10 things that I learnt from riding my bike early morning every day for 40 days

This year for Lent I gave up 90 minutes of time spent in bed and got up at 5am every day (even at the weekend). Instead of wasting this time, I used it constructively by heading out of the house and getting in some riding time, on my Brompton, of course.
So what did I learn from my 40 consecutive days of cycling?

1st – It confirmed that I still love the sport, hobby, activity as much as I did when I took it up all those years ago.

Riding my bike
Looking pretty stylish on my bike in 1976

2nd – Early morning is where it is at for me. I love the tranquillity and the pre-dawn chill, and the treat of seeing the sky brighten in the east as dawn approached. #bestpartoftheday

The pre-dawn glow in the East.

3rd – Knowing that I was getting up at 5am, my evening routine was more focused and structured. No messing, faffing, watching pointless TV, surfing the net. Post supper chores were a breeze.

4th – Preparation is everything. Each evening, before going to bed, I’d prepare everything for the next morning so that I could get up, get dressed and get out without disturbing the rest of the family.

5th – The early start meant that there was minimum disruption to family life. I replaced my morning tea making duties with a Teas Maid (one of those machines that makes your partner’s tea and were very popular in the 1970s. They are still available today). I was usually back for the normal morning routine before I was even missed.

6th – Riding early meant that some days I even got to ride twice, which in my book is an added bonus.

Ride number two of the day. Out with the big wheels.

7th – Once I got into work, I felt good that I had already run some oxygen through the lungs. I love my exercise and sometimes get a bit grumpy if events take over and prevent me from doing some. Exercising early in the morning meant that this could never happen and it was always within my control.

8th – Good nutrition helps massively to ensure that the body recovers and adapts to what you throw at it.

Banana powered.

9th – Ride a bike that it low maintenance and makes you smile – that’s why I ride my Brompton.

Low maintenance and lots of fun – the Brompton really can do it all.

10th – Just do it. I used to check the forecast and find the nicest part of the day to ride. Not anymore. 5.15 was departure time, whatever the weather. No procrastinating, no waiting for the rain to ease, the wind to drop, the rush hour to finish. Taking the procrastination option out of the equation make it so easy. I’m sure that I can learn more from that point alone.

The Monuments: Cycling’s five biggest one-day races

Five of the oldest, longest, toughest and most prestigious one-day professional road races in cycling are known under the heading of The Monuments.

For me, I find The Monuments almost as exciting as the Grand Tours (the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana).

Each of the five races has its own special character, whether it be the savage length (291km for Milan San Remo last year in 2016), cobbles, the sharp climbs or the weather.

The dates for the 2017 editions of the Monuments are as follows:

Milan San Remo.  Also know as La Primavera or The Sprinters’ Classic and takes place in Italy on  Saturday 18 March 2017.

Tour of Flanders.  Also know as De Ronde or Ronde van Vlannnderen and takes place in Belgium on Sunday 2 April 2017.

Paris Roubaix.  Also know as Hell of the North, Queen of Classics or La Pascale and takes place in France  on Sunday 9 April 2017.

Liege Bastogne Liege.  Also known as La Doyenne and takes place in Belgium on Sunday 23 April 2017.

Il Lombardia.  Also know as Giro di Lombardia or Race of the Falling Leaves (as it takes place in autumn rather than spring like the rest of the Monuments).  It takes place in Italy on Saturday 7 October 2017.

Action packed and very entertaining, I will certainly be following them all.


How to Die in the Mountains

How to Die in the Mountains

So I was clearing through some of my things and came across this poem.  I must have scribbled it down whilst I was doing some course (I used to do a lot of mountain walking and navigation courses, back in the day).

Anyway, I share it now on my blog, so that I have a record of it.

Seek no wisdom, leave no word

Common sense is too absurd.


Take no extra food or gear,

You’ll not need them, have no fear.


Do not fret if you’ve got no skill,

People like you are hard to kill.


We beg of you, before you die,

Pick a place that’s not too high.

Lent – what are you going to give up?

Lent runs from Wednesday 1 March to Saturday 15 April this year (2017).   By observing Lent, Christians are remembering the sacrifice of Jesus, who withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days before his crucifixion.  Traditionally, people have given up certain luxuries as a form of penance.

So for me, I’m going to give up the luxury of sleeping in until at least 6.30am each morning and set my alarm for 5.00am instead (in effect, I am giving up 90 minutes of warm bed action).

Giving up some sleep for Lent

Added to that, I am going to drag my sorry butt out of the front door and ride up the local hill, all before I normally surface.  Hopefully, I will see some nice pre-dawn scenes and even some sunrises as we progress towards spring in the northern hemisphere.

Finally, I’m going to be doing all this early morning riding on my Brompton Bicycle – a bike that is one of my favourites and enjoys a mad challenge.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

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My new favourite bike video – ever!

