Sunday 2 December 2012

Good bye 2012 and Challenge 2013

First of all may I please wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Your comments, emails and support have all been fantastic and very much appreciated.

The weather here in the UK is somewhat changeable.  Last week my route to work along the Thames was under water (the Thames burst its banks near Sonning and I was just glad the hotel car park wasn't under water).  So just planning to get out on the bike is a challenge.

The challenge for 2012 was to lose weight and get in shape.  3 stones lighter and much fitter than before, I have made huge strides in the right direction.  The Palace to Palace in October was a great idea, it set me a target and got me out training when the weather was bad.  The 45 miles was easy enough having trained hard, so it's time for me to start thinking about my challenges for next year.

My brother is keen to do the London to Brighton so I may try and fit that one in.  I have also entered the draw to try to get a place on the Ride 100, the thought of leading out on a 100 mile ride that later the same day will be followed by the professional teams would be something truly special. But with only 20,000 places and 75,000 entries I can only hope to get picked.  It seems to be a long time to wait until the draw on the 7th February.  Although as part of the registration I have chosen a charity to support, The children's trust which is a charity that supports kids with disabilities so is very close to my heart.

I have also decided to get out in January for a 100k ride with Audax who specialise in long endurance rides throughout Europe.  The 100k is the shortest I have seen that they do. This one is on January 6th and will hopefully flush out my system from mince pies, Christmas pud and all.

I also need to take my puppy back to Nottingham for one of the Evans Rideit events, but will hopefully do a longer distance with him on that as he should be up to it after 56 miles on the London to Brighton that he is keen to do.

So being an old boy, racing isn't going to be my thing.  The idea of endurance rides though really appeals.  Hitting the saddle again after 20+ years has been great and I'm really looking forward to some challenges in 2013 to keep my fitness up and improve it.

I also promise to keep up the comical accounts of my escapes into 2013 and the weather lets me get out again.  Last week though I watched a programme on tv where Bradley Wiggins was training on his trainer in the shed at the bottom of the garden.  So my shed awaits too, just wish it was double glazed and central heated.

So, if you read the blog and are a cyclist, please share with us your challenges for 2013. Although we all share the one to avoid getting lazy in the winter and eating one too many Christmas pies.

Again, seasons wishes to all, and I look forward to more cycling escapades hitting the blogosphere next year.

Saturday 10 November 2012

The Impetuous Puppy Rides

It's 7:00am on a very cold Sunday morning as I scrape the ice of the car and lift my road bike up on to the roof rack. I had put the roof rack on the night before so that I wouldn't wake the neighbours in the early hours of Sunday morning.  This is the morning of my first Evans Ride It Sportive event in Nottingham and I have roped in my brother for what will be his first event as well as the first time he will have ridden more than maybe 15 or 20 miles.

I pick him up and we load his bike onto the car and head for Nottingham.  The car temperature reads 0C and the roads are little icy.  We are heading for Church Warsop in Nottinghamshire for the event and as we arrive and park in the field close to the Evans start line, the temperature still has'nt budged.  This is going to be a cold one.

In the car, my brother and I have decided our game plan.  His problem is pacing himself, whenever he goes out on a bike ride he belts off like a madman and is totally done in within 10 minutes.  A little bit like an Impetuous puppy that you take to the park and let of the lead for the first time.  He (or she) will belt around the field like a bat out of hell enjoying the freedom.Five minutes later it's back, sat at your feet panting, tail wagging and tongue hanging out signalling that the fun is over.  Unlike the wise old dog that will wander around, sniffing every blade of grass and maybe running for the odd stick but generally taking the time to enjoy being out in the open air.

So our plan is simple, I will take the front, set a nice steady easy pace and keep the puppy dog from killing us within the first 5 minutes.  As it's his first ride we also agree to do the short ride (35 miles) rather than the longer 50 or 70 mile rides.

So I head out, puppy dog in tow and set a nice gentle 14-15mph.  There's a few gently climbs and quite a few longer downhill stretches which my brother seemed to appreciate (at least until I mentioned that what we go down we have to go up to get back to the start).

The Evans event was well set up with easy to follow signposts, water stop with sports drinks, cake and goodies, timing chips attached to our helmets and times / photos available afterwards.  I would thoroughly recommend the Evans events.

After a few miles we hit the first route split when the riders on the fun distance peel off to the left and head around towards the start.  My puppy was starting to struggle a little bit at this point and as I drop back to him and say "you ok?" I got a couple of expletives, but coupled with that a pleading to slow down cos I was going much too fast.

I decided to drop in behind the puppy for a while and allow him to set the pace, it had two advantages, one he made an excellent windbreak and two the pace dropped off quite a bit.  My problem was, I just wasn't getting warm even with my Thermalite Bib, Base Layer, Jersey and Jacket (NOTE TO SELF: get warmer jacket for winter training rides) so needed to get the pace picked up a bit soon.

We are behind a couple of other cyclists and come to a ford with a footpath to the left.  The ford is quite deep and theres a lot of spectators to the right in a car park so I am sure some riders have ridden through.  However, the Evans sign instructed us to dismount and walk over a small bridge which we did.  The two guys in front then apologised for going slow but they had just taken up cycling again after 10+ years. One guys bike was 48 hours old and the second guys was 72.  Got to hand it to you, if not riding for such a long time to go straight in and tackle a sportive.

After a short while, I take the lead again and reach the next split. The Medium (50 Milers) and Long (69'ers) turn right, the Short (35'ers) go across at the cross roads.  I hadn't read the signs properly arriving at the junction to the right hand side but I suddenly heard the puppy squeal behind and insist that we go straight on.  We had also just passed a photographer and I had shouted to the puppy to smile as his photo was being taken, all I got back was a number of expletives.

Me Leading and my puppy behind
It was around this point in the ride that we passed a dead 'road kill' squirrel in the middle of road.  My brother studied it as we went past and mentioned "That thing looks in a better condition to how I feel at the moment".  I tell him that we are not far from the half way mark and there should be a drinks stop coming up.

We then turn and start to ride through Clumber Park, now in Autumn the park looks beautiful but the temperature under the trees seemed to drop even more. Over on the left hand side I spot an Evans van, with energy drinks, sweets, cake etc all laid out.  So we peel off and I quickly grab an energy drink and a large piece of fruit cake.

My brother (puppy) grabs a drink but refuses the cake. I mention to him that it will give him some energy and allow him to feel better when he gets back on the bike.  He replies "Look bro, I feel so bad if I try to eat I'm gonna throw up". The Evans guy mentions that it's only about 8 miles to the finish.  This I question because we have done 18 miles according to the bike computer and have 35 to do so by my reckoning we have 17 left.  He says that everyone is questioning it, but the puppy dog seems so much happier and we take off again after a 10 minute or so break.

