Fancied a good old-fashioned Twycrosser today, so that’s what I did. I took the X. The weather forecast threatened a hot day so I went early to minimise my exposure to the worst of it. Made sure my cleat bolts were nice and tight, and left at about 10:30.

I didn’t want to push my luck with a longer ride, and it was too hot anyway. On top of that I was woken last night by a bat doing laps of our bedroom ceiling at 3AM and a bit tired. It left of its own accord (unless it’s still hiding in there) a few minutes later but not before freaking me out slightly.

Took the detour to Orton between Twycross and Sheepy.

Rather than listening to 5 Live on a DAB radio, I opted to test a small MP3 player I’d bought a few years ago, but hadn’t used for ages. I thought the internal battery might be stuffed. This turned out to be a bit inconvenient as it was very difficult to navigate to the tunes I wanted – it doesn’t have a screen so you pretty much just have to scroll through everything. I ended up listening to a load of Robert Plant solo stuff I’d put on there years ago and while there are a few gems, I must admit that overall I was getting sick of Robert’s 1950s rock’n’roll schtick with the slapback echo on the vocals.

The MP3 player did great though, the battery lasted the whole ride and was still going strong when I switched it off half an hour after I got back. It weighs almost nothing so would be useful for extending DAB life on a long ride, or as a backup.

Baking hot by 1pm or so, and I was wearing long sleeves to protect my already-sunburned arms. Took this pic three miles from home at a farm near Heather.

Very happy to report that my knees did fine, despite doing ~64 miles on Friday.

34.33 miles, 419 this month.

Eastwell Fondo

Lovely summer weather and I thought I’d have a crack at a Fondo today. Decided to head out east using the new route that bypasses the old route via Normanton, Stanford then Burton on the Wolds, before rejoining it at Six Hills – but this time I’d go further along to a village called Eastwell, which has a very serviceable bench and used to be my last rest spot before Belvoir Castle and Lincolnshire.

I’d planned to take the S Works but when I got to the garage, I remembered that it only has a single bottle cage. I’d brought a dummy bottle ‘pod’ with me containing a gel, small pork pies and an oat bar. So I shrugged my shoulders and readied the X instead. But after a minute I chastised myself for being idle, and fitted a second bottle cage to the S Works. I used two nylon nuts as spacers to prevent the bottle cage rubbing the frame. Possibly being a bit precious, there.

Set off at 09:18. Feeling a bit cool at first in lightweight clothing but not too uncomfortable and I knew I’d be too warm later anyway. Took the lower elevation, shorter and partially urban route to Belton for the first six miles, through Coalville and Whitwick.

And I was having a splendid time listening to a discussion about Brexit on Adrian Chiles’ 5 Live programme, interspersed with occasional bad news from Headingley, when on the 25 mile mark along Six Hills Lane I noticed that my right shoe was slopping about in the pedal slightly. So I stopped to check, and yep – the cleat was loose. All three bolts were present and correct but all three had worked themselves slightly loose.

Naturally, I didn’t have an Allen key on me. I parked the bike up against a signpost, sat on the grass verge and managed to tighten them back down with the tip of my thumb. Well, “tighten” is not really the appropriate word there. I screwed them in but clearly they weren’t very tight and I was sure they’d work themselves free over a few miles. The cleat started shifting back and forth again after another two miles. I kept going for a bit, until I was just 5 miles from Eastwell and thumb-turned them in again.

Stopped at the bench there, having done 31.5 miles. I found a small stone under the bench that looked like it might give a bit more leverage in the hex sockets of the cleat bolts, and it did. I managed to get them a bit tighter then after a gel and a pork pie, turned for home.

Sadly my caveman stone tool repair wasn’t that successful and I felt the cleat come a bit loose again three or four miles later. But I was fairly confident by now that the bolts wouldn’t work themselves completely loose and I wasn’t having any difficulty pedalling, so I relaxed a bit and got on with it. I stopped and thumb-tightened them again every seven miles or so.

