Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Winning Combination: Coffee & Cycling (Talks @LMNH on 9th May 2013)

I'm already triple booked on the 9th so won't make it! But if you're in London that evening -- or can get yourself there -- do go.

Coffee aside, hearing Phil debunk "pulling power" will be worth it.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Summer Cycling: How do you prevent skin damage from the sun?

Heading into summer (I hope!), I've started reviewing my regime for protecting my skin from sunburn and sun damage. I'm fair-skinned and freckly and had my fair share of sunburns as a child and teenager. My mother was very hot on sunscreen/protection and I've learned how to prevent sunburn.

However, as I've got older, I've noticed an increasing tendency to develop spots of no pigmentation at all (tiny white dots on my lower arms) and blotches of darker pigmentation (on my face, particularly the temples and cheeks near my ears). The blotchy dark spots on my face have been of increasing concern to me. The first really noticeable 'outbreak' was in 2003, when we had a real scorcher of a summer across all of northern Europe... and I did a two-week road trip in a classic convertible in 40C heat!

Then last year, while things weren't so 'hot' at home,

Sunday, 28 April 2013

CYCLING LOG: 22-28 April 2013

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 - 20.07 km
20.07 km in 01:05:49 hours at 18.30 km/h on Surly Pacer.
To Harpenden for sports massage and back. Winds are reverted to northwesterly, so tailwinds going in (downhill) and headwinds coming back (uphill). Still managed to shave a few minutes off my average time. Temps quite chilly again, especially when clouds passed over the sun. Wore S/S jersey w/ arm warmers, bib shorts w/ leg warmers (all merino), plus PI Elite jacket - just warm enough so long as I pushed. end odo 2269.8

Wed, Apr 24, 2013 - 20.16 km
20.16 km in 01:10:40 hours at 17.12 km/h on Surly Pacer.
To Harpenden for Pilates and back. Meeting horses on the road every day the past week - today it was two ponies pulling a trap! Bunnies again too - and no new roadkill so that's all good. Paused for pics in usual place - 3 weeks ago, brown and grey wasteland; today, buds on trees and potatoes starting to blossom in the field. Yay for spring! end odo 2249.7

Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - 17.87 km
17.87 km in 01:28:41 hours at 12.09 km/h on Surly Pacer.
To the Travel Hub in Dunstable to participate in a photoshoot for Sustrans' and Central Beds Council's joint promotional campaigns on sustainable transport. Lots of cycling past photographers then circling back to do it again. Sunny and warm, mostly in parks - fun day! end odo 2229.5

Mon, Apr 22, 2013 - 20.02 km
20.02 km in 01:11:38 hours at 16.77 km/h on Surly Pacer.
To Harpenden for Pilates and back. end odo 2211.6

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Dorset Dash

Now this looks like a good night out!

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Long Weekend in Historic York

We built a little city break around the York-to-Hull Friday Night Ride to the Coast, arriving back in York at  about 1.30pm on Saturday afternoon and leaving for home at about 3.30pm on Sunday.

We wandered around on foot and saw -

York Minster

... which dominates the skyline from every direction.

Oh wait, what's that...?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Direct Action does work!

Ten days ago and feeling rather sceptical as to any positive outcome, I reported this series of potholes to Central Bedfordshire Council:

We can be Models... just for one day

Yesterday Adam and I joined in a photoshoot for a promotional campaign on sustainable travel, to be run jointly by Sustrans and Central Bedfordshire Council.  We've been promised copies of the professionals' shots in a few weeks (a selection now HERE) but here are a few that I snapped.  It was a fun day!

a bit of bike fettling!

Monday, 22 April 2013

An aborted FNRttC

Unfortunately, the night ride did not go as planned for me. We have speculated on the causes of my knee problems and can only in hindsight wish that I had worn my trainers -- rather than stiff-soled cycling shoes -- during our Friday afternoon walkabout and that I'd stretched properly before the Off from York Minster at midnight. Whatever my mistakes may have been, my knees were feeling "tight" and uncomfortable before we'd left York, and this only worsened, eventually developing into sharp pains in both knee joints.

