Category Archives: routes

Bath walks – Two Tunnels Tour

Bath walks – the two tunnels tour.

View of Bath from the local hills.

The two tunnels in Bath
Inside Combe Down tunnel.

This is walk around Bath. It provides two major views from the hills and uses the two sustrans tunnels for the return loop. The way I walked it involved starting at Monkton Combe and a big climb at the start and then using the tunnels to return. It can be started anywhere round the circuit and works just as well in both directions. More info about the two tunnels is listed in my cycling route through the two tunnels. Also see http://www.twotunnels.org.uk.

The route is 7.5 km long with about 2.4 km of tunnel and has 200m of elevation gain. It took around 4 hours including some sitting down to eat and looking at the views etc. The tunnels have lights in them so you don’t need a torch but it can help make you visible to the cycling traffic. The long tunnel has music in the middle too.

I parked in the village hall car park (BA2 7HB google streetview) there’s also some room on the road and the Wheelwrights Arms might let you park there if you ask nicely and eat there afterwards. Alternatively park on the residental streets at the other end such as Cotswold Road (BA2 2DN google map) or even at Alexandria Park (google map). There might be a better option.

View of Bath from the hills.
View of Bath from Alexandria park.

Points of interest include Prior Park gardens (National trust), Alexandria park and the Wheelwrights Arms at Monkton Combe where we had a very good veggie meal after the walk.

Tunnel entrance, BathIf you like this then take a look at the Rhondda tunnel plans on http://www.rhonddatunnelsociety.co.uk/.

Map of the two tunnels walk: gpx download

Bath walk: two tunnels tour

 

 

Trans wales 2011 route

This is the route for the  Trans Wales 2011 event, a seven day mountain bike event in mid Wales. The Cilycwm night stage is missing from the map and gpx.

Schedule copied from Cyclingnews

  1. Builth – Knighton 81km (SS1 Builth hill climb)
  2. Knighton – Clun 84km (SS2 Bucknell woods)
  3. Clun – Llanidloes 73km (no special stage)
  4. Llanidloes – Machynlleth 84km (SS3 Climachx trail)
  5. Machynlleth – Cymystwyth 75km (SS4  Nant y arian)
  6. Cymystwyth – Cilycwm 75km (SS5 night at Cilycwm)
  7. Cilycwm  –  Builth 62km

That’s a total of around 450km and 10,000m according to Bikehike (average of 65km and 1400m per day).

Trans Wales 2011 route gpx

The overall winner in the men’s solo category was Matt Page. He was the organiser of the 2015 Epic Cymru event (link also contains a brief history of the Transwales event). The route was devised by John Lloyd of Built Wells cycles.

Trans Wales 2011 route

A few photos from Anna Buckingham who came third in the women’s solo category. The slab descent is going north from Foel Fadian and is also part of the Trans Cambrian ride. Anna has another blog too.

Trans Wales 2011 Anna Slab
Slab descent off Foel Fadian.

Trans Wales 2011 Anna Podium

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).
Chopper
Chopper

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.

20140504_map

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

Charity off road rides – planning one

Prospect Big Ride SwindonCharity off road rides are popular events. Ideally they give riders a way marked route with support from marshals, food stops, recovery and first aid.

In 2011 MBSwindon were asked to marshal the Prospect Hospice Big Ride. This was a fund raising cycle event based near Swindon. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 we devised the route and organised the marking, marshalling, sweeping and clearing. For the first two of these I designed the route myself whilst this year it was a joint effort with Phil Allum. The start and finish area, rider registration and food stop was organised by the Prospect Hospice. They were also responsible for the council safety liaison and obtaining permission to use a short section of footpath.  We have opinions about how these tasks could be done but for this event it was not within our control.

Our time line for the route design was:

  • Many hours spent looking at maps of the area, generally using Bikehike.co.uk.
  • Sun 7th Dec 2013: A 60km recce ride where we tried out every bridleway of interest.
  • Many more hours laying out routes in bikehike and google maps to try and link the favourite parts and meet the distance target before finally choosing a route. Garmin | Strava | Gpx file.
  • Sun13th April 2014: A 55.00km/690m complete route test ride. The target was 55km! I did ride up and down the car park at the end because the total was just short of 55km. Garmin | Strava | Gpx file.
  • Sat 26th April 2014: A 51km/580m route marking ride. We had two groups of riders and a Land Rover to spread the job. Garmin | Strava
  • Sun 27th April 2014: The day of the event! A 61km/695m ride to check the route, add sign posts and then clear it at the end. Garmin | Strava
Prospect big ride route ideas
Some early ideas for sections of the route.

