The summer of 2015 was a landmark summer for my cycling. It was the first year that I had not gone faster than the previous year. Suddenly I was no longer new to cycling and was no longer magically improving. Deeply distressing indeed. I knew exactly why this was. I’d simply not ridden enough. Rather than clinging onto my clubmate’s rear wheel winding up Sa Callobra on our usual spring training holiday, I was nursing a hangover in a tent high up in Sierra Nevada. Rather than strapping on my panniers and conquering more hills from the top 100, I’d been drying my socks in front of a bothy stove. By the time summer came I was desperately hanging onto our Tuesday night fast ride and found myself being passed by newcomers on the hills. For years I had been enjoying feeling myself getting stronger, entering harder races and completing longer rides than ever. Now I was going backwards and to get back to that level of fitness I would have to not only train hard, but train smart.
The van was visible above the ugly fence panels. Parked across the block of prefabricated garages and illuminated by the orange streetlight it looked pretty big. Feargal was hungry and therefore angry. Ollie had a rough day at work and also hadn’t eaten. I had spent the afternoon scouring Strava and making a list of objectives to be displayed in the back of the van. Matt didn’t know what to expect but had packed his trusty up-cycled bowl.
This was it – four lads, four bikes, three days, one van and fifteen of Wales’ most offensive stretches of tarmac.
The story here is really a non story. There isn’t any particular point nor is there any particular event that just cries out to be written about. Another excellent weekend immersing oneself in the glory of wet autumn colours, being blasted by white swirling clouds and watching the moon rise to the sound of damp wood cracking in the fireplace.
It started on a hangover from another great stag do – this time in Manchester. With some free time afterwards, what better way for the body to ride out the stormy aftermath than Continue reading “Bothying – relaxing in Arenig Fawr”
Way back in the beginning, cycling started off as something to do on a long, hot summer’s day. I remember adventurously going out for a very gentle spin on a clear, crisp winter’s day dressed as all beginners are – completely inappropriately. It ended with tears in the shower after nearly freezing to death and vowing never to ride my bike at such a silly time of year. Continue reading “The Monsal Head Hill Climb”
I bloody love Wales. I’m not really sure when it started. Actually it was probably pretty early on if I think about it. As a child I loved fantasy so to find out that within a few hours drive there was a country with mountains, forests and waterfalls was pretty damn captivating. A short family holiday revealed it had it’s own completely unpronounceable language written on the roads, clouds that were so low you couldn’t see the hills behind and it was not in the slightest bit glamorous. A good indicator of that fact is that we could afford to go there. It was definitely the sort of place for an adventure. There is even a bloody dragon on the flag.
Continue reading “Two nights for zero pounds in the Black Mountains”
Twenty years old or near enough. The last driving test and first trip was a distant memory. Those were the days of challenges. Those were the days when we heard of a challenge and then completed it the next weekend. Those were the days when we walked up mountains without maps in holey Dunlops and denim shorts. Snowdon was easy – we did it quicker than those scout geeks in their gore-tex. Wikipedia said that the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge had a 12 hour time limit – nine hours and that’s on the back of a heavy night out in town and a city kebab for breakfast. National Three Peaks – done, in a Peugeot 205 and back in time for Sunday Lunch with the aunt. Cycling, running, camping – it was all too easy. Now we were serious, hardened. Seasoned veterans. Time for a proper challenge.
Continue reading “Hadrian’s Wall – Can it be done in two days?”
When you regularly ride your bike you get really good at gauging the temperature outside, making assessments as to your likely intensity, the wind conditions and evaluating your choice of clothing on yesterday’s ride. Over the years I have amassed a pretty comprehensive collection of clothing to cover all weather conditions and still, crucially, look Euro Pro. (I’ve since discovered a different, crazy-dutch-cyclo-tourist way of dressing but that is covered in another post). There is a way to layer up. There are ways not to layer up.
It’s always the same, after having had a few days off the bike the weather has changed, and despite standing in the garden in your underpants for a few seconds as part of your preparatory assessment, as soon as you reacquaint yourself with cycling, you inevitably either overheat or chill and shiver.
When going to the Highlands at the end of October, standard Autumn attire is just not going to cut it! I have since learned through many other trips to Scotland that for cycling purposes it’s always winter and in winter it is extra winter.
This trip was undertaken in in October half term 2012, when I was enthusiastic and naive and when my companion Rick was even more naive and even less enthusiastic.
Continue reading “The Scottish Highlands – Shafts of Sunlight and Blizzards”
Walking from my classroom towards the school gates on a warm Friday in July I found myself looking through my phone book for lads who might be free for a night out. Two positive responses and a short commute and I was in my garage stuffing my bivvy bag, sleeping bag, head torch and now battered map of the White Peak into a small backpack. I raided the kitchen and found Continue reading “Head to the Peak District for a Friday Night Bivvy on Beeley Moor”
The Yorkshire coast is an impressive place. From a cycling point of view the sea is just one large barrier. A scenic obstruction, granted, but ultimately a windy place where your bike ride ends. Leaving the bike in Continue reading “Harvest Sunshine – A Run Round the Cliffs of East Yorkshire”
Most walks start with furniture rearranging to accommodate the impossibly endless creases and folds of an unleashed OS map. On hands and knees I smooth the paper under my palms, looking for an uninterrupted tour along established rights of way. The ideal route would
Continue reading “Chrome Hill – A Mini Mountain”