Hog's Back

The Hogs Back is so much more than just part of the Cycletta Surrey cycle route.  As I check out the course route, I'm learning something about our, topography, history,  local beer, and the Pilgrims' Way.

At an elevation of 154 meters, (that's over 500ft for those of you who think in impereal measurements) when I saw that at first I had a little panic, living by the coast on the flat, here in the South Eastern corner of Kent, I'm used to starting out for the day on my beloved bike at sea level, and not very often climbing more than 100 meters or so.

Loseley Park
Loseley House  ©James Stringer
The day we will will be starting at Loseley Park, which isn't at sea level!

The climb over the Hogs Back will not be as bad as I first thought, still raised dramatically around the surrounding countryside the ridge on the North Downs, I suspect that will be our  maximum hill climb of the day, after  looking at the Cyceletta course route map, over and over again, it looks like we cross it twice!

I'm looking forward to the challenge, hope for a clear day so we get the oppertunity to see the spectacular views that were seen by Jane Austen and written in about in a letter to her sister.
"Upon the whole it was an excellent journey & very thoroughly enjoyed by me; the weather was delightful the greatest part of the day. Henry found it too warm, & talked of its being close sometimes, but to my capacity it was perfection. I never saw the country from the Hogsback so advantageously."
The views will have changed since those times, yet still spectacular, I found this facinating BBC, in pictures article, View from the top of the Hogs Back, especially as I might have my head down and be struggling on the climb, too busy pedalling to take it all in, and you never ever know with the Great British weather!

It's not just Jane Austen who mentions the Hogs Back, there is also a detective novel, The Hogs Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Crofts, could be worth a read, I'll be looking out for it in the local bookstore, to save it for a time to put my feel up, at the end of a hard days cycling with a bottle of the local brew from The Hogs Back Brewery an independent real ale brewery is based in Tongham, one of the villages, just below the ridge that we will cycle through.


The Pilgrims' Way, a route I have often thought about walking, does not run along the top of the Hog's Back but over the southern slopes, parallel with the ridgeway, and through the village of Puttenham, it looks like our route crosses it.   I'll be checking that out for another day.

So I'm ready,

  • Bring on the book, 
  • Bring on the Beer - 

First I have small the matter of The Human Race -Macmillan Cycletta Surrey.
Forget the walking boots, I prefer my bike.


Race Number, It's Arrived

Got home from work and opened my post box on my way in, to find my race number of the Cycletta Surrey ride has arrived.  Exciting stuff, but I'm wishing I hadn't eaten those donuts today,   still praying that the hills will not be too steep, and just about to download the route map, to inspect each incline in every detail.

We have a couple more days of training planned, before taking it a bit easy, and heading off to hotel the night before for an early morning start to the start line.  Two weeks and I will be doing my thing for MacMillan, even the small hills will be Surrey Hills! as Thanet is flat, will challenge me.

Am I ready to do this, only time will tell.





  • Now all I have to find safety pins to put the number on my jersey, can any expert tell me, is that the best way to do it?  I should I sew it on with needle and thread.
  • Timing chip to be stuck helmet and make sure I get it in the right place.
  • Coloured card, on handle bars, I'm on the red route, that's the longer distance one, Why on earth did I sign up for that?
  • Number stickers on bike seat post, front of helmet and coloured card.
  • Pack the snacks and fill the water bottles.

There is no doubt now, not only am I going to do this, I will be know as number 2534 on the 12th October.  The two of us, friends from Thanet on the entry list and both of us confident, we have put in enough training.  We are going to show you ladies what we are made of.  I'll be happy just to get across the finish line, then that will be a good days cycling, but I have always been a bit competitive so watch out.

Fingers crossed for fine weather.
If you see me on the road, please cheer me on I will need all the support I can get.

Kentish Hills

Rode on a bit further, and up a few more hills, now feeling proud and pooped

Cycletta, here we come

Earlier in the spring, my friend challenged me to join a Cycletta bike ride in October, the thought seemed daunting, could I actually ride that far.  Well I guess there is no time limit - I could just take my own pace, plod along the road, the fat fifty year old at the back, count me in I like a challenge.

Over the summer we have been training, going out at least a couple of times a week, exploring the roads of Thanet, sometimes I would even cycle to work to sneak in a few extra miles. Setting small challenges along the way.  15 miles at first was the first big achievement, to be celebrated with cake! On the slightest of hills I would end up pushing.

One evening having stayed on for an extra shift at work,  I had to cycle back home, late in the night, dark, all but the half moon, which showed once in a while between the light moving clouds.  I took the back roads on the country lanes from Eastry in Kent, it was a warm summers evening, I was in no hurry just wanted to get home safely.

