Twycrosser

Nice warm afternoon but rain was due over at 6pm-ish. I left work as soon as decently possible and set off on a Twycrosser. Funny how familiarity puts me off longer routes, but it’s the very thing that appeals to me on shorter rides. The Twycrosser and Twycross Bypasser in their many variants are a regular part of my routine now.

I was going to go down to Pinwall and across through Ratcliffe Culey, but the road south of Sheepy had clearly just been resurfaced. So badly, that after about 5 metres of it I had to turn back, and come back up through Sibson instead. I’ve seen roads round here surfaced with sharp gravel before and I usually tolerate it as long as it’s not a long stretch but this was gross – massive quantities of coarse, dusty bright grey gravel a couple of inches thick in some places. It had definitely been overdone. Took another five miles for the dust stripe to wear off my tyres.

Will take a while for passing traffic to wear that down, I think. Scandalous.

Sunny at first but the clouds came over quite soon. It hadn’t rained by the time I got back, on 29.26 miles. It still hasn’t started, over two hours later and the sun even came out after I came back in the house. Should have stayed out longer.

I listened to 5 Live, and today in addition to the regulation Boris-bashing there was a piece on the difficulties facing bisexual people – who often suffer prejudice from gay people as well as straight folks apparently, and are sometimes denied representation for their rich history and culture. I was taken aback by the number of times the woman interviewed used the word “queer”, has that been reclaimed for usage in everyday discourse now?

I learned that bi women often pretend to be gay in queer spaces. If they come out as bi, gay women tend to distrust them – sometimes suspecting that their attraction to women is mainly to please men for sexual reasons.

The world is so complicated now, especially on the BBC.

Anyway 205 this month, 2293 this year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7271151878

Return to Norfolk

I set off at about 04:35 yesterday morning, headed for the Norfolk border near Sutton Bridge. Attentive readers may remember that I attempted this last June, but fell short of my intended destination due to my Garmin eTrex failing, and some unanticipated roadworks.

I hadn’t had more than about 90 minutes’ sleep. I actually got out of bed at about 03:00, restless with anticipation. But I didn’t want to set off too early, because I knew it would be cold out there for a couple of hours at least.

I’d wrapped up fairly warm, with the intention of taking off the excess layers and relocating them to my backpack later in the day. Conditions were tolerable over the first twenty minutes or so but by the time I was pedalling along Gracedieu Lane, five miles in, I was very uncomfortable. My fingers were icy cold even in gloves and I was shivering. I’d descended about 250 ft closer to sea level at this point; cold air tends to cling to lower ground and clearly, it made a big difference.

So I decided to change course and head east through Rempstone and Wymeswold rather than Normanton, Stanford and Burton on the Wolds. I’d be on higher ground much more quickly. Sure enough as soon as I’d ascended the West Face of Rempstone Road, the ride was much more tolerable. Half an hour later the sun had burned away the early morning mist and I’d warmed up nicely.

I must say the scenery had been spectacular in the bright morning sunshine with the landscape shrouded in swathes of radiant white mist.

I maintained a steady pace against a light headwind and was in Bourne by 10:00. After that it was flat Fenland all the way to my destination.

There’s something faintly post-apocalyptic about the Fenland, east of Bourne. It’s like no other place in the country; reclaimed marshland criss-crossed by straight, narrow roads and drainage channels. It has a curiously desolate aspect, especially in bright sunlight.

I reached Sutton Bridge by about 13:20. I crossed the bridge and continued on to my destination, the border between Lincolnshire and Norfolk, by a circuitous route intended to avoid the A17. But this was so poorly surfaced that I decided to take my life in my hands and returned to the bridge via the busy A road. Not much more than a mile of it, thankfully.

I’ve done this ride four times now, never by quite the same route and this last one was definitely the best compromise between efficiency and scenery. I’d spent many hours preparing it with a route planner. The route I did yesterday is well served by petrol stations and village shops, making it easy to find somewhere to pick up more food and hydration. The key to doing a long ride like this is to keep eating.

Warm and sunny most of the afternoon, really nice weather. I took a sunblock stick with me to apply to my nose, as it often suffers a bit of sunburn on a day out on the bike when the sun is shining. About 50 miles into the ride I stopped by a farm gate to dig my MP3 player out of my frame pack. I noticed the sunblock stick fall out of the pack and into the grass. I made a mental note to pick it up before I set off, but I didn’t. However it was still there when I stopped at the same place on the way back, 77 miles later. Fortunately my peaked cap (I eschew a helmet on comfort grounds for long rides) appears to have protected my face quite nicely.

