Tag Archives: cycling

Spring in the time of Covid-19

This spring (and summer) turned out to be very different than planned, due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Just a few days after my last flight lesson, Belgium went into lockdown, working from home became the new norm, and social distancing undoubtedly established itself as the word of 2020 in an instant. Luckily (or rather thanks to the hard work of scientists, health care personnel, and the willingness of politicians to listen to these groups) we managed to flatten the curve before the health system got overwhelmed, and we are basically done with the measures as even bars and restaurants reopened two weeks ago, and since last Monday international travel is also allowed again. As the virus is still present, and there is no vaccine yet, it seems like life will have to go on in a quite different way compared to how things were used to be before Covid-19, with face masks and keeping a safe distance whenever possible.

While we had no physiological or financial issues (I can work as well – if not better – from home as from the office, and there is enough work to do), mentally these weeks (especially early on) were really not easy. In the beginning my hypochondria was messing with my head way too much, causing large swings in my mood and productivity, which got better only by limiting my news intake, and when hospitalisation numbers finally started going down. Initially I could not even fully enjoy my occasional bike rides outside because of my bad mental state. Luckily individual cycling (and running) was always allowed (and even encouraged), because I am pretty sure I would have gone really crazy without that… But holiday plans (including the so thoroughly planned and booked Trans Pyrenees ride) had to be cancelled (and everything is was too uncertain to start making new ones), we could not go to restaurants, there were no flight training, Liverpool FC was halted on the way to their first Premier League trophy, and I was not even allowed to drive to the Ardennes for a ride :( Mainly 1st world problems, but still, a big negative change in everyday lifestyle is difficult no matter the baseline.

After the initial shock, we slowly got used to the new situation. The exceptionally dry and warm weather (average temperature of my rides in April was 20.2°C, which is several degrees over the historical average, and this April-May was the driest April-May in Belgium since the beginning of measurements) definitely helped by creating plenty of opportunities for biking (and since I work 4/5th as of February, I have more free time in general in any case).

So while my big sportive goal for 2020 suddenly disappeared, I still continued with the training that I started at the beginning of this year (wanting to get my earlier cycling fitness back, and simply wanting to do something else besides sitting in front of the computer). I tried to keep my rides interesting by always picking a different route (while avoiding the busy paths along the waterways), and by participating in small challenges on a few selected road segments. After my burnout last year, I really enjoyed being on the bike again, and I tried biking without looking at the numbers most of the time (so biking for the good feeling, and not to achieve a given amount of kilometers a week or month). Even though I try to not not concentrate on the plain numbers anymore, having completed all main monthly Strava challenges (bike more than 1250 km, with more than 7500 m elevation gain, and including at least one 100 km ride) in April and May, and even getting a few KOMs (back) is something I am happy about (plus it seems like my cycling fitness level has just reached its all time high too). I have also visited some new places, like the spiral bike path looping through the trees and the bike path crossing a lake (in a way that the road is under the water level while your eyes are in line with it) in Limburg, or the geographical middle point of Belgium, and the West side of Brussels. The open road (or gravel path) was also the only place where I could meet up with a few friends when it was already safe to do so, and some of the best rides were these social evening spins just before sunset. I expect that now that flight training is restarting I will bike a bit less, but as we are allowed to take the car to ride somewhere else since last week, I hope to get back to the Ardennes and bike further away from Leuven more often in the coming months (which already started with a nice outing to Luxembourg on Sunday).

I have been riding with my beautiful steel bike too a lot (already more than over the whole past year), not only because it is a very nice bike, but also because I had to miss my Endurace for two weeks… The reason: the frame broke under me (where the front derailleur hanger is screwed onto the seat tube), just 500 m from home, but luckily without me crashing. Fortunately it cost me only 120 EUR to get a brand new replacement frame (instead of 2600 EUR which is the actual price of a new frame), as the bike was still covered by the 6 year guarantee of Canyon.

Work went also quite well the past months, as while coding gets boring sometimes, we have been in the news a lot (among others in the VRT, in De Tijd, in De Standaard, in the Knack, and for example with an article in the Verkeersspecialist) thanks to the traffic monitor that I set up using Telraam data, comparing the measured cars, heavy vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians to the pre-Covid-19 baseline on a daily and weekly basis. I think one of my biggest achievements is getting uncertainty intervals into the national media :) [As this is the wet dream of any data scientist, isn’t it?]

