Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gutter trash!

Cycling, however quickly one goes is still slow enough progress that one notices the surroundings - the scenery, the wildlife (either seen or heard), people, both walkers and other cyclists and sadly lots of rubbish in the verges and gutters at the side of the road.

It strikes me that this is a symptom of a civilised society with Big Government. Over the years as a driver and a tax payer I have noticed that there are certain people who seem to believe that they have a god-given right to throw their rubbish out of the window of their car whilst hurtling along without a care in the world. This rubbish usually takes the form of empty bottles, coffee cups and food containers from fast food outlets and something I find disgusting in the extreme - plastic bottles filled with urine, tossed carelessly from van windows by lazy, feckless yobs who can't be bothered to stop and find a toilet. When driving one tends not to notice all this detritus because of the rate of progress. As a cyclist one notices it all, in all its sordid glory.

I contend that this is a symptom of a civilised society and that Big Government bears some responsibility because the taxes most (but by no means all) of us pay fund environmental services whose role it is to manage and therefore clear up the monumental quantities of rubbish we produce.

Therein lies the problem which generates an attitude to rubbish that is toxic to the environment we live in - "Someone will clear it up", "It keeps people in employment", "I pay my taxes for someone else to sort it out". Trouble is we don't pay anywhere near enough tax to pay for everything we expect it to pay for so the rubbish accumulates at the roadside, turning our beautiful country into a tip. Local Councils cannot afford to employ enough workers to patrol all the roads and clear up what the selfish a careless deposit wherever it takes their fancy to leave it (and I include dog owners who don't clear up the mess their dogs leave behind). I could take on the task of clearing some of it up myself, a Herculean task which would prevent me from cycling and walking in the stunning North Wales countryside.

Sadly I have not got an answer for this dilemma. I have neither the time or the dedication to start a clear-up campaign. I can only wish and hope that those irresponsible members of society will grow up and realise that part of being a member of a democratic society is an adult sense of personal responsibility. So many of them believe that they have rights, but with rights come responsibilities.

Rant over!

There was, in fact a purpose in the reference to rubbish in the gutters and verges. I went out today for a ride that was intended to form part of the training for my forthcoming Sport Relief challenge and therefore includes an obligatory hill climb. I have attempted today's hill once before and had to stop twice. This time I adopted a new climbing strategy - many little targets and a steady rhythm. Rather than push too hard and look up slope to the farthest visible point of the climb I focus on thing in the near distance - a small pot hole or something else that stands out - rubbish in the gutter! Most of the detritus at the edge of the road is a uniform brown at this time of year, leaf litter and the like. The rubbish stands out in this background, colourful - garish even - but a target nonetheless. As strategies go it is fairly simple and it worked today. I got up to the top of Caerwys Hill without stopping.

It felt great!

Here is where I got to.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Sport Relief

Just a short post to say that I have signed up to do some fund-raising for Sport Relief by cycling up a hill and round a couple of lakes on the Denbigh Moors. The route is a combination of three that I have done in the past and includes the challenging Peniel Hill - a 17% gradient. Lots of training for that alone. I got in a good training ride on Sunday. I'm fitter than I think after the excesses of Christmas and the New Year.

Oh yes! While I'm here I realised anew why I live and work in North Wales today. I was driving on the A55 eastbound between Llangefni and Bangor this morning. The weather was glorious and the meeting I had just been at went well. I was suddenly confronted with a panoramic view of Snowdonia, covered in a light dusting of snow and topped with cloud.

Breathtaking! Achingly beautiful and majestic! Mere words do not do it justice. Nor does the phone camera. I must remember to carry a camera with me.



Thursday, January 19, 2012


I hate winter. Don't get me wrong. I don't suffer from SAD or anything else but Winter is a time of year when the bike spends most of it's time in the garage because of the weather, because of work, because of the short hours of daylight.

I try and get out at the weekend and also try and get to the gym as often as possible. I went to the gym tonight. It was so busy there were queues!

The problem with cycling in the dark is that many of the roads around here are unlit, narrow and bendy. It doesn't matter how much high visibility kit I have, both on the bike and clothing on me, as a cyclist I am at risk. In my view (and, more importantly, my wife's) the risks are too great and so I don't go out. I don't mind the cold and rain so much and will set out in it at the weekend. The difference being that it is light and I can be seen.

Last weekend I tackled another hill that has been calling to me for some time. Now before you scoff it is not a very long and arduous climb with only 2 short Cat 5 sections but then I'm no spring chicken (coming up on the mumblemumblemumbleth anniversary of my 42nd year)  and nor am I the fittest bloke in the world so it feels good when I take on a challenge and succeed.

Here is the route...

...and it was a gloriously sunny and frosty day.

I suppose that there are some things to like about winter after all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hill madness (at least for me)!

Well, as planned I did get out yesterday after a rather prolonged Christmas break which I can only put down to sloth (I make no apology for this as we had a great Christmas and New Year). The weather is unseasonably mild for the time of year - no sign of frost although we have had plenty of gales and rain. This time last year we had had one severe cold spell and were heading for another.

I had spent the morning doing other things and watching the rain come and go 3 or 4 times. By lunchtime I had decided that I would go out and sod the weather. The rain stopped about 1.30pm so I quickly got changed and took off without a real sense of which direction I would go in.

