This is my first blogpost for over two years. Have you missed me? I fell off the blogging bandwagon just after Britain voted for Brexit. I swapped the blog for the bike, and have been healthier as a result.
But I felt that I’d lost my voice. I’ve always loved writing, and blogging let me express myself, even if my wonderful Dad was the only person listening. So I’m back. I don’t know how long it will last but I wanted to record what has become a summer of wonder – the best in Britain since the scorched summer of 1976.
I mentioned Brexit earlier on, so it seems appropriate to combine politics and cycling in a photo. Earlier today, I cycled past Chequers, the prime minister’s country home in Buckinghamshire. The road up to Chequers from Butlers Cross is a steep one, but it seems easier after my summer of cycling. Chequers was given to the nation a century ago to allow its PMs a place for rest and recreation. It’s doubtful that Theresa May gained much rest there in recent weeks with her disastrous Brexit Cabinet showdown and President Trump’s visit. But I found it restful: after completing the climb from Butlers Cross, I always love the 18mph swoop down to Great Missenden.
I completed the 32 mile ride with the satisfaction of knowing I’d just completed 2,000 miles of cycling in 2018. That’s good preparation for Prudential Ride London next weekend. Watch this space!
Ride data from the Edge 1000: uploaded from my iPhone
I blogged in 2012 why I loved my Garmin Edge 800 cycling GPS. I’ve now upgraded to the Garmin Edge 1000 – and I’ve fallen in love again.
It’s so easy to set up. I went for the Garmin Edge 1000 performance bundle from Wiggle which includes speed and cadence sensors. I spent ages setting up the Edge 800 speed sensor so I was relieved and delighted how easy it was to fit and activate the new generation sensors for the Edge 1000. No magnets here – accelerometers rule! Once you have fitted them, the Garmin Edge 1000 head unit finds them in a flash – and you’re done.
Instant upload of your rides. Once you’ve paired your new Edge 1000 with your smartphone, and selected various other options, your ride data will upload to Garmin Connect and Strava. No more plugging in USB leads to sync – you can do this whenever you have a data signal on your phone.
Strava Live Segments. This is brilliant. When you’re approaching the start of a Strava segment that you’ve starred as a favourite, your Garmin Edge 1000 will tell you, and as you ride the segment it will tell you how your ride compares with your personal best (or the KOM and QOM) so you can up your pace. I recorded a personal record for two segments within the first two miles of today’s ride. Just make sure you pace yourself over longer rides…
The screen is brilliant. A lot better than the Edge 800, and I was always happy with that.
If you’ve used an earlier Garmin, you need to remember some of the set up tricks that you may have forgotten. For example, the auto pause and resume feature is really useful – twice today I forgot to set the new Edge 1000 recording again because I was so used to the Edge 800 doing this automatically after a break.
I can’t wait to get to know the Garmin Edge 1000 better over the coming weeks.
PS: when I got my Garmin Edge 800, I found the Frank Kinlan and DC Rainmaker blogs hugely helpful. Frank seems to have stepped off the blogging treadmill, but DC Rainmaker is as useful as ever. Highly recommended.
The repaired carrier in action – thanks to Thule
I’ve always loved Thule’s clever bike carriers. They’re well designed and robust. Our latest Thule carrier is the EuroClassic G6 LED 929 tow bar carrier. It’s brilliant as you can swing the bikes clear of the hatchback door to gain access to the boot.
Unfortunately, I damaged it during a motorway service station stop during an interminable drive back from our Cornwall holiday last year. (I reversed it into a grass verge that was higher than I realised.) As a result, the swing mechanism wouldn’t swing.
I eventually contacted Thule asking how I could get it repaired. I was dreading the cost of having to return it, but to my amazement Thule arranged to collect, repair and return it to me – for free. Outstanding service, especially as I was to blame for the damage.
A very big and heartfelt thank you to Ann and the team at Thule Technical Services team at Haverhill in Suffolk. You’ve made possible many more happy family bike rides such as today’s along the Phoenix Trail in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. (The photo above shows the bikes on the carrier at Towersey at the start of the ride.) We even saw a steam train on the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway – below.
Cliveden in the spring sunshine
Cliveden will forever be associated with the Profumo affair of the early 1960s. Secretary of State for War John Profumo was forced to resign after lying about his brief affair with Christine Keeler, which began one summer weekend at Cliveden, the then home of the Astor family.
Cliveden today is a luxury hotel, with the lovely National Trust grounds open to the public. Owen and I cycled here on Sunday on our tandem, making the most of a glorious early spring day. As we arrived by bike, we were both given a £1 voucher to use in the excellent cafe.
I doubt that Profumo or Keeler arrived by bike, but Cliveden does make an excellent destination for a cycle ride.
PS: Profumo died 10 years ago this month. He remains the role model for how public figures should behave after a scandal, as I blogged a decade ago.
