The Cyclist 1938

I’ve had a lovely evening chuckling away to myself, thanks to a surprise birthday present from my friend Lauren – a 1938 issue of The Cyclist!

I hope I’m beyond infringing copyright but this really deserves to be shared more widely. 79 years later and so much has changed … or has it?!

The thorny subject of how the roads are policed and dangerous perceptions of cyclists are still rather topical, sad to say. I particularly like the turn of phrase “We had hoped that the Chief Constable would have denied this report, for the atmosphere of levity at a dinner is as likely to affect reporters as Chief Constables …”

It seems “Super happy” Tour de France cyclist interviewees are perhaps not as modern or euro a creation as I thought, these Ellman Cyclists were “Off for a Super Pleasurable Time” in 1938.

Frank Southall was a record-breaking cyclist of the day and gives a fascinating insight into breaking the Land’s End to London then 24 hour record of 454 miles in a day, in spite of about 6 punctures, being chased by a policeman on a bike and organisation by telegram. It really puts my own feeble carbon and internet-assisted efforts into perspective!

Touring at a more leisurely pace was very well catered for too, it seems that before Mr Garmin invented Stravaland there was already a magnificent online route planning system, in the form of “Our Touring Department Settles Readers’ Problems”! Only slightly hindered by the speed of the postal system and catching the next publishing date, admittedly probably quicker and more reliable than today’s, you could just put quill to paper and verily, your route would pop up in the next edition:

No challenge too great, even if you require an 8 day tandem ride from Birmingham and prefer riding on the coast:

This wonderful article was looking back at the 1891 inaugural Bordeaux – Paris race, written by the marvellous G.P. Mills, including a picture of him “as he is to-day” well in 1938 at least.

One of the bits I like best here is the locals describing him as a “gas bag” for thinking he could complete the 362 miles in 26 hours, when they were issuing medals for 3-5 days (and him subsequently justifying his half-hour tardiness).

There are some lovely colourful lines like “the race showed our French friends the possibility of covering a long distance in a short time” and a delightful description of the rather ineffective French reverse-drafting technique, compared to the slick superstar team of gallacticos strategically positioned along the route for our hero. Insert your own comparisons with Sky and AG2R FdJ etc here.

There’s lots more too, if only the modern-day cycling magazines were half as interesting I’d probably still subscribe to a dying medium, sadly I’ve got bored of the repetitive template/formula and my attention-span has spiralled down to 140 characters in recent times. Perhaps there’s a market to recirculate some of these gems and appreciate some of the wisdom from a bygone era, the similarities as well as differences in the simple pursuit of riding a bike.

I could post much more from this issue but it’s late and I need my bed, maybe I’ll update this tomorrow!


JOGLE – My Final Stats

A quick tot-up of the Strava posts over my JOGLE trip tells me the final scores on the doors (Anthea) came in as follows, including the extra vintage bike sportive for which I met up with a friend in Ulverston in The Lake District in the middle. As it was one of the harder days on a very heavy bike I think it counts and I'm making up the rules on this one.

  • 1868 kilometres (1161 miles)

  • 22,405 metres of vertical ascent (73,507 feet)

  • 103 hours and 3 minutes ride time over 13 days

  • Average speed 18.1 kmh (11.2 mph)

  • 40,892 calories burned

I'll get a better image of this later but here's my Veloviewer infographic wheel for the trip (in two halves):

My average daily distance was 144km or 89 miles, although if you don't include the sportive and the two days shortened by mechanicals then the average across the other ten days was 157km or 98 miles.

I covered over 160km / 100 miles on five days.

The longest was 190km Ulverston to Warrington but only narrowly ahead of Day 1 Wick to Lairg 184km, which was fantastic considering I completed the last two hours in heavy Highland rain.

The final day from Dartmoor to Land's End wasn't very far behind that at 180km and easily wins the prize for both the hilliest stage (2782m m) and the longest daily ride time, 10h40m. That was a 7:19AM start and a 9:04PM finish, so close to 14 hours on the road that day.

I will have a good look at my ride vs stopped time later, average speeds were low compared to my normal rides, even the long ones. However I was carrying everything I needed as it was basically solo and unsupported, so the luggage added about 50% to the bike weight.

I also left Strava running on my phone when I stopped, for fear of not restarting it and losing miles, so includes wandering around supermarkets, town centres and parks and the like. Plus an awful lot of wrong directional guesses at junctions, requiring a turn round or moments of navigational indecision. Not to mention a huge number of photo stops and random twittering and texting, either in (slow) motion when safe or requiring even more stops and starts.

