Tuesday, 24 July 2012

.....oh the summertime is coming.......

Its strange how the mind betrays the body sometimes. I've felt decidedly crap for the last couple of days, did  I over do it the week before, have night shifts finally caught up with me, who knows. Up early to avoid the heat and I still felt fuggy but I was determined to get out and ride. With school holidays now in full swing the roads were quiet, no school run mums taking no prisoners, I've had first hand experience, they stop for no one.

It was blue and hazy and already warm as I headed up the back road to Dunster. A new climb today, a road I rode down with No1 a few weeks backs. Its also the last big descent of the Exmoor Beast so if anyone's done that you'll know it. Its about three and half miles and I think its a bit steeper than going the main road way and it finishes above Wheddon Cross so you gain more height too. It starts nice and sheltered out the back of Timberscombe, granny ring engaged, it was a bit steep for me but I kept spinning. Its one of those climbs that plateaus then rises again and even throws in a short downhill bit. I was feeling good though, just spinning in the sunshine determined not to stop. When I first started doing the road riding I think I had that little bad mamil on my shoulder telling me stop because I was knackered and couldn't do it. The more I ride though I think a good mamil has appeared on the other shoulder telling me to keep going and pushing me to get to the top. I also think I ride on my own too much ;)

Anyway I did get to the top of the hill without stopping and carried on down the quick road along the top towards Dulverton. At one point I even had a tractor drafting behind me as I was going too quick for him to overtake but he left me on a hilly bit, always the same old story. Back up to Wheddon Cross along the valley road the River Exe flowing below me. It was bordering on chilly, I've always said that Dulverton has its own micro climate and the sudden chill just reaffirmed that belief. The road through Bridgetown has been resurfaced which was nice but its still as rough as a badgers posterior either side. My plan was to get to Wheddon Cross and see how I felt, easy way down or ride over Dunkery. I was still spinning along quite happily so stopped for a can of something fizzy and then headed towards Dunkery.

Dunkery is starting to get the hint of purple which means the heather will be blooming soon so I will have to head this way again. I don't know if it was the sugar rush but I seemed to make quite good progress up the road to Dunkery. I didn't reach for the granny gear as I was feeling quite strong which is a first for me. Its a nice climb up the road and the views are just brilliant and make the effort worthwhile. I stopped to take a few pics as some Exmoor ponies were also up here. I keep running into them, we both know all the best spots :)

It was then the descent off the hill and then down Crook Horn Hill which is just as steep going down as it is going up ;) A quick blast through Luccombe and back to the main road and home. I felt a whole load better when I'd finished then I did when I started. Feeling good on the bike again and I keep looking for hills to ride which is a bit of a worry !

Here's a bit of a tune, not everyone's thing but I think its quite beautiful.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

......and up on the hill is where you find us........

Out of my book of 101 crap excuses I put it down to a first week back on shift and finishing two night shifts on Saturday morning for the reason I was feeling knackered after the ride on Sunday. Having to go to work yesterday to be refreshed on my skills also left me feeling a bit tired and grumpy. I was in two minds about going out but it was warm and sunny(ish) and it seemed a shame to waste a good cycling day. I've been thinking about doing this for a while but kept making excuses but its a local event and always well attended by the club. I also received some positive messages from some of my twitter buddies egging me on. 

