Tag Archives: stroudwater

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

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.