When I went into the garage last Saturday morning, after I had returned from my early morning tip errand, I remembered what had nagged me the night before. I needed some small paint roller sleeves to get behind the heated towel rail in the bathroom without having to remove it. Bugger! I couldn’t start covering the lilac of one bathroom so I started on the other and had enough by lunchtime. I tinkered in the garage, sorting out my tools and cleaned Doris who had accumulated quite a bit of filth during the week.

Wanting to make the most of the continued mild air, I offered to ride up to the supermarket for some essentials. I took Boris so that I had a break from riding on the road. The trails were sloppy with the type of watery mud that sprays everywhere as it flicks you with that fine brown mist. I was covered by the time that I joined the 5 person queue. People gave me polite smiles, stared or gave me a wide berth as I made my way through the mayhem of the seasonal rush. I think that I’ve invented an effective yet healthier method to maintain social distancing. I slipped and slid my way home on balding tyres completing my last 200km week of the year.

I got home to news to another Govt U-turn in C-word policy. Rising infection rates, new variant blablabla has meant the introduction of a new tier 4 for the SE of England. Work from home, essential shopping only and protecting the NHS is now it for 2 weeks. Working where I do, I could see it coming. Today we have 99 Covid +ve patients in our 300 bed hospital. The year is ending as it began, a complete $#¡T show made worse by the Brexit negotiation fiasco.

Sunday was another painting bathroom walls day. I started off by riding to the DIY store for roller sleeves. When I got there, I had passed 8048km/5000 miles for the year. Despite my anxiety on not being able to reach it after a lean November, a 400km fortnight in mild air was just the winter weather anomaly that I needed to get it done. I celebrated with a 2 km sprint to the supermarket for oats and IPA before heading home to finish the bathrooms. With the weather cooling down this past week, I took a break from commuting for a few days. Now that I’ve reached my goal and no hope of breaking my yearly PB, there seems no point in continuing, at least in the short term.

Besides, my legs could do with a rest and there are another 8 rooms not including the hallway to decorate. I’m in the zone with sandpaper, rollers and brushes and have since started on the office/study/Fortnite battle zone. Who knows how long that will last before the cricket season starts in 4 months?! So I’m going with it.

Like many, our Christmas was different this year and therefore memorable so the 4 of us are making of it what we can. I do hope that everyone had Happy, sensible and safe Christmas. There may not be another like it in our lifetime. I hope so…

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18th December (#124)

I could’ve done a full commute today but with the C-word taking hold and tier 3 looming for us tomorrow I took a pragmatic choice. There was a chance that I could get out early enough from work to collect some paint and wood for some shelving and I couldn’t do that by bike. Moreover, I’m not sure whether the shop will be open on Saturday and with the threat of self isolation possible, I decided that at least I could get enough stuff in to do some home improvement if/when we all get stuck indoors. If there is anything that I learnt from lock down 1.0 watching neighbours use their time to do the same, this was it. While I was slaving away in a key worker role, they were building, re building, painting and decorating. I was envious that they had this time to do it. Even so, I had the luxury of warm sunny days, relatively quiet roads and social contact with peers as well as a couple of 1000km months.

So I parked the van up, hauled out a dirty Doris and started to spin my merry way through the drizzly suburbs of Bishops Stortford. The wind had picked up to a breezy in my face 17mph. It was like autum all over again with the weather app telling me that the air temperature was a mild 10°C. After riding for the last week in relatively still air, this should have felt like the B@$T@®d-est of headwinds but it was OK. On Doris I could tuck in, keep low and plod along. The drizzle soon stopped and my 15km journey was over before I knew it.

It was a busy morning hosting a regional study day using remote tech. Nothing new here but new to us and we smashed it. Our paymasters liked it but I will celebrate (or not) when we get the attendees’ feedback. Afterwards I completed some admin jobs that I had been putting off so that Christmas week could be spent doing mandatory e-learning and starting the annual tidying, cleaning and getting rid of hoarded rubbish. I left later than I wanted so could only do the boring short route back to the van again so that I could get the paint before the shop closed.

