Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Evolving holiday plans

which cc
The type of cycling holiday I'm planning has changed; again. They had been attempts to cover long distances in a day. Going to Cornwall in 2022 was meant to be such a journey. Link. The daily distance was reduced in the end but it still remained a tough two days.

For the first adventure of this year I rode many days of lower mileages and this was much better. Link. But solitude was still an issue. The second trip was much better. Arranged with Stefan, someone I hadn't prevously met, now definitely a friend. It is a template for the future. Link.

I'll either ride to a place or take the train, and stay for a few days. Local loops will allow me to experience the area. But how to combat the insular nature of such endeavours? 

Contact local cycling clubs of course. I've extolled the advantages of membership. Why not enhance my trips by riding with these groups?

Most clubs run weekday rides, so it should be straightforward to organise. I'll base my accommodation and destination searches on the availability of this resource.

With all this in mind what are the likely plans for 2024?

I've always wanted to do the Dunwich Dynamo. It's a 120 mile overnight ride from London to the Suffolk coast. I then plan to ride a short distance to my accommodation for the week. Diss looks to be a contender. There is the Diss Cycling Club who have a Thursday ride. Link. It would be good to have a club ride with another group. A possibility is Godric Cycling Club. Link. They ride on a Wednesday, but start around 18 miles from Diss. So a good warm-up to get there.

Hopefully I'll have a second break. Considering the New Forest. I can take the train to the area to start the week without pressure.

Monday, 4 September 2023

Finding the time

finding slowing down time

When I am faced with new tasks. The default response is; how I am going to do it? 

Thinking about my day it seems that I fit a lot in, especially at the moment. Every use of my time has a priority

What does my day comprise?

Eating, sleeping, exercise, visiting Marcia in hospital, shopping, working and household chores/gardening. You could add; reading, watching television, writing on this blog, and listening to music.

The priorites I apply are:



Visiting Marcia in hospital.

Exercise. Riding my bike is the main one. It also gives me contact with friends.



Writing on this blog

Reading. I listen to music at the same time.

Watching television; or more likely youtube. I have built a list of vlogers whose style I like.

Household chores/gardening. The garden areas are becoming what I like to call a nature reserve.

The top three don't move, the next two are unlikely to change, and the others are shuffled as necessary.

If a new item is added to the list it's position is determined by importance.

Not doing the above can mean I begin to feel overwhelmed and out of control.

It's not always easy to keep everything as I want it. Sometimes I feel like dropping one of the important items; exercising being the most likely candidate. But there is a reason for the position it holds and I push myself to do it. Everything else is possible because of this activity. That might sound over dramatic; if you have read a few of my posts though; you'll know what I mean.

If I have missed a session I miss that boost. If the day has been particularly bad and I've worked out in the morning; by the evening I can still feel really down and dispondent. That's when I call my sister Michelle. We chat for a while, maybe have a bit of a cry and I start to feel better. I'm not afraid to write about tears. It's what happens and it helps. For too long men have been conditioned to contain and not admit to have feelings. And that's a toxic position to hold. I have many people I can talk to; I'm very lucky. But we all need that one person we can completely open up to, and that person is Michelle.

Saturday, 2 September 2023

Oxted Cycling Club 10th anniversary

oxted cycling club big group pic

Oxted Cycling club is entering it's teens. I've been a member since 2020. I have made many good friends, discovered plenty of great cafes, and eaten lots of cake.

Russell, the club chairman, takes us down memory lane.

"In the summer of 2013 I started exploring the idea of a new cycling club in East Surrey I considered a few towns as 'centres' but Oxted had a lovely, traditional, family bike shop, Petra Cycles and I approached them to help. The boss was a lovely South African man, he had named the shop after his daughter, it's a name from the First Testament. I told him my plans and said I'd send business his way if he could send customers my way! And the first lovely people he introduced were Richard & Gilly Byford and Ollie Orchard.

This is the first Oxted CC Club Ride, to Four Elms on the 17th of August 2013! They haven't aged at all!

