Tuesday, 28 February 2012

..swing your hips, loose your head and let it spin.......

Before I start waffling about today's ride you might have noticed the JustGiving link on the blog page. I intend to do a few events this year and thought I'd try and raise a bit of money for charity at the same time. I've decided to raise money for the Retired Greyhound Trust as its close to my heart. They do great work rehoming the cast off's from the racing industry, I've got a cast off, sent for rehoming at eighteen months, that was five years ago and she's a real sweetheart. If you can spare anything it would be really appreciated, thank you.

Just a quick spin today, I was still feeling the effects of doing that little bit extra on Sunday and wanted to keep the legs turning. The lactic acid was already there when I set off towards Porlock but once I'd done Bratton Straight I was spinning along quite nicely. It was sunny as I left home but as I spun along the wind was blowing a bank of fog towards me slowly enveloping the hills.
Bossington Chapel, should be hills behind...
So it was down to Bossington and through Allerford now shrouded in fog and back onto the road to Minehead. Every time I go out now I seem to be pushing bigger gears, regular riding is really making a difference and its only a couple of months before I attempt my first Sportive of the year, sixty five miles around Exmoor, so I need the miles.

Back up the road, spinning up the hill at Tivington (I still need to work on getting up hills quicker) and head down on the drops along the straight and a lap of Minehead. The fog was touching the tops of the hills above Minehead as I rode along the seafront, thankfully matching t-shirt free and quite peaceful.
A pretty bit of town.

It was quite a good little spin, those endorphins are great and after temporarily stepping off the wagon last night I felt quite good, Cycling Plus did say red wine was good for you though and the cycling fairy said it was medicinal to ;)

Distance:15.80 mi
Avg Speed:13.1 mph
Elevation Gain:1,034 ft

Sunday, 26 February 2012

...into the valley......

You have to love it when the weather forecast is wrong in a good way, the forecast was for grey and cloudy but No1 and I set off into blazing sunshine and little wind. Its amazing what a positive effect a bit of sunshine has on you, No1 was positively perky as we set off towards Dunster and the ride up to Wheddon Cross. It was a cracking morning the scent of the evergreens as we passed the Dunster plantation wafted across the road and it was a bit chilly in the shade but the sun was out the sky was blue and we had every intention of having an enjoyable ride and get some miles in.

As we were intending to go a bit further today No1 rode with me as we made our way up the hill. He normally takes off because I'm a tad slow but not today, he just sat on my wheel and chatted with me. I normally stop halfway up to give me a breather but I was feeling good and tapping out a steady rhythm so manned up and rode all the way to the top. After a quick stop at Wheddon Cross we rode up to Hare cross and turned onto the road that would take us along the top of the hills towards Dulverton and the valley road. This was pastures new cycling wise, virtually flat in a Exmoor kind of way just the odd kick up and we made good progress. I even had to slow down for No1 to catch up with me, he was getting caught up in the wind ;).

Only 24 miles to Exeter.....
It was then along the valley road back to Wheddon Cross. Its a nice ride along the valley, tree lined and with the River Exe flowing along nicely down to our left. It would have been even nicer if the road had a decent surface, I imagine this is what it would be like riding the cobbled classics  it was shocking really. That aside we quite enjoyed riding somewhere new and we made our last climb up to Wheddon Cross which was full of people going to see snowdrops.
No1 rocking his new Sky jersey
After a quick stop at the shop to consume something sweet and fizzy we hit the downhill back to Minehead. It's a cracking downhill and it was head down, arse up all the way down, four miles of freewheeling at 30 mph, great fun. A quick scoot around the back of Dunster and onto home. A cracking ride with a happy teenager, happy days.

Distance:34.82 mi
Avg Speed:12.3 mph
Elevation Gain:3,124 ft

Me and my boy...too much fizzy ;)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The airs too thick...

It was sunny and there was a bit of a breeze as No1 and I set off for another rare Sunday ride, the wind was cold though and the tramp along to Porlock did little to warm us up. We had not ridden up the Porlock toll road for a quite a while so thought we'd give it a blast today, I was struggling from the start and No1 doesn't like slow uphill so he shot off like a Schleck and left me wallowing on my own. He did wait at half way but soon shot off again when we resumed, I was struggling, I think the cold air on my less than perfect lungs was taking effect. I met up with No1 once again at the top and we made our way to the road that would take us along the top of the moor.

It was bloody cold up here, and we made slow progress along the top, the wind seemed to be buffeting us from every direction. We headed down to Cloutsham, the descent making us even more colder, I think No1 lost most of his extremities as we made our way down. He wasn't to impressed with my choice of route either, I think it was a bit too agricultural for him, its nice in the summer though. He was even more impressed when we had to cross the ford, its only water.

