Sunday, 26 April 2020

Another week

love NHS windmill

I apologise dear reader; I fear my creativity may be nearly spent, my ability to compose witty prose is diminished.

The last week has been pretty much as before.

Looking after Marcia, cycling and writing my blog. There has also been gardening, cooking and shopping.

I am getting use to queuing outside Tesco.

Only going shopping once a week was at first a challenge. With the shops very close I was use to popping over a few times in seven days, and not having much stored in the house. Now I make one trip and plan ahead.

I had a rant about the media.

Cycling news.

I swallowed another fly.

I may not comment on every ride, staying local means the routes are regularly visited. And even a literary giant like myself eventually runs out of ways to describe them.

I'll just post pictures if I see something of interest. I hope you understand.

bluebells and a tree
bluebells

sheep in the distant field
sheep in the distance

new rocky climb
new rocky climb, it got steeper
farmer and tractor in field
farmer and tractor in field
It is proving to be a little challenging, landscapes aren't a genre I photograph very often. I struggle if there isn't something to draw my attention. I guess that's why my bike is normally included in shots.

rapeseed
rapeseed
The rapeseed field attracted my attention because of the lone tree just over the horizon. It is small but stood out amongst the yellow.

A sheep lazing in the shade of a tree.

sheep under a tree


There is nothing like riding familiar routes in the opposite direction. Sections that I flew along, I now realise are slight inclines this way round. A voyage of discovery.

I know how lucky I am to have countryside on my doorstep.

I have been posting pics from my rides, and now have over 300 followers on Instagram. Does that make me an influencer?!


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Monday, 20 April 2020

Essential travel

essential travel

Every day that I get out on my bike, I am thankful. It's certainly essential travel for me. I tend to avoid controversial posts and keep this blog for my photography projects and cycling.

Having said that; I have to make a comment about the press and cyclists.

I really don't know why they have what appears to be an agender to reduce support for and participation in cycling.

They report about climate emergencies, pollution and increasing congestion. While at the same time writing articles criticising riders.

Since the lockdown they have gone into overdrive, and are now including runners and even those choosing to walk.

These stories are having an effect. Parks are closed, and signs are going up "banning" cyclists from passing through villages and towns.

Close passes and aggressive driving was on the increase before this crisis, with less vehicles on the road it hasn't diminished.

There are a lot more cyclists, runners and walkers that need extra space. The reduced traffic has given some a green light to drive faster and more recklessly. The stats say driving has been reduced to 1950's levels, but speeding cases have increased as a percentage of road use.

The morning news still has many reports of collisions causing congestion and hospital admissions.

Cycling, walking and running should be promoted, not just during the lockdown, but afterwards. Public transport may not be used in the early days after it's the restrictions are lifted, we don't want everyone driving.

Many people may realise there are other ways to get around. Particularly for commuting and shorter trips. Some reports say 56 per cent of all car trips are less than five miles in length and six per cent cover less than a mile - less than a mile - think about that. The average walking pace is 4 mph. So that walk of one mile takes about fifteen minutes. In towns and cities it could take longer to drive that far. Even five miles may take longer in a car if congestion is heavy.

Surveys have reported that more people would forgo their car if the roads were safer. During lockdown more people have ventured out on bikes. Their experience could shape the likelihood of continued riding. 

Councils may make new infrastructure that encourages alternatives to driving a higher priority.

Communities may see that less cars improves their area.

People could experience the benefits of exercise, and of being less reliant on the car.

The media should be praising those people taking exercise and riding, possibly for the first time.

Or is this an opportunity that will be missed?

Journalists are now asking cyclists to get in contact with them. I fear that may be one fire damaged river crossing few will want to use.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

The height of Everest, 29,030 feet

tree lined path

There are two standard measurements used when big objects or distances are mentioned: their height is compared to Everest, their length to a football pitch.

During lockdown I have cycled every day except one. My total distance is 6314 football pitches. The amount of climbing is 1.1 times the height of Everest.

Easter Monday was very windy so I took the mountain bike out to avoid as much road riding as possible. The problem was that the paths were heavily used by walkers. I never ride at a fast pace, so I rarely meet anyone that objects. I give plenty of warning and we negotiate a way passed each other. I try to avoid busy routes, or at least I don't return to them. The plan did include a few hills, both on and off road. I felt really good so set about them with gusto. The lower pressures in the tyres make it harder work, but my fitness level has improved to cope.

Tuesday was an unusual day, I had a tail or side wind for most of the ride. It meant I flew along, really pleased with my average speed of over 14 mph. Although colder than over the weekend, it was  still great to be out.

pilgrims way

The road I took the picture on was a section of Pilgrims Way I hadn't ridden before. It wasn't until I stopped that I discovered the reason for my rapid progress, the strong tailwind.