Stopped at the Greyhound at Burton on the Wolds and fuelled up with San Miguel and a Brie & red pepper Ciabatta with chips. I was slightly irritated by a bloke sitting a few feet behind me with his mate, who had what I call Fucking Tourettes. Now I don’t mind swearing, in fact I do it myself quite regularly. But it should be used for emphasis, not like punctuation. This poor bloke couldn’t get five words out without one of them being “fucking”, very few of these instances contributing anything to the meaning of what he was saying.

Knees started to feel a bit tender after 55 miles or so, and I think I can call that progress. The right one especially is a bit sore now. But it will get rested tomorrow and it probably won’t do more than 30 on Sunday.

I edited the track to remove the section where I was walking around the pub car park before uploading to Strava and noticed a bizarre anomaly – the Garmin watch had recorded two track points more than 1km off the actual track, and a straight line of track points at a perpendicular to it. Strange. I edited that out as well, but this is from the original track:

63.7 miles. I hope to do a Fondo every month going forward from now on. 385 this month.

Six Hills

I had been thinking of attempting a Fondo yesterday. But two factors conspired to deter me from doing that. Firstly, I had debilitated the condition of my knees slightly by walking for three or four miles in Derby on Tuesday, then attending a standing-only gig in Leicester a few hours later. Secondly I had another gig to go to last night involving a drive to Wolverhampton so I didn’t have that much time, and I didn’t want to be bopping at the front of the stage with sore patellar tendons, either.

But it was a nice day, certainly. I hadn’t been out on a bike since Monday. So I thought I’d do the pub at Burton on the Wolds and back, which would give me about 36 miles.

Wanted to see if I could make it there without referring to a map, and I did. Pleased to have got that one down as it’s a useful route for longer trips out east. Had to ignore a “road closed” warning to get there, though. But when I got to the roadworks at Normanton on Soar it was easy enough to bypass them using the path at the side of the road.

I arrived at the pub at about 11:20 as things turned out which was about 40 minutes before it was due to open – as usual I hadn’t really planned or thought about it properly – so I kept on going for another six miles or so, past Six Hills. Then I turned back. A very pleasant lunch at the pub consisting of a ham & coleslaw ciabatta, chips and a half San Miguel followed. Annoyingly I couldn’t get Google Pay on my phone to work, but I’d brought a debit card as a backup. I must fix that.

Bit of a headwind on the way back. I listened to the Mark Lewisohn Beatles bio again. Home on 48.29 miles.

Despite the previous day’s walking and gigging activities, my knees did really, encouragingly well. I have to wonder if walking them is actually beneficial. They held up nicely at the gig last night as well. I’ll definitely do a Fondo before I’m back at work on Tuesday.

Annoyingly during a lapse of concentration turning left at the lights at Zouch near the Nottinghamshire border, I scuffed my front rim on the edge of the pavement slightly. Nothing I could really describe as damage happened, but the black painted braking surface now has a small scuffed silver patch. I suppose that will wear down my left brake pad a bit quicker.

Having said that though – I have yet to wear down a brake pad. I’ve probably done at least 10,000 miles on the Boardman but all four brake pads seem to have plenty of life in them.

The carbon rims on the Spesh have a weirdly ridged ‘Exalith’ braking surface which is supposed to wear normal brake pads down twice as quick, and you’re supposed to use extra-durable brake pads with them. They also make a conspicuous “weeeeeeeee!” noise when you apply the brakes.

321 this month which is over target, and 2532 done this year.


Was hoping to do a longish one today, perhaps Grimston and back. But the forecasters had introduced a threat of rain for this afternoon, so I scaled down my plans. Decided to do Stoney Stanton and back.

Nice day – sunny with intermittent cloud, not too warm, a bit of a breeze. Given the aforementioned likelihood of rain, although I hoped to be home before it came over, I selected the Boardman as weapon of choice.

I didn’t bother setting up the route on the eTrex. I thought I could probably remember the way and if not, I’d just use Google Maps on the phone. And yet – I deviated from my intention, and from the route I’ve done in the past, because I arrived at Stoney Stanton without having gone through Barwell. I reached exactly the same destination, a crossroads at Stoney. But I’d arrived there along a different road. Looking at a map now it’s clear that I took the wrong road out of Kirkby Mallory.

