At last. A true “journey”.

After many months of riding from a place, to a point, and then back again (and not dropping a ring in a volcano in-between either), yesterday I finally did a proper journey.

I rode along the 5 weirs from Sheffield to Rotherham (via Hotel Chocolat of course!).

The start of my journey was Sheffield Cathedral. It’s an interesting building with a really beautiful church in there somewhere and then an odd modern extension on one end.

Via Hotel Chocolat I rode down to the start of the five quotes weirs. Again I found what I have found in other towns. The cycle network is very fragmented and often gets you lost (I know my way around Sheffield very well, but had I tried to follow the signs it would have been a very different matter).

The start of the five weirs (part of national cycle route 6) is a really cool bridge running through one of the wicker arches. The coolest thing being the really funky percussive sound your wheels make on the flooring they’ve used.

This bit is very Dutch in how it is laid out. I could imagine something like this in the Netherlands.

I carried on down the Don Valley, only to be disappointed that a section is closed and the diversion takes us along a section of the main road and has no cycle lanes. See what I mean about fragmented? Even though there are signs indicating cycles. Grr!

I carried on, losing the temporary signs at one point and so just carried on the way I know best; eventually making it back into the route near Meadowhall.

The rest of the route to Rotherham is both well maintained and clearly marked. It’s also fairly flat so for the most part I just stuck with seventh gear, occasionally dropping into sixth for the gentle hills. I have to say though that the first bit of the journey was very enjoyable. The middle bit was terrible (due to the closed sections) but once I reached Meadowhall it was a great ride and very picturesque.

Anyway here’s my map on Strava. I honestly can’t believe I’m actually doing these sorts of distances now. As kids we used to ride loads but never this sort of distance – but then we were on BMX bikes.

Another fitness post…

This week I crossed the 100kg boundary in the right direction (down). Now I’m aware how weight works and how a few hours later I could be back up at 101kg, but it was a delight to see the scales lose a digit.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been collecting together both my old and a little new camping gear, and I’ve started riding the cycle with a load on the rear rack to get me used to the feel of the extra weight.

Today I finally went out for the first time fully laden. The top bag on my panniers had two fire alarm batteries in to simulate the weight of my food and clothing. The total load is now just under 22kg:

The main items are listed below.

  • Zelter Shelter 1.2kg
  • Sleeping bag 1.0kg
  • Mat 950g
  • Thermal undermat 600g
  • Stool 760g
  • Kelly Kettle and accessories 900g
  • Folding Curobot Stove 650g
  • Pocket Tarp 300g
  • Pans, cutlery etc. 1kg
  • Panniers 600g

The big win is the Zelter Shelter. It really is an absolute Jack of all trades; a Swiss army knife of a tent/tarp/poncho which means that along with a lightweight rain coat you’re covered for pretty much a huge storm as you can use it as a tarp, or a poncho if required and then convert it into a tent and spend the night if you need to.

I’ve not spent the night yet but I did stop in a nice bit of woodland just off the trail and make a cup of coffee. Even though I have the Kelly Kettle on this occasion I chose to break in the new Curobot Stove which unlike the Kelly Kettle which is very much a one trick pony but does it’s one trick phenomenally week, this stove has a decent size burning pan to actually keep a fire with some warmth for a few hours, and because it’s got an ash tray you can stop it choking up on the burnt material.

A little 8 mile hop.

I can’t believe how my stamina and fitness are improving. This little 8 mile ride would have killed me at one point but now I can do it on the DaHon without much concern.

I’ve even got myself a new bag for it – it’s meant to go under the saddle on the seat post, but for the DaHon it works well on the stiffener bar too.

I’ve also now got some decent lights. Only a cheap set from Amazon, but I’ve started venturing onto roads and even though it’s only for short periods I’m very aware how I can get totally missed when in the van, so I thought I’d make myself as visible as possible even in daylight. A bright flashing light is much less likely to get ignored as I’m approaching a junction, although I’m sure some of you cycling friends will tell me stories otherwise.

On a fitness note though, I’ve also noticed on my watch that my activity curve is shifting down – most of my riding is now in the aerobic section of my heart rate. Apparently this is good as it’s less dangerous as you get older – you shouldn’t push your body too far when you’re not at the peak of fitness. I’ve joined Strava to see if mutual exercise is for me – and I’m liking how it works because it just sends the stuff from my galaxy watch 3 to Strava. I can’t be faffed with extra apps.

100 miles in May?

The reason I added a question mark is because I think this will be a challenge for me – not just because of my fitness levels, but because of my time commitment – it takes me about an hour to do 7 miles at present, so that’s around a 15 hour commitment – however – I have started cycling to shops and am now planning to keep the folding bike easily accessible.

So this thing is for Prostate Cancer UK. It’s here: https://cyclethemonth.prostatecanceruk.org/fundraising/nomenloonys-100-miles-in-may-challenge so I’d appreciate a sponsorship if you can.

So far I’ve done just over 14 miles – all of it on the folding bike as I currently don’t have the mountain bike and as much as I love the BMX it really isn’t a distance bike as it has one speed.

So far so the rides have all been up the Manvers roads due to be being on a road bike at present. Wee Red can’t really cope with anything too arduous and Frankenbike is currently having a full new derailleur set fitted as the back one is really badly bent and keeps snapping mounting brackets.

I have to say though that I’m really enjoying riding Wee Red. There’s something really funky and quirky about it. The other half says I should ride it in a pinstripe suit in a Blott on the Landscape parody, although his folding bike looks like a Bickerton to me.

So I’m going to keep plodding on and trying to get myself to 100 miles; and I’m gonna look cool as fuck doing it!

Amazing weather we’ve been having!

We’re definitely having some amazing weather right now. Plenty of opportunity for some great bike rides.

Biking is one of the ways I’m improving my fitness. Considering how unfit I have actually been at some points in my life I’m determined now as I approach 50 to never let myself get like that again.

My uncle died in his 60’s of heart failure caused by a sedentary lifestyle and the inevitable morbid obesity caused by such life choices, and I carry a lot of his genetics.

It seems like such an easy option to lay on the sofa playing Nintendo!

To continue a theme.

The fitness kick continues. I’m now over 5 miles on a ride and unlike previous rides I’m now no longer finishing exhausted. It’s amazing how quick your fitness starts to return when you make the demand of your body.

My waist hasn’t shrunk much, but I’ve noticed that the wobbly leftover of my old fat days is no longer as wobbly and my flab on my thighs, similar. I can feel muscles developing all the time and the tone of my calves and thighs improving beyond belief.

Even my weighing scales agree…

A physical week at work also helped though… I’m on three installs at the moment!

So this was week’s Saturday jaunt. A 5 mile run along the Trans Pennine Trail. Not too challenging, however, the thing that can be observed is that my times spent in each exercise area are changing. I’m no longer seeing much in Maximum but I’m getting a nice balance of aerobic and anaerobic which is apparently as it should be for someone of my fitness level and age. Too much in anaerobic and maximum without developing your fitness first can stress the heart and lead to cardiac problems.

As you’ll see though, I’m looking a lot more svelte! These are a 36″ waist trousers and the top is an XL. I’m definitely out of the XXL and 40″ waist now.

Sunday

Today was a really odd day. We’d planned on a bike ride, just a short one as I’m still building my energy up. It was a rather muddy one – but I knew it would be and I did actually wear leather jeans! Great for wiping down after.

We didn’t do quite as far as last time, however, the ride was harder as there were more hills as is reflected in my heart rate and the number of calories burnt for a shorter run.

When we got back to the car I realised just how muddy it had been! Thankfully leather is wipe clean.

So we got home, cleaned up, and I then got into my comfy clothes for our first rehearsal over Jamulus with some of the fishes. We are songwriting and because of the current lockdown we can’t meet up so this is the best way. You can’t use a platform like WhatsApp or Teams because the lag is too high – around half a second.

It is ok once you get used to the slight delay. Sadly Bob couldn’t get his Mac to work correctly – something to do with his ASIO settings – so we’ve agreed to reconvene next week for a second attempt.

The day finished with me attempting to collect all my star fragments in Animal Crossing. We had a meteor shower last night in the game so I have fragments all over the beaches.

A bike!

So I started the week thinking I was getting chunky again. Not quite as bad as before, but the new scales made me realise just how inaccurate the old ones were; and boy were they bad.

As a scientist by training it’s always been within my mind that no equipment is good unless it is calibrated, and that calibration checked against a known good from time to time – so I am now weighing in on public scales as I can see the calibration labels on those and thus I’ll know if mine begin to fail again.

So, back to the bike. I decided I needed more exercise; and I needed both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. A bike delivers both of these to an extent and so I started making enquiries about exercise bikes. But then, I thought, exercise bikes are for the most part pointless and boring! It’s the same scenery all the time and unless you get a really expensive one they just simulate the same level of resistance.

Thus it was decided. I was going to get a real bike. But I always loved the simplicity of the BMX. No gears. A simple chain driven system. No fancy suspension. So I started looking around for BMX bikes.

Amazingly I discovered that they are now really popular! After virtually disappearing off the market 15 years ago they are now back in a big way and there were loads to choose from on Facebook Marketplace.

So I looked at sizes – a 6ft adult needs 20.5″ wheels and a 20 to 20.8″ crossbar for an optimum stunt performance whilst still being able to use the saddle if needed (not that you use the saddle much on a BMX).

I found this beauty.

20.5″ wheels and just over 20″ crossbar length. Not too far away either. So I went and collected it. I have to say I love the colour!

It’s official I now have a BMX! Last time I used a BMX was in about 1987 and it was my Diamond Back Silver Streak 2.

Yesterday we went out with them for the first time. I was reminded again that I’m not actually 16 as I finished off pretty much exhausted! But that’ll change. A gentle start to a regular exercise regime and I’ll soon start rebuilding my muscle structure.

Then again it was a -3°C day and with the wind it felt like -8°C! Definitely hard work there.

Today is Valentine’s Day. We’re going to have another short ride today. A couple of miles. Nothing too strenuous or hilly. Think of this as my couch to 10K…

I’m now looking at other exercises I can do to improve my muscle tone. I don’t want to be a beefcake; but a six pack would be lovely.