Author Topic: Velosolo Club

« Reply #50 on: November 21, 2020 »
In honour of the departed Jan Morris, on today's ride I stopped back at the bookshop.

A better gift than nail polish?

Choose a lane.

The sound of children playing sends shivers down my spine, what with them being particularly chaotic plague vectors.

Kipling disdaining overfamiliarity with a couple who were not at all surprised an American wanted to take their picture. (Earlier in the ride, Sit Down had Shuffled into my ears, immediately followed by the urge to catch someone on that bench. I got lucky.)

Every morning she crosses the road and drops them off, no questions asked.

Annex oast for boozy granny.

Local eyesore.

Another local eyesore. Helmet hair might be a better look.

Miles: 23ish
Climbing: 84,000"
Castles passed: 1
Kiplings passed: 1
Rekindled love affairs: 1 (whoa there)
Hair: .44mm longer
Another day older

« Reply #51 on: February 01, 2021 »
Made another swing by Roger Daltrey’s house today. Here’s the stalker's entrance:

I zoomed in and caught the man himself:

Signs and portents
« Reply #52 on: February 26, 2021 »
Today's ride could have started better. Down what my wife long ago named Bitch (not to be confused with bitchin') Hill, a large herd of deer came thundering across the lane, many having trouble clearing the barbed wire fence, the smaller ones doubtless scarred by the encounter. Presently the reason for their fright appeared: a fawn that couldn't make the jump came racing by, a Collie snapping at its heels. With mums lately on my mind I felt bad for Bambi, on his own.

A minute or so after I started rolling again a miscalculating squirrel bounced against my front wheel. Fortunately both of us escaped injury and he was in too much of a hurry to remonstrate with me.

Down in the village the high street is now a parking lot thanks to the jab centre. It's harder to speed through now, another side effect of the plague.

A little further along a rare police car passed by, reminding me that we're supposed to be exercising in our local area. I've been defining this as within about 6 miles as the crow flies, what do you reckon? I can get a decent ride out of that.

A decent ride

My hair was tamed with a neck gaiter. This makes me feel like Björn Borg, an enduring image of sweat-banded athleticism from my youth.

out your inner Borg

The next village provides warning of critters.

No ball playing in this sign, leading one to fill in the blank as to what they may be up to. Animal husbandry? Lord of the Flies homeschooling? Dodging predators? (I like Sardonicky, but she's laying it on thick.) Best move swiftly along.

Bringing it all back home
« Reply #53 on: March 09, 2021 »
Occam’s razor, which is why singlespeeds exist (how else would you interpret the law of parsimony, i.e. "gears should not be multiplied without necessity"?) is named after William of Ockham, who apparently didn't know how to spell his own name. If only he'd left convenient reminders around.

This ride had plenty of grist for the mill: hills galore, the vanquishing of enemies, a chat with a bike repairman, an angry wife, a sign that knowing a few slightly obscure references doesn't qualify me for a job in STEM, and a goat named Billy because it's the law.

You probably want to hear about the vanquishing. As detailed in a previous instalment, I am a KOM title holder. Therefore upstarts are always nipping at my heels. And so it was on the hill out of Bodiam. Pretty sure it was these guys:

We meet again

Having been blown past on the flat, I kept pace from a distance and made my assessment. Feeling bold, I made my move a bit earlier than was wise, but was amply rewarded as the space between us opened without too much effort.

A few miles down the road I let my guard down and they passed me again, going up! The cheek of it. If they weren't exactly enemies before, they were now. You must agree I had little choice but to once again provide dust for a meal. This triggered a coughing fit, fortunately a delayed reaction so as not to sully my ultimate victory. Even Miguel Induráin must have hacked up a lung from time to time.

After a period of reflection by the side of the road, I carried on. Eventually there was another hill, this one in a state of vacant possession thank god. If I'd been forced to pick up speed for yet another defence of my title, not only might the neighbourhood have locked their shutters against the sound of plague, I probably wouldn't have met Chris of Lever.

Mercifully that wasn't a ghost bike that grabbed my attention, but an advertisement for his repair service. He chose that moment to be coming home; now he has another potential customer. It didn't hurt that he gave a little bow of respect when it was carelessly dropped into conversation that nearby Willingford Lane, with a proper hard gradient even for gearies, is another notch on my uptube (think that'll catch on?).

After taking his flyer and my leave I headed for Kings Hill Road, the scene of many a pleasant gasp for air. On the way I passed a cyclist taking a breather by the Brightling Observatory, an old folly of Mad Jack's and the top of this part of the world. We said hello and I headed down. Eventually he whizzed past, which was A-OK: even grandmothers pass me going downhill.

At the bottom he turned around and started back up. This was a development. I've done it on occasion, but have never seen anyone else so inclined. What the hell, let's go for it. My goal was to draw even and offer something like moral support to a fellow hill lover. I entertained no serious contemplation of actually beating him.

Alas I didn't have the lungs to even catch up, and courted a very rare cramp in the bargain.

