Posts Tagged ‘singlespeed



I have had a bit of a blogging sabbatical. Not a running sabbatical you understand – no, no, no. If anything, I have been running a little more than usual. I started a new job at the end of October which not only is very enjoyable but also gives me a little more free time so I can usually squeeze in a mid-week after work run.

In addition to this, I am also able to work from some of our other offices so I am not commuting into London 5 days a week any more. At least once a week, I work from an office which is cycling distance from home so I get to enjoy a bicycle commute which usually consists of a straight-forward cycle to work but the return journey is where I really get to have some fun. For the return trip, instead of taking the road route home, I head for the bridle path which takes me the “scenic route” back to my house. It is about 2 miles longer but is infinitely more enjoyable. I leave work, jump onto the bike, turn on my high powered front light and head off into the mud and the darkness. It is exhilarating to hurtle through pitch dark with only a pool of light for about 4 metres in front of you – everything to the sides is just inky blackness. I will often arrive home with a huge muddy stripe up my front and a massive grin on my face. I now look forward to my bike commute, it is without a doubt one of the highlights of my working week.

And it is having a mostly positive effect on my running – I have been finding that my overall fitness and stamina have both improved. My 12k Sunday runs are now usually 16km+ and occasionally as much as 25km. Don’t get me wrong, anything over about 15km is still a puch but my recovery times are much improved and I do not suffer afterwards – I jump in the shower and am as good as new. The more active I am, the more active I am able to continue to be.

So, that was just a quickie to bring things up to date. Normal service will be resumed now that I have acclimatised to my new job – I just need it to rain a bit less now!

So all that remains is to wish you all a belated Happy New Year.


dunwich dynamo

It’s that time of year again. The night were Hauling My Carcass and I forego a night’s sleep to cycle from Hackney to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. Regular readers will know that this is the 3rd time we have done this although for the uninitiated, I shall briefly explain…

Dunwich Dynamo takes place on the Saturday nearest the full moon in July (for maximum overnight visibility). It is free to take part, is organised (by The Southwark Cyclists)  but not supported or marshalled. A group of like minded cyclist congregate in London Fields and a little before 8pm on Saturday, begin to head off through Hackney and then out through Epping and into the shires on their overnight cycle to the seaside.

It’s not a race and although there are some hardcore lycra clad clans desperate to get to the other end (Dulwich Paragon have got themselves a bit of a reputation), it is mostly a mixture of happy cyclists up for a bit of a challenge and an adventure. Lots of road bikes, some mountain bikes, fixies, singlespeeds (including myself and HMC), at least one penny farthing, one participant with his 2 dogs in a purpose built box and (last year at least) one person on a Boris Bike.

The procession of red flashing lights snakes off in front of you for most of the ride and it is the view that  comes to sum up the ride. People stop at pubs and lay-bys on their way to Dunwich to rest, refuel and, in some cases, sleep.

HMC and I have come to adopt a fairly regimented ritual – 3 stops en route at approximately 50km intervals and experience has taught us that plenty of food, plenty of liquid and a change of warm, dry clothes at the halfway point are the best way to tackle it. This year I had a mini panic at about 110kms when I ran out of water. I have never run out before and the thought of about 80km in the dark with no liquid did scare me a bit. Fortunately, a few kms later, we came across a wheelbarrow at the side of the road full of bottles of lucozade sport and an honesty box to pay for it. I don’t know who you are, but the person who placed it there gets my thanks – you helped me through the remainder of the ride in relative comfort. And that, in essence, is why I like the DD – someone thinks to put some emergency lucozade at the side of the road. With an honesty box. And cyclists stop, are grateful for the gesture, buy Lucozade and put the money in the box – even though it would be easy not to. Or to take some Lucozade and the box of money. But they don’t. It is a mutually understood and reciprocated gesture.

In the early hours of the morning, the tiredness and psychological demons take hold and, if you are prepared for it, can be easily combatted. HMC seems to hit his Black Spot before me, so we chat whilst he concentrates on staying awake and positive. Just after the sun comes up, it is my turn to struggle, questioning why I do this each year and struggling to keep going. Motivation from HMC and a Mars Bar gets me back on track in no time and the last 10-15kms are torn up as we both know the finish is in sight.

A brief stop at the beach to soak up the atmosphere and then we get changed and sort the bikes in readiness for the home journey. Southwark Cyclists lay on coaches but HMC and I have, for 2 years running, driven to Dunwich on the Saturday, left the car overnight and then driven home on the Sunday morning. This is, arguably, the toughest bit as you have stopped the physical exertion and are in the relative comfort of a car. And you have not slept for something like 29 solid hours. The drive back to mine is a little under 2 and a half hours but in that short time I had 2 cans of Red Bull, one double espresso and a cake to keep me going and focussed. Of course the upside is that I was back home by 10am and the rest of the day can be used for a shower, eating and catching up on some sleep.