I found myself heading up Vale Street in Denbigh with the thought that I would either go to Nantglyn or tackle my nemesis - Peniel Hill. The first decision point is at just short of 4km and I took the hard road up Peniel Hill. I have posted about this hill before and I still can't get to the top without stopping 3 or 4 times even in the granny gear! The next decision junction was the other side of Peniel Hill at 8km where I could choose to go onwards and upwards or turn right to Nantglyn. The sun was out at this point so not a hard choice really and I crossed the junction to head up to Llyn Brenig (a large reservoir). The climbing becomes easier from that point - steadily upwards but undulating giving some relief and allowing continuous progress.

The next choice came at the top of the hill and now time was a factor. Should I take the road and head home to make sure I was back in time for our daughter getting home from school or did I have time to set off round the lake on the trail. I know the Brenig - not a challenge to ride round other than a bit of mud and plenty of potholes so I unlocked the front forks and took off on the trail. I got to the Visitor Centre café just as it was closing and entered successful pleadings for a take-out cuppa! (I think they took sympathy!)

Shots of the Brenig and the bike

The lake looked very atmospheric at 3pm as the sun was heading towards the horizon. Sadly the phone camera does not do it justice. The bike looks good, all muddy against a slate wall (a personal opinion) and it is turning out to be a pretty good choice for more that just commuting.

I was home just before 4pm after thoroughly enjoying the descent back down to Denbigh (always a blast).

I plan to do a charity ride for Sport Relief and this might just be the start of the training.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

The 8th already!!?

Oh my goodness!

Here we are, well into the new year and I have not been out on the bike. My last outing was a relatively flat ride through the Vale of Clwyd on 31st December - always a treat due to the scenery, the song thrushes singing and new-born lambs in day-glo orange gillets to keep the rain off.

The route ends up in Ruthin, an historic market town and the half way point.

The road back is quite busy and there are some idiots who seem to think that bikes don't need much room. Fortunately they were few on the day so all in all it was a good ride.

I only have pathetic excuses for not getting out since last year - 60mph winds, lashing rain and hail, cold, dark when I get up and dark when I get in from work (yes I'm finally back at work after rather an extended period off) and so on.

The main motivator is the excesses of the festive period. I have put weight back on that I had previously lost. Lots of hard work is called for now.

I really will have to get out tomorrow as I have the bonus of an extra days leave left over from last year (I had miscalculated). The weather is set to be tame in comparison to the last week or so, therefore no excuses.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Do I really want to commute to work?

In October I did a ride that forms part of the proposed commute to work. It was a round trip of about 30km which roughly equates to the total distance from home to the office and can be seen here. 30 km has been about my comfortable limit so far as my fitness improves and I have reached the point where I am planning longer rides.

Well today I pushed things out a bit and did a longer section of the commute, at 43km round trip.

The weather was OK - cloudy and cold (5 or 6 centigrade) with a light wind which was behind or to the side on the way out. The route is fairly flat - rolling or bumpy as they say in cycling circles and mostly on roads upto the A55 where there is a cycle path to Bodelwyddan. Once there it's back to roads, although low traffic until the A548 is reached. At Abergele I took a short cut to Pensarn wherre I can pick up the coastal cycle path which will take me all the way to Old Colwyn hugging the coast. I can think of worse places to be cycling! The view out across the bay is outstanding almost any time of year.

I will have to do a few more rides of this kind of distance to improve my fitness further leading up to tackling the ride to work and back. If I can do the whole 60 plus km in one go then the commute will be far easier as it will be  30km twice, sandwiched around a days work in an office. I just need to pursuade the company to install a shower or hope tha there is one in the new premises when we eventually move.

Per ardua ad astra.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New bike! New challenge!

It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted here and in that time I have finally got the Cycle to Work certificate to go and get a new bike. The Scheme lets you buy a bike through salary sacrifice pre-tax and make a saving in that you pay a bit less tax for 12 months and get a bike through a hire purchase agreement. The intention is to encourage people to cycle to work and I will be doing so as often as possible. The route is a bit of a challenge at almost 30km.

Now I know I can cycle 30km plus without too much trouble in around one and a half hours. Whether I can do that twice in a day is another matter. There are no hills to speak of on the route so the wind is going to be the biggest factor. We shall see.

Now to the bike. I collected it from 69 Cycles in Chester on Thursday last week. The guys in the shop were very friendly and helped me with kit and accessories for commuting. This is what I bought - 

I added mudguards, lights, 2 bottle cages (one for a rescue kit) and pedals which allow me to clip in for greater efficiency. The pedals are double sided so that I have a choice whether to clip in or not. I also bought some winter kit and a new helmet and cycling shoes with cleats.

Riding a bike when you are attached to the pedals is a weird sensation to begin with and carries risks which I have already discovered (I fell over when I couldn't get my feet loose from the pedals in time!). At least there was no traffic on the road when it happened! Steep learning curve. Ho hum.

I have been out on it 3 times and the ride is so much better than the old bike - easier and quicker. More gears to play with as well. Plenty of Rule#5 and Rule#10 to be applied! I will detail rides in forthcoming posts.