Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Afterword

January 3, 2015, 10:59 AM

The Rapha Festive 500 may sound crazy for many. Why would anyone cycle 500 km during the days when most only think about eating and drinking, with or without their family, friends? And during the coldest time of the year (Rapha is a British, Northern Hemisphere company, after all)?

Plenty of reasons, but I think George Mallory said it best:

People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.
— George Mallory, Climbing Everest: The Complete Writings

I had plenty of joy. And learned a lot, about myself, about the city that I live in (arguably, the finest on the planet), and about many other things.

580 km may seem a lot for some, but if you look at the map below (which doesn’t even show all of London), you realise there’s still so much left.

All rides from the challenge on the same map (lost data roughly added in blue)

All rides from the challenge on the same map (lost data roughly added in blue)

I’ve been cycling since I was ten and always loved exploring on a bike, especially after moving – this is the fifth city that I live in. However, due to work-related and personal reasons, I was bike-less for the first three years here (I did have a Cycle Hire subscription though, but rarely used it). I did walk a lot, and, as a freelancer, was lucky to work in many different areas, so I got to see a lot of the city. I still don’t understand why most Londoners, especially those born here, rarely go outside their home / work areas. London is an amazing city with so much to offer. Even before the start of the challenge, I knew I’d have plenty of things to see & show, to myself, my family, friends, and any other good souls reading this.

While ‘per pedes’, Brompton had been on my mind for a good while, mostly because I don’t have much space at home, and having owned another foldable before (besides a MTB), I knew it’s the best by far. I managed to buy the speedier version in the summer of 2013. I did worry about the small wheels and tried it a few times, but I quickly got used to it, and happily got back to cycling. It’s such a great, fun bike, it made sense to use it for the Festive 500, especially as I thought it’d make the whole experience a bit more impressive. I wonder if anyone else did it on a foldable, shame Strava doesn’t have the option of sorting results based on bikes as well.

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Just two of my Rapha gear that are a pleasure to use and look great, the long sleeve jersey and the merino drawcord hat (also works as a collar)

Last but not least, Rapha made me cycle so much more during 2014. I don’t remember how I learned about them anymore, but among my first purchases were a merino crew neck tshirt and a shirt from their City collection. I was glad to see ‘normal-looking’ clothes designed with cycling in mind, as for me, lycra only makes sense for pros, or those really cycling at a similar level. Not for most others, the mamils, as they are called (this cartoon by Mark Knight sums it up really well). Anyway, the tshirt’s fit and material felt so great, it was one of those rare ‘I’m not taking this off, just remove the label’ moments (I was later amazed to see what a difference it makes to wear wool instead of cotton while riding).

A few more similar experiences with several of their products (disappointments with other brands), plus small details like labels with inspiring stories, the fine logo, great photography, writing, and I was hooked. I often placed my winter gloves near my bed in the evening, so I’d get excited and go out for a ride even if the mornings were getting darker and darker. That, in my book, is what an inspiring product (brand) is all about.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED

‘The worse it looks, the more I smile’ — I wrote & drew this some time ago for my Drawriting personal project. I think it works very well for cycling too. Sure, it’s nice to ride in good weather, but there’s something different about the satisfaction you get when you brave the elements. I know this very well from years of skiing, sometimes in blizzard conditions, my brother and I the last on the slopes. Even so, I did fail to see things this way towards the end of my last ride, after I got the puncture. Too tired, maybe, but still a good lesson to learn, I hope.

Just as well, cycling at night is a lot better than I thought (with good lights, of course). Unlike during the day, when you can easily get distracted, at night, it’s just you, the bike and the road (especially if there’s little or no traffic). You can reach a state of ‘flow’, when you barely think anymore, your body just moves seamlessly. Meditative, in a way. Add rain and wind to darkness and you get a serious challenge, one that will leave you overjoyed for a long time once you beat it.

There’s no way to really put in words how happy I was some of the days, so I’ll just move on. I knew it, but it was good to confirm it yet again: I love London and I really doubt I could ever get bored of it. I’m hoping to cover a lot more of the map above in the new year.

I also realised that I really should get a bigger bike. The Brompton is great for short to medium distances and in the city, but it takes a lot of effort on longer rides, especially outside the city. Riding from London to Brighton for example (110 km, with plenty of hills), is not impossible, but far from easy. And sometimes you just want to give it everything you have, thighs burning, moving as fast as it’s humanly possible. Bromptons are just not built for that.

With all this in mind, and because I live near Epping Forest and enjoy riding through it quite often, a cyclocross bike seems like the best choice. Btw, I only learned about CX bikes (their short name) from Rapha blog posts and products. I have my eye on a Genesis Croix de Fer, another British brand with a fine story (the current record for cycling around the world was done on a Croix de Fer).

Anyway, I can’t wait to get back on my bike, as soon as my legs recover a bit. Looking forward for the 2015 Festive 500 as well, hope it’ll be at least as awesome as the one done by these two guys, Salzburg500.

NUMBERS

580 km — 1512 photos — 54 hours — 8 days.

Rank: 4,123 out of 48,548 worldwide participants.

 

F500-badge

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

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Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Gear & other details

January 2, 2015, 8:16 PM

Just to save you some time, this post is about the gear, training, nutrition and other ‘boring’ bits that helped me cycle 580 km around London in eight days, for the Rapha #Festive500 challenge. Unless you’re planning something similar, in which case you could take away some tips, feel free to skip to the daily posts & photos.

As I’ve mentioned in the first day’s post, my ‘plan’ for the challenge was riding 500 km on a Brompton around London. Knowing it would take a lot longer on a small wheels foldable bike (around 6 to 8 hours every day), I spent some good time thinking & researching about what I’d need, and what could go wrong over those many hours in the saddle, especially knowing the ever-changing UK weather. This is why I carried with me quite a lot of things, taking a touring approach. My rides were only roughly planned, often taking detours, so I wanted to make sure that I’d be ready for anything. If I failed, my lack of fitness would be the only one to blame, nothing else.

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A quick self-portrait close to Covent Garden on day 2

GEAR

Bike: Brompton S3L, Schwalbe Marathon tyres, Ergon BioKork GP3 grips, Exposure Sirius front light, Exposure Tracer back light, Garmin Edge 810 bike computer, green reflective slapwraps (rolled on the headtube, sometimes used as spares), Brompton O Bag (holding most of my gear, especially the spare clothes and food).

Clothing: touring trousers (water resistant), merino boxers, long sleeve merino base layer, long sleeve merino jersey, city rain jacket (waterproof), merino collar, cap / deep winter hat (water resistant front), winter gloves (all from Rapha), Giro Indicator helmet, Lorpen knee-high ski socks, Sealskinz thick waterproof socks, Clarks boots (old but very comfortable) / Adidas Superstar (used once as the boots were still wet), Vedante reflective pop bands (white, 38cm, longer than most) — spares: extra cap, extra deep winter hat, extra winter collar, merino drawcord hat/collar (thicker), merino tshirt, merino long sleeve base layer, merino boxers, merino knee warmers, merino arm warmers, merino glove liners, waterproof overgloves (all from Rapha), Vulpine merino silk socks, Endura waterproof overshoes, Thinsulate knitted gloves, HotHands foot warmers.