I once read somewhere that the secret to doing something properly is by abiding to the 7p's but it can also go up to 12, that's a lot of p's. I've also thought about doing a bit of the route anyway just for the challenge so I decided to try it today as I was knackered, that makes sense! I did the usual slog along Bratton and as I reached the end Exmoor was hiding under the clouds, ace, I love a bit of weather. Down to Luccombe and back up to the bottom of the climb up to Webbers Post.
Onwards and upwards......
Its a bit of a steep one and a kind walker offered to open the gate around the cattle grid but that looked even more treacherous with all the debris so I decided to unclip and walk across it. I got straight back on and slowly made my way up, and up and when I saw the brow I dug in and made it to the top. I was rather pleased with myself and spun off towards Cloutsham.
Down to Cloutsham
Its a nice descent down to Cloutsham but I knew what was at the bottom and waited to see how things looked when I got there. The water appeared to be running quite quick over the ford and the walk around it looked muddy. I wimped out riding across and went wading instead, it was warm, my feet would soon dry out and I was glad I did because it was bloody slippy. 
Not today......
It was then the climb up to the farm and onto moors and it was rather good. Not too steep and a nice steady spin, a nice man in a van stopped to let me pass as its only a single track road. I was up in the clouds once on top of the moors but just when you think you've done enough climbing it ramps up again.
Summer on Exmoor 
Once I was finally on top I made quite good progress along the undulating road that would take me back towards Porlock. I was quite enjoying myself, I think the mist just added to the fun. I think that my endorphins from getting up the hills were putting pay to any tiredness. It warmed up as I neared the coast and the cloud cleared as I got to Porlock Hill. 
Home is that way........
I stuck to the road and a bit more climbing instead of taking the off road short cut to the toll road, wanting to ride up hills, I may need therapy ? For the first time ever I actually rode down the toll road and what a blast, I may just have to ride this way again just for this. Through Porlock, relatively grockle free, I even rode up the hill out which I always avoid. I was spinning along at a good pace for me but was soon passed by some lithe looking bloke, how does he go so quick ? Up the last hilly bit and back along Bratton and home. 

Here's the ride on Strava http://app.strava.com/rides/13639263. I didn't go that far or very quickly but I really enjoyed being out on the bike, going up hills !

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Great Weston Ride

Up early today to drive to Weston-super-Mare to take part in the Great Weston Ride which raises money and the profile of the Prostate Cancer UK charity. It was a bit cloudy and dull as I set off but the sun was shining where I was heading. Its a from somewhere to somewhere else ride and not the start and finish at same place kind. The start was in Bristol and the organisers for a fee laid on transport from Weston to the start and vice versa for anyone wanting transport back to the start. So about twelve of us hesitantly put our bikes in the back of a van driven by a complete stranger and jumped on the bus to get to the start. It didn't seem to take long to get there but the driver of the van obviously took the scenic route and was nowhere to be seen. Lots of people at the start and whilst I waited for the essential piece of equipment to arrive I booked in and scouted about for the Cycling Mayor and the Mendip Rouleur who I knew were riding the event. The Rouleur spotted me first, admiring my Livestrong jersey and the Mayor appeared soon after. Really nice to meet them both at last, quick chat, I think someone mentioned doing this !
Long Ashton start

The man in the van arrived with the bikes and I was soon on my way. As its a charity event there were lots of different types of riders and bikes and not all lycra clad racing snakes on carbon racing steeds. The route took us through Barrow Gurney and past Chew Valley lakes before turning off onto a particularly rough road  near Harptree. Another hill at Blagdon and through to the first stop at the bottom of Burrington Combe. I seem to be taking longer to warm up and I was glad of the break as my back was aching a bit. A quick breather and refuel and off up the combe, the big climb of the day, past the Rock of Ages but no sign of Tom Cruise ;) The lower part of the climb is deceptively steep but I soon got in my rhythm and quite enjoyed spinning up, the last part was a bit steeper but my aches had disappeared now and I was actually passing people pushing which would of been me a year or so ago. Along the top of the Mendips now and through the village of Priddy which took me to the great descent down to the levels but not before stopping to take a pic of the view.
View of Glastonbury and the levels
Onto the levels now and wind, its always windy when I'm out here is it me ? Through Wedmore and onto the second stop at the school. I resisted the temptation to have a bacon roll or cake and just opted for a cup of coffee. I don't know if that was the right option because once I was back on the road into the head wind I started feeling a bit rough. The long drag through Mark and over the motorway to Highbridge to play with the cars on the busy main road. The route took me through Burnham, busy with tourists and along some quieter lanes past Berrow and Brean before rejoining the main roads again for the last little bit to Weston. The clouds had rolled in and the wind had picked up at Weston as I made my way down the seafront to the finish. I was shepherded into the finish and given my medal and a token for some free hot food but the queue was about twenty deep so I gave that a miss. There was even a trailer selling beer but I was driving and I'm trying to be tea total at the moment so sadly I gave that a miss to.

