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2019 in a nutshell

Total distance for year: 6,325 miles/10,179km

Nobody wants to read a blow-by-blow breakdown of a full 12 months of cycling, and I am certainly not going to indulge myself to that extent. But casting an eye back over the previous year can reveal some interesting things. Annual mileage can be influenced by a host of different things, but I’ve learned that there is a threshold beyond which you will find yourself riding the bike primarily just to increase your total mileage. In other words, it becomes the driving force. The last couple of years have seen me come to recognise that threshold, pull back from it, and settle into what is a more comfortably managed limit, but which still surpasses the number of miles I drive by a substantial margin.

Separating out local mileage from adventure mileage, it’s no surprise to find that the bulk of my annual distance is still in the day-to-day riding within a 50 mile radius of my home (1,802 adventure miles v 4523 local miles). To get further afield on a morning/day ride, I am now not averse to broadening that radius and using public transport for part of the return journey. This has the benefit of opening up new terrain and new areas to explore. So, for instance, I took a train out to Norwich for a two day 125 mile summer solstice ride back home, with a generally supportive wind behind me.

The adventure miles last year were made up by my Biking the Baltic ride (crossing 8 countries and visiting 9 cities in the late summer), a week on the tandem in Holland in July (the hottest week in Dutch recorded history), a tandem rally in the Wye Valley, and the summer solstice ride. My local mileage is almost totally made up of solo-riding, but with the added benefit of meeting up with fellow cycling cronies at country tearooms to chew the fat. So today, as I write this, I have just come back from a 50 mile jaunt out to Fermyn Woods near Brigstock, where there is a café that amply serves the needs of hungry cyclists.

As I was reflecting on annual statistics, I decided to do a quick retrospective of my 11 years of retirement, and discovered (unsurprisingly) that I had accumulated a lot of miles, namely 90,467 miles/145,588km, about 25% of which were achieved on my many adventure trips around the world. As impressive as any of this may seem, it all pales into utter insignificance in the light of the lifetime mileage (1 million miles) achieved by Russ Mantle at the age of 82, much of it during his years of retirement. Very much a man of his generation, he would have spent most of his waking hours turning pedals.

So what of the coming 2020? Perhaps like many adventure cyclists, I will be trying to honour our collective need to add our grain of sand to saving the planet. Even though riding a bike is an ultra-green form of transport, getting to and from our destinations can be fraught with multiple flights. So for this purpose, I have added this little beast to my stable of bikes

Tern Verge P10

The Tern Verge P10 is designed for long-distance, has ten ratios on a 1x gear set-up (ie. just one front chainring) and, most importantly, folds for transportation. This means I should be able to hop on and hop off trains and buses at will, and use non-aviation transport to get to some of my distant destinations.

Watch this space. I am currently looking at Flixbus that might take me down to the French Mediterranean in a few week’s time.

Increase your annual mileage: lap 1

So you want to increase your annual mileage? Or even just to start riding your bike more? One thing is for certain, neither of these two objectives will happen by accident. Even if you come up with a personal pledge that you will ride your bike more, if you are

Cartoon from examiner.com

Cartoon from examiner.com

realistic, you know it’s not going to happen……unless, of course, you are S.M.A.R.T. about it. So, let’s get the pseudo-business, jargon-laden, bottom-line focused terminology out of the way……..and make it simple.

Be Specific about what you want to achieve, have a reliable way of Measuring it, Assign yourself (ie commit) to the task, make it Realistic, and put a Time limit on it. Does this sound like a fancy way of making a New Year’s resolution? Dead right……..the only difference being that you’re not going to ditch the project before the end of January (as most people do with their resolutions).

So, where do you start? What is a realistic and achievable goal? Well, only you can decide that. But here are a few markers to help you:

1. what kind of daily/weekly mileage are you doing already?

2. do you have time/energy  to increase those numbers? If so, by how much?

3. where will you find the extra time? Will you ride solo or with others?

4. can cycling enter into some of your weekly commuting arrangements?

You can now begin to make some tentative calculations. It is psychologically easier to think in terms of percentage increasescycling-fast-icon rather than specific mileage increases. In other words, on top of whatever you are achieving now, can you increase it by 10%? Or even 20%?

In the following posts, I will make some suggestions on how you can ‘steal time’ from a busy schedule, and how you can add those extra miles without too much impact on your timetable.

Some of my suggestions will be debatable, even contentious……so watch this space.

Increase your annual mileage

Cut your food shopping bills…….become a mile-eater! Or, perhaps more accurately, cut your fuel bills by driving less. Now, this is a dream that many have, but the reality is frequently out of reach. The fact is, we have all developed lifestyles that fundamentally depend on access to a car. But can we do anything to reverse that trend?

Over the last few years, my annual cycling mileage has increased significantly. Now most of that is down to an indisputable truth: I enjoy a privileged state of retirement, which means I don’t have a job and, therefore, have more time to pursue things like ‘annual mileages’. What (you may say) has that got to do with the average Joe, who invariably has a job or business, and may even have the responsibility of a family to boot? Good question……

Commuting to workWhen I did have a job, because I lived only 1 mile from my place of work, my commuting rides only added about 400 miles to my annual total. Now, I’m not complaining about proximity here, I’m just stating a fact of life. If my commute, on the other hand, had been 10 miles each way, this might have been 4000 miles. But then (and here I surmise) I may have been less tempted to add leisure miles at the weekend, which is where the bulk of my mileage came from during my own working years.

