1,2,3 and 417

I never could count. OK so I could a bit and got a flippin’ good solid A in my Maths O level (yes I am just about that age)…

Anyway….. Last Friday evening I went to the 417 Bike Park near Cheltenham just off the A417 – see what they did?  And well I loved it!

Me and a friend only did 5 runs (Red x2, Black x2 and Blue x1) but after that and a play on the very smallest of the dirt jumps we were ready for some food. Continue reading “1,2,3 and 417”

Bluebells and Bike Rides

West Woods BlueBells

A rare thing happened this weekend (well 2 weekends ago now – I’m getting a bit slack with this blog sorry). It was a British bank holiday weekend and we had three full days of decent weather. Luckily I had at least one of them put aside for a bike ride. And what a ride it was.

Calne MTB, our local group of riders, had decided to get up early for Afan. I haven’t been to Afan for ages and really wanted to go, but after a busy week of work I didn’t fancy a 7.30am start. Also the other riding option was more suitable “training” and preparation for my upcoming French trip.

Strava route profile

Tom Stickland (www.mbtom.co.uk – thanks for the photo of me below) of MB Swindon had planned an epic route on his home turf on the edge of the Cotswolds starting and ending in Nailsworth. The ride was described as being hilly, a long 50k+ and over a 1000m of climbing. This sort of ride was much needed by me and delivered a heck of a work out.

Altogether there were 18 of us and based on some recent rides I was confident that I would be in the slower bunch. The pace was pretty fast. With a lot of ground to cover and climbing to do there was no hanging about. As you can see from the graph plot above it was unforgiving. In total we covered 58km and climbed a little over 1200m. With a lunch stop, a brief pub stop and a few pauses waiting for the group to catchup we were out for around 7 hours.

There were some great descents – the switchbacks in the bluebells was both picturesque and a highlight of the day. Coupled with some fun fast sections, plenty of mud and the usual splattering of twisty single track this was a great day out and given the time in my schedule the sort of ride I would like to do every weekend.


And being a Bank Holiday in May in Wiltshire, its compulsory to go to the West Woods near Marlborough and photograph some bluebells….

Step by Step we Nailed the Ride

MB Swindon Nailsworth Ride 15th Sept 2013

After 6 hours of riding and around 1200m climbing (occasionally on foot) we finished what turned into an epic ride at around 4.30pm. We gathered back at the cars in the now pouring rain and agreed it had been a tough ride with something for everyone. The first few rides I went on with MB Swindon that weren’t at a trail centre, were typically cross country rides – start at 10am and finish maybe 4 hours later having pedaled and pushed and puffed and wheezed 30-40km around some mildly hilly part of Wiltshire or South Wales. This kind of ride can become a bit tedious in my opinion and its great to break up a long ride with fun obstacles to challenge and test your abilities or your nerve. This ride delivered in abundance.

MB Swindon Nailsworth Ride 15th Sept 2013

Tom lead us around 40km of woodland and Cotswold countryside linking up as many sets of steps, bomb holes and sketchy and slippery descents that he could cram in to keep us all firmly on our toes. Every mile or so there was an obstacle that many rode, some went around and most riders had a laugh at – usually at the expense of someone else!

I am sure that no-one will disagree that the ride yesterday around Nailsworth had a bit of a random feel to it. This didn’t make it any less enjoyable – but after seeing Tom Stickland’s GPX for his previous ride, we couldn’t help but feel the wrong turns were just so he could hit a 40k target for the ride!  Some poetic license is being used here of course as our diversions were only minor ones – apart from the larger ones where there appeared to be no particular path or trail. “we need to get to that wall over there” “the original way down will be impassable today”.  Being totally fair the diversions were mainly because we were having so much fun, usually going down a hill of some sort that we missed a gate or hidden path – and a lot of woodland looks very much like the next piece of woodland!

MB Swindon Nailsworth Ride 15th Sept 2013

The descents on this ride were great fun – we even pushed back up a few to ride them again, including one that looked like a stream bed but I think was just a drainage channel. We would normally steer clear of large slippery rocks and stones – but having just ridden down a long rocky descent the site of another section was too much to pass up.

It’s possible we rode down 7 or 8 sets of steps on this ride – I lost count. None were particularly dangerous as its just a matter of pointing the bike down and letting gravity and the suspension deal with the rest. Apart from the last set that only Tom, Graham and myself rode to (the rest of the group sensibly decided that they had had enough) – this set of greasy, wet wooden steps went around a corner and all three of us had a slippery moment trying to negotiate them. If this wasn’t enough Graham spotted a drop in to the same car park  – “that looks like it might be fun”.  The three of us pushed up the bank and had a look – it didn’t look like much fun from the top but we weren’t going to be beaten. Finding the line without catching a pedal was going to be tricky. After much discussion and a few false starts we all did it – the last obstacle of the day can go one way or another and after a hilariously out of control descent by Tom we decided that enough was enough – we had survived unscathed and it was time to head back.

MB Swindon Nailsworth Ride 15th Sept 2013

After such a great summer I had almost forgotten what it was like to slide sideways down a muddy bank, find that my brakes don’t work on wet grass, or twitch a little as my front wheel gives on a muddy corner; but I am glad that I dragged myself out for this ride. My first instinct on Sunday morning was to roll over and go back to sleep, but I realised if I bailed on a ride in September because it was a bit wet, what on earth was I going to do for the next 6 months!

The conditions weren’t actually that bad and the weather was kind to us until the very end of the ride where Mother Nature tried to give us some not so subtle hints to clear off home and have some a shower!

I was discussing with a friend on Saturday night different forms of exercise and how I could  probably work my body as much in a gym for an hour as I do committing most of a day to a mountain bike ride. I set out 3 years ago to get a bike and get fit – but getting fitter and burning calories has become a secondary benefit of this exercise.

Now I ride my bike for the scenery, fun, social and the memories.

Photos – mostly courtesy of Tom Stickland / MB Swindon – pictures of other people are available (here) but this is my blog :o)


MB Swindon Nailsworth Ride 15th Sept 2013

Birdlip Loop


Starting at the car park and view point at Birdlip, I set off on a 29k route that I had chosen yesterday in Tom Fenton’s 20 Classic Rides, Cotswolds Mountain Biking. Straight from the car park I made a diversion – the route in the book headed off along the road. I went straight for the Cotswold way and aimed for Whitcombe Wood.

There were many trails to follow but I stuck withe the obvious route and only deviated a little to do some drops and session a few little obstacles. This was a great start, though I soon realised that all the fun I was having going down would mean a climb at some point to get back up to the road.


Following the route in the book wasn’t difficult as there are directions and an OS map. However with a few junctions and trail choices to be made I found myself referring to the book more than I would have liked. This meant delays and me running out of the time I had set aside for this ride.

My plan was to do the 29k plus another 2 and take my Dirt Search total to 100k for the month. I have now fallen 11k short of the target as I only managed 20k of this ride. Still it was a sweet 20k!


The trails were dusty and dry, and although a tad overgrown in places it was great fun to tear along some new dirt. Stopping to check I was taking the right track from time to time was the only frustration.


With 20k ridden and 400m climbed this was a rewarding ride, all the more so as it was a new location and the sun was shining… I hit 40mph on a pretty steep road descent and I hope you will agree got some ok photos too.

Here’s the route for those that are interested. http://app.strava.com/activities/65943193


MB Swindon : Gary’s Great Descents

Rafe’s fish finger baguette looked nice, but I was more than satisfied with my cheese, tomato and red onion toastie and its accompanying salad at The New Inn, Waterley Bottom.

Washed down by a refreshingly cold pint my lunch was now sitting nicely in my belly, as was everyone’s, as we left Waterley Bottom (it’s not going to stop being funny) and headed up the steep climb to North Nibley for an amazing view and to look at the scary quarry drops. The climb was tough, as the legs had begun to stiffen while resting after the mornings portion of the ride.

The New Inn
The New Inn
What a morning it had been! Gary’s Great Descents had obviously started with a climb out of Uley to traverse about 10km of woods that line the edge of the Cotswolds south of Dursley. There were some minor ups and downs; one of the downs was 3 foot down, a badger hole – you cannot stand on fresh air as I discovered!  There is some great single track riding in these woods and I am sure we are all hoping Gary will lead us there again soon.

Some fun was had in Sculpture Woods as a few of the “crazy gang” rode down a steep bomb hole to get some kicks with hopefully some video to match from Jonathan Proudman, before we rode to take in the amazing views of South Wales and the River Severn at Drakestone Point.  From here we had some fun descending from Stinchcombe Hill into the trees for a steep ride that resulted in a few comedy moments and sketchy dismounts. If we could have got back up quick enough it was well worth another go, but we had lots more riding to do.

Gary Greatly Ascending
Gary Greatly Ascending

On to Millend Wood for some man-made obstacles in a trail cut by some locals in the hill side. Nice steep switchbacks and some jumps and drops to keep you on your toes. Great fun – this was turning out to be a fantastic route. Out from the trees we sped across the field  and made our way to the pub for lunch.

After the quarry at North Nibley (Phil Allum did the drops by the way) we rode yet more wooded trails in Westridge and followed a trail back into Waterley Bottom, past the pub and into Dursley for a short road section before heading towards Cam. At Cam Peak there was a minor challenge of who could climb the highest – it was minor as only 3 of us had a go while a dozen others watched on wondering what on earth we were doing that for!

One of the Great Descents
One of the Great Descents

The Fairfield Climb (so its called on Strava) takes you sharply upto Cam Long Down, through some woods and opening out to reveal the sun, blue sky and the last piece of climbing for the day. Gary really did a great job with this ride; this is a beautiful spot to finish on and everyone dug in and made an effort to pedal up as much of the final hill as possible. The euphoria of making it to the top, taking in the views and rejoicing in the knowledge that this was the last our legs would have to work today was only spoilt by taking a seat on a thistle! I wasn’t the only one to do this.

Everyone had a great day from what I could tell and for me personally this was an ideal ride for a number of reasons: I enjoy a pedal but I also enjoy a play about – the opportunity to have a go on some drops, ride some switchbacks and get some speed up on the descents was reward for the climbs. I also felt that my fitness since the Mudtrek trip in March had improved and a week riding and climbing in the Alps had better conditioned me for climbing.

The Final Climb Completed
The Final Climb Completed

Back at The Old Crown Inn in Uley, bikes were packed, muddy clothes were changed and a few rounds were bought at the bar as we drank a beer or two, and congratulated Gary on a great ride.

For more photos from the ride and details for joining the club go and visit www.mbswindon.co.uk or Join us at www.facebook.com/groups/mbswindon/.