Others: Anker 2nd gen 6000mAh battery pack, iPhone 5S, Simplenote app (for taking notes on the go), Knog Blinder front & back spare lights, spare tube, Victorinox Swiss army knife, Tern multi-tool, Leuchtturm 1917 A5 sketchbook, Faber-Castell Ecco pens, Elite Nanogel 500ml bottle, lip balm and Dakine Factor backpack (kept light, usually holding two bananas, phone charger, overshoes).

A FEW WORDS ON GEAR

Above all, the Brompton deserves a lot of praise, as none of this would’ve been possible without it. Sturdy and reliable, handling everything from dry or muddy forest paths to frosty roads, uphill, downhill, and everything in between. I’d recommend it anytime. If you only want one bike, a Brompton would be a great choice. Of course, that would go against the classic ‘optimum number of bikes to own = n+1′ formula (where n is the number of bikes you currently own), but that’s another story.

The ‘lifesavers’ (those that not only did the job well, but at some point I was very thankful for):

  • the Rapha city rain jacket and the Rapha deep winter hat, for keeping me dry through hours of rain
  • the Sealskinz waterproof socks for the same reason, and for keeping my feet from freezing daily (together with the ski socks; I did get cold, but I do have bad circulation)
  • the spare Rapha merino long sleeve base layer, for making me feel like new after five hours of riding wet from sweat, one miserable-cycling day
  • the every evening long hot shower / bath, for not letting me get sick even after hours of rain, and making it easier for my body to recover.

The great (those that did their job well without any worries):

  • the merino (base layers, boxers, collars, jerseys, knee warmers) for being so comfortable and keeping me warm even when wet
  • the Rapha winter gloves for keeping my hands warm every day (they’re only water resistant though, so got wet after hours of rain, but still stayed warm)
  • the Rapha touring trousers for being so comfortable to ride in, and keeping me warm even after getting wet (they are only water resistant, so they do get wet after hours of rain)
  • the Anker, for charging my iPhone on the go every day (which would usually die halfway through the ride because of the heavy map-notes-photos use, and the low temperatures)
  • the Ergon grips for making it easier for my hands, for so many hours
  • the Brompton O Bag, waterproof, for keeping my spare clothes and food dry
  • the Exposure lights for lighting my way, especially through the marsh at night
  • the lip balm / evening calendula cream, for not letting my lips feel like after a week in the desert (small detail, but trust me, it counts, especially when you can’t tell the difference between windburn and thirst anymore).

The less great (those that did their job but at some point were a pain or useless):

  • the Garmin Eddge 810 for making me lose 60 km data on the first day due to its poor menu design, and making me worry every day after that, and not syncing due to a software update on the last day (it did record all the other rides and had no battery problems or trouble in the rain) — I’d probably buy a Mio if I were to do it again, seems a lot more like a product designed in the 21st century.
  • the Elite Nanogel 500ml bottle, which even if it says it keeps drinks warm for hours, it doesn’t take anything hotter than 40°C (I only used it once and relied on gels and coffee / tea stops instead).

The rubbish: the HotHands Foot Warmers didn’t work at all. Maybe I didn’t use them the right way, I don’t really know. I did wear them for a full day, they stayed cold. Once I got home and took them out of my boots, they got warm. I thought they needed some air first, but when I applied them again on my socks and walked around the house, they got cold again. Should’ve spent that money on coffee.

I didn’t get to use: spare lights, spare tube, Victorinox knife, multi-tool, merino glove liners, waterproof overgloves (bought them after the rainy days), spare merino boxers, arm warmers, merino silk socks, waterproof overshoes, sketchbook (sadly, but a break was probably good, I use it daily otherwise).

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Eagle Pond, in Epping Forest, during one of my many early morning training rides

TRAINING

I cycled almost every weekend throughout 2014, usually around and through Epping Forest, along London’s canals and Thames. Enjoying the views and taking a lot of photos – touring, in short. Initially 20 to 30 km rides, then longer ones, 40 to 60 km, as the year went on. I did the Brompton Urban Challenge in May (around 40 km, including the challenge & my ride home). Soon after, I started cycling around 6 to 12 km, twice or thrice every week, before breakfast and leaving for work. To my surprise, instead of taking it easy as the weather was getting colder in autumn, I was cycling more and more, often close to 100 km every week.

With no plans to get out of London over the holidays, I decided to take on Rapha’s Festive 500 challenge. I did a bit of research, plus Chris from PowellAllen and Daniel Mather (top London screenprinter) were very kind with their advice – Chris having completed a one-day-100-miles MTB ride this summer and Dan having participated in the Festive 500 before. One thing became clear: I’d have to cycle every day, putting in as many km as I could before the challenge, with just a bit of rest just before the challenge. And I did. Around 10 km every morning or late night in December, with long rides during the weekend. My longest ever, for example, was the 104 km ride two weeks before the challenge.

Breakfast on day 5

Breakfast on day 5

NUTRITION

Any type of serious physical effort (mental as well) needs plenty of energy. Which means you have to eat a lot. Healthy food, mostly. I’ve always had a pretty good breakfast every day, I just increased the quantities during December. I also learned a bit about nutrition (some links below). Lots of carbs in the morning: honey, almond butter, cheese, seeds bread, dried banana, home-made jam (or at least good quality jam), milk and coffee, eggs etc. I’d also been taking some vitamin C and A-Z multivitamins for the past month.

During the rides, I would usually have two bananas and three or four SiS Go carbs gels, every hour and a half or so. I like the blackcurrant and pineapple gels, but they have other flavours as well. Went with SiS because they’re among the top brands and their packaging doesn’t look like condoms or toilet-cleaning products (just do a search on Wiggle if you think I’m exaggerating). Werther’s caramels helped as well (not as high in sugar as others). Also had with me bars / flapjacks, wafers, chocolate, but rarely ate any of them. Eating on the go doesn’t come easy, especially when it’s cold. You basically have to think that you have to eat so you don’t ‘bonk’ (reach exhaustion). I did during training, and it’s not pretty – snails could do rounds around you.

I’d usually stop for a quick tea after two-three hours of cycling, and then stop again, four-five hours in for a flat white, easy lunch and tea. These would depend on quick toilet breaks too, an unavoidable necessity. Just because they do it on the side of the road during the Tour de France doesn’t mean you could get away with it, especially in a big city like London.

After the ride, I’d have one banana and a gel or two as soon as I got home, then shower / bath, then dinner.

Some articles that helped me:

That’s pretty much it, hope it’s useful information.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

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Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 8, Final

January 1, 2015, 3:31 PM

December 31, Wednesday

Distance: 27.6 km + 14.4 km (official total: 517 km, real total: 580 km)
Route: Walthamstow, Downhills Park, Lordship Recreation Ground, Alexandra Palace Park, Muswell Hill, Archway, Kentish Town, Rapha Cycle Club Soho (plus an additional Soho, Regent’s Park, Edgware Road to Liverpool Street Station, including dinner)
Weather: sunny & overcast (half & half), 4°C to 6°C

Up before my 7 alarm, slept well. Throat seems affected by the cold air, coughing a bit. Breakfast. Queens of the Stone Age, No-one knows on BBC6 Music radio. My brother’s favourites. Getting my blood racing.

