Friday 31 December 2021

Doubled up in the studio


studio photoshoot

First studio shoot since August 2020.

We spoke a few weeks ago about getting together for a photoshoot. It was good to explore a few themes. Saskia had outfits prepared and poses in mind, as always we quickly found out rhythm.

This session had a twist; James, a friend of Saskia's came along.

male studio shoot

He wanted to experience a shoot, and brought some great ideas. The main one was monochrome, simple poses and contrast.

Saskia was interested in bright and colourful, although I couldn't resist one with the colour removed.

black and white monochrome

I haven't photographed many male models, no particular reason except there a less of them. And I must admit I find it harder to pose them. The standard images are very macho inspired, I try to portray inner strength and confidence in my pictures. 

James definitely brought this mindset. Saskia knows what she wants to achieve. For me translating their ideas into pictures; adjusting lighting, making suggestions about angles and poses is something I very much enjoy.

A description delivered.

Moving lights and position made a big difference to how dark the background appeared. In reality it was much more vibrant when lit more directly.

Another simple shot; showing vulnerability, and confidence.

Once we had the wind machine setup and some wild hair under control we kept firing away to capture movement.

wind machine movement

We start off a set with an idea and move around, the smallest change can have a big impact.

I am incredibly pleased with how it worked out. As I write this I haven't completed editing, so await feedback. I hope they like the results as much as I do. 

Saturday 18 December 2021

Not lucky; very lucky

train home from Ford

It all started so well. I wasn't going to ride this years winter solstice century alone. Peter from Oxted CC was joining me. It got better; the weather had improved, and Peter had a route via Littlehampton that for the most part was on quiet lanes.

We met at 08:30 and were in Steyning two hours later for coffee and cake at Victoria's Sponge. If you are in the area, they are very friendly and the coffee and cake were delicious.

steyning coffee and cake

A steep climb was rewarded with some great views.

views near steyning and bamber castle

Here is one of me.

Then on into Littlehampton for more coffee and beans on toast.

Then across the River Arun.

River Arun

It in was the village of Ford where the bad luck started. At first just a loud clunk from the back wheel, and a slack chain; that sorted itself. Then as we came to a halt at the level crossing for local station complete failure. The pedals spun but no drive. No way to fix it meant a walk on to the platform to check the timetable.

I would be on my way on fifteen minutes, if the service was on time. Peter continued riding, and I was seated in a carriage a quarter of an hour later. It took me to Redhill, the closest the line went to my house. Peter had said that once he got home he would drive to pick me up. And at first that was the plan. The taxi rank was lined with saloons, no good to carry my bike, and the train to Purley where I could change for one to Caterham had been cancelled. The taxi's changed quickly and a people carrier soon arrived. The driver said it would be no problem to drop the rear seats to make enough space. I texted Peter to stay at home, and thanked him very much for the offer of a lift. Twenty minutes later I was locking the bike in the garage.

It will be Tuesday before I can get the problem looked and hopefully quickly fixed.

Monday 6 December 2021

Feeling it

feel the sound

Sitting on the couch listening to Lenny Kravitz recently was a kind of eureka moment. I had the sound turned up, and playing through my stereo system. I was completely immersed, like I had been as a teenager at concerts. You feel the music as much as hear it. Obviously it wasn't venue filling loud, the dial only goes to ten, not eleven. If I had the room I'd get a subwoofer or two; really feel it. I don't think you get the same experience with headphones.

It's the same with my other interests: cycling and photography.

It's the reason I like to ride fast, not for the adrenaline of speed, but the exertion it requires. I become immersed in the moment. That's why it works for the trainer in the garage, I'm stationary afterall. 

I have experienced a loss of motivation lately, only partly weather related. If I were riding on my own, I'm not sure I would be riding as often as I do. The weekends with Oxted cycling club and Matt have kept me going. After work means I'm fit enough to enjoy the weekend. Although last Saturday and especially Sunday the poor weather did test my resolve. It wasn't too bad with Oxted, but Sunday Matt was busy so I went out in the rain on my own. I guess my determination isn't as damaged as I thought.

I have scaled back my photography, a few photowalks have been the extent of it this year. I don't see that changing much in the future, I have even contemplated selling the equipment. 

I found myself just going through the motions, the exceptions being two shoots I did in 2020 with Alex and Saskia.

