Yes I have been on a British Cycling mountain leader course. Yes I am planning on leading and am “bound to say this” but just listen for a moment…
Have you ever wanted to ride somewhere new and I don’t mean a trail centre? Of course you have. Did you find somewhere and go ride it? What did you do?
You have a bunch of ways you can go about this and its not that hard really, is it?
So you saw some cool pictures on Instagram of something called Jacob’s Ladder. Where’s that? And the Google search begins. Peak District! That 3 hours away! Looks worth it though…
Next you search for cycling routes, the results that the world wide web presents you with are a little vague and everyone has different opinions on where you should ride – how am I going to decide? I can’t drive 3 hours and miss out “the best trail in the Peaks”!
I hadn’t been out for a few weeks due to family commitments, a cold and yes I had avoided the rubbish weather on maybe 1 or 2 occasions; but today I was going out and needed to get some miles in and much needed time in the saddle.
The UK weather certainly showed me that it can be unpredictable at this time of the year. I couldn’t decide to keep the rain gear and water proof gloves on or to pack it away and just wear the T shirt. I had it all other than snow.
I planned a loop that I had to commit to and short cuts weren’t really going to be an option. But I went prepared with a small packed lunch, snacks and my Alpkit Kraku stove and Mytimug. I had chosen a specific spot for my mid-ride brew, but my lacking fitness and some strong headwinds put me half an hour from where I wanted to stop.
But this little spot by the River Kennet worked out perfect.
In some form of preparation for my upcoming British Cycling course I used only a map and compass for navigation. Yes, you may spot a Garmin on my bike in the photos but this was purely to keep an eye on the time and to record my activity.
My original planned lunch spot above Alton Barnes was a tad windy, but at least by the time I arrived at the highest point in Wiltshire the sun came back out and I could admire the views.
I only did around 24 miles, but with 2000 ft of elevation gain (38km and 650m) it was a good test of my fitness after 3 weeks of no riding.
Spending 4-5 solitary hours in the outdoors gives you time to reflect and relax and I realised how much I enjoy this time by myself as much as I do with friends playing about in the woods.
Wiltshire has a lot to offer for good cross country routes and with plenty of time to think about it, I really feel a plan coming together…
Its pretty tough to test your own navigation skills in your own “back yard” but it doesn’t hurt to grab a compass and a local map and practice some navigation and compass bearing skills.
I try to use OS Explorer maps (the orange ones). They are at 1:25,000 scale, which basically means every 4 cm on the map equals 1 km. As the name suggests these are great maps for exploring the outdoors as they show such details as footpaths, rights of way, open access land and the vegetation on the land.