As this post comes just two weeks from Christmas, I think it is appropriate to start by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2019! I wish you a happy, prosperous, healthy and very happy new year with a lot of cycling activities, be them for pleasure, commute, travel or sport.
Since about September I’ve been cycling regularly to work. September and October I’ve managed to cycle to work and back in average 3 times a week, but as this is the UK and the weather is not one of the best points here, that has gone down to mostly 1 time in the week, occasionally two.
The distance from my door step to the office is of just under 17 Km (just over 10 miles) and it usually takes me just under an hour to get there. I then, obviously, have to cycle back in the evening, so each time I do it, it adds about 33 Km to my Garmin / Strava mileage and, best of all, lets me eat about 5 equivalent Big Mac burgers that day (not that I eat that much or that I eat McDonalds at all, but it should give you an idea – about 1,600 C calories against 300 C for a Big Mac apparently).
Some friends and colleagues have asked me about the ride, so in the cold, but beautiful morning of the 4th of December I decided to mount my Sony Action Cam on my helmet and record the ride.
Hope you enjoyed the video and the music.
I am very grateful to everyone who I shared my life with this year and for all the love, care and learning experiences we were able to exchange. God bless you all!
Now the Summer’s gone And December’s here And you’re looking back At all the things you’ve done this year And it’s cold outside ‘Say it’s going to snow So be thankful that you’ve somewhere warm to go
Cause when you stop to count your blessings It’s The Little Things Oh the simple things that money just can’t buy There’s always someone who would be grateful for The Little Things Oh the things we take for granted in our lives
Free to feel the sun Warm upon your face Just to walk outside Knowing you’re still safe Food enough to eat Water clean and a bed Four walls around you And a roof overhead
Just a warm embrace and a smiling face, just a place to be with enough to eat, to be free from pain sheltered from the rain , just The little things. To be given care, with enough to share, just hear you say you’re not far away. Free to walk or run watch the rising sun, It’s The little things.
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quick post just to let you know that I did not abandon the Blog… 🙂
I am working on writing Via Francigena content, editing the videos and sharing this experience with you, but progress has been slow due to life’s demands. Please, subscribe to be informed of new post or like our Facebook page.
On the 12th of August 2016, the 14th day of cycling between Canterbury and Rome, I completed the 1st 1000 Kms of daily bike riding of my life.
I know, compared to cyclists that cycled around the world, some of which with 100s of 1000s of Kilometers in their Odometers, just is just a drop in the ocean, but for me it was a pretty special moment in a nice location.
The pilgrimage has ended now and I am back in the UK to my “normal” life. I end up having cycled 2,043 Km when I arrived at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. Was an experience I will cherish forever, but I somehow don’t think it was the experience of a life time. Not ready for the grave yet… 🙂
If you have been following my blog or Facebook page, you will know that I am soon going to be undertaking my biggest bike ride yet, a 2,000 Km long (approx.) bike ride from Canterbury in UK to Rome in Italy, on an ancient pilgrimage route known as Via Francigena.
My motivations for doing this bike ride are many, some of which are quite obvious and some are not. On the obvious side, you may have followed my series of blog posts about the Camino de Santiago last year. The Via Francigena is a natural step up from that as it is 2x as long and not as well structured as the Camino (what I mean is that there aren’t as many pilgrims’ accommodations along the way and the route is not well sign posted, especially in France).
As for the non-obvious reasons, I feel strong enough now to share at least one with you all. Since the very unfriendly break-up of my marriage, some 15 months ago, I’ve been battling on and off with depression. I took antidepressants for a few months and gone through therapies.
Depression is an odd kind of illness… Due to sheer ignorance, like many I had a very stigmatized view of it. To be honest, of any type of mental illnesses, actually.
I truly thought it was sort of a rich people’s sickness. An illness that affected only those people who had too much free time on their hands. Life has a funny way of teaching you things sometimes.
So, imagine my surprise when I started to notice very physical symptoms caused by anxiety and my general mental state. Among others where teeth-grinding (also known as Bruxism), sleeplessness, difficulty to breath and more. Life hadn’t stopped, of course, and there were still bills to be paid and things to be done, which at times, associated with loneliness gave me the real feeling I wouldn’t be able to coupe anymore.
