Muse

Shocked. I’m shocked.

On looking back I’ve realised its over a year since I last posted an entry and frankly I’m appalled at my lack of effort so I’ve made a very early New Year’s Resolution to try harder!

As an aside, I see that my last post – Foo Fighters – mentions not only having missed out on seeing them but also my non-entry into the London to Brighton off-road ride. And ironically I actually saw the Foos at their recent O2 gig in the week before I once again missed out on the ride. So there are two things to take away here:

  1. Foo Fighters are extremely loud but extremely worthwhile seeing!
  2. I really will be taking part in that ride challenge “Next Year”….

I do have, I believe, a reasonable excuse for not attempting the 75mile challenge this year because I’ve had a large amount of work done on my house and that meant that my bike went into storage from November right through till April. By the time I got back on the saddle fitness levels were suffering so and with the constraints of a job I was never going to be confident of getting back to the condition I would want to attempt the ride.

In fact the summer hasn’t helped either: wet weather is never that encouraging for getting out on the trail, especially if you know its going to hurt!

But, right at the death of the summer, I’ve got back on it and its amazing the boost you get from a good dose of endorphins. Last week I did a new ride around Godalming in Surrey – a lovely part of the world and quite a challenging ride. Only 19-odd miles but lots of climbs, terrain ranging from road, rocks, sandy soil and muddy farm tracks. And all in an area with incredibly expensive real estate.

Check out some photos:

One place I have to share on its own is Cutt Mill Pond:

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A fabulous place: I scared up about 4 herons it was so quiet and looks as beautiful as any view in the Lake District imho…. But wait, its got a back story. Look away now those of delicate sensibilities…

This is the scene of unsolved murders from 1932 as explained here by Get Surrey a quite incredible true crime mystery!

So there you go – my first challenging ride in quite a while and it was a good one – if not on the legs due to the amount of stinging nettles that left my legs tingling till the next day. At least I can be sure I’m not allergic….

And finally to the tune: the endorphins, the country air, wind in the face. Yes I was feeling good and so is this tune. Enjoy!

Muse – Feeling Good

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Foo Fighters

Oh the irony: yes its over a year since Dave broke his leg and my one chance of seeing the Foos disappeared in front of my eyes and about 100million people on Youtube, but some things don’t get any less painful…

Speaking of painful, the shoulder operation has been an apparent success: I seem to have more movement with less pain so hopefully its going in the right direction. But I can tell you its not been a bowl of cherries – the immediate aftermath was pretty uncomfortable and lots of painkillers didn’t make a massive difference. The procedure is called Sub-Acromial Decompression which I’ve heard is referred to as SAD – and I can personally confirm this is an appropriate acronym!

But that’s all behind me now, with the exception of regular visits to the sadist that is the physio. Apparently what he does to me is all for my own good – I’m yet to  be convinced.

He did, however, say I could get back on the bike and for the last couple of weeks I’ve eased myself back into the saddle – yippee!! I can’t tell you how much I’d missed it. Certainly my waistline has too so that’s another reason for getting back to laying down the miles and burning the calories. You know it makes sense!

And it all coincided with the annual London to Brighton off-road event coming past my front door. I had hoped to participate this year and actually raise funds but obviously the surgery had put paid to that. But now I have another goal – to take part, finish and to raise some money for the British Hear Foundation who organise the whole thing.

I’ve got a whole year ahead of me to train and get ready and possibly tempt you all to donate a little towards my efforts. I promise I wont be overbearing about it!

And that leads me to this post’s tune: its all about Next Year!

Happy cycling (or whatever you’re doing!)

 

 

Curiosity Killed The Cat

It’s been a while since my last post (I’ll get to that shortly) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been out and about on the bike. I’ve also spent time looking at/following some other blogs and had some follows in return – so welcome to all those folks: I hope you like what you find here!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’ve had to give up on my intended participation in this years London to Brighton Off-Road event. After making it the full distance last year I was really looking forward to doing it and raising lots of cash for the British Heart Foundation

The reason is that I’ve got to have surgery on my shoulder that I landed on when I went over the handlebars of my bike. Yes, it was my embarrassing accident when I’d just bought the bike and made it all of 50yds before taking a spill…. After 18mths, X-rays, MRI scan and a steroid injection, they’ve told me that there is nothing else for it.

