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Milan to Venice cycling Challenge for Women v Cancer charities.
We’d like to introduce Marg Jenkins, a loyal friend and customer who is also a great grandmother and she won’t mind my saying, a whisker away from her 69th Birthday. Just 6 years ago, she told us at County Cycles that “you will never, ever, get me on a bike! ”
To prove that you should never say “never”, she has just returned from a truly remarkable adventure in America. In June, she, together with seven other women completed the hardest endurance cycle race in the World – The Race Across America (RAAM ).
3,070 miles with over 170,000ft of climbing in just 8 days and 12 minutes at an average speed of a 16 mph.
What made the performance even more remarkable was that the team was made up of individuals who were either wounded, sick or injured and they included a lower leg amputee, a hand cyclist paralysed from the chest down, a rider with impaired vision after being blown up by the IRA and a recumbent rider with a spinal injury. The others, including Marg have had their battles with mental health and anxiety issues.
She and husband Wyn (himself an amputee cyclist) were both originally on the support crew with Marg down as a reserve rider. She was called up to the team in April but even though this was short notice, she had fortunately already been following a high intensity training programme put together by Felix Young of British Cycling, which included a large volume of short speed sessions which replicated what they would have to do during RAAM.
Her bike of choice for the event was her Bianchi Infinito CV with deep section Fast Forward wheels.
The reason for her choice was simple – SPEED and COMFORT.
RAAM is an endurance event but more specifically for teams, it’s all about speed endurance. The 8 team riders were split into two pods of four – one pod on “shift” for 9 hours, the other resting in the tour bus. Each rider did a “pull” of 20 minutes at time trial pace before handing over to the next rider, so that in a 9 hour shift, the four riders in her pod would do 5 – 6 pulls. This meant that over the course of the 8 days, each rider did over 50 hard efforts. On the massive climbs which included The Rockies and the Appalachians, these pulls could be as short as 5 minutes, to ensure that the speed was kept as high as possible.
A bike was needed which was versatile enough to cope with the demands of climbing the Rockies and fast enough to take advantage of the Kansas flat lands.
Preparing her bike took some thought and research by Peter and Mark of County Cycles. County Cycles had originally supplied Marg with this bike but modifications were needed for RAAM to ensure that the bike was set up perfectly to handle the stresses of the event and to keep Marg as comfortable (and as fast) as possible.
Pedals – Marg used to have problems with knee pain so these Speed Play pedals were fitted a few years ago. They allow the foot to move naturally when pedalling and this “float” allows the legs to track naturally. She hasn’t had any pain or leg injuries since.
Rotor Q Rings – These elliptical chain rings reduce the negative and tiring effects of the dead spot at the top of the pedal stroke and accelerate the pedal into the power position – Marg swears by them.
Ceramic Jockey Wheels and Bottom Bracket – Peter and Mark looked at everything which could be done to eliminate drag and improve cycling efficiency. These additions have had a dramatic effect on being able to sustain a high speed.
Aero Bars – Marg has had problems with pain between the shoulder blades and in her hands during long hours on the bike. – much of it caused by age related factors. It was decided to add some aero bars, set for comfort rather than aerodynamic performance so that she could relax on the bike but still hold a high pace.
Deep Section Wheels – Marg took two sets of wheels with her to America. One set for climbing and these deep section wheels for the flat to aid aerodynamic performance. Fortunately, high winds were never a factor during the eight days and she was able to use these fast, quality carbon wheels for the entire event.
Bike Fit – Because it was decided to fit aero bars, her position on the bike also had to be optimised to maximise performance. Peter and Mark altered her position on the bike to ensure that she got the most from every pedal stroke, whilst remaining comfortable and efficient. As a result, she was totally at ease on the aero bars and also significantly faster being able to hold speeds over 20 mph comfortably on the flat. What was significant was her ability to maintain these speeds throughout the eight days with no shoulder or hand related problems.
As 2018 draws to a close its great to look back and reflect on what we have achieved as a business – for us, County Cycles is far more than a daily job, we have the privilege to meet and work with some amazing people who are more than just customers and have become our friends.
The year started off with horrendous weather conditions which thankfully was not the case for our first event – we were proud to support the Dambusters – it was a glorious day and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the cycling, scenery and the fly by – thanks to the Douglas Bader foundation they were able to provide another brilliant spectacle for the cyclists to observe over Llyn Brianne Dam.
Our Double Devil event was held from County Cycles this year – a first for Bean on a Bike to provide the post ride meal and ensure that all the food stops were well stocked up with home made delights – who said its not all about the food? Feedback was fantastic and we are looking forward to 2019 to see who is going to tackle the Devil’s staircase and Devils elbow.
Our next event was the Merlin Ride – in its 11th year still a great turnout with many familiar faces – one gentleman has attended every one!Again starting from County Cycles with Bean on a Bike catering again, we had the addition of Alfies Beer bus and the Prosecco van outside for anyone who wanted a post ride tipple.
First year this year for the Grimpeur Hill Climb challenge – a series of 4 hill climbs with each one timed over a 4 month period, followed by our annual Sockathon, always a fun event to attend with a prize for the funkiest socks.