I have a studio session later this month with Saskia. We met recemtly to discuss some ideas she had. I am looking forward to it, it'll be a chance to reawaken the creativity. Prove to myself I can enjoy it again.

It's only a couple of weeks, we'll be over the winter equinox, and the days will start to get longer. I hope January and February are mild next year. 

I have some upgrades for my bike to install, but they will wait until the better weather returns. 

Hopefully that will reinvigorate my motivation.

Watch this space for the reveal.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Chilly walk

goalposts sunrise november

A very cold Sunday morning in November with errands to complete meant no cycling. I did have time for a short walk. I hadn't anticipated how very different the temperature was going to be compared to Saturday. It was freezing, I didn't stay out for long; the cold soon getting to my hands and feet.

The first picture I took, the one above, seemed to convey how outside space is abandoned at this time of year. It will be a few months before this pitch will see any use.


This bench will likely remain unused for longer. The few dog walkers I saw didn't look keen to hang around.

icy puddle.

I didn't see frosty grass, or much ice covered puddles. Just a few patches in sheltered areas. This was a surprise, the night had definitely been the coldest so far.

There were still patches of green amongst the yellows, golds and reds of autumn.

green fern amongst autumn colours

The golden hour as the sun follows it's low trajectory across the sky only appears to add warmth. This was the last picture I took before packing up and heading home for a hot drink.

golden hour sunrise

I must try to get out more with my camera next year.

Thursday 25 November 2021

2022 challenge update


Solstice route 2022

Back in July I mentioned my plans for another ride on the longest day next year to raise money for the mental health charity Mind. Here is the link.

There have been some developments.

I've booked the time off work.

Decided I'd ride back rather than get the train. It seemed too much stress could be involved, and it isn't much cheaper than two nights in B&B's.

Booked accommodation for two nights.
Sponsorship page created. See just below main site picture.

Let me explain why I'm not returning by train; I mentioned it might be stressful. I couldn't guarantee a carriage for the bike and even if there was one; the design is not well thought out. It could cause damage, or be full. They are built with the expectation to hold more bikes than actually fit in the space. At least that's what I've read.

I wanted to have time to appreciate the countryside as I rode. The outward journey would just be focused on getting to the end. 
After a couple of days with my sister I'm taking three days to return.
to colyton
Return day one
At first I considered staying at two locations from a hotel chain. I thought it would be cost effective, and easy. Lenny Henry may like them, but they were more expensive than I anticipated. They mention arriving by bike on the website. I could store it in my room, unless it was dirty. I'd be responsible for getting it clean if that was the case. I wasn't sure how I'd achieve that at the end of the ride. So looked for owner run B&B's, and I'm pleased I did. Friday night will be in a small village called Colyton. I asked about secure bike storage. No problem was the quick reply from both places. 
Colyton to Salisbury
Return day two

Saturday night will be in Salisbury.
Salisbury to home
Return day three
I'm really looking forward to this. The challenge of the first day, seeing my sister, and exploring the countryside on the way home.

I might meet up with a fellow bike adventurer, if we can organise a place and time. He writes a cycling blog that I read. He lives in Devon and leads bikepacking trips, produces route guides, sells t-shirts that he designs and I'm sure much more. Here is the blog.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Into the light

into the light sunrise

This year has seen many changes for me. I've written about some of them: challenging myself to ride more. Opening up about my depression, becoming vegan. 

I've become more passionate about safer cycling, the environment and cutting pollution, advocating for less driving and air travel. 

Talking to Matt one Sunday in November caused me to realise there are others. 

My attitude to cars and motorbikes has changed, the subject Matt mentioned. He would say "once you are in the car, it's just a steering wheel and a dashboard". I'd reply with, "it's more than that"; not any more. I see a big, noisey car or motorbike and think, what's the point of that? A smaller engine will be better. Who needs so much extra capability and cost? They are driven faster and more aggressively, killing around 1800 people every year in the UK. I was queuing and the driver in front of me couldn't wait for the other drivers to move, so she drove onto the pavement, despite there being people walking along it. They had to get out of her way.  There is little deterrent to law breaking, e-scooters have speed limiters. Why not motor vehicles?

