Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Images from the weekend's cycling

I arrived early on Warlingham Green on Saturday and had
time to take this photo of my bike resting on the memorial

Normally, I'm a little late and it's Andy waiting on the Green, but this weekend, the good weather prompted me to leave on time. This shot taken prior to heading towards Merstham via Gangers Hill.

Jon's broken right pedal – who said Konas
were tough mountain bikes?

Jon's broken pedal prompted him to wonder why his Kona Fire Mountain wasn't a little tougher. Jon uses it mainly on the road but, in just a year of cycling only at weekends, the pedal is in a right mess (see above).

Andy attempts to fix Jon's pedal outside of
Hunger's End in Merstham, Surrey

Andy tried to take Jon's old and broken pedals off but it wasn't possible. Jon later told me he'd go to Halford's and get it repaired – so, new pedals on Saturday, Jon? Or, as dad might have said, "New pedals, Jorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn?"

Monday, 28 June 2010

Memories of sunny summers on the South Coast of England

Quality weather in the UK at the moment and it looks like continuing for a few more days yet. Needless to say it makes for good cycling: no coats and scarves, no gloves and, this weekend, no backpack either. I guess I was taking a risk assuming that I wouldn't be getting any punctures, but on Sunday I was only going to Woodmansterne Green (still a good six or seven miles from home) and most of the cycling surface was tarmac. As Jon and I commented, it's amazing how you can have a bike designed for rugged terrain (hefty frame, huge tractor-like tyres) and yet, the Achilles' heel, the tyres and the constant threat of punctures.

Felpham beach as I'll always remember it. Photo: Simon Carey .
Anyway, no punctures were experienced. On the Saturday we cycled the long way to Merstham, meeting Jon, who was a little bit late, at Hunger's End. Jon's pedal was still broken and Andy had bought his old pedals to the caff but couldn't fix them. I'd ambled off to the guitar shop to ogle at the bass guitars and then, on my return, we paid up and headed for home. Going down Gangers Hill, through Church Town, up the Enterdent, along Rabies Heath Road on on towards Merstham was fantastic in the early morning heat, but Sunday was promising to be what tabloids call a 'scorcher', 32 degrees. England was due to play Germany in a knock-out match later in the day and it was hard to ask for more.

Andy couldn't make Sunday so Jon and I ambled around at Woodmansterne Green reminiscing on our childhood holidays on the South Coast at Middleton and Felpham in the days when all summers were scorching hot and seemingly never-ending. We were very young when we first started going to a house called The Heron in Ancton Lodge Lane, Middleton-on-Sea. It wasn't on the beach as later houses would be, but only a short walk. Jon and I both remember the metal garden furniture and I'll always remember the woman who rented us the house, Mrs Turtle. She lived in another house next door. There was also a clock over the mantelpiece that reminded us of the Play School clock, but Jon doesn't remember that; I'm sure Criss, our sister will remember it.

Dad traded up to house on the beach after the Heron and we moved a mile up the road to Seafront, a house next door to the Southdown Holiday Camp, which I think has been knocked down. We had some good times there – apart from the time dad found a dead body, that of of young bloke who lived further up the coast and, apparently, had endured an epileptic fit while out on his sailing dinghy in rough seas. A week later dad,  Criss and mum (I wasn't there for some reason and I'm not sure if Jon was with them) were out looking for crabs in the rock pools at low tide and dad spotted what he thought was somebody dipping their head in the water to see what life was like under water, but it turned out to be the body of the guy with the dinghy. He'd gone missing about a week earlier. The whole thing was weird: that morning we saw a white horse galloping rider-less on the sand followed by a group of nuns and the sea went a funny colour too.

Dad had to attend an inquest and he got himself a mention in the Evening Argus, but the weird thing was that nobody wanted to help him drag the body from the water and bring it ashore. I remember him telling us about how the fish had been eating away at the guy's eyes. Not a pretty sight I'd imagine. I think the whole thing bugged dad for some time afterwards, but we were very young and it didn't spoil our holidays at Seafront, which continued for a couple more years before we traded up again, this time Merryweather on the Summerley Estate where, arguably, we had our defining south coast holidays. In fact, whenever I go down to the South Coast, it's always Felpham and I often go down and take a look at a couple of the houses we rented.

