World Naked Bike Ride 2017

I’m back! Hoping to blog a bit more on here and this recent ride seemed like a good excuse to jump back in so here goes 🙂 One small bit of housekeeping before we start, this post will contain some nudity – I know the title might be a bit of a hint but I thought I’d just mention there are a few pics from the ride so you may see some blurry boobs and willies!

I’ve never really been one for taking small bites when it comes to my cycling challenges.

I started off commuting about 20 miles a day and then signed myself up to the London Bikeathon some 11 years ago – a single 26 mile ride, not a massive jump in my usual daily distance but was one that would need completing in one lump.

After that I did the Capital to Coast a couple of times, riding from Esher to Hove, covering approximately 60 miles. The second year I did this I set myself the challenge to do this non-stop, which I almost did bar a brief hop-off for thunderous leg cramps after I dropped my chain on approach to final climb!

After that I think came a biggy, and the reason I started this blog all those years ago, the Magnificat – a double whammy as it would have been (and still is!) my longest single ride to date AND my first imperial century ride at a whooping 127.5 miles. I’d only ever done just under half that in a day before and in preparation for it I completed a solo 85 miler but wanted to save popping my 100 mile cherry for the actual event 🙂

For a few years after the Mag it went a bit quiet for long rides until I complete a 270 mile jaunt from Bolton to London, calling in at Barlborough and Letchworth on the way as we did a tour of my employer’s offices following being brought up by BT, over a long weekend.

This was what I’d consider my last big challenge until I decided it might be fun to attend the World Naked Bike Ride in London. To keep fully in the spirit of the ride I decided I’d take the “bare as you dare” dress code to it’s [almost] final end, adding only my cycling gloves to the recommended attire of shoes. This would make this ride my first time as a naturist (something I’d casually considered before, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin) and first time attending a WNBR. The date for this years ride was 10th June and on the 9th I checked the weather and it looked nigh on perfect. 23C and no rain!

One of the aims behind the ride, besides being an excuse to disrobe and go for a sightseeing tour around London, is (amongst other things) to protest our current car culture and to raise awareness around the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads. With these in mind I’d been mulling over slogans that could be painted onto my back, legs etc. on my commutes for the week or 2 before the event and had a few firm favourites.

When the 10th did roll round I woke up with a sense of excitement and trepidation. Today was the big day, what was it going to be like going naked in front of strangers – who are also going to be naked but also amongst the general clothed public! I pushed that aside and got on with preparations, ensuring I had all the bits I needed in bag and getting SWMBO to assist with sloganing up my back and legs. Went with a snappy “Natures own hi-viz” on upper back, “Does my bum look good? #gocycling” above bum, “Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Cyclist” on my right thigh and “I hate tanlines” on my left with a bonus “MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra for those unfamiliar with the oft used term!) free zone” under left arm.

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The plan for the day was to ride to the West Norwood start point, ride up to the main event in Central London, complete the course then come back. There would be body painters there so I was expecting to see some naked people but wasn’t aware until the morning before that the ride from there to Central London is under the same “bare as you dare” dress code. Arriving there around 2 PM and making our way into the backyard, having spotted a naked guy and lots of bikes up the alley I was met by a lot of skin and feeling rather overdressed in my shorts and vest top! Our host greeted us and explained where the toilet was located and about body painters. I took off my top almost immediately, had a bit of a look around at the body painters work and some other riders painting each other before finding the loo. After a bit of “nervous bladder” I thought before rejoining the main group there is no time like the present so just took off my shorts and returned to the backyard and it just felt (to nick a quote from the great Stewie Griffin!) “right”. I think having everyone else there nude helped in that I didn’t feel out of place and at that point I’d cleared the initial hurdle – disrobing for the first time. I got Isaac to assist with repainting some of my slogans as they’d rubbed off on my shorts and t-shirt on way up and within 25mins or so the call went out to prepare to leave.

 

**GULP**

We all filed out and collected our bikes, ready to take the next big leap (for me anyway as a first timer!) of getting out onto the public roads proper. West Norwood was about to get an eyeful of about 30 cyclists, with very few of us being able to be described as “lycra louts” ;P

As we joined the main road the theme was set for the remainder of the day, shocked drivers and pedestrians and mobile phones being pointed at us, god knows how many people have  a brief fuzzy video of my arse on their phone around London that evening! We stopped at the lights further ahead down the road with a generally warm reception bar one lady in a car who drove past yelling “put some clothes on! You’re disgusting”.
“Get a bike and come have some fun!” I yelled back, which I assume she heard as she flipped a 2 finger salute out the window. Result! At this point I just ignored the fact I was riding around in just shoes and gloves, after all I’m in a reasonably sized group of similarly undressed riders and for the whole of our route we certainly drew attention. Brixton High St was possibly the busiest outward bound section as people literally crowded out of shops or to the windows to catch of glimpse of “those crazy naked cyclists” – it’s an odd feeling knowing you are part of the group that brought a ray of WTF sunshine into so many Londoners day!

