Monday, 18 September 2017

Mark Beaumont breaks round-the-world cycling record

Mark Beaumont
Mark Beaumont, an endurance cyclist, has broken the round-the-world cycling record.

Mark cycled 18,000 miles around the world in 78 days and 14 hours. "It's going to take a couple of weeks for me to decompress and come back to reality," he said on his return to Paris where he started.

Beaumont averaged 240 miles per day and cut the current world record by a third.

For more on this story, click here.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

To Woodmansterne Green (twice) to see Bon...

Saturday 16th September: I haven't been on the bike for a couple of weeks, but I distinctly remember Andy saying of his ride last Saturday that there was a definite bite to the air. We're entering that great but deceptive period of bright blue skies and sunshine but unexpectedly cold (or cool) weather. This morning I felt it myself. Initially I thought I'd just wear a tee-shirt as it was bound to be warm, but my decision to wear the scruffy-looking blue hoody, the one with the paint stain, proved to be right. It was a little chilly and the cold air went straight through me as I headed south on West Hill and turned right on to the B269 heading towards Purley. Close to Sanderstead railway station I hung a left and weaved my way over to the Purley Downs and up towards Pampisford Road

Woodmansterne Green, always a pleasant place to be (in decent weather)
It was later than usual (just gone 0730hrs) and the plan was to ride through Purley, along Foxley Lane and onwards to Woodmansterne Green where I would met Bon. He had just arrived as I pedalled the last 50 yards or so to the Green and once parked up, out came the tea, but no BelVita biscuits. I should have bought some from the newsagent's, but didn't want to use a credit or debit card for a packet of Digestives. Tea alone was fine.

As always our conversation was wide and varied and tinged with good humour, and at one stage we got on to the subject of humiliation and news that a man had been fined for taking photographs up women's skirts using his mobile phone. I said to Bon that if that was me I'd probably move to a crofter's cottage in a remote part of Scotland and never darken anybody's doorstep ever again and he felt the same way.

Before cycling became the weekend sporting activity, Bon and I used to swim on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Cheam swimming baths on the Malden Road, often known as the Malden Road pool. It was an old-fashioned pool with separate male and female changing, a 9ft deep end and we had to swim 27 lengths for half a mile and 54 for the mile. We'd be in the water around 0800hrs and out before the clock hit 0830hrs and then after a Mars Bar and a cup of vending machine tea in a paper cup we'd make our way to the car park where we would chew the fat about this and that before heading home.

Swimming is a great sport as it makes you feel so good afterwards. I used to enjoy the hot shower and that lovely clean feeling I'd feel all day. We swam twice a week, sometimes three, and often we'd throw in a one-miler just to test ourselves. I should really start it up again, but in all honesty cycling has taken over big time and I'd have to fit it in later in the day or during the week. There's something about a swimming pool.

We spoke about jobs and pensions and old times back at the family home and then, after drinking two cups of tea each we decided it was time to head home.

My route was straightforward following an off-road track a short distance and then the path to the mini roundabout at the top of Wallington, across into Foxley Lane, along Pampisford and then cutting through the side streets and emerging close to Sanderstead railway station. My last climb was the south face of West Hill, but it's much easier than it sounds if you get your head down and concentrate on the tarmac in front you.

Sunday 17th September: It was dull and overcast this morning and much colder than yesterday. I followed the same route to the same place and met the same person, Bon. There was a charity cycle ride to Brighton that passed by Woodmansterne Green before dipping down towards the Midday Sun and the horror of How Lane (I know, I've done it). Judging by the numbers on the front of the bikes I saw, there were at least 5,000 plus riders.

London to Brighton cyclists heading for How Lane (the horror! the horror!)
Bon and I drank tea (Lipton's Yellow Label) and chatted about a range of subjects, just like yesterday, and then we headed home, me in one direction, Bon in the other. I reached home around 1000hrs having tackled the south face of West Hill.

The bike needs a clean and an oiling. It's nearly been one whole year without a puncture or needing to pump up the tyres.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

September and the depressing reality that summer has left the building...

