Dreaming of Spring

Today it really felt like spring was on the way. And I was up early, ready to ride out to East Sussex for a little jaunt in the forest. However, stuff happened to prevent this and I ended up confined to London doing other, admittedly important stuff. And then I had an hour spare and the warm bright sun, albeit surrounded by the cold winter air still trying to maintain its grip, inspired me to remind myself of spring and summer cycle camping trips. In compensation for missing a day on the bike in sunshine.
A tent, a bike and a beach. That spells cycle camping in warm sun to me. And I discovered I had lots of photos of this particular beach.

Sometimes with bike, sometimes with bike and tent

Why do I love this particular beach so much? Continue reading

Winter riding

icy track with bikeRiding at this time of year has its own pleasures.  Such as riding through snow silenced woods, quiet lanes empty of most human life, most of which is sensibly holed up in a nice warm centrally heated room in front of the TV.  Finding a warm pub, with a huge log fire, heading out into the icy cold again, wrapped up against the chill to ride through falling flakes of snow, the icy air blasting against your cheeks as you descend a steep hill at speed.   Strangely, all this, I find, exciting and pleasurable as long as I have sufficiently wrapped my core and extremities to feel toasty warm in the places that matter.  Even hills are welcome in winter, they keep the blood flowing on the ascent and reward you with an exhilarating blast on the descent that really lets you know you are alive.

snow bike greenwichWe did such a ride on Sunday. 40 miles out of London across a bit of Surrey, Kent up and over the North Downs a few times, then back to London.  Despite the ice, sleet, snow and chilly wind, a great way to spend the day.  Of course, it always helps to have great company too, which indeed I did.  The picture below (thanks, Ian,) sums up the atmosphere of the whole ride, perfectly.


Surrey and Kent ride

Singing in the Rain

umbrella bikeTwo days running, I recently rode into work in pouring rain. The illustration above, however, is not my preferred method of keeping dry on the bike. And I’m not recommending it either. It was taken by someone in Japan, not by me. But, I have borrowed it to illustrate, the sensation of slight lunacy and devil may care that descends upon me whenever the rain falls hard and fast upon me and my bike. My usual careful, considered and calm attitude to riding on the road is threatened by strange urges to do something a bit daft. I often feel a temptation to laugh out loud, or put my feet on the handlebars and cry wheeeee! on a descent. I have actually done the former several times in torrential downpours, once hurtling down a hill on Skye, with rain drenching me both from above, and from below as the force and volume of water hitting the ground was so great, and visibility so poor, I felt I was riding in a massive rain cloud, rather than under it. My daughter and I once rode in a summer thunderstorm from Peckham to the Barbican, singing as many songs about rain as we could. The few pedestrians that had dared put their heads out of doors in the storm, seemed a little bemused. I thought I heard one shout, “Nutters!” as we passed. Continue reading

A Doubtful Vintage

A good friend can always be relied on to remind you not to take yourself too seriously, not to get too pompous and above yourself.

So while, I’m sitting here getting all airy fairy and poetic about finding the true meaning of peace and spiritual health in the wild, lonely places of this land, one of my friends pops up and hauls me out of my Wordsworthian daydream, to remind me of the dangerous situations to which such over romanticising can lead.

This particular friend is very observant. His keen eyes noticed a carelessly placed bottle of my particular camping fuel of choice in this particular blog picture:

Photo 05-04-2012 12 51 25

It is, as he correctly pointed out, methylated spirit.  Continue reading

Well, here’s the bike. Again.

Yes, I know, I’m still not wearing a skirt. I don’t usually, when cycle camping and touring. Although I will have one crammed into a tiny corner of one of my panniers.  Just to throw on over a clean pair of cycling shorts in the evenings when I pop into a local bar or pub.

Me and the hardy Roughstuff. Just having broken camp in a field near Hardraw.

Me and the hardy Roughstuff. Just broken camp in a field near Hardraw, August 2011.

This was taken by a friend who accompanied me for a few days of my End to End in the summer of 2011.  I met up with her when I reached York and we crossed the country, through the Yorkshire Dales and spent a long weekend just riding a few of the terrific roads in that part of the country.  A mini tour within my much longer trip, that began four days earlier at Dungeness and ended, some 1000  miles or so later, at Durness on Scotland’s north west coast.  So, those of you with some knowledge of the geography of these islands, will realise I didn’t exactly take a very direct route!

Does the world need another bike blog?

To start with this, then, probably my favourite bike, out of the four I currently own.  Photo 05-04-2012 12 51 25I also have one lodger, my daughter’s old Raleigh something or other, built up fixed, and actually, quite a nice little ride.  But as she now resides in quite a hilly part of Scotland, it wasn’t getting much use.  So, it swapped places with my old Orbit Romany which owns a few gears.  Most ordinary mortals need gears to get up and down hills, although I do have at least a couple of cycling friends who manage without.  My daughter, though extremely fit and strong, is still an ordinary mortal and prefers, for example, riding the Lecht, or up the Cairngorm road, without risking a burst lung.  So she took the Orbit, a gold coloured, perfectly serviceable, tough, touring bike I had acquired second hand several years before.  And I finally had the excuse I needed (and eventually enough cash) to replace it with the handbuilt, individually sized, beauty above.  For, my partner’s rule in this house is, new bike in means at least one bike out.  (I cheated, however, as a few weeks later my daughter’s fixed turned up to sit in her bedroom for her use when in London.  But, ssshhh!  I’m not sure he has sussed that sneaky move yet).

And the bike I eventually brought in, the bike standing proud by Loch Rannoch in all its cyclecamping glory?  It’s a Roberts.  Their Roughstuff model.  Built to haul tons of gear up hills and over tracks, slowly, it’s true, but all the better to experience the world as you ride by.  It has become, my favourite bike.  And, if you are disposed to check this blog from time to time, you will probably find out why.