The highly changeable weather also had an effect, I made good choices of kit generally and had lots of layering options to cope with most scenarios but that also meant a lot of stops to add and remove them. Plus many a toilet dash!So all-in-all about 10-20% slower average speed isn't too bad and to be expected.

Another thing I'd like to check on is how my rate of progress varied during the day. Unexpectedly I found I was often really flying towards the end of the day, even in heavy rain on a few occasions, whilst much more sluggish early in the day or early afternoon. I suspect this was linked to eating patterns, maybe taking on board as many calories as I could at the infrequent opportunities available but then suffering the after-effects as my body processing that input in parallel. Eating smaller amounts more frequently is a better approach but requires pocket space and logical thinking at the stops, I was often much more impulsive!

Secondly there were some physical limitations as the accumulated efforts made their effects felt on contact points, joints and leg muscles. However I think by the end of the day the aches and pains had subsided into a general numbness and the brain was probably releasing sufficient endorphins to make me more oblivious to them.

There was also a third psychological factor, simply needing or wanting to get to an end point for the day and knowing I had enough left in the tank to push harder, compared to a more cautious approach in the morning when uncertain what demands the day would bring and holding back to keep plenty in reserve if needed. It helped that the Tour de France was also on and I'd often aim to get somewhere for 7pm to catch the highlights, then adjust to an 8pm target for ITV4+1 as reality struck home. I only got to see them twice in thirteen days though, as usually thwarted by bad weather in the evening or a lack of usable TV/WiFi on arrival or conflict with closing times for an evening meal. Still, it means I can binge-watch them all shortly, I hope.

Now it's apparently gone 1PM and I think I'd better get out of bed!

JOGLE July 2017

My JOGLE adventure is over. I had a fabulous couple of days down in Cornwall reunited with my long-suffering family (and dog) at the end and all staying at a friend's lovely place in Sennen Cove. We made the 10 1/2 hour drive back to our Peak District home last night though and it's going to take some adjusting back to 'normal' life after this fabulous trip.

However the dog bounded on to the bed to perform her 'happy headstands' this morning, my son is reunited with his guitar and happily strumming away in the background and my wife is unpacking and repacking for a music festival downstairs. I'm drinking the best coffee I've had in three weeks, whilst outside the rain is pouring down and the wider world order seems pretty much oblivious but I feel quite reinvigorated by the whole thing.

I do want to write a bit more extensively about the experience before the memories fade and blur but I don't think I'll just write a daily diary, as they can be a bit dull for others if they turn into a list of places and meals, probably not all that interesting for others who weren't there.

So instead I think I'll use this WordPress blog site to write about different aspects of the trip in separate posts, for instance about physical and health impacts in one post, route and navigation in another, bike and kit in another and so on across dozens of topics that spring to mind. Some practical, some quirky and no doubt some plain weird but hopefully an interesting read anyway.

I hope this makes a little sense, it should once more posts begin to appear. I certainly found a few bloggers had created some very helpful resources for my own trip but got a bit lost in some of the other turn-by-turn stories I came across!

Also there was an element of me which wanted to experience my own adventure anyway and not recreate someone else's, even if the LEJOG/JOGLE route is a well-trodden path, throwing a few metaphors into the mix. So I didn't really want to read too much detail in advance that might steer me too heavily one way or another, rather to let the trip form it's own shape. However I was certainly after some practical pointers and answers to specific questions relevant to me and found these were harder to track down in spite of (because of) the invention of the Internet since my past solo long distance touring exploits (which may get a retrospective post or two as well).

Let's see how it all comes together anyway, I'm heading off to what might well be a muddy music festival with friends in a couple of days and all sorts to do beforehand, so it will be a steady drip-feed of posts anyway. I hope some of you attempting something similar do find it useful and the rest of you find it a good read.

In case you do then one thing to add is that I am also using the trip to raise funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) and St Michael's Hospice in Harrogate in the UK as we lost my Mum to this cruel disease last summer. Friends and relatives have been amazingly generous with sponsorship and it looks like we'll raise around £2000 but if any readers from the wider world would like to chip in with any contributions at all, then that would be really appreciated. Just think, even a couple of pounds / euros / dollars / bitcoins or whatever you buy your favoured beverage with from a thousand kind readers around the world could double that, who knows?!

You can quickly and easily donate through the following Virgin Money Giving page, they are a not-for-profit organisation and the money goes directly to the two charities:

Peak Pedals Virgin Money Giving Page

Thanks and I hope you enjoy what follows in the coming days and weeks anyway, thanks for reading this far at least.