My dim lights were aimed on the road, yet I still managed to go into one or two pot holes, I could't see the hills ahead, busy concentrating just looking out for the pot holes. No traffic at all,  I was feeling the bike, feeling the road and the odd bump, feeling the gears.   The air was fresh and there was slight breeze, I could hear every sound, the countryside was smelling good.  This was the first time I had ridden a bicycle with my senses, suddenly it all seemed to be a bit easier, cycling had become natural, cycling in the dark had been a turning point.  Just pedalling to get home, it was a joy, this was just as easy as driving  the car, gone was the normal huff and puff determination, that I had been putting myself through.  The realisation came not only could do this, I was actually enjoying it.

Ecstatic, that I got home before midnight, (really it's not that far), buzzing from the ride, straight online to look at Strava.   I wanted to check the map, I wasn't even sure exactly where I had been!   I know these Kentish lanes in daylight, but at night with poor lights, that's another story.  Certainly not the most direct route home, but who cares I wanted the quiet roads.    I had got up the hills, I had got up them quicker than normal, a personal best time without even trying!  Achieved a couple of virtual trophies, gosh I was so proud, finally I had mastered the gears.  Before daylight, I had been online to buy a very decent set of lights.

The friend and I continue to set small targets to our daytime rides, adding a few extra miles and the odd hill, here and there. Each its own achievement, and a sense of victory, I got up Granville Marina in Ramsgate, then promptly fell off at the top, so excited that I had achieved the climb, that I forgot to unclip from the pedals as I stopped.  Now I just keep going!

Cycle Sh!t Cafe

As winter approaches,  I brought a new pair of jeans,  a size smaller, not even tight!  of course the diet starts tomorrow!  Out with my buddy, on a training ride, we can even hold a conversation, we talk about the upcoming ride, and giggle like teenagers over the lush men we have met in lycra.  60Km isn't going to be as tough as we had first thought.   With three weeks still to go, we are well prepared, now it is just fingers crossed for good weather.

Cycletta Surrey watch out, we have decided to show you what we can do, see you at the finish line!

Just reading a fascinating article about the meaning of colour and marketing, something that made me smile. My own blog colours, were to be honest not really planned, my inspiration came from my home and travels, other than to have some contrast and fun to my pages it was all a bit of hit and miss.


So according to the experts my green and pink has meaning. Green would say that I am peaceful, the fact that I have gone for a lime green with a hint of yellow adds some optimism. The raspberry pink creative, with a bit of youthful excitement!
Are my blue glasses about trust, no not really more a tribute to Brains!

I rather like that!

You can read the full article Why Facebook is blue

Sorry mate, I didn't see you - yeh right.


Wearing vivid colours is one of the joys of cycling, you don't need to conform to fashion, or stick with drab conformist colours. Some would even go as far as to say, high-viz colours should be the law for a vulnerable cyclist on the road, but then that is no different from the great helmet debate.

If, it's going to save your life well that's got to be a good thing, if it means you are not going to get on a bike because you have to wear one then of course it's not.

You are entitled to your views, but please respect mine. I have been looking around for a suitable jersey, and I'm loving this Yodel shirt from Provison Clothing for several reasons.

1, It is bright and colourful;
2, It supports the women's tour, and we need more girls cycling
3, Yodel deliver my 'collect+' shopping from a well know online bike store! Often I pass their vans on the road, and wonder who is getting what goodies today. I'm out on my bike, not one to want in, even for bike bits :-)
4, Simple vanity, it matches my handlebar tape!


Cycling for Coffee and Cake.

Cycling, brings new challenges, new routes, new speeds, distance targets ect.

Like any serious sports person, I have become quite a number cruncher, rushing in from any ride to analyse the digital data from the GPS and phone app, speeds distance time elevation even wind speed and direction. I have set myself a few targets and they are getting hard and harder to manage but I’m loving the cycling.

July I was aiming to lose a bit of weight, (in order to get up the hills) eating real food, and trying to cut out the rubbish. Cover larger distances and even set myself a 100 mile weekly target in the third week of the month. Which by the way I smashed. The 500 Kilometres monthly target was a bit harder, and it didn’t help that a couple of times I forgot to set the recording data, so those rides simply didn’t count.

With Targets, Come Rewards.

Cycling targets come the reward of general fitness, but after a couple of months of being tight with my cash, saving every spare penny for the new bike, I decided to treat myself, go out for coffee and maybe even cake if I could manage 500 kilometres in a month.

With a few long rides done, one of which was the longest I've recorded. Using a bicycle everyday last week for general transport, leaving the car at home, and then on 30th of July, with a whole day spare, I hit the 500Km monthly distance target.


507Km to be exact! And where was I? TESCO's - so I stopped after doing the shopping, and before going to the dentist at the coffee shop, Harris and Hool in Broadstairs. In case you don't know it, it’s the new coffee shop inside The Tesco Store for an excellent cup of coffee.

“An excellent cup of coffee”
These are very find words from the coffee snob that I am, just ask my family and friends who will tell you I would rather go without or even drink tea, than drink bad or worse instant coffee.

