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Now retired but busy still living..

Wednesday 29 February 2012


Today was the last day of February and was going to be the first ride in 2012 with JD. 
The arrangements had been made and we were going to meet at the ferry for a decent ride together over the Purbeck Hills...that was the plan anyway. 
Unfortunately JD had to pull out due to a last minute appointment that he couldn't alter. 

Now I could have just carried on with the planned ride solo, but I decided to do an alternative ride and spend a little bit of time working on my hill climbing. 
Within half a minute bike ride from my home there is a hill that runs down to almost sea level. 
The local bus finishes it's route at the bottom of the hill where there is a circular turn round area for the bus. 
In the summer months the bus drops off lots of holidaymakers here for a day at the beach but at this time of year the area is more or less empty and makes a good place to work on my strength and hill technique.
It is not a huge hill only rising to 200ft  but it does present a good workout. 

I rode over to the top of the hill ....and set off on the short descent....down the hill.....
 around the bend as I approached the bottom of the hill where the bus turns around.........

 and then I just set off back up the hill.... 
Obviously once was not enough so I completed this descent and ascent 25 times. 

The first few times I managed it without any problems, but by the time I got to number 20 things were becoming pretty tough and by the time I reached my goal for the day I have to admit I was glad to stop. 

A lot of people tell me that they are no good on hills and actively avoid them. I believe that if you hardly ever ride up hills you will never improve your hill climbing ability. 
As with all things you need to practice in order to get better at it. 
Over the years I have learned to love hills and it's practice on hills that has helped me arrive at that attitude towards them.........

Sunday 26 February 2012


Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that I am always looking for a new challenge......
Well I think that I have found it. However there is just one small problem....
I need to make it to 100 years old before I can make my attempt and that is a challenge in itself.

Recently Robert Marchand established a cycling world record for riders over 100 years old. 
He set the world record for the hour completing 24.251 kms during his attempt. 
The record was set at the World Cycling Centre Velodrome at Aigle in Switzerland. Robert said that he just wanted something to do for his 100th birthday....apparently he reached that grand century a couple of months ago. 
He completed the event on a standard track bike, although he said that he had not ridden on a track for over 80 years, normally preferring to ride on the road. 
The advice he was given before the start of his ride was to keep his heart rate under 110 bpm and in the main he managed to stick to this, although Robert did say that on a recent hill climb whilst out on the road he did take his heart rate up to 134 bpm  with no ill effects. 

Robert went on to say that over the last five years he hasn't done rides of more than 100kms. "There is no point in going overboard" he said.  
Apparently he doesn't smoke and he has never been much of a drinker either and his advice to both young and old is to keep on moving.........

Come to think of it I know a lot of riders a third of his age that don't ride more than 100kms at a time, if they even get to that..........................

Friday 24 February 2012


In my last post I touched on the fact that a recent common thread on a lot of cycling forums and blogs has been around the subject of 'Do you really know where your bike was made?' 
It would seem that a lot of people have expressed surprise that the bike or frame that they have  purchased might not have been manufactured in the country that they thought it had....
Surprised that they had purchased a name. 
Surprised that the bike frame they thought had been made in say Italy or USA was in fact made somewhere in Asia. 

Did they really not have an idea that was the case? 
I mean why should the bike industry be any different to any other industry. 
In the book 'It's all about the Bike' by Robert Penn he went to the Cinelli Factory in Italy to choose the handlebars for the bike he was building....He picked his bars, but acknowledged the fact that although they were designed and then tested at Cinelli's Italian factory, they were actually made in Asia 
Does this make them any less Cinelli....I don't believe so..

Take cameras....where are so many of those made these days? 
There was a time that every Leica was made in Germany....nowadays a lot of cameras and lenses carry the Leica name but were certainly not manufactured there. 

Then there are cars.
The last time I bought a car I purchased a Peugeot....a French manufacturer with a long history....Citroen and Toyota both make very similar models and the reality is that all three are made in the same factory and that factory is in Romania...real badge engineering I call it. 

But my point here is that if you read enough photographic and motoring magazines you would have been aware of this.... 
So are people really surprised that their bike frame was not made in the USA, Italy or the UK but in say China and not only that, but in the same factory that a number of other makes are made as well?....

My last post was about the fix I get from reading cycling magazines and how my choice of bikes has been based to some extent on the reviews I read prior to my purchase......You only have to read these reviews to get a pretty good idea where your frame and components originated from..... 

