Quick catch up time

It’s appalling I know. I blog briefly then disappear for ages, necessitating one of these picture heavy catch up pieces. So what have I been up to bikewise?

The first thing was the Endura Lionheart, which was a choice of 100 miles or 100 kilometres. Naturally I chose the 100km (60 miles), even so that was a stupid undertaken given my expanding girth and lack of fitness.

Not only that, because I don’t have a car, I had to cycle to the start from my house anyway – which was 11 miles.

As I lined up at the start in a sea of brand names and tens of thousands of pounds worth of bikes, I felt conspicuous due to my lack of lycra. It was amazingly fun though. Highlights included a horrific blowout 8 miles in that shredded my tyre, marmite sandwiches at the feed station, Fay thrashing me as my legs cramped, walking two of the hills and hitting the finishing straight at 38mph. A brilliant day, well organised AND medals for everyone!

Then I went with the Explorer Scouts to France and we cycled from St Malo to Cherbourg over four days. A wonderful camping and cycling trip with 165 miles covered, it’s going to be the subject of another post.


Then my car finally got taken away for scrap. I’ve been using public transport to get to my business partner’s house every week, it takes me 3 hours and costs me £32.00. So I’ve started cycling there – (or sometimes part of the way there and then the rest by train) – it takes me 2.5 hours and costs me not as much. The route has some lovely views and interesting things to see. I lost my wallet on the test ride to Gingergeek‘s but amazingly found it on the A36 the next day; hooray! then my spoke broke, meaning I had to walk back seven miles; booooo!



There’s much more cycling to come! Perhaps too much. I’ve committed myself to 470 miles over 4 days for charity – I’m going to need some sponsorship. More on that anon.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , ,

Revolutions – Calshot Velodrome

A low rumble, felt rather than heard, the roar of air in the ears, a shaking woodgrain blur across the vision punctuated by the dominance of a trembling red line which must be stuck to and followed. The rhythmic push and suck of breath, an insistent whirr of chain on cog, pressure on the right of the bar, the bike at a seemingly impossible angle, and speed, always speed. I had entered into a trancelike state, feeling like I could ride like this forever, until the voice of our instructor Ben called me to slow it down gently and come into the centre of the track where the others waited.

We were at Calshot velodrome near Southampton for an evening session on the track arranged by Andrew Denham of the Black Canon Collective, and Cobble Wobble organiser. Andrew is the kind of person who makes things happen, (more on his latest cycling venture in another post, it’s very exciting) he had promised us a trip to the track, and this had been booked in for several months. So various members of the Fancy Collective including Matt Wellsted, designer of the Cobble Wobble artwork, Jade Berry, the  design talent behind Black Ink Comms, Jennie Wood, the dynamite PR Avalanche Media, Fay Goodridge, editor of The List, had piled into Matt’s car and followed Andrew and the Black Canon Collective down the A36.

On arrival at the drome Andrew rushed in ahead in order to see our faces as we emerged from the entrance tunnel to the centre of the wooden track. At first glance it’s a daunting prospect, the angle on the berms is 45 degrees at Calshot, there was no one else there inside the massive warehouse-like structure and it’s all very stark. Two wooden benches in front of a series of racks holding the stripped down black track bikes. No brakes, fixed wheel, clipless pedals. My Lemond Etape has a classic elegance to it, despite being alluminium and carbon fibre. These bikes looked lean and hungry. they had one purpose only, to be ridden at speed around a circular track and to hold the line.

We were booked into a beginner session as most of us had never even ridden fixed before or used clipless pedals. Ben, our instructor gave us a pep talk, before quickly getting us onto the bikes and riding round on the inner, flat track. The bikes were easier to handle than I thought they would be.

Next we went onto the slight camber of the inner track, and finally he allowed us up onto the berms – it was incredible. It’s easy to see why track riding is addictive. The speed and concentration are intense, and a strange feeling of calm and well-being came over me as I circled and circled.

