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Member since Sep 2013 • Last active Feb 2023

Former club secretary and founder member of Islington Cycling Club

British Cycling Level 2 road and time trial coach
Provisional British Cycling Level 3 road and time trial coach
National Standards cycle instructor and instructor trainer

Photo Crater Lake Century Bike Ride 2015, Oregon.
Confession Totally addicted to endorphins and carbohydrates.
Why Sir_Shannonball? Because I am a Knight of Sufferlandria.
Motto Bike riding, bread baking, harp blowing, child raising, friend making, book reading, film seeing, dog walking, ever giving, cool fizzing...
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    23/01/2023 – Group therapy

    Can you get better value for money than the Westerley Winter Warmer? For just a tenner, you get the choice of a 27, 37 and 67-mile ride in the beautiful, but challenging Chilterns. But it doesn’t stop there. You get tea or coffee at the start, bananas and energy bars to grab for the ride and are set off in handy groups of 10 riders (in 3-minute intervals). And we were promised lunch at the finish. The organiser’s email read “All food / drinks are included in the entry fee so no need to bring money.” Nice.

    Organiser Frank Proud in purple

    You have to be lucky with the weather for events scheduled in January and we were. It was glorious clear and crisp for this reliability ride. Plus lucky that the organiser had done a super detailed recce, flagging all the little hazards and road defects that had come up due to general wear and tear and the recent freeze up.

    The "glamour" and pre-race excitement builds at the scout hut

    The ride starts in pretty Chalfont Saint Giles and the HQ is the very serviceable scout hut where I took a brew, banana and bar and thanked heavens that the weather was well above freezing and the skies clear. I had planned to do the 67-mile route, but I hadn’t planned on having a job interview on the Monday following. It felt like too much stress to do the long route, as I had some more interview prep to do later that day. I went backwards and forwards and at the last minute I loaded the medium route.

    Bananas and Aussie Bites
    I attached myself to a group of 5 that had set off west towards Seer Green. There was a climb out of Chalfont Saint Giles and I settled in to the group’s pace. As I’m not the world’s best climber, an initial ramp really helps me understand if I am going to be able to stay with a group or not. And I wanted to. It was a really cohesive group of local riders, quite chatty, going at a sensible pace. Checking my bike computer, I could see I was kicking out an average 200w, which is decent for me for this kind of ride. And it felt sustainable. Just as I began to get attached to this group, I started thinking about where we’d split. They were doing the long route, so this might be a short and sweet alliance.

    I was riding my gravel bike, which I’d converted to a winter trainer with 32mm tyres and mudguards. I left a handlebar bag and the group’s roadie sensibilities meant they couldn’t resist a few piss-takes about how much lunch I’d brought with me. At about 12 miles it was all change, I went left to the medium route and the group went right and the one bit of weather that wasn’t playing ball – the wind – started to be a factor for me as I was now solo. Would I regret not doing the long route and showing off the amazing contents of my bar bag?

    The climb up Hatches Lane, by Hatches Wood

    Well, not so much. At 22 miles the routes must have overlapped, because I passed two of the group by the roadside. None of the others were anywhere to be seen. The group had blown up in some respect and I pressed on purposefully at pretty much the same tempo as when I was in the little group all the way to the finish, where… lunch was served. This was chiefly a series of big baps that had thoughtfully been filled with a base of tuna, cheese, ham or egg. I say base, because you were meant to fill it with all the other stuff that was laid out – see photo. Plus tea, coffee, cake and fruit, of course.

    The DIY bap bar

    Having refuelled on a cheese a pickle roll and a hot cuppa, I headed home. I know I didn’t do the whole thing, but I did get to enjoy the ambience of this fabulous grass roots event and ride a reasonable amount in the stunning Chilterns, while not being so knackered that I couldn’t face practicing my presentation and rehearsing answers to interview questions. Next year, I’ll go long. Meanwhile, my great thanks to Frank Proud and the Westerley CC team that stage the WWW.


