Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Cambridge to London

“I’m still not sure which wheels to put on tomorrow.”

“I’m sorry, but your bike has no wheels?”

“Not yet, but should I go with touring or racing wheels?”

“Which ever you like but you’ll be at the station at 08:58? It’s nearly midnight.”

And so started a conversation that I had cause to recall as a sound like a single pistol shot went off in the train carriage at 09:10 the following morning.

“I think that’s your tyre David? Should the other one be bulging out off of the rim like that?”

“Probably not. I’ll let it down.”

The morning had started with a leisurely ride to Finsbury park station to meet Vera. We carried our bikes to the platform before I popped back for coffees. I didn’t hold out much hope that 2 coffees coming to £2.80 would be up to much… and I was right.

2 minutes before the train was due to leave David’s head popped in to view. With three of us and our bikes blocking the back of the train and Tanya at the other end we progressed to Cambridge.

At Cambridge station we found a quiet corner and whilst David and I dismantled his bike, Tanya went for coffee. I realised at this point that my budget bib tights were in fact a giant leotard, and that I was going to have to get naked to use the toilet.

Highlights of the day included:

A lovely ride through the countryside
Drizzle (Not rain)
Lunch in a cricket pavillion
French onion  soup in a garden centre
Heated toilet in said garden centre
Lee valley river path in the dark
Fallen trees on said river path
IKEA at Enfield
A mixed use path from Enfield to Tottenham
A bath
Sausage and mash

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Water carrying solution for the brompton

I've looked at various ways of doing this in the past but to no avail. 

After the day of the dead ride and a couple of 40 min rides I decided a convenient water solution was required.

This Japanese system is intended for hybrid bikes and dahons for a single bottle. For very long rides* I can carry a spare in the saddlebag. I saw this on another Brompton blog and found it at SJS cycles.

* very long in Brampton terms. I've asked Santa for a running/mountain biking hydration backpack so I can do long runs/days out/4 hour rides without stopping. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Life, or something like it.

I spent the first 32 years of my life believing I was different and that the world was unfair. At 32 I met and at 34 married a woman that I believed would change my life. 

She too believed that she was different and that the world was unfair. Eventually she tired of me and grew more and more distant until I suggested we stop being together. 

At 36 I met Sophie. We had a similar background and similar failings in life. We both studied Art. We both left our degrees. 

She stuck with me through my self pity. She also stuck with me through my attempts to reinvent myself. For that and many other reasons I love her very much. 

We are all special. I will not be remembered for who I was or am. That is reserved for kings, queens, actors and such the like. 

We are remembered for our actions. 

I have acted.

I have cycled lands end to john o'groats. I have played with the London Gypsy Orchestra. I have cycled 200km overnight. I have busked. I have learnt to run. I have learnt the ukulele and mandolin. I helped organise bike to Bestival, and I played in the band that opened the festival in 2012. I have ridden naked through London and Brighton. I have camped and been woken by wild animals. I have played at a friends' wedding and a friends' parents ruby wedding. 

I have learned to live. To love life. 

And all of this in the last 4 years. 

And in this time my little brother has become a dad. I have become a very proud uncle. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Running for an hour

This morning I tried something I have not done before. I got up early as the clocks has gone back that night. That isn't the new thing I tried though. I have gotten up early before. Even when the clocks have changed. 

I had some muesli and tea then waited for an hour. I went running. With a digested breakfast in my bloodstream. 

As I am not a man of leisure I normally don't get the chance to eat before I run. 

I managed an easy hour of running with a breakfast inside me. Twice the time I normally run for. 

Breakfast huh. I'll be trying that trick again. 

Monday, 21 October 2013

I accidentally ran over 5km this morning

Ok so it was 5.2 km and it was down to me not checking on the GPS but guessing how far I'd run before I stopped.

Even so I ran 5.2km in 36:31 minutes... or 7 mins per km. I realise that this is no speed record or anything, but you have to remember (actually you don't have to at all) that I never got this far last year. In fact I may have caused myself more problems than I solved last year trying to even get here.

I'm just chuffed as I only have to learn to:

a)swim properly,
b) cycle in a different position,
c) stay fit,
d) learn to do all these things back to back,

...and I'll be ready to do a triathlon!!

Hell yeah.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Practical cycling

I'm always amazed at the sheer volume of people that choose to commute on a pure race bike. I'm not sure that I could do it. Carbon fibre plastic bikes that could be ruined by a collision. Road shoes that can't be walked in for fear of ruining the cleats and carbon soles. That and a massive hiking backpack as you can't fit a rack. 

