To the Tees and Back

Spent the weekend up in Hartlepool, where it rained rather a lot (and it did here in the East Midlands as well, to be fair). But this morning, the sun was out and the roads had mostly dried out, so despite a moderate hangover induced by consuming too much Drambuie last night, I extracted Boardman II from its hangar (my mum’s garage) and put it to work on a run out to the Transporter Bridge and back, before driving home at lunchtime.

Yes, Drambuie. It’s remarkably moreish.

Nice to be re-acquainted with my other Boardman. It does feel a bit different from the red one. And it is indeed different in a few respects – a different stem, different wheels (the stock Mavics), different seat post and a carbon front fork – not counting handlebar tape and the colour scheme – but it does feel a little bit more agile. Might just be the route, to be fair. The route out of the town and round the coast is very flat.

I was annoyed with myself for not having remembered to bring a mirror up for it. I need to bring an Allen key with me next time as well, the seat is just a shade too low.

Very pleasant pedalling along next to the sea at Seaton Carew in bright sunshine, before turning inland along Tees Road to Port Clarence and the Transporter Bridge. Wasn’t too cold.

The road takes you through a wildlife reserve over the last mile or so to the bridge, and there were quite a few twitchers out with their tripods and telephoto lenses. I didn’t see any notable wildlife myself, just Canada geese and a few other unremarkable species of water bird. Personally I find the industrial landscape along there more interesting – the various chemical works and oil refineries, and the enormous concrete cuboid that is Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station.

Wanting to extend my ride a bit, I took a left along Seal Sands Road toward Cowpen Bewley on the way back, but turned back to Tees Road after a couple of miles. Came back home a slightly different way, coming along Clifton Avenue. In my late teens I often used to walk home from the town centre that way, sometimes clutching a long-coveted LP like Live and Dangerous or Physical Graffiti, newly acquired from one of the town’s numerous record shops. The past, as they say, is a different country. They do things differently there. But Clifton Avenue remains as pretty and leafy as ever, its trees turning autumnal shades of amber and brown.

Probably the flattest 22.11 miles I’ve done for a long time. And that takes me to 409 miles this month and 3435 this year.


A defiantly dry day yesterday, so I withdrew the Planet X from the armoury and deployed it on a medium-sized Twycrosser, after leaving work early. Didn’t have an exact route in mind but wanted to do at least 20. Extended it a bit from the usual start by going up to Packington first, and did the Orton detour when I got to Twycross. That’s a really nice stretch in the late afternoon. Back from Sheepy a relatively quick way, along Gibbet Lane – where I took the following snap.

Gibbet Lane was a bit muddy unfortunately, but mostly compacted by passing traffic.

Really nice to be out on the X again. As much as I’m fond of the Boardman, the green one does make lighter work of the distance put in front of it.

Back just on sunset. A week from now though the sun sets at about 16:40.

26.19 miles which takes me right through my target for October of 362 miles, to 386. I think I can get at least another 60 or so in this month, although the weekend weather looks pants.

Out East Again

Wanted to take advantage of a dry Sunday after all the rubbish weather, especially with the clocks going back next weekend and the daylight hours shrinking rapidly. I didn’t really have the motivation to plan something more interesting, so with the wind blowing in the same direction as Friday, I pretty much did the same route again. Once again the idea was to head out east in the direction of Belvoir Castle until I decided I’d done enough, then come back the same way. I hoped to do at least 50.

Set off at about 10:00, after wiping yesterday’s excess lube from the Boardman’s chain. I just squeeze a rag dampened with GT85 round it, and turn the pedals a few times. A bit cool and cloudy at first, but the sun came out later on. Really quite pleasant weather for cycling, mostly.

I went a bit further than on Friday, stopping after 28 miles. Quite a bit cooler and blowier from that point, and I briefly considered adjusting my tubular headscarf to hijab mode, but didn’t.

Listened to 6 Music initially to avoid the rugby on 5 Live which I find about as interesting as chewing cardboard, but Cerys Matthews was playing a right old load of tosh today so I tuned to LBC, where I found the Nigel Farage show. None of Nigel’s contributors, all of whom were staunch Brexiteers, seemed enamoured with Boris’ deal. Interestingly the most irate Brexiteer caller was a Scottish woman who was emphatic that Boris had sold out to the EU. Others took a more pragmatic view; that while it’s not perfect it’s a big improvement and probably a good idea not to let Brexit out of our grasp. I think I’m in that camp as well.