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    23/01/2023 – New Year's resolution

    Last March, I started writing my View From Here blog to combine two things I enjoy enormously, cycling and writing. It was - and still is - my hope that my enthusiasm encourages readers to try something new in the cycling world. The forum counter shows that this blog has now had more that 10,000 views in 10 months. This is way more than I could have imagined when I started it. So, thank you, dear readers. I’m still very much enjoying writing the View From Here, so I’m going to commit to writing another year’s worth and see where I get to. While it's still January, I'm counting this as a New Year's resolution.

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    16/01/2023 - Now we are 10 - Part 1

    And just like that Islington Cycling Club is 10 years old. Happy birthday, ICC!

    Like our monarch, our club has two birthdays. The committee has plans to mark the first club ride later this year, that took place on 28 April 2013, and I hope many of you will take part. But there is another birthday, 16 January, because on 16/01/2013 the club’s first constitution was signed and Islington Cycling Club began to exist. Why was there such a gap between the two dates? Well, I’ll answer that and tell you all about our pre-history, so-to-speak, in this first of two blogs about the history of our wonderful club. (Maybe more than two, let's see how this goes).

    Going back to the very start – before the start - all the way to September 2012. This was a highly successful year for British cycle sport with a ton of gold medals at the London Olympic Games and the first British Tour de France winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins. It was also the year Islington Cycling Club was conceived. I was working at Islington Council as the cycling officer and my colleague, Michael McNeill, on the Sport and Leisure Team suggested (no doubt prompted by all that British cycling success) that I start a local cycling club. Hackney had one. Finsbury Park had one (but their rides all began in Potters Bar), there was an almost defunct CC lslington. We need one. I accepted Mike’s challenge and got cracking.

    We did not fancy any turf wars with CC Islington. A little research was called for and it revealed CC Islington was founded back in the Fifties and that they now numbered just 5 or 6 members and had all - it was said - moved to Hertfordshire. In our early days of the club, old met new when I ran into a CC Islington rider in the flesh at the start of the Suburban Breakout audax.

    Islington Cycling Club and CC Islington come face to face

    Back to the development stage and I freely admitted that I really didn’t know that much about sports clubs. So, I created a working group of local people with a range of expertise that might help. My cry for help was heard by Andrew Castiglione, a fellow cycling instructor and cycle sports fan who has professional financial skills, Halim Bouderghouna, former pro rider, in fact No 10 in Morocco (now the owner of Future Cycling shop in Muswell Hill), Keir Apperley the founder and coach of nearby CC Hackney and Peter Catermole, regional development manager for British Cycling and I’d met a guy on a Gregarios club ride, Richard May, who, it turned out, lived in Islington and was a lawyer, which sounded useful.

    • Andrew became our treasurer and still is, in fact the longest-serving committee member. It’s 10 years now!
    • Halim advised and then stepped back to develop his business. Also a former cycle instructor he’s a really passionate cyclist and great mechanic and builder.
    • Keir was just super generous and gave us lots of ideas and encouragement. At the time CC Hackney had nearly 200 riders and a very successful youth programme that Alex Peters and Tao Georghegan-Hart had passed through. Keir ran that. He’s also a masters road a track racer with some distinction himself.
    • Peter helped us take some key decisions - to simply be called “Cycling Club” and not to specialise in one discipline, so members’ interests could guide what we offered. He provided much useful information and guidance. He was extremely generous and wise. Our first constitution was on off the shelf British Cycling one.
    • Richard was something of a maverick and I couldn’t imagine him being the member of any club. And yet he was very committed to having a local cycle sport offering, one that was inclusive and had a youth programme. Richard would serve as our chair for five years.
    • And yours truly served as club secretary for six years.

    Aside from that working group, I put together what I called a steering group. This mainly included council colleagues from various teams. It had a grand title, but it was simply a group of various stakeholders that I formed to spread the word and offer advise. In particular, to get their steer on what they thought local people wanted. I brought in Housing, Youth Development, Sport and Leisure and also some local bike shops. Mosquito Bikes in Essex Road (now Velorution) sent us Jordan Gibbons, more of Jordan in a bit.

    When we got close to signing the constitution, I made the call to join the two groups and form the committee. That’s when all but Jordan from the steering group dropped out!

    • Jordan stayed on the committee for several years, he was also working as a journalist for Rouleur at the time. He enlisted a designer buddy to help design the kit, led our very first club ride and created his infamous “Jordan Specials,” which were bone crunching or super muddy off-road sections on road rides.

