Monday, 28 November 2011

No Moor Heroes

After a quick weather recce with the dog, things down at sea level were looking quite pleasant. As I was riding up to the moors today I layered up and stuffed my Gilet in my back pocket just in case, I even wore my free buff from Cycling Plus, I was prepared like a proper boy scout today or so I thought. So I got Lance out of the shed (my Trek) headed off towards Porlock along the undulations of Bratton straight then down the Tivington hilly bit passing what seemed to be most of my extended family going in the other direction, don't know if any of them recognised the lycra clad grockel, I was going too quick to wave. I was heading for Porlock Hill but was taking the relative easy way up via the Toll Road. There are two toll roads the New road and the Worthy, avoid the latter it wouldn't be out of place in Beirut, the pot holes are more like craters, it's a bit scary going down it.
Its about four miles up the toll road, starting at about 100ft above sea level rising to about 1300ft at the top. Its a long steady peaceful climb, just pick a comfy gear and tap out a steady rhythm with just the sound of me wheezing and what must be hundreds of squirrels going mad in the undergrowth looking for their nuts. I was determined to enjoy my ride today and not get too hung up on speed and stats and all that nonsense. A huge Buzzard swooped low in front of me and landed in a tree, I tried to get a pic but the sound of me clipping out scared him off, he did look like he was sizing me up for breakfast though, he'll probably wait for me at the top when I'm knackered :)
I think the hill sheltered me as I made my way, I was enjoying myself spinning up the hill, you don't get many cars this time of year its mainly a tourist route and you have to pay. So I got to the top and made a slight off road detour. If  you stick to the road you have to double back on yourself and have to climb back up for a mile or so. I tried a track my nephew told me about well its probably rideable in the summer and some attempt has been made to surface it but its not summer, after a quick negotiation of several water filled craters I got back to the road. Note to self, stick to the road, ride the hills you wimp.

It was bleak up here and the wind found me. It was now an up and down toil into a headwind for four miles along the top of the moor. It was a good job I packed that Gilet. The elements started to take their toll, I started to lose feeling in my toes but I gritted my teeth and carried on I even managed to cycle out of the dip at Dunkery Hill, its short but bloody steep and the other times I've ridden this route I've always bailed out.
It was then the downhill into Exford, its a fast descent with a couple of bends thrown in for enjoyment, but I was bloody freezing, now I know why those squirrels were so mad ;) I had to stop in Exford to try and regain some feeling in my toes and take on some fuel. It was then another climb out of Exford, I've ridden up this hill before and always got up it but today I bailed out, I don't know why I was only about five yards from the top. Maybe it was the cold taking its toll and last time I had No1 to act as the hare. I need some more ride buddies, Lance doesn't say much. It was then along to Luckwell Bridge another fast descent with a little climb back out and onto Wheddon Cross. Things were brightening up mentally now I as knew it was basically all downhill for the ten miles back to home. Its a cracking run down from Wheddon Cross, I've ridden up this way enough times lately it was time to enjoy going down it.
Going Down

It was time spin the big ring home, no more hills, I know I wasn't going prattle on about stats but I managed the last ten miles in about thirty five minutes, but hitting 30mph for about two miles down from Wheddon Cross probably helped a bit.
Distance - 29.6 miles
Time - 2.50
Avg speed - 10.5mph
Elevation gain -3133ft

Dear Santa please can I have some cosy overshoes for crimbo :)
Lazy bloody dog, its me who's been out

Sunday, 20 November 2011

All Things Bright and Beautiful

The plan today was to hit the rough stuff with Bonus, No1 son and possibly the baguette boys but an hour before we were due to go out I got an apologetic text from Bonus who was feeling a bit rough so it was me and No1 who headed off towards Park Lane, no not that one.

The Levellers sang about walking in ancient places, I like to cycle in them but you can't really get away from them living around here. It was a couple of miles of road and possibly West Somerset's only cycle path, past Dunster Castle and onto Park lane a tarmac lane that turns into a muddy rocky mile long climb up towards Aller Hill.
Park Lane

I tend to use Park lane as a measure of my improving fitness, a couple of years ago I'd be pushing from virtually the bottom and have steadily improved and get most of the way along it to a another steep up towards the top that No1 always seem to fly up. I gave it a go today but managed to lose traction and balance half way up and pushed to the crest. This area is normally shrouded in darkness by the tree canopy so it was a bit of a surprise to see the the sun breaking through the mist as I rode along the top. The forestry people had been busy since we last came this way and transformed the landscape completely.