One of the reasons for the brompton purchase is that I want to be able to integrate cycling into my life the way most people use a car. It has mudguards and luggage capabilities that would compromise the honky tonk to the point of making the ride less enjoyable.

What baffles me is the sheer volume of luggage capacity insisted upon by your average cycle commuter. I toured holland with two regular ortleib panniers. I don't need more than a small saddlebag for daily duties. Lunch. Rain cape. Tools. Book. Deodorant. If I need a complete change of clothes I have an s-type bag which I would use instead. Why double panniers and a rucksack would be required for an office job is beyond me. 

The brompton is a practical solution for London. Made in London. Designed in London. Brilliant for every day simple cycling. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

the joy of a brompton... first week together

I have been ill and, as a result, not training properly for the last week and a half. This is massively frustrating, but I'm determined not to cock everything up by over-training again…

I did however pick up my shiny new Brompton so I have been doing a little light cycling.
It’s funny but I was going to write a first thoughts post about the new bike, but actually they are the same thoughts I had last time I had a folder.

When you first sit on a folding bike after riding a fairly stiff and speedy road bike, then it doesn't even feel like the same activity. I am more compact and upright than a road bike with much faster steering. The ride is harder at the front and softer at the back and the marathons (Swalbe Marathon tyres) slow things down.
However I am enjoying cycling for transport and fun.

I have got the gears set at +8% on a stock bike so there is still a physical challenge and who knows, maybe riding around in my everyday clothes on a tiny bike might just end up keeping my bike fitness up a bit over the winter.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Cycle clothing

Like most men, I love a bit of kit. The thing about kit is that it makes you feel special when you use piece of equipment that a lot of thought has gone into.

This week I've ordered a brompton, so naturally my thoughts have turned to suitable attire for riding her in. There are many schools of thought to what makes suitable riding gear, but I tend to fall into the "horses for courses" camp.

My road bike, whilst not a technological carbon and plastic marvel, is comfiest in technical cycling gear. While my heart cries out for merino technical kit at eye blistering prices, deep down I know that some sensible purchases of modern technical kit will see me right in most situations.

I normally ride for several hours with no luggage and no second day. The odour protection offered by merino isn't an issue. Even on a wet commute the priority is drying off on arrival.

So I have promised myself two things.

1. complete decent set of road riding kit (1 winter top and tights, 1 summer top and bibs with a technical jacket).

2. Some simple commuter gear.

Before I get this however I will have to lose some weight. I am not shelling out on cycle clothing to have it end up over-stretched and outsize like the gear I took on Lejog.

The commuter gear is less of a problem size wise... However I measured myself today as I was unsure as to a couple of measurements and did the whole lot whilst I was there.

I am a little bigger than I thought I was. Quite a bit. However I am the same jacket size I thought I was so that's maybe where to start. That and some riding trews, in a relaxed fit

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Kieron Bryan

To Harriet Harman -sent tonight


I have recently learned that someone that I have a great deal of respect for is being wrongly detained in Russia. I'll keep this short as you no doubt receive all sorts of requests on a daily basis. Kieran filmed our "bike to bestival" ride in aid of cancer research uk. At the time he was employed by the times to work on content for the "cities fit for cycling" campaign. I have never liked the times but find well written articles that I disagree with more agreeable than ill informed opinion. We worked with the 3 journalists from the times to produce something to suit both our aims, and they rode and raised money for our cause.

Kieran is being held as part of the group detained with the green peace activists. he is a journalist employed by them to record the events. Whether or not I agree with the protest, Kieran is a journalist and not a pirate. He faces charges of piracy.

He is also your constituent.

Please work as his mp for his release..

Dominic Ball.

Friday, 4 October 2013

A replacement for Emma?

Today I took the plunge and ordered myself a new Brompton. Nearly 4 years ago my “Desert Sand “ 3-speed folding bike was stolen. This bike reawakened my love of cycling by dint of making it so easy to integrate journeys of this type into everyday life. Whereas cycling before I arrived in London had involved the use of a city bike (A 1980’s Raleigh Superbe 3-speed) and my normal clothes plus or minus a layer to account for the elements; Cycling in London on modern bikes involves a change of clothes and a selection of specialist equipment.

The day I purchased “Emma” (as she became known) I had intended to get on the train from work and go up to London bridge. I intended to ride from there to Liverpool Street and then catch a train home from there. I got on the bike to ride and immediately decided to ride to the next station to get a feel for her first. As the station approached I decided to go on to go on to the next one. This continued until I found that I’d forgotten how to fold the thing and so I thought I’d head up the route I had used, once or twice, into town and try and find a deserted spot to practice. It never happened. Every deserted spot had a gang of kids or picnicking mums.  I rode nearly 15 miles on a new bike with an unbroken in brooks with no discomfort and for the first time experienced the slight sadness as one turns into the final road of the journey.

