Doing the 50km bike ride

I dood it. That's the first thing. The second thing: it didn't half kill me. That's very interesting and positive. In order to get to the start, I had to cycle about 12 miles to richmond, which was somewhat of a bind. It worried me a little, given that it's longer than my usual cycle to work, before I'd even started.

Kicking off at about 10.20 I cycled for most of the time in that "barely putting any pressure at all on the pedals" type way - a little like treading water. My commuter irritation at slowness in front did get the better of me sometimes and I did overtake people but always only going at a certain level.

The weather was deceptive - it felt cool on the bike, because there was a bit of a breeze but slowing down, I realised that it was warm and humid. Everyone was sweating, but the breeze made it look less obvious. The weather forecast had been for 23 degrees so I'd brought 2 water bottles with me filled with half water / half apple juice and Good God that was a good idea. I drank through 3/4's of the whole lot by the end, and yet later when I went to the loo, I barely passed a thing. All of that water had just burned away.

there were various stopping points for refreshments and at every one I saw many people stopping off, but I didn't feel like it so carried on. On the way to Richmond I'd stopped off at Sainsburys to buy the apple juice for my drink bottles, a handful of bananas and a breakfast bar which I ate as a booster just before the ride started, so at a certain point - I think basically noon, I stopped briefly and ate a banana. I drank obviously on the go. The route was mostly lovely - either by the river or through a gorgeous forest - on the road. So excellent, cycling through beautiful overhanging tree corridors. It was surprising how the cyclists pulled apart, meaning that for many stretches I was cycling on my own. I realised fairly early on that in fact, not cycling in a team meant I had no worries about sticking together, or indeed, feeling that I should stop off at any point.

At 29 miles, about 1pm, I stopped and had another banana. I think that was possibly a mistake. My legs felt utterly dreadful getting back on but there again, had I not, would I have felt so good cycling the last stretch? I had a ton of energy left, and I'd sped up gradually through the ride, as I passed more and more riders - beginning to realise how fit I really was. There was a bitch of a couple of hills around the 9 & 8 mile mark then suddenly, beautifully a delightful present from the people organising the route - a massive downhill slope, taking me almost all the way in to Old Windsor, then another. And this is where I really realised how much energy I had left - and felt slightly annoyed with myself, thinking I could have done the ride differently, and been a hell of alot quicker. The huge hills coming in to Windsor meant I was about 15 minutes quicker than I thought, so I looked in vain for the kids, etc at the finish line. Delightfully, there were people there cheering everyone who came through. Nice.I finished at 13.10. Three hours ten minutes.

Then Chip. Oh. Salty, delicious chips. That first chip like manna from heaven. And there they were. David finding me first, reasoning that if he'd just finished a long ride, he'd either want a beer or chips! The kids smiling, me showing them my medal.

So how would I do it differently? I think doing the first section at a mild pace is still a good idea - you're in London, the roads are a bit faffy. But, it's possible I think to put a bit of a pace on at 15 miles and pick it up properly. I'm thinking that if I really 'listened' to my legs, and felt what power was available, as opposed to plodding on lightly to conserve energy I could get the ride down to probably 2 hours 40, if not 2 hrs 30. Particularly if I actually managed to do some proper training.

...and if I had a proper road bike... swoon.

After effects? Part of the reason to do the Richmond/Windsor was because Tod lives in Windsor - hallelujah! A hot bath during which I massaged my muscles as much as possible. I did feel progressively more and more like a 90 year old for the rest of the day, and have overslept 2 days running while my body recovers but there I was, back on the bike Monday morning to go to work feeling... okay. Not dreadful. Surprisingly reasonable. Which leads me again to the conclusion that, damn - I'm a hell of a lot fitter than I think.

But as well as the surprising nature of that revelation, how about - blimey, the thought of me, joining in something like that - crazy! Joining in a 50k bike ride and realising that it wasn't too bad!


Next stop 100k?

Plotting my carbon usage over a year of transport

I freely admit, the following may be labeled 'geeky'.

I have a Bike statistics Googledoc (feel free to have a look) I've been maintaining since I started my biking back up. I very diligently clock my numbers in. It occurred to me to start embellishing it with a few extras. First I added in for this year, the days when I have to take public transport for whatever reason. Unfortunately that did prove that February is a really horrible month for cycling Not so good on the pocket, mind you. That gives me a calculation of total transport cost on a per journey basis versus the previous purely bike driven one (both are represented in the summary).

After that I added calculation that will show you the % of the Earth's circumference that I've cycled around. Okayyy not exactly the most life-useful stat, but quite sweet.

