Category Archives: Ride log

Posts of rides

An Epic ride

It started with a beer, maybe several beers, and the conversation ended up with a discussion about how we (Pete, my riding mate) needed to do something more than ride our local trails. We ride them most weeks and they aren’t much fun. Fields and bridle paths with bits of road to join them up. We have Cannock chase an hour away and we head to a Welsh trail centre or two twice  a year with a bunch of mates.

All good in their own way but nothing EPIC and when you’ve had a few beers doing something epic seems like a good idea.

This was about 18 months ago I think and I’d recently found out that the Grand Union canal that passes very close to my house goes all  the way to London. I’ve ridden the canal occasionally, head towards Birmingham and there is the Hatton Locks cafe and Waterman pub, a bit further Shrewley tunnel and you can do some circular routes. A couple of mates ride the canal regularly but it’s all a bit, well, boring.

But London. That’s a long way, a bit silly to think about riding there. So think about it we did and the plan was hatched.

Let’s ride to London for a beer! On the tow path. On our new rigid singlespeed bikes. The canal is largely flat anyway so how hard can it be ?

The idea brewed for a while and on talking to fellow cyclists we were met with comments about it being very difficult, so in June 2014 we did a test. On the SS’s heading towards London, 90 mins out then turn round and come back. A nice 3 hr ride to see how hard it really was.

The reality ended up being it’s quite hard. We felt broken, arms, hands, legs, back, neck. It all hurt. The canal may be flat but it’s not all maintained and a rigid bike batters your body or makes you work really hard to be out of the saddle a lot.

We did some research. We’d estimated it at 100 miles so I mapped it out in detail on Strava. It came in at 120 miles. 20% more than we’d expected. We found a few people who’d ridden the route over 2 days with a B&B break overnight. Reports talked of long unmaintained sections that were very hard work with it getting easier nearer London. This was the sensible option. So we stuck with our original plan and decided to train for it.

A year passed and we’d done no training. Not singlespeed on canal training. Bugger.

A decision had to be made. “Postpone and train”, “forget it and have a beer locally” or “have a go anyway – how hard can it be?”.

“Have a go anyway – how hard can it be?” won.

Thursday night saw a phonecall to discuss the details of out departure the next Saturday. We sensibly decided to not attempt it on the rigid SS’s but to use full suspension. It’s a long way and we would not doubt have more chance of success if we were less beat up. A departure time of 5.30 was agreed, lights would be needed and the last train home was 10.08 pm.

Departure

My alarm went off at 4am. I went back to sleep. My second alarm went off at 4.30 and I crawled out of bed. Said hello to our new puppy and sorted him out, sorted breakfast and headed out in my riding kit to the garage to to the last minute fettling that seems obligatory before any sort of ride. I’d decided to take my largest Camelbak as it had the largest bladder – 3l and it was full. A waterproof and a few tools plus a dozen or more gels, some Clif bars and a bag of peanuts were inside yet it felt really heavy.

Pete arrived at 5.30 on the dot just as I’d finished my fettling. Nervous words and laughter followed then we headed off to the canal.

The first few miles were on ‘maintained’ tow path and although we’d agreed to aim for a 10mph average we were going along at 16mph or so. We were both having the same thoughts of making good progress while we were fresh and all the dog walkers were in bed. It didn’t take long before we hit countryside where it’s grassy, bumpy and hard going. We thought the recent rain might soften it up but it was fine. We also thought the grass may be long and hard work but it wasn’t.Lovely day

We reached Braunston at around 20 miles and I was starting to feel saddle sore. Not a good feeling with 5 times that still to cover. I wondered if I was going to make it. Pete was also feeling it and I wondered if he would make it.

Proper food just after midday

Proper food just after midday

We stopped every hour for a quick 5 mins to eat, take stock and have a bit of respite from the saddle and around 12 midday and 50ish miles (I think) we decided to stop at the first pub that was open for some food. The sun was out, got an outside table, food came quickly and we were soon back on our way.

From this point on things we started ticking the miles off in 10’s. Getting to 60 was good as every mile meant we were nearer to London than home and were therefore pretty much committed to making it. Hitting 70 sounds like you’re a lot nearer with only 50 ! miles to go. 80 is two thirds of the way there and 90 is almost 100.Taking a short break

Just before 100miles and around 4.30 we decided it was second big stop time for coffee and cake. First option was The Bear on the Barge pub which didn’t have either but given we’d stopped we settled for a pint of Pepsi and a chat. Which raises an interesting point of talking during the ride was quite difficult as you’re usually single file.