The thing about Bromptons is that they’re expensive. Or is it that you can choose from a variety of options, or just pick one up in the shop. I don’t know, but I have spent the last few months revisiting ideas of what exactly would make the ideal tiny wheeled bike.

I have considered all the other brands. Some are too flimsy. Some don’t fold enough, some fold too much. Some are plain weird. 4 years on and the Brompton seems the best all round choice.
So what did I get?

Clear Lacquer
3 speed (+8% on normal gearing)
Mudguards and pump (no rack)
Brooks B-17
Hard Suspension
Integrated battery lights
Easy wheels
Front luggage block

Basically this*…

Now normally I’d have to wait 4-6 weeks for this to be ready, but I’m assured that they can adapt a stock model. I was a little nervous. Would it be a floor model with the parts swapped? No. The assistant opened a fresh box  with a Clear Lacquer S-Type with 6 gears and said he was going to convert this one with fresh parts held in stock. I’ve checked the website and they are carrying all the stock. I shall have to inspect it thoroughly but this is Compton’s after all. I choose to have my other  bike services here.

So next week I’ll have it.I hope the Honky Tonk isn’t going to be jealous. I imagine she’ll be relieved to be just going out for fun rides no that the weather has turned…

*This photo comes from the custom bike builder page on Brompton's own website

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A first look review (of sorts) of the Suacony Hattori

Around this time last year I first attempted to run in what is commonly referred to as the “barefoot style.” I had had a minor case of Plantar Fasciitis over the summer and had been told by a physio that I needed expensive orthotics and to stop running. I had flat arches and inflamed Fascia in the sole of my feet. I did a bit of reading online and thought I knew better. After a month of wearing no shoes or socks at home and vivo barefoot shoes when I had to leave the house, my arches were back and I was down half a shoe size. Added to this my toes started looking like they were the right length in relation to each other.

I tried a couch to 5K programme that I found online and proceeded to throw myself into it wholeheartedly.

3 weeks in I could barely walk. I had an overuse injury to the ankle and I was out of action with a Darth Vader boot for a while. I had neglected technique. After running in the correct style I went out in my old Saucony shoes and ran with a heel strike. Then did the same in my minimal shoes. Insufficient rest periods as I acclimatised and twisting my ankle all played their part.

My confidence was in tatters as I only regained my freedom from crutches just before we went to India (immediately prior to my 40th birthday.) I was worried I’d done myself that nagging injury that would dog me for life.

Once I had stopped being a drama queen and had completed three months of physio I could walk on it as normal, but I didn’t trust my ankle for sport or even hiking.

Watching the Olympics, and to a greater degree the Paralympics, made me realise that what separated me from the Olympic athletes was dedication, confidence and determination.

I am now running twice a week (let my body adjust) in Saucony Hattori minimal shoes. With a simple short stride, forefoot strike. Light and easy. I’d love to review them but I’ve not worn another pair of “barefoot” road running shoes so I’ll save that for when my next pair arrive.

First impressions from a month of use…

Very lightweight (There is nothing to them);

Difficult to get on in hurry (Separate and loosen as wide as possible then put them on);

Minimal cushioning, very soft sole (I have picked up big splinters and thorns in the sole of these);

Comfier on tarmac than grass (they feel less direct on grass or trail because the damping is added to the damping of the grass making them vague underfoot);

Alright for now.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Morning run

We had Miss S's sister staying (I see a tongue twister forming in my mind) last night. What that means on a practical level is that not only is the spare room full, where I normally breakfast... go figure, but also that somebody is up before me in the morning. Sophie's sister needed to leave at 07:00

I set my alarm for 06:30 figuring that as Sophie and I both needed to be out by 08:00 I could go for a run and the shower would be free when I got back. Who says it's difficult to plan training around a job eh?

It was pitch black as I set off in the drizzle, not quite sure where I was going to run to today. I knew I wanted to be gone for about 35 minutes. After 5 minutes I stopped and stretched by the park. As it was shut (what you don’t want us charging round the park in the dark??) I decided to head up to the pub on the corner of the park and do a lap on the road around the back. This route is roughly equivalent to 2 laps around the park.

Within a few minutes (leaping out of the way of an unlit cyclist on the pavement excepted… really) I was in a little world of my own. This consists of an acute awareness of what my body is doing, that cycles into vague day-dreaming and back into awareness. I used to find that I stayed mostly in the dreamy/vague stage once I’d got there, but it is too easy to forget to think about form and niggles.

