A gift guide for cyclists

You know how it is, you've presents to buy and you've no idea where to start. You know they quite like cycling, but that doesn't really help you either because as with any hobby or sport a certain amount of knowledge is needed. 

It's never just as simple as just buying something for the bike is it?

In this gift guide I've put together some suggestions, some fun, some serious of what the cyclist in your life might appreciate this festive season. One of these is the first Christmas present I bought, but which one?  I'll not share yet, just in case this is the one post that MOH reads here before the big day, and if you're reading - he, he, he - be worried, be very worried!!

So whether it's a very festive Christmas-jumper style cycling top, or cycle related clothing who knows?  The Cycology clothing makes a regular appearance in my Facebook feed and I think they've a good range and one that nods to a cycling habit, but also very wearable. 

The Crank Brothers cycling multi-tool is the one I have, it's not the lightest, but then again nor is my bike. But after a few chain incidents I wouldn't be without it, and I don't cycle anywhere without it.  I work on the theory that even if I don't know how to use it all - and I do know how to put my chain back on now - then if I was having a bike incident then at least having the tool is a start. Cyclists generally are a friendly bunch and I'm sure one would stop and help, so having an idea and a multi-tool is a very good start. Plus this one's super stylish too.

You'll not be surprised to see a basket on my gift guide, my basket is an essential piece of kit for my bike. MOH is likely to be very afraid now as I keep threatening to buy him one for his bike, as when we're out together he often gives me stuff to put in my basket. It's the cycling equivalent of "can you just put my keys in your handbag!" - please tell me you get asked that too?!

There's a navigation device which is billed as a smart compass which can be strapped onto handlebar, looks more like a bell than anything else I've seen and avoids the need to stop and check your phone for the route, and better still avoids having your phone strapped to the handlebars.  If that's not your thing, then having a stylish bell that really is a bell might work. All bikes are sold with a bell now, but often they're cheap and nasty and quickly rust, so a good looking, small and loud bell could be the thing for your cyclist.

If they're a more serious cyclist, then they've probably eschewed mudguards because either they don't fit, or spoil the look of the bike, or worse still add extra weight and affect the aerodynamics.  You can tell I speak from experience can't you?  But on wet days, your cyclist will come home with a trail of mud up their clothes and that's where the Ass Saver comes in. It quite literally does what it says, is lightweight and even the most discerning cyclist will consider this, so I'm told.

My final entry on this list is waterproof socks. Apparently you can never have too many, and once you've tried them you wouldn't be without them. I've not tried them but the idea of cold, wet feet while out cycling doesn't appeal, but then again wearing cycling shoes with mesh or holes in the bottom (for cleats) isn't my thing either.

Hopefully there'll have been some ideas that you can use to provide the perfect gift for your cyclist. And if you're a cyclist, what else would you add?

A cycle in Kent in the sun

It's been a while since we've headed out on our bikes and so with a good forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend we found ourselves trying to choose the least warm day for a bit of cycle, not often that happens is it? Usually on a Bank Holiday we'd be trying to guess which day would be least wet... 

Indeed.

We opted for Sunday for our ride and while it was warm, Monday was expected to be warmer. I've had a bit of a wobble with my bike lately, since I picked it up from its service. The brakes have been readjusted and are super efficient, I think I'd got so used to them being much looser than it gave me a bit of a surprise!  

I've also struggled to get the saddle height right since then too. When we left the shop it was too high so coupled with new brakes and not being able to reach the ground (that's not so good) the cycle home was trickier than it should have been. We readjusted the saddle height but then it was too low and I felt as if my knees were reaching my ears as I cycled, and it was painful too. 

We did get it better, I think it still needs some adjustment but I need to regain my confidence with it before we adjust it again. So when MOH suggested a cycle this weekend, he must have been wondering what he was letting himself in for.

He did the sensible thing though and suggested we started with food, and so we found ourselves ordering a cooked breakfast at the Riverside Tea Room in Eynsford seventeen seconds before they stopped serving breakfasts - not bad going - and I'm glad we did, it was a great breakfast. 

Full of poached egg, sausage, beans, bacon and toast we set off following one of the routes in the Lost Lanes book, which I've had for a while and which we've often looked at but not cycled any of the routes until this weekend.  As we left Eynsford it was uphill and I overtook a walking cyclist in full lycra and if I'm honest, he seemed as shocked as I was.

My bike was the only one with a basket I saw all day, and it did get some looks from those with road bikes and the lycra, but I did ok. I tired towards the end of the ride, and it was only when we got home that MOH let on that there was some debate online about this ride's rating as moderate, some suggesting it should be marked strenuous. Hmmn.