The night was cold -- significantly colder than the 4 degrees Celsius that had been forecast.  The ride is mercifully flat but unfortunately this also means no hills to get yourself warmed up. My thigh muscles never really warmed / loosened up.  I regretted leaving my Gore Windstopper jacket at home in favour of the lighter Pearl Izumi Barrier Elite jacket (which nonetheless did an almost-good-enough job at wind/cold protection, over a long sleeve baselayer, short sleeve jersey and long sleeve jersey - all merino. I also wore SmartWool 3/4 knicks with knee-high ski-weight merino socks, with Gore big tights over the top. So 4 layers on top, 2 on the bottom. Shoes were another error in judgement: my summer (mesh top) Specialized Riatas, rather than the Shimano MW81 boots I've been wearing in similar temperatures all winter.

The ending was in the circumstances no surprise. 20 miles out from York, I was cold and hurting and took the decision to abandon the ride in Goole where there's a train station. From taking that decision, I fought a hard mental battle for the further 10 miles to Goole, in something of a headwind. The three TECs on the ride - Adam, Marcus and Jurek -- were just lovely. Jurek was suffering with the cold as we were going so slowly on my behalf, but he got in front and set a steady pace. Big Marcus served as my windblock: I settled in behind his rear wheel and followed his line. Adam rode beside me. We didn't talk much but the support was  palpable. When we came upon a group stopped at the side of the road, the TECs had to stop to lend a hand. I carried on by myself -- to keep warm if I could -- but was soon joined by local chap Mark, who til then I'd only known by his handle on the YACF forum. He kept me company and distracted me with chatter about the local area, til the mob at the back along with the TECs caught us up just short of Goole.

Adam and I sat inside the 24-hour Tesco for a little more than 3 hours until we could catch the first Hull-bound train at 6.46am. The train journey was about 45 minutes. We reached the breakfast cafe nearly an hour before the people on the ride did. They were a happy boisterous lot, the vocal consensus being that (a) that was a glorious sunrise, wasn't it? and (b) It Was Very Cold!!!

Adam wrote a rather good ride report here.

My tale of the rest of our long weekend in York will follow shortly, with photos.

CYCLING LOG: 15-21 April 2013

Sat, Apr 20, 2013 - 45.18 km
45.18 km on Surly Pacer.
York Minster to Goole (midnight to 3am) - aborted FNRttC due to knee pain, also saddle/chamois issues and hand nerve pain. :( Knees were troublesome from the start ("tight" tendons) - probably from walking and standing in cycling shoes through the day. Legs just didn't warm/loosen up no matter how fast I pedaled. Temps much colder than expected - below freezing rather than the balmy 4C predicted.
end odo 2191.58

Fri, Apr 19, 2013 - 22.35 km
22.35 km in 01:42:32 hours at 13.08 km/h on Surly Pacer.
To Luton station; sightseeing in York, ride out to see The Planet Trail (NCN 65), then to Geoff & Janet's in Woodthorp for dinner; back to York to meet up with fellow FNR'ers at Pizza Express.
end odo 2146.4.

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 - 19.34 km
19.34 km in 01:10:02 hours at 16.57 km/h on Surly Cross Check.
To Harpenden for Pilates and back. S/SW winds as yesterday, feeling warm in the sun. S/S jersey + gillet on top, SmartWool 3/4 knicks on bottom. MITTS not gloves!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A Friday Night Ride to... Hull! And a weekend in York

Very much looking forward to tomorrow night's FNRttC, the York to Hull edition! It's 72 miles, the first half of which is flatter than a very flat thing, much of it running alongside a canal that is in fact higher than the road we'll be in. In the second half, there are three hills. Count them, three. The first is long and steady and something of a relief - nice to exert the legs a bit! The second is brutally steep and mercifully short - best walked. The third is the b*stard. The gradient varies and the road winds around through a village so you're not quite sure how long it's going to go on for. The grounds begins to level off and you're think you're nearing the summit then you round a bend and the road kicks up again. Grrr.

