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Q&A with Specialized

 

Hey I did this a while a go for Specialized and thought I would share. #happyRiding

What bike(s) do you ride?

Specialized Era Carbon Comp

Very old Carrera road bike

–          Favorite ride?

Wow, that’s a tough one there is so many! Locally to me I love riding around the South Downs exploring new trails and usually getting very lost!

I love being in the mountains and have spent a lot of time walking, climbing and now biking in Wales. There are so many trail centres and plenty of natural riding too if you know where to go.

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My favourite trail centre at the moment is Afan Forest because you can easily link more than one trail together to make long rides.

Afan also packs in lots into its trails with technical rocky descents, big hard climbs, fun rooty singletrack through forests, board walks and stunning scenery where ever you look.

–          Favorite food?

I love Greek and Italian food, there is nothing better than fresh pasta and pesto with some scrummy olives!

My favourite riding food is salted peanuts, or malt loaf. On long training rides I use nuts as a source of energy which is a change from sweet training ride food.

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–          How long have you been riding?

 

When I was growing up I used to go mountain biking with my Dad to Wales and around our local Dunwich Woods. When I was 10 I went to Slovakia on a mountain bike holiday which was really hard work, at times Dad had to tie a rope around my handle bars and help pull me up the hills. I loved the experience of being outside and the freedom of exploring trails.  I then discovered horse riding and it wasn’t until 2012 (some 12 years later) when I was watching the Olympics at Hadleigh I felt inspired to get back on my bike and try racing.

 

–          How did you get into it?

I got into racing when the Olympics came to London. I was watching the girl’s race at Hadleigh on the TV and was so inspired by these incredible riders that I wanted to try it myself. After my first race I was hooked and decided to set myself a goal, to see how far I could take cross-country racing.

–          Who inspires you?

My parents have always been very inspiring to me both competing for Team GB in Judo and Canoeing. They have always taught me to go out and push myself for what I want to achieve.

From the world of cycling I find a lot of the women racing inspiring but lately watching and hearing about Annika Langvards training for the Cape Epic and how she runs up 16 flights of stairs in her local hospital 10 times has really helped to keep me going in my Trans Alp training.

–          What kind of riding do you do?

Mountain biking is my passion and where I compete, but I enjoy the freedom of getting out on any bike, I just think it’s a great way to experience your surroundings and to be able to go places by your own steam.

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–          What’s your favourite thing about riding?

One of my favourite things about riding a bike is you see the world in a different way, on early morning training rides I often see deer, badgers and owls all creatures that you would usually never see in your car.

I love the freedom cycling brings when I clip into those pedals it’s just me, my bike and the trail, nothing else matters. My mind is clear from everything apart from what’s going on in front of me and I find that is a magical feeling.

–          What’s your best cycling memory?

My best cycling memory has to be travelling around Scotland with my boyfriend Martyn ticking off as many trail centers as we could in a week.

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There has been many from a coaching point of view the first time I taught a child to ride their bike with confidence.

–          What’s your least favourite thing about cycling?

Working full time, like most people my training time is squished in around work. I am an early bird so tend to train around 6.30 before work. I actually love this time of day but when the wind is howling and its chucking it down or icy outside it makes training a lot harder, but it’s about having the resilience to get out, endure the bad weather and know when it comes to racing you will be stronger for it.

–          What advice can you give to people starting out?

If you’re new to mountain biking I would suggest you go with friends who have some experience and head for either your local bridleways or a trail centre and try out green/blue graded trails.

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The key things to mountain biking are:

  • momentum – speed can be your friend it’s going to help you when the ground is muddy or sandy so remember to keep the bike moving
  • look where you want to go – this sounds easy but when you start to progress onto steeper terrain or more committing trails the key is to look where you want the bike to go, looking down at the tree stump usually means you hit it!
  • gear selection – using your gears effectively makes climbing so much more enjoyable, don’t change down to your smallest gear as soon as you start going upwards, ‘reward’ yourself with a change down gear as you go up the hill this will make it easier going and again you will keep your momentum

Getting some coaching is always a good option as you will learn things correctly and stop any bad habits.