But...and here is my main point...Does it really matter? 
If you have a bike that rides like a dream...does everything that you expected it to and looks pretty darn good to boot, does it really matter if the frame comes out of a factory in Asia where a number of other makes of bike frame are produced as well. 

Now I am not talking here about the political and business ramifications of production. What I am talking about here is riding a bike. 
I am a cyclist....I have a passion for riding bikes.....Yes I love the history of cycling and bike production, but we are where we are and it is 2012. 
I think that it is far to easy to get caught up in 'hardware' discussions such as Shimano, Sram or Campagnolo and the coffee and cake stop wouldn't be complete without these rider discussions, but when all is said and done the real point to cycling is riding your bike.... Wherever it comes from...

There is an awful lot of brand snobbery around cycling and a lot of that can be fun, but in my opinion in the great scheme of things it really doesn't matter. What does matter is getting on whatever bike you have wherever it comes from and riding it.......I mean, if you don't ride your bike you can't call yourself a cyclist and riding your bike is what really matters......

Dan O over at Yo Eddy!! wrote a good post on this subject recently with some good links. If you didn't see it pop over and have a look now...........

Wednesday 22 February 2012


I have to come clean....every so often  I need a regular fix. No, not that sort of fix...the fix I'm referring to is cycling magazines. 
I subscribe to a couple of monthly magazines..then there is the bi-monthly magazine which comes as part of my membership of the Cyclists Touring Club and then on top of that I buy Cycling Weekly now and again just to keep up to date with the more sporting side of cycling. 
I also buy Pro-Cycling every so often again to keep in touch with the pro side of the cycling world, so all in all quite a few magazines pass through the doors of Purple Towers.... Oh..I forgot to mention a couple of small  occasional magazines from local cycling clubs...yes a lot of reading matter.

 So what is it that I enjoy so much about magazines...I mean I still read books and as I sit here writing this blog post I have a whole bookcase full of books behind me, a good third of them are cycling related...but there is something different about a magazine....it is so easy to read. 
I can read a bit and put it down and when I pick it up again just dive straight in without having to refresh my memory on the 'story so far'. 
I don't have to make a commitment to reading a magazine in the same way that I do when I read a book. 

Over the years I have learned so much about cycling from the various magazine that I have read. Regular write ups and reviews of the latest bikes have always been a favourite of mine and I have used them as the basis for each bike choice that I have made over the past few years. There is no way that I can test most of the new bikes that hit the shops each year but cycling magazine writers can. Each of the three bikes that I currently own was obtained after I had read reports on them in various magazines. If a number of various independent reports are all saying the same thing about a bike then it is usually the case. It has certainly worked for me anyway.... 

Then we have the advice regarding training and how to improve in various disciplines....always useful and always interesting. Readers letter pages...new components..new kit... even the adverts... I love it all.
Just look at the cover of the copy of 'Cycling Plus' shown in the photo above.. 
'Think Yourself Faster'  - 'Nail Every Climb'  - 'Superbikes-Dream machines ridden and rated!' just three of the articles in that one edition. 

Reading this kind of stuff really does help to ignite your enthusiasm and keep it burning on a month by month basis....well it does for me. 
On top of that it can also help to build your overall knowledge of the whole cycling scene....one of the reasons that I have been just a little surprised by some of the threads on various bike forums concerning the subject 'Where do you think your bike was made?' 
Did people really not know? Why should bikes be any different to any other product in this 'globalized trading' world we now live in...?
But I digress....I will save that for another post.. 

About this time of the month I start to feel a real pleasurable anticipation as the latest magazines are about to be delivered ...talking of which I have just heard a magazine flop through my letterbox and onto the mat...Time for a fix......

Sunday 19 February 2012


The World Cycle Racing - Grand Tour has now started. 
The riders set off yesterday morning from Greenwich Park in London and each rider immediately got into their  chosen route. 

There have been a variety of approaches to this race in terms of styles..bikes and equipment. Touring bike, Hybrid or Sports bike...they were all there at the start. 
Some of the riders are carrying a full touring set of kit others are travelling very obviously as light as they can. 
It will certainly be interesting to see how this race pans out over the forthcoming weeks....

I will be riding in France and then riding Edinburgh to Portsmouth during April and May and the WCR Grand Tour will still be going on ! Puts the whole thing into perspective I think.

 Don't forget, you can follow all the riders progress by going to the WCR Grand Tour web page....I have a link at the bottom of my links column in the side bar of this blog......

Also in London....