For all of us, I think it felt like something we want to do again.

All photographs by Andrew Denham – and big thanks to him for organising this

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 9:45 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The rest of 2010

Sorry for the lack of updates – rest assured I have been cycling since the Cobble Wobble. It’s been tricky finding time to blog about the rides.

My car exploded in summer 2010 (you know it’s bad when the AA man says “Wow, do you mind if I take a photo of the engine to show my colleagues?”) so I have been using public transport, bicycles and shank’s pony to get around. My experiences of public transport are a subject for another post – suffice to say that we have a hell of a long way to go in this country before we can start calling public transport a remotely viable alternative to car ownership – at least in this area.

Mostly I’ve been riding the Brompton – though a shredded tube has recently put it out of action (and there appears to be a shortage of Brompton size tubes – though I’ve got one now), with a little bit of the old MTB for rides to Trowbridge station.

Here are some of the Highway Cycling Group’s doings in the latter part of last year.

Fog bound ride home - Frome

A foggy ride home in the early hours of the morning, deserted roads, piercing cold...

Riding a bike in Frome

Following Matt on his Charge Plug around the industrial estates of Frome - lunchtime blast!

Nice bike

Not sure where I saw this - but I found it pleasing to look at.

Brompton and Phone box

Another early morning ride home

Riding the fire escape on a bike

Ndrw Dnhm contemplates a descent of the fire escape on his bike!

Crazy trike

Crazy trike with stilts and dog!

Matt lines up a shot

Matt lines up a shot of a still life for his Illustration for The Ride Journal, which illustrates a piece by Andrew Denham

Frome 10:10 mass bike ride

The Frome 10:10 mass bike ride

Mixed Grill

The machines ridden in this blog were powered mainly by mixed grill

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Old School Shorts – Cycling Short Film Special – Riding home on moonbeams

On the last Friday of every month, the studio where I work most of the week puts on a short film night. As we’re based at the Old Church School in Frome, we call it Old School Shorts. With the Cobble Wobble looming close we though we’d ask the race organiser, Andrew Denham, to curate the event.

Andrew Denham is part of the Black Canon Collective – a group of mountain bikers who are often to be seen bombing around the forest at Longleat – sometimes dressed as superheroes – always with big grins on their faces.

Andrew chose the films for the middle section of the night. There were some crackers, from Minibike battles in Portland, to mad tricks on Scottish Streets. We managed to watch the brilliant RSA/Rapha film Two Broad Arrows by Adrian Moat (it’s no longer up on the Rapha site). As ever, we peppered the evening with music videos, vintage adverts, and amusing cat films. All projected up big on the wall of studio while we lounged around on sofas and swivel chairs, munching on pizza and nibbles and drinking beer.

Old School Shorts bicycle film night

All in all we had about an hour and half of films with two intervals. It was great to finally meet @westfieldwanderer from Radstock who I’ve been conversing with on Twitter for ages. We had a good chat about bicycle commuting, local hills and AtoB magazine.

Afterwards, Ed took some photos of the old bikes and parts that Andrew had collected to be donated for The Bristol Bike Project and we returned to the studio for music videos, Guess who games, more food and drink and good chat. People took turns on the VJ ing and we watched a myriad of films, from helmetcam madness, to Bats for Lashes videos via Vanilla Ice and Guns & Pork, my favourite part of the VJ section was a film of Andrew putting his shed up on his allotment.

Things wound up just after midnight, and I loaded up the Brompton for the ride home.The streets of Frome were doubly quiet, because I was suffering from a bit of a head cold, my hearing in my left ear had disappeared. As I’m half deaf in my right ear anyway, this meant that I could barely hear a thing. Not that there was much to hear, I didn’t see a single car moving until I left the town. I took it slowly through the streets, freewheeling wherever I could, and gently riding up the hills in the lowest gear.

