Aug 242015


I walk in the rain. After some time I realise that the drips reaching my lips are actually salty tears. Silent screams for help. I didn’t even realise I’m crying.

The thing is, I think I’m loosing it. It could be post-natal depression, I’m not sure, but life feels like a grind. I’m so tired. I feel claustrophobic but can’t find the freedom or space that I’m craving.

Whilst I try hard to appreciate what I have, I feel numb. I’m aware of things, but not engaged with them. I get through the day by a series of chores and tasks, which give me slight satisfaction for the achievement, but with it comes the knowledge that it’s not enough and there are still a hundred more things to be done. The most important task of course is to look after our children, and I think the fact it’s listed in my brain as another task suggests that things aren’t right. The enjoyment has gone. And Meg isn’t shy to confirm that whatever I do for her is also not enough. A constant stream of demands to play with this, eat that, go here, make some space there. I’m not sure who was first to start the nagging as I find myself reflecting similar demands on her.

My baby girl used to sit content on my hip and share the daily rhythm with me. Big blue eyes. Happy eyes. Giggles, dance and play fell into the day without even realising. There was time to just look at each other or simply cuddle on the sofa with a soft blanket, touching fingers together or tickling peeping toes. Other than getting a bit bigger and a bit noisier, I don’t think she has changed. It’s me. I’m not really there any more. Or here any more. I’m always trying to do something else.

Now I carry Kit on my shoulder sharing the daily chaos with me. Big blue eyes. I struggle to lift Meg now, let alone carry her, so Meg watches on at hip height, trying to find the best way to get my attention – from angelic to awful she’ll find a way. I’m not proud of my parenting any more, and I miss my daughter. My affection ranges from overcompensation to being totally unavailable; it’s all wrong. She deserves consistent love and attention, and I’m sure I’d receive the same in return. I need to find the energy to make amends.

So where has my energy gone? Where has my spirit gone? Whilst I miss my daughter I also miss me. I feel like an empty shell. When did I last wear some makeup? When did I last feel sexy or attractive? When did I last feel proud of myself? Am I happy? I don’t know the answers. I feel numb. Everything I do is for practicality, and let’s face it, practical is rarely fun. It’s as if I’m scared I won’t make it through the day unless everything is as efficient as possible. I’m missing out on fun with my family for an empty washing basket. Worse than that, I’m missing out on love with my family for an empty washing basket. It is little surprise that my spirit has deserted me. I’m lucky my family hasn’t.

No one else is responsible to make me happy, but I think I can learn from them. I’m still aware of the little things which would bring me a smile and yet I deny myself. I look at Meg laying in a huge nest swing with her beautiful smile watching the clouds overhead rush across the sky. I long to curl up and nest with her, gently swaying back and forth. I watch Kit smile and giggle below his slowly twisting mobile, feathers and paper decorations. I long to lay along side him and take some time to rest and absorb his wonderful noises. Longing, I realise, is no good. I’m going to look for my spirit in these things and invite her home.

This time I must nurture her. Listen to her. Honour her. Walk barefoot through the sand, the pebbles and the grass with her; feel connected and grounded again. I want to dance in the rain with her and watch the world sparkle through the raindrops on my eyelashes. I want my family to know her again.

I stand in the rain. I take off my hat and hood and lift my face to the sky. Tongue out I taste the rain. Cold speckles. Water runs down my face, my hair and my neck. I come to the now and oddly I’m flooded with memories of careless times, fun times, active times, times with family, times with friends. I remember cycling out of Bristol with Rob in rain and floods so heavy that we were drenched instantly. Too in love to care. | just wanted to be there with him. I remember sitting with my sister on rocks at high tide with storm waves crashing over our heads. Reckless, but oh so fun! Perhaps too naive to realise the danger, or just too absorbed in this anticipation and entertainment provided by Nature. From camping to festivals, walking, riding, running, surfing, boat trips or simply hiding away snug indoors from the rain, there have been many good times during ‘bad’ conditions.

I dance in the rain.



 Posted by at 2:50 pm
Apr 162015

As I sit on a stool watching Meg in the bath – curly blond locks highlighted by the evening sun streaming through the window, and delightfully counting out loud the hazelnuts bobbing about her – I reflect on how much has changed in life.

Meg isn’t yet three. It wasn’t that long ago that it was Rob and I sat in a hot bubbly bath together, or one on the stool with just feet dipped in. On days off we would roll out on our bikes at first light, chase through the lanes, suffer the climbs and share the spectacular views, returning home 60, 70 or perhaps 100 miles or more later. Dirty bike kit stripped off at the door and straight upstairs to share a hot bubble bath, exhausted and exhilarated. The evening left to laze and enjoy the memories of the day.

Oh how I love this man who shares (and probably exceeds) my own desire to be outdoors, to be out cycling and exploring – sometimes in silent company for hour after hour, yet totally connected by the experience, connected by something so strong that I can’t imagine not spending the rest of our lives connected together.

And then we were. We decided to become parents; the ultimate connection, sharing and bond possible.

I should have been more aware of the impact that starting a family would have, but I’d found my soul mate and what could be more appropriate than to extend this further to become a family?

Now, Meg soon to turn three and myself seven months pregnant, I look in the mirror and I know my face is too thin, my eyes look vacant and there is no glow to my skin. I’m anxious about the health and growth of my unborn and utterly exhausted in every way. Yet somehow I’m still acquiring the necessary energy to giggle with Meg as she brings life to her teddies, or to push her in the buggy for essential peacetime to unwind from the busy world that surrounds her. And more energy is needed for the awkward behaviour moments and just the daily run, from getting Meg dressed to making sure there are always clean clothes to do so, cooking and cleaning and shopping and tidying and being organised with appropriate activities. After bath and settling to bed I realise how little consideration I give to myself in the day, and in turn how little I’m giving to my unborn baby. I get consumed by guilt and worry. Tomorrow I must do better.

After getting Meg to sleep, I lay for a while in her room and realise how much I miss my husband, now burdened with working one and a half jobs in order to try to support our family financially, as well as somehow paying honour to his gift and passion for cycling, and swamped under a list of home improvement jobs we simply can’t afford to do. I wonder what time he’ll be home tonight, and when he’s home, will he be going back to work again? Or need to work into early hours at home? The fact is, beyond the daily household chores and leaving out dinner, the man I love probably gets even less of my energy than I do, and can have little left to offer in return too. How can it be that in the pursuit of the ultimate connection we instead find a situation where there’s not enough energy to make it flow.