Prospect Big Ride Map 2014

The aim of the route was to meet the distance target and use as many fun sections as we could find in the area. I also had a personal desire to make the route different every year to keep the interest levels up. On our recce we had found that one of the plain looking track descents was actually really fun because it had several bumps for drainage channels and these made good jumps.

I ended up with a few options for the route and after a few weeks of looking and thinking we made a decision to go for what we called “tangled route”. This had two places where the route crossed over itself and two long loops so it was a bit more of a challenge to sign post and marshal. We thought it was worth it though because we really liked all of the sections. Routes from the previous year are shown in the recce ride.

The final route was a 55km loop with short cuts to make 45km and 28km options. Gpx file for the complete long route.

Weeks before the event I drew up a very detailed plan for the checking, marshalling, sweeping and clearing. This details what time various actions have to happen for every person involved on the day. This means that on the day volunteers can just follow the instructions and avoid a panic.

Over the years we’ve managed to streamline the operations on the day. The route is marked out the day before but we also check all of the route on the day in case sign posts have been removed overnight. We’ve saved time by separating sweeping and clearing: the sweeper leaves after the last rider and liberates marshals who can start clearing sign posts. This means that the sweeper can release helpers to clear the signs more quickly than if they were also clearing up. We also start the short event last and close the long split before all the short riders have reached that point. This means that we can start sweeping the long route before the short route is closed.

The weekend of the event was very tiring because it wasn’t a plain bike ride; it involved stopping at regular intervals to put up or remove sign posts. All of this was motivated by the desire to ensure that the event was a success. There was great support from the club during the marking out and the even itself, when we had over thirty people marshalling, checking and sweeping.

Seeing the riders enjoy the event always makes the planning and marking work worth it. It’s great that people choose to go and ride “the Prospect route” after the event.

Photographs of the event on the MBSwindon website: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011. See also maps from previous years.

First rider on the Prospect Big Ride 2014
First rider.
Food stop on a charity bike ride.
Food stop.
MTB jump
Fast track descent. Much more fun than it looks.

Marking out photographs from previous years.

2013_04_27 Prospect Marking Out 009    2012_04_21_22_Prospect Ride 0152013_04_27 Prospect Marking Out 012    2012_04_21_22_Prospect Ride 006   

Tree climbing when route marking.
Tree climbing.

Pont Scethin MTB route

Pont Scethin route.

The Pont Scethin route is a classic off road excursion and was done as part of the Mountain Yoga Breaks weekend.

If you look at the OS map for the area to the east of Tal-y-bont on the north Wales coast then the route is fairly obvious. It looks like a fairly easy route as it’s only 20km and the height gain is around 800m.

Mountain yoga breaks
First climb

Most people start near the pub in Tal-y-bont but we started half way round at a handy car park. Rain had been falling and more was forecast.

We had a mixed group in terms of experience levels: Phil is an experienced guide, I’ve done my fair amount over the years, Polly seems happy riding anything, Rose does dh racing whilst Alice had owned a mountain bike for 10 days and Rome had done some off road cycling in the Surrey hills but had never been on a mountain trip. In at the deep end!

We started out with a short but tight climb up loose rocks. I fancied my chances since I was fresh but the combination of wet, loose and steepness got the better of me. At the top the route levelled out into a muddy and rocky path. The combination of mud, rocks and ruts made the going quite tough. Our novice riders were having a baptism of fire.

Pushing mtb up a hill.
Big push.

The first big climb loomed into view with the path disappearing in the mist. This was steep throughout and the surface was  a mixed bag of grippy grass, slippery grass, loose shale and rocks. I managed to ride a fair amount of it but felt that on a dry day more of it would be viable. Walking was probably a better option for much of it. It took the group just over half an hour to reach the top.

Bwlch Rhiwgyr descent
Alice gives it some.

