The S Works Rides Again

A pretty nice day apart from a fierce wind and a threat of showers, so I abandoned my desk rather early and mounted a bicycle, in the hope of getting a fondo in.

I had the idea of going south at first, but I developed an urge to do a Bypasser. Could I somehow extend a Twycross Bypasser to the requisite 62.14 miles? Well I thought it would be fun to find out.

After Norton I thought of going over to No Man’s Heath, from where I could join the Lower Westbound route. I did that. After King’s Bromley I’d done more than 27 miles thanks to indulging a part-Bypasser and I decided to keep on going south past King’s Bromley Wharf rather than turn off for Abbot’s Bromley. Again, just in a spirit of adventure really. The headwind was shocking at this point and I was riding directly into it.

After about three miles I turned back, but I took an unfamiliar left turn shortly afterward to go exploring. This took me to Handsacre and I followed a sign from there back to King’s Bromley. However just to keep things interesting, from there I came back via what I might term the “Disused Lower Westbound Route”, through Barton under Needwood and Coton in the Elms. I remembered why I don’t really use that route now, it’s gritty and climby in places.

I stopped for food at a village shop in Yoxall. Nice place, very nice sandwiches. I wonder if I could fashion a useful route that goes through Yoxall.

After Netherseal it was apparent that I still had a few miles to make up so I came back a slightly indirect way after Measham, and detoured via Ibstock. The sun had set by this time, and I’d deployed lights.

However .. just as I was coming into the village, a friendly motorist emerging from his car flagged me down. “Did you have a red light on the back of your bike?” he wanted to know. Indeed I did, but not any longer apparently. “Because I passed one flashing on the road back there”, he continued. I thanked him, put a spare rear light on and went back a mile or so to look for it, but I didn’t see it. Ah well, it was cheap, and obviously a bit useless. The rubber strap was still attached, but the main body of the light had fallen off the mount.

Back on 64.27 miles. If not for backtracking to look for a missing rear light, I’d have been back in just over fondo distance so I’d managed the distance quite nicely.

Lovely out there apart from the wind, and obviously that only bothered me over the first half of the ride. Spring-like. I did get rained on, but only for five minutes. This was the first time I’d been out on the S Works since September and it zipped along beautifully on the way back.

https://www.strava.com/activities/11114186122

Twycrosser

Rain was expected at about 8pm, so I thought I could crank out 35 miles or so after work without getting wet. I did a Twycrosser With Orton Detour, 32.38 miles. I would have done more than that, but I did get rained on after the first hour.

Hadn’t done the Orton detour for a while.

Listened to Mike Stern’s Standards album which unfortunately is a bit inspid – he plays brilliantly but overall it comes across like lift music. Then I started a new audiobook, the Philp K Dick novel Martian Time-Slip which imagines a human colony on Mars in 1994. I found it really meandering and unfocused.

Anyway not quite as many miles as I wanted, but 32.38 more than I would have done if I’d known I was going to get rained on.

https://www.strava.com/activities/11093238977

Rutland

Today’s plan was to visit Rutland, then come back. There are a couple of routes that accomplish this in a round trip of 60-odd miles, but I wanted to do more than that today – so I chose a route that takes in the first 40 miles of my Norfolk route, then dips south for 3 miles near Sewstern.

Set off at 0924 (BST, of course – the clocks having gained an hour overnight).

I took the first Boardman and over the first few miles I had a sense that the saddle was set a little too low, so I adjusted it before I was far out of the village (using estimated torque of course, I don’t take a torque wrench with me on a ride). I don’t think it had slipped. I’m just a bit more sensitive to it at the moment, having had to adjust the saddle position on the Roubaix.

I didn’t have much food on me; the plan was to stock up at the petrol station at Burton on the Wolds, which I did. I also hoped to buy some more stuff at the village shop at Buckminster; alas it had closed at 1pm and I got there 25 minutes later than that. I’m not sure why the proprietors, people manifestly not persons of a Christian persuasion, would close early for Easter Sunday, but hey. I pressed on regardless.

Got to the border, took the pic, went over into Rutland for a minute then came back exactly the same way. I did ponder whether I should come back via Melton Mowbray where I’d be sure to find a petrol station with snacks 9 miles later, but I had a cheese & onion roll and an oat bar on me and I felt sure I’d make it to the petrol station at Burton, 26 miles later, without any trouble.