 

As the ride progressed we started picking up roads I normally use for my commute, albeit it at about ⅓ the speed I usually ride them at with about 95% less on! We stopped at the north end of Vauxhall Bridge to wait for the group headed in from Kew/Clapham Junction to join us and then continued on along Millbank. I joked “I’d be tempted to go for a Strava KOM considering the marginal weightsaving of being naked!” and did find myself pushing on a bit as 2 non-WNBR riders overtook me. I was at the head of group and I picked up the pace a little before being called back by ride leader!

 

Our route for the day saw us heading along Millbank, hanging a right over Lambeth Bridge and then headed round to Waterloo. From there we went round Aldwych and past the Royal Courts of Justice before heading towards Lincolns Inn Fields for a break. Here we got some freebie Naked (great product placement!) yoghurts and a chance to stretch, have a chat with our fellow riders, use loos, admire each other’s body decorations/slogans and even a bit of a sing and dance thanks to some bikes towing PA systems! About 30 minutes later we set off again, headed for Covent Garden and possibly the most electrifying atmosphere as the roads were pretty much lined with tourists and workers cheering us all on, riders blowing whistles and horns, lots of waving and the continued tunes being blasted out. It was just epic. We rode over Trafalgar Sq and down The Mall before ending up outside Buckingham Palace – definitely a bucket list item!

 

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Naked at Buckingham Palace, not something I ever expected to blog about!

 


This was the split point of the ride, where those headed back to Clapham Junction and West Norwood would go one way and those wanting to finish carried on along the cycle path to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. Our route back saw us also visit Knightsbridge before heading down to Sloane Sq. There is something rather poetic about heading down a road lined with designer clothes shops whilst naked that puts a large grin on my face “You’ve not got any clothes on!” commented one bystander “Of course not! I can’t afford the prices down here!!” We then headed along King Street in Chelsea before crossing Albert Bridge and stopping at Clapham Junction to part with some of the group.

The return leg to West Norwood saw us skirting round Clapham Common, a brief bit of my usual commute stomping ground along CS7 and then peeling off towards Brixton again and then over to West Norwood where the group had a clothes optional BBQ to look forward too. I didn’t stay for this, with 23 miles done that day with the last 20 done naked, myself and Isaac were just about ready to do the final 3 miles of so home!

 

So now having had time to reflect it has been an amazing day. I’d say about 98% of the reception we had was positive. Nearly every pub we passed resulted in cheers and clapping, similar with the crowds sitting on the open green spaces we passed. The police could’ve made an absolute killing booking drivers for using their phones whilst at the wheel and I’ll admit the group *did* hold up traffic on some roads and to ensure we all stayed together and ignored quite a few red lights! That last one did sound like material for a meme “I don’t always jump red lights, but when I do I’m naked!”

 

That being said we did get some negative reactions. People calling us filthy or disgusting, suggesting we should be ashamed of ourselves or to cover up as there are children around. I even think I heard one bloke call us “faggots” but we’d moved on before I could challenge him. Most of these comments I believe reflect on the upbringing of the person making them. Obviously being a participant in a ride like this I clearly have different views around the human body to these people and having engaged with some friends on Facebook via my posts about this event I can see the reasons behind this are many and varied and a little beyond this post, even with the WNBR theme of “accepting the human body” – what better way to teach people about the problems of body shaming and the seemingly unattainable goal to be “perfect” then by presenting them with a broad cross section of society stripped of all the usual social trappings of clothing? I assure you not every rider who attended was what would be considered “traditionally attractive” but that didn’t stop them coming out, displaying those imperfections and saying “Yeah, So what?”

 

As a little bonus the wife had a rather nice laugh the following day 🙂 I’d made a rookie WNBR error and not put on suncream ALL OVER and hadn’t realized the body paint isn’t tan through so the following day I was left with this rather amusing sunburn!_20170611_105839.jpg

 

The Big Ride – A Big Eye-Openner

Last Saturday myself and my eldest daughter, 11,  joined another 10,000 cyclists in London for a ride Hyde Park to Blackfriars Bridge to show our support for the LCC’s Go Dutch campaign – she even signed the petition at the start!

As a regular commuter battling through London’s often hostile roads and junctions has become second nature. I’ve adapted my riding style to “cope” with mixing with multiple lanes of fast moving traffic. The exact sort of traffic that had me rather worried about taking Iz along with me for the feeder ride. Getting to the start would have been fairly simple if I’d been on my own as I could use my normal routes but when you have an in-experienced younger rider with you suddenly these busy roads don’t seem like such a great idea! Luckily the meet-up point for our feeder ride (supported by the Lambeth CC) wasn’t too far away and I could make use of a few sections of LCN5 to avoid some of the busier sections. I think the short stretches I used go to show we still have a long way to go with providing safe and convenient cycle provisions for those who want to cycle around. Whilst our LCN route followed some backroads it also passed through a small segment of shared footpath that would be in-accessible if I was using anything asides from a standard bike. The cycle path is “blocked” at either end by a chicane formed by 2 metal barriers, using a bike with trailer I’d probably just make it through by dismounting completely and might just be able to pass the bike & trailer underneath as the bars are rather high but it’s hardly ideal and certainly not convenient. I may have some helmet cam footage of this, which I will add later if I do.

