jesus, he knows me


Written on the bike, it says “Surly”.

The eyes seem to say “crazy”.

The beardy certainly says “weirdy”.

Small wonder, then, I should be proclaimed: “Jesus. It’s JESUS!” by the neanderthals who joined my Friday afternoon train home, all those years ago.

As the journey went on, so did the drinking of my raucous, but good humoured, new subjects. Eventually, the conversation turned to intellectual matters, specifically what the letters HB on a pencil stood for. Those in the immediate vicinity of the neanderthals didn’t know, and neither did the conductor.

I knew. But I wasn’t going to reveal that.

The conductor went about his business, checking tickets and so forth throughout the train, until finally he came over the tannoy system to pose the pencil question to all passengers. Clearly I was the only person on board to possess such powerful knowledge (and facial hair).

Tentatively, I peeked around from my chair and raised my hand.

“JESUS! JESUS KNOWS THE ANSWER!!!”, the lead neanderthal proclaimed, pointing at me with sheer delight in his eyes.

You can imagine the beer-fuelled cheer that erupted when I quietly proclaimed:

“Hard. Black.”

Just this morning, after performing a minor miracle with 2 slices of bread and some eggs (I didn’t fancy fish for breakfast), I took off on the bike to explore a new route. As I was riding through the park, I came across a group of 6 or 7 knuckle-draggers riding identical bikes. Isn’t evolution wonderful?

I still haven’t figured out what the identical bikes were all about, but as I was making my way through the pack, the questions came thick and fast.

“Whoa. Is that, like, GPS?”

“How fast can you go on that?”

“So, you can charge your phone AND have the lights on?”

Sometimes, it’s hard being the messiah.

I made my polite excuses, and showed them how fast I can go on that, much to their increasingly distant delight.

47583_10154745033894863_7947153800405195520_nAs it turns out, I’ve ridden large portions of this route before, purely by accident. But now I can at least piece together a nice 30ish mile route up to one of the places my girlfriend sells her cakes on a local farmers’ market.

After grabbing myself a coffee and a delighfully-bad-for-you cheese pastry thing from the excellent French bakery stall next door, I headed for home, pretty much retracing the same route back, only minus all the wrong turns my drunk GPS took me down on the way.

Rolling through the park close to home, I was so busy trying to not run over dogs and small children that I hardly noticed my flock coming around the corner on their matching steeds.

I couldn’t help but smile at the cacophony of recognition as I passed them again on my way home.

But wait. I’d been gone for at least 2 hours, and they were still doing circuits around the local country park? On their matching bikes?

As I’ve been typing this, a possibility has struck me. You see, near our local country park, there’s a small prison. I wonder if maybe they were actually (presumably very well behaved, and trustworthy) offenders out on an organised bike ride with a couple of prison officers?

Maybe they were. And maybe their delight was brought about by the correctional powers of cycling. Maybe it was the beautiful early spring sunshine warming their hearts, as it warmed their backs. Maybe it was.

But maybe, just maybe, they were so delighted because JESUS recognised them?

Christ on a bicycle.




DSCF5854Around this time last year, you might recall being made hungry and / or disturbed by the Krampus cake Karen made for Keep Pedalling’s 2nd birthday… mmm cake…

Since then, I’ve done my fair share of cake related chores and more cakes than I can count have come out of The Baking Room’s kitchen.

And, in what has now become time honoured tradition, as Keep Pedalling’s 3rd birthday approached, word on the street (at least the street the bike shop is on) was that something Surly this way comes…

photo credit: Surly Bikes

photo credit: Surly Bikes

With the mixed feelings of trepidation and excitement that come with the certain knowledge of impending beer drinking, beer drinking, beer drinking and other Surly related mayhem came the cake order.

“Oh bejeesus. If they ordered the Krampus cake last year, what in the hell are they going to ask for this year???” was the gist of the conversation I had with Karen. We didn’t have to wait long to find out.

When Shona started pushing her chest out and hinting I should take a closer look I didn’t quite know what do. I looked over at Rich who was grinning with a knowing look on his face.

“Oh, it’s going to one of those parties…” I thought to myself.

“Look at my shirt!” Shona insisted, pushing her chest out even more. Eventually I caved… I mean, what’s a man to do?

