Saturday, 29 August 2015

30 days hath September...

And are we going to do 30 Days of Biking again?  

Yeah come on, let's make it happen:

I didn't finish the previous (official) on in April, though I rode more than I blogged about.  Still anything that encourages people to get out on their bikes is OK by me.

Like Marvin Gaye sang:  Let's get it on! 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

On Coffee

There's definitely some inextricable link between cycling and coffee. 

Whether or not drinking the stuff actually makes you faster I don't know, but after a cold morning ride, there's nothing I look forward to more than a steaming hot brew.  Never managed to be able to drink coffee and ride at the same time though.

My preference is usually for a black Americano and we're blessed to have an excellent and FREE coffee machine at work.  And no, I don't work at Google.

Apropos of nothing this morning (or maybe apropos of the fact that I found a sweet little coffee cup at home) I thought I'd switch to espresso.  It's wonderful stuff but the smaller volume seems to encourage drinking more cups...

In the interest of science and supportng my fellow cyclists, I can confirm that two espressos, drunk in short order is DEFINITELY enough!!!  Perhaps wait for the caffeine from the first one to hit before knocking back a second.

So now I'm rushing round the office in a caffeine-filled blur.  I'll certainly be productive, but need to save something in the tank for the ride home.

Espressos at 5pm, anyone? 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


It's been a very pleasant summer so far. I have had very few wet journeys in the last couple if months and can't remember the last time I didn't cycle in cut-off shorts.  My legs, arms and face have a healthy glow. Thanks to the exercise and sunshine, so too does my mind.

Soon, these lovely golden mornings will give way to something colder and greyer. 

Soon, I'll be wrapping up in Ron Hills and neoprene gloves. 

Soon I'll be putting lights on first thing in the morning. 

Soon...but not yet.

Just for now, I'm going to enjoy pedalling through the sunshine mornings with their (almost) cold, fresh air and long, clear shadows. 

As late summer starts to turn to autumn, I'll take each day as it comes. There's a lot more beauty to be experienced before the darker months set in.

It's a lovely day and, out on my bike, I feel lucky to be alive. 

Wouldn't swap you a car commute for this.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Tempus Fugit*

And fugit it certainly does!  

In the most obvious sense, It constantly amazes me how long the gaps are between posts on this blog.  I like writing on it and it only seems like a few days since my last posting.  Invariably though it's several months at a stretch! Poor show! 

In a similar manner though, I am always pleasantly surprised by how the miles rack up on my bike.  Even though I ride a fairly short distance each day to and from work (23 miles round trip), I am now up to 11,000 miles on my Dahon Vitesse.  That's a pretty long way by anyone's reckoning!  

A case in point is my drive train...

A couple of weeks ago, my bike began to make an awful grumbling, grinding noise when pedalling.  After a couple of days, I took it into the workshop (read "kitchen") to find the source of the problem.  It turns out that my rear sprocket was badly worn out and my chain wasn't in much better condition.

"But I've not long fitted those!" I thought to myself.  However, when I looked back through my log, it was last October when I put tooth items on the bike.  That's several months, a few thousand miles and one winter which have taken their toll!

Ooh shiny!   A nice new chain with only one days riding on it.  The old one was considerably more horrible than this.

Likewise, I'm in the best physical shape that I've ever been which is the sole result of lots of short rides.  I hardly ever go out on my bike for leisure (which is a great shame I know) so I'm not putting in lots of long rides.  My fitness is the result of many short(ish) rides over a few years.

A little and often seems to build to a cumulative effect quicker than you'd think.  Looking ahead at a programme of exercise, it may not seem so, but looking back it's definitely true.

A little and often.  Maybe there's a lesson in there for me when it comes to writing this blog?

*Latin for "time flies" (apologies to classical students everywhere)

Friday, 19 June 2015

Hello world!

It's been a while but I'm still here and still using the trusty Dahon to get around. I'm loving the warn sunny weather and light evenings just now too.

Just by way of getting back into the habit, here's a pic of my bike at the station on the way home this evening.

(or at least there will be when I find a decent mobile blogging app!)

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

30 Days of Biking - Days 12 & 13

Day 12 - I had such a run-around Sunday that I thought I was going to have to skip a day (heaven forbid!)  However, I managed to take the dog out for a few laps of the village so all was well in the end. (2 miles)

Day 13 - Monday was a beautiful and bright, but foggy morning.  I love how cool it is when the weather's like this and how you seem to just be able to pedal and pedal without overheating.  There is definitely something about the sun being up when you start riding.  The day starts with so much more optimism than many if those cold, dark and damp winter commutes.  As I keep tellin gpeople - days like this are the payback for the miserable winter ones.  Whatever the weather though, I'd rather be on my bike than in a tin box!

