Boosting Your Cycle Rides

One of the questions that I get asked the most is: ‘How can I get more out of my rides?’

Improvement is the metric of success in the world of cycling.

Every athlete wants to improve their performance. Weight lifters are always finding ways to lift those extra few pounds, runners are forever seeking to shave a few seconds of the clock and even footballers seek week-on-week improvement with their skills. Ironically enough, it’s often the case that in order to improve at your chosen sport it’s better to train in another discipline.

Cycling is one of those sports that many other athletes choose as their auxiliary exercise. It’s affordable, (relatively) safe and is a great way of improving cardiovascular fitness and toning muscle.

Still, should you wish to make some serious gains on your bike it might be better to take some time off the saddle and try out one of these alternative forms of exercise:

Jump in the Pool

Although cycling is fast becoming the go-to low-impact sport for the older generation, there is one aquatic past time that provides a fully body workout and truly stretches the body’s aerobic abilities. As long as you exercise good pool safety you’ll be at much less risk in the pool than on your bike, giving you a stress-free environment to push your cardio limits and improve your strength for your return to the road.

Reach Up

So much of endurance cycling depends on your strength, yet you’ll often find that you won’t make significant improvements in your training if you keep on tackling the same routes at the same speed. In order to prepare yourself for sudden inclines or shorter bursts of speed it can be beneficial to spend a few nights a month on a climbing wall. Climbing (or bouldering if you don’t fancy the ropes) tightens your core and activates dormant muscles all over your body which will make riding your bike that much easier.

Cross Yourself

You can find an elliptical trainer (or x-trainer) in pretty much every gym in the country. A cross-trainer allows you to get a robust cardiovascular workout whilst reducing impact to the absolute minimum, the best thing about these machines are the multiple resistances that you can set them to. Crank up the level on your machine and get your blood pumping for 45-minutes to really burn some calories and work on your core.

Get Rowing

Finally, it might seem paradoxical to spend time working on your shoulders or back when you’re trying to improve your cycling, however rowing is the kind of activity that you’ll reap the benefits from in a matter of weeks, should you commit to a couple of sessions a week that is. You can pick up your own rowing machine for as little as £129, they don’t take up much space and once you get going you’ll be surprised how addictive it is!

At the end of the day if you want to get more out of your rides you should try to commit to one or two alternative exercise sessions a week. Take a break from the bike and you could be surprised by the long term improvements you make.

Starting Out: What Bike Should I Buy?

Are you at the beginning of your cycling journey?

Have no fear! I have some words of wisdom to share with you.

One of the most common messages that I get sent through to the site goes something like this:

“Hi Oscar! I really want to start cycling and lose some weight, but I have no idea what bike I should buy. Is there a particular size that I should go for? Is there a certain type of bike that is best suited for me? How much should I spend? Thanks for your help and keep up the great work!”

OK – so the last bit isn’t always there but it’s nice to receive a compliment once in a while.

Anyway, I receive excellent questions like these on a daily basis and, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to answer them with any degree of accuracy as the answers will inevitably depend on an untold number of variables that are completely subjective. Still, I’ve decided to publish a series of posts that are aimed at the complete beginner, someone who has the urge to cycle but is completely lost as to where to start.

As with all deceptively simple questions, they tend to create more questions rather than simple answers. The following are questions that I’d choose to shoot back at those making the queries, hopefully any beginner will be able to get some further guidance from these:

Where are you going to be cycling?

The type of bike that you buy will necessarily be influenced by the terrain that you are planning on cycling across. If you’re confident that you’ll be sticking to urban areas, then it makes sense to buy a road bike – these are lightweight vehicles that are fitted with thin wheels allowing the rider to travel faster without having to exert themselves on the flat. Buying a mountain bike will make riding in the city much more difficult and are therefore not advised for commuters.

Can’t make up your mind? That’s OK, although they’re more expensive, you can purchase a hybrid bike that is suitable for both terrains.

How far are you going to be travelling?

Those looking to become an adventurous touring cyclist will need plenty of gears to tackle the big hills that you’ll eventually come up against. Gears are an absolute necessity if you’re thinking about doing any kind of long distances, but they’re not important if you’re only planning on commuting. In fact, if you’re only planning on cycling 5-10 miles a day (and your route doesn’t involve any mammoth hills) then you could opt for a single-speed bike. These road bikes only have one gear and take some getting used to, but because of their simple set up they require a lot less maintenance.

How much money do you have to spend?

The answer to this question will drastically change the kind of bike that you eventually end up riding. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend spending a tonne of money on your first ever bike, this is the kind of purchase that rewards bigger investments. If you’re strapped for cash you’ll be able to pick up a used bike from Gumtree or Ebay for around £50. Bear in mind that these bikes might need some initial maintenance and are also prone to failing as you’ll have no idea how old they are.

