Mayhem Weekender

Sometime after midnight on Monday morning in a 24 hour petrol station on the edge of Brighton

Cashier: “Have you done the bike ride today?” [Sunday was the annual London to Brighton charity ride]

Me: “No, I’ve done a different bike ride. A little bit further.”

Cashier: “Wow, further! Where have you ridden from then?”

Me: “From near Gloucester”

Cashier: “Gloucester!? Flipping heck!”

What I didn’t add was that I’d actually ridden there on Friday evening, done a lap of a mountain bike race that morning, before riding home from mid-afternoon until now. There was already a look of incredulity on the woman’s face and adding this additional information would have only led to the inevitable “Why?” question and I was frankly far too exhausted to think of an answer. I took my change, picked up my ready meal for two, stuffed it in my musette, and walked out of the garage, hopped back on the bike and rode into the light pollution for the final couple of miles home.

The weekend just gone was the last ever Mountain Mayhem 24 hour mountain bike race. I came to this event late, only attending my first one four years ago. That year I was there to help out mates and take some photos. That in turn prompted me to buy a mountain bike and return in 2015 and 2016 and do the solo race (in for a penny, in for a pound). This year being the last ever one I considered soloing again but sensibly decided it was a bit close to the start of the Transcontinental to recover in time properly. A plan to ride from Brighton to Gatcombe Park and then back again was hatched instead. This would mean I could hang out with mates and watch the last race with the added benefit of getting a couple of 200km night(ish) rides in as Transcon training. What with camping at the race too it gave me an opportunity to test out my sleeping stuff for the Transcon and see how most efficient to pack it on the bike. In the back of my mind I knew that if there was a spare bike kicking about I’d try and get a cheeky lap in too.

Friday

I left Brighton just before 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon (due to having run out of annual leave allowance I needed to fit the riding in around work. A couple of long days in the preceding week meant I could bunk off early) and headed along the coast for a bit before turning northwest. Annoyingly there was a stiff breeze coming from precisely the direction I didn’t need it to be coming from, but the sun was shining and the forecast was good for the whole weekend.

It says a lot about the last few months that I now consider the roads as far as Petersfield as ‘home roads’. Distances have not only become greater but there have been a lot of rides out this way, to Bespoked a couple of times, to Wales on an audax, and various long rides that have headed further into West Sussex that I ever did before (I usually head into East Sussex as I know the roads better). It’s only once past the climb over the Ashford Hangers or “Little Switzerland” as it is known locally, and there is something alpine-esque about the climb, in character rather than height, that the roads start to feel foreign and the excitement and anticipation of the long ride kicks in. I have ridden across parts of Hampshire and Wiltshire many times in the last two years but my route this weekend took in new roads to me. I was in roughly the same areas as previous rides, familiar names on signposts triggered memories. It was early afternoon by the time I got past Petersfield and Hampshire looked about as pastoral and bucolic as it’s possible to be. Narrow lanes carried me through endless fields of wheat and barley rolling across low downland until I popped out on a familiar road through the Bourne Valley towards Wiltshire. I crossed the border as the sun was setting and headed for Marlborough. Somewhere along the way a rustling sound from a field to my left startled me and I turned to see a group of deer bouncing through the golden field, not only a sight to behold but the sound of them swooshing through the tall crop was beautiful. Then a barn owl swept across my path. Idyllic.

The last of the light was fading from the sky as I reached Marlborough around 10 o’clock and by the time I dropped off the Marlborough Downs stars could be seen in the dark sky. There was an orange glow on the horizon to the northeast which I guessed was Swindon. From previous years of driving to Mayhem I knew this is where we turned off the M4 so it couldn’t be too much further. The Garmin distance told me similar, somewhere around 50km to go.

The next section passed close to Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury and Tetbury but I’m not sure what the landscape was like as it was properly dark by now and I was tired and concentrating on pedalling, snacking and drinking. At 1 o’clock in the morning I was sat on a bench outside the pub in Avening eating the last of the emergency peanuts before the last couple of kilometres up the hill to the Mayhem site.

