Sunday, 27 November 2022

Lowering the impact of holidays and travel


cycle touring
 

I read and watch a lot of bikepacking/touring content. This time of year especially it's away from the UK, somewhere warm. Which is great, I can understand the desire when home is so cold and wet; except for the environmental cost.

It nearly always involves flying. Magazine articles discuss riding sections of various grand tours, and I'd like to do them. But the default way to get there isn't by train or ferry, both much better choices. I know they still pollute, certainly more than visiting local destinations, but not the amount that a plane does. One problem is cost, flying is subsidised, and train travel is not. No tax on aviation fuel for example.

The wider picture is that going abroad is still considered a proper holiday, anything closer to home, or a "staycation" less so; I hate that word. I think it was invented by the travel industry to further push their agenda and make not flying a sign of having missed out.

I have looked a train travel; it's not good if you want to take your bike. Some companies don't allow bikes, other do but require them to be boxed up. This is similar to flying so maybe not so big a deal. If you have to change services, it could become one.

Driving as an alternative is a consideration, but it's still not as efficient as public transport. And our roads can't cope. Between 1994 and 2021 the number of cars grew by 10,679,421. That's an increase of nearly 40%. Not to mention the cost of pasking, not what you pay into meters etc. The space needed to park is finite. And looking at my local area there isn't any left. Pavement parking blights the lives of too many. Being forced to walk on the road is unsafe, and may even be impractical if no dropped curbs are available.

Bike hire in popular locations is growing. The quality of the kit available seems on the whole to be good. So traveling without your bike could be an option.

Ferry travel is usually just ride on with little hassle. But it won't be suitable for many destinations, and is slow.

The furthest you can go in one hop is northern Spain. Which could get you to some Vuelta stages, and with a bit of riding to the Pyrenees.

The problem is time; it takes a day from Portsmouth to Santander. I think it's worth it to cut-out air travel though.

Hitching a lift on a cargo ship is another, even slower, option if you want to go further. This is becoming more widely available.

I'm not suggesting everyone only uses bikes, or never travels any other way. Just that more consideration needs to be given to the impact of destination and transport choices. And it's not just for holidays. Day to day decisions can have positive outcomes.

In short, we need to re-evaluate the way we travel.


Monday, 21 November 2022

What is depression?

For me it's an umbrella term. 

I'll start this by saying I'm no expert, these are just my thoughts.

Depression doesn't just mean feeling low, unmotivated and unsure of the future. 

Anxiety, stress, low self esteem; they all contribute. 

The voice that says your aren't good enough, you won't succeed, your lack of skill or knowledge will be found out.

They all swirl around, maybe not always front and center affecting my life. Sometimes it will be just one symptom. And I can cope, other times they gang up and present more of a challenge.
 
A better definition of depression would be that it depresses quality of life, it stops you seeing and reaching your potential. It limits you, applies blinkers and reigns you in.

When it gets bad I stop looking too far ahead. 
 
Are there goals I can achieve that are closer?

Are there causes of stress or anxiety that I can't control?

What can I control?

Perhaps the hardest to to is remember my successes. Why are mistakes so crystal clear and easy to recall?

I also look for distractions, probably a bit controversial this one. A mindfulness course leader said this is not a good tactic. But it works for me. I get on my bike and pedal and gain perspective. Especially at the end of a working day I can switch off; most of the time. Having a stresser in my head isn't healthy. I don't sleep or relax, both build over time to then affect all parts of my life. Maybe it's why I'm feeling the way I'm at the moment. Too much is getting in the way of cycling, or making it difficult.

I start the process of boxing up my issues and worries. 

Each box has a label: needs to be sorted soon, can be kept closed for a while, I can't resolve the contents, and not important.

I live for lists: partly because my memory isn't great, but also to cope. I feel less overwhelmed if I have  a plan. I'm sure a lot of people who know me wonder why I always need to see the future and work to rules or instructions. It's because if these are in place, I can then stop worrying about it.
 
It mainly comes down feeling in control. I am anxious because I haven't at least planned what I might do. Even if I'm not sure of the solution, I need a next step or task.


Thursday, 17 November 2022

Keep it clean

south downs way
 

Bike mainetance maybe cheaper than yearly spending on a car, but it still a consideration.

Two new tyres for the Kona, one for the trainer, sorting a brake problem on the Giant, a new lock and rear light cost around £150 over the last thirty days. I don't commute so my outlay could have been higher.

Each time I have ridden into work I've saved £14.10, so that's £52.30 in total. Doing it everyday would cause more wear and tear, although I'd still be ahead over the year. I'm glad though that it's only once a month, because WFH is even cheaper.

What can I do to reduce costs? 

Keep the bikes clean; something I have been very bad at in the past. I rode until they stopped, then half-heartedly pointed a hose at them. My mileage has increased considerably over the last couple of years so that level of concern would have resulted in way higher expenditure. I'm sure Ross looked on with dread as I walked into his shop back then. 

The picture at the top is a bit extreme. Half way along the South Downs Way the bikes were suffering; at several points the wheels were so clogged they stopped turning. We did hose off the worst of it at the overmnight stop. But hadn't planned, as I would have now, to at least bring chain lube. Everything was pretty badly worn at the end.

typical condition
a typical condition

The view above is what the bikes would usually look like. There was a gradual build up of mud, not so bad for the frame and wheels maybe. But not good for the brakes and gears. I used to get home, lock up the bike in the garage and forget about it for a week.
 
I once had a b&b owner not want my bike taken inside for overnight storage because it looked so bad.

