Knees up to the cake stop

Map reference: Calpe, Spain… yes, really

Carbs and caffeine: tapas, of course, and hotel breakfasts, my absolute favourite thing in all the world.

I am just back from my first holiday in 15 years. Ok, this is a little unfair as we have had many enjoyable holidays as a family; bucket and spade, skiing, even cycling, some in hotels and some self-catering, but none ‘on my own’.

Obviously, if I had actually gone on holiday on my own that would be a bit sad. To be clear, on my own means ‘Without Husband and Children’. For four whole days my name was not Mum. No one asked me where their trousers were. No one asked me what was for lunch. I did not have to nip to the shops for more milk (we might as well get our own cow on current consumption rates), and I saw no popcorn, either in a bowl or stuck behind the sofa cushions.

Just me… and my bike. There were no lists rolling around in my head. I only had to remember how to put the bike together out of the bike box, and hope that my Lycra would stretch. To be clear, that’s not to picture a giant me squeezing into too small Lycra, but I realised too late I could really have done with another pair of bib shorts. I would just have to wash overnight. It’s not normally an issue as I don’t usually ride two consecutive days, and even if I do, you seldom get two days of similar weather on consecutive days in England, let’s face it.

The trip was a Bealesy special ( It been a while since I’ve blogged, so to remind you I’ve been riding with Chris Beales as a guide for a few years now. We ‘girls’ go out on a Thursday with him (with the odd guest husband) during his off-season months and I trained with him in Italy before my Etape two years ago. He’s great to ride with because he does all the thinking. We just think about the next coffee stop, and pick up tips on ‘roiding’ safely.

Why ‘roiding’? Well, he’s Australian. Many things come out a little oddly, and then the rush of wind in your ears can confuse things further. We turn ‘roit’, right? This still confuses Jen as she doesn’t know her left from her right, but she’s never let it slow her down.

Added to our normal list of aural confusion, this holiday we had ‘free cake at the top of the hill’, which sadly translated as ‘3K to the top of the hill’. And Jen, Rach and I were left looking at each other in confusion, when we had completely a lovely descent in good order we thought, but were told to ‘knees up’. Since we’d been working on having a straight outer leg on the turns this seemed to contradict our instructions. No, turns out it was ‘ease up’. Or in other words, wait for the others. Of course, it was ‘knees up’ thereafter, and ever shall be.

Much of our enjoyment falls into the ‘you had to be there’ category. There was much silliness and joy. The hotel was fabulous, right on the beach. I don’t know if everyone has the same sensation, but when I look at a beach and sea, blue sky and sunshine, I actually get a rushing ‘zing’ in my head. It’s quite overwhelming. Our evenings quickly fell into a pattern, of shower, meet in the bar for a fishbowl sized G&T, followed by buffet dinner. I know some people get funny about buffet dinners, but I love them, especially when you have been exercising. It’s not because I want to eat, ‘all you can eat’ style, but if I want a bit more cheese, or some fruit, some more Iberico ham just carved off the joint, I can. Freedom to browse, rather than pressure to chose the right thing off the menu.

You might assume we would be drinking into the evening, but no. We drank water at dinner (one bottle of wine between six on the last evening) and yet I’m sure we appeared utterly toasted as we giggled our way into the lifts at about 9.30pm to get to our rooms. Yes, what busy mothers/serious cyclists want at the end of the evening is… a room of their own, and how we enjoyed ours.

Note to Husband: thank you so much for facilitating my brief escape. I really appreciate it. x




Distracted, but roughly on target

Map reference: lots of Surrey rides, principally around Leith Hill with Jacqui, Jen and new cycling bud, Caroline

Caffeine and Carbs: Peaslake village stores, and the Dabbling Duck, Shere,

Yes, I’ve still been out pedalling three times a week and on the turbo most other days, but I am struggling to find time to write these rides up. This year I’ve cycled 2,355km with an elevation gain of nearly 30,000m, according to Strava, and that doesn’t count the gym sessions.

In these weeks running up to the Dragon ride, my rides have been falling into a bit of a pattern. On Thursdays I ride a ‘Ten-Hills’ route with Jen. I don’t have school pickup until 4.30pm so we usually add an extra flip round Box Hill and maybe some other local hills to try to get an elevation of around 2,100m, in around 115k. The Dragon ride is 2,900m elevation and 230k, so this puts us comfortably in range with the climbing. Jen keeps muttering about the distance but neither of us has 10 hours spare to ride the full distance. A couple of weeks ago I was fighting a virus and the route felt terribly hard. I gave myself the weekend completely off – tried to laze about as much as possible. Last Thursday I felt better but we just did the basic hills ride and I went out with Caroline the next day to complete a full 2,900m climbing across the two days. That’s good enough. I’ve been very worried about a friend with a sick baby and that has also knocked my focus off – it’s hard to excited about training for a silly sportive when good friends are holding their tiny baby in a hospital unit.