I replaced my misbehaving eTrex with a newer touchscreen model, this was the first time I’d used it and it worked very well. Much more ergonomic and a bit lighter. The map display looks a lot better on a phone to be fair but the AA batteries in an eTrex last a very long time.

I listened mostly to coverage of the various Platinum Jubilee events on 5 Live. Despite being a republican myself I did find it quite interesting. Also listened to more of the Reacher novel, although when it turned out that the whole first chapter is an elaborate deception intended to set you up for a plot twist, I got a bit annoyed with it.

The sun set at about 21:15 and twenty minutes later, it was time to power up some bike lights. I’d intended to bring a powerful little LED front light as well as my head torch (another reason not to wear a helmet) but after searching my backpack, frame pack and clothing it became apparent that I hadn’t. I had two rear lights but I only had the head torch to use as a front light. Although it’s very adequate, I don’t like to have a single point of failure and I’m never sure how long they last between recharges. Fortunately it was still going strong when I arrived back at the garage door.

Saw a dead calf by the side of the road near Six Hills. I’ve seen a lot of roadkill in my time, but I think that was a a first. Looked to have been moved there deliberately, it was lying exactly parallel to the road and only just visible in the long grass. Grim.

First time I’d used the Roubaix since October. It feels pleasantly comfortable and reliable but actually the S Works or the Cannondale would have made slightly lighter work of the distance I put in front of it.

Back on 175.91 miles, my third-longest distance. I was glad to have completed that successfully after last year’s failure, but I think I’ve squeezed all the juice I can out of the Norfolk trip now. I’ve done it four times and the novelty’s worn off. I’ll do something else next time.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7245486642

Loughborough

I felt rough this morning. Low on energy and washed out. Took me until 10:40 to get out of bed. But with rain forecast over the next couple of days I thought I should go out and do 30 or so. I’m on call so I couldn’t do a long one anyway.

With the wind coming from the north-east, I thought I’d do the eastbound route for a bit and come back. When I got to the A6 junction though I pondered the road sign to Loughborough and thought – why not? So I took the A6 into Loughborough.

My visit to the celebrated Leicestershire market town mostly consisted of cruising along its dual carriageways, but at least it was quiet. I did take a brief detour into the suburbs though to visit my ex-girlfriend’s parents’ house, where I stayed a few times in the late ’80s when I was still living in Hartlepool. I don’t think they’ve lived there for many years, but it was a nice sentimental excursion along memory lane.

After that I was faced with the choice of coming back homeward along the main A road, which I didn’t think would be particularly safe, and the more urban route along Snells Nook Lane and Copy Oak Road, which I knew would involve a tedious uphill slog. I settled on the latter. At least it made a change. I could just have come home the way I’d come of course but I probably wouldn’t have remembered the way.

Picked up a few spots of rain in Ibstock, but only for a couple of minutes.

Back on 27.24 miles, seemed like quite a lot of work for that distance but I was already over target for May.

It was unusually cold so I wrapped up warm, with my Union Jack dutt. Lots of flags out for the Platinum Jubilee so I must have blended into the surroundings quite nicely. Saw a couple of persons of colour out on their bikes and I made a point of giving them a friendly smile and a wave – because cycling is for everyone, and our flag stands for respect and inclusion.

When the sun came out I overheated a bit. Nice run out nonetheless. Something a bit different for a Sunday afternoon.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7222565594

Just noticed that I have 2112 miles to go, to hit my yearly target (4200 miles).

Bypasser

Another warm, sunny afternoon, but too windy again. Undeterred I left work early and did a Twycross Bypasser. Wanted to do at least 31 miles to hit the May target (400 miles), but I did a bit of an excursion down the Dad’s Army route, and ended up on 36.01.

Came back through Shenton, I should do that more often. Lovely along there.

Saw a helicopter taking off near Measham again. A red one, looked very shiny in the sunshine. I have no idea why there’s an ad-hoc heliport in a field next to a B road near Measham.