In the early nineties we went back en masse when Dad rented a huge house on the coast called Georgia in Limmer Lane but we were grown up with our own kids and while the magic was still there in a way, being grown up made it different, although I know that whenever I go to Felpham, that old magic is still there.

Jon and I were trying to remember dates because in between the joys of the Heron, Seafront and Merryweather, mum and dad, for some reason, decided to try a holiday in Hastings in a house called The Croft. It was one of those old, three-storey affairs but none of us liked the house and we came home early and then took a week at the Heron to compensate. I remember how dad bought our Action Men new outfits by way of compensation for a crap week. I said it was 1974, but Jon said it was earlier and so did dad when we called him from the Green to see if he remembered.

I remember how we used to count the days down as our holiday got nearer. I certainly recall sitting in the classroom at school when the lawnmowers were out on the playing fields and there was that lovely smell of cut grass. We used to walk around the block chatting about it over the weekends and I clearly recall the phrase, "when you come to think about it, 70 days isn't much really" referring to the amount of time to go before we went on holiday.

I'll stop there as there are so many memories I could write an entire blog on the subject.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Getting involved with the London to Brighton Bike Ride

A full English and a sausage bap, but where's my eggs?
It's been a while since we've been to Merstham, or at least it seems that way; I can't remember the last time I tucked in to scrambled eggs on toast but there I was on Saturday, with Andy and Jon, doing just that. The weather was good too, not great, but not bad, and rain was the last thing on our minds. To top it all, shaving man was there, but he wasn't shaving, just mumbling to himself and smoking his pipe. Very odd.

Jon and Andy eat breakfast
Jon and I went back via Markedge Lane, that's quite a tough hill, and I reached home around 11am. Sunday had to be cut short as I had to work in the afternoon, just for a couple of hours, so we headed off for Woodmansterne Green and got caught up in a bit of the London to Brighton cycle ride. If you've read the previous post to this one, you'll see that somebody died on the ride and now I'm beginning to wonder whether he passed us as we sat on Joyce Lowther's bench drinking tea.

Riders on the London to Brighton cycle ride 2010
I've riden on the London to Brighton many times. Once, after two pints of Young's, I went over Ditchling Beacon without stopping or leaving the saddle, that was on my old Marin Bear Valley SE. The last time I took part was in 2007 (on the Kona) and I came off, right at the end, just past the Brighton Pavilion. I had this ridiculous bag slung over my shoulder and the strap came undone, I lost balance and wham, down I went. I cut up my shoulder, my arms, my hands, not pleasant, but I still finished the ride and got my medal and then I had to sit on a coach, all the way to Clapham Common, sore and a little sunburnt.

The return of Shaving Man
Jon doesn't like the idea of doing the London-Brighton and I'm not sure if Andy's that keen either, but they're missing out on a good laugh. I reckon No Visible Lycra should put in a team for the 2011 ride (thoughts, gents?). Mind you, I reckon if we're going to do it we should stay over in Brighton, in a Premier Inn and come back the following day. I'm up for it! And if we book the hotel rooms early they won't cost a thing.

Big, sponsored bike rides are great fun: you stop at the pub on the way down, you have a few beers and then you head in to Brighton; and if we were staying over somewhere we could have more beers! Sounds like a plan to me, so keep the Sunday in June free, it'll be around the same time of the month.