Interestingly I was reading the other day that the perfect state of mind for endurance events is a balance between the ability to ignore suffering (and continue) and the total body awareness of form and injury potential from surface and surroundings.

I need feedback on how my feet are making contact with the floor. Whether I have traction or not? Is one foot form better than the other (Yes the right foot flows better)? Ignoring, or even worse not receiving in the first place, this feedback leads to problems. I need this onformation, it helps me to plan my next step. I found myself injured last year running on very wobbly high Saucony Triumph  running shoes, but am working better with their Hattori minimal shoe. I have changed my “foot strike” from a heel strike that ended up as a flat footed step flopping from the ankle to a forefoot strike that is more of a gentle step that quickly drops the heel then rolls through the foot to spring off the toes.

So far so good

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Weird food when left to my own devices

What do vegetarians eat #2?

Weird stuff

My first running race

I have decided to enter a road running race. As you can see from my use of non-technical lingo I am frankly and quite obviously not expert (although technically I am a "Masters Athlete")

In researching the types and levels of training I would need to be able to complete a triathlon,  I came across a handy formula. Time training = proportion of race that discipline takes up...


20 mins swim = 22%
40 mins cycle = 44%
30 mins run = 34%

Now this is all well and good, and when I get into training proper I shall stick to this, the thing is my weak (WEAK!) points are the run and the swim.

So the plan is this. I will train just the running and the swimming until I can cover the distances comfortably (I'm giving myself until Christmas). Then in the New Year I can start a structured training programme to build up for an actual event.

With this in  mind I am going to enter the Regents Park 10km race or the Richmond park 10km in December (Maybe both). If I can build up in two months to running a 10km race then I will be well on my way to being fit enough to run a tired 5km.

All the advice I've read so far point to attempting to good enough on the bike, to come off of the bike section relaxed and with plenty of leg energy. This means I can't let my on the bike fitness drop off over the winter to the level I did last year. I'm thinking one or two round trips to work for now, and then add in spin class after Christmas.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Running progress

This friday evening I got in from work laden with three members of the onion family and some citrus foods. I put them down and decided to go out for a run. 

Where this differs from my running so far this year is that I have only gone running in the park since my physio. This means that half of any distance I've managed so far has been run on soft surfaces. It was overuse before proper conditioning that caused the injury that put me in a darth vader boot. 

As I set off from the flat I noticed that the the park keeper was blowing his whistle and asking people to leave. 

Sure I could probably fit in a run before the gates were locked for the night, but I'd rather not piss off the parky when everyone else was doing their best too. 

I set off along the pavement for about 400 metres when I realised I had not turned on my stopwatch. 

Then I realised my right leg felt a little tight. My mind started to wander. Then the road headed uphill. 

My right hip started to cramp a little. 

I then realised that there was a very steep camber to the pavement. I realised when it flattened out. Hip and leg felt better. 

For the rest of the run I felt fine. Well fine-ish. I got a few twinges, hot and cold, and a little tired. 

29 minutes later and I stopped outside my flat. 

Felt good. Non stop. Going to build up slowly till I'm up to an hour. 

With running the first few minutes can really puff you out. Make it to ten minutes and you're in a differerent place entirely. 

Run easy, run light. Fast is for later. 

Tour of Britain

Due to miss s' parents coming down for the weekend and leaving at lunchtime on Sunday, I decided to watch the final of the tour of Britain on the telly box. 

We also looked at a few places as part of  open house. I also met the Argentinian ambassador. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

ITU final

Sunday morning and we were due to head off down to Hyde park and watch the Men's final of the ITU World Triathlon Series. It was the Grand Final. Less than an hour from our house (flat).

Before anyone asks why we went to the Men's not the Women's race the answer is two-fold.

1. We got up at about 04:00 during the Olympics to watch the Women's race at the same venue. The Women's race Started early on Saturday, The Men's at Lunchtime on Sunday.

2. We knew people going to the Men's race, who importantly were working on the organisational team for the event.

As anyone who saw the event will know, Alistair Brownlee was running on  an achilles injury and Johnathon was beaten by Gomez in the last few yards. A shame to be sure, but the event encouraged  me in several ways.

1. As we arrived the age group races were underway. Marshalls were stopping people crossing the road to let runners by. The stopped pedestrians would then applaud the runner (who might be 19 they might be 60).

2. A lot of those age-group competitors were still in their kit 2 hours later cheering on the elite athletes

3. Next to our spot were under 23 group competitors from GB,  Ireland and South Africa all cheering along competitors from all countries as well as their own.

4. The amateur age-group racers are more likely to be riding the full carbon time-trialling machine than  some of the National elites. Lots of reasons for this but you can use good kit at any level and you don't need it to win.