    Some of the things we put into our early vision were:

    • To affiliate to British Cycling
    • The thought that people wanted rides that start locally
    • A nobody gets left behind policy
    • The ambition to have a youth programme from the start
    • That the club should be called Islington Cycling Club, full out. Not Islington CC. This was to make a strong difference to CC Islington and avoid confusion. One of CC Islington's number at least was still time trialling, so we needed to sound different.

    We had absolutely no money though. We knew kit would be important. It would advertise our club and give us an identity, but it’s not cheap to buy in bulk. Hmm. What to do? I was at work one day and a Transport for London colleague contacted me and asked if I had any projects that could benefit from some underspend. She was vague about how much was available, I was just to put a list together and the costs. Well, I had just the community project... Islington Cycling Club and I wrote a long shopping list and the rationale for the spend. Bikes, kit, turbos, tools, repair stands, helmets, event equipment, money for coaches. You name it. I threw everything at it. I think it totalled about £30,000. In the event, she said, yes, and we were awarded £2,500 and we blew the lot on our first kit order.

    By the time Jordan and I signed the constitution, we were in a deep and cold winter. It would be months before the weather improved and we felt like we could confidently stage our first club ride. More of that next time…

    Watch out for my next instalment will cover how we developed our kit, our first club ride and how the club quickly grew in numbers that none of us could predict.

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    04/01/2023 - A festive less restive

    Happy New Year!

    This Christmas I thought I’d try something new. As far as winter training goes, I usually save high volume for March and concentrate on higher intensity sessions until then, mainly sweet spot stuff. This year I’m ahead of schedule and retained a good (for me) level of fitness after my post-season break. Using the Rapha Festive 500 in place of my traditional spring training camp seemed to fit the bill. In the latter I ride 100km a day for five straight days and this sets the scene for kicking on for the higher intensity training that follows. The F500 (I’m calling it that) asks you to ride 500km over 8 days between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. So, as far as being ahead of schedule goes, I’d be three months ahead, with a good base to start 3 months of my build phase. I’d be race ready by the end of March. Here's how I got on, my F500 described in numbers...

    Duck pond at Chapmore End, Herts

    Days cycled: 8
    My approach was to ride every day of the challenge and avoid longer days in the saddle. That means an average of a 65km ride, roughly 2.5 hrs, which wouldn’t impact too much on my family commitments and various other social events. As the first two days are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I had less time to ride and I didn’t make the daily average, so there was a little catch up needed.

    Turbo days: 2
    The weather played ball most of the time, but there were two days that were out and out stinkers. I’m absolutely not up for 2.5-3 hrs of riding in the rain. I can handle an hour or so of higher intensity work, but a long, wet cruise doesn’t appeal to me in slightest. Virtual rides are very much admissible for the R500 and I have a FulGaz account. The world is your ointment with this kind of platform with huge number of films from all parts of the globe to pedal to. With the use of a smart trainer, these offer variable resistance according to the gradient of the oncoming terrain and something to look at and keep your mind occupied. And you can pump out some bangers to keep you motivated.

    Days I’d wished I wasn’t doing the F500: 4
    I struggled on and off in the last four days. Unusually for me, I seemed to bonk (the cycling equivalent of the wall) quite early on these days. On one occasion, it felt like I left the house having already bonked. I’m not a big boozer, but I was having one or two drinks a day throughout the challenge and I may have been subject to “boozer’s bonk.” Is that a thing? I think it was for me.

    Days riding with a fixed-gear: 1
    I started the challenge thinking I might ride some or all or it on a fixed-gear bike. How strong would that make me? Very, if I actually did it. My first ride - ridden with DaveJ – was on the Fixie Loop and naturally I rode my fixed-gear bike. Rode it a bit harder than I needed to, with too much time with my heart rate in Zone 3. Oops. I switched to a geared bike and as the fatigue built, I had no desire to go back to the fixed-gear bike. Maybe next year a fixed F500, but not this one.

