Friday afternoon road ride.

8 09 2012

One ride does not a cyclist make, but it was nice to get out again.

A day with nothing planned and nothing to stop me doing what I liked – wow, what sorcery is this? It just doesn’t happen, and yet – there it was, and most magical of all, motivation struck at the same time!

Warm weather, a day off, and motivation – a magic triangle that could not be denied. Out come the cycling shorts, and fully lycra’d up I head down to the garage and spend over an hour faffing about before I left. Yes, an hour! pumping tyres up, lubing and tightening, finding long lost gloves and a helmet, even my cycling sunglasses, AND my cycling computer (I can PROVE I went out, and how long and how far – cracking) .

More than 24 hours afterwards and I still have a smile on my face and a sore arse.  Lovely



Magic Wands?

19 07 2011

What would I do if I had a magic wand that really worked?   My son asked me this and it got me thinking. What WOULD I do?  What would I change if I could? I’m not thinking about earth shattering life changes (no castles or supercars from this wand I’m afraid), but simply what could I do better?

I could certainly get out cycling more, that’s for sure. Get fitter, get healthier, get more motivated. As much as life is busy, we make excuses for not doing the things we know we should do and secretly want to anyway.  Too tired, too hungry, it’s raining, I don’t have time.

Sooo – I now have the task of creating a magic wand; Manifesting the idea of one anyway, and using it on myself. We don’t need magic for a lot of the things we want. If we can acknowledge what we don’t do and accept that we could if we tried, that magic starts to work all by itself.

What would you do with a magic wand?

Swinley Forest ride by gooogle at Garmin Connect – Details

10 07 2011

Untitled by gooogle at Garmin Connect – Details.

Swinley Forest is on my doorstep. I don’t get over there anywhere nearly as often as I should do, but when an old friend calls and suggests getting out for a quick blast, who am I to object?

A chilled out 10 mile ride later and I realise how unfit I am right now. Swinley is tough when you’re not prepared. Not a lot of flat and loads of good singletrack. You don’t want to be hanging around for too long as its so good to ride.

I had a great morning, and it was great to catch up with an old friend as well.


London to Paris – July 2010

17 10 2010

London to Paris was a massive, unforgetable experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s even remotely interested in the idea of cycling 300 miles. Even doing it over 3 days as we did, we had people riding who had only started riding just for this event, and I have to say I thought everyone did fantastically.

We’d started off with about 25 people joining Team Commvault, but by the time we started we were down to 12, having had a lot of ‘its too hard’, ‘I don’t have time to train’, and a couple of injuries which prevented people entering. Even within the 12 we had hugely varied levels of experience and fitness, and a wide age group as well. Everyone who started with us finished, and I’m not aware of any dropouts even from the 150 or so that started the 3 day route with us.

Personally, I knew I’d not done nearly enough training (see previous blog entries), and I was hoping I could ride in to fitness over the 3 days ahead. I was also on a brand new bike, having had a nightmare on a previous ride and only being able to get about 30 miles in on the new Willier Mortirolo I was riding. The bars were still making my hands ache and I knew I’d need to adjust them as well.

Starting in Blackheath, I was a little perturbed to find that I would be sharing a hotel room. I’m not sure that had been mentioned before but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given that it was a charity ride (for Action Medical Research) and they’d be keeping costs down so they had more money for good causes. The more awkward bit was that I’d be sharing a room with different people every night so I wasn’t going to have the chance even to get used to them. Luckily, it wasn’t bad at all partner wise (we did at least have our own beds!). The hardest bit was the hotels themselves.

Starting in Blackheath, Team Commvault went out for berr and pasta to load up on carbs. (I know the beer’s not the best idea but for a group of lads away its pretty much standard).  It was a really warm night (for London at least), and unfortunately the hotel didn’t have aircon. That was uncomfortable and with the excitement of starting the trip early the following morning I don’t think I got enough sleep. We were up at about 6AM to get ready to leave by about 7AM and avoid the worst of the London traffic before getting into the Kent countryside. Breakfast was a pretty solid english cooked breakfast so I was well fed before going to collect my bike from storage.

