Nothing called Brian was going to stop me

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Want some inspiration for a little adventure, a big adventure or even just to get out and about see some of the world? Well here it is.

I am not much of a reader of books. I like my reading in bite size chunks ideally, and while I’m a big user of social media I can cope with a little more than Twitters 140 characters and Facebook updates about what people had for dinner!

For Father’s Day my son bought me a book “One Man and His Bike” by Mike Carter, I read the first chapter or 2 and really enjoyed it, but decided to leave it for my summer holiday. Then I started reading about Alastair Humphreys and his microadventures, and discovered he had written a bunch of books and spent 4 years cycling around the world. Now I had a few books ready for by the pool and on the plane.

Nothing called Brian was going to stop me.

One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter is the true account of a newspaper (Guardian) journalist who wondered what it would be like to one day, that instead of cycling to work he would just continue, until he reached the sea. He would then follow a simple plan and circumnavigate Britain on his trusty steel framed Ridgeback Panorama.

Ever packed for a holiday and realised you took too much? Now imagine over-packing for a bike packing trip. You can’t simply leave your heavy suitcase in your hotel room for the week and then put it back on the plane a week or two later. You have to pedal it for dozens of miles every day, push it up hills, balance it at traffic lights and pack it strategically for easy access.

Mike left home one morning with a plan to cycle anticlockwise around Britain starting from his home in London, with so much gear. Included in his equipment list alongside his tent and sleeping bag, were smart clothes and shoes!

But no map!

As the journey and ‘story’ unfolds he slowly sends more stuff back ‘home’ and lightens his load, learning as he goes how he actually should have packed to start with.

The book paints a humorous and romantic account of the people and places of Britain’s 5000 miles of coastline. Along his journey Mike is constantly learning how to adapt to life on the road and is repeatedly reminded how Great and generous the people of Britain truly are.

From prearranged meetings at strategic points in the journey (such as waterways) to complete random drunken evenings with priests and scrap hoarders, Mike reminds us that the people of Great Britain generally have good hearts and are willing to help someone who is doing something special for no particular reason other than to satisfy his curiosity.

His writing is fantastic and as someone who has travelled a little myself it was not difficult to picture the pokey bed and breakfast accommodations, cantankerous land owners, fishing villages, rolling hills and stunning coastal views.

And with a recent interest in bike packing and road biking, I could picture myself on his journey. As a cyclist I could feel his pain on many climbs, share in the misery of being soaked through from relentless rain and also appreciate the thrill of the many descents and the welcome sight of a pub, or smell of a fish and chip shop. The latter has nothing to do with cycling, just a love of chips!

The account of his journey is excellent and not just for cyclists. Anyone with an interest in Britain, it’s people and places should read this great book. It will restore your faith in human nature, and if you didn’t already know how amazing this country is, I guarantee you will compile a long list of places you want to visit in Britain (a future blog post for me I think).

The book is very light hearted. You often feel sorry for Mike, perhaps in the way you might pity Mr Bean or some other unfortunate movie character. But this isn’t because Mike is clumsy, it’s because of the funny way he recounts the events and scrapes of his adventure.

The book will teach you a thing or two about our history as Mike tells stories of how Britain’s coastal communities have been shaped by politics, religion, industry and tourism.

As you can tell, for ‘not much of a reader’ I loved this book and will no doubt be thumbing through it again to compile that list. By the way, I am not going to tell you who Brian is, for that you will have to read the book yourself.

There is a great interview with the author here on Wanderlust Travel Magazine website. In it he recalls some of his favourite locations and of the people he met on the trip.

And here’s a great piece by Nick Hand, a fellow cyclist who actually set out to meet with Mike on his journey – and someone who writes a far greater review than I do!

And finally a nice blog post / slash review of the Ridgeback Panorama touring bike similar to the one Mike used.

Next up….

Moods of Future Joys (around the world by bike part 1) – Alastair Humphreys

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Remembering why…

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This morning’s plan was to get a few miles in as a sort of training ride. I hate the thought of training as I ride my bike for enjoyment, and while training makes me a better/fitter rider and therefore more likely to enjoy tougher or longer rides – I still don’t like the thought of training. So I didn’t go out with a plan other than that of the distance I wanted to cover – 50km – the enjoyment was going to come from making it up as I went along.

Keeping an eye on the clock, the distance and of course the map on my Garmin meant I could make it up as I went along and keep an element of fun; rather than a Chris Froome TDF style head down pedal and not take anything in.