Also in London this weekend we have had the Track Cycling World Cup Classics staged at the new Olympic Velodrome. 

I would have loved to have been able to attend this event but unfortunately was unable to do so. 
I  have had to settle for watching this on television and gripping stuff it's been too.
The best track riders in the world were there and it's good to see where the various riders and teams are at this point in the run up to the Olympics later in the year......

The velodrome itself looks absolutely fantastic....Pity I didn't get any tickets for the Olympic Track Cycling at this super new venue. Like lot's of fans I applied for tickets and again like lots of fans I didn't get one, so it looks like I will be watching that at home too.....

............and my riding....

My own riding has still been going well. 
Since the beginning of the year I have managed to ride an average of 240 miles a week. This is usually made up of four days of 60 miles give or take a bit. 

I have decided that I will ease back a few miles on my weekly mileage as I don't want to overcook things too early in the year. If I was to manage somewhere in the region of an average of 180 miles a week for the rest of the year I would still hit my 10,000 miles target. 

The planned Edinburgh to Portsmouth ride will give me about 550 miles in that week alone and the couple of weeks easy touring in France should give me 700+  so at the moment the pressure has eased a little. 
I am riding well but I feel that there is lots of room for improvement and I will continue to work on that. Hills, both ascending and descending, is an area of my riding that I am  working hard at. Starting next month I should get back on a regular weekly ride with JD and that is always good for a laugh but I don't know how much serious riding we will get done.........  

Wednesday 15 February 2012


At this time of year I don't ride my carbon bike Fiona (The Felt). I tend to reserve this bike for the period from late spring through to early autumn......days when the chances of  rain..... mud..... salt.... grit..etc are low. 
It's my best bike and  I spent a lot when I bought it so I can't see myself spending that much again on a bike....particularly now I  am retired. I like to keep it in pristine condition and that gives me almost as much pleasure as the hours I do spend riding it during the summer months..... 

Most of the winter miles I ride tend to be spread between the Tifosi and the Revolution...... although for most daily riding the Tifosi is my bike of choice.......The mudguards (fenders) mean that I can ride the bike year round and I don't have to spend hours cleaning the bike after each ride. 

I have never really understood why a lot of riders are happy to ride a bike without mudguards throughout the winter. Muck sprays up everywhere...all over the bike and all over the rider. 
As I ride on the road only- I find that a lot of grease and oil is picked up off the road and trying to remove the marks that are left down the back of expensive cycling jerseys and other cycling kit can be a difficult task no matter what 'magic cleaner' you choose to use. 

Obviously there are no mudguards on the Felt....and if it happens to rain during a sportive or some other time that I am riding the bike, then that's the way it is and I have to put up with it. I think that I would be spending hours cleaning the bike let alone cycle clothing if I rode it throughout the winter period as well. 
No, for me Fiona is a special bike reserved for special days and special events........ 

I have posted a picture of Fiona's naked carbon bottom bracket area above.....
I would not normally display a picture of Fiona's more intimate areas but this shot is for Jeff over at http://theflattire.blogspot.com/
He is looking to buy a new frame....he has talked about the possibility of buying a carbon frame but he's not been giving too much away on his final choice of  material or anything else come to that. So I thought that I would give him a bit of excitement and a little reminder of the beauty of naked carbon. 

Naked carbon bike porn....don't you just love it..?

Saturday 11 February 2012


This past week has been a busy week...... 
Although the weather has been very cold for most of the time I have still managed to put in more miles and I have also felt pretty good doing it. 
All of my riding has been solo...the last time I rode with anyone else, was a few weeks ago when I did the short 30 mile loop with my son-in-law Scott. 

One of the positives of riding solo of course is that the pace you ride is your pace. 
No sprinting for that road sign because everyone else is....and no riding faster or slower than your fitness or training schedule dictates... 

I have been able to stick very closely to my training programme and I am sure that it is paying dividends.  I think that my level of cycling is in a good place right now and I am able to see some improvements in a number of areas...
Let's hope that I can continue to build on this throughout the rest of the winter........ 

On Thursday night I went to the monthly 'Gear & Beer' night of the Dorset Group of the Backpackers Club. 
The idea is that we spend half an hour or so in the Bournemouth Cotswold Outdoor Store drooling over some of the latest outdoor kit before settling into a nearby pub for a pint or two of some amber nectar and a good old jaw bashing, supposedly planning future backpacking trips and putting the world to rights....and we certainly did that. 
If you notice some improvements in your world anytime soon it's sure to be due to all the discussions we had about the state of the world....
A good part of my week has been spent on planning future trips and events.....
I don't know how I managed to do anything when I was working, because there never seems to be enough time to do everything I want to these days (Oh, the problems of retirement)....trying to fit it all into the year planner has been proving to be a real problem. 

