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Journal

Filtering by Tag: OutsideisFree

Rule #62.

10,000km.cc

Date: Sunday 23rd August, 2015 Distance: 18.7km | Elevation: 380m   Start kms: 6,340.0km | End kms: 6,358.7km | % complete: 63.6%    Destinations: New Cross   “Cycling is about getting outside and into the elements and you don’t need to be listening to Queen or Slayer in order to experience that. Immerse yourselves in the rhythm and pain."   So  The Rules  state.   And it’s true.   On the weekends, it’s an easy one to follow. New and unexplored roads. Familiar runs to be conquered once again. Flanked by friends. Sun. Wind. Sometimes rain. On the good days the elements and your surroundings push you on. On the bad days, they at least provide a distraction.   Then there’s the commute.   It beats forcing your way on to an over-crowded tube carriage. It’s wildly better than sitting on the top deck of a bus willing yourself to stop sweating. Placed next to standing shoulder to shoulder with an overworked, overheating, overly-moist city worker, the bike wins every. single. time.   But there’s no getting around the fact that it’s the same 9km of road twice a day every day.   Thanks in no small part to my mild Strava obsession, I’ve compounded the monotony of my commute in the last fortnight.   Front loading the kilometres at the beginning of the month has put me in a position where I am tantalising close to completing the not-insubstantial climbing challenge of 11,000m in 31 days.   But not close enough to do it with my eyes closed.   The 9km stretch of tarmac that takes me from New Cross to Clerkenwell via Old Kent Road, Blackfriars Bridge and Farringdon Road isn’t quite enough. I still need to find an extra 200m each day.   Enter Jerningham Road, approximately 50m of vertical a mere two minutes form my house. At the end of each day, you’ll find me somewhere between its bottom and the roundabout at its top, replete with trainers in place of cleats and an oversized backpack, doing hill repeats.   If that wasn’t enough, I spent the first 40 minutes of my Sunday making the ascent and descent over and over and over again.   Never has the temptation to plug myself into some music or a podcast been stronger.   "I know these roads”, I tell myself.   “There’s little difference between putting something in my ears and blasting something out of a car stereo”, I try to justify.   “If I use my iPhone headphones, I’ll still be able to hear everything around me”, I rationalise, trying to convince my inner prude.   I won’t, though.   For one, it’s easy to know a road, but it’s difficult to know the vehicles on it and near impossible to anticipate what they are going to do. My eyes go a long way towards keeping me upright, but there’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t need every sense I have at my disposal to get to work or home safely.   There’s also the small aural delights that I’d otherwise miss: fractured conversations, a familiar song from a nearby car, a surprisingly strong swear word delivered to an aggressive driver from an unassuming source.   Ultimately, it’s about something simpler and mildly pretentious: clarity and reflection.   Away from the distraction of my computer, my mobile, my desk phone, my colleagues, my friends, Netflix, books, my music collection, the news,  Ira Glass and his ever-interesting anecdotes  — almost everything — there’s little to occupy (or monopolise) my mind.   That allows me to process the days events, be they upcoming or past.   It provides an opportunity to organise my thoughts. It gives me a chance to mull-over problems that have presented themselves throughout the day, offering 30 to 60 minutes of freedom for them to float to the front of my mind and then off to the back again as they see fit.   It means that I arrive at my destination with a clearer and more focused mind.   It’s character building.    Details:


Date: Sunday 23rd August, 2015
Distance: 18.7km | Elevation: 380m

Start kms: 6,340.0km | End kms: 6,358.7km | % complete: 63.6%

Destinations: New Cross

“Cycling is about getting outside and into the elements and you don’t need to be listening to Queen or Slayer in order to experience that. Immerse yourselves in the rhythm and pain." 

So The Rules state. 

And it’s true. 

On the weekends, it’s an easy one to follow. New and unexplored roads. Familiar runs to be conquered once again. Flanked by friends. Sun. Wind. Sometimes rain. On the good days the elements and your surroundings push you on. On the bad days, they at least provide a distraction. 

Then there’s the commute. 

It beats forcing your way on to an over-crowded tube carriage. It’s wildly better than sitting on the top deck of a bus willing yourself to stop sweating. Placed next to standing shoulder to shoulder with an overworked, overheating, overly-moist city worker, the bike wins every. single. time. 