Once we meet up with the initial group we where lead on nice quiet backstreets at a rather different pace to what I’m typically used to travelling at. This had the effect of reminding me that I don’t remain as warm when I’m not riding at my usual speed! I started wishing I’d brought a warmer coat and gloves along but did realize it also goes to show that it’s possible to get around without going like a bat out of hell and that you can actually cycle at a good pace without getting sweaty! I think even at this pace we where still going faster then the average speed for motorised traffic during the rush hour 😉

Our route into town saw us going via Brixton Town Hall, Clapham Common and finally Battersea Park as we collected more riders. From out initial group of 10 or so I think we where about 50-60 strong by the time we left Battersea Park, it really was a great experience to be part of such a large cycling train. Once we left Battersea Park we headed over the Thames via the newly re-furbished Battersea Bridge, through Chelsea and then along Exhibition Road before crossing into Hyde Park to meet the rest of the riders and wait for the start of the ride. Much like my route that I used to get to the feeder meet-up point the route into town used a selection of LCN routes, some main roads and quiet backroads. This was rather interesting for me as my normal cycling routes follow along pretty much the same routes I’d drive along, mixing with the high volumes of often fast moving traffic.

My typical route into London normally follows CSH7, which runs from Colliers Wood to Southwark Bridge (I often turn off at Stockwell but do occasionally follow until SB). This should have been “ideal” for getting us most of the way there but the truth of the matter is this Cycle “Super”highway isn’t somewhere I’d consider taking my children. It’s little more then blue paint at the side of a rather busy road. Some sections are in bus lanes which provide a certain level of protection (during their hours of operation) however other sections are on the side of 2 LANES of general motor traffic with nothing to segregate/protect the rider then a bit of white paint! So much for them being part of a “cycling revolution”. We need infrastructure that feels safe for the 98% of people that don’t already cycle not some markings on the road to draw in the 2% that already do. I suspect much of the vaunted success of this pilot CSH route, which in all honesty couldn’t have failed given it’s on a decent east/west corridor, is from riders being drawn in from nearly parallel routes – I used to use the A23 but switched to the A24 as the extra distance was negligible and it’s a bit more sociable as I have on occasions bumped into a few friend along it or even meet new ones as people recognize me from Youtube 🙂

The day itself went rather well IMHO. Despite the rather damp weather the turnout was fantastic with all manner of bikes and riders coming along, of all different ages. From the “regular” London riders like myself on their commute machine to families and parents on recumbents and cargo bikes with various children seats and/or trailers attached it was truly a wonderful experience. I think the fact that I rarely see bikes that fall into the latter category in London UNLESS there are closed roads (the only other time you will typically see them is on the Skyride) is rather telling in just how much London is failing those who would like to cycle but currently don’t as it’s just so good damn unpleasant. The view down Piccadilly, which I can only describe as “bikes as far as the eye can see”, was truly inspiring and much nicer then the usual car park. I’d love to see a comparison of how much space that many riders would take up if in cars (single occupancy of course ;-)) It was rather weird riding the wrong way down Regent Street and I even had a brief chat with some tourists at Trafalgar Sq who asked what all the cyclists where protesting about 🙂 From there we had a lovely ride down Whitehall, where I showed Iz what it really meant to “make a break off the front” after her attempt to outrun me! We then passed Big Ben and head towards Blackfriars whilst overlooking the Thames and the Southbank opposite us.

Unfortunately by the time we got there hunger pangs had got the best of my ride buddy and we bailed onto the train to go back to one of our local train stations, seems 18 miles is just about as much as her legs can manage! I was incredibly proud of her and she was equally excited that she’d not only managed to ride all the way to London but had seen so many sights, including cool places like the Science Museum! We refuelled on the train before setting off the for short ride from the station to our house. This was also rather interesting as I found some rather nice examples of “filtered permeability” right on my doorstep! Ironically on roads I normally miss due to using the busier main roads 🙂 I will have to try and use them on the way home one evening so I can add some video of it. In the meantime some of it can be seen here:

What we have here is 2 linked one-way streets 🙂 A route that would be impossible in a car is made practical and usable on a bike. As these are residential roads they are much calmer and so much nicer to ride on. We have another here:

Again a dead-end for cars is turned into a usable route for cyclists. These made it a heck of a lot easier to explain the concept to her when we could actually see and use it in real life, restricting the flow of motor traffic to only those that NEED to use it, instead of providing rat-runs, does wonders for improving the area 😀 It’s something I’d like to see implemented more often as it really did “feel” safe riding along these roads when compared to the main roads that we used at other times.

For me the day showed me a whole other side of cycling. From the slow moving queue of cars heading the opposite way round Hyde Park as hundreds of riders passed them in the opposite direction and the queues elsewhere just go to show that despite their perceived speed private motor vehicles just aren’t practical for some journeys in major cities. Given that an 11 year old managed 18 miles why can’t some adults leave their cars at home for short (<5 mile) journeys? At the moment I suspect part of that answer is largely to do with the perceived danger of cycling, hence steps need to be taken to ensure people can make safe and convenient trips by bicycle in the same way they can do in their car. The Dutch seem to have managed it, however it took them 40 years to get to where they are today. My hope is that this *might* be the start of our proper cycling revolution, we just need some political leaders with the balls to stand up to the motoring lobby. For far too long the roads have been built with their convenience in mind, with cycle lanes and the various little bits of infrastructure we do get often implemented poorly and then used as an excuse to moan about spending when, surprise surprise, cyclists don’t use it as frankly it puts us in MORE danger! Weird when you consider the many millions billions of pounds that are spent on bypasses and motorway widening schemes (not to mention the forced eviction and compulsory purchases of people’s homes and businesses if they are in the proposed path of said bypass…) which serve little more then to offer a temporary reduction in traffic levels until they again increase to fill the newly available space as more people choose to drive as it’s so easy. What we need is some spending to actually remove people from their cars onto more space efficient modes of transport. This would have the effect of reducing overall journey times for everyone else and making it easier for those who truly have no alternative to motorised transport to get around.

