Wednesday 31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014

Lunar supporting Doo's Rapha challenge
Started this week with a lengthy commute - my regular commute with added k's to dig deeper into my Rapha Festive 500 challenge. How irritating it was that I had to work 12 hours before I could pedal home on this commute. Brr, it was starting to get cold too!
Rapha ride 4 with The Phantom
Sunday came and it really was cold. Freezing in fact. Ron and I cycled a jolly together which was nice despite the frozen patches here and there. At just past the half way point we stopped at a lovely little water feature which had inscribed words of wisdom. A great jolly indeed!
Monday was a very cold day too, -2C in fact. Fortunately, my super cyclocross bike was fitted with winter tyres that allowed me to pedal 100k effortlessly. I lied, but I was able to cycle 100k with no slips, stumbles or falls. At this stage I had completed 78% of my Rapha challenge.
Tuesday was just as cold as Monday! 3 pairs of socks and my feet still felt cold. The cold didn't stop me from cycling to work and back though. Apart from a loose brake lever, this commute was relatively regular. At this juncture 90% of my Rapha challenge had been completed.

Wednesday was New Year's Eve. And Wednesday was great as I completed my last cycle and last commute of 2014. Not only that, I completed my last challenge of 2014 and successfully completed the Rapha Festive 500 challenge!
I had hoped at the start of the year that my feet would take my on many adventures - and that they did! My feet managed to cycle 9,253 km's (5,750 miles) and run 142k (88 miles). Not bad considering they were carrying a weight of 90.3kg! My weight was even heavier at the start of the year - a whopping 92.7kg. I cycled more last year but am still pleased with my figures. I had hoped to complete a further RRTY and AAARTY which I did, claiming 25.5 AAA points and completed an Arrow event too. So, in a nutshell, 2014 mission accomplished!
For those that like stat's, below are my cycling distances in k's since I began recording them (figures in brackets are miles).

2009 - 5,086 (3,160)
2010 - 8,509 (5,287)
2011 - 8,378 (5,207)
2012 - 6,935 (4,309)
2013 - 12,498 (7,766)
2014 - 9,253 (5,750)
A big thank you to all those who have read my blog and/or joined in any of my adventures over the past year(s). I hope you all have a wonderful new year. Hopefully wheel catch up in 2015!

Friday 26 December 2014

Hogswatch 2015

Hope you all had a super Hogswatch aka Christmas! I did! I was spoilt as usual and amongst my parcels I received a book to record all my cycling adventures - how cool?! Sure enough, 'you can never have too many bikes', and on that note, my wife and little Lunar got me one more cycle to add to my collection!
My plan for this week was to cycle at least 60k (week 2 of my PBP training), run at least once and start the Rapha Festive 500 challenge. Am pleased to report that I achieved all these objectives.
I cycled well over my 60k target and covered just under that distance on my first ride of the week, during my work and back commute. This was a great ride and my last before Christmas. A great night was had before I cycled home as I had festive drinks with Jamie, Andy and Shane at the Canalside cafe/bar. Thanks you guys, you rock! The only slight menace was that I was sharing the tow path with at least 2 big fat dirty rats on my commute home. Ugh!

Managed to complete my targeted run. In fact, I ran twice - once to work and once back. I covered just over 5k on each trip and this was the first time I had ever completed a run commute. My run into work was fine and I felt great. My return run was more difficult and my legs really ached. Listening to Mogwai and Pixies on my iPod was a good choice and helped my mind wander away from thoughts of pain.
The Rapha Festive 500 is a challenge (now in it's fifth year) that requires a cyclist to cover 500k in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. I completed this challenge last year (first time) and sure enough made a start this year.
On my first Rapha Festive 500 ride, I cycled an 80k jolly. My single-speed road bike was my steed of choice. I essentially cycled a wiggly way to Evesham and back. Got a little confused on route as the signposts to Evesham proved a trifle difficult to interpret.
On my second and last (for the week) Rapha Festive 500 ride, I completed a 100k commute. (My theoretical PBP training weeks run Saturday - Saturday). I had to cycle into work and cycled back by adding as many twists and turns as I could, including a bit of off-road. I wanted to use my lighter bike but the temperature was 0C and many places were frozen - so my single-speed cyclocross bike with it's winter tyres was the obvious choice. At this point in time I have completed 36% of the challenge.
A rather silly commute, under normal conditions.

