Men of Kent pull an all-nighter (Permanent Brevet Randonneur 300)


A handful of receipts to be stapled together and posted with a card to a man I have never met. That is the goal. And it is a good one.

Don Quixote – Sancho Panza – Rosinante

Offshore wind farms in the distance make me ponder a future without fossil fuels: throughout the night I am haunted by Mad Max visions of a post-petrol world, the lack of traffic signalling a world dominated by pedal power and wind.

Rain in a park

In a park, on a path, as the rain steadily turns from annoyance into a heavy and unwelcome presence. The riding becomes dirty and sightless. All I can see is reflections from the water droplets on my glasses.

George, embedded in the Ashford peloton, deep in conversation as Gavin and I drift on and off the back, enjoying the stimulation but unsure of the pace.

A Thousand Plateaus

After the rain and the joy of an increasingly dry early morning, the gaps in our trio increase. We ride as increasingly silent and isolated units, becoming social only at the controls, but even here it is a grim task eating and drinking.



The volume and diversity of bird song after the deluge, even before the sky changed from black to blue is an assault on my ears. A seagull tells me we are close to the coast again, but I rarely see the sea.


Only Garmin could manufacture a device which guides you perfectly along a route until an unpredictable moment where it ceases to do so. It is like a map for spies, designed to destroy itself before capture.


Early on: a hill. Heart rate reaches 159 never to return. Later undulations register only as minor annoyances, slowing me down but making little impact on my increasingly depressed heart.

Route 2

The joyless disappointment of the National Cycle Network – it is telling that the worst part of the route is dedicated to bicycles: what a sign of British failure.

Mambo Italiano/Mama Mia

Before. Renato Carasone. A Peroni. Ham, rocket and buffalo mozzarella. Chicken Risotto…

No particular order/moment form/mobile/Stockhausen

After. It always comes back to me like a Stockhausen piece. In this case a mixture of Goldstaub and Sternklang. And maybe a bit of Stimmung.

And if you want to ride it:

Gavin’s post about it here

My own Angliru: Cobo gearing

campagnolo centaur 12-30 cassetteWhen Campagnolo decided to market a 12-30 Centaur cassette it was so beyond the normal boundaries it barely fitted the box (designed for at maximum, a 13-29). I had such a torrid time in the last section of the Mills Hills sportive that I decided to down-gear to match some of the rather challenging hills close to my home in West Yorkshire. In particular, my nemesis: two sections of up to about 20%, and a final 10% section; about 8.5km of ascent, with two flattish sections to recover.

The winner of the Vuelta in 2011, Cobo, used a similar set-up to conquer the Angliru, famously beating Froome and Wiggins, the latter looking horrendously overgeared.  Large cassette, compact up front = not getting bogged down at the end of a long stage when the gradient gets insane.

My second attempt on this climb was after a rather less intense preamble.

I had ridden for less than two hours when I hit the bottom, and managed to ride the whole ascent, stopping to take some pictures after the second steep section. I was treated to some typical Pennine views, which I appreciated far better now I wasn’t wearing out my cleats.

Mills Hills Sportive: at last I enter an event (and finish too)

Pie and peas with gravyOver the last few years I have been failing to achieve even the modest riding objectives I aspire to. Despite the improved quality and quantity of my ‘training’ I haven’t completed a single organised ride; more accurately I haven’t started any. I entered two audaxes this year, and failed to start either, and this weekend was nearly the same old story of goals thwarted by circumstances or psychological self-sabotage. Instead I managed to enter, start and complete one of the toughest northern sportives (my first), overcoming pain and temptation along the route. Continue reading

Audax fail: but fog + hills = fun


Failed to start the Eureka 210 today due to a sick primo: couldn’t justify being away for nearly 24 hours when he was so ill (was planning to stay near the start last night). However, did manage to get out today. 55 km, lots of hills, and about 45 minutes trying to pump up a tire with a defective mini-pump. Very foggy today, high winds too: good training!

Over Saddleworth and back by spandelles at Garmin Connect – Details.

Bicycle racing, doping and crucifixion: Alfred Jarry revisited

The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race

When Alfred Jarry wrote his interpretation of Jesus’ crucifixion it must have seemed a neat metaphor: the self-imposed yet stage-managed torture of the hill-climb is an apposite image to evoke self-sacrifice. Jarry also accentuates the technical and media-saturated aspect of this crucifixion: the crown of thorns becomes an advert for a puncture proof tire.

Of course, what with Lady Gaga, Madonna and Lloyd-Webber, the representation and artistic co-option of religious themes has become so commonplace as to evoke ennui; although of course some can still get overheated by a Piss Christ or Jerry Springer the Opera. As the juggernaut reaches ever closer to Armstrong and his cohorts and facilitators we seem to desire a quasi-religious cleansing (or stoning). Jarry’s essay serves to remind us that we should recognise the absurdity of such reactions, their atavism. Cheats and dopers deserve to be punished. But we deserve the same (oh, yes) if we don’t recognise our own complicity in this spectacle of the absurd.

For an antidote visit the wonderful world of Rainer Ganahl, such as this gem of mountain performance (with cowbells): The Passion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race or I wanna be Alfred Jarry, 1903 / 2011 or if you don’t have 16 minutes, ALFRED JARRY’S CALL OF NATURE.

Commuting = Training?

As readers of this blog will know I have a slightly complex relationship with cycling. I do, like many non-racing cyclists, have an interest in maintaining and improving my cycling-specific fitness, and like many regard my riding as ‘training’, although given my lack of engagement with randonneuring at present, I am not quite sure what I am training for…

Continue reading

In praise of Altigraph

Altigraph, a name that still makes my hairs stand on end.

la Berarde – col de Spandelles – Grand Ballon – col de la Schlucht

altigraph guideHow would you plan a cycling holiday in France? Perhaps you would plan it around gastronomy or viticulture; possibly around pragmatic considerations such as the availability of airports, campsites or gites; maybe you want to visit historical or cultural centres; or the Tour de France climbs. Given that France is such wonderful cycling destination one can easily succumb to the paralysis associated with a proliferation of uncontrolled and interacting variables. Continue reading