“Happiness is how we perceive things” he tells me. I’m clearly not in a happy place right now. I’ve got caught on the negative, running on the adrenalin of anxiety, and in emotional chaos. Even with Rob’s insight I have no idea how to turn this around. The only place I feel truly safe is wrapped in his arms, yet opportunity seems to be rarely there since one of us is usually preoccupied with offering this service for our daughter.

I guess we might not get the rest or relaxation we crave for a few years to come, but I know I wouldn’t turn the clock back and not have Meg, or this pregnancy. Meg brings with her a light that makes me believe she is an angel;  she’s taught me more in three years than I’d learnt in all those before. I have no doubt that our son will bring equal richness and any suffering now will be easily forgotten. I look back at days when Rob and I cycled together from dawn to dusk and think we were perhaps closer then. But if I look at today I see there is actually more love, commitment and effort being made for each other than ever before. I guess it’s a bit like cycling: family requires strength, but it generates it too, and with that we become better and stronger.

Rob. I love you.

 Posted by at 9:13 pm
Feb 032015


Whilst this blog has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, it has everything to do with life or, more to the point, sleep – a fundamental requirement for life.

Sleep Paralysis – Anyone who has suffered from this will no doubt recognise what it is from the title, even if you never knew it has a specific medical name. For those lucky enough to have never experienced this terror, it’s basically a trapped state between dream and consciousness where the sleeper is still under muscle paralysis and vulnerable to their imagination, yet is also conscious but unable to wake up. 

I’ve suffered from these since I can remember. Whilst I know it’s to do with the brain lagging behind on releasing the muscles and imagination on waking, I have no idea what causes this to happen. Some research suggests it can be made worse by irregular sleep patterns or generally poor sleep. Personally, I’m guaranteed to get them if I fall asleep during the day, which fits with the irregular sleeping theory.

One of the most frightening things about them is that even if you do manage to escape one you can easily be dragged back in. Since you are actually physically paralysed, you are unable to call for help or move any limbs. The imagination remains intact though and can let you believe/experience that you ARE screaming, or awful things are happening to you or around you. When you allow fear and panic to creep in like this it is the most terrifying experience – you basically experience your worst nightmares in a conscious, yet paralysed state. Since they are unavoidable to sufferers, the only thing you CAN do is recognise the situation, try to stay calm and work on controlling your breath as distraction until it passes. After so many years of these this is only something I’ve managed to do more successfully now, and it’s been a difficult behaviour to re-learn. Some people may experience just one or two of these in a lifetime. Others, like myself, have them on a regular basis.

I dreaded sleep as a child and would try anything to stay awake. When I explained these dreams they weren’t taken seriously, or given the appreciation they deserved for how traumatic they are. I’ve rarely mentioned them to people as a teenager or adult, since it’s embarrassing to confess that I’m afraid of sleep – I’m afraid of the dark. Besides, they were dismissed as nonsense or ‘just dreams’ when I mentioned them as a child, or once questioned as if it could be an outer-body experience, which terrified me further.

Unfortunately I recognise the same behaviour in our daughter – a little girl who is outrageously courageous and literally afraid of nothing – yet is desperate to not fall asleep and exhibits the same panic and gasp of air sometimes when she awakes. I’ve always tried to put her hatred of sleep down to other things – typical behaviour of a baby? a toddler? a preschooler? But what if she is genuinely afraid of sleep like I was? I see her struggle to wake sometimes and I wonder if she is being dragged back into one of these terrors as happens to me. Other nights or mornings she wakes with a rambling panic, desperately needing to get to and protect her favourite cuddly toy. Of course I try not to put my own fears onto my child – this cannot be a common condition – but my word her behaviour seems too coincidental now. What if these sleep experiences could be genetic?

Over the years I’ve noticed they are made worse by the following things:
– being too hot during sleep
– dehydration
– sleeping during daylight
– high stress levels/insecurity

They are lessened when sleeping next to someone since you know they will be able to protect you if needed, and they would wake you if there really was a fire burning, obscure creatures in the room or someone attacking you, just for example. And, since you are conscious (as well as asleep) you do have awareness of them being there, even if you can’t notify them of your need to be woken up. I’m finding it very difficult to leave my daughters side because of this, because of a glimmer of hope that by being there I’m providing at least a tiny bit of reassurance if she is indeed suffering from this weird transition from sleep to wake. However, this is not a conventional family set-up, and we have another baby due in four months – I have no idea how this will be accommodated… perhaps we just need a room covered wall to wall with bed and bedding where we can all sleep and snuggle down comfortably together!


 Posted by at 11:30 am
Nov 292014


I took this photo on 30th September when visiting my mum in Gower. I’d just found out that I am pregnant again. It brought mixed emotions having wanted to extend our family for a long time, but to choose to do so would be a big risk for us financially… and generally. A baby puts a huge strain on energy levels as well as everything else. However, my broodiness often led me to tears and even to acting like a teenager within our marriage: “It’s not fair” I’d said to Rob. I felt we are good parents and as such deserved to have another child. I’d put a lot of pressure on Rob and he’d agreed, but after a couple of months of trying the doubt kicked in – ‘What if we can’t offer two kids as good a life as we can offer one? What if we’re just giving into my hormones rather than using common sense?’ and so we decided not to extend after all – a difficult decision based on appreciating what we’ve got rather than grieving for what we haven’t.

So, we’re not extending our family – we’d tested negative at the point of this decision – and yet here I am now with a positive pregnancy test in my hands. Is this really the case? After three positive tests I was so charged by adrenalin, by fear, I decided to run. Physically run. If I’d had my bike I would have chosen to ride. Mum – please look after Meg for an hour – I have to go somewhere! I pulled on my trainers and left the house. I didn’t even have to think about where to go, my feet just took me there effortlessly along the road and to the foot of Rhossili Downs. The views up there are amazing on a clear day like today. You can see the world from up there. Perhaps I’ll be able to see as far as the future?

At the top is a stone trig point. I have a good friend who loves to stand on these – it’s inspiring and I’ve always wanted to do it although always been too afraid when I get there. What if I wobble? Sometimes it’s so windy up there it’s hard to even keep walking, let alone stand high up on a tiny stone platform. This evening, however,  I was going to stand on it.

Pregnancy terrified me again. The tiredness. The sickness. Loosing my body. Perhaps loosing my hair again. To give up my cycling after a season of setting more PBs and another club record. To give up my Sunday date rides with Rob – our time together – how we fell in love. And beyond the pregnancy, how would Meg cope with a sibling? I was in fear overdrive. Where was the excitement? What about this magic that’s happened? What about this life growing inside me? The most natural and fulfilling experience we can have as a female human being. The incredible eternal bond it brings to a couple. Why was this going missed?