By this point it was the longest we’d both ridden and we knew we would make it. Resuming however was very painful and it took a good 5 minutes for the pain to subside and the rhythm to return. The next milestone was 100 miles then the Paddington branch turn. These seemed to take forever and felt like the longest miles we rode all day. When the turn came the end  was 13.5 miles away and we encountered more people, increasingly so as we got nearer the end. All to be expected and actually a welcome relief as people mean getting out of the saddle for yet more relief.

We did it

We did it

The last stop was 5 miles from the end for a quick gel and a bit of pain relief for Pete’s knee. Then a trundle into the Paddington basin and slight disbelief that we’d reached the end and in a time that we hadn’t thought possible. Total elapsed time as just over 12hrs with around 10hrs of ride time and a 12mph average speed.

Photo’s were taken, Facebook updated and we headed to Marylebone. The sports bar and grill is next door with outside tables so we settled ourselves down, ordered some food and drank that well earned beer that was the goal of the ride. We got a train around 7.30 and I was home by 9. I don’t think we stopped smiling on the train.

These were  well earned

These were well earned

So that’s it. We weren’t that confident we could make it as it was quite a bit further than either of us had ridden but in the end it felt easier than I expected. We agreed that if we had to we could have done another 2 or 3 hours (so 30-40 miles) if we had to.

For me the biggest point I take from this trip is that we are all capable of things we’re not sure we can do, able to ride distances we don’t think we can and that giving yourself no bail out option means you put up with things you’d normally stop for. Now we need to work out the next epic challenge.

Riding the Headlands

Summer holidays in our household are usually a last minute decision thing with busy work lives meaning we tend to put off the sometimes drawn out process of the three of us working out where we would like to go. The past few years we have visited friends in the south of France. Having moved out there 6 or so years ago to an old farmhouse, we rarely get to see them and it’s a holiday that has something for everyone. My wife gets sun sun, culture and peace to read, my daughter gets to see her friends and engage with the animals and I get to ride my bike in the sun as often as I like (pretty much).

This year, however, we decided on our holidays back in April and I’m not quite sure how we ended up deciding on San Francisco. Ellie is now 13, so long haul is not going to be a nightmare and there is a lot of culture out there to keep my better half happy. As for myself, the headlands in Marin County, just over the Golden Gate bridge is the birth place of mountain biking.

I had hoped that I might be able to hook up with some locals, to guide me around some of the trails but a few posts later on Singletrack and a US forum shows that this seems to be a very frequent request and I got one offer from an MTB legend – repack rider or Charlie Kelly. It turned out that I didn’t get to meet him as subsequent posts and emails went unanswered.

So the plan was decided. I would sneak off for a day, hire a decent bike when I was out there and bobcat signride on my own. I’ve talked about solo riding before here, so I decided to take my Sidi shoes, some XTR SPD pedals and my RLSCC riding kit and work it out when I got there.

Bike hire was easy as there was a local Blazing Saddles right near our hotel. All you need is a credit card deposit, fill in a form and off you go. I took a town bike to the Columbus Ave branch where they kept all the decent mountain bikes and as I rode the local branch phoned ahead so they were expecting me. They had the choice of Marin bikes – very appropriate – and I decide on the 26in quad link full sus Mount Vision – about £40 for the day. Pedals were fitted, bike was checked and after a discussion on what map to take I was off.

A typical SF misty day

A typical SF misty day

The day before I had been in bed ill, so I decided to take it easy, soak in the sights and see how I felt. I’d hoped to ride up Mt Tamalpais but that was going to be pushing it after feeling like I might not feel up to any sort of riding. I bought some water and a couple of Clif bars from a local shop before I hit the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once into Marin County I was glad I bought a better map from the shop. I rode on the road up  to the start of the Coastal trail and chatted to a local roadie on the way up the hill. After a brief stop to admire the

Just before the real fun starts

Just before the real fun starts

view and sneak a photo, I was off down the singletrack, grinning ear to ear. I had told myself to take it easy as I was riding solo and hadn’t seen any other off road riders but to be honest the bike felt so good, the weather was warm and I was feeling the best I’d been in 48hrs.

 

 

I’d planned to ride the Bobcat trail but it took me ages to find the start of the trail. I took 2 or 3 wrong turns before finally getting onto it. I knew a lot of the trails were fire roads and so I wasn’t surprised to find myself slogging away for 20 mins up the trail. Just as I was starting to get hot I

The Bobcat trail

The Bobcat trail

rode into the typical San Francisco mist and was cooled down. Normally I would have pushed myself up the climb but not today so I took my time and admired the view.

