Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

The Day I Didn’t Cycle Round the Isle of Wight

Monday, May 1st, 2017

So, as most of you (i.e. those who come here via Facebook) will know, I didn’t achieve all I intended to on the Isle of Wight bike ride yesterday.

The plan was to do the 70 mile version of the Cycle Island Randonee – it’s normally 66 miles but the Cowes floating bridge was out of order yesterday so they had to put a diversion in, making it 70. In the process I would have a good bike ride, do a longer ride than I’d ever done before by some significant margin, and raise shed loads of sponsorship for T’s Vietnam school trip.

The day started as planned with a selfie in the Red Funnel car park, waiting to board the ferry to the Isle of Wight – well obviously the day had really started with getting up and getting dressed, driving to the ferry…you get the picture but I’m trying to avoid un-necessary detail here.

Incidentally all selfies in this post were taken using the selfie stick m’lovely Bridget bought me for Christmas :-)

Once on the ferry, we queued up for our Brevet cards, which we were to get stamped at every checkpoint to prove we’d done it. Don’t ask why I was wearing my bike helmet on the ferry, Red Funnel drivers aren’t that bad – although if I’d been crossing from Portsmouth on Wightlink, which I often used to do for work, it might not have been a bad plan.

Getting off the ferry at Cowes took longer than expected, mainly because the bikes weren’t stacked in the order people were lining up to collect them, but we were eventually off and on our way. The start of the cycle route from Cowes is uphill on a main road, but once past Osborne House we turned off onto a much more minor road and hardly saw any cars for a while. I’d planned to use the 5 miles to the first checkpoint as a warm up, so I spotted two people riding together at a speed a bit below what I normally ride at, and tucked in behind them.

The first checkpoint was on a caravan site just outside Binstead, to be convenient as a starting point for cyclists who’ve come over on the aforementioned ferry from Portsmouth, and after a few homemade sweeties and some homemade electrolyte drink (and the energy gel Jonny gave me :-) ), I was on my way. This was where the story really started: Soon after leaving this checkpoint the hills begin in earnest and I quickly realised I’d underestimated the hills and wasn’t prepared for them, and had to stop for a rest at the top of the first main hill. I wasn’t the only one but that’s not much consolation, and I’d quickly lost contact with my slow moving pace makers. By the time I reached Nettlestone I was glad there was a roadside bench.

From here to the next checkpoint I knew the way pretty well – we came here every year for holidays when I was a teenager and the route actually passes the entry to the campsite where we stayed, before passing down through St Helens and along the Bembridge front, before turning back inland past the windmill and up to the checkpoint.

I haven’t mentioned the wind yet – not the consequence of a Red Funnel bacon sandwich but the meteorological kind. It had been forecast to be blowing a hoolie and indeed it was: what the forecast hadn’t mentioned was that it was one of those magic winds known well to cyclists, which contrive to be a headwind no matter which direction you’re heading. I’m smiling in that picture because I’m indoors for a few minutes!

I’d worked out in advance what times I needed to hit each checkpoint to finish the course before the 6 PM cutoff time, and I left Bembridge ten minutes behind my slowest possible schedule. More hills followed, on pretty narrow country lanes through Brading and to checkpoint three at Alverstone. Even if I hadn’t stopped here at all I’d still have been ten minutes behind, and I knew I still had the worst of the hills to come.

I had coffee and cake and a banana at Alverstone…
You’ll notice that in this picture I’ve put my waterproof on…yes, it had also started raining, although it stopped for a few seconds to allow me to get this picture outside the checkpoint…

Coincidentally (or maybe not), Alverstone is also where you have to decide if you’re going to carry on and do the full 70 miles, or follow a different route for what they call the half-randonee of 35 miles. Normally under these circumstances it would be a no-brainer, but I didn’t want my sponsors to feel I hadn’t given it my best shot: However

  • I was by now twenty minutes behind schedule to finish the full route in the permitted time
  • I still had the two worst hills to come – see the chart above
  • If I diverted to the half-randonee, I would at least get a certificate of completion for something, even if not what I originally set out to do
  • If I was going to divert, this was the best place to do it – any diversion point after this would just involve more un-necessary hills, take me longer to reach Cowes and not achieve any more
  • Even then, I decided to carry on to the actual route divide and decide then – in then end I carried on to the point where I decided (in consultation with a family doing the same thing) that I’d actually missed the dividing point (it’s actually just before the Alverstone checkpoint), but that where we were offered an easy way back to the shorter route.

    From here as far as Newport, the shorter route follows an abandoned railway line, and is therefore…wait for it…FLAT! The going was good, if a little muddy in places, and apart from brief stops where the route crosses a main road, and a slightly longer one to dig out some gravel jammed between my front brake blocks and the wheel rim, I made good progress. And from Newport it was a familiar route back Cowes, and I wasn’t even slightly disheartened to be overtaken by someone who’d been on the same ferry as me in the morning, but had done the full 70 in the time I’d taken to do 35.
    In the end I got a very nice certificate and badge, and I get to keep my checkpoint card

    Then I got on the ferry and had a Red Funnel meal deal…

    …got off the ferry and went home to clean the mud off the bike!