    Distance ridden: 515km
    I made a plan of various rides to get me up to 500km. In the event, I had to change my plans for weather and shifting family commitments. On the penultimate day, which was a turbo day, I thought I’d left myself with about 80km to do on the last day. On Day 8 the forecast was abysmal, but it looked like there was a 2 hr window of dry from about 7am. I hit the road at 7.30am aiming to do about 55km and looking to make up the balance on the turbo later in the day. I was so surprised and relived to see a message pop up when I uploaded the 55km ride to say I’d completed the F500. In fact, I’d done an extra 15km. My maths skills are usually better, but a tired body goes hand in hand with a tired brain. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

    Number of rides: 13
    There were 8 days and I did 13 rides. More bad maths? Nope. On Day 5 I split my virtual ride (in virtual Cambridgeshire) in two 37km sections with a long “rest stop” in between. On Day 7, I planned to do a 55km virtual Mallorca ride, but I really struggled. I did 33km and blew up. My poor mind tried to work out how to grind out enough kilometres to leave me with a doable distance on the final day. The only way I could countenance this was to do shorter efforts. I rode two virtual laps of Central Park (9.5km each) and found a flattish (virtual again) time trial course (K46/10) in Worcestershire to clock another 16km.

    Punctures: 1
    This I count as a great victory since the roads were very wet throughout, which always increases the chance of a blow out. Mine came halfway through my longest ride (87km), again not the worst time. What is the worst time? I think in the very first few km or last few km of a ride is the biggest wind up. That always rains on my parade.

    Café stops: 0
    Nothing seemed to be open. It was perhaps my poor planning. At the least, a warm drink would have been handy on any of my rides.

    Bars and gels consumed: a lot
    I stocked up before the holiday season and got through most of my supplies. In the main, I was powered by Torq gels and Veloforte bars. I “stack” my fuel by starting with a gel and then bar, then gel every 30 mins or so.

    Times proper food was consumed: Once
    By the time I did my longest ride on Day 4, I was a little weary of sports nutrition. That morning I made myself a peanut butter and jam sandwich. I found a good spot to picnic at a table of a pub that was still closed in Coopersale, which is just beyond Theydon Bois in Essex. PBJ sandwiches always make me smile and they have the advantage of having a sticky filling, so they don't fall apart easily in you bag or pocket. With a shedload of festive leftovers, maybe I should have wrapped these up in burritos a few times. My method with burritos is to use baking paper and rubber bands to keep them together. Next time...

    Things I’d do differently next time

    • Drink less booze
    • Be more flexible (8am start every day was unrealistic)
    • Find at least one café that’s open

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    22/12/22 - Snow joke

    It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this post. It’s but of a painful one for me and I’ve been consciously avoiding it. There’s been a serious cold snap with a serious amount of snow and ice and serious consequences for cycling.

    I know, I know, if you have turbo – and I do – you keep calm and carry on cycling indoors. But I didn’t feel calm. Not at all. The week or so of freeze up reminded me a little too much of pandemic restrictions. In particular, it reminded me of early 2021 when I caught Covid while still unvaccinated. The illness itself hit me pretty hard and to add insult to injury I suffered post-viral fatigue for six weeks. During that time I was unable to exercise and became quite depressed, as I rely on physical activity for my sense of wellbeing. And my being, it took a nosedive, to say the least.

    From that time I really have a massive appreciation of what people who’ve had long Covid have been going through. The inability to do, causes depression. Not just feeling down and depressed, but actual depression.

    Once I was clear of the fever, I was left with a sore chest. As a lifelong asthmatic, this is worrying. As soon as the chest pain eased off, I got on the trainer. Nothing major. Just 15-20 minutes of easy pedaling. And I mean super easy, 130-140w, but my heart rate was much higher than it should be. The following day the chest pain would return and I’d be knocked out energy-wise. A few days would pass and the chest would improve gain and I’d try again with the same results. And repeat for six weeks. It took three of those super easy 15 minute sessions I a row without a reaction to feel confident enough to up it a little and get out on the road.

    My fitness had taken a big hit, but I was so determined to get it back and enjoy every second on the bike. I added some midweek road miles to my schedule to regain my base and in about 8 weeks I was flying again. PBs followed that season at 10 and 25 mile time trials, I ran a 5 day spring training camp and completed the King Alfred’s Way over four days. 2021 way a good year for me in the end.

