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Photography

X100 out, GR II in

I think like a lot of photographers I’m always looking for that perfect compact camera to have with me at all times. The iPhone is great and is getting even better but I still want a proper sized sensor and a decent lens. Most images shot with a phone are fine viewed on the phone but often degrade a little once on a bigger screen. 

Previously my go to compact was a Panasonic LX-7 but I never really clicked with it and certainly never grew to love it. The files out of it were fine but the lens always seemed to get something on it that left a smear or mark on the image and I really didn’t need the zoom on it. That got sold a few weeks back.

Then there’s the Fuji X100T I had. A beautiful camera (in black), a lens to die for and incredible images straight out of camera. Lovely high ISO and plenty of character in the RAW files. It’s well made and looks the business too. But there was something nagging me about it in terms of the size. It’s just too big with my standard clear filter and lens hood on. Sure I could manage without the hood but it’s still quite big. It’s not fitting in a pocket and is always around your neck which is a bit of a pain really and draws too much attention. This has now been sold to make way for… 

One camera I’ve heard a lot about is the Ricoh GR range. People seem to swear by them and they started out as film cameras before developing a digital range. There’s a new model coming out ‘early 2019’ and I had read some previews. The main appeal to me is the size of it and the quality of the lens. It’s small enough to sit in a jersey pocket whilst cycling, a coat pocket or back of the jeans which drastically increases the chances of it actually being used for taking photos! I went for the GR II model as don’t really think that the new one will offer me any more and apparently reduces the physical controls available in favour of a touch screen. 

First impressions are good and I can’t wait to be back cycling to take it out with me on the trails / round the local lanes. I’ve been carrying it around for a week now and am slowly getting more and more out of it. A few of my favourites below and more over at Flickr. I’m hoping to use this a bit more in the run up to 2019 and before I have another go at a 365 project, more on that soon. 

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Cycling

New Swinley trails

I’ve got a bit more into MTBing this year and had just started gearing up to doing my now usual winter training routine of singlespeed mountain biking at the weekend mixed with turbo training during the week and the usual commutes. It helps to keep fit and more importantly, keep safe and off the ice on the roads. Sadly a broken clavicle has killed all of that but it does mean that I now have time to catch up on some writing.

There’s usually one of two locations available for a little weekend jaunt either Surrey Hills or Swinley Forest both an hour away in the van or on the train. Surrey is more natural and varied with a load more lumps, Swinley is a bit flatter but rolling with a series of man made trails. Swinley is a bit more reliable in the wet and you’re not going to ruin the trails like you would be at Surrey. Having said that Swinley can get a bit boring as it’s the same loop each time. We’ve tried extending the loop out in a few different directions searching for the locals favourite trails but always felt like we barely scratched the surface and didn’t feel like we’d really found much.

A few weeks back Anna dropped me a message excitedly saying she’d found a few more along with a link to her ride on Strava to turn into a GPX to follow. Sure enough that Sat we headed out to have a look around.

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We were treated to an incredible autumn day with shafts of light and mist in the trees. We didn’t really make amazing progress as there were so many photo opportunities and it was simply too beautiful. We did the first few bits of the trails before peeling off to find these new ones to the west of the red route.

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The first bits of the new trails were really nice and natural. They appeared to be quite fresh and we just about followed the track through the trees with leaves covering lots of them. Nothing too technical but nice and twisty. Not too fast either as I was trying to follow the trail on the Wahoo.

After a while we rounded a corner and came upon this flowing little twisting section. Of course it needed riding a few times and then getting the phone out to take some photos.

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Round the next corner were a few little roll ins. Of course Andy just sent it straight away, I rolled it a few times before doing a better plop. Bash rolled it without too much issue and then I spent some time with Agi talking about the best way to ride it. Setting your weight, where to be on the bike, speed, line choice and so on. It was great to see her roll through it and then do a few others with new found confidence.

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After that it was out towards where we started again via a lovely steep gulley and steep roll into the path back.

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There seems to be loads more scope for riding out there and would like to go back and explore some more (once fixed up). It was good to do this then go back onto the main trails and do the usual loop. As well as having more fun it’s also good to add a bit more distance to it.

