In recent weeks I’ve been paying more attention to distant features and objects while out on a bike, and I’ve become intrigued particularly by a feature that, depending on weather, is visible to the west from near Little Orton, above a line of hills. It appears as a sort of grey block, over the tree line on the high ground in the distance.

I’ve tried taking a bearing on it with a compass and scrutinising the appropriate terrain on Google Earth, but there’s nothing that looks like a suitable candidate in that direction for miles.

So today, I decided I’d ride over to the high ground near Polesworth, a bit closer to it, and see if I had a view of it from there. I planned this as a sort of westward extension to a Twycross Bypasser.

I felt the uncomfortable prickle of cold, spotty drizzle on my legs as soon as I emerged from the garage with a bike, but the forecast was favourable so I expected this would stop soon. It did, but unfortunately not long after I’d pedalled through Orton the skies opened and I was rained on rather heavily for about 15 minutes. Haven’t had to contend with that for a while, and I certainly didn’t expect it. To make matters worse, because I couldn’t find a pair of cycling socks before I set off, I put on a pair of civilian socks instead, so my feet didn’t dry out as quickly as they might have.

But when the rain stopped the bike and I did dry out quite nicely in the lukewarm wind.

Bit of a slog getting to the high ground near Polesworth – nice to do some new roads I suppose, but what a climb to get up there. I could not see anything that looked like it might be the mystery object. I’ve come to the provisional conclusion that it’s the top of a tower block in Birmingham, about 17 miles away from my vantage point near Little Orton. But I will find out.

The way back down was a lot of fun, reminiscent of the BMX event at the Olympics. I hate having to brake while coming downhill. What a waste of hard-won kinetic energy.

Apart from the rain, a nice run out. I listened to coverage from the Olympics mostly, then 6 Music. 40.16 miles.

That’s a wrap for July then, on 594 miles. Shame I didn’t do another 6; I haven’t done a 600 mile month for some time.

Twycross Bypasser

Warm and dry again. We seem to have had more shorts-weather days this year than the previous three combined! Let’s be honest, climate change isn’t all bad. A bit windy though.

I did a Twycross Bypasser, stopping off at San Giovanni for a margarita again.

Lovely evening. Intermittently sunny.

30.13 miles, and that takes me to 3011 done this year. Last year I’d done 3000 by the end of June, but I’m not trying to match my 2020 total.

Flat A Road

Another warm day! Cycling without tights on is the new normal!

Left work early-ish and with a light wind coming from the west, I decided a run along my beloved Flat A Road was in order. It’s really a joy to glide along there in nice weather, especially on the S Works or the Cannondale. It’s just a shame you have to go up and down so many hills to get there.

The S Works accompanied me today. The traffic was a little excessive on the outward leg, though. So was the heat, so the second half of the ride was definitely more enjoyable.

I stopped just west of Hilton and came back exactly the same way. I’d thought about taking the detour around Rotter’s Rise south of Melbourne, but didn’t bother in the end.

My Garmin bike computer wanted to install a new software version just after I turned it on. The data fields have a different layout now. No better or worse really, just different.

40.63 miles.

Another Forty

The forecast was for rain all day today, a few days ago. But by this morning there was the mere risk of a shower in the evening. If I’d known I might have done a Fondo today, especially with the wind coming from the east – but oh well! I thought I’d do 40 or so, to put me within striking distance of hitting the 3000 mile mark before the end of the month.

As is often the case I set off without a plan. I was going to go up to Belton but changed my mind in less than a mile, and I went up through Swannington and Griffydam to Tonge. I had a vague idea to go through Donington then east, but when I got to the junction near Tonge I turned left instead and came back down through Breedon and Lount. Came back down through Coleorton and avoided the temptation imposed by the Cycling Inverse Square Law to come home, turning along the main road to Ashby then to Packington, after which I did a fairly standard Twycross Bypasser.

Fairly similar to the sort of route I’d typically do when on call to avoid straying too far from base, but only by chance. I wasn’t on call.

Cloudy and cool early on, but that made a very pleasant change. Could have done with a bit of that on Monday afternoon. I was actually disappointed when the sun came out later, but it was an excuse for a margarita pit stop ten miles from home.

