Sunday 27 January 2013

Single speedin' in the snow

England was covered in snow this week. Snow makes cycling difficult. Difficult but not impossible.

Last week I let the snow beat me and cycled zero miles. This week I was determined to get a few miles in. Cycling my road bike was out of the question but that's where my mountain bike came into action. I used 'Queenie' my single speed steed for a number of adventures.
The first adventure took me on a familiar trek through naughty fields and onwards to the Bread Crumb trail. It was hard going from the start though, the snow was thick and slowed me down greatly. Once I reached the naughty fields further menace struck - I had to battle with these cyber scarecrows! Horrors!
Sadly, I spent much time pushing my bike because the snow was just too deep. I would cycle short stretches and push short stretches. Once I reached Alcester all was good again. I couldn't wait to blast round the Bread Crumb trail (a single track loop around Oversley Wood). The trail was difficult too - hard to navigate due to snow covering and hard to cycle through due to depth of snow. How I managed to complete the trail I do not know - snow had turned to ice and froze up the pedals not allowing the cleats to attach. This was a major problem and my pedals remained frozen until I got home.

My second trip was in much snow again. This time I took a trip to Redditch (to return DVD). Once DVD was returned, I returned home deliberately making my trip a loop.

The last adventure of the week was a figure of 8 loop which passed Ragley Hall on many occasions. Snow was still about but had started to thaw. This journey was an attempt to increase my distance to my desired target (100 kilometres) for the week. Am pleased to report my weekly distance was exactly 100k which I was real pleased with after cycling zero k's last week. My yearly mileage to date is now 372 miles. Hope to cycle (at least) 120k next week. Time will tell.

Talking of time, I fitted Queenie with a new time piece (as shown in picture below). This is a great little gadget and just a fiver from ebay - bargain! I made this purchase after reading about same on Chris's blog, which can be found here:

Sunday 20 January 2013

I wish I had Chris's Winter 2 Reflex Tyres ....

So pleased I cycled a 200k perm last week! Woke up Monday to a layer of snow covering everything. There went my plans of a further 200k. Grrr.
The snow put play to my plans of a 200k, but the snow didn't bother my buddy Chris. A few weeks ago he cycled a 200k calendar event with me using his big fat 35mm tyres. At the time I chuckled. This week Chris had the last laugh and was using these Continental Winter 2 Tyre's on his commute to work in the aforementioned snow! (I wonder exactly how many commutes he completed...)
These tyres get great reviews and Chris loves them. I would love a pair, but at about £40 a shot it's most unlikely. That's where you guys can help! - Did you notice a nice new Paypal donate button on the right side of my blog?! That's right, any kind or caring reader can aid my cause! This button was added just for fun really, but on a more serious note, readers of this blog may recount how this blog has helped create monies for various charities. These charities have included Help4Happy's, The British Heart Foundation and Agape in Action. With plans of completing the LEL this year, I am thinking of another charity to support and any ideas would be welcome.

Not wanting the icy cold conditions to prevent me doing anything, I made sure I used Ron's turbo trainer. I only used it once mind, but that's better than nothing. I have a set of rollers but they make the sound of a screaming pig when in use.

Not wanting to miss out on his exercise, Ron suggested we go for a walk mid-week. I thought this was a great idea and so did Cody. We walked a route that SJ and I used to run, the run we dubbed 'the Stinky Route' as it went past the sewage works which, well, stinks! Ron made the route a little more interesting by finding a horizontal hollow tree that one had to climb through. This tree, according to Ron, was the 'Tree of Destiny'. I logged in first. Ron passed through shortly after. Cody gave that 'no way' look.

My next adventure was on Friday, with my 37 week's pregnant wife SJ and Cody. We took a trip to Narnia. We didn't spot the White Witch but saw the trail of snow and ice she left behind...
 Later in the day on Friday I was pleased to hear work was a no-go due to the snow. Hey ho, way to go! With this awesome piece of news, Cody and I went on another snowy adventure with my mother. We took a trek over the fields of Studley.
Cody safely made it across to the further fields. Sadly, mother wasn't quite as nimble on her feet. Cody behaved real well, after all she was following in my foot steps ...
We finished the day paying a tribute to Ron. It was Ron's birthday you see. So, we passed through his Tree of Destiny!
By the end of the week the snow was still with us. The snow and ice prevented me from cycling any real miles. I chose to complete the week by taking my dad and sister Kim to the Tree of Destiny! Kim got stuck in (literally)!
My dad, aged 66 I might add, logged in too! Good man!
And Cody proved she was hardened canine too! And with that we all passed through. And that was the end of another week - all true.
All in all, a terrible week on the cycling front. I cycled zero kilometres of a desired 90. My yearly total remains at 310 miles. Still, I had a lot of fun.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Lechlade on Thames 200 (permanent audax)

Friday saw me complete the Lechlade on Thames 200 audax. This was a permanent audax covering a distance of 200k. This was the first of Steve Gloster's events I had ridden and hence the first time I had completed this event. I chose to cycle this event because it was relatively local to me and having already acquired AAA points for January, just wanted a relatively flat 200k event.

