Monday, 31 March 2014

Bicycle Touring for Beginners

Just released and available on Amazon worldwide, my new book, Bicycle Touring for Beginners will help you prepare for your first cycling challenge - either your first ever tour or your first big one-day ride.

Covering training, diet, choosing your bike and other equipment and how to do it all on a budget, the book also includes lots of tips and advice that you'd normally only acquire through hard-won experience.
Bicycle touring for beginners is available now, for just $4.99 (just over £3 in the UK).

Click on the book cover image to visit the Amazon UK site.

Remember you don't need a Kindle to download and read the book! (Just download the free app for your device and you'll have access to thousands of titles.)


Friday, 18 October 2013

Join Me for a Life-Changing Mini-Adventure

If riding 60-70 miles a day in hilly terrain, carrying all your own kit, pushing yourself to the limit and camping most nights sounds like your kind of adventure, this could be the most important blog post you've read in a long time...

When we rode from Paris to Venice just over three years ago, our daily average was well over 60 miles. Many of those miles were hilly, quite a few were actually mountainous. We also carried all our kit, got cold and wet several times, and most nights we camped.

Two weeks of that kind of fun might be too much for you (but if not, get in touch and maybe we can talk about something bigger...) but how about four or five days? How about if I also helped you to prepare and get yourself fit enough to do it? And how about if we do it just a few months from now?

This won't be an easy ride, cruising along railway tracks and gentle river valleys; it will be a tough cross-country road trip (across the 'grain' of the land) that will really test you and might even make you wonder why you agreed to do it. It won't be dirt-cheap, either, although camping each night will keep expense to a minimum.

My plan is to take a small group on a four or five day trip across Brittany (in northwest France), all carrying our own kit, tackling hills and valleys and pushing ourselves to somewhere near our physical limits. Something like I did on Paris to Venice, but on a smaller scale.

I'll also help you prepare (because we won't have time for 'passengers' or anyone who has to walk up every hill) and I'll be available to encourage, advise and cajole you right up to the day we leave.

At the moment, I would expect to assemble in St Malo, from where we would head south and west into deepest Brittany - if you haven't been to Brittany, you're in for a treat, by the way. Alternatively, we could meet in Portsmouth, Poole or Weymouth (the ferry route varies) and sail to St Malo together. Foot passenger fares to St Malo are quite low, especially if you book ahead, and bicycles go free at the time of writing.

Note that I said this would be a small group. I can't imagine taking more than eight people (especially if they're very new to cycle touring) and I might decide I only want to take four or five.

This will be a perfect first tour for anyone who wants to tackle something more testing than a fully-supported jaunt along easy cycle paths and over flat countryside. Expect to be tested and to discover something about yourself in the process - including just how deep you can dig when you're tired and hungry and hoping this is the last hill you have to tackle, ever.  

But at the end of each day we'll have a slap up meal and a few drinks and I think there's a good chance you'll make friends who will stay friends for the rest of your life. Adversity and teamwork tend to have that effect.

Then it will be off to your tent, to dream of the hills you've climbed and the hills to come, the views you've seen and the people you've met, until you wake next morning to do it all over again. Just for a few days and nights, that is.

But when it's done, when you're home again and slipping back into the old routine, there's a good chance you and your life will never be the quite same again. You'll probably be hungry for more...

How does that sound to you?


PS. EMAIL ME AT to express your interest.

PPS. I haven't decided how much you'll be paying yet, but it will probably be in the £75-£100 a day range. That includes all the advice and help with your preparation, route planning, booking campsites and so on, but not your bike, kit, ferry, food or drink. You'll probably want to take out travel insurance, too. 

PPPS. The trip will probably be in early summer (before it gets too hot), next year, 2014. This may well be a one-off, so don't assume we can do it later. I might run the tour again later in the year, or in 2015, but I might not. 


Monday, 18 March 2013

Regular Riding Brings Results

Yesterday's ride was a good opportunity to reflect on my current fitness and assess my progress towards the 120 mile target for 6th April. It also inspired cycling tip twenty, which will be with you soon.

Although we only covered just over 23 miles yesterday, when I add this to the testing 30 miles from Friday, it just about equivalent to the 40 mile weekend ride I hoped to do.

The important thing was that I felt strong, kept up with John, and could feel my pedalling technique has improved.

With less than three weeks to go now, I obviously have to step up the mileage more quickly than I would like, but it does give me a real incentive to do so (and an excuse to spend the time on the bike!).

I'll be in Jersey next week, which is also a good excuse for a round-the-island ride. That's about 44 miles, from memory, so it should help. Especially if I do it twice.

So... so far, so good. 


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Great Deals on Winter Cycling Gloves

Evans Cycles have announced a sale on their winter cycling gloves which will be welcomed by anyone who's been out in the last few days!

Personally, I haven't risked it but I know some of you are hardier and/or don't have a choice, so if you're looking for some new winter gloves, at up to 63% off, visit Evans cycles using the link on the right >>>

Monday, 2 July 2012

Dunwich Dynamo is a Great Success

Well, we all survived the Dunwich Dynamo, arriving at the coast around 5.45. That meant we didn't see the sunrise over the sea but it was a beautiful dawn anyway, and crystal clear. As we had a lift waiting for us - thanks, Sian! - we didn't linger for breakfast, either, although I did have a quick paddle. I thought my feet had earned a paddle after all that pedalling!

