Monday, 9 December 2013

The Winter Boat Trip 200

It's OK to count down the miles at the end of a ride.  But at the beginning of a ride?  We were only 5km in and I was already implementing my 'always get to the first control' rule.   I was counting down the miles to Quainton.  I had forgotten my lock, my gps was not behaving like it normally does, I couldn't find the info control, it just wasn't going to be my day for cycling.  There were plenty of things I could be doing at home, like writing up my Russian ride.  Do bear with me on that, it's not that I haven't started.  In fact I've started a couple of times …

I got to the first control and everything fell into place.

First control at Quainton
It was a great day out.  I feel I haven't lost too much form after several months off audaxing, I'm still slow.  That doesn't matter.  You get to enjoy the ride for longer.   You can see all of the long sunset we had.  In fact sunrise was long also.

Sunrise in the country
A lot seemed to be happening in the sky.  A biplane overflew me.  I was gazing too much to get my camera ready.  But I got a few photos of the kites which were over and across, up and down all around us at some stage.

Kites in the sky

I was riding on my own most of the time, apart from a section with Mel.  After Stoke Bruerne, I waited and waited for the lunchers to catch up with me.  But nobody did.  At the last control,  two riders finally turned up.   I ended up doing the dark hours with one of them, I appreciated his company.

Company at the Co-op shop
I enjoyed cycling through Waddesdon and the Waddesdon Manor grounds.  I must visit, it's in cycling distance!  Plenty to see and do with a house, gardens, aviary, art collection and restaurant.  The place sounds fascinating.  Although I knew about the Rothschilds through banking and wine, I didn't know there is so much Rothschild history right here.

Spotted in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor

The cut through Towcester Racecourse was also good.  They give you glimpses of other worlds.

Towcester Racecourse

Thanks to Manotea and helpers for organising.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Route is Hillingdon, Quainton, Stoke Bruerne, Tring and Ickenham, see Auk event
  • A little bit of rain
  • Temperatures dropped after dark, but it was a mild day overall
  • Seeing Father Christmas
  • Arabella hinting at an Easter Arrow 2014
  • I need a new headlight
  • Victoria Sponge at Quainton was excellent.
  • Should I make my 'I love my velo' tattoo permanent?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

FNRttC - Whitstable

I found myself at the back of the net.  You might think this is a footballing term, but not when you know that the net of 'tail end charlies' and 'allupper' doesn't let anybody through.  I was loving our exit out of London, taking a few photos on the way.  When we passed the Shard I realised that I had never taken a photo of that building.  So I made a deliberate stop.   It made me nervous, because the thought of being caught faffing and holding up the ride is one thing, but to do this whilst barely across the Thames is another!  I was already putting away my camera, but still, the net was closing in on me.  Susie's call of 'we'll wait for you', didn't make me feel any better.  It's as good as a telling off.

The Shard - tallest building in the European Union
I had ambitions of doing a bit of way marking, however not once did I find myself in a position to offer my services.   I've lost a bit of condition but this ride was fast!  It was great.  The peloton was often spread out which allows for long stretches of chasing, which I quite like.

We were in Gravesend in no time.  The forecourt of The Call Boy pub is where we normally stop and gather.  I've always liked that stop even though it feels so dead in the night.   When I first spotted the blue star on the pub swing board, back in 2011, I liked the place even more.

Taken in 2011

This time! This time, it didn't feel dead in the night.  There was a lively gathering of people interested in what we were doing.  I saw that the pub was open for business, and then immediately looked up to the swing board.  It wasn't The Call Boy anymore, but ...

Photo by Trickedem -

... Angels.  Angels, the gayest place in town.

Now back to The Call Boy.  His uniform gives away that this is to do with theatre.  A call boy calls the stars to the stage, saying something like 'You're on in 5 minutes.'  This pub is where there used to be the Grand Theatre of Gravesend.  Have a look at an old photo on this site.

All settled back to usual paces after the magnificent halfway stop in Strood.  I was pleased to be able to take off some layers, it was a very warm evening.   It was my first experience at the English Martyrs Church Hall.  There was a 'volunteer' to rider ratio of about 1:10, which allowed for welcoming and efficient proceedings!  Thank you!

Abundance at the church hall
We took a slightly different route through Faversham, and went along the Market.

