Posted by: brendanodornan | August 8, 2012

1000 miles!

I have now cycled a total of 1000 miles since I took up the bike again at the end of last year. I crossed this milestone during my bike ride from work back to Ballyclare on Tuesday. This represents approximately 65 hours in the saddle. I am certain that this is a tiny fraction of what most serious riders do in a year but is a source of pride and achievement to me.

I will aim to do 2000 miles in the next 12 months. I wonder if this will be  feasible as I need to get out about three hours on average per week.

Hopefully my exploits and achievements will encourage others to find their inner cyclist and get out into the fresh air for some health inducing exercise, even if it’s not cycling, the health benefits of getting out are enormous. You feel fitter, manage your weight better, sleep better and have fewer colds etc.

I am also overwhelmed by the generous response to my fund-raising to the LTL event. Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me so far.

Posted by: brendanodornan | August 5, 2012

Fifty Miles, Did I Do It?

The weather was dry and sunny on Saturday morning 4th August and I was up at 6.30am for an early start. I ate a bowl of porridge and a slice of toast with marmalade, drank a cup of coffee and then slipped into my cycling shorts and jersey. I packed a full bottle of water (with some juice in it), two bars of chewy fruit and nut granola, a camera, my phone and some cash and then I threw my leg over the bike and off I went. It was 7.10am.

I left Crumlin heading north towards Antrim. On the road not far outside Crumlin was a tabby cat which had clearly been involved in an encounter with a motor vehicle. The feline had come off second best and all nine lives had been used up. I quietly hoped that it was the same moggy who had been leaving a lot of unwanted mess on my front lawn recently.

Antrim was starting to wake up as I passed through and I detoured slightly to the Lough Shore Park to take a quick photo of the lough at early morning. Surprisingly there were several people around walking and some playing golf at the nearby Golf club.

I continued on my way and turned west in the direction of Randalstown. There’s a dedicated cycle path here between Antrim and Randalstown. I choose to stay on the road to try and make better progress and avoid punctures. A bin lorry went past very close to me, I wonder if he even saw me or was it his way of telling me to use the cycle path! There’s no excuse for not giving cyclists room – it’s in the Highway code – a cyclist should be afforded the same space when overtaking as for any other vehicle.

Randalstown is a busy village. I arrived there at about 8.30am and it was really starting to get busy. The Tudor style gates into the Shane’s Castle Estate are really impressive. The town was named after the 1st Marquess of Antrim, Randal McDonnell (1609-1683).

The town was renowned for its linen and iron industry and a memorial to this history is in the middle of the town and made from the original turbine used to generate mains electricity and items salvaged from the Old Bleach Linen Company founded by James Webb in 1864.

I headed north on the B52 out of Randalstown in the direction of Portglenone. Mostly uphill now, a long gentle gradient passing through a hamlet called Groggan. I’d never noticed this place before because in a car you pass through it so quickly. It does have its own Primary School though which looks like a very well maintained building and I’m sure the pupils are very proud of it. I did an internet search for anything interesting about Groggan and….. found nothing.

I reached Portglenone forest park and was feeling a strong call of nature…..but no I didn’t, I waited until I reached the village and made use of the Public Facilities which were, as I hoped, provided there. I was faced with my first dilemma of such a long bike ride. What do I do with my bike when I am answering the call of nature? I didn’t want to leave it outside un-secured to tempt the opportunistic thief so I decided that the best thing to do was to bring it with me. So I took my bike into the toilets. I drew the line at bringing it into a cubicle with me but kept the door slightly ajar so I could keep an eye on it!

There are some bench seats in Portglenone and I sat down there to eat my granola bars. There are two tall sculptures there, one of dancer and one of a piper. I wondered what their significance was but there was no indicating plaque to explain as far as I could see.

On the road into Portglenone is Bethlehem Abbey which was founded in 1948. It’s an impressive collection of buildings one of which is an old mansion house and reputedly a place where Sir Roger Casement spent some time in the early twentieth century before it was an Abbey. This connection was surprising because apart from knowing sketchy details about Casement’s connection with early twentieth century revolution in Ireland I knew nothing of any connection to County Antrim. It turns out that Casement was brought up in the Ballymena area and educated at Ballymena Academy. Further reading showed that Casement was also knighted for his services to the British Consul particularly in relation to his work highlighting the plight of the native peoples of the Congo and Peru.

I spent twenty minutes chewing my way through two granola bars and started on my return journey. I didn’t stop on the way back and a few miles outside of Crumlin really began to feel tired. I kept going and free-wheeled into my drive-way at 11am.

I had covered 53 miles and in the process had burnt 2400kcal. Little wonder I was starving. I showered and met up with Eileen and Adele at The Emerald Roadhouse in Belfast where I had a delicious 3-course Carvery lunch (for £9.95), highly recommended.