We go back out to the road, walking through the leaves.  Note to self, walking through leaves with cleats on is not a good idea.  When we both mount up we both have tonnes of leaves sticking off our shoes. We look like a pair of shire horses with long feathers from our legs.  Lovely, maybe they can warm us up.

We then head out of Clumber park and I notice a larger uphill section.  I tell the puppy to move up to his high gears, take a sprint at the hill and it will help him get up. He says something, but I only catch the word "off" at the end of his sentence.  So I move up to the high gear myself and sprint down the hill  hitting at close to the 30 mph and then starting to climb.  As I get over the top of the hill I am still doing 20mph and I start to free wheel very slowly waiting for the puppy.  After a few minutes, there is still no sign of him and I stop cos I'm starting to get worried. As I wait I have a drink and bite of an energy bar.  People keep riding by saying good morning, but no sign of the puppy.

Then, like a hero out of an action movie in slow motion, the figure of the puppy comes over the brow of the hill and starts to descend the other side.  He rides by me and shouts "Bro, can't stop these legs because if I do I won't be able to start em again".

Heading in to Church Warsop the puppy is following and his pace has dropped a bit.  I notice a speed trap up ahead that announces how fast you are going so I sprint off quickly.  The sign duly says "27 MPH, Thank You".  Not sure why it thanked me but I then eased off again to let the puppy catch up.

At the end, I'm just a few seconds in front of my bro as we go through the timing tent and get our helmets scanned.

My brother has a tear to his eye as I shake his hand and say well done.  Now many people would think he was in pain, but I think he was just so proud of his achievement.  We did 35 miles in a total trip time of 2 hours 48 minutes, but with a riding time of 2 hours 24, meaning we had an average speed of a quite respectful 14.28 mph.

As I shake his hand I am glad I was able to share in his achievement (I remember also being a bit stuck for words when finishing my first event, that sense of achieving something that at first seemed so daunting, it's priceless).

So Bro, congrats on your first sportive and thank you for allowing me to share the privilege of watching you finish it. But next year, I am turning right at the junction and we are doing the 50 or the 69 mile routes cos you should be a lean mean riding machine by then.

BTW though, heres the photo I took of you at the end. Note to puppy: You don't wear anything over your lycra, those shorts are just too bad, honest !

My Bro, Peter "Puppy" Newbould after his first sportive
And me following my ride, did I mention, It was bl..dy cold !

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Witches Dont Wear Knickers

Today is the 31st October (Halloween) and with the clocks being changed last week its starting to get dark quite early. I cycled back to the hotel this evening and by the time I had got there it was dark.  But, it was dry and I had been charging my USB Lezyne front light in my laptop all day and I was itching to try it out.  So, I dive into the hotel room, rip off my work clothes, on with the cycle gear and I'm back outside within a few minutes.

I set off at a steady pace, the light being excellent lighting all of the potholes up in plenty of time to avoid them and I settled into what I expected would be a really good ride.

After around 8 or 9 minutes, I pass out of Sonning and start to head into a housing estate heading towards Woodley in the Reading area.  I notice a lot of kids, dressed in the halloween outfits knocking on doors and shouting "Trick or Treat".  Note to self, keep on the look out for mad kids attempting to commit suicide in front of mad wheezer on push bike.

I hadn't been riding much longer when the weather started to change quite drastically.  Within a few minutes the rain was belting down, the wind had picked up and I was riding into horizontal rain. I quickly stopped, put on my waterproof trousers and kicked into a rhythm debating whether to turn back but found I even started to enjoy it as I turned and had the wind on my back for a change.

I start to approach a set of traffic lights for a cross roads and my traffic light is at red. I slow down and begin to stop.  To my left is a mother dressed in a witches outfit complete with spiked hat, with her right hand holding a young Dracula with an amazing flashing cape and in her left hand was a she devil with flashing devil horns.  Both kids looked to be quite young and the mother was shepherding them carefully to the lights waiting to cross the cross roads in much the same direction as me.

At this point there is a huge gust of wind complete with rain which lifts the poor ladies skirt and cape up over her head leaving nothing to the imagination and revealing a severe lack of underwear, definitely a little undressed for this time of year.  Her son to her right, who is maybe two steps behind is aghast and shouts "Mummy you haven't got any knickers on !". I am sure she hasn't seen me at this point because she replies "Yes, that's right dear, didn't you know, witches dont wear knickers and daddy likes me to dress up properly".

Now at this point she looks over her right shoulder and sees the lone cyclist waiting for the lights to change. I try my hardest to avoid a huge belly laugh at what I have both seen and heard. I'm not quite sure if its the red light but I am sure she is now extremely embarrassed .  But her little boy looks at me and says "I am a vampire....arrrggh".  I'm still trying not laugh so don't respond.  He goes on to say "My sister is a little desil" OK, I know he meant to say devil, but desil is close.

Finally he says, "My mummy is witch and witches don't wear knickers".  At this point I can't help it and reply laughing, "I Know I saw".  The little girl thinks this is hilarious and almost falls on the floor in a fit of laughter and the woman, suddenly extremely embarrassed, calls out his name (ok, for the story it would have been good for him to be called Nicholas, but alas I have to say it is Andrew) "Andrew, come on the green man is on...." she grabs both of them and begins to sprint across the crossing dragging them behind.

OK, so I'm wet, cold, in the dark at just after rush hour and useless at checking the weather but I can't help but laugh. At this point I turn and sprint back to the hotel with the rain getting heavier still, it's also pretty important to note that ghouls don't like bad weather either as the number people dropped to nothing in no time at all.  My waterproof jacket is working, my legs feel a little damp through the trousers, but the squelching in my trainers meant my feet were pretty wet by the time I got back.

It was a short ride, just under an hour but with a two minute encounter with a witch and her family that will have me laughing for quite a while.

So, it's official, another bit of scientific discovery, Witches (at least the ones in the Reading area) don't Wear Knickers.

Monday 29 October 2012

Dear Cyclist

The Palace to Palace charity ride is now over with and the training programme that I was on has come to an end after 11 weeks (it is recommended to wait 4 weeks before restarting it due to it's intensity).  So at the moment it's a case of a couple of endurance rides a week and trying to beat the winter weather.

A few friends and family have asked me what the next challenge will be? In fact, my wife's uncle posted up on Facebook how he would like to join me on the Palace to Palace next year.  My brother has also recently taken up cycling again (I like to think I inspired him to get fitter) so he said he was up for something too. Even my son, who is struggling with bad knees at the moment seems to be interested in getting a road bike.

I noticed two rides by the Princes Trust, the Palace to Palace that I have already completed and a longer ride (225 miles over 3 days) going from the Mersey to the Tyne. I posted up the two offerings on Facebook and suddenly my wife's uncle claims he doesn't have a bike (even though he's been giving me coaching advice for the last 6 weeks or so).