At the top of the hill I still felt like I hadn’t even drawn a breath, despite being at an altitude to be proud of. The highest point in Gower perhaps? Surely one of them. And there it is – my stone nemesis. The one which I always bottle it at. Not today. Not this evening. The wind was sensible, there is nothing to fear.


I climb on top and standing there (motionless as possible!) everything came into perspective. The view beyond this piece of rock is MASSIVE. The trig point itself is a tiny silhouette in front of a vast sandy beach with striking headland features at either end of it’s three mile stretch. From here people on the beach look like little lost ants. Beyond the sand is the beautiful reflective ocean which stretches on and on and on, with the now sinking sun about to meet it, broken only by the hazy strip of Pembrokeshire in the distance. It’s no wonder this scene  is so well photographed.

But what people don’t so often turn to see or photograph is the view in the opposite direction. This trig point offers a 360 degree view and the ‘lesser view’  has been lit up by the dropping amber sun. Miles on miles of low flowering heather have been given a golden halo of light. It’s breathtaking.

By this point I’ve forgotten I’m even stood on this silly bit of rock, just an extra 5ft in the air. I’m turning and turning to capture the entire view. I’m trying to photograph it on my phone but it’ll never do it justice. Experience counts for everything and right now here I am and it’s filling my heart.

And that’s exactly it. Here I am. We’re going to have another baby – should everything go well of course. I’m here. I’m ready to experience the miracle of pregnancy again, to grow and nurture another being. To let my body and my instinct take over. To be part of nature as intended and not only exist in the man made world that so easily consumes us.

Climbing down I feel ashamed of my initial fear. We can’t live in fear. I head back to my mum’s at a steady pace, aware my hour is almost up. I pack the pregnancy tests away carefully to show Rob when we get home. Cuddles for Meg. Cuddles for Mum. Life is a wonderful thing when we remember to experience what it’s truly about.

baby-2 baby-3 baby-5 baby-1

 Posted by at 11:56 am
Oct 172014

“Why do you build me up, Buttercup baby?
Just to let me down, and mess me around?
And then worst of all, you never call baby
When you say you will, but I love you still.
I need you more than anyone, darlin’
You know that I have from the start.
So build me up, Buttercup, don’t break my heart.”

I can’t get this shitty song out of my head. The writer in me wants to compare Buttercup to my race season so far; up and down with aggressive swings in luck, but still something I live for no matter how much I pretend I don’t. In reality I have a song invading my head and it’s been there for 14 hours. Get out and get your own room and leave me to suffer.

It seemed like a good idea at the time back in May trying to race the WEMBO worlds as best I could. At this stage I wasn’t too sure. Everything hurt. My arms, my legs, my face, my hair. I’d never ridden a course this hard and it was breaking me one minute at a time.

I’d given up on training 3 weeks before the WEMBO race. I was tired. The mental equivalent of cold soup. My body was as wasted as it was in the height of my racing career and it was starting to fight back. Then the excuse came along. A big crash out training one night. Knee too sore to pedal for a week, shoulder too bruised to ride a MTB at all. Part of me worried that I’d wasted all this time and couldn’t race. Part of me was happy that I could walk away with an excuse. Then I thought of Phil with his broken collar bone – I needed to man up. I just wasn’t certain I could face another abject failure after Bonty 24/12 this summer.

The normal face of a mechanic doing its duty.

The normal face of a mechanic doing its duty.

The time off my bike did give me a chance to get everything else in order for once. My bikes were stripped and rebuilt by Paul the head mechanic where I used to work in Edinburgh Bikes Manchester – who nicely lent me a gazebo and Paul for the race itself. It sounded like a good idea. What’s not to like – Fort William, some beers, bikes and tools. A perfect day out. I may have neglected to mention that it was in October, and would probably be cold. Scratch that, it would be cold. Although on race day there was little mechanic-ing to be done as the bikes ran smooth – having a dedicated mechanic and somewhere for him to hurl abuse from was helpful.

Uber pit crew master Sean Wratten

Uber pit crew master Sean Wratten

The pits were split with another two riders to make things easier; my team-mate Mark Goldie racing single speed, and Rich Rothwell racing elites. Huge thanks must go to Sean our team-mate and mechanic, and Pauline who will have to put up with being married to me in two weeks. Along with Paul these  two spent the day dressed head to toe in ski clothes and helping me do what I needed to do. People giving up their time is something that people forget about us “solo” riders – it’s never just us that suffers.

She who must be fed cake.

She who must be fed cake.

A quick recon of the course on the Friday showed a 13.4km lap with 450m of climbing and technical descents that suited me. This was not going to be a cake walk, but I felt like I could be competitive on the course. With a target of 20 laps I was aiming to climb higher than Everest from sea-level and a bit. Also, at that back of my head was a notion that I could trouble the podium.



Saturday morning saw the bikes get a final prep and wash all ready for the start. At 12 noon we all lined up and the race got underway with a fast paced climb up to the top of the World Cup XC trail before plummeting down into the woods below. A flat section along the river was the only respite before we climbed back up a, normally, red descent to the top of the Witches trail before dropping down into the pit area for the first lap.

The Bike Picture

The Bike Picture

And so it continued for 23hours and 15mins. Climb, descend, climb, descend. The racers priority was simple – ride bike and insert fuel. Try not to crash. The pit crew had a much different duty – fetching food and drinks, checking bikes and brakes every lap, checking lap times and rider positions, charging and replacing lights. Pit changes were there only interaction with me and they needed to be right each time.

View from the Pits

View from the Pits

With 13 hours of darkness the pit crew got little to no sleep, catching 20min cat naps when they could. Every time I came in they were there feeding me, then pushing me right back out again. Bar one bike swap to check everything was working I stayed on my race bike. Nothing went wrong and used only one set of brakepads somehow – Paul was at this stage accusing me of not braking at all.

The one bike change.

The one bike change.

As morning arrived, I’d ridden myself into a solid third place. Unless I blew up I was guaranteed a medal, but it would take the same to get a silver. The next 7 hours were weird. I lost the will to race. I just focused on riding my bike. Only if an orange jersey came past was I to do anything. It slowly dawned on me that I was already at my limit. If Tom could switch on, I was done.

Sunshine I love you.

Sunshine I love you.

