Tag Archives: recce

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.

Another 100 mile weekend. Part 2 – Prospect big ride recce

This was ride number two of the weekend. I’d covered over 40km the previous evening on the Noah’s shop ride.

The plan for this was to drive to Swindon, meet up with Phil Allum and go and investigate and rate various pieces of trail that were intended for the Prospect Big Ride 2014. I designed the routes in 2013 & 2012 with a bit of input from others.

2012 2013
photos | maps photos | maps
gpx gpx
50.5 km / 617m 49 km / 610m
Prospect Big Ride 2012 map Prospect big ride 2013 map long

Phil and myself set off on our voyage of discovery on a cold morning. I know the early stages of the ride too well so it was great to reach the first descent and appreciate it. After crossing under the bridge at Ogbourne we had a list of places to visit. As we rode we discussed the various options and ideas for linking them together. Our vision was that the route had to be different from previous years and it had to incorporate the best bits of trail. Phil was clear that the rickety bridge track descent to Ogbourne Maizey was the best section in the area.

Prospect big ride viewThe ride was quite heavy going since we were pedalling at a good pace and we had more than 55km to cover and repeat visits to some areas.

We trialled an old favourite descent near Ramsbury. This got a thumbs up from Phil. I’ve got some video of it below. Back nearer to Ogbourne we rode up or down every bridleway on the hill. We agreed on the best parts and I knew that linking them together would require some effort.

Riding along I decided that with the Stump Jumper off the road due to knackered forks then only having one spare bike was really not good enough. I needed the n+1 bike. I decided that if Hargroves Swindon still had the ex demo Camber 29″ then I’d buy it.

We were not looking forwards to riding up Smeathe’s ridge but after a sit down we were ready and found it not as bad as we expected. it’s a funny hill – it really doesn’t work as a descent, probably due to the grass swallowing up the speed.

Specialized saddleWe took a slightly new route back to Ladder Lane. Phil engaged his full downhill speed here, leaving me a fair distance behind. I was still quite happy with my performance though – I am a bit cautious on downhills really but I have my crazy days where I’m a bit faster.

After a quick ride round the second half of the Croft Trail we were both knackered and happy to stop. The Garmin plot showed 61km, 730m of ascent and 2,100 KCal. Gpx file.

I called round Hargroves but my bike plans were thwarted – they’d sold the Camber 29″ a few weeks ago. I settled on a new saddle for the existing bike.

Prospect big ride 2014 route recceAt home I spent many, many hours drawing route options and measuring the distances. I ended up with a few main choices, Phil expressed some opinions and finally a decision was made. It’s an option we named “tangled route”. It is going to be 55km long with 710m of ascent – slightly harder than previous years.

Preview video from 2013 showing many of the good sections.

The photos below are from the event, marking out and recce rides from previous years.