Subacromial impingement they call it: googling it mentions rotator cuffs and all sorts of things that I’ve only ever heard referred to with NFL quarterbacks! I’m sure they wouldnt have to wait that long…

So mid-June is when its planned and apparently I’m looking at three months rehab which blows my chances of training for the ride. I’m just keeping everything crossed that I can go out for some gentle rides over the summer or I’m going to a) feel cooped up and b) probably suffer an expanding waistline.

Neither is a great prospect eh?

So for now I’m enjoying the riding I can do and hoping to try some new routes over the next few weeks and then will have to keep my fingers crossed that I’m a quick healer!

And, if you’re of a mind, don’t let my non-participation stop you from making a donation – the BHF are a very worthy cause.

Now to the music – I was thinking of Chumbawamba (“I get knocked down but I get up again”) but I didn’t get knocked down as such. So Curiosity’s Down to Earth seemed more appropriate. Enjoy an 80’s belter, and Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot’s dancing! A classic!

 

 

Queen… or The Buggles?

A picture paints a thousand words, right? So after a year or so of writing all these lovely words (in my humble opinion of course) I saw some videos on line of people filming their exploits: bungee jumping; surfing; and cycling. Some of them were run of the mill, some of them pretty damn awesome.

And that reminded me of when I’ve been out on the bike and seen something that simply can’t be explained in a way that anyone listening will fully appreciate.

For example, last year I was in Richmond Park when I came across 3 deer blocking the path. I got to within 2 metres of the beasts with their massive (and scary!) antlers. They let me get that close! The deer then wandered off and I was free to carry on but I’d never normally try to get so close to them.

The trouble is that those words don’t convey just how amazing that experience was.

So, after seeing other people’s films and getting some money for Christmas, I decided to lash it all on a Gopro and use it to record my rides and maybe more. Now I’m not expecting to get a “You’ve Been Framed” moment on each and every ride – although getting just one, along with the £250 would be most welcome – but you never know what I might capture on film.

And if I get run over by a car it might be helpful to prove my undoubted innocence!

Last week, after spending much time trying to work out the instructions, I finally got out on the bike with the Gopro attached but realised that a 90minute ride isnt exactly the most riveting viewing. So I “edited”the footage into something slightly more interesting and I hope you find it a bit entertaining!

And you may notice I’ve set up a YouTube channel – please subscribe to keep up to date with anything I might upload!

 

And now for the music! Two songs came to mind so I thought I’d give you both! Enjoy.

Frank Turner

Well hello there…. Been a while hasn’t it?

I can imagine that, just like a lot of other bloggers, I’m making something of the fact that it’s a new year and therefore its time to get back to the website. If that’s the case then I apologise for not being particularly original. But hey, at least I’m bringing you some good tunes to go with my thoughts!

And that links to my excuse for not having been particularly active over the last few months.

As my About page details, my blog is mainly about my cycling exploits (except for when I want a rant or two…!) and, frankly, since the last post there has been precious little cycling going on. I do have excuses: illness; work; pesky shorter days. All of those have played their part in the lack of miles recorded on my sat nav. In fact I seem to have stopped receiving automated reminders so I think even the app has given up on me!!

But one of the big factors has been the weather. I’m happy to own up as a fair-weather cyclist for a number of reasons. Whilst its actually quite good fun getting muddy I can assure you that it is no fun when you get home. Especially for the person who does the washing… (not me I’m afraid!).

Then there is cleaning of the bike itself.

None of which gives the greatest of incentives for getting out on two wheels. But with the excesses of Christmas behind me I reckon I’m going to have to bite that bullet to get the lungs working and the waistline reducing!

So wish me luck please – I’ll need the encouragement!

Now to the music – one of my favourite singer/songwriters here and, quite appropriately, his recent single regarding the aftermath of the 2014 floods which happened right around where I live. Enjoy!