Back again soon hopefully. I also think I spied a sweet little bivvy spot…

Also, those photos don’t look quite as good on a laptop screen than they did on the phone.

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Cycling Photography

Rapha + Herman Miller, city ride

I had the pleasure of shooting some images of a city ride put on by Rapha and Herman Miller on Sunday. For some reason I was a little worried about shooting this.. People, no tripod, doing it on the move, no chance of a re-shoot and so on. I toyed with using the X100T but instead went for the Nikon D700 with an old 28mm AF-D lens. Ancient kit by anyones standard but I knew that the focus would be bang on the with Nikon and the 28 would be wide enough for most of the shots needed. I really should buy a 24-70 but there always seems to be better things to spend money on.

It was a scorching hot day and I really enjoyed shooting it. I’ve felt really constrained from the rules of architectural photography so it was lovely to shoot something a bit more free and journalistic as well as try and not worry about verticals being vertical. Super hard to do!

A few of my favourites below.

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Adventure Cycling

Solstice bivvy 2018

I’ve been following a number of interesting people of Strava for a while now and get to see some really tasty rides popping up in my feed along with the usual ‘Morning ride’ commutes (I wish you could mute these). Every now and then I’ll see some had an interesting little adventure and reach for the ‘export as GPX’ button and then pop the file in ridewithGPS for later use. One of those rides was by either Duncan or Lindsey a few years back where one (or both) cycled to the chapel of St Peter on the Wall on the Dengie nature reserve on the solstice and slept out on the beach before riding back the next day I think.

I have a list, both written down and in my head, of interesting rides to do and try and complete or do again. This was pretty high up there and I was really frustrated when I saw that I’d missed the solstice last year as would have loved to get out for a bit of camping and see the sunrise. I’m in no way spiritual but seemed like a good excuse to mark a point in the year and get out of London into the fresh air. This year I resolved to make sure I didn’t miss it and added it to the diary and made a loose plan to get out there and do something. The St Peter on the Wall ride and camp spot seemed the best choice and I managed to get a little group of people together to come along. With a bivvy trip you don’t really want too many people so kept it to just four of us, Michalea, Rhys, Janine and myself. I’m between jobs and have taken a week off so this seemed like the perfect way of celebrating that week off and the solstice as well as having a lovely (hopefully) sleep out somewhere new. We agreed that we’d cycle up in the afternoon, eat en-route and then have a beer on the beach before going to bed.

So we met in Rapha Soho at 2pm and I was late. I’d not planned my morning very well and ended up rushing to find all those little bits you seem to need for a little trip like this. They soon add up, especially if you’re doing it for pleasure and not roughing it during some bike race for instance. Get the route on the Garmin, charge things, warm hat, head torch, coffee stuff, filter papers, grind coffee etc, lighter? All of these little things I was hurriedly putting into a series of bags on the bike.

A bit more faffing in the cafe and then we managed to get going, out into the busy Friday traffic. It was super warm and although I was a little anxious from my faffing / packing disaster we were out and on the road to freedom / beach camping.

Of course what I hadn’t really looked at was the route out of London which takes you along the Lee Bridge road. I really hate this road and is one of the reasons I don’t really come this way much. It’s so busy with cars, goes on forever and then has this terrible surface. Ahh well we were on it and heading out of town. I’d left without a full charge in the Garmin or the power pack and stopped at a garage to plug it in to the dynamo charger and top it up. Whilst the lights were working for some reason the USB bit wasn’t. Battery anxiety high and a bit hot and bothered. Fortunately Rhys was able to top my power pack up from his set up but it still annoyed me mine wasn’t working and that I’d probably have to throw more money at the problem when home to get it working again.

Onwards up out of town and finally that right hand turn comes where you peel off the main road and head into the lanes. I think I’d ridden this lane a few times going to Cambridge and maybe the Great Escape Audax. It feels good to be off it and ticking along in the countryside.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the road bike loaded up with the bags and it feels super weird out of the saddle. I’ve balanced it up front and back but the narrower bars compared to the MTB I’ve been riding recently feel a bit odd at first.