I was expecting my legs to moan about having to climb into a second 100 mile week running this deep into December but they were happy enough. Besides, a timely end of week tailwind meant that I could be caressed along with little effort for the end of week commute. I had a nagging feeling that I had forgotten something, missing a piece in the jigsaw of my grand lock down home improvement plan. I busied myself with weekend tasks to discover what it was. Load mattresses and wood into van for the tip for first thing tomorrow morning. Get Christmas tree out of the garage. Consolidate my scattered tools back into the toolbox. Do same with painting equipment. Clean bikes. Ride bikes. There was nothing that jumped out at me.

Goody. Let the weekend commence!

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17th December (#123)

I woke this morning cursing the sluggish pace of the week. “It’s only Thursday!” I thought as I pulled myself up and got dressed in the dark to take the dog for a quickie before the school run and riding the rest of the way. As soon as I hopped onto Doris I knew that I wouldn’t be breaking any records or PBs. My legs just wanted to spin so spin they did in more mild air under a blue sky. I was disappointed not to see any evidence of yesterday’s incident on the traffic island but by then after only 10km, I was feeling the consequences of not having refuelled adequately last night.

I gingerly made it to the Co-op in Old Harlow and hoovered a Nutrageous bar for the rest of the journey. Work. The teaching part was idyllic, the sneaky undermining by a departmental head nothing short of infuriating. Still, he will find out the hard way that you don’t do that to professionals. Professionals are clever and articulate and don’t have the time to do his job for him. More importantly I think that we are a tight team and may have the ear of his boss. We’ll soon find out but maybe not this side of Christmas…

The seasonal glut of mince pies and snacks left me with a full tank of fuel when I left. It was 7°C at 18.00, my kind of winter weather. I could’ve made more of it but with more mild and dry conditions forecast tomorrow, I kept my powder dry for tomorrow with a short one back to the van. I’m getting tired of the same route. Maybe it’s time to change things up for the last commute of the week tomorrow.

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16th December (#122)

It was mild-for-December yet again this morning meaning shorts again. Being superstitious, I donned the winter gloves again but this time with the merino inners. Thanks IdleCyclist, you are a life saver, or at least a finger saver. There’s nothing like ten toasty digits after a ride in the middle of winter. Things were pretty uneventful until I hit the end of the A1184 at Harlow Mill.

Traffic was buzzing past me, some faster than others which made it feel like I was in a barrel shoot. As I was nearing a narrowing caused by a traffic island in the middle of the road that I think is a calming measure, the driver of a silver hatchback decided to pass me anyway. He or she gave me just enough space but in doing so clattered at speed into the island, momentarily lost control into my path, recovered and sped away. The noise of metal on concrete and the sudden appearance of an out of control car in front of me scared the life out of me. “What the F_ _ _ing F_ _ _ do you think you’re doing you F_ _ _ing clown!!!” is what I think that I said. The blanks are because I was swearing under my scarf. My eyes followed them as they gathered speed up towards Town. So much for social distancing. I didn’t see it but can imagine that the car is gonna need some serious panel beating. Shaken, my mood was nowhere near as bad as yesterday. It was busy but despite a session running over by an hour requiring a big clear up job, I was still able to leave early. If I didn’t wait out the rain, it would’ve been earlier still.

I headed out into mild evening air. 6°C at 19.00. I’m liking this part of winter! I had my new front light, a Lezeyne 800XL and it is just as good, if not better than the old 1100XL. According to the generic instruction leaflet that came with it, the indicator light on my old one was showing yellow meaning that it still had between 10-50% battery left.

