Tag: Training (Page 1 of 2)

All dressed up and nowhere to go

So, I finally did it. I finally packed everything, loaded it onto the bike and went for a very long ride.

Some may say, that with only a week to go before the start of my journey, I should have done this ages ago. They might be right, but that’s not the point. Yesterday, I learned what it was like to ride my bike fully-loaded, how heavy/hard it is (or actually isn’t) to ride up-hill with all me gear and I discovered that I am fit enough to cover the 80km distance that I’ll need to maintain for the next month. I even did some stairs, which not easy with 35km of bike and luggage.

However, yesterday wasn’t all plain sailing. I had planned my trip so I would arrive at Camping No1, Kyiv’s only campsite, so I could test my tent erecting-skills and camping prowess. I would, I told my flatmate Gregor, sleep the night there and then do another long day on the bike on Sunday – just to prove beyond doubt that I was ready.

Well, I should have known better and checked before leaving because ‘Camping No1’ which is ‘open all summer’ should actually be called ‘Camping No’ because it doesn’t exist. It looks like it might have existed many years ago, but despite the 5 star rating and enthusiastic Facebook page and website – its closed, shut-down, locked up and decaying behind a rusty fence.

My plans for relaxing in the sunshine and drinking a cool beer in my proudly assembled tent were ruined. I was knackered, red and homeless and with only one option – a further 15km by bike back home.

After 55km, I was less than impressed to find this...

After 55km, I was less than impressed to find this…

Today, Sunday, I woke up ate and slept almost all day. I have been absolutely exhausted, so despite the fact that I can cover the distance once, repeating it day after day for a month is going to be a whole different kettle of fish (probably dried fish since I’m in Eastern Europe).

In between sleeping on the beach and eating, I did at least find time to put my tent up today (much to Yulia’s despair) so at least I know that it works and where to put the poles etc. I really didint want to do that for the first time after 80km on a bike in the sunshine, or worse – in the rain.

So, with just a week and 12 hours to go. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

At 06:00am on Monday morning (10th August), I fly from Kyiv to Budapest and will then pedal my way slowly along the river Danube, all the way to the black sea and back to Odessa.


On a completely unrelated note, I just noticed a large warning label in my boxer-shorts which says ‘KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE’. What exactly do underwear makers think I do in my pants?

Joking aside, since almost everything in life should be ‘kept away’ from fire, the label suggests that my ‘protective’ garments as exceptionally flammable – so much so that they warrant a special warning. Is this a good idea?

What if I enjoy laying in my pants, smoking? (which I don’t but its entirely possible that I would) – surely I shouldn’t be at risk of having my prized assets flame-grilled if I drop a match? If mattresses, sofas and a whole bunch of other inanimate objects must be fire retardant if they wish to be sold in the EU, shouldn’t pants? At least a man can run away from a flaming sofa – what’s he going to do if his crotch goes up like an Iraqi oil well?

In need of some inspiration

It’s now less than two weeks before I leave for Budapest and start pedaling my way across 2,000 km of Europe.

I have to say, despite some fairly consistent training, I don’t feel anywhere near fit enough and I still haven’t taken my bike out fully-laden with all the gear I will be cycling with. As always, I’ve left it until the last minute – partially because that’s the way I am and partially because it’s pretty damn hard to work, have a life and do more than 1-2 hours of cycling a day.

I’ve also been experiencing the first nervousness about the trip and regularly doubt that the trip is a) a good idea and b) worth doing. However, I’ve always had this kind of feeling when I’ve traveled alone and I know from experience that this kind of sickness/fear is always outweighed by the fun and adventure of travelling and it quickly goes when you’re in the company of new friends in unfamiliar places.

So, today I packed my bike and panniers for the second time (see photo below) and then watched a few Youtube videos for tips and tricks from other ‘adventure’ cyclists who have done way more adventurous trips than me. It really is amazing what you can learn on Youtube these days and it’s surprising how much motivation you can draw from them.

Here’s a great example:


You are a good joker :)

After bouncing back to Brussels and Oxford for the umpteenth time this year, I’m back in Kyiv and back on the sofa-sized seat of the cycling machine at SportLife in Podil.

The guy who looks like he’s from Finland is running, as usual, on the machine infront of me and, as usual, he’s wearing two t-shirts a woolly hat and full length leggings. Next to him is a man who’s almost as round as he is tall and in front of the both loads of swimmers are doing lengths in their Speedos and rubber hats.