Cyclist dies on 2010 London to Brighton Bike Ride

A 48-year-old cyclist taking part in the London to Brighton Bike Ride on Sunday collapsed and died yesterday after going up the notorious Ditchling Beacon. Click here for more details.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The mathematics of cycling...on the 'Woodland Trek'

Two 'Woodland Treks' equal one 'cycle', that's what I was figuring out in my head as I embarked upon a one-hour, ten-minute ride round suburbia, taking in a bit of woodland en route. It was a hot day on Thursday and I fancied a cycle, but knowing that a cycle around 1pm was going to mean traffic, I steered clear of the usual routes (Botley, the Tatsfield Bus Stop and so on) and besides, I had work to do and this was technically my lunch break (I was working at home). So I set off with my son on what I used to call the Woodland Trek (a route I've probably spoken of before, I'm not sure). In essence, it involves cycling around the streets near the house, a kind of 'world' in its own right and there's no traffic to speak of.
Cycling up this bit  of the woods requires a very low gear

What's the route? Well, briefly, it's turn left out of my house, down to West Hill, turn left, then left into the Ridgeway. Follow the Ridgeway to the top, turn right and left into Briton Hill Road, ride to Church Way, turn left, go down Church Way and then swing back on yourself, briefly entering Arkwright Road but turning back and up Church Way, then hang a left at Norfolk Avenue, follow it to the top where it bears left then take first left into Arundel Avenue. This bit is down hill and Arundel Avenue curves right before straightening out but towards the end you hang a left into The Ridgeway, a pleasant American-looking housing estate. The Ridgeway is self-contained, ie you've got to get out the way you came in, but I do one loop, then another and then hit an alleyway that leads on to the main Upper Selsdon Road, but I turn left back towards Croydon and then, within about 25 yards, cross the road and take a right turn down a track near the golf course; this leads me into Croham Hurst, a very pretty piece of woodland. I travel along a track, the dappled sunlight through the trees casting pleasant patterns on the woodland carpet of leaves and twigs (see photo) and then, just after it opens out a little bit, I crank the gears into low (believe me, if you don't, you'll have to stop, as I did) and head uphill to the very top of the woods where I can see my house down below and quite a distance away. This is always a good place to stop for a while. Many years ago (they probably still do it) the local church used to hold Easter services up here at 6am in the morning. It was weird: the vicar and a few of his parishioners standing around with bibles, but it was good too and while I'm not a churchgoer, there was something good about being up on the hill on a misty Easter morning – you could say it was a religious experience which, of course, it was.
At the very top of Croham Hurst woods, South Croydon.

Anyway, once at the top of the hill you have a choice: you can go left or right and this time I went right (on my second lap I saw a bald-headed guy doing press-ups, but that's beside the point). Going downhill in the woods can be a little treacherous and you have to watch your step, but soon you'll appear, as I did, on a patch of green grass hemmed in by Croham Manor Road and another road called Bankside (I think). I turned left along Croham Manor Road back towards the Upper Seldson Road where I turned left again and then right into West Hill, and then, if this was going to be a one-lapper, I'd turn left into Barnfield Road and finish. However, this was a two-lapper, so I simply carried on up West Hill, turning left into the Ridgeway and, to make things mildly different, half way along the Ridgeway I turned right into Hook Hill and followed the road until it joined with Briton Hill Road.

It was tough, but good and I kind of vowed to do it daily but, of course, I didn't.

Cycling shop owner in York wins the lottery!

... and he's not planning to let the money change his life. Click here for more details.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Postscript on passion

Here's a rather pretentious self portrait of yours truly on a train.
I must have been bored shitless or fed up with my book.
Andy sent me a message via our other site (novisiblelycra.ning.com) and it got me thinking; he said that he figured he did have a passion for motorsport and photography, and that got me thinking that I'm not completely passionless in terms of 'leisure pursuits', although there's no point in my trying to be passionate about something I'm simply not passionate about: football. Mind you, I'm keen on the World Cup and I do feel that there's a sense of camaraderie when England are out there playing against the rest of the world, so I guess I do kind of get passionate about international football tournaments. And then there's writing and reading and cycling, so I'm not without my 'passions' either.

I think that post of mine when I said that I lack passion, was probably too strong. It implied that I'm some kind of stoned-out zombie with no interests and a permanently vacant expression on my face. I might even have implied that Andy was the same, when clearly he's been thinking about it and has decided that he does have passions.

So, there you have it, we're both full of passion about a lot of things, although, as Andy's other half pointed out recently, we are a bit like television's grumpy old men, as a recent photograph of all of us (which appeared in Club Mirror magazine's May issue) illustrated. Perhaps the word is 'cynicism', we're very cynical about stuff in general, but there's a whole world of difference between cynicism and a lack of passion.

