Category Archives: local rides

Demo day, fat bike & a quick local ride

Fat bike.
Fat bike.

After an epic Cotswolds ride on Saturday I had a lie on Sunday before calling round to the Hargroves Cycles demo day at the Croft Trail in Swindon. I tried two bikes and did a lap on each:

  • First up was a fat bike. This wasn’t as bad as I expected but it was still bad. The bike was heavy, slow to accelerate and difficult to steer. I could just about see why someone might enjoy riding one but I don’t think the trail was the right place for one.
  • My second trip out was on a Specialized Camber 29″ evo. This was far better than the fat bike! I’m not sure if I rated it as much as the carbon fibre Camber that I’d ridden the previous year. I should have bought one of those (there was an ex demo bike going for around £1600).

After helping clear up at the end of the demo day I arrived back in Stroud just before 7pm. It was a bank holiday weekend and I’d arranged to go and ride the two tunnels in Bath on the Monday afternoon. My original plan was to do an easy recce ride on the Monday morning but I wondered if I could do that right now in the evening instead.

I spend a lot of time looking at maps and google aerial photographs when planning routes. Regardless of how good the photographs are nothing beats a proper recce of an area.

With the the sun shining I decided that I should be out riding. I set off along the Stroudwater canal in the evening sunlight past walkers and anglers. Birds were tweeting, ducks were quacking, moor hens were making whatever noise they make and I saw several massive swans nests on the edge of the canal.

Stroudwater canal Eastington
The Stroudwater canal

My target was to find a way under the M4 motorway to connect Stonehouse with the canal at Frampton. When the motorway was built then a lot of the canal was filled in. I’d heard of a plan to use the river Frome as part of the restoration project and there was a footpath there.  My first attempt took me to the bridge but on the wrong side of the river so I had to retrace my wheel rotations and approach from the other side.

River Frome M4 tunnel.
Spot the tunnel

A long tunnel took me under the motorway and I continued on the river bank until I reached the A38. After that I rode along the top of the levee until I reached a bridge and then took a few random route choices until I could see Whitminster church across the fields. After some trial and error navigation I found a little gem of a section of trail: a dark copse on the bank of the disused canal with a tight path through the trees and a lot of roots. Nothing too difficult but enough to entertain me.

It was fairly tame riding but it was fun to be out without the time pressure of an epic ride. The sun was still shining, my body appreciated the exercise and it was interesting to explore a nearby area.

Cows and swan
Cows and swan

Having got this far I decided to ride to Saul junction. This is where the Stroudwater canal and Gloucester – Sharpness canals meet. There is a good cafe here and I’m going to use the route for an easy local ride in the future.

Saul junction
Saul junction

After a quick lap round the car park I set off on the return trip. Light levels were fading somewhat by the time I reached the A38 again. I took a road loop to avoid the motorway feeder roads and finished off with a quick excursion from Eastington back to Stonehouse.


I really enjoyed my simple, local ride. Big rides give a great sense of achievement but they require planning, time management, kit, a lot of eating and sometimes days to recover. Sometimes it’s good to have a change and do something spontaneous and easy.

Route: Garmin Connect | Strava

Distance  20.2 km
(12.5 miles)
Elevation gain  20 m
Moving time  1:31 h:m Elapsed time  1:39 h:m
Av moving speed  13 km/h Max speed  30 km/h
Energy  500 KCal

Cotswolds mtb routes – South epic

MBSwindon club ride near StroudCotswolds MTB routes…south epic.

This was the first ride of the bank holiday weekend. I had a 57km epic to lead for MBSwindon that took in Nailsworth, Chavenage, Ozleworth, North Nibley, Dursley and Uley. I’d done a recce ride on this back in November with Gary Palmer. We advertised the ride on the MBSwindon website, Dirty Saddles and Stroud MBC.

I rode the extra 7km from my house to the route start and arrived to find a large crowd which reached 18 by the time we set off. This included Paul who had ridden from Swindon and was going to ride back after the ride too.

The route was identical to the recce apart from the end where did the descent to the Weighbridge Inn. It had been too dark to do this in November. The other main differences were the higher air temperature and a lack of water falling from the sky.

The group maintained enthusiasm throughout this tough ride despite the route taking the steepest line up and down every hill. We did break two bikes over the course of the day. One rider had a seized wheel and despite a farmer lending some tools the wheel seized back up later. Another rider had a stuck free hub and rolled back to Nailsworth down the road about three quarters of the way round the ride.

Tight singletrack in the Cotswolds.
Tight singletrack.

The tight switchbacks in the  bluebell wood from the Ozleworth radio tower down to Wotton scored the most approval. Not long later there was a food stop at North Nibley quarry by the jumps and downhill style trails.

MBSwindon gravity race team.
James from the gravity race team.

A short cut to the Old Crown Inn at Uley was taken by half the group whilst the others did the bonus loop up Uley hill fort and back down before riding to the pub.

The Crown Inn at Uley
The Crown Inn at Uley
Gulley descent near North Nibley.
Gully descent near Westridge Wood.
Egypt Mill at Nailsworth
Egypt Mill at Nailsworth.

