Sunday 30 August 2020

Expanding my cycling family

It's great that cycling with friends is back, rides to meet Matt for tea and chat, with Matthew, Richard and James. They are very important to me, and remain my focus. They are all about shared history: the hills we have conquered, the distances ridden, the places visited, the laughs. It's a great family to be part of.

I have met Matt every Sunday since it was allowed. I rode with Matthew and Richard last month. James last weekend; more are planned. 

I also want to ride further, more often. Riding alone is okay, but where are the shared memories? Getting everyone together isn't easy. When I am free for a new adventure, they may not be and vice-versa. Cycling clubs run regular events, if there is space I can join one.

The club I was looking for couldn't be just about head down, riding as fast as possible. I had to find the right club with a strong social element. It needed to be close to me as well, my choice; Oxted Cycling Club. The only fly in the ointment is a 20% hill. Fortunately I descend into Oxted, and leave the ride early to avoid it. I've ridden up it a couple of times on the mountain bike, helped by it's very low gears. Maybe I'll try it on the road bike.

What about my week I hear you shout.

Monday; I think the warmest part of the day was as I left for my ride. I had to pump up the front tyre. No puncture, just a lack of air. It had been alright on Saturday. The Waller Hill loop was my choice. Uneventful would be the word to describe it. The rain stayed away until after I got home, which was nice.

Tuesday; the day started wet, but promised better weather to come. It got drier but much windier. I wasn't sure if it was okay to go out. The walk to the garage convinced me it sounded worse than it was. The offroad loop had small patches of mud.

The puddles were smaller elsewhere.

Wednesday; a mixed bag of weather during the day, at five it was dry but very windy. Out on the mountain bike, after pumping up a tyre. For the second time I had entered the garage and discovered a flat tyre. Not a puncture, just no air. Who or what was doing this? 

Thursday; no rain until late afternoon. It stopped long enough for the Waller Lane loop, starting again just after I arrived home. The tyre mystery was also solved; the mountain bike has slow punctures front and rear.

No pictures, I wanted to get home quickly, just a short video.


Friday; it started grey, improving into the afternoon. And then it rained from 14:30, right through to when I left for my ride. It stopped until I got home. Same roads as Thursday, so not much to report. Added an extra light to my helmet. Much of the route is under a canopy of trees so it can get a little dim in places.

Caterham View
Caterham, a green a pleasant land. 

I felt really good the whole way round, and was buzzing when I got home. It may have been the coffee I drank, although it was only two cups; one with breakfast and one with lunch. I have finally found a variety I like.

Taylors of Harrogate Hot Lava Java

Saturday; I awoke in the early hours, it was raining heavily. I knew I would very likely go out no matter the weather, I wasn't looking forward to it though. By the time I was ready to leave the house there was a break in the downpour. I made it home with only a covering of dirt thrown up from the wet roads. As with the previous evening, I felt great the whole time. It can't just be the coffee, maybe riding less has allowed me to recover and become stronger. 

A quiet Charlwood was the turn around point.

Sunday; a bit chilly, but still not cold enough to abandon the shorts. Long trousers are a sign that winter is near. I have resolved the problem of carrying my camera, and the tea mug. A couple of cable ties turn the strap into a shoulder holster, and a carabiner attaches the mug. Tea and a chat at the churchyard with Matt. A familiar and welcome start to the day of rest.

carrying camera and tea mug

close up carrying camera and tea mug

Bank holiday Monday, destination Westerham, a good start to the new week.

I get so much from cycling, even in bad weather I feel better. In the beginning it was tough, arriving at the bottom of hills, dreading the climbs. 

My mood is more consistent, and as I have said recently my depression is being kept at bay.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Wet and dry

evening cycle setting sun

I managed to avoid a soaking on the few bad days last week. Was I so lucky this week?

Monday; it rained all day, the sun came out at five. 

