2021 in review

2020 was a bastard!

There’s no way of pretending it was anything else – so how did 2021 measure up?

Obviously, ’21 remained dominated by COVID, and as I’m writing this, upward of 146 000 people have died from COVID in the UK alone this year. Undoubtedly vaccine rollouts have massively reduced deaths, but as with everything, it’s a complicated issue that cannot be summarised in a few words. Sadly, the growing emergence of anti-vaxxers, and an orchestrated campaign to turn people against the NHS has been gathering momentum, proving that there will always be large numbers of gullible people who are ready and willing to be exploited by a few rich and powerful old men.

COVID has massively changed life, and I sincerely doubt it’ll ever go back to how it was before. In some ways, that’s sad, but in so many ways it’s very good. I completely understand that working from home is not ideal for everyone, and at least one work colleague is really struggling with that, but I love working from home. The biggest downside to me is dipping out on my cycle commute. See, when you cycle commute, it becomes simply what you do, mostly regardless of the weather. I remember cycle commuting in sleet, snow and very strong winds. You wake up in the morning, look out the window and sometimes accept you’ll be getting soaked, or have to battle the wind, or even alter your route, to stay on gritted roads and avoid black ice.

If you don’t have to cycle commute, and are planning on doing a “virtual commute” – effectively cycling a loop before work start – and you look out the window, at the cold, wet and windy weather, it becomes very easy to cancel the ride, and tell yourself “I’ll ride tomorrow”. Well, at least that’s what’s happening all too often in my case!

2021 was (to me) a far better year than 2020 in many other ways, too. Back in late December 2020, I decided to get more serious about my old blog, and it morphed into this site. You lot appear to like what I’ve done with it, as since the start of 2020, my site’s had over 72 000 page views, so averaging around 6 000 views per month. For an extremely niche site, I’m rather proud of that! 2020 also saw the introduction of SheCycles – a growing series of posts highlighting perfectly ordinary, yet completely amazing women, in their own words. Oh, and yes, there are more SheCycles posts coming, so keep checking back regularly!

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2019 and 2020 were two of the most difficult years in my life, and that would have been the case even if COVID never happened. so it’s a relief that 2021 has been so much better. On a personal level, I discovered that a whole bunch of strong skills I’ve had for many years, and which for a long time I thought had limited value outside of a military life, in reality is very useful, and valuable, especially in cycle touring and cycle camping terms. I created, tested and launched my Somerset Circle route guide in 2021, and I also started doing more adventures with others, starting with when my mate Dom and I cycled the Grand Union Canal, then with a group of us cycled the Kennet and Avon Canal, and finally when my mate Caspar and I cycled (most of) Devon Coast To Coast.

The most popular post for 2021, by a narrow margin, is the Crash Card one, followed very closely by the LEJOGLE Relay page, then close behind that is my Somerset Circle guide page. I’m genuinely glad the Crash Card post is that popular, as it means I gave you something of value. The fact that the LEJOGLE Relay is popular gives me hope that we will yet get enough riders together to set a new Guinness World Record, and cover even the rural parts of Scotland. The popularity of the Somerset Circle page tells me that you lot are very interested in the route, and rightly so, as it’s utterly gorgeous. It also tells me that I’m pretty useless as a salesman, when you compare the thousands of visits with the small handful of route guides I sold! 😂
In fourth place is the But I Need To Drive post, which is odd: it challenges you not to drive less, but to monitor your driving, then disclose your own statistics. I guess most of you who did that were too embarrassed by the results that emerged to feel brave enough to post yours as a comment?

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What does 2022 promise?

Speaking of adventures, I have many more planned, and my Travelling Ouballies rides are pretty much open invitation, so if you want to come along, you’d be welcome (Ts & Cs attached – read the linked post). Some of my plans are firm – click the LEJOGLE Relay link above, for example – while others, such as the Cheshire Ring, aren’t set in stone yet. I’m also hoping to do a combined C2C and Hadrian’s Way ride, which is around 350 miles. Add to that my soon-to-be launched guided wild-camping adventures, my wanting another go at the Grand Union Canal, plus a bunch of other adventures (including the Dunwich Dynamo) and 2022 is already starting to look rather busy! Having said that, of course all this depends on what happens with COVID.

One of my biggest challenges is figuring out why sites offering far less value than mine consistently rank better for certain search terms, especially when the search terms aren’t even directly related to what those sites offer. This is part of my strategy to get this site to rank higher in search engines, for a variety of search phrases. I have a lot to do for that to happen, but as the famous Chinese saying goes, even the longest journey starts with a single step.
I have other plans for this site, too: I will be adding a whole bunch more T-shirt designs (as soon as I find time to finish the many partly-done designs I have) and I will be adding several more GoCycle route guides. WillCycle is growing, and that’s thanks to you. I am eternally grateful to you. The dream is to eventually build it into a lifestyle business, but I have to be realistic and accept that will probably never happen. At this stage, income from this site covers web hosting, and a few minor bits, which is a long way from being a full-time occupation” Still, I deliver value here, and I give a whole lot of tips, knowledge and route guides away for free. You will notice that you don’t need an ad-blocker on my site – that’s because there are no ads (Captain Obvious rides again!). Not having ads is a conscious decision I made, knowing it would deprive me at least of some income. I did that for you, as I’m sure you’re as sick of ad-infested sites as I am.

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I will however ask a few favours in return:
1. Please will you tell others about my site, and what it offers?
2. If you can, please will you create links back to my site? I am trying to boost my search-engine rankings, and more inbound links will help a lot.
3. Please will you look at the T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and route guides I sell, and consider buying some?
4. If you feel like it, comment on my posts, and please feel free to ask for advice. Some things I know nothing about, and I’ll tell you if that’s the case, but with other things I might be able to offer good advice.
5. Tell me (via a comment on any post) of anything you’d like me to write about.
6. I’m an Instagram newbie, but trying to grow my followers there, so please will you consider giving me a follow?

In case you were curious, that’s my refillable journal in the pics. I usually take that along on adventures, to make notes for route guides, to write down ideas, or just to doodle in.

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