    Last week, although still able do static bike training, that lockdown feeling started to resurface. I don’t like it. I like endorphins and I like structured training, but what I like most of all is getting out of the house, seeing some countryside and having a bit of an explore. It’s partly the challenge and partly just being somewhere different.

    Initially I tried some Zone 2 virtual rides. It makes sense, right? A couple of hours chugging along building the base while gazing at some virtual scenery on the screen. I just didn’t have the heart for it. Maybe it was the knowledge that the freeze up was going to be going for a while and this felt terminally dull. New plan, for my next ride I took it up a level (or a zone in fact) and managed 70 mins in Zone 3. Not quite the 2 hours I’d planned, but something and I didn’t feel too bored. To be honest, whatever I tried on the turbo felt rubbish, because I was feeling trapped.

    My usual week of cycling consists of three midweek turbo sessions (Tuesday-Thursday) and two or three gentle-paced commutes. Monday and Friday are rest days. Then at the weekend I usually I let rip and get out and about and do some longer rides. This is what I look forward to. In spring and summer there’ll be an event or race thrown in most weekends. It wasn’t until the rain which washed away the snow had passed that I ventured out. I took on the Radlett Revolution route and in spite of it being a little busy with motor traffic, I loved it. What a relief. Normal service has been resumed, as they say.

    Now that the white out is done, I’m really looking forward to the Christmas break and getting out there on the bike. I’m even going to give the Rapha Festive 500 a go. I’ve actually never done it. I’ve planned my rides out and if anyone wants to join me, I’ve posted details on the forum thread here.

    Merry Christmas, everyone.

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    14/11/2022 Winter is coming… or is it?

    Scary things are on their way. And I don’t mean white walkers, the undead, the Lannisters or sudden wedding massacres. What we fear as cyclists is plummeting temperatures, endless rainy days, high winds, black ice, shorter days and puncture after puncture. Then there is that slick, sticky road grime that gnaws and grinds away on your expensive bicycle components. Perhaps it’s more Apocalypse Now than Game of Thrones. The prospect of taking your pride and joy out in hostile conditions is enough to have you babbling “the horror, the horror…” This year’s unseasonably warm weather deep into November has only served to delay the inevitable and perhaps ramp up the tension, because winter will surely come soon. How will we cope?

    First of all, you need to look after your body. What to wear, what to wear? My rule of thumb is that if you feel a little bit cool before you start exercising, by the time you are up to speed, you’ll feel warm enough. I have a winter jacket, but I rarely use it. A merino base, long sleeve jersey and a gilet is enough for me. If I need more than that, it’s usually sub-zero and then I won’t go out for fear of ice. That said, I usually get caught out by black ice where there's some frozen run off once every year.

    As I’ve been riding a few years, I have quite a glove collection. Obviously you won’t be wearing mitts, but I think two sets are needed - a lighter, full-fingered glove and a heavier duty thermal glove. You can get an integrated system of light gloves and an overglove. Then there are the lobster-style super heavy duty gloves, also useful at near freezing temperatures or if you feel the cold in your extremities. Some of us do and it’s painful.

    By the way, not these lobster gloves.

    Those are for Halloween. I mean this kind of lobster-style gloves.

    You could also acquire a waterproof set of gloves. Alright, three or four sets. Well, that escalated quickly!

    Keeping your legs warm is somewhat obvious, wear 3/4s or full tights. And your feet will need attention, because that’s not even funny when you can’t feel your toes. Thick socks and those toe warmers or full overshoes will also help protect your pretty cycling shoes from an early demise. Or you could get a set of winter cycling shoes. I’m a fan. Get a set that is both thermal and waterproof and you won’t regret it. A cap and a buff for for neck should also be in your armoury.

    Then there’s the bike. You can winterise pretty much any bike. Start by changing the tyres for fatter and/or more robust ones and I’d urge you to clean it after every wet ride. You should fit mudguards, that’ll make it so much easier to clean and keep the crud off of you and your components. And your fellow riders, of course. Use lights, even in the daytime, and make sure you can fix a puncture. You will get more punctures in the winter and then some more. Nothing worse than standing at the roadside with numb digits trying to repair a flat. If you can do it with your eyes closed, so to speak, it will feel the much easier in tough conditions.

