Today, I flew!

Steady as you go.

A few years ago now and out of necessity I started riding my bike, regularly and as my mode of transport to work.  My old bike was fairly clunky and I must confess not well looked after, I didn’t really appreciate care and maintenance until now.  It was a bit of a slog and there were times, especially in rotten weather, that I really did not enjoy it. I persisted and it got easier and my journeys got longer and I found that I was starting to enjoy the ride.

Lets get serious.

A couple of guys at work, both younger and much, much fitter than I, were pretty serious riders. One had cycled from the north to the south of France, solo!  We got talking and they invited me out for a ride or two.  I was apprehensive at first and had visions of being left miles behind panting while they effortlessly cruised on, however I decided to go for it and they were patient and gracious enough to go at a pace I could manage.  This culminated on going out to Bakewell in the Peak District and cycling the Monsal Trail, my biggest challenge yet.  It was fantastic and again they were patient and we went at a good pace and I loved every minute of it.

The Monsal Trail is a reclaimed old railway line through the hills in the Peak District and goes through several tunnels.  The second picture is of our bikes with the Monsal Head in the background.

From strength to strength.

Since those early days my cycling has got better and I have got stronger.  I’ve lost 2 stone in weight (28 pounds) and am fitter now than I have been for a very long time.  I have cycled through the streets of London overnight, Cycled around Central Park in New York City.  Taken part in the wonderful Errandonnee and can also call myself a Coffeeneur (cycling and coffee which go together so well). I cycle to work all the time now, including after working night shifts.

Today I flew.

I happened to be chatting with a colleague one day about cycling.  Andy is a bit older than me and is a serious cyclist, has cycled coast to coast across the UK and several places abroad.  I have often wondered what it wold be like to ride a proper road bike, one with seriously thin wheel and drop handlebars.  My bike is awesome, I careful selected it as it covered all the things I needed and we have done some miles together, its a hybrid/trekking bike with paniers and is very comfortable.  I mentioned this to Andy one day and he asked me if I would like to borrow his Carrera road bike!  He usually uses it as his winter bike but said he was quite happy if I would like to borrow it, I jumped at the chance.  He brought it in on one of our night shifts to see if it would fit me, Andy is quite a bit taller than me.  Dropped the saddle and at about 2 am I was riding around the car park at work, it fits!  Today was set to be a scorcher, glorious sunshine and blue skies and no wind!  I got myself ready and took it out on one of my favourite rides along the Water Rail Trail and it was brilliant, I flew!

Andy, you may not get your bike back!





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Watch out, I’m a Dad!

I am taking a bit of a diversion and this entry will not feature any cycling! I guess it would fall under the, ‘musings’ category.

I just want to take a moment to write about exams, specifically A levels, and write about them from one parents perspective. That would be me.

My eldest daughter, Becka, just yesterday went along with her fellow scholars to collect their results. For anyone reading this outside of the UK when a high school student has completed their time at school and gained their certificates of secondary education they can then choose to stay on and study A levels. Three or four subjects are chosen and essays and coursework are completed over two years followed by the final exams. These results can then determine which University a student may attend, this is decided by the grades attained in specific subjects. University applications are made before the exams are sat and places offered and usually conditional on attaining the required entry grades. But get this, the university knows before the student whether they have got the required grades to study with them or not and informs them either, ‘congratulations’ or ‘unfortunately’! So if you got an, ‘unfortunately’ you already know your grades are not good before you even tear open the envelope! That’s harsh!

Becka took the decision, after speaking to me and her mum and teachers, to take a year out after these exams. She had applied to a number of Universities and had all her applications approved and even had a couple of unconditional offers. However, the last couple of years of intensive study and stress had taken their toll and so she was looking forward to some time out and enjoying life.

Stress levels had been running high but just under the surface. I think we were all trying our hardest to not let on and act ‘normal’ (whatever normal is!). As the day approached stomach knots were tightening and then the day was here. Mum, Dad and Sister Alice all got up to take Becka to school to get her results, Team Bex! Dan decided to stay in bed! Becka got her envelope and came out to us and opened it. My first though was WOWEE!!! But something was wrong, I could sense that Becka was not feeling the same way.

I spent the rest of that day and part of the night trying to get my head around what was wrong. As parents we have always made sure our kids know that we are proud of them, whatever they do. We know that they will try to do their best and that’s all we expect. After talking with Becka it became clear. I am going to use an Olympic metaphor, because this helped me understand things a whole lot better. Sports men and women train hard, REALLY HARD, in their chosen sport. The motivation is to do the best, to BE the best, to go for gold and for so many of them anything less may as well be a fail.

