#Festive500 2015

I love a good Strava challenge. I like the monthly Fondo and Monthly Training Series things and the ‘stupid little badge’ and so on. I know Strava winds a load of people up but I like it. I like the gamification and social aspects of it and I’ve found it inspiring and get a great deal out of it. I love seeing the big adventures people go on as well as the small improvements people are all making. I don’t sweat about KOMs or anything like that but it’s a great tool for motivating yourself to work a bit harder or drag yourself out before work.

Also, I don’t care what you think.

For the last few years Rapha, in association with Strava, has been doing an event over the Christmas period called the Festive 500. Any cyclist who has a web browser cannot have escaped it in the last few years through the prevalence of the hashtag #festive500 and various media surrounding it.

Since 2010, the Festive 500 has challenged cyclists to ride a total of 500km on the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Once again we invite you to join tens of thousands of riders in testing yourself on the bike over the holidays as part of this growing festive tradition.

2014 was my first full year of riding and recording on Strava. I went from riding 80km per week to 350km fairly comfortably by the end. That was a massive personal achievement for me and also meant I went down a dress size or two. But at the end of it all I felt that I didn’t need to do another challenge, I’d achieved enough. I wanted to spend time with my family who had been so supportive throughout and just relax doing some of the #festering500 instead and #alloutforgout.

This year I felt slightly different. I’d got into longer audax rides and felt more comfortable on the bike. I floated the idea with Emma and she didn’t have a problem with it. I did resolve to try and not be too antisocial about it though and still spend plenty of time with them but get out in the downtime bits of the day where everyone is asleep or watching Coronation Street. It also fitted in with hitting my riding targets for the year and making a nice round number for kms ridden in 2015.

So I made a plan. I listed out all the days available in SimpleNote as I do each month except from the 24th to 31st. I spent time looking at routes and working out where best to go depending on where we were staying at the time and then packed a bag full of all the riding kit I thought I might need.

24th December

This was to be the first ride obviously but I was constrained by time. We were due to drive to Bath as well as picking Grandma up in Weston-Super-Mare. I wanted to get a quick 60km in before we left and thought a quick trip to Kent would be good. I have a little pre-work loop I sometimes do but felt confident enough to not plan anything and just take a turn here and then do this bit or maybe that.

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It wasn’t too exciting but out to Pilgrims via Beddlestead, along a bit and then back up Brasted hill, which never seems to get any easier. It was incredibly windy and even riding with Will it was hard work. I didn’t have much in the legs but made it round and back for a quick coffee with Will before heading back to Bath for Christmas.

63km / 437km left.


25th December

I had hoped to get up early, get out, do 60km and then be there for everyone waking up and getting breakfast. Turns out I couldn’t be bothered. A ride the day before, a long drive, a warm bed and a wet outlook conspired to keep me at home. I was kind of glad I did but still felt a pang of guilt. We enjoyed the day, I had a few beers, a glass of wine and loads and loads of food. I don’t normally drink that much at Christmas as around family and I’ve usually eaten too much. By the time everyone was dozing off on the sofa I found myself wanting to get out and turn the pedals. My jacket felt a little tight around the tummy area after that massive meal. The route I had planned for the morning wasn’t suitable so I just headed into Bath on my old commuting route – it’s down the A4 but it was so quiet it didn’t matter. Into Bath, a quick look at the Cathedral, a look back to Putney Bridge and then back through Batheaston. Getting to my usual turn I decided to take the steeper Bathford Hill. As soon as I turned onto it it started to get significantly darker. No more streetlights and just my dynamo light which was more powerful than I’d seen before on the streets of London. Even so it was pretty isolating at first with a kind of slight feeling of sensory deprivation. I could hear my breathing more than I remember and I don’t think it was just due to the big lunch. I carried on up, past the Kingsdown golf course which was a brilliant flat out descent, again in the pitch black. The corner at the end came up a little quick for my liking but fortunately made it round. Over the roundabout and then turned right at Chapel Plaister and around Wadswick lane. As I came round the corner I caught sight of a flashlight ahead which turned out to be a family out for a walk. They were equally as surprised to see me appear out of the darkness – I bid them a Happy Christmas and carried on. It was still pitch black but then I started to see Melksham and Chippenham glowing on the horizon which lifted the light levels considerably.

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Back up Park Lane and home. It was surprisingly warm out and I really didn’t need that winter jacket, even with only a baselayer. It was still windy although not as bad as the previous day. Kit in the wash and back in time to catch up with all the soaps and a celebratory beer.

I’ve been posting a pic of each ride to Facebook from Instagram during the Festive 500. I normally refrain from doing this but thought I would for this. Only one per day but you know, some people offer encouragement there which is nice. And then…

More to life than clocking up miles mate. Go see your family.

Ahh, I knew it would come at some point. That ride was a total of 1hr and 10mins away from my family – all of whom were asleep as far as I could tell. My mother was furious when she saw that! Fortunately she refrained from commenting.

34.4km / 393.6km left.

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26th December

Although I didn’t manage the super early start I’d hoped for I still managed to get out just before 9am. I did the route I had planned for Christmas day heading out towards Westonbirt and the famous arboretum. I’d completed a similar route with Dad before towards Sherston previously but managed to add a few different fun looking roads when planning it on ridewithgps.com, by far my favourite part was riding the beautifully straight Fosse Way with a tailwind. The Fosse Way is a Roman road stretching from Exeter to Lincoln and large parts of which are still used as B roads today. Much like Pilgrims Way in Kent certain sections are gravel roads or even just bridleways now but the form of the historic way is largely traceable. My route planning failed to take account for this and almost took me on the muddy path it turned into. A quick check of the Garmin and I neatly carved around it. Normally I’d just give it a go but I was time limited and didn’t want to tempt punctures. After that it was an extremely muddy series of lanes which took me further into the Cotswolds, beautiful houses and fancy cars aplenty. I ended up at Westonbirt and realised the road I was intending to take was private and didn’t look like a goer – another route planning error on my part. Never mind, back to the main road to smash it up a bit further to get back on track. I’m getting good at re-planning routes on the hoof now having cocked it up so many times.

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It was windy as hell all the time I was out, which was great on the way out, but having made it to the top of the loop it was now time to head back. Ugh, that really was horrid. Facing into hit along rough country lanes with the wind in my face and little shelter was horrid. Not having someone to share the pain with made it even more frustrating. Just try and tuck down, make myself as aero as possible and keep pedalling away.

I was rewarded for my earlier poor route planning decisions with some fantastic country lanes which guided me back towards Colerne and the now somewhat run down RAF base there. Amazingly I’d had so many lovely drivers give me so much space on the lanes that day. People literally throwing their cars or land rovers into the hedge to give me plenty of space. I really couldn’t believe it and greeted each one with a smile and a wave.

Having hit Colerne I knew what was next. A back road which is not for cars / access only which takes you from the valley floor right up to the top of Box Hill in a fairly short and brutal climb. It peaks at about 20% and was also covered in farm muck. Having made it up I wiggled back round the Quarrymans Arms and the lanes and home.

67.5km / 326.1km left.

