Monday, 30 April 2007

Traffic cones... on my head


So I met up with my old friend Rob Spicer and his partner Louise who crossed my palm with silver well £10 actually which is a great vote of confidence in me and my LEJOG trip - you too can pledge sponsorship here - just post a comment or email me: or send a message by snail mail. Make cheques out to Energy Stream Charitable Trust who are acting as my banker and let me know if you pay tax and are willing to an Gift Aid it.

Anyway Rob, whose family claim to be descents from relatives of Anne Boleyn - and I always wondered why he had a twitch in his neck(!) got into the spirit of me dressed as Neil Tennent from the Pet Shop Boys and suggested not only wearing the long leather coat from West End Girls (I'm there already!) but also wearing a traffic cone like they did in the video of Go West wasn't it - I'll check it out on my DVD of Pets videos. This is a definite photo opportunity so watch this space.

So we can re-word Go West - "Cycle North, in the open air, Cycle North where the skiers are grey, Cycle North is where I'm going today, Cycle North in the setting sun, Cycle North..." As you know Emily and I are in a family choir that are based at her school that meets once a month on a Sunday to sing. Are you with me? A video clip of the family choir singing Cycle North complete with traffic cones on their heads. Wow!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 26 April 2007

You were always on my bike


yesterday my colleague Mike dropped into my office and had his ususal inspirational impact on me. He led me to see that I should choose the characters I become on my bike for your sponsorship.

So these are my choices at present:

* Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys singing "It's a... it's a... it's a hill." Ideally I would wear my cool long winter coat and get into the mood of the West End Girls video in which Neil wears his cool long coat but in August it would not be cool!

* Elvis - "You were always on my bike" I reckon I do a good Elvis mumble of "Thank you very much" but Sheila says it sounds like Tommy Cooper. Not sure how practical the Los Vegas gear would be but I would enjoy wearing it.

* Noel Coward as alrady indicated in a previous post, in my dressing gown, clutching a cigarette holder and disclaiming "Mad dogs and cyclists go out in the midday sun"

OK it gets weirder now:

* Oliver Cromwell complete with a zit on his chin. His troops known as Ironsides were mounted on bikes. The trouble was when they got knocked off their bikes getting back on in a suit of armour was not easy!

* I wondered about Churchill - "We will cycle on the beaches" and "Never in the field on human cycling..." but Grace who always has something to say suggested I do Tim Brooke-Taylor of the Goodies. He did use to wear a union jack waistcoat and once did a rather poor Churchill impression.

* Grace also wanted me to do Rocky the Chicken out of Chicken Run, he does actually ride a bike and sing "I'm the kinda guy who cycles around" not sure about the outfit though.

* Grace also suggested I do Boudicca and yes I could fit kitchen knives to my bike wheels but her outfit does not appeal to me.

* Sheila wants me to do one of the Proclaimers "I would cycle 1000 miles".

I am open to suggestions on this one and as ever to your comments posted to the blog or to me by email are most welcome.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

If I fall off the pig gets it

Lunch with my old mate Keith who I have half talked into cycling some of the route with me on the day after I reach Knutsford. Keith knows a bit more about bikes than me and has been a great source of information including the wild 'French Revolutions' book. A friend of his is just back from a bike competition in Barcelona in which everyone rode on those bikes with small wheels and wore suits and ties!

I showed off my recent purchases of cycle mittens to Keith and he came up with the memorable line 'If I fall off the pig gets it!' not that my mittens are pigskin but I like the line. I also bought some cycling shoes, my first ever pair they are Shimano and feel great on the bike but weird off it as they kind of rock.

Keith is insistent that I use a mob to update my blog on route, he wont accept the occasionally post from friends houses or internet cafes. I think he is right, you dear readers deserve my comments hot from the roadside or ditch! 217 brave souls have so far visited this site these last 2 months. It's changed my life if not yours,

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Soaring spirits


the sun shines and my spirits soar as I ride into work having dropped my daughter off at school after a walk through the park, everything is in blossom and I rejoice in the closeness to nature that I enjoy on foot or on bike.