5. There are age-group categories up to 85+.

I work with Social Care teams and am used to hearing 65+, 75+ and 85+ age-bands in relation to care rather than National Sport. Great stuff

Friday, 13 September 2013


So I've not posted in a couple of weeks. The reason for this is that I've been on holiday again. 

I've been up to see my brother and his family. It was my niece's 1st birthday. Sophie made her a patchwork cushion and I wrote her a song. 

Then we went to Devizes and Lacock to look at the locks and the Fox-Talbot museum. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Breathing...The source and solution of my problems running

There is something romantic about running. I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe it's the simplicity of being self propelled without the need for the volume of equipment needed to cycle (Bike, shoes, shorts etc) or swim (erm...a pool.)

Once you get into the rhythm of it there is a beauty to the way the world looks. the surrounding terrain becomes something to be covered, climbed or circumvented. Breathing becomes regular, almost metronomic as your feet spin and bounce you along the floor.

I've been reading a lot about breathing cycles. Some of you will be familiar with the way in which breathing cycles work in swimming. To avoid a training imbalance whilst doing front crawl I breath on the third stroke. This means I breath on a different side each time. Short deep breath, breath out for two strokes and in the other side.

With the way the body is constructed, the core (strength and stability) is more important than I ever imagined. Swimming appears to happen almost entirely from the core. When running the foot stabilises but the core holds the torso and head balanced.  When you are fully exhaled the core is relaxed. I found that as I counted my breaths I always ended up completely exhaled as my left foot hit the floor. This is the less stable ankle that caused me all the trouble a year ago.Somehow I need to do what I have managed in swimming and get my exhalation on different sides.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Bank holiday weekend

So this weekend is the last of the summer. Last year we did Bike to Bestival, which was done in glorious weather, extending the summer. Not this year though. 

I got a swim in on Saturday morning and I'm about to go out for an evening jog/run-walk thingy. It doesn't seem to have got in the way. 

On Saturday evening Rob and Aline had a party at their new house. I was called 'funky' then rob wore a dead fox on his head. We then went to a late bar under one of the pubs in stokey. Ale, lager and white wine. 

Sunday ruined. Thai food. Excellent Thai food. 

Today we did the traditional bank holiday ritual of the blue box of death (ikea). We bought lots of yellow furniture. 

A late buffet lunch at Neasdon temple followed. Really don't know how they managed to make food taste that good. Chilli paneer, dall, saag aloo, rice, pickled, samosa and some deep dried pea cakes. Mmm. 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

First week of triathlon training

Since I last totted up the distances on the bike, I have added a little over 360km to my total from April. That's over 1,000km. When you look all a lot of enthusiastic cyclists though, they often rack up well in excess of 100km a week. 

I had decided a few weeks ago that my next challenge would be a triathlon. I didn't know that much about them so I've been doing a spot of online research. 

It didn't start that well as the day I had picked for my first run was also a day I'd agreed to go to the pub. I've re-jigged my schedule however and am back on track. Due to the injury I picked up this time last year running I am taking it very easy. I am running one, walking one ( minutes that is). 

Yesterday I did my first 'brick' session. This involves doing one activity and then moving onto a short session on the next sequential activity. So I cycled both ways yesterday and after carrying my bike up the stairs I changed my shorts and set out for a gentle run. 

It's bloody tiring is what it is. However if I am going to do this I need to do at least one session a week where I do this. During the winter I hope to do a 'gym triathlon' as part of my training. 

All three sessions back to back. In a tri outfit. In a gym. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

What the future holds

I really regret not doing the ride London event at the weekend. I got it confused with another event going on this summer and decided not to do it. The idea of having to complete 100 miles in 9 hours or less would have seemed daunting as little as a few weeks ago, however after the Dun Run I am beginning to think it might be doable.The course is realtively flat with a couple of corkers by way of hills which should lead to relatively fast times.

The next event will be next year and I don;t have a spare weekend to travel to and complete one of the remaining sportives of the year.

So I've been looking into the idea of a triathlon as my next big challenge. Only a sprint distance, but I think the combination of a short run and swim being added to a cycling distance I can probably go flat out at might be a good training goal.

These are the distances for a sprint triathlon and the times I've already done them in

30 lengths - 30 min
20km bike - 1 hr
5 km run - 30min

Now when I say that the 30 lengths is in a pool with stops and turns and the run wasn't a race I reckon if I get my fitness up I can shave quite a bit off of that time. I know it doesn't work like that but I already know I can keep going on the bike, so what about other sports?

