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A Good, Long Ride

Friday, June 24th, 2011

And so another epic bike ride ends. Epic? Well, maybe not. But it was a very good one.

Saturday the North Devon Downhill Cycling Club set off from deepest Devon to make our way to the smoke. Two hundred miles along quiet roads to London, so that we could take part in the annual London to Brighton ride in aid of charity.

Two of us had done it before. A few years ago, Mark Bazeley, the madly magnificent melodeon player from Dartmoor Pixie Band persuaded me (against my better judgement) to join him. And, I have to say, I had a great time. So much so, that when he asked me again this year, I agreed with alacrity. And then set about persuading some other long-suffering friends to join us.

Thus it was that five of us jumped into the Frangle bus on Saturday night. Mad Mark, Franglepop, Del Boy, the Bagman and me. Two bikes rested inside the van, three were hooked on the back, and being five sensible, careful fellows, the drive went without major mishap. Not, however, without ribaldry and a fair number of insults! We reached the prestigious and salubrious hotel (Travelodge, Battersea) and devanned moderately late.

What a joyful arrival that was. Three rooms for us all to share, all defined as “family” rooms, which meant that for our extra few quid, each room was set up with two separate beds. In theory.

Personally, I was happy with the thought of sharing a bed and saving the cost of a third room, but my middle aged companions viewed this concept with more than mild panic. Something to do with potentially wandering hands at night, or something. Which is why, when they saw that Travelodge in their wisdom (yeah, wrong word there) had forgotten to set up the spare beds, and that was a double bed to be shared in each room, there was some terror in the eyes of the poor darlings. A visit to the reception desk helped. We were allowed one spare sheet per room, and the chance of making our own beds, one sheet to put on the sofa … One duvet to share between the two beds? For that were paying over a hundred quid a room? Never again, Travelodge. Never again.

Still, we managed to sleep. A bit. I will pass over the whistling, the rasping and the other sounds emanating from the other side of the room. And the other, still worse ones. Suffice it to say, my unnamed companion proved that his ability to sleep was undiminished by sounds of sirens, cars and (later) birdsong.

I was glad he slept so well. Really I was.

Up early, we prepared ourselves for the ride. Bikes all there? Check. Slab of cold smoked meat for my breakfast? Yup. Bowl of cereal for Bazley? Gone. Onto the bikes, and off we went.

For the LtoB, there is a certain amount of paperwork. Tickets to catch a bus back fro Brighton to the start, a ticket for the bike for the same journey, a card that must be stamped at the start and end of the ride, and a ruddy great lump of paper with the rider number on one side, and little details on the reverse, mainly covering next of kin and such delights, which must be pinned to the shirt.

And it is necessary. Both times I’ve done the ride, there have been ambulances picking up wreckage. Men being carted off on stretchers, men with backs and necks in braces, claret everywhere. Usually it’s at the bottom of steep hills in the last quarter of the ride. There were two bad ones I saw this year. Hopefully both are ok now. I hope so.

Anyway, we cycled the three or so miles to the start and waited for the off. The beginning is always staggered (with 27,000 entries, it has to be), and we were off soon after 08:30. People everywhere. Although the roads were more or less clear of cars, there was no view ahead whatsoever. So we pedalled gently, taking it easy in the crush. But we couldn’t avoid mishaps.

Along the first sections, all the bollards in the middle of the roads had a large stick with a warning notice nailed to it. I didn’t understand why at first. Surely anyone would see those large bollards? But, no. About three miles into the ride, I saw one of them lying in the road.

‘Someone had a good night, last night,’ I chuckled merrily and lightly to my companion, and then saw a familiar figure alongside it. When I had assumed a car had hit the thing the night before, in fact it was my mate the Bag Carrier, who had been pedalling happily with an apparent wall of bikes before him, only to find the masses parting like the seas before the Israelites, to reveal this flaming hazard. And it had no pole and sign to warn him.

It wasn’t life threatening, but even a slow speed knock like that jolts you, and we had to pause a while for him to take some essential nutrition on board, a Mars bar, and collect himself before we could carry on.

Off we toddled, towards the south. Past Mitcham and Banstead, up How Lane into Chipstead, where I was raised, and where we had our first break. Very nice, it was too. I had a nutritious bar and a cup of tea. Bazley had a huge bacon sarnie with a cuppa, then a sweet bar, then another cup. Why he stays so skinny, I’ll never know.