Postscript on Passion – an afterthought

Andy has suggested that we're cynical realists and that sounds about right – as long as we're passionate about being cynical realists.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Longford Lake, home of Chipstead Sailing Club

Longford Lake is the home of Chipstead Sailing Club where, among other things, they sail radio-controlled yachts like these pictured above.

For more details of the club, visit their website by clicking here.

Views of Pilgrim's Lane, Kent

The fields surrounding Pilgrim's Lane

Pilgrim's Lane is fantastic; it weaves its way East from the bottom of the Titsey hill, just outside of Oxted towards Sundridge, Chevening, Chipstead and Dunton Green, all in Northern Kent. As you can see by the photographs (taken on my iPhone), it's a great place to be early in the morning on a summer's day in June.

Andy heading west on Pilgrim's Lane

The top shot above shows the fields visible from Pilgrim's Lane and the shot above is of Andy heading west on the Lane on the return trip from Longford Lake.

If you enjoyed reading about Longford Lake, Chipstead...

Man fishing on Longford Lake, Chipstead, Kent
...you might be interested in an article, penned by yours truly, about my perilous lunch break back in January 2007 when I tried to reach the office along the footpath to Dunton Green, which skirts around Longford Lake. To read the article, click here.

The Bricklayers Arms, Chipstead, Kent

The Bricklayers Arms, Chipstead, Kent, right opposite the lake.
Here's the Bricklayers Arms, a Harvey's of Lewes pub, which means incredibly good cask ale and some decent food too, not forgetting pleasant views of Longford Lake. Chipstead in Kent is a nice little village and worthy of a visit if you live in the region.

For more information about the Bricklayers Arms, click here.

Longford Lake in Chipstead, Kent – a good 32 miles

The village sign on the green near the lake and the pub
As far as I can remember, we haven't been to Longford Lake in Chipstead, Kent,since this blog has been in existence. It's a good run, passing the Tatsfield Bus Stop and then down the hill as if going towards Westerham, but taking the off-road route through to Westerham Hill and then crossing over and following Pilgrim's Lane all the way to Sundridge Hill.

Pilgrim's Lane is a joy to behold. It is so rural, with tall, green hedges on either side for some of the way and then open fields. We turn right at the foot of Sundridge Hill and travel along Ovenden Road before hanging a left and riding down to the crossroads that offers three choices: straight ahead for Dunton Green, left for Chevening Church or right and over the M25 for Chipstead village and the lake.

The bikes and Andy on the Longford Lake green. There is a great pub on
the green called the Bricklayer's Arms; it sells Harveys of Sussex beer.
The great thing about this ride is its relative ease; there's not much in the way of big hills and Pilgrim's Lane makes it all very smooth running. It is deceptive, though. We reached the lake at just before 9am, meaning that it's roughly the same distance as Merstham, the slow way (without the Enterdent).

The Longford Lake route has been mooted in the past as an ideal mid-morning ride, mainly because there's a pub right opposite a small green in front of the lake, perfect for a couple of pints of Harvey's of Lewes ale before the ride home, which would be pretty hard after a couple of beers. So far, however, we haven't got it together and I suspect we never will.

The weather was good throughout the trip and our conversation kind of picked up where we left off yesterday, although England's fairly dismal opening game (with Green letting in that awful equalising goal for the Americans) dominated the early chat as we headed out of Warlingham Green and on towards Botley Hill. The Lemans 24-hour race is on too and Andy's a bit of motorsport nut, a sport that I find even more boring than football.

The worse thing about the football, of course, is that Germany play Australia tonight and there's a good chance that England might meet them in the knock-out, which is bad news for England as the Germans are good. The result last night was 1-1, and, as Gordon Banks, former England keeper when, back in 1966, England did win the World Cup (it was 4-2 to us against Germany) pointed out: in 1966 we drew our first game with Uruguay – in other words, all is not lost.