Realising what was happening the crew were even more cautious with me and my bike – cleaning the drivetrain each lap and checking brake wear. Finally, 19 laps later, I crossed the line for the last time hearing I had an hour gap on Tom in 4th place and couldn’t be caught. I didn’t feel happy about this. I’d worked hard to try and get away from Tom but for some reason felt like I’d cheated. I know he’s faster than me on the downs and most of the ups – the first 6 hours showed this . But here I was, ahead of him and thinking of stopping. Broken, tired, and stinking I sat down in the red glow of the EBC tent and was handed a beer. This was the reason I’d made that gap – pit crew, not me. It felt odd.

Beer me.

Beer me.

Done. 3rd place in the 30-34 age group. Some more beer. The pits get packed around me and I mumble encouragements on how to do things. I wander over to Tom after he finishes and find him sat in a chair like a zombie, he’s wasted. I mildly wonder how I look. Jenn tells me I stink. She gets a hug for that.  A shower and few hours sleep in the Travellodge before I destroy a curry and several beers. We stand in the hotel before I get called up onto the podium – it feels wrong, I’ve not done this in a long time. The medal feels solid around my neck. I sit down and sip a beer debating Weaverville in 2015.  Why not?


I’ve a few thanks to give out:

Shona and Rich at Keep Pedalling Manchester without whom it would not have been possible to afford race food, kit and bike. Having a local bike shop that supports racers a the thing that keeps privateer cycle racing going – not on-line shops.

Ged and Alex at the Edinburgh Bike Co-Op for the loan of a gazebo for the day- my old employer, and friend/manager.

Sean at Berti Mafoons Bicycle Company for once again being the perfect pit manager/worrier/friend. Enjoy the bottle of whisky.

Pat and Pat at Ison Distribution for being willing to part with the Salsa Cycles Spearfish for a silly cheap amount that has served me well this season. I can not explain how good a bike this is.

Jenn, Steve Makin, Dave Serious, Andy, Phil, Jase and all the JMC crew, and anyone who put up with me hurting them while we “went for a ride” yes I was training. No I’m not stopping.

And finally Pauline – why you enjoy pitting for these things I’ll never know – I’m  just happy you do cause we’ll be doing them for a while more yet.

Aug 282014


The test of time.

What is time? – the number displayed on our watch? – or is it the process of growing or ageing? Why can’t we control it? Ask it to slow down a little, or perhaps fast forward through the hard bits.

Time doesn’t feel like it’s on my side any more. I wish I was in my mid-twenties again, rather than my early thirties. But not in order to go back to that period of my life – no way, I love life as it is now – I just want to be a bit more youthful. I know I’m still relatively young, but I don’t like the lines around my eyes, mouth and on my forehead. Or my collection of scars. Or my wonky broken collar bones. And I notice the enamel on my teeth isn’t as translucent as it used to be. But mostly I have days where I wish to have back my beautiful long wavy blonde hair – the ultimate expression of youth and vitality – rather than this very short crop which was initially to solve alopecia after Meg was born. Perhaps, for me, time is linked to vanity. I try not to care, but the mirror is a visual representation that certain phrases like ‘the World is your oyster’ aren’t going to be directed at me any more. I’m not a child of the future. I have my own ‘child of the future’ now. It’s true that we often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone.

So, now I actively look to appreciate what I do have NOW. And with diminishing youth I have gained knowledge. I’m not talking about academia …I’m referring to life knowledge: the stuff we could really do with being taught while we are much younger, but perhaps that isn’t possible while we are too busy on the ride, being cool and setting trends (or more likely desperately following them). It’s only once this has gone and we are willing to meet the process of acceptance and letting go, that we can begin to appreciate what is left. The fundamentals.

We have found love, and lost people we love. We have pushed through experiences that terrify us, and made it to the other side. We have learnt that forgiveness is better for everyone, rather than harbouring resentment. We have experienced that positive thought brings a positive life, although most people still wont allow themselves to believe this. The opposite is also true. We know that watching a beautiful sunset can envelope us in calm and peace, and how important it is to feel this. We discover that our own life isn’t the most important, and we would gladly lay it down in order to preserve that of a son or daughter, if only we could.

Sometimes I wish I had discovered more when I was younger, like how wonderful it is to be a mother, but perhaps I wasn’t ready then? Or, perhaps it’s the process of becoming a parent that has changed everything? Or maybe falling in love with a man who understands me has allowed me to become me, rather than forever wandering in the no-mans-land of my younger years. This man has totally supported me to achieve selfish goals like my racing (including all the training involved for this), because he knows the satisfaction this can bring to an individual, and how this can shape or release us.

What would have happened if I had discovered racing earlier? Would I have been disciplined enough to train every day? Would I have had the confidence to even enter a race and compete …to put myself out there for all to see?

I like to believe that I really could have gone somewhere as a cyclist, if only I’d discovered a higher level of riding earlier. But I’d also have needed the life learning that I have now. Tests and results show I have a natural ability, a genetic gift, and being female would have placed me in a very small pool of competitors eight years ago.

Things are changing fast now and, as a result of more women discovering performance on a bike, the female field is becoming more competitive. The standard is rising and exciting times are here for younger female athletes who have access to development programs. I hope in the near future we will see dominant teams like sky selecting a mixed team for the grand tours, utilising strong light women to lead riders up the mountains. I personally feel this would be a better direction for female cycling, rather than holding a repeat, less celebrated, race for the women. I don’t see why we can’t reach the necessary standard, especially in endurance type events where it’s been scientifically proven for women to have an advantage.

So, the test of time. What is time? Should we never look back? Should we plan for the future?

Time for me is simply a man-made tool which is used for control and measure. It can be an irritation which encourages us to always be in a rush or leave us open to be described as idle. It certainly removes our natural instinct to enjoy the now. I can’t help chasing time, there never feels like enough. I want more time to play with Meg, to enjoy with my husband, more time to be able to get my work done, or to tidy the house. I need more sleep – that needs time, but before I know it my alarm is sounding for me to get up. Even on the bike I’m chasing it to the line. A new record. It’s a love:hate relationship! With time I am loosing my youth, but in return I’m gaining so much more: love, family, acceptance, peace, fitness and experience. It seems like a trade worth making so maybe I should look forward to having that extra candle on my birthday cake. There is so much more to learn still.



 Posted by at 1:59 pm
Aug 232014


If my mum taught me anything it is to write lists. I even have lists which are simply a list of the lists I need to write, if you get what I mean?! Meal plan, shopping list, housework list, freelance work list, race calendar, etc. Without  lists I’m sure my brain would frazzle; they allow me to remove the nagg from my head and then I can get on with each job in a systematic order. Lists are also great for prioritisation of jobs.

I used to laugh at my mum for her list writing obsession. I’d get up in the morning to always see her ‘To Do’ list on the kitchen table, obviously scribbled down late the night before, probably so she could remove the nagg of these jobs and get some sleep.

