Another mostly dry afternoon, cooler than of late but eminently mild, carrying once again a risk of showers. I was away on the Planet X by about 1545. The wind was coming from the west and I thought I’d do something a bit different. I went up Top Brand and hung a left at Isley Walton for Swarkestone Bridge, but rather than doing the A road I went eastward through Weston and Aston to Shardlow, then looped back down via Cavendish Bridge and Donington.
I also took a bit of an excursion along toward Derby from Shardlow. It’s nice and flat along there and there’s a certain nostalgic factor involved.
I must remember that one – without the little trip along London Road toward Derby it would be about 33 miles, similar to a typical Twycrosser or Bypasser but a nice change.
Back on 36.87 miles. I listened to the Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock’n’Roll – good record especially the last tune Fingerprint File which really surprised me – almost like jazz funk and very nice.
Today’s forecast was fairly dire with thunder showers forecast intermittently over the afternoon. But the weather has put a stop to a lot of cycling already this month, so I decided to man up, put a rainproof top on and take the consequences.
The wind was coming from the west, as it has done consistently for the last couple of weeks. I decided I’d do 15 miles or so of the Lower Westbound route and come back.
Within 100 metres of setting off I noticed a persistent, regular, bump.. bump.. bump from the rear tyre. Uh oh .. but on closer inspection it was just a small stone that had stuck to it. I removed it. End of problem.
The weather was kinder than I expected – just a couple of short, very light showers. It was surprisingly warm. So I kept going until I’d done 20 miles, then instead of turning back I took a left turn to go exploring for a bit. This took me to a place called Fradley Junction, a picturesque spot on the Trent and Mersey canal. A couple were operating a lock there to let their boat through as I arrived.
I turned back from this point. Came back home through Heather and Ibstock (I’d come out through Alton Hill and Packington on the way out).
Listened to the rest of Laurence Krauss’ excellent book, The Physics of Climate Change. A very lucid and objective view of the climate crisis and a real eye-opener. Then I listened to The Yes Album. For some reason Bill Bruford’s drumming stood out for me in a way it never has before, particularly. Brilliant.
Back on 43.51 miles. Very satisfying run out. And that takes me to 402 this month.
Another day in which rain in the morning was followed by a warm, sunny afternoon – which suited me very nicely. Got out of work as soon as I could and, with a moderate wind coming from the north-west, was on my up through Coleorton and Top Brand to Isley Walton – then Swarkestone Bridge and west along the Beloved A Road.
Got as far as Foston then turned back. Came back the quicker way through Melbourne and up Rotter’s Rise.
This particular ride is usually something of a Game of Two Halves when performed after work, with heavier traffic and a headwind over the first half. But it’s worth it to glide along the A road with a tailwind in lighter traffic on the way back. I stopped for a bottle of lucozade and a sandwich at the petrol station near Hatton.
Listened to the first eight chapters of Laurence Krauss’ The Physics of Climate Change which is a brilliant, dispassionate explanation of the science of global warming and the greenhouse effect – the history of the science related to it, how the effects can be measured and correlated empirically to human activity, exactly how it works, the physics of radiative forcing and all that. Fascinating.
I noticed a ladybird on my sleeve near the railway crossing at Derby Airfield and it clung on for four miles. I did wonder whether I was doing it a disservice by transporting it miles away from its usual territory but apparently they can fly over 70 miles in one go at speeds upward of 30mph.
Rain in the morning but a lovely sunny, dry afternoon with the wind coming from the west. Usually I don’t ride on consecutive days but since I only did 35 yesterday I thought I’d take advantage of the weather to do a similar distance today.
A simple plan, to do about 17 miles of the Lower Westbound Route then come back the same way.
Somehow, I missed the left turn for Lullington. I only realised I’d done this when the Twelve House failed to materialise after 12 miles. The Twelve House is a name I’ve given to a rather grand, white-painted colonial style house at Lullington that’s exactly 12 miles from home by the usual route.
I wasn’t bothered though. I was still on a familiar route that would take me to Walton on Trent. But I decided not to take the turn for Walton after Rosliston. I thought I’d keep going and go exploring for a bit. After about 16 miles I found myself in the outskirts of Burton upn Trent, so I turned back. Nice to do a new bit of road and it was quite pleasant, but possibly not that useful.