So I had nothing to worry about after all but at least I now have the assurance of taking a longer commute if I want. The charging compartment is not set as deep into the main body so hopefully it will last longer than the last one. The light performed well unlike the council who still haven’t cleared the flooded forest road that has been impassable for nearly 2 weeks. The location of the water is way past my bottom bracket at its deepest but a tantilising 300metres from home. Thankfully the entry up to the Flitch Way was only half submerged and I had a sloppy detour along the mud of its saturated path to get home. I tried the brightest mode, pointed it straight ahead and had a good 25metres visibility without the aid of street lights.

Yep, the new light will do nicely…

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15th December (#121)

The only thing going for me this morning was a mild-for-December ride this morning. No fumbling with tights at 6 a.m, no layering hand wear and no trying to talk myself out of riding because it was too cold during the process. The forecast had a “real feel” of 5°C. After a day of riding in 8-11°C there was NO WAY that I was missing out on continuing to experience this winter bonus. At the supermarket car park, I did err on the side of caution and wore my winter gloves. In my world, < 5°C is my threshold for climbing through the tights so today my legs could cope if it was cooler than that but my fingers certainly would not.

Although I was apparently heading into a sort of a head breeze at 10mph, I felt zippy, one of those effortless days of feeling powerful with little energy expended. The threatening roar of rush hour was shut out as I guided Doris on her line, avoiding puddles and pot holes, cracks and crevasses on the scarred roads of East Hertfordshire. Soon, I entered newly announced Tier 3 West Essex, equally the same only apparently more threatening in terms of droplets and aerosol spread.

I made it to work in an endorphin glow, fresh and sweaty, having overdressed for what was a mid autumn ride. Still, rather too hot than too cold, I say. I showered and had a (half) day of hell. Distractions and bureaucracy left me far short of my best, by a long way. The less said, the better.

By 13.00, the light showers had passed and it was sunny and like late September again. I confidently swapped my winter gloves for the thermal fingerless gloves looking forward to more of the morning’s glory. If November was attritional, today was anything but. Again, the rises up a busy road, usually a b@$T@®D after a busy day seemed to be non existent or at least not painful. I stopped at Cycle King to collect a couple of spare tubes, a necessary break. I had repaired punctures on both bikes front tyres yesterday and did not want to be fixing a puncture in the cold when replacing the tube out on the road will be easier. I remember summoning the puncture demon last week and was dreading the battle with the Marathon Plus tyre. There was a leak around the patch that I put on years ago so I just swapped the tube over. The tyre was surprisingly easy to get back on.

Today on the commute, everything fell into place. It was good, damned good…

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10th December (#120)

Another day, same route. My third sub 6 hour sleep gave me little hope of an enjoyable ride in but it wasn’t a tortuous one. I freewheeled down hills and did the spinning thing in the granny gears up the rises. The blinkie was on the whole way and still hadn’t given up but I was reassured that a new bracket for my old one had been delivered yesterday so I could use that for the return trip if needed.

Mrs B2W was working from home so she did the school run but I drove to the supermarket and rode from there all the same as I couldn’t face a tired full commute in the cold. It was earlier so the school traffic was at its peak. I weaved my way between teens glued to their screens on the cycle track, anxious to get to work in time for the start of the ticket ballot for next seasons International cricket.

I was 3376th in the queue when I logged in to the Oval website at 09.01. The one dayer was practically sold out for a family group of 4 by the time that I was in 15 minutes later. I was gutted as we all had a great day out at the pre World Cup matches last year but I managed my disappointment by securing a couple of day 1 seats for the Test in September. £80 for 6 hours of entertainment is pretty good value.

I had a full admin day ahead of me sourcing equipment for courses and I have found that after one of these days of mostly sitting in front of a PC that my back aches for most of the ride home, even though I take regular screen breaks and stretch. Tonight was no different and had it not been for this, and front light battery energy conservation, I could’ve enjoyed it on a wind free, mild-ish winter evening. Towards the end, riding the last km to the car park, I noticed that the great and good of St Michael’s Mead had begun to decorate their front gardens and houses with Christmas lights. I’ve started to notice that this year, a number of households have chosen deer as the dec du jour, as if suddenly discovering the secret of the Patronus charm. So I ambled about on a detour spotting more deer in 15min than I had when out walking the dog in the last 2 months. We live on the edge of an ancient hunting forest where there are still plenty to give the dog stellar exercise when she spots them so you can guess how many LED ones I saw this evening.