I understand now.

It’s not easy to be a full time mum, a part time freelance designer and an athlete. All these things require total commitment and they each need to have specific time allocated. And not to forget trying to feed our family only from home-cooked wholesome food, which requires a surprising amount of planning time as well as cooking and cleaning up every day. It’s not easy, but it is possible …with the help of lists.

We never used to live like this. I remember always thinking that I was busy. I’d sometimes miss training ‘because I felt a bit tired’. We’d have a pile of dishes still to be done ‘because there wasn’t time’. If I take an honest look back I’m horrified by the amount of time that was wasted on faff. Faffing in the bathroom. Faffing trying on different clothes. Faffing with makeup. I’m sure any mum with young children will tell you that just getting on some clean clothes in the morning (for yourself and child) is a major bonus. No chance of wondering if they look good or even go well together!

Now it’s like every second counts. My training is my Meg-free time, where I get to pass over the baton of responsibility to Dad, and loose my mind into turning pedals. It’s as if my brain unwinds with each rotation. I get to look inwards at what my body is doing, as well as outwards at our beautiful Somerset countryside. Deep inhale. Full lungs. Chest stretched. Muscles activated. Beating heart. Outside I’m watching for debris, potholes, traffic, as well as beautiful skies, racing wildlife and changing seasons. I’m listening to the wind through my wheels and the constant rotation of the hard working chain. I feel both peace and exertion. My mind is blank and only on the now. There are no lists while I ride …unless, of course, it’s a list of QOMs to go for today  ;)


 Posted by at 4:45 pm
Aug 032014

It seems like a long time since I did anything good on a bike. This year I decided to complete something that’s been in consideration for ages. Ever since I met an old-time TT racer named Terry Thomas back in 2009. He was a bit of a crazy guy (sadly he passed away in 2010) but he inspired me a lot to ride my bike, and in particular to get fit again and win several big mountain bike races in 2010. So I wanted to do something in memory of Terry, and it seemed fitting to look at the time trials of his day – the place-to-place time trials from that era of our UK racing history. I needed this ride for my own soul, and I wanted to do this for Terry, and the inspiration he shared, thanks old friend…

About to Start - Photo by Oliver Herdsman

The roads are almost empty, and the sun is up, but the air is still cool to the skin. I’m zipping through the outskirts of Yeovil on fresh legs, enjoying the early start, when it hits me: I’m riding Around Somerset! Oh Boy! But it’s far too late to be nervous and there’s no time to stop, the clock was started and all I have now is the task ahead: to finish the course.

Heading for Wincanton - Photo by Oliver Herdsman

All of my prep had been sudden. Thorough, in the form of bike and kit, but left to the last moment by design. I’d bailed out of this ride once already, last year before I’d even pushed the first pedal, so this time around I hadn’t even given myself the chance to think about it. After 5 months, during which I’d been completely off the bike, I climbed back on in early December with just one goal: get riding.


Then gradually the miles built, and everything else steadily followed. By March I was back to riding 250 mile weeks, I’d lost a bit of weight, my legs felt OK, my legs had stopped burning on every climb, and I started to think that maybe I should resurrect my goal of riding Around Somerset against the clock?

Heading for Frome - Photo by Oliver Herdsman

So I started endurance mountain bike racing again! nothing like a little but of something else for taking your mind from the inevitable. And that’s what riding a long distance is for me, it’s all about blocking my mind from the fear, the unknown (or the known = it’ll hurt) and then focusing purely on the task. I left my request to go for the record until the last possible moment, whilst slowly prepping all my kit for something I told myself I probably wouldn’t do. I helped load the van, we drove to the start, Phil the timekeeper counted me down. Simple.


So I’m riding out of Yeovil with fresh legs, on a cool early breeze, thinking nothing of it. Keeping my head down and turning the pedals as smoothly and as powerfully as I can, without doing anything I think I may not be able to repeat for another 12 to 13 hours. I had no planned stops, no planned rests, very simple food hand-ups and no distractions other than the road.


My pacing strategy was simple: I’d be riding to feel with an average speed goal of 19mph for the first hundred miles, but only if my legs felt good enough to hold it. Then after that first hundred I know the real race starts, and I’d better not be done when I get that far, because I’m done for if I am! I always slow down, it’s inevitable when you don’t stop for breakfast, lunch, or tea, and bits of your body start to hurt from the effort, the pressure or from abrasion. It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll not stop at all and you’ll keep the hammer down, but when you’ve worn a few holes in yourself? Well, I can tell you that just sitting on the saddle becomes monumentally painful! So 19mph first half and then maybe 17mph for the second? I’d done the training so there was nothing left to do but put it to the test and find out.


The checkpoints came ahead of time and I kept my mind purely on the task. No doubts allowed, no creeping worry, just task: pedal, climb, descend, corner, drink, eat, think ahead to the next junction. I’d memorised the entire route so any distraction I may have had from a map or a GPS screen was removed from the equation. I still took my gps: I wanted the stats, but keeping my eyes on the road would allow for a safer and faster ride once I got tired and my brain began to lose the plot. I drank one 750ml bottle of energy drink per hour, and one gel per hour. The odd sandwich or bar was only by request if my stomach felt empty. The miles rolled by and it seemed pretty good, even the pain: left shoulder at 50 miles seems about right, lower back at 80, ball of left foot at 95…


And then I was there with that first one hundred miles in the bag in just a bit over five hours and now?… it all begins; this is where I make it, or it breaks me! This is where the other two thirds of the climbing begins, where all the steep gradients make their appearance, where hurt takes over, where mind either bends or breaks. But I’ve already decided: I’M NOT GOING TO CRACK TODAY, I’m going to just crack on, unrelenting, unstoppable, even if I slow: pedal, climb, descend, corner, drink, eat, think ahead to the next junction.


Every single section of the second half becomes a love-hate affair. If I’m tucked on the flat then I’m looking forward to the climb so I can get myself up off this saddle and straighten my back. If I’m on a climb I’m gritted teeth looking for the top and some flat for respite. I’m dodging cramp on every other pedal revolution for the final 50 miles, I’m turning inside out, I feel dizzy, sick, slightly spaced-out. BUT, I’ve been here before, I crack on.


Then suddenly I’m climbing up towards the Holy Tree, the sign says Stoke-sub-Hamdon, I flip the screen on my garmin: the ride time says “game on” and then nothing left to give, becomes no time to waste; I’m on the gas like I’m racing a ten! Flat out to town, I’m totally autopilot, racing mode, I’ve done this a thousand times before. I finish as fast as I can, and even when I cross the line and the clock stops my lungs keep going and cannot be stopped. I stand there, in a whirl of emotion, surrounded by friends and family, just marvelling at the rate my heart is beating in my chest.