 

–          What advice can you give to people who want to improve/ potentially start racing?

There are two options when you’re looking to race if you’re thinking you want to do it seriously you need to look at you strengths and weaknesses to choose the type of racing which will suit you, or if you’re just keen on mountain biking then just getting into cross country is the most accessible type of race with regional races all over the country for different abilities.

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The best way to improve your riding or racing technique is to practice, analyse your strengths and weaknesses, then set yourself a plan of how to improve. Getting a coach is a great way to keep motivated and reach your goals.

 

–      What’s made you want to do the Trans Alps?

In 2012 when I started racing I set myself a goal of a stage race. Now 4 years on I feel my fitness and ability is ready for such a challenge. My aim is to encourage and inspire other women to get outside and have adventures on bikes whether they’re big or small. I want to show that with hard work, determination and focus you can achieve your dreams.

–      What will be your biggest challenge?

The Trans Alp will be a huge challenge both mentally and physically, we will be climbing over 17,000 m which is twice the height of Everest over 7 days in heat, so getting enough fluid will be really important. The altitude makes its harder work too and it’s something I can’t really train for in the UK.

The Passo Gavia

Mentally getting up each day for 5/6 hours in the saddle is something I have not yet experienced, but something I can practice. Michelle my Trans Alp team mate and I will be going to Wales to do long rides over a few days to get an idea of how this will feel!

 

–      Tips to improve confidence?

Look at how far you have come and what you have achieved, when you are faced with a new challenge look back at the last challenge and how you achieved it and think positively about how it will feel to overcome this new obstacle.

Please can you add these social details:

Follow Hannah’s journey to the Trans Alp and beyond on Instagram @hannahlifeon2wheels

Twitter: @Hannaha87

Trans Alp Specialized

Earlier in the year I took part in the Trans Alp bike race. For the race I rode the Specialized ERA Comp the women’s version of the Epic. It was a wonderful bike to ride and race great handing both down and up hill. The brain technology in the shock made for a super comfortable ride without loosing power going up hill.

Thanks to MA-Aerial Worx for the video!

Day 7 – The final ascent

Today was a mixture of emotions standing on the start line I felt elated to have made it this far, with no serious mechanicals for both me and the bike! But unhappy that it was to be the last 54 km ride in this beautiful race.

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After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. The climb started on road turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we steadily made it to the top. I was feeling great today, no aches and pains and was actually enjoying this demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps!) Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippy too and had to be walked. I joined a trail of silent cyclists pushing their bikes with a feeling of accomplishment that we all shared being there on the final day. Once the terrain was rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like home in a way and the rain was certainly not dampening my state of mind as I looked for the lines ahead. The Era has been fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for climbing. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to try lines and go down singletrack which I know I would usually not do. I have relished in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week has been one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, scrambling, nutrition and positive mental attitude!

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The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

When I reached the top I felt relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there has been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure, one that I am already looking to replicate by taking on another stage race, these thoughts filled my head as I soaked up the downhill. The first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

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The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. I had two cups and carried on. Just up the road was my Dad, like a hot water bottle angel, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final climb in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom (her boyfriend). We finished the final downhill section together down some rocky singletrack which I really enjoyed. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippy roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualising what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream it was difficult to describe how I felt, relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone both in descending and climbing and overwhelmed to now be able to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

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Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me. Thank you to Specialized for letting me use the Era, Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

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Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

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I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents, one of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well so far as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly before I came away i asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste Lake Garda and Prossecco!

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Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)

Day 3 – The picturesque stage

Day three – The picturesque stage

Today has to be my favourite stage so far! Yes the climbs were brutal and steep but this was compensated in the most stunning single-track I think I have ever ridden!

The race started with a climb (something I am getting used to!) for 23km it was tough work but mainly on road so it was a case of getting in a good gear and keeping a rhythm.

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The route followed the river and climbed gently to start with before getting steeper, the descent from the top was steep and rocky but good fun and led to a well-earned watermelon stop!