Still, he hauled me up from a distance, and I thank him for that. On top of the world again, I was minded to visit Willingford Lane, again downhill but with plenty of gradient on the other side. It was at this juncture that I both met Billy

Giving me the cold shoulder

and checked my phone, to be confronted by an undisclosed number of missed messages and calls. My wife was soon filling my ear with wonderment at my lack of consideration. This was not so much a general observation as a pointed reminder that, although time may fly when you're having fun, the occasional update wouldn't go amiss. Apparently a ride which takes twice as long as expected, without notice, falls under the category of Bad Things.

Feeling somewhat deflated, I went down down down the lane until I finally got off and walked the steepest hundred yards or so, taking no great pleasure in white knuckle descents.

Oh man up already

What goes down must go up

One last hill, then home to meet my fate. The day was to offer one more brief social encounter, a couple out for a walk who wished me well on my ascent: "A shame the inn at the top is closed."

"What goes around?" Easiest pub quiz question ever.

Déjà View, to show
« Reply #54 on: March 11, 2021 »
A puncture not even out of the gate, which is the very best kind, all the comforts of home. Easily sorted. Given the drunkenly tilting valve, which spoke of hard times at its base, I didn't have to search for the cause. And so to the road.

It was a crazy windy day, rain promised by all. Yet the sky told a different story. I headed into the hills accompanied by the usual sound of music, in this case as much for its prophylactic qualities as for entertainment. I don't remember what was playing, but poor Shawn Colvin was on my mind. Why poor? See for yourself.

If you've got $200 (£143 at the current exhange rate) you too can purchase "at least" one minute of her wonderful voice singing with a personal shout-out. Thus the check in the mail from Uncle Joe would buy me

and enough

to get to the first refrain.

Shawn's a good cause, and I hate to poke fun or worse, evoke pity. Live performers have it tough. Not everybody has Bob Dylan money to see them through.

I made it to the top of the hill I'm forever climbing, now thinking about Sisyphus, because there's a post brewing about going up up up and he may figure in it. We don’t have a lot in common other than having both cheated death a few times, and employment in Sisyphean tasks.

Not much time budgeted for enjoying the view,

I headed back down and presently greeted a vision in luminescent pink. It was Jenni, last seen ahorse a little over a month ago on this same stretch and buffeted by the same wind, assuming it's done the rounds. Just two riders on the lane. We chatted long enough for another faux pax – the jury is still out on whether she minded me forgetting who was who.

She’d changed outfits and (also sorry for not noticing!) horses. I too had swapped, to Lucy. Hers was now Kate, her daughter's. I'm starting to wonder if she has as many horses as I have bikes, and if we should all meet together everyone would be willing to wear name tags.

I'd been hoping to run into Jenni again to offer my email for her rolodex, to be filed under village cyclist & idiot. Were it not for my original delay, we wouldn’t have crossed paths on this day with the scene set just right for a replay, so thanks, puncture fairy.

« Reply #55 on: March 12, 2021 »
Hands up if like me you’ve never played. (Either hand will do.) Bored security guards in movies are always at it. Far be it for me to get all snobbish and suggest it’s not quite the same as playing chess against yourself – which I also don’t, my preference to sacrifice my king to save my favourite pawn never quite panning out.

Are you sure you want to do that?

Us velosoloists are taking the easy way out. It’s much more difficult to ride with other people, whether racing and holding a line (is that a thing? I don’t know the lingo) or leisurely pub-hopping, than it is to be free to improvise on a whim, no questions asked. YMMV.

This morning I made a determination that there was a comfortable cushion of time between a ride and the forecast rain, and got myself in the saddle again. My goal: the Co-op parking lot in Heathfield. Because it’s there, and as a sad reminder that I haven’t been in a supermarket in ages.

"The endless road unwinds you," Steve Winwood sang into my ear. Steve gets it.

There’s the Co-op. Believe it or not I was slightly nervous about cruising by at 3-something in the morning, as there can be nasties about. It also wouldn’t do to interrupt a dogging session. Fortunately I was unmolested and didn’t surprise anybody, velosoloist interruptus.

I don’t ride this way often, because the beautiful road to this market town is horribly marred by traffic in daylight hours. Taking full advantage of the lack of foot traffic, I took to the pavement, window shopping for illustrations. Marilyn obliged.

I also passed my dentist, presumably tucked up in bed dreaming of perfect smiles. He's actually quite good: it's a pleasure not to have to dread your tooth botherer.

Climbing the hill back out of town I remembered meeting a pair of High Weald Drifters moseying down it a few years ago. As you'll see from the previous post, it's horsey country. Usually I see rabbits, very occasionally a badger. My fellow night owls.

Darkness swallowed me up again. My light is pretty good, but not quite good enough to ever put me completely at ease with going that fast. I decided to don my headlamp, packed for puncture repair. It wasn't the first time for this lightbulb moment, just the first time I'd actually tried it, not liking the idea of a wodge of plastic on my head should I take a tumble. It didn't help much, but there's a stronger one at home...

I passed where a pedestrian was killed last year, also under the stars.

ELO'S Sweet is the Night came on.