 

 

Once I got towards the top of the climb I had a decision to make. Do I push on to a longer loop or ride back down the Bobcat ? I couldn’t quite work out some of the intersections and I pondered for quite a while as my heart wanted to ride on but my head said to not push things. In the end I decided to head back down the Bobcat and reverse the route I’d taken as it was approaching 3pm. We had planned to eat out and I didn’t want to get back very late.

I’d seen video clips of the original repack riders flying down the fireroads and flying off on the loose gravel on corners. I’d put this down to the bikes and over ambitious attitudes but I soon found out that coming down the trail at 25 mph into a loose fast corner that it’s not as easy as it looks. I tried to use the cornering techniques I learned with Jedi but the front kept washing out and my 2 wheel drifts made things exciting.

Looking back across the bay to San Fran, the weather had brightened up, I paused to take in the

Riding the Bobcat trail

Riding the Bobcat trail

sights before heading back across the bridge. I had a gentle pootle back along the beach, stopping for a coffee at a nice little cafe before tackling the hill on Mason street back to the hotel.

While I sipped my coffee I reflected on the days riding. I had mixed feelings.

Positives

  • I’d felt like death 24hrs earlier so I was relieved to have clocked up 30 or so miles and 300ft of climbing
  • I’d ridden in Marin county on the trails I’d read about 20 years ago.
  • The exercise was welcome after a week on holiday.
  • The views had been amazing

Negatives

  • I’d really wanted to ride further
  • I was irritated that I wasted time trying to work out where I was some of the time
  • Most of the riding was fire-roads and not as challenging as I’d have liked (but I knew it was mainly fire roads so not sure why I’m disappointed)

Overall
I had a cracking day out and it would have been nice to have spent a much longer day riding. San Francisco is such a great place that we will be going back at some point and I will be making an effort to ride a lot more when we do.

How many is enough?

The past weekend I had the unusual situation of being on my own from Friday night until 6pm Sunday as my girls went away on a girlie weekend. This had been planned for a while so I had the weekend mapped out in quite a lot of detail –  Sort out Riding kit, head over to Plush Hill Cycles to pick up the Yeti, pootle up the Mynd and a plan to do a long ride at Cannock.

Spending most of the weekend on my own lead to a lot of thinkingand one thing kept recurring which was what size group do I prefer to ride in ?

I reckon I do a moderate amoung of cycling – i don’t commute anymore, I always try and get out on a Sunday for a longish ride (family stuff permitting) and when the weather is nice I get out midweek. Actually when i write it down – once a week isn’t a lot, but it tends to be hard riding with quality to make up for the lack of quantity. A couple of times a year I manage to get away with a larger group for the weekend and on the ride up the Long Mynd on Saturday 1pm ish I started to distract myself from the pain by thinking about which I prefer.

To jump to the end , the real answer is aIl love them all, it’s all riding and riding is always good no matter what bike, loationor how many people, but there are things I really like and dislike about them all.

Solo

There is a lot to be said about riding on your own, you set of when you’re ready, ride the distance that you want at the pace you want, stopping if and when you want. I tend to take an iPod with me and listen to music or podcasts giving me either motivation to ride faster (music) or a nice distraction (podcasts) but I really enjoy my own company, being in my own thoughts and making no compromises. Everyone should have some time on their own as it makes you think, pushes back the demons and makes you appreciate the people in your life that mean a lot to you. I can only think of one downside to solo riding and it’s one that I really miss when I am on my own. The moment after an amazing descent, where you rode like a god, picking the perfect line under perfect weather giving you the biggest grin – it’s really nice to share that moment with a like mind. Someone you’ve just followed or led down the trail – you’re buzzing and it just gets better when you can share that moment.

Pair

Most of my riding the past few years has been with Pete – just the two of us. We have similar levels of fitness and skill, so we ride the same sorts of distances at the same sorts of pace and we like the same sorts of riding. Most of the riding is on the local trails which is not that exciting but there are odd times we get to Wales or Cannock together. In lots of ways this can be like solo riding as you are often on your own with time to think but there is also, time to chat and someone to share those ride memories with.

Pair riding can also be good training  as the competitive spirit forces you to either try and drop the other person or hang onto them. We’ve found over the past year or 2 that we’ve rarely ridden together when we’re both feeling on top form – one of us always seems to be struggling with a virus or cold and the laws of riding with a mate means the other must take full advantage and punish the other one on the climbs – it’s the law !

Small Group

I think small groups counts as more than 2 and less than a lot. This is often the number when we head away for a day or 2 somewhere more exciting  than Warwickshire. It’s very hard to get 4 people of similar fitness and skill level to have little waiting but when you’ve got all day it’s not really a lot of hassle and what makes up for it is the additional banter yoiu get in small groups. it’s hard to beat a small group in a pub after a great days riding – reliving the days riding through someone elses excited description of their near (or not so near) misses.

