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

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Show me the money

I use to watch most motorsport, gradually it left my schedule, F1 being the first. It is all about money, with less dependence on the human element. Other four wheeled racing followed, finally the two wheelers no longer interested me. When human frailty is removed from the equation it becomes a race to spend the most. 

So what do I watch now?

Cycling; more specifically road racing. There is a lot of money in the top flight, if you are a mens team. It's very different for the women's side of the sport, that really needs to change. They don't have so many live televised events, or the same length of races. This is wrong; why don't the organisers do more to promote it? More screen time will mean more sponsors, it's a little chicken and egg at the moment.

The top teams spend big, up to around £40 million. This could sterelise the sport, as it does for the motorised genre. The better funded teams generally lead the races, but the winner is never certain. The recent Tour de France for example; Ineos with Egan Bernal were favourites. I think they have the biggest budget, he pulled out due to injury. Anyone from any team could crash, become ill, or just have a bad few days, especially in the mountains. That's all it takes for any hope of winning to disappear. Three weeks, 3,484.2 km (2,165.0 miles) with only two rest days. This year it went down to the wire, with a mammoth effort on the last stage from Tadej Pogacar to win.

I must admit to imagining myself in those races, testing my determination against whatever the course throws at me. I also think about some of the endurance events, how great would it be to complete them with friends?

And now for the regular feature; pics from the daily rides.

caterham view 
The weather was still great at the beginning of the week, starting to see sunset colour during my ride

Surrey Hills
The nights are getting darker.

My after work route is only twelve miles but it includes four steep hills, two of which I first ride down, turn around, and then ride to the top again. On Wednesday night I passed the same people on both hills as I rode in both directions. I wondered what they might be thinking. They gave me a half smile, half laugh the last time our paths crossed.

I also got a puncture on Waller Lane, the camera caught the moment, with sound.

I hope the evenings will be as nice as the one on Thursday. It was wet all day, I did got dirty, but the sunset was worth going out.

Caterham view sunset

The wind made a big impression on Saturday. I went out with Oxted Cycle Club in a faster group than previously, it was okay at first. As we neared the end I ran out of acceleration; if I needed to catch up on a hill I had nothing left. It felt like there had been a headwind most of the time, not too bad if I was in a slipstream. A few feet further back I lost that help, and could not regain my position, the gap increased quickly. It was a weird feeling, I wasn't out of breath, my legs just didn't have any extra push. 

Matt and I met at our winter residence on Sunday, the Tatsfield village bus stop. It's covered location is less exposed to the weather than our summer locations. 

Tatsfield village bus stop yorkshire tea

During the week Matt had discovered an off road route from Redhill to Caterham. I knew some of it, but there would still plenty to explore for me. A ride to a cafe and back, what's not to like.

Friday, 25 September 2020

It's okay to talk

I have never been affected so deeply as the the guy who made the video.

The message is to talk, it's hard at first, but it gets easier.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

It's still warm

This week we had an Indian summer, so cycling in shorts for a little longer.

What does the term mean?

The exact origins of the phrase are uncertain, several writers have speculated it may originally have referred to a spell of warm, hazy autumn conditions that allowed Native American Indians to continue hunting.

Whatever the origin of the phrase, it evidently first was used in the eastern United States. The first recorded use of the phrase appears in a letter written by a Frenchman called John de Crevecoeur dated 17 January 1778. In his description of the Mohawk country he writes "Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warm which is called the Indian summer."

The term was first used in the UK in the early 19th century and went on to gain widespread usage.

After work was very pleasant weather for my rides.

A slight change to my normal route added an extra steep hill, in place of just a steep one.

As I rode into Tatsfield on Saturday there was a display commemorating 80 years since the battle of Britain.

Tatsfield battle of Britain

Tatsfield battle of Britain flight over the pond

Tatsfield battle of Britain flight over pond bike

Phil arrived on his newly restored Honda CB750, having had it in bits for a number of years. It's one of the first to arrive in the UK, 44 years ago. He is rightly very proud of his achievement. It looks excellent, I can't see how he could have done any better. It runs perfectly, just like it did when new.

Honda CB750

Honda CB750 side panel
You can see Phil's reflection as he stands proudly by his bike

Honda CB750 outside the cafe tatsfield

Honda CB750 and bicycle

We sat and chatted over drinks and twix. Catching up with what had happened since Phil's last visit. We were soon laughing and chilled out as if he had never been away. But he had to get home, and I had a far destination to reach. I rode off to explore Ditchling Beacon, Matt and Phil went home; promising we would all meet again next weekend. 

I had wanted to climb the hill for a long time, but this years events meant I hadn't wanted to go too far. With public transport now running, if I had any problems it's possible to get home.

The weather was nearly perfect, warm but a strong wind pushed me quickly on the outward leg. It really hampered my return, some descents required me to pedal hard to keep up any speed.

A view from the top.

Top of Ditchling Beacon looking south

Top of Ditchling Beacon looking north

I won't bore you with the video of the ascent - it took about seven minutes - here is the descent. It's much quicker and you can see the valley below.

Sunday at the churchyard with Matt was a great end to the week. Please can I have a few more warm weekends?

There are so many pictures of this spot, inspiration came to me as I sat on my bench.

lichen at the churchyard

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Comfy slippers

There have been a couple of reunions recently. Geoff - an old friend from a company where Matt and I use to work - arrived by car for a couple of Sundays. And Matt met Phil - use to ride with us years ago - in Westerham on Saturday. Phil was supposed to have meet us on Sunday, but didn't arrive.

After tea had been made Matt and I munched our cereal bars and discussed club meetings. When it's just the two of us, we say hello, sit down and it feels like we continue where we left off last time. It's the same with Matthew, Richard and Jmaes. Even when we met after many months of lockdown. 

It felt like putting on a pair of comfy slippers; new or returning members mean a pause while everyone settles down and catches up. Don't get me wrong, we like to see new and old faces, the second appearance will have us all in our favourite footwear straight away.

Assorted pictures from the daily rides after work.

Godstone vineyard lake

Caterham view

Some videos too.

Saturday morning.

St Mary's Oxted

Surrey hills, early sunrise.

Surrey hills early sunrise