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Sunday, 3 November 2013

I now influence cycling more than I participate........

What the hell is he talking about?

Well, one of the issues I deal with at work is the Bicycle User Group and what they/we would like in our new buildings. Our employer is moving buildings and for once we might be able to influence what "facilities" we might get for our bikes and ourselves!

Currently, our "luxury" facilities include lockers in the toilets, no drying facilities, one shower for twenty lockers and no changing areas at all. People improvise with hangers and the window and the disabled toilet so that anyone wandering in for a pee is not confronted with a naked wet man - its not a sight you really want straight after brekkie...

Now, I guess that we're not going to get the hot fluffy towels and heated rooms and attendants that my Head of Property said he had in a London Firm, but it would be nice to get lock ups for the bikes, drying rooms and changing areas - if Bristol really is "Britain's' First Cycle City" - is it too much to ask that its Council has reasonable cycle facilities for staff who try and keep fit on the way to work?

The dangers of being just an armchair expert

One of the joys of having Sky+ is that during the summer - you can record Tour de France highlights and get three weeks of fun watching a bunch of very fit guys playing chess in bikes, but without the need to watch the whole thing.

One of the things I liked in 2012 was that when I had the time, watching a whole stage was fun, but you could probably go shopping in the middle and miss very little of the action as the big teams always brought the breaks back and most of the action was in the last 30 mins - unless it was a mountain stage....

Anyway - back to the armchair - I now find that as I haven't turned a wheel for a while - I tend to talk MORE about cycling - perhaps to compensate. I'm sure a psychologist would have a term for it - displacement? talking balls?. Anyway - the more I talk about it the more I start to sound like one of those old bores who knows everything but does nothing

Any there is the rub, one of the benefits of exercise is keeping the cider gut in its place, but also the mind healthy too. The more stress you suffer, the more exercise you perhaps should do - but the more stress you do, the less motivated you are to go for a ride and the more likely you are to investigate that cheeky little Pinot on a Tuesday evening

Now work has been pretty rubbish over the summer and in the same period I have cycled precisely once, which is why setting up the turbo trainer in the garage today was a really good idea. DAB radio on tap, fan or heater as needed and a good view of the rain from the well lit and dry garage.

Men's health

I wasn't sure if to have a go at this - but having talked to a few guys at work - it is clear that "we" are not very good at asking for help and we are very good at - basically - lying to ourselves that everything is ok, when it's not

Now I'm not going to break any confidences, but within my sample of three, we managed to have a) avoided going to the dentist for three years as "it was only a slight ache, honest, and eating on one side is good for my jaw muscles" b) had zero control over our workload but "blamed ourself for not managing to finish the impossible" even when the last full night's sleep was over 8 weeks ago, and c) thought that minor "gentleman's problems" were just a consequence of getting a little older.....

Anyway - all I can say is that seeking help is not an admission of weakness and being macho about your health is stupid - if you do have a problem - go and get some help! (often just asking helps in itself - least for the mind based stuff)

Recipe of the week - Apple Crumble

Nigel Slater is a cook I have followed form many years  mainly positively, but occasionally, he does get drawn into faffing about too much. Whilst I like the "throw it together" method of Nigella on occasions, I do like the considered view of eating that Nigel S provides.

So to that end - can I recommend his Apple Crumble made special by the use of oats to avoid that "concrete crumble" problem that the usual recipes can create. For me it has to go with custard (Bird's or bought) but many will prefer cream i suppose!


Monday, 26 August 2013

5 mm to save your knees?

Cleats and strained knees

Last autumn, having recovered from the injuries that ensured I wasn't drowned doing the JOGLE,, I decided to get fit, out of the rain, on the turbo in the garage. As I didn't have a job at the time, my daily hour on the bike was fun, I got to know Radio 6 Music rather well and my numbers got better, week on week.

One thing that bugged was my cycling shoes. They sure as hell didn't own me anything, as they have seen out many a season of mud and crashes in Swinley forest,and the vecro was tired. I had bought an "identical" pair and it was time to fit them with cleats and get them worn in. especially as I still had visions of doing the C2C, in a week should the monsoon break.

So, I sat down and fixed the shoes up, measuring the position of the cleats, carefully matching the distance from the front of the slots into which my SPD cleats were fitted, matching them to the old shoes - job done.

A couple of weeks later, my left knee started hurting. I had some time off the bike, ice and pills and physiotherapy (is that a song...) and it got less bad. But I couldn't shake of the pain in my patella tendon. I ended thoughts of the C2C and just tried to do enough short training sessions to keep fit enough to go skiing in January. I skied, I put snow on my knee every day and I got through 14 consecutive days of skiing, just....

I went to the physio again. I didn't (stupidly) tell her about the new shoes - I mean, why would I? I was advised that as my left knee was showing the signs of wear and tear from too many years of "fast" bowling, I should add the tendon problem to the list for a visit to the knee surgeon....