The next section was a brutal climb so steep that in places I felt like I was going backwards, I had to hop off and walk on several occasions.

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This gruelling uphill effort when on for what felt like an age, waiting at the top was my Dad with a much needed water bottle refill before the fun stuff began!

The enduro section today was rocky to start with wooded single-track, I loved it apart from the scraping of my hand against the rock which was not much fun.

One of the best parts of today was riding along the side of the reservoir up high through a waterfall and through wooded singletrack it was brilliant fun and the views were out of this world!

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I really enjoyed today the climbs were challenging but the singletrack was brilliant and made up for the pain I felt climbing.

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Today was the hottest day so far and the heat is starting to drain my energy!

The final preparation week

Anyone who knows me well by now will probably be aware that I am racing across the Alps with team mate Michelle. If you’re unlucky enough to have seen me recently you’re probably bored of hearing about the wave of different emotions that hit me on a daily basis about how I feel about it being so close…

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Since starting this journey in October the idea that I actually have to haul myself and my bike up Everest twice has been far on the horizon, a blip in the distance. Well now it’s only a week away that blip is in full focus in my mind and all around me consuming most of my days with thought’s on whether ive done enough training, having I got my nutrition right, what if I brake a spoke have I packed enough brake pads and so the carousel of thoughts goes on…

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Last week was a huge training week for me as I crammed in vital miles on the bike around work and play (play being one fun ride with my Dad). I covered 185 miles (one of my biggest weeks) in 15 hours and felt super happy with how everything went.

This is my first stage race and one question I keep asking myself is, why did I pick a 7 day stage race as my first and not maybe 2 or 3! I have learnt so much this year from training and racing I have had some real highs and real lows but feel stronger both mentally and physically for it. I think this year has made me a stronger person all round and I am hoping that strength will help carry me through my first stage race.

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I have learnt a lot about myself and really learnt to listen to my body most importantly and I feel more in tune with what’s going on inside and how to get the best out of myself.

Training for an endurance event is a bit like rehearsing for a play, each time I set out I am rehearsing for the big event. Concentrating on my fuelling, listening to my body and improving my pacing.

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Having Rachel’s help on my nutrition has enabled me to get a lot more out of my training and improved my focus. She has helped me come up with a fuelling schedule that keeps me feeling on top form.

I feel physically ready for the Alps now, I have been working hard with my coach Mark to up the miles and feel myself getting stronger.

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This week I have started to taper off training and have been keeping a watchful eye on my nutrition and making sure I’m getting loads of good food!

Thank you to my coach Mark, Specialized, Bike Fixers, Food for Thought, Grip Grab and Dog Tag and of course all my friends and family keeping me going!

Now all I have to do is pack…

 

 

 

Training in January

I can’t believe today is the 1st February! January has gone so quickly at this rate the Trans Alp will be here very quickly…

I started January feeling positive about the improvements in my knee and mega excited about being supported by Specialized for 2016. When I got the phone call from Olivia to say when I could come in for my bike fit it felt like Christmas all over again!

I went up to Specialized HQ to have my bike fit at the start of January it went really well and I was amazed at how the minute changes made such a difference to my riding position and comfort. Red more about my bike fit here.

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Since my bike fit I have really pushed my training to the next level, (apart from a blip week getting over a cold) I have been increasing my training load and pushing my body out of my comfort zone.

The last two weeks Michelle and I have combined our long distance training rides, on Saturday I went to Guildford and we rode around the Surrey Hills up Leith Hill and Newlands Corner getting in some great single-track sections in Peaslake and Holmbury Hill. We climbed over 1,200m over 4 hours which was good going, I think we might need to do more sessions like this!

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I feel my stamina and fitness is really improving and I am looking forward to increasing the miles over the coming weeks.

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So far in January I have ridden 384.41 miles burning 11,913 calories in 35 hours.

Although I have only been able to ride my new bike off-road a couple of times, I have found the 29er more efficient over rough ground it doesn’t feel like I lose as much power.

