Monday, 19 February 2018

the Ice cream ride

Originally the weather forecast said dry and sunny and the plan had been a road trip to the Forest of Dean. the forecast then changed to drizzle so i wasn't keen on the 1.5hr drive to ride around in the wet so i suggested a bit of a mad ride and route to Henley to Henley ice cream.
Dan and Vegan Ian were mad enough to sign up for the ride and we all paced (read suffered) up the steep slopes of weatheroak hill, always a shock to the system at the very start of a ride and on towards Earlswood resevoir and the lanes to Hockley Heath where we joined the grand union canal and made good progress to Kingswood junction and the turn for the North Stratford canal. it was this stretch of towpath that quickly got muddy, traction was difficult and sections were a real slog. funnily enough this bit came soon after the guys said how good the route was.
just before the end of the canal section we stopped to let some walkers past on a bridge and this act of politeness somehow set off Vegan Ian's garmin emergency alarm! it wailed away and the screen informed him a notification of his accident had been sent to all his designated contacts on his phone! thankfully no one gives a shit about Ian and the Tracy boys and International Rescue didn't appear over head in thunderbird 2 or surfaced from the canal in thinderbird 4 and we carried on.
Henley was it's usual sleepy Sunday self with only a few spots for a coffee open for business and we made full use of the outside chairs in the weak sun.
a route back through Tanworth  and Beoley made sure we got a decent amount of climbing in before heading home.
My longest ride of the year so far and i was feeling the pace by the end. it was a good route though.
Ride 11
38 miles
Total 251

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

the tyred ride

plus tyres can be a drag (literally) at the best of times but having one on the bike and two on your back is even more of a chore. 
Dan and i were doing a tyre swap, he needed plus tyres for his new build which i have spare and i needed to replace a worn out 29er tyre which he had lying around so i pedalled over in very cold and blustery conditions. tyres swapped and tea drunk i thought i'd go a longer way home via shortwood. it was then the weather decided to blow up a storm. one minute blue sky and shunshine, the next a complete white out snow storm where i could barely see 100 ft. then just as quickly sun and fluffy white clouds appeared while i stood dripping despite sheltering under a tree.
no speed records on the ride as i headed for the warmth of home incase i got caught out again.
Ride 10
12 miles
Total 213

the lazy wind ride

Russ turned up completely white over, like a mobile snowman. i suggested a cuppa while he formed a deep puddle on my kitchen floor.
the snow stopped and i manned up and we left wrapped up for the worst the weather could throw at us. it soon came apparent that this was too much as i began to over heat on any sort of uphill gradient. i quickly swapped to a gilet rather than a waterproof jacket. of course within a couple of minutes it was raining but i pressed on with the knowledge the weather forecast said the conditions should improve throughout the day.
we made for Alcester via the ford in search of cheesecke but in the end the cafe was chosen not for its menu but for it's position regarding the week sunlight. so sat in the sunshine we filled ourselves with toasted teacakes and ginger and lime cake.
the return leg of course was completely into the coldest ever head wind. it was super lazy cutting right through us instead of going around. the last drag up to spernal was a chore and it was a relief to shelter in the bus stop while the view to the horizon was obliterated by a short sharp rain/sleet storm.
we passed through arrow valley and had a warm in the local bike shop which meant i actually got home with warm feet for a change!
Ride 9
32 miles
Total 201

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

The Superbowl lie-in ride

tired legs from yesterdays ride and tired eyes from staying up until 0430 made this ride a chore at the start and a leg burner at the end as i had to retrace my route up many of the downhills in the vain attempt to find the rear light i lost somewhere on route :-(
Ride 8
13 miles
Total 169

the mixing cake flavours ride

with the local woods a quagmire of deep mud and filth we decided a jaunt on grass up the middle lanes, towpaths and paths was in order. an early stop for cake saw us test the flavour of sticky ginger and whiskey fruit varieties. the verdict? sticky ginger 1-0 whiskey fruit as there was no taste of spirit. if advertised as fruit only it would have been a much closer game.
the route was good which was a surprise as i was making it up as i went along. the climbs weren't too bad (apart form up to Hanbury Church) and the lanes were relatively quiet for such a sunny Sunday. Not so good was the lazy bitter headwind, lazy as it couldn't be bothered going around us it just cut right through chilling to the bone. that was probably the only th ing that kept us going, the need to keep warm!