Jacqui is building up her rides too, and I generally see her on Tuesdays. We have a favourite loop around Peaslake which allows us to stop at The Dabbling Duck for a bit on our way back. It’s a lovely place for lunch, although we just tend to have soup or a toasted teacake. One day I will drive there to actually eat some proper food.

Caroline is an old school friend who I have hooked up with after a 30-year gap. She’s very fit, being a pilates instructor, but has been off her bike with house renovation busy-ness until recently. We have been on two rides. I have been pushing her a bit, because I know she will just suck it up, so she found herself doing 1,200m climbing over 75k with me last week. She’s on a pretty ordinary bike, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she had to have a little lie down when she got home.

In the gym, after turbo sessions I have been doing lunges. They seem to be making my legs stronger, and I try to follow up with the stretchy-core stuff that we all know we should be doing.

All in all, apart from the fact that I would like to be about 5lb lighter, I feel reasonable prepared. Jen is much faster than me up hill being a featherweight, but as long as I don’t compare myself with her, I think I am good to go. With three weeks to go, I’d better be.

Note to Baby Lucas: get well soon gorgeous boy, we are all thinking of you.




Elementary rules of mapping

Map reference: 200k over two days, loop towards Gatwick and more south-westerly route past Dunsfold looping back through Cranleigh

Carbs and caffeine: Maison du Velo, Lesbourne Road, Reigate, RH2 7JS, and The Dorking Deli, 37 West St, Dorking RH4 1BU,

And she’s off. Yes, finally I’m getting into my stride again after the Christmas and house move hiatus. I’m making the most of Bealesy ( before he heads off to Spain and Italy to lead his trips. I know at least three parties who are going with him so he’s a busy chap. But not too busy to plan rides so that I am left with a variety of Garmin maps to explore on my own. I appreciate your efforts Bealesy.

As I’ve been pedalling around following his wheel, I have been thinking about a naming convention on my new Garmin, librarian style. In the end I have plumped for distance/compass direction, then a place name. So these two rides are 100 SE Gatwick and 100 SW Dunsfold. I know it’s totally OTT… it’s the sub-editor in me. Or maybe I’m a frustrated librarian after all. There’s a lot of time to think about these things over a 100k ride.

Monday’s ride was a little slow with a new cyclist along. After three hours I discovered she had eaten nothing which I think explained why she was totally exhausted. I was horrified… part of the joy of cycling is stuffing your face as you go. Surely she must have seen us: Bealesy, fig biscuits; Jen and me, fruit cake; Rach, Naked bars, we all have our own stuffing style.  I passed some jelly babies to her as we rode on and finally at 80k after a steep climb (I’m beginning to enjoy the hills again) we came to Maison Du Velo. It’s a bike shop with great cake and coffee, and a very warm welcome. Bike parking was inside, which is always reassuring and they showed me some BBB Slimguard Mudguards which I may well purchase as a favour to my cycling friends when I’ve done my product research. It really is rude to spray water all over the person on your wheel.

Tuesday’s ride was much pacier. Alison, who we rode with last week was there and Jane, who I hadn’t met before. Jane, who was clearly a good rider, was feeling a bit below par. It’s funny, you can tell the difference between an unfit rider and one who is just a bit out of sorts. There’s a kind of mystified look on a rider’s face when they just aren’t up to their normal standard. I wear that face quite a lot myself at the moment.

The Dorking Deli is a small place, but very pleasant. I was worried it didn’t have a loo… the others had alfresco-ed on the way but I had baulked at the exposure. Luckily there are facilities as long as you don’t mind going out of the cafe, around the back and boldly walking through a gate marked 37A. It all felt very Sherlock Holmes with his Flat 221B, and even Mrs Hudson would have been impressed with the pristine state of what is effectively an outdoor lavvy. Another impressive Dorking cafe, it’s like the town is the cafe society hub of Surrey.

