Dealing with weight loss

A 3 part series dealing with the topics of body image, emotions and maintenance. Check it out.

South Downs Way 100

Winchester to Eastbourne Off-road

My Weight Loss Story

My story of fat to fit by bicycle

Friday, 1 January 2016

A year of centuries 12/12

My twelfth and final century ride for the year was going to finish in style. For a few months I'd been planning in my head that I wanted to finish my ride in London and in particular, at Buckingham Palace. I've ridden in London before, I've even started many rides from London but I've never ridden to London from home.

My friend Hamish, who had given me the idea of the century challenge, was asked if he wanted to join me on the final ride as a thank you for the year of punishment but he sensibly declined. I'm sure I would just have whinged at him!

The plan was to ride to London and get the train home. There's often engineering works on Sundays, which means buses replace trains, and they don't take bikes. That meant choosing a Saturday for the ride. I could only really do it on 19th December, so the date was set. As it's only 70 miles to London, I had to make a detour. I chose to ride to Brighton first. That way I could use the reverse route from one of the many London to Brighton bike rides. I chose the BHF London to Brighton Night Ride route in the end as I guessed it probably used quiet roads (I can't remember that much from when I did it a few years ago).

The weather forecast was looking good. SSW winds and 13c temperature no reported rain. Unusually warm for the week before Christmas.

The plan was to take some snacks with me but to buy food as required on the ride. I got up at 6am and had porridge for breakfast. With my train booked for 5.47pm I had plenty of time for my ride. I left the house at 7 and it was still dark. The first part of the ride to Brighton was a complete reverse of my last century ride. Heading inland to Hailsham then Arlington and onto Lullington before coming out at Exceat. Heading into Seaford was a nice change without the wind. I was able to ride at 15-20mph along the Esplanade which was over twice as fast as last time.

By the time I reached Newhaven I had my first traffic stop. I was held up by the level crossing. It was only 3 minutes according to my Garmin but it felt like ages. Just short of 2 hours in I stopped at Subway in Peacehaven for my second breakfast. Back on the bike it was a quick run into Brighton. I reached the pier at the 30 mile mark. It was now time to head north which meant a climb. 3.6 miles in total. It was drag up to Devil's Dyke. Riding over the other side was fun though. I hit 47.8mph! I remember this road in reverse. I much prefer riding it away from Brighton.

The next village I arrived at was Hurstpierpoint. I was now 41 miles in. It's a nice little village with a number of shops. I stopped at the local Co-op for some food. There were a large number of people out. There must have been some event on but I'm not sure what.

Back on the road and I headed to Hassocks and then Burgess Hill. The roads were noticeably busier now and major. The roads were vaguely familiar but as I last rode them in the early hours of the morning, that's most likely why they were so quiet. The route skirted around the outside of the town. By the time I got spat out completely, the main road I ended up on, didn't make me favourable with the traffic. It wasn't too long before I was back on quieter roads and less of an issue for the Saturday morning traffic.

Riding through the village of Balcombe the road started to climb again. Nothing serious but long and steady. It wasn't long before I rode over the M23 and arrived in Crawley. At the 60 mile mark, the route turned 90 degrees due east. It was at this point I realised why the route turned. Gatwick Airport was directly ahead of me. There was a plane coming in to land and was so close. As I was riding in line with the landing approach, I got to see a few more planes close up as I rode away from the airport.

My route turned north again and as I entered a village called Smallfield, I decided to take a break. I was now 63 miles in, after 5 hrs 30 mins. More rural roads ahead and I crossed the M23 for the third time followed by a bit more climbing. It wasn't long before I arrived in a more urban environment in the form of Merstham. It was time to cross over the M25. A right turn ahead and up a seriously steep hill called Shepherd's Hill and crossing the M23 for the fourth time. I was now in the Surrey Hills and at the highest point of the ride. There was practically no climbing left.

