Friday, 27 December 2013

Boxing Day Cycling

I'm getting to grips with Do It Yourself Audax rides. And with the niggles that seem to crop up. First I plot in Memory Map, then I do the Google Man walking distances. Then when I ride the route and pull the tracklog data off... the distances never tally & of course the elevations are never on mark (but that seems a universal issue & I'm too lazy to count contours).

Coal Clough windfarm, Long Causeway

Yesterday I decided to have a go at my second short hilly ride after thoroughly enjoying the first a couple of weeks ago.
Later this year I'd like to do some of the hilly 100 / 150k calendar rides, but I'm building up to that. That distance on a non-hilly ride is a piece of pie, but I'm a slow hill climber (I'm really an off road rider - so low gear & chill out going up), so I need to get my legs in gear for a faster pace. Doing short hilly rides seems a sensible option & there are no shortage of hills where I live.

Google Man had tallied the most direct routes at 53.5kms, but the tracklog was a mere 49.8. It probably wont count. Which will be the second duff DIY route I've done (the first was a gps problem when it lost signal).

In any case, it was a lovely Boxing Day ride. I probably should have rested with the cold I have, but I'd have hated missing out on a beautiful day.  The first six miles were hard as I warmed up, but the rest was lovely and the massive thumbs up from a German couple driving past me on a steep hairpin gave me an extra big smile as I continued climbing.

And of course, I got to cycle past where my Dad's ashes were scattered. He'd usually drag me over this way on very cold boxing days when I was growing up, so it's always nice to relive that tradition.

Widdop Reservoir

That road in the distance snaking past that tree- that's where I'm heading. Very deep valley just below with one of the toughest inclines I can think of... thankfully it's quite short.

Thursden Valley

I wont be making the Rapha Festive 500 this year. Right now, my nose is a tap and I'm living off vapour rub & I'm not a martyr to cycle in gale force winds either (well not on road anyway).
So time to spend a couple of days tucked up, vegging out & watching cartoons. Hopefully I'll be fine for the club ride on Sunday. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

ARGH Road redesign / narrowing / pinch point roll outs?

Over the last few months whilst commuting to & from work - some works were going on which I've discovered are pinch points where the pavement is now curved out into the road to reduce the width of the road presumably to make a shorter crossing distance for pedestrians (this particular stretch, although residential is 40mph). The road previously had a semi-decent painted cycle lane that was between parked cars & the flow of traffic (never ideal, but at least it was away from the door zone).  Now the road is narrow, these pedestrian areas are often hidden by parked cars - as are the posts with hi-viz strips for cars to see them. This is forcing cyclists into the flow of traffic when approaching these areas.

Since getting irritated at this happening on the ONLY road connecting my home town with where I work (other than the motorway), I have noticed that this seems to be happening on the majority of arterial roads within the region. I can only assume this is being rolled out as a standard road feature country wide.  The roads in question are usually A roads that are jammed with parked cars and now this additional road clutter which is making it much more stressful both cycling & actually when I drive - and I am both a confident cyclist and driver (I cycle over 5000 miles per year).

I dont recall reading any consultation about these road redesigns and certainly nothing has been mentioned about them at the County Cycle Forum. Which begs the question - why on earth are authorities doing this? Surely if it is for pedestrian safety they should be looking at stopping traffic with crossings or reducing road speeds rather than making cars weave along roads and forcing cyclists into incredibly vulnerable positions on these roads, which are all narrowed by parked cars and pedestrian refuges and are now even narrower.

I've been commuting by bike regularly for over five years now and this year I have noticed that I feel much more vulnerable than previously by the way that the roads are being used. Near passes, more left hooks than ever before and I am having to commute early & early in a morning and much later in an evening to avoid heavy traffic. So these road changes are really unwelcome. Has anybody else noticed this and is there anything that can be done to undo this?

Sometimes I just feel like sacking off the cycle commute. But my bank balance and waistline would suffer. As would my off road hill climbing legs.
Feeling frustrated. And like my personal choice to not pollute on my way to work is being forced away from me. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

New roads, new smiles

The last few months have pretty much been dominated by long days at work meaning virtually all my cycling has been commuting in the dark at both ends of the day.  My road commute is grim. Unavoidable A-roads (the off road route is not suitable this time of year). I think grim commutes dominating life can make you forget how much you love cycling.