Lanes turn less familiar and it’s a beautifully warm afternoon. There’s not that many cars around and the majority pass us with loads of room. We’re even able to sit in a little group of four in two up formation for quite a lot of it. I realise that I’ve just taken this route and not really looked at it. I’ve kind of taken it on trust that it’s going to be good and not going down farm tracks or on A roads. The people I’ve stolen it from always seem to have good routes and I kind of relax slightly as the route rewards us with absolutely beautiful scenery and lanes. Clearly the sun helps but it’s one of the nicest routes I’ve done.

There’s very little around us apart from the occasional cluster of houses and farms. The further we head out the more sparse it gets.

This feeling of remoteness is great until I realise how quickly I’m getting through my water and that the energy bar I bought tastes disgusting and I don’t want to eat it. I start wondering if the next village will actually have a shop that’s open where we can top up a bit. Again I didn’t really look at the route properly to check these things. Ahh well we cannot be far from something.

Eventually we get to Maldon (yes the salt) and ask someone where’s good for food who encourages us to go to the end of the town and peel left at the Chinese. We do this and end up at a brilliant pub on the quayside. I dump my bike and pretty much run in to order food, completely forgetting any sense of manners towards the others and whether they would like to go first. A few moments later a huge haddock and chips arrives to go with my pint of Guinness and scampi fries I’ve bought as a starter.

The temperature has started to drop a bit and being tired too doesn’t help. We start to wonder if we’ve brought enough layers having been fooled by the very warm day temperature. We set off again and get back on route and quickly warm up. I’m a bit disappointed we’re going to be there when it’s dark and not see the sunset before Janine quite rightly points out that it’s an east facing beach and we wouldn’t really see anything.

We’ve warmed up a bit and everyone’s mood seems to have lifted having eaten something. We seem to be ticking along at a nice pace and the area is becomes more sparsely populated. There’s hardly anyone here! The sun goes down behind us and we end up with one last garage stop to grab a few beers for the beach and then press on.

Whilst the first two thirds of the ride seemed to drag a bit this last bit has been a dream. A good feed and knowing that we’re almost there has made me a great deal better. I’d also been a bit apprehensive about doing the ride and I’m not sure why. Each time you sleep out it requires a little bit of a jolt to knock yourself over this ‘I shouldn’t be doing this’ or ‘this is stupid’ feeling to get out there. For me it doesn’t always come naturally and it takes a little bit of self confidence to convince yourself it’s actually a good idea.

There’s a pub 6km before we get to our destination which we are definitely having a pint in. Janine has checked and it’s open until midnight. We get there about 10.30 and I stroll in in lycra top to toe and my clippy cloppy cycling shoes and sure enough every single person in the room turns around to stare! Fortunately they’re all friendly and want to chat, where have we come from, going to?

You could have got a train from London mate

They’re all great fun and we end up having a chat with quite a few. Whilst I’m ordering at the bar a very drunk women it trying to fiddle with my camera slung over my shoulder to take a pic. She’s fumbling so badly I just offer to take her picture.

This reminds me of the 2014 Dunwich Dynamo with Andy where he ended up selling his Vicious Velo cap to some very pissed locals as well as joining them for a few drinks. We take our drinks outside and continue more conversations with some of the locals who are smoking. One of which is a nuclear engineer who works at the local plant, like Homer Simpson I say. We have a long and interesting conversation about the world of nuclear power and any little anecdotes we’re able to offer about Sellafield and so on. He’s off to Kent soon to work at Dungeness on the decommissioning there. Also noting that he’s moving from one marshland to another.

Sure enough we’ve got cold again sitting down and we jump on our bikes and sprint the last few kms to warm up. We’ve told the locals our plans which I can’t help bringing my London mindset to which says… don’t tell them, they’ll steal your bikes. But they’re super interested, tell us a bit more about the Chapel and that we can sleep in there but shouldn’t, as it’s haunted. They also tell us about the dogging site on the way which I mishear as dogs and almost blurt out “ooo I love dogs” but I’m glad I didn’t. I wasn’t clear on how much they’re winding us up with the whole dogging thing. There’s a lovely orange glow on the horizon from the remnants of the sunset as we continue to the end of the nature reserve.