One thing though about charity rides is that they are supported by the good wishes of friends and family (I raised £262 for the Palace to Palace).  I don't want to be one of those people that is always asking for money so I have decided that next year there will be a charity ride with my new recruits, but I also want to concentrate on sportives as well. It may then be a while before I consider another charity ride looking for help from friends and family.

Just as I was trying to decide what ride to possibly do, I look on my desk at a letter from another organisation offering charity bike rides.  It's salutation says "Dear cyclist".  Does this mean I have made it ? Am I no longer an old wheezer on a bike but a fully fledged cyclist ? Maybe they know I have a new road bike and followed me on my training ride on Sunday......

..... I was out riding, getting used to cleats and the new bike.  In fact riding with cleats seems a little easier than I was initially thinking.  Twenty minutes into the ride a couple of cyclists came past me, but, unlike before on the folder where I struggled to keep up I decided "Hell No, I'm a fully fledged road cyclist".  I dropped down a gear accelerated and hung on to their back wheel for around 5 miles or so until we set off in our opposite directions.  Looking down at the cycle computer I noticed my speed was up close to 20 mph as opposed to the 12-14 or so on the other bike. It felt good to be able to have a turn of speed for a change.

I also screamed up the hill where just a few weeks ago an elderly gentleman told me how knackered I looked.  In fact as I broached the top of the hill I was still up at around 14 mph when I looked at the gears I noticed I was on the harder big cog at the front and climbing easily.

I hit one hill and saw part way up it, a guy on the granny cog of his mountain bike, I dug deep and powered by at the top of the hill I was a good 30 yards or so in front and pulling away. This hill is interesting as it isn't very long, but it is pretty steep.  At the top there is Pinderfields Hospital, I'm sure they put it there for the good of cyclists who have almost died getting up it.

Maybe the people who wrote the letter knew all of this, or, maybe they just wanted to impress me in order to gain as many recruits as possible.  Their letter was for another charity ride, over 4 days, cycling from London to Paris (280 miles) .  However, I dare not offer it to my budding recruits as I'm sure they'll run and hide never to be seen again.

There's a large number of charity rides out there and I'm waiting for my potential recruits to issue their preference. So guys (if you're reading this use the comments section at the bottom to suggest which one you fancy - or let me know if you've seen an alternative).  If you're reading this and you've done any of the rides I have listed, please give your feedback but be gentle.

To put in a team into a number of the rides listed, it requires a team to consist of 4 riders so I am also still looking for one more poor soul from friends and family (or other blog readers) in order to put together a team and they too will have voting rights (so get you're name down quick).  As I figure it, most of the rides are in August, September and October giving us close to a year to train, so no excuses.

Last week I completed a night time training session, I feel it's essential to have a target to aim for. Riding out in the evening, as its getting dark and cooler it's a challenge.  As the nights draw in and darkness falls much earlier, I really need to stay committed. I also need to be more alert, especially as I rode down a local path down the side of a river in the dark.  A guy was walking his three black labradors, which in pitch black even with cycle lights don't show up too good.  The plonker was a class 3 (see my blog swim or fly), he froze and stood perfectly still leaving his dogs to continue to wander.  Now I had cycle lights on, was wearing a white jersey and was easily visible.  Only choice was to hit the brakes and come to a muddy, leaf stridden sliding stop.  This riding at night is going to take some practice.

I have roped my brother into a sportive event for the beginning of November this year, it should be good and I am looking forward to the challenge and hoping the weather stays good.

So come on team wheezers, what's it going to be for next year ?

Sunday 7 October 2012

eee tha loooks knackered son

It still amazes me how, every time I go on my bike, I end up with a bit of story to tell.  This morning me and my trusty folder went for another training session (with only a week to go to the Palace to Palace charity ride).  Again to test whether I can possibly manage the distance of 45 miles.

Also, this weekend, my wife bought me a new road bike, so I too will be able to ride like Mr Carbon Frame in the near future.  I wonder if I will have as many tales to tell when I am riding on the road more.

Also, I'm writing this blog following a letter written into the Cycling Active Magazine this month. A mountain biker was complaining that road bikers did not acknowledge him on the road.  I have to say, that in the food chain my folding hybrid is possibly lower down to even a mountain bike, but I have never had a problem with people talking to me.  It's therefore got nothing to do with the type of bike and all to do with lycra.  If you wear it your a cyclist's friend, but if you don't, you're a hairy arsed cyclist who doesn't know how to get dressed in the morning.

The Sunday ritual was completed extremely early this morning. I set off at around 8:30am as I knew I was probably going to be out for at least 4 hours.  So it was pretty cold to say the least but as well as a new bike wifey also bought me a really good base layer.  Can't believe how good it was, it kept me warm throughout the cold morning and as the sun came out and countryside warmed up, I found I wasn't sweating too much either.  This is a real addition to the clothing wardrobe (as are the Shimano shoes with cleats for the new bike, that's bound to be another blog post as I come to terms with how to use those so watch out for it).

Last time I did the Palace to Palace distance it took me 4 hours 29, this time I decided in Wiggins style to race myself and see if I could go faster.  This was a mistake, because although I did the distance in 4 hours 18 minutes, I was starting to have trouble after the first hour or so.  I was also really stupid and taking in a different route with more hills as well (well you never know what London is going to throw at you).

At just over an hour, I started one climb that was pretty steep and started to dig down low.  Part way up the hill, the local cycling club past me by.  I marvelled at their train, 2 cycles wide and a long winding snake of maybe 8 or so rows.  Each row in their club colours,  looking at me as they went by shouting "Morning",  and me trying my hardest to hide the fact that I was puffing like a train returned their shouts.

Then came their back row, and one cyclist dropped out and kept time with me for a while.  Now, sometimes you meet guys who say "I was riding 20 years before you were born", well this guy looked old enough and could have said "I was riding 20 years before yer father was born" and he probably still would have had years to spare.  This guy was easily in his eighties.

He kept time for a few hundred yards, grinned and in a really broad yorkshire accent shouted "Eeee, tha loooooks really knackered son!". At this point he puts his hand on my back and just as I was thinking he might really help push me up the hill he laughs at me again and says "ey well lad, can't hang around here all day", at that point he put's the hammer down, left me for standing and by the time his peloton had reached the top of the hill he was back in formation.  I bet this guy was a Tour de France rider in his youth, had to be as he breezed away.

Following my road section, I then decided to take a visit to the Trans Pennine Trail.  This was a good move as it was wet, muddy and the leaves for autumn had started to fall.  This meant that I had to drop my pace, for safety's sake of course (nothing to do with being really tired and wanting to avoid the onslaught of more roadies).

I rode out for around 10 miles before turning around and heading back for home.  5 miles on the way back, a cyclist coming in the other direction stops me and says "Eee can tha help us out?".  At this point I notice that he has a really small cut on the end of his nose which is bleeding.  He says to me "Can tha tell us if me nose is grazed or cut and if it's bad?".  At this point, I notice his daughter who he is riding with, she is maybe seven and she says "I'm not scared of anything, me dads just being a wimp".

