Did anyone else feel vulnerable out there on the day the man arrested on suspicion of being the DVLA letter bomber was revealed to be a ?loner cyclist??

Considering this is the country where an angry, torch-carrying mob attacked the house of a paediatrician in Portsmouth a couple of years ago, you never know what might happen.

Anyway, I put worries about being run off the road and beaten up by a bunch of ?faceless bureaucrats? with a grudge to the back of my mind and headed out to do my fit test.

Now, ideally this basic assessment of where I stand on the ladder of fitness would have been carried out in laboratory conditions on a turbo trainer and with a heart-rate monitor.

However, this 30-day challenge is not about training scientifically, Chris Boardman style. It?s for every cyclist who wants to improve but doesn?t want to qualify for a sports science degree in the process. I am not looking to break any records, just see how much I can improve by following a basic but sound training plan for a month.

Also, I can?t stand turbo trainers. I know a lot of people rely on them to train but to my mind they were designed by a cycling-hating sadist who wanted to condense all the nasty bits about cycling (painful legs, getting very sweaty, frequent spells of boredom) while eliminating all the great things about it (open roads, fresh air, nice scenery, the feeling of going very fast).

Turbo trainers are the sporting equivalent of being a caged bird positioned next to a window over-looking a meadow full of birds of the opposite sex and delicious-looking insects.

No, I had to get out there and ride. So, I decided to tackle my ?twilight training course?. A few years ago when I took my cycling quite a bit more seriously, this 21-kilometre (13-mile) circuit was my staple. If I was short of time or there was only an hour of daylight left, I knew I could go out, switch my brain off, ride as hard as possible and be home in time for the evening edition of Neighbours.

It?s a pretty lumpy old route, which perhaps wasn?t ideal given my current limitations but it?s a fair test and, when I come to ride it again on Day 30 I hope to hack as big a slice off my time as I will have done from my waistline.

Our fitness editor Hannah Reynolds, who starts two thirds of her conversations with the line ?Well, a study was done in America and it showed that?? ? has a handy guide for assessing how hard you?re riding by judging how much of a conversation you can hold. When you are riding at ?race tempo? it should be possible only to give one-word answers, such is the depth of your breathing.

Well, I am not yet pre-disposed to talking to myself, although the insanity caused by the world?s most protracted house move may cause me to in the near future, but I wondered if Hannah?s theory extended to your inner monologue venting a stream of expletives.

Basically, I set out too fast. Fuelled by foolish enthusiasm, I attacked the first five or six kilometres like an over-eager Etape first-timer and paid for it on the first hill.

It was pretty ragged, in all honesty, and the time I set won?t worry many people. On the up side, it should prove a doddle to beat at the end of the month.


Distance: 21 kilometres / 13 miles

Time: 48 minutes 08 seconds

Average speed: 26.17kph / 16.26mph


No of times sleeve snagged on overgrown thorny bushes: 2

Percentage of time spent on the drops: 60

Percentage of time spent squinting through stars and shooting lights: 10

No. of golf courses passed: 3

No of times spit tasted of iron: 2

No of times I thought about giving up: 1

TOMORROW: An interval session that Coach Hannah says ?will probably hurt you?.

WHAT did you do today? Check out the forum to share your pain, or revel in someone else’s.