Tag Archive: Cycling


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.




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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Audax Cycling

Dunwich 2015

I’ve been banging on about this for a few weeks now but last Saturday we finally went out and did “the double” or Dunwich and back / AKA Camberwell > Dunwich > Camberwell. The idea being that we would avoid having to leave a vehicle there or get the train back as well as complete my biggest ride to date. The previous biggest was the Oasts and Coasts audax which was a 300km event. It was also going to be a good training ride for the Manchester to London event in September but most of all it sounded like a slightly silly thing to do and a bit of a challenge.

I’ve been prepping for a while and looking at GPS options, charging / power, luggage and also getting the bike sorted with some kind assistance from Bowman Cycles. I managed to get hold of a brand new Pilgrims frameset with carbon forks and get it built up by Balfes Bikes in East Dulwich. I had a new set of wheels ready too but decided a 400k round trip was probably not the best way of breaking them in.

Bowman Pilgrims

I managed to get it in time to do a decent ride or two round Kent to make sure it was comfortable and there weren’t any niggles and make sure the position was right. It felt great and really stable at speed yet not as racey as the Palace I have. I thought I was going slow on it but came back with lots of stupid little cups and a KOM so it’s clearly no slouch – even with 30mm tyres on! I also rode it to work all week although I was nervous about commuting and hypersensitive about someone crashing in to me. I carefully watched out for other people’s riding, watching the front wheels of cars for a hint of a left turn and so on and generally being so super careful. I always do this but felt like I was on walking riding on eggshells trying to make sure I didn’t crash and miss the event as I’ve been looking forward to it so much since last year. I also skipped the Thursday chaingang for fear of a crash at speed round Regents Park.

Other prep included the most painful leg massage I’ve ever had thanks to Lisa at Camden Physio. She found two massive knots in my calves which could simply not be left alone following their discovery. This resulted with plenty of wincing and writhing on a massage table whilst listening to the sound of the Northern Line trains pass by every few minutes. Once they’ve found a knot in you they really don’t want to let it go it seems which result in even more pain. I’m sure it’s good for you though. Fortunately all the pain had gone by the time it was time to get going to Dunwich.

As usual Emma and I had a pasta meal at Caravaggios in Camberwell on the Friday to load up on carbs which was further topped up with delicious pizza in the sunshine on Sat lunchtime. It’s great being able to eat what you want to get ready for a big ride. I then laid all the kit out in the living room before packing it, adding all the lights, power for the Garmin and securing it in place with zip ties and electrical tape, adding the bottles to the frame before picking it up to check the weight. Hmm, a little heavy but should be ok once moving.


As last year I had aimed for a nap in the afternoon to make up for the lack of sleep. Sadly I was too wired / excited / nervous to sleep and dozed for a bit next to the cat before pacing round the house, getting into my kit early and watching the clock tick by. Finally it was time to go and meet Will and the others at Brixton Cycles.

Clare is going to kick all your asses, you just don't know it yet.

We introduced ourselves to a few others who were joining us and then headed on up to London Fields. As we moved through the congested London traffic we gained more and more cyclists around us. It turned into an accidental feeder ride that some people organise to get to the main event as a group. A few nods, chats and more introductions were made to complete random people.

“Dun Run?”

London was heaving with people all getting ready to go out for the night, especially round Liverpool Street, apart from us obviously. Pulling in to London Fields the park was again heaving with people. All pretty pissed after being in the sun all day drinking and barbecues still smoking away. Then the mass of cyclists became apparent crowding round the pub.

Always such a natural smile.

We met up with Paul and James who we rode with last year. As usual there was a great mix of people and bikes around. From stick thin roadies to elderly women on shopping bikes and everything in between. One of the nicest things is the variety of people it attracts. As usual there was a huge Dulwich Paragon presence who saw fit to block the entire road outside the pub in London Fields. Their presence wasn’t particularly welcome judging by some comments on the Facebook group. After seeing their riding on the Great Escape audax I was keen to stay clear of them too.

Grand Depart - Dunwich Dynamo - 185/365

There was plenty of time to admire people’s bikes and just watch the spectacle of people setting off as well as guessing who was in the Dynamo and who was caught up in this lot by accident. It was surprisingly hard to tell at times.