This may make me sound anti-car but I prefer to think of it as pro-choice. Cars are great if you need to cover long distances, transport many people at once (such as  6 children!) or need to carry large loads and I don’t want to deny people using them for this. However we need to ask WHY single people still see the need to use a car for the 1-2 mile journey to their local shops to get some milk and sugar? Cycling should be seen as a potential quicker and easier replacement for walking, however until it is perceived as being as safe and easy as driving we still have work to do. It’s going to be difficult but it will be worth it.

Thought I’d finish off with some shots from the ride 🙂

Iz gets her bike decorated before we set off 🙂

The view down Park Lane as we waited to start

Another great response

Now you’d have thought with all the recent reporting on cycle safety and awareness etc. that some people may be a little more careful when out on the roads or at least interested when complaints are made regarding bad driving.

Seems the message didn’t quite sink in with City Electrical Factor‘s who aren’t at all interested in following up my complaint regarding this piece of driving I recorded on the 27th February on my commute home

I’d say it’s fairly clear, I’m on a green at a crossroad, their van emerges from the right (narrowly missing the people coming the other way) and carries on up the road. If watched in slow motion I do a quick glance as I ride past the lights and you can see they are red!

The response I got from them having contacted them to notify them of this?

good morning sir

if you believe my driver and have proof that he broke the law then please refer your evidence to the police.

regards

<name removed>

Well if you insist 🙂 Have now reported via Roadsafe

Why do we tolerate it?

The Independant today started a campaign entitled “Save our cyclists”. On the front cover they had 20 pictures. Those 20 people are no longer alive as they have been killed over the last 18 months whilst on their bikes. Yet this seems to be “accepted”. After all they chose to cycle around and everyone knows how dangerous that is…..

Whilst there are now regulations coming into force that mean that lorries will be required to have additional mirrors and sensors to detect cyclists who venture into their blindspots, I can’t help but think if those 20 people had been in cars and died as a result of collisions with lorries the laws would have been changed in a matter of months……as it stands the current EU safety legislation won’t come into force until 2013. Better late then never I guess except that is still going to be a bit too late for the next cyclist that finds themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time between now and then.

Reading through their article I was gobsmacked to read that a bus driver was cleared of killing a cyclist through dangerous driving as according to “expert” evidence her view could have been obscured by cab fittings? Surely this must be a joke?? Aren’t these people professional drivers? They are entrusted with very large and heavy vehicles that operate on both extremely busy roads and residential streets. They are trusted to carry members of the public, yet I have encountered a few who seem to put ensuring their bus is running on time ahead of the safety of other road users. Overtaking cyclists just so they can pull into a bus stop or plain ignoring pedestrians on zebra crossings. This behavior isn’t limited to bus drivers though, other road users also show a similar dis-regard for the safety of those of us on two wheels.

But why do they do it? Pent up frustration? Maybe they think it’s funny to terrify people? Maybe they are just a bully (it’s amazing how much confidence 1 1/2 tons of metal cage can give someone) or it could just be through ignorance. Most will probably tell you that cyclist shouldn’t be on the roads. Understandable really as cars where clearly around a long time before bikes……and it’s not like us free-loading cyclist pay anything towards the upkeep of the roads that those cars, vans and HGV’s are constantly pounding. I mean I’m sure I cause an awful lot of wear, with a fully loaded bag I reckon me, my bag and bike must easily weigh about 85kg 🙂

But then all cyclists are lawless idiots aren’t we so surely we deserve the abuse? Clearly I must be seeing things when I pull up at a set of lights in London and have 10-15 other riders around me and 5-10 riders carry on through the red light. I personally find it a bit difficult to judge the true amount of red light jumping cyclists as I often find I see the same ones at each set of lights (get the hint here RLJer’s IT ISN’T QUICKER…..). It may also surprise some other road users and pedestrians that those of us that do stop for red lights and do our best to obey the traffic laws tend to get quite annoyed by the riders who don’t follow the rules. Annoyingly getting some of them to change their ways is like trying to get blood from a stone. For me the worst part is that their bad actions tend to mean the rest of us get tarred with the same brush. Just the other day I was heading down Charring Cross Road when a older lady was crossing on a zebra with her mother (I think!), I had seen them over the cars so started to slow down to let them finish crossing. Now I know this could be a natural reaction from the pair but it genuinely looked like they where expecting me to race on past them assuming I hadn’t seen them or I’m just plain ignoring them. After all cyclist don’t pay attention to the laws of the road – shouldn’t I have just raced between the two of them? Possibly scattered the pair of them like skittles for good effect? No. I’m a road user, therefore I play by the same rules as any other road user. The fact that I’m on two wheels and not four and that I’m powered by my legs rather then petrol doesn’t mean I’m any different. Yes I can filter into some smaller gaps and don’t get held up that often but I’ll still stop for pedestrians and red lights, after all I’ve got plenty of time to spare 🙂