Now, I know a lot of roadies out there are always looking for ways to increase their annual mileages, sometimes just for the heck of it, sometimes as the base training for the racing season, or sometimes to challenge clubmates or even pit themselves against cycling heroes via the plethora of ‘Strava Annual Distance’ award schemes that exist.

But how do you increase your annual mileage? Is it simply a question of spending more hours on the bike (hours which are frequently in short supply)? Or are there a few tricks of the trade? Things that might be viewed as clever cycling ‘prestidigitation’ that can creep into

Image courtesy Endless Cycles

Image courtesy Endless Cycles

the routine almost by ‘sleight of hand’, and not starve the already time-poor?

I am no sports scientist, nor even an expert in the world of cycling. I class myself as a ‘keen enthusiast’ who has simply learned a thing or two during more than 36 years of spinning cranks ‘in anger’. And why not share some of my findings with the information-hungry masses……well, at least a tiny percentage of the few that stumble into these pages.

What I have to share will be a mixture of personal practice and, sometimes, amusing reflections on the antics of fellow-roadies that may stir some to make comment, for better or worse. Roadies are a diverse bunch of characters. We have our little foibles, our routines and our strongly held opinions. There are frequently no right answers to prevailing cycling issues, but we love to engage in debate (even argument) about which is the best bike, the best way to record rides, ideal tyre pressures, how many spares of anything you should carry…..in fact, the list is endless.

If you’ve read thus far, you may just be interested enough to stay tuned over the next several posts, none of which will require any level of reading stamina……….(did I hear you mutter “thank goodness for that…this post has already outlasted its welcome”!).

Amen, I say to that.

…..so it’s goodbye to 2013

I’m not one of those bloggers who likes to do a long, detailed summary of the last 12 months (thank goodness, I hear you say….). They usually end up being tedious “boasts on a post” (sometimes you get Christmas letters just like that). But I have noticed that it is many weeks since I talked about anything cycling-related. And having changed the header photo on my blog to an image of a walker (a picture I took in the early morning just north of Sheffield), you may be wondering if this man has hung up his wheels. Well, the short answer to that is…… no chance!

With Lake Pukaki, leading up to the base of Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand

With Lake Pukaki, leading up to the base of Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand

Despite the gales and heavy rains of the last few weeks, I decided not to be deterred, and December has turned out to have been a busy month on the bike….. even allowing for the interruption of Christmas (just shy of 1000 miles/1600kms). But it is also at this time of the year when I cast an eye over mileages, places visited and routes taken over the previous 12 months, that I may be guilty of ‘waxing lyrical’. If I do, please excuse me. If it bores you, just hit that little x at the in top right hand corner of your screen……

I was riding with a couple of cycling buddies a few weeks ago, and one of them said: “Frank, what mileage are you aiming for this year?”. I replied: “Well, there’s an outside chance I might hit 11,000 miles, but I’m not banking on it with these weather conditions”. Someone else teasingly said “Well, I shouldn’t tell you what I once did many years ago”. Well, of course, it invited the question from everyone in the group “So what did you do many years ago?” Almost soto voce, he said “26,000 miles”. My immediate response was “so you mustn’t have been working for a living……”. Well, of course, he did hold down a regular job, but was still covering more than 500 miles a week (including commuting and racing).

Tommy @odwin 1912-1975

Tommy Godwin 1912-1975

Of course, anything achieved by anyone in the light of what Tommy Godwin did back in 1939-40 pales into insignificance. He began on January 1st to ride 200 miles a day for a whole year, covering more than 75,000 miles (120,000 kms), and then proceeded to do the fastest 100,000 miles(162,000kms) on record, which he achieved in only 500 days. ‘Chapeau’ to him…… and remember, nearly half his mileage was during the first 6 months of the War, and he was riding a Raleigh weighing over 30lbs(14kgs)!

Anyway, let’s climb down from the dizzy heights of the super-achiever, and dwell in the realms of the ‘wannabes’ and the ‘might-have-beens’. This humble crank-turner did hit 11,000 miles just 3 days before the end of the year, which is just as well, because in the closing days and hours of the year, an annoying head cold is keeping him (almost) confined to quarters.

Outside the 2,500 miles/4000kms of my expedition Down Under, my biggest month of the year was the 1,250 miles cycled in August (including the CTC Birthdays Rides), and on only 6 days of the year did I exceed 100 miles/162kms (though many were just 5-10 miles short of that).

At the top of Mam Tor in Derbyshire

At the top of the Mam Tor road in Derbyshire

Jenny, my wife, constantly tells me I shouldn’t push myself so hard, and maybe I should listen more carefully to my body. Oh dear, the beginning of a new year means resolution time. Is it time to grow up and settle down…….? Slippers and pipe maybe…..? A good resolve for the coming year might be to find ourselves a more comfortable tandem, and to spend more time pedalling as a twosome with Jenny.

Now there’s a thought…….