Friday, 27 April 2012

.....blossom in the trees you know how I feel........

Woke tired and grumpy today, I think my exertions on the beauty had finally caught up with me and I was lacking my mojo to ride today. I took to the twitterverse to seek inspiration and and received it from the Rouleur, he told me to get out and ride because I'd feel better when I got back and observe rule 5. Also I didn't fancy the thought of daytime television, I'd like to think I'm not daft enough to need Dom and I don't possess any grey baggy tracksuits bottoms or a shell suit so that was Jeremy Kyle out and I have no need to escape to the country as I have already achieved that, but if any heir hunters find a loaded long lost Auntie please don't hesitate to contact me.

I walked the hound, had a banana and a cuppa and got changed, what to wear ? The weather guessers had promised a dry day yesterday but as normal that had changed and dark clouds were looming overhead. As I was observing rule 5 it was shorts, thermal long top and cycling jersey and popped on my high vis gilet for a bit of windproofing. I do loathe wearing the gilet sometimes as it seems to act as a magnet for poor drivers, perhaps they think its a high visibility vest of invincibility but sadly it's not. I didn't fancy any big hills or distance today so set off towards Porlock and decided to make the rest of the route up from there. Up and down the Bratton straight with some nice new tarmac at the end, also some nice new tarmac on the straight from Selworthy to Allerford, so new that they hadn't got around to putting the white lines down. I turned down to Bossington and headed back the way I'd just ridden, new tarmac, had to be done.
Packhorse Bridge - Allerford
I turned off the main road and headed through the back lanes to the village of Wootton Courtenay, it was dicing with the puncture fairy a bit as these lanes are a bit agricultural but quiet and a couple of little hills to get up. The little up just before the village always makes me reach for the granny gear and today it looked steeper, think it was because the hedges leading up to it had been chopped down so I could see it long before I reached it. As my mojo had now returned I decided to get my arse out of the saddle and dance up the incline, perhaps more dad dancing than Armstrong but I controlled my breathing and rode up it. Through the village and onto the main road at Timberscombe to Dunster, big gear time but the roads were very wet with standing water. I thought I'd nip through Dunster castle grounds to grab a picture, a friend and blogger in the north of the county recently made the claim of having a castle out that way, but it's not a proper castle, so I thought I'd take a picture of a real castle.
A real castle

Where's the beach ?

I must have circumnavigated the rain as the roads were wet in town, I went for a quick spin along the seafront, stopped and chatted to an old colleague I saw out for a walk and headed down to the harbour to add some miles onto the ride, that and I was enjoying just spinning about. I was so glad I got out and rode, Mr Rouleur was right, I felt so much better for getting out.

Distance:20.37 mi
Avg Speed:12.8 mph
Elevation Gain:1,339 ft
Not particularly far or quick but I just wanted to ride but a year ago 20 miles would have been a real challenge, I do love cycling.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Exmoor Beauty 2012

Today I rode the Exmoor Beauty a sportive on my doorstep, seventy miles around Exmoor, no getting up at silly o'clock to drive to it and being able to register on the Saturday was a bonus to, no need to get down to Butlins early to queue and faff. I got up early anyway to make sure breakfast was consumed and stretching done then headed down to Butlins for the 8.00am start. It was chilly and sunny but the big dark clouds were looming overhead, even had a rainbow as we all waited to start.

I was determined to keep a steady pace and not get caught up in the testicle competition that always seem to happen at the start of an event like this, seventy miles around Exmoor is a long way. I can't keep up with the quick boys and girls anyway I'm more of a pootler than a rouleur. The route headed out of Butlins and along the main road out of town and onto the A39 past Dunster turning off in Carhampton and heading up the hill to Blue Anchor and then up the hill out of Blue Anchor down to Watchet and through to Williton. I was feeling ok but had that Star Wars feeling of my hyperdrive not working, everyone else seemed to be whizzing past me whilst I felt I was slowly going nowhere. It was off the main roads now and through the back lanes to Monksilver and past Combe Sydenham, this bits undulating and I was feeling a bit slow and useless as people whizzed by, the road then took us to Elworthy Cross and the first big challenge of the day Elworthy Hill. This definitely brought all the riders back together, its a 17% gradient in places, I really admire the people who rode up it because I walked half of it, I wasn't the only one though. As we reached the top and got on top of the Brendon Hills the rain and wind came, the roads were a bit flatter but the headwind put pay to that luxury.

The undulating theme continued as the route headed past Wimbleball Lake and through the village of Brompton Regis, handily the organisers had put up signs counting down to the feed station which was nice. Time for a nice descent, but I took it steady, it was raining and there was a bit of crosswind but it was still fun and it wasn't all up today. Up the hill into Dulverton, I was feeling better now, think it took me this long to warm up but I was soaked as I got to the feed station in Dulverton. Luckily the sun came out but it was chilly as I helped myself to some hot soup, flapjack and malt loaf, I didn't fancy hanging around to get cold and soon set off on the second leg of the event. The route soon took us up another steep climb out of Dulverton and up to the moors, I had to bail out again and walk a bit, slow, can't ride uphill, why do I do this.

