Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Haldon Forest Park

A trip out with No1 and Bonus for a day away riding bikes. Up early to load up the bus then over to the house of Bonus to pick up him, his bike and his new toy. Then it was down the M5 to not so sunny Devon for a ride at Haldon Forest Park near Exeter. No1 and I rode here last summer during the school holidays, fun but very busy. Today it was lovely and quiet with plenty of places to park. At the trail centre there is cafe, bike hire, loads of parking and a little skills area to hone your bike handling skills on. Apparently you can Go Ape nearby and there are places to park your horse.
Precious cargo......
We decided to hit the blue intermediate route first for a warm up. I didn't ride this last time and it made a pleasant surprise as we wound our way through the contours of the forest. We went slightly off route at the end as we didn't realise we had to ride back down a section of what we'd just ridden to get back to the trail centre. Will know for next time ! The only thing that disappointed me today was a young couple on bikes with young children on the back of each in kiddie seats. No helmets all round and setting off down a slightly technical cycle track after stopping to read the warning sign !
Bonus preparing his new toy...
After a stop to refuel we headed off to do the red trail which according to the official blurb is. "A highly technical trail for experienced riders with the right bikes and protective equipment." but we rode it anyway and it's bloody good fun. As we neared the end it started lashing down which was a bit of a shame because we wanted to play on the skills bit, next time.
Good old British summer......
We packed up the gear and headed home in the rain, smiles all round for a great day out. I'm waiting for the official film from Bonus now. The problem is Bonus and technology are notoriously incompatible so it might be a bit of a wait :) Only Kidding, I'm sure he pressed all the right buttons.

Not everybody likes these purpose built trail centres with their all weather tracks but I think anything that encourages people out into the great outdoors is a good thing. I personally really like places like Haldon and the Forest of Dean which also has excellent facilities. They really encourage people out on their bikes in a family friendly, traffic free environment. West Somerset really could do with something similar as its got all the ingredients, so here's hoping.

Monday, 25 June 2012

....so take the photographs, and still frames in your mind.....

I went for a ride with my little boy today because as of next week he will be a man, working, getting paid, the full caboodle. He's basically finished school now apart from the Prom, we never had proms think it was more a case of good riddance. As I've got a couple of weeks off and he's off we thought we'd catch up on a bit of cycling. Let's hope there's never a euro championship for weather forecasting because I'm afraid we'd be crap at that to, we'd put up a plucky effort but in the end fail miserably, or go out on penalties. Sunshine and light winds, try overcast and a bit breezy but warm down at sea level.

We headed out to Porlock and the toll road, a couple of impatient drivers did annoy me but I do get a bit protective when I ride with kin. Last time I rode up this way I did feel a bit crap, I put it down to some dodgy chips and nerves. I was ok today and we seemed to make our way up at a decent pace, well for me anyway. We avoided the off road short cut today and did the sticky hill bit from Whitstone post which honestly wasn't too bad.
A sign, no sun :(
Along the top of the moor where I seemed to be attracting more flies than a dead badger, must go quicker. Down to Exford where the road known as the Tunnel was very wet, summer eh ! We stopped at the bus stop for a breather then did the loop to Winsford back up to Wheddon Cross. I was advised to try and up my cadence which I've been doing and I think it does work. My legs were feeling it a bit though as we made our way up the last bit to Wheddon Cross but No1 did say he thought we went up quite quick. A stop for something sweet and fizzy in the shelter, and to pick off a tick, then down the hill to Dunster.
My little boy........
I tucked in and tried to get as aero as a chunky bloke can and nearly hit forty on the way down, think its the quickest I've been down the hill yet. No1 wasn't too far behind I think his confidence is building when descending.

Distance:36.95 mi
Avg Speed:12.0 mph
Elevation Gain:3,607 ft
I think that I'm slowly improving and according to Strava I did my quickest time up the toll road. It was only by about twenty seconds but it all counts !

Saturday, 23 June 2012

.......the hills and the fortune got me fooled again.....

Summer's here or that's what the calendar is indicating this month. Work, weather and a football tournament for youngest child has curtailed my riding and blogging lately. I've been out for a couple of short spins but nothing major and was itching to get out on a bike after what seemed two very long days and equally long damp nights at work. I fancied some peace and quiet and decided to go for a ride on the mountain bike. Before I went anywhere I popped down to the local bike shop to sort a out a quicker rolling rear tyre, the tyres that came with the bike are a bit too buzzy for me. After drooling over the shiny bikes I picked out one of these and headed back home and fitted it.

I headed up to North Hill one of my regular routes, up the coastal path bridleway, muddy under the tree line and onto the top. It was a bit breezy but once I was away from the car park and the dog poo(!) I didn't see a soul.
View from a hill....
I headed down Lynch Combe, a narrow track with a drop on one side, really good fun, concentration is key.
Lynch Combe
There's a bench at the bottom, a nice spot to stop and admire the view.
A bike, a view and a sign....(for JT)

Through the trees and trails to Selworthy and onto the back road to home. I didn't really go that far, about ten miles or so but I just wanted to ride. It was quiet for a weekend which made it even more enjoyable, just me and the bike and I got home before it started raining again. I guess sometimes it just nice to be out on your own with your thoughts. Oh and I was singing this song to myself........and I was somewhere in that crowd, happy days.....

Saturday, 9 June 2012

One banana, two banana, three banana, four.....

I'm blaming all this bad weather on the missus, I've told her already, she took it quite well ! When the weather warms up I dig out my favourite shorts. They are baggy, scruffy camo type things and very comfy but the wife hates them. During the recent summer(!) I was forced into buying some smarter ones , I haven't worn them yet, its been too busy raining.

Today I was invited to go for a ride with someone new. I got to know Robin via the Bike Radar forum after he gave me some sound advice on a sportive I was thinking about doing. He was visiting relatives who live in town and fancied a ride. He's one of the more sensible people on the forum and readily gives good advice. I did warn him about my distinct lack of speed as his advertised speed was double of mine. I was slightly nervous and apprehensive as I made my way to meet him. When I get nervous and apprehensive my stomach starts doing somersaults, it was doing somersaults. I met Robin and realised I had met him years ago in a pub in town when we used to have proper pubs. I also know his brother, small world.

We decided to go for a ride out to Porlock and up the toll road and down to Exford. Its a regular route for me and one I quite enjoy. We made our blustery way to Porlock and started the climb. The road was covered in the debris left over from the stormy weather. A first for me today, as Robin stopped at the toll booth I had a zero mile an hour fall and forgot to clip out and knocked him off and I landed in a heap. I did feel a complete and utter idiot and didn't stop apologising for the rest of the ride. I hope I didn't cause any damage to Robin's beautiful steel Mercian.
Wild windy moors........
I did feel a bit rough going up the toll road, a mixture of nerves, slight shock and feeling a bit of an idiot. It was nice chatting to Robin though who is an avid Audax rider and regularly takes part in events. I did the cyclo cross shortcut at the top of the toll road as I wasn't feeling that great and Robin took the road route. Its a steep rough road down to Exford, again the road was covered in debris. Someone on a quad bike or banana splits mobile as Robin described it, did his best to force me into the hedge as we made our way down.
We did the lumpy bits out of Exford where Robin powered his way into the distance to stretch his legs and then the descent from Wheddon Cross. I did my best to lead the way to Dunster and do my best wind break bit once on the flat. I think it worked because I could hear Robin's Campag freehub ticking away behind me. Once at Dunster we said our goodbyes, Robin to go and do another thirty odd miles now he'd warmed up and me to trudge home.

I did feel slow today and was struggling and my stats back it up. I was over ten minutes slower up the toll road so perhaps it was just one of those days. 
Distance:30.64 mi
Avg Speed:11.0 mph
Elevation Gain:3,055 ft
I did enjoy the company though. Once again cycling has put me in touch with an enthusiastic individual who also loves cycling and also happens to be a very patient and all round nice bloke.