Spring is in full swing and summer is hot on it’s heels. That means we can abandon duvet days and nights by the fire for long, calf-burning bike rides in the great outdoors. Bike rides used to be saved for serious athletes and kids on three-wheelers but, these days, it’s a more universal thing. In fact, more than 3 million bicycles can be found on the roads every year now, which is great for our precious planet but breaking news for health and safety.
Ha, you thought I’d slacked off yesterday, didn’t you? Well, I’m here to tell all you disbelievers that I didn’t slack off, so there. In fact, I went on a 30 mile bike ride yesterday (after getting the day right). I couldn’t be bothered to blog when I got in and sat and read my book in the conservatory instead (Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky by Patrick Hamilton, in case you’re interested. I love Patrick Hamilton. If you haven’t already, read Hangover Square, it’s brilliant.) and then later on, I sort of forgot. That’s ‘sort of forgot’, as in ‘totally forgot because I ate pizza and drank wine and then watched crap all night on telly instead’.
This morning I went to the gym and did 20 minutes on the rowing machine, 22 minutes on the treadmill doing Audiofuel’s 180 Pyramid Max interval session, then 20 minutes on the cross-trainer. I also booked spin classes for tomorrow evening and Saturday morning. As you’ll remember (if you’ve been paying attention that is but, if not why not, hmm?), I challenged myself to a parkrun/spin challenge. The challenge involves running parkrun quick enough, then cycling back quick enough to get to the spin class in time. To be honest, although the timing is quite tight, it’s nowhere near impossible and unless my legs or wheels fall off or an unlikely but extremely unlucky combination of both, it should be fine. Touch wood, fingers crossed, stroke a black cat, etc.
Also this morning, Carla, Rachel and I have been discussing arrangements for Sunday’s Great Kent Bike Ride (where fellow Juneathoner Helen will also be joining us). It didn’t take long for the discussion to turn to where we’ll be eating and drinking after the ride and we are all now looking forward to our Wetherspoon roast. Yum.
You may be wondering where my marathon training is going to fit into all this spinning and cycling. I’ve been wondering the same thing myself and have decided Saturday’s long run of 7 miles is going to happen on Wednesday, although I’m supposed to be doing 4 miles tomorrow, so it’ll probably be more of a 7 mile walk.
Cycling: 30 miles
Rowing machine: 20 minutes
Treadmill: 22 minutes
Cross-trainer: 20 minutes
parkrun/spin challenges coming up: 1
Great Kent Bike Rides coming up: 1
Wetherspoon roasts looking forward to: 1
I’m more of a morning exerciser than an afternoon or evening one but this morning I had a meeting in Maidstone so when I got back, I posted on the Juneathon Facebook Page that I’d cycled to the station and back and asked if that counted or if I had to do more. No one accused me of slacking so it looks like my Juneathon is done for the day.
I’m out in London all day tomorrow so it’s likely tomorrow’s activity will be a bar press up. It counts. If you don’t believe me, refer to point no. 3 in my 5 Ways To Make The Most Of Juneathon post from the other day.
Cycling: 4.8 miles
Juneathon’s completed: 10/30
Which is what I did today.
The Greensand Way is a 108 mile path, stretching from Haslemere in Surrey to Hamstreet in Kent (four miles down the road from here). Because it passes the house, I’ve walked up the nearest bit that heads towards Surrey (if I go towards Hamstreet it involves going through a farm and I’m too shy to walk through someone’s farm; I feel like I’m trespassing) but haven’t got any further than about two and a half miles before turning round and walking back again. Today though, I cycled up to the Environment Centre and joined the Greensand Way there and walked as far as Hothfield. I would have gone further had I not taken a wrong turning somewhere and ended up going round in a circle. Duh.
Still, I saw part of the Greensand Way I hadn’t seen before so it’s all good. Next time I’ll take an Ordnance Survey map with me although I can barely read a London A-Z, let alone a map that seems to consist solely of lines and squiggles, so I’m not sure it’ll stop me getting lost.