I think it is safe to say that our numbers became the standard when referring to traffic beyond the highways network. I could write a full paper about this, but I will spare you of the boring technical details (here). It’s enough to say that we tracked the initial fall and the slow and long return of traffic on the streets, and we have also seen how strongly leisure oriented cycling correlates with temperature and the absence of rain. Nothing fundamentally surprising, but scientifically sound, precise measurements of our everyday lives and habits, on a level (geographical extent, various modes, temporal resolution, and precision) that has not been done before.

My PhD student (whom I co-supervised the past years, even when I was not working at the university anymore) has defended her thesis, and while for the internal examination we could still meet up with the whole jury in person (followed by a nice dinner), her “public” defense was the first virtual defense at the department (and also the first PhD defense at the Institute of Astronomy of the KU Leuven that is now on YouTube). It went really well (of course), and having a sip of champagne and a piece of chocolate together with her (and my former) supervisor was a nice moment afterwards, even though nobody else could be present. As illustration of a perfect supervisor-student relationship, we both got each other a LEGO to build (and – unrelated – Clio also got me a really nice set to cheer me up when I was feeling really down, which we build up together on a less sunny weekend).

While I could not fly in real life, I spent quite some time (and that is a clear understatement) to create a very precise model of the airport of Charleroi for the flight simulator (X-Plane 11). Instead of listing all the features here (but it has a hand-crafted terrain model, extremely precise markings and lights, taxiway signs, and even some custom 3D models – which took me back to SketchUp after quite some years -, including the iconic first floor facade of the passenger terminal), I will just link the download page of the scenery for the curious readers. It has been very popular among fellow simmers, it is currently within the 20 most popular scenery downloads of the last month. It feels pretty much like the real thing, it is a shame that I can not fly with a Sonaca 200 in the simulator (and making a plane is a bit more complex than making an airport, so no thank you), that would really help in practising some flows and procedures. Sometimes I really hate my perfectionism, because I keep finding things to improve upon, which on one hand is something I like to do, but on the other hand it takes time away from actually just using the scenery.

Finally, for the rest of the lockdown news, we have seen the “train” of Starlink satellites on the evening sky (and even recorded the view), and also managed to find a game on PlayStation that we can sometimes play together (Minecraft Dungeons). Two weeks ago on Friday I was finally back in the air (then last Saturday too), so expect some flight training related posts in the near future (since I can barely think of anything else than flying since then).

Trans Pyrenees 2020 – The Route

Four years after crossing the Pyrenees with Willem from East to West (see the relevant posts here), I am going to revisit the region, and bike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea with a colleague (Stef). After a few months of low activity levels and motivation, I finally got back into the sport around the Christmas holidays, and since then I have been commuting by bike again (I love my Brompton), and I have been doing some proper training both inside (Zwift training plan) and outside (when the weather permits, and lately it has been really wet and windy, so less often than I would like to). Of course I needed a proper goal too, because one of the reasons I had lost my motivation to ride last year was the apparent pointlessness of my training, so I definitely wanted to change that. And since I don’t like races and big busy events, what better is there to do than another self supported ride across the Pyrenees!

My planning technique has not really changed since 2016, I still used Strava (even though I had a look at Komoot too, but it had difficulties handling very long routes) and Google Street View to draw up the initial draft, then the availability of hotels set the final stage starts and finishes. I originally wanted to start from San Sebastián, but in the last minute it turned out that the one way extra fee for renting a car in France and dropping it off in Spain (that we need for the drive back to the start on the last day) would have been more than 2000 EUR, so at the end I had to settle with starting in Biarritz (where we finished four years ago).

We have already booked everything (hotels, rental car from Perpignan to Biarritz, long-term parking in Biarritz), so now we just need to train. Being in a good shape will be definitely necessary, because while this time we will have a rest day in the middle, there will be much more climbing than the last time… The final route can be seen below.

It is a total of 993 km, and 25601 metres of elevation gain over 32 (+1) cols (excluding the rest day). An overview of the elevation profile of the whole route can be seen below. (The climb categories were calculated following the discussion presented here.)

