Friday, 30 March 2007

Bananas, Altrincham and Knutsford


I had a regular monthly meeting this morning in Altrincham and decided to cycle there and back along the canal path about 15 miles round journey from my home and add the round trip to work makes 22 odd miles today. My trip to Altrincham is usually an unpleasant car journey. I thought about my idea of a cycling retreat and this canal trip certainly lends itself to one in a urban setting. You get a different view of the city, some great barges, a few walkers but mostly tranquility.

Phil from the Guardian - that's the Knutsford Guardian - rang me yesterday to interview me over the phone and his piece on me should be in the next issue on Wednesday hopefully with a photo of me and my bike! Phil wants me to call in on my LEJOG trip which should pass right by their offices. This opens extra ordinary vistas of involving the local papers en route and who knows local radio. Today Knutsford tomorow daytime TV, such ambition!

Meanwhile in yesterday's (Manchester) Guardian their regular bike correspondent Matt Seatton was talking about yes you've guessed it bananas! I quote "bananas are so ideal (easy to chew, swallow and digest, and containing potassium, which we easily lose in sweat) that you would think they were designed with cyclists in mind".

Apparently if you don't eat and drink regularly when cycling you can go into a hypoglycaemic state which cyclists call 'the hunger knock' or 'the bonk'.

So eat bananas to avoid bonking!

See you,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

New readers start here


This is a blog that details my preparation and eventual bike ride from Land's End to John O'Groats planned for August 2007. I started the blog at the end of February and I weave bits of biking lore, advice from friends and general nonsense that occurs to me on my daily cycle into work and on my occasional longer training rides.

Apart from the fun of it (mostly) I am using this trip to raise money for HIV counselling work done in Kenya by KAPC - find out more about them from their website or from blogs below that mention Kenya. I have developed a strong connection with them over the past 3 or 4 years. In the picture of me on this blog I am wearing a handmade Zambian shirt at my 57th birthday do which was also a fundraiser for KAPC.

These blogs are posted latest first but it makes to read them from the oldest to the newest if you can be bothered.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Cold and wet and a link or two


It was cold and wet cycling in work today not my favourite conditions but I wanted to keep up my cycling. Tomorrow it is dry I will be doing 25 + miles on a longer trip mostly along a canal side. More about that tomorrow.

I have had fun posting messages on the CTC website - and I have also visited a cyclist blog site - both are great sources of information and ideas from fellow cyclists.


Bill on bike

Oh Manley Road


I got it wrong yesterday I travel out on Brantingham Road but I travel home on Manley Road just for the fun of it. So the song is different 'Oh Manley Road, I hear the curb a-calling...' to the tune, you guessed it, of Danny Boy.

I got an email from a journalist in Knutsford thinking that I had actually completed the ride and wanting to find out my experiences in passing through Knutsford. It opens up possibilities of doing local papers and even local radio, it could get a bit like Tony Hawks hitching around Ireland with a fridge. There's a thought, "look out for Bill on bike on the road today he is travellign North on the B5292, give him a toot or better still some organic chocolate..."

Going back to Knutsford I have 2 memories. One is me and Ziggy stuck near the Knutsford roundabout on the M6 back in the mid 60s hitching back from the Isle of Man (how exotic) and beeing stuck there from 11.45 to 4.30am. Eventually got picked up by 3 beatnicks/hippies and saw the sun rise very dramatic and when we were dropped off we noticed that the driver had no shoes on.

The other memory of Knutford is having a sunday lunch in a cafe there when my daughter was a toddler and she decided to wander around the room and offer the other diners her half chewed cucumber!

Hey ho, best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Monday, 26 March 2007

Half man Half bike


There was a lovely tang in the air today which made me think of skiing and the fresh clear mountain air. My favourite cycling weather I think to cycle and gradually warm up with the day and maybe take a late breakfast of hot fresh baked rolls under a tree.