The route descended down the side of the hill via an entertaining rock garden. This was an interesting challenge but not stupidly difficult. It was on a par with two other passes that I’ve ridden: the Brecon gap (partially sanitised now) and the Black Mountains gap. It levelled out onto grassy lower slopes with a view of the coast. A lot more speed could be carried along here though the wet ground didn’t give massive confidence on the corners. There were a few rocks here and there that livened up the ride.

Pont Scethin descent
First descent.

At the bottom we followed a river side path through the woods to the lowest point. The pub option was ruled out due to time constraints so we turned onto the second climb of the day.

We stopped for lunch at an abandoned cottage near the track. After that it was a long climb along the vehicle track into the mist. A short descent brought us to Pont Scethin itself. This is a small bridge over Afon Ysgethin river.

Pont Scethin bridge.
Pont Scethin

From here on the route turned steep again and it was a mixture of riding until the bike slipped or stopped and then climbing back on and trying to pedal again. If that failed some pushing was done. We carried on like this up into the mist for 45 minutes. Spirits will still high in the group and we knew that this was the last climb. As with all climbs you know that it’s going to lead to a descent at some point. The conditions reminded me of the Walna Scar ride that we did in the Lakes.

Misty mountain.

From the top we followed a fast and tight rut along the side of the hill. In the mist with a drop on the right this focussed the mind. Alice was caught by this and went over the bars with no harm done. After nipping through a gateway we were presented with the final sections of descent. A small gap in the clouds gave us a view over to Cadair Idris.

Our new riders were into the groove by now and were noticeably more confident and flowing. Thinking back to my early riding experiences I would say that they did really well and were a credit to the benefits of staying positive and accepting new challenges.

Cadair Idris view.
Final descent.

The last part of our ride was a descent down the steep rocks that we walked up at the start. A great end to the ride.

A year ago I did a ride with some club members that involved a walk up a hill and some of them moaned about if afterwards. It was great to be out with a group who were all still smiling at the end of a tough ride. From my point of view it was good to do a ride that didn’t last all day. It meant I had time for lunch, a massage and then yoga.

Pont Scethin descent

Distance  18.4 km (11.4 miles) Elapsed time  4:34 h:m Av moving speed  4 km/h
Elevation gain  800 m Moving time  1:58 h:m Max speed  40 km/h
Energy  940 KCal

Route:  Garmin connect | Strava | gpx

Pont Scethin mtb route map

Llyn Brianne cycling

Llyn Brianne Reservoir
Llyn Brianne Reservoir

This was an afternoon road ride in the Cambrian mountains. This was my second outing on the road bike following the Shropshire devil sportive. I sketched the route out on bikehike before hand and expected the 60km to take three hours maximum. When I did the ride I added an extra loop near the top of the reservoir which took the total distance up to 75km. I made good progress on the flat sections but there were seven sections of arrowed hills and total height gain of 1200m (Garmin), 1500m (Strava) or 1600m (Bikehike). However it’s calculated it was quite enough thanks.

Llyn Brianne is a large reservoir in the middle of the mountains. I’ve done a lot of MTB rides in the area, most recently the bothy recce ride. A few years ago the MBSwindon MIOWEOW (middle of Wales, end of the week) trip including the famous Doethie Valley ride. The original Real Ale Wobble used to loop out to the reservoir too; see my Ale Wobble greatest hits route and also the Red Kite frozen devil, Devil’s MTB.

Irfon valley in mid Wales.
Irfon valley

The route started out quite simply with a gradual climb up the Irfon valley until the famous Devil’s Staircase climb. The other side of the hill gave me a top speed of 65km/h (40.3mph). This was definitely one of the best moments of the ride, going fast enough to make crashing a very bad option, just pointing the bike and going with the flow.

The next climb regained a similar height but went on for longer. I was cycling into a head wind as well. On the plus side the sun was shining and I had a great views of mountains. On the other side I finally got what I wanted; a trailing wind and a slight descent which gave a peak speed of 55km/h. I finally managed to find a comfortable position using the drop bars too.

I found that the road around the Llyn Brianne reservoir goes up as well as down and it was hard to make good progress. This was followed by a long descent past the dam and into Rhandirmyn. From here on the road seemed to climb for a long time.