Anyway I decided that actually, I preferred the way I’d come to the classic route I’d intended, so I decided to come home the same way. Wasn’t sure I’d remember all the turns, but I did.

I experienced a couple of light showers on the way back up, then just south of Bagworth, torrential rain. At least an hour before “light showers” had been forecast, and this was proper biblical rain. It lasted about 10-15 minutes. I gave the bike a wipe down and a good seeing to with GT85 on my return to the garage.

I was a little concerned about how my knees would do as the right one has been a bit sore since Saturday’s 55 miler, but it was OK. Quite encouraging. I’d visited a particularly brutal set of hamstring exercises on myself before setting off. Definitely helped. I did a couple more when I stopped at Earl Shilton as well.

35.99 (I knocked 0.01 off for walking the bike to and from a bench). According to the Strava route planner I saved myself 10 feet of elevation and half a mile by coming a different way, so I’m not sure why I chose the other route last time. This one is definitely nicer, especially by virtue of not coming through Barwell.

I started reading Mark Lewisohn’s Beatles biography on holiday in Wales and really enjoyed it, but the trouble is – I only ever read books on holiday. In an environment where I have my computer, guitars, bikes and other toys available (ie at home) I just don’t have the attention span. So I had the idea of buying it in audiobook form, so I could listen to it while riding. That worked really well and I got through most of a chapter on this ride. It’s really beautifully read by Clive Mantle, who does the scouse accents nicely.

The audiobook itself is a 43 hr, 45 min audio file, but it’s controlled by the (Android) Audible app so you can jump to particular chapters. I used a new set of bluetooth earphones and the controls on that (dangling from my right ear) allowed me to jump back 30 seconds easily if I became distracted. The earphones themselves (made by JVC) sounded really good and the charge lasted the whole ride, though they started to beep a low battery warning over the last few miles. I was able to take a phone call from a friend without stopping, as well.

Will attempt a Fondo on Wednesday.

A Conflict of Interests

A conflict of interests today. On one hand, I’m on call. On the other hand, I wanted to do at least 50 but didn’t want to waste 50 miles of effort on a boring orbital route round familiar roads that wouldn’t take me too far from base.

I wanted to go somewhere reasonably distant. And since the oncall phone has been silent all week, I decided to take the chance. Because there was a stiff breeze coming from the west, I decided to go westward toward King’s Bromley then come home with a tailwind.

I took the X. I did pretty much the same route I did last time I went over that way 12 days ago – out through Measham, past Netherseal, Coton in the Elms, Walton on Trent and Barton-under-Needwood. I didn’t expect to be rained on but I was for a few minutes, after Measham.  After that it was sunshine and a warm breeze all the way, bar a few short cloudy spells.

Stopped for a snack at Barton – I’d brought a mini pork pie. Sat on the big concrete block anchoring a wooden post with a sign on it, and noticed a large moth on the post. It didn’t seem to be bothered by my attention, so I took a pic.

Cute isn’t he? Or she.

I turned left at Yoxall down toward King’s Bromley, then after 21 miles, decided to turn back at a roundabout. I was getting slightly nervous about the phone going off despite my earlier bravado. As soon as I turned and the headwind disappeared, things became markedly more tranquil and I started to warm up a bit. Once again I’d slightly overdressed. But feeling too warm on a bike will seem like a luxury three months from now.

Came back the same way and stopped for a break near Netherseal. At this point the batteries in my eTrex died but it had done its job; I was back on familiar turf and no longer in need of technology-assisted navigation. I wasn’t using it to record the track. It really had made life a lot easier than last time I rode out that way.

Rather than continuing on to Measham, I turned down the A444. I wasn’t sure how far down Twycross was, but bolting a part-Twycrosser onto my ride would extend it nicely. However when I came to a large roundabout I realised I was near Appleby Magna so I went across to Snarestone from there, and continued down to Twycross via the usual method, down Ashby Road.

