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Monday, 28 March 2011

Brighton rocks... and other boiled sweets

As substitutions go, it has to go down as one of the worst tactical decisions in history.

On a previous ride out to Hever Castle, Dan introduced us to the magical properties of the Jelly Baby: a suck on one of those little suckers every hour or so along the route and you get a glorious little sugar rush, and a little hit of nostalgia, too. Arriving at Brian's at 8.30 on Sunday morning (which was really 7.30, yeah, thanks very much daylight saving or whatever you're called, you can stick your clocks and your time-tampering) found the poor man in disarray. His enthusiasm for the Jelly Baby - and, apparently, his inability to stop talking about them - had prompted Jenny to spend the week's shopping budget on a huge consignment for him to take with us on our trip to Brighton. So where, he half-sobbed under his breath as he emptied the contents of the kitchen cupboards, had they gone?

It must have been sleight of hand - I never saw it, I swear - but at some point, in his desperation, and in the continuing absence of Jelly Babies, he must have grabbed whatever came to hand in the darkest recesses of a cupboard and snaffled it into his knapsack. It could have been a half-empty bag of puy lentils or a tin of pears in syrup. But no.

Georgio-Armenian salt-and-pepper liquorice humbugs. Bah.

Mmm. Yeah, they're not bad, actually Brian. Kind of like aniseed balls, aren't they? No... no, I like them. I do. Another one? Erm, yeah. Well... let's just... I'll wait, actually Brian. They're nice though.

What a fantastic ride to Brighton. The sun shining, the wheels whirring and a tremendous route. I think it's the first time that I truly got it - the obsession with bikes and cycling and getting up out of the cosiness of your bed to propel yourself along the roads for the day. Gliding out through country lanes with the wind in your hair (helmet) with a group of chums - Ken, Brian, Dom, Jonny - is sort of, well, sorry for this, meditative. Easily the biggest two hills I've encountered in the saddle so far, Turner's Hill and Ditchling Beacon, the humpbacked monster that blocks out the horizon between the Downs and Brighton, faced up to and yes, given a darn good spanking. Land's End to John O'Groats? Let's have it.

Squeezing ourselves (and our bikes) on a train back out of Brighton, sun-blushed, rather pleased with ourselves, a can of well-earned lager in hand, Brian had one more pop at the prize.

'You know what? Cold beer. This is where these little beauties really come into their own. Anyone?'

Justgiving Page Updated

The Justgiving page has been updated! Its now got a photo and some blurb.

Dig deep and head over to

London to Brighton, and the green monster

To save energy for the slog to Brighton, I thought I might drop off my bike at Brian’s the day before. I wasn’t expecting to be out-foxed by a couple of presta valves and a cheap pump, but apparently that’s all it takes. I was about an hour late... Luckily Brian’s daughter ( Delilah?) was in to let me lock the bike securely away for the night.

Getting up at the crack of dawn for a bike ride is often a very pleasant thing to do. Fresh morning air, other cyclists,  joggers and dog walkers saying hi. Don’t do it the night the clocks change and then get a tube across London. All I got was a gnawing sense I should still be in bed, and the look of grim confirmation from my fellow early risers.

After a lovely breakfast (thanks Miss S) I set off for Brixton. A bit of banter another attempt to fill the tyres and we were off. The stage out of London is the second hardest bit of the day (more of which later). At one very early stage I realised that a hill had tested my physical abilities to the max, or so I thought.

Once in the countryside we had a good couple of hours of beautiful scenery and nice riding. We stopped for some of Brian’s oddly flavoured aniseed-salt-pepper sweets and some photos, and off again. We agreed to stop for a bite to eat around one O’clock, and passed scenic pub after scenic pub, only to find by one they had all but vanished from the surrounding area. A quick stop in Hayward’s Heath revealed it to be a vacuum both culturally and culinarily... so onward.
We stopped a little later to get a masterclass from Ken on how to change an innertube by the roadside, which I had a perfect view of as I patched the old tube while the other  three struggled with the tyre.

An overpriced, but delicious sandwich and a coke later and we set off to ride up the devil’s own hill. Two cyclists passing by, stopped and asked us where the ditchling beacon was. Brian replied it was that thing blocking out the horizon... he was right. It is a monster. A green monster.