A few minutes later, and after getting lost on the campsite, I pulled into our camp where Rory and Shaggy gave me a hug and a beer, and Jo handed me a plate of pasta. Part one completed, 215km in ten and half hours.

Saturday

Much sitting about in the shade trying not to melt in the sunshine. Beer. Food. More beer. Heckling mates racing. Due to some motorway closures one of Jo’s team of ten, My Knees Hurt (usually a team of four and raced all 20 years of Mayhem, singlespeed in the old days hence the team name, this year all previous riders and helpers have combined to make a team of ten) can’t make it to Mayhem so they are a rider down. Frazer from the Pivot Boompods team very generously offers me his Pivot Les to do a lap standing in for ‘Scottish Phil’. Some number crunching is done and it is decided that I will go out for the dawn lap on Sunday morning. I then drink some more beer as I have hours to go before I have to ride.

Sunday Morning

I awoke to Jo saying “Oi, you’re supposed to be awake. You’re out soon”. I checked the time, it’s 04:18 and two minutes before my alarm is due to go off. Bleary eyed I gave Jo the spare number board to go on the bike whilst I dragged my kit on. Half a flapjack and a spin around the campsite to make sure the bike is set up OK and I set off to the arena to take over from Rory when he gets in from his lap. Yes, I know it would have made sense to check the bike the day before but it was being saved as second bike for Rich who was racing solo so I didn’t want to mess around with the seat height until I was absolutely sure he wouldn’t need to use the bike.

Rory beeped over the timing mat and handed over to me. I hopped on the bike and headed out of the main arena into the field before the woods. First corner and the rear end squirmed all over the place. Bloody hell, I’d not ridden a MTB since last November and I had completely forgotten about how low pressure you can run a tubeless tyre. I minced around the first few corners, almost slid out over a root into a tree, until I got used to it and then I was off. It’s a lot more fun knowing you only have to put one lap in rather than ride non-stop for 24 hours. For the first time I was riding up behind people and saying “on yer left” or “on yer right” and slaloming between slower riders. Most of the course was ingrained in my mind from two years of solo racing and the trails are so dry it was easy to get some flow going. Despite not having ridden a mountain bike for months it felt like the best I’ve ever ridden.  After a few corners I can see the sun squeezing between the trunks and branches, sun rise! A magical time of day to ride a bike. I love riding at dawn but my previous experience of dawn at Mayhem is utter exhaustion and a slow (rapid) unravelling of my sense of humour or resolve. I’m usually having a lie down and sulk not long after the dawn lap. This was riding at dawn without all the tiredness and mental fragility of soloing and it was ace. I even rode the entire course, no parts were walked, a mix of having a really lightweight bike to ride and all the Transcon training, plus the fact I only had one lap to do so didn’t need to worry about conserving energy (I may have eased off on a couple of fire roads knowing that I had to ride home later in the day). It was the most fun lap I’d ever done at Mayhem. Through the campsite section I could see Phil was still at camp and not at the handover waiting for me. “Phil, I’m back…” I shouted as I whizzed past. Through the last bit of singletrack into the arena and I span along until I saw Phil riding round to take over. I rode over the timing mat just as he arrived. I passed the baton over and went looking for a bacon sarnie. Then I dozed some more.

The rest of Sunday

All packed up and goodbyes said I pedal out of the campsite just after 2 o’clock for the 200 or so kilometres home. It was ridiculously hot and I had toyed with the idea of just getting a lift home, but this was the last big Transcon training ride, and getting a lift won’t be an option on the Transcon. I had a framebag stuffed full of snacks and two bottles of water which would get me as far as the first shop. I had routed myself home pretty much the same way as I’d ridden on Friday, so knew that I probably wouldn’t see anything open until Marlborough. Two bottles of water would not get me that far, not in the heat, but I also knew that I would pass close enough to Malmesbury to detour if I needed to. However it turned out my route back was slightly different, I rode through Royal Wootton Bassett rather than near it, so was able to buy some food and water to keep me going to Marlborough.