Wednesday was chilly again, but I have worked out how much clothing to put on for a ride. Start off a bit cold, within about ten minutes I am just right. There is nothing worse than being too hot.
Major General Wolfe
Major General Wolfe
Westerham was the furthest part of the loop. And I was again pleased with my average speed, unlike Tuesday, it wasn't tailwind assisted. I felt really good, it's taken some time to clear my head of negativity. The big test will be when I go back to work, still no definitive date when that might be. Until then I take one day at a time, and keep cycling.

Thursday was a little longer route that contained two very steep hills I had climbed before, but not consecutively.  As I started the first ascent there was a momentary thought that I had bitten off a bit too much; when the top of the second one came into view, it felt good.

Black and white light domes

I stopped for a drink and an energy gel outside a closed restaurant. I thought the domed lights would add a bit of interest and depth to the picture.

Friday I decided to take it easy after Thursdays steep hill double header. I intended to do a local loop on the mountain bike. Trying to keep hills more manageable. Unfortunately I had picked up a couple of thorns in the back tyre on Monday.

double puncture

I took the road bike and completed the 13.5 miles very quickly, which was a good thing. As I opened the garage door on my return it started to rain. If I had been on the Kona, I'd have been caught out. I took the back wheel off to fix the problem in the kitchen. Two holes and a third thorn poised to cause another.

Saturday I risked the mountain bike and a gentle off road route. I have rode it a few times, it doesn't have long steep climbs. My legs appreciated it.

grey crossroads

Grey skies greeted me as I left the house. My mood was the complete opposite. I am faced with the dilemma of which path to choose, how muddy will it be, will there be others using it? This time I met a groups of horse riders. A "ding" from my bell and a hello caught their attention. A few seconds while the four of them and I worked out which side of the track we each needed to use and I was on my way.

Sunday was blue skies with few fluffy white clouds. The wind was still a problem, adding a slight chill.

Bluebells

I had no option with the picture, it's the law at this time of year. You have to take a picture of the bluebells. The road was the other side of the trees, but when no cars were passing I could have been miles from anywhere. I was surrounded by them, the fragrance and peace was wonderful.

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Another use for the blog

As the weeks go by, I'm finding it more and more difficult to know what day of the week it is. Writing posts for the blog is helping because after each ride I add the picture and some notes to the post that will be published on the following Sunday.

The task also motivates me to get out on the bike, to make it a habit. Otherwise I fear it would be too easy to sit and stare at the telly. I have other jobs to do: cutting the grass, shopping, and cooking; creating new content is a good distraction from the mundane.

There is the challenge of taking a new picture each day, thinking about where I should go, what would be interesting.

I know few will read my words and marvel at the images, ;-) but it's still worth my time.

Without my usual working day it's good to have a focus.

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Sunday, 12 April 2020

Puncture, lets the air out of my week.

repairing a puncture

Another week has gone by, the weather is better, slightly less cars on the road, I rode more off road; and I got a puncture. It also seems that my bikes have a "good side". Scrolling down this page I realise I have a habit of photographing the left side of the bikes in most pictures. I'll try to vary it a bit.

Monday. Not much to say, except riding along quiet bridleways and lanes is a pleasant change from busy roads. But I'll need to keep it varied, I don't want it to become boring, especially if the situation continues for the rest of the month.

Tree lined climb
Tree lined climb
Tuesday I did two loops to increase the distance, but got a puncture. I can't remember when I last had one. I saw a twig stuck to the front tyre and had a decision to make; leave it and hope it didn't do any damage, or pull it out. I thought it was maybe stuck in the knobbly part of the tyre, so I pulled it out. I was wrong, the thorn was plugging the hole I had now opened. It was a very small leak so I elected not to fix it at the roadside and rode home. I needed the most sophisticated of puncture detection tools; a bucket of water. The hole was so small I couldn't hear the air escaping, only the bubbles allowed me to locate the damage. Being at home also meant I could drink tea as I patched the tyre.

Wednesday was more laps of my off road route. I need to find an alternative; I have taken about as many new photos of it as I can.

sand pit
Grownups sand pit
I ride around a quarry, it looks like a big sand pit. The ground is very bumpy, churned up by horses. Lowering the tyre pressure has made it a little more comfortable, and more of a workout. It's up and down most of the way. The broken surface makes the short sections of flat hard going, and the climbs tough. Going down hill requires concentration, picking the best path over or avoiding tree roots and rocks.

Thursday I added some miles to the road bike.

leaning on the fence

Down to Godstone, with a stop at a small bridge for a drink and an energy gel. It was the hottest day so far. I wanted an easier ride, but there isn't one without a tough climb. The Enterdent is a hill just past where the picture was taken, I chose to avoid it this time.

On the way back a peacock walked along the lane beside me for a while before disappearing through a hedge. I have seen rabbits, pigeons, deer, squirrels and pheasant but this was a first.

