This should have been Ride #10 and the second of the month to get back on track with my Resolution Rides but last Monday 20km into my ride and my cassette came loose so I had to bail. Fast forward a week and I was up for 100km today again on the new Dolan.
Sally came home off nights at 6.30am so I lazed in bed for a bit and eventually got up and glugged a gallon of coffee and aswell as my normal granola/muesli mix I treated myself to a couple of pancakes with maple syrup too. Delish.
I was stuffed so I gave myself some time for it to go down and eventually left the house quietly just before 10am. I was decked out for the winter although it was dry. The phone said 11 degs so I donned the winter tights, jacket, light gloves and my trusty winter boots.
This was the first long ride on the new bike, time to see how it felt now I’d sorted the bars and saddle. As I pulled away at the end of my road my initial feelings were it felt good. Position spot on. No niggles, should be a good ride then.
I’d decided to just do the route I’d planned to do a week a go. Kenilworth and back. So up and over the Lickeys opened the lungs and made the legs complained a bit. I could tell the lack of outdoor riding and commutes were missing from my diary recently and this would play out on the ride later. Just lacking that bit of leg strength.
The only way to get fit for riding outdoors is to ride outdoors. The turbo is ok but you lose your core strength unless you specifically train for it. Commuting by bike is great for this
The first thing I noticed was despite the trees looking still, how windy it was. It felt like I was riding into a raging headwind although 45mm guards don’t help, its like riding with parachutes on your back sometimes. Just hard work.
I ploughed on down through Alvechurch making sure I switched my camera on as it has been the scene of so many close passes and bad driving when I’ve commuted through there over the last couple of years. No trouble this time though. All quiet.
In Redditch I decided to ride through Arrow Valley Country Park to get off the roads for a bit. A few riders and walkers about, even on a Monday. Busier than I expected to be honest. Dogs on leads where they were supposed to be. All good apart from the rough paths. Gravel bike rough to be honest. It’s a National Cycle Route. About time they sorted it in there and segregated cyclists and walkers too as it can get hairy even just pottering through.
I literally popped out of a hedge (short cut) and pushed on into Studley before a left into the lanes past Studley Castle. For a couple of hundred yards its a residential street and cue the first moron of the day. I was riding past a long line of parked cars, committed and with nowhere to go. As I neared the end of the line a driver just decided to drive at me rather than wait a couple of seconds for me to clear them. I rode straight at him without deviating and made him stop like a game of chicken. He obviously expected me to move over to the parked cars and squeeze past and made that gesture we all see ..’WTF are you doing?’ when actually it was ‘What the actual fuck are you doing driving at a cyclist?’ He got a cursory ‘idiot’ shouted as I passed his window and cracked on.
This lane has been the scene of abuse before. Its one car wide in places and I was riding the long way home after work one evening and got abuse from behind (horn and shouting abuse) for not moving out of the way. If it wasn’t so quiet and isolated he would have had a broken wing mirror or headlight but he forced his way past shouting out his window. So I’m always a bit tentative along there now. Shouldn’t have to be that way but thats what it does.
No issues this time but the drags and the wind were really hard going so I decided to back it off a touch and play the long game. Right towards Wootton Wawen and the road opens up. Its a bit lumpy but quiet. Literally no cars. At Wawensmere I took the little lane and the punchy climb which takes you straight to Little Alne. Near here I realised I hadn’t taken a pic yet so I used it as an excuse for a brief break from the wind.
Break over 30secs later and I rode on and crossed the A3400 and climbed up past Langley to Norton Lindsay which definitely confirmed I wasn’t as punchy fit as I have been recently. Mental note to ride to work more from now on.
The descent from Norton Lindsay is nice and fast and was well earned although I was still getting a kicking off the wind going downhill!. A quick right then left on the Warwick Rd and I climbed up to Hampton-on-the-Hill which regularly featured on my club runs back in the early 90’s. I wasn’t too sure where I was going as I know I could go pass Warwick Parkway station but I picked up a sign for Hatton which seemed to cut a more direct route over to the Hatton Bank Rd from Warwick where I needed to be.
Half a mile on the grippy main road to Hatton Bank and then a right at the foot of it to pick up the lanes towards Beausale, the scene of so many Cult rides over the years too. I skipped Beausale instead taking a more direct line to Rouncil Lane that takes you straight into Kenilworth. Forgot how nice that road was.
I was a bit disappointed to see some signs still out for the recent Mad Hatton event in August. They’re just litter if you leave them out.
Into Kenilworth and it was bit stop start with the traffic through the high street. I stopped for a pic of the castle and then cracked on towards Balsall Common on the main road and it was here my legs really began to complain when the gradient went up despite a tailwind now. I necked a gel and just wanted to get off the main road. It wasn’t busy, I just didn’t like it.
As I approached Balsall Common I took a detour (right) down Windmill Lane to take a pic of Berkswell Windmill. It’ll mean nothing to anyone else but I bought my ex-girlfriend, Gaye (RIP), a painting of it by a local artist from Birmingham Christmas Markets before she died so it evokes some nice memories of her.
The lanes around here were great training when I had the shop but HS2 has closed or ripped them up for the foreseeable now.
After my brief tailwind it was back to a crosswind all the way back to Knowle. My legs and hip flexors were aching now so I wasn’t keen on extending the pain anymore than necessary so I rode home my normal commute route but looking at the distance I’d done it was going to be touch and go if I actually completed 100km.
Watery Lane wasn’t fun to be honest. I dialled in a low gear and just span it out up the long drag to the top of Weatheroak Hill and decided to just count the km down from there. The steep descent was all to brief before back into the lanes to Hopwood. I toyed with the idea of the flat canal back to Barnt Green but considered that a wuss move so I took the road instead. One last climb up over Fiery Hill. My legs were cooked so I just twiddled up it and saw out the rest of the ride home counting down the km to see how close to 100km I’d be. I had 0.3km to do as I turned into my road so a couple of laps of the close and I was done. Literally.
My take home from today was that winter bikes and guards are hard work and deserve some respect. Go fast on them and you’ll be supersonic in the Summer.
I just scraped the 100km today. The 3.5hrs was an achievement for me as the outdoor rides have been lacking lately. Must try harder.