2022 – My Best Bits

I can’t complain. I’ve cycled the cobbles of Flanders, climbed the best mountains in the French Alps, ridden through sun-soaked crop fields in Dorset, mountain biked the Atlas Mountains and snorkelled in the Indian Ocean. It’s been quite a year. Add to that a thoroughly enjoyable visit to Valencia in Spain and Verona in Italy and you can see why the gratitude list is long. Oh, and did I mention that wonderful weekend at Clivedon for bank holiday?

With so much pent-up adventure in me after a pandemic forced hiatus, it was a year to exaggerate opportunity and to fill the normally work-filled diary with things for ME. Selfish? Of course, necessary? Probably not. But it did me the world of good and re-energised me for, well pretty much everything else that needs to be done in life.

Below are my top 10 events and activities.

No. 1 – Atlas Mountains

This was by far the most ‘out of my comfort zone’ cycling trip I have ever experienced as it presented me with the challenge of high altitude, steep climbs, gravel paths and a mountain bike. The opposite to what my normal Saturday road bike rides would test me with. Oh and did I mention the heat? An adventure I must repeat again at some point in my life and you can read about the whole adventure here: https://dadonabike.com/2022/08/28/cycling-the-atlas-mountains/

No. 2 – The French Alps

Telegraph, Galibier, Col du Glandon and Col du Madelaine are all climbs I can add to my growing list of mountains conquered on a road bike. There is something about the French Alps that combines so much of what makes the perfect cycling environment: blue skies, green fields, snow capped mountains and beautiful roads. Add to that the food, the architecture and the special group of people that I have shared many of these adventures with and you will see why this should be on the calendar for any amateur road cyclist. You can watch our post trip video highlights on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/aXOM9USGAmw

No. 3 – Tour of Flanders Visit – Cycling Belgium

Although a massive cycling event (and Belgium’s biggest sporting day) I didn’t really use my bike as much as I had hoped and I must say, I really didn’t have any regrets about that at the time. The weather was freezing! It was thought a great way to see Brussels and to enjoy a ride through the countryside over some traditional Belgian cobbles. With evenings of strong beer and plenty of fries and carbohydrates, it was a welcome start to the year and almost a mini holiday. Full details here: https://dadonabike.com/2022/08/27/tour-of-flanders/

No. 4 – Cycle Touring / Bike Packing In Dorset

Another diversion from the normal road cycling as I swapped the carbon for steel and loaded it up with a tent, cooking equipment and my sleeping stuff and headed off with four friends to Southern England for three nights. My only hope was that the weather would be kind – oh wow! It could not have been any sweeter. It’s hard to explain the enjoyment you can get from riding at 10 mph along a gravel track looking at the views, but if you have done it you will not need my words to do this. If you haven’t, don’t leave it too late.

No 5 – Mauritius

It’s taken me over thirty years of hard work to put myself in a position where I can even mention such a trip as this and the highlights from it could easily occupy a top 40 on its own. Where do I start? It’s one of those places that seems to combine a unique blend of beautiful friendly people, stunning beaches, great food and an adventure playground with wild exotic animals. Without doubt we will be back and hopefully this time we will not need to wait another 30 years.

No 6 – Summer Saturday Rides

Most Saturdays, around 8.00am a group of about six or seven of us meet at the normal place in our village and have the same discussion. Where are we going to go today? The route doesn’t really matter, the coffee stop does a little but the only thing that we really measure it by is that we are out on our bikes. I’m fortunate to live in the beautiful south west of England which brings with it picturesque historic villages and links them with windy, typically smooth country roads that divide the countryside that I’ve learned to love so much. My favourite time of the year is obviously summer: the sun on your arms, the rear pockets light of emergency clothing and the tans from the spring working its way into the light bronze that is my favourite summer cycling outfit.

No. 7 – Cooking Up A New Kitchen

After years of needing, wanting and thinking of a new kitchen we finally took the plunge and invested in an extension to the house that gave us the space to do what we desired. Every little detail was meticulously planned and I am relieved that the decisions we made came together to provide a space that literally puts a smile on my face when I walk into it. My favourite time of day is the morning, when I can walk into the room and hit the button that gets the espresso machine purring. I’m now looking forward to those early summer mornings when the sun beams through the windows to greet me.

No. 8 – Canyoning In The Beacon Beacons

I really wasn’t looking forward to this weekend. It had been planned for about 18 months and a week before I was sat at home testing positive for COVID. I have to admit, that if someone had told me it was cancelled, I honestly would have been relieved. I was nervous that I had signed up to do canyoning and for two reasons: 1) I had never done it before and 2) I didn’t have a clue what it was. I knew it involved water, but I didn’t realise it meant jumping into it from the top of a water fall. It was a freezing cold sunny day and my cheap wet suit just about held onto the body heat I could muster from the large Italian meal the night before. Within minutes we were submerged in freezing cold water, rolling over the top of a water fall and into black waters and white noise. From that point onwards the time flew by as we went from one challenge after another which culminated in jumping off a 5m water fall.

It was a fantastic few days that also included quad bike racing and a couple of really good nights out in the city of Swansea with the Chandlers Ford boys I have known for so long. So a lesson learned indeed; throw yourself into something by saying yes. You never know, you might just love it!

No. 9 – Summer Walks With Ruby

A highlight because I genuinely love my sunny walks with Ruby; whether it is early when the sun is rising, or later when the sky is red for a different reason. That moment when I unhook the lead from her collar and watch her tear off at 100 mph in any direction she can point her energy towards. It’s a real joy watching her play around in the fields chasing nothing but the moment and I’ve long stopped being self-conscious about the fact I smile and talk to her so frequently.

No. 10 – My New Specialized Tarmac Pro SL7

I always hope not to list material belongings on such a list but on this occasion (if you can excuse the kitchen) I couldn’t resist but mention the new bike I picked up in February. Not only is it a thing of beauty, but it rides like a dream in every situation I can dare to take it. It corners better than my courage allows and it climbs almost yelling at me to give it more power. The whirl of the carbon wheels is a sound that means so much to so few, but those few always appreciate it as much as I do. It’s my pride and joy and you can read more about it here: https://dadonabike.com/2022/09/02/specialized-tarmac-sl7-pro-what-it-is-really-like/

Thank you for reading this. I hope that you have had a great year and can report your own highlights; do feel free to let me know what they were!

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