I have to question my mental state because I really enjoyed the steep road climb through Owlpen back onto the top of the Cotswolds. An easy road spin and a track lead to the final descent down to the Weighbridge Inn. This is still one of my favourite trails in the area.

We made a second pub stop at the Egypt Mill before going our separate ways.

This was a great day out and reminded me why I like riding with the club. Everyone worked hard,  there was no moaning, the group waited for the slowest rider at the top of climbs and everyone got on with enjoying the ride. I’ve done my fair share of solo trips recently so it was great to be out with a keen group.

Cotswolds mtb route map.

Route: Garmin Connect | Strava | gpx.

Distance  72.6 km
(45 miles)
Elevation gain  1200 m
Moving time  4:51 h:m Elapsed time  9:43 h:m
Av moving speed  15 km/h Max speed  48 km/h
Energy  2800 KCal

See my Nailsworth it ride,  Gary Palmer’s Painful Painswick ride and some clues for another ride I have planned.

Forest of Dean Freeminers trail

MTB jump in the Forest of Dean.
Video still from the jumps.

This was a welcome continuation of the idea of many small rides instead of epics: I had to be back home by 1pm, and I didn’t want to be out of bed before 8am. It takes about 45 minutes to drive to the Forest of Dean from my house so I would be left with around two and half hours of riding time.

I was supposed to meet some riders at the Pedalabikeaway centre but I arrived 10 minutes late and they had gone. No problem –  I’d heard about some new jumps on the Freeminers trail and I was keen to find out what they were like. I last visited the trail in October 2013 not long after the reopening and looking at the photographs from the time it was clearly wet.

Things were different this time: it was a spring morning, birds were tweeting, the sun was shining and dusty trails crunched under my tyres. I’d started off with bleary eyes and a sense of weariness. Energy levels were not there so I backed off my pace a little bit and within minutes I felt an all over physical high. This was what mountain biking was supposed to be about!

Forest in spring time.
Forest in spring.

I found the line of new jumps about half way round the trail. There are five of them and they are all of similar height. This is exactly what I needed – a perfect set of drops for training. I spent half an hour taking various video shots of myself riding the jumps. I didn’t see another rider in all this time.

Freeminers trail jump line.
Five jumps.

I did a second lap of the trail and took some video of some other features.

Freeminers trail jump.
Time for air.

After that I had enough time to loop round some of the Verderer’s, do the jumps again, follow some tracks, do the enduro climb and then link in to the top of the Verderer’s trail. The line of rollers near the end of the Verderer’s is still one of my favourite sections of trail.

Dean Trail Volunteers have plans for more features on the Freeminer’s trail. The technical features like the jump line really lift the trail above the identikit swoopy trails that are appearing all round the country. Watch out for the big puddle at the start of the trail. I heard that someone went over the bars there recently.

The Pedalabikeaway car park was absolutely rammed when I returned at around midday. Sometimes it’s great to do things that are not a stretch and just concentrate on enjoying them.

Video coming soon!

Freeminers trail map.Some trail maps on the fodmtb pages.

Garmin connect | Strava

Distance  22 km (13.6 miles) Elevation gain  400 m
Moving time  1:58 h:m Elapsed time  2:32 h:m
Av moving speed  11.1 km/h Max speed  32 km/h
Energy  900 KCal


Gary and Tom’s wet ride

Set of steps in Nailsworth
Steps for a future ride

This was my first outing on the bike for a few weeks. This was an advertised a ride for MBSwindon and I’d carried out a recce mission in January. This meant that I had committed to doing it.

Things weren’t looking so good two days before though – I gave myself food poisoning with a rotten tomato, had a very poor night’s sleep and felt very weak and tired.

Before that I’d been struck down with a severe cold for 4 days in January. I’d been just well enough to make the Croft Trail build day in the rain and cold. I’d returned to work the next week but not felt right and that wrote off the next weekend. I missed the MTBMeetup (Coedybrenin social ride via Twitter) and the Red Kite race. I had managed a short walk on the Sunday where I’d located some steps for a future ride near Nailsworth. Things had been looking better for the week before this ride.

After thoughts of cancelling or getting someone else to do it I decided to carry on anyway. I was desperate to start covering some distance again.

On the day I felt slightly weak but I could feel enough energy to carry me for a few hours. The weather definitely encouraged me. After weeks of rain the sky was dry.

Cows near Stroud

When I arrived at the start point I rode up the ramp to the car park expecting to see the usual sea of bikes and people. There was a very pleasant aroma from the burger van but no bikes. Then I spotted Gary Palmer unloading his bike.

We sat around for a bit, checked the Facebook event to see if we had the right start point (we had) or if anyone had left messages (they hadn’t). After ten minutes we decided that it was just the two of us then. In some ways this was good news: I had a whole host of new route options that I wanted to investigate, there was no pressure on pace and we could do a reasonably short ride (ha ha ha).

Suspicious van
Wanted for crimes against mountain bikes.