It is not easy but the effort is definitely worth it as it leaves you with a lasting sense of acheivement and the urge to grin everytime the Dunwich Dynamo is metioned.

Same time next year then…


headwind / headache


As part of the planned training for the Dunwich Dynamo, Hauling My Carcass and I always undertake at least one long(ish) training ride. Looking back at the training rides that we have done, every single one has caused us some problems – the first year, HMC was struggling. Last year we got a little, ahem, mis-routed and ended up not only cycling further than we had planned (144kms) but also called it a day at one point and caught the train back. This year, we had planned a round trip to Cambridge – 120kms in total that had been whittled down from a 140km+ route that I had devised. Hauling My Carcass had been eyeing the weather forecast and there was a headwind that we would be riding into for the whole of the return leg so we erred on the side of caution.


And it all started so well… HMC arriving at mine just before 8am, a quick espresso and we were off – up the first hill and out of my home town. The first 10kms or so were on fairly busy roads and the world was beginning to wake up so we rode single file. As we got further off the main roads we could ride side by side and chat. A constant side wind from the left made the route tougher than expected but before long, we were arriving in Cambridge. We stopped in a park for lunch and got chatting to an old guy on a hybrid / mountain bike who stopped to ask us for directions before launching into long tales of his years of riding bikes across the UK and abroad.


Once we had finished lunch, we were off again and on our way back out of Cambridge. Before very long it was evident that HMC’s prediction of a strong headwind all the way home was horribly accurate. A nasty constant headwind with quite violent gusts saw us slow to a crawl and all the banter and chat of the mornings ride soon dissipated. We realised what we were up against when we found ourselves having to pedal downhill…


Meanwhile, what was making things worse (for me) was a creeping headache and feeling of nausea that was slowly getting worse. I began to drop behind. I felt awful and thought I was going to be sick. Another 30km and it began to rain – we discussed cutting the ride short. I was still riding slowly, taking deep breaths and trying not to throw up. It was all I could do to keep the pedals turning. HMC would ride ahead and then have to wait for me to catch up. With about 20kms still to go, the headache and nausea began to retreat just as the heavens opened and it absolutely bucketed down. Thunder was rumbling around and we were both covered in mud that was being thrown up from the track that we were cycling on. A final check of the route and we were back at mine just as the rain began to ease. Without the inclement weather and me feeling unwell it would have been a great route to cycle but the combination of headwind and sickness took all of the fun out of it.


And then a run on Sunday morning instigated a full blown Migraine and I suspect it was the early stages of this that had caused me to feel so wretched on the ride the day before. I resigned myself to it and went to bed.


So a big thank you to HMC who, even in the pissing rain, waited for me as I dragged my sorry self 60 odd kilometres back from Cambridge. And, now at least I have experienced the truly unpleasant whilst on a training ride – which hopefully is good preparation should it happen again.



enter the luddite


Friday evening, and after a horrific week at work, I decided that the only thing that would lift my spirits was to get out for a run after work. A weary 12kms was duly completed and although it was a plod, it did serve to at least forget about the week and prepare myself for the weekend.

I had hoped that the weather this weekend would resemble that of the previous weekend – bright clear morning and warm, sunny afternoons. Unfortunately, grey cloud was in evidence so when I woke up on Sunday and looked out of the window, all enthusiasm for a long bike ride evaporated.

So I decided to tackle Mrs Eatingtrees’ bike instead. Inspired by what I had seen in Holland and Belgium, I was going to fit a rack to the back of the wife’s bike, adjust the brakes, cut down the handlebars and turn it from a mountain bike into something that more suited what it was actually used for – nipping to the shops or going on a picnic. All was well until I attempted to adjust the derailleur – it had long been neglected and shifted to some of the gears although not always reliably. I had adjusted gears on my mountain bikes before… what could possibly go wrong?

3 hours later and I am stood in the back garden, a face like thunder, trying to Google information on derailleur adjustment with hands covered in a thick layer of stick and slightly gritty chain grease. Nothing I could do seemed to improve the situation and I became increasingly frustrated… how could something so seemingly simple refuse to work so stubbornly.

Eventually, I put the bike angrily back in the garage and gently seethed for the rest of the day at my inability to fix it.

After last weeks bout of gear envy, I am firmly back in the singlespeed camp as no amount of slowly grinding my way up hills can compare with the frustration of being beaten into submission by a few twisty bits of metal, some cogs and some cabling!


Seasons Greetings

Without wishing to jinx anything, it appears Spring might have just about arrived in the UK. Waking up, squinting out of the window again this year. We have a 150km training ride planned for 2 weeks time and breaking into a grin is a sure sign that things are looking up weather wise. Saturday and Sunday were both just about perfect for a run and a cycle and I was able, as I got up and out of the house early enough, to squeeze in both this weekend.

