I wanted to do about 40 after work – to get the monthly total up over 600. With the wind coming from the north-west, a trip up to and along the Beloved A Road seemed a good idea. Perfect conditions apart from the wind, although even that wasn’t too bad. Dry and sunny, not too warm.
Normally a ride out on a bike after work helps me to destress and clear my head, but I hadn’t been pedalling for more than three minutes before I was irate. The road out of the village has been resurfaced, if I can dignify what they’ve done with the term, by having a load of sharp, dusty gravel dumped on it. I assume there’ll be some sort of second phase at some point where they come and take away the excess after it’s bedded in but in the mean time it really bloody annoys me that I’m supposed to ride over a series of gravel dunes just to take that route out of the village.
Anyway. I took the road through Coleorton and up Top Brand, then Isley Walton before turning sharp left in the direction of Swarkestone Bridge. A bit longer that way but I do like Top Brand in the sunshine.
I’d done more than 24 miles before I turned back. Got stuck in a traffic jam near Willington ten minutes later. Long queue of traffic there for some reason. Only held me up for ten minutes, though.
The idea was to come back down through Ticknall, then take a right to Woodville to avoid Bastard Hill. I hadn’t actually ascended Bastard Hill for over a year; not since I discovered the detour. But as I approached it, a voice in my head insisted that I give it a go. I felt a bit guilty about chickening out of it for so long. So I decided to man up and take it. And you know what? It really wasn’t that bad at all.
Just checked and my previous ascent of that unlovely feature was in May 2021.
Fantastic view from the top of the hill just before Ticknall. You have to stop and turn round to see it, but there’s a superb view of Derby and surrounding districts from there.
Sad to see though that the Wheel Inn at Ticknall which was a lovely, smart, modern little pub before the pandemic is still closed and starting to look slightly derelict.
I came back down through Ashby, then detoured through Packington and Heather so I could approach the village from the south, and avoid the El Cheapo road resurfacing project.
Back on 51.19 miles, that’s a wrap for June. 610 done this month.
A little bit cooler than of late. Still very pleasant though – warm enough for bare legs and sunny. But with a fairly stiff wind coming from the south-west.
I did much the same ride as on Friday, except that I remembered to take the right turn through Normanton le Heath from Heather this time. I went right down to Mythe Lane. And I came back the more conventional way up from Market Bosworth.
Lovely out there. The headwind made the first half of the ride a bit of a slog in places. But what a joy to be gliding along Fenn Lanes with a tailwind in the sunshine.
Quite enjoyed listening to people’s Glasto anecdotes on 5 Live.
Cloudy, but warm. I was able to leave work early (albeit I knew I’d have to apply my nose to the grindstone for a bit when I got back, for a while) and I wanted to do at least 40. I could even have done a fondo; perhaps I should have, given the scarcity of this sort of weather over the cycling year as a whole. But I didn’t.
I decided on another Twycross Bypasser. The wind was coming from the west again but I just didn’t fancy doing either of the longer westbound routes. I’d decided that, to avoid the badly-resurfaced bit of Ashby Road, I’d go west to Packington via the road through Normanton le Heath, a route I very rarely take. However I ignored that turn on auto-pilot, so went west through Swepstone instead.
As I pedalled along Shelford Lane, I noticed a helicopter approaching. It seemed to be losing height. Furthermore it seemed to have seen me. It hovered for a moment about a hundred metres away, then turned toward me, still descending. I actually felt threatened! Then I noticed the words AIR AMBULANCE on the side. It came down to land in the grounds of Twycross Zoo. Then a minute later, I saw a second air ambulance coming down. Seconds later as I approached the entrance to the zoo I noticed an ambulance barrelling towards me, sirens going, lights flashing.
What the? Had an exotic animal escaped from its enclosure and mauled half a dozen paying customers? I put my foot down so I’d pass the entrance to the zoo before the ambulance turned in, but I mistimed it slightly. I think I did slow the ambulance down for half a second. Oops.
I’ve only ever been past the entrance to the zoo twice, on both occasions this week, due to a brief diversion to avoid road works.
Anyway .. I continued down to Warton then east to Ratcliffe Culey, down Burton Road into a headwind then a sharp left along Fenn Lanes. Very nice to get out of that headwind. I extended the ride by going east as far as Kirkby Mallory, then back the usual way from there.
Still haven’t found out what happened at the zoo, but there doesn’t seem to have been an atrocity.
Another warm, sunny day except for a threat of rain showers at around 4pm. The wind has reverted to a more usual habit of blowing from the south-west; ideal for a Twycrosser or Bypasser. I hadn’t done one for a while so I was very happy to be setting off on my time-honoured after-work route, or a variation of it, in the sunshine. I’d actually been feeling a sort of homesickness to return to those familiar roads.