The route had the initial aim of reaching Tetbury by lunchtime but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to do the descent to the Weighbridge Inn (pie pub). Then we decided to check out some tracks near Minchinhampton. Then the track descent to Avening, only we had to pedal down all of it. It was very unlikely that we would be claiming any Strava honours on this trip.We ticked off another missing track coming out of Avening and then followed the old railway line into Tetbury.

Mountain bike descent near Weighbridge Inn near Nailsworth
Weighbridge Inn descent

Generally I had been feeling pretty good and the fitness was clearly still there. On the road section near Tetbury I noticed that I was weaker than normal. I’d also eaten very little which worried me. It hadn’t rained yet, which was great, but the wind was icy cold on my head.

The Garmin was showing 26km when we reached the bike jumble. I started to wonder if we could cover 50km if we kept going. After the tea stop we called round to see Pete at Veleton bikes for a cup of tea. He planted bad ideas about buying a new road bike.

Veleton Cycles in Tetbury
Pete at Veleton Cycles.
Big puddle on the Macmillan Way near Sapperton
Wet is it?

I warned Gary that is was uphill all of the way to Sapperton from Tetbury. I’d ridden a similar route in December and it had wrecked me because of that. This time we had a sea of soggy mud to contend with pretty much the whole way. Gary commented that is was heavy going. I felt the same. I just concentrated on regulating my power output to keep me feeling well and the distance just seemed to go by. At one point I followed the advice of a marathon runner and thought entirely about something else, in my case work. This helped more muddy tracks to pass by. I forced myself to drink and input some Mule bars and Carmans Muesli bars. These instantly lifted my energy levels.

We were both seriously fatigued in the muddy field past Frampton Mansell that required intense pedalling to make progress downhill. I felt that I was approaching a bonk moment. More Mule bars kept me going. I once again failed to find the correct route first time down through Cowcombe woods but we did have a giggle sliding around in the mud.

Stroudwater canal flood
Stroudwater canal.

The last leg of the ride was to follow the Stroudwater canal back to Stroud and then the old railway line to the start point. The canal was flooded in a few places. We watched a walker wade through a flood under a bridge before deciding that we would give it a go too.

When we reached Stroud I had the option of peeling off for home but decided to complete the circuit by riding to the start. Gary thanked me kindly for turning an easy ride into an epic and then I rode home.

Stroud Tetbury and Sapperton epic route mapGarmin claimed 65km but was missing a few when it couldn’t locate any satellites at the start. The Garmin website also seems incapable of working out my moving time properly but Strava has managed it.

Stats: 67km (estimated), moving time 5h20, av moving speed 12.1 km/h, 1990 KCal (and the rest).

Maps: gpxGarmin | Strava

It was a relief to be out on the bike again. I clearly didn’t learn my lesson regarding my lack of self control though. The reason I was ill was probably related to the lack of rest in the preceeding three months. Oh well, maybe I’ll learn soon.

Riding around Stroud

Wet trails in Stroud.
Weighbridge descent.

This was two days of riding around Stroud.

On the Friday evening I went on the Noah’s Ark shop ride. This took in some new trails which I realised were worth adding to a route I was planning for MBSwindon. Due to the boggy weather I rode home down the road and quite enjoyed it. This is possibly an early warning sign of something. On the Saturday I set out a bit late with a plan to ride the whole route I’d planned  for the club ride. It turned dark on me but luckily I had the lights. Then it rained a lot so I finished the ride off with another road ride.

On the Friday night there was a mist rising from the flooded Stroudwater canal which generated a threatening ambience as we picked our away along the off camber tow path.   The most interesting part was a drainage channel in the path that was completely filled with water. Luckily the riders at the front knew what was under the water.

The New Red Lion pub in Chalford
Pub stop.

We took the road from Daneway to a new trail gem for me. This was a fast track descent that’s a lot better in real life than the map suggests. A river had burst its banks so the track had also become a river for the climb back up. I realised later that I’d ridden this track in the opposite direction on the MBSwindon Bisley ride in 2011.

We followed some lanes and took the great descent from Frances Lynch back into the valley. Sam mentioned a pub stop so we called in to the New Red Lion for beer (or sparkling water) and I realised how cold my feet were. I finished with a blast back down the road home (because I live there).

On the Saturday I ticked off a few missing sections for my recce. I took the descent to the Weighbridge Inn near Nailsworth. The water had cleared a rocky path through the mud for most of the descent.

After the climb to Minchinhampton I wimped out of the steep grassy descent on the hillside near Burleigh. I could just see myself slipping and cartwheeling down the slope. I tried walking down it and realised that riding it would have been a very bad idea. I promised myself that I’d do it when it was dry. It’s always tricky when you are on your own. A fairly minor incident could turn very serious without help.

Steep bank.
I wimped out (obviously it looks a lot bigger in real life).

At Cowcombe wood I tried to replicate the route from my first visit there. Basically straight down, but on my previous visit I’d ended up mud slugging along some tracks instead. Back home later I overlayed 3gpx plots and concluded that I had finally found the correct route. It shows how when you follow people you never really take things in properly.