I look at the nose and tell him its not too bad and it's almost stopped.  To the daughter I say,  "I bet that being scared of nothing is what got yer dad his nose job".  She then turns around and rather matter of factly says "No Mister,  he got that because I rode through some glass and my tyre spit it up in his face".  To think I have been trying to get my son to ride with me, this guy would probably have preferred to be on his own, first so he wouldn't have been injured and second so his daughter wouldn't humiliate him in front of complete strangers.

Other than that, the ride was excellent.  A little cool, and as it was muddy and slippy it was maybe one of my last rides on the trail until after the winter.  Another excuse to try out me road bike, and try to get to the point where I can wait for and catch the old guy on his bike.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

xxx off the lot of you, im not dead yet

I decided this morning that I needed to know how much damage my holiday had done to my fitness and training program for my up and coming charity ride.  I therefore decided that, after work this evening, I would quickly get changed and out on the road.  The urgency being compounded by the darkening nights drawing in and my desire to minimise how much riding I do in the dark until I really have to.

So back from work, pannier packed, off I set from my hotel for a planned ride of around 2 hours.  I set off quite quickly, keeping my cadence and speed up.  My plan is to see how close to the half of the palace to palace distance I can do (which is 45 miles and only just a week and half away).

My start quickly gets me in front of a class 3,  this stupid woman was walking her dog which was off the lead and wandering in front of her.  Her response was to shout the dogs name followed by the command "Sit !".  The dog responded by laying straight across the path, its obedience so good, it wasn't even going to move as I approached at speed.  This caused me to slam on the breaks and wait for her to collect her dog.  Unbelievable, why couldn't she have just left it alone as it wandered harmlessly to the side of the path.  She could have also followed her command with "Commit Suicide" and "Play Dead".  Of course, everything was ok because she used the standard class 3 response, "Oh !, Sorry".

I then headed out quite quickly, to then get held up in traffic where cars on wide roads decided to move right to the left to deliberately stop cyclists being able to get through.

It was at this point I decided it would probably be dark before I got to half my ride, and I would need to up the tempo to get anywhere near a decent ride.

At the 30 minutes / 7 mile point I did a quick drink stop and then straight on keeping my rate up. Things were going good, and even with the traffic jam, I was probably going to get an average speed around 13 mph's.  Two hours, 26 miles, more than half of the target, no problem.

Stopped for a little longer at the half way mark,  1 banana and more drink to keep me going and dusk fast approaching.  It's at this point that I look up.

Circling above me is a load, I mean a swarm of Red Kites. I'm not kidding there must have been 30 or 40 birds flying around in circles just above where I had decided to stop.

For those of you that don't know, Red Kites are a large bird of prey with a wing span up to 5 feet long.  The image below is borrowed from Wikipedia, and the link to their page on kites is here.

Red Kite Picture
Now Red Kites were hunted almost to extinction as they were wrongly blamed for affecting farm animals, crops and were also notoriously scavenging around the 15th century.  In fact, Kites are the UK equivalent of vultures, preferring already dead animals or road kill.

In the UK, they have been re-introduced and after a gap of over 150 years, they are now breeding again in many counties within the UK.  But Berkshire seems to have a really high concentration and they can regularly be seen in the country side to the north of reading.  They are a success story for re-introduced wildlife within the UK, but rarely have I seen so many

Now imagine, one highly knackered middle aged man in lycra,  feeling a little tired and looking up to see a circling pack of vultures.  At this point one was quite low, so I shouted 'bxggxr off the lot of you, I ain't dead yet!'.  I think they thought of me as road kill, or, based upon where I was standing and how it was getting dark, I would be soon.  To be honest, they probably thought the sound of my voice was further confirmation of my impending demise.  They say animals have an extra sense, and I saw no road kill either up or down the lane so I'm sure it was me that they were interested in following.

So as it was starting to get darker, it was on with the lights and then back on my bike, it was time to look lively again. I was also getting hungry and thinking of dinner at this point, then looking back over my shoulder at the circling birds I laughed to myself and wondered if they were thinking the same thing of me.

Another 45 minutes and it was time for me to finish my epic ride.  22.39 miles completed in 1 hour 45 minutes, so not too bad I guess.  Timing was also excellent as on my return it was getting quite dark and had also started raining.  So it's time for my chinese takeaway (Chicken Chow Mein) and I wonder as I write this, what ended up on the Red Kites Menu for the evening.  Sorry, but it wasn't a knackered 45 year old MAMIL.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Idiot Cyclist Abroad - Part 2 - The Cyclone

This entry I wrote whilst in the Maldives, but have posted when I got back. I hope you enjoy.

Many people have told me how their relationship with their wife and their obsession with sport can sometimes be in conflict, or strained as their other half just doesn't understand it.  For me, that's not a problem as my wife is very understanding.  Just the week before coming away on holiday I was with her in the local bike shop and I was preparing to broach the subject of purchasing a road bike.

I nervously stand by a bike, £650 on the price tag and ask "Do you like this?".  Joanne looks at it and replies "No not really", my heart sinks this is going to be tougher than I first think. She then points to a nice carbon framed bike at twice the price and says "Darling I like this one, it would suit you, maybe we can save up for it after our holidays".  Maybe its not as hard after all.  No conflict here I think to myself, although its probably got something to do with getting me out of the house every Sunday morning after providing her with breakfast in bed rather than supporting me that's doing the trick.

Its of no great surprise then that I have been able to put in three training sessions a week in at the gym whilst holidaying on our island paradise.  Its even better that she explains to my eldest why I need to do it. He laughs at me and says mum explained when I return.  They look at one another and grin, I have no idea what passed between them.

Today our paradise has been hit by a tropical cyclone and its rained and rained.  Can't really complain its the first day of bad weather since we got here.  Joanne says to me "honey you off to the gym today" to which I say yes and head out.

Unlike other days the gym is packed, one of the few places on the island that is dry.  So I set up the program on my bike and I'm off.  After a few minutes, three German couples enter the gym,  all in their mid twenties at a guess, the lads obviously work out, the girls are tiny and slight of build.

One of the girls takes the bike next to mine and the boyfriend, being an expert at the gym, comes over to get her going. Now these bikes need to be pedalled to turn them on and I say  "start".  He replies "No! Need set programme".  I say "Start, it will turn on, then you set programme" we both repeat ourselves several more times before the girlfriend either gives up or gets bored and starts pedalling. At this point the control panel lights up, she gives me a knowing smile and her boyfriend shouts "stop, I set for you".  She stops pedalling and the bike turns off. At this point she shouts at him in German, he shrugs his shoulders and walks away and she starts again and sets her programme. See sports do cause a strain with some couples.