Nice ride apart from the irritating occasional headwind.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7212307672

Return to the A Road

Showers were forecast for the late afternoon but dry conditions were promised later. I had a feeling I was wrapping up a bit too warm as I prepared for the ride, but after I set off I was glad to have tights on, and three layers on top. The westerly wind was surprisingly cool.

I decided to go up over Swarkestone bridge then west along the Beloved A Road. I did that, then turned back after 22.5 miles. Encountered a drizzly shower going over the bridge but it only lasted for seven or eight minutes. After that it was dry all the way, and the sun came out.

Really a joy coming back along the A road in the sunshine with a bit of a tailwind. I seemed to be flying along. And the temperature seemed to have climbed a bit as well – I was actually a bit too warm by this time.

I like to do this particular ride in the dark; it’s a lot easier in daylight of course but I miss those post-sunset rides.

I listened to 5 Live Drive, which this evening was mostly about how the police are racist, and the criminal lack of gender equality in musical festival lineups.

45.04 and that takes me to 370 this month, 2025 this year.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7196966844

Twycrosser with Orton Detour

Not sure I’d be in the mood for cycling this afternoon, following a 230 mile drive back from South Wales, where I spent the last few days – but after a 90 minute rest and a bit of lunch, I felt well up for it. Rain is forecast for tomorrow evening and I wanted to make a bit of progress to this month’s target (400 miles).

Lovely afternoon for it – warm, bright (not quite sunny) and light winds. I did what I think I once termed a “Twycrosser with Orton Detour”, a bit like the “Bypasser” route except that it goes right into Twycross.

Came back up through Sibson, which similarly I haven’t done for a while, then Gibbet Lane.

Took this pic of the bike and some Alpacas at Packington. Hadn’t seen them there before. They didn’t seem at all bothered by the bike, or their photographer.

I was having a fine old time cruising along, taking it easy and listening to the drama of the final day of the Premiership on 5 Live, until I seemed to run out of juice. I bonked, coming down the hill from Sibson. Mental fatigue from the drive, the ill-effects of too many cocktails over a long weekend and failure to feed myself properly today all caught up with me. I could feel my legs pedalling under me, but they seemed to be running on empty. I went a bit numb and seemed to be zoning out!

But I made it to the bench at the Gibbet Post where I consumed a flapjack I’d fortunately brought with me. I gave it ten minutes to kick in before I set off again and I was fine after that.

The footy was high drama. I got the results I wanted at both ends (Liverpool didn’t win the league and Leeds stayed up). But I yanked my right earplug cord on my thumb while adjusting my jacket zipper and broke it. I only had audio in my left ear, but that was fine for football commentary. When I was a kid I had a little transistor radio with a single earplug so it was just like old times.

Anyway – 30.12 miles.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7187036480

A Bit of Southbound

Warm out there, but the BBC weather forecast had rain starting on the 8pm slot – which I take to mean any time between 7:30pm and 8:30pm.

I left work early enough to do about 40 miles before getting rained on, and with a stiff wind coming from the south I decided on the southbound route. I did about 21 miles, then turned back and came home the same way.

And I did get home before 7:30pm, but unfortunately the rain started coming down with 20 minutes to go. Actually though it felt quite refreshing. Much worse when it’s cold. I was annoyed at having to wipe down and water-repel the bike on my return though.

Listened mostly to Drive on 5 Live, which in classic BBC style was mostly a propaganda broadcast about acceptance of migrants, before degenerating into an anti-government opinion piece. Perhaps I’ll write and suggest that they spend a similar amount of air time talking to people who have to live with the negative consequences of immigration. I’ll let you know what they say.

Anyway I did enjoy that ride despite the precipitation. Hope to go further down that route soon, when I have time.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7159913673

42.72 miles, 294 this month. Need to do at least another 106 before June.

Random Saturday

On call again today and I did get a call at 0150 this morning, so I wasn’t in the most enthusiastic mood for cycling when I got up. But it was a lovely warm day. I thought I’d do 40-odd at least. I’d undoubtedly have done a Fondo if I hadn’t been on call, but I couldn’t stray too far from base today.

No firm plan in mind, I set off on the southbound route to start off. When I got to Ellistown I thought I’d take a detour along Beveridge Lane, but I got lost on the industrial estate there. Ended up looping back to where I’d taken the detour from, four miles later. Quite interesting to see those places, though. There’s a huge Amazon distribution centre and some other massive blocky buildings. They must be visible from the Moon.

