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Photographs

I wanted to share these gorgeous panorama photos from Saturday’s ride. Click them to view in full, as they’re much more impressive that way!

(You can read about the ride from guest blogger George, here.)

All photos by Cameron Cooke (taken on his precious iPhone 5)

From the nervous novice…

I have to admit that whilst I’m ever eager to hear about my friend Lois’s cycling pursuits, I was nervous about joining her for a ride.

For starters, I don’t own a bike. I haven’t owned a bike for 20 years and my last one was so rubbish that it eventually got cannibalised for go-cart parts by the boys in my street. Secondly, I’ve ridden a bike only once in 20 years – I hired an old fashioned bike for the afternoon to do some island sightseeing in Japan. But since Lois’s cycling passion has been so infectious this last month, I bit the bullet and boyf and I hired a couple of bikes so we could join in. Classic, what I think of as granny-style road bikes from Amsterdammers, under Brighton station – the bargain price of £10 per bike for the day.

We knew immediately that these bikes were a good decision – boyf said his was far easier to ride than the (slightly cooler looking) mountain bike he’d started the day with. My bike had 7 gears and a bell – that’s 7 more gears than I’ve ever used on a bike and whilst this terrified me, I worked out how to use them within 5 minutes (for which I expected applause).

I was mainly persuaded to join this ride on the promise of good coffee and pastries, but nonetheless after eating my fill I was genuinely excited to set off. From the bandstand, we headed along the super easy seafront cycle path up to Brighton Marina and on towards Rottingdean and I don’t think we could have picked a more beautiful and sunny day to be beside the sea.

In no time at all, we’d made it past the pier, behind the marina and up to the end of the under cliff path at Saltdean. We took a breather and enjoyed the sight of the amazing blue sky against the white cliffs and rock pools, where the tide had gone out. I’d forgotten how much I liked the under cliff path, but I’m just too lazy to walk it –a win for the bike, it took me no time to ride there.

We doubled back to the café at Ovingdean – bacon sarnies for the boys, cheeky flapjack for me (I could definitely see me joining more bike rides if they were book ended with cake). The ride had been so pleasant and gentle (all six miles of it so far), that I didn’t feel even slightly deserving of a cake stop –clearly, not that I’d let it stop me.

We cycled back to Brighton, waving goodbye at the pier to the hard core cyclists who were heading back to Uckfield (muchos respect for the distance, chaps), as we cycled back towards Hove (12 miles in total). Once we’d reached our starting point, I was sufficiently enthused to suggest we make the most of the day’s bike hire and continue to Southwick and back. With hindsight, I should have recognised my enthusiasm to continue might have outweighed boyf’s, but a total of 18 miles and two rather sore bottoms later, we returned our rented bikes feeling like we’d had good use out of them. Pretty respectable for novices, I think.

It’s definitely true that you notice your surroundings much more on 2 wheels. I was aware that I could smell the hedgerows and the sea salt and flowers that I’d never had noticed even on foot – I think cycling must heighten your senses. I also realised you have to take responsibility for yourself even more than you do in a car. A couple of times when I was spinning along, kids with scooters or bikes strayed into the cycle lane (I even saw a wheel chair in there), all of which are obstacles you need to negotiate or both of you will come to harm. I don’t think I’d stop to appreciate how frustrated cyclists must feel when people walk in the cycle lanes – it’s not easy to stop if they don’t move. As a pedestrian, I’m going to have to pay even more attention to the cycle lanes in future.

So how did I feel about cycling at the end of this? Genuinely interested. And if the next ride is on a sunny day and does similar wonders for my tan, I’m definitely in.

This is a guest post from my friend @georgecole, who came along for the Brighton Breakfast Ride on Day 22.

George with the hire bikes. (Photo by Cameron Cooke)

 

Day 23 – Puncture in the rain

It doesn’t always go to plan.

I headed out this morning with every intention of an hour long ride before heading to London for the rest of the day. Instead, I got less than 15 minutes down the road, and punctured my back tyre. Of course this was on the one day that I didn’t take any equipment with me. So I pushed Claud home in the pouring rain and had a coffee.

