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The 2014 season is going to have to wait. There's more important things than racing.

Every morning I disappear sometime between 7-7.30, I live 4 miles from work, I could feasibly leave at 8.45 and arrive on time but I want to get an hour or more on the bike before I get to the office.  On Saturdays I disappear for half the day... it's accepted.  My kids are used to seeing me dressed in my lycra, sloping off down the shed to get my bike.  Despite all this, they still ask: “Where's daddy going?”...  I don't want it to be the only thing they remember about early childhood. 

I like racing.  But this year I'm not (at the moment) planning on pinning on a number.  Last year I was going well early season, scored a point (whoop!), got ill, tried to power through, coughed up blood at a crit, had a long time off the bike during the best of the summer, got depressed about being off the bike, got depressed about losing form, never regained it, moped around a lot.  2013 didn't go well.

What's changed?

I like riding my bike.  Just riding... not unlike VecchioJo's recent blog.  Targeted sessions, structured training, specific work to improve weaknesses?  I've learned over the last few years that they're not my thing.  I'm not a big fan of the dreaded turbo either... I've always been doomed to fail.

Partly my avoidance of structure is down to not knowing how to improve the areas in which I am weak.  I've got mates that do the structured sessions; they're focussed; they investigate and plan well, it shows in their results.  They've got jobs, they've got kids, they've got commitments like I have; whatever they do to fit it all in is admirable (see my mate Owen's handy blog about such matters).

Then there's the time spent scouring the British Cycling website for races, entering, hoping you get a start, not planning anything for those weekends, declining social invitations just in case.  Then when you get a start, it's generally a whole day taken out of the weekend.  Daddy's disappeared again.

Excuses

I've been putting off writing this blog for a few months, mainly because it feels like a failure to admit that I'm not going to be racing.  There's been more than one thing that's contributed to this decision, but this is how I felt last year:

If I was getting enough time on the bike, I was feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the kids... If I felt I was spending some quality time with the kids, I was worrying about all the work that my friends/rival racers were putting in while I was building towers out of Lego.

It's not concrete that I won't race this year, if there's a feeling like I could do something useful in a race, then I'll consider it.  As it is, the Category 4 (and 3 / 4) events in Scotland are generally oversubscribed so someone who's really dedicated to it should get a start, not me.

Looking forward

Despite how this blog reads, I'm feeling pretty confident and happy about cycling this year.  It feels like a pressure has been lifted and I can do what I want without worrying about whether I'm riding enough or if I'm spending too much time with the kids.  Racing is something I will come back to when the children are older (who knows, it might be next year) and they're more interested in knocking about with their mates than their dad, but at the moment, they're the priority. 

Bloody hell... this must be how David Millar felt when announcing his retirement! (Now how do I make that read as a joke, without using a  3 smiley?)

For 2014, I will mostly be just enjoying riding my bike...

...and playing with Lego.

39 comments

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IngloriousLou [139 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't have the luxury of such a short commute, 4 days a week I get out around 0600 to get to the station and onward to London. My favourite comment recently from my 6 year old - 'Daddy, I like your bike onesie'.

Spending more time with the kids will be fun, and the roads are open after they've gone to bed so a decent light and you're set for evening training rides!

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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IngloriousLou wrote:

I don't have the luxury of such a short commute, 4 days a week I get out around 0600 to get to the station and onward to London. My favourite comment recently from my 6 year old - 'Daddy, I like your bike onesie'.

Spending more time with the kids will be fun, and the roads are open after they've gone to bed so a decent light and you're set for evening training rides!

I prefer to go out early, usually get out of the house at 6 one or two days a week in summer if I can and get a couple of hours riding before work.

Find it really hard to get evening rides done unless I leave straight from work. Evening chain gangs in summer are easy to slot in using this method.

