Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Journal

Filtering by Tag: Rapha

Rapha MCR-LDN: a new threshold.

10,000km.cc

IMG_8087.JPG

Date: Sunday 6th September, 2015
Distance: 360.2km | Elevation: 3,488m
Start kms: 6,671.1km | End kms: 7,031.3km | % complete: 70.3%

Destinations: Manchester — Peak District — Derbyshire — Warwickshire —Northamptonshire — Hertfordshire — London

I fumbled through the excessive number of train tickets I clutched in my fist to make sure I had my outbound stub to hand. 

Of course I did. 

Gorrod, Hendo and I were only being propelled half-way up the country in one direction by third party transport. When it came time to getting ourselves and our bikes off the train in Manchester Piccadilly, it was going to be all on us — or more specifically our legs — to take us back to London. 

This was the Rapha-organised Manchester to London ride, a one-day, 350km route that had been looming in the back of my mind from the day I’d signed up on a dark, cold February evening. Between its beginning and its end lay 120 more kilometres than I’d ever covered in a day, a good 2,000m more climbing than I’d surmounted in one session and several hours of extra time in the saddle overall. 

“Am I ready?”, I asked myself over my second plate of spaghetti bolognese at the pre-race pasta party at Rapha’s MCR Cycle Club. The short answer was that I didn’t know and, regardless of the amount of training I was capable of or willing to subject myself to in the run-up, I wouldn’t until the moment I passed beneath the inflatable arch carrying the words ‘FINISH’ the following evening. 

The morning came round quickly and the sun was only beginning to rise as we wheeled our bikes out onto the street at 05.30. The streets were quiet except for a handful of the cities endurance clubbers, who wandered the pavements in not-quite-straight lines, arms flung around each others shoulders, one acting as an unreliable crutch to the other. The night had taken its toll, with their faces held in looks of dejection and their eyes staring far off into the distance, whilst seeming to focus on nothing in particular. 

It was not the last time I’d see that look today. 

As their day finished, ours was just beginning. We were all nervous, but this was manifesting itself as an electric, almost tangible, level of excitement. You could hear it in the cadence of our speech as we quickly asked and answered each others (and our own) questions. 

We were also focused. Riders were able to begin setting off from 06.00 and, with daylight precious, we intended on using every available minute we had. We filled our bidons whilst packing our jersey pockets. We ate our quickly-grabbed pastries whilst we dropped our wet bags to the team car. We didn’t waste a second and it wasn’t long before we were crossing the start line and beginning the first leg of the day. 

Ushered onto the route in waves, we settled into a peleton of around 20 to 30 riders, following the blinking red light on the seat tube of the rider in front whilst making introductions to fellow riders. Having spent the majority of the year riding in groups of three or four, it was refreshing to find myself amongst a bigger pack. Boxed in, I felt motivated to stay on the back wheel of the rider in front and bolstered by the presence of riders behind me. I also felt protected by the shield of flesh, carbon, aluminium and steel to my right, front and rear, providing a level of security it’s impossible to feel when riding alone. 

“I miss riding in big groups like this”, I said to the guys as I powered along. 

Another 30km and, as the last back wheel of the group glided further away from my line of sight, I was back-pedalling on my original statement. I’d made a fundamental race day error; I’d followed the pace of the pack rather than what I knew to be my own rhythm and I was starting to flag with more than 300km left to cover. 

I felt disheartened and stupid. 

This was not the psychological or physical place I had envisioned inhabiting during some of the most visually stunning and at the same time challenging stints of the day: the Peak District. It’s sun-kissed hillsides bathed in the soft pink-orange light from the low morning sun, while a thin, white mist slithered across the valley floors as the temperature began to rise. It would have been enough to take my breath away if that had not been left somewhere on the steep and constant ascent that had brought me to this viewing point. 

The fear of peaking far too early was soon usurped by the impending threat of punctures as we took to the legendary Monsal Trail, a flat, traffic-free trail that once carried Midland Railway trains from Manchester to London. The soft crunch of fine gravel floated upwards from our wheels as we passed quarries, limestone rock faces, former train platforms and still-standing viaducts, broken only by the momentary dash through dimly lit, tarmaced tunnels. 

Approaching the first feed station, Gorrod, Hendo and I had reestablished our tried and tested pace and we talked tactics to ensure we didn’t succumb to the lure of an extended and indulgent rest stop so early into the ride. 

Dismounting, one of us immediately joined the queue for coffee, whilst another dashed to the water station to refill bidons. The third made for the plethora of food that had been provided for all participants: bircher muesli, sausage rolls, cookies, biscuits, cakes, sweets, gels, all by the kilo if you need or wanted it. I exercised self control, taking only a little more than what I really needed before tagging Gorrod out of the coffee queue to allow him to do the same. 

We were back in the saddle inside of 15 minutes. 

It was a little after 09.30 and the morning had firmly established itself: the sky was bright blue, cloud cover was minimal and the sun had not stopped shining from the moment it had made its way above the hills of the Peak District. The weather was asserting itself and we were confident of close-to-ideal riding conditions for the duration of the ride. 

In front and behind us were a further 157 riders, but having established our own cadence we saw few of them, as we made our way southwards via quiet country lanes, meandering towards and away from M1 as we went. 

We talked and we joked, riding alongside one another as we did so. We pointed and signalled to all manner of miscreant obstacles, which ranged from cavernous potholes to recently mown-down roadkill. When the opportunity presented itself, we sat up to capture photos from the saddle — something we’ve all become increasingly proficient at in recent months and, with a combination of the route and the weather of the day, a frequent occurrence from sunrise to sunset. 

There were times, too, where we all fell into line and put our heads down. I let my mind wander, focusing on nothing in particular and allowing the kilometres, the scenery, the roads and the hours melt away into the looming midday heat. 

I felt the sporadic vibration of my Garmin watch in my jersey pocket as it let me know another 5km had passed. Keeping it zipped away meant it was out of sight, removing the temptation to clock-watch. Housing it there also meant I didn’t feel every pulse and so each time I checked it, it would show the distance to be greater than I’d predicted. 

The grand setting of Bosworth Hall in Warwickshire once housed the wealthy Dixie family and was graced by Sirs, Lords and Baronets for centuries. Today, it was home to piles of pies for our lunchtime enjoyment, which we were able to enjoy with the luxury of a little more time. There was still little desire (or point) in staying on longer than we needed to with the ever-present threat of the legs seizing up or our bodies beginning to fully understand what we were subjecting them to. 

The second 100km were kinder to me than the first and each of us still had the want and the enthusiasm to slowly dial-up the pace when we saw the silhouettes of riders in the distance. We didn’t always rein them in, but those mystery lycra apparitions fuelled us. 

So too did the extra food we had stashed away. I played a game with myself, working out what the halfway point between each feed station would be. It was only once I had moved beyond this point that I would be able to reach behind me and retrieve said snack. With any knowledge of distance covered sat behind me along with my snacks, I waited to feel the buzz of my Garmin against my left kidney, trying to count them. However, distracted by everything else around me, I often missed it, allowing time to pass quicker still. 

It was at the penultimate feed station dispositions began to fray and tiredness began to not just appear, but march briskly to the fore. No amount of baked potatoes or coconut macaroons could undo the punishment of 200km under a hot September sun. We took a little more time to sit down, fill-up and refuel for what I had marked down as the most psychologically challenging leg of the day. 

Although the close of stage four would bring us within relative spitting distance of the M25, and therefore tantalising close to the finish, it felt like there was a gulf between 236km and 350km  — not close enough to be able to begin visualising the finish line and far too far from the start line for everything to still feel new enough to drive us to distraction. 

I was apprehensively entering a void. 

Serendipitous then was the timing of catching up with two riders that I knew. Matt and Jamie had been riding close to us for much of the day, our time at the feed stations overlapping at every point. We had finally caught each other on the road and spent almost all of the section together. 

It was the lift we all needed. The three of us had driven one another through to this point and we’d continue doing that until the moment we crossed the finish line, but after ten solid hours of the same faces, the same voices and the same lycra-clad backsides, a change of conversational scenery became as important as our continually transforming surroundings. Matt devoured each hill with an aplomb that was as nauseating as it was impressive at this stage of the day, dragging us up behind him like reluctant iron filings drawn to a magnet. Jamie got down low on the descents, challenging each of us to go that little bit faster. In between all of this, we talked almost constantly. Surely it was during that leg and in those moments that we embodied the spirit of this ride. We were not individuals, riding to beat a time; we were a team, made stronger by our numbers, seeing how far we could take ourselves and trying to beat that. 

If not, then at least it was all a distraction from the fact that the sun was slowly being swallowed by the horizon as dusk approached. 

Soup soothed the soul and warmed the hands in Hatfield, as we each handled what was already our longest ride on record. At 300km, some of us chose to walk around the room and chat to riders. Others took up a chair in a quiet corner and stared deeply into their coffee, as if its bottom might somehow hold a clue on where to find a final surge of energy. 

50km left to go. 

It sounded so small, but on top of the ground we’d already covered it was going to feel a lot longer. We donned our gilets and our arm warmers for the second time that day and activated our lights for the first. We hadn’t quite lost the sun, but tree cover and a lack of street lights meant we’d need the extra help soon after leaving the final feed station. 

As we moved into Enfield, things started to feel a little more familiar. The unknown, undiscovered and likely never to be seen again lanes of Middle England were gone. In their place came a sensory symphony. Street lights and neon-lit shopfronts blurred together as we sped past, whilst a never-ending stream of blinking brake lights snaked off into the distance. The dull, stop-start drone of the traffic-laden roads was shattered only by the occasional car horn or the high-pitched whine of a pedestrian crossing. 

It wasn’t so much a rude awakening — by now we were too far gone to be re-awoken — but a numb experience from which I felt a little distanced. 

Inside London proper, more and more traffic lights meant more and more cyclists were able to catch-up with one another, and our group of three became 15 by the time the illuminated ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture of the Olympic Park came into sight. 

That was our cue to pick up the pace for the final time. 

We took to the front of the group, working into heavier gears that hadn’t been touched for hours. The other riders followed suit. Our pace crept upwards as we broke through the 30kph barrier and kept going until we were just shy of 40kph. Excited by the prospect of achieving what had seemed impossible at the beginning of the year and carried by the unexpected speed, Gorrod flew past the exit of the roundabout that would take us past Hackney Marshes and onto the Olympic Park straight. 

“I’ll catch you up”, I heard him shout, as he disappeared onto the other side of the roundabout. 

Quickly back to a trio, we were out of our saddles and sprinting down Temple Mills Lane. We had nothing left, running on vapours and adrenaline as we followed the Lee Valley VeloPark walkway around to the right. A short, sharp bend and before we even had a moment to realise what was happening, we passed beneath the finishing arch. It wasn’t until I’d stopped that I heard the music, the cowbells and the cheering of the crowd. It was done. 

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of completing such a long and momentous ride. There is undoubtedly a sense of elation, but it becomes buried under layers of shock, relief, awe and waves of exhaustion. It’s difficult to untangle it all and try to begin making sense of it and, if I were to try, I’d likely drain much of its magic. 

Better to just bask in its warm glow and wait for entry to the 2016 event to open.

The Rapha Manchester to London ride is held to raise money for the charity Ambitious About Autism. Working with young people around the UK, they provide services to those affected by autism, as well as raise awareness and understanding at a public and political level. There’s still time to donate by clicking here. 

Final results.

etails:

LDN-BMH-OXD | Day 2.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nsz0h88iea1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nsz0h88iea1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nsz0h88iea1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

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. 

image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image
image

Details:

LDN-BMH-OXD | Day 1.

10,000km.cc

Date: Saturday 1st August, 2015

Distance: 231.7km | Elevation: 1,838m

Starts kms: 5,387.2km | Finish kms: 5,609.9km  | % complete: 56.4%

Destinations: New Cross — London Bridge — East Worldham — South Downs — New Forest — Poole — Bournemouth

Today was the day that our navigation team grew by 100%. 

Hendo had bought himself a Garmin Edge 810, which meant that the responsibility for (and pressure of) directing us through our two-day route could be equally split. That left me as the last remaining free-loader, following the twists and turns of their wheels, the signals from their arms and — on the brief occasions I found myself at the front — the calls on where to veer off or carry on straight. 

With half of London and Surreys key roads on lock-down ahead of Sundays Ride100 sportive, we were keen to get this part of the ride behind us early to avoid any major diversions or hold-ups. It was therefore another start from London Bridge at 06.00. 

Heading out to Richmond and beyond into Esher, the roads and kilometres dissipated with the morning dew and chilly start (the arm warmers stayed on until well into the mid-morning). 

Trying to find a more practical — and, I’ll admit, a slightly more aesthetically pleasing — way of carrying two days worth of equipment, food and chargers, I’d attached a third bottle cage to the back of my saddle. The idea was to house the usual two water bottles on the bike, along with a cylindrical tool container stuffed with bike tools, tyre levers, inner-tubes, energy gels, iPhone and Garmin USB cables and anything else that might fit. 

In principle, it worked well. My jersey pockets felt light (especially after I’d got through the bagel I’d shoved in there) and the look was a little sleeker than a saggy saddlebag. The (in)practicalities, however, soon made themselves known. As the morning wore on, the weight of my bottle and the rattling of the road prised the cage wider, loosening its grip on my water bottle slowly – but very surely – until a mis-timed bump propelled it from its rightful home, into the air and onto the road. 

Luckily, Hendo, who was behind me at the time, was able to swerve out of the way as my bidon hit the floor and broke into its component parts. I was two hours in and down to one water bottle until the end of the day. 

That’s where vanity gets you. I told myself to keep the sweating to a minimum. 

Trying to continue the trend of the first rest stop being beyond the first 100km, our hand was somewhat forced by our stomachs and our location. Approaching the South Downs, our options were limited, with most of the pubs we passed still being closed. Seeing an open door and activity, we seized the opportunity to stop about 500m short of the 3-figure mark. 

Fuelled by the generosity of The Three Horseshoes (who weren’t actually due to open for another 2 hours, but prepared us coffee and toast), we pressed on into our first of two National Parks of the day and, subsequently, our first prolonged period of road porn.

Cutting across its upper edge, we traversed South-West up and down short climbs and winding through the large, smooth and quiet roads. The coffees had taken immediate effect and we excitedly drank in the surrounding fields of barley, wild flowers, alfalfa and the occasional poppy. 

Stopping at a junction, I turned to look back and was able to do so for miles, taking in the road and the seemingly never-ending fields, with their hedgerows running through them like the stitching on a blanket. 

The roads being long, predominantly straight and relatively quiet offered a chance to adapt to an alternative position for short periods of time: no hands. Not something we’d fancy doing when being overtaken by cars, avoiding potholes or manoeuvring loose tarmac, it felt good to stretch out the lower back and shoulders — two of the body parts that seem to be the first to cry out in discomfort on longer rides nowadays. 

Hendo, having not quite mastered the no hands position, took this as an opportunity to practice, pointing out that he’d be needing every possible position he could find for our Manchester to London ride next month. 

Shortly before the days highlight came its unquestionable lowlight: Carlos Tea Room. I won’t dwell on what was, at best, an average lunch in a glorified canteen (not a tea room), but do want as many people as possible to be aware that they refused to fill up our water bottles from their taps. Despite us having bought sandwiches, cakes and coffees, they didn’t want to set a precedent whereby the occasional customer might request a tap water and force them to give away a polystyrene cup. The cost was too much to bear. 

I was suitably outraged, but the silver-lining was that had we not stopped here, we wouldn’t have found any other form of food until the other side of the New Forest — some 40km further on. That is unless you count Mr. Whippy ice cream, which in hindsight wouldn’t necessarily have been the worst thing in the world. Especially if there was some form of flake involved. 

Perhaps it was just pathetic fallacy, but the dark, impending clouds that hung over the New Forest as we entered seemed to embody our mood incredibly well.

We were into the final leg of the ride. 

We’d spent our half-hour rest stop surreptitiously filling our bidons from the bathroom sink. 

And most of our down-time was spent swatting away an army of over-friendly wasps. 

But then we saw horses. And ponies. And miniature ponies. And sheep. And trees. And verdant forest. 

The ominous clouds transformed into an epic backdrop as we navigated (or, in my case, as Hendo and Gorrod navigated the way for me) our way through the stunning scenery. We battled through cross winds until they became headwinds or momentary tailwinds, depending on which way we turned. 

As I moved my hands onto the tops and my chain into the small ring on a hill, Hendo pedalled up next to me. 

“I’ve not taken on enough food. I’m not feeling good, especially on the hills.“

That’s what he said to me before riding off ahead of me towards the top of the climb. 

“I’m feeling okay”, I thought to myself, “and yet here I am watching my two friends lycra-clad backsides ascend into the distance once again”.

I smiled to myself. 

I learnt another valuable lesson on the bike on the way to Bournemouth. I psychologically peaked too early, telling myself that the end was in sight far sooner than it actually was. I keep my Garmin out of sight on long rides so I don’t accidentally end up clock-watching, willing the metres on. The numerous mentions of Bournemouth on signs on our approach consequently had me assuming we probably had another half an hour in the saddle. 

An hour later, we were still making our way though the town and its traffic.

However, we were by the sea by this point, so that helped no end. 

Our almost-final stop was cycling cafe Rockets & Rascals, which was actually 10km from our official finish (back in the other direction), but was well worth the detour for the friendly welcome and plethora of delicious wraps, cakes and coffees that were available. They also have one in Plymouth, if we ever fancy an all-nighter from London, covering 430km. 

Or we could split the ride over two days. That would be slightly more sensible.

Going back the way we came, the one last thing to do was pick up a bunch of flowers for Gorrod’s mum to thank her for feeding and putting us up (or putting up with us, given our tired, mildly incoherent states) for the night. 

image
image
image
image
image
image
image

Details:

An attempt at the Rapha Womens 100.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_ns9ciffu0G1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_ns9ciffu0G1uq1335o3_1280.jpg
tumblr_ns9ciffu0G1uq1335o2_1280.jpg

Date: Sunday 26th July, 2015

Distance: 29.9km | Elevation: 358m

Start kms: 5,235.6km | Finish kms: 5,265.5km  | % complete: 52.7%

Destinations: New Cross – Mottingham – Knockholt

You know it’s not a good ride when I don’t have the wherewithal or the want to reach for my phone and take a few photos. 

Months ago, Ashley signed-up to the Rapha Womens 100, a challenge designed to get as many ladies out on their bikes as possible and covering some serious distance. 

A day on the bike at the end of July – the height of British summer – seemed like a great way to spend a Sunday. Agreeing to join her, I excitedly planned a route way back in March. Gorrod and I even did a recce at the end of that month to identify any major areas for concern that we should look to avoid (that was the one where Gorrod bonked, if you remember).

It turns out the March version of the ride held abundantly better weather than the July one. Taking a leisurely approach to the day, we got on the road just after 09.00 and the rain had already begun.

To quote Ashley, from there on in it was “relentless”. Without the slightest let-up, we pedalled on and were soaked through to our socks by 10km. By 20km I could feel the puddles of water sloshing around inside my shoes. 

It was me that was beginning to lose patience, with Ashley staying good-humoured despite the onslaughts. Mounting my iPhone onto my handlebars so we could direct ourselves to Royal Tunbridge Wells had been a fine proposition in theory, but in practice the amount of rain hitting the screen throughout the ride meant my phone kept thinking I was relentlessly hitting buttons. The result was the route either redirecting or disappearing from my screen completely. 

Despite my best efforts, forever-wet hands meant I couldn’t rectify this without pulling over to the side of the road and taking the phone from its case. As I did this for the fourth time in 30km, with Ashley and I sheltering under a tree, it was time to call it a day. 

This wasn’t going to be the last time I’d have to do this, the roads were slippery and dangerous (and quickly filling up with traffic), the puddles in our shoes had become small lakes, the rain was here to stay and our waterproof clothing wasn’t up to the mark. 

We admitted defeat at 30km and got on the train from Knockholt back to New Cross, Royal Tunbridge Wells still a far-off aspiration. 

This was a timely reminder to make the most of the nicer suymmer months whilst they’re still around. 

Details:

LDN-BTN-LDN.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nrztk8G0l11uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrztk8G0l11uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrztk8G0l11uq1335o3_1280.jpg

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. 

image
image
image
image
image

Details:

Hell of the Ashdown+.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nrztgtMI6T1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrztgtMI6T1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrztgtMI6T1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

Date: Saturday 27th June, 2015
Distance: 206.5km | Elevation: 2,661m
Start kms: 4,430.6km  | Finish kms: 4,537.1km | % complete: 42.7%

Destinations: New Cross – Knatts Valley – Turners Hill – Linfield – Ashdown Forest – Brasted – Crystal Palace – New Cross

I’m no endurance athlete. 

That’ll come as no surprise to anyone. 

However, my limited experience of doing any form of long-distance exercise is that there comes a point where the psychological endurance becomes as – if not more – important than physical fitness. 

With this in mind, and with the Rapha MCR-LDN ride now on the foreseeable horizon, it was about to take down a psychological milestone. 

200km. 

Hendo and I formed a 2-man peleton for the day to take this on. My longest ride was sat at somewhere in the region of 180km. His was 160km. The route we’d planned for this was 206km. 

Speed was therefore absolutely not the key. Instead, it was simply a case of conquering the new distance and hopefully getting off at the other end without feeling as though we couldn’t possibly do any more. 

The foundation of our route was taken from the still fairly recently launched Strava Local, a great collection of cycling and running routes in and around some of the worlds major cities. However, with a full day at our disposal, we were able to add on an extra 70km or so by heading out a little further South East and taking in Knatts Valley for the third time in four weeks. 

Another habit we’d started a few months ago and were keen to keep up was covering more than 100km before the first rest stop. 

In the past, we’d generally taken our first break at the 50-60km mark, stopping for half an hour to take on some food and rest the legs. That makes sense when you’re calling it a day at 100km, but coming back to the psychological element in play over such distances, getting out of the saddle to rest less than a quarter of the way into a ride makes the whole thing feel a lot longer.

Now fully au fait with eating on the bike, we were able to pedal on through to 115km before dismounting for the first time. I can’t speak for Hendo, but after rolling through several towns that had nothing to offer in the way of eateries, I was incredibly happy to see the beckoning bench of a small deli in Lindfield. 

Over half the distance down and at our furthest point from home, post-lunch saw us making our way back up towards London though another new cycling realm: Ashdown Forest. A long and gentle incline would have made for more of a challenge were it not for the thrill of new surroundings and enjoyable scenery. 

The combination of the high, afternoon sun, the clear skies, the dry scrubland to the left and to the right of me, and the sheep and cows roaming the banks and roads came together to create the impression that we weren’t in East Sussex, but on a far-off Spanish island. 

We closed the first loop of our figure-of-eight route at just after 165km, joining already covered ground in Brasted. With minutes to spare, we were able to get our order in at Tarte, a cafe we’d ear-marked for the journey back. Operating on the principle that breakfast food is the best food, I chose granola with yoghurt and lemon curd to push me through the final 50km. 

And my god, I needed it. 

As I’ve mentioned before, our rest stops are always in fairly well-populated towns or villages. Towns and villages tend to be located close to water. These are, in turn, generally in a basin or valley. Consequently, more often than not, the first thing we’re faced with is a hill. 

In this case, that hill was not only present, but almost named correctly: Brasted Hill. 

More Bastard than Brasted, I was immediately calling on my granola to fuel me up as the gradient became steeper and steeper and I churned through gears until I had none left. Snaking from one side of the road to another and doing my best to stop my heart beating out of my chest and up to the top of the hill before me, I felt sorry for the car crawling up the hill behind me.

But not enough to even consider the possibility of stopping to let it past. That would have required energy I had no ability to draw upon at that point. 

Looking to learn as much as we could from ‘the longest ride to-date’, the greatest lesson came in the final stretch of the day: the need to communicate constantly. If there’s a car down, a pothole ahead, glass on the road, an obstacle in the road, it needs to be vocalised to everyone as audibly and obviously as possible. 

The first time this became apparent was on the final (relatively small) climb of the day, which took us up to Crystal Palace. Tired, sun-beaten and a little jaded, concentration was beginning to lapse. As Hendo and I approached a red light, he slipped from his pedal  and swerved into the back of a BMW. I heard the thud and crunch of something breaking and quickly turned around expecting to see him lying on the floor. 

What had actually happened was that he’d managed to accidentally force his handlebar through the brake light of the car, leaving it smashed. The driver was incredibly patient and understanding about the incident as the two swapped details to settle reimbursement. 

The next incident was a far closer call on the descent into East Dulwich. As we coasted past Dulwich Park, I swerved to my left to avoid a traffic barricade that sat across the road. 

Hendo saw me swerve. 

He then wondered why it was I had swerved. 

As he pondered this for almost too long, he made the final decision to follow suit, moments – metres – from clothes-lining himself from his saddle and likely a few broken ribs. 

Needless to say our final few kilometres – with the promise of a cold can of Irn-Bru and an even colder tub of Ben & Jerry’s awaiting – were filled with exaggerated hand signals and loud calls to guarantee we made it home to our indulgences. 

It was better to point out the obvious than for someone to fall victim to it. 

Lessons learnt, milestones surmounted and legs still capable of moving, the only major issue beyond weariness and its impact on reaction times was a sharp, burning sensation in the balls of our feet. 

The constant – and at times heavy – pressure being put through this specific point over and over again made itself known in a very physical way for the final 50-60km. 

No doubt Google will hold many helpful (and yet more unhelpful) solutions. 

image
image
image

Details:

Discovering Knatts Valley.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nrukk2KFCz1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrukk2KFCz1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nrukk2KFCz1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

Date: Saturday 6th June, 2015.
Distance: 115.2km | Elevation: 1,214m
Destinations: New Cross — Shoreham — Knatts Valley — Bromley — New Cross

Start kms: 3,439.1 | Finish kms: 3,554.3 | % complete: 35.5%

The internet — and Instagram in particular — is filled with road porn. 

Especially when you follow the right people (I’m looking at you, Rapha). 

Vistas. Rolling hills. Mountain ranges. Long, seemingly never-ending descents filled with smooth bends and sharp chicanes. It’s difficult to stay off the bike and have a slower-paced day when a quick thumb through your newsfeed gives you an enormous case of cycling FOMO

In many cases, it’s pretty easy to appease yourself: 

“That run’s in the middle of The Dolomites." 

“That climb’s only accessible as part of an expensive trip to the French Alps." 

“I won’t find views like that without sacrificing several precious hours of my weekend on a train." 

They’re not forever off the cards, but they’re not going to be ticked off the list in the immediate future. 

However, there was one hallowed piece of road that I’d seen often and had no reason to have not visited. Ride route after ride route recommended it. Photos emitted their FOMO-magnetism, drawing me towards it. 

And yet, having lived in South East London for 2 years and had it practically on my doorstep, I had never been. 

On a morning that I’d decided to take down the Strava Gran Fondo for the month, Hendo decided he was going to introduce me to it. 

It was a last-minute decision in the middle of a Kent loop and it was utterly worth it. A longish, gradual descent brought us into the valley where we are able to cruise between two hedgerows, surrounded by wildflowers and what may well have been rapeseed.

At its lowest, flattest point, it was remarkably easy to see why and how Kent has earned the moniker of ‘the garden of England’. It was almost enough to take the sting out of the hill that awaits on the other side. 

Almost. 

image

Details:

The Stag | Day 1.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nn47w0TirL1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nn47w0TirL1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nn47w0TirL1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

Date: Thursday 9th April, 2015
Distance: 85.4km | Elevation: 1,247m
Destinations: Alnmouth — Banburgh — Wooler — Morebattle

Start kms: 2,018.6 | Finish kms: 2,104.0km | % complete: 21.0%

There are occasions when, setting out for a ride, you tightly cross your fingers and pray to whichever god might care to listen that the run-up to it is not indicative of the excursion itself. 

With an hour of the morning spent trying (and failing) to load two routes onto Gorrods Garmin, this was one of those sort of run-ups. With 30 minutes left before our train was due to pull out of Kings Cross Station, we eventually decided we were flogging a dead horse. On this occasion, the Garmin would not be our guide. 

With neither of us knowing where we were going beyond the station we’d be arriving into, we quickly hatched a plan. On the ride to the station, Gorrod would veer off to locate an iPhone mount for his phone whist I powered on to the station to print out our tickets. We set out together, darting through the rush hour traffic and snaking between the masses of cars, buses and motorbikes in a manner more reckless than I’d care to admit. 

Tickets in-hand, I ran through Kings Cross. Anyone who has tried walking on a tiled floor in cleats knows this is no mean feat, but I was determined to pick-up some remnant of the Stag breakfast I had intended.

With two bikes, two flat whites and a paper bag full of impulse purchases, we ran for our platform to load our bikes into the front carriage.

We had 3 minutes to spare. 

After months of careful planning, this is not how I had anticipated us beginning the two-day ride that would kick-off Gorrods Stag Weekend. As Best Man, I did not feel like the best man.

Seats located and cycling accessories safely stowed away, we took approximately 10 seconds to breathe, basking in the fact we’d managed to stick to time, before greedily going at our almond croissants and cinnamon doughnuts. This was chased down by a past-its-optimum-drinking-temperature coffee. 

We were heading for Alnmouth, Northumberland and would be crossing the Endland-Scotland border later that afternoon. However, with a 4-hour train journey ahead of us, there was little to do in the meantime except kick-back, watch the south of England transform into the north, consume a questionable array of pre-ride fuel and relax. Awkwardly, I took my level of relaxation a little too far, nonchalantly knocking over my just-opened can of beer and watching its contents drift slowly and precariously closer to the MacBook of my neighbour. Whilst I felt bad for disrupting his in-train entertainment (at points I became as enthralled by the silent rendition of Rambo I’d been watching over his shoulder as he was by his full sensory experience), I have little doubt that watching a Lycra-clad idiot jog down a moving train carriage in cleats in search of loo roll had its own merits. 

Accompanied by the vague stench of beer and sausage rolls, the cycling itself began at around 13.30. Normally, our rides end with a train journey rather than beginning with them, so I thought  we might be a little more lethargic in our riding style.

I was wrong.

With the sun shining brighter than it had all year, we were expressing levels of excitement over the first bib-shorts-and-jersey-only day of 2015 that, for countless reasons, was unacceptable for two guys in their mid-twenties. Throw in the fact that the first part of our route was taking us down to Bamburgh and its coast, meaning a fairly constant downward slope, and we’d covered 40km in little over 90 minutes. 

Stopping only for a photograph of Bamburgh Castle, we were quickly on the move again, back in-landf towards Wooler which, at around 65km seemed like a sensible place to stop. Both of us could probably have pedalled on through to the finish, but it feels wrong to complete a ride of this distance and not have one rest-and-cappucinno stop along the way. Gorrod added a tiramisu to this, which is arguably excessive, but forgivable on account of it being his Stag Do ( I suppose…). 

With the sun warming us on the terrace of thew inspiring and uniquely name Milan Restaurant (it was indeed an Italian), we were sure we were moving closer to the England-Scotland border. However, the fact that everyone was still speaking with the warm, affectionate lilt of Sarah Millican suggested we weren’t there yet.

We did arrive at it soon enough, though, and thankfully it had a level of ceremony to it. This is the first time I’d cycled over a country border in the UK and I had a mild concern that we’d find ourselves missing an understated sign that was characteristic of our nation and not discover we’d made the transition until we reached our destination. Instead, we pedalled up towards a large sign that simply stated: “Scotland welcomes you”.

Behind us, we left an even simpler sign: a plaque screwed to a wall that read “ENGLAND” in block capitals. 

Make of those what you will. 

Our stop for the night was only a few kilometres beyond the official border in a small town called Morebattle. Neither one of us for the indulgences of lad culture, the first night of Gorrods Stag could not have been further from the Hollywood-inspired debauchery of Vegas: a quiet cottage on Teapot Street named Kissingate, located by a stream, complete with free-standing bath and gas stove. The owner could be forgiven for thinking us honeymooners rather than Stags. 

I’m sure our matching embroidered casquettes, Gorrods labelling him ‘Groom’ and mine ‘Best Man’ removed any doubt from the situation.  Following a beer on the balcony in the last of the days sun, a bath and a Chinese Takeaway, we prepared for the following day by mulling over our route and drinking whisky from makeshift whisky glasses (refashioned tea light holders). We also located our all-important breakfast stop — approximately 60km away, allowing us a reasonable warm-up. 

Meanwhile, Gorrod pondered aloud the major concerns of what the day held in store:

“I wonder what roll our haggis will come on tomorrow”.

image
image
image
image
image

Details: 

Bonksville.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nmhx3eIeNu1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nmhx3eIeNu1uq1335o3_1280.jpg
tumblr_nmhx3eIeNu1uq1335o2_1280.jpg

Date: Sunday 5th March, 2015
Distance: 103.2km  | Elevation: 1,426m
Destinations: New Cross – Royal Tunbridge Wells – New Cross

Start kms: 1,925.1km | Finish kms: 2,028.3km | % complete: 20.3%

It can happen to the best of us.

Too many late night after late night. A few too many beers the night before. A restless nights sleep. Eating the wrong thing before jumping on the bike (or simply not eating enough).

Thankfully, it didn’t happen to me.

At least, not this time.

Joining me on an early Sunday morning jaunt to Royal Tunbridge Wells and back, Gorrod had a week of long, stressful, physically-involved days in him thanks to his recent house move. Ever-eager — and almost always running behind time — he wound up feeling the need to cover the 15km from his new house to mine in under half an hour, leaving him slightly out of breath and, as we’d discover, on the back foot before we’d even begun.

In hindsight, the tell-tale signs were there by the time we’d hit 40km. Whereas he would normally always place himself half a wheel ahead of me (a physical embodiment of his superior fitness), today Gorrod was, at best, alongside me.

His head hung heavier, too, looming towards his handlebars.

I quietly rejoiced in the fact that I didn’t have to worry about getting caught in the friendly fire of his snot rockets. I also began to congratulate myself on what was clearly a considerable improvement in my fitness levels.

Any misplaced confidence was immediately shattered when Gorrod pulled into the side of the road and began devouring a CLIF Bar. We were 3km from our rest stop and he is a proud man — as much as I wanted it to be the case, he didn’t just fancy a snack.

Not even a considerable breakfast at The Velo House could reinvigorate those tired legs to regular service. As we rolled past train stations, I watched as he surveyed them with intent, actively weighing up the possibility of dismounting and switching to an infinitely easier mode of transport.

Having already tackled these roads within the last month, involuntarily becoming the stronger rider made them feel somehow easier. My focus was drawn away from the inclines and towards making sure we both made it up and over together, which meant having to take on a level of positivity I rarely afford myself.

Gorrod crossed the 3-figure threshold somewhere on the way back in to Bromley. It was either that, his breakfast kicking-in or the possibility of the ride being over becoming very real that brought him out of the other side.

As I say, rather him than me, but I know that it’s only a matter of time.

All of this said, I do feel it’s only fair I point out that bonking doesn’t mean Gorrod crawls along at a snails pace. He managed to average a speed of 26kph over the course of the ride.

It’s little wonder I struggle to keep up on the good days.

Details:

Shoreham loop: JFDI.

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nlzjakB1qj1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nlzjakB1qj1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nlzjakB1qj1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

Date: Sunday 29th March, 2015
Distance: 76km | Elevation: 1,028m
Destinations: New Cross — Shoreham — New Cross

Start kms: 1,808.1km | Finish kms: 1885.1km  | % complete: 18.9% 

Some days it’s a joy to be in the saddle. Some days you just need to get out and get it done. 

Today was one of the latter. 

A 1am finish on a Saturday night spent tasting champagne (and an obligatory wee dram). The clocks going forward, brazenly stealing an hour of sleep from me. Heavy rain overnight and predicted to continue throughout the day. Winds upwards of 20mph. 

 Nothing on that list was particularly motivating as I found myself awake at 7.30am, but I was in a JFDI mindset and set about getting my essentials together, waterproofing myself as best I could and getting out into Kent.  

Hendo had sent his much-travelled route on to me as a solid south-east ride appropriate to fill part of a morning and it was great.  

A loop out towards Orpington that quickly gets you onto some quiet and secluded roads, eventually bringing you back in via Lewisham again. 

The wind and rain were relentless, but circumstances such as these do an excellent job in showing how having the right kit to hand (some overshoes and a robust waterproof shell) do well to absorb the worst of the elements, removing much of the sting in their tails.  

There were a few surreptitious hills thrown into the mix, with one particular beast that proved a double-edged sword. As I crawled my way up it – at some points below 10kph – I was also benefitting from a brief break from a strong wind. I smiled to myself as I tried to figure out what you call something that is both an ongoing struggle, but also acts as a rest.  

Answers on a postcard please.  

Circling back round, the rain eventually staved off for half an hour, allowing me enough time to dry off a little before arriving back home.  

Having had no breakfast and taken only water with me, I was pleased to have got that far without running out of steam and bonking.  

I think I need to get a little more of those sorts of rides under my belt in the coming months. 

Details:

10,000km.cc

tumblr_nl5nx4ZWVA1uq1335o1_1280.jpg
tumblr_nl5nx4ZWVA1uq1335o2_1280.jpg
tumblr_nl5nx4ZWVA1uq1335o3_1280.jpg

Back in the saddle.

Date: Sunday 15th February 2015
Distance: 106.8km | Elevation: 992m
Destinations: New Cross — Richmond Park — Brockley — Bromley — New Cross

Start kms: 184.4km | Finish kms: 291.2km | % complete: 2.9%

As I mentioned, the Festive 500 took its toll on my legs a little.

Prolonged cycling over 6 days, coupled with riding a bike that wasn’t set-up for me, highlighted and compounded 26 years of neglecting to stretch beyond the odd tokenistic toe-touch.

The result was a a severe limp coupled with a sharp, constant pain across my knee and the remedy was (and continues to be) weekly physio sessions. Surprisingly, the problem area is not the knee itself, but an enormous build-up of tension and knots in my thighs.

I subsequently doubled-down on stretching for the whole of January, focusing primarily on the problem areas. In doing so, I quickly gained my greatest ally and worst enemy in the recovery process: a rock-solid hockey ball that I spend upwards of 30 minutes a day rolling my thighs back and forth on, sadistically seeking pressure points and knots that I consciously (although not pleasurably) choose to anger.

It brought fourth pain, excessive swearing and the odd tear, but it also quickly brought permission to get back on the bike and see how it felt. My 17km round-commute was a prefect distance for stress testing over the course of a week and the results were positive overall.

I was nowhere near 100% — there would certainly be no sprint finishes or hill attacks — but I could certainly start to comfortably take down some kilometres.

With 184km absorbed, I arranged for my first decent-distance ride. Accompanied for part of it by a friend, Luke, we started by venturing out to Richmond Park for a couple of laps. That meant mostly flat roads (albeit with a bit of traffic for the first 15-20km) and a couple of manageable hills.

It felt good to be outside again.

We rolled along, we caught up with one another. We talked about plans for the year(s) ahead. We absorbed the countryside oasis of the park that made us feel as though we were somewhere in middle-England, rather than a couple of minutes from the A3. We also questioned the effectiveness of the parks annual deer cull — there were droves and droves of them, but we weren’t complaining.

By the second lap, I was beginning to salivate at the sight of the deer, which suggested I was probably starting to get hungry. Parting ways with Luke in Streatham, I made a b-line for Browns of Brockley, a fantastic cafe that’s painfully close to home.

However, I’d forgotten my keys, my fiancee wasn’t home and, even after stringing out two cappuccinos and a bagel for the best part of an hour, there looked to be no immediate way of gaining access.

Onwards, then.

With no one else with me, I was less worried about being direct in my route and I meandered up to Honor Oak, into Forrest Hill and around Crystal Palace. They’re all great locations for some short, sharp hill climbs that don’t require a visit out to Kent or Surrey.

It was whilst tackling one of these hills on my way up towards Crystal Palace that I spotted a sign towards Bromley. I have a couple of friends that live out that way, so on a whim I decided I’d see if I could find my way to their house from where I was to say hello (and probably pilfer a cup of tea).

One of the many beauties of cycling is that you can make snap decisions like this, but can just as easily do an about-turn the moment you realise your original idea was ridiculous.

I found it and was suitably smug and my face emitted the fact as I knocked on the door once. Twice. Thrice.  

No answer.

No tea.

No matter.

It was time to head home, though, and I tried to do that in the most direct and efficient way possible. However, my sense of direction can be somewhat unreliable and there was definitely something about the roads around Forest Hill that was toying with it. That meant I kept heading back towards Crystal Palace (and the hills that come with it) rather than New Cross. Caught in a one-way-system-style loop, I probably did a few kilometres more than I needed or wanted to before finally making it home.

But I’d broken the 100km mark for the first time in 2015 and it felt great. Add to that a little less than 1,000m of climbing and I was ready for the next milestone.

First, though, the hockey ball…

Details: