Thursday, 31 May 2012

Everyone's got to be, somewhere.........

I'm going to start with a moan, a rant, a point of view call it what you will. Today's ride started with a short journey along the A39 to get to Carhampton. I try to avoid this road if I can but some days you need to go somewhere different. Perhaps I was being over protective as I was out riding with my first born but some people really do need to sit back and think. To go past cyclists at speed without even moving over is just downright bloody stupid, are we really holding you up that much ? Word of advice, if you are going to drive like an idiot don't do it in a van which tells everyone where you are from but whoever wasn't the only one. Just to reaffirm the impatient nature of people today a driver did a U-turn because he couldn't wait for two minutes for the steam train to leave Blue Anchor station, it made us laugh and calmed me down.
Gridlock Somerset style........
Anyway enough of that, soapbox back in the cupboard lets get back to the ride. This mornings ride turned into this afternoons ride as No1 was held up at school. He's on study leave now which means he can officially bunk off after any exams or lessons he needs to do. I was a little bit grumpy, I was ready to roll this morning and didn't know if to eat anything again. It had warmed up to but I really shouldn't moan about that ! After the A39 we did the lumpy bits to Watchet and through Williton and got onto the quiet lanes to take us to today's challenge, Elworthy Hill. We passed Combe Sydenham hall which No1 decided was haunted, because it looks like it is !
The only way is up......
 I'd attempted the climb of this hill twice before and failed miserably but today I was determined to get up it.  No1 set off and soon disappeared into the distance and left me to huff and puff on my own, I sat up and span and dug in. Its steep at the bottom but the gradient eases off a little bit, I tried to control my breathing and kept turning the pedals and slowly but surely I neared the top. No1 had stopped near the top and was waiting, I don't think he was out of breath or even sweating. I span past, determined not to stop until I crested the top. I stopped wanting No1 to take a pic of my glorious moment but he shot off as he didn't hear me in the stronger than advertised wind. I took a pic though..
It was blowy up top and I was doing my domestique duties again sheltering No1 from the wind, bless him. I'm used to riding on my own so don't really mind, No1 doesn't like the wind, it tends to hold him up. We made our way towards Wheddon Cross but had to take a diversion because of water works down at the cross on a new road for us. What a blast, I think we just found our new favourite downhill though some of the bends were a tad sketchy. That could of been down to me going to a little bit too quick around one of them though :) We eventually arrived at Timberscombe with numb feet and hands, I think through gripping too hard and hanging on. It was nice to be back down in the warmth and out of the wind and we cracked on to Dunster and onto home. I was knackered now and could feel my exertions in my legs but got my arse out of the saddle on the last little climb.

Distance:34.16 mi
Avg Speed:12.2 mph
Elevation Gain:2,861 ft

Home and happy its amazing what a positive attitude can do for you but No1 did say he didn't think it was much of a hill !
No1, hair by Giro........

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

...where will I wander and wonder?.......

I fancied a change from the road bike and decided to go for an off road blast. I dressed in my official mountain bike rider attire of baggy shorts, t-shirt and chunky shoes. I was heading out alone and I wasn't too sure where to go but at the eleventh hour I got a text from Bonus who was up for a ride. We hatched a plan to head up to the Hopcott ridge and then head off into Dunster Woods and explore the trails. This meant heading up the Hopcott road, a steep tarmac stretch that certainly warms you up. According to Strava its got an average gradient of 10% up to the tree line.Being on the mountain bike adds to the challenge, you can feel the tyres sticking to the road.
Grippy tyres...
Once up onto the ridge we headed to the descent of Grabbist Hill, Bonus flew down but I took it steady. I'm still getting used to riding a hardtail again so you have to be a bit more careful with line choice. We then headed past the tall trees and in the spirit of adventure headed up a trail we had never ridden before. We ended up back where we started but it was a good loop and one we'll have to add to our future rides.
Tall Trees...
We then headed past the bear and onto the crunchy track which is one of our fave downhill bits. The rhododendrons were hanging over the track which slowed us a bit, not a lot but a bit.
Why we call it the crunchy...
We headed back towards Grabbist and went looking for a new route back up the hill. Bonus thought he knew the way, we found one and it was steep but we rode it. We were quite pleased with ourselves when we thought we'd got to the top. We were not at the top, decision time, steep push up or ride back down ? We pushed up the steep track, its that steep you have difficulty standing upright, I did think Bonus was going to cry at one point but he said it was something in his eye. We stopped at the bench to refuel then decided to hit the new track I discovered last time out this way back down the hill.
View from the bench...
Its really peaceful up here, no traffic, no noise and we could look down at the busy A39, beats sitting in a car any day.

