Sponsor me for the LondonSurrey 100 mile ride.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Bad week, hard tarmac

Training for the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 took a bit of a knock this week. On Saturday (4th) I had a minor crash which has caused a bit of damage to me and the bike. Then on Tuesday I was literally about to go out the door and picked up my phone to find a message that said a close friend had taken his own life.

Pam and I spent the rest of the evening in a state of shock. Training was off, Wednesday wasn’t much better and after a day at work we just went out for tea as we weren’t even motivated to cook. I finally got out on Thursday and had only gone two miles when the gear shifter came lose and I couldn’t brake or change gear. So Friday the bike went into dock. A big thank you to Shrewsbury Cyclelife ( ) for turning the bike around so quickly.

Friday night saw us meeting an old friend for mutual support, sharing of memories of a lost friend and lots of alcohol to try and reason out what happened. Hence Saturday’s training ride with a hangover and on the old heavy bike was hard work. Average speed of 10mph was a disgrace, but at least I was out there.

On a plus – sponsorship money is now starting to appear and I hope we can make a difference to the dogs and cats at Grinshill. Apologies for all those Facebook messages and emails, but we do need to raise enough to make the Just Giving fees worthwhile.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Raising money for Grinshill Animal Rescue Centre

On Monday 16th March my wife (Pam) and I had to make the difficult decision to have our Border Collie Meg put to sleep. Meg had a poor start to her life, having to live with a cruel farmer somewhere in the North of England (location withheld for legal reasons).

Meg had become a problem dog and frequently escaped the farm, only to return to face a near starvation diet and frequent beatings (verified by damage to teeth and arthritis). After numerous complaints from local people the farmer was threatening to shoot Meg. However, a very brave old lady who lived locally decided to rescue Meg and removed her from the farm and sent her far away to the Grinshill Animal Rescue Centre in Shropshire. Meg was never reported as missing.

On one fateful Sunday evening in April 2007, Timmy Ten Bellies and I were climbing at Grinshill. While our wives (Pam and Maz); walked Maz’s three dogs and Megs soon to be lifelong friend – Freddie the Jack Russell (mother-in-laws dog) around Grinshill.

When dogs arrive at Grinshill they are taken for a walk in the woods before being bedded down and fed. This is where Pam, Maz and the dogs first met Meg. Her fate was sealed – she was coming home with us. As it was a Sunday evening we had to wait until the next morning before contacting the centre, but after home checks and a brief time in kennels Meg came home with us.

It was then we found her major passion – football. She was a hit with the local teenagers for her ability to chip and head balls and she even made an unscheduled appearance at a local Sunday league match where she was met with nothing but praise from the fans and players.

Having never slept in a house Meg quickly adjusted to sleeping at the bottom of our bed and Pam walked her for miles during those first few weeks as Meg adjusted to life in Dawley. Her coat also started to grow and we discovered we had a glorious rough coated Collie. There was also a final surprise – Meg went into season. Jenny at the rescue centre couldn’t believe this as Meg’s rescuer had paid the farmer to have Meg spayed a number of years previous. It now appears he pocketed the cash believing the dog would never live long enough for anyone to know.

Meg grew into a fantastic dog; she became a real companion as I trained to become a Hill and Moorland Leader. When Pam and I travelled the country to gain experience on the hills, Meg would always accompany us and has climbed hills and mountains all over the UK. We often joked if we knew the farmer’s address we would send him a postcard from Meg. Meg got to sleep in nice hotels and had afternoon tea at some of the better establishments throughout Britain – while the farmer still wallowed in his own filth.

In her final years Meg suffered a number of episodes of Canine vestibular and possibly a stroke at Christmas. In addition to this she started to suffer from dementia and her arthritis started to impede her mobility. Despite the best efforts of some wonderful vets at Wrekin View Veterinary Practice, old age overtook Meg and she reached that awful point when owners have to decide what is best for the animal. So she was finally put to sleep with dignity by Rob the vet.

As a result of all the years of pleasure and unquestioning companionship Meg has given, I will be taking part in the London Surrey 100 mile cycle ride this summer and will be raising money for Grinshill Animal Rescue Centre. Donations can be made using the sponsor bade above or at

Thursday, 12 February 2015


What a couple of weeks I’ve had. I don’t really want to talk about the day job, but needless to say I’ve been appointed centre manager – starting after Easter. Two weeks ago I was at the point of walking out.

Then there is the bike ride! The Prudential RideLondon 100
YES! I’ve have a place! I still can’t believe it, hence why this blog is called DNA. I think both Pam and I have a little bit of cycling in our DNA – if that’s possible.

Unfortunately Pam didn’t get a place on the ride and Pam’s link to cycling is direct - her granddad was a track cyclist. For me it’s a bit more complex, my dad always claims we have links to the Rudge bike family. I’ve never found any proof and would love to be corrected. However, according to an election website there are less than 4000 voters named Rudge in the UK, so I suspect we’re all related somewhere along the line.

Preparing for the ride started on Saturday with a bike fit at Bicycles by Design in Coalport. In photographs of two events I rode last year I didn’t look quite right on the bike – I rode with extended arms. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but might be when attempting 100 miles. So I thought it was best to get a proper fit. So the saddle has gone up, a new stem fitted and cleats adjusted. On a test ride on Sunday I was averaging 2mph faster on freewheel sections of road. Therefore I recommend everyone gets a proper fit before venturing out for any distance.