One of the other guys sets some weights and heaves them into the air with a huge scream in the process, to the delight of his girlfriend who claps. He puts them down and she moves over to the same weights.  She is tiny but does a lift and jerk in a split second,  her boyfriend swearing at her and marching off somewhere else.  She then starts doing reps with the same weights making him look a bigger weakling than before.

During all of this, I am spinning away at 120 spm laughing at these girls and guys.  The muscalar guys prancing around like peacocks showing off to the girls.  The girls demonstrating both superior intelligence and strength making them look both idiotic and weak at the same time.

My hour workout, including my high cadence intervals are over in no time.  Its true though about strained relationships and also true that sometimes the funniest things happen in bad weather.

I'm so glad my wife is so supportive even if its just so she can have a quiet life.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Idiot Cyclist Abroad

Twenty Five years ago on the 12th September my wife and I got married. Now after 25 years of marriage my wife told me that this yorkshireman must finally put his hand in his pocket and take her away somewhere nice to celebrate.  With our two sons in tow (James 20 and Alex 18) we decided to visit Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo, a small but very beautiful Maldivian island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  This island is just 280 metres wide and 300 metres long, has nothing but sand, sea, boats and an occasional sea plane ferrying people to and from the airport at the capital Male which is 42 kilometers away.

We have snorkelled with fish on the local reef, I was attacked by a trigger fish that has given me a memorable bite on my ankle, swam with sting rays and the largest selection of tropical fish I have ever seen. We are blessed to visit what I can only describe as paradise on earth.  The people are friendly, cannot do enough for you and the all inclusive food and drink are about the best I have tasted anywhere.

I am now laid on my sun bed writing this blog post about my training update for my up and coming cycling ride in October.  Less than a month away now, I  decided that as well as enjoying my holiday, it was important that I didn't lose my fitness that have acquired thus far (not that its that great yet but enough to miss it if I lose it).  The resort is lucky enough to have a huge fully equipped gym complete with treadmills, recumbant bikes, spinning bikes, cross trainers and more weight machines than I have ever seen.  What's more, every time I have been there I have rarely seen anyone else.

Today, for instance, I did 30 miles on a combination of bike and recumbant bike.  During this time, one lady entered and hit the treadmill,  she was quite a large lady and in broken English she informed me that she needed to work off her breakfast.  To be honest, looking at her, it was far more than breakfast that could have done with being worked off! Following her 30 minutes on the treadmill, she then laid on the floor next to where the bikes were and began to do a series of floor exercises, at first reminding me of a turtle I had seen the day before, but at the end being more like the cockroach that was stuck on its back with its legs in the air stranded in the toilets and couldn't right itself.

Also, a German guy entered who I have seen in there before.  He spends twenty minutes doing weights, but his technique is not one I have seen before.  He puts the highest weight possible on each machine and spends 2 or 3 minutes trying to lift it before moving on to the next.  I don't see any repetitions, or to that matter, weights actually moving, but he does make some very interesting sounds in the process.

At this point I hit the incline on the bike and cycling gets a little tougher, so I lose concentration on my fitness buddies, put my head down and push through the discomfort. The training is also very good preparation for London in October, especially the 35 degree heat that I am hoping Mid October in London will match (only here its in celcius and there it will be farenheight). I guess the only incline I am going to see here is the electronically generated one on the fitness bike,  the islands are barely above see level so there's no hills.  I am sure I read somewhere that the highest natural point across all of the islands was only 7 metres above see level, although I believe Male has a few buildings a little bigger.

Its at this point that the hotel gym trainer walks over to me, sees the sweat pouring down my face and turns on the air conditioning.  I was just waiting for the old wheezer statement to be mentioned again, but at least this time my bike can't be insulted as its sat patiently in my shed waiting for me to come home.   I mention to him how quiet the gym is, and he points out in broken English that most people come here to enjoy their holiday and that it doesn't include stupid exercise in this heat, not a great advert for his excellent equipped gym. There's also Tennis, squash and table tennis too, but for those I think it is a little too hot. It did make me wonder how such a magnificent gym could be provided for just a few idiots like me but I'm glad it was.

It also seems that I miss the really interesting things whilst I am at the gym, like my wife donning her red T-shirt so she doesn't get sun burnt, and then being chased in the shallows by a reef shark that was imitating a bull and chasing her red top.  Apparently it was nearly three foot long so could probably have managed to suck her big toe if it caught her.  It was also funny to watch apparently,  especially as some brave Germans stood on the wall by the beach shouting "shark" causing my wife to swim faster.

Mr Motivator Himself
She said she had had a full gym workout including swimming in world record time, hurdles as she ran up the steps and the high jump as she cleared the wall.  I have decided to name the shark Mr Motivator in honor of its workout training regime which seems much more effective than my own training programme.

There are also a couple of German guys wearing speedo's, of which one guys consists of fishnet except for a pouch at the front leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination and in a country where nudity is outlawed.  My son has the cheek to complain about my Lycra back home, I feel positively over dressed when I'm cycling.

To be honest though, this is one of the most amazing places on earth and an idiot like me can still hit the gym with Hans and Helga from time to time as well. Helga was an inspiration of just how much damage a single breakfast can do. I am really glad to be trying to keep my diet as healthy as possible.

Friday 7 September 2012

Swim or Fly

As you probably gathered from my profile, I am a freelance computer consultant and I travel a bit for my work.  At the moment I have a client in Reading and stay at a hotel nearby that has a lovely path at that side of the river Thames that I cycle daily to work.  It's only a mile and half, but it's just so nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of cars, buses etc.

The path I ride to work

It's has such a calming affect, and it's amazing what you see on the short ride in to the office.  Part of it is also a nature reserve as well.

One thing you see, is something of particular scientific interest, as I believe it is probably the highest concentration of this particular phenomena in the UK.  You see, my son is a science buff and is always talking about electrons, photons, protons, neutrons etc.  I have pointed out that he has missed one of the most valuable scientific '...ons' of them all, and I am privileged to see at least one or two every day.

The Moron comes in possibly three different classifications, and all regularly frequent this short path.

Class 1 Moron - Otherwise known as the 'Deafy'.  This is a person that walks along the narrow sections of the path, often with ear apparel in, and simply ignores you when you come up behind them.  No amount of ringing the bell on the bike or shouting can move them.  They often require a gentle prod in the shoulder to get them to move out of the way.  Although you have to be careful during the prod as they can sometimes morph into a Class 2 Moron which is more dangerous. At least with a class one you know where they are and there behaviour is consistent.

Class 2 Moron - Otherwise known as the 'Ooooh' or 'Jumper'.  This type of moron often jumps or steps directly into your path causing you to slam on the brakes in order to avoid them. The jumping movement is often accompanied by an 'Ooooh' sound warning you of their imminent change in direction. If not themselves, then they leave their dogs off the lead (even though it's a nature reserve and says animals must be kept on lead), which will often wander in front of you causing the class 2 to follow and requiring you to take emergency avoiding action.  Class 2 Morons believe their state can change to a class one normal person by simply iterating the word 'Sorry'.

