2024 Manifesto

2024 is hopefully going to be a year focused around settling into Harrogate. Previous years tend to end up themed;

The one where I become a Local

So this one is qute easy for me to quantify...I need to be able to go out on a ~2 hour bike ride (approximately 60km) and not have to worry about getting lost. To the right is a little animation of my riding heatmap in Reading (from about 2013 onwards) and my current rides I've done in Harrogate. I need to build up a knowledge of roads and rides, and start linking places together. For example, a good route from Otley, then a route from Ilkley to Otley. Riding with clubs I'll find suitable roads, but it's only by riding solo that I'll commit these to memory, and build up the mental encyclopaedia I need so that I don't get stranded in the Dales with a dead GPS one day. For training purposes, I need to find some hills of certain lengths (2 minutes, 5 minutes, 20 minutes), ideally within 30 minutes ride of the house.

We've quickly learnt that the weather here is a little more grippy than down south. We need to be better prepared and equipped. As a starter for me;

  • Get a proper winter bike
  • Get better and more appropriate winter clothing (fun fact - I don't have a waterproof coat!)
  • Get better dog walking boots/shoes (actually probably wellies...I've survived with walking shoes for years, but they do not make the grade here)

The winter bike should actually be done in the next fortnight, I'm just wating on a specific frame to be delivered, and then I hope to have it assembled in time for the Reliability Ride Series kicking off on the 15th January.

There is the area around getting to know Harrogate itself...it's one of the reasons we moved here, to have access to amazing countryside. On Christmas Eve we did a walking tour of the town, which was fascinating. Alongside that, we have a list of things to do;

Finally, we need to get out and about more in town. There are loads of little cafes and shops to explore, and again we need to get a mental map of the town centre built up (and for driving, there is a comedy one-way system we need to decipher!)

The House

I should be very clear that this is not a doer-upper...it's perfectly fine as it is, however we intend this to be our forever home, so we believe it's worth investing to get it just right. I'm not expecting all this to be done this year, however we need to make some decisions, and keep a level of momentum. In no particular order;

  • Extension - the house has planning permission for a large rear extension, however having been here for 2-3 months, we think it's not what we'd spend the money on. Currently we are thinking a smaller extension to move the kitchen backwards, and add in a mid-house utility room with a side-door. This would act as a "dog airlock" for the front and rear of the house, and allow us to modernise the kitchen, while also absorbing the current utility room into it to give more space. There is an option to extend the upper bathroom over this as well, as thats rather small right now.
  • Garage workshop - actually nearly done. It's a fairly small garage (2.5m x 5m). I've had full-fat power run out there (to support a future car charger), and had lights and power sockets added. There is currently a door-sized hole in the wall, and all things being well a side-access door will be fitted this week. I then want to fit a roller door at the front instead of the current up-and-over (more secure, take up less internal space). I've already put flooring down and added in loads of storage racking. Once the structure is complete, I'll add bike racking and a workstand, and that is then the cycling workshop/training zone sorted.
  • En-suite Refresh - Gill is keen to get this done sooner rather than later. Currently the en-suite is a little cold, and has a bath (with a shower over it). Probably a complete re-do, with better heating, a walk-in shower, and making it a more usable space. We tend to use the main bathroom instead (which is smaller, but has a walk-in shower, and is much warmer).
  • Radiators/Heating - the current radiators are low-efficiency (mostly) and could probably do with an upgrade to something more modern. We should also swap out the controls for something app-controlled (we don't actually know when the hot water comes on/off, as we have not figured out the control panel in the airing cupboard). Adding on thermostatic valves would also help. If we were sensible, we'd get a level of radiator that would support a future heat pump.
  • Solar Panels - this house is screaming out for them...we have a large south-facing sloped roof. If we sorted out the radiators and had a heat pump installed we could potentially bin off mains gas (which is currently only used for hot water and heating), and have a low-cost household.
  • Redecorating - most of the rooms could do with a bit of a facelift. The previous guy used wall anchors to mount all his pictures (I can only assume they were made from depleted uranium), so a lick of paint, and a bit of tidying up...as well as getting some more pictures up (we have more wall space now, so our current picure collection looks sparse).
  • Ongoing - as a 30 year old house, there is always going to be some maintainence required. We have big trees at the back, which shed leaves everywhere and block gutters (only last night I was jabbing a bamboo cane into a downpipe). We are strong believers in keeping on top of stuff, and it's better to fix quickly rather than let something get out of hand, or live with an annoyance.