The tarmac road stops and we continue down a little gravel road to a gate in front of the chapel. Sure enough we pass a car with lights on in the interior and I wonder what we’re going to see as we pass. It’s not quite dogging but it is a couple having a bit of a kiss and a cuddle. Maybe their friends are late.

We get to the Chapel and it’s pitch black. It’s much further inland that I had realised and can’t quite work out a path over the marsh to get to the beach. One option is to camp in front of the chapel but it’s not the romantic idea I had of sleeping on the beach as I’d done before at Minsmere near Dunwich. Again next to a nuclear power station.

We consulted some satellite maps to work out whats what and then fought our way through an overgrown path to get onto a little concrete causeway. As this ended and turned into natural dunes I found a little corner shaped plot which looked perfect. It took a few moments to convince the others and a quick check of the tide times was made to make sure we weren’t getting wet in the morning.

Rhys had brought the full kitchen sink type packing for the trip including a bigger tarp (could have left mine at home) as well as a carbon pole. We set up a little A frame affair with two bikes pegging out the rear with another two bikes at the front and a pole which was skilfully pegged into the sand by Rhys.

Fortunately it was really well sheltered and we were all really warm. We managed to blow up all the mats and squeeze four of us under the tarp before handing out some beers and whiskey, a bit more chat and then nodding off to sleep. As with most camping out trips I usually wake every few hours to shuffle about a bit and get comfy. I also awoke at around 3.30am to see the light creeping over the horizon and a little later to see that burning ball of fire pop up over the horizon fully.

It was lovely to just drift in and out of sleep until about 7am before getting the stove on for coffee and porridge as well as some chats. I’d hoped to go for a swim in the morning but the beach is pretty shallow so I resolve to just have a little paddle and cool my feet. It’s got really quite hot already and there’s little shelter from the sun. At some point we all just start packing up and then the camp is gone. Rubbish in a bag and there’s not evidence of us being there (apart from a plethora of social media posts as there was four bars of 4G on the beach). It was so wonderfully peaceful and quiet as you might expect. The only sound being the lapping of the waves and the local bird population.

We’d seen a few people in the morning before we got up, one runner who said hello and then another woman walking nine dogs. Five of the smaller ones came running towards us barking before running back off to join the rest of them.

Trying to get the sand out of everything was a complete pain, it had got everywhere. Making sure that none of it went in your chamois or shorts was also a must. I’d inadvertently put my chainset in it so sacrificed a toothbrush to clean that up a but before setting off also but was more concerned about my undercarriage.

At the other end of the concrete causeway on our way back to the Chapel I saw a mobility scooter and then a man swimming in the sea. I thought to myself how lovely it was that someone who might not be fully able in his day to day life was able to get out to here amongst the wildlife and have a swim. My thoughts were rudely interrupted when I saw him begin to emerge from the sea and without any swimming trunks on. Fortunately he clocked us just as I was about to get the big reveal and he sank back into the water looking shocked that anyone else was out here.

We had a quick poke around in the chapel before heading back on our way to Burnham-on-Crouch for a brilliant second breakfast. Lots of cyclists around and some stopping on their local loop and also popular with motorbike riders. This bike below looked of particular interest. No idea about motorbikes but looked lovely.

After that we rode down to the quay and called the mobile number for the ferry. 20 minutes later a blue rib arrived to transport us to the other side of the river. He managed to get all four of us in with the bikes and we had a great chat with him about the boat and the local area. Apparently lots of cyclists use the service as the start or end of their local loop exploring the dengie nature reserve.

Whilst waiting we just sat on the quay mucking about taking pics and enjoying the fresh air.

A short and relatively pleasant ride to Southend and then a train back to London. A final coffee and chat at Rapha Spitalfields before getting back home for a much needed bath. I’ll definitely be back for some more exploring around this area of Essex. I’m completely in love with he landscape and remoteness of it all, all within a quick train ride from London. Looking forward to another bivvy trip soon.

