14th July (#74)

My ride this morning was pretty standard. Woken by the cat, back to sleep for 45min, woken by the conventional alarm and up early doors for an early start. The overnight rain and drizzle had made the roads damp but the air was dry. I hummed and ha’ed but eventually while on the road decided on a nice 25km route. Back country roads, empty save for other early commuters.

No killer swans to attack me on my gravel cut through by the farm pond, alone in my thoughts, arranging my morning at work to do the least possible to get the most done. I call it C word malaise. Stop at the supermarket, get supplies for pasta bake later but only because I was early. A standard commute. Not exceptional, not boring.

Homeward. Dry and warm. Sore back. Gotta stretch those hamstrings more, maybe lower the saddle? Stop half way to collect more pasta bake supplies and a bar of chocolate to compensate for my lack of nutrition earlier. Again, neither an exceptional nor boring ride. Another day in the saddle, another 50km in the bank.

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10th July (#73)

Last night we started the cat on something to keep him quiet during the night. In preparation, the boys paid him hourly visits during the day to keep him awake as much as is possible for a cat. He had me up at 04.30. Maybe he needs more time on the “Calmex”. It worked out though and despite the 5 hrs sleep, I got up, had some toast and coffee and noticed on my stats that last nights ride home marked 2000 rides since I started on Strava about 6 years ago. Epic. I left early to take a long route to work. This road riding is quite addictive.

The overnight rain had cleared and the sun was peeping through lifting cloud, promising a warm return journey. But the breeze was a cool North Wester, sometimes in my face, sometimes not as I cut around the damp country roads. The plan was to find a route to Kao Park, an off site building, 2 miles away from the main site where Finance and HR staff are based. I may find myself working there occasionally in the near future. I eventually found it after dropping into town and found some cycle paths that I didn’t know about which is handy to know. Avoiding the weekly Friday escape from work idiocy has become a priority after the debacle last week. I turned the route into a 27km ride to Kao Park and eventually got to work early after 33.5km.

The highlight of my work week was demonstrating a proof of concept with a mobile camera and video feed so that not everyone needs to be in the department for Wednesday morning Paediatric simulation sessions. In my world this is pretty exciting.

Now the session can be shared remotely for wider learning outside the department

Not so exciting was finding out that the lead for the new building is on leave this week. His 2nd in charge should have set things up to maintain the momentum but as I know that his communication is poor I am not surprised that nothing has happened. I was also excited to leave work in sunshine 3 hours early to get a big end of week ride home. I went on quiet roads to avoid as many shiny metal boxes as possible and took a country route.

I missed a turn off meaning that I would battle into the NW wind for the majority of the ride. It was sunny but not all that warm, the cool headwind taking the edge off the 19°C temperature. Given that I started off slow and I had to battle into the wind for most of the afternoon at the end of the week, a final speed of 22.5km/hr was OK for me. The longer than planned ride home gave me 70km for the day.

My legs were smoked, my knees sore so after wedges and a fishburger Mrs B2W and I went out for a doggie walk to keep them loose- I have a ride planned to pick up my 29er wheel from Dave in the morning…

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9th July (#72)

I was out of the house under threatening skies at the gentlemanly hour of 8 this morning. A lie in of sorts for a mid week work day. It hasn’t been summer warm lately and the weather changable. The rain that tipped on us during yesterday’s enforced bike rest day put the green into Englands green and pleasant land. The roads were wet, the sky grey and while feeling cool on the arms, it was actually mild.

My legs still felt tired. So I aimed for 25km, intending not to push them that hard, just pedal with a rhythm on the crosser. Dave had not yet replaced the spokes on the 29er so I was stuck with the crosser for the rest of the week. I have become used to the fit of it again and realised that while it limits my route options, my average pace make me feel like a boss without even trying. Descending with speed, gathering momentum for short climbs more than compensates for the difference in granny gear ratios. Before I knew it I was on the fringes of town, stopping off at the shop and getting to work on time.

I waited for a good 45min after finishing work for the worst of the burst of “heavy” rain to pass. It was really light, continuous rain but there was no way that I wanted to start off in that. What I did start off in was was light drizzle in the humid evening. Not heavy enough for a rain jacket, too muggy for an extra heat trapping layer. I was soon warm, cutting through puddles, slicing my path through the permawet roads and lanes. The moist air was refreshing. Cooling but not too wet, no wind. Epic in that hardy, badass looking way as viewed from the sticky comfort of a car in a long line of rush hour traffic.