My recommendation is to head to a legitimate bike shop and talk to a professional. Don’t let yourself get persuaded into buying something above your price range, just learn as much as you can and take your time. An investment of £250-350 should be enough to buy you a quality mid-range bike that will serve you for many years.

If you have any more questions then please send them along or check out the rest of my site for more information!

Three UK Bike Shops Better Than Halfords

Skip the big retailers for your next bike purchase.

If you’re thinking about buying your next bike or are buying for the first time then why not take your money to an independent seller instead of a big retailer?

Buying a new bike is an exciting investment that you shouldn’t take lightly. Before you rush straight to a major retailer with a big wad of cash, you should consider buying from one of the many independent bike shops that are scattered all across the UK. Cycling is truly a Great British tradition and there are loads of small businesses out there who specialise in crafting solidly built, unique bikes. So many, in fact, that it would be silly to buy a mass produced bike when you could purchase a far superior machine for pretty much the same price.

When you buy from an independent bike seller you’re more likely to get the bike that is best suited for your needs. Larger retail stores will tend to employ more enthusiastic staff who are more knowledgeable and less likely to treat you as just a sale. The smaller, independent stores are also likely to be quieter so you’ll have more time to chat to the people there and you won’t feel rushed into making a purchasing decision. You can also feel safe in the knowledge that if something goes wrong with your bike then you can take it straight back to the shop and have them look at it for you, rather than having to go through the usual rigmarole that larger retail stores will stick you with.

It’s always best to check out what gear your local bike shop has for sale as you never know when they might have used or refurbished models for sale. Still, if you fancy embarking on a bike-based pilgrimage then you could do a lot worse than these independent establishments:

Temple Cycles, Bristol

Set up by Engineering graduate Matt Mears in 2014, this Bristol-based company just moved into their first store, seamlessly making the move from the online arena onto the High Street. Their range of bikes are simply designed and put together with meticulous care in their Bristol workshop. You can pick up their Classic Singlespeed model for a modest £575 perfect for riding in the city, but for all-terrain purposes their newest model, the Adventure Disc, is the one to go for.

Tokyobike, London

Whilst you might not benefit from quintessential British design when you buy from Tokyobike, what you will get is a quality ride that emphasises comfort over speed. As the name suggests, the company was founded in Tokyo (or the suburb of Yanaka to be more precise) where the concept of ‘Tokyo Slow’ led the founders to design bikes that prioritised the relaxing nature of cycling over the more aggressive, adrenaline fuelled aspects of the sport. Their basic models start at £580.

Cloud 9 Cycles, London

For those perfectionists who want to get the ultimate optimised ride (with no objection to paying through the nose for it) Cloud 9 Cycles is really the best place to go. You might have to shell out up to £6,000 for your 2-wheeler, however this kind of money will buy you a machine that will not only stand the test of time but will also be perfectly suited to your build and cycling style. These craftsmen only make bespoke bikes, so you’ll need to book an appointment to get the ball rolling.

Becoming a Touring Cyclist: What You Need

Looking to take your rides to the next level?

Step up from the commute and hit the road for a long tour.

If you’ve not noticed it yet, cycling is considered by many to be quite the addictive sport. Whether it’s the thrill of propelling yourself at high speed or the feeling of accomplishment that you get from stepping off your bike after you’ve covered a huge distance – cycling is widely considered to be a very moreish pastime. Thanks to the low-impact nature of the sport it’s the perfect activity for overweight or older people to use as an introduction to cardiovascular exercise; plus, once the rider’s been bitten by the cycling bug they’ll find that their fitness improves exponentially.

At first, novice cyclists will not have the confidence to tackle longer distances, usually staying within their local neighbourhood. As such, they won’t need to worry about investing in any serious touring equipment, however once they feel up to expanding their horizons, it’s important that the right equipment is purchased so that the cyclist is prepared for the unpredictable nature of the road.

If you’re looking to really push yourself (as well as your bike) then it’s time to take the plunge and invest in some touring gear:

Pannier Racks/Panniers

For a one-day cycle or a simple commute you’ll not have to worry about taking more than a good-sized rucksack with you, but as soon as you plan hitting the road for longer than this you should consider fitting a pannier rack to your steed. Thanks to the competitive online market there are so many options when it comes to the style/capacity of pannier system that you opt for, if in doubt you should spend more as you’ll inevitably regret going cheap. breaks down your options here.

Lycra Base Layers

There was a time when donning lycra was something that only professional sportspeople took part in. Understandably, the idea of pulling on skin-tight material is the last thing that many overweight people would want to do, but if you’re planning on tackling a long distance they really are a necessity. Chafing is one of the most uncomfortable and unexpected results of long-distance cycling and not something you ever want to encounter. You can buy discontinued Nike wholesale gear through a number of sites, instead of paying full price.