Yesterday travelling home at a good pace I was in the 17th out of my 18th gear on Brantingham Road ('Brantingham, Brantingham, Brantingham Road, Oh Ah Brantingham Road' sung to the tune of Dagenham Days wasa it by Hazel O'Connor - any old punks out there?). Or 'like a rocket slid on rails' (Convoy).

Me and the bike working well together in a kind of harmony and I think again of Flann OBrien (I gave you the wrong book title 'It was The Third policeman') and his idea of man and bike intermingling their molecules.So I become half man half bike or who knows even bikeman! Maybe that's why I feel my knee joints could use some oiling!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

A route


Cold frosty misty start this morning, legs felt tired and sleepy maybe it was the clock being changed. The low sun was in my eyes most of the way, Christa was right 'Travel North' but maybe I should follow the urge to 'Go West'. There was a Nip in the air but the Hun was on the ground (and 'We will fight them on the beaches and..' oops where did that come from?).

My current favourite possible route. It comes from the CTC and is described as a 'compromise between directness and peaceful cycling, using mainly 'B' roads and lanes. I will just list the the main towns to give you some idea:

Land's End, Penzance, Truro, Tintagel, ( I can live out my Arthurian fantasies), Bridgwater, (shades of the Duke of Mommouth) Cheddar, Chepstow, Tintern Abbey (Wordsworth bit), Ross-on-Wye (visit one of my publishers?) Leominster, Ludlow, Much Wenlock, (nearly fell off Wenlock Edge once!) Nantwich, Knutsford (got stuck there with Ziggy for 4.5 hours!), Leigh, Chorley, Whalley, Slaidburn, High Bentham (visit friends there?) Tebay, Eskdalemuir, Peebles, Edinburgh, Forth Road Bridge (do a bit of painting), Bridge of Cally, Braemar, Balmoral Castle (seek sponsorship from Charlie boy?), Culloden, Dingwall, Bonar Bridge, Thurso, John O'Groats.

Awesome, I must be nuts!

Best to all,


Friday, 23 March 2007

Bananas, Kenya and 'Is it safe?'


I have just heard back from Don in Kenya regarding the question of whether they grow bananas over there. See my earlier blog ('Join the Banana Bums') when this matter first arose. Don replied: "So the answer to your question is yes. Also of some interest is the fact that we have bananas for eating, different bananas for cooking with, some for frying and others for making beer!" I am going have to research this in person when I am next in Kenya in September. But it does mean that Bananas Bums is a good moniker for us on this end to end trip.

People keep asking me is it safe to cycle in Manchester? My old friend Neil who used to be a motorbike messenger in London and who made off with my then girlfriend Zee - the swine - (but this blog is not about my youth in Nottinghill Gate in the early 70s those stories belong elsewhere if at all) Anyway Neil (may he rot in...) said that his survival on the mad streets of London were based on expecting car drivers to do idiotic things.

My survival on my bike in Mancheter is based on getting as far away from cars as I can. So cycling into work I pass through 3 parks which is often a joy to me. I cross 4 main roads 2 of them using traffic lights. I make sure drivers can see at these lights by stopping ahead of the traffic. If in doubt I don't and I am happy to wait for a clear gap between cars. I use the back streets as much as possible - which is fun - and cycle routes and lanes. I travel in early to work when there is less traffic and mostly leave early before the rush or later after it.

I find most drivers courteous. When this happens for instance when they wait for me to complete a narrow stretch of the road before overtaking me, I always acknowledge this with a wave of my hand - positive reinforcement!

There are risks attached to cycling as there are to using cars or being a pedestrian. But in not cycling there are consequences. It is a great boost to health, its great fun, its a very creative and is often spiritual experience for me.

I'll be posting up my LEJOG (Lands End to John O'Groats) possible route soon. I am choosing a scenic route that avoids the main roads and cities as much as possible.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Graham and you've been blogged


I had this hiarious post from Graham yesterday. I assume that he is writing tongue-in-cheek otherwise I am seriously concerned about him!
"What a great way for Sheila and Grace to get to see the length of England. More than that, I think it is really good of you to give up your seat in the car so as to free up a little more room for Sheila and Grace to fit in all their necessities (women have so much difficulty travelling light, don't you think?). I wouldn't let Sheila talk you into carrying an extra suitcase across the handlebars though, even if she does tell you, "It's only a vanity case." Don't do it, William; they'd be taking advantage of your good nature."

