Sunday, 9 September 2018

Bec CC roller meeting, 15 March 2018-Report by Alaric Lester

 Roller racing is a slightly obscure branch of our great sport. Bikes are ridden on top of three suspended drums connected to a large odometer. Much of the competition equipment was made in the 1950s and ‘60s. With short distances and no frontal wind resistance, the fastest riders reach speeds of well over 100 km/h.
© Sue Landy 2018
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the big event was Bec CC’s Grand Prix of London, run by the legendary Ron Beckett, which drew in riders from across the south east. Interest waned after the millennium, though, and competition rollers went into storage. I was delighted, therefore, when the Bec dusted off their rollers last year. I first tasted roller racing more than 30 years ago and love the thrill, the atmosphere and the intimacy of indoor competition at close quarters. It is also a privilege to ride the Bec’s Barelli competition rollers, which are among the fastest in the country.
I took Sue Landy and Nigel Tamplin along for the Bec’s 15 March meeting at the Sutton & Epsom Rugby Club. Sue was a little nervous about trying it out, but when I explained to her at length how I had gone to the effort of setting up a Merckx track bike just for her, she felt obliged to give it a try. Emotional blackmail works a treat sometimes. She was also relieved to hear that riders have two holders each, making the racing nice and safe. Nigel had been off the bike for a while, so the evening was more of a recce for him. He helped with holding duties and keeping the bar in business.

© Ben Harris, B Harris Photography 2018
11 riders of varying ages and ability lined up in front of a small and friendly audience. The racing was over four events: 250, 500, 750 and 1000 metres. The 250 and 500 are over in a flash; the 750 and 1000 take a rider deep into anaerobic threshold territory. A couple of riders sensibly gave the latter events a swerve.

© Ben Harris, B Harris Photography 2018
The competition is serious during the few seconds of intense effort, but light-hearted the rest of the time. Riders can find themselves shouting encouragement one minute, holding a competitor the next and riding eyeballs out the next, before collapsing into a chair in preparation for the next round. Having an audience just a few metres away provides instant feedback and keeps anyone from slacking off.
© Ben Harris, B Harris Photography 2018

© Ben Harris, B Harris Photography 2018
How did we do? Sue did fantastically for a first-timer more used to long-distance sportives, riding very smoothly and setting some creditable times. As the first woman to ride since competition was reinstated, she also set current-day records at all distances. I managed to draw on my experience to win all four distances, also setting current-day records, but I suspect they will be blown away once some quick younger riders come along. All in all, a great evening’s racing for HSLCC, and a highly enjoyable one to boot.

The Bec’s next event is on 18 October. Sue has the rollers bug and will be back for more. Nigel was enthused and I suspect he is already in training for the event. It would be great to have more HSLCC members along with us then. Whether you compete or just come along for the atmosphere, you are guaranteed a very different cycling experience from the norm.

A full set of photos from 15 March is available at
This report first appeared on Strava in March 2018.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Fred Whitton Sportive

Well, let’s begin with Mr Strava not liking me and so my record (and possible kudos) is zilch. Not even a couple of yards and certainly no hills. Perhaps does it not like Mr Garmin (new Edge 1000) and was having a hissy fit. So nothing to show for our efforts there.

 Mike (Jacques, a workmate) and I set of in high hopes for decent weather and hoping our 2018 training would be good enough to get us round. I did have an aspiration of breaking 10 hours (remembering I did 10hr 18m when previously doing this with Richard ‘the Swan’ B in 2015) but obviously in the knowledge that the event is very much back-loaded, with the serious issue of Hardknot Pass (97 miles in) followed by Wrynose Pass. Had hoped my legs would be in reasonable form (had ridden well on the HSLCC ‘Mayfield Mayhem’ hilly course just a few weeks back) but from early on Kirkstone did not feel it was going to be there today. Mike was generally ahead at this stage and knowing there was much more to come was thinking this was going to be a long day (typical Colin you say, dragging things out again).

Weather forecast was possibly going to be good, with a lot of rain coming up from the south but possibly passing more to the east. As we rode through Patterdale kept an eye out for clouds pushing in from the right but didn’t seem to be happening so could be lucky. Good chase along the A66 toward Keswick with some wheel sucking (did take my turn on the front) and had caught up a bit of time. Maybe legs are starting to come good.

 Caught up with Mike (well he caught up with me as had stopped for a comfort break on the A66) at the first feed station around 40 miles in. Both seem to be ok and the weather seems to be improving with some sunshine making an appearance. Quickish stop (Martin’s tip) and away for more climbing. Was having difficulty with my left shoe cleat. Stopped to check the problem and there was the obvious answer, I didn’t have a cleat on the shoe anymore. Bugger. Have been using the shoes (MTB type) in the gym for several months and, thinking of Hardknot, had chosen them over my road shoes. What I had failed to do was check the cleats were sufficiently tightened up. You live and learn….

So with seventy miles to go I was on one and a bit pedals. Hey, ho. SPD pedals are anything but, with little to get much purchase on, so climbing would be very difficult with shoe sliding off and not being able to get out of the saddle (without the serious prospect of wrecking my marriage tackle). Perhaps there would be a mechanic at the second feed station with a spare. Honister Pass proved to be a walk on the lower section, as could not do 20% plus in the saddle without the potential of coming to a dead stop. Will have to push a bit more between the steep bits to get some time in hand.