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firmo123 [1 post] 2 years ago
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It's a tricky balance. But remember, there is that wonderful time when the roads are empty and the kids are still tucked up in their beds. You just need to set your alarm. Then when you return, they say 'Daddy, where have you been?'. I find that works much better for me. Good luck in 2014.

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plowsie [17 posts] 2 years ago
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I fully respect this post.

 41

I keep thinking about getting into racing, pushing myself to train hard enough to do it this year, I just think I am not ready fitness or ability wise. So it will be a year for me of getting faster and enjoying riding my bike on Sportives and leisurely.

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Martin Thomas [380 posts] 2 years ago
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Nice post. At the end of the day it's supposed to be fun isn't it? Bikes are toys for us MAMILs, despite all the crap we surround them with. Something tells me you'll have more fun on your bike this year than you did in 2013. I certainly hope so anyway.

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southseabythesea [148 posts] 2 years ago
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I also really appreciate the balance between kids and rides. I was unfortunate to split up with my partner a few years ago which was horrible not seeing my little girl everyday, but I filled the time with rides when not seeing her. A harsh silver lining.

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parksey [343 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not one for racing, but I do appreciate the sentiment of this post in terms of finding the balance between time on the bike and time with family.

Much like firmo123, I'm an advocate of the very early morning rides, as I can often get a couple of hours in before the wife and boy are out of bed, with the added bonus of little-to-no traffic about.

I commute to work as well, so can occasionally squeeze a lunchtime ride in or take the long way home, without then feeling guilty about neglecting the family!

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Ross K [17 posts] 2 years ago
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It's a tough one. My kids are 1 and 4, so I want to spend as much time with them as possible (as my wife wants me to too!).

My solution has been mentioned already which is more or less the only one available to me - a decent light (Exposure Toro in my case) and the rather underrated experience of night time training, all on rural backroads, after kids' bedtime.

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Trull [81 posts] 2 years ago
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At last a realistic rendition of a Dad who like me has to balance life's pressures against the bike.

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ciulabula [2 posts] 2 years ago
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Great post! Despite my wife give me a pass to go riding whenever I want, I leave some Saturdays or Sundays off the bike, however, just to spend some time with her and kids.
Therefore, I have some luxury, that I work part time only and I use to go for a ride, when kids are in school. Good 2 o 3 hours in the saddle.

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davebinks [149 posts] 2 years ago
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Whatever next ?

I suppose you'll be joining a cycling club and going on clubruns and stopping in cafes and chatting and just enjoying your cycling instead of head banging the whole way round your Strava segment.

Cycling doesn't have to be all about "Macho" stuff.

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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davebinks wrote:

Whatever next ?

I suppose you'll be joining a cycling club and going on clubruns and stopping in cafes and chatting and just enjoying your cycling instead of head banging the whole way round your Strava segment.

Cycling doesn't have to be all about "Macho" stuff.

So....

I'm in a club.
I go on club runs.
I stop at café's.
I chat.
I enjoy cycling.
I don't do Strava.
I'm not very macho.

Any more myths you need busting so that I can conform to your ideals?  29

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Chris James [388 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't know how old your kids are, but mine are 6 & 7, and it does get a bit better. If nothing else you can go our riding with them!

My eldest reckons he can trackstand better than me, and my youngest was racing 'cross in the Yorkshire Points and BSCA events when he was 5!

Actually, I know we are now on the wrong time of year but cyclocross is really family friendly, often only taking up a morning and you don't need lots of endurance from long trainng rides. Likewise club 10s in the summer.

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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Chris James wrote:

I don't know how old your kids are, but mine are 6 & 7, and it does get a bit better. If nothing else you can go our riding with them!

My eldest reckons he can trackstand better than me, and my youngest was racing 'cross in the Yorkshire Points and BSCA events when he was 5!

Actually, I know we are now on the wrong time of year but cyclocross is really family friendly, often only taking up a morning and you don't need lots of endurance from long trainng rides. Likewise club 10s in the summer.