Expecto Patronum.

Being a Catholic, I’m pretty sure that I haven’t read the bit in the New Testament about deer being in the stable, rutting in the background while the shepherd’s visited the manger but I could be wrong. It’s been a while. Our immediate neighbour has one which I am thankful for as it means a saving in  electricity bill, avoiding the need for our outside door light for a month.

On all night. What a waste of money and energy

In fact, there is so much seasonal themed lighting in our 10 house street that I am certain that it could be seen from the ISS on its many circuits. Nope, I am not a fan of excessive seasonal lighting. On lights, the battery has held out so far on the front bar and I have got notification that a new one is being dispatched on Monday meaning that I’ll get it by the end of next week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there’s enough juice left in my existing ones by then…

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9th December (#119)

It’s been a week since I have been to work. The riding has continued with me and Doris running errands in between the school run and home improvement. effing freezing would be the best term to describe the weather. We have just seen the end of 48 hours of fog and mist. I guess that there’s a first time for everything.

Glorious sunset on Sunday evening, the last that we all saw of the sun for 48 hrs

The high humidity and air temperatures of 0-2°C in my neck of the woods has made it feel far cooler. I arrived home after dropping master15 off at school with ice on my shins, socks, helmet and jacket in the space of a 16km ride. Even the new double hand layer combo of merino under the winter gloves didn’t cut the mustard yesterday as the tips of my fingers gave me merry hell. It was a figurative baptism of fire for their first outing together. Fast forward to 13.00, the fog had finally lifted to expose the strange white light in the blue sky and it felt positively balmy as I zipped along the permawet back roads back to the van. But I couldn’t enjoy it as I might otherwise. The 4 hour sleep the night before was all I could get as my mind mulled over coursework revisions. Why do lecturers always want more than the word count can offer? (for crying out loud!!).

So it was against this backdrop that I loaded Doris into the van this morning and park three quarters of the journey to work in cold, light rain, partly hoping it would ease, partly not. I discovered that USB port had dislodged on my front light on Monday and would not charge. I took it apart and tried to solder it back on but made a mess of it. The guy on YouTube made it look so easy…I’ve got another one on order and can only hope that I have enough juice left to get me through at least 2 more commutes.

I was lost in my thoughts trying to figure out when to swap into blinkies mode to save some battery when a guy on a hybrid bike motored past me up a rise spewing road juice onto my face in his wake. I concluded that it must be pedal assist and that he was an idiot. It was still dark and he had no lights nor reflective clothing. I waited until I was off the main road before I changed to the front blinkie.

After a week away from work, even my e-mails, the same problems that annoy me where there but they didn’t make me angry. Apart from a late finish, the day flew by. Into the darkness I went fearing a sudden shut down of my light. So I went blinkies all the way and survived. Being late, traffic was light and there was an absence of any rush hour aggression. I got home to a delivery of a bracket for my older Cateye volt. I replaced this with my current Lezyne because…yes that’s right the micro USB port had also come away from the motherboard and I couldn’t get to it to repair it. Both are robust, bright and with a number of options but the USB port lasts just long enough in both to go beyond the 2 year warranty which is disappointing given how much I’ve cared for them.

There is still no sign of my new light arriving so hopefully I can squeeze enough juice out of the both of them until it does.

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2nd December (#118)

One of my yearly goals has been realised. 118 commutes for 2020 means that I have officially averaged 100 commutes every year for the last 5 years. I can thank the C word for this. With lock down in spring and early summer, cricket cancelled and less traffic on the roads the stars aligned to get me out more than I usually could. On the flip side, if it wasn’t for the resurge of the C word, I would have achieved this earlier in the year. Self iso x 2 (despite not testing positive once either on the swab or antibody test) has meant less opportunity to ride to work in October/November.