Off again, along the High Road, down to Bletchingly, and for the first time, had to debike and walk for a bit – just too many people on the road to be able to pedal.

Another fifteen miles or so to the next stop. There Bazley had the largest ice cream I’ve ever seen. And a cake. He wanted another bacon roll, but eventually decided against. I had a cup of tea. Another ten miles, and we stopped again. This time he had another bacon sarnie, while the others had some cake. I had a cup of tea.

You get the picture? This was a Bazle feasting party. Every time we stopped, he had to restock his belly. In the most shameful manner. While I had cups of tea. One doesn’t wish to be a glutton!

Mind you, that stopped at Ditchling Beacon. We had a shower or two in the lead up to it, and while it was cool, we were all warm enough after forty miles not to even think about putting on the wet weather gear. At the bottom were loads of people cheering us on, and three youngsters who stood in the road to touch hands with all the riders, a sort of gentle low five in encouragement. I was suspicious: seven miles before, two kids had appeared with enormous water cannons to drench the riders. I retrieved my water bottle and gave a battle cry in retaliation, and they bolted at the sight!

Still, I’ll pass over the climb itself. The Beacon is noted for its brutality. Not many riders can make it to the top. About a mile and a half of one of the steepest roads in the country, I think. But at the top, glorious views, and an ice-cream van or four. So, what do bikers do? We chatted, we laughed, we rested – and then we retrieved our sticks from the bikes, Bazle fetched his daughters’ toy melodeon, and we danced the Ockington four man stick dance. Silly? Possibly, but it also seemed to do our muscles some good. It certainly made mine feel much less tired.

From there it was an easy last seven miles into Brighton. Almost entirely downhill, I’m glad to say. We rattled down in good order, and soon reached the finish, where we danced the four man again.

That was about it. It was already getting on, so we went to queue for fish and chips, until we realised we weren’t far off the time for the last bus back. It would have been embarrassing to miss it, so we gave up on chips, and cycled off to the buses. Which is where I came nearest to crashing – purely lack of concentration on my part, I hasten to add. Apologies to the young lad I nearly met head on. The one with the very round eyes and wide mouth.

We got back to London at about half nine, and hung around for our bikes to be returned to us, and then it was about ten fifteen before we got back to the van and got the bikes stowed away. From there it was a lengthy drive. But we managed to break it halfway or so. Bazle needed a half chicken and chips at a service station.

And he’s still skinny.

That was last weekend. This Sunday, more lunatics will ride the Dartmoor challenge. It’s rather more serious than my little saunter (take a looksee at ). The first ride is not far off the LtoB ride, but the difference is, between London and Brighton there is an embarrassing dearth of hills. Not so round Dartmoor. Here there are lots of hills, and none ‘minor’!

So, good luck to the challengers on Sunday.

Meantime, I have to tot up the total of the donations to the British Heart Foundation. I think I took in a fair few pounds. It’s a good charity, anyway, for a bunch of five middle-aged men to support! If anyone feels inclined to help the charity, please go to British Heart Foundation donations where you can add to my sponsorship.

And now: back to book 32!

Forgive any typos. This was typed on my iPad, and I am still not quite as accurate as I would like to be!

So, another charity event.

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

No. Not a party.

It was four years ago I last did something for charity.

There was a time when I’d regularly help out with raising money or other things. I did five years as secretary to a local club, then five more as secretary to a local fireworks event, and in the meantime I tried to help good organisations. Now, though, time is so restricted, that it’s hard to find time to do anything.

So, this year I decided I’d do the London to Brighton cycle ride again.

We made it!

I can get really grumpy with some charitable events. There are so many of those “I am walking around Machu Picchu, please help” which to me seems more like paying for someone else’s holiday.

After all, if I’m sponsoring someone to do a swim, cycle, or walk, I want to know that almost all my money is going straight to the charities concerned, and not paying for the airfare and hotels for the participant.

And yes, when it comes to London to Brighton, all the admin costs and the petrol to get there etc is paid for by the participants. It’s going to be pretty expensive. Still, it’s good to see that there are so many who’re keen to be involved.

The books opened for registrations on one Saturday in March. Within twelve hours all 27,000 places were filled. Yes, 27,000. That is a lot of people wanting to . . . well, mainly to have a good day out, achieve something for themselves in terms of long-distance cycling, and get involved with like-minded cyclists.

