Words fail me on another rainy day

Map reference: very wet Leith Hill to Box Hill loop, 100k, 1,200m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: Gorgeous Gerties, 61 West Street, Dorking, PH4 1BS, gorgeousgerties.co.uk, banana and coconut cake and coffee x 2

How many times can I tell you about my rides in the rain and how miserable they are? Jen was there being made miserable too, and that helped, but basically it started raining an hour or so into the ride and didn’t stop. There were various types of rain. There are 50 Eskimo words for snow and really, for all our boasts about the richness of our language, where are the 50 words for rain we should have?

I’m not going to go on about it. Instead I shall concentrate on a lovely tea shop we were driven into in Dorking. Gorgeous Gerties is on the antiquey end of the high street, the first bit you hit if you descend, soggy or otherwise, from Coldharbour. It has a sheltered porch bit at the entrance, perfect for stashing the bikes, and is a cafe with vintage department shop attached. Actually, probably the vintage bit comes first, but the priority for us was the coffee and cake.

We had to walk to the back to view the cakes, passing stands of jewellery and pottery and all sorts of gifty things. Given the state we were in, it was surprising how much of it we stopped to mull over. Particularly as we couldn’t really buy.

Cake and coffee eaten, we felt we should push off, so paid up and collected our bikes. By then the rain had turned torrential. We hovered in the porchy bit, hesitating about what to do; discussing our options. The lady from the shop came out and suggested another round of coffee. That was clearly the best option, so we parked the bikes again and trooped back in.

The rain lashed down, and then finally slowed a little. We decided to do the final two hills; Ranmore Road and the side of Box Hill.

From there it was simply a case of slipping down into Epsom and taking our normal commute back to Wimbledon. The rain drizzled to a stop and finally we saw a little sun. We don’t have many words for sun either, but that’s more understandable.

Note to self: watch the weather forecast, I don’t think another rainfest will do you any good a this stage.

Domestique bliss

Map reference: Wimbledon, Epsom Downs, Bookham, hilly loop, 73k

Carbs and Caffeine: Domestique Cycle Cafe, 8 Grove Corner, Great Bookham http://www.domestiquecyclecafe.co.uk/

Bealsey http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ was down to his two stalwarts, Jen and me again today. I guess the other ‘ladies’ are still regrouping after the half term break. He asked if we wanted hills or flat and, after a certain pause, we plumped for hills. We both like hills it’s just hard to actually choose the leg-achy route. Decision made, it was our usual flip though the suburbs and then up through Epsom high street to the racecourse, then down a different road and, you guessed it, back up to the grandstand again. Apparently you can do that, cartwheel fashion round the race course ad nauseam, but luckily we pushed off before sickness actually kicked in.

I have to say my lungs are still far from A1 after our family virus. I also felt uncomfortably low on juice going up the 20% hill towards Bookham, near Polesden Lacey. Luckily, a new carb stop awaited me. It’s name clearly points it at cyclists, and it has secure bike parking, although we didn’t feel the need to use it.

The welcome was warm, and if the walnut cake was a little thickly spread with butter icing, that was easily fixed. Some people would probably relish the extra icing, but I could see Bealsey looking a bit askance as he nibbled on his biscuit. I removed the offensive addition and tucked into the very nice homemade cake underneath.

In case you don’t understand the reference in the cafe’s name, domestiques are the members of a cycle team charged with delivering water and food to the main competitors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestique. They are quite heroic in their efforts to help the team, carrying the extra weight and killing themselves to get up to their team mates at the front of the pack, then drifting back down the peloton exhausted. Maybe, next time I am asked what I do for a living I shall say Domestique, it certainly sounds better than housewife, which I cannot say without stuttering…

Note to self: more hills needed, now spring is springing

Parallel universe

Map reference: Wimbledon to Ashtead and back, 60k

Carbs and Caffeine: Cafe Bean http://www.bikebeans.co.uk/, carrot cake

It was cold today, but dry. Having gone back into the house once to get my Garmin,  I couldn’t bear to go back in for my hat – not my helmet, I had that and would never ride without – and had to risk brain freeze. Luckily I was wearing a muffler, albeit thin, and was able to get the ears covered. They’re the bits that will actually fall off if frozen, after all.

As it was, I was warm enough, with just a bit of toe-lossage. Even my hands were relatively ok, so I think it was slightly warmer than the 4 degrees we had been warned of. And there was no wind. That was the major difference with last week’s ride. There was even some thin sunshine at some points. All in all it was a very encouraging day. I think we all felt strong. It was like one of those wonderful skiing days, when the sky is blue and the snow is perfect and you feel finally feel at one with your oh-so-parallel skiis.