Next week, I hope to cycle at least 320k and complete my 3rd week of PBP training (70k) and complete the Rapha Festive 500 challenge. I also hope to let the New Year in. Am sure next year will be fun of adventure!
It's goodbye from Santa and goodbye from Doo!

Friday 19 December 2014

Doo and his case of Man Flu

Groan! First week of training for my theoretical PBP 2015 event and I felt as rough as a badgers.... Yup, poor old Doo was suffering with a case of the dreaded man flu.
My training plan was simple. I ride various set distances each week up until PBP starts. As the months roll on the distances will gradually increase but the odd week here and there will be shorter to allow for rest etc. I hope to, for the most part, use my commutes to make up the distances I set myself. The qualifying events need to be squeezed in somewhere, and of course, I'll use my best bike for those events. My goal was to cycle 60k this week...
...And, I achieved my goal! In actual fact, I cycled 66k, all in a single jolly. I took my single-speed road bike out and cycled a route that took me to the Fish & Anchor pub and back. This pub was the self same one where I was rescued after my DIY perm went wonky a few weeks back. This ride was all good - God had painted a lovely rainbow in the sky and I got to test out my new Rapha cycling jersey.
Next week will be interesting as I have a number of goals I wish to accomplish. I plan to cycle at least 60k again, run on at least one occasion and start the Rapha Festive 500 challenge (even though I already have the shirt - ha!) Oh, and I hope to have a lovely Christmas with my family.
Merry Christmas all! Peace out! May all your miles be merry!

Saturday 13 December 2014

Plans for PBP 2015?

This last week saw me complete 2 work-and-back commutes. To date, I have cycled 2,345 km’s on ‘Jenny’ my single-speed Genesis cyclo-cross commute bike. I have guestimated that that has saved me about £312 in travel costs.
When I was a runner....
Despite having an urge to run last week, it didn’t happen. The urge was still there but I suffered a dose of the dreaded man flu. I haven’t ran a lot this year but did put in a few km’s - 131km’s in fact. I do wonder and hope that I’ll perhaps be able to add just a few k to this total before the year is out.
In 2011 I completed PBP. The PBP (Paris-Brest-Paris) is an ultra long distance cycling event. Originally it was a 1200k bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back. This is one of the oldest bicycling events still being run, but it has not been run as a race since 1951. When I participated in the event, my goal was to complete the event within a maximum time limit of 90 hours (with no competition). When I cycled PBP, I rode some 767 miles (in 77 hours and 14 minutes), climbed 40,100 feet, conquered a 20.7% maximum gradient and was 1 of 65 different nationalities taking part. Why do I mention this now? Well, the PBP is held every 4 years and if I were to participate in the next one (2015), I would start my training next week!
Cycling  the 2011 PBP
Quoting myself, directly from my blog in 2011, post PBP event, I said ‘’ I will most probably not cycle the PBP again (sorry Ron). I figured, you only have to complete this event once to get your medal. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed training and qualifying for the PBP 2011 but the actual experience itself despite being awesome, was painful and demanding. At time of writing this entry, it is 10 days post PBP and I still have a pins and needles type feeling in some of my fingers and my butt is still painful. My poor backside blistered. It is easy to say what I would do differently if I were to cycle the PBP again - invest in a better saddle and acquire carbon bars (or at least apply double bar tape and/or get better quality padded gloves). In addition to that, I would arm myself with more batteries for lighting and probably sleep more’’.
SJ, the best support one could wish for!
Wow, how memories of pain disappear with the passage of time! I have invested in a better saddle (plus bike), acquired carbon bars and have a dynamo hub for lighting purposes. What’s there to stop me entering the 2015 PBP?! The answer to that is qualifying brevets and family commitments. I have a lovely wife and beautiful toddler and the New Year holds promise for another child. Will I be able to juggle family commitments, work menace and training for such a big event?! Will my Mrs give me a pass? Time will tell. I will attempt to set myself goals and train for this event with the hope I will be able to ride it. My training will start next week. Wish me well!
I know my family will be behind me!

Sunday 7 December 2014

''I dunno why anybody's doing this'' - A trailer for an LEL 2013 film

‘’In the summer of 2013 MadeGood films followed six cyclists on a remarkable feat of endurance, that took them from the heart of London all the way along the length of Britain to Edinburgh, and back again in under five days. Travelling a little over 1400km, a distance many multiple times further than most of them had ever ridden before, the cyclists were not only tested physically, but faced a mental challenge that forced them to look inside and find resolve they never knew they had’’.