 We blasted down the track, which really is good, and linked up with another track which took us down to Alcombe Combe. Through the trees and a splash across the river. We were going to stop for a photo opportunity but Bonus noticed a couple in the trees, must of been birdwatching or something ! We had a little chuckle too when we reached the pub in Alcombe. It was having a delivery and the dray lorry was blocking the road. An irate woman motorist was berating the delivery blokes for blocking the road and causing a tail back, must of been at least four cars and two cyclists. 
Baggy shorts and chunky shoes...
No stats today, I've stopped recording my mountain bike rides. I just want to go out and enjoy the ride and not get hung up too much about how fast, far etc. Bonus did record the route on Strava just in case though :)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On an island in the sun we'll be playing and having fun

No faffing today, shorts, jersey and a smile was all I needed as I headed out into sun. I huffed and puffed as I headed along Bratton straight and as I reached the end I couldn't help but notice that Exmoor had disappeared. The nice lady doing the weather had mentioned fog but there was no sign of it at home, it was hiding, waiting for me. As I dropped down past Holnicote I was enveloped by cold misty air, no arm warmers, no gilet I just hoped it was only down here and not covering the rest of the moors.
Missing moors...
My fears were short lived, as I got to Porlock the sunshine was back and I headed for the climb of the Toll road, something of a favourite of mine. I picked a gear and span up but took it steady I didn't fancy overheating. The lower slopes are tree lined and shady before you reach the exposed bit at the top.
Toll road
As usual it was peaceful with only the odd car even the squirrels were taking it easy today. It was so nice spinning along in the sun. The gradient eases as you leave the tree line but the top bit feels a bit of drag sometimes especially if you're tired.
View back down...
A quick drink in the shade at the top and then for a bit of cyclocross to cut out the sticky uphill bit. The track  has dried since I last rode this way and is probably smoother than some of the roads around here ! Across the moors in the sun and down to Exford, quick stop at the bus stop for a drink then up the hill on the road to Wheddon Cross. This was when my planned route went out of the window. I came across a sign telling me the B3224 was closed and advising of a diversion, I was on the B3224, which bit was closed? A bit miffed I decided to head out to Winsford which is a nice compromise anyway. Its a nice fast road through the valley but I had a close call with Mondeoman who was driving on the wrong side of the road. I expect he was re routing his sat nav or having a meeting on the phone in his air conditioned tin can.
The road out of Winsford
I got to the valley road and headed up to Wheddon Cross. My legs were feeling a bit heavy, I think my laps with eldest on the previous two nights were taking its toll now. I was glad to get there and stopped and bought something fizzy to perk me up. I also found the roadworks, on the road up out of Wheddon Cross.This road takes you up to the Brendon hills, the way I was planning to go so the detour was worth it in the end. Down the rapid descent to Timberscombe and on through Dunster taking the back road again to avoid the traffic.

Distance:35.60 mi
Avg Speed:11.8 mph
Elevation Gain:3,386 ft
Another good ride and I noticed today my back and hips didn't ache like usual. Could I be developing muscles or even getting fit ! Today's blog title was inspired by something someone tweeted today and this song is one I really love.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

....between a father and a son.....

Its been a while since I ventured out with No1 son. The pressure of exams, leaving or staying on and growing up both physically and in personality make for a tired teenager. He'd lost his mojo for a while but with the sun shining and some of his mates wanting to go cycling he wanted to get back into the groove. We just did a couple of short laps over the last two nights after school. Mainly short because yesterday I'd only had about four hours sleep after a night shift so I was tired and a little grumpy. I can't stay in bed all day especially if this is the only week of summer.