Distance:56.03 mi
Avg Speed:13.8 mph
Elevation Gain:2,301 ft
Overall I enjoyed the ride but it was a shame you had play with the traffic on busy roads but its summer and the roads are always busy out that way. I was flagging for the last fifteen miles or so, I think I need to find something that refuels me better. As the route was a bit lumpy to start with I don't think my time was too bad for me.

Friday, 6 July 2012

'I'm freezing charlie - haven't ya finished yet?'

A ride with Bonus today, Bonus cam equipped, a last hurrah before we go back to work. I don't know about him but my energy levels improve no end when getting regular sleep and not burning the midnight oil, funny that. We rode up North Hill as I did the other day, busier, lots of young people with back packs probably doing some kind of award scheme, one of them waved when he saw Bonus cam. We then headed down Lynch combe and through the woods to Allerford down a nettle lined track, ouch! A quick splash through the ford at the bridge and then onto the bridleway to Horner.

Bonus getting his feet wet
The track to Horner had thankfully been cut back but it was hard going, the soft ground churned up by horses. A quick spin down the road and cake break time at Horner tea gardens. We decided that the recession must be hitting because we are sure the portions of cake were bigger the last time we visited.

Coffee and cake.....
It was then up to Webbers Post which was a bit of slog. Again the ground was soft under the trees and its very popular with horse riders resulting in a muddy push for a bit. The last little bit was on the road which was a bit of a relief even with chunky tyres.

A sign...
More backpacking teens impressed with Bonus cam as we got onto Dunster path, one of our fave bits of track. It skirts the lower slopes of Dunkery Hill and is what the magazines might call technical because of the rocks and other hazards. It also offers nice views down to Dunster and over to Selworthy.

North Hill and Selworthy in the distance.
Its my first time negotiating this on the hardtail bike and its certainly different when you don't have five inches of air suspension cushioning the rough bits. I made it though and we headed down to Brockwell and the orange mud.

Orange mud...
A quick blast on the road through Wootton Courtenay and onto the climb up Wootton Hill. It's says it's a mile long but I'm sure it was longer. It was a case of who broke first, I was waiting for Bonus to stop and it turned out he was waiting for me, gosh, competitiveness whatever next. I'm sure he stopped first but I was glad he did. A quick breather and we finished the climb, again I was feeling quite good.

A sign and a bike
It was all downhill now and we decided to ride our new fave downhill bit. We have a habit of naming certain tracks and today Bonus christened it "Readers Wives" after he witnessed some goings on the last time we rode it. Bonus was recording the stats today as well as recording some footage but I think we did about 18 miles. Its a shame we are still riding boggy tracks in July but it all adds to the fun. The blog title was taken from a poem today, get me all cultural and stuff.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

....across the field you see the sky ripped open.....

I was determined to go out for a ride today irrelevant of what was happening in the skies. After a early morning conditions recce with the hound things were not too bad. No wind, no rain but muggy and overcast. I didn't fancy a road ride in case it lashed down and opted to go for a blast on the mountain bike. After the levels on Sunday the only way was up today, my legs were feeling a little bit achy but soon warmed up.

It was a muddy well worn trail up the slopes of North Hill. My new "Summer Tyre" was struggling in the mud  under the trees and I spun out on a couple of occasions. As ever the track dried out once out of the trees and the channel to my right looked like a massive mill pond in the still conditions. I startled a couple of walkers once on top of the hill, sounding my bell as I approached. I know a bell isn't macho hardcore mountain biker but it certainly breaks the ice when approaching walkers. As I got towards the end of the hill I could see the cloud and mist rolling in, I made my way down to the Acland Hut for a quick breather.

The hut was built in memory of one of the Acland family who owned the Holnicote Estate which is now part of the National Trust. Apparently he would walk up here every Sunday with his family, I don't blame him, it's a nice spot. 

As I set off to head through the misty Selworthy woods I came across some of the locals hiding in the trees.