Steps near Chalford

I then followed a similar route to the Noah’s ride. I wanted photographic evidence to promote the ride. There was just enough light for this. At Bisley I decided to head for home straight down the road. This meant a fast road descent to Stroud. Not fast enough judging by Strava though. Blame the rain.

Steps near Stroudwater canal.
I rode these in the dark the first time.
Flooded canal.
Flooded canal.
  • Noah’s shop ride: Garmin | Strava | gpx 38km, 330m, 2h18m moving, 16.4 km/h, 1200KCal
  • Sat recce ride: Garmin | Strava | gpx 42km, 580m, 3h04m moving, 13.7 km/h, 1600KCal

Stroud mountain bike routes.

Bike jumble ride with Stroud Valleys Cycling Club

Stroud Valleys cycling clubThis was a road ride with Stroud Valleys Cycling Club. It was graded as easy so I thought it would be an ideal jaunt on my mountain bike.

The plan was to meet at the Lock Keeper’s Cafe in Stroud and then ride to the Jole Rider bike jumble at Tetbury.

The previous evening I had gone to bed at 5pm and couldn’t face packing my kit let alone riding anywhere. After four hours of sleep I awoke and almost felt human. So I packed my kit and decided that if I woke up before 8am on Saturday then I’d be riding.

I woke up on time on Saturday and after a lot of porridge I was ready to ride. I’d have to say that I clearly wasn’t 100% well and had a bit of a temperature. Luckily as soon as I was outside and saw the sunlight then I already felt better.

Stroudwater canal

I followed the canal path and old railway line to Stroud and arrived uncharacteristically early. I eyed up a steep set of steps that I’d seen in the dark on one of the Noahs Ark shop rides. Steps, a concrete beam and a large drop into the canal. What could possibly go wrong?

Canal steps in Stroud.

Shortly before 10am then riders started to appear…organiser Helen, some guy from Chippenham Wheelers who’d ridden from Devizes (Gary), Laurence who’d arrived an hour previously, and a few more riders. We had an eclectic range of bikes: touring bikes, a beefed up “cargo bike” (I’m sure it’s got a proper name) that was being tested for an African jaunt, a vintage mountain bike and myself on my shiny looking Stump Jumper (tyres set at 50psi).

After a grind up the road towards Rodborough we pulled off onto back lanes. The route had no respect for elevation and was surprisingly hard work. Things were looking promising with a pub stop 15 minutes into the ride. When I say “pub stop” I mean that we stopped for a moment within 10m of a pub. We didn’t go in or anything. I’m so over visiting pubs anyway.

After a punishing climb up to Painswick, a blast down to Avening and then another sneaky climb we weren’t far from the jumble. A slight descent with a trail wind was exactly what was needed for some speedy riding.

Jolerider bike shed

This was my first visit to the the bike jumble. One half of the warehouse contained bikes that Jole Rider fix and send to Africa whilst the other half contained the sale. There were rows of boxes containing returns and seconds for sale for around half retail price. Someone told me that these tended to come from Wiggle. I wasn’t really in need of any gear, having just updated my anorak collection. I considered a head torch, some more Helly Hanson tops or shorts. In the end I found a fully waterproof ruck sack that was too much of a temptation for me at £20. Ideal for wet rides I reckon.

Joleride bike jumble

I found the optimum position in the doorway to bask in the sun, avoid the wind and drink tea whilst we waited for Laurence to carry on buying things. After so many frenetic events recently it was a pleasant change to have some rest time.

Cyclists eating burgers.

The return route worked round to Kingscote, Nympsfield and Selsley Common. This was an excuse for a bit of a road race. Any Strava dreams were wrecked when a Land Rover stopped to pull into a driveway and held us up for 30 seconds near the bottom.

Cycling in the Cotswolds near Kingscote.

We finished by calling into the Lock Keeper’s Cottage for tea and cake. After some confusion about whether there were any non-cake options I ended up with a very tasty Falafel.

I finished the day off with a quick trip down various steps and the canal path.

Set of steps on cycle path in Stroud.Overall it was a fun day out and I didn’t need to wash the bike at the end. I covered over 50km and felt a tad tired. I don’t know whether that’s because I wasn’t totally well or because I was having to work hard to keep the mountain bike moving. Good training anyway.

For more rides in the Stroud area then keep an eye on:

Stats: 53.5km (33 miles), 520m, 1860KCal, moving time 3h8m, av moving speed 17km/h (10.5mph). Peak speed outwards was  57 km/h (36mph) descending to Avening, returning was 54 km/h (34mph) on Selsley common.

I tend to use Garmin for elevation gain estimates. Compare with Strava and Bikehike!

  • Garmin 520m
  • Strava 601m (+15%)
  • Bikehike 790m (+52%)


Stroud Valleys cc bike jumble map

Another 100 mile weekend. Part 3 – Stroud mountain bike club ride.