Latterly master13s entire year having an enforced 14 day “break” has meant that one of us has to stay at home if only to ensure a live class streaming habit instead of the dreaded Fortnite one. We learnt from lock down 1.0 that social iso for teens is not good for anyone’s health when parents are required to be elsewhere. We made the easy decision that work could function without one of us and if it happened, the boys were more important than whatever work needed us to do. So instead of commuting the past few days I’ve had to make do with replacement loops and excuses to do errands to keep my mileage up as well as providing supervision of learning. Consequently my sanity which given last week at work and working from home remains just on right side of the precipice. The excessive demands at work pushes me closer so this edge so I’m taking leave when I can and avoiding my in-box when I do.

This week, some days are sunny and cold, some misty and cold, some wet and cold. Cold. Less than 5°C is my threshold to pull the bib tights out of the drawer and yesterday was the first that we had seen each other since early March. This morning was cold and thankfully it was a short one due to a late finish. It was perhaps fitting that this ride started at the supermarket car park, a regular on Thursdays but the one that marked commute #118 for the year. Its a convenient go to whatever day it is now that winter has come to stay for a while. I haven’t got my merino lined inner gloves yet but at 1°C this morning I sure needed them.

I took my crosser, Doris. We have been together for nearly 7 years but due to a preference to riding off road and exploring traffic free routes, she has only been out occasionally in the last 2 years. Before you say it, she has Marathon Plus tyres as the tread wears out on the gravel tyres too quick going by road. Besides, without trying to summon the puncture demon, those tyres are so good, I can only remember 2 punctures using them. Which is just as well-they’re a B@$T@®d to get back on, especially in the cold. Compared to the 29er on the roads, she is zippy and I feel like a pro with my head down busting down hills.

Zippy, even with the extra weight

I arrived at work but forgot to pause Strava on my phone and after walking around at work for another 500 metres, my speed had slipped from an epic average of 22.5km/hr. It was thankfully my only day this week as taking a study day tomorrow, watching a couple of webinars and if that gets boring, there is always wallpaper to strip.

I got out by 21.15 with the usual moaning from my legs that they weren’t really up for even a short ride. But it was my lower back that gave me hell. After 3 rides on Doris, I think that I have to tinker a bit with the seating arrangements. And restart my stretches-has been so easy to get out of that habit with the distraction of moving house.

Onwards to my next goal, 8048km for the year (that’s 5000 miles) which is now < 400km away. On paper, I should cruise it but the opportunity and motivation is now less so that distance feels more like 10 times that. We’ll see…

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26th November (#117)

I’ve had a week long hiatus from the bike commute owing to moving house. We’re now in after a frantic and exhausting time spending 48hrs doing the moving ourselves (we had the luxury of only moving 3 doors down). After that, it was filling holes in walls and unpacking to make the house look a little less like a hoarders wet dream. The previous occupants were renting and the house has been empty for a year so it’s all looking a bit shabby but at least I have filled the remaining holes left by hooks, screws, nails and anything else that was used by the previous occupants to hang something on.

Interim garage storage space

Today was my second day back at work. I was gonna have a late finish yesterday so didn’t bother riding and besides, there was rain about and it’s getting colder. I dropped the boys at school and parked up at the supermarket. There is no way that I’ll get a park at work when I arrive so Thursdays are riding days whatever the weather. With the trails muddy (probably), I’m forced onto the roads and all the driver agro that this entails. I rehearsed an email to our Estates Dept on the way. The previous evening some contractors turned up to replace all of the lights in our building. We got 6 hours notice for work that had been in the planning for at least 2 months. This was exactly 6 hours more notice than we had the last time but I was still angry. No one had “engaged the stakeholders”. If they had, they would’ve realised that the job was a lot more complex than it seemed to be from a management office. The ride was the standard mix of speeding close passes, impatience due to 2 sets of temporary traffic controls and brainless walkers along the river path, too deaf or wired in to their devices to hear the “Brng, brng!! Brng, Brng, Brng, BRiiiiiiiiiNG!!!!!! of my bell.