This contrasts with wrestling with web sites with Sheila last night as we try and track down a mobile home for the 2nd week of my LEJOG trip. Being a bit 60s I fancy a VW campervan but Sheila wants the comfort and space of something bigger and when I complain about the driving of such a beast she points out rightly that she will be doing most of the driving.

In Yesterday's blog I mentioned my research paper on Kenyan students experiences of beginning a Masters in Counselling programme about to be published in British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. Well because of copyright laws I can't offer you a link to my paper but if you email I'll send you a copy -

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

More shower dodging and a route


Well it rained steadily when I left work for my appointment with Dee and then again onto to Grace's school to pick her up from the after school club (which has the unfortunate name of C.O.S.H!)and walk in the rain through the park home. Grace usually likes to sit on my saddle whilst I push the bike - that's the way to travel!

After one of my trips to Kenya in 2005 I wrote an article with Colin Feltham who was with me about our impressions of Kenya and its counselling scene for Therapy Today. You should be able to get the article viva this link:

I have just had a more academic paper published based on a focus group interview with some Kenyan students starting a Masters in Counselling Studies programme with KAPC and once I figure it out I will give a link to it here.

Meanwhile this weeks CTC newsletter has a great link to a You tube video about fixed wheel cycliong in San Franscisco:

I have more or less figured the outline of a route and schedule based on the CTC B & B route which avoid main roads and is scenic. I will probably fine tune it with some bits of the National Cycle Network. Sheila and I are currently figuring places to stay B & Bs and camping first week, campervan second week. If all goes amazing well and I manage a regular 70 miles per day the schedule would be:

Day 1 (Friday 3rd August) Lands End to Wadebridge
Day 2 to South Molton
Day 3 to Cheddar
Day 4 to Ross-on-Wye
Day 5 to Much Wenlock
Day 6 to Knutsford
Day 7 to High Bentham
Day 8 to Brampton
Day 9 to Peebles
Day 10 to Dunning
Day 11 to Braemar
Day 12 to Culloden
Day 13 to Altnaharra
Day 14 to John O'Groats!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 23 April 2007

Dodging showers


when I got up this morning it was still raining - it rained a lot here on Sunday - but it eased off just as I was about to leave the house and catch a bus. So I leapt on the bike and got here relatively dry. I dodn't mind getting really wet on the way home but wet feet and hair is no fun. So I guess I need spare shoes and a towel here along with the shirt and trousers in my office. I don't mind getting wet, well at least briefly whilst cycling. It's getting off the bike wet I don't like. Will see how this pans out on my LEJOG trip which is bound to be wet some of the time.

I have a rough list of places to stay on the trip which will involve B and Bs and camping the first week and then a camper van in the second week. I'll post these (hoped for) destinations in a day or two. It is all getting a bit scary and real and at times I think I am mad. However, I do feel fitter than ever. I am attracting a lot of comments especially from women about my sleeker look! It's not really whippet like, well apart from knees to feet. My thighs are taking that curious cycling shape which has to be seen to be believed - but I'll share you that dubious pleasure by NOT posting a photo!

My only remaining concern is being able to cycle day after day and whether my Capricornian knee joints will cope - they feel like they need oiling - any thoughts? All this will become clearer as I step up my preparations over the next few months. I am looking forward to my next training day run around Alderley Edge and aim to have a few shorter trips at weekends or in these lengthening evenings.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Post modern cycling


Matt Seaton who has a weekly column in the Guardian said today "Somehow, cycling combines an ordinary, everyday object with an intense individual experience and an aesthetics of performance in a way that, from the birth of modernism, has moved creative spirits".