5 Year Finance Plan

We are now on a 2-year tracker (fingers crossed the interest rates go down), and to some extent finances in the next 12-18 months may dictate what we do with the house (especially the potential extension). Ideally we'd like to bin the mortgage entirely in less than 5 years.

We have some savings remaining, and hopefully in mid 2024 I'll know the outcome of the legal case surrounding the car taking me out (I'm due a medical reassessment in May/June, and one that is complete the arguing can commence). Hopefully from ~April we can start overpaying the mortgage, and look to chip it down quickly. We'll also have a better idea of potential budget for an extension.

I'd also like to up my pension contributions. My "Retire at 55" plan is still on schedule right now (I was finalising the spreadsheet for 2023 last night), however any buffer I can add in will never hurt. I'm currently at 20% myself, and 16% company contribution. If I could nudge myself upto 40% total (24% personal contribution) that would be great.


Love the vid of the two maps. It's really striking. Did you cycle in a loop round fucking Stevenage and back to Reading? That's bloody miles away! Stevenage is just south of Henlow where I flew and that's 2 fucking hours drive around the M25 car park.

Your plans are all awesome; very impressive.

When you retire at 55, what will you do with yourself? While working for someone else is a ballache, it at least keeps the mind fresh. Will you sink into books and cycling or take up some other hobby-like-profession?

brainwipe's picture

Yes, in the rain. My longest day in the saddle, and a "sort of not a race" that I won.

I'm fortunate to have plenty of hobbies. I've seen too many people retire and just...well, die. Cycling is, and always has been, my long term health (physical and mental) plan. I already know of 2-3 weekday rides that happen around here.

- I'm quite tempted to get myself trained up as a cycle mechanic (Cytech 1 and 2). Training costs would be ~£2500, and then I could work part-time in a shop, or run as an independent out of the garage (I know a few people who do this...especially over spring/summer there is a big demand for fast repair to be done on bikes). There is a charity very similar to Reading Bike Kitchen here, and could volunteer there to build up experience.

- I've had a long-term vague sort of plan to run a mobile cafe...a cargo trike with a small water boiler, and a supply of cakes, and then do "touchline" coffee and cakes. Rock up to small local sporting events...especially where parents are watching kids, and sell them bad coffee and good cakes. These would segue quite nicely with the trained mechanic (plenty of small cycle events, and for stuff like a sportive, organisers would pay to have a mechanic with cake sitting by the roadside). Setup cost ~£4-5k for a custom e-cargo trike, and probably some sort of license from the council (actually easier here, as it's just North Yorkshire, rather than the 4-5 that converge near Reading).

- We are considering getting a beehive or two (we have some space at the bottom of the garden near the stream). RHS Harlow Carr run some courses that we are looking to join over summer this year.

- I have a degree in Biology...I could always take up gardening, I'm probably qualified!

So not worried about retiring and having nothing to do.

babychaos's picture

Well, 3 months down, and ~5 months in Harrogate. How's it going?

Become a Local

It's safe to say the weather has not been playing nicely. Pretty much since we moved it's been pretty damp. On the plus side the local reservoirs are full, but it's made outdoor riding and exploration challenging. With that said, I've improved the local heatmap considerably! I did a few club rides, struggled with the conditions, and prioritised building up a proper winter bike. I then successfully (well, mostly successfully) rode the first 7 local reliabiity rides, which got me onto a lot of local roads.