Faversham Market
The purpose of the fast pace was to do with beating the rain to the coast.  And it worked.  We were soon able to enjoy breakfast by the seaside.


I had a little wonder after spotting this guy below.  He'd collected some lugworms which are used as fishing bait.  The handful he'd gathered were worth £15.

It was an excellent ride with great company.  I had lovely chats with known and new riders.  Some conversations are unique, and it's great when it happens.

I had arranged to have lunch with my girlfriend at the Sportsman, and that didn't disappoint either.  Stuart had asked: 'You having oysters today?'  We had the tasting menu, which included oysters, oysters like I've never had before, so good.  The cream cheese ice cream dessert was so delicious it almost made me cry.  

Oysters at the Sportsman
Thanks to Simon for organising, and everybody on the ride who made it memorable.  Special thanks to the Strood Eight!

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Thursday, 5 September 2013

FNRttC Brighton - August 2013

It's been a while since this ride was on, but I haven't forgotten it.  It was most memorable for seeing Rimas.   He had posted that it's not so much the ride he was looking forward to, but seeing the people on the ride.  I can identify with that.  That he's doing a night ride only one week after finishing 'an extreme' event makes you raise your eyebrows.

Rimas had taken part in the Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul.  That race has an audax feel about it.  Not many people know about it.  There were only two controls on the way.  Riders choose their own route.  Self-suffiency is so revered that drafting is frowned upon and made into one of only 10 rules.  Cyclechatters were glued to the live tracking screen for at least 11 days 7 hours and 21 seconds.  A few other participants were known to us also.  And Juliana Buhring caught the eye as the only female rider.

Rimas deciding what cake to eat
The ride was great.  The new way out of London was perfect.  Loved it.   There were a few early punctures, so that gave a chance for riding slowly, absorbing the night atmosphere, listening, chatting, taking photos... I was in a very relaxed mood.  The only pressure I put on myself was to ask Rimas to tell me more about the Transcontinental Race.

New way out of London
It was a mild night.  But rain, or even downpours had been promised.  I had checked my tyres.  I replaced them both with less worn ones and still took two spares with me.   I wasn't visited, but many others were.  Great! More opportunity for chats and snaps.

It got wet.
At the middle of the night scout hut stop, our leader caught me napping rather than snapping- oh the humiliation!

Caption competition ...

There are reports of people missing a turning.  I had a few moments of hesitation myself.  So let me share a top tip with budding way markers: stay with your bike and point your bike in the direction of travel.  There is more you can do, but that is a good starter.

Anyhow, I 'd like to thank all way markers, TECs, riders I chatted with, Rimas, and Simon for making it  another memorable ride.

Now, I'm going to read 'Not Without My Sister', a book co-written by Juliana Buhring, about her upbringing and escape from a cult.  Thanks to meim for highlighting that.  And do read Juliana's blog post on the Transcontinental Ride.  It's well written.  Phrases such as 'the second winner' are used.  Beautiful!

Next ride is ... Whitstable!

Rest of the photos are here: MyPhotos


Thursday, 1 August 2013

FNRttC Newhaven - Dieppe

I had a first on this ride, which was to use the lift at Gatwick airport.  It makes the experience even more surreal.  One minute you're riding in the countryside, the next minute you're elevated into a, you wouldn't know it was the middle of the night, airport concourse.

Susie reads the graffiti on the lift walls
That first moment of mingling with travellers always brings a smile to my face.  It is such a bizarre feeling to be at an airport and not to have to catch a plane nor wait for arrivals.  Another bizarre moment was captured in the photo below:

I had a glowing feeling of homecoming when the Costa Coffee man reminded me of Mr Exit.  Maybe it was him?  Maybe he's been able to keep his job after much training?  His performance has improved so much.  He might even have gone the other way, a little ocd perhaps.  He kept wiping the table top in front of him, although there was nothing to wipe.  But what gave it away was his eyes wondering all around the hall instead of looking at me.  He's still searching for the Exit sign, his guiding light, since the Olympic 2012 refurbishments.