Having swum in about 10 different countries European countries, I can say with considerable expertise that even something as simple as swimming cones with a fair amount of cultural baggage. Ukraine is no different. This place is Speedo and regulation-heavy up to the point that all swimmers have to visit a doctor and obtain permission to swim. Yeah, it’s pretty weird.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back and after a few weeks of heavy-work and very little cycling I’m looking forward to tipping the balance in favour of more cycling and many hours on the bike on Ukraine’s sunny but painfully bumpy streets.

Next week I’m booked onto a cycling tour to some Ukrainian castle and after that I might attempt to cycle 150k back from Chernigov which is somewhere up-north near Belarus.

Before any of those things we have our next ‘Open Mic’ event (tonight) and as it’s now in its 3rd month it looks increasingly ‘stable’ and therefore likely to continue. This is good news for Kyiv.Cool and for everyone who likes to entertain and be entertained 🙂

I may not be up so early tomorrow…

ITS Ukraine

It’s Friday lunchtime, it’s a beautifully sunny day here in Kyiv and nobody is working because it’s May Day.

Unsurprisingly I’m sitting on the cycling machine and in front of me is a swimming pool full of Ukrainians who have decided to spend their afternoon jiggling and dancing at some kind of water aerobics class.

It’s been a crazy but fun week as we finalised preperations for the launch of the Ukrainian Association of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS Ukraine). See www.its-ukraine.org.

We had hoped to launch ITS Ukraine this week, but delayed slightly so we could get all the admin in place and finish a few procedural things. Still, we are basically ready to roll and I look forward to getting stuck in to ITS Ukraine when I get back to Kyiv on 13th May after a week in Brussels and the UK.

At 14:30 today I also have a meeting with Fryday’s here in Kyiv who may support our new ‘open mic’ evening that Kyiv.Cool are organising. More on that soon, but if you’re curious about life in Kyiv then head to www.Kyiv.Cool.

OK, I’m done and off for a sauna.

Happy May Day and here’s hoping everything stays peaceful in Odessa today and in the weeks ahead.


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Jamie Oliver

1 hour
Level 6/7
411 Calories

…and now I have to eat breakfast as British pop-chef Jamie Oliver prances around his garden on the restaurant’s TV cooking food that Ive never seen anyone in the UK eat.

Training day 9

I forgot my phone yesterday and had to cycle without any internet. It was seriously boring.

However, I did manage to notch the training bike up to level 6 for 30 minutes which makes life considerably harder than level 5.

It’s now Friday and I managed to cycle for four out of the past five days, which isn’t a bad start – especially as I haven’t arrived home before 11:30pm all week.

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Exhaustion and Boredom

Don’t worry, I’m not bored yet. However I met a guy on Friday last week who runs a cycling club here in Ukraine (Actually the national association of cyclists) and unsurprisingly he’s done quite a lot of long distance cycling.

Dealing with boredom he’s said was one of the challenges. Getting bored during training (or bored of training) and getting bored during long days of cycling.

He has a point.

OK, I’m hardly going to suffer Terry Waite-style and I’ve done enough solo travelling to know that I’m quite comfortable with long days without company, but during my only previous experience of anything that could be considered an ‘endurance’ sport (two 10-day mountain hikes) I learned that once exhaustion sets in – it’s a whole different kettle of fish.

Being able to lay in bed and sleep when you are tired is perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of modern life. I’m quite delighted that, should I wake up feeling lethargic, I don’t have to go out to chase, kill and then cook my breakfast. Mattresses and fridges don’t get the recognition they deserve these days, but I’m a big fan.

On the other hand, waking up when you’re knackered after a full day of physical abuse and hauling yourself out of bed for another day of physical abuse, day after day, messes with you. In my case it leads to bouts of serious grumpiness and this in turn leads to the inevitable “I’m bored of this now”.

The fact is that being super-f-ing-exhausted on some distant path or mountain really doesn’t compare with laying in a sauna, scratching your belly and thinking about dinner.

Thankfully though it is way more memorable, you tend to meet more interesting people and it is the end result that matters. For some reason we have evolved to enjoy suffering and overcoming exhaustion as strangely rewarding activities if you achieve your ultimate goal.

So, I will try to remember these thoughts when the thoughts of “I’m bored of this/I can’t be bothered/I’d rather be relaxing in a sauna drinking a watermelon smoothie” start to kick-in.

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Equipment Envy

Anyone who has ever taken up a new sport or hobby has almost certainly suffered from it. Equipment envy is a weird mix of jealousy, intrigue, consumerism and, I think, a natural desire to have the best possible equipment to help you succeed in whatever sport/hobby you are pursuing.

OK it is at least 50% pointless, but it’s also part of the fun and yesterday I spent hours learning about various bike parts, upgrades, customzations and accessories.

