Avatar for Sir_Shannonball


Member since Sep 2013 • Last active Mar 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...
My recent rides

Most recent activity

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    06/03/2023 – One Ride to Verulam All

    The Verulam CC Reliability Ride (VRR) is the last event I rode before lockdown and the first one I took part in when things opened up. And this year my calendar seemed to open up with a VRR-sized space at just the right time. Why would I do this again? It’s usually cold, the course is really challenging and the start is out in Redbourn.

    Last year I had puncture after puncture. That wasn’t going to happen this year. I shod my bike with 30mm Challenge Strada Bianchi tyres - full on Spring Classic mode. Richard chose a modern classic in blue with 28s and mudguards. Sensible bikes were the order of the day.

    This bike loves being in the big ring a little too much

    With 4,500ft of elevation, plenty of technical sections and the roads full of potholes, mud, water and gravel, this is probably the toughest of the Chilterns Classics series. This year the course is tweaked and it’s 68.6 miles (down from 70.1 last year), but it still includes some leg, back and spirit breaking climbs.

    I drove up and met up with Richard, who had ridden up from Islington. He was looking for a big day and I was just looking to get round. There were a few others planning to be there, but it was a complicated weekend with another train strike to manage. Despite the VRR field being mainly composed of local riders, I felt there were fewer taking part.

    I don’t get bored of saying this. It’s only 12 quid. Yes, it costs just £12 to enter and while there are no food stops or aid stations, you get hot drinks, pastries and a pile of bars to grab at the start and then shed load of sandwiches and cake at the end. It’s cycling’s grassroots, old fashioned and quite timeless in its low-key and friendly ways.

    How did it go, I hear you ask? Well, I set out at 9am behind a group of about 30 keen-looking riders. Placing myself strategically towards the rear of this pack, I was looking for a group to drop off the back and ride at a mellow pace that I could comfortably get involved in. No such luck. They were going at it hammer and tongs. Averaging 245w over the first three miles was not something I could sustain over the full distance of the course. That’s my hour power, my race pace, not something I could stay with. I dropped back. Please note I was not dropped. I. Dropped. Back.

    Richard mixed it up with the big group for another mile before realising I had “tactically fallen back.” We pressed on, still going at a fair lick. There is a lot of amazing woodland on this ride and a few decent vistas, too. We ploughed through the Ashridge Estate and then past Albury and the Musette Café. I had earmarked the No 2 Wine and Cheese Deli in Wendover for a pit stop and it did not disappoint. We took on toasties and coffees, just as well as a pair of climbs were about to hit us in 5 miles' time.

    The view from the deli as two more arrive in Wendover

    Whiteleaf and Wardrobes. They sound innocent, sweet even, but they are buggers. Whiteleaf - #23 in Simon Warren’s 100 Greatest Climbs book – is a half mile that averages 10% and tops out at 20%. No sooner have you go down the other side of Whiteleaf than you hit the 0.87 miles of Wardrobes Lane, which although averaging a more modest 8.9%, it tops out at 13.4%. And Wardrobe is sneaky. It hides its steeper section where the road turns sharply left. Round that bend and you hit the 13.4% part. Not such a brute as Whiteleaf, but riding these two back to back is makes you really glad to close the door on Wardbrobes, so to speak.

    Richard had some kind of diagonal weird crossover going on with his chain just as we began Whiteleaf. It went back into place. Phew. Whiteleaf done. Then he was well ahead of me on Wardrobes Lane. It was only when we’d got past the top, I understood why. He couldn’t get in the small chain ring. He necessarily had to blast his way up. Mr May is something of a grinder, rarely using the small ring. “Perhaps there were too many cobwebs?” I quipped. Maybe. After 5 mins of failed fettling, he decided to call it a day and big ringed it to High Wycombe train station. Having ridden up, he ended up logging 75 miles. Not so shabby.

    Endless rolling hills await

    I wasn’t expecting to see any more groups on the road, but within a minute of Richard’s departure, a pair of riders came by. They were both local and on the VRR. Great. They knew the route really well and I was happy to be guided. I locked in on a rear wheel and went into wheelsucker mode. Their pace was a little below what we’d been doing, but still strong enough. It took 20 miles for me to step up and take a turn on the front. When I looked back, I’d lost them. I really, really wasn’t riding hard. I hoped nothing untoward had occurred and rode the last 5 or 6 miles to the finish. I later learned they ran into another rider they knew and eased off for a chat.

    After refuelling at the HQ and uploading my data, I was quietly and tiredly delighted. Compared to last year, I’d ridden faster, kicked out more watts and hadn’t had a single puncture. Strava gave me 128 achievements. And I had hit my maximum heart rate on Whiteleaf. Blimey! If reliability rides are in any way accurate as traditional early season fitness and form tests, then I am starting to get excited about what I can achieve this year.

    If you want to ride the route, you can drive up or take a train to Harpenden (3.5 miles) or St Albans (5.4 miles).