One of the highlights for us this year was to be asked to attend at the start of the Tour of Britain in Pembrey Country Park – fantastic weekend filled with cycling events, Watt bike challenges and more – the chance to be at the centre of the start of the TOB was such a great experience. Prior to the Tour we worked with Pedal Passion who put on an ETAPE which replicated the first stage of the TOB and it was a privilege to be part of such a well organised and challenging event. Pedal Passion have been working closely with us by holding turbo training sessions at the shop each week – always professional and give great advice for anyone who wants to improve their on the bike fitness for pleasure or event training.
Bike shops have historically been seen as male orientated, but with the help of Breeze Carmarthenshire and their leaders, they have nominated us as their ‘Hub’ where you can join a ride, socialise and generally have a good time with like minded ladies- a great group for beginners of all ages and fitness levels, you can guarantee you will not ride alone and have great support from their leaders when you go out on one of their rides. Their Halloween ride started and ended here and the outfits and atmosphere was fantastic – the pumpkin soup was flowing. Crosshands has a new cycling Hub page on facebook – check it out to see what rides are going on in the area.
From a product perspective we took on 2 new brands this year – Orro and Argon, held a Bianchi demo day, launch of the new Trek Electric bikes, Attended Pembrey’s cyclocross event on behalf of Frog with a range of demo bikes for children – pretty eventful and rewarding weekend.
The coffee shop has also branched out to providing buffet food externally for events, held a Vegan Cookery evening, and this extended to having a County Cycles Velovegan Expo – 25 mile bike ride, Yoga for cyclists and a vegan buffet to finish off with the offer of a free Health check on site.
We approach 2019 with a whole new list of events to run alongside our existing ones – the first being the Velo Dewi Sant in March followed by Leg-it tour to recovery in May, the Double Devil also in May, Leg-it Trans Wales in June, Merlin Ride in August and no doubt many others slotted into the calendar – for further information on any of these events click on the event tab on our website.
2018 has been the most diverse of years in terms of the variety of events, products and services we have offered and the success of our business is all down to YOU!!
So to all our customers, old and new we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and thank you for your continued support.
Yet another brand of nutrition hits the market I hear you say – well, this time we have listened to YOU – we gathered your feedback and listened to your comments and on your recommendations we have chosen to stock Veloforte. We researched thoroughly before committing to ordering these products in and liked the background, concept and more importantly the taste.
Founded in 2016, baked in a home kitchen now massively upscaled into a commercial baker in London who produces for the likes of Harrods and Marks and Spencer we thought this has a good solid foundation for their products with a great reputation behind them. Currently stocked in 150 retail stores but coverage in Wales was minimal so we thought it a good investment.
The range currently has 3 flavour bars with 3 new bars in development. They have 100% natural ingredients, are egg free, dairy free, gluten free and preservative free!!! pretty impressive wouldn’t you agree? All the nutritional information is available for viewing on the website and they boast having twice the amount of carbs and calories as some of the best gels on the market. With 5 star ratings from Road cc, Cyclist magazine and Rouleur with comments of ‘Near Perfection’, Outstanding quality’ and ‘The finest there is’ I think these are well worth the investment.
So, we listened, we researched, we ordered and now we have a five star rated product for your nutritional needs.
About the blog
The Double Devil event has come to a close for another year. Perfect weather conditions lent itself to viewing some stunning scenery along the route with breathtaking sections in more ways than one. The climbing was fierce, the Devils Staircase and Devils elbow lived up to their reputation – many achieved the 25% climb but many will return to tackle it again next year, defeated by its severity and hairpin bends in extreme heat. The routes had 3 scheduled food stops with friendly and helpful volunteers, always ready to offer support and advice when needed and a selection of cake, bananas, nuts and fluids to ensure you keep fuelled for the challenges ahead.
Support vans and cars covered the route tirelessly back and forth to ensure that everyone was accounted for and safe, offering encouragement and sometimes just being there as a reassuring back up for weary cyclists.
Starting with a healthy porridge/granola and fresh fruit breakfast, coffee or tea followed by refreshments en route and finishing with a home made chilli con carne and rice with nachos, guacamole and sour cream ensured that everyone was well looked after on the day.
So many are returning next year once the date has been set and I look forward to seeing them tackle the Devils again.
This event is not for the faint hearted with plenty of climbing but the scenery is well worth it taking in views over Epynt and through the valleys of Abergwesyn and Llyn Brianne.
If this is for you then register for next year – you will not be disappointed.
The first evening held at County Cycles, and hopefully the first of many more to come. The evening was relaxed and informal with lots of chat and banter but with some in depth discussions around health, fitness and having the right positive mental attitude to achieve great things. The people in the photo above have achieved so much and were willing to share their experiences through an open forum and were brutally honest about their journeys.
From left to right – Dan Holley – Pedal passion/cycling coach , Gary Howells – Marathon runner (ran the Marathon Des Sables – 150 miles across the Sahara) and coach , Kevin Pullin – Swimming coach and over 30 Iron Man events completed – Carwyn Davies – Professional Mountain Bike Champion and Jack Sadler – Pedal passion/cycling coach and ex pro rider
These 5 people shared their experiences over a fantastic evening with Prosecco Van, Gin Fizz, Beers or coffees along with street food Burritos from Bean on a Bike instore coffee bar – we served over 60 meals and Pedal Passion donated almost £400 from the event to charity.
With the evening flowing and lots of interaction from the attendees, we finally finished the evening off at 11.30. The feedback has been amazing and look forward to hosting the next one in the not too distant future.