Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Lunchtime training

I have managed to get out for a ride each lunchtime so far this week, I was going stir crazy after a week of being stuck indoors due to the weather, I can handle rain but 30mph wind is too much.

It has been noticeable how quickly everything is drying out, the fields out of the village that were flooded seem to be drying nicely

I have continuing my quest to photograph derelict buildings and found these two this week.

Nissen hut near Colne

Abandoned cottage Broughton
One of the sadder things that cycling does is that it brings you closer to road kill. Today I rode past a dead weasel and a young kestrel that had obviously been struck by a car, quite upsetting.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Lunchtime ride.

I popped out for a quick ride at lunchtime, something I do regularly. It looked nice and sunny so I thought it was a good idea. I hadn't realised quite how windy it was! It was a real battle geting to the next village about 3 miles away, but really quick coming back :-)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Why do I enjoy cycling?

Why do I enjoy cycling?

As some of you will know cycling and I have a slightly checked history, while I was still living in London I was a ride leader for the London Cycling campaign. While I was leading a Sunday ride in Surrey a car shot out in front of me as I was descending a very narrow and steep hill, I was probably doing about 30mph when I hit it. I flew over the car and spent a month off work. Then after I had rebuilt the bike and had it sprayed Pink (hence the “Pink Panther”) I was riding to work when I hit some spilt hydraulic fluid and ended up laying in the middle of the road cut and bleeding. That put me off cycling for a while but after we moved here to Cambridgeshire that changed.

Soon after we got here I bought a Mountain bike so that I could explore the tracks and trails around here. I also found how nicely cycling fitted in with some of my other interests, photography and art. Now when I go out I have a GoPro hero camera fitted to my bars and another camera, sketchbook and pencils in my saddlebag. Although my MTB is carbon fibre I am old school in other ways, a Brooks leather saddle, Carradice saddlebag and panniers and often old style wool cycling shirts. These days I am more interested in distance than speed. I spend hours planning the route. Rather than take maps with me I use Trailfinder, an app on my iPhone which uses GPS and Ordanance survey maps to show your location. My phone is mounted securely on my handlebars so I can see where I am, my speed and other information.

Cycling is also important to me in another way, many of you will know I suffer from bouts of depression and the last couple of years have been really bad. Cycling helps me through this, I am not sure why, it could be the exercise, the challenge, just being out in daylight during the winter months certainly helps. I also think you get a feeling of wellbeing from becoming part of the environment in a way you never can traveling the same roads in a car. On a bike as you move through the countryside you blend in, you see things you would normally miss. Wildlife seems to ignore you; I have ridden down a local lane with a hare running a few feet in front of me for 20 or 30 seconds. A couple of weeks ago I rode up to within 10m of a buzzard who took no notice of me at all, I think they see a cyclist as a large animal like a horse rather than a human being.

Smell is another sense that benefits from being on a bike, in the summer it changes all the time as you pass wild flowers and trees in bloom, in winter you smell the soil, ditches and wood or coal smoke as you pass cottages. You also hear things that you would normally miss especially bird song.

At the moment I am aiming to get out on my bike as often as I can to get some miles into my legs, this will culminate in a cycling holiday at the end of May. I am planning to ride from Market Harbrough to Stourbridge in the midlands using the Towpaths of the Leicester, Grand union and Birmingham canals. I hope to do the 100-mile trip in 3 days, which should give me time to stop and sketch along the route. 

Over the next year or so I am also planning to document photographically scenery and buildings around the area where I live that are only really accessible by bike or foot before they vanish. A possible outcome of this would be to self publish a small book featuring some of the pictures, but that would be in the long term.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

"Shut up legs"

 Well it's been a (very) long time since I last wrote on this blog however that is about to change. This year I am planning a cycling holiday at the end of May so I need to start getting fit. For the trip which will be mainly off road I will be using my MTB rather than the Pink Panther, my trusty Condor tourer. This is going to make things interesting as the longest trip I had done on it was about 15 miles about half the distance I will need to do in May with luggage.