We set off up our new way on the back road to Dunster, he left me behind on any incline and on the straight to Timberscombe. He's one of those annoying people who make cycling look effortless whereas I sound like Ivor the Engine. We did the Wootton Courtenay lap and I left him behind on the straight before home, I think gravity helps me sometimes.
Looking towards Porlock
Tonight we did about the same first half of last nights ride but went for a ride through Luccombe and Horner to add some miles and a few lumpy bits. No1 sat behind me on the straight to Timberscombe and commented what a joy it was drafting behind me. It was about half way through this ride I noticed how low he was sitting. We haven't checked his ride height since before christmas and he must of sprouted about a foot ! He said he'd put on a stone but who knows where he's still annoyingly thin. Slight adjustment and we were off again, him looking even more effortless now.
That's my boy....
We spun through Allerford and hit the road home, No1 tucked in behind me, if its flat I can push it a bit. He left me behind on the Tivington hilly bit but I caught him on the straight.
Two really good rides, I really enjoy watching the son ride it really lifts him and I wish he would do it more. He's got a big couple of years in front of him and starts his apprenticeship in July, two days after leaving school ! I'll keep on at him to keep coming out on rides and I will get him out on some club runs. We've got the Exmoor Explorer in August which we've done together twice before so roll on summer.

Mondays ride

Distance:10.46 mi
Avg Speed:12.7 mph
Elevation Gain:891 ft
Tuesdays ride

Distance:16.48 mi
Avg Speed:12.2 mph
Elevation Gain:1,443 ft

Gave up on scales, think I look thinner.......

Friday, 18 May 2012 a big country dreams stay with you..

Who remembers their first bike or their earliest memories of cycling. For some strange reason the idea for this post formed in my head at work today, must of been a slow day. My earliest recollection of my first bike takes us back to the seventies where we where emerging from black and white into colour. I think my first bike was a  Raleigh but back then I think every bike was. It was some kind of cross breed unisex bike, you could remove the cross bar and turn it into a step through girly bike. I always remember that to brake you had to pedal backwards which was great fun because that meant skidding and wearing tyres out. Thinking back that probably made me the pioneer of fixie bikes but without Rapha.

I then moved onto a bike from Halfords it was their version of the chopper, big wheel at the back and little at the front. I always remember getting that bike, Dad took me into the city on the bus then I rode it home and he walked with me. The memory that always stays with me from that day was the smell of chocolate from the cocoa mill, though some days it didn't smell so sweet. I was Barry Sheene on that bike and would often practise getting the knee out on bends but sadly it didn't have a 500cc engine. That bike went to the scrappy after I snapped the forks doing jumps off home made ramps, those were the days.

The next bike that sticks in my memory was my first dropped bar bike, or a racer as we used to call them. It was a BSA from the catalogue and it had ten gears. I always remember going out riding and turning up at an Aunties houses miles away, she rung my mum, think she was more surprised I knew how to get there. That bike if my memory serves me right got nicked after my big brother borrowed it, he still owes me.

Once into my teenage years, girls and trying to look like Stuart Adamson took priority. After leaving school in the Thatcher years I became a economic migrant and ended up in Somerset with a summer job, that was twenty five years ago. I had the odd bike in those days mainly for getting to and from work and then mountain bikes arrived on the scene. I only really got back into cycling once my kids had grown a little but I only rode occasionally. Once my eldest got to the age of about seven all he wanted to do was come out with me. We'd do little rides around the hills near Minehead, I'd be pushing two bikes uphill but he loved riding down and still does. With a change of jobs and a new workmate with a love for mountain biking I started to go out more regularly and got the road bug last year. My friend was saying to me only the other day that he can't wait until his days off because he just wants to get out on his bike, I feel the same.

I can't get attached to bikes or cars or other material things, flesh and  blood and family and friendship are far more important to me. Memories are for keeping and lots of my good memories seem to be cycling related, so that's what I need to do more of, cycling.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

...must I paint you a picture......

