Me and Tea

Unlike coffee I’ve always enjoyed a nice cup of cha but I don’t think it was until I was away at Centre Parcs on one of our first proper family holidays that I really started exploring other varieties.

Before this point my tea selection was pretty much limited to either Tetley or PG Tips but whilst on holiday, for reasons I can’t quite remember we’d purchased a Twinnings Selection Box. In in we had Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast, Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon. Of these the only one that remotely rung a bell was Earl Grey but that’s because I’m a trekkie brought up on The Next Generation and could hear Patrick Stewart’s voice instructing the replicators:Β  “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot”

We started out trying them and I found it was rather interesting exploring the tastes. The Earl Grey was very nice, Lady Grey was refreshing with its citrus and Ceylon had a lovely cupper! I wasn’t to keen on the Darjeeling but then I do prefer a nice strong tea πŸ™‚

From there it wasn’t long until I started getting various loose leaf teas, first from Twinnings and then I moved onto Whittards of Chelsea after discovering they had opened a store in the new shopping centre in town. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the difference in flavors between Twinnings and Whittards Earl Grey and now have a cup pretty much every day with breakfast, although I have now moved onto the Breakfast Earl Grey blend which is slightly stronger.

We have an entire shelf in one of the kitchen cupboards at home for tea now! Five or six different varieties of loose leaf, along with the wife’s favorite Raspberry Leaf tea bags! TheseΒ  along with various teapots to cater for anything from a single person to a group of 4 or 5 mean I can pretty much always get the right tea for the occasion, be it a quick Tetley tea bag for a quick fix, a nice brewed Earl Grey for when I want to take my time or a big pot of Ceylon for when me and the missus sit down for a game of Scrabble πŸ™‚

As with the coffee I’m still re-discovering the flavors of tea having managed to cut out the sugar a few months ago now, it’s great being able to taste the drink for what it is rather then the sweetness of the sugar/sweetners I used before!

Red Tape

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a post about useless bureaucracy, although I could easily fill a few paragraphs with such rants!

No instead this red tape is the lovely new Specialized S-Wrap that is adorning the new handlebars of my bike after the recent demise of the last pair earlier in the week (see Clunk Snap for details)

I eventually managed to get it all fitted yesterday after effectively quarantining myself and the bike in my parents conservatory whilst my better half kept the little ones out from under daddies feet πŸ™‚

I was a little apprehensive about applying the bar tape, having never done this before I had horrible visions of it all going terribly wrong and I’d end up with a horribly messy finish. Thankfully it all went quite well πŸ™‚ After re-reading the recommendations in my bike maintenance book I started at the bottom of the drops and started wrapping the tape around the bars, overlapping by about a third each time and even managed to get round the brake levers and start on the tops before I realized I hadn’t quite gone round the brakes properly and so left a gap!!

A second attempt and it was looking good and I eventually managed to trim it off and cover the end with some black tape so it looked nice and tidy πŸ™‚ In fact I’d say the fiddliest part was getting the plug in the end of the bar! I just couldn’t quite get all the tape to stay in before whacking the plug in so ended up poking it in and holding it in place with the plug until I had most of it in and then just pressing and hoping for the best πŸ™‚

The other side went just as well and as I stood back to admire my latest bit of fettling I couldn’t help but feel rather proud at what a nice job I’d done for my first attempt, heck it might not be “perfect” but it’s my bike and I’m happy with it!

Well here’s the finished article:

The tape is red, it’s just appearing pink due to the flash on my phone firing πŸ™‚ I haven’t had a chance to test ride with the new tape yet but initial inspection and tests of the various positions I’d ride in (namely on the hoods and on the drops) feel very cosy! During the week I couldn’t have had the hoods back on quite right as I’d been getting hand pains on the commute home so hopefully this should help and a comfy handlebar setup will be essential to the Magnificat!

Embankment Virgin

I finally popped my Embankment cherry proper last night. After contemplating it for a while I decided last night to give it a crack properly. My slap-dash research on BikeHike showed I’d be adding about 5 miles to my journey (or 50% which sounds much more impressive!) bring me to just shy of 15 miles.

It was a pretty straightforward affair as I joined Upper Thames Street by London Bridge and then proceeded to race westbound, following the road beside the Thames. Gave the legs a good stretch heading through Blackfriars Tunnel on what is still familiar ground as I’ve ridden this section before!