Danny Macaskill’s Wee Day Out

It’s official, this is my new favourite bike video – ever.  Thank you Danny Macaskill.  Thank you Red Bull.  Thank you Divine Comedy and The National Express.

Tricks include a leap onto a single train track, turning a hay bale into a giant unicycle, riding over a cottage, and disappearing into a 6ft puddle. There’s even a cameo from Danny’s dad, Peter.

Have a watch, you won’t regret it.  If there was ever a feel good bike video, this is it.

Ride London 100 on a Brompton Bicycle

Iconic bike with iconic background. Both Made In London.
Iconic bike with iconic background. Both Made In London.

Ride London is a fantastic weekend of cycling which takes over the centre of London each summer, and has done since the London Olympics in 2012.  The key event of the weekend is obviously the Brompton World Championships, and well done to both Mark and Issy on their continued dominance.

Brompton outside the Olympic Velodrome at the start of Ride London 100
Brompton outside the Olympic Velodrome at the start of Ride London 100

Another event that takes place is the Ride London 100.  This 100 mile ride starts at the Olympic Stadium, taking a route through London, out into the Surrey Hills and then back into London for a finish on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.  The roads are closed to all traffic, and taken over by 26,000 bicycles.  It is a wonderful, once in a life time experience.  If you think a bike version of the London Marathon, you won’t go far wrong.  Please check out this cool fly through of the route using this Link.

You may or may not know, but I am a huge fan of the Brompton bicycle.  I think that it is a massively capable machine, and with a little bit of extra effort, can easily match the performance of many road bikes.  I also like the reaction I get from people when I ride by them on my small wheeled wonder.  This was particularly apparent on Box Hill, and my calls of “On the right” to get people to pull over and let me pass on the narrow road, were followed by comments of disbelief from the rider that had just been passed.  “Wow, I didn’t know a Brompton could go so fast” or “I’ve just been passed by a Brompton” were the most common.

Box Hill on my Brompton. 295/8564 is not too bad.
Box Hill on my Brompton. 295/8564 is not too bad.

The support out on the road was fantastic throughout the whole event.  The Professional Road Race later in the day obviously draws the crowds, but the crowds were in full swing throughout the event.  And it was lovely to see some other Bromptons out on the route, again showing that the bike is far more than a foldable city bike.  The Brompton, in my opinion, is made for distance, travel, commuting, touring and even racing….. this bike can do it all.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

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That’s the way things have always been done around here!

Monkey and Banana

A colleague shared this with me.  I bet that you can relate to it in some way, either at work, home or even when training.

A group of scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage, and in the middle they placed a ladder with bananas on top.

Every time a monkey went up the ladder, the scientists soaked the remainder with ice cold water.

After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others beat that monkey up for going up the ladder.

After time, no monkey dare go up the ladder, regardless of the temptation of more bananas.

Scientists decided to substitute one of the monkeys and the first thing the new monkey did was go up the ladder. Immediately, the remaining monkeys beat him up.

After several more beatings, the new monkey learned not to climb the ladder, even though he never knew why.

A second monkey was substituted in and the same thing occurred. The first new monkey even participated in the beating of the second new monkey. A third new monkey was changed and the same process was repeated. The fourth was substituted in and the beating was repeated. Finally, the fifth and last remaining member of the original group of monkeys was replaced.

What was left was a group of 5 monkeys that even though they never received an ice cold shower, they continued to beat up any monkey who attempted to climb the ladder.

If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up all those who attempted to go up the ladder, their answer would probably be…..

I don’t know, that’s the way things have always been done round here….



Riding up Mt Ventoux on my Brompton, not once, but three times in a day. Job done.

Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux.  This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.
Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux. This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.

I have been lucky enough to have been riding a Brompton for about seven months now.  I say lucky, because this bike really can do it all, as I hope that I have proved by my latest challenge which involved riding up all three roads to the summit of Mt Ventoux in southern France.

A murky summit shot of the Brompton
A murky summit shot of the Brompton

Some say that Mt Ventoux is one of the hardest climbs in France.  Its brutal reputation was enhanced in 1967 when it claimed the life of the famous British cyclist Tommy Simpson, who collapsed and died just 500 metres away from the summit.  Eddy Merckx, arguably the world’s greatest cyclist, required oxygen at the summit after his battle with the mountain in 1970.  Roland Barthes, a French philosopher said, “Ventoux is the god of evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.”
For me, the appeal of Mt Ventoux is that you actually ride to the summit.  Most mountain stages on the three of the Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta d’Espana) ride over “Cols”, the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks, so you are rarely at the summit of a mountain.  This is logical, as why would road builders and engineers build roads up to the top of mountains, when they don’t need to?  Mt Ventoux is different, because the road goes right over the summit and when you are there you are on the roof of Provence, with no other mountains looming over you.  I find this quite a special feature.
So on a wet Friday lunchtime I got on the Eurostar (a train that goes from London to Paris) with my Brompton packed into the Brompton B Bag.  Once in Paris, I used the Metro to travel from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon where I got on the TGV (a French high speed train) to Avignon.  From Avignon it was just a short journey to my start point in Bedoin.  For me, having been a cyclist for many years now, one of the highlights of the Brompton is the ease with which you can take it anywhere; put it on a train, plane or bus, with minimal fuss and hassle, and have a bike with you at your destination.  In fact, according to both Eurostar and the French Railway Authorities, bikes aren’t even allowed on their high speed trains without prior arrangement.  No such issue when travelling with a Brompton.  Nobody even questioned me, with my Brompton safely packed in its B Bag, which conveniently fits into the luggage racks like a suitcase.  And once at your destination, it is a few seconds to unpack your bike and you are ready to ride – so simple.