Posted by: brendanodornan | August 2, 2012

Wolf whistles in Ballyclare

What a difference 12 hours can make. The sun was shining and the air temperature was rising as I left Templepatrick at just before 7am this morning. The traffic was light and there were no delays getting through Doagh or Ballyclare. The water pipe had clearly been repaired in Ballyclare but I was ready for it anyway. I was NOT going to get wet today!

An elderly farmer was out feeding his chickens in Ballyeaston. Who said nothing ever happens in Ballyeaston? He watched as I pedalled past and I acknowledged him with a wave, he ignored me. He was probably wondering why a lycra clad man on a bike was waving at him.

There should be a law against bovines defaecating on the road, especially if it’s of the liquid variety. Due to the improved weather today I chose my bike without mudguards and I had the misfortune of being later on the road than the cows. They were probably being taken for milking and were clearly excited or nervous about the experience as they seemed to have voided their not inconsiderable bowels all over the road. My tyres threw the foul smelling semi-solid mess up into my face as I passed. I was really glad of that shower in work this morning – although I think the smell is still lingering in my nose!

The bike shed was in full demand today. There were no spare walls left to prop my bike against so I had to risk using the concrete bike stands which are not suitable for road bikes. A wheel is supposed to sit inside the gap of the concrete block and then lean against the side which holds the bike up however the wheel rims on a road bike are so narrow that this is a precarious position and a slight knock could topple the bike over causing damage. Hopefully something better might be installed.

When I went out at 5pm to get my bike to cycle home I found to my horror that another bike was leaning against mine! It was a great heavy lump of a mountain bike. It’s lucky that my bike toppled over onto the one next to it and this was all that prevented a disastrous collapse to the ground inflicting bent rear derailleurs or other catastrophic and potentially expensive repair bills.

After I got over the shock of the unwanted invasion of of my bike’s private space, the cycle home was sheer bliss. The sun was warm on my face and the breeze cooled me as I cycled.

As I passed through Ballyclare some girls waiting at a bus stop wolf-whistled as I went by. I did a quick check to make sure everything was in the right place and continued on my way.

After the uphill bit into Parkgate (a place I never knew existed until I started this cycling) there is a long fast downhill section to the Park and Ride in Templepatrick. I got the bike up to 35mph.

Over the ride home I averaged 15.5mph and the distance covered over the day was just under 34 miles. I burned 1500kcal.

Next training target is to try and cover a 5o mile distance, hopefully at the weekend. Check out my blog next week to read about how that goes.

Posted by: brendanodornan | August 1, 2012

Wet Through

Cycling in the Rain

The rain was horizontal when I left Ballyclare this morning at 7.30am. There were road works in my path and a diversion to take a different road…..I ignored it.

I found that the road was dug up on both sides! Hence the diversion sign, I thought to myself.

I could squeeze past on the footpath and I had almost made it when I got another good soaking from a leaking water pipe that was spraying water all across the road. Completely wet, I carried on.

Ballyeaston was quiet…..no change there since my last visit.

There are some drivers who exercise an admirable degree of caution with cyclists and I found one such example this morning when a lorry driver was pulling out of his driveway and instead of pulling out and completely filling the road giving me nowhere to go, he saw me coming, pulled out in a tight turn and kept well to one side leaving me plenty of room. Thank you lorry driver, I acknowledged his efforts with a wave, he ignored me.

The crossroads where the Deerpark Rd crosses the A36 is the busiest part of the route from Ballyclare to Larne but crossing it is OK by dismounting and waiting until there is no traffic –obviously.

My chain came off just a few hundred yards from the turn down into Drumahoe Rd and I needed to get off and coax it back on again. The rain started to get heavier and the wind picked up meaning that to maintain a good speed down the hill towards Millbrook I had to pedal into the wind.

No problems getting access through the new high security gate arrangement. Even in my cycling clothes, dark glasses and helmet the security man knew who I was and that I had a valid reason for being there. The hot shower felt like a luxury.

After work I had to get back into my wet cycling gear – not pleasant. Cold, wet and clammy. The rain was no better on the way back to Ballyclare, if anything it was worse and was stinging my face. The wind was stronger, I had to pedal hard just to make progress. Again my chain came off just as I changed up to the big ring to go downhill. I had to get off and put it back on, I must need to adjust my front derailleur.

By this stage I was soaked through, the rain was running down inside my socks and there were puddles of water collecting inside my shoes. I was wetter than a character from a popular trashy novel. I certainly didn’t break any personal best records on this commute. Ten minutes after getting back to my car the sun came out, the rain stopped and the road was dry. Still, at least I cycled 22 miles and burned 900 kcalories.