From Coton I followed a sign to Lullington, to reunite myself with the usual route. And after Measham, I decided to come back through Packington instead of Heather.
Listened to the last hour of Slow Horses. All the loose ends are tied up very neatly if a bit implausibly. And there’s a nice cold little twist at the end. Then I continued my odyssey through the Rolling Stones’ studio album catalogue with Goat’s Head Soup – probably their best album.
Back on 35.12, 311 this month. Looking at the forecast, I’ll be lucky to get that much higher than 400.
Dismal weather this last week or so. Yesterday I was deterred from cycling by a weather forecast that threatened frequent showers in the afternoon. In fact there was only one short shower and I was annoyed with myself for not taking the risk. So with a similar forecast for today, I decided I’d go out regardless.
I’d just wheeled the bike out of the garage when a biblical downpour occurred. So I wheeled it back in and waited it out in there. I was minded to give up, but once it stopped, I decided to take my chances.
I was going to do about 15 miles of the Lower Westbound Route then come back. But I went out along Alton Hill to give Heather Lane a miss, thinking that it might be excessively puddly and once I’d done that, I just did a Twycrosser on autopilot. I had a bit of an excursion at the bottom along Ratcliffe Road instead of turning left along Mythe Lane. I encountered a “Welcome to Warwickshire” sign not long after. I’d forgotten how close Warwickshire was. Not long after that I found myself on the outskirts of Atherstone. Not very interesting. So I turned back and resumed the usual route down Mythe Lane.
Instead of coming back up via Bosworth or Gibbet Lane in the usual Twycrosser circular-route fashion, I took a left from Sibson to come back up the way I’d came. But I took a shorter way back from Snarestone.
It mostly rained for the first couple of hours. But I didn’t mind it so much; I had a rainproof cycling top and a helmet cover on. Nice and dry (and sunny) for the last hour.
Listened to another couple of hours of Slow Horses. Then tuned in to Wimbledon to catch a tie-break for the second set. Almost as enjoyable as hearing Djokovic lose it was the sound of the Centre Court crowd making clear their dislike of the odious Serb.
A grey day with a moderate breeze coming from the south. I thought I’d do a good old-fashioned Twycrosser. I rarely do that these days, usually preferring to take a detour that bypasses Twycross to the west.
Didn’t think I’d get to go out today as the forecast was foreboding, even threatening thunderstorms at one point. But by the afternoon even the threat of rain had been withdrawn. Despite this, it was raining very lightly as I set off. I assumed it would pass and it did, although it came back intermittently, and a bit heavier, over the first hour.
I took the Tricross, partly because of the rain and partly because I was going to take the recently-resurfaced route out of the village. It is, after all, a gravel bike. Fortunately as I hoped the resurfaced bit of road out of the village has bedded down quite a bit, though it’s still rough.
I was so engrossed in the tennis on 5 Live that I missed the turn for Packington and went right into Ashby. Did a U-turn and was back on track soon enough.
This was the first time since March that the Tricross had had a run out and the brakes were very ineffectual the first time I used them. Oxidation on the discs? It’s the only disc brake bike I own and I’ve never noticed it before. But the brakes were fine after a few goes.
Very different conditions from my last ride. Grey, damp and not particularly warm. Still an enjoyable run out though.
Saw two pairs of discarded knickers along the main road down to Twycross (it’s actually called Ashby Road, but so many roads around these parts are called Ashby Road that it’s almost meaningless as an identifier). I don’t see them so often these days, maybe the cost of living crisis is encouraging people to hang onto their underwear.
Listened to more of Slow Horses. Very intriguing. Lots of duplicity and counter-duplicity. I like it.
Back on 31.86 miles. 240 this month. I want to get that over 450 if I can, but I’ll probably end up shower-dodging to get there.
Inclement weather was forecast for the weekend but with high temperatures and bright sunshine promised for today, I took the day off work to do a longish bike ride. The wind was coming pretty much exactly from the south, so I thought I’d have a go at Northampton and back. I haven’t done that one for a few years now (2020 was the last time, I think).
