Markfield

Downed tools early yesterday afternoon and withdrew the Boardman from the garage at about 14:50. For my 133rd and final ride of 2019 I wanted to do at least 24 miles, which would see my yearly and monthly distance figures edge up above 4300 and 400 miles, respectively. I also wanted to go over to Markfield, where I bought a house with my then-partner Sara in December 1989. It’s become something of a sentimental Christmas holiday tradition to cycle over there, this last couple of years.

I well remember returning here in the early hours of January 1st 1990, thirty years ago exactly. It wasn’t a Happy New Year and by the following December I was lodging with a submarine engineer in Derby but that, as they say, is a whole ‘nother story.

A dry, cold day but very little wind and the roads were mostly dry. I went out through Ibstock, Ellistown, Bagworth then over to Markfield from Thornton.

Came back a slightly different way and when I got back to Bagworth, I turned south to do a bit of the southbound route that goes down to Stoney Stanton, though I didn’t go nearly that far. Wasn’t sure exactly how far south I needed to go to get my distance up over 24 miles so I pressed on until I reached the turn for Kirkby Lane in Newbould Verdon which from memory I knew to be 10 miles from home by the route I intended. At that point I’d done about 18 miles.

Back on 28.52 miles. And that was a wrap for December (403 miles), and for 2019 (4304.55).

https://www.strava.com/activities/2971085937

For 2020 I’ll aim to do the same distance, I think. A simple strategy would be to try to stay ahead of my 2019 distance total for the same point in the year. Should be easy to get out in front early on as my knees were in a worse state than they are now and I was doing substantially shorter distances in the first half of the year.

But my main ambition for next year is to do a few 100+ mile rides. Didn’t manage any this year; my greatest distance was 76 miles.

Rare A447 Version Twycross

I went bike shopping this morning, at Halfords. A few post-Christmas bargains there, but I didn’t buy one. I was quite tempted by a Voodoo Limba, a budget “gravel bike” that I thought would do quite nicely as an additional winter road bike. But in the end even at £288 I didn’t think it was worth it. This particular one was in the clearance sale – possibly because it had a broken bell (which I’d have taken off anyway) and a missing bar end plug (which I’d have replaced with a mirror). Normally they’re upwards of £400.

Halfords advertise a “free bike build” on their website, as if you’d normally walk into a bike shop and come out with boxes of parts. But the quality of their bike building leaves something to be desired – whoever had put the stem on this one had managed to get the handlebars crooked, so that you’d have to ride with your right hand a few mm further back to keep the front wheel straight. Any easy fix of course and I’d probably have flipped the stem anyway, but it does show how shoddy they are.

In the end it was the wheels that put me off. They looked a bit cheap, and having front and rear disk brakes, presumably not that easy to replace. Disk brakes are, for me personally, a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. They add unnecessary complication (and indeed weight) for no discernible advantage with respect to my own cycling behaviour.

Anyway I came home empty-handed and an hour or two later, decided I’d have another run out. I assessed that the roads were dry enough today to allow a run out on the Planet X, which made me feel a bit better about my limited winter bike options. I withdrew it from the garage at about 1:25pm.

Didn’t take a proper front light with me but I only wanted to do about 30, a medium-long Twycrosser. And it was a pretty standard Twycross run through Sheepy and Ratcliffe until I got to the turn off for Upton on the A444. I took that, then a right onto Stoke Rd to reach Fenn Lanes. Haven’t done that for a long time.

Conditions were starting to get a bit dim by the time I reached Cadeby and I didn’t fancy doing the often-muddy stretch along Sutton Lane on the X, so I kept going until I came to the A477, which runs parallel northwards to the road I’d normally take through Bosworth and up through the villages. Although I had a few options to take a left from the A477 and onto the usual route, I didn’t take any of them. I decided the better-surfaced A road would be a better option to get home quicker after sunset on a bike only equipped with flashy blinkers. I’ve never done that before; come home all the way past Bosworth on 9 miles of A477. Not a lot of fun but it wasn’t too scary and I was confident my rear light would keep me visible from behind.

Back just in time, I’d say. Dark by the time I was rolling the bike into the garage.

