Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cheltenham Cotswold Flyer Taster 100

After a whole week and more away from cycling, I finally completed a 100k audax. This audax was a permanent event entitled the ‘Cheltenham Cotswold Flyer Taster 100’. This event was organised by Stephen Poulton.

I didn’t start the event at the suggested start point (Cheltenham) but instead decided on Stow. Stow was just easier to get to from Leamington, which is where I was at the start of this particular day (ensuring my bike shoes were fitted correctly). The day was perfect for a cycle ride, clear and sunny, but not overly hot.

With car parked in the Tesco’s car park at Stow, I cycled to the High Street to visit a ATM for my first POP. The next control was less than 10k away and I reached there really fast, as it was mostly a descent to get there. This control was the lovely Bourton on the Water. Lovely lanes took me to the next (info) control at Aldsworth.
Leaving Aldsworth, I cycled on familiar roads through Bibury and Barnsley to reach the first major control at Cirencester. I didn’t stop for long at Cirencester – just long enough to visit another ATM machine. There wasn’t huge distances between controls on this 100k ride.
The route to Cheltenham was interesting in that it was a ‘free route’. In other words, cycle whichever roads/route you please. Had encountered ‘free controls’ before but never a ‘free route’. I cycled through North Cerney and Colesbourne and then had a super-fast descent into Cheltenham. I stopped in Cheltenham for my lunch and was roughly half-way through the event.

Leaving Cheltenham, I passed through Bishops Cleeve village (which continues to make me grin) and then continued on country lanes for some time. These lanes took me through Gotherington and Dixton before reaching the next (info) control at Alstone.
From Alstone was the return route to Stow. I had saved the best till last (not). This last section was the hardest and was mostly an ascending affair. In retrospect, Cheltenham would have made a better start point. I cycled through Upper Swell, with ‘Upper’ being the operative word! After Upper Swell came a final push to finally reach the arrivee back in Stow. I visited the High St once more just for a final POP and then took a photo of this monument (below) wondering what was behind the wooden door?!
Cycled a total of 109k in 5 hours and 35 minutes. A relatively leisurely affair for a 100k ride. Hope I fare better on my impending 600….

Monday 24 June 2013

A letter from Will

Last week I cycled very little. Virtually nothing at all. I spent a few minutes on my mothers bike, cycling a few laps around a caravan site but that was all. I was on holiday with my family and had instructions not to take my bike and not to even mention the 'b' word.

However, towards the end of our holiday, I just had to mention the 'B' word. Will had sent me a letter, well an email anyway! Will was the chap I emailed a while back stating my interest in an LEL documentary that He and 2 of his friends were making about LEL 2013 (a MadeGood movie). Not so long ago I was interviewed by Walter and then a few weeks later received this email. The email stated '... Thanks so much for meeting my colleague Walter over Skype, and for spending the time to discuss our documentary. We have now had the opportunity to meet all the riders that put themselves forward to be interviewed. Myself, Rich and Walter have agreed unanimously that we would like to follow your ride in depth for the making of our film...'

How cool was that? I was completely blown away and over-whelmed. I never thought for a minute that these guys would be interested in me and my story. I told my friends the same saying 'I'd thought that they would prefer someone who was eccentric'. My friends all commented 'you are eccentric', with my wife adding 'yes you are eccentric, that's just another word for weird'. I asked myself, 'am I eccentric', the voices in my head replied 'you? Nah, no way!'

Friday 14 June 2013

Cheltenham, Thames & Avon 200

This week I completed a ‘new-to-me’ audax event. This event was the ‘Cheltenham, Thames and Avon 200’, a permanent audax event organised by Stephen Poulton. This was a tough event and below I have presented my summary.
Lots of problems were faced early on. It took me a while to find suitable parking in Cheltenham (an internet search had given me a non-existent car park) and the traffic was heavy. Eventually, a back street was found and I started out. It was wet and miserable and in my haste I had forgotten 1 of my 2 water bottles. Grr, the water bottle I had was empty. I found an ATM for my first POP and then headed along the A40 in the pouring rain. Within 10k I had reached my first climb which took me to the Cotswolds. The rain had caused all sorts of muck and debris to cover the roads and the sound of this stuff rubbing again my brake blocks was quite irritating. The views of the Cotswolds were as stunning as ever. The descents were quite scary with the roads being as wet and debris covered as they were. After 40k I finally reached the control in Fairford and was able to have a drink at last. I purchased much water here to save me from dehydrating and to fill my empty bottle.