Llyn Brianne reservoir road
The long way round

I knew that I had a bit of a climb up and over to Cynghordy but that went by pretty smoothly. I was definitely tiring and knew that the road back up to Tirabad was a big climb. At least that was satisfying and I was motivated by the promise of the final descent back to Llanwrtyd. What I hadn’t prepared for was the hidden climbs on the road past Tirabad. It was a major relief to finally descend back to town at the end.

My average speed ended up just below 20km/h (12.4mph) which sounds quite slow. After four hours of pedalling I felt pretty jaded. I’m hoping that rides like this are actually tough and my average speed would come out a lot higher on a flatter ride. I suppose almost 3000KCal is a lot of energy.

For comparison I covered 71km and 2,200m of ascent in 7.5 hours on the Red Kite Devils MTB challenge 2013.

Route: Garmin connect | Strava | gpx

Llyn Brianne road ride map.

Trail review: Afan Blade trail & Skyline

Blade trail at Afan.
Let’s ride around a bit.

The plan for the day was to visit Afan and check out the new Blade trail. I also wanted to address some unfinished business with the original Skyline trail. On the Christmas trip Gary Lee and myself had wasted an hour riding up a stream bed and through deep mud whilst trying to locate the trail. Since then I’d studied the google map aerial photographs carefully and a handy google map I’d made years ago (also available on the Afan Forest website). The status update there says “The Eastern section of the Skyline trail will be closed to riders during the development of Pen y Cymoedd wind farm. Please follow the yellow diversion signs from post 32.” Oops, I didn’t read that before riding.

I was originally supposed to be joining MBSwindon for the Penhyddiots club ride but I’d already ridden the  Penydd recently and I wanted to seek out the original Skyline trail.

I found a handy map of the new trails and had a good look at it the night before.

2014_02_16 Afan Blade Skyline Trail Map

New sections are shown highlighted in red. It’s the original White’s Level/Skyline climb up the White’s Level split and then the original fire road on top of the hill. A new section of trail cuts the corner and replaces a rather dull section of track. A new descent has been built down into the woods. The original descent is now the return climb back to the top. Two new link sections connect to the original Skyline trail (Joyrider). The rest is the original Skyline trail back to the trail centre. I didn’t spot the new link that cuts out a steep track climb (groovy gully) until I rode the trail. The descent now has an additional parallel trail. The good news is that the original Skyline descent is all intact.

The map also shows what has happened to the Skyline trail. The original trail has been retained all of the way to the highest point. The long fire road section to the south and the multiple return sections have all been closed whilst a wind farm is built (see my google map for clues). The diversion uses a section of bridleway along the top of the hill. I rode this at Christmas and it’s actually a good section of natural, rocky trail.

The day itself started very oddly. After a lie in I walked out of the house and realised that something was different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it though. Somewhere in the back of mind something stirred but I still couldn’t resolve it.

It was only when I saw a status update on Facebook that it hit me: there was no water falling from the sky onto my head! Happy days.

Skyline trail at Afan
Look – no rain.

Following a long trundle along the motorway I arrived at Glyncorrwg ponds and got moving in short time. The car park was rammed full and I could see lines of riders on the climb and the new descents.

The White’s Level climb is familiar ground for me. Over the years several sections of fire road on the upper trail have been replaced by single track. Last year a short section of singletrack was added just after the first fence and that was now all open again.

This was amazing! I could feel sunlight beaming down on me and warming my totally dry body. I’d forgotten how good this felt. It was almost Alpine.

The first section of new trail was fairly mundane singletrack uphill through the trees. This lead to the highest point where I found a large crowd of riders looking at the view.

Blade trail viewpoint at Afan.
Blade trail viewpoint.

I got stuck straight into the new descent. Sadly the damp conditions and popularity of the new trail had turned the surface into a sloppy mess. It clearly had masses of potential for a fast and fun section of trail but there was no way I was going to experience that with these conditions. Some riders muttered that the trail should have been left until conditions were better and I agree.

New Blade trail descent.
New descent.

Oh well, I was there now and my curiosity about the new route outweighed concerns about the trail condition. Selfish eh!

The descent through the woods looks promising. It goes down further than the old route and has a lot of big berms. I shed a tear for the original descent as I climbed up it. It was a fast, rocky blast along the edge of a steep bank.