Road Quality Lights

You might be able to get away with a cheap set of LED lights on shorter distances but if you’re thinking of spending more time on the road and potentially riding at darker times of the day then it’s a smart idea to invest some real money in lights. My recommendation when it comes to purchasing some serious lights for your bike is to avoid buying online and head to your local cycle shop to check out their selection. You should consider what light you’ll be cycling in, whether you need them to see the road ahead of you or simple be seen by other road users.

Pump & Tools

Finally, regardless of how new your bike is you should always carry a decent set of tools, as well as a pump that will be able to hack a rough journey. Skimping on these touring essentials is a bad idea, spend good money on them and you’ll be rewarded with equipment that will mostly likely outlive you and any offspring that you choose to bequeath it to. Whilst your local cycle shop will no doubt stock everything you need, it’s worth checking out Tom Allen’s excellent blog post detailing all the gear that he takes with him on his touring adventures.

Fuel for the Fire: My Body is a Machine

Whenever I bump into an old friend from the past they usually have to perform some kind of double-take…

It’s understandable I suppose, considering how much I’ve changed over the years.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was an overweight child who then became an overweight man. Luckily, I was able to transition from this state to a healthy weight by following a few simple rules that I had to lay down for myself right at the start of my weight loss journey. In this post I’m going to detail the first of these rules that I learned to live by and how I came up with it in the first place. If you happen to be an overweight person (just like I was) and are thinking of embarking on your own weight loss journey, then you should definitely take what I’m saying with a pinch of salt.

[Please remember that when I started trying to lose weight I was doing so without the help of the internet. I made up my program as I went along and I certainly struggled on my road to success. The important thing to remember with taking advice from sources online is that everyone is different. We all have different bodies which all work in their own ways, so although it might be tempting to think that we could all follow the same program and magically get in shape, the reality is far, far from the truth.]

So with no further ado, here is Oscar’s Golden Rule for Weightloss in 90s Stockholm:

Your body is a sports car.

Back in 1995 the only car that I wanted to own was a Porsche 928 GTS. Although many Porsche purists might well scoff at this choice, 90s Owen (and 10s Owen, for that matter) was utterly besotted with this vehicle. Sleek, smooth lines, a killer 350bhp engine and enough space for a few lady companions in the rear seats. Unfortunately, at a whopping 24 stone, I don’t think I would have fit in there if I’d even tried.

I remember seeing one of these beautiful machines cruise by one day and thinking how much cars are like people. You put fuel (food) in them and they burn energy. Put too much of the wrong fuel (junk food) into your body and you’ll soon find that your car starts to break down (illness or weight gain) until you’re left with a fat, bloated wreck of a body that’s only good for the scrap heap. Put the good stuff in (balanced diet) and drive regularly (cycle!) and you can get the kind of body (Porsche 928) that you always dreamed of!

If you’re considering committing to a new healthier lifestyle, why not try thinking of yourself as a car. Put the right fuel in, drive the miles and you could turn into a hot model, just like the 928!

How I Lost Weight and Won Back My Life in the 90s

Imagine for a moment that you didn’t have access to the device that you’re using right now.

There was a time when the internet didn’t stretch it’s invisible fingers out to every corner of the world.

It’s hard to think of a time that we didn’t wake up with a whole world of information at our finger tips, but there was such a time and it was very different to what it is now. This was a time where video was well and truly killing the radio star – in 1995 the internet was simply a concept, an idea that had been created but not proven to be anything more than tech babble to the lay man. I was working for IBM in Stockholm after graduating from university and was desperately in need of some exercise

There were plenty of overweight people in 90s era Stockholm, unfortunately the TV screens and the advertising boards didn’t reflect that. All around me were building-sized images of perfectly tanned and toned individuals – this was a world that enjoyed showing you what you could have, but not showing you how you could get it: it was a little depressing to say the least. I didn’t need a billboard to tell me that I was overweight, I already knew that, I needed to be told how I could get back in shape.

My days back then were a little monotonous. After acquiring my first job, I’d slipped into the kind of 9-5 monotony that I assume thousands of others were also mired in. The fact of the matter is that there wasn’t really that much to do back then. TV was the only consistent form of easy entertainment worth a damn and even then you could accidentally find yourself watching something horrifying like this:

Between mind-numbingly weird television, microwave meals and working in the office – my life was quickly becoming a demoralising montage, where the only way you could perceive the passage of time was through my expanding waistline.

Thankfully, I managed to dig myself out of this hole.

When I bought my first bike I had no idea what I was doing. Well, I knew how to ride the thing but beyond that I didn’t know what gears to use, what equipment to wear or how to maintain my new toy.

I’ve no doubt that the sight of a man as heavy as I was puffing and panting on this bike was a real laugh for drivers on the same commute, but had they followed my progress over the course of the four years that followed they would have noticed that fat, struggling man was slowly getting slimmer…and faster.

I’m going to be recording my journey from fat to fit in this blog, starting with my first days on the bike leading all the way up to my current life as it is today.

I hope you enjoy reading my story as much as I (kind of) enjoyed living it!