I was one of those six cyclists! Better yet, I have great delight in sharing MadeGood’s trailer with you. Please follow this link and enjoy:

‘’Following on from the award winning success of The Art of Repair, London Edinburgh London will be the most ambitious release from independent film company and social enterprise, MadeGood films. Originally backed as the official film of London Edinburgh London Audax ride, the film was awarded seed funding from the organisers of the event. This money went part way to pay for the expenses incurred during the months of planning and filming stages of the production. Over the last 18 months the film has become a labour of love, as we’ve worked tirelessly to get it to a state that we are proud of and excited to show to a wider audience’’.
As with all riders who participated in the film, I have been invited personally to the premiere screening in East London next summer, and will receive both a physical and a digital copy of the film. My name will also appear in the credits too! If you would like a guaranteed place in LEL 2017 then please click on the link above and see how this may be possible.
''I dunno why anybody’s doing this!'', was my closing remark on the trailer. Apparently, this caused a belly laugh when it was shown at the AGM/reunion. Awesome stuff!

Thursday 4 December 2014

The not-so-great figure of eight/Portion Control/Stolen Frame/Commutes/Dave Hinde sucks

On Monday I completed my 200k DIY perm, 'The not-so great figure of eight'. This was a great adventure shared with three of my buddies - Chris 'Orange', Ron 'the Phantom' and 'new guy' Adrian. My post event thoughts are summarised below.

We started the event from my abode, Doo Little, at about 7.30 a.m. Much faffing at the start. Chris was sorting Garmin issues (I think), Ron had forgotten his phone and Adrian needed to be introduced to Chris and myself, as well as Lunar and SJ who were waving us off. Anyways after much ado we were off and cycled to a local HSBC for my start proof.

The first stage was relatively short and took us to Henley-in-Arden. First stretch of road was country lane but then some busy main road had to be navigated. Members of the group had a little moan, however the road wasn't that busy to be fair - it was only rush hour traffic! Another ATM provided a control proof.

The next section left Henley and retraced the same busy road before continuing on to Matchborough. Ron hates rides where the same stretch of tarmac is ridden over in both directions. There wasn't a lot of tarmac that was ridden over in this manner, but there was some. In fact 2 stretches during the route had some out and retrace menace. It was for this reason that I named the route 'not-so great'. The route, also, was a not quite a perfect figure of eight.
GPX track log of The not-so-great figure of eight
From Matchborough the route was much nicer. Buss only lanes carried us to Arrow Vale Lake which was real pretty and along some of my commute route. We cycled through Redditch Town Centre and past 'The Hardy's' (friends of mine) largely following cycle lanes. Once past Webheath the cycle lane became country lane. Dirty, wet, mucky country lane that passed through a ford before becoming nice. clean country lanes. We got a bit of everything on this ride! Poor Adrian was using his 'best' bike, a carbon Pinarello - well, it's the only bike he owned! When we stopped we were at Whitlenge tea rooms - a very welcome stop. We all had a full English breakfast washed down with much tea. Delicious!

The next section, again mostly on country lanes, took us to Bidford. At the cross roads we stopped and pondered. This junction confused me last time around but we navigated ourselves correctly and reached control with no problems. A bottle of Ribena was purchased for POP purposes.
From Bidford we headed for Winchcombe. Winchcome is a beautiful village hidden away in the Cotswolds. Folk found it hard to believe that I could create a flat route that would pass through Winchcombe but a flat route I found! The picture above proves the flat profile of the ride. We never climbed higher than 150 metres at any point. Sure enough though, hills were present and evident everywhere we looked. Our stop in Winchcombe was nice - we ate at the 'Lady Jane' which made me think of my Mrs.
Inside, we all ate a nice boozy beef stew dish with much vegetables. Delicious. Oh, and we consumed more tea too. Once back outside, brrr, it felt cold.
Our trusty steeds
Bishop's Cleeve was the next stop which is a place name that never ceases to make my giggle. This was quite a zoomy stage, especially as Ron was playing 'catching the pig pigeon' with a cyclist just ahead. We decided to let the pigeon go and keep our group together. Again, an ATM provided my necessary POP receipt.