Stroud mountain bike clubThis was ride number three on my 100 mile weekend. I’d covered 45km on Friday night, 61km on Saturday and was now finishing off on a ride round the local area with Stroud MBC. I hoped that the pace would be a bit slow; I was knackered after two tough rides.

The meeting point was the Ragged Cot pub near Minchinhampton. I set off late and only had half an hour to get there. I abandoned my scenic route and followed the obvious roads. That involved a big climb up from Stroud to Rodborough common. Luckily there was very little traffic around this early in the morning.

Once I was on the top of the common then my average speed picked up considerably and I reckoned I could make it there on time. I’d underestimated the extra hills on the top of Minchinhampton common so had to work a bit hard. I made it to the pub at three minutes past nine which was pretty good in my opinion. I’d never been on a Sunday ride with Stroud MBC before so I didn’t know if they would set off a 9am exactly or whether that was a loose target time. Turns out that it was the latter.

Selsley common mountain biking.

We set off at about 9:15am, following a route to Avening and up to Chavenage. On the first steep hill I was a bit faster than two riders but slower than one of the others who turned out to be a roadie. However, on the flat roads the pace was really high. I was experiencing that hateful situation where the bikes in front started to pull away ever so slightly so I had to turn up the effort by 5% and keep it there.

Garden of a hoarder.
We have a hoarder.

The route to Kingscote ticked off a missing piece of bridleway for me (a section I’d missed on the recce ride two weeks previously). I’d describe it as muddy.

From Kingscote we followed a new section of singletrack, climbed up past the barn and had another tiring road section to Nympsfield. Then we looped along the edge of the woods to Sesley common, a section I’d used on the Nailsworth It ride.

At this point someone said “so you’re probably going to nip back home now Tom” since we were nearby. The temptation was there but I had my target to meet so I stayed with the ride back to the finish via the cycle path to Nailsworth and the road climb up to Minchinhampton.

With the club ride done I took an easy ride back home with lanes along the edge of the common. I snuck in a descent down from the Winstones factory.

After spending the whole day talking about steps I found myself a new set on the route home. They’re not that steep but in a slightly damp condition and with a continuous curve they were quite entertaining.

Steps near Stroud

The route was 60km, 570m, 2100 Calories according to Garmin | Gpx.

Stroud Mountain Bike club route map

Weekend summary

Friday Saturday Sunday Total Previous
Garmin connect Garmin Garmin Garmin  3 3
Gpx gpx gpx gpx  3 3
Distance (km) 45 61.2 60.5 166.7 168
Moving time (hh:mm) 2:47 4:11 4:27 11:25 12:23
Elevation (Garmin corrected) (m) 590 726 570 1886 1687
Calories (Garmin guess) 1710 2170 2090 5970 5600
Av moving speed (km/h) 16.1 14.6 15.9  14.6 13.6
Max speed (km/h) 50.7 60.3 47.1  –

Another 100 mile weekend. Part 1 – Noah’s Shop Ride

Daneway pub near Stroud.
Daneway pub

This was another weekend with three rides planned. I had covered 168km (104 miles) on the previous weekend over the space of three rides.

Ride number one was the Noah’s bike shop ride on Friday evening. The route sort of developed as we went along, so we rode up to Minchinhampton and then down the woods back into Chalford. We followed the canal path as far as the Daneway pub. In the dark and mist this was surprisingly entertaining. The bike lights picked out a twisting path through tight trees that emerged from the dark and mist.

We liked the descent in the woods so much that we did it twice. I had a vivid moment when I arrived a T junction with far more speed than I wanted. Somehow I managed to tail wag it off. There was also a big giggle with a steep bank back onto the canal path. The descent wasn’t a problem; the pitch black was the problem.

We followed some roads round to a great descent near France Lynch. With all riders feeling fresh we covered the ground at a good rate.

I was feeling so pumped up on the way home that I cycled up to the Winstone’s ice cream factory and tried out another descent that I’d been looking at on the map. Then I rode half way up the hill and continued home. I reached top speed down the road descent in Stroud, leaving a car behind at both sets of lights. That was amusing.

Map showing an off road ride near Stroud.Overall I felt in great shape physically. Which was nice.

I noticed that my front forks were not working properly on this ride. They were very harsh over small bumps. I reasoned that the six months since their servicing with no oil change had caused the issues.

Garmin connect says 45.00km, 590m, 16.1km/h moving speed, max speed 50.7 km/h and 1709 KCal.

Gpx file.

Local riding (for local people)

Riding some steps near Stroud
Steps on the Nailsworth It ride

This was a weekend of local riding. I looked at the map and realised that the area right outside my door was local so it would probably be ideal. I easily rack up 20 thousand miles per annum driving places and a lot of that is MTB related. I’ve been to all three corners of the isles and abroad to search out trails.

I’ve always been aware that there are some great trails much closer to home: Dursely, North Nibley, Randwick, Painswick and Cranham are all well known mountain biking areas. The time had come to  reduce the hours sat in the car and replace them with pedal pushing. This is part of my plan to develop my stamina – hours spent in the saddle.