Becka and her best friend are now on their way to Sri Lanka for two weeks to help in orphanages and also do some turtle conservation. Our hope for them both is to have the most incredible time and to grow as young adults and enjoy life and to BE themselves. I goofed off at school, which is my only regret in life. However, I proudly hold a degree from the University of Life and learned that who you are is not determined by what you do or what grades you have. Character and honour, faith and love, consideration and respect; for me these are some of the things worth working hard at and I am still working on my degree.

Oh, and if I am in earshot of anyone who tries to claim that exams are getting easier, watch out, I’m a dad!

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American Adventure.


Our family holiday adventure.

For years, and years as a family we have been dreaming, talking and planning a holiday to the USA and finally this year we made it!  The thing is you see, America is a BIG country. A very big country! The list of places we would love to visit grew and grew; East Coast, West Coast, South, Mid West etc. etc. Following a Dinner Table Discussion we made our decision based on such considerations as cost, length of time and places we ALL would like to visit.


New York City & Washington DC here we come!

New York City has been on Anne’s ‘bucket list’ for a long time and we all realised that it was a great place to start out.  As soon as we started to talk about all the places we could see it was a unanimous decision.  Where else though? In the same way that Anne has had a yearning to visit NYC I have always wanted to go to Washington DC, a place that is steeped in the history of the USA and of course the nations capital.  We took a look at the things to see and places to visit in DC and everyone was just as excited, great stuff, lets book it.


So good they named it twice.


Manhattan Skyline from Staten Island

Our flight had been great and getting through immigration at JFK was really easy.  I’d heard lots of stories about #hatethewait  and the queues with the TSA, but from landing to waiting for our transfer to out hotel took under an hour, piece of cake.  Our hotel was in midtown Manhattan and only two blocks away from Central Park and a 10 minute walk from Times Square. New York, what can I say other that WOW!  What an incredible city!  It truly is the city that never sleeps and we loved every minute of it.  We decided that we wanted to pack as much into the six days that we had to spend in New York and on reflection we did just right.  Of course, there is much we did not see but that is for another time.  To get to see such famous sights like The Empire State building, Grand Central Station (and it is grand and central), The Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge and so much more was very much a dream come true.  Before we left the UK we had booked cycle hire to go around Central Park.  We picked up our bikes in the morning and had them for the next 4 hours, wonderful stuff.  I think that if I lived in New York then I would be out on my bike EVERY DAY cycling around Central Park.  The road which does a loop around the park is about 6 miles and includes some climbs and descents and appears to be very popular.


Hit the road.

When we were planning this trip we needed to decide how we were going to get from New York to Washington. We could have flown but the cost was surprisingly expensive!  Going by train was a possibility but as we were travelling on a Sunday there was limited service and the times would have eaten into our day.  So we decided to hire a car and drive to DC.  I will confess that I was a little nervous about driving on the other side of the road in a left hand drive car, however, the staff at the hire centre were great and I felt more relaxed and ready to go.  A few blocks after picking up the car we realised that we were driving through Times Square!!!


I’m driving through Times Square!! Brilliant!!!

We stopped about half way at the Chesapeake Services for a bite to eat and a drink, and carried on South on I95.  We were so pleased we chose to drive as it really is a good way to experience somewhere.

Welcome to Washington DC.

Our Hotel was just off of Dupont Circle and as it turns out was in a great location for exploring.  We got checked and dumped our bags ready to explore.

So far I have not mentioned the weather, (unusual as I am  British and we are meant to be obsessed with the topic!) during the flight from London we read a news story which reported that America was going to experience a heat wave while we were there!  I can confirm that this was the case!  It was a scorcher! By the time we got to Washington the temperatures, even at about 6pm were still in the high 90’s (F).  Just to clarify I’m not complaining.


I love Washington, and such a contrast to New York.  Were walked from our hotel to go to see the White House and the first thing that hit us was, ‘where is everyone?’ Shops were closed and not many restaurants were still open!  Again, not complaining, it was nice to be able to stroll and not be dodging other people.  DC exceeded all my/our expectations, its an excellent capital city.  I had to pinch myself several times, was I really here?  So much to see; the White House, The Capitol, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool and so many more.   There were two places that I really wanted to visit, or as the kids put it ‘dad’s keeps going on about’! One is the National Archives and the other is the Smithsonian, specifically the Air and Space museum.