I now had a fast descent into Purley. The environment definitely felt like the outskirts of London. More traffic and busy junctions were plentiful. I was back in familiar territory when I got to Mitcham and didn't need to look at my Garmin every 5 seconds. 86 miles in and I stopped at a Tesco Express for food and water. Only a few miles more and I was at Clapham Common. This is the start point for the London to Brighton bike ride and from here on, the route was completely new to me.

92 miles in and I arrived at Lambeth bridge and got my bearings again. Ahead of me was the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and at that moment, it took my breath away. It was a feeling I've never felt before, Maybe it was down to the fact I was so close to the finish. Maybe it was because I'd ridden to the Capital. Maybe it was because I had almost complete my biggest challenge yet. From here I rode at a leisurely pace to take it all in. When I arrived in Parliament Square I stopped to take a photo of Big Ben, or the Elizabeth Tower for all you pedants. I then rode down Whitehall passing the Cenotaph and Downing Street. The traffic was not bad at all. With Trafalgar Square ahead of me it was a left turn under Admiralty Arch and onto The Mall.

Buckingham Palace was ahead of me and once again, my breath was taken away. I've been to the Queen's main residence many times and it's never had this effect. I can only guess that it was the culmination of what I'd achieved that had this profound effect on me. I'd pictured this finish in my head and something was missing - darkness. I'd presumed it would be dark with everything lit up but I'd arrived sooner than expected. It was only 3.30pm. I'd also only completed 94 miles. Time for a lap of honour.

I headed up Constitution Hill, through Wellington Arch, into Hyde Park and down South Carriage Drive. I then headed north up West Carriage Drive then east along North Carriage Drive towards Marble Arch. I continued along Oxford Street, by now it was getting dark and the Christmas lights were on. The traffic was a lot busier. I turned down into Regent Street and I seemed to be racing Rickshaws. I paused at Picadilly Circus to take a photo and I headed back to Trafalgar Square and it was time for another trip down The Mall. Buckingham Palace in the distance was now lit up. Time to capture the image I'd pictured in my head several times before.

With a warm feeling inside and a smile that nothing could wipe off my face, I headed for Victoria Station. I now headed for the Wetherspoon's on the station concourse for my celebratory pint of beer.

Challenge complete!
A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A video posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A year of centuries 11/12

The plan for my penultimate century ride was to be a simple one. With little choice of days I could ride it, I decided to go for something simple, yet familiar.

The ride was to be from Hastings Pier to Brighton Pier via Eastbourne Pier and back. It was due to be quite windy, but I wasn't expecting storm conditions. I contacted my friend Alex to see if he wanted to ride part of the ride with me, and he was up for riding from Hastings Pier to Beachy Head.

I left home at 7am and the ride was easy. I had a tailwind to Hastings. I met Alex at the pier and we started riding south-west towards Eastbourne. The wind was noticeably strong. The plan was to stop in Bexhill for breakfast as I would have done 20 miles by then and then continue to Eastbourne. Having completed 5 miles into the wind, Alex was already grumbling. We stopped for about half an hour. Continuing on to Eastbourne, there is plenty of open coast line. Something we could hardly avoid.

By the time we reached Eastbourne Pier it'd taken us 1hr 47min riding time to complete 15.7 miles into the wind. Alex called it a day and decided not to ride any further into the wind. I stopped at a shop to buy some food for the next bit of the journey and we parted company.

It's a short ride from the pier to Beachy Head and the foot of the climb is sheltered. It was a relief. Once over the top of the climb, you are 500ft up and totally exposed to the elements. The wind was very strong. Dangerously strong. I was also side on at this point, having to fight the 50+ mph winds of Storm Clodagh with a lightweight bike and cars passing me closely. You need all your strength and concentration to ride in conditions like this. I knew it wouldn't be long before I was headed directly into the wind again and riding in relative safety again.

At this point I was briefly considering my options regarding my route choice but decided to carry on regardless and complete my original route.