Bike Beans did us proud as usual. Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ has managed to persuade the owner to have his holiday promo video going round on a loop on one of the televisions. Good work, Bealsey, I’m impressed.

Note to self: Why are your shins hurting? That’s a running injury. Peddling wrong again?

If you’re going through hell, keep going (Churchill)

Map reference: Home, spinning, 1 hour 5 mins, 32.5k

Carbs and Caffeine: brunch at book club, including Sophie’s banana cake and berries

Beastly Beasley http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ has set me a four-week programme to improve my endurance, ie stop the wheezing. In it, I top and tail the week with a turbo session which consists of increasing hill sections interspersed with active recovery. The hill sessions start at 5 mins, then 10 mins, then 15 mins, and then, phew, back down again.

My spin bike doesn’t have gears as such, just a knob you twist, so there was guess work there, but at least I get a rpm, which is what I really need. If I’m struggling to keep up the required 90 rpm, I guess I’m in a stiff enough gear.

I felt a bit wheezy when I got off the bike, but not too bad. I love going out on the bike, but spinning does at least give me time to squeeze in other things, like my book club. I’m reading Boris Johnson’s The Churchill Factor at the moment. Even here, Boris the biker comes through. He mentions his cycling several times and points out that cycling in London is considered very dangerous and yet there is approximately one death in every 14 million journeys. When Churchill was flying his beloved planes in 1912, there was one fatality in every 5,000 flights. No wonder his wife went potty and Winston was forced to lie about where he was going when he went out. At least he didn’t have to sneak out of the house in Lycra. Oh dear, Churchill in Lycra, let’s not go there…

Note to self: four weeks takes us up to half term. Perfect timing. Just do it

Out, at last…

Map reference: Wimbledon to Bookham, retreat to Leatherhead and home, 60k

Carbs and caffeine: Homemade walnut and coffee cake, Bocketts farm, Leatherhead http://www.bockettsfarm.co.uk/

The weather finally went our way and Jen and I met up with Bealsey http://bespoke-velo.co.uk/ for our regular Really Helpful Club http://www.reallyhelpfulclub.com/ ladies ride. There were a few faces missing, including one whose husband had booked her into a skiing lesson with him (without asking). Post-Christmas admin took the rest, I think.

We did one of Bealsey’s wiggles through south-west London. Met the same angry couple and dodgy dog in the same underpass as before. Had the same row. Do they live there like trolls, ready to attacks any passing cyclists? (See my post Underpass Impasse, 12/07/2014).

We popped up in Fetcham. Unfortunately torrential rain popped up at the same time and we battled our way to Bookham before stopping at a bus shelter to add rain layers and give up on the glasses. A quick look at the sky told us that if we kept heading in the same direction we were just heading into more watery stuff, so we double backed on ourselves and made our way to Bocketts children’s farm. Thankfully there were no children, and the coffee and cakes were good. The cake is packed in little plastic boxes, which is a shame, it just seems so wasteful. Give me a slice off the whole cake anytime, but perhaps they are mobbed sometimes by greedy little monsters. Then I can see the efficiency in pre-cutting.

We stayed quite a long time, drying off and discussing Jen’s nutribullet http://www.nutribullet.com. Bealsey, like most cyclists, has lots of opinions on food and nutrition. Jen impressed us with the fact that she is hiding kale in her son’s smoothy. The nutribullet may go on my wishlist, as I have a fussy eater at home too.

We made our way home through Leatherhead, towards Epsom and the Hook Road Arena, and the sun joined us. Jen regained feeling in her hands somewhere around Ewell.

More tips from Bealsey today about my riding. All this winter spinning has taken it’s toll and I am riding at far too high a cadence and getting out of breath. Following Jen up the long hill near the Yehudi Menuhin school, I could feel myself dropping off. It’s obviously a combination of heart-lung capacity and leg power… and a bit of how you feel on the day.

Note to self: Don’t be disheartened, early days…

Tucked behind my shopping basket

Map reference: Kingston shopping trip, through Richmond Park

Carbs and Caffeine: restrained myself, despite being starving. Cold carbanara left from kids’ supper waiting at home

I did a little over an hour on the spinning bike and then decided I needed fresh air, and a shopping cycle to Kingston on my mountain bike could do no harm. Little did I realise how windy it was. Really hairy, with gusts making me wobble like a child and a wind that was virtually blowing me to a standstill going downhill.

In Richmond Park, heading east I was making next to no headway at all. I badly missed my drops and tried to hunch down as much as possible, with my head just about in my shopping basket. I even toyed with trying to hold the basket, time trial style, but it was too fragile.

