Author Topic: Velosolo Club


« Reply #30 on: August 08, 2019 »
Having lately posted of the joys of night riding, quite by accident I have discovered the pleasures of dawn.

You’d think this would have happened naturally, for example as the expected reward of a Friday night ride to the coast, but it hasn’t; the dawn, to me at least, has been strangely indistinguishable from the darkness that has crept away from it. But actually starting in the glow of a new day? That’s something I haven’t done on purpose.

Is this how my eyes see things before my brain turns them around?

I simply worked a bit later one night, missing my usual 3 to 5 slot. That's all. Revelation ensued.

The beauty of riding at daybreak, in addition to the obvious beauty – imagine being paced by a deer running through a meadow in a new morning's mist, which sounds impossibly twee until you've experienced it – is that the roads are still quiet, and I can go a bit faster if I so please (caution taking the lead in the dark).

Plus fewer zombies.


The End is nigh
« Reply #31 on: August 19, 2019 »
The club had every intention of being subsumed by a Spooky Sunday London Ride for the day, but it was not to be. Two ghosts in – Lillie Langtry is said to haunt the Cadogan Hotel in search of who knows what, possibly the witty Wilde or yet another sugar daddy – I took refuge under a water torture tree on the edge of Hyde Park rather than soak up the unexpected deluge...

The morning began with a game of bride-spotting near St. Paul's Cathedral.

The tart cards add verisimilitude

I used to live a few minutes walk away from the wobbly bridge, and was reminded how peaceful the City can be out of office hours. Naturally I tuned out the quiet straight away. Urban cycling wants a soundtrack.

Regent Street wasn't quite as I remembered it.

Turf's up

Arrived at Speakers' Corner with George Thorogood's Bad to the Bone ringing in my ears. The money-changers may have been home observing the Sabbath, perhaps practicing squeezing through the eye of that needle serving as their purported gateway to heaven, but the big guy's emissary had shown up for work:

"When you’re riding your bike you’re going to say Yahweh!" he told me after I lent him an ear and headed off, not before catching sight of

another likely suspect.

Ross the ride organiser had suggested a visit to the comfort station in the park if necessary, but I rebel at paying

They should be paying me!

so used the facilities next door,

which required a near crawl and presented me with

what any children reading this should be informed is an inner tube patch wrapper.

The start was held up by a regiment of horse whisperers.

The feel good move of the year is whatever you were too busy being comforted with to actually watch

I made a mental note to get a picture of Ross’s jazzy jersey at some point. As that point was not to arrive, here’s one I’ve shamelessly lifted:

The first stop in the tour was a ghost in a ghost, a somewhat insubstantial sighting in a disused tube station. Next came the Cadogan, where Mr. Woilde enjoyed room service until the perverse law came calling, and The Jersey Lillie got the ultimate meal deal.

Agreed: life is far too important a thing to ever talk seriously about

Peacock tease

Room service in more or less enlightened times (viewer discretion advised)

The rain, which had lightly tattooed us at the Royal Artillery Memorial (the club took refuge under Wellington Arch),

Honi soit qui mal y pense = Shame on him who thinks evil. Does that include naughty tweets?

then came down in earnest. Staying put under nature's lightning rod, I watched the rest of them depart, feeling guilty for not having told our leader I was dropping out, but it was a decision made very quickly as he dived back in. Why get wet telling him something he’s going to figure out for himself anyway? Or so I told my conscience.

I don't know what species of tree it was, but it sure as hell wasn't waterproof. After a long while I said to myself and any squirrels who were listening ʞɔnℲ this, can’t trust nature, need something man-made.

I made a dash for the portico of what turned out to be the embassy of Kuwait. Unsure of their human rights record, specifically as regards loiterers, I then opted for the nearby Franco-British Society, before settling myself under sturdy looking construction across the street.

A cyclist came by riding on two flat tyres. His chain jammed, so he grabbed it with his bare hands, put it back on track, and continued completely unflustered.

A fellow traveller?

The rain finally abated. Though this little slice of Knightsbridge offered the choice of Ishbilia Authentic Lebanese Cuisine, an Iraqi version of same, and Italian, I took my lunch just off the Regent Street greening. I can resist everything but temptation.

Several museums followed.

