cleaner (plus the attachment) retails for £15. The cleaner shuts around the chain and dispenses cleaner onto the rotating brushes as the chain turns, the stand previously mentioned is perfect to complete this task! It can take a bit of getting used to but it works really well.

Muc Off Disc Brake Cleaner

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Obviously one only for those with disc brakes, this re-hydrates the brake disc pads as well as shifting dirt from them. Comes with a WD40 style ‘straw’ to allow you to get right into the disc brake. Retails for about £6 usually

Finish Line Citrus Degreaser

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No exaggeration, one of the greatest products known to man. This shifts absolutely everything and you can use it on all components. The best tenner you’ll spend, probably.

Muc Off Wet Lube & Muc Off Dry Lube

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Usually retailing for about £3.50 these are a key part of your maintenance routine. Some claim to offer multi condition lube products but most bike mechanics would recommend an individual product suited to the current conditions.

GT85 Lubricant

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Prevention is better than the cure? Heard that one before? After cleaning, a light coating of GT85 all over the bike and its components will create a film that seals out moisture, dirt and dust. You can pick up a can for a couple of quid so it’s a bit of a no brainer

Well, that’s it, my key bits of cleaning kit. Special mention go to the Muc Off Drivetrain Cleaner, the Bag o’ Rags, a set of cleaning brushes and a decent floor standing track pump all of which should also inhabit your bike cave

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Happy cleaning!

IAIN

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An Update On Sponsorship 

In the time honoured tradition of post payday emails requesting sponsorship for various charity events, I sent mine out today.

It’s always a little thrill when the Just Giving notification pops up on my phone and today was no different until I realised that I had broken the £1,000 sponsorship mark. I know Adam and I are undertaking something that is quite considerable, but the generosity that my friends, colleagues and suppliers have shown towards the cause is quite overwhelming so thank you to everyone who has donated or pledged support.

With just under 6 months to go until we push off for Paris I’m hopeful that I can get to the £2,500 mark, that would mean so much to a great charity

I know Adam has started his funds drive too so we could be sitting on a very healthy joint donation pot come July

IAIN

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Six Months To Go… 

Today marks 6 months till Le Grand Depart, 6 months till Adam and I saddle up and set off for Paris on our great adventure. 

I’ll be honest, I think it’s crept up on us both a little bit. With Christmas and New year in the books its time to really knuckle down, get a bit fitter and get miles into the lazy winter legs. Adam has a new bike, of which I am slightly jealous, and he’s busy reinventing his whole existence by the sounds of it. I, meanwhile, have been keeping my twice weekly gym ritual to get some strength work in but I did get out on my bike for the first time this year last weekend. It was horrible. A combination of freezing winds, residual snow, ice, fallen trees and closed roads turned my journey into a very stop start 14 miles. 

Stopping to take that photo got compacted snow in my cleats, I couldn’t clip back in and I got fed up. Hopefully the weather will be a little bit more favourable this weekend! 

I know six months is a long time but I’ve got a feeling July will be on us before we know it! Onwards and upwards! 

IAIN

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A Heartbreaking Reminder

Sometimes fate has a nasty habit of giving you a reminder of the fleeting, fragile nature of human life. It cuts straight through the day to day and shocks you to the core. 

Some of you may have seen the awful accident involving a tram in Croydon this week, in which 7 people tragically lost their lives. It was a terrible event that hushed the streets of Croydon, everyone was genuinely shocked that it had happened. Then, yet again, fate intervened and brought the accident much closer to home than I cared for. The only lady to die in the accident was a parent of one of my wife’s pupils at the school where she works and she’d taught her other daughter 2 years ago. How do you begin to tell those girls that their mum isn’t coming home? How does the father cope with managing his grief process while also being responsible for the girls and their emotional wellbeing? 

The shock element of the above adds an additional factor to an already difficult situation and it is a completely different process, but it reminded me of why we’re doing what we’re doing. The difference we can make to people experiencing a seismic shift in their lives caused by unwanted and unexpected intrusions is immeasurable and the clarity provided by the events of this week has really brought that home. 

Iain

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Time To Refocus

After such a strong start to my get fitter regime I have to say that the last week has been a bit ‘uphill’!

You would think that attending something so powerful as the Rainbow Trust’s 30th birthday celebration and meeting all of those wonderful people would have focussed the mind, but it would appear not!

Real life has a habit of getting in the way, doesn’t it? It gives no quarter and takes no prisoners, but all at different levels of importance. That was one of the messages that I took away from the Rainbow Trust event, how do those families carry on with the day to day grind when they have to add extraordinary care circumstances into their lives from straight out of left field?

In the past week I have had several supplier meetings plus a son with a bout of croup to deal with so I haven’t been to the gym at all (shocking)! I am promising myself that, from now, I am back on my game and re-focussing my efforts into getting fitter.

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Zac seems happier with the situation than I am!

The weather looks good for the weekend, well Sunday at least, so I should be able to get a long bike ride in.

Iain

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Happy Birthday Rainbow!

Yesterday afternoon Iain and I enjoyed the serene surroundings of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden to help Rainbow Trust celebrate their 30th Anniversary.

Otherwise known as the Actors Church, there are an incredible number of plaques in remembrance to the great and the good who have had their ashes scattered or kept there.

Here is my favourite

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We were there as Rainbow had asked me to address the assembled mass of friends and family of the charity. To tell our story, and to really instil the importance of what Rainbow does for those families they care for.

As you can see, I looked jolly smart – prompting my colleagues to ask I had a job interview – those wags!

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The event was overseen by the patron of the charity Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, and he did an amusing and considered job of shoving proceedings along, while really taking the time to get across a serious point.

I was there to share our story – about Iris’ illness, her treatment and quite what Rainbow means to us. It has never got any easier – it must be the tenth time I have spoken on their behalf, and it gets me every time – either talking about Mary, our Family Support Worker, the process of treatment and tests and the eventual loss of our daughter.

With Anne from the charity setting out their future aspirations, and some lovely musical interludes it was a special afternoon – rounded out with champagne and canapes!

Prizes were shared with some of their top fundraisers, some amazing people who have selflessly dedicated themselves to raise the money that the charity needs to keep going, and grow into new regions.

And therein lies the issue – the charity needs to become famous – it needs to become a household name. Spoken about in the same breath as CRUK or RNLI, they have national aspirations, and it can only happen with an increase in funding. In our small way, Iain and I are working hard to plug into that.

When we get on our bikes in July 2017, it will be with Iris in mind to drive us up those hills, and the thought of those families in the future, wherever they are in the country, whatever the universe throws at them – that Rainbow are there and able to help.

 

 

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