I was extremely relieved to get to Kingston as a light drizzle set in. I’m rubbish at shopping, but eventually Sports Direct provided me with some rigid-soled trainers to spin in. I’ve been getting achy feet and I think it’s the soft-soled things I have been using. The shoes are incredibly cheap, even for Sports Direct, because they are incredibly ugly. Still, if they do the job, I don’t care.

Note to self: Wednesday is the only nice day this week. You need to find someone to pedal with

Who are you calling old?

Map reference: triple circuit of Box Hill from Epsom Downs. 50k and close to 1k climbing.

Carbs and caffeine: The Grey Dove, Walton-on-the-Hill http://www.thegreydovecafe.com/

Out with my old personal trainer, Neil, today. Well, he’s not old, I’m obviously the old one, and he’s the secret weapon in my training plan. I was slower than him today (I’m blaming the heavy winter wheels) but close enough in speed to force a competitive pace. And I have the advantage of knowing my way round the Surrey hills a bit, especially the cafes. I also have a car so we can drive out, do circuits and then not have to commute home. It’s early days, we don’t need to slog home. This will work as long as I can keep up. If I could only shed a decade or two (and add testosterone).

Note to self: No stretching, come on you know better. No wonder your legs ache

Underpass impasse

Map reference: Wimbledon, nearly to Box Hill, via Esher, Fetcham, Leatherhead and a cafe I’ve been meaning to visit in Lycra for a long time. Around 60k

Caffeine and carbs: Cafe Bean, Ashtead … at last

There were three women including myself for the regular Bealsey (bespoke-velo.co.uk) Thursday ride. It was wet and misty, with not much promise of anything different, so I was not surprised that a couple of faces were missing. It’s also a busy time of year, let’s face it. Bealsey was undeterred as ever, but sensing the mood, suggested a fairly flat run out to the Surrey Hills and back. New commuter routes are always useful, and in fact a reminder of some of the sections we have done before is also good. As ever, I mostly didn’t know where we were, except for the occasional crossing of major roads. Aha, I think, as if coming up for air, I know where we are, and then we plunge back into a labyrinth of unknown roads again.

We crossed swords in an underpass with a very unsavoury couple, complete with the inevitable ‘dangerous’ dog. They were very upset that we were ‘on’ our bikes, although we were uncleated and merely wheeling down at snail’s pace as the underpass has hairpin bends. Frankly I don’t have the skill to go at anything above walking speed in the space, but this couple were hardwired to loathe us. And, to be honest, following the stream of expletives I received, the feeling was mutual. I wished them a Merry Christmas and moved on. I learned this tactic from Bealsey who gives a cheery wave to all rude drivers (knowing it will infuriate them further).

We did a bit of hill practice on the way up to Headley. I was instructed to stand the whole way in a big slow gear. Jen clung on behind me, and by the end our airpipes were rattling. From there, it was freewheeling all the way down to Cafe Bean, Ashtead. I’ve been many times before to this cafe, and talked bikes and biking with Jamie, the owner, as it’s near one of my kid’s schools. Finally an entrance in Lycra, red in face and glasses steamed up. Mind you, our damp arrival was somewhat trumped by a large party of grey-haired mountain bikers. They looked very hale and hearty. It’s a small cafe, but there’s always a real buzz and hum about the place.

Note to self: For heaven’s sake, must get some clear glasses. Dark glasses, in rain, leave you practically blind.

Get shorty

Map reference: The Ripley tea run, an old favourite, 70k, flat

Caffeine and carbs: The Nest, Ripley

Jacqui and I had big plans, today, to use part of last week’s Windsor route and create a loop from home, incorporating Elm Nursery in Sutton Green. It would be a new pitstop for Jacqui and give us another winter ride for our collection. But I spent so long last night trying to work out how to hook up the ride that I had a hurty head by the time I went to bed. And every time I closed my eyes, I found myself following the route – left, quick right and straight on – so it was not a good night. I was quite glad when it became clear in the morning that Jacqui wasn’t feeling like a long mystery tour and we decided to treat ourselves to an old favourite instead. Rob, Jacqui’s husband, came too. Obviously the lure of Nest cake works for him too.

It was the right decision as the weather was distinctly dodgy, with gusty winds knocking us about and tree litter strewn all over the roads. Outside the Black Swan near Cobham, there was a branch across the road that could have been laid out by a sabateur if I had a suspicious mind.

At least I was warm enough, in part due to my new gilet, bought second hand for a bargain £5. Unfortunately, this evening Husband tried it on and he says it fits him perfectly and being white will be good for his commute. So I can say goodbye to that. I shall have to go back to my source…

Note to self: Do not leave nice kit lying about where it can be seen…