The week in numbers, not necessarily in chronological order:

  • -14…°C the temperature with the wind chill factored in
  • -4 to -2….°C. The temperature without the wind chill.
  • 0….km on the bike (so far…)
  • 1… parking warning for not paying for a ticket
  • 2…days of paying.
  • 5…days of driving to work
  • 5…cm of snow
  • 6…mph. My average speed in the van for the 1st hour during my Friday escape from work along with the rest of Harlow (evidence below).
  • 9…bike commutes this year (sigh).
  • 12… times feeling like a wimp every time I drove past a person on a bike in the cold and snow.
  • 17… years until retirement.
  • 20… £spent on petrol more than I would normally spend per week.
  • 21…bike commutes done this time last year (double sigh 😔)
  • 30…minutes longer spent commuting home today than I normally would on a bike.
  • 50…£ spent on petrol.
  • 90…min drive home this evening.
  • 2720…working days (approx) until retirement.
  • 1360…days (approx) of bike commuting to work.
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Gee, thanks Jim

I have been posting infrequently for a while now and occasionally wonder about these blog recognition awards that do the rounds from time to time. To be recognised by peers can be a wonderful thing and this is what struck me through yesterday’s fog of pin-prick peripheries, swallowing glass shards and the sticky, lumpy phlegm of a rather virulent illness. I can’t remember when I last felt like this;the last time that I remember being physically unable to go to work was 2011 when my sinuses became infected and I needed an operation to sort them out. Most of my sick days are related to my mental being masquerading as the physical. I was nominated by Jim who writes prolifically for a full time working father of 2. I just don’t know how or where he finds the time.

These days it appears that even this kind of recognition comes with work added. I hate that (and I’m not having a pop at you for nominating me here Jim). When I get invited to an “away day” or a “team building” exercise, I know that it’s going to be so much more that a day off the usual grind. Yes, the day can be fun because it isn’t the normal work day. But all the time I think about the work that is building up in my absence and that my time would be better spent doing that than finding out about what colour I am on some theorists leadership spectrum. And then there usually some follow up objectives that the team has to come up with and this necessitates some work added to that which is waiting for me the next day. About the only positive is that it takes me another day closer to retirement…

Yes, this award comes with “rules”. Eh?! I can’t imagine Cate Blanchett being awarded an Oscar and then being asked to shoot a scene the following day only to find that she has to follow someone else’s rules of how to act. I am required to write this post according to the creator Okoto Enigma, and her rules. But enough of my ranting. I am not required to do it at all and as it’s my first time being nominated for anything on WP and I am bored stupid on my 3rd day in bed I’ll do it. Besides, Jim has nominated me-that’s reason enough to do it. Here are the rules.

• List the rules.

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.

• Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

• Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

• Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.

• You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.

• Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

• Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify).

• Share a link to your best post(s).

I have fulfilled the 1st 4 so far (except for the 2nd point-I have added the logo to my post, NOT the blog). You probably have already found a couple of things out about me but here are 3 more.

  1. I am into riding a bike. But only to get from A to B. I have learnt a lot from those who write on these pages and the www on how to maintain my bike and parts for longevity, interesting and fun routes and have had a whole new world of sport opened up to me. But I don’t race nor go on group rides-I just don’t have the time because that would interfere with my 1st love…
  2. I have loved cricket since my early teens. I have never been as talented as some of my team mates but I enjoyed working hard at it to play in the same teams as them because (in the old days), they were my mates and I wanted to spend my weekends with them. I am now 50 and still play which thanks to cycling has improved my fitness and stamina. I back myself to outlast most of those half my age, even the ones who have buckets more talent than me. One day soon, I’ll be in the same team as my sons if they keep playing. That keeps me playing. To my American friends on these pages, it isn’t quite the sedentary sport that you may think it is. It’s more like baseball in the sense that there are lost opportunities galore and matches, (life itself!) hinging on the next delivery, play, hit or miss.
  3. I am a New Zealander. I have a general mistrust of Australians. This is not uncommon among people of my generation. I am certain that many of them are good people and I have meet a lot through work and sport that have challenged my view of them. I just find that I have to be utterly convinced before there is any form of trust on my part. This probably stems from watching our cricket team being cheated out of a tie in the infamous underarm incident where while they won according to the rules, it was not in the “spirit” of the game. They probably would’ve won without resorting to the antics of their captain in the last over but his refusal to “walk” when he was fairly caught out earlier in the match was pivotal in scoring the runs that they did in narrowly beating us. Their actions that day scarred me for life but is not the only reason. “Get over it!”, I hear you say. When I have the fortune to play against any of my cousins from over the ditch here in the UK, I play for my country and I play hard with no quarter but always in the spirit of the game. I always do well against them because of it so ironically I have something to thank them for. Maybe I should get over it…but nah, I would lose this edge if I did.