I took the lime wedge with me to chew on the way back, for a bit of a vitamin C hit.

Quite an enjoyable run out, 40.20 miles.

Twycross Bypasser

Wanted to do 20 or so while the weather’s still nice. But although I stopped work early, I left it until abut 18:30 before setting off, to give the heat out there a chance to dissipate a bit. I did a Twycross Bypasser.

Glorious out there, especially in the last hour before sunset. I was tempted to stop at San Giovanni for a cheeky outdoor margarita, but I didn’t have a front light with me and I’d already extended the ride a bit by doing the Warton extension to the west.

Forgot to take a DAB personal or MP3 player with me, but I didn’t really miss the in-flight entertainment. I did have my phone, but no earbuds.

Lovely view of the sun as a dark orange ball above the horizon a few minutes before sunset. Of course I only looked at it very briefly.

Back a couple of minutes after it had gone down on 29.80 miles, and that takes me to 443 this month, 2901 this year. I’m sure there’s time for another 100 before the end of July.

Bourne to Lose

Attentive readers will remember that I performed a 200 mile bike ride to Norfolk and back, one day last June. I’d been hoping to do a similar ride using a more efficient 170 mile route this year for a while, and yesterday looked like suitable weather for it. It would be uncomfortably hot for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but cooler to the east. I’d be able to wear light clothing all day, which is just what you want on a long ride.

I set off at 04:40. I was actually on call until 08:00. If I’d got a call before 06:00 or so I’d have turned back, if absolutely necessary, to attend to it. If I got one later than that but earlier than 07:30 I’d be stuffed, but I assessed the risk as being very slight. I thought this would probably bother me over the first couple of hours but actually I pretty much forgot about it.

A little bit cooler than I’d have liked first thing in the morning, but not uncomfortable. I really enjoyed myself from the first turn of the cranks. A big contrast to my 200 miler when I was cold and a bit out of sorts for the first 35 miles. But I hadn’t slept particularly well if at all that time; this time I did get a few hours of sleep before I sprang out of bed at about 04:00.

Really nice to be out in the open countryside so early in the day. The fields near the river at Zouch were shrouded in ground mist illuminated by the early morning sunlight. Spectacular.

I encountered my first problem a few miles west of Bourne. I’d been ignoring ROAD CLOSED signs for about five miles, assuming that I’d probably be able to sneak past whatever road works were taking place – which is usually the case. However, metal barriers had been placed right across the width of the road. My negotiations with one of the workers at the scene, in charge of a mechanical digger, did not prove fruitful. He wasn’t going to let me wrestle the bike through the bush at the edge of the barriers.

So I tracked back, and followed the long, annoying detour along a slow, narrow, extravagantly potholed road to circumnavigate the road works.

Not long after Bourne, I re-acquainted myself with the flat Fenland part of Lincolnshire. Very distinctive part of the country with long, straight roads lined by drainage channels. Deathly quiet, as well. A bit of a post-apocalyptic vibe, somehow reinforced by the blinding sunshine.

My next problem arose not long after I’d stopped to refuel (a cheese sandwich and bottle of fizzy drink) at a shop on the outskirts of Spalding. My Garmin eTrex, to which I’d uploaded a map of the route, stopped working properly. The LCD screen became washed out and unreadable. It’s done this once or twice in the past and I’d thought it was probably a firmware bug. It’s always corrected itself after a minute. But now it was persistent; unusable. I suspect it’s a hardware fault that’s provoked by the heat. It had been standing in the sun outside the shop.

I pressed on regardless, hoping to navigate to my endpoint, the Norfolk border east of Sutton Bridge, from memory. This wasn’t successful, unfortunately. I took another wrong turn not long after this, and had to resort to using Google Maps on my phone to get back on track. Eventually at Fleet Hargate, about six miles from target, I decided to turn back. I knew I’d have to take the detour near Bourne again and I didn’t doubt I’d misnavigate again on the way there at least once (and I did; I missed a turn at Tongue End and continued down to Baston).