I tried a new route on the road bike. I wanted it to be enough of a challenge, take no more than forty five minutes and be without much traffic.

It included Waller Lane of Waller Pain fame.

It was all of the above. Waller Lane is getting easier each time I ascend it. If only the hill climb was happening this year, I’d smash my previous best. 

Tuesday; I used the mountain bike. Dry all day, and perfect weather in the evening. I expected the bridleways to be very muddy, but they were fine. I passed an old bike, in previous years the baskets were full of flowers. It was looking neglected this year.

compare old and newer old and newer bikes

Wednesday; the weather forecast was for rain all day. It started clear; then rained all day. It didn't stop at five so I got wet and muddy.

Thursday; weather was dry and sunny during my work day, and this continued into the evening. Still plenty of mud on some paths. I'll be washing my bike at the weekend, yes folks you heard that correctly.

evening ride

Friday; very windy all day. The whole time I could hear objects banging and crashing around outside. It was too strong; I stayed in.

Saturday; a ride planned some time ago, waiting for lockdown to ease. Out to Charlwood with James. I hadn't seen him since March; the only contact with colleagues has been email, phone and Microsoft Teams.

On the way to meet James.

cycling along springbottom lane

cycling along sandy lane

Drinking coffee and chatting with James, it's take a picture time. There were a lot of other riders in the village, not too long a queue at the shop though.

coffee and a chat charlwood

The wind had died down, and the sun was making fleeting appearances between the clouds. It did rain a little on the way to Charlwood. Talking to another rider while waiting for James to return with the coffees; others had not been so lucky. 

Sunday; a return to the churchyard with Matt. I remembered my cup this time, so tea was consumed. Good times. The morning was a little chilly as I left the house a short time after seven. There was something different about me, I couldn't work out what it was at first. Then I realised I was feeling more positive than I had in a very long time. Normally this is fleeting, my mind conjures up everything that will now go wrong. This time however I couldn't do it, I couldn't bring myself down. Riding to meet Matt, the trip on Saturday, being back at work and my much improved fitness are all helping more than I had appreciated.

Side note: recent pictures have been taken with my phone, I am riding with the Nikon less often. Getting it out of the saddle bag is a pain. 

The iPhone 6 is okay in good light, but there are times I need to use a flash. The built in option isn't very powerful or directional. I'll look for an alternative, waterproof solution that is easier to access.

Cycling after work is now a habit, it's keeping me level. I had thought going back to work would be very stressful. It has caused some anxiety, but I am coping well. I don't feel my depression is building, I have it under control.

Whilst having a coffee one evening I took some more pictures in my garden.

I thought it looked like the bud on the right was blowing a kiss to the open bloom.

Sunday 16 August 2020

Have I got a problem?

Evening mountain bike ride

Last Sunday, after dinner I found myself at a loose end, I had ridden in the morning to see Matt. Instead of watching television I went for a ride; the offroad eight mile loop.

I am already planning how I can do more, do I have a problem?

Pre lockdown the weekend rides were enough most of the time. Occasionally I would take on a longer ride. Now I need to cycle everyday, at least for a short distance. I'm not taking addiction lightly, it can be very serious and life changing. Cycling is a positive one for me.

I went out on the mountain bike Monday through Wednesday. It got hotter and hotter, the evening temperatures were still over 30. Having sat in a small, stuffy room for the day it was good to be out.

Ross Cycles had it on Thursday to replace the gear cable and give it a service.

broken gear cable

The last four months have been harder than normal for both bikes, they are showing signs of distress. Nearly 3000 miles, split 2500 road, and around 500 mountain bike. That's over 18 months of normal riding in four.

Another evening shot.

maize or corn background mountain bike ride

This and the shot at the top are only five minutes from my house. It's good to be able to ride off road so easily.