The previous weekend I’d set the ball rolling with a 70km door to window ride with Gary Palmer (of local cycling group Dirty Saddles). This was a route recce for a future MBSwindon club ride . It was Gary who invented several local rides for the club such as the Painful Painswick trip and the Uley Novice Friendly ride. For more route ideas see the recent Nailsworth It ride and more in the collection of Cotswold rides.

North Nibley jump
Local trails the previous weekend


Stroudwater canal at nightOn Friday I cycled to local shop Noah’s Ark for a guided ride. Six of us went off on a sociable and quite speedy trip round sneaky local trails. Rather conveniently this included some areas that I had been studying closely on the map recently, particularly the bridleway and descent to Chalford from Minchinhampton. This was also the first time I’d followed the Stroudwater canal path all the way from Chalford to Stroud. I found that there’s a good set of steps at the end of the old railway line Rodborough. 


On Saturday I set off at at 9am to ride from the valley up to Standish car park to meet up with MBSwindon for “Gary’s Randwick Roller Coaster”. The previous Saturday had been plain cold all day. This week a warm glow was radiating from the sun and was available whenever out of the shadows. This gave me some insight into the mind of a cat.

Gary and the MBSwindon crew
Painswick Beacon MTB
Painswick Beacon

See the ride report on MBSwindon for details of what we got up to.

My extended route for the day consisted of:

  • Riding to the car park.
  • Riding half way back to where I’d just come from.
  • Doing the rest of the club ride.
  • Repeating the second half of the ride to show James and friends the route back to Painswick.
  • Doing the steep drops off Painswick beacon and returning via an alternative route*.
  • Checking out a bomb hole near Edge.
  • Riding home via some steps at Ebley.
  • Adding 11km on the cycle path to ensure I covered more distance than James (who rode from Cheltenham). It worked – I covered 70.00km versus his 66km.

*this started out as “you’re on your own so don’t do anything too dangerous” and then turned into “what the heck?”.

Overall these are all great natural trails with a range of entertaining features such as drops, a smattering of jumps and some big, optional ramps.

Standish sunset
View from Standish woods


MTB yoga
Mid ride yoga?

I spent the morning time wasting on Twitter and Facebook. It was 12:30pm by the time I set out on the bike. I think I was tired. I’d drawn a 55km route on Bikehike the previous evening. This combined a few well known sections with a whole load of new bridleways. I really wanted to see what the woods at Sapperton might hold in terms of sneaky trails.

I carried a good pace along the cycle path to Nailsworth and made short work of the climb up into the woods. As I pedalled through sticky mud I decided that I definitely felt a bit tired. The frequency of my stops and the amount of food that I was eating at each stop confirmed this.

It’s great when you’re out riding and even a fairly tame looking bridleway turns out to be fun to ride. Sometimes it’s just about being out there and enjoying the situation rather than looking for technical features. I’m always a little wary when on my own anyway – I’ve seen people break collar bones with innocuous looking falls.

Autumn leaves
Leaves and stuff on a bridleway

The bridleways up beyond Avening sapped my energy. It was a combination of a long and gradual climb and a sticky surface. I’d had a funny feeling when looking at the maps that the woods over the railway tunnel might offer a route to Sapperton. This turned out to be correct, with a range of paths leading past the tunnel air vents. It looked like the railway builders had dumped a load of their spoil in the woods too. I considered riding a steep rock ramp down to the track but decided against it. I almost fell off the rocks when my shoes slipped on the gravel. So maybe that was an omen.

Stroud valleys in the dusk.I had a good look round the woods at Sapperton but failed to find anything of great interest. I did see a lot of signs explaining that Lord Bathhurst was a very nice chap and welcomed walkers and horse riders between 9am and 5pm. I need to find out what the status is for bridleways through the woods.

It was mid afternoon by now and the light had started to fade since 2:30pm. Luckily I had my lights with me and these were soon needed.

I followed a great bridleway from Frampton Mansell towards Chalford and repeated the Friday night descent down to Chalford and on to the canal footpath. I approached the end of the ride with 51km showing on the Garmin and decided that 60.00km was necessary. I did a bonus loop round from Ryeford to Ebley and a trip to the steps for a moody night shot. This took several attempts. All good practice.

Mountain biking down steps in the dark.

After this I was very clear that my priority was to have some rest. The bike was given a quick wash and then I went inside to edit photos, maps, eat lentils and do some recovery yoga.

Overall that was a great weekend of riding and there’s still more that I need to explore. The stats below estimate that I used 5,600 KCal over the weekend. That’s over 2 day’s worth of extra energy to cover the riding. Maybe that’s why I feel quite hungry today.