My fingers and toes were freezing, scuppering my plan to anchor the other end of the ride at the Etchingham station parking lot. Because it’s also there. And mem'ries.

Standing on the platform with my folder, looking forward to good eatin’ and ridin’.

Cows. (I don't know if that was a station cow, but it could have been a relative.)

Kenny. The best stationmaster you could hope for,

and gay as the day is long. In fact all three I've known have been gay. It's in their contract.

It looks like next month the highways dept. will be cramping my style. I'm putting this pic here because I can't fit it in anywhere else.


This was taking longer than expected because I kept stopping to liaise with my voice recorder. Ideas swoop down like bats.

Passing through Burwash I badly wanted to put my headlamp on Kipling, but will settle for this:

Getting ready to turn into the drive at home and not a moment sooner, it started raining, which is an ending tailor-made to please.

These are the voyages
« Reply #56 on: May 30, 2021 »
Lots of metaphorical chess going on in my life at the moment, which I can't talk about because reasons.

Haven't met my quota of Trekkie references this month

My current mission: to get used to captaining the SS Langster hands free. I mean, really comfortably. It’s not like I couldn’t do it already, but it’s more flighty than stately. Lots of oportunities to practice. It’s going well.

The following is a composite ride stretching over the course of a day.

We begin with a disappointing shot, alas. And I had planned it almost as carefully as Ansel Adams did Moonrise over Hernandez, which we all know was more complicated than the moon landing.

Bins under Burwash: Zone System info not recorded

Nicer weather brings out the night rider in me. There's nothing like moon shining on a ribbon of recently repaired road. I love the quiet, except of course for the music often blasting my ears.

Soundtrack to a Blitzkrieg

Rare view from inside the village car park toilets, dawn peeking in. The point being, the public facilities are gloriously (not to get too carried away or anything) open, doing-your-business hours once again 24/7.

The weather being less Fuck You lately, I've been enjoying my rides more to go with it. Here I am contemplating my immediate fate, it once again being groundhog day:

Feed me Seymour is the first caption that comes to mind, so I'll go with it

Low-flying bird's eye view

Oh dear, I'm going bald.

Sex outside the city

Although I lack photographic evidence, my social life is exploding in a good way. Along a lane close to home I run into Jonathan walking Trig. The two are a familiar sight. From time to time over the years we've turned it up a notch by chatting. Today I desire human connection to thumb my nose at the pandemic, so we have a fine one, Trig busy eating a type of grass I neglected to make a note of to burnish my descriptive prowess.

Melanie & Anthony walk by. Their faces ring a bell. "We're passing you for a change," says Melanie. After wrapping things up with Jonathan I approach them up the lane and announce I'm collecting names for faces. It's a conversational gambit.

We hit it off. The discussion ranges from sociability in a time of plague to cycling socks, as Melanie's son has a booming business.

My notes say "everything in common and nothing in common", a quote from Anthony. I'll be damned if I can piece that part of the convo together.

Doubtless we'll meet again.

Further along I see a string of what can only be cyclists, a colourful gaggle which turns out to be schoolkids being given cycling proficiency training. They are treated to the sight of a very hairy and unhelmeted man cruising by without hands where they should be, on the bars.

Around the bend, thinking of the children I am struck by the urge to return to the scene of the crime. Well, why not. It's that kind of day.

I approach them and glide to a stop. All attention is on this strange apparition.

My lecture is short: "It's good to see you wearing your helmets," I lie. Pointing to my head, I add that if I fall off my hair will probably protect me(!). Appreciative or bemused, their instructor thanks me for the PSA. I wonder if some will now grow their hair longer to emulate the mysterious Samson.

Mental rewrite starts after rolling away. Judging by the way they were staring at me, perhaps I should've added "that's a joke," or tapped my head to indicate its hardness. I guess the thing about hair popped out because it's currently my main feature.

It would've been a fantastic photo-op, but for the most part I don't do kids anymore. It's too risky, people will think you're a perv. It's such a shame, as they're great subjects. What follows is a small portfolio from the 80s in my hometown, where I photographed all and sundry.

Dominic Cummings, Theresa May, Boris Johnson

The kid on the right actually did grow up to be a jailbird, if it makes a better caption

Is jumping rope still a thing, or have Health & Safety intervened in this childhood amusement?

Bear in mind that I was in my teens, so to any adult witness, chances are nothing would have been terribly odd... though even in those more innocent times it was still not your typical teenage pursuit.

Cat's in the cradle

Wheel slowly turning in the breeze

School's out for summer – I know, let's go to school!

On a wooded hillside a mare and foal share a moment, in camera except for the guy holding one.

A few more from the day's soundtrack and we'll wrap this up.

That last one is a link to the best cover of Bob Dylan's Nettie Moore I could find; it didn't do to sully Weeki Wachee Springs with one of those little play arrows I usually add when not simply embedding a video. Leo DiSanto does a very fine job, but truly, find a studio version and prepare to be immersed in sublimity.

Down our often muddy track of a driveway, I find myself picking up the Langster to spare it more earthy nature than necessary. Somewhere in time my gentleman doppelgänger lays down a cape over a puddle.