I was feeling a bit down and somewhat grumpy and was in two minds about going out but it was sunny and the sky was blue. So after walking the hound and checking the conditions I got ready, layers, I didn't do layers today, big mistake. I just wore a short sleeve jersey and shorts and left my arm warmers behind, packed the gilet though. I made the mistake my retired friend does when she wants to lay outside, if its sunny its warm, that's not always true as we all know. I set off and soon regretted my arm warmer omission, it will warm up I assured myself, the wind wasn't too strong but it had a bit of a bite today. I took the back lane to Dunster which is a bit lumpy and warms you up but the lungs were not feeling great today even after inhaling some (prescribed) drugs before setting off. The legs seemed to be working ok though but it was colder than it looked, cold knees, I hate cold knees.
My retired friend, in the sun......
I resisted the temptation to put the gilet on as I was approaching the climb to Wheddon Cross, it would be slow going and knew I would warm up. Its a sheltered climb and one I used to do in stages but now I just keep going now my fitness is improving.
Up to Wheddon Cross
A quick break at the bus shelter and time to put the gilet on, downhill for a bit on the valley road, I was bloody freezing, goose pimples on goose pimples. I've never ridden down this way before only up and the turn off to Winsford seemed further than I remembered. On the road to Winsford, first time doing it in the opposite direction which means heading up towards Exford, nothing major though. I really like this road, and spun along in the peace and quiet, don't think I saw anyone for about six miles. My knee started to ache, think it was the cold air but I decided to head towards Dunkery, even saw a doe or was it a deer? Its amazing the height you gain going up to Dunkery but you don't really feel it, its a nice climb(!)
Views to Quantocks and Mendips
I stopped for a break on the hill but not for long then headed down, it was too cold to enjoy the scenery.

I thought I'd do my little loop around Bossington mainly in the hope of seeing alpacas but no luck today then headed for home. A nice spin along the newly surfaced road and then up the last little hill and a blast along the straight.

Distance:33.39 mi
Avg Speed:11.4 mph
Elevation Gain:3,218 ft
I was glad I rode today but wasn't feeling the love, a bit like riding on auto pilot. Perhaps it was my sartorial errors or because I was on my own but I still posted my quickest climb up to Wheddon Cross. I'm now going shopping for leg warmers, not the woolly fluorescent ones !

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pause for thought.....

Its about six months since I set out on my blogging journey to record my efforts to cycle more, weigh less and have fun, how am I doing ? In the last week I've cycled over seventy miles which a year ago would have been a major achievement for me. To be honest all I mainly think about when not turning the wheels of industry is when can I ride my bike again, obsessed, me ! After my little tumble in December which did knock me for six a bit and dented my confidence as well my shoulder and possibly the pavement its been upwards and onwards. I've joined Minehead Cycle Club and been out for a couple of rides with them, all really nice people who enjoy cycling and coffee. I rode fifty miles around the windy Somerset levels to raise some money for charity and also did the Exmoor Beauty sportive where Exmoor unleashed its more savage beauty and there's more events still to do this year.

Weight shifting doesn't seem to be happening yet but I have been told to be patient. I'm definitely fitter and riding quicker and feel thinner but still don't look like Fabian, I don't think I ever will but you have to keep trying. I think my defining moment so far was getting up the road to Raleighs Cross. I was so chuffed I didn't stop at the top to collapse in a heap which I would have done not so long back but the high kept me going for at least another ten miles before I came to a halt....and collapsed in a heap.

The biggest bonus of this blogging lark is the great people I've come into contact with who also share their views about life and cycling. The first person is Mike who lives for running and encouraging others to run, his enthusiasm is endless, you will run the Colwick Park run. Then there's the Rouleur who at the moment appears to be my motivational adviser, please read his blog especially the post about the history of the Garmin family, quite brilliant. Finally for now there is Jennifer who cycles and blogs and blogs and cycles(crap t-shirt slogan ) and writes reviews of sportives and articles for the cyclosport website. Jennifer is also sharing her trials and tribulations of her fodmap diet which she is following to help her combat some dietary issues.

I've always just been a mountain biker and would chuckle at the roadies on the darkside in their lycra and arm warmers and little shoe boots but you know what that's me now but I'm not a mountain biker turned roadie I'm just a cyclist. Hope you've enjoyed reading my blog and  please keep reading.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

..may the road rise with you.....