Only when the chain started to jump off the sprockets at almost every change would I head over to see Ross. A cursory clean would never provide the hoped for improvement. Everything lasts a lot longer now, and Ross has a smile on his face as I approach.

A clean bikes makes dealing with punctures and a dropped chain nicer as well. You still get a bit mucky hands but it's an easier clean.
 
It's also a good time to check for damage or fatigue. It's better to deal with something you discover now than on the road when a failure could have catastrophic consequences.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Russell if you are reading this; I know what you're going to say about my clothing. In my defence, I didn't know any better and black was pretty much the only colour companies produced back then. It was almost all off-road too.


Sunday, 13 November 2022

Hibernation

I don't mean I'll be sleeping in a cave for the next six months, although it does appeal.

The club have shorter outings and I'm less inclined to go too far on my own. If it's been freezing overnight I'll either be in the garage or going out much later, I never thought about it much before. I have ridden in snow many times, it was fun for a while. The cold sets in quickly and then it's just not nice. And I've slid off too, resulting in just cuts and bruises. This year I have discovered that I no longer bounce.

It's difficult to know what to wear: is it going to rain, how cold is it going to be? 

Last weekend I was repeatedly soaked, but warm. I rode to work on Friday, and overdressed. This meant I was a little sweaty on arrival, luckily no-one noticed or at least commented. It was dark on the way home but I still had to remove a layer early on.

The video is from the ride into the London on Friday, through the center of Croydon. It felt like scene a from that Hitchcock movie.


Motivation takes a nosedive; luckily the garage trainer means I can have daily exercise even when the weather is bad. It's an old school unconnected contraption, no zwift etc for me. 

garage trainer

About thirty minutes is about all I can stand, it used to be an hour but a week of that and it starts to put me off riding completely. I once did over three hours to complete one hundred km, never again. Maybe next year I'll look at a smart trainer, I can race others in the club or anyone in the world.

I don't want to lose fitness, hopefully next year will see me completing a full season of time trials. 

So for me hibernation is more virtual, less cafe stops mean socialising diminishes, I do less outside and spend more time in my cave. Looking forward to the first signs of spring already and the plans I have for 2023.

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Is getting wet so bad?

sheltering from the rain

The last couple of weeks have been wet. I've gotten soaked more often than not. Is that a bad thing? Should it stop me riding?

The roads are slippery, you can't see potholes obscured by puddles, and there is a lot of debris that could be the cause of punctures.

I've written about the lack of good clothing before. The main problem is that you can quickly lose body temperature.

I have jackets, jerseys, gloves and shoes covers that promise a dry ride. Their cost varies but they all have one thing in common; they are at best only partially successful.

Some cause me to get so hot that I'm covered in sweat, so not much dryer than without them. Others just don't work. The better options do at least keep me warm, like a wetsuit does for divers. As long as I keep moving the layer of water next to my skin doesn't become a problem. If it's not too cold or windy I don't mind getting a bit wet.

Hands and feet are a bigger problem. Nothing keeps my feet dry, again the neoprene in the covers or socks means they don't get too cold. My hands can really suffer. I have to keep them dry. Gloves from Stolen Goat are the best so far until it becomes torrential. Spending more hasn't given better results.

The last affect of a downpour is when stopping at a cafe. I have to peel off soggy clothes and the owners aren't impressed with the water I bring in. A trail across the floor and a wet patch on the seat doesn't go down well. It's also when the cold can start to bite. I tend not to stop for these reasons, unless I know I can stay outside and be served quickly. A coffee certainy helps to ward off the cold and tiredness. 

If there is likely to be ice about, I now stay inside. I haven't in the past and I've been very lucky; until this year. Riding on snow is fun for a while; unfortunately the slower pace means I can't stay warm, and it's easy to fall off.

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Mind games


mind games

 

What makes an athlete different? 


They have physical attributes that give them an advantage. To a degree it's why they pursue a particular sport. But it takes more than that to excel.

Where do normal people like you and I fit in?

We too have adaptations that allow us to improve. I have larger than average lungs.

It's often said they can suffer more. When the training or race starts to hurt, there is no let-up. They know that muscles can perform passed when the mind is calling it a day. 

The mind can be a great enabler, or barrier. It needs training. We can all do it like the pro's.

Don't give up: 

a hill isn't the barrier it might appear, 
you'd be surprised what distance you can cover,
or just exercise regularly.

Don't take it to such an extreme you no longer enjoy what you are doing though. 
 
Set a target: weight lose, distance, time. And stick to it, but don't beat yourself up if you miss it sometimes. I used to use Strava challenges. You can join them to set a target you aim to complete in a month.

Maybe the riding I do is too much. In the garage during the week, with my club on a Saturday and to meet Matt on Sunday. I don't always feel like it, especially after work. But I know I'll feel better if I do; it works for me. 
 
So I guess it's the right amount. 
 
Everyone needs to find their happy place.

Sunday, 16 October 2022

Controversial mushrooms

boiled mushrooms five beans


Before you get the wrong idea I don't mean psychedelic. I've been eating roasted mushrooms for a while, but it was never really enjoyable. The texture was a little "wet" and not incredibly appetising or tasty.

Then I came across a new way; boiling. Apparently this method has detractors. For me it's a game changer, it elevates the humble fungus. I've tried it with three kinds and it has improved them all. 

I add enough salted water to cover them and keep going until the water evaporates. Then fry for a couple of minutes with a small amount of oil and garlic, maybe with black pepper and chilli paste. 

The dish above is a five bean chilli. The mushrooms in place of meat was perfect. I even had some left for my Sunday dinner.

mushrooms instead of roast beef
mushrooms instead of roast beef

A few Sundays ago I had a "roast", although only the potatoes were cooked that way. 

