Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 – a review of the year

2014 kicked off with bad weather and 'abort' texts. The first post of the year (Saturday 4 January) spoke of severe weather warnings and extensive flooding in certain parts of the country with people being washed out to sea, fallen trees and travel problems. But there was also the first of the year's 'Respect is Due' awards to my brother Jon who rode out on New Year's Day 2014 and, as I wrote at the time, "took a major soaking in the process". Having dried his wet clothes on the radiator round at mum's, Jon put them back on and took another soaking getting home.

Sanderstead churchyard, Jan 2014
The following day there was a lull in the weather and a ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop for Andy, Phil and yours truly and this led to one of 2014's iconic blog images (see pic left). On this particular ride, Phil provided Christmas cake on what proved to be his first ride with us since November 2013. It almost goes without saying that the weather closed in again, but not until we had all returned safely to our respective houses.

January 2014 was a time for excuses and, arguably, the most ridiculous excuse of the lot: Phil aborting because he was up most of the night waiting for his marmalade to boil. It was also when the BBC reported the stabbing of a 40-year-old man in Tatsfield, Surrey. His injuries were described as not life threatening and his attacker was arrested on suspicion of grevious bodily harm (GBH).

While Phil waited up for his marmalade to boil, I adapted well to my new 'bus wanker' status. No car meant I had to rely upon the buses, which in many ways was good news (I walked more and spent less) but the weather during this period was atrocious and when I eventually bought a car in February (a Toyota Corolla), I was more than happy to surrender my Oyster card. As I wrote on Sunday 12 January, "Not having a car has its advantages. We walk a lot more than we used to, which is good."

I became a seasoned 'bus wanker'
The poor weather meant a lot of rides to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, although we did manage an 'urban ride' to mum's in January and Andy and I found ourselves discussing how it was just like being a kid again, "It was odd that Andy and I were both on our bikes, as we might have been aged 13 or 14, cycling round to my house, perhaps, after school or on a Saturday afternoon. It would have been strange, in a good way, if Andy had referred to mum as 'Mrs Moggridge' as he might have done aged 13, but there we were, windswept and hungry and eagerly awaiting our tea and cake."

In February the bad weather continued with plenty of dramatic skies and rainy and blustery weather. Somerset, Devon and Dorset were virtually cut off from the rest of the country and our shorter rides continued. Flooding in the Woldingham area meant that Andy resorted to meeting Phil and I at the top of Slines Oak Road rather than Warlingham Green, just like the old pre-blog days.

Matt and Jon at mum's house
I managed to lose 21lbs having cut out bread and sweets from my diet (something I persevered with throughout the year). Oddly, the strange knocking noise that might well have been a dodgy bottom bracket, ceased and has not returned. I've put this down to losing weight. I look and feel better and I've gone down a shirt size. Nice work!

In March, while rides to Tatsfield continued, we did manage to reach Westerham on a couple of occasions over the weekend of March 22/23. On the second ride I managed to get our first puncture of the year (Sunday 23 March). It was late March and the weather people were still predicting temperatures of minus three degrees – a week before the clocks went forward.

April was characterised by yours truly taking a week off work and cycling every day. In fact, I cycled for nine consecutive days, the weather had improved considerably and all was well with the world – well, alright, the world wasn't well at all, we had ongoing problems in the Middle East (Syria, Israel, ISIS) and while the UK economy was said to have improved, it hadn't really. But leaving aside world affairs, we still managed to get, as I put it, 'a major soaking' on a ride to the bus stop on Sunday 6 April and rain stopped play completely over the weekend of 26/27 April.

My first 2014 puncture
The highlight of May was riding around Indianapolis in the USA using the city's recently introduced bike share scheme. I took major advantage of the bikes and managed to cover a great deal of the city where dedicated bike lanes have been introduced. In fact, NoVisibleLycra found fame (not fortune) in Indianapolis as my two posts on the city's bike share scheme were posted on the Urban Indy website.

In June I found myself riding around Berlin, which was excellent – especially riding through the Tiergarten to the Reichstag and spotting a red squirrel – and, back home, while we were still riding to places like the Tatsfield Bus Stop, Westerham was putting in more regular appearances. On Sunday 15 June we headed to our favourite North Kent market town and ate sausage sandwiches, courtesy of Phil who, it turned out, is quite a gourmand. As summer progressed we were treated to his excellent corned beef pie and a rather tasty Bakewell tart and let's not forget the efforts of one of Phil's daughters (he has three, but I can't remember which one) who made an excellent honey cake. Phil and I enjoyed it with our tea at the Tatsfield Churchyard on Saturday 21 June – the longest day. The following month, on 20 July, we all rode to Westerham and Phil brought his Mary Berry's Christmas cake along. The weather was cloudy but warm and bright with sunshine expected (and delivered) later in the day.

Riding round Indianapolis, USA
In August, Andy braved torrential rain for Ride London and later wrote an exclusive report for the blog. "The euphoric feeling I was getting as I cycled through Whitehall and rounded Trafalgar Square was incredible. The finish line at The Mall lie ahead and as I crossed the finish line I realised that this was easily the hardest charity event I had ever done – a real test of mental strength."

September saw three rides to Westerham and a couple of suburban rides to mum's, not forgetting a solo ride to the Tatsfield bus stop for yours truly. The weather was still very good, prompting me to write that "We've been blessed with what can only be described at this time of year as an Indian summer." But it wasn't just the Indian summer, the whole summer had been wonderful and it seemed like a long time in shorts and tee shirts before we began to consider gloves and jumpers again.