Except I left all that rush hour danger over there on the main roads. I was out of harms way on the country roads, lost in thoughts of working in a brand new building in 4 months. Apparently. There was a sense of urgency in last Mondays planning meeting. “Contact us, meet with us” they said. “Let us know your ideas, what you want, what you need“. Telephone and e-mail reminders to set up meetings all week before next week’s meeting are so far unanswered. No follow-up meeting appointment in the diary…yet. When this sort of thing happens, I immediately question what are they really up to? Suspicion. I’ve been there before and too long in the tooth to accept that it’s only really just a lack of communication.

But still, I felt epic in the muggy moisture and crossed paths with master15 taking the dog onto the Flitch for a wet wander. Her outraged yelp at me for not stopping to say hello properly backfired. A couple of minutes later she was let off the lead to chase squirrels and sniff the smells. She ended up chasing me home leaving a worried teenager to telephone me stating that she had gone missing! Nope, just making the effort to be my finishing line fan…

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7th July (#71)

I didn’t get much distance in the day before so had some catching up to do today. I was more or less grateful for the cat waking me after 5 hrs sleep and I stumbled out into a cool but dry morning before 6. The 29er was out of commission, the back wheel having a couple of spokes replaced by Dave. So I was on Doris the crosser for a couple of days, limited to roads and the odd bit of gravel.

The foreign geometry of the frame and the initial awkward position took a little getting used to. But the speed of the 35mm tyres and the lighter frame made for easy going. Cruising with little effort in the still air was the order of my morning. Because I had the extra time, I went a bit further, taking a home time route in reverse, sticking to quiet roads. Before I knew it, I was on the outskirts of town, onto the cycle paths and in to work. That was mostly on 4 gears. The front lever wasn’t pulling the chain up and for some reason the back was playing up, robbing me of the granny gears.

By the afternoon, my legs were giving me stick for attempting 30km earlier. After the previous day of sacrificing a longer ride for work, gardening and to get the boys to cricket, I had some catching up to do. The wind had freshened up behind me and it had warmed up enough to get the short sleeves out of my pack. So off I went to equal the morning’s distance, inflicting more pain on my tired legs. The forecast was for rain the next day so I could push it with a planned rest day.

I was glad that I made time to look at the back gears, re-indexing them but I was stuck in the small cog at the front. I didn’t care much-I had a feeling that my legs wouldn’t appreciate going all that hard. So I sat up on the bars and let them take me around the countryside at their leisure, making the most of the warm and dry before the wet stuff would pay a visit later. I warmed down with some lawn mowing and raking up grass clippings from the weekend before the rain came. With 60km under my belt for the day, I was looking forward to resting my legs the following day, my first day off the bike, any bike in the last 65.

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3rd July (#70)

04.38 was my wake up call from the cat. I got up, fed him and went back to bed to snooze until my planned alarm woke me. I drifted into a trance reheasing my morning route after last night’s biblical torrent that ensured that I wouldn’t have to water the garden for a while. And then, my eyes popped open with a sudden realisation. I had left my shoes out in the warm evening sun to dry off after yesterday’s splishy, splashy spin home. They would be saturated, wetter than a whales wallet after last night! I got up, making sure that I remembered my merino socks to keep my wet feet warm for the journey in to work. After boiling the kettle for coffee, I got to work on my poor sodden Shimano SPD touring shoes, stuffing them with newspaper to take away the worst of the moisture.

I browsed lawn trimmers over coffee while I waited. Our new house, which we are yet to finalise the purchase of (owing mainly to our sale falling through twice now) has an over grown lawn. So it needs the top taking off it before gradually cutting it back and, as I don’t have one, it’s finally time to buy one. I have always avoided it, despite protestations from Mrs B2W who likes the look of a nice, tidy, ordered garden. That means more work and I like the look of a little overgrowth around borders and fences. Besides, it encourages insects and wildlife and I’ve always made do with occasionally using hedge clippers to manually trim it to keep the peace. For me, trimmers are the carpet bombing of the garden world compared to the precision of manual cutting but I think that I have lost this battle after many years of argument and counter argument. I eventually headed out 20 minutes earlier than planned with a Foo Fighters ear worm on loop to keep my tempo (with adapted lyrics):

I, I’m a one way motorway
I’m the one that rides away
Then follows you back home
I, I’m a sluggish spinner
I’m a slow plod pedalling
Grinding off alone.  