So why can’t we all just get along? I mean I’m pretty sure no one is out in a car or on a bus during the rush hour for fun (unlike me on my bike :-)). We are all just trying to get somewhere so why can’t we just show each other some respect? All I ask for is a bit of space. If that means I delay you taking a corner by a few seconds I am really sorry. Can’t wait a few more seconds to join the back of the next traffic jam? Ah diddums, just drive patiently along behind me – I can do a reasonable speed if given some room and once we get to the back of the queue I’ll disappear up the road and you can sit there and stare at the vehicle in front. All the while thinking “Bloody cyclists holding me up”…….

Cycling to work to avoid stress

I read this lovely article from the Daily Mail site yesterday and at first I thought it was complete rubbish (this is the Daily Mail after all….) but then after looking at the suggestions from the research I’m not so sure it all ties up.

Yes I suppose by riding to work I’m putting myself into a “dangerous” situation, exposing myself to the various pollutants in the air etc. but I’m sure this isn’t just a blanket effect for everyone who cycles, after all I’m getting a decent work out each day so surely this must offset some of the risk?

Also the perception of danger varies from person to person. I don’t have any issues dealing with the busy London roads, it’s almost become second nature now! If anything I feel more stressed when I’m using PT as there are timetables to follow, interchanges to make between trains and the undergroud and if any one of those is missed then it usually entails a fair bit of waiting around and wasting time. I quite like using my time productively so a 15 minute wait for the next train to me is viewed as roughly 3 miles cycling to my destination 🙂

There are also other nice side effects of exercise such as actually acting as a de-stresser and I honestly couldn’t believe how much better I felt yesterday after my ride, my first day back on the bike since rather stupidly shutting my fingers in the door of the family car on Valentines Day. Since then I’ve been fairly unbearable and in a foul mood, the brunt of which my wife and children have had to deal with. If I don’t get a chance to blow off that excess energy it just build up to the point where I become rather short tempered. This was compounded by the fact that I had to use public transport to get around for work and the fact that the injury that meant I was off the bike was entirely my own stupid fault!

I can’t imagine the strain of all that stress was good for me and even I could tell I was much calmer having got in from the ride home last night! Incidentally last night was the first time since last summer/early autumn that I’ve been able to ride in a short sleeved top and it felt great, nothing beats the sensation of wind on bare skin and I was absolutely belting around in London before hitting the hills in Crystal Palace which I positively glided up with none of my usual asthmatic warthog impressions 🙂

Not just a cyclist

I’m not just a cyclist.

I’m the computer guy. The one everyone comes to with their tales of woe about this not working and the weird error messages they get. It’s running slow. It’s not running at all. No problem, I’ll come round and have a look, I enjoy helping people and the occasional chance to learn something new each time always has me hunting out the more mundane problems.

I’m a brother. To just a single person, but I can blame my parents for that 🙂 We may have had our differences growing up but I think we are past that all now. We’ve both grown up and are doing are own things now. He does some super-complicated physics stuff which makes my brain hurt just trying to understand the title on his papers……

I’m a son. I had it fairly good growing up. I was very lucky in this respect and it’s a point I don’t think I’ll fully appreciate for a good while yet.

I’m a husband. I started fairly early on that one by most peoples standards. I’ll have been a husband for 10 years come end of May this year. That’s almost just over 1/3 of my life! I may not be a brilliant husband but I like to think of it as a learning experience. I apparently have a lot to learn but do have a lifetime to do so 🙂

I’m a father. To 6 wonderful children, I’m so proud of them! Despite the constant struggle with them to tidy their room, put things away, going to bed in the evening and waking up in the morning I wouldn’t swap them for anything and can’t imagine my life without them. It only takes one smile from them and suddenly everything in the world seems right.

I’m a helmet cam user. This is a fairly recent development as I only got the camera last Christmas. I’ve found it rather beneficial as not only can I record both the good and bad behaviour of other road users I can also capture my own. I don’t sit down and review the whole of every ride but I can easily go back to certain key situations to see if there was anything I think I could have done better. They say you have perfect vision in hindsight and it’s even better when that vision in presented in 720p on a 40″ screen 🙂 I’ve contributed clips to a friends video series entitled Silly Cyclists. I’ve even had a comment left on my Youtube channel thanking me for my contributions which was remarkably satisfying to read 🙂

I’m a commuter. Unfortunately I can’t send the kids out to work yet so I have to go. As I don’t (often) work from home I need to get from my house to place of work. I sometimes use the a bus and sometimes use a train. But most of the time I’ll get there under my own steam (well actually sweat….) which brings me to my next point.

I’m a cyclist. This is probably fairly obvious to those who have read this my previously (yes both of you ;-)) and to be fair the URL is a bit of a giveaway. Combine this with the previous point above and this is where I get to do most of my riding. This however seems to annoy some people as they routinely place me in danger for apparently no reason. Since getting my camera I’ve been highlighting these people on Youtube and there is one common theme, quite a few of the incidents I’ve recorded could have been avoided had the driver been a little more patient.

