I’ve not been out on my bike for one and a half weeks as we’ve been for a short break in New York to celebrate my significant birthday. I was thus dying to get back on my bike and get out but work is manic after coming back from my break.
I could just about manage a few hours this afternoon so decided on a quick ride out to Dearnford Lake for coffee and cake. It was absolutely freezing today too, so it was wise to wait until later anyway just in case there was any ice on the road.
I need not have worried in the end as the roads were fine. There was a nasty wind in my face the whole way up to Whitchurch and I was beginning to wonder if my fitness had suffered after the 1.5 weeks off the bike (it hadn’t, as I later found out!).
I arrived at Dearnford Lake just after 3pm so knew part of the ride home would be in the dark. I quite like solo riding in the dark as it always feels very serene so I was looking forward to that.
At the cafe, I had a latte and a piece of Victoria Sponge. The good thing about coming here later in the day is you get *very* generous cake portions as they try to use up the leftover cakes. Bonus!
For the ride back I started off on the normal route through Brown Moss Nature Reserve but then decided on a different route from normal by turning left at Calverhall. I then opted to extend my ride via Newport to get some extra miles in and if time permits, perhaps have a cheeky pint at the New Inn.
My fitness worries from earlier were allayed here as I had totally warmed up and was feeling strong as usual. Phew!
I had a quick pint at the New Inn in Newport, then headed off the final 8 miles to home.
A great ride out that I grew into and really enjoyed.
I’ve not been on a club ride for absolutely ages and so offered to lead the 10am steady ride today. I had planned a fab route out to the lovely Fire Station Cafe in Malpas but a quick last minute check revealed it was closed on Sundays, so I switched the ride to Cheerbrook Farm Cafe in Nantwich.
I rode the 7 miles from home down to Newport ready for the start of the ride. In the square, I bumped into some other Raiders who were riding out to the TT presentation ceremony at Ellerdine Village Hall and was just about to join them when people for my ride turned up.
We set off a bit late after waiting for the Dad of the family that had joined us to turn up on his electric bike. Off we set…
I was wondering how to pace the ride as I’ve not done the steady ride for ages and usually ride on my own or in small groups at a much faster pace. Not a great problem and I soon found the right kind of pace for the others in the group.
At Market Drayton, the Dad of the family opted to head back home to Newport as the battery on his electric bike was going down quite quickly and there was no way it would last to Nantwich and back. The remaining 4 of us carried on up past Audlem to Nantwich and the cafe.
The cafe was busy but they found us a nice table by the window and we had a lovely lunch. Absolutely love the mushrooms on toast and coffee here!
We spent a bit too long at the cafe and were thus late setting off back to Newport so I was conscious we needed to return before sunset as I was the only one with lights. I pushed the pace a bit and we arrived back just in time.
I said my goodbye’s to the others and headed off to the New Inn to see if any other Raiders were in. They were not, so I got a pint anyway and was then going to head off home afterwards.
I’d only just sat down when the Booze Cruise arrived back from their ride so they joined me and we ended up chatting away for quite some time. I then headed off home with 70+ miles on the clock.
I had a spare few hours this morning and the weather was good for cycling so I decided to head out to Dearnford Lake for lunch on a short 41 mile ride from home. I used to visit all the time but have not been for ages as it’s a bit too close to home for my preferred ride length, but will be perfect today.
I set off on the usual route via Great Bolas, Stoke on Tern, Hodnet and Tilstock and was soon at the cafe. It felt a bit weird with a cafe stop after only 18 miles of riding but time was short today as I had to head off to Manchester for my gig later (the excellent Brothers Osborn and The Cadillac Three at the Academy).
As I arrived I spotted some bikes and saw some Raiders inside so went in to order my food and have a chat. Love the ‘tart of the day’ here – always home cooked and always delicious.
After lunch, I headed back on my usual route via the gorgeous Brown Moss Nature Reserve and Market Drayton to home.
Once home I had a quick shower and headed off to my gig in Manchester, which was excellent.
I’ve got a bit of a funny week with two different gigs to go to in Manchester this week (Wednesday – Alice Cooper and Saturday – The Cadillac Three if anyone is interested), so it’s been trickier to plan in rides around work.
Today seemed the best day for a mid-week longer ride, but I had a Doctor’s appointment in Newport at 4:30, so wherever I went, I had to be back for that. An 82 mile ride out to Jodrell Bank and back to Newport fitted perfectly, as long as I did not hang around too long at the cafe.
I set off from home just before 10am with the aim of arriving at Jodrell Bank just after midday. I headed out through Child’s Ercall and up that nasty hill at Mill Green, then through Tyrley Locks to join my normal route from Newport. On the way through Wybunbury, I stopped to take a picture of the lone tower at the church (see the picture above – see here for the history of where the rest of the church is).
The rest of the ride there was uneventful and I arrived as planned shortly after midday. For a change, the telescope was not facing straight upwards and as I got closer I could hear motors and creaking. The first time I’ve ever seen the telescope move and very impressive it was too!
