Raiders New Years Eve ride

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After having to cancel my mid-week ride this week, I only had 53 miles on the clock for the week, so had some making up to do. I decided to pop out on the Sunday 10am 50 mile steady ride as an easy but longer ride sounded perfect.

I rode down to Newport from home to an empty square, although I was 10 minutes early for the ride time. Everyone else soon arrived and we ended up with a decent sized group.

I was asking Jon Steer, who was leading the ride today, where we were going and found out it was only going to be a 30 mile ride with no cafe stop as it is NYE after all. That will teach me to skim-read the ride announcements on the club Facebook page!

Nothing much to report on the ride. A nice steady and very easy ride out towards High Ercall and back via Kynnersley, catching up with riders I have not seen for a while on the way. Perfect!

Back in Newport, we retired to the New Inn for some New Year drinks.

A great way to end a great cycling year. Here’s to a very productive 2018 cycling wise.

Here are the final stats for my 2017 cycling year:

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Route: click here

Social to Lazy Days Cafe in Brewood.

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Today was the pre-holiday Gran Canaria social ride, which we’d all planned to do for ages and never quite got round to it. At the last minute, 3 of the 5 people dropped out due to illness so it was just Tim and myself on the ride.

I arranged to meet at Tim’s house in Newport at 10am and so rode down from home. We were soon all set and off we went, initially heading up Shay Lane and onwards to Eccleshall, before heading southwards through Haughton and Church Eaton to our cafe stop at Lazy Days in Brewood.

Just before the cafe, it started to drizzle a bit, which dampened us a bit but we soon dried off at the cafe and the weather also brightened up as we ate our lunch – result!

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After a lovely cheese and potato pie and copious amounts of coffee, we set off for the return leg of the ride.

The section between Brewood and Bishops Wood was directly due west and into the wind, which was a bit hard going but not too bad (I’m well used to cycling into wind by now!).

Back in Newport, we retired to the New Inn for some quick refreshments, before I said goodbye to Tim and headed off on the ride home.

A fun few hours out, especially because my midweek ride had to be cancelled, first due to urgent work and then due to ice the next day.

Route: click here

Raiders Christmas Eve Eve ride plus from and to home

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I’ve not been out with the Nova Raiders for quite a while now and thought it was about time, plus we were going for Christmas drinks at the New Inn afterwards, which is always a good thing.

The only issue is I don’t have mudguards on my bike and have no intention of fitting any as I don’t need them for solo rides or sportives and they just end up making your bike sound horrible with trapped mud etc etc.

I checked on Facebook and was told I’d be fine on the ride, but made a mental note to try and ride at the back of the group so as not to upset anyone.

I rode the 7 miles down to Newport in time for the 10am ride start. The weather was absolutely perfect – pretty warm and sunny skies with little wind.

As we were waiting for the ride to start, Lorraine came round with a cup of mulled wine for each rider, which was very much welcome and a lovely festive way to start the ride.

The ride was great fun, especially as I’d not ridden n a group like this for ages. A decent pace too which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Back in Newport most of us returned to the New Inn for a few festive drinks.

A lovely few hours out and great to catch up with everyone too.

Route: click here

Steady social to the wonderful Dearnford Lake for 🍰 and ☕️. Almost feels like a spring day!

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I’ve got a bit of a busy week this week, with work and family commitments but was hoping to get a shorter ride in today if I could. Last night a friend messaged me and asked if I was out today as he was planning a ride out to Dearnford Lake, so it was the impetus I needed.

I arranged to meet up with John in Childs Ercall and head off from there. First, there was the matter of getting my Roubaix rideable as it was still filthy from my long ride on Monday. It looked like I’d been doing MTB’ing on it and was absolutely caked in mud. I really must get used to washing my bike down when I get back from a ride instead of leaving it!

We met up as arranged and set off on the usual route. A slight wind from the NW but nothing too bad. The wind seemed to follow us around all day too!

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We arrived at Dearnford Lake in good time and got a coffee and cake each. The coffee was so good we had a second one (I owe you one next time John!). The cafe was pretty busy but not as busy as I was expecting so close to Christmas.

The ride back was along the usual route to Calverhall, where we turned left on a different lane than normal. Always good to mix things up from time to time.

We were soon back in Childs Ercall, where we said our goodbye’s and John headed off back to Hinstock and me to home.

A really nice few hours out and just what I needed. Great to catch up with news etc etc too!

Route: click here

Goostrey Home and Leisure Tea Rooms near Middlewich for lunch. Out via the hills of Madeley and Audley, back via Middlewich and Sandbach. Back light total fail AGAIN on the way back in the dark at the end. Had to improvise!