On leaving the town I suddenly noticed the moon, not yet full, but incredibly bright. The wooded hill down to Oldford, normally a pitch-black potluck ride of guessing where the kerb might be, was transformed into a gently lit flight through a luminous forest. As I turned up the hill towards Beckington I pulled over to look out over the valley – gloriously rolled out before me in and picked out in sharp electric detail by the witchlight. The stark black of the distant hills, the sulphurous streetlamps of Frome itself, the deteriorating skeleton elms that lined the slope, all seemed so vibrant and hyper-real, and I was struck with an unsettling feeling that the same scene by daylight was not the true view, but merely a reflection of what I was seeing now.

I continued up the hill, my blocked up ears meant all I could hear was my own breath and the creaking of my jaw. I felt, rather than heard the steady trundling squeak of my faithful Brompton’s cranks as I spun the pedals. In the hedge to left there was a brilliant white blaze of light, as I inched closer it resolved into the shape of an old milestone. I had never noticed it before, despite passing it many, many times, yet here it was glowing fiercely under the lunar influence.

The air on the slope down into Beckington sucked the warmth from the bare skin of my arms, I had enough momentum to get halfway up the hill on the other side. Past the 24hr garage – devoid of customers, over the roundabout, devoid of traffic, past the place where the gypsies camp and hard left before the boundary stone. Ursa Major was a few degrees off horizontal, far to the West a few low and long clouds stretched themselves out above the land, the lights of a distant plane flickered on and off in the space between cloud and earth as it tracked towards the orange glow of Bristol. The lane was narrow, and the moon flung her beams directly over it from left to right, pools of moonlight settled on the tarmac, punctuating the ink-black shadows that leapt from the trees and hedges and hid the stones and cracks in the road. My Wheels seemed to find them without any trouble.

I felt I could ride on into the dawn, but the glamour of the moonlight would have worn off quickly, leaving me cold and tired to endure the long hour before daylight alone.

The village was still and silent, not even the blue flicker of a television set could be seen. The restored clock on top of the Cross Keys softly chimed one o’clock as I folded the Brompton, bid the moon a goodnight and closed the door.

Off the back of a lorry

Spotted from the passenger seat. The lifting device looks a little extreme for getting the bike on there. But it’s a nice bicycle!

bike on back of lorry

bike on back of lorry

bike on back of lorry

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 9:22 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Dusting off, tightening, oiling, riding

When Lucy’s mum decided, quite rightly, that the lean-to needed sorting out she attacked the job with gusto, pulling everything out, and sorting through the accumulated junk with a mind to a lot of it heading for the recycling centre. However, her eye was taken by the old red Richmond ladies bike I had picked up from an elderly neighbour for a tenner. This was a fine, if old, sit-up-and-beg roadster in good condition apart from a little rust on the back mudguard and rack, and a manky bell.

I said I’d clean it up if she wanted to give it a go. I dug out the size 14-16 spanners and set about tightening things up. The chain was foul, it looked like the dreaded 3in1 machine oil had been used to coat the links, which had then attracted every particle of soil and dust available until a greasy sludge hid the rivets. It took a good thirty minutes to get it down to bare metal. The chain itself was in pretty good condition, so a bit of dry lube later the links were purring over the sturmey archer 3 speed’s cog as I took a test ride to the garage. The brakes were not superb, neither were the tyres, but the creaking coming from the saddle was not unpleasant to listen to, although the saddle itself was nasty, plastic and unyielding.

I rode it back up the hill to the house, just in time to hand it over to Lucy’s mother who had come back to give it a go. It now lives at her house, which is immensely pleasing, otherwise the bike may have just turned into yet another of those bike refurb projects that I start but never finish.

bike and chainNext I turned my attention to my youngest son’s bike. This bicycle was the one our eldest learned to ride on, but now he has his BMX. Our youngest taught himself how to ride in an afternoon, with a little help from his grandfather. The bike itself has been a little neglected, and in true first bike style had been left out in all weathers. But it’s very robust, so with more tightening, pulling the wheel back to tighten the chain, and some oil (this time on a pretty rusty chain) it was hammering round the park and the grandparent’s drive again with all the grace of a bespoke racer. Sort of.