Outside, the sun was up and it was already warm. It looked like a scorcher and didn’t disappoint. Plenty of drink onhand as I was riding with a camlebak and 3 litres of energy drink as well as a bottle of plain water on the bike. A lot of people tell me this is OTT on a road bike, but I like to carry spares and a toolikt anyway, don’t find the camel uncomfortable and its an easy way to take supplies with you. I fettled with the bike a bit – adjusting the gears as the cables were new and still stretching in, and tweaking the handlebars upwards a touch to try and prevent the pain in my hands I’d been experiencing.

Everyone was looking excited and nervous as we set off. 150+ cyclists heading out of London caused a few heads to turn our way. I’m ashamed to say that even this number of cyclists didn’t seem to make us any more visible to car drivers. The worst I experienced was a chap dropping his daughter (I assume) off at a bus stop, and then pulling across a huge column of cyclists without paying attention to any of us. Yanking on the brakes and swerving didn’t quite take up all of my concentration and I still had enough mind left to yell a few expletives at him as he went white and looked shocked as he finally saw me heading directly towards the drivers door.  Luckily I managed to avoid a serious incident, and even got a few pats on the back from fellow riders for not being shy about pointing out the error of his ways 🙂 .

We were out in the Kent countryside soon enough, following little orange arrows for directions. Most of the groups were pretty fragmented early on so we rode in smaller makeshift groups and chatted as we rode, making new friends. We managed to get most of the way without getting lost but did err at one point, going off route by a few miles and dropping a lot of height before we realised and had to find our way back to the route. This seemed to involve crossing almost every bridge on the channel tunnel rail link but we managed to get back on route and get to the lunch stop just as the food was getting put out.  Sitting in the sun getting a few aches out of our legs I managed to blag a bit of extra chamois cream as I was already feeling a little sore.  Most of the group had managed to regroup at the lunch stop but we were very clearly in different categories fitness wise and were going to find it impossible to keep together.  We splintered again and I ended up in a group with Ewan and Phil for most of the afternoon.


The afternoon got harder and harder as we went through Kent. The hills seemed to get steeper and longer and I was feeling very definitely tired. I managed to make it up every hill though, even when most people seemed to be walking up. SOme of this was due to gravel on the road, people were slipping a little and panicking and stopping, then not being abel to start again because of the steepness. Mountain biking skills helped here and I managed to make it up with a couple of very awkward maneouvers around stalling cyclists.

I slowed down a lot after that point and was having to dig very deep into my determination to keep going. Lack of training was definitely making me suffer and it was sheer bloody mindedness that kept my legs turning at times. Heading towards another huge hill on the way into Dover I was hugely relieved to see that we were swinging right to go through a saddle in the hill. Still a climb, but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting from the view on the run in.

On the way through the saddle I met up with a couple of the other Commvault guys and we headed in felling almost victorious. We got to Dover a couple of hours early, so we weren’t doing too badly. There were a good few in town before us though I think so we were by no means the quickest. We headed down to the becah for a coffee and ice cream while we wiated for everyone to roll in and head to the ferry. Whilst sipping my coffee, a text message from my Mum led to a phone call and some hurried emergency arrangements as I found that my kitchen cabinets at home had fallen on my wife and she was in hospital! Luckily, she was only bruised and shocked, although the kitchen was a disaster zone for a while. Rona insisted I carry on and NOT come home. I debated with myself for a while, but as she was so insistent and I was on a once in a liftetime trip the decision to carry one seemed to be the best one.

The ferry trip over to France was an experience, with 150 saddle sore riders having just completed 80 miles(ish) and were brewing up a healthy supply of intestinal gas. (My heartfelt apologies go out to all the staff there. I could hardly breathe myself for a while!).

