Thursday 31 December 2020

Pre-ride walk

over the hedge

The weather has changed during the last few days, it's gotten drier but colder. Too cold for me to want to ride far from home, so I kept to my local 15 mile route. I'm still on holiday so have been riding between the rain showers. As the chances of getting wet diminished I used the spare time to go for a walk with the big camera. Lately when on the bike I tend not to stop for pictures. The extra control and quality I get from my main camera has been missed. It's way too heavy to carry on the rides, and I don't want to risk damaging it. You could describe this post as the view from the saddle, if I had a pro camera with me.

The last time I did this was with the Caterham Photography Society, in March 2018.

This post is going to be very picture heavy so prepare for some scrolling.

frost on a log

Moss on a fence post
it's a small world, the top of a fence post

path through the woods

damaged tree

damaged tree

crumbling tower

shredded plastic in a tree
Never far from thoughtlessness. 

Garage slowly being reclaimed

flint animal
flint animal

serpent branch
serpent branch

the summer remembered
the summer remembered

South African hat
a long way from home

field with horses

Caterham High street tree

St Lawrence church
St Lawrence church, built in 1095

Sunday 27 December 2020


When do you have enough?

I watched a documentary on Netflix: Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

It struck a chord with me. 

Society is going in a different direction, it's all about displaying success and wealth. Attempting to buy contentment, and satisfaction.

The message made sense; we are driven to want more. What was once a great survival instinct is exploited to convince us we can only be happy if we fill our lives with possessions; we can only measure our success by wealth. I much prefer to base my opinion on deeds and friendships.

Advertising has always tried to sell aspirations. Social media increased the pressure, targeting consumers with ever more personal messages about mostly fantasy lifestyles.

To me the pinnacle of this is the adulation by Apple stores when a new product is released. The threat of having a crowd of staff clapping as I make a purchase would put me off entering the store. I just find it and crowds fighting for bargains saddening to watch.

I'm not saying don't buy anything. Just that I think about why; does it add value or solve a problem? Is the new version so much better than what you have?

I try not to be sentimental, I don't hold onto anything I don't need. 

Regular readers will know I have two hobbies; cycling and photography. I have spent money on both, I like to think wisely. I see the latest bike or camera and contemplate buying them, but only briefly. I have what I need, I can achieve the goals I set.

I don't want to feel like I'm working to buy a life.

What I buy has to improve my life, and not by just being in my possession.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Solstice Century. It's empowering.


I mentioned in my last post how Strava was keeping me motivated. This weekend I took on a big challenge; ride 100 miles.

This isn't about boasting, I wanted to see what I was capable of. I looked forward to it from the moment I committed. 

I may have talked two friends into doing this at the next solstice. Giving them time to prepare, I really hope they will ride with me.

It appears Komoot under estimated the distances of the sections I planned. The main loop should have been 17 miles, with 15 miles to get there. So the maths was: 2 times 15 plus 4 times 17 for a total of 98 miles. I added an extra small loop of about 5 miles near Leigh to take me over the distance. 

I knew beforehand I'd have trouble remembering how many times I'd completed a circuit so I decided to have two energy bars and two packets of caffeine chews easily to hand. I alternated between them each time I arrived at Rusper. When the second packet of chews were gone, I could head home. They weren't all that I had to eat, when I got to Leigh I had either an energy bar or gel. I have learnt that eating regularly on longer rides is easily missed, but is essential. If you run out of energy not only does it make the ride miserable but it's really difficult to catch up again.

The ride to the start was actually 19, and the loop was nearly 19. How far did I ride then? A grand total of 117 miles. 

It was eventful; on the first loop I assisted a woman clearing parts of a fallen tree from the road. Until I arrived, no-one from the other cars affected by the obstruction thought to give her any help, chivalry it appears is dead. Then later as I left Ifield I was hammered with hailstones. They continued on and off until I neared Rusper again, then the sun came out. Unfortunately the deluge was enough to refill the rivers and lakes I had been riding through on the lower sections of road. So although I only had to face very light rain for a short period later in the afternoon, there was near constant spray being thrown up.

