Mt Ventoux off road ascent

So having already done Mt. Ventoux from Malaucene twice and Sault once I was looking to do Ventoux for a fourth time. However having recently competed in the 3 Peaks Cyclo Cross race I was keen to find an off road ascent. Having recently spoken to Richard Allen from “Here Come the Belgians” I found out about the Piste de Graviers Blancs (the track of the white gravel) which starts from Bedoin and goes to the Chalet Reynard, leaving the last 7ish KM to the top on the road. After some research I found out that at about 15KM there is a junction on the Piste de Graviers Blancs where you can turn left on to the Piste de Tetes Chauvre, which then takes you to within  4KM of the summit on the Malaucene road, this is what I decided to do.

We arrived a day early and parked the van between Malaucene and Bedoin not far from the top of the Col de Madeleine on the Bedoin side.  The next morning after a fair few glasses of Van-Rouge the night before, I free-wheeled down to Bedoin to start my ride, not much of a warm up for what was about to start. Riding up from Bedoin and trying to find the start was the hardest bit, luckily I had spent a bit of time the previous night looking for it. It seems strange that it is so hard to find, almost as if the locals don’t want people to go up this way. The piste de graviers blancs is exactly that and the start was quite slippery so I had to push the bike around a few corners that where like riding on marbles. Once the first K was done though all is good and the whole thing is ride able. I was on my cross bike with 35MM Landcruiser tyres and had a 38 chainring and huge 42 rear sprocket which I used a fair bit.

I was never really sure I was on the right route until I got to the aforementioned junction, however I found the track so good I just decided to keep riding it, as long as it was 1. still going up and 2. I kind of new it was going roughly in the right direction. I actually thought it was going up and around to the Malaucene road much lower.

Anyway once the road got to the junction for the tete de chauve I knew I was good. This track was not as steep and once upon a time was tarmac so the riding was much quicker, in fact once you get to this junction there is only just over 8KM to go half of which is on the road.

The whole way up I only saw one jeep, even once I got to the last 4KM on the road, I only saw two cars, it was the end of October though. I think a cross bike would almost be certainly the quickest bike to do this on. I created a segment from Bedoin to the top and find that I am the third quickest, the two before me were both on mountain bikes and a lot younger that me so I think the cross bike was the right choice. If I ever go back (almost certainly) I would like to ride up and down this way. However riding down on your own would be a bit risky as there is nobody to be seen on this route so a crash on your own could turn into a bit of an epic adventure.

https://www.strava.com/activities/1238700160/segments/30884500676

Mt Ventoux off road ascent

If you have not seen it before a video about the bike, a Viner Super Prestige Sram Rival Cross bike

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Fourth for Four

Fourth for Four is the idea, on the 4th of January 2016 and for 4 weeks a few things to do, nothing to do with new year resolutions or even “Operation Transformation”, also not for ever just four weeks, do the following.

Stop drinking any form of Alcohol

Stop smoking (just four weeks)

Do at least four hours of sport of your choice a week, 30 minutes each day and one hour one day.

If you take up the challenge the drinking and smoking thing is fairly self explanatory. The sport though can be any form of sport that gets your heart going just slightly above what would be normal for you. So for example a steady one hour walk would suffice. Do more if you have time.

If you do all of these things for the full four weeks there can be no doubt that you will lose some weight and your heart rate will drop.

To help your motivation there will also be spinning sessions in Allihies Community hall on Mondays and or Lehanmore on Wednesdays. One hour spinning is good exercise for weight loss. Any sport or physical activity will do I will cycle, but walking, running, circuit training etc are all good.

On top of the benefit of losing some weight your heart will improve. On day one before you get out of bed take your resting heart rate and do this every three days, count it for the full minute. Mark it down on a piece of paper. Everybody has different heart rates so the comparison is between the beginning and the end of the four weeks. There is a good chance that it will start to go down very quickly. Especially if you have a drink or two every day. Also weigh yourself at the end of each week, after two weeks you should start to lose weight. Take a look at a previous post I made about November off the drink.

Fourth for Four

fourth for four

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Polar M400 Fitness Watch

Polar M400 Fitness Watch, is a fairly new device that has an integrated Heart Rate Monitor and GPS system. As well as a device that recognises when the wearer is moving. Therefore it works out during each day how much exercise you have been doing. It can be used in three modes.