'Double espresso macchiato please', I said.   'Macchiato?', he asked.  'Double espresso macchiato', I repeated.  'Espresso?', he asked.  It's him!  It's got to be him!  I repeated again, 'Double espresso macchiato'.  You can't say yes to his questions, otherwise you'd get three drinks coming your way.  I overpaid, not waiting for the receipt nor the change, as I wanted to get back, as quickly as I could, to listen to Jim and Stuart's hilarious Friday Touring stories.

Entertainment over, and off we went, to the coast.  It was a wonderful night ride, quick moving, warm (another first was to wear short sleeves all night!), early sunrise ... The breakfast in Newhaven was top class, with whitebait and chips on the menu.

I had a good kip on the ferry and on waking up was surprised that there wasn't a beer fest going on.  Adrian finally gave in and got himself a pint.  That one glass stood out so much, that Mice took a picture of it (Mice's write up with photos).

The large number of riders disembarking meant we got a little split up, so my goodbyes were a little random.  I needed to go left at the roundabout, whereas everybody else was going Centre Ville.  My plan was to cycle 60km north (turned out to be a good move!), stay at Camping Chateau De Tilleuls near Abbeville, and then continue my journey to Belgium on the Saturday.

How wonderful!
The headwind!!  Not helped by being in touring mode with double panniers, the headwind was playing havoc with my progress.   What could I do but stop at every boulangerie on my way, to restock on energy.   I had tarte aux framboise, croissants, chaussons aux pommes, frangipane aux poires and more.  If Mice didn't get to a boulangerie because Titus thought that was just wasted Mice faffing time, then at least I made up for it.

This ride was such a battle against the forces.  My legs were fine, but my upper body was suffering from me trying to hold the 'Cavendish position'.  Then there were several routes barrĂ©es with deviations, I was too law abiding when I saw 'Uitgezonder plaatselijk verkeer' which were only signs ready for Sunday's kermesse, and I could have saved miles and time by going west instead of east when the grounds of Haverkerque were a no-go area.  Still, I still arrived home at 5PM.

I enjoyed breakfast at Hesdin, a place I'm getting fond of in association with the FNRttC Newhaven - Dieppe ride.

It was an absolutely fabulous weekend.  Loved every  moment.  I've come full circle since my Russian trip which started at my parents' place.  I picked up the car which was left there.  I drove back to the UK in lots of Sunday traffic, and with a seized clutch.  During the week, a car mechanic had a look at the sticky clutch pedal, barely touched it, then the cable snapped.

Big thank you to the Friday Leggends!
Photos are here: MyPhotos.

Another thought:
  • Well done to LD Ferry Lines for a most efficient bicycle check in service.   The bikes almost outnumbered the cars, and there was a dedicated bike check in kiosk.  It was a pleasure to be treated as VIPs, compared with other years when bikes and riders are seen as a nuisance.  They should make a big deal of this, they could turn this into a good marketing/PR story.  
More bikes than cars
  • The fact that a new Belgian king was crowned was hardly visible in Belgium, no bunting, no street parties.  But the fact that Belgium was without a king for a few hours was much bigger news.  Most talked about, though, was Jan Bekelants' stage winning efforts on Le Tour de France 2013. 
  • Russian ride report to follow! 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Making a beeline to Russia

Soon I'll be setting off to the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, a 3000km pilgrimage.

The idea came from something I posted on my LEL blog back in 2009.  And it was years before (2000 I think), that an article, written by Paul Adriaensen in a Flemish bee magazine, first caught my eye.

It described St Zozimus and St Sabatius who, in 1429, founded one of the biggest monasteries in Russia.  Since then, I kept coming across snippets of information on the topic.  Especially their depiction on icons was intriguing.  Very often the two monks are presented together, and often with a reference to bees.  Both, but more so St Zozimus, are seen as protectors of beekeepers.

The more I found out, the more I was drawn to the Solovetsky Islands.   The islands are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The monastery is shown on the 500 rubles banknote.   The area has a troubled history, being the site of the first gulag prison camp.

Religion and history were my worst subjects at school.  This pilgrimage is about religion and history.

Friends and colleagues have wanted to express support.  It wasn't my intention to raise funds, but Bees for Development (BfD) would certainly welcome a donation.  BfD make a huge impact on beepkeers' livelihoods in the developing world.  Thank you!

PayPal Donation - no registration required - do add a 'Note to Seller' with a reference me or this trip.