    Thanks to all those who sponsored me – at the time of writing that’s

    • through the JustGiving page Bee, Debbie, Helen, Jane, John, Jonathan, Meri
    • directly cos they don’t have JustGiving access, Jane (different one), John (different one), Joan, Mr Robinson, my Mum and Steve.


    Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

    So…following on from previous comments, I sorted out my bike’s brake cable.

    A few weeks ago, I noticed in the bike cage at work that someone had dropped what looked like a couple of artery clamps on the ground. Another bike user and I had a giggle about how they might have got there, but I think I know now…as well as clamping arteries, they’re pretty good for holding bike brake cables steady to tighten up the tension adjuster!

    Anyway, as you might have seen on Facebook, I had a puncture on the way to work on Monday. I’ve had punctures before of course, but this was the first one affecting a work journey. I’d only gone about a mile, but I was a bit annoyed at the holdup as I’d sailed straight through greens without having to wait at the first two sets of lights, so a fast time was on the cards.

    I always carry in the bike bag an aerosol tyre mending thing: just screw it on to the tyre valve, press the button and it fill the inner tube with foamy stuff that seals the puncture and partly reinflates the tyre. It doesn’t work if the hole in the inner tube is too big, and it doesn’t last more than a couple of days but it’s a good quick fix. So I hooked it up and pressed the plunger. And after a few seconds was covered in foamy stuff which had leaked out. Looks like the hole is too big then.

    Still, no matter: occasions like this are the reason I also always carry a spare inner tube, and five minutes work had the tyre reinflated properly and me tryng to get at least some of the dirt off my hands. In another couple the bike is the right way up and I’m on my way.

    And before I get to the end of the road I have another puncture. In the same tyre.

    I only carry one can of foamy stuff and one spare inner tube, so this is the point at which I walk the bike home, lock it in the garage and use the hospital park ‘n ride to get to work. Two days later and the puncture is fixed, but there’s something wrong with the wheel thatI couldn’t fix before I ran out of daylight last night. Hopefully I can sort that this evening, or it’s park and ride for the rest of the week for me, and off to the bikeshop on Saturday morning.

    Still, I did say the bike was due a service anyway, didn’t I?

    It’s A Drag

    Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

    Leaving work last night I noticed that my bike’s back brakes were a bit loose, so I tightened the cable. I knew there was still a little bit of friction between the blocks and the rims – i.e. I’d overtightened the cable – but I thought that the first few quick dabs on the brakes as I whizzed down Dale Road hill would sort that out.

    It was only as I was puffing up the last big hill to home that I realised I was still being held back, and this morning cycling to work was like riding through treacle (and yes, I’ve checked the tyre pressures). I think the brakes need a bit more adjustment – mind you, the bike and I have now clocked up 2000 miles together so it’s due another proper service anyway. Got to organise that some time.

    I Like to Ride my Bicycle

    Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

    So, cycling, eh?

    When I first knew that I was going to be working at the hospital, I realised that driving to work probably wouldn’t be sustainable: I’d been warned at the interview that new staff werent being allocated parking permits, and although I have a volunteer permit for when I’m on site as a hospital radio person, I guessed that using that regularly when attending for work would a) get me into trouble, and b) lead to me losing the permit altogether.

    So I reviewed the non-car-related options: I first investigated buying a small motorbike, but when you factor in the cost of training, safety kit, regular maintenance and all the other expenses – as well as actually buying the bike – this works out to be quite an expensive option. Probably if you’re spending that money anyway because motorbiking is fun and your regular mode of transport then adding commuting is nearly a zero-cost option, but starting from scratch is expen$ive. A good chum suggested I look at an electric bike – but that too worked out pretty costly.

    So I thought of buying a bike. I hadn’t ridden one at all since I stopped working in London, and it must be twenty or more years since I cycled seriously…but you don’t forget do you? It’s like…umm…riding a bike? Purple Fred (whom I love very much, and who knows me pretty well) had an even better idea:

    “If you buy a bike, you’ll come up with all sorts of excuses not to ride it. If I buy you a bike for Christmas, you’ll feel obliged to ride it and get all those lovely health benefits”

    So, I got a bike for Christmas, and Young Fred (I can’t call him Mini Fred now he’s taller than me) bought me lights and a waterbottle holder. I’ve now been cycling daily for just over a year, and I’ve got loads fitter, as well as losing some weight. I’ve started doing longer rides for fun, and at the end of April I’ll be doing my longest ride yet…66 miles around the Isle of Wight, raising money for Young Fred’s school trip to Vietnam.

    What’s that you say? Do I have a JustGiving page where you could contribute to this most worthy of causes? Funny you should say that…

    Here it is – and there’s even a picture of me in lycra