Anyway from there I continued on the southbound as normal, went down just beyond Kirkby Mallory then did a sort of partial Reverse Twycrosser from Kirkby, although I bypassed Twycross and came home the quick way through Bilstone and Shackerstone from Sheepy.

Really nice to do the bit along Atterton Lane and Mythe Lane again, especially in that weather.

So nice out there and I’ve topped up my tan lines quite nicely. Listened to more of my Cyberman audio adventure. Gripping. Just the fourth part left now. Can the need to resist a common enemy bring peace between humanity and the androids? Or will the Cybermen slaughter all the androids and convert all the humans into emotionless automata?

Then the buildup to, and start of the FA Cup. I set myself a target of getting home before Liverpool scored their first goal, which turned out to be easier than I thought.

46.19 and that’s 251 this month, 1907 this year. Last year it took me until the end of May to get over 1900.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7142686145

Bypasser

I’d been looking forward to doing a Bypasser after work and the weather was nice enough today – dry, partly sunny and warm enough for exposed legs. Too windy, though. But hey ho.

Nice views into Staffordshire going along Orton Lane.

My left cleat wouldn’t clip in. It was hooking in nicely at the front though, so I tolerated it. Will replace it tomorrow. It was fine last time I wore those particular shoes (I choose them at random in the garage), but probably used on a different bike.

I listened to 5 Live Drive, which was mainly concerned with the news that Deborah James, the podcaster who was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer five years ago, is now receiving end-of-life care at home. There was a recorded interview with her.

Listeners were warned that it would be a tough listen, and it certainly was – not only because Deborah was audibly scared and upset, but also because Tony Livesey, who interviewed her, was improbably gushing and mawkish. But since he’s something of a personal friend of the poor woman, I forgave him.

I certainly counted myself lucky, as I pedalled the rest of the way round, to have a decent probability of another twenty or thirty years myself.

31.04 miles and that’s 206 this month. Happy with that for ten days into May.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7120464079

Just looking at the forecast and Saturday looks a terrific cycling day – if I timed it properly I could do a Fondo with a tailwind both ways, albeit a very light one. But I’m on call.

Imperial Fondo

Lovely day for cycling with a light wind coming from the east. I wanted to do an Imperial Fondo, a term I’ve just coined for a 100 mile ride, and the Norfolk route, or part of it, seemed the obvious choice.

I was slightly concerned, when I got to Waltham, to find that both shops there were closed. I’d only brought a cornish pasty and a flapjack. But I stopped at a bench there and ate the pasty anyway, in the hope that I’d find a place open later on. Happily the village shop at Buckminster was still open for another half hour (good timing) so I stocked up on goodies there, and ate some of them at the bench outside. I particularly enjoyed the ice cream choc lolly.

I like that place, but when I inspected the chicken sandwich I’d bought there about 25 miles later, I noticed that it had a “Use by 5th May” label. Bit of a black mark.

I wore tights and three layers on top as it was definitely a bit cool when I set off, but the tights and an upper layer came off at Waltham. I was fine for a while after that but definitely still too warm for a couple of hours later on.

I confess I have not been maintaining my legs in the proper cyclist fashion and some of my leg hairs are alarmingly long now. I think it’s an age thing. I must sort them out soon.

I took a different route after Buckminster than last time I went this far, although I have been the same way before. I hope to do Norfolk and back again this year sometime and I think today’s option is a bit better. Better road surfaces and I think a little less climbing, though I will check that.

Nice sunny warm day, really nice day out on a bike. I was back about an hour before sunset and I did feel a bit guilty for not doing a longer ride. I didn’t set off particularly early either, about 09:10. But I didn’t have time to do the whole Norfolk shebang and just doing another 20 or 30 miles in that direction feels a bit pointless.

I went a bit further than 50 miles though which gave me the opportunity to take a slightly quicker route back (through Wymeswold and Rempstone again) to change things up a bit.

Listened to part two of the Cyberman audio series, Fear. Brilliant stuff. Also footy on 5 Live, although Arsenal took the suspense out of their game against Leeds somewhat by scoring twice in the first 10 minutes. Man City committed a similar offence later on against Newcastle so I flipped to Radio Leicester to listen to Leicester vs Everton which was a bit more interesting.

100.36, 174 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/7110306227