Monday, 12 November 2007

Reflections on LEJOG

I'm back in Scotland on a work trip and reflecting on my LEJOG bike ride I find that various memories come crowding in:
* cycling through Tintagel in the (relatively) early morning mist and coming across various people dressed up in Arthurian clothes for a re-enactment festival.
* pushing the bike-with-too-many-names up an endless hill that seemed to go on for ever on a hot sunny day just outside South Molton
* buying a Cornish pastie in Boscastle and thinking about the flood they had
* over using my brakes down all those steep hills in Dorset and Devon
* the horrendous traffic and road layout in Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye. Why don't we ban all private traffic from town and city centres? Minimise any goods travelling by road?
* the early morning sunlight cycling out of Much Wenlock
* the B and Bs in Somerset and Black Isle
* arriving in High Bentham with a flood of memories from many previous visits from 1974, 1982 etc
* leaving Manchester via off road route up the Irwell valley
* crossing the Forth Road Bridge - magic
* the staggering beauty of the Scottish Highlands
* doing 80 miles in one day in the Highlands
* the generosity of people I met enroute
* my pleasure when my journey finally ended in Edinburgh at the railway station
* raising over £1000 and having over 1,000 hits on this blog site
* being able to do the LEJOG trip with no physical problems to me or bike.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 8 November 2007

awesome biking


the CTC sends out to their members a regular email bulletin which is well worth the membership fee in itself. The latest has a stunning and awesome clip of a cyclist doing a reverse double backward flip which still on his bike.Watch it on:

Meanwhile I am mostly enjoying cycling to work apart from a puncture halfway home yesterday and my mile and speedometer is on the blink. My yoga teacher Sebastian is suitably impressed by my LEJOG cycling and has invited to join him and a group that do some regular cycling around and outside Manchester so watch this space.

Tonight they switch the Xmas lights on in Manchester (shock, horror) but Rowan, the daughter of my friends in Bentham who put me up on the Manchester-Edinburgh leg, is dancing so will be off to see her tonight.

I am still counting the money as more sponsors keep turning up, its over a £1000 and I'll close it soon - that means there is still time to dig deep!

Take care,

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 29 October 2007

Done and dusted (well savloned1)


It's complete the whole sheebang! I did the final 230 miles Manchester to Edinburgh over 4 days - see extracts from my diary below. So my mileage total for the whole trip is 762+22+230 = 1014 miles. It would have been a bit less if I hadn't got lost regularly!

Thanks to all my supporters especially my sponsors and my back up team of Grace and Sheila. This site has had over a 1,000 hits which has been especially encouraging.
My trip went like this:
1) Lands End to Knutsford near Manchester
2) Edinburgh to John O'Groats
3) Knutsford to Manchester
4) Manchester to Edinburgh

I feel tired, a bit sore, but delighted. I have faced some demons and fears and potential failure and come through.

Thursday 25th October Manchester to High Bentham 60 miles

It was a real treat to get out of Manchester on a cycle track mostly off road on canal paths and in woods. After Whalley the route got more hilly and I got slower but I managed 40 mph down hill my fastest speed on the whole LEJOG trip.

It was great to stay with old friends Peter and Mary and reminisce a bit about old times and catch up on the new. My gears have been less than perfect but I managed. I feel remarkably well tonight. I saw some stunning views today and would love to re-visit.

Friday 26th October to Kirkoswald (just north of Lazonby) 58 miles

I made good time today and arrived by 4pm. The simple delights of a hot shower, a drink of tea and a warm room after cycling. It was cooler today but no rain as yet. I found a tea room in Orton on route and had hot chocolate and a bacon sandwich - bliss.

My friend Pete rode 5 miles with me from Bentham which was a real treat. He was my one and only travelling companion on the whole trip as it turned out. He told me how he read that men need a mission which makes sense of some of my musings about this trip.

This bit of my trip is now half complete I hope the rest goes as well!

Saturday 27th October to Bush of Ewes (5 miles north of Longholm) 43 miles

Shorter route today as I could not find a B and B further up. So I arrived in very good time just ahead of the rain although I passed through one shower. I could not finish my full English breakfast this morning (after steak and ale pie in the pub the night before) so my pit stops were mostly for hot drinks.

I am glad to be in the dry and hope for good weather tomorrow.

Sunday 28th To Edinburgh 69 miles

The wind and the rain woke me up in the night and when I woke up at 6am winter time it was misty and wet outside but it was clearer when I left at 8am.

I made such good time and reached Edinburgh railway station at about 3.45pm. The journey was wonderful with sunshine most of the way and such lovely views, with crisp cool air.

I was unable to catch an earlier train as all the bike spaces were booked up on it and they were turning people away (4 bike slots per train is not enough!) So I hung out in a cafe near the station feeling a bit spaced out and tired but so so pleased. Grace missed me and I missed her and Sheila but I needed to see this trip off and now I have done so.

I so much like cycling in Scotland and want to return soon. I am no speedy cyclist, never was and never will be. I plod on and get there in the end. Today I averaged over 9 miles per hour - the earlier part of my trip would have been so much easier at that pace but with those Dorset and Devon hills it would not have been possible for me at my current level of fitness.

Maybe one day I will do this again with travelling companions and all in one go. Or maybe the alternative Dover to the North of Scotland? Or a trip in Africa? Who knows? For now I am glad to be home and have no immediate desire to make another bike trip!

Looks like I have raised over £1000. I gather the remaining money and count it all up soon and let you know.

Best to all,

Bill on Bike.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

24 hours to go


24 hours ago as I cycle into work on a cooler, crisper morning with a clear blue sky. Apparently it is going to be cloudy, cooler and the odd shower over the next few days.

Last minute panic - separation anxiety? - when I am about to make a trip of any kind I always feel I am not ready but I am. Doing yoga the last 5 weeks at my local Ananda Marga centre has been great. It has exercised those bits of me that don't get worked on on the bike and as ever it has chilled me out nicely.

I am excited and daunted by the 4 days ahead. Things could wrong with the bike, with me, I could get lost - I probably will from time to time but hopefully not excessively. The weather could be mean but I have faced that previously and as long as it is not all day and not too windy I can survive. If for some reason I don't complete now then I will complete later Deus volens.

There must be a cyclist's prayer somewhere? I have a vague memory of a Celtic travellers prayer something about the road meeting you. How about 'May the road be smooth for me and the people I meet friendly, and the weather good and may God guide me home.

That will do me nicely.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

48 hours to go and bananas

So, 48 hours to go and a crisp ride to work through misty slightly frosty scenery. Another world seems very close, turn round a bend and be somewhere absolutely elsewhere, or not. I feel really ready, it is forecast to be cloudy later this week I hope that does not mean rain and I hope there is no rain in the next two days so that I can easily ride out of Manchester off road. It will be slower but so much better.

My friend Christa who used to write cycling books has stories about cyclists and bananas and just emailed me: "Sorry but I can't put my hands on which LEJOG record-breakers it was who enthused to me about their teams' resourcefulness/generosity beyond the call of duty in handing to them as they cycled 'impossible' war-time bananas on their record attempt (though I think it was the really funny tandem-trike blokes I interviewed yonks ago). Well, I suppose at a pinch you could paste that into your blog. Oh, and do enjoy the Southern Uplands - if your route through there is anything like such an uncluttered yet lullingly curvaceous landscape as mine was, what a brilliant stretch for mulling."

More anon,

best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 19 October 2007

Chomping at the bit


Raring to go, very excited about the prospect of cycling from Manchester to Edinburgh. Apart from the odd shower the weather has been wonderful and Autumnal which I really like. There was a marvelous sunrise this morning and the sunsets and clear blue skies in recent days have been inspiring. So I hope to see more on the final bit of my LEJOG journey.

I met Dawn E recently and she asked about what when on for me on the ride in August. It is hard to articulate it and I hope when I return to the trip next Thursday that I will find more words to describe it.

I mused on some things that troubled me, some things that troubled me I thought I would muse on I didn't, some things I didn't know troubled me I mused on. Not all my musing was on troubles. There were also times when I felt lonely and wondered why I was not with Grace and Sheila. Mostly I was travelling in the moment sometimes empty sometimes full of the experience. A kind of extended meditation or Quaker worship.

Once in a while I was bored but mostly not. This cycling thing feeds and satisfies a need for solitude in me. Things come to me in solitude - solutions to problems or at least the next steps, bits of writing, other bits if inspiration. I also get this from people in conversation. People give me so much. So I move between people and solitude. Hmm that will do - thanks Dawn.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 17 October 2007



The next 5 days are meant to be good although the 'isolated showers' decided to visit me on route to wortk from Grace's school. This weather has been cycling friendly mostly this week and I hope it stays this way for Thursday next.

I'm raring to go and have just bought some panniers to replace Sheila's which I borrowed for the first part of the trip. The new one are waterproof and will serve me well for years to come.

Check these two amazing clips from recent CTC weekly emails. In the first you see a US invention involving putting a treadmill on to wheels!

In the second you see a mad cyclist breaking the world record and cycling at 130 miles an hour!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Tales of the canal bank


I cycled to my regular meeting in Altrincham a round trip from my home of 13 miles and then onto to walk on to Dee's back to Grace's school to pick her up - all in about 20 miles or so. Most of the route to Altrincham was along the canal side in lovely Autumnal weather - I hope it is like this Thursday next week.

At one point on the path in front of me was fox not at all bothered by my approach. He or she took a good look at me before slowly moving off into the undergrowth. Quite an encounter species to species.

I am more or less ready for the next and hopefully final bit of my LEJOG trip daunted as ever which feels realistic.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 12 October 2007

Getting ready


The bike is back from Cyclelogic with 2 new tyres, new chain and transmission, new gear changer, and new brake blocks. It feels so different to ride it especially after a few days on Sheila's bike. I almost feel a song coming on based on the Sheila's wheels car advert but let's not go there!