Seeing things differently felt like having blinkers or a filter created by the media and successive governments had been removed. I was in the light.
I see people spending when they don't have to, or more than they need.
A case in point are wood burners, everyone seems to want one. Why? Most have central heating, burning wood increases pollution. We should be looking at alternatives to gas and oil powered systems, not going back to worse setups.

There is a push from manufacturers to sell SUV's; very few people need them. They are heavy, and are more dangerous to other road users.

Phone providers want you to upgrade every year. This creates so much waste.

In fact the whole tech industry is built on replacing everything as often as possible. The television I have is great; will I really notice any improvement if I go to ultra definition as Sky and Samsung etc tell me I should? And does it need to be bigger? 

The mines, almost all located in central Africa, exploit children or pay for devastating wars to provide the raw materials for the tech you take for granted. And throw away when the next version is released.
Matt had to service his bike recently, and winced at the bill. He is riding more than he use to, so parts will wear out faster. But he thought for a moment about buying a new bike instead. Various mechanics have given the same advice in the past. It's incredible that this seems to be the standard thought process. Write off the whole bike because the chain, some sprockets and bearings need repairing. They are service items after all.

Thursday 4 November 2021

Growing concrete

Grow concrete

This week a radio station reached a new low. Have a look at the interview. It got worse, they went on to defend themselves. I couldn't find the interviews other than on twitter, unfortunately that means more views for their stream. But you do get to see the replies.

The media is letting us down.

It started with telling people shops had bare shelves which led to everyone buying as much toilet paper as they could; creating shortages that likely weren't as wide spread as it seemed.

We've had sporadic reports about various items many times since; recently it was fuel. This caused chaos for over a week, the situation was much worse than it would have been had everyone not been told to panic.

My main focus is usually how active travel; cycling, walking and safer streets is reported and it's influence on the public. But over the last two years I have dispaired at what they have done.

They amplify monority opposition to any scheme that doesn't prioritise motor transport. Worse is the proliferation of anti cycling/active travel articles. Or what could be seen as anti motor transport protests. See link. No climate emergency? Worse was his justification of driving into protestors. The way this was reported buy other media outlets seemed to support him. Are we saying protests can only be about subjects the media support, and must not cause any disruption if not?

Then there is advertising, I've noticed an increase for cars; especially SUV's. Cars are getting bigger, and the biggest are gaining a larger share of new car sales. It doesn't make them much better if they are electic or hybrid, we need less cars and the ones that are needed have to be smaller. The move to electric will add to the problem of blocked pavements. My wife and I can't walk around our local streets; her wheelchair is too wide for the small amount of space left for us. We would have to walk in the road. Trailing cables to charge cars will increase the barriers we face.

The ads always show empty city streets or people driving in the countryside. Both are not reaslistic, they don't show the reality of endless queues, aggresive and dangerous driving, and the hopelessness of building more roads and packing to accommodate them.

Investment in active travel and public transport is where the money should go. It shouldn't be cheaper to drive or fly. Other countries are doing better, France for instance. Paris has built much more infrastructure for safer cycling. It has banned domestic flights where a train service exists; what did the UK do? Cut the aviation tax on domestic flights, making train travel even more expensive in comparison. And extended the freeze on fuel duty rises. The eleven years this has happened could have provided £50bn to pay for schools, the NHS and many other struggling areas.

Sunday 31 October 2021

Me time

gone cycling

I had a couple of days off work this week, and instead of going for long rides I decided on a change of pace.

Don't get me wrong; I acknowledge when I'm on my bike it's me time. But lately I worry about overdoing it, or relying on it too much.

As luck would have it I was contacted about a photography project that would need a meeting to discuss. This was arranged for Thursday morning in London, I got home with only time for short ride. The evening was spent watching television with Marcia. Not having to keep an eye on clock was great.

Friday was wet in the morning, so after going shopping I went back to bed for a while. When I woke the sun was out, so another short ride was completed. Followed by a relaxed evening.

It was all change and the same on Saturday; I went out despite heavy rain with my club. There was only five others who braved the weather. One wanted a T2 pace so he headed off on a short ride to a cafe. That left me in a group of five T3's up for an adventure. It alternated between heavy rain and light showers. Another challenge to overcome.

I only felt cold when we stopped to attempt a bike repair. Austin hit a pothole hidden by a big puddle. 

pothole broken spoke repair

We weren't able to fix it so cut the ride a little short. The spoke had broken away from the hub, so the wheel was not straight. He made it back at a reduced pace.