Great view from the top, and for me from the path as I had to walk up. The hill I thought had defeated me earlier was just one hill of many that I managed later in the day. Don't panic relax and keep pedalling.

A fast cruise into Brighton and the bizarre feeling of being back in the traffic again. Warren picked up a puncture at this point. Tickets. A quick Peek at the sea and the train home.

I was able to ride back from London Bridge, and as I got to the hill before my road, which only months ago I found a difficult climb, I smiled. Even tired this was going to be no problem.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oh what a beautiful morning.....

I went for a ride on Sunday - 35 miles that included some hills and a strong headwind. It was cold and damp, I had on a wool base layer,jersey, jacket, arm warmers, boots, etc. etc. etc. Hard work the entire way though I felt fantastic once I was done.

I am hoping to go for a long flat ride tomorrow so went out for a quick 12 miles this morning just to loosen up my legs. What a difference - blue sky, sun shining, out in my shorts, jersey and some arm warmers. Nicest ride I've had in a long time.....

Maybe it's the spring weather, maybe it's the daffodils blooming, maybe it's because my Brooks saddle finally feels like it might possibly be broken in by July, I don't know, but it was a fantastic start to the day.

If anyone is not/does not want to use clipless pedals, I can highly recommend the 'Power Grip' straps like the ones here:

Power Grips

I started off using Speedplay clipless pedals last summer. When I bought my current bike (old Woodrup) it had the Power Grips straps on flat pedals and as it was approaching winter, I left them on thinking they would be more practical for boots etc. They are very comfortable, and far easier to get in and out of than pedals with 'cages'. I haven't decided yet whether I will go back to the Speedplay pedals before the trip or stay with the Power Grips...

Ah. Things were going a bit too well today, so I've just dropped a full cup of tea on top of my Martin. Luckily it missed the soundhole, but did leave a nice ding!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Howdy all

Wow, I don't look at the site for a week and look at all the blog posts! Its amazing to see everyone's different view points on the trip and the training and nice to hear from Lynne. I can't really believe Dom weighs that much - don't look it!

Anyway, so I've had a little week-long break from cycling as I was getting over my tumble from last weekend. After the tumble on Sunday I was in a taxi-crash on Monday which has left me with a cracked rib (or at least very sore). I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to cycle at all but I was determined to give it a go so this morning I climbed on my bike to enjoy the sunshine.

Fortunately, the rib caused no problems and even going over bumpy roads caused no discomfort, great! I decided to do a hill ride which was really tough. I went up from Kentish Town to Hampstead Heath which is quite a hill, down the other side and then back up to the top of Hampstead.

On the last bit of the last hill I stopped paying attention and was looking down at my gears only to ride straight into the kerb - bouncing myself off a lampost on my way to the pavement. My bike fared better in this one than my last tumble and with only a misaligned handlebar and a bruised knee I triumphantly rode to the bike shop to get it repaired and serviced.

The guy in the bike shop said that these things happen in threes so hopefully my ride to Ken's tomorrow will be less painful.

Looking forward to playing music with everyone tomorrow. I was jamming along on my clarinet to "Dreadlock Holiday" this morning and strumming to "Hey Soul Sister". If I play high up barre chords and use only the top 4 strings, it kinda sounds like a uke.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A weighty issue (sorry)

During Sunday’s ride Ken said something which stuck with me. It involved clipless pedals and increases to efficiency. If clipless pedals improved the transfer of power by x%. What else might help. Obviously a lighter bike, aerodynamic clothing...

Then it hit me. My bike weighs about 10kg without pedals or water bottles, so probably around 11.5 ready to go. I could shave some of this weight with lightweight bottle holders etc... but what about me. I weigh 82kgs. The upper end of the healthy BMI for my height and build. The bottom end of Healthy BMI for me would be up to 6KG lighter or 7% of my bodyweight.

This might be key to me getting better. Dragging less of ass around

I guess I’d better start counting the calories. The bloody mileage should take care of the rest!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Better late than never…..

I decided it was about time to introduce myself….my name is Lynn and I am a 46 yr old living in Lincolnshire.