Well, I couldn't resist it could I? Here's my take on a postmodern cycling aesthetic that includes:
* conflicts between cyclists and car drivers and cyclists and pedestrians
* the use of young boys as drug couriers on mountain bikes
* the strange urban landscapes that cyclists pass through on their short cuts and cycle paths
* flash cycling where cyclists suddenly converge sometimes at night on mass
* cyclist blogs, webcams and web sites.

Do add to my list if you feel moved.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

The bike with no name (still)


back on my old bike again - the bike with no name, formerly known as Florence - in the sunshine feeling fitter and better in my body than for many a long year, a profound sense of well being permiates me. Sheila's racing bike was OK to ride on Monday for one day but I did not enjoy the drop handlebars. She only has 6 gears and told me before I set off the bottom gear does not work and the brakes are not brilliant!

Anyway I got a email from Vernon from Leeds who tells me:
"If your bike is in good mechanical order then there's no need to buy another bike. You might like to investigate changing the gearing of your bike though. I have a 21 speed Dawes galaxy that I bought second hand three/four years ago. I lowered the gearing by fitting a cassette with a 34 tooth sprocket. It made a lot of difference in Devon and Cornwall I can tell you! There wasn't a single hill that beat me"

So I think I can finally put new bike or not dilemma to rest and stick with the bike with no name. Meanwhile I have roughly and optimistically figured out where I will be on the LEJOG trip and the next step is to arrange places to stay.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 16 April 2007

Kenya again


rather than give you my latest bike ramble I will instead tell you a bit about Straight Talk and what follows comes direct from the KAPC web site

"Straight Talk is an Adolescents Sexuality and Reproductive Health Programme and was began in 1995 by the Kenya Association of Professional Councellors. Over time, the Straight Talk concept has evolved and now comprises of Straight Talk Newspaper, Straight Talk Clubs, Straight Talk Radio Show and Straight Talk Training Programmes.

Adolescents for adolescents write Straight Talk and it is interactive and participatory, this has greatly contributed to its popularity. The Ministry of Education appreciates its aims and has supported its introduction into schools. It has an adolescent editorial board that controls and directs its production process. The newspaper is excellent for popularising youth issuesStraight Talk is about:
• Adolescents for adolescents
• Relationships: Peer relationships, Boy/Girl relationships;
Parent/Youthrelationships; Teacher/Student relationships
• Sharing experiences
• Adolescents and HIV/AIDS."

I have met some of the young people involved in Straight Talk - they are a talented and energetic group and are really committed to making a difference to the lives of young people in Kenya. My fund raising cycle ride will raise money for KAPC HE programme which will develop research and practice around counselling and HIV work.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Flat again


The latest CTC (Cyclists Touring Club) weekly email reports that if you cycle regular your body will 10 years younger than it otherwise would. Since I begun cycling more regularly last Autumn I have felt better in myself not just physically but holistically and I have dropped a trouser size so most of my trosuers don't fit me apart from my neat new cycling shorts.

So I was already for a quick spin yesterday when I decided to pump up my front tyre which was a bit low. I used Sheila's neat high powered pump and forgot to unlock it from the valve. The valve which was a bit loose in any case broke off and the tyre imemdiately went flat. Oh know!

Well I can get the wheel off and pop round to the local cyclist shop - Ken Fosters' Cyclogist and get a new inner tube. So I turned the bike upside down and tried to get the front wheel off. But however hard I tried using all my might I could not undo the nuts. Nuts indeed! So there was nothing for it but to wheel the bike round to Ken Fosters' sheepishly and get their help. Fine but they could not do it until Monday. I hope this does not happen on my LEJOG trip!

The upside of all of this is that I am going to borrow Sheila's bike which will be interesting as it is about 20 years old but it is a touring bike with drop handlebars. Incidentially I had a useful email from the CTC message board about my LEJOG which I will share in full in another post but the key point is that the writer suggested that I can do the trip on my current bike.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Friday, 13 April 2007

More Norfolk days


It's Wednesday after Easter and I am on my 3rd cycle trip in four days, only about 15 miles a time but enough to experience regular cycling day after day beyond my 7 mile round trip to work.