The section between Wootton Bassett and Marlborough was gorgeous. I’d not been able to see it in the dark on Friday but white horses in the sides of the hills at Broad Hinton and Hackpen hill glowed in the bright sunshine. On the Friday I had a feeling that the road between Hackpen Hill and Marlborough was nice, the twilight meant I had been able to make out silhouettes of the surrounding landscape, but it was an absolute cracker made even better by the fact it was a gentle but fast descent for the best part of 7 or 8 kilometres. More food and water in Marlborough before a quick blast along the A4 to get back into the quiet lanes across Wiltshire and Hampshire. The Bourne Valley again. Love this stretch of road. Under the A34. Dinner sat on a step in the shade by the river opposite the little Tesco in Whitchurch. Over the M3. Yet more hedge lined lanes through yet more fields. This part of the country always makes me think of Lemon Jelly record sleeves.

Picture Perfect England™.

A kestrel glides low over the field to my side before swerving across the road and through a gap in the trees to my right. Then I chased a hare along a lane a few minutes later.

Petersfield again. More food, more water. Home roads. Tired. Hot. Probably dehydrated. Actually, absolutely definitely dehydrated. Twilight. By this point I was starting to lose interest in riding, bored even. Close enough to home to just want to be there, far enough away to know it was still a couple of hours away. I plugged my earphones into my phone and hit shuffle. I pedalled on. Home roads. Autopilot. Village names got ticked off the mental list – Harting, Cocking, Graffham, Greatham, Storrington. Dark now, it was late. Even the main roads were quiet. Swerved a hedgehog. Route 1 home. Washington, Steyning, Shoreham. Head down, high gear, push pedals as hard as possible. The fast road and the cement works. A way I would never ride in the day, but 11 o’clock on a Sunday night it was OK. Tempted by the drive-thru MacDonalds, but no, cracked on. Didn’t even cross the lock gates for the quiet of Basin Road, I stuck to the coast road. Hungry. Tired. Get home, maybe stagger to the kebab shop. Then I saw the lights of the M&S shop at the all night petrol station near Hove Lagoon…

“Have you done the bike ride today?”

six hundred

I can feel tears welling up. My sunglasses are in my jersey pocket so there’s no way I’m going to hide this. I drift backwards from Jo’s side. I look at the trees, and my stem, and my feet turning the pedals, and back at the trees. I wipe away a tear with a filthy, snotty mitt. I am utterly exhausted. It’s suddenly hit me that I’ve decided to pack. The shear scale of what is left of this endeavour has overwhelmed me like a wave and I’m too tired to keep my head above the water. Doing the sums I know it’s possible to complete the audax in the time allowed but chances are when we get back to Hailsham it will be too late to get a train home. The thought of having to turn around in order to ride the extra 35 kilometres home is more than I want to think about. I really don’t want to pack though. It’s my first 600 and it would complete a Super Randonneur series for the season. More than that though I don’t want to let Jo down. He didn’t enter the audax, he’s just come along for fun, well, maybe not fun, we did a pinky swear about trying something really stupid next year so this is a test, and it’s a test I sense I may be about to fail. I’m the one that is supposed to be able to do this. Jo has never ridden more than 200km and it was my idea to ride 600 and I said it would be OK. I can reconcile myself to bailing on the audax but to not ride 600 kilometres? I can’t stop, not now, not this far in, giving up is out of the question. I reckon we’ve ridden about 540 kilometres so far and it must be about another sixty to home from here. We’re near Petersfield and if I can get there then I can get to Midhurst and if I can get there then I can get to Petworth and if I can get there then I can get to Storrington and if I can get there I can get to Steyning and if I can get there I can get to Shoreham and if we can get there we can have a pint by the river and we can say we did it. We can say we rode to Wales and back and we will have ridden 600 kilometres, further and for longer than either of us have ever ridden. It’s been ridiculous and it’s been brilliant and it’s not quite over. I ride back up to Jo and tell him the new plan hoping he doesn’t notice the emotion cracking my voice.

