Clouds, sunshine, imminent rain — and little loops

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I am at risk of turning into Ms Lardy, so after seven days of sitting on my bum inside I dragged out the bike for a potter to my usual Richmond Park haunt late this morning.

It was a little chilly and slightly windy, but it's hard to find excuses not to cycle when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.

Of course, by the time I got to the park the clouds had moved in and dark grey ones were scudding along the horizon. There was the threat of imminent rain. Then the grey clouds disappeared and the sun came out. Then it turned dark again and there were black clouds overhead. Then the sun reappeared. Then the clouds returned. You get the picture.

The endlessly changing weather made for some interesting cycling conditions. And because I was scared of being caught in the rain on the wrong side of the park, I kept my options open and did about six miles of little loops in and around the Roehampton Gate area.

I wasn't the only one doing this. I kept seeing the same faces, doing similar kinds of loops, and one older gentleman waved out and said hello as if we'd suddenly become friends! 

Total distance: 16.57miles (26.6km) | Ride time: 1hr 34min and 56sec | Average speed: 10.4mph | Top speed: 21.8mph

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A short loop via Hammersmith Bridge and Putney Bridge

One of the benefits of living so close to the Thames is that I don't have to travel far to find a car-free cycle route.

This morning, after I waited for the rain to stop, I thought I'd go for a very quick trundle, avoiding my usual haunts, and did a small-ish loop taking in both sides of the river on the eastern side of Hammersmith Bridge.

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Castlenau Road (also known as the A306) was the busiest part of my journey, but once I turned off it and cycled past the London Wetland Centre I had the whole of the Thames tow path (see above) to myself.

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I then dashed past Craven Cottage, home of Fulham Football Club…

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…then onwards to Putney Pier…

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…before braving the horrendous potholes on Putney Bridge, to make my way home through the back streets of Fulham. 

The route from the London Wetlands to Putney Bridge is part of National Cycle Route 4, so well sign-posted and with provision, near the bridge, for cycling on a dedicated lane. The rest of the route, on the Fulham side of the bridge, is also very well signposted for cyclists — just follow the blue signs and you'll get to Hammersmith in no time!

Total distance: 6.41miles (10.3km) | Ride time: 34min and 38sec | Average speed: 11.1mph | Top speed: 17.8mph

Start the week as you mean to go on

When you look out the window and are greeted by beautiful blue skies and glorious sunshine, it's hard to believe it's winter. But step outside and you'll soon know it.

This morning, conscious that the predicted top was going to be a mere 6°C, I made sure I rugged up well for my planned cycle to Richmond Park: a long-sleeved wicking t-shirt, a fleece and cycling jacket, a pair of longs and TWO pairs of socks. I had all my hair lopped off last week, so I had to make sure all my collars — three of them — were zipped up to the very top to protect the back of my now-exposed neck.

Once on the road, shortly before 11am, I was glad of all those layers. Every breath I sucked in was so cold it hurt my lungs. But it didn't take long to warm up. And once I was in the park, which is a five-mile cycle away, I was perfectly toasty inside all my clothes!

I was glad to have taken my proper camera, because the entire park looked spectacular under its blue winter sky. Here's a few snaps to admire.

Frosty-landscape

I can't help thinking that the light dusting of frost on the ground looks like someone's spilled a giant packet of icing sugar.

Frosty-ground

And maybe they spilled two packets here!

Ice-floes

Bishop's Pond looked like an ice-rink.

Clever-deer

Funnily enough, the deer I usually see at Ham Cross Plantation, were not around. I cycled a bit further and there they were, all huddled together in the sunshine on top of a hill, taking shelter from the colder ground lower down. Who said deer were stupid?

Total distance: 15.55miles (25.1km) | Ride time: 1hr 27min and 39sec | Average speed: 10.6mph | Top speed: 20mph

First ride of the year

River-January

The first (much delayed) ride of 2012 yesterday and it was glorious.

While the blue sky quickly vanished before I'd even cycled a mile, it was still pleasant being in the great outdoors. And cycling by the river, its mercurial surface lit up like diamonds, was such a treat, especially with the smell of warm malt from Fuller's Brewery in the air.

The only downside was the maniacal vehicular traffic through Barnes town centre — it was lunch-time after all — as cars pulled in and out of parking bays, or made turns without using indicators, but once in Richmond Park it was all behind me.

The park was very quiet — and devoid of colour. The trees have all finally lost their leaves and all the lush, green bracken fern has died off into withered clumps of brown or sepia-toned detritus. This makes the Tamsin trail feel more open, more exposed.

The highlight of my trundle was seeing a huge herd of deer, some of which were engaged in antler-to-antler combat, gathered near Martin's Pond. I witnessed one stag chase a female deer across the road and when others looked to follow suit I made my escape as quickly as I could, lest I get flattened. They are absolutely beautiful creatures, but you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of one, as it were.

Total distance: 15.47miles (24.87km) | Ride time: 1hr 29min and 49sec | Average speed: 10.3mph | Top speed: 19.6mph

London to Moscow: a year’s worth of cycle trips

Back in June I waxed lyrical about notching up 687 miles (just over 1,000km) in five months, meaning I was on target to cycle at least 1,500 miles in a year.

Well, I’ve just added up my mileage between January 1 and December 31 and I’m pleased to say I cycled the grand total of 1,593.1 miles (2,563.3km) in 2011.

That’s roughly the equivalent of cycling the distance between London and Moscow.

London-to-Moscow

According to my records, the number of miles I cycled every month was far from consistent. In April, when I spent a lot of time abroad (Ireland and then the UAE), I notched up a miserable 54 miles. By contrast, in September, when I was commuting regularly to a freelance job in South London I cycled a grand total of 233.8 miles.

I’m sure if I was more dedicated, I could have easily added an ADDITIONAL 1,000 miles to my existing total — but I’m blaming my lazy gene (and my age) for not having done so!

Here’s a neat little graphic showing the fluctuations in my mileage month by month.

Cycling-figures-2011

For the record, my monthly totals were as follows:

January 162.8 miles | February 134.4 | March 124.4 | April 54 | May 142.3 | June 114.3 | July 155.2 | August 112 | September 233.8 | October 150.7 | November 89.5 | December 119.7

Let’s see if I can achieve the same — or greater — in 2012!