After some more unnecessary hills eventually got to the second feed station (Highland cattle on road between Ennerdale Bridge and Calder Bridge, first time anyone called out ‘cows up’) and waited to talk to the mechanic. This took about twenty minutes (too long, says Martin) but he had no spare cleats. Ok, so will need to push harder as no choice but to walk Hardknot. Left Mike behind (he seemed to think he was ahead of me again but only caught up as we ascended to Blea Tarn, the very last climb) to try and get as much advantage before the long walk. Passing lots of tired riders (or those being sensible knowing the vertical challenges ahead) until the cattle grid at the bottom of Hardknot and then it was into mountain climbing mode. The MTB shoes were better than road shoes (or socks as some others had resorted to) so made steady progress up the first section. Almost as fast as some riders. I think the weather was having some impression as seemed to be more walkers than riders today and definitely more than 2015.

 When the gradient came down got back on and peddled to just below the steep bit (30%) then off and walking again. A girl came past (is that allowed – sexist moment) then fell sideways as just ran out of energy. Couldn’t get her feet unclipped, so was shouting ‘drag me to the side I don’t want to stop any riders’. Bit Monty Python, so we helped whilst directing those still in the saddle go around her. Began speculating that this climb ought to be sponsored by Stannah (the stair lift people), or should fit a drag lift. Anyway, enough of the banter and back on the bike for the final bit up and then the descent. If you have never ridden down Hardknot (or Wrynose) then my suggestion is, don’t. It is as steep as going up, braking is hard on the hands, the rear wheel wants to lift off and the roads are so rippled from sun melt in years gone by that it is surprising there were not more crashes and accidents. Oh, and the hairpin bends, so all adds up to something which could be a very unforgiving experience. Then along the valley floor and then up Wrynose (25%). Well part way and then walking again. Over the top and down and then the new bit. This year instead of the gentle undulating road back to Grasmere, no, let’s go up again, to Blea Tarn (25%) and then down and along Langdale. By this stage my chances of breaking 10 hours were still in the balance. Mr Garmin said I had a chance but needed to put the hammer down. So whilst most others had settled for a gentle last dozen miles, your correspondent had to go for it. Pushed very hard and eventually got to the finish with the Garmin showing a couple of minutes inside my self-imposed time limit.

 But no, it was not to be. The official event controls had me down for a very un-satisfactory 10hr 3m. As I say again, bugger. Was I deluded, did the Garmin loose some time when on Kirkstone (the auto pause kept stopping as I was not moving fast enough to keep it going, so stopped to re-set). I obviously stopped too long at the second feedstop (Martin was right, again, that’s annoying in itself). And it was my fault anyway.

 Some stats for those interested; 113 miles, 10,810 feet of climbing. Official time 10hr 3m (Garmin said 9hr 57m) moving time 8hr 57m, average speed 12.65mph (max 36.55mph). HR max 189 bpm. HR red zone 1hr 2m, and over half the ride in zones 4 & 5 (Mike has a slow HR, so only in red for 3m, or was he not really trying)

So after all that effort is came down to three minutes. Maybe, just maybe, I will have to do it again.


NB. Great support all along the route. Lots of cow-bells and cheering and even most of the motorists who were inconvenienced by all the cyclists took it in good spirit.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Improvers Spring Special Season Gets Underway

By tradition every Spring I organise some ‘Improvers Spring Specials’. These are for riders like myself who cannot manage a fast pace but still want the ‘fun’ of climbing/descending a very hilly route outside of our normal stamping grounds.

This year I thought we would start with one of our old favourites ‘The Mayfield Mayhem’. Although this is only 58 miles long, it has the second highest hill density in my collection at 106 feet per mile, which puts it in leg breaker territory.

On advertising this ride I pointed out that the ride would be cancelled for safety reasons if the weather forecast was poor, so all week I checked the forecast every day and on Friday the forecast looked OK, with just a bit of rain early on but dry thereafter. On Sunday morning I woke up to the unmissable sound of rain drops on my bedroom window and a text from Andy asking if the ride was still on. It was too late to cancel, so the answer was yes.

The rain wasn’t too bad once we were all assembled at Robertsbridge railway station. As well as myself there were the familiar faces of Malc D, Ivan, Derek, Steve D, Andy, Colin plus one of Colin’s mates Mike.  It intrigued me to compare what Mike and Andy were riding. Mike was riding a cheap second-hand alloy Giant defy (winter bike) while Andy was riding his immaculate very nice carbon framed Emonda including carbon wheels!

There is no easy warm up on this ride and we started climbing immediately after exiting the car park. Everything was going fine until we approached Snape wood. By now the rain had increased and everything felt dark and gloomy under the thick cloud cover. The lanes round this area are very twisty and the Garmins were getting confused. This was due to combination of not enough track points plus poor satellite signal leading to errors. To make matters worse Andy was using a brand new Garmin 820 and didn’t know how to turn off route recalculation. We kept literally going in circles plus Ivan and Steve got separated from the rest of us. Who knows what new rider Mike thought of us all. In the end we had to go old school, ignore the Garmins and trust Malc’s common sense instinct to get us back on route and find our missing friends.

Miraculously this worked, my Garmin showed we were back on route and after a few miles there was Steve and Ivan waiting for us. It was great to be all back together, but with only half the group having the route on their Garmins I wasn’t so sure we could manage to stay that way.

We will all pretty soggy by now but after a winter adapting to the cold, I felt warm enough. We were now moving into Ashdown forest and the climb up to Kings Standing. Colin wanted us to take a detour to the Kidd’s Hill climb to the top but I thought it best to stick to the longer smoother and more gradual climb past Coleman’s Hatch . This is one of my favourite climbs. It’s around 4.5 miles long and a bit of a grind, plenty of time for us to become very spread out. Last ones at the top were Malc and Derek. Derek said he didn’t realise how many hills there were and Malc said he felt cooked (too many miles during the week) they said they couldn’t go on and were going to catch a train back home.

Hours of cleaning await Andy!
The rest of us pressed on towards our planned café stop at Mayfield. This was only 13 miles but it seemed endless with another steep climb around every corner. The roads were absolutely filthy and full of wet loose gravel but at least there weren’t too many potholes. My rear brake blocks were getting dangerously thin and Andy’s carbon wheels were making alarming screeching sounds under the constant downhill breaking .Despite having good endurance from my winter riding  my leg muscles were in pain from all the unaccustomed climbing, this was becoming a real suffer fest but masochistically I was secretly enjoying the sense of adventure . Ivan however was not having a good time, he was wet and cold and said if there was a way out on a local train he would take it.

After a stop, myself and Andy got separated from the others but weren’t concerned as we knew everyone was headed for Mayfield. Approaching the town we saw a café and decided to pull in to see if there were there. Unfortunately Andy misjudged the curb and took a low speed crash. Fortunately rider and beloved Emonda emerged only a little scarred. There was no sign of the others and desperate for sustenance we took the Main road into Mayfield and the correct café. What a relief! Two lattes and a big slice of chocolate cake restored me to more or less normal. The rain had stopped and the sun was managing to partially break through the thinning cloud cover, even the Garmins were now happy.

The last ten miles were great fun with wider drier roads. Our only problem was that Ivan’s single speed chain decided to snap close to the end but Ivan managed to ride it like a scooter and arrived back only a few minutes after we did.

Despite the adversities there were smiles all round, hopefully this will set us up for the other forthcoming ‘Specials’ .

Steve C

A Weekend in Hell (Pete loses his bottle)

8:30am Friday morning and Duncan arrives spot on time in his Peugeot, a name evocative of Simpson, Merckx, LeMond, Millar, Yates, Roche… unfortunately the slightly battered silver estate didn’t quite live up to the romance of the bygone eras. After a brief stop in Pett and we were loaded, three amigos, three bikes, and with the aid of the Eurotunnel and possibly Sue’s better half we were at were at the Stab Velodrome just after lunchtime.
Roubaix is blessed with both an indoor and outdoor track something that no town with less that 100,000 residents can boast in the UK. The later named after Jean Stablinski winner of the Vuelta in 1958 but more famous for introducing La Trouée d’Arenberg to the Queen of classics in 1968.

Pete registered quickly having opted for the medium route, Duncan and I had a 15 minute wait as we were going the full distance and as would seem befitting had a longer queue. Having completed registration Pete was keen to leave immediately as he wanted to try out the cobbles before the event. But eager eyed Duncan spotted he’d changed his top and was now wearing a Paris Roubaix Challenge T-Shirt. After a brief exchange along the lines of ‘I texted you both, if you wanted a T-Shirt and you didn’t respond and now we’ll have to queue up again and I want to ride my bike….’. A mention of a crop top being more fitting than a T-Shirt for those doing the medium length route didn’t help the situation. 10 minutes later we all had matching T-Shirts, calm had been restored and were ready to head off.

Dropping our bags at the hotel, a quick change and we were ready for the a reconnaissance ride 10 miles out with the return leg via the last 5 sections of Pavé.
Sector 5 – Bourgheeles à Wannehain only 1.1km but 4* - the cobbled sections are given * ratings based on their quality (or should that be lack of quality) and length, 1 being the easiest and 5 the hardest. Hands burning, legs aching, and heart rate hitting the mid 160s we’d completed our first section of Pavé, but it seems are extensive adaptations (Pete double wrapped bar tape, Duncan 30mm tubeless tires, me 38mm tubeless tires – to be referred to as Tractor tires from this point on) hadn’t necessarily completely smoothed out the cobbles. 

Next up Carefour de l’Arbre 2.1km and the full 5* and often the point where the Pros make a break for the finish. Let’s just say ait was at the end of this sector we we’re greeted by Didi the Devil, and he didn’t seem at all out of place. So anybody got any tips – Apparently the hoods are to be avoided, the tops or the drops being more comfortable – well you wouldn’t want your hands in the place where you have most control over your bike when you’re bouncing around would you? Apart from that the only other tip was to power through – apparently the idea is to glide over the top, my experience was the major advantage this brings, is to get it over quicker. Using the now shared knowledge we successfully navigated the remaining cobbled sectors and headed straight to the bar. It was clear tomorrow would be a long day.

