Last Weekend

Calne MTB

I briefly talked about our Calne MTB inaugural ride in a previous post but I thought I would record the ride for the sake of a blog post 🙂

We met at the Ivy Inn in Heddington and 10 of us set off promptly at 9.30am.  The benefit of being local riders, was that no one had t o unpack a bike from a car, test brakes, bounce forks, change clothes, put a coat on, brush their hair (maybe not that bit) etc – in other words there was no faffing about. All this had been done at home and the ride started smoothly.

We climbed out of the pub car park and up the Hampsley Road climb. Its a 100m elevation gain over 1 mile and is quite testing as it gradually gets steeper as you climb. I got a Personal Record on Strava that morning and was pretty pleased with the result – though I was gasping for breath at the top of the climb.  I really must use this hill to train for next Summer’s French trip to Bike Village again.

Hamplsey RoadFrom here we headed over to Roundway Hill and through the woods. This is a nice bit of singletrack and could have some of the best downhill in the area if it wasn’t a conservation wood! Then it was off to the “plantation” for some whoops in the woods – not as much fun in the wet and mud as it is in the summer.

Another short sharp climb up the side of Roundway Hill above the White Horse, finds us at the back of Roundway Down and on the firetrack along part of the Wessex Ridgeway, then crossing the road we them follow a rutted farm track. Its the kid of track where you have to take take as every 10 metres or so its becomes too deep for your pedals to do a full rotation or you come to a puddle of unknown depth and contents. The flints around this part of Wiltshire can cause all sorts of punctures so extra need to be taken and if speed permits, a manual or better a little bunny hop over is the best option.  Crossing over the Wansdyke and again picking up the Wessex Ridgeway we climb up to the Cherhill  / Lansdowne Monument and descend on to Cherhill Down.

By now we have done most of our climbing for the ride and while its only around 300m, the cold, mud and wet conditions make it feel a few hundred more.  The last 100m climb in particular is on slippery, muddy grassy tracks that require twice the effort of a hard packed surface.

Cherhill Monument and White Horse
Cherhill Monument and White Horse

We then follow the “old Bath road”, a 2km stretch of single track that runs parallel to the new Bath Road or A4. This is great fun in all weathers with some bombholes and ruts to navigate along the way to Knoll Down woods at Beckhampton.  From here its pretty plain sailing (or pedalling) past a small clay pigeon shoot – we always slow down to make sure they have seen us – and then we pick up the National Cycle Route that takes us through Yatesbury, into Cherhill village and the Divine Cafe.

Eveyone has ridden about 25km (with about 5-10km ride home for most) by now which isn’t too far but was a good measure of everyone. We had one guy that hadn’t been on a bike in 2 years so much further would have been a little unfair!

The Divine Cafe (Tel 01249 817348) serves up a great slice of cake or chocolate brownie and nice cup of tea for £3.50 and we sat and had a chat and plotted next weeks ride…

Some Strava stats for me on this ride:

  • 32km ridden
  • 390m climbed
  • 2 hours moving
  • 8 Strava Medals including 5 PR (personsal records)

So not a huge ride by any stretch but a good one with some good company.

I wore some Endura Overshoes for the first time on this ride. Read my feedback over on The Gear Factor.


A Tale of Two Weekends (Pt 2)

Sunday MTB RideAfter last Sunday’s rapid dumping of the bike in the shed to go and get dry and warm I was greeted with possibly the dirtiest bike I have ever seen this morning. Cleaning the bike moments before embarking on a muddy ride seems a little counter intuitive but believe me it was a state.

It was so disgusting that I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo to share with you. It was embarrassing to say the least. However, its amazing what a little motivation and Muc-off can do. Within 10 mins or so the bike was in an acceptable condition to be seen in public. The chain, cassette and dérailleur were looking reasonably clean and some wet lube meant they would soon be clicking and running smoothly.  A quick start, 8am out of bed and 9am on the bike, meant that initially pedalling was a struggle but I soon warmed up.

Meeting some local riders for a muddy 30km was the last thing on my mind when I opened my eyes at 7.59am, but I had agreed to meet up and didn’t want to let the other guys down.

There were only 3 of us and we soon set about making it up as we went along. Shall we do this bit? What about going over there? Have we got time for that? You know the sort of thing. This is the beauty of a local ride on familiar trails – its easy to freestyle a little and add and take away from your plan (or lack of) as you go along. Some of the slower riders weren’t present so instead of hanging about and pacing the ride we were able to do a little more than is usual.

The conditions were atrocious. Mud tyres can only give you so much and in this part of Wiltshire we have a lot of clay that becomes treacherous in the wet. We dug in and climbed and slid around the local country side with a few sketchy moments and one off.