Knowing we had to get back on the bikes in France to ride 10-12 miles to the hotel, we weren’t all that anxious to subject our backsides and legs to further punishment. My legs felt wooden at this point and when I sat on the saddle I immediately wished I hadn’t. Fortunately, we got onto the French roads and everything all felt so much better I got a HUGE second wind and flew down the sublimely smooth roads into Calais, marvelling at the courtesy of the drivers stopping to let an unruly bunch of cyclists who were obviously not yet used to riding on the right go past. With my newfound legs I was considering it almost a mission to catch up with the LandRover that was leading the way to the hotels. I never did catch him but got bloody close, and must have averaged about 27-28 mph on that 12 mile run.

I was pleased to get t0 the hotel and settled in to a Croque Monsieur before a couple of beers and bed. Unfortunately, my room mate for the night had made a bit of a mess with the aircon, turning it up instead of down and it was at least 2 AM before the room cooled enough for me to sleep. I think I was running hot after riding anyway – my metabolism was burning me up and I had to sit in cold bath for a while to cool down. When the alarm went in the morning it felt like I’d just put my head down and I was definitely still tired.


Isle of Wight Cycling Festival

22 09 2010

Taking a break from strict chronological blogging, this entry is about last weekends trip to the Isle of Wight (IoW), and I’ll get back to London to Paris shortly.

The IoW trip had been planned for a little while, and Steve had put a lot of effort into figuring out what was going on, what routes to do, where to stay and how to get there. This turned out to be invaluable as the Festival itself appeared somewhat less impressive than we’d expected.
Having travelled down in one car, with 5 people, 5 peoples gear and 5 bikes (4 on the roof and one on a tow bar mounted bike rack)we’d been a little crammed in and quite glad to get out for a walk around after a few hours travelling. The ferry was a nice break though. When we parked up at the festival, we had a quick look around. Laughably small, there was a pretty good trials show, a magician (???), a vintage bike display, a kids cycle obstacle course, and two charity displays.

20 minutes later we were back in the car heading for the B+B, (which turned out to be great 🙂 ) and 40 minutes after that we were readying the bikes to head out.
To correct anyones misconceptions, The Isle of Wight is NOT flat! Hills can be long, and they can be steep. Its a lot like the South Downs Way, in fact, but there is a little more flat ground in between the hills and at the tops.
Paths are generally pretty wide, and there are a lot of bridleways (allegedly more bridleways per square mile than anywhere else in england).
Heading out of Newport we took about 10 minutes before we got into the country, and after a few faltering miles of navigational issues, we got to the bottom of an enormous hill which I ended up walking. Being the most unfit of the crew, I generally remained at the back (although on the flat and downhill I was as fast as anyone), and occasionally resorted to walking. We managed 18 miles on the Saturday, heading out towards the Needles on the Tennyson trail, over some big hills, with some awesome views (at one point we could see both ends of the Island and the Mainland really clearly).
I was about done when we got back and chilled for a bit before we headed out for a gorgeous Italian (ask for recommendations – Italian in Newport – its good!).
Day Two dawned and it looked a little chilly outside, but I figured it would brighten up so still went out with a short sleeved top. Heading out from Newport again, we went the other way, towards Shanklin and up some more nasty climbs, with fast, wide, easy descents. Some of them were a little bumpy, but nothing twisty or difficult. The climbing did seem to go on and on though, and I was getting rather tired and cold by the time we reached Ventnor and headed down the steep road to the Spyglass (lovely pub right on the seafront) for lunch. A leisurely, and absolutely delicious, halibut and chips later we started out again and headed UP out of Ventnor. THAT is a very steep, and pretty long climb, all roads until nearing the top, when A bridlepath continues up and over the downs with some fantastic views!
I was feeling more human again at this point, proper lunch inside me and a windproof top over my short sleeves feeling very welcome. The wind on IoW can be evil! More up, and more down (more downs?) followed as we continued along some pretty exposed bridleways heading generally back towards Newport. We met a few people doing a ’round the island’ ride on their Brompton folding bikes on the way back along a disused railway path and stopped for a chat for a few minutes before heading back.
At one point, two of us had to stop to fix punctures from some extra vicious hawthorn spikes. (Pic attached – mine was like a nail!) and we eventually pulled into Newport, very tired and pleased to be back.
Another fantastic pub meal followed and we took ourselves to bed very full and pleased to be getting some sleep.
Day three woke us with wind and rain just dying down a little, and revealing a grey morning, colder than the previous day. After a full english breakfast we loaded up the car and headed off half way down the Tennyson trail to get to the needles before catching the ferry home. I didn’t make the needles 😦
When we got to Freshwater I was suffering, and rather than hold the rest of the group back, I decided to be a sensible wuss and sit on the beach for 90minutes while they headed off up the downs to the end of the Island.
The sun had come out by now and it felt good on the pebbles out of the wind. The guys were quick and 90 minutes flew by. After a quick rest stop on the way back, we roadied it back to the car (less hills – woohooo) and headed off to catch our ferry home.