I have a fairly extensive music and cycling background, but regular involvement came to a halt about 17 years ago when I got married and had kids. I picked up the guitar again about 5 years ago and started cycling again last summer to try and rid myself of the post-baby flab. (ha!! My youngest is now 9.…)

I was riding about 125 miles a week and thinking about doing my first LEJOG in 2011 when I saw Warren’s post on Facebook - it sounded fantastic to me. I have been a member of Busking Cancer UK for a while but not actually done any busking yet (I used to busk when I was in my 20’s down in Hereford, but I was young, pretty and had a cute puppy with me….now, not so much!!!) so a busking and cycling trip - perfect!

I had surgery in January and didn’t get back on the bike till Feb….it took a lot more out of me than I had originally thought and I was struggling to do even 15 miles, but the last few times out I have been feeling stronger and am now doing three 25-30 mile rides a week, with shorter ones in between. I’m planning on upping the mileage by 5 miles per ride every two/three weeks, so am pretty confident I will be fit and ready for the ride in July. I may finish last, but I am determined to get there!

The biggest hurdle training is that it is very flat here - I have to ride about 20 miles to find some hills. We do get very strong headwinds but I really need to make an effort to get in some decent hill work as part of my regular routine.

As I live in Lincs and have no transport, two young children, and work in my husband’s shop, it is unlikely I will be able to meet any of you until much closer to the start of the trip. I am really up for this trip and will do my best to keep the blog updated and keep in touch with you all.

Richmond park and the hill that beat me...

After a last minute rush-around on Saturday to make sure that I had everything ready for the morning, I awoke to sunshine and twittering birds. “What a lovely day for a ride,” I thought.

The ride over to Brixton went well with me only getting lost once, mostly due to a car trying to flatten me at the elephant and Castle roundabout. I even had time to stop and pick up some sustenance for the ride.

Everyone was there ready and just about to have a pre-ride cigarette, so far so good, 11 miles of cycling, arrived on time. There was some bad news at this point. Rachael, my Uke twin, had emailed around saying that she would not be joining us for the ride this summer. A natural cyclist and cheerful presence even under stress means that she will be a great loss to the group... and means I’ll have to try harder to play the right chords.

Because I ride in traffic most days, I found the ride to and from Richmond the easiest part of the day. Richmond park is beautiful and makes for a lovely cycling scenario. The only problem for me was that it contained hills. Steep ones. I had had a week and a half off of the bike due to having been on holiday, most of which had been spent consuming my bodyweight in eggs, cheese and fine German beer.

(Cycling gear does not look great with a wobbly beer belly)

Jonny never made it down to Richmond, which he wrote about yesterday.

Lessons from Sunday.

1. I must ride every day I can

2. - German food is designed for tourists not athletes

3. - I need to focus my training on hill climbing and endurance

After a beer and a pasty on the way home I felt surprisingly well. Tired but happy. On Sunday I felt fine to walk home from the cinema in Islington and could have gone out on the bike. I have a week off next week so after commuting all week and a weekend ride, I might go and find some hills.

Better still I might get back over to Richmond and beat the hill that defeated me on Saturday. Again and again. That'll show it. I'd like to say that neither of these photos is the hill in question.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Northern London

Glad the cycle went well.
Needless to say i was with you in spirit and did my own 20 mile bike around in the northern parts of london going to watford and back!
Not sure of my availability for the London Brighton outting as my parents are planning a visit down to see me in two weeks time! If it was a sunday for the planned trip then all should be fine but if its a saturday im gonna have to let the team down...

Richmond and all that...

Man overboard!

A couple of months into training and a few group rides down, and the individual biking characteristics of the group are starting to emerge. So much so that I think we'll have all deserved a nickname by the time we set off in July.

Jonny? He's definitely the Maverick. A fearless speed exponent, even on country roads with big-ass tractors coming the other way around blind corners. If you're lucky, and the wind is blowing in the right direction, you'll catch a "Weeeeeee! 39 miles an hour!" as he disappears in a cloud of dust. Fearless, too, in tackling the mysteries of his bike, pulling it apart and putting it back together just to show it who's boss. Who's the daddy now, you two-wheeled numpty? Don't look so flash with your handlebars on upside down, do you?

