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

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