50/50 on this guy doing Dunwich. Hard to tell really.

It was also great to see my friend Mathew who having seen my Instagram feed that day knew I would be there so popped down to say hello. Again, people assumed he was riding it even though he was just in shorts and a T-shirt. It was great to see him and definitely appreciated his nice words of encouragement before setting off.

Sooner or later our group started getting itchy feet due to the number of people exiting. It’s not a rush but as soon as you see someone moving the tendency is to want to get going too.

Are we going then or what?

Obviously as soon as we all agreed to go everyone need to faff with something which gave me a chance to take a few more pictures. First I must get a picture in full BCC kit and with the Bowman and luggage.

Factory pro style #fullkitwankers

The first bit wasn’t ideal as last year. Lots of traffic, lots of cyclists, the occasional aggro from drivers “fuuuuccccking wankers” and so on. It’s difficult to keep the group together through it all as you naturally want to go for little openings in the traffic but obviously then get strung out a bit. As we got out towards Epping things got a bit easier and we settled in to a nice pace. Clare and David seemed to shoot off and I had to avoid the temptation to chase them down and smash it out with them. It was more difficult making sure Paul and James were still with us as they weren’t in BCC kit.

Bloody cyclists.

We had a few cheers from passers by on the way through Epping, a couple of lads high fiving us and generally just a lovely atmosphere. Ideas of nerves and trepidation had long since faded and the bike felt great, even with the additional weight. Funnily enough the weight seemed to help. Get it up to speed and the inertia of it all seemed to just carry it along. I tried to keep a high cadence and avoid grinding away at the pedals knowing full well how much of this was still to come. This year I was a much more experienced cyclist and had totally got the whole working in a group thing. It always amazes me how much energy you save and how fast you can trundle along when you all work together. It always feels so damn good too.

Bikes not cars.

After about 40km we stopped to regroup and have a chat at a pub. Rounds of orange juice and lemonade flowed and packets of crisps consumed. The landlord seemed unusually friendly towards our skintight lycra outfits. Time for a quick bottle refill, group photo and back on it.

Team BCC!

As the sun went down we were treated to an incredible sunset over the surrounding countryside. It timed perfectly with the move through into the unlit countryside so the darkness was instantly felt. Lights on and keep going.

Sunset, darkness cometh.

The rest of the night seemed to pass without event. A nice steady pace with a few more stops. At one picturesque village the pub had set up a barbecue by the road and was in full on party mode. Live band inside, home made flap jacks for sale and an efficient ordering system in place to make sure drinks were served in the fastest way possible. More OJ and lemonade, snacks, malt loaf and then back on it again.

BBQ and bike lights.

We saw loads of bats and birds of prey flying around as well as other wildlife including more dead rabbits than I’ve ever seen on a stretch of road. Each time we stopped we got cold, put on layer and then promptly took them off within five mins of riding. It was lovely and warm although there were the usual warmer air pockets and cold patches in places. I always find it fascinating that there’s such a little microclimate around. Moving quickly on the bike you get to experience all of this and feel the air on your arms and legs as it changes, which you’d never know of wrapped in a metal box with wheels.

Another highlight was going past a guy with the largest calf muscles I’ve ever seen. We passed, then he passed and so so on for a while. I finally said to him “track sprinter by any chance” before he nodded and smiled. Each one of the rest of the group seemed equally transfixed by them. They were bigger than my thighs!

This year there seemed to be even more stalls at the side of the road than I remember from last. At about 2am we started to crave coffee so pulled over to a little blue tent and car that was swarmed with people. I reluctantly paid £1 for an instant coffee. You have to admire their enterprising spirit but I really do hate instant coffee. Still it was warm and slightly caffeinated and beggars can’t be choosers. Could they not have set up a few V60 drippers or something?

£1 for a cup of instant coffee and a poo in a field.

We continued into the night and the kms seems to fly by. Will and I ended up riding together for most of this last section just chatting away and waiting for the sun to rise. We had our own pace in mind so ended up just doing our own thing and then re-grouping every now and then.

Follow the red lights.