From Fairford I crossed the ‘Valley of the White Horse’, that is Uffington White Horse, to the Wilshire Downs. I didn’t really get a good view of said horse but that was okay as I had visited this Horse before. Cycling from Ridgeway to Lambourn, I was in the ‘Valley of the Racehorse’. This valley was a little disappointing, as the last time I was in this very same valley (during the Marlborough Connection perm – MC200) I must have been in a different location as I had the most super zoomy descent. The rain had eased a little during this section but had started up again once I had reached the control in Hungerford. I stopped at the control just to buy some more water and pick up a free newspaper and then continued on.
Just outside Hungerford, I found what I had been looking for – a suitable bus stop shelter. I stopped here to eat my lunch (sandwiches I had prepared at home) and filled my shoes with the newspaper - just to dry them out a little. This was a pretty little stop.
Not long after leaving my shelter, I had to stop again. This stop was in Ramsbury, where I had to name a cottage for information control purposes. The cottage was called 'Newtown Lodge'. Ramsbury had signs stating that there barley was grown for local beer.

This next part of my adventure was probably the best despite severe headwinds of gale force nature! I passed through Marlborough and went straight past Marlborough White Horse without seeing it. Had visited this said horse before and reckon it’s probably the least impressive of the white horses in Wiltshire. The route sheet suggests you will see this horse on the left, but that was not the case. The actual horse is located behind the college near to some tennis courts. Sure enough, I stopped at the Ridgeway and Sanctuary and took the following photo.
A little further ahead was West Kennet Long Barrow. I took a photo, though the barrow was quite far off. Again, I had visited this barrow in the past and if time had permitted, I may have taken a trek to there again. On my right was Silbury Hill, the largest man-made hill in Europe.
Once past Silbury Hill, I went off-route deliberately. I could not possibly pass through Avebury without making a visit to the Stone Circle and Henge. Wow, I had cycled to Avebury Stone Circle! This was the first time I had taken my bike inside a stone circle! Leaving the Stone Circle, I got a nice view of Silbury Hill from this different direction.
Taking this off-route course also enabled me to view the Adam and Eve stones – a pair of standing stones. Wow. So many ancient settlements – made the headwinds worthwhile!
One more treat was to be had as I continued my journey heading for Calne. On a particular descent, I turned my head and there was Cherhill White Horse. Much more spectacular than Marlborough White Horse.
A fight with severe headwind took me though Lacock and eventually to the control in Corsham. I don’t think I had ever cycled here before. I stopped at a local store and purchased more water and chocolate for POP.

The last stage was perhaps the longest stage but thankfully it was not the most difficult. The headwind had shifted into more of a sidewind and I am sure there was less ascent and more descent. The roads were (on the whole) nicely surfaced and lanesy. This section was quite isolative with nowhere to purchase food and water (must remember this should I cycle it again). At one point, I swore I saw a giraffe standing in a field – on closer inspection it was a horse wearing a giraffe patterned coat. I passed through Grittleton, Tetbury, Cherington and Winstone via these pretty lovely lanes. The final treat occurred once I had hit Elkstone, as it was here I was rewarded with a fast descent down Bubb’s Hill and after just a little climb was awarded with a final descent back down to the arrivee in Cheltenham.

Cycled a total of 221k in about 10 and a half hours (took me some time to find my car). This was a tough route but would be almost perfect on a wind free summers day. My yearly cycling total now stands at 5,522k!