About five miles from home the sun came out. It would have been nice if it had been a few hours earlier, but we now have a great shared experience.

Sunday morning the rain was lashing down onto the kitchen roof, I messaged Matt suggesting we meet later. His reply meant I thought I'd be on my own for the afternoon ride. But another text as the weather improved resulted in a ride to Westerham and a chat over coffee. Happy days.

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Planning future memories

I found a video on youtube about depression. And why it might be on the increase.

Here is a link to it. Watch it and come back to this page.

It got me thinking.

I have family and friends, I have a support network, I have a great employer. They all contribute to an environment that very much includes me.

But; I still feel lonely. I still feel the weight of the world on my shoulders. The responsibilty of looking out for others.

It's not new, I've been like this for a very long time, much longer than I realised.

It's not all of the time, there are periods when I feel great.

Other times it feels like I have too much to do.

I have always had a feeling of not quiet belonging, those around me would have had no idea. Why would they? I was part of their group, and they were inclusive.

The last two years have allowed this thoughts to grow, become more prominent. I have gotten better at dealing with it though.

But it doesn't stop those dark days: when I back away from social situations, convince myself it's just me and listen to the voice that says no-one would understand.

I can't blame social media for it all, I don't use it to replace relationships. If anything it helps me keep connected with people. But it doesn't build shared experiences, memories that can be relived.

They are what really count. Talking about old times is when I know I'm in a good place, surrounded by good people. Planning future memories with those groups lifts me. 

It's what social media can't do, for me at least. And maybe for most people. It doesn't fulfil a need. It gives the illusion of sharing and building memories, that can feel inclusive. But ultimately they have happened without a wider group participation. You're just seeing a snapshot through another's eyes.

You can't beat face-to-face experiences. Going into winter this will happen less often, I cope until the warm spring and summer days return.

If you're reading this and thinking; what can I do? Just continue to be supportive as you have always been. This is very much a window on what is sometimes going on inside my head.

Thanks everyone, looking forward to creating memories.

Sunday 24 October 2021



I've had them on the mountain bike, although none are attached at the moment. They broke and were not replaced. When I did have them their placement was high above the tyres, keeping my bum dryish, but not much else. Thinking about it now I could have saved money; I just needed two cheap solutions. An ass saver as they are called; clips under the saddle, sticking out about six inches. Plus a flexible guard between the fork brace and the crown. My saddle bag replaces the ass saver, I could cut up an innertube for the front.

It's a first for the road bike. These are much closer to the tyre, and should keep me dryer by cutting the amount of water hitting my shoes and back. They also reduce the spray thrown up behind me at following riders.

I only had time to fit the rear one before the club ride last weekend. They do increase aerodynamic drag, I'm not sure by how much. The past few weeks have seen many injuries, you can read previous posts about them. For this reason I intended to join the T3 group, at the last minute I changed my mind and chose T4. 

Let me explain. The rides are graded to allow for different fitness levels, the higher the number the stronger you need to be. It usually means a longer distance at a higher pace, maybe no cafe stop for 4 and above. I have been moving between the two groups for a while, depending on which was running and how I felt.

I'm not sure if the extra resistance was the problem or the battering my legs have received lately. But after about forty miles I was being dropped on some climbs, something that rarely happens. No-one is left behind, so I was able to catch up as they slowed at the top. I was wearing thicker gloves that made opening food on the move more difficult. I normally eat every hour, but not this time. I was eating if we stopped to discuss the route. Energy levels were low when I asked about a cafe break. Eventually we found a burger and chips type place. The coffee was good and supper hot. It meant that we had to drink slowly. This allowed me to scoff all the food I had left in my bag. I felt much better for the last twenty or so miles.

I fitted the front section during the week, and rode with the T3's on Saturday. I felt much better, it doesn't appear that I have added too much extra drag to the bike. 

A change of routine on Sunday, Matt's bike is with Ross Cycles, I went for a ride with my club again. A loop out around Brands Hatch. Pretty windy, but not cold; the sun even made an appearance.

What do I think of the mudguards?

They were fiddly to fit, initially either too close and rubbing, or too far away from the wheel and flapping about.

Longer versions that further reduce spray are available but wouldn't fit under the brake calipers.