That's good to hear, mine are 5 & 2, the bike trailer is my friend at the moment!

5yo is more into ballet at the moment, 2yo definitely needs a high-energy outlet - he's an animal!  1

CX is definitely a thought for the future, I know a few people in the club who race on the same day as their kids, and also get involved with the coaching side of things too. We've got a really popular junior club so I need to get the kids on the waiting list shortly!

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 2 years ago
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I have wondered whether my missus wants me to sacrifice more than other guys have to, so it's nice to hear of others juggling to manage their priorities. My 4 month old twins are hard work, so I'm currently lucky to squeeze 2 30mile rides into a week.

I enjoy club rides, but think even when they're a little older, I'm not that optimistic about being able to devote an entire Sunday morning to riding. Maybe the commute, the mid-week evening club ride and a few evening club 10s are where my future is. I'd be happy with that.

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

I have wondered whether my missus wants me to sacrifice more than other guys have to, so it's nice to hear of others juggling to manage their priorities. My 4 month old twins are hard work, so I'm currently lucky to squeeze 2 30mile rides into a week.

I enjoy club rides, but think even when they're a little older, I'm not that optimistic about being able to devote an entire Sunday morning to riding. Maybe the commute, the mid-week evening club ride and a few evening club 10s are where my future is. I'd be happy with that.

That's pretty much where I'm at too. Usually commutes 4 days per wk (25miles ish per day), one evening chaingang on a Tuesday (in summer) then one Saturday morning ride. Maybe totals 8hrs tops. The Saturday club ride is usually cut out a weekend or more per month, the commute is usually trimmed depending on work deadlines too.

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Konstantine [33 posts] 2 years ago
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There is nothing nicer than seeing your children following you at a sport of their choice and their liking (rather than being Mini-Mees, "...I never made it me lad.... but you will make it instead") and if they do choose cycling (assuming their tribe colours matches yours, i.e., them liking cross or track when you prefer Audax or road), then you could be looking forward to the green shoots of decades of shear pleasure of cycling with your kids and a bond beyond kinship and the perpetually open chequebook. Funnily enough, I got into cycling after my kids got into it, envying their Islabikes when all I had was a rusty mountain bike off eBay, and yesterday I did 17.6m with my 11y, whilst he was trying to teach me how to trackstand at every country crossroad, insisting that his MTB cleats trump my SPDs. My 13y old doesn't like riding. My 7y old is desperate to get into her cleats and do the rollers unaided.... Beats me beating myself with LSSE (low Strava Self Esteem).... I'd rather have that, than obsessive striving to convert my 16 mph average to 17mph.... But I was never good enough, let alone a racer.... And btw tennis is their primary sport.... So, for me, kids may well become my next "pass".... "We are off now darling, I got the lime for the G&Ts when we get back" (for our pre-Sunsay roast recovery grub....). Happy days....

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Argos74 [392 posts] 2 years ago
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Was in the LBS recently picking up some bits and bobs. Guy at the counter was getting his two year old son a small-person bike, because the kid kept trying to climb up onto dad's road bike.

Had had a crappy day at work, and this made my day.

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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Konstantine wrote:

There is nothing nicer than seeing your children following you at a sport of their choice and their liking (rather than being Mini-Mees, "...I never made it me lad.... but you will make it instead") and if they do choose cycling (assuming their tribe colours matches yours, i.e., them liking cross or track when you prefer Audax or road), then you could be looking forward to the green shoots of decades of shear pleasure of cycling with your kids and a bond beyond kinship and the perpetually open chequebook. Funnily enough, I got into cycling after my kids got into it, envying their Islabikes when all I had was a rusty mountain bike off eBay, and yesterday I did 17.6m with my 11y, whilst he was trying to teach me how to trackstand at every country crossroad, insisting that his MTB cleats trump my SPDs. My 13y old doesn't like riding. My 7y old is desperate to get into her cleats and do the rollers unaided.... Beats me beating myself with LSSE (low Strava Self Esteem).... I'd rather have that, than obsessive striving to convert my 16 mph average to 17mph.... But I was never good enough, let alone a racer.... And btw tennis is their primary sport.... So, for me, kids may well become my next "pass".... "We are off now darling, I got the lime for the G&Ts when we get back" (for our pre-Sunsay roast recovery grub....). Happy days....