    Next week (12/03/23) is the Berkhamstead CC Spring Classic, which starts from Aldbury at the Musette Cafe. Get a train to nearby Tring if you fancy it.

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    Can't resist another Rockwell Financier 204 Minus image - after all, cycling is a numbers game, as someone once said.

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    +Aidan thanks for these - a bit of a teaser for Part 3.

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    +ShauNuff I can almost taste their toasted panettone served with lashings of butter. They had a special deal - £2.50 for coffee and panettone.

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    And here's one more very early days club ride at the rest stop in Whetstone.

    +RichardM +ShauNuff and +AndrewCass are there - can anyone name the others?

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    So, I had a great catch up with Jordan yesterday and he solved one of the ongoing mysteries of Islington Cycling Club. Where exactly did the colour palette for our kit come from?

    This has remained a closely guarded secret, until now. Many had thought, because of the green, it came from the Islington Council branding, which at the time included a swoosh with two greens in it. But you'd be wrong.

    Jordan put these colours forward because they were on his favourite calculator - the Rockwell Financier 204 Minus .

    Well, now you know!

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    27/02/2023 - Year 1 of ICC - Part 2 of Now We Are 10

    Can you even imagine how exciting it is to launch a cycling club? Very. Except, as I related in Part 1, we created the club in Jan 2013, but it wasn't until 28 April 2013 that the appalling weather we had that winter relented and we finally found the confidence to take our show on the road. The weekend of the first ride I was not available to take part. No bother, we had Richard and Jordan lined up to lead a small group of new recruits.

    The first club ride at Pizza Amore, Whetstone – Richard (second left), Richard (fifth from left), Andrew (far right)

    The committee plan to recreate the ride on the actual date, which falls on a Friday, but if you’re free, below is the original route. You won’t find Pizza Amore any more, but there are still several other cafes in Whetstone to refuel at.


    As you can see from this next photo of an early club ride, we still didn’t have any kit.

    No kit, but getting fit – Jim Shaughnessey (soon-to-be committee member, fourth from left), Richard (second from right), Stephen Taylor (soon-to-be committee member, far right)

    OK, not much branding in evidence here. However, we had a plan. Jordan worked up some designs with a designer pal and we had some options. I wish I had them, as the one most people wanted was all grey and black. Very safe and inoffensive. Not many clubs had any green in those days and Jordan managed to convince the rest of us to have something that popped a bit more. He called me in to look at swatches of material from Bioracer – our chosen supplier – at the Rouleur offices, where he was working. We were happy with the pale grey and graphite grey, but chose a light, brighter more zingy green.

    Bioracer’s mock up of our club kit

    We chose a very subtle and old school bib short design – just the club name in white on black. The idea was that most people have black bibs and we would blend. We didn’t want to cause members unnecessary costs, either. To that end we chose Bioracer products from the cheaper end of their enormous catalogue. We spent every penny we had from TfL on the biggest order of jerseys we could muster.

    Meanwhile, we ran club rides starting from Whittington Park. And, ambitious inclusive club that we wanted to be, we also ran coffee and cake rides and began a youth programme. Coffee and cake rides recruited people who wanted to ride in a group, enjoy a social stop, but didn’t feel too sporty. We had a contact at Age UK, who sent us some cyclists. Most of these rides were led by the incredible Judith Paris. Judith ran a local social enterprise called Get More Bikes and upcycled old clothes into stylish urban cycling wear. I think we staged half a dozen of these. The sticking point was that nobody who did the coffee and cake rides joined the club. Shame.

    The coffee and cake ride at Granary Square

    At the other end of the age range, our youth programme was rolled out at Holloway Secondary School (now Beacon High) with Stefan Malinowski coaching. I knew Stefan from his cycle instructor work and that he was also a British Cycling qualified coach. It would take three attempts to get the youth programme up and running properly, Stefan coached each time.

    Then the kit arrived!

    OMG. Kit made by Bioracer. The pros wore Bioracer. Naturally, I tried it on that very second in the office.

    The following week I managed to get the then leader of the council, Catherine West, and one of her team, to model our kit, so we could do some impactful comms.

    Catherine West (centre) in an CC ladies jersey

    As you can see, Catherine West - now MP for Hornsey and Wood Green - is sporting a different jersey to the one the chap to her right is wearing. We had a special ladies’ version. It was nipped in at the waist and only had two rear pockets. These may now collectors’ pieces, but the reduced cargo capacity and fit did not suit everyone and they were canned.

    We also ordered kit for the youth programme. Here’s one of my sons (both of my boys became members) modelling the youth kit in our back garden.

    Youth kit – note the offset (darker) pocket design

    In order to get us to look like a club on the road the committee made some very strong decisions about kit. We’d increase the initial joining fee and give new members a club jersey. In effect, we earned no income until members renewed. We also agreed to only charge members what we paid Bioracer. Our kit should be affordable, stylish and an advert for our club.