I was now on East Dean Road. A long downhill section where I hold my personal speed record at 52.5mph. Today there was no chance of that being beaten. I was having to pedal hard downhill. My Maximum speed was 22.8mph with an average of 9.8mph. Not what you expect dropping 276ft over a mile!

Back in shelter, I had a nasty steep climb into Friston. At the top, shattered, I took a break in a bus shelter. I stopped for just under 5 minutes but it felt like so much longer. The next section to Exceat is downhill again. a drop of almost 500ft over 2 miles. Due to the wind, that took a whopping 10 minutes! My fastest time is half that.

There's a bit of shelter now until I reach Seaford. Heading down Sutton Avenue, directly into the wind, the names of pros painted on the road from the 2014 Tour of Britain couldn't make me ride faster. The closer I got to the seafront, the harder it got. I stopped at the public toilet on the Esplanade and had to film how strong the wind was. I wish I'd been able to film trying to get back on my bike afterwards. It wouldn't stay on the ground. I had to move the bike behind the building to get the tyres back on the ground. It was now a slow struggle along the seafront. The spray from the sea was hitting me in the face from 50-100ft away. As the path headed back away from the sea it was rideable again.

Arriving in Newhaven, the sheltered climb out the other side was welcome. Climbing hills is not normally a preference, but is to prolonged wind.

45 miles in I arrived in Peacehaven and stopped for lunch at Subway. Getting back on the bike, 6 hours had now elapsed from when I started! The next 7 miles into Brighton were to be a real mental and physical challenge. It's rolling hills from here but the sheer concentration required to keep the bike straight was more than I would ever expect. I was struggling to move the bike forwards at some points. At one point I was at least 100ft above sea level when I was hit with a shower of water. It took a split second to realise it hadn't started raining. Instead the waves crashing at the cliffs below had been picked up by the wind and blown over the top and into me.

Back at sea level and riding along Madeira Drive to the Pier was no better. The wind was still strong. It wouldn't be long before I could turn around. When I arrived at the pier I decided to visit a local cycling cafe that I haven't managed to visit before, only to find out that it's no longer a cycling cafe. I decided not to stop.

The plan for the return trip was to head inland a little once at Exceat to arrive home by the 100 mile mark. However, I'd realised that I might be a little short as my calculations hadn't factored in the bit to Hastings at the start. Not a problem I could work it out as I went along.

The ride was very fast at times. With the wind behind me I got a massive boost. It felt like a big hand gave me a push while already doing over 20mph. It was a great feeling. However, even though it was easyish most of the time my legs were very tired. Having ridden into the wind for 40 miles had taken so much out of my them.

At the 60 mile mark I stopped at Subway again for a coffee. The comfy armchairs were just what I needed. Getting back on the bike was a chore. Arriving back in Seaford, the Esplanade was a different sight than earlier. The beach had been deposited onto the road in places and there was a foam where the sea had been whipped up by the wind.

Turning inland at Exceat meant that I didn't get the bonus of the tailwind at all times but it did mean that my legs didn't have to fight up many hills. The plan was to ride to Berwick, Arlington and Hailsham before turning south at Herstmonceux. 85 miles in I arrived at Windmill Hill and was exhausted. My hands were hurting at this point too. I had a sit down outside a pub in the dark and had some food. I knew with 15 miles left to go, the easiest way would be riding to Bexhill and getting the train back.

Arriving in Pevensey with 9 miles left to go, I just wanted it to end. It was tailwind all the way now. When I arrived on Bexhill seafront, I decided to take the seafront path. It was dark and deserted. Riding at 25mph I arrived at the Colonade and suddenly hit beach! I'd seen it a split second before and braced myself. Thinking it was a one off, I accelerated. However, this stretch was littered with shingle deposits. I turned off as soon as I could. With just under 2 miles still to go I did a loop via Ravenside Retail Park and back to the station. I arrived at the station. It was over. Such a relief. I got a ticket and got the train home. The ride from the station back home is just over a mile with the wind behind me. It was all over for a few weeks at least.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

An idea of how windy it was.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A year of centuries 10/12

My ride for October was planned very quickly. Having not given the ride much thought, I looked at the calendar and realised I only had two weekends left and the last one was just Saturday. With only 3 possible days to get the century done, I decided to choose Sunday 24th as the weather was better.