We went past the pub where Andy and friends had ensconced themselves with the locals, who were pretty pissed after a lock in, the year before. I was slightly sad to see it closed but smiled to myself imagining the guy who had stolen his Vicious Velo hat sitting at the bar with it on most evenings, completely out of its intended context at a bike event. We turned right whilst others went on. Fortunately we did take that turn as there was a great little coffee stop which was being served out of the back of a Smart Car. Whilst not the best coffee in the world it was a load better than the instant and actually had caffeine in! Zing, now we’re awake again!

Coffee from a Smart Car.

The sun then started to gently rise over the horizon and I kind of panicked slightly. We hadn’t made it to the beach in time for the sunrise, we weren’t some of the first few like last year! But then I realised it wasn’t a race and I really didn’t care. We’d been taking plenty of breaks, making sure the group were all ok and generally having a good time.

The sunrise over Suffolk was incredible. The way the wisps of clouds layered with changing sunlight appeared and then changed second to second was magical. Last year had been overcast and murky but this year was clear and incredibly beautiful. Again that same sense of euphoria arrived having seen the sunset and sunrise in one bike ride. Strange to think what a simple effect it had but it really as stunning.

Sunrise over Suffolk

We made it round the final corner and made sure to regroup so that we could all ride that last long road down to the sea together. Seemed like the right thing to do really. The smiles say it all for me.

Last bit!

Next stop the beach. It was far busier than I remember last year but we’d got here a bit later. Perfect to get another few pictures before getting my kit off and going for a swim. This was the end for most people and we kind of got caught up in this excitement.

Band photo.
We made it! Oh only 205km to go.
This is gonna look amaaaazing on Instagram
Worth it for this.

There were so many casualties around. Lots of people completely asleep in the foetal position just completely wiped out. James commented that me going swimming in my bib shorts looked like a very Victorian type of swimming costume. Soon enough I convinced the others to join us for a dip. It was surprisingly warm and felt incredible on my legs. I was slightly surprised at how few people wanted to go for a swim.

Back to Paul’s car, fresh kit on, brand new socks, coffee, sausages, eggs, rolls and a bit of a chat before getting my eyes closed for five minutes. We didn’t want to stay too long for the fear of seizing up and not being able to get going again. In hindsight I wish I’d had 30 mins kip! I was fairly cocky about it all really thinking about how many times I’d worked through the night for a deadline. Unfortunately I hadn’t factored in the whole exercise bit in there too.

Distant stares - 'you weren't there man

I dumped as much kit as I could with Paul and James for their drive back. Again in hindsight I left too much. I accidentally left my jacket with them which I soon came to regret. It took ages to get into it again and there was a real sense of dread about the whole affair. We soon ran out of water and ended up stopping and asking for a refill from a lovely couple who were out doing their gardening. They couldn’t have been nicer and wished us well on our way.

The previous nights storms had brought down lots of branches and debris in general. Some of the quiet lanes I’d picked had obviously not had any traffic over them since and were strewn with it. In addition there was loads of loose sand which had presumably been washed in from the same storm. After both of us experienced both wheels sliding uncontrollably on it we vowed to give it more respect and less speed.

I really wasn’t feeling great at this point in many ways. Tiredness had set in an also the energy tabs I had been using had really not agreed with me. I was having to spend increasingly frequent amounts of time hidden behind hedges with nature. I’ll leave it at that but I really felt rotten and what was worse was that I couldn’t face any food which would give me the fuel I needed to continue. A bit of a dilemma really.

We ended up resting up at a local Co-Op store and both slumped outside on the path looking exhausted.

Bowman details

I even contemplated how much sleep I could get sitting there. I got some antacids and we convinced ourselves to get going again. Will had consumed a load of food, I had managed a sip of his coke and some water. As we set off it stared raining, heavily. This continued for an hour and a half and we were both soaked to the bone. I had no jacket and only a thin jersey and arm warmers. Keeping going was key to keep warm obviously but in the end both of us headed for a garage forecourt for some shelter and more food. By this point I managed a ham roll with crisps and although cold setting off felt the world better having eaten something. This is us completely soaked and feeling pretty miserable. Somehow Will still manages a smile! Or is it a grimace?

Wet, cold and hungry. Garage stop.

