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.

Fleetwood Mac

Brrrr. Cold isn’t it?

Up till the last week or so we’ve been spoilt so far this winter in the UK, as its been quite mild weather compared to the average year. Unfortunately for some people this has brought lots of rain and flooding as I mentioned in my last post. Having had that happen two years ago in the area that I live I can certainly sympathise.

This weather has, as I said before, discouraged me from hitting the trails due to the mud and associated clean up that would be needed.

Now finally we’ve had a dry spell and tomorrow I’m hoping that I can finally get back out! Yippeeee!

Hang on a second though. Dry weather in winter = cold. And if you’re on a bike that means pretty damn cold. I’ve seen other guys out and about in the past couple of days and some of them look like they may as well be wearing a sleeping bag!

Needless to say, if it’s that cold then don’t expect me to be joining their ranks. That’s just too much commitment for me. I admire their spirit but I like central heating too much.

In preparation I’ve got a bit of a checklist prepared: winter gloves; lip salve; Buff snood (also very useful if you want to look like a pirate!!); and even tights (padded of course). I’m telling you: I’m not getting cold for no-one!

So there we are, I’m ready and set. All I need now is the opportunity and I’ll be off for my first ride of 2016. I’m feeling guilty that its been so long but can’t wait to burn some calories. My waistline needs to reduce. My heart, lungs and legs need a workout. And I need some endorphins. All in all its a no-brainer.

Just keep your fingers crossed for me that my motivation doesn’t desert me. Thanks!

Now for the tune: OK its called “Don’t Stop” but the next words are “thinking about tomorrow.” You see what I did there?

 

 

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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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:

50572_1_Zoom

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

Journey

[Alternatively: The (tow)path to success…. or failure?]

Goals. Its good to have a goal I reckon. After spending time on the bike I thought that I might want to do more than just ride up and down a section of the Thames. I then received a delivery of an online order from someone like Wiggle which contained a leaflet for an organised ride on something called the Lemming Trail. Great name.

(Incidentally, Wiggle will sometimes add a little Brucie bonus to your order like a packet of Haribo – what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to be a lemming so started looking at other rides and there’s loads of them. I’m sure you’ve all seen people bombing around the roads at the weekend but, as I ride off-road, I saw that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in an organised ride without risking life and limb on the roads. (Just watching the crowds of cyclists clashing with traffic on Box Hill on a Sunday is stressful enough: forget riding….)

And then one September day I left my house and found lots of people whizzing past along the towpath with British Heart Foundation entry numbers attached. A quick google and I found the London to Brighton off road event and the seed of a plan was planted.

Two years on, I’m enrolled and in training. God help me.

To illustrate the challenge I face, its 75miles in one day and I’ve done well to manage 90miles in one week. So the training distances need to step up a tad.

Then there’s the terrain. A quick check of the elevation profile for the ride shows some pretty steep climbs and likewise with the descents.

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London to Brighton elevation

As a comparison, below is the elevation profile of my longest route to date:

richmond

Towpath to Richmond Park with a loop of the path

Quite similar you’d think? Until you realise that my chart is about a third of the distance that I need to achieve and the climbs/descents on the top chart are compressed in distance compared to the lower chart.

One thing is for certain: I have four months and a lot of hard work ahead of me if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Wish me luck!

 

And now for your reward for getting this far down. A little predictable but hey…..

Genesis

(After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my hook will be a music theme to the title of each post. Ambitious? Twee? Pointless? You’ll have to decide! Anyway, see the end of each post for a title-based treat!)

Now whilst the title might not immediately appear to make much sense, I wanted to share how my interest developed since first getting a bike. The first thing to consider is that it’s a machine, toy and gadget it will there for qualify for that bloke trait that says that anything that can be tinkered with, will be tinkered with.

I started with a standard “off the peg” mountain bike (a Giant Talon Zero 2010 model) and only thought that I needed three things: a pump, mudguards and a lock. Simple, you’d think…. Oh no, no, no! And that’s before you consider price! A quick trip to Evans Cycles in Wimbledon sorted me out but at a total cost of £70-odd! The mudguards were fine but I’d only learn later that the pump and lock weren’t really fit for purpose. Probably the sort of error that is commonplace for newbies.