Would have gone as far as Upper Packington Road at the top but that bit of Ashby Road has been covered in sharp, dusty gravel – so I took a left turn to Packington along Coleorton Lane. Really gross, literally dumped in bloody great heaps. I assume there’s some sort of second phase where they come and sweep away the excess, but who knows?
I avoided the rain, although I could see it troubling the horizon to the north from Norton Lane near Orton.
Detoured through Barton in the Beans after Gibbet Lane.
Nice run out, 34.25 miles and that takes me to 476 this month, 3028 this year.
Every time I ride to Norfolk and back, I tell myself, on my return, that I’ve had enough of that route. And yet each year, by the time the clocks go forward in March, I find that I’ve developed a nagging compulsion to do it again.
So I did it again yesterday. Sort of. I planned a route that would take me to Sutton Bridge at the edge of Lincolnshire without actually going over the border. Having done it four times already, the novelty of riding to Norfolk and back from North-West Leicestershire has worn off now. Interestingly I did actually visit Cambridgeshire for half a mile. I only realised I’d done that while poring over a map after I got back.
I set an alarm for 0245, but I didn’t really sleep. I think I may have dozed for half an hour. I got up at 0155, which is earlier than I go to bed at the weekend sometimes. Exactly an hour later, I set off.
Last June when I did this ride, or a variation of it, I was shivering for the first couple of hours. This time the outdoor temperature wasn’t quite so low. Nonetheless I did ride through a few patches of uncomfortably cold air over the first hour so I decided to detour via Wymeswold and Rempstone, to reach higher ground (and warmer conditions) more quickly.
As you’d expect, the roads were very quiet. Beautifully tranquil out there at that time of the morning. I saw a few bats darting through the air in the dark along Gracedieu Lane, a few miles from home. An owl flew over the road ahead of me near Rempstone. And just after sunrise, I saw two fox cubs playing in the road near Six Hills. There were quite a few juvenile rabbits out and about yesterday, as well.
I stopped after 50 miles to stash my outer layer of clothing into my camo pattern nylon bag and hide it in a hedge next to a farm gate. I also stashed my spare front light and batteries. I checked my tyres. The rear was just slightly less firm than I expected. Had I picked up a puncture? I decided to ignore it, keep on going but check it again ten miles later. I did, and it was exactly the same. I did have a CO2 inflator with me and I could have got a little bit more pressure into it. But I decided to leave well alone. Thou Shalt Not Fix That Which Is Not Broken is the holiest law of my profession. It works well for cycling, too.
I had two spare inner tubes, two CO2 canisters for the inflator and a mini-pump with me. I really hate taking additional weight when doing a significant distance – I’ve even been known to weigh AA batteries, to determine the most lightweight brand – but the risk of a puncture is always in the back of your mind on a long ride.
I stopped to refuel with a sandwich and a bottle of Lucozade at a shop at Sutton St James. I arrived at Sutton Bridge forty minutes later, at about 1115. I planned to take a different route back westward from this point over the next twenty miles before joining the outbound route south of Spalding.
I’d set myself a target of doing 180 miles. That was five more than my planned route, so I needed to improvise a little. I took a detour down toward a village called Deeping St Nicholas. After that I took an unintentional detour into the outskirts of Spalding when I missed a turn.
The weather forecast had promised dry, sunny weather with a few cloudy intervals in the afternoon. In fact it was cloudy the whole time until about 4pm. I had to put up with light rain, on and off, for a couple of hours in the early afternoon. But at least the easterly wind was light, as promised. And from the late afternoon on conditions were glorious – sunny, not too warm. I’d taken a small tub of sunscreen with me but ended up not using it. Annoying, as it weighs 36 grams.
I listened mostly to BBC 6 Music. In the afternoon I tuned into 5 Live just in time to hear Scotland score two very late goals against Norway, to overturn a 1-0 defeat. Irritating.
Forty miles from home I stopped to refuel at my favourite rest stop of all, the village shop at Buckminster. I bought a coffee, an egg mayonnaise roll and (of course) a chocolate-covered mint ice-cream on a stick. As I sat consuming them on one of the benches outside, the proprietor very kindly brought out a homemade samosa for me, free of charge.
I’d realised by this time that I still wasn’t quite on course to do my intended 180 miles, so I took a brief detour through Long Whatton and came back the slightly longer way through Peggs Green and Coleorton. I’d done 181.40 miles when I arrived back at the garage door at about 2025. I’d made pretty good time – on a long ride like that I like to allow an hour for every 10 miles overall – it definitely pays to take it easy. So on that basis I was back more than half an hour earlier than I’d have expected.