I chose Bromsgrove (as suggested) for my start control. Bromsgrove was relatively near my home and this is where Aid's folks (Aunty Christine and Uncle John) lived and proved the perfect place for me to leave my car. Oh, and Aid himself joined me on this adventure.

We left Aid's folks at just before 8 a.m and made our way to Asda - the official start control. It proved to be a very cold start, about 3C and very foggy. After acquiring a ATM receipt for my first 'proof of passage' (POP) we were off. Chris made me chuckle last audax by riding with his fat 35mm tyres, Aid's bike was making me chuckle this time around...
The initial few k's were very busy with traffic and school kids but I guess that was to be expected at that time of day. Once we were away from the traffic rush we were on lovely country lanes but progress was slow because visibility was so poor. The fog was real thick. We sped through Feckenham and then followed familiar roads - we cycled part of the TROAD! Shortly after the TROAD part we cycled through Sambourne and passed the Green Dragon pub, just a couple of miles from home. Aware that I could start this permanent audax at any point on route but getting a POP would be difficult as pub not open till lunch time and no local shops (hence choosing Bromsgrove as start). In Sambourne we followed roads that I use on my Deer route. We turned off in Great Alne and followed lovely lanes all the way into Stratford. I had to stop at one point and dig out my extra pair of gloves as my poor pinkies were freezing. We missed the official first control as route sheet stated we stop at Texaco garage of which there was none - it was a Murco garage. We stopped a little up the road at Morrisons and used this as POP control and for emergency poo purposes.
Had difficulty following route sheet after the first control, not spotting the necessary bollards. We went off course but only about 2k and soon were back on track. The day had warmed up just a little and the fog had cleared. We followed a long stretch of the B4632 before heading to and reaching Chipping Camden. We stopped at the Bantams Tea rooms for beans on toast (with egg) and tea. Yum!
The route from Chipping Camden was awesome. Great country lanes, traffic free and awesome views of the country. Despite being very cold the sun was trying to shine. Almost perfect cycling conditions - only the weather and the many pot holes upsetting things. We passed through The Slaughters (without having any major climbs) and through the very pretty Bourton-on-the-Water before reaching Lechlade. I found Lechlade a bit of a let down really, it was not as pretty as I had pictured. Maybe I was miffed because we couldn't find a pub serving food. We eventually found a cafe called the Black Cat. Am convinced the Black Cat owner was a witch. Her gaffe was aptly named, she had ginger hair, missing teeth and am sure she was trying to cast a love spell (curse) on Aid. The witch obviously had the hots for Aid - she served us both hot drinks but Aids with a biscuit, she filled our water bottles - mine only half full, Aids to the brim. We both had a full English breakfast here - that meant this was the second time today for beans and eggs. Bloated!

The Lechlade to Tewkesbury section felt like 2 different halves. The first half was along beautiful quiet country lanes again. I loved this section and mist/fog could be seen starting to form. It started getting dark here which coincided with lights on and Aid having a brief lull. This lull soon passed once we were away from the country lanes and onto real fast zoomy roads that seriously whizzed from Withington up to near Winchcombe. We passed through Bishops Cleave which made me chuckle. With a picked up pace we sped along to the control in Tewkesbury - a Shell petrol Station. At this control we ate some nasty pasty's, devoured nicer malt loaf and waited an age for Aid to change his batteries ;)

The last stage was equally as good as the previous ones, nice lanes to follow and relatively traffic free. We passed through Pershore and found the 'easy to miss' turning towards Alcester. Passed a place called Bradley Green where I was tempted to change the 'Green' to 'Wiggins'. However, could not find the Flying Horse Lane and as is so often the case, I had gotten us lost. A telephone call to my dear wife SJ soon got us back on route and enabled us to reach the control in Bromsgrove within the necessary time limit! Thanks SJ!

We reached the arrivee just before 10 p.m.and reached Aid's folks a few minutes later. Thanks for the chicken salad baguette Aunty Chris! We had a great days cycling and cycled 214k. This was a lovely audax and worthy to be ridden again.