I’ll post the photos of my walk tomorrow but in the meantime, here’s a photo of some calves I saw.
Cycling: 3.57 miles
Walking: 6.11 miles
Juneathons completed: 9/30
When I first heard a couple of years ago that a new country park was to be built a few miles away, I thought WAHOO because I thought it might be like my beloved Walthamstow/Hackney/Tottenham Marshes and there’d be miles and miles and miles of trails for me to run around, so when I heard a week or so ago that the Conningbrook Lakes Country Park had opened, when I woke up this morning and pondered today’s Juneathon activity and remembered the country park, there was nothing else for me to do but to go exploring.
I cycled the scenic, traffic-free route up to the Julie Rose Stadium and hoped there would be a sign to tell me where the park was, and there was indeed a sign that even I couldn’t miss.
Once inside the gate, however, there were no more signs to tell me where the park was and I didn’t think the entrance to the park would be inside the stadium, so I locked my bike up and went exploring in the opposite direction and found a bit that didn’t look very park-like.
Undeterred, I headed towards a gate that someone had rebelliously left open.
As someone had rebelliously left the gate open, despite a sign clearly asking for the gate to be kept shut, I decided to also rebel and ignore the sign that clearly said no pedestrians.
At the end of the path was a car in front of a gate and I thought PLEASE DON’T BE DOGGING and I tried really hard not to look in the car and went up to the gate but the gate was locked and a voice from the car said ‘It’s got a combination lock on it, it’s for members only’ and I turned round and in the car was a young lad eating an apple and wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses and he said but you can climb over the gate though.
I said I was looking for the country park, the new one, and he said yes this is it and I said I didn’t know where the entrance was and he said it’s at the stadium, did you come through the quarry? and I said yes and hoped he didn’t know that I didn’t actually have a clue what a quarry was and he said that’s the wrong way but it doesn’t matter. I said if I go over the gate and just keep walking and follow the lakes round, will I get back to the stadium? and he said yes, so I said cool, thank you, and then I climbed over the gate and found the lake and swans and stuff and you can look at the pretty pictures below.
After I’d walked round the lakes, the trail led out through the running track and stadium, and right outside the exit was my bike and I might or might not have felt a bit foolish that the entrance had been about two feet away from where I locked my bike.
Cycling: about 10 miles
Walking: 1.3 miles
Juneathon’s completed: 5/30
Ideally, you should leave your bike(s) safely locked up in the garage until the summer, as cycling in the winter is absolutely minging but, if you’re like me and live far far away from the train station or somewhere else you need to get to and you don’t drive, you’re going to have to get on your bike. However, there are a few things you can do to make your journey slightly more a) comfortable and; b) safe, and I list these, in no particular order, below.
- Lights. The absolute most important thing. I’m being serious here (yes, honestly). I see so many cyclists riding without lights and they’re fucking idiots and they really annoy me and if they get splattered by a car or go to prison for knocking over a pedestrian who didn’t see them on their lumps of metal then they deserve all they get. Lights don’t even have to be expensive – I’ve got my main lights on my mountain bike that I use most of the time to get me around but I’ve also got some of these cheapy cheapy lights (at the time of writing, they’re £1.43 including delivery – how cheapy cheapy can you get?) that work perfectly well and are small enough to carry around if I’m out on one of my bikes that don’t have lights and it’s a possibility I’ll be coming home in the dark.If you don’t have lights, you’re a dooby dooby nutjob.
- Hi-vis jacket. Yes, there’s a possibility you’ll be mistaken for a builder but hey ho, it’s all about being seen and keeping safe – it’s not a fashion contest. If you really don’t want to wear hi-vis (but you get used to looking like a builder, honest), you could get one of the Karrimor Reflekt jackets I blogged about the other day. They look like a normal jacket until light shines upon them, then they light up like a simile for things that light up that I can’t think of right now.