Surly clown t-shirt

photo credit: QBP

Anyhoo, Shona was wearing her Surly t-shirt. You know the one, it’s got a creepy picture of a dismembered clown head with blood pouring out of its mouth.

After remarking on how cool is was etc. etc. the realisation slowly dawned on me. Yep, the way to top last year’s Krampus cake: A 3D cake version of the creepy Surly clown head with blood pouring out of its mouth.

“What’s your budget?” was my first stupid question.

Some time later after I’d explained the whole concept to Karen and we’d been through several different design ideas and eventually settled on the realisation that somehow making the cake actually bleed would be more challenging than time or budget allowed for, we delivered the final product and set it up with only minutes to spare before the party started.

surly clown head cakeI have it on good authority that a number of people with serious clown phobias have had sleepless nights as a result of seeing this cake. Yeah? You wanna try making the damned thing!

four seasons in one day


Every year it’s the same.

Once the hideousness of what seems to have become a 3 month long christmas ‘season’ is out the way, I make a number of promises to myself:

  1. Next year I’ll make an effort to blog more often.
  2. Next year I’ll cycle to work every day, whatever the weather (unless I’m dead or dying).
  3. Next year I’ll ride more.
  4. Next year I’ll keep track of mileage.
  5. Next year I won’t make any new year resolutions.

Here we are in mid-February and so far I’ve failed miserably at 1, 4 & 5.

Happily, I’ve been staunchly adhering to 2 & 3 (even when I’ve been dying [of Man Flu] and, a couple of times, when I’ve narrowly escaped ending up dead).

My latest commuting steed (Surly Ogre) has been doing a fine job and all the money I splurged last year on Gore waterproofs has proved to be worthwhile. Heck, I’ve even got dynamo lights on my bike these days.

When I rode in at dark o’clock this morning, I thought I felt a optmistic nip of spring in the air… by the time I’d made it my meeting in Coventry, a snow storm was in full force. By lunchtime, the blue skies and glorious sunshine I gazed longingly at through the office window made me hanker for those long hot summer days and the ride home at dark o’clock this evening was cold, wet and windy. England, what a country!

So yes, we’re very much still alive and kicking cycling here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ and there’s plenty to update you on in the coming months – please, try to contain your excitement.

wake me up when september ends

Wait. What happened to the summer?

It’s been an exceedingly busy few months here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ and I’m sorry to say I haven’t been able to spend anything like as much time as I wanted to actually in the cycle lane…

I did manage to bag a few days off work, during which I had every intention of getting well and truly lost in North Wales. I bought new front panniers, test packed all of my gear, picked out camping spots and even planned the route. But, as is often the way with Mice and Men, even the best laid plans often go wrong.

Struck down with what can only be described as the worst case of Man Flu ever recorded (the pathetic complaining was particularly bad), I had to admit defeat and spent my holiday on the couch, dosed to the eyeballs with Lemsip (other high quality medicines are also available).

Since then, I’ve been half recovered, half exhausted… struggling to get out of bed, struggling to shift lingering lower back pain and a persistent headache, struggling to cycle even the 6 miles to work without exhausting myself even more.

Yep. It’s been lousy.

Happily, as September draws to a close, I’m starting to finally feel a bit better and have even managed to return to commuting by bike. So, even though yet another Summer passes me by without getting away on a bike tour, I take pleasure in the cool, foggy mornings, approaching dark evenings and the serenity that comes only from a country lane / forest track completely devoid of fair weather cyclists.

Who knows, maybe I’ll head out later in the year for a winter tour…

In any event, I will certainly be making more effort to bore you to tears entertain you with tales borne in (and out) of the cycle lane.

Pashley head tube badgeOh, for now, just a little teaser… what do you reckon this head badge is attached to?

one day like this


You find me in reflective mood this evening…

On this morning’s commute, a BMW driver took what I can only describe as an irrational dislike to me and, not content with taking one swipe at me, decided I had no right to be on the road at all. Much to the confusion of every other road user around us, I might add.

As I calmly asked him if there was some kind of of problem, he continued to shout obscenities at me through the safety of his closed window which he refused to open… quite what his problem was, I do not know.

On another day, I may well have taken the bait and retaliated but, not today. I simply waved him by and carried on, obeying the rules of the road as he chose not to.