Work was busy and full of poor communication from other departments who have their eye firmly on managing the C word to worry about the consequences of ignoring everything else. I have learnt through bitter experience not to hit the send button when I am angry so this morning, after a dose of fresh air and consequent attitude adjustment I sent it, professional, assertive, advisory which in a nutshell went like this:






It fell on deaf ears (& blind eyes). The same problems occurred delaying my escape from the mad house to get back to Mrs B2W who has (probably) an infection from having an infected wisdom tooth pulled on Monday. It was foggy, thick and mysterious when I left.

I love riding in the fog and if I wasn’t in a hurry I would’ve gone longer. For sure it was cold but no wind and dry. I went the same roads which were quieter and way less speedy and aggressive. My phone rang. I don’t recognise the number and I’m warm now and I ain’t gonna stop for no one! Its work I am sure but the buggers aren’t gonna take any more of my time. The caller left a voicemail. It was the guy who was (mis)managing the project asking me to call back to explain the “issue”. Until then I did not know who was managing the project.

I didn’t call him back when I got to the van. He can sort his own mess out…I think that I have resilience fatigue.

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17th November (#116)

After yesterday’s school run bike errands, my legs were sore at me this morning. It was another early start but my only bike commute during a week of house moving. After a month of solicitor ‘uck ups, sluggish movement and generally finding obstacles for both us and our buyers we have reached the summit and speeding down a step descent. Our buyers forced the issue and booked their romovals people for Friday (who does that before exchanging contracts and before negotiating a completion date?!). I would’ve given them a big don’t argue and not backed down but these people will be our neighbours soon enough so it isn’t worth the long term grief for some short term gain.

Thankfully we have been drip feeding boxes of our stuff into an empty house so there is only half a house to move over the next couple of days but my plan of steaming some awful wallpaper off a couple of walls and skimming the wall plaster won’t happen anytime soon. Until Mrs B2W is no longer distracted by the initial cognitive load of moving that is. The DIY campaign list will start soon enough though and there is plenty to keep me off the bike over the colder months of winter. The quads committee is quite pleased about that development…

Back to this morning, it was an overcast and an unusually mild November morning. 11°C at 6 a.m is “too good to miss out on!” I forcefully told my legs who were again happy to be uncovered below my thighs. The 13mph breeze blowing into me ALL the way was the price that I paid for it but I got in ready to offload my work onto understanding colleagues and script my automatic replies on the email. The new building designs that we have had no stakeholder engagement with are ploughing ahead with little thought for learners’ needs or our needs to deliver effective interactive education. Despite lobbying at every meeting to involve us in the planning the management don’t. Presumably because they don’t understand change management, they fear that they won’t like the answers to their questions when they do ask or there’s no more money left during this plague. I get the feeling that I will get back to work next week with the local MP ready to cut the ribbon to a building that we did not agree to. He’s also the chair of the education select committee in Parliament. Despite being a Tory, he’s a good man. I feel a whistle blowing letter coming on…

I headed back to the van in bright sunshine and a tailwind. I was so busy that I had nothing to eat until lunchtime which was my overnight oats planned for brekkie. By the time that I was halfway there, I started to ride like I was ploughing through treacle. I munched on an energy bar and sloshed back some water but it was too late to hold off the bonk. A little light headed, I wobbled up and down the A1184 to Stortford feeling better by the time that I got back. What a waste of a tailwind I thought as I inhaled my pasta leftovers from last night, followed by half a packet of dark chocolate digestives.

It wasn’t a great “only commute of the week” but at least the next one can only be better.

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