stratobiker.com is 10 years old!!!

Blimey! stratobiker.com is 10 years old this weekend! Where did that go?

10 years ago I started this blog while recovering from a bike crash. Little did I know at the time the significant part that would come to play.

I’m gonna chew it over on a bike ride and get back to you later….

Yeah, so 10 years ago I was a hardworking IT contractor. I earned great money, but I hated it. In my spare time I raced my bike and played guitar.

When I crashed my bike it really shook me. I remember the surgeon telling me my shoulder would never be the same again…and he was right! 10 years down the line I can hardly raise my arm high enough to scratch my head. I cannot throw a stone, and I had to give up my dream of becoming a trapeze artist. It still hurts too. Not all the time, and my brain has learned to switch off to it, but from time to time. It get’s very sore after a couple of hours on the bike, but I manage it, usually by putting my hand on my leg and cycling my arm up and down. I’m not complaining, I can still ride my bike, and I can still play my guitar.

Yeah, so 10 years down the line, I live in France, where I’m semi retired. I still ride my bike a lot. I don’t function if I don’t get my exercise fix, and France is such a beautiful country to cycle in. I still play my guitar. I’m in “The Sugaree Band“, playing Rock, Blues, Funk, and anything else that takes our fancy. I started a Jazz club! It’s been going from strength to strength. In fact so many good things have come out of it it deserves a post of it’s own.

When that surgeon told me my shoulder would never be the same again I was gutted, and I didn’t realise the extent of the effect it would have on me. If he’d told me I would move to France and start a jazz club….well…who knows what’s around the next corner eh?

Here’s to the next 10 years. I wish you all well.




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Update on the Princess…

Mabes march 2013
It’s been just over a year since we adopted our little Princess Maya! AKA – ‘The Little Cowbag Princess’, or Mable, or Mabes!, and she’s come a long way. She’s a real character who’s eager to please…herself!!! 🙂 She’s a thief of sausages, and a murderer of chickens! But we loves her!!!

When we first got her she was great with other dogs, and still is, but terrible with people. She’d do this fear aggression thing where she’d bark at people with her hackles up looking really aggressive, but always staying just out of reach. It’s not easy finding volunteer strangers so Carla would set off on a walk with Mabes, I’d dress in disguise, and ambush them! We spent ages trying all sorts of things. We’d take her out for a long walk so that she wasn’t so fresh, then take her where there’d be lots of people. We give her treats for stying calm when someone came nearby. Slowly she’s made progress, and she’s got to the point now where for the most part strangers are OK.

She’s has a number of doggie friends….

Here’s Lulu! She came to stay for a week. They had a great time. Synchronised behaviours with a couple of days. Good and bad. It was such fun having Lulu staying we toyed with the idea of two dogs!!!
Lulu_n_Mabes

Here’s Anetta! He pops around every once in a while. He’s a Berger Suisse also, but he has long fur.
Anetta_n_Mabes

Here’s Gotham! When these two get togther they go completely crazy. It’s not safe to be in the garden with these two! Gotham came to stay for a weekend recently. What a white knuckle ride that was! We were all exhausted by Sunday night. But we’d had a lot of fun.
Gotham_n_Mabes

We took Mabes to her first MTB race yesterday. She was great. Lots of strangers coming up to her, and she was kewl. Plus for the first time, we saw her engage in play with someone she’d only just met. We were so pleased with her. We wanted a dog that we could take anywhere, and she’s getting there.




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Paul’s Mad Bike Ride!

Paul, the masked rider, on a mission!

Paul, the masked rider, on a mission to help others!

Here’s a post from a friend of mine. Showing the kind of gutsy determination we all love! Go Paul! ……

“Sometimes, you have to drag yourself out the door, leaving behind a nice warm house and foregoing the 2nd cup of tea that you so badly want but deep down you know that you have to put the miles in, today was one of those days.

As I left the house it was pouting with rain with big brooding dark clouds in all directions, I was already thinking about the lovely hot cup of coffee I was going to enjoy on my return followed by a steaming hot shower.

After about 5 miles into my ride and to my amazement, the sun made a brief appearance, it was still raining but my mood was lifted and my cadence I creased as a result, another 5 miles in and the dark brooding clouds had all but disappeared and the morning almost became perfect for cycling.