Riding home briskly yesterday in the cold snap weather we are having with the equinoxal sun in my eyes proving at least some of Christa's points about travelling North I got home quicker than usual 5 mins or so. And realised that I am cycling to a better rhythm since my trip last week.

This cycling business like Yoga when I did it, makes me feel good, in my body and in my soul. It brings out a song in me and I sing it en route. So cycling as a spiritual practice - I feel a book coming on.

More consternation in the office in reposnse to my 'bananas and Jackie' blog from yesterday. 'Don't say anything to him he'll blogg it' was Jackie's word to the porter with the post. Hmm 'You've been blogged' was my response. Now once I get a new mob or a digital camera....


Bill on bike

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Got your banana?

'Got your banana? What are you like?' was Jackie's greeting when I reached work on my bike today. Clearly I had arrived! My bike travels with me in the lift up to my office on the 5th floor to stop it being vandalised.

I had an appointment after work yesterday so had to leave promptly and en route the heavens opened and I got caught in a truly amazing downpour of hail. Fortunately not of the stinging variety. It was exhilarating! I felt fresh and alive and tingly. I don't mind a bit of rain (or hail) winds dodn't do much for me nor does snow as I usually fall off my bike in snow and ice.

The trouble with rain is when you get home and then have to deal with the wet clothes. Although the waterproof cycling trousers Sheila brought for me for Christmas are brilliant. They are easy to slip on and keep me dry without getting in the way. Only trouble is they are a dulll black colour. Most cycling gear seems to be either dull black or very vivid. I don't mind the vivid. My jacket is a say a banana yellow!

Sheila and I did a few cycling holidays when we first got together in the early 1990s. One weekend we were up in the Dales and the heavens seriousily opened. The rain was fierce and horizontial and we got soaked through almost immediately. The rain poured horizontally through the dry stone walls (that's a misnomer!). We cycled through deep waters on the roads that cars were avoiding.

Min-morning we found a cafe and steamed dry, it was wonderful. It was still raining an hour later so we took an early lunch. An hour later it was still raining so we had to set off to catch our train home. I took all my clothes off in the waiting room, naked and freezing - luckily the room was empty. On the train I had a warming brandy. That was our last trip for ages!



Monday, 19 March 2007

Seriously weird and a visit from Dave


This blog has had a big accolade today when Shelley and Jackie colleagues of mine described it as 'seriously weird'. I hadn't realised how well this was going! And this is before I get into serious cycling mode and the use of blogging by mobile phone! This is a new learning for me that any mobile phone that can email can be linked into this blog so that I will be able to blog from the bike on the end-to-end trip!

Meanwhile I had a visit from my friend Dave T (aka Gringo) who when hearing of my planned trip offerd to join in for a day or two and immediately lifted up my bike in one hand and said it was a bit heavy (shades of Neil in the Young Ones?) and suggested I might be better off on a touring bike with less weight to carry uphills, though he reckoned it was less good on your back having a bike with drop handlebars. So back into the 'do I need a new bike for the trip' questions. Though Dave suggested I could hire a bike. I am hoping to hear something soon from my email to the CTC amagazine. Watch this space if you can cope with its serious weirdness!

Yours weirdly,

Bill on bike

Keith, Christa and drafting


Back on the bike today and feeling good about last Friday's 55 miles trip. I was less stiff the next day and could have faced some gentle cycling...

Christa has been trying to get through to me on the travelling north issue. Below is two extracts from recent emails:

Right, this is my third attempt to get you to see the light! Just looked at your blog. Yes, I do see what you mean by sun in your eyes. But, aargh, how do I get through to this bloke. If you travel northish the sun shining onto the landscape ahead of you illuminates it - the play of light on reality-out-there is different cf on the northern hillsides etc you'd see (not so gloriously defined) if going southish. I await, intrigued, for yet more interpretations!