Now I've added a reference sheet for calculations and used fairly standard per kilometer figures for carbon production of tube, car, train and bus journeys to calculate a per day figure (I used Google maps to get the distances for the bus route, and the tube route), used a generalised figure of 221 for working days per year and found that a complete public transport working year from my house to Paddington would generate 509kg of CO2. that's a great figure as a reference - having so far generated 79kg (christ! 79! Myself, personally! That's dreadful) but very usefully as well, given that the figures don't change ie: they're not a cost in fiscal terms that changes, unlike public transport costs, I can easily apply them to previous years and give myself targets to beat.

Of course, what I really need is the carbon cost printed on any bike gear I buy, because with the best will in the world, the common preconception that biking is a zero carbon option obviously does not taking wear and tear in to account. Or indeed the cost of the bike in the first place. For standard inner tubes etc the carbon cost should be counted in total for one year, but for larger bike parts (wheels, or indeed, Kevlar tires) the carbon usage should be amortised over the expected lifetime of the part.

I'm really, really interested in the long term, almost 'bank account' nature of these kind of calculations. Particularly for the purchase of objects. Everything we do generates global warming emissions but particularly everything we purchase. If we buy seeds that grow, can we offset that carbon given that the seeds absorb carbon from the air in order to become plants? Heh. Yes, but then we eat them, and they generate methane, which is a teensy bit worse. Anyway. What I would *like* to see is this kind of carbon calc'ing becoming way more normalised. Even to the point of rationing. those who use less can sell it off - I've been through this before, but anyway, the point is that second hand goods can be treated as having a zero carbon effect. Although it's all rather bad for our capitalist economies, the focus on "Re-use" to use the old Bob The Builder-esque word ("Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!") to save people money or more to the point, to *make* them money is fab.

Of course, there's the slightly odd question which is: if you save up your carbon allowance and sell it off, what the hell do you do with the money, since you've used up all your carbon allowance. You can't actually buy much! Ah. Well. That obviously needs more thought. Presumably with the added low-carbon variable, the market would be flooded with low to zero carbon products (or you can just buy whatever it is you needed second hand?).

To be truthful, I doubt personal carbon management will happen until it's too late, and then its introduction will be a clonking, lumbering disaster because it'll have been done in a hurry. It would be way too controversial for any politician of any persuasion to attempt to drive through yet. So it's all a bit of idealistic desire. Or - geeky self generated charts, in any case :)

24 degrees tomorrow. In April.

Warning: I'm going to talk about fat loss now

I think if there's a fat loss curve (or something) I think I've reached a point where the loss suddenly becomes more and more visible. What I mean is, the generally speaking steady downward progress made a huge impact in the first instance, then settled down to the point of being almost invisible . I think I've mentioned before that the slow effect of the loss seemed to slow to almost nothing, then suddenly I would realise that my shape had changed significantly in one area or another.

So, the point is, very slowly I reached a point where the quite uncomfortable amount of lard reducing at X ounces per day took my body to a smaller place. Now, all of a sudden, that X ounces per day is incredibly visible. My shape seems to be changing if not by the day, certainly by the end of this week, things will be visibly significantly different to the shape that was there on Monday.

This week's incredibly happy change is that along my rib cage, there seems to be basically *no excess fat*. That is very freaky. I am totally overjoyed that all this body change has happened whilst basically eating whatever I like. If I'd gone on a diet and biked then a) I doubt I would have had the energy to bike anyway and b) I would have been miserable about food - the curse of all diets. I hate diets.They're crazy. Learn to hate the awful food you are forced to eat! Feel bad, guilty and ashamed about desiring food we've been genetically programmed to like!

Or... eat decent food well and *exercise*.

I still have excess fat by the way (as opposed to being 'overweight'*). this is a slow, comfortable reduction. I would not have it any other way. I've got a significant post-pregnancy jelly like abdomen  and frankly, I have a comfortable cushion for sitting down on but here's the thing - I think those two areas are now the only bits left for my excess fat to be burned off from. It's all very interesting. 

And yes. It makes me inordinately happy. My back no longer aches, my knees don't twinge, I can run, lift, walk up hills without feeling exhausted.. fantastic. And I do feel sexier. Yes.

*No, I don't use the term overweight and haven't felt comfortable about it for years. I never weight myself. I have heavy and frankly rather large thigh muscles from biking. If you weigh anyone who exercises regularly, they are not going to be on the 'skinny' weight side. Another reason I hate dieting. Judging what your weight is, and assuming that if that goes down, that must mean you're becoming healthy is *madness*.