So onto the 5 questions…

  1. Do you have a goal in mind for your blog? No, it wasn’t certain when I started out. I just thought that I would use it as a kind of on-line diary to describe my riding so as to remember the good ones. It has kind of evolved to some of that and some commuting stuff as well as some ranting.
  2. Why do you do a blog? I also enjoy reading what others are up to and what they have to say and I look up my feed on a daily basis. This is a good form of social media for me as I can read the stuff from those whom I follow without the saturation of ads, surveys and the like that litter other platforms.
  3. What hobbies do you do outside of blogging? Apart from cricket and riding to/from work, nothing. I am a father of 2 with a full time jobs in the NHS. Back to cricket, I also run our club’s juniors section (>100 kids), coach both my sons teams and run training on Sunday mornings over the summer. Even in the winter this takes a lot of time arranging the following seasons fixtures & fundraising for new equipment. I don’t really have enough time to do it properly but I wish I did. I quite liked gardening before I rediscovered cycling but now no longer have the time.
  4. If you could stock up one thing for a lifetime supply what would that be? Money to enable me to never work again. I don’t like work and never have. And don’t try to tell me that I would miss the social element and that money doesn’t make you happy. I’m not seeking happiness, just to stop needing to work to pay an extortionate mortgage to the bank who put me in the position of not having an inflation adjusted salary rise for that last 7 years. The only thing that would stop me from retiring is missing my favourite part of the working day-the extended ride on a clear, warm summer morning at 05.30 a.m., being a part of the waking day. I’m sure that I could find ways around missing that. Like bikepacking or cycle touring France or the Danube and meeting people there instead of at work for example. I could always train to be a barista and work a machine at a local indie coffee shop for a minimal wage to meet people as well. The ride to work would be marvellously car free.
  5. What is a dessert that everyone has to try? You got me started. I have a closet sweet tooth and spent years denying myself desserts and sweet things to control my weight. It didn’t work but became habit. I don’t generally go for the dessert option these days-the starters always seem to look a better option when I eat out. Mrs B2Ws home made ice cream range is the best ice cream that I have had-brown bread , salted caramel (before it became a “thing”) and the strawberry ice cream all outstanding flavours and a welcome summer treat. If everyone has to try it then our cycle down the Danube looks like it may well happen soon!

Thanks for reading. There aren’t many that I can nominate who have probably been nominated for these things before but here they are:

Rootchopper-quirky tales of a newly retired commuter & occasional bike tourer (he was an amusing read before he retired as well…).

The Sultry Single speeder -quirky and amusing but in different ways. Look out for those tremendous bike bells and hurry up with getting them in stock already!

Like my nominee Jim, don’t feel that you have to accept. I only started it out of boredom in the man ‘flu pit and had it not been for this, the time that it took to write this would have stolen time from something else.

The 1st 3 questions are the same, the remaining 5 questions are however different- not funny nor weird.