Cycled earlier in the week on 2 occasions. The first cycle was a quick blast on Ron's turbo trainer. The second occasion was with Ron himself. We cycled the Reed route in very foggy conditions. So thick was the fog that our lights were dazzling us as it reflected back. All these miles have brought me up to 310 miles cycled thus far, this year.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Mr Pickwick's January Sale (200k audax)

The weekend saw me complete Mr Pickwick's January Sale audax. This was the first time I had entered this 200k event. A map of the route is presented below.
The ride also scored 1.5 AAA points. A lovely ride to keep the RRtY and the AAARtY going (killing 2 birds with one stone style). A graph representing the hilliness of the ride is presented below:

I did not complete this audax alone. Chris Hodge and I rode it as a double act along with about 30 others. As is usual with Black Sheep events, we started off from the Royal Hop Pole pub in Tewkesbury. It was a great days cycling and my thoughts are recounted below.

Chris had readied his bike in London some days before the event. Why Chris had decided to use his winter 35mm tyres was anybody's guess! Chris sorted the 'dashboard' on my bike out for me the night before - I now have a route sheet holder, speedo and Ay-Up lights all suitably mounted around by bar space. I knew I had invited Chris for good reason! Aid and Ron were invited too, but both found excuses to miss out on this great day.
The event started in waves - an early batch leaving at 7 a.m and a later batch leaving at 8 a.m. Chris and I left in the later batch of course. This was a better time to leave as it was now just about daylight. Initially it was very cold, must have been colder still for the earlier batch. The first stage passed along lovely quiet country lanes that were largely traffic free and provided ample time for us both to chat nonsense as we love to do. We passed through Shuthonger, Defford and Churchill before reaching the first info control. Info controls gave us an excuse to dig out some of Chris's home made flap-jacks (or Chris's beef jerky or jelly beans) - he really was well prepared on the snack front. These lovely quiet lanes took us to the first 'proper' control, which was Rowberry's Farm Shop in Chaddesley. We both tucked into our staple audax diet of beans on toast here and washed same down with a cup of tea.

Stage 2 followed slightly busier roads and our chats became less frequent. Once we passed Tutnall, I was on familiar ground. The route was essentially a part of Ron's TROAD (The Route Of Absolute Doom) in reverse. We cycled past the place where Ron's tyre left his wheel and where he hit the ground up to the summit of Cobley Hill. Cobley Hill is a cracker of a hill, a nice stretch that climbs higher and higher after each hump back bridge it crosses. This time we were cycling down the hill and whoosh we flew down. The first bridge hit would have caused most cycles to get airborne and with a bit of speed, the second bridge could be a lift off too! Similar to TROAD we cycled to Aspley Heath and along Blind Lane. For a short while we cycled with another chap 'All knowing Allen', who informed us of the hills and horrors that lay ahead (with great accuracy I might add).  For a brief spell we used a bridle-way (concrete) that soon led out to a cycle path. We passed this grave-yard for electrical appliances which we found a tad bizarre.
Not long after the grave-yard, we followed 'NO ENTRY' signs to the M40 South Services. These directions were printed on the route sheet. I was initially quite excited to reach these services because they had a Burger King here. However, Chris wanted a healthier option, so we ate food from Waitrose instead. How could I argue after eating all his snack food?!

Chris appeared a lot happier during stage 3. Not sure whether this was due to the fact that he had eaten what he wanted, or whether he was just happier because he had pumped his fat 35mm tyres up to pressure, or just because he felt at home...
All smiles were soon wiped away when we reached the foot of Edge Hill. This hill was a 14% beast and much panting occurred as we climbed (guess that made us a pair of pants). Once at the top, we were all smiles again. A lovely castle pub graced the summit of said hill.
During this stage we spotted lots of wildlife. However, lots of these sightings were quite strange. We saw what looked like a cross between a German Shepherd dog and a deer and then we spotted this other weird creature. This other weird creature looked like a llama but didn't have a long neck.
It looked to fat to be a deer. From the side, I thought it looked a bit wolf like. What on earth was this strange creature?!
Shutford appeared to be full of strange creatures. Just as I thought things couldn't get much weirder, I spotted a pet cow in a locals rear garden. Weird indeed!
After another info control we continued on to Chipping Norton via Sibford Ferris and Hook Norton. The 20k or so to control was along nice pleasant country lanes. We reached the Old Mill Cafe just before it got dark enough to require lights. This cafe was nice enough but I found it a little pricey. Chris opted for a tuna melt here, I had a more substantial pepperoni panini.
The last stage was in the dark. Cycling in the dark always slows me down. They say 'it's better to light a cycle lamp than to curse the darkness' and indeed it was. I was pleased to have my Ay-Up lights on my bars and helmet to keep the road ahead lit up. Things at the rear were great too - I had a regular light on my Carradice bag and these awesome 'bone head' lights attached to the rear forks. Chris got me the bone heads for a Christmas present (and funnily enough, I brought my other cycling buddies the same for Christmas) and boy, do their eyes shine bright. Spookily awesome!
We were both lit up like Christmas trees! In the dark we cycled and soon I was in familiar territory in Stow. I vaguely recognised some roads and at times it felt like I was cycling the Cotswold Corker in reverse. Two major descents were encountered which both gave me the fear. One of these descents must have been Sudeley Hill (though in the dark I didn't recognise it) and the other took us down into Winchcombe in a ring-twitching style. The last 20k back to the control was along fast roads. We whizzed through Prescott and Tredington in no time. We witnessed 2 trains pass before us on a level crossing but when we reached the crossing it was clear. We reached the arrivee at 8.05 p.m, which meant we cycled this 202k event in 12 hours and 5 minutes. Great value at £1 entry fee!

