Living North are taking part in the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge. Well two of us are. Myself (Matt Ketchell, Sports Editor) and one other colleague (Will Redmond, Designer). What is the Virgin Cyclone Challenge? Glad you asked, I’ve been ignoring its very existence ever since I signed up for the ride eight weeks ago.
The Cyclone is an organised cycle ride through Northumberland that’s happening on Saturday 21st June. There are three different distances to choose: Ride A (33 miles), Ride B (63 miles) or Ride C (104 miles). All three start and finish at Kingston Park. We've opted for Ride B which is described as 'semi serious', 'hilly', and 'not to be entered without a little previous training.'
Luckily we have managed to squeeze in ‘a little previous training’, with emphasis on the word little. To help, Cyclone organisers threw in an eight-week membership at Speedflex in Jesmond. A low impact, high intensity circuit class, we’ve been exercising on state of the art fitness machines that were originally developed in America as a rehab aid. The machines operate on a single plane of movement, up and down. We rotate around a dozen stations for around 45 minutes performing classic exercises like squats, step ups, shoulder presses and lat pull downs alongside core exercises like planking and kettle bells.
It’s tough, and you get sweaty quickly. The machines offer resistance based on the amount of force you apply through them, which minimises stress on the joints but at the same time torches calories. There is only resistance on the concentric phase of movement (when you flex and the muscle shortens), this means there is no dreaded ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS) the following day. DOMS is caused by eccentric movement (when you extend and the muscle lengthens).
Everyone in the class wears heart rate monitors which relay a live percentage of your age-related maximum heart rate (MHR). Instructors encourage you to reach between 80 and 95 percent, as this is the intensity that provides the most cardiovascular benefits and will help us when tackling any steep inclines during the Cyclone Challenge. (Apparently there’s lots, including a monster climb near the finish).
At this point I should confess I’ve entered this bike race with no prior cycling experience. Since signing up to the Cyclone I’ve been on two rides with my feet clipped in on a proper road bike. The rides were a 15-mile evening ride along the North Tyneside coast and a grueling (and wet) 58-mile ride through Northumberland which included a little recce of the quiet and picturesque Cyclone route we’ll be tackling on 21st June.
My cardiovascular fitness was good (thanks Speedflex) but my legs a little heavy and my hands sore from gripping the handlebars in terror. Tough as the 58-mile ride was, I felt great once I’d dried off and warmed back up. I can see myself getting into this cycling lark, but ask me again when I’ve completed the Cyclone Challenge.
Read how Matt and Will fared at the Cyclone in the August issue of Living North, on sale 10th July.
Click here to join them on the Cyclone