  1. What is your earliest memory of riding a bicycle?
  2. If you could choose 3 companions to go with on a cycle tour, who would they be & where would you go?
  3. Who is your favourite author and why?
  4. What will be your next bicycle?
  5. Do you have an interesting ancestor? (come on, we all have one…)

Oh yeah, the link to my best post. I can’t name that-the best post is whatever the reader decides it is…😜

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Battery free bike light-Who’da thunk it?

Yes folks, Jim my chance and yours to get your hands on a battery free bike light-for free. Awesome!!! 🚴

Posted in commuting, cycling, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

2017 cycle

After a week off the bike during the seasonal plunder of food and booze I have lost my mojo. So I am hoping that reminding myself of what I did on the bike this year will give me some motivation to get out for one last hurrah on the last day of the year.

I didn’t go as far this year as I did in 2016. About 1500km less. I did equal the 100 ride to work commute record from last year. After a 3rd year of doing it I am now assuming that this cycling to work thing is now habit, it is what I do. Theoretically I can stop keeping track of my rides but I won’t because I like stats and they keep me going when I would rather stay in bed or revert to a previous life of sloth and inactivity. They are a measure of performance that complement my lived experience. The performance comes not in PRs, KOM, speed and metres climbed-I’m just not that kind of person who rides a bike. But the savings matter.

I have worked out the gross saving is £950. Add in the ride home and back to school every Monday on the school run it’s over £1000. Take away the cost of maintenance, repairs (thanks Scott), clothing, tubes and a tyre, I’m around £700 in the black. The money isn’t the only metric though. A resting heart rate of 52 with a VO2 max of 43 is the direct result of a weekly aim of riding 161km/100miles per week. At my age, that’s supposed to be excellent.

This cardio fitness should support my longevity, and that is an overall bonus, but the actual aim has become the continuation to be in the embrace of my first (but not only) love-cricket. Mrs B2W, look away now! At 50 years old, I am eligible, if selected to play age group County cricket. It’s about 30 years later than the original dream but the irony is that I am fitter now than I was then with a better temperament. I’m gonna have to do some weight bearing exercise to avoid injury as my exercise of choice does not condition my running muscles adequately. I loathe running but it might be quite fun to join master13 on his regular 6km runs. Not that I’ll stay with him for long, he’s faster than I ever was. I’m sure that he’ll enjoy burning me up in his subconscious quest to become the alpha male but I consider one of the roles as a parent is to give confidence and build self esteem…

So on to the qualitative perspective. It was still great! But it was different. Lower speeds and less distance in my allotted time is probably the reason that I rode less in 2017 as I began to explore off road routes. The 29er has an easier riding position for me and is easier to fit in the back of the van for the school run. I found some new favourite local places and easily built these into my commutes. The lack of motor vehicles is an added bonus. I am lucky enough to ride in fairly rural areas between towns so riding when the day is waking in the countryside often makes it the best part of my working day.

Best part of the working day

Not a B2W day but a glorious find

In April we took the Eurostar over to Paris -I was support crew for Mrs B2W’s marathon entry. Once she had left our Air BnB to get to the start and do the pre race thing, I got a bike from the nearby bike hire docking sttaion and explored the canals and waterways in a reinvigorated old industrial area. The area was alive with church goers, markets and cafes as I trundled around living the experience of what many have written-the bike is an excellent way to explore a city, discovering the unplanned.

Basin de Vilette

La Geode-hemispheric movie theatre

She was excellent to finish and it must’ve been tough. As we shared a romantic sidewalk cafe beer later, she looked deep into my eyes with the pained expression of someone who had tortuously endured running in 25°C heat and explained that Paris was her last marathon. I could tell that she was serious.

In October we headed to Fuerteventura for some half term warmth and adventure. I hired a 29er for the adventure bit and did a lot of climbing. Its windy there but it was of no consequence-going earlier in the day seemed to feel less windy. The crappy parts of riding don’t seem to matter when I’m having fun anyway. Or is it because I’m only remembering the best bits 2 months later? The other best bits were the aqua park, the beach, the food and thrashing everyone at crazy golf.