Let me just add, what has most frustrated me re seeing scenery has been, just occasionally, having what I know to be a marvellous view ahead of me, eg some quirky castle halfway up some northish slope, but I can't see the damn thing because it's relatively shaded compared to a sunshot sky which is tuning down my eye receptors. (If I say 'cones' in a cycling context, heaven help me if someone gets their cone-spanner out!)
- Christa Gausden.

I love this idea of Christa tying to get me to see the light and her persistence and frustration with me. I see the light but find it hard to talk about! But where is the light - within us, or outside us? Incidentally I felt a bit like I was on a retreat on Friday and it occurs to me that a cycling retreat would be a good idea. I was on a walking retreat a few months back around Manchester of all places.

My friend Keith has left a comment- my first so far to this blogsite. He wants you to know that he was not suggesting throwing away punctured inner tubes merely saying that carrying a spare on a long trip makes for a quick change. The punctured one can then be repaired at leisure.

Finally check this link for an amazing fim clip of cycling:

Best to all,


Friday, 16 March 2007

55 miles again

So, I am now back home after a 55 mile all day trip on my favourite route around the countryside to the South of Manchester (Alderley Edge, Goostrey, Marton, Maggotty Lane etc). I dropped my daughter Grace off at her school and cycled off at 9am.

I got home just after 4pm which is a whole hour earlier than last time. Sheila puts it down to the yeollow (banana yellow of course) cycling jacket she brought me for my birthday. Maybe but I am also that bit fitter and the bike was recently serviced. I noticed I did not even got off to push up any steep bits the first 15 miles or so despite doing so last time on a slow long uphill bit. So I am pretty pleased apart from an aching right knee which also ached last time but is not so painful this time. Looks like some Yoga would help especially over Easter.

What it means is that my 70 miles day for my End-to-End trip is now within reach. I still need to be able to do it day after day, hence the need to strengthen my right knee and to try some more frequent shorter trips. But I am so pleased I am cyling faster now and 70 miles in a day is within reach.



Thursday, 15 March 2007

More bananas, Flans and polar bears

So I was reading Tim Moore yesterday and came across this bit where he has got a puncture and realises that he has left his pump in the car now miles away. Suddenly he meets a Frenchman nearby selling mountian bikes who repairs his puncture for free and then gives him a banana to send him on his way!

You get to have a strange and curiously intimate relationship with your bike. Flan O'Brien (Quiche Lorraine - sorry I couldn't resist it) the Irish author in his book 'At swim two birds' drew on the new Quantum physics of the time (1920s I think) and suggested that there was an exchange of molecules between you and your bike so that over time you became more bike like and your bike became more like you. Well for those of us who believe and experience everything in the universe as interconnected this make sense. So maybe every time I peddle on my bike a polar bear coughs!

Best to all,


Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Join the Banana Bums

Well I blame Clare. She was my latest friend to ask me 'Doesn't the cycling make you sore?' I told her all about bananas and cyclists etc as previously posted. Then on my bike again tonight and it came to me. Yes you my dear readers can become Banana Bums! Here's how:
1) Join me as a Banana Bum on part/all of the Lands End to John O'Groats cycle ride - route to follow.
2) Join the Banana Bums Back up Team - currently consisting of Sheila and Grace - and hang out on the beach while I cycle.
3) Sponsor the Banana Bums 1p or more per mile that's £10 if we do the 1,000 ish miles, and thereby become a Banana Bum Benefactor (good idea from Sheila.)

I feel a T shirt coming - yellow with a banana riding a bike - any designers out there?

Terry my geeky and alot else friend has helped me via to put a photo on this blogsite - follow my profile links and see me on my 57th/support KAPC in Kenya do in January. I'm wearing a traditional handmade Tanzanian shirt.