A Ford
A Grumpy Teenager
So we made our way to Webbers Post, a couple of young Stags graced us with their presence running across the road and down through the trees too quick for me to to take a pic. Another downhill through to Luccombe and onto home, No1 was sitting behind me now, I think the cold was too much for him. I thought we might have had a tailwind on the home straight but I'm sure the wind had changed direction.

Distance:24.99 mi
Avg Speed:9.6 mph
Elevation Gain:3,009 ft
Whilst watching the excellent cycling on the telly I learnt something new today. The super new velodrome is a controlled climate, apparently cold air is thicker than warm air so no cold air from outside is not allowed into the arena. Warm air makes the cyclists go quicker, so that's why I was so slow today, the air was too thick ;)

Friday, 17 February 2012

Quick Blast...........

I did intend to go for a ride with No1 today but you couldn't see the tops of the hills for the cloud and rain and he doesn't like riding in the wet and he was suffering from teenage tiredness so we decided to wait for another day. Then the cloud lifted and the sun came out so I went for a quick blast around my Wootton Courtenay loop. I still haven't beat my personal best from way back in September on the old bike but got a little bit closer today. I think my PB lap was helped by me hitting 37mph on Bratton Straight, still haven't got near that since, must have had a good tail wind that day, and it was sunny and warm..........

Distance:11.25 mi
Avg Speed:12.6 mph
Elevation Gain:900 ft

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

its getting better all the time................

As a creature of habit I did one of my usual routes today, as with most of my routes it involves going up and coming down, think theres a pattern emerging somewhere ? It was cloudy but dry and warm out of the wind, I wasn't really feeling the love as I rode up to Wheddon Cross a combination of a snotty nose and sore limbs from painting the bathroom and assembling flat pack furniture the day before I think. The road seemed quite busy and as I got to Wheddon Cross all came apparent, it was the annual bus tours to Snowdrop Valley, a bus trip to see the er...snowdrops, very pretty apparently if you like that sort of thing.

I seemed to have avoided the wind on the way up and it appeared quite calm at the cross but it soon found me on the slopes of Dunkery Beacon, in my face on the road up but thankfully I dodged it a bit as I went through Dunkery gate and made my way up the hill. It was cloudy but you could see for miles along the channel, I've taken the pic before so I kept on riding, even the sun popped out to make me even warmer, always a nice view though. The wind had been hiding and hit me on the descent, buffeting me as I made my way down and chilling me to the bone for good measure, the shoulder stood up to the task though and I even rode over the cattle grid at the bottom which I'd wimped out at last time out.

A quick spin through Bossington and Allerford and onto home, a few good stretches of flat stuff to get the big ring spinning, just over two hours, not too bad.

Distance:22.52 mi
Avg Speed:10.7 mph
Elevation Gain:2,237 ft

Today's ride was five minutes quicker than the last time I rode, improvement ? you live in hope ;)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Badge of Honour............

Just went for a quick spin today, mountain bike again, the roads looked dry but the menace of ice was lurking in the shadows. I did the same route as I did with No1 the other day, up the nearest hill and back down again basically but it was just me today the rest of the family tucked up in bed as I set off into the winter sunshine.

I read some tips in a magazine from one of the pro riders for going uphill, don't shift to your bailout gear as soon as you see an incline(like me), sit up to open up your lungs, relax and control your intake of breath. With this in mind I hit the road climb up to the woods, I always struggle but I relaxed and spun up. As I got to the top, a woman got out of her car as I came to a halt, "You must be mad" were her words, I'll take that as a badge of honour or one of those laminated lanyard things, "Its all part of the fun" I replied "I'll take your word for it" and we went our separate ways.
So it was a bit more up, and a loop along the fireroads, it was still frozen up here and as I crunched along the track the ice crystals glistened  in the sunlight as it cut through the trees. I was cruising along quite well and I've started pushing bigger gears, I think the road riding has helped me in that respect.
Onto the downhill bit, and I felt the chill as I headed down through Alcombe combe, just me on the track today, no herds of other cyclists to slow me down, my thumbs decided to go somewhere on the descent but thankfully they've reemerged now.

Distance:7.15 mi
Avg Speed:6.7 mph
Elevation Gain:1,032 ft

I know I was only out for an hour but look at the elevation !

Thursday, 9 February 2012

And there is music in every sight and every sound ............