The map of our route
the stats from my cycle

There were a couple of hills - around Shoreham - that I struggled with. My seven gears simply weren't enough. I've discovered I'm better with hills that are more gentle, even if they're longer than those that have a steeper incline. There were two of those that I ran out of gears for and so opted to get off and walk. It was hot too, and the two bottles of water I took were later supplemented by an extra bottle of water, and still wasn't enough. 

After Shoreham I really had had enough and made the decision to cut short the second part of the ride and head along the A225 on the more direct route back to the car. It was a busy road, but not that busy, and I was done with hills.  There were some of those gentler incline hills on our way back to Eynsford station, but given the road we were on I knew I needed to keep going, and so I did.

Along our route though there were plenty of pretty Kent villages - and considering we were something like twenty five minutes and fifteen miles from home - it was a world apart from our South London streets:

THE MILL TOWER IN SOUTH DARENTH WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN "CLING FILMED"

THE MILL TOWER IN SOUTH DARENTH WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN "CLING FILMED"

 
ADMIRING THE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE IN FARNINGHAM

ADMIRING THE ARCHITECTURAL STYLE IN FARNINGHAM

 
THE LION HOTEL IN FARNINGHAM

THE LION HOTEL IN FARNINGHAM

 
THE KENT COUNTRYSIDE

THE KENT COUNTRYSIDE

 
LULLINGSTONE CASTLE

LULLINGSTONE CASTLE

 
SOMEHOW, THIS DIDN'T LOOK OUT OF PLACE

SOMEHOW, THIS DIDN'T LOOK OUT OF PLACE

So a successful ride, if not a slightly shorter one than MOH hoped for, and a slightly hotter one than I'd hoped for too. And I think I've overcome that wobble I mentioned too, so it's likely that I'll be using it at least a couple of days to get to work this week.

And the rest of the day was spent recovering on a sun lounger in the garden... It would have been rude not to!

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A year in Greenwich Park: July

Well I'm just fifteen days away from celebrating a year of my walking commute which as you know takes me through Greenwich Park each day. And I'm still not tired of it. It changes, and so do the people that use it. And I guess I do too, I have quite defined summer and winter routes through the park (the summer route goes over the grass, the winter route doesn't!) and to mix it up for a few days I walked the winter route in summer. I know, how rock and roll...

Actually it was a fortuitous as I learnt more about the opening times for the Queen's Orchard and finally I made it onto the other side of the gate, which felt a fitting tribute to mark the end of my first year.  It was great, and a space I plan to visit many times more before it shuts for the winter, as long as I can work out the opening times, that is...

But that's not all. July was the month that I noticed the banana plants were back in the flower garden. Last August they were my marker to turn right and head across the grass, the route has become second nature to me so I've not needed a visual clue, but it's good to see them back where I expect to see them.

Turn right at the banana trees in Greenwich Park - it's been a while since i needed the visual clue but it's good to see them back in place

This month I've been marvelling at the light on the trees, how it illuminates the leaves changing their greenness when it hits them. And while I was noticing this, I also noticed the conkers forming in the horse chestnut trees, they are only small, but even so...

light through the trees in Greenwich Park London

How the sunlight flows through the trees and forms shadows has also fascinated me this month. There's been sunny mornings, there's been damper mornings too - hence walking my winter route in the summer. As the schools have finished the park has got busier, not only with families but also tourists and it's great to see the space being so well used.

(Not quite) dancing with my shadow in Greenwich Park

This photo is from my winter route - just look at those clouds, you can see why I didn't want to walk over the grass now can't you? Everytime I walk this way, capturing a glimpse of London's skyline over in Canary Wharf, just takes my breath away. Even on a damp and drizzly morning, in July.

Looking over at London's skyline from Greenwich Park

There was another development in July too - I finally started to cycle to work. The plan was to build it up in time for our trip to Suffolk at the end of the month, and it was going well, although MOH's bike incident and a summer cold did see good intentions slip a little. But the cold has gone, and the traffic is much less now that it's school holidays, so I think when I'm back at work next week the bike could be making a regular appearance.

Another first for my year - a cycling commute - way easier there than coming back though!

It gives me the chance to make use of this gorgeous pannier - so there's an added incentive - getting to work is downhill, so that's all good and it halves my journey time. Coming home though is a different matter and there's the not-so-small matter of cycling up the hill in Greenwich Park. The plus is that I know I can cycle up this hill, even if it takes me a little while (and it does). But I'm hoping that by tackling it more often it'll become as natural to me as turning right at the banana plants did almost a year ago.  

Who knows, but I'm hoping it will and you never know at some point I might treat myself to a new bike as well - well MOH can't be the only one with a new bike now can he?