So off I scooted, got a few rides under my belt. All well and good you’d think. Not a bit of it!! There’s immediately a few problems I think I need to address. The first problem is a bit sensitive. Tender, if you will. Yep its the botty! Not something to be sniffed at (sorry for that mental image…)

OK, that’s easily sorted: padded undershorts. Feels a bit weird like wearing a nappy, but the saddle-soreness is a thing of the past. Phew!

Next problem is the my poor little mitts: they got a bit fuzzy and numb after riding for a while. What does one do? Well in time-honoured male fashion you google it and then see what toys are available to solve the issue! That leads to a special pair of handlebar grips to help with the vibration effects. Huzzah!

Remember, this is still at the very beginning of my venture into mountain biking!

Since then there’s been so many other things to address: pedals; saddle; chain; tyres; tubes; seat post; lights. The list goes on. And that doesn’t include tools and maintenance equipment or clothing!

But guess what: IT’S GREAT!!

Us blokes love this sort of thing and, even when its dark out or winter/raining hard, you can still get online and spend hours comparing, contrasting, deciding on your next purchase or seeking advice on forums.

But, remember, none of this is compulsory! Its just what I did and whilst I’ve ended up with some dud purchases, there’s also some great ones! In the end, I suppose, it depends on what you ultimately want to get out of cycling. Want to commute but have to leave your bike somewhere public: you be unwise spend thousands just for it to disappear whilst you’re working! Want to get into pedalling but unsure of whether you’ll like it? There are plenty of budget options. That’s what I’ve done and whilst I’ve upgraded my bike recently (I’ll talk about that in a future post) I still look around to see what I want to get next!!

So that’s my initial experience: its daunting at first but you soon get to grips with terminology and realise there are bags of resources out there. Don’t be afraid to use them and pretty quickly you’ll be talking the talk with the best of them!!

 

Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for: enjoy a 90’s classic!

 

My big idea

I’ll try to keep this brief as I think its best to start this project by trying to explain why I’ve decided to start a blog. Especially as anyone who knows me would be fully aware of my (formerly) deep and abiding hatred of those on two wheels! I grew up in Brighton and have also worked in a driving-centric job in London: these experiences had given me a view of cyclists that was, frankly, less than flattering. What with jumping red lights, weaving recklessly through traffic and riding the wrong way up one-way streets, to riding on pavements and hurling abuse at motorists, I thought I had a pretty reasonable opinion of the lycra-clad masses that you find creating moving hazards along The Embankment every rush hour.

However, a few years ago I decided to join a gym and I had a go at spinning. I found it quite enjoyable so, when I later came into possession of a mountain bike, I thought I’d give cycling a chance.

Revelation!! Cycling is actually enjoyable!!

Now don’t for a second imagine that I’ve had a complete conversion and no longer hold any of the views that I’ve hinted at above: I’m sure at some point I’ll probably cover what my problem is with some cyclists. And, in the interest of balance, I’ll do the same from a two-wheeled perspective of those in warm, dry, four-wheeled cocoons.

Since moving to Walton on Thames three years ago I’ve been regularly cycling along the towpath by the Thames (mainly because a Mini Cooper isn’t really made for transporting bikes!) and whilst that’s all very nice, I’ve got to the stage where I want to venture further afield and test myself on greater challenges. As evidenced below, I tried it last year although I started with what I think is quite a testing route, but at least I survived and I’ve now entered a London to Brighton off-road event in September.

So that’s been my journey so far: from here on I’m intending to record my progress towards the aforementioned challenge; the trials and tribulations I face along the way; and anything else that takes my fancy or gets my goat.

I hope you find it interesting, amusing, enlightening or diverting. And, if so, feel free to comment and tell anyone about the page!

Before my first organised ride in July 2014

Before my first organised ride in July 2014