Thursday started very hot again, but by mid afternoon the thunder was rolling in, getting louder and louder. And then near biblical rain poured down and the storm raged. I wasn't going out in that. Although I did google: is it safe to ride a bike in lightning. At five when I finished work the clouds had departed. So out I went on the road bike, a ten mile loop that included two stretches of single track lanes. There can be temporary hold ups caused by opposing traffic, normally it's only a couple of vehicles and everyone is sensible - not today - both lanes became blocked with drivers unwilling to back down, or unable to plan ahead.

And to complete the experience a very big, deep puddle.

Friday promised rain, but it never came. The same route as Thursday had much less traffic; the M25 and M23 running normally so no-one was cutting through the lanes.

Saturdays ride was fitted in between other tasks I had planned, I still managed to ride to Charlwood though. Getting there almost dry, a short shower coincided with a bus shelter being available. A big posh house opposite, had a mediterranean feel to its appearance.


Arrived home in light rain, which worsened about an hour later.

In the evening I had a migraine, which usually is still lingering the following day. This time I woke after an hour or so and felt much better. Sunday morning there was no residual discomfort as I rode through the fog to meet Matt.

My mountain bike is receiving attention so it was a meeting of two extremes at the churchyard.

Foggy lane.

I was lit up like a christmas tree, and wearing a hi vis jacket.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Back to work


I completed my first week back at work. Moof IT have been very good, breaking me in gently. I had settled into a routine during lockdown, now I had to create a new one. The space at home is a little cramped, but no commute to the office is a positive change to my day. It's given me some extra time.

I didn't get out on my bike after work as much as planned. In truth my back and knees were hurting, and the new daily structure caused a dip in motivation.

I did finally go for a ride on Wednesday - a short one on the road bike - just over eigth miles. I did include a few hills, it did feel odd to be back home in thirty minutes. 
I left a short time after 5pm, it isn't a great time to ride though; the roads were very busy.

Didn't get out again until Friday, on the mountain bike this time. I rode the eight mile off road route. Leaving the house just after five and it didn't feel too hot, working hours had been almost unbearable. My little home office turned into a sweat box. 

It was a very pleasant outing, mostly away from the road I was surrounded by views like the one below.

The team at work have a virtual get together every morning. We chat about what's been happening with everyone, share news about Moof IT, and then a challenge or two is set. It is a very welcome addition to my day. It was my turn to head the meeting. I set serious and not so serious tasks. The not so serious one was to post the earliest picture everyone had of themselves.

This was mine.

The second task was to spend at least five minutes exercising at lunch time. Everyone was already taking regular breaks from their desks, I wanted everyone to think about how they filled the lunch hour.

I read somewhere if they keep it up for two weeks, it can become a habit. I decided to do push ups. I will continue and see how many I can do, I hope the others do too.

Exercise has helped me immensely, even before coronavirus. The last four months have allowed me to focus on myself, not something I do very often. I wanted to ride everyday to prove I could, and because it helped to steady me. I hadn't realised how tightly wound I was, I guess it builds slowly over a long time.

Saturday was a ride to Ide Hill, I needed to get some miles into the week.

The view was worth the effort.

On the way home on a very quiet lane two deer allowed me a brief interaction, before they disappeared.

On Sunday I rode to meet Matt at the churchyard, going back to old routines is also what I need. These rides were what I looked forward to all week before coronavirus. Now that we are allowed to meet people again, they return to being an important part of my week.

Unfortunately as I neared the churchyard a gear cable snapped, leaving me in the lowest ratio. That's not great, I only need it for steep offroad hills. I was able to adjust the mechanism to lock out the smallest sprocket.

Thursday 6 August 2020

Better ways to spend spare money

There is a limited edition, gold plated lens available if you are quick.

There doesn't appear to be any other changes to the offering, for $700 more.

It's made for the Leica camera range, so it's aimed at the correct buyer. They are already expensive, with little justification in my opinion. When you buy into this brand it does seem to be as a way to make a statement, there are other more capable cameras for far less. I see my Nikon as a tool to do a job, it's why I chose it. It's not the latest version, for me, it provides what I need. If my requirements change I will reconsider my choice.

