Matterdale and Ullswater Ride

A couple of months ago I stuffed my Trek 920 into the car and drove up to Pooley Bridge for a bit of a mixed ride. Plenty of hills and a few off road sections, hopefully nothing that the old beast couldn’t manage. Obviously much of the ride was dictated by the need for more tiles (it’s a Veloviewer thing).

Setting off and the weather was great and the hills were immediate. Matterdale was a bit of a shock that early, but at least I was riding on some lovely quiet roads. A couple of deadends followed, deliberate, one on road and the other off, before a small section of illicit or illegal riding.

20190621_101900

I crossed over the A66 and rode down a small track to the edge of Troutbeck Forest. As the sign said ‘no public right of way’ I continued. A lifted my bike over a padlocked fence and rode down a very pleasant track, completely devoid of anyone.

20190621_101912

I got slightly annoyed by this. Who are the land owners and what gives them the right to fence off such a large and beautiful area of the countryside. See also much of the land south of Lancaster and in the Trough of Bowland which has been set aside for shooting. What harm would a few bicycles actually do to your precious fenced off land. (Rant over).

Back on the road and I did a shoot loop up to Mungrisdale before dropping down into Threkeld. This next section I was a little unsure whether I would be up for it as it was a long off-road bit on the Old Coach Road.

20190621_122413

It was a bit rough and steep in places but I managed to ride most of it. I also saw an older couple riding on e-bikes in the other direction. Once I made it safely back onto tarmac I rode along the lakeside road back to Pooley Bridge. Not the best road as it’s narrow and fairly busy.

Not being in any rush I decided to throw in one last long dead end on the other side of Ullswater. This was a brilliant road; hardly any traffic and a monster of a switchback climb near the end.

20190621_141224

If you love obscure climbs this is a classic, and although it wasn’t too long my legs were feeling it. Another great little ride on roads and tracks that I’d never ridden before.

Ullswater

Recommendation of the day – ride somewhere new.

Advertisements

Annual Work Bike Ride – Day 2

I wrote the blog entry for day 1 before we all headed out for an evening meal (read about it here). We didn’t go far, just to the Beefeater next to the hotel, but work paid for it and most of the drinks. All was not well though. The organiser, who also happens to be a regional director for the company, was checking his emails in the bath at 6pm on a Friday night, which I guess is what regional directors have to do. He promptly slipped climbing out of the bath and badly hurt his ribs. At the bar of the restaurant we literally sequestered one member of staff to continually pull pints of Doombar. Two of us joked about painting the Forth Rail Bridge, which of course they no longer do.

The following morning it was still raining, but almost exactly as we set off it stopped. Once again the route was excellent, generally on quiet country lanes. Disaster struck again when someone’s crank arm fell off and had grab a lift from the support car to the nearest bike mechanic. This meant that the three of us who had pushed on missed the lunch stop and had to back track a couple of miles. Our own fault really.

20190608_132935934042158.jpg

The route then cleverly managed to avoid the large hill out of Chipping Camden, winding our way northwards. Various bits of road on this section I had ridden before, but not the very deep and wide ford we encountered just before the afternoon pit stop.

20190608_1545321960568815.jpg

Funnily enough we all opted to use the bridge, although we did see two cars driving across. One was a 4×4, so no problem, but the other was a regular car and the water was over the bonnet. Not something that I would attempt.

The route then detoured onto traffic free cycle paths and entered Arrow Valley, where me and my beautiful wife had completed the swim part of Isoman last year (read about it here). The roads here were fairly amazing this close to Birmingham, in that they were so quiet, although there was one last monster of a hill.

Before I knew it, we were back at the car park and I was driving home. A brilliant two days riding, meeting some great people and having a blast. The two day route can be seen below.

work route

Finally a big thank you to Phil for organising everything, and hopefully I will return next year for another great ride.

 

Annual Work Bike Ride – Day 1

I work for a fairly awesome company, and one great thing they do is organise an annual two day bike ride. Last year started and finished at the Carlisle office with an overnight stop in Kendal. This year 13 of us started from the Birmingham office and I am currently typing this on my phone in a hotel in Cirencester. It started well with one person falling off before we’d even left the car park. It wasn’t entirely his fault as his new overshoes had got caught under his cleat. We’ve all done it.

Today started and finished in the dry, but it heaved it down for the rest of the day. First stop was in a car park for snacks near Worcester. The place was busy but there was a great cycle path alongside the river. There was also maybe a hundred swans on the river. I had to Google to see what the collective noun is for a group of swans. If there are flying it is a Wedge, otherwise it’s a Bevy. I think a bastard of swans is probably better.

From there we headed south and stopped for lunch in a small village. Because we were a head of schedule and wet, the company paid for coffee in a local pub. Most welcome, although the pub might not have been as we dripped everywhere.