It’s times like these you want to bike again
It’s times like these you spin and spin again
It’s times like these you love to ride again
It’s times like these time and time again

I, I’m a new day rising
I’m on a brand new ride
To get myself to work
I am a little divided
Do I ride this way
Or get to work on time?

Apologies to Dave Grohl et al but it worked for me as I made my way effortlessly into a light breeze taking a slight detour and getting to work on time under gry skies. It was a productive, enjoyable day with pre-meetings ahead of a big one for Monday taking up the majority of the morning. Filming a resus video made for a quick afternoon before my last ride home for the week. The Friday evening rush hour chaos that was a pre C word event has now returned.

I went via some shared cycle paths out of town and within a couple of km came across a white Audi, having found themselves at a barrier reversing back up the path to get back the road. They were wobbling from side to side an I narrowly missed being clipped and ruining their precious paintwork. Looks like this moron decided on a short cut that weng wrong.  A Land Rover Defender, emblazoned with a landscape design logo with its rattling trailer clattered past. An arm was stretched out from the passenger side as if to assure me that I was safe. A boy racer in his 3 door weaved his way around others at high speed from the other direction almost taking me out. I was in one of those nightmares waiting for the next calamity over which I had no control. I had to wake up but I couldn’t. This was real life.

Having become used to emptier roads I don’t know how I coped before lock down. The sudden volume of speeding cars felt intimidating, as if I didn’t belong anymore and I hadn’t even gone 10km yet. “Bugger this!” I thought and ducked in to the back road behind Sawbridgeworth to take a longer but quiter ride home while I was still alive. There were less cars but still, some having discovered the back roads as a rat run behaved as above. The Peugeot convertible swinging past on a blind corner belching filthy exhaust into me was a particular highlight.

In the end, whenever someone was behind me, unable to pass because the road was too narrow, I just pulled over to let them go. Even though they waved or signalled their thanks I knew my place in the world. My legs, tired from a 7th 200km week running were pleased for the intermittent stops and slowing to a pleasant spin home. I finished the ride home with an uncomfortable bumpy trundle through the forest but at least it was quiet. Commute #70 was one of the most memorable rides of the year, the second half for all the wrong reasons. The first half is what I am remembering for all the right reasons. It goes without saying that my plan for next Friday is for a quieter but longer route home.

Here is the link for my morning inspiration. That intro! https://youtu.be/rhzmNRtIp8k

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2nd July (#69)

I didn’t get up with Mrs B2W this morning. I had a late start and although I had plans to take the dog walkies to loosen up my legs, the legs weren’t listening. So, after the perennial early morning feline racket, I dozed for 45 min and left at a tardy 08.30 after some spectacular dithering. I went a fairly direct route but was slow.  The legs still weren’t listening.

Thankfully my 10 o’clock was late and left me a message that he was running an hour late. It was a shame that didn’t I know this before my shower otherwise I could have had a long soak. There wasn’t much to do today and I couldn’t face doing some much needed junk clearing of my office so I kept the pretence of appearing busy all day. Walking fast, rattling off unnecessary e-mails in between necessary ones…the usual stuff to make me look productive when I was too knackered to try. That bloody cat has a lot to answer for. I hope that my cover isn’t blown before he snuffs it.

I hung around for an hour plotting a route home while a heavy downpour seemed to stay over my building. There was no way I was going out in that torrent so I waited it out until it got lighter. Eventually it did and within a 15minutes of starting off in dark gloom, the clouds moved and it was summer again. I chose the river trail as there would be no hordes of teenagers getting in my way, jumping into the locks to cool off. There were plenty of puddles and I was content to slowly splash through them as overhanging tree branches, heavy with moisture soaked my top as I brushed past. Shortly, back on the road, I was a near fatality as the 508 bus passed within inches of me as the impatient driver couldn’t wait a few seconds until it was safe.