Edit: Interestingly this video popped up in my Twitter feed which shows the whole area in wonderful context. Some great drone footage in there.

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Family & friends

Christmas walk in the woods

This year we went back home to Bath this year to see Mum and Grandma for Christmas. Seemingly we had a bit more time this year so managed to get Grandma out for a quick walk and then headed out to the Quarrymans for a drink before wandering around Quarry Hill woods for a bit. I used to cycle around here all the time when I was a kid for hours on end. It’s funny to go back and see how small it is as well as how incredibly beautiful it is. You don’t really register these things when you’re younger I guess.

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Cycling Geek

Going tubeless

Whilst I was a little late to the MTB tubeless party I’ve been more of an early adopter on the road scene. I’ve been running tubeless on my mountain bike for around six or so years on ever so unfashionable 26″ wheels (I’m on even less fashionable 29 now). I never had any problems with it and carried a spare tube all that time for nothing.

Now I’m more into the road world I’ve had a go at using tubeless here. Firstly with some 40mm gravel type tyres (WTB Nano 40c) and now on proper road tyres. The former was a bit of a ghetto conversion with only one of the wheels having a tubeless compatible rim but have now had a proper set on wheels built for my audax bike. So rather than explaining it a bunch of times in 20 or so tweets I’ve listed down my method.

So first things first. Wheels. Or more importantly rims. You need compatible rims. Tubeless, TCS or whatever the brand calls them. Essentially they have a deeper hook on the profile to get a good seal. I’ve recently had some road wheels built to go tubeless and new MTB wheels for a little winter bike project.

For the road wheels I went with a SP Dynamo PD8-X and a Hope Pro II Evo for the rear. These were then built with black bladed spokes to some really nice Light Bicycle 35mm deep carbon sections. I’m using 28mm Schwalbe Pro Ones on these and have been brilliant. Lasted a good 3500km before needing to be changed.

On the mountain bike I went with the usual Hope Pro II (eBay bargains) and some WTB rims which were on offer at Planet-X (£9.99 each). I’m using Onza gumwall 2.25 tyres on these.

Before going too far I usually have the tyre on the rim the night before but with a normal tube in. I find this helps shape the tyre and gets the bead neatly seated on one side if you’re careful about how you take the tube out. I’ve found it to be less of an issue with road tyres but helps a bit with bigger volume MTB tyres and to take out the little nicks and folds from where they’ve been packaged up. Probably unnecessary but always like a little bit of extra prep.

In terms of bits you need at a minimum:

– Rim tape
– Valves
– Sealant
– Compatible rims
– Compatible tyres
– Some patience

The first step is getting the rim nice and air tight. The wheel builder I use usually does two layers of tubeless rim tape around for me but have also done it myself. I’ve used the Stans tape which comes in a variety of widths. Apparently you can get unbranded stuff on eBay also but you want good coverage from edge to edge to form a good seal. Essentially it’s a thick plastic tape which creates an air tight seal and stops the sealant leaking out in that direction. I clean the surface of the rim first with alcohol swaps first to get the best adhesion possible. Don’t worry about the fact you’ve sealed over where the valve would normally go for now.

The alternative is to use a rubber rim strip with an integral valve which goes around and does the same thing. I haven’t had as much luck with these and didn’t get such a reliable seal. First time it worked ok but then subsequent times it was a mess and didn’t seal. I don’t recommend but your mileage may vary.

I now just use the rim tape and then the Stans valves. These obviously replace the valves you’d normally have with the tube in. These come in a couple of different sizes and you need to get ones that get through your rims but not too long ideally.

Once the rim tape is on you need to make a small hole at the valve hole in the rim. Then feed the valve through and wind it up tight so as to compress the rubber bung and form a good seal again. The latest top tip is to dip the rubber tip in sealant before winding it up. This further improves the seal as the sealant dries.