There are some, inevitably, who are a pain to have, of course. There are the drunks, the dim, the incompetent, the vague and the astonishingly dangerous. I saw two ambulances stretchering off injured folks last time. Quite a lot more injuries in fact than I saw in thirty years of pistol shooting. Well, hardly surprising. Shooters were much more carefully regulated. Anyone can go to a shop and buy a bike without proof of age or competence.

Last time I fell off, it hurt!

Some people shouldn’t be allowed to. I saw some morons riding down a steep slope into Brighton at full speed. I went pretty quickly too, but not so fast I couldn’t see what the road was doing. Blind bends and speed to me equal potential pain. I don’t like the sight of blood. Not when it’s mine.

So I hope that this year I will be fortunate and avoid seeing any more idiots on the roads. Well, any other than those I’ll be riding with!


And now, to the ebay advert of the week. My favourite has to be this:


Just read the advert carefully where the arrows point. And then go back and look at the part that tells how much has already been bid for this astonishing advert.

There truly are more twits born every minute than you could shake a stick at!

Take care, folks.


Oh, and if you want to contribute, go and donate your ill-gotten gains at



Cycling Madness

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

It is rare that I take silly risks. I’m in my fifties, for goodness sake. Still, today I was asked to go for a cycle ride with a friend, and thought it couldn’t hurt. It did.

I haven’t been regularly cycling for a while. It was two years ago I got my Kinesis bike, and boy, is it good. It’s easy, fast, direct, with great handling. I’ve only fallen off it once, and while it was painful, hey, getting fit is hard. I’ve a friend who’s a writer who once had an industrial injury. He sat at his desk so long, his leg went to sleep, and when he stood up, he fell and broke his leg. Yes, really. So falling off a bike is easy in comparison to dangerous work like writing.

Last year I was working so hard, I didn’t have time to get out on the bike for months at a time. So this month is the first time on the bike in the last ten, I think. And that means a certain anxiety while going out with Roger.

Why? Because Roger used to be a national cyclist with the Swiss team. It was a while ago, as he laughingly told me, but seeing his gleaming blue eyes smiling at me was enough to persuade me that this was probably the smile of a sadist. Was the Maquis de Sade fair-haired? I think he might have been. Did one of his children set up home in Switzerland? Hmm.

But I digress.

The first eight miles were . . . well, good at first, then painful, and then we hit a hill that had me giving up, getting off and walking. The next few were better, apart from the hill up to South Tawton, which was a really nasty one (thank you Perry for trying to run me over) – but I stayed on the bike. And Roger kindly left my gently steaming body at the corner of the lane, and cycled off up the next hill.

He really is unpleasantly fit.

So, today I have learned that I am way behind and need a new effort on the bike before I can have a chance to make the London to Brighton ride. However, the good thing is, London to Brighton doesn’t have hills like the ones round Spreyton, Chagford, Moretonhampstead . . .  so before too long, I will be ready. Honest.

I’ll have to be. I am getting money for the British Heart Foundation. After today, I know full well that getting money for that charity is enlightened self-interest.

Meanwhile there’s the book. That’ll be finished, hopefully, next week.

And then I can get back to work on the other projects.


Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

We MADE IT!, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Fifth Part of London to Brighton

From there it was a breeze for the last few miles into Brighton.
A wonderful day, great fun and excellent support from all – especially the couple at the top of Ditchling Beacon who kept everyone motivated by calling out encouragement from the bank at the last summit!
So thanks to all those who sponsored me and the Dart-i-moor Pisskies riding team, otherwise known as Bazle’s Bikers, I think, although he disagrees. We’ve raised somewhere over £1,500 between us, which’ll hopefully go nicely towards the British Heart Foundation’s research budget. We had a great time, and hopefully we’ll have done some good by going on the ride!