Went to the GP several times and he confirmed the diagnosis of clinical depression. It was somewhat interesting to understand how your mental state can have such a powerful impact on your physical condition and I am not talking here about normal day to day worries most people have with their children, their financial affairs, their jobs, etc. This is not a learning experience I wish anyone to go through, but it is generally hard to choose not to be depressed when you’re affected by certain life circumstances, which can vary of importance from person to person, especially when there is so much negative going on in the world these days. Depression is usually a package.
In extreme cases, for some the easy way out appears to become the only solution (even though it is clearly not) and it may surprise you to know that suicide remains the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, representing 24% of all deaths in 2013, and for men aged 35-49, at 13% of deaths (source: The Guardian).
Thankfully the ultimate act was never an option for me… not that I didn’t occasionally think about it, but I’ve always considered it a very unlikely outcome for me in particular. I value my life and the life of others way too much and I personally don’t think ending your physical existence ends the mental problems you might be facing (I believe in “life” after death).
Needless to say this condition had an impact not only on my personal life, but on my professional one too. I don’t subscribe to the idea that a person can fully compartmentalized his personal and professional lives. An unbalance in one, will have repercussions in the other.
The drug I was taking didn’t appear to be making much of a change, although it did help me sleep at night (helped even a bit too much at times as it made it a lot harder to jump out of bed in the morning as well), and when my GP suggested the prescription of a more powerful drug I took the decision upon myself to try to beat this thing without chemicals (or artificial ones, at least).
Cycling has been “my thing” for quite a few years now and it was only natural for me to turn to cycling as a means to combat my depression. Convincing my bosses to give me a 42 days holiday was a tough sell, but I manage to do it and here I am, just a few weeks from starting my cycling pilgrimage.
I am no expert, but I believe that for most there can be a drug-free way to find balance in life again. Some may find it through meditation, others through physical exercise, others by drastically changing their life-styles and so on. I do believe in drug-free treatments are not always possible and that the ultimate word has to remain with the medical or psychological experts treating each case, but I personally don’t think emotions are just a chemical unbalance that can be corrected through drugs. If that was true it would be possible to “correct” love and hate the same way. But even if drugs are the answer, I still believe there are ways for our bodies to produce some of these chemicals naturally such as Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, regarded by some researchers as a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance, and that often link a deficit of serotonin to depression. No doubt, you can take drugs that will aid to increase Serotonin levels in the brain, but according to the Psychology Today Blog, “In numerous studies exercise has been shown to increase both serotonin production and release. In particular, aerobic exercises, like running and biking, are the most likely to boost serotonin.”
So, what I am trying to prove to you, in case you don’t already know, is that, if you know someone who suffers from a mental illness (or if you experience or have experienced it yourself) a drug-free treatment through physical activity can be a powerful boost to your well-being, not to mention a big reduction of the cost to businesses and society overall, given that antidepressant use has doubled in England over the past 10 years (source NewScientist). Most concerning is that the number of children prescribed with antidepressants have increased by 50% in 7 years (source: The Independent).
A US study has estimated that about 300 million work days are lost to sickness every year with 56% of employees reporting depression and anxiety as a cause. Not even the most cold-hearted business person can ignore these stats.
That is why I converted my solo bike ride to Rome into a charity event and have partnered with Mind UK, one of the UK’s leading Mental Health charities, on this enterprise and am here asking for you to donate some of your hard earned cash to this cause. I know how hard it is to try to get out of a bad situation alone and sometimes you need someone that can provide you with an independent perspective about your situation.
Every pound (or dollar, or Euro… whatever) you donate makes a difference. For example:
£8.70 gives a lifeline to someone in desperate need of support
£30 helps Mind work with the government to promote mental health needs and improve services
£150 could fund a local support group
£250 could fund equipment for an art therapy group
£500 can keep Mind’s legal advice service open for a day helping people understand their rights and receive practical legal advice on mental health issues.
I believe the best thing to combat depression is to try to live life to the fullest. What that means changes from person to person. To live life to it’s full potential will likely be related to finding a job or work that is fulfilling, having a loving family relation, good friends, include hobbies and physical activities and help those you can, through volunteering or other social efforts in benefit of those in need.
During a recent well-being course, I was shown how to graphically represent life as a boat. If you divide your boat only between work and family chances are that if one of them isn’t going well your boat will have more trouble to stay afloat than if you are able to divide your life’s boat in more compartments.