Eventually arrive at the lights by Vauxhall Bridge road and then have a gent on a SS bike whip past me on my right! Immediately the red mist descended and I stomped on the pedals to catch him….it was then I realized I committed the ultimate sin and jumped a red light 😦

The guy was cetainly quick and I was now entering un-known territory and the section lovingly referred to as Death Star Canyon,Β  a reference to the Death Star sequence in Star Wars where Luke is flying low through the narrow sections of the ship, as the buildings that suddenly appear around you have a similar effect. Not that I really noticed as my sights where firmly locked onto the red light of the bike ahead of me.

I managed to get past but no sooner was I battling away in clean air then 2 roadies come past me with the same ferocity that I normally pass others! Looks like I’ve found me next prey – I immediately join on the pack of their train we have chug along at a healthy pace towards the queuing cars past Battersea Bridge. What happened for the next 3/4 mile can only be described as some death-defying filtering as the 3 of us made rather rapid progress through the traffic, weaving in and out of cars and avoiding wing mirrors by mere cm’s! I got caught out a few times by poor filtering choices which made it all the more fun as I just needed to put in a bit more effort to catch them!

I spotted an opening in traffic as we passed Battersea Bridge and put the hammer down. I knew what was going to happen as for them, much like me, a cyclist passing is like a red rag to a bull! I held onto pole position until just before the road headed North. We all turned onto Kings Road and the action continued…..I did a frankly silly undertake on a Merc SL350 who was indicating left, to stay in touch and eventually parted ways as I turned down Wandsworth Bridge Road.

I managed to get my breath back on the brief rest period I had there before encountering not one but two other worthy foe on the way home. First was just off the south side of Wandsworth Bridge past the roundabout. A decent pace combined with a ramp meant my legs just didn’t want to play ball 😦

The second rider was a complete ejit. Rather quick with a good turn of speed but at each set of lights we’d arrive at he’d RLJ. I’d then catch him and we’d do the same at the next set. The biggest surprise tho was that he was headed along an identical route to me! My competitive side wasn’t going to let this one go and consequently it meant a very decent pace for the rest of the ride home, with me leading for about 2 miles at one point!

All in I can safely say that last nights commute was one of the best I’ve ever had, Embankment lived up to everything I’ve heard about it and the quality of riders was a gulf apart from what I’ve encountered on my normal routes – normally I might find 1 maybe 2 riders a month who’d require me to push myself like I did last night so to find 4 or 5 in one go was a welcome surprise!

I suspect come the summer months I’ll be a regular along there, even if it does mean arriving home 25 minutes later πŸ™‚

Clunk Snap

I think those 2 words pretty much sum up the odd experience I had whilst cycling in today, I was actually pretty glad it didn’t happen yesterday whilst I was climbing Succombs Hill or coming down Sanderstead Hill as the outcome could have been nasty!!

It all started off with a rather odd clunk noise as I pulled away from one set of lights in Camberwell. I didn’t think to much of it at first as the bike often makes weird noises, mainly due to my rather sparse maintenance routine! The only difference this time was that it came from near my LH brake lever and not the bottom bracket. At the next set of lights I’ve once again gone to pull off and this time there was a definite snap noise and my LH STI unit sunk a bit……..oh crap this isn’t good!!

I carefully pulled over to the side of the road and had a quick inspection. Pressing down on the LH side of the drops confirmed the only thing holding it onto the rest of my handlebar was the bar tape and brake cabling O_O

I figured I could keep riding as long as I kept my left hand on the tops and just used the right hand for braking/gear change duty. Thankuly I only had about 3 miles left, but in those 3 miles I did have to tackle the double roundabouts at Elephant and Castle. Those from London will know these roundabouts can be a bit risky when you have handlebars that are joined together and both brakes so today I took them extra carefully!

Luckily tho I was working with a very understanding colleague today who didnt mind me nipping out briefly to purchase a new set of bars and I managed to get them swapped over during my lunch break so I don’t have to get the train home tonight! All I need to do now is purchase some bar tape and learn how to apply that…..I can sense a few expletives being uttered!!!

Pics to follow once I get home and upload them, the busted bars look rather bad……

EDIT: Sorry it’s taken it while to get pics up – been rather lazy!

Structural integrity appears to have been effected somewhat……

Hmm, quite serious cracking there…..

