The price of your bike – does it really matter?

Bikes.

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The bane of my life, our lives.

In our sport, the bicycle is like an endless pit that just swallows money.

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And no, this blog wasn’t me trying to convince myself it’d be ok if my bike still never showed up in New Zealand, as for the second day it remained MIA.

But as we move into the new season, time trials and racing starting to spring back to life, here’s a few things worth considering.

Generally things wear out, they get tired, they break. Unfortunately that’s the way life goes.

The more you use something. The more it’ll break, but at up and over £500 for components in high end bikes, just what are you paying for?

It’s quite common for people to ask me what bike they should buy. New starter, commuter, entry level club rider.

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Experience and funds are limited, you’re just after a bike to get you up and running. And I generally answer along the same lines.

Those of you that know my family will know that we’ve always been into a bit of cycling. Mountain biking as a kid, long weekend cycling holidays as a family, coast to coast at 14. I’m no stranger to the world of cycling and bikes, but I’m by no means a professional.

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At home we’ve owned around 15 bikes in the time since I finished growing. Everything from mountain bikes, hybrids to bottom end road bikes and of course, a brand new, full carbon, canyon time trial bike.

The super secure “bike storage unit”, originally known as the dining room, is now home to some rather tasty bit of kit all of which is regularly used and abused out on the beautiful British roads.

But just how much difference is there between a bottom end road bike, and a high end time trial bike? And what does your investment buy? Well it’s easy do quantify these figures.

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Through price analysis mixed with wind tunnel testing, you can see the power saved by swapping in and out each component to give you an estimate.

And yeah you could put a rough figure on the power saved per GBP. But is that what we’re trying to do? I love my time trial bike, ever since my first session it’s treated me very well.

My second ride on it was a mid 49 minute – 25 mile team time trial. Of which i spend 75% of the time in the Amber zone, being gentle to Mr. Gardner’s legs.

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And it’s fast, it’s really really fast.

But for the best part of £7,000 is it making that much difference?

At ironman Wales in my first season as a cyclist/triathlete, I managed l drop my weight to around 80kg, my usual summer race weight, so that I could deal with the hills slight better.

The ironman Wales bike course is 180km with 2,400m of rolling climbs, with no real flat or respite for the legs. That’s 112 miles with around 7,500ft of climbs.

I rode the course on my cannondale road bike, clip on aeros and a nice set of tubular wheels. (Wheels with no inner tubes allowing the tire pressure to be higher and giving more grip on the road).

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And I came round in a 5:40, the 33rd quickest bike split of the day, far ahead of many of the fancy tt bikes floating about.

So I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s hilly, a road bike is better’.

Well no, the pros would never be seen on their road bikes doing the same course.

And the same can be said for 3 weeks previous, where I did the pan flat Cotswold classic course in circa 2:11 minutes, another top 10 bike split.

Well what’s all the fuss?

Even my pinnacle, a £300 entry level aluminium road bike from the retailer Evans Cycles, can hold onto almost any chaingang.

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Yes, I put the saddle up after the photo don’t worry.

And it’s metal.

With 7 gears.

I may as well ride a wheel barrow.

I’m no better at cycling than the majority of athletes that train hard and get their miles done.

So I’m certainly not letting you blame that.

There are much cheaper ways to save watts, an aero helmet, a skinsuit, smaller items that can be obtained for under £300. You don’t need to splash on a new bike first off!

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Liam Bromiley from Bath Uni, managed a 20:15 on the U375. A time trial course near Frome, Somerset. And that’s fast, really fast.

He holds the course record on a time trial bike around 19:45.

So what’s the extra £4,000+ worth? Where does it go? Well no matter who you are, unless you’re Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellera or similar, it’s unlikely that you’re going to go round setting course records on a road bike.

They are slower.

Fact.

But unless you’re trying to set course records, win championship medals or reach the top end of your speed. I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it.

Everyone knows my bike leg is my strength. It shapes my races, regularly transforming a bad situation into the perfect one. Out of the water in a bad place, out of conntrol. And onto the run in the driving seat, with everything to lose.

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But without the canyon, I’m not just suddenly slow.

And I’m by no means the fastest cyclist.