Early morning adventure

The flat part with a tailwind before the climbing part into the headwind

Our first Tapas experience in a little known away from the tourist crowds bar will take some beating-mussels, ribs and snails. Cheap, cheerful and tasty

My pre holiday fears about riding on the other side of the road were quickly dispelled. In direct contrast to the UK there are lots of segregated cycle lanes in the towns. The experience was well and truly enriched by the considerate driving and manners of people in vehicles.

Balmy evening ride enjoying the 2 wheeled utopia of a well lit segregated cycle path

It’s still rainy and I have nowhere to go except back to bed to consider some resolutions for next year. Thanks for reading and have a great 2018.

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Getting even

I often hear the saying,”don’t get angry, get even”. Back in mid November on my way to work in the morning, a bus sounded his horn and to his credit passed me at a safe distance. But as he did, he pointed to the shared cycle/pedestrian path adjacent to the road. I never use that path as it ends abruptly meaning that I have to merge back onto a busy road. Even the Highway Code doesn’t compel me to use it so I don’t. What I did do was chase him, take his route number, number plate details and email a complaint to the bus company to ask them to remind him that he is in charge of a large vehicle and therefore has a responsibility to respect other road users as an expected standard of behaviour for their employees.

Two days later I received a close pass on the same road around the same time, same route number but different plates on the bus. So I emailed complaint number 2. The same thing happened a couple of days later so I sent another complaint. After the described 10 working days that I would received feedback on these complaints and didn’t hear anything I sent another couple of emails asking on progress. Nothing. Until the message below received a couple of days ago.

At first I felt bad for the driver getting into trouble and all that but think that I am justified. There are examples in the UK of drivers not being brought to account by the law after injuring and killing people on bikes despite clear video evidence. I barely escaped from being chased by a 4WD on the way home a couple of weeks ago not once but 3 times. I called the Police about it but they either lack the resources or don’t care. Earlier in the year I was tipped on the grounds of the hospital by another healthcare worker who failed to stop at the stop sign because she didn’t see me ( despite my front blinkie). Thankfully I did see her and swerved to avoid her meaning no injury to bike or person. The law does not protect me.

I don’t want this post to be a them and us rant but I am fed up with this kind of behaviour from people in vehicles. It doesn’t happen on every journey and most drivers are considerate as am I. But it does happen on most of my commutes by the minority of asshat idiots who embark on this dangerous, intimidating behaviour to tell others who belongs on the road and who does not.. This week I got even. One of my 2018 resolutions is to report any dangerous driving if the vehicle belongs to a company or can be identified.

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Full Winter Jacket

It was effing cold if you believe the “RealFeel®” on the weather app this morning. A month ago I was enjoying breezy 26°C rides in the Canary Islands so yes, I can well and truly believe the information. This heralds the start of the winter season proper. 3 layers on top including a merino base layer, fleece lined top and the winter jacket was just about enough. The legs would still be thawing if it weren’t for the woolen leggings under the fleece lined tights. At least there was no ice to slow me down but that is waiting for me tomorrow so I’ll be churning it out on Boris, the 29er.

-4°C is about the limit of my winter riding clothing

This morning was also ride #300 for the year, ~ at month short of a ride a day. A politician might say that I have ridden 90% of days in 2017.

The day that the scarf and fleece lined cap comes off will be the day that the light at the end of the long winter tunnel will feel close. That tunnel will take at least 2 months and is just around 1000-1500km long, probably longer. Shedding the full winter jacket feels a long way off…

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…or Cardio Pulmonary Exercise Test.

Back in 2011, my hospital purchased a machine to perform exercise tolerance tests on people who are considered an anaesthetic “high risk”. This would identify who may not be recommended for complex surgery requiring a long anaesthetic and just as importantly it would allow better planning of high dependency and critical care for closer monitoring in the post-operative period. The anaesthetist who ran the programme required some healthy volunteers of all fitness levels to help quality assure results during the initial set up (and the personnel using the tech). As I had recently rediscovered riding a bike over the previous year, I was encouraged to have a go so I  did.

