This weekend I went to Bournemouth to visit my family. I had intended to use a combination of bike & train to get there but unfortunately I discovered that the rail network doesn’t connect directly between the two cities, which would have meant 3 hours of rail travel, plus travel time to and from the stations, plus waiting time. Realistically I calculated that this method would take about 5 hours and would cost £30 each way. The alternative option of just cycling the 70 miles each way would similarly take about 5 hours but would cost nothing. So the decision was made.

Cycling allowed me to take the most direct route (rather than the train which goes via Salisbury and Southampton)


I set off early Saturday morning with panniers loaded with food and clothing. From Bristol to Shaftesbury was a series of hills, some of which were a real struggle with the added weight on the bike. However the tops of the hills did offer some spectacular views of the countryside. 

Weather-wise it was a lovely Autumn weekend. I needed gloves, tights and overshoes to keep warm, but luckily there was no rain to worry about. From Shaftesbury it was a flatter run down to Bournemouth, and I arrived in time for lunch to the bemusement of my Dad who thought I was coming by train and took some convincing that I had cycled the whole way.

1500 metres of climbing, mostly confined to the middle 30kms

We had Saturday afternoon and evening together (and for me to get some much needed recovery). After spending Sunday morning together I set off for home just before midday.

On the return leg I did a better job of sticking to the B roads to keep away from fast traffic, but it was still difficult at times when most road signs  lead drivers to the quicker roads. I rode at an easy pace trying to save what little energy I had left for the steep hills.

The weather was fine again on Sunday


The only trouble I had on the return was when I prematurely exited an essential run along a busy A road. What had initially looked like a country lane turned into a muddy, rutted track which eventually became impassable by road bike. It was a steep hill and after struggling to get any traction I had to get off and push for 200 metres.

This ‘road’ was not built for a heavily laden road bike

At this point I did contemplate going back but then I saw how far I’d already come and so carried on pushing

The track soon became rideable again so I remounted and wobbled and vibrated my way up to the main road. Upon arriving home and uploading my ride to Strava I saw that I had been awarded a ‘King of the Mountain’ for this section. However closer inspection revealed that nobody else had ever been stupid enough to try and ride this ‘road’ so the dubious honour of being first out of one was quickly ignored.

I was also immature enough to take a detour along a road named ‘Ass Hill’ on my map, however was disappointed by the lack of road sign to allow me to take a photo for ‘posteriority’. Shortly afterwards I was rewarded by the road sign below which better described the condition of my rear end after 10 hours of riding in one weekend.

I made it home before dark and crashed on the sofa trying to ignore the fact I will be up early tomorrow morning for a full week of cycle commuting on my tender Binegar Bottom.




On a slippery slope to comfort

If the natural evolution of a cycle-person is to recognise the greater value of comfort and usefulness over speed and appearance, then I may finally be reaching an age of maturity. However, it is entirely conceivable that I’ve unfortunately become just a nerd on a creaky old bike. This week was my first experience of riding with mud-guards and panniers and allowed me to carry and keep dry my laptop, clothes and shoes along wet and muddy roads. However, judging from my colleagues’ reactions at seeing my road bike adorned with its new accessories, I may have committed a crime against style equal to wearing socks and sandals in public (I regularly wear socks and sandals around the house but this is actually a form of domestic haute couture).

From my experience of cycling there appear to be two main kinds of riders – those who shave their legs, wear skin-tight aero suits and spend a fortune on reducing weight to increase speed, and those who have hairy legs, beards and creaky, heavy bikes and spend a fortune on ‘useful things’ like powerful lights, racks, bags, mud-guards and reflective clothing, thus increasing weight to increase comfort. I had hoped that my latent cycling prowess would allow me to justifiably become the former, but unfortunately I may just be on the slippery slope to the latter.

With all of this in mind, I’ve decided to embrace it and will now present the mundane effectiveness of my latest cycling purchases, illustrated in the following uninteresting photos of inanimate and stationary objects:

1. Bike with new nerdly equipment following a wet and muddy ride

2. close-up photo of mud spray to emphasise muddiness of roads

3. socks turned down slightly to emphasise presence of mud spray across hairy legs and shoes

4. photo of seat of cycling shorts. Clean as a whistle and not a speck of mud in sight

In addition to this increased cycling comfort I also had the opportunity to wrinkle my nose and waggle my bearded chin at a couple of mud-soaked cyclists riding without mud-guards. It’s possible that they may have called out “did you forget your basket, old man?” but it was quite difficult to hear over all the rattling and creaking coming from my bike.