Another piece of advice while I'm here - I no longer boil water on the gas hob. It's very inefficient to heat water in this way. I use a kettle and then continue with the burner. It's quicker and cheaper. 

The microwave is also a much more cost effective way to heat food.

Thursday, 6 October 2022

Why I joined Oxted Cycling Club




Oxted Cycling Club

I started riding as an adult in 2005. At first just to do a charity ride of 15 miles. The next year I agreed do to 50. That meant some training. I was given a bike and half heartedly rode a bit more. After that a friend and I committed cycling together at weekends. We quickly got fitter but didn’t venture very far; about 40 miles in total spread over the two days. We did at first find new routes, all with a similar distances. 
Occasionally I went further, Brighton, even Paris. The first of two RideLondon’s meant I bought a second hand road bike. Before then even the long trips were on my trusty Kona mountain bike.
I bought a better road bike just before Covid. I had lots of time off, but no-one to ride with and no cafes. As the restrictions were eased I knew I had to broaden my riding horizons. Of course without forgetting about friends who kept me going over so many years. I spilt the weekend between the two.

I hadn’t considered joining a club before, I thought they were all just riding fast on expensive bikes. I wanted more social occasions. It was then I recollected a sportive from a few years previously. It had been a very hot day and by the time I got to the last food stop I was pretty much finished. I don’t remember how I got talking to Pat and Amanda who were riding a tandem but their Oxted Cycling Club jerseys remained in my memory. Pat gave me a couple of energy gels and said they should be enough to get me the final 15 or so miles. They rode off and a short while later so did I. I thanked him again when I got to Canterbury.

So when I started my search for a club; Oxted was my first choice. The chairman, Russell, was very welcoming and after two rides I knew my preconceptions about cycling clubs were wrong. I joined and am very glad I did.

Everyone in the club has been friendly and encouraging. I’ve ridden TT’s and much bigger distances than I thought I could. I can choose the type of ride I feel like doing. Either a gentle social ride or a faster, social ride. We nearly always include a cafe stop. Cycling and coffee have a very close bond. Chatting before a ride, then over coffee is a very pleasant way to spend time. I have more great friends. And the routes I now ride are more varied, with an expanding list of great cafes too.

I'm not sure exactly how many are in the club, but there is always a good turnout, even during the winter. Many rides bring everyone from the different groups together at the same cafe. 

When I had a crash everyone came together. Family and friends supported me, being part of a club made a big difference. I had advise, practical help and encouragement. Having those three spheres backing me definitely aided my recovery.

You don’t need the latest bike or expensive clothing, just keep it all well maintained and comfortable. There is plenty of advice available when needed.

Has cycling got a problem?

What’s the problem you ask?

Divercity.

I don’t think cycling actively excludes anyone. Please tell me if I'm wrong.

It bothers me that I mostly see people like me generally riding or attending cycling events, taking part in sportives etc. My club has less women and other ethnicities as members. It’s a very welcoming environment so I know we aren’t disuading or preventing anyone joining.

Cycling has a safety issue, I know that will put a lot of people off. This will only improve when society, media, the police and government have a change in attitude and priorities.

I do my best to push for safer roads. Through contacting my local councilors and MP and reporting bad driving to the police. Unfortunately I don’t feel I’m gettig very far. I support organisations that are doing this nationally.

When I watch racing it’s the same. Although I think that’s more influenced by money. Wealthier countries have run schemes to encourage racing at a young age, and to continue that support until pro teams become involved. They also have many pro teams to increase the scope for making a living from the sport. These organisations choose from those available; so it again comes back to creating a more diverse community.

Cycling needs investment in developing countries if they aren't to follow us and have the car become dominant.

We need to do this to ensure people aren’t left behind as cars are seen as too polluting and expensive to use. Cycling needs to become a viable means of transport for the majority, especially in urban areas.

It’s frustrating that the solution could be as simple as making cycling safer.

When it’s seen as normal for everyone we will see more divercity at all levels. Maybe it's more complicated than I think.

What have I missed? What other barriers are there? What can I do?

Monday, 19 September 2022

Radical

we need to look after earth, our planet
 

I read somewhere that as you get older you are more settled in your views. You become less radical and prefer to keep things the way they are.

I seem to be the opposite.

A couple of years ago, global warming, veganism, pollution and active travel were just things I heard or read about.

Now they are issues I am becoming more passionate about. 

We can't go on consuming as we do, polluting the environment, and largely ignoring alternatives to driving.

At the moment all the news is about EV's (electric vehicles), almost exclusively cars and vans. Much less that of e-bikes and scooters, except to criticise them. But EV come with many downsides, you cut tailpipe emissions, conveniently forgetting parking and charging. If they replace like for like most will be parked on the road, or more likely on the pavement; multi car homes don't have off street parking for all the vehicles. This causes danger for pedestrians, they often block cycle paths, so riders are endangered. They are usually bigger and heavier, damaging paths, and wearing out roads faster. Brake dust and particulates from tyres are a big problem that is seldom discussed. How are the cars going to be charged if they aren't close to the power point? Cables can't be allowed to block pavements. Why are local councils expected to foot the bill to install power points? We should be moving towards less cars  by investing in alternatives. The batteries are very environmentally and socially damaging to produce and dispose of. All motor vehicles are too fast, the e-scooters for hire have speed limiters yet the most dangerous road users don't.

Flying; foreign holidays really took off when people were persuaded that only a fly away destination was acceptable. Further advanced by cheap travel achieved by bigger planes and subsidies: no VAT is paid on kerosene for example. I have been just as guilty as anyone else; not anymore. At the same time in the UK high speed long distance train travel has become more expensive, less convenient and unattractive. I know it's said travel broadens the mind, but does it have to come at so high a price to the environment?

