Category Archives: Cycling

I would ride five hundred miles…

…And I would ride five hundred more

Today I hit 1,000 miles cycled for the year. This means I’ve managed to maintain regular rides since January1. Who would have thought it: I’m back on the bike.

Last Christmas I was over 13 stones in weight which pushed me into the ‘overweight’  zone on the BMI calculation. This made me unhappy and was rapidly reducing my potential wardrobe (including my official kit at work). Something had to be done, I thought, and then forgot about it.

Luckily a few days later Strava, an on-line training log I use, sent me one of those automated emails that links to a video of your achievements for the year. I didn’t expect it to be riveting viewing but I was interested to see what my annual mileage for 2014 was. It was zero. I had unintentionally created a Beckettian YouTube piece.

I suppose it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. I’d finished my season early in 2011 (2,634 miles) and 2012 had petered out in April (only 1,338 miles for the year). The new job didn’t sit easily with a regular training and racing schedule. Still, I’d got a few rides in during 2013 (well, 80 miles worth) and I assumed that I’d done the same in 2014. Not so. It looked as if I needed a New Year’s resolution: ride your bike and lose weight. Except I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. Ride your bike, ride your bike, ride your bike. - Fausto Coppi2

Despite this, on the 3rd January I rode my bike for the first time in over 12 months, admittedly only for 13 miles. The roads were icy and it was raining and blowing a hoolie. After that I felt virtuous, tired and a little apprehensive. Luckily they were the worst conditions I’ve had to endure so far or I don’t think I’d have persevered.

The ‘plan’ was to try and ride two days a week and to reduce what I ate. Since then I’ve dropped 34lbs in weight and put 1,009 miles on the clock. I did miss a couple of weeks with a cold but recently I’ve started to add an occasional third ride a week. Now the weather is better I aim to ride 80-100 miles a week3.

I’ve found that the short rides and extra recovery time have allowed me to build fitness gradually. My stamina has improved but my strength is still not good (though being lighter helps on the hills). I’ve enjoyed seeing the progression in my fitness and my Strava friends have encouraged me from a distance. On-line support isn’t as good as the banter of riding in company though. I’m too slow for most group rides but I did treat myself to a day at the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit riding with old friends. I didn’t hang on for long, but with a lap of less than a mile I had plenty of company (and there’s a club house with tea and cake).

One thing I didn’t want to go back to was the turbo trainer when the weather was bad. Instead I bought a set of rollers. I’ve used them twice and have only fallen off once, which is not too bad. I do recommend them for comedy effect if nothing else.

I’ve recently bitten the bullet and joined the local Eastbourne Rovers Cycling Club. I’m not fast enough for club rides yet but hope to get there in the next few weeks.

I don’t suppose this new enthusiasm will last – the second part of the year has the potential to be a lot more complicated than the first half – but I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of cycling again, which is good. I enjoy the way it pulls you into the moment and puts everything else on hold (something to do with oxygen debt and present tense risks I think). I hope I manage to keep the wheels turning and the miles ticking over.

1 This distance would not have impressed Tommy Godwin who averaged over 200 miles a day in 1939. Nor would it be significant to Steven Abraham and Kurt Searvogel who are trying to break his annual mileage record this year.

2 Coppi is supposed to have said this when a reporter asked him what it takes to be a great champion. My aim is somewhat lower.

3 This compares to 150-200 miles a week when I was racing earlier in the millennium and 300 miles a week when I was a young rider.

The big move

Right, I think it’s mostly here.

My old Web site at is likely to disappear early in the New Year. In anticipation of this I have been overhauling this place to include most of the old content.

The menu bar at the top now has fairly comprehensive links to different parts of my professional life. I’m afraid cycling has had to go (in more ways than one).  The links (right) have been updated slightly as well.

Down on the right-hand side is a link to the lulu bookshop. I have an idea to publish a few more ‘works’ next year. Keep an eye out for that.

I hope it all looks okay and is accurate. Do let me know if you find any issues.

2012 London Olympics #4

After they threw us out of the velodrome we spent a few hours in the Olympic Park. The big screen was great but not enough capacity and a strange propensity for having trees in the way.

What a great day out. We were there (briefly).

