It’s raining, it’s pouring — but some of us are cycling to Richmond Park seeking sunshine

Cycle-route-4

You get the afternoon off work and it’s chucking it down with rain outside. Do you:

(a) go home, put the kettle on and settle down with a good book?

(b) decide to go for a long cycle to Richmond Park?

Um, you can guess what option I chose.

So, after having cycled into work (6.5 miles) and cycled back (another 6.5 miles), I decided to keep right on cycling and made my way to Richmond Park (5 miles) for a trundle. To be honest, I was in two minds about making the journey, especially as the rain bucketed down when I was just a mile or so from home. But by the time I’d approached my neighbourhood the sky cleared, so I kept going.

When I got to Richmond Park you’d be forgiven for thinking it was an entirely different country: there was nary a cloud in the blue sky and the sun was shining brightly.

Autumnal-view

There were stunning views from the top of King Henry’s Mound — sadly, my photographs, snapped on my Smartphone, don’t really convey the striking autumnal colours, all reds and golds and vibrant yellows.

TrackI took it slowly and trundled my way around the park — well, I didn’t do a full circuit. I cut across the middle via Cycle Route 4 then headed for the cafe at Roehampton Gate, where I tucked into a giant slab of (well deserved) carrot cake washed down with a cup of coffee.

I was sitting outside and in the 10 minutes it took me to enjoy my late afternoon tea, I watched the sky darken and felt the temperature drop. I knew another downpour was on the way, so it was back onto the bike before I got caught in a storm.

You guessed it. Three miles from home the heavens opened. The rain was so heavy I could see it bouncing off the ground — and it was stinging my legs. (I was wearing shorts.)

By the time I got home, at about 4.45pm, I was drenched from head to foot. I’m sure if I had have wrung out my shorts, I could have filled a pint glass with the water!

A hot shower made up for it though.

RichmondPark

Total distance travelled today: roughly 25 miles. Go me.

The stats below include two Monday commutes, today’s commute and today’s trundle around Richmond Park.

Total distance*: 50.29miles (80.91km) | Ride time: 4hr, 38min and 35sec | Average speed: 10.7mph | Top speed: 21.7mph

* I forgot my bike computer on Monday’s return journey, so I have added an extra 6.5 miles and 35 minutes to the figures.

Three cheers for the Royal Parks — they’ve created a cyclist diversion route while ‘roadworks’ go ahead

Cycle-diversion-route

Someone at the Royal Parks deserves a pat on the back. Instead of sticking up a sign saying "CYCLISTS DISMOUNT" — as most are wont to do when construction works affect a cycle path — a diversion route for cyclists has been put in place while work goes ahead on the main cycle route through Hyde Park. I found the diversion well signposted and easy to follow — and I didn't even have to get off my bike to negotiate any unfamiliar terrain.

If only more organisations would take the Royal Park's lead and treat cyclists, especially those who commute on a regular basis, with as much respect as they treat motorists. You'd never see a sign on a major arterial route telling motorists to GET OUT OF YOUR CAR — which effectively means abandon your vehicle because you can't possibly get through here right now — because of roadworks, would you? And yet that's usually what us cyclists have to contend with…

Product review: Cateye headlight EL610RC

While the recent weather in London might be a lot milder than normal, the nights are still drawing in. That means cycle commuters need to use lights for their evening journey home.

But if you have ever gone shopping for a bike light you will know it's almost impossible to choose from the vast array of products on the market. Over the years I've tried various solutions, but by the far the best light I've ever had is the Cateye HL-EL610.

CATEYE-EL610RC

It also happens to be the most expensive. I purchased mine from an online retailer in 2008 for roughly £80. It was worth every penny.

What I like about the Cateye headlight EL610RC

  • It is BRIGHT! 1500 candlepower bright, in fact. This one illuminates the road ahead without problem. Certain parts of my route are very dimly lit (street lighting is practically non-existent, especially along the cycle path on Constitution Hill), but when I'm using this light there's no fear of hitting an unseen pot hole or running over a twig on the ground. The light is so bright, I've had loads of cyclists approach me at traffic lights to ask where I bought it — they want one too!
  • It has three modes — a high mode (which I never use), a low mode and a flashing mode
  • It's rechargable — that means you don't have to worry about constantly buying batteries. It comes with its own recharger that you simply plug into the wall. It takes about four hours to recharge. I usually do it overnight.
  • The battery lasts for several weeks or more. Of course, it depends on how long your commute is (mine is about 40 minutes one way) and which mode you use the light in (the flashing mode saves battery power considerably), but I can use it every weekday for more than a month and not have to recharge it. (According to the manufacturer's guide, the battery is supposed to last 3 hours in high mode, 9 hours in low mode and 36 hours in flashing mode.)

What I don't like

  • It's tricky to get on and off the bike. (But once you figure out that you need to push it in the opposite direction to which you think it should be pushed, all the while holding down the little button, it slips off fine.)
  • It's tricky to work out how to switch between modes. If you want it to flash, you need to press the button twice very quickly, otherwise it will just revert to the standard high beam.
  • The recharging equipment is bulky and not something you really want to be towing around in your bike bag.