Being in the world on the bike people say hello to me as I pass and most drivers give me plenty of room. I am aware of my frailty on the bike and how every mile traveled, every hill climbed, is under my own steam. It is a bit like testing myself and testing the world and the LEJOG trip will involve this in spades. I will be very dependent on my own body and also on they support I get from people on the way.

It is a mad thing to do though to raise a bit of money for work in Kenya helps but it is still crazy! Mind you my PhD felt the same, a big crazy mountain to climb, the difference is that there will be some crazy hills for real - if not mountains - to climb on this trip! A journey of 1000 miles starts with one spin of the cycle wheel!

Today I brought my first ever digital camera in Norwich with money from my late father-in-law, it is a nice thought that most of the photos that will appear here and elsewhere will come from this camera. So a bit of Norfolk will travel with me!

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Noel Coward and sponsorship


it's Easter Monday and talking with my mother-in-law about Noel Coward I found out that my father-in-law once went to a fancy dress party dressed as Noel Coward. Thinking about this on my bike ride today around the Norfolk Lanes it all came together.

You dear reader could sponsor me to dress up as say Noel Coward for a day (£100+) or half day (£50+) and I would wear my dressing gown, clutch a cigarette holder and sing ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ to an audience of sheep as I cycle on my way. But please no bear outfits – much too hot.

See ya

Bill on bike

Groovy trip around Norfolk


It’s Easter Sunday and my sister-in-law Jay decides I look like a ‘groovy chick’ in my black ¾ cycling shorts and banana yellow cycling jacket. And my fluffy thinning grey hair. Not quite they image I have in mind!

I went for a 15 mile spin around the Norfolk lanes from Wyndmonham, through Deopham, Hingham, Hardingham, and Cricklewood. At Deopham I stopped off at the churchyard to pay my respects to my father-in-law a real gentle-man and farmer who was very environmentally aware – ahead of it time. We used to share a love of real ale and I delighted in finding him very obscure and often organic beers produced by small breweries.

When you cycle you enter a different time zone and way of life to usual which is why B roads and country lanes or cycle tracks are best. If you want to get form A to B and it is over 5 miles it is obviously quicker to travel by bus train or car BUT cycling is about the traveling not just the arriving. It is about being in the world with no barrier, no plate of glass between you and reality. If it rains you get wet! Also you are powering yourself and producing very little emissions apart from the odd bit of methane!

Noel Coward was wrong about Norfolk being flat. (‘How was Norfolk’ ‘Very flat’) but then he probably never cycled up a long drawn out Norfolk hill. But there again you try cycling in your dressing gown!

Happy Easter,

Bill on Bike

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Trendy dad

Oh dear!

My new 3/4 length cycling shorts are causing my 8 eight year old daughter Grace some grief. She says that they are 'too trendy' for me!
So maybe I have got it about right! A few months ago she wished I hadn't got grey hair. How difficult us parents are to our children.

My cycling shorts were intended as an alternative to skin tight lyrca which does does not suit a man of my age and build! They seemed a functional and I admit a fashionable alternative.

It's strange exposing a bit of my calves since I rarely wear shorts and am only occasionally found on the beach in swimming trunks. It was warm sun yesterday and I rather casually put some sun block on my face and 'caught the sun' on my onblocked forehead but my untreated calves remain white for now.

Off to Norfolk on saturday and taking the bike with me for some outings.

Best to all,

Bill on bike.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Trip to tatton and a puncture

Well, Sheila and Grace were off to Tatton Hall for a picnic with Rebecca, Rachel and Frankie and Sheila suggested I cycle which was a neat idea and gave me a chance to try out my new 3/4 quarter cycling shorts which later received admiring comments from Rebecca.