2012 London Olympics #3

Inside the velodrome.

Pat managed to get us tickets for the Saturday morning qualification session. This was the qualifying for the Men’s Sprint, the 250m TT for the Men’s Omnium and the round of 16 for the sprint. It was disappointing that Jason Kenny and Gregory Bauge got ride overs in the round of 16 but it was great to be in this fantastic new facility. I hope I get to ride it one day.


2012 London Olympics #2

Arriving at the Olympic park.

2012 London Olympics #1

I managed to get to a couple of Olympic events and spent a day in the park. It’s been a fantastic meeting.

The next few posts will consist of some badly taken photographs.

The first event I went to was the Men’s and Women’s cycling time trial. I was invited to Surbiton (about 5km from the finish) by a friend from my Willesden CC days. It was great to meet up with the West London gang again.

My photos of the women’s event were (even more) rubbish so they are not included. Emma Pooley did a great ride but the course did not suit her.

The men’s race was dominated by Bradley Wiggins. I didn’t photograph any of the leading contenders because I wanted to be there in the moment.


Friends taking photographs (using cameras that cost more than £30, I shouldn’t wonder)


Albasini of Switzerland


Lars Boom (the big Dutchman) of the Netherlands


Crowds – if you make it free, they will come.


A Swedish rider. About the only one I got in focus from this side of the road.

Tour de France

Today Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour de France as the leader of a UK-based, Pro Tour cycling team. A British rider, Chris Froome, was second and Brits won seven stages (including three for Mark Cavendish). This is an astounding achievement.

I wish my dad was here to see it. He put me on a bike in 1973 – the Merckx years. We both rode, in a different era, for Wiggins’ first club – the Archer Road Club.

We would follow the Tour any way we could, even buying the Daily Telegraph to read Phil Ligget’s daily reports – the only way to get information within 24 hours. Dad would have been overjoyed to see a British rider leading a British team to victory.

In 1980 I went on a coach package trip to France to see the finale of the Tour. Joop Zoetemelk won the race for the ‘British’ TI-Raleigh1 team and Irishman Sean Kelly was winning stages. Two British riders started: Paul Sherwen packed before the end but newcomer Graham Jones showed well before dropping back in the last week. He was there at the end for us to cheer on the Champs though.

We thought that was a pretty good Tour for the Brits. The relative glory years of Tommy Simpson, Brian Robinson, Barry Hoban and Michael Wright were behind us but a new generation of riders were heading out to France and earning pro contracts2.

In the next few years Scot Robert Millar would light up the mountain stages (and win the Polka Dot Jersey), Sean Yates, Chris Boardman and David Millar would emulate Simpson and wear the yellow jersey.

I think that we thought that was about as good as it was possible to get. The ANC-Halfords 1987 Tour team had shown that the idea of a UK team competing at this level was unrealistic. The Irish, Americans and Australians, untrammelled by self-doubt, reinvented themselves as global cycling contenders while the Brits soldiered on bravely.

There are a lot of well-informed and well-written newspaper articles around today (which, in itself, is an amazing change) that analyse what has changed since 1992, when Chris Boardman won Gold at the Barcelona Olympics. I have no great insights to add.

I am just going to enjoy this amazing day. And raise a glass to my dad. Thanks, Brad and the team.

1 The sponsors were British but none of the Tour squad were. The manager, Peter Post, had a low opinion of British riders.
2 William Fotheringham’s book Roule Britannia is a great history of Brits competing in the Tour.

Race #1 of 2012

Yesterday was the first race of the season for me. It was the Southborough and District Wheelers‘ open 10 mile time trial on a course (the Q10/33) near Tenterden.

I’ve only been training since the start of the year so it felt a bit early to be going flat out. However, the good weather we’ve been having has meant that it’s been possible to get out on the bike consistently. I’ve built up to an average of about 100 miles a week. I’ll probably tick over at this level – I’m trying to be a bit less obsessive about the biking this year (it’s going to be a busy year for all sorts of reasons).

I’ve started logging my rides on Strava. This has added a bit of edge to regular rides. Some of the drags are Strava segments and every time I climb them I’m measuring my time against my PB. I’m not convinced that the distance measured is constant (the Garmin GPS optimises the data points) but it does seem to have improved my hill efforts.

