Monthly Archives: January 2015

I am learning to cope with hills

Today was quite a hilly ride from Launde Abbey to Oakham and back (1,472 feet climbing in 12.1 miles) on my Bullitt Cargobike. It was also very windy with a headwind all the way back. I have done the ride many times before in the 8 years I have been coming to Launde Abbey for our District Retreat, but only once before on my cargobike (and that was before I had the cargobox).

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:18:47 01:23:34 12.06 8.66 45.63 1,473.10
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

While I am still not very fast:-) I think I have made a lot of progress since I wrote Getting defeatist me up hills for years ago. I’m not sure I’m a lot fitter and the weight I was hoping to lose at the time didn’t stay off, so I am a similar weight now.

However, mentally I think I have made progress when it comes to climbing hills. I don’t panic that I won’t get to the top. I am able to relax into plodding up for however long it takes and if I get off to walk it is no longer the end of the world (although I didn’t have to walk at all today). I can now look ahead and see the top in the distance without that frightening me.

My limited amount of running (my first 5k since May yesterday) does seem to help, especially when it comes to standing on the pedals when you can no longer spin in 1st gear.

All this has been without specialised, dedicated and committed training. Events like the Ford Fiesta help, but generally I think it is the combination of just riding for transport and adding longer rides into the mix. Learning to relax and not get so stressed also helps and part of that is knowing that I and the bike are reliable and so it does not matter if things take a bit longer.

Oh and two other points about today’s ride.

a) I wasn’t wearing any cycling specific clothing. T-shirt, light fleece and Acclimatise Fleece, normal casual trousers, trainers.

b) I’m not too tired after. Ready for an evening session on the retreat.

Neither of these would have been true 4 years ago.


A good bike choice :-)

So after deliberations I did use my Bullitt Cargobike to ride 15.7 miles to Launde Abbey today.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:30:25 01:27:18 15.67 10.77 31.32 836.61
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

This is why:


By that I mean that you can’t tell that I have a weeks clothing, laptop computer etc etc all securely locked in the metal cargo box.

That means I can enjoy the ride without worrying that all my possessions are on show.

And no I wasn’t quick but I did manage to cycle up all the hills (and at 14.8 miles it does get to 19.2% which is quite steep enough for me on a loaded bike).


Which bike shall I pick for work trip?

So in an hour or so I am off on my annual trip to Launde Abbey for the Northampton Methodist District retreat for ministers and other staff. It is about 15 miles using a route designed to miss the big hill and traffic upto Tilton-on-the-Hill.

Some years I have had time to make it a longer ride but not this time as life is a bit busy. In fact it has been so busy that I haven’t yet re-converted by Bike for Life (Shand Stoater) back to everyday use after turning it into a wonderful Bikepacking bike for the Ford Fiesta.

So I could pack very minimally and use the Stoater in Bikepacking mode, sadly though I really need my laptop computer so that is ruled out.

I could take as little extra as possible and use my Whyte Suffolk (which temporarily has a rear rack on) but it isn’t very far and I don’t like using that bike for too much load carrying.

So I’m going to use my Bullitt cargobike. Very quick and easy to pack (just throw the bag in and go)

P7100060One of the many great things about this option is that nobody actually knows what I’m doing. You can’t tell I’m off on a 4 day/3 night trip and if my route happened to take my past a coffee shop (sadly it doesn’t unless I’m ready early and detour) I can leave all my stuff locked in and secure.

Having multiple bikes is great because I like choice 🙂



Ford Fiesta, Winter Bikepacking Event

This weekend I took part in an event organised by Bear Bones Bikepacking, I think it is their 4th Winter Event and this year it was called the Ford Fiesta. That meant we were given a whole list of Fords (the watery sort) and had to devise a route to visit as many as we wanted with one night sleeping out.

This was a whole lot of firsts for me:

  • First Wild Camping on my own (and had hail)
  • First night in my bivy bag (back garden not included)
  • First bikepacking event (essentially lightweight off road touring with soft luggage strapped to the bike instead of using panniers and racks)

It was also by far the furthest I have ridden off road and Wales around the start at Llanbrynmair is by my reckoning quite remote.