Agriculture: especially meat and dairy. Huge implications are built into this food production method.  From the antibiotics given to the animals, pollution of waterways by run off to deforestation to rear them and the grow of their food. This sector is also a big generator of greenhouse gases. Not forgetting the cruelty of the process and the detrimental effect it has on human health.

Fish: despite the industry assurances it's not sustainable, and is wreaking huge damage to the environment. Passing the poisons we pump into the sea up the food chain to us - PCB and plastics - being the biggest concerns.

Road building: continued expansion isn't the answer; look up induced demand for an explanation. Use the money to link towns and cities with cycle paths and subsidise reliable public transport. 

All of the above causes increased costs for the NHS in so many ways.

Clothing or the fashion industry: similar to tech; we are constantly bombarded with advertising to induce us to buy more. To replace what hasn't worn out. Too much daytime TV is focused on this. The implications are widespread: questionable labour practices, pollution, unsustainable land use expansion and general waste.

I try to keep my posts positive, this one could be if society starts to make the right choices. Government has a big part to play, and so have we. 

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Travel for free

save money ride a bike
 

Cafe chat on bank holiday Monday. 

"Isn't it great that you can ride your bike to anywhere, and it doesn't cost anything."

Matt is right, up to a point. Destinations over about 100 miles would need an overnight stop. You could wild camp for free, with landowners permission. Otherwise it's a B&B. This would be even easier if main roads had segregated cycle paths. They tend to be flatter and more direct than the quieter roads that are safer for riders. It is encouraging to hear that HS2 may have them.

Now riding to work a few days a week. He is fitter, has lost weight and is saving a lot of money. There are sections of the route that cause concern, the interaction with other roads users is the reason. 

I have written posts about my thoughts on this. A big change in attitude is needed from government, media, drivers and motor manufacturers. Road violence has to be seen as a serious danger. It cannot be dealt with lightly, as it is at present.

I visited my mum and sister yesterday, a round trip of 32 miles. Completed in not much more time than it would have taken by car. No cost or pollution. I went to a bbg a few weeks ago, another a very pleasant ride. Obviously traveling as a couple we would need the car. How many other people without health issues drive because they don't consider an alternative even for very short distances. Many people will drive as little as 2 or 3 miles.

The National Travel Survey 2021 makes for some interesting reading. Did you know that 72% of all journeys undertaken in the UK are under 5 miles. A manageable distance for many people on a bike, yet over 50% of these journeys are driven. That’s 18 billion journeys that could be cycled.

Maybe some of those needed to be motorised; could an e-bike have been an alternative for a few?  How many were local deliveries? Cargo bikes are increasingly being used for quite bulky items, and people.

Disabled people, depending on their condition, can find walking difficult but riding isn't. Another reason to make our roads safer.

Local businesses see a rise in revenue where more active travel options are provided. Crime is reduced, making our streets safer.

Community spirit is often said to be lacking in our villages, towns and cities. This could be improved if we get out of our cars and interacted with our neighbourhood.

The weather was fine for the ride yesterday; I have ridden it in the rain. I'm not made of sugar so I didn't dissolve. I just put on a jacket.


Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Need for speed

20 is plenty
 

I was awoken from an afternoon kip on bank holiday Monday by the sound of a motorbike being ridden at speed not far from my house. I often hear car drivers doing the same. It got me thinking about a post a made from 2020 called 20 is plenty. I use the same picture as I did back then, because nothing much has changed. 

Most drivers admit to speeding, the media don't take it seriously. Car and motorbike ads still push speed and performance. Reviewers encourage driving aggressively, especially on country lanes. These are statistically the most dangerous roads, especially for vulnerable users. Until attitudes change so that it is seen in the same way as drink driving; our roads will continue to kill almost 1800 people every year, that's around five a day. 

There is technology to stop speeding. But the new laws mandating limiters allow an override; why? 

I occasionally watch those fly on the wall police programs, they usually include a high speed persuit. Always deemed dangerous; they would be very much safer, or not happen if the driver couldn't exceed the speed limit.

My local councillors and MP's are a mix of it's not my responsibilty and not interested. 

There are other measures that can be taken to make our neighborhoods safer: altering side roads to prevent them being used to avoid main roads, (rat running). Stop pavement parking. Setup school streets to encourage alternatives to the car school run. Organise groups of children into cycle buses. Play streets. Safe, secure storage for bikes. Unfortunately these will need those who can implement them to have more determination, and not be persuaded by a vocal minority. London boroughs have installed some of these schemes, and councillors have been re-elected, saying they will keep them and install more. So residence want them.

Police forces need to be more consistant in their treatment of bad driving reports, and be better funded.

Courts have to acknowledge the part they play. Harsher sentences and stop accepting undue hardship defences. 

Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that neary 9,000 drivers still hold a licence despite exceeding the 12-point threshold.

Britain’s worst offender to still be legally permitted to drive has 68 points but a further six have more than 50 points and 39 have between 30 and 50 points.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

I said I wouldn't but I did

time trial bicycle



A couple of weeks ago I did my first time trial. Finding time for it in on a Tuesday evening isn't easy. So I was happy to put my racing career on hold.

However.

And this will please Russell, the Oxted CC chairman; I may be hooked. By the Thursday I was eager to do it again, and couldn't wait eight or nine months. So I booked an afternoon off work. And started looking for a time trial specific bike, I couldn't help myself. I didn't buy one though. Not sure I could justify such a focused bike.