Again though on a whim I executed a slight change of plan just before Twycross and took a left to Bilstone and Congerstone along Bilstone Road. Up through Shakerstone and Swepstone, but I took the long way home from there, looping left round Packington and coming back along Ashby Rd over Alton Hill (not the same Ashby Rd – there are at least five of them on my usual cycle routes).

After about 50 miles on Gallows Lane I started to feel a bit knackered – mostly because I was too warm I think – but half an oat bar and seven minutes’ rest later, I was fine.

I’d done 55.30 by the time I got back which is pretty much what I was aiming for. Not bad considering the conspicuous random element of this one.

Knees are feeling a touch tender know but they did OK.  I have this next week off and will try for a Fondo over the next few days. The weather has settled a bit though it’s still a bit blowy. I really want to go out east though, so I’ll just have to put up with a headwind on the way back.

A Quick One

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks dismal and since I may not be able to ride on Thursday due to commitments in London, I decided I’d go out and enjoy the sunshine for 15 miles or so, foregoing my usual day’s break between rides but not wanting to overdo it.

My knees felt a bit more tender than they would have done tomorrow, but they were OK. I went out through Ibstock, Ellistown and Bagworth since it’s mostly flat. A bit urban, but endearingly level.

At the end of Barlestone Road I turned right rather than left, which would have been the usual option for Kirkby Mallory, Earl Shilton Potters Marston et al. I guessed I’d probably find myself over by Odstone and the road north of Bosworth, which would have been lovely for a sunny evening. But I didn’t, in fact a few miles later I realised I’d turned back on myself and was returning home the way I came through Ellistown.

A bizarre occurrence in Ellistown on the way down. The road through Ellistown itself is as wide as anything and I was certainly adequately close to the side of the road, but a middle-aged bloke in a Micra insisted on crawling behind me, as if I was holding him up. He had plenty of room to overtake. When he finally did he offered a robust two finger gesture as he passed! Dickhead.

Anyway – 15.07 miles, 182 this month. Looking at the forecast, I might not get a chance to go cycling again until Sunday.

Hilton Again

I’d intended to break my four day cycling drought with a Twycross, but shortly after setting off, changed my mind and steered the X up through Coleorton and Melbourne.

I’d really wanted to do a trip out east but conditions were breezy, and I’d have had an irritating headwind to cope with on the return leg. So I pretty much did the same as last time, up over Swarkestone Bridge then left along past Stenson, through Willington and along to Hilton. The headwind going west wasn’t actually nearly as bad as I expected.

I stopped on the bridge to take a pic. Possibly a bit of an error as I had a long wait for an acceptable gap in the flowing river of motor traffic, so I could continue my journey northward.

Went a bit further west this time and turned back on the outskirts of Hilton. I was quite amused to pass a Chinese restaurant called the Mandarin Hilton.

Decided to come back a slightly different way after coming back over the bridge, to avoid the brutal southward climb south of Melbourne, and to hang on to the tailwind for a bit. Instead I headed eastward to Donington, turning south after Isley Walton to join what used to be the route home from the office.

Nice weather, mostly warm and sunny. I didn’t mind the breeze.

I’ve been so impressed by the new mirror on the Boardman that I bought one for the X as well. About 8g heavier than the combined weight of the mirror and bar end plug that it replaced, but – it’s not a lot, is it? I found that I readjusted the old one quite frequently, this one I can just leave alone once it’s set up right. Most people wouldn’t have that problem, though. I’m a bit susceptible to OCD.

40.96, 167 this month.


Another pleasant evening, another ride out on a bike. The nights are getting dark earlier, so best to make the most of them.

Cloudy when I set off with a few dark clouds lurking, but I’d been promised dry weather so I took the Planet X. In fact I did get spotted with rain a few minutes after I set off, but only for about three minutes. After that the weather picked up quite nicely and the sun came out later on.

Quite blowy though, with a strong wind from the west. I had decided to go westwards, so as to come home with a tailwind. I don’t like a headwind on the homeward part of a journey. I briefly considered going over toward Walton on Trent as I did on Monday, but decided I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of sorting out the route on the eTrex. A simpler route was needed. So I decided to head up over Swarkestone Bridge, then left past Stenson for a few miles, then back the same way.