The headwind going east had been slightly brutal. But the tailwind coming back was an absolute delight. I felt like I was riding a moped. The return trip was such a breeze that I didn’t even bother to stop at Burton. I was just flying along, and I see that I’ve picked up a few Strava PRs for a route that I’ve done dozens of times.

A bit cold when I set off but the temperature climbed nicely. I took off a layer of clothing after 15 miles. The temperature did dip a bit later on when the sun went in but not for long. I was mostly very comfortable. The forecast had threatened a possibility of light rain showers, but apart from a hint of drizzle for ten minutes on the way back, I was untroubled by precipitation.

I listened to Colin Murray on 5 Live, then the Rush live album Different Stages – which I hadn’t listened to for many years – then football coverage; Liverpool vs Brighton and the first half of Man City vs Arsenal.

Back on 86.45 miles. I was home two hours before sunset which makes me think I should have done 100 really, but it wasn’t the best day for it. There’ll be longer, warmer and less windy days soon.

Anyway that’s a wrap for March on 480 miles, and the last neighbouring county box ticked for this year. Last year I did the last two on 2nd April. Quite nice to get them all in before the end of March this year, although in 2022 I’d done them all before the end of February.

https://www.strava.com/activities/11078424986

Twycrosser

Eleven whole days since I’d been out on a bike, partly because I was away last weekend but also due to an unreasonable run of rainy conditions. The weather seems mainly to have been wet the whole year so far.

Fortunately, at the moment it looks like Saturday and Sunday will be dry this weekend. Today’s weather forecast was not so promising, but I thought I’d do 25 or 30 miles anyway. The BBC forecast threatened rain from noon, but the rainfall radar picture looked more optimistic. I set off at about 1050. Just wanted to do a Twycrosser.

I was going to go all the way down to Sheepy as usual, but as I turned off down Sheepy Road, I noticed a rather threatening dark grey sky to the south. So I turned back and took the short cut down the main road. Came back along Gibbet Lane.

The rain started at 1202 exactly, so unfortunately the BBC forecast was pretty much spot on. Since I was going to get wet either way I came home the longer way through Barton and Nailstone. I also reasoned that the roads that way were less likely to be muddy.

Unexpectedly a mild, sunny day broke out over the last hour or so of the ride. It’s still pretty nice out there, a couple of hours later. I could have stayed out for longer but I was getting a bit close to home, and the temptation of a coffee and a hot cross bun. I’ll probably do a long one on Sunday anyway.

Back on 25.74 miles and that’s 394 this month, which is over target for March.

https://www.strava.com/activities/11061737380

Northampton

We haven’t been particularly fortunate with the weather recently so with a dry, very mild day forecast I took the afternoon off, with a view to doing a decently long ride. I decided I’d do the Southbound Route again, this time all the way down to Northampton. I reckoned I’d be back by about 9pm, but I got up a lot earlier than I expected. So I’d put in a decent shift and was away and pedalling shortly after 1000.

I was going to wear contact lenses. Unfortunately I lost one of them under my eyelid (again). It’s still up there somewhere. So, with my cycling glasses away having new lenses fitted, I wore my regular metal frame varifocals. Unfortunately they are singularly unsuitable for cycling because they don’t sit high enough on my nose. Fine for checking a watch or something on a handlebar but looking forward, I often only had an unassisted view over the top of the frame.

I got to Northampton at about 1415. Went into Kingsthorpe, past the guest house where I lived for a few months in 1984. Along St George Avenue, past the Racecourse – lovely to see the sun shining on the grass, all very nostalgic. Then I came back.

Took a diversion past the gliding club at Sibbertoft on the way back up. Nothing happening there today. I came the “old” way back up through Husbands Bosworth, Foston and Blaby, which is slightly shorter but I came a long way back through the village to get into three figures. Back on 101.87.

This was the first time I’d been out on the Roubaix for months, and I was surprised to find that the saddle felt a little lower than I expected. Fortunately I had an Allen key on me and I adjusted it after 20 miles or so. But I made a note of the exact position (the seat post has a scale printed on the back). Sure enough when I checked it later in the day, it had sunk 5mm or so. I reset it and tightened it a bit harder. I normally set it using a torque wrench but I set it as tight as I dared (it’s carbon so not as robust as an alloy one would be). It seemed to stay put after that. Not sure whether I should re-torque it, or just leave it. Perhaps I need to apply some grip paste.