The hot sun was merciless for a couple of hours in mid-afternoon, but I knew it would be. Worth it to able to have relative warmth for the last couple of hours after 20:00. I stopped at a village shop at Buckminster and had an egg mayonnaise sandwich, a sausage roll, chocolate ice-cream and another 700ml of fluids. I doubt that this would be considered the best sort of athletic nutrition by a sports dietician, but it works for me.

Despite the detour and navigation errors I’d made better time than I thought I might by the time I was back in familiar territory, west of the A1 so I indulged a deliberate diversion through Hoton, Wymeswold and Rempstone. The last 30 or so of a 150+ mile ride can be harrowing when it’s cold and dark, but I remained in good spirits throughout. Warm weather and a late sunset helps a lot. Having a decent rest stop 45 miles from home was invaluable as well, I’m sure. Another thing that kept my spirits buoyant all day was the unusual number of women out and about in tiny shorts, in the various villages and towns. That sort of thing really elevates my mood. I’m sorry. It just does.

Although my Garmin eTrex let me down, my solar-assisted Garmin Instinct GPS watch performed like a champ – it still had 36% of juice left (about ten hours) after tracking the ride for eighteen hours. Brilliant to have an unobtrusive, lightweight GPS device that can be trusted to track the longest ride. Even in dull conditions I believe I could get 200 miles from it.

I listened to an entertaining, and encouragingly civil discussion between Alastair Campbell and Peter Hitchens, about the easing of the COVID restrictions on Naga Munchetty’s 5 Live show.  One is as congenitally dishonest as the other is barking mad, it seems to me. This was of course “Freedom Day”, a term I personally dislike quite a bit because it has been taken to heart by people of a certain persuasion as a sort of clarion call for their right, as they see it, to pretend that life should go on as if the virus no longer existed.

I also finished off my audiobook, Pushing Ice. Having consumed the whole thing now I must say it’s an ultimately unsatisfying product. The payoff doesn’t quite work and it’s much too self-indulgent and rambling. It’s a bit like a really good sci-fi novel, a decent sequel and a pretty incoherent, dead-horse-flogging second sequel all crammed into the same book. That said, there are some amazing ideas in there, really mind-expanding stuff. And some dark comedy. I love the description of the Musk Dogs, a highly factional, alien species, each of which resembles “two or three scabby street dogs fighting over a scrap of meat; an unruly mass of mismatched limbs .. too many packed eyes above a toothsome black muzzle”. Unfortunately they work quite well as a metaphor for the book.

My knees were hurting a bit after 150 miles but definitely not as much as last time I did that many, last year. Still improving. No worries.

Anyway – frustrating that I didn’t quite make my intended destination – I’d been looking forward to spending a few minutes looking over the River Nene. But a good run out nonetheless. 172 miles.

Truncated Twycrosser

A glorious, warm summer day. I’m on call, doing something else this afternoon and want to reserve my energy for a possible long ride on Monday, but I thought I’d crank out 20 or so before the temperature increases too much. I wore my skimpiest, paper-thin meshy camo top and shorts.

Already I can imagine reading this post again in six months’ time and barely being able to imagine the conditions. But actually going out wrapped up in the winter cold and dark has its charm as well. I can do without it for a bit longer, though.

I did a pretty standard truncated Twycrosser. I realised after half a mile or so that I hadn’t brought my phone with me so no photos, because I thought I’d press on and take the risk that I’d be called from work. It was unlikely.

And yet I did have two missed work calls when I got back a couple of hours later. Happily they both concerned a problem that I’d already fixed when they called me at 0800 this morning. They sometimes don’t quite know what they’re doing.

22.70 miles, 241 this month.


Warm and sunny again. I’m on call but thought I might crank out 40 or so after work. No real route or plan in mind, even as I set off, except not to venture too far from home.

I took the X, only because I hadn’t used it for a couple of months. Since buying the Roubaix then bringing my second Boardman home from my mum’s garage there’s no doubt that I have at least one bike too many now. Not worth the space it’s taking up in the garage, whichever one it is.

What I could do I suppose, is do something to the X to make it a bit different. Put straight bars on it or something.