Now here is a detailed overview of the planned stages with distances, elevation gains, maps, profiles, and a list of cols for each day:

  • June 10:
    Drive to Biarritz.
  • June 11:
    On the morning we drive to the airport, where we have long-term parking booked, and start from there.
    Stage 1) Biarritz – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: 125 km | 2498 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Puerto de Otxondo [570 m] Cat 2 (8.2 km @ 5.7%)
    – Puerto de Artesiaga [984 m] Cat 2 (12.8 km @ 5.7%)
    – Collado de Urkiaga [915 m] Cat 4 (6.9 km @ 3.2%)
  • June 12:
    Stage 2) Saint-Jean Pied-de-Port – Anso: 108 km | 3429 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Burdincurutcheta [1135 m] Cat 1 (9.0 km @ 8.8%)
    – Col de Bagargi [1327 m] Cat 3 (6.5 km @ 4.9%)
    – Port de Larrau [1578 m] HC (14.3 km @ 7.6%)
    – Puerto de Laza [1129 m] Cat 3 (3.4 km @ 6.1%)
    – Puerto de Matamachos [1148 m] Cat 2 (4.6 km @ 6.7%)
  • June 13:
    Stage 3) Anso – Oloron-Sainte-Marie: 104 km | 2158 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Alto de Zuriza [1290 m] Cat 3 (13.8 km @ 3.2%)
    – Col de la Pierre St Martin [1766 m] Cat 1 (14.3 km @ 5.3%)
    – Col de la Hourcère [1440 m] Cat 3 (4.8 km @ 4.5%)
    – Col de Bugalaran [498 m] Cat 3 (3.3 km @ 6.9%)
  • June 14:
    Stage 4) Oloron-Sainte-Marie – Luz-Saint-Sauveur: 112 km | 3275 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Marie Blanque [1035 m] Cat 1 (9.1 km @ 7.8%)
    – Col d’Aubisque [1709 m] HC (17.0 km @ 7.0%)
    – Col du Soulor [1474 m] Cat 3 (1.9 km @ 5.0%)
    – Col des Bordères [1156 m] Cat 2 (4.2 km @ 6.9%)
  • June 15:
    Stage 5) Luz-Saint-Sauveur – Bagnères-de-Luchon ♛: 114 km | 3874 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col du Tourmalet [2115 m] HC (19.0 km @ 7.4%)
    – Hourquette d’Ancizan [1564 m] Cat 2 (16.6 km @ 4.3% – including a short descent)
    – Col de Val Louron-Azet [1580 m] Cat 1 (10.7 km @ 7.3%)
    – Montée de Peyragudes [1645 m] Cat 1 (9.6 km @ 7.3%)
    (- Col de Peyresourde [1569 m] practically in the descent)
  • June 16:
    Rest day: we will probably still bike, something short and flat, to keep the blood flowing and to get the total distance beyond the thousand kilometre mark ;) But the main plan is mostly staying horizontal, and eating as much as possible.
  • June 17:
    Stage 6) Bagnères-de-Luchon – Castillon-en-Couserans: 100 km | 2775 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Port de Balès [1755 m] Cat 1 (18.8 km @ 5.9%)
    – Col de Menté [1349 m] HC (9.3 km @ 9.0%)
    – Col de Portet d’Aspet [1069 m] Cat 1 (4.3 km @ 9.5%)
  • June 18:
    Stage 7) Castillon-en-Couserans – Ax-les-Thermes: 137 km | 3667 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de la Core [1395 m] Cat 1 (14.2 km @ 5.8%)
    – Col de Latrape [1110 m] Cat 2 (5.8 km @ 7.4%)
    – Col d’Agnes [1570 m] Cat 1 (10.3 km @ 8.0%)
    – Port de Lers [1517 m] Cat 3 (4.7 km @ 5.2%)
    – Pas de Souloumbrie [911 m] Cat 3 (6.3 km @ 5.5%)
  • June 19:
    Stage 8) Ax-les-Thermes – Prades: 102 km | 2717 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Pailheres [2001 m] HC (17.1 km @ 6.8%)
    – Col des Aychides [1008 m] Cat 3 (6.3 km @ 4.1%)
    – Col de Jau [1506 m] Cat 1 (17.9 km @ 5.8%)
  • June 20:
    Stage 9) Prades – Perpignan: 91 km | 1208 m+ (Map / Profile)
    – Col de Palomère [1036 m] Cat 2 (24.4 km @ 3.2% – including a short descent)
    Pick up the rental car in Perpignan and drive to Biarritz, where we stay for the night.
  • June 21:
    Drive home.