There's a myriad of tracks down through the woods to the village of Selworthy. A couple were blocked with fallen branches but I saw them in good time so avoided any dodgy moments. There was a fair degree of foliage  along the tracks, must be all this damp weather. After the village I made my way along the back lanes and tracks and headed up to Periton woods. This climb starts out as a wide forest road and turns into a track further up. It used to be a major effort for me involving pushing half of it but last time out this way I made it stopping for a breather about half way. Today though I hadn't stopped since Selworthy and was feeling good and just kept going all the way to the trig point at the top of the hill. Another milestone moment for me, I'm not the quickest but I think my endurance is improving all the time. Then it was all downhill to home, fun fun fun.

It was trying to rain as I pedalled along the road to home and I made it in just before the heavens opened. I felt really good today and was so pleased with the way I rode especially the ups. Perhaps having to pedal for fifty miles on Sunday did me some good ?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Glastonbury Song.......

Yesterday the wife and I attended the inaugural Beverfest, arranged to fill the gap left by the Glastonbury Festival not happening this year. It was slightly smaller than the big one but had better toilets and no cow poo to sit in. I will admit to having a couple of beverages but I did have my mind on what I was going to be doing today.
Lady Ha Ha and Michael Beavis......

So it seemed quite apt that I was up early and onto the road driving down to Glastonbury to a green hill far away. No music festivals today but the annual British Heart Foundation Somerset levels charity ride which had been rescheduled for today. The postponement worked out quite well for me as I had booked to do the original date but then couldn't arrange the time off work. I'd ridden this event a couple of years ago when I first got the urge to ride a road bike and did the twenty seven mile route but today I was going to attempt the fifty. I met up with Rob and Nick some cycling club newbies but we did not to see any others, I think with the rearranged date it clashed with another club event. I did tell Rob I was going to ride at my own pace so I hope he wasn't offended. I got myself ready, glad I'd brought my Gilet and arm warmers because as ever the weather was doing the complete opposite to what they said on the telly.
The start
We started down the road at the carnival sheds, it was sunny but getting darker by the minute and a bit chilly.  As its a charity ride and not massive distances it wasn't the usual sportive crowd. There was a great mix of riders and bikes but some of those mountain bikes looked heavy. Everybody lined up and set off en masse which made the first couple of miles on narrow lanes a bit slow.

I'm going to have a moan now as this bugged me all day. If I wanted to pass or passed someone I would always let them know and pass the time of day. Its not hard, "coming past on your right" and then a thank you, what's that, five words, six syllables ? Too many quicker, fitter riders went past me and others without even a word there's no need for it. I noticed a loose dog messing about in a hedge and drifted out to avoid it only for someone quicker to blast pass, I think I heard a huff.

I spent far too much time looking at the Garmin for the first hour getting stressed about my speed and started contemplating doing the short route. I was cold and it was trying to rain and it looked like it was going to lash down. I had a stern word with myself and made the turn onto the longer route, looking down at the Garmin I'd done about seventeen miles in the first hour, I was quite pleased with that.

The next bit of the ride took me around Burtle and Mark but it all seemed to be into a headwind. After a quick stop at the thirty mile mark near Watchfield there seemed to be some respite from the wind. I was slightly delayed by some farmers running a herd of cows along the lanes. I slowly zipped up my black Gilet over my bright red jersey, you never know ! They must have been moving the cattle for a fair few miles as the roads were now a minefield of fresh cow poo and it had rained. Some of the lanes were very agricultural and better suited to mountain bikes and it was a relief to get back onto some decent roads at Cossington. It was a nice ride through Chilton Polden and down to Shapwick. I couldn't believe I was actually going down a hill, at one point during the ride the Garmin said the elevation was -1, is that possible ?

I was developing a bit of cramp in my left leg but managed to get the cranks turning for the last few miles back to the finish. I got a medal and bottle of water the and sun came out as I drove home making the levels look lovely.

Distance:49.25 mi
Avg Speed:14.5 mph
Elevation Gain:753 ft

I don't know if I should be pleased or disappointed with the time. I did slow for the second half of the ride as my knee did start to ache, I don't know if it was cramp or the cold... in July ! It was nice riding somewhere different but being on the flat is a lot more harder than you'd like to think. There's no hills but you got to keep pedalling and throw in the wind and some cows and it makes an interesting day out.