I got home very tired, pleased I’d been away, but with the confirmed knowledge that my fitness and cycling strength are not what they were, and that I’d need to ride some more to get back to where I should be and not hold the guys up. Pictures are hosted on Steve’s gallery here.

NB – hyperlinks and pics to follow once I have time to get on the pc and edit.


Last minute bike changes

18 09 2010

Back at home on the Monday after BikeRadar, I had a broken bike and only two weeks to get ready for London to Paris. A trip to my local bike shop was in order, as I didn’t want to trust ordering online as I was in danger of running short of time.
Damage as follows :- 1 x new mech, 1 x mech hanger, 1 x buckled wheel, and a possibly warped frame 😦
On top of this, they couldn’t promise me it would get done in time for L2P, so I had a bit of a quandary. I needed a bike, and had no bike. Options – borrow, buy, steal new bike.

As it turned out, I managed to get a great deal using the cycle to work scheme, and upgraded to a new, full carbon frame, Willier Mortirolo. Its lovely 🙂
The only challenge I had was that I had less than a week before L2P and a brand new bike to get used to. I took it out for a couple of short rides. 16miles each time and I rode it like a time trial. Hard and fast, trying to really push myself as some last minute training, knowing I hadn’t done enough, and also trying to get a feel for the bike. I immediately noticed the full carbon frame was MUCH more comfortable than I’d been used to. I’d have changed years ago if I’d realised that!
I was getting a bit of pain in my thumb joints, and I wasn’t sure whether it was the bike or just that I’d been riding so hard I’d pushed into the hoods more than usual (new campag kit all round as well – I’m soo impressed. Much better than the Shimano I had previously). I figured I’d find out on the way to Paris and see how things went.

So, the upshot of all this was that I was about to ride 300 miles, in 3 days, without adequate training, on an unfamiliar bike. Easy as falling off a bike 🙂

Another sporadic update

17 09 2010

This year has been terrible for cycling. At least for me it has, and I can’t really blame anything or anyone else (I’ll probably still try though, as the inner me just can’t accept thatits ALL my fault).

Right excuses out of the way first I think.  I got married in January – January 16th in fact, an absolutely fabulous day, with just enough snow on the ground for some great pictures (wedding snowball fights anyone? 🙂 ) but not enough to stop people coming (The week before it would have been impossible to get to the venue!).  That then sent me off on a weeks honeymoon, and when I came back I had a cold.   I KNOW. Its a terrible excuse, but it IS true, and on and off Ive never really cleared it out this year. I’m sure they’re different colds, but I’ve had more of them and felt crappy for longer than I have done since my teen years I think.  We also had a proper honeymoon in April, heading to the Philippines for a couple of weeks, which was nice. Unfortunately someone set off a bloody volcano and someone else told all the airlines they weren’t allowed to fly through the ash cloud. In the end someone fly a plane through it and nothing bad happened, so we came home, only actually delayed by about a week.  From then on, it really has all been down to me. I’ve had a bugger of a time getting out of a nice cosy bed next to my nice cosy wife, and getting on my nice cosy cold aluminium mountain bike. Or any bike for that matter, road bike included. The road bike though did eventually get ridden as I had, for some reason I will never be able to recall, signed up to ride from London to Paris in 3 days and I realised that this would be a little more difficult if I didn’t get on the bike before I started.