Four Elms on the 17th of August 2013 occ

Two weeks later Oxted CC was seven people. From left to right, Scott Cheshire, a friend of mine who urged me to 'get on with it' in starting the club, Austen Reid, who was riding with the Old Ports at the time, Dik Kingdon-Jones, Gilly, Biff, the wonderful Cass Humm who inspired many new riders, and me, wondering what kit we might decide on...

occ 2nd ride

In June 2014 we ran our first big Brighton ride."

occ first big ride brighton

More pics from the time I've been a member.
Waller Pain 2023

waller pain 2023

oxted cycling club

Groombridge Place
Groombridge Place

three river crossing route
three river crossing route

oxted cycling club

The Milk Churn
The Milk Churn
blackstock estate
Blackstock Estate

daily bread rusthall
Daily Bread Rusthall
Brockham reading room
Brockham Reading Room

Lindfield Coffee Works
Lindfield Coffee Works

ridings lane cafe
Ridings Lane cafe

broken spoke no-one gets left behind
broken spoke; no-one gets left behind

The Rapha ladies 100 km from 2022. Words by Russell.

"A WONDERFUL LADIES DAY! Huge thanks to our superb leaders yesterday, everyone made it to Kingdom at around the same time. Jo looked after the shorter ride which worked out well. The weather was glorious and Kingdom was a lovely stop, though their coffee machine was a bit overwhelmed with the numbers.

The Rapha ladies 100 km
It was great to see Lisa Calnan back on her bike, she's been out of action for quite a while with an injury, all fixed now. And she took this photo of us relaxing in the sunshine... 

The Rapha ladies 100 km

We were a bit slow organising a group photo, Jo's merry band had moved the pic, Duncan & Laura, Austen, Ian Luxford, Richard. Marian, Lisa and Amanda in the front. Behind them Andy Smith, me, Celia, Neil, Matt, Pat and Stuart. To the right Louise, Frances, Bren and Andy Thornley. Not sure who's hiding behind Louise! 

The Rapha ladies 100 km

A lovely photo of Marian, Neil and Austen along the way. Marian is a very accomplished athlete, not just an awesome T3/4 rider but also a runner. And always cheerful!"

The Rapha ladies 100 km

My biggest achievement came during the first full year as a member; in June 2021. A club ride including getting to Oxted and back clocked up 162 miles. Here is the reason I eventually joined a club, and why I chose Oxted CC.

Some words from Austen Reid.

"How 10 years flies by! We have all made great new friends, and in some cases found new partners! I think we can safely say the club has been a great success. 

We have catered for many different types of rider from leisure to competitive cyclists, and the tandem section has been quite exceptional. 

Our OCC Majorcan adventures ( and the annual Brighton run ) helped bond the membership, although sadly we lost one of our friends, Pete Abbott."
going the extra mile to ensure racing happens
Tim going the extra mile to ensure racing happens
Many will have been approached by Russell to enter TT's and hill climbs.
egcc tt

egcc tt
It is not all about competition. The main focus is socialising, keeping fit and being out on the bike. 

And lots of smiles.

more smiles Oxted cycling club

Saturday, 12 August 2023

FTP, Vo2 max

There are many metrics to measure performance. And an industry ready to supply the hardware to do it. A quick internet search will find advice about how to improve those numbers. There are more, but I do wonder if it's useful. If you're a pro and your livelihood depends on it, then yes. But if you ride at the weekend and maybe do the occasional sportive or charity ride; does it matter? 

I initially bought into the hype. I wear a heart rate monitor for most rides. I nearly bought a power meter.

The HRM is used by apps calculate an estimate of how many calories burned. It's useful to know how much food I should eat.

A power meter supplies some numbers that indicate how much force I'm generating. These allow a few things; if the number is big I can boast about it, info about possible training plans and how I might be improving.

Having knowledge about training zones can lead to subscription training services and maybe a coach.

I've no problem with the above if it works for you. I don't think it would work for me. 

I have ridden some TT's and hill climbs; with varying success. Which is okay, but I doubt I'd have the time for much structure. 

It could be motivational, but I've not had much of a problem with that. Exercise has become part of my routine.

I was a participant in some research in Jan 2022. This meant I tested my Vo2 max. I don't know what it is now; it was 51. A lot has happened since so I am thinking about having it tested again. Does it matter? Not really. I doubt I'd change the amount of riding I do. 

Another popular test is lactate threshold. A measure of how well your body deals with and tolorates the byproduct of working muscles. Obviously I have no idea what my score is.

The more I think about the tech and the tests, the less likely I am to buy into them. I feel I know my body well enough to gauge how it will react to the load I might place on it. I know when I can push harder and when to ease up. And how far is too much.

Saturday club rides are another way to measure changes. Especially if it attracts new, younger people to keep up with.