The rest of 2019 (Part 1 – Burnout on the bike)

Now that the travel journal of our Iceland road trip is finally online, I can “quickly” go through the rest of the year in the usual summary-style blog post, just for the record (so when I am 80 I have stuff to read in my spare time – although I do wonder if I will ever have spare time, anyway…).

Almost immediately after coming home from Iceland we went to France with a few friends (and two dogs) for a cycling/relaxing holiday, staying in a small house in the tiny village of Margerides, just west of Les volcans d’Auvergne in the Massif central. This time the best cyclists from the previous year could not join, so the pace on the road was much more relaxed. We left Belgium one day earlier so I could drive in two parts, and also have a ride from Clermont-Ferrand, enjoying the warm sunshine and the beautiful landscape while biking past the Chaîne des Puys (a chain of volcanic cones – the Puy de Dôme being the most prominent), and over the Col de la Croix Morand (1401 m ASL). By the evening everybody arrived, so the following day all the guys joined for a nice and shorter – but very hot – ride over the Mont Bessou (a smaller local peak, with a bit of super steep climbing through the forest). A day later I went solo, doing a scenic loop over the highest pass of the region, the Col du Pas de Peyrol (1589 m ASL). The climb was made more difficult than expected by the strong, hot headwind – as soon as I noticed the small bar at the Col de Serre (an intermediate peak after a prolonged steep section through the forest), my bike basically automatically turned off the main road to give me a small break (and a cold local cola). From there on I basically had to stop on each col for an extra drink, and after the 100 km mark I pretty much just wanted to make it home for dinner and the Champions League Final (I will come back to this later). In the rest of the week we got some rain every second day, so I got a few bike-free days to relax, blog, and playing Mario Kart with the others (in the slightly cold and fireplace-scented living room). Every day we had nice breakfasts and delicious dinners together, mostly around the table in front of the house in the sunshine (and only occasionally inside, hiding from the rain).

For my fourth ride I planned a rollercoaster over the cols around the Puy de Sancy (the highest being the Col de la Croix St Robert at 1451 m ASL), and except for the first and last hour I was again accompanied by the guys. The curvy, open road leading down from the Col de la Croix St Robert was probably the nicest descent of the week. Two days later I headed South with Willem and Hao, riding over the Col de Neronne (1242 m ASL) into the Maronne valley. We finally managed to stop for a proper lunch too, having a nice galette in the scenic, historic village of Salers. For the last ride Steven got back on his bike too, so it was the four of us discovering the small roads over the grassy highlands of Montgreleix. The scenery was beautiful every day, the roads were perfect, and there was barely any traffic, so I can safely say that this region is another lesser known cycling paradise in France. (I biked 647 km with 12500 metres of elevation game during these days.)

Liverpool finished the Premier League season with a club-record 97 points (with only one defeat), unfortunately still one point behind Manchester City. But after the lost Europe League final three years ago, and the painful defeat in the Champions League final last year, the reds finally became champions of Europe again, for the 6th time in history, after beating Tottenham in the Champions League final (and we all know, Champions of Europe > Champions of England…).

The most memorable game on the way to victory was undoubtedly the return leg of the semi-final at Anfield. After being beaten in Barcelona by three goals, the Scousers managed to win 4:0 (thanks to a pair of goals from Wijnaldum and Origi – who then also scored the second goal of the final). It illustrates the quality of the team that nobody talks about this result as the Miracle of Anfield. It was not really a surprise. It was the reality. Statistically speaking the current Liverpool team is the best Liverpool team of all times, they are setting new records on the pitch every week, as of the 2nd of January they are unbeaten on their last 37 Premier League games, and they lead the league by 13 points with a game in hand (20 games played this season so far, 19 won and 1 drawn). Maybe this year will finally be our year. Winning the league (a feat Liverpool supporters are waiting for since 1989) would most likely guarantee a statue for Jürgen Klopp in front of the stadium. It is amazing what he has achieved here during his four years so far. And just for the record, Liverpool also won the European Super Cup against the Europe League winners Chelsea, and the FIFA Club World Cup, completing the international treble of 2019, making them not only statistically, but also officially the best team of the world for now.

