Category Listing: Featured

Appear as featured articles on the articles page

Options for emailing members

This web site generates emails to members including:

  • Regular update emails
  • Notifications of new rides and updates
  • Notifications of new events
  • Notifications of new forum topics and replies

The site can send emails from third parties using:

  • Links from descriptions of rides where you are ride leader
  • The 'email' option provided by the member lookup service
  • Other links on the site

Also, members can send emails to other members.

You have several options for email addresses you use to send and receive email addresses. All have advantages and disadvantages. Click any of the options below to see more details.

That's the easiest option. It suffers two key disadvantages:

  1. Emails from the site have to be sent from addresses registered with Amazon. Unless you take steps (see next section) we have to use an alternative 'from' address - - for emails you send through the site. The body of the email explains that people cannot reply directly to your email (which is a pain) but they have to rekey your email address (provided in the body of the email) instead.
  2. Emails sent to you come from Amazon's servers. These have a high reputation but - even so - delivery is not guaranteed. If you have problems receiving our emails there are steps you can take. Another alternative is to create a Portsmouth CTC mailbox (see below) which ensures you get all emails.

We arrange for you to receive an email from Amazon with a link to confirm your registration. Once that's done we tell the web site it no longer has to use as your 'from' address. People receiving your emails can reply to your emails directly.

There's one big drawback: some ISPs instruct recipients of your emails to reject them if they didn't originate from their servers. That's arrogant, but there's nothing we can do about it. So far we know of just one ISP that does this: Yahoo mail which includes all BT Internet addresses.

We instruct the Portsmouth CTC web site to forward all emails it receives to to your normal email address. This has three key advantages:

  1. You can update your email address on the web site to Your emails sent through the server will show that as your 'from' address (not so they can reply to you directly.
  2. Your personal email address is not revealed to recipients.
  3. By using a address you make it clear you are a member of the club - which may give your emails more authority, useful when campaigning, for example. Note, however, some email services need a mailbox to be set up (see next section) before you can send from that email address.

The approach has a big drawback, however: forwarded emails are sent from the Portsmouth CTC server. We use a server shared with a large number of other web sites. That saves a lot of money but it means we are tarred with the same brush as other sites less well-behaved than ours. We use protocols that allow receiving sites to know where our emails come from, but they ignore that and treat every site using a given server the same. It's therefore possible your emails will end up in your spam folder or, in the worst case, dropped silently! The next section explains how to overcome this issue.

We set up an address Instead of forwarding emails we hold them in a mailbox protected by a password you supply.

You will then need to either:

  • Add details of the mailbox to your email system so it picks up emails like it does your other emails. Optionally you can also set up your email system so you decide which email address to use when sending emails.
  • Or use the webmail service to work with your emails.

This approach needs the most work to set up, but it:

  • Sends emails from the Amazon servers giving them the best chance to get through to recipients
  • Allows people to reply to your emails directly (they don't come from
  • Ensures you get all Portsmouth CTC emails

It's the method I use and it works well. We have a limited number of mailboxes available so we might have to prioritise club officials, campaigners and ride leaders.

If you encounter COVID-19 symptoms after riding with us

There's general, Government guidance on the COVID-19/Coronavirus symptoms and what to do if you suffer them here.

Those guidelines also describe what to do if you think you might have been exposed to someone with possible or confirmed COVID-19 symptoms.

If you think you might have contracted COVID-19 and you recently rode with us, please:

  • If you think emergency action is unnecessary, please book a (free) test as soon as possible
  • Let Andy Henderson or the ride leader(s) or a committee member know the nature of your concern so we can let members who rode with you know
  • Let someone close to you know phone numbers for getting in touch with us in case you definitely contract the virus but are unable to advise us yourself

If you get a positive test result, please let Andy Henderson or the ride leader(s) or a committee member know immediately. Please phone, don't rely on email (although there's no problem using it as a back up or you can't find anyone in). Andy's phone number is 023 9246 0480. You can get other phone numbers from the member look-up service.

Bear in mind that most of your fellow riders - and people they live with - are more likely to suffer extreme reactions to the virus than the rest of the population. Please give them the best chance to avoid the worst effects of the infection by ensuring they know of a possible exposure.

If you have concerns about our COVID-19 precautions or suggestions for improving them, please let Phil Beed, our Welfare Officer, or a member of the committee know.

Ride leader guidance for adding rides

This note describes how you and other ride leaders can set up and manage rides, including how to use the new web services we have created.

We have tried to make the web services as straightforward as possible. If you get into difficulties using them, please get in touch with Andy Henderson and he will do what he can to help. Andy will also be interested to hear any improvement suggestions you have.

Please click any of the following for more information...

Yes. To be covered by Cycling UK guidance insurance, rides must be led by a leader registered with Cycling UK.

Yes. You decide how many people you want to ride with, it's up to you how big your rides are.

No. You can specify a ride has no limit on numbers. For example:

  • A relatively small ride that will not be overcome by numbers
  • Rides that are prepared for larger numbers by ensuring they have enough leaders to split the ride into sensible numbers
  • An event that, by it's nature, is unlimited such as a club night.

No. In the past all our rides were 'turn up if you feel like it'. If you're confident enough to return to that approach for a ride, you can specify there's no limit on riders and that booking is not required.

Not necessarily. We want our rides to be as open as possible, so if you get more requests than you can deal with, selecting people in the order they ask to join should be the default method. There are however, some good reasons why you might use a different approach:

  • Someone might be unsuitable for your ride, or you might find it difficult to invite someone you don't know on a demanding ride.
  • You might prioritise certain types of people (best stated explicitly in your ride description). For example, you might prioritise:
    • PCTC members
    • Non-members
    • New riders
  • Given the limited size of our rides, you might put someone who recently joined a previous ride to the back of the queue.
  • We've put people on notice that if they fail to turn up for a ride, they might find it difficult to join another one

If at all possible, however, we want to avoid creating exclusive cliques keeping the the inclusive spirit of Portsmouth CTC rides.