Setting off from that stop was the worst of the day. My teeth were chattering and I really had lost any sense of drive. Too late though, we were committed.

One of the roads I had plotted ended up on a private estate and I got the first of many punctures on a turn that would have seen us almost complete the section and get back onto a normal road. We got told off by a very unfriendly woman who proceeded to eyeball us from her kitchen window whilst we fixed the flat and got going. Will then got another puncture on the way out of this lane and I thoroughly regretted this part of the route.

By this point it had stopped raining and we were getting warmer and our clothes were starting to dry out. It wasn’t that bad after all! Then we ended up on a little disused railway section which was great fun although covered us completely in mud and grime. My box fresh socks I’d bought as a treat for the second part of the trip seemed utterly pointless by now.

Pushing on we ended up on more lanes with sand and loose material all over. I was riding along down one of these tight little lanes when suddenly there was a big bang. My front tube had exploded and torn itself in half and I lost control of the bike sending me down on my left side. I smacked my head on the road and slid along for a bit tearing open my jersey and shorts as well as cutting my hands and leg. I saw a few stars and the light went a bit funny and then tried to reassemble in my mind what had just happened. Will had turned round and was looking at me with a slightly concerned look. He later admitted he thought I had broken my collar bone. I was still clipped in and then untangled myself from my bike, got up, announced I was fine and then promptly fell over again before staggering around for a bit murmuring something.

Sure enough I finally got my shit together and put another tube in. I was really worried it was game over after that but the front wheel was fine. I had a load of blood over my hands and legs but it’s surprising what a relatively small cut or two can chuck out. A quick squirt with the bottle and it cleaned up ok. My hand was lacerated and really sore and made gripping the bars difficult but the priority now was to get to the Blue Egg for some food and then finish this bloody ride!

There was still 80km to go.

That’s almost three hours on a bike on good day.

It felt like a long way.

I don’t think I can do this.

Ooops. Front tube went bang, I hit the deck.Standard.

For a while we barely said anything to each other, both of us slightly weary and with little energy to waste on chat. After a while I had to stop as I was feeling really, really weird! Sleep deprivation was kicking in and I was struggling to keep my eyes open on the bike. A quick rest under a tree and some sugary snacks got us through this bit though. I was so keen to get some proper food in me again.

Having gotten to the Blue Egg Will kindly ordered me some food and a hot chocolate whilst I sat in a chair looking slightly forlorn. People were looking at me funny although only one person said something who was another cyclist. I suddenly got a whiff of my own odour and winced slightly. The both of us were utterly stinking after all that rain and muck. We consumed our food and got back on the bikes after a quick clean up of my wounds and a few ibuprofen.

Not the sunny ride I was expecting

Somehow after feeling so utterly terrible a while back both Will and I utterly buried ourselves on that last bit back into town. We flew through Epping, each of us taking a turn on the front and keeping a pretty decent pace. We both were shocked by this and ensured we had one last garage stop for a Star Bar, Coke and water before pushing on to South London. My main concern now was that the traffic was heavier and that my reactions would be terrible. I was so, so desperate to finish this now. I really wanted to hit that magic 400km.

Do you still fancy a pint?

For a while it seemed like we would both just slope off home. Sure enough with our new found energy a trip to the pub was agreed. The first one went down like a dream. One more? Sure. That went down pretty well too. And of course we had to ask the couple next to us to take a picture of us. I couldn’t help a slight boast that we’d just ridden 400k and would they mind taking a picture of us?

We made it! 24 hours, 405km, 3 punctures and one crash later.

After that all the pain was forgotten.

We’d done it!

We’d bloody done it!

I got home and Emma completely looked after me. A beer, a bath, ibuprofen, a big dinner and then I passed out in bed.

The bike was flawless, the tyres were terrible, the luggage was amazing, my nutrition was awful but the company was superb. Thanks to Will and Bowman Cycles for such incredible support. We’d also had so many amazing messages of encouragement on Instagram from various people which certainly helped in some of the darker moments of it all.

What an adventure. We left at 6.45pm and got back at 6.45pm. We’d done 400+ km in 24 hours and at an average speed of 27.5kph! It’s hard to explain the sense of euphoria I felt that next day but I know I want that feeling again!