Let’s move over to the tidbits category. The annual team building activity at work was a virtual reality game this year, which was unexpectedly awesome. Being able to actually move around – and not only look around – in the VR environment (we were walking around in a large empty room with a VR headset and a force-feedback gun, and our real life position in the empty room was translated into movement in the VR world by sensors around us) made the whole experience extremely immersive – I even fell once because I wanted to lean against a virtual wall while crunching in cover, completely forgetting that it was not a physical object, which resulted in me rolling/felling to my right and laughing at myself – immediately realising the nature of the mistake I just made. I also had a few fun hours while assembling the new LEGO NASA Apollo 11 Lunar Lander (10266), which is now one of the many lego sets on display in our living room.

By the summer solstice I felt strong on the bike again (thanks to the cycling holiday and some good training rides afterwards), so it was time for my annual epic ride. On the longest day of the year I left Leuven not much after sunrise to ride my bike to the heart of the Ardennes (Trois-Points) and back. With 310 km, 4217 meters of elevation gain, and a ride time of 12 hours and 36 minutes (plus two hours of food and photo stops in total), this became my longest solo ride so far (plus 3rd by elevation gain, and finishing on the top of the virtual podium by duration – even including group rides too). Maybe not completely unexpectedly or surprisingly, my motivation to ride the bike fell off a cliff almost immediately after this epic day, and as a consequence I biked as much in the second half of the year as I did in the month of June… I still liked being on the bike, but I got a bit bored of the local roads (especially in crap weather), or training without a goal – beyond reaching a magic number at the end of the year -, and I think I just wanted to do something else for a change. Anyway, I still had three nice rides in the months that followed, once with colleagues in Luxembourg (with still quite good legs), then alone around the highest roads of Belgium, finally with a colleague in the unknown corner of the Belgium-Germany-Luxembourg border region. All really nice places to cycle. Lately I started to feel getting out of shape though, so I got a new direct drive trainer and a temporary subscription to Zwift, hoping to rebuild some form in the coming months (I am three trainings into a 12 week training plan, so I think I got my motivation back), so when spring comes around with nice weather, I will be capable of biking more than 30 km at more than 25 km/h… And while the contrast is very big compared to the last few years – when I biked through the winter without any rest period (probably playing a role in this burnout) -, it is actually not much different from my first seasons as a cyclist, so I think as long as I am not picking up too much weight I don’t have a real reason to panic. (Just for the history books, I finished 2019 with 7054 km, which is my 3rd lowest sum ever.)

By the way, on the eve of my solstice ride, just when I was going to go to bed, the most amazing display of Noctilucent Clouds lit up the Northern horizon, so even though I really wanted to get at least 6 hours of sleep, I had to settle with 5, because I simply could not let the display of the decade (or century) pass by without taking a few pictures. But it was definitely worth it.

From winter to spring

This February I turned 34. I have been writing this blog for approximately a third of my whole life… Crazy. Anyway, back to the story. So around my birthday I spent (with Clio’s help of course) around a week (mainly the evenings after work and one weekend) planning a two week road trip around Iceland. This involved 1) researching (mainly over Google Maps and blogs) all tourist attractions and putting them on an actual physical map, and 2) making a detailed day-by-day planning based on driving distances/durations and approximate sightseeing (walking/photography/nutrition) times for each location, parallel with 3) looking up suitable hotels/lodges for each day. For the 14 days this means a total of 84 rows of data (including ~63 sights outside of Reykjavik, 11 hotels, and 3200 driven kilometres) in an Excel/Numbers sheet. With the flights, rental car (a smaller 4×4), and accommodation included we saved around 50% of the price of similar packages offered by various travel agencies by doing everything ourselves. Of course now I have seen way too many spoilers thanks to Google Street View, but I had to do a bit of looking around anyway to plan a bit ahead in terms of photography locations and so on.