1. Just wear the watch and the device recognises movement, therefore exercise

2. Turn on the GPS, walk the dog and it will track your walk and recognise your efforts

3. Wear the heart rate chest strap do the same walk and it will work out more precisely your effort.

Polar M400 Fitness Watch

For example take the dog for a 3KM walk, which just wearing the Polar M400 Fitness Watch works out to 33 %. As does wearing the watch and turning on the GPS 33% . Or use the HRM and GPS and the same walk works out to 50% of your daily needs.

The watch is quite clever and needs to know your height, weight, age and gender to work these things out. Also via the polar website you can hook up your watch and tell it more information such as your BMI and how much exercise you would expect to do in a week..

I bought the Polar M400 Fitness Watch as I do a bit of cycling, obviously there are cycling specific devices that attach to the handle bars which is what I could have gone for, the reason I went for the watch is that I also do a fair bit of walking on the roads or in the hills and want to be able to use the device to calculate my efforts and fitness. So I use a piece of foam to thicken the bar and strap the watch to the bars, it is easy to read (even for my old eyes) and I don’t need to remove my hands from the bars.

A short video showing some of the screens

There are four built in sport settings for the watch including cycling so the device is good for cycling too. If you use the polar website app you can configure extra activities too, however I have not done this.

If you have never used a HRM before it will work out your training zones. There are two main options for working out zones and the polar uses the simple percentage of maximum system. It creates five zones. I won’t go too much into detail but basically most training should be done in the zones 1 – 3, Zone 1 is very easy and is a recovery zone that is also good for burning fat, where as zone 3 is a reasonably hard zone that you should be able to keep up for a few hours, mainly burning carbohydrates. Zone 2 is in the middle. Zone 4 and 5 are fairly flat out and on the limit and would mainly be used during races etc. The other main system has six zones which are worked out of percentages of your working zone (Max minus Minimum HRM) The problem as far as cycling is concerned is that most riders train to hard, the Zone 2 is a perfect place to be to increase endurance and train the heart to do be more efficient. What happens to most riders is as soon as a hill comes they go over zone 3 into 4 or beyond which actually is not so good for the training. This is my number one reason to buy the HRM as I need to slow down on the hills to stay in my good zone. Also, and good to know for lots of people, if your main goal is to lose weight you don’t have to go hard, you need to stick to zone 1. But it is all about time, so you need to do TITS…. time in the saddle… Obviously it is not just about cycling and power walking in Zone 1 is better for losing weight than power walking in zone 3. Without going over the top. Two hours in Zone 1 is better for burning fat than 2 hours in Zone 3. But two hours in Zone 3 is a better work out for your body, it all depends what your objective is.

Back to the watch I have been using it for a few weeks now, on the bike I rarely scroll through the different screens, there are multiple screens per activity. But distance time and heart rate are what I want to know. It also works out average speeds, times in different zones, altitude etc. Oh and altitude is the watches biggest problem, way out and if I started syncing the watch with strava I would not get any where near the climbing in meters that I actually do. So polar could do with fixing that.

Polar M400 Fitness Watch

The Polar data from a ride, the height gain is noted as 450 Meters Where as in the Strava data from the same ride coming from an Android device it is 587 Meters (below), that is a big loss of climbing and can be checked using a OS map at the high points. The distance difference is due to my method of standby being different on the two devices.

Polar M400 Fitness Watch

The battery is charged using an android type smart phone charger and the watch will go for days on end no problem. However with the GPS and HRM turned on I doubt that it would do the 8 hours Polar say it will. If I was going for a long 160KM cycle I would make sure it was fully charged before I set off. Maybe this will improve with time.

Would I recommend the Polar M400 fitness watch to others, yes and no. Yes if you have never used a HRM GPS before and want somewhere fairly easy to start. No, if you have a good idea how it all works, in that case maybe spend a bit more and get something a bit better. Or forget the GPS and just buy a HRM for about 60€. Also if it is your only device and altitude is important, No… I do like it though and am happy enough, especially at the price.

The Polar M400 Fitness Watch website page for the Polar M400

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