Don't tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag.  Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling
Don’t tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag. Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling

On Saturday morning, I set out to ride all the three routes to the summit. My plan was simple:
• Bedoin to the summit
• Descend to Malaucene
• Eat something
• Malaucene to the summit
• Descend to Sault
• Eat something
• Sault to the summit
• Back to Bedoin.
• Eat, shower and sleep!
• Return home
Please excuse my lack of artistic talent, but this was my pictorial representation of what I was going to do.  You will notice that the total ascent in metres was 4400 (14,400ft), which equals a tough mountain stage in the Tour de France.

The plan for the day
The plan for the day

And I have to say that it all went to plan.  I only took one summit shot, as the weather conditions deteriorated throughout the day, going from light drizzle through to thunderstorms with some hail thrown in for good measure.  But actually, the rain had quite a nice cooling effect on the way up and overheating and dehydration were not going to be an issue.
I also stopped to take a photo of the weather station, getting a good view from the ride up from Malaucene.  I could not help thinking that it looks quite like a giant syringe, a touch ironic given cycling’s shady history with doping.

Weather station or giant syringe?  Mt Ventoux
Weather station or giant syringe? Mont Ventoux

And to reinforce the syringe image, I found this poster in Bedoin…

The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux
The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux

I am constantly amazed at what this bike can do.  Mountains, long distance, commuting, travelling, you name it.  This bike can do it all.  With a bit of modification to carry water bottles, I would happily ride this bike anywhere, any distance, any time.

Bottle carriage on a Brompton
Bottle carriage on a Brompton

Yes, it might be slightly heavier than your average road bike, but it is twice as robust and can travel with you anywhere.  Yes, you may get lots of people asking you about it, but that’s what happens when you are riding a fantastic piece of British innovation.  Yes, you might get a few strange looks, but I say “bring it on” and now ask me how far I’m going?  For me, this all adds to its appeal. I have loved bicycles all of my life.  I have quite a few of them.  And do you know what, knowing what a Brompton is capable of, I could probably sell them all and just ride a Brompton for the rest of my life.

#ImPerfect #ThisBikeCanDoItAll
Safely home.  This bike is made for small spaces.
Safely home. This bike is made for small spaces.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

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Volume vs Intensity – The endurance athlete’s conundrum

volume vs intensity

I think that if you are an endurance athlete of any type, to become good at it you need to do it a lot. Someone once told me that you should train as much as you can without doing any the following:

– breaking down
– burning out
– losing your job
– losing your spouse

Most of the science points to the fact that the sheer amount of time you train has a stronger effect on your performance than any other factor. And according to Matt Fitzgerald, in his very good book called “Racing Weight“, the reason has to do with efficiency. He says that a low-volume, high-intensity approach to training will increase your aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), as much as a high-volume, low intensity program. On a high-intensity programme, however, you stop improving as soon as your VO2 Max hits a genetically defined ceiling, which doesn’t take long (hence the success of time crunched, high intensity programmes, seeing quick gains). But, he argues, with a high-volume programme, you become more and more efficient the longer you keep doing it, and so your race performances keep improving too.

The reason the high volume yields ongoing efficiency gains is that each time you take a stride, or turn the pedals, it is an opportunity to practice that movement. The more you repeat it, the more practice you get. This gives your neuromuscular system chance to find more ways to trim waste from the movement pattern.

So I would conclude that efficiency is what we are striving for.  And that comes from practice, and more practice.

Thanks for reading.  If you would like to get in touch, please follow me on Twitter and contact me via this social media channel.  If I am mentioned in your Tweet, I will always get back to you.  Thank you for taking time out to read my post.

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The Uncertainty of the Poet by Wendy Copes

I love this poem – hope you do, too!

I am a poet.
I am very fond of bananas.

I am bananas.
I am very fond of a poet.

I am a poet of bananas.
I am very fond.

A fond poet of ‘I am, I am’-
Very bananas.

Fond of ‘Am I bananas?
Am I?’-a very poet.

Bananas of a poet!
Am I fond? Am I very?

Poet bananas! I am.
I am fond of a ‘very.’

I am of very fond bananas.
Am I a poet?

Fitness in your forties