I'll tweet using #stzozi, along this 4 week journey.  Follow me, tweet me.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Flemish NRttKust

The pictures tell the story: here

Do you know what a Flandrien is?  It's a cyclist who rides until he can't remember his own name, somebody who is silent, never complains, has enormous physical strength and perseverance.  Flemish people like to think they're natural born Flandriens. I'd like to add that if you come off your bike, pick yourself up and continue to ride, then that would be a characteristic of a Flandrien also. So with that I'm going to award something very special, it's the unique Friday Foreign Flandrien award and it goes to Susie.  Who wouldn't be proud of a triple F status?  By the way, Wiggins won the International Flandriens award last year, he was born in Belgium after all ...

There was a wonderful photo of the start of De Ronde Van Vlaanderen, in Ghent 1930, in the 100 year celebratory magazine of Het Nieuwsblad (March 2013).  It shows the peloton on a tramlined,  cobblestoned road.  Shame I can't find the picture online.

Those tramlines are still there, and they'll be a feature of the safety talk at next year's Flemish NRttKust.  Mind you, we'll be avoiding tram lines at all cost.  At least until we reach the coast.  Because on the coast, is the longest tram line in the world, as researched by mmmmartin.

Maybe that is what we should do?  Maybe we should ride to Knokke.  That could make us ride just north of Ghent.  And people wanting to get the tram would get full value of the longest tram line in the world, as researched by mmmmartin.  Knokke also has train connections back to Brussels and would be closer for the Delftse Posts amongst us.

Finding a middle of the night stop might be harder mind.

For the middle of the night stop, we could fill my sister Kris' pannier bags with pastries and coffee/tea flasks.  I had given here a lecture along the lines of 'don't come kitted out for a trek to Kazakhstan'.  But, my goodness, she do so well!  Never cycled that distance, never cycled at night, brand new bike, recovered from a back injury only days before.  Kept up with everybody, took wonderful photos, contributed to navigation.  I apologise to her for my sense of humour failure as she brightly suggested we cycle the scenic route home from the local train station, on the way back.  I feel so bad, but yep, my sense of humour had gone.  I felt battered and shattered and only wanted to get home as quickly as possible.  I'm very pleased for my sister that she enjoyed herself.  I think she might just have come out tops with her bike taking all the curbs, bumps, cobblestones and tram lines on the way.  She went to work on Monday and felt none the worse for the night ride.  Just amazing.

Other thoughts of the weekend:
  • Kris and I sitting outside on La Grande Place eating waffles was great
  • No rain during the ride
  • No mechanicals
  • Hearing cuckoos a couple of times
  • The little plover (? I think) in Ostend
  • Cycling through Bruges was absolutely wonderful.  I was so in awe that I didn't take any photos.  We were already tired by then, and hunting for break stop was priority.  But next time (if we go through Bruges again), we should wonder around more.  Seeing Bruges empty can be fully appreciated if you've been to Bruges on a typical touristy day.
  • The many professional looking cycling groups going at great speed along the canal.  I would hold my breath in as two opposing groups were crossing ... just next to us.
  • Hearing the word posh so often (???)
  • Celebrating my mum's birthday
  • Coming home (Hanwell), parking, opening the door and hearing a 'YESsssss' from several houses along the street.  A moment later, an even bigger cheer was heard.  The first Yes, was Brentford saving a penalty, the second Yes, was Brentford scoring the winning penalty goal.  The Bees are going to Wembley and I'm going too!  
  • The a low of the news that my parents pet sheep died on the Monday, 16 years old she was
  • The high of my dynamo light with USB port arriving
  • The sky high of bumping into V for Vengadetta at work, who told me about his plans on making electronic shifters for somebody who needs both left and right on the same panel.  Just brilliant and inspiring

What could be improved?
  • Definitive route.  Contrary to what mmmmartin thinks, I'm no good navigator.  I do have a good sense for when I'm lost, which is most of the time.  
  • More scenic route.  The Gentsesteenweg may not need many waymarkers, but there is a lot of sameness.  I love a warts 'n all route, and you do get that when mapping the most direct route between A and B.  I've seen Belgium now, like I have never before!  
  • We'll have scope for a seaside breakfast place, since the ride takes longer than expected, more places will be open
  • Meet at the station? Cycle through the Grote Markt together?
I loved the company and appreciated the team work.  I'm already looking forward to next year.  There is some great feedback (max 20 riders is a good call from BalkanExpress).  mmmmartin could be our transport correspondent, BalkanExpress could be the Brussels - Ghent guru, and my sister and I will explore Ghent to the coast.  