JOGLE Stats So Far

Well it's been a struggle to write as well as cycle and tackle the practical essentials. Right now I've reached Carol's family in East Devon and enjoyed my fiftieth birthday, avoiding the really bad weather. Tomorrow I will set off again with two of the most challenging stages ahead, the crossing of Dartmoor reaching the highest points since the Cairngorm ski stations and then the famously jagged Cornish coastal hills for the finale on Sunday.

I'm planning to catch up with more later, hopefully my twittering has been good fun but I'd like to put metaphorical pen to paper whilst still reasonably fresh in the mind. That said it seems like a very long time since the start now. 

So before setting off again I've just had a quick look at the daily totals on Strava to put it all into some perspective, here they are:

  • 11 days (including vintage Velo Sportive)
  • 1588km = 987 miles
  • 86h 20m ride time (plenty more stopping and generally faffing about!)
  • 18.4km average speed – definitely tourist rate but not too bad considering the stopping and starting, navigation, weight of baggage and the like.
  • 17,828 metres of vertical ascent
  • 33,830 calories burned (33,831 consumed?)

That's all for now but will add some more interesting observations about the whole trip later!

JOGLE July 2017

I'm now well underway on my big ride from John O'Groats in NE Scotland to Land's End in SW Cornwall, getting into my groove so hopefully find a bit more time to add a few longer posts on here about the journey and whatever topics spring to mind out on the road.

Firstly it's in aid of MNDA (Motor Neurone Disease Association) and St Michael's Hospice, Harrogate who looked after my Mum superbly during her 4 year battle with this cruel disease, she died a year ago the day before my trip.

So for anyone who likes what follows and would like to make any small donation then my Virgin Money Giving page link is here:

Peak Pedals JOGLE 2017
Heading off on day 4 from Tomintoul in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland right now, so more to follow here later.

If you like you can also follow my Twitter feed @PeakPedals, where I'll be posting live photos and the daily trials and tribulations of life on two wheels on the road.

Onwards and upwards!

2016 – My Cycling Year

Well it’s New Years Eve 2016 and it’s not been a great year for me. My Mum died after a long battle with MND but that wasn’t unexpected and it finally brought an end to a really difficult few years. I’ve also finished the year with over 3 weeks of flu and bronchitis, which has put a bit of a dampener on Christmas.

More positively I got back cycling again in 2016 after a bone disease problem had put me on crutches for a couple of lengthy spells in 2014-2015, so 2015 had been a late and very cautious start on the bike after Easter but I could step things up again to a reasonable degree this year, getting back up to just over 2000 miles. It still wasn’t a year for either ultra-long distances or major events with the risk of problems coming back but it was pleasing to get going again without too much fear.

The highlight of my cycling year was Eroica Britannia in Bakewell in June, a great vintage event in a brilliant atmosphere and I enjoyed putting together an old steel bike over about eight months leading up to it.

I did the 89km middle distance ride with a friend from work Steve Carter, which added to the fun and we finished in decent enough shape, although the same can’t be said of the bike with the cotter pin bolt working loose. Sad to say it’s still in the shed caked in mud and straw from the waterlogged showground at the finish but I have bought some new French cotter pins and will be getting it ready for Eroica 2017 shortly.

Another particularly memorable ride was a training ride for Eroica we did just a week before the event, which also turned out to be my second longest of the year at 100km. This was also a bit of a mud-fest with a tough few miles of accidental off-road and navigational mishaps but we happened upon a lovely route beyond Hartington into Staffordshire.

There was also a good day out on the first day of Eroica, cycling to work in Dronfield in the morning, then in the afternoon down to Chesterfield to watch Lizzie Armitstead win the Women’s Tour stage on my local roads, followed by a ride out to Eroica afterwards, then home in the evening. 

I also had a cold but fun day out watching the Tour de Yorkshire, I cycled up to the top of Greenhow Hill from Menwith Hill to spectate. It was freezing and a blizzard a few minutes before the helicopter rose up Greenhow ahead of the leaders but miraculously the sun appeared for the race to pass.

Early in the year I remember a couple of chilly winter and spring rides in various nice parts of North Yorkshire when visiting my Mum in Harrogate, particularly one in the cherry blossom villages around Aldwark bridge and another with a few miles of accidental cyclocross between Knaresborough and Ripley on the vintage bike.

Also a bizarre local Peak District ride on the old broken road up Mam Tor from Castleton. Somehow getting off the bike to step down one of the gaps in the road the front derailleur cable clipped the chain and ended up threaded through a link by some weird/magical mishap, so I had to turn round and roll back home the best I could. That one took some working out, it was a newish chain and the link must not have been flushly fitted and sufficiently open at the opportune micro-second for the derailleur cable to slip through and seemingly close up again. I always carry a magic link now after that!