Very much looking forward to this. And this time there's no possibility of backing out, whether for legitimate reasons or psychological ones!

Weather forecast has been improving steadily all through the week as Friday night approaches. We're now being told temps about 7-8 with winds 8-12mph. Lovely!

Last year we were booked on a particular train and had to hang around all day in Hull. My not-yet-healed Achilles was in agony so we spent the entire day in the pub!

This year, instead of heading home after breakfast, we're going back to York (by train!) and treating ourselves to a weekend of sightseeing.  

Really looking forward to it all!

A few pics from last year -

Gathering at York Minster before the off at midnight.
Local FNR'er Kat distributes home-made cake!

Monday, 15 April 2013

30 Days of Biking: Day 15

12 miles on the Cross Check. Oops, no photos. Spring/summer gear on from head to toe today - wouldn't have imagined it a week ago.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

CYCLING LOG: 8-14 April 2013

Sun, 14 Apr 2013
20.07 km in 01:10:30 hours at 17.08 km/h on Surly Pacer.
Forgot computer today. No real idea of time/speed but it was my usual route to Harpenden for Pilates and back, so I'm using stats from last such ride. Only thing is, the wind direction has reversed in the past week... bringing Spring! So battled against quite a head wind going down, then found the wind had shifted slightly more westerly for the return journey so had cross wind rather than tailwind on the main road, and then through the Peppercorn - Slip End - Woodside zigzag had more or less the opposite as we had going down. Took photos of potholes near the pig farm on Manor Road, to report to Central Beds Council.
Capstan thermometer said temp was about 62F (didn't check what this is in Celsius). Wore S/S Primal jersey with SmartWool armwarmers, with L/S Smartwool jersey and Pearl Izumi Barrier Elite gillet. On the bottom, I wore my Ibex El Fito 3/4 knicks - exposing my shins for the first time this year! Feet: SmartWool socks and Spesh shoes. Head: Walz wool cap. Actually got too warm struggling in that wind going down, so ditched the arm warmers for the return and was still a little warm - feeling the heat through the black sleeves of the jersey!
Adam meanwhile wore S/S jersey and cotton cap. He's half-alien.
Tags: road
Sat, 13 Apr 2013
23.37 km in 01:19:56 hours at 17.54 km/h on Surly Pacer.
Loop from home through Stockwood Park then to Harpenden via Sustrans path, back via usual loop through Slip End and Woodside. end odo 2124.4
Tags: road

30 Days of Biking: Day 14

Signs of spring: hauling stuff on a cargo bike. In short sleeves. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Book Review: LOST LANES by Jack Thurston

I've just received a copy of Jack Thurston's new book, "Lost Lanes", available online here. This is a collection of "36 glorious bike rides in southern England".

Some of you will know Jack from his UK radio show The Bike Show (available round the world by podcast). Funny thing but I've never actually listened to Jack's show! I know him personally from group rides based in and around London, usually organised by Southwark Cyclists.  From conversations with him, I know he is enthusiastic about the joys of cycling for pleasure and also about the English countryside. His new book bring those two passions together... along with to-die-for photography and an insider's knowledge of where to find the best country pubs!

This is by no means the first "cycle route" book to be published here in the UK in the past few years. In fact, I was given a copy of one very popular one for my birthday year before last. Have I tried any of the routes in it?  No.  Why?  Because all the start and finish points are predicated on the need for a car. (Hello?!)

Jack's routes on the other hand are all easily accessible from London for all of us who are car-free, because the start and finish points are train stations! This means I'm actually likely to try out some of Jack's routes and can't wait to do so. The photographs have me salivating already... the countryside in Kent looks particularly appealing....

30 Days of Biking: Day 13

Finally! Normal shoes, normal gloves and my favourite three-season softshell.  Winter, be gone!
(Temp 15C, can you see that?!)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Review: TRAKKE BAIRN messenger bag

I recently purchased the Trakke Bairn messenger bag (referenced at the bottom of my 2 February 2013 post).