Lastly the bikepacking trips I started last year place extra strain on me. The multi day makeup of them demonstrates how well I can recover.

Wednesday, 26 July 2023

Around the island

me at the needles isle of wight

My second trip this year included a ferry. Not to a different country though; the Isle of Wight was my destination.

Arriving in Portsmouth by bicycle meant I could use the foot passenger only catamaran that landed me in Ryde, my base for two nights. I hadn't thought of using the hovercraft, I was under the impression it was no longer in use. I talked to my sister about my holiday and she mentioned them. Gone are the huge craft capable of carrying cars. These are much smaller, they do carry bikes. But they have to be packaged as cargo. The vessel I used has cycle racks, so much less hassle.

The trip to Portsmouth.

It was a good journey, rolling hills that were not too much of a test. Except for a very steep climb after about 40 miles, it peaked at 20%, then 15 miles later another at over 15%.

I arrived at Midhurst needing lunch. A very busy town, I found a seat outside the Midhurst bakery.

Delicious coffee and the best vegan "sausage" rolls. The filling was curried veg, I had two.

midhurst bakery
waiting for the food to be warmed at Midhurst bakery

Interesting place names. 

Unfortunately not long after lunch on a narrow country lane an idiot who was either too impatient, didn't care or incompetent overtook when there wasn't enough room. It took me off the bike.

Three people stopped. Two women had first aid training and a huge kit. They cleaned and patched up my knee and elbow. The third, Robert, rang 111. I discussed what happened and how I felt. It was decided I didn't need an ambulance, which was good. Robert suggested I take the lift in the horse box offered by the two women to the nearest station and head home. I declined, the bike was rideable and I really wanted to get to the island. Luckily I had obtained the name, number and reg from the idiot because by the time I had been patched up she had gone. Robert was the last to leave, staying until I had got my head together and could carry on. It was whilst we stood and chatted that I assessed my situation. My gilet was shredded, the jersey underneath had damage to the shoulder, and my shorts had a huge hole in them. I used some gauze bandage to stop the grazes sticking to what was left of the garment and to cover my dignity.

My first view of the coast.

I had intended to walk around the naval dockyard and take pictures of HMS Victory etc. Not surprisingly I didn't feel like it.

HMS Warrior
HMS Warrior opposite the ferry/train terminal. 

Spinnaker Tower
Spinnaker Tower

I did take a couple of pictures from the ferry.

portsmouth harbour

The ferry docks at the end of Ryde Pier. 

ryde pier

It was a short walk up the hill to my hotel. I must have looked a bit of a mess, but no-one at the ferry or hotel made any mention of it. 

Staying in one place for more than a night was a welcome change, especially considering the situation I found myself in. I'll also ensure I have company in the future. Which will please my family.

Last month's trip had me checking out every morning. Traveling to a new place by bike is very rewarding, knowing I achieved it by my own effort. But it was nice to return to the same place in the evening. Maybe my future plans will change now. Instead of constantly moving on I could base myself in one place and ride loops each day.

Another change; I wasn't alone, on the island at least. Stefan was my guide. I'd never met him face to face before.

ride artwork stefan powellOur first interaction was me seeing his artwork on twitter. I bought a framed print.








Later I tweeted my plan to take a trip to the island. Stefan suggested we could meet and he'd show me around.

A couple of weeks before departure we had a video call. We talked about what I wanted to do, and where I'd like to visit. Marcia was within earshot some of the time and remarked afterwards that he seemed like a nice man; high praise.

I sent Stefan a message to update him. The planned ride was obviously off. I was feeling pretty down and sorry for myself. He replied saying he'd drive to meet me at the cafe as we'd discussed previously. I hadn't fancied the breakfast offering from the hotel. A full fry-up veg style was also expensive at £9.99.

We drove the route discussed a couple of weeks earlier. And chatted about our lives, thoughts and plans. Probably more so than if we'd been on the bikes.

It was just what I needed. He is an easy going friendly guy. The day was absolutely brilliant.

st helens church ruins nodes point
st helens church ruins nodes point

We drove into the Nodes Point caravan park for the pic above. As we got out of the van we were approached by an employee. He asked if we were residents, we said no. It looked like he was about to ask us to leave. Stefan said we wouldn't be long and then pointed at me, explaining my situation. Saying we'd just like a picture or two. His demeanour softened, and said it was very disappointing how terrible some people drove, then left us to have a walk.

culver down

The next stop was Culver Down. A view of the coast from the top.