It was clear from my first journey on Saturday that my new bike was good but not good enough for one month of almost continuous cycling. This is why:

The seat is a little bit too far forward meaning I either have to hang my arse off the back of the seat or sit forward in a less-than-perfect cycling position.

I don’t like the black seat post (superficial I know, but I have to maintain my cool).

The width of the handlebars (drop bars) is a little bit too narrow. It feels crampt and there is no room for ‘stuff’ like maps, mirrors, mobile phones etc

I don’t like the ‘drop’ (racing style) handlebars.

…and finally, I’m not a big fan of the front brakes.

Basically I need to upgrade the drivers seat and the dashboard and as I learnt yesterday, there are five million ways to do this. The question is: which way?

The dashboard problem is almost certainly a result of the fact that I’ve never ridden a road or racing bike. I grew up in a village and spent my whole childhood riding over bumps and jumping/falling off things. I like bouncing over holes and pavements and riding offroad and preferably downhill. Aging 30+ years has apparently done very little to change this, and so, road bikes have always looked uncomfortable and boring.

My roadbike needs to be a little bit ‘more mountain’ – starting with a new seat post.

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CT 5 & A Weekend in Lviv

I managed another 7:45am start today but it was far from easy. Orthodoxy’s insistence on using a different calendar means that Easter weekend in Ukraine is one week later than in Europe and Ukrainians insistence on being Orthodox means Easter is a ‘big deal’. So we had a long weekend and I escaped to Lviv in Western Ukraine, perhaps Ukraine’s most beautiful city.

Like most other big cities in Ukraine, Lviv is a whopping 500km from Kyiv and this means a 9 hour tourney there (with two food and two police stops) and then 7 hours home again on Monday. However it was worth it.

Having easy access to Lviv is perhaps one of the best things about living in Kyiv, and while I disagree with many Ukrainian’s assertion that it’s the ‘most Ukrainian city’ (it is unlike anywhere else in the country, therefore not typical of Ukraine), it is still a special place. Lviv is a shining example of Ukrainian hospitality, creativity and culture and also shows what can be achieved when a local population learn to love and engage with their city and surroundings. A Flaneur’s dream.

Easter in Lviv


[Click the image above to view more pictures from Lviv]

Anyway, back in Kyiv the weather is cold and grey and I’m struggling to find much motivation for pedalling. Only the promise of fruit and yoghurt plus a ‘detox fresh’ and coffee is keeping me going.

Later today I will, for the first time, switch my car tyres back to ‘summer tyres’ thus confirming the end of winter. However any positive emotions that might appear as result of that will be short lived as my car is then due for a 1,500 EUR repair.

Perhaps I should cycle everywhere 🙂

52 minutes
Level 5
15.06 km
333 calories

via Google Keep.

Cycle Training Day 4

I’m a little bit late starting today (9am) but only because I was eating Sushi and drinking beer with my brother and Ollie until 1:30am.

We were celebrating the first night of Kyiv’s first open mic night ‘Caberet Clandestino’ in Podol.

I had the idea when Pete (my brother) said he was coming to Kyiv this week.
I like the relaxed and random nature of open mic events and its something I miss when I’m here.

Once Pete had agreed, the rest all fell into place quite easily. I’m not entirely sure that I explained the concept to my Ukrainian friends very successfully and there was a little bit of ‘we don’t do that’, but everyone was willing to give me the benefit of their doubt and as a result we had an amazing night.

Bochka (our venue) gave us their stage for free on condition that 30 people attended and they also provided a short grumpy sound guy for a very affordable 250 UAH. Kyiv.Cool, Facebook and our friends all promoted the event, and Pete and Ollie arrived with a large stage banner, guitar and loop pedal.

Much to delight we had about 50 people and after a drunken lawyer took to the stage to sing a nursery rhyme (three times and while Pete provided some beatbox beats) people’s inhibitions evaporated and we had singing, comedy, poetry, hip-hop rapping and even a mime/strip routine.

Even the grumpy sound guy was tapping his foot and joining in!

I’m now confident not only that Ukrainians like open mic nights, but also that they are open and willing to try new things and not afraid to perform! I had assumed these things to be true anyway and it seems I was right.

Expect more open Mic events soon.

Now back to the cycling. It seems cycling is more popular than I thought as both bikes were occupied this morning forcing me onto one of the lazy sit-down cycle machines. It’s basically the same but with a chair and pedals out the front and apart fe being uncomfortable, I can’t tell what the difference is.

It seems like the post-9:00am crowed are a lot older (50+) so although I’m half-asleep I feel young and fresh-faced in comparison.

Level 5/6

Time for a swim…

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