That was definitely the most sensible route I’ve taken to get to Norfolk, or nearly-Norfolk and back. I chose less obscure, better-surfaced roads than the last couple of times. And I must say it was nice to ride through Long Sutton and Holbeach again – I went that way on my first Norfolk trip in 2017. But I’d avoided the quieter, narrow lanes that run in perfectly straight lines next to drainage channels in the Fenland part of Lincolnshire. They do have a distinctive desolate charm, and I missed that.
Still – that was definitely an enjoyable long day out on a bike. Very happy to have done a long run out east again this year.
Another warm, sunny day with a fairly strong wind coming from the east. I decided to do 15 or 20 miles of the southbound route, then come back.
I’d done about 17 when I got to the T junction just after Potters Marston. Rather than turn right toward Stoney Stanton as I normally would, I took a left toward Croft. I was only going to do another mile or two and I thought it would be easier than negotiating the crossroads at Stoney. A bit flatter and quieter as well.
Quite nice along there, but I only did another mile then turned back. Came a slightly different way home over the last few miles, along Wood Road then through Hugglescote. The Hugglescote way is a bit quicker, but the road is a bit lumpy and climby.
Back on 35.69 miles.
I listened to Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones – I’m not a big fan of the countrified Americana they indulge themselves with on a few of the tunes, but they do it very well. Easily the best one so far, eight albums in.
I must admit I’m slightly concerned by the noise my DIY-rebuilt freehub is making, on the second Boardman. Not overly alarming but louder than I’d expect. Still working fine but maybe I used the wrong lube. Maybe I should grease it.
The wind is due to die down to 4 or 5mph by Friday, and the weather will remain warm and sunny, at least according to the forecast – definitely an invitation to do a long one.
I’m on call at the moment. I wouldn’t have let that stop me doing a decent bike ride, but what I did let stop me were temperatures in the high 20s and the threat of rain in the early afternoon. The rain didn’t happen but it certainly was too hot to ride a bike for any distance. So I decided to wait for the late afternoon.
This was very fortunate because, very unusually, I was called at about 2pm for a high priority incident that required my attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been 20 or more miles away from home on a bike on an oncall Saturday afternoon and if I’d done that today, I’d have had some difficult explaining to do. I must have a guardian angel.
Regardless, I set off to do about 20 or 30, slightly hesitantly, at 1642. UV levels had dissipated nicely by this time (I assumed) and the temperature was a bit less fierce. I had a San Miguel first, for Dutch courage.
The plan was to go up to Melbourne, take a right to Isley Walton and come back down Top Brand. But I pressed my luck after Melbourne and carried right on up over Swarkestone Bridge. From there I went east through Weston and Aston to Shardlow, then down to Isley Walton through Castle Donington. Much the same ride, but substantially extended at the north.
The Download Festival is on at Donington Park at the moment but I didn’t see any of the revellers around the town. Sometimes on a Download weekend the local pubs and streets are choked with stoner-looking deadbeats and kids in Motorhead t-shirts, but I saw none of that today.
Just as an aside, Metallica are claimed to have caused a noise nuisance on Thursday night for people living 15 miles away. We live less than 8 miles away to the south, and ‘er indoors claims to have heard them when she was in the garden at the time, but it was very faint. They’ve been playing again tonight; I went outside half an hour ago and I couldn’t hear anything.
Saw a Sunwing passenger jet taking off from the airport as I passed. I’d never heard of Sunwing. Apparently it’s a low-cost airline based in Toronto. A minute later I saw a Lear Jet coming in to land. I very rarely see aircraft taking off or landing when I pass the airport so that was a nice change.
A layer of cloud rolled over at 7pm and the temperature receded a notch; I was grateful for that.
With about two miles to go, I developed a suspicion that my rear tyre was flat. It was certainly very soft. It had been a little bit softer than I’d have expected when I inspected it before setting off, to be fair. I pumped it up to 100PSI and assumed it would be fine. I got it up to about 50PSI (at a guess) with my mini pump in Coleorton but it was soft again a mile later. I gave it a couple more goes over the last mile and I got home OK. The rim looks fine. The tyre looks alright.
Oh well, something else to do tomorrow. Back on 31.02 miles, 224 done this month.
I’ve been frustrated recently by the limiting factor of having to contend with heavy traffic near Zouch on the eastbound route on late weekday afternoons, as I’ve mentioned here a few times.
The wind was due to come from the east again today so last night, using the RideWithGPS route planner, I devised an alternative eastbound route that would start by going south rather than north down to Bagworth, then east through Thornton, Markfield, Rothley, Ratcliffe and Thrussington before rejoining the original eastbound route near Six Hills, after about 25 miles.
I thought I’d do about 18 miles of this route – not all the way to Six Hills – then come back the same way.
So I set off at about 1535. I’ve been that way as far as Markfield quite a few times but after that, the route was mostly new to me. I had the route uploaded to my eTrex but I still managed to miss a turn near Cossington. I tracked back from the next roundabout.