I was thinking of doing an easy one today. Only 25 km left to complete the challenge, less than half of what I’ve done so far every day. Heading to town, along the canals, cycling in granny mode.

But that’s not me.

So Ally Pally it is, one of the last from my list. Long, hard climb, especially with my tired legs. But the view should be worth it. And the downhill afterwards.

I have to finish writing the previous day’s blog post first. And clean my bike a bit, the drivetrain sounded (and felt) awful by yesterday evening.

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Alright bro, that’s as clean as I can get you, for now. Hang on just a little more. You’ll get some professional service once we’re done. Promise.

Out I go, 11.00, 6°C. Today’s a short one, not worried about being late. Overcast. Warmer though, no knee warmers, cap instead of winter hat.

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Sun decides Walthamstow’s St Mary deserves some beautiful lighting. Indeed.

Riding slowly, cruising, enjoying it. Being the last day of the challenge makes it different somehow. I got my Christmassy, knitted gloves on too. Feeling light.

Crossing the marsh and River Lea. Swans and geese all around. Beautiful. Spot the low flying squadron below.

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Oh, one thing I’ve been meaning to say for some time: cobblestones, how I hate thee.

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Bro, I’m sorry, I know I promised no muddy paths today, but look at the view…

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‘100 Red, nothing less’

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A typical East (or South) London high street. With or without the cranes. Funny that the street’s name is actually West Green Road.

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Friendly chap in Downhils Park. Sorry mate, going nuts usually happens later during the day. But I doubt that would help you either.

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Right after, the Lordship Recreation Ground – talk about a posh name. But it does have a ‘model traffic area’. The sign says: ‘Opened in 1938, 800 kids clamoured for tickets to ride on one of the 30 model cars and the dozen bicycles.’ There are no facilities for hiring bikes and model cars anymore, but it’s been restored in 2012, with road marking, road traffic signs, cycle lanes and portable traffic lights.

How lovely is that?

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The Bike Sculpture.

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A tight-lipped, long-faced Gorgon Medusa. Hope the kids don’t see it like that, though.

It’s 12.34, 10.28 km so far, 5.6°C. Just near the exit, I get a compliment about my bike. Tall man, well built, in his fifties, I guess. Wearing a black biker jacket. We start talking, I show him how it folds. Quick and easy.

His name is Steve. We talk about bikes, motorcycles. He gets into technical details as well. Of course, he’s an engineer. Never had a car license, but a life-long motorcyclist. Some bastards stole it the other week though.

We also talk about advertising, trends, logos (not my fault, honest). He usually colours any logos on his clothing with black or blue markers. Then he says something that sticks with me:

An ad rarely convinces me to buy something, but many convince me not to buy whatever they’re selling.

Makes my day to hear this from somebody not working in advertising or branding. It drives me mad to see most of my peers taking ‘normal’ people for idiots.

I give him my card, in case he’s interested in the rides so far. Steve, if you’re reading this, lovely chatting with you, have a great new year!

I soon get to the base of Ally Pally’s hill. Alexandra Palace has many purposes, hosting gigs being just one. I was lucky to see Portishead live here, in 2011. Wonderful.

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The Rose Window. Impressive.

There’s also a boating lake behind it …

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… and deers. But I wonder if they wouldn’t be better off in Richmond Park?

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A bit too cloudy and hazy for a great view, but the City skyline is still visible, far away.

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The West entrance. Ally Pally’s other name is ‘The People’s Palace’. Being sponsored by William Hill makes a bit of sense. But still, bloody bookies, they’re everywhere…

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A typical North (or West) London high street, Muswell Hill Broadway.

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Interesting type, matching the meaning, even if summer’s a long way still. But a good reason for a break, going up and down the hills from Muswell Hill to Highgate is squeezing any strenght left in my legs.

Something feels funny. Not in a good way. The sky’s getting cloudier as well.

Is it the bumpy road?

No.

Flat front tyre.

You’ve got to be kidding me, only 5 km left!

Aarrrgh.

Too tired and angry to change it, in spite of having everything I need. So close! I give it a few pumps. It’s all downhill from here, it better hold on.

I’ll ride on rims if I have to, but I shall finish this!

Slow. Trying to keep my weight on the back wheel. Come on.

So freaking slow.

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The BT Tower in the distance. Getting there.

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One kilometre left. Come on!

I remember seeing a workshop at Soho Bikes in the back, two weeks ago while I was going round town, gathering info about my next bike. Maybe they can fix it on the spot, before reaching my destination? Worth a try.

They do.

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Sebastian takes out a glass shard, still inside the tyre. Changes the tube, also adjusts the brakes a bit, all in ten minutes or so. Thank you! He says it kind of needs a service.

I know. We’ve been through a bit, indeed. But the challenge is completed. I reached the needed distance just before entering the shop.

I’m relieved, but too tired to really enjoy it. I know I will tomorrow.

Five more minutes and I reach my destination, Rapha’s Cycle Club. One last hurdle: I want to make sure the data gets uploaded, confirming the challenge’s completion. But my bike computer doesn’t sync with my phone anymore. Apparently, because of this morning’s software update. Thanks again Garmin for making it ‘easy’ to use your product. Angry. Tired.

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It made sense to finish here. They’re the reason I cycled so much this year (1000 km just in December). And the ones that came up with this challenge. An inspiring brand (if you’ll excuse my déformation professionnelle).

A hard win. Maybe more memorable?

Anyway, I’m glad. It really shows a bit later on, as I do my fastest ever half-lap of Regent’s Park, heading for dinner.

Done.

Highs: challenge completed (and getting a winter base layer in the Rapha sale :)

Lows: riding insanely slow with a puncture for the last 5 km

The ride’s data and map on Strava (and the extra km entry).

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 7

December 31, 2014, 10:14 AM

December 30, Tuesday

Distance: 70.5 km (total so far: 475 km)
Route: Walthamstow, Epping Forest Wanstead Park, Canary Wharf, Greenwich, Southwark, and back via Islington, Stoke Newington, Stamford Hill, Walthamstow Marsh + two Epping Forest laps, Forest Rd downhill, short detour on Shernhall St
Weather: mostly sunny, 2°C to 6°C, frosty roads for most of the day, 0°C in the evening

Up at 7.15, good sleep. Blur, Coffee & TV on the radio, as I prepare my coffee. Great tune. On the other hand, haven’t watched TV in a week. Good thing.

Fresh clean jersey on. The purple one, my favourite. Simple pleasures.

Out at 10.30, I start riding directly into the sunlight. Just 300 m — yep, I have to return for my sunglasses. Just outside my door, two completely hammered guys ask for directions. Can barely make out what they’re saying. They’re looking for a restaurant or cantina.  I point them towards the village, but I doubt they’ll find anything open, let alone be allowed in. Their long black leather trenches look dodgy enough.

I’ve been thinking of taking some photos of Epping Forest early in the morning, or at least during daylight. It’s been my usual training route this year and the go-to place for extra km the whole challenge,  but didn’t get the chance to do it justice. It’s such a beautiful place.