After a lovely lunch, I headed on the normal route home via the side of Congleton, Alsager and Madeley. For a change, the weather was behaving itself and not only was it not raining, but there was hardly any wind! As usual I went past the Opera In The Sticks at Clonter (picture below) and told myself we must visit sometime. One day…
I sometimes stop to fill up with water at the Swan With Two Necks on the A53 (and might sometimes have a sneaky pint while I’m there) but with needing to be back in Newport at 4:30 and having enough water with me, I pushed on.
All to soon I was at the top of Shay Lane and making very good time. It’s all (literally) downhill from here, so I arrived in Newport with 25 minutes to spare and enough time for a quick trip to the New Inn for a cheeky Blonde.
After the Doctors, I popped round to Tim’s as he’d messaged saying he was having problems getting his wifi working in his garage for Zwift. It took a while to work out what was wrong but we got there in the end, so I headed home.
As I was getting close to home I realised I’d hit about 91 miles, so thought it would be rude not to get a Century in, especially as I’d not done one for a few weeks as the sportives are now shorter to reflect the shorter days.
An extension to Stoke on Tern and then back via Great Bolas should sort that out.
As I was coming back through Great Bolas I heard a low rumble and saw lots of lights coming from the road on the left. It was the Nova Raiders fast group! Nice to bump into them, even if it was very brief. Lovely to hear the shouts of “Rookester” as they went past.
I arrived home in the pitch black with and over 102 miles on the clock and a fab ride out.
Today was the Wiggle Kent Classic Sportive and a bit of a sad day for me as it’s my last main sportive of the 2017 season. I’ve only got the Santa Ride South from Farnborough on 10th December left. Still, let’s not dwell on the negatives! Life is way too short!
I had been looking forward to today for a while now. It’s a free sportive for me as UK Cycling Events said I was their ‘best’ customer a few weeks ago and kindly offered me a free sportive entry (a big “thank you” from me – very much appreciated).
Also, Kent is a new county for me to ride in – well, sort of, as I did ride 3 miles each way down to Dover Port on the Wiggle Le Tricolore a few weeks ago. Today’s route also passes through a bit of East Sussex which is definitely a new county for me to ride in.
I arrived in the area the day before and stayed overnight nearby. In the morning I was up nice and early for the 8 minute drive to Lingfield Racecourse and the event HQ for the day.
After parking up I rode over the road to the racecourse and registered. Why is it the R queue at registration is always the longest? It seems to happen week after week. I know all the best surnames start with an R but it’s really odd ;).
As I came out of registration I spotted my southern sportive riding mate Andy, who I was riding with today. We headed off to the start line after a quick catch up and were on our way in no time.
The weather today was not the best, with low cloud and heavy rain forecast and with pretty heavy constant rain in between. Still, I’m not a fair weather cyclist and have not come all this way to not do the Epic Course. Onwards and upwards (literally!).
The route initially headed south from Lingfield, to the side of East Grinstead and towards the south coast. Very rolling countryside with quite a few sharper climbs.
After the Epic and Standard routes split from the Short route at Coleman’s Hatch, we had a pretty long and steep climb up through some trees, which was reasonably testing. Only when I got home did I realise this was “The Wall” climb and is in the top 100 climbs in the UK book. A very nice bonus indeed as that is another ticked off the list without even realising it! Loved the sign they had put part way up – “It’s only a hill. Get over it!”.
The first feed stop was at 22 miles into the ride at Groombridge. We stopped to top up with water and have something to eat and were delighted when we saw they had Tea and Coffee. Just what we need to warm us up as we were pretty wet at this stage and cooling down quickly as soon as we stopped.
In the village, we also passed over the Spa Valley Railway (click here for more details). Shame we did not see any steam trains today as that would have been great to see!
Not long after the feed stop the Epic course split from the Standard and we started the extra big loop to the east side of the route. This marked the point when the terrain started to settle down a bit as we descended into the Weald of Kent, which is pretty flat and dotted with the hop fields and hop houses that you associate Kent with. I was meaning to get some photos of them but was enjoying the ride so much I forgot to stop!
Andy, my riding partner, is from Kent and was doing a fab job as a local tour guide, pointing out different things and explaining the meaning of words in village names e.g. Hurst is an old Saxon word for a hill with a wood on it.
At this stage, we were riding in East Sussex, which is a new county for me to ride in (one aim I have is to bag every county in the country). We soon passed into Kent though.
It was approaching 11am as we neared Lamberhurst and it’s the 11th hour of the 11th day, so we stopped outside the Memorial Hall to observe 2 minutes silence to remember those who selflessly gave their lives in various wars for our freedom.
The route then started to head northwards towards Maidstone and just after this, the third feed stop at Mereworth. This was a short ride off the route up a gentle hill.
After the feed stop, we had a very long climb near Plaxtol that seemed to go up and up forever. Every time we thought we were at the top we turned a corner and up it went again! Not a problem though as it was really lovely scenery and when we did get to the top there was an expansive view all around, or rather there would have been an expansive view all around if it was not so misty today!