 

PS – just a quick pic of me, Mrs D and my good mate Andy at Frank Turner’s recent Alexandra Palace gig!

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Elvis Costello

Just over two weeks on and I’m recovered, back on the bike and now in training for another event. Only 27 miles this time – childs play!!

If you fancy it, Evans Cycles RideIt! events are well worth having a go – they are well organised, good fun and give you 3 options to try: Short, Medium or Long/Epic. I’ve signed up for one around Basingstoke so it’ll be good to try somewhere I’ve never been before.

But now to today’s subject at hand. And its one of my pet peeves I’m afraid!

Folding bikes…. Bromptons…. Just wtf are they all about? I’m sorry, but they simply are not bikes. I can understand they have a use for commuters and, in doing so give us some good comedy value:

However, during my recent training runs I came across more and more people riding them off-road and, on occasion, attempting quite severe off-track climbs that you’d struggle to walk up!! Not only that but everyone riding them seemed to have some sort of fixed glazed smiling expression usually seen on the faces of hare krishna followers!

Is there some sort of endorphin-based high that you get when you have to pedal far too much because your ride has ridiculously small wheels?

But the final straw came during the Prudential Ride 100 when I saw this:

Grrrrrrrrrrrr……

Why does this all annoy me? I frankly have no idea! We all have our pet peeves, me maybe more than most. But I can safely say that you can include these “bikes” in my list!

Anyway, rant now over. I’ve gone public. Time for some music. Its a bit of a laboured connection but Brompton is next Chelsea – and I dont want to go to either…!

Alice Cooper

Hip bones. Yes hip bones. I’ve got some!!

On the face of it, you might think this is an odd thing to mention but whilst I wouldn’t say I’m fat, I would admit to having a degree of “frontal padding” which, by its nature, has meant that I haven’t really found my hip bones much in evidence in recent years. This has changed.

Unfortunately, the reason for the recent reappearance of these bony protruberances is a dose of food poisoning. Not good.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever suffered this experience? Personally I’d thought that I might have in the past but I can now say for definite that I never have because this is such an unpleasant illness that I would certainly know it if I had.

After six, yes SIX, days of not eating properly (and if you know me personally you know that this is unheard of), drinking only clear fluids and NO booze, the obvious side-effect is always going to be weight loss. My clothes feel looser and, when I went to bed last night, I realised I could feel my hip bones. And the weird thing is that, despite not feeling great and the reason for their re-emergence, I was actually quite pleased.

This brought me on to thinking about how easy it is for people to get into unhealthy mindsets about diet and weight loss. OK I’d like to weigh less, but should I be happy about losing weight when having a bad illness? I don’t really think so. Now I’m not the sort of person that is going to become obsessive about weight: I enjoy food far too much for that to ever happen. But it highlights how easy someone could become obsessed. Add in media, lifestyle and peer pressures and you’ve got a loaded gun sitting on shelf waiting for someone with the right (or, more accurately, wrong) disposition to come along and pull that mental trigger.

Girl or boy, in this world we live in no-one is really immune to this risk.

Even old-ish curmudgeons like me see older public figures (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, et al) and feel pressure to look better. There’s magazines such as Men’s Health or GQ (which I’m sure never used to be like it is now….) which don’t help the blokes!

Don’t get me wrong: fitness, good diet and all forms of healthy living are a good thing. But my revelation of today just got me thinking of how easy it is for these initial good intentions to slip into a dark place from where it can quickly develop into a potentially dangerous obsession.

For my part, I’m sure that as soon as I am feeling better my appetite will return and the hip bones will once again sink back below the “insulation” that I put on. As you can imagine, I haven’t been out cycling for a while but once I’m back in the saddle, maybe they will reappear when the exercise I put in results in weight loss by that means. And that’s a lot better way to lose weight than being ill. And its more fun!

As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of songs about illness. But this is a fave of mine:

Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston

Hi everyone. It’s been a while eh? Well it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve got the excuse that I’ve been off sunning myself in Turkey.