Class 3 Moron - Otherwise known as the 'Inert Moron'.  To be honest, I wasn't aware of  the class 3 moron until my ride home last night, and unfortunately I met three walking in the opposite direction to the way I was riding.  These three people were walking 3 abreast, taking up the full width of the path, as I approached they all froze and stood perfectly still. I had to slam on the brakes and stop. At this point the three class 3's simply looked at one another but none moved to make any gap allowing me to pass requiring me to talk to them 'OK guys, are we going to stand here all day or do you expect me to Swim or Fly past you?', at this point, like Moses parting the red sea, they moved slowly apart to allow me to pass. I was surprised by the slowness of their movements, the Inert Moron obviously does not posses the same level of muscle control as a class 2 and is unable to make sudden movements.

All Moron classes can be easily identified by their behaviour, but are also identifiable due to the noises that they make which can be a tut, a blow, or a 'what the ......' statement, usually followed by a 'Sorry'.

So if you want to see the largest concentration of Morons in Great Britain,  the place to be is the river bank path by the Thames in the Reading area,  an area of significant scientific and moronic interest.  You heard it here first !

Sunday 26 August 2012

You aint got no engine mate

So this week, it was time to try a full Palace to Palace distance ride to see how my training programme is progressing.  I'm following the Carmichael Training Systems Time Crunched Cyclist training programme designed to get people up to a level of fitness to ride century endurance events.

My training so far has consisted of Interval Training through the week (short rides with combinations of  Fast Pedals, High Cadence Cycling, Heart Rate Zone Cycling designed as a Cardio programme and to increase lactate thresholds etc).

Then Friday, after work, a short endurance ride (1-2 hours), which is typically in the region of around 18 miles and Sunday a longer endurance ride usually (2-3 hours and in the region of 30 miles or so).

So today, I decided, being several weeks into the programme, measuring my progress regularly with fitness tests etc, that it was time to try to ride the full Palace to Palace distance.  Now to do this, I chose to ride the Trans Pennine Trail (one of my favourites) and ride out till I reach 23 miles then turn around and head back.

Equipped with 3 Lucozade sport drinks, and dressed to impress in my new cycling bib 3 quarter length tights, cycling jersey, a new pair of cycling gloves (no we couldn't find a left handed one - see my article the Sunday Cycle Ride) and new cycling socks (all bought for me by loving wife yesterday and now theres definitely no chance my son is ever coming cycling with me again) I headed out.

On the outbound trip, I found three separate families who practiced sacrificial rites with their children.  In each case, I would ride and move over to the left (cos we brits drive on the left, so I assumed on a path I would do the same),  only to find the parents push their children to left right in front of me and in one case the toddler must have been about two.  Now seeing a lycra clad behemoth descending on him at a great rate of notts, this kid is going to have nightmares for weeks to come.

Also on the way out, I met and cycled along with two couples who were riding the North to South section of the Trans Pennine Trail today and tomorrow (ending in Chesterfield tomorrow afternoon and camping on the way, what a great way to spend the bank holiday). Now their panniers were loaded down, however, they also knew where they were going so I tagged along for a while.

So I reached the 23 mile point in just under 2 hours, ate my prized banana and had a drink and started on the way back.  Now anyone who rides endurance rides will tell you that one thing you need to do is stock plenty of fuel (snacks, lunch etc and I didn't), and it got to lunch time and I realised I was hungry and had neglected to bring any other snacks.

But not to worry,  just to the south of Barnsley at the side of the trail, is a McDonalds so I decided a McChicken sandwich would set me up for the ride back home.  Now, as well as not remembering food, I also had neglected to pack my bike lock so decided to queue on the drive thru instead.  Now imagine the sight, a BMW, a Porsche, a lycra clad cyclist and a beat up old ford escort all queued for food.

The two cars in front ordered, and I then cycled up to the order point, and the guy said "Sorry Mate, can't serve you here".  "Why" was my short and polite reply, to which he then leaned out of the booth pointed down to my trusty steed and said "You ain't got no engine mate !".  Now, my trusty folder has been called many things, but it's never been refused service because I havent got an engine. I then pointed out that, if any of the cars in the queue were as old as the engine driving my bike, then it would be classed as vintage and would command greater respect. Also, I never realised that an internal combustion engine was a pre-requisite for a McDonalds Drive Thru, consider, my trusty steed is also a road going vehicle, so whats the problem?

Now, there was no way I was leaving my bike outside whilst I went in for my sandwich, cos the chances of it still being there when I came out were second to none.  So I then cycled up the road to a petrol station, and believe it or not, they served me a sandwich (from a place that's designed to put fuel in vehicles with engines) which then fuelled me up for the remainder of my ride.

Total time out was 4 hours 30 minutes (which included 5 minutes in the McDonalds queue and 10 minutes eating my sarny). A total of 45.68 miles, 2844 calories burned and an average cadence now in the 80's.  So today was another good ride.  Shame on you McDonalds for refusing my custom !

Saturday 25 August 2012

Father and Son Ride

So I finally got my son to come on a ride, even though I was wearing my gear (read the Sunday Cycle Ride) for details of how he tried to avoid a ride in the past.

He came home from University and decided to borrow my wifes new bike (I bought her a Dahon Espresso folding hybrid at the same time as I bought mine).  But, it was not as good an idea as it seemed at the start.

Firstly, for the wife to feel comfy,  she has a saddle that is so big, well not big,  it is WIDE.  Its like riding on a park bench, you expect to fall off at any point and for guys, well, lets just say its not too comfortable (if you get what I mean). She's not big (only a uk size 10) but she aint going to ride unless she can take the sofa with her.

So we get the griping out of the way and set off.  Less than a mile from home theres a long downhill section which I decided to sprint down.  The speedo touched 35 and I was gaining on a car in front when it stopped at some traffic lights and I rammed on.  Now wifey hasnt been out on her bike for a while, and being new the brake cables have stretched, or at least thats what I think James was saying as he tried to avoid hitting the back of the car.

So lights turn green, brakes get a quick adjustment, and we're off again.

Next few miles are great, I'm riding along at a reasonable rate and keeping check that James is keeping up.  After around half an hour we spot a young lady at the side of the road, her moped on its side and jumping up and down hysterically. So we pull in and ask her if she is ok.

She then explains that she had only bought the bike the day before, and when riding home an ant crawled onto her hand causing her to leap from the moped. She was doing some kind of rain dance which I guess she hoped would scare the ants away.  So being a yorkshireman and chivalry not being dead, we pick the moped up.  At this point we find the stand has been ripped off, the engine wont start and she is afraid of calling her motor biking partner but she relents and gives him a call.

We make sure she is ok wait for friend to come and collect her before setting off again.  I cant believe just how eventfull cycling can be.