Overall opinion

I love this light and highly recommend it to anyone looking for something sturdy, reliable and bright! It's expensive, but I think this is a good example of getting what you pay for — and if you factor in the cost savings in terms of not having to buy batteries, it won't take long to recoup your costs.

Where can you buy?

While it is listed on the official Cateye website, it doesn't look like you can buy it from the UK site. At the time of writing it is listed on the Chain Reaction website for £89.99 and Wiggle for £79.99, but do check other online retailers — you might find a better deal.

Note that the headlight was NOT supplied to me for review purposes. I purchased this one with my own hard cash a couple of years ago.

Richmond Park in the fog: a quick photo essay

I was so keen to go for a cycle this morning that I didn't let the thick fog put me off. Here's a few photographs taken during our regular Sunday jolly to Richmond Park…

Hammersmith-bridge

Hammersmith Bridge — at 9.30am

Trees

Some majestic-looking trees somewhere between Roehampton Gate and Richmond Gate

Trees-and-trail

The same trees, with the Tamsin Trail alongside

Pond

My favourite pond — Bishop's Pond — which marks the 7-miles-from-home point

Photographers

There were plenty of photographers (note the bum crack of the man on the right) out and about shooting the deer in the mist

Deer

Deer — in the mist, though it was beginning to burn off on the Robin Hood Gate side of the park

Two-deer

And a couple more stags — note the size of the antlers; I would not want to get too close to these animals, particularly as it is rutting season!

Playing catch-up: another 85 miles and the sights I’ve seen

The unseasonal sunshine and warm weather that marked my last post has persisted ever since. We've been experiencing some lovely days — and even though the mornings feel a little crisp, cycling to work is a joy.

I'm still happily cycling in shorts, with a cycling jacket over a wicking t-shirt, and even then I'm occasionally too hot. The only difference is that when I cycle home in the evenings (shortly after 6pm) I'm now using front and back lights, more to increase my visibility on the road than anything else.

Here's a few things that I have seen enroute to work over the past fortnight:

★ Princess Anne — she was travelling in a Range Rover with a security vehicle behind her and two motorbike outriders alongside. I had to stop at the top of Birdcage Walk to let her cavalcade enter the road ahead of me from Horse Guards Road. It's not every day you can blame your late arrival to work on the Princess Royal!

★ Countless horse-drawn carriages —usually at Hyde Park Corner, but one morning there were two near Knightsbridge Barracks. They are stunning to see, especially the drivers who are all dolled up in 19th century attire.

★ Soldiers. Soldiers. Soldiers. I saw one group (or should that be troop?) jogging on the bridlepath that runs parallel to the South Carriage at Hyde Park. They were in their camouflage gear and heavy boots, kicking up dust as they pounded along, so that they were enveloped in a giant cloud — with the sun filtering down through the trees it looked kind of magical. But I have also seen soldiers wearing bearskin hats parading out the front of Wellington Barracks while tourists, faces pressed up against the fence, take photographs.

★ A big burly policeman wearing a machine gun (or whatever weapon it is) strapped across his chest — I actually talked to him, because the road (Birdcage Walk) had been cordoned off, and I wanted to know if it was OK for me go through on my bicycle (unlike other cyclists who simply cycled on the footpath or ignored the cordon altogether). He said it would be fine if I took it slowly and stuck to the far right gutter. I'm not sure what the cordon was for, but there were certainly plenty of police and police vehicles around, and I did spy two light poles on the ground — perhaps the result of a car accident, or some wanton vandalism?

★ Leaves, twigs, acorns and conkers — on the ground! I think this means autumn has finally arrived, even if no one has bothered to tell the sun!

Total distance*: 85.68miles (137.9km) | Ride time: 8hr, 04min and 54sec | Average speed: 10.8mph | Top speed: 21.8mph

* I've been having trouble with my bike computer, which failed to work on three separate commutes (approximately 19.5 miles in total), so I have added this into the figures above. The figures also include a jolly around Richmond Park (roughly 15 miles) earlier today.

Sunday sun and cycle

Shining_sun It's October. It's supposed to be autumn, but it feels like summer. What better way to make the most of the unseasonal weather than jumping on the bike and doing a quick lap of Richmond Park?

At 9am the air had a lovely fresh tingle to it. There was barely a soul about — at least through the backstreets around my local neighbourhood.

But once in the park — a 4.5 mile trundle away — there were certainly plenty of people bustling about: joggers, walkers, cyclists (of all varieties — and fitness levels), dogs and babies. And the sun was burning off the dew and making everything look bright and new.

We stuck to the Tamsin Trail for the most part, but did a detour across the middle of the park along Cycle Route 4 and then stopped at the little caravan near the Pen Ponds car park to buy refreshments — a coffee and a muffin. Well, to be honest, it was my breakfast. (I noted some people were tucking into bacon butties.)

We raced back to Roehampton Gate in ultra-quick time (it must have been the caffeine). I had considered doing an additional loop but the park was getting a little congested — we headed home instead, and were back in the door at about 10.15am. A great start to a sunny Sunday.

Total distance: 14.70miles (23.65km) | Ride time: 1hr, 6min and 08sec | Average speed: 12.1mph | Top speed: 21.7mph