    I like having a dedicated winter trainer bike with full mudguards and cheaper-to-replace components. I thought this was a universal thing, but apparently, it’s peculiar to us Brits. A fixed-gear bike fits the bill perfectly for me. The only thing that will wear out is the chain, brake pads and tyres. A new set of each of these will see me through the season. Riding with one gear means no thinking (about gear changes at least), high cadence/pedal stroke practice and overloaded climbing, which is strength work. When spring comes and you switch back to a geared bike, you get the bonus of it feeling so much easier.

    OK, now that we’ve drifted onto training. Most cyclists tend to ride slower in winter for several reasons. Whatever the reason – scientific training reason or whatever – it’s an opportunity to be social and have a chat with other riders. It’s a chance to explore, too. Is there a route you’ve been wanting to try, an extension to existing loop you’d like to build in or have you ever just wondered where that road led to? I like to get some daylight in winter, so if I can get out, I will get, but there are always those days. Two, three of four hours in the rain might build mental strength, but is not so great for your physical health. You could just suit up and do a shorter ride or, if turbo training floats your boat, ride indoors. Every gym has static bikes, so you can always get a session in.

    Be smart. Avoid days when there’s a risk of ice or if it's sub-zero stick to main roads that have been salted (that's assuming the council have had the gritters out). You absolutely must clean your bike from top to toe if you do that. It’s great to have a hot drink and take on some fuel at a cafe, but don’t stop for too long. It can get really hard to warm up again. It makes sense to be flexible as to what time you head out. Choose wisely. Cycling makes weather forecasters of us all. Will Saturday be dryer than Sunday? I like using the Rain Today app. This will tell you when it’ll rain in the next hour and how heavily with a high degree of accuracy. You can also look further into the future by bringing up their radar map and zooming out to see if there are rain clouds looming beyond the hour mark.

    There’s still some racing to be had in winter. Cyclo-cross makes a virtue of the wet and the mud and velodromes have a lovely warm roof and the air is kept at a cosy 28C. Nice! You can even find the odd time trial, sportive or audax. If all else fails, you can always do something apart from cycling, such as cross training, switch to running, weights, yoga, pilates, core work, badminton (did I just say badminton?). You might come back fresher from the change. Or you might find a new passion.

    Unsurprisingly, Canadians know a thing or two about cold weather riding, check out this video from Canadian Cycling Magazine about prepping your bike for winter.


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    17/10/2022 - The sincerest form of flattery

    Il Lombardia - or the Race of the Falling Leaves, as it is sometimes known - is the final Monument of the cycling season. In other words, it’s a big deal and it brings a full stop to cycling's road racing season.

    South London cycling club Dulwich Paragon have run a sportive for several years now in tribute called The Ride of the Falling Leaves. And very nice it is, too. I’d say it is my favourite sportive. Starting in south London at the Herne Hill Velodrome with coffee and pastries, you take a lap of the famous circuit before heading out on a beautiful rural route that includes some eye-watering climbs (Toys Hill and Sundridge Hill both come to mind). As if that wasn’t enough, the ride finishes in the grounds of a cricket club, where pasta and a beer are served as part of your entry fee.

    So, when Spoke Cycles in Codicote put forward their own more northerly Ride of the Falling Leaves, I jumped at it. Like the Paragon event, this would be 100km (with a 60km option) and the ticket promised beer and frites at the finish as part of the entry fee, with Il Lombardia on the big screen.

    On the day, the weather played ball with crisp, blue autumn skies and, yes, there were autumn leaves rattling around the roads. Parts of the route map looked familiar to me, in fact, I think I’ve ridden nearly all of these roads before. For good reason, they are quite lovely. There are no super large climbs – this is Hertfordshire, not Lombardia, remember – but the Spoke route does undulate (a lot) and there are some tough sections.