How are the local rides? Brutal.They have zero chill, and every ride is full gas. I just got back to a club ride after doing the reli-rides, and a trip to Spain (followed by the obligatory dose of plane-flu), and it was full blast for the entire distance. 100km (about 65 miles) was covered at an average of 38km/h (about 24mph)...and that includes a couple of miles stuck behind a tractor. They are used to riding in significantly larger groups than I'm used to (in Reading/the Chilterns you'd normally ride in a group of max 6-8, as that is really the limit of space you have, with the volume of traffic). Here we have much quieter roads, so groups of 20+ are fine...if a little disconcerting to get used to.

We did the first walk on the dales last weekend, a trip to Tingle Ings with the dogs, where we saw a long-distance running event pass through. Now the clocks have changed, and (hopefully) the weather relents a little we hope to get out there more often, as well as tick off some of the local paths.

What else have we been doing?

  • We did a Murder Mystery Afternoon at The Old Swan, a grand local hotel with a link to Agatha Christie. We won! Got the murderer, motive, means, and a bunch of other details...great fun, and we are doing another one in May.
  • We've done the Free Walking Tour, which is done for free by a chap who gives some great information and stories about the town...fascinating stuff!
  • For our birthdays we did both Bettys, and the Turkish Baths, both classic Harrogate tourist destinations...all jolly nice, and pleasant. Sitting in a 70'c room, then attempting to get into a 20'C plunge pool is definitely an experience.
  • For valentines day we went to the Ivy in Harrogate, which was both very posh...but actually pretty relaxed. I respect any "posh" place that offers Fish and Chips and Sheppards Pie.
  • We've done a couple of "Geek Movie Quiz's", held at Everyman Harrogate (we also saw Dune 2 there)...they have a massive bar, and it was filled for both quizzes. We are bloody awful, and these quizzes are nails hard. The most recent was "Lord of the Rings Films"...I've seen all of them 2-3 times (extended editions), so I thought we would be, at worst, mid-pack. Turns out that there are some serious hardcore geeks in the world, and in both quizzes we have come second-to-last. For comedy purposes they hand out the booby prize to second-to-last (to stop the lose-as-a-pisstake tactic), so we are inadvertently building up a collection of very bad DVD's. The next one is just generic Sci-Fi films, which (again), I think I should be OK at...should be...
  • I unfortunately missed Airecon, a massive 3-day boardgame convention...it clashed with my yearly training camp in Spain. Hopeful to make it next year.

The House

We are moved in, and mostly furnished. There are a couple of "to do" piles (mainly in the spare bedroom and the dogs room, mostly as we wait for better weather to have window open while we decorate.

  • The garage workshop is done. What was a shell is now whitewashed and floored internally, with a full-fat (100A) power supply (to support a future car charger), with an electric roller-door and side-door entry. Inside I have loads of shelving (more storage than the old garage, loft and upstairs cupbaords combined), as well as 6 bike storage, a workshop space, and my training zone. One thing to do is wall-mount a TV for training purposes, which has been waiting for warmer/dryr weather (it's hard to motivate to drill holes when it's -2'C and dark!)
  • The ensuite re-fit starts in a week. Gill has done all the footwork for that, engaging companies, picking items etc. It's a fairly full-fat re-fit, as they are going to strip back the walls to improve insulation, and then build it all up...scheduled to take 3 weeks in total, so the house will be a dive.
  • Extension/Other - this will be on hold until the money situation is sorted really...it's all high-cost long-term stuff.
  • Redecorating - the living room is done (almost, we did most of it this weekend, and just curtains to go tomorrow). We both plan to do our offices over summer, and the bedroom and sunroom/dining room will probably get done as well. The dogs room and spare bedroom will be done last, as they are reserve space.


This will depend on;
1) The mortgage rates, and if/when we jump to a fixed rate
2) The legal case. I'm expecting a shoulder assessment in June/July, and settlement will be dependent on that. I have been offered an early settlement payout, however I'm pretty sure it's a real low-ball, and we are in no realy hurry. There are no assurances, but there are well documented guidelines. I have 2 primary injuries;
a) Shoulder/humerus fracture (+frozen shoulder)
b) Tinnitus
The tinnitus has been fully assessed, and I'm now undergoing treatment. I have learnt a lot about what tinnitus is (and isn't) from various specialists, and methods of treatment. It's possible that long-term I will need hearing aids (long story), and will be having an assessment at a specialist clinic in Leeds in April around that.
There are then a number of secondary claims (scarring, stress, time out of life etc) as well as the Schedule of Loss (including subrogation of the bike and insured items) that will be taken into account.