Swarkestone Bridge is a long, meandering causeway built in the 13th century and with little room for passing. Things there can go one of two ways, as a cyclist, when it’s busy: either you’re holding the motor vehicle traffic up, which is a bit awkward, or it’s holding you up. On the northward crossing, it was a bit of both this time. Turned left at the top and straight into the headwind. But while it slowed me down, it mostly wasn’t overly annoying except for a brief period when it picked up a bit and I had to drop a gear. It was actually making the bike feel a bit unstable for half a minute or so.

Anyway no stop at the Bubble Inn for me this evening, I went straight past Stenson and quite a bit further westward than I’d been along that road. Some readers may remember that I cycled down to Stoney Stanton a couple of months ago, a village featured in a  piece by the documentary maker Ian Nairn in the early ’70s. Well – on the same trip, and the same programme, he paid a visit to Willington Power Station, which I passed a few miles after Stenson. I stopped and took a pic through some railings. It looks pretty ugly to me, but Nairn quite liked it for some reason.

Willington itself is a nice small town from what I saw, not very rural but pleasant. A bit like a more palatable version of Long Eaton. I’d never been through there before. It’s about 8 miles from Derby. The traffic at the double roundabout there held me up briefly, but I hoped it would be quieter on the way back. And it was, I sailed through without stopping.

Stopped just short of Hilton having done nearly 19 miles and decided that was enough. Didn’t want to stay out too late. I came back the same way and bloody hell, the direction of travel relative to that westerly wind made a big difference. I must have covered the same distance in half the time with it pushing me forward instead of backward.

By the time I got to Melbourne I’d briefly considered coming back via Donington which would have added a couple of miles. I thought it would be quite nice to have done three consecutive 40+ milers, something I doubt I’ve ever done before. But I didn’t, I came back exactly the same way and I ended up on 37.74 miles.

Nice run out really despite busier roads than I would normally do. I’ll do that one again on a pleasant, quiet Sunday afternoon some time.

That was the second run out for my new cycling shoes and they seem to be bedding in nicely.

On my last ride I noticed a buzzing in my left ear, and fortunately this turned out to be the left earphone rather than the ear itself. So I binned my trusty Sennheisers and have replaced them with a mystery brand from Amazon. They have a nice low profile, ie less of the earphone sticks out of your ear, for reduced wind noise. And they sound pretty good.

Barton-under Needwood

Once again the weather forecasters changed their minds, invoking a threat of rain at around 7pm in place of their earlier offer of a dry evening. So I took the Boardman instead of the Planet X after leaving work early.

I wanted to do 35-40 and something a bit different. I was in the mood for a run out to Parts West of Ashby, perhaps Kings Bromley and back. But I didn’t want to do the usual route through Clifton Campville, because the roads are too uneven over there. So during the day, I plotted a route that would take me through Measham and Coton in the Elms. It looked fairly straightforward on the route planner so I didn’t bother importing it into a GPX app or my eTrex.

So off I went. Lovely evening; sunny and warm. A bit of a breeze.

As I made my way west of Measham, I found myself thinking: why don’t I come this way more often? It’s pleasant enough, the roads are well surfaced and it’s not too hilly. Yet for some reason I feel out of my territory over that way; out of my comfort zone. That though is part of the fun, sometimes. Although I like the familiarity of a Twycross or a run up to Melbourne or over to Castle Donington, it’s nice to have an adventure.

Unfortunately I had to stop and check Google Maps a few times on the way out westwards, and I didn’t actually take the route I intended. I’d planned to go to King’s Bromley but found myself way off course for that. I saw a sign for Walton on Trent, a pleasant village on the river that I’d been through once or twice before, so I followed it. A couple of miles west of Walton I found myself at Barton-under Needwood – a place I recognised from a ride out to Stafford a year or three ago. I had planned to make do with a gel and an oat bar but I felt quite peckish, so I went into the Co-op there and bought a sandwich and a packet of Squares. I’d done 18 miles at this point and decided to turn back. I’d wasted a fair bit of time in map-reading.