Map showing 168 km of riding in the Stroud area

Friday Saturday Sunday Total
Garmin connect Garmin Garmin Garmin  3
Gpx gpx gpx gpx  3
Distance (km) 38 70 60 168
Moving time (hh:mm) 2:36 5:19 4:27  12:23
Elevation (Garmin corrected) (m) 333 894 460 1687
Calories (Garmin guess) 1100 2600 1900 5600
Av moving speed (km/h) 15.5 13.2 13.5  13.6
Max speed (km/h) 46.2 50.6 47.7  –

Tom and Gary’s cold day out (Nailsworth, Dursley and North Nibley trails)

North Nibley MTB trailsThe plan was for Gary Palmer and myself to carry out a recce of this route for future MBSwindon club ride from Nailsworth to Dursley via the North Nibley trails. I’d already started the mission on the day of my unplanned duathlon. The original route inspiration had been stolen from “Cotswold Mountain Bike Rides” by Tom Fenton but adjusted a bit to suit my tastes.

After the 2 x 5 gear fiasco the previous Sunday on the Red Kite quarry tour I’d bought myself a shiny new cassette from Noahs Ark Cycles. I started pedalling at 9:30am and warmed up with a blast along the dismantled Nailsworth railway line. Gary was ready and waiting for me and we got stuck into the steep climb out of Nailsworth. He pointed to my front light and laughed. I’m not sure he fully appreciated that was officially an epic ride.

Stroudwater canal on a frosty morning

It was all familiar ground for me as we nipped along the path in the woods, through the bomb holes and descended to Avening. On the bridleway near Chavenage I thought “I’ve got a lot of speed here. When I hit that muddy rut then the last thing I want to do is get it wrong and fall off”.  When I hit the muddy rut the wheel wandered into the side, started to slip and I took a side exit off the bike directly to the ground. I think the glare from the low sun stopped me from looking ahead properly and, as Gary said, “I thought myself into falling off”.

Male jogger in pink shorts.
Nice shorts.

The day had started off crisp with a slight frost and the low sun looked like it might warm things up a bit. We both agreed that a single word to describe conditions was “cold”.  We worked out why when we cycled past a lake in Ozleworth park that was still frozen over at midday.

A few road links took us round the proper riding near Ozleworth. The route was planned to go up and down every bit of trail available as Gary soon found out. The descent towards Wotton was a bit of a bog fest but the trails around North Nibley were worthy of future investigation. I had a short session jumping off a big rock at the top of bridleway. I know this well – a work colleague went over the bars at this spot. I strongly remember the rifle crack sound that his wrist made as he hit the ground.

There were some warning signs saying that a footpath had been closed. We found out why when we were half way down the bridleway – there had been a large landslide and a section of footpath was no longer on the hillside along with some displaced trees and rocks.

North Nibley jump

I opted for the short, sharp shock road climb up to Stinchcombe golf course. The descent into Dursley didn’t last long and we definitely need to go back and investigate the sneaky trails there. Gary sabotaged his bike so he could have a rest at this point. His 29″ tubeless tyre had lost interest in sealing so we fitted an inner tube or two. It was 3pm and the light was starting to fade. The air temperature dropped with it. It was a relief to start pedalling again once we had air in the tyre.

Wotton zoo.
Wotton Zoo

The pointless loop round Uley hill fort added in a great descent that I’d recently used on the Nailsworth it ride. A steep road climb in the twilight took us to the highest point from which it was all downhill. Gary was lacking a front light so the route was adjusted with a hope that we could make with some light remaining. Gary tucked in close behind on the fast descent to Nailsworth, a triumph of trust and hope. I think he forgot his risk assessment form for that one.

This did mean that a singletrack descent was missed out. I’ve done it before though and will be doing it again soon.I finished off with a brisk ride along the cycle track to home.

We will be doing the full route sometime in spring 2014. Keep an eye on the MBSwindon events page.

Tubeless tyre punctures
No more punctures with tubeless

Garmin says: 70.9km, 1139m, 2750 KCal | gpx file.

Nailsworth and Dursley MTB trail map

Unplanned Stroud and Tetbury duathlon

Cotswolds Mountain Biking Tom FentonThere’s a book by Tom Fenton called “Cotswolds mountain biking – 20 classic rides”.I had picked up a copy cheaply at the MBSwindon bike jumble earlier in the year thinking it would be a good source of route ideas. Imitation is a form of flattery after all.

I spotted an ideal solo training route in it: 59km (36miles) long with 1600m of ascent and looping from Nailsworth to Wotton under Edge. That would also serve as a  recce ride for a future MBSwindon club ride since the last one had gone down well.

I live about 9km from Nailsworth so my total would be 77km (47miles). At 8km/h that would take 10 hours.

Noah’s Ark, my local bike shop, were having a 30th anniversary sale on Saturday so I  wondered if I could add a detour there as well. This would require an early start on Saturday so I spent Friday night doing domestic admin and preparing. I fitted a new gear cable to my preferred bike for the job (Specialised Stump Jumper). Then I noticed that the brake pads were nearly down to the metal. Would I take a chance on Noah’s having them in stock on the Saturday?

Specialized Stump Jumper

As it happened I didn’t climb out of bed until 10am on Saturday. I had a massive breakfast and then sat around for a bit. Obviously the plans had changed a bit then. I didn’t feel bad about this – I was clearly knackered after another heavy week.