A good tailwind made the ride seem easier than I expected although not everyone felt the same and the rest stops in the last 30 miles were very welcome for a lot of people. We stopped at the one offering bacon rolls and flapjack, plus drinks, free water ad more, about 30 miles from the finish. While John and JR enjoyed the bacon rolls I tucked into some of the best flapjack ever. I'm pretty sure that's what got me to the end feeling a lot fresher than I did on the Norwich 100 a few weeks earlier.

In over 100 miles I saw only one really stupid driver and two very foolish cyclists without any lights whatsoever. Maybe they wanted to die? I also heard about one faller but don't know if he was badly hurt. Getting out of London was slow, as expected, but there were no mishaps and I actually felt sorry for the car and van drivers who were swamped with cyclists, not all of them obeying the rules of the road. 

Once out of the city we headed towards Epping and into the Essex and then Suffolk countryside as the daylight slowly faded. The weather was dry and clear, coolish but not cold, and with a very helpful and quite strong SW wind. I was surprised to reach Dunmow at around 11pm.

John's Garmin was preloaded with the route and served us very well, apart from the minor detour to the refreshment stop at Sible Hedingham, at around midnight. Most people seemed to find it, though, judging by the crowds around the community centre! We were encouraged to support the villagers by buying refreshments but I don't think they needed our business - they were doing very well anyway - and we were carrying enough food that we could opt out of the very long queue. 

The next few hours were in darkness apart from the hundreds of cycle lights, most of which are very good these days and some of which are quite dazzling. A feint glow moved around the northern horizon as the sun prepared to rise over the Suffolk coast at 4.38 and the moon was about three-quarter size.

But the most memorable vision of all was the almost continuous stream of blinking red tail lights that lasted for most of the 114 miles to Dunwich - an amazing and memorable sight.

There were 1500 riders in 2011 and I think there were even more this year. One estimate was 2500 and I wouldn't be surprised if that was accurate.They came in all shapes and sizes, many of them 'serious' cyclists on fast road bikes but a good number on slower, older or less efficient machines, too. Most of them made it to the end. Two people joined in spontaneously when they saw the ride passing them in Epping Forest, where they'd spent the day mountain biking, and they made it as far as Needham Market, around 80 miles from London.

I'm not quite that spontaneous but I'm pretty sure I'll be back!


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A Good Workout on a Beautiful Day

Sunday saw me on my 34-mile circular(ish) route to Long Melford, Lavenham, Bradfield and home. I've actually moved home since the last time I did this route, but the distance was near enough the same. Annoyingly, my Garmin refused to download the data for the ride, but the little Cateye computer showed a pleasing average of almost 16mph.

Considering I'm still on my Paris to Venice mountain bike, I'm pleased with that. It equates to about 15.1 mph on the Garmin.

I had a seven minute 'rest' about one minute into the ride when a stray bungee cord wrapped itself around the block and derailleur, bring me to an abrupt halt, but once I'd cut that free there were no more stops. I hardly ate or drank, either, and felt no more weary at the end than when I've stopped for food and rest in the past. There's definitely something to be said for avoiding carbs before and during a ride, at least up to that kind of distance. I did eat a pear at around 24 miles, which was refreshing and sweet, so I wasn't completely carb-free, but even so...

It wasn't hot, but I drank about 250ml of water on the ride. I drank the other 750ml when I got home, mind you, but more because I felt I should.I also ate most of the fruit and nuts I'd taken with me, but again I wasn't really needy.

It will be interesting to see how I go in the Norwich 100 in ten days' time. There is a compulsory one hour stop at halfway, when I'll eat a normal-size lunch but otherwise I think I will try to follow a similar regime unless I get desperate. That's more likely in the second half of the course, I imagine.

I was shocked when John reminded me how soon the Norwich event was, but I think I'll be ok. A longish ride this weekend might confirm or deny that, of course!


PS. I've ordered a replacement rear derailleur, since the jockey wheels on mine are running at about thirty degrees off centre! It's done very well and still works well and changes smoothly most of the time, but I can't quite trust it in the lower ratios any more and although there aren't any real hills in Norfolk it will be nice to be able to use the gears properly when I need to. Apart from tyres, tubes, brake blocks (and I think pedals) it's the only new component the bike will have had since new.

Something else will break now, I bet!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Yes, Another Quick Update

It seems as though all my updates to this blog are quick ones, but such is life...

Anyway, I'm pleased to report a couple of decent rides since my last post, mostly on wet roads or in wet air (with a bit of hail mixed in), including an equal fastest-ever (since I started measuring) 20-miler last week and a very enjoyable 33 miles with John yesterday.

I also did a 20-miler westwards a couple of weeks ago, as far as Barrow, on which ride I encountered the hail, heavy rain and strong, cool wind. Heading into the westerly and taking a chance on the weather, I got caught out without waterproofs. Working hard, though, I didn't get too chilled, apart from my hands, and it was all good fun, especially returning with the wind.

Yesterday's ride (in occasional light rain) was a good workout too, as it always is when I have to keep up with John. It was also much-needed, as he reminded me it's now less than three weeks to the Norwich 100!