Trakke is a small company in Glasgow that hand-makes messenger bags and backpacks aimed at cyclists primarily but also walkers/hikers/outdoor adventurers!  The man at the helm is Alec Farmer and the man at the (sewing machine) wheel is a former sail maker. Their philosophy and aesthetics focus on producing bags that are robust and functional, with a nod to local heritage -- most conspicuously displayed in the use of Harris Tweed. (I love the blog entry written by one of the weavers!)

So after a few weeks, here are my thoughts and impressions on the Bairn messenger bag.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Preview: CARRADICE STOCKPORT CITY FOLDER - new luggage option for Brompton S type!

Carradice have at long last designed a front bag for the Brompton S type folding bicycle.

As Brompton owners will know, the S type has a shorter stem and thus lower-positioned handlebar than any of the other Brompton "types". This means bags made for those other types are too tall for best function, with some safety concerns.

30 Days of Biking: Day 8

Today's a busy study day but I did need to pop to the Post Office. There I discovered the One and Only cycle parking stand in the whole of the village of Caddington. 

CYCLING LOG: 1-7 April 2013

Sat, 6 Apr 2013
20.82 km in 01:19:18 hours at 15.75 km/h on Surly Pacer.

Out in the sunshine! Rode toward Harpenden via usual route then cut left up Cooters End Road. Back to Luton via the cycle path. Up Cutenhoe Road without walking! Through Stockwood Park to top of Farley Hill then home via Luton Road with some wandering round through back streets of Caddington. Lots of stopping to take photos. Rode from 3.30 - 5pm. Temp upwards of 10. Wore headband and normal L/F gloves, but not hat or buff.. or COAT! L/S baselayer, L/S Smartwool jersey and Pearl Izumi gillet on top; Ibex 3/4 knicks, long socks and mini skirt on bottom. Nothing felt too cold. Feet got too hot! Time to put away the cycling boots? end odo 2100.7

Fri, 5 Apr 2013
20.07 km in 01:10:30 hours at 17.08 km/h on Surly Pacer.

7am ride to Harpenden for physio and back by usual route. Temps still barely above freezing. Weak broken sunshine. Snow still lying under hedgerows. Didn't notice wind going down - other than some front quarter gusts while crossing the M1 - but really felt the headwind on the main road section coming back! end odo 2079.9

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Friday, 5 April 2013

30 Days of Biking: Day 5

Today was the first day back on a bike after my fall last Sunday. My physiotherapist has worked the kink out of my neck and the bruises are starting to fade.  Meanwhile, the date may be 5 April, but it's still winter here. I went out on the Pacer and remembered all over again why it's my favourite bike to ride.

Monday, 1 April 2013

30 Days of Biking: Day 1.

Well, I have fallen at the first hurdle, so to speak. I am so sore from my fall yesterday that it is very doubtful that I will get on a bike at all today.  The fact the temperature is still barely above freezing, with a strong cold northeasterly wind, isn't helping.

I could wheel the Brompton out into the front drive and pose for a photo.....

But that'd be cheating. 

CYCLING LOG: 25-31 March 2013 or, Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Sun, 31 Mar 2013
32.00 km on Puch Princess mixte.

To Luton; from St Pancras station to Hyde Park Corner via Euston Road and Marylebone.
CycleChat Sunday London ride: with Mice, Crock of Gold, TimO, jurek and topcat1, from HPC to Greenwich for lunch (Meantime brewery), via Buck Palace, Parliament Square and Westminster bridge then mainly on the Thames Path. Came off the bike when Adam drifted in front of me and I failed to react in time to avoid hitting his rear wheel. Both of us being a bit doozy! Cut & bruised but no lasting harm done.

Tue, 26 Mar 2013
10.00 km in 00:35:00 hours at 17.14 km/h on Puch Princess mixte.

To Harpenden. Temp just about freezing; moderate N/NE winds. Traffic so heavy and slow on the A1081 that we took the central reservation and cycled all the way into Harpenden overtaking all the motorized vehicles on their right. I'm sure there were a few disgruntled drivers but hey, I'm not the chump in the car! [still no computer]

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