After that I get the tyre on, align the logo with the valve hole obviously, and then add some sealant to the system. There’s two ways of doing this. The first is to remove the valve core and use a syringe to add 30ml of sealant. The other way is to to just drop it in with the last bit of the tyre left off before carefully easing it back on. I’ve gone with the latter option recently and has worked well.

After that you need to get some air into it and at a fair old rate to force the bead onto the rim. This should be easier if you’ve had a tube in the night before. I’ve got most to work with a normal track pump and just going quickly but have also used a CO2 cartridge. I wasted the first one by not having the tyre fully over the valve. Now I just hold the tyre down over the valve hole to make sure the air is getting into the tyre. Other options are to use a special track pump that will build a volume of air and then dump it all in in one go or there’s an ‘airshot’ which is another type of the same thing.

If it’s successful you should hear the beads popping and sealing against the rim. I usually top it up with a track pump to make sure this process is completed.

After that I rotate the wheel and chuck it around a bit. Essentially throwing sealant all around the whole thing as far as possible. Wipe down any sealant and check for air leaking out. Leave overnight and hopefully it’s all good in the morning.

After that you should be good to go. In terms of repairing a tubeless tyre if you get a hole whilst riding… small ones should seal without too much fuss. You might need to top up with air a bit. Otherwise if it doesn’t seal then I put an ‘anchovy’. It’s a little rubber string which you push through the hole, pull out a bit and then trim the excess off. It’s much easier than it sounds! Kits are available and I also carry a tyre boot, a spare valve and a tube. I’ve not needed to use a tube so far though. This review of the kit I use on road.cc show exactly what you need to do!

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London Photography

Afternoon as a tourist

A bit of time off from work to enjoy London and taking photos for pleasure.

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Cycling

Canal club

On Friday night a few friends and I headed out to meet up on the Kennet and Avon canal after work with the intention of riding along for a bit and then finding a spot to bivvy before then heading on to Bath the following morning. We would then get coffee and do a loop around Cheddar Gorge then back in towards Weston-Super-Mare. Well that was the plan at least.

On the Thursday I set about getting my stuff together. Lots of faffing as usual and packing for all eventualities. Start out with having a bit of rough idea of what is needed and then completely change it all. Check weather, repack, squeeze it all in, find all the things you missed, give up in a huff and go to bed and resolve to pack the rest in in the morning.

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I was going straight from work so commuted to work fully loaded with kit. A few intrigued and perplexed looks from a few of my fellow cycling commuters. The occasional knowing look about why I had all this stuff on my bike. Of course one decision to make was whether to take my CX bike with 40c tyres or the Pilgrims Disc with 28s. As it was going to be a mixed route there would be no best choice. Big 40c tyres for the canal to save getting beaten up but then slower on the road? Or go for a bit bumpy on the canal with 28s but then more speed and efficiency on the road bits of the route. I went with the latter mainly due to dynamo and wanting to enjoy the road sections. I’m still not sure if this was the right choice but then as it was almost 50/50 on canal vs road there wasn’t really a right or wrong.

Getting to work all I need to do was collect some tickets at lunch, purchase the usual porridge pot and breakfast bits before getting through work to escape on time at 6 and to jump on the train. Adam and Andy had a bit more flexibility with getting out of work so were going earlier to Reading with Robin and I following on and jumping off at Newbury. The intention being to get going along the canal for food just before 9 at a pub I had booked a table at. This soon unraveled due to Andy hitting some glass outside of Reading and slashing his tubeless tyre open. An anchovy wouldn’t fix it and it ended up with a tube going in. We had kept on going but then found a pub to wait for them to catch up.

By the time we managed to regroup is was 8.45 with food options rapidly disappearing. The pub we were in served food tim 9 unless you actually wanted to order food. So a quick sprint up the hill to another pub in the village and a round of pizzas and pints each. The bar woman said closed but her boss said open. So four pizzas and pints ordered. We all order garlic bread with our pizza but it was actually the size of the pizza so essentially we all had double pizza. Sadly they only had two tiny pizza ovens so it came out in dribs and drabs but it was food nonetheless and the beer was very welcome.