We are leaving on Sunday, so it is getting very close! By the way, we decided to go in May because 1) it is still before the super busy June-August main tourist season, and 2) May is – statistically, at least in Reykjavik – the least rainy and the most sunny month (even though there are more daylight hours during the summer), and it is only 4-5°C colder than the warmest month, July. Let’s hope we will not get a negative outlier May :)

The second half of February brought some very nice weather, so nice that right after the annual visit to the velodrome in Ghent (where from this year on there is digital time-keeping down to the 1/1000th of a second) I went for a ride outside in shorts (and arm warmers and a gilet, but still) before driving home with 132 km in my legs (including the fastest lap on the track from the team with 16.834 seconds, a good 0.5 seconds faster than the next person).

At work we had our annual company lunch at the Restaurant Arenberg this year, and even though it has a Michelin star, it is a bit too classic for my taste, so I still prefer the EssenCiel (where we went for Clio’s birthday last week) from the gastronomic places in and near Leuven. On the other hand the Easter chocolates of TML came from the Bittersweet Chocolatier this year, so it is confirmed: best workplace ever. On the same note, I have eaten so much chocolate during the past two weeks, that it really needs to stop. Luckily Iceland will be too expensive to eat too much, so there is still hope to keep my race-weight for the summer :D

Preparing for Iceland I bought a NiSi filter system (basically for daytime long exposure shots, see example test-shot with silky smooth water from the nearby abbey above), a wide angle prime lens (Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 WR), a backup camera for my Fujifilm X-T3 (a Fujifilm X-E3) and a small telephoto lens (Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2 WR). And a new carbon tripod (Manfrotto MT190CXPRO4), a camera bag (Lowepro FreeLine BP 350 AW), and some small accessories… Advanced stage GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome – I know. Truth be told, all my Canon gear (plus the old tripod and camera bag) is either already sold or up for sale, so overall, actually, I own less camera stuff now. (Still GAS.) Everything is already tested and packed nicely in the new camera bag (the whole kit fits perfectly, and the weight saving compared to my old Canon gear is significant), so really looking forward to Iceland now. The plan is to mostly use the X-T3 with the 16mm lens (this is a full weather-proof setup, so even in bad conditions I don’t need to worry about getting the camera out, and I like wide-angle landscape shots the most anyway), and get the X-E3 out with the 50mm lens only if I need to shoot some more distant details or a portrait. I don’t like changing lenses and I prefer the quality of primes over zooms, so this is perfect for me. I wish I did more photography, but cycling is still the number one hobby.

The first half of March had horrible weather (except miraculously for Saturday mornings at least, so I could bike a bit), then on the first better (meaning not constant rain) Sunday we went to Antwerp with Clio to visit the Plantin-Moretus Museum. It is a printing museum focusing on the work of the 16th-century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus, located in their former residence and printing establishment, the Plantin Press, and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Being a typeface-lover and map-geek, I had a really great time walking around the exhibits. Afterwards we made a small walk to the North to have a look at some of the new buildings, but the cold wind was not really suited for anything longer.

Back to work, in the beginning of April I wrote my first proposal outside of astronomy, and – after my steepest ride outside of the Canary Islands (with 3149 meters of elevation gained over only 134 km) – spent three days on a meeting/conference in slightly cold and rainy Aveiro (Portugal). Then winter came back (again) for a weekend (a ride in an average temperature of 2°C on the 14th of April, seriously?)  before the real nice warm spring arrived the week after. Luckily that coincided with the annual Tornado club-weekend, so we could have two beautiful days of cycling in the Southern Eifel region in Germany, with temperature above 20°C. I even had quite good legs (and the pace was friendlier than usual), so this year I was not at all the slowest on the climbs.

On Easter Monday we finally (as we have been planning this for years) went for a walk to the Hallerbos, to see the famous blue and purple carpet of the blooming bluebells. It was definitely worth it, but next time I should be less lazy and take my tripod too.

