Bob's Cycling Story

Cycling Stories Dec 02, 2021

Here at Pillar, we're building the perfect training companion for your riding.

In the process, we're talking to many, many real cyclists, learning what motivates them, what they love, what they try to avoid, and the ways cycling changed their lives.

We thought we'd share some of our learnings along the way in the form of real cycling stories from real cyclists. All schools, styles and levels of the two-wheeled adventure.

Most recently, we spoke to Bob about his history on the bike.

Bob is 52, he's an energy consultant, and lives in the rolling hills of Chepstow, Monmouthshire. The riding is apparently fantastic there - plenty of sturdy climbs, stunning views, and reasonable drivers. Any rider's dream, really.

Always an active person, Bob has long been keen on walking and hiking in the local trails, woods and mountains. He is an experienced sailor, taking voyages around Llandegfedd reservoir on weekends for years before he ever picked up a bike.

The rolling hills of Monmouthshire

Like many of us, bikes were a background feature in Bob's life for a long time. BMX or mountain bikes hung up in the shed for use on occasion, to get down to the shops or to take around the park.

The start of a cycling bug

He first picked up a road bike in 2014, when a friend talked him into going along on a trip across Wales; two days, 200 miles, from the highest point North to the very South. A real plunge into the deep-end of Audax riding. His years of sailing certainly helped with the long, sustained efforts.

When I got back after that, I just knew I'd enjoyed it so much. The momentum I'd gained training up for that ride, and I wanted to keep it going.

The fire had been ignited. Bob joined the Monmouthshire wheelers to keep up that crucial momentum and drive to keep riding. On the menu was a big Sunday club ride and the occasional weekday evening spin around the historic town and along the banks of the Wye.

Going Audax

Bob had well and truly caught the Audax bug on his ride across Wales. He carried on pursuing the serotonin buzz by getting involved in the Randonneur Round the Year, a challenge to complete a different 200km ride every month for twelve months.

Always raring to get back to the great outdoors, the next step for Bob was to move on to tour events. He started with the Welsh coast, then the North coast 500, and Mizen to Malin. He also brought out his gravel bike for King Alfred's Way, and the Dragon's Fire Road; both massive distances at over 300km, and at least 9 or 10 days worth of riding.

Starting structured training

Bob is always looking for a challenge. Where it started with the pleasure of just completing multi-day events, Bob now had his sights set on a competitive time at the Tour of Cambridgshire qualifiers.

Somebody told me about the the Tour of Cambridgeshire, and the the Grand Fondo World Series. I fit in the 50 to 55 category. I decided I would enter that, and see if I could qualify for the Gran Fondo.

In the winter of 2018, Bob started a structured indoor training plan to help him on his way to his goal of qualifying for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. He had a target speed he wanted to average for the ToC qualifying event. The training plan was a simple static plan provided by the British Cycling website. Bob sweated out the sessions on a non-smart turbo trainer, getting his body used to longer steady efforts in a structured way.

From early November through to March, Bob completed two evening sessions per week. Starting off with gentle zone 2 sessions, and building up to sustained 20-minute intervals, increasing the effort intensities slowly.

The indoor training was what really allowed Bob to take his cycling up a gear, and it made a huge difference to his confidence and ability in the event.

I didn't quite qualify. I was about three minutes off, which isn't bad after 130k.

He continued to realise, after his great performance at the Tour of Cambridgeshire, to what extent the structured training had made a difference to his riding. He was beating his own time for all the local climbs in his area, and picking up Strava PBs all over the place.

But it's not the stats and times that mean the most to Bob. He's simply in it for the joy of riding. And perhaps a splash of beer, too.

I think I suppose I always liked those aspects of life. On my holidays I've never been one for the city or a beach. I just always want to go wandering, or sailing, or hill walking, or whatever. I suppose cycling was a continuation of that, but with a slightly different focus. I do also like sampling beer from all over the place.

Bob's goals for the future

True to his history, Bob has grand plans for the future. The pandemic has not and never will stop him from riding his beloved Audax events. If anything, it's all the more impetus to keep getting out there.

He plans to ride the Rhine "sea to source" cycle route, from the Netherlands to the source of the Rhine in Switzerland next year with a few members of the Monmouthsire wheelers.

The Rhine river

In order to keep up his fitness for this event and beyond, Bob plans to keep going for evening and weekend rides with the Monmouthshire Wheelers.

It's good fun. Getting fit and ready for that sort of trip really motivates me. Thinking through the winter 'well, you know, if I'm going to do a trip like that in May, I don't want to be getting to April and find that I've lost all of my fitness.'

He's also using some of Pillar's recommended endurance sessions to supplement this, using his Bkool trainer, once or twice a week. The sessions help him to add structure to his main riding outdoors, and he finds it handy to be guided with sessions that he knows will help directly with his end goal of the Rhine.

Pillar is here to support cyclists of all levels, no matter what their goal might be. Whether it's for an endurance event, the weekly coffee run, or for a pesky local segment. We're providing training structure and specified sessions for those looking to build on their current ability. Every session will be catered, with real thought, to the requirements of your goal or event.

We love Bob's unaffected approach to riding. In a sport where we can often be bogged down in the numbers; kilos, watts, percentages; Bob can teach us something about keeping things simple, yet effective. We could all do with occasionally taking a step back from the power meter to appreciate the view, and maybe a sip of beer.

We hope Bob continues to smash the trails and roads of his multi-day endurance events and keeps rewarding himself with the occasional pint. We wish him the best of luck with the Rhine 'source to sea' and beyond!

Pillar is a smart and dynamic training companion, which creates you a personalised training plan based on your fitness, your goals & your availability.

With real sports science at its core, Pillar takes a holistic approach to your endurance training, rest, and rehabilitation.

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Welcome to Pillar! We’re a small UK-based team (full of real athletes) who are developing an app dedicated to all areas of cycling training. Whatever pains you can think of related to your training, we want to solve them. Pillar is still at an early stage. The first feature we’ve built is an adap…
Welcome to Pillar! We’re a small UK-based team (full of real athletes) who are developing an app dedicated to all areas of cycling training. Whatever pains you can think of related to your training, we want to solve them. Pillar is still at an early stage. The first feature we’ve built is an adap…


Matilda Donnachie

Passionate rower, cyclist and all-round sports nerd.