- Hi-vis rucksack cover. If you don’t want to wear any kind of hi-vis/lighty-up jacket, then hi-vis rucksack covers are available. You’re not so vain you wouldn’t put hi-vis on your rucksack, are you? As well as making you more visible to motorists, it’ll also keep your rucksack dry. Win-win, as saddos say.
- Wrap up warm. I’m still seeing some people in town wearing shorts and flip-flops but they’re hard and probably from Newcastle or something but if you’re not a) hard; or b) from Newcastle, you’re going to need to keep your bits warm while you’re on your bike. No, you mucky-minded lot, I’m talking about other bits that stick out like your fingers and your nose. Wear gloves and either a scarf or a buff that you can pull up over your nose and chin. Although, if you’re like me, you can only breathe through a buff for about three seconds before you suffocate and have to pull it down and get cold again. But, buffs are cool and keep your neck warm and they come in all different patterns and can be worn in lots of different ways.
- A toolkit. I bought a toolkit from Amazon for about £11 including delivery. It’s great. It attaches to your bike, so there’s no chance of you forgetting to take it out with you and contains levers, a pump, a puncture kit and other things I don’t know how to use.
- A carrier bag. Yes, a carrier bag. Take a carrier bag out with you and tie it over your bike to keep the seat wet in case it rains while you’re away from it.
- Learn how to fix a chain. Okay, so I don’t know how to use the toolkit or how to change a puncture (I’ve been relying on the ‘someone else will do it for me’ method, but luckily I haven’t – touch wood – had a puncture yet, but I have fallen off in the ice and the snow when I came to a sliding halt at a crossing (damn you, person in wheelchair; next time I’ll make you wait until I’ve gone past before you can cross the road) and my chain came off. I didn’t fancy wheeling it home two miles in the snow so I phoned Shaun and said, ‘Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelp, my chain’s come off, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’ and he said something about putting the bike in third gear and turning the wheel, which worked and I cycled merrily home instead of trudging along at 2 miles an hour in the sludge.
- Ass savers. No, I’m not talking about the carrier bag again but someone on my cycling group’s Facebook page brought to our attention Ass Savers mudguards. These are great. They don’t need tools, come in lots of different colours and will save you from getting rain and mud up your back. You can get them on eBay for about £5.
- Money/charged phone. Bit obvious really, but make sure you have a charged phone with you so you can call for help if you need to, and money for a taxi/train/bus/cup of tea while you wait for someone to fix your puncture.
- Don’t cycle drunk. You might not have a friendly policeman willing to lock your bike up for you and give you a lift home after seeing you unsuccessfully try to ride your bike in a straight line. No, of course this isn’t a true story. (Okay, it’s totally a true story. Wasn’t in London though, obviously.)
If you’d like some more cycling safety tips, there’s a pretty infographic here, but these are my JogBlog Guide To Cycling Safely In Winter ones.
Any tips you’d like to add?
Cycling is out for me at the moment, as I’ve got the lurgy. It’s especially a shame as the weather outside is absolutely gorgeous and perfect for cycling in. Although, last time I went for a bike ride, I did 60 miles and got sunburnt and I’m wondering if that’s the reason for my lurgy.
Still, the Tour de France is starting soon and here’s a pretty yellow infographic about the yellow jersey for you to look at.
Infographic supplied by www.yellowjersey.co.uk
I’ve taken part in the Great Kent Bike Ride twice before, but only doing the short route of 35 miles. This year, I thought I’d do the long route but then the bastards decided that the long route wasn’t long enough at 60 miles and added a new 100 mile long route. So the long route is now the medium route and so it was the medium route I did.
In previous years, I’d ridden my beautiful Pashley Poppy although I rode it into town the other day and because I’m now used to my lighter, nippier bike, it was like riding a tank, albeit a pretty pink tank and I have no idea how the hell I’ve done 35 miles on it in one go.
I was up bright and early, got all dressed up in my cheapy cycling gear from Sports Direct (don’t knock Sports Direct – it may look like a jumble sale and you always feel like you might catch something in there but they do have some great bargains) and I almost looked like a cyclist.