Frustration.

Day 22 – Breakfast Bike Ride

This morning a bunch of us drank some very nice coffee, ate some very nice pastries, and went on a very nice sunny ride along the coast. A great time was had by all, but arguably the most fun was had by my wonderful friend George, who will be writing a guest blog post which will feature here soon. I’ll let her tell you all about the ride in her post, and just leave you with some photos from today.

(Want to come next time?)

Breakfast part one!

Cameron & George on Brighton seafront

The view from the undercliff.

“Team Breakfast”: George, Cam, John, Sid, me, my old man, Kelvin. (Dad, Sid and Kelvin cycled from Uckfield for the ride…good work!)

 

 

Day 21 – Scream if you want to go faster.

Ultimately, I cycle for the fun of it. The enjoyment of riding a bike. I get an immense amount of pleasure just from pedalling along the seafront at 5 miles an hour. However, the more I ride a bike the more I find myself wanting to get “better” at it. I mean riding faster, and for longer.

I get a kick out of cycling, even if it is not very far and not very fast. I’m willing to bet that kick will get better, the further and the faster that I go. And what if I’m going really fast? That would feel really good, right? Ok, now what about if I’m not the only one riding really fast, but I’m sharing the road with a bunch of other riders who are all pushing their limits too? Exciting as hell, I imagine. How about if I’m having to find every bit of energy in my body, energy I didn’t know I had, pushing past the pain in my legs, into riding a bike over a finish line…that’s got to be more exhilarating than anything, surely?

It’s the World Championships women’s road race tomorrow. I’m going to watch it, and remind myself how good it can get.

Day 19 – Utility Cycling

Brighton is a fairly bicycle-friendly place – there are bike lanes and cycle paths across most of the city. So, no excuses not to cycle everywhere, right? Wrong. Whilst I have always enjoyed pootling along the seafront on my bicycle, just for fun, when it comes to utility cycling (shopping, getting to a meeting etc) I have mostly been less than enthusiastic. During 30 days of biking I’ve done lots of this sort of cycling, and I have to say that I take (nearly) all of my moaning back.

Let’s go through some excuses (previously used by myself), and why they are rubbish:

“I could drive.”

You could. But it would cost you money in petrol and parking, you’ll probably get stuck in traffic, and you could be cycling instead!

“I could get a bus. That would be much less effort.” 

I use buses a lot. But I am trying to replace short bus journeys with a bike ride, and it has been an excellent choice. Since making the decision to cycle to a weekly meeting on the other side of Brighton, I have saved over £16/month in bus fares. It is also quicker!

“I don’t want to arrive at a meeting drenched in sweat and smelling like a teenage boy.”

Before I go any further, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that I am a world-class sweater. I’m not talking about jumpers, I’m talking about perspiration. I could perspire for England. So I feel that I can talk with authority on this subject.

Here are some expert tips:

- Wear super duper roll-on deodorant. ‘Man deodorant’ for some stupid reason is much better than ‘lady deodorant’. We women don’t sweat, apparently. Ha!

- Take a spare top rolled up in your bag (if you roll it up it won’t get creased).

- Allow plenty of time for your journey. If you’re not having to rush, there’s much less chance you’ll get sweaty in the first place.

“I will inevitably ruin my trousers in some kind of bike chain/fabric incident.”

I’ve never actually encountered this problem, but that is probably because I keep my bike clean and my jeans slim! Flares belong in the 70′s, but if you insist on wearing them, you’re going to have to tuck them in your socks or get some sexy trouser clips. Suit trousers can be a problem, but it is avoidable. My good friend Dave cycles to work in central London, and he has the right idea here:

“I have premonitions of my shopping bags splitting and watching tins of beans rolling down the road.”

This one is simple – take a proper bag. Hanging plastic bags on handlebars is a disaster waiting to happen. Either get paniers for your bike, or a comfy satchel/backpack.