Training commenced – sort of.

There MUST have been more than this, but I remember doing a 50 mile road ride in the Chilterns and feeling very chuffed that my legs had stood up to that much as I hadn’t been on the bike for what seemed like a very long time. I promised myself then that I would get on the bike and ride at least twice a week from May through to the London to Paris (L2P) in July. It didn’t happen. I did a couple of rides to work and back (about 12 miles each way if I’m generous), and once I remember taking a long way back and could quite possibly have touched 20 miles. (You can gasp in awe here if you feel the need).  In June I planned a 50 mile ride, following the route of the three counties cycle ride ( Unfortunately I managed to take a wrong turning and ended up in Henley on the way out, and not the way back. DOH.  Undeterred, Phil and I carried on, saw some Kites harrying a dead carcass in the road. (It was a lovely day and actually spectacularly pretty, although I’m pretty sure the carcass didn’t notice) then rode up a looooong hill and made it back into Bracknell, very tired and starting to wonder if L2P had been such a great idea as I was knackered after about 40 miles and I need to do 100, and then another 100, and then another 100.  It was starting to feel daunting.


I entered the Bike Radar Sportive, and chose the 100 mile option, and added the Dirt Crit Championships on the following day (in for a penny in for a pound). These were to take place approx 2 weeks before I headed off to Paris, and I figured it would prove (or disprove) that I could ride 100 miles in a day, AND get back on the bnike the following day. Even if the 2nd day in this case was rather tame in comparison, being only 8 laps of a 1 mile dirt course.

Obviously, it didn’t go quite according to plan. No reason to break the pattern just yet, eh? 

8AM Saturday morning and I was there, ready and willing to start peddling around Brands Hatch race circuit on my trusty Giant SCR Ltd (aluminium, with carbon forks) before wending my way out into the Kent countryside. Beeeeep, and off we went. I LOVE cycling on race circuits. The tarmac is sooo smooth and lovely it feels almost like you’re flying as long as it doesn’t get steep. About 30 seconds in, it got steep, but it gave me a good warmup at least and I enjoyed the rest of the lap before heading onto real roads. It was a VERY hot day, and even at 815AM a lot of riders were starting to feel this was going to be tough. Weirdly enough though, not me. I deal pretty well with the heat and just get on with it. Even on the road I have a camelbak with 3 litres of energy drink, a few gel bars and some energy bars (Torq ( are my fave – the only ones that don’t give me headaches!)

It was a pleasant enough ride, for the first 40 miles. The foodstops, while a long way between them, seemed to be running out of stuff a bit quick, but I didn’t care. I’m carrying my own gear anyway, so just kept on going. Just past Headcorn I had a problem, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to explain what happened. 5 miles past the feedstop, flat single lane roads with a few potholes, but nothing I’d hit. I’d just gone over a crossroads and heard a crunch from my rear mech. Thinking I’d slipped the chain I looked down and was horrified to see my rear mech hanging off, and only attached via the chain and gear cable, no longer the frame.

Bugger, I thought. That’s me done for the day then, and I say down at the top of the hill the other cyclist were heading down and started to enjoy the sunshine while I waited for a marshall or a broom wagon to sweep me up. I was only there a couple of minutes when a woman came rushing up the hill on foot shouting ‘stop them, stop them, there’s been an accident’. I spoke to her a moment as she rushed past and it turned out that the car she’d been in had managed to stop in the road, but a cyclist hadn’t and he’d gone straight over the bonnet and broken his arm quite badly. SHe was in a hurry to set up a wedding in the next village, so hurried on and asked me to slow people down, so I did. Not very successfully I’m afraid, as all I could do was wave and shout there’d been an accident. (Bike Radar, take note – you need to marshall more carefully and not take 1000+ riders down roads on which you can only pass a car at walking pace and scraping the hedges!)

