Still riding

I’m taking a break from Bloom, the Dreyfus brothers, lifelong learning and curriculum design to treat myself to a post.

I’ve travelled to Uni on 2 Tuesdays now which has substantially reduced my options for mileage for the rest of the week. I drive 20km to the Park and Ride and ride the remaining 5km to the campus in Chelmsford. I would ride it but it’s too cold, nowhere to shower and change and if I drop the boys off at school early enough, I can make it in time to get a coffee before lectures.

The first 3 km is on a busy A road with fast cars keeping me company. Apparently, Chelmsford is the birthplace of radio. Fans of Nikola Tesla don’t agree. When it’s warmer I will take a longer, quieter route but until then, I am stuck with the scary Chelmer Valley road, a major arterial into the city. I have found a cycle lane off the chaos that takes me the final 2km to campus off the road and there are plenty of places to lock and store the bike when I get there. It’s not a long ride so I ride in my “normal” clothes. Yesterday I made use of a 50min lunch break to ride a mile into the city along cycle paths to explore for a bit and get some screen wash for the van. The sun was out and I was happy cruising the vehicle free paths. I think that I like being a student again…

This morning for the ride to work I was in tights. It’s been real mild until Friday evening here to the extent that I have ridden in shorts just as much as tights this year. < 5°C is my threshold for tights. I did regret that on Friday when I got a flat 4km from home on a dark country lane on a cold night. The legs were OK but changing a tube with gloves on in the very dark and night time is not my idea of starting the weekend. Especially when they got damp and the fingers ended up frozen on my return to HQ.

Back to this morning, I was cloaked in fog with 20 metres visibility. Oncoming drivers, confused about my slow approaching single light, slowed out of caution wondering about the solitary orb travelling towards them in the gloom. I wish that they were always like that. The same can’t be said for the driver of the Megane that decided to close pass me from behind. She could only pass me on the single lane by splattering mud on the side of her car; as she edged past me, she had to mount the edge of a slushy ditch to get past. I passed her at the cross roads further up waiting to turn and I’d like to think that she wondered whether it was worth it if she saw me pass by.

This evening on my return, I rode a normal morning route in reverse just to mix things up. I’m trying everything to keep me engaged with riding in the cold and dark. Only another 9 weeks to go until the days are appreciably longer and warmer.

Now, back to draft a poster presentation about an educational thinker…

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Checking in

Its been a while posting. I didn’t ride any more work commutes last year than my last post (101). The 29er needed work. He got a new single crank, a rear cassette that looks like a pie plate (12 speeds), a new chain, a new headset (that isn’t stiff, doesn’t grind or squeak) and a hub service (front and back). I could’ve ridden but we had a lot of rain and physically I wasn’t up to it. When it was ready to roll, we still had rain, a lot of rain and a lot of puddles.

The depth of this puddle is half the height of a Range Rover. I know this because the brainless clown driving one got stuck mid way. Bypassing this bad boy added 5km to my commute.

Ever since the dirty santa ride, my lower back was stiff and sore. I stretched the hammies and all sorts of possible ways, fiddled with the saddle height and sliding it forward or back with no improvement. Because it was so sore after riding, I took a break for a few days, popped some Naproxen left over from my shoulder problem in the summer and rested it. Then I gingerly started again. It’s still stiff but no worse provided I stretch regularly.

Although January has continued to be moist, it has been pretty mild. 2 out of my 3 commutes have been in shorts. If only winter was always felt like 5°C at 6 a.m. I won’t be writing as regularly this year as I start a PG cert in Medical education and simulation in healthcare. That’s another reason that I have been absent-lots of “recommended” reading and pre course module reading has left me with little time.

And there’s been the usual winter Dad jobs too. I condense them into winter as summer is busy with cricket. Last winter was painting and decorating, this winter is shelves. An extra one in the linen cupboard and some in the spare room as a part of a wider improvement project. Also, an unintended job was making good the heated towel rail that pulled out the fixing brackets from the wall in the bathroom. The dolt that originally did the job 10 years ago did not know how to do it so did it very badly. That took a day out of my life that I’ll never get back…

All these life things have meant a hiatus in writing and the reading and writing for the PGCE on top of the day job means a brave new world for biking2work. It won’t be frequent but I will still write on these pages. However, I will continue to read, comment and like posts on my feed when I am fed up curriculum v syllabus, Andragogy v Pedagogy and all those other crazy new things in my life.

Go well and ride like the wind, a tailwind!

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The Dirty Santa

A week ago, I was talked into going on an organised MTB in the Surrey hills. It’s an increasingly popular event where riders are encouraged to wear Santa Claus outfits and put some Christmas bling on helmets and bikes.

