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