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https://www.strava.com/activities/692622452

Bespoked 2016 weekender

Since first visiting the Bespoked Handmade Bicycle Show in Bristol a few years back the thought of riding to (and maybe from) the show has been floating around my head. I finally got around to it this year. One reason was that my friend Jo did a framebuilding course (that link is part one, the rest of it can be found on road.cc if you want to read the full story) and did a pinky swear with Downland Cycles that he would ride his bike to Bespoked, so it could go on their stand. This seemed as good an opportunity to ride there as any. Second reason was that it then transpired that road.cc needed Jo to report on the show and someone to take photos. All sorted then. Well, not quite. The frame built at Downland Cycles was still at the sprayers. A back-up plan was hatched, there was another frame being built by Reilly Cycleworks that would be ready. Just. [See the film]

Thursday 14th AprilIMG_20160415_091124

Big ride day. Friends of Jo live “just the other side of Salisbury” which sounded feasible in a day, around 100 miles. Actually, they live near Warminster which is a bit further than “just” the other side. When the shortest line was plotted between Brighton and there the first day’s riding worked out at around 115 miles. The line drawn was roughly through Petworth, Petersfield, Winchester, and Salisbury but without actually going through any of those places. I think that Jo was secretly happy that the fixie frame was still at the sprayers as it meant he could ride the bike with gears. The route wasn’t too hilly, gently undulating across West Sussex, Hampshire, and Wiltshire. Navigation for the first half of the ride was relatively simple – keep the South Downs and the sun on our left. We missed a couple of turns so wiggled about more than we needed, but the sun was shining and we made decent progress. After a short alpine like climb out of Petersfield we dropped onto the A272 for a few timetrial-esque miles and stopped for a pub lunch. After lunch we managed to go the wrong way, or I managed to send us the wrong way, which I should have realised when we ended up in the middle of a town I knew we didn’t go through, but then shortly after noticed my shadow was on the left of me – “Hang on, we’re heading in the wrong direction”. Once back on route we managed to find some bridleways, after turning off a main road that was no fun. A quick glance at the gps app on my phone and it looked like there was a network of lanes that would get us to where we wanted to be. IMG_20160414_142331The lanes got narrower and more farm track like and then over the brow of a hill we could see a gravel track extending into the distance. It went from gravel track to grass track to mud and puddles. Jo’s 40mm gravel tyres suddenly came into their own as my 28mm slicks became less useful. Overall it only lasted a few miles which turned out to be some of the nicest of the day. It’s always worth getting a little lost to find gems like this. Crossing the border into Wilstshire we traversed Salisbury Plain past Porton Down and various MOD installations, the spire of Salisbury Catherdral pointing into the sky down to our left. A couple of lumpy climbs made us use all the gears, the 110 miles ridden so far started to bite. Finally we found our way into the Wylye Valley for the final 10 miles of the day. The road along the valley was lovely, all gentle sweeps and rises, but every little gradient made itself felt, and every opportunity to freewheel was utilised. One hundred and twenty eight miles and 11 hours after leaving the south coast we made it to our destination, in time for fish and chips, ale and a couple of whiskies.

https://www.strava.com/activities/545515887

IMG_20160414_143056 IMG_20160414_223041 IMG_20160414_225104 IMG_20160415_064402 IMG_20160414_223415IMG_20160415_085614Friday 15th April

Before the off we nip down the A36 to a transport caff for a fry up. Marginal gains, obviously. It’s a shorter day today, just 45 miles, and a bit greyer and damper. From Warminster we get our heads down along the main road to Trowbridge where we pick up the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath into Bath. After a quick tea stop in the centre of Bath we go round in circles for a bit trying to find our way out to the Bristol & Bath Railway Path because the canal towpath is closed throughout the city. The cyclepath leads us slap bang into the middle of Bristol and we quickly find our way to Brunel’s Old Station for Bespoked.

www.strava.com/activities/546033558

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IMG_20160416_095959Saturday 16th April

After a very nice breakfast at Hart’s Bakery* we spend the rest of the day at Bespoked. [I’ll add a link to the road.cc report and photos when it’s online]

Then we went to the pub.