Too bad for you YX17 NHB, I’ve reported you. That was the same registration plate as the one that I reported in November on the same road. I wonder if it’s the same driver. But I scraped home in time for the monthly pay day curry treat. It was the last of the 50% discount deal and we made the most of it. We can’t wait until the restaurant re-opens.

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1st July (#68)

I had an early start so was glad of the regular feline wake up call. He is nearly stringing it out until 05.30 at times so the is hope that this may be a phase. The morning air was cool at 06.20 and there weren’t many cars about on my country route. Good, its what I’ve become used to. My legs didn’t get with the programme until I decided at last minute to take a detour through the airfield to make the journey a few metres shy of 25km.

Although I didn’t have much on after my early morning commitment, I was busy, mainly trying to squeeze what had to be done into less time so that I could leave before the forecast showers hit. But I couldn’t and had to wait around waiting for a heavy shower to pass. While I started out in dry air, it didn’t last long before more light rain drifted down cover me in wet stuff. Being 21°C, it was not unpleasant.

Being rush hour proper, I avoided the busy roads where I could. The frequency of driver courtesy is continuing to deteriorate as more people ease back into work. I started to develop a scale based on yesterday’s ride home. Nissan Juke drivers seem to be frustrated Range Rover drivers who plunder about like a panzer commander, high on amphetamines during a blitzkrieg, catching up with his division after breaking down.

But it was mainly pleasant with a warm breeze behind when the sun came out for the second half of the return leg. While the country road routes are longer, they also feel safer. Both necessary to get me to my 5000 mile goal for the year.

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30th June:

The C word. I have come to realise that for all of it’s problems, the lies of Government, the scandalous lack of strategy and the resultant change in life as we know it, there have been positives. I have been guilty of becoming negative about the whole situation, particularly the poor leadership and now acknowledge that this is no way to be. I cannot change what has happened nor influence the greedy, lying incompetence of the ruling class. So after today’s post, I will no longer post Total UK deaths and try to avoid it. For want of a better expression, to celebrate, I detail below what has been positive for me, of which there are a few.

Money savings: the Friday before lock down, put £30 of petrol to power my 2.5 litre Ford Freda van. On a good week, this is all I fill it with but it is probably more at the height of the cricket season taxiing the boys to training and matches as well as getting me to 2 matches a week. Moreover, no cricket means no match fees to pay or beer to buy over the bar afterwards. Since lock down, I have been to the petrol station twice for £30 and then another £20 3 weeks ago. The tank is still a quarter full. That van is the most economical vehicle in the neighbourhood, costing £3.60 per week in the 14 weeks since lock down and counting. The longest that I went without driving it was 3 weeks and 2 days. Now that things are easing, I take her out once a week and feel dirty when I do.

The R-rate: Relating to the C word, this is explained here if you didn’t know already but for anyone who has been on another planet for the last 3 months. The “R” number is the reproduction number, and refers to the number of people an infected individual could pass the virus to. The higher the R value, the more infectious the virus. R2 means one person can pass Covid-19 to two people while R10 means it can be transmitted to 10. This is currently estimated to be 0.8-1 in the UK although there are regional variations. My R rate means something different. This is my Ride rate. This calculated by dividing the number bike rides by the number of days in the year. The higher the R-rate, the fitter I am. My R rate currently stands at 1.29 (235 rides in 182 days).

The LOVE: Many people have embraced the love of the NHS and key workers as a focal point in this crisis. The Thursday evening clapping at the front door and appropriating the rainbow as a symbol of hope are among a few examples. Selflessly donating food and practical items to my colleagues is another. I have noticed many pictures of support posted on fences and in windows on my journey to and from work. Below are a few of the many on my routes.

Cycling distance: Like many others, my distance has been (for me anyway) prolific. In June I completed 954km/593miles which my highest monthly figure ever. It should really be no surprise about my petrol expenditure as I have only driven to work once since lock down. And that was only to put the 29er in the back of the van for an emergency LBS visit after a mechanical shortly after starting a commute to work. It wasn’t a conscious decision to do more as I was required to work but I was keen to enjoy the emptier roads even though there were still idiots about lazily piloting their metal boxes in a diluted rush hour.

