Re: Cycling Friends

New Forest Group RideI spent much of today with a whole bunch of friends, old and new. Meeting up in Christchurch, we went off on a group ride around the New Forest, on quiet back roads, up and down some interesting hills and taking in a pit stop at the Needles Eye restaurant in Lymington.

Following the invitation from Mike, my Dark Passenger had a bit of fun with me. ‘Will you be able to keep up with them?’ ‘They’ll all be friends, maybe they won’t accept you’. Stuff like that.

In the event he couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was very friendly, made me feel very welcome and, as you might expect, were keen to talk about anything to do with cycling.

Whilst I enjoy the time I spend cycling alone, to or from work, or out playing on the Purbecks, riding with other people is great fun and can often spur you on to greater effort and performance.

As you might expect, Daisaku Ikeda has a few wise words to say about friends and shared ideas and suffering …

There is no true joy in a life lived closed up in the little shell of the self. When you take one step to reach out to people, when you meet with others and share their thoughts and sufferings, infinite compassion and wisdom well up within your heart. Your life is transformed.

All Along The Prom, Tiddly Om Pom Pom

All Along The Prom, Tiddly Om Pom PomI love my new teaching role. I look forward to teaching my Saudi students and we get on famously.

But every silver lining has a cloud, and the cloud in this case is the fact that I can’t cycle to work and teach on the same day.

However, because Friday is the Muslim holy day, I don’t teach my boys on Fridays, and that leaves me free to ride to work … hoorah !!!

So just before 7:00, I was up and out on t’ bike and heading off towards Sandbanks and the promenade ride to Christchurch and thence to Ringwood. It’s a lovely ride, with lots of changes in environment en-route.

The ride through Poole Quay is always interesting. Fishing boats, RNLI lifeboats, any number of plastic gin palaces line the route, and there is always a distinct smell of the sea present too, though I have no idea why that should be more so at that point.

The cycle path around Whitecliff Park is often a challenge. Not because it is hilly, but because it it usually packed with joggers, walkers and dogs both on and off the lead. That isn’t the case at 7:00am however and I was soon nipping out of Turks Lane and onto Sandbanks Road through Lilliput.

Unless the weather is particularly wild, you never notice the wind direction when you drive. On a bike you are affected far more by the meteorological conditions, so by the time I came down the far side of Evening Hill, I was aware that my journey time was not going to be wind assisted.

You could count the number of people on the prom on the fingers of one hand, so progress was not going to be impaired dodging the pedestrians, but the flags were confirming my initial thoughts. It was going to be a long ride to Christchurch, 11.2km to be precise, into the teeth of a 30khp head wind, with no hope of respite at any point along the shore line.

Of course I am over-dramatising the situation, I had an hour and a half to complete the journey, and a little breeze wasn’t going to stop me getting to work. And it didn’t, but it did make the challenge that little bit more difficult.

Between Alum Chine and Bournemouth Pier, I rode with a chap on a vintage Bianchi road bike. As you might expect, we talked about our bikes, as all cyclists do, and discussed the conditions. We agreed that, as Sod’s law comes into play at times like this, the breeze would be coming from the West for the evening ride home. At the Pier, we bade each other farewell and he headed off towards Lansdowne, I continued on along the seafront.

The prom gets narrower as you approach Southbourne, and the wind seemed to be funnelled along the cliff face, making progress yet more challenging. So by the time I reached the up-ramp, just after a deserted Bistro On The Beach, I had had my fill of having my legs whipped by the wind blown sand.

In comparison, the journey through Christchurch, up Stony Lane, through Burton and Sopley, following the Hampshire Avon through Avon, and on to Ringwood was a breeze (no pun intended).

I arrived at work in plenty of time, though the journey had taken rather longer than usual. And you can bet your shirt on the fact that the wind direction will have changed by the time I set off for home.

It’ll Be All Wight On The Night

IOW Day Trip - Click for detailsFollowing further success and another personal best distance on Saturday, my cycling ambitions are ramping up in line with the increased confidence. So I started to plan a 200km day trip to The Isle of Wight.

Starting off in sunny Poole, the first leg of this odyssey will take me (or us, if I can find another victim) east along the coast to Lymington in order to take the ferry over to Yarmouth.

Although I have lived within spitting distance of the Isle, metaphorically, for well over four years, I have never set foot upon it, so I am looking forward to the experience. Although it is part of the UK, I hear that there is a time difference between the island and the mainland, some say as much as 50 years !!!