The final part of the ride was much easier as we descended off the hills into Edenbridge and onwards to the finishing line at Lingfield Racecourse.
At the end, we had a quick coffee from my friends at the BOMO Espresso Bar and said our goodbye’s.
A fabulous final main sportive with a lovely route and impeccable organisation as is usual from UK Cycling Events. Thanks again for the free place today. I had a great day out and loved it, despite the rain.
Today was the best day of the week weather wise for a ride and I had in mind a 42 mile ride to Dearnford Lake for lunch. I set off on the normal route and was soon close to Dearnford but was totally enjoying the ride and fancied something more challenging.
I had just the route on my Wahoo Elemnt. A 83 mile round trip to Tilly’s in Bunbury and then via Nantwich and Wybunbury to join up with the hilly part of my usual route back from Jodrell Bank. Then at the end going down some new roads for me in the Maer Hills and onwards to home. Perfect!
After turning left in Tilstock I was soon over the border in Wales and heading onwards to Malpas.
After Malpas, I decided to head down the west side of the Peckforton Hills through Burwardsley, rather than the usual route down the flatter east side of the hills. Some great views over the Chester side of the hills with Ellesmere Port in the very far distance. The cookery school in Harthill (see picture below) looks like fun – must look it up sometime as I’d love that.
After skirting around the base of Beeston Castle I was wondering about trying the Castle cafe for lunch but it was shut today. Oh well, guess it’s Plan B and the excellent Tilly’s in Bunbury.
Tilly’s was very busy with cyclists and I got chatting to a few from Poynton near Stockport and one from Chester. Always a pleasure to meet fellow addicts :).
From the cafe, it was a nice ride down to Nantwich, through town and onwards to join up with the hilly section of my Jodrell Bank route near Madeley. Love this road as it’s really scenic looking out over the sweeping valleys. The bluebells in the woods in spring are stunning too.
After these hills, I took a different route via the Maer Hills which worked out really well and I was soon heading into Bishops Offley and more familiar territory.
From there it was an easy ride home via Cheswardine and Sambrook.
A great day out on the bike and 83 miles in the bag on a very sunny but very cold day.
Today was the Wiggle Devils Punch Sportive, starting at Dunsfold Aerodrome where they film Top Gear and have the test track you see on TV. The route takes you out through the Surrey Hills into Hampshire and along the North Downs towards Winchester and then back through the Devils Punch Bowl (see here for details) to the event HQ.
As usual, I travelled the day before so I could be at the start nice and early. That did not quite work out as a combination of a warm and comfy bed and knowing it was cold and chucking it down outside made it hard to get going. The thought of a fab ride in a great area did the trick though and I was at the event HQ by about 7:45am. Not a problem as it’s only a 78 mile ride today so loads of time to spare.
At the event HQ, I went to register and contacted my southern riding mate Andy to see where he was. Before he could reply he shouted over as he got here very early and was parked almost next to the registration tent!
The steering on my bike did not feel quite right and I realised my front tyre was low on air. The only problem with running tubeless tyres is they do leak air over time more than the corresponding tube tyres. I topped it up with Andy’s track pump and we set off for the start.
UK Cycling Events were their usual efficient selves with a spot on briefing and we were soon on our way. The route initially takes up into the Surrey Hills to the side of Godalming and I recognised one climb from the Box Hill Sportive a few weeks ago.
Really fun undulating countryside but very wooded and this time of the year the leaves are all falling onto the road and that combined with the rain lead to slippery conditions, so we steadied things up a bit more than usual.
The first feed stop was at Binsted opposite an absolutely gorgeous chocolate box church. What a privilege to be riding in such a lovely area, despite the rain.
Immediately after the feed stop the course split and we headed off on the Epic section. This turned out to be my favourite part of what was a stunning ride, with sweeping quiet country lanes and great vistas all around.
Feed stop 2 was at Ropley and we stopped to top up with fuel and water. 2 of my lovely wife’s Marmite and Cheese pastries and a Rhubarb and Custard gel did the trick for me as usual.
Just before we re-joined the standard route at Oakhanger, we spotted these huge golf ball looking communications things in the valley, which turned out to be RAF Oakhanger and is a military communications site (see here for more details).
After a very long climb up towards the Surrey Hills at Grayshott and were rewarded with a lovely flowing descent before arriving at the third and final feed stop shortly afterwards.
From there it was an easyish 15 mile ride back to event HQ to collect our medals and goodies.
We’d talked about riding the Top Gear track on our bikes at the end and there were no signs to say not to so off we set. We had great fun getting close up with the Boeing 747 and RAF VC10 you see in the background on Top Gear external shots before riding their track and returning to our cars.
Another really good event with everything you could expect and more and another amazing route. I absolutely adore the Meon area at the far west end of the route and rated the Mega Meon Sportive I did a few months ago in the area one of the best routes I’ve ever ridden.
Not many sportives left this year which is a bit sad but I’m totally looking forward to seeing where I will get to ride next year.