Tag Archives: sunshine

Claud et moi

Claud has been to France before, just not with me. Unlike myself he is a seasoned pro – having ridden London to Paris with his original owner, Kim. If you don’t know the story of how Claud ended up in my life then you can read it in this post from August last year.

I was very excited to take Claud on a little trip to the Vendee with me. My dad works in that part of France, and so I took the opportunity to stick my bike in the car and get a free lift over the channel, for 3 days of uninterrupted riding. I’d been looking forward to it for weeks: getting up early, having espresso and pastries for breakfast, riding all morning, stopping for a baguette, riding all afternoon, getting back to the mobile home for dinner and red wine. Then do it all again the next day.

Of course, this being me and my luck, the day that we set off to travel for France I woke up with a horrible cold. By the time we had made it to Portsmouth to catch the overnight ferry to Saint Marlo, I could barely breath. I hardly slept at all, and used up all of Brittany Ferries’ toilet roll to blow my nose. Lovely stuff.

As we arrived at our destination, and I brought Claud inside, I was worried that this would be where he was going to stay for the whole trip. Determined for that not to be the case I dosed up on every drug available, like all the pros do (sorry – just kidding), and ate a big bowl of pasta.

Claud enjoying the accommodation

 

The act of putting on my cycling kit made me instantly feel a little better. I contemplated getting a cyclist’s tan by sunbathing in my kit rather than going for a ride, but my desire to pedal won, and I left the campsite for the pretty castle town of Apremont – armed only with two pages torn from a road atlas and a French vocabulary of around seven words. 15 minutes into the ride I realised I had failed to pack any tissues, and not feeling ambitious enough to attempt the ‘cover one nostril and blow your snot across the road into a bush’ tactic that I have seen some riders employ, I found myself looking around for an appropriately sized and textured leaf. The things we do…

Creative nose blowing tactics aside, the ride was very enjoyable. The roads from the village I was staying in to Apremont were smooth and offered some beautiful scenery. I remembered which side of the road to ride on (something I was a bit worried about) and got used to it very quickly. It was really warm and the vast fields that take up so much of the Vendee looked even greener than normal under the bright sunshine.

Remember to ride on the right…

 

I stopped in Apremont to admire the castle and check the map. I can’t remember the last time I have ridden on such a hot day, and soon found myself with not much water left in my two bottles. After a little rest, Claud and I got back on the road and looped our way back to the campsite for a cold shower (just me, Claud wouldn’t fit.)

A rest in Apremont, to check the route back

 

The following day I rode a 30 mile loop, partly on the huge network of cycle paths that the Vendee has to offer. They are well signposted and mostly well paved – the paths are only used by agricultural vehicles and cyclists, and I did not see a single vehicle. It was lovely to not have to worry about cars, and enjoy the scenery on some of the quietest paths I have ever ridden down. I met more cows than people that day.

At a certain point on the cycle path it began to get a lot less smooth, and whilst the terrain would have been fine for anyone on a CX or mountain bike, or even a hybrid, Claud’s skinny tyres were not at home. Not knowing the French for “excuse me, I’ve used up both my spare inner tubes by attempting to ride a road bike on a bumpy gravel path, could you please direct me to a bicycle shop”, I decided to find my way back onto the road for the remainder of the journey.

That’s a cycle path, not a road.

 

The final day of my trip was largely spent asleep. My cold had got worse – I felt like I might cough up a lung, and it decided to rain. It was a shame, but I made the most a bad situation by eating lots of pizza and drinking lots of red wine. It’s medicinal, you know.

Sign on a post box

 

Over the three days I was in France I rode less than 60 miles (rather than the 180 I had planned) but every mile was beautiful, and worth it’s weight in gold. I didn’t ride on a single busy road, the views were stunning, and I didn’t have any bad experiences with motorists. The only conflict I had was being wolf-whistled at by a bunch men outside a cafe. Obviously I responded graciously, as ever, with a two fingered salute (I was going downhill – a speedy getaway..)

Good food, good coffee, good wine and good roads: France really is a place for cyclists, and I’m sure that both Claud and I will be back there before long –  next time in better health.

Crashes, sunshine, foxes & dogs. (30 days of biking so far)

Things have been a bit mad here since the start of #30daysofbiking but I’ve finally found some time, so here is a little round up of the first sixteen days…

Day One - Riding without stabilisers.

Ride: A 40 mile loop through the Ashdown Forest.

Bike: Claud.

Rode to Groombridge where I ate lunch and lots of easter eggs with my family. I also rode half a mile with my cousins Josie (who can ride without stabilisers and has a dolly seat on her bike) and Tom (who is very nifty going over speed bumps on his micro-scooter).

Josie looking Pro in my helmet and glasses.

Days Two, Three, Four and Five- Riding to work, mostly..

Rides: The short ride to work, and a couple of lunchtime errands.

Bikes: Claud and Annie

The good thing about no longer working from home is that my studio is now a 5/10 minute ride away. That little bit of time on the bike is the perfect separation between work and home.

Annie, at the studio.

Claud, at the studio.

Day Six- Coffee, cake and an eclectic collection of bicycles.

Ride: A seafront ride to Shoreham and back.

Bike: Annie.

7 of us rode to Shoreham for coffee – two road bikes (belonging to Sid and Gill), one single speed (that would be Annie), one mountain bike (John’s), one Isla bike (Fynn’s) and one bike with a trike on the back (the combined leg power of Mandy and Cain). Love it.

Some of our bikes, at the cafe stop.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

4 7ths of Team Cafe Ride.

Day Seven – Vulpine collisions and crash-filled racing

Ride: Night ride and a trip to Chertsey (by car, sorry) to help out at the racing

Bike: Annie

All the best lessons are learnt by making stupid judgements, in other words: the hard way. I missed a train and ended up riding to Lewes in the wee small hours of the morning. I was riding Annie, who is kitted out for city riding, and as such doesn’t have the kind of lights which illuminate the pitch black cycle path on the side of the A27. The end of this story is that a fox ran out in front of me, I slammed on the brakes and…ouch, over the handlebars I went. Luckily I was rescued by a sensible person who told me what a wally I was. Lesson learnt.

After some sleep I woke up only slightly bruised from the vulpine incident, and headed off to Chertsey to watch some friends racing. I ended up in the passenger seat of the Assistant Commissaire car, which was fun. The only bad thing about the day was that there were a LOT of crashes. Highlight: Team ASL360′s Anna Railton winning the women’s race :-)

Women’s race…that was a nasty hill.

Days Eight, Nine and Ten - If only I was one of those people who can cycle in a pencil skirt and heels.

Work was really, really busy until day 10. I had some important meetings and stuff that meant I didn’t get much riding in, other than the short trip to work. To make up for this, I took Thursday off for a day of bike……

Day Eleven - A love of gears and afternoon beers.

Ride: 32 miles of Sussex roads, with Monika.

Bike: Claud

Mon came down from London for the day, with her swanky new Genesis bike. We had lots of fun despite a few clippy-pedal-fail moments (not mine) and some wrong turns (mine). Mon’s been riding way longer than I have, but this is her first geared bike. What better way to celebrate than to find some hills to go up..and down :-)

We ended our Sussex ride in a Sussex pub, naturally.

The post-ride pint.

Days Twelve and Thirteen Just the short commute, again.

Day FourteenGood Lord, is that the SUN?!

Ride: 52 miles of glorious sunshine

Bike: Claud.

There are fewer things better than making new friends – especially if they ride a bike! Carine had read the blog and spotted that I was organising a road ride – having recently bought a new road bike and rediscovered her love of cycling, she joined Claud and I for our Sunday ride. We had coffee, and tried not to get too over-excited about the blue skies. It turned out we needn’t have contained our excitement – because it turned out to be a stunning day.

We avoided the crowds of the Brighton Marathon by riding over Devil’s Dyke to Henfield, out to Partridge Green and then East through Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks to Ditchling, where we stopped for coffee and food. I think I had a grin on my face for pretty much the whole ride – you just can’t beat a sociable ride on a sunny day. Once we’d conquered a few last hills and got back to Brighton, I decided to make the most of the day and headed out for a few more miles on my own.

Coffee stop at Ditchling Tea Rooms

Carine (who regretted the long sleeves!)

Day Fifteen - Ditchling Beacon has expanded in the heat.

Ride – Lewes to Brighton the painful way (over that hill people go on about)

Bike – Claud

I was pleased to find that I could still get over the Beacon in one go without the promise of free food at the end (the last time I rode it was for the Puncheur Sportif). Having said that, I am sure it has got longer and steeper since then.

Day SixteenThe dog ate my homework.

Ride: The 24ish miles to Steyning and back, with good intentions.

Bike: Claud

Dogs often feature in excuses – so here is mine:

I rode to Steyning last night to compete in my first time trial. I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited. On my way there I came across a very sweet looking dog wandering up the road on its own. Naturally I stopped and had a little chat with the creature, she was very sweet, and after knocking on some doors we reunited her with her owners. The conclusion of this tail (see what I did there?) is that I got to Steyning 5 minutes too late to enter the TT. Still, I had a very nice ride home again, and feel like I have now balanced out my karma after the fox incident.

