Monthly Archives: August 2009

Autumn 2009

Tomorrow is the 1st September: in my mind that marks the start of Autumn. Met Basil & Liz Ford this afternoon for a beer – they have just returned from Puglia – to catch up about summer: mine in the north of England, theirs in southern Italy.
The 1st September means I am back to work. I spent this morning at school sorting out bits and pieces. It will be nice to see everyone tomorrow. And then the students on Wednesday & Thursday.
It is exciting to have something to look forward to at the end of this (academic) year: cycling from Reading to Brindisi.

Bought a magazine yesterday published by Cycling Weekly – it was a special called “Health & Fitness”. It certainly works as I lost 6 pounds when I took it to the till! Gripe apart it has some interesting bits & pieces inside if you can ignore the acres of Lycra that adorn the pages. One interesting website I picked up was Map My Ride. I’ve registered with the site and have been able to put my daily commute on the site – click here to see it. It puts the distance at 10.97 kilometres…. which more or less ties in with the distance I measured using the CatEye “thing” (see below) which was from the middle of Reading Bridge, about 1 km from home and was 9.85 km. I’ll continue to fiddle with the site to see if it any use when planning the longer route to Italy.

A message from Mark Beaumont

I emailed Mark Beaumont a few days ago to say how much I had enjoyed reading his book The Man Who Cycled The World, and he has replied:

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for your email and glad your own plans for next summer are still on the go.
Great to hear that you enjoyed the book, which I really liked writing. Having never written before it was a real adventure in itself!
The online support is great out here on the road, so thanks for all that.
All the best
What a nice man: I can’t imagine the likes of Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer send emails like that to their readers!

Brown leaves and shorter evenings

If you look back at the post I made on Friday 29th August 2008, it was the last one I made until April 2009. I suppose the initial enthusiasm of cycling to Italy had started to dim after the frenzied activity of August, the leaves had started to turn brown, the days a little bit shorter and then of course, I had to go back to work. I sincerely hope that this gap will not be repeated this year – I don’t think my trip could survive a gap of seven months: I would never get everything sorted.
Reading Alastair Humphreys book about cycling around the world last night in bed, I took comfort from the following paragraphs where he is talking about starting to tell everyone of his plans to cycle around the world:
The happy daydreaming could have been fine if I had kept it to myself. My travels were little more than “dreams in the dusty recesses of my mind.” But the moment I began expanding my plans over reassuringly expensive pints of Stella Artois in Oxford pubs, I was trapped. Make a tall claim to a friend and, no matter how successful the beer helps forgive and forget his nocturnal indiscretions, he will pitilessly remind you of your boasts, until eventually there is no escape. So, word got out, and gradually the idle dream became a hectic reality.
I cycled to the supermarket this morning, passing the Great Unwashed making there way to the Reading Festival on the banks of the Thames. I noticed that the leaves on the trees had started to turn brown, the days are undeniably shorter and I return to school on Tuesday. My enthusiasm, however, remains high. But having only really started to make my plans known to friends and family, I know how Alastair Humphreys felt.

Audax Cycling – Part 2

Some more useful information from “Audax John” who was in touch a couple of weeks ago, including a clarification about what “Audax Cycling” actually is:
Audax is a slightly clandestine activity, with riders slogging through the lanes of our land at the dead of a night. No sag wagons, the ethos is self sufficiency and averaging a minimum 15kph (including stops for sleep, eating etc.). It’s a curiously addictive sport!
He goes on to give some useful information about the route to Brindisi and cycling in France and Italy:
There is an Audax route from Calais to Brindisi, though you have to average 200kms per day to be awarded the event’s medal. When I say route, it’s a list of towns or cities that you have to pass through by a certain time, rather than a detailed set of navigation instructions….. In Italy (as in France) motorists respect cyclists. They may toot when behind you, but this should be taken a friendly advice that they are about to overtake. I found that the odd coach or lorry driver got uncomfortably close, so stay alert for these guys. Also in Italy everybody seems to hold animated and protracted conversations on their mobile phone whilst driving!
And a few pointers on training:
I notice you are looking to gain stamina for your ride by running. My advice here is to train by riding your bike. Running is more likely to injure you plus the muscle sets used will be different.
John recommends The Long Distance Cyclist, by Simon Doughty (a friend of his) which I actually bought earlier in the year (and still have to read in detail!). He also says he has an article from a magazine about someone who cycled from Calais to Brindisi which he has offered to scan and email. All useful information! I will probably take up his offer to meet up as he says he sometimes cycles near to Reading. Look forward to it!

Topocoding: How cool is this!

I was just having a look at Mark Beaumont’s updates on his blog and noticed he had a terrain profile of one of his stages – it was provided by a company called Topocoding. So I followed the link and plugged in the main towns that make up the EuroVélo 5 and produced the profile here. How cool is that? Obviously over the 2,500 + kilometres it is not that accurate in terms of the ups and downs of daily cycling, but as an indication of where I will be required to ascend and descend, it’s great. Something to use when I get down to the detailed route planning (see previous entry) later this year…
I wonder where the Alps are?

A visit to Stanfords

Stanfords‘ map & book shop in London is a great place to spend an hour or so in central London. I never remember where it is exactly and always end up wandering around the streets near Leicester Square tube station for a while until I bump into it. Which is exactly what I did yesterday afternoon. As you can imagine, lots of maps and lots of cycling maps… but none that are specifically written for the EuroVélo route 5. I knew this already to be honest but went through the motions of asking them to search on their computer for something relevant, especially after having found a map booklet for the EuroVélo route 6, the route that takes a horizontal line from Nantes in the west of France over to central Europe (perhaps in 2011?). There it is up on the right. There must be a demand for such a product for the EV5 surely! I have recently added a widgit to this blog that tells me how people stumbled upon the site: many do so bu searching for EuroVélo + 5 in Google. In fact one guy today searched for “how to plan a route to calais from brindisi choosing my own stops” and I came up 4th on the search! So there is a demand out there. The publisher of the EV6 publication is listed on Stanfords‘ website as Huber Verlag but another search only pulls up references to route number 6….
So while in the shop, I did spend quite a bit of time looking at detailed maps of the areas where the route passes. I think what I will have to do is plan my route along the lines of A to B to C and then buy the maps that cover the route. That’s not a radical idea is it!!!
I mentioned at some point below about the newly published Lonely Planet “Cycling in the UK” publication which I didn’t buy. There are also identical publications available for France and Italy but they tend to do circular routes, just like the UK version so probably not that much use.
I’ll aim to get the general route figured out before the end of 2009 and then start looking at the details early in 2010. Come on Huber Verlag – beat me to it! Or perhaps not: I could make a mint by publishing my own version later in 2010.

Audax Cycling: Daring, Bold, Rash and Foolhardy

Just received an email from a chap called John Davies in Willesden. He writes:
I am also planning a ride to Italy next year. I will be starting from Shropshire, where my father was born and riding to Rieti (about 50miles) from Rome where my mother was born. I haven’t really considered how long it will take but I don’t really want to take more than three weeks off work to do it.
He goes on to say that he is an experienced audax cyclist. This is a word I had never seen until a few months ago and has various definitions on the Internet. The simplest I found is this “A non-competitive long-distance cycling event that originated in Italy”. It is, I think, a Latin word and using an Internet translator, I am alarmed to find that it translates as “daring, bold, rash, foolhardy”. Great! I suppose it is linked to the word audacious in English.
Anyway, he has cycled audax events in France and Italy before and has kindly offered his advice so I will keep in touch. His trip is planned for late August 2010 – accommodation will be easier to find and the heat less intense – so perhaps he will be able to pick me up off the road when he passes me.
In replying to John, I did point out that if I followed his idea of cycling from my father’s place of birth to my mother’s, I would make my life a hell of a lot easier: I could do it in under an hour!

From Mark Beaumont to Alastair Humphreys

I’ve just about finished reading Mark Beaumont’s book The Man Who Cycled The World. It’s a cracking read and doesn’t fall into the trap of being a repetitive log of getting up, cycling, eating and then sleeping which, in effect, is what he did for 195 consecutive days. I was also a little bit anxious before starting to read it that, having watched his TV documentary last year (see below), I already knew the story. That wasn’t an issue either: I was aware, for example that he had problems in Louisiana; an accident and getting mugged on the same day, but the quality of his writing gave the whole series of events a vivid re-telling. I say “just about finsihed” as I have still to read the appendix written by his mother who remained at home sorting out problems and dealing with the admin of cycling around the World. That should give the whole adventure a contrasting perspective.
So from Mark Beaumont to Alastair Humphreys. I first heard this guy’s name earlier in the summer. I’ll quote from my diary:
“The road out of Settle was hell and I resorted to pushing – John’s quote of “never be too proud to push” was in the back of my mind. Once the hill was conquered, I was back into open moorland for a while until the route started to fall into Airton. What a beautiful village. I fancied something to eat or drink and asked a chap who looked like a local: he was and when I gestured to him and turned my bike around, he pointed out that I was about to get run over by a lorry. Thanks! He told me there was a café, but no pub as it was a dry, Quaker village. This got us chatting. Back one step: as I was cycling down into Airton, I had been thinking about how I could enlarge my Puglia 2010 trip to become a World 2020 trip, i.e. for each summer to do the next leg of what would eventually be a cycle journey around the World. I could even start the whole thing in Berwick-upon-Tweed and include this summer’s efforts (but that would require me to also do Derby to Reading as well at some point). Anyway, back to Airton… the man – he was actually a history teacher – told me that a chap called Alastair Humphreys lived in the village & that he had cycled around the World – in about 440 days I seem to remember, or was that 44,000 miles? How strange is that? Destiny perhaps.”
I don’t know too much about Alastair Humphreys apart from that. I’m not even sure that I have got my facts correct over his journey taking either 440 days or 44,000 miles. What I do now know is that he has written a book – in two parts – about his adventure. I’ve just purchased part one so I am about to find out a lot about the guy. The blurb on the back says that his journey took him 4 years which implies that the 440 days statistic is not correct. Anyway, his book, called Moods of Future Joys (which is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to saying what it does on the tin compared to The Man Who Cycled The World), will hopefully give me all the answers. Either that or his website .

Running – starting again

Running is a key bit of preparation for cycling next summer: it will build up my levels of stamina and also help me shed the pounds I need to shed. And the good news is that this morning, I got back out on my running circuit and did a pretty good run. I aim to run again at least another two more times this week and then a regular two times a week from then on…
My circuit has scope for being expanded up and down the Thames.