Another top ride was at the end of May when an old friend from London brought his bike up on the train to Macclesfield and I cycled up Winnatts Pass and over Kettleshulme/Rainow to meet him, then we cycled back in the sunshine over the Car and Fiddle and via Millers Dale to Tideswell for a cafe lunch with the family, then we carried on down to Hope Valley.

My son’s birthday in May involved a nerf-gunning party in Matlock Bath, so I cycled out to that but took a wrong-turn in Matlock and ended up adding a huge climb over the Riber Castle backroads before eventually joining them for fish and chips and the amusements.

July was difficult with my Mum dying, I did take the bike out for a nice nostalgic spin around all the local places in Wharfedale she had lived in when she was young though, from Otley through Ilkley, Menston, Addingham and past Bolton Abbey and Denton, where my cousin had recently got married and one of the last big family gatherings my Mum could be part of.

My birthday fell the day after the funeral and my wife Carol and I got out for a sunny spin around the southern end of the Peaks from Parsley Hay around Ilam and Thorpe with a bit of a difference, we hired a couple of e-bikes for the day. Good fun for a change and impressed but I wasn’t converted! 

Our family holiday in August was a great adventure, cycling coast-to-coast on The Way of the Roses Sustrans route from Morecambe to Bridlington over 6 days.  Whilst not quite the challenge of the C2C-in-a-day sportive I did back in 2013 it was nevertheless far from easy terrain through the Yorkshire Dales in particular and was a really rewarding family achievement. 

September saw a couple more memorable rides, firstly a 93km day over to Tatton Park in Cheshire to watch the Tour of Britain stage that Ian Stannard won, coming back over the Cat and Fiddle again. I didn’t get a particularly good view of the finish with the size of the crowd but watched it unfold on the big screen with a pie and pint.

Then a few days later I put in my longest ride of the year at 107km, this was over into Staffs Moorlands on a gorgeous day,  out to The Roaches and up Gun Hill and back via Longnor.

Finally the main autumn rides that stick in the mind were early morning local ones, climbing up above the Hope Valley mist hanging below, a damp Sunday ride to Buxton B+Q back through the Monsal Trail tunnels and another round the Derwent Dams then over the tops and down through some very autumnal woods in the rain to Ladybower. 

So all in all 2016 is a year I’m glad is now over, in spite of the numerous bad bits (don’t even start on Brexit, Trump, David Bowie, etc) I’ve had a decent enough cycling year and the best since 2013 with plenty to build on for a fuller 2017 on 2 wheels hopefully – just got to shake off the endgame of this bloody cold to get going again! 

Happy New Year!!

Way of the Roses Day 5 (York to Skerne, 64km)

We said our goodbyes to my Dad and our dog Tilly who was spending the week with him in Harrogate, got the bikes back onto the car roof and drove over to York station where we had finished the day before.

We only cycled a few hundred yards round the corner on to Micklegate though and stopped for a York cafe breakfast to set us up for the day, so it was about 10:30 by the time we started the ride proper.

We took Henry through the cobbled streets and past the Minster, which I hope made a lasting impression on him. We knew we had our longest ride ahead though, so we didn’t stop other than for a quick selfie …

Navigation out of York following the GPS trails on our phones went fairly smoothly and it didn’t take long before we got to Stamford Bridge. The surfaces and scenery were pleasant and changing … 

… but weren’t quite as exciting after the Dales but with a decent rate of progress to compensate. We stopped for an early snack outside a pub in Pocklington …

After Pocklington the climbing began as we headed up into the Yorkshire Wolds, an area that was new to me and a lovely surprise. Henry again left us miles behind and Carol started to worry, so I chased after him and caught up by the village of Huggate at the top of the Wolds.

We regrouped here but there was nowhere to eat, so carried on although now getting tired and hungry. We thought it was going to be much easier going on the descent but hadn’t counted on the headwind, which made us pedal hard to go downhill.  So the last 90 minutes or so were fairly arduous, although still dry. It had been grayer and cooler today with the wind but the sun came out for the finale on tiny lanes navigating around big, flat open fields, increasingly busy harvesting.

We finally made it to Skerne, a little village about 5km from Driffield, where we had booked a farmhouse B+B for the night. It was a lovely, comfortable but very small converted pantry.  We were again exhausted after a long day in the saddle, so Carol and Henry made the most of the facilities, whilst I jumped back on the bike and raced up to Driffield station to catch the next train to Hull. From there I caught another back to York and picked up the car, then a few supplies for a late night feast but it was well after dark when I got back to Skerne, it even seemed a long trip with an engine and dual carriageways!

Day 5 64km (our longest) with 268m ascent. Total now 253km after 5 days, with 1891m ascent. Just half a day to go!