This is a more challenging long ride than most in my repertoire because of all the hill climbing coming north of Northampton, but I kept myself well fuelled and it was a breeze.

That was a really nice day out on a bike, especially when the sun was out. The day flew by.

I listened to Camel’s Rain Dances – pretty bland stuff really but quite pleasant and calming. And The Colourfield’s Virgins and Philistines, which is powerfully evocative of the time when I first lived in Northampton. Apart from that, 5 Live and, earlier in the day, James O’Brien on LBC. I agree with almost nothing he says, in fact it’s obvious his main reason for getting up in the morning is to piss people off. But he’s very entertaining, in an unintentional sort of way.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10988332354

Frolesworth

Rain was due over in the afternoon and I didn’t want to get out of bed early, so I only wanted to do 40-odd. A simple plan: to go down the Southbound Route for 20 miles or so, then come back.

As I emerged onto the Earl Shilton bypass I saw what appeared to be cars parked on either side, at the junction. Very odd place to park, I thought .. but as I drew closer it was evident that they’d just smacked into each other head-on. I’d guess one of the drivers overestimated the time he had to turn right in the oncoming traffic. Nasty, but fortunately everyone appeared to have emerged unscathed.

At Coventry Road after 20 miles I decided to turn right to Shamford, rather than straight over to Broughton Astley. I only wanted to do a couple more miles before coming back so I was just messing around really. Then I took a left turn signposted to Frolesworth. I expected it to devolve into a gritty track more suited to a gravel bike but no, it was a thoroughly decently surfaced, quiet road. Not particularly interesting though, just a road through farmland.

Frolesworth is also not particularly interesting. Quite a pleasant little village but one of those places that has a church but no pubs or shops, which I find perverse. My intention had been to turn back and come the same way but I saw a sign to Broughton Astley, so I followed that. I came back the usual way from there.

The rain came down three hours earlier than it was supposed to, but it was light. Was sunny over the first hour of the ride.

Home on 47.22 miles. 266 this month.

I listened to Judas Priest’s Unleashed in the East. I don’t think I’ve listened to the whole thing since the early 1980s and actually I still haven’t, I switched it off to go in the Co-op at Stoney to get a croissant and put 5 Live on when I came out. Then 6 Music, then a corking FA Cup tie between Wolves and Coventry.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10972138894

Croft and Huncote

A dry day for a change and unusually mild with it, although the wind from the south was fairly strong. I left work early with the idea of doing a decently long ride, possibly even a fondo, down the southbound route. Once again I came right down the A444 over the first few miles, rather than going through Ellistown and Bagworth.

Delightfully, I found the village shop at Gilmorton open so I bought some goodies.

I turned back after 30.3 miles, along Station Road near Husbands Bosworth. I was going to take a longer route home and I didn’t want to do more than the fondo distance. I reckoned I’d be home by about 2100.

It was getting dark by this time, and I took a wrong turn down Lutterworth Road. My more serious error came after Stoney Stanton, when I failed to take the left turn to Potters Marston. I do enjoy cycling in the dark but I’m definitely more likely to make navigation errors. I realised I’d gone badly wrong when I found myself in Huncote, a place I don’t think I’d ever been in my life.

Google Maps to the rescue then and I plotted a course homeward, but within a few miles I’d missed a turn again and found myself in Croft. That was particularly annoying because I’d  descended a steep hill completely unnecessarily, and of course I had to come back up.

By this time I was convinced I wasn’t going to get home until after 2200, but in fact I hadn’t gone that far off track. I came back up through unfamiliar territory (Thurlaston and Desford Rd) then nearer home, the quickest possible way, through Donington le Heath rather than Ibstock and was back home on 64.58 miles. I’ll put the road through Thurlaston on my list of places to revisit.

Very glad to have the tailwind on the way back, it made a big difference.

I did regret coming through Donington le Heath. It used to be fine, but there’s a steep descent called Standard Hill which has been resurfaced in a bizarre wavy, ripply texture and although it’s alright in a car it is absolutely boneshaking on a bike. Horrible in the dark especially.

Anyway, glad to have given the March distance tally a bit of a boost. It’s been a rotten cycling month. 219 miles done and I’ll be happy enough with 400.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10954222829

Circular Eastbound

While looking through my bike routes on RideWithGPS this morning I came across one I’d devised, but never tried that goes eastward by a different, more southerly route through Bagworth, Markfield, Rothley, Trussington and Hoby before looping upward through Ragdale to join the usual eastbound route near Six Hills.