The underlying plan is still on track, however, so zero worries in this regard.

babychaos's picture

So I'm writing this as I head down to Reading for a flying visit. Down this morning, a medical appointment this afternoon, and then back up tomorrow morning, after a brief catch-up over breakfast with my work colleagues. Thanks to Seatfrog I get to do this in First Class, which is nice. Waiting for my bacon butty and first (of many) cups of tea.

Become a Local

I'm definitely getting used to the very arbitrary nature of the weather. A few times it has been pleasant and sunny in Harrogate, and I've gone for a bike ride, only to hit rain and howling gales less than 5 miles west as I reach the Dales. I've not done as many long rides as I hoped (mainly weather, or not quite having the 5-6 hours time needed), but I have been doing the club time trials and chaingangs. These tend to use similar roads, and as a result I've now got some locations I don't need to use a Garmin to navigate. I've also had a couple of rides where the planned route was not feasible (road closures, mechanicals), and I've managed to get myself home without too much faff. Not always by the "best" cycling route (for example, I've done Ilkley to Harrogate via A road), however the busy rods here are nothing like the South, so it's been pretty easy.

I'm currently building up a new bike, a gravel bike (think halfway between a road bike and a hardtail mountain bike...no suspension, but chunky tyres, and a geometry to handle some offroad). This will let me see some of the non-tarmacced areas aroundabouts.he loca

Done a couple of local events . Knaresborough Bed Race (video on Facebook!) was pretty cool, basically a super-competitive version of the charity bed races you're used to, including a vriver crossing, and Otley Town Centre Races, which is a top-level bike race thats been on for years. Bumped into plenty of the local riders there, and it was a really good atmosphere.

We did another murder mystery. We did not win, and this was very dissapointing.

The House

We've had the en suite replaced, which had some complications and drama. A leak meant the downstairs toilet is currently missing a roof (due to be replaced in the next week or so), and the shower refused to work...which, after much trouble-shooting, turned out to be a broken cable. Finally, the drainage for the shower couldn't handle the flow, so had to be re-worked (handily, there was no ceiling below the shower after the leak, so the pipework was able to be sorted fairly quickly).

We are now focusing a bit on the garden...trying to get the lawn mainly green, nad sort out the various beds. We are on the verge of our first strawberry crop, if the local squirrel population doesn't get there first! We've also see a few hedgehogs bumbling around. We went on an introductory bee-keeping course out at Harlow Carr (RHS garden on the edge of town), and are now pretty certain we have a decent hive location, so are currently trying to get onto a BBKA (British Beekeepers Association) course that will guide us through the first year or two.

I've continued to work on converting the garage into a workshop. It now has pegboard panels for tools, and (as of yesterday) a non-shit workbench. I _think the next thing is either installing my aircon (requiring a wall vent) or boarding the ceiling to keep it a little less frigid in winter. I've ingratiated myself with the neighbours by fixing their ebikes (gear indexing issue, and they were trying to remove the handlebars to fit in the car). I''ve found myself listening to more audiobooks (partly as I now need glasses to read, and falling alseep with glasses on is a pain) in the garage while working and fettling. I've managed to work my way through the Stormlight Archives (another epic Fantasy series over...currently....about 200 hours of narration).


Still in a holding pattern. interest rates have not yet started to drop, and the legal case is ongoing, though the other side are making noises about settlement (they have made 2 offers so far). My trip is for a shoulder assessment (it's a year since my last general anaesthetic), and the outcome of that should start the endgame of settlement negoation. I would be amazed if we go to court, as they are already offering out-of-court settlement.

babychaos's picture