There was a mix up with Cyclelogic over my tyres in that I wanted a new front tyre but they noticed the back needed replacing and felt the front one could last a bit longer. Anyway they threw in a new front tyre which was grand of them.

I have also fixed my route and places to stay. it goes:

Thursday 25th October Manchester to High Bentham to stay with friends. Leaving Manchester on mostly off road cycle route.
Friday 26th on to a couple miles beyond Lazonby getting close to Hadrian's Wall
Saturday 27th on to 5 miles north of Langholm in the Borders
Sunday to Edinburgh and a late train home for me and the bike!

All I need is good enough weather, no bike problems and no health problems! Talking of which I am back with Ananda Marga Yoga classes with a new teacher who is not the same as my old one Prem but who has something of the same attitude so it suits me. Walking home at 8pm after 90 minutes of the class is blissful.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 5 October 2007

On the road aagin


Just back from a 45 mile (re)training trip as I intend to complete my LEJOG journey over Thursday 25th-Sunday 28th October. Part of this trip today was from 5 miles South of Knutsford to my home in Manchester - a total of 22 miles, probably not the shortest but the most interesting route. This means I now have my home to Edinburgh train station to complete something over 200 miles. I am aiming at 60 miles a day to allow for me to get lost or hit any other snags as my back-up team will be with granny in Norfolk.

However, I have just signed up to the ETA cycle rescue service which means that if my bike breaks down - apart from a puncture - the will come and rescue me, and fix me or take me to the nearest bike shop or even home.

Meanwhile the bike-with-too-many-names is now at Cyclelogic having its gear changer fixed, a new front tyre, new break blocks and a general looking over ready for the trip. I am excited and apprehensive. The distances I travelled on the trip are awesome (80 miles one day!) and it is only doing 45 miles today that gives me confidence.

I have fantasied about cycling in Kenya but after my last trip seeing the state of the roads etc I think it is probably beyond me or would need a very careful choice of route. There are organised trips in other parts of Africa so who knows...

Doing my online diary for Quakers was great fun last week apparently I had over 600 hits in the week though there was no facility to post people's responses. You can still visit it if you like -

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Here we go again


Another wet ride into work.

After an interesting week of online blogging for Quakers - including a ghastly video clip of me that put on You Tube well it's my 5 minutes of fame - I am now gearing up (get it?) for the last bit of my LEJOG.

This is the 200 odd miles I missed out before between 3 miles south of Knutsford ('Knutsford remember me' etc) to Edinburgh. I hope to do the Knutsford to Manchester bit on Friday leaving me with 3 further days cycling planned Thursday 25th October - Sunday 28th.

This time I wont have my back up crew but I will have the new CTC service. This is a bit like the AA they come out to you and fix you or take you to the nearest bike shop etc. They wont do for a puncture but will do it for anything else.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Blogging for Quakers


My old friend Richard who almost rode part of the LEJOG with me is a big cheese among Quakers (should that not be big chocolate bar or big porridge bowl?). Anyway he asked me to do an online diary this week as part of a Quaker outreach week. Apart from this diary I had to do a video clip - I look so old in it the light is not flattering but it was first thing in the morning. Anyway Fenia who has viewed the clip says its fine. The clip is actually posted on YouTube!

Anyway as my other friend called Richard says 'If it floats your boat' visit Don't worry I am not actually singing in the clip -

"I'm singing in the clip, just singing in the clip..."

It's a mad busy autumn but I hope to set a date very soon for the final bit of my LEJOG so watch this space.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Back from Kenya


Just back from an 8 day work visit to Kenya and feeling jet lagged. I dreamed of a cycle trip in Kenya maybe around Kilimanjaro mountain but this would take some organising and require some back up. Or maybe I will find someone else organising a trip.

And I have yet to complete my own LEJOG. I hope to set a date soon for the remaining 200 miles - watch this space. Money is still coming in for my trip some of it already pledged some new which is marvelous. People in Kenya were pleased to hear about my trip. I took lots of photos and hope to some available on flickr in due course.

Many Kenyan ride bikes sometimes carrying extra ordinary amounts of goods on them and often a second person behind the saddle - saddles I noticed are very cushioned which figures when you see the roads. I would not like to cycle in Nairobi - the cars are too scary and the roads are so bad and busy.

I'll write more with some extracts from my Kenyan diary soon including my encounters with a snake and a crocodile!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 31 August 2007

You're an inspiration


Just bumped into Andy at work another keen cyclist who commented 'You're an inspiration!' Nice one. I am learning to own what I have achieved in doing 762 miles so far rather than see it as a failure to do the whole thing in one go.

I am still adjusting to life after this big journeying, both physically and also at other levels of my being. I am still digesting what it all meant. I'll write more about this here when I can.

On Monday morning very early I am off to Kenya for 8 days to speak at a conference there, to hand out some certificates on behalf of my university and to meet some new students there. I will also be talking about my LEJOG ride and arranging to put the money raised to good use. People are still giving me money for it so don't fee shy!

As some of you know I am part of a group called the Manchester Centre for Urban Spirituality and I will be running a bike pilgrimage with them in the Autumn. This will involve the maximum of 13 miles cycling with plenty of time to rest and reflect and picnic. The idea will be to be open to how cycling is a spiritual activity and I will give participants thoughts to reflect on and opportunities to share. details follow.

Best to all,

Bill on bike


Biking Pilgrimage

Many people speak of their spiritual life as a journey and there is a long tradition of walking retreats or pilgrimages. I have found recently doing regular cycling trips that there is an easy spiritual aspect to cycling – something about being somewhat self contained even when cycling in groups and how the physical exercise itself can take on a spiritual dimension much as yoga does.

The day will be led by William West. The route we will follow will take us along the Withington loop which is a cycle route mostly off road. There will be backup available. Obviously you need a bike to take part but we wont be doing Tour De France distances(!) Indeed we expect to cover 15 miles maximum on the day so there will be plenty of time for rest and reflection built in. Bring a picnic lunch. Tea and coffee will be available at the start and finish.

This is a new venture for MC4US and also it will be held on a Friday rather than our usual Saturdays so we would appreciate early expression of interest

Date: Friday October 12th

Time: Meet at 10am end at 4pm

Cost: £5 per head

To book e.mail or call 0161 274 3995.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

My trip so far


I hope you will find this extended entry interesting as it is based on my diary entries mostly unexpirgated and recall of the trip so far.

Day 1 (Friday 3rd August) Lands End to Wadebridge 73 miles.

Bit of a late start and I got us lost on route to Lands End which was dreadfully commercialised. I did not finish my 73 miles until 8pm – that’s 10 hours cycling over lost and lots of hills but feel amazingly well. Sheila and Grace had trouble with the car and had to call out the ETA and spent hours in a VW garage.

Day 2 (Saturday 4th August) to South Molton 72 miles.

Tintagel in the mist – magic and bought a sausage roll and Cornish pasty in Boscastle who are raising money for the Yorkshire floods. 5 bottles of water drunk and hot sun from 4pm. I cycled fro 11 hours to do 72 miles – much too long too many hills but still feel good and have now left Cornwall. Given £2 from a passing car “Good on you”

Day 3 (Sunday 5th August) to a farm at Wedmore near Cheddar 69 miles

Massive uphill from North Molton in the hot sun very dispiriting but my back up team turned up trumps by bringing me a sun hat! Spent the rest of the day ‘catching up’ and decided not to cross the Quantocks but skirted round them instead. Given £3 by an elderly woman and was entertained by performing motor bikes who supported me. The B and B which is excellent and then donated £10 to m y trip, is on reclaimed land in the Somerset levels near Bridgewater. The Duke of Monmouth and his rebellion of 1685 is much on my mind, a fascinating period of history for me. I feel like a real End to Ender having done 214 miles in 3 days.

Day 4 (Monday 6th August) to Ross-on-Wye 74 miles

Did 74 miles by 7pm but was 10 miles short of Ross part not leaving from Cheddar, getting lost and this being an extra long leg. My back up team is fed up. Cheddar gorge was a slog and when I got lost it was on a big uphill and skirting around Bristol was not fun. But the Severn Bridge was amazing and cycling through Tintern was a delight as was being on part of the Bath Bristol cycleway. This means an extra 10 miles tomorrow unless I can figure out a quicker more direct route

Day 5 (Tuesday 7th August)to Much Wenlock 59 miles

On my own today as my back up team return to Manchester. I used direct main/B roads through Hereford, Leominster and Ludlow which reduced my journey to 59 miles which still took me until 7 after a late start in Monmouth. Very sluggish at first and I felt sad and saying goodbye to Sheila and Grace. Wished now that I had a group of cyclists with me. Definitely the low point of the trip. Will see about a more direct route from now on. Reached my B and B to get a phone call from Richard who hopes to join me on Friday.

Day 6 (Wednesday 8th August)to Knutsford 72 miles

This proved to be testing. I hoped to find a short route to Manchester and to arrive there before my sister-in-law did on the London train. Despite an early 8.15 start with the sun in my eyes and a good first hour soon my average was below 7 miles per hour and no bakeries for miles. There was helpful traffic warden in Ludlow who saved me some miles and I found a nice Cornish pasty in Market Drayton. By 7pm 3 miles short of Knutsford I had had enough and Sheila picked me up.

I had wondered whether to quit all day but Sheila suggested that I take a 3 day break and then resume from Edinburgh and to do Knutsford to Edinburgh over a long weekend later. It makes some kind of sense to me.

I have a sun burnt ear, sore throat and a swollen lip and am tired but I hope I bounce back!

Day 7 (Thursday 9th August) rested up at home
Day 8 (Friday 10th August) ) restyed up at home
Day 9 (Saturday 11th August)to Peebles

No cycling since Wednesday! 3 days rest up and then cycling again to morrow. The landlady in Peebles donate £15 at this great B and B – . I am touched my people’s generosity and responses to my trip. I really needed this resting up.