So: I did that this afternoon, after leaving work early. Plumbed the route into my eTrex so I wouldn’t get lost.

Certainly made a nice change, but I could have done without all the hill climbing on the lower part. Nice and quiet though. Nice views. I think I did something similar a few months ago.

I had half a mind to do a fondo, so to that end I continued east for a bit when I got to Six Hills. But it was getting a bit cold so I turned back after about three miles. I don’t often do more than 50 miles without doing a fondo and I did think about maybe an excursion into Coalville and back with a few miles to go. But there’ll be longer, warmer days soon.

Saw a baby deer strolling along the grass verge at Stanford on Soar. It disappeared into someone’s front garden when it heard me coming.

Back on 54.61.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10918338796

Behind Sutton Bonington

Lovely cycling weather again, mild dry and sunny. Low winds. But not so much time this afternoon unfortunately. I hoped to get about 30 miles in nonetheless.

Decided I’d do about 15 of the eastbound route then come back. However, after about 12 miles I took a fancy to a left turn I hadn’t taken before (I don’t think), signposted to West Leake. And once again I discovered some very pleasant cycling territory along there. Before long I saw a sign to Sutton Bonington, so I took that, and as I expected, eventually I looped back to the main road through Zouch.

I’ve been through Sutton Bonington a few times. It was a favourite destination when I was still building up my ride distances after buggering my knees. That part of Nottinghamshire is pleasingly flat. But I’m pretty sure I haven’t done the road that loops round to it near West Leake.

I must make a note to go exploring over that way again.

Anyway I came back after hitting the main road again. Took the slightly longer route home after Belton, through Griffydam.

Back on 28.35. Not quite as many as I intended. But as a wise man once said, any miles is good miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10897865173

Southbound

Very good weather for cycling – low wind, dry, sunny and reasonably mild. Decided to do the Southbound route, and set off not long after 1000.

Remarkably, I missed the turn for Ellistown after about two miles. My mind was somewhat preoccupied with bathroom renovation activities. However I ploughed on down the A444, took a left along Grange Lane and was back on track in no time. Actually a more direct route, which cuts a mile off compared to going through Ellistown. I normally avoid it because I’m not keen on pedalling down the A444 any longer than I have to, but today it was fine. Something to think about for the next Northampton excursion.

Once again I took the bypass round Earl Shilton to avoid the hill.

At Gilmorton I was delighted to find the village shop open, with the enticing prospect of a Cornish pasty and a lemon curd crumble slice. I went in, took my phone out of my pocket and realised I’d brought the wrong one. I have three phones, all provided by my employer. But the one I’d brought with me doesn’t have a SIM card. No Google Pay, no treats. I left.

I still had a Tesco cheese pasty, an oat bar and enough water on me. So I pressed on. I turned back after 31 miles though, thinking that it wasn’t prudent to stray too far from home without a working phone or money. Maybe I should keep an emergency £10 note in my usual bikes.

Alas, on the way back I somehow turned left on Lutterworth Road instead of crossing straight over. Too much on my mind again. I decided I’d just press on and see if I could follow my nose home. This took me, eventually, to a place called Bitteswell. I decided to consult Google Maps, in the hope that I was in my “local area” offline map region, downloaded automatically by the app for offline use. I didn’t have a mobile broadband signal, of course.

I wasn’t, but at least the app told me roughly where I was in relationship to it even if I couldn’t see the local roads on it. So I aimed the bike in the right direction and hoped for the best. Fortunately I saw a road sign to Broughton Astley a few miles later.

I added 8 or 9 miles, but I must say the new roads were idyllic cycling territory, especially on a day like today. Must remember to go down that way again.

Fortunately the food I had on me was more than adequate. I ate a lot of lasagne last night for reasons that have nothing to do with cycling, and I think there’s definitely something to be said for carb loading.

I was irritated by a woman driving a Range Rover following me along Broughton Lane. She had loads of time and space to overtake me but she wouldn’t, and after a few minutes she had a tail of traffic half a mile long crawling behind her. Naturally a couple of them decided it was my fault after she did eventually overtake, gesticulating or beeping their horns as they passed.

I listened to footy on 5 Live. Burnley (surely going down now) vs Bournemouth and the first half of the Manchester derby.

Back on 71.42 miles. That was this year’s sixth fondo.

https://www.strava.com/activities/10882836844