Eastwell

I was in two minds over what to do today, as I pondered my options last night. I thought I might have a day out in London, before the COVID guidelines tighten up again for the autumn / winter months. Maybe a run down to Northampton in the car. Or perhaps a Fondo out east – the weather seemed to be quite promising; warm with light winds.

I got up a bit too late for London really and I decided I’d make the most of what might be the last opportunity for a Fondo in warm weather this year. I decided on Eastwell and back, pretty much by default. I wanted to do 63 miles, to get this month’s total to 500.

On one of the quiet lanes approaching Cotes on the way out, a chap of similar age pulled up alongside for a chat. He looked like he’d just pedalled through a time portal from the 1980s, with an Eddie Mercx style cap, proper old-school leather cycling shoes and a vintage bike with lots of chrome and tube shifters. He told me that he’d had it hand built 35 years ago. Asked me how many miles I did, then he told me that his uncle had been sponsored by Renolds, the chain manufacturers, and used to do 12,000 a year.

I got to the crossroads at Eastwell, took a right toward Waltham then did a U turn just after 31.5 miles. Normally I like to turn round and come home from a definite end point – a village or at least a road junction, but today I wasn’t really feeling it and just wanted to get back and finish the job with the minimum of effort.

Stopped at the Greyhound at Burton on the Wolds on the way back. I had the best possible cycling lunch imaginable, with a crusty ham & coleslaw sandwich and beautiful crispy golden big chips. I only wish it was a bit further from home, but it set me up nicely for the last 17 miles.

As I sat and washed down lunch with a half lager, I idly watched the queue of cars at the petrol station opposite. Remarkable.

Good run out, a bit perfunctory really. I probably need to find some new routes. But there’s something comforting about familiarity, as well.

I listened to 6 Music, then a bit of LBC – I’m always careful when tuning into LBC on a Saturday, because David Lammy has a show on there some time in the afternoon. But fortunately the fat-headed fool wasn’t due on for another hour or two, so I listened to Maajid Nawaz. Interesting bloke. He took a call from a woman in Scotland who wanted to have a go at everyone who voted for Brexit for being stupid, gullible and the cause of all the world’s problems as she saw it. She repeated the old chestnut that Scotland voted to remain in the EU (nope).

Despite being a remainer himself he took her to task quite forcefully for being arrogant and patronising. To be honest though I think he was mostly just trying to piss her off. A bit of a contrarian.

Mostly cloudy, but the sun came out later on.

63.35 miles, 501 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/6017711465

Twycross Bypasser

I did a Twycross Bypasser after work. Annoyingly windy for the first part of the ride. But warm and sunny yet again. Listened to the Drive programme on 5 Live, then more Reacher – the latest story is starting to unfold nicely.

Back before sunset. Just as well because although I had a flashy blinker, a headtorch and a spare Olight for the front, I’d forgotten that Boardman II is still not equipped with a rear light, and didn’t check. I can feel some Amazon retail therapy coming on in the next ten minutes.

31.67 miles. 437 this month so I should make it to 500 before October easily enough.

https://www.strava.com/activities/6008161304

Twycross Bypasser, Binocular Edition

Yet another warm day, somehow. I’m almost getting used to riding a bike in shorts!

Took a pair of binoculars with me today because I wanted to examine another object on the horizon, visible from Orton Hill to the right of the Birmingham skyscraper tops, that I’d noticed on a recent ride. So I did a Twycross Bypasser.

Stopped to have a look near a farm gate and got the binoculars out of the backpack. The tower structure I’d noticed seemed a lot closer than the buildings in Birmingham – probably only five or six miles away, maybe less. I later identified it from Google Maps and Street View as a communications tower of some sort, next to the M42 west of Polesworth. Actually only four miles away from my vantage point.

I listened to 5 Live Drive – Katie Razzall, previously a Newsnight presenter and now the BBC’s Culture Editor is co-presenting for a couple of weeks. I must admit she’s a natural in that role but – here’s the weird thing – I’ve heard her on the radio a few times and until just now, when I googled a new piece about her being appointed Culture Editor, I’ve always thought she was black. She’s a light-haired white woman. Nothing to do with preconceptions about politics or identity. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but she sounds exactly like a black woman when she speaks. Like Jeanette Kwakye, if you like. Odd.

Anyway – an enjoyable ride, 33.3 miles. 405 this month and I think I can get that to 500 before October. I may take a day off later this week and do a longish one.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5992027576

30,000

Another warm day. Other commitments prevented me from cycling this morning but I wanted to get a ride in this afternoon, since it will rain tomorrow – and I wanted to achieve a special milestone this weekend.

At the beginning of 2015 my Rush pal Rob started a thread for cyclists on a Rush message board. I’d had my Carrera hybrid for two or three years, but hadn’t ridden it for a year or two. I set myself a target of 500 miles that year initially, and started recording my distances on a spreadsheet. That turned out to be a life-changing thread.