As the day came nearer, my plan to replace my worn chain ring, chain and rear cassette through the cycle to work scheme had been blown out of the water. They refused the application because they were under the impression that I was rebuilding, not replacing worn parts. After 6 weeks of nagging, harassing and presenting a coherent argument, I was informed that yes, the scheme had been altered to include the purchase of components provided that I could prove that they were for the use of safely getting myself to work on the commute. This was my argument in the 1st place-duh! How one proves this is a little more difficult but I have 4 years of data on Strava that they can wade through if they have the time…

So, as the front gear was not working, I had 9 gears in the big chain ring at my disposal. I figured that I had a good base level of fitness to tackle 46km of sloppy muddy trails, fresh from a day of heavy rain 2 days beforehand. So what could go wrong on the 890 metres (~3000 feet) of climbing?

Not much as it happens. I didn’t fix my front wheel on securely at the start and ended a wobbly first steep descent in sandy soil unable to brake. Once this was sorted out, there were many steep rocky sections that my gearing could not manage. But I did out climb many who were better at descending who had passed me on the downhills.

I walked up a couple of very steep parts once I came to a stop, resentfully letting others past in their granny gears. I did make it up a section that was really a waterfall as water poured down the trail up to the chain ring in parts. I was pleased with that as many gave up and walked through it.

My friend John gave me the nickname of “Big ring Boris-pride of the Santa fleet” as I ascended the last rocky hill. I should state here that I christened my bike long before the Brexit referendum but am considering a name change. Horace seems most likely as it rhymes with Doris, the name of my crosser.

Big ring Boris on the right during a snack break. The name of the wood was not lost on me

Near the end, a few e-bikes whizzed past me creating more resentment. I don’t have particular feelings for these contraptions but felt cheated to be bested in terms of time after my day of hard slog. I like the idea of owning one to get me around when I am much older and they do have potential to reduce road congestion allowing commutes without the bother of showering and changing at the end. Hopefully they will be a helluva lot cheaper in 20 years.

While I was cleaning my bike later, I noticed that I couldn’t change up to the 2 largest rear cogs. I may only have had 7 gears to work with. I used them the following day after dropping the boys off at school and returning later in the day to collect them on a sort of recovery/errands rides. But I haven’t ridden much since due to lower back pain. I need to get back to stretching after my rides again.

Tomorrow I have the choice of taking Boris to the bike shop (after a week of unsuccessful attempts to get it there) or risk aggravating more pain by riding. This should get me past the yearly distance goal and it will be dry for a change. But cold.

I think that I’ll stretch my hammies instead…

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Thursday was a bonus. Mrs B2W had the day off so graciously offered to relieve me of the torture of the school run. I had a choice-accept and ride or let her have a lie in and do it anyway. I chose the latter but she declined my counter offer as she needed motivation to get out early to do the grocery shopping. I chose the usual school run park and ride anyway in anticipation of a later than late finish. But I did go in earlier so that I could take my time without the usual time-poor hassle of getting to work and showered for another day.

It was cold and foggy (again) and the roads were wet. An educated guess at the state of the trails found me taking them instead of subjecting myself to the idiot time of rush hour on the roads. Crunching through iced over puddles, crackling on frosted muddy tracks was a novelty. But the soil, hard and unforgiving forced a slow stagger through the rutted trails. I didn’t want to fall off so the 2nd half was spent on wet, gritty country roads spraying all sorts of muck on the legs. When will I stop forgetting that cold + wet = coldest? Even the merino socks over the fleece lined tights cold not stop my shins from cursing my poor short term memory as the cause of their pain. Socks covered with a film of thick wet grit, I arrived euphoric halfway through a B2W world record ride-101 bike commutes.

I declined the usual post ride conference following such an achievement. Even if I wanted to, it was too busy to answer the inevitable questions from the cycling press:

“How does it feel to be so close to achieving a goal that you have worked so hard for this year?”

I don’t know. I’m just the same person I guess. I haven’t done anything yet

“Have you got any plans to celebrate afterwards?”

Yep, maybe a long shower before making my breakfast and packing my lunch for the next day when I get home.

“How do you stay focused when times are tough and you just can’t be bothered?”

Not paying the man for petrol, getting to eat what I want and being heathy enough. Even when I can’t be bothered, I know that I would regret it if I didn’t do it.

“So what does the future hold for you now?”

Ride some more cos it’s fun right?

I was glad that I didn’t choose the full home to work ride when I rolled back at 21.40. But at least it was a balmy 5°C and dry. Looking at the weather app, the “moderate” wind looked like it was going to be friendly. It turned out to be the tailwindiest wind EVAH! I don’t believe the final average speed of 31kph. If I was on my crosser, I would struggle to reach those heights even with a 20mph push. I think that the GPS was playing silly buggers but as it happened on Strava, it happened. What can I say?