And obviously, a slower bike costs you a fair few more watts, and you’ll have to work harder. Granted I wouldn’t put out top end bike splits on the road bike, but I think you’d be surprised at just how close you can get if you don’t shut the door before it’s open!

The money you’ll save in service and maintenance is astronomical.

And that’s the defining factor. We can’t spray pay slip after pay slip on fresh gear.

Replacement parts. Besides, it’s far more fun to train hard and get quick without the gear, then watch your legs burst into life when you get it!

I’m not suggesting you buy a £100 bike for you new race season.

But if you’re on a budget, don’t panic yourself. You’re not out of the race!

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The Next Step – Learning To Race

New Zealand was great.

Sunny, peaceful, relaxing.

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Finally back in the UK it’s time to reflect on the positives and negatives of the trip, pass judgements and decide the next steps moving forward.

Flying out to New Zealand I had one job:

Win the age group. And therefore – qualify for Kona.

Get that golden ticket that so many people spend a life time hunting for.

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And it’s hard for me to say I had a bad race, because I didn’t. I stuck to the plan and executed the result. So when people ask me am I happy with it? Well yes, on that day that was the best I could have done.

On one side of the coin, I biked a 5:05 into the wind. However on my side of the coin I finished the swim with 500 people ahead of me. Not a place to be competitive.

I am capable of so much more. My build up let me down, I was lazy with my diet, amongst other things I wasn’t quite as disciplined and regimented as I like to be.

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And there are so many unanswered questions.

You see, that was the first time I’ve ever ‘raced’ an ironman. By which I mean, pushed on from start to finish, holding an uncomfortable intensity, attempting to go fast rather than purely see the finish line with a smile on my face.

And I learned a lot.

But now I have a whole mind of curiosities. Unanswered questions about myself. So much unfinished business with what I’m capable of.

We can start with the obvious one. A 1:23 swim leaves so much to still be desired.

And what happens if I push the swim? Race myself for the best possible time, rather than just get to my bike. Will my cycle legs still hold out? Will it bite me on the run?

And the bike leg, what happens if I swim faster and get myself into a strong group? Could we use the 12m legal zone to gain 5-10 minutes? Maybe even more.

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My 3:28 marathon was solid, the proudest part of my race. That’s what won the age group for me and running it home down that finishing shoot is a feeling that will get me through a lot of hard sessions in the coming months.

But the medics weighed me at 83kg before the race, and I’ve only been running 6 months. So what can I run at 75kg? What’s my real race weight? Can I push a 3 hour with more training and more resilience? Can my transitions be quicker? Is my nutrition right? Can I handle more caffeine? A new bike position? Better prep? No niggles?

All of these things flying round in my head, and the real answer to a lot of them, is unknown.

But now. In my 3rd season in the sport I’m in the position where Im ready to learn. I can afford to attack races, make mistakes. Fall down, break, push myself too far.

I have to remember that this time last year I’d just started back after 6 months off. And it’d still be another 3 months before I managed to run anything over 5k. So I have a lot of progression still to come.

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It’s time to step it up, and try to begin the transition from a good age grouper, to a seriously competitive one.

And build up the pieces, create the jigsaw of the ‘perfect race’.

I may never find the perfect combination of speed and efficiency, I may never string together a flawless race. But the more mistakes I make, and the closer I get. The faster I’ll become.

And it won’t happen overnight, it’ll be a long journey, a tough process. Nobody likes losing, giving everything and it just not being good enough. A deflating feeling.

But you can’t win every time, and every time you lose it makes you that bit more resilient.

So my next big race is in 4 months time at ironman UK. Everything else will be used as a warm up, a test, an experiment.

I’ll be racing everything I can find from park runs, time trials, duathlons and triathlon. Of all distances, testing myself to work out what I am really capable of.

And as always, the most important part – don’t get injured.

July 14th. Ironman UK.

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See you there.

Ironman New Zealand 

Flying out to the other side of the world for an ironman was an interesting one, here’s how I got on and coped with the challenge of Ironman New Zealand.

No support. Lots of speculation. Lots of doubt.

Was it too early in the season? Was I still too heavy? Had my running progressed enough? Would I manage the time zone? Had flu taken too much out of me?

I’d like to take this opportunity to make a huge shoutout to my partners Vigilance QA, without their financial backing for travel & race entries, none of this would have been possible. And avoiding the jetlag had a massively positive impact on the race.

But none the less, worries and doubts aside, I would be on the start line, and I was determined to make it count.

Transition all set, a slight blip in forgetting a key part of my hydration system, luckily the wonderful Australian family in the hotel ran me back in the car to pick it up. Babysitting me once again as they have all week, something for which I’ll be forever grateful! A great group of people I’ve really enjoyed being around.

The weather looked set for a fast day, slight clouds, 21 degrees, not too much sunshine. One of the reasons the race was picked in the first place. Warm, but generally mild for a Southern Hemisphere ironman.

Well that was until the wind picked up, and everything fell apart.

The swim was nearly cancelled, with the waves being so high, with 5% of the competitors being fished out of the water before this leg of the race had even reached half way. And 13.5% not making it to the end of the day.

A day in which the pros added 30 minutes to their normal ironman New Zealand time, the age groupers were in for a long day.

So into the surfers paradise we went, being hurled & thrown about in the Great Lake Taupo, taking no prisoners.
Generally the number of scuffles was kept to a minimum. I only encountered another swimmer once as they were thrown over me by a big wave. Rare for the normal washing machine of a mass start.

Everyone was too busy focusing on staying the right side of the water. No sinkers today.

As we approached the turn boy at half way my numbers were good. I was in control. I’m a slow swimmer, despite improving week on week, I’m still a way off, but I’m aware of that.

For me the swim is about damage limitation, you can’t win the race on the swim, but you can throw it away.

These words ringing in my ears I knew I had to attempt to plow on, work with the waves, don’t fight them.

It was only after the turn point when I realised, despite swimming fast, I was swimming far. A new pb on speed, but it counts for nothing when you swim an extra 700 metres. An extra 20%. That I didn’t need.

It lasted forever.

When I was finally out of the water I knew it had been a brutal one. 1:25 on my watch, i’d have to pray the others had a rough time too.

I knew on a good day the other boys were capable of swimming about 50 minutes, so I called them half an hour ahead, and moved on.
Obviously there were only 3 bikes in transition, the rest gone. A sight I’m not unfamiliar with.


Half an hour to take back, 180km bike.

That’s a tall order.

I’d left a lot of work to be done, but there was still 90% of the race left.

And the only thing I love more than riding my time trial bike, is riding my time trial bike in a chase.

Head down, legs on, play time.

And everything sprung to life.
I’d read in Laura Trott & Jason Kenny’s book recently, when you’re at your peak it feels smooth, effortless.

And I was really firing on all cyclinders.

My heart racing at 145 beats per minute, higher than it’s been for exercise over 4 hours in 2 years. But I barely even felt like I was racing.

Little did I know at the time, it would sit there for the full 9 hours.

I was still so far back, people at home would be panicking. Well, Mum would be panicking.

The one woman that I knew would be watching the race inseparable from the screen, heart on her sleeve, living & breathing every time stop as if she were there. From thousands of miles away, the other side of the world to me, at ironman new zealand.

So I’d have to make that time check fast, and move through the field.

First time check, 7 athletes down, into 15th. Hundreds passed in the process.

Breathe mum. Breathe.

Now a lot of people say I do too many miles. Too much junk.

Riding to Skegness into a headwind for 9.5 hours, at 115 beats per minute.

Useless.

Useless until you turn into a headwind for 45km. 45km, 145bpm. 90 minutes.

Not a single bit of me was phased, this was child’s play.

My legs could eat through these miles without even telling me they were tired.

Keep your “junk miles”.

45km of brutal, hard work. Up the hill and into the wind. Legs in full swing, athlete after athlete going back past me, none in my age group.

I could see it unfolding, I knew what was happening on the other side of the world. A small smile crept across my face.

There would be panic at home: “He’s blown up”. “Went too hard”. “Falling to pieces”.

The reasonable voice dad would definitely wade in “he knows what he’s doing, it’s a long way yet”.

Checkpoint 2, 90km, 6th place.

Athletes were getting few & far between as I approached the front end. I knew I was chasing the better end of my age group, the racers, each more experienced than me by a good 5 years.

Still, it was no use to me to panic. All I could do was keep going, I’d barely even turned on the gas. A Diesel engine ticking over at a single speed: fast.