Slightly later back home and Grace and her friend Amelia turn up and immediately they are inspired to design a T-shirt. So they become the Banana Bums Design Team.

Sheila asks do they grow bananas in Kenya - I don't know but I know a man who does.

Watch this space,

Bill on Bike

Out there


Cycling to work this morning with the sun in my eyes on part of the route which proves Christa's point that travel John O'Groats to Lands End would be mostly cycling into the sun. It still seems like downhill to me to do it that way!

Left the bike shop yesterday and it started to rain, not enough to immediately put on my waterproof trousers but if I didn't as sure as anything it would rain even more soon though it didn't. Before this cycling madness kicked in last Autumn I would have left my bike at home at the first sign of rain or even the forecast of rain. Now unless it is pouring down I cycle. I have a change of clothes at work but haven't yet needed them. On my first big ride last autumn 35 miles just to prove I could do it I cycled through a couple of showers without any waterproof clothing and dried off naturally.

It is like I am now more out in the world in the natural elements, more vulnerable to them but it feels good. I guess I am more connected.



Monday, 12 March 2007

Punctures and myyticism


My local bike is replacing my inner tube and I should get it back 9am today. They don't repair punctures. I can see the relevance of Keith's view of speedy replacing an inner tube especially on a long trip. However, since I was 'nowt but a lad' I have always repaired punctures though occasionally had to admit defeat or accept that a tube had had it. It seemes to be there ia a niche in the market for a speedy low cost puncture repair service.

Christa one of my cycling vets (no she does not heal animals as far as I know but I wouldn't put it past her!) tells me that travelling Lands End to John O'Groats rather than the other way round means that as the sun is not in your eyes you see more of the scenery. Indeed I have two fears for my trip - boiling hot weather or torrential rainfall. Knowing me knowing England (Ah ha!) I'll get both. Jeni who was in on my conversation with Christa asys travelling North my shadow will travel before me. Hmm.

I have been enjoying reading more of Tim Moore and his French Revolutions book. He reckons that if you cycle all day you need much more than the ususal 2,000 calories and he suggests 9,000 but he then he does talk of putting on weight on his trip. Otherwise he says you go a bit strange and have halucinations. Problem is that is my normal state (I call it mystic but others [and they know who I mean!] see it as schizoid. So how do I tell the difference? I do know cycling especially in hot weather makes me thirsty and I'll watch the hunger. My inclination is to to eat a litle fairly often. I'll check this out.

Best to all,


Friday, 9 March 2007

Keith and other crimes


I ran in to my old friend Keith yesterday, well I wasn't on my bike and I didn't actually run into him but you know what I mean? It was Keith who lent me Tim Moore's hilarious French Revolutions book in which he does the Tour de France route and soon realises that if he is to get round that he will do what what some cyclists on it do - cheat and take drugs!

Anyway Keith gave me some good puncture advise if the first patch does not work take the wheel off and replace the inner tube. Not sure how ecological that is but sounds quicker and easier if nothing else. Keith is also a cyclist and talks about doing some of the route with me around Manchester but thinks I will be uber fit by then - such confidence. Richard might do some of the middle of England route.

So any of you out there want to join in part or even the whole of the route get in touch. It looking like the first weekend in August onwards but watch this space for further details including possible route. There will be no drugs or cheating otherwise you can tell our mums. Well actually unless you have access to a Medium telliong my mum would be difficult.

In the Guardian this weekend there was a book of cycle routes one of which (route not book!) passes right near my door in Chorlton that I had missed. It's on the old railway line which we hope will one day be a tram route - my power to our MP John Leech, and the round trip is about 23 miles which makes a nice half day trip that I'll do soon and tell you all about. "Well the first tree, an elm, I passed was showing a few buds and then I cycled past the supermarket trolley that lacked one wheel then over a slightly bumby bit and then..." It reminds me of a Bonzo Dog song "We went down to the beach but no-one got drowned"

I think I better stop now!