4am and Duncan and my alarms go off in stereo - time to get up and enjoy a savoury breakfast of sausage rolls and scotch eggs curtesy od M&S. In the hotel foyer there’s an assortment of cyclist all looking half asleep and nervous of what’s to come. Being someone who likes to prepare I’ve plotted a route to the coach pick-up point, a shopping centre so set off smugly. However, this is short lived as having arrived at the shopping centre it’s clear this isn’t the right  shopping centre and there isn’t a coach insight. Fortunately, there are lots of cyclist all heading in the same direction, so we tag along and at 5am we are greeted by 24 coaches and 8 lorries. Bikes are carefully loaded in the lories on 2 levels with a layer of cardboard placed between each bike, leaving riders to make their way to their allocated coach. Time to get some sleep - well it would be if our compatriot would stop texting to say how grate the scrambled eggs and bacon are he’s having for breakfast. Arriving in Busigny at about 7:30 it’s 8:20 before we’ve both got are bikes and I’ve made a trip to the portaloo to avoid a repeat of the 312 pre-start Dumoulin. 

Note: Whilst the Pros ride 257km from Compiègne the Long Sportive Route is a mere 172km but still manages to cram in all 29 cobbled sectors and their 53km of bone shaking madness.
A pact is made, it’s not closed roads and the cobbles are dangerous, so lets’ ride sensibly and enjoy the day – we set off to ‘Hoghway to Hell’ playing on the PA, spot a group ahead and immediately give chase. The group is hammering along at 25mph then turn north, get more benefit from the tailwind and the pace increases to 30mph – Yes we’re pacing ourselves well! In no time at all we arrive at the first section of Pavé. 

Let’s get this right, Hands on the flats gripping the bars as if they are a budgerigar – tight enough that it can’t fly away, but gentle enough not to crush it. Head for the crown of the road!? and press on hard. It works – it’s not exactly comfortable but it’s bearable and I’m skipping along at a fair old lick. The route is littered with bidons and already some have stopped to mend punctures. Oh no - slower rider in front so have to leave the crown to overtake, but here is where the tractor tires pay dividends, even off line with 38mm at 40psi you have grip (in the dry) and some cushioning. Bugger the chains off – where to stop can’t pull to the side people riding in the gutters, we’re on a slight downhill gradient so roll on until it’s safe to pull off on to the grass verge. Put the chain back on whilst Duncan passes then back on the bike and we’re off again.

At the end of the cobbles Duncan and I regroup and look for a new group to shelter in for the next road section. This pattern repeats itself for about 50km, but annoyingly must chain has come off twice more already. We stop at the feed station – I’d drunk one of my bidons on the coach and the other was now nearly empty, so whilst I refill, Duncan tucks into a waffle or two. The temperature is rising so having started in shorts, ss-shirt arm warmers and gilet, I’m now gilet less and working on tan lines on both legs and arms.

Apart from losing the chain it’s all going. well I ask Duncan if he’s had any issues with his and he admits to it come off the big ring a couple of times but being Di2 he’s been able to press button and magically ping it back on. My SRAM 1x11 set-up has a clutch in the rear derailleur and wide narrow teeth on the chain ring to keep the chain in place without a front derailleur – it seems SRAM (USA based) hadn’t reckoned on French cobbles when designing this set-up. However, the problem only seems to happen when on downhill sections when freewheeling so the answer would have to be to just keep pedalling.

We’re making good time averaging well over 18mph as we tick off one section off Pavé after another. The mines on the left indicate we are approaching the most famous sector of all ‘Trouée D’Arenberg’ but the level crossing barriers are down so we must wait for a train to pass before we can enter. Oh no what’s this we’re being cordoned on to the uneven tarmac path on the right instead of being allowed to ride the legendary cobbles. 200m later we’re directed on to the cobbles – Yippee!?. Being tree lined they’re damp and very slippery and yes there’s a rider on the ground in front. At this point the medium route which starts in Roubaix joins the long route so there are plenty of cobble virgins trying to pick their way slowly along the trench. The problem is this means we have to ride slowly as overtaking in Arenberg is even more treacherous than the other sectors, so we settle in for a bumpy journey through the forest. All to soon we are out the other side and back on proper tarmac and bathing in sunshine.

We keep the pace up and despite the cobbles, which by now have taken their toll and our bodies ache all over (never before have my ribs hurt on a bike ride) and we arrive and the final feed station. It’s only 30km from the finish but we both want a rest – Well I do, and Duncan agrees to join me. After feasting on more waffles we set off again and are soon on the familiar sectors from Friday’s reconnaissance ride, pushing on is no longer an option so it’s a rough a rickety journey on the cobbles that remain. After fighting with the traffic and being held at every sets of lights finally we make the turn into the Velodrome. I decide to head for the top of the banking and certainly more aided by gravity than sprinting power roll across the line just ahead of Duncan.

Pete is there to greet us having finished considerably earlier, he’s bemoaning the loss of bidon and his seat pack both casualties of the cobbles. Over a couple of beers he explains the best bit of his ride was the roads from Roubaix  out to Arenberg, as he’d set off with a fast group and had wheel sucked all the way to the Trench, Duncan and I agreed that the well earned beers were the best part of ours.

