It’s not a New Years resolution, more of a life’s motto. Run somewhere new. Ride somewhere new. Over the Christmas and New Year break, me and my lovely wife managed a trilogy of lake runs. First up was Ullswater (read about it here), then Haweswater Reservoir (read about it here) and finally Wast Water (read about it here). All three were new adventures for us.
It can be very easy to run or ride the same old routes, day in day out, and going somewhere new can often mean a car journey or a train ride, but I think it’s worth it. Of course if you’ve ever read my blog you’ll know that I like to measure these things. Fortunately there are two websites that allow this. On the micro scale you have City Strides (read about it here and here), and on the macro scale you have Veloviewer (read about it here). Below are two images from Veloviewer showing where I had run and ridden by the end of 2018, and the second by the end of 2019.
At this scale the changes are not obvious, apart from the trip around Northern Ireland (read about it here), however, by the end of 2019 I added almost 1,000 new tiles or squares. On the smaller scale I have now run over 20% of the roads in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.
Neither metric is flawless. Our Ullswater run, while most of it was new, didn’t add any Veloviewer tiles, and City Strides also has a few bugs. Apparently there is a cycling equivalent to City Strides, but it has more bugs than a Trump Hotel mattress. Of course you could just run or ride in new places without having to add it to Strava!
One thing is certain, me and Helen (often with our silly pooch) will continue to ride and run new places, having small and large adventures.
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.