The last time I tried to run I eneded up with my leg in a cast and peroneal tendonitis. I intend to build up slowly this time.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Dun Run Part three

Riding through the dark for hour after hour is a peculiar sensation. At times you start to think that you should be in bed. A little drifting off takes place.

For about half an hour I thought I was silently following Dave, before realising that the pattern of lights was wrong. As I pulled up a little closer I realised that this bike had a set of panniers and not the Super C Audax bag David has been using of late.

Realising he couldn't be behind me I put my foot down and overtook the next twenty or so riders over the next couple of miles. I pulled up alongside him relieved not to have lost the only rider in our group to have completed this ride or knew where we were going.

"Where's Warren?" he said
"I'm right behind you"

Warren had been riding on my wheel when I took off and just thought I fancied going a bit quicker so had tagged along.

The strangest sight of the night could have been awarded to many (Many) things, but I think it has to go to a half hour traffic jam around some roadworks. We queued for ages to cross a makeshift pedestrian bridge over the roadworks only pausing to consider whether it was designed for 50 riders and bikes ata a time afterwards.

From here on in I made sure I could see either David or Warren's lights. They are always a bit quicker than me plus as I have no sense of direction I figured it's for the best.

We stopped at the official food stop to consume further nourishment. This was down a quiet residential road at a community centre. A couple of hundred riders eating quietly in the car park.

Once past the 100km point the night seemed to just rush by...

As the sun came up we hit a bank of fog, which decreased visibility to almost zero. Fog turned to light rain which made grip, baking and visibility (I had no glasses on) considerations.

We stopped by a lake, where locked toilets and the lack of bacon alternatives made us press on for a rumour of a tea stop half an hour further on. An hour later (or maybe half an hour for Froome) we came across a house selling veggie or meat sausages in a bun and tea. I could've wept.

We stopped

By now it was morning and riders coming back the the other way started to become more common. Our estimated finish time was getting progressively later.

People were now out on the streets to cheer us along in their quietest 7 O'clock in the morning voices. The miles ticked by and we finally saw signs to Dunwich about 20 miles further on. I can't say I wasn't relieved.

We tagged along with a guy on a fixie who had lost his friends for a bit before losong him on a hill. The miles flew by in the fog and damp.

We arrived in Dunwich at 09:27 a whole 13:10:57 after we set off . Admittedly we spent a lot more time off of the bikes than  I expected to and there was a wind but that was an extraordinarily large amount of time to take to do the distance.

Warren headed straight back on the bus, whilst David and I partook of breakfast in the peculiar little cafe on the beach. All thoughts of a swim and a change of clothes were out of the window.

Claire and her friends who'd been at Lattitude dropped in for a post-breakfast pint before we got the coach home.

All credit to Southwark Cyclists. There was a lorry space and a coach space for me and I got back to London (having to eat my emergency falafel en-route) without much in the way of a hitch at all.

"Will I do it again?"

Yes I think I will, but for now there was still the ride home

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dun Run part two - Ride report

After a brief rest  I have decided to do a ride report proper:

After packing, panicking and forgetting to fill water I set off a little later than planned. We arrived at the pub in the park and tried to locate each other in the massed throng of riders. Warren was out front and Dave out back whilst I was late. Remarkably as I was expressing surprise that I couldn’t hear Glen he turned up.

 There were a surprising number of riders enjoying a pre-start drink. It would seem that the measure of athletic seriousness at this point was whether you went for a half pint of ale or a full pint of lager.

Riders ranged from (my favourite outfit of the night) a blousy shirt duck taped into short sleeves with tight chinos-to the Dulwich Paragons in full matching club kit.

As we prepared to leave one of our number decided for a quick wee stop before the off, which was easier said than done at this point due to there being a couple of hundred riders blocking access to the loo and the early closure of the park toilets.

Dave knew the route out of London, so we set off in the snaking queue of smiling riders into the early evening sun. Riders following GPS units went one way and veterans the other before joining up again on Lee bridge road. As the evening wore on we found ourselves passing through Epping Forest and the surrounding towns. By now light was getting poor and more and more lights came on. I was shocked to notice that some rider’s lights were flashing so brightly that they left a retinal spot between flashes and I started to wonder what that would feel like at 02:00am.

Our first stop was in a small town opposite a pub as we were 55 km in and properly ready for a sarnie. The volume of music coming from the pub was astounding as we tucked into various cheese/pickle/sausage combo sandwiches. Billy Idol blared out and peaked as an absolutely trashed woman tottered out for a fag. Up until that point I had assumed the pub had a window open, but no.

