Just one hour 

I’ve now been a member of Falmouth Wheelers for just over nine years and it’s been interesting watching the club evolve during this time. We’re a social cycling club with a full calendar of mixed events. We have monthly Pathfinder rides from starting points around the county and we encourage all members (and friends) to turn out for these – they’re always short rides with a long lunch! We also have trips abroad, quiz’s, raffles, film nights and parties. And we do the odd time trial – and hill climb! Some say were a drinking club with a cycling problem! But there’s always a little ambition simmering away because, young and old, club members are setting themselves goals and challenges – hundred mile sportives, long distance charity rides and epic 1000 km plus audax rides around Britain and Ireland.

So I decided to target something myself and two years ago I started training. This was structured training both in the gym and on the velodrome track. My challenge would be a world record. Well, that’s not exactly true – it’s a national record that I’ll now go for which coincidentally happens to be a world record. (I’ll explain all about this later.) I’ve committed to attempting to ride over 44.271 kilometers in an indoor velodrome in under an hour. It’s the 65 – 69 Masters “ Best Hour Performance”. The date has been set, Tuesday 20thNovember in Newport’s “Geraint Thomas National Velodrome Of Wales”. So now there’s no going back!

I aim to get a blog going here and provide weekly updates as the date gets ever closure. However, to get started here’s a little window on my world over the last two years.

December 2016

It’s seven in the morning and I’ve agreed to do some weight lifting in the gym with Rob Smalden as he thinks it will improve my performance on the bike. However, I’m not entirely convinced of this.

There are several others, mainly women, and I recognise many from the Friday morning cycling specific spin sessions Rob instructs. It’s not so much weight training as a flexibility and resistance training class. It took me all of forty years to acquire my poor posture and to lose whatever flexibility I had so I’m prepared for the long haul!

We do lift weights, and in the case of the regulars, some quite heavy ones! I’m impressed and return home feeling exhilarated – and it’s still only 8:20!

In 2013 Simon Jones and myself joined 120 other “Master Cyclists” in a study at Kings College looking into the physiology of a group of older people who had been physically active most of their lives. Their findings would be compared with the results from a future study of a sedentary group of the same age. Our results indicated we had the fitness of men nearly half our age! Overall Report

February 2014

It’s my first experience of the Newport Velodrome’s “ Vets” session on a Friday night. I’m now an  accredited rider and have my own bike but the gear is quite small. A few of us are spinning like mad to keep up with the seasoned riders with bigger gears and flashy bikes. “Vets” are men and women over the age of 35. It’s fast and furious, less like a training ride and more like “ the bloody world championships every week” says one disgruntled rider. Clearly I need to toughen up a bit.

The hire bikes at the velodrome have an 86″ gear which means the cadence required to ride the minimum safe speed of 20mph is 80rpm. ( Much below this speed and there is a chance you will fall off the banking! ) A novice will need a “light” gear in order to control their speed in a group. The bikes don’t have brakes but you can slow down and speed up easily just varying the pressure on the pedals. This gets more difficult with a bigger gear so it’s important to have the strength to control your speed. I bought an entry level Hoy Fiorenzuola track bike from Evan’s Cycles after seeing a video featuring the man himself – Sir Chris explained that the machine was a an ideal bike to start competing on and, that with the addition of some race wheels, could be a very competitive bike. I bought that. And the bike!                                                                        However, it was fitted with 92″ gear ( a 48 tooth chainring with a 14 tooth rear sprocket. ) and the coach at the time, Jodie, encouraged me to change the rear sprocket to a 15, like the hire bikes, until I’d totally mastered controlling my speed in a group. It didn’t take many months to change back to the 14. About a year later I changed the front chainring to a 50 tooth which then gave me a 96″ gear meaning that at 25 mph I had a cadence of about 90rpm.

