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