I’m oncall today but although I only wanted to do 40 or so anyway I chose a route that would take me north, then back near home, then south and back so that I wouldn’t stray too far from base. I went up through Coleorton, up Top Brand, up past Tonge – then back down through Breedon, back down through Coleorton – then west toward Ashby and down through Packington, after which I did a Twycross Bypasser.

I stopped the bike to take this pic near Norton Juxta Twycross, immediately after completing my 30,000th mile since January 2015.

Back on 41.38 miles. 372 done this month, 3787 this year.

Top Brand has been resurfaced which is unfortunate because the surface is rougher than it was before, especially coming southbound where it had been part-repaired a few years ago with lovely smooth tarmac. Now the whole road is covered in coarse, heavy gravel. I suppose it will wear in.

Although I normally have a day off and cycled a hilly route yesterday, my knees seemed fine. There’s never any predicting how they’ll do. But they’re a lot more robust than they were even a year ago so I’m not bothered.

I listened to Burnley vs Arsenal on 5 Live. I started to lose interest after Arsenal scored but I gave Burnley half an hour to equalise. They let me down so I resumed my Reacher audiobook, Without Fail. Wasn’t convinced over the first couple of chapters but it’s starting to get interesting now.

The sky turned a gloomy shade of grey half an hour after I got home – I was having a well-earned Leffe in the garden – then it started to rain. Good timing.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5981049700

Ashby Statutes

No plan except to do about 30, and I set off without a route in mind at about 4:15pm. I decided to go up through Coleorton and up Top Brand, then swing a left toward Melbourne, then busk it from there.

When I got to Stanton by Bridge, just south of Swarkestone Bridge, I took a left along a road signposted to the centre of the village, on a whim. I’d seen the signpost many times and thought I’d see where it would take me. Unfortunately the road into the village degenerated into a very bumpy, gravelly and uneven path. I expect the villagers quite like it that way; stops people driving through it. I thought of turning back but bloody-mindedness kept me going. The road improved slightly and I came to a junction. I took a left and realised I was on the road between Swarkestone and Ticknall, one I usually avoid because it’s bumpy and hilly. But it wasn’t as bad as the road through Stanton and I kept going to Ticknall.

From Ticknall I came home my usual way through Ashby, except that I had to take a detour round the centre which had been closed off to traffic and taken over by the annual fair, known as Ashby Statutes.

I was carefully navigating through some cones back into the traffic when a young lad on a mountain bike overtook me at about 20mph, about three inches to my right. Not what you want when you’re clipped in. I swore loudly and at least he had the decency to shout “sorry!”. Got to say though I admire the skill evident in being able to navigate a 1.5 foot gap between an old bloke on a bike and a traffic cone at that speed. Fair play.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5975965216

29.81 miles.

Twycross Bypasser

A warm, sunny afternoon. There can’t be many of those left this year. I left work as soon as decently possible or arguably a bit sooner, to do a Twycross Bypasser. Annoyingly windy for the first 45 minutes or so, then rather nice.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5965562009

Strava tells me I did this exact route about three weeks ago, but I was 22 seconds quicker this time. Consistency! That time I was on the first Boardman which is a slower bike, but it probably wasn’t as windy. But it could also depend on mood. I don’t much care about the time it takes.

30.11 miles, 301 done this month. I should have stayed out for another 10 really. I was back long before sunset and had nothing much else to do this evening. I even had lights on me.

I’m sure this must be a personal best year for number of rides with exposed legs.

Hello Twycross, My Old Friend

Left work fairly early and decided to do a Twycrosser – I haven’t done a proper one for quite some time, having favoured the route that bypasses it to the west recently. I did a longish version, coming back east along Fenn Lanes – something I haven’t done for even longer. I stopped off at my favourite bench at Sutton Cheney.

Got to Cadeby and decided to come home via the A477, rather than the quiet little road that runs parallel to it and comes up through the villages. Just for a change. Well after rush hour by this time so I thought I’d be safe enough.

Took the second Boardman again because I finally got round to adjusting the angle of the right-hand shifter at the weekend, and wanted to check it. It’s always been splayed slightly outward. Nice & straight now, and all’s well.

A bit whiffy out there at the moment – some of the farms are spraying some sort of noxious stuff on the fields. I listened to a radio report on Saturday about the practice of using human waste as fertiliser so the smell was a little more troubling than usual.

Back before sunset, which now occurs before 7:30pm round these parts.

34.65, 271 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5955084366

Draycott

A fitful sleep, last night. I kept dreaming that I was playing for Manchester United, but I couldn’t find my shirt. I woke up a few times and got to sleep again without too much trouble, but my unwanted dream resumed each time. The kit man just couldn’t be found and we were playing City, so taking to the pitch in my light blue t-shirt was unthinkable.