So it should have come as no surprise that his latest two-fingers-up to staid, predictable behaviour led to our intrepid little group being a man down as we hit Richmond Park on a lovely Saturday morning (is this spring? Is it?) Have a read of the blog below for details.

But, you know, we need a Maverick, and what a great one we've got. Now who's going to be Goose? Iceman (bagsy)?

So a 10.30 meet at Brian's in Brixton for the shortish ride (albeit in a fug of bus exhaust fumes) out to Richmond Park. As well as Brian and myself, Dom made it along after his sabbatical in Berlin, eating copious amounts of sausages and drinking the bars dry by the sound of it, and Ken, biking maestro and bongo-basher supreme, led from the front.

It's one of the great joys of this whole thing that you rediscover lost pleasures; one of them, obviously enough, is going on a bike ride on a sunny day. Richmond Park is gorgeous; once in, we rode the circuit (approx 5 miles) three times, narrowly avoiding a few rearing deer on occasion and trying to gradually pick up the group pace as we went round. I became unnaturally excited (though I didn't let on) by Ken's talk of a 'peloton', that Tour de France-esque riding formation, where, heads down, a group of cyclists ride wheel to wheel and every so often, one pops out from the line to take the lead. We didn't quite make it this time, but if we don't do the whole LEJoG route like that, then I think I shall cry. One tough, thigh-burning hill - but otherwise generally pleasant terrain.

A lovely, well-earned pint back in Brixton (well, the Prince Regent in Herne Hill), and then (for me) the 5-mile ride back to Lewisham.

This morning? Only a very slight ache in the legs and probably (though I can't see it) a bit of a padded-short-chafing rash. Nice.

Next up, Brighton in two weeks. Mine's a 99 Flake.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Jonny's bad day of biking

Not a great end to what should have been a nice morning out on the bike today. It all started last week when I thought to myself that I will get a puncture at some point so I bought a pump, levers and puncture repair patches. This all arrived on Friday and this morning I woke up early and started to play. I thought to myself that I didn't want my first experience of removing and repairing the inner tube to take place in the rain at the side of the road so in the comfort of my flat I went through the process of removing and replacing the inner tube on my front wheel. Yes, it took a while, but I did it successfully and pumped up the tyre to 100psi. With my new pump attached to the frame and the new tools in my biking-bum-bag I set off towards Richmond to meet some of the others for a ride around the park.

So there I was, riding down Notting Hill Gate enjoying the sunshine when I was coming up to a junction. Not sure where to go I pulled my hand-drawn map out of my pocket to take a look. I was so engrossed in comparing the map to the roadsign that I didn't notice the car in front had stopped. As I was holding the map in one hand I could only use the rear brake which I squeezed hard. My rear wheel locked up and I turned to avoid the car, hitting the kerb. I came off the bike in a rather embarrassing mess and landed on my knee making only a small hole in my man-tights and a massive hole in my ego. Keen to get away from the sniggering drivers I started to ride off only to notice that my front tyre had deflated, presumably from a pinch puncture caused by hitting the kerb.

A-ha I thought, I have all the tools to deal with a puncture right with me! So I took off the wheel and made myself comfortable on the pavement by Hammersmith station. I got the tube out, found the hole and patched it up. However, this is where my inexperience really shone through because in putting the tube back on, I managed to make about 5 more holes, and I only had 6 patches with me. By the time I had patched 4 holes I gave up and used my phone to find the nearest bike shop. I did the cyclist walk of shame and carried my bike 2 miles down the road to get a new inner tube fitted. The guy in the shop told me what I had done wrong and I think I've learnt from the experience. I'm going to practice removing and replacing the tube a couple more times till I can do it without breaking it and I'm going to repair my old tube to keep as a spare.

Unfortunately, with the time it took me to fail to repair the tube, plus the detour to the bike shop, by the time I got south of the Thames, the rest of the gang had tired of Richmond park and gone home so I turned around and cycled home :-(

Better luck next time I think.