Large Group

More than a small group is your large group – 8 or more people usually foe the weekend and an exaggeration of the small group. There’s always lot’s more fettling at the start so you never get off on time. Mechanicals and punctures are much more common and the banter in the evening is much greater. In winter I prefer anything else as waiting in the wet and cold is not pleasant but in summer when it’s nice and warm I’m quite happy chilling and chatting while we wait for the stragglers to crawl up the climb.

So there we have it – I pretty much like them all and I would never not do any of them. Does that make this a pointless post ? I think not as it got me up the Long Mynd, brought back memories of some great trips away and has fuelled the mojo and got me planning the next trip away and thinking about riding is part of the fun.

Winter Riding Update

So we’re past the winter solstice, Christmas has been and gone and we’re into a New Year.

I managed a reasonable amount of miles over the festive period and I appear to have shaken off some sort of low level illness that seemed to sap my energy and power that was making rides much harder and less enjoyable.

I managed 6 rides over the break from work, with 3 in the new Year where I felt more like my old self.

The local 20 mile loop, which tends to  be the most ridable, is proving to be a real slog of a ride after all the rain we’ve had. Sodden ground has moved to thick sticky mud meaning drivechain issues and a lot of energy to get around. No such thing as free-wheeling downhill – it requires pushing as hard as you can while trying to stay upright.

I did try a spin out on the canal tow path a couple of times, one was wet and fun the other on Boxing Day provided every man and his Nan out walking and 3 punctures.

I took a day to head to Cannock on the 2nd where I did a lap of Follow the Dog followed by the Monkey Trail. I really enjoy riding them and it’s the first time in ages I’ve visited to ride them solo. Times were on the slow side given the slippy conditions but it was great to get out with hardly anyone else around.

Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail Strava records.

All rides have been on the Yeti as new upgrade parts have arrived and are waiting to be fitted. I’m going to trash the current SLX \ XT bits in the winter mud before I head to Plush Hill Cycles for Al to rebuild it for me. There’s a post in draft about the upgrade which I’ll finish this week.

 

Winter break

Fear. Pain. Excitement.

These 3 words became the strap-line for a recent 2 day trip to North Wales when I rode with a mate at Coed-y-Brenin and Nant-yr-Arian.

We both had a couple of days holiday to use up before the end of the year and for one reason or another we’d not had our regular group winter weekend away. With spouse passes were applied for and stamped, holiday from work booked, B&B sorted we set off for Dollgellau in North Wales on Sunday night. It was a fair old trek to get there and it rained for the last part of the journey but we booked in at 7pm and were in the pub by half past. A couple of beers and food in a local restaurant and it was decided to start off with the old Red Bull trail now called Tarw Du.

Monday 3rd Dec 2012 – Coed-y-Brenin

The carpark was eerily empty when we got there at 9.30 with only a few cars, non with Coed-y-Breninbike racks. It seemed that we were alone in our idea of an early December days riding on a Monday. The joy of riding on a pair is that there is less bike tweaking and general faffing about. New pads had been fitted on Sunday night so the bikes were taken of the rack and we were ready to ride in no time at all. As we have similar fitness and ability levels we decided to ride 2 trails each day where in a larger group you’d struggle with darkness closing in around 4pm. All that extra bike tweaking, mechanical issues and waiting for the slower climbers/descenders means you lose valuable riding time.

Tarw Du

The first ever UK trail centre route, sponsored by Red Bull, is an iconic trail. You start off riding through the red bulk horns and there is a shortish fun singletrack ending with Seven Sisters section, to start to get yourself dialled in. It’s a good indicator as to what’s to come.

Snap, Crackle and Pop are short and interesting

MBR

The cafe was empty. We were the only customers and although not hungry decided we’dCoed-y-Brenin eat which in retrospect was a bad idea. Cheese and Tomato panini after a cooked breakfast and  couple of hours riding made for a slow start to the afternoons lap of MBR. There are some cracking sections, most of which I can’t recall the names of but I do know that I enjoyed Rocky Horror show.

Evening

The Stag Inn provided us with a couple of pints of decent beer plus a decent sized meal. An early night followed so we’d be fit and ready for day 2

Tuesday 4th December – Nant-yr-Arian

It’s a fair drive from Dolgellau to Nant-yr-Arian and it seems the vast majority of the EU funding money is being spent adding 6ft to the width of most of the roads. An hour or so later we arrived to another almost empty car park. We made the third car with bikes and parked in the most sheltered part of the car park to avoid the rather cold wind.
The plan was more of what we’d done at Coed-y-Brenin so we set off to ride…

Summit

Not as long as Tarw Du, nor as extreme but Summit is a cracking trail. The highlights are The Italian Job and Mark of Zorro sections with High as a Kite to finish.The rest is either a bit of a slog (The leg burner is just that and Emanuelle is really just not worth it) or not overly exciting.

