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.