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27th December

Again not quite the early start I had planned. After driving from Bath to Cambridge the day before and a big meal and plenty to drink in the pub I finally dragged myself out at around 10.30. It was raining, more was scheduled for the day and there’s a gale blowing. Super. At least it wasn’t too cold.

I’d ridden most of this route before but again had a bit of a play in ridewithgps to see what I could do to remove some of the less pleasant bits I’d done last time. I realised that I was pretty close to the Blue Egg Cafe with my loop so dragged it down a little further on the off chance it was open. I wanted to make it just over 100k to get a good chunk of the distance done and get past that half way point in terms of distance.

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You can see how grim it was from the above picture. 10.30 in the morning and barely light with all the cloud and rain. The first hour was horrid. That sinking feeling of, oh god what have I put myself up for. It was fine rain at first. The kind that soaks you through little by little. Sure enough my soft-shell was soaked on the forearms and chest and reducing it’s ability to keep me warm. On goes a rain jacket and try to keep warm. I passed pretty quickly from Cambridgeshire into Essex. The roads were good, drivers were generally considerate and after the first hour of pedalling I’d warmed up and got into a bit of a rhythm.

The scenery was pretty good as the weather cleared slightly. Lots of old farms, oast houses, windmills and water towers. Although it’s pretty flat round there it seems to be rolling countryside which is deceptive. You don’t get a good go at a hill like in Kent or Wiltshire. It’s these long slow rolling climbs which are deceptive in terms of effort required and you don’t really ever seem to get a good flat section to have a break. It would have been nice to stop and admire more of the concrete water towers but I was aware of time away from people and wanted to push on.

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I recognised a few places as they were on the Dunwich route. The lovely green and bridge of Great Bradfield was lovely to see in the daylight. Round the corner was the Blue Egg which was sadly closed. I was kind of counting on this but couldn’t find anything on their website or social media saying they were closed. No bother. Had a bar, a glug of water and got back on with it.

The route had been brilliant so far, lots of villages, quiet lanes and not many cars. Of course this had to come to an abrupt end at some point. After successfully navigating around a short section of muddy road I didn’t fancy I found myself on a much longer section that looked like this.

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Fuck it. It was a bit warmer, the weather had cleared a bit and I thought it can’t go on for that long can it? I rode through the first one using the logic that the middle of the puddle is the hard surface and would mean I wouldn’t get stuck in the mud. Woo, it’s a deep one. Past the bottom bracket and covering both hubs. Err, keep going, try not to lose too much speed. Cleats are a bit sticky, almost fall in. The sealing on the dynamo hub is pretty good as it’s continued to work since despite being fully submerged.

This went on for ages and finally the ground firmed up and was more rideable and then turned right onto a proper road. I couldn’t help feeling smug about having ridden it and enjoying the stupidity of it all. It’s the kind of thing I’d normally ride on a MTB or CX bike. The bike was completely filthy.

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The loop back was a bit easier. A bit of a tail wind and I’d managed to find myself on more lovely quiet country lanes. As I headed further west I passed more cyclists and a club run out on their local loop. After a final detour round the back of the main road and over the railway line I was back on the road towards the pub. I was so filthy I had to strip off most of my kit in the yard, wash myself down and then go for a shower. Food, a tin of coke and a pint of IPA later I felt brilliant. I felt like I’d really achieved something on that ride and was so glad I’d gone out.

113.1km /213km left

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28th December

A rest day! A trip to Cambridge with Emma and her Mum, a nice lunch in the pub and then a drive back to London. I cycled the pizza bike to meet Richard and Tom and hear about their festive 500 at the Spitalfields Cycle Club which serves beer rather than just the coffee at the Soho one! Tom had already completed his – he’s ten years old. So it gave me an extra incentive to complete it. Sadly my phone didn’t record the ride there but an extra 10km back didn’t do any harm to the overall total. It felt like it was achievable but I really didn’t want the last day to be about getting extra kms in to just nudge it over the 500km mark.

10.6km / 202.4km left.

29th December

It felt good to be up nice and early for this one compared to the rest. An RCC ride had been organised to head out to Kent for ‘about 100km’. No route was available and the ride was fully booked. It was being run by Will who I’d emailed the night before to see if it was ok to tag on to. If it was full on the day I wouldn’t go with them and just do my own thing but had a sneaky feeling that not everyone would turn up to a mucky ride round Kent over the Christmas break. My suspicions were correct and we met with a considerably smaller group at Gails in Dulwich. The coffee is considerably better than the thick brown liquid served at Cafe St Germain in Crystal Palace. Off we went, and it was so good to be riding in a group and with wheels to follow as well as not being too worried about directions. That’s someone else’s problem. Plenty of people in the group didn’t have mudguards and the lanes were filthy. I managed to move around the group so that I didn’t have to sit on anyone’s wheel which was spraying up crap. It meant spending a bit more time on the front but a small price to pay for not having a face full of crap.

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Whilst thinking about mudguards it struck me that those ass savers are the most selfish thing you can buy if you’re riding in a group. You’re making sure your ass is dry but showering the person behind in crap. Get some proper guards! I also used to think it was just about keeping spray from going up your back and chin but having used them two years in a row they significantly reduce the amount of crap that gets thrown over your legs and body, improving your chances of keeping warm and clean(er).

The route was taking us East and towards Tunbridge to an amazing coffee place Scott (Mr Caffeine Mag) knew. A few roads were familiar from a previous Knatts Valley loop but most were new to me which was great. Most were strewn with muck which had been washed off from the fields in the recent rain and storms. Some people winced at it but I loved it! Big tyres, disc brakes and mudguards were perfect for this.

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One person was plagued with punctures and left the group fairly early as he needed to be back in time. The rest of us pushed on to Tonbridge where we were treated to a decent downpour for the 20km leading up to. At least there’s posh coffee there! We get to Tunbridge and said posh coffee place is closed. So the next stop is the train station which has a little coffee shop out the front. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Cue 12 wet cyclists huddling in a station foyer trying to warm up with bitter coffee and cake.

On we go and back onto the final set of lanes heading back towards London, legs spinning to try and warm up from the stop. Again more new lanes to me. Neil and I lose the group slightly but carry on what we think is the route. I give a bit of a push up a hill out of the saddle and snap a rear spoke which makes the wheel all out of shape and a bit egg like. It’s certainly not round anymore. A quick roadside wheel bodge with a spoke key and it’s enough to get back. We catch up with the rest of the group at the Ide Hill cafe where we bump in to Will and Marta who’ve just come out on a bit of a jaunt for cake and fresh air. A banana and a Tunnocks tea cake provides enough fuel for the return leg.

After this the group forms a more organised bunch as we head on the main road around Biggin Hill airport. The pace rises with Will and Tim on the front. 45 – 50kph and we’re tanking along. Oooooh this is what I’ve missed from the laps sessions. Feels great to be in a bunch again. All that remains is the final sprint back into Crystal Palace and up Annerly Hill. I’m pretty much done by this point and can’t muster the energy for a sprint up the hill. We end up with coffee, coke, beer and cheese toasties at Cadence / Fee & Brown whilst the mechanic there kindly repairs my wheel.