*Pork and black pudding sausage roll, cheese & roast mushroom sourdough toastie, custard tart. Three courses! We missed a meal the day before and woke up quite big ride hungry still. I can heartily recommend Hart’s if you find yourself in Bristol.

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IMG_20160417_173547Sunday 17th April

Riding the full 160 miles home was discussed and a route plotted all the way home, but with various bail points near train stations. On the day it was decided that aiming for between 80-100 miles would be most sensible, and then jump on a train. Immediately leaving the hotel car park I noticed the tell tale wibble of a broken spoke in the front wheel. Oh well, just as well I’ve got disc brakes. Snapped spoke wrapped around the one next to it we find found our way back to the railway path into Bath, for breakfast at a cafe recommended by Andrew from The Bicycle Academy. Two veggie breakfasts are ordered, but one with bacon added and one with sausage. From Bath we picked up the Kennet & Avon Canal all the way to Devizes. Again, Jo’s tyres came to the fore, but it being a sunny Sunday the towpath was quite busy, and our speed was fairly pedestrian at times. After lunch next to the canal in Devizes, we rejoined tarmac and headed south-east across the southern edge of the North Wessex Downs, the Alton Barnes White Horse visible on the slope of Milk Hill. We rolled gently across the landscape into Hampshire and down the Bourne Valley towards Overton, where we decided enough was enough for the day and hopped on a train home via London.

https://www.strava.com/activities/548358896

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The Three County And Three Cathedral Randonnee

First 200km ride of the year, starting out at Salisbury Cathedral.
First 200km ride of the year, starting out at Salisbury Cathedral.
Not far out of Salisbury and the tarmac ran out for a short while.
Not far out of Salisbury and the tarmac ran out for a short while.
...and a couple of kilometres later the gravel ran out.
…and a couple of kilometres later the gravel ran out.
Crossing the River Test on the way to Winchester.
Crossing the River Test on the way to Winchester.
60 km in and the second cathedral of the day at Winchester.
60 km in and the second cathedral of the day at Winchester. A bit behind schedule due to some poor navigation half way between Salisbury and here.
In order to avoid some busy road junctions out of Winchester decided to join the South Downs Way for a few kilometres.
In order to avoid some busy road junctions out of Winchester decide to join the South Downs Way for a few kilometres.
Gateway to the South Downs Way.
Gateway to the South Downs Way.
High on the South Downs Way and to the south I could see the lumpy silhouette of the Isle of Wight and the Solent shining silver in sunlight.
High on the South Downs Way and to the south I could see the lumpy silhouette of the Isle of Wight and the Solent shining silver in sunlight.
Wheely Down
Wheely Down
Looking back down Old Winchester Hill.
Looking back down Old Winchester Hill.
Descending from Old Winchester Hill towards East Meon.
Descending from Old Winchester Hill towards East Meon.
After a few navigation issues eventually get to Selborne, home of Rev. Gilbert White, 1720-93, pioneering natural historian and writer. Well behind schedule at this point due to wind and a lot of stopping to look at maps (route notes featuring names of lanes are only any good if the lanes in question have name signs. It seems Hampshire doesn't do name signs.)
After quite a few “I think I’m here, oh hang on, I’m not” moments I eventually get to Selborne, home of Rev. Gilbert White, 1720-93, pioneering natural historian and nature writer. Well behind schedule at this point due to wind and a lot of stopping to look at maps (route notes featuring names of lanes are only any good if the lanes in question have name signs, and it seems Hampshire doesn’t do name signs). Need to plan a 2-3 day ride that allows time to visit Gilbert White’s house. Maybe an Edward Thomas ‘In Pursuit Of Spring’ type ride.
Heading towards Midhurst.
Heading towards Bepton.
Starting to feel tired about 150km in, and daylight is fading, on the way to Heyshott. Decide to deviate from planned route and head for the coast via Arundel. The coastal ride home isn't as nice but in the dark it gives me the option of lit cycle lanes rather than pitch black lanes. It also takes me past many train stations if I decide to give up for the day.
Starting to feel tired at about 150km, and daylight is fading. Between Cocking and Heyshott I decide to deviate from planned route and head for the coast via Arundel. The coastal ride home isn’t as nice but in the dark it has lit cycle lanes rather than pitch black lanes. And it’s flat. Oh, and it gives me the option of many train stations if I decide to give up for the day. However I did forget about the absolute sod of a hill I have to get over to get into Arundel.
167 kilometres in, Arundel Cathedral.
167 kilometres, Arundel Cathedral.
Almost on Littlehampton. Seriously considered the train at this point, but I know if I can get to Littlehampton then I can get to Worthing, and if I can get to Worthing I can get to Shoreham, etc.
Almost on Littlehampton. Seriously considering the train at this point, but I know if I can get to Littlehampton then I can get to Worthing, and if I can get to Worthing I can get to Shoreham, etc.
Cycle path out of Worthing and I can see the lights of home along the coast.
Cycle path out of Worthing and I can see the lights of home along the coast.
Shoreham Harbour. Almost home.
Shoreham Harbour. Almost home.
210 km, home.
210 km, home.