Both my full-size bikes need some attention – a snapped spoke on the Lemond and a slight buckle on the MTB. The Brompton is still working though, and I’ve been using it on the occasional commute to Frome.When I find the time, I’ll get those repaired. The Nocturnal riding season is upon us!

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Cycling Satire

The usual winter illnesses, dark nights, no time and a host of different things have led to me not cycling at all for a while. Every excuse possible really. No matter.

I follow Tim Beadle on Twitter  http://twitter.com/t1mmyb a local cyclist and a bit of an activist, he also has a blog here http://www.timandkathy.co.uk/journal/ he recently tweeted a link to traffic and transport psychologist Ian Walker’s blog. I’m sure if you’re a UK cyclist you’ve seen or heard about Ian’s work at some point – he produced the very enlightening and thought provoking 2007 study on drivers overtaking cyclists that was widely reported on.

Dr Ian Walker, photo: University of Bath

Dr Ian’s blog is full of very interesting material for cyclists who ride on the UKs roads, but at the time of typing, his last post (dated 22nd October) is causing me mirth. I’m sure that you have seen plenty of vitriol in the mainstream press towards cyclists – mostly from car drivers – at first I used to get angry at the sub-clarkesonesque rantings calling for piano wire to be strung across cycle paths, or gleefully imagining a ‘lycra-lout’ bouncing off the bonnet of the columnists BMW. But now they are trotted out so regularly that their power to shock and annoy has diminished. Dr Ian has produced a marvelous and wicked piece called Why I hate pedestrians. Sample quotes:

“The thing is, it’s not just that pedestrians are all smug and annoying when they bang on about “health” and “pollution”. ”

“…have you noticed that even though pedestrians walk millions of miles on our road system every single day, they contribute nothing at all to the cost of that road system? ”

Read the whole thing and enjoy.

Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 10:59 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Never ride the route of a ride planned for a Sunday morning when it’s a Thursday lunchtime

Never have I encountered so many lorries, buses and impatient drivers as during a recent ride with my sister. She was due to take on the Trowbridge Triathlon and wanted to get an idea of the route before the day. So, as she works nights, and I work for myself a mere half a mile from my house, we decided to go out along the route on the Thursday lunchtime, a few days before the triathlon (which was on the Sunday). The first half of the ride was a nightmare as the A361 was heaving and angry, people squeezing past, dangerous overtaking and in some cases almost pushing us off the road.

Turning off the A36 was a relief, and it went well on the backroads around Dilton Marsh, until my sister failed to unclip from her SPDs at a junction, but still stopped. Crash Clatter Ouch!

We arrived back at Trowbridge sport centre 16 miles after setting off on the loop and met our stepmother, who took a photo.

After the nervewracking ride down the A361 in heavy traffic

After the nerve-wracking ride down the A361 in heavy traffic

Still it must have helped because my sister did not come last in the triathlon.

Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 6:58 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

Guest Blogger – Yalda Davis: Cycling round Suffolk

In an historic first for The Highway Cycling Group blog, we have a guest blogger. Regular readers will be familiar with Yalda’s vintage Raleigh bicycle, but now Yalda has provided a splendid write up of her recent few days cycling round Suffolk, and supplied some terrific photographs that will have you longing to get on your bike and explore the countryside.