Camberwell > Dunwich > Camberwell



Bike packing / USB power on the cheap

I’ve been getting on with some Dunwich prep this week. Last year I just rode it and left a load of stuff in the van for when I got there but this year it’s the double. With this in mind and some of the audax stuff I’ve done recently and dreams of longer rides I’ve done loads of research on the subject and as usual I write these kind of posts as someone out there will find it useful.

The first issue is carrying stuff. One of the joys of getting into road riding was ditching the Camelback. Just riding with a few essentials is great, but then the longer you ride the more crap you tend to want to take. A jacket, a gilet, some arm warmers, some food, emergency gels, tools etc. It all adds up. In the world of audax the carradice bag is king although it’s not quite my style. I want something a bit more compact and designed for a bit more speed perhaps. Enter bike packing which is the idea of packing lightly and essentially using your frame to support a variety of bags. Frame bags, saddle bags, bar bags and the unfashionable top tube bag. It’s lighter and puts less direct pressure on the rear wheel meaning less chance of snapping spokes. As usual BikeSnob NYC has the low down.

So I went with one of the Alpkit Koala saddle bags as I think it’s more than enough for up to a 600k audax and then maybe add a bar bag for longer ones perhaps. I hadn’t really thought that Dunwich and back would need that much stuff, but by the time you list it all out it does start to add up. A change of bib shorts is a bit of a luxury but why not.

I stuffed all the things I was going to take into it today and used it to commute to work along with my usual stuff. It felt pretty good although was a bit weird riding with a big lump of weight at the back. I took it easy this morning until I got comfortable with it. That was until I forgot about it, got out of the saddle and started giving it some over Waterloo Bridge. Wooah, that’s a bit weird. I sat down pretty quick after that!

IMG 3250

However it all works pretty well and I think it’s going to be just the job!

Next up, power. Garmin, lights, phone etc. They all need power to make them last for a long ride – and stopping at Starbucks and pinching a socket for a bit is not an option. Whilst the audax old timers will shout”book, use a map and the directions” I like using technology and the ability to keep moving at a decent pace, not racing, but not hanging about either. The latest thing is to run a Dynamo hub and then run that power to a USB stem cap as well as sometimes a little battery cache. There are two problems with this though. It’s eye-wateringly expensive and it’s heavier than a normal hub as well as adding some resistance. For a decent front hub you’re looking at around £300 plus another £150 for some form of USB adaptor and maybe another £150 for a dedicated light from it. It’s all top notch stuff but for now I have gone with the slightly more ghetto option. A USB charger or two from eBay. At only £3.99 each they’re a bargain and come in the architects favourite colour – black. They have plenty of power to keep a Garmin charged. I’ve got 200k out of a battery charge from the unit itself before so this should easily take it to 600k or more. I’ve also made a USB power only cable and tried the whole thing out tonight. I also wanted to extend the life of my Exposure Diablo light which almost lasted the whole way but I’d like to keep it topped up so I could use it on a higher power setting. I even sliced open one of the USE charging cables and shortened that too.

So I’ve mounted two of these these things on my stem and now have power! It’s ugly as sin and looks like a Navy Seal’s rifle but it kind of works. The thing that annoys me the most is that I have to use a different Garmin mount to get the unit higher to get the USB connector in. Again, ugly but it works. And at about £8 it’s fine for now.

IMG 3252
IMG 3254
IMG 3253

I told you it wasn’t pretty. I guess I need to get used to this view for Sat. Can’t wait.

IMG 3255


Cycling London

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

Each year Brixton Cycle Club / Shop puts of a big day of track racing at the superb Herne Hill Velodrome. It always seems to get great reviews and the pictures from the last few have been great.

This year I got involved through the club and ended up flyering and handing out posters to a variety of bike shops and cycle friendly cafes in London. This was an interesting experience seeing people’s reaction when you ask if they wouldn’t mind putting up a poster. Everyone was great and so friendly with only one exception. It also helped that whoever they got to sort the graphics did a cracking job of it.