Riding towards Snaresbrook, the forest flying by on both sides. Nice at night, but so much nicer now.

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I stop near Eagle’s Pond, the light looks amazing through the trees. The frosted ground as well. Magical.

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Heading towards Wanstead Park, still part of Epping Forest. I spot these funny looking three-trees.

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Wanstead Park. It’s 11.12, 4.78 km so far, 3.9°C.

Big ‘No cycling’ sign. Except on this through path. Argh. I wonder if dogs feel like this when they see ‘No dogs allowed’ signs. Courage the Cowardly Dog certainly did. Great show. Creepy, but so much fun.

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Not too muddy. Good.

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Fairytale spinning — wondering if it’s frost or snow. Does it matter if it falls, or just forms on the ground? Beautiful nevertheless.

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Two large crows in a small birch group. Superb colours, textures.

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I almost go over my handlebar. So much for the ‘not too muddy’ part. But it is the exit.

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Alexandra Lake. Good to be back on the road. Heading towards Manor Park, then Barking Rd.

12.00 now, 10.5 km, 5°C, right turn into Barking Rd. I switch my sunglasses (useful so far) with my eyeglasses. I can see! Just in time, something big falls off a van on my right, at the lights. Well done, guys! Driver looks clueless.

Thinking of the remaining 95 km. I usually lose it in the evening, but it seems today I’m getting ahead of myself. How about doing all the 95 today?

Idiot.

Just keep spinning, you’re not even 15 km in.

Huge spaghetti junction ahead, over Bow Creek, leading to Canary Wharf. Relieved to find the CS3 (cycle superhighway). I speed past a girl on a town bike. Stop at a dozen lights, pushing buttons, waiting, crossing, pushing buttons again. She takes advantage, cruising by, no waiting, no thanks. No respect for the elders these days.

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Thames, the Shard and the City, seen from the West side of Canary Wharf.

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People looking busy. As you do in Canary Wharf.

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Mudchute Park and Farm. Still within the Isle of Dogs, like Canary Wharf, but miles apart. Back on muddy paths.

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How cute are these icons?

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Or these alpacas.

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Cyclocrossing my way out of the park, taking a few wrong turns. Could’ve used my next bike here. Easy guess what type it’ll be, right?

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Nelson, across the river, in Greenwich. Looking a bit unimpressed. Cloudy by now. Hungry. One caramel, to fuel the Greenwich climb.

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East London, seen from the top of Greenwich Park, close to the Observatory. Lucky break in the clouds for a quick shot.

Thrilling downhill from Blackheath. Wet and curved road. What could go wrong?

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Riding along the Surrey Linear Canal Park. Amazing how many paths like this London has. Such a pleasure to ride (or walk).

So hungry.

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Sunset in Burgess Park.

A guy next to me says ‘this is probably the most beaut sunset I’ve ever seen in London’. I ask for how long he’s been living here. Seven years. ‘Sorry, it is a beautiful sunset indeed, but you should probably look more often’, I reply. ‘Yeah, maybe that’s the problem’, he agrees.

Starving.

Getting depressed. Slow. But I don’t eat on purpose, to see how it makes me feel — what a difference from eating every hour or so, like the previous days.

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‘Sometimes the gods show you the same sign three times until you get it.

It’s 16.15, 40 km so far. I think this qualifies as an early dinner. Byron Hamburgers, Southwark. Delicious latte, restoring my faith in everything. Then chicken burger, hand cut chips (must not eat all of them), tea.

Ready for the night shift.

18.15, 56 km, 1.5°C. Quick stop at Lee Bridge Rd with Wood St for a biscuit and a carbs gel. Wet, tired, worried about loud noise in the crankset. Hope it’s just grit, not cracked.

Who was going to to 95 km today?

An idiot, that’s who.

But I need at least 70 km. Some forest laps should do.

Pain.

Wrists, shoulders, back, chest, throat, legs. Everywhere.

Except my feet. Can’t feel them anymore.

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Going up Woodford New Rd, almost done. It’s 18.50, 0°C. One last photo, my phone dies. Quick scribble on a piece of paper.

Downhill on Forest Rd. Third fastest. Fun.

Home, 19.10, 70 km.

Knackered.

Highs: just 25 km left for tommorrow, some good photos

Lows: slow

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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397

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 6

December 30, 2014, 9:49 AM

December 29, Monday

Distance: 82 km (total so far: 405 km)
Route: Walthamstow to Richmond and back + one Epping Forest lap, Forest Rd downhill, short detour on Shernhall St
Weather: sunny, 2°C to 5°C, –1°C in the evening, frost on the roads for most of the day

Awake at 6.30. Slept well but my whole body aches. Actually, I only get up, somehow I’m still sleeping. Moving around on autopilot, I make breakfast and get my gear ready.

Seems colder than yesterday. My body being tired, some extra layers should help. Merino knee warmers on, joined up with the ski socks and my boxers. I think of the ‘Underwear goes inside the pants’ song by Lazyboy. Great lyrics.

So tired.

I decide to do a fast one today, I need to get home earlier and sleep more tonight. Hope to reach Bushy Park and Richmond, with a lot less stops for photos.

Out at 10.30. Late again.

Due to my zombie-state morning, I forget my reflective leg bands at home. Good thing I have spares.

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Lea Bridge Rd, near the marshes. Thick ice from last night, fortunately starting to melt.

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I join the CS2 (Stratford to Aldgate). The London Muslim Centre on the left, the City showing up in the distance. Sometimes London makes me think of Asimov’s Trantor.

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Quick ride through the City. Lloyd’s building looks amazing, as always.

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‘Right in the meddle — quick shot in Leadenhall Market.

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‘Keeping a shard eye’ — almost missed this one, riding fast over London Bridge.

First stop, 11.50, only 15 km so far, 4°C but feels colder. Tea & beignet at Paul Bakery, drying myself up a bit. Still took a bit too many photos, but better average km. Knee warmers are comfy, good idea.

Battersea Bridge, 12.55, 21 km. I feel ok, but weird. Often going into 3rd gear, unlike previous days, but heating up too much, getting wet. I should focus and cycle at a more consistent pace.

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The beautiful Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park.

Going up West Hill, towards Kingston. Not steep, but seems so long. I’m all wet, riding slowly, 28 km so far.

‘Ride to keep warm’, Eugène Christophe told Henri Pélissier when he was about to give up during the 1920 Tour de France. Pélissier won that stage.

The only thing is, on the road I remember it as ‘Mr What-s-his-name said to Mr Merckx’…

It still warms me up. Mostly inside.

I ride harder.

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I reach Richmond Park’s Robin Hood Gate at 14.00, 3.8°C, 32 km so far. I decided to give up on Bushy Hill five minutes ago. Doing both that and Richmond seemed like a stretch. I’m still wet but feeling better. I eat two gels and one banana, change my merino collar with a dry one.

A nice old lady on a slick road bike tells me the middle road is not as steep as the others. I follow her advice, not very happy with my riding today so there’s no point in wasting even more energy.

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Deer roaming freely. There was a sign near the entrance saying to watch out for ‘baby deer’. Cute.

