Narrow Lane

A dry, sunny day today. With rain in the forecast for most of the next couple of weeks, clearly a decent run out after work was in order. Forty miles or so, I thought.

Quite an annoying moderate / strong wind coming from the east. I thought I’d do 20 miles or so of the Eastbound Route then come back. That’s pretty much what I did, except that I detoured via Top Brand through Diseworth on the way out (I sometimes do that on the way back, but rarely going east). I got as far as Narrow Lane after 23 miles, then detoured through Wymeswold and Rempstone on the way back. A sort of figure-of-eight route.

A bit cooler than I’d have liked but I got away with bare legs. I took the Boardman to assess the performance of its new bar tape. Apart from looking cheap, it’s not quite as comfy as the old tape. I may wrap some more tape directly over it, for a dual-ply super padded arrangement.

Back on 43.21 miles, that’s 110 for the month already. I’m aiming to do 435 this month.

Upper / Lower Westbound

I had a tentative intention to ride to Wales and back today. I decided that if I woke up early enough and I felt like it, I’d do the necessary 140-odd miles to penetrate the land of dragons, leeks and Gareth Bale.

I did wake up at about 0400, but I only got as far as the bathroom before going back to bed. After all long bike rides are a lot of fun, but sleep’s nice as well, isn’t it?

I got up again at about 0830 though, and I’d set off on a bike by 0940 with the more modest goal of doing a fondo.

The weather forecast prompted me to go west, for two reasons – firstly, it wasn’t going to rain over that way (whereas it was going to, supposedly, at home) and secondly the wind was coming from that direction.

I decided on my Upper Westbound Route, up over Swarkestone Bridge then west along the Beloved A Road.

Annoyingly I left my GPS bike computer in the house, so I tracked the ride using the RideWithGPS app on my phone. This meant of course that I wouldn’t have a view of the distance I’d done without stopping to take out the phone, but I’ve memorised a few distance points on that route. I knew when I’d done ten miles, and fifteen, and twenty without checking the phone.

By the time I got to Sudbury after 25 miles, I’d decided to do something a bit different than just going back the same way. I decided I’d go south to join my Lower Westbund Route through King’s Bromley, Edingale, Lullington and Measham. I’ve done this before a couple of times and was a bit reluctant to do it, because it involves a punishing rollercoaster of brutal hill climbs. But I resolved to grin and bear it.

The other problem is that the whole route doesn’t quite add up to the requisite fondo distance. So to compensate, I opted to go a bit further west for a bit. Therefore, after about five miles of heading south down from Sudbury, I took a right turn for Hoar Cross. I knew I could get to Abbots Bromley easily from there, a few miles to the west. And that’s a familiar destination from the Lower Westbound Route.

Unfortunately the road from the main road to Hoar Cross offered a fast, steep descent over a bumpy surface well furnished (today at least) with puddles, so the bike and I picked up a few splashes. I won’t take that turn again. I stopped at a bus shelter when I got to the village to consume the food and tinned coffee I’d bought at a petrol station a few miles previously. Then I set off to Abbots Bromley, about three miles further on to the west. A much better road from that point on.

Wasn’t sure if coming home my usual way from Abbots Bromley on the lower route would see me home on a fondo distance – so I kept going west through the village for a mile or two before turning for home. I didn’t need to, as it turned out. I’d done 66.62 miles when I arrived back at the garage.

As I negotiated the right turn into Grangewood Road between Lullington and Acresford about ten miles from home, I took the trouble to return a smile and a wave to two cyclists coming the other way. A motorist at the junction took great offence at this. He beeped his horn and gesticulated aggressively, as if I was inconveniencing him. I hadn’t even slowed down, but you’d think I’d parked my bike in front of his car. Unbelievable. I gave him a withering look and a slight shake of the head, intended to convey a sense of disbelief blended with pity.

Really a very nice run out. The Lower Westbound Route is a lovely proposition on a sunny day. Nice and warm as well, later on. I stopped after fifteen miles to remove my tights and an upper layer and stuff them in my back pack.

That’s 2017 done this year.

Willington and Wilson

Probably the last rain free-day of the month so I left work a bit early to do 34 miles or a bit more, to get the April distance tally past 600 miles.

The forecast told me that a moderate wind was coming from the west. It also told me that the temperature would be 13C, so I went with the bare legs option. Possibly a little too cool for that in practice, at least early on.

I did the Upper Westbound Route as far as Willington, except that I went up along Top Brand and Isley Walton, and came back down through Wilson (to avoid Rotter’s Rise).

Really a rather nice run out, especially later on when the temperature climbed a couple of notches and the sun came out.

Very pleased with the new handlebar tape on the S Works. Seems very comfy, if a bit drab-looking.

I regretted stopping to take this pic on Swarkestone Bridge, because I had a long wait for the necessary gap in the oncoming river of traffic to get going again.

Back on 36.72 miles. 603 this month.


Not a bad day at all, very dry, cloudy but bright and very liight winds. Unreasonably cold for late April, but I wrapped up warm.

