Sunday, 27 November 2011

No cycling this weekend....

It's a shame, but it's true: no cycling this weekend. Saturday's no-show was understandable. I'd had a pretty heavy week, characterised by early starts, catching a train at 0740 every morning and then on Friday there was a party – and I didn't reach home until 0200.

Sunday, however, there was no excuse. After a good nine hours in bed, asleep, I should have been up with the lark, but I wasn't. To be honest, I was just too darn comfortable and in the end I slept on until nearly 9am. Am I a slob or what? You're right. I'm a slob. Or rather, I am this week.

I need to get it together next week. The biscuits must go, and the crisps, the sausage rolls, all of which I sampled last week. No more, that's it! Oh, and no cakes either! Or beer! So, there you have it. A poor show on my behalf, especially as I know that Andy's been off-roading down in Kent.

Two years ago.

In the news today, 27 November 2011:-
Gary Speed.
• Wales football manager Gary Speed has been found hanged at his home in Cheshire. Why he should have committed suicide is baffling as all of those who were with him hours before his death talked of his upbeat and positive outlook on life. Rumours that the Sun was about to run a big story on Speed were denied by the tabloid newspaper.

• The Arab League has imposed sanctions on Syria. Civil unrest in the country has resulted in the deaths of many civilians and international condemnation of the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

• Dominic Chilcott, British ambassador to Tehran, could be out of a job as the Iranians have threatened to expel him following sanctions imposed by Britain (and other nations).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Wiggle gets a wiggle on! But what about 'Mamils'?

Andy will be pleased to note that his new catch phrase – actually, his only catchphrase – has a certain amount of topicality. There is, believe it or not, an online cycling retailer called Wiggle and the company is being courted by three private equity firms keen to get a piece of Wiggle.

Bridgepoint, the private equity house that owns sandwich chain Pret a Manger; Advent, owner of DFS, and the Swedish EQS are all expected to put in second bids this week and, apparently, there's an overseas bidder involved too.

Inner tubes and helmets are key products for Wiggle where sales jumped 55 per cent to £86 million - generating profits in excess of £10 million.

The success of Wiggle, however, is down to a new breed of male, known as 'mamils' – and that, sadly, stands for Middle-Aged Men in Lycra who, apparently, are choosing fast bikes over fast cars.

Wiggle is based in Portsmouth and was founded in 1999. It is currently majority-owned by private equity company Isis and is run by chairman Andy Bond (former boss of Asda and a cycling enthusiast).

As an alternative to selling, Wiggle is considering flotation.

But let's just go back to Mamils. It stands for Middle-Aged Men in Lycra. 

Thank God we're not Mamils!

Source: The Sunday Times.

The Morbid Ride

After my pioneering excursion on Friday (see previous post) Andy and I set off this morning (Sunday 20 November) for Coney Hall along the aforementioned route, past the wrecks of fairground equipment and the plastic bag full of urine hanging from a branch on the roadside.
Let there be light! And there was light! Andy finds a ray of sunshine
in a strangely depressing environment.
The ride itself was fine – nice and rural as we like it – but, to be honest, the destination left a lot to be desired. Not only was the recreation ground very exposed, it was also very, very cold and all the benches were wet. We were fine one minute, riding happily along Layhams Road, but suddenly, the temperature dropped. It was as if we'd riden into the freezer section of a supermarket.

First, we raced across the vast expanse of the Coney Hall recreation ground and then, realising there was little to do in the small high street, let alone sit down and drink our tea, we travelled a short way along the A2022 and then hung a left into Layhams Road. We found a church on the right, but it was, to be honest, a bit strange and a little depressing, especially when we found the grave of a 16-year-old boy, Jack Anthony Mander, who died way back in 1934. That was sad, but the churchyard itself was disorienting. It was on many levels, creating the impression that there were headstones all around us - in fact, there WERE headstones all around us; as well as above and below us, in front of us and behind us – and it was depressing.

We drank our tea standing up, looking at the headstone of Jack Anthony Mander, who died in March 1934, when my dad was five years old. I popped my head round the door of the church, where a band was rehearsing for a 10am service. I shook hands with the vicar and then went back outside to where Andy was waiting and we headed off, towards the A2022, and followed off-road paths towards Addington village (it's very posh, nothing like New Addington on the other side of the tram tracks).