I couldn't justify spending a large sum on aesthetics over function, even if I did have the money.

It's not just cameras of course, many items seem to be priced on the prestige a company has rather than the value.

A higher price can mean better quality, a cheaper alternative may need to be raplaced more often.

It's not hard to find incredible offerings. The main pic is of gold toilet paper. The producer says - “As you use the toilet paper 22 carat gold flakes will fall onto the floor and your behind taking you to another level of sophistication." - impressive I think you will agree!? You then have to pick up the soiled flakes. Or do you have a person for that?

Here are more foolish buys.

It's largely a free world, you can buy whatever you want, but I do think maybe you could be more of a philanthropist and help society rather than buy expensive trinkets.

Very expensive cars, boats, works of art, huge houses; you have to ask. What is the purchaser trying to say, and can't they say it in a better way?

Monday 3 August 2020

Good to be back

I hope this will be one of the last posts to include reference to lockdown. I went back to work, albeit from home, and photo studios could open for shoots.

Here was that shoot. Four month later I returned to the same place; this time with Saskia and Janice. I have worked with them many times, always producing great results. The last time was way back in 2019.

The session was to catch up and work on some ideas. I wanted to produce a black and white set, Saskia and Janice had some outfit combo's to test.

Then with some attitude.


And now for some colour. This set was at the beginning of the session; Saskia nailing it from the start.

Then a bold print.

And finally a casual set.

It's brilliant what you can achieve in a short time with a good team.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Last high mileage week

I love my bike

I'm back at work tomorrow, so being able to ride 200 miles per week is in the past. I will ride a local off road loop after work, not great mileage but I'm hoping it will maintain my fitness.

I rode it last Sunday; it's about eight miles, taking around forty minutes to complete. The majority of it is bridleways and unpaved lanes. When the nights get longer I may need to invest in more powerful lights, the ones I have are great for showing my presence to others but may not illuminate a completely dark path.

On Monday I took it easy, riding the mountain bike to Leigh. My knees were hurting, so the lower gears allowed me to reduce the strain. I then had to pick up my new glasses from the opticians in the valley, a thirty minute walk in each direction. It includes Waller Lane, my hill climb venue.

Leigh History Box
Leigh has reused a telephone box to display local history.
Tuesday was the Kona to Leigh again. I ride the mountain bike in a different way than I do the road bike. I see more of the scenery, because I'm going slower and being more upright I can see a wider vista. I'm also less focused on the straight ahead. Even when I intend to take it easy, the road bike encourages me to push on. I do enjoy the speed, but it has been nice to slow down.

I was close to aborting the ride on Wednesday, I wasn't motivated to get out. I'm not sure why, I just felt really down. All it took was a look out of the window, beautiful weather couldn't be missed.

I took the mountain bike and set off with no route in mind. Twenty minutes and I remembered a bridleway I had ridden past many times, intending to explore.

I was very glad to venture along it. A few hundred yards and it opened onto many fields. Some with wheat, others were filled with wildflowers.

field of wildflowers

As I sat the only sound was the buzz and chirp of a myriad insects. After a while I made a move to head home; and a deer popped up from maybe thirty feet away. It paused long enough for me to take a picture and then bounded into the trees.

startled deer

One last look around and off I went.

panoramic field

Thursday was a busy one, I had the task of clearing the office I haven't worked in for many months. I'll be based at home from now on. I managed a short ride prior to this, and the same after dinner in the evening.

two tractors in a field

On the first ride, I passed some people hard at work.

last rays of the sun moon rising

Later in the evening I caught the last rays of sunshine and a pale moon.

Friday was taken up completing the move from my office to home, and setting up the space I'll use.

On Saturday there was a photography project, details on the next blog. The last studio shoot was just before lockdown.

And finally; Sunday I rode to Smallfields on the road bike.