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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommendation of the day – ride somewhere new.
A couple of weeks ago I ran Canalathon, a 50km run from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge along the Rochdale Canal (read about it here). When I managed to upload it to Strava and then Veloviewer I found out that I had nabbed another 20 tiles, although none of them are added to my Maximum Cluster. This got me thinking about what the potential is, of the tiles that I added, to be added to my cluster.
The map above shows the bottom edge of my cluster, and the blue line is the route for Canalathon. As you can see I’m only a few tiles away from adding these new tiles to my cluster, in effect a high cluster potential, which is good.
The other extreme would be when me, my beautiful wife and unruly dog all went to Skye for a week. We managed a couple of rides (read about one of them here) and a few runs, and over the week notched up another 50 odd new tiles. However, it is over 400km from the my new tiles to the northern edge of my cluster in Carlisle, so the potential for adding these tiles to my cluster would obviously be very low. Never say never, there are some mighty large clusters out there.
Back in January I blogged about my maximum explorer square on Veloviewer (read about it here). To recap, a map can be split into squares or tiles, if you cycle or run into or through a square then it is highlighted or ‘ticked off’ on Veloviewer. If you can visit a whole load of them together you can create what is known as a ‘maximum square’. In January I was pleased that I had managed to expand my max square up to 16 x 16. I also mentioned that without swimming across the Ribble it would be difficult to expand my max square.
I’m sure that you can guess that I have managed to increase my max square. Not by swimming across the Ribble, but by cycling and running around Blackburn. By the middle of the year I had increased it to 18 x 18.
In the north west it isn’t always easy to increase your max square, which is why I prefer to chase my max cluster score (read about my latest update here). The largest max squares are almost into three figures with the largest being 97 x 97. If you live in the middle of your max square it obviously makes it easier to expand it. To reach the nearest point of mine it is a 10 mile ride, and nearly 50 miles to the far point, including plenty of hills and built up areas, which isn’t the most pleasant of rides.
But, my job has moved office, allowing me to be able to go for a run in the morning before work, ticking off a few squares that are inaccessible by bike. A 70 mile ride from Horwich ticked off a few more, and now my max square is up to 23 x 23.
23 x 23 isn’t very large and only takes me up 245th on the Veloviewer leaderboard, but as I said earlier, the north west isn’t the easiest area. There is still potential to increase this further, although I will be focusing on my max cluster.
Back in July I blogged about the Bearded Tile Hounds (It’s a Strava group) and how I had managed to link up my Veloviewer maximum cluster all the way to Hull (read about it here). I’ve been slowly adding to my cluster, although it’s hard work as I don’t always have access to the car. September was a bad month for my cluster as I didn’t add a single tile, but I’ve been trying to make amends in October. I’ve done a couple of runs before work near Horwich which has added a few tiles and last Friday I took the train to Wigan for a 70 mile ride across to Formby and back. The route was a bit all over the place as I tried to obtain as many squares as possible, and included quite a few sections of farmtracks and bridleways, although it was fairly flat.
This was my cluster before the ride.
And this was my cluster after.
Annoyingly I missed a couple of easy tiles with poor route planning. However, I did get all of the more difficult ones, and I have also collected all of the tiles around Skelmersdale, which is a truly awful place to cycle around. When it was built it was designed to be a cycling utopia, much like Milton Kenyes, but the cycle paths go off in random directions, suddenly end and are in a really poor state of repair. The roads also feel too dangerous to cycle on. On the whole, not a great place to cycle.
Fridays ride did add 33 tiles and 54 tiles to my cluster, moving me from 38th to 35th on the Veloviewer leaderboard. A long way to go to catch either my old friend The Prof, or to make the top twenty, but I’ll keep on plugging away at those pesky tiles.
Back in January I blogged about the Veloviewer leaderboards, and how I was pleased to have made the top twenty on one list, notably swimming distance so far in 2018. Not particularly impressive, but you can read about it here. I’m pleased to say that I’m still in the top twenty for swimming distance so far in 2018, but only just. I’m also near the top for swimming Eddington time, with 58 minutes. That means in 2018 I have swimmed for 58 minutes at least 58 times. I’m not going to go through every leaderboard for 2018, as there are quite a few.
The reason that I’ve revisited this topic is because I have made the leaderboard for all years. Swimming only, but Eddington scores for km, miles and time.
When you look at the overall leaderboards for Eddington Miles, you need to have cycled 120 miles 120 times, but swimming it’s only 5 miles. If you’re not a swimmer you might not realise just how tough a 5 mile swim is. It would take a great dea of swimming for me to get any higher on those leaderboards, but Eddington time, I think by the end of the year I could get up to 80 minutes. 1st place for swimming Eddington time is only 90 minutes. I say only, because a 90 minute swim doesn’t half take it out of you. Hopefully by Easter next year I might have reached 90 minutes, although by then 1st place will probably be over 100 minutes.
As for other leaderboards, my old friend The Prof is into the top ten for his Maximum Cluster, although I am up to 33rd. Still a long way to go.
The Prof set up a group on Strava called The Beards of Bowland. I’ve blogged about them a few times (here, here and here). Recently The Prof has become a bit obsessed with tile hunting and expanding his maximum cluster and re-named the Beards of Bowland as The Tilehunters. As I’m an admin in the group I promptly re-named it as The Bearded Tilehounds.
I don’t have the time or the opportunity to expand my cluster as often as The Prof, but over the last couple of months I have added almost 1,000 tiles to my max cluster. The image below is from the middle of May this year.
In the last couple of months I’ve had an overnight trip to Liverpool, a weekend away with my beautiful wife in the south lakes, three days cycling to and from York, and yesterday an off-road foray around Shap. This has resulted in my cluster now being 2,444 tiles and I’m up to 28th on the Veloviewer leaderboard (still some way to go to make the top 20). My revised max cluster can be seen below.
My cluster now stretches from Penrith in the north down to Liverpool at it’s southern most point, and from Grizebeck in the west all the way to Hull and Scunthorpe in the east, via Skipton, Wetherby and York.
I lived in Hull for over a year a couple of years ago, so I’m pleased to have linked my cluster across the country. Of course I was living in Hull before the great Squarepocalypse (read about it here), so there are plenty of missing tiles.
What’s next for my max cluster? Tomorrow I’m supporting friends from COLT at IMUK, and I plan on a short ride around Bolton, an hour at the most, and probably only adding a dozen tiles. After that I should be able to link up Penrith to Carlisle, and across from Penrith to Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. It’s not always as easy to add tiles up in the north of England as there are fells and moorland with no easy access, but I will keep on plugging away.
My regular readers will know that I’m a fan of Veloviewer and all of it’s extra stats. Read about all of my Veloviewer posts here. A few years ago Veloviewer introduced leaderboards, but only the top 20, and I was amazed to find that for overall Eddington score (miles) I was in 19th place. Recently Veloviewer has introduced placing for everyone, although only the top 20 make it to the list. I’m now down to 87th for my Eddington score.
My good friend The Prof has made it up to 18th for the maximum cluster score, while I’m still languishing in 50th place, but I have made the top ten on one list.
Swimming distance so far in 2018.
That’s me in 8th place, having swam 32km so far this year. I’ve entered a 10km swim later in the year, and in June I’m doing Isoman which is a triathlon with a 7 mile swim (read about my races for this year here). I have therefore increased my swimming, helped with the terrible weather, and this morning I managed my second 5km swim of the year. I couldn’t stop eating all morning.
Let’s be fair though, this leaderboard isn’t too impressive after just one month, and I have no doubt whatsoever that I will soon drop down the list, but it’s nice while it lasts.