This involved getting on an exercise bike with ECG leads attached and a tight fitting mask to measure my heart rate and rhythm as well as the amount of carbon dioxide that I would breathe out. The computer was programmed to increase resistance over a period of time much like climbing a never ending hill without the promise of a nice breather on the descent.  There comes a time when the intensity is cranked up so much that the body cannot cope with the demand and one has to stop.  I am no expert on this so there is plenty of science about it to read here & here.  Anyway a picture of my results 6 years ago is below.

VO2 max 2011

I was pretty pleased about this as was told that my lung function was as if I hadn’t spent half of my life as a smoker and affirmed (to me at least) that I was in good shape, the best that I had ever felt.  However given my peak VO2 max above my level of cardiovascular fitness looked like it was “poor” according to the charts.

vo2max chart

Just like my school reports-“…has a tendency to be lazy-could do a lot better…”

Then earlier this year I came across this excellent synopsis by PedalWorks  about VO2 max and this got me into thinking how to calculate my own VO2 max using the Uth-Sorensen-Overgaard-Pedersen estimation, a method to estimate this measure of cardiovascular fitness.  My current resting heart rate & age would suggest this to be 50.9 making me “superior”.  My recent birthday present of a FitBit could even calculate this for me and this wonderful piece of tech states that my “cardiovascular fitness is ,”between 44 & 48, excellent for a man your age!”  Could it be that the last 6 years of cycling a lot had placed me in the “excellent/superior” category?  And why is there a marked difference in both measurements.  If my experience in critical care has taught me anything it is not to fully trust machines and estimations so when I was chatting to an anaesthetist during some teaching, she offered me the chance to hop on the CPET bike again to offer me something more tangible.  After all, this is considered to be “gold standard” in calculating…

VO2 max 2017

Wow! an increase in my peak VO2 max by 24% and my Lactate/anaerobic threshold more than doubled*. The lactic threshold is important if you read the first link-theoretically it means that you can go faster for longer before exhaustion when you are training to seek a marginal gain over your competitors.  Or in my case, comfortably go for a longer ride without the shortness of breath bothering me too much.

They say that these results are meaningless unless you are training for a specific target as an athlete if measured regularly but they aren’t a predictor of performance.  I would say that the cardio fitness helps in sport in general as I am able to concentrate better for longer than I used to limiting the likelihood of error.  And you may think cricket to be one of the more sedate sports but with cardio fitness comes better judgment at the batting crease during a long(ish) innings and more focus at the end of a long, hot day in the field.  I am proud of this given that I feel that I can out perform those half my age of similar ability while playing at a good standard.

And when someone says, “gee you cycle all that way to work (20km)? You must be fit…”.  Well, it’s all relative.  No I am not as fit as others who can go 100km at faster speeds than me and able to function for the rest of the day (I don’t have time for that anyway).  Yes, I can ride regularly and do a full days work without being any more tired than usual.  I’m fit because I do ride regularly when I would rather lie in a warm bed for another 30 minutes…or look for excuses not to do something that will make me slightly uncomfortable for a short period like the housework for example**.  And there’s the “thing”-it has taken me 6 years of riding my bike between 3000-5000 miles a year to improve my fitness that by 24% to an excellent level of fitness.  As Jim says, “you can’t get fit by polishing the couch with your butt”. Amen to that…

*they didn’t directly measure my blood lactate but calculated this on the measured level of carbon dioxide exceeding my oxygen intake.  This is an estimated measurement rather than an accurate measurement of lactate but still good enough for me.

**I mean really, who would rather do the ironing, 3 loads of washing and clean the floors when you can hop on a bike and go for an adventure?

Posted in bike commute, cricket, cycling | 4 Comments