Exmoor unleashed driving rain and a driving headwind once on top of the moors and it was slow going for everyone up here. The puncture fairy was lurking up here, I don't know if it was because we had entered Devon but rider after rider seemed to be suffering. I just kept plodding along, it was quite a nice road with great views, on nice a summers day I'm sure it's lovely. After a while I noticed I had a bit of a chain gang forming behind me, I kept on spinning and they kept sitting behind and chatting and I started to get a little annoyed, then we got to a sheltered stretch and one of the riders emerged from behind me, he commended me on my pace making abilities and informed me he would of helped but the wind was too strong for him to get around me. At least I now know my true calling, mobile windbreak. Finally we turned towards Simonsbath and a tailwind and a puncture, blinkin flip, time to change the tube. As I was on my own I had several kind offers of help but I managed to change the tube but it was a struggle getting the tyre back on with cold hands. After getting back on the road it was a quick descent down Simonsbath then up the hill and onto the nice straight flat road to Exford with added tailwind, time for big ring spinning and rapid progress, even with the puncture I was feeling really good, the legs ached but I was enjoying the challenge.

A quick stop in Exford where the organisers had put up a drinks stop outside the tea rooms, I think the tea rooms were doing a roaring trade by the look of things. Up the hill out of Exford, I was determined to keep going and not bail out, I know these roads and I know I can get up the hills but with fifty odd miles in my legs something I'd not done before. I just kept spinning, down to Luckwell Bridge and back up, still spinning and still pacing others and onto the road that takes you up to Dunkery Hill. I stopped at Dunkery gate for a drink then hit the climb over the hill, its nice and steady and chatted to a couple of other riders and admired the view, the sun was out and the wind was at my back, good times. Down the cracking descent off Dunkery, took it a bit steady with the wind now hitting me, and down to Luccombe and through the back lanes through Wootton Courtenay and onto Dunster. A quick up out the back of Dunster then downhill to the main road and back to Butlins, the finish being inside the ride hq, a round of applause and your name announced on the pa system and a very polite youngster handed me a complimentary t-shirt, nice touch.

Well my legs and back ache now but I'm really chuffed I finished, you can't do anything about the weather and the elements add to the challenge, a great event well organised and a friendly bunch of riders. My cycling gps computer thing seems to be playing up, I was moving for about seven hours and it took me just short of eight hours with the stops and the puncture, time to put the kettle on.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.........

I read an article today about a study which suggests people like living beside the seaside, it creates a sense of well being apparently. I must be lucky because whilst I can enjoy a stroll along the beach I can also head to the hills to enjoy the lovely countryside which surrounds me which also gives me a sense of well being and this is what I decided to do today and ride my bike which also makes me feel good and ignore the weather because being positive is also good for you. The wind was a bit gusty so I decided to ride the mountain bike and get muddy and go looking for new tracks to explore. I headed out to Alcombe woods and wound my way up through the combe and then onto the track I've often thought about riding up but never had, all roads basically head to one place so there was little chance of getting lost and I could always turn around.

into the unknown....

Water was running down the track and it was narrow and rocky as it meandered its way up the wooded combe, it was peaceful now out of the wind, I do like being out in the woods some people find it eerie but not me I find it quite calming. The track got rockier and steeper and I had to push the last bit as I lost traction and skill to reach another track which followed the contour of the hill. Left or right ? Left, I had a rough idea where I was now and the track took me to the top of the hill at Hopcott and the ridge line which I regularly ride. I did my loop of the forest roads, not particularly technical or interesting but a good work out but littered with horse poo, line choice was critical, I even passed some other hardy souls out on their bikes.

I decided to head back down the way I'd ridden up, far more fun, but carry on where I made the decision to turn earlier and see where the track took me. It was a nice piece of singletrack and a bit overgrown so not used much and it took me to another downhill stretch I knew which took me back to Alcombe. Muddy, sweaty and so happy to get out on my bike, it didn't rain and even the sun came out.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Secret World Charity Ride

Pastures new(ish) today as I headed to the Somerset Levels to take part in a charity ride in aid of the Secret World wildlife rescue centre. The ride itself was organised by the Bridgwater Cycling Club and nearly all of today's participants appeared to be members apart from me and a couple of others. So about twelve or so of us set off into the morning sunshine, I was a bit concerned, I was under the impression that the ride would be marked in some way but was advised at the start that it wasn't and had to rely on the written instructions, we all hate written instructions I'm bound to end up with some extra screws. Everybody set off at a nice pace and for some reason I got pushed to the front, we then hit the first incline at Woolavington, as I don't know the area everybody else seemed to shoot past as I paced myself but they did wait at the top for everyone to regroup.

I'm not the quickest and soon lost the pack on the next stretch, I managed to catch up to a nice man called Alan who seemed to know where he was going so I stuck with him. After a slight detour (got lost) which was confirmed when we passed a couple on mountain bikes who were taking part walking up the hill at High Ham who hadn't passed me. Again I took it steady and stayed with Alan but I'd like to think I could have gone a bit quicker but I thought it would be bad manners to leave the bloke who'd stayed with me. It was then onto Langport and the first checkpoint at The Potting Shed cafe where everybody else was lounging outside enjoying the sunshine. This place was soon packed with cyclists as members of Taunton Road Club descended, I knew one of them so it was nice to talk to a familiar face.