They called it a draw

She was touched her twin had remembered her birthday

Yo, play some Jethro Tull (this caption brought to you by Breaking Bad)

He doesn't want you till you're done

Either perspective hadn't been invented yet, or those were titbits before the next fast

What they mean when they say there's no there there

Brother can you spare an oh brother

Where's Yahweh when you need him

I also caught a protest across from that other museum

I tawt I taw a puddy tat

Unintentional irony

Different protest, but throw in lunch and he’ll add a theatrical flourish to yours, too

pondered truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance at Trafalgar Square

considered if the music was really as bad as that monk seemed to think it was

waited in vain for Mr Shadow to shift from over the Kuwaiti flag

snapped a selfie

kept out of range of the ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal Pikachu of Pokémon


Power to the people

and gazed up in wonder at what may be Yoda's ride out of here, if the Nat'l Gallery ever get their way

The End is nigh



Nice to see you
« Reply #32 on: February 05, 2020 »
Yesterday I struck up a conversation with a couple of bystanders on my regular ride up to the pyramid. One of them recognised me, which isn’t surprising, as I’ve been going past his house for many years. "I like your bike," he said. I was then obliged to tell him about my cherished collection of tubes

click to be a frame builder
made not far away by the boys from Enigma. "Is it fixed?" he asked, bumping him into a different category of bystander. No, it's the antidote to fixed.

We chatted about hills, pondered if electric bikes are cheating (our little jury ruled that it’s not),

Verdict: not cheating

and parted no longer complete strangers, which was the point. I’m sure a great many motorists aren’t best pleased to see a cyclist in front of them on the lanes. It’s good to put a face to the obstacle.

I nodded hello to the alpacas a little farther along,

"Nice to see you, to see you nice"

gave the impressionable youth walking home from school an unhelmeted, earphone-wearing role model, broke the speed limit down a short reduced speed stretch of the A21 (where nobody goes 20mph, not even cyclists), waved to Peter rolling along in his powered wheelchair, and arrived home buzzing with my own electricity generated from another club run.


Velosolo Club
« Reply #33 on: March 26, 2020 »

If there’s an upside to all this, it’s seeing people out enjoying the sun who would usually be stuck at work. No shortage of smiles and greetings, keeping well away from each other of course, this event’s unique twist on conviviality.

Why climb hills? In part, to go back down them. To celebrate the beauty of the day and the pleasure of being healthily alive I made my descent no-handed for a spell, giving nodded greetings as and when. Then it suddenly struck me what this must look like to any critics observing my ode to joy: how irresponsible, do you want to end up in hospital?!?

This voice inside my head had a point. It did little good to argue that I’m probably safer riding this way than you are with all hands on deck, Mr Probably-Doesn't–Like-Cyclists-Anyway-Voice: God knows I don’t want to come off, so I chose my moments carefully, gauging road condition, windspeed, and likelihood of being attacked by magpies (a tough call, but then I've never tried to punch a bird in the mouth). Still, it slightly dampened my spirits, and did serve as a reminder that yes, I’d damned well better be careful.

Also, does freewheeling count as exercise, or is a citizen’s arrest in the offing?

In Burwash I stopped for a selfie,

a reminder that a) I'd decided to cancel my appointment last week, and b) collectively we’re going to be growing a lot of hair depending how long this goes on.

Down the street Mr Kipling kept a bushy eyebrow cocked over the proceedings.

Exceedingly nice bike


Velosolo Club
« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2020 »

Loveseat in the time of Corona


Blowin' in the wind
« Reply #35 on: March 29, 2020 »
I had no special plans for the day, but it turns out the day had plans for me.

Art imitating life

Rain was forecast. Time enough for a ride first, so I headed out into what all available evidence suggested was an exceedingly windy morning. Big deal, I thought, I’ll just burn more calories.

I headed down the lanes then up King’s Hill Road out of Burwash with a fair amount of energy in my legs, feeling fine, singing along with my ipod when it was clear the voices in my ears weren't classically trained. Was amused that somebody had gone to the trouble of pointing the loveseat south, as if tired of a view of scrubby vegetation.

The road less travelled

Past the observatory (one of Jack Fuller’s less frivolous follies), nearing the large pyramid-shaped collection box,

I began to hear something.

Sardonic lyrics, maybe?