Into the town of Winchcombe, which sounds like the kind of place that would feature in a Half Man Half Biscuit song. Massive hill out of the place and first time that I had needed the small chain ring.

The roads were narrow country lanes, although surprisingly busy, most likely used as rat runs. There followed a couple of hundred metres on the A40 before our last stop of the day on Cold Comfort Common.

A few miles later I stopped to take a photo of a pig in a field with a donkey.

From there it stopped raining and the sun even came out for the last few miles in Cirencester.

Distance for the day 123km with 1400m of climbing. Tomorrow will be similar distance and climbing, but with nicer weather. Day 2 can be read here.

Lakesman Half – The Bike Loop

My beautiful and amazing wife has entered the Lakesman Half Triathlon this year, which is in four weeks time. Helen wanted to ride the bike loop to have a look at it and to make sure that she can make it back for the run within the time limit. I’ll let you in on a secret, she’ll have absolutely no worries about the time limit.

IMG-20190519-WA0000.jpg

I downloaded the route, we loaded up the car and headed off nice and early this morning (Sunday). Arriving at the carpark in Keswick where the race will start and finish, we found it to be nearly full. Unbeknown to us, the Keswick Mountain Festival was on, with fell races, walks, sportive and a swim all occurring over the weekend. I mention the swim because there wasn’t actually a swim. It had been cancelled due to a harmful algal bloom in Derwent Water. Lakesman are aware of the situation and are monitoring the water, but there is a possibility that the races might have either shortened swims or no swim at all. Currently refunds or referrals are not being offered. This is a difficult situation for the organisers with plenty of people venting their anger on social media. I think that it is sensible to ere on the side of caution, and it the water is deemed to be unsafe to swim in, then you have to accept an altered race. Worst case scenario, the race goes ahead while there is some doubt about the water,  and if a few triathletes fall ill people will want to know why the swim leg wasn’t cancelled.

Back in the carpark once we had set up our bikes we headed off, straight through the sportive. Fortunately they were all turning right at the very first junction, while we headed out of Keswick and onto the A66 towards Cockermouth. This isn’t a road I would normally ride on, but it wasn’t too bad on a Sunday early in the morning, although it was a bit boring. After ten miles we turned left onto a smaller road, which was actually worse than the A66 as it was narrower, leaving less room for cars to overtake. Soon though we turned off this onto a very pleasant country lane, with a great descent into Branthwaite. Best section of the route by far.

Joining the A595 there’s a great view of the Irish sea, and with over half the bike leg completed you’re nearly home. The route then does a loop through Distington and back along the dual carriageway. This again wasn’t too bad as there was plenty of room for us. Unfortunately the A595 back towards the A66 was fast with little room, so we opted to use the separate cycle lane, which won’t be an option on race day. Once we reached the A66 we had a stop and a chat. The route back to Keswick will be fast and impossible to go wrong, so we decided to enjoy the ride and head back along some quieter roads. This was slightly longer and a lot hillier, but was a brilliant diversion, especially as for much of the time we could still see the A66.

Cockermouth was a revelation, with a wide street lined with trees. This isn’t an area of the lakes that either of us have visited, although I did a triathlon there many years ago, before Stava. Cockermouth; we will return. There’s also plenty of signs pointing to Maryport, which sounds like a classic Game of Thrones town.

If you’re going to cycle from Cockermouth to Keswick there really is only one route; up and over Whinlatter.

20190519_124406.jpg

Whinlatter isn’t one of the ‘hard’ climbs in the Lakes, but it is still a bit of a beast, although we were climbing it from the ‘easier’ side. I had also never climbed it from this side. Helen wasn’t particularly keen on this hill, but the huge grin on her face after the glorious descent made it all worthwhile. Back into Keswick and once again we were mistaken for sportive riders. A couple of years ago we did the Tour De Bolton sportive and I was saddened by the dozen riders waiting outside the school gates to take part in the sportive without paying for it. I really hope that the marshalls didn’t think that we had done the same thing.

My thoughts on the Lakesman Half bike route is that most of it is on roads that I wouldn’t normally ride on, but on race day, with so many other triathletes on the roads it should be fine. The main roads also makes it easier for the organisers, with fewer marshalls required at critical junctions. I’ve chatted with people who have done Lakesman in previous years and they have all said that the roads were not an issue.

If you’ve entered Lakesman I wish you all the best in the world. As for me, I’m really looking forward to supporting my amazing wife as I know that she will surpass all of her expectations.

 

Quiraing Mountain

As with most cyclists I love a good hill to climb. I’m also an avid collector of Simon Warren’s books; The 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, sequel and subsequent regional spin-offs. So when my beautiful wife booked us a weeks holiday on Skye, and that we would be bringing our bikes along, I had to check to see if there were any climbs near to where we were staying. Low and behold, climb #170, Quiraing was ten miles away. Confusingly though, it is given a 5/10 rating in the Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs book, and a 6/10 in the regional Cycling Climbs of Scotland book.