What a fabulous place. Great beaches, great countryside, great food and people. It was my first trip and it certainly won’t be my last. I even got to play around in some ancient ruins:

Ruins at Patara, Turkey

But, after getting home, it’s obviously necessary to get back on the bike. But the weather has been great and it’s much nicer to have company when cycling so why not have a trip out with Mrs D (after all, her bike didn’t get stolen) and enjoy the treats that the canal and river have to offer?

There are a few things to note when cycling in a pair or group: there’s always limited space and you don’t want an accident or, even worse, end up in the river! Pedestrians are a greater hazard and, obviously, at greater risk when there’s more than one of you.

Pay attention! Despite it being ideal weather conditions we still had a couple of close shaves with one old geezer (with an improbably long beard) nearly riding into me head-on despite my ever-more-frantic bell ringing…. He was just looking across the canal at all the pretty houses and not paying a blind bit of attention. Fool.

But these are mere annoyances. It was great to have conversation, mutual enjoyment and, mainly, a picnic!

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I’m afraid I can’t prove that this was a picnic as I’d scoffed the food before I took the photo, but I did take the picnic blanket. That proves it, doesn’t it??

And the other benefit of there being more people on the ride is that someone can watch your bike whilst you get the beers in!

IMAG1093So it was a good way to ease myself back into the saddle!

One last thing to be cautious of is that some parts of the path can be a bit narrow for two bikes. As a good friend Andy found out a few weeks back, this can hide hazards like logs which, in his case, spilt him off the bike and into nettles. Ouch. Good news Andy: the log has been moved so you’re safe next time we go out!

So the moral of this post is that it’s nice to have company! As the music will testify:

Culture Club

Well I’ve learnt a lesson this week. Actually, I’ve learnt a few, all in one go.

Let’s go back to last Wednesday night: after going to bed I heard noises and just thought it was the neighbours. They’re not that noisy but sometimes you hear movement or voices. But hey, that’s what happens when there is someone living next door…

Next morning I got up and went downstairs and just happened to glance out through the back doors. At this point I spotted that my shed doors were wide open and I could see that my bike was no longer there. OH NO! On investigation I found that the shed door lock was hanging off and although they still had to get it out of the garden, the gate padlock had also been removed.

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Where’s my bike?? At least they left Mrs D’s wheels (and basket!)

When I told my wife she said she’d also heard noises in the night but that she had woken up fully and knew it was coming from outside. But what she didn’t realise was that what she was actually hearing was my bike getting nicked.

After that initial sick feeling, knowing that my prized possession was no longer in my care and control, (and thinking about how much it had cost me) I realised that a whole load of hassle was about to ensue: and I was right. Call the police; call the insurance; make a list of all of the accessories that were attached; look into how to get a new bike; buy locks; repair the shed; the list goes on.

All the while feeling angry, upset and infuriated that someone thinks that its OK to come into my property and take my possession. Bastards!

The good people at Evans Cycles were really helpful: they had the same bike still in stock and I’ve already been out and replaced it! So luckily I’m still mobile although I’m still missing some bits and pieces that I will get in due course. Its come as quite a surprise how many parts and accessories I’d added (shhh, don’t mention how much I’d spent…).

So what do I take away as learnings from this whole sorry saga? Here’s a few things that have occurred to me:

  1. Don’t ignore noises outside your house at night! You might not save your bike but you can at least yell at them and give them a scare before calling the feds. (But please don’t confront anyone: after all it’s just a bike and you don’t know what sort of scumbag you’d be squaring up to…)
  2. Security, security, security. Get it sorted before you need it! As I’ve learnt to my cost, afterwards is too late. I’ve actually now added FIVE locks and an alarm to my overall security set up! Any future thief will have to be prepared to spend a good deal of effort and time, and risk making a row (let alone the alarm going off) if they want to relieve me of my possessions in future.
  3. Insurance. Get it insured so that, if the worst happens, you know you’ll get some help to get back on two wheels (or three if you’ve got a trike!)

But the most surprising lesson I’ve learnt is how bad it makes you feel. At the end of the day you’ve worked hard to earn the money to buy something (bike, watch, Picasso, it’s still your possession) and some scrote thinks they can just walk off with it. And the police have little chance of catching them so maybe they are right. You’re just left with an empty space where that item used to be, and an overwhelming sense of injustice at the unfairness of the world.