34.77 miles, and that’s 375 this month.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2965880559

Stapleton & Dadlington

A gloomy and cold day in NW Leics, and the roads were wet. But at least it wasn’t raining. I’d pondered doing a longer ride today but since the conditions weren’t great and I had a not-inconsiderable Laphroaig-induced hangover, I decided not to. I thought I’d do 40 or so though and, mindful again of a need not to overwork the Boardman during the winter months, I took the hybrid.

I set off without a clear plan, but found myself heading out down Standard Hill and Donington Le Heath. Not often I go that way. Reached Ellistown and decided that I’d do at least part of my route south, in the direction of Stoney Stanton. I got as far as Kirkby Mallory where I saw a road sign to Sutton Cheney, which is at the extremity of a longer version of the Twycross route. So I thought I’d go to Sutton and do the first half of the Twycross route backwards from there, which (I estimated) would give me about 35-40 miles in total. So – I followed the road to Sutton. This brought me to a junction with the A447, but it wasn’t clear whether I should turn left or right there. I wasn’t sure which part of the A447 I was on.

I chose to turn left and by the time I reached Stapleton, I’d realised that this was the wrong choice. The turn-off for Sutton was quite some way behind me. No matter – I turned off the A447 there, and thought I’d see if I could navigate home from an unfamiliar location. Fun! And a bit of an adventure. I followed a road to Dadlington and from there, saw a sign to Sutton. That brought me to Fenn Lanes and comfortable familiarity. I set off on the Twycross route backwards from there.

I decided to do the smaller Orton detour from Sheepy. I hadn’t done it backwards before. But I missed a turn and ended up doing the longer detour that bypasses Twycross altogether. Again though – makes it a bit more interesting to have to work out the route home. Back home through Snarestone, Swepstone, Heather.

Saw a huge bird of prey sitting on the hedgerow as I passed, along Sheepy Lane. I pulled up alongside it in the hope of getting a photo, but as I reached for the phone in my pocket it decided it wasn’t having it, and took to flight. A buzzard I think. I also saw a large white bird in a group of pheasants near Ratcliffe Culey – apart from its pure white plumage, it looked just like a pheasant, with the same long tail feathers. An albino pheasant?

Really a fun run out. Nice to do a few miles of unfamiliar road. I realised after about 10 miles that I’d left the house without any breakfast, but I seemed to be doing OK. A stollen slice (in festive lieu of an oat bar) and a small pork pie kept me going. Actually felt a bit better after my ride than when I started it. Fresh air and a bit of exercise won’t actually defeat a hangover, but they do help.

Back well before sunset which round these parts is still the unfortunate side of 4pm. But not for long.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2962928790

39.26 miles; 340 this month – a decent working majority.

Still pondering whether to get a cheap second winter road bike, to take the strain off the Boardman. I do have too many summer bikes, but I don’t want to demote one of them to a winter bike. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken the other Boardman to my mum’s house where it only gets used once in a blue moon.

Way Out West

Not at work today. The roads were wet from overnight precipitation as usual but it wasn’t due to rain today, so I thought I’d do 30 or 40 on the Boardman. A moderate wind was coming from the west and I wanted to do something different for a change so I headed westward, through Measham, Netherseal, Coton in the Elms. I don’t go over that way often so it was a nice change.

I hadn’t bothered to bring the eTrex so I was navigating from memory but didn’t take any wrong turns. By the time I got to Walton on Trent I was weighing up the feasibility of pressing on all the way to Stafford Bingley Hall for a sentimental pilgrimage, but I decided against that firstly because I didn’t have a debit card or cash on me so my refuelling options were limited to a mini pork pie and oat bar, secondly because I assessed that it would be considerably colder after sunset – and thirdly, because I’d have to navigate using my phone.

Conditions were intermittently sunny and relatively mild. Had to pedal through a few shallow rivers running across the road. The route between Coton and Walton is quite muddy and gritty at the moment. I’ll go through Rosliston next time.

Got as far as a roundabout south-west of Yoxall. Went straight over it but the road there degenerated into a very crappy little track quite quickly, so I turned around. Had a bit of a look further up into Yoxall then came back homeward the same way.