Not fancying the knife just yet, I left it and as I had a new job with a 20 minute each way walk from the station, I thought I would leave it alone and rest from cycling.

My knee was ok, it felt a bit off due to all the other problems, but the tendon seemed ok, it got through a weeks skiing in late April and I kept walking. I lost a small amount of weight (not much, but better than nothing) and didn't cycle.

But there comes a time when you really need to see if you can still do some serious exercise. So last weekend, I went off for a 70 minute ride and after about 35 mins, my knee tendon was feeling a little "tense". Looking down, it seemed that the shoes were not attached to the pedals at the same point - but knowing that patterns on shoes are not a good guide, I cycled gently home, ate some ibuprofen and had a think about the shoes.

A week later, I got out the tape measure and compared new and old shoes. To my surprise, I found that the new shoes had improved, longer slots on the soles for fixing cleats and I as had measured from the front of the slot - my cleats were 5mm out. Was this the cause of all my tendon probs? Well, to see, I cycled for an hour with my old shoes on and whilst not perfect, the niggling of the previous week was much reduced.

Now, one swallow does not make a summer, but it may well be a lesson well learned if that turns out to be reason my knee has been bad for nearly 10 months.

Tyler Hamilton

Just reading Tyler Hamilton's book "The Secret Race" which sets out the "doping years" when EPO (Edgar..) was king and blood transfusions the norm. Apparently, when the Spanish police raided a doctor they found 200+ bags of blood, waiting to be transfused back in to cyclists (and possibly other sports people) The book is riveting and an eye opener on both the world of pro cycling and of the human condition.  
The thing that stood out was the way in which people justify the means. Tyler comes across as a good guy, but in the end had no option but to dope, if he was to compete on a "level playing field" It wasn't that level as the doping "war" moved on. I won't comment more - other than to say you'd have to be there, I guess, to realise how you might too have got sucked in. I was more impressed by the story of those riders who left the sport rather than dope. That took guts

Can you be a cyclist and not cycle much?

An odd question, but I still called myself a cyclist when I have had time off the bike, but was I right? I have been to BUG meetings at work and make out like  I still know what's what in the work of bikes. I did watch the Tour de France (hopefully dope free) every day (well the highlights - I did have to go to work...) and I still bought the odd MBR magazine. But still it bugged me, was I still a cyclist? I own bikes, I bought a new inner tube and still visited cycling websites

So did I come to a conclusion? Well, like at AA meeting, when you have to say "I'm John Smith and I'm an alcoholic", I think that I am Mike and I am a cyclist. I'm not trying to give it up, but its in my make up. Even over the years, I didn't cycle, I still knew that I could and I would. 

So yes, you can be a non cycling cyclist....I think

Recipe time

Two for the price of one - from Celebrity Masterchef

This is a good recipe - I don't do nuts but you can use pretty much any friut using this general method

The tart is great and easy. I didn't bother with the tapenade and the herb oil only needs garlic and basil TBH

Nice with any salad

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Giro blues

So why does Sir Brad not winning mean he's lost

Yes, I know second place is firth loser, but if the press coverage is to be believed, Brad is having a 'mare in the Giro. I'm not sure what is wrong with us Brits, but it's like if Mo Farrah "only" got a silver at the Worlds, he'd be over the hill, on the way down.

For riders, this is no problem, we understand that descending can go to pot at the drop of a hat and that a three week race is about who is in the front after three weeks, not one. But for the average punter, it must be more confusing. And does the average sports fan really take notice of the hype and journalistic exaggeration or can they see past to the "truth"?

I guess footie is to "blame". As footie got more about cash and share options and less about representing your town or city so the writers moved from the features pages to the "sports" page. and as there was more cash, bling sold copy.

Its happened in rugby, in the "good old days" "dwarf-gate" would never have been reports. "Rugby player pissed" was hardly a revelation, least not when I played. Indeed, the headline might have had more impact if it had said "rugby player drinks shandy - shock". That young men, on a day off like a beer is not news, is it?

As it turned out SBW had a nasty chest infection - staying near the top of a Grand Tour with a nasty infection really does show how good he is!

Cycling events

Do you like cycling events? I've just registered for "Bristol's Biggest Bike Ride" and I like the idea that a route has been set, lots of people will be doing the same route and for once, the cyclists are the king of the road. Yet, part of me thinks it a bit infra dig. Its like cyclists need a special day to ride safely on the roads, that in reality are a public utility. Now I'm sure that such events are great for encouraging the less confident. Perhaps that outweighs any doubts I have? I don't know. I'd prefer people to think that however nervous they might be, the roads are not supposed to be like some lottery with your life and limb. 

Bristol is by no means the worst city to cycle in. Indeed I am constantly amazed by the way pedestrians and cyclists share, usually without conflict, the paths and ways around town. Drivers are good at giving way and the right of way enjoyed by cyclists on many crossings makes cycling look more fun that sitting in a jam in your car.