The roads were noticeably quieter, less cars and more cyclists. The other riders I see rarely reply to my "hello" or wave. You're on the other side of the road, well out of the danger zone.

Good Friday came as they all have lately: have breakfast, help Marcia to get ready for her online physio session, then go out for my government sanctioned exercise.

tatsfield memorial

I not an old woman, but I swallowed a fly. It was on an uphill bit so I was mouth wide open. Before I had a chance to get rid of it, it was gone. The rest of the ride was unremarkable, if a little hot. I do wish my fellow cyclists would cheer up. Only two returned my waves. It's great weather and there are slightly less motorists about, which should be enjoyed. With all the stress and hardship at the moment, we need to count our blessings.

Saturday rolled around again. After the morning schedule was completed, I had to decide where to ride.

smallfields windmill

Smallfields isn't too far from home and is a place I haven't been for a while. I had forgotten the steep hills around the village. Luckily they were shaded from the sun; it was hotter than yesterday.

The road bike may have: an unpadded saddle, harder tyres, no suspension and rim brakes, but it is becoming the bike I prefer to ride; at least in the dry. The upgrades of brakes, and wheels plus the new saddle have been worth it. I now enjoy riding it more than the mountain bike. Maybe it's the faster response to my extra efforts, or that it's less about maintaining momentum.

Sunday is groundhog day number twenty. The nineteenth bike ride.

tatsfield pond

Today I went past Tatsfield church, then into the village again. There was no-one around the pond so I took the opportunity to take the picture above. As we are all on hold, nature is moving on from winter to spring, then summer. Getting out is a good reminder that everyday is a blessing, and that I am lucky to live so close to the countryside. I'd still cycle everyday if I were in a big town or city, but I wouldn't have access to such a variety of vistas.


The lockdown has been extended, the media is full of cyclists. With the right lens it can be made to seem they are riding in big groups. Walkers and runners in parks are subject to similar scrutiny. Social media has picked up on this, here though they just don't like anyone on a bike. There is much less written about motorists making unnecessary journeys, and the increase in speeding.

Cities across the world are restricting motor vehicles to give more room to pedestrians, and cyclists; London suspends the congestion charge, encouraging people into cars. Parks are being closed, and the police are driving around the ones still open telling everyone to keep moving. They are even tweeting that if necessary they will inspect shopping trolleys for non essential items. There is no list of essential items, so it would appear the police think they can decide for themselves. When challenged the tweet is said to have been written by someone without authority to make such statements. Very worrying when we should be able to trust official sources. Or are they just testing how far we will let them go?

I had hoped this situation would have changed the UK's bias towards motorised transport, and encouraged people to consider their driving habits. Or at least reduce the anti-cycling propaganda. I really don't want the government to ban the way I cope with life. I have covered many miles in the last three weeks, it's not just about being physically fitter; mentally I am much better now. Anxiety about the future does make an appearance, but I can put it in a box marked not something I can deal with now.

To lighten the mood, here are some ducks.

dusks on tatsfield pond


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Sunday, 5 April 2020

Weekly review

sheep

The weekend of week two and I am adjusting to being at home.

Marcia has been attending the facebook sessions run by the Ryan MS therapy centre she would normally visit once a week. It's a brilliant addition to our day, it gives us some structure. We get up, have breakfast, Marcia does her physio, we have lunch, then I go cycling.

In other news: I'm riding about twenty miles a day, mostly on the road bike. The upgraded wheels and brakes are a big improvement, but the saddle is another story. I think the problem is that the side sections slope down too quickly and the centre section hasn't got much of a dip. It puts pressure on the wrong parts!!

Fizik Arione K:IUM Snake Versus
239g instead of 400g
The new saddle, after one ride, is a big improvement. There is less padding, but it is still much more comfortable. It also saves a little weight, there I go again; sounding a bit serious.

bike bag under seat

I have a new cycle bag, it attaches under the saddle. It's fiddly to fit, and slightly smaller than the previous one. With camera packed inside, the spare inner tube has a new home; can you spot it? My pedaling isn't impeded, and no more sweaty back.

Saturday with the new saddle.

Fizik Arione K:IUM Snake Versus first ride

The Sunday ride included a couple of firsts: a new route, almost completely off road, and facetime chat between Matt and I. The mountain bike had an outing, I had a rough idea for a route. A little off road section led to a path I hadn't noticed before. Nothing extreme, I don't want to risk a fall. It was really good to get away from the deteriorating quality of driving on the roads. While taking the second picture Matt called, we had managed to synchronise our rides. He was drinking tea at the church yard. The video chat meant I could show him the view. I guess we could try to do the same again, a distance of around ten miles made our meetup safe and within the rules.

muddy tunnel entrance
Trust me to find a bit of mud. It was deeper than I anticipated.
avenue of trees bridleway
Bridleway
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