I finally set out at mid day with the intention to invent the route as I went along. My average speed on the old railway was 20km/h which was promising. I started with a hilly option over Minchinhampton common and down to Noah’s. At the bike shop I bought a half price rain coat, waterproof….anorak. Another big climb to check out some cheeky trails, over the common and down to Nailsworth where the route started.

Stroudwater Canal Stroud

After startling and then embarrassing a woman who was squatting in a gateway I followed increasingly muddy tracks to the summit of the hill.  Passing my favourite descent (North through Hazel wood to the pie pub) I took a new option into Avening. I found a short trail through some bomb holes beside the track too.

I followed a series of muddy bridleways before turning onto a country lane. A massive headwind was trying to push me back down the road and I had to drop a few gears to maintain a steady speed. Apart from the  wind which was generally being very annoying then weather conditions were pretty good: warm and not raining. The wind strength near Chavenage House was enough to make me a bit scared. Definitely the sort of conditions where branches could fall onto my head.

My updated plan was to make it to the Veleton bike shop in Tetbury before 4pm.

Bomb holes near Nailsworth.

As I approached Tetbury I decided to take an extended route past the town. When I reached my turning point I decided that I could extend it a bit more. I continued extending until I reached  Westonbirt Aboretum. The track outside the arboretum was several inches deep in sticky mud across its entire width so when I started out on the pristine pea gravel of the park I had mud and leaves stuck to most of the bike. This caused a few stares. Visitors pay to enter the aboretum but there’s actually a few bridleways and footpaths through the middle of it.

My map stopped at the edge of the arboretum so I took a bit of a guess as to whether a bridleway linked to a road. That meant I reached Sherston before I could turn east back towards Tetbury. I followed my nose down an interesting looking bridleway , powered the bike through several soggy fields and a big barn came into view that looked very familiar from about fifteen minutes earlier.

Muddy bike

After my second trip through Sherston the light was fading so I powered up the lights and focussed on just ticking off a few sections of lane. I wondered if Veleton closed at 6pm rather than 5pm but even the later time was looking optimistic.

I was close to Shipton Moyne when the rear chain stuck a bit. I back pedalled and it fixed itself. But then it got stuck again. I’d had a few issues with the gears jumping during the ride. This was due to mud and leaves engulfing the bike until the front derailleur was completely hidden. I’ve done plenty of rides like this in the past.

My patience was a bit challenged when the chain stuck for a third time so I just powered through it. This did not have the desired outcome because the rear mech got dragged right round into the spokes and up round on itself. I stopped and reversed the wheel. The mech didn’t look right.  I put my head torch on and took a closer look. I’ve had a rear mech before where a pin falls out and it all falls apart. This time all of the pins were there but the mech wasn’t going to work because the actual casting had fractured and split into two. Looking back, I should have stopped and taken a look at what was wrong but it was dark and wet.

Broken rear mech

I decided to make some mechanical modifications: I removed the mech and cut some links out of the chain to make the bike into  a single speed. I reasoned that even a low gear would allow me to crawl home. With this completed I got back onto the bike and started pedalling just as the skies opened a heavy rain lashed down. My single speed conversion worked! Not for a long though – the chain tried to ride up onto the next gear and then went very tight. I’ve had this happen before and there’s not a lot you can do.

With the heavy rain, dark and now cold I wasn’t in the mood for messing about with chain splitting tools via headtorch so I made the decision to walk back. I guessed on about 20km aka 12 mile, so 3 hours of walking. That would get me home by 9pm which wasn’t too bad relative to a mid day start. I didn’t want to think too hard about how far I it was; I just needed to start on it.

The actual walking part was actually fun in an odd way. It was a wet and windy night but I was warm enough (once an extra layer was put on), I had food, water, light and a map. I had a large bag filled with 9 bars, Nakd bars, Mule bars and Carman’s Muesli bars. I should easily be fit enough, so it was just a matter of putting the hours in really.

Fallen trees at Chavenage.

A short section of main road was quite unpleasant on the way into Tetbury due to traffic. Once out the other side the route was quiet and in the dark blue sky of the stormy night I could see fireworks being launched from several directions. I walked past a road blocked by fallen branches at Chavenage. A tractor was being used to push them out of the way.

My route took me out into the fields via bridleways before linking to the main road from where I rolled down into Nailsworth.  I then finished off with a tedious walk along the old railway line back to Stroud and finally made it home for just after 9pm. The walk at least had some symbolic value – my parents lived in Shipton Moyne when I was born and I lived there until I was a few years old.

Nailsworth mountain bike route mapDuathlon stats:

  • Total: 74km (45miles), 8h27m, 8.6 km/h (5.4mph) av moving speed 10.6km/h, 628m of ascent
  • Ride: 50km (31miles), 4h31m, 11km/h (6.9mph)
  • Walk: 23km (14miles), 3h56m, 5.8km/h (3.6mph)
  • Proportions by time: 53% ride, 47% walk
  • Proportions by distance: 68% ride, 42% walk
  • Also a bonus 2 miles not recorded on the plot

Link to gpx file (see also the Garmin connect website)

Chav house