Evesham was our next stop and a long, flat, fast road took us there. Some of the roads were getting a little busy as we made our way. Perhaps a better route could have been used to avoid such busy roads.
It was dark by the time Evesham was reached. A quick stop at a garage for chocolate and POP purposes and we were off.

The next stage was much nicer. Quieter roads took us on our way to Upton. We passed a Mariner at one point which reminded me of adventures Chris and I had on his mothers boat. Upton was such a pretty area, it was on the Severn (actual name is Upton-upon Severn) and the Christmas light had lit up the place admirably. 

Last section was quite a stretch but on nice roads for the most part. Much country lane and even (another) ford crossing. Ron wanted to go a different route home but Chris ensured we stuck to the correct route. Am pleased to inform we all got back to Doo Little safe and well with no major mis-hap or menace. Adrian had to leave almost as soon as finishing, but the rest of us had other plans...

...we went and celebrated our achievements with curry and beer! Jamie McCloud should really have been celebrating with us too, but his time will come. I didn't think one could have too much of a good thing and complained that there wasn't curry enough. Chris says I eat too much and that's why I'm fat. He said, I quote ''you have no portion control'.
As well as Chris making rude remarks he also stole my bike frame! That's right, he took my Raleigh Esprit bike frame without my knowledge! In fact, that's great - it means Chris may well take ownership of building my retro bike up for me. I'm real pleased because it has to be said that Chris is great at building bikes and I am not. I know my limits. I am better at getting folk to complete tasks for me rather than doing it myself. Chris has built umpteen bikes up since I've known him and he built up my single-speed road bike - the self same bike I used on the audax above.
Hopefully Chris will build up something like this
My retro bike build plan was to simply build up an 80's bike retro style and pay as little as possible in so doing. I had set myself a goal of building up a bike with a budget of less than £150. To date, I have spent £126.79 with just a few things (like cables etc) still to acquire. Some items were donated which was a bonus. Have no idea when said bike will be built but remain excited about the prospect.

During the week I managed a couple of work and back commutes. I could hear a creaking noise from my cranks on the first commute but could see no problem. On the second commute, the problem became clear - my bottom bracket was trying to leave the frame!
Bottom Bracket breaking free
I have cussed Evans bike shop in the past. However, they were 'top dog' when I took my bike to them on this occasion. They tightened up the bottom bracket, tensioned my chain and cleaned my bike - all free of charge! Wow, that's service. Dave Hinde still remains a poor excuse of a bike shop. Have I ever mentioned before that the service at Dave Hinde sucks?! Sadly, my Hope Vision 1 light has become faulty too - after me raving about it too. Whatever next?!

Well, next might be a run. Weird I know, but am getting urges to run. Talking of which, I better 'run'.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Star Wars 2015

After the disaster of last week's 'The not-so-great figure of eight', I started this week by fixing things a little. First off, I removed the Specialized Armadillo tyre and chucked it straight out. This heavy duty tyre had blown and obviously I don't rate said tyre. I replaced the tyre (and tube) with a Felt Speed RW all-weather puncture resistant one that Lin had donated me. Let's hope it fairs better! This tyre was a 700 x 25c as opposed to my usual 700 x 23c and it only just fit!

The next thing I fixed up was the brakes. Well, the brake blocks to be precise. My rear blocks were that worn they were almost non-existent! They should have been changed a while back. My new blocks were awesome - they were the Dura-Ace variety and the only piece of Dura-Ace to grace my bike. These blocks or pads were great and just slotted into the brake 'thing' and held in place by a little screw. Actually, these new pads should have been held in place by the teeniest weeniest allen screw but I didn't have a teeny weeny allen key to fit, so I made use of the old, previously fitted, phillips headed screws. 
Funky brake pads held in place by 'old' phillips screw
The last thing to fix was a fixture. I basically added or equipped my bars with my Carradice tool bag. This will ensure I am able to carry a spare tyre with me on future adventures!
Ready for adventure
Cycling events this week just consisted of two work and back commutes. My cycle-cross bike was making strange noises which need to be investigated. I wonder if the cranks need tightening?!

Next week, I hope to conquer the not-so-great figure of eight! 

On an equally exciting note, I'd like to conclude this blog with some news concerning Star Wars. Wait for it ... there is going to be a new film released in 2015! Better yet, I am able to add a few screen shots! Doesn't it look exciting?!