It depends a little on the type of ride and your policy for prioritising requests. If you think it will take a while to send out invites for your ride, consider acknowledging requests as you receive them so the sender knows they got through.

In any case, please let requesters know whether they are invited or not (putting people you do not invite onto a waiting list) as soon as you can.

Check with the web site to see if there's a similar ride that might be undersubscribed that might be able to accept additional riders.

In any case, please let everyone who asks to join your ride know whether they are invited, or not.

Check with the web site to see if there's a similar ride that might be over-subscribed or a candidate for a merged ride.

Yes. We do, however, ask that you to give riders at least one clear day's notice (preferably more) to give people time to see your ride and respond.

There's no harm in announcing you're flexible about the start date and time. You will be required to enter one for your ride but if there's a consensus for moving the ride to a different day or time, you can update it making sure everyone you invite knows.


You have the right to say no.

Please let Andy Henderson know of any abuses.

We keep statistics on our rides for reporting to the AGM and Cycling UK each year. You can update statistics via the 'Add/update statistics for this ride' link on your ride page.

You can get to the ride page via the web site calendar.

You can also enter statistics via menu options: Admin / Statistics / Record rider statistics.

Alternatively let Andy Henderson know that all the booked riders attended, or any differences, and he'll update the stats for you.

Log in to the web site and go to the Add/update a ride page. You can find it under the 'Member services' menu when you are logged-in to the site. You will see a page like this:

You need to enter just six pieces of information:

  1. The date of your ride. Click the day in the calendar. You can use the month drop-down or the arrow button at the top right to choose a different month. When you select a date it appears in full next to 'Selected date'.
  2. The start time for your ride. The drop down allows you to select from 8am to 7:45pm in 15 minute intervals.
  3. The ride type: either 'pop-up ride', or one of the other types of ride we organise. Note that pop-up rides for Wednesdays are converted automatically to Wednesday rides.
  4. The maximum number of riders (including you) that you will allow on the ride.
  5. A brief title for your ride.
  6. A description for your ride. We suggest content for this box in the form. There is no practical limit to the size of your description.

Optionally, you can also provide:

  1. A grade for your ride. We provide a link to more details about our grading scheme - the page opens in a separate tab or window, you won't lose your place in the form.
  2. Venues for: the start; elevenses; lunch (or pub for evening pub rides) and tea - you will see a pop-up window that allows you to search venues in our database).
  3. A GPX file of your route - you will see a pop-up window allowing you to select a GPX file from our database or upload a new one).

When you are happy with your ride, add it by clicking 'Add your ride'.

If there is a problem with your ride, you will see an error message. Otherwise you will see a list of your forthcoming rides that should include the ride you just added (see 'How do I change my ride later' below).

It will help riders if you update your ride with bookings made so that members can check they are booked onto your ride before they join.

To record one or more bookings, log in to the site and go to your ride page (you will see an option to view it if you go to the Add/update a ride page. As the ride leader, you will see a 'Bookings for this ride' section that looks like this:

Select the maximum number of riders (including you) in the first box. The change is made immediately, there is no need to click a separate update button.

To add a booking select a rider's name in the 'Add a booking' box. The list includes all current PCTC members plus non-members that have ridden with us recently. If the rider doesn't appear in the list select 'A new rider not in list below'. Then click 'Add this person'. Again, the change is made immediately.

If non-PCTC members have registered for the day of your ride you will see them listed below your bookings. Simply tick (or untick) any that have booked onto your ride.

If you select a person marked as non-PCTC or the 'New rider' option bear in mind you should ask them to complete a ride entry form if they are not a Cycling UK member.

As you update the bookings, the 'Current bookings section' changes to show the current list. You will see a 'Delete' button next to each entry. Click it to remove that entry from the list.

Note that rider names will appear only to members who log in to the site.

Having entered at least one ride, you will see a list like the one below when you go to the Add/update a ride page.

Click 'View' next to any ride to see how your ride appears on the site and add/update any bookings you have. Click 'Update' to see the WordPress page that allows you to change any aspect of your ride.

There's more detail on how to use the WordPress page here.

On your ride page, below the list of booked riders, you'll find an 'Email booked PCTC riders' button. Click that to send an email to all PCTC members booked on your ride. If you have booked some non-members, you'll need to email them separately as we do not hold their details on the system.

Use the 'change a ride' procedure described above to display the WordPress page. It's a little intimidating with lots of options but you just need to scroll down to the 'Event Details' box which looks something like this:

Just change the start and end dates to your new date. When you click on either of the date boxes a calendar appears to help you pick your date.

If the start time has changed too, change both times to the new time. Don't try to enter a duration because that gives a false impression of accuracy to new riders. Again, when you click on a time box a window appears to help you select your new time.

Having updated your start time, find the 'Publish' box which looks like this:

and click the 'Update' button. Your ride will be updated everywhere it appears on the site.

If you haven't already done so, you'll need to contact the riders that have signed up for your ride and let them know of the change.

Use the 'change a ride' procedure described above to display the WordPress page. It's a little intimidating with lots of options but you just need to update the title to include the word "cancelled" and find the 'Categories' box that looks like this:

Check 'Cancelled'. Then find the 'Publish' box which looks like this:

and click the 'Update' button.

If you haven't already done so, you'll need to contact any riders that have signed up for your ride and let them know of the change.

Logging your distance

This article explains how you can use this web site to record your distance travelled by bike. You can record individual rides, or monthly summaries, either way, you can analyse your mileage (or kilometreage) online or via a spreadsheet download. You also get to add up to three other pieces of information (such as which bike you used) to include in your analysis.