Longford Lake in Chipstead Village, Kent
By the time we were on Pilgrim's Lane, the conversation had turned to gym membership and what a waste of money it was; why join a gym when you can buy a bike with the money and make the English countryside your gym?

We reached the lake and munched on our cereal bar and sipped our tea, wondering where the whiff of bacon sandwiches was coming from; we were both starving. I told Andy that if I had a few Scotch eggs and a couple of sarnies, I could just sit there by the lake all day. I couldn't, of course, because there were things to do back at home, so eventually we moved out and embarked upon the fairly exhaustive journey home.

Andy took the off-road bit to the top of Westerham Hill, while I carried on along Pilgrim's Lane and then cycled up the hill. We wanted to know which way was quickest and, as it turned out, there was very little in it. Andy got there just before me. We continued up the hill, past the Tatsfield Bus Stop towards Botley Hill where Andy took a left down The Ridge and I carried on along the B269 towards Warlingham.

I was sorely tempted to drop into the Village Café for a couple of slices of toast and some tea, but resisted and cycled home, arriving at roughly 11am.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Non-stop to Botley then back to the Village Café

The Village Café, Warlingham Green.
The plan was simple: ride to Merstham, the long way, and then sit down to a full English at the Hunger's End café, but, as happens now and then, there was a problem. My wife wanted to check out a bathroom store, but the place closed at noon. Why? Why does a shop have to close at noon? Anyway, being the nice guy that I am, I figured I go cycling most weekends and hit home around 11am so I better get back earlier so we can go look at bathrooms. Yes, I know, very boring, but if you saw our bathroom, you'd have second thoughts; it's the bath that came with the house, so to speak. In other words, it's been there since the mid-60s when JFK was president, when the Beatles were still in the charts and before, long before, Armstrong set foot on the moon. It has to be replaced. Hell, I was only a kid and living at home when our current bathroom was new.

Then Andy was delayed by a possible puncture, which turned out to be just a flat, but that Tioga spells punctures to me (remember, it was my rear tyre when I first bought the Kona, but I had so many punctures back then it was unbelievable and eventually I took them off and replaced them with Holy Rollers from Maxxis). Anyway, you've heard that story so I won't go on anymore.

Andy's Kona Blast with new rear Tioga tyre; it makes the
bike look better but will it mean more punctures?
We decided to ride to Botley, the fast way, turn round at the roundabout and cycle back to the Village Café on Warlingham Green; it's a good caff and I've been there before (normally when soaked after a longer cycle). Today, however, we were dry and we'd only cycled about 10 miles, but that didn't stop us from ordering our tea and toast.

The topic of conversation today revolved mainly around how the media is keen to roll out the stereotypes now that the World Cup is in full swing: the usual rubbish about how all men are football crazy and all women are rolling their eyes affectionately as their footy-mad husbands sit in front of the box with a beer and a pizza shouting things like, "Where's your fucking specs, ref?"

Andy and I both hate football. Try as we might (well, I've tried) to enjoy 'the beautiful game' (a contradiction in terms) it's impossible. Even yesterday, as I sat in a working men's club in Hayes, Middlesex, near Heathrow airport, watching the opening game between South Africa and Mexico (a 1-1 draw) I was bored shitless. Mind you, tonight it's USA versus England and that could be fun, especially if England fans go on the on rampage after the game!

The problem is passion, I guess, and the fact that we don't have any – or I don't. I mean passion for something, like footy or cars. I just don't care about football and I'm not one of those people who pine for a Ferrari either.

As we sat munching on our toast and sipping from our mugs of tea, Andy said that when he was working for a company called Albion (a computer business) he had to service the computers of Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry and Anna Ford (the former BBC newsreader) – and that got us started on celebrities and how we'd never go mad if we saw one in the street and start asking for their autographs. Back to that lack of passion. Anyway, must sign off; I haven't got the passion to write anymore.

Oh, incidentally, it's 1052hrs and we still haven't gone to the bathroom shop, meaning that I could have gone to Merstham after all. Jon went and had breakfast there alone. Sorry, Bon.

The plan tomorrow is to go to Chipstead lake in Kent, quite a long one.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

While we're on the subject of Gravelo's blog...