If I had advice for anyone wishing they weren't fat it would be: adapt the food you eat such that it becomes a 'healthy diet' as opposed to going on a diet, most important do at least an hour of exercise a day that gets your heart pumping, for 5 days out of 7 and either throw away, or do not buy anything to measure your weight. Yes, buy a nice pair of trousers (wh'ever) that's one size lower, but whatever you do, just ignore anything to do with numbers. Trust your eyes.

London's new cycle hire stands

It's nearly upon us - the era when thousands of vandalised bikes will be littered, like so many decrepit tramps, across our London streets. The era when I hope to the great Spaghetti monster that the inexperienced cyclists and more to the point, piss heads who on the spur of the moment decide to hire one to wobble along the streets are not mown down by HGV's and double decker buses or even the last remaining bendy ones.

Boris's Bike Hire scheme is going live shortly. Here's a map of hire locations with an app to appear shortly for iphones. I would argue strongly that they've got their market wrong: People with iphones if they wish to cycle I would imagine already have bikes. However, that's an aside really. The point, as Mr Murray would say, is this. Here's a spreadsheet for the locations where planning permission has been sought and granted. I'm not bothered about the locations, but I'm a bit pissed off about the numbers. 53, 39, 44 - there are going to be bike stands arriving all over central London for literally hundreds and hundreds of bikes. And existing cyclists will not be able to use a *single stand*. Someone should have thought about how ridiculous that is. What if, across central London, suddenly, the everyday bike stand provision were to grow by this much. That suddenly, next to your local park, or central London square, 50 bike stands appeared out of nowhere. Wouldn't that be bloody marvellous? Wouldn't that make you feel more positive about bringing out your bike and cycling to work?

What they *should* have done with this is at every commercial bike stand, guaranteed ten or fifteen placements for non-commercial bikes to be tied up alongside.

I wonder what % of the profits from this venture are being plowed back in to cycling provisioning across all the London boroughs (not just the ones between Camden and Kennington).

Nora flew!

The day didn't start auspiciously. It started, as it ended, with large amounts of water evacuating the sky with rapidity. But no thunder. Phew.

We'd put off the bike practicing from the day before, because one parent and two barely controlled small children on bicycles who need to be walked across main roads - not so good. There's great joy to be had, meanwhile, when living in a wet climate, in buying a full waterproof provisioning system for your kids, regardless of the point that it won't be used very often. When we got to the playground with the wide disused paddling pool (brilliant practicing ground for kids) in, there was an almighty puddle in the middle, and with continuing buckets of water flooding down from the sky, we had the playground to ourselves, laughing like idiots, splashing each other with puddle water.

Nora's a nervous sort. She worries about most things and her first reaction to new things is sadly, often a "No I can't!" with a look of panic until she's persuaded that of course, she can just give it a try. Just once. So I took off her stabilisers without her knowing a couple of weeks ago. First time she tried, we got to the stage of us holding on to the saddle and running like a doubled up monkey next to the bike as she cycled, then yesterday in quick succession it went from graduating the saddle hand to a back-resting hand to a.... no hand!

No hands! Nora flew! 

I did, I think, jump up and down waving my hands in the air and going "Woohoo!".

Poor Nor - she wanted to instantly be able to cycle like a pro, and was fed up when she couldn't - but she managed to take a curve on her own and do a couple more runs before the insistent rain became a little bit too much for the little cold wet feet to bear any longer (the only limit with kids and water is - why do they make children's' wellies with such stupidly low tops? The group of people who are most likely to want to wear wellies, have to wear ones that don't do the job. Ridiculous). So, regardless of days out and Nannies and Grandads next weekend - more practicing!

(We promised Nora a 16" 'grown up' bike when she'd learned too. Thank god for Ebay).

Ear popping sounds!

The trouble with kevlar tyres is - you just forget how to mend punctures. Easily. Having just spent nearly two hours... well, ok, I spent a large amount of that time also degunking the bike but having just managed to relocate the way the bloody wheel is supposed to go in to the er, wheel slots, with the chain not getting in the way etc, I proceeded to pump up the tyre to the recommended level, thought "ooh, that's a bit hard", then stopped putting it in to its outdoor home when aye aye, I realised the back wheel wasn't moving. Hmmmmm.... er... a bit of air out perhaps? Try that? the breaks didn't appear to be problematic...


Whole damn thing burst, right in my bloody ear.

That was a bit of a surprise.

...and at 23.26 I think I'll call that a night. Sigh.