Click any heading below to see more information. Click any image to see a larger version...

To log your mileage you first have to log in to the site. This tells the site who you are and ensures your entries are recorded in the right place.

Then use the menus to click/tap 'Member services' and 'Ride logging' (see right).

That will take you to the logging screen for the current year.

Before you start logging for the first time, you can decide what you want to record in your log besides distance and destinations.

Click/tap the ‘Define log categories’ button to see the form on the left.

You don’t have to do this, but it might make your log more useful to you. I record two extra pieces of information:

1. Which bike I used for the ride

2. What type of ride it was

For example, I might record it was a Saturday ride on my Bish Bash Bosh.

Enter up to three categories of additional information and click/tap ‘Update category names’ to complete setting up your log.

You can change your mind later about which categories you want in your log.

Click/tap ‘Add a new entry to your log’ on the main logging screen (see above) to record an entry, you will see something like the screen on the right.

At the top of the form, select the date for your entry. By default, the system assumes ‘today’. To make the best use of graphs, you should choose the last date of the month when recording a monthly summary.

Then enter your distance travelled. You can use either miles or kilometres (but not both).

You can see I have opted to record two additional categories of data: ‘Bike’ and ‘Ride type’. Your categories (if you asked for any - see above) appear here. Enter anything you like in your category fields (up to 12 characters).

Record details about your ride in the description box. You should at least record the destination if you are logging an individual ride. I also record key events such as “New chain” so I can look back at the log and find out how long items have lasted.

Finally click/tap ‘Add new entry’ to complete your entry.

Hopefully you agree that’s pretty easy. If you decide to record just monthly summaries, I can record them for you if you struggle with the system.

Once you have recorded some rides, you can start seeing the benefit.

From the main logging page click/tap ‘Show graphs’. We show three sets of graphs. Here are mine as at mid-August 2019

My actual distance per month, in miles:

My cumulative distance per month, in miles:

Definite incentives for me to keep my riding up!

This graph shows which distance certificates you are targeting...

You can't tell from the images, but each graph allows you to hover over a data point to reveal more information.

Maybe you want to analyse your data a different way. For example, I might want to review the distance cycled on each of my bikes. Click/tap ‘Download your log’ to download a file containing all your data that you can open in a spreadsheet – like Excel – to analyse it any way you like.

Click/tap ‘Show table’ on the main logging screen to see how you compare with other riders:

Hmm. Could do better! You will, of course see all the entries I have blanked out here. Note we show you only totals for other riders, not their log details.

We use this to award the CCP cup (for the furthest distance cycled in the year). I have no aspirations to win that cup, however, but I still find it interesting to see how I'm doing compared to other riders.

If you make a mistake, or you want to see the detail of your log online, click/tap ‘Review and change your log’ to see a list like this:

Click/tap one of the triangles next to a month’s summary to see all the detail for the month like this:

Again, this shows the categories I’m using – you will see your own. You can click/tap any of the edit buttons to see a simple form that allows you to change the entry you selected.

No harm starting now. The system works best if you log entire PCTC years: October 1st to September 30th but you can start logging at any time. The system allows you to enter your log one month in arrears - so you get all of November, for example, to log rides for October.

Let me know on a ride or via email at: if you have any difficulties or suggestions for improvement.

How to use online tracking

Online tracking allows any CTC member to use a smartphone or tablet to record their position on this web site while they ride.

Any member can display the latest positions of one or more riders. Further, members can issue non-members a guest password (which should not be made public) so they can follow riders too.

Online tracking has a number of uses. For example, it can be used by:

  • Partners who would like to know:
    • when to get a meal ready
    • where someone is if they are later than expected
  • Someone wanting to contact a rider (it's easier to hear and handle a phone call at a stop)
  • A rider who has lost the group
  • A leader who has lost a rider

During testing, John Rosbottom's wife, Wendy, called him on his mobile to ask him why he'd taken a wrong turn!

It could also be used for a variety of purposes unrelated to cycling; for example my daughter in Horwich could track my progress up the motorways when Margaret and I visit.

There are a number of similar services available on the web - and they have their benefits. Our service is:

  • Designed to meet our specific needs and (should be) easier to use
  • Advert-free
  • Minimal overhead
  • Free to members

This note explains how to use the service to record your tracks online, and how to monitor positions using the web site.

How to record positions online

Click any of the following to see more information...

You will need a portable device with capabilities to:

  • Access the internet
  • Use the Global Positioning System (GPS) - technically it is also possible for devices to determine their rough position by triangulating mobile phone towers, but it's highly likely a modern phone will have GPS which is far more accurate
  • Store the maps needed by your chosen tracking software - it's unlikely that will be a problem for a modern phone

Typically you will use a 'smart' phone or a tablet with phone capabilities. You don't need to be able to see the display to use the service so it needn't be fixed to your handlebars. Instead, you can put it in a back pocket, for example.

Internet access. There are two kinds of access:

  1. Pay-as-you-go: you pay for using the internet at a rate per megabyte determined by your provider.
  2. Tariff: you pay a certain amount per month and, for that, you get an allowed amount of free internet use over mobile data.

Normally, you don't have to do anything to continue to use the same service abroad. Instead, your provider probably has a roaming arrangement with other providers which take over as you leave the country. Roaming charges can involve a premium, however, so regular travellers sometimes use a SIM card bought in the country to take advantage of local rates.

You also need access to the members' area of our web site (only to log positions - you can invite non-members to see positions, see below). If you don't have access and you are a member of Cycling UK, click here to find out how to get access.