At the top was more muddy singletrack which looped back to the top. That was followed by some muddy single track and a lot of very big, muddy berms that one day will probably be great. This delivered me to the top of the original Skyline descent.

A new (muddy) link goes out and connects to the Joyrider section. The final section reminded me of the Real Ale Wobble event – a big sea of mud with tyre tracks, puddles, clumps of grass and footprints all over it.  There was one slightly drier section where I started to sense the potential of the route.

It was a relief to loop onto some old trail and finally experience some rock under the wheels rather than slop. The set of rock steps reminded me of why I used to love some parts of the Skyline trail.

A new singletrack climb cuts out the last part of the track climb and this also looked like it would be good if it ever dries out. I was relieved to find the original Skyline descent is all still in place, particularly the rock steps.

At this point I sneakily cut off the Skyline descent and turned down a short link back onto the White’s Level climb. At the top I had a quick loop round the black section. This was definitely the most enjoyable bit of riding of the day. I recommend it.

Skyline trail at Afan
Skyline trail

My next activity was to ride the original Skyline trail.

I started by following the way marked trail to the view point. In the shadows on the hillside the air temperature was noticeably lower and there were patches of snow on the trail.

Past the viewpoint I followed the new trail signposts and then cheekily turned left at the next junction. After climbing round some fallen trees I followed the fire road south for several kilometres.It all came flooding back to me: this was the original, boring Skyline trail! Much criticised and unloved. I enjoyed it though because I was being an old skool trail bandit.

My google map homework paid off well and I found the singletrack start. It’s just past some guys on motorbikes should you need any tips.

I was encouraged when I found that the original signposts and stiles were still in place. There’s nothing particularly exciting about these remote Skyline sections in terms of technical trail. They make up for that in terms of location, ambience and fleeting views of the Glyncorrwg valley. Two or three sections of single track with some tight switch backs over river bridges eventually end on a very long fire road climb. This goes on for about twice as long as you think is possible and that’s already double what is reasonable.

Excalibur section at the Skyline trail
Excalibur trail section

Ask most people what they think of the Skyline trail and they will say that it just goes on forever. I used to think of it like that too. But then I warmed to it a bit more on subsequent visits. My thoughts on this ride were similar – overall it’s pretty good trail but it doesn’t have any major features to remember and there’s too much fire road linking it together. Now that it’s closed it’s got more appeal of course.

Glyncorrwg valley
Long forgotten Skyline trail

Light levels were falling by the time I made it back to the Blade trail and finished off my route. The original trail is sign posted as Skyline whereas the new options are Blade. I followed the old favourite since the new trail looked a tad muddy and I didn’t fancy any more of that.

Grand Canynon section of the Skyline trail
Grand Canynon

Verdict: The Blade trail has the potential to be a fun loop. Don’t try it until we’ve had a month without rain. I’ll let you know what I think then. See the review on mbswindon.

The official modified Skyline trail is worth following since it adds some interesting single track up to the viewpoint and a good bridleway return loop.

From what I’ve read the full Skyline will be reopening once the windmill wankers have finished (2016). Be a sensible person and don’t ride it until it’s open (or something like that). It’s worth riding just to say you’ve done it. You’ll probably moan about the fire road links though.

Map: Garmin connect | Strava | gpx

Distance  62 km Elapsed time  6:08 h:m Av moving speed  11.1 km/h
Elevation gain  1163 m Moving time  5:35 h:m Max speed  41.8 km/h
Energy  2340 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
Steps.

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%)

Maps

Stroud Valleys cc bike jumble map

Christmas training camp

Skyline Whites Level climb

Over the Christmas holiday I spent 8 days riding, 3 walking and had 1 rest day. I will be adding write ups on some of my favourite moments.

Each ride on average was 45km, lasted over 4 hours and consumed just under 1800KCal. That’s a total of 14,000KCal, the equivalent to 5.7 days extra energy for a typical man (2,500 per day). The average for the whole holiday was 1418KCal per active day.

I was very encouraged by how it felt. I didn’t feel any aches until the seventh ride, a punishing road and track ride through the Twyi Forest in mid Wales.

I went over the bars at Cannock when my handlebars clipped a tree and my upper body suffered no bruises or pain. I did bruise my ankle slightly which made walking a bit painful but had no affect on riding. I credit yoga and pilates for that.