Andy braves Ride London 2014
October was pretty uneventful, but we did manage a 'heads down' ride to Westerham on an autumnal Saturday morning (11 October). While there were certainly leaves on the ground at the green, the weather was still very mild and the gloves didn't go on for some time.

In November my gears started to play up. It wasn't so much the gears but the block, which had worn out, and the chain. The end result was a new block and a new chain and now all is well again, but it meant a week of no cycling while the bike was in the repair shop. Once fixed, however, we headed for Westerham where the shopkeepers had started to prepare their shopfronts for the festive season. The weekend of 30 November was good for cycling. Andy and I rode to Westerham and then I rode to mum's alone – covering 34 miles in total.

Cycling in Berlin
Soon it was December and the bad weather started to kick in; it got colder, prompting Phil to make it clear that we probably wouldn't see much of him until the spring. He hibernates, just like Freda, the Blue Peter tortoise of times gone by. I can see him now packed away in a long cardboard box covered with straw.

Jon's bottom bracket on his Kona failed and he had to buy a new bike as a result. Andy and I braved the cold but kept the rides short. Yes, we were back at the Tatsfield Bus Stop again and I had to don the famous flappy hat and balaclava combo to keep out the cold, foregoing the use of my crash helmet based on Boris Johnson's advice that it's not really going to make any difference if I meet with an accident. Not sure about that, Boris, but I'll go with your advice as warmth is crucial. 

Flappy hat and balaclava
Andy received another Respect is Due for riding out alone on Christmas morning – a first for NoVisibleLycra. He rode to Chipstead Lake. Actually, on the 'respect is due' front, Phil also scored rather highly thanks to his culinary flair – Mary Berry's Christmas Cake, Jamie Oliver's Bakewell tart, the aforementioned honey cake produced by one of his three daughters, and his excellent sausage sandwiches.

Andy and I  rode out on Boxing Day to Tatsfield Village, armed with mum's Christmas cake, and took the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop on 28 December. I've considered a New Year's Day ride (which would be a first for us) but in all likelihood I'll probably stew in bed and ride out on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 January 2015.

All things considered it was a great year for riding. On a personal level I managed to ride around Indianapolis and Berlin, not forgetting Amsterdam last month. Andy succeeded in completing, among other long-distance charity rides, the Ride London 2014 event and, as a team, we upped our game and embarked upon more regular rides to Westerham although, in all honesty, we need to do more trips of over 20 miles and perhaps in 2015 we need to up our visits to Chipstead Lake.

Phil's Bakewell tart
If we are to make a collective New Year Resolution, it has to be something along the lines of more cycling, greater distances, more regular rides to Westerham, find new destinations – the latter, I think, being very important. We haven't been to Godstone Green for a while – because of the hill coming back – we haven't braved Marden Woods, we should throw in a couple of Woodmansterne Greens to see Jon and Jon (if you're reading this) you should be coming over this way once in a while. It would be good to see you on a ride to Westerham or the famous Tatsfield Bus Stop.

It's 1109hrs on New Year's Eve 2014 as I write this. The frost has gone and the temperature outside is much warmer than it was earlier this morning and yesterday. I think it's going to be milder over the next few days, but let's not forget that over the next three months the weather is likely to get a little more severe. Snow is surely on the cards and we're going to get plenty of rain, fog, ice and sleet before the clocks go forward and the decent weather arrives. However, if this year is anything to go by, we'll probably manage to avoid a major soaking as these days we're rarely caught out – call it a sixth sense or call it just lucky.

Phil's corned beef tart
The bikes have all performed well. My Kona Scrap could do with a full service but it's generally fine. The block and chain were replaced recently at Cycle King, I've got new (bright yellow) handle grips – or rather I've got one new handle grip (I've yet to replace the one on the left hand side) – and I have front and rear lights working. At this time of year there are dark starts and they will continue until March (or thereabouts).

Andy's Kona Blast is still in need of a good clean (it's always caked in mud). His racing bike, on the other hand, is nice and clean. Jon, as I mentioned earlier, has recently bought a new Cannondale.

Phil guarding his tart
I keep going on about how my Kona Scrap, while amazing, is totally wrong for the sort of riding we do; invariably we don't go off road so a more sensible steed would be more applicable, but since when have I been sensible about anything? Besides, I like my bike, even if it is a little juvenile in appearance and attitude, and have no intention of changing it. In my opinion, it does the job and if that job is made harder by thicker tyres, a heavy frame and just 16 gears, then so be it – at least I'm getting more of a work-out than I might be getting with a more sensible machine. Perhaps 2015 will be the year I purchase some mudguards, who knows?

In Amsterdam, November 2014

As for the highlights of 2014, I guess mine would have to be the cycling abroad, especially in Indianapolis and Berlin. I haven't asked him, but I'm guessing that Andy's highlight would be the Ride London event in August and as for Phil, it's hard to say what he'd pick – although his bakery skills were certainly among our highlights.

For now all that remains is that I wish all readers of NoVisibleLycra a Happy New Year for 2015. When I check the statistics I note that there are readers all over the world, some of whom have already celebrated the start of the new year. I'm thinking, of course, about Simon Cotter over in Australia. We haven't heard much from Simon of late, or our pal in Boone, Iowa, Greg Bowles, but here's hoping all is well for them both.

The much maligned Tatsfield Bus Stop

1 comment:

  1. hello mate,
    I am lurking about! Happy new year to you. 2014 for me was hectic, with little or no time for myself. My sons Motocross racing took up time and money..which is cool, but we had to drive up and down the East coast.

    Your post makes me feel like getting the Cannonade out, dusting it off, and getting back to it.

    Now my son has his licence he wants to take himself to racing, so I am free!

    Heres to 2015.