Friday, 10 October 2014


Well back in March I walked out of one our companies many mandatory medicals somewhat deflated and facing a real possibility of being demoted(as such) from driving on the firms contract for hauling petrol tankers and other dangerous goods to "light" goods after getting an advisory about my weight.
Being only 5 foot nothing and touching 19 stone in weight my BMI was through the roof. It was a reality check for sure and was given a warning by the firm "shape up or go back to supermarket contracts" seems harsh? Not really, my firm takes our health very seriously, hauling petrol, explosives and various other very dangerous loads it would be negligent to allow an unfit driver behind the wheel, just wish other firms would follow this example. Every start and finish of shift we are breathalysed for alcohol and have to be below a very low level before starting, eyesight tested twice a year and two full medicals including blood screening every 6 months...
So I got a bike.
 The doctor reckon the 10 mile round trip to work and back married to a diet and the stopping of smoking would be enough...well 2 out of three wasn't to bad though I have cut down on the smoking...honest.
Cycling in Northampton for the most part is made easier by the vast network of cycle paths. A lot of which actually as a birder holds some little gems. Take the image below from the cycle path opposite Clifford Hill gravel pit. So until I started to venture out into more rural areas there was never a need to really go onto public roads.
I have to stress as both a cyclist and motorist I discovered something interesting in terms of the cyclist versus motorist debate to summarise WHAT A LOAD OF MEDIA HYPED BOLLOCKS maybe as a petrol headed lorry driver I am biased maybe as a lorry driver I know NOT to go up the left hand side of a vehicle and not to jump red lights, nope in the 8 months of cycling I only had two confrontations with other motorists 1: a police officer who pulled me over for cycling on a cycle path 2:a school mum who wanted me to move over as I didn't pay road tax I caught up with said lady at lights and explained since I have a van and two Golf Gti's I pay more Road tax then her and using her rationale I have the right to tell her to stop driving full stop as I pay more tax then her. In fact the only concern I had cycling were vehicles approaching from behind and getting past. Weirdly the best are "boy racers". You can hear them coming thanks to their exhaust systems and again if they can't get past they hang back and the moment a gap appears they're gone, the worse sadly are elderly drivers. Firstly most seem to drive hybrids which are lethally silent they also are too cautious and hesitant to overtake leaving them dithering inches behind you. Sadly on more than one occasion that is not an exaggeration.  Then when a straight or clear road appears they struggle to get past safely putting everyone at risk. I have a theory younger driver's are better as they too were cycling not too long ago so know how it feels to have a car either breathing down your neck or driving past to close.
The final thing in the
cycling/motorist debate is the worse offenders are other cyclists, fact. But it's a "type" of cyclist. Clad head to toe in garish lycra trying their best to shave a few tenths off their personal best times "to work" commute, which they record on mobile phone apps (yeah I have one too). If I was to get in my car and time my commute then race around trying to beat it I'd be arrested. A dangerous mix of competivness coupled with the adrenalin from the exercising leads to some pretty ugly arrogance and blatant rudeness. You add three like minded friends cycling and you get a bunch of well...cunts. Sorry but these cyclists are the ones who seem to get into confrontations with other road users. A lot if time from my saddle they bring it on themselves, cutting through red lights, not stopping at zebra/pedestrian crossing, listening to music through headphones and even making/taking phone calls. But I will pity you if you come across these Bradley Wiggin wannabes on a cycle path, good luck. That's THEIR turf I was cycling past three who refused to move into single file, hogging the path, wrong bloke this time lads I now have a name for it "cyclist bowling" straight through the group shoulders out and see how many you can knock over. The numbers of these I have had the misfortune to meet out numbers bad motorists.  So if you're thinking about cycling the worst person you'll come across will probably be a "die hard" lycra clad twat.
Use of the bike was supposed to be just for work and back but something odd happened, I actually started to enjoy it. In terms of birding I didn't think I would get much in terms of both birds and images but didn't do too bad. I found my own Ring Ouzel in the spring whilst walking along a public footpath and whilst using the cycle path that is the Lamport railway found my own Common Redstart in late summer both might have gone un-recorded and got a big bogey bird off "yet to get a decent image of" list.


 I also found/stumbled across a total of six new Little Owl sites. But definitely the best thing from cycling the last eight months was coming across new sites. Sometimes it might just be a horse paddock full of Swallows, a field with Skylarks and Yellowhammer or a meadow and occasionally a hedgerow teaming with life but the best was an old quarry. Only four miles as the crow flies from my house or five miles as "Doug cycles" a site I would never had gone to in a car. I really don't have to say to much about this site seeming as I have done plenty of blogging about it so to summarise: Sandmartin colony, plenty of birds of prey, meadow, wild flowers, bugs galore, mammals  and warblers. So just some images.