I’m sure my friends, family and employer would be hugely overwhelmed that I won’t be around to sort out their computer issues all because you couldn’t wait a couple of seconds to overtake me safely instead of speeding past mere inches from my handlebars.

My brother is very intelligent, I’m sure he’ll understand that you had something really important to do. So important that you feel it necessary to race into a disappearing gap between me and a traffic island, after all the cyclist will bounce off your car.

Despite what she says sometimes I’m fairly sure my wife would prefer if I came home every night. I appreciate following a cyclist at 20mph when you could be doing 30mph may waste a few precious seconds, but is 5 seconds worth more then my life?

I know we all have a job to do and we like to do that to the best of our ability. I like to teach my kids to work hard so I hope they’ll understand when daddy comes home injured because some taxi driver is so intent on getting his fare around quickly he completely overlooks me riding next to him and cuts me up. I should consider myself lucky though, at least he was one of the ones that knows what his indicators are for…

Thankfully so far the only accident I have caught on camera is due to my own stupidity and I got away with it relatively un-scathed. I’m just hoping these are the only type I capture.

All I’m asking is for drivers to see me as more then just another cyclist. I could be your IT technician. I could be your brother. I could be your father. I could be your husband. Just because I choose a different way to get around please respect my decision. After all if I’m on my bike it’s one more seat on the train or one car less on the road.

New gadgets

Well I’ve now taken the plunge and become a fully fledged helmet cam cyclist! The helmet mount for the Contour arrived last Wednesday and I’ve started videoing my rides 🙂

It’s rather interesting having a camera that records your every action. Some people seem to be under the impression that helmet cam riders get into more conflicts or seek out chances to put themselves in danger. I actually think it’s quite the opposite. Since getting my camera I’m thinking more about my actions, it’s all well and good saying or even thinking I’m a good cyclist but I now can back that up or disprove it with the video.

My wife has so far refused to watch any of my recordings. I think we sat down and watched some parts of the very first recordings I did with the Contour but this was mainly out of her interest in wanting to see the quality of the captured footage. She has heard and read the tales of my exploits in The Game and knows I can be a little bit of a daredevil! This isn’t helped by the wide angle of the camera making some of the gaps I filter into appear a lot narrower then they actually are in real life, again this is great for reflecting on your riding as I have thought a few times “Bloody hell that was tight!”.

As has now become common with helmet cam wearing cyclists I want to share both the good and the bad things that I capture whilst out riding. So far I’ve posted one instance of bad driving and contributed some footage towards another bloggers video as we both captured the same incident after bumping into each other whilst commuting to London last Friday. I’m sure as I complete more rides with the camera I’ll build up a good collection of (hopefully) both the good and bad. Also since appearing on Gaz’s video I’ve had a flood of views and news subscribers (hello if your reading this!) so I now feel even more obliged to upload some quality content 🙂

I can’t say that since starting to use the camera I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of good and bad driving I’ve noticed, yes I may be more aware of when it happens as I can now make a mental note to find and review it later in the day. In any case feel free to checkout my Youtube channel, there isn’t much on there yet but I still have potentially another couple of small incidents I can add once I pull out the video from last week, nothing too serious though just a red light jumping motorbike and some ninja cyclsts 😉

The attentive among you may also be wondering what the second gadget was? Well spotted! This one is yet another camera, a Muvi-clone that I’m hoping to get properly mounted to the rear of the bike. I’m currently on the 2nd iteration of the mount but it’s not too stable and the captured video is useless unless I’m sat at lights! I have plans to make a sturdier mount but other little projects around the house keep getting in the way so for the time being it’s only forward facing footage!

New Year

So here we are, almost a year after I setup this blog to track my efforts to complete a century ride all I have to show is less then a dozen posts!

I don’t think however I can quite measure 2010 in blog posts though as not only did I successfully complete the original goal of completing the Magnificat I had some fairly significant non-cycling related things happen. For starters we had our 6th child this year!! In what I can only really describe as one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed my wonderful wife birthed her in a birth pool in the living room without any help!

It was recorded as a delivery before arrival as she arrived before any medical help, it all happened so quickly that I don’t honestly think we could have gotten anyone in quick enough to help but that’s a whole other post!

On another family related note my eldest turned 10, I now feel rather old knowing that I have a child who is a decade old! It’s been a very exciting decade so I can’t really complain 🙂

So where does this leave me for 2011? Well one thing that doing the Magnificat showed me last year, asides from the fact that I can ride my bike effectively from London to Bristol in a single day, is that I rather enjoyed the “working towards a goal” part. As the previous posts will testify I felt a great sense of achievement as I started pushing my previous personal bests on the fortnightly Sunday rides I was completing. It didn’t matter if it was lapping Richmond Park or the 80 mile jaunt that I went on and somehow managed to a) miss Box Hill and b) not get lost in doing so!

So for this year I’ve set myself a rather different target, instead of riding more miles I want to ride on fewer wheels! Now I don’t mean something “simple” like learning how to pop a wheelie I mean a proper single wheeled ride – a unicycle! This was partly prompted by a local LBS having a sale on and finding I could purchase one for 40 notes!