122.3km / 80.1km left.


30th December

Another rest day. A trip into town with Emma, two exhibitions, a trip on the Thames Clipper and a burger on the way home. Not a bad way to recuperate really. My legs were sore though.

31st December

This is it. 80km to do. I’d talked Seb into riding and the weather looked surprisingly good with a slight chance of rain. The temperature was dropping compared to the previous warm days but looking like not a bad way to end it. Rather than stretch out a Kent route or go out to Surrey I thought a ride to Whitstable would be good. The route follows Pilgrims way for the majority of it, at least for the sections which are rideable.

After a chilly start the weather turned out to be glorious. We had a slight tailwind and managed to tank it along Pilrgims lane although again was strewn with mud and puddles. Kent was beautiful in the sunshine though. The furrows, vineyards and farm houses all looked incredible in the winter light.

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We had a few spots of rain but no more than 20 mins in total. I celebrated when the Garmin ticked over 80km knowing that I’d completed the challenge! Dan left us 20k before the end with knee issues and we pushed on to Whitstable. As you crest the corner off Pilgrims and onto the seafront the wind hits you. Seb seemed to surge into it and I struggled to keep up and even hold a wheel. My excuse was that he hadn’t done as much riding as me the week before. We got there, fought our way through the Whitstable traffic and found the best chip shop in town. A long queue had formed but it was well worth the wait.

A quick trip to the seafront for a terrible staged photo and then a dash for the train.

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In our haste we hadn’t purchased any beer to celebrate and there was no trolley on the train. Never mind. The fish and chips was amazing. I day dreamed of a hot bath and a cold beer.

122.1km / 533km completed!

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All that remained was a slow limp home from St Pancras south and to upload that final Garmin file. At times I really thought I wouldn’t do it. It was far further than I thought it would be. I know what 500km feels like but doing it in winter was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The hardest thing was doing rides solo and into horrific headwinds. It’s done. I have a real sense of achievement and my legs have just about recovered.

Including the ride back from the station I covered 543km and managed to not fall off or have any punctures. The only mechanical was a broken spoke which isn’t bad going really. It also meant I’d hit my riding targets and passed 12,000km and almost 100,000m of climbing. Pretty pleased with that.

Next year? Maybe not, I feel I’ve done this challenge now and ticked it off the list. We’ll see.

It’s time to clean the bike.

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And here’s a pointless heat map generated from Strava of all the rides.

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Manchester to London 2015

I really enjoyed seeing people’s Strava and Instagram posts about this event in 2014. Leo and Claire both rode it amongst many others and seemed to have a great time. It looked like a really amazing day out and my interest was piqued by starting to think about longer Audax rides.

So in Jan 2015 I thought sod it and put down the money for the event. Looking back I feel slightly ashamed that I was interested in doing it because I wanted an amazing ride and that the charity aspect was really a secondary thought for me. I also have/had a slight problem with riding a cycling event for charity having quoted the below on my post on the Dunwich Dynamo in 2014.

In England they ask: “Is it for charity?”

In France, Spain, Italy or Flanders they murmur: “What beautiful madness.”

I was also slightly conscious of people saying to me

…but you love cycling, why should I sponsor you?

So in that respect it had to be a challenge and something out of the ordinary.

Two things changed my perspective on this. The first was this thread on the centre of road cycling negativity and hatred on the internet – road.cc. The second was attending an event at the Rapha Cycle Club in London. I thought it would be fairly light hearted but I came away far better informed about autism and with damp eyes after hearing two fathers explain the highs and lows of supporting their profoundly autistic children. One such anecdote was the thrill someone had where his 11 year old son was able to drink through a straw for the first time – things that we all take for granted of course.

In hearing all of this it was amazing to hear about the charity founded to assist them, Ambitious About Autism. It was started by five mothers who were unable to get the care they needed for their children and decided to do something about it. That in itself is quite an incredible feat. Having heard about a series of young individuals who require constant care 24/7 and struggle with the most basic of things, I was inspired to start fundraising properly. I started banging on about it on social media and annoying the shit out of anyone I could. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.. even LinkedIn wasn’t safe. I emailed everyone I could think of. Friends, colleagues, consultants I’d worked with etc. So many so that I got a load of bounce backs from people I hadn’t spoke to in many many years (everyone’s Hotmail was dead). So what. I wasn’t ashamed about this and was totally behind this cause. When was the last time I raised money for a charity? Well I absailed down the civic offices, very quickly in 2001, in Portsmouth. I raised £50. I sponsored others, I have monthly direct debits to a series of charities but I’d never done a big push like this and somehow felt slightly ashamed of this.

To my pleasure and surprise everyone was incredibly generous and I hit my target of £750 pretty quickly. This managed to get me a free entry into the Ride 100 event courtesy of Ambitious About Autism. That really was a great but incredibly intense ride!

Anyway, fundraising continued and the date drew nearer. The question looming over me from those I’d pestered…

How’s the training going?

Good I guess. One of the things I said when I started raising money was that this would be the longest ride I had ever done. I kind of killed that narrative by riding Dunwich and back with Will (400km). I couldn’t quite resist the temptation of this big ride but did feel a pang of guilt, like I’d cheated people. Without this longest, hardest, fastest type mentality I felt like I’d lost some of the reasons for doing it. Would people care? I guess not really but I decided that it was still a serious challenge and that actually it was still well worth fundraising for. I focused on the 4000m or so of climbing, and changed tack slightly to push the ‘largest climbing narrative’ and carried on fundraising.

So the event drew nearer and I had a slight sense of arrogance about me. I’d ridden a 300k audax at pace, Dunwich and back, Ride 100 at a very fast pace (for me), so this would just be another ride right? I tried to shake this before the ride an give it the sense of respect it deserved. Having a week sat on my arse by a pool in Morocco eating and drinking all week did a lot of damage to this idea of just another ride. I lost so much fitness and aborted the first ride I tried when I got back. Coupled with that work was getting busier and finding time to go riding was reducing at a rapid rate. I managed a chain gang or two the weeks before and a ride round Richmond Park but didn’t feel super prepared for it all.

Sure enough the time came and it was time to pack everything up and get on the train to Manchester. We’d booked first class tickets months in advance which seemed like a luxury at the time but it was amazing do have all that space and a silly little meal served to you. We’d even had the pleasure of the first class lounge at Euston where we met a bunch of others heading up for the event. Again, more free stuff!

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When we got to Manchester it was a short walk to the hotel and no expense spared on a Premier Inn. All we needed was somewhere clean and quiet. We also weren’t too concerned about the view which was fortunate as it wasn’t up to much really.

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There was an event on at the Manchester Rapha Cycle Club in the evening but registration was open all afternoon. We headed over from our hotel and I was amazed by the beautiful range of buildings on display, generally not the new ones but the tall warehouses and former banks and trading halls. There were some really quite amazing buildings on display. Some streets almost felt like New York with their tall masonry clad buildings. Anyway, I also really liked this car park which reminded me of the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth which is now sadly demolished. Later on I was told that people race down this on skateboards.