These 3 sections really make this trail great and we arrived back at the cafe in great spirits.

Pendam

After a quick coffee and cake-fest (Coffee and Walnut for Pete, Chocolate for myself) we Packing updecided to ride Pendam in the afternoon. Our hearts wanted to ride Summit again but the legs said something shorter and it includes The Italian Job and High as a Kite so we knew there were some fun sections. I don’t remember much of the rest of the trail but the second ride of the sections we did in Summit were much faster and smoother.

Quick change, hose down bikes and we were headed home.

Final Thoughts

I’m writing this a week after and the lasting memories are of the Fear of riding fast down some of the rockier sections, the Pain of the climbs and he sheer childish Excitement of taking 2 days off school to go ride my bike with a mate to single some amazing singletrack. It’s trips like this that make getting up early and riding the muddy fields of Warwickshire in all weathers to get fit, worthwhile.

Both centres and trails will be packed in the summer, but I feel we got the best deal, riding in early December, on empty trails, on amazing bikes with no waiting around. I’ll be booking more holiday and heading to Wales soon.

 Info
We stayed at : Ivy House B&B in Dolgellau
We rode : Yeti ASR-AL (Dave), Giant Anthem (Pete)
We enjoyed : Tarw Du, MBRSummitPendam
We filmed using : GoPro Hero2
We ate at : Stag Inn, Dolgellau
We had: a brilliant 2 days

Winter riding update

I’m disappointed.

I’ve not really upped my riding from the usual Sunday morning to include early morning and nights. I want to but I seem to have barely enough time to get all the normal life things done. I feel like I’m putting on some weight as well but I guess winter can do that

Last Sundays ride was a proper winter outing though. Started off dry when I left home, started the tiniest bit of drizzle on the way to meet up. gradually got heavier as the ride went on. The trails were 7/10 on the muddy scale resulting in a couple of dabs through the woods where it got tricky. Pete lost his front wheel and ended up in a ditch. I was covered in mud, soaking wet and a bit cold.

The key to enjoying riding in the mud is to keep up your momentum. At one point I dropped behind Pete on a muddy section after I dabbed and riding at my normal pace wasn’t closing the gap. Dropping a couple of gears and spinning back up to my normal 95 cadence made a dramatic difference. The bike squirmed around with both front and rear sliding but keeping the speed up  and your vision well ahead means it soon recovers. Slight downhill sections become great fun as the bike slithers all over the place and rather than catching up on the path after the section feeling tired, I was on his wheel during the downhill and ended up grinning like a child.

Strava ride log

A great ride – the cold, wet, muddy ones tend to be.

Monday night quick spin

With legs tired from Sundays 36miles and a frustrating day of work, I took off after dinner for a quick spin on the road bike.

I did a variation of the quick 30min loop I often do when I’ve not got a lot of time and tried to pace myself rather than the usual ride-like-I-stole-it pace.

My mojo is still high and being fit and strong enough to sprint up some of the hills (small that they are) is such an exhilarating feeling.

Roll on another ride in a day or 2.

Ride details

Sunday’s Road ride

Whenever Pete can’t ride I’m left with a dilemma as to what and where to ride and this Sunday it was laziness and Wiggo that prompted the choice of a road ride.

The Yeti still has mud tyres on it from Mayhem, the Van Nic wasn’t cleaned after a midweek  evening ride so with the Tour in full flow, the road bike was the only choice at 7am on sunday morning.

I need to fit in some longer, lower  effort rides as most of the time I ride at race pace so this proved a decent opportunity to keep the HR low and enjoy a solo ride on a quiet Sunday morning. I tried to keep my HR in the 140’s and to start with the proved not to difficult, but as I’ve found over the past 18mnths or so I seem to take nearly an hour to get warmed up so the latter half of the ride was at a slightly higher pace.

With no plan as to where to go I stopped a couple of times to work out a route on my phone to try and get back home at a reasonable time. It would have been nice to have been out a bit longer … maybe next week,

I’ve been uploading my rides to Strava recently rather than Sporttracks as I can access the rides anywhere and upload as I’m riding if the Garmin runs out of juice. The ride log shows I averaged 17mph which is better than I was expecting as I took it quite easy.

Later on during Sunday I got a headache and felt very tired = not enough fluids and I need to ride more.