A good week of ‘Gravel’

In the context of cycling, gravel is a buzz word. Gravel bikes, gravel rides. Its the latest industry fad. I find the term quite odd though. Don’t get me wrong, owning a ‘gravel’ bike is one of the best things you can do but I was ahead of the curve riding my CX bike in the same vein for years before the industry cottoned on to another hybrid bike they could market and use to steal your money. The oddity though is the word gravel seems to encompass everything offroad regardless of road or trail surface as long as you have ridden it on a ‘gravel’-type bike. Gravel is gravel, its grass, its mud, its fire road, cinder path, canal or a mix of these. Even tarmac is acceptable on a gravel ride. Go figure. I can’t, so I’ll just stick to anything offroad.

So, with that in mind, its been a good week. 6 out of 7 days ridden, I started with my Urban Explorer ride last Saturday, Sunday off, a Zwift race Monday, a decent workout on Tuesday night then three early morning 90 min rides taking in a good mix of road and  offroad or gravel (tut) which has polarised my approach to riding in the week from now on.

Wednesday I rode over to my local Clent Hills and found some new bridleways (ironically very gravelly! lol). It was a cold, fresh morning. On the way back I traversed Romsley Hill, the Waseley Hills and Lickey Hills before home for a shower and coffee before work.  A perfect start to the day!

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well used Clent ‘gravel’ paths lay silent @ 7am

When I got back, it clicked that making the effort to get up at 6am and doing a longer ride pre-work actually suited me better. I’ve been trying to ride two times a day to mimic my commutes but the second ride has been an effort to motivate myself to do because I’m home. Commuting is great because you don’t get a choice. Working from home you do so I decided to do the early ride again on Thursday

Thursday was another 6.30am start. This time I took a familiar route out round and through Bromsgrove to my local canal but as I had more time now I decided to ride up the Tardebigge Flight then pick it up again the other side of the tunnel and ride all the way to Alvechurch then offroad again around the Lickey Hills before home. I rode up Rednal Hill which I hadn’t done for probably 20+ years. Right on my doorstep too. It was great, it won’t be so long next time.

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canal its quiet at 7am!
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over 20 years since I’ve been up Rednal Hill

I was on a roll and decided another 90 min pre-work ride on Friday was needed too. I expected the legs to complain but they were actually ok. I had no idea where I was going but just ended up on the back lanes to Droitwich for a road ride for a change. Its a good workout on 38mm CX tyres. I followed the NCN out of town into the lanes and then stumbled up on a Worcester – Birmingham canal bridge in Shernal Green (not planned) and couldn’t resist so my ‘make it up as I go along’ ride became a lengthy ride on the towpath back through Stoke Prior and back up some of the Tardebigge Flight again. I jumped off at the Gambolds at the back of Aston Fields to avoid Mr Grumpy who I would inevitably see if I carried on. I wasn’t in the mood. Home and a decent week on the bike done.

I’ve been riding the canal during lockdown and Mr Grumpy drives to and walks his two dogs up and down there every morning. He looks like an angry Captain Birdseye. When I approach I’m always polite, I stop, I slow down around his dogs and I keep my distance but he seems to have a beef about having to just step aside for a second as I pass. I’ve had stern looks, shakes of the head, I’ve been ignored and a sarchastic ‘..thanks for the space’ shouted at me. I pass 2m+ past him everytime we meet. He has a Land Rover he has driven throughout lockdown to walk his dogs which shows the selfish, arrogant type of guy he probably is. Its become a bit of a mission now for me just annoy him. Lovely dogs though.

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taken on Crutch Lane, aptly named as it looked the bollox on Friday

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