I raced back to the final turn, emptied some of the tank. I knew everyone else would be taking it easy, anticipating the brutal haul back into town, saving their legs for the marathon.

Not me.

My legs would take the marathon no matter what, because I was going to tell them to.

This was my chance, on the bike, attack while they’re resting.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Bingo.

135km in, 1st place.

I’d later find out my bike leg was under 20 minutes behind many of the pros, but could I hold it together.

Get up, stay up. You’re not throwing this one away. Not this far from home.

I really worked that last leg of the bike, retreated deep inside my mind and just let my legs go into auto pilot. One job, 145 beats per minute. That would be enough.

Off the bike and transition was empty. 80 bikes set in place, the race wasn’t even close to being over.

Months of work on my running, 2016 was a terrible year. Forever on the back foot, 2017 was going to be different.

Too heavy to run. Not enough track sessions. Need a coach.

They said.
My legs were out to tell them otherwise.

My legs felt strong, the winter miles on the bike had really paid off. A 5:05 to the front of the field, with gas left to go.

But a marathon is a long way, so I got my head down and worked my way out.

My IBS started to struggle, it was a warm day but my nutrition couldn’t ruin this course. Not now. Listen to the body, push through the pain.

In New Zealand the marathon is a 3, 14km loop course. I knew this meant the second loop was going to be make or break.

First loop – fresh.

Second loop tired and one to go.

Final loop – run it home, make it count.

The ironman marathon is a crazy place, a series of bonds, friendships, agreements. Some with chats, others the odd word, many in complete silence. Just two people, heads down, enjoying the suffering with another.

My first lap was strong, I kept reserved in the sun, plenty of ice, the odd orange and some electrolytes. Please don’t cramp later.

The clouds had pushed away in the wind, leaving the sun baking down.
Then it hit me, and it hit hard.

I knew stopping wasn’t an option, I’d travelled too far to bottle this medal and world championship place, goals on my mind almost all my life. 

And so the mind games begin.

Fighting every natural instinct the body has. Stop. Drink. Shade. Ice.

Run.


I pushed through the second lap, slowly but surely creeping to the end, fighting off the cramp, hoping I wasn’t overtaken.

If I could hold 3:30 pace, it’d be a mean feat in the sun for someone to come round me, especially from the gap id opened up on the bike.

Dragged on by person after person, people next to me, people on the other side of the world, people I don’t even know.

And then it struck me. As I started the last lap.

Since I got on my bike, I’d been over taken by 3 people, all of which were on the run.

People were hurting, everyone was hurting. All I had to do, was get after it, and bring it home. Make it count.

Step by step, I managed to run a 3:28 marathon.

Ironman New Zealand completed.

First place in the bag, Kona in the calendar, all world athlete rankings points on the board.

2017 has begun.

Ironman New Zealand Trophy

Ironman New Zealand 20-24 podium

Ironman New Zealand – Important Information

All set here for tomorrow’s race. Despite the set backs over the past fortnight. I’ve had lost bikes, valve extenders stuck in rims, ripped tires, cut up feet & the obvious sunburn. But I think I’m finally out the other side. 


By the time you read this it’ll be Fri-yay at home and I’ll hopefully be fast asleep. My bike will be in transition, my bags packed and everything set to go.

Here on the otherside of the world, 10,000 miles from home, 13 hours ahead, my race will start at 7am. That’s 6pm Friday evening for all of you in the U.K. 

The race can be tracked on this link:

http://tracking.ironmanlive.com/mobilesearch.php?rid=727828833938231&race=newzealand&y=2017&athlete=Schofield#axzz4aDj3Bt7H

If it doesn’t work then try this one:

http://bfy.tw/AO3W

But there is a tracker out there, and it shouldn’t be hard to find! 

My start number is 401. Keep your eye out.

A good race would see me finish before 3:30am GMT, that’s a 9:30 race time for me, so watch that screen after your rowdy Friday night. 

The 18-24 bike course record is 4:52:57. 

It’s on my mind, so it may as well be on yours! 

If I finish with a time of over 9:45. “Well done” or “good job” probably aren’t the terms I’m looking for, it’s a good job it’ll be after the watershed. 

But let’s not forget, nothing great ever came from a comfort zone.

And bad days do happen! It can’t always go the way you want, this is just the beginning.

See you on the other side.