I'll see how they stand up to being used, and the level of protection provided.

And of course there is the question of wind resistance.

They cause the wheels to catch side winds more. So on Sunday it was a little trickier on the more exposed lanes.

A fairly mundane post this week; the change to more wet and generally grey weather always affects my mood. 

I still want to ride my bike, but everything needs a little more prep. Extra layers, can mean being sweaty, not enough and I'm cold. Drying the cloths in time for the next outing can be a problem. And then there are the bikes. I'm determined to look after them better, I use to just leave them in the garage when I got home. That was okay when I only did 30 to 40 miles a week. My average is now 150 which means they are wearing out parts much quicker. At the very least I now dry the chain before leaving them. At the weekends a bit of bike TLC is needed, even a clean. I could spend more time on the trainer, out of the weather, but it is very boring. Maybe I'll take the iPad out there and watch youtube.

Monday 11 October 2021


The title was to be my start time for the BEC CC hill climb on White Lane, my first proper race. Albeit only a short one.

The last hill climb I did was in 2019, read about it here. This was a charity fundraiser so no pressure.

It's a tough hill.

I plan to compete in more events next year. There are a number of local Time Trials that look appealing. Whether this will result in me improving my bike or buying a new more specialised one I don't know. Cost will be a factor, so it may be upgrades for marginal gains as the professionals say.

Unfortunately the gentle ride on Saturday didn't end well. I was nearly home, having ridden at low intencity when I came off on some wet leaves.

I'll spare you the gory pictures of my knee and hip. I woke up on Sunday with a stiff hip. I could pedal but applying max force really hurt. The road bike had a bent gear change so it was unridable. I went to meet Matt on the mountain bike, gently again. See previous post.

So my competitive debut will have to wait until next year.

Sunday 10 October 2021

Sarf London


costa coffee rocky road cake

You're from sarf London, right? That's how the conversation started. I arrived in Westerham and walked into Costa Coffee, past an old guy (OG) sitting near the door. Soon after taking a seat the guy moved to the table next to mine and asked if I was from sarf London, a question that initially caused a furrowed brow. How did he know where I was from? Then it dawned on my; he had heard me make my order. My accent had been distinctive enough for him to make a good guess. I confirmed my birthplace as Charlton; that led him to start talking about 1970's football, and the stadium in particular. I said I didn't follow the sport and had never visited the ground. That didn't stop him explaining the changes over the years, and how his club, Chelsea had fared in matches there. I tried to partake in a back and forth but I was struggling until Matt arrived. He isn't a fan. but knew enough to prolong the chat somewhat. Then he remarked on a Sex Pistols badge worn on the OG's denim jacket. Music being a subject he knows a lot more about. 

That kept the dialogue going; OG had been a drummer, bass player and singer in various bands. OG mentioned a gig he had done where just one person had clapped at the end, we agreed that was very rude. I once went to see a band who had me on their guest list, the rest of the audience had also got in on the same list. Being in a band and playing small venues isn't always glamorous. OG had lived a varied life, having many careers saying some people avoided him because of his wild hair. It didn't seem that bad. He mentioned that to some it made him look like Doc from Back to the future. Matt and I agreed. My suggestion that impersonating Christopher Lloyd could be his next career path had him laughing.

It was time to head for home, we said our goodbyes, he was off to a rehearsal space to practice in preparation for restarting his drum teaching. We wished him good luck.

American Indian teepee at Botley
American Indian teepee at Botley

On the way home I diverted to investigate a teepee near Botley Farmhouse. There was no info explaining the reason for it being there.  The adjacent barn is a wedding venue, so maybe it's part of that.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Clipped in - clip-less pedals

spd clipless pedals

Over the weekend I tried clipless pedals. I know I may have said it would never happen, but I wanted to see if they could make my riding more efficient.

I had shoes with the holes to attach cleats, the part that clicks onto the pedal. I bought the pedals from ebay, it's much cheaper than new shoes and pedals. The type I bought are more usually seen on mountain bikes, but if I am comfortable with them the road bike will get a pair. The reason I bought the shoes last year was the stiffer soles and you can walk normally in them, unlike their road specific cousins. 

I may need to explain to non cyclists, clipless means you are attached to the pedals, but not by toe clips. If you aren't a rider, don't worry if that doesn't make sense. It's just the way it is.