Not only was this good, it was more than just fine taste. Served with love by a human that asked my name, and then used it. A person unique with their own style, so very different from the normal uniformed drone of the coffee chain stores we know. The crockery was a mighty fine cup and saucer too. I don’t take sugar in my drinks, but missing was the portion controlled sachets and dreaded plastic spoon. Instead Demerara Sugar in a real jar & spoon! This was much the same as coffee at home only served by someone else and I was truly ready for a good one.

The cake hardly touched the sides, going down so quick that I will have to go back to review it.

The emptily plate and cup says it all. Better get back on my bike quick, and reach the next target, because I could try it all.

How to use clip less pedals, (clip in pedals)

The first thing you learn is that pedals that you clip into are actually called clipless, strange I know.
Secondly they take a bit of getting used to,

Like ski bindings, your shoes are held by a sprung mechanism. Everyone will tell you when you are new to clipless that you will fall.  I can tell you it's true, it is almost always a zero speed fall. When you stop, and you haven’t unclipped the foot from the pedal you are left on the ground or in the hedge with the feet stuck in the pedals. Every cyclist I know has experienced this rite of passage.

It’s not pretty, having to take your shoe off to get out of the mechanics of the bike, and as you are stopped, usually the only harm is to the ego, and always embarrassing.  In my case it was at Minster traffic lights and falling into a fence.  Much to the amusement of the white van driver sat at the red light, no harm done to me, or more importantly the bike. The fence, well it was a bit of a battered old thing to start with, now its just a bit more battered.    Tip here is to save yourself too much embarrassment, make sure when you start out the bindings are quite loose so that the shoe comes away from the pedal easily. Wear old or cheap gloves or mittens as your hands will go down to break the fall.

The things to remember is that your feet do not have to be locked in for you to start pedalling  you can put one foot in, and rest the other on top of the pedal, getting a bit of speed and make sure you have a bit of road or pavements ahead, (not fence) before clipping in. Secondly anticipate your stop, take your foot out early and rest it on the top.

Even though I've been riding clipless for just over a week, I've had some wobbles and one fall, I can already feel the advantages of having the foot in a constant position, using  my power more efficiently.  Even picking up new trophies on Strava.  It won’t be long before I’m wondering how did I ride without them, and wanting the tension tightened.





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What do you call a bike


My new shiny bike, named by the manufacturer Specaized, as Amira Sport,  it has a an almost translucent colour with  Lime Green livery.  

By giving your bike a name, it is no longer just a device, it is something you love. All my bikes have had not just manufacturer's names, but personal ones too. Some with more meaning than others, this bike, unlike my others bikes, a name just didn’t come so easily.   After my first 60K or so she was still nameless, then in brilliant sunshine on the local Kentish roads the name just came to me as I looked down at the lime green handlebars at this gift I had brought myself.


Beryl

Beryl

So this bike, just feels like a Beryl, a semi precious stone with the chemical compound  Be3Al2(SiO3)6  they come in different colours including lime green.  Like a Specalized bike, the stones can be found in Europe and California as well as other parts of the world.   You may be familiar with the Dark Green Beryl is also known as an emerald, while the greenish-yellow shades synonymous with heliodor (from Greek hēlios – ἥλιος "sun" + dōron – δῶρον “gift”).  This was a gift to myself, celebrating that I'm 50, and still a child at heart.

Beryl Helidor


Beryl Burton, British cycling legend who dominated women’s cycle racing in the UK, winning more than 90 domestic championships and seven world titles

and finally and perhaps most importantly:
Beryl Adams: My maternal grandmother, not famous but much loved.




Finding a name for the new beast


Over the last couple of years, I have become a total cycle fan.  Discovering new routes, cycle lane, local country side has been a joy.  The added health benefits, with regular riding my legs have changed shape, my arms and lungs feel strong, my clothes fit more comfortably, and all round I feel energised.  Using less and less petrol I have saved money on the car expenses, but I don't have more money, because with cycling comes a passion for new bikes, jerseys and accessories.




Over the years I've had various bikes, starting out with a rusty old things that have been abandoned in the boat yard, Greek island equivalent of found in a skip. On an island where there where more donkeys than cycles, no such thing as a bike shop, now that's a real find.   I named that one in Greek γαϊδούρι  (gaïdoúri -donkey), and also meaning stubborn.  Rust brushed off with a wire brush and oiled with olive oil,  and marine engine grease,  puncture repair kit, flown out from the UK and a bit of help from friends, we got her going. 
  
After moving home to the UK, came Doris:  Drive on Road Intelligence System  she was my first new bike since childhood. Not really knowing the local terrain or where my interest would fall, I was well advised to buy a hybrid bike, that would do well on road or trail. Doris and I we explored the local paths, coastal trails and country roads.   Soon I was dressing her up, not with saddle blankets but skinny tyres and a few fancy lights.  I cared for her well, washing her down at the end of a hot day, and fed her not with buckets of feed but bottles of chain lube.

Now I have a new bike, and am lost what to call her.  She is light as a feather, and rides like a dream, makeing even Doris feel like the stubborn old donkey.

Giadouri, Doris and the new baby in the stable.