I arrived a little earlier, and did a longer warm up ride. I covered a greater distance, varying the intensity. 

It seems to have worked; my time improved. Taking into account that I had to slow down to pass some horses on the fastest part of the course, and come to a complete stop at a junction while three cars passed. I am very pleased being seventeen second quicker at 28:42.

It felt less windy too, which helped. I wasn't at my max heart rate for anything like so long.

heart rate

I tried to adopt a lower riding position, and really push hard away from junctions. 

There is only one more chance this year, I'm not sure I can get to it. Watch this space.



Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Against the clock

TT against the clock
My plan was to sample competition this year, TT's to be precise. I didn't fancy the cut and thrust of group racing or track events. Hill climbs are another discipline, but they don't run until the end of summer going into autumn.

The course I choose for my debut was 10 miles, with a target time of 30 minutes. I have often ridden the roads so I had an idea what it would be like. Pacing was the main unknown. Going too fast at the start could mean I'd be exhausted quickly. But not pushing enough would also produce a slow time. 

There is more I could do to the bike and what I wear; but that's for another day. And will depend on how seriously I take it. This time I just wanted to see what's involved. The season will finish before I can attend my second event.

Arriving early to sign in and do a warm-up ride helped control the nerves.  Russell, Oxted CC chairman, was also competing. He does a lot of these and took me through the prep. A ride around the course to stretch the legs and open the lungs. It gave me a chance to checkout the lanes, paying attention to the junctions. I didn't do too bad, posting a time of 28:59. 

How do I improve it? 

I was at my max heart rate for nearly 90% of the time.

heart rate

So I can't increase that very much.

There are eight junctions; I could attack them harder. And accelerate out faster. 

The human body causes most of the drag so a lower profile position is more aerodynamic. A bike designed for speed would also be an advantage. 

Stronger legs would get me up to speed faster, and allow a higher gear. As would a lighter bike.

It seems like I'm talking myself into buying another bike doesn't it? That will have to wait for quite some time, unless a premium bond number comes up.

For now I will work on free improvements: strength, position and technique.





Sunday, 31 July 2022

Freedom

the smell of memory

As I rode to meet Matt this morning I passed by a newly harvested field. The smell of fresh hay wafted over me. It took me back to my early teens. My brother and I owned a pony one summer. We spent most weekends at our uncle's livery yard where is was stabled. We slept in the hayloft. I say hayloft; it was actually a lorry body on some bricks. My aunt, uncle and cousin slept in a caravan. After mucking out we'd ride around the small field or along the local lanes. Sometimes there was trip in a horse drawn cart, very occasionally driven my us. The rest of the time was spent exploring the surrounding woods. I think I was about eleven, my brother eighteen months younger. We often travelled there by ourselves on bicycles. A distance of just over ten miles each way. We always rode on the road and it never felt unsafe, mum and dad weren't overly concerned. I think we had been riding to friends houses for while by then.

We were free for the weekend. 

This was over forty years ago, so no phones, I don't even think there was one at the yard. Today's children don't know what that feels like, most wouldn't be interested, some would but don't have the opportunity. 

It's such a shame roads are so congested and made dangerous by uncaring drivers that our early experiences are not available today. It's why I am so passionate about the need to provide infrastructure that would encourage more outdoors activity. There are so many benefits I don't know why it's vigorously fought against.

I know adults who would adopt alternatives to car trips if they had the confidence to ride some of them. Their children could be set free in the way I had been.

Sunday, 17 July 2022

London Calling

outside Purley hospital

A training day at work could have meant a Saturday off the bike. But James suggested we ride in, a second Moof IT CC event.

My only reservation was the route, if we followed the one I would have driven it didn't appeal. Congested main roads and junctions could have made the journey a bit of an ordeal. But James had  ridden in before and said it wasn't that bad.

I meet him outside Purley hospital at just after eight in the morning. It started as expected; a painted line to indicate a cycle lane, not a safe solution. Going through central Croydon was better, bollard protection and a shared use path on North End. Although on the return journey this was a little tricky due to the number of people. We just slowed considerably and it was still much better than the Wellesley Road. The council have closed a lot of side streets to motor traffic to prevent rat-running. I'm not sure if they have affected the West Croydon section of London Road. It was much quieter than I expected, the 20 mph limit that most seemed to accept helped a lot. As we rode on there were more bollards, quiet back roads, cycle paths and fully protected lanes across the bridges. I had a rough idea where we were as we got closer to Moof IT's westend office. It still surprised me when we popped out onto a road I knew and I realised a busy, potentially dangerous road or junction had been bypassed. The pace was relaxed but we still made it to Trafalgar Square quickly, so much so that we had time to stop at the Rapha store on Glasshouse Street.

Rapha store on Glasshouse Street

You can take your bike in whilst you shop or drink coffee. It was just ten minutes from here to the completion of my first bike commute. I'm not sure I'd want to do it, as James has done, during the week though. 

My thoughts:

I saved money by not using public transport.

The journey was quicker than the aforementioned public transport. I don't think it would have been affected by much if it had been a busier weekday.

Why would anyone drive into London? Public transport or a coat would have been fine if the weather hadn't been so good.

Generally the provision of bike infrastructure is good or brilliant. Especially as you leave Surrey and get closer to central London.

I know my home county is more rural, but there is still plenty that could be done in our villages and towns. And making the many A roads that join them safer to use on a bike would insentivise more active travel. Instead most councillors and MP's either do nothing or work to block any improvement. 




Friday, 15 July 2022

More thoughts about long distance rides

must eat more 
After Cornwall I still had a week off work; which helped me recover, but didn't help me get back to my routine.