Today’s mission, after work, was to do at least 40 miles, to bring me within plausible reach of getting to 600 miles in April on my next ride. I thought I’d go up into Derby for a change.

I took the Boardman, to give it a post-service check.

I went up Top Brand, past East Midlands Airport where I had a nice view of a Learjet 45 taking off, through Donington, over Cavendish Bridge, through Shardlow and up to Borrowash, where I took a left turn toward Derby.

I decided I’d go up to Oakwood via Spondon, but I took the wrong right turn the first time. I ended up with a choice of joining the A52 during the rush hour, or turning back. So I turned back to Derby Road and took the correct right turn, along Willowcroft Road.

Kept going until I saw Sancroft Road, which I recognised as being part of my way home to Oakwood when I lived there and had a girlfriend in Spondon, 32 years ago. I used to cycle that route sometimes on my old Raleigh Routier as well, so it was quite a trip down Memory Lane.

Got to Oakwood, came down Acorn Way. Then I came home via Aston-on-Trent and Weston-on-Trent, through Melbourne and home the usual way. I didn’t enjoy Rotter’s Rise but it wasn’t too punishing.

I really enjoy my cycling visits to Derby and I’d do them more often if not for having to negotiate a busy roundabout over the A50, either at Swarkestone or Donington. Going through Aston and Weston avoids that to be fair, but it’s a very indirect route.

The bike is running nicely following its service. I did tweak the front Disraeli thumbwheel a bit, but that’s fine. But what did annoy me a little is that the stem hasn’t quite been put on straight. The handlebars are angled at about 93 degrees from the line of the front wheel.

Still – it’s an easy enough fix. And an excuse to swap out the old steel rear stem bolts, which have a bit of surface rust, for some titanium ones. The faceplate bolts have already been swapped out. I’ve got some new handlebar tape for it, as well.

Back on 46.17 miles – 566 done this month. Should be able to get another 34 miles in on Friday.


The weather forecast for today improved quite a bit as the week progressed, to the point where the BBC were promising that it wouldn’t rain until this evening.

I didn’t want to use up too much of my Saturday cycling but since, at the moment, the next dry day looks to be Tues 25th, I thought a 30-odd miler was in order.

I did a Twycross Bypasser, coming back along Gibbet Lane – and with a little excursion down Grendon Road and Spon Lane (a short way down the old Dad’s Army route, in other words).

Actually very nice out there – cloudy but bright enough to cast shadows of the bike onto the road. Almost sunny. And not too cold. Very pleased with the way the second Boardman is running on the repaired wheels inherited from the Cannondale.

Back on 35.14. That’s 520 done this month, very satisfying after a disappointing March. I expect I can squeeze another 80 miles out of April.

Listened mostly to 5 Live, including most of the first half of Chelsea Ladies vs Barca.

Bar Tape

The colourful black / red bar tape on my S Works had started to look a bit frayed and tatty, so I have replaced it with some generic and cheap dark grey tape from Amazon.

I didn’t do a perfect job and it doesn’t look as good as the old tape did before it wore out. But it’ll do for now. I used red insulating tape to finish it off as a sort of cursory nod to the colour scheme.

Please excuse the weeds, they belong to a neighbour.

Leake Lane

The weather forecast over the next week or so is a bit dismal so I wanted to do 30 or so after work today, while it was sunny and dry. Quite a strong wind coming from the east though. I set off on the eastbound route with no definite plan.

I did the eastbound route for eight miles, then turned left along Smithy Lane. But when I got to the T junction at Long Whatton I just turned right and joined the southbound route again.

I must say the headwind really was annoying, not only in that it made me work harder, but also in that it made the bike a bit unstable. Quite a stiff breeze.

At Stanford I took a left turn I’d been meaning to try for a while. Nice to do something a bit different I suppose but it was not a pleasant experience overall – an uphill climb combined with a poor road surface and a headwind, and surprisingly popular with the motoring community as well. That took me to Ashby road where I turned left for home. What a relief to have a smooth road and a strong tailwind.

I came back through Long Whatton and down Top Brand. Quite a nice run out in the sunshine over the second half.

I listened to 5 Live, then a Corduroy best-of album called In Mini. Some of their tunes sound a bit like game show theme tunes, but that’s part of the fun.

Back on 32.52 miles.

The Bourne Bicycle Puncture

The weather outlook for today was very promising on Friday, so I booked the day off work to do a long one. The forecast deteriorated a bit over the weekend, but I was undeterred.

I wanted to do at least 100. With the wind coming from the east and the sun due to come out earlier in the day over that way, I decided on the eastbound route. I was up early and I set off at 0745.

On recent long rides I’d suffered cold conditions earlier in the morning to avoid carrying extra clothing with me in a backpack, but I wasn’t going to do that this time. Instead, I adopted a new tactic. I wore overtrousers and a nice warm fleece, but I removed them and hid them behind a hedge next to a public footpath after 30-odd miles. I wrapped them in a sealable plastic bag I’d brought with me for this purpose, then uprooted some long grass to make a sort of camouflage net. This worked very well; in fact when I picked them up on the way back I had trouble seeing the bag for a moment.