From Addington Village we headed for Selsdon and parted company near the roundabout at the top of Sanderstead Hill.

Andy and I won't be cycling together again until December 4th, but something tells me we won't be heading for Coney Hall again and certainly not the churchyard off Layhams Road - too depressing.
Our route - taken from Andy's house in Caterham.

Friday, 18 November 2011

New ride discovered

I was on the saddle for just short of three hours and I have questions. Why do people pee in clear plastic bags and leave them hanging on branches by the side of the road? There's no punchline, I just want to know why as I saw a few on my new ride. To be honest, I thought it was something out of the Blair Witch Project, you know, weird signs left in the woods, but, well, if you have the answer, let me know.
Fields on Skid Hill Lane.
In addition to questions, I have made a discovery too: I now know where travelling fairgrounds go when they're not on the outskirts of town or bang in the middle of a local park entertaining the townsfolk.

Yesterday (Friday 18th November) I set out alone and I was on a mission: to find another destination. I found one, with plenty of park benches (a place called Coney Hall) and there's a better place (Keston) but I didn't get there, although it's roughly the same distance away.

The route's roughly the same: meet at Warlingham Green, travel along the road to Botley Hill (B269) and turn left into Beech Farm Road. Then travel along Hesiers Road (not Hesiers Hill). Hesiers Road becomes Skid Hill Lane and then, at the junction with King Henry's Drive, cycle straight over and into Layhams Road. Both Skid Hill Lane and Layhams Road are good roads, although the latter is longer and both are rural. I cycled the length of Layhams Road, but ended up on the A2022 Addington Road - that was a disappointment as I knew that by turning left I would have riden back towards home. Turning right would have taken me into Bromley and going straight ahead (up Corkscrew Hill) would have taken me to West Wickham.

I turned back on myself as the Coney Hall Recreation Ground was rather pleasant - plenty of benches! I crossed the fields into Church Drive, turned left and found a parade of shops - including a bike shop - but the shops were just shops so I rode back along Church Drive, left into Queensway and then right into Birch Tree Avenue. This led to Layhams Road, I turned left and retraced my route towards Skid Hill Lane and back home, via those back roads past St Leonard's Church, emerging at Warlingham Sainsbury's.
Looking down on the bottom of Hesiers Hill and Beddlestead Lane from Skid Hill Lane.
Along Layhams Road were a lot of gypsies - and fairground equipment. This, I realised, was where fairground rides (and their operators) take a rest. George Irwin's fairground rides to be precise. Layhams  has two roads - North Pole Lane and Nash Lane, both of which lead to Keston via Fox Lane and I reckon that Keston is where we should go, although the recreation ground at Coney Hall, while exposed, would be nice on a pleasant day.

Theoretically, there's a hell of a lot of off-road in the area. I found a 'footpath to Keston' off of Layhams Road (1.25 miles) but there's a vast expanse of land between Layhams and the busier A233 Westerham Road on Layhams' eastern side. It is possible, according to the map, to leave Keston on Fox Lane, turn right into Jackass Lane (no, not the same one) and then turning right into Blackness Lane and then following tracks a long way to Sheepbarn Lane, hanging a right and rejoining Layhams at the crossroads with King Henry's Drive and Skid Hill Lane.

The only problem is this: I was on the saddle for just short of three hours and without the customary NoVisibleLycra tea break. I left the house at 1020 and reached home at 1310. Translate this to our usual early morning times from the Green and that's 1010 back at the green - without stopping for tea!

I suggest we try a road ride to Keston and back first to test the time more than anything else.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A winter wonderland!

Yours truly 'doing a Shackleton'.
These two pics were taken in April 2008, long before was conceived and, as I was saying to Andy last week, I don't think they've ever been published.
Why Andy was smiling I don't know.
In April 2008 it snowed. Onc minute there was no snow and we'd managed to cycle all the way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop. But soon the snow came and we had to get home. At first, it seemed like fun, cycling in the snow, but our giggles turned to grimaces as the cold set in.