Day 10 (Sunday 12th August)to Upper Yetts O'Muckhart(!) near Perth 37 miles

Only 37 miles today from Edinburgh but it took nearly 6 hours. Glad to have a short trip but form now on it will be 70 miles a day. Sheila and Grace spent most of the day in Edinburgh but had trouble driving out. I found a great cycle route just outside Edinburgh to the Forth Road Bridge which was impressive. I felt a bit sluggish but I think much of the route was up hill as it will be tomorrow. Good B and B –

Day 11 (Monday 13th August)to Blair Athol 65 miles

The Maitre D in the hotel a rather severe young woman gave me £10!! It was a great day cycling my best mph so far and wonderful Scottish Highland scenery and the great NCN Route 7 cycle route.

Day 12 (Tuesday 14th August) to Black Isle 80 miles!

80 miles covered at 8 miles an hour! I was daunted by the thought at the start of my trip about hills in Cornwall/Devon and the Scottish Highlands. I was right about Cornwall and Devon but wrong about the Highlands. They were so much easier to cycle in, less pushing up hills and next to no braking on the down hills. NCN Route 7 is a delight – great to be off the dreaded A9 and in forests, cycle tacks, quiet roads etc. A good day all in.

Day 13 (Wednesday 15th August) 12 miles short of Altnahara, 69 miles

Following Sheila suggestion not to climb a steep hill, I followed a delightful coastal route which added too many miles to my journey And cycling in the Black Isle proved to be very slow if enjoyable so I fell short of our B and B which means I probably wont reach John O’Groats tomorrow.

It rained for several hours which did not help – the first time on this trip for full rainproofs including overshoes. Bit of a mindless day for me though there were some memories of early days with Sheila in the family holiday cottage near Ardgay which I passed though.

Day 14 (Thursday 16th August) 59 miles to Reay

Still 32 miles short of John O’Groats. Today was the worst cycling conditions I have ever faced – wind, driving rain, quite dangerous places, blown up hills, sideways and against me sometimes, cold and wet and poor visibility through rain streaked glasses. Managed 59 miles nonetheless.

Day 15 (Friday 17th August) John O’Groats – 32 miles

At 12.10 after just over 3 hours cycling! I wished I could immediately do the missing 220 miles but have still done 762! Brilliant weather mostly just a bit windy in places but otherwise sunshine ands only one brief rain shower. I met other cyclists there – ‘we’ve done it have you?’ ‘Not quite’, I felt a fraud.

I am amazed though at what I have achieved – 340 miles in the last 51/2 days, 762 in 111/2 days about £1000 for Kenya. I didn’t know I could do so much!”

Notes from the car Saturday 18th August

The inner Journey

Some thing unexpected and some things expected came to me.

I felt lonely felt anguish and separation from Sheila and Grace which was unexpected. It felt futile, why do this?

I felt pleasure, achievement, good in myself and in the trip.

I felt bored, empty, tired.

I thought deeply about friends alive and dead.
I thought about some problems I have and gained some insights.

I am thankful to be alive and in one piece. I am thankful for Sheila and Grace. I am thankful especially at the Reay B and B after the awful day. I appreciate the simple things like a warm house, hot shower, bed, tea, food.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Learnings for other would-be End to Enders


I thought it might be useful to sum up some of what I have learnt on my LEJOG trip so far:
1) Figure out what kind of mileage you would like to aim for each day and take 10 miles off that figure.
2) This allows for getting lost since I found however clear the directions I was following however clear my maps seemed the actual land was different. Signposts pointed to places not on the map, I passed through places not on signposts. T junctions mysteriously became cross roads and vice versa. National Cycle Network signs suddenly stopped and then would reappear.
3) It also allows for bad weather and steeper than expected hills. Devon and Cornwall were especially bad. I found very steep hills often impossible to climb and then very steep descents where brakes were necessary due to winding lanes with tall hedges. In contrast the feared Highlands of Scotland were a gem to cycle.
4) Expect the unexpected at the least likely time!
5) Be prepared to change you stopover arrangements - treat everything as provisional
6) It was great having a back up crew but tough on them.

If I was doing it again, I would prepare a little bit more in terms of trips over more than one day. I would aim to do only 60 miles in a day and probably join an organised trip to take some of the weight of me and my back up crew.

Having written all of the above my trip so far has been extraordinary, I have gained so much from doing it on many levels and am intensely grateful to my back up team of Sheila and Grace.

More from my travel diary soon,

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 20 August 2007

Suffering with


One of the surprises of this trip was how much people responded to me. I had a sign on my bike saying "Biking from Lands End to John O'Groats, supporting HIV work in Kenya.

People tooted their car horns regularly and shouted out words of encouragement - 'Go for it' 'Well done'. People twice gave me money out of car windows and strangers regularly approached me on the streets and gave me money. Even 3 of our B and B landlord/ladies gave us money. It was heartening.

I reflected on this as I cycled. Sure there is a response in this to HIV and Kenya which is great. And there is something about me choosing to do this mammoth cycle ride about 1000 miles that people responded to. You will appreciate from the blog picture that I am not lycra clad, nor is my bike light and thin, and I am clearly middle aged and grey.

So it was over 9 hours cycling more or less continuous each day on the bike to do my average of 70 miles. It was fun, tiring, monoteneous, boring, hard work, time stood still and sometimes raced and the inner journey was something else.

Basically it was about suffering, voluntary suffering, suffering with if you like. And I think people responded to this. It was a kind of post modern secular pilgrimage. At times I felt lonely and thought why am I doing this mad thing? It would be much easier just to raise money some other way. But it was there for me to do, a mad (possibly male) thing.

And when it was over at the end of the day I can't tell you how wonderful a warm bed and warm food was. I was so appreciative of the ordinary. I wont forget this for a long time. And nor will my body and nor will my back up team!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

John O'Groats with more to do

Well I reached John O'Groats last Friday but I still have more to do to complete my LEJOG trip as will be apparent from my last posting. It goes like this:
1) I did 421 miles in my first 6 days taking me from Lands End to Knutsford near Manchester.
2) I then took a 3 day break and given the booked B and Bs and the various other arrangements
3) I resumed my trip at Edinburgh and successfully cycled to John O'Groats over the next 5 days covering a further 341 miles.

So I still have about 220 miles to do over a long weekend in the near future.

So I am disappointed not to have done it in one go but delighted to have done over 3/4 of it - 762 miles and confident I can do the rest soon so watch this space.

I'll write more about the trip in the next few days.

Thanks for all your support and especially to my back up team Sheila and Grace.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 10 August 2007

Fantastic achievement


Fantastic achievement, no, not my words but those of my fellow would-be travelers Richard and Keith when they heard about my 422 miles in 6 days from Lands End to just short of Knutsford near Manchester.

Tomorrow - Saturday 11th August I will travel with my backup team of Sheila and Grace to Peebles and on Sunday leave from either Peebles or Edinburgh to resume my LEJOG journey to John O'Groats over the following 5 days. This will leave me with a 3 day section from just short of Knutsford (near Manchester) to Peebles or Edinburgh to complete over a long weekend in the near future.

Resting up yesterday and today has been good - my sore throat is disappearing as is the swelling of my lower lip and the sunburn on my left ear. Lots of aches in my legs but I am feeling a whole lot less tired and hopefully by Sunday raring to go again.

Whilst on the bike on Wednesday I re-worded Noel Cowards Mad dogs song:

"Mad dogs and cyclists go out in the midday sun
Walkers wouldn't care to,
Drivers wouldn't dare to..."

More anon, best to all,

Bill soon to be on bike again!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Bikus interruptus


well a number of you told me so. I have now reached Manchester or rather 3 miles south of Knutsford 421 miles in 6 days and I am cream crackered with a sore ear throat and lips. Sheila says why not take a break and resume the trip on sunday from Peebles and then do the Knutsford to Peebles trip over a long weekend soon. Sounds like a good idea to me.

So what went wrong or rather not as right as it might?
1) 70 miles a day took me longer than anticipated from my training trips. This left not enough time to recover, take stops, make mistakes.
2) Each day following the CTC route I got lost at least once adding a few miles to the trip.
3) There were some brutal hills especially in the route I was following which slowed me down
4) And yes I needed a lighter bike for those damm hills.

But assuming I rest up successfully these next few days I am up for continuing so watch this space!

Now for the better news. People were amazing, stranger gave me £5, £5, £5, £3, £3, £2 - sometimes they came up to me and talked someetimes they gave me money out of car windows occasionally on the move! Many more urged me on with shouts and car horns and a group of bikers performed stunts to entertain me as they passed me by! This all helped.

I did 73, 72, 71 74, 60, 72 miles on the six days and eat lots of mostly delicious Cornish pasties and got sick of Enlgish breakfasts, ate lost of chewy oat, nuts, and dried fruit and 5 bottles of water a day. The weather was fantastic if sometimes a little too hot.

I went into 'Unicorn' mode some of the time - you know allowing ideas and thoughts to turn up to be looked at and I sorted out a few problems I had. I have a few people to speak to and few letters to write as a result. Quite a bit of the time I was mindless just empty and physical but time flowed by. I was never bored. It was a pilgrimage I think. I suffered quite a bit. It is a pure physical slog after all. Maybe I was demonstrating suffering with - compassion - and maybe that produced people positive reactions. It was like having a sign around my neck or rather I had one attached to the bike telling people what I was doing and why - photos to follow.

There were some stunning views of Dartmoor, the Quantocks, the Wrekin, Wenlock Edge, the view from the Severn Bridge, Tintagel in the mist, Tintern Abbey breathtaking. Plenty of places I would have wished to have spent time in and must re-visit on another kind of pilgrimage.

I got lonely when my back up team left me at Ross on Wye I thought then that it was a mad thing I was doing taking me away from them. I still think it is a bit mad but it not that long a time as it happens.

I feel proud to have covered 420 miles so far and look forward to completion. I'll write more in a while.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 26 July 2007

All but ready and raring to


It has been a busy few days in the run up to our trip to Norfolk on Saturday and then on to Lands End. I have been laminating a sign for the bike, also laminating my CTC directions so that the pages don't dissolve in the rain!