Monday 11 September: Arriving back in the UK after a sunny week away in Sardinia and there's definitely a bite in the air, which means winter is approaching. When I made my way downstairs around 0600hrs yesterday morning – the plan originally was to go riding on Sunday morning, but I aborted the night before – it was almost dark outside. I considered putting on the kitchen light, but that would have been too depressing.

Cloudy skies and closer-to-home destinations...
The weather improved as the day progressed and soon there were blue skies and sunshine, but later in the day the weather deteriorated and it started to rain, although it was still one of those situations when I wished I hadn't aborted. Andy went out and said it was very pleasant even if it was a little bit 'parky' first thing.

It's coming round to NVL's time of year, characterised by cloudy weather and potential rain, sitting at the Tatsfield Bus Stop with tea and BelVita biscuits contemplating the ride home and, of course, donning the gloves and the extra layer of clothing. We're approaching that time of year when it's easy to be caught out: wearing just a tee-shirt when a warmer jumper would have been advisable, packing the waterproof trousers in case of rain and riding closer to home to destinations offering shelter from the storm. Shelter means just one thing: the Tatsfield Bus Stop. Westerham becomes a risky bridge too far and anything else is off the agenda until the spring. Not that we get really bad weather in the run-up to Christmas. There! I said it! Christmas! Soon people will be counting the days, the shopping days, and the kids are already 'back to skool'. Shop window displays will feature mini blackboards and yes, it's all very, very depressing. Even more so when you remember that Strictly Come Dancing is back on the box and that's a countdown of sorts to the festive season and the false bonhomie of the New Year celebrations.

Weather permitting I'll be back in the saddle next weekend.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Rogue sub-editor incurs wrath of the PC brigade!

Cycling Weekly found itself in deep water after a picture caption reading 'token attractive woman' appeared in the magazine next to a photograph of a female cyclist.

For more, click here.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Lycra looks rubbish on anybody over 8st – my sentiments exactly, Sir Chris!

Sir Chris Hoy with medals...

Can't believe that Sir Chris Hoy is being hounded by the political correctness brigade over his remarks about Lycra. The thing is, he's right: that's why this blog is called NoVisibleLycra, it's also why we constantly refer to those who don the Lycra and go out cycling as 'Lycra Monkeys'. Put it this way, you wouldn't catch me wearing it. Body shaming? My arse!

But what irks me most is that Hoy felt he had to apologise for his remarks.

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Back problem means little cycling

Wednesday 30th August: Back in 2005 I had a back problem. I'm not one for back problems but I had one and it lasted for months, getting steadily worse as it progressed. By the end of it I had keeled over to my right and had difficulty walking, but the main problem was a lack of sleep. I had to take Nurofen to sleep and spent an inordinate amount of time sleeping in the spare room. After visiting an osteopath, having an X-ray and taking Nurofen, not forgetting cancelling a trip to Portland, Oregon, much to the dismay of my employer at that time, I woke up one morning and it had gone. I no longer had a back problem and for 12 years it didn't return, until now. It's back, but it's not as severe as before. I can sleep at night, put it that way, I can walk around, I can ride a bike, but the big issue is sitting down. If I sit down for any length of time I stiffen up and it takes me a while to walk properly. But listen, it's not that bad. In fact, as I write this, it's improved a lot. Somebody once said that the best way to treat a back problem is to pretend you don't have a problem. That's kind of what I've been doing, but I thought it best to give the cycling a miss over the bank holiday weekend.
Off-road route coming back from mum's

I rode over to mum's on Saturday following the usual route via Wallington and Carshalton Park and the off-road route on the return journey, but that was it on the cycling front.

The original plan on Saturday was to see Jon at Woodmansterne Green, but that never happened so I rode to mum's for tea and cake instead, but later than usual. I left the house at gone 0800hrs and didn't get home until 1030hrs.

The weather over the weekend was amazing although right now, at 0723hrs on Wednesday morning, 30th August, it's dull and cloudy and rain is threatened throughout the day.