After going down a long, steep hill bear Swithland Wood I decided I wasn’t going to come back that way. I decided to continue all the way to Six Hills, then come back home via the traditional eastbound route. But I consulted Google Maps at Thrussington and took a short cut up to the old route from there, rejoining it near Cotes.
The new route that I’d intended was nice – nothing special but nice to be doing something a bit different. Especially nice to be pedalling along the roads near Bradgate Park, which I used to do 30-odd years ago on my Raleigh Routier, usually on Sunday afternoons. But the short cut which I hadn’t intended was perfect cycling territory – quiet, pleasant and well-surfaced. I snapped the pic along there. I can use some of it as an alternative section on the old eastbound route. I’ll definitely do that.
Glorious weather out there, properly warm and sunny. Very enjoyable coming back westward with a tailwind. Happy to have done a decently long one today because the weather for the weekend looks iffy.
I finished Bad Luck and Trouble. Not sure if I’ve ever got through a Reacher novel so quickly. I can completely understand why it’s been chosen as the basis for the next TV series adaptation.
A disappointingly cold and cloudy day, today. Not cold by winter standards perhaps and it was certainly dry, but I wrapped up in several layers on top and a pair of cycling tights and I still felt the cold a bit.
A stiff wind was coming from the east, yet again. I don’t mind that on a weekend but after work on a weekday the traffic near Zouch is a limiting factor. So I went over that way, but turned back to go west through Long Whatton, past Isley Walton and back down through Coleorton.
Lots of road signs, tents and big electronic displays up for the Download festival which presumably is this weekend coming at Donington Park.
I went up Heather Lane for a mile or so to get my distance up a bit. Still only did 25.41 miles. I must try to figure out a better option for weekday later afternoons with an easterly wind.
Listened to the Reacher novel for the whole ride. Nearing the climax now.
Late on Friday night, a photo that I’d posted from my most recent Norfolk-and-back ride, exactly a year previously came up in my Facebook memories. My first thought was – how is that a year ago already? It was the Platinum Jubilee weekend, as it happens.
But my second thought was that I haven’t taken full advantage of the longer days now that they’re finally here. Perhaps I should have planned Norfolk and back this weekend. I have done Wales and back this year to be fair, but I want to do a longer one than that this summer.
And for a moment I did contemplate getting up very early to do a 180 mile ride out east. It wouldn’t take much preparation. That was my third thought. My fourth thought was that having had a couple of generously strong vodka martinis, I didn’t fancy my chances of getting out of bed at four in the morning.
But my fifth thought was that I could at least get up at 0830 and do at least 80 miles. So that’s what I did.
I set off at about 0930. I’d put on a fleece to wear under my cycling tunic for the first 20 miles or so but as soon as I opened the back door I realised I wouldn’t need it. So I removed it and left it at home.
The idea was a very simple one, just to do my usual eastbound route for 40 miles and come back. But I went east via an older version of the route through Rempstone and Wymeswold. I got as far as Colsterworth. I’d done 42 miles at that point. Came back through Burton on the Wolds and Stanford as usual.
I stopped at the Deli at Waltham after 33 miles. The lady behind the counter wanted to know how many miles I was doing and how often I did long rides. Always nice to have a bit of a chat with a stranger on a cycling day out. I bought a cornish pasty and a coffee. I asked for a strong one, but it wasn’t.
I stopped and had a sandwich and a mint Magnum ice cream on a stick at the village shop at Buckminster on the way back. A bit of an indulgence but they definitely keep you going.
The headwind was annoying on the way out but I felt like I was being towed on the way back – really glorious to be gliding along in the warm sunshine coming south-west from Eastwell.
Listened to a few hours of the eleventh Reacher novel, Bad Luck and Trouble. I tuned into the FA Cup final ten minutes late, hoping that nothing important had happened. But in fact if I’d tuned in fifteen seconds late I would have missed a goal.
I trialled a new invention on this ride – DIY wind noise reducers.
It’s possible to buy a pair of furry sleeves to attach to the strap of your cycling helmet, one on each side in front of your ears. These intercept and absorb the onrush of air to stop it interfering with your earbuds when you’re trying to listen to an audiobook, or a radio broadcast or whatever.
However they cost more than £20, so I had the idea of making some myself. I bought a pair of thick, fluffy sweatbands – the sort intended to go round your wrist – for £3.59. I folded the wristbands in half and secured them round the strap of my helmet on each side using rubber cable ties. They work brilliantly – you can tell how much they mute the oncoming wind by pulling one of them away from your head for a moment – the difference is dramatic.
I did catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window of the Deli at Waltham just before I removed my helmet to go inside and they looked ridiculous, but I don’t particularly care about that.
Back on 85.31 miles. Very enjoyable day out on the bike. However it’s time to start thinking about a 170+ mile ride.