Sounds great! Especially that they influenced you!

The idea of "encouraging" the kids so you can get out is one to remember too.  4

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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Argos74 wrote:

Was in the LBS recently picking up some bits and bobs. Guy at the counter was getting his two year old son a small-person bike, because the kid kept trying to climb up onto dad's road bike.

Had had a crappy day at work, and this made my day.

That was me 3 weeks ago...

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andyspaceman [244 posts] 2 years ago
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If I was getting enough time on the bike, I was feeling guilty about not spending enough time with the kids... If I felt I was spending some quality time with the kids, I was worrying about all the work that my friends/rival racers were putting in while I was building towers out of Lego.

I don't really race, but know exactly where you are coming from here. In September 2012 I rode across the Alps, and spent much of the preceding year training for that, with a string of big sportives as prep events beforehand - also putting in mileage on days before and after those.

From late Winter onwards I was putting in a 70 or 80 mile ride every weekend - religiously. My wife and children (6, 4 and 1 at the time) were very patient with me, but 50-60 miles into a ride, knowing I was going to be out for another hour or so, I would start to worry about whether the kids were behaving, feeling the guilt of leaving my wife to deal with it all. And missing my kids.

That kind-of carried on through early last year, but then my very-tolerant wife asked me to take a year out - no sportives, no trips, nothing I would need to train for. That year started the day after the RideLondon100, and is being affectionately referred to as my 'doping ban'.

I'm a stone heavier, have only been over 50 miles once or twice since last August, but it's not been quite the torture I feared it was going to be. I guess the recent weather keeping all my mates indoors too has given me some solidarity.

I've rediscovered my mountain bike, now maintaining a happy balance between fat and skinny. I've been riding with the kids more. And I've taken on a voluntary MTB secretary role with my club, as well as getting involved with the youth coaching - my eldest attending.

I'm looking forward to my doping ban ending, but don't think I'll be planning anything that requires quite the amount of training mileage for some time.

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Jimmy Ray Will [470 posts] 2 years ago
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So many things I'd like to say having read this.

On one level its great to know I'm not alone in the battle of guilt... Guilt that self generated, guilt that the missus generates in abundance...

On the other level its depressing to know that we are all in the same boat... and that actually, from that, the consensus must be that yes, we are extracting the urine from the family unit with our selfish activities. I'd always clung to the idea that I had a high maintenance missus, and if everyone else did it, then its OK.

I've seen some gents hang up the hoops, I've seen others put their foot down, whilst others have striven for a suitable compromise. The irony of it all, is that no matter what action these gents have taken, the ones that have ultimately separated from the other half have ended up happier, with more time for the bike, and curiously, with more dedicated time with their kids.

Spending more time with the kids is why I'm hanging up the safety pins at the end of this season, but at the same time, I am already feeling guilty that by stopping the sport, I won't be showing them the joy of sport, and the importance of dedication.

You honestly can't win... I think is my point, just do what feels right and fair. Have fun.

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SamShaw [265 posts] 2 years ago
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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I think is my point, just do what feels right and fair. Have fun.

Nail on the head. Although the kids will still see the joy of it and dedication - I'll still be out training in the mornings and riding with the club at weekends. Even at 2, my lad tells me he's exercising (whilst jumping off the back of the sofa  17 ).

My wife's not pressuring me on this, it's a decision that I made - obviously she's happy about there being less days away. I'm not one of those who would end up happier without their wife!

