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 mught 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.