The third time around I stopped at Tanhouse farm for coffee, I wasn't cold, but in need of a boost. My clothing choices worked well. A waterproof jacket, with a warm base layer and a short sleeved jersey in between. My gloves were from Le Col, they kept my hands warm if not completely dry. Le Col socks with overboot on top of my cycling shoes kept my feet warm, if again not dry.

Once home and showered the extra distance didn't matter. I am very pleased with myself, at what I have achieved. I'd had 8 hours of me time, without any distractions, or worries. I had switched off from everything except the tarmac in front of me. I'm slowly learning what I am capable of, and it's more than I thought. I don't mean, physical strength or endurance, I am discovering mental toughness and confidence. 

It's empowering.

Sunday 13 December 2020

If it isn't on Strava, it didn't happen.

strava trophy case

It's a saying on what could be described as Facebook for the fitness community. I have recently started using it as a replacement for Cyclemeter.

For years I recorded my rides on this self contained app, whilst sharing some rides on Facebook. Then a friend sent me a discount code she had earned on Strava. I've had an account for a long time, I can't remember why it's only been used to record one ride. I have now switched to it in an attempt to boost my motivation.

I'm finding it tougher to ride now that winter has really stepped up the unpleasant aspects of the season.

Strava isn't just about recording exercise, there is a bit more of a community feel to it. Companies have taken an interest in a potentially constructive way. They are using it to advertise to people who will have a strong connection to their products or services. With the bonus of discounts for completed challenges. You also earn digital trophies and receive kudos - likes on Facebook - from followers.

So far the change has been positive, I am joining challenges and setting myself goals. Hopefully this will be enough to see me through to the warmer weather. I must resist the temptation to buy too much though.

I have started to plan more exploration rides, follow me on Strava to see the results. I finish work for the year on the 17th December, so I'll have time to look for interesting places. Komoot is my application and website of choice. At the moment I use it to check the distance, it generally suggests quieter roads suited to riding. It's not without problems though; trying to alter a route by dragging points often results in small loops being formed, or it stops using the roads and draws a line between two points. I don't have a cycle computer on to which I can download the route. So I write it down or try to remember. Not too much of a problem if I am familiar with the general area and it doesn't include too many junctions. I'll check the sales in the new year for one.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Safe haven

A few posts ago I shared a link to a video. I have written a few posts about depression and how I adjusted, and came to terms with it.

It has been liberating, people can now understand why I sometimes reacted to past situations in the way I did and hopefully see the improvement in the present.

I write a little of what's going on for this blog. It means people know I'm getting better, it helps me, and hopefully it will encourage others.

If you are feeling the same, talk to someone.

Start small, just say that you aren't so good. Tell them how you feel. 

If you're receiving a call; you don't have to suggest a fix, you don't have to give any advise.

Provide a safe haven, somewhere anything can be discussed.

Check in with people; if they say they're just fine or okay; start a conversation, ask them what they've been doing lately. Just a few minutes on the phone can make a real difference. 

You have no idea how powerfull listening can be.  

To everyone who has made themselves available in different ways; thank you. I am feeling much more positive than I have for a long time.

Sunday 29 November 2020

Testing myself

Why do I cycle; why do I sometimes ride so far?

There are a many reasons why I thought I needed to get out on my bike:


Stress relief

Getting away from it all

Listening to Mark Beaumont talk about the mindset behind endurance riding struck a cord. He said life for most people is fairly straight forward, we have challenges and it's not easy all of the time. But mostly we move from day to day without pushing ourselves.

I don't ride around the world like Mark, or even close to it. And I have issues I need to deal with that are a challenge.

I do set myself personal challenges. My photography had some: to get better, obtain paid work. I achieved them to an extent. Ultimately I wasn't prepared to take the risk of becoming a full time photographer. I accepted this and moved on to photograph what interested me, rather than what might lead to paid assigments.

Cycling has become my focus; initially it was to raise money for the therapy centre my wife attends, then to get fitter. It's now a way to test myself. Hills to climb, distances to complete.

I am nearing the limit of how far I can go in the time available. On Saturdays I have six to eight hours. At my pace that's around 112 miles.

It does leave me yearning for longer trips; how far can I go in a day? The problem is finding a route that's interesting, and not just a "get it done' slog.