So back along the canal from Stechford through Altincham past Dunham Massey then yellow roads to Tatton, about 14 miles which I did in an hour and a half. I saw a swan's nest on the canal bank with a swan on it then later a swan fly about 3 feet above the canal right by and not unfriendly.

So I arrived at Tatton pleased with myself only to get a puncture. After a picnic lunch I attempted to repair the puncture. I could hear the air coming out but with the noise of all the children in the playgound I could not locate it. Sheila thought she could identify it but I could no longer hear the noise of the escaping air. Then I noticed the valve was lose. I tightened it and pump up the tube and all seemed OK. I replaced the tube pumped it up good.

I was about to set off back home a few minutes later when I discovered that I had a flat tyre again. Robert Pirsig writes about these kind of happening in his classic book Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance - if you have not read it do. He talks about losing 'gumption' in these kind of situation and getting into destructive patterns.

Punctures fall into two classes in my experience easy to fix and those that are a swine. I got a lift home for me and my bike with Sheila. Once I got home I was all set with a bowl of water to immerse the inner tube in when I hear the sound of escaping air again and this time I am easily able to locate the puncture and patch it. A few minutes later I am off to
the local bookshop on my bike. Everything OK.

Mynew 3/4 shorts were a treat, it was great to be on the bike again on a warm spring day.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Fallowfield Loopy and Florence?


On sunday Sheila, Grace and I went for a cycle ride, me with Grace on the trailer bike and Sheila on her own bike. We joned the Fallowfield loop a couple of streets away from home. It was glorious sunshine and a real treat to be off road on this converted old railway line which had a smooth surface to it and was well maintained with regular signposts. (For free PDF route description visit

We took a picnic and kept up a slow steady pass which suited Grace well as she usually cycles furiously for a while and then complains she is tired and usually bored; but not this time!

We got about as far as Reddish North station before turning back as Grace and I were due to be at her school singing in the community choir a monthly treat for us.

Today my new cycling 3/4 trousers arrived in the post since my local bike shop does not stock them ( Endura Hummvee since you asked!). I was paraded around the house in them when Grace and Sheila arrived home. They found it most hilarious and decided with my long socks on I looked like a golfer in plus fours. Not the image I had in my inner eye of this dead cool cyclist look - but it is streets ahead of tight lyrca. More of this when I have tested these trousers out on a long run.

Meanwhile I am still pondering over buying a touring bike or not. Andy in the lift on friday at work was very complementrary about my current hybrid bike.

Incidentally Dee yesterday asked me what my bike's name was.
'I usually call my bikes Florence,' I replied.
'It doesn't really look like a Florence.'
I think she is right - what do you think dear reader?

Enough for now,

Bill on bike

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Room, photos and a friendly Pat


Grace and I were travelling down Nell Lane yesterday and we saw this sign 'Make room for cyclists please' so we stoped at the next house knocked on the door and said, "We're cyclists where's our room?" That wasn't well received, I wonder why?

Phil my keen journalist contact at the (Knutsford) Guardian - I just like to call it the Guardian - had asked me about a photo of me and the bike for the piece he was writing for the next issue of the paper. Terry my tecky friend and colleague at work was no immediate help (unusual) but then I thought of Peter Leigh our audio visual man and he turned up trumps! Me and the bike and some background ferns, captured on digital camera then email to me, I emailed it to Phil and uploaded it on to and then was able to put the picture here on the blog - go to my profile and see what you think.

I went to my creative writing class yesterday with Steven Waling and Tony Sides - contact them at - above the Fuel cafe. I went to my first class with them at the beginning of March and it really inspired me to develop this blog further. Anyway I met Pat there who I had not seen for months and we was wearing some dead neat 3/4 length cycling Endura trousers that looked kind of combat style with lots of pockets and key rings to hang things off. I thought 'Yes!' so much better than the usual lycra look which would not flatter my figure! So who knows a another photo session in due course!

Best to all,

Bill on bike