20190317_155119.jpg

We had been for a run on our first full day on Skye and had been caught in a sudden snowstorm, so when the forecast was good for the Monday we decided to go for it. Many of the roads in the area are very narrow with frequent passing places, so you get used to having to pull over to let cars past. It can be frustrating and slow going, but we were on our touring bikes anyway.

The ten miles to Saffin Bay flew by with amazing views almost constantly, and then we were are the start of the climb. The revised score is only a 6/10, while our local climb, Jubilee Tower is a 7/10, so how hard could it be. We slowly made our way up the lower section, stopping a couple of times to let cars, vans and a minibus past.

The, just beyond the cemetery, we saw the road curving up, with a couple of hairpin bends and plenty of snow at the top. It looked formidable.

20190311_115743.jpg

“Steady way” was our motto as we slowly made our way up, avoiding cars coming down and the snow in the middle of the road. I stopped at the last hairpin to take a few photos and to warn Helen if there was any traffic coming down.

20190311_115739.jpg

And then we were at the top, where the car park was full. We opted to push on down to Uig, the gentle side, with much less traffic, although we had to contend with a horrific head wind.

Fortunately, we changed direction for the last four miles back to our rented holiday cottage. Funnily enough, we both said that the climb looked far tougher than it actually was, and turned out to be a pleasant climb. It was the middle of March and there were still quite a few cars on the hill, so I would not want to cycle up there in the middle of summer as it would be far too busy.

The Rapha Festive 500 – 2018

At this time of year Rapha sponsor a Strava challenge, the Festive 500. The aim being to cycle 500km in the eight days between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Read about the 2017 edition here and the 2016 edition here.

I have completed this challenge every year since 2012, so I was looking forward to this again. Over the years I’ve encountered the usual and expected problems, including very bad weather and having to work. This year though, I was attempting to run every day in December (read about it here), which when time is limited meant that the Festive 500 was put on the back burner. I managed three rides and a total of 219km. I don’t mind because I got to spend time with my parents, who came up from Salisbury, and then quality time with my wife. I also ran the Lancaster parkrun on Christmas day and the following Saturday, which was a great deal more fun than a three hour slog on the bike in the cold and the rain.

I did also manage to run on 30 of the days in December, only missing the 16th due to running a very tough half marathon in the Forest of Bowland the previous day (read about it here).

Next year who knows? Currently I’m enjoying riding a bit less, but riding more with my wife, as well as running with our silly pointer.

Wishing you all a happy new year.

Strava Route Builder

I’ve generally always created my own routes using the website Bike and Hike. Unfortunately Google have recently changed their pricing structure for websites that use their maps, making the course creator function on the Bike and Hike website almost unusable.

Therefore I needed an alternative, especially when you have five days of cycle touring with over 90% of it on roads that I’ve never cycled before. Up stepped Strava Route Builder. In theory this should be brilliant. Local cyclists know the best roads and the ones to avoid, so any route using this data should be good.

Day 1 of our little touring holiday and I became a big fan of the route builder. The route from Kenilworth to Cheltenham was great, especially the first 30 miles. The next 20 miles were a little busier, although this was mainly due to diversions. The route builder has a flat option, which I hadn’t clicked, so we ended cycling up Cleve Hill, although the flat option would have added another 10 miles.

Back when I joined Strava it wasn’t uncommon for a segment to have less than 100 people on the leaderboard. Now it’s rare for a segment to have fewer than 1,000, and Box Hill in Surrey has over 100,000 different athletes. This is a lot of data and I’m pleased that Strava is using it and helping regular cyclists (and runners) find good routes in new areas.

Day 2 of our little cycling holiday and Strava route builder goes from 5/5 to 0/5. Fifteen bloody miles on the busy A46, a horrible road that no one would ever want to cycle on. This section of route almost ended our holiday.

We did see a few cyclists using the A46, which has obviously skewed the algorithms into thinking that it is an acceptable route. The moral, don’t take it as red that a route will be good, check it properly.

Day 3 and it was the best route yet, all on quiet roads except for the last couple of miles into Salisbury, but there isn’t always a lot you can do when entering a city. The other days were also very good routes, so I would definitely use Strava Route Builder again, although I will check that it hasn’t thrown me onto a main road for too long.

The route for our little cycling tour can be seen below, and day one can be read here.

tour

Edit: I wrote most of this back in September but didn’t manage to blog about it, but since then the website Bike and Hike has started to use a different mapping site. This is good because sometimes my routes go all over the place, mainly when I’m tile hunting (read about it here).

My advice is if you know where you’re going, create your own route with Bike and Hike, but if you’re going somewhere new, use Strava route builder.