After that it was back onto the canal which by this time was pitch black. Andy’s tyre went awry again due to a thorn so mended that again and then headed off to find somewhere to sleep. There were so many bugs around the canal that we wanted to get up and off this area and ideally to slightly higher ground with a view.

This is obviously harder in the dark as you can’t just look up and see what’s around. A few quick checks on the phone for a satellite view and we headed up and off the trail. Over the A4 and up on a path around a field. By pure chance we found a lovely big oak tree with a bench underneath. It wasn’t as remote as some places I’ve slept but it was late and it was good enough.

Bags off, and kit out we set up an improvised camp using a tarp over the bench and then around the tree. It was likely to rain in the morning with a storm on its way. By this time we had sat down on the bench and started sipping whiskey from the hip flask I had brought. Vic was also meant to be joining us but had been delayed. We had sent her our location and Adam had given some instructions and remarkably we soon saw her light tracking up the hill towards us. She set up her bivvy although preferring to sleep out under the stars.

Whilst sitting on the bench I found a lump in my back and tried to see what it was. It turned out to be a little wooden handle to a compartment concealed in the bench. On opening it I found three little note books and a pen. Two of which had been completed and one with space to fill. Others had been and left notes about their day, what they’d seen or just random comments. My favourite being the page that simply said “ticking away the moments that moments that make up a dull day”. I found it strangely moving that all these people had left a note about their visit to the spot. I left a note about why we had been there but also thought about all the other people who were likely to visit in the future. A slightly sentimental moment but resonated with me in a number of ways.

It was really warm and I woke up a few times being far too hot in my sleeping bag and bivvy bag. In hindsight I could have probably ditched the bag and just had the sleeping bag under the tarp.

At 4am the sun started to rise. My body also woke me telling me it was time for the loo. It was incredible to be up at this time with the sun rising over the horizon to the east and then a huge storm starting to appear in the west. I could see heavy clouds with streaks of lightning running through with the surrounding clouds morphing into a variety of colour as it developed.

I sat on the bench admiring it all and then grabbed my sleeping bag to keep warm and let my eyes open and close a they wanted to. Others gradually woke and admired the view before rolling over and sleeping some more. I grabbed the bivvy bag and matt out from under the tarp and laid down with my head in the direction of the storm to keep watching it unfold. I drifted in and out of sleep and finally when I woke again a series of double rainbows were starting to appear.

The storm then got close enough to us and started to rain a bit. All five of us then got under the tarp and waited it out as well as allowing a bit more sleep time. A few comments were made about being on top of a hill under a large tree in a storm but it was too late really and it didn’t pass directly over us.

After that it was time to get up, pack everything down and get riding again. First coffee and some porridge to get us going. Instead of the 50-65km we had intended to on the Friday night we’d only done 20km which meant more to do to get out to Bath. Unfortunately it was also hard riding along the canal. Rough and bumpy in places and slower than the road. We were going to have to adapt or change our plans. The idea was to get to Bath, go for coffee and then make decisions on the best plan from there.

The canal was great although the air was a bit muggy and the sky was still a thick grey colour. I love riding along it and saying hello to everyone, admiring all the house boats, from the super well kept to the chaotic hippy type affairs, as well as all the dogs and wildlife around. We had a few swans who weren’t keen to let us pass as well as geese and their goslings.

A momentary lapse of concentration left me laying down and sliding on my left side whilst still clipped in along the grass. Slightly more awake I got back on and vowed to concentrate more on the wet grass with well inflated 28mm tyres.

We pushed on although needed to cover quite a lot of ground to get to Bath. We needed some proper breakfast and found a cafe at Devises just next to the canal. We were all quite tired from the first section of canal and food and tea was wolfed down before returning to the canal for the section into Bath. Adam spent an inordinate amount of time in the toilet as we were ready to leave and received a large round of applause when he finally emerged.

The surface got better as we got towards Bath and the speed picked up. One of the aims was to ride through the Two Tunnels again as Robin, Vic and Adam had not been through them yet. The first was was really cold with the second one being a warmer temperature. We went straight to Colonna and Smalls for more coffee and cake before heading back out towards the Mendips.

