The Uphill Struggle

The Uphill Struggle –   Lenny Fairhall 21/11/2017

The road from Llanachaer in Cwm Gwaun over to Dinas Cross rises 250 feet or so in the first half mile, and the initial couple of bends are killers. Actually the next couple of miles are a challenge too, but at least there’s next to no traffic and the views are lovely. As the final stage of a very pleasant autumn run out to Strumble Head this was a great chance to try out a bit of hill climbing technique. There had already been hills on the ride, but not quite like this.

A couple of years before Id been cycling in the same area with the same friends and one had remarked that, instead of hating the hill climbs, you should love them. You have to go up them to get the best views, and the downhills are exhilarating.

So, maybe the hills are really about your head, not your legs and lungs. Of course the head isn’t everything, otherwise you’d end up rolling backwards and falling off. But having a positive attitude certainly seems to help in getting up them, and even more importantly in converting some degree of dread into anticipation. It can help to know what the hill ahead is like, and how long it has taken you in the past. In this case, I knew it was evil at the bottom, but the gradient becomes easier further up.

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At an even more basic level, you should be approaching hills knowing that your tyres are well pumped up, your gear shifters are working, your brakes will work on the way down the other side, and the cables are in good nick.

My bike is a fairly standard hybrid (Giant Escape) with straight handlebars. The lowest gear is a 32 rear sprocket with a 28front chain ring. I’ve fitted bar end extensions so that I can hold the handlebars like Im holding a steering wheel, rather than gripping a trapeze, because it seems to be more comfortable like this. You can get a similar position with drop handlebars, holding the brake hoods and of course there’s a million positions available with butterfly bars. I also have strapless toe-clips on the pedals, which means I can pull them up as well as push them down. I can’t be faffed with cleats, and being strapless, the clips let my feet come off the pedals when I need them to.

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The road out of Llanychaer doesn’t give you a chance to get a run at the hill. You’re into bottom gear from the off. I always try to get into the right gear a couple of bike lengths maybe before a hill really starts, or the gradient increases. Of course you can get off the bike and walk but then I wouldn’t have written this if  I’d decided that was always the way to go. On this particular hill, walking up is almost or as quick anyway.

So I started the climb holding the bar extensions, leaning a bit forward and staying seated. I find leveraging my legs by pulling on the bars with my arms and upper body helps. I never get off the saddle and pedal standing up. (The last time I tried this on a steep hill, the chain snapped and off I fell. Thanks for your concern, but I was unhurt.)

This is hard work, but 10 or 15 minutes of aerobic exercise is not excessive. You are allowed to stop and rest when the road gets a bit less steep and you know youll be able to get started again.

Having both a mental and physical strategy seems to work. Personally I also like an extra-strong mint.

A couple of us stopped to give the lost and slow a chance to catch up. While we waited we agreed another tip for the hills, namely to take it easy early in the ride and on long hills to give your body a chance to warm up, and you leave something in the tank for later on. It’s not a race…er…unless it is, but if you’re into racing, then I’m not writing this for you.

Riding a bike in any area like this part of Pembrokeshire is wonderful, and anticipating rather than dreading the hills makes it even more so. Love the hills!

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Is this person actually clinically dead? – ed

 

Air Quality and Transport in the North

I went to the Campaign for Better Transport meeting with Bridget Fox, a national campaigner with CBT. She really had two big issues to tell us about so I’ll deal with them first. This is in semi-note form so please bear with me – anything you don’t understand please get in touch. 

 

  • Air Quality

 

The big news is the successful Supreme  court judgement in our favour stating that the government is legally liable for its negligence on AQ.

The Campaign to support this should be nationwide  not just London

Cities are likely to be covered but what about smaller towns & rural areas?

What is the extent of the legal requirement?

BF – 80% of emissions are from vehicles. Rest is from old heating systems and diesels on building sites. Particulates can be from braking systems.