After Nigel’s programme concluded I switched to the Beatles biography audiobook, to learn of the Fab Four’s return to Liverpool from their second stint in Hamburg, and Paul taking over bass duties from Stu Sutcliffe.

I stopped at the Greyhound pub at Burton on the Wolds on the way back – I’ve lunched there a few times now on cycling expeditions – and had a ham & coleslaw ciabatta with perfectly golden brown chips, with a coffee. Perfect. I asked for ketchup and was provided with about 2/3 of a cupful in a bowl. Possibly enough for me to have smothered the whole meal until none of it was visible under a layer of tomato sauce. Naturally I used about 3% of it, if that. Bit of a waste.

I’d been feeling a little bit worn and low on energy at that point, despite glooping down a gel half an hour earlier. But the pub lunch perked me up no end and I felt like I could do another 50 after that. After the pub I decided to leave the Beatles bio for a bit, and tuned into the Ohana Rock Club’s stream on my Android Internet radio tuner. I’ll be DJ-ing there myself on Tuesday evening at 8pm, if you care to listen. Search for ‘Ohana Rock’ on TuneIn at

Ominously, I picked up a few spots of rain near Stanford, then a bit of drizzle ten minutes later. But that faded away. Always nice to see spots of moisture on the handlebars drying off, to reassure me that I won’t need to douse the bike’s bits in water repellent on my return.

After Zouch and back over the Leicestershire border, I decided on an impulse to take a right and come home through Diseworth, then down Top Brand. The long stretch of Ashby Road between Hathern and Griffydam can be a bit of a boring slog.

Home on 59.18 miles. I’d tweaked the bike computer just before setting off and it claimed 59.2 exactly, so I shall stop tweaking it now. Not going to get it much better than that and minor variations in front tyre pressure can introduce a bit of error anyway. As usual I removed the portion of the track representing my clogging round the pub garden and into the bar using a GPX editor before uploading to Strava.

And that’s 360 miles done this month, just short of my target of 362. That’s 12 in a row on the Boardman, 447 consecutive miles.

Saw a formidable-looking sparrowhawk on the way back, a few miles from home. Looked like it was standing over something. But it flew off when a car overtook me, and I didn’t see its victim, if there was one. I also saw a large brown rat near the edge of the road at Burton. Quite a fat little bugger, just sitting there minding its own business.

Encouraging to see quite a few other cyclists out there in October, including a couple of young ladies with pigtails. Quite a nice look in cycling gear, I think.

My knees were a bit uncomfortable for most of the ride; nothing new or troubling. But they seemed somehow to improve over the last 15 miles or so. Weird. Perhaps the rest stop at the pub helped. I’m starting to think I possibly could get away with 100 miles if I’m careful with the route, exercise thoroughly in the week or so beforehand, and take it easy. But I won’t be putting that theory to the test until the spring at the earliest.


Left work early yesterday hoping to do at least 40 or so, to take advantage of a benign weather forecast that promised no more than a couple of light rain showers late afternoon. With the wind pointing downwards, a trip out east seemed to make sense – I thought I’d do the Belvoir Castle route as far as I felt like it, then turn for home after 20 miles or so.

Cold and a bit windy, but I wrapped up warm enough. I’d decided to turn back after 22 miles, but remembered that my monthly tally stood at 249 – so I pushed on a bit, to get it over the 300 mark. I turned back eventually near Wartnaby, and put the lights on not long after that.

I thought I’d evaded the light rain showers (I refer the reader to my first paragraph). I’d had a minute of drizzle and a few spots of rain on the outward leg. Nothing unttoward. But as I neared Burton on the Wolds, heavy rain descended from a pitch black sky. I guess the ground is pretty saturated at the moment, because the roads were flowing with water in no time.