Monday 10 June 2013

A Rough Diamond 300 (June 2013)

Last weekend saw me complete ‘A Rough Diamond’ 300k permanent event. I had ridden this event before, but as a calendar event and not a permanent. This time around, I cycled with my buddy Chris.

The event started at Tewkesbury, not far from the organisers (Mark Rigby) abode. It was the perfect day for cycling - warm, sunny and during the summer months. We hit the first control after cycling only 13k. This first control was Beckford Post Office – well it was according to the route sheet, the brevet card I had been issued with had a different control listed?! In fact the card and route-sheet didn’t exactly match. I decided to follow the route-sheet (in terms of controls). As for navigation, if truth be told – Chris and I both had differing GPX files and we would follow parts of each.

We left Beckford and passed through Pershore, Wadborough and then Worcester. We neither followed GPX or route-sheet through Worcester, instead relied on my local knowledge. This resulted in us missing out a portion of cycle lane that goes over ‘that bridge that SJ and I used to run across when SJ was training for her marathon’ but led us though a sprinkling fountain which was pretty and different. From Worcester we cycled along some beautiful roads, as the photo below illustrates.
Chris was wearing his awesome new ‘Bic’ jersey that a good friend had gotten him for his birthday. Spoilt I reckon! We passed through Martley and stopped at Burford Garden Centre just outside Tenbury Wells for control purposes.
We had both stopped at this control before. As nice as it is, it was pricey. Luckily, I had taken precautions and we ate some lovely sandwiches which I had prepared earlier. We washed these sandwiches down with a lovely cup of tea.
We left Burford and headed for Wales! Again lovely roads were cycled and the weather was just great. The greatest part of this section (in my opinion) was when we passed through Hay. First off, we just had to stop at the ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ which was a Great Oak dating as far back as the Doomsday Book (have blogged about this before). We stepped inside the tree for the obligatory psychedelic experience.
A little  further ahead we passed over the Hay TrOLL bridge. Both trolls were out and drinking wine too. Chris paid the TrOLL fee (20p) and we were allowed passage across said bridge. We saw Graham (the male troll) about a year ago and spoke about the magic tree and were quite mythed that he still hadn’t visited the Magic Faraway Tree despite it being only 4k or so away. Trolls eh?!

We left the trolls behind and continued on our adventure. We were heading south with troll rock in our mouth. When we finally reached the White Hart Control in Talybont-on-Usk we were about half-way.
We had a nice food stop here where we consumed crisps, fish fingers and chips. Our food came with a baguette but for some reason mine was served with only half a bread. I enquired where the ‘other half’ was and was given the ‘missing half’ along with the chef’s apologies. Bizarre. At this stop we met another cyclist who was doing a different 300k (calendar) event.

The stage from Talybont-on-Usk to Slimbridge was long – about 100k! We decided to break this distance up and stop just after we crossed the Old Severn Bridge. I loved the bridge and often feel a sense of ‘overwhelm’ every time I cross it. Wow, such a feat of engineering!
Amazingly, Chris suggested we stop at Burger King. So, stop at Burger King we did! Not sure what had happened to Chris on this adventure – not only did he suggest junk food, he ate loads! Chris also did not suffer any ‘lulls’ and felt he had fire in his legs after cycling 300k – his furthest distance to date.  What a weird and wonderful adventure we were cycling.

From our Burger King stop we continued on and passed through some strange named places including Hill and Ham. It was getting a little cooler now, though still warm and the daylight lasted much into the night. It was, however, dark by the time we reached the Slimbridge control.

Slimbridge was just a short stop where we ate crisps and chocolate. Chris spotted another bizarre thing. This ‘thing’ was a motorbike hearse. Weird or what?!
As soon as we left Slimbridge we were cycling along a towpath in the dark. This was ‘interesting’ to say the least. We had a few different sections along towpath but thankfully after so long the towpath was concrete and led into docks. I didn’t spot Gloucester HMP marked on the route sheet but we found the cathedral and passed through the arch. Next weird sight was a couple of young drunkards crashed out on the flower beds of a particular roundabout. After a bit of faffing we hit the A38 that took us all the way back to the arrivee in Tewkesbury. Woo hoo – job done. Only it wasn’t! My Garmin was reading 299k, so I headed to a ATM machine just to make sure I really did cycle 300k!