big day out

 

 

Tourist Trophy 2013 // Stage 12 // December // The same, but different

For the final official Tourist Trophy ride of the year I came up with the idea to go “home” to Frimley and ride the hometown streets I bombed around on rattly-can sprayed single speeds, ‘racers’, and BMXs as a kid, and then the local Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire roads that were my playground when I first got into road cycling. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know I’ve already bagged Surrey and Hampshire, but Berkshire means I’m still within the Tourist Trophy rules.

IMG_20131214_190740Jumping off the train at North Camp I start off along the dirt track of the Blackwater River Path to Frimley, skinny tyres skidding around a bit, and having to pull leaves out of mudguards every now and again. After stopping on the high street to grab some well needed breakfast I was off to explore streets I’ve not ridden for about 20 years. Across the roundabout by Ye Olde White Hart [when did it acquire Ye Olde? Sure it was just The White Hart back then], up towards the church past Apex Drive [where Dad taught me to ride a bike without stabilisers], and off down Field Lane.

IMG_20131214_192457Then it was past Lakeside Primary and Middle schools, Tomlins Pond [where did those houses on the far bank come from!?], and Tomlinscote School [never looked like that when I went there]. Past the Catholic School [where the hell did that come from!?] and turning right at the end of the road [road? that used to be a path] I headed off up towards Heatherside past the woods, Frimley Fuel Allotments, where there used to be a BMX track. Actually there were two, one down near the school field, and another at the top of the hill near the junction of Old Bisley Rd and Edgemoor Rd. In the late 80s I rode up the Old Bisley Road most weekends to my friend Alex’s house, before heading off for a training ride [he raced for Woking CC and then VC Meudon]. I spun through Heatherside and down to the roundabout over the M3 and towards Camberley, before turning back towards Frimley via the footbridge over the M3 again [the quickest way over the bridge is to pull massive skids around the 180 degree switchbacks. How none of us fell off this bridge and died is beyond me]. Past the house where the fella from Bros lived [think it was the drummer one] and up Longmeadow past another old house, through the Warren estate, and then darted down the alleyway [who put that fence there?] behind Latham Avenue and the back of another old house. Past Alphington Pond back on to Field Lane, round the back of the old primary school and out towards Frimley Green on St Catherines Rd [I remember when that was all fields down there]

IMG_20131214_193241IMG_20131214_193528From here we’re into roads further afield and parts of old training rides. From Frimley Green it’s through Deepcut and along to Pirbright bends [still a lovely stretch of road to ride]. Under the railway bridge I turn right for the long climb [well, it felt like a big climb when I was 15] over towards Mytchett [there used to be a tiny magical bike shop here where an old man built wheels, shiny Campag parts glinted in the window, and where I bought my first cycling jersey – a black Castelli wool one with red and yellow striped side panels. It itched like hell]. At Mytchett lake I skip down the steps to the Basingstoke Canal towpath back towards Frimley Green. Rejoining the road I pass the Kings Head [when did it become a Harvester!?] and head for the Hatches, a bridleway past the old gravel pits and over the A331 [I remember when that was fields as well] and across the railway line at Farnborough North.