Riding though the dark was vaguely hypnotic and the light dipped between towns to nothing before rising to the sulphurous pools of yellow street lights in villages. At this point I started to notice the late starters passing us at race pace chatting easily while I was starting to have my first tired moment.

The next stop was at the foot of a hill in a charming pub that would warrant a visit during a less strenuous activity. I settled for a pint of light ale and watched the lights stream down the hill to the shouts of “HOLE!” at the bottom.

Setting off again we could no longer see each other at all and my chain came off climbing away from the pub. I texted Dave only get the response “Me too!”

They were waiting for me at the top and we set off following the pattern of each other’s lights in the dark.

Re-inventing the wheel

Surprising amounts of time and energy go into re-inventing the wheel. I have 24 spoke front and rear, but if the various forums and discussion boards are correct then I either have about 12 too many or 12 too few. I am apparently both risking life and limb and riding millstones.

Despite modern materials there is a good argument for a high number of standard spokes. The more you have the stronger the wheel. The more spokes the less likely one breaking will ruin the wheel. The more standard the spoke the easier to find replacements without a manufacturer return.

In theory, the lighter the wheel, the less energy it takes to get up to speed. However this is only a guide. If the weight saving over two wheel sets is in the use of a light hub, then it may take longer to get up to speed as it I the rotational weight in the rim that takes a while to get going.

Once up to speed a heavier wheel retains more inertia and so will keep going longer. A lightweight hub will be more prone to failure.

Unless you routinely ride faster than 20mph (I don’t) then an aero rim doesn’t help at all.

I am wondering about doing a wheel building course as what I think I want is 28/34 standard spokes from 105 or miche hubs onto mavic open pro rims… until I read some more internet forums or product sites…

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Dun Run part one

I thought about starting this post without giving away the facts (we finished, we survived etc), but as you know I wouldn't type this en-route, the fact that I am writing it at all is proof of  life etc...

On Saturday night/Sunday morning I rode the Dunwich Dynamo. After all the build up I had thought about doing one classic (and long) ride report.

At this point I'll just say it was an amazing and very long experience. We had our ups and downs and the ride is a tougher test of mental toughness than cycling ability. The route is straightforward. There is plenty of places to stop and refuel, it is not massively hilly. It is however at night when your body wants to be asleep and you can't see because of the blinking red lights on the back of the person in front of you.

There were plenty of beautiful moments too.

We followed an irratating man with a soundsystem on his bike for miles in the dark. Not able to put a face to the noise. At the top of a hill where we took a little rest he pulled in behind us and gasped "Has anyone got any water?" He had fitted the soundsystem, charged the batteries, picked the playlist but forgotten his water. It's that kind of event.

I nearly left without filling my water bottles

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ready for the off part 2

In typical fashion it took about 2 hours to sort out the bike ready for tomorrow. Again in typical fashion, whilst I checked the oversized bidons fitted the cages, they do not fit the frame. I'll take the two Alu ones and a 1 ltr bidon in the saddlebag.

Stuff I've packed

First aid kit
Spare tube
punture repair kit
Swiss army knife
Banana chips
vegan bars
protein snacks
banana chips
coconut water (I'll be carrying 3 ltr of fluid at start)
swimming kit
regular clothes
iphone charger
waterproof jacket

On the bike I have an iPhone mount, Carradice Barley bag, Zefal pump and bidons in Bontrager cages. I also have 2 sets of lights on the bike. My regular ones and a little blinky set as backup. I think that's everything... Just need some fig rolls and tpo make sandwiches...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Ready for the off... and the dangers of a good bike shop

So what with tonight being Thursday and the Dun Run being Saturday I have less than 48 hours before the off. The only real hitch in my training plan has been going away to Cornwall for 11 nights and drinking like a fish/local. Yup that's a pretty big hitch.

To try and fit in any training in the remaining time between now and the ride would be silly.

I needed to pick up a few things for the bike, from several different bike shops, so I decided to do it all by bike. A nice neat 35km in 28C. I say several. The original plan was a 25 km round trip to Decathlon... However as I was about to set off I thought I'd drop into the LBS

It started to unravel at Two Wheels Good . I live on the same road. I started with bottle cages. I have a red alu coyote front cage and a cheap plastic (also red) back cage on at the moment. The plastic one is dreadful so I was going to just get one red metal cage.

I was in luck. They had Bontrager cages in red, black or plain. I went up to the counter one red cage.

"Do you know what I'm thinking?" I said after a little small talk of who was doing what rides.
"You're thinking that the red one you've got is pretty chipped and that if you've got to buy two you might as well get plain. It won't go with the bike, but it's a bottle cage. You'll live with it?" said the assistant.
"Pretty much. Yeah." I replied, before going off to swap one red cage for two plain silver ones.
"Have you got a bagman for the Carradice Barley?"
"Sorry. We don't do anything by Carradice... But if you can't find one come back and we'll work out something to help."