I won't be riding for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

To the Tatsfield Bus Stop – the slow way

Sunday 20th August: A reasonable day greeted me when I woke up and headed downstairs for a spot of breakfast before heading out on the bike. It was Sunday morning. I hadn't gone out on Saturday. Met Andy at the Green as usual and we decided to head for the bus stop. The original plan was Westerham because Phil had indicated that he'd be coming and bringing sausage sandwiches, but it was not to be: he aborted due to a late night.

"Don't forget the biscuits! Phil's aborted" was the gist of a text I sent to Andy. It also meant that I wouldn't need to bring extra water as Phil had instructed.
Library shot of bus stop

An uneventful ride to and from the bus stop. When we got there we discussed this very blog and whether it should be discontinued. This came about because we were at the bus stop again, there's little one can write about it that hasn't been written before, we've photographed it many times and, well, what's the point? The question – of not writing anymore blogposts – was never answered and while there are a few people who don't like this blog (ignoring the fact that it's not written for them) I have no intention of stopping it. What would I do when I'm sitting in my hotel room abroad, bored?

We rode back, as always, the fast way, and parted company at the green. No Andy next week so I'll probably ride over to Woodmansterne to see Jon or go over to mum's for some cake. Until then...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

To Warlingham Green and then Woodmansterne Green...

I aborted on Saturday as I felt a little weary, but on Sunday, after a good night's sleep (that camomile tea must have done the trick) I was up with the lark and ready to rock. Tea made I headed outside, jumped on the bike and rode to Warlingham Green where Andy would be waiting for me, but when I reached my destination there was no sign of him. Not a problem, it was only just gone 0730hrs so I parked the bike and took a photograph of it, expecting Andy to arrive any second, just like he normally does, unless, of course, he's aborted, but ... I checked my phone. He had aborted, late last night, but for some reason I hadn't looked at my phone. Normally, it's the first thing I check, but not today.

Still, I was up and I was out of the house so I had to go somewhere and there was plenty of choice: Westerham, the Tatsfield Bus Stop, the Tatsfield Village, Godstone Green, Redhill, the list was endless. The world was my oyster. I could call Bon and meet him on Warlingham Green. Remember that I had a huge flask of hot water, a mug and four teabags in my rucksack – no such thing as 'precious grams' in NoVisibleLycra World – and that couldn't go to waste. I called Bon and he said he'd see me there in 30 minutes. Well, let's say 45 minutes.

Bike on Warlingham Green around 0730hrs this morning...
I rode past Warlingham School, down Tithepit Shaw Lane and into Whyteleafe then hung a right on to the A23 and headed towards Purley Cross, into Foxley Lane and straight ahead, turning left at the lavender fields on the outskirts of Carshalton and soon found myself approaching Woodmansterne Green. Bon had cycled down to meet me and we rode a few yards together back to the carved out old tree where we set up camp. I'd texted Bon and told him to bring a cup with him, but his idea of a cup was the top from a small flask, which was no bigger than a thimble, so in the end he did without. I was beginning to realise how Andy and I had become a team in the foodservice department: I provided the tea and Andy the BelVita biscuits – and the spoon, both of which were now noticeable by their absence.

"Normally the tea bag bobs around on the surface and it's easy to fish out," I said, feeling the full force of the spoon's absence.
"Sod's law," said Bon, as we both waited in vain for the teabag in my blue mug to surface. It remained on the bottom.
"Might as well just leave it in there," I said and started drinking.

We chatted about this and that, – and for much longer than normal – so I didn't reach home until around 1030hrs.

The weather was fantastic and it got better as the day progressed. There was sunshine, there were blue skies and I sat in the garden reading from a collection of short true stories in a compilation called The Moth. The trouble with sitting in the garden is that things get a little fretful. It's impossible to truly relax because there are jobs that need doing – weeding mainly – but it niggles and makes me restless. I made an egg and mayonnaise sandwich and a cup of tea and tried to chill out and then I drove over to mum's for tea and cake in a garden that needs very little doing to it (mum is and always has been, a keen gardener and she puts me to shame).
Bon and yours truly, Woodmansterne Green...