I stuffed the sandwich and Squares up my jersey. There wasn’t a bench nearby, but I stopped at a signpost on the way out. Its brick base made a perfect seat.

The route back seemed to be simpler for some reason, but I didn’t quite come back the same way. Still very enjoyable though, and nice to be pedalling along roads I either vaguely remembered from years back or didn’t recognise at all.

Arrived back at Swepstone, just 3.5 miles from home and thought I ought to extend the ride a bit. I’d already had an idea to tack on the rest of a Twycross from Snarestone, but the lure of a Tesco ready meal and a glass of red proved too much. But at Swepstone I felt a tinge of guilt at doing this. After all there won’t be that many more opportunities to do 40 miles after work this year; not in daylight anyway. So – I decided to tack on the rest of my old lunch break route from Swepstone, calculating that it would give me another 7 miles or so. As indeed it did. I arrived home on 40.92 miles.

The rain didn’t happen, fortunately. Needn’t have taken the Boardman, although I am quite enjoying it at the moment.

Coming through Packington just four miles or so from home I saw a bird of prey standing over a blackbird it had (presumably) just killed, in a front garden. A sparrowhawk, I think. Its chest feathers were puffed out and it looked quite aggressive, as if defending its prey. I could hear birds in the tree behind it going mental. I stopped the bike hoping to take a pic, but as I sneaked closer it flew off, with the bird in its talons.

I’ll do that ride or a close variation of it again, but I’ll take the eTrex next time for ease of navigation.

88 miles done this month, that’s a decent start to August.

Six Hills

Beautiful day today, and although the Meteorological Office had forecast rain for the early evening, they had withdrawn their threat by this morning. So I consumed a leisurely breakfast, donned my cycling clothing and went to withdraw the Cannondale from the garage.

When I got there though I felt a certain guilt that I’m not using the Spesh as often as I should, so I decided to take that one instead. As it happens, at that point I’d actually done less miles this year on the Cannondale than the Spesh. I’ve just checked the stats. But I took the Spesh anyway.

The plan was to head out East toward Grimstone, a sort of variation on the old Belvoir Castle / Melton route, but not as far. I hoped to do about 45. I intended to use the new variation of the route that bypasses Rempstone and Wymeswold to the south. And that’s what I did.

This new variation is much more enjoyable and interesting. I’ve done the old Rempstone – Wymeswold version many times heading over to Lincolnshire, or to Melton but I don’t see myself using it again. I haven’t quite got the hang of it yet though and I took a wrong turn just after Stanford. I was pretty sure I was on the wrong road about half a mile later, and shortly afterwards found myself about to enter Loughborough, which confirmed it. Still – no matter, after I’d backtracked to the correct route I’d only added 1.5 flat miles. Passed a hospitable-looking pub at Burton on the Wolds and decided I’d have lunch there on the way back. A few miles later at the intersection of Six Hills Lane and Paddy’s Lane, having done about 24 miles, I turned back.

Ordered a San Miguel and a sandwich with chips at the pub, after fastening the bike to a railing with my high-tech reinforced plastic tie pseudo-lock. Quite impressed with the food there, I’ll definitely do this one again.

Really enjoyed that one, the lunch interval made it feel like a proper run out.

Annoyingly my Garmin watch saved the track and reset a few minutes after I pressed “pause” at the pub, to stop it recording my clogging around between the bar and the table outside. I suppose it must have a timeout. Consequently it synced the ride to Garmin Connect, and thereby to Strava, as two tracks. I deleted them from Strava, concatenated them and reposted the track as a single ride.

Looking forward to doing that again one weekend soon. Will hope to go a little further next time. My knees are complaining slightly now but they didn’t give me any trouble during the ride; I did take it very easy though.

I wrapped up a bit too warm unfortunately. If I’d taken my lightweight backpack I could have stowed away the top layer, but I didn’t. Still – rather too warm than too cold. We’ll all be getting cold fingers and toes again in a few weeks.

47.04 miles, 2258 this year. Per-bike distances for 2019 so far are: