October 29, 2018

Gearing Set Up for Cycling Holidays in Galicia

by Dean Fletcher

Many who decide to look at cycling holidays in Spain, do not live in mountainous countries. Yes, most countries have hills, and plenty of tests for those who love climbing. Spain, and in particular Galicia, can be a very challenging place to ride your bike. So a lot of thought has to go into gearing set up for your cycling holidays in Galicia. What works in the rolling terrain of the UK, may not be ideal for the steeper stuff to be found on Spain’s north west coast. So what is the ideal set up?

Standard Gearing

Most riders who live in non mountainous regions, will ride with a standard gearing set up. Standard gearing implies a chain ring of 52 or 53 teeth, combined with an onner ring of 39. The inner ring can be a 36 tooth, if you are prepared to pay for a decent front derailleur. This type of set up, for a decent rider will be ideal for a cycling holiday in Galicia. It will enable them to enjoy the flatter roads next to the coast and rivers. At the same time, the climbs will be manageable for a regular rider. As long as the back wheel sprocket has 27 or 28 teeth in its largest ring, almost all climbs will be possible. For a decent rider the recommended set up would be So 52-36 front and 11-27/28 back.

Compact Gearing Set Up

For years I always used the 52-36 gearing set up. However, just recently I have switched to 50-34. The first thing to do when switiching to a compact set up is swallow your pride. Also, forget any pre-conceived ideas of a compact set up being slower. Of course, if you are a Cavendish or a Sagan, a compact group is not for you. However, most cyclists are not, so use what suits you best. On shorter punchier climbs, I can now stay in the big ring. With an 11-27 sprocket, a 6-7% climb of 2-3km is doable in the big ring. Steeper gradients are more manageable with the 34 up front. Real steep stuff, 20%+ will always hurt. With the 34 it does seem to hurt a bit less. The sacrifice is top end speed, particularly descending. However, this is a small price to pay for the improvements in climbing.

In Conclusion 

As with a lot in cycling, it comes down to personal choice. The machismo element will see a compact set up as impossible to use. It isn’t any admittance of lack of strength to use a compact gearing set up. Personally, I am in the best form of my life. My weight is good, my strength too, and I am setting personal bests on some climbs. I firmly believe that the compact set up has been the difference. And more important than anything, the enjoyment factor has increased. I can now tackle climbs such as  Arga de Cima and also the ramps of Mougas knowing that I will get up. And that, especially if you are on a cycling holiday, is more important than anything.

October 22, 2018

Power Meters. Watt is the Story Behind Them?

by Dean Fletcher

Power meters. I don´t have one. I love riding my bike. Primarily to keep fit. Also for the sheer pleasure it gives me. The pain that shoots through my legs when I am climbing. I relish the shortage of breath as the lactic kicks in. That is why I ride a bike. Its a psychological thing for me. I think personally that it keep me young. Mentally and physically. I know it is different for all of us. So let me recount a couple of recent experiences I had with two very differing views on cycling.

Power Meters. Watt is the story behind them?

On Saturday I rode up a beautiful climb, MonteCastrove with a decent group of riders. About twenty of us, and I was somewhere in the middle ability wise. When we reached the top, I “stumbled” upon a conversation regarding performance on the climb. The best guys were all comparing their Strava times on the climb, examining segments. Like me, not all had the Strava app on their phones. However, I was the only one of the ten not to have a power meter. They were all comparing their watts, and examining where they could make improvements. The “winner” was a pure climber. 55kg of sinew and muscle. His average watts were very low compared to the second. He was 72kg but a beast on a bike. The difference in their wattage output was about 33% in purely mathematical terms. I have to admit I was lost totally, so moved away from the conversation.

Where has the Fun Gone?

I will touch on the value of power meters in another blog, as now I am intrigued by their use. Thus, as somebody who has a science degree, albeit form another era in time, I am always fascinated by numbers. However, my initial thoughts on the conversation were these. Nobody spoke about how much they enjoyed the climb. No one seemed that fussed on the fact that we were 450m above the Ria de Pontevedra, with stunning views. It was only me who  mentioned that there was a golf course at the summit. As an ex top level golfer, perhaps I only had an interest in that. Nobody spoke about anything, apart from watts. So, are power meters and Strava spoiling our sport, or are they fundamental.

An Alternative View from a Pro

Ten days ago, I had the pleasure to spend three hours riding with Luis Mendonça. Luis is one of Portugal’s top professional cyclists. I have known Luis for about six years. Without a doubt the nicest guy you could meet. We rode together, at a brisk pace , as I looked for new climbs near his home in northern Portugal. At the top of one rather agonising summit, I asked him about the climb. I was in pieces, he wasn´t even sweating. My question was how do his numbers compare to when he is racing to riding with me. His answer was simple. ” We averaged 14 km/h, in a race it would be 22km/h on that climb at least”. My reply was simple. “What about your watts and heart rate”. His reply was a surprise. ” I don´t have a power meter, and I don´t monitor my heart rate. I ride by sensastions, always have”.