I have fitted a carrier for my water bottle on the bike and tested out the recent repairs - new pedals and adjustment to gears so that I can get into bottom gear - essential for all those lovely Devon and Scottish Hills that await me!

I dodged the rains today but there has been some thunder just now and the BBC monthly weather forecast suggests that my first weekend will be wet and then the rest of the trip will be drier.

As I hail from Worcestershire I have been touched by the floods and of course also selfishly concerned about whether I will need to make a detour into the Welsh Hills, whether my B and B are flooded out etc. Hopefully there will be enough dry times for the waters to subside but I really feel for those who will wait days just to get their water back on.

Of course access to cheap clean water is a luxury for many people in Africa and elsewhere so maybe it is good to be reminded of these things and also to reflect on climate change caused by global warning. I am off to Kenya for a week early in September and have a sore left arm today as I have just had a typhoid vaccination in preparation.

Keith and Richard are all set to join me in Manchester and David will likely join me somewhere and now Steve, Becky and Walt and Joe are talking about joining in too. Its such fun to have such good companionship.

I have been studying my first days route on the map tonight and feeling excited. Me and the bike are at our fittest in years. All ready to go. And there is a heavy downpour of rain outside. I have had to modify my route to work to avoid huge puddles in the parks.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 21 July 2007

I'm proud of you


It's getting close to the ride, we travel to Norfolk a week today and after 2 family birthday dos there we set off for Cornwall on Wednesday 1st August staying overnight with friends in Dorchester then on to Penzance and the next day Friday August 3rd LEJOG starts!

I have been scaring myself reading a book on bike maintenance and realising how badly I look after Sir Walter,the bike-with-too-many-names, but he has been getting better treatment than ever before and later today I pick him up with I think a new crankshaft and better gear changing. I have promised myself to look after him better over the trip and after.

I am hooked on this blogging business so when the trip is over I think I will let this blog rest and start a new one called something like whatyouwill! The new blog will be less bike based but will retain the humour and the whimsical nature of this blog. But there is plenty of water to pass under the bridge or under my bike wheels before then!

I had lunch with Keith yesterday - he of the "if I fall off the pig gets it fame". Keith will join me on the Thursday morning in Manchester and cycle some of the way north with me and Richard (Richard joins me that morning for two days cycling). David aka as Doctor Gringo still intends to join me part of the way at some point - if this turns out to be Manchester they will be a whole bunch of us blokes on the case.

Keith's parting shot to be after we went our separate ways was "I'm proud of you" Nice one.

Meanwhile back in the office Andy has made the scurilious suggestion that I launch a sweepstake in which people choose how far they think I will get. Andy at least suggested 775 miles which is something of a vote of confidence. OK so it could raise a bit of extra money. Place you votes and your money here - name that distance!

Sponsorshipwise I am now up to £787 with 3 more people who are sponsoring but not yet confirming a figure and with a few more arms to twist in the coming days I am confident that I reach my first goal of £1000. But of course I want to do more so over to you. It just takes an email to or a phone call 0161 275 3397. Or post me a comment on this blog.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Being boring


I have just tracked down the lyrics of 'Being boring' by the Pet Shop Boys. Here is some of the lines after the singer has reflected on his life in the 70s he sings:
"Now I sit with different faces
In rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
Some are here and some are missing
In the nineteen-nineties
I never dreamt that I would get to be
The creature that I always meant to be
But I thought in spite of dreams
You'd be sitting somewhere here with me"

It clearly can be seen as song about AIDS "Some are here and some are missing" (made more poignant when we know that all through the Pets early fame a close friend of Neil of the PETS was dying from AIDS). For me, this song is also about becoming "I never dreamt that I would get to be/The creature that I always meant to be" that for me is about what we know about ourselves inside and how much we are able to be that in the world- self actualisation/realisation if you like. I have done quite a bit of that for myself sometimes against the odds. And I have been given more than I could believe was possible and so I try to use that which I have been given. Hence this mad bike trip and the connected fund raising for KAPC in Kenya.

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Clicking again


The sun was shining today on the way to work but showers are promised later with even more on Friday. I am getting rather boring and English about the weather. There is a fine Pet Shops boys song called 'Being boring' but more about that anon.

A month ago I took my bike in for repairs, I couldn't get into my bottom gear set, and there was a strange click when I pedalled with my right foot - click from the bike not from my foot! Well they replaced my gear changer but that did not really help and now the click is back so I am off to the bike shop later today and will no doubt be back on Sheila's bike meantime.

Reflecting on yesterday's experience I felt OK cycling into work today so that is hopeful in terms of cycling day in day out on the LEJOG trip and although I only covered 33 miles rather slowly a year ago 33 miles in one day would have been a good score which shows how much I have moved on.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Wet again but intrepid


I decided to check out the route out of Manchester since on the bike trip Sheila wont be able to pick me up from Knutsford on the Wednesday and drop me off again the following morning. I discovered a couple of cycle rides in the book 'Manchester Cycle Rides' by Neil Simpson,that mostly use National Cycle Network Route 6, and start from the Salford University campus.

It was great escaping Manchester on cycle tracks but they were muddy in places and when a downpour occurred I was fortunate to be passing through an underpass in Bury so I took an early lunch there. The going was even slower muddier and wetter after that. However, I had brought some overshoes the day before and put them to immediate and effective use.

I did only 33 miles in about 4.5 hours which is too slow for my LEJOG plan of 70 miles a day. I am sure it would be quicker if the going was not wet but I guess these tracks are mostly just not as fast as tarmac so their needs to be some trade off between speed and enjoyment especially of the view.

However, if I do bike to Manchester the night before that will take 10 mile of the trip to Bentham the next day so a slightly slower pace would not be the end of the world. I should be travelling this bit of the route with my mate Richard so we can decide the night before in the light of the weather conditions at the time.

Incidentally when the Eye column in The Friend ran a story on me recently based on an email I sent them they referred to me as 'the intrepid William West'. I like that word 'intrepid'. So I can now call myself the 'intrepid and liminal cyclist on the bike with too many names'!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Latest version of the route


It was a broody sky today on my usual route into work. Sooner or later it is going to pour down. I had raised up my saddle by about one inch and the affect was impressive, I was cycling with greater power.

I have now booked 3 more B and Bs since Sheila said it is wet like it has been I don't fancy camping. So my latest route involves:

Day 1 (Friday 3rd August) Lands End to Wadebridge
Day 2 (Saturday 4th August) to South Molton
Day 3 (Sunday 5th August) to a farm at Wedmore near Cheddar
Day 4 (Monday 6th August) to Ross-on-Wye
Day 5 (Tuesday 7th August)to Much Wenlock
Day 6 (Wednesday 8th August)to Knutsford then onto home in Manchester
Day 7 (Thursday 9th August)to High Bentham, friends
Day 8 (Friday 10th August) )to Irthington near Brampton
Day 9 (Saturday 11th August)to Peebles
Day 10 (Sunday 12th August)to Upper Yetts O'Muckhart(!) near Perth
Day 11 (Monday 13th August)to Blair Athol
Day 12 (Tuesday 14th Agust) to Black Isle
Day 13 (Wednesday 15th August) to Altnaharra
Day 14 (Thursday 16th August)to John O'Groats!

I am excited and scared which feels about right. What I don't know is the accumulated impact of all the cycling on me - if I can get through the first 4 days I know I can finish. But also anything could happen. It will get my best shot and I have such good support which will carry me a long way in spirit.

last night Sheila said to me: "I'll set the alarm for six"
"But there's only 2 of us!"

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 16 July 2007

Cycling in sunshine

Yes it's true! I cycled into work today in sunshine which so lifts the spirits after so much rain. I felt a bit tender in my nether regions - this seems an obsession for long distance cyclists - but I hope this was down to cycling in soaked shorts for hours on end. But I will add Savlon to my list of must-takes!

We go to Norfolk for a few days from the weekend after next before travelling on to Lands End to start the LEJOG trip. So I am trying to figure everything out and take all that I need. I even wondering about putting tags on my shirts - Tuesday August 6th, Wednesday August 7th etc but that is one step too obsessive.

In Norfolk I can go for regular short 15 or so miles daily training trips and sing to the sheep - Noel Coward, Pet Shops Boys, maybe a bit of Buggles (one hit group from the 1980s?) as in 'Goostrey remember me' whcih was my reworking of their classic 'Elstree remember me' from their legendary first album, possibly their only one!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Biking in the rain


I'm biking in the rain
Just biking in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm biking again"

Well it rained and rained and rained for over 8 hours as I cycled. I got pretty wet, bike shoes, socks, 3/4 cycling shorts, even a bit wet inside my banana coloured cycle jacket. I definitely need some over shoes and to use my waterproof trousers when it rains.

It was raining a bit when I left home, I hesitated but Sheila said it would be good practice for when it might rain on my LEJOG trip. For some reason I felt amazingly bouyant all day!

I did my usual Alderley Edge trip complete with some lovely warm sausages rolls in Alderley on the way out and toasted sandwich and a coffee in a cafe in Alderley on the way back - the only dry moment all day.

To make up my mileage I added on the complete Withington cycle loop at the end (no chance of me cycling on the canal bank this time!) Using my newish mileometer it read 64.6 miles, in the rain I wasn't fussed to ride around the street to add the extra 5.4 miles to make 70.

So in just over 8 hours I was averaging about 8 miles per hour, a bit slower than last time which no doubt reflects the rain. My knees hardly ached at all this time and I felt better than before at the end of the day (yesterday) and today, although I do feel tired. So I am hoping to fit in a another 2 rides before I got to Norfolk - prior to LEJOG trip and there I will some daily rides of about 15-20 miles.

Sheila decided that with all this rain about camping would not be a bright idea to say the least so I have been frantically seeking out and contacting B and Bs on my route. I now only have one unaccounted for and this should sort in the next couple of days, I hope.