Anyways… As it was the first race for a while I got properly anxious in the week leading up to the event. The day before the race I developed a Herbert Lom type tic in my left eye. If I met you at the race, I wasn’t winking – honest.

I arrived at the HQ three hours before my start time. This was a little obsessive – no one else was there, not even the organiser. It did give me time to ride the course first. It’s a great country lane course with a swooping descent in the first half and a rough-surfaced climb through a woods on the way back.

Q10/33 profile

Q10/33 profile from

The weather was so good that I wore a skinsuit. I hadn’t wanted to do this – overweight and fluffy-legged – but longs would have been oppressive in these temperatures.

The race itself was okay. The stated aim was to beat 30 minutes (‘evens’) and the real aim was to beat 28 minutes. At the finish I recorded 28:22. That seems a fair reflection of my current form.The race was won by team mate Peter Tadros (In-Gear Quickvit Trainsharp) with a 20:53.

All being well I’ll race again in about a month and then pick up a few club events before trying to be more consistent through June and July. We’ll see!

Ross Cycling Club dinner

Paul Stephens

Paul Stephens - top guy - picks up his trophies.

We were in Herefordshire this weekend. We’d been invited as guests to Ross-on-Wye and District Cycling Club‘s annual awards prize dinner. We were treated royally and had a great time. I made the shortest of speeches (having written the longest of speeches) and got to shake hands with all the prize winners.

I rode for the Ross twice in my ‘career’, once in the eighties and again when I came back in 2004-5. They’re a great club – very eccentric. They currently have a crop of excellent riders.

Alan Cook

Alan Cook picked up the lion's share of the trophies

They run a memorial 25 mile TT in my father’s name every year. He rode for them back in the 1950s and again in the 80s. He won a VTTA national championship, Welsh Vets BAR and broke a few tandem competition records while riding for the club.

The club run regular training rides, club events and social events. If you’re ever on holiday in the Wye Valley it’s worth getting in touch with them.

On the Sunday morning a few of us went for a short ride in the Forest of Dean. The Forest is superb training country… if you’re fit. I was dropped up every climb and even managed to lose myself at one point. I’m sure it was flatter 30 years ago. After thirty miles I was ready for my nap.

Will Bevan

Will Bevan was another multi-trophy winner. Will's accounts of his training sessions made me feel weak.

I’ve kept the bike riding going for a month now – I’ve established the habit I think. It’s going to be trick next week, I have other commitments, but I think I can keep it going.

Photographs courtesy of Paul Stephens. There are more here.

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips picks up his certificate. Sam was riding for the club when I started out in 1973.

Cycling targets 2012

I never thought that I’d be doing this. I’ve only been back on the bike three weeks, so it’s probably a bit premature, but here goes.

It’s going to be quite a low key season. The work I have lined up precludes many weekend events and there are exciting things going on in the family this year that knock out a few more.

However, targets give focus so here are a couple to be going on with. They’re not very SMART because I’m a bit dubious about the value of SMARTness for what is effectively a recreational season.

1. Do a decent ride in the Ross-on-Wye and District CC 25 mile TT in July.

This event (my Dad’s memorial race) has been a regular on my schedule since I’ve come back to racing. It’s on a faster course this year as well.

2. Put together an improving sequence of rides in the In-Gear evening 10m TTs.

In-Gear Quickvit Trainsharp are running ten evening 10s from the end of May onwards. They’re all on the same course so it’ll be easy to compare performances.

I also hope to ride some Eastbourne Rovers CC and Lewes Wanderers CC evening events again. I may manage to finally get to some Rye and District Wheelers CC and Hastings and St Leonards CC club events as well.

In terms of other opens… There is a Southborough and District Wheelers 10 in March, a couple of ESCA events in April, a VTTA 10 and a Southborough 25 in June and perhaps a couple of late season events in September and October. This is nowhere near the number that I’d normally ride. I can’t say that I’ll miss all those early starts.

One event I’d like to ride is the Duo Normande 2 up TT in Normandy at the end of September. I’d need to be a great deal wealthier and fitter to make that happen.