Sunday arrived with a slightly sore head and we drive back to Arenberg settle in in front of the big screen spend the day, lapping up the atmosphere, drinking beer (apart from our DD – Duncan), watch the Pros hit the cobbles at 50kph plus and head home.

Roubaix is just outside Lille about 1½ hours drive from Calais. If you’ve never seen the Pros race go the atmosphere and spectacle is amazing. If you want to ride the same roads your idles do – do the sportive – it’s a great event and one I’ll always rember.

Footnote: Unfortunately Belgian cyclist Michael Goolaerts of Veranda's Willems-Crela
fell on the second set of Cobbles during Sunday’s race and died later of a Cardiac arrest. Our thoughts go to his Teammates, friebds and family.

Patrick Piper

Monday, 9 April 2018

PART DEUX - BBR Sat 31st Mar

PART DEUX - BBR Sat 31st Mar 

'Or should it be called the BBBBR?' 
Thurs 30th Mar, 15:21 Queens Mary's Hospital - Sidcup 

'It's probably best that you accept them as part of you, because, unfortunately,  you're stuck with them now. Although your brain will adjust and you won't notice them'

The very lovely lady doctor  eye specialist was explaining my condition. It's known as PVD - Posterial Vitreous Displacement (not to be confused with PVA - which is a bonding agent much loved by plasterers.) It came on as I was up a ladder doing some refurbishment on a bathroom of a flat in Bexleyheath. At first I thought it was just a migraine with extra special effects: blobs and cobwebs, really wierd.

'Can I still go cycling?' I asked.

'Just carry on as usual', was the welcome response.

09:34 Di Paulos

'So, anyway, the upshot is,  I've got floater problems - and my eyes are not that great either!'

I was relaying to some of the assembled group, including Neil, Stewart and Tom,  my experience at Queen Mary hospital two days earlier, and couldn't resist the' crack'.

I could see no one was that impressed so I took a slurp of my coffee and looked around  to see if there was any sign of Nick.

We've bonded lately and he gives me a welcome push whenever he sees me struggling. Two weeks ago he gave me a shunt along the Herstmonceux road and having got me up to 20 mph I was able to maintain the momentum such that Terry struggled to keep up.

'Wow, what got into you? You never go that fast when you come out with me on a Tuesday!'

Alas, there was no sign of Nick, but I was pleased to see Patrick - who gave me a big smile.

I offered the usual: 'What was the tiff over this time?' reference to Peter Baker's (the other 'Fun Chum' - same events, same bike, same clothes, same breakfast, same mannerisms, similar hairstyle, etc. etc. ) absence.

`No we haven't fallen out, he doesn't like the wet weather`, he explained.

We were starting  to gather outside when I was pleasantly surprised to see Steve D.
Now that 'Sausagegate', has become just a distant memory, we get on famously.

'Hello, stranger, haven't seen you for ages?' I said

'Nah, done me collar bone, while I was skiing - some twat crashed into me!'

I'm not sure from what he said about the ensuing fracas that he came off the worst!

I was also pleasantly surprised to see Henning again. Hopefully he will become a regular - we can't have too many celebs in our little club. I didn't really notice him until I eased past him whilst tackling the 'South Cliff Slog ' - you know the Cat 4 climb at the start, just after the bend?

'Typical bank holiday weather', I said

'Yes, I believe so'

Well, I don't have much to brag about these days, and anyway I think he was conserving energy as he dropped me with ease on the Beast of Boreham Street.

Bearing in mind the excessive rain we've had lately, it was decided that turning left at the Pear Tree Lane junction would be a drier option than straight on.

We regrouped, as usual, at the junction of Straight Lane and Hooe Road and then pushed onto Boreham Street.

Towards the top Neil and Nigel breezed past me, whilst casually chatting (Very reminiscent of the racing jockey portrayed by Harry Enfield in the Fast Show. ) 

At the top we had the usual - 'Who's going short and who's going long discussion'.

My knees are still not great so I stuck to short. Accompanied by Sue, Henning and Andy C.

Patrick, Duncan  and a few of the others also did short, but shot off at a rapid pace, probably part of their training for Paris - Roubaix (although there aren't many cobbles on the BBR, the entrance to Chilley Farm is a bit gravely - best to exercise some caution. )

I sat at a table with Patrick, Duncan and Nigel who were reliving some of their past glories.

'So what do you think is the hardest event you have ever done then?'

I posed this question to all three of them.

'Without a doubt I would say Majorca 312', said Patrick.

'What about you, Duncan`, I said.

' Well, funnily enough, I would say, on balance, without stretching the point too far, and without prejudice, I would probably say, even though it has nothing to do with cycling, that it has to be The Welsh 3000s'

(for those who are unaware, it is a pointless exercise of walking up all the mountains in Wales that are above 3000 feet, I've also done it - and regretted it. Henning wasn't sitting at our table, but if he was he probably would have said, quite rightly  : 'And vy would anybody vish to do such a thing' )

Anyway, from what Duncan was saying, it seemed that  a lot of the issues were political; he was doing it with Derek and this was pre Smashy and Nicey days.