When I was at school, we used to call ugly people 'face ache'. As in, "Oi! Face ache!" But now, as we headed back along the B269 in the snow, our faces were genuinely aching. It wasn't pleasant and we were both glad to reach home.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lest we forget...

Lest we forget, November 2011
Remembrance Sunday. Village greens around the UK were preparing for a service and Warlingham Green was no exception. As I returned from a ride to Westerham, a crowd had gathered, loudspeakers were wired up and there was a general buzz of expectancy about the place as I rode clockwise around the green, exiting at the 1 o'clock position and heading down the Limpsfield Road towards home.

As far as ceremonies go, it was a good day. Not a cloud in the sky and, more importantly, no fog – until later in the evening when I drove up towards Botley Hill and got caught. Very heavy fog. On Sunday morning, however, there was nothing but clear skies as I stood up on the pedals to climb Church Way.

We'd been planning a trip to Westerham but, as Andy said, we'd need to 'put a wiggle on' - that's an Andy phrase, it means 'get a move-on'. I was running about five minutes or so late, due to mislaying my mobile phone, so getting a wiggle on was a good idea.

Westerham is a great place to be when the sun shines, but being as it was early and there was no cover, the seats were wet so we stood by the statue of Winston Churchill. I took a short walk over to St. Mary's Church to see if there was any covered seating. There was, but it was the entranceway to the church and we didn't fancy being looked down upon by churchgoers as we sipped our tea. Besides, there was no rain, the sun was shining, who needed covered seating? Not us!

As we were about to leave, I noticed something: a flat tyre. We fixed it there and then before heading for home. Andy was in a hurry and we were late so he sped off, but I took the hill at my own pace. Andy must have really shifted as he was nowhere to be seen as I reached the Surrey Hills sign at the top of the hill - where there are long views of Clarks Lane.  When I reached Botley, God knows where Andy was, probably going up the hill from Wapses roundabout (on the other side of the A22).

I reached Sanderstead Church at 1030hrs and was back home by around 1040. The TV was on, Remembrance Sunday, the Cenotaph, and I caught David Cameron placing his wreath while perfecting his sincere and concerned face. He was probably thinking about how he could quicken the pace of his planned army redundancies – which affects injured servicemen. Remember: you step on a landmine and it's not just your limbs that go - it's your livelihood too.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Into the fog...

View across Clarks Lane to White Lane, Saturday 12 November 2011 around 0830hrs.

Last night, around 11.30pm, I switched on the radio just in time for the weather forecast and found that Saturday's fog was more widespread than I thought. Up on Botley Hill, fog has always been a problem, even in the height of summer. I remember when we used to drive out towards Botley Hill en route to a pub in Brasted. Sometimes, we'd be driving along and suddenly hit a wall of fog, even when, elsewhere it was as clear as crystal.

On Saturday, cycling only to the Tatsfield Bus Stop due to family commitments, the fog was what my dad would have called a 'real pea souper'. At least I think that's how the expression goes. Anyway, it was thick and while I know that I never have lights, nor, it seems to other cyclists – and they were riding fast and in packs. Very dangerous. At least I kept off-road.

We sat at the bus stop, from where Andy took this post's photograph, and found that cars disappeared before our eyes in a matter of seconds. It was a bit of a risky situation and it didn't clear either. On the way back, we stayed off road for most of the journey, hugging the grass banks leading down to the Botley Hill pub and then keeping off road for the length of the B269. The fog didn't clear until I reached Warlingham Green.

In the news at the moment: England's footy team beat Spain 1-0 last night, Silvio Berlusconi has resigned as Italy's prime minister, business secretary Vince Cable says he has sympathy for the anti-capitalist protesters camped outside of St. Paul's Cathedral, and it is being suggested by opposition leader Ed Miliband, that the Eurozone crisis is good news for David Cameron. Why? Because he can use it as a smokescreen to hide his inaction on the economy.