 Air and Space Museum

As we walked in everyone’s jaws dropped and all we could utter was, WOW!  You know you are onto a winner when even our girls were impressed.  It was brilliant and we could have spent many hours there.  Because we were only in DC for a short while we could only manage this part of the Smithsonian and would have loved to check out the others especially the American History one, again another reason to come back.

After a break in the Sculpture Garden and a time to take on water we went into the Archives.


What a place!  The Archives is the home to the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights and as we discovered a copy of the Magna Carta.  Fulfilled an ambition of mine to see these historical documents which have helped to shape the world we now live in, amazing.

We have come home with so many fantastic memories of places we have been and things we have seen and done.  All the people we had contact with, including random people we stopped to ask directions or who stopped to help when we looked puzzled or lost, and patient staff in restaurant’s were so friendly and helpful.  This helped made our trip to the U.S.special in many ways and I can’t wait to go back again some day.



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And….we’re back.

After a five month hiatus I’ve decided that its time to get back to some blogging.

A LOT has happened in that time, some of the highlights include; I’ve lost two stone in weight (28 pounds), been to the USA which included cycling around Central Park and been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

So, there is a lot to write about and some of which I hope will be of interest to other people.


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Errandonnee compete.

Its been crazy busy this week and so I am a little late in posting my final update.

It went down to the wire but I managed to finish my Errandonnee challenge on March 15th and will be emailing my report card to Mary today.

This years Errandonnee was especially significant as I had had such a bad start to the year.  An injury to my right elbow resulting in some serious nerve damage meant I could not do anything for almost a month!  Not even getting out on my bike!  Thankfully by the time March 4th came round I was good to go and really enjoyed running errands on two wheel again.

Sadly, this year, I didn’t take as many photo’s! I guess I was enjoying being out and about too much!

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Errandonnee update – the errands so far.

Its that time of year again when a new word features large in our vocabulary, Errandonnee.

This will be my second year taking part, and its great.  Its really added a fun and creative slant to cycling, added to the fact that I am part of a global group of cyclists who are all doing the same thing regardless of age, experience, fitness or time zone!

Day one, the 4th of March my Birthday and a social call to my in laws house to say hi and thank you for the card.

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I had to squeeze my bike in the hallway , I didn’t bring my lock and I wasn’t going to leave it outside without it!

Day 2 was a trip to the store to get some lightbulbs, why is it we never seem to have any until we really need them?

errand day 2

Got a bit wet! (sorry the picture sizes are different!)

Day three and a commute to work.  I am very fortunate that my ride is through some amazing scenery, my work is in a great location.

errand day 3

I’m loving the lighter mornings.

Day four and some personal business, had to go to the post office and send off my daughters passport which needed renewing.

errand day 4

Day five and we are gonna go for you carried what!  Unless I can come up with something more creative, (I’ll try for it!) my wife’s C.V. for a new job she is applying for, hand delivered.

Oh, I got even wetter!  The second picture is the path through the nearby park which is now a river.  Curious to note that my speed is showing as zero!

Day six is a triple whammy, Non-store errand, store and Arts and Entertainment.  Our model of car was recalled as they found that the heater has a tendency to catch fire!  So I put my bike in the boot and drove down to the dealers whereby they told me it would be about three and a half hours!  Took the time to ride to a sports clothing store and bought a new waterproof jacket for cycling, its a vibrant green with black sleeves.  Had plenty of time left so cycled to the Cathedral Quarter which is on my way home.  It is a brilliant mixture of very old and some modern architecture which fits well together, Lincoln Cathedral being the centre piece.


That’s it for now, a few more errands to get in, watch this space.

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Leap day and Birthday rides.

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February 29th and a fantastic day for a ride.  Chilly, sunny an a lovely aquamarine blue sky.  Really peaceful ride and really enjoyed it, an almost therapeutic time where I was able to just let my mind wander for a while.  This picture is at five mile bridge which takes you onto the water rail trail.  This one of my favourite rides, as well as having stunning views there is never really many people on it.

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Today is my birthday and also day one of the wonderful Errandonnee.  Twelve errands in twelve days over a minimum of 30 miles, its great fun and gets you being creative about your ride.  More blogs to follow.

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Plan B.

Todays plans have turned out quite differently to what I had in mind.  Today I was hoping for a nice long ride in the glorious sunshine set in a deep blue sky.  Unfortunately, Anne, my wife, has picked up a horrible stomach virus thing and started being sick last night.  She had a terrible night and today feels like she has had the stuffing beaten out of her, get well soon babe.

