Eastwell

A dry, sunny day with a light wind. I’d been looking forward to doing an eastbound fondo again for a while; I hadn’t done one this year. The wind was actually forecast to change direction later in the day so that I’d have a headwind both ways, annoyingly. But I hoped it would be sufficiently light to put up with.

I set off just after 10:00. Would have been a few minutes sooner except that, for some reason, the mirror on the X needed adjustment. I hadn’t been out on it since November; of course I could have checked it yesterday but I didn’t. So I spent five minutes looking for the correct Allen key.

The headwind wasn’t too irritating on the way out. I arrived at the bench at Eastwell at 13:00 exactly. I’m actually on call at the moment. Usually I wouldn’t risk a “proper” fondo in which, at the furthermost point I’m a 31 mile bike ride from home. But it’s been very quiet recently. I was so relaxed about the prospect of getting a call that rather than turning for home as soon as I reached Eastwell, I had lunch there. A cheese & onion pasty on the bench, anyway.

Sure enough about 25 minutes after I set off in a homeward direction, I was definitely riding into a headwind again. But it wasn’t too bad and it seemed to die down a bit an hour later.

With 17 miles to go, I refuelled at Prestwold Park with two Christmas Cake slices that I had left over from the festivities in December. It definitely makes a big difference to get a sugar dose on the way home. The uphill stretch of Ashby Road just west of Zouch can be a drag but today it was a breeze.

Lovely ride. Cold when I set off (about 1C) but comfortable later. Sunny the whole way round. Back on 63.45 miles.

I passed through Nottinghamshire, so that’s another neighbouring county box ticked for 2022.

Started a new Reacher novel, One Shot. The one the first film was based on. Good stuff so far. Then I listened to Forest vs Leeds. I’ve started to believe that Forest will stay up.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8510911591

Near Death Experience

Quite an eventful run out after work. I was going to do either a trip along the Lower Westbound Route and back or a Twycross Bypasser. I deferred the decision until I got to Gallows Lane, whereupon I decided on the Bypasser. Fifteen minutes later, I was nearly wiped out by a Roberts Travel coach.

On returning home I composed the following email to their contact address.

Dear Roberts Travel,

At 3:54pm today while cycling south along Measham Road, north of Snarestone, I was overtaken by one of your coaches, a silver grey model with your branding on the back. Your driver was going far too fast for me to make a mental note of the license plate unfortunately.

Visibility was good. This was a perfectly decent, wide road with plenty of space to overtake. The road was visible in front for at least 700 yards and there was no oncoming traffic.

Despite this, he or she decided to give me about a foot of clearance while passing at an unusually high speed.

In over 37,000 miles of road cycling this was the most aggressive and intimidating driving I’ve ever seen by a person in charge of a motor vehicle. It’s no exaggeration whatever to say that I was nearly killed.

My strong suspicion is that your driver thought it would be funny to frighten a cyclist out of their wits. There was absolutely no reason whatever to pass so closely. Your driver could have given me abundantly adequate space without even slowing down, at no risk whatever to anyone.

Either this or they simply weren’t paying attention to the presence of other road users.

In either case, we can surely agree that the person in charge of your coach this afternoon is clearly not fit to be driving a motor vehicle of any kind on public roads. I would encourage you to ask him or her kindly to return their driving licence to the DVLA, or to offer it to a shredder at an early opportunity.

In the meantime, I will do my best to raise awareness of this matter as publicly as possible – I do think that’s important when it concerns a company entrusted with the safety of its customers on the public roads, let alone innocent road users.

Regards
James

Then about an hour later just as I was approaching Ratcliffe Culey, both pedals jammed up very tightly as if they’d been spot-welded to the frame. WTF? I freewheeled to a convenient grassy spot and inspected the bike. There was plenty of daylight at this point (but by the way, this is why you should always take a head torch if you’re going to be cycling after dark – otherwise you might find yourself doing a narwhal impression with a torch sticking out of your mouth). A section of the chain had somehow got wrapped backward around one of the chainrings and jammed between it and the derailleur cage.

There was no play in the chain at all, no way to get it onto a smaller cog at the back to get a bit of slack to play with. I couldn’t budge it with a tyre lever. But I turned the bike upside down and by the judicious application of brute force, managed to free it by turning the pedals backward with my hands.

The bike seemed OK – it was certainly rideable and I didn’t have much trouble shifting gear at the front, but I did find I needed an extra nudge on the shifter to get it to change up once or twice. I think the cage might be slightly bent, or possibly the cable got stretched a tad. I’m sure it’ll be fine with a bit of fettling.