12 hours later, I still have no idea what his problem was… don’t get me wrong, I have my own anger management issues of which I am all too aware but this guy brought a whole new meaning to ‘irrational’.

Why am I blathering on about this nonsense? Well, on the same day I experienced what I can only describe as pure, pathological hatred for cycling, I also heard this song which reminded of the absolute opposite end of the spectrum and what I can only describe as the pure, simple therapeutic effect cycling can have.

6770_119490944862_7697128_nThis is my dear friend Ruth.

Ruth knew the location of a secret orchard where we scrumped apples & blackberries to make The. Best. Crumble. Ever.

Ruth was a ‘Bike It Lady’ and taught kids in schools how to fix punctures, how to ride safely and how to fasten a helmet.

Ruth loved to ride her bike(s), very often with trailer in tow – on this scrumping trip, I was towing it and you can just see her crutches poking out at the very bottom of the picture.

You see, Ruth suffered from cancer and was cruelly taken from us far too soon. But did cancer stop her from cycling? Did it hell. In fact, I reckon her absolute defiance to quit cycling even when she wasn’t strong enough to walk was one of the things that kept her with us just that little bit longer.

In the midst of it all, despite cancer’s best efforts, she’d wake up, throw those curtains wide, stick her crutches in the trailer and head out to teach kids about cycling.

This was one of my last rides with Ruth. I shall remember it always.


everything zen


We interrupt the regularly scheduled lack of posting to provide a quick update on recent developments here at lifeinthecyclelane HQ.

As you know, we ride year round in these parts, no matter what.

With the UK currently experiencing a much needed spell of hot, dry weather, every fair-weather-baggy-shorts-and-t-shirt-wearing-dangerous-red-light-running-clunky-bike-riding-amateur is out in force; skipping on and off of pavements, making ill considered manoeuvres, endangering themselves and others and basically giving the rest of us a bad name.


1002829_10151772195284863_148437975_n1002979_10151772197074863_477394680_nSo, I’ve been out exploring, looking for roads and trails where other people are not. For reasons I do not fully understand, just about every turn I’ve taken recently has brought me face to face with some kind of obstacle. Signs proclaiming “No cycling”, “Cyclists dismount”, “Private road, no public right of way”, “Road closed”, “No entry, private land”, “Golfers only” and the suchlike abound. And, if there wasn’t a sign, a tree had somehow inexplicably fallen across the path – one, I could accept, but three separate trees felled in the space of 1km of the same trail? Seems a little suspicious. And then, finally, ultimately, impassably, a gigantic metal fence and no way out but back the way I’d came via all the downed foliage.

Everything Zen? I don’t think so.

Last night I took off in the absurd heat determined to get lost in the wilderness and lost I got. Full on, riding through the middle of a field of 6ft tall grass with no idea which direction I was headed lost. Over the train tracks and far, far away down the gravel roads lost. 3 hours at full tilt, lactic acid burning my thighs, barely enough energy left to get home again lost. Didn’t see another soul for ages because I was in the middle of nowhere lost.

It was just what I needed.



where is my mind


I never was any good at geography.

Convinced, I was. Convinced that Surly was an English brand… I mean, who else could build such random stuff than the English? Well, the Americans, as it turns out.

Seems that Surly are based in Minnesota… well, that doesn’t make me like my Troll any less!

Thanks to Geordie for pointing out my mistake; I’ve made the required changes to the errant blog entry

Long train running

Okay, so the title doesn’t really fit but Tim has a predilection for using song names as headings for his blog posts so I thought I would toe the line here. However, being the relatively lazy person I am (everything written to deadline in a flurry), I haven’t bothered to embed a video into this article.

I’m sure you’ll cope.

Anyway, back to bikes. Tim has flown off to some warm island in the Med likely best known as a destination for Brits on package holidays, although I can confirm it isn’t Ibiza, so wipe that image of him hopped up on ecstasy, dancing to trance music with a dummy in his mouth. The chances of that happening are minute compared to the likelihood you might find me drinking Piat d’Or. And that in itself is unlikely since I’d rather drink antifreeze than allow that swill down my throat.

As I’m sure you may have discovered from one of Tim’s previous posts, I’m a journalist by day and a cycling and wine enthusiast by night (and day when I let my mind wander). While I’d love to write about wine – or even beer – in these pages, what I’ll do instead is guff about my bikes for a few hundred words. I’ll even post some pretty pictures. And everyone will rejoice.