After the finish - Photo by John Loasby (Large)

I grip the bars to my helmet, my heart starts to slow and the past 10 hours and 48 minutes are now allowed to melt into my subconscious. I keep my eyes closed for just a few more moments, and savour the taste: I did it, I rode Around Somerset. I feel supremely strong, yet completely exhausted, all at the same time. WOW! it feels good, so good, one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever known: knowing you did what you set out to do, not knowing if you could.

Many thanks to my on-the-road support crew: Simon Beard and John Loasby, YCC Time Keeper: Phil Clements. Paul at Rock & Road for the loan of his van, Dave Notley, Dave Driver and Martin Wills from Yeovil CC for their behind-the-scenes support, my wife Jen for all her love and support that made this possible, and last, but not least, Terry Thomas for the inspiration, thanks.

The New Around Somerset Route

The official time splits:
Yeovil (start)
0:49:46 – Wincanton
1:38:06 – Frome
2:06:48 – Radstock
3:03:07 – Bristol Airport
3:31:31 – Clevedon
4:18:04 – Weston super Mare
5:06:32 – Bridgwater
6:32:27 – Dunster
7:33:31 – Dulverton
8:22:28 – Wiveliscombe
8:45:24 – Wellington
9:49:54 – Chard
10:48:15 – Yeovil (finish)

Distance: 193 miles

Elevation gain: 11,975 feet

Previous Record: 10:49:19 (Brian Rice, 1961)

My stats:
Normalised: 205 watts
Max: 780 watts
TSS: 476
Zone 1/Active Recovery: 3:26:12
Zone 2/Endurance: 4:15:55
Zone 3/Tempo: 2:11:41
Zone 4/Threshold: 38:56
Zone 5/Vo2Max: 9:13
Zone 6/Anaerobic: 4:59
Zone 7/Neuromuscular: 1:15

Heart Rate:
Avg: 137bpm
Max: 166bpm

 Posted by at 9:34 pm
Aug 012014

Start Line Waffle

So, it turns out that if you tell all your coached athletes not to get sunstroke in a weekly email – it nearly happens to you at your next race. Whooda thunk it?

When the thermometer on your Garmin reads 30 degrees, your heart rate is stuck at 130bpm at rest, and you can’t get it higher than 145 during what feels like maximal exercise…there is a good reason to stop. Not having pee’d for 7 hours, and having stopped sweating many, many hours ago despite pounding back the fluids should have been a sign, but being the fool I am I tried to push on – ignored my own words – and suffered a real China Syndrome. What a plonker.


Sitting in the shade of the pit cramping all I could think about was my own words – watch out in the heat, it will get you – and it did. Lesson learnt, I can’t race as I used to when I was young, my thermodynamics have changed, or it’s just wasn’t that hot in the old days

Dusty trails

So what can you take from it? Well not much other than words of warning – if it looks like its going wrong on your heart rate monitor or power meter, and you feel like it’s going wrong, and people are telling you it’s going wrong: Don’t ignore it. It’s better to fail today, than spend tomorrow on a drip, or in hospital. Safety first.

On the plus side, 7 hrs – 9 laps – an ace course of perfect dry trails – and I still finished 60th somehow…nuts.

As ever thanks to the folks at Keep Pedalling for my bike and bits, thanks to Sean, Oli, Jen, Rob and “Cider hands” Claude for pitting and putting up with me. Hopefully something better will come at the worlds which can’t help but be cool.

Jul 282014

Mark Goldie

Ever since I became a mid-life crisis endurance cyclist, I’ve held the South Downs Double (SDD)  in mind as one ride I knew I’d have to one day attempt.  It’s a special ride for UK cyclists, perhaps because it’s quite possibly the original UK long distance off-road time trial.  Over the years, as numerous other routes have appeared (see, the SDD has remained a must-do for endurance riders.  Part of the attraction is its simplicity – ride 200 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne and back – following an established route & making use of public drinking water taps along the way.  Just you, your bike, and the hills.  Make it back in under 24 hours and you join the South Downs Double “Hall of Fame”.

Look deeper and you see the small print: in excess of 20,000 feet of climbing – not long gradual climbs, but mostly the long steep granny gear sort.  The route is mostly quite exposed, leaving you open to a battering from the wind in one direction or another, and offering little in the way of shelter from the summer sun.  It’s also best to avoid the South Downs Way when it’s wet – chalk, flint and rain make for a nasty combination.  Whilst researching the route, I came across a statistic suggesting that only 30% of people attempting the Double manage to finish…and only a handful within my optimistic goal of 20 hours.

Ready to go

Ready to go

It’s Wednesday 16th July 2014 and I’m standing under the King Alfred statue in Winchester, the traditional start/finish point of the South Downs Double.  It’s around 6pm and the warm evening sun is shining.  As ever, my lovely wife, Ceci, is here to support me with pre-and post-ride logistics and to send out updates to family and friends as the ride progresses.  We’ve just ridden the first couple of miles of the route out & back together so I can learn the start as it leaves Old Winchester (I’ve been warned it could be a bit confusing – it was).  Part of me just wants to forget about the Double and go for a nice bike ride with Ceci in the evening sunshine, but there’ll be lots of time for that later.  Bike’s looking good. I’m feeling ok.  It’s time to get on with it.  My South Downs Double attempt starts at 6:14pm.

Within a couple of miles of dodging traffic out through Old Winchester you’ve reached the countryside, where you’ll remain for most the route.  The SDW starts you off fairly gently, allowing a nice warm-up of the legs.  Although I’m not familiar with the route, I’ve read and seen enough to know that you need to take advantage of these early miles.  Of course I have to be careful not to start off too quickly, but the lack of major climbs means the first 20 miles go by quickly in 1 hr 34 mins.   At mile 21 comes Butser Hill, in this direction a descent.  Two thoughts go through my mind as I plummet down the 350ft grassy slope at 35mph:  “Wooohoooo!” and ” this is NOT going to be fun to climb up after 180 miles!”

