Dealing with weight loss

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

Ride Like a Pro

Harwoods Jaguar, Ride Like a Pro Event, West Sussex

My Weight Loss Story

My story of fat to fit by bicycle

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

A year of centuries 5/12 May

A few weeks ago, +Hamish Gaunt contacted me and asked if I was interested in planning my century ride for May to include a trip to Udimore. He had something to deliver and thought if he came down to my neck of the woods, we could ride 100 miles to include a short detour to Udimore.

I'd already planned to make my Surrey hills ride at the end of the month my century ride for May but getting it in the bag beforehand meant there was no pressure.

I looked at the possible routes I could do and with many historical landmarks local to me I decided to take Hamish on a 1066 tour of Sussex. As it turned out, Hamish didn't need to deliver anything on the day we could take as it came. There was no pressure.

It can be difficult to dress appropriately this time of year but I thought I'd dress light and take arm warmers with me. Worst case, I could pop back home just before the 20 mile mark if need be.

I left my house at 9.45am and headed to Eastbourne railway station. The sun was shining and the forecast of light winds early on seemed spot on. The forecast was for stronger winds later on but that would only be an issue on the return from Rye.

Hamish arrived on the 10.14am train and after a brief chat we were on our way. Not only was I ride leader but also tour guide for the day. We headed for Eastbourne Pier and we stopped briefly as Hamish took a picture. Next stop Beachy Head. The climb to the infamous beauty spot is long and gradual. Hamish is a fast ascender compared to me and him disappearing up the hills was a recurring theme throughout the day.

At the summit the wind was more noticeable and I suggested that after we descended to the foot of Belle Tout (the old Beachy Head lighthouse) that we pull over so Hamish could get a picture of the famous lighthouse. We then carried on to Birling Gap and East Dean before a sharp couple of climbs to Friston. We were soon descending at speed toward Jevington, birthplace of the banoffee pie.

More fast descending into Filching and Wannock before arriving in Polegate. With the wind behind us the stretch to Stone Cross was fast and in no time at all we arrived in Pevensey. We took a brief detour into the castle grounds and Hamish had something to eat and took a few photos.

Back on our bikes we headed to Wartling and onto Herstonceux. A brief stop to show Hamish the old Royal Greenwich Observatory and a brief mention of Herstomnceux castle, although we didn't get a chance to see it. Back on the road and we headed east through Boreham Street and onto Ashburnham and then Battle.

The town of Battle is the home of Battle Abbey but more famously the site of the Battle of Hastings. We stopped at a quaint tea shop opposite the Abbey and had a coffee and cake. It was only a brief stop before we were back on our bikes. We travelled down Marley Lane and headed for Sedlescombe. Through the village and onto Cripps Corner before turning off for Bodiam. Bodiam is home to a beautiful castle, apparently the most photographed in Britain. We stopped for a brief snack and took some pictures.

Back on our bikes and we went over the Kent and East Sussex Railway line and ascended to Ewhurst Green. A brief pause again to take a photo of Bodiam Castle again. A few lumpy bits later and we went past Great Dixter as we arrived in Northiam.

Just as we entered the village of Beckly we headed south toward Udimore. It was a quiet lane that was wooded on both sides, if a little hilly at times. We were now on the road to Rye. We were about 150ft above sea level and to our right, we had a lovely view out to sea and standing out in the bright sunlight was Camber Castle.

Arriving in Rye, we rode around the one way system and I suggested we stop for an ice cream at the Strand Quay. A 99 with two flakes hit the spot! We were basking in the sunshine and sat amongst a load of motorcycles. I knew that when we started riding again we'd be headed into the wind. Just how hard it would be was yet unknown.

The ride to Rye Harbour meant we were headed south east. I could already feel the wind pushing strong from the right. As we reached the most southerly point of the harbour we saw a group of tandem riders, about five in total from what I remember. We stopped and I offered to take a photo of them. Riding again we were headed right into the south westerly headwind. We had to ride into it for just over 2 miles but it felt like much more. I was so glad when we could turn around again as we headed toward the medieval hilltop town of Winchelsea. The climb to Strand Gate was slow for me but not for Hamish. My left knee was starting to give tell tale signs that it would be hurting soon. We were quickly out the other side of town and through New Gate.

