Steve’s Cycle Shorts 4 – Going Potty!



How Plant Pots Can Improve Your PB

Anyone who has read my previous Cycle Shorts posts will know that I went through a phase where I was obsessing about floaters: those calm conditions perfect for improving one’s PB in a race.  However, since the weather in England rarely plays ball, I’ve had to look for other ways of improving my times – one of those being what’s called a ‘roll-down’ test.


Having read a few articles on bike aerodynamics, I felt compelled to do my own roll-down experiment which basically mimics a wind tunnel test.  The idea is to freewheel down a hill in your aero position without pedalling, in order to see how far you roll.  Obviously, the farther you roll, the more streamlined the position.  Many anecdotes report better aerodynamics in the Praying Mantis position, so I was keen to find out if that was true for me.

Loading the bike onto the back of the camper, I thrust a bag of different-coloured plant pots onto Alannah’s lap.  I told her I’d explain later and we headed off, parking just off the old A30 near St Columb Major.  I’d already picked my hill and was fortunate to have the ideal, calm conditions for such a test.  I cycled off up the hill, leaving Alannah at the bottom with the bag of plastic plant pots and a handful of instructions.  No doubt she was thinking the same as me: how wonderful it was to be out in the fresh air as well as spending time with each other.


For starters, I did 5 roll-downs in my conventional cycling position, and at the end of each, Alannah would place a black plant pot on the grass verge to mark my finishing point.  God knows what the passing drivers must have thought!  After doing the roll-downs, I was surprised to see that the plant pot markers were quite spaced out, and not closely clustered together, as I’d expected.

Somewhat perturbed by such an anomaly, I angled my bars up 45 degrees into the famed Praying Mantis position and did another 5 roll-downs to compare.  This time, my finishing point was marked by brown plant pots, and again, they were widely spaced instead of close together.

Having a pot colour for each position, I could see the results of each test at a glance and we discussed the results over a hot cuppa in the campervan.  Why was there such a wide variation in results?  After all, all the pots – whether black or brown – were spread over a distance of 20-25 metres or so.


At one point, I had noticed a certain amount of buffeting from the traffic going past me (in both directions) so it’s quite possible that this could have changed the wind resistance.  Additionally, Alannah noticed that my path down the hill hadn’t been entirely consistent: at times, I’d cycled nearer to the curb, at others, I’d moved to the centre of the road once I hit the bend at the bottom of the hill.

Completing 10 roll-downs in all, it seemed that it is possible my original position may be slightly more aero, although looking at the plant pot results, this seems minimal.  Later, I consulted my Garmin and checked my average speed during the roll-downs.  This averaged at around 16.8mph for all 10 roll-downs, which isn’t really fast enough for such a test.


After chatting to my cycling club mates, it seemed clear to me that I would need to find a hill a lot steeper & longer to increase my average speed and to create more drag to get a better result.  I have one in mind that fits the bill: it’s straight (to avoid having to brake due to accumulated speed on bends – & thus having to void the roll-down); it has a rise up the other side (to avoid rolling for miles & miles); and has less traffic (to avoid drag & buffeting).  I’ll let you know the results when the new test is done.

Advice to Cycling Widows: To avoid disappointment, never ask your fanatical cycling spouse if he loves you more than his bike! You may not like the answer you get.


Doing a roll-down test is a great way to combine some time out on the bike with quality time spent with your beloved – at least, that’s what I think. 

However, if you should ever do a roll-down test using plant pots, I’d like to pass on one important tip which might help to ensure harmony within your relationship…

If the pots have been sitting in the garden for months on end, make sure you clean them off before handing them over to your spouse for putting out as markers.  Cycling Widows have to put up with enough as it is.  A bag of wet muddy pots is just taking the Mickey!


As we’ve mentioned, we’ll be using the campervan to do local daytrips from time to time, and our next mini adventure is Wheal Martyn in St Austell.  So stay tuned to find out more…



If you haven’t heard about Alannah’s Cycling Widows book yet, then why not download a free sample from the Smashwords website?  It’s in digital format – for downloading to eReaders or for home printing – and is currently selling for a low US$2.99 (approx. £1.85).

Alternatively, why not look out for freebies or discounted offers on her Foley’s Forum Blog?

If you belong to an organisation and would like to raffle off a copy of the book, please get in touch with Alannah by email via the Contact/Links page of her website.  Similarly, if you have a blog about cycling and would like to post a review or do an author interview, she looks forward to hearing from you.

Anyway, here’s the book blurb in case you’re interested:


Lifting the Veil
on Living with an Obsessive Cyclist

Are you a cyclist in denial of your addiction to the sport?

Or the long-suffering spouse of an obsessive bike-freak?

Either way, you need to read this!

In the cycling world, the term ‘Cycling Widow’ has long been used to describe the spouse of someone with OCD (Obsessive Cycling Disorder). All across the globe, these women live a lonely life in the shadow of this affliction.

Until now, the world of the Cycling Widow has remained shrouded in secrecy. But, here, the author lifts the veil to candidly reveal the trials, tribulations, highs and lows of living with a cyclomaniac.

Written by a long-suffering Cycling Widow, this satirical look at cycling might just save a few marriages – as well as many a bike from being fed into the garden mulcher.

Includes a handy test to find out – for once & for all – whether it really is a case of ‘hobby or obsession’!

A ‘must read’ for fanatical cyclists & Cycling Widows alike.

Chapter titles include: Twiddling my Widowy Thumbs; Life in the Spin Cycle Lane; The Ultimate Aphrodisiac; Going for a Fitter Model; An Insatiable Appetite; and Lying in a Ditch.

To sample or purchase the book, click & visit the
Smashwords website.

To find out about other work by Alannah, visit the
Foley’s Forum website.

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