That's where the trees went

After a quick breather at the top we headed off over Bats castle the site of an ancient iron age settlement, you can see why the people settled here, there's some cracking views and great downhills in every direction
View from Bats Castle
After the downhill from Bats Castle it was a quick ride down to the crunchy track, another favourite down. No1 was flying today, he'll fly down rough tracks and drops but hates going down on his road bike, I think the disc brakes and six inches of suspension have something to do with it. After a quick bit of road we where at the foot of Grabbist Hill. Its said that Grabbist was the inspiration for the purple headed mountain in the hymn All things Bright and Beautiful as it was once treeless and covered in heather before it was planted up.
This is when No1 decided he didn't fancy any more up and I did. For someone who grinds to a halt at any incline there must be some dark pleasure I must gain from going up. No1 headed home and I went up, after a steep initial push its a nice steady climb to the top followed by another push up a steep incline to the top of Grabbist. Instead of heading down into Alcombe combe I continued the uphill theme and rode along the ridge line of Knowle hill towards Hopcott, this meant I would be nearer to home when I dropped off the hill. It was certainly bright and beautiful up here.
View of Bats castle from Knowle Hill
I then hit the descent towards home, its not as technical as some but its a quick one, once back under the tree line I was riding on a carpet of leaves, Autumn was still strong in this neck of the woods. It was just a case of aim in the right direction as the track had disappeared. An old boy was most impressed as I rang my bell as I approached him and his dogs. I know its not cool to have a bell on your bike but I find walkers more welcoming if they hear the bell. 
Leafy Descent
It was then a rapid ride down the Hopcott road and home, shame I had to finish the ride alone but it was well worth it for cycling on such a glorious day.

Distance  - 10.2 miles
Time 1.29
Avg Speed - 7mph
Elevation gain - 1529ft
Top speed - 31mph

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Another Quick One

Couldn't get out until after two today as I spent the morning ferrying the daughter to her footy match at Wells, well at Wookey because that's their home pitch, disappointed I didn't see Chewbacca though. After the joys of driving there and back it was in, kit on, straight out, no stopping to collect two hundred pounds, stuffed some malt loaf down and set off. I didn't think I needed to eat, it was only going to be a short one and I've got enough fat in storage to fuel me. I decided to have a quick ride to Porlock and back, there is some relative flat bits to get some speed and rhythm going. I still don't feel that comfortable on the Trek, I might have to check my angle of dangle and other technical stuff again.

I think my inner roadie is now out fully out, why is it some car drivers think they have to squeeze past you as your going up hill and as for that big red van who slowed down as he passed me and then missed a gear, concentrate on your driving, another motorist probably checking me out in lycra.

So it was there and back and I managed to hit 32mph going down Bratton straight, I said it could be done.

Distance - 11.33miles
Time - 50.32mins
Avg speed - 13.4mph
Elevation gain - 788ft

I was going to title all my blog entries with song names and then I realised the Cycling Mayor was already doing this, she's my inspiration I don't want to nick too many ideas off her ;)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Quick One

Thought I'd get a quick lap in, it was cold but it was dry but I felt the need to get out. Its my morning off before night shifts but it had to be done. I did my lap around to Wootton Courtenay and back. Its not far only just over eleven miles but its got a bit of everything for a short route. I did my usual skirt around Dunster and onto the road to Timberscombe, it was lovely this side of the hill, sun on your face and sheltered from the wind. Dunkery was shrouded in mist as I went past the church and around the bend to point me back towards Minehead. It was a tad chilly this side though as the wind whipped around the hill. It was unsually busy, a couple of delivery vans slowed me down around a couple of the bends where I normally push it a bit wide to get some momentum. Onto Bratton straight where I had the pleasure of battling into a headwind, pushing the big ring I was struggling to get over twenty you can normally hit the mid thirties comfortably down here though but not today.