I intended to set off at about 0800. But I woke at 0330 and didn’t really get back to sleep. I lay in bed until 0445, then I got up. I set off at about 0630. It was cool out, but I was wearing three layers on top and leg warmers.
I was annoyed to find that the ubiquitous gravel resurfacing method had been employed between Ibstock and Ellistown, but fortunately I only had to put up with it for about 1.5 miles, and it wasn’t that recent – The excess had been swept up and it had bedded in a bit.
By the time I was approaching Stoney Stanton, after only 17 miles or so I was starting to feel a bit drained – lack of sleep, I assumed. I decided I’d probably just go down as far as Welford then come back. However half an hour later I’d started to enjoy myself, and I was fine. I stopped at a farm gate just outside Gilmorton to stash my excess clothing in my camo bag in the nearby hedge. Conditions had warmed up quite a bit by this time. I was in minimal clothing now, short-sleeved jersey and shorts. But another half hour later I was quite warm. The temperature climbed quite quickly in the morning.
I stopped at the petrol station at Welford to buy some more food and a couple of cartons of Ribena. Handy size. Then I made my way down Welford Road, down through the villages north of Northampton. Spratton is the only one of them that offers a bench for the weary traveller, disappointingly. I made use of it to have a rest and refuel with some of the stuff I’d bought at Welford.
I seem to remember that I came through Spratton last year some time, though I definitely didn’t go right down to Northampton. Must look that up and see what I was up to.
I arrived in Northampton not long after 1100, and continued in the direction of the guest house (probably not a guest house now) where I spent a six month “lost weekend” in 1984. To my shame I took a wrong turn from Kingsthorpe and ended up in Moulton Park. I had to consult Google Maps to find my way from there. This was annoying because the traffic was pretty heavy over that way and I got held up for ten minutes at a queue for a road junction.
When I got there, I parked my bike up against the old house and took a rather crappy and partly over-exposed pic.
Then I turned for home.
I must write about that odd episode in my life, some time.
The first few miles coming up out of Northampton are a bit of an uphill slog, and the sun was fairly punishing by this time. I did bring some sunscreen with me but didn’t use it. I reasoned that I’d have my back to the sun coming north when it was at its strongest, so I’d probably be OK. I’m already a bit tanned anyway which ought to give a bit of protection. And I seem to have got away with it. My tanlines have improved nicely, but no sunburn.
Stopped at the village shop at Gilmorton on the way back. I love this place, they always have a good selection of stuff and there are tables and chairs outside. Had a cheese and onion pasty and a Magnum, washed down with a bottle of Dr Pepper. Nice people there. The lady in the shop offered to fill my water bottle.
I nearly always buy too much food on a long ride, and end up carrying around stuff that I don’t touch all day. Makes me laugh that I weigh mobile phones and use aluminium cage bolts to keep the weight down, but end up taking half a pound of ballast in the form of unwanted oat bars and pasties or similar.
I came back through Donington le Heath over the last few miles, to avoid the gravel surface near Ellistown. It probably isn’t actually a better bet, to be fair. It involves a bumpy road surface and a bit of climbing. Actually the surface coming down Standard Hill is ridiculously uneven and I felt like the bike was going to rattle to bits. I’ll just accept the gravel next time.
The homeward leg, after the climb coming out of Northampton, was mostly a breeze. Nice to have a tailwind of course.
Listened to a few more hours of my audiobook, Slow Horses. Unfolding nicely.
The thunderbugs are out in force at the moment – both arms were covered in the little beggars at one point.
Back on 100.10 miles. I wasn’t actually intending to do 100 miles. The ride would have taken about 95 if I hadn’t got lost in Northampton. But as I approached home I realised I’d end up doing about 99.5, so I did faff around a bit to get it up over 100, I admit.
I wanted to do about 35 after work. Not too many, because I might do a long one on Friday and wanted to conserve my energy. A breezy day with the wind coming from the west. Relatively cool. I clothed myself with three layers on top and a pair of tights and set off to do the Lower Westbound Route for a bit. Usually I’d probably opt for the Upper Westbound, but I’ve done that a couple of times in recent days.