The upside is that with not camping I should sleep better as should Grace and Sheila and it will also mean I should get off on the road a bit earlier. Yesterday I had done 40 miles by the time I stopped for lunch at just after one so that feels a good plan to me - cycling from 8ish to 1ish and then a quick lunch and cycling again until 4 or 5 should do it.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 9 July 2007

Making a difference


A dry bike ride to work! In fact I even managed to get sun burnt a bit on Saturday at Grace's school summer fair. £30 more sponsorship on Friday takes the grand total over £750 which is brilliant.

My whippet knees (see previous pots to get the illusion) have been feeling good, must be all the Glucosamine tablets I have been taken apart from in bed on Sunday morning my right knee decided to ache! I wish the trip was on today I am as ready as I will be in 3 weeks time.

My friend and sponsor and occasional correspondent Graham wrote after the last post - "Thank you for your info about Peter Kahugu making a living sharpening knives. If he had been born in UK he'd might have done a PhD in engineering and be earning a high income as an engineer. As it is he is getting $10 a day. It is humbling to think how luck I/we are living in UK with all the opportunities we have. Thanks, Graham"

Spot on Graham. What it also reminds me is how inventive and creative people are everywhere given half a chance or even less than half a chance. I also no in my bones how education makes a difference because it did to me and I see in my students who go on to make a real difference and that is what the work of KAPC in Kenya is all about - making a difference.

My dear friend Pittu Laungani who died in March this year - there was a good obituary for him in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago - once said to me when I asked him what his life's purpose had been and still was. He replied it was to make the world a bit better place. He did that in spades despite being seriously ill for the last 18 years of his life!

The human spirit staggers me.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 6 July 2007

Sharpening knives by bike


I found this video gem in the CTC e-newsletter today: "Peter Kahugu of Banana Hill(!) just outside Nairobi makes a living using his bicycle. He has modified his bicycle with a drive belt and a grinding stone to make it a knife-sharpening machine. By kicking the bike up onto its stand and simply pedalling he is able to offer a fully mobile service. Visit to watch a short film of this simple and beautifully-conceived machine in action.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wet wet wet


Another wet ride into work but who cares? I feel fit to cycle and if I face this kind of rain day after day so be it. My friend Bob who did his LEJOG trip a few years back faced too many wet days but he completed.

But my cycling shoes are still wet after 2 days - the Kenyan shoes dried overnight so I wore them into work and now they are drying out (hopefully!) in my office. I am going to check out overshoes once it stops raining long enough for me to get to the cycle shop! This might just be this afternoon after work ends.

Feeling my usual panic when a big trip comes up, I'm not ready, not fixed the campsite, not got all my spares and tools ready, what about my camera still don't quite understand it, shall I take my laptop in the car, can I fit in even more cycling between now and August 3rd etc.

But I am ready that's my feeling today. Indeed I wish I could just head off now!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Wet feet


Another downpour on the way to Dee's - the Heaven's opened - great phrase that. I don't mind being rained on, in fact I find it quite exhilarating - I just hate it when I come indoors out of it and have to strip off wet clothes.

My hair gets a bit wet in the gaps in my cycle helmet. My upper and lower body stayed dry thanks to Sheila's birthday and Xmas presents to me of yellow banana cycling jacket and waterproof but breathable trousers.

But below the trousers my socks got soaked and my Kenyan shoes, worn because my cycling shoes were still wet from yesterday, got soaked through. So I am going to have to check out overshoes for my LEJOG trip as I can't have all my shoes wet at the same time. That's assuming that bike shops and suppliers haven't sold out on overshoes in this wet weather.

It's good practice for me just cycling through the rain, I'll have to do it on the trip and I notice I could still get to 12 miles per hour.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Dancing with the Masai


Just got some sponsorship off my boss Peter and off my secretary Tina (well she not really 'mine' since she looks after a whole bunch of us)which should encourage other people in my department to join in. That makes £722 which is brilliant!

Only a little bit of rain on the way to work today not enough to stop and put on my waterproof trousers. Yesterday cycling home it was just torrential rain. It was so wet my cycling shoes got wet through and were still wet this morning. So maybe I need some overshoes in case it gets this wet on my trip.

I have been remembering the time when I danced with some Masai dancers in Kenya. It goes like this. Before my first conference there in 2004 this Masai dance group came on with some stunning African drum beats to open the conference. I was gripped by it and my body began to move hardly without thinking.

I was sat next to Nonnie from Durham. She said, "Do you want to dance?" I replied, "I will if you will". That was it - we were off up to the front of the audience and among the Masai dancers. It was staggering. They welcomed us and worked us into their rhythms. I felt a bit self conscious from time to time but I was mostly just gripped by it all. I don't know what the largely African audience of over 300 people made of it but I couldn't help myself.

The rest of the conference was mostly polite and serious but with flashes of African humour which I really enjoy.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Tender but well sponsored


Wet days in Manchester, dodging showers as best I can but at least no flooding here. On my bike trip last Friday along the canal banks by the end of the day for the first time ever I had a sore bum. Could this be the start of a Savlon addiction? I hope not. With a bit of rescue cream I am now OK. But I will be ready for a future outbreak on my LEJOG trip!

Sponsor-wise I have collected another £90 from my fellow staff members and students. This take me up to £697. So there is still room for more, dig deep and I can make it over £1000 which is my first goal.

People still seem doubtful about whether I can do it - cyclists and non cyclists alike. I am up for it but who knows? If I can't do it all in one go then I will go back and finish it off later. So I'll do it one way or another, hopefully all in one go. I quite like not knowing. It is not a simple thing.

I can do 70 miles in a day, my knee complains later on than it did, I feel better the next day than I did. I am doing the miles quicker than I did, I understand more about what food and drink will be most helpful, so it all points in the right direction.

Your support and prayers do make a difference!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Sunday, 1 July 2007

My Kenya shoes

So when I first visited Kenya I took a newish pair of shoes with me. I had been invited to give a keynote address to KAPC's International Counselling Conference in September 2004 - but that's a whole other story.

Well I have this thing about wearing new shirts and/or shoes to conferences. So there I was walking in the grounds of the conference hotel on the bone dry pathways and lost of dust flew up. It was the same at KAPC's downtown or rather down slum headquarters.

I was at first put out my new shoes were being ruined and when I got home I could not get them that clean. But then something happened and they became my Kenyan shoes and every time I wear them I reconnect with Kenya in a very physical way.

These shoes will be my off bike shoes this August during my LEJOG trip.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 29 June 2007

Sir Walter (and me) in the mud


Sheila think I should call the bike Sir Walter because it is a Rayleigh bike after all - that's its make. (For those lacking English history Sir Walter Rayleigh was one of Queen Elizabeth the First's captains who were not beyond a bit of entrepreneurship. Sir Walter also brought back both the potato and tobacco from the USA.

Grace prefers and sings Na na nana na na nana na na Groat (as in the Hey Jude chorus). I quite like Dori's suggestion of the bike-formerly-known-as or even my earlier bike-with-no-name but I guess it is now the bike-with-(too)-many-names.

I am just back from 55 miles mostly along the canals. This was probably a bit dumb as after all the recent rain there were plenty of puddles, nettles, brambles and mud and it rained for an hour soon after I set off. Needless to say I fell off the bike but fortunately not on the canalside and only my pride got hurt.

After lunch I touched 23 miles a hour down hill, into Warrington (don't ask!) and made much better time on the return journey in the sunshine with less puddles. I had my usual flat bit around 25-35 miles and my right leg began to ache but this time after over 40 miles so can't be bad.

But my speed was lower than usual due to the mud and the rain so my next trip will be my usual on 'around the edge'. It is only a few weeks to go now as June ends then July and then it happens in August, quite a bit still to do and still time for your sponsorships so dig deep!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 26 June 2007



I have just visited sitemeter which records how many visitors this blog receives and where you come from. First off there have now been over 500 of you which I think a triumph of (your) hope over my intrepid prose. (Sorry about the use of that word 'intrepid' but since Eye used it in relation to me in The Friend last week it has kind of stuck to me. I dream of a 1,000 hits by the start of the LEJOG trip in August.

It's where you visitors come from that is equally fascinating to me. Naturally 71% come from the UK but my hits from the USA - 16% have shot up this last week no doubt in response to my visit. After that it gets even more interesting 3% from Australia, 2% Belgium, and 1% from Mexico, Egypt, Peru, India, Chile, Netherlands, Spain!

I am not totally sure what people get out of it as I only get a few messages and emails but I know people tend to visit more than one page at a time so the blog is getting read!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Lobby incident


Back on the bike if somewhat jet lagged but marvelous and if the rains disappear might just get a day's cycling in on Friday.

I was in the lobby of my hotel in Madison when a couple came by dressed in neat cycling gears pushing their bikes. I was of course all eyes for their bikes and got a filthy look from the woman who no doubt thought I had eyes only for her and not her bike!

As I get older my interests change or in my case return to an earlier love of biking!

There has been another interesting posting from F the Greek with a link into her fascinating blog in which she uses the bike as a metaphor for understanding her research. It's all a question of balance and how our balancing is subtly shifting dynamic process.

Whilst I was away last week The Friend published a short item in its Eye column based on an email from me about this trip. They referred to me as 'intrepid' which I think is rather neat!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Savlon on your nethers


Keith has come up trumps sponsoring me 10p a mile (work it out). This takes the figure up to over 500 pounds. Keith also came up with some advice from fellow cyclists about taking a rest day and doing 50 not 70 miles per day. I have wondered about a rest day but timetable is a bit tight and my arrangements are a bit complicated. There is one day when I will do somewhat under 70 miles which should help.

The next phase of my training will involve more sustained cycling so should get some clearer idea about it. I am hoping that my body will get into the swing of things on the trip itself so that I don't get progressively worn out but that might be a fantasy based on youthful experiences.

Anyway I am going to give this trip my best shot, if my body gives I am not going to push on regardless. I guess if I can't do it in one go I will do it in two!