On the gaming front (besides FIFA 19) I have been playing quite a lot with the Division 2 lately (since I really liked the original Division too a few years ago, up to the point of having to stop because I felt addicted – this time I am taking it much more casual), and I also got Mario Kart 8 for the Switch for an occasional race against friends – as a holiday entertainment.

This time there will be no daily blog posts from the road trip, because it was super tiring in Scandinavia (even though I was happy that I did not have to process three weeks’ worth of photos afterwards), but I will post photos on social media every day, and when we are back there will be one or two posts with the ‘best of’ here too. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather!

The year (2018) in cycling (and other sports)

2018 was the fourth year in a row that I managed to bike more than 10000 kilometres, but this was the first time that I finished the season with more than an average of 1000 km per month (my best months were September and October with 1340 km and 1329 km, while my worst were July and February with 628 km and 676 km). Therefore my best cycling-year ever is now 2018 with 12704 km (with a not even small margin of 1374 km – 10.8% – over 2017). For the first time ever I broke the 100000 meter elevation gain limit too.

As usual I had no real plans for the year, but I still managed to make it somewhat special. First of all, I had quite a few nice rides in the Ardennes (and the Eifel, once even Clio joined me for a while along the Vennbahn), maybe not as many as I wanted, but still much more than the previous years. I hope to continue this trend in 2019 too, because I know the roads around Leuven way too well (and as I get older more experienced I seem to tolerate the crap infrastructure and the intolerant drivers of Flanders less and less). Furthermore, I had a really enjoyable (except maybe for that crazy thunderstorm with hail) cycling holiday in France with a small group of friends, and I also took the bike along to Bretagne where I made three nice morning rides (to make up for all those pancakes which we ate with Clio). Thanks to these non-local rides, I have ridden more on previously unseen roads than ever before. My biggest achievement this year was biking to the highest point of Belgium and the highest point of the Netherlands alone, which is now my longest solo ride with 306 km and 3057 m elevation gain (and by duration also my longest ride – including group rides too – with 11 hours and 32 minutes). Finally, my latest achievement is completing the Rapha Festive 500 in five consecutive days (I did it in 6 non-consecutive days back in 2015), being amongst the first thousand people who have crossed the threshold :)

The raw numbers for my cycling – without the daily commutes of course – in 2017:

Total distance: 12704 km
Total elevation gain: 101385 m
Total time: 460 h 31 m
Activity count: 192 (over 155 days*, just like in 2017)
Average speed: 27.6 km/h
Average heart rate: I stopped wearing a HR strap, I only look at power now.
Average cadence: 87.5 rpm (but I have no sensor on my cross bike)
Average temperature: 13.2°C (coldest: December with 1.9°C, hottest: July with 22.4°C)
Total calories burned on the bike: 302730 cal

*Starting from the last days of July there were a lot of days when I did my training rides immediately before and/or after work, and on those days I rode my race bike also to work to save time, therefore creating days with two activities (of which one was most of the time less than 5 kilometres).

And now it is time to look at some maps and figures. Let’s start with the maps of cycling I have done this year. The first figures show the location and (for Belgium and the area of Leuven on a separate zoomed-in map) heat-map of my rides.

Out of the 155 active days, I rode solo most of the time: only on 44 days was I riding with at least one other person. As usual, most of the time that was Willem (22 rides, and a total time of 2.9 days), or Hao (17 rides, 2.4 days). The distribution of these non-solo rides over the year can be seen below.

The next one is a summary table (click for legible size) of the bikes I have been riding during the year. I used the new Endurance and the old Ultimate parallel until I sold the latter early October (to make space for a new custom built steel bike that I am working on right now).

Here are the graphs showing the yearly evolution of my cycling distance, time, and elevation gain compared to the previous years.

New this year are some monthly figures, because the more the merrier, right? So below you will find the monthly totals and averages for distance, elevation gain, activity time, average steepness (meters climbed each kilometre on average), and average temperature.

My non-cycling activities reached a long-time low, with only a tiny bit of hiking (17 km), and kayaking (4 km), so this is the first time since 2012 that I did not run at all (and I did not miss it to be honest). Here is the usual summary figure (including all activities) from VeloViewer.

Finally, here is an overview of the evolution of the total activity time (also an all-time record with 465 hours), and its distribution across the calendar throughout the years.