Sm2015 a4v2

So whilst it meant sacrificing a ride on the Sunday I cycled down on my Brompton to the track and took my camera and seldom used silly long lens. It was great to get down there and see some familiar faces as well as a few that I didn’t recognise. What was odd was that a few people said hello but I didn’t recognise them due to not being in a club jersey and bib shorts. It took a while but I got chatting to most people as well as met a few people I’ve known of or follow on Instagram but not properly met yet.

I probably got there a bit early for beer and racing but made do with coffee at first whilst we found a suitable spot to watch the action.

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

It was too tempting not to try the Canopy Beer on offer so started tucking in to that. Racing seemed to start but I really don’t know much about the track so wasn’t really that sure what was going on. A few people explained the races that were taking place but to be honest it was nice just soaking it all up and not being too involved.

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

We had a great spot at the side of the track and one of the best events was a sprint which sent a pair of riders past us at an alarming rate. The sound of perfectly tuned bikes and that unmistakable sound of carbon rims with fully inflated tyres rushing past was pretty impressive. A woooosh and then they were gone. The physical size and shape of the sprinters was equally alarming!

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

More beer was consumed, chats were had and the myth of roadies being completely up tight fun-suckers was put to bed once you’d seen the Brixton stall in action. Probably the most laid back cycling club in the world.

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

We also got to meet Chutney, the club secretary’s dog! What a lovely little thing he is, chasing stones, charming everyone he met.

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015

So yes, too much beer was had, too much sun was had but it was an incredible day of watching some top notch track racing. I still have no idea what went on but the atmosphere was incredible and the performance of the riders really something. Can’t wait to go again next year but with suncream. Here’s a few of my favourite shots and the rest are on Flickr.

Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015
Brixton Cycles Club Super Madison 2015


Audax Cycling

London Edinburgh London 2017

Something to aim for in 2017 I think. Just added 30th July to my diary. Shame I can’t embed the video but it looks horrific and awesome in equal measure. I’ve got a bit of a bigger post about audax and how much I love it soon.

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Some of the characters they interview are great and have some great quotes.

It’s gotta be after 4am… and I’m hoping it’s Thursday

and this one from a Paragon rider..

I had some hallucinations going on. Sheep. Walking out into the road. It turned out to be white lines.

Screen Shot 2015 06 12 at 23 43 05

Sure enough there’s a route on RideWithGPS. That kind of puts it in perspective. So much so that the little km markers on rwgps are only designed to go up to 999km. The numbers start falling out of the sides after you go over 1000!



Dunwich (and back)

I’ve played around with idea a bit now and decided that it’s definitely worth doing Dunwich again this year although I’m not keen on driving up the day before and also driving back.

The solution? Ride back!

So unless the forecast is torrential rain then I will be riding there and back with a friend. The plan is to do the route as usual, enjoy the spectacle of it all, get to the beach, have a swim, get some food, change into some fresh cycling gear and start cycling again. I think we’ll probably get to the Blue Egg in time for it to open at 10am where we can feast on nice food and average coffee before taking a nap in the garden to get back into London.

Screen Shot 2015 06 12 at 23 05 36

A kit list is being made, a massive saddle bag has been bought from AlpKit and the Monday has been booked off. It’s 400km with 2800m of climbing which is pretty flat for the distance really.

I’m hoping to convince a few others to join us for the ride although I haven’t been very successful so far! Should be quite an adventure.



ok, next laps are through and off

I’ve been off the weekly chaingang rides unfortunately due to a mixture of laziness, early starts with work and also going to the gym with Emma during the week – which means more early starts. This makes another early start even less tempting.

This morning I was determined to go and get back in the habit as I used to enjoy it so much. Rather than wimp out and go in the second group, Will grabbed me and got me into the main group. I knew the characters, I knew the pace it was likely to end up at and felt nervous setting off.

It’s amazing how self doubt ruins your riding. It started off ok and warmed up a bit. There was a group of eight at first and it felt good to be back riding in a group again. Sure enough the pace picked up which was fine. And then it went again. And then “ok next laps are through and off“.

Through and off is great if it works well and people are disciplined when moving to the outside position. The temptation is to smash it up the inside then keep that pace as you move over. Occasionally this happens and the group just completely disintegrates pretty quickly as everyone blows up. The tip I was given was to raise your chest slightly as you move into the outside position so you catch a bit more air creating drag and naturally slow but don’t disrupt your rhythm too much. It seems to work for me and fortunately the group stayed together.