“It’s RAINING!”

Put on something waterproof and get on with it ;-)

 

Day 16 – Bikes and Beer

This will be a short post, because I’m rather knackered after 45 miles of cycling.

We went on a lovely group ride today. Apart from the disappointment of my flatmate’s bike having a major mechanical fail, and having to leave him in Brighton, the day was a great success. A bunch of us met in Lewes, having travelled from Brighton, Woodingdean and Newick. We took the scenic route (with only one wrong turn, that wasn’t my fault!..) to Alfriston, where we met another friend and indulged in beer and pub food.

The route back to Brighton after lunch was the fun bit. And by fun, I mean hilly. The ‘High and Over’ into Seaford was steep, to say the least, and as we rode along the coast there was an unforgiving sea wind against us the whole way.

As ever, the views on the ride were wonderful. Rolling hills, fields of hay bales, pretty old buildings and later on the white horses of the English channel and the rolling cliffs along the coast. The photos taken on my phone don’t do them any justice.

All in all, a good Sunday.

Thanks to George, James, Rob and Sid for coming along today!

Laughton(ish)

Berwick

It’s a sign!

James, Sid and Rob at the pub

George with his heavy, heavy bike…

‘High and Over’ into Seaford

Apparently I wasn’t amused by the idea of a photograph after getting to the top of this hill….

Days 13 & 14 – Childhood Memories.

My cousin got a bike for her 5th birthday. It is red, with white tyres, and a seat for her dolly on the back. She loves it. Watching her do loops around the patio on her new dream machine got me thinking about my own memories of cycling as a child, and how the things that made it exciting back then are essentially the same as the things that make it exciting now.

Independence.

Riding a bike was one of the few situations in which I was allowed to go out on my own as a child. My brother and I would spend whole afternoons in the school holidays just cycling around the quiet roads, or taking our bikes to the woods with friends to build dens. Nobody strapping you in to the back of a car, nobody holding your hand, or telling you which way to go.

I might be able to drive a car or take a train on my own these days, but there is still no feeling of independence quite like riding a bike. You don’t rely on petrol, and you don’t rely on timetables and schedules. If you have a problem, you fix it yourself. And if you get lost, you’ve only yourself to blame…

Landscape.

The woods near our house seemed like an endless expanse as a child. An endless expanse that, by the time I was ten, I knew like the back of my hand. There was the oak tree with the low hanging branch that you could climb onto and use as a giant see-saw, and the narrow gap between two rocks that grown ups couldn’t fit through, but led to our secret den. I recall feeling very close to those woods, and feeling a sense of comfort from the fact that nobody could take them away from me.

Now I have all the roads of this country for my playground, and I have never felt closer to Sussex than since I started exploring it on a bike.

Hemingway sums this up with more eloquence than I could ever manage:

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

[Ernest Hemingway]

Adventure.

I can still remember the first time I went on a ‘proper’ bike ride with my dad. We got out an OS map, and worked out exactly where we’d go. With hindsight, he already knew where we going with no need for a map, but let me help him plan the route anyway. We were off on an adventure! It was 5 miles, that ride, but it felt epic. We passed streams and bluebells and pubs and tractors. We stopped on the side of the road for squash and biscuits. We got home and I told mum every detail, over hot chocolate, of course.

This morning I was pouring over the very same old OS map, planning a route. And I had just the same feeling. I’m off on an adventure!

You remember that feeling when you were a kid; you’d take your old battered hand-me-down bike, brakes rubbing on the wheel rims, saddle split at the seams, if you had gears only 3 of them would work, but it didn’t matter, you were off on an adventure with friends, to build a dam in the stream or to tear it up in the woods, or build a ramp out of bits of plywood you found in your dad’s garage …

[Mark Tearle, 30 Days of Biking UK.]

At the field near our house.

On holiday, aged 4(ish)

New bike! And I have animal stickers on my bicycle helmet. So all in all, pretty fly.

 

Day 10 – Riding in Brighton

It’s good to be home in Brighton. I love where I live, and it’s close to lots of good places to ride a bike. Working from home can leave me in need of a change of scenery, so sometimes instead of a tea break I whizz to the bottom of my road and cycle a length of the seafront.

Tonight I put my bike lights on, cycled along the seafront path to the pier, and then back the other way to Hove. Three times. (Just ’cause I can.)

I even took Claud on the bandstand for a dance…

Day 8 – The Big Smoke

I promise I did cycle on days 6 and 7, but it mostly involved going and getting milk from Lidl, and there’s only so much I can say about that.

So…Day 8!

This morning I took Claud on the train to London Bridge, and then rode to ‘Look Mum No Hands!’ for breakfast with a friend (who also arrived by bike, of course). So, other than the walls being covered in bicycles and bike related paraphernalia, what makes a ‘cycle cafe’ a cycle cafe? A bike workshop, a bike shop, and lots of cyclists drinking coffee (very nice coffee, I should add). Apart from anything else, it was nice not to be stared at for arriving wearing a slightly sweaty cycling jersey!

Since getting more into riding my bike in the last year, I’ve quickly learnt that there is really quite a community amongst cyclists. Most of this ‘community’ I have experienced through Twitter, or through stopping and chatting to friendly folk on the roadside. Cafe’s like LMNH are, perhaps, a more tangible manifestation of this community. Next time I go I’ll say ‘hi’ to a few strangers, and see if my theory works out.

After a couple of sunny hours in the park, I rode over to Hoxton to check out the ARTCRANK exhibition that opened last night in the Plain Walls Project’s space. A combination of screen-printed poster art and bicycles sounded too good to be true. Probably just as well that I didn’t go to the launch party, because I’m not sure I could cope with the excitement of all that and beer…

Lastly, there was the ride home. I’m staying at my brother’s place in the Croydon area, so the trip involved 10 miles of Big-London-Road cycling through Kennington, Brixton and Streathem. I actually enjoyed most of the ride, apart from on a few very busy bits of road with too many double decker buses and angry taxis. I’ve concluded that my biggest dislike about cycling in London is not the traffic, or the roads, but the horrible feeling of breathing in pollution. I was constantly wanting a drink: the grime and dust dried out my mouth with every breath.  I take it for granted cycling on roads of Sussex that the air is relatively ‘clean’ and fresh. Turns out bus exhaust makes your nose hurt, and your face grubby.

London, you were fun, but the roads call me home to Sussex by the sea.

Days 4 & 5

On Day 4 I was humbly reminded of my total lack of a sense of direction. I also ended up on a very narrow, very bumpy bit of the South Downs Way, which Claud’s tyres did not approve of. All part of the adventure though, eh?!

Anyway, I eventually took this route, which was lovely: Brighton > Pyecombe > Clayton > Ditchling > Wivelsfield > Hayward’s Heath.

It was a beautiful, sunny evening and I ended the ride with a grin on my face.

This is where it began…

…and this is where it ended.

Day 5 – one of my best friends got married today! I cycled a mile to the station, and that is all. (I did do a speedy 20k on an exercise bike, but I don’t think that counts…)

 

 

Day 3

10 miles from Uckfield to Lewes today, with a heavy backpack. Lovely and sunny in Lewes though! A longer ride planned for tomorrow…

Day 2

Off to Hampshire today with my cousins, so I just popped to their local village shop on my bike this morning. Turns out I can carry 2 shopping bags and cycle up a hill..

I actually wish I had time to go on a longer ride here, as the roads are quiet and it’s very pretty.

 

 

 

Day 1 – The roads of Sussex

I wasn’t in any state for a long ride this morning, having worked late and had four hours sleep last night. Today’s ride was 14 miles on the roads of my beautiful home county, Sussex.

The ride today took me out of Brighton over Devil’s Dyke and then through Woodmancote, Henfield, Shermanbury and Cowfold, until I met a friend a bit past Bolney. I can still remember the first time I tried to cycle Devil’s Dyke; I almost passed out. I’ve also done it on a hangover with similarly dire consequences. It felt good to do the whole thing in one go today.