It sounded like the front wheel was rubbing with every revolution. I got off to to examine the situation, saw nothing. On again, then quickly off again as This Would Not Do. It definitely seemed to be coming from the front, but in case my ears were deceiving me, a look at the rear tyre, a two month old Continental Grand Prix 5000, was in order. The brand is important here.


Well, I knew what it was – a nasty blowout avoided – but what was it doing on such a new acquisition? Fortunately I remembered there was an emergency boot in my saddlebag. In all my years of riding I’d never needed it. Which is to say, I had no idea how to use it. Couldn’t be too hard, right?

I situated myself near a stone wall which offered no protection from the now quite ferocious wind and got to work.

Poor teeth

Lezyne, your tyme is icumen

The tyre, surprisingly easy to go on, was more reluctant to come off. It turned into what I’m going to call a three-pipe problem, because nobody’s stopping me.

Needed one hand to hold the camera, didn’t I

When I got to the boot part of the exercise I was unexpectedly flustered by the question of how to actually install it. One side seemed sticky, but it wasn’t doing a very good job of sticking. Of all the things not to have Googled in my life. Still, should be able to bung it in. This I prepared to do as the skies darkened in foreshadowing.

“Are you all right? Do you have everything you need?” said a passing cyclist as I was hunched over, my head bent as if in prayer. I was OK, but thanks! Don’t get too close!!

A minute or so later I felt a drop of wet, then another. Great. The church wasn’t far away, but would the porch be open given the sneaky wrath of god currently enveloping the globe? A few more drops decided me. I hurriedly stuffed all my paraphernalia into the saddlebag, shouldered the bike, grabbed the rear wheel, and hoped fervently.

As I neared St. Thomas a Becket, thousands of delicate blossoms started swirling from the sky. Blossoms? No, that was SNOW. If this wasn’t a sign from above that I should’ve stayed home and carried on with season 2 of The Sinner (I want to be Bill Pullman when I grow up, preferably without the masochism), I don’t know what was.

File photo of inspired detective work

Still, if by miracle it was open, my plan was to install the boot and at least ride back home, an easy 7 miles given how hard the first 7 miles are.

The church was predictably locked down. There were no other helpful structures in the vicinity.

The flowers were pretty though

The bells started ringing, adding ambience.

Not to be confused with campagnology

The snow had stopped but it was bloody cold, and the sky was disinclined to reassure. This decided me: time to throw in the towel. There was just enough of a signal to call emergency services, i.e., my wife. If nothing else, this near incident was a sobering reminder of the danger of offs in these times.

I put the tyre back on the wheel sans tube, gathered my belongings, and went to a more visible place to await rescue.

She apologised for being late. Someone who shall remain anonymous had, as usual, set the handbrake too high, necessitating a wrestling match before rescue operations could commence.

Nearly hoist by your own handbrake there, mate

All that’s left to do now is sell this: brand new, hasn't let me down yet.

Going, going…


Roger Wilco
« Reply #36 on: March 31, 2020 »
It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the thrill of falling for a hill. This one is called Peartree Hill,

Here there be partridges

and it goes right by my close friend* Roger Daltrey’s house. (*Who do you think inspired this song? Listen carefully to the lyrics. That could be anybody.)

"Come back mate, all is forgiven"

Yesterday’s ride started from home, like all my rides except when we’re on holiday, and we never go on holiday. It was a modest 15-mile loop taking full advantage of Bike Privilege.

I'm no huge fan of people generally

Us loners are like peas in a pod

I have no problem doing the same routes over and over, because rides aren’t just exercise, they’re an engine to daydreams. They can also be a cyclist’s version of pacing when you’re worrying a problem in your head.

For whatever reason, I took a detour from the norm. Just wanted a change I guess.

Peartree is about 2 miles long, not too arduous but reasonably invigorating if you’re so inclined. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t suffering at all. While a hill addict may miss the pain, I took it in my stride.

It undoubtedly helped that traffic was

Still, the gradient was bang on brilliant, and I knew that when I got to the top I could get my speed on for the spin home.

Partway up I spied a man by the side of the road who appeared to be throwing rocks at the other side, either out of boredom or cruelty to a wounded animal, I’ll never know. There was a motorcycle parked nearby. When I got there I felt the need to ask “Everything OK?”, even though my multitool probably wouldn’t be much help. He said “Yeah, I broke down, waiting to be picked up mate.”