The day started misty and it was still cold but the biting wind of yesterday was gone, I did an errand and spoke to a nice man from Cleethorpes and made my way home to decide which bicycle I would ride today. To get any mileage on the road and avoiding the A39 means heading inland and upwards and I didn't fancy any icy descents on 23mm of rubber so I opted for the softly sprung option with chunky tyres and headed into the hills.

The sun was shining and the skies were blue as I set off, winding my way up through the streets to get to the coastal path track which takes you up to the top of North Hill. Its about two miles up and the sun greeted me as I emerged out of the tree line, the trails were frozen and rock hard which made for good progress.
Not going to the chapel..

Once on top its a pretty level ride to the end of the hill, the day was glorious and my lungs had warmed up with the climb up, it was cold though and the remnants of last weeks snowfall still lurked confirming my choice to go off road to be the right one.
I made my way to the end and headed for The Cross (pic to explain) I don't why its there, there is a plaque with psalm 148 below it, I'm not religious in any way, perhaps someone could tell me its relevance.
The track from the cross back to Selworthy through the woods is brilliant, its a  roller coaster ride, hugging the contours of the hill, riding through the trees with the sun shining through, dodging branches, rocks and roots, I love it and it makes me grin like a big daft kid every time I ride it. There is a myriad of tracks to Selworthy but I managed to pick the right one and arrived at the village and its pretty church. A ride along the back road from the village and I arrived at the crossroads at Bratton straight, do I turn left and head down the road and be back home in 5 or do I go straight on and do another 2 mile climb up to the the top of Knowle Hill ? I'd only been out an hour and a half, the fairy said 2 hours.

As I was feeling groovy I headed up, it starts as a fireroad and turns into a rough track as you head up. The track was icy in the shade reminding of what a good choice I'd made and I was spinning along quite nicely, I've ridden this way before and to be honest I've given up half way in the past and walked half of it. I did stop halfway, got my breath and got back on the bike, I sat up, relaxed and spun up the hill, to my surprise I still had a couple of my 27 gears still available to use, I thought about bailing out again but dug in and manned up and never stopped, I was really quite pleased with myself. Once on top I took the long option home and rode along the ridgeline and down into Alcombe Combe and the road home.

Distance: 14.22 mi
Time: 2:17:03
Avg Speed: 6.2 mph
Elevation Gain: 2,113 ft

I know it doesn't look far or particularly quick but I was out riding and I was feeling curiously marvellously super duper.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sunday muddy Sunday...

Snow ? We hardly see it round these parts and I woke this morning to see the sun, yes the big orange thing in the sky, rising somewhere to the east. I was up early so took the hound out to count squirrels and check the road and weather conditions. The roads were a bit damp and probably somewhat salty after the last few days temperatures so I decided it was a definitely a day for the mountain bike. I hadn't ridden off road since my brush with tarmac back in December. The pyhsio suggested I should stick to the road and not jar the shoulder too much, I don't think he's ridden a bike on the roads around here :)

After some well needed lubrication to the bikes No1 and I set off, it felt strange sitting up riding the big old mtb, both our bikes are a bit heavy compared to our road bikes and the chunky tyres stick to the road, we both ride full suspension bikes and all your effort seems to disappear into the suspension when you ride on the road. Its a mile long uphill road slog to the woods and I could see No1 was struggling as much as me, its not very often he stops for a breather and I pass him going uphill.

All downhill..but wrong direction
After a quick breather we were on the rough stuff and the bike felt so much better. I wasn't feeling too bad either as we spun our way further up to the top of the hill, No1 was still struggling though, a combination of tiredness, his bike getting too small for him and just a general teenage strop were not helping his mood. He even sat on my wheel as we rode another uphill section. We were only a couple of miles from home but the elevation made a great difference in temperature. On the top the track was frozen and scattered with remnants of snow and icy puddles, and being a big kid it was great fun smashing through the puddles, even No1 joined in which cheered him up.

I didn't want to do anything too technical today as the shoulder still isn't in full working order. We did a quick circuit around the fire roads getting wet and muddy but riding at a good pace overall. Its great to ride off road without having to worry about looking over your shoulder for cars etc and I enjoy the tranquillity of riding in the forests. No1 didn't fancy riding much further so we headed down one of our fave downhills into Alcombe Combe but this was somewhat curtailed half way down by twenty plus multi coloured mountain bikers riding up the same track. At the bottom we slipped and slid through a little track in the trees, I was quite pleased to stay upright chuffed that I still had some bike handling skills. We then headed home, we were only out for about an hour, but I enjoyed it I just hope I haven't lost No1 to the dark side, he'll be better once the trails dry up a bit.
The pic above was meant to be a picture of me looking dangerous and exciting riding through a stream but the boy took it too early, oh well another time maybe ;)
Dogs best friend...