    Whereas I had previously attacked the Paragon’s RoTFL events, aiming for a gold standard time, this year I wanted to play it differently. I wanted to use the event to signal, not the last race, but rather the beginning to my winter training base miles and so I planned go a bit easier. That thought didn’t last long, as I attacked the route from the off. It just felt right and the first part of the course seemed like it was egging me on to do so. I was going great guns, but starting to feel it by 30 miles. And I did regret my earlier exuberance by the 40-mile point, roughly where the food stop was, as my legs were none too happy with me.

    It was great to see Spoke owner, Alex Anderson, there staffing the food stop and encouraging riders. I understood from him that there were only 100 places they could offer this year, as they were being cautious with the café’s public liability insurance. Next time could see a much expanded field and their next event… wait for it… it might well be a gravel event. And Alex also revealed that Spoke are looking to expand their menu. Watch that space.

    A guy called Rob left the food stop at the same time and we nursed each other through the next 12 miles or so, until his patience or my limited climbing ability expired. I struggled through the last few miles solo and gleefully queued for my chips and pint and a chillax watching others murder themselves at the legit race.

    I’d highly recommend both the route and the event. Given that the route comes south, you could do it any time. If you ride up from north London, you could pick it up at Epping Green.


    Or you could take a train from Finsbury Park to Welwyn Garden City, which is only 3 miles from Spoke and do either the long or short route. Here’s the shorter version.


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    03/10/2022 - Going coastal

    When the World Championships are done and dusted, comes the realisation that the season is all but over. We’ve raced or done our big events or challenge rides, maybe quite a few of them. The best of the weather and the party is over, but we still have all the strength and fitness we’ve built up through the summer. All revved up and nowhere to go. What to do, what to do?

    Road trip!

    Well, off-road trip. I decided to take myself and my hard won vigor on Cycling UK’s new off-road route in Kent, the Cantii Way. And, no, I still don’t know how to pronounce Cantii. This route is 150 miles and is mostly traffic-free and mainly on the coast. Pretty, pretty flat. I knew this would not be as technically challenging as the King Alfred’s Way, which I‘d ridden last year, and that suited me down to the ground. I wanted mellow. And mellow is more or less what I got. Well, what we got.

    I planned this a few months back. Regular View from Here readers will have worked out by now that I am something of a planner. This was the perfect ride to get to spend some real-life time with my former colleague Benjamin. We’d worked together for 6 months in the lockdowns. When we weren’t working at getting more people cycling, we were talking about cycling. We just had to get on bikes together.

    Planning. It’s half the fun for me. What kit will I take with? What size tyres should I use? Fenders or no fenders? Benjamin was happy for me to create a schedule with all the rest stops at 15-20 mile intervals. I'd researched that they were top rated or at least decent looking and checked their opening times. I maybe went a little bit too far by creating a pacing predictor, so that we could see the likely arrival time at each rest stop according to a range of average speeds. Clearly I’m spending too much time on Excel in my day job.

    We were riding this in two days from Ashford, clockwise. The train from St Pancras to Ashford International is just 35 minutes or so away and you are straight onto the route. And we were on the route, but going south not north. Oops. An extra mile there. I went with 35mm tyres and mudguards and soon got to have that choice tested with the roughest part of the route. It was only a short section and 35mm proved to be a sound choice joining the Crab and Winkle Way that links Canterbury to Whitstable. From Whistable onwards, we were on the coast almost the whole way to Dover.

    It was sunny, blue sky above, blue sea to our left and we were riding the promenades. Traffic-free, but not pedestrian-free, so we couldn’t blast it. We didn’t want to. Stopping at spots like Reculver, you want to take them in and enjoy them fully. And I always want to chat to whoever is about. Why? (A) I just like meeting people and (B) I often learn something about where I am.

    Aside from pedestrian and dog dodging, riding along beside the beaches, harbours and seagulls brought another challenge. Wind. And it was always a headwind. I know it wasn’t crazy windy by the standards of how it can be on the Kent coast, but it was constant. Benjamin couldn’t care less. In fact, he liked it. He’d lived on the Isle of Thanet and he attacked the wind at every opportunity. The wheelsucker in me was delighted. Go, Benjamin!