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The Manchester version of the Rapha Cycle Club seems so much nicer than the London one. The atmosphere is better and benefits from being arranged over a number of floors. The first floor cafe with the big picture window overlooking the street is amazing. So much nicer than the one in London which somehow manages to feel quite intimidating.

There were plenty of familiar faces at the club including Marta, Andrew, Dean, Kat, Lindsey and others. We signed on and got our ‘stupid little bags’ which also included a ‘stupid little hat’. Emma’s words as to my growing collection of musettes and cycling caps.

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We came back later to have a final pep talk from the organisers. At this point they’d praised so many people for the extent of their fundraising. One person had raised over £8,000. Surely he works in finance or something but good on him. Sadly it also seemed like some people hadn’t raised anything at all and were just doing it for the ride which seemed to miss the point entirely. They were also down on the amount they raised last year.

After this we headed back to the hotel to sort out some final prep and then get some sleep. Fussing, fretting, checking, re-checking and finally just laying everything out for the morning so that we could get up and out with the minimum of fuss.

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Lights off and go to sleep. Whoah, not so fast. My brain is suddenly racing and full of all sorts of useless thoughts. All I want to do is sleep but for some reason my body wants to keep me awake. Then all the drunks start banging around in the corridor. And boom, then it’s time to get up. It’s 5.15am.

As usual when you’re up at that time in the morning you’re sharing the streets with drunks and a surprising amount of dog walkers bizarrely. Then a left turn into the National Cycling Centre and the bright lights of more cyclists equally dazed at being up so early in the morning. A quick last minute check of a few things and then we lurch towards the start. At this point I can’t see any point in hanging around and really just want to get going and start turning the pedals and getting my legs going.

There’s a bit of a queue at the start and we’re set off in groups at regular intervals. Off over a little bridge and then out into the Manchester streets. Nerves still jangling we get going. There’s a few groups haring past and the temptation to surge and sit on their tail comes and then goes. Then we pass that group after having a puncture. Then the Garmin bleeps… OFF COURSE. Eh, we’ve only just started? Some people carry on but I’m suspicious and rightfully so. It’s the official route in the Garmin and someone has clearly removed the first marker. We follow the Garmin and go against the tide which gets us back on track although I do wonder how long those other people went on for before turning around?

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A few seemingly odd little turns through some backstreets and then we’re on a big hill up heading out of Manchester. There’s plenty of this to come as we’re meant to get most of the climbing out of the way over the peaks. It does seem to really keep going up and up and then we get to the Peaks. Then the sun rises. Oh my.

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The funky colours are the by product of some out of date film but even with an iPhone it was pretty stunning.

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It was hard to not stop and just admire the view and sit there for 30 minutes. I took a few shots but didn’t even unclip the left pedal as I didn’t want to linger too long. Somehow it didn’t seem right to keep stopping and taking pictures. There also seemed to be a fair bit of momentum and didn’t want to get left behind the main group as we’d got a good start.

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We pushed on as the sun continued to rise and burned off the mist as the day warmed up. Jackets, arm warmers and so on were removed and the warm sun was welcome after a positively chilly start. James and I seemed to be doing an ok pace and ended up with another guy who was a local MTB racer and knew the roads well. After a while our pace differed and he pushed ahead. The climbing has eased slightly and it was good to see the first food stop. The H Van was there as well as a great deal of food, drink and some amazing volunteers. A quick food top up, Instagram check and we were back on our way. Again more lanes followed although we didn’t really have much of an idea of where we were. We were using a GPS tracker device to let our friends and family know where we were en-route and it was great to see their comments and encouragement being posted on the page.

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The time seemed to pass and James and I kept tapping it out. Keeping a comfortable pace and enjoying the scenery and trying not to stop for too many photo / Instagram breaks. At the back of my mind was the desire to do a good time or keep up a good pace and prove something to the people sponsoring me, again coming back to this idea of it not just being another ride I could easily do. We occasionally got overtaken by someone on some fancy carbon thing with that woosh of carbon rims with well inflated tyres but by and large we were on our own and sometimes overtaking others. We weren’t racing but it was reassuring to see that we weren’t trailing anyone.

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One thing I was really looking forward to was the monsall trail, a 8.5 mile former railway line which is now a shared use path which goes through two incredible tunnels. This partly informed my choice of bike for the day, opting for the Pilgrims with 28mm tyres. By this point we were well warmed up and ended up tanking along the gravel at 40kph due to it being so flat and a gentle tailwind. I really enjoyed speeding past those same carbon wheeled riders with 23mm tyres on my relatively inexpensive bike! Smug indeed. Sadly this came to an end although we still had plenty of beautiful lanes to ride.

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Following this we were heading toward food stop number two which included a stretch of busy two lane A road which was clearly unavoidable. The route had been so well planned that everything was on incredible country lanes and also with very few traffic lights which kept the flow of it all. Whilst on the A road I switched into my usual ‘get me the fuck off this thing‘ mode and started ramping up the pace. Again a nice tailwind and a sense of self preservation took us up to 45-50kph along this which felt great although I still wanted to get off the thing. I was glad when it was over and we were back on the country lanes heading to a beautiful country house. A few kms before James’ Dad had headed out to join us and ride with us to this one which was great.

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The venue was incredible. A stately home with an amazing spread of local food along with fresh oranges, water, coke and loads of other bits and bobs. You couldn’t possibly want for anything here in terms of food and there was also a mechanic on hand for any issues you might be having. We probably stopped too long here just enjoying the food and sunshine and seeing others arrive.

One guy had tagged along with our group and asked if he could join us again. Of course, no problem but then when it was time to go I spent 15 minutes trying to find him before giving up and going anyway. We later found out he’d gone ahead.

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Back on the bike, turning the pedals and trying not to think of what was left to ride. I kept breaking it down into 50km chunks to make it more manageable. To make it worse I’d reset my Garmin every now and then to avoid corrupting the file over 200km but had completely lost track of where I was in terms of what was left to do.

At some point the person we had waited for joined on our group again after presumably being dropped by another bunch ahead. We also managed to attract a fair few others who wanted to sit in our slipstream but not take a turn on the front. Occasionally people took a turn only to blow up and go straight to the back again or drop off completely. Fair enough if you’re not strong enough but at least be polite enough to ask if it’s ok to just sit there. Earlier in the day we had helped another out who was struggling and encouraged him to grab a ride for over 60km until he felt a bit more rested, but to just join the group, not do any work and not say a word is just shitty in my book.

The riding continued and yet there’s nothing really special to say about it. We kept a decent speed, kept turning the pedals, we enjoyed the scenery and the weather was kind to us. One moment that did stand out though was when the signs changed from red to blue indicating that we were half way and that we’d broken the back of it in terms of distance and that the majority of the climbing was done. That was a damn good feeling. The signage was superb throughout and I barely needed the turn by turn on the Garmin for it.

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We were still working for others though in that we had a guy in our group or simply refused to do any time at all on the front. By the end I calculated that he had done 120km sat on mine and James’ wheel. Not a single turn on the front. Fucking madness. Sure he was nice enough but he was strong enough to do it judging by the way he surged off every now and then to then just return to the back. I tried not to think about it but as I became more and more tired it wound me up even more.