Being a Canadian who grew up in the wilds of British Columbia, cycling has been in my life longer than I can remember. Mountain biking was the activity of choice (when we weren’t playing hockey) and I rode various Norcos, Nishikis and Konas well into my early 20s.

And then I sat down with my father to watch the Tour de France and I was hooked on road riding.

This was 2002. I remember my father watching Tour de France coverage in the late 1980s, likely the highlights broadcast by CBS or maybe even TSN, but I was too young to care then. But in 2002 Lance Armstrong was at his peak and the coverage was everywhere. Within two months of falling in love with road cycling, I’d bought myself a cheap KHS Flite 700 road bike and sold my Kona Nunu, which I’d actually only just bought the year before.

You can see my red KHS in this photo. After nearly 10 years of service, I replaced it with a Planet X Ti Pro Road in late 2011.

I move quickly when I want something badly. If I can afford it. That KHS was my primary road bike between 2002 and 2007. I wanted other things, but a lack of money always got in the way. Until I got a grown-up job, that is.

These days, my primary bike is a 2006 Condor Leggero, all carbon and light as I’ll ever need it to be.

Switching to carbon from a cheap aluminum (or aluminium if you’re British) frame was a night-and-day change. I had never noticed how jarring and rigid the KHS was until I bought a carbon frame. From that point on, the KHS was relegated to bad weather duty, although I still didn’t like riding it much. Plus, with all the miles I was riding in the rain through the winter, the KHS was starting to corrode. Thus began my search for a titanium frame that could withstand the elements and give me the ride quality I sought, but for a cheaper price than the Condor.

I eventually ended up with a Planet X. I’d post photos of it here, but because I’m lazy and I tend to write against a deadline, I don’t have those images.

However, what I *can* show you is the first bike I built from the ground up from parts I scoured from various sources. What is it? A Surly! Yes, you might have thought Tim was the original Surly fan in this relationship but the fact is I got in there first. Two years ago I was looking for a bike that would carry my camping gear and take me wherever I wanted to travel. After doing a lot of research on various internet forums, the conclusion was obvious: Surly Long Haul Trucker.

I bought all the parts individually to suit my preferences and, one sunny afternoon in the early spring of 2010, assembled the Surly in Tim’s driveway. All went together smoothly and much faster than expected, although there was one moment when the cranks (which uses a two-piece, outboard bearing design)  weren’t sliding into the bottom bracket shell as easily as I had hoped and I yelled out, “Give me the mallet!” A very light tap slid everything into place and presto, the bike was complete.

Since then I’ve taken the Surly LHT on two camping trips with Tim, plus it’s also featured in the now-defunct Artemis Highland 100, an on- and off-road charity race measuring 83 miles in distance. I placed third despite the bike not being particularly light or racy and lacking suspension forks.

You may have read about Tim ordering himself a Surly Troll earlier this week. I like to think my decision to buy a Surly back in 2010 played a significant role in his decision to fall in love with this brand. Just maybe.

Anyway, now that I’ve bored you to tears, I leave you with a photo of the bike fully loaded as the manufacturer intended.

white blank page

Welcome one and all to my new blog!

It’s still very much under construction and I’ll be adding to it from time to time, hopefully on a fairly regular basis.

It’s designed to be a blog about all things cycling related; kit I’ve used that works well, kit I’ve used that doesn’t work so well, the lowdown on some of the best and worst cycle routes I’ve found and the occasional custom bike build.

I’m an avid, albeit fairly average, cycist putting roughly 4000 miles a year on the clock between commuting to work day in & day out, messing about at the weekends and a bike tour or two each summer with my best friend.

I’m forever on the lookout for cool stuff that works well, last a long time and won’t break the bank; sometimes I get it just right and other times, I get it spectacularly wrong! So, hopefully I can share some of my experiences with you and save you some of the hassle along the way.

Each blog post will come with one of my favourite bits of music attached and, while you’re listening along, why not have a mooch around the existing pages on here and let me know what you think of my bikes.

Please feel free to share this blog with your friends and family and hey, join in the madness with a comment here and there; maybe you know of a decent bit of kit or somewhere cool to ride your bike?

Thanks for visiting and, happy cycling!