So we ride for a while longer, down another steep hill but this time I go slower not wanting to see my son unable to stop again, I really need to make sure I take him home in one piece.

James informs me he knows of a short cut, and having stood around for half an hour with the ant dancer I decide to go for it. After ten minutes i don't have a clue where I am and then  we hit The Hill.

Hill climbing is great for fitness building, and my technique is to put myhead down and go for it, and this one was a monster.  When I reach the top I remember my cycling buddy who is 23 years my younger, huffing and puffing pushing his bike up the hill, I bet it sounded like a steam train under full load in yesteryear. On greater discussion he informs me its the seats fault.  I think its so big it must be just heavy.

Well, the rest of our ride is pretty uneventfull, although it may be a while before my son comes with me again.  Only 12 miles but a deep understanding of how Adam Ant learnt his dance moves.

Monday 20 August 2012

Trans Pennine Trail - Wakefield to Royston

Well, this Sunday I was limited by time, so decided to try part of the Trans Pennine Trail.  This is a cycle route that traverses the pennines from east to west coast and has a number of extremely well signposted and mapped sections.

One such section is that from Wakefield to Sheffield.  It is an ideal route for beginners as it is flat and on cycle tracks most of the way although you do have to cross a few roads.  You also need to be aware of on-comers,  during my ride this week I rounded a corner to see a young boy heading straight at me, I braked and stopped, he braked and stopped but his father who was taking in the scenery and following didnt.  He veered off at the last minute and nearly ended up in a nice pile of nettles, and he then blamed his son.

Also, met up with a group of 4 Mamils (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), riding their Carbon Framed Mountain Bikes (no Mr Carbon strikes again).  All bragging how there's was lightest, avoiding insults I had a quick stop for drink and then me and my trusty steed passed them by.

Lovely Path Sections Make the Pennine Trail and ideal weekend ride

The Pennine Trail can be picked up just to the South of Wakefield heading towards Doncaster on the A638.  Turn right just under the bridge on the way out of Wakefield and turn left onto the trail. So its just a mile and half from Wakefield City Centre and maybe 5 miles from home. There is a car park at the Walton Colliery Nature Reserve if you want to drive there, but me, driving would not help my fitness regime so I decided to cycle there.

Walton Colliery Nature Reserve - With Parking Nearby

Now, on the fitness side, currently I am doing the Time Crunched Cyclist Fitness Training from Carmichael Training, and I am doing the one for Century Riding.  It's based on the training programme Lance Armstrong followed following his recovery from Cancer and planning his Tour de France comeback.  One technique is high cadence riding, so being limited on time, I decided this was my plan this week.

So off I go at 90-100 spm as opposed to my usual 80, which meant I was totally knackered by the time I got home, but managed to get all the way to Royston in Barnsley.  

At Royston you cycle alongside the Royston Canal so it's a little more open (but strangely for a cycle route has regular gates that are too narrow for bikes).

Royston Canal

Here it's pretty open, and this was where it started to rain (it couldn't rain in the other areas).  So this was my turnaround point, heading back the way I came and keeping up the high cadence cycling on the return journey as well.

Also, there are couple of narrow points to the path, make sure you use your bell otherwise you may meet someone doing high cadence cycling the other way.  I was unfortunate enough to meet a riding club at this point and had to stop and wait for around 20 riders to ride by (and being friendly northerners, saying good morning to each one as they filter by).

Watch the narrow sections for people coming the other way

Also you get a lot of 'sorry' as people ignore their pets or kids, allow them to wander in front of you causing you to lock up the brakes trying to avoid them.  One of these days someone will be sorry as a cyclist is going to take one out (one dog ambled in front of me and the other MAMILS and I was amazed that it's suicidal tendencies hadn't been successful.

For further info on the Trans Pennine Trail, take a look here  

So I completed just under 28 miles in under 2 hours 30 minutes, and including photo's and Mamil socialising, I was really pleased with my ride.  For details of the Carmichael Time Crunched Cyclist check out at amazon

Friday 10 August 2012

The Monsal Trail

Imagine Bakewell in the Peak District, steam trains chugging along through tunnels and then over huge brick built bridges.  Then imagine the steam trains being no more, no rails and a limestone base where the tracks once were, open for walkers, cyclists, wheelchair users and you have the Monsal Trail.

Set in the Peak District, and with just under ten miles of cycling heaven, the Monsal Trail is an absolute must.  It's a few weeks ago now since my wife and I found ourselves at home at the weekend with both kids away.  We've both been on this fitness and slimming plan, and decided to take a ride along the Monsal Trail (Cycling Active had done an article on it a few weeks before and I had been itching to go ever since,  and having been once,  I'm just itching to go back again).

We started at the Monsal Centre at Hassop Station, just outside Bakewell, here an old station has been converted into a Cafe, Car Park, Gift Shop and Cycle Hire.  The Cycle Hire is excellent if you dont have your own bike, they even have trailers for young kids, and electric bikes for Grandma and Grandpa (although they did mention that the electric bikes are booked up well in advance so book early) their details can be found here.

BTW, we turned left at first, rode for a mile or so into Bakewell with my wife telling me I had gone the wrong way (my map reading was bad again), and I hate to say it but she was right and we had to do another of my famous 180 degree about turns after asking for directions.  My wife told me though that shouting at someone is a sign of affection,  guess she really loved the person that pushed into the queue in front of her when shopping the other week.

You travel along from Bakewell towards Blackwell, passing through tunnels (which are lit, but quite dimly, causing my wife to shout "Help I'm Blind" as we entered the first one from bright sunshine to darkness whilst wearing her prescription sun glasses. She then took them off while riding (like a Tour de France specialist), hooked them on the top of her top and when leaving the tunnel, subsequently dropped them causing a major disruption whilst she found them).  As well as tunnels there are old stations (some of which are converted into cafe's, toilets and information centres, others are just platforms on either side of the trail where onlookers watch people pass by) and, of course, the bridges with spectacular views over the countryside.

View Monsal Trail in a larger map

Now one of the tunnels is closed as you approach Blackwell so theres only so far you can go.  However, that doesn't spoil the experience at all.  If like us, you travel by car and then hit the trail by bike, you'll do just under 20 miles by going to the end and then riding back to the car, of course if you go the wrong way you can add another mile or too for fun.

It's pretty easy going with only slight inclines (I guess the old puffer trains would have had trouble back then if it were too steep, so it's good for the old puffer cyclists now).

If theres one, easy Sunday cycle ride, or walk, then this is one for the bucket list.

Above is my wife on one of the bridges having just come out of the tunnel behind her.

The views over the valleys behind me are just spectacular. Excuse my imitation of being a MAMIL (Middle Aged Man In Lycra).

Over the coming weeks I plan to try out and blog about other excellent bike rides that we do and update you on my map reading skills as we go. Some will be in the company with my wife (the days when the weather is good), and some on my own (when the weather is more suspect). So check back regularly to see where I have got to next time.

