2016 marked the second year of Round The Bend, which is a personal record of my life on a bike. In addition to the general commentary on cycling and various rides, this year I started two regular features in Round The Bend which ran throughout the period. Seasonal Cycling was intended to encapsulate all that each of the four seasons and Christmas means for the cyclist. Apart from just thinking about cycling at these times of the year, I made a point of undertaking specific rides each season during which I focused more on what exactly I was observing, hearing and feeling.
It was an interesting exercise, which made me think more about the actual experience of cycling itself as the seasons came and went. With this in mind and after reading the excellent Need For the Bike by Paul Fournel, it led me to start Life on a bike (LOAB), which I now hope to make an ongoing occasional but ongoing feature. Already used as this blog’s strapline, each piece is short and intended to encapsulate both the minutiae and spirit of what contributes towards a life of cycling, which for me has been about 60-years and counting – just.
It has been a real surprise and pleasure to see an unsolicited interest grow for this blog. In 2016 there were more than 6,000 visits and 13,000 page views from 670 locations across the world. You are all very welcome and I would be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to get in touch with queries, comments or just to say hello – contact details are in the Contact section which can be found in the About menu.
I am happy to say that my cycling in 2016 was better than in 2015 but as I continued to recover from a knee replacement, riding has still been something of a challenge and certainly not what it was prior to the operation. Thankfully it was an outstanding year for British racing cyclists who excelled in the Rio Olympics by winning 12 medals, including six golds and more than twice that of the next country. Elsewhere the Brits won no less than seven stages of the Tour de France, including four by Mark Cavendish taking him to a total of 30 in all, second only to the all-time stage winner Eddy Merckx with 34 wins – amazing! Best of all, not forgetting Chris Froome who won the overall race for the third time, just four years since the race was won for the first time by a Brit in the form of the inimitable Wiggo – even more amazing!
For me the year started as it ended in 2015, cycling round in circles on flat local roads on the folding Joey bike so as to test my knee and gradually build-up strength and mileage. Ironically the left, operated knee was doing quite well by now but an issue that had become evident early in 2015 had now come back again – pain in the right knee; this is not an uncommon problem as after one knee fails, soon after the other one goes!
Notwithstanding, I finally got back on my Audax bike at the beginning of March. I really like the Joey but being back on a ‘normal’ bike after a year’s absence helped rejuvenate my cycling further. Thereafter, I built-up mileage week-by-week taking care not to overdo it and still tended to limit most of my rides to about 20-miles.
My goal for the year was to complete a favourite 30-mile circular ride to Haxted Mill to the east of my home, which I eventually achieved on 16th August. Pleasing though it was, the discomfort after the ride was worrying and since then I have been struggling. I am now reluctantly thinking that I am unlikely to return to long distance cycling ever again and as a result have been thinking about electric bikes as an alternative.
Apart from the usual online research, I have test ridden a few electric bikes this year with mixed impressions. I certainly enjoyed the benefit gained from electric assistance i.e. not powered, but overall found the overall build quality of the bikes to be generally quite poor when compared to the standard road bikes I currently ride. However, almost without exception the real killer issue was the battery range; they’re OK for going to the shops or a short commute but touring or day rides, I’m not so sure? I have also considered converting my Trek 830 MTB with an electric hub motor, which would then provide a better underlying bike but still the battery range is an issue. I intend to continue to looking in 2017 and may yet go electric!
It has been a big disappointment that at no stage in 2016 was I able to consider restarting cycle touring and I am currently not sure I ever will – even if I can do the miles again, the load carried is likely to be prohibitive. Thankfully there is an alternative and by taking the bikes by car in July we were able to enjoy an excellent cycle-camping holiday on the mostly flat, French roads at Baie de Somme and subsequently at my favourite old stomping ground along and around the Avenue Vert, south of Dieppe. By adopting a fixed camping base for a few days each time, it was possible to put together a series of circular routes radiating in various directions. For the moment I expect this is the best I can hope for in 2017, which under the circumstances could still be a reasonable alternative to a full cycle-camping touring trip.
As previously described, I tried to gradually expand mileage through the year and thereby get back to as many of my longer local routes as possible. Unfortunately since May there has been one other major obstacle that has more or less made most of my favourite nearby countryside rides largely impractical. Winter floods in 2013 almost destroyed the old Flanchford Road Bridge across the River Mole on the way to Leigh and this year major works commenced to replace it, completely closing the road until February 2017. This road had been the start and finish of probably 75% of my rides in the past and as a result of this closure the choice of cycle routes was very limited through most of this year.
Before my operation annual cycling was typically over 3,000 miles. In 2015 I managed 1,100 miles, of which some 50% were post knee operation. The year just finished I have cycled just over 1,600 miles – excluding some turbo trainer ‘rides’ of about 150 miles. On reflection I suppose this isn’t too bad and on occasion I have enjoyed some very nice rides; I did after all cycle along the south rim of the Grand Canyon in April too! Nonetheless, I am disappointed not to have made more progress this year and am not really sure what cycling prospects next year holds but feel there will continue to be plenty to write about here on Round The Bend in 2017.