One warm coffee later and it was up the hill and towards and through Somerton under the railway bridge and then another climb which took us towards Butleigh and onto Glastonbury. I managed to stay with one rider for a bit but the wind was being a nuisance now and hitting us in the face as we headed downhill towards Glastonbury, the wind was holding me up that much I didn't need to brake. On the flat and heading towards Glastonbury, the headwind really making me feel uncomfortable, as a practising asthmatic I do struggle when the wind is taking your breath away. I managed to catch up with a couple of riders and we made our way through Glastonbury and across the levels to the second checkpoint at Fenny Castle. This was also packed with cyclists, I didn't fancy sticking around so had a quick drink of something fizzy and headed off to plough a lone furrow into the wind.

I think I've ridden this bit of the levels before when I did the Cheddar Sportive last year and like last year I had the wind to contend with but not the rain and it was a bit warmer and I was wearing more layers because layers are good (thanks Jennifer). I had to stop to get my bearings and nearly went the wrong way but the quick boys had caught up with me and pointed me in the right direction, they didn't stop mind. On through Mark, short name long village, and a bit of a tailwind down to Huntspill and back to Secret World for a well earned cuppa and a slice of cake.

Distance:52.37 mi
Avg Speed:13.3 mph
Elevation Gain:1,589 ft
A nice ride for a good cause, shame about the wind but I kept a steady pace all the way. Big thanks to those who kindly sponsored me.

A Green hill...far away

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Join the club.......

A day of firsts, firstly, I plucked up the courage to go for a ride with the local cycling club, I kept putting it off but with a Sunday off I finally bit the bullet, I'm a shy boy at heart despite the gruff exterior. The weather looked a bit ropey so I layered up, perhaps a bit too much and headed to the meeting point. Was I early ? did everyone change their mind when they heard I was riding ? because when I got there it was just me, only mild panic, I do like being on time though, even early. Then riders started arriving all looking fit and slim and riding steel exotica or carbon steeds and even some couples on tandems, all very friendly to the new boy on his shiny Trek. By the time everyone had assembled there must have a been about thirty riders in all and I was asked about my fitness(lack of) to gauge which group to ride with. The quick types soon took off and I rode with what was a middle group of nine but some of these looked lean and quick.

We headed up to Wheddon Cross at a nice steady pace, it was nice riding up with someone to talk to, I kept pace with another recent recruit called Bob who I'd ridden with at a cycle week mtb ride last year and a nice man called Chris who extolled the virtues of the club. I rode at a good pace and this was the first time I had ridden all the way up to Wheddon Cross without taking a breather. I regretted wearing my waterproof jacket though, it's not the most high tech garment something I'd describe as boil in the bag. We stopped for coffee, another first no draughty bus shelters today, at the Rest and be Thankful pub, no cafe up here it had to be the pub. After a couple of nice coffee's we headed up the hill towards Raleighs Cross heading for Elworthy, I was at the back but looking at my stats it was the quickest I had ridden up this stretch. Once on top and on the flat the pace ramped up with the tailwind we now had, the quicker ones in the group where pulling away but I stayed with my peleton of three, a brief glimpse of the Garmin and we where cruising at 24 mph ! A couple of lumpy bits just before and after Raleighs and the group split, then I felt my rear tyre going soft. Thankfully Chris stayed with me and helped re inflate what seemed to be a slow puncture. Down Elworthy hill far more enjoyable than riding up offering spectacular views of the vale and down to Elworthy Cross where the rest of the group where waiting, discussing gear ratios as cyclists do. Note to self, bigger cassette may be needed.

Into the headwind now and heading back towards home, a nice man on a Cube who's name I didn't catch told me to ride on his wheel to shelter from the wind, very kind, he must of seen the suffering in my eyes :) It was busy on the A39 as usual but riding in a group seemed to slow drivers down a bit. The group started to peel off as we neared Minehead and we all went our separate ways. It was nice to meet so many like minded individuals, everyone was very friendly, subscription in the post. First ride done and overall I think I rode ok, I think I rode quicker but Strava and Garmin don't seem to agree on my average speed, think I'll go for the quicker.

Distance:32.50 mi
Avg Speed:11.6 mph
Elevation Gain:2,514 ft

Saturday, 7 April 2012

....the midday sky was grey and purple at least it wasn't blue.....

Alone, I fancied at bit of solitude this morning so I hit the hills for a quick lap. A familiar lap of North Hill, up to Selworthy Beacon and back down again only the odd walker to force into a greeting, it's not hard to say hello, I know I'm riding a bicycle but really. The sky was a bit grey and I had a bit of headwind on the way up but I was riding my bike in peace and quiet.

Dunkery behind the bike
Porlock hill, another day......
If you look carefully you'll see Weston...
All downhill (ish) from here......
No time, no average speed, no elevation gain, I just rode my bike and really enjoyed it.