Muddy Ground has been getting some sneaky day time rides in.

Well having "taken one for the team" I seem to have a bit of free time on my hands. Most of it gets eaten up doing life stuff; painting bits in the house, worming the cat by hand, shopping, mooching about in town, chatting to retired people whether they want me to or not, that kind of stuff. But a bit of careful planning, DiY avoidance and letting the kids go hungry of a night means I've been able to get a few short spins in. By short I mean an hour or so in the middle of the day. Top of Reigate Hill and back kind of short. Not enough to get tired but enough to think of it as a ride. I've noticed a few things about this.

Being a slightly past middle aged man on a bike mid week is seen as odd. Normally on a Sunday people say hello and sometimes smile. Mid week they kind of look bemused at me. Single women seem to shy away, as if a lone male on a bike is a threat - which is understandable so I try and avoid them. But today I saw one such woman twice [once on the way out, and then on the way back later on] and the second time she looked really wary, literally stepping back, and she looked to be making for the pepper spray. It made me feel like a heel for some reason. Sorry lady for being out on my bike.

I'm guessing for the same reasons a couple of Police officers looked at me on top of Reigate Hill. You know the look; shall we pull him? I'm a slightly past middle aged man on a bike, what wrong can I do?

Then there's the sheer oddness of being out when I should be working or doing chores. This plays on my mind to such an extent that I ride a bit pants. There's a local drop I do; it's kind of sideways down a sheer bank and unnerves a lot of people. I do it without thinking, but then later on other less challenging drops frighten me witless. Same with fallen branches; I've been stopping to pick my bike up for a carry over where normally I'd ride them whilst chatting away. I find this fascinating, and just shows that a lot of what we can and can't do is just confidence. Knock it a little and you're away with the fairies.

But mainly it's just bloody brilliant being out and about. Hour to spare? At work you'd sit in a cafe or surf the Internet just wasting your life away, dribbling it away gradually before retirement and death. Now at home, hour to spare then go out for a ride. Jeans, trainers, bike and away I go. On reflection perhaps it's my attire that is sounding alarm bells ringing, but I've got grey hair, rheumy eyes and wrinkly skin. Really here's a man that should be in a DiY  shop buying brackets not trying to ride that 2cm fallen branch.

Of couse now that I'm a part time employee my bike has been miss-shifting, suggestive of transmission issues. Got home, got my trusty chain checker out; 1%. Bugger. That means new chain, rear cassette, jockey wheels and potentially a middle ring up front. Call it £100. I shouldn't moan really - that stuff has been on for over two years now, which is pretty good really. Ordered chain and jockey wheels off eBay, but my LBS changes the cassette for free provided you buy it from them so they can do that. I've gone for an XTR chain this time as it is almost £20 cheaper than the Yumeya one I got last time - I was such a tart I bought it to save weight, but I've just realised it only saved 30g over bloomin' XTR. That's probably a little less than a really, really good fart after a curry. One dog egg splatter is possibly 100g; I'll have to scrape some of AD next time he gets it all over his face and check weights. Well anyway, whatever, the old chain and jockey wheels are now in the bin. As may the Superstar flat pedals - bit of bearing play there. When it rains it pours in the world of mountain biking.

Oh and this morning I popped over to Esher to collect the Thule rack I'd bought off eBay recently. Now there's a great social leveller, eBay. Esher for those who don't know is in Surrey, one of the richest part's of the UK. To buy a modest house there costs upwards of a million, and you can easily spend ten times that and still be considered poor. Really, you would. I got a bit misdirected, and stopped outside a house that had twelve new Ferrari's in the drive. The guy I bought the rack off was retired and his third car - his weekend runabout if you like - was a new Aston Martin V12 Vantage. eBay is like that. Here's a guy with money yet he still sells his gash stuff onwards. I've met a few seriously rich people this way. Last year another rack, but from an investment banker who spent most of his time in New York. He was worth a bob or two. Prior to that I bought an old collection of bike magazines from a house that was quite literally in the middle of a park. Guy had a helicopter pad so I looked it all up; a certified £100m country estate yet here was I in my £300 car collecting £50 worth of tosh. So if you're sitting there, thinking you've made it with your £50 an hour consultancy, or even your £250k bonus, wondering what bit of XTR bling to buy for your 29er, boy are you wide of the mark.

[I've also bought stuff from some super dodgy places though. Best not go into that otherwise I'll not sleep tonight.]

On and top tip to the blogger spellchecker people; the word 'trying' does not have two g's!