The cycling tour of the island is quite well documented, being an annual event around September, October time. Rather than bore you all witless with the itinery, here is a link to the map given out during the official event.

Now although I have been joshing with some of my cycling buddies on Facebook, this really is a personal quest. Whether I finish the challenge alone, or in a peloton of 100s, the satisfaction will be the same. As with all the challenges we face in life, whether self imposed or just part of living, conquering them brings about its own reward.

Now all I need is to recruit a willing volunteer to drive the support vehicle, whose sole task is follow at a respectful distance, picking up the bits of broken ego as the miles take their toll on my poor old body. A full report will follow.

Wonderful Nature

New Forest Pony and FoalThe weather finally relented today, and the grand tour was on once again. I set off towards Christchurch about 7:00 this morning and although there was a chill in the air, the fluffy white clouds were few and far between in a beautiful blue sky.

The trip up to Ringwood is very familiar, from all the times I’ve ridden the route to work. There was quite a lot of standing water on the roads, but the traffic was light so it was easy to ride around the puddles left by the rain of the last couple of days.

Just before reaching Ringwood town centre, I took the right turn for Crow and headed off towards Burley. The back roads in The Forest are wonderful. Narrow, winding, lined with ancient woodland, and round every corner, the possibility of seeing some of the ponies that roam the woods.

As Spring comes to an end, the mares are busy looking after their foals. They are wonderful little works of nature, perfectly formed with legs that seem to be being steered by committee. Their mothers all seemed to be set on getting their fill of the fresh grass, but the foals had better things to do prancing around like nutcases.

The ride went rather well, though the increasing breeze did make it a bit tough towards the end. Still a little determination coupled with a bag of Nákd Cocoa Delights got me over the finish line. My legs are reminding me that I’ve ridden further today than ever before, but I’m sure they’ll be fine in the morning.

A Slight Postponement

Bad WeatherI have been planning to complete the Strava Gran Fondo 5 challenge so I had booked today off from work, planned my route, a trip of just over 200km, taking in all the best bits of The New Forest. I had all the nutrition organised, my bike had been serviced and was ready to go … then the weather changed.

It’s been a really miserable day, wet, very wet and really windy, not the kind of conditions you want for a serious ride. So I have had to postpone to trip until a more clement day. But let’s think about this in a wider context.

In the UK, this weekend is the Spring Bank holiday. Children are on holiday, all manner of events have been planned and organised for months, just for this weekend. So many events, the Bournemouth Wheels festival, the Bournemouth Rugby Sevens, even the Sky Nightglow Ride on Monday evening, rely to a degree on the weather.

I really hope that the weather improves over the next few days. Partly because I would really like to complete the challenge Strava have set, but mainly because of all the hard work and effort that have gone into the events of this weekend.

No matter how events, such as the weather, affect your plans in life, always take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Doing so can really put things into perspective and help you see how things really are.

Breaking Down The Challenge

Old Harry Rocks From The South West Coastal PathThe alarm went off at 7:00am, the same as it would on any Monday morning, but this morning was all about making the most of the Bank holiday. My challenge was to complete my Purbecks Figure O’ Eight ride, a round trip of close to 70km, before the roads filled up with visitors and holidaymakers.

Ok, so it’s no Tour de France stage, but neither is it a trip to the corner shop either. Rather than looking at the ride as a whole, I set myself a series of small challenges, getting to the ferry, rounding the corner at Old Harry Rocks, reaching Swanage etc.

Breaking a task into little steps makes it more achievable and cycling is no different. When the going gets tough the tasks get shorter, the climb up Creech Hill for example, gets broken into the individual slopes that make up the whole hill. The 20% incline is only about 15 to 20 metres, but it’s a challenge all of its own.

Similarly, in Nichiren Buddhism, attaining enlightenment is not about embarking on some inconceivably long journey to become a resplendent, godlike Buddha, it is about accomplishing a transformation in the depths of one’s being.

In other words, it is not a matter of practicing in order to scale the highest summit of enlightenment at some point in the distant future. Rather it is a constant, moment to moment, inner struggle between revealing our innate Dharma nature or allowing ourselves to be ruled by our fundamental darkness and delusion.

Take The Opportunities

RaindropsI was really looking forward to getting out on the bike again today, the weatherman had been promising sunshine over the whole holiday.

So you can imagine my disappointment when the weather caused a rethink.

High winds and heavy rain are never the best for a trip out over some of the highest points around here, but there’s always tomorrow.

Every day we have highs and lows, wins and losses, good things happen, bad things happen, every single day.