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The only other amusing anecdote I can remember from the day is James getting a puncture and then saying, “…I wish that support van was around“. No sooner had he said it than the support van came round the corner, pulled in, whipped out a track pump and a new tube to replace the one he was using and helped repair it in record time. You couldn’t make it up! They were two lovely guys also and keen to discuss how we were getting on, what we were riding and so on.

The support throughout the day was amazing and even included a motorcycle paramedic who one person referred to as the grim reaper! When you think of it like that he didn’t seem to friendly. He was going up and down the route looking for anyone in difficulty obviously but I was very glad not to need his services, especially after this nickname had been firmly planted in my mind.

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Getting to feed stop 3 was amazing. We were shown into this incredible private walled garden in a country house and welcomed with more food and drinks. Mr Mottram himself was there to greet us all individually. I got my brevet card stamped by him and Jess and made a joke about whether it was being run under official audax UK regulations? No. Silence. Missed the mark on that one. Ahh well, never mind.

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The musette bags had been driven forward for us from our drop off in the morning. I found my musette bag from the pile and gladly wiped my face with baby wipes before putting on my box fresh socks for the final leg. God that felt good. A can of coke, some cheesy chips and a banana later I was good to go. I took my gilet and some arm warmers out thinking that the jacket wasn’t really necessary on a day like today, so left it. Surely it wouldn’t be long now and it was a glorious day in late summer.

Off we went ready for our last leg with one more feed stop to go. We still had our man sitting with us refusing to go on the front. Again James and I shared the work on the front although I still found it difficult to let him do the work. I’d got myself in the mindset that I was going to help him out a bit and that we were going to finish together and that I was going to do more work on the front. James suggested he wasn’t as strong as he’d been studying but I wasn’t entirely convinced at times. In hindsight I should have taken more time to recover.

As the sun set we got to our final food stop before the finish. Coaches awaited those who weren’t going to make it, more grim reapers (medics) and an army of helpers, mechanics and people serving food. James had a slow puncture and it was swiftly taken care of for him whilst we went inside for some food. We didn’t even have to fill our water bottles up as someone was there and kind enough to do it for us.

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We probably stayed here too long in hindsight and by the time we had got outside the temperature had dropped considerably. On the way out we met someone who’s electronic shifting had failed meaning they were down to just two or three gears! Having ridden this last section the week before I refrained from mentioning how hilly it was.

We rode out with Kat and Grace and a few others who had formed a loose group determined to get this ride done. I was struggling with the cold and flagging. I’d eaten enough but wasn’t feeling it. The Hertfordshire lanes were dark, really really dark. The trees grow over the lanes creating this enclosed pitch black space. I had a decent light on the front but it’s not like the Dun Run where the lanes are open and the moon helps you out. Being tired, a bit grumpy and cold as well as needing to concentrate heavily was really not much fun. Trying not to crash on the pot hole and branch strewn lanes was my primary concern.

In addition to this was one person, and there’s always one, who insists on screaming LEFT, RIGHT, WE’RE GOING RIGHTNEXT RIGHT and so on. You know over indicating. The Garmin is telling me it’s right, the sign tells me it’s right, someone is indicting with their arm it’s right and I really don’t need you screaming RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT. One of the pleasures of riding is the peace and quiet of the countryside until some asshole comes along and shouts out every fucking hole, divet and turn. Cycling can be so beautiful but this way of moving through the landscape is seriously ugly. Blood sugar low, anger levels high.

And then the scenery changes, we’re out of the lanes and into the suburbs, past that weird garden centre we stopped at the weekend before and into Sat night traffic in London. Oh god. More concentration. More people sat behind me. Flick the right arm. Flick again. Ok, LET ME KNOW IF ANY OF YOU WANT TO TAKE A FUCKING TURN ON THE FRONT. I really have had enough by this point.

Do your fucking turn or piss off. Please.

Sure enough someone comes through and then the group surges and drops me. Ahhh for fucks sake. Never mind. None of the people I know.

More riding through traffic and left turn and we’re into slightly less busy traffic. Then a guy in commuting gear and a hybrid takes us. He’s no idea how many kms we have in our legs. Well done though! We’re then through an industrial estate, under a bridge and then there’s a man pointing us to the velodrome. Suddenly I find enough energy to sprint to the finish and race James to the line. Pathetic of course but there’s people watching. We both shoot past the line and then look kind of confused before turning around and seeing Emma, Stuart and Patrick who’d come to meet us.

Done. The end. That’s it. Utterly, utterly ruined.

Someone hands me a beer, Mr Mottram again shakes our hand and says thanks and then we kind of chat to a few people and let the adrenaline drain from our tired bodies.

And then the 1000 yard stare.

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and a slightly better picture of us both with smiles this time!

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No ride would be complete without stats. We covered 355.7km at an average pace of 28kph, sat on a saddle for 12hrs & 48mins, managed 3995m of climbing and used 8,590 calories with an ‘epic’ suffer score according to Strava.

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The more important stats are on the Just Giving page. After finishing I saw a flood of donations which was incredible. People have all been incredibly generous and I’ve ended up with £2,657.79 and £532.94 in gift aid. To me that makes it all worth while. Thank you to everyone who donated!


Cycling London

On not sharing #spaceforcycling

My commute to work takes me via Oval and onto the new Cycle Superhighway each morning. I’ve been so pleased to see this happen and am a big supporter of the new cycle infrastructure that has been causing such chaos recently whilst it’s being installed. It’s an incredible experience to be riding to work on a segregated cycle route of a decent width and in some cases with your own set of lights that let you go before the rest of the traffic. The one towards Vauxhall, CS5, is particularly good.

With this new infrastructure comes the realisation that my commutes are probably going to be a lot slower as I’m no longer moving at the same pace (or faster) than traffic – what is often termed ‘vehicular cycling‘. I would much prefer the Dutch style of cycling in that everyone does it, everyone feels relatively safe and it’s not just for enthusiasts such as myself who are considered slightly odd for not commuting on the tube. With this comes the acceptance that to have more people cycling in London I will have to go slower, be more tolerant of other riders and generally not race along at 35-40km an hour. But you know, that’s worth it for me. I can go to Richmond Park, Regents Park, find hills all over the city for me to dress up in my spandex and raise my heart rate if I want. I’d rather London was safer so my girlfriend might consider riding again.

There was a really interesting article I found the other day via the fantastic Urbanphoto Twitter account. The summary being that most current cyclists are going to hate the future they’re all campaigning for. Again the example of our European friends is made.

Riders on dedicated bike lanes in Munich only go as fast as the slowest person in the bike lane. So we rode along pretty slowly after we got “trapped” behind the lady in pink—who wasn’t about to risk breaking a sweat in her dress—and no one had a problem with it. People just rode along behind her, letting the woman in the pink dress set the pace, and no one got aggro about it. A few riders passed her when we came to an intersection but no one shot her a dirty look or gave her any grief.