It's still hot now, at 1813hrs, and I might sit outside again and this time try not to be so fretful about the jobs that need doing. Earlier I thought about weeding a bed, but there's no point unless there's something to put in place of the weeds. If there's nothing then the weeds will simply grow back in a week or two (the futility of gardening, no less!) Still, mustn't grumble, the sun's out, the skies are blue, all is well and I managed to get a lengthy ride in – probably around 17 miles.

Next weekend it might well be Woodmansterne Green again as it's a great place in good weather and it's ideal for just chilling out, watching the odd passing jogger or old bloke going to buy a paper. There's the occasional caggle of Lycra Monkeys passing by and there's nothing better than sitting on the aforementioned carved-out tree sipping tea. Mind you with Andy not there until next Sunday I'll have to remember the spoon and some biscuits. Can't go cycling without biscuits.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold by Tim Moore...

For a long time there has been one cycling travel book that has, in my opinion, ruled the roost. That book is Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike, the story of the author's anti-clockwise ride around the coast of the UK. It was wonderful, truly wonderful, and I still pick up it now and read large chunks of it if I want to cheer myself up. Yes, it was (it is!) that good. So good that I've been unable to find anything that comes close to beating it. Until now.

The other day, wandering aimlessly around Waterstone's in Croydon and gravitating as always towards the travel literature section, I spied The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold  – adventures along the iron curtain, by Tim Moore.

The premise is simple: Moore rides EV13, the Iron Curtain Trail, riding close to the border between East and West from the northern tip of Norway, hugging the Baltic coast and then riding through Finland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Greece and, ultimately, Bulgaria and the Black Sea coastal town of Tsarevo. Kirkenes to Tsarevo on a 'shopping bike', a MIFA 900, made in East Germany, 20in wheels and, by all accounts, not the sort of bike on which to make such a journey. But Tim does make it – of course he does – but it's clearly a hard, hard slog, fuelled by energy drinks and whatever food and drink is available, including kebabs and Eurocrem Blok.

Moore stays in hotels, but nothing fancy, he doesn't camp, he simply gets on with his job – yes, his job – which is cycling, eating, sleeping (repeat and fade) until he reaches his destination. While bears are a potential initial worry in Finland, crazy dogs, bad drivers and extreme weather conditions become his chief enemies; and while he arms himself with pepper spray, he never has to use it.

There's more to this book than simply cycling from A to B: it's a challenge, an adventure, but it's not a race, and Moore's reflexions on the Cold War give the book depth, making it much more than just another account of a bloke attempting something silly. Did you know, for example, that prior to the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, one in six people in the German Democratic Republic was a Stasi informer?
Moore and the MIFA 900 by a stretch of the Berlin Wall...
Moore has form. Riding a shopping bike over 9,000km and braving everything the weather can throw at him is a piece of cake for a man who has walked across Spain with a donkey, cycled the entire route of the Tour de France and jumped on to a wooden-wheeled old bicycle to ride the route of the notorious 1914 Giro d'Italia.

In fact, as I read Moore's book he was doing something with a vintage car in America and tweeting about it – expect another travel book with a difference soon.

I like Moore. He's certainly a comedy character. I've never met the man, more's the pity, but there's something about him, something about his writing style – he's a very good writer – and the way he writes makes me laugh – which is priceless.

During his mammoth ride Moore is constantly coming up against relics from the Cold War in the shape of watchtowers, Trabants and dreary old tenement blocks. At one point he admits that the spectre of nuclear war constantly loomed throughout his formative years in the 1980s, but nothing a can or two of Kestrel couldn't put right. I was in my early-to-mid twenties during the 80s and while there were constant references to nuclear war between East and West (Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Sting sang of it) and the politics of the period confirmed that it was certainly a reality (Reagan and his Star Wars missile defence system springs to mind) but there was always hope in the shape of Gorbachev.

I don't remember feeling the threat of nuclear war hanging over my head – I was far too optimistic for that – and my drink of choice wasn't Kestrel (perish the thought!) but Young's Ordinary Bitter in the pubs of South London. Perhaps that's why I felt so optimistic.

Like all good writers, Moore takes his readers with him on the ride and like Moore I wasn't happy as the adventure neared it's end. I like his honesty in this respect. "I went through the last rites with a light head and a strangely heavy heart," he writes, likening his situation to an old lag given parole in The Shawshank Redemption. "My sentence was almost served," he says, unsure how to deal with the eventuality, "though ideally not by hanging myself from a doorframe."

Journey's end: Moore reaches the Black Sea town of Tsarevo in Bulgaria
I placed the book on my bookshelf with a heavy heart and started to wonder about what to read next.

Postscript: Something else I must mention is that throughout the book there's no pretence from the publisher, nothing that left me wondering whether Moore was pulling the wool over my eyes. There's nothing on the cover to suggest that Moore was, say, on holiday in Norway and thought, bugger it, I'll ride that shopping bike I found all the way to Bulgaria. In Mike Carter's One Man and His Bike – as good as it is – the implication on the back cover is that Mike was cycling to work one day and thought, sod it, I'll ride my bike around the coastline of the UK, sod working for a living. No, he didn't just ride off into the sunset. He planned it, sorted out a regular stream of articles for the Guardian before he left, rented out his flat and so on. I'm not blaming Carter for the pretence, his publishers were to blame, but there was no such pretence from Moore's publishers, which makes the whole thing that little bit better. Well done, Comrade Timoteya.

Not related to Moore's or Carter's book, but click here anyway.

One Man and His Bike by Carter, click here and here.

And for Further Reading, click here.

The Travel Rider – In Conversation with Tim Moore, click here.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

To the Tatsfield Bus Stop... the slow way

On Friday, having taken a proper roasting in the sun down on the south coast, I paid for it when I reached home. I reckon a mild (ish) case of sun stroke if I'm honest. I looked a right state, put it that way: as red as a fucking berry, hair all over the place and a vein running from my temple to the top of my forehead in full bloom. What a mess! The vein's still there but the red face has mellowed a bit and I feel a little better, but it was enough to stop me riding on Saturday morning.

Andy did a good 20 miles on his own and said he was riding all over the place. As he tried to explain his route to me this morning on the green, I realised it was all too complicated for my sunburnt head and I just accepted that he'd been around and enjoyed his ride. As for me I lolled around most of Saturday doing virtually nothing and then walked into town to get a haircut before walking back and spending the day lolling around. Drove over to mum's for tea and fruit cake and then tried to calm myself down. I've been a bit stressed for various reasons of late and the end result was no cycling on Saturday morning.

Sunday was different. We met on the green and headed for the Tatsfield Bus Stop, the slow way, which gave us chance to chat about this and that, but shortly after we'd made the turn at the Chelsham Sainsbury's roundabout there was (or rather could have been) an altercation. A bloke in a Mercedes estate car passed us far too close, prompting Andy yelled an expletive and raised his fist. The man in the Merc decided to stop and for a minute I was worried that things might take a turn for the worse. I fully expected both rear doors to swing open and two Brexit wankers to emerge – shaven heads, forearm tattoos and rolled up copies of the Sun – but no, it was just a slanging match between Andy and the long-haired bloke who was driving, while his peroxided Beverley sat there, arms folded, saying nothing. The last thing I wanted at 0800hrs on a Sunday morning was to reach for the wrench in my rucksack or to have to throw scalding hot water from the flask at whoever decided to approach me. Mind you the flask itself would have made a formidable weapon – it's like a Second World War shell – so you could say I was armed to the teeth and ready for action.

Who can be bothered to deal with aggravation? Not me, and I'm sure Andy would have wished it further too, had it occured, so it's just as well nothing happened. I started to wish I still owned that replica Magnum I owned in the eighties, but the closest I get to a Magnum these days is a chocolate ice cream on a stick. Fortunately, all was fine as the bloke drove off in a huff leaving Andy and I to weave our way to Beddlestead Lane and on towards the bus stop where the tea and biscuits were produced and consumed and we sat there flinging teabags on to the grass, as we always do, while talking about bikes and watching the Lycra monkeys pass us by on their way to Westerham.

The ride back was trouble-free (no nutters). We parted company at Warlingham Green and made our separate ways home. Next week we'll be back on the green and ready to ride – and next time I'll remember to take a photograph of the trip.