My Storm Control tyres have suffered from some inappropriate use over the summer – I should have taken them off – and have finally had their day. This didn’t help with grip and mud shedding.  Though I found that even the most mud packed tyre, clogged gears and tired legs can still sprint up a hill when pursued by some rather interested cows.

Again I ended up with cold feet – not wet as I had the longer socks on. I put this down to the summer Specialized SPD shoes I have been wearing. They are of leather and mostly suede construction and just soak up the water, and in this weather cold water retained in shoes and socks doesn’t help.

We stopped for a tea and some chocolate brownies at The Divine Cafe in Cherhill and I decided that I will buy some over shoes rather than buying some new shoes just yet. As well as some new mud tyres.

Back at home I gave the bike a thorough clean and lube which made me feel good and the bike is ready for my next ride…

Must try harder

Bikes and NatureI didn’t need to look at my Strava account for the evidence, but I did and according to Strava I have ridden half as many km in October as I did in July. In fact since June when I started to record my rides I have slowly dropped and in the last 4 weeks I have averaged only 2 hrs 33m a week on a bike.

This time isn’t a precise reflection of how much time I have been out as its records moving time, for instance my ride on Saturday was an elapsed time of 03:04:27  and a moving time of 02:20:10. This account for breathers and in the case of Saturday some photo taking.  Anyway the main point is I need to increase my riding if I am to stay fit throughout the Autumn and Winter.

I know what has happened and it happens to so many of us. The Summer is dry and warm and the evenings are light – all the best conditions for riding. October was also a busy month for me around the home, my body threatened to catch cold on more than one occasions also  and even my weekend rides suffered.

During the summer months I was riding to work once a week and grabbing quick rides in the evenings after the kids had gone to bed. Now its not so appalling but I need to make an effort. The clocks go back and the regular rains start and suddenly riding is much more of an effort.

The  rides themselves aren’t that big a deal – OK you have to prepare a little more as clothing choice is more important, you need to make sure lights are charged, but the ride itself is still enjoyable.  The bit that I don’t like is the getting back home late and in the dark in the pouring rain wet and muddy. Putting the bike away and getting mucky clothes off and getting into the bath or shower is not as straightforward as it could be.

I got out on Saturday for my first ride of November and I need to keep this up. A 40k relatively easy ride with one big road climb got my legs spinning and I had some fun with my GoPro camera and a sort of mono-pod mount by a company called XShot. There’s a short fun video below which apparently I look really grumpy in! I wasn’t grumpy for the record – just not smiling at my own camera that’s all. Actually I was probably trying to look natural and the result was a sort of frown…

The ride was not a technical or particularly off road one and took in a long railway path, some regenerated canal tow path and a bit of road. A 3km climb out of the historic village of Lacock was tough especially as the rain came about half way up! I normally do this ride (or one very similar) in reverse – not sure I will do it this was round again. Though if you look at the ride profile the opposite way around the journey ends in a long steady 25km climb!

Lacock - Bowden Hill

Anyway, I need to beat the weather and the cold and just continue to get on with it. Next ride will be a Friday cross country commute, approx 20km to work and 20km back home.

And finally…

Today started off slow. It was raining so me and my son Taylor, got Battleships out. Thankfully all the pieces were present and the batteries worked! He beat me… It was good fun and was a change from the TV or the Xbox for a Sunday morning.

Next I progressed to buying a scooter on eBay, so I can have some fun with the kids and take Taylor to the skatepark this week. And because I am a big kid, and it will give us a chance to make a little video or two…

A spot of lunch followed a short 12k mountain bike ride. Nothing too strenuous as I was feeling tired and my legs felt stiff too. That said, according to Strava I still achieved two personal records, on climbs too!

On the agenda next in the packed day, was a trip to the cinema with my son again to see The Wolverine. Good action, daft story but great fun nonetheless.

And finally, this evening I got some photos off to Darren for the Dog Tag log and started writing my short bit for the local magazine Town Crier about – well mountain biking in the local area of course!

Now watching MTB Heroes on Extreme Sports channel, and wanting to go out and ride…

Completed my Search for Dirt

I set out today to complete my 250k target for the Strava Dirt Search challenge for July.

For many this may not have been difficult especially the roadies out there, but with 2 kids and a full time job, finding the time to ride twice a week and averaging 30k+ each ride was hard work.

This would not have been possible if I hadn’t made a point of riding to work each Friday this month. Each of those days was worth about 40k and today I did around 60k.

My ride home was the bulk of this and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I put the SPD pedals back on and that really helped the long up hills and to keep a rhythm the last 10k or so on the road.

I did find I was getting some pins and needles at times in the soles of my feet and my knees ache a little. The knees are just my body I believe but I will have to take a look at the pins and needles.

If anyone has a clue what that is, please comment below…