Sure enough the speed picked up again and we got down to five riders. I kept thinking, one more turn, only one more turn and then I’m out, glancing longingly at the more gentle pace being held by the other group. Occasionally I looked down at the Garmin… 45kph. Oh. I loved giving it some up the inside and getting to the outside to recover, make sure you were on the wheel coming over right and getting ready for the next turn. With only five riders this came around pretty quickly, although those rests were certainly needed. “I’ll let these guys hare off and I’ll just do some warm down laps” I kept thinking. I held on for one more, and another and then one more… and then sure enough it was a sprint to the last corner and we were done.

So good. The feeling of adrenaline running through your veins followed by that dopamine fix of completing an hour at a decent pace and high intensity (for me) and then out for coffee.

The only thing that let it down was at around 7am the park started to get very busy. Riders kept trying to join the group on the inside. You got lost as to whether you were the last man and whether to pull in and go again. Also people would misjudge the pace of the group, grab a wheel, take it up the inside and then blow up on the front, again completely ruining the pace of the group. As we started through and off one guy sat on the back of the group and kindly prevented other riders interrupting it all. He could see what we were trying to do and was smart enough to sit far enough back to allow people to pull in and take their turn but also close enough to stop others jumping in and get dragged along at the same time. Whoever you are, thank you sir.

This week I only recorded the park laps rather than the bit there, warm down and to work etc. I wanted to see what the average speed of the group was and was pleased to see 38.7kph which is pretty good I reckon. Not many ‘stupid little cups’ this week so we’ve clearly been faster round it but it was amazing to keep that pace and work as a team with the through and off session.

Back again next week.



The 3 peaks of Brighton #doorstepepic

It’s not the first time I’ve linked to a Morvélo video and admired their work. This one is even better, although a little heavy on the shallow depth of field focus pull!

Three times Oli tried to enter the legendary Three Peaks cyclocross race. After being denied the final time he decided to replicate the challenge in his home town. More than that though, if he was to forgo the drive north he was to forgo the drive full stop. It was to start and finish from his front door. The first part of the Doorstep Epic trilogy sees Oli attempt to cram 5000ft of climbing and 38 miles in a landscape that never rises above 830ft.


There’s some cracking footage in here and a few of the bostals I recognise from the ride I did with Chrissy a while back too. The drone footage is also a nice touch. I’d love to ride the route if possible…

(Edit: Found it as well as the list of the hills)

The climbs (in ride order) on the route are:

Steyning Bostal
Barhatch Lane
Combe Lane
Coldharbour Lane
Leith Hill
Whitedown Lane
Chalkpit Lane
White lane
Toys hill
York’s hill
Ashdown Forest
Kidd’s hill (The Wall)
Ditchling Beacon

And I’ve uploaded the route here.



Strava routes > RideWithGPS

I love using GPS routes that I find online although often people send a link to a GPX file – until now I hadn’t found a simple way of viewing them before doing the route or getting them into my favourite online route planner. The other place where lots of routes get posted is Strava. Strava’s route planner is still in Beta and although it’s ok I don’t really like the files it produces and the turn by turn it gives on the Garmin. I find that ridewithGPS.com produces far better files, defaults to nicer roads and that planning, and ammending, routes is far easier on there. I also have a large collection of routes on there and I like keeping a reasonably well organised library of routes together that I can dip into or duplicate and modify as I see fit.

That said Strava is clearly the most popular site and has a much more ‘social’ aspect to it. Loads of people plan routes which then pop up in your feed and you’re able to copy and then add to your own routes section. It also offers a way of converting rides into routes although this almost always fails for me which ends in frustration!


For some reason I had been scratching my head about how to get all my rides in one place, as well as convert rides to routes, and it wasn’t until I read up on what formats could be upload to Strava that I realised a GPX file was the answer. GPX files can describe an activity or a route and I discovered this whilst reading up on the Garmin eTrex. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before though.

Routes can be exported as GPX files from Strava, which is primarily used for navigation, but also means I can take that file and upload to RidewithGPS as an activity, convert to a route and then keep them all in one spot. OCD satisfied.