Sunday, 22 November 2020

Riding alone

alone chevening lake

I have ridden many solo miles this year, and it's been okay at times. I appreciate group rides more now, be it with some restrictions.

Being on my own means I can start when I want, ride as far and as fast as I like and decide when or if I want to stop for food along the way.

Unfortunately they can become monotonous. I challenged myself to tackle some Surrey hills during my recent time off for this reason.

Over the last few months I have looked forward to longer rides. They give me a chance to properly unwind. The after work loops are just a matter of get it done to keep fit. Time with friends provide another way to relax, and I'm glad I can do them regularly. The Sunday ride to meet Matt, sometimes Phil, the Saturdays with Matthew, Richard and James. Although for the next month at least it's just one of them at a time.

I seem to be writing a lot of posts like this, I guess I'm feeling down lately. A recent week off allowed more riding, and I felt better. I know what I'll be doing after retirement. Are more lone rides helping or just distracting me? 

Am I turning into a reclose? I have great support from family and friends, so probably not.

On Tuesday I left the house for my normal ride in the dry, it started raining within twenty minutes. To be honest I could have kept doing loops, it wasn't cold. I can't remember when I stopped wearing shorts last winter, I'm sure it wasn't as late as this.

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Riding through the winter


It's getting colder and wetter, but I don't want to stop riding.

I've written a few posts about clothing, normally ending with how poor they were.

So what have I done this year?

Overboots, a new coat and gloves. As you can see, I have worn them for many miles.

The first time I used the overboots with my usual short socks was painful. The zip doesn't have a cover, within a few miles it had started to cut into my ankle. I wore longer socks next time, but when it rained they soaked up the water and my feet got wet. Maybe not as bad as they would have, but it was still a dissapointment, my feet were still warm. Heavy rain and big puddles on Saturday; my feet were warm, but very wet. Not sure how I stop water running in from the top, They are a bit clunky and slippery on smooth surfaces.

dhb overshoes
dhb overshoes

The coat is waterproof, that's a first. It's not warm, but I don't need that at the moment. I wear layers and have a thicker coat when it's needed. The pocket on the back isn't separated like it would be on a jersey. Which is a shame, it would be better not to have my keys rubbing up against my phone.

dhb coat
dhb coat

My new gloves haven't been tested properly yet. It's not very cold and I have missed a proper soaking. First impressions: they are fairly restrictive, I can't wear them on the road bike and use the drops, the leavers are just a little too hard to reach. With each outing they are becoming more flexible, so maybe that will change. Until then I wear a pair made of neoprene. Not especially warm, but they keep my hands dry. I have discovered a trick; wearing latex gloves under them does improve their heat retaining properties, at the expense of sweaty hands.

D2D glovesD2D gloves

I guess I haven't completely found that winning formula for winter clothing. Really heavy rain and very strong winds on Sunday caused me to cancel the ride. I hadn't quite dried everything I wore on Saturday. One day off, once in a while is okay isn't it?


Gloves update 19-10-20
The first cold ride of the winter. I was initially disappointed, my fingers started to cool. I tightened the wrist straps and my hands soon warmed up. I had to take a phone call so off came one of them. The conversation was long enough for my hand to become chilled again. As I slipped on the glove I could feel the retained heat. Within a minute my hand was toasty again. 

Sunday, 8 November 2020


Leith Hill Tower

Time off work; what to do? Head out for some longer rides during the week of course. The first few days weren't great, choosing the right time to go was crucial.

tatsfield bus stop during a shower
Tatsfield bus stop during a shower

On my climb to-do list was Leith Hill. 

I rode Box Hill a few years ago, during RideLondon. I'd completed 70 miles as I approached it. I'm not sure what the fuss is about. Revisited on Tuesday, but didn't bother with Zig Zag Road though. Pebble Hill Road that leads up from the A25 passed Betchworth station is a far tougher test, being fairly long and peaking at 16%. The last part is the steepest. Coming down is sketchy though. The surface is poor and it's very twisty.

Ditchling Beacon was crossed off in September. It's tough, going up in steps. Each one steep but easing as your legs start to hurt allowing a short time to recover.

Leith Hill: It isn't easy, especially the section after Leith Place, but I didn't find it as challenging as expected.  I still think Pebble Hill Road is harder. The descent was far worse. As is common in Surrey the road is poorly maintained. Extreme caution is required, there are many big potholes, and lots of gravel and mud. And for a narrow road, it was used by many big lorries. Once at the top, the tower is a three quarters of a mile walk from the car park. I didn't fancy riding it, too rocky and muddy. The tea room was open, but I just ate my energy bar and gel. I've had too much cake lately. 

Here are some more hills.

And my ratings.

Waller Lane. I ride it almost everyday. The first half is hard, especially from a standing start.

Bug Hill. I didn't find as hard as expected.

Chalkpit Lane. This is tough, and long. 

Succombs Hill. This has to be the toughest I have ever ridden. It's steep from the start, and then gets steeper. I have only done it a couple of times, on the mountain bike. It's made worse by being very busy and narrow. I wouldn't climb it now, too many impatient drivers would try to squeeze past.

White Lane. Another tough, short hill. I always approach it thinking I'll be okay, but half way up it starts to hurt.

Gangers Hill. Steep at the start, once you get over the first third it's not so bad.

Titsey Hill. A long hill that you just have to get stuck into. Not too bad.

White Hill Lane. A regular for me. It was daunting, not so much now.

Some pics from the week.

Copthorne on Monday autumn leaves bike against a wall
Copthorne on Monday

Box Hill
Box Hill on Tuesday

I have passed this herd many times, I didn't realise how big it was. My lens wasn't wide enough to capture them all, I'd estimate over a hundred.

