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.