But there’s no getting around the fact that it’s the same 9km of road twice a day every day. 

Thanks in no small part to my mild Strava obsession, I’ve compounded the monotony of my commute in the last fortnight. 

Front loading the kilometres at the beginning of the month has put me in a position where I am tantalising close to completing the not-insubstantial climbing challenge of 11,000m in 31 days. 

But not close enough to do it with my eyes closed. 

The 9km stretch of tarmac that takes me from New Cross to Clerkenwell via Old Kent Road, Blackfriars Bridge and Farringdon Road isn’t quite enough. I still need to find an extra 200m each day. 

Enter Jerningham Road, approximately 50m of vertical a mere two minutes form my house. At the end of each day, you’ll find me somewhere between its bottom and the roundabout at its top, replete with trainers in place of cleats and an oversized backpack, doing hill repeats. 

If that wasn’t enough, I spent the first 40 minutes of my Sunday making the ascent and descent over and over and over again. 

Never has the temptation to plug myself into some music or a podcast been stronger. 

"I know these roads”, I tell myself. 

“There’s little difference between putting something in my ears and blasting something out of a car stereo”, I try to justify. 

“If I use my iPhone headphones, I’ll still be able to hear everything around me”, I rationalise, trying to convince my inner prude. 

I won’t, though. 

For one, it’s easy to know a road, but it’s difficult to know the vehicles on it and near impossible to anticipate what they are going to do. My eyes go a long way towards keeping me upright, but there’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t need every sense I have at my disposal to get to work or home safely. 

There’s also the small aural delights that I’d otherwise miss: fractured conversations, a familiar song from a nearby car, a surprisingly strong swear word delivered to an aggressive driver from an unassuming source. 

Ultimately, it’s about something simpler and mildly pretentious: clarity and reflection. 

Away from the distraction of my computer, my mobile, my desk phone, my colleagues, my friends, Netflix, books, my music collection, the news, Ira Glass and his ever-interesting anecdotes — almost everything — there’s little to occupy (or monopolise) my mind. 

That allows me to process the days events, be they upcoming or past. 

It provides an opportunity to organise my thoughts. It gives me a chance to mull-over problems that have presented themselves throughout the day, offering 30 to 60 minutes of freedom for them to float to the front of my mind and then off to the back again as they see fit. 

It means that I arrive at my destination with a clearer and more focused mind. 

It’s character building. 

Details:

LDN-BMH-OXD | Day 2.

10,000km.cc

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Date: Sunday 2nd August, 2015
Distance: 175.5km | Elevation: 1,700m
Start kms: 5,369.5km | Finish kms: 5,785.4km | % complete: 57.9%

Destinations: Bournemouth — Amesbury — Kintbury — Oxford

Despite our best efforts too cover something more savoury, there was only one topic of conversation taking place over our eggs at the breakfast table: the degree of discomfort we were likely to experience during the initial moments of our chamois (and their contents) making contact with our saddles. 

The general consensus was that it would be high on the pre-existing scale. However, due in no small part to pain giving way to an incurable numbness at around the 200km mark the previous day, the anticipation was exceedingly greater than the reality, as is so often the case. 

On the subject of backsides, if I’d needed any further confirmation that I am in no way a breakaway rider or chain leader, today provided it in spades. Fulfilling my position as ‘man at the back of the pack’ in earnest, I added to my extensive and ever-growing collection of #ForeverButtPhotos — an expansive catalogue of my time spent trying to keep pace with a well-oiled, long-distance machine and an iron-willed, resolute (read: stubborn) accomplice. 

I, on the other hand, am a plodder. 

I’ve made peace with the fact that I won’t win the race — I won’t even come near the podium — but I will finish it. And I’ll most likely capture some photos of it along the way. 

Success and achievement operates on a relative scale, it would seem, adhering to the law of diminishing returns. Whilst doing something once is an accomplishment, the second time its repetition. By the third, fourth or fifth time round, it’s almost become habit and that’s just another word for routine. 

Case in point: somewhere between deciding to cycle 10,000km in less than a year and signing-up to a one-day 350km sportive, my perception of distance has become somewhat warped. It wasn’t long ago that a three-figure ride was a solid effort, whilst hitting anywhere between 130-150km wasn’t just cause for celebration, but an excuse to buy a commemorative jersey.

Today, we were discussing the 175km ride as a ‘shorter one’ and planning our first rest stop beyond 70km, depending on what we happened upon along the way. 

But that’s the wonderful thing about cycling. The ability to go further allows you to cover new, undiscovered routes again and again, helping the old and well-troden feel entirely new. 

Speaking from ongoing experience, it sure beats doing laps of the same park week in and week out. 

Continuing to be diligent in our calls, few potholes, bumps, shards of glass or collections of gravel were left unidentified. Whilst Gorrod and I were traditional in our identification, choosing the traditional and authoritative point in the direction of the offending object. I noticed that Hendo, on the other hand, had far more of a flourish in his gesticulation, his point being more akin to Sacha Baran Cohen’s Bruno and his nish-nish finger. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. 

As we passed north of Farnborough, we reached the top of our final real climb of the day. Placing myself back in the saddle, I rounded a bend to the loud and unmistakable cry of Hendo as he looked out before us: 

“ROAD PORN!“ 

He was right, too. 

Straight ahead of us was what looked to be a never-ending descent that led into a gradual right-hand bend. We could see exactly where the road led for the next two to three kilometres and the direction was definitely downwards. The decline was long and straight, veering slightly upwards and around to the left before a follow-up descent. The road was smooth, wide and completely clear. 

We didn’t hang around. 

Straight back out of our saddles, we were hammering into our big rings to build-up speed and momentum, aiming to capitalise on this glorious stretch. In hindsight, I wish I’d stopped for ten seconds to take a few photographs not only to publish here, but to look back on. Alas, I was greedy. I wanted to take it on there and then and the excitement got the better of me. 

I’ve since learnt the name of the hill: Chain Hill Road. I may be being slightly hyperbolic - and it may just be because it’s still so fresh in my mind — but I’m intent on finding my way back to that little stretch to take it on again. It’s well worth going out of your way for and was the best five to seven minutes of the weekend. 

It’s also a great spot to push the boundaries on your top speed. I was knocking on the door of 80kph, but didn’t quite get there. 

This time. 

Buoyed considerably by the descent and the growing number of signs for Oxford, we fell in-line and settled in for a prolonged period of chain-gang riding. Hendo took the front, whilst Gorrod settled in behind him. I took my usual spot on the wheel of the last man. After 15 minutes, and with the wind behind us, we took a left at the junction and Gorrod let us know we’d managed to maintain a tour pace for the last segment, averaging 44kph for quarter of an hour. 

It’s amazing what you can do with a tailwind. 

The final few kilometres into Oxford-proper kept us on quiet country lanes. Holding more fields and cars, the sight and sound of three police cars speeding up and past us, with their sirens wailing and their engines revving, was a surprise. Living in central London, and cycling twice a day on Old Kent Road, I’ve not only become used, but  numb to the the panic-inducing feeling that a siren can inspire. However, riding through the sunny, idyllic and expansive countryside of Oxfordshire provides a very different setting and, seeing them in that context, is incredibly unsettling. 

After a very brief stop at Zappi’s Bike Cafe — our final destination — we boarded the train back to Paddington.  Unknowingly choosing the silent carriage, we rustled through our post-ride snacks, complained far too loudly about our Garmins not synching with our phones and drowsily snapped at one another for now other reason than we were tired. 

Meanwhile, I silently subdued the creeping forbidding feeling that ebbed and flowed through the front of my mind: the knowledge that I still had to make the 15km ride back home through the late-afternoon London traffic. 

It was worth it though. 

It’s always worth it. 

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Details:

LDN-BTN-LDN.

10,000km.cc

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Date: Saturday 11th July, 2015
Distance: 217.7km | Elevation: 2,467m
Start kms: 4,792.9km | Finish kms: 5,010.6km  | % complete: 50.1%

Destinations: New Cross – London Bridge – Ditching Beacon – Brighton – Ashdown Forest – Royal Tunbridge Wells – New Cross

We’d had this ride in our sights for some time, having scheduled it in during the wetter, darker winter months of the year. 

There seemed to be something innately satisfying about heading from London, down to Brighton, and then coming back again all in one day. 

Part of it no doubt stemmed from the fact that it was a loop. It’s always itws own reward to hit the start and finish button on your GPS outside of your front door. 

Part of it arguably came from an inherent (albeit it slightly shameful) smugness of covering a well-trodden, well-publicised and frequently organised ride before lunch and then doing the same again, only in the opposite direction. 

And part of it was definitely because it looked good written in short-hand: LDN-BGN-LDN.

Someone needs to put that on a t-shirt. 

Amongst with the usual subjects – Hendo,Gorrod and Saul – was colleague and new-bike-owner, Dan. Having not ridden more than about 40km and seeing this as a reasonable distance to wear in a fresh saddle and new bike set-up, he met us at London Bridge for a 06.00 depart. 

Yet another sunny day awaited us and with it another day of milestones. 

First, whilst not by much, was that with a total distance of 217km, this saw my longest ride benchmark creep up a little further. 

Second – and more exciting – was that with this incremental gain would come the halfway point of my 10,000km. Somewhere between Mottingham and Eltham, I crossed the invisible 5,000km line.

But that came later. Before all of that that was my first ride from London to Brighton and an introduction to Ditchling Beacon (and all that comes before it). 

A Category 4 climb, Ditching Beacon wasn’t necessarily steep – it was just 90km into the ride and a kilometre and a half long, so it started to take it out of you towards the top. That said, it was a really enjoyable climb for the fact that there were no sudden kicks or surprises lurking round any bends and for the incredible views at the top.

Out of curiosity, I’ve just taken a minute or ten to look back through my previous rides. Whilst my legs would be inclined to disagree, at no point have I taken on ay hill that is categorised beyond a level 4. I’ve gone back into 2014 to see if that held any level-ups – nothing. 

Some of those climbs still haunt me, so I dread to think what a Category 3, let along a Category 2 or 1, would do to me. 

Back on Ditching Beacon, we stopped at the top to take in the views and wait for the group come back together. Dan, well beyond his furthest ride already by this point, was still hammering away despite having a camelbak, a BMX helmet and a lack of cleats to contend with. 

The buttered loaf of Soreen he retrieved from his pack at the top was well-deserved. It was also an excellent choice of riding snack of which I took note for future rides. 

The final 10km into Brighton was a gentle downhill that took us to our first stop. We’d heard about Velo Cafe from numerous sources and were under the impression that it was one of the best cycling cafes in the UK. Whilst that may have been the case at some point in the past, it’s certainly not true now. I’m not sure whether it’s under new management or if they’ve just changed tack, but this was less cycling-hub and more caff with outdoor seating. 

Thankfully, our second stop would be through the tried, tested and universally-liked The Velo House in Royal Tunbridge Wells, where all disappointment was annihilated by not so much a slice, but a slab of white chocolate rocky road. 

The second leg of the day was relatively uneventful, the high points being the fact that we made it to the coast and actually saw the sea (unlike in Kings Lynn in the Tour de March earlier this year) and another run through Ashdown Forest on yet another perma-kit-inducing day. 

The low point was probably watching Gorrod throw himself around unknown corners on a couple of downhill segments at far too high a speed, shouting out “REALLY SHARP ONE” at the top of his lungs. 

We didn’t see the value in explaining that was the reason we were hanging back in the first place.  

As well as providing us with vast quantities of butter and sugar, it was at The Velo House, at 160km, that Dan decided it was best to call it a day. Having just one movement available to him through the pedals (pushing) his legs had begun to feel it, as had his shoulders as he became used to a new sitting position on a brand new frame. With a train station 2 minutes from where we sat eating our enchiladas, the temptation was all too much. 

If that was my first ride out, I would not have hope to have faired anywhere close to that well. 

I had built up the Royal Tunbridge Wells to London stretch in my head as being pretty brutal, filled with two, if not three, fairly challenging hills in there. However, avoiding Brasted and Toys Hill this time round meant the reality of the ride was far better, more enjoyable and – as a result – faster than I could have hoped so far in. We quickly made our way back in to Bromley and then Greenwich. Trying to avoid as much of the traffic as possible, we went up, over and through Greenwich Park rather than straight through Lewisham. 

It meant avoiding people rather than cars, but at this stage it was definitely the lesser of two evils. 

Averaging the final 70km at a pace of around 25kph we all managed to get off the bike feeling if not good, then at least pretty okay. 

Given the fact that Dan, Hendo, Saul and I all managed a run the following day (separately, I hasten to add), we can;t have been completely done in. 

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