The idea was to do a loop around Cheddar and then back in towards Weston Super Mare where we would visit my Grandma and Adam would go to his parents place. We’d kind of planed in being in Bath around 10am but it was now 2.30 and we still wanted to do a bit of a loop before going to Weston. We ended up improvising a route to Cheddar Gorge and then picking our way over towards Locking and Grandma’s house. We continued on the Sutrans route out of Bath and ended up on some lovely country lanes with very little traffic. Vic wanted to do a more gentle route so went off via the Sustrans route via Bristol.

After a few stops and checking of our route we ended up along a beautiful road towards Priddy. Even with all the kit on we were ticking along at a fair old rate. A slight tailwind helped but felt so great to be moving at pace after the slow start to the day. Those fully loaded bikes really go when you get them up to speed. Having the kit all tied down well also means you don’t actually notice it too much when it comes to getting a move on. We then swung a left around a stunning outcrop of rocks and then up a picturesque climb towards the gorge. We’d decided to descend it rather than ascend due to having all the kit on our bikes and not having much time. It felt like the right choice as we emerged from the wooded section into the gorge. It was incredible to weave our way down it although there was a fair bit of gravel on the roads and a few cars stopped me going as fast as we would have liked towards the bottom.

Of course we stopped for an ice-cream and some more water and had a few moments before tracking our way over towards Locking via Axbridge which again is really beautiful. The last section was a rocky and muddy byway which was great fun. After that it was up the short steep hill from Hutton and then to see Grandma.

Adam had to dash so it was me, tall Andy Matthews and Robin for some tea, sandwiches and cake in Grandma’s garden. She was thrilled to have people to talk to and as on fine form with her stories. Apparently tall Andy’s beard was better than mine and that Robin looked very smart in his all black Rapha outfit. My colourful hat wasn’t as good as Andy’s black on. And so on!

After that Andy and Robin headed out towards Blagdon for a pub dinner and to find another spot to camp out. I got a lift back to Bath with Mum and just about managed to get a spot on the train back to London although £45 lighter for the pleasure. A beer and a kitkat from the buffet and I was as happy as larry. Sadly I caught a whiff of myself occasionally. The only thing that spoiled the adventure was the cycle back through London home with the a series of road closures and coach trying to use the cycle lane at Vauxhall.

Hoping to do some more of this but perhaps more local to avoid the ridiculous train fares.

Tags:

Photography

Durdle Door geology

Not very good at sitting down and editing images these days for pleasure. It always seems like a bit of a waste to sit down at another computer after spending all day on one at work. I briefly had a scan through my Lightroom last night and found a few I wanted to spend some time on and edit.

I really like this little series of images from a brief trip to Durdle Door with Emma towards the end of the summer last year. They’re all shot on the original X100 and I just love the variation, texture and shapes in the natural stone. The little information board said there were five different types of rock which all come together in this area with obviously impressive results. I also like looking away from the obvious views and seeing what else is around.

Durdle Door geology
Durdle Door geology
Durdle Door geology
Durdle Door geology

Tags:

Cycling

Whitstable video blogging

A few weeks ago Neil and I had a lovely ride down to Whitstable along the Pilgrims Way which I wrote about at the time.

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During our day Neil spent a great deal of time filming. I’d kind of got used to it by the end of the ride but at every opportunity he was there grabbing more footage or talking to the camera. The most amusing things is his little clip on furry directional mic. It looks like a little rat.

I remember when he suggested that they start doing these little video clips and have to say I was pretty sceptical. Having seen quite a few of them I have to say I was entirely wrong. Each one keeps getting better and better as Neil becomes more familiar with the tools and works out what works and what doesn’t. It’s also a really good way of communicating some of the things that go into running a small company and a lot of the thought processes behind things.

The below video, Episode 18, is primarily of our ride to Whitstable and records the day in a way in which I would be unable to describe as well through words and pictures, my chosen medium. Whilst it’s nice to be on camera in places I think it’s a great way of describing an enjoyable days riding and takes a lot of skill to get there.