There was an interesting piece by Tom Robbins in the Observer on the 17th June about cycling from London to Canterbury which will form part of the Tour de France (don't ask). Hi mate Mike who did the trip with him said, "I tend to smear my shorts with chamois cream, which sounds disgusting but really helps. Just smear your nethers in Savlon before you set out and you'll be fine." Yeah well we will see about this.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 22 June 2007

Yoga and biking


It is strange being here in Madison in the USA at a conference and not cycling at all. It is fairly flat, its a small town with not too much traffic. There are plenty of bikes around many of them very stripped down with no mud guards whether mountain bikes or racers.

So to keep ready for my trip I have been doing yoga. It was very strange doing the first session at about 5am having woken up at 4am on my first morning here. When I first seriously began yoga classes 5 years ago it felt quite a physical challenge - I was in a quite physical 2 hour class but immediately I felt something spiritual happening to me, I would go into some kind of almost trance state.

Then my friend Keith - he of the "If I fall off the bike the pig gets it" fame, anyway Keith told me of a class run by a spiritual group called Ananda Marga. This class was more gentle more energy centred (chakras) focused. In between posture you lie for a minute or two flat on your back in what they call the corpse position.

In most postures there is a still moment when you don't breath for about 10 seconds and the world stops. It always reminds me of the time when Grace was first born before she took her first breathe. Magic.

So I guess we are talking about how Yoga is a liminal space for me especially this in between breath moments. This Ananda Marga yoga felt even more spiritual for me than my previous Yoga class. I felt all chilled out and de-stressed by it - it was better than therapy!

If you take this notion of what yoga actually is then I guess riding my bike can become a yoga for me too in fact it already is.

I can get a bit boring about all this bike stuff I guess it has always been my way to share with people what I am doing and what it does to me. This blog just makes me worse. But there again it up to you. You don't have to read this stuff - you can leave it!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The liminal bike-formerly-known-as


F the Greek(!) who is one of my few (regular) comment posters on this blog argues in her latest post against my use of the Roman God Mercurius as the middle name of the bike-with-too-many names.

F suggests instead that I use the Greek God Hermes - nothing nationalist on her part here of course. Hermes in the God of swift travel and liminal spaces. Well I find biking at times very liminal especially when us cyclists go into a bonk - this happens when your blood sugar levels plummets and you can't convert fat reserves quickly enough and your mind starts to drift. Apparently cyclists use up 700 calories an hour.

Indeed this whole business of travelling seems to put me into a liminal space fairly quickly. When I am on my bike between starts point A and finish point B I am inbetween. I am then liminal neither one thing or place nor the other. This lack of definition I find freeing. I can be who I want to be in the moment. I don't have to shape myself to fit around other people.

This is one reason why I like to travel and why I find biking is so appealing.

Anyway back to naming the bike my good friend Dori suggests I call it the bike-formerly-known-as. I quite like that!

Best to all,

Bill on Bike

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

More Kenyan memories


Landing in Nairobi airport in September 2004 on my first visit I was dead beat tired. I was however immediately struck by the politeness of the passport control staff,"Can I help you sir?"
So different to their surly UK, US and Russian colleagues!

This politeness, at times almost inscrutable - what are they thinking? -seems to me an African or at least a Kenyan trait. Linked to this is a real feel of immense pride shared by both the women and men, including a keenness for me to go on safari and see their beautiful countryside.

But I was so conscious of being white and how all my interactions with black Kenyans were 'coloured' by my and their skin tones. This was different to being around black people in England and at a conference with 300 black Africans and only about 6 white people I felt edgy.

The only time I have felt anything similar to this was when I was in Japan and being at least 6 inches taller than almost all Japanese people and feeling dead clumsy and not speaking Japanese I stuck out like a very sore thumb and could not escape like I can do in Europe.

I reached Nairobi at sunset - brief but beautiful. The roads and the traffic were terrible. he hotel was a shock, it was gated and the gatekeepers checked the boot and looked under the car for bombs.

Later wandering in the grounds looking for my favourite stars I met a (polite!) hotel guard armed with a machine gun. Oh boy!

Middle class Kenyans live in gated communities within live-in servants and they like to drive 2nd hand Mercedes - well you see the roads!

I saw slums in Kenyan the 'official' ones with some basic amenities like waters pipes and perhaps electricity and then the more basic 'dirt poor' (a good word for it) unofficial slums.

But I want to sing a song of the beauty of Kenya; the beauty, grace and energy of the people I meet specially the younger ones - their bright clothes their exotic countryside. This is a country still with hope, still struggling with HIV but not defeated...yet!

Best to all from Madison jet lagged at 5am local time,

Bill on bike

Monday, 18 June 2007

Hot news


Hot news just as I am about to leave for a 6 days in the USA. my friend Richard will do the Knutsford to High Bentham and High Bentham parts of the route with me which will be right grand.

Some of Richard's cycling friends think that 70 miles day in day out for the 14 days of the LEJOG trip I have planned is a cause for shaked heads. I have always been a bit of a fool who rushed in where angels fear to tread or in this case cycle.

Well it will get my best shot and as long as my legs and body as whole holds out who cares if it takes an extra day or so.

I have come up with a new middle name for the bike - Mercurius after the Roman God Mercury, the god of swift travel and communication. Even though Mercury is Grace's ruling planet she is not impressed and neither is Sheila. It also sounds a bit like that Greek singer from years ago! Nana Mercurius Groat. Well I think you readers need to get in on this one - vote now!!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Going West


Feeling sluggish today cycling to work in between showers of rain but still my odometer recorded 9, 10 or 11 miles per hours so can't be bad. I have decided on the LEJOG trip to play myself in slowly each day - rather than throw myself at it and risk strains a muscle or do and running out of puff as well!

I missed the chance on Friday to try a long canal ride by the time the weather picked up I was well stuck in at work. I am off to the States for a conference over 5 days tomorrow so I doubt if I will cycle over there but I will look out for any opportunities. Meanwhile I have promised myself some regular Yoga sessions to keep me cycling fit.

Sponsorship is now over £450 and hits on this blog are close to 500 with 8% of them from the USA but also hits from Qatar, China, Belgium, Germany, Holland, China, Malaysia, Nigeria and of course Kenya.

I hope to blog a blog from the States especially if I get a cycle ride in, so it's 'Go West' for me!

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Kenyan memories

Last year in Nairobi Cecilia took Colin and me on a visit to an open market near a shopping mall in a fairly well off part of the city. There were crafts stalls with loads of lovely carved African animals, clothes, and all manner of stuff.

I was overwhelmed and just could not deal with the over eager but extra ordinarily polite traders trying to get my and Colin's attention. I felt a panic rise within me. No great experience and its pretty common to tourists and visitors to 3rd world markets.

But, these are the better off traders with their wares on brightly coloured blankets. They looked healthy unlike the rather thin listless old but probably young men minding the mangy goats by the main road side hovels made out of a few pieces of tin thrown together and everywhere the bright almost orange coloured dry earth.

Admidst this poverty, and in many ways Kenya is better off than some parts of Africa, and at least it has not had a recent civil war, but it gets a HIV/AIDS epidemic instead. What kind of justice is that? Jesus should be weeping.

No wonder I wanted to hire a plane and bring out some of the bright young men and women I met before they lost their sparkle. It's desperate. And others have felt this same human response.

I don't know if my puny attempts to support KAPC in their work through my teaching and fund raising will make that much difference. I just know I can't live with myself if I don't try.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Sponsorship flooding in


I have been asking people to turn their vague commitments to sponsor me into hard cash or at least clear figures. Pledges and money are coming in ever day just now. I already have over £400 pledged which is great and very uplifting for me. We need more much more I am hoping for at least £2K but with your support could go even higher.

On a somewhat related theme - we are on this planet together and our actions affect each other - CycleHero, CTC’s 60-second film on Climate Change and cycling, which will be seen this summer by 3 million cinema goers, can now be viewed at This video clip is a joy to watch.

My University has just given me and my team the go ahead in principle to do some teaching in Kenya with KAPC's help starting Autumn 2008. I am no specialist on HIV or on how to make best use of counselling in Kenya that's KAPC speciality. My bit will be sharing the work we do on our professional doctorate here in Manchester with these students-to-be in Kenya. This is all part of infrastructure building.

I am profoundly touched and honoured to be able to do this and it is only my success with such work here in Britain that gives me the nerve and the courage to offer my limited skills out there.

Meanwhile back on the bike it poured down with rain yesterday on the way home. My waterproofs saved the day. I had hoped to cycle along the canals tomorrow but unless the weather improves I wont. I may have to cycle all day in the rain on the LEJOG trip but not now on training days.

Sheila gave me a wonderful gismo for my bike which I have just had fitted. It records my speed and distance travelled. Even when I feel a bit sluggish I find that I am still doing 8 miles an hour and ordinary cycling is otherwise 10+ miles per hour. This is encouraging. It also means I can finally settle my argument with Christa about how far the LEJOG trip actually is. Though no doubt she will argue that if I am dumb enough to get lost for 20 or 30 miles that does not need the distance between Lands End and John O'Groats for an sensible cyclist is over 1000 miles!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The bike-with-too-many-names


it had to happen suddenly the bike-with-no-name became the bike-with-too-many-names! It goes like this. We - me Grace and Sheila had talked about a middle name for the bike (this saga is getting like naming a baby saga!.

I thought about Dharma - Nana Dharma Groat, it gives it a spiritual feel and link to the Dharma Bums hence the Banana bums and it nearly rhythm. Grace liked it but Sheila does not and says it does not rhythm. Sheila then suggested Isabel which I remember as an old knock knock joke - viz

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Isabel who?
Is a bell necessary on a bike!

Naw it does not work for me.

Today it was cool and cloudy and feeling a bit damp but not actual rain. I am kinda of getting used to Sheila's bike which incidentally has no bell :). But my bike should be ready for me to pick it up late afternoon, thank goodness. I am having a mileometer fitted to it and reckon my next 70 miler will be along the canals.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 11 June 2007

The bike has a name


Grace reckons that the bike-with-no-name should be called Nana Groat (after Bananas and John O'Groats. It sounds pretty good to me but we reckon it still needs a middle name to complete it. Any thoughts?