Saturday 22 November 2014

Commutes/The not-so-great figure of eight DNF

Quite an active week on the whole. Plenty of riding and plenty of adventure. Plenty of menace too. Managed to squeeze in 3 work and back commutes which was nice. The first 2 rides were relatively uneventful, however, the third was certainly eventful.

On my third commute, after work, I met up with a couple of mates - Jamie and Andy. We met up at the 'Canalside' cafe and bar, on the tow path next to the Gas Basin. This was such a lovely place for a meet and greet. This was a celebratory meet of sorts - I was returning their brevet card and certificates for completing the York Arrow event we completed last season. It was lovely to reminisce and talk bike nonsense for a spell. Was also nice to down a couple of pints of 'Black Rat', some quite potent scrumpy cider. After our meet, we all set off together - all retiring to our respective homes. It was cold, dark and wet. Andy was first to break off at the Five Ways junction. Later, Andy remarked how drivers just seem to speed up in bad weather conditions. It is well known, that most folk in Birmingham (and beyond) want to kill cyclists.
Please don't kill cyclists
Jamie and I continued along together following the tow path to as far as Bournville. I think this was the worst weather I have ever commuted in. Having drank so much I kept needing to stop for an emergency wee. Once Jamie had departed, I was still less than half way home. After what seemed an age, I finally reached home. I found I could cycle fine, but once off my bike it was difficult to walk.
Timmy no-mates
During the weekend, I decided I would ride my recently created DIY PERM - 'The not-so-great figure of eight' 200k audax. Things were bad from the start - none of my mates (for various reasons) were able to cycle with me, Lunar had kept me awake since 4 a.m. and my wife would rather I didn't venture out that day. Maybe I should have stayed at home...

At just after 7 a.m. I set off. The first leg to Henley-in-Arden was fine. Fine for me at least, I saw a couple of cars had crashed just before reaching Henley and car bits were sprayed all over the road. In fact, I saw these cars twice because once reaching Henley, my route reversed and followed some same road back onto section 2.

Section 2 was a longer stretch to Whitlenge. Things started ok and I cycled some paths that feature on my work and back commutes and cycled round some of Arrow Vale Lake. Nice. My route continued and took me past 'the Hardy's'. For the most part, nice roads were followed but cycle paths and mucky lanes featured too. At around the 30k mark, I was faced with the option of passing through a ford.
I didn't pass through the ford but shortly after got soaked anyhow because the heavens opened big time. I got soaked through to the skin. Wet, cold feet! Was real pleased once I reached Whitlenge and particularly the Whitlenge tea rooms! This was such a welcome stop because not only did I eat a full English breakfast that was scrumptious (and washed down with a pot of tea) but I also stripped off and dried my gear on a oil heater. I stayed here for about an hour, refusing to leave before the rain had stopped.
The road travelled (spot the mis-hap)
The next leg was menace. The weather was ok and the roads were fine. However, all was not well. I cycled past a bunch of 'terrors' on horses, with dogs, who were taking part in some hunt. Worse still, my route went wonky as I got confused where my route crossed paths with itself and took the wrong turn. I discovered my mistake but added extra k's and was generally annoyed with myself. I often do this silly sort of stuff. Eventually, I reached Bidford the next control but k wise, I should have been in Winchcombe. Grr.
Would the route get hillier? Maybe we'll never know!
Roads I had never cycled before started leading me towards (I believe) Winchcombe. With less than 10k to go, my rear wheel felt wobbly. I dismounted to take a look and BANG! The tyre blew right in my face. Good job I was wearing glasses! Damn! Game over. The tyre had blown, so much so, a massive hole was ripped in the side of it. So much for Specialized armadillo tyres. Pah!
I often carry a spare tyre but as Murphy's Law would have it - I didn't on this occasion. Was no use replacing the tube when it would be so exposed. I could fit a finger inside where the hole was blown. Thankfully my cousin Aid was able to pick me up and drive me home but he took an age to arrive. Was only one thing to do while I waited patiently...
... and have a drink in the nearest pub! So annoyed that game over was called after I had cycled 109k. The not-so-great figure of eight really turned out to be not-so-great. Unfinished business! Sadly, I think that destroys my plans of an RRTY award this season. On a brighter note, I cycled 284k this week which was nice. Oh, and Jamie reminded me that I completed a perm event from the Saracen Club and got a mention for being the first non-member to do so. It ain't all bad!

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...