IMG_20131214_193704I head out towards Berkshire through Hawley, across the A30, and through Frogmore and Darby Green. I bought a map for this ride as I thought I might need one, after all it’s been a long, long time since I’ve ridden out this way, but as I head out through Yately it all comes flooding back. I’m chasing my teenage self down the Reading Road, head down and pushing hard, sprinting for the village signs. Past the cricket green at Eversley Cross and onto Eversley I turn up Fleet Hill towards Finchampstead. Somewhere on this hill must be the border with Berkshire but it’s unmarked. Over the top of The Ridges I turn for Crowthorne and down Wellington Avenue, which isn’t as steep or as long a descent as I remember it. At the roundabout I turn north towards Wokingham to pick up Nine Mile Ride west towards Aborfield Garrison, Aborfield Cross and Swallowfield. To try and ride as many roads that I used regularly way back I loop back to Fleet Hill, but this time I turn off before the top down to Eversley Cross to retrace my wheel tracks for a mile or so. Forking left at Eversley I head for Bramshill for a few miles around the Forest of Eversley. Once out on a Sunday morning a young squaddie from Aldershot we passed near Fleet on a fixie asked if he could join us on our ride. We ended up out this way. I remember he thrashed us on every village road sign sprint, and then it would take us half a mile to catch him up as he wound down his pedalling [it ended up a long ride and he missed his lunch back at barracks].

IMG_20131214_194148At the end of the Bramshill Road I aim for Hartley Wintney. The other way leads to Heckfield and I’m sure there used to be a 10 mile TT course down that way somewhere. I remember riding out that way one weekend and sitting on a grass verge by a roundabout watching low profile bikes with disk wheels one weekend. Also that way somewhere was the Happy Eater where we’d get toasted tea cakes in the winter. The road back to the A30 drops, rises, and then drops again, and today my legs were starting to feel a bit battered [I’d been out the night before, had less than 5 hours sleep, and eaten nothing more than a sausage roll and a biscuit all day. The younger version of me coped with this level of preparation far better than the current me]. I headed over the A30 towards Fleet but then turned back towards the A30 up a narrow lane. This was so I could get onto the road through Yateley Heath Wood, another road I’ve ridden hundreds of times in the past. In the old days we just rode the hill up the A30 out of Hartley Wintney towards Blackbushe airport. The A30 was much quieter in those days! The road through the woods is lined with rhododendrun and bracken. It summer it was an incredible, intense shade of green. In winter it’s deep green mixed with the orange-brown of the ferns. It stills smells the same as it did back then, but again the descent down to Fleet isn’t as long or as steep as I remember it.

I’m now on the final stretch now, back towards the train. The roads round this part have changed a lot and I get lost round the back of Farnborough. Eventually I find my way into town past the leisure centre and library [there used to be a half pipe and ramps just here], and spin over the hill towards Farnborough North station. For two years I rode from Frimley across the Hatches, or along the Blackwater River, to this station, locked my bike up, and got the train to art school in Reigate [there’s a shoebox under the bed with sketchbooks that were filled on this trainline]. I sit on the platform and wait for the deisel train like I did all those years ago.

Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/100141300

Ride Stats
Miles ridden: 65
Feet climbed: 2200 (told you those hills were smaller than I remembered)
Average speed: 15mph (the first 2 hours were done at average of 8mph so I must have caned it somewhere along the way)
Old houses passed: 3
Old schools passed: 3
Things that are the same: Everything
Things that have changed: Everything

img423Thanks to Mum for the photo above

Tourist Trophy 2013 // Stage 6b // June // Salisbury to Brighton

a.k.a A morning to forget, an afternoon to remember.

