Ask the coach
Q: Can you recommend a bivi bag that packs down to a small size but is realativley affordable. I’m looking to reduce the size of my camping set up and the tent is the largest part.
A: This is one thing that I would love to do, but am perhaps too accustomed to comfort and luxury in my ‘old’ age! Here are a few suggestions though to make life a bit easier for you.
Firstly, check out Alpkit.com who are UK based and have some great bivvy bags. The cheapest they do is only £50 and weighs less than 400g and packs down to a size of 13x15cm.
The Mammut Sphere (mammut.com) is also a good option. It’s £90 and weighs around 300g. There are hooped bivis that weigh a little more; but I’m not sure if its worth it if you can get a whole tent for about the same weight. With a bivi you might also want to use a tarp to get extra protection from the wind and rain.
Q: I’m looking to buy a new MTB for around £700-£900, and I was wondering if you have any suggestions?
A: If you are looking for something under £1,000 bear in mind that the best intro MTB’s tend to be more around the £1,500 mark – and try to keep away from ‘supermarket’ bikes as you will get ZERO support in general when they go wrong and it’s also hard/impossible to get parts.
So, with that in mind my top three are the Voodo Bizanga 29 at £650, the Whyte 605 V3 at £775, and finally the Kona Mahuna at £770. Stretching it to the limit, we have the Sonder Transmitter NX1 Recon at just under £1k. Enjoy the ride!
Q: Do I need to do structured ‘training’ or can I just go out and ride my bike?
A: “Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike”, so said the great Fausto Coppi, and at almost 70 years after this famous quote it still rings true. Want to get good on your bike, then ride it.
However, if you just ride your bike, you will of course just get good at riding your bike. Structure and training across the zones will bring about even more change.
Add in some sprints, VO2 and tempo work, plus a bit of threshold and a bit of strength and then you will reap the benefits. Also of upmost importance is to factor in recovery, as without recovery there will be NO progress, you will also be more prone to burnout and injury. Recovery and rest doesn’t mean doing nothing for a week – more that you have a week of easy effort – allowing the body to repair itself from any hard work. Be consistant also, consistency is king in this game both with the structure and recovery periods.
Q: Buying a Garmin Edge 530 for my bike packing trips. Do they work for long distance trips and are they any good for bikepacking?
A: Yes that will be fine, the big thing to remember is to charge the battery or you will do one ride, maybe two, and the device is dead, so you will need some sort of camping-type solar charger. Also depends how much mapping you need, as in following a route that you have uploaded. It might be better to go with a 1030 as its got a big screen and is easier to follow routes and mapping features.
Q: Can I use other activities to help my training, such as running, swimming or playing five-a-side football?
A: Yes, these will all help build your anaerobic and aerobic base, help with upper body strength, keep you toned, burn calories and also add some fun with something other than just riding your bike.
They’ll help keep boredom at bay and increase your metabolism and decrease the risk of overuse injury. Different activities will also help get muscles fitter, faster, by consistently making the body adapt to fluctuating exercise demands. Routines, whilst improving fitness, can prove to be very boring, so mixing things up will keep it fresh.
My cycling journey has brought me to be fortunate enough to live, work and train in Italy, at Italy’s largest lake, Garda. However, my 40+ years of riding bikes started when I taught myself to ride at a young age. Having a bike gave me freedom and that freedom soon culminated in me wondering how I compared to others. TT’s and Road Races soon followed then of course Club Events and in later life Sportives and Granfondos, some of Italy’s toughest as well as a few MTB events too.
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