That’s not fat squidging out the back of my top, it’s flapjacks, honest. Trek Bars to be precise. Peanut & Oat and Mixed Berry to be even more precise.
It was a quiet ride this year – the only reason I can think of is because of the new 100 mile route as I reckoned the people who usually do the 60 mile route would have gone for the longer route this year and they had to start between 7 and 8am, unlike the lightweights doing the shorter routes who didn’t have to start until between 8 and 10 (‘between’ being taken literally by me, as I turned up at 9).
Despite the info saying there was a refreshment stop every 10 miles or so, the first one didn’t appear until 22 miles and even then there was no tea on offer, just water. The next stop – at 40 miles – was a cafe but you had to leave your bikes round the back and as there were only a couple of people around, I didn’t want to leave my bike unattended and I hadn’t brought a lock with me. Someone told me the next stop was only 5 miles away though so I carried on and, hurrah, the next stop was indeed only 5 miles away and they had tea, yay.
The ride was great and the weather was perfect, except for the wind in places, especially down the really boring long road along Dungeness – the struggle on that road not made any easier by the dents in the road every two feet. In fact, the only real moan I have about the ride is because of the roads in places – there had been a lot of resurfacing taken place recently which is obviously a good thing, given the state of the roads, but it’s not a good thing when you’re on a bike and the resurfacing means the roads are basically made of gravel with a good chance of skidding.
At 54 miles, the route split again with an arrow pointing one way for the short and medium riders, and an arrow pointing the other way for the hardcore long route riders. I briefly pondered whether I fancied doing another 46 miles but decided I didn’t, so I followed the arrow that took me to the finish line where I was handed a certificate and a bottle of water.
Then I cycled the two miles home and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden with my Kindle and cold cans of Budweiser.
I’m taking part in the Great Kent Bike Ride on Sunday. It’s a great ride through gorgeous countryside and on the two previous years I’ve taken part, I’ve cycled the 35 mile route. This year, however, as I’ve got more cycling miles under my padded shorts now, I’ve decided to be hardcore and do the 60 mile route.
I haven’t been out on my bike much lately though as I joined a local social riding group but the last time we went out, I was too slow for them and I had to turn around half way and go back which isn’t very social, if you ask me (I should probably point out I wasn’t asked to turn back – I just didn’t want to spend the next 30 miles feeling bad for holding people up). This made me a bit despondent and demotivated and I haven’t fancied going out on my own since but as I’ll be doing 60 miles in a few days, I thought I’d better get on my bike and get some mileage in.
A 20 mile route was downloaded from Strava and added to my Garmin Edge Touring. The Garmin Edge Touring is a sat nav for bikes and I love it so much. I’d been wanting one for a while now but they’re not cheap – I think the one I’ve got is the cheapest available and that’s around £200 – but it’s totally worth it. You can let it choose a round route for you or you can create your own routes on your app/website of choice and export them to your Edge. Select your map and off you go with no worrying about getting lost, just enjoy the ride. Because it’s a sat nav for bikes, it’ll choose the quietest route and you can also tell it to avoid hills where possible (an option I have permanently ticked).
The only criticism I have of the Edge (apart from now reminding me of U2, dammit) is that unless you’ve plotted out the route yourself on roads, it’ll try and make you go down trails/paths if left to choose for you. You can ignore this and carry on going though and after bleeping at you for a while for going off course, it’ll recalculate the route and get you back on track.
I hadn’t meant this to turn into an advert for the Garmin Edge Touring but if you want to cycle further than say about 10 miles, you should get one of these – I’ve cycled to lots of different places since having one without wondering if I’ll be able to find my way home again. Love love love.
Okay, so that title doesn’t actually work as it wasn’t llamas I went to see today, it was alpacas. Look, little cute baby ones. Aaaaaahhhhh.
I wasn’t just poncing about the countryside looking at fluffy white things though – I’ve been commissioned to write an article about an alpaca trek I went on recently and so I cycled back to the farm today to ask the owner a few questions. But the 11 miles there and the 11 miles back was a decent Juneathon effort, I reckon.