...it's worth reading the post about riding the lightening (there's a Metallica reference for you!). In fact, if you look down the right hand side of this blog (my blog) you'll be able to click and go straight to Gravelo's excellent blog. If you're too lazy to do that, just click here.

The big question, of course, is would we ride out in lightening like this (see above pic, taken, I'd imagine, by Gravelo).

Check out Gravelo's blog!!!!

Gravelo's brother-in-law's bike. Check out that crank set
If you're logged on, Gravelo, just to say you're blog's looking good. Love your brother-in-law's bike! Fantastic! To others reading this post, go to Gravelo's blog by clicking here, and then scroll down a few posts until you reach a pic of Gravelo's brother's bike, it's amazing, here's a pic of it (see above).

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Sunday 6 June – Andy gets TWO punctures!

Last night when I went to bed, I heard distant thunder and assumed, based on weather reports, that a huge electric storm was coming our way and that Sunday would be a wash-out, but when I jumped out of bed around 0600hrs, while a few puddles suggested that it had been raining, the weather was fantastic and it looked as if we would be getting a cycle in today, thank heavens.

I reached Warlingham Green at just gone 0730hrs and there was no sign of Andy. Then I checked my phone and found a text. He'd had a puncture and was fixing it so I called Jon to see if he was going to drive over this way and do a cycle with us: no, he wasn't. As I checked out YouTube for Julian Cope videos, Andy arrived, puncture fixed.

We decided to go to Godstone Green the quick way and set off on our journey, discussing the recent shooting in Cumbria (loner cab driver Derrick Bird went on the rampage and killed 12 people). Then, as we reached the off-road bit on Southfields Road by the golf course (North Downs Golf Club) there was a familiar sound: pssssssssssssssssssssssssssst! Andy had another puncture!

Our puncture record of late has been pretty good. The last one was mine while on the Black Horse Ride last month. Why we've had so few punctures is anyone's guess. In the old days, when I first bought the Scrap I was getting loads of punctures and I put it down to the tyres on the bike (Tioga). I changed them to Maxxis Holy Rollers and all was relatively fine. The old Tioga tyres went on to my son Max's Specialized Hard Rock and then, for some reason, he took the back tyre off and replaced it with the originals that came with the bike. The Tioga was lying around the garage doing nothing – until Andy asked if he could have it for his Kona Blast. Why not? I drove round with the tyre, he fitted it and now he's had two punctures within the hour. I reckon it's the Tioga tyre and only time will tell if Andy gets loads of punctures. I've advised him to get some Holy Rollers.

A second puncture, of course, slowed us down so we abandoned plans to reach Godstone Green and headed for the Tatsfield bus stop instead. There was a lot of mist around, at times quite dense, but then that's what it's like round these parts; you can be driving along on a clear day and suddenly find yourself engulfed in fog.

The fog was thick at the bus stop but it began to clear and soon normal visibility was restored. I'd run out of teabags so I had to bring a couple of Earl Greys, which were fine. We munched on our cereal bars, chatted about this and that and then headed for home. Andy went back along The Ridge and I opted for the B269, staying 'off-road' and risking a puncture, but not actually getting one.

Once again, Blogger has let me down. It's temperamental, one minute it allows me to write captions and then (like now) it doesn't. so, from the top, the pix are the Tatsfield Bus Stop, then Andy at the Tatsfield Bus Stop and lastly, a shot looking towards Westerham from the bus stop – thick fog!

Saturday 5 June - Woodmansterne Green with Jon

Jon on Woodmansterne Green. Note cheeky grin after lewd 
Great weather on Saturday, but the promise of storms on Sunday. Andy wasn't going today so Woodmansterne seemed like a good bet, a 12-miler and some banter with Jon on the Green. We talked about the South Coast, the weather and the fact that summer time brings out the women – or rather brings them out in skimpy clothing. As you might imagine, the conversation got a bit juvenile, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

We should have used Joyce Lowther's memorial bench but the weather was so too good to sit in the shade, so we loitered around the tree sculpture and drank tea; Jon bought a couple of cereal bars.