The stretch between Cotes and Stanford on Soar is well-surfaced but narrow and very quiet, with some steep-ish, curvy descents. I’d had to take my glasses off because they were spattered with rain and even with a bright front light, I couldn’t see much of the road in front of me in the blackness. What I could see was flowing with water, but it was very difficult to see how deep it was at any point. Not much fun coming down a bendy flume of water in the darkness, being pelted by rain, cold, soaked through and scared to put the brakes on in case I came a cropper (and the braking surfaces were soaking wet in any case). I unclipped my shoes, tried to maintain my balance and hoped for the best. Hellish.

I was very grateful to reach Stanford, then Normanton and Zouch where at least the roads were level and I had a bit of light now and then. Not that the rest of the ride was a lot of fun, the roads were still running with water and I had a cold wind blowing through wet clothes. I gritted my teeth, cursed the weatherman and got on with it.

Took the following pic when I reached the main road near Zouch.

I was flagged down by a motorist emerging from a parked car near Belton – my rear light had stopped working. Annoying, but I had a spare. Might have been that it was low on power; modern rechargeable LED units do just turn themselves off sometimes rather than gradually growing dimmer. This one has been brilliant, I bought it at Tesco a couple of years ago and it’s comfortably bright enough to be visible from the Moon. Possibly I should have charged it up first.

Shame there’s no easy way to tell if your rear light is actually illuminated. Maybe some sort of Heath Robinson mirror arrangement would do it but it hardly seems worth it.

I gave the bike a good wipe down and thoroughly hosed the chain / gears etc with GT85 when I got back. I’ve relubed it today.

Anyway. 52.14 miles, the last 18 or so definitely hard won. That must have been, in the end, the most character building ride I’ve ever done.

301 this month, 672 to go before I hit my 4000 target. I’m sure I can do another 100 or so this month, which will leave me needing substantially less than 300 in each of the two remaining months.


I took the afternoon off yesterday, in the hope of making the most of a day without rain and doing about 60 miles. But although it didn’t rain, the roads stayed soaking wet all day and a cold damp clung to the air long into the afternoon. I just stayed at home and watched old Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.

It turns out that today was the one I should have picked for an afternoon off work. But I left work early anyway to make up for yesterday’s disappointment a bit. Hoped to do about 40. I was going to do a long Twycrosser, but within a minute of leaving the house I decided not to do that. I headed in the general direction of Coalville, and a few minutes later had hatched a plan. I’d basically repeat Saturday’s ride, with the exception that I wouldn’t miss the proper turn to Swarkestone Bridge from Aston and end up pedalling along the ring road in Derby, which wouldn’t be a lot of fun during a weekday rush hour. Also, I’d come home the usual way from Melbourne, without going down to Swarkestone.

A bit cold, slightly blowy but otherwise quite pleasant. I took the Boardman again on its tenth consecutive run out. I knew I’d be back after dark so I took lights.

That stretch between Aston and Swarkestone is really nice, especially in the late afternoon. I’d like to incorporate it into my rides more often but it’s not really possible to get to it from the east without going over a busy, large roundabout over the A50.

When I got to Swarkestone, I decided to pedal along the road to Willington for a bit, and come back. Really quite a pleasant, flat stretch even though it’s notionally an A road. I actually went all the way to Willington before coming back. Turned on the basic lights at a farm gate somewhere near Twyford not long after sunset then after crossing the bridge, added a head torch and the proper tarmac-melter LED torch on the handlebar. The head torch is great for checking the bike computer, watch, gear indicators. Not easy to pair one with a helmet, but I was wearing a woolly hat.

Took the following pic near Twyford.

Properly dark by the time I got to Melbourne. I took the following pic just south of there opposite a pub. Beautiful view of a low Moon over the lights of Coalville, a few miles in the distance, about a mile from home.

Disposed of another mouse body in the garage before setting off. Another very clean kill. That’s about 18 since I started my Rodent Final Solution extermination initiative.

My knees were a bit painful throughout the ride. I have a suspicion that not cycling for a few days (in this case due to weather) makes them worse. They feel a bit sore now. That’s just the way it is now. Perhaps I should start using the turbo trainer again when it’s raining to keep the joints moving.

Annoyingly I didn’t remember to start the GPS watch until I’d gone 1.04 miles. I’ll just leave the track as it is on Strava, but I have of course done the maths for my spreadsheet – and that’s 249 for October so far. I’d like to think I can get another 150 or so in this month. Perhaps a 50+ miler on Sunday, though it’s likely to be cold.

