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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Keeping the faith (or how to keep motivated in winter)

Autumn, a time when cycling looks less attractive....

When the clocks go back, there is a temptation to let the bike gather dust and wait it out until spring. With less or no light in the evenings it's more difficult to get out on the bike, but in my experience, some of my most satisfying rides have been after dark. Just think how good that pint will taste if you've earned it and have not just sneaked off to the pub instead of watching TV?.

There are always ways and means to ride. If it's hammering down, or very cold, the turbo trainer is king. It's not just an instrument of torture for professionals but a great way of getting the odd 30 minute session in, which keeps the legs ticking over. I would recommend getting a tough tyre to use on the turbo, it's not the place for those feather-light expensive summer tyres unless you like shredding cash. 

I find the turbo is very effective. However hard you ride on the road, you always coast on the downs and some of the flat bits. In an hour's cycling, you'll not do an hour's  pushing. On the turbo there is no escape. You just have to keep at it. An hour on the turbo, three times a week, is enough to keep better than minimally fit. Indeed, if the time is used effectively, you can do better than that. 

Bike Magic has a useful intro article on workouts for the turbo. Don't be put off by the reference to Lance's trainer! Turbo training ideas. The best accompaniment for the turbo is Absolute 80's Radio on DAB. Not too much chat and plenty of cheesy beats to keep those legs moving. 

If you are really short of time, then doing ten, 40 second max effort sprints with 20 seconds recovery after a 10 minute warm up and a 10 minute warm down at the end will take just 30 mins and improve peak fitness. Another session is to do 20 minutes just on your threshold, after the warm up. This is a good, if rather nasty, session. Threshold is that hardest effort you can maintain for 20 minutes, it should be hard and probably "stings" a little - enjoy!

Mountain biking at night

Are you sure? Well, yes I am. When I lived near Swinley Forest, I was the meeting point for trips to the Forest. When the nights drew in we got our lights out and rode. It was often hard, cold and wet but so long as one person wants to go, others followed. Human nature is a funny thing. One friend would phone around 4, tell me he'd be at mine for 5.30 and I'd better be ready. This worked well. If you need inspiration here is a video of night riding. It's easier than it looks! The investment in lights is expensive, but they double up as excellent road lights too. Bikeradar has a review of the latest MTB lights. My recommendation is to go for a helmet mount first and a bar mount as a backup. Just having a light on the bars can mean a lack of light just when you need it. You need surprisingly little light, if it's directional - as it really is dark in them tha woods.

MTB video clips

I have been "sort of" promising to do a guided MTB ride - there are still weekends free before Xmas - so you never know it might happen. So to provide some inspiration, I trawled the web and found some video's of three of my favourite trails. If anyone would like to meet up at Swinley Forest, Bracknell on a Saturday/Sunday this side of Xmas - let me know.

Swinley Forest - the Corkscrew
One of my favourite sections of trail in Swinley. It's possible to clean this section fairly easily in dry conditions and the main trick is to keep up some speed as stalling may mean "stepping off" the bike. I personally prefer natural singletrack to "over constructed", and this is one of the best, anywhere.

NOVA Trail - Ashton Court, Bristol
The NOVA Trail is a good example of a "blue" graded, man enhanced trail. It's had a lot of investment and and is linked up to new trails in Leigh Woods and those in 50 Acre Wood nearby. The trail flows nicely, it's one way - so none of those embarrassing "after you....not after you.......THUD!" moments and is well served by a car park, visitor centre and cafe. It's a good trail for experienced riders to go for a blast and for newbies to give it a go. Enjoy!

Croft Trail - Swindon   Croft Trail Maps
This is a man enhanced trail in Swindon. It's all volunteer maintained and shows just what you can do in a tiny space. This near 3 mile trail weaves in and out of the trees on a patch of land next to the M4. It's like a dedicated singletrack skills course. I like to ride here before going to a larger venue, it really tunes your riding up. This guy is pretty good, I'm still a minute slower than this, and I was really travelling. Three laps is a good night's ride and sure makes that first cider seem "earned". The "red" route is the way to go, the blue is flat and short!

Recipe of the week - Saltimbocca (leap in the mouth)

I went to Hove the other weekend, the day before doing a Comedy Workshop.......and stumbled upon an unpretentious Italian restaurant. It was excellent, though I did get stick for being tight and not including a tip. Hell, dinner with wine was 80 odd quid! Anyway, I had (veal) saltimbocca and it was excellent. Now I have no objections to eating rose veal (approved RSPCA care stds apply). If you drink milk you are condoning the production of rose veal....but anyway, I wondered how easy it was to cook. 

Well, the answer is, very easy. I actually used chicken breast  (thigh works too), You need to cut the chicken into large thin pieces and then flatten it by putting the meat between layers of cling film and hit it with a rolling pin. My pieces were about 12cm by 6cm and less than 0.5cm thick. Wrap each piece in a slice of prosciutto (Palma Ham) and secure with a cocktail stick, fastening a leaf of sage to each piece. Dust in seasoned flour, and fry briskly in a little butter/oil mix until cooked though, keep warm.

Drain excess fat and deglaze the pan with a big glass of dry white wine (I used Sav. Blanc) and about a quarter of a good chicken stock cube. Reduce until almost syrupy.  Add any juices from the warm saltimbocca and then add a blob of crème fraiche/sour cream, combine and heat through. Serve with some mash and green beans and spoon the sauce over the saltimbocca. I promise you will not be disappointed. The combination of ham, chicken/veal and sage is great. For those who like game, rabbit can be used too. Rabbit saltimbocca recipe I prefer my method of cooking - using a single layer of meat rather than the two used by a "Single Fat Lady". 

It probably won't happen to you, but I made a cake last week, I had left some basil in the fridge and I reckon that the butter icing and the sponge had a hint of basil about it. Not sure what Paul Hollywood would have said about my "flavour combinations".....perhaps it was my imagination

Until next time - try and get out. And if not, at least cook something nice

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