Sunday, 27 January 2013

Counting the miles

Two weeks and I finally made it out on the bike. With friends, Jennifer, Steve and Jon (no h). Illness, and weather had put paid to any form of physical exercise for the last fortnight, so it was a relief to get out onto mucky and damp roads.

It was nothing too strenuous, but my, it was tough and my heart rate was up to 190 at its peak. Which it really shouldn't have been doing for the terrain and the  mileage. But I'm still coughing. And though enthusiasm is still, lukewarm, it's a start. I'm already 100 miles down on this time last year, and the opportunities for the next fortnight are not looking great either. It will certainly be interesting heaving my lard-ridden carcass up a volcano on a hire bike in a couple of weeks.

Tenerife is not quite Morocco, but at least it will be warmer than here. I went up the mountain when I was a boy, and it was also the site of the set of the film "One million years BC", which made an impression on me when I was that age.

Should I need a map, this tune will be my guide.

I was quite surprised, amidst a horrible train journey on Friday night, how connected you can be when you set your mind to it. I now know there are three TMTCH fans in Somerset who love riding bikes. At least. And if I have to watch pissed twenty-somethings file their nails while their fat boyfriends breathe alcohol all over me, at least I can do that as I ping messages about on Twitter.

Travel broadens the mind, after all. Here's yesterday's route to Sweets and back.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Way more darkness than light

I hope someone reads this and takes note. I want this this song played at my funeral. A version of it anyway. It's on my ipod if you need to find it. This one is pretty good too.

My plan to ride in a foreign country didn't quite come off, so I had to content myself with Shapwick, which is pretty much the same thing, although at least I can understand what they are on about. That's when they are talking, which I imagine to be pleasantly infrequent, and no words were expressed when I sailed through, just as the gathering dusk was done gathering, and getting ready for night.

A kind of day-night ride, spanning all shades of daylight, but most of all, peace and quiet.

It was cold too, but largely dry, and I had the moors and back lanes pretty much to myself. Which is great on the flat, but less so in the dark descending some steep single-track lane. I should probably have done the route in a clockwise direction. But then I wouldn't have got these photos.

Photo: Out on the bike at sunset
There was, by force of necessity, a bit of A-road riding. Just to get me from Shapwick to Wells without the risk of taking a tumble on some of those back roads. The levels are still very wet, and the back lanes still have quasi streams running across them if there is any kind of slope, so night-riding is probably best done on roads I know well. And big roads. Without ice.

Photo: Memories of Camberwick Green

Despite the cold, and the consequent loss of sensation in my toes by the time I was home, it had been a great ride, I slowed towards the end, the cold, lack of food, and probably lack of company, all taking their toll. But for once it was nice to be out and not tilting at anything, having some thinking and reflecting time, and enjoying the small stuff of cycling.

Big groups, big routes and big mountains are all great, but sometimes I think we all just need a bit of peace and quiet.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The light of a thousand candles

You just can't go fast in the dark. Too many unseen potholes, not enough peripheral vision, and you never know what may jump out at you from the bushes.

So my commute into work was the slowest ride of the year to date. I struggled to get going this morning, but at least it was dry, even if the roads were still muddy. And this evening my ride was enhanced by a cloudless sky, enabling me to see this from the top of the hill by the airport.

My favourite constellation, Orion.

Also slowing me down today was the car that overtook me on a downhill, when I was doing about 30 mph, and then slammed brakes on before making a slow left turn, while a car approached on the other carriageway. I was just thankful that I had new blocks fitted to my back brake a couple of weeks ago. Combined with the new bearings on the headset, it now makes it possible to steer the bike around corners as well as stop suddenly. Novel.

I recently tweeted my three wishes for 2013, and as I'm in a campaigning mood I thought I'd repeat them again on here. It would be nice if they gained some momentum, and it will stop me endlessly repeating myself if others man the barricades and take up the flags. Or something.

  1. Give cyclists 2 metres of space when you pass them. If you can't for any reason, wait until you can. Fewer accidents, more patience, what is not to like?
  2. Change the liability law so that the presumption is that the larger vehicle is in the wrong unless they can prove otherwise. Works for my good friends the Dutch, and have you ever wondered why drivers pass horses with such care? Because neither horse nor rider is legally liable if the equine ton falls or damages your car.
  3. Everyone obey the Highway code and all other laws of the road. Cyclists stop red-light jumping, drivers do their bit too. Mutual respect all round.
What do you think? A recipe for culture change on our roads? If not, then suggest three of your own?

And while we are standing up for what we believe in, check this old clip out. My grandmother, probably my Mother too, would have loved it. The former reputedly saw the film 40 times, in the days before DVDs, video and Sky plus.