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The 3Down 300

Great news!  The front gear cable snapped.  I was waiting for it.  I wasn't really waiting for the front gear cable to break, but I was waiting for something to happen.  I had woken up on time, got to HQ without problems, knew about the road works, remembered to fill my water bottle, no noises from the mudguards,  lights ok, correct and latest gps file ... everything was just going so well.  It's going to be a puncture in the dark I thought, no, two punctures and a tyre split, or ...  maybe my light will stop working.  But I have backup for all of that.  I was trying to think of something more major, something new.  And there you go, how about a gear cable breaking?

All going well at HQ
I knew it wasn't a showstopper, but I didn't know how to leave the chain on the middle chain ring.  I was looking for a way to release the derailleur spring, which doesn't seem possible.  Thank you to the couple who stopped and advised me to just use the two adjustment screws.  And thank you to the 3 Specialized guys, plus one, for checking up on me whilst waiting at the railway crossing.  At that stage I had already found a new rhythm.  What rhythm, mind!  I felt like a hamster on a treadmill with my legs spinning all day at high revolutions!  On the downhills, when I couldn't pedal to increase speed, I got into uber aerodynamic position.  Cavendish would have been proud of me!  Chest on saddle stuff it was.  Must have looked hilarious, me trying to get every inch of aero advantage, that whilst having a pannier bag hanging off my bike.

And why is this great news?  Because anything that happens now is less likely to happen on the pilgrimage.  More about that in a 'Other thoughts'.

So, once I got back into my rhythm, I was loving the ride.  It was a sunny spring day with the hawthorne finally flowering.  But it's not spring just yet, not till you can smell the hawthorne.  It was a nice sight when a tawny owl flew across me, and in the evening, Colin and I were hearing wonderful owl calls.  There was lots of beautiful country side and wildlife to enjoy.  A more unusual sight was the meadow pipits in the New Forest.  What an elegant bird.

Lots of families were out cycling in the New Forest.   There was one family around me when I had stopped to take the photo below.

Spot the baby cowsie
'O look at that baby cowsie', the youngest boy, 5 years old maybe, had said.  What a wonderful moment, only to be spoiled by the dad.  'And what are baby cowsies called Jay?'  Oh dear, instead he could have told the boy how unusual it is to see cows on the road.  And what about the significance of cattle in religion and the holy cows in India.   Surely his boy was ready for that?  Having the vocabulary 'holy cow' could be useful in later life?  Anyway, Jay said 'calves' before I could bring up the word in my head.

I feel like I've been on holiday during this ride.  A holiday in many countries.  The landscape is so varied.  The river Test valley area is very distinctive and so is the New Forest, of course.   Cycling through Leckford Estate (the Waitrose/John Lewis estate) is like cycling in another world, surrounded by big old imposing trees.

Towards the end of daylight, I was beginning to struggle.  At the 200km mark I could feel I was tired enough for the ride to be over.  And I was struggling to eat much.  Alarm bells!  Focus!  It's important to recognise those signals.  I made sure that at least I would drink milkshakes.   I knew I had to keep my pace to make it round in time.  It might have been a slow pace, but it required as much effort as a fast pace.  I had been cycling on my own for most of the time.  When a bright front light was gradually coming up from behind me, I expect it to be Dave.  We had been leapfrogging each other earlier in the day.  But it was Colin.  We both benefitted from each other's company in that last section.

We arrived at the finish a 1:30AM, with a whole 30 minutes spare.  We were the last to arrive and so earn the lantern rouge honour.  Gordon, whom we had spotted at Winnersh, was eating and sharing his thoughts on the ride: 'tough'.  Ian and son we perfect 'arrival' stewards, just letting us settle before offering tea and dinner.   I had a kip in the car before driving the 15 miles to home.  I parked in front of the house and rather than dash for my bed, I had another kip in the car!

Many thanks to Ian Oliver for organising and team Oliver for the hospitality at the end.