I’d done my best to memorise the turns on the way out and this strategy worked quite well; no mistakes. Once back east of Measham and on familiar territory I took a different way home through Packington and along Alton Hill.

Very nice run out. Only 44.56 miles but it felt like a bit of an adventure. I always feel a bit out of my comfort zone a bit when I go out west, not sure why really. Perhaps it’s just familiarity but I feel a lot further from home 20 miles west of where I live than 20 miles south. Something to do with territorial psychology.

My right knee felt a bit sore after I got back but nothing overly concerning. It had done 110 miles over the previous 54 hours and I’m happy with the way it coped. The knee situation does seem to be improving, still. I wouldn’t say I’ve turned a corner but I’m on a long bend.

Anyway – that’s 301 this month and 4202 this year. Would be really nice if I could do another 184 before the end of the month because that would take me to 20,000 miles over the last five years exactly. But I doubt that family commitments and weather conditions in the rest of 2019 will allow that.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2951498508

Upper Broughton

I got up early this morning, with the intention of doing a longish ride. It had rained heavily overnight but no more rain was expected until this evening. I knew the roads would be wet and that it would be cold, but I’d decided to tolerate it.

When I actually looked out of the front door though I decided that I wasn’t going to tolerate it, after all. Just too cold and dank. I went back to bed.

By 11-ish though conditions had brightened up a bit. I mounted the Boardman at about 11:08. The wind was blowing from the south today, meaning that I wouldn’t face a headwind on the way back if I ventured out east. So I did that; the usual route over to Belvoir Castle.

I thought I’d do 50 or so; maybe even a Fondo although I knew that would mean riding in the dark for at least the last few miles. By the time I’d got to Six Hills I’d more or less decided to do the required 62.14 for the December Fondo.

Just after 23 miles, with about 8 to do before turning back for home I took a left turn on a whim. I thought I’d do 8 along wherever that led me, then come back. I reached a T junction after a couple of miles though. Turned right and reached another T junction, on the A406 at a place called Upper Broughton. This had been a pleasant detour along a well-surfaced, not too hilly, post-apocalyptically quiet road – but I wasn’t going to get 8 miles out of it so decided to turn back for the main route at this point. I did the maths, continued on the main road out east for another 5 miles or so (a bit more than I needed for a Fondo) and turned for home near Long Clawson.

I’d been thinking of stopping at the Greyhound at Burton on the Wolds as usual for a late lunch and possibly a beer, but decided to press on and make the most of the remaining 40 minutes of light. The sun set at 15:52 round these parts today, as indeed it does tomorrow. The earliest sunsets of 2019.

Stopped to put a head torch on about 4 miles from home, and a minute later the rain, threatened for about 7pm, turned up early. It was coming down quite fast. Not a lot of fun pedalling in the cold and dark with your clothing starting to saturate and cold rain lashing off your face. But as I always say – I choose to do these things not because they are easy. But because I am hard. And at least it was only 4 miles!

Back on 65.67 miles. I was slightly concerned that my Garmin watch was going to run out of juice over the last 15 miles when it was on a single bar on the battery indicator, but it didn’t.

I trialled some new cycling socks on this ride. Very comfy and bigger than the ones I bought in a sale from Halfords a few years ago. I thought I’d ordered a pack of three pairs from Amazon, but six pairs turned up.  I suppose I must have ordered them twice accidentally.

Quite a lot of standing water and the fields near the rivers still look waterlogged. The River Soar at Zouch has spilled over its banks and formed a sort of lake on the Nottinghamshire border. Had to pedal through water about an inch deep near Cotes, and got sprayed by an oncoming car.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2947513667

That takes me through my target for 2019 of 4100 miles. 4157 this year, 256 this month. Still more to do.

Towards Cotes

Didn’t want to waste a day with no rain. And with the thought expressed in the last paragraph of my previous post foremost in my mind, I decided I’d take the Planet X out today, and stop babying it so much. However as I approached the garage it became evident that the roads were actually pretty wet. So I took the hybrid instead.