I was on one of my normal 25 mile loops around the North Downs but decided to take a detour and go along some bridle paths and tracks that I have never ventured along, the winter sun lighting up some of the tree clad valleys was truly stunning and my ride went from being a reluctant one to exhilarating.

The tracks and bridleways were truly muddy as a result of the melting snow but this just added to the ride, I was feeling strong and could have gone on for many more miles.

Today’s ride brought home the stunning beauty of the Kentish Downs, those of us who live here are extremely lucky and I am so glad that I dragged my sorry arse out the door.”

Paul is cycling from Cape Wrath to Dover for Demelza Hospice Care for Children. Demelza Hospice Care for Children cares for life limited children and their families, offering respite breaks, end of life care and bereavement support.

You can help Paul by sponsoring him here – www.justgiving.com/Paul-Hamley.

Thank you…

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Rupert Brooke. 1887 – 1915


Our little Princess

You know I really wanted to adopt an old boy. I searched and searched, made a few failed attempts, and then….I adopted a young girl. Princess Maya! a “Berger Blanc Suisse”, she’s 18 months old. Her owners had divorced and passed her on to a brother in law, but he already had two dogs, so he put her up for adoption.
Princess Maya - Berger Blanc Suisse
So, she’s great with other dogs, but apart from that she’s like a wild teenager! Albeit with a lovely kind nature. We’ve been getting lots of walks in, and lots of training. I want to get her to the point where I can take her anywhere with me. To me that’s one of the biggest good things about having a dog.



Happy New Year everyone!

Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2012 is a good one for you.

I wanted to give a general update on a number of fronts so….

On the dog front. We’re still missing Rex, but we have decided to try and find another rescue dog. We’ve been to see a couple, had a couple of false starts. Just waiting for the right dog to find us. C’mon boy, wherever you are.

On the biking front. Motivation and fitness has been at an all time low. I dunno why. But, just recently I’ve found myself enjoying my cycling a litttle more. I’m currently involved with the Rochcechouart Club’s ‘Ecole de VTT’ (school of mountain biking). Imagine that, an English bloke teaching French kids how to ride a mountainbike! They are great kids, and we have a good laugh. Some of them are damn fit to, and I have to try to keep up.

On the band front. I played in four different bands last year. Which means I learned four sets. It was hard work, and enough is enough! I’ve always played in other peoples bands, playing mostly what they want to play. So, I/we’ve started our own band called ‘Sugaree’. Watch out! More on this soon.

That’s about it for now. Ride on, rock on, and if you spot a GSD looking for a home, gis’ a shout! 🙂


Run Free Rex…

Rex not well – Last Sunday he just wasn’t his normal self. He struggled to get up, couldn’t settle, panting….. It got so bad that we called the vet. The vet said that his heart didn’t sound good, and gave him a shot of Prednisolone. We took him back for a blood test on Monday. The blood test showed nothing exceptional although the vet said that there were signs of inflammation.
Vet gave us Prednisolone tablets. One a day for ten days and told us to come back the following week if Rex didn’t improve. The next couple of days followed a similar pattern. Rex would really struggle in the morning, then as the day went on he’d get better. We even got a glimpse of the old Rex. But, mostly he wasn’t good.
I sat with him all day with Wednesday and Thursday and most of the night. By the middle of the Thursday afternoon I couldn’t watch him suffer any more. Very carefully, I took him back to the vet in the hope that he would be able to give Rex some relief……..
We had Benzapril for him. The plan was that the Benzapril will help his heart. We should have seen improvement in 3 to 4 days. But not guaranteed. We had two-weeks worth of drugs, and at the end of that time the plan was to reassess.
I ccouldn’t bear to see him suffering like he was. Completely exhausted yet unable to sleep. Struggling to get up, then just standing there not knowing what to do.
The vet reckons there’s no chance of him ever being back to normal. Having spent the last two days reading up on dog heart problems all the classic signs are there – shortness of breath, coughing, getting up suddenly for no reason….and his appetite gone. He used to feed like he’d never been fed in his life. Now he struggles to take toast with honey on – his favourite.

FAST FORWARD TO FRIDAY… 2nd December…
Rex continued to go down hill. By Friday morning I knew he couldn’t go on. He was in a terrible state. We took the tough descision to set Rex free.
At the vets…I held him in my arms and spoke softly to him until I was sure he was free.

Rex, aka – Fluffy’ead, The Fluffy One, Royal Rex, Sir Rex of Gorre, My Lovely Boy…. He was only with us for one short summer. We knew when we adopted him that he wouldn’t be around for long. He was well over 10 years old. But we didn’t think he leave us so soon. He was part of the family and we were looking forwards to our first Christmas with him. We miss him so much. He was a special dog and we were gifted to know him.

Run free Rex, run free……

We’ve adopted a dog – part 3 – Old dog, new tricks!


It’s been six months since Rex came to live with us, and apart from a few seconds of madness he hasn’t put a fang wrong! He’s really become part of the family now, and we loves him. It’s like he’s found his place, and he’s happy and relaxed in it. He’s such a good dog, and a pleasure to have around.

So, can you teach an old dog new tricks? Well before I answer with an emphatic yes I have to tell you that Rex is not an old dog. He might be 11, but he looks and acts much younger. I think he thinks he’s about 5!

Right, old dog new tricks, we’ve worked hard, and Rex has learned lots of new stuff, he’s still learning, and still improving. Rex is very bright and catches on quick, if he knows what you want he’ll do it.

Like many French dogs, especially big ones, they have the run of the garden, but never leave home unless it’s to the vets. For us though part of the pleasure of a dog is going for walks with it. When Rex came he didn’t have a lead. I started taking him for a walk every morning always at the same time, and always the same circuit. I’d do some training with him then after the walk I’d brush him. Brushing him was a good way for us to bond, and a good way for me to impose my will on him in a kind way.

Rex could already do sit, lie down, and give a paw, but that was about it. Now he walks well on the lead, is reliable off the lead, comes when called, and does a great sit and stay routine. All these are very important as you never know what you might meet, cattle, horses, runners, cyclists, other dogs.

Rex has come a long long way since those early days. He still has a way to go, but…. when we lost Big Jess, the best dog that ever walked the face of the earth, I kept her lead and chain as a sort of keepsake. I decided that I would use it with Rex, but only when he was good enough. I’ve been using it with him for well over a month now. That’s how good he is.

There’s more photos and a vid of Rex in action here.

We’ve adopted a dog – part 2 – Fangs go wrong!


Rex had been with us a week, settling into his new home really well, getting into a routine, when he bit Carla! I’d gone out for the evening to band practice with heavy rockers Virus, so Carla was on her own with Rex. It was about 9:30pm, so dark, she opened the patio door, Rex came over to her for attention, something went wrong and he bit her on the leg. Carla telephoned me, she was very upset, and very bitten. I rushed home, and took her down to the hospital. They cleaned her up, and gave her some antibiotics and a tetanus jab.

Various experts told us that we must take Rex to the vets and have him put down straight away. Carla said that he couldn’t stay. She was too frightened of him. I was given one month to find him a new home or it was a trip to the vet!

The next few days were awful. Up to then Rex had been perfect, not put a fang wrong. I continued to look after him, and he continued to make great progress. I asked him why he bit Carla. He couldn’t tell me.

I put Rex up for readoption on a couple of ex-pat forums. No takers. The days dragged by, and I have to admit, I was dragging my heels a little, as I’d bonded with the daft furry fecker and was down about seeing him go.

The month was almost up, Carla was almost healed, and Rex had worked his charm. Carla said that she couldn’t see him put down, and neither did she want to see him go to a life on the end of a chain as a scrapyard guard dog. He could stay until a proper home was found.

Meanwhile, Carla was keen to understand why Rex had bitten her. She trawled the internet looking for information on dog aggression. At the same time, we observed how Rex’s behaviour had changed since his arrival. We even took some video footage of Rex and sent it for analysis by a dog behaviour specialist. A penny began to roll.

Looking back on it, it was obvious why Rex had bitten. He’d been taken away from his home, and his people, his whole life had changed. He was stressed, fearful. Carla had been wanting to put some Frontline anti-tick treatment on Rex, she’d tried a couple of times to see how thick Rex’s fur was, he wasn’t keen. We think that on that night, Rex thought that Carla was going to do something to him and bit out of fear….got in first. Certainly it couldn’t have been aggression, if it had the bite would have been much worse, especially when you consider that Carla was stooped down facing him at the time.

Still nobody wanted him.