Being attached to the pedals means your foot can't move around, it can't slip off and you can apply force for more of the rotation. I'll need to adapt my technique to see the benefits.

The downside is that you have to remember to unclip when you stop though, or crash to the floor. 

Some initial thoughts after  about 70 miles:

I practiced clipping and unclipping in the garage. I had to tighten the tension screws that determine how firm they grip the cleats. I had them turned right down, but I couldn't tell if I was fully locked in and the slightest movement released my feet. I tightened them to about mid way. Initially all went well.

I had to plan the stops earlier than before and anticipate if I might need to put a foot down.

I had more of an issue attaching myself as I moved off. Finding the cleat and remembering it's easier with my foot at the bottom of the rotation.

I must have been riding with my toes pointing outwards on the flats, now it feels like my feet are being twisted inward, when they are in fact straight.

I'm not sure how much difference they have made; I can feel more power transfer when I climb, especially standing. More muscles are in use, I had a little ache from some I didn't know I had. Accelerating feels a bit quicker. 

When I change down for a hill I don't get a "floaty" feeling as the cadence increases.

On Saturday I went over to visit my sister and mum, nearly thirty-three miles, with an average speed of 13mph; pretty good for the mountain bike. It bodes well for the hill climb next weekend on the road bike. 

There were plenty of times I needed stop, and unclip, only a few caused a mild panic; I was trying to disengage by pulling up and twisting. Just twisting was best, and almost the default by the time I got home.

Then on Sunday just as I was gaining full confidence, I failed to unclip outside my garage.

failure to unclip

At least there was no audience; other people's experiences' included a bemused or shocked group of people on hand to see their fall.

Sunday 26 September 2021

I've got a time machine

plumbers plain

I can't travel to the past or the future, but I can slow down time. 

The device is my bike. I had three days off this week and rode everyday. I was very lucky with the weather which meant I covered some reasonable distances. This meant I was gone for the majority of the day. 

As I started to write this post on Friday if felt like it should have been Sunday. It was a little hard to believe I still had two more days before my return to work. 

I've got to admit it may not be just having a bike. I think keeping busy and achieving goals is likely the real reason I have eked out as much as I can from the available period. It also helps that it's something I very much enjoy. 

The first two days I was working, so it was the after work loop. With a sunset.

after work sunset

Wednesday had me following a route created by Stava, mostly lanes I hadn't ridden before. A lack of cafes meant I eventually stopped at a golf course clubhouse. All a little too expensive for me. So I just drank a juice on the terrace and moved on.

Golf course clubhouse

On Thursday I used a route mapped by my club, and it included a cafe stop that will be repeated. 

kingdom cafe
Kingdom cafe near Penshurst.

view from kingdom cafe

cake and a juice at kingdom cafe

I like the way it looks, a huge log cabin. Inside was comfy, couches as well as tables and chairs. Great views out of the windows. If only the upstairs area was open, it would have been even better.

The atmosphere was very relaxed, I can't put my finger on why. I could have sat there all afternoon.

I carried on past a long forgotten vineyard. About an hour later I was home.

penshurst vineyard

The last day of the week I decided to take it a little easier, not ride so far. I rode down to Charlwood to visit a cafe I'd seen; unfortunately when it was closed. This time however it was able to serve me a vegan sausage roll and coffee. The people I met were great, they checked the ingredients of the cakes to see if they were vegan, sadly they weren't. But we did talk about what changes they might make. It's a first for anywhere I have eaten. I told them about some food I had found, and how the change had affected me. Hopefully my next visit will see a wider choice.

52 the street cafe charlwood
52 the street cafe charlwood

Oxted Cycling Club were my companions as they are most Saturdays. A big loop through Surrey, West Sussex and Kent meant a fast ride. Eventually stopping at a garden centre for coffee and cake.

I was going to visit my mum, and after splitting from the group I headed that way. But as my surroundings became more suburban it became apparent that the roads were a lot busier than normal. Filled with angry drivers looking for fuel. My journey there and back would have been through Bromley, West Wickham and Selsdon. I just couldn't face it. As I neared home roads containing filling stations were stationary. It didn't slow me, but I had to be extra vigilant for poor choices made by drivers. 

