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.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Random acts of kindness! Warning - minimal cycling mentioned.

There is a movement that I have been aware of for some time - random acts of kindness and this last week it has happened to me twice!

Firstly on Tuesday I took my wife's car to be washed professionally. When I arrived in St Asaph the car wash was closed so I went for a coffee at a place called Jacob's Ladder.
View Larger Map. Don't you just love street furniture!?

I ordered a coffee and chatted to the owner for 5 minutes as I drank it. At this point her colleague came in with various supplies for the day, bought on the way in to work including a light fitting which she and the owner proceeded to puzzle over. I listened for a moment and then said that these were easy to fit. The owner of the CafĂ© said "Would you?" Of course I couldn't refuse really, could I. There ensued a search for 1) a screwdriver (eventually found - origin, a Christmas Cracker!), 2) a ladder (no such luck so a chair was positioned - did someone dare to mention Health and Safety. Wash your mouth out!) and 3) the switch at the fuse box (this I did insist on as I have had a few shocking experiences in the past). The job was done in 5 minutes and when I returned to finish my coffee the £2 coin I had paid with, and which had been part of the preceding conversation, it being a 2009 Robbie Burns commemorative one, was on the saucer of my cup of coffee.

I tried to say that it was not necessary or even fair. I had simply offered to fit the lamp holder as a favour. The owner saw it differently and felt that a coffee was a fair trade for the job. Now I'm not one to argue except when I am being paid to (which I am!) so we agreed to leave things as they were and I finished my coffee and went back to the car wash.

Today it happened again. We went to Llandudno for various things, bits and pieces for our daughter Charlotte to make Children in Need cakes and biscuits to sell at school and to go to the pictures to see Tintin (worth seeing in my view). We went into three shops looking for cellophane bags for the cookies and buns and in the last they had some at 2 pence each but only the one bag that was open and in use at the back of the shop. When we said what we wanted them for the shop owner gave us his entire stock for nothing!  The shop - Let Them Eat Cake. They have some great cake decorations as well.

It makes me feel that there is still some hope left that kindness and generosity are alive and well in the world.

Incidentally I have been out on the bike once or twice and in the gym as well - it's been a busy week, OK!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weather, life and frustration.

I had thought that I would try and do the Arthur 2 Times route on Thursday. It was not to be, mainly due to the unpredictable weather and life in all its many frustrating guises - the car needed two new tyres, I had an appointment at the hairdresser (which was the opportunity to get on the bike and do this) and so on ad infinitum.

On Friday there was more to do and another appointment close to home which I cycled to as it is half the distance than that of the drive (and driving would have been lazy and wasteful to boot)! Before this I had done the shopping (what I get for being off work and as it's a long time since I did it I was shocked at the cost!). I ended up at the gym instead of on the bike so at least I got some exercise. I also weighed myself and was pleasantly surprised.

Today - lots more to do so I did not get out on the bike until late in the day. I did a short route up a hill and got a real surprise. I know the view is good at one point on the ride but tonight it is clear and I could see for miles - out to the Irish Sea at Rhyl and Prestatyn. Why have I never got a camera with me when I need one?


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Where does this go...

Following on from last time I remain off work with little contact and glad of it in some ways. I had been informed that I would be referred to Occupational Health. Whether this has happened or not I don't know as I have not heard from them. I am not really surprised (sigh!). I have come to expect little else from work.

Cycling, on the other hand is something I am in control of to a great extent. I can choose whether to go out on the bike and when I go out I can choose where I go and how far. I have a stock of routes varying from short ones which can be tackled when I have a spare 20 or 30 minutes to longer routes which are usually planned in advanced (they are all mapped here). This is something that I need at the moment and control is the word that carries the greatest meaning at a time when I feel that I have lost the ability to control what happens.

When out on the bike I find the space and time to think about what went wrong and led to me going off work. Alternatively I can get into the cycling zone and NOT think about work or anything else other that how I am doing in terms of fitness, how the bike is running and just enjoying the scenery (that is, when I can get enough breath into my lungs to think about anything at all!).  I suspect that when I am in the zone my mind is working through other matters at a different level, and with the assistance of the positive mental effects of exercise I tend to feel better after a good ride.

Arthur 2 Times route detail.
I was somewhat thwarted yesterday by my own silly mistake. I intended to do this route (Arthur 2 Times), varying it by starting from Denbigh instead of Cilcain and joining the route at the marked point. I took a wrong road resulting in me getting lost and retracing my steps. Because of this I ran out of time and came home instead of completing the ride. Whilst the ride was enjoyable and the weather was fine even if a bit cold and the scenery of the Clwyds is stunning as always I found that I felt defeated, which at the moment is not pleasant or helpful. It was my own mistake. There is nobody else to blame as I was completely in control of circumstances and should have been paying more attention to what I was doing or printed the route map and taken it with me. Nothing like planning at times like this.

That was yesterday and I cannot let things like this affect me as much as they seem to. I will try again, maybe today if I get my finger out and organise myself. Oh well, I can hear the ironing calling...