Friday, 23 August 2013

A "microadventure"

The other day, by a happy combination of events and mouse clicks, I came across Alastair Humphreys’ (@Al_Humphreys) blog via Twitter.  Click this link to go and have a look.

If you’ve not read it then you should.  Alistair is an adventurer with an impressive list of achievements under his belt, in his rucksack or wherever adventurers keep achievements.  However, he is also a keen advocate of what he’s termed “microadventures”.  It’s a wonderful encouragement to those of us with a family and a 9-5 that adventures are there for all to experience and needn’t be expensive, long-distance or in a far-flung place for them to be adventures nonetheless. 
There are some fabulous ideas on Alastair’s blog and so on Wednesday, buoyed up by inspiration from the blog and motivated by a) nice weather outside and b) a dull afternoon stuck in the office, I set out for an inaugural microadventure of my own.

I usually cycle to work using a local commuter train to break the journey up.  However on several occasions, where train congestion or cancellation has made it necessary, I’ve cycled all the way home.  Wednesday was the first time I’ve ridden the Dahon door-to-door just for the fun of it.  I also did a small amount of planning, choosing a new route that which I’ve not cycled before.  All I can say is that it was brilliant!  Just doing something you’ve chosen to do is very empowering and refreshing in the fact that it’s beyond the mundane.

My lack of photographic ability (read "laziness") means I didn’t take any pictures but the highlights and things I learned were:
  • Taking new routes to go places you often visit is fun.  Worrying about how you’ll negotiate a busy traffic junction 2 miles ahead is not necessary as things have a way of sorting themselves out.
  • Cycling through places that you know well, albeit by car is very revealing.  You notice so much more from a bike than through the window of a car.
  • Even the fairly mundane can feel adventurous.  As I passed traffic queue after traffic queue on my way across the city, I felt brilliant knowing that my choice was a far better one than being stuck nose to tail in a tin box.  I’ve been there, done that and don’t want to go back.
  • Cycling home is not such a slow choice!  While I try very hard not to get caught up in the numbers and fret about average speed etc. I couldn’t help setting my stopwatch going when I left the office.  Google maps had the journey at 22.5 miles and I cycled it comfortably in 1:27 – an average speed of over 15 mph!  That’s not bad going for anyone so for a bloke on a 3-speed folding bike, I’m happy indeed*.
  • Best of all, when I got home, the kids had filled a large paddling pool in the garden so I stripped down to my shorts and leapt into the cold water.  Bracing indeed but just the tonic after a hot, sweaty commute!

I spend a lot of the time in my head on the Dahon thinking about adventures I could have with it.  They’ve gone from the mild (cycling the length of a local Sustrans route) to the reasonable (coast-to-coast) to the serious (coast to coast – Wales to Norfolk) to the very serious (Land’s End to John O’Groats) to the mega serious (cycling to Istanbul).  While all of those are doable I’m sure, the immediate needs of a family to support and job to do so mean that long periods of time off (for the bigger ones) would need some planning and negotiation.

Thanks to Alastair’s microadventures blog, I’ve shifted my thinking in a whole new direction to adventures that I can have here and now, with the Dahon, in and around the other demands of life.
There will definitely be more to follow…


* That is my once in 18 months speed-obsessive moment.  I’ll get back to my usual “pretending I couldn’t care less” attitude, now


Friday, 16 August 2013


Well last week, after just over 5,500 miles of communting on my bike, I managed to face-plant the pavement in a bike accident for the first time since childhood.

It was just a normal Monday morning cycling to work and not in much of a rush.  It had rained a hour or two earlier and the raods were wet but I have ridden in much, much worse conditions.  However, I turned left from a main road onto a side street and BANG, the bike shot straight out from under me, dumping me unceremoniously on the road! 

I had no time to catch myself, and my hands, elbows, knees and face all hit the floor with a quite bump.  I got up pretty quickly and made sure that my teeth were still intact (which mercifully they were) but the amount of blood I managed to wipe on my sleeve and spit out told of at least one decent injury.

I pedalled the last couple of miles to work so that I could assess the damage:

  • Deep cut on top lip where face hit the floor
  • Deep cut inside top lip (but thankfully not all the way through as an exploratory blow revealed)
  • Skinned knees
  • Bruised elbows
  • Bruised hands
  • Bruised pride
The deep cut warranted a quick trip to A&E where they stuck me (literally, with Super Glue) back together but I was back on my bike the following morning.  The only damage to the bike was a broken bottle cage which I have still yet to replace.


The damage to my lid

Lessons learned:

As I stood up fromt he road, I noticed a large patch of oil/diesel which is what I presume I crashed on.  Diesel is the bane of the cyclist/motorcyclist but is very hard to spot on the move.  It turns a wet road into little more than an icerink - I can't overstate how quickly the bike went down!  Keep your eyes peeled folk.

As I sat waiting in the hospital, I actually though "fat lot of good wearing a helmet did me" as I had only felt my face hit the floor.  I took the helmet out of my bag for a look and found a deep dent/scratch in the front of it!  If I hadn't had it on, the damage to my face would have been much worse.  That I hadn't felt that particular impact must be (in part) because the polystyrene shell absorbed some of it. 

The crash had nothing to do with the quality driving of the observational powers of car users.  It could have happened on a short ride as much as a long one and no other vehicles were involved.   Yet wearing a helmet saved me from more serious injury, of that I'm in no doubt.   It's up to you of course but I'll always wear a lid from now on.  Having dinged the black one significantly, I have bought another this week (an nice blue and silver Bell, of which more later).

Hopefully it'll be at least another 5,500 miles before another fall from the bike but one in a year and a half of riding isn't bad going I reckon.  Just one of those things.