I love Indian food - or at least what passes for "Indian" food at my local curry emporium. I used to know an owner of  4 restaurants in the Bracknell area and two things were a surprise. Firstly, that most the chefs were from Bangladesh and secondly, that chefs got transfers like a premiership football centre forward (Is that a position these days?)

Anyway - real home Indian cooking is usually more subtle and better tasting. My "go to" curry is an adaptation of a prawn Goan curry from Rick (mmmm, that nice) Stein. A good business man but annoying presenter. That curry only has four spices and can be done from scratch in half an hour. That's for another time, but I was recently impressed with Anjam Anand's recently repeated, "Indian food made easy"

Now "easy" for TV chefs can be different from what you or I might think of as easy (an omelette say)  but this recipe for chicken curry with spinach is fairly easy and really does take under an hour

Chicken with Spinach is really tasty. Give it a go. I would change one aspect. Its probably better not to use pieces of chicken on the bone, its easier to make the sauce without adding the chicken and then when the sauce is looking near finished, add pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thigh. Thigh is my fave chicken - better than breast and cheaper. Simmer in the sauce until cooked and you're ready to go. You will need a 600gm pack of chicken for two good portions. I can't see how the recipe as quoted serves 6. It might if you didn't eat much, but that's not me!

In the news

Many cyclists are filming their rides. Video your ride It got me wondering - its this some sort of London problem. Here in the "Greater Bristol" area, it seems that people in cars are much more aware of cyclists. I rarely get any hassle and TBH, I feel pretty safe cycling even into the middle of Bristol. I guess, Bristol almost has a critical mass of cyclists and we all share the space?

And as the anti cycling lobby get desparate - here's a tongue in cheek "helping hand" pedalling-myths-antibike-lobby

My favourite was this

2. If you support gun control, you should support bike control.Milquetoast liberals are always objecting to the argument that "guns don't kill people, people kill people", because the widespread availability of guns makes it more likely they'll be used for nefarious purposes. Well, just follow the logic. Bikes can be used for nefarious purposes, too: consider scenario 1 above, or the popularity of bikes among drug-dealers. It's a no-brainer, therefore, that bicycles should be subject to the same kind of ban currently proposed, in the US, for semi-automatic weapons.
Can't argue with that.....

Saturday, 11 May 2013

2013 - New Blog season

So onto 2013

Well, its May and I've cycled a grand total of 4 times, 3 of which were on the turbo and one - last weekend - out on the road - well it was nearly like summer. The irony is that having joined the Council, in "Britain's First Cycle City", I've hardly turned a pedal in anger.

Excuses, I have a few, but then again too few to mention. I have had some knee issues- I expect three weeks of skiing have not helped, the bag of snow after each day and a hand full of ibuprofen washed down with a glass of rough red may or may not have indicated I was over doing it. And whenever I look in the mirror - I thing someone has replaced it with a joke mirror that makes you look fat - or I am invisible and am being stalked by some fat old bloke.....

So its a bit chicken and egg. I guess I'll just have to get my bike (not Tebbit style) and ride to work to see if anything falls off and if it doesn't I should get lighter and stress my knee less, or it will get worse and its only a mile from my office to the Bristol Knee Clinic!

Giro d'Italia

Been watching the highlights of the Giro and what I have noticed is that

  1. Italy gets a load of rain this time of year
  2. I'm glad I wasn't trying to descend that fast on greasy roads
  3. The camera motorcycles are way more out of control than in the Tour
  4. I wouldn't mind atrip out to watch a mountain stage!
Seriously interesting race, the main problem being Sky's random time for the highlights and their tendency to "delay" showing it if there is something more mainstream on already (bloody tennis the other night). Still, with a three week race, there is plenty of time to see enough action

Actually watching the highlights does make me wonder what race the journalists are watching. After Bradley was blocked by a crashnear the end of a stage - the write ups were like he'd failed on the day, "Disaster for Sir Brad" style crap.

Still, this won't be a surprise for anyone who reads the press and listens to what politicians say. Apparently, the very large hole in my Councils budget due to Govt cut will be made up by "better asset management, joint working and cost cutting" What will bridge the gap is cutting £70m from childrens' and older people's services and a load of jobs - or "localism" as some stupid Ministers call it. Or vandalism asI'd prefer to call it


I have found that moral in my office can be improved by a bit of home baking. I've had some success with Lemon-poppy seed muffins. Easy to do, tasty!

Here is the recipe Muffin Recipe Add a load more lemon zest, the icing is optional!

Stupid stuff in the press

How bad can a cycle path be.....

Image for Lakeside Way, Wembley

Need I say anything?

Might smart a bit if you were not concentrating.......

and good luck with this.....

Image for Joined up infrastructure - not.

Keep safe