Distance - 11.2
Time - 55.18
Avg speed - 12.2 mph
Elevation gain - 1132ft

I've done this route six minutes quicker than this. That's two routes in as many days I've done six minutes quicker. I don't if it was the chill on my lungs or the headwind or the different gearing on the Trek or I'm getting to hung up on stats. At least I'm out and pedalling. interesting point though, the same route according to garmin as suddenly gained about 170ft in height since I last rode it, bloody technology.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Any Old iron

Finally I had a chance to go for a ride with No1 son. Its been a couple of weeks due to shifts and dentistry so I decided to take him on my loop up to the two crosses and back to Minehead.  I managed to drag him off his xbox , saving the world from eastern European despots will have to wait, cycling comes first. That could be the cure to world disorder everywhere, just go for a bike ride, sweat out your grievances, have a blast and finish it off with a nice cuppa, easy.

It was another unseasonably warm day but as we where heading up to Wheddon Cross I layered up just in case and wore my fancy Campagnolo 3/4's which had only seen the light of day at the Cheddar sportive, its been too warm for them ever since. Did the usual skirt around the back of Alcombe and Dunster and hit the road up to Wheddon Cross. We where pleasantly surprised to find a large stretch of road just after Timberscombe had been resurfaced with lovely new tarmac a few days before, it was nice spinning along, this is what all roads should be like. About half way up the boy got a bit fed up of sitting behind me and did his best Andy Schleck impression and shot off up the road leaving me to puff my way up. After a quick breather, for me anyway, at Wheddon Cross we went up the hill towards Raleigh's Cross. I was getting a bit disheartened as the first twelve or so miles of this route are basically up but this road takes you up onto the Brendon Hills, once on top there's some good straight and flat sections where we picked up the pace.

Its a nice quiet road to blast along, going past the old mine workings of days gone by. Its hard to imagine that this area was once littered with mines digging up iron ore for the welsh foundry's just across the channel. A railway was built to Watchet to take the ore to the docks and a lot of a work has gone on in recent years to preserve what remains of the Mineral Line and preserve a bit of local industrial heritage.

It was then past the Beulah chapel, past the pub at Raleighs Cross and down the great descent of what's known as Sticklepath. This was get my own back time as I descend like a brick, the boy gets caught up in the wind as he's about eight stone wet through. It was my turn to wait for him, revenge is sweet. We carried on down the hill took a detour via Torre and past the cider farm, (we'll have to stop another time to visit that) and onto Washford.

We then had to negotiate the A39 which is the main route through to Minehead, No1 decided to tuck in behind so I put my head down and headed for home. This roads always busy but we just went for it doing the last six miles in just over twenty minutes.

Distance - 28.9 miles
Time - 2.22
Avg. Speed - 12.1mph
Elevation gain - 2272ft

I did this ride back in the summer on my own and did it eight minutes quicker, I don't know how ;)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Follow The Bear

Bonus and I thought we'd get out early today as the forecast wasn't too brill after lunch, Bonus doesn't like the rain, probably makes his back to black run :). We hit the road climb up to the Hopcott woods, I sat on his wheel as he's about four stone lighter than me and usually leaves me behind. I managed to keep with him today though so either he's getting slower or I'm getting quicker. After a quick breather at the top of the road we hit the rough stuff and carried on up to the top of the hill. It was then along the top with Minehead down below us on one side and Timberscombe on the other. We then hit the cracking descent down the right side of Grabbist Hill. You could take the left hand route and go down the face of Grabbist but that's bloody steep, I don't do steep, I fall off. It was a leaf strewn descent down the hill so you had to keep your wits about you, this didn't slow Bonus though as he blasted down full tilt. The good thing about riding on weekdays around here is there's less chance running into ramblers or lost tourists, when I say lost, you have to ask yourself why are men and young ladies out in the woods with a flash camera wearing unsuitable clothing, must be birdwatchers.

We hit the road up to Nutcombe Bottom and onto the tracks through the tall trees that take us back towards Dunster. It was up past the bear and onto the crunchy track. We call it the crunchy because of all the little pine cones on the track crunching beneath you, if you hit them too quick it's slide out time. The crunchy track has had a bit of a makeover since our last visit. It used to be shrouded in rhododendron's so if you fall off (me again) you had something to catch you. Not anymore, they're gone, which leaves a lovely view of the hills but a great drop if you lose your balance. It was then back down the road and onto Dunster, we nipped around the back of Dunster and down the farm track to the old Minehead road, we where going quite quick when I noticed the students from the college farm unit sat on a gate by the side of the track watching us blast past, all I could think of was don't fall off now.
Bear in the woods
Dunkery in the distance
It was then the road home, happy to get out and have a blast, and back to mine for a well deserved cuppa.