You need an app that can:

  • Track your position
  • Log your position to our web site

Note that if all you want to do is keep a record of where you've been on a ride, you don't need online tracking. Online tracking is not designed to keep a detailed record of your track - that's best done on your phone.

The software we've been using to test the online tracking software is OsmAnd. It has a number of benefits:

  • The app is free
  • You can download up to 7 maps for free (England is one map) and costs for additional maps are low
  • Maps are downloaded to your phone so you don't need internet access to use them
  • Maps can be downloaded to an SD card (useful if your device has an SD slot and limited main memory)
  • You can track your route, and/or follow a pre-planned route
  • Includes route planning
  • Includes a feature to interface with our online tracking service
  • Lots of features and options

Note, however, that although there is an Apple IOS version of OsmAnd, at the time of writing it cannot interface with online tracking. We are looking for a suitable IOS alternative - can you help?

We'll update this section as we learn of other apps that can also use our online tracking service.

At the foot of your profile page you will see options to enter two passwords. The first is the password you will need to connect your mobile device to our online tracking service. The second is a guest password you can issue to non-members so they can monitor positions online without having to go to the members' area first.

We will write separate articles to describe how to set up individual software products. We expect that compatible products will allow you to specify a web address using tokens that get replaced by data when logging each point.

In OsmAnd (the app we used to test the tracking service), the web address for online tracking looks like this:{0}&lon={1}&timestamp={2}&user=xxx&pwd=yyy


  • {0} is replaced by the longitude of the position being logged in degrees and fractions of a degree
  • {1} is replaced by the latitude
  • {2} is replaced by the number of thousandths of a second since midnight (GMT) on 1st January 1970 - sometimes known as a Unix timestamp
  • xxx is your username (the Id you use to log in to the site
  • yyy is a tracking password; you set that up through your user profile

We expect that all apps that can interface to online tracking services will allow you to create a similar web address. If, however, your app supplies data in a different way (for example, using a date and time rather than a time stamp) it's not hard for us to adapt our software to fit.

NB do not start the web address with "http" - use "https" instead.

Click here to see how to install OsmAnd to an Android device and connect it to our online tracking service.

It's not uncommon to hear people concerned that using GPS flattens batteries. And it's possible, that's the case with some phones. However, my (limited) experience with modern phones is that using GPS has very little effect on battery drain. I can easily record a day's ride and still have my battery at 80% plus - and that is using one of the cheapest phones.

Battery capacities tend to go down over time, so the effect might be more pronounced with an older phone. It shouldn't, however, be a major issue for a modern or new one.

Logging your position over the internet will use power and therefore increase battery drain. Again, however, I've not seen a significant drain additional to the power lost by having your phone switched on and listening for phone calls.

We have designed the online tracking service to use very small amounts of data to minimise any cost to you.

If you pay a monthly tariff to use your device, that will almost certainly include an amount of free internet access. If you are frugal with internet use, it's likely you will not have to pay any extra.

If you pay for usage 'as you go' you will pay for using the online tracking service. In my experience, logging my position every 5 minutes on a day ride uses significantly less than a megabyte of data. Your additional cost should therefore be less than 10p per ride.

Note, however, that when you allow your phone to access the internet over mobile data (i.e. using the phone signal rather than wifi) several apps will want to start using it as well as the online tracking service. The amounts of data used by these apps will be considerable and can quickly drain your monthly allowance or force you into an early PAYG top-up. To address this problem, you need to take charge of how apps use the internet. I intend to produce an article about that shortly.

On the other hand, if you have a large monthly allowance and already have your phone connected to the internet while you are out and about, you will not notice the additional data used by the online tracking service.

All data collected via the online tracking service is treated with respect and in accordance with our privacy policy which we set out here.

How to monitor positions online

You monitor positions using a web browser like the one you are using now. To do that go to the online tracking page. It's available via the 'Routes' menu in the menu bar at the top of our pages.

The rest of this section explains how to use the monitoring page. Click any of the following to see more information. Click any of the screen shots to see a larger version...

If you are logged in to the members' area of the site, you can start using the page straightaway.

If you are not logged in, you will see the following:

Log in page

If you have member access to the site, click the log in link to log in the usual way. You are returned to the tracking page when you log in.

If you have been given guest access to the tracking page, enter the user name of the person who invited you and the guest password you were given, then click 'Submit' to get access to the tracking page.

If you go to the monitoring page and someone is tracking their position, you will see a map like this:

Map display

Below the map, you will see a key that explains the icons shown on the map:

A position recorded in the first half of the track
A stop recorded in the first half of the track
A position recorded in the second half of the track
A stop recorded in the second half of the track
The rider's latest position

You can click any icon to find out more information.

A stop is defined as two consecutive positions that are less than 50 metres apart.

We use different colours for each half of the track to make it easier to see what's happening if a ride returns along a similar route to the outgoing leg.

The map is a Google map and you can use the usual methods to zoom into a portion of the map. You can also switch between map and satellite views. When you click 'Update the display' the page shows the latest recorded positions using the same map settings so you don't have to keep zooming in to the map.

If you want to redraw the map so you can see all the recorded positions for the day, use the 'Change date' button to re-select 'today'.

If more than one rider is recording their position on a given day, you see a selector like this:


If you want to see the progress of just one rider, click their name in the 'Show selected riders' section and click 'Update the display'.

On some days there will be multiple riders on the road following different routes - possibly in different countries! To show a group of riders following the same route, pick one of them (you can see people's names by clicking on a map icon), click their name in the 'Show riders with' section and click 'Update the display'. The map shows all the riders whose latest position is within 5km of the last position of the person you selected. The check boxes in the 'Show selected riders' selection are updated to show the riders you selected. That allows you to add or remove riders to fine tune your selection.