'And what about you, then, Nige?'

'Well, my worst event nearly caused me to break my collar bone!'

'Oh, was that the 312 also?', I said, all agog.

'Oh, no, not at all. I was in the Aldi sale last year, and me and this foul old woman both grabbed at a pair of jeggings that I was hoping to use as leggings. We had such a tug-of-war that I nearly pulled my arm out of its socket. Mind you I won -  although it did stretch the gusset a bit.  Actually, I'm wearing them today. What do you think?.
I looked under the table.

'And what exactly are you wearing on your feet?'

Oh, my dad gave me his old rugger boots, and I've cut them down for cycling. (see photo. )

'Rather nice aren't they?'

Apologies for severe lack of proper cycling content, but love it as much as I do, there is only so much that I can say about the BBR.
(it was suggested by someone, who shall remain nameless, that it should be called the BBBBR - B@ll@cks Banter and Bacon Butty ride.

Peter Buss

Monday, 3 July 2017

LEJOG – How to pack for 21st Century Cycle Touring ‘If it doesn’t fit in the bag you don’t need it’

This is a short piece on what to take or more importantly what not to take, a full write up will follow later:
First decide what type of tourer you are:
tent or hard core bivvy bag camper
plastic supported B&B, pub and hotel dweller
Apart from the amount of stuff you need to take this will also impact how much you smell.

Pete, Duncan and I, all agreed we were the later i.e. we were going to travel light. Rack and Panniers (often a couple of kilos before you add your stuff) may have been the way to go in the 20th Century but modern materials mean an oversized seat pack weighing only a few hundred grams can accommodate all your needs, and is far more aero.
After some research, we selected a fully waterproof model from Apidura with a 14l capacity and duly ordered one each.

What to take:
Leg warmers and Arm warmers – yes I know it’s summer, but believe me up north they don’t
Rain jacket
Evening wear:
o Charity T-Shirt all 3 of us.
o Shorts and 2 pairs of underwear - me, Pete took his infamous pyjama bottoms and went commando, and Duncan took long trousers
o Something warm – Wool sweater – Pete and I, Jacket Duncan
o Flip flops – Pete and I, Crocs sometimes worn with socks Duncan
Second pair of bib shorts – not completely essential as it’s usually possible to wash and dry kit overnight, but not wanting to spend the day sitting in what feels like  a used nappy we all took a spare.
Second pair of socks – wool work well as not only are the warm when wet, they tend to smell less
Second top – Pete had a second jersey, I had a second base layer and Duncan a second Polo top for the evening
Gilet – I took one, but never used it – it’s off the list for next time
Chamois Cream
Tooth brush and paste – Pete manged to get through 5 tooth brushes on the trip, but that’s another story!
Razor – Duncan and I, Pete went fuzzy.
Deodorant – Pete and Duncan – I have no sense of smell so skipped this.
Phone charger
USB battery and Garmin lead – Duncan and I
Communal Items:
o Small lock and wire to secure the bikes – a deterrent rather than protection – Me
o Sudocrem – 1 dip each per application – Pete
o Di2 charger – Pete and Duncan wanted to be able to Top up their batteries
o Charm – On a particularly grim day Duncan managed to procure free coffee and chocolate cake for us all and still put a smile on the face of the lady who owned the café.
o We each tool a tube and a CO2 cannister, multitool and tyre leavers – savings to be made by sharing their next time.
o Additionally I took – tyre boot, puncture repair kit and KMC missing link

My bag and contents weighted in at 3.1kg

Duncan bending the rules – ‘If it doesn’t fit in the bag you don’t need it’

And of course the final thing you need a couple of friends Or as Pete Buss refers to them – my retired gay parents

Please donate generously to the Challenging Behaviour Foundation:

Sunday, 4 June 2017

2017 Trip To Belgium

Part Deux - en Francais et Belgique

'Smashy' and  'Nicey' do Flanders'

Day One:

Normans Bay to Dunkirk


I opened my gate to find Tom poised with a Kodak Instamatic pointed straight at my face'


'Gosh, I haven't seen one of those for a while!', I said.

'Well, I haven't got one of those 'snazzy' phones that the rest of you chaps have, that takes photos and all that stuff, so I bought this along - don't want to miss a thing!'

'What about making calls', I said.

'Oh,that's no problem, I keep  a few 10Ps in my pocket for emergencies.'

'Can't wait to see the finished picture', I said ,encouragingly
Malc has an unusual way of carrying his footwear

'Yes, I shall get my self down to Boots the minute I return', he replied.

With that we set off for Hastings to meet up with the others.

I was feeling good and enjoying the novelty of riding with panniers for the first time. (My Moda bike doesn't really like panniers; it has top bolts - but brakes prevent you using them - and no bottom eyelets.  Eric, of 'Zigi Cycles', did a brilliant job of circumventing the problem with different fixings. He is well worth considering for bike servicing/repairs; usually does small things while you wait, and his pricing is very fair.  He is located by the traffic lights where the Chain Gang ends.  I'm not related to him BTW.)
Pete shows off his new pannier set up 

Assembled at The Bridge Cafe were most of the faces from the French trip - with the exception of the Captain and Mal C - who were replaced by Derek and Duncan (more about these two later).  Additionally, we had 'newbies' Helena and Shirley.