Deer Park
Deer park on the way to Box Hill

Leigh poppies
Leigh poppies on the way to Leith Hill on Wednesday

For the rest of the week: 
Thursday and Friday were local ten milers on the mountain bike. The weather looked cold, but once out it was okay - I'm still in shorts.

mountain bike leant against uprooted tree
mountain bike leant against uprooted tree on Friday.

I felt really low Saturday morning, only intending to do a short loop. Glorious weather changed my mind. 30 miles instead on 10. It was a good decision, arrived home feeling 3 times better than I would have. I was able to switch off, just think about turning the pedals, and the pictures I wanted to take. Mindfulness is talked about a lot in relation to stress and depression. Practitioners will say I use riding to distract, not create a mindful state. It works for me, which is the most important aspect. If it wasn't for these rides, I'd likely sit at home and brood over my problems. They aren't solved when I get home, but I do have a better perspective, and a feeling of achievement. I challenged myself to get out, I set a goal.


Reigate Common

Sundays haven't changed, Matt and I still meet at the bus stop. It was very foggy in places, but still relatively warm.

Friday, 30 October 2020



Fueling; the term used by cycling and I'm sure other sports participants for eating. I just say eating.

When you start attempting longer rides - over ninety minutes - energy levels become an issue. For my early rides I ate prior to starting, and then from shops during it. I couldn't always find a shop when I was hungry, or I didn't fancy what was on offer.

A previous post mentioned me lacking drive on the last part of a club ride; it was caused by not eating properly. I was so intent on keeping up, I forgot the food I had brought, and didn't fancy cake at the cafe we stopped at. You would have thought I knew better.

There are energy gels, bars and drinks.

I tried a few options, there is a wide variety. Some are too sweet, leave my mouth feeling dry, taste terrible or unsettle my stomach.

Eventually I settled on gels from my local bike shop and bars online. I haven't found a drink I like: too sweet, causes a dry mouth, or leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I tend to stick with water.

The bars are Chia Charge; carbohydrate for during the ride and afterwards, protein. The gels are Stealth
I am also tryied SIS, I got a discount code so I thought, why not. 
The Chia Charge energy bars are tasty, and are easily digested. They continue to be my favourites, the chia seeds are an interesting addition. From what I have read they are a positive contribution to a balanced intake. I tend to eat half at a time though. They do half bars but I think the full size ones are a little better value. 
The peanut butter is excellent, not the cheapest. But compared to the premium brands it's not that pricey. I don't know if I had any influence, but the first tub I bought didn't have enough whole peanuts for me. I emailed them asking if the recipe could be changed. The next tub had a lot more.
The protein bars are made of mini crispy bits. I like the consistency and I look forward to them after a ride.

I'll need to put another order in, although longer rides are less often this time of year.
The Stealth gels taste nice, and are very light on the stomach. I have consumed them for the past few months.

The SIS package contained a powder to mix with water for recovery after a ride; gels, and three types of bar to be taken at different intervals including one with added caffeine to supply a get you home boost.

The SIS gels have a less intense taste, nothing else to report, they seem to act just as fast as the Stealth ones. 

The energy bakes are very tasty, I felt full up for quite a while.

A caffeine bar was on the menu before riding to a cafe; a little too chewy for me. The taste was okay, it felt somewhat heavy in the stomach.

Arriving home, a recovery drink is a first; I couldn't get it to mix completely, there were still lumps. It was okay, but I don't think I'll be buying again.
Then finally a nitrate bar; apparently you can perform a nitrate loading protocol prior to an endurance event. It all seems a little high tech for me. It tasted okay, but I'm not sure how it differs from a normal bar.

My favourite from SIS is the energy bake, I'll get some more of them.
But stick to the bars and peanut butter from Chia Charge, with the Stealth gels.

If the ride is only thirty miles and has a cafe stop; no need to bring anything with me.

cake and coffee

cake and coffee Tanhouse Farm

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Summer time ends

clock marking the end of summer time

This morning we said goodbye to summer time, and got an extra hour in bed.

Plenty of leaves on the roads making them slippery, and conkers to be avoided. I don't think their spines would puncture a tyre but riding over one does cause a wobble. On a bend that is not something you want.

Much of the after work loop is comprised of quiet lanes through woodland, some without lighting. Wildlife frequently scamper across the light beam, but I can hear much more crashing through the dark undergrowth either side of me. I know it's only deer, foxes and cats; unsettling nonetheless.

I found it really hard to motivate myself this week. It wasn't the weather, I have rainproof clothing and I'm not going to dissolve if I get wet. Maybe it's riding the same route day after day, or the shorter colder days. This is the first year I will have been out during the week; the darker nights are more noticeable. Maybe it's just that I feel I have less time. With a few days away from work coming up, I can ride during the day. Hopefully that will bring back some balance, and improve my mood.

I haven't missed many days since March, never more than two in a week. I am determined to keep it going through the winter. This is what gets me out everyday.

Saturday took a long time to come around, and the ride with Matthew and Richard. We rode to a cafe in Tatsfield. No inside seating meant it was chilly, but we sat reminiscing about our rides to Paris and along the South Downs Way. 

tatsfield village cafe

Before they arrived I went for a local blast to catch some early sun. It was warmer than the cafe ride.

autumn leaves caterham

As I took this picture conkers were falling around me; I kept my helmet on.

autumn leaves caterham

It's a late post this week, I didn't get out in time to meet Matt. Then had errands to run, finally getting on the bike late in the afternoon. 

waller lane black and white