A typical weekday is breakfast, work, dinner, an hour on the trainer, television and bed. With six sessions of twenty press-ups spread thoughout.

Weekends are a ride with Oxted CC on Saturday, typically around 60 to 70 miles. Then shopping, a bit more television, dinner then bed. Less press-ups and maybe some gardening: cutting the grass and hacking back the shrubbery. Sunday has a coffee ride to meet Matt then house work.

It was hard to restart riding the trainer and complete the press-up target.

I had lost weight. A long day on the bike tends to mean a calorie deficit at the end. My appetite declines as the day goes on. So I have to eat even if I don't feel like it. And the meals need to be bigger too. It wasn't a problem in the past because I'd never ridden so far, day after day. 

It's taken until this week to get back on track for exercise and to put on weight.

I watched videos and read books to prepare myself.

They do mention eating, but mostly as a side concern. I hadn't appreciated how much I'd be affected. 

Another lesson learnt. 

I've decided to ride shorter days on long journeys, so that should give me more time to eat.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Thank you for being there for me.

thankyou
 
This post is dedicated to everyone who should hear this more often. 

We don't say this enough. We should let people know. 

Being British the stereotype is to stay silent, especially as a man. Other countries may be equally reserved.

It can be hard to say how you feel to a family member, or friend.

Don't leave it too late.

When it is said to me, I tend brush it off. It's not that I don't appreciate the semtiment. I don't know how to react. Hearing those words feels good though. 

We all need to practise as we would any other skill. I'm hopping I'll get better.

We don't need to over do it. Just mean and acknowledge it.

I don't know if it's okay to set challenges. 

But here goes.

I ask that everyone thinks about those around them; and lets then know they are appreciated.



 

 


Wednesday, 6 July 2022

The road ahead

the road ahead
 

I have had some time to think about my Cornwall ride. It changed me. Regular readers will know I wanted to test myself, and I did. It became more of a mental battle than the physical one I thought it would have been.

The first two days especially were a grind, there is no better word to describe them. I have ridden similar distances; it wasn't the same this time. Maybe it was traveling so far alone, and then ending the day in a b&b. Staying with my sister after two days was a very welcome respite.

I had thought of myself as a potential ultra distance cyclist, covering big distances in a short period of time. I'm not so sure now.

The ride back was different; over three days the distances were reduced. My mood at the overnight stops improved. The satnav grief had affected me, and not to have it on the ride home was welcome. 

I will still push my limits, with other goals in mind.

Maybe to see how many days I can ride. Each one being a more reasonable 70 to 80 miles. I will hopefully have company at these distances.

Pre Cornwall I avidly watched videos of long distance riders, not to compare myself. But to wonder if I could do anything similar. As I started to write this post I had one on pause, it was about the prep needed to complete big distances in little time. I didn't want to see any more. The training I do is easily enough to allow me to achieve reasonable targets, that allow me to relax and take in my surroundings. I don't think they have the same luxury. I no longer want to ride head down to push out the miles.

The coffee mornings with Matt on a Sunday often include musings about for example Lands End to John O'Groats. How many days should it take? I was in favour of the shorter timescale; meaning at least 100 miles per day. And I wasn't interested in an organised, group event. Now however I have looked at companies that provide a package. It includes the route, accommodation, technical backup, luggage transfers and companions. It all seems so much more civilised. It's still hard work, and very much a challenge, but without the potential to become that dreaded grind to just get it done.

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Recovery

well done me


I write this as I rest from the week long ride to Cornwall and back. 

I gained a lot from it: 

Proof of my recovery.

A good indication of where my physical limits may be.

And possibly most important to me; that I have more control over myself and how I react to life.

I am stronger mentally than I had thought.

The week before this adventure I had a telephone mental health counseling session. Beforehand I filled in a survey that would form the basis of the conversation.

It was questions I had used before previous therapies. This time I found myself surprised by my answers. I seemed to be choosing more positive responses. I wanted to be honest so ticked boxes with my first reactions.

When the therapists called it was the first thing about which she remarked. I had gone from a score indicating a very depressed person to one who had little indication of a problem.

We talked about what had happened to possibly cause such a change. I suspected it was my broken hip; let me explain. 

Looking back at the immediate aftermath I hadn't really broken down and regressed mentally as I might have expected. I was disappointed with the result of the x-rays and scans. With a bit of a big dip when told by the consultant that there could be lasting implications. 

But those feelings didn't last. I think this was partly because the day after the surgery I had a visit from a physio. He said I could get out of bed if I wanted, and using a frame move around the ward. I had some exercises to reduce the swelling and stiffness. I could do as much as I wanted. So I did; spending all of my time whilst in bed flexing my leg. The rest "walking" around the ward. I saw small improvements each day.

The next two weeks were a rollercoaster for sure; with some very dark times. I was very frustrated at the limits imposed on me. But I never gave into thoughts that I wouldn't fully recover, I just needed to work hard enough, it was down to me.

I said to my therapist that the experience had maybe taught me that I was a better, stronger person than I believed. This was helped by feedback I was getting from family, friends and my cycling club. Everyone was congratulating me on my progress, encouraging me to push on. The difference this time was my reaction to the words. In the past I would have told myself they were just platitudes; not true of me.

As I reached a new milestone those words took on my resonance, and without me realising were reinforcing my positive inner conversation.

I reduced the priority given to my negative monologue.

The discussion was so positive that we agreed that I could put future meetings on hold for now. I had the tools to recognise the start of a downward trajectory, and turn it around.

I'm not saying I am cured, but that I am better than I've been for a very long time. It's like a switch had been flicked to a new position.