Recently I've taken a reduction in hours at work - I get one day off per fortnight so I can spend the day with my mum. And the last two freedom days I've enjoyed leisurely cycling from Stephen's back home after the morning rush hour traffic has dissipated. Last time I took the most direct route, which is usually pretty dull and busy, but I found myself enjoying a quite ride in the sunshine.

So today, I chose a longer, hillier route on roads I'd never been on before in my life.  When you've lived in the same place your whole life, there's something wonderful about discovering new roads and seeing familiar places from a different perspective.

 I smiled the whole way. And happily this seemed to make many motorists smile too. As I was enjoying a fast descent towards Whalley, an older gentleman beamed back at me from his delivery truck. Being up on the open moors is a wonderful feeling and I hope everyone was enjoying the beautiful day as much as me.

I extended the ride by riding around Pendle rather than through Padiham. Familiar roads, but good ones! Back Lane is usually devoid of cars and after the initial double chevron climb, once you're up  there you ride along a ridge, meaning no tough climbs, just speed and the wind rushing by.

I ventured through Higham village for the first time in my life (usually I leave the ridge at another point) - very pretty and I must visit the pub for grub there sometime soon.

The last stretch was mainly in town traffic, which did stifle the smile a little, but I sped through and was in the park and back home in time for lunch.

22.2 miles, 2630ft of ascent, almost no flat  - which is why living in the Pennines is amazing!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Eskdale Trip Days #2&3

Apologies for the huge gap in blogging. It's been manic!

Stephen's birthday was our second day away. To be kind to him, I let him have a day off the bike. He's always wanting to go walking, so I obliged. And like the last walk, I was determined to walk his feet off so he wouldnt make such a daft suggestion again!! That's his theory anyway, for why the walk was so tough.

Birker Force was torrential so we decided to take a closer look. There's actually no path to the waterfall itself, so we clambered over rocks and bracken to take a closer look. We were drenched in no time. The falls were dramatic, but not very pretty.
We returned to the bridleway, but the bottom of the falls had burst their banks and the bridge only crossed part of the waters. A family were at the other side trying to figure out how to get across... my solution was the only solution that a bad-ass girl could come up with

Even though the weather was damp, the path to Stanley Gill was pretty busy. This is my favourite waterfall and I'd never seen as much water gushing down the valley before, so I was looking forward to seeing it. The usual trickles from the sides of the dell had turned into waterfalls themselves.

A well timed lunch at the cafe at the end of the Ravenglass Eskdale railway meant we avoided a massive downpour before the afternoon section of the walk.

We continued down the valley towards Eskdale Green following bridleways meandering around the hills en route to the Japanese Garden at the wonderfully named, Giggle Alley.

The Japanese garden is growing wild since I last visited it afew years ago. It had been maintained by a group of volunteers, but I guess that has fallen by the wayside. It still looked beautiful though, but not quite the manicured preciseness you usually find in J-gardens.

Darkness was creeping in as we heard distant rumbles of thunder. We were still at the furthest point from the hostel.

As we climbed back to the hills we watched the dramatic clouds moving across the landscape.

The grey soon cleared to let the glow of the setting sun warm up the view of the valley below.

The last few miles of the walk were getting darker fast. I enjoyed the fun of clambering round in the gloom choosing to finish the walk on footpaths rather than on the road.
One last waterfall, which is called Whillan Beck... not beck like today, more like Whillan Force.

The walk had been hard work, but stunning at every turn.

We hung our wet gear in the smelly drying
room and Stephen enjoyed some of the robot chocolates I'd made for his birthday. Well deserved too.

The last day of the trip was an easy 20 mile ride, mainly on road to the end of Wastwater to lunch at the pub at Wasdale Head. The road goes nowhere, so it's pretty quiet for traffic.
Britain's favourite view was obscured by low lying cloud, but still stunning, as the Lakes always is.

Stephen had hoped it would be a mainly flat ride, but as usual, I managed to get some hills into it as we climbed into a headwind heading back to Gosforth. It did mean a wonderful last view before a fast descent to finish off with. Always an ideal way to finish a trip.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Eskdale Birthday Trip; Day 1

S & I have birthdays on consecutive days, which makes it feel valid to make a special deal every year. Alas birthdays in October mean the weather could do just about anything.

This year we bagged a bargain for 3 nights at Eskdale YHA for £39. No matter what the weather, that price meant it could never be wasted money. And as the trip got closer, the forecast showed ever increasing rain and winds.  I had hoped to do a hilly perm 100k audax on the trip, but with the forecast of gales and much dark skies, I decided to forgo that plan and save the audax for better weather next spring. So the off-road bikes got packed into the car and we ventured up the M6.