That was the only colour they had left!

As the caption says that was the literally the last one they had left and I wasn’t really ready to pay half that again just to get it in chrome. Besides I have 5 girls and at least 4 of them seem rather interested in learning how to ride, hence returning to the shop the following day to get a 16″ model! Unfortunately I’ve had to put my practising on hold for the minute as I’ve discovered it has a leaky valve. Just waiting for the local Halfords to open so I can pop down for a new inner tube! Some quick googling has provided me with some helpful hints and those who follow me on Twitter will be painfully aware I found a “few” unicycle videos on Youtube 🙂

I was also rather fortunate that for Christmas Santa brought me some more bike tech! I’ll probably do a blog post for this itself put in summary I’m now the increasing collection of cyclist who record their journeys as I’m now the proud owner of a ContourHD and a MiniDV Muvi-clone camera. I’m still waiting on the helmet mount for the Countour but do have some footage from the MiniDV but will save that for it’s own post.

So it looks like 2011 is going to be a fun one for me, must be at least 20-25 years since I first learnt to ride a bike and I decide to go and try and learn again!

 

Magnificat – The (late) ride report

Having reminded myself where I finished last time I’m ready to recount the rest of the ride!

As we set off in our largish group of 50 or so riders it was amazing. We had a presence large enough to command control of the road and had officials waving us across the roundabout on the main road! It was probably the closest I’ll get to how the riders on Le Tour feel without doing the Etape Calendonia or the actual Etape (one day!)

The pace was certainly higher then I anticipated but riding in a large group meant it was a bit easier then going at it solo, however after a few miles we decided the pace was probably a little to hot for little group of 3 and let the fast group go, along with our 2 other friends who where in training for much tougher rides 🙂 We soon formed out own mini pelaton and made good progress to the first first feed station at around 38 miles. Before that however we had the “Scorpion Tail” triple whammy combo of hills! I believe this was a 20% climb, followed by a 14% then a 10% which resulted in us getting up and over the highest point in south England. As usual the reward for a few minutes climbing was stunning views across a beautiful landscape – something you’d easily miss when on 4 wheels in a metal box but is quite easy to take in at a leisurely 8-10mph whilst trying your best to control your breathing 🙂 And of course what goes up must come down, much faster! Descents are probably an even nicer reward then the views but one I was wary of to start with as I wasn’t to confident of my descending skills. As I got more comfortable I was using the brakes less and the speeds starting picking up, such huge fun!

We made it to the feed station in good shape, despite me managing to drop my chain on the roller coaster-esque approach as we went up and down a rather fun stretch of rolling “bumps”, I managed to knock it off on a down section so coasted in my most aero position in an effort to get as high up the next hill as possible before hopping off to put the chain back on. I said to my mates to carry on as I was still feeling fresh I thought that making up a 45 second gap could be fun. I just missed a extremely fast moving Torq train of riders but got on the back of another group of riders and was soon tooling along at a good rate of knots again and once we hit a downhill I opened the taps and tried to chase down the Torq train. At that point I spotted my mates waiting so eased off a bit and we re-grouped and actually caught up with our original group – no guessing which riders did all the work for them eh?

After re-filling water bottles and stuffing some banana and lovely sugary sponge cake down my throat we set off again however we had to stop after a few miles as Rob was cramping up. He’d fallen off the back after some of the rolling sections so we pulled over to wait for him. Plenty of fluids, an energy gel, pain killers and stretching meant Rob was ready to go after about 10 minutes. I took the chance to get rid of my arm and knee warmers which certainly weren’t needed now as the ever improving weather had got to a pretty much perfect cycling temperature!

After setting off I took the lead, as I was probably the freshest of our trio and we pressed on towards a “drag climb”. What this actually turned out to be was a climb with a nice gentle gradient that went on for a couple of miles. As I was going up I kept checking behind me and seeing a person in blue gear and thought nothing off it. I thought Rob had gone off the back again and Stephen was behind me but it wasn’t until I got to the flat section that I realized the person in blue behind me didn’t have a familiar face! I couldn’t see Stephen back down the road so carried on riding.

That was around 55-60 miles and from then I pretty much spent the rest of the ride counting down miles to rest stops on my computer and hopping between little groups of riders. I’d go from riding solo and seeing a rider on the road ahead and catching them. If it was a couple of people or the terrain starting heading up or down we might have ridden together for a while but eventually I’d get off the front and lose them again and the process would repeat again. I had a few riders who where a bit more persistant and took a good few miles to shake off! One who springs to mind was an older chap aboard also aboard a Giant bike, although I think his was a TCR (the carbon version of mine!) Rather skinny looking legs but he certainly could climb and had a decent turn of speed on the flat! I managed to eventually shake him on a long straight followed by a downhill section!