Note to self: maybe don’t go shopping straight after a ride… those BBQ ribs aren’t normally so tempting



Fly me to the moon

Map reference: over the Hog’s Back to Haslemere. 98km

Carbs and Caffeine: scrambled eggs on toast, Darnley’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant, 3 Causeway Side, High Street, Haslemere GU27 2JZ. Friendly, prompt service and good value. Big tick from me

Don’t worry I haven’t given up riding since the Etape, but, to be honest, it’s very hard during the school holidays. I did a Rapha 100 on my return, and squeezed in a Box Hill outing with Jen, but apart from that it’s been a few laps of Richmond Park and a few sessions on the spinning bike. Three weeks to go and I shall have my daytime window back.

But this week I am down to one child – the boys being on a residential trip – and my daughter is doing a sailing camp. I intend to cycle every day, to get myself back on track. I’ve signed up for the Etape London (180k, pretty flat), which should be fairly straightforward after the Dragon Ride and the Etape du Tour, but not if I don’t keep ticking off the miles. 

Keith volunteered to kick off my week. The great thing about riding with him is you never know where you are going. Let’s be clear, he knows where he is going, but I have never travelled the same route twice with him. One of the joys of riding is the freedom, and restricting your rides to local routes that are easily learned is great shame. On my list of ways to improve myself is to increase my own map knowledge.

After a brief conflab in Ripley, we decided to head down to Haslemere, through Hindhead. I have only been down this way in the car before, heading for the coast, and it sounded like a really long way to me. The route essentially took us from Old Woking down roads on the western side of the A3 and then crossed the A3 near Hindhead to swing south towards Haslemere and then east before looping back to Guildford. Most of the roads were very quiet, with just short sections on the busier roads. As we came into Hindhead we pedalled along a beautiful wooded section and I was surprised to find the heavy smell of pine took me so strongly back to my golfing days. It’s been a long time since I’ve swung a club; golf and cycling don’t really mix, with both taking such large chunks out of the day.

Our average speed was just under 28k, with me hanging on to Keith’s wheel. I slipped off a couple of times, but was generally pleased to be able to hang on. The elevation was 840m, with some small hills at the beginning (although one hit 17 per cent at one stage) and a pretty flat finish after lunch. I felt dehydrated but refreshed by the end, if that doesn’t sound like a contradiction. A grand day out, not to the moon like Wallace and Gromit, but certainly out of my usual orbit.

Apart from the Etape London, I’m not sure what my future plans are. I’ll definitely do the Dragon Ride again and I’m hoping to get a small band together for that (Jen that means you). And I shall certainly be watching to see which stage comes up for the Etape Du Tour. Bealesy ( has mentioned the Nove Colli in Italy – the kids would like us to do that so that they can revisit our summer holiday in Viserbella, Rimini. We’ll see.

I am also toying with setting up a cycle club affiliated to the boys’ school, in part so they can participate in the London Youth Games next year, but there are many things I need to research first before I stick my head above the parapet on that.

Note to self: British Cycling have coaching information, find a moment to check out what might fit with a kids’ club


My boys climb to new heights in my estimation 

Map reference: Montee D’Oz time trial

Carbs and caffeine: boys tried their first Torq gels

Every Wednesday in summer the local tourist office organises a time trial of our hill. It’s 7k and about 700m climbing, so no small achievement for my sons of 11 and 12 on their heavy hired bikes. There were about eight other cyclists this week, two teenagers, the rest adults and some runners and walkers. 

We intended to start together but quite quickly my eldest son was off. My second son was on a child sized bike, complete with smaller than adult wheels, so he was never going to be able to maintain the same pace. His saddle was on its absolute upper limit and the handles bars were at their lowest so he also struggled with the extreme angle. Despite his obvious discomfort he kept ploughing on. Husband and daughter, 7, waited at our chalet halfway up the climb with water and extra jelly babies, which were gratefully received. Husband was still laughing when we arrived as apparently Big One shot through the ad hoc feed station chucking his empty bottle at him and grabbing a fresh one without stopping. He made it to the top in 40 minutes and would have grabbed third place on the podium if he had known where the finish line was. Local knowledge and an understanding of French instructions would have helped. Second son and I came in at just under 48 minutes which was 10 minutes faster than we had estimated.

All in all it was a good first French time trial for the boys and if we come back next year we will have the advantage of knowing the form. 

Having warmed up my legs, Husband and I decided to go for a quick circuit leaving the kids glued to a DVD. There’s a nice circuit down to Allemont via Villard Reculas. It’s nearly 20k with some descending and 450m climbing, rather putting the equivalent two circuits of Richmond Park in the shade.