Saturday’s morning of sunny spells was perfect for a run and I completed 16.6km – certainly not at a pace that would set the world alight, but steady. I had had an odd “injury” after a few of my previous runs – the day after a run, my foot would “creak” when I flexed my toes. It wasn’t especially painful but it is quite worrying when your foot feels like a rusty hinge. A quick bit of Googling informed me that the cause was usually mild tendon inflammation – so wanted to see if slowing down and concentrating on my form would help. Which it appeared to do. Sunday came around and there was no pain and no creaking. Hurrah!

So, creak free on Sunday morning, I jumped on the singlespeed and just headed off. I planned to cycle for 2 hours – basically one hour in one direction chosen at random and then turn round and head back. I set off through the Hertfordshire countryside and managed to pick out and unusually hilly route to Barnet along country roads. I love my singlespeed and have never suffered “gear envy” before but on Sunday I found myself up out of the saddle and grinding my way up hills only to be passed by roadies in lycra calmly overtaking me, legs spinning and looking relaxed. One even informed me as he passed that he “wouldn’t want to be riding a singlespeed up this hill”. Thanks.

Still, it is all good training for when Hauling My Carcass once again tackle the Dunwich Dynamo but for now, this ride would blow some of the cobwebs away.

Almost precisely 2 hours later, I was back home, just shy of 50km in the bank. It was not even 11a.m. Which left me with that fabulous smug feeling that you get when you know you have done what you needed to do and have the rest of the day to relax in the sun.


maas half marathon race review

The previous day, when we’d collected our race numbers, I’d tentatively asked if there was anywhere we could store 4 bags each whilst the race was on. I explained that we had cycled to Vise and had all our bags with us. I feared the worst – I have run races in the UK with no baggage storage at all (yes, Rat Race, I am talking about you) so felt asking to stow 4 bags was pushing it. I was told it was not a problem and we could put all our luggage in the baggage room on race day.

The organisation surrounding the event was phenomenal, there were a number of races all starting at intervals – a full marathon, a kids race, a 9.1km (??? no, me neither) and the Half Marathon we were taking part in. Race HQ was easily navigated and the staff spoke English. Toilets were plentiful with little or no queuing and the whole event was expertly managed. What seemed like the whole town were out on the streets to cheer us on and at 11am we set off with a 1km lap around the town before heading off out towards and along the banks of the river Maas. Marshalling was frequent and good, support at the inhabited sections of the route was loud and positive. It drizzled a bit and there were headwinds alongside the river but this is a fabulous race. I was running in my Vibrams and even a couple of kilometres of cobbles couldn’t dampen my spirit. Water stations with drinks, slices of orange, halves of bananas and slices of cake are at 5k intervals around the route and the support for the final 2k was fabulous. Cheering spectators, a sound system, drummers, everyone there encouraging and willing you on, lifting you through the final stretch.

I wasn’t sure how I’d fare in a Half Marathon after almost 400km of cycling but I came in 2:02:20. Delighted with the time, I met up with HMC who had finished a couple of minutes earlier and headed to Race HQ. There, we were given goody bags, a race branded back pack, a long sleeve technical t-shirt, water, apples, a couple of candle holders (?!) and the usual leaflets and bumph that fills post race goody bags. Most amazingly, the organisers had laid on a free buffet for all competitors with cheese rolls, cake, fruit, water… as much as you wanted. This was a complete eye opener for me especially as the race entry was only 10 Euros. So, if a race in a medium size town in Belgium can do all this and also get all the other race facilities and organisation so right for 10 Euros, why are there far worse races here with £40+ entry fees?


And so with a successful trip and a phenomenal Half Marathon completed, all that remained was to get ourselves home. A quick scrub up, the ceremonial binning of the Vibram 5 Fingers that had seen better days, and we were loading our bags back onto the bikes for what was to be our final leg of the journey. 21km cycle into Liege, a train from Liege to Brussels, Eurostar from Brussles to St Pancras and then the final train home. I was back in time for the 10 o’ clock news.


The whole experience was great and the memories will stay with me a very long time. The Jack Wolfskin waterproof and HMC’s GPS mapping were both worth their weight in gold and made the trip far slicker and more comfortable. HMC made a great companion and his time and effort in the bulk of the organisation and booking of the trip is enormously appreciated (you can read his version of events here). Everyone who we met in Holland and Belgium were lovely and couldn’t do enough for us and the race itself was up there with the best of them.

I went with the expectation of an enjoyable trip and another Half Marathon notched up but returned with so much more. So how do we top this for next year?


maas half marathon – how we got there

This had been 2 years in the making and when it eventually happened it was well worth the wait. Tuesday and at 1pm we met at Liverpool St station. Myself, Hauling My Carcass and 2 home made single speed bikes laden 6 days worth of luggage. We got the train to Colchester and then cycled the remaining 30ish kilometres to Harwich. We arrived early, killing time in a pub near the dock, eating, drinking and catching up.