Having read this I’ve been really quite careful about passing other riders, especially on the new Cycle Superhighways. So much so that I worry about free-wheeling too much behind them with my clicky Hope hub in case it pressures someone in front too much. I do a little soft pedal until it’s safe to go by. Even when dressed in full roadie kit I’ve waited then passed when safe and avoided the temptation to be seen to be smashing it past.

With this all in mind I had an interesting experience on CS7 at Oval a few weeks ago. I was dressed in some baggy shorts, casual jacket and riding a muddy cross bike to work and was in front of people on the CS7 doing an average pace. I was riding two abreast with a friend who I had bumped into. I heard someone behind me so went to move in and let them through. Before I had a chance I heard a blowing through the mouth from him like a horse but clearly with the intention of showing his displeasure at being held up. The light 200 metres ahead was red so not much of a rush really. Besides, as soon as I realised I was holding someone up I swiftly moved over.

Passing there was another tut and he desperately raced for the lights. I then clocked the rear facing camera so gave a cheeky wave to it. We naturally caught up at the next lights and I asked him what the problem was. Then I saw the front camera. So clearly someone into cycling and wanting to make sure that anyone else doing wrong was swiftly brought to account on their YouTube channel (a wild guess at this stage) but front and rear cameras suggested this.

Further chats were had and still more justification for why he needed to get to the front and generally be a bit of an arse to other people in the cycle lane. And then the red mist took over on my part so I chased him down and got a photo of him which is when he spat at me and then gave the finger for the camera – I’ll not post the pictures. Sure, there was some provocation on my part but then at the next set of lights I spotted the Space 4 Cycling Badge proudly pinned to the bag. I asked about this but was told that I had completely misunderstood what Space 4 Cycling is for. I suggested it was so that everyone could cycling in London and feel safe. Apparently not.

I cycled off still pretty pissed off. After a while I wondered if the video might appear online. But in an interesting turn of events I actually followed (past tense) that person on Twitter. The irony being that their feed is full of pulling other people up for the quality of driving. All with videos. And a great deal of it is about cycling infrastructure and in support of it, so it seems strange that I’m in their way. Whilst this person apologised online it’s still a bad state of affairs when this happens. Interestingly he also posted up about him suffering from a case of MGIF (Must Get In Front – I had to Google it). Yet all the cycle campaigners responding to him seemed to be fully in support of his actions although without the full story.

Cycling in London is going to get more and more popular and hopefully there’ll be less people like this spoiling it for those venturing out on their bikes for the first time. I’d rather see families with children in these lanes riding slowly than overbearing helmet cammers any day of the week.


Cycling London


This weekend was due to be a big weekend of cross riding and be my first taste of cyclocross. This year I thought I’d have a go and see what all the fuss is about and maybe take the sting out of getting towards my first crit in the new year. The idea was to race at Kings Cross in the third round of the Rapha Supercross and then Incredibly Cross on the Sunday.

At the Supercross I entered my age category and also the fun category – the tequila shortcut being particularly appealing. Things didn’t start well and they were already two hours behind when I arrived to sign on – no one really seemed to know what was going on. Ahh well, more time to chat and watch people racing I guess and enjoy the atmosphere. It was raining and pretty cold and they’d relocated the stands undercover to compensate. I managed to do two practice laps and it felt pretty sketchy on a few corners. I did hear a few thuds of riders slapping themselves down on the hard floor behind me as well as the ‘ooooh’ from those watching. I almost lost my front wheel in one of the corners on the wet granite but was pleased to see that everything was rideable – no need for cross dismounts! This was good as I hadn’t really practiced these properly. Regardless I was still keen to ride and experience a few sharp elbows and the fun of it all. I thought a few MTB skills might help get round the course and give me a chance against those faster than me on the straights. Sadly it wasn’t to be as someone came a cropper on a loose bit of ply on one of the ramps during the women’s race. 20 mins later it was all over after lots of people in high vis inspected things and stood around talking. Presumably lots of teeth sucking was also involved. To be honest I was a bit gutted as I’d psyched myself up for it for a while and climbing down was a bit odd. Anyway, then they announced the free bar courtesy of Canopy, my favourite local brewery! A cheer went up and we enjoyed the free beer. Loads of the Brixton lot were there as well as various others in the London cycling community.

Plenty of beer was had and what more fun could be had in Kings Cross than putting an injured cyclist (broken collar bone) in a shopping trolley and wheeling him around. Seemed amusing at the time.

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So, Sunday was another hangover and getting up and ready for the Incredibly Cross event. The idea of it is that it’s an underground informal, unsanctioned cross event that happens in a local woods, a course is made, ridden and then removed leaving only tyre tracks and a few weary riders with more hangovers. I’d been riding with Steve the weekend before who’d told me about the inspiration for it. In the US there are a number of events that are not part of a race series but just organised by friends and often involve a bit of fancy dress and plenty of drinking. Incredibly Cross offers the usual men and womens podium places along with two other prizes, most inappropriate bike and best fancy dress. My logic was that I would get a good race on the Sat so why not have a bit of fun on the Sunday? Steve convinced us to have a go at the most inappropriate bike. My first thought was my Brompton or #pizzabike. But instead I settled on a Boris bike! And why not dress up as Boris also? A few trips to a charity shop and a trip to Oval to get a bike I was ready. Working in Camden made getting a blonde wig pretty easy too.

After collecting the Boris bike I was alarmed at the weight of it whilst I man handled it into the van – 26kg or about 3.5 times as heavy as my road bike! Too late, we’re committed now. I put my wig on, jacket, tie, brogues and so on and then had the slightly strange experience of riding around sub-urban Mitcham dressed as Boris Johnson along a main road next to a park, much to the bemusement of onlookers. I finally worked out where to go and arrived dinging my bell and a nice cheer from the crowd who had already assembled. This was the second race in the series and they had attracted over 60 people which is amazing. A few others had also dressed up including Neil who came as Evil Kinevil and also Ben who came along in a white jump suit with home made spacehelmet. As you do!

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Entry to the race is the princely sum of £2 or four tins of beer. I brought four bottles of Babycham and a bottle of Pink Cherry Lambrini as my entry which was fortunately accepted. The usual sign on and pinning of numbers takes place and then it’s down to racing! It’s a Le Mans start so drop the bikes off, walk back and go. Except I had an advantage – the Boris bike has a stand so was already upright and visible. That was where my advantage ended. Whilst everyone had their briefing all the bikes were moved around by Steve and Robin so as to add to the fun. Four bikes of the same model were carefully located together to further add to the confusion.

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James also managed to capture a clip of the madness of a Le Mans start as well as Seb winning the run although celebrating a little too early

I’d already done a quick practice lap and regretted the brogues with their slippy soles even more than the heavy Boris bike. The step through cross bar did allow speedy dismount though. I was also relieved to hear that it was based on time (40 mins) and not laps. After two laps I was dying and so so hot in that jacket. However it was a hell of a lot of fun and I did actually want to ride it not just pootle around.

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The course was great fun and did have me wishing for the actual cross bike, light wheels and frame and knobbly tyres. Never mind we were here now.