I missed the TT, so I took a photo of my feet instead.

Here’s to the next 14 days!

30 days of AWESOME.

At the weekends I like to hang around in industrial estate car parks in particularly dull bits of greater London. Actually that’s a lie, but that is what I spent this last Sunday afternoon doing. Claud was in the boot of my car looking rather sorry for himself, and me, well, I spent the best part of an hour staring blankly at the Sainsbury’s sign looming over me. I had one of those very odd days where nothing goes to plan and you think your world is going to end, but then you end up having an epiphany. Or is it just me that has those?..

I was meant to be in London for race training but I was late, forgot to bring cash, and then proceeded to have a big-arsed panic attack because I’m an idiot. Post-panic-attack my legs were all shaky and I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car and onto my bike.

If sitting in your kit eating carb filled snacks is training (I have been informed it counts), then I did a lot of training. And then I had a coffee. And then I drove around the industrial estate, and then I had another coffee.

Why am I telling you this? The conclusion of this dull tale is that I realised I’ve been getting my knickers in a twist over a load of stuff that doesn’t really matter. I haven’t ridden my bike much recently, partly because of the cold, but mainly because whenever I do ride I am worrying about whether I’m working hard enough, and whether I’m going to be ready for my next race. So I have made a decision. For now… no races, or race training, or time trials, or competitions of any kind. Because even though those things are awesome, it isn’t why I ride, and it isn’t why I write this blog. I started this because I really like riding a bicycle. And recently I’ve been less than enthused by that idea, which is sad. So for the next 30 days, I’m on a mission to remember why I ride. I’m going to have as much fun as is possible, and if the sun shines, well… that would be a bonus.

#30daysofbiking Day One – 40 cold but bright miles through Sussex.

Day Two – the very short ride to work (IN THE SUNSHINE!)

Day Two – Blue Skies

 

Sunshine and sandwiches.

In wonderful contrast to the snow, sleet and rain that we’ve had our share of recently, this weekend saw some Winter sunshine for Sussex.

On Saturday I made the most of the weather and got out on my own for a few hours in the saddle. Having spent a fair amount of time of late spinning on a bike in a gym, it was lovely just to get out and RIDE. The downs were still dusted with icing-sugar snow – but it was nearly all melted from the roads. The beautiful views almost made Devil’s Dyke enjoyable. At the top I found myself grinning, and remembering that this is why I fell in love with riding a bike in the first place.

Edburton Road on Saturday

Melted snow & the previous day’s rain on Underhill Lane.

Sunday was a team ride, and being totally honest – I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’m still a bit nervous about cycling in a group, even though the guys in the team are great and I’m getting to know everyone. What if I fall off and look like a plonker…what if I get left behind on a hill…what if…SHHH Lois, get on with it woman, you’ll be fine.

And I was.

Clearly my bonking crisis on the last team ride made an impression, as I ended up with homemade flapjacks & sandwiches from Matt, and homemade bread pudding from John, all stuffed into my jersey pockets. If that’s not team spirit then I don’t know what is! I felt a little over-laden with essentially a packed lunch on my back, but 71 miles later – and only half a (very squashed) sandwich left, I was very grateful for my snack-filled pockets.

Breakfast. Not to be underestimated!

I won’t go through the route, because that will get boring, and you can see the map at the bottom of this post. What I will say is that apart from a few idiot drivers nearly hitting us, and one hill up to Friston which was hideously steep, narrow and full of traffic – I enjoyed every minute. And I didn’t fall off ;-)

Still smiling at this point…

These are going to be famous last words I’m sure – but I’m starting to enjoy climbing. Not the sort of hills that are so steep I wonder if I am moving at all, and unclip in a wobbly panic, but the longer, more gradual climbs. One such was the long climb up the zig zag road (Upper Dukes Drive?) from Eastbourne to Beachy Head. I’m not saying I sang my way up it with a smile on my face, but there’s something satisfying about getting from A to B, uphill, with only your legs and two wheels to thank. It’s the good kind of hard work, and, dare I say it, the good kind of pain. There’s a fine line there though..

I have never cycled against such strong winds as those on the top of Beachy Head that day. I had to lean my bike against the wind so that I didn’t get blown into the sea*. I’m looking forward to going back to those roads on a still day.

(*slight exaggeration)

So I finished my weekend with 105 miles on the clock, which is probably some sort of record for me. A few days later and my legs are politely reminding me of every one of those miles, by aching like hell. Still, there’s only one way to deal with that – let’s get planning the next ride.

Our route! Click map to see larger image