Note that following multiple riders on the same ride is likely to give you a better indication of progress than following a single rider - especially in places where phone coverage is poor.

Click 'Update the display' to redraw the map. The page retains the map's position, zoom level and map type (i.e. map or satellite).

Refreshing the page will lose all your selections and will show 'today's' tracks on a map display. That's unlikely to be what you want.

To keep your rider selections but redraw the map so all logged positions are visible, use the 'Change date' button to reselect the same date...

By default, the tracking page shows you positions logged 'today'.

If you want to see positions recorded for a previous day, click 'Change date' to see a date selector. Simply click the date you want to see.

Selecting a date automatically repositions the display and zoom level to show all the positions recorded on the given day. It also sets the map type to 'map'.

Tackling hills

A hillWe are very lucky to have the South Downs National Park on our doorstep. It's a great place to cycle with fantastic views and the scenery seems to change mile-by-mile and week-by-week.

But there's no getting away from it, cycling in the SDNP means tackling hills.

This note describes some approaches to getting up hills on a bike - and some suggestions for what to do if you can't. Click any of these headings to find out more...

Cycling musclesOf course, you need a certain level of strength and fitness to do hills. But you don't need to be super-human. Anyone with average strength and fitness can manage most of the hills we do.

Other issues such as technique and a positive attitude are usually more important.

Having said that, cycling up a hill requires a particular set of muscles to work together. Collectively we call them 'hill legs'. When you start doing hills you're bound to get some stiffness as your legs adjust to the new demands you're putting on them. The only way to get 'hill legs', however, is to do hills.

As you do hills, your strength and fitness will improve. It's not always possible to tell that's happening. Your first indication might come when you realise you're taking less time to recover for the next hill.

View up a hillYou might have experienced the foreshortening effect already. As you approach a hill it looks impossibly steep. When you get there, it seems to magically level out into an easy climb. Where did it go?

It's an optical illusion, you really can't believe your eyes.

The effect is magnified if you're going downhill into a valley looking at the hill the other side. In this situation, hills can appear almost vertical.

Obviously, you can't ignore the fact that there's a hill coming, but don't let it defeat you before you even get there. Don't trust your eyes.

False summits can really get you down. You think you're approaching the top, the road is levelling out, but then you realise you've been unable to see there's another section of hill to come. If you're on a hill you don't know, try asking others cycling with you if there are false summits - it's much better to find out before you get to them.

Because of the foreshortening effect and false summits, some people find it unhelpful to look up the hill while they are on it. You need to be aware of what's in front of you, but try looking at the road four or five metres in front and resist looking up until you know you're at the top.

You might also encounter a 'false flat': a stretch of road that looks flat, but isn't. The only solution is to be aware of the possibility and be prepared to drop to lower gears if you encounter it.

The drive trainSome people can manage to get up hills on a single gear, but that's not normal!

You're going to need to use your gears, so it's worth getting to know a bit about them:

  • You probably have a range of gears attached to your back wheel, known as a "cassette" or "the sprockets". As you change gear from a smaller sprocket to a larger one, you'll notice that it's easier to cycle but you have to pedal faster to maintain the same speed. The bigger sprockets are the ones you need for hills.
  • You probably have two or three gears between your pedals. These are known as "chain rings". They work the opposite way to the sprockets: the smaller/smallest rings are the ones you need for hills.
  • Learn which gear adjuster controls the front gears and which the back.
  • Learn how to lower your gears (move to smaller ring at the front and the larger sprocket at the back). It can be confusing because - for most gear shifters - the action that lowers the gear with your left hand shifter, raises the gear with your right - and vice versa. As you approach a hill, you want to be sure you are shifting in the right direction.

To change to a large chain ring, your shifter pulls a cable to drag the chain across. To return to a smaller ring, your shifter releases the tension in the cable and a spring pulls the chain back. You cannot therefore control the tension used to change to a smaller ring. If you are cycling up a hill, the chain will be straining against the chain ring and the spring won't be strong enough to move it. You try to change to a lower gear and nothing happens! As you approach a hill, you should change to a smaller chain ring before you get to it.

When you are on a hill you'll find it easier to change to a lower gear at the back than at the front. Even so, you still need to overcome tension in the chain. So:

  • It's better to be in too low a gear than too high. Start the hill in a low gear.
  • As you go up the hill, don't wait until you are struggling before deciding you need a lower gear - try to always be in a lower gear than you think you need.
  • If you have to change gear on a hill, practice reducing pressure on your pedals as you change. If you coordinate your gear change and pedal pressure, it takes a very short time to make the change and you lose little forward momentum. After a while it comes naturally - it's very useful technique to master.
  • As you are riding, keep an eye open for hills, so you have time to anticipate them and react; when going round a blind bend, bear in mind it could be the start of a hill. Get to know which road signs tell you a hill is coming.
  • Practice your gear changes so they become second nature and you always change in the right direction.

If you drive a car with manual gear change, you'll already be familiar with some of these techniques.

When faced with a hill, it's natural to try to take a run at it and get to the top as quick as possible. For some hills that will work but for long or steep ones that's exactly the wrong approach. You'll find either your legs will tire quickly or you will run out of puff. Either way, you'll have to stop part way up.

Going up slowly in a low gear takes patience, but it's easier. Take it slow from the start of the hill, if you wait until you feel the effects before slowing down, it will be too late; you're already running out of oomph.

If you're riding down into a dip with a hill the other side, use all the speed you've built up on the downhill to give you momentum to help you up the other side.

Bear in mind, though, that you might need to switch quickly between a high gear on the downhill to a low gear going back up. To change gear while you are coasting, you have to turn your pedals - that's just how they work. If you don't turn your pedals, the gears won't change and you'll get a nasty crunch when you push down hard.