On your right Boris. Thanks Boris.

Amusingly everyone seemed to want to join in with the fun and I didn’t get lapped as much as I thought I would. The bike handled surprisingly well with it’s big tyres and ridiculous weight. The only trouble I had was lifting it up over the two log obstacles and the little step up log. That last one got harder and harder each time.


After I’d accepted it was going to hurt, stowed my jacket in the basket at the front and rolled up my sleeves I was even more into it. And then there were the beer hand ups. Hilarious. Trying to grab a beer from one person at relative speed, take sip without it going everywhere and then handing it back was challenging at best. James seemed to be having fun handing them out though.

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A video posted by Jehu Bikewear (@jehubikewear) on

Sadly I had to avoid the shot of whiskey offered due to needing to drive back but by all accounts most people managed to spill it all over their face anyway.


Laps got harder and harder towards the end and I was so pleased to hear the final bell go for the last lap. It did seem like a bit of a shame that it was all over but the chequered flag was still a welcome sight. Shouts of “do a skid” rang out as each person crossed the line.


I did manage to ride almost all of the course though and love these two photos. The first actually looking at the exit of a corner – something Neil has been telling me to do on a mountainbike for years and then secondly racing letting Will go past on my right.


Once everyone was done tins of beer were opened and then a small prize giving and podium took place for the men and women. So good to see two Brixton women on the podium and Adeline with first place! Ben (also BCC) got best outfit and I got most inappropriate bike so a not a bad day for Brixton in all.

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I won back my Babycham and Ben won my Lambrini which we of course opened and sprayed over each other.

Such an amazing day out on an inappropriate bike and it kind of reminded me of that stupid care free time you have mucking about on bikes in the woods as a kid. Although with beer. Such a great atmosphere, organisation, course and bunch of people. Can’t wait to do it again although with a proper bike.

Some of my other favourite photos below. And as with most cycling events, it ended up in Canopy after.

Thanks to Inphota for lots of the pictures here. There’s even more on Instagram under the hashtag #incrediblycross

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Why two men are walking every block in NYC

This video is one of the most heart warming things I’ve watched in a long time and was really glad I clicked through to it this morning.

Read a bit more of the story behind it over at Kottke.org.




It’s sad to see that Brixton Cycles need to vacate their current premises to make way for a development of flats on the site. Sadly most are likely to be completely un-affordable for the majority of people but then that’s the London property market for you.

Brixton Cycles is more than just a bike shop. We’re London’s oldest worker-owned bike coop and an integrated part of the Brixton community. For 32 years we’ve been serving the cyclists of South London, supporting them to live a healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle, as well as encouraging young people in the local area onto two wheels, lending them tools for free.

Unfortunately, in January we have to leave our current premises as it’s being converted into luxury flats as part of the gentrification of the area. We’ve played a key role in the development of this community over the last 32 years and now we’re being excluded from the next chapter of it’s story!

We estimate the cost of moving as between £120-£150,000, including renovating a new space to fit our needs. As a coop, this is money we just don’t have. That’s why we’re asking for your help to cover some of these costs, to help us #savebrixtoncycles!

Last night they launched a crowd funding campaign to help them cover the costs of moving to a new space which hopefully means they can stay in Brixton for many years to come. Whilst I’m normally sceptical of crowd funding campaigns this one looks pretty well done and has some decent rewards for all levels of budgets. I’ve pledged some money to make sure I get a T-shirt and limited edition cap. As if I need another “stupid little hat” – Emma’s words not mine. I also get to have my name on the wall of the new shop which is a nice little touch.

As of writing they’ve got to £19,392 of the £40,000 they need. Pretty impressive for less than a day of fundraising! Make sure you watch and share the below video and please give a few quid to this great London institution.

I also love this video of Jim fluffing his lines over and over again.


Cycling London

The random kindness of (drunken) strangers

I’ve been off the early morning sessions for a bit but managed to drag myself out of bed yesterday at 5am to join the RCC hills ride. I opted for the ‘stylish’ over fast group and met at the cafe for 6am for a quick filter coffee before heading out to the posh north hills of London.

As we congregated outside the club a series of drunk guys came past. One guy lingered a little and started peeing in a doorway. I’d already judged him as a bit of an idiot but then he started having a bit of a laugh with the delivery guy who was about to try and deliver in the doorway he was peeing in.

He finally turned around and clocked us all in our kit.

Night ride is it? For charity?

In my usual slightly sarcastic manner I said we were riding for charity. Without saying anything he fumbled in his pocket and pulled out two fifty pound notes, a twenty and some change. He then thrust a fifty into my hand and then stumbled off into the night to catch up with his mates.

I couldn’t quite believe it but it was legit and went straight into the bank. I’ve donated it to the Manchester to London fund. So thank you to whoever you are and I hope your hangover wasn’t too bad.



London Photography


I took this shot last night and it says all sorts to me about this whole area and how much it has changed since I used to live and work around there – 2005 to 2008.

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Nice to be out with the tripod again.



2015 Prudential Ride London 100

I certainly didn’t expect to ever be writing about doing a ride with 25,000 or so other people round London – a sportive if you will. Sportives are generally derided by many as being full of nodders, MAMILs and people who don’t know how to navigate their own route round the countryside. The other criticism levelled at these events includes the fact that people think they’re pros in races, full of people with no discipline (i.e. unsafe) and they cost a fortune to enter. I’ve also occasionally bought into this, choosing to make fun of those less experienced, slower, fatter and overbiked with carbon dream machines and all the trimmings. Outside is free right?

Anyway, I’ve never done a sportive of any kind, preferring to ride by myself and plan my own routes round the local area, go on club runs with Brixton or the RCC and this year started to take part in Audax events. I also see the negativity associated with these events and the endless sneering from certain ‘experienced cyclists’ on Twitter. It’s all pretty obnoxious, especially as some of them barely ride their bikes from what I can tell. Still it’s easier to sit behind your screen making comments on others.

So earlier in the year I signed up for the Manchester to London ride and started raising money for Ambitious About Autism. I managed to hit my initial target and then found that by hitting that I would be eligible for a free place in the Ride London 100. Despite some reservations the temptation of riding closed roads and having a free entry was too much. I was in. Why not go and try and see if people’s criticisms are fair.

So last Sunday I got up at 4am, met some other BCC riders at the end of the road and headed towards the Olympic Park. An ungodly hour to be up by I was due to be in a pen which closed at 5.45am with a depart of 6.10am! This pen had been set by my estimated time which I had said as being 5 hours 30 mins for 160k (100 miles). I had no idea how to estimate what this might be not having ridden on closed roads but this seemed about right.

On the way to the Olympic Park we were able to cycle through the closed Southbound Blackwall Tunnel and along the A12.

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Already this felt like we were part of something pretty special. I’ve driven through that tunnel so many times to Cambridge to see Emma’s mum but never ridden it. The sun was just starting to ride as we entered which was incredible with the Millennium Dome on the horizon. I really wanted to belt it through the tunnel for some reason. If I was only ever likely to ride it once, I was damn well going to ride it fast. It was pretty surreal riding through it, using both lanes and hammering along underground. It was hot with warm yet damp and stale air. Whilst fun it was great to see the daylight at the end and to give a quick burst to get up and out of it.