People always say that no matter what the weather, The Lake District is always lovely. We would certainly be finding out whether that rings true on our three night stop.

Monday morning, brought cards & pressies for me and after a leisurely start to the day, we set off on the plotted route that would take us on bridleways down one side of the valley of Eskdale & back on the other.
We climbed sharply up Eskdale Fell, into the damp clouds where the rocky bridleway quickly vanished into boggy moorland. My gps said we were on track, but there was no sign of any bridleway. The tussocky grasses meant there was a fair amount of bike-hiking as we headed in the direction of Miterdale Forest. It wasnt long before we were both begraggled!.

A fun flit around Miterdale Forest tracks showed views of the coast before a fast descent to the road, where we pedalled to pick up the bridleway that runs alongside the narrow- guage steam Ravenglass & Eskdale railway. We couldnt have timed this stretch better - onto a winter schedule meant there werent many trains running, but we heard a toot and a little green train tootled past - everyone waving at us.

Although this was the flattest part of the ride, the overgrowth & the mud made it the hardest cycling of the day. As we neared the end of the railway, the rains increased. We went for a pint in the Ratty Arms and watched the heavens open and the puddles on the platform shudder from the raindrops.

The pub was closing for the afternoon, so we left to return to our now soggy saddles. We took part of Route 72 (Hadrian's Cycleway) through Muncaster to avoid a stretch of a-road, which we joined a little higher up. A fast descent hitting 35mph, we had to brake as the rain pelting our eyes made it impossible to see anything. Thankfully this was a short stretch of road and we were on the bridleway around Muncaster head & the golf course in no time.
This joined the main Eskdale bridleway which took us back to Dalegarth and the road back to Boot.

Our original plan had to head up onto the tops, but since the rains arrived bringing early darkness, we amended the route.

A fun, challenging 20 miles. I'll definitely be doing this route again!

A gpx of the route can be downloaded here

Saturday, 26 October 2013

RSF Autumn Meet, Sherwood Forest

This year's Autumn meet was at Sherwood Forest. I'd never ventured into this part of the world before, so had been looking forward to the trip for a while.
A slow drive from work at rush hour took us over a cross-Pennine road towards Sheffield and into Lincolnshire. We arrived in the dark, so didn't see much of what the area looked like. But I could tell it was quite flat.

Two days of rides were planned around forest tracks and quiet lanes.

We saw the famed giant Queen's Oak that is propped up with tree-scaffold.

The autumn colours were just beginning to turn and looking lovely in the sunshine.

Enjoying the mainly car free roads was brilliant! If only all countryside roads were like this!!! It meant I could chat to club members from other parts of the country who I dont get to see very often.

Because I was following a leader from the area, I had no idea what any of the areas we passed were called and was blissfully beetling around with no idea where we were going.

Altho I remembered Creswell Crags - an area where hyena skulls and other ancient artefacts had been found. 

Lunch was at Clumber Park, which was heaving with a charity run.

After an evening of club official business, we were treated to a slide show of Autumn meets from the past twenty odd years; it was interesting seeing the change in bikes from tourers then more & more mountain bikes entering photos as time moved on.

Day two was a shorter ride since we were all heading home. Again we had lovely sunshine that made for a beautiful morning cycling through the forest tracks.
I picked up a puncture... about time I got my rear tyre changed... it was still running with it's original set.

Driving back home over the hills, I decided it's about time that I get round to the Trans Pennine Trail. The hilly section is really spectacular, although I should make sure I'm not carrying too much weight for it!
A lovely weekend that went far too quickly. Thanks to Steve for organising it and everyone for their company especially the usual Northern Suspects.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Audax #3

A crack of dawn start to venture through Yorkshire Dales national park, over to Richmond for Lucia's Vale of York 100k populaire.  The drive over was stunning, although my satnav packed up after Skipton (I had no problem getting that far), so I was winging it on roads I'd never been on in my life. The early start meant it was just me & the pheasants, and the early morning sunshine breaking through the haze. I know that I will be planning a bike tour on bridleways following a similar route sometime; it was such a stunning drive. 

After some getting lost and relying on my bike gps instead, I made it to the start with enough time for a brew. A lovely couple kindly waited for me to park up to lead me to the startpoint at Swaledale Outdoor club. I admired the lady's lovely pink Tifosi (a bike I would have my eye on if I was in the market for another...or not saving up for a house deposit).

This was my third audax, and getting a bit more comfortable with knowing what the day will bring in terms of my own riding, which is a massive comfort after riding the first one mostly on my own.
I was a bit worried that I'd not been able to transfer the gpx to my device (the cable was at Stephen's house, but I had not been there), so would be relying on the paper instructions, but the route had looked straight forward & I did have the map to fall back on (the paper directions on audax #2 would have had me lost but for the gpx). 

The group today was the smallest I'd set off with (others had set off earlier on the more challenging routes). For the first few miles we were bunched together, but it wasnt long before we were strung out in smaller clusters. After realising that my old 60s bike has smaller wheels and getting to better grips with the gears, I know that I cant keep up with modern bikes on her and I shouldn't try (my first audax I did try that and just got worn out). So I was happy to get into a rhythm that was comfortable for me. I actually spent most of the ride in the highest gear (the terrain was pretty flat), despite some reasonable headwinds.

The first section to Northallerton and out the other side towards Thirsk had some reasonably busy roads (it was also saturday, which may have accounted for this).
We felt to be in Northallerton in no time. My first paid job out of uni was here, where I was put up in The Station hotel to work at a trial radio station covering a sickness absence. I interviewed William Hague- he ribbed me in front of a full bookshop, thinking I was going to give him a political grilling, but I was just there to ask about his book he was doing a signing for.  It is the best part of a decade since I was last in the town; I remembered it being quiet and sleepy, but today it was bustling with people visiting the market and so busy with traffic being funnelled down the main street, that I pushed my bicycle through the town so that I didnt have to worry about the traffic and taking the correct turn off any of the roundabouts.

The roads towards lunch in Coxwold were much quieter and more enjoyable with some small climbing to make you earn your food.  But a nice little descent into the village which is in a dip.

The tea room was incredibly pretty (as was the village) and most cyclists sat out in the cottage garden making the most of the decent weather. Nice food, nice cakes, a little bit slow on service, which isnt really what you want on an audax, but this one did have the most generous upper time limit I've seen, so there was no need to rush.

At lunch I was chatting with a group of ladies on their first audax. They were a group of mum's whose kids are at the same school and decided it would be fun to go away for the weekend. They were up from Derby and seemed to be having a fantastic time; they liked the low-key nature of the audax compared with sportives. It was nice to chat with them for a while.
The clouds were thickening as the return leg got going. Most roads were long so navigation was easy. 

As usual the physics of bike riding were at play and the wind had changed direction for the return. I had hoped it would be pushing me back to Richmond.

Three down, two to go to make my Brevet 500 award. Fingers crossed. I didnt think it would be this close when I joined Audax UK in late spring, but with other cycling commitments, work and trying to buy a house, I've not been on as many rides as I imagined.

My thanks for David Atkinson for putting on this lovely ride, which took me to places I'd never have otherwise ventured.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Pedal Every Pennine

Climb every mountain, pedal every pennine. That just about sums up the last week.
I took a couple of days off work to join the club on some rides, as well as my usual commutes and checking out parts of the route I would be leading on the friday.

As part of the South Pennines walk & ride festival, 19 Rough-Stuff riders met up on Wednesday at Hollingworth to venture over the hill to Hebden Bridge. These were some moors I'd never been on before... yes that's correct, I've never been to Britain's longest continual climb, Cragg Vale before.

From up on the tops, we could see the rains patchy around us and it would only be a matter of time before we would run into some of it.

As we neared Stoodley Pike, the drizzle thickened and the squeak of discbrakes resonated around the moorland.

From here it was easy cycling, freewheeling down to lunch and returning via the Rochdale Canal.

I packed in some route exploring on my way home from work on Thursday ahead of Friday's ride. I had a great time spending two hours pounding around the place on tracks I've been wanting to explore for months.

Exploring new tracks usually leaves me with a massive smile and enthusiasm, and this was no exception. After 10 hours in work and tree hours of cycle commuting/exploring I was beaming. 

A small group for Friday's ride was ideal for the route I'd not had time to fully test out. I have some minor alterations to the route for next time, but on the whole I was pleased with it.  But I think I need to check out some slightly more sedate routes to lead or I might end up with some colourful nicknames!

We enjoyed a rest at Rossendale Valley Sailing Club before tackling the last hill of the day en route to the Singing Ringing Tree.

The Friday rides will be taking place once a month on a rolling pick of routes around Lancashire. Alas since I work, I probably wont be able to make many of them, but for people who enjoy the leisure of Friday freedom, it's a great excuse to go for a ride without it eating into the weekend.