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”!
High on top of a mountain on the edge of the Black Mountains we all stood around checking map markings, measuring distances and trying to figure out what we would do if someone had an injury at this point.
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.
Its been more than 24 hours since I returned from my ride and my fingers still tingle from a horrible experience on my Sunday morning ride.
I’ve had cold hands before but never this cold and absolutely never since buying/wearing a set of SealSkinz winter cycling gloves. So what happened?
It was cold yesterday, there’s no doubt about that but I have been out in colder weather recently – my trip to North Wales was bitterly cold. Was the so called “wind chill factor” that bad yesterday? Or have my gloves “worn out”?
Best practice is to put warm hands into your gloves, as with a sleeping bag, warmth generated from within is the only way you will stay warm. I may have been a bit slack with some faffing about and did stop early on to check a meeting time on Facebook as I thought I was late. But I didn’t think my hands were out of the gloves long enough for any real cold to set it.
After about 30 mins of pedaling I started to feel a bit queezy – I thought I had pushed myself hard up our first climb and maybe exerted myself too much, but as we stopped for a breather I began to feel really ill. I opted to leave the gang and turn around and return home, a mostly road ride of around 5 miles.
By the time I got home I had stopped 3 times, started to feel faint and began to lose all feeling in my fingers. I could no longer feel the shifter or the brakes, making riding a very odd and slightly dangerous experience as I was grabbing brakes fully rather than feathering or modulating in anyway.
It took around an hour before I could touch anything and during that time I was in excruciating pain. If I had been silly and not worn my winter gloves I could understand but these gloves have been fantastic for 4 years and worked fine up until now. I should add the rest of me, including toes and torso were absolutely fine.
So this post has two purposes:
A reminder to make sure you wear sensible winter cycling clothing
And to ask “is it possible for my gloves to have stopped insulating my fingers?”
If you have any glove recommendations, similar stories or any thoughts on why my gloves simply didn’t work yesterday please comment below.