This is the way bicycle shopping escalates.

On the way to Decathlon I was overtaken by a lady on a vintage sports bike who had the same saddle bag as mine. The one that is rubbing on the mudguard that I plan to take off. Hers was in black and also supported. By a bagman saddlebag rack

"That's it!" I thought "What I need to do is find where 'On your bike' has relocated to and ask them if they have one.

Half an hour it took. Between a poor signal for the iPhone and it being hidden in a courtyard under a bridge I found them.

"Have you got a bagman for the Carradice Barley?"
"We have several options for that particular bag..." I'll spare you the details, but needless to say they came up trumps again.  Great shop. I also bought some Argyll socks...

At Decathlon I had merely perused the wetsuits (after my attempts of sea swimming in cornwall) when I bumped into Warren. Much talking and I decided to buy the same front bag he has and some new shorts.

In Decathlon I intended to get new shorts and some 1ltr bidons. I would never normally use ones this big but the difference between being able to carry 2ltrs of water instead of 1.5ltrs may be important when everywhere but 24hr garages are shut.

I not only found some... in a disgusting colour scheme... but I also found some Alu ones with red and black caps that go with both the new cages and the bike...

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Distance and relativity

I've just totted up the distances I've logged on the MWA app since I changed my tyres at the end of april. From the 28th of April to the 4th July I logged 701.8km.

It's all relative...

When I started riding in preperation for the LEJOG ride a couple of years back I would have been astounded at the volume of kms stated above... In fact I was as that was the sort of distances I had scheduled in for training. In reality 300km of the above is training rides. The rest is transportation.

When I got the brompton I was doing about 16 km a day as my round trip commute and found it exhausting at first and exhilerating after that.

By the time I started on the Kona the commute was 32-34km each day as a round trip but I didn't do it every day.

I saw both these as training rides. Now it's just transport.

In the end I thought of the ride to Brighton more as a fun day out than a training exercise. I don't know about you but I think that's a good thing.

Monday, 1 July 2013

London to Brighton with Vera

Variety is the spice of life, and so instead of cycling to Richmond at the crack of dawn before riding circuits with Dan and Warren, I cycled to Brighton with Vera.

We agreed on a slightly later start of 10:00 a.m. thinking that we could easily cover the 95km from our meeting point in 5 hours riding, with an hour or so off the bike, we’d be in Brighton by 16:00. OK so we may take until a little later but not much. An ice cream and a quick dip than back home for tea.

Vera was on  her new Surly Long Haul Trucker (in a 46cm frame) with mountain bike wheels and gearing. Last time I'd ridden with Vera she was on  a junior Fuji track bike so the Surly might manage the hills with a little more ease.

We set off using the route we both knew down from Tower Bridge down Tooley Street, following the river down through south London before heading towards Catford and on to Bromley. From  there we wiggled about a bit (yes this is the actual technical term for it). 

The aim was to head for Turners Hill and follow the largely downhill and straight route from there… Up the Ditchling Beacon and descend into Brighton.

I’ve checked the route we used on the magic that is google maps and it is between 101-106km in total and not 95 like we thought. So what’s 10km? Well we went a little off message and added a bit more onto the total journey. Even now though google maps reckons 6 hours or so so we should have been there by 17:00.
The route went well (apart from us not being able to locate the biggest hill on the whole route and accidentally joining the A23 for a 5 mile stretch) and with minimal checking of maps and GPS we made it to Brighton in  one piece.

It was however incredibly hot with a sun baking down onto Vera’s cumulative sunburn and my head-to-toe covering of cycling gear to ward off the rays. Mmmmm Toasty! The photo below shows the effect of the sun through the holes in  my gloves!)

We got to Brighton in a weird bank of fog (which was obviously hiding the beacon from us) and sat drinking coffee on the beach. Not the refreshing dip we had packed our swimwear for. In fact the sea was too rough for even a paddle. We were exhausted. It had taken nearly 7.5 hours including breaks in the baking sun. We had only eaten a couple of sandwiches and some heat remodeled chocolate bars (Tip: “breakaways” don’t travel well in direct sunlight… Who knew) and flapricots… the result of flapjacks melting into apricots.

The chat was mostly cycling related with time enough to discuss starting a religion of sorts (Motto: You die that’s it deal with it… Have a stick on beard) and Class war in relation to Mumford and sons. All in all a lovely day out.

I got back home at 21:00 to find Sophie had run me a bath and prepared dinner. I was so grateful for that.