It was to Westerham for coffee with Matt on Sunday. Our usual spot outside Costa.

costa coffee westerham

Time now will return to normal speed.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Another why I cycle post


sunset over Blethchingly

This has been the subject of a few posts 

My cycling is complicated.

I ride for a break from day-to-day worries and stress, at least for a few hours. Maybe that's why I'm now riding further and faster, it focuses my mind.

Yes, I know, I recently posted about taking it easy and admiring my surroundings. But it seems I can't or at least not very often.

I continue my after work, 15 mile hilly rides. If I don't concentrate I find myself riding as fast I as can. As you can see above, I have some beautiful lanes near me.

The weekend is a game of two halves; Saturday is a club ride. We form small groups, someone is assigned ride leader and off we go. Most of the time it's to a cafe, a loop of around 60 to 70 miles. My ride to Oxted and back adds 14 miles. 

Oxted CC

It starts at a sociable pace, increasing on the homeward leg. Last Saturday we didn't stop, so when we arrived back at the high street for a coffee stop it was early so I said my goodbyes and continued to Chevening; I wanted some extra miles.

Chevening lake

It was partly the weather, it was great, maybe only a few more warm days are left this year. And partly because I wanted to keep riding, idealy for the rest of the day.

I arrived at a pub, it looked to be hosting a wedding party. So I sat on the bench and ate the food I'd brought, rather than venture inside. It was nice, just staring across the lake, the occasionaly sail boat moving silently on it's near flat surface.

But eventually I had to head home, although it was via a convoluted, very indirect series of quiet lanes. As I passed our winter residence, the bus stop at Tatsfield, I ovetook another rider. He was from Beckenham Rugby Cyling club. He dropped into my draft, I increased the pace a little, I'm not sure why. For the next 3 or 4 miles we swapped places as we each tired and needed a brief rest. He eventually turned off and we congratulated each other. Looking at the stats when I got home we had held nearly 30 mph on a slightly down hill stretch of road. A speed we could not have maintained on our own.

Sunday again dawned bright, if not very warm. The mornings are chilly, meaning I'm never sure what to wear. I chose correctly both days, leaving the house a little cold, but soon warming up. By the time I made it to Westerham it was warm enough to sit outside. Soon after Matt arrived and we chated about this and that.

Costa coffee Westerham

With a nice sunrise on the way there.

westerham costa coffee

Matt didn't have to rush so I cracked on towards home; shopping and what to cook for Sunday dinner invading my thoughts.

I have now entered an official race; a hill climb. I'm awaiting confirmation my entry wasn't too late and that I have a start slot. It's a proper, serious, event with all the nerves that's going to entail. Hope I do myself and the club proud. The last time I did anything like this it was for the local round table society. A charity fundraiser, so no stress.

Next year I want to do some time trials, it'll depend where and when they run. I hope I can do a few.

Monday 13 September 2021

Cycling could save the world.

bike with trailer carrying the earth
Active travel and reducing traffic.

I work in London one day a month; due to the reduced train service from my station takes me almost two hours to get in.

It's only eighteen miles, I could ride it in just over an hour.

I have my laptop to carry, hopefully soon to be replaced with a lighter version. I'll need a waterproof backpack for it.

What else is preventing me?

Lack of safe cycling routes into Croydon, and then after that until I get to central London.

Croydon and Central London are getting better, heavy traffic between them would still put me off. 

Surrey County Council are like most of their kind; unwilling to build what's needed. Despite pledging to reduce pollution. Their main hope seems to be electric cars, which still cause pollution, congestion and road danger. And further penalise those who can't afford cars. They may even mean people drive more often, because they are seen as cheap to run. Here are some stats about the UK's addiction to driving. It's predicted that the speed of London traffic could drop below walking pace. It would be much better to make public transport cheaper. And encourage walking and cycling. 

Stats show that reducing through traffic increases local business. Where alternatives to driving have been encouraged the local economies have seen a boost. Particular hospitality; they have more seating outside under covered areas. Additionally secure bike parking will be needed, I'm not going to ride to the shops if my bike is likely to be stolen. There is huge amounts spent on safe car storage, and now charging, why not spend some of the cash for bikes?