One spot of good news concerns the Edinburgh to Portsmouth ride that JD conned talked me into doing. 
Dave (The Broom Wagon) Vaughan has agreed to support us for the entire event. 
This means that there is no requirement for us to do this ride on the touring bikes. 
With Dave giving us vehicle back up we will not need to carry tents and other gear and we will be able to ride on lighter bikes. 
JD intends riding his Specialized  Secteur Comp and my plan is to use the Tifosi Audax Classic. 

Now you might think that Dave is looking pretty glum in the photo above that was taken on route to Santander, but I can assure you that there are occasions that he manages to break into a smile....
Like on the ROCK2UK  ride back from Gibraltar last September.... 
Due to work commitments he could only support us for the first few days but he was laughing his head off as he climbed back into the vehicle when he left us in the middle of nowhere in Spain........ 

Truth is that it is great news that he will be supporting us on this latest mini adventure and I am sure that a lot more fun will be had with his involvement.

We will be starting this ride leaving Edinburgh at 09.30 on Saturday 26th May....I will let you know more details of the ride a few days before we set off.

Wednesday 8 February 2012


Despite a lot of the UK being hit by freezing conditions with snow over the past week...down here in this  part of the south coast we have managed to avoid the worst of the bad weather. 
Yes, we have had some very cold nights and riding my bike over the past few days has been a bitterly cold experience but as yet I have not seen any snow, although the weather forecast for the next few days is telling us that we should expect to see a snowfall soon. 

Avoiding the really bad weather has been working in my favour, allowing me to get out on most days of the week in my attempt to clock up as many miles as possible early in the year. 
I am doing this to take the pressure off me in the months to come in my pursuit of hitting 10,000 miles this year.

The other day as I was riding on one of my favourite circular rides, my thoughts started to wander as they often do as I am spinning along. 
The question "why do I do this?" floated through my head. 
I am often asked why I ride my bike and the answer to that one is simple...because I enjoy it so much....I love the physical act of spinning the pedals and the buzz that I get in covering the miles quicker than walking, but most of the time still slow enough to see the countryside that I am passing through...

These thoughts were coming and going through my mind as I arrived at the bottom of one of the many hills that I ride in this part of Dorset... This one in particular is a 20% beauty which has a real sting in the tail in the way that it has a really nasty kick up in the last quarter section. 
As I started to head in an upward direction my speed went in a downward direction and the question Why? entered my head again. 

Why do I like riding up hills so much? 

I dropped down the gears a bit and started to settle into a cadence that I knew  I was comfortable with.....then I started to struggle. 
No, I wasn't struggling with the hill so much as struggling with an answer to the question that had been posed in my head. 

The gradient continued to increase and I continued to drop through my gears one by one as my forward movement became slower. At this time of year the hill can become quite slippery, so it is better to remain seated...if you stand up on the pedals you run a real risk of spinning the rear wheel and losing all forward momentum. 

I have been riding this hill for a good few years now and it 'never' gets easier. The fitter I get I might go up it a bit faster, but it is never easy. 
I reached that last quarter section and the hill kicked up and I dropped down to 34/25 the smallest gear on the Tifosi . 

Why do I do this? 

That question was still floating around in my head and was still unanswered... My legs were hurting now...Lot's of thoughts now....I can't stop...I mustn't stop...If I do I will probably fall off the bike on this hill....If I stop I will never get started again....Why? Why do I do this... I'm 64 years old..I could be at home in the warm....My feet wouldn't be feeling like blocks of ice....I must be mad riding this hill at this time of year....Why? 

Then all of a sudden I am at the top...the road levels out and I click up through the gears. I pass the car park at the summit viewpoint...in the summer it's usually filled with cars but today it's empty. I ride along the short level  summit road  and realize that I still haven't managed to answer that question..Why do I like to ride up hills?  

I reach the sharp left hand bend click up further through the gears...in the big ring now and the road starts to descend. 

The descent from this hill is exhilarating...just two small bends in the middle...the rest is straight down with a very sharp left hand bend at the bottom.  
I am now in my highest gear...a glance at the Garmin tells me that I am travelling at 43mph.... 44mph....45mph around the two short bends and into the straight..I glance at the Garmin again 46mph.... 47mph...... 