In fact, I’m now ultra-aware of any odd noises coming from the general direction of “outside.” That’s the reason I’ve opted for the alarm because it will generate an unusual noise that can’t be mistaken for anything else.

Other than that, the future is now in the lap of the gods so let’s keep fingers crossed eh? And if you’d do that for me too then that would much appreciated!

Now its music time: I could have gone with the Bad Boys theme but this is my favourite Culture Club song so I decided to go with looking at things from my perspective. I’m not giving those thieving gits any more acknowledgement than I need to! Enjoy.

LaBelle or Anita Ward?

When Saffi was still with us (see About) I did a lot of walking and had a fairly low opinion of bikes that would come flying past with no warning, leaving me with nothing but a racing pulse and the aroma of their sweat. Nice.

I couldn’t understand why they didn’t use their bell. Every bike has one and it’s not going to rival an iPhone in the high-tech stakes is it? I mean, come on, how difficult could it be? Well very apparently, for a lot of cyclists.

Do you want to risk an accident? Do you want people to think you’re an arrogant fool? Or do you really think you’re that special? I’m guessing the answer is “no” to all three questions. So USE YOUR BELL!

But, like everything, it’s not what you’ve got, its how you use it.

Actually, that’s not quite true. There’s a lot of bells to choose from and I’ve found that some are quite quiet and some are a lot louder. Check this out:

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It calls itself loud and will currently cost you £3.11 from Tredz. Not exactly a kings ransom is it? And if it saves you from a crash (either with a person or something inanimate after swerving to avoid a person) then surely you’d agree it’s a bargain.

So back to how to use the bell. You’d think it’d be a quick ping and that’s it. Not a chance. This is where you have to take a breath, look around, and realise your place in the scheme of things. As I’ve said, you’re not the only person on the trail/path and using your bell as a weapon to send the message “Grrrr. Get out of my bloody way” is not going to be the most productive approach.

Use it as a warning aid. I ring my bell a couple or three times in plenty of time for any pedestrian to move to one side or another or, as some people do, give you a thumbs up to indicate they’ve heard you and you’re free to pass without scaring the pants off them. If I’m not sure they’ve heard, then I slow down and ping again. As long as they’re not weaving like a drunk then I’ll pass by whilst giving as much space as possible.

Then everyone is as safe and comfortable as they can be.

And don’t forget to be polite! If people move out of the way, they have done something for you so remember what your mother told you and say “Thank You.” Good manners cost nothing!

Lastly, it sets a good example to people with young kids out on their bikes to give them a ding, a wave and a “Thank you.” That way you can feel smug about showing the next generation how to behave!

Let me reiterate one more time: Use your bell. There is no reason not to and it makes you a better and nicer cyclist.

OK, so far so pro-pedestrian. Yes, cyclists can be inconsiderate rude sods. I see enough of them when I’m out on my bike. It always makes me shake my head. But this is where we move on to the other side of the coin.

For god’s sake would you pedestrians, would you please keep your eyes and ears open! I cannot tell you how many times I cycle towards couples or groups and they simply don’t register your presence. I mean, how engrossed in a conversation do you have to be not to realise that there is a big bloke on a big bike coming at you with his bell ringing away? Or putting yourself into your own world with headphones so that you’re oblivious to your surroundings?

It seems that some people on foot believe that they can yield all personal responsibility for their own safety. I wouldn’t say they deserve all they get but….. If you hear a bell, move out of the way: it’s safest for everyone. Its not rocket science either.

In summary people, try to get along and realise that whether you’re a cyclist or a pedestrian, you’re both as entitled to be there as each other. There’s enough conflict in life: you’ve made the effort to go out and enjoy yourself so make sure you do.

Sermon over. At least on the subject of bells.

Now for the music. What a choice this week: an artist to give a great link to the subject or another disco classic with a slightly more obscure reference. Which to choose? Tell you what, have both.

It’s my turn to dish out a Brucie bonus. Enjoy