Mr Pickwick's January Sale was a great event. No major menace encountered at all. Perfect cycling weather. Even my bike behaved, it was as if she was on her best behaviour. Oh and talking about best - Chris got a book for Christmas entitled '100 Best Bikes' - and my bike featured on page 48. How cool is that?!
Before cycling the audax above I rode 2 shorter routes in the week. These short routes were about 16 miles in length and were dubbed 'Ron's 1 hour loop'. I completed these loops in, strangely, about an hour. That brings my total mileage up to 158 miles thus far this year. I also cycled a few miles on Ron's turbo trainer but am not counting these miles.

One last thing... I have a place in the London-Edinburgh-London audax! Chris persuaded me to enter (he has a place too). As pleased as I am with this news, my mothers comments were quite disturbing 'on your bike Tim ... [he] would love to hear, so maybe I'll say "get your pram out Tim" 5 weeks time you wont be able to even THINK about a bike ride! You really are a laugh a minute !'

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year (2013)

Hi, and happy new year to all reading my blog!

What are my plans for this year I hear you ask? Well, I’m going to make it through this year if it kills me! With that notion in mind, I will inform you all of my plans, hopes and dreams.

My biggest hope is to become a father and hopefully during February this will happen. I will then hope to be the best dad and husband I can be. Looking forward to expanding my family.

On the cycling front I hope to cycle lots of miles that take me out and about God’s wonderful creation. I cycled 4,309 miles last year and hope to beat that figure this year. No pressure is on for me to complete a set number of miles, but I would like to cycle about 5,200 miles (like I did in 2010 and 2011) which is about 100 miles a week. I hope to complete several audax rides and would love to take part in the London-Edingburgh-London (LEL) audax which is an ultra-distance event of just over 1,400 km’s. Would be great to complete a Super Randonneur (SR) series again (a series of audax rides in the same calendar season covering distances of 200, 300, 400 and 600 km’s respectively). Have plans to complete a Randonneur Round the Year series ‘RRtY’ (a series of 200k events in 12 consecutive months) and a Audax Altitude Award Round the Year ‘AAARtY’ series too (a AAA event each month for 12 consecutive months).

Have booked on to several audax events this year already. These include the following:

Jan 5th Mr Pickwick’s January Sale 200k (1.75 AAA)
Feb 2nd Sam Weller’s day trip to Wochma 200k
Feb 16th Snowdrop Express 120k Am hoping to meet up with the likes of Andy, Dave , Chris, Doc, Finbarr, Ron and Si. A certain delivery may stop play though!
Apr 20th Heart of England 300k

Am considering/hoping/wanting/thinking about the following:

March 2nd Mr Pickwick’s March Madness 200k (1.75 AAA)
March 23rd The Dean 300k (4 AAA)
Apr 6th Sam Wellers April Foolery 200k (1.75 AAA)
May 4th Brevet Cymru 400k (2.25 AAA) Unable to complete as am camping with my buddy Chris Hodge and family. This is a great event that I have completed twice already.
June 8th The 3 Coasts 600k (1.75 AAA) Did not finish this event last year.
June 29th To Holl and Back 600k
July 28th LEL 1400k
Plus a whole bunch of permanent events. In terms of an SR series, longer events can substitute for shorter, so based on the rides above I’d probably ride a 200, 300, 600, 600K series of events as no suitable 400k has been identified (as if, I'm sure to find a 400!). I am 3 months into my RRtY (which I have completed before) and AAARtY plans already having successfully completed 200k and hilly events in October, November and December 2012.

What an exciting year this may turn out to be. Have not cycled my first ride of the year yet (I blame New Years Eve celebrations).  Hopefully, my first long distance event will  be ‘Mr Pickwick’s January Sale’ on the 5th. Entries to LEL also open on the 5th. Wonder if I'll get a ride in before the 5th?! Watch this space!

Happy New Year 2022

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