Bye Bye Rachel :-(

Hi everyone. We got some sad news today as Rachel, our star uke player and up-hill-cycling-motivator has decided not to go ahead with the trip this summer. Really sorry to see you go Rachel.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Music Meet 06/03

Hi everyone,
We had a great rehearsal yesterday.
The manager of the Abbey Tavern in Kentish Town very kindly let us use the back room of his pub free of charge so we ensured that we bought a few pints of Guinness to make it worth his while :-)
We had a great turn out and it was really good to see Neil, Dan and Dave (although he only came in to say he couldn't stay) again as they had to miss the last few meetups. Even Rachel came after telling everyone she wouldn't be able to make it!

The sound of the band was really coming together as we played through the songs again. We had some new instruments as well with kazoos, a melodica and a clarinet being added to the lineup. Topped off with Simon's guitar noodling and Brian's fretless bass slides, we made some fantastic "nice noise". We worked a lot on the vocal arrangement with some great harmonising backing vocals now present on a few of the songs.

We had a bit of exciting news when Warren told us that at the next musical meet, we were going to be visited by a representative of "Race For Life" who might want us to play in front of thousands of adoring fans at the race for life event.

Lets keep up the great work. Coming up is a ride round Richmond Park on Saturday and another musical meet on the 20th at Ken's. Now go learn the chords for "Ain't no mountain"!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

What, you mean it's actually happening?

What happens when a four-pints-down pub idea becomes a knee-knocking reality? Over the years, I'm pretty glad that I haven't invested my time and energy into the washing-up WondaGlove (TM - but you're welcome to it) with scourers attached to the fingers for the bottoms of those difficult pint glasses. And I'm pretty sure that my (mooted) chain of high-street shops allowing customers to make their own sausages would have been (sorry) stuffed by now.

But this one was slightly different. In truth, the idea of persuading a group of people (complete strangers, as it's turned out) to cycle the length of the country and summon up the energy after a long day in the saddle to play gigs to (rapturously grateful) audiences has its roots in some fairly alcohol-free notions - although a few pints have definitely helped to grease the wheels in the past months. I've always wanted to get out and really explore the country more, and the idea of a Land's End to John o'Groats bike ride has been tantalising me for the past year or two. Green fields, tasty little country pubs and buxom beauties with milk pails and pigtails swinging on rickety gates... That sort of thing. (The last one does really happen, doesn't it? Someone told me.)

Also, last year, my uncle - who'd been doing some work with Cancer Research - persuaded me to go out with him on to the streets of Horsham and London to play a few tunes and raise a bit of money for a CR off-shoot, Busking Cancer. The two things met in my head, shook hands, and well, here we flipping-well are...

So, with 5 months to go, plenty of stuff done, and plenty left still to do. Travelling band? Check. Ten hardy, fearless souls with the legs for the journey (as in, they've got legs) and a dizzying array of musical talent. Route? Mapped out. Accommodation? Booked (well, pretty much almost). The bikes have been bought, the training has begun in earnest, and the songs are starting to sound pretty darned smashing.

That just leaves organising the gigs (underway), sorting out a van and drivers, pulling in a load of other musicians to turn up each night and pitch in with a few songs, and myriad other bits and pieces. But we'll get there. And hopefully raise a pot load of money for Busking Cancer in the process.

So to your bikes, ladies and gentlemen, and to your banjos, basses and kazoos. Let's make some beautiful music together.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hi all

I'm very much new to the cycling scene having only just got on a bike for the first time in 10 years when we went for our first group cycle which for was a bit of a disaster. However I was eager to carry out the commitment I made to myself that I would fulfil this great yet challenging task of the great cycle.
Due to geographic proximity (and tube regulations that forbid bicycles) it is difficult to attend all group outings and unfortunately I was unable to make the Hever trip  but I have found some lovely little trips to do around the Barnet area. So far the longest cycle I completed was a straight there and back no rest for the wicked trip to Watford (22 miles) this took me just under 2 hours. Is that good?  I can feel that I have come a long way in the space of the month since we went out together, though reading this blog I can see I still have a way to go to get to the standard of the other guys but rest assured I will get there soon.   Trying to find time for cycling is tough for a student but I have committed myself to cycling the 4K to uni everyday (saving plenty of money for the beer kitty in the process) Planning to cycle through
Watford on Saturday to the nearby town of Chorleywood and back making the trip 34 miles meaning that I would of cycled roughly 2 days of our planned schedule which will be a great confidence booster for me.