I had never ridden a full suspension bike, doing XC racing my bike choice has always been down to weight and how much power I can transfer through the pedals, something a ‘normal’ full suspension is less effective at. Enter the brain! The brain is built around an inertia valve which can tell the difference between me pedalling and moving around to a bump coming from the ground. (A weighted mass sits on a light spring, limiting the flow of oil. On smooth terrain, this means oil is not flowing, so the suspension stays firm for efficient pedalling. When the wheel strikes a bump, the weighted mass overcomes the spring, immediately allowing oil to flow and the shock to become active. Once the compression of the bump is complete, the rebound action combined with the spring push the mass back in place, limiting the oil flow again, and instantly putting the shock back to firm.) So far this has been really amazing I have been really surprised going uphill on smooth stuff I don’t feel like I am losing any power and then as soon as I hit the single-track the suspension kicks in allowing the bike to maintain momentum over rough ground and has improved my control and confidence when things getting a bit hairy!

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Looking forward to testing my new bike on more trails over the next few weeks.

Getting fitted on my new Era

Last week I went to specialized to pick up my new Era, I met Olivia from specialized who took me to meet the guys doing my bike fit Murph and DA.

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I had a body geometry bike fit which started with talking about my background and any injuries I had sustained. This was a relatively short list, however I find it interesting the few injures I have had seem to all be related back to my back injury from years ago kitesurfing. My top tip, when you have a physio and exercises keep doing them and then go to Pilates to keep your core strong, it’s like any muscle if you don’t use it, you lose it and it impacts on other muscles.

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I then had a physical assessment to check my alignment, leg length and flexibility. During this we also looked at the contact points on the bike so shoes, gloves and saddle. To find out what size saddle I needed I had to sit on a piece of memory foam which recorded where my sit bones were, from this Murph (one of the fitters) could work out the best width saddle for me.

One of the parts I found really interesting was this heat mat that I put my feet on and it showed where the parts of my feet where connected to the ground. Doing this test was really interesting because I learnt that I have very high arches in both my feet, which don’t collapse when I am standing, which is good. This was interesting to find out as I have always struggled with finding supportive footwear and now know why!

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Because of my high arches I had special green insoles designed for people with high arches out in my new s-works shoes I immediately felt more supported on the inside of my foot.

After a few more tests it was time to get on the bike, the information Murph and DA had collected from the tests helped them to pin point changes that needed to be made straight away.

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Once I was on the bike they wired up the joints of my body so that they could see my movement patterns on the computer screen.

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Using side analysis they looked at my full leg extension which determined whether my saddle needed to be higher, which it did. This also helped judge how far forward to push my saddle to create more of a bend in my elbows.

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The front camera showed my hip, knee and foot alignment, as I was already aware that I have one knee that moves towards my frame more than it should DA looked at my cleat position and step up and we moved my cleats to help correct my knee alignment. This was also helped by the new supportive insoles.

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I get a funky bend in my wrist which seemed to happen whether my hands were wide on the bar or not, Murph cut 35mm off each end of the bar which seemed to suit my riding position.

They also looked at my riding position from behind which highlighted an issue I was having with my saddle, my left hip would drop and I had to keep moving myself backwards to get comfortable. We tried a variety of different saddles. The last one was, called power, it seemed to lock me into a stable position and also felt like my weight was distributed more evenly between my sit bones.

A little video of the bike fit:

This process was really thorough and we spent a long time making little tweaks until I was in my optimal riding position.

I am now going to ride the bike for a couple of weeks and see if there are any little niggles that need ironing out.

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I was really impressed with the whole fit and how such small tweaks can make such a difference. From having such an in-depth fit I have realised how important it is for your bike to fit you properly to be comfortable and also to make the most of the power you create! This is going to be especially important during the Trans Alp as I will be riding my bike for around 5/6 hours a day for 7 days.

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Thank you Murph and DA for a brilliant fit and cuppa T! A massive thanks to Specialized for supporting my 2016 race season, I can’t wait to race my new Era.

Follow my journey to the Trans Alp on Twitter and Instagram

Thanks for stopping by! 🙂