Making the most of it

Icknield Way Trail
Icknield Way Trail

A week away from home working and staying on the Cambridgeshire-Essex border didn’t look like it was going to provide many mountain biking opportunities of an evening. Looking at the map around Saffron Walden there also appeared to be very little in the way of bridleways or trails. But I was not going to be deterred so I took my hard tail with the intention of doing some exploring.

The Slade - Saffron Walden
The Slade – Saffron Walden

Heading into Saffron Walden from my accommodation in Littlebury looked like it was going to be a simple road ride, but my trusty Garmin Edge helped me spot a little byway that proved to be a lot of fun. As I neared Saffron Walden (after only a mile or so) I found a dried up river bed (The Salde I think) that I followed right through the town – it was a bit of fun and had a few drops and hops to keep me on my toes.

Audley End Estate and Gardens
Audley End Estate and Gardens

The local landmark is the Audley End estate – it looks very nice but was of course closed to cyclists. My little explore was only around 14km but was certainly worth the time.

Large Snail at Coploe Hill Pit
Large Snail at Coploe Hill Pit

The following evening I pedaled up and over the M11 motorway, hoping to explore a wood I had spotted on the map.  It was very clearly marked as private so i decided against it and instead tried to follow something that was called the Icknield Way Trail.  As with may trails and bridleways at this time of the year they look very tempting a map but turn into a nettlefest when you actually find them.  I think I was stung more in about 100m of trail then I have ever been before and it took my poor legs a good 2 days to stop tingling.

The Icknield Way Trail looks actually very interesting and it goes from somewhere in Bedfordshire and all the way towards Thetford Forest. The 170 mile route looks very interesting but if the short section I rode is anything to go by, cover your legs!

The highlight of this little ride was certainly the snails at Coploe Hill Pit. It looked like a great spot for a ride (a disused chalk pit), but it was overrun with huge snails and a ride through would have certainly resulted in a few getting crunched so I headed back into the wind and a tiny bit of rain.

Italian Burger at the Queends Head Inn, Littlebury

I final explore on Wednesday evening was much more successful. I had found a walking route on the internet called Beechy Ride – sounded ideal – so decided to head south of Saffron Walden for an explore.  What I found was some fantastic singletrack and bridleway routes. Some 20km later I was back at the pub tucking into an enormous burger and a few pints of Stowford Press.

The route can be seen below on my Strava pages along with a couple of photos on Instagram.

Yesterday I visited Hadleigh Park – the site of the 2012 Olympics MTB route – but that’s worth a post of its own I think.



A little something every day

Thats Me That Is!

So I said I needed to do a little something every day in June and today I did a little run.

6.1km after work took me about 35 mins. Doesn’t too bad but something was a bit dodgy about the first km as it looks like I had the Strava app paused for most of it!

I wore a pair of North Face cross trainers that I have had for a while, they seemed like they should be perfect for the job. I was wrong. While they are comfy to wear they don’t have enough bounce for running.

To add to the pain I climbed 90m over the duration of the run too – I really need to find some flat areas to run!

Tomorrow its June

Bike Village
Bike Village

Yes, tomorrow is the 1st of June 2014. That means it less than 3 weeks before I go to Bike Village again. I’m excited, but this year I feel totally unprepared. A rotten Winter and Spring have simply meant that the amount of riding has been lower than it should be and my fitness is not great. So I need to make some tracks over the next few weeks to soften the blow of a week of alpine riding!

We intend to raise some money this year for the National Autistic Society as my friends son has autism so we want to raise awareness of this complex developmental disability. All money raised will be donated to the National Autistic Society. They are the leading UK charity for people with Autism, and their families. Click on the Just Giving Page link below for details:

Strava June
Strava June

We are going to attempt to climb the equivalent height of Everest during our week away and I’ve got to prepare for this. I need to do some form of exercise everyday – running, cycling, walking, digging the garden! Anything… I have joined a few Strava challenges to keep me motivated and this Thursday is Run 2 Work Day! What am I thinking?

A busy few weeks are ahead at work also, but I need to get fit. Watch this space and check my progress – if you are interested that is!

Before this there was an attempt at that…

ASICS trainers

I have mentioned previously that my mountain biking came about by accident a few years ago. Having done various forms of martial art over the years (tae kwon do and shotokan karate), it had been a while since I had done any proper exercise so I decided I would try running. Even the smartphone apps and music couldn’t keep me interested longer than about 3 weeks, so I gave up.

It was going to be some time before I was going to notice any improvement in fitness or ability and I gave up long before either. I don’t regret it as such as I bought a mountain bike and my life changed, but looking back now I wish I had stuck at it a bit longer.

Garmin Vivofit

Different forms of exercise can compliment and benefit each other and a friend of mine recommended I gave it another go to help with cardio fitness. So a few weeks ago I dusted off the trainers and went for a run.

2 miles and the next day my quads were aching! I hadn’t really stretched so I suppose I had it coming, was this a good idea? This time with Strava and some automatically generated goals (best 1km, best 5km etc) and a new found love of stats and of course a desire to get fit I stuck at it.

Gadgets help me and I really like my Garmin Vivofit and the Garmin Connect App. These along with Strava are helping me record my activities and encourage me to get off my back side.

Now only 3 weeks and a handful of runs later I am running 5km under 30mins and I have set my self an adventurous goal of running 10km by the end of the month – that’s only 10 days away!

I have a cold this weekend so I’m not doing anything to make it worse, but 10k by the end of April is a must. While it’s not a cycling goal it’s a fitness goal.

Planned and Executed

OS Map - Marlborough, Wiltshire
OS Map – Marlborough, Wiltshire

The second “official” Calne MTB (local rides for local people) was a bit longer than we anticipated. Somehow my plan to ride a little further than the week before raised a 30km ride to approx 50km. While we enjoyed it and all learnt a little in terms of routes and locations – it was a bigger ride than some were prepared for. I spent some time this week planning a ride that would take us out of Calne and beyond the usual trails to show the guys some new places. A trusty map helps to find possible places to ride and a scan of Strava will quickly confirm if people are riding those locations and if they are popular.

Windmill Hill
Windmill Hill

My intention was to take us out of Calne and take in a bit of the ridgeway the other side of Avebury. This we did, and its amazing how people just follow and enjoy whats in front of them until it becomes too much. After the first 20km (ascending 200m) through Compton Bassett, Windmill Hill and then out of Avebury, hitting that wall came just over halfway through the ride for some. While there had a been a few chances to descend (Windmill Hill to Avebury for instance) it has mostly been a constant pedal and gradual incline, so after a bit of single track in Totterdown Wood and the speedy pedal through the field of threatening black cows it was only natural that everyone wanted to let go a little and speed off!

This meant we missed the descent through Lushill I was aiming for and took a second shorter but equally fun drop down a Strava segment called “Church Singletrack”. This was only a sub 1 minute drop down a nice bit of single track and a leafy lane that brought us out by a church in Rockley, but it was loads of fun.

Totterdown Wood
Totterdown Wood, Rockley and Temple

What followed wasn’t much fun for those that weren’t keeping track of where we were. Its easy to enjoy going down hill but when you are 25km from home there’s still some climbing to come!

The long track from Rockley through Temple and back up to the Ridgeway was tough for a couple of the guys (4km and approx another 120m up). One stayed back to help motivate and the rest of us stopped within view at the top of the climb so they could see where the end was. A rest consuming some jelly babies and energy gels followed as we still had an hour or so to go.

Some web searching will join the words Temple and Rockley together and the word temple leads you to the Knights Templar soon enough and you will find that Rockley was actually a Preceptory of Knights Templar. I had to google that word – “a community of medieval Knights Templars”


Berwick Bassett Clump
Berwick Bassett Clump

A short section of the Ridgeway and across some fields presented us all with a bit of relief as we dropped back off the Ridgeway with home insight towards Winterbourne Monkton.  Now all that was left was a mostly flat pedal back to Cherhill and tea and cake at the Divine Cafe.

Some highlights from the ride for me:

  • A decent bit of singletrack right next to a boring bit of singletrack that I have been riding for the last two years. And by right next to I mean about 6 feet away!
  • A planned but never ridden track from Windmill Hill to Averbury proved to be a welcome alternative route to the stretch of tarmac I usually ride.
  • Totterdown Wood, while being only a short section looks like it will be lots of fun in the dry weather.
  • “Church Singletrack” down to Rockley was short and sweet and while it wasn’t my planned descent it was loads of fun.

I think this route has to be ridden again soon as a training run for the SPAM Winter Challenge.

Calne MTB Ride #2
Calne MTB Ride #2

I failed to take any photographs on this ride so please forgive the lazy phone pictures of my OS map!