I even took a detour through the park on the way to the office.  The fog reduced the scenery somewhat but it was so nice just cruising along the foggy, tree-lined avenues of the park.

Nicely atmospheric.
I had planned to take a long-cut again on the way home but a couple of last minute errands put a stop to that.  However, I managed to do them all on my bike so all ended well with a slightly longer journey than usual.  (24 miles for the day)

Saturday, 11 April 2015

30 Days of Biking - Days 8 - 11

Day 8 - Slightly shortened normal commute as I met the family for a swim on the way home. The nice thing about a folding bike being that you can just sling it in the car and share a ride home. As I got into the city before the others I spent a while just cruising around new streets and taking in the sites. 17 miles for the day.

Day 9 - Busy day out visiting some clients so just did 1.5 miles with the dog. Better than no riding at all, though.

Day 10 - Normal daily commute by bike and train. 23 miles riding.

Day 11 - Lovely sunny day today, though windy. Narrowly averted disaster with a dash to Morrisons when we ran out of G&T but also picked up ice, lemons, ice creams and flowers for my wife. The heavy rucksack was made up for by a fantastic tail wind for 2 miles down the lane home. 8 miles in all.

We're over a third of the way there and going strong, or so it feels. 153.5 miles for the month.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New blogging app

Following the recent demise of my BlackBerry, I have inherited a new smartphone. It's one of the Nokia Lumia series and I was initially a little concerned that the choice of apps would be as limited as on the BB. it seems though that, while there may not be as many as on Android or iOS, there is a pretty good selection. One app that I really wanted to find was a good interface for Blogger. I tried couple of iffy ones but have settled on this one - MyBlogger Free. It's maybe a tiny bit clunky, but seems fine for basic text posts which suits me to be honest. Longer or picture-heavy posts can wait for when I'm in front of the laptop.

Looks like I'm back to being able to blog on the go then. Happy days.

30 Days of Biking - Day 7

I am loving this weather we're having at the moment.  It has been cold and crisp in the mornings (though not too cold) and warm and sunny in tha afternoon.  Lovely for riding.

I did end up taking the train yesterday but it was too nice an evening to ride straight home so I went by a different and longer route.  What should have been a 7.5 mile ride ended up being nearer 13 by the time I got to our house.  It was great just to pedal and follow my nose along the lanes around where we live.  I could have ridden much further but was well ready for dinner when I arrived!

I'd even texted my lad to see if he wanted to ride and meet me for the last couple of miles.  He rides a BMK with the saddle down somewhere near the rear wheel so distance riding isn't really going to be his thing.  He insists that he would be no more comfortable if I put his seat up a bit though - you can't tell kids anything, can you?  At least the bike still has two working brakes although I have to keep telling him to use them to slow down, rather than dragging a foot on the floor.  Still if they've seen the pros doing it on YouTube...  None of that really mattered though - it was just good to ride together for the last part of my commute.

When I used to use the car every day, I would go out of my way to shave time and distance off the journey.  So unpleasant is an evening commute by car.  I don't ever remember voluntarily making the journey longer just for the sake of it.

It seems that, in yet another way, cycling beats driving hands down.

(28 miles for the day)

Nice view down the lane towards our house.
BMX Bandit in the distance.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

30 Days of Biking - Days 1 to 6

So this 30 days of biking thing.  For the last couple of years, I've noticed it about ten days too late but this year I came across a link in plenty of time and so signed up.

For those not in the know, it's about taking the pledge to ride your bike on every day on April.  There's a website and a Twitter feed here:

30 Days of Biking Website

and here:

30 Days of Biking Twitter Feed

I'm a big fan of encouraging cycling and sucker for a bit of an internet crowd event so this is right up my street.  Literally.

I ride to work a few days a week, though recent changes to my job mean that five days in the office is now a rarity.  That's been great from the point of view of variety, but really hammers my time in the saddle.

So the rides so far have been:

Day 1:  Commute to and from work (23 miles)

Day 2:  Commute to and from work including stop and pub on way home (23 miles)

Day 3:  Bank holiday so no work.  Went out for a brisk hour or so in the afternoon.  Really wet and drizzly but lovely to be out riding for a purpose other than commuting. (13 miles)

Day 4:  Busy day decorating so took the dog out for a few laps of the village after dark.  She has so much energy (always has had) and the bike ride ran plenty of that off!  Wish I'd thought of it years ago (1.5 miles)

Day 5:  Lovely sunny ride down the lane and back with youngest two kids.  My smallest is trying to get the hang of gears - twist shifters are a bit of a pain with little hands.  Great ride though - spreading the love. (4 miles)

Day 6:  Busy again so took the dog out again late in the evening. (1.5 miles)

So it's day 7 today.  I've already cycled in to work in the fog.  Despite the poor visibility it was a great ride in and I wore shorts (cut off jeans - no lycra here, thanks) for the first time in 2015.  Here are a couple of pictures:


The fog has lifted now though and it's a beautiful still, sunny day.  Consequently, I'm sitting here contemplating skipping the train tonight and going for the long ride all the way home.

