A Bonkers New Year

by | Jan 11, 2017

Last week completed my first Unhinged Ride for 2017.  Was it epic?  No.  Was it long? No.  Was there a significant amount of climbing? No.  Was there any racing involved? Not really.  Was it undertaken in sub-zero temperatures? Yes, but it was not cold enough to form an ice-beard so that doesn’t hold any weight.  So why was it Unhinged, I hear you ask?  Well.. I had a Bonk 1hr 29mins into my ride.  I still had about another hour to do so I thought that it would be a good idea to see if I could complete the ride without sensibly resorting to eating one of the 3 pieces of nutrition I had in my pockets.

Let’s rewind the clock a bit.

January Fear

I have entered January with the usual healthy dose of fear that I have at this time of the year.  I am too heavy and there are some specific things in my future that require me to be about 10kg lighter.  Specifically, the Tour of Sussex.  This will be my first stage race consisting of a number of flat stages (brilliant) and then two long and very hilly stages to sort out the GC (not brilliant).  Suffice to say this fear has galvanised me into action and I have entered weight loss mode.  This is a miserable state of existence involving a distinct lack of carbs other than to fuel intervals.  After a relatively hard week in the gym and on the Wattbike I decided to undertake a glycogen depleted ride on Thursday of last week.

Eyes Wide Shut

It went as follows:  Up at 4:45, faff around with many different winter articles, low-carb protein shake, double espresso, out the door.  It was minus 5 degrees which was OK with the exception of the descent into Tonbridge down Quarry Hill.  My eyes were so cold that they decided to close of their own accord.  They required a stern talking to in order to remain open allowing me to see where I was heading.

The first hour and 29 minutes went well. I was enjoying myself. Mostly Zone 2 but not religiously.  Semi-efforts up River Hill and Polhill and the dogs were feeling good despite the fact that they had endured a tough week.

The Bonk

Approaching an hour and 30 minutes into the ride I felt it coming on. First of all the dogs went cold.  I then experienced an impending sense of doom. At 1:29 I recognised this as The Bonk.  This was unexpected as a protein shake is usually more that enough to get me through such a ride.  I then recalled that I didn’t take any carbs with dinner the night before.  In my pockets I had two columbian guava squares, packed for precisely this purpose, and my emergency gel.  I then thought about trying to hold off to see what happened.  It went like this:

  • 1:33 – “There is no way I can do this” – “Yes you can, just try and get to 1:40″
  • 1:35 – “Not a chance, I am having some guava” – “Just hold off, have a sense of curiosity”
  • 1:39 – things start getting a bit sketchy. Anxiety in relation to traffic rises. Judgement of pace, gaps and speed deteriorates
  • 1:40 – get overtaken by a fat Canondale rider. I then think: “I am not having this”
  • 1:41 – catch fat Canondale bloke and take his wheel
  • 1:41 to 1:45 – try to work out where fat Canondale bloke’s rear light has gone
  • 1:46 – realise that it is still there, obscured by his saddlepack.  Feel strangely relieved by this revelation
  • 1:49 – decide that it is time to put fat Canondale bloke to the sword
  • 1:50 – do so with a couple of efforts at 350w that felt like the 1000w sprints I had been doing the day before
  • 1:53 – reach Catford with no sign of my nemesis.  Realise that the 2 hour mark is within striking distance and also realise that the last 14 minutes have gone much better than the 9 before that. Need another playmate..
  • 1:59 – get mildly confused by the new traffic system at Lewisham. Pick up another nemesis in the form of bare-legged, flat-peddaled Hump Boy (lets call him Humpy)
  • 2:00 – hit the 2:00 mark and silently congratulate myself.  Decide to finish the ride off without eating..
  • 2:01 – play cat and mouse with Humpy before taking his wheel for a while.
  • 2:08 – attack on a very small wrinkle in the road with another 1000w (read 400w) effort. Put Humpy to the sword..
  • 2:10 – have a very sketchy navigation around the one way system in Surrey Quays.  Get a bit confused..
  • 2:11 onwards – develop a strange and altogether unpleasant metallic taste in my mouth
  • 2:20 – undertake a ridiculous operation to get onto the cycle superhighway from the road in full view of the law.  Decide to use lack of glycogen as my defence if collared
  • 2:29 – Arrive at my office


Bonk Stats

Bonk Stats

Bonk Stats


So in the hour of bonked riding, I managed an average power of 138w and a HR of 126bpm.  Probably below recovery pace.  It felt like one of the hardest rides ever.

What can we learn from this?  I am an idiot.

What else can we learn?  You can always get through more than you think you can.

Anything else?  If I had eaten a little bit at 1:29 then I could probably have completed the next hour at 200w rather than 138w. This would also probably have resulted in more net calories burned but would not have been as ‘interesting’.

Have you ever wondered what someone who has ridden for an hour with no glycogen looks like?

Depleted Face

Depleted Face

What’s up next?  I will share details of an astonishing service I have uncovered, talk about a couple of products I am trialling and launch the Unhinged Cycling Strava General Classification competition for 2017.

Wishing you all a very Unhinged New Year!

PS – I am aware that a few non-cyclists read this blog for their amusement.  You probably thought a bonk is something entirely different.  I can safely say that I was not bonking my way through south London in sub zero temperatures in the way that you might have suspected!


  1. Matt

    Once again I feel shamed by your thoroughness, this time with dietary discipline. My weight loss regime consists of 1) Americano rather than latte 2) No boozing at home during the week 3) Tuna in spring water rather than oil. All of which seems less than hardcore.

    • Mrs B

      Totally unhinged behaviour and it’s not even mid January! Have you started James Witts book yet…The science of the Tour de France? Thought it would appeal to your thirst for science but it’s also readable for jokers like me.

      • Rob Stephenson

        Indeed. Wasn’t expecting to be writing about rides just yet. The book looks good. I have been dipping into it so far but there does look to be some good Unhinged things to try in there.

    • Rob Stephenson

      Ha Ha, I think I have more timber to shift than you Matt! All of your strategies will help of course..

  2. Simon Bromfield

    Very interesting piece Robbie.For some unexplained reason I agreed to compete in the Rapha Festive 500 challenge (ride 500 km (310 miles) between Dec 24th & Dec 31st) Initially this seemed quite a do able task, weather permitting.On my penultimate ride I found myself on the A29 at Billingshurst 20 miles from home in Guildford with nothing in the tank, cold hungry,no gels, no nothing except a credit card and the determination not to use it.The time was 4pm darkness was falling this coupled with freezing fog rolling in from the fields. I began to question my sanity.Yet with all the odds stacked against completion I persevered,I made it home leaving myself just 30 miles to complete the challenge the following day.The message is as much mind over matter as matter over mind.

    • Rob Stephenson

      Thanks for the comment Simon and fine work on riding through that.


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