Using the train for longer journeys should also be cheaper, and easier. I'm starting to plan how I will get back from Cornwall next year. My challenge for the charity Mind will be a dawn to dusk ride on the summer solstice. Whilst it will be tough, about 250 miles in 17 hours, the return home has the potential to be more stressful. From what I have read, travelling by train with a bike isn't easy. The storage provision is in most cases badly thought out and difficult to use. Just booking it appears to be complicated. I'm actually contemplating riding back, over three or four days.

We are being bombarded with adverts for new electric or hybrid electric cars. All are bigger than the cars they replace, a lot are four wheel drive. Also worryingly a lot have enhanced multimedia integration. Big screens that could display distracting info, there are already problems caused by smartphones.

People will be paid to ditch fossil fuel for electric four wheelers, but only the ride to work scheme for bikes. Why not spend the same amount to provide commuters with e-bikes?

France is going to ban national flights where a rail service exists, and continue to pedestrianise more of Paris. England will expand roads, Scotland has pledged to stop all expansion. Wales is bringing in a 20 mph limit for urban roads. Why doesn't the whole UK move forward in the same way? Has England not heard of induced demand, the more space you make for motor vehicles, the more will use it. The M25 is a prime example. It was built with three lanes, some sections now have five, it's still congested morning and evening. Urban areas have more lanes on major roads, they are the same. Planners don't seem to have learnt anything from the past. As Einstein said; insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The NHS would benefit, a fitter population would make less use of it's services.

Reducing the average of 1800 people killed on our roads, with over 25,000 seriously injured would again reduce the impact. Much is made of cycling on pavements; adults shouldn't but it's likely as a result of roads made unsafe by drivers behavior. It's a sign of failed or nonexistent infrastructure. One report I read, suggests the annual cost to the economy is £36 billion. My complaint about the articles, including the government site is that they all say accidents, not collisions. The media always use the word accident. This report says most involve error or misjudgement. This is part of the problem, the police use the term RTC, road traffic collision. The media should state the same fact. You will it's always a car, van, or lorry hits pedestrian/cyclist; car, van, or lorry hits building. The driver is absolved from responsibility by these reports. Why is that?

Many police forces now allow online reporting of dangerous driving, unfortunately what they do with the reports is often very disappointing. Some are great, others rarely act on the uploads. In general road crime isn't seen as a priority for courts. Surrey Police have often said to me that they wouldn't prosecute a driver because the CPS won't want to deal with the case. If it does go further the penalties are very lenient. Once up to 12, drivers can claim exceptional hardship. There could be 10.000 people on our roads with more than 12 points. If driving is so important to you don't drive in such a way that accumulates points.

The UK once relied on the bicycle for mass transport. The Netherlands has a similar climate; one of the excuses for not cycling, more people ride everyday than here. It is flatter, but using an e-bike means that's not so much of a consideration.

There just doesn't appear to be the will to move forward with any speed. Plenty of words in the reports published by local government, very few results.

Monday 30 August 2021

Bathing in nature

in search of offroad

Last time I wrote it was to suggest I should look up from numbers on the cycle computer; take in my surroundings. Since then I have continued to ride fast, to push myself. During the week I have eased off the distance and climbing, I was gradually adding to the effort. On Saturday it was a solo ride to a farm shop, I chose the long way to get there and fell into my default habit. I thought it was caused by being on the road bike, but no, I left Westerham on Sunday gripping the flat bars of my mountain bike and soon had my head down - pressing hard on the pedals. 

Bank holiday Monday gave me another chance. After our visit to Costa coffee I said goodbye to Matt and went in search of a slower pace. 


I found it not far away in woods we hadn't ridden through in many years. 

Many people have written about the healing available from nature, I'm not sure it's being surrounded by it that starts the process. I think it's more to do with having less distractions. Although solice may also be found gazing out of the window at a sunrise through the steam from the first tea of the day. 

Unfortunately I either didn't find the right path, or my memory had fooled me. The sound of traffic was ever present and each route led me back to a road. I continued on, searching for the next bridleway sign. One looked promising only to disappoint because a fly-tipper had chosen it as a place to unload a ton or so of garden waste. I gave up and turned for home. The only countryside views were over gates and fences.

They all seemed the herald the ending of summer; this year felt like it had never properly started.

christmas island head

It's weird, the Christmas Island heads always seem bigger on the television. I also hadn't heard one had gone missing.

smiths lane

This roads sign caught my attention, can't think why.