Meanwhile Husband – of course – had to go and beat the winning time of this morning’s TT. With 29 minutes being the time to beat, he did it in 27 minutes. I’m so glad I don’t have to take up these challenges, definitely too much like hard work, although he was grinning all over his face when he came in. Chapeau, darling.

Note to self: time to get those race tyres on, so they can be tested on a couple more local circuits

Badger’s drift and a magic solution

Saddle up: Kirdford Village Stores in West Sussex welcomes all sorts…

Map reference: Leatherhead into West Sussex, 100k, homage to the Spring Onion sportive

Carbs and caffeine: Bookham and Harrison, Ridgewick and Kirdford Village stores, where they serve an excellent bacon sandwich

I was very honoured to be invited by Keith for his Monday Medley. My Bike Beans friend, Jo, tells me they haven’t ridden for a while together but they tend to go out for about 100k and Keith has an encyclopedic knowledge, both in mapping terms and points of interest too. He seems to know where all the celebrities live. Maybe, out of his Lycra he is a mover and a shaker himself? I wouldn’t put it past him.

We started at a hell of a lick and I had to suffocate my usual doubts, but we soon settled into a great rhythm. Five of us made it a nice compact peloton, with far less chance of being left behind. We were slightly led astray at one stage when Keith pointed right and we all dutifully pointed right and moved over into the middle of the road, only to be wrong footed by Keith drifting left and following the road around the corner.

It transpires he had been pointing at a badger. Tony decided our signalling need to be clearer than that – he has a tidy mind, I think – so he developed a flamboyant signal, starting from the middle of his chest and looping out to the right in an extravagant, wristy arch, rather like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his gilet. We adopted this for the ride, and who knows it may catch on. You read it here first.

Keith managed to squeeze in two caffeine stops but the hilly rises were relentless enough that we also had to stop at a garage for jelly rabbits, which aren’t quite as nice as jelly babies.

All in all, another wonderful day out. I was surprised to find my legs were fine after Saturday’s efforts in the Brecon Beacons. I have a busy week planned which may have me ruing that boast…

Note to self: the pedals are attached to cranks, not shanks, as you were telling everyone. Try not to embarrass yourself in front of your new friends. If anyone is interested in this, here’s the link

A hill by any other name would feel as steep …

Map reference: Sennybridge loop, 84k, 1,940m climbing, 4 hours and 20 mins

Carbs and caffeine: musette consisting of cheese sandwich from yesterday’s packed lunch, cold cross bun, handful of jelly babies

Spotted: snowcapped mountains, two dogs wearing pink jackets, a white Lamborghini (several times), a boy-racer in a Honda (twice was more than enough)… and a lost Tesco van

Husband and I had thought we might go out for a massive ride today,  but we slept in until 8am and didn’t feel like rushing. We didn’t push off until nearly 10am and wanted to be back for the rugby, Wales v Ireland, with both teams being supported here (albeit middle son only supporting Ireland because green is his favourite colour). My eldest son had half an éclair riding on the result, and got to scoff it as Wales won.

It was cold but beautiful as we set out towards Trecastle along a back road that eventually, and unexpectedly, gave us sight of snowcapped peaks. Wales is really such a beautiful country, none better when the sun is shining. After an hour and a half, we were at the bottom of “The Hill With No Name” (aka A4069 between Capel Gwynfe and Bryamman). It’s a lovely, sweeping, long Alpine style climb with few cars and a scattering of puffing cyclists.

By now my legs had recovered from our hilly start (300m climbing in the first 30 mins had me reaching for the painkillers for my back again) and I determinedly, and pretty easily, made it up in my large cog. We then pedalled on down to Bryamman, turned back on ourselves and I then repeated the big cog challenge, against the wind all the way back to the top. Then – you guessed it – we went down the hill and up one more time… in the big cog. My Garmin occasionally reached 18 per cent, but was often around 5 per cent, with the longer sections being about 7 per cent, I reckon.

By then it was time to abandon our hilly playground and head for home. Pretty soon heavy legs set in, even Husband was feeling it. I had wanted to get all the way back in the large cog, but a really short 20 percenter forced me to submit to the clickity-click-phew method. No shame in that, that small cog is there for a reason.

Note to my Aunt Myfanwy: I thought of you lots today as we passed through your gorgeous Welsh countryside and within a few miles of your sickbed. I do hope you get better soon. x