Distance - 8.8 miles
Time - 1.19
Avg speed - 6.7
Elevation gain - 1274ft

Friday, 4 November 2011

Short but Sweet

The plan for today was to hit the muddy stuff with Bonus. We were due to set off about one ish but then the skies darkened and it started raining about 12. I still fancied a blast and suggested we could do a route that kept us under the treeline. Five minutes before meet up I get a text from Bonus making his apologies but he didn't like the look of the forecast.

Well, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go so I thought I'd do a quick lap that would give me a lung bursting climb followed by a great descent. I set off up to Hopcott woods, its still warm and had to stop five minutes in to take off my waterproof, I was under the trees now and the rain was easing. The first part of this ride is along the road up through the combe. It would be hard enough on the road bike with 23mm of rubber but on a 40lb mountain bike with 2" inches of rubber it certainly gets your blood pumping. It's about a mile from my house up to the end of the road but the last bit ramps up gaining 200ft in about a quarter of a mile. I made it though which gave me a boost and after a quick search for my lungs I made my way onto the rough stuff and through the trees up to the top of the hill.

Autumn Colours
Its nice riding through the woods, peace and quiet and the odd spooky rustle, probably squirrels but you never know. Its great being this close to the trails, if I turned around now I could be back home in about two minutes. I made my way to the crossroads, put my waterproof on and headed for the top of Grabbist Hill and then onto Alcombe combe. It was wet down to the top of Grabbist and after a quick wipe of the glasses it was onto the combe. This is a great downhill when its dry but a little bit more challenging in the wet. There's lots of wet roots, leaves and rocks on the tricky bits so I took it steady. After making it down in one piece I hit our little track through the trees and through the stream at the end to finish the off road bit and hit the road home.

I'm not that muddy dear...Honest !
Short but sweet, but happy I got a ride in because it's been lashing down ever since I got in.
Racing Stripes
Time - 44.13
Distance - 5.14 miles
Avg speed - 7.0 mph
Elevation gain - 741ft

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Where is the Love

After a stroll down the beach with the wife and the hound to warm my legs up I thought I'd nip out for a quick blast before the forecast rain hit. For November its bloody warm, so it was shorts and a base layer and my new Trek Livestrong cycling top. I've got the Trek bike so you have to have the top. No1 son wants a Sky kit for crimbo, when he mentioned this to one of his mates they said he can't wear it he's not a pro cyclist, well,  I see lots of of very large people in Man Utd and Chelsea kits and such like, I don't think they actually play any sports ;)

I thought I'd do a loop through Luccombe and Wootton Courtenay and back home. I set off and made my way to Bratton straight, its what you'd call undulating. I don't know if its my inner roadie coming out but why is it some 4x4 drivers feel they don't have to give you any room, Bratton straight is a very wide road, there's no need to be that close, that or they're checking out my arse.... or bike.

Down Tivington and through the lovely village of Luccombe. I don't know if its a bit of fatigue after just finishing my night shifts but I wasn't feeling the love today. My legs seemed to be struggling to turn the pedals on the flat. I forgot to take my inhaler for my asthma before I set off, so I don't help myself sometimes. My asthma doesn't really bother me but I do struggle for the first thirty minutes of a ride until my lungs warm up. Theres a little sharp hill out of Luccombe but then you reach my current nemesis, Holt ball, I don't know why but it gets me everytime. It's one of those short but steep climbs and because it goes around a bend, in my minds eye I think its steeper than it actually is. Stitch, you bugger, why do we get them, and why halfway up a hill ?

Its then through Huntscott another pretty hamlet along to Wootton Courtenay. There's another little up just before Wootton Courtenay, it's probably just as steep as Holt Ball but the road is wider and straighter, gritted my teeth and powered up it. I took the back road to Timberscombe another nice and quiet road, I went this way so I could take the road from Timberscombe to Dunster, nice and straight and virtually flat. Finally I could get into the big ring and get some speed up. Its nice spinning along, headwinds don't seem to bother me that much, it must be my athletic frame cutting through the wind, that's probably why people seem to sit behind me when its windy, you know who you are. Onto Dunster, past the school and up the hill to the road back to Minehead. I was feeling better so manned up, rode up the Hopcott road and then home.

 Distance - 13.36miles
Time - 1.08
Avg Speed - 11.6mph
Elevation gain - 1202ft