Brief Conclusions

I need to study all this more before I give an opinion. My initial thoughts as a scientist, in the loosest sense of the word? Numbers always help, how can they not? When I trained for a half ironman in 2015 I was numbers driven. However, this was because I hadn´t swam for 32 years, or ran more than 5km. I had to use some sort of yardstick. However, with cycling surely obsession with numbers takes away the pure enjoyment. Or does it? Those obsessed with Strava and power meters at the top of the mountain seemed as happy as I was. Perhaps they ride for different reasons to me. I need to do more research before reaching my own conclusions, which I will share on this blog. That will include more kms on my bike, and all of them in cycling in  Galicia,  so I will enjoy my studies. I will keep you posted.

October 19, 2018

Cycling Holidays in Spain. So why Galicia?

by Dean Fletcher

There are many regions to choose from when considering cycling holidays in Spain. So why Galicia? There are many considerations to be taken into account when planning your trip. Spain is a very varied country. Its regions, its climate, its accesibility and its cycling culture all vary substantially. So why does Galicia stand out?

Mallorca and Girona

The most popular destinantions for cycling holidays in Spain are without doubt Mallorca and Girona. These have been the staple diet for years of cyclotourists to the country. Mallorca is well set up for cycling. Plenty of holiday companies operate there, and generally the weather is good. So what are the downsides? One could say it has been the victim of its own success. Mallorca now can be full of cyclists, and cars. This issue fed the emergence of Girona as a new centre for cycling holidays in Spain. As the professional peloton became more international, overseas riders set up home in Girona. It has plenty to offer, but again could be going down the path of Mallorca as overcrowded. The “been there,seen it , done it go the T short ” mentality.

Spanish regions north and south

Other hotbeds of cycling in Spain have their own issues too. Andalucia and Alicante are popular, as many parts are just like being in the UK. So those looking for authentic Spain will be disappointed in Alicante in particular. It is “Britain on sea” . The Basque country is the domestic haven for cyclists. However its terrain can be too demanding for many. Asturias is the same story, and the weather there can be awful, even in the summer. Many have seen the Angliru in the Vuelta at 5 degrees and raining in late August.

Cycling Holidays in Spain.So why Galicia?

The question therefore is when booking something new for your cycling holidays in Spain.So why Galicia? Galicia has everything that you could possible need. Accesibility via Porto is very simple. The roads are excellent, and due to a lower populaltion density, relatively traffic free. The weather is very ambient. No overly cold temperatures in winter, nor sweltering heat in the summer. The terrain can be challenging, but only if you seek that out. There are endless kms of flat, mildly undulating terrain, and much of it coastal, or next to rivers. The price is very competitive. The quality of food in relation to its cost is second to none in Spain.

So, overall Galicia, despite it being realatively unknown, is perfect for cyclists of all levels. The next time you look into cycling holidays in Spain, put Galicia at the top of the list. Guaranteed enjoyment.


October 12, 2018

Off Season Cycling

by Dean Fletcher

Today is the 12th of October. In Spain that is a national holiday. The day of Pilar, the patron saint of the Hipsanic people. It is also the date that Columbus sighted land for the first time in his journey to discover the Americas. So, all in all, it is an important day in the Spanish calendar. For me however, it has always signalled the end of the cycling season. And today, it is the first day that it has rained in our part of Galicia since early June. So that is a sign that summer may well have passed, and we need to start preparing for off season cycling. The weather in Galicia is extremely temperate. Very well-designed seasons. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean prevents very cold temperatures within 30-40km of the coast. Yes, it rains, but never too prolonged. How else would we have such beautiful forests? However, it is unlikely that we will see the 25-30 degree temperatures for a while. So, we must start to prepare for off season cycling.

October 8, 2018

Cycling and Blogging Brings Rewards

by Dean Fletcher

When I set up the Cycling Galicia project, it was always going to be ” a journey”. This is a well used phrase in modern life. I wasn´t sure where it would all lead, and the best journeys are always like that. Cycling is a huge part of my life, and always will be. Blogging has never been, and writing was not what I thought was my strong point- However, now I can see that cycling and blogging brings rewards. And both have now become part of my life. And thanks to Feedspot , I have now achieved something that I have never achieved on two wheels. I have won something. Well, not “won”, but I count it as a win. To be named in their top 100 cycling blogs is a win for me.