We were now on the road to our final climb. The little lane that comes out in Pett is quite lumpy and you gain and lose all of your elevation three times. The lane had recently been resurfaced and was a joy to ride, especially as there were no cars. Now in Pett, the final ascent beckoned. It climbs and levels off a few times and is quite steep in places. Just before reaching the main A259 I heard a loud BANG! I thought someone had let off a banger or fired something next to me. To my surprise it was my tyre. It had burst. I had to walk the last few hundred metres to catch up with Hamish at the top before having a go at fixing it. I had a tyre boot (a bit of card that patches a hole in a tyre from the inside) and put a new tube in and we were swiftly on our way again.

There's a small sharp climb to summit on the A259 before having a long descent all the way to Hastings seafront. There's a speed camera near the bottom and it's been an ambition of mine to try and set it off. Not even worrying about my tyre having just exploded, I was descending at speed and getting faster as I approached the camera. As I glanced down to check how fast I was going, I briefly saw 38mph and looked back to see if the camera flashed. It did. Challenge complete.

Hamish soon caught up and we had an exposed ride ahead as there was no shelter for the next fifteen miles. 5 miles into the wind we reached Bexhill. We met up with my friend Rob where we had an extra bit of distraction in the way of someone else to moan at about the wind. Rob had fresher legs than us so he hadn't earned the right to complain yet. The ride was a little slow but it wasn't long before we arrived in Eastbourne. As we turned right, off the seafront and navigated our way to the train station for Hamish, we were out of the wind. Once at the station we checked the train times and realised there was quite a wait. I suggested Hamish get some food and we headed over to the pub across the street. Food was served promptly and it wasn't long before we had to say farewell to my long suffering ride partner (or was that me?).

I rode with Rob for a little while and parted company just before my house. The final 5 miles home were not fast but not hard with the wind behind me. I was pleased to be home.

A big thank you to Hamish for inspiring this 1066 century and for joining me on it. Thanks also to Rob for joining us last minute. Thank you for reading this if you got that far. Enjoy the pictures and take a look at the route.

Waiting for Hamish

Pevensey Castle

Coffee break in Battle

Hamish with Bodiam in the background

A 99 with two, yes TWO flakes!

My exploded tyre!

Waiting for the train

Farewell Hamish

The lonely last miles

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

How healthy is your town?

Healthy Access provides the data you need

The good news is that in general we all have a better chance of living into a healthy, active old age. However, whether we do or not is dependent on multiple factors, only some of which are within our own control. Of course we can make positive lifestyle choices about diet and exercise, but where we live and the services and facilities that are available there play just as significant a part in our overall well-being.

With a probable future health crisis looming, a new web site has been launched which will help to identify just how healthy a place your town is.

The Healthy Access Campaign web site,, has been developed by the well-established and successful, which was launched in 2013 with the aim of providing a fast booking service to certified and rated NHS and private dentists. Healthy Access is a natural extension of this, offering a web site that is simple to use and based on a range of scored factors that are proven to relate to health through quality of life.

The factors include ratings for GPs, hospitals and dentists, plus access to green spaces, cycling and walking facilities. These produce a combined score and both the individual ratings and the combined score can be downloaded as a badge by the user to be displayed on a web site.

The site is easy to use. Location statistics can be chosen by typing a town name into a text predictive search box or by hovering the cursor over a colour-coded regional map. You can just as easily check out the highest and lowest scores of an activity by selecting from a drop down menu.

Choosing the "Cycling" option reveals that the best rated places in England offering opportunities for cycling are the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, whereas the London boroughs of Southwark, Camden and Westminster top the list for walking opportunities. Westminster, however, is amongst the lowest scoring places rated for ease of access to a GP.

In all, the data revealed by the site are valuable and thought-provoking. It's provided by a number of knowledgeable specialist partners such as Natural England and the Department of Health and is regularly updated by Healthy Access.

Clearly, the information available on the Healthy Access web site is of value to individuals with an interest in maintaining and improving their own healthy lifestyles. Moreover, it gives users the chance to comment about their own services, as well as influence local decision makers and providers.

The clearly presented and unambiguous research and statistics on Healthy Access will give you all that is required to find out just how healthy your town is - and to ensure that it maintains or improves on that status. Just visit the site and type in your town name. It's as simple as that.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A year of centuries 4/12

The plan for April was to stay local and for the first time I would be riding with someone else. I would also be riding my new Giant Defy 0.

Having suffered from knee pain on the 3 previous centuries I bought some kinesiology tape in readiness for the pain that would surely come on ride number 4. For those that don't know what kinesiology tape is, it's a stretchy adhesive fabric tape that when applied to the skin relieves pressure on the muscles and can work as a pain reliever.

Because I was fitting my ride around a friend joining me I decided to keep my ride fairly local. I left my house at 7am and headed for Beachy Head. My plan was to do two loops of my Beachy Head training circuit before lunch.

The wind was south easterly so I had the wind behind me all the way to Beachy Head. I was taking it easy as I didn't want to push my knee too hard. It was pretty gusty at the summit but the descent was so fast. I couldn't resist pushing a little on the was down. I got to Birling Gap and stopped for a wee and refilled my water bottle. The next hour was uneventful and passing through Pevensey I stopped to use the loo again. I often don't drink enough and rarely stop for loo breaks so I was sort of pleased I was needing to stop regularly.

It wasn't long before I was headed back toward Beachy Head with the wind behind me. A nice tail wind is so satisfying. Again, I enjoyed that high speed descent down to Birling Gap.

After two complete laps and 48 miles I was back home and having an early lunch. I then text my friend to let him know I was leaving so he could time it right to meet me.

I was now heading into the wind. The ride from now on would be down to someone else so I didn't really know the route. We met up at Cooden Beach and immediately headed north. We we making use of little lanes to keep shelter to a maximum. It wasn't long before we headed back to the seafront. I used the loo again and checked my phone. One of my colleagues had text me to say he was having an issue with his bike. I told him to meet me on Hastings seafront as we'd be there in about 20 mins.

We headed along the seafront road to Hastings. When we got to Hastings Pier I met up with my colleague. I sorted his little problems and we headed for Rock-a-nore. The three of us stopped for a drink and a fresh doughnut. It wasn't long before we were back on our bikes again and we headed back along the seafront toward Bexhill. We parted company with my colleague and headed back to my friend's house in Bexhill. Another coffee and I was back on the bike but this time by myself.

I had enough miles done to ride all the way home. It was into the wind and slow but no knee pain so I was feeling good.

I got home with slightly numb hands and a slightly sore behind but feeling better than I have on other century rides this year.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A year of centuries 3/12

The centuries are not getting easier!

With the forecast being sunny but windy I chose another familiar route. The wind was west/south westerly and with only one proper hill I decided to take it easy on the way out with the wind helping me and even easier on the way back. The destination was Folkestone.

The route out to Folkestone is flat and open so is often windy and exposed. There's not many places for shelter along the way. The temperature was to be quite warm for early March so I wore arm warmers and a gilet along with my new Buff.

The first 15 miles or so to Hastings was uneventful. This is where the only hill of the ride is. The hill to get out of Hastings is easier than the return, coming over the other side. The legs felt good and I was soon at the top. I stopped for a wee at Hastings Country Park and then it's straight into a fast descent into Fairlight before a lovely fast flat along Pett Level.

I spotted this stately home at the top of Battery Hill. Never noticed it before.
I was soon at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Early mornings are great for riding the smooth tarmac fast as there's practically no one around. Not long and you arrive in Rye but only for a few moments as you're quickly out the other side and on to the open roads heading for Kent.

There's lots of little country lanes that are part of the National Cycle Network so you can stay away from the traffic. Most little villages look the same along the way and it's difficult to know how far you've got to go without looking at your bike computer.

It wasn't long and I arrived at Hythe and stopped at the cafe next to the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway station. It's an old fashioned cafe that is a regular for local cyclists.

Having hit 50 miles I pondered for a moment about continuing to Folkestone. The roads get quite a bit busier from here and with the weather being so good I was worried I'd jut get frustrated with the traffic. I thought while my legs were good, I'd start to head back.

About 5 miles into the return leg I got a puncture! Never mind though, I'd fix it and soon be on my way. A few moments after I began riding again my left knee started hurting. It'd hurt on the other two centuries but I thought by keeping the riding gentle I might be able to stop the knee from hurting. Every pedal stoke into the wind hurt. It was like a twinge. I tried selecting a lower gear to keep the cadence up and the pressure down but that only helped a little and made my pace very slow.

All I could do is persevere. I used the scenery to take my mind off it. The downside with the flat geography is that there is no natural rest time for down hill sections. Instead it was constant pedalling.

As I headed toward Lydd there was a half marathon being held on the same roads I was riding so I was slowly over taking a number of runners. When I got to the centre of the village I stopped at a shop to buy chocolate. I thought this might perk me up. It did briefly. Each time I stopped for a few minutes the pain would subside momentarily when I got back on the bike.

Just after leaving Lydd my backside was now hurting. It was a little sore so I had another distraction from the knee. I wasn't sure which was better! As I pushed through the desolate Jury's Gap and headed for Camber I wanted it to end. However, I remembered the farm shop in East Guldeford and how good their coffee was. I'd considered stopping there earlier in the morning but I passed through about 30 mins before they opened. After a decent stop I was back on the road again.

As I headed back through Rye I had a decision to make. Do I go back through Pett Level and up the infamous Battery Hill or do I take the back route through Winchelsea and into Pett? I decided to take the latter as I'd not done it for 18 months. I also thought it was less hilly. OK, so it wasn't but it was worth it as the hills were short and took the pain away from the knee as I was standing up to do them.

The climb to Ore was a slow and painful one but the finish was in sight. It was all down hill or flat from now on. Old London Road into Hastings is a fast one but can be busy. There's a speed camera at the bottom of the hill and I've always wanted to set it off. I thought I'd wait for there to be a gap in the traffic and give it a go. The wait seemed like forever. I set off and started building up speed. I got to about 37mph but with the speed camera up ahead the car in front decided to slow down and stop to turn right, totally scuppering my plans! Never mind, there's always next time.

The ride along Hastings seafront was slow as was Bexhill and Cooden. By the time I got to Westham, the level crossing gates were down so I made a longer stop than normal and sat on a wall for several minutes. The last couple miles home were at a respectable pace. Wanting to get home gives you something extra.

I finished the ride in just over 10 hours with just short of 8 hours riding time. Not a fast ride by any means but I've ticked the box for March. I need to work out what is causing my knee to hurt into the ride.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Buff headwear review

Many cyclists use a Buff when riding and I'm one of them.

If you're not familiar with Buffs, they are a tube of stretchy fabric that is typically worn over the head, neck or face. There is such a wide variety of ways to wear one that it's convenient for your whole ride. This ingenious thin and lightweight garment is capable of keeping those parts of the body warm but not too warm even when exercising vigorously. For example, I recently went on a ride that started at 3c and ended up at 14c. I didn't have to take my Buff off once.

Up until now I've been using copycat Buff style headwear that came free with a magazine. The guys at Kitshack sent me their new Reflective Buff in the R-Fire Carbon design. Compared to the cheapo copies I've got, the first thing you notice is the quality of the material. It's feels softer and thicker. It's also a little bigger so covers more. It's based on the Original Buff with the addition of a vertical stripes of retro-reflective Scotchlite on each side. The Reflective Buff ensures you'll be seen at night and in poor light conditions. Exactly what you want when riding a bike. However, if you want something even more visible, they do one in fluro yellow!

Buffs also come treated with Polygiene. It's a silver ion treatment that acts as an anti-bacterial agent. It's skin safe and reduces odours which are common with materials that wick moisture away. Those smells will eventually overcome the Buff. When that happens, just chuck it in the washing machine at a low temperature and drip dry. Being thin it'll dry in no time.

With so many designs available, I can't decide which one to get next. Which one will you choose?