I use a Motoactv to log workouts and rides, check out the details at

Thursday 9 August 2012

The Sunday Cycle Ride

OK, so I feel as though I have made progress this year.  Starting out the year a little overweight and extremely unfit I decided that this 45 year old needed to do something.  Therefore I invested in a fold-up bike (A little Dahon D7), for me to ride to work from the hotel that I stay in when I work away.  Well, it's only a mile and half, but those first weeks were torture and I needed Gas and Air and a huge recovery from such a short ride. The WeightWatchers diet definitely got my weight down, but the road to fitness was going to take longer.

Now, well 7 months in, 3 stone lighter and regularly riding 20+ miles I feel as though I'm making progress.  To be perfectly honest I'm probably fitter now than I was in my twenties and planning on a 45 mile charity ride in October, it's time to start regular training and get myself prepared.  One such preparation is my religious planning for the Sunday morning ride,  take this weekend for example:-

Saturday night my wife checks the weather forecast for Yorkshire "It's going to be nice tomorrow!" she says to me and thats all the encouragement I need, my cycle ride is on.  My son is home from University so I decide it's a great opportunity to rope him in on my fitness plans, this starts with his question "You're not going to wear those cycling shorts that you have are you ?".  Stupid question, course I am, that's why I bought them so I reply "Yes son, are you coming".  At that point suddenly in five minutes on Saturday Evening he is flooded with demands of for his time, revising, girlfriend, car to wash, home brew to bottle, hoover to fix for his mum, extra sleep, bad leg (if the truth be told he just doesn't want to be seen out with the old man dressed like that).

So Sunday morning I wake, the sun rakes through the bedroom windows even though the curtains are shut the room is bright (the wife was right, it's going to be great).  A sneak downstairs later, a quick light breakfast + taking my wife her's in bed, it's time to start preparations.

First it's up to the Garden Shed to get my bike.  It's still a folder, but it's now a rather nice Dahon Espresso Hybrid, 26" wheels still allowing me to throw it in the boot of my car but allowing me to carry out what others call "A Proper Ride".  I stand it up on the patio ready for the preparations to begin.

2 Sports Drinks prepared and in pannier, helmet in place, cycle computer primed, trainers on,  I'm ready for the off, however, I seem to have lost one of my gloves.  No one has seen it, and this just doesn't bode well. (My wife later tells me I must have lost it, but if I know of a shop that sells left handed ones she's more than happy to buy me a left handed glove to match the right handed one I still own).

Preparations complete, and possibly taking as long as any athlete planning a stage of the Tour de France, I lock the back door quietly, move around the side of the house only to realise that the side gate is still locked.  I then return to the patio, take off my shoes, unlock the house, go inside, find the keys to the gate, so far preparations have taken me over an hour.

So I hit the road, the first five miles just disappear in no time as I head out past the built up areas into the countryside (today I'm gonna do 2 thirds of my charity ride distance so 30 miles is on the cards).  I am now riding from Rothwell to Castleford and stop briefly for a drink, the sun is pounding down and I am glad my preparations included the liberal application of sun cream, my wife's words ringing in my ear "it's going to be a great day".

10 miles into the ride I head south to cross under the M62 motorway and around 1/2 mile from the motorway the most vicious thunderstorm in history hits, I pound away like mad so I can reach and huddle under the underpass with another cyclist as we watch the road gradually flood outside. The downpour only last a few minutes, so it's back on the bike and up through the industrial estate ready to ride in towards wakefield and the rain starts again.

This time there's a bus shelter just ahead with 4 four people from the local riding club who are all crammed in (bikes and all), but we're a friendly lot in Yorkshire and never leave anyone out, so I dive in.  A 6th guy try's to fit in behind me and shouts "Come on shove up, my bikes worth more than your lot together so make room" we all shuffle up.  The riding club admire the beautiful carbon framed bike that has joined us, I only wonder why my Dahon did not earn equal respect when I joined them.  The owner went on to tell us how light it is and how great it is for climbing hills (a very useful thing in Yorkshire).

The rain stops, and in reverse order, Mr Carbon Frame sets off, then me, then the cycling club who pass me by within minutes as we start a steep hill climb.  Then I find myself passing and pulling away from Mr Carbon Frame as I cycle up the hill as fast as possible. I then hear the jeers from the cycling club at the top of the hill shouting at Mr Carbon Frame and telling him of the embarrassment of being beaten by an old guy on a folder, I'm not sure which one of us is insulted the most (and am not sure whether I'm upset for being called old, or, the insult aimed at my trusty bike) but I don't care, the sun is out, I'm over the top and on the downhill stretch heading in to Wakefield.  Just a right turn at the bottom to head in to town and 3 miles or so from there home, but, I've only done an hour of riding (plus half an hour bravely sheltering for the rain to stop) and only 15 miles, so I turn left into the countryside and away from town, I gotta get my 30 miles in.

Mr Carbon Frame's Arch Nemesis - The Dahon Folder

I cut through a couple of villages and then on to the Pennine Trail which I know heads into Wakefield. 3 Miles further on I meet someone and ask how far to Wakefield, he replies "A long time going this way mate, but if you do a 180 degree about face and go back the way you came, it's about 8 miles".  OK, my 30 miles is easily achievable now, I've been riding in the wrong direction for the last ten minutes. Then the rain starts again, this time I'm brave, I put on my waterproof jacket and ride under the trees to Wakefield.

The Pennine Trail is wonderful. Flat paths, straight from Royston to Walton, overhanging trees limiting the soaking I am receiving and hardly anyone else stupid enough to be out in this weather.

As I pass the Walton Golf Club, they comment that they are sure they saw me riding in the Olympics the night before, didn't I take gold? As if an old wheezer like me could manage that, I'd probably get lost there too plus they think I'm crazy out in the rain on a bike, and then realise they are also out in the rain, hitting little balls around a field with big sticks. But then all of sudden it hits me, my fitness better improve before my charity ride, but my map reading needs to have a miraculous improvement otherwise I'm doing a lot more than 45 miles.

Arriving home (3 hours and 33 miles after I left) , I humbly explain to my wife about the rain, the wrong turn, Mr Carbon Frame and how hard it was with no gloves but she simply repeats her offer to buy me a left glove.  Anyone know where I can get one ?

But I did 33 miles, I planned on 30, so it's been a good day (even if I am soaking wet, cold, dressed so embarrassedly) , I wonder how wet Mr Carbon Frame got and whether he's also blogging about the old wheezer on the fold-up that beat him up the hill.

Incidentally, on the Wakefield news, a Tornado Funnel was spotted quite close to where I live just after I got back, it didn't touch the ground but it did look pretty cool, maybe we cyclists are crazy after all.

BTW If you think this is funny and can spare a couple of quid, please feel free to sponsor me (the old wheezer) on my charity ride here.

If you're interested in Dahon bikes, check them out at