My detailed route for Saturday was

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
10:28:36 05:27:21 30.13 5.52 34.22 4,967.19
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

and for Sunday


For safety I used a SPOT Gen 3 satellite tracker (as there is no phone signal in lots of places around the route). You can see how that tracked the route on Spotwalla. Note that it only updates every 10 minutes so doesn’t exactly track the whole route.

I visited 7 “official” Fords and had a wonderful time 🙂

My Bike for Life in adapted for mountain biking mode was absolutely awesome, lovely to ride and totally reliable. I did get one puncture which was caused by zooming down a very rocky track at over 20mph with several kg strapped to the handlebar and not enough pressure in the tyre. It was easy to fix though and I took a lunch break at the same time.

Anyway a few photos. I didn’t get one of all the “official” fords as the last one on Saturday was in the complete dark and someone (Peter) had waited for me and I didn’t want to hold them up.
Just setting off:

First break part way up 5.5miles of non stop climbing from the start:

The first ford (I used the bridge):


We had very strong winds all weekend as demonstrated by this picture:

Does this count as an extra ford? Yes the ground was quite damp and there were lots of extra fords:

My second ford. You can see my flat front tyre, this was just before I fixed it. Nice lunch spot:

Sunday morning sunrise at Carno Windfarm (very strong headwind):

My 5th “official” ford (to be honest I didn’t see ford 4 which was only 100 metres earlier):

My 6th “official” ford and the first where there was no choice but to cycle through it 🙂 Again I was glad I was wearing my hiking boots which didn’t let water in despite this being a fair bit deeper than my pedals:

My 7th “official” ford:

But shouldn’t this one just a few hundred metres further on count as well?:
20150111_113714I’ll definitely be doing more of this 🙂

Of course grateful thanks to:

  • Stu and Dee for organising the event, providing essentials such as the furry dice (as used in Ford Fiesta’s) and providing coffee, toast and cake!
  • Stephen for allowing me to do this on his birthday (we did meet up and have a meal together on Saturday evening),
  • Jane for supporting me (and doing most of the driving this weekend).
  • Shand Cycles for the best Bike for Life in the world
  • Beth and Ian of Wildcat Gear for great bikepacking luggage

Hospital visiting is a great excuse :-)

Sadly this week when we discussed who was in hospital at our staff meeting it turned out we had four church members in hospital, in four different hospitals. So this afternoon I got a lovely ride out to Melton Mowbray to visit E in the tiny (one ward) hospital there.

They actually had the best bike rack of any of the local hospitals, but mine was the only bike in it. Given what a horrible place Melton Mowbray is to cycle through I’m not surprised. It is a good example of Leicestershire’s approach which is to randomly assign footways as shared use without any thought about their suitability, the convenience or safety of cyclists (or pedestrians) – all to benefit King Car.

Apart from the bit inside Melton Moybray (“The Rural Capital of Food”!) the rest of the route is very pleasant  so I couldn’t resist a slight detour on the way home 🙂

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:50:06 02:00:26 27.28 13.59 30.20 1,131.89
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.



Leicester City failures create more danger

Yesterday evening I went to the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group’s regular meeting.

On the way it was nice to be able to celebrate a triumph over the idiocy of Leicester City Council and Sainsbury’s as after over a year, numerous letters, mentions at every Cycle City meeting and a Freedom of Information request they have actually removed the posts from the middle of the shared space around the new store on the Melton Road.

However, as I approached Belgrave Circle (where the flyover used to be) a bus nearly sideswiped me off my bike (First Buses, number 26 at about 6pm). This was in the two lane section approaching the roundabout, where the new cycle infrastructure has not yet been opened. The bus was in the outer lane, over taking me and approaching static traffic (closer to us in my lane). When 2/3 of the way past me he suddenly came sideways into my lane (about 1/3 of the way across the lane) before weaving back into the right hand lane.

I was already slowing because of stationary traffic ahead at the red light. He knew I was there as I was in the primary position, lit up with 3 very bright front lights and 3 very bright rear lights, he had pulled out around me.

The City Council website still says

3. What provisions are being made for cyclists and pedestrians during and after the project? 

Safe pedestrian and cycle access will be maintained throughout the works. Once complete, improved cycle and pedestrian access will be provided. There will also be marshals on site to direct cyclists and pedestrians to safe routes.