Up to Derby

A decent day yesterday, with no rain expected until after sunset and the roads mostly dried out from the previous day’s precipitation. I was on call, but wanted to do 40 or 50. I set off with the general plan of going north of base for a bit, then to the south, then home. The usual strategy for doing a reasonable distance while minimising the risk of being too far from home if I got a call. But I didn’t have a specific route in mind.

Went up to Belton to start, then since I was feeling fairly relaxed about the prospect of getting a call, continued on east along Ashby Road. Turned left toward Diseworth with the thought of maybe going across to Melbourne from there, but decided to press further north to Castle Donington. I decided to go right through Donington to the A50 roundabout, where I’d take a left through Shardlow, Aston and Weston, to Swarkestone Bridge then back down through Melbourne.

So anyway I pedalled through Donington and Shardlow – nice to be cycling through Shardlow again, I used to drive that way to work 30 years ago. I took the left to Aston but missed the turn to Swarkestone Bridge, because I ended up back on Shardlow Road again. At this point, sentimentality and nostalgia overcame my fear of being called, and I decided to continue on up to Derby, take the ring road to Allenton then turn left at the “Spider” roundabout as it’s known to Derby folk, and come south to Swarkestone Bridge that way. This was especially nostalgic because one day in 1990, I cycled home to Markfield from my place of work in Derby, and I took the same route to Swarkestone Bridge. That’s about the only aspect of that route I remember, unfortunately. I’d dearly love to know how I got to Markfield from there, but apart from tiny snippets of fading memories, there’s no way for me to know.

Must admit I did feel slightly disconcerted cycling around Derby while on call. It’s not even the nearest city. But I got away with it.

Anyway. I came the usual way down from Melbourne until I got to Rempstone Road, then I cut across Farmtown with the intention of joining the Twycross route, or one version of it, at Packington. From there I’d do the southern leg of the route. I was slightly wary of coming through Farmtown as there’s a stretch through the woods there that I expected to be a bit muddy. It was a bit. But I have a theory, untested and not carefully considered, that a bit of mud on your tyres protects them from the road and stops them wearing out.

I got as far as Snarestone though, and decided I’d turn left for the caff at the Alpaca farm. I was served with a coffee and a scone with jam by a delectably plump young wench. I’d actually ordered clotted cream as well, but they didn’t have any. She didn’t offer a refund for the cream. I’m sure she would have if I’d pressed the matter. But I just let it slide.

I just headed home from there, through Swepstone and Heather. It was an enjoyable run out, nice to visit Derby again. But these contrived “orbital” routes don’t feel like a proper long ride, and I decided I’d do something else with my Saturday afternoon rather than chasing miles for its own sake. I’m fairly confident of hitting my target for the year now.

Home on 48.07 miles. 205 done this month.

Another Twycrosser

I was going to do 50 or so after work tomorrow night; a nice little night-time adventure illuminated by bike lights. But the weather forecast this morning told me that I wasn’t going to do that.

So, with dry weather on the cards this afternoon at least, I thought I’d leave early today and do a Twycrosser. I’d normally give my knees a day off the day following a ride, but I only did 18.6 yesterday and only planned to do about 25 today.

Nice weather for it, not too blowy and not cold. Conditions very dry. I would have taken the X probably but wanted to check the accuracy of the new wireless bike computer on the Boardman now I’ve calibrated it.

A fairly standard route of intermediate length. Nice run out. Stopped to take a pic between Sheepy and Sibson.

The bike computer did good. It recorded the track at about 27.46 miles, compared to the phone’s 27.40. Nonetheless I should be able to get it a bit more accurate. One thing I do like about these Chinese touch screen units is that you can set the wheel circumference in mm.

It’s currently set to 2126mm, so I need to set it to 27.40 / 27.46 * 2126 = 2121 (rounding to the nearest mm).

That’s 8 in a row on the Boardman now.

157 this month, decent progress so far. The weather looks mostly iffy for a while, though.