  But sometimes it's the encounters you stumble across which can be tricky to capture as by the time you removed you camera bag got the camera out the thing you wanted to photograph cleared off, just one of a few downsides of birding by bike. But a couple of times the wildlife didn't run off.
 And some even came to investigate
So after cycling a total of 913 miles (tracked and recorded on the app) in eight months and with the help of a diet and some visits to the gym I am down to a more healthy 12.5 stones. Still need to loose a little more doctor reckons about 11.5/12 stone is ideal. Now that was supposed to be the end of the cycling but I liked the money I saved, my fitness has improved, my girlfriend now goes "ooh" rather the "eeek" when I walk into the bedroom I have made a rule for the winter. 1: still cycle to work 2: any birding where it's less then 20 mile round trip I will still cycle. There is some practical issues with birding by bike for example my local nature reserve, Summer Leys I stopped going to for two reasons 1:if I walked around with my bike I would have numerous people whom I don't even recognise informing me "no cycling" I know I have only been going to Summer Leys for the last ten year's! Plus pushing a bike isn't cycling, yes I threatened one patronising idiot so opted to not go, the regular faces from Summer Leys never said a thing in fact most were encouraging (and took the piss , as you do) 2: given the fact most wildlife trusts promote a greener life there isn't anywhere safe for me to lock up my bike safely. I would like to see some reserves were possible  a secure spot to lock my bike. Summer Leys has a metal post but it's in the corner of the carpark out of sight where the dog walkers let there dogs piss. The other problem with cycling and birding is the obvious terrain leads to punctures, last week I had six in one wheel from recently trimmed hedges. The best solution and the one thing I recommend the most is these inner tubes called "slime, smart tube" which I discovered to many punctures too late that in the event of a puncture fills with a slime that hardens and allows you to just pump up and carrying on cycling as yet they work. Though I haven't got a puncture to really try, I will of course moan if they don't work.
Would I recommend trying to bird by bike, yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Try it at first it's hard going on the body but eventually I found even a smoker like me could go for some distance and lunatic cyclist aside enjoyed it. So the bike isn't retiring to the shed quite yet, no room now it's a hide lol.


  1. Congratulations are definitely in order.
    The quarry is a gem of a find.
    As for shedding all that weight that is an example to us all.

    1. Cheers Adrian to be fair it wasn't just the bike, 4 visits to the gym per week, no more free cappuccinos whilst doing deliveries but the worse has to be no more free triple chocolate Boston doughnuts :-(

  2. Looks as though all the hard work has paid off....we now have a greener, leaner and meaner (to lycra clad cyclists anyway!) Adonis of a man...well done Douglas.

    Not only has your new regime paid off in fitness but as you've been huffing, puffing and sweating along it's opened up lots of new wildlife habitats/locations to you, and some excellent photo opportunities.

    Seems like a win/win solution all round...well done mate and keep up the good work.

    Now, where's that triple decker cheeseburger I've been saving?...[;o)

    1. I wouldn't quote say adonis my girlfriend is passing herself at that one. But seriously lycra boys are a serious issue grumpy/selfish/arrogant/dangerous/stupid these need tackling as they're the ones who always end up in confrontation/dangerous situations.
      Mum, triple decker cheese burgers lovely :-)

  3. Well, I see that you posted this at 01.39 Douglas so you obviously wanted to get the cycling issue down in writing.

    So, apart from getting this weighty issue off your chest you have also clearly got a lot of weight off other areas ...... well done to you !

    1. Cheers John lol. After seeing many news reports and various programmes about cycling and the "dangers" I was initially scared to cycle but soon realised the vast majority of drivers were good and then started to notice these particular groups of cyclist and their behaviour. This in turn could put off a lot of people from cycling.

  4. What a splendid collection of wild animals, they are fantastic. Well done Douglas.

  5. An excellent post Doug, I do find it rather amusing when you go off in a ranting mood. Although I do have to say that I totally agree with your comments/observations about Lycra cyclists and old folk who drive over cautiously, you had me chuckling away!! Well done on the weight loss, your an inspiration to others (including me!) but be careful, I am told that as we fellows age we can become more cantankerous and start to moan about every thing and anything, how old are you??? Te he he, only pulling ya leg!!!!

    1. Crikey mate you made me drop my pipe and copy of the Daily Mail with that lol.
      The sad truth is the debate of cyclist/motorist is putting people off from cycling when in truth it's just a small minority from both sides with loud mouths making it bad for everyone...ooop's I'm off on one again, where's my ovaltine