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

Sunday 18 October 2020

Coffee, cake and donkeys

tanhouse farm donkeys

I have been out on the mountain bike during the week, the roads are so rough, it isn't pleasant on the road bike.

On Wednesday the oven partially packed up. The fan heater failed and tripped the main house circuit breaker. I reset it and the oven appeared to start cooking again. I returned thirty minutes later to find cold food; the fan was working, but no heat. I cooked using using normal, slower, mode. This meant I went out for my ride later. Less traffic but very dark in some parts. I went a bit off-road to really test my light (Cycliq 12). 

The lowest power setting was just enough for me, but not for the camera. Just a dull circle of light was picked up by the sensor. Under streetlights it was better, but the quality was still poor. It was set to its lowest resolution, for the next ride I changed both settings to high.

I think it did pretty well, to me it seemed brighter, certainly enough to see the path ahead.

Saturday was a return to the road bike, with Oxted CC. It was lead by a pair on a tandem. It may be slower going up hill, but it quickly picks up speed going down.

tan house farm tandem

We went to Tanhouse Farm; they have donkeys. Food and drink was served from a small cabin, and a barn had been converted to provide very spacious seating.

Phil arrived at the Tatsfield bus stop to meet Matt and I on Sunday. He spoilt us again; revealing homemade French fancies. Not made by him, I must add. His daughter had been inspired by Bake Off. Very tasty they were.

French fancies at tatsfield bus stop

Sunday 11 October 2020

Where have all the people gone?

Where have all the people gone
My photography is going in a new direction.

I feel I am moving away from portraits and people photography in general. This year I did a family commission, a studio shoot in March, and one in August.  

A project with Janice and Saskia is moving along, and a plan for a shoot with Eddy motorcycle consultants is in its early stages.

I have focused instead on the photography for my posts. I think of an idea; type away at it during the week and the challenge is to produce an interesting picture to head the page. And maybe some from the rides I have done, this is getting more difficult. A limited number of locations and routes is testing my creativity. A positive spin would be that it's also pushing me to ride to new places, and think differently.

I might investigate the genre of architectural street: gritty black and white, light and dark, shapes.

I find it hard to translate the vision I have to the camera. It will come with practice.

A colleague at work - Xavier - is also an avid photographer; we are now challenging each other to become more creative. I set the first subject, the title of this post. His reply was colour contrast. I haven't found the target for my camera yet.

Would my readers like to suggest a topic?

Sunday 4 October 2020

Gone cycling

Gone cycling

I watched the last episode of Gone Fishing with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse last week, and I thought of Matt and I sat at various bus stops, churchyards and cafes. Drinking tea is our angling.

We don't really care what people think of us, or if they understand the simple pleasure of meeting every week. 

Sometimes we talk serious subjects, almost nothing, stupid topics, or laugh with and at each other.

We have differing views on somethings, agree on others, change our minds or just agree to disagree.

I hope we never take the meetings for granted. 

I must admit it took a little time to readjust after they started again, I was use to solo bike rides. Stopping and talking was unusual.

At first I couldn't settle down, I don't know why but I was eager to get on the bike again. I think maybe because I always had in my mind needing to get back for Marcia. The carers are visiting again, so I can slow down.

I'm not sure if we'll go back to meeting at the green and cycling together to our tea drinking location, or if it will be solo rides to the designated place. Either seems to work, and doesn't feel odd.

Doing our own thing feels okay, Saturday we ride alone most of the time, coming together on Sunday. 

Lining up group rides give me extra to look forward to, life is still fairly solitary. 

Two bad days this week.

dormant farming
Phone got wet and died during this ride.

into the woods 
Fell off bike after this pic was taken, causing a stiff hip
coffee at the velo barn
A cafe and a bike shop.

Avoided the worst of the rain on Saturday, for a coffee and slice of cake at the Velo Barn near Westerham.

The storm stepped up a level on Sunday, Matt and I decided to ride routes local to our houses rather than meet as arranged. I did just over ten miles of the circuit I do after work. My hands were freezing, hopefully the gloves I have on order will be the last piece of the puzzle needed to make winter riding comfortable