And because I am part French I'm allowed to post this and claim it as my own.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Imagine something of your very own

2013 is all coming together quite nicely, bit by inexorable bit. The Eisenhower principle in operation in all spheres.

Today was one of those impromptu ACG rides to Glastonbury that I have complained of being tired of. I am now going to argue with myself, for I will never tire of days like today. Weather was a bit murky, but that's just being picky, a lovely social ride over the levels in fairly warm, windless conditions for the time of year, with great company.

Heaphy's cafe was empty except for us, and the town was devoid of fairy wings and purple DM boots, but we made up for it with some lively chat and banter. Jennifer took some photos and I picked Steve's brain for cycling tips of Tenerife (where I am going in a six weeks time, yippee), and we all swapped tales of our musical beginnings. I guess you had to be there ;-)

Loads of other cyclists out and about of all denominations, and all got a cheery greeting from us, even the 20 or so from Clevedon cycling club who were lolling about in Mark.

Here is the route for today showing a fairly flat 42 miles or so. Reasonable time for this time of year too, as usual Martyn was pulling us all along.

In other news I can confirm the dates for the first set of longer rides that I am going to organise:

Saturday 23rd February   60 miles
Saturday 39th March       80 miles
Sunday 5th May              100 miles
Sunday 30th June            100 miles

In case you had forgotten, I'll outline what I have in mind. Rides will start from a location about an hour's drive from our Axbridge base, and I will aim to pick mainly quiet roads using my knowledge of other sportives. We will drive together and ride together at an easy pace, with no-one getting left behind.

If there is sufficient demand I'll do "half-routes" so people who want to come and do shorter rides can do this, and aim to have a cafe stop in the middle where we can all meet up. You can imagine I have a fair logistical challenge to sort all this up, so I'll let you know the destinations and routes nearer the time.  I am planning on having one in the Quantocks/Brendons/Exmoor, one ride near Shaftesbury/Cranbourne Chase/Dorset, one in the Cotswolds and the final one in either our own back yard or around Warminster/Salisbury plain.

We will sort out logistics, such as food, travel and the like when I know who is coming, but they will be done under the ACG banner, and I think membership of that is due for renewal soon, (Jennifer?) so we will have 3rd party insurance if you join. But you will ride at your own risk and mechanical/medical support will be what we can do for each other.

I'll keep you posted, but if you are interested, save those dates now.

Entries for the sportives that I am going to do are either in the bag or in the post awaiting the lucky dip of the organisers, this last applies to the ride the media will talk about, and the ride that is probably the hardest you can do in the UK.

Back to work for me tomorrow, nice two weeks off, but it's time to stop playtime now and earn my daily bread. But in-between it's going to be challenging and joyous, oh yes. And seeing as we were talking about 1979, here is something I forgot to mention, if you don't like the music, the energy and the fun of it, you were probably into heavy metal!

It's going to be a good year!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Just for the hell of it

Ooooooooh sunshine!

You can keep Hawaii, Maldives, Tahiti, Jamaica, and any other so-called tropical paradise. When the sun comes out, there is no place more beautiful in the whole world that Somerset. And that is a fact.

And today, oh the sun did shine all day. How I love weather forecast that come to pass like today's did. Especially as I had arranged to meet Martyn at the end of his road, and he had also recruited Trevor and Paul to the cause. If, and it's a small if, I was being picky, I'd complain about the cold, strong north-westerly wind blowing off the Bristol Channel. But I'm not.

We circled around the flat lands towards Brean, but since this was New Year's Day, the only cafe I knew to be open was Costa in Worle. So we cut up through Weston, along the cycle paths and back ways, losing a slightly tired Paul (at his insistence) in the process. He swore he hadn't been drinking and I believe him.

Costa was almost deserted, but we still locked our bikes outside as this was Worle. We passed a pleasant 20 minutes in the sunshine, made even more glorious through the window, and laughed about teenagers, Adam and the Ants, complained about road layouts and planned the future of cycling in the western world. A laugh in other words, you know, joy!

And while we are on joyful, here is a video that to make you dance, sing and jump around your room with the sheer love of life!!!

After that, we circled around via Puxton and Sandford, before the boys headed back home via Loxton and I decided to take advantage of that sunshine and round it up to a round 54.83 miles.  Because I could.

What a great start to the year. More please, come and ride with us, I'm planning the long rides this weekend and will publicise some dates after that. No-one gets left behind (unless they want to), lycra preferred but optional, sense of humour essential, and must love coffee and larking about on bikes!