Normally I have my second and final coffee of the day at around 4pm but yesterday, for reasons we need not explore here, this was postponed until 8pm – and I think this was the cause of my nocturnal unrest.

Consequently I felt a little worse for wear this morning when I got up, a little later than intended. I wasn’t sure I really wanted to do a Fondo but I thought I’d set off westward anyway and see how I got on. But I felt fine once I was out on the bike so I resolved to do the regulation 62.14 miles.

The idea was to go as far as Sudbury then turn south, then take a road called Holly Bush Road to the right which I hadn’t tried before. I missed the turn for this but decided to press on anyway; I only needed to do another three miles or so before turning back. Unfortunately from this point the road was something of a rollercoaster of hills, with one monstrously long steep climb south of Draycott especially. But it was a lot of fun whizzing back down it coming back. I stopped to turn back on 31.5 miles, about a mile from the National Football Centre at St George’s Park.

On the way back I took a wrong turn, coming back through Coton in the Clay. I stopped after a bit to consult Google Maps and get myself back on track. This turned out to be a fortuitous mistake because I passed some lovely hilly scenery (I took the following pic at the point I checked the map). It took me through Tutbury, which was interesting. And when I passed my 20-mile-to-go landmark in Hilton I realised that I’d actually taken a short cut, the return journey being about 0.12 miles shorter than the outward leg.

The headwind on the way west was a bit of a pain but having it push me along on the way back along the flat A road was delightful.

Listened to discussion about 9/11 on LBC, then the Ronaldo-obsessed footy discussion on 5 Live ahead of the Prodigal Son’s return to Old Trafford. Then some of the game. But I got fed up waiting for him to score after 20 minutes so I started the next Reacher audiobook, Without Fail. One thing I like about it is that he doesn’t get involved in this latest adventure purely by chance. Someone in the US Secret Service comes looking for him based on his reputation as a major in the Military Police.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5943460488

62.91 miles, 236 this month.

Wymeswold

A hot, sunny day, possibly the last opportunity for cycling in shorts this year. Other things to do tomorrow, temperatures will drop on Thursday and it’s October in about three weeks’ time.

With the wind coming from the east, I thought I’d do the usual eastbound route for 20 miles or so then come back. However, I got as far as Prestwold Park near Burton on the Wolds, and decided to do something else. I took the road to Hoton then to Wymeswold, to join the old, deprecated eastbound route and came back home from there. Once back over the Leicestershire border though, I detoured through Diseworth and came back down Top Brand.

Something a bit different. Nice run out. The road between Hoton and Wymeswold especially is lovely for cycling; secluded and quiet. But it’s difficult to incorporate it into a route.

Noticed that some netting has been stretched over Ashby Road near the A6 junction, between two newly erected scaffolding structures and directly under the electricity lines – is there a danger that one of them will snap? Or perhaps they’re installing new lines there soon.

Listened mainly to the press briefing about the health and social care tax. I laughed when Sajid Javid joked that Rishi Sunak had “been trained well”, but I think there’s a touch of regret that his understudy has upstaged him.

39.26 miles, 173 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5922880364

Glider Club

A warm, sunny day with a light wind from the east. I decided a trip down the southbound route to Welford and back was in order. I’ve done the eastbound route a few times recently and couldn’t be bothered with it today.

Within half a mile of setting off, I realised that I’d got the clothing strategy wrong. I’d settled on shorts + long-sleeved top + lightweight cycling jacket, and I was already comfortably warm. I’d expected it to be cool in the morning, but it didn’t seem to be. However I couldn’t be bothered to go back and change so I pressed on. I was definitely too warm in the afternoon, but not intolerably so.

Rather than go down to Welford, I decided to take a left for the gliding club along Sibbertoft Road. I’d already done 31 miles and wasn’t particularly motivated to cross the Northamptonshire border. I thought I’d watch the gliders for a bit instead. This was thoroughly entertaining – I saw a glider come in to land only about 80 metres from where I’d parked the bike against the fence, and a small aircraft came down shortly afterwards. Best of all though was watching one of the gliders take off – it went up very steeply, like a Lightning jet taking off – within seconds the cable it was attached to was nearly vertical, so that it looked like a giant kite. Then it was disconnected and the end of the cable came down connected to a little parachute. The glider wheeled away to the west, like a seagull. It must have been 1500 feet up in about 20 seconds.

Disappointed to find the village shop / cafe at Gilmorton closed on the way back. I particularly wanted an ice cream and a coffee. But I snagged a bottle of Lucozade from the Co-op at Stoney Stanton further on. Unfortunately I pressed the “pause” button on the bike computer a little too long, causing it to split the track. The second part of the track after Stoney never made it to Strava so I’ve synthesised it and stitched it on. I made a slight Horlicks of it so that it looks like I detoured through Ashby Magna, but I didn’t.

Listened mostly to the women’s football on 5 Live and LBC.

Really nice to do that one again, it’s been a while.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5911235610

64.59. 134 this month.