Cycling has been one of these compartments for me… it’s a low impact form of exercise providing an increased cardiovascular fitness as well as a good muscle workout, as it uses all the major muscle groups as you pedal. It is excellent in reducing obesity and controlling weight and while you are on your bike your stress levels seem to fall dramatically even when you are thinking about your problems which automatically leads to a reduction in anxiety and depression. But if cycling is not your thing, just pick something else… There is plenty to choose from.
The important thing is that you don’t give up.
If you allow me to suggest a strategy, rather than choosing something cheap and easy just to “try it out first, to see how it goes”, go the full mile. Choose something you think you will like (inform yourself) and go buy the gear for it.
Do not buy the cheapest!
If you can afford to buy expensive things, buy, for example, the best running shoes you can afford, if you decide to run, or the best bicycle, if you decide to cycle, or the best tennis or water sports gear if you go for those… that way you are making not only a personal commitment, but a financial investment also and this has 2 advantages:
Generally speaking people don’t like to waste money.
Generally speaking, you get what you paid for. Buying good quality gear will enhance your experience and help you transition into it more easily, with less efforts and pain.
Of course, this is not for everyone, but keep in mind managing limited resources are very much a question of priorities. If you are ill, getting healthy should be one. As Mr Spock would say, it is illogical to want to remain sick!
To contribute to this cause, please click on the Virgin Money Giving page below (just in case, nothing of your contribution is given to me).
If you have contributed, but still feel generous, you could also consider to pay me a coffee to help me keep up with the Blog costs and as an incentive for me to keep doing this sort of thing and blogging about it…
It had been a while since the last time I rode from Bracknell to Windsor. I really missed these 50 K (well, nearly) rides to Windsor.
Those that follow this blog may remember I recorded several rides to Windsor already (this one, this one and this one) and I usually reward myself with a Double Hot Chocolate and something to eat at the Chocolate Theater Café by the Eton Bridge. Sadly the Café seems to have closed for good 🙁 . As it had been a while since my last ride to Windsor I didn’t know about this. That Café used to be a meeting point for cyclists in Windsor…
I’ve still awarded myself with a hot chocolate, but I had to go to the Costa Café crossed the Eton Bridge for that.
On my way to Windsor I crossed through Ascot, had Brunch there with my friend Fernando and then further to Windsor over the Windsor Great Park.
As yesterday was getting too late to publish the return video I am doing it now. I didn’t take the exact same route back, as at the Windsor Great Park I turned right onto Crown State towards Legoland, then took the B3022, Drift Road and Winkfield Lane. The return video is shorter because it’s Time-Lapse only (1 frame every 0.5 seconds).
Hope it was worth your time watching both videos.
If you like this post and the videos please rate using the stars below, share in Social Media (you know, Facebook and stuff) and click the Thumbs Up in You Tube.
I missed spinning class today again. It’s becoming a bad habit and bad habits need to be broken, so I decided I am going to try harder to cycle at least 2x (perhaps 3x) a week, no matter the weather.
Well, let’s make an exception for when is raining shall we?
So, it was about 6pm here and the sun had long gone. It was a really dark night today. Should I, perhaps, have chosen a more moon lit night to record the ride? I can always record it again.
Before you start watching the video, I have a few confessions to make:
I lied! I am a member of a secret Ninja society (in my dreams at least).
I am not, however, and never have been a thief, unless stealling female hearts count (in my dreams at least).
I was a bit overdressed and when I got back home was dripping sweat. The weather has been very mild this week, but I prefer sweating a little than to feel cold… and once you’re out, you never really know what you´re going to get in this country.
The sound quality of my speech at the start of the video was pretty bad, so I voiced over it in editing.
This was essentially the same 21 Km route (with a few minor changes), I did with my children last weekend.
With that said, let´s go ride!
If you like the post or the video, feel free to, errr… “Like” and Share it on social media or click on the stars below to let me know how I am doing.
As my way to celebrate the Rugby world Cup happening in Twickenham this month, I got together with a friend and rode from the Twickenham Rugby Stadium to Richmond via some of London´s best landscapes.
For those that never been to London before, this side of London is not usually part of a 1 or 2 days visit, as most tourists will prefer to stay within Zones 1 and 2 where the most recognizable landmarks are (you know… Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Piccadilly, Trafalgar, etc, etc). Yet if you want to know how London works and the natural beauty the city has to offer these places are are a good option.
London is, I think, Western Europe´s biggest city. With a population of almost 7 million inhabitants (which for Europe is quite unusual when compared to Paris with just 2 million and Berlin with 3.5 million), London has managed to maintain an excellent balance between the grey of concrete and the green of nature. There are many parks and green areas in London and on this ride we cycled through 2 of them: Bushy Park and Richmond Park. We also cycled through the Crane park which is a small park part alongside the river Crane that got it´s name due to the bird and if you are patient you can still find several Crane nests alongside the river.
I think it´s fair to say that Bushy Park is not very well known to outsiders, yet it´s beauty is fantastic. There are water ways, fountains, tress, lots of green and plenty of deer roaming around.
Richmond park on the other hand is internationally known and is one of London´s biggest (perhaps the biggest) city inner park. A huge green area in the middle of the city much loved and used by its inhabitants, especially cyclists that come from all parts of the city and even outside London, like me, to appreciate the wonders that a bike ride provides. The only problem with Richmond park are the weekend drivers (sometimes a single person) that come to appreciate nature sitting inside their air-conditioned, fossil fuel powered mechanical monsters… no wonder Aliens might think of us as a highly inconsistent species 🙂
As we arrived in Richmond town centre we gave ourselves a treat of sorts in the form of a huge cappuccino and some tasty cakes (mine was a Black Forest), so this ride is divided in 2 sections:
This is a follow-up post of my previous report about my bike ride from Bracknell to Bath on the National Cycle Route 4.
As I mentioned before the reason I cycled to Bath was to experience the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway Circular Route. After two days of brilliant weather and sunshine the day of this ride was pouring down with rain. Unfortunately weather is something we still cannot control and unlike people who might be doing this for living, this is my hobby and as such I don´t have the luxury of choosing to ride and record only in good weather.
Despite the bad weather it was worth it.
Just a few notes before we proceed to the video:
The route I took didn´t follow exactly the Sustrans route (PDF), but is very close. In urban areas the Sustrans signage is very poor and I got a bit lost a few times. Google Maps helped a lot as well as passers-by to which I am very grateful (if you can recognize yourself in the video drop me a note).
If you are planning to do this with small children note there are portions of this route on busy urban roads
The Combe Down tunnel is said to be the longest cycling / walking tunnel only in the UK and possibly in Europe. It´s just over 1 mile long (or 1672 metres to be precise). It has some quite interesting light / music displays inside.
The Devonshire Tunnels is smaller at 409 m
On the cycle paths the surface is paved and smooth.
If you are not local and are staying at the YHA Bath, like I did, the closest point to the route appears to be the The Holburne Museum, which is where I started from and went back to.
Note to self 1: Next time I go out to cycle under heavy rain, need to remember to wipe the water of the camera lens more often.
Note to self 2: Find a better solution to protect my phone during rides under heavy rain. The phone pouch got completely wet inside.
Planning my next cycling to be around this area as well, taking the route from Bath to Bristol which is only 13 miles long, completely paved over an old railway track and full of things to see.
It´s essentially the way back to Buckingham Palace from the Guerkin with a stop at the Leadenhall Market (which is close to the Guerkin), for some food. The ride back was much faster as there were not as many cyclists on the streets by that point.
The only edits made to the video were parts in which we took the wrong way for a moment and when we were stationary. Everything else is as it was on the day. Video is 33 min long, so feel free to jump around if you don´t want to see everything.
Unfortunately, we didn´t get to ride the part along the Thames as we were quite late and our ride home was already waiting for us. Something for 2016…
About one hour later we were back home, in Bracknell, and then watched on TV the professional woman cyclists ride this same route (or a part of it) and that was cool.
this is the 1st part, of 2, of the Prudential Ride London ride I did with my 2 sons on the 1st of August 2015.
What a party! 70,000 people riding bicycles on the streets of one of the busiest capitals of the world. It´s a rare opportunity to see a “calm” and safe for cyclists London. Things are definitely improving…
Before you watch the video you need to know a few things…
This is the 1st part of the ride, from Hyde Park Corner were we started to “the Guerkin” building in the city.
This is the FULL video! I only cut out the parts we were stationary, as these wouldn´t add any value anyway…
Still this video is 49 minutes long.
No need to comment it is TOO long. I know. Feel free to jump around.
I will produce a PART 2, which shows the way back to Buckingham Palace. It will not be as long as this one as the streets were more empty, but it will still be long for YouTube standards.
If I have the time I will then produce a shorter 5 to 10 min video with the best moments of the ride (this is NOT a promise though).