Sharp hills, no gears, bay views
My Genesis may be called the ‘Day one’, but I consider it more the ‘All Day’. In the 15 months I’ve owned it, the bike has been hammered. It’s been a beast of burden. It’s been a nippy commuter. It’s been a terrific trainer. Armed with one cog front and rear, it is simplicity itself.
I use this bike every single day. Once a week, I head off to Cardiff bay during my lunchtime. I stuff my rear pockets full of tools, don my race cap and make a sprint through the busy roads of the docklands for the serenity of the bay. If I’m lucky the sun shines. If I’m not, hurricane conditions always prevail (the Bristol Channel is a notoriously cruel mistress). Beyond the attractions of the Senedd ,the Norwegian church and the Doctor Who experience (an eclectic mix), lies the concrete rock of the barrage. Beyond that, steep climbs facilitate access to the Victorian environs of Penarth. The views may be great. But its not the views I’m after - it’s the climbs.
Nothing gets you fit like hills. Absolutely nothing. And nothing, but nothing, gets you fit like a single-speed on hills. So Penarth represents a gift from the gods of Geology. Hills sharp enough to hurt but short enough to relent, inviting you back for just one more rep (surely just a little one?) and one more injection of lactic acid.
My set is short, sharp and painful. Paget road climbs past the Custom house at around 16% for 60m, then levels out. Sprint – as much as you can sprint after that climb – past the first set of steps on the left, until a gap in the terrace reveals the second. Dismount. Hoist bike on shoulder. Run up the steps. The lactic acid will build nicely and legs will drag like anchors, appropriate for this nautical setting. At the top of the steps, take a sharp left past the Pilot pub, jump onto the bike and sprint (!) for another 30m. Dismount. Hoist bike back on shoulder. Run down the steps. Carefully (Carefully! those cleats are willing you to slip). Hop onto the bike. Recover and roll back down the hill. Circle the roundabout. Repeat.
For the 3rd and 6th reps, add extra helpings of killer hill. Instead of cresting Paget Road, go left and cross the road into Maughan Terrace. Climb again. Approach the junction. Cross over and look up. See that? Nasty. Resign yourself. Stanwell Crescent is where the hill really starts. It’s around 18 – 20 % and evil. Grinding up here on a single speed requires zig-zagging the bike from left to right and heaving the bars like you’re trying to wrench them from the stem. Relief comes at Coronation Terrace. Take deep breaths. Bask in the private glory of conquering the mini-monster. Take a left onto Pembroke and roll down to Steep Street. Join Paget Road for a 50m sprint to finish.
With a 10 minute warm up/down, I can just about squeeze this into a lunch hour. Is it fun? A good question with no easy answer. Perhaps (if you’ve a masochistic streak and appreciate marine views). Is it worthwhile? Definitely. Unquestionably. Undoubtedly. When life is so busy and time is so tight, these are the small margins that Brailsford talks about; recognising and capitalising on tiny windows of opportunity that make a material difference – in this case to fitness and well being (you can’t put a premium on refreshing body, mind and soul).
Sometimes there’s a little time to be gleaned from even the busiest of schedules. I can thoroughly recommend the Genesis Day one for commuting and hill training. All images of Cardiff Bay and Penarth taken on Canon IXUS 130.