To get into training I have been going out on the bike a couple of lunchtimes each week and for longer rides at weekends,  It was initially quite tough to get going hence the title of this post a quote from the great cyclist Jens Voight. I have also been on a diet as I need to loose about 8kg and this means some days I am burning far more calories than I am eating.

Last weekend I rode out into the Fens to explore some old Drove roads. These farm roads were original constructed as routes to drive livestock to market and are now used as farm access. 
 The Fens themselves are a strange place until you get used to them, totally flat and at this time of year barren and in places waterlogged.
 The only breaks in the fields are where drainage dykes cut across them, these ditches are the only places you see any trees, normally Willows.

The roads themselves are in mixed condition, they are made up from concrete slabs which have been badly broken in places by tractors. They are also very muddy and at this time of year flood. This meant a lot of porterage in places as it was unsafe to ride through as there was no way of tell what lay under the water.

I worked my way across the Fens to Haddenham where I had  a coffee and some cake at the art gallery before retracing my route back to Earith, where the Ouse had broken it's banks and flooded the fields alongside it.

To add A few miles to the ride I came the long route back to the village which has a couple of nasty short climbs, after 4 hours riding they really hurt, but it did boost the totally distance for the day to 29 miles so it was worth it.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

So long Fignon

I just sat down to watch the Vuelta when they broke the sad news that Laurent Fignon had died aged 50 from intestinal and pancreatic cancer. I can remember well watching him win the Tour de France in 1983 and 84 and the drama as he lost the 1989 tour by 8 seconds to Greg Lemond on the final time trial into Paris. He was also only one of 3 people Merckx and Coppi being the others to win the Tour on their first attempt. His death is a great loss to the sport of cycling.

Friday, 27 August 2010

My Bikes

These are my 2 bikes. My road bike is a Condor frame which I bought back in the early 1980's, nothing fancy good old steel. When I got her she was metallic blue, but after a major coming together with a car I had her resprayed pink, hence her nickname 'The Pink Panther". I rebuilt her again after a second accident and kitted her out with a Campagnolo chainset and changers. I have a lovely old Brookes Saddle which after about 20 years is just about broken in. I also built the back wheel from scratch, or rather a rim and a pack of spokes! That was fun and a sort of personal challenge at the time. I love riding this bike and have done many thousands of miles on her over the years which is why I have never thought seriously about changing it.

My other bike is this Carbon framed Claude Butler which I bought just after we moved here. It's a lovely bike to ride but is slight over kill for the area where we live. The opportunity for off road riding is very limited around here and being East Anglia there aren't many mountains! The only bridle track near here is about a mile long and ends at a fence. I actually pay one of the local farmers to be allowed to cycle on some of his farm tracks but again this is limited.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Sutton Gault

The first ride on the site took me out of Woodhurst east toward Bluntisham along the Wheatsheaf Road. I carried on across the Somersham road down through Bluntisham and Earith.


After crossing the Ouse at Earith I turned left towards Sutton. This is a long road that runs alongside a dyke, cycling in this direction you are sheltered from the winds that blow across the Fens. After climbing the short hill into the village I turned left towards Sutton Gault. The road had recently been resurfaced and was covered in loose gravel so great care needed to be taken. The road drops down to the river and crosses it next to the Anchor pub.

Sutton Gault

On the way out of the village along the drove road I was passed by a car, now I am used to having lorry wing mirrors passing close to my head as I am riding but a harp was a new experience. Actually it didn't come that close but it was unusual The road goes on for about 5 miles across the fen toward Chatteris. It's a really nice road very quiet and being across the fens dead flat.


At the end of the Drove I turned left along the Chatteris road towards Somersham. This can be a long drag if the wind is against you, luckily today it was nice and still.

Chatteris Road

After about 4 miles you reach Somersham, I passed through the village and then turned left along the Somersham road towards St Ives and returning home to Woodhurst.