Here's a thought. It can be easier to do a difficult hill that you don't know, than one you do.

Surely it should be easier to do a familiar hill because you know what to expect? But that's the point. Psychology plays an important part in getting up hills:

  • It can work for you: if you're confident about getting up a hill, you're more likely to make it
  • It can work against you: if you convince yourself in advance that you won't make a hill, you probably won't

So treat all hills as if you were approaching them for the first time. You might have had a bad experience last time, but that could be for a number of reasons. We all have off days (or weeks, or months). Maybe you're a bit stronger this time, perhaps you've improved your techniques. Set bad experiences aside, and see what you can manage this time.

Getting out of the saddleThis technique involves straightening your legs so you're standing on the pedals and then transferring your weight on to the highest pedal forcing it down then switching your weight to the other pedal; then repeat.

It allows you to put more power into the pedals, but is a lot more tiring than normal pedalling.

It's standard practice for professional riders, and some of our members do it a lot when climbing hills. Most of us, however, reserve the technique for:

  • Short, really steep hills
  • Times when we are on a hill in the wrong gear and can't change into a lower one
  • Putting in the final effort to get to the top of a difficult hill

The lighter you are, the easier the hills. Have a look at what you are carrying. Do you really need all of it? Individual items might not weigh much, but taken together you could be adding quite a bit of unnecessary baggage.

Take care if you have large panniers. They invite you to add more and more stuff that you might need, but never do.

The heaviest single component can be the most difficult to deal with: the one on the saddle. Going out for regular rides with us can help but you won't lose much weight through exercise alone. You need to get in control of what you eat too. In fact, exercise can increase your weight since muscle weighs more than fat.

Food as fuelFor your muscles to work they need fuel, and oxygen to burn it. Your body needs water to function.

If your body wants to breathe or pant, there's a reason. It needs extra oxygen. So give it what it needs. Breathe through your mouth and deeply.

The longer and hillier the ride, the more fuel and water you'll need. So:

  • Start with a decent breakfast.
  • Drink plenty of water the day before, and before you start the ride.
  • Take something to eat with you in case you need a top up (Nak'd bars, fig rolls, fruit pastilles and wine gums are all cheap alternatives to, arguably, more effective top-ups such as energy gels).
  • Always carry water, and drink regularly during the day. If you're not comfortable drinking while riding, try to get into the habit of taking a drink every time we stop. Don't wait until you're feeling thirsty.

If you sweat, you lose more than water. You also lose important elements, notably sodium and potassium. Most meals will replenish sodium and potassium levels but you might find it helpful to take supplements between times. For example, a bag of crisps or a banana at elevenses or tea.

Supplements in your water bottle can also be helpful. There are three basic types:

  • Electrolyte supplements: designed to replace sodium and potassium. A cheap alternative is a teaspoon or two of rock salt dissolved in your water bottle with some sugar-free lemon squash to mask the taste.
  • Energy supplements: designed to give your body readily-accessible sugars that your body can easily convert to energy
  • Electrolyte and energy supplements: do both things at once.

As you're cycling, you might feel a little light-headed and strange. If you do, let the rest of the group know and stop. You might be about to 'bonk'. Your energy levels are so low, your body simply packs up and you faint. Eat and drink something. Take advice from more experienced riders. Please don't ignore the symptoms if you get them, fainting on a bike can be extremely dangerous.

You either run out of puff, or your legs won't work for you.

Stop safely. Be aware of traffic around you. Give riders behind you warning you might be stopping so they have time to get round you. Ideally you want to stop where you can get off the road.

Let someone know you've stopped. The back marker should be aware of you, but it's worth making sure. The ride will wait for you (and anyone else that's struggling). They will normally wait at the top of the hill, but might be a bit further on if there's no safe place to stop.

Having stopped, you have two choices:

  1. Get off your bike and push it up the rest of the hill
  2. Wait a minute or two, get back on and ride

If the hill is steep, it can be difficult to restart, so pushing might be the only option. Otherwise, you might be surprised how quickly your body recovers when you try option 2. It can be less tiring overall than option 1 - and you will have the satisfaction of completing the hill on your bike.

Don't worry what the rest of the group is thinking. Everyone has had to push up hills. They know what it's like. Try not to think of pushing as a failure; instead think of it as preparation for the next hill.

To ensure gear changes are as smooth as possible:

  • Keep your gear changing mechanisms (the derailleurs) dirt and rust free, and lightly oiled.
  • Use proper chain lube to keep your chain in good condition.

Cables will stretch over time in which case you'll find it increasingly difficult to engage the gear you want. Your bike will have tension adjusters either as part of the derailleur, the gear shifter, or both. They allow you to adjust cable tension without needing tools. To make larger corrections you'll need a screwdriver or an allen key.

We say that chains 'stretch' too. In fact they get longer because of wear in the chain. If your chain starts slipping on your sprockets it has stretched too far - but by then it's too late. You've almost certainly damaged the sprockets and they'll need replacing too. Some of us carry chain gauges for checking chain stretch, and any decent bike shop will be happy to check your chain for you. Try to check it every couple of months and - as it gets close to needing replacement - more frequently.

In any case, sprockets and chain rings wear over time and will need to be replaced. There's an argument for replacing your sprockets with every new chain - you can keep using your chain until you detect chain slip, making it last longer. Some of us allow up to three chain changes before changing the sprockets - but you need to keep a close eye on chain stretch, and change the chain as soon as it's failing the gauge. The most disciplined of us use three chains in rotation, switching every few weeks - that maximises the life of the chains and the sprockets, but needs dedication!

Replacing chains, sprockets, chain rings and cables needs some specialist tools and expertise, but it's not particularly difficult. There are loads of 'how-to' guides on the internet. If you're lucky, you'll find a video of someone working with the same model of gears as you have.

