Archive for the ‘ Cycling ’ Category

Road to nowhere?

Last summer, work started on a cycle path between Camberley and Farnborough, which I believe forms part of “Blackwater Valley, Better Connectivity” scheme: BWV_20Better_20Connectvitiy_20Phase_201_20-_20Factbook_20v1

The previous winter, we had witnessed the completion of the “Orange Route” down the A331, with immense traffic disruption, creating an immaculate cycle path from an insanely busy roundabout to a supermarket and a dual carriageway. Great if you want to go shopping from Sandhurst, but not for much else. The “Blue Route” which this work looked like it was starting on makes great sense. There’s no other non-car friendly way between Camberley and Farnborough. Either the A331, with no pavement at all; the A325, with a tiny track on what’s not pavement and Hawley Meadow, which would be a beautiful walk, as long as it hasn’t rained.

Hawley Meadow, which the “Blue Route” traverses has a small track across it. I have cycled it a few times in summer. On a race bike it’s extremely bumpy and I can make about 10mph. Any time outside May – September it’s often covered in brackish “ponds” which I at least can’t get across on a mountain bike or on foot.

So, the sate of the “Blue Route” as it has been for the last 12 months:

The route starts well, Frimley only 2 miles through beautiful countryside, avoiding the horribly busy roads.

Lovely tarmacked surface, nice and wide. I’ll ignore the excavator tracks running across it, as surely it’s a tiny blip.

100m later, turning abit more strada bianchi. Still easily passable s long as you don’t have silly tyres.

100m later it’s turning more technical to go over a bridge.

Then, it’s gone. 1km of singletrack until the Frimley business park.

This is a real shame, because it’s only usable 4 months out of the year and I could really do without battling with cars on the 325 in the pouring rain. Also, the ride across Hawley Meadow, at least on anything other than a suspended MTB is so rough, that you can’t really appreciate the scenery. Once you get to the M3, the path at least has some gravel scattered on top of it, which smoothes it out and stops the water filled ruts. I kind of wish they’d spent their money on making something usable, rather than a pristine path that doesn’t go anywhere.

I have contacted the council several times about if and when any further work might take place, but I’ve never received a response.

 

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2017 Roundup

Mileage & trip counts:

2015 2016 2017
Miles Count Miles Count Miles Count
Sirrus 152.69 4 24.8 2
Linskey 3243.03 158 3793.61 161 2863 149
Khatmandu 40.08 4 23.43 2
Khatmandu – ice 101.61 6 17.12 1 113.53 7
Raptobike 2.86 1 19.24 1 58.04 2
Other 18.4 2
TOTAL 3540.27 173 3848.37 165 3082.8 162

Big drop off in the mileage this year. Partly because I was crippled for 3 months and partly because I had no big goal. You can see that in 2016, 3 rides account for about 800 miles! That tallies with doing a 600 and 400k on top of the usual commuting.

It’s an indication of my long distance cycling progress, that while this wasn’t really a big year for cycling, I “only” did rides to Bristol and Norwich.

Commuting speed, which still means nothing!

Plumstead – Holkham Raid via Strada Bianchi

An energetic morning ride to Holkham Hall.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2220889646

It started out fairly cold and I was glad for full length gloves. The first half of the ride was into a mild headwind, but I had chosen small roads, so I had alot of shelter.

As well as the visit to Holkham Hall, I had spotted some Norfolkian strada bianchi on Google streetview and thought it’d be interesting to give it a ride.

The strada bianchi was a little muddy and potholed, but easily passable. It would have been better in summer and could be tricky if there had been more rain. There was an interesting climb, where the gravel seemed really slippery and I was struggling for traction despite the hill being only 5% or so.

Holkham Hall was several miles of good quality traffic free roads with quite a few other cyclists and runners out and about.

The coast road back towards Sheringham was quite busy, but I had a lovely tailwind all the way. A highlight was blowing away two competent looking cyclist on fixies on a hill out of Moreston Quay.

The climb up from the coast was very satisfying, as was being able to see familiar landmarks from miles off in the more rolling country near Plumstead.

I’m tarting to enjoy 70km rides very much. They’re a good challenge, but missing out the final 30k of a 100 where I always end up getting bored!

Parting shot of the Wells – Walsingham miniature railway.

Audax 2017 – 300k – Aldershot to Norwich

After a trouble free summer of commuting, I felt fit enough for a longer ride. I’ve enjoyed every trip to Norwich, so I thought I’d do it again, but with a couple of modifications. One to make use of the cycle paths through Milton Keynes (which Dave and I enjoyed on the Skegness 600k) and the other to avoid a rubbish section between Huntingdon and St Ives by using another cycle path.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1958664328

Average moving speed was slightly down on the two previous efforts (2013 & 2014), but the total time was similar to within 10 minutes. I think this was down partly to using the cycle paths, but also the fact that I didn’t have a massive tailwind this time.

I have been working on making my Audax kit a little more lightweight. The main changes are: new, smaller TT bars; Brooks Cambium saddle without suspension seatpost and a saddlebag instead of rack and rack top bag.

I prefer the aesthetic of the new stuff:

Old

vs New

Anyway, the ride.

Howling foxes woke me up at 4am, so I decided just to get up, rather than wait for my alarm at 4:45. I was toying with the idea of setting out with shorts and short jersey, but it was pretty cold, so I the end I put a long sleeve top on as well and took full length gloves. I’m glad I did, because out in the countryside the temperature dropped down to 6 degrees! Thus the rather picturesque mist over the fields.

Aldershot was again surprisingly busy at 5:15, but I very quickly got out onto quiet roads and scenic towns. This is Henley on Thames.

I was starting to get tired approaching Milton Keynes and the Cambium was causing mild saddle sores. Taking the cycle paths was a nice break for the legs, but the paths were of variable quality, which didn’t help the sores or the speed. Here I stopped for my first food break in Willen Lakeside Park, where I managed to score an ice cream to supplement my sandwiches.

I decided to pack sandwiches for this ride because there were no McDonalds or Subways along the route. There was the potential of a fish & chip shop in Olney, but I quite like being able to stop in my own time.

The roads from Milton Keynes to Huntingdon quiet and rolling.

But again, I was getting tired and looking forward to the next cycle path section. This was very slow (though nicely surfaced) and involved walking, passing through the picturesque Houghton Mill.

I picked up a very tasty flapjack in the cafe.

After St Ives, I had thought to use the St Ives to Cambridge Busway cycle path. However, it added 10km to the ride and I was worried about time, so I plumped for the A-roads to Ely. In the end they were fairly quiet, wide and smooth, so I made good time without stress.

I was aiming for an early supper at a quiet spot between Ely and Thetford forest, deep in the fens.

After this, I got my head down and managed a solid session to Norwich, with only a short toilet stop. The road through Thetford forest and on to Watton, Hingham and Norwich is really excellent. The wind had definitely turned head on by this point, so this section was hard work, but I got in just as the sun was setting.

Of the new kit, the saddlebag worked as well as the rack top bag. It stayed more secure, but it seemed easier to jumble the contents. The new TT bars seemed just as comfortable while on them, but are narrow enough that I can get my hands on the top of the bars without twisting. The saddle was the only letdown. The saddle sores were only mild, but I was thinking about the saddle, which didn’t happen with the Swift.

The Swift causes me some discomfort in the buttocks when riding really hard (never happening on the 300k), which the Cambium doesn’t and the Cambium is very comfortable over commuting distances. So, I will work on the angle of the Cambium, and maybe even try the suspension seatpost with it.

Beautiful day to be on the road.

Aldershot – Bristol Cycle Paths

I’ve been wanting to explore long distance cycle paths a little more, rather than just focusing on going as fast as I can. I think it’s driven by cycle commuting for a while now and getting sick of traffic.

I put together a route from Aldershot to Bristol that took in cycle paths from Devizes onward: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1831840976.

The back roads to Devizes were all pretty quiet and there were some lovely views along the way.

I kept pushing on so that I could have lunch knowing the road section was finished. I felt like I was going really slowly, but the moving average of 16mph is a good 100k pace for me. This meant a late lunch at 2pm, but with a nice chance to relax by the canal and savour my sandwiches.

Unfortunately, this brute:

emerged from the reeds on the far side of the canal and started attacking me for my lunch. Fortunately, I got hold of a large stick with which to hold it off while I finished.

I know the Bristol – Bath cycle path well, but I wasn’t sure of the quality of the rest of the route, especially the canal tow paths. In the end they were pretty good, a little bumpy, but consistent and reasonably wide in most places. I’m pretty sure they would be passable with some rain, though some of the brick / slab sections could be treacherous.

I was able to keep my speed well above 10mph, apart from when I passed walkers (which there were alot of). This worked out well as I had been starting to get tired after the road section and the slower pace gave me a chance to recover before the smoother cycle paths.

The Bath Two Tunnels path was really interesting and worth a look. My only problem was that I was wearing sunglasses and didn’t notice that I’d somehow put my light onto full power until I saw a couple of people coming the other way with their hands over their eyes.

The Bristol Bath path was going to be a nice restful run-in, but being commuting time, I got into a race against someone coming up behind. Fortunately, a 5k time trial saw them off.

I arrived in Bristol with my legs feeling pretty fresh. My only ache was my calf muscle, which had cramped in bed in the morning!

Will definitely be doing this route again, though maybe picking another place for lunch!

Norfolk Recumbenting

Gentle ride in the country between Norwich, Dereham and Fakenham.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1764858558

Children Cycling Adventures

A recent family holiday to Devon meant we had easy access to the excellent Tarka Tail. For the first time, the kids were really into the cycling.

First we did a couple of full family rides where the 5 year old gave a good account of himself. I had had the genius idea of giving him the Garmin and he greatly enjoyed calling out the distance, which, being km, built nice and quickly. The plan was to go from Great Torrington to Bideford, however, he wanted to go on to make 10k, so that we’d have 20k total: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555934.

He also did an excellent grind back up the 3% “Tunnel Hill” with his mum. A great stoic expression.

The next day we took the path the other way to the excellent Yarde Orchard cafe. The path this way is much rougher with a big climb: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555949.

The little one was not impressed by the very slow building of the km, but he made it and the descent meant the return journey was less than half the time.

Having met some older kids at the holiday cottages, the big one fancied a crack at Torrington to Barnstable. I warned him it’d take a long time, but he was still game. The first 10k he went like the clappers, then the stopping started to creep in. We stopped for lunch past Instow. I was expecting that he’d want to turn back after lunch, but the sandwiches (and cookies) evidently revived him and we pressed on to Barnstable. We made it and I took the lead on the way back so that the boy could take my wheel. This meant far fewer stops and we completed the 45km in just under 5 hours: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555973.

Most importantly, he learned to eat ice creme like a true Audaxer:

The evidently gave him some energy, because we flew up the “Tunnel Hill” and he said “was that it?” at the top!