Ride 7
31 miles
Total 156

the Teeth counting ride


A Friday off, started with a handlebar change, involved an up and back to the trig on Walton hill with a weeze up the Waltonberg and a tooth rattling descent back down the cobbles just for giggles. involved a ham and pickle sandwich in the sun and a satisfied glow at doing the longest ride of the year so far after a period of ill health and inactivity. no coughing or after effects apart from a satisfying ache in the legs
Ride 6
31 miles
Total 125

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

the always ride with someone fitter and faster than you ride

the internet can be a wonderful thing and i'm not even talking free porn here. the internet makes the planet smaller as we interact easily with people from all over the earth in real time. It also makes it easier to just resort to face timeing/messegering/whatsapping people etc and not actually meeting people. in fact probably 75% of my facebook "friends" i have never been in the same room with!
So. when Andy Carter added me to a group on Facebook called "not very far, slowly MTBing" i was determined to turn up to one of the rides and interact in real life with these people i'd only seen pictures of!
 i told my OH where i was going and what i was intending to do so in the event of me disappearing after meeting people off the internet she'd have a good idea where to direct the scene of crime offers to to dig up my body.
typically there was no traffic on the M5//M6 and i got to the meet point about an hour early, at least i could check the area for potential ambush sites and escape routes. the carpark was at the side of an industrial estate. i suspect this carpark gets a lot busier at night with lots of flashing headlights and discarded profylactives!  there were only two other cars, both fully of dodgy looking blokes who all exited their cars en mass and proceeded to all look in the boot of one. were they about to produce shot guns and raid the factories? drag out a body to hide in the woods to punish some misdemeanour a foolish gang member had perpetrated? well actually no, they pulled out a remote control aircraft and walked past me to presumably fly it on the heath.....or maybe fly drugs into somewhere with their "drone"? ok my imagination and nerves may be getting ahead of me. 
Ok, so my self preservation gland might have been secreting directly into my blood stream but i'd never met these guys before or maybe it was butterfles and nervousness of meeting people for the first time who might be much fitter and much more skilled on a bike than me.
Thankfully a car drew up next to me with a driver  who looked very much like the tiny profile picture i'd looked at of Andy. he got out and i immediately realised that preconceptions of pictures on the internet do come into play. Andy was a lot shorter and more wirey than i was expecting and this just renewed my performance shortfall butterflies. At least he looked like his picture and he didn't turn out to be a completely different person using a false picture to trap victims! (ok, i've heard and read tales like that on the internet)  thankfully Andy seemed to be a sound guy and we did the sensible thing when two blokes meet far too early for the others to have arrived and are in close proximity of a cafe, we shook hands and went for a cup of tea.
Small talk ensued and tea drunk we headed back out as the other two guys Nick and Tim were messaging in to say they were about to arrive. we dragged bikes out of cars and assembled them as the other cars pulled up and the guys went through the same process of getting ready.
I'll let you into a secret, I've met Tim before, i've still got a bike frame i bought off him around 12 years ago (a pre Halfords involvement Voodoo Wanga fact fans) but this didn't make me less nervous as I knew he'd lost loads of weight and had trained a lot for 24hr races last summer. It also didn't help that he said he'd been for a run and swim the night before, the guy looked like a trim racing machine!
Car park faffing over and we headed for some trails. the local guy who said he could direct us hadn't turned up so we followed our nose (and some tyre tracks) the in the general direction of the way marked routes. It soon became apparent that Tim and Andy were quick even when on their fat bikes and i had to dig in to keep up the pace. Nick had a bad cold but even so wasn't too shabby in the fitness dept either. his malfunctioning bike was more a hindrance than his breathing.
But this pace (and i suspect they slowed it for me) was just what i needed. I've ridden a lot on my own lately and you do develop your own cadence, don't push too hard on the climbs and become lazy.
it was a lot drier than i expected after lots of heavy rain, the puddle in the picture may have been the only one.
you could tell the chaps were unsure of the new guy as when i hit a hidden stump and hit the ground like a sack of spuds they didn't rag the piss out of me, at least not to my face! and they didn't complain when i got us lost and subjected us to a greasy steep climb in the middle of nowhere. luckily my shortcut ended on a great descent. I passed Tim on the next descent, his glassy eyed stare indicated he'd taken the Black technical route and luckily made it through alive but would need to check his pants for unforced emissions.
the final climb back to the car took everything that remained in my legs and they were a bit wobbly as i packed the bike away and walked to the cafe with the others for post ride replenishment (beans on toast if you must know).
so i survived meeting strangers off the internet, got to ride stuff new to me and if Strava is true go a lot faster around Cannock than i've ever been before (28 new records for me apparently) trying to hang on to someone making it look effortless is really good for this and in a perverse way is a lot of fun
Thanks to Andy, Tim and Nick for letting me tag along and making me feel welcome and, well, for not murdering me :-)
Ride 5
15 miles
Total 97