Posted by: brendanodornan | July 31, 2012

Brendan, The Stoker

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At the weekend while I was not doing any training for Lap The Lough (I was away in England for a short break) I had the chance to ride a tandem.

For those who don’t know, a tandem is a bicycle shaped velocipede where one person rides close behind another. I thought it referred to the number of riders but it doesn’t, as you can have tandems which have more than two riders.

I had the position at the back which is called ‘The Stoker’. The person who sits at the front is called the Captain.

The two of us just had a little ride together. It certainly is strange riding with another man. We attracted the attention of the local hecklers who thought it very funny to see two grown men pumping like that in such harmony, and in public.

There were several comments but amongst the laughter I distinctly heard ‘Two bikes are better than one!’.

What wit! And this was from one of a group of men sporting open shirts in a black Range Rover with half of Fort Knox gold reserves hanging around their necks. My ‘Captain’ communicated back to me that he thought it best not to antagonize them, so I dropped my two-fingered wave and stoked the engine a bit harder. Luckily they didn’t follow.

Joke……A man who was riding a tandem was stopped by a police. ‘What’s the matter officer?’, asked the rider.

‘Perhaps you didn’t notice sir, but your wife fell off your tandem a mile back . . .’

‘Good grief’, said the rider – ‘I thought I’d gone deaf!’

I wonder what attracts people to shout abuse at cyclists because I have also had someone half climb out of the passenger side window of their car to yell ‘turn the light off’ as they went past (this was near Antrim). I still don’t get their point because they could hardly have been blinded by a little red cycling light in the middle of the day!

On another occasion coming into Lurgan two men who were walking their dogs thought it very funny to command their dogs to ‘Get The Ankles’ as I cycled past. I could see the dogs looking at their owners with an expression as equally mystified as my own. The dogs were probably thinking ‘What complete idiots, I mean what would we do with a bicycle if we caught it?’

To sponsor me for Muscular Dystrophy visit the website at

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/brendanodornan

Posted by: brendanodornan | July 8, 2012

WeeHoo

A secret weapon to help me complete the Lap The Lough?

A WeeHoo I Go is best described as a cross between a bicycle child trailer and a tag-a-long for a bike. A Tag-a-long bike is the rear half of a bike complete with seat, pedals and handlebars which attaches to an adult bike via a hitch bar to the seat post of the adult bike. A bicycle child trailer is basically a child seat in a covered trailer. So a WeeHoo is a tag-a-long bike with a proper child seat with harness. The advantage of this is that a child can enjoy the experience of cycling while in comfort and without the concern of getting tired, sleepy and falling off. Another advantage is that they can also contribute to the forward motion by pedalling….or not as seems to be the case for me.

We bought one of these machines last month and have now been able to try it out several times. My daughter who is five years old really loves it. She can sit in comfort, sing to herself, enjoy the view and occasionally…but not often, she will also pedal. Each time we have been out we have covered about ten miles and could easily have gone further. In fact my daughter was quite upset at the thought of having to turn and go back.

We will definitely make more outings to the cycle paths on this. I wouldn’t be confident though about taking it on the road unless there was another adult on a bike behind.

This machine is certainly a fantastic piece of kit for enjoying a cycling trip out with a little one.

As for it being a secret weapon to help complete the lap the lough…I think my passenger would have to be making more of a contribution to the forward momentum.

Posted by: brendanodornan | June 16, 2012

18,000 miles by bike in 92 days!!

You’re all thinking that’s Brendan’s next challenge after Lapping the Lough!!

Afraid Not.  Although Mike Hall, an engineer from Britain just broke the record for cycling around the world by doing it UNSUPPORTED in 92 days. A distance of 18,000 miles. During the journey he lost so much weight that he had to adjust the buckles on his cycling shoes because his feet got thinner! He lost 5Kg in weight. Of course that was from all over and not just his feet. He would start cycling every day at before 6am and ride until midnight, sometimes even riding through the night.

And I only have to do about 80 miles.

I was in Donegal at the start of June for a weekend and I brought the bike with me. I wanted to try some steep hills and I found one just near to where we were staying. Of course it’s not that hard to find steep hills in Donegal. This one had the sort of steepness that draws a sharp intake breath when you go up it in a car and have to drop into second gear while keeping the revs up. So I was a bit nervous about tackling it on a bike especially when I noticed that one of the houses by the road had two dogs untethered and with unrestricted access to my proposed route. Anyway, I set aside my trepidation about a hostile canine encounter and started up the hill. I found it easier than I thought….at first and then I heard the dogs! They sounded like the Hounds of Hell, charging at me,  barking and snarling, with great globs of saliva flying from their jaws. I would say that I could see the the whites of their eyes but I couldnt see past their teeth! They caught up with me in seconds and that was when they realised I was going at less than a walking pace and they promptly decided that I wasn’t worth chasing and they made a U-turn (a bit like a Tory/Lib Dem coalition on a pasty tax) and dandered back to their lair. I was able to finish the ride in peace as opposed to in pieces.