Rattlesden church

Rattlesden Church - Suffolk

Having been desperate to get out of London for several weeks, I finally booked my tickets to go to Suffolk with my bike for a couple of days, regardless of the weather – but hoping I would be lucky! Which indeed I was. But first things first – the 6.5 miles from the train station in Stowmarket to my parents’ house (where we always spent holidays when I was a child) I always found a particularly punishing ride – I defy anyone to tell me East Anglia is flat after doing that journey! On a one-gear bike at least…. Well, this time I had a pleasant surprise as it didn’t seem nearly so bad as before – all those 16 mile round trips to work and back with the long hill up to Manor House (London) along the side of Finsbury Park must’ve done the trick! Even the not-so-nice B1115 felt like a treat with the vast expanses of green on either side, and my rats must’ve liked the country air as they slept soundly in my bike basket (in a box of course!) all the way home despite the odd bumpy patch!
The following morning I set off for Punchard’s Farm, otherwise known in our family as the Jersey cows (for obvious reasons) – a favourite place of mine ever since I can remember. On the way I passed the brilliantly named (but only recently signposted) Louse Lane.

Louse Lane on the way to Punchard's Farm

Louse Lane on the way to Punchard's Farm

I was hoping to see some babies of one sort or another, it being the right time of year, and I wasn’t disappointed – a foal about 6 weeks old, and 6 fluffy kittens about 3 weeks old in the barn, in the cosiest little den I’ve ever seen, made of straw bales.

foalkittens

After that I carried on northwards to Rattlesden, a village with a lovely church and pretty thatched cottages. I then had to turn around to head southwest towards Lavenham, intending to take a narrow turn off on the same road as the farm I had just come from, as it is my favourite road in Suffolk (so far anyway!) However I managed to take a different route back for most of it, which satisfied my rather over-zealous determination never to return by the same road where possible!

A favourite lane

A favourite lane

Anyway this particular narrow country lane is my favourite for various reasons – first, it’s so narrow it has grass growing down the middle; secondly, recently I discovered that a farm from my (vague!) childhood memories (which I’d many times decided must’ve been either from a fairy tale, a dream, or else existed somewhere far away that I’d never remember the name of or revisit in my lifetime) was down this road: the low stone walls of the farm on one side of the road, and a pond full of ducks on the other. Nothing more supernatural about it than that, though still it retains that fairytale-like quality that it had in my mind for so many years. Thirdly, along this road is one of the most beautiful old houses that I’ve ever seen – which I now know is called Hill Farm! My fourth and equally satisfying discovery about this road was that there is a poppy field along it – and having not seen a poppy field for a long time, that was an extra special discovery.

Poppy Field

Poppy Field

After the delights of this road, I concentrated again on actually getting somewhere – Lavenham – in time for lunch. For anyone who doesn’t know Lavenham (plenty, I’m sure), it is an old wool town, with lots of crooked old beamed houses from the 17th century and earlier no doubt. It is popular with tourists, and being Sunday, with a French market on in the square, I probably could have picked a far better place to find a quiet country pub with a garden to eat in… Nevertheless, I found a table under a weeping willow, which though rather shady, created relatively successfully the illusion of peacefulness!

Afterwards I cycled the 6 miles back home, stopping at a stream on the way (my eternal quest to find nice rivers and streams in central Suffolk…), to complete a ride of 23 miles – rather longer than I anticipated!
The following day I decided on a less ambitious ride down through Kettlebaston (yet another of the strangely named villages round there….) – where, so the story goes (I wasn’t around to witness it!) my brother once cycled full pelt down the hill, didn’t manage to turn the 90 degree corner at the bottom and went flying into a hawthorn hedge – ouch! Then on to Chelsworth and Monks Eleigh. Chelsworth must be one of the most beautiful villages I know – it’s only minus point is that it lies on that infamous B1115 road where cars whizz past horribly fast. I visited its little church, tucked back behind a house, dating back to the 13th Century or possibly older. Here I did find a river to my satisfaction – I can’t believe I’ve never noticed it before – and I spent a while standing on a little bridge admiring it, reluctant to leave. Sadly all the riverbank seemed to be on private property so I couldn’t laze by it. In Monks Eleigh I enjoyed an icecream in the churchyard at the top of a hill and had a chat with the lady who had come to lock up the church – she seemed to find it odd that I was out cycling on my own!