We concluded that whilst crashing a bike was maybe not a recognised treatment for depression. It had had a positive outcome for me.

I keep saying this. Talking has been the deciding factor in my turnaround. 

If I hadn't done so, the outcome of my crash, and life's pressures in general could have produced a very different result.

It's why I rode to raise money for Mind. They promote talking, crucially providing resources for those who don't have the support network I am lucky to have.

Thank you to everyone involved over the last few years since I started my recovery.







Monday, 27 June 2022

Riding for Mind

made it to cornwall


My charity ride for Mind is complete; sponsorship link. The original plan was 250 miles straight to Cornwall. And then a three day ride back. 

The change in circumstances - a broken hip in February - meant that wasn't going to be possible. I had to make it a two day ride.

This was my third and longest multi-day ride. The first was four days to Paris and the second a two day ride along the South Downs Way (SDW). Both were with Matthew and Richard. Next year I hope to roundup some companions for a six day ride.

I packed heavy for both trips, including a full size camera. This time I carried the minimum and relied on my phone for pictures. They were both weather affected. The Paris trip by rain for most of the first day. The SDW by rain leading up to the trip. Which meant the first day especially was almost all very thick mud. 

Just having the simple tasks of finding food and staying on route was brilliant. And being with my mates of course.

Back to the Solstice epic.

I'll start with packing, it took me a few goes to be sure I had it right. I did the first round on Saturday. And decided the bag was too heavy. Some stuff was removed and that was supposed to be it. On Sunday I needed to check I had the essentials, so an unpack was necessary. Then that was it. Until Monday when I wanted to remove some more weight and again check that I had what I needed. I was sure I'd forgotten something as I left the house.

The first day started at 4 a.m. and ended 165 miles later in Stawell. It should have been around 150. More on that later.

leaving at 4 am


It was a little chilly as I left the house, getting really cold within a few miles, my hands were freezing. I had to put on my full length gloves. 

view near farnham
Farnham

I was making good time, passing near Farnham, through Alton and Bighton around 08:30.

stop for food at bighton
Bighton

Avington country park
Avington Country Park

I reached Winchester before 10. The roads were quiet and the weather was great.

country views passed Winchester

country views passed Winchester


I was too early at the Mill Arms, Mottisfont for a coffee, but there was a comfy chair if I had had time to wait.

Mill Arms, comfy seat

The next village with a shop was Lockerley. Unfortunately having very little food for a vegan diet. Crisps have plenty of carbs and the energy drink was welcome. 

It was a theme of a lot of the ride; the route I was following missed many bigger towns and even villages. It meant that food stops were less common than I would have liked. 

lockerley
Lockerley

It wasn't until nearly 2 p.m that I was able to stop to eat properly. At the Carriers Arms in Stockton. Great food and a warm welcome. I was too hungry to take a pic of the food.

Carriers Arms Stockton
Carriers Arms Stockton

The rest of the day was okay until I got to Bruton. I was tired and not paying enough attention to the directions given by the cycle comp. It took me on a big figure of eight before I realised something had gone very wrong. It was displaying a map of the Birmingham area. The turn by turn was still working, but I couldn't see how to return to the route without knowing where I was. I continued using my phone and google maps. Stopping every few miles to check my progress and note the next few junctions. 

I eventually made it to the Ivy Cottage in Stawell. Di and Steve were talkative, they had the most time to talk of all the places I stopped at. I asked about food and was told the best pub for a meal was two and half miles away, and that the kitchen closed in less than thirty minutes. So Chris gave me a lift, returning ninety minutes later to pick me up. The pub was the Ring O' Bells in Moorlinch. Clive the landlord welcomed me, it was like walking into my local; one I'd been visiting for many years. He said Trish could cook me a curry, and it was perfect. I haven't tasted better. I was introduced to the regulars, who came over for a chat after I'd eaten. It was just what I needed after a solo ride that had gotten very stressful.

Day two should have been 100 miles to Camelford. The computer had other ideas. The hills increased in frequency and steepness. The temperature climbed quickly, I'm not ashamed to say I walked up some. Without the luggage they would have been hard, with it I had to admit defeat.

Somewhere north of Taunton


Somewhere north of Taunton
Somewhere in the Quantocks

I was meandering through Somerset, mostly singletrack gravel covered lanes. The pic below was at the beginning of a very bad stretch.


singletrack gravel covered lanes

It quickly became impossible to ride up the hills, I just didn't have any traction. I'm glad I continued walking. The descents were incredibly dangerous. Very steep, twisty, potholed and completely covered in gravel and stones. I think this slow progress continued for nearly a mile. 

Finally into Devon
finally into Devon

I entered Devon at about 1 p.m. I tried to smile for the picture, but was just too tired and hot to be able to muster one. I think the stress of the cycle computer routing was also having an effect. The turn by turn was still okay, but the map had me in Wales.

At just before 2 p.m I rode into Bampton. I was cooked, buying too much food and drink to attach to my bike. I looked across the road and saw a church, hoping I'd find a sheltered corner to have a rest.


sheltering from the heat. Bampton
sheltering from the heat. Bampton

I stayed for the best part of ninety minutes. Again smiles were in short supply. The bike proved an ice breaking with people walking through the churchyard. A brief chat was most welcome. I hadn't realised riding alone was starting to take its toll.

The first place I was looking forward to came south east of Okehampton, the Granite Way. A cycle path alongside an abandoned railway line. It was mostly shaded; and flat. It crossed the Meldon Viaduct.


Meldon Viaduct
Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

View from Meldon Viaduct

The views were great, the viaduct not so much. The original structure being completely built over.