I took a long, hard look at the shipping containers attached to either side of Shirley's rear wheel and thought:

 'There's bound to be a kitchen sink in there somewhere!'

The ride to Dover and the crossing went without incident - apart from the delay caused by Shirley being forced to queue with the lorries in the freight lane - and we were soon in Dunkirk.

Dunkirk 17:00 'ish

Steve had done a lot of planning and had worked out a beautiful ride alongside the dunes, and with the aid of a strong tailwind, we were motoring along it; a lovely seascape and to our left and a sprawling industrial cityscape to our right.

Another bar, another beer!
After a few miles we reached the end of the road and came across a bridge that was shut.  After a thorough investigation we could find no alternative way across.

What glorious weather
'Oh, le pont es brise!'

A helpful local explained, as best he could, that someone had broken the bridge a year ago and it hadn't been repaired.

'We'll just have to go back the way we came', said Steve

'Oh, double ****ocks', I thought

The return was into the headwind and with a swirling sandstorm blasting our faces.  Just to add to our woes we were now navigating without a route and had Ivan insisting that he needed to get to a particular shop to buy some illegal explosives for his garden.)

Ivan asks for help from a local:

'I need berms!'

'Pardon, monsieur?'

 'I need berms, I 'av moles and I need berms'

Whether it was his desperation, or his charm, I don't know, but he came back beaming'

'They've invited me back for some champagne!'

Despite pressure from the rest of the group he couldn't be dissuaded and set off in the opposite direction armed with a paper map.

' I reckon that's the last we'll see off him!' said Steve, looking worried.

We set off and at one point found ourselves on an unmade road - the original Talking Heads' 'Road to Nowhere'. Even with a bucket full of Garmins we were unable to locate the Hotel; and then Steve had a brain wave:
We're on a road to nowhere!

'Why don't we use Google Maps?', he said

Even with my phone in my back pocket I could clearly hear 'Doris' calling out instructions - brilliant!.  I led the group to the hotel and grabbed all the available kudos.

To call Dunkirk a 'sh*t hole' would be heaping praise on it, but the hotel was very good and suited all our needs.

Day 2:

Dunkirk to Ghent

Happiness is an Ivan with mole bombs!
These flat canal paths are highly rated by Shirley !
For some reason the first part of the route was missing on our Garmins but we found it without too much bother and stopped for our first coffee break.  At this point Steve realised, with horror, that he had left his mobile at the hotel. After much confusion we managed to ring the hotel but nobody would answer so we had to send them an email asking if they can look after it until we return; later we got a reply saying they had it, Steve was very relieved.

Within Belgium the route is all on traffic-free cycle lanes which are superb and very flat.  We were all very impressed with how incredibly neat everything is in Belgium - maybe a bit too neat - Stepford wives was one suggestion.  Most of the gardens are open plan and it is as if there is a competition for who has the neatest, and all the houses are unique and, almost without exception, of brick construction.

Duncan exiting the bat cave!
Much of the route is on the canals leading into Ghent.  These are massively wide with speed boats going up and down and some even towing water skiers.  The sun was beating down and the moral in the group was mega high.

En route we pass some massive bunkers guarding the canals and stop at one which has been turned into home for bats.

The route was generated automatically by a Belgium web site and it never faltered.  There were many twists and turns, and one section went through a large forest which was magnificent - Ivan seized the opportunity for some off-roading.

We stopped at a small safe which did superb spaghetti and met a cyclist who said he was taking his wife to the Garden of England: Kent. - hope he isn't too disappointed!

On arrival at our hotel in Ghent we were pleasantly surprised to find a food festival, with food from all parts of the world.

Helena rediscovers her touring legs!
Everybody did there own thing; Mal C and I opted for a 'Weed Burger', but were upset to find that even an hour later we weren't 'stoned'.  Helena decided she wanted a 3 course meal and 'topped off' with a waffle the size of an upturned traffic cone!

 Ghent 21:00 'ish

'Tonight you're mine completely...' - Steve

'You give your love so sweetly....' - me

''Can I believe the magic of your sighs - doo be dooby doo....' Steve and me.

'Shut the **** up!' - Mal C

'I think we should find a karaoke bar', said Steve.

'What's the point - you can't ****ing sing!, said Mal C

Steve was very p*ssed, but very happy, Mal C and I were a bit p*ssed, but all of us realised that 'enough is enough' - there was some cycling to do tomorrow and shuffled off to bed at a sensible time.

Ghent 23:30 'ish

There was a knock on mine and Mal's door:

' Have you seen Ivan?' said a concerned Tom

'No', said Mal C

'I better go and find him then!'

Day 3:

Ghent 07:30 'ish

' Apparently, they didn't get into 3:00!, said Mal C, at breakfast

Shortly afterwards, Ivan appeared; looking surprisingly O.K, but no sign of Tom.

'I better ring him then!'
Derek discovers the joy of cycle touring

Mal C was quite surprised when Tom answered his room phone, and even more surprised when he appeared 5 minutes later, looking ,it has to be said,like sh*t.

'Ivan crashed into our room at 03:10 and fell on the floor - totally wasted!', said Steve.