The Butser descent leads straight into Queen Elizabeth Country Park, where I lose my first minute or two to navigation blunders.  There are points on the route where the classic SDW I am following deviates from the signposts.  Here I end up messing around amongst the trees when I should just follow the paved road through the park and out the other side.  No great harm done, but I’m already cursing my lack of route familiarity compared to many previous Doublers.  Once through the park, it’s a swift 15 miles to the first tap at Cocking Hill Barn, 36 miles in and 9:16pm.  This is the first official tap on the route and also the only one that I had previous experience of – in 2010 I rode a short stretch of the SDW with some friends before bivying just off the route & returning the next day.  I quickly fill my bottles (710ml and 610ml Camelbak Podiums), thumb a quick text to Ceci so she can send out an update to friends & family, and I’m back on my way.  Now, in order to get under my 20 hour target, I’m aiming for at least 10mph average over the ride.   I’m feeling pretty good at this point and averaging just under 13mph, but of course well aware that this is the easiest stretch of the ride by some margin and that average will only decrease as the hills get bigger and my legs get tired.

The sunlight is starting to fade and I find myself needing to switch on my lights at 9:30pm as visibility in the woods is getting a bit sketchy.  I nearly borrowed a friend’s Exposure Diablo for this ride, but in the end decided to stick with my tried & tested Maxx-D on the bars.  The Diablo would have saved me a chunk of weight, but even with a fairly short period of darkness on the cards I just love that I don’t have to worry about the run time on my lights.  As I have done on previous long rides, I set the Maxx-D to medium and there it stays for the next seven hours or so, supplemented by a helmet-mounted Exposure Joystick when I need it.

10:28pm and I reach 50 miles, 4 hrs 15 mins ride time.  I send a quick update text and pedal onwards.  I’m approaching Washington where – according to my notes – there is a public tap.  My bottles aren’t yet completely empty but to be safe I’d like to refill here.  I slow down and shine my head torch left and right, left and right, peering into the darkness for some sign of a tap.  I know it’s here somewhere, my map says so.  Oh well, my map also says there’s another tap seven miles ahead at Botolphs, I’ve wasted enough time here so I crack on.

Now, I don’t recall exactly what time it was, but at some point during the night the most beautiful moon I’ve ever seen rises in front of me.  Huge, bright and red, it really takes my breath away and I wish Ceci was here to share it with me.  I always enjoy riding through the night…it’s as if you have the world to yourself , and I’m feeling privileged to be out here.  No matter the enormity of the task, it boils down to simply a whole load of time doing what I love, riding my bike through the countryside.

59 miles in and I’m looking for the Botolphs tap.  I waste some more time backtracking, fearing I passed it.  Can’t find it.  This could be awkward, I really need this fill-up.  Eventually I find it about 100 metres further down the trail.  Phew!  Bottles filled, onwards, but with more time wasted.

By this point I’m feeling that my legs aren’t quite as happy as I’d like.  My preparation for this ride maybe wasn’t as thorough as it could have been, but my legs shouldn’t be feeling this heavy so soon.  Oh well, plod along and see how it goes.  As expected, the closer I get to Eastbourne, the bigger and steeper the hills are. I’m clearly slowing down, but not yet too worried as this is to be expected – the 40 miles or so towards Eastbourne were always going to be tough work.

The South Downs Double - Profile

The South Downs Double – Tracklogs Profile

A super quick stop at Housedean (74 miles) to top up the bottles should keep me going to Jevington church (93 miles).  I’m not a religious man, but I do appreciate how reliable churches can be for water stops – top tip if you’re in unfamiliar territory and in need of a refill – head for the local church (also handily marked on your OS map)!

At around 3:30am I make it to the end of the South Downs Way… without actually knowing it.  It’s still dark and I’m tearing down a grassy hill when my GPS bleeps “off course” at me.  I stop, pull up the map and try to work out where I went wrong.  Oh, I’ve just gone past the end. Well, that was anti-climactic!  Other than my GPS track, the only hint that I’ve reached Eastbourne is the slight whiff of sea air and the sound of a seagull.  I check my watch…9 hours 13 minutes.  Not too bad, but I have a feeling I’ll be considerably slower on the way back.  I plonk the bike on the ground for a couple of minutes, have a quick stretch, mix up a Rego recovery drink and, as promised, leave a voicemail for Ceci with details of my one-way time and how I’m feeling.

The next two hours are the hardest of the ride.  Hauling myself back over those big, steep hills is slowing me down.  I’m starting to suspect that the home-made rice cakes I’ve been mostly using for fuel are just not giving me enough of a kick for the intensity of this ride.  I’d used them in training for a while with success, enjoying the lack of blood sugar rollercoasting, but none of my training rides demanded the frequent and sustained high intensity efforts that really can’t be avoided on a singlespeed bike along the South Downs Way.  Fortunately, I’ve also brought a good mix of Torq bars, High5 Energy bars and SiS gels, so I decide to switch to higher sugar content fuel and this helps me enormously for the rest of the ride.  That first High5 Coconut bar tastes so good!  Clearly my body was screaming for easier to digest fuel.

The sun rises by about 04:30. Finally I have a sea view, albeit behind me.  At one point I actually stop to admire the stunning view.  From high up on the ridge I can see pockets of mist down below, the tops of buildings poking through here and there.  This is what it’s all about, I think to myself.  The night so far had remained fairly mild, adequately dealt with by my lightweight gilet.  At this point of the early morning though, those misty valleys are cold, requiring arm warmers and some fast pedalling to prevent the cold creeping in.  But it’s not long before the sun is feeling warm on my back, and the early morning dew on the grass that sprays into my face on fast descents becomes quite refreshing.

It’s clear this is going to be a hot day.  I’m passing Housedean Farm at around 6:30am, with about 73 miles remaining, and the sun is already hot on my back. I’ve lost a bit more time since the turn, and I know that my super-stretch goal of beating Rob Dean’s incredible 18hrs 41min singlespeed record will have to wait for another day.

A sight for sore eyes (and legs) appears over Ditchling Beacon at 7:05am.  I’d recognise that Cal jersey anywhere…that’s Ceci riding towards me!  We ride together for ten minutes, mindful that this is an unsupported ride so no drafting and no help with the gates.  Oh yes, the gates….this is the SDW, so of course there are lots of them.  200 over the double apparently.  To be honest though, they really don’t seem to irritate me as much as the gates along the Pennine Bridleway did on my end to end ride last year.  I think perhaps the SDW gates are spaced a little more evenly so you can generally get a decent run in between them.

I've just disappeared down that way

I’ve just disappeared down that way

Ceci & I part ways before the descent into Pyecombe.  I’m starting to feel a bit stronger now.  The fuelling change is making a difference, and it helps to know that most of nastiest hills around Eastbourne are behind me.  Of course, the climbs keep on coming, but I’m finally getting that “diesel power” feeling – where you feel that you can ride forever – albeit without the bursts of high power that leave the legs during a long ride like this.