Strength and Flexibility

Rob Smalden has for many years run a spin class during the winter months for the Falmouth Wheelers. He has continually banged on about the importance of resistance training in, not only cycling, but pretty much any sport. Cornwall High Performance work with local schools and clubs and coach both county and national athletes in many varied disciplines. I see them at Tremough Gym twice a week, on a Monday and a Friday, at 7 o’clock in the morning. I tell Rob that pitching up that early in the morning is just as important as the flexibility work and the lifting we do. And I mean it! On reaching retirement age it’s tempting to take things a little easier and yet we know, from the study at Kings College, that inactivity will see a decline in our physiological functioning. It’s odd, but the more I exercise the more energy I seem to have. Mondays and Fridays are great days because I’m always raring to go and can make the most of the extra time at my disposal.                                                                                                                         Sam, Rob’s business partner, is a fair bit younger than Rob, however, he is hugely knowledgeable and brims with enthusiasm. I’ve had a few niggling problems with my right knee and lower back but he thinks on his feet and adapts exercises to suit me. I know I’m in safe hands. Most of the lifting is targeting the legs – dead lifts, squats, leg presses – but there is also an amount of core work too and a small amount of upper body stability work using the cable presses.                                                                                                                               Changes come slowly but as the months tick by I begin to feel stronger and I’m now happy to pitch in with the heavy lifting when I’m helping my son with his never ending building projects at the weekend!

June 2017

I’m passing Newport on my way to Ireland and decide to call in for the Friday evening “Vets” session but instead I find it’s the annual Masters World Championships so I settle down to watch. I’m immediately reminded that I am just one of a considerable number of extremely fit older cyclists. Veterans, or Masters, are not knackered old codgers just able to balance on their bikes they are elite athletes only marginally slower than their younger counterparts. Last year I met 82 year old Walter Fowler who had not long gained the world hour record for his age category beating the old record by a staggering 6km+! This is when the idea of making my own attempt occurs to me.

November 2017

I’ve already told Garrie our coach of my plans and I’m acutely aware that he hears this all the time. And I’m in no way offended by the regular greeting of, “Still holding the dream Robin?” However, if what Kings College told me is correct I am in the top percentile fitness wise for men in my age category. I have always been active ( I was a marathon runner before joining a cycle club with a Duchy marathon pb of 2hrs 55mins ) and I have excellent cardiovascular function. If I do all the training and take all the advice I must stand some chance of getting close. Currently it’s just over 27.5 miles. I manage to get pursuit bars on eBay and Garrie allows me a bit of track time to get used to them. I’m immediately surprised by how much faster they are but it is at a cost – I am no longer comfortable on my saddle! I am going to have to do a bit of research!! ( 12th October 2018. Just to bring this thread up to date –  having tried an assortment of saddles at varying angles to cope with the “slammed” position, both road saddles and expensive “stubby” time trial ones, I’ve ended up doing pretty much what Graham Obree did in his first attempt back in the 90’s by using a children’s saddle – well nearly, it’s a small comfy saddle from Lidl! The UCI rules dictate that the nose of your saddle can’t be closer than 50 mm to an imaginary line drawn up from the centre of the bottom bracket. Since riding in the time trial position inevitably sees you moving forward on the saddle you end up sitting on the nose only. For a ten mile time trial it may be fine – but for an hour??!! )

WattBike training.

The new gym at Tremough has two new WattBikes. This is great because I’ve now bought power meter pedals which allow me to determine what power I need to ride on the track at a given speed. I’ve tested the pedals on the WattBike to establish that the readings are comparable so now I can train in the gym at the correct intensity. I’ve done FTP tests and the best I’ve achieved is 276 watts in Nov ’17. I don’t like doing them in the gym as it gets too hot, even with a fan, but I know I’ll have to improve on 276 watts as it’s not enough to propel me around the track at near 45 kph for an hour. I will have improved on this over the year but the real benefits come from combatting drag. Time to get Aero!


Robin Snelson.

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