Monday, 26 January 2015

I took the road less travelled by

Over the last year or so I've been on a project at work which required four or five full days in the office.  As a result, despite the routine, I've been banging in the miles on the bike to my great delight.

Just before Christmas, I got assigned to a new project down in Dorset which needs two days a week down on site.  The work that I do sometimes needs a lot of bulky safety gear and I have to be on site by 08:30 on Monday morning.  Yes, as if Mondays couldn't get any grimmer, mine now start at 04:30 with a long drive in the dark.  I love to use public transport but, try as I might, I've not been able to find a more effective alternative to this current problem than hiring a car each week (at work's expense).  However, that means I'm spending longer in the car and getting (or at least feeling) lazier and fatter!

Getting my Dahon back from repair last week was the catalyst to make a few changes.  It's taken a little bit of forethought and planning but now I'm managing a partial cycle-commute, miles from home.  And it goes a little sonething like this (hit it):

  • Monday morning: Drive down to Dorset with folding bike, cycling gear and all of my work paraphernalia in the car boot
  • Monday evening:  Change into cycling gear, leave work clothes in car, park car in secure(ish) car park and cycle to the hotel
  • Tuesday morning: Cycle from the hotel to work, change into work clothes (clean shirt already there from day before).  Do a day's work.
  • Tuesday afternoon:  Drive home

Seems complex but after a couple of weeks, I have it down pretty well.

The distance from the office to the hotel is only about four miles, mostly along an A-road with sort-of-a-cycle-lane along the edge, it's on the cusp of not needing to bother changing into cycling clothes.  However, on Monday afternoons, I've taken to using a longer and much more rural route.  Definitely, in the words of Robert Frost, "The road less traveled by".

It's still going dark pretty early around here (sunset at about 16:50) but tonight, I was determined to get a good ride in.  And I certainly did! 

Down here in Dorset it is a truly beautiful corner of the UK and a real pleasure to visit and cycle around.  Beautiful yes, but dear Lord do they have hills!  None of them are very high per se, but it seems like any lane from A to B has a couple of short but severe climbs in every half mile!  In minutes, you go from eye-watering (literally) downhill speed to honking up what seems like a 1:1 in your lowest gear.  I have waxed lyrical and at length about the gearing on the Dahon being too low.  For the flatlands where I live (and where I'll never again use the word hill) it is, but down these evening I was praying, through gritted teeth for a lower gear! 

As I'm from the Midlands and generally miles from it, I wanted to see the sea and so plotted a short route of just over nine miles starting at the office and ending at my hotel.  It ended up being almost an hour of murderous climbing, hysterical descents one of the best sunsets I've seen for a long time.

The start of what became a fabulous sunset.

I cycled over that - it looks much flatter on a photo but wasn't!

Beautiful Dorset.
I cycled up this one first, then back down a bit for
 a better picture of the hairpin bend!

That's the sea.  Over there, between the land and the sky.
It was down another massive hill (and ume was getting on)
so I settled for the view from a distance.

This sunset was stunning - again the picture doesn't
really do it justice. 

Best of all though, it goes to show that, with a little bit of forward planning, more circumstances than you would think are conducive to cycle-commuting of one sort or another.  Or at the very least it's possible to bring your bike with you when away with work (even a non-folder, I'm sure) and blow out the cobwebs at the end of a day's work.

In its own way, the road less travelled by which really does make all the difference. 

Friday, 23 January 2015

Winter is very firmly here!

Blimey it was cold this morning! 

Obviously being January, it's been cold for a while now but this morning was special.  I don't have any means to measure it, but a guy on the train was reckoning -5C!  There's somethign really nice about riding in the cold though.  The air is so crisp and, in a strange way, there seems to be more of it when you start huffing a puffing a bit.  Being cold makes it seem somehow thicker.

After a couple of months without it. I'm back on my beloved Dahon this week.  After so many weeks on a (dare I say it) "proper" bike being back on my folder felt a little odd at first.  It's so light and fast steering that it's easy to forget how stable and frankly sluggish my hybrid can feel at times.  A couple of days back in the saddle though and we're like old friends again.

And as ever, the many dark, winter miles are a chance to get lost in one's thoughts and plan adventures for when the days are longer and the weather warmer. 

I'll post more on the whole reason for being without the Dahon in a short while.  Hopefully I can get back into the habit of blogging more regularly again (he says...)  Also, now that it has over 9,000 miles on the clock I out to actually write a review of it. 

When I started this adventure almost three years ago, I had no idea I'd put so many miles on my bike and that I'd manage so easily without a car of my own.

But I have.

And it's been (and continues to be) a blast.