This is untrue. Despite a number of complaints to customer services there has never been any support for cyclists throughout these road works, this incident is but one of many which is unsurprising on a roundabout with 2 lane approaches and 4 lanes on the roundabout.

Since November the Leicester Cycle Campaign Group have been trying to discover from the City Council what is actually being built for cyclists at this junction. It is clear that it is significantly different from the drawings we have been shown (which included a central segregated cycle track) but it is not at all obvious how it will work (for example there are trees planted in what looks like shared space and how northbound cyclists will use it is very unclear). So far our requests not been answered.

My route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:53:19 00:51:47 10.49 12.15 21.70 341.21
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Monday inspired by Steve Abraham

So I’m feeling inspired by the amazing Steve Abraham. On 1st January he started a One Year Time Trial to break the record, held by Tommy Goodwin since 1939, for the longest distance cycled in a year. So far he has done over 1,000 miles!
My response is much smaller, but it is leading to me choosing slightly longer routes to/from meetings etc when I can. Hence, a slightly odd route back from Birstall this morning.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
03:34:12 00:47:16 10.21 12.96 27.29 892.39
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

I also like this new Strava feature where you get awards for the fastest segments (short bits of road) this year. Tempting to find bits of road nobody else has ridden yet this year 🙂

Anyway, I guess my target this year is to reach more than 5% of Steve’s miles which is still going to be more than I did last year.


They should be banned!

This morning was cold, foggy and very icy! I rode to Rothley to take their annual Methodist Covenant Service. Despite the -2.5 degree temperature, fog and ice all over the road most car drivers did not slow down, they did not give me more space (I was lit up like 3 Christmas Trees), they did not take more care to only overtake when it was safe. Many had no lights on. In my view they should be banned!

If you drive so that it is only good luck that meant you didn’t kill someone then we should be able to take away you license.

In my view at least six drivers this morning were so bad they deserved to be stopped and have their vehicle confiscated immediately.

That included the driver of a Corsa heading towards Rothley at well above the 40mph speed limit. How they didn’t crash as they tore round the bend to the bridge over the river Soar.

It included the drivers of two cars who felt their journey was so important that they just had to overtake me without lights on when there was an oncoming car. With a frozen gutter puddle to my left it was terrifying.

It included the drivers of two Range Rovers and one big Volvo SUV who all swept past without moving out of their line at all to give me any space. Note that nobody was coming the other way, this was indifference, laziness and some kind of entitlement.

Volvo claim to be interested in improving safety. So why are they not developing black boxes to record their drivers behaviour and to stop the car if it is driven dangerously. They claim to be able to be able to detect cyclists so why don’t then they immobilize the car immediately if it passes too close to a cyclist or pedestrian. The driver could be made to get a release code from their insurance company (and pay an increased premium each time).

By contrast my thanks to the 3 drivers who politely and properly waited until there was proper space to overtake and the 2 drivers who did obey the law and wait for me to pass a parked car on their side of the road before proceeding.

Sadly Leicestershire County Council believe that only motorised vehicles matter. My leading worship and visited elderly people in their homes does not have any value because it was not done by car, hence they are uninterested in working for safer roads for anyone other than drivers.

Anyway, here is my slow and cautious route from today.

[Ride id=236619907]


Practical combinations that only a bike can facilitate

Some Christmas traditions appear to have been lost. This year nobody bought me any socks or toiletries. Although remembering the choices of some, now long departed, Aunts maybe this is not all bad.

So I needed to get both some new socks and some shower gel and shaving cream. Plus I’m trying to lose a few mince pie remnants from my middle.

The practical answer was to wait for the rain to stop and then cycle to Next at Thurmaston Shopping Centre for some socks. Nice and quick with the only delay being all the cars circling the car park looking for a space and not looking for anyone else at all. Unlike those car drivers I was able to find a space to park, under cover, less than 20 yards from the shop entrance. I guess that by the time I got back to my bike with my socks some of them were still trying to park or taking their life into the hands of others as they walked across the car park danger zone towards the shop.

Anyway, for me onwards. I continued into Leicester along the Melton Road/Belgrave Road. I apologise for the frustration is causes car drivers when they are holding each other up and I carefully nip past them. Some take that as a challenge and with lots of revving engines scream past me, only to slam their brakes on again at the next lights or turning car. What they forget is that even if they get ahead of me I’ll more than make up for it as I’m allowed to cycle right up to the shop I’m visiting. In fact I lock my bike up about 3 small shops away from Lush and go straight in. Meanwhile all those car drivers will still, at best, be walking out of the car park at least 1/2 mile from the shop.