I went through Corby Glen and Grimsthorpe this time. Sometimes I take a lower route through Little Bytham and Witham, although I haven’t been that far along the eastbound route many times. I went all the way to Bourne, then onto South Fen Road, onto the Fens. I was quite impressed with myself for finding my way through Bourne without consulting Google Maps or taking a wrong turn.

South Fen Road is an odd sort of place. You feel like you’ve left civilisation, on the normal, non-Fens part of England and crossed into the Cursed Earth. It’s really badly surfaced in places, though not so bad where I took the pic below. It feels a bit desolate, though I quite like that.

I’d done more than 59 miles by this time. I decided I’d keep going until I’d clocked up 60, then turn back. However about two minutes after I took the pic, I noticed that the steering had become a little skittish .. yep, a puncture.

I stopped, upended the bike, removed the front wheel and wrestled off the tyre. Replaced the inner tube, wrestled the tyre back on, pumped it up. I was more than happy with the performance of my mini-pump – although it doesn’t have a gauge I’m pretty sure I got at least 80PSI into the tyre. I didn’t pick the best spot to get a puncture; the grassy area to the side of the road was in reality more heavily populated by nettles than grass, and I had the unwelcome tingle of stings induced by hostile vegetation all the way back home.

I decided to turn back there and then of course, but I was feeling quite pleased with myself until I got to Bourne, and noticed that the tyre was soft again.

What now? I didn’t have another spare inner tube, of course. So I propped the bike up against Boots the Chemist, then did a search for “bike shop” in Google Maps. A bicycle repair business called All Geared Up was located only about a mile away. I pumped more air into the tyre and set off to find it.

As I neared the location, I realised that it wasn’t a traditional bike shop but a regular house on a residential road. I arrived there and rang the doorbell. No answer. WTF was I going to do now?

But a minute later, a friendly chap emerged from a side gate. He explained that he’d been mowing the lawn. Could I buy a couple of inner tubes from him? No problem! He didn’t take cards, but I managed to bank transfer the £12 payment from my NatWest app.

I asked if I could borrow a stirrup pump for 15 minutes, but he opened the door to his garage workshop, told me to put the bike on the stand and fitted one of the new inner tubes for me himself. I must say he managed it a lot quicker than I had, half an hour earler. What a lifesaver. I thanked him and he returned to his lawn-mowing duties.

Fortunately the new inner tube made it all the way home.

The weather was beautiful in the afternoon; warm and sunny. I had a feast at the bench outside village shop at Buckminster 39 miles from home and bought more fluids – my bidon had run dry by this point, so a cold Diet Coke was very well received. I bought myself some chocolate as well, to consume about 15 miles from home. Definitely helps with the gradual homeward climb over the last ten miles.

Back on 120.32 miles, seven minutes after sunset. And that’s a very healthy shot in the arm for the April distance count, which now stands at 453 miles. 1800 done this year.

Over 38,000 miles of riding a bike, I’ve only had a puncture about four times. And yet two of them have been within a mile of the most distant point of unusually long rides, the other one being the first Wales and back trip. That’s unfortunate, isn’t it?

Welford Road

I’d intended to go up toward Newark today, a ride I’ve only ever done a few times. But the weather forecast deteriorated overnight. My best bet for avoiding rain showers was to go south it seemed.

So I decided just to do the southbound route. Fortunately the wind was light enough that I wouldn’t suffer a stiff headwind on the way back. Actually the wind direction was forecast to be unusually changeable today so it was a bit of a lottery in any case.

Cool and cloudy when I set off, but the sun came out intermittently later on. I’m on call at the moment but it’s been very quiet, and I risked doing a half-fondo distance before turning back for home. I offered a conciliatory nod to being on call by turning back at Welford Road rather than going right down to Welford.

The weather was really nice later in the afternoon, making me think – again – that I should have stayed out longer. But at least I didn’t get rained on.

I made a slight modification to the route by taking a longer way through Dunton Bassett. Makes the route a bit simpler and avoids a steepish hill.

Listened mostly to 5 Live, and the Beatles album Help!

Back on 63.68 miles, and that’s a very satisfying 332 done this month so far.

Freehub Test

With rain due over this afternoon I decided that a shortish ride over a long lunch break was the best plan today. About 20 miles would do. Just the right sort of distance to test the new (as in inherited from the Cannondale) wheels with newly-repaired freehub now attached to Boardman II.

I did a shortish Twycrosser, 22.50 miles. Sunny and pleasant when I set off, then cloudy later, then about 15 minutes of light rain. Then warm sunshine again. Quite an enjoyable run out, but more importantly – everything’s working properly on the bike. Gear changes nice and slick, freehub engaging and disengaging properly. Very satisfying to do your own modifications, repairs and maintenance when it all works.

The bike does feel a bit different on the Fulcrum 5s. Not faster, not lighter, but a bit more solid. Could be psychological but it does feel like an upgrade.