If you don't want to DIY, find a bike shop you can trust. Ask around to see which one others can recommend.

If you cycle with flat pedals and shoes, you can press down on the pedals for less than half of each rotation. When a pedal is at six-o-clock, your foot is just a passenger until your other foot rotates the pedal back up to twelve-o-clock.

ToeClipsToe clips attach to the front of your pedal and surround the front part of your foot. They give you some scope to pull a pedal up as well as push it down. They also allow you to put more oomph into the pedal as it moves forwards. When you stop, you have to take your foot out of the toe clip by pulling back.

Toe clips come with straps that allow you to tighten the clip around your foot while you cycle, and quick releases to allow you to extricate your foot when you stop. That's more efficient, but it's practical only for race tracks.

Clipless pedals - or 'cleats' - require both special pedals and shoes. A cleat on the bottom of the shoe engages with the pedal so the two are stuck together. As well as pushing down on the pedal, cleats allow you to pull up, push forward and pull back. You get to use more of your leg muscles and share the work between them. Cleats also ensure your foot is always in the optimum position on the pedal.

You get out of a cleat by twisting your heel sideways, away from the bike. That's not a natural movement and - until you're used to them - stopping can be a problem. It's normal for people to go over sideways - rather comically - a few times at first. Fortunately you are moving very slowly when it happens. It quickly becomes second nature and many argue that clipless pedals are easier and safer than toe clips.

There are two main types of clipless pedal:

An SPD cleat

    1. SPD or 'two hole' cleats were originally designed for downhill racers they:
      • Are easy to get in and out of
      • Do not protrude beyond the bottom of the shoe so you can walk normally when you get off the bike
      • Allow more freedom of movement (known as 'float') so you can get your foot at the right angle on the pedal
    2. A typical race cleatRacing or 'three hole' cleats come in colour variants with progressively less float: grey/yellow, red and black. They are more efficient at converting muscle power to forward motion.

Most of our riders that use cleats use the SPD style as they're more practical for our type of riding.

Note that it's important to fit cleats correctly. Knee joints work in just one plane. They cannot twist like your wrists. If you fit cleats at the wrong angle you can damage your knees. A high degree of float is important when you're starting out with cleats. Use an SPD cleat or a grey/yellow race cleat.

You can use an allen key to reduce the pressure needed to unclip a cleat. When starting out, set this to its lowest tension to make it as easy as possible to get out when you need to.

In the past, bike manufacturers seem to have designed their bikes for people riding fast on the flat. The lowest gears just aren't low enough for normal people doing our more difficult hills. That seems to be changing. As a result, more bikes are being sold with sensible gears and with options to replace components to give you lower gears.

If you want to lower your gears, the simplest way is to replace your cassette at the back with one that has more teeth in its largest sprocket. Your bike and derailleur will have a maximum sprocket size and range of sprockets (smallest to largest). You might, for example, be allowed to go from 25 teeth to 28. It doesn't sound a lot, but it will definitely make a difference. The manufacturer of your gear changers will have a web page that tells you the limits. A bike shop will also be able to advise you.

You can get an even larger sprocket at the back by either:

  • Replacing your derailleur with one that can accommodate a larger cassette (the derailleur has a bigger 'cage') - you'll also need a longer chain
  • Replacing your entire chain set with one designed for lower gears (typically a mountain bike chain set)

You can also get lower gear ratios by:

  • Replacing one or more of your front chain rings with a smaller version
  • Replacing a two-ring arrangement with a three-ring (or 'triple') one
  • Getting longer cranks for your pedals

But, unless you are prepared to experiment, you should get professional advice before taking any of those steps.

If your bike has hub gears, your options are limited because you can't change the gears inside the hub.

We hope the above is some help. Please ask around the next time you are on a ride if you have questions or get in touch via the web site. But remember, three cyclists can mean four opinions!

Why don't I get PCTC emails?

The emails get sent - honest. But several people claim they don't get them, or that they get them intermittently.

There's nothing special or different about the Portsmouth CTC emails. In fact, when people manage to track them down, they usually find emails from other people have gone astray too.

This note will hopefully help you find out where they are going and how to make sure they arrive OK.

It describes:

  • Some basic principles
  • The main reasons for emails going astray
  • What you can do about it
  • What we can do about it
  • Some specific step-by-step instructions

Continue reading

Include CTC events in your electronic calendar

If you keep an electronic calendar on a device attached to the Internet, the chances are it understands the iCalendar standard (also known as iCal or ICS). In which case you can add selected Portsmouth CTC events into your calendar automatically.

The following sections provide general instructions for adding our events, plus specific instructions for some common calendar tools.

iCalendar is a standard way to represent the entries in a calendar. It is used to export and import calendar entries. Our site provides a list of events (for example: all Wednesday and Saturday rides) as a web page in the iCalendar format. Calendar programs that understand the iCalendar standard and that have an internet connection can automatically read the web page and add the entries to your calendar. Any changes on the web site will automatically update your calendar too.

First, you will need a link that gets the events you are interested in from our web site. If you want all the events, the link is simply:

Note that the leading http:// is important. Your calendar program might not understand the link without it.

To get just the events that interest you, you need to add a 'c' parameter listing all the event categories you are interested in separated by a comma.

The next section is an iCalendar link generator. It allows you to decide which events you want to include in your calendar and generates a link to match.

You need to plug the link into your calendar program. There will usually be two methods: internet import and file (.ics) import. You want the internet option.

Most calendar programs will allow you to:

  • See our events as a stand-alone calendar
  • Merge your imported calendar with your normal calendar so our events appear alongside yours
  • Import multiple calendars so you can create separate calendars for different types of event
  • Give calendars a colour so you can quickly see what types of event occur in a given day

There are more specific instructions for some popular calendar programs below. If your calendar isn't in the list, or if you find our instructions hard to follow, try searching the internet for your calendar's name and "ical import".

Select one or more event types to create a link to a feed containing just the events you selected.

Select at least one type of event

Although widely used, the iCalendar standard is relatively crude. It uses simple text only. So, for example, entries cannot contain bullet points or different coloured text. That means we cannot reproduce the text of our event descriptions exactly as you see them in the web page. On occasion, it might be difficult to read the description.

Similarly some special characters might appear as question marks or odd sequences of symbols.

Some calendar programs - such as Windows Outlook - allow you to get the latest version of a calendar whenever you like. Others - such as Google Calendar - automatically retrieve calendar details on their own schedule and you cannot force an update. You should learn how your your program gets updates if you want to rely on seeing the latest version (just before joining a ride, for example). To be sure of seeing the latest version, you might need to go to the Portsmouth CTC web site.

Please let Andy Henderson know of issues you encounter. Screenshots usually help explain the problem you are seeing.

You can see instructions in the Google Calendar help text at:

Note that you will need to log in to Google before you start.

The 'iCalendar address' it refers to is a link to the Portsmouth CTC web site. See 'iCalendar feed link generator' above for the link you should use.

You can add as many calendars as you want so, for example, you could create one for each different type of event.

To show Portsmouth CTC events alongside your own events, or to hide them, click the square box to the left of the calendar name shown under 'Other calendars' in the left hand pane of the Calendar page.

You cannot force Google Calendar to update the calendar. Instead, it has its own schedule and automatically updates the calendar every few hours, or so. If you are about to join a ride and want to see the latest information, you should go straight to the Portsmouth CTC web site and not rely on Google Calendar.

You can add our events to the calendar held in your Android smartphone or tablet.

First, you need to:

  • Create a Google account, if you don't have one already
  • Add the events you want to see as one or more calendars in Google Calendar (see above)
  • Link your smartphone or tablet to your Google account
  • Synchronise the calendar application

Your Portsmouth CTC event calendar(s) will appear automatically.

You can then show Portsmouth CTC events either as a stand-alone calendar or combined with other calendars in your Google account.

Note that for your calendar to be up-to-date:

  • Google Calendar must first update itself. You cannot force that to happen, instead it happens automatically every few hours, or so.
  • You have to synchronise your smartphone or tablet with Google Calendar. That happens automatically - again every few hours, or so - or you can force a synchronisation through the Android 'Setup' app.

If you are about to join a ride and want to see the latest information, you should go straight to the Portsmouth CTC web site and not rely on the Android Calendar.

To add an internet calendar to Windows Live Mail, you first need to subscribe to a Windows Live account. You then add the internet calendar to your account on the web. The calendar then gets copied down to your PC so you can see the calendar there. Alternatively, you can see the calendar online as a web page.

You can find out more about Windows Live accounts and calendars here.

This page explains how to add an internet calendar to your Windows Live account and show it in Windows Live Mail. It explains how to add a Google calendar using its iCalendar interface, but adding our events uses exactly the same process:

  • Ignore steps 1 and 2
  • In step 5 you need to paste a link to the Portsmouth CTC web site. See 'iCalendar feed link generator' above for the link you should use.

You can add as many calendars as you want so, for example, you could create one for each different type of event.

The first procedure on this page explains how to add a Google calendar using its iCalendar interface, but adding our events uses exactly the same process:

  • Ignore steps 1 to 4
  • In step 7 you need to paste a link to the Portsmouth CTC web site. See 'iCalendar feed link generator' above for the link you should use.

You can add as many calendars as you want so, for example, you could create one for each different type of event.

I found it useful to arrange to update the calendar on demand, rather than have it update automatically. That way I can be sure I am always seeing the most up-to-date information. To do the same, you need to create two send/receive groups: one for email and one for calendars:

  1. Click the Send/Receive tab in the ribbon; click the 'Send/Receive Groups' button and select 'Define Send/Receive Groups...' to show the Send/Receive groups manager.
  2. Add a new Send/Receive group called, say, 'RemoteCalendars'.
  3. Edit the 'RemoteCalendars' group; uncheck 'Include the selected account in this group' for all accounts; check 'Include Internet Calendar subscriptions in this Send/Receive group' for the 'Internet Calendars' account and check the CTC calendar(s) in the 'Internet calendars' pane. You should see something similar to this:
  4. Click 'OK' to update your Send/Receive group.
  5. Repeat the above to create a second group called, say, 'EmailOnly'. This time, include every account except the internet calendars.
  6. Finally, use the Send/Receive groups manager to:
    1. Deselect all the automatic send/receive options for group 'All accounts'
    2. Deselect all the automatic send/receive options for group 'RemoteCalendars'
    3. Set up send/receive options for the 'EmailOnly' group; I use these options:
  7. When you are displaying the calendar, you can update it manually by clicking the Send/Receive tab in the ribbon and clicking the 'Update folder' button.

A simple method is to use the link generator above to select the rides you are interested in and send an email to your iPhone containing the link. Double tap the link on your iPhone and follow the instructions to incorporate it into your calendar.

Alternatively, the following steps worked for Keith Wileman - there might be variations for different versions of IOS. Having generated a suitable link using the generator above, go to your iPhone, make sure it is connected to the internet and:

  1. Select 'Settings'
  2. Select 'Calendar'
  3. Select 'Passwords and accounts'
  4. Select 'Other'
  5. Select 'Add subscribed calendar'
  6. Enter the link into the server box
  7. Select 'Next'

If you have any issues, please let Andy Henderson know. He might be able to help. Also let Andy know if you can help with instructions and screenshots for other calendar applications.