Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year

Er, that's it really.

Actually 2010 is scary, my bike ride is no longer "next year", it will be "this year" - 4 months away and I am nowhere near ready, I mean I don't even have a bike any more, how funny is that. Plus all the weight I've put on has got to come off too, pointless carrying round an extra 40 or so pounds.

I need a drink after typing that!!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The search continues.........

Spent more time at the PC in the last 3 days than if I was at work, and I'm no further on in my quest for a new bike.

Signed up to 3 cycling websites for advice and ideas, and have got plenty to go on - there's a shop in Digbeth (about 3 or 4 miles away for those not familiar with Birmingham) that I plan to visit tomorrow, and someone posted a list of links to more bikes up for grabs on ebay. So there are irons in the fire, but in truth I'm no nearer, and it's frustrating. I went out on my current mountain bike the other day, spent a couple of hours riding through the fields that surround the airport, it was fun, made a change from riding on road - no traffic to worry about, and it's where a bike like that belongs, churning a path through the mud!! When I got back I gave it a good clean in preparation for giving it back soon, and because of that I'm loathe to do too much, if any, riding on it - the least I can do is hand him back a clean bike.

So, I'm thinking that if I don't get anything sorted in the next week I'll be on the bus to and from work, and I'll just have to use the gym at work every day. I'll have to do something, weighed myself this morning - 14 stone 8 pounds. Or, to put it another way, 2.5 stone overweight. Or just plain fat.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Looking for a new bike.

This xmas I asked everyone for money rather than a present, this would then form my bike fund, and enable me to buy a better bike than I would otherwise be able to afford.

Today I visited the 2 local shops selling bikes, and made notes of the model, specs and prices on offer. I then came back and researched the models on a couple of cycling forums and basically they are all crap. There were a couple of names that kept cropping up as good makes - Giant, Specialised and Trek. So I looked into these and they are significantly more expensive than what I had anticipated spending.

I have searched on Ebay and found a number of 2nd hand Giant and Trek road bikes, and to be fair they probably do represent better value for my money, it's just that I wanted to go into a bike shop, pick a bike I liked, have it set up for me by people who know what they are doing, and I could then ride my brand new bike home. Yet another one of life's disappointments eh?

Anyway, I've been online for hours and I've had enough for now. There's about 6 or 7 in my "Watched" items on Ebay, I'll look again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A big Thank You to Bladerunner

We have a gym at work and it's run by Bladerunner - - I asked them last week if I could have free access for the next 4 months so I could do some training in there rather than catch another cold cycling in torrential rain, or whatever else the British winter might throw at me, and they have very kindly agreed to. I'm hoping the instructer will also take pity on me and offer whatever advice, guidance or encouragement he feels I need!!

So I plan on using the exercise bikes pretty much every day, as well as still cycling to work - not that I have much choice on that front, it's bike or bus and it's quicker by bike. I might even do a bit of weight work too, upper body strength will help, and any body weight I can lose between now and my ride will be less weight to carry around on the bike.

So, thanks again Bladerunner, it really is appreciated and I'm very grateful - especially now it's getting so cold!!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Long time no blog!

Not really had anything to say (not like me I know!!). Came down with a cold the week following my last ride - the 1st November when I got soaked and frozen and had a puncture. Took me 3 weeks to shift it. Although I probably could have managed longer rides it seemed wiser to save my energy to try and get myself back to 100%. I think I'm now back to 100%, so did the long route to work this morning for the first time in ages, now if I can just avoid catching any more bugs I can concentrate on training.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Happy Birthday Dad.

You would have been 70 today, can't help thinking about what we would have done -No doubt we'd all have gotten together and Mom would have prepared enough food for 50, even though there would have been about 15 or 20 of us. Your 5 grand kids would all have been there, and the house would have been filled with laughter, and you would have loved it. I miss you Dad, they say time heals and I suppose I cry less now, but I think about you pretty much every day, and it hurts, especially on special occaisons like today. 67 was too young, whenever I see anyone older I ask why aren't you here still? It's not fair Dad, plenty of people live much longer than that don't they, why couldn't you?