Yoga tree.

I don’t want to appear smug or anything*, but consuming over 1400 KCal per day for 11 days and not really eating much more than normal meant that I lost a bit of weight over the holiday too.

*oh go on then.

Flooded river near Devil's Staircase in Wales.

I did all of the riding on my trusty Specialised Stump Jumper 26″ (alloy), now with working Rock Shox Revelation forks. These were amazing. The lock out broke towards the end though!

Strata Florida track descent.

Day Date Location Type Distance (km) Time Height KCal
1 25/12/2013 Trallwm Walk 9.52 3h11m 246 433
2 26/12/2013 Penhydd Ride 48.5 3h45m 962 1930
3 27/12/2013 Swindon Ride 35.0 4h6m 362 1130
4 28/12/2013 Cannock Chase Ride 20.7 3h46m 391 780
5 29/12/2013 Afan W2+Blue Scar Ride 53.0 5h46m 1029 2044
6 30/12/2013 Devil’s Staircase Ride 50.0 3h38m 743 1890
7 31/12/2013 Afan Skyline + White’s Level Ride 47.0 4h42m 734 1762
8 01/01/2014 Llanwrtyd Wells Walk 12.4 3h43m 266 610
9 02/01/2014 Llanwrtyd Bothy Recce Ride 64.1 4h31m 1176 2600
10 03/01/2014 Newquay (Wales) Walk 5.6 2h32m 102 265
11 04/01/2014 Rest day!
12 05/01/2014 Red Kite Frozen Devil Ride 46.5 3h59 945 2143
Total Ride 364.8 (226miles) 34h13m 6342 14285
Av per day Ride 45.6 (28.3miles) 4h16m 792 1785

I picked up a few Strava results along the way. My first KOM! I was a few seconds faster than three other riders on a track climb in the middle of nowhere in Wales. It still counts though, especially considering I stopped to take a photograph half way up the climb.

I also managed a 9th out of 58 on a descent near Swindon and more significantly 8th out of 71 on the radio mast climb. I don’t set out chasing Strava results but it’s great for a few to filter through from what I regard as normal rides.

Marlborough Downs with MBSwindon

Recce trip to the Moel Prysgau bothy

Strata Florida MTB descent in mid Wales

This ride was part of my Christmas training camp.

I first heard about this bothy when I saw some photos on Facebook and recognised the Strata Florida track descent from the Red Kite Elan Valley challenge ride. The riders said that they were staying at the Moel Prysgau bothy in the Tywi forest. None of this mean much to me so I did a google search, found an old document and map, located the bothy and then saw that it was marked on the OS map.

I was staying in Llanwrtyd over Christmas and fancied taking a look at the bothy. I’d already had one attempt that had been thwarted by floods and cold feet. So I had a high level route in mind that avoided river crossings. It was mainly road or fire track so I maintained a good pace throughout. I managed my first KOM on one of the track climbs (by a few seconds and out of 3 riders).

Starting out on the road I was amazed by how much speed I could carry for so little effort compared with riding on muddy paths and tracks. That spurred me into setting a decent pace for this ride.

Tywi Forest in mid wales.

 Apart from a few riders in the valley below me and one farmer I didn’t see another soul for several hours. The ride turned out to be quite heavy going in the end and the stats back that up, with almost 1,200m of ascent in just over 4 hours of riding.

Moel Prysgau bothy
Bothy in sight.

As I approached the bothy I wondered if anyone would be staying there. I approached from the back and skirted round some large puddles. From the outside it’s a compact two storey cottage. On opening the door I found no evidence of anyone being there. It’s actually all at ground level inside with a sealed room on the left hand side. The notice on the door exhorts users to “keep it tidy”, and it was.

 

Moel Prysgau bothy.

Moel Prysgau bothy in mid Wales

Moel Prysgau mapWith the target reached I set out on my return journey feeling rather lonely. I didn’t see another person on the return journey either. It was damp and slightly dark when I finished.

I plan on using the bothy for a summer trip.

Route on Garmin connect | Strava | gpx Stats: 64km, 1176m, 4h04 moving, 15.7km/h moving, 2,600 KCal!

Back to Christmas training camp.