    We sped on towards Broadstairs, where we planned to catch up with a mutual colleague, Patrick. He rode out towards us and escorted us to the Bandstand Café on the front. This seemed like a good choice from my internet scouting. There was a clue in bandstand which I hadn’t considered. There was a performer crooning and playing keyboards over backing tracks. A little sign against his keyboards proclaimed “Nostalgia.” And that’s what we got, perfect for the elderly clientele gathered. It all seemed to fit for purpose until he went a bridge too far and took on Desmond Decker’s The Israelites. With this track it was time for these Israelites to make our exodus from Broadstairs.

    We landed at our B&B in Dover – yes, B&B, I’m not ready for bike-camping – and chilled out a little before heading to a pub to refuel. I’d picked out The White Horse which served Beaverton beers and good-looking food. The walls and ceilings were covered in graffiti - names, times and dates. It took us about half an hour and half a pint to work out what this odd decor was all about. Channel swimmers. The big clue was E-F ad F-E. England-France and France-England. Some teams, some solo. One solo swimmer had E-F-E next to a 27 hour time. Zoinks. That is a lot of swimming. It was amazing to be surrounded by all that endeavour. I felt pretty done in after more than 80 miles of fully loaded riding, but wow, 27 hours. Benjamin had to Google the longest solo swim – 77 miles unaided. That must be about 50 hours in the water. The Oregon Quacks team tickled me, as my wife is from Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon. Their sports teams are all called Oregon Ducks.

    Did I mention the 80 miles fully loaded? I slept hard. And getting up was hard. There was some muscle soreness. After a generous cooked breakfast we got going and the soreness melted away. After climbing out of Dover, we are routed on the hills behind Folkstone. It’s only 500ft above sea level, but it affords some good views of the town, such as it is. The route stays scenic until you approach Dungeness. Bleak doesn’t come close to describing it. Marsh to one side and the nuclear power station on the other. Our rest stop was appropriately named End of the Line. It was a good time to stop because it hammered down while we ate.

    The rain cleared bang on cue for the end of our scheduled stop and we ploughed on towards Rye, aware that a significant amount of rain had been forecast for the rest of the day. We passed the power station, but the coastal view didn’t open out until we reached Camber Sands. There was a considerable military area and then an industrial area. We escaped this to enter the Romney Marshes, which have an atmosphere all of their own. I was feeling in good shape, stronger as the ride went on. I even, and this is all true, took the wind for a good long stretch to Rye and pushed the pace.

    If you don’t know Rye, well, you should. It is a stunning historic town and I’d picked out the Cobbled Café for our afternoon tea. Assam, actually, and I paired it with Victoria sponge. Tea was delightful, but also paired with a downpour. We checked all our weather apps, forecasts and it looked like downpour would continue for at least the next two hours. We called it and took the train from Rye. That made it an even 50-mile day. Decent enough. I did head to the station feeling somewhat interrupted. I had more, I was growing into this ride, but 2 hours in heavy rain would not be fun. That was it, all done.

    A few learning points for me:

    • I thought I’d overpacked, especially at the 50 mile mark on Day 1, when I felt like I was dragging a juggernaut along. However, I used or wore everything I brought with the exception of one thing.
    • I didn’t eat all the bars and gels I had. I always make a point of packing enough food to be totally independent, but this is far from a wilderness ride. From Whitstable round the coast to Ramsgate there are a slew of cafes on the promenade. And slew of loos, too.
    • There are no easy days when you are fully loaded
    • On a related note, taking a mini convenience lock is worthwhile for your loo stops
    • 35mm tyres were fine for this ride. There are one or two really rough sections, but if you can weather these, you’ll get the benefit on the majority of this route. Not sure if I'd do OK going any narrower in the rough for my personal comfort levels
    • There are two (very slightly different) versions of this route, one takes in Margate and the Isle of Thanet, the other cuts out Thanet and add a loop to Winchelsea. You could actually combine the two - it only adds 10 miles
    • The off-road section in the run in to Dover is unnecessary. It takes you away from the speedy tarmac descent into the town and instead offers you a track with three of four joy killing gates, just when you want an easy life
    • I like chatting to strangers, but when they say "I really am a rubbish photographer," I should believe them and carry on with a selfie
    • And finally, however tired you may seem after a day’s ride, don’t underestimate your body’s ability to bounce back the next day