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Don’t think this is the road the nice lady had in mind. It’s not even a road. But at least it’s the shortest route to the other side of the park. And it has some nice views. The gravel path going uphill, not so nice.

I reach the other side, a group of roadies taking a break on the side of the tarmac, after the climb. I probably look like a madman, coming out of the woods, on a foldable even. I start wondering who’s the amateur.

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Richmond, seen from the right bank of Thames, after a quick downhill, starting from the right side of the big building. The one in the middle is the Petersham Hotel, spent a very nice birthday weekend there, a few years ago.

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Posh terraced houses. Just for the superb Thames view, you’d probably have to pay enough to get a small country out of recession.

15.20, 44 km so far, just crossed the Kew Bridge. I eat an almond & honey bar and one gel. Tired but feeling better. Still wet.

I join the traffic. Way busier than previous days. Guess some people actually went back to work today. The smog is annoying. Hammersmith is a tough one to go through. Knightsbridge as well.

16.10 16.50, 55 km. Rapha kitchen closed for another 40 mins. Just my luck. Quick flat white and a brownie. I change my long sleeve merino base layer with a dry one. Also dry winter hat and a thick merino collar.

Good as new.

17.20, 1°C, 63.75 km, London Fields exit. Insanely fast for the last hour. Surely beat a few records (checked later, I did). What a difference a change of clothes makes. One minion reminds me I still have a banana in my backpack. Cheers little fellow! My stomach aches though, should’ve had a decent lunch.

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Riding along River Lee. Thick smoke from the boats cover the path. Atmospheric. The familiar burnt coal smell reminds me of ski holidays.

Through the marsh again, –1°C.

The frosty road shines like a sky full of stars. So beautiful.

Almost home, but still want a few more km. One lap around Epping Forest, one downhill on Forest Rd. Turning left, on my street now.

That voice again.

‘You know, 82 was a good year, and there’s that right turn just up ahead…’

Almost there. I laugh as I watch the counter turning 82. Indeed, that was a good year. I can see my door at the end of the street.

Bacon with mamaliga (Romanian polenta). Dinner of champions.

Fine day.

Highs: the longest and fastest ride. Seeing the counter hit 82 (my birth year) a few dozen metres from home.

Lows: riding wet for most of the day, in spite of the sunny weather.

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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396

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 5

December 29, 2014, 9:41 AM

December 28, Sunday

Distance: 77.5 km (total so far: 323 km)
Route: Walthamstow to Olympic Park, Woolwich tunner under Thames, O2, Greenwich, and back via Blackfriards Bridge, Shoreditch High Street, London Fields, River Lea, Forest Rd + two Epping Forest laps
Weather: sunny, 1-2°C in the morning, 5°C highest, –2°C in the evening, frosty

Fifth day. By now, I don’t know how my body’s doing it, but I’m glad it just does. Breakfast. Shoving food down my throat, to be more accurate. Quick gear check. Good.

I get out at 10.30. Lost two hours of light, but managed to get up to date with the blog posts. They do turn out quite nicely, if I may say so myself.

Sunny, 2 degrees. I realise that stepping outside is by now the moment I actually wake up. I quickly settle on the Olympic Park, Greenway, Woolwich, Thames Path route from my list. I hope to get there faster so I take the long but straight Lea Bridge Rd.

One typical mamil overtakes me easily. I speed up and draft him, for a bit of fun. I manage to take a quick photo, but I struggle with one hand on the wobbly Brompton. Don’t want any new scars to match the ones I got this summer.

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He drops me soon.

Ice on the road near the marshes. Thick slabs, to my surprise. Seems colder here. Good thing I got my winter hat on.

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I reach the Olympic Park. First on the left, the velodrome. VeloPark, as they call it. Quite some exciting stuff happened here in 2012 during the Olympics.

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Elegant architecture, matched by the surrounding patches of high grass. I do a lap of honour.

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The Olympic Park in (half of) its glory. The scale never fails to impress me.

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I cycle around, looking for good shots. This is going to take a lot longer. I always underestimate the time I end up spending here.

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‘Grit’ — I take a quick photo in one the mirrored bridges. Cool shadow. Appropriate.

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Some winged fellows enjoying the sun. Cormorants, I think. They were standing like that for minutes, warming up, fold wings for a few seconds, then spread them again.

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Taking the Greenway towards Woolwich. It’s a nice cyclepath, long but less interesting than yesterday’s Parkland Walk. Still wondering why the above Abbey Mills Pumping Station needs such heavy fencing.

I reach Beckton District Park. 20 km so far. I ride past one fellow cyclist fixing a flat.

‘Poor guy’, I say to myself.

I go round the corner, a twig snaps under my wheel. Off comes the chain.

Great.

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I spend an embarrassing amount of time putting the chain back on. Nothing works like it should. At least it’s not that cold anymore. I dry up, my legs get a bit of rest.

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Son, you’re still too young to hunt a bird like that, but don’t worry… — London City Airport.

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Woolwich tunnel, going under the Thames. Worried that having no GPS signal down here might screw up my Garmin computer. Losing data again would really piss me off.

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I wait. And wait. No. Can’t be. Yes, one friendly chap confirms. Lift’s not working.

Great.

Bike on my shoulder, I start climbing. Halfway up, three teenagers with a boombox.

Haddaway, What Is Love.

I take a look around at the steampunk setting. Feels like I’ve gone back in time 20 years. Or stepped into a parallel universe where low crotch trousers are still in fashion. Oh wait…

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What’s wrong in the above picture? Clue: it’s small and golden.

Riding on.

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Thames Barrier, shining bright. Impressive. Keeps London nice and dry when the North Sea tide is high.

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Riding along Thames Path, getting close to the O2 (the spikey dome on the left). Been to some great gigs there. Muse and Elbow expecially. Cool house on the water.

Lunch inside the O2. Byron Burgers. Chicken for me, need the protein, easier on my stomach. Good latte first though. And tea afterwards. Refueled.

31 km so far, 3.5°C. Starting to get dark. But then again, I did leave home later.

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Beautiful sunset over Canary Wharf.

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I reach the ‘magical deck’ I photographed a few months ago. Not as interesting as then, plus the deck is quite slippery. Not a good time for a swim. Oh, and that great looking slice of ship is no longer around.

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Canary Wharf, seen from Thames Path. Nice sign, reminds me of my friends at Brandient. We did a lot of good work together years ago.

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Greenwich, The Cutty Sark. Too late to go up on the hill to the Observatory.

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I leave Thames Path and manage to put in a good chunk of km, enjoying the fast bus lanes again. Sauron’s tower in the distance. Sorry, the Shard.

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It does look impressive, I quite like it. Surely a lot better than most of the other skyscrapers in London. Except the Gherkin. And Lloyd’s building.

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A nod to Mr Hopper at Tate Modern.

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I meet the younger brother of the other days’ Citroen vans. Charming.

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A ‘ghost bike’, in memory of a fellow cyclist, as I go up towards St Paul’s. Touching.

I ride on fast.

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I reach Walthamstow Marsh soon. It’s cold, –1°C, but unlike the other days, I feel better. I stop and take a couple of photos with the aid of my front light and the Olympic Park’s, far on the right.

So quiet. Peaceful.