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It’s been just over a week since I was last out on my bike. The snow and the ice last week was a killer and then I had a weekend away in Stuttgart, Germany planned with friends, so obviously no cycling then.

On the way home from the airport last night, I was checking out the roads for ice and they looked very much rideable so I opted for a long ride out today. Where to go though?

I love the Jodrell Bank route as it’s a decent length and has a bit of everything in it so thought I’d do it in reverse for a change. I also fancied a different cafe stop to mix things up a bit more. My initial choice was the Chapeau Cafe and Farm Shop in Marton near Macclesfield but that is closed on Mondays so I instead opted for the Goostrey Home and Leisure Tea Rooms in Cranage, which is also highly recommended.

Apologies in advance for the lack of photos on the blog. The whole route was very misty and all the great views which would have made excellent photos were totally obscured. You could not even see any sign of Jodrell Bank from the road that runs with past it!

I set off through Howle and Sambrook then up through Knighton to Shay Lane and onwards past the lovely Bishops Wood. A quick run along the A53 past the Swan With Two Necks had me up in the Madeley hills and thoroughly enjoying the ride. I was riding cautiously looking for ice but as it turned out the roads were absolutely fine, even the smaller and quieter lanes.

After Congleton, I was soon passing the turning I would have made to the Chapeau cafe and noted it for next time. I rode past the entrance to Jodrell Bank, which had the barriers down and was closed. Very surprising as it’s always usually open during the holidays as it makes a great day out with young children. Turns out it’s closed until 26th December for Christmas.

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The cafe stop was soon after and a really nice place. Bike racks outside and then a short walk through a craft shop into the cafe itself. I ordered a panini, latte and a mince pie. I’m a veggie and so as normal I checked the filling on my panini and was horrified to see tuna in it. Yuck! All very quickly rectified by the staff and to be fair the gorgeous coffee and lovely mince pie more than made up for it!

From here it was straight over the busy A50 and onwards to Middlewich. I could not decide whether to route home via Sandbach or Nantwich but opted for the former in the end.

I did come a cropper later though as I decided to use a sneaky cut through road by the station which went straight to Wheelock and cuts Sandbach town centre out (thought it might be busy with Christmas traffic). Easy if you take notice of the map in front of you, but I didn’t and ended up halfway along the top of Crewe before I realised. Doh! Easily sorted and I was back on track a few miles later.

By this time it was starting to get dark so I stuck my lights on. Shortly after I checked the back one and it was off. I stopped to take a look and despite my best efforts it would not stay on for longer than about 5 seconds. That’s the third one of this make light that has done that over 2 years now. Not buying any more of those!

I had to improvise with my iPhone torch on and pointing outwards from inside my middle back pocket. Not perfect but better than nothing. I decided to get my skates on and do as much as the journey home before the light faded too much, then take the quietest lanes I could find when it really got dark so I would not have too many cars coming up behind me.

As it turned out I got to Market Drayton as it was starting to go properly dark so I kept to the very quiet lanes past the Golf Course and onwards through Childs Ercall. Luckily only 2 cars came up behind me and I pulled over to let both of those past.

I arrived home with just over 88 miles on the clock and my legs feeling in top form. Absolutely loved that ride!

Route: click here

Santa Ride South, Epic Course. The Sportive was cancelled but I’ve not come all this way not to ride it! Gale force winds, heavy rain, debris everywhere and water to ford at the bottom of every hill. Loved it!

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Today was the Santa Ride South, starting in Farnborough and heading out past Lasham and back on a 56 mile loop.

As usual, I’d travelled down the day before but when I arrived I saw a text from my Sportive riding mate Andy saying the event had been cancelled. I checked my emails and Facebook and sure enough, it had as the weather for the time of the event was forecast to be winds gusting up to 40mph and heavy rain. Drat!

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I wondered if I could ride it anyway as I was in the area and it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity of a ride, especially when home was covered in snow and there was no snow here. I decided to leave it until the morning and play it by ear, while continually checking the weather forecasts on several different apps (no two apps ever seem to agree on the weather!).

In the morning, as forecast, it was absolutely chucking it down when I woke up but undeterred I checked the updated forecast on my apps. BBC was still showing gusting up to 41mph at midday but other apps, like the excellent Dark Sky, were showing less wind.

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I decided to give it a go and take my bike lock with me so if it became unrideable, I could chain my bike up somewhere safe, get a taxi back to Farnborough and return in the Jeep to pick my bike up. First, though I had a leisurely breakfast and fuelled myself up for the ride (plus I was ravenous anyway for some reason!).