I reflected on my own front tyre, baldly in need of replacement. Still thinking…

I never done you wrong

Roger’s was quiet when I passed.

Inside sulking

Had I turned left I could’ve checked to see how Robert Smith of The Cure is coping in that big white house of his.

What do you mean Chaplin’s is closed? (Scroll three posts up for vital context)

At the playground on the edge of the village green the sound of children’s games and laughter was silenced by heavy-handed writing.

The wind whistled desolately down the slide

My iPod Shuffle served up Tanita Tikaram’s Yodelling Song. I didn't yodel, which may have been an oversight.

The road to Heathfield was almost lifeless. Heathfield itself is, according to garbled Facebook accounts, a zombie plague pit.

Not zombies, just taking in the air

Back through Burwash, the high street lined with houses far beyond my budget, I was reminded of the largesse of the landed gentry.

Pete Townsend sent pudding but it got lost in the post

I haven’t been thinking too much about how long this is going to last. One day at a time. While the riding is good, we otherwise struggle to comply: we all wanna live the way we like.


Root beer rag
« Reply #37 on: April 04, 2020 »
This morning’s ride was a short one, just enough to give my underappreciated Langster a taste of the roadtime it deserves and me an excuse to visit with Mr Kipling again.

I was wearing a helmet. As if begging this to be used as a classic example of risk compensation, I turned off my front light to truly drink in the splendid peace and quiet.

First stop was the war memorial.

Dr Dann gave me pause. Unless that was a battlefield commission, it’s pretty young to be practicing medicine. Was he practicing, say, philosophy instead? Whichever, his name is indeed living on.

Nearby is our local front line.

My usual GP is now in self isolation. My previous doc – an avid cyclist who always used to be up for a chat on the subject – was due to retire at the end of the month. I don't know if he's decided to stay on.

On the current playlist: Tom Waits in full storytelling mode.

One of my favourite lines in a song ever has got to be “and her hair spilled out like root beer.”

Saw the milkman. What a great job. Wouldn’t be surprised if it required a degree at this point.

On the way home I passed Robin’s house. He’s such an unassuming fellow you’d never know that he once suffered a heart attack and had the brass to drive himself to hospital. Not the sort of man to unnecessarily bother 999, is our Robin.

Nearby lives Mike, who thanks to the corona lull I recently discovered used to illustrate comics.

This one’s for Robin, Mike, the milk man, and everyone in lockdown:

Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning
« Reply #38 on: April 05, 2020 »
The loveseat is gone! Can I be glad and sad at the same time?

What loveseat?

This one:
That speck of blue coming up the road on the left will be challenging me for king of the mountain. Or perhaps it was the other way around. “Well done!” he told me as I emerged victorious.

Another hill. If a gentleman wearing a leg brace and riding a fat-tyred bike passes you like you’re standing still, it is not uncharitable to consider that you may not be in possession of all the facts.

Fortunately he headed back down again, so I turned around and caught up with him to offer congratulations.

“I was cheating,” he said, showing off the electric bike that made it possible for him to be out in the first place.

What a relief.

Station car park cleared for a landing.

What a difference a day makes.

I've found the roundabout. Where are the swings?

Born to be alive
« Reply #39 on: April 18, 2020 »
Had an Easy Rider moment this morning when I saw a guy standing by the side of the road with a shotgun. I assume it was soon to be pointed at nature, and he had a sanctioned rationale, but still.

My playlist included Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

(better song than the movie)

and a track by REO Speedwagon, thanks to recent Netflixing.

(lots of blowing away in that show, too)

Met a man walking his lurch


"They’re working dogs," he told me. What sort of work do they do? "Hunt rabbits." Nice enough guy, nice little conversation in this time of keeping our distance, but I secretly wish they'd meet their match, like so:

Passed a Celtic cross staked out in the burial grounds of St. Mary the Rumoured Virgin.

Made a note to revisit and walk the avenues of the departed at some point when it’s not verboten.

The bluebells are out in all their glory.

Here’s a family portrait showing off what god or his outsourced labour made earlier:

and here's a gaggle of Spanish lookalikes that look like they lost the plot:

The neighbours greeted me with suspicion when I got home.

Wherever we're headed, we're all of us