I got as far as the left turn along Grangewood Road after 9 miles. Grangewood Road, or as much as it as I could see from there, had been liberally garnished with dusty grey gravel. Clearly, Leicestershire County Council has bought a very large quantity of the stuff. I avoided it by declining to turn left.
I thought this would take me to Coton in the Elms, along one of the other variations of that route but nope, it didn’t. I just kept going regardless, through Overseal and eventually into the outskirts of Swadlincote. Unfamiliar territory and a bit urban, but it made a change. I saw a sign to Woodville, and made my way there. From there I went up through Ticknall to Swarkestone Bridge. Then onto the Beloved A Road. So in fact I did end up doing the Upper Westbound Route after all, or a bit of it, via a highly circuitous route.
I’d decided by this time that I was going to come back down via Weston, Aston, Shardlow, Donington et al. And I particularly wanted to stop to take a pic after 26 miles, because that would be the point at which I’d have clocked up 40,000 road miles since January 2015. I thought somewhere along Swarkestone Road near Weston might be a suitable spot for that.
That meant I needed to turn around fairly sharpish, but I didn’t. The lure of the nicely surfaced, flat A road was just too much. Seemed a waste not to do another of mile or so. So I did, and I actually passed the 26 mile mark in busy traffic before the turn off to Weston.
I ended up taking this rather indifferent pic after 40,002 road miles. Close enough.
When I got to Castle Donington I was disgusted to find that it had had the same fucking awful grey gravel resurfacing treatment. I had to propel the bike through heaps of the stuff, with cars around me throwing up clouds of dust behind them, despite obeying the 10mph signs that had been left out every few hundred metres. Clearly, there’s no escaping it at the moment. God knows how much additional wear it puts into a pair of bike tyres.
I decided to tolerate the long grisly climb through Swannington rather than face the gravel on the northern approach to the village. Swannington too had had a visit from the Gravel Fairy. But fortunately it seemed to be less recent and had bedded in a bit. I think they must come and take away the excess after a few days. Or do they just sweep it into the drains? Either way it seems a pathetic way to resurface a road.
Listened to LBC, then the tennis on 5 Live – a really superb first round match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem that went to a tiebreaker in the fifth set.
A fox cub ran across the road in front of me near Ticknall.
I stayed at home yesterday because rain was forecast. Today it wasn’t, but I did have to put up with a heavy shower. Good run out anyway.
I was going to do at least 40 today, but there was always a chance I’d stretch it to a fondo if I felt like it. With a strong and annoying wind coming from the west I decided to go up and west along the Beloved A Road again. This time though the plan was to go up via Heather, Ashby and Ticknall – the same way I came back on Thursday – to avoid the dusty gravel on the road on the northern route out of the village.
Unfortunately I missed a turn at Ashby. A couple of miles later though. I followed a sign for Blackfordby; I was pretty sure I could find my way to Ticknall from there. And I did, through Woodville and Hartshorne. The only downside was a brutal climb going through Blackfordby.
The headwind was very annoying going west along the A road. I tolerated it as far as the roundabout after Sudbury. I’d done 35 miles at this point and I calculated that I’d done enough for a fondo if I came back the more conventional (quicker) way. Which I did, except that to avoid the gravel I detoured along Wash Lane.
Actually part of the road down from Melbourne has also had the gravel treatment so there was no escaping it. A bit aggravating as that stretch was only resurfaced in luxuriant smooth tarmac about a year ago.
Pretty cool weather when I set off, but I was comfortable enough with three layers on top and a pair of tights. The sun came out later on after which I was too warm, even after I’d partially disrobed and stowed excess clothing in the backpack.
Treated myself to an almond-flavoured Magnum at the petrol station near Hatton.
I gor through a couple of hours of a new audiobook, Mick Herron’s Slow Horses. About an unglamorous department of the Secret Service where intelligence operatives who have failed to make the grade or disgraced themselves are relegated to serve out their careers doing menial or clerical work.
Enjoyable ride on the whole, much more so with a tailwind in the sunshine on the way back. Back on 62.92 miles.