I could have celebrated with these bad boys delivered that day but they would wait until the weekend

So now every bike commute in 2019 will be a new B2W record. Rest? Meh…

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This time of year sees goals met and records being broken. My 100th bike commute for the year was completed in record time at the beginning of December. It’s the 3rd time in 4 years that I rode my bike to & from work 100 times. Although most commutes have been from home and back, I have fitted the others in around the school run.

I normally like riding in the fog. Around the country lanes, it is easy to forget where I am. In a nice way as I go roughly where the wheels take me. But this morning was a cold one even though I was eventually treated to a magnificent sunrise when I got to higher ground.

I was treated to another close pass, this time by an @®$€hat driving a Vauxhall Combo Dumbo. That’s a white van reg#WM15 ZZE. He was closer than the bus the previous day and I reacted with my usual profanities under my merino scarf. 2km later I passed him sitting in stationary traffic. I gave him a full repertoire as I passed. His window was open. I stuck to the pavement and cycle tracks thereafter-he didn’t look like the sort of person to take feedback calmly.

I got to work to the sight at the bike shed that evoked memories of my past.

Down tube gear levers, horizontal bar brake handles and 10 speeds. A gift from the 80s

Work done. I sloped of early taking time owing. I stopped at the local(ish) Thai restaurant to collect prawn Pad Thai and fish cakes to celebrate Mrs B2W’s birthday with a bottle of Sauvignon blanc.

A double celebration…

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It has stayed mild but wet. I chose rest over riding on wet Wednesday and Thursday morning I couldn’t ride and be in at work and showered by the time that I started squeezing in 2 days of my day job into one. And then my tech had to go and collect her daughter from school after she threw up all over one of her classmates. We had the day finely tuned and to lose her meant that I had to manage 2 separate groups. It was hell running anaesthetic emergencies and chest drain insertion in the room next door at the same time. And that was after a morning of medical student practical skills teaching where most seemed to want to be somewhere else.

As it was still mild and a low risk of rain, I decided to get the bike out of the van and ride home that evening. This is what I did in the days when I first started bike commuting, before discovering that I didn’t have to just ride to work from home. And before discovering that I am able to push myself and be resourceful on figuring out how to get more miles into my.busy life. These were also the days before we got the camper. These days, there is always one of my bikes in the back of that thing.

The roads were covered in puddles and the cars aggressive but it was a restorative for my agitated state. Judging by the state of my legs when I rolled in, I suspect that the crosser picked up a lot of muck on the country lanes closer to home. It was probably the last ride in shorts this year too.

Next morning it had cooled right down to zero. I talked myself into watching the 1st session of the 2nd test 1st session that night so it was no surprise that I took 45 min delaying the inevitable before rolling out the following morning. It was a stupid decision but the factor that talked me into it was that at least I could drive home at the end of the day.

Intending to be a no hurry but spin fast enough to stay warm ride, I battled the traffic taking s reasonably short route. The 508 passed me within an inch of my life on the London road. Literally:

Lane width = 4 metres

Bus width ~3 metres

Me = squeezed to < 0.5 metres from the curb

The bus stayed in the lane. I don’t know how the ‘ucker missed me. I clocked his number plate but unusually for me, I forgot it by the time I got to work. I wrote a complaint anyway even though it isn’t the Arriva policy to inform complainants of the outcome of their “investigation”. Just that the depot manager will “look into it”. I am wondering if it’s the same driver as my last 2 complaints. I might make a Freedom of Information request to find out. If I survive that long…

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The autumn pattern has established itself. Dry, still but cold or mild, windy and wet. I’m actually a sleeveless in September kind of guy. There’s not much that I like better in my world of commuting than a ride in to work in 20°C at 6 in the morning. September can be like that and I make sure that I jump through that window in advance of the colder months. But it wasn’t like that this year. Instead it was cool, windy and a bit wet, dashing my hopes of any summer extension as the days shortened.

This morning it was 9°C. Light rain threatened and I wore shorts for the 2nd day running. Maybe November is the new September. I was covered more in road slush than rain and although it was mild, it wasn’t particularly nice. After yesterdays relative tranquillity on back lanes and trails, the noise, speed and sheer volume of cars this morning felt aggressive.

So I took a route well travelled back to the van to collect the boys. Throughout the morning, my health felt in gradual decline. I couldn’t figure out whether it was feline induced sleep deprivation or that I had been passed on the lurgy courtesy of the boys. A nice tailwind at my back gently urged me along and it wasn’t long before my legs received another muddy spray tan. The back roads were a mushy mess of debris washed from fields and grit.

It was the price to be paid for avoiding the busy roads but a compromise that I am happy to make most times.

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