I had no idea where I was going to ride so after a bit of thinking, I turned to Strava the day before the ride and used the Explore feature. Having ridden pretty much everywhere locally I wanted something a little different. I found a ride that was 100 miles that went out to Dungeness Nuclear Power Station in Kent and back.

After plotting the route and uploading it to my Garmin, I cleaned and lubed my bike ready for the ride. I checked the forecast and saw that it would be a warm, sunny day with practically no wind. With the clocks going back overnight that meant I got an extra hour in bed. The plan was to leave by 7am but with such an early start the day before for another ride, I didn't want to get out of bed when my alarm went off.

Running a little behind schedule, I didn't have time to make breakfast. I got out of the door by 7.07am. It was fresh (read: cold). The Garmin said the temperature was 5c. I decided to head for Subway in Bexhill as it was on my way. By the time I got there, my legs were pretty cold so I was glad I could have a stop to warm up. 15 minutes later and I was back on the road.

I headed to Hastings and the temperature was still around 5c. As you head out of the town, there's a long climb up Old London Road. This warmed me up. It's now a long downhill into Pett and then back to sea level. It's now a lovely straight smooth road to Winchelsea Beach before turning off onto the path to Rye Harbour. Rye Harbour is a beautiful nature reserve, with Camber Castle in the background. The path was practically empty even though it was 9.30am. Once I arrived at Rye Harbour village, I bought a few snacks for the ride.

The road out of the village is quite industrial and very wide. There's a shared use path, but because of the stop start nature I stayed on the road. A car driver decided to tell me I was wrong and passed close at about 60mph whilst sounding his horn even though the road was totally empty!

In no time I entered Rye and exited the other side. The road to Camber wasn't too busy. If it is, it's easy to hold cars up. Again, there is a cycle path, but this one isn't suitable for road bikes at all. You quickly ride through the village and you're now on the lonely road to Lydd. I spotted a family on bikes and one on a unicycle! The road is made of concrete sections and covered in tarmac. Where the tarmac has seeped into the joins, you get a rhythmic thud every time you ride over the joins. All the time you have an MOD firing range to your right.

As you enter the village of Lydd, you also exit East Sussex and enter Kent. As I rode past the entrance of the MOD base, I could see soldiers on the road ahead. I rode wide and passed them quickly, just in case a car approached in the opposite direction. I was soon exiting the village and riding through the Dungeness nature reserve. In the distance I could see the power station.

Dungeness is a headland that is made up mostly of shingle beach. There's not much in the hamlet of Dungeness other than a few houses, a lifeboat station, a few lighthouses, a nuclear power station, a pub and a miniature railway station. Now I've written that, it seems like a lot! I had no real intention of stopping here, I'd planned a brief stop at a shop up the road. However, the lifeboat station was having an open day. I decided to stop after taking some photos of the lighthouses and power station. The new lighthouse isn't very pretty but the old one is as you expect a lighthouse to look. It's open to the public so you can climb to the top for a elevated viewpoint of the Romney Marsh. Maybe next time. I rode back to the lifeboat station and grabbed a coffee. They had some great home-made cakes for sale, but I resisted.

After a nice break it was back on the bike and heading to New Romney. It's a fairly straight road that follows the sea, heading north. Turning left into the town I was now on my way back. It wasn't long until I was on the main A259. Lots of cars passing me close and at speed. I was glad when I turned off. I went through a village called brookland and it wasn't long before I was back in familiar territory going past Appledore turkey farm. A quick loop around the village of Appledore and I was headed down the Military Road back to Rye. This road drags for a bit. Arriving in Rye and I stopped for a bit of lunch at a cafe. A portion of chips had my name on.