Two years ago....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Into the woods

A brief cycle into the woods today at just past 1pm; well, probably nearer to 1.30pm. Climbed to the top, like we did on Sunday and then hurtled back down again, taking a different route to Sunday. Probably out for around 40 minutes.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Baffling punctures and the woods

On Saturday morning, I discovered that I had a slow puncture on my hands, although, when I went out into the garage and discovered the deflated front wheel, I started wondering about whether it was possible for the bike to have a spontaneous puncture, meaning that, perhaps in the early hours of Saturday morning, it just decided it was time to deflate. Who knows?

The route from Andy's house to the woods.
Anyway, I figured it was a slow one and that, when I arrived in the garage at just gone 7am on Sunday morning, it would still be half-inflated. was flat and when I pumped it, it hissed. The slow puncture had speeded up as there was a hissing noise. I had a puncture to fix and I'd have to use my last 'Leech' (a heavy duty sticker for fixing punctures).

After calling Andy I whipped off the tyre, inflated the inner tube and expected to hear the same hissing, but no, it had gone and the tyre was seemingly fixed. There was no noise at all and I had to resort to the old bowl of water trick, but again, nothing. Was this, I wondered, a phantom puncture? In the end, I heard  something and noticed tiny bubbles on the dampened inner tube. Leech attached, wheel back on bike, Andy arrived and we headed off on my suburban 'Woodland Trek', which involves suburban streets and then the woods, which, at this time of year, looked the business: leaves, golden, all over the place.

We cycled along, dodging dogs, and then took a steep incline to the top, cranking the bikes into low gears. I lost momentum and had to walk a few yards before getting back on the bike and making it to the top.

You can see my house from the top of the woods. Andy and I sat on a wooden bench and drank our tea and once again the conversation turned to camping out, although the problem with Croham Hurst (that's the name of the wood) is that I've often seen police helicopters hovering above it and the occasional bonfire late at night, meaning there must be a few undesirables up there at night. Still, it would be an adventure.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

No sleep, thick fog and the Tatsfield Bus Stop...

The war memorial on Warlingham Green.
I keep waking up around 3am in the morning and then have a devil of a job getting back to sleep. On Saturday morning I was getting a little impatient - and decided to get up. It was around 4am. I stayed up, reading but had that nagging feeling that I should have been in bed. To be honest, I was fretting about a poor interview and had been, metaphorically, punching walls for most of Friday. It was one of those typical scenarios where you find yourself saying the first thing that comes into your head - and then realising how rubbish you were after leaving the interview. Anyway, water under the bridge. Move on. But, for some reason, I couldn't move on. The reason being that I'm good at what I do, but, through my own actions, I under-sell myself and lose out in the process. But, as I say, move on.

Andy's bike on the green.
So basically I'm loitering around the house early in the morning, wishing I could just go back to bed, but realising that going back would be pointless - and disastrous for cycling. So I stayed up, drank about three mugs of tea, had a couple slices of bread and marmalade and sat there reading. I couldn't be bothered to switch on the news channel because I knew it would be doom and gloom about the Eurozone countries or our own economic situation. The worst thing about the Eurozone is this: you just know they're going to fuck it up - the Germans, the French etc - as nobody seems to be able to take a decision. What will happen? Well, Greece's situation will definitely worsen, Italy will take us to the brink (if not over it) and the others (Ireland, Portugal, Belgium etc) will somehow get their acts together. That's my prediction, but either way, it all looks bad for Europe and I'm so glad we're not part of the Eurozone.

So, with that backdrop - and thick fog outside - I had another cup of tea and then prepared for the ride. I was tired. There was no way I was going far: the Tatsfield Bus Stop was going to be my limit, but I nearly didn't go at all. On reaching the garage, I had a flat front tyre, a very slow puncture, so after pumping it, I left for the Green and met Andy a little later than usual. As he waited around, he took these excellent shots, the ones accompanying this post.

We did cycle to the bus stop and met our old friend from a couple of weeks back. We don't know his name yet, but he's bought another bike, a Dawes Vantage, because he wants to keep the Galaxy in the warm during the cold and wet weather.

The three of us yabbered quite a lot and finally headed back around 0930hrs, reaching home at just gone ten. The ride had done me good - woken me up to be honest - and prepared me for the day ahead, which was pretty much average.