Problems are an everyday reality, they are part of life and ignoring them will never make them go away.

So focus on what’s good, what’s going right, enjoy that brief spell of sunshine on an otherwise rainy day. Smile, laugh when you can, and always focus on the positives. Make the most of every minute, you will never have the opportunity to use that minute again, so don’t waste it.

Make causes today, to make tomorrow better and never give in to the inevitable resistance that you feel when you are nearing your goal.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, never fear the truth, use the Wisdom, Courage and Compassion, we all possess, to help others to be positive, it will increase your own life-energy as you encourage them to increase theirs.

On The Up And Up

The view from Rollington Hill - Click to viewWhat a perfect day it’s been for cycling around The Purbecks. Beautiful cloudless skies, gorgeous sunshine and a welcome cooling breeze, who could ask for more?Usually I tend to stick to the lanes and back roads, but not today.

Today was mainly off road and if we weren’t going downhill, we were climbing, Dorset is anything but flat. My accomplices on this picturesque mission were Mike and BJ, two fellow vegans and Mike’s mate, Mike, all keen cyclists.

Now the highest point on our route was the best part of 200 meters above sea level, 200 metres above the Sandbanks chain ferry where we all met up at 8:30. By 9:00 we hadn’t even covered the first mile of our quest, delayed by the first of four punctures we were to suffer en-rout.

As is the nature of things, the best views are situated at the summit of hills or mountains. To enjoy those views, one has to climb to the summit and our case, that meant cycling up some really interesting little inclines.

Anything that requires effort also requires determination in order to achieve it. Some of the paths we followed today were an excellent test of anyone’s determination. They had sneaky habit of disguising the apparent summit around a corner, and rounding the corner one was all too often confronted by a further climb.

The trick I employ, in such circumstances, is to focus on the next few metres ahead. Looking up at the remaining climb only serves two purposes, the first is to dishearten me, by revealing the extent of the effort remaining, the second is to distract me from the finer details of the path immediately ahead, important when it is strewn with loose rocks and gravel.

In fact, it’s very much like achieving anything in life. Your efforts require a determination in order to bear fruit, you have to be focussed on the next element of your goal rather than be distracted by the enormity of your task. With determination you can achieve anything, you just need to take it one step, or in the case of today, one pedal stroke at a time.

Get Out And Stay Young !!!

Nice Cycling PosterAs I pootle around on my bike, it’s easy to forget that I am in my late fifties.

I don’t feel any older than I did forty years ago, in fact, my stamina and fitness is far better now than it was then.

I admit that I have been fortunate enough to avoid serious illness, but maybe my diet and all this exercise has helped me stay well.

Daisaku Ikeda, in his daily encouragement, sees things slightly differently, but the principles are very much the same …

In the twinkling of an eye we grow old. Our physical strength wanes and we begin to suffer various aches and pains.

We practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism so that instead of sinking into feelings of sadness, loneliness and regret, we can greet old age with an inner richness and maturity as round and complete as a ripe, golden fruit of autumn.

Faith exists so that we can welcome, smiling and without regrets, an old age that is like a breath-taking sunset whose dazzling rays colour heaven and earth in majestic hues.

So if, like a few of my friends, you are thinking ‘I should really be doing more to stay fit, to look after this ageing body, but I just don’t have time … maybe tomorrow’ don’t put it off another day. It’s not all about Buddhist Practice, though I do sometimes chant, in time to my breathing, as I cycle my way to wherever.

Here in the South, we are enjoying a welcome warm, dry start to Spring, but it won’t last. The rain will be back before we know it, so get your bike out, get your running shoes on, get into those speedos (ok, maybe not), but whatever you decide to do, get out in the fresh air, stretch those legs, fill those lungs and make the causes for a longer, fitter, happier life.

SERIOUS NOTE: If you haven’t done any exercise for a while, maybe you should go and talk to your doctor before going nuts and doing some lasting damage. A little WCC goes a long way.

Beauty And Buddhahood

Hengistbury HeadI’ve been out cycling this weekend, surrounded by beautiful nature and in the soft spring sunshine, just wonderful.

All thoughts fade away, as you lose yourself in the surroundings, so here is a snippet of wisdom from Nichiren Daishonin, about letting go of worldly desires…

Now, if you wish to attain Buddhahood, you have only to lower the banner of your arrogance, cast aside the staff of your anger, and devote yourself exclusively to the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. Worldly fame and profit are mere baubles of your present existence, and arrogance and prejudice are ties that will fetter you in a next one.

~ Nichiren Daishonin

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