Taking the elevated route, west out of Rye, towards Cock Marling, it's a steady incline. Nothing serious. You get a great view of Camber Castle in the distance but I couldn't get a great photo on my phone. After riding through Udimore, I took a right turn down Hundredhouse Lane. I've only ever ridden done it once and that was in the other direction earlier this year. I'd sort of forgotten that it's steeper this way. You start off with a fast downhill followed by a very steep climb up Ludley Hill. It was at this point I saw a mink run across the road. I see a few of these from time to time on my rides. I eventually arrived in the village of Beckley and turned left, headed back in the right direction for home. Arriving in Staplecross I stopped at the shop for some food and had a brief sit down in a nice bus shelter.

Heading south towards Cripps Corner, the road eventually bears right, heading west again and crosses the busy A21. No problems getting across for me. I was now headed for Battle. It's a bit of a climb from here and I was starting to get tired at the 85 mile mark. I arrive almost in the centre of the town but I don't have time to stop. I head along the North Trade Road towards Ashburnham and it's mostly downhill from here. One final climb through Boreham Street and then it's downhill again through Herstmonceux to Wartling. I catch a lovely sunset over the downs to my right and now I'm on the Pevensey Levels. It's flat the rest of the way home.

The day was perfect weather wise. The ride was almost wind free and the temperature was mostly good. The amount of hills was reasonably low so the ride was fairly easy.

I get home and once again my Garmin fails like it did last month. I lose my ride. 103 miles of it. All is not totally lost as I managed to get a trace of the ride from an app on my phone but it's not perfect.

Only two century rides left this year.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015

Coffeeneuring is not new but it's new to me. There's a lot of rules around coffeeneuring but the simply put, it's getting out on your bike for a social weekend ride for coffee. You can only do it at weekends and you have to do it within a timeframe but it will definitely push people to get out more once the autumn weather kicks in.

#1/7 - 3rd October

Location: Subway Hailsham
Drink: Latte
Miles: 13.9
Ride details: For my first coffeeneuring ride I decided to get my youngest son Alex to join me. He's only 11 but we often do cycling challenges together. A we were heading to Subway for breakfast, we didn't want to leave too late. There's several ways to get to Hailsham but I opted for the quiet back lanes. I had a latte with my food and the boy had a hot chocolate. The coffee was good but nothing special as it's from a machine. For the return journey I gave my son the choice of route. He opted for the Cuckoo Trail which is a shared use cycle path.
Bike friendliness: The shop has outside seating and back racks opposite so is a good choice for cyclists.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#2/7 - 10th October

Location: Seasons, Eastbourne Harbour
Drink: Latte
Miles: 15.5
Ride details: I took my youngest son with me for ride number 2. The plan was to ride into town and get a drink there but with the weather being so nice we rode the whole length of Eastbourne seafront and back again. Once we reached the harbour, we stopped at Seasons, a nice little cafe/restaurant. They serve illy coffee which is one of my favourites. I chose a latte and it was amazing. The boy had a hot chocolate again. It was nice sitting outside and the woman sitting at the table next to us had a gorgeous labradoodle puppy. We then took a quiet route back home.
Bike friendliness: The cafe has plenty of outside seating and table service so great for cyclists.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#3/7 - 11th October

Location: Bexhill Subway
Drink: Latte
Miles: 29.1
Ride details: My friend Alex can't ride to work now he's changed jobs. I suggested he join me for some Coffeeneuring. He rode over to my house from Hastings and the plan was to ride back with him. On the way we stopped at Subway in Bexhill. I had my usual latte and Alex had hot chocolate. It 's always smooth and predictable in flavour. Nothing special but always good. Once I rode back with him I then turned around and headed home.
Bike friendliness: The shop has outside seating and back racks opposite so is a good choice for cyclists.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#4/7 - 17th October

Location: Eastbourne Subway
Drink: Latte
Miles: 9.9 miles
Ride details: Visiting Subway on a regular basis I have a good number of loyalty points. Me and the boy took a gentle ride into town. If I was riding by myself, I'd probably go via the seafront, but as I had my son with me I thought I'd take him a route we've not been before which has less traffic. Once we got there I ordered a latte for me and a hot chocolate for him. The ride home was via the seafront. We then went past his junior school and saw their animals including, turkeys, peahens, chickens, sheep, goats and ducks. The turkeys were extremely curious when we arrived. We then rode the rest of the way home.
Bike friendliness: The shop has outside seating and back racks opposite so is a good choice for cyclists.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#5/7 - 24th October

Location: Farm @ Friday Street
Drink: Latte
Miles: 29.9 miles
Ride details: My friend Alex needed a little bit of work doing to his bike before he could ride next so I suggested I ride over to his first and we ride from there. So we could get the ride finished early, I left mine at 6am and got to his by 7. Alex wasn't really awake by then so he wasn't ready to ride. He made me a coffee while I sorted his bike and I waited for him to get ready. It was 8 am before we left. We did a reverse of the last ride we did so rode back to mine. We stopped for breakfast and a coffee at my local pub, the Farm. We both had pancakes and bacon with maple syrup and I had a latte in Alex had a hot chocolate (can you see the theme now?). We parted company and I was home in under a minute.
Bike friendliness: Plenty of outside seating if the weather's good and a nice fireplace to warm up with if it cold and wet.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#6/7 - 1st November

Location: Starbucks, Pevensey
Drink: Latte
Miles: 8.8 miles
Ride details: The fog started coming in around 1pm. By the time me and my youngest son left for our ride at 2pm the fog was everywhere but not too dense. We kept off the main roads and headed for Pevensey. We had a brief stop as we passed Pevensey Castle. We arrived a few minutes later at Starbucks. The shop had no atmosphere and the small amount of mess really stood out. Not many comfy chairs but as it was empty we got one each. I wasn't asked if I wanted the coffee to go, but our drinks came in paper cups. However, the coffee was very good indeed. The boy had a hot chocolate with cream this time. We then rode back via the foggy lanes through Rickney and Hankham.
Bike friendliness: Not an ideal location for a bike stop as there's no real places to lock you bike and the entry road is heavily potholed.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

#7/7 - 8th November

Location: Patisserie Valerie, Eastbourne
Drink: Latte
Miles: 12.8 miles
Ride details: Being remembrance Sunday, my eldest son was taking part in the memorial service in town with the Air Cadets. My wife went took him into town and me and my youngest son Alex rode there. We arrived just before 11am and watched all the armed forces both past and present showing their respect for fallen heroes. After the service we walked with our bikes to the cafe. I had a latte and the boy had a hot chocolate. This time we also had a mince pie. Very nice indeed. My wife and other son met up with us at the cafe. We then rode back home.
Bike friendliness: It's not that great being in the town centre and with outside seating being out back, you have to go through the whole cafe.

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on

A photo posted by Toby Field (@fatcyclerider) on


I've really enjoyed taking part in the Coffeeneuring challenge for the first time. It got me out on my bike with friends and family when I would have otherwise not done so. One of the suggestions for this year's challenge was to have a theme within a theme. Although I never thought about this from the start, I realised a theme was developing. I always rode with someone called Alex and Alex always had a hot chocolate and I always had a latte. Don't think I expected that before I started the challenge!

I'd recommend anyone giving it a go next time. It makes for a very pleasant and social challenge.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Program - film review

My review of the Lance Armstrong biopic, The Program, featuring Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd and Dustin Hoffman. In cinemas 16 October.