The River at Chelsworth

The River at Chelsworth

This ride still came to 14 miles, which again was further than I thought this particular round trip would come to.

So – I was having such a wonderful time that I ditched my reserved ticket back to London and bought a new one for the following day – with the determination that I would definitely go there more often this summer!

Oh and on the way back to the train station I hit my record speed down a steep hill – 28mph, very satisfying!

Yalda Davis is a London cycle commuter, a fan of rats, and is Communications Officer for The Prince’s Rainforests Project: Add your voice to the call to stop tropical deforestation before it’s too late at www.rainforestSOS.org

Per Noctem Volamus

Rodeanddistrictnocturnalveloclubinvert

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The meeting being finished before 10pm, Mike suggested some spurious festival business that would enable myself, him and Marcus to cycle around in the dark. By the time I got the bike and reflective gear out, and Marcus had pumped up the tyres on his under-used mountian bike, the festival business had evaporated with the discovery that we were out of festival posters (for details of Rode Village Festival go here). The dark had gathered around us and it was ten thirty before we set off, the gloaming having passed, we were into the night.

It was still amazingly warm, the tarmac retained more than just residual heat from the baking hot day. Earlier I had noticed that the tar painted on the telephone poles in  the village had started to melt, dribbling onto the notices pinned to the dark-stained wood.

We raced out of the village and crossed the A36, still fairly busy even at this late hour, but the lanes were empty, the only sound was the chirrup of crickets, the ticking of the freewheels and, less pleasingly, an irregular knocking from the bottom bracket of my bike.

Various chitinous bodies whirred around our heads, or thumped into our faces as we rode at breakneck speed towards Laverton before turning down hill for Buckland Dinham. Our velocity seemed magnified in the darkness as the road dipped into steep banks, cutting out the moonlight. Round twisting corners we hurtled, sharp shadows of long dead elms raked the road, hiding the potholes and stones.

A particularly spooky ghost story I was telling as we rode was spectacularly ruined when Mike ran over a rat, sending him briefly and dangerously off course with a yelp of surprise. Somehow he stayed on the bike and took the hill into Buckland at a breathtaking pace, leaving myself and Marcus trailing.

Mike in the dark

Mike in the dark

We stopped beneath the light of some public building, before turning towards Mells. Somewhere on that route my chain flew off. Bravely I proclaimed that the others should go on and I would catch up, but to be perfectly honest I was expecting some chivalrous response such as “Never! One for all and all for one!” or “No one gets left behind” rather than “Ok, see you at the top of the hill”.

Having caught up with them and delivered some choice blue language, we continued on what had turned into the inaugural ride of the Rode & District Nocturnal Velo Club. Giddy with excitement we hurtled down Ironmill lane, by day a nerve-shredding experience as cars scream down this rat-run between Mells and Frome, by night a beautiful piece of silky smooth tarmac devoid of all vehicular activity save three whooping cyclists. We took a left onto the Frome road, but then immediately turned left again and drifted up the hill towards Lullington, turning right at the folly entrance and towards Woolverton. The moon sailed behind a cloud making the long dip where the lane crosses a microvalley an interesting experience, all of us taking the crumbling tarmac at a much higher speed than we should have.

The A36 was silent as we skipped briefly onto its surface before peeling off left just as we crossed the River Frome and up the hill toward the village. The Moon resurfaced so our shadows rode beside us, picked out sharply on the asphalt in the silvery luminescence. The Nocturnal Peloton rolled into the village side-by-side a no doubt eerie and inspiring sight, had there been anyone or anything save a startled cat to witness its triumphant arrival as the commerative clock atop The Cross Keys struck midnight.

The motto of The Rode & District Nocturnal Velo Club is snaffled from a Vulcan Bomber Squadron (no.9) that a friend of mine’s father was a flight engineer for

Per Noctem Volamus – We fly through the night.

Anyone local fancying a night ride – apply here to join us.