Today my cycle into work was in sunshine with just a touch of a breeze marvelous but already starting to get hot. If this is June what will August be like? With our climate who knows - snow, gales or heatwave or all 3 one after the other. I certainly remember snow in Edinburgh one June in the mid 1980s!

My friend James talked nostalgically about a bike trip he did in Holland one summer in which they got up about 6 am and cycled for 3 hours had breakfast and then cycled to about 1pm had lunch and then stopped.

Something like that kinda appeals to me as I am never ready for breakfast first thing, its cool in more ways than one to cycle early morning half awake. Also I dread a hot 2-3 pm. With B and Bs and my back up team I can't see this quiet happening for me but I do relish the notion of getting away soon after 8 whenever possible.

People seemed somewhat stunned that I actually did 70 miles last Thursday ('Oh ye of little faith!) and most people think I am a bit cracked to be doing the trip. But doing 70 last Thursday makes me feel the trip is possible. I still need to do 70 day after day but...

My Friend Richard has just been in touch and he is definitely up for a couple of days which will be brilliant. He has got a real feel for the process and suggests that the 2nd or 3rd day is likely to be the hardest (Dartmoor here I come!) but says that if I set small goals for the next bit of it each day it will helps.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 8 June 2007

On Sheila's bike


today into work on Sheila's bike whilst the bike-with-no-name gets hopefully tender loving care from Cyclelogic. No sure how far I could cycle today especially on Sheila's bike - the idea of using it as spare for the LEJOG trip does not really appeal, though needs could must - any of you out there willing to offer your bikes as a back up in an emergency?

Anyway feel dead pleased I finally did 70 miles but a bit sore today especially in my nether regions. Maybe I should get a soft saddle cover like Sheila has on her bike. I had one but it got nicked and then my saddle got nicked in the bike racks outside work which is why I keep my bike-with-no-name propped up in my office against the filing cabinet.

Grace has designed me a great sponsorship form which will wing its way to many of you shortly and I will probably put it in here too if the colours and layout fit. It has got little hearts around the edge but the design team are considering whether it should be bananas or not!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 7 June 2007

On and off the Edge


I did 70 miles today the first time in 40 years!! I did my usual 56 mile route in about 6 hours - 30 mins faster than usual and then added a canal trip to Altrincham and back making another 14 miles. All in all 70 miles in 8 hours about 9 miles per hour - my target is 10 but I am not complaining.

The question is could I do 70 tomorrow? And the next day? And the next day and so on. Probably not right now but I'm working on it. It will be interesting to see how I feel on the bike to work tomorrow but right now I feel surprisingly good.

It was perfect day for cycling dull and overcast little wind no rain and only a touch of sun. The first few miles sped past and I yowled passing through Alderley Edge. The mid 20s I hit a slow difficult patch and my right knee began to complain as it does - this is usually after lunch but wasn't this time which blows that theory but come the mid 30s I was back on track (Sounds like the story of my chronological life!). After it seemed to go OK.

However, the bike - still with no name - any suggestions or shall we refer to it as the bike-with-no-name? anyway the bike had had an occasional click for a few days and this click became more pronounced as I put my weight on the right pedal. It was rather like the sound you used to get in old bikes when the cotter pins had sheared through but modern bikes don't have them as far as I know (Christa are you reading this?).

I was worried something terrible would happen but it lasted out. So I am just back from Cyclelogic my friendly round the corner cycle shop who will also fit me a computerised mileometer that Sheila gave me months ago and I couldn't figure out how to fit it. Then I can respond to Christa's challenge that LEJOG is under a 1000 miles even the route I am following is reckoned to be 1017.

Still knowing my excellent navigation skills not I'll probaly end up doing at least 1050 and which point pedantically minded people and Graham will argue that sponsoring per mile does not include getting lost or trips on ferries or getting a tug from a friendly canal boat etc. 'Oh go on' as Grace would plead and flutter her eye lashes becomingly (I think she has inherited my rather fine eyelashes...)

Enough of this whimsical nonsense! Or as my workmate Clare would say 'Time for a brew'

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The route - latest version


I thought you all might like to read about the latest version of the route so that when the time comes you can follow my progress in a deck chair with a cold slow drink beside you as I struggle up the Devon and Scottish mountains. I will post here as often as I can.

I got my feet sunburnt on the beach on saturday which is a pain in more ways than one. It makes me think about my legs whilst wearing my 'Dad-it's-too-trendy' 3/4 length cycling shorts. Still rian and wind is just as likely!

Anyway latest version of where I aim to be staying at each night:

Day 1 (Friday 3rd August) Lands End to Wadebridge, camping
Day 2 (Saturday 4th August) to South Molton
Day 3 (Sunday 5th August) to Cheddar, camping
Day 4 (Monday 6th August) to Ross-on-Wye
Day 5 (Tuesday 7th August)to Much Wenlock
Day 6 (Wednesday 8th August)to Knutsford, home in Manchester
Day 7 (Thursday 9th August)to High Bentham, friends
Day 8 (Friday 10th August) )to Brampton
Day 9 (Saturday 11th August)to Peebles
Day 10 (Sunday 12th August)to Perth
Day 11 (Monday 13th August)to Blair Athol, camping
Day 12 (Tuesday 14th Agust) to Black Isle
Day 13 (Wednesday 15th August) to Altnaharra
Day 14 (Thursday 16th August)to John O'Groats!

Where not specified I/we are staying in B and Bs, apart from Perth which is not yet set. I am mostly following the CTC B & B scenic avoiding main roads route. But after
Perth I switch onto National Cycle Route 77 and then Route 7 at Pitlochry.

This is all getting scarying real. I hope to do my first 70+ trip in a couple of days and see where that leaves me!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 4 June 2007

sponsors and Kenya


Nice sunny day riding into to work with just a touch too much wind but who's complaining? My mother-in-law has made a generous sponsorship of 10p a mile (work it out!) and Graham has now paid his full amount of sponsorship up front. So the upfront total is £154 and the promised sponsorship is £200+. With your help I can reach over £1000 easily!

Meanwhile back in Kenya - there was a article in the last but one Observer Magazine (27th May 2007) called 'Sleeping with the enemy' a strange title. This was about the amazing sex working women in Nairobi who often have unprotected sex and there is small group of them who are not HIV positive.

Not surprisingly they are the subject of much research interest and in exchange for giving blood at regular intervals they get free medical treatment. What they don't get is any help to live a life without being a sex worker since "the research budget includes no funds to give them other options...The ethics of science today requires that the women get counselling and condoms, but ethical approval boards make no demands about maths classes or instructions in how to set up an alleyway beauty salon" or anything else that would help them move on.

So if a HIV vaccine is developed, partially as result of study sex workers in Nairobi and the West benefits how soon will sex workers in Kenya benefit? Does anyone really think that many of the clients if these sex workers will respond to an abstinence programme?

I don't have the answers or the arrogance too offer Western solutions to African problems but this cycling of mine raises money to support HIV counsellor training and development. KAPC in Kenya, the group I am raising funds for, unlike many agencies, offers HIV testing and counselling with the agenda set by the client.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 31 May 2007

That blog means more to you


So Jackie excused me of ignoring her when I came to work this morning. I usually pop my head round the door and exchange a few pleasantries and banter. This morning hot off the bike I was full of the sunshine blog entry and wanted to capture it in its full glory. So I snuck past her office.

2o minutes later on route to the photocopier she let me have it,
'Oh ignored me have you?'
'No I just had my blog to download out of my head'
'On so that blog means more to you than-'
You can't win!

Something is going on for me and Dee agrees so it must be so. Dee acts like a lodestone for me sometimes tells me what I am communicating on a profound level and takes me more seriously than most. Anyway this blog has opened something up for me that's bigger than the some of its parts (or posts!).

I have written all my life. I can't quite say I have always been a writer but I have always written. But there is something about this blogging business that is different for me than my published academic writings - books chapters papers.

There is also something different about attending Tony and Steve's creative writing classes in which we tenderly share feedback on each other's writings in response to exercises offered by them. They tell me all that I have written there seems part of a bigger piece of writing. I wonder if that also includes these blogs. Who knows!

Thanks for reading and do post when moved on blog site or off.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Response to F the Greek


If you visit my posting from yesterday entitled 'Pilgrimage' you will find a comment from F the Greek which includes an absolutely delightful poem by John Masefield about the lure of the sea.

Also included is the following:
"u travel accross landscapes, i travel accross seas.Is there a 'fever' in journeying for soulful reasons, whatever the vehicle?"
I don't experience it as a fever but I do like to travel from time to time to put myself at the mercy of the elements, people and the unknown and to indwell. I think it is a form of solitude for me. Travelling on my bike gives me that is a very special way but so can trains and planes.

But there is something different about so travelling from here to somewhere else and staying there. My LELJOG will be a continual journey for 2 weeks with a different place each night and I will be on the road most of the time. I haven't done a trip like this in ages. It is an adventure and it is unpredictable.

Thanks F for your response,

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Sunshine, birds and trapped in a lift


Easy cycling this morning in sunshine and a bit too much wind for my liking. I felt like I could moosey along and cycle all day without really waking up. I like cycling in early to work before it gets too busy on the road. My hope on the LEJOG trip is to cycle after an early breakfast and get some miles in before it gets too hot and before I really wake up - 10am usually!

I noticed the birds singing this morning I love to hear them it evokes some nostalgia in me for sunny mornings in my childhood especially pigeons which a neighbour kept. My Dad and my father-in-law were both keen bird watchers. I'm not, I don't quite get it but I guess I am a bird listener.

That reminds me of a daft seaside joke, 'What you you do it a bird shat on you?
'Dunno but I wouldn't take her out again!'

Yesterday evening me, my bike and Adrian and Maureen were in the lift at work - I keep my bike at work in amazingly spacious 5th floor office - and when we got to the ground floor the lift door would not open. Adrian's immediate response was to say, 'I'm glad I went to the loo before we left'. My response was to remember a story about a group of NHS workers stuck in a lift all weekend after the power was shut down!

We pressed the emergency bell but there was no response from the porters who only have one member of staff for the whole building after 6pm. Things looked grim. Then Adrian reached forward and easily prised open the doors and we were free. Such is life!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

My trip as a pilgrimage


It rained yet again en route to work from Dee's. Talking to Dee I realised that my LEJOG trip would affect me in many ways not all of which could be predicted in advance. Certainly here will be some kind of inner journeying to match the outer one.

I expect there will be some weird and hopefully wonderful blogs to post here. There may well be times of sudden and useful insights and I expect times of emptiness like occur on my training days.

I think passing through the landscape will affect me. Will my Celtic blood respond to Cornwall and Devon? Passing through the Welsh borders I will be close to where my Great grandfather the Rev Thomas Lewis was born and grow up. So who knows there might be a sermon to blog! Like my Dad I have always had a thing about the North of Britain and I have never yet witnessed the Northern Lights but were they to happen on my trip that would leave me speechless.

It begins to feel awesome, I only hope me and the bike last out. I am finalising places to stay right now which brings it all even closer. I'll ask for your prayers and support later on!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 29 May 2007



Graham who has kindly offered to sponsor me 3p a mile - work it out (or see below)! has offered the following proviso:
"However, returning to your proposed sponsored cycle-ride: miles travelled in the cabs of trucks and in parcels' vans of railway carriages do not count. Neither do miles accrued sun-bathing on the roof of narrow boats on the Shropshire and Worcester Canal. And just because narrow boats follow precisely the same routes as your favourite cycle tracks (and travel at about the same speed as a bike dawdling along them), this does NOT make sitting astride your bike on the aft deck of a narrow boat a legitimate alternative to actually peddling along the tow path. I just thought I'd make that clear to save any misunderstanding later on."

The very idea! As if I would! Anyone would think I was going to cycle like Tim Moore who decided the only way to complete the Tour de France route was to copy the behaviour of the riders and A) take drugs B) cheat.

So why not copy Graham and make your pledges now 1p a mile works out at £10. Money upfront equally welcome.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Bananas, Petheads and Vietnam


Shelley's parting words at work on Friday evening were "Take care of your banana!"

Last night I was a Pethead par excellence. I was in the audience close to the stage for the Pet Shop Boys gig at the Apollo in Manchester. It was tremendous. I would urge you all the catch them in action only the tour is more or less sold out.

So I am definitely up for becoming Neil Tennant or Chris Lowe for a day on my bike trip all I need is a sponsor - over to you (£50+ half day, £100+ full day). Think of it Bill on bike declaiming 'West End Girls' and 'It's a sin' to bewildered sheep in Devon or the Highlands. I could even capture it as a video clip on my new digital camera!

Talking of sponsorship my friend Holly whose Vietnamese gave me some sponsorship money on Sunday saying, "They need it". I was touched because I know Holly had a dreadful time in Vietnam and then months in a refugee camp before she came to England.

It is time that those of us in the West got out of the way and ceased to be part of the problem of the Third World.

Best to all

Bill on bike

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Bananas again


I had lunch with my old friend and and part LEJOG companion Keith today in the 8th day basement cafe. Keith you recall was the man with the message if I fall off the bike the pig gets it!

Anyway Keith produced this curious inflatable plastic thing courtesy of Rosie and Stephan from Munich. He challenged me to figure out its usage. I was non plussed. Keith then produced a banana and put it inside the plastic and inflated it! Lo and behold you a have a banana cushioned on all sides by air.

This then fit neatly in rucksack, panniers or even that curious pocket you have on the back of cycling jackets. No more squashed bananas! Needless to say Shelley and Jackie found this immensely amusing. And once I have figured out my new digital camera I'll get a photo onto this site!

Best to all,
Bill on bike.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Grey day


A grey day and cycling in it it feels like life is suspended. It's not quite spring not quite summer - cycling in a liminal space. Despite the greyness it felt good to cycle it's the kind of day to cover some miles...And who knows it might prove creative..

The latest CTC newlsetter has a great link to some amzaing footage of a reecnt Tour De France - try it

Don't forget to email your sponsorship pledges to me - do it now! - If you forget my blog address try typing in Billonbike into Google!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Rain again but so

So I was riding from work to my meeting with Ann in Altrincham yesterday and immediately it rained and there was quite a head wind - against me. I thought about quiting my bike at my home which was on route. But then the shower ended and the sun came out and my spirits revived.

I kinda like finding regular routes like this canal side trip to Altrincham which carries on to Dunham Massey and beyond. I like not having to navigate and knowing my route - where I am and what lies ahead. All of this will be very different on the LEJOG trip.

I am going to add this trip to Altrincham onto my regular Aldereley Edge trip which will make it 70 miles! I'll do the Edge trip first so that I can compare my times and then do this extra bit. This will answer my concerned friends who doubt I can do 70 miles a day!

My knees are a bit sore today maybe still catching up after being off the bike for a week. I have run out of the tablets Sheila gave me that seemed to be helping.

Cecilia Rachier from KAPC Kenya will be over on a visit early in July. I'll get a photo of her for this blog site. I'll ask her to do a seminar on HIV counselling in Kenya so if any of you are in Manchester on Thursday 12h July in the afternoon and want to come drop me an email -

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Zen and Moscow


Back on the bike after one week off it and it's glorious even though it is raining a bit! I had work trips to York and Moscow. Moscow was mad the drivers are crazy virtually gridlocked most of the time and I didn't see one cyclist during the 4 days I was there!

But I took my new copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with me and read it for the 4th or 5th time and it was a delight on many levels. "The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself".

There's lots more including his delight in B and minor roads and the people who use them and live on them. His book is also about the inner journey as well as the outer journey and a few friends have been commenting on this to me. In a small way my trips to York and Moscow have been such journeys if not on bike and there is something about the aloneness of journeying that feeds my soul as well as brings a whole new series of experiences to me.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Grace, ancestors and a pilgrimage

So, I was cycling to Dee's yesterday against the wind and feeling sluggish and wondered about whether grace was ever possible for me on the bike, you know that effortless physical harmonious movement when everything works easy (including the bike) and well without any strain. Then suddenly I was in it and enjoying the ease of movement and feeling like I could cycle for ever....

This LEJOG journey of mine could be a kind of pilgrimage, there will certainly be an inner journey as well as an outer journey. And like all other journeys the unexpected will happen and there will be likely interesting encounters on the way. I hope my body and my bike hold up with out too much need for repair and that my map reading skills are at their best and that the weather is cool and dull with a little breeze.

It feels like the journey is in four parts: Devon and Cornwall which is fairly new to me and will be more than a bit hilly!; the Welsh borders which is a delight and fairly well known and where at least one of my ancestors the Rev Thomas Lewis, (my mother's mother's father) a Baptist minister came from; Knutsford up into Cumbria and into the lowlands of Scotland; and finally the Scottish highlands which I hope to fit enough for!

A daunting challenge but my life often seems to be about needing to scare myself from time to time!

Best to all,

Bill on Bike

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Rain, whippets and hams


It was raining when I left home for work this morning. It was mizzling but it soon turned into a drizzle and then it set in. Yes we have over 40 words for rain in Manchester! Climate change made dry up the South East of England and turn it into a desert but up North I think we heading for swamps, who knows Manchester could become the new Glastonbury!

My body is changing shape in curious ways and this is not just my poetic fantasies it's actually been commented on extensively mostly by my female friends I have to say. They keep saying I look thinner and fitter whilst my old male friend whose commented said I looked older. (Thanks I really needed to hear that, not!)I have lost 2 inches off my waist since September, I know this because I have had to tighten my belt twice. The upside of this is that a pair of trousers I bought on impulse 5 years ago and only wore once now fit me OK.

But it is my legs that have changed most. Whilst below the knees my calves are shaping up nicely whippet-like my thighs have turned into, well the only word to describe them is hams! It looks like I have been working out like a bodybuilder but only doing exercises on my thighs.

You might be thinking now that you have heard more than you want to know! So back to poetry. A poem came to me just before Christmas on the way to Dee's so I quickly wrote it down and later polished it up a bit and I then sent it to my friend Chris Jenkins (my birthday do MC) who edits Thresholds the journal of the APSCC and it will be in print this month (May). This is my first poem for 20 years or more and first one in print since the early 1970s. If you want a copy and don't get Thresholds sent me an email. The poem is called Spiritual Suffering!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 4 May 2007

A spin around the Edge


Just back home after another one of my 55 miles training rides from home out to Alderley Edge and then a circular route that takes in Goostrey and Maggotty Lane etc. Cloudy all day and I only saw the sun once when nearly home at Styal prison.

I sampled some sausage rolls in Alderley Edge in a great bakers there and took a pie for lunch along with my banana(!) on a bench under my usual tree in Goostrey.

I re-worked the lyrics to 'Elstree remember me' by the Buggles replacing Elsetree with Goostrey and finding myself singing it with a strained nasal voice rather like Dylan!

I did the trip 35 minutes quicker than last time starting at 9.30 and finishing at 4.10. Leaving out my breaks I am doing about 9 mile per hour which is great and I hope to reach 10 before August.

My friends Rob and Sue are going to put us up on route to Cornwall and I have just booked us into what seems like a brill B and B in Penzance. for the night before the trip starts.

Sheila has lost her enthusiasm for camper vans so we are thinking B and B alternating with camping. However Sheila snores like a rattle snake so I am not sure how many nights in a tent Grace and I will cope with!

Marie kindly gave me £10 upfront yesterday afternoon so that makes a total of £114 upfront with much more pledged. It makes it all feel much more worthwhile, very motivating and with your help we can clear a £1000 soon!

Best to all,

Bill on bike