Some conclusions from today’s ride…

Things I like about cycling on the roads of Sussex:

  • The views. Oh the views! Going over Devils Dyke you can see rolling green hills, a view across Brighton, and the sparkling sea. I honestly don’t think life gets much better than reaching the top of a hill on your bike and being greeted by a stunning view.
  • Other cyclists. Being a Saturday, I saw lots of other cyclists out on the roads today. I get a warm little feeling saying ‘hello’ to them as they pass (even if they ignore me). I’ve been helped out several times by friendly cyclists too, in particular back when I first started riding and didn’t know how to fix a puncture…
  • The hills. Quote me on that when I commit an entire post to how much my legs ache after a particularly hilly ride.

Things I dislike about cycling on the roads of Sussex:

  • Potholes. Last week I was nearly chucked off my bike by a particularly massive hole in the road.
  • Roadkill. Today I saw one dead fox, one dead badger, and two dead rabbits :-(

I’ll leave it at that for Day 1. Bring on the next 29…

 

1 day to go!

30 Days of Biking begins tomorrow, so I thought I’d share a little bit more with you about myself, and my bike.

I wanted to start this blog for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one was to prove that you don’t have to be super-fit, experienced or the owner of an expensive bike to enjoy cycling and see its benefits.

I’ve had a couple of bicycles over the years. My last bike that I have any memory of was a hand-me-down from my mum: it was 20 years old when I inherited it, but a nice old bike nonetheless. It had a basket on the front and I used it for my weekly shop. Shortly after moving to a new flat in Brighton, some nasty bugger stole that bike from the railings it was chained to (lesson learnt: keep your bike inside if you live in the city).

A family friend gave me an (old, rusty) bike to replace the stolen one, which I was very thankful for, but did not enjoy riding. After a few months of riding the rust-bucket, the gears had given up. The final nail in the coffin was when my boyfriend at the time rode it through a muddy field and got the chain stuck…permanently. Once again, I was left bikeless! So, naturally, in this time of need I turned to Twitter…

After my friend Mark (_BLIXA_) retweeted me, the wonderful Kim Piper replied to say that she had a Claud Butler road bike sitting in her shed, which she would happily give to a loving home free of charge. Claud (as he will now be known) had been Kim’s first road bike, and she’d cycled London to Paris on him. I drove to Kim’s work place, and took Claud home in the back of my car. The next day I took him to be serviced by the lads at Future Cycles in Lewes, and rode him proudly home! The rest, as they say, is history.

So now you know a little about Claud, allow me to tell you just a bit about myself.

Before March of this year, when I started some training for the London to Brighton night ride, I had never cycled more than 10 miles. Ask any of my friends about my ‘hobbies’ and I can absolutely guarantee that anything sport, exercise or fitness related will not feature. Up until fairly recently I didn’t even own a pair of trainers, let alone any lycra!

That should have you convinced that I am neither experienced nor particularly fit. I still regularly feel like I might die when ascending a steep hill. All that said, it gets a bit easier every time I ride, and you learn to love the hills (no, really, you do.)

Words can’t quite portray the feeling of riding a bike. All your senses are heightened, and you notice things that you would whizz past without a second thought in a car. You can stop, just to take it all in, still sat on your top tube. And the satisfaction of covering distance on two wheels is infinitely more than on four.

I think I have fallen in love with cycling. If I still feel that way after the next 30 days, then it must be true love. Watch this space!

Hello!

I’ll be starting this blog properly on the 1st of September, when Autumn’s bonus round of 30 Days of Biking begins. If you don’t know what that is, you should read about it here.

Simply put, I pledge to ride my bike (Claud) every day for 30 days. Some days that will mean 50 miles, and other days a trip to the shop (more often the latter, I suspect). I’m also going to attempt to organise some bike rides in the Brighton area, just for fun. Keep an eye out for these on the Events page.

In the meantime, you can follow Claud & I on Twitter.