Am i back? The let's see ride

After giving myself a hard time for riding too soon after a cold i've delayed and delayed the next ride. After almost two weeks of resorting to walking as exercise (OMG it got THAT bad!) the promise of a dry sunny day lured me out on the bike. it took me a while to find suitable clothing as they'd all been put away it's been that long since i needed them.
Blimey it felt good to be back out pedalling, even if every twinge and cough brought on thoughts of a relapse but with the goal of a new cafe to check out thoughts turned to food and took my mind off the anxiety.
The Boat shack at Upton Warren lived up to what lots of fellow cyclists had told me, good wholesome food at not extortional prices and it came with a fab view of the boating lake from the balcony.
Buoyed up by my success so far and a cheese sandwich of good proportions i took a longer than originally planned route home. I'll go via the canal climb i thought and ground my way up Grimley lane, an aptly named road that gradually gets steeper and steeper over a half mile stretch until it meets the towpath. and the reward for my efforts was...a closed towpath under repair!
Luckily or unluckily as you will read there is an alternative route along side the reservoir and through a couple of fields. these fields involve more steep climbing but this time on very slick and sticky mud and my rear tyre soon ran out of grip. this was good in a way as the build up of mud had begun to clog gears and could have resulted in a bent rear mech. i'm not ashamed to admit i walked the worst bits, i have been ill after all! when the field leveled out o resumed and speed and gravel patched cleared the worst of the mud. i was then back on my intended route and headed home.
I'm happy to report there were no ill effects the next day apart from the delicious feeling of tyred legs due to riding rather than infection!
Ride 4
25 miles
Total 82

The waaaay too soon ride

So I managed to contract the cold that everyone else seems to have had. It's weird, i worked ina hospital for 14 years, a hospital full of the most infected people in the region and hardly ever got a sniffle, let alone a proper bad cold. since working in the private sector i've had 3 colds in 2 months! this was the worst of all of them, a proper snot dripping one minute, blocked sinus the next coffin cougher.
Of course, being me when i felt a little bit better i went for a ride, told myself i'd not over done it, felt fine afterward but the next day felt worse than i had at the height of the infection. i will never learn.
Ride 3
15 miles
Total 57

Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Arboreal Gymnastics ride

storm Eleanor wreaked havoc around the NWAlps, leaving lots of trees down and everywhere littered with dead wood and detritus. I even had to swing out around a fallen tree to get past on the canal towpath. With gusts still up to 46 mph it wasn't the easiest of rides and sure was a proper workout. lots of the usual trails are now blocked and as they aren't official paths there's little chance of them being cleared any time soon. hopefully the trails will evolve around them and the old girls of the forest will become features as they return to the soil from which they came.
Ride 2
20 miles
Total 42