This is the top of Ditchling Beacon.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Fourth Part of London to Brighton

Chris was fairly worried that he may get another puncture, so he went on a little. He reckoned that if he had another disaster, he could let us know and we’d all be behind him, so he’d be able to get some help. What he hadn’t realised was, just how far ahead he was getting. He reached Brighton two hours ahead of the rest of us! Phenomenal riding for a bloke who’s never ridden more than about twenty miles.
Anyway, the rest of us had burgers (Bazle the Burger) and cake, sweets and bananas. Not me, naturally. My body is a temple and I worship it. Well, it’s big enough, anyway. So I had a ham and tomato sandwich from the scouts at a stop near Gatwick, and some Lucozade to go with the three litres of water I drank. Oh, and I did have a choc-ice at the top of Ditchling Beacon.
That was the only place that really did give me problems. It’s a long hill, and rises in a series of sweeps, so that each time you think you’ve got to the top – nope, God has in his infinite wisdom, stuck another ruddy hill in front of you, steeper than the last. It is horrible, made still worse by damn fool bikers who want to walk in a line abreast, blocking the route for any people still tottering along on a bike. Like me. So I was forced, forced, to stop every so often. But although I paused four times, I did not walk. I merely rested, drank more water, and rode on. Great fun. And then I was at the top and Bazle and Aidan were there as a welcoming committee.

The terrible trio.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

The terrible trio., originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Third Part of London to Brighton Ride

However making it to the start was never our greatest concern. It was the journey from there onwards that was worrying. We managed to get there twenty minutes late, but set off at the very front of the line, which was great. Off through the streets of London, over towards Mitcham Common, down to Westerham, and up How Lane into Chipstead, and all was well, a massive relief. Chris Aylen and I were together all this way more or less, but as we reached a hill-top, Chris had disappeared. Seeing Mad Mark Bazle, I asked him if he’d seen Chris. Nope, but we all had phones for such an emergency. Poor old Chris had suffered a puncture already. We waited, and he and I continued along together again for a while, but as we went past Nutfield (I think) Bazle sent me a text message. I stopped to receive it, and I think it was there that I lost Chris.

‘Mad Mark” Bazeley.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

‘Mad Mark" Bazeley., originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Second piece about London to Brighton.

But, thank Goodness, I took a short six mile ride with “Mad Mark” Bazeley after Cornwall, and then another eighteen miler the week after, and the ankle seemed to hold up OK. Even though a chunk was coming up from Spreyton to Hittisleigh, which I can promise you, is a ruddy silly hill that no sensible person would ever consider riding up. I had made the tactical error of having a good lunch that day, and nearly saw it return several times up that blasted hill.
Still, in the end I managed to make it to London, and although the drive up seemed to exacerbate the problems, on Sunday it looked and felt OK. We set off happily, and were at the start in plenty of time.

Injured Morrisman with dogs.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

Injured Morrisman with dogs., originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

Well, I was very happy to finish the ride on Sunday. The more observant among my readers may have noticed that after a quick mention of falling off my bike a month or so ago, I have remained curiously silent on the subject of the London to Brighton bike ride.
There was a jolly good reason for it. The Ridgeback.
You see, a Ridgie who’s been stuck in a cage for three months solid (this was essential so that her spine could recover from an attack of Discospondylitis) is easily excited. Let her loose on a patch of bare grassland, and she’ll run about happily, torturing a Bernese, gaily knocking children over, and generally bowling about rather like a steel wrecking ball.
And disobeying every command, of course. Especially the dull one that asked her to come to me.
So when I wanted her to come, I thought I’d had an inspiration when I remembered an old trick. Puppies think that they may be abandoned, you see, if you turn and walk away from them. So I called her, turned my back, and next thing I knew was, it had worked! Yes, she came as soon as she saw me walk off. And she ran through me, throwing me to the ground in not inconsiderable discomfort, bearing in mind all my weight had fallen on my right ankle, twisting it severely.
Well, it swelled up like a balloon, reaching about double its normal size a day later. And with three weeks to go to the ride, I couldn’t practise at all. This was a deeply alarming disaster.
The main problem was, I’d already garnered some £1,000 and couldn’t just back out. Who’d refund all that cash? No, I had to go ahead with it, no matter what. So I bought some support socks, Shelagh Palmer (THANK YOU) made me some aromatherapy jollop, and I worked hard at sitting still with my leg in the air. All in the interests of good health, you understand.
Which is one reason why you may have noticed there were no photos of me at the Royal Cornwall Show with Tinners’ Morris. Sadly, I just couldn’t do a darned thing there. I tried to hop on my leg, but it was too weak and hurt like hell when I tried, so I opted for the ale-drinker’s cure, and watched the others with great jealousy while I sat on the sidelines and took photos of them all.