  • most buses in the North are diesel.
  • Linked to liveable cities, de-carbonisation.
  • Increasing numbers of players in the space.
  • Breathe Easy groups are growing
  • Large chunks of the country are failing to deliver on air quality
  • Current legislation is unenforced and lenient – enabling rather than mandatory.
  • Lead campaigner is Andrea Lee
  • Poor AQ is “Lethal and illegal”
  • Tests are not effective – see VW.
  • The regulators are In bed with motor manufacturers
  • A new Clean Air act is needed.

Q’s  what percentage of the problem is caused by buses, diesel trains?

  • over 50% in York.
  • Taxis are also a problem
  • HGV’s in particular areas

There are no financial incentives to buy petrol over diesel  (I’m not sure there should be- electric cars and bikes maybe.)

Light vans can be electric.

Hybrid tech is developing

This field could be a lever for regeneration of U.K. manufacturing

Cost is irrelevant in terms of the legislation.

  • It’s time to apply pressure onto LAs – please clarify with the government what they need to do to ensure compliance.
  • But risk that bus companies will cascade bus fleets to non compliant areas.

What impact will Brexit have? It is EU regulations that are being broken.

What was the impact of Black Friday, post-Xmas sales?

UWE report says that waiting for tech solutions won’t work.

  • councils are up against the buffers for revenue. (They could be raising revenue on polluter pays basis).

Air quality policy strategy  could be a necessary criteria for bail-outs (combined authorities)

Fleet procurement, modal shift, demand management.

Government strategy is about economic growth and jobs.

We must move forward with electric vehicles more quickly.

  1. Transport for the North.
  • is a membership body.

Strategy & vision comes from the Northern Powerhouse.

Formal consultation will be in spring 2018,

On the agenda:

Autonomous vehicles

Smart ticketing.

Road-rail

International

Freight.

CBT – has been engaged to produce a challenges and opportunities report.

Focusing on strategic not local issues.

Carbon reduction

Air quality

Network connectivity and integration

There are positive challenges.

Hopefully this will be a positive process and involve local people.

Attitude to TfN may have changed with new govt.

Timetable for phase 2 – January start.

Landscape Quality is an important issue for the North – tourism, outdoor pursuits

Network Rail has run out of money and is disbanding the teams with skills to undertake rail development in the north of England. Resource is moving south so NR can meet their commitments on GWR etc.

Walking and cycling seems to be a long way down on TfN’s agenda.

Smart ticketing seems like one thing TfN actually could deliver.

Are the modes being equally dealt with? It would seem not and we should make sure we get that point made.

Best way to get views represented is to get them into Bridget ASAP.

In Jan/Feb, however, there will be another opportunity to comment. To Amy bcc Bridget.

Very short timescales which is not CBT’s fault.

Clause 8. – says that TfN  must have regard to the results of the public consultation

So far we feel that there has not been enough consideration given to the Social and Environmental impact of strategy. E.g. Carbon impact of new projects, A66/69

Climate Change Act.

What are the other (road) lobby groups doing? Grubby handshakes behind locked doors I suspect,

Is the TFN Board open to the public? AR will check.

DM Suggested we get a Client Earth person up to talk to us.

Exploring legal action to get LA’s to meet their obligations.

  1. Tees Valley – very poorly served by rail even by comparison with other Northern areas.
  1. Greater Manchester spatial strategy will be the template for other studies commissioned by the LEPs.

Study envisages massive house building.

Targets for using brownfield are lower than ever.

Andy Burnham has reservations – he is most likely mayor. This Shows the potential importance of having a mayor.

Manchester has unprecedented local powers on health and other areas.

Simon

(Representing:-

Northern Cycle-Rail Forum

Friends Of the TPT

Cyclenation, Bike-Rail Rep.

Cycling UK Right to Ride for Sheffield.

Sustrans Volunteers Sheffield

University of Sheffield Cycle Forum)