Earl of Yarborough Monument

We saw the Earl of Yarborough Monument from a long way off. It was erected by the locals.
The inscription reads:

D.C.L. F.R.S. F.S.A.

Shanklin with its thatched high street was next. We had a bit of a walk and a coffee then moved on.

Blackgang chine gave a photo op. Unfortunately the dinosaurs were protected by fences so I settled for a pic of the pirate.
pirate Blackgang chine

We were now on the military road with its spectacular views. The one below was straight out of the van window while stopped at the side of the road. Although the whole route had vistas just as impressive.

view from the van

Near Brook is a carpark being reclaimed by the sea. They have to regularly fence off more and more of the paved area and move the stairs back as the tide moves inland.

It was time for lunch so we went to The Freshwater Coffee House. Stefan is rightly proud. It's a great place to visit. Just as we were leaving they brought out vegan chocolate brownies. I could not resist. So much so that I didn't pause to take a picture.

The last stop was the Needles, the walk from the carpark gave a view of Alum bar. Famous for its coloured cliff face.

Alum Bay
Alum Bay

I hadn't been to the Needles before.

the needles

Stefan then drove me back to my hotel. The steps tracker on my watch recorded over six miles of walking. It certainly didn't feel like it. 

That night I had dinner in an Italian restaurant. At first I was alone, it was just after opening time. The dining room soon filled up. I had wanted to eat there on the Sunday night but by 18:30 it was fully booked.

Ristorante Michelangelo
Ristorante Michelangelo

After dinner I went for a walk. And discovered the hovercraft.

isle of wight hovercraft

Certainly not the behemoths of yesteryear.

Tuesday morning and time to go home. I woke early, packed, collected my bike and headed out along the pier. Breakfast was from the Seagull Cafe at the end.

seagull cafe wightlink terminal ryde pier
seagull cafe wightlink terminal ryde pier

I'd just missed a departure, but I didn't mind. It gave me time eat some porridge and drink a latte.

At the train station I bought a ticket from the office, we need to have these and not allow them to be closed. I asked if I needed to change during my journey. The guy behind the counter looked pleased and said "no you look just fine dressed as your are". It made me smile. He informed me Americans especially like this joke. A machine wouldn't have been the same.

portsmouth and southsea station
waiting for my train

I changed at Gatwick, heading for another at Redhill. Unfortunately a points failure further up the line meant my final connection was cancelled. So I rode the last 7.5 miles to home.

A final thought. The roads that I saw on the island were well surfaced, great for riding on. It's the holiday season and they weren't that busy. Just like the standard European countries beloved of my fellow cyclists. Okay there aren't any incredible climbs, but I'll definitely be back to sample what is available. I wrote about the impact of holidays, the Isle of Wight has good travel connections. You don't need to fly for a start. I know the weather might not be as predictable, but no-one ever melted when they got rained on.


Info about the dinosaurs at Blackgang Chine.

Yelf's Hotel. An old style hotel, that is a bit tatty around the edges. The staff were friendly and helpful, if not that observant. The bike storage was in the cellar so very secure. If your bike is heavy I'd remove any luggage before taking it down there. The ramp is very steep. Don't load up until you have it in the courtyard for the same reason. Also on Monday I had been told there would be someone to unlock the gate, but I couldn't find anyone. I eventually left a message with one of the people serving breakfast that I wouldn't require the bike.

I told the receptionist on Monday evening I'd need to checkout early, before breakfast, the next day. She left a note for the night porter. He knocked on my room door just after seven and made sure I had the bike sorted and in the main bar area for me to leave shortly after.

Wightlink Ferry. Quick efficient service, joined to Portsmouth train station so it's easy to get to. There is another station, the one I left from. Just a short distance away; it's called Portsmouth and Southsea. Trains leave for London via Gatwick.

Ristorante Michelangelo I think this serves a more traditional menu. Certainly the pizza I had was devoid of cheese or a non dairy alternative. I think the heavily "cheesyfied" versions more commonly seen are an American inspired creation. The sweet was a disappointment though, which was a shame.

About Stefan. Exec & Leadership Coach. He also trains baristas and is a musician.

The Freshwater Coffee House An award winning establishment. Definitely visit if you are in the area.

freshwater coffer house

Artist The Little Boat IW. You can buy prints online, he does commissioned pieces too.