I am approaching that sharp left hander at the bottom.. one last glance and it's nudging 50mph. 
I brake hard and then negotiate the bend...I sit up and flick the lever to drop me down to the middle of the rear cogs. 

As I head along the road at a steady 20 mph that little question pops into my head again....Why?....Why do I love riding up hills so much? 

No, it's not just the descent. 

Exhilarating as it is, if that was the only reason... I could just push my bike to the top and then ride down the hill...no it must be something else. There must be some other reason why I get some form of enjoyment in the struggle to the top. 

Perhaps...just perhaps....it's because I then feel that I have earned the right to enjoy the descent....But it is only perhaps......!!

Sunday 5 February 2012


Further to my last post and checking out the various riders that will be competing in this event.....two riders are of particular interest to me.....

The first rider whom I would like to draw attention to is STUART LANSDALE.
Stuart is based down here in Dorset....at Dorchester the county town. 
It would appear that he is the youngest of the riders competing at 21 years old. 
His route means he plans to travel east. 
He will be riding a Steel Framed Dawes bicycle which will be shod with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. 
The regular readers of this blog will be aware that these are the tyres that my cycling buddy JD used on his bike on our ROCK2UK ride back from Gibraltar...JD swears by them so I am sure that they will serve Stuart well. 
Stuart's previous cycling experience is UK to Berlin plus he has also done various Trekking trips including The Wonderland Trail in the USA.....the Annarpurna Base Camp Trek and he also hiked the GR20 in Corsica.

The other rider who has attracted my attention is MARTIN WALKER.
Now Martin has actually taken time out from what is obviously a busy time of preparation, to contact me here at 'Purple Towers'. (Check out my comments box for my last post)
Martin is based in London and is 38 years of age and he is another of the riders who will be setting off in an easterly direction. 
He will be riding an upgraded Rose ProSL 2000 with an aluminium frame. His bike is also shod with Schwalbe tyres but his choice is for the Ultremo ZX's. 
Interestingly Martin  has had no previous cycle challenge experience and he describes himself as just an ordinary Joe..

I am sure that you, like me, will be following the progress of both these guys once they set off on this event on the 18th February....Let us all wish them well and the very best of luck to them and also the other riders, on this fantastic adventure that they are embarking on.

Friday 3 February 2012


On Saturday the 18th February starting at 12 noon,  ten unsupported solo riders will be setting off from Greenwich Park in London UK to race 18,000 miles around the world in the World Cycle Racing - Grand Tour. 

GPS trackers and a special race commentary mean that their progress can be followed in real time in what has been described as 'the longest, toughest adventure race in the world'. 

Well,  that really puts my puny efforts in cycling from Gibraltar back to the UK to shame. 
Maybe I should think again on my plans for riding the length of EuroVelo route 6..... something even further perhaps..?

If you are interested in knowing more about this race...I have put in a direct link in my LINKS panel....just click on WORLD CYCLE RACING - GRAND TOUR.

Wednesday 1 February 2012


It's been a good January on the cycling front here at Purple Towers.... 

After failing to reach my 2011 mileage target of 10,000 miles by just under 646 miles -  2012 has started really well.
Helped by the mild weather that we have experienced during January I managed to achieve  1019 miles total for the month....This is a real first for me as I have never passed 1000 miles so early in the year. I'm pretty pleased with that, especially as I also achieved 'nearly OAP' status of 64...I will update my blog mileage counter at the weekend as normal.

We shall just have to see how the rest of the year pans out, but I have high hopes that if everything works out well I will hit my stupid target this year. I don't know why I set myself targets, other than giving myself something to aim at. However I do get a lot of fun trying to achieve them and perhaps that is reason enough.....

February has started a lot colder with freezing conditions last night and patchy ice on the roads today.....I took it very easy out on my ride today as I don't want another broken collarbone...once was enough! 

I got back home after three and a half hours with blocks of ice on the end of my legs. 
Well , actually my feet were still there, but they did feel like blocks of ice. 
I ride wearing two pairs of socks (1 thick & 1 thinner) plus a pair of overshoes and I still suffer with frozen feet.....
I'm nice and warm, it's just my feet. I am fine for the first couple of hours but after that my feet just get colder and colder......

Does anyone else suffer with this? If so what do you do to keep your little tootsies warm?

Six weeks off.

 The visit to see the Consultant went quite well really ...   My ' numbers' have started to creep up again so I am going to be given...