Brief Post-Work Twycross

Hoped to do 20 or so after work, but while I was at Tesco an hour or so before I intended to set off, the rain came down in bucketloads. That seemed to be the end of that idea, but I returned home, three miles from there, to dry roads and sunny skies.

Interesting how micro-climate-ish it is around here. I’m sure my native Teesside is nothing like that.

Careful scrutiny of the rainfall radar told me that if I stayed to the south of Ashby I’d avoid rain or wet roads. And that was always the intention anyway, so I set off on a Twycrosser at about 4:30pm. The forecast threatened a shower at 6pm-ish. As things turned out, that didn’t happen but I took the Boardman anyway.

Left the house quite quickly, so as to make the best of the remaining daylight hours – both of them – and forgot to bring the new bike computer out with me. I’d had it in the house to calibrate it. No biggie, but it meant that I didn’t have a record of the distance done until I’d finished. Was recording the track on my phone.

Since I was trying to keep it short, I took the lovely Bilstone Road to, er, Bilstone from Twycross, then Barton Lane.  Beautifully quiet crossing the little hump back bridges between the fields. I didn’t see another road user the whole way from Twycross to Barton.

Cool and rather blowy, but not enough to spoil the fun.

Quite a few pheasants (or is it grouse?) around, some of them dead.

Thought I’d have ended up on about 22 miles on returning home but nope, 18.6. There are so many permutations of the Twycross route that it’s impossible to memorise the distances. Getting a bit dim as I returned home, a few minutes after the Sun went down. Nice view of the two-thirds Moon, even before sunset.

More on Thursday I hope, when the weather is slated to be rather mild temperature-wise (15 degrees in the afternoon), but rather windy. But I can’t go too far, I’m on call again.


I’m not really a wine person but I’ve developed a taste for red recently and had, arguably, a glass too many before retiring last night. Despite this I felt OK this morning when I woke up at about 6:30. I pondered getting up and setting off to Lincolnshire and back there and then, but fell asleep again for a couple of hours.

Got up at about 9:30 and set off at about 10:10. The roads were still a bit puddly here and there outside and I wanted to test my new bike computer, so I took the Boardman.

Wrapped up warm, no overshoes but I had tights on and three layers on top. Felt a bit cold for the first hour or two but as anticipated the temperature improved and I was comfortable by midday. I listened to a couple of hours of the Beatles bio audiobook, then switched to 5 Live for football coverage. Surprised to hear Tottenham getting tonked by Brighton.

I was slightly concerned to see a flood warning sign on a road leading off my route near Stanford on Soar but apart from minor puddles I wasn’t troubled by water.

Really nice to reacquaint myself with the last stretch of the road to Belvoir Castle and Woolsthorpe, where I crossed the border into Lincolnshire before turning back. I stopped at the Belvoir Castle caff a few minutes after turning for home. I hadn’t expected it to be open at this time of year so that was a very pleasant surprise. It’s changed quite a bit since I was last there, now Café Allez! with tables and chairs inside and a closed-off seating area outside. You can no longer get sandwiches or pasties there though, sadly. The best I could do for a lunch main course was a large packet of crisps, possibly the first packet of crisps I’ve had this year. I also had a scone with jam, an excellent Americano and a Fruit Shoot to top up my bidon. I must say that the guy who served me is the single most polite shop or cafe assistant I’ve ever encountered, possibly to the point of being obsequious or irritating. Better than being rude though, I guess.

Noticed that they have a strirrup pump on hand for cyclist patrons as well. Nice touch. I actually put cleat covers on at the caff, first time I’ve used them and they do make walking around a fair bit easier. I’ve had them a couple of years and never bothered to use them (even though I’ve taken them with me in a backpack more than once).

Seemed to be facing a bit of a headwind on the way back as well as there, which I hadn’t expected. The occasional wind turbine I encountered seemed to suggest that it was cutting across at an angle. But it wasn’t too troublesome in either direction.

Very happy to hit the 70 mile mark, as the nearly-70 I’d done four weeks ago had given me a bit of pain to the left knee, and I didn’t experience that today. For sure they both felt a bit tender after 60 or so but nothing debilitating or of concern. Of course, I do miss the days when I didn’t spare my knees the slightest thought while out on a ride, but this time last year I was giving myself a setback if I did more than 25. So I’m encouraged.