My ride ended up taking me through some of the local villages of Lacock, Biddistone and Corsham, before heading back along the old railway path from Chippenham. This is my token bit of off road to make the CDF feel a little more at home!

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Lacock is famous for its abbey and for being used in a number of movies including the Harry Potter series. There are some nice old buildings, all protected by the National Trust and a cool little ford. The cobbles were very slippery and I had to pedal carefully on the skinny wheels.

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Who doesn’t like a nice pub and bike photo?

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Villages are full of little treasures when you stop to explore rather the just whizz by. I remembered this morning one of the reasons I enjoy cycling wether it by by mountain bike or now even by the odd stretch of road.

I like to explore and I like to take photos, I if hadn’t been required back home for family duties I also had Castle Coombe in my sights today. I could have easily managed to fit this in to my ride but I was required back home.

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I couldn’t have covered the distance this morning on a mountain bike as easily and still have energy and reserves left over. I think I am going to be working up to a 100km and maybe even a 100 mile ride soon and exploring more of the smaller villages and possibly hidden pubs in the area…

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Looking for a Way Out

West Kennet Long Barrow
West Kennet Long Barrow

Hot on the heels of yesterdays amazing video from Chris Akrigg, comes a TimFromWales production. Hold on to your hats cos this is going to amaze! Well not really – it was just a little pedal out to the West Kennet Long Barrow for a cup of tea.

I am really enjoying the Genesis CDF and am wondering why I didn’t get a cyclocross bike sooner.  I am able to ride to most of the places I can locally on my mountain bike, but quicker and the added advantage of the skinny wheels (never thought I’d hear myself saying that) is that I can hit the road to link up trails at a much faster pace.  Its the future!

This week I bought an Alpkit dry bag so I could carry my tea brewing kit – also from Alpkit (Mytimug & Kraku stove). While these are small items, they don’t quite fit in my saddle bag, so I stuffed the Alpkit Airlok with stove, mug, milk etc, extra layer and GoPro attachments and went for a little spin this morning.

The 5L Airlok Extra fits neatly between the drop bars, and is also handy to throw over your shoulder like a messenger bag. The bag is better when stuffed full rather than letting the contents sag and rattle – but this is simply some advice on my part rather than any sort of criticism.

I now have a burning desire to bikepack and I think the Genesis CDF will do the job just fine!

Anyway you have waited long enough and I have stalled until Youtube has processed my video. Here it is and watch out for my very own Allez Allez Allez moment from some actual French people too!

Its like mountain biking but different

Genesis CDF
Genesis CDF

Road biking doesn’t appeal to me, but I have heard from enough people about the benefits to be convinced of them. However, I have no desire to spend hours and hours travel mile after mile pedaling along the road to gain these benefits. I am also not built for lycra – I am not sure any man is!

I am happy to ride on the road to link up trails and I am happy to ride the occasional cycle tack and canal path. So, for sometime I have been looking at cyclocross bikes. The idea being that I could maybe go a bit further on the road on a bike designed for the job and increase those all important base miles to help with fitness.

Yesterday I picked up my very first (yes in my entire life) bike with dropped bars. I was a little apprehensive today as I took to the road on a familiar route with both on and off sections including a steep local climb. Apprehensive because I wore SPD shoes for the first time ages, found myself behind bars half the width of my MTB bars and where on earth are the brakes!?

The flat pedaling was fun, as I found my average speed creeping higher and noticed the absence of the usual resistance and zipping sound of my MTB tyres. Since getting home I noticed how all my local Strava sections involving tarmac had been beaten and I had 12 new personal bests – including on the climb mentioned above.

Some basic off road riding was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. Putting that down to a comfortable ride on a steel frame. I tackled some roots, gravel, single track and a bridal way – and I loved it.

This is going to be a fun addition to the bike shed.

Tea and Cake

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A Brew with a View

We became a total cycling cliche today.

After about 30km of riding and thinking it was time to track back we came across a new trail feature on one of our local routes.

We haven’t been out locally as a group on a Sunday morning for a while and this was the first time we had ridden to Beckhampton on ride in a good few weeks.

It’s not that far from home really and its never really a highlight on our rides other than the a few little rooty features that we have a little play on from time to time. However today we all stopped and were very excited to see a little trailer selling tea and cake!

It’s pathetic really but the novelty factor of it suddenly appearing as if it were some sort of oasis in a desert meant we all had to partake in the tea and cake…

What a cliche, but who cares, let a just hope they keep it up and are there for the rest of the summer.