I did a few errands and ferried my youngest daughter about and then got her to college.  I then had a flash of inspiration!  If I couldn’t get our for a ride on my bike then maybe this was the best time to have a go at some essential cycle maintenance.  I was recently impressed and inspired by Bri and the  work she carried out on her bike.  So with that in mind I remembered that I had some store vouchers which had been given to me at work for long service, I used them to buy an excellent bike tool kit which is in a very hand case.

So I rolled up my sleeves, found some really useful ‘how to videos’ on YouTube and got to work.  As well as some general maintenance I had a loose rear hub and set to work tightening that up.  Success!  I have been meaning to replace my break blocks for a while and set to work on those, another result.  There’s no stopping me now!

Because I use my main bike to commute I have decided to strip down an old mountain bike that’s been in the shed for a while.  I will use that to learn how to remove the cassette, changed break and gear cables etc.  Then this knowledge and experience will help me on my main bike.

Its all good stuff.

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Readin’ ’bout Ridin’


While is was laid up for about a month with a nerve damaged elbow I decided that if I couldn’t get out and ride then I would get some books from the library and read others experiences on two wheels.

Frank Lenz.

The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy is a fascinating book which tells the story about the ill fated round the world cycling adventure made by Frank Lenz;

In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent forOuting magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg.

He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail. Bringing to light a wealth of information, Herlihy’s gripping narrative captures the soaring joys and constant dangers accompanying the bicycle adventurer in the days before paved roads and automobiles. This untold story culminates with Sachtleben’s heroic effort to bring Lenz’s accused murderers to justice, even as troubled Turkey teetered on the edge of collapse.

It’s a great book which I highly recommend.  The journeys these men undertook, largely on Penny Farthings or High Riders as they are also known, was incredible.  Then came ‘The Safety Bike’,  which firstly had solid rubber tyres as pneumatic tyres were not considered reliable.

Bicycle Diaries.

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne is another good read, well written with some great observations of our world;

Since the early 1980s, David Byrne has been riding a bicycle as his principal means of transportation in New York City. A few years later he discovered folding bikes, and starting taking them with him on music tour overseas, and experienced a sense of liberation as he pedalled around many of the world’s principal cities. The point of view from his bike seat has given Byrne a panoramic window on urban life over the last thirty years as he has cycled round cities such as London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Manila, New York, and San Francisco. From music and the visual arts, to globalisation, politics, the nature of creative work, fashion and art, this book gives the reader an incredible insight into what Byrne is seeing and thinking as he pedals around these cities. Filled with intimate photographs, incredible musical stories and a powerful ecological message, this is a enchanting celebration of bike riding – of the rewards of seeing the world at bike level.

12 Months in the Saddle

By John Deering and Phil Ashley

A cycling book by no other, this account is written and photographed by two committed amateurs who lived out their dream year—a dozen rides that encapsulate the spirit of cycling. Some of the rides, such as Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, are classic races in the pro cycling season. Others, such as the ascent of Mount Ventoux, are part of the folklore of the Tour de France, while others are home-grown routes, dreamed up and tackled because they are fun on a truly epic scale. Lively personal text describes the nature of each route and the landscape and people encountered along the way. It looks at the inspiration for each location in the first place, and the background history and culture of each ride. With unique breath-taking photography and lively text that conveys exactly how it feels to be by turns frozen, baked, lost, exhausted but utterly exhilarated, and inspired, this is a book that will resonate with any aspiring road rat.


All these books were quite different but had the same thing in common for me.  That in all these rides or journeys or adventures much of it is mind over matter.  In my own experience I find that not over thinking a ride is key for doing one and this is something that is going important for me this year as I recover and get back into longer rides.




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Starting Over.

Time to get going.

Just over a month since I damaged the nerves in my elbow I have finally got out on my bike again, and it was joyous.  Apart from a couple of short commutes I have not been able to ride, in fact I’ve not been able to do anything!  As I mentioned in my last blog I got some books from the library about cycle adventures and I am really enjoying them.  I will do a post with a review soon.

Blue sky and sunshine, nice.

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Its a strange thing but I was actually nervous about going out!  Although the way I hurt my arm was actually rather daft it really took me out of action.  So being back in the saddle felt great.  I took it steady and picked a circular route that was not too far from home but also took in a couple of steepish climbs.  I must confess I felt the effects of doing nothing for a month and a couple of times I found myself puffing, especially up the hills, but I was determined to keep going, and I did.

More of the same.


Now that I am back on two wheels I think I am going to get out every day, even if its just a short blast around the block and get my time and mileage back up again.

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