Other thoughts:
  • the ponies, cows and donkeys in the New Forest - never saw them so much out and about on the road
  • I have an ever increasing admiration for people using fixed gear bikes
  • every time there was a climb I thought of the people riding the Hardboiled audax
  • Colin and I concluding that we'd stick to 200s from now on
  • next ride is the Severn Across 400
  • next month (!) I'm setting off on a pilgrimage to Russia covering 3000km to reach the Solovetsky islands in the White Sea.  A monk setup a monastery there back in 1436. That monk is known as St Zozimus, the patron saint of beekeepers.  John Spooner is joining me.  Our visas are in, the ride is on.  
Photos are here: MyPhotos

Saturday, 30 March 2013

FNRttC Bognor

The first ride in the FNRttC season is not one to be missed.  It has elevated levels of anticipation and anxiety.  Do we still know how to do this?  'Haven't put enough miles in this winter'.  One never does, and especially not this winter, which was dominated by 'easterly winds from Siberia'.  

You gather at Hyde Park Corner, and the natural thing to say is 'Happy New Year'!  From then on, it's business as usual.  Simon does his, what I call, B&B routine.  It's a demonstration, with audience participation, of the hand signals and calls used on the ride.  But it's the finale of the bollards and bungalows signals that leads to the rapturous applause!

Full moon at Hyde Park Corner
At midnight, we're on our way to the coast.

The ride had a great flow and rhythm about it.   Everybody was keen to keep going without standing around too much.  There were some long stretches of road for stretching the legs.  It was great.  The windchill wasn't too bad either.   I noted how the coldest part of my body were my legs.   I had used double gloves and double socks and layered up warm generally.  I still had knee warmers which I could have put on, but the stove in the Cabin warmed me up enough that I forgot about it.

We stopped at Pulborough by the bridge.  It was a lovely spot with a sunrise moment to treasure.  I was totally surprised though that I couldn't drink from my water bottle.  I knew that the water has become a frozen slush, but not that the mouth piece was completely frozen solid.

Breakfast at the Lobster Pot Cafe was fantastic.  Both service and food were top notch.  Nice to see Titus and Miranda joining the group.

The train journey back home was busy but trouble free.   Once home, my afternoon kip was longer than usual after a night ride.  And this morning my legs were telling me that there must have been some hills along the route.

Thanks to Simon, TECs and riders for all the effort that goes into making it another memorable night.

Just a few photos: MyPhotos

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Dean 300 Perm

Entering The Dean 300km perm costs £3.50.  Getting the train from the first control, Stow, back to Oxford costs £9.50, so I found out.  That's right, I didn't even cycle back to the start after deciding that it wasn't going to be my day.

The funniest thing was that when I had made my decision, my legs still kept spinning.  Stop! Stop right now, turn the bike around and cycle back.  But my legs kept going.  I've become an automobile, I thought.  It helped me comply with one of my ritualistic rules:  always get to the start, always get to the first control.  I got to Stow already behind time, with an average of 13km/hr, just.  The organiser might have forgiven this if I had still managed to finish in time overall.  But it was one in a series of signals, that this wasn't going to be my day.

The Dean 300 is an x-rated event, even as a calendar event, let alone as a perm.  It comes with a warning that 'if you are not sure that you can ride safely then you are advised not to start'.  When iddu contacted me suggesting he might join me, I was delighted, it's on!   In fact, a lesson learnt is that you should always create a thread on yacf to 'advertise' the intention of riding a winter perm.  As it happens, another forumite called 'Can't Climb', also did the Dean yesterday.  He called it 'brutal'!  If we had all linked up we would all have had a greater chance of finishing and in a less brutal way.  Chapeau to 'Can't Climb', for finishing and then picking up his friend who bailed out at Membury. That is heroic.

I regretted not cycling back from Stow.  I had to deal with another grump, the train guard.  The word Grumpalo came to mind.  Alo, Grump, are you Mr Grumpalo?  'You're going to make the train late, mate!', he said. Oh, a rhyme, how wonderful, Julia Donaldson would approve!  Me making the train late is your problem I said thought.  Either tell me to get the next train, or help me to get on more quickly by telling me where the carriage is and other such instructions.  I got on and dared not sit down for fear of another telling off for making the seat wet.  I was soaked through of course.  So I stood under the heater which was in the ceiling just by the luggage section.  Lovely...  Till we got to Kingham.  Then cold air come through.  Mr Grumpalo at work, I'm sure.