My next “goal” was the final control at 81 miles, which would not only be my final chance to get food on-board (or so I thought) but signify a point which every mile beyond it was pushing me into a new personal best. I set off from that control thinking “well lets see how you cope with this!” and again starting clock watching on the computer as I counted down towards my next goal – 19 miles down the route when I crack the century! As the old saying goes a watched pot never boils and I found glancing at the computer every 5 minutes didn’t make the miles disappear any faster, if anything they seemed to drag more 😀

After a few more fun downhills the computer started getting closer to the magical triple digit distance……it was an incredible feeling to see it tick over from 99.9 to 100.0 and I let out a rather loud “yes!” as I celebrated my little victory of covering 100 miles using nothing but my bike – an immensely satisfying feeling, now I just had to finish and with about 80% of the ride behind me I was feeling pretty good now.

After that it was just a case of grinding out the miles, with that niggling voice in the back of my head reminding me of the warning in the route description. Warning of The Wall that is Ashford Hill and appears at the 110 mile mark. A 10% hill thrown in by the sadistic route planners to really test our mettle! As we approached on the main road a sign on the right announced the arrival of “Ashford Hill”. It started off with a couple of gentler, short and sharp climbs which saw me searching for the granny gear for the first time that day. That however wasn’t the 10% “wall” that didn’t arrive until we took a left and saw the signs warning us as the road rose up in front of us and wound through the trees. It was a nice little climb. Not overly long and thanks to the low gearing and my knowing not to race up it I made it up in fairly good shape.

One more water and basic feed station before the dash for the finish allowed me to refill my bottle and get a few pieces of banana down me. The road around the edge of the town (can’t remember the name now) that they chose for the final stretch was very nice, not as exposed to the wind as one previous section of the route which practically saw us riding along the edge of a ridge, with winds gusting across us and over the fields to our right. It was a great feeling to see the 12% signs for the final glide descent to the finish line. Soon I was on roads that I recognized which could only mean that the racecourse was nearby!

I rode back into the finish with an immense feeling of satisfaction, I’d done it! My first proper sportive and after jumping in at the very deep end I’d popped up and pulled myself out of the water at the shallow end. I done it – 127 miles under my own steam on my bike!!

Of course having completed this I now need a bigger challenge! Without heading out to Europe and taking on a few Cols I think this leaves me with a few options: The Dragon Ride – certainly do-able as it’s only in Wales, maybe one for next year. After that I think I’ll need to head up North and tackle some “proper” hills as I have developed a rather (un)healthy fascination with seeing what I can get up on my bike, the Lake and Peak District look to have some rather interesting roads…….

A Good Week

Sometimes everything just seems to click and I think I’m having one of those weeks!

It all really started last Friday when I got a surprise phone call from the mobile operator (Virgin Media) to see how I was doing with my current phone/price plan. As it happens I was having a few issues – mainly that the phone I got from them had started playing around at about 13 month old 😦 I consequently was using an older handset to tide me over until I was due my upgrade.

Turns out they could do me a “special” deal but as it transpired the phone I wanted to out of stock – silly me wanting the current popular phone! No fear tho stocks are expected back Monday and a callback was agreed.

Come Sunday and I’d decided that as a final “big ride” before the Main Event the following Sunday I’d try and complete one of my personal goals – a ride to a office I work at in Woking, the only office that I haven’t ridden to on during my normal commutes! I had a fairly straightforward route planned that basically got me to my current furthest out cycle-commute worksite in Thames Ditton and then carried on down that main road until it finished at which point I turned right onto another road that I was familiar with from my previous job-role as a field engineer! This again was a nice straight along route that meet up with my usual drive-in route for the office.

My estimations where 26ish miles which I reckoned I’d knock out in about 1 1/2 hours. I counted off the “landmarks” as I headed out. First my usual ones then I got onto the new roads. The new roads actually turned out to be great fun and I wish I had roads like that on my commute more regularly! Not to potholed, but as it was an A-road not that many stop/starts and enough undulations to keep it interesting! I passed over the A3 and M25 during the route (I get a perverse sense of satisfaction by crossing major roads!) and even got treated to a bevy of classic cars due to a show that was taking place down in Woking which pleased the petrol head side of me 🙂

I finally did it

Well there’s the obligatory pic I took to prove my feat! I checked the time when I arrived and me estimation was pretty much spot on for the door-to-door 🙂

The ride back was even more fun as I set a new PB for an average speed for a single journey – 20mph over 26.5 miles and also the whole day with 19mph for the 52 mile round trip!

Once home I gave the bike a proper good clean in preparation for the Magnificat on Sunday! The rear Crud Roadracer was removed and I swear my bike will be about 500g lighter with all the shite I washed off it! The chain is now sparkling silver again and has a nice coat of oil on 🙂

This brings me onto the week! I got the call from Virgin as expected on Monday morning and after a few brief exchanges of words I’d agreed to a new 2 year contract and was told my HTC Desire would be sent out via UPS and due to arrive Tuesday 🙂

As a bit of a surprise Tuesday went fairly quickly at the office and the traffic was kind to me meaning I got home nice and quickly to start tinkering with my new toy and I love it! Had a small scare initially as after I did a phone software update upon rebooting the HTC Sense app kept crashing 😦 This being the main GUI for the phone it meant it was looking like a fancy paperweight, however thanks to a bit of Google-Fu I found a solution which was to basically do a reset – something I was anticipating but had to find the correct procedure!

So it’s now Thursday and my last day working this week before my long weekend where I’ll hopefully crack a few more cycling goals……..