Monthly Archives: November 2012

A Proper Soaking

Today was my turn for a proper soaking. The weather, of late, has been a consistent downpour. I’ve never been more grateful for some waterproof kit – it saved me on the Tarka Trail, and its been getting a good workout lately as well.

Not content with that, I was pedalling along a shared cycle path late last night, lit up like a Christmas tree, when all of a sudden a huge 4×4 came down the road in the opposite direction right alongside me. It ploughed straight through a huge puddle – more of a lake than anything else – and sent the whole lot over me like a tidal wave. For a moment, it was like I was surfing on a bicycle. Somehow, I managed to keep my balance – but I was very lucky to escape injury.

From the way he drove, I’m pretty sure it was deliberate. He saw the puddle, he saw me and saw the opportunity to “get one over a cyclist”. I’m sure it made him laugh all the way. Of course, I didn’t get his registration, so he has completely got away with it. However, in something that gives me a sort of smug glow, apart from a little bit of a splash on my face, I didn’t get wet at all. Despite the wave of water, my bog-standard Altura waterproofs saved the day.

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More Cyclists on the Roads

This morning, I wasn’t going to cycle. I had a late night last night (entirely my fault, browsing discussion forums) and really didn’t sleep that well. On top of that, my daughter woke up screaming at 4.45am, so I also had a really early start. I decided to commit cyclecide and drive to my local station instead. When I got outside, I found my wife had blocked me in with several sacks of rubbish and recycling. There were so many that if I took the trouble to move them, I’d be late for my train anyway. I did the only thing I could – dig deep and get on my bike.

I wasn’t “dressed” for it, at least not in my usual gear – and the thought of the final hill climb as I approach the mainline station filled me with dread. Jeans are not good for wicking away moisture, and we tubbies do tend to produce quite a lot of that. I set off, muttering.

After a minute, I remembered that I was on my bike, doing what I love. Curiously, this morning, I then noticed more cyclists on the road than I’d ever seen before. They were coming at me from all directions, and it was heartening to see. Is the message getting out there? I’ve only been doing this for 3 months, but I’d never seen so many people out and about at 6am.

I arrived at the station a little hot and sweaty, but not as much as I’d imagined. I’m not saying the kit I usually wear doesn’t do anything – it saved my life on the Tarka Trail in some atrocious storm weather this summer – but this morning, I learned that the most important thing is just to “be on your bike”. Nobody cares if you’re wearing Rapha Condor or not.

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My Bible

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My cycling bible is “Traffic Free Cycle Trails” by Nick Cotton, shown above. Weighing in with a colossal 400+ routes all over the country, I think it’s a book that should be on every leisure cyclists shelf. It isn’t particularly expensive (around £14.99 if you pay full price) and gives you great value. Most of the rides it suggests are around 5 – 10 miles long, but the author assumes that you are cycling the route in both directions. Some routes are broken down into multiple rides, such as the famous Tarka Trail in Devon (in three parts here) or the Basingstoke Canal (also in three parts).

Unlike some books I’ve read, these routes are genuinely “traffic free”. At the start of each regional section, there are also notes on mountain bike trails and land owned by the Forestry Commission suitable for taking a bike over.

Perhaps one omission is the use of any OS mapping in the book, meaning that if you’re unsure of the route, you’ll either need to have a map to hand or photocopy the guidebook. Fortunately, having now ridden many routes in the guide, I can report back that most of the trails are very well signposted and I’ve never needed to purchase any additional material.

Use it as a guide to inspire rides, take it with you on holiday – whatever – but this book is a great source of days out, providing an excellent guide to pleasant leisure routes, catering to all ages and abilities.

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Riding in the Cold

Suddenly, the weather seems to have turned, and it’s now very cold on my morning commute. This will be the first winter I’ve ever ridden through, and I’ve eagerly been buying bits and pieces to see me through. So far, I can manage with some 3/4 length trousers, a jacket and some extra shorts underneath – and some full finger gloves, but I was feeling the wind a bit this morning.

My ride to work is only about 3 miles long each way, so by no means any great distance, but it does contain a couple of hills – one of which is particularly nasty for a beginner. I think bemused pedestrians have taken to calling me the “sweary red man” as I puff and pant past them. I have enough time to work up a sweat and I’m usually out of breath when I reach the station (which is at the top of the hill). It’s not a bad ride in all, mostly along a shared cycle path – but the hill is on a road and I frequently have drivers tail me close behind or come within an inch of me as they pass close.

I’ve lost about a stone in the last 8 weeks of doing this, and vowed that this would be weight loss through exercise rather than dieting. 6 miles a day may not seem like much, but for a beginner, it’s an achievable amount that is already having positive effects.