I cycled my first sportive last Sunday. I took part in Evans Cycles‘ excellent Ride It London from the National Trust‘s lovely Osterley Park and House near Brentford.
The ride was due to take place in January, but was postponed because of overnight snow.
Sunday dawned sunny and cold – without any snow. The ride was billed ‘Escape the city’: ironically I had to drive to London to escape it! I was soon cycling over the M4 on my way our of the city, although it was a bit of a trek through Southall and Drayton before we got to countryside. The route also went through Sipson, the village that will be destroyed if Heathrow gets its third runway. More positively, we cycled past my son’s birthplace, Wexham Park Hospital.
A big bike ride in January might strike some as crazy. They’d rather keep warm and dry indoors. But back in October I booked to take part in Evans Cycles West London Ride It sportive event today. It seemed like a good idea after a few beers.
I set the alarm earlier than normal for a Sunday this morning to get to Osterley in time. As I crawled down to make a mug of tea, I saw that it had snowed. I reached for the iPad to see if there was an update on the event. Sure enough: an email from Evans Cycles’ event manager Mark Gregory at 6.37am saying that they were cancelling because of the weather and road conditions. There were also photos on the Evans Cycles Facebook page.
I was disappointed, but impressed by Evans Cycles’ quick communication. I went for a short ride on my mountain bike later in the morning and have to say conditions were horrible: slush everywhere. I was soaked within a mile. So that early morning decision was spot on. Most of the comments on the Facebook page agreed.
Better luck next time!
Below: soaking but glad to get some miles in..
Back from a slushy ride..
When friends say ‘You’re a keen cyclist!’, I always reply that I’m actually a fair weather cyclist. Until this weekend.
I’ve cycled 28 miles in the most atrocious conditions over the past two days. I have been soaked to the skin. I have been drenched by drivers as they displaced flood water over me and my bike. The biggest surprise? I loved it.
This was the moment that I completed 800 miles of cycling in 2015. I was near the summit of my last hill of the year – and what could be a more appropriate street name for a bike ride than Bottom Lane, in Seer Green?
Restored fingerpost in Chalfont St Giles, Bucks
This signpost is one of a dying breed. Fingerposts like this once guided travellers in every corner of Britain. They were simple and graphic guides in an age when people travelled slowly. As speeds increased, they were replaced by bigger signposts that could be seen by speeding motorists by day or night.
Happily, this example in the historic Buckinghamshire village of Chalfont St Giles has been adopted by the local community. It was restored recently for the second time in a decade. It is a welcome sight when I’m racing up Bowstridge Lane on my bike as it means I can relax as the climb is over.
Pointing to Threehouseholds, Chalfont St Giles
This fingerpost is a witness to history. The Threehouseholds in the sign refers to the area of Chalfont St Giles at the top of the drag from the village towards Seer Green. It includes the popular White Hart Inn, and was named after the original terrace of three cottages at the top of the hill.
I hope the sign will be guiding travellers for many years.
We made it: at the Palace to Palace finish, Windsor
Today, I joined colleagues from PayPal UK and thousands of others to cycle from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle (Palace to Palace) to raise money for The Prince’s Trust. It was a brilliant day that will have raised a huge amount of money for this very important charity, which gives a fresh start to disadvantaged young people.
This was my third Palace to Palace. It was definitely the best yet. Part of that was down to me – I’ve cycled hundreds of miles this summer, which helped me keep up with colleagues 20 years younger than me, and finish at an average speed of 15.9mph compared with 11.9mph last year. I’ve also got a wonderful road bike – a Specialized Roubaix. But it also reflects great work by the organisers. We were back on the faster traditional route via Fulham after last year’s slog through Wandsworth, caused by the summer 2014 closure of Putney Bridge. And they seemed to be managing the flow of departures better – while it took ages to get to the start line, we didn’t find anything like as much cycle congestion in London compared with the previous two years. We got to Richmond Park, 10 miles out, in just over 40 minutes.
Thanks to my new found fitness, I enjoyed a novel experience – being in a peloton. About seven of us from PayPal rode in formation, taking it in turns to lead the train. I was leading the way as we passed the M25, and again as we climbed towards the M3. That effort took a lot out of me, and I rode solo for a few miles before rejoining the train at the last water station at 35 miles. I braced myself for the hill I dreaded in previous years after Englefield Green. Suddenly the road plunged – and I realised I had already climbed the hill without noticing it. It was a delicious moment.
Windsor is a wonderful destination – whether you’re on a bike or arriving by car or train. This year we had the added bonus of cycling up the Long Walk towards Windsor Castle, which offers a wonderful view of the largest castle in Europe. Soon after, we arrived at Windsor Racecourse for a much needed drink and sandwich. (You can even grab a free massage in the End Village.)
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me – and all the other cyclists. If you’d like to add to the money raised, please visit my JustGiving page.
Here’s to next year!
PS: best wishes to the female cyclist who had an accident near Hampton. I hope she is OK.