Anyway it rolled along pleasantly enough and I rode up through Coalville to Belton, then west through Diseworth, Breedon, sharp turn up to Melbourne then to Ticknall. I took this pic a mile or two from Ticknall. Love the view from the top of that hill.

From Ticknall I took the detour through Hartshorne to get me out of ascending Bastard Hill. The detour probably involves more climbing overall but it doesn’t have the psychological brutality of having to do most of it over a short distance.

Took this one at Ashby, five miles from home.

I was a bit disappointed that I reached Ashby as quickly as I did. Thought I’d have done about 35 by then, but I took a quicker way back from Hartshorne, along a road called Manchester Lane that I used a couple of times years ago then forgot about. It’s pleasant but a bit climby.

Must admit I did feel guilty approaching the garage with a couple of hours of warm daylight left. But oh well, I might do a long one on Monday and the weather looks nice until Saturday.

Listened to LBC, then more Pushing Ice, then Marc Riley on 6 Music. My enjoyment was diminished somewhat by the failure of my right earplug. It’s gone inexplicably quiet. Fortunately I have loads of them so I’ve binned it.

Back on 36.60 miles.

Twycross Bypasser

Warm again, a bit overcast but dry. Not much time this evening but I thought I’d probably get 30 miles in. I did a Twycross Bypasser, taking in a short section of the Dad’s Army route.

Really nice out there, especially when the sun came out. I tuned into the 5 Live Drive programme to start off with. I kind of knew what would happen, and sadly, I wasn’t wrong. A few racist pricks have offered the BBC all the excuse it needs for another race-baiting festival, and this afternoon’s programme featured a live broadcast from the Marcus Rashford mural.

Marcus is especially dear to the BBC of course, because he is perceived as a sort of de-facto, ad-hoc opposition to the government. But they will bang on about race for weeks now.

So I turned it off and listened to more of my audiobook, Pushing Ice. Still enjoying it although it has morphed into a second story now. Also it has a lot of content that, while interesting, is not really necessary to the plot. Could have been an absolutely belting book if it was shorter and more focussed. Still very good though.

Noticed a lot of those little black beetles scurrying across the road in front of me. They always take the most direct route, at right angles to the edge of the road. Those little bastards are more intelligent than they are letting on.

30.80 miles.

Eastwell Fondo

A dry, warm day. Feeling a little bit debilitated from drinking every day on holiday last week and I had a couple after I got back yesterday, too. On top of that my knees felt a little tender from walking up and down coastal paths in Devon for a week.

But I’d only had one cycling opportunity so far this month and I’m on call next week, so I resolved to do a Fondo. To keep it easy I thought I’d have a nice, simple run out to Eastwell and back. The default Fondo.

I woke from an unusual dream this morning in which I was cleaning my white leather and suede cycling shoes. In the dream  I had a huge emotional attachment to them, as a symbol of my cycling habit this last 6.5 years. When I woke, I realised that they didn’t exist.

My knees coped OK and I felt a lot better after a cheese & onion pasty, acquired at the garage at Burton on the Wolds. But I took it easy anyway.

Simply because I’ve only used it once since I replaced the rear mech, I decided to take the Boardman. And I realised after about ten miles or so that I’d come out without a spare inner tube – I took the saddle bag off when I cleaned it in May, and never put it back. After that I toyed with the idea of turning back early and making up the Fondo miles closer to home, but ultimately I decided to press on. The probability of picking up a puncture over 20 miles from home seemed pretty low.

I turned back at the crossroads near Eastwell. I was slightly annoyed to experience a headwind now and then on the way back, because the weather forecast had promised me a sidewind both ways. I came back through Long Whatton, Diseworth and Coleorton, which added a few miles.

I listened mostly to Pushing Ice but also, on and off, to the Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon.

Quite a few cyclists out today, no less than three of them black people. I only mention this because it’s quite rare to see a black person on a bike in the East Midlands; typically I see one every couple of months. So that was unusual, and good to see.

65.25, 151 this month, not bad for two rides. Should be able to push that up to 400 by the end of the month, I think.