My cycling really started when I was about seven; I found it difficult to learn to ride a bike. I think in part due to stabilisers being popular in the 1970s, my parents had fitted them in good faith to a very old bike my dad had bought from someone at work. When I say old, I really mean vintage – it had rod brakes! Eventually losing patience the bike was about to be sold on. Stabilisers off I was given one last chance to try it before it went off to a new home, off I went around the garden like a rocket. Swung around the garden shed, through the apple trees and only realised my dad wasn’t holding the saddle when I turned for home.

My dad went off up the road to give the new owner his money back while I carried on circuiting the garden with increasing speed. My parents have a picture of me in 70s dodgy Sunday best riding over the Priorslee banks after chapel. They couldn’t keep me off the bike that day. The great thing about having a 1940s bike was it could go anywhere. It was built for potholed roads and cobbles, I guess I was mountain biking before it became recognised.

My dad completely stripped the bike, repainted it and fitted it out for my birthday. I really did love that bike. It was heart breaking years later when my mum thought she was helping out a local destitute family by giving it to them so the boys could have a bike to get a paper round and earn some cash. They got the paper round – took the wages, burnt the papers and trashed the bike. Never trust chavs!

The next bike was a Chopper - another salvage job. This time a neighbour’s son had snapped off the bottom bracket. My dad worked for a small engineering company with a brilliant fabricator who managed to weld it back on without any trace of a join. Once again my dad worked wonders with this bike. Perhaps this was Rudge DNA and bikes meeting - not for the first time. We spent hours one Saturday night fitting new shiny parts and truing wheels when we could have been watching Jim’ll Fix It. Even at the time, watching dad with chalk and a spoke spanner was more interesting.

That bike really was something to behold. 1970s turquoise blue with hand painted green snakes. Money couldn’t buy anything that looked remotely similar. Even the gear change was white vinyl (salvaged puller from a curtain system). A truly unique bike! Some of the posh kids around passed the odd comment because it was a MK1 chopper and built at home, but I really didn’t care. It rode as good as it looked. My dad really should have been a bike builder and not an electrician, the world would have been a safer place.

At primary school we weren’t allowed to ride bikes to school, except for cycling proficiency training and  the subsequent test. This would be my first act of rebellion – I had a great Aunty Nelly who lived by the school and agreed daytime parking in her coal shed.  Headmaster and his rules for limiting the mobility of the proletariat completely stuffed! There were some unhappy faces on the school walk when I cruised past.

Aunty Nelly and her husband great Uncle Edgar were on my Nans side of the family. A long and proud family of miners – rules were for breaking. At work I’ve run into the trust fund socialists who talk about helping the miners under Thatcher, I shock them when I reply I helped the cause in the 1970s strike and the 80s. Yes I was only 7 years old when Uncles Edgar, Harry H, Harry T and cousin Dennis used to call and see my Nan after the daily punch up with the police and scabs outside the pit. My mum and I were on tea duty, in addition to that I was even sent to school in red football socks to wind up my infants teacher who we suspected was a tory. My granddad (Nans side) had died in 1957 due to a coal industry related illness, he had been fundamental in unionising the Shropshire coalfield – hence the daily visits during the strike and regular weekly visits from a member of the extended family during the rest of the year. Then people wonder where my politics come from!

Back to the bikes! My Chopper finally gave in around 1981 when the bottom bracket finally succumbed to metal fatigue. Before it died it had one surprise for dad, it nearly killed him and would have been YouTube gold today. While I was away at school he decided to borrow it to cycle to Beverley (about two miles away) to buy a part for his marooned car. Dad didn’t know that the MK1 Chopper had a design feature – it pulled wheelies really easily. The MK2 had extended wheel stays to take the danger or fun away (depending if you’re a parent or child).

The M54 extension hadn’t been built then and the Snedshill Furnace junction was very busy, complete with HGVs, cars and the odd tank road testing from COD Donnington. Into this maelstrom of traffic ventures my father, who decides in order to get across the junction he has to push down extra hard on the peddles. Picture my turquoise mean machine with a Hitler look-a-like (he does) in brown nylon flares pulling a wheelie across a T junction on a busy A road - while trying to stay on the saddle. Something he failed at as he landed arse first in the middle of the road. Of course it was my fault!  Despite being locked up in school some 20 miles away.

The next bike also had history – a Black Hawk 10 speed. My mum worked at Woolworths, a customer had paid a deposit for the bike but failed to collect it. So the manager let mum have it at cost price as the deposit covered the mark up. This bike would carry me for 100s of miles. One of the few advantages of being locked away in a dingy boarding school was a bike mad form tutor - Mr. Devy. He would organise youth hostel trips to avoid weekend duties. We started local venturing to South Shropshire and built up to further afield. One weekend we got as far as Malvern – 125 mile round trip. He also started a tradition that I have continued with my own pupils – when hillwalking every summit is a chocolate stop.  Following the trips with Devy I haven’t really been off a bike since.

As a teacher I don’t think I would be allowed to run some of his trips today – main roads, no support vehicle, no mobile phones, only a vague idea of a route and as for risk assessment; did they ever exist before 1995? Well he did teach us to ride defensively, so we didn’t have accidents and I have evolved to become the mamil that drivers just love to hate!

Therefore  as I train for the London 100, if you feel intimated by a large lycra clad cyclist who will not allow you to own the road, who will try and chase you down and who has a very prominent middle finger. Just remember it’s nothing personal, I have cycling in the DNA!