This song is for you.

Love you xxx

What an eventful morning.

So I managed to get up at 6.15 this morning even though I was up late (by my standards anyway!), and after downing 4 bottles of Stella (which is verging on binge drinking by my standards!). It was dark so I couldn't see how bad the weather was, although I could tell by the windows it had been raining, however, by the time I'd got myself ready and stepped outside it seemed a bit lame to wimp out because of some rain.

Plan was to attempt a new route - To Warwick, then to Stratford then back home, 48 miles approx, however, within 5 minutes the rain was really lashing down and I was having 2nd thoughts - not only about the new route, but I was seriously considering turning round and going home. But I kept pedalling whilst I wrestled with my conscience. Yes the weather was crap, but giving up seemed so lame. Especially as today is Dad's birthday and he would have been 70 today, and the reason I'm doing this is in his memory, so I carried on. Then, after about 3 miles I started to get a severe pain in my left eye - I'd painted my face for a halloween party and I guess I must have missed some makeup when I washed it off last night, and as the water ran down my face it was irritating my eye. I'd wipe it dry with my glove but within minutes it started stinging again. This went on for miles, and although it took my mind off the fact I was soaked to the skin and the wind was getting stronger, I was beginning to worry, did I want to go blind in the middle of nowhere? (OK, a bit dramatic I grant you, but I do have a bit of the drama queen about me!). So I decided to change my plans, save the new route for a later day, instead turn off at Hatton and "just" to do the usual 30 mile route.

About now (16 miles in) the weather eased and I stopped to have my mid-ride snack, which is strongly recommended by the "experts" I've consulted online (when I say consulted, what I mean is "googled"), trouble is, the rain had soaked through my rucksack and my malt loaf and doughnut were a bit on the damp side, plus I was so wet I could wring water out of my gloves, and, after standing still for 5 minutes I was feeling really cold. Will have to work out how to snack whilst on the move, I can't be stopping every hour when I need to do 100 miles a day.

Anyway, back in the saddle I soon warmed up again, and, despite the continuing heavy rain and huge amounts of standing water in the winding country lanes, everything was now fine. Until the 26 mile mark, I'd just started the last uphill bit of any note, before the nice ride back home, when I had a blowout on the back wheel (which is the worst one to change by the way) - and I do mean blowout. Big bang and instant flat, I checked the road to see what had casued it and there was a few strips of crappy old plastic, I could not tell what it was from, and it didn't seem that jagged, but I must have just been unlucky.

Anyway, there was a petrol station less than 100 yards away, so I thought I'd try and see if I could fix it - I wasn't even sure if I had a repair kit with me. Fortunately I had, and luckily the bike has quick release "thingys" on the wheels, so I managed to fix it, pumped the tyre back up and fitted it all back together. Then I spun it to check it was straight and I noticed it was catching on the brake pads, the blowout had split the tyre, and the inner tube was pushing it out like a mini egg. After a brief moment to utter a few curses, I then thought that if I unclipped the back brakes it wouldn't catch and I could make it home. It sort of worked, not perfect but I just wanted to get home at this stage, I was really wet, really cold, and shivering like mad, so I repacked my rucksack, wrung my gloves out again, and got back on the saddle. 50 metres later it blew again, and I was now officially stranded just outside of Shirley, with 3 choices 1. Phone a taxi - No, I'm too tight, and didn't have a taxi number anyway. 2. Push it home - No, too far, and I was far too wet - plus, and I'd forget to mention this earlier, my wet shorts had started to chafe in a couple of places, and it hurt to walk (but not to cycle strangely), which leaves option 3, phone home and ask Sharon (my wife) to pick me up. Of course being the wonderful woman she is (honest, she's not standing over my shoulder as I type this!) she agreed, but would have to get the kids dressed and then come and get me, so half an hour later I was in the car and finally on the way home. I peeled my wet clothes off and jumped in the shower, and Sharon peeled my wet clothes off the floor and put them in the washing machine. About an hour later we discovered that my MP3 player was still in my shirt pocket, so that had been through the quickwash cycle too - amazingly it still works (maybe it's not amazing, I'm ignorant of how this new technology actually works, but I've had phones that have stopped working after getting slightly wet, let alone being put in the washing machine). So, all in all, a fairly eventful morning.

Friday, 23 October 2009


If anyone reads this and is on Facebook, please join the group I've recently set up, it's completely free and everyone is welcome!!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Training Update

After a week of about 70 miles commuting in all, yesterday I set my alarm for 6am and was out on the road by 6.30. I tackled the Hatton route again, and the first 2 miles felt really tough, I was doubting whether or not it was such a good idea as my legs felt tired, but wasn't going to give up that early. Glad I kept going because once I warmed up I felt really good. Once through Knowle it was unlit country lanes, and the roads were really quiet, which was good, because although I have lights on the bike, I was worried about being wiped out by some idiot on 4 wheels, especialy as I forgot to put some credit on my phone.

Anyway, did the entire route, and concentrated on what the experts call cadence (been referencing a few different internet sites), in other words keeping my legs turning at a regular speed, so when I go uphill I drop down the gears rather than getting out of the saddle. Apart from one or two climbs I think it went OK, although there is one hill around the 22 mile mark which is a real toughie. If it were earlier it wouldn't be so bad, and it's not a long climb, but it is the steepest climb on that route, and I had to get out of the saddle for that.

Today my legs feel ok, although that might not be the case when I get back on the bike in the morning, I'm getting more pain from my left knee (which is odd, as my right knee hurt after I first did this route), and my tennis elbow. I may have to go back to the Doctors about that, he did say it might need an injection in it, although a couple of people have told me it's really painful, plus it's not guaranteed to fix it, so I may just leave it.

One final thing, no weigh in this morning, I was out with the wife last night, got pretty drunk, and have felt dreadful all day, and I'm sure that all that Guinness will weigh quite a lot, so I chickened out!!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

How heavy?!

So after a week where I did more miles than I ever have before, I now weigh 14 stone. That's 6lbs I've put on this week. How did that happen? Maybe I should have spent less time picking at colleagues birthday buffets, and avoiding the biscuit barrell at home, but I'm a slave to my sweet tooth.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Finally, some proper training done.

Only 4 commutes this week as I booked holiday for Friday & Monday, but 5 of the 8 journeys were 10 miles, and the rest were 4 miles, so over 60 miles isn't too bad. Then Friday I headed out to Hatton, which is just outside of Warwick. Once there I headed to Hockley Heath, then I picked up the Stratford Road which eventually bought me home. It was pretty tough at times, but it is a great route and one I will definitely be doing again. I saw quite a few fellow cyclists although most of them overtaking me!! A fair bit of uphill work too, not quite King of the Mountain stuff to be honest, but some long steady climbs, and being on unfamiliar country roads, I often reached what I thought was the top, only for the road to bend and another climb reveal itself.

I loved cycling through the coutryside though, it meant I could sing along with the songs on my mp3 player safe in the knowledge that, apart from the sheep, no-one could hear me. Having said that, my singing is so bad there may be a few traumatised sheep out there somewhere.

Mileage for the trip is in the region of 30 miles, I know it's just over 15 miles from home to Hatton, so it could be more but what's more important is that I have finally made a start on building up towards some serious miles, and that is the longest bike ride I have ever done in my life. My legs are feeling it today, and so are my wrists, and it didn't really do my Tennis Elbow much good either. Apart from that, and a saddle sore bum, I feel good!!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A new week, a new bike (pity it's only borrowed!!)

So, got over to Chris's house Friday after work and picked up the bike. Very nice it is too. Monday was hectic first thing, as my son only started school last week we are still adjusting to a new routine in the morning, and I ended up leaving later than usual, hence why I only did a 4 mile trip to work. However, being full of the sort of enthusiasm having a nice new bike to ride brings (even if it is only borrowed), I went the long route home, probably about 11 miles. Trouble is, a couple of miles in, my backside began to really hurt - my supersoft gel filled saddle was still on the knackered bike at home, and the rest of the ride home was quite an uncomfortable experience. As soon as I get home, I'm swapping the saddles over I kept thinking to myself! Typically though, once I'd got home and had been distracted by kids and tales of school etc, I forgot, and only managed to do it this morning. Very last minute as is my way, but there was no way I was risking more pain in the you know what.

So, to celebrate I did 8 miles to work and 10 miles back. The bike, although probably more suited to off road conditions, is a joy to ride, especially the gear changes. Whereas I rarely changed gear on my old bike as the clunking, squeaking and rattling was pretty annoying, so I often ended up struggling in an unsuitable gear, I can now change gear easily and smoothly whenever I need to. Oh what a novel idea eh?

Friday, 25 September 2009

What a week last week turned out to be.

Had good intentions honest!! Did the long route Monday and Tuesday I set out early enough to check out a longer route, somewhere in the region of 15 miles. Just before Solihull my chain came off, which although unusual, is easy enough to fix. However, when I fixed it I noticed something odd about the pedal, so from that moment I took the direct route to work so as not to risk being stuck in the middle of nowhere (as usual I had no money and my wallet was at home). After work I went the quick route home as it takes me past a local bike shop (Hawk Cycles) where the staff are extremely friendly and helpful.. Turns out it was a problem with the bottom bracket (I think that's what it's called anyway), and although they may have been able to fix it, I would have to leave the bike with them, there was no guarantee of success (the bike is probably over 10 years old), and at £25 per hour labour + parts, it made no financial sense as I only paid £20 for the bike anyway. I decided to take my chances so jumped on the bike and pedalled gingerly home.

Once home I had a bash at some DIY repairs but the bottom bracket was still quite loose, however, it was slightly better. That would have to do. For now at least.

So I'm a week before payday with a knackered bike, what to do? First thing I did was post a message on Facebook asking if anyone had a bike they wanted to give/lend/sell to me. Worth a shot I thought. Next I trawled Gumtree and Preloved to see if anyone was selling a suitable bike for a suitable price, but no joy. Then I posted a wanted ad on Birmingham Freecycle (surely the most appropriate site to get a free bicycle?). Then, back to Facebook and someone had kindly offered to lend me their bike, so arrangements were made the next day to collect it from his house - Nice one Chris. In the meantime I continued to use my old bike, but rather than push my luck too much, it was the quick route to and from work the final 3 days of the week. So, I'm guessing I managed 30 miles last week, not quite what I had in mind.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Must try harder...

Fewer miles last week compared to the week before, and it all started so well. Added an extra loop onto my long route to work, which I thought would push it to about 12 miles at least. Found a website with a route planner and tracked the route and it came out at just over 10 miles, which means all my previous mileages have been based on erroneous information. I used to have a cycle computer thing that I used to record distances and times travelled, I'm now thinking I calibrated it wrong when I initially set it up. I can't find all the parts for it now, it was originally set up on my old bike, but I never swapped it over when I bought a replacement bike a couple of months ago.

Still, before I started planning to do the bike ride next year I rarely did the long route to work more than once a week, if that, and I'm now doing it pretty much every day, plus I extend it sometimes too, so I am building up the distances.

I had hoped to get a decent ride in this weekend but never got round to it, the plan is to ride to Hatton country park and back, we were there with the kids a couple of weeks ago and I checked the mileages on the way back and it's just over 15 miles, so that will be a nice 30 mile trip when I have a couple of hours spare - maybe next weekend.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Todays weigh in

I've decided to keep a track of my weight too, lets face it, a weekly blog just saying how many miles I've done is going to be pretty dull!! I have a spare tyre I could do with losing (that's a metaphor for my gut by the way, it's nothing to do with my bike), and you would think that, given the extra miles I'm going to be doing, my weight will drop. Trouble is, the extra miles I did last week just made me hungrier than normal, and those that know me well will vouch that I eat a fair bit anyway.

So, this morning the scales said 13' 11.6". I'm off to get dinner ready now (a proper Sunday roast) and do some baking (chocolate courgette cake), see, that's why I'm not over confident about this weight loss malarkey.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Last weeks miles.