In to Cornwall

The next highlight; entering Cornwall. Again slightly tempered by the computer stress and heat.

I got to Launceston late in the day, about 9 p.m. I made a wrong turn and was completely lost. My brain was fried, even using my phone I couldn't get back on route. I was just over twenty miles from my sister's house. I couldn't work out how to get there without using the A30; a motorway in all but name. Eventually I gave up and called for assistance. Sheila and Jill came to my rescue.

Launceston town hall
waiting for my sister

I was disappointed, to be so close, and not to have ridden to the surprise sign my sister had prepared for me. See the top of this post.

I had a great rest day, my sister and I chating non stop. It was brilliant to completely unwind, and relax. The trials of the past two days almost forgotten.

Then it was time to head home. A friend of Sheilas; Jill, who had helped save me on Wednesday, was driving to Salisbury and offered to give me a lift. I didn't have anywhere to stay there until Saturday, so elected to be dropped off at Exeter. It looked a straightforward trip to the b&b. I tried to use the cycle computer, but it still had me in Wales; soon totally losing the plot. I saw a sign for Seaton; knowing this was close to Colyton I continued without it.

countryside south Devon

It was so relaxing to just meander along the quiet lanes. 

Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe
Saint Winifred's Church, Branscombe

Stopping for lunch at the Masons Arms. The landlord was right; it was a very steep hill out of the valley.

Masons Arms. Branscombe
Masons Arms. Branscombe

I arrived in Seaton mid afternoon a relaxed man.

Seaton seafront
Seaton seafront

I didn't expect the trams. But it made a nice reason to wander around for bit.


electric tram

And take some pictures.

electric tram

As I rode into Seaton there were signs for Colyton, happy days. 

On the edge of the village was a nice spot to sit and call everyone who was waiting for an update.

The White Cottage b&b was friendly and comfy. Another great find, they recommended that I book a table at the Kingfisher beforehand. They were right; as I walked in it was a busy night. Seeing my name on a table was very welcome. Tasty food too.

The river Colly

The river Colly


As I left Colyton a long hill needed to be climbed, not great so early in the day. I had decided that if the cycling computer was still playing up Salisbury should be easy to get to just by following signs. And then I could catch a train home.

Devon views
Devon views

Dorset views
Dorset views

Somerset views
Somerset views

As I entered Dorset and then Somerset the roads became flatter and my pace increased. The computer was working perfectly, hopefully this was going to be a good day. This and the shorter distance improved my mood greatly. I arrived at Milborne Port and stopped at a pub with an interesting name.

The theme with my pub meal photography; I eat the food too quickly to want to pause for a picture.

The Tippling Philosopher
The Tippling Philosopher

Did you know the cow could be the most dangerous mammal in the UK if you discount pets? I climbed a stile to take a comfort break out of site of the road. A herd of cows were some way off, so I didn't give them much attention.

killer cows
killer cows

As I left the field I heard a noise behind me, the cows had gathered around where I had been. They were pushing at the gate. I'm not saying they would have attacked, but I would certainly have been jostled by them. Apparently at least twelve people were killed in such circumstances between 2008 and 2014.

winding road
the long and winding road

I made good time, the weather was much cooler. Arriving in Salisbury around four. The only blight was a painful knee and developing saddlesore. Again the option of the train for the next day was considered.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

Before checking into my b&b - the Qudos. I took a moment to sit by the river. And update everyone.

away from the crowds Salisbury river avon
The River Avon


The Qudos is centrally located, with a self service buffet breakfast. I always ate as much as I could every morning at all of the stops. It would be my choice if I were to be visiting the area again. Before leaving I lowered the saddle a little to see if it would relieve the pressure. It worked; my knee was a little stiff, but eased up quickly and the rest of the day was almost pain free.

My route quickly had me on a cycle path that brought me to Mottisfont.

 
cycle path

Passing the library.

Mottisfont library


More beautiful countryside.

beautiful countryside


I then started to recognise some of the places I had passed on Tuesday, my route then having gone around Salisbury.

Avington country park
Avington country park

Arriving at Alton it was lunchtime I saw a small square off Market Street that looked promising. On all sides were chain pubs and restaurants, I wanted an independent establishment. I found one in the far corner, the Dill. I sat at the window and ate my mushroom burger.

The Dill Alton
The Dill Alton


It felt good to be on roads I ridden before, until I wasn't. At one point I was directed down a bridleway so stoney and sandy I had to walk. Another quarter mile at a slower pace.

St Laurence church Seale
St Laurence church Seale


I passed through Guildford and Leatherhead then Walton-on-the-Hill, Hooley, and finally Chaldon. I was home.

Some thoughts from this adventure:

I relied totally on technology and it had partially let me down. To be fair the computer had been okay in the past.

I have often written about testing my limits, only thinking physically. Whilst I was tired at the end of each day it was the mental toll I hadn't considered. The first two days had really pushed me the most. Perhaps I now know a limit; it's how far can I go alone. The next multi-day ride will need to be as a group. 

No-one to talk to, then eating alone in the evening and at breakfast. At each stop I looked for conversation, but everyone had their own lives and schedules. I was just someone passing through. 
Except the Ring O' Bells on the 21st. It was brilliant chatting away to the locals.

I called Marcia, Sheila and Michelle in the evenings, before falling asleep. An important part of my day.

I don't know how people travel many days alone. Especially if they aren't in contact with anyone on a regular basis. What did they do before mobile phones and the internet?

I need to slow down, reduce the daily distance target. To quote Jurassic Park; just because you can, doesn't mean you should. The shorter days were much more enjoyable even taking into account the tech failures.

Here are links to the places featured in this post.