Whilst on the train, I ate my Malborough bun.  I'd never heard of Marlborough buns before, so I bought it as a snack for when I was going through Malborough, all being well.  But all was not well.

Iddu abandoned, because the temporary fix of a tyre split, found after two punctures, wasn't to be trusted on a 300.

Iddu fixing a puncture
Now I was on my own again, and it was the thought of flooded potholed lanes in the dark that I couldn't get out of my mind.  The roads were terrible and drivers are more aggressive in bad weather conditions.  I was talking myself out of this ride.  The night before, I had had bad premonitions in my dream, the details of which I'll spare my mother.

Then I got a puncture myself.  No, not my day.  And I had lost my mental bottle.

I found myself tweeting more than normal, yep, I had truly given up on this ride.

So I got home in time to watch some fantastic rugby.  Then I had an afternoon kip as if had done a 200km ride.  I went to bed early.  Rain on the roof woke me up at 2AM, I would still have been cycling, most likely.  I'm pleased I wasn't stubborn, this one could have ended up in tears.

Thanks to Andrew for administering the perm.  Thanks to iddu.  We have unfinished business, as they say.

Some photos here.

The Oxford Ox

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Ditchling Devil 200 Perm

Cycling in Richmond Park before the cars get in is like being the only swimmer in a swimming pool.

Richmond Park at dawn
It took a while to get out of the park again though, because I seem to have been ahead of the 'opening of gates' schedule.  It was great to see the deer wondering about.

I found this ride much harder than the Poor Student the other week.  I had to watch the time and keep going.  This was probably due to the headwind going south and from Turners Hill, it got quite cold.  Think of the benefits I told myself!  I had bruised my left foot in a fall earlier in the week, so it needed icing.  My feet definitely got the cold treatment.

It was little weird to cycle past the Burstow Scout hut.  That is something from the FNRttC world.  So it was strange to see it in daylight.

I was very happy with my bike.  I was over the moon!  Because I hadn't ridden it since the Kiwi Hunt 1200 February 2012.   The bike had been in a dismantled state since the flight back from New Zealand.  Just looking at the bike hanging in the shed kept bringing back memories of pain, darkness and hallucinations.  But I finally took the bike to the Bikehub.  Mike and David helped bring it back into a rideable state and more!  It now has a pannier rack, so it's on the way to become a tourer bike which I'll use on the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is less than 3 months away!  Thank you so much to Mike and David for helping me out.

The ride back from Brighton is wonderful.  I might keep that route on my GPS for when I feel inclined to ride back after a FNRttC.  It's a really nice route through rolling countryside.

A highlight was Devil's Dyke.  Amazing how I've never been on that side of the downs before.  The views, despite it being a grey day, were excellent.  And of course, it was the halfway point, with the prospect of a tailwind.  No comedy moments to report this time. 

I indulged in my craving for chips after finishing.  No salt 'n vinegar thanks.

Many thanks to Paul Stewart for organising this perm.  The calendar event is on in June.

A few photos are here: MyPhotos

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Poor Student 200 Perm

The Poor Student 200 is a favourite ride of mine.  An audax I've done the most often.  It starts in Oxford, goes south west to Malmesbury, then north through Cirencester where the huge yew hedge is, to Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds, and back to Oxford (Map).  Beautiful and varied country side.  Look at the photo below, I almost want to take up horse riding.

You see the mist hanging around?  It was foggy pretty much the whole day.  There were just a couple of hours in the morning when the sun broke through.  Unless I cycled out of it?  I don't mind, you get different perspectives of the scenery and buildings.