Day 2

I woke up and didn’t hear the sound of rain. This was promising as the forecast in the few days before the ride had been bad. After filling up on the YHA buffet breakfast I retrieved my bike from the shed and pointed the front wheel for home. I’d planned the shortest, most direct route home, which basically meant starting out on the A36 and A27 towards Southampton, and then on to Portsmouth.

Not much to report for the first stint as far as Southampton. However as I approached the M27 I slashed my tyre riding in the gutter of a fast, busy road. I chucked my bike over the barrier to inspect the damage just as it started to rain. Brilliant. There was a 8-10mm gash in the tyre and inner tube. I patched up the inside of the tyre with a bunch of patches. I looked at it and thought “that’s not going to help at all” but didn’t have anything else to use as a tyre boot. I changed the tube, stuffed some jelly babies in my face, chucked bike back over barrier into the traffic and continued homeward. Twenty five miles down, and about 55 to go on a knackered tyre. Hmmm.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHThinking positively I thought that at least riding on main roads at the edges of towns I would probably come across a Halfords at some point. Not often that crappy roads and Halfords are considered positives. However I didn’t and I slowly forgot about the state of the rear tyre.

Wickham, a pretty Hampshire village on the B2117 beyond Southampton appeared to be en route of a few club runs judging by the number of cyclists riding around the market square. A little further on the climb up Portdown towards the mysterious looking military installation started. I’d actually started to enjoy the ride by this point. To the north I could see the hills around Winchester, and as I crested the climb and the whole of Portsmouth, the Solent and the Isle of Wight was visible to the south. As I crossed the Pilgrem’s Way I stopped for a banana, some jelly babies and a photo. A lot of jelly babies got eaten on this day.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHThe long descent ended in Havant, where my route should have taken me south to Emsworth and then towards Chichester. However I’d had enough of busy urban roads so decided to head inland over the train tracks towards Funtingdon. Hitting the outskirts of Chichester I started to follow the roads towards Bognor Regis but after a quick hack down the dual carriageway turned inland again for Petworth and the South Downs. The sun had come out and I really couldn’t face the south coast urban sprawl of Littlehampton, Worthing, Lancing, Shoreham, etc.

I was adding miles to my journey but the quiet road through glowing yellow rape interspersed with striped fields of green was a joy. Over Upwaltham hill, and plummeting into Duncton (watch for those bends at the bottom!) I was nearing Petworth. Ten miles had passed quickly. Strong sunlight flickered on the road as it shone through overhanging trees as I turned for Fittleworth. As I climbed a gentle slop all traffic noise stopped and the only sound was the gentle hum of tyres on smooth tarmac and birdsong. It only lasted a moment before a van came over the brow and broke the revery, but it was a beautiful few seconds.

Over the rise and out of the woodland the landscape opened up ahead. From here I could see the undulating top line of the South Downs with the distinctive silhouette of Chanctonbury Ring in the distance, and the aerials of Truleigh Hill beyond them. It was still 25 miles away but I could almost see all the way home. Suddenly, I no longer felt 175 miles in my legs. I was soon passing Storrington and Ashington, and spinning along Spithandle Lane towards Steyning.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHA slightly twisted part of my psyche whispered “Steyning Bostal” but I sensibly ignored it. There are times to tackle Steyning Bostal, and after 190 miles over two days is not one of them. At Shoreham I picked up the suburban coast road that I should have ridden since Bognor Regis. I was so glad I hadn’t, Sussex had looked at it’s best that Sunday.

Strava link: http://www.strava.com/activities/60729592

Stats:

Miles ridden: 101

Feet climbed: 4500

Average speed: 15mph

Counties covered: 4 (Wiltshire, Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex)

Bags of jelly babies consumed: 0.5

Lessons learned: One. Carry a spare tyre on long rides*

Camera used: Olympus Trip 35

Film used: Out of date Kodak Gold 35mm

* and of course retrospectively I’ve not followed this rule