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 2 years ago
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Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

On the other level its depressing to know that we are all in the same boat... and that actually, from that, the consensus must be that yes, we are extracting the urine from the family unit with our selfish activities. I'd always clung to the idea that I had a high maintenance missus, and if everyone else did it, then its OK.

I've seen some gents hang up the hoops, I've seen others put their foot down, whilst others have striven for a suitable compromise. The irony of it all, is that no matter what action these gents have taken, the ones that have ultimately separated from the other half have ended up happier, with more time for the bike, and curiously, with more dedicated time with their kids.

Spending more time with the kids is why I'm hanging up the safety pins at the end of this season, but at the same time, I am already feeling guilty that by stopping the sport, I won't be showing them the joy of sport, and the importance of dedication.

You honestly can't win... I think is my point, just do what feels right and fair. Have fun.

I wouldn't be happier without my family, and I love seeing my babies every day. Twice a week or whatever would do me in.

Importantly though, I really don't think we are taking the pi$$ with our selfish hobby. Everyone needs a bit of personal space to clear their head. I've ALWAYS been very clear to my wife that exercise and training (in whatever sport) are in important part of my life, and while my missus isn't as keen on exercise, she is massively keen that the babies take after me rather than her when it comes to physical activity. Keep plugging away at the compromises.

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ragtimecyclist [158 posts] 2 years ago
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This is a lovely post. Pre-kids i remember wondering what all the fuss was about, and couldn't quite understand how those of my mates who'd become dads suddenly found it so hard to get out for a ride. Now, much as i enjoy 5 hours in the saddle, it does tend to feel like a waste of some good quality time with the kids.

As for the suggestion above about getting out for a ride before the kids get up in the morning, in my case that would involve heading out for a ride at about 3am!!!

(come on...a bit of sympathy for 3 years without a lie in!!  37 )

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Jimmy Ray Will [470 posts] 2 years ago
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I distinctly remember the shift from waking up on a Sunday morning and seeing a beautiful summers day and instead of a sensation of joy at the prospect of the bike ride ahead, you feel bad about not being able to share that time with the kids... in many ways I prefer going out in the cold now.

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graham_f [186 posts] 2 years ago
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Really great post. I don't race, but am in a similar situation with fitting rides (and running) in with family time. I can never seem to drag myself out of bed early enough at the weekends to get a proper early start for my ride though  7

When my wife went back to work after having our first (who's now 6) we decided to both reduce our hours at work and switch to 4 days. I stay home on a Monday and my wife's home on a Friday. That worked brilliantly and gave us both quality time with our daughter before she started school, and now our son (2.5yrs). When he starts school in a couple of years, I'm going to carry on with a 4 day week, and I'll have a day to myself every week when I can go out riding all day without it affecting anyone else  1

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brokenorange [36 posts] 2 years ago
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Ross K wrote:

It's a tough one. My kids are 1 and 4, so I want to spend as much time with them as possible (as my wife wants me to too!).

My solution has been mentioned already which is more or less the only one available to me - a decent light (Exposure Toro in my case) and the rather underrated experience of night time training, all on rural backroads, after kids' bedtime.

Here, here. There is something very special about night riding. I'm very lucky in that I'm surrounded by quiet rural back roads with very little light pollution. There is something mesmerising about cycling in that tiny bubble of light with total isolation from every other distraction. It's about you, the bike and the next few seconds; requiring total concentration. Maybe I just need better lights?

As a bonus in this total darkness a car can be seen coming from miles away so no (less) nasty surprises around the next bend. Just watch out for the rabbits!

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VeNT [53 posts] 2 years ago
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change your plan, start doing audax? why take one day away from the kids when you can do three!

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jgmacca [33 posts] 2 years ago
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I adopt the late night ride approach too, that way I get to do all the fun stuff like bath time, story time and bedtime. Then I don my lycra and head out for a couple of hours. I live in a fairly rural area so can see any cars from miles away, just have to keep a keen eye for foxes, badgers and bunnies.

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