Fog at 6PM
Had a comedy moment in one of the petrol stations I stopped at.  There was a grumpy women at the till, the only till, so I had no choice.  I had already spotted her, and she had given me the look as I entered the shop.  It wasn't a look you might get in art galleries.  Still, I got to pay for the few items I had gathered.  Then the dreaded happened.  In slow motion, she reached for a carrier bag.  I didn't want a bag, I didn't need a bag, I didn't ask for a bag, she didn't ask if I wanted a bag, the bag was going to end up in the bin.  My instinct told me to go with it, rather than deal with the grump-stare.  But my audax instinct kicked in also.  My cartoon clock appeared, where willy wonkas (or Oompa Loompas) have to make huge efforts to move the little hand by one second.  The more the second is wasted, the harder it is for them to move the hand.  Mrs Grump had got hold of a carrier bag, but rather than hand it to me, as I expected her to do in a grumpy way, she had a moment of customer service overkill, and wanted to open the bag for me.  Only she didn't manage it!  Poor willy wonkas, they were exhausted.  10 seconds probably, it took.  At least it was warm inside, you might say, but I still chose to eat outside.

Outside, I happily observed the petrol station dynamics.  Then a car broke down, 'can't get it into gear' the man said.  Phone calls, discussions with other drivers, 'sorry mate's, hazards lights ...

Just then I realised I hadn't asked for a receipt.  Darn!  I'll have to go back into grump vibe city.  True enough, she was in top form by then: 'That man has broken down on my forecourt and he hasn't even had the decency to come and tell me.'   I managed to suppress my giggles.

Saw quite a few cyclists on the road, racers, mountain bikers, road cyclists.  All very friendly and cheery.  It was a wonderful day.  I was very pleased with how this first 200 of the year went.  I feel I'm 'back on the road'.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • thanks to Pat for administering this perm event
  • thanks for the tweets I received
  • missed opportunity to bump into Nuncio2 on a Malmesbury Mash (which I think was the David Lewis ride?)
  • next week is Paul Stewart's Ditchling Devil 200 perm
  • I had made Paul Hollywood's Chelsea buns for this ride.  I like making these, and they are perfect for a winter's ride, with dates, raisins, apricots and cranberries

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Watership Down 100

You forget.  You forget the rituals around audaxing.

  • You forget that you shouldn't rely on just one alarm clock.
  • You forget that putting the bike flat in the car with the full water bottle in the cage is bad news.
  • You forget that you need a pencil or pen with you.
  • You forget that the right hand side pocket is where you should always put your camera.
  • You forget that the light brackets are where the winter mudguards should go.
  • You forget that taking a change of clothes for after the ride is a good idea.

But you don't forget that audax riding is just brilliant.

  • You don't forget the warm welcome you'll get when entering the HQ hall.
  • You don't forget the wonderful landscapes in Britain.
  • You don't forget that the organisers work out the best route possible.
  • You don't forget that there will be talk about LEL.
  • You don't forget that the brevet card must be signed at the end.
  • You don't forget that great feeling when you get home.
  • You don't forget to enter the next ride

Photos of the ride: MyPhotos

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Fridays Windows and Death Ride

You always learn something new about London when you're out with the Fridays.  This was certainly going to be true about today's daytime Windows and Death Ride.

Just look around you, look up, and left and right.  It's all there for you to see.  But what is not there, is Simon and Ian's personal take on London historical events.  A big thank you to them both for sharing facts on history and architecture in such an entertaining way.

It all started in Queen Anne's Gate.  I like the picture below as you can't see any windows.  Simon explained the reason for that.  You should have been there to hear!

Anna Regina

The Great Stink!  Simon described it so well, that I felt like I was cycling in Dickens' time for a while. When we went through the Savoy Place Pedestrian way, I could even smell it!

Passage from Savoy Place to Adelphi Terrace
Why were flush toilets not a good idea at the time and what did Sir Joseph Bazalgette do to start the clean up the Victorian capital?  It's not the same as hearing it from Simon, but you can read about it here: The Great Stink

Below is Ian talking about Lenin and linoleum.  Myths were demystified.  Handouts were handed out.

From Clerkenwell Green we moved towards Worship Street and Worship Mews.

Philip Webb is the architect of these mews.  I wasn't getting it at the time, I admit.  Why was Simon so animated about these building?  So I had to do some googling.    I read wikis and history pages.  I found the connection between Webb and Morris.  I finally really got it, when I read the introduction to Kitty Valentine by thegentleauthor on this blog: About a Worship Mews resident.

I love learning something new about London.  And the day was concluded by talking about baking and  cycling plans for 2013.   Oh and LEL.  Anybody thinking about it, just register.  Entries open 5th January (tomorrow at time of posting).

Thank you Simon, Ian and the Fridays' company.

Photos are here: MyPhotos