Went down to Fenny Drayton and came back along Fenn Lanes. Then back up through Bosworth and much the usual way from there. Back on 39.93 miles.

Nice out there – mild. The temperature didn’t seem to drop that much after dark. Windy, though.

I did enter Warwickshire briefly, not sure if I’ve done that already this year. Still haven’t ventured into Staffordshire in 2022.

Saw the helicopter in the field along Gallows Lane again. I must find out what that’s about some time.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8500098958

Cloud Trail

I wanted to do 25 or so, despite a fairly powerful wind blowing from the west. I was going to do a Twycrosser but shortly after setting off I got the urge to go up Top Brand. It’s lovely along there when the sun’s shining, as it was this afternoon.

Unfortunately that left me at a bit of a loss as to where to go after Top Brand. Usually from there I’d do Isley Walton, then Melbourne. But that would mean coming back up a steep hill, or a longer ride than I intended. So I turned left after Tonge, toward Breedon.

About three miles later I saw a sign for the Cloud Trail. This is a cycle and walking route based on an old railway line converted to a path. I’ve been meaning to try it for years, and I was on my gravel bike, so – I gave it a go.

Unfortunately even on the Tricross it was a bit too stony and rough, for me anyway. Not my sort of thing. So after a bit less than a mile, I turned back.

It does have a very nice view of a quarry, though. Would be a good walking route for sure.

Anyway from there I descended through Worthington and Newbold, much as I did a few weeks ago except that it was dark that time, then Coleorton and home the usual way. Back on 25.79 miles. 528 done this month. I’m sure Nick will have overtaken me by March.

Happy to have made a strong start to the year because I want to get my monthly targets down to the same as they were last year. They were based on a lower yearly target.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8483619568

Marston Montgomery

Today’s mission was a simple one – to do a fondo, which would get the January distance tally up over 500 miles. Not bad weather for it – mild, mostly sunny and dry – apart from a stiff wind from the west. So I decided on the Upper Westbound Fondo route, an extension of my usual trip along the Beloved A Road that takes a turn northward after Sudbury, toward a village called Marston Montgomery.

I did that, turning back after I’d reached the requisite half-fondo distance, to come back the same way. Or so I thought. Once I reached my 20-miles-to-go landmark in Hilton I noticed that I’d done fewer miles than I should have, and was due to arrive home short of the requisite fondo distance. Couldn’t understand it, but on checking the track after I got home, it turned out that I’d turned back after 30.2 miles instead of 31.2. Must have been pure absent-mindedness.

Actually the road off the A515 that goes toward Marston Montgomery is a bit crappy, and worse still it involves a steep descent, which of course means a steep climb on the way back. It’s brutal, but short. But it’s very hard to get a viable fondo distance route over that way.

Anyway, I made up the distance by coming back detouring via Isley Walton after Melbourne.

Listened to 6 Music, Cerys played some good stuff. Then Peel Acres with the actress Tamsin Greig; an odd choice since she seems to know next to nothing about music. But it was entertaining enough. Then FA Cup footy.

Pleasant run out and very happy to have done 500 miles in a January (502 in fact) – that’s the first time I’ve done that.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8472797313

Up and Left Again

Someone invited me to a meeting at 3:30pm so I couldn’t get away as soon as I wanted to this afternoon, but I attended it in cycling clothes – not something I’d have done in the days when I worked in an actual office – and I was away and pedalling by about 4:05pm.

The wind was coming from the west as usual and I thought I’d do the time-honoured Upper Westbound Route, or about 20 miles of it – then come back. I always enjoy doing that one in the dark on the way back.

Just as well I took an abundance of spare front lights (I’m a bit paranoid about rechargeables) as I had two run out of juice along the Beloved A Road.

Not too cold out there. Very nice to get out, it’s been a few days.

Back on 45.05 miles, which takes me to 440 this month and the tantalising possibility that I might get it up to 500, which I think would be a first for a January.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8462291095

Barlestone and Nailstone

Another very cold, sunny, dry day. I mounted the Boardman and headed south again, into a light wind. I particularly wanted to do 36 miles, to get the January total up to 400.

But once I got to Earl Shilton I decided I didn’t want to push up the hill there again. I only did it on Saturday. And it was uncomfortably cold, so I turned left instead, and along Leicester Road. Then I took a left along Peckleton Lane and looped back into Desford. I believe I did exactly this over the Christmas hols, except that I came out of Desford in a more coherent fashion. This time I got lost a bit in the suburbs.

I came back a different way just for a change, through Barlestone and Nailstone.