45 minutes later and the riders had pretty much all been through, and a police car came up the lane so I flagged him down and found out the road was now clear and the injured had been ferried off to hospital. At this point there was STILL no sign of any marshalls or a broom wagon, so I started thinking about how to get home. Unless I wanted to walk, there was only one way. I set about removing the mech completely and shortening the chain so I could ride back to the last feedstop singlespeed. It was only about 5 miles so I figured that would be OK. It was while I was breaking the chain that a motorcycle outrider came by for the first time. Totally oblivious to the accident I filled him in on what had happened and then asked him if he could radio a van to pick me up. ‘No radio’ came the response. ”They haven’t even given us innertunbes or a pump to help people out’   (Bike Radar again, take note. PLan this stuff better. Many people DON’T have all the kit they need with them, and while its their own naivety that puts them in awkward situations, at ‘The UK’s premier cycling event’ you should at least TRY and plan for eventualities like a few punctures and the odd plonker stacking into a car (particularly if you set a route where the roads just aren’t wide enough to get past) ).  Luckily I’d had the kit required to jury rig a singlespeed so headed off back to the feedstation.

A scene of devastation awaited. Cyclists at a feed station, fair enough. A feed station with no water, not fair enough (Bike Radar, for the third time, take note!) . Also not good, a feed station with no one that can contact HQ and get a broken bike and rider back to the start point!  I headed off again. ‘It’s only 10 miles to the next stop’ he said ‘they might be able to help’. I could make that, so I headed off, pedalling like a loon on the flat, freewheeling down the hills, and puffing up the other side. I quite like singlespeed on my mountain bike. On a road bike I don’t like it. You need more gears when there are hills. After about 18 miles (yes, 18, not 10 Mr Bike radar feedstop person!) I was feeling almost as broken as my bike when I pulled into the nex stop. I was even more despondent when I got a, by now, familiar response. ‘No mate, we can’t contact HQ. There might be a van taking down the signs if you want to wait’.

I gave up. I stopped, I took my helmet and gloves off, and I went to the pub for a pint while I waited.  By the way, all this time my wife had been waiting for me in blazing sunshine at the main Bikeradar event, and my phone had run out of battery so I couldn’t even contact her 😦 . About an hour later, and hydrated by a couple of pints of best bitter, another motorbike outrider stopped so I asked him about a van. ‘Van, what van, I don’t know anything a bout a van’, he muttered, clearly annoyed at everyone asking him for help and not being able to provide it. (I’m still not sure exactly what they were told they were supposed to do, as it seemed pretty pointless to me.)

I headed off again. Guessing that it was only about 20 miles to the finish at this point, I pedalled fast, I pedalled slowly, I coasted, I walked, I pedalled again, and after aboit 10 miles managed to cadge a lift of a bloke in a panel van who locked me in the back in the dark with my bike, and cooked me in its oven like interior for 30 minutes until we got back to the start. Thank you, mr sauna van man, I was about cooked when I got in, and definitely cooked, when I got out. I am still very grateful to you for the lift.

There ended my first attempt at 100 miles on a road bike. Inglorious failure 😦   I did prove one thing that weekend though. I could get on the bike again on day two and compete in the dirt crits. I was slow, but I was on a singlespeed intentionally this time so had an excuse, and I STILL didn’t come last.  I also reckon I put in at least 100 miles worth of effort the day before, even if I didn’t make the distance.

I haven’t even started talking about L2P yet, so that’ll have to wait. I’m off to the Isle of Wight cycling festival tomorrow so will have to update on that too.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to be at the back – again.


En Route to Paris