Thankfully the weather has been acceptable to ride in and have only missed one day on the bike in the last 3 months due to enforced iso while we waited for Mrs B2Ws swab results. All of this means that I am just over 2,500 miles for the year and with the same recent average weekly distances should get to twice that by the end of the year barring injury. Having only achieved that once before in the last 6 years, I am excited and happy with the consequence of there being no cricket to rob me of the time to do it.

Air quality: the picture below of the London skyline says it all. I don’t notice it as much as perhaps the Londoners do/did but the quieter roads when I got my timing right for the commutes was good while it lasted. No doubt things will return back to where we were but what this thing has forced us to look at is how we can work differently without joining the daily trudge to work in a car. Agility in working remotely where possible has become acceptable, particularly in my job which is pretty hands on. Whereas 6 months ago it may have been frowned upon, now we are actively encouraged to look at 1 day per week. I sense a little more political will to address problems relating to pollution with the pop up cycle lanes in cities starting to appear. I hope that we see more incentives and capital infrastructure to get people thinking about whether they do actually need to take the car to work or up to the shops.

Top=London, Christmas day 2019 bottom= 25th April 2020 (about 4 weeks after UK lock down started)
Empty evening rush hour motorway, early April 2020

I will no longer have the time to write as regularly due to growing work pressures so from now I mostly just plan to stick with describing my bike commutes. Thanks for putting up with my ranting. I know it can’t have been easy.

Total UK deaths: 43,730 (155)

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29th June (#67)

I don’t normally work on Mondays but today I had to go into Harlow to have a look at some new premises in advance of our relocation by the end of September. The whole team were there and a couple of departments are already in situ enjoying the purpose built space. Specific to me, there are showers in the gents bathrooms, lockers and undercover bike parking. Logistically it looks like we will be running our whole day events there while maintaining a presence on the hospital site 2 miles down the road. Everything is light, quiet and cavernous and Kao Park is closer to home with a nice quiet country roads route making it nicer to travel to while extending my route somewhat. I am sold and will now be busy planning for the temporary new build that we should be in by October on the main hospital site.

The windy rides continue. This morning was 19km into a “moderate SW breeze” as described by the weather app. It was actually a B@$T@®D headwind all the way and I was happy to find my destination and escape it for a while. After the 120min tour and Q&A I was looking forward to a helpful tailwind to caress me home. The app had upped the strength of the wind to a “breezy” 22mph SW wind. The air temperature was supposed to feel like 18°C and while my core was warm, my arms felt cool in what turned out to be more cross than tail wind.

I found a bridleway to shelter while I wolfed down my trail brekkie and added my rain jacket to keep me warm. However, I had to remove that 10km from home even though it was unzipped at the front. It was one of those rides where too much was as uncomfortable as not enough. On arrival home, I took a pic and uploaded it with my Fillthathole app.

It’s a UK Cycling app that allows you to pick the location, add size dimension and take a photo and then, courtesy of the www, it gets reported to the relevant council to repair. The ones that I have reported have been repaired within 2 weeks and it takes much less time than calling the council waiting in a queue. I love it when tech works…

Total UK deaths: 43,575 (25).

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28th June

It was the first junior cricket training of the season today. It was well organised and met all the social distancing and C word guidelines. I was not looking forward it. Since the ban on recreational cricket I have lost interest and enjoyment about the game and have more than a tense relationship with the rest of the club committee over some very poor treatment. I should have left but stayed in the interest of most of the juniors including my sons. Apart from listening to cricket on the wireless and playing the numerous social media quizzes, cricket does not consume my life as it once did.

So I went on my weekly car journey with Master12 and went through the motions. I am working my way in to retire/resign at the end of the season. Master15s team will all be playing senior cricket next season and it will be the end of an era, having coached and managing them since they were all 5 years old. Depending on how I feel, I may even play in the lower teams to mentor them in their transition. It is hard leaving them to the questionable morals and scruples of some of the senior membership.

After lunch, I had a lazy ride in the wind along flat trails and bridleways. It was only to get to 200km for the 5th week running. The afternoon sun was bright so I stopped a few times to take some nature shots.

Filter applied

What is a weed?…
Glow in the dark caterpillar
Not from the Lord of the Rings set
…but an unwanted plant?

Total UK deaths: 43,550 (36)

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