The day was even hotter than yesterday and we followed some superb cycle paths towards Ypres.

'The Belgiums pronounce it Leper , you know?', said an ill-informed Steve.

He had been using this pronunciation since the start, until he realised that the 'L' on the direction sign was an 'I' Still to be fair, none of us knew any better.

I tried to get more info. from Tom about the previous night.

'I found him in a jazz bar - but it definitely wasn't a Gay Bar!', he said

'So what was Ivan doing then?' I asked

'Oh, he was dancing with a man and really enjoying himself - I think he even took part in a dancing competition'

Later I had confirmation from Ivan that this was true.

'This bloke and I were dancing and he said to me I'm not gay, you know', said Ivan

'So what did you say', I asked

'I said, 'I'm not gay either, mate!''

After some time we found a decent looking restaurant in the town square of Roeslare; ignoring the generally accepted advice of 'avoid touristy looking places in town squares' we checked out the prices and decided it would be 'chips all round'.  This didn't give us much of a saving as the bottled water was 9 Euros - and we'd ordered 3 bottles.

' That's 27 quid just on water!' said Derek

As the day progressed Tom seemed to be rallying round, but Ivan was in decline and also Mal C was starting to suffer.

Canadian cemetery outside Ypres
Approaching Ypres we start to come across war cemeteries, including a Canadian one. Duncan's grandfather died around here so he, very possibly, lies there somewhere?. The approach to Ypres was through the heart of the western front and I think we all felt a strong sense of the past; the guns may have been silent for a hundred years, but this area will forever be haunted by it's horrific past.

We arrived at the get magnificent centre of Ypres.  We were short on time as we had to continue on to Ballieu to check into our luxurious accomodaton at the F1, but  we took a brief look at the town hall and Menin gate.

I had seen enough to want to come back again and this is currently being considered by Steve as a trip for next year.

Outside restaurants were too pricey for us but we found a burger bar down a side street with tables out the back. The burgers wre huge and very tasty but Ivan couldn't eat his and leaves it sitting on the table getting cold.



Mal C had started some serious pyrotechnics.

Just then a couple of German tourists arrived.

'I zinc we sit at zis table?, the man said


'I zinc maybe zere are better ones around!' the woman replied as she led her partner swiftly back out again.

'Mal C was leaning over his creation with one hand supporting him on a wall.

'Sorry about that chaps', he said

Beneath him sat the perfect 'pavement pizza' - crusty topped with a thin but slightly soggy base.

'I don't do sick' said Helena.

Who then courageously got up and sloshed away Mal's offerings into the drain using bowls of water supplied by the restaurant.

We continue our journey to Baillieu .

What a novelty: we saw a hill in the distance which turned out to be the legendary Kemmelberg. Tom couldn't resist the challenge and rode to the top - complete with panniers -  What a legend!

We arrive at Ballieu and check in to our cheapest hotel - the dreaded F1!!.  I have just been reading a Tim Moore book called 'You are awful, but  do like you' where he outlines his experience of F1s in the U.K:

'The shower was ankle deep in van driver pubes....' - classic!

I went out with Duncan and Derek to find a local bar as the 3 of us all agreed we had to escape for a while. What sustained me through this testing time was the knowledge that it was payback time for Tom - who had had 2 nights of luxurious single room occupation - was now sharing with Steve and Ivan!

Ivan had still not recovered and was reporting that he was thrown up bile containing bits of his stomach lining! - charming!

Steve had concocted a cunning plane to recover his lost phone.  This required that he, me and Duncan set off on an advanced party to go via the Hotel and then meet up with the others at the port, and with the aid of 'Doris', this plan did work quite well.

It happens without warning, and it can happen to any of us, but it it wonderful to behold.  The last time I witnessed it was in the cafe at Pevensey when it struck the 'Fun Chums'.  It starts with mimicking each others gestures, progresses to finishing each others sentences and is sealed through eating and drinking the same things: that special bonding they call 'man love'!.  This time it was Derek and Duncan and was probably as a consequence of bunking up together for 3 nights.

I lent across their table on the lounge of the ferry.

'Sorry to interrupt, but I've decided to christen you 'Smashy and Nicey'. now who is who?'

'I'll be Nicey then', said Derek who seemed to be half accepting of this.

'No, actually, I think Duncan should be 'Nicey', I said

'Oh, O.K then' he said.

Duncan seemed quite pleased to be 'Nicey'.

Smashey and Nicey

Leaving the Ferry highlighted, yet again,my geolexsia as I led a group of the others towards the wrong end of the boat to collect our bikes. We were forced to make a u-turn and squeeze our way through a mass of juggernauts.  I was getting seriously worried as I knew we would be invisible to the drivers who could set off at any time.

Once disembarked we waited patiently for Shirley to appear from the freight section before regrouping for the final leg back to the car park.  This in itself is no mean feat as it involves a very steep climb and we were all impressed with the speed in which Shirley appeared at th
e top having kept her promise to dismount and push!

Safely back in Blightly, we all agreed it had been a great trip; It was a great mix of people and we had a lot of fun and I look forward very much to the next time.

Well Done Steve!!

Peter Buss (with a lot of help from Steve)