9:04am and I pass through Washington.  Naturally, that flippin’ tap I failed to find in the dark is blatantly conspicuous right on the side of the road.  This time I don’t need it as I’ve already refilled bottles and poured cold water over my head at Botolphs a few miles back.  (Although despite soaking my buff and jersey, within minutes it had already dried up.)  This hot day was still going to get a lot hotter!

Pushing on

Pushing on

I continue to push on, spinning well on the (occasional!) flats, making slow but stubborn progress on the more gentle hills, and pushing up the steepest.  I’m happy to reach the Cocking Hill Barn tap at 10:50am.  Mentally, this is an important milestone as it’s the final refill of the ride and I know the easier stretch towards Winchester is coming.  I’m now thinking that a sub 20 hour finish is looking tight, but certainly somewhere between 20 and 21 hours should be realistic.  The climb up Cocking Down has other ideas.  It’s only a 400ft elevation gain, far less than many on the route, but with an 8% grade at this point in the ride my legs are not enjoying this hill.  Eventually I decide discretion to be the better part of valour and I get off and push.   I’m riding well in between the climbs, but I also opt to walk part of the climb before the descent into Queen Elizabeth Park.  Of course, us singlespeeders really have two gears: one – walking, and two – pedalling.  Often first gear is not much slower than second and – particularly in the context of steep hills – prudent use of first gear is useful to protect legs from blowing up.

Butser Hill was fun on the way down yesterday.  It would clearly be a hot, sweaty first gear climb today.  By a stroke of luck, Ceci drives around the corner honking the horn at me just as I cross the road towards the bottom of Butser.  We say a quick hello and I explain that I’m now aiming at somewhere between 20 and 21 hours, particularly with this Butser push ahead of me.  I make a half-hearted attempt to ride a bit of the long grassy climb, but it soon ramps up and I admit inevitable defeat, step off the bike and begin to walk.   Around 100 metres or so from the top, I can see someone with a camera pointed in my direction.  I figure it must be Neil Newell (ex-SDD singlespeed record holder) who had suggested he might try & meet me somewhere out on the trail.  I’m happy to see Neil, but I’m damned if the only picture of me on this ride will be whilst I’m in singlespeed first gear – walking.  Giving in to pride, I swing my leg over the bike, clip into the right pedal and push off up the hill towards Neil.  I manage to wobble my way past him, say a quick hello and continue onwards, gaining some relief from the knowledge that there are only 20 miles and 1500 feet of climbing between me and the finish.

Butser Hill

Butser Hill

I had resigned myself to missing out on a sub 20 hour finish, but I now look at my watch, do some rough calculations in my head, and realise that actually it might still be do-able.  I reckon if I can achieve at least 14 mph average over the last 20 miles then it’s still on.  To do this on a singlespeed after 180 miles of hills is not going to be easy.  After all, that’s just about the average speed I’ll achieve on a particularly fast 30 mile training ride in the Chilterns.  However, I’m feeling good away from the steep climbs and it has to be worth a try.  I suppose adrenaline kicks in near the end of a big ride like this, but I find myself spinning as hard & fast as I do on those local, short training rides.  I’m helped by a few fast descents, whilst constantly glancing at the speed readout on my Garmin and feeling encouraged whenever it’s above 14mph.  I’m pushing hard on the flats, and for the first time in the ride getting as aero as possible on the descents.  Somewhere along this stretch I see Neil again (with his camera).  This time I fly past him and yell “Sub-20 hours could still be on!”.

"Sub-20 hours could still be on!"

“Sub-20 hours could still be on!”

By the time I’m climbing up to Telegraph Hill, I know I’ve made it.  Less than five miles remain, all easy or downhill, and I have about 30 minutes in hand.  I have a smile on my face for those final few miles.  I’m still pedalling hard, wanting the best time possible, but allowing myself to feel the satisfaction of a job well done.  I spin down through Old Winchester, left on the roundabout and straight ahead of  me King Alfred is waiting along with Ceci and Neil.  Ceci stops her watch timer… 19 hours, 47 minutes, 39 seconds.  I feel pretty satisfied with that as it puts me in the top 5 all-time SDD results.

19 hrs 47 mins 39 secs

19 hrs 47 mins 39 secs

Needless to say, I owe a huge thanks to Ceci for all the support before & after the ride, and for tirelessly keeping friends and family updated on my progress.  She’s a total godsend whenever I do silly things like this.

Thanks also to Neil for the pre-ride route assistance and giving up his time to meet me out on the trail and at the finish.  Thanks to Roger for the loan of his GPS, Matt for the offer of a Diablo (and a GPS!), and Rob Lee & Chris Noble for some useful tips before the ride.

traditional A4 paper at end of SDD pic

traditional A4 paper at end of SDD pic

A few words about the bike.  I generally ride a custom Singular Pegasus, but my wife’s been enjoying it a little too much lately :-) so this time I was on my Salsa Selma 29er, which is also a fantastic race bike.  The main triangle is Scandium, with a carbon rear end for comfort.  I opted to keep my preferred rigid Niner forks on the front for this ride as I wanted the bike to be as light as possible for all the climbs.  I knew I’d lose a little time on the descents over a suspension fork, but I planned on picking careful lines anyway in order to avoid the dreaded flint punctures that the SDW is famous for.  Amazingly, I didn’t suffer any punctures, I’m sure partly due to luck, but also perhaps because I’m accustomed to riding on the Chiltern hills where flint is a constant threat…therefore careful line choice is second nature for me.  For tyre geeks, the rear is a Continental Race King ProTection 2.2.  I really like this tyre on bumpy trails as it has a stiff carcass so I can run low pressure for comfort and speed whilst having a fighting chance at avoiding damaging the rim.  Front tyre is a Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskin.  I’ve sliced a few of these in the Chilterns, but nevertheless they do seem to hold up better than most, and roll super fast with a reasonable level of grip considering it’s a race tyre.  The Snakeskin sidewalls are essential and only carry a modest weight penalty.

Salsa Selma Singlespeed (33-20)

Salsa Selma Singlespeed (33-20)

I usually run either 32-18 or 33-19 gearing for most rides.  In this case I opted to put an easier 20 on the back, paired with a recent find  – a Goldtec OneKey oval chainring.  The latter has been a revelation for me, really doing a great job of eliminating the dead spot in the pedal stroke.  I like it so much I’ve placed an order for five of them!

That's about all the strength I had left

That’s about all the strength I had left

And finally, Ceci makes it all worthwhile with some fantastic American home-made brownies and a cold beer… :-)

Victory brownie :-)

Victory brownie :-)