I get closer to home, around 60 km so far. Need to do a couple of forest laps to reach 70, my goal for the day.

It’s 19.00, –2°C degrees, second lap of Epping Forest.

I keep checking the distance.

Crawling.

F****** hit 70 already so I can end this sisyphic madness and go home!

I keep spinning.

Front light is threatening to die on me. But it’s been doing it for an hour now.

Drama queen.

Downhill on Forest Rd. Then left on my street.

Evil self whispers ‘you know, if you turn right, you’ll get two extra km and beat your previous record’.

I’m weak today. I turn right.

Home, 19.40 and 77.5 km. Quick run – literally, to defrost my feet – to the corner shop for bananas, milk and popcorn. Hell-hot shower afterwards.

Good day.

Highs: plenty of photos. Not asking myself why I’m doing this.

Lows: took embarrassingly long to put the chain back on.

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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395

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 4

December 28, 2014, 10:15 AM

December 27, Saturday

Distance: 73.5 km (total so far: 245 km)
Route: Walthamstow to Finsbury Park, Parkland Walk, Highgate, Waterlow Park, Kentish Town, Camden, Soho, Regent’s Park, Fulham, Wetland Centre, and back via Hammersmith, Soho, London Fields
Weather: drizzle on and off, 1-2°C in the morning and evening, 5°C highest with a few minutes of hazy sun

Didn’t sleep well. Went to bed a bit after midnight. Idiot. Woke up at 5, probably too many things on my mind. I try to catch a bit more sleep.

Alarm sounds at 6.35. I set it at 7, but forgot I have a different one for weekends. Oh well, no point delaying the inevitable.

I look outside, raining. Not hard, but still. My gloves and socks are still wet. Moving them closer to the heater. I decide to leave a bit later, around 10. Editing photos from day 3. Some good ones, in spite of the weather. Breakfast. Rain stops.

I leave at 10.05. Seriously chilly, switching to winter hat.

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‘Expecting a call, Mr Morris? — the William Morris museum in Walthamstow. Don’t have high hopes for good photos today, but then again, still gotta try.

I head towards Bruce Castle, north of Seven Sisters. The wind doesn’t agree. Not much cover, and I don’t want to waste energy so soon, I turn around. Wind gets wind (sic) of my change of tactic, changes as well.

Bastard.

I follow a cycle route towards Hackney. Never been this way. No set-in-stone plan makes it slower, true, but it’s surely more interesting.

I reach the marsh. Drizzle. Just stopped. Oh, here it goes again. I push my bike half of the way up on Spring Hill, warming & flexing my legs and feet. An Orthodox Jew passes me by. I’m always fascinated by their big hats, the shtreimel.

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Stoke Newington fancy pub. Beautiful anyway.

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Playing with perspective in Clissold Park, glueing Clissold House and St Mary Church’s tower together.

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Rubbish pirate, getting caught up like that in Finsbury Park…

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Parkland Walk. 7.2 km of pure pleasure, along what used to be a train line. Not as wet as I feared, but certainly bumpy, making my wrists complain. Exchanging nods with a few runners, strollers, cyclists.

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A great thing about Parkland Walk is that it slowly goes up the hilly North of London. It usually goes under the streets, but quite often you actually ride above the rooftops.

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‘Hide and go sun’ — nice playground, I bet the kids in the neighbourhood love it. I would. The sun decides it wants to play hide & seek. Won’t find it for the rest of the day.

Bastard.

I reach the first end of Parkland Walk. It does continue a bit later on, but at this point I have to get back on the street.

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Looks like a mine.

I think of my grandad. He worked as a mine and factory welder for most of his life. We used to hike through the woods when I was a kid, he’d often show me abandoned mines and tell all sorts of stories. Skillfully using artistic license. Always loved it.

He was also a life-long cyclist, riding every summer 550 km from his town to my parents’. Last of these when he was 71. Also cycled 3000 km or so, retracing his WWII route, from the North of Transylvania up to the Czech Republic.

The funny thing is, I learned how to ride a bike from a French ex legionnaire when I was 10 years old, on an exchange holiday in Southern France. Amazing guy. Still, my grandad did teach me how to ski, in the orchard behind the house he built.

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Riding on, I drop downhill towards Kentish Town, but not before taking a peek through Waterlow Park and around St Joseph’s Church. Only 20 km so far, hope the downhill helps. Rain starts again soon after.

Lunch at Rapha in Soho. Repetitive, yes, but a bit of routine is good. It’s in the middle of the city and they have great coffee and food. And, most importantly, it’s motivational. Their fault I’m doing this thing anyway.

Speaking of skiing, this chap below catches my eye, later on, cycling towards Fulham. Guess what they’re selling. Orthopaedic treatments.

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Ah, old friend Sun decides to have a quick peek under the cloud blanket, just before calling it a day.

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Bastard.

I go as far as Richmond’s Wetland Centre, round it, crossing the river again over Hammersmith Bridge.

Spot the stud of horses, desperately caught up in traffic. Ha. I only have half, and I make it count, brother. I dash by.

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Stories for tourists, outside the Natural History Museum.

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No, Knightsbridge is not busy at all, especially at this time of the year.

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Good, 56 km so far. Back at Rapha to buy a second winter hat, mine’s already wet. And some waterproof overgloves, just in case it pours again like yesterday.

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On my usual route back. I could probably do it eyes closed by now.

Rain plus wind. Just had my third coffee for today, brin it on, weather!

I reach Lea Bridge, 68 km so far. Bus lanes are great, overtaking long traffic queues.

Feet almost frozen.

Beatrice Kiddo shows up and says: ‘Wiggle your big toes!’ Can’t mess with The Bride, I do as she says.

Home, 18.35. One banana, two gels. Hot bath, boiler almost breaks down. Exhausted, sleepy, can barely eat dinner (chicken soup). I push myself, and, very slowly, I start feeling a bit better.

Rubbish weather.

Good day.

Highs: glad for cycling this much, the fourth consecutive day. Officially only 5 km short of half of the challenge.

Lows: the weather, a bit annoying. And forgetting I have caramels in my left pocket.

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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394

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 3

December 27, 2014, 10:51 PM

December 26, Friday

Distance: 75.5 km
Route: Walthamstow to Central London, Shepherd’s Bush and back
Weather: overcast, frosty morning, rain from the afternoon onwards, 1°C

Feeling a bit stiff. Some muscles I don’t usually hear from hurt. I’m worried about the gear shifter (everything depends on that, I have no spare bike). CycleSurgery opens at 10, hoping to make it there on my bike, so I leave around 9. Uprising by Muse on the radio, perfect track to get moving.

Colder than yesterday. Plenty of frost in Millfields Park. Quite beautiful though, in spite of the clouds. Glad I put my deep winter hat on, the cap simply won’t do anymore.

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It’s 9.45. Instead of the usual no-cars-allowed Mare St, I go left of St John-at-Hackney, following the cycle path. Always nice to feel the ‘fog of war’ lifting as I take new routes.

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I get past 10 km. My muscles are warming up, pedalling gets smoother.

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Stik catches my eye on Cambridge Heath Rd. Plenty of them in London, but always nice to see. They’ve spread all over the globe as well.

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Going under Shoreditch High Street Station, I take a look at ‘the end’ of the City. Right of that building, Shoreditch starts. I always find it a bit funny, how it abruptly ends. Oh, and they shot James Bond in that skyscraper. Forgive the pun.

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CycleSurgery Bishop’s Square, worried about the ‘diagnosis’. Paul says hi, I explain, he calls Eben, the store manager, who fixes the problem on the spot. Something to do with the gear indicator chain. I take it for a spin in the square, all looking good. No charge, ‘it’s Christmas!’, they say. I buy some gels and bars, at least. Thanks so much, guys! Needless to say, if you need anything cycling related, they’re the ones to go to.

So relieved. On I go.

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Bank Station. Things looking busy behind Mansion House.

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Interesting sculptures. Reminding me of Brancusi. In a Tadao-Ando-like setting.

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Barbican, among my London favourites. Never seen anything like it anywhere else. Sometimes feels eerie, like a Kubrick film set.

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Spitalfields Market. Always love its colours.

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King’s Cross & St Pancras, faraway, so close — one of the busiest stations in London, but closed today.

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Fast forward a bit to Camden Lock. Not as busy as usual, but still. Fattest pigeons and seagulls in the city, I kid you not.

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When in Camden, keep your eyes peeled. You might miss some nice bits like the above.

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‘Who would’ve thought that Spring could be such a bully?’ — I get lucky, a colourful street catches the corner of my eye. Kelly Street. Each house, another colour.

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Primrose Hill, tiring as hell. My legs don’t know speed or climbing anymore, but they did make friends with endurance. Suits me. — Btw, you can see the City and the Shard in the distance. Less spectacular on a cloudy day, but still plenty of people around.

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Lunch at Rapha Cycle Club. Flat white first, for a kick, then a big chicken sandwich and a pot of Earl Grey tea. I charge my phone from my battery pack, wouldn’t want it to die on me, even if I don’t take as many photos as yesterday. You never know. I smile at how little space my Brompton takes near the entrance. Wonder why I never see others with foldables here. Only roadies and tourists.

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Going past New Bond Street, I notice even the traffic lights seem done up.

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I reach Shepherd’s Bush via Holland Park Avenue, I return along the river. Long, quite straight boulevards, good for some fast km. Traffic gets busier along the river though, and it starts to rain.

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Wet Picadilly Circus.

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Back at Rapha for desert. Enjoying a pot of green tea, watching the rain outside. 51 km by now. Feeling great.

I head back, using the usual route (Clerkenwell Rd, Northchurch Rd, London Fields etc), avoiding traffic.

One last photo from under a rail bridge near Hackney, rain pounding hard by now.

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I keep pedalling. The water resistant trousers have given up by now. My thighs are wet, but I imagine steam coming up through the frabric.

I start laughing aloud.

Runner’s high? Maybe, but I’d rather say … cyclist’s delight. Yep, sounds better.

I keep pedalling. Wind decides to join the party. Rain coming down harder. Too late, buddy, I just hit 74 km, my goal for the day. As I turn left, on my street, I think: should I push a bit more, to beat my previous day record? … Idiot.

Home. 75.5 km today. So great. Half of my clothes dripping. Those waterproof socks? Pure genius. The rain jacket as well. And the winter hat. Thanks Rapha. Feeling so good (probably still high), thinking I could’ve done 5, 10 km more at least. Trousers are drenched though, and still plenty days left. Water resistent, but two hours in the rain, can’t blame them … I quickly eat two carbs gels and one banana, a bit worried that I haven’t had anything for the hardest part of the ride.

Hot shower. Boiling, actually. Hot, thick chicken soup.

Happy.

So happy.

Highs: very glad the bike got fixed quickly. Very proud I braved the elements.

Lows: what lows? :)

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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393

Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 2

, 12:02 AM

December 25, Christmas Day

Distance: 76 km
Route: Walthamstow to Central London and back (hoping to take some interesting photos, with no public transport today at all on Christmas Day, the city should be a lot less busy)
Weather: sunny, 6-7°C, but cold evening, 3°C

A good start, although the sun bested me by twenty minutes or so. Taking my grandad’s pocket watch with me as a good luck charm, as yesterday. Hoping for no lost data or other mishaps today, though.

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St Mary’s Church, beautiful in the morning light. I love paths, and this one going through the graveyard usually opens up with a nice view.

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Walthamstow Central bus station, enjoying a break for today.

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River Lee, taking its time as it flows towards the Olympic Park and Thames.

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Black on black, the best combination (superb old ride near St John-at-Hackney).

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One of the rules of graphic design: if you don’t have an idea, make it big and set it all-caps, at least it’ll look badass :)

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See?

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Merry Christmas everyone, especially to those of you on two wheels! (BT Tower in the middle and St Paul’s on the right agree).

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The broom vagon, old friend of cycling, having gone under the wrench a bit and now selling street food near The National Theatre. Rapha sell a lovely miniature of it, will have to get one, eventually :)

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Wise lady, prefering to admire from afar

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‘Fun & games, not so open for business’ – or, look mum, no shadow!

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Heading to Covent Garden, stopping for a quick self-portrait. I hate using ‘selfie’, but — I did get ‘selfied’ half an hour later in Leicester Square. Two early-teens girls running around taking ‘selfies’ with random people on the street. Deed was done by the time I managed to say something. Serves me right for going there, every Londoner knows you should never… oh well.

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One stylish red riding coat, taking advantage of the empty Oxford Street.

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Doing two ‘honour’ laps around Regent’s Park. The Danish Church, hiding behind its fortress-like adjacent buildings. Only a bit over 28 km so far. Slow again, like yesterday. Drat!

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Lunch plans foiled by a typical British queue (even if most are tourists, surely) outside Tokyo Diner, in China Town. So naive of me to think it would be the same, almost empty, as it was an hour or so ago.

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I spend ten minutes getting cold on Brewer Street, searching online for something open, at least a Starbucks, they said some would be open. Their website is useless though, I’d have to check each of their shops’ PDF hours to see which one’s open on Christmas – are you kidding me?

Thinking or going Lebanese on Edgeware Road, but … as you’d expect in London, you’ll always find an open pub (unless it’s after 11pm, but that’s another story).

The Crown, just two steps away from Rapha’s Cycle Club on Brewer Street, Soho. Tasty fish & chips, a fine pint of Guinness and a great warm chocolate cake afterwards. Jimi, Stones, Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross singing in the back. Classics. Two couples, one Spanish (although he looks more like Serge Gainsbourg’s bro tho :), the other Hungarian. A French horde invades a bit later on. Ate a bit much, but feeling better, refueled for the ride back home (41 km by now).

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Heading home, stopping for a peek inside the closed Livepool Street Station (my usual ‘in & out’ during working hours).

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Yesterday’s bad luck seems to follow me today as well, the chain starts clunking, feels like I’ve lost the third gear. Will have to pop into the bike shop tomorrow to see if it’s serious or not. Would so hate to have to quit the challenge so soon.

River Lee again, with beautiful sunset-lit clouds over Millfields Park.

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In the middle of Walthamstow’s Marsh, almost dark by now. Sudden noises from the bushes add an extra spin to my legs every now and then. I keep telling myself they’re birds, not rats the size of cats — I’ve seen them often during my forest rides.

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Doing a few extra laps around Epping Forest (Snaresbrook Rd, Hollybush Hill, Whipps Cross Rd). Cold feet, can barely feel them, but not frozen, like three weeks ago when it was –3°C. The double-socks seem to have helped (I put on a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks over my knee-high ski socks early on the way this morning). Also switching my cap with my deep winter hat. Too cold now for my head to keep itself warm, especially as I’m starting to feel the effort so far.

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Tired, but glad.

Home.

Highs: very happy about riding 76 km for the second day. It’s a first, the days after a long ride have never been this succesful. Feeling more confident.

Lows: worried about my bike, if gears fail, it would be such a shame to have to give up so soon.

The ride’s data and map on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (these posts take long enough) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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Cycling the #Festive500 in London – Day 1

December 26, 2014, 11:01 PM

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The Rapha Festive 500 is an annual cycling challenge. To complete it, you have to cycle a total of 500 km between December 24 and 31. Everyone is free to pick their own routes, or route – some do it in just one go. Crazy, right? Well, not for those that won first prize last year. You can read about that on the Rapha Festive 500 page.

Since I’ve been cycling more and more, especially in the past six months, I decided to give it a go. I did consider getting a new bike (was planning to anyway), but in the end I thought it would be more ‘epic’ to do it on my Brompton. Being a foldable with 16″ wheels, it’s a lot slower than a normal bike so I knew it would take a lot longer, making it difficult to go out of town. I also thought it would be a good chance to explore and celebrate London, as I’ve been enjoying it more and more in the past four years and a half.

So, my ‘plan’ for the challenge is riding 500 km on a Brompton in London, ‘looking around with a bit of imagination and a lot of goodwill’ (as my grandad used to say) for some interesting photos. Which means some posts will be more about the city, some more about the cycling. Anyway, let’s move on to day one.

December 24, Wednesday

Distance: 82 km
Route: Walthamstow to Morden Hall Park via River Wandle and back
Weather: rain in the morning before leaving, cloudy after, sun for most of the day, windy, a sunshower around 2pm, beautiful sunset, cold evening

Up at 6.30am, excited and all gear ready from yesterday evening, but legs feeling less great after squatting a lot, cleaning my bike yesterday. A look out the window, raining hard. I have breakfast and my usual flat white with my fingers crossed. Rain stops. Great, just a bit before 9.00, out I go.

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Walthamstow’s 15th-century timber-framed “hall house”, under a still-cloudy sky.

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Quite a crowd for that value food – riding down Walthamstow’s Market (longest daily outdoor market in Europe).

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Getting close to the East London marshes, the sky still threatening above Canary Wharf, far into the distance.

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Two beauties – riding along River Lee (which goes through the Olympic Park and then flows into Thames).

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Brompton invaders? On a bridge quite close to the Olympic Stadium. East London is full of small or large gems like this.

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Puffin III & Iron Maiden – two fine boat names, near Victoria Park, on Regent’s Canal.

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‘London and Thames are awesome, the Sun finally remembered’ – riding along Thames Path by now.

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Something Canary Wharf could use, every now and then (this is Shadwell Basin, btw).

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‘To ride away, or sail away, that is the question’ – the Ornamental Canal, leading towards St Katharine Docks is quite full of treats.

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‘How about two for the price of one, Your Highness?’ – South of the river by now, via Tower Bridge.

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Everybody say (fine) cheeeese! Borough Market may be expensive, but it’s full of treats. Borough Cheese Co do the best Comté that I know.

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‘Courage helps, but you’ll need a bit of madness too’ – old ‘ghost’ sign on a side street from Borough Market.

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Nice poster at Paul Bakery, close to Tate Modern. First proper stop, for a flat white and a beignet (chocolate doughnut). Only 24 km so far, very slow, stopping too often for photos (no wonder my iPhone’s almost dead, good thing I have my battery pack charged). Some good photos by now, but I really should speed up.

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Under the rail bridge near Fred Wells Gardens, South-West London by now. Seriously windy here and there, but then again, I am riding along Thames Path.

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‘Epicness should be a real word’ – The Armoury in Wandsworth, looking amazing under the dark sky but still catching a glimpse of sun. A sunshower started ten minutes later, with a rainbow showing up as well. Beautiful.

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‘Our own modern Ophelia’ – riding upstream of River Wandle. This says quite a lot about most of us, especially as it’s just a stone’s throw from a huge M&S supermarket.

Sun’s going down and the paths get wetter …

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… but …

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… I finally reach Morden Hall Park. Quite charming. As I look around, a chubby old-timer hops off a Hoy road bike and gets friendly. He has a Brompton as well. His wife actually. And a fixie. Built one himself in the 70’s, been riding them ever since. They’re great once you get them rolling, or so he says. I don’t get the chance to tell him I hated all five minutes of it, five years ago. I’m getting cold now, but he’s too nice and too fast for me to say anything. He finally runs out of subjects and we part ways. I’ll try to take the CS7 (cycle superhighway), as he advised. Too bad I didn’t get his name.

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Here’s to ten times more! – heading back by now, almost dark. Little did I know that I’d look with different eyes at this ‘boring’ photo, later on.

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Albert Bridge, always a pleasure to see. Like a Christmas tree, never gets old, in spite of being 142 years…

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Stopping at the Rapha Cycle Club in Soho for refueling (great coffee, among other delicious treats). About 62 km so far.

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Great to see Mr Merckx and Tintin side by side — not sure they’re very happy about the flag, though :)

I finish my tea, grab my gear and head out. I reach for my pocket…

Crap!

Just lost all my ride’s GPS data so far. Taking my Garmin out of my pocket, I don’t realise (only got it a week or so ago) that the screen is no longer locked, and I hit ‘Discard’ by mistake. Freaking menu design.

I start a new ride, heading home.

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I know the way back well by now, reaching River Lee pretty soon. The above photo (Lee Rowing Club at night) would probably sum up well how I should feel, having lost six hours of my ride.

I keep telling myself ‘let this be the worst thing to happen’.

Riding on, crossing the pitch-black marsh. It’s 3.5°C, my feet are very cold, but not frozen.

At least here’s a good sign…

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Almost there.

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On a quick detour: this is how you do Christmas lights (gotta love the small penguin, lower right near the tree).

Merry Christmas!

Highs: feeling good after 82 km (aprox 62 km of lost data + 20.15 km) for the first day of the challenge, glad for the 300+ photos, so many interesting things to see in London, as usual.

Lows: losing more than half of my ride’s GPS data, doing less than 10km/h in average.

The ride’s data and map (the second part) on Strava.

Read the whole story:
Day 1 + Day 2 + Day 3 + Day 4 + Day 5 + Day 6 + Day 7 + Day 8 + Gear + Afterword.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Other notes:
I will post more photos (the out-takes) for each day as Facebook albums, and link them back here once the challenge is over (this post has taken long enough as it is) — Titles in brackets are from some of my Instagram-posted photos — I’ll write a separate post about all gear, food and the bit of training I did before the challenge. It’ll be the ‘boring’ post, skipped by most :)

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391