I headed off, suitably attired for a very wet ride and was thinking the wind really was not bad at all. In fact, for the first 10 miles, there really was not much wind, but that soon changed as the eye of the storm approached!

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As I passed Odiham RAF base, the crosswind really was making me feel uncomfortable. I soldiered on slowly as I knew I was about to enter Odiham village and some shelter from the houses and then right after the village the route turned westwards, directly into the wind. Heading into a strong wind is much easier (!) than dealing with that kind of crosswind!

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On the quieter country lanes, the terrain started to get pretty undulating and I noticed that at the bottom dip of every hill the roads were all flooded and I needed to carefully ford the water with my bike. My average speed suffered somewhat from this as I had to be pretty slow going down hills just in case there was another stretch of water to ford round the next corner.

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As I reached the lovely village of Preston Candover I realised I was at the very far end of the Epic route and that I would be soon turning back towards Farnborough and have the wind pretty much behind me. This part of the course looked familiar too as it was the reverse of the top end of the fab Mega Meon sportive I did in the summer.

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The journey back was pretty much uneventful apart from a fallen tree blocking the road near Lower Froyle. I easily carried my bike round it but I saw several cars have to turn round as there was no way past for them.

All too soon I was re-joining a familiar looking road as the route in to and out of Farnborough shared the same road. The run in to the finish line was on busier roads and much faster as I could get up a head of steam without having to worry too much about debris.

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I rode down to where the event HQ was to be and loved the garden with the frame of what looks to be an old airship hanger as it’s centrepiece. It was then a short ride back to the pub where I’d parked the Jeep.

I headed into the pub for coffee and some food and to warm up before tackling the snowy roads home. A thoroughly enjoyable weekend away, even though it did not quite pan out as I was expecting. The memories it made will last a lifetime though :).

Route: click here

Battling that very strong wind 💨💨💨! 3 counties and 2 countries ride out to Hopley House Farm Cafe near Middlewich.

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Since we came back from New York last week I’ve been mad busy with work and struggling to get my mid-week ride in. Today seemed like the only chance I might get this week and the weather looked ok, if not a bit windy from Storm Caroline last night.

I fancied a change so decided to make a big loop round Cheshire and pop into the lovely Hopley House Farm Cafe near Middlewich for lunch. I’ve been here before as this is my ‘elevenses’ stop on my 108 mile ride from home to Altrincham and back, but I’ve never had lunch here before.

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I planned a route out using most of my route to Tilly’s in Bunbury via Whitchurch, Malpas and Beeston Castle. Then extending this over through Church Minshull to the cafe. Routing back would take me onwards to Sandbach and then down to the hilly section around Madeley, to get some hill practice into my legs.

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I set off just before 10am as I was waiting for the early morning rain to stop first. The route is the same as the Dearnford Lake ride up until Tilstock and then turns left and into Wales, over possibly the nicest little bridge on the muckiest, potholiest (is that even a word?) road.

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After Malpas, I headed off up into the Peckforton Hills and along past Beeston Castle into Bunbury. Normally I’d stop at the lovely Tilly’s Cafe here, but I had 10 more miles to go to my cafe stop today!

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As I arrived at the cafe I could see it was busy with lots of pensioners wearing Christmas cracker hats. Oh well, I’m always happy to crash a party! As I entered the shop I saw the cafe was actually closed for the day for the party and no amount of me suggesting I joined the pensioner’s party would persuade them otherwise.

I opted to carry on on my route and stop at the farm cafe at Wheelock Hall, just outside Sandbach. I’ve been past this many times on the way to Jodrell Bank and always thought it looked nice and I should try it. Today was to be that day! Just an extra 6 miles from where I thought I was stopping for lunch.

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Wheelock Farm turned out to be a lovely little cafe although by the time I arrived most of the cakes had gone. I settled for a double latte and two mince pies (it is nearly Christmas after all!). I did not stop too long as I was conscious of the time and that it would start going dark soon.

Not long after I entered my third county for the day – Staffordshire – and reached Madeley and the hilly road back home. No problems here and I enjoyed the route and the hilly road.

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Love the HUGE chimneys on this house in Madeley

I stopped at the Swan With Two Necks on the A53 for a top up of water and a very quick pint as it really was starting to get dark by now.

By the time I reached the top of Shay Lane it was all but dark but that’s no problem as I have my lights with me on every ride this time of year.

I arrived home with just over 85 miles cycled. Another really fun day out on the bike.

Route: click here