The completed repair, bar tape has been purchased and is still waiting to be applied!

Cycling without a plan….

I want to go out for a ride tomorrow morning but can’t decide where to go! I’m not one for just pointing my bike down the road and seeing where I end up…..I need to ride with an aim, for a purpose. I know that just being out on my bike should be encouragement enough and I do love the feeling I get from just riding.

As I didn’t get out for a ride last weekend due to the snowy weather I really feel I should do something worth while tomorrow. Part of me is thinking of heading straight out of Croydon down the A23 and to keep on going until I hit Redhill, then find the A25 and turn east and follow that along until Westerham before heading back up Croydon Road and home via Fairleigh. It’ll certainly be a decent amount of miles but I’m not sure if I just want to ride for distance….

Yet my “I want to challenge myself” side is wanting a shorter but all the more challenging route as make an attempt at riding up Succombs Hill, I say attempt as this particular one is sign-posted rather ominously as the bottom as a 25%! I drove up it once on a reccy and remember thinking the start was steep but then turning a corner was like hitting a brick wall as the road headed skyward! Yet I am still filled with a sense of fear and excitement at the idea of conquering this! It’s relatively short and I’ve done other short and sharp climbs as well as a few more drawn out efforts before. One of the group of cyclist that I went to Wales with took one look at me in the pub the first time we meet and said “You’d be great up hills!” I think my combination of diminutive stature, light weight and fairly strong legs make for a rather promising rider. I’d never fancied myself climbing much but it wasn’t until we visited Wales and I got my first crack at what I consider a proper climb that I realized what I could do.

On this particular Welsh hill I was one of the last of our group to start the ascent as I waited back with some members of the group who’d had mechanical issues. Once we got started I asked if they’d be OK if I went off ahead and duly set off up the road. I remember riding straight past most of the rest of our group of riders plus some Welsh riders who’d come past us earlier. I put this down to being rather fresh due to the brief rest and my competitive side kicking in – all those riders on the road ahead where like a carrot to me and I was chasing them! As I got into the gap between our front 2 guys and those I’d passed my legs and lungs started protesting. Having ridden with these guys before I wasn’t *really* expecting to catch them but to keep them in sight was enough. As they turned each of the corners I lost sight of them until I also turned but eventually the road levelled out and they stopped to allow the group to re-form. I vaguely remember a comment along the lines of “See, I told you you’d make a good climber!” from the same mate who’d past the comment in the pub. I’d say since then I’ve certainly looked at my cycling differently and now try and hunt out hills to test myself πŸ™‚

I did try looking on http://www.maymyride.com for some inspiration but I’m not sure if I’d get away with spending the whole day riding to Brighton and back and the other routes would be a bit sketchy as I don’t have maps for those areas!

Regular Play Resumes

Finally this week has come to an end! Not only does that mean 2 days off work (but possibly only 1 off the bike!) it also brings to an end my stint at the closest site and so my shortest commute.

This in itself hasn’t been a huge PITA over the last 1 1/2 weeks due to the snow and sub-zero temperatures but now it’s getting a tiny bit warmer I’m REALLY looking forward to quadrupling my commute distance from Monday πŸ˜€

A new experience

I certainly had an rather fun commute this morning! Seems the snow overnight took everyone by surprise and what with the reported shortages of road grit this mornings ride in wasn’t the usual flying sprint that I usually muster!

I must say though that on the whole it was hugely enjoyable. The cars where slowed down somewhat and seemed to be in no apparent rush to try and kill me, which was nice as I was concerntrating on trying to find the best bit of road for traction with my skinny tyres πŸ˜€

Despite the appalling conditions I did spot a few numpties in their tin-boxes. Several drivers on phones (especially annoying considering they are doing this near a school with kids around!!!) and others who whilst they actually put their lights to make themselves (presumably) easier too see then neglect to actually clear the snow off them πŸ™‚

Once I got passed what I thought would be the hairer bits, namely the small railway bridge that was covered in slushy ice and the small block of tight turns in town I was greeted with pretty much clear (traffic-wise) slightly less slushy roads i the town centre which allowed me to make up *some* lost time.

Ride home was just like a wet day, I really do hope this weather sorts itself out sooner rather then later – snow is great for the kids but can really ruin the fun of a commute on a road bike!