Great cycling roads in Donegal although the minor roads are probably best suited to hybrid bikes or at least road bikes with slightly wider tyres than mine.

Posted by: brendanodornan | May 31, 2012

Good weather brings out the ‘MAMIL’

What a fantastic few weeks! There is no better feeling than spinning along on your bike with a warm sun on your face and the speed of your passage through the air creating a cooling breeze. It’s clearly attracting a lot of people as I see more and more people out on bikes all the time, particularly now the weather has picked up.

“What is a MAMIL?” I hear you ask. -Well, it’s a ‘Middle Aged Man In Lycra’ – of course I’m too young to fit into that category, being in my early to mid thirties (tongue held firmly in cheek) but you see these MAMILs everywhere. I also hear an increasing number of people from work talking about getting bikes and doing a bit of cycling – some even talking about cycling to work – watch this space to find out who makes it first!!

I managed another first this week. The fastest time for my route between work and Ballyclare. I did it in 37 minutes which was an average of 17mph. That was even with having to slow down for a tractor and trailer which got in my way and also slowing to avoid motorists at junctions who seem to display the greatest stupidity so far. I’m not sure whether its because they just don’t register the presence of the cyclist coming towards them or if its because they completely misjudge the speed of an approaching road bike but they just drive out without ‘realising’ you are there. I’ve come to make an allowance at junctions and expect the worst so I’m ready to brake and avoid them. I think I take plenty of steps to be seen through wearing bright colours, (if I take a rucksack it has a fluorescent cover) and I use led lights on the bike, flashing front and back (the lights that is). Most people are concerned about the traffic going past but that’s not really an issue as most people give you plenty of room. One driver (with a pony tail) overtook me before immediately indicating, braking and turning left across my path forcing me to brake to avoid running into the back of her. I give them the benefit of the doubt for their inexperience. Anyway it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the sport.

Posted by: brendanodornan | May 22, 2012

Summer Has Arrived

Perfect cycling weather has arrived at last. The sun is shining and the air is warm(er). Time to get the short sleeve tops out of winter storage and put away the winter cycling jacket (just not too far away). Time to get on the bikes and enjoy.

An update – The work shower has been adjusted and is no longer a danger of causing third degree burns. Thanks to Billy and the maintenance team for that!

The Templepatrick to Work goal has been achieved – slightly longer distance than I had anticipated at 16.5miles but still manageable as an occasional commute. The road is a bit busier between Templepatrick and Ballyclare than the stretch between Ballyclare to Larne but not so much that it would be off-putting if you have done a bit of road cycling.

There’s now less than 100 Days to Go to the Lap of The Lough. Will be starting to think about starting the training plan in earnest soon.

Posted by: brendanodornan | April 29, 2012

Decathlon and Napoleon

In my humble opinion the Sports Store Decathlon is the greatest retail introduction to Northern Ireland in recent years. The value for money in this store for cycling gear and clothing is second to none. I’ve kitted myself out for cycling almost exclusively from Decathlon. By the way they don’t pay me commission.

You do need to wear the proper cycling gear. Like Napoleon said “it’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on your horse”. Mind you, the view of a slightly podgy me clad in Lycra has brought some amusement to several people!! So I’ve stopped wearing it in Tesco. Joking aside the technical clothing really works to keep you comfortable when cycling.

Decathlon also have a bike workshop and do maintenance. They have a better reputation online than Halfrauds. Which brings me to my recent discovery about my Winter bike.

As some of you might know this is the bike that I bought second hand in September last year. It is a Halfrauds own brand but is a bike with a good reputation. However the model I bought has always had a slightly niggling gear change issue with the rear dérailleur (that’s the back gears). I decided to get it serviced this week to sort it out. I always say if something’s worth doing it’s worth paying someone to do it properly. I took it to the Bikedock on the Ravenhill Rd in Belfast. They did a great job and I can recommend them. They told me however, that the rear cassette and chain is a nine speed but the gear shifters are for a ten speed. Well done Halfrauds for that build. The shifters are actually a grade above the standard machine so the factory probably ran out of the standard and started fitting the new (better) version with the old drive-train. Anyway that aside the bike is running very nicely now. I must learn how to do some maintenance myself. So far I can do three mechanical things, one is to fit pedals, the second is to change a tube on the rear wheel and the third is to change a tube on the front wheel.

It’ll soon be time to start looking seriously at the training plan for the Lap. It’s a ten week plan but I’ll have to factor in that I’ll be away on holiday for a couple of weeks that fall in the ten weeks immediately prior to the Lap. I guess that means I’ll have to start the training two weeks earlier!!

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