It’s been a good day. First ride of more than 70 miles distance since April 2018. October Fondo done. I’ve now done all of Leicestershire’s neighbouring counties in 2019. And very happy to have done Belvoir Castle and back again as it’s one of the classic longer rides in my repertoire, and one I missed.

I tidied up the track in a GPS editor to remove the parts recorded while clogging around the caff, walking to farm gates at wee spots etc. This claimed to knock off half a mile, which can’t be right! But I’ll go with it anyway.

The new bike computer did OK. Needs calibrating, but I’ll do the maths later.

76.25 miles, 111 this month – not bad for 5 days in. But the weather for the coming week looks none too promising.

Half Way to Bingley

Took the afternoon off work with the intention of doing a run out to Stafford Bingley Hall and back, about 74 miles. I’d chosen this particular destination for several reasons: first, I’d have a tailwind on the way back. Second, I should mostly have the sun behind me both ways, and third: as a sort of ceremonial pilgrimage in the memory of two brilliant gigs, 40 years ago last week.

Very nice day for it on the face of it – clear blue skies, sunny, not that blowy and surprisingly, not that cold although I’d wrapped up very warm, with tights and overshoes on.

Spent twenty minutes this morning preparing in-flight snacks, fitting an eTrex mount to the Boardman (usually it lives on the X) and pumping up the tyres to spec. I set off at about 12:20.  I expected the roads to be wet here and there due to the amount of rain over the last few days.

Mostly the roads were bone dry, but here and there on lower ground I did encounter water running over the road in front of me; no more than a few mm deep I guess. No biggie, I just slowed down so as not to fling too much of it up into the cables, chain etc and continued on.

Until I got to a road junction near Croxall, where the crossing was about a foot deep in water. I snapped a moody pic that underexposed slightly:

You can’t gauge the depth of the water from the image, but cars and vans going through it were more than half a wheel deep.

I thought briefly of plotting a different route from there to Bingley but assumed I’d most likely just hit the same problem again. I’d have added some unwanted distance, anyway. Didn’t want to try more than 75 for now. So I decided simply to give up, and turn for home.

Took the same route back until I got to Measham, just 5 or 6 miles from home. Then I took a different road, to join the time-honoured Twycross route. I’d had the idea of tacking on a Twycrosser to end up on 50 miles or so. But when I got to Snarestone I just took a left for home. My failure to do a run out to Stafford had taken the wind out of my sails. What was potentially a really enjoyable run out had been ruined by weather; not in the present but over the previous few days.

I did feel slightly guilty going straight back. It was a nice day, the roads were dry enough near home and I’m sure I could have got round the Twycross route without difficulty. Furthermore the weather looks iffy for the next couple of days.

Anyway. I stopped at the Alpaca farm tearoom at Snarestone and had a coffee and a scone with jam in the garden there. One of the staff – one of the owners I think, actually – came over and struck up a conversation about my handlebar tape, wanting to know where I’d got it. She explained that she had white tape on her own bike, and it had become grubby very quickly. The perennial problem with white bar tape, of course. I don’t even know why it exists. I told her that I’d changed mine for exactly the same reason and directed her to Amazon, where I’d got mine quite cheaply.

Home on 34.81 miles which isn’t a bad start for the month, I guess. This month’s target, adjusted for the new yearly target of 4,000 miles, is 362.

Nice to go out west for a change; I don’t go that way so often. A few times over the last few years when I’ve been out on a bike and listening to the radio, news has broken about the death of some celebrity or well-known figure. Mohammed Ali, Prince, Victoria Wood for example. Today it was Peter Sissons’ turn, sadly. For some reason – well, it must just be coincidence – this only ever happens when I’m cycling over west of Ashby which is actually not very often. I’m a rational person, but it seems a bit spooky.

I’m afraid my optimism about the bike computer and its new magnet was a bit premature, it did drop out for about .8 of a mile. I noticed this when I glanced down and it was showing 0mph. I suppose I’ll just buy a new one.

According to the forecast, temperatures will pick up a bit on Saturday and it probably won’t rain. However, the wind will be blowing from the east. If that holds true I’ll do Lincolnshire and back, all being well.