Best to all

Thursday, 8 March 2007



So having pushed the bike to work yesterday from Alexander Park - the scene of the puncture. I set to today in my office - tuned the bike upside down eased out the inner tube pumped it up a bit and heard the hissing of escaping air. I tracked the hole down applied the glue and then the patch - great instructions in the repair box 1. The side of Aluminium foil is adhesive and care should be taken so that a finger. It's like the start of a creative writing exercise!

Getting the inner tube back in was a swine it just seemed too short and the tire was so tight I bent a spoon I was using as an extra tyre lever. Anyway all is place and start to pump up again and once more heard the hissing. My heart sank. This is not unusual in puncture repiar in my experience. But the prospect of wrestling again with the inner and tyre left me cold. So a quick phone call to Ken Foster Cyclelogic my local bike friendly bike shop.

I go now go into a big speil about punctures I have known but I wont. You just get then from time to time and you move on or in this case not. I have had my current bike since 1998 and apart from the odd puncture it has been brilliant much better than any car for maintenance.

I could get evangelical here and I think it is what drives evangelicals they need others to join them so their doubts and falling aways from the truth path get challenged. I love cycling and I am lazy - Leo rising for you Astrologers out there. Howver my more intensive use of my bike since the summer the training up for End-toEnding has given me so much already. It clears my head and then all sorts of things pop in including solutions to problems, ideas for writing etc. And I feel physically better. So.

Best to all,

Bill Not on bike for a day or two!

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Banana bums

Those who recall Jack Keroac's 'On the Road' and the dharma bums? will get the reference but in any case you will notice in a earlier post I waxed lyrically (strange phrase?) about the creative use cyclists make with bananas when feeling saddle sore. (My women friends and acquaintances seem very gripped by these matters for some reason!) I have just read in great book written by a mad character who cycled on the tour de France route and he was advised to slap a lot of Savlon on his nether regions every morning before cycling. I have never found this to be a problem for me so far but watch this space and no there wont be any photos I promise.

This morning I hit a curb stone fast on my way into Alexander Park on route to work and few yards later that sickening feeling of a flat tyre. My back tyre as well which I had fitted with an allegedly(!) puncture proof tyre last Easter after 2 or 3 punctures in a row. I don't carry the puncture repair gear with me on these short runs so I walked the last couple of miles musing on punctures I have known and cycle trips in my youth with Ziggy, Toad and Ben more of that anon.

I passed another cyclist this morning but I think it was more about crossing a junction more quickly cos she soon passed me but then I passed her again at the next junction. Maybe I am a bit faster. I'll see on my next big trip a week on Friday.

Intense discussions and negotiatiosnw ith my bacxk up team about dates and routes for my End-to-Ender trip which looks like being early In August, watch this space for details.

Keep those tyres pumped!


Monday, 5 March 2007

Mad dogs, whippets and Grace

I got harrased by a viscious dog on the bike (No I was on the bike Not the dog!) on Friday and its owner a young lad was a bit slow to call him off. No damage done but a bit unpleasant, a bit scary. I remember Richard Ballantine's advice in his 'Richard's bicycle book' that when attacked on your bike by dogs ram your pump down their throat. Seems a bit harsh to me but had that dog continued his harrassment and got even more phsyical who knows...

Barbara Ellen in her Observer column a few months ago was writing critically of David Cameron the Tory party leader and saying he wasn't a real cyclist because all her cyclist friends had bodies like whippets. So that has become my catch phrase - 'I'm turning into a whippet'. However I got overtaken by two young things on mountain bikes this morning so maybe I am turning into a tortoise.

However, apart from my shapely legs - that have to be seen to be believed - I believe them - in my cycling run up to Christmas I had to tighten my belt an inch and then when we all got gastric flu last month I lost another inch and remain that way - one trouser size smaller. This is weird and people are commenting on it.

However, I feel great and the regular cycling feels good.

So inevitably perhaps Grace, my 8 and a half years old daughter has launched her blog site - She complains about the quality of my jokes - since she has heard them many times before and she discusses the prospect of camping. What next - my wife Sheila's blog? or watch this space!