It did amuse me in Lush when the lady at the til said “Oh you must really like our ‘Dirty’ products”. Not especially but I don’t like the smell of strawberries enough to shave in them and you have very few ranges of products for men – no maybe not very few, maybe only one ie the aforementioned ‘Dirty’. Still the products are made in the UK, are made by a company that does not try to avoid UK taxes and are made without animal testing. Always good when the money I spend can be recycled around our own economy generating jobs and income so that we can fund our NHS etc.

From Lush I decided to get a little exercise so I came home via

  • a quick look at Jubilee Square (yes I do hate the name, wish it had been named after something local or worthy). The long queue of cars did seem to mean that it is fairly traffic calmed at the minute, although one taxi seemed to be on a tour of the pedestrian areas of the square by driving around the new monument thingy.
  • the new cycle track crossing of the Southgates slip road at St Nicholas Circle. The post with the toucan button and indicator is appallingly positioned for cyclists coming from Jubilee Square and heading for DMU (or vica versa)


  • A quick flypast Jane’s site. See Planning Permission At Last
  • I then tested the shared use cycle facility along Bennion Road. It has been “finished” for months and yet there is still not a single sign to show that it is shared use.

My rather roundabout route was:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:45:11 01:25:27 17.48 12.27 33.78 652.89
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

By the time I got home the temperature was just below freezing and my feet in old trainers were just starting to notice it, although overall nice and comfy.

Total elapsed time was 1 hour 45 minutes and I’ll bet that with just the two shopping stops it would have been hard to better that much by car – and there would have been all that expense of fuel, parking as well as the running costs of the car.


Stuck in the mud

I’m confident that now I have reached a certain age of supposed maturity the idea of being “a stuck in the mud” might seem appropriate. Tonight, however, in my “training” for the Ford Fiesta Winter Event it became literally true.

Someone had recommended that rather than using winter cycling boots that clip to the bike pedal it would be more sensible to wear walking boots due to increased waterproofness, warmth and ease of walking the bits that are impossible to ride.

So I put flat pedals on my Bike for Life and my lightweight hiking boots and set out.

Here is the route

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:19:58 01:07:50 11.92 10.54 20.13 374.02
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

The problem was at about 3.8 miles, soon after leaving the junction of Ridgemere Lane and Syston Rd onto the bridleway into the wood. I found myself getting slower and slower with my back wheel spinning. When I stopped I found I couldn’t even push my bike because the front wheel was locked by a huge clump of mud just behind the front fork. In the end over just a few hundred yards I had to unblock both my front and rear wheels several times each by knocking these huge clumps of mud off.

For the most part the mud wasn’t that sloppy so it just stuck to the tyres and got carried round on them until it couldn’t fit through the seat stay or front fork.

At least I now have a little test track for any bike people claim will ride through mud better than mine 🙂 I wonder what sorts of bikes I would have been able to ride through it.

I do wonder if a slightly wider tyre would have helped sink in less and carry less mud around (eg a Schwalbe Smart Sam 47-622 which would fit my frame) or would the smaller gaps around the tyre have clogged even quicker.

Is this an argument for a 29+? That is a newish standard which is essentially a 29er mountain bike with space for 3″ tyres rather than the usual maximum of about 2.4″. In other words it would be the same size wheel as I have now but the wheel rim would be up to 50mm (ie about twice as wide) and instead of a 40mm diameter tyre it would be 75mm.

I guess a fat bike could get through mud like that with it’s even wider floatation tyres (26″ wheels with up to 5.8″ tyres), but that would have been much less fun on the rest of the 12 mile ride. Maybe a 29+ would be nearly as nice on the road bits while being able to cope with the deep clingy mud.

Or maybe I’d have to walk it and in places have to carry my bike again whatever I was riding? In which case I’m best off with what I have.

One thing is sure, I was glad I didn’t have a chain and dérailleur to clean and oil when I got home!

Some bad photos of the dirty bike after the ride (yes I have cleaned it now):

First is not the bike but the boots I was wearing:








Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: