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Journal

Filtering by Tag: Richmond Park

A new lease of life.

10,000km.cc

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Date: Monday 4th May, 2015
Distance: 62.4km | Elevation: 557m
Destinations: New Cross – Richmond Park – New Cross

Start kms: 2,570km | Finish kms: 2,632.4km | % complete: 26.3%

As my birthday rolled around, I looked sympathetically at my 1980s Raleigh Sirocco. A year of commuting had not been kind to an already tired but always-reliable run around. 

The handle bar tape sagged sadly from the bars as it continued to peel away. The paintwork was discolouring where Sharpie pens just were;t doing the job anymore. I worried for my own safety as I slammed on the brakes and finding myself stopping somewhere in the region of 15 metres later. 

Overall, it was looking forlorn and, growing tired of braking with my feet against the concrete rather than with my hands, I decided it was time to breathe some new life into the trusty workhorse. 

I picked up the new, improved Sirocco on the day of my birthday itself from the excellent ream at Seabass Cycles. They’d gone to town, stripping the bike back to its bare-bones and building it back up: new gears, new brakes, new cables, new chain, new bar tape, new saddle. In fact, the only thing that remained was the original frame, and even that had been made to look like new with a black paint job finished with gold accents around the lug work. The wheels had also been held onto, although I was told they’d likely have to be replaced in the next two to three months as they were on their last legs. 

The very next day, I took my Dad with me on a ride to wear-in my new saddle and introduce him to the highs and lows of Londons cycling scene. 

We set out early on a Bank Holiday Monday to avoid onslaughts of traffic as we headed to Richmond Par. With a couple of laps under our belts – and Dad suitably impressed with the green, deer-laden haven surreptitiously tucked inside London – we began the journey home. 

By then, the traffic had picked up and I could tell it was a bit more of a nerve-wracking experience for him. He wasn’t put-out by it, just a little unused to the constant nature of it. 

By the time we reached Vauxhall roundabout, I could see he was starting to get tired and the thought of contending with three lanes of traffic didn’t seem sensible. I therefore opted to get us onto the pavement and across via the pedestrian crossings. 

In a moment of either lack of concentration or complacency, he found himself unable to unclip from his pedal and, panicking slightly, fell in slow motion into me and my bike. 

I managed to stay standing and, once we’d made sure Dad was okay (he was – we’d hardly been moving at all), we checked the bikes. 

I pressed the brakes. All good. 

Checked for scratches. None.

Span the front while. Straight and narrow. 

Span the back wheel. 

Tried to spin the back wheel again.

It didn’t want to budge. 

The weight of my Dad had buckled the wheel leaving the bike almost un-cyclable. I emphasise the word almost, as I was able to ride the final 7km back to the house with the wheel snaking precariously behind me before getting it back to Seabass for the replacement wheels a little easier than I’d anticipated. 

Details:

Richmond Park: Solly enters the fold.

10,000km.cc

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Date: Sunday 22nd March, 2015
Distance: 65.7km | Elevation: 565m
Destinations: New Cross — Richmond Park — Farringdon

Start kms: 1,631.4km | Finish kms: 1,697.1km  | % complete: 17.0%

A new kit courtesy of Freddie Merckx meant I had some garments to match the weather.

Spring outside meant a very floral kit from me.

In tow for today’s ride was Hendo, who despite having cycled in London for a few years had yet to get himself out to Richmond Park. 

It was a day of firsts, as Saul — another friend who has recently bough pt himself a ride bike — and I had yet to ride together. 

The weather was perfect, but I’d forgotten how trying the journey from south-east London to Richmond park can be. Around 60-70% of the journey (or, if not, what feels like that amount of time) is spent on the roads of London stopping and starting at numerous traffic lights. 

It’s worth the effort on days like this for the scenery and the deer, but with Kent around 10km from the house, heading out this way can feel a little like a false economy. 

Saul took it upon himself to enact his own initiation on the second lap of the park. A momentary lapse of concentration took him from the road and into a grass ditch with an almighty crash. 

We finished up at the new London Grind on London Bridge. A superb location serving up a well-timed flat white for all.

A short but sweet ride befitting of a sunny Sunday. 

Details:

10,000km.cc

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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…

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