Cycled a total of 598k this week. Just 2k short of my target! Have now cycled a total of 5,301k this year.

Florence's last trip

Last week, I took Florence (my single-speed road bike) out for her last trip. Some remarked 'that sounds terminal' and I guess they may be right. I have plans of either stripping Florence of her bits and using them to make up a new single-speed machine or I may just sell her. Below is a representation of Florence's last trip:
Florence has been a great machine and I have had many pleasant experiences with her. She is a 2012 Track Revolution bike in good condition. She is only facing retirement because I have a redundant carbon frame that I want to build up (and my wife thinks I have too many bikes). Would anyone like to make an offer on Florence?

Thursday 6 June 2013

Lechlade-on-Thames 200k Audax (June 2013)

This week saw me complete the 'Lechlade-on-Thames 200k' permanent audax for the second time. I rode much of this route during my 'Black Cat Lunar Lark Cycle' too. This ride was different on many counts though.

The biggest difference with this ride was the fact that the organiser (Steve Gloster) 'allowed' me to start and finish in Studley. This made it easier for me, as I didn't have to drive or cycle far out to a start point and using these additional start/finish controls only added a few k's. I picked up the 'proper' route at about the 15k mark in Sambourne. Navigating to the first control was easy - I was using Jamie M's GPX files from when he cycled this route. Cheers Jamie! In fact, I was loaded with a GPX file, an up-dated route sheet and my local knowledge. On the whole I followed Jamie's route but chose to ride different roads here and there. My completed route is presented below:
Jamie's route took me to the first control by a slightly different means. At this control I stocked up on peanut M&M's and carried swiftly on. On my previous attempt I found it difficult to locate the cycle path leading to the Greenway, it appeared Jamie did too! However, thanks to Jamie I did find the correct path and rode Stratford Greenway for the first time.
The Greenway was a long stretch of track that cut through the countryside and avoided any motorised traffic. It was pretty and reminded me of Chester Greenway which I had recently cycled. This was obviously an old railway line - some rail carriages were being used and conveted into a cafe and a bike hire shop.
 The downside of the Greenway was the fact that it was slow. The surface was gravelly and dusty (not smooth tarmac like in Chester) and many a time I had to dismount my bike to get through a kissing gate. Last time I cycled the event, I cycled roads through Stratford Town Centre and then straight to Chipping Campden. I think the road way probably wins, as the roads are not too busy, are smooth, roll fast and making reaching Chopping Campden a zoomier more pleasant experience. I was pleased I had cycled the Greenway at last and would probably find it suited fatter tyres like on my mountain bike. Once leaving the greenway, the Chipping Campden control soon came.
Chipping Campden was such a pretty place as the photo above demonstrates. I ate my breakfast here (rather than spending monies on an expensive breakfast at Bantams Tea Rooms). I think I ate a chocolate breakfast...

This was a lovely day to cycle. Near perfect summer weather and no bugs! Nice roads took me through some stunning scenery to my lunch stop control - Lechlade. I stopped on a local park bench and ate a lunch I had prepared earlier at home (chicken sandwiches) plus a recently purchased banana for POP purposes.
Lechlade to Tewkesbury - the next control, was such a lengthy section. Pleased I had eaten well. Again the roads pass through some truly amazing places. Bibury was one such place and I had to stop just to take a photo.
The control in Tewkesbury was a Shell Petrol Station. It felt like deja vu here, as I was served by the same attendant as last time and they asked me the same questions too. I purchased a bottle of water, had a drink and made haste.

Next stop was Bromsgrove. Cycling this section made it feel like an audax I had not ridden before because I cycled the correct route! Oh the wonders of GPX! The control was the same - Bromsgrove's Asda. 

The last section was only about 15k. A nice lanesy route back to Studley that incorporated a part of the 'TROAD' route. A bit of a push to Astwood Bank and then a zoomy descent back into the village. I stopped at the Jubilee pub for my final POP! Woo hoo job done!

Cycled a total of 219k. In great British weather! This adventure lasted for about 10 hours and 25 minutes.

Redditch Tour Series

Those reading my blog will realise that it has not been in order this week. Sorry about that. With so much cycling each day (pretty much), I am adding snippets in an ad hoc manner.

Anyways, this blog is about the start of the week. My first ride of the week was with Ron. We took our mountain bikes for a revisit of 'Thistle-fall Hill'. Grr, the hill beat me and I had to get off and push. The remainder of our route was mostly a random off-road jaunt. We cycled the last part of our adventure by following part of the 'Deer Route'. Once back in Studley, we knocked on Kim's (my sister) window for fun and then raced up St Judes Avenue. Nice.
Tuesday, I ditched my bike and became a spectator instead. I watched the Tour Series in Reddich with a few folk I often have fellowship with. It was pretty good to be fair. Watching kinda made me wish I was participating.

Stroud 5 Valleys 50k Audax (June 2013)

Thursday saw me complete the Stroud 5 Valleys permanent audax again. Have cycled this hilly (1 AAA) 50k event many times now. Is such a great ride. This ride was particularly special because the sun was out!
I made slight variations to the suggested route during the initial stages - just for fun. That didn't prevent me from having to climb any of the steep hills though. The organiser, as previously recorded, stated it's 'a short ride with plenty of vertical-seeking interest. If it is flat you may be off route!' This ride qualified for a silver grimpeur award.
Last time I cycled through Bisley, I was unable to use the Post Office as my POP because it was closed. This time around, Bisley Post Office was open and they obliged in stamping my brevet card. Better yet, Minchinhampton Post Office was also open and in the same manner stamped my card (for the first time) too.
Cycled a total of 53k. This event took me just over 4 and a half hours. My total distance this year now stands at 5,029k.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Cycling silly verse - it could be worse!

Instead of cycling lots this week, I spent time on the internet (at work) and stumbled upon lots of lovely verse. Some of my favourite findings are presented below. If you were the author - good stuff!

North, east, west, south, Never cycle with an open mouth.

North, south, east, west, Never cycle with an open vest.

Keep to the left and ring your bell; If you see a bull, then ride like hell.

Don't lock your bike where it will flood, Or you'll find your saddle full of mud.

A spoke will carry a bicycle wheel, But it ain't no match for an old cow heel.

If you could get a pie to talk, It'd say `I'm a lot more pie than pork'.

Hear the empty pint pot sound, Means it's somebody else's round.

One Mars bar Won't get you far You'll get more cheer From a pint of beer.

When the sun is shining
 And I know it will not rain.
 I take my brand new bicycle.
 And pedal down the lane.
 I like to skim round corners.
 I like to ring my bell. I strain,
 And climb the steepest hills.
 The Freewheel down again.
 That is how I like to travel.
 It is better than the train.
 Or bus or car or motor-boat
 Or even aeroplane.

Dear x, I have a dreadful moan,
I want to cycle on my own;
You've dogged me for two thousand k
Please take the hint and GO AWAY!
 You tell me when I should not pee
Surely that is up to me?

Pretty cool eh?!

Pants really

This week my cycling was largely pants. I only cycled on one occasion. The weather was pants initially, work got in the way of fun and ok, with my excuses I am done. The short distance I did cycle was on my mountain bike where I cycled 'naughty fields' to the 'Bread crumb trail' and then returned home via Coughton and Sambourne. Some random barbed wire tore my shoe open too :(
Next week should be more exciting. I plan to ride 50k, 200k and 300k events in the same week. Oh, and on Thursday night, Walter is going to interview me via Skype for the purposes of that LEL 2013 documentary. I wonder if that'll be my 15 minutes of fame?!

Cycled a total of 31k this week which brings my yearly total up to 4,734k. 

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...