Next stop, the Olympic park with 1000’s of others. Cars were parked all over the places with partners, parents and so on all helping people out with their kit and waving them off. I cycled around and found my zone. I must admit that I had been really nervous about it for the few weeks and especially the night before. Too late now though!

So here we are, sat in a pen in the Olympic Park with a bunch of other people none of whom look like they want to chat. Jacket on as I’m getting cold not moving and then the sound system and PA starts up. Dad is that you? Those jokes are terrible.

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Then it’s out of our holding pen and into another pen where we wait some more, moving along ever so slightly, further audibly assaulted by bad comedy and discussion of a race. Sooner or later they say it’s not a race but I suspect most people want to go quite fast. There’s people in lycra as far as the eye can see, predominately men, white, middle class and so on – very few women. Most people seem to have a charity jersey on which is good. Otherwise it’s club kit or the full Rapha get up.

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Then we’re finally on our way. Click, click, click as the couple of hundred people in my pen are let loose onto the road and snap into their pedals. I try and take it easy at first as I have no idea where we’re going and the standard of other riders around me. But no, this doesn’t last long. I push it up a bit and see how far the group goes. I find the front of the group and get myself on this fast bunch smashing it up the dual carriageway into the Docklands and through a tunnel on my way back into the city. Heart rate is sat at 170bpm (max is 184), speed is 45-55kph. It’s exhilarating and amazing to be swept along at this pace. We pass loads of people in a group of about 12 people at the most. Some people taking their turn, most not.

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I soon realise this isn’t sustainable but somehow want to hang on for as long as possible. At this speed I have a reduced awareness of my surroundings and am simply following a wheel and making sure I pick a decent line on the corners. I have a rough idea where we are but concentration takes precedent. It takes a while to get used to riding on both sides of the road and riding through red lights. That muscle memory with slowing down for the lights is hard to fight. Traffic islands appear and we shift round the right of them. We go the wrong way round roundabouts. I imagine that we look beautiful from above in some elegant formation sweeping round these concrete obstructions. The reality is probably somewhat different.

After a while I’m starting to struggle a bit and my mind starts freaking out a bit.

Not stopping at the lights, not stopping to regroup, not stopping for a chat, not stopping for a pee, not stopping for a bar, not stopping for a drink. Not stopping!

It’s killing me and my heart rate is still through the roof. I really do have to slow down a bit and / or reduce my heart rate as I know I will ultimately bonk. I haven’t done it for years and I really don’t want to do it again. I start eating and drinking as much as I can whilst still moving. I even think how much I need that gel that I packed ‘just in case’. I soon realise that it’s just going to be this painful all the way round. I think back to tough rides I’ve done, usually anything involving Will, and then think how much harder I’m finding this knowing that I’m probably not going to stop. After the first 60k the average speed was 40kph and there’s no way I could keep that up!

One of the things I started to enjoy was cornering. Swooping wide across two lanes with nice tyres on a warm day was amazing. I got more and more confident on my line although cut it a bit fine a few times but generally loved it. Descending is also a thrill on closed roads. Go as wide as you like and pick the line. As we’ve been in a relatively early group the roads aren’t that congested with others and it’s generally easy to pick past people on the right at a fair old pace.

After a while my glutes get sore as does my arms and shoulder and then my neck. I’m not too bothered about my legs being tired but the back and shoulder pain is really annoying. Being on the drops and giving it some so early has taken its toll.

Having said all this I’m still absolutely loving riding on closed roads. Mainly for the speed but just about how different it is. There’s marshals everywhere keeping you on track and away from traffic islands and so on. It really does feel like you’re so privileged to be there and part of a really unique experience. In my mind I was thinking of how wrong those people were on Twitter and so on. This is great, you’re missing out dickheads!

The hills soon appeared with Newlands Corner being the one that sapped me the most. Leith was ok and I don’t think I’ve ridden it before. Box Hill was fine and the tarmac on it is beautiful and it’s pretty gentle. The only bit that spoilt it was the guy who decided to storm past everyone on the flat A road before almost taking out three or four riders in front of me. Apart from that I only had one other incident of poor riding and that was when I had started sharing the work with a woman called Heather from Paragon – thanks for the lift Heather. We ended up riding at the same pace for a while and agreed to work together. One guy decided he would undertake with less than 100mm between my wheel and the kerb. He got short shrift and told to go away which he promptly did.

But there was a space there.

Jesus mate, get lost and don’t undertake people. There were a few more dodgy undertakes but it seemed like by setting off in one of the earlier waves that we avoided a lot of the issues of the later groups.

At the top of Box Hill I stopped at the cafe for 30 seconds to buy a bottle of energy drink. It tasted so damn good. I lost some time and the group I was with but that was the only time I stopped during the whole thing. I knew that we were on the home stretch now and started counting down the kms to get back. I ended up riding on my own a lot, or at least I thought I was. Every now and then I’d glance over and see a bunch of people sat on my wheel, none of whom seemed to want to come past and do a turn. I occasionally gave an elbow for someone to come round and do some work but it usually ended up with them blowing up and peeling off again.

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After a while I realised I could probably do it in less than the five and a half hours I had thought. I really want to do it in four and a half which looked just about achievable from what the Garmin was telling me. Coming through Kingston on the way back I saw thousands of people heading out on the main route. I hadn’t quite appreciated the scale of it all but it looked like we’d had a really good start to get clear of a much more congested ride. After one last little climb up to Wimbledon it was almost over. 40k left became 30k which became 20k and so on. I knew the route back down into town and knew that it was all relatively nice tarmac too. I found myself alone again with a few sat on behind and then a load of people started flying by in groups of six or so. I upped the pace and joined on one before getting a sneaky lift to the Mall and riding up to the finish.

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I didn’t punch my fists in the air but just wanted to get done, get out of there and get some food. I met a few friends at the end and had a quick chat before heading to the Rapha Cycle Club to meet Emma and drink and eat. I was full of beans talking to Emma and still full of the endorphins rushing around my body. It really was a fantastic experience to take part in and the closed roads thing is well worth it.

Would I do the event again? Probably, but with an earlier start time to get even further clear of the masses.

Would I do another Sportive? Probably not, unless it was a closed roads event. Audax is probably more my scene for now.

I was pleased to have done it in 4 hours 30 mins and also to have ended up with an average speed of 36kph which is by far the most intense / fastest ride I’ve ever done.

To recover we got a taxi home – yes I couldn’t face cycling. We then got Pizza in Herne Hill and retired to Canopy Beer for the afternoon. Probably not the choice of Team Sky but the IPA at Canopy is delicious.

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Musicless Musicvideos

I didn’t know this was a thing until the other night but it’s pretty damn funny. Thanks Janey.

How about Lionel Richie, Hello?

Or Jamiroquai – virtual insanity? Doesn’t do much to dispel the ‘Twat in a hat’ moniker.

and this is just really, really odd. Britney Spears – Oops I did it again.