Monday: 5 miles to work, 5 miles back - however, when I got there I had a bit of time on my hands so did a mile on the treadmill in the gym at work. First time on there for a couple of months, the running was harder work than any of the subsequent cycling.
Tuesday: 10 miles to work, 4 miles back.
Wednesday: 10 miles to work, 3 miles back
Thursday: 10 miles to work, 10 miles back. Been a while since I've done the long route there and back, felt fine, some of the uphill bits hurt but that's to be expected.
Friday: New route to work, probably about 12 miles, almost got lost but had packed the A-Z. 5 miles back.

Total for the week 74 miles (plus I ran 1 mile!!) Not a bad start, plus the new route is easy to extend to around 15 miles, just means being more organised in a morning so I can do it and not be late for work. If I can regularly do 20 miles a day just on my commute thats 100 a week, and then I can think about a big one every other weekend, and build the mileages up steadily.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Route Change

Now I realise this is going to look like I'm moving the goalposts already, but honestly I don't have much choice. We (as in my employer) no longer have staff based out of the Cardiff premises, so it seems pointless to still ride there when I am likely to be greeted by a chorus of "Who Are Ya, Who Are Ya!!". :-)

So, to minimise the effect on the mileage, I've decided that after Cheadle I will ride through Birmingham direct to Amersham, and then loop back on myself to our Birmingham office. I estimate I'll do about 40 miles less than my original plan, so I should still be on course for over 600 miles. Plus I get to finish at my own office rather than an office where no-one knows me, my wife and kids can be there too, so I get to feel like some kind of a hero (well my kids will probably think I am, all I have to do is catch a spider at home and they think I'm great, hopefully they'll always be so easily impressed!), and I can ditch the bike there and get a lift home.

Hopefully the generous souls who have already sponsored me will not be contacting Trading Standards or suing me for breach of contract, otherwise I'll have to think of a way of getting the miles back up to 650. I could always detour through the Lake District and do a big hill climb if they insist, just hope they don't read this, lol.

Friday, 4 September 2009

From little acorns.....

Well I extended my long route to work this morning, so instead of 9 miles it was more like 11. Came the quick way home though, motivation after a day at work is pretty low to be honest, having said that, the way the wind was blowing it didn't feel like the quick route home. Why do I always seem to have to cycle into a headwind? Sods law I think it's called.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

No turning back!!

Well I've been thinking about doing something like this for a while now. Originally it was going to be London - Paris using one of the many organisations who arrange such things. However, almost half of the £1200 minimum sponsorship would have gone on things like food, accomodation, ferry to France & Eurostar back to London. So I thought again.

A bit later, in a charity meeting at work (BHF being my employers chosen charity this year), it was mentioned we had 6 offices and a little lightbulb went on in my head - I could do an office to office tour. Now where were these offices? Obviously I knew about Birmingham, because that's where I work, and I knew about Bury, because I deal with Bury every day. Then I learnt of Cheadle and Amersham. All good so far, nice distances between each office, but where were the last 2? Stirling and Cardiff I later found out. Great!! I can hardly do a tour of the offices and miss 2 out because they are too far away can I? Well I could, but it would seem like a cop out.

The plan is to get the train to Stirling and utilise SYMCA and YMCA hostels for my overnight stays during the trip. My to do list includes emails to the relevant parties asking (nicely) for reduced fares/rates, but even if they don't agree, I know that this trip will work out cheaper, and therfore more money for the charities. It's also over 100 miles further than the London-Paris trip.

I'm thinking mid/late April 2010. The worst of the weather should be over (famous last words!!), and I'll be done by May. May's a busy time down the allotment, got to make sure I get my spuds in. And that gives me a good few months to get some training in. I've been cycling to work for nearly 2 years, between 3 and 9 miles each way depending on which route I take, but I will need to get serious if I want to be able to do 80-100 miles a day for over a week.

Anyway, my Just Giving pages are set up, this blog is up and running and now everyone knows, so there's no turning back!!