Another day off and another day without rain but ominous looking clouds kept popping over just to keep me on my toes, so I layered up and hit the road, I was still on a bit of a high from my ride on Sunday so thought I'd tackle a hill or two today. A quick blast along the A39 and the first little bump of the day out of Carhampton to Blue Anchor then along the seafront and up the hill towards Watchet. I had planned to tackle Elworthy Hill again but I've done it twice recently and not enjoyed the walk so thought I'd try a new hill and headed off towards the road known locally as Sticklepath. The road down the hill from Watchet back to the A39 is a bit rough and I had a little headwind to contend with as I made my way to the crossroads, across the road and the first bit of the climb. The climb up to Raleighs Cross is a bit of a three hills in one climb, you ride up a bit have a breather bit and then climb again, three times, you get the idea. The sign at the bottom of the road says 17% for two miles, was this a good idea ?
Which way ?.....
After the first little climb its up again but a little steeper but offers nice views out towards the Quantocks and its through the trees which I like for some reason I seem to find being amongst trees very calming.
Half way up, views to the Quantocks
A little down to Chidgley, time to take on some food and fluids before the next up and the steepest bit of the climb. According to Strava the next bit is a mile long with an average gradient of 9%, its steep but winds its way up the hill so you never see the full severity of the climb which seems to help me, if I see a climb stretching out before me it does tend to dent my mojo. I sat up, controlled my breathing and dug in on the steep bits and before I knew it I was spinning along to Raleighs Cross and the pub. I was so chuffed I didn't stop and just kept going and hit the road to Wheddon Cross, my lower back and legs were burning but I wanted to keep going, its a nice ride along the top but up here today it was a bit chilly. Every little up now needed a bit more effort as my legs were telling me it was time for a break, but I spun away and finally stopped at Wheddon Cross, on my own so back to the bus shelter today.

Down the wind tunnel to Timberscombe, I still free wheeled like on Sunday most of the way down but did start cranking it after the big sweeping left hand bend down to Timberscombe and then onto the flat roads to Dunster. A little up out the back of the village and through Alcombe, I even rode up the Hopcott road back home, I must be starting to go a little mad wanting to ride up hills.

Distance:31.21 mi
Avg Speed:12.1 mph
Elevation Gain:2,779 ft
Another good ride and I'm so chuffed I got up the hill, the slightly warmer temperatures help the lungs to, I may be the slowest man in Somerset but I really enjoy riding my bike.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

....Everyday is a new day I'm thankful for Every breath I take......

A Sunday off and it had stopped raining in our drought ravaged county so it was club ride day, it was a bit chilly with the threat of sunshine so I risked three quarters and arm warmers and gilet, layers, you have to love layers. A big turnout again at the rugby club and a chance to put faces to names, meet new ones and receive some nice comments about the blog and we all wrote some goodwill messages to Fred who had a serious accident recently, get well soon Fred.

The groups split up again and I tagged onto familiar faces from my last ride, because I hadn't been out with them for a couple of weeks they thought I'd been frightened away so I think they were glad to see me. We headed off through Dunster and Wootton Courtenay and through the back lanes to Porlock, I normally do parts of this route in the opposite direction so the ups were downs, you get the gist. I was feeling quite good to and was putting that bit more effort in on the lumpy bits to try and stay with the group. A stop in Porlock for coffee at the Lorna Doone hotel, no romantic heroines to meet us but the chairman and the slower group and hot coffee and chatting about all things cycling.
Any old iron........
Porlock in the sunshine......

It was then up the toll road in the warm sunshine, a bit of a rarity, its a find a gear and spin up hill, nothing too steep but four miles long. The group started to pull away as we made our way up, I was huffing and puffing a bit and feeling quite slow but looking at my stats after the ride it was my quickest ascent so far knocking three minutes off my last ride. It was then time for a bit of off roading to circumnavigate the sticky climb onto the Exford road from Whitstone Post, interestingly two of the group were riding cross bikes and took the road route whilst the rest of us went water filled crater hopping. On the top of the moors now and it was lovely as we made out way down to Exford and the climb out and down to Luckwell Bridge and up and onwards to Wheddon Cross. It was then down the great descent to Timberscombe, the other riders were descending a lot quicker and pushing the gears were I was freewheeling, but I was enjoying it. Onto the flat through Timberscombe, a couple of riders doing a sportive passed us so I went to the front of our little group and tagged onto them through Dunster, the group fragmented and everyone must have turned for home in whatever direction so apologies for not saying farewell but thanks for a great ride out.

Distance:36.55 mi
Avg Speed:11.5 mph
Elevation Gain:3,735 ft
I think riding with other more knowledgeable and really friendly riders is helping my riding no end, just the little hand signals for pot holes and the like and watching their technique when descending is really helping me improve and three minutes off a four mile climb, well that's just brilliant. Will be working for the next few Sundays which is a shame but roll on the next Sunday off.