    Aside from Andrew Castiglione, Richard May and Jordan Gibbons, our early days committee included these marvellous people – Stephen Taylor, Jim Shaughnessey, Laura Perrett, Alison Alexander, Aidan Farrow, Luis Blanco, Rob Valdes, Rob Jones, Rob Culkeen (many Robs) and Chris Tsen. If I have left anyone out, please, please forgive me! Initially, the committee were our pool of ride leaders. Eventually, everyone got a job with a role, but to start with it was all hands to the pump.

    Early committee agenda – you can see the ambition

    I booked council meeting rooms for our committee meetings. They got livelier when we shifted to upstairs rooms in pubs, as you’d expect. We tried a couple, until The Canonbury offered their upstairs room for free. This worked a treat, because we could actually hear what each other were saying.

    Robert Culkeen - our first membership secretary

    Early club ride in (mostly) club kit – Laure Perrett (third from left), Alison Alexander (fourth from left)

    Another early club ride in kit. From right: David Shannon, Stephen Taylor, Jim Shaughnessey. Richard May is far left. Front: Louisa Thomson

    Always ahead of the curve, Jordan became notorious for including some rough sections on his routes. Gravel was but a twinkle in his eye and back then we called it a “Jordan Special” when we hit dirt.

    A Jordan Special

    That June, during Bike Week, the council was staging a Festival of Cycling in Finsbury Park. Oh-oh, we had an idea. Aside from having a stand to promote the club, why not close the internal road to traffic and run crit races? Why not? We only had 18 members at the time and we’d need 8 at least out on the course as marshals, a couple managing sign ups and motor bike outrider. We did a risk assessment with the British Cycling regional lead. He would be commissar and drive behind the racer in a car. My mate Nick Herman - not a club member, but a kind soul who had a motorbike volunteered. Nick rode at from front of the race the clear the way. Jordan christened this the North London Crits and knocked up a poster.

    North London Crits publicity

    We gained a set of prizes from the great and the good. We had a risk assessment, riders had entered. What could possibly go wrong?

    Jordan at the sign on desk

    The under-12s race

    The under-12 race set off. I think they did two laps. Wow. CC Hackney, who had a strong youth programme had quite a few riders out. Next up was the under-14s, and here was when the world stopped turning for a moment. Not long after they set off I got a call – someone was down on the course and an ambulance had been called. It turned out it wasn’t a rider, it was a member of the public who – it seems had a skinful – and was larking about on the course and collided with a bollard. Whether they were dazed and flat out from imbibing or from bollard bashing, we’ll never know. Good first aiders that we were, the patient could not/should not be moved. They blocked the course and it took 90 minutes to get an ambulance, in which time the commissar called off the remaining races. Sigh. So near, so far.

    Yours truly promoting the club, aided by Charlie the dog

    Later that summer I was the only ICC rider at the first RideLondon 100. I freelanced from group to group and got round in under 5 hours. Inspired by flying the flag for the club and riding a closed roads event for the first time I had ridden at an average 20mph. I was flying.

    Flying the club colours at the finish of the inaugural Ride London 100

    And just like that it was Christmas. We had 99 members. I nudged Angie, my Mrs, and she became the 100th member. Now there were four ICC members in my house alone! (This might actually be a record). We had no money having spend everything on kit, but desperately wanted to celebrate. Richard kindly offered to host at his house, Alison baked. I’ll just leave a few (poor quality, sorry) images below, which speak for themselves.

    When we started, we had one club ride a week. One group. Then we had a longer ride and a shorter ride. Then a faster and a slower ride. By early 2014, on Sundays we offered groups at three speeds, A, B and C groups, where A was the fastest. We now had two midweek evening club rides - Fixie Loop (Thurs) and North London Hills (Weds), plus two groups at Regent's Park on Saturday mornings - 8am fast and 7am faster. Tuesday mornings, hill repeats of Swain's Lane at 6.30am (for the love of god!). There was a Wednesday evenings chain gang on the Inner Circle at Regent's Park. And to try and grow our pool of ride leaders, I started running workshops on How to Plan and Lead a Club Ride. All this was happening within 10 months of our first club ride.

    A year passed. We did a big group shot at Whittington Park. What a year. Jim ran our social media, Rob J designed all our publicity, Laura and Alison created the Intro Rides, Stephen and Chris led on leading rides, Richard chaired and created a group riding etiquette guide, Rob C had his hands full with 5-10 people joining each week. And I tried to keep everything working smoothly as club secretary and harness all this amazing cycling passion that was unleashed. I enlisted the help of David Kitchen - founder of the London Fixed-Gear Forum and developer of Microcosm, the software it now runs on, to help us set up our club forum. We had plans to run a 200km audax and a time trial in 2014.

    Somehow or other we had a hit on our hands. Managing all this extraordinary growth would be a challenge. More of that in Part 3.

    First anniversary group

  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    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.


  • in Forums
    Avatar for Sir_Shannonball

    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.