Beautiful sliver of a crescent Moon on display, with the rest of the sphere just visible in the ghostly Earthshine. Looked like artwork from a 1950s sci-fi comic strip.

Ended up on 30.67 miles, not quite as many as I wanted.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8440188043

Broughton Astley

Another very cold day but at least it was sunny. A light wind was blowing from the south. I’m on call today, but I thought I’d go down the southbound route for as long as my nerve held, then come back. I got as far as Broughton Astley before turning for home. I wouldn’t have had any qualms about going further probably except that our not-overly-talented sys admin team did some operating system patching for one of our customers early in the week, and the customer was due to reboot the servers in question today. Therefore there was a higher-than-usual probability that I’d get called. Although I wasn’t.

I didn’t regret turning back as soon as I did after sunset though – the temperature fell off a cliff. But it had been nice out there in the sun.

Listened to the remainder of The Man With The Golden Gun – so I’ve got through the whole thing in two rides, which surprised me. I guess it must be a lot shorter than the average Reacher novel.

Stopped at the Post Office at Broughton and bought a sausage roll, which was awful – very dry, and an Ice Cream Snickers Bar which even at 1C was delightful.

Back on 44.46 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8429041295

Bypasser

I set off with the firm intention of doing a Twycross Bypasser of roughly, but at least, 34 miles in distance – to get the January total up to the target (324 miles).

Cold out there, but bearable. Until I watched the sun disappear over the horizon while pushing along Kisses Barn Lane, at which point the temperature seemed to subside by a couple of degrees almost instantly. I decided there and then to keep it decently short although I didn’t come back the very quickest way.

Beautiful clear night with a fantastic view of Orion especially, marred slightly by the fact that I’d come out of the house with my reading glasses instead of a pair of varifocals, so was having to make do with unadorned eyeballs.

I got back just in time, or so I hoped, to get a decent view of the ISS coming over at 6:20pm once I’d got the bike into the garage and grabbed a pair of distance specs, but nope – somehow I missed it. Oh well it’s due back over tomorrow!

I took the Tricross out for the first time this year and I must say it’s rolling really nicely at the moment. Responds really smoothly and the big tyres soak up road buzz very well.

I entered Warwickshire briefly on the western end of the route, so that’s another neighbouring county box ticked.

Back on 29.34 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8419335493

Repton to Hartshorne

A very cold day, but the temperature was just about up above freezing by the time I set off in the afternoon and the wind from the west was fairly light. Wasn’t sure what to do really. I thought of going up to Derby but I didn’t. I went up over Swarkestone Bridge via Top Brand, west along the A road as far as Willington, then I decided to try a route I’d thought of while poring over old GPS tracks, down through Repton, Hartshorne and Ashby.

Unfortunately this didn’t turn out to be a great idea. The road between Repton and Hartshorne is gross, really lumpy and badly surfaced. This evening it was wet, as well. Especially annoying in the dark, even with a powerful front light. I was very happy to make it to Hartshorne, which is more familiar territory.

I think I may have done that road before, and made a mental note not to do it again. Unfortunately the cerebral ink with which I metaphorically scribble those reminders is prone to fading, these days.

Just checked and I did it two years ago tomorrow: “I don’t think I’ll do that route between Willington and Ashby again, or at least not between Willington and Hartshorne. It’s very rural and quiet and almost reminiscent of the lake district, being lined by hills. But it’s too climby”, I wrote.

A few specks of snow near Swarkestone but otherwise no precipitation.

Back on 33.62 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8408185027

Hill Ridware

Decent weather, not too cold but with a possibility of rain in the afternoon. I set off just before 1100 to do some of the Lower Westbound route through Lullington and Edingale.

I got as far as Hill Ridware having done 25 miles, then decided to come back.

I actually wrapped up a bit too warm. Milder than I expected. Mostly sunny on the way out but patchy light rain and drizzle on the way back.

I was followed by a learner driver between Heather and Measham. I had about half a mile of visibly clear road in front of me, but she spent about ten minutes deliberating whether to overtake, and holding up a queue of traffic behind her.

I started a new audiobook, Ian Fleming’s The Man With The Golden Gun. I read most of the Bond novels in the ’90s but I skipped that one, because I’d already read it in the ’70s. Nice to be reacquainted with it, it’s a cracking story. Then I listened to footy on 5 Live, Chelsea vs Palace.

I don’t often do a 50 mile ride without doing a fondo, but today was one of those days. Perhaps I should have but given the weather I don’t feel as though I’ve missed out.

Back on 51.70 miles. 256 done this month. If I can get that up to 400 before February kicks in I’ll be happy.

https://www.strava.com/activities/8397364137