Sunday, October 17, 2021
HomeInterviewsChris Bartley - Former World Rowing Champion Turns to Cycling

Chris Bartley – Former World Rowing Champion Turns to Cycling

"I guess my next step is to do some proper testing."


Here at VeloVeritas we pride ourselves on always getting ‘a word’ with the new British 25 Mile Time Trial Champion; the late, great Jason Macintyre, Michael Hutchinson, Joe Perret, Matt Bottrill, Ryan Perry, Dan Bigham have all taken time to speak to us.

We spoke to this year’s winner, triple competition record holder Marcin Bialoblocki (NOPINZ) just a week ago about his 90 minute 50 mile record so we had a wee look down the results sheet to see if we could find anyone interesting for a chat about the ‘Blue Riband’ of British time testing.

We didn’t have to look far; in joint silver medal slot was Chris Bartley (AS Test Team), former World Rowing Champion and Olympic silver medallist. He’s our man…

Chris Bartley
Chris Bartley. Photo©VeloUK

Nice ride, Chris; 46:13. Give us the basics about yourself please.

“I’m 34 years-old, originally from Wrexham but Henley based now.”

Tell us about your rowing days.

“I rowed from when I was 14 years-old until I was 32 years-old; I started at Kings School, Chester then rowed for Nottingham University and after that on the GB national squad until 2016.

“My best results are World Champion in the lightweight fours in 2010, and Olympic silver medallist in the lightweight fours in 2012.”

How/why cycling?

“I always used to ride a bit as part of my training for rowing, we did training camps in Mallorca – I enjoyed those once I got my head round getting dropped on every hill and how hard it was! [VeloVeritas pal Sandy Gilchrist helps the athletes out at these camps. ed.]

“But it was different and like I said, I enjoyed it so bought a bike; I only used to do a few hundred kilometres each year – now I do that in a week.”

Training for rowing v. training for cycling, how do they compare?

“They’re similar; in rowing you really need volume to get where you want to be – there are shortcuts but you really need a high training volume.

“I do much less weights now; ‘core’ is still important on the bike but upper body strength is a lot less relevant on the bike than it is in rowing.”

And you’re a working man?

“Yeah, almost full time; I coach rowing at Reading University and at Radley College – and I also work at ‘Athletes Service’ bike shop.

“That gives me flexibility to fit in road work and I have a turbo set up in the shed – space is a little tight in there but it does the job when it’s minus two outside.

“I do like to get out on the road though, it’d nice around Henley so it’s not just about the competitive side, I do enjoy just being out on my bike.”

Chris Bartley
Chris (right) with 25 Mile TT winner Marcin Bialoblocki (left) and Matt Langworthy. Photo©supplied

Bikes are so hi-tech now, it must have been a bit of a learning curve getting familiar with the hardware?

“Yes, I taught myself the basics and I’m reasonably up to speed now – working and racing for AS Test Team has been a big help.

“And I’ve had a lot of support from a company called Pro Bike Tool; they make some lovely kit.

“I spend a lot of time on the forums to learn stuff and another company who have helped me are – not just about what equipment and clothing are best for me but with training programmes too.”

[VeloVeritas always respects a man who drops his sponsors’ names – that’s what you’re supposed to do, ed.]

Tell us about your bike.

“It’s a Trek ‘Speed Concept’ – last year AS loaned me a Felt 1A, riding that taught me a lot about when was required and I chose the Trek.

“I ride an 11-23 cassette with a single 60 tooth chainring by a company called Pyramid Cycle Design from Coventry; it’s thick/thin system to minimise the chance of unshipping the chain.

“Gearing is Shimano Di2, what I like about it is that you don’t have to get out of position to change gear, you just press a button – all those small thing add up.

“I ride a Flo 60 aluminium rimmed front and a Flo disc rear, they’re American in origin, do the job and are pretty quick without breaking the bank. And I’m on Vittoria clinchers tyres.”

Ceramic bearings and waxed chain?

“No ceramic bearing; they’re a huge cost for minimal gain; as for waxing the chain, I keep the transmission clean and use a lube which is almost as effective as waxing – but maybe that’s the next step…”

How did you arrive at your position; that’s so important in these ‘aero days’?

“It’s on-going, I’ve never done any testing on a track or in a wind tunnel but I’m quite short do it’s relatively easy to get low on the bike.

“I look at what other people are doing and when on the turbo check my position in the mirror.

“But I guess my next step is to do some proper testing?”

Chris Bartley
Chris uses the indoor trainer a lot. Photo©supplied

What was your expectation going in to the championship?

“I finished 10th last year but I was sub-par and have made a lot of improvements with the bike and clothing, albeit I haven’t managed quite as much training as I would like.

“I was aiming for top five so was pleased with my silver medal – Marcin is at a different level so I was pleased to get within two minutes of him.”

How did you pace your ride?

“I run with a power meter and just work from experience of what I can hold in training – but my training isn’t that specific.”

Was your 46:13 a personal best – and is there more speed to come from you?

“Yes, I did a 46:38 on the ‘downhill’ course in Wales last year so I knocked a chunk off that.

“I have limited experience, I’m always tweaking my equipment and there’s sure to be improvements after I’ve done aero proper testing – I’m hoping to take advantage of the Boardman facility.”

How does the ‘fraternity’ aspect compare from rowing to cycling?

“The level I was at in rowing you were there to do a job, there was a lot of pressure to perform in a high performance team.

“That said, I did enjoy, it’s a pretty niche sport and a small world so everyone knows everyone else.

“I’ve found the time trial world to be very friendly, I’ve been made to feel welcome and there’s always a chat with a coffee and cake after the race, which is nice.”

As a man who knows both worlds, how about Bradley Wiggins rowing adventures?

“I’d say interesting and very brave – rowing is a very difficult sport to get good at quickly.

“It takes a lot of training – I’ve not heard much about what he’s been up to since the British indoor rowing championships where I don’t think he performed to the level he was capable of.

“I think it will be very difficult for him to get to the level he’d like to.”

What’s next?

“I have a few club 10 mile time trials and I’ll be riding the National ‘50’ at the end of September.

“The track is something I’ve thought about – but I don’t know.

“Just keep training, keep racing, keep enjoying it…”

Sound advice with congratulations to Chris on a great ride and thanks for his time.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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