We stocked up on some bits for “breakfast” at the supermarket and then went to the Ferry terminal to wait. I was surprised by the number of other cyclists waiting to board and, although promised that we would board first, we stood in the dark and the cold and were eventually boarded last. Bikes are wheeled on board and then hung by the handlebars in purpose built racks. We found our cabin, which was decidedly plush with some bunks, an en-suite and a massive porthole looking out over the sea. This was the bit that I was least looking forward to – I get terribly seasick but I have to say the crossing was fabulous. Very smooth and quiet and if you did not look out of the porthole, you would not have known you were moving. A quick drink and then I went straight to sleep. I awoke to the tannoy informing us that we would be disembarking in one hour.

In the Hook of Holland, HMC turned on his GPS and we were off, following the route that he had diligently mapped over the preceeding months. I have to say that having the GPS made this trip very easy. So easy in fact, that after an hour in, we decided to take a detour into Rotterdam to see the suspension bridge. Both HMC and I had agreed that this wasn’t just to be a “heads down and get to our destination” trip and that we should stop where and when we pleased to take in some of the places we passed through. A second breakfast of coffee and cake in Rotterdam and we were off for what was to be probably one of the toughest parts of the journey.


The weather closed in, rain showers and wind and we soon realised that we were hungry and in the middle of Holland with nowhere to stop and eat. At this point I was thankful for the Jack Wolfskin jacket that I had brought with me – it kept out both the wet and the wind and I would continue to use it throughout the 6 days – it became my warm, dry place that I could shelter from the elements whilst still eating up the miles on the bike. A snack bar was found that sold water, Coke, rolls, chips, crisps and chocolate. We basically ordered 2 of everything from the menu and set about re-fuelling. And it was fabulous. We finished up and set off on the final leg to our first destination – a B&B nestled amongst the flat farmlands of Holland. The reception couldn’t have been warmer, the owner even taking pity on us and offering to get us a Chinese take away to save us having to cycle somewhere to eat. Despite asking for vegetarian, I seemed to get food that contained meat, albeit only a little, so HMC feasted and I had some rice and a bit of soup. The breakfast that was laid on for us the following morning more than made up for it with eggs, rolls, home-made jam, yoghurt drink and coffee.


Day 2 and we set off through the pancake flat farmland on roads and cycle paths so smooth that it felt like you could go for miles without even pedalling. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of people out and about – we passed a few cycle races and we found out that today was a national holiday in Belgium. Highlight of the day was the stretch alongside the Albert Canal – a perfectly smooth, perfectly flat and perfectly straight cycle path alongside a large man made estuary. Whipping past tankers and enormous canal boats, and with no traffic to concentrate on, we chatted as we tore up the miles. Again, HMC had done us proud, for when we arrived at the accommodation for the night, it was a massive “loft apartment” above a tavern in the middle of a forest. We were warmly greeted by the owners and promptly offered bottles of Coke (“You guys have cycled a pretty long way, I’ll get you some Coca-Cola” is one of the nicest phrases you can here after a day of cycling in the sunshine). We had to find a shop that was open to get something for dinner (pasta, as it turned out), and then settled down with our food to watch highlights of the Giro D’Italia before getting to bed before the 3rd and final full day of cycling.


Day 3 and we wanted to get a good portion of the days distance done in the morning. Today was the first day that we really had to spend any amount of time cycling on actual roads. We also encountered our first real hills of the trip. Up until now, they had been little more than inclines. A stop for lunch after 60km meant that we had roughly 30k to complete in the afternoon. Once again, the Jack Wolfskin came into it’s own, keeping the wind off whilst sat at the side of the road in a deserted Belgian village feasting on rolls stuffed with houmous, cheese and crisps. This is not my preferred meal of choice but it contains enough carbs to keep you going all day and, after 60 kilometres in the saddle, tastes fantastic.


The last 30km were probably the hardest of the whole trip – hilly terrain and then hitting Vise in rush hour was a real culture shock. We were back on actual roads and all of a sudden dealing with traffic. Lots of traffic. The final hill to our destination (approx 1km up followed by 1km down) was a killer when laden with luggage and trying to negotiate traffic jams but we made it. We checked in and then went in search of food. Unfortunately, the nearest restaurants were back in Vise so for each evening meal, we had to tackle the 1k up / 1k down hill that sat between us and the town. Saturday was to be our rest day before the Maas Half Marathon on Sunday and was spent getting our race packs from Race HQ, a little excursion on the bikes cut short by a torrential downpour and then an afternoon of watching the Giro. Finally, a cycle into Vise with pizza for dinner because tomorrow was race day…


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