Wasn’t sure how many I wanted to do – 30 or 40. The wind was coming from the south rather than the west today, so I headed out east. The usual route out through Six Hills and toward Belvoir Castle and Lincs, but I didn’t intend to go nearly that far.

I stopped for a wee along Stanford Lane, after about 14.5 miles – then decided I’d turn for home. I reckoned that if I took the longer route home through Long Whatton and Diseworth, I’d end up on a bit more than 30 miles. I did that. It was 31.41, as it turned out.

The hybrid was fine; I still haven’t fixed the gears nearly two years after I changed out the cable but it’s very usable. I did run out of steam on the way back and had to stop for a rest and a half oat bar. I’m sure the bike’s weight contributed to that.

Sunny on the way out, went a bit gloomy later and started to rain a bit. Back well before dark this time.

191 this month, 4092 this year which is only a few miles off my most recently defined target, 4100 miles. But I hope to do at least another 110 or so before 2020 kicks in.

Saw a couple of young deer crossing the road ahead of me near Zouch. I thought they were dogs at first but I had a clear view of them in the woods to my right as I passed; definitely deer. Quite small, one with stubby antlers, the other without. Also not far from Zouch I noticed a bit of a flood due to a blocked drain. I stopped and prodded down the grate with a stick I found lying nearby, but it didn’t help the situation much. I pushed the stick in quite deep but it was just pushing into mud.

Over a year ago I asked my physio what she thought my chances were of doing 100+ mile rides again. She said that if I could do 40+ miles on consecutive days without hurting myself, that would be a positive sign. I haven’t actually done that but I have no doubt that I could have done another 10. So I’m encouraged.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2935022709

Twycross

Looked dry enough out this morning. Togged myself up in my cold weather cycling gear, prepared a pod with an oat bar and pork pie, water bottle, DAB radio – then I looked out of the window again and it was raining.

Decided against it and put my shorts and t shirt back on. An hour later though it had stopped and the weather forecast told me I had a decent chance of acceptable weather over a few hours, so I put my cycling togs back on and withdrew the Boardman again. The roads were a bit wet and it was cold. It was fairly windy. But the sun was shining and the rain clouds had given way to blue skies.

Wasn’t sure where I wanted to go so I defaulted to a Twycross. Thought I’d do about 40 miles or so. Too cold for anything much longer, although I had good lights on me in case I did stay out longer than I’d intended.

Took a right turn not long after Snarestone, to do the longer Orton extension – however I took a wrong turn at Norton. Arrived at the A444 expecting to be at a crossroads, but found myself at a T junction. So I followed the A444 down to Twycross. Hadn’t been on that stretch of the A444 before I don’t think, but it was fine. Not too busy.

Did the shorter Orton detour to Sheepy from Twycross.

From there I went to Ratcliffe hoping to do Atterton Lane via Mythe Lane, but as I half expected, Mythe Lane was flooded. I tracked back and carried on the old-fashioned way through Ratcliffe Culey then down to Fenn Lanes where I picked up a nice tailwind. Would have taken a pic of the flood but realised that my phone had a flat battery when I tried to power it up.

Pretty much the standard way home from there, up through Bosworth, Barton, Odstone, Heather.

I checked my watch near Bosworth to find that I’d done about 33 miles and would likely be home on less than 40 miles, which was a bit disappointing. But then I remembered that I hadn’t switched “Ultratrac” mode off since last time I used it, so had probably done a couple more than that.

My left cleat failed to engage properly with the pedal over the whole ride, annoyingly. It was comfortable enough but it wouldn’t stay locked in. Will replace it tomorrow; it’s worn down.

The watch claimed 37.33 miles as I arrived home. Strava’s distance correction modified that to 40.69, but it was actually 41.59.

Listened to footy on 5 Live for most of the ride. Can’t see anyone catching Liverpool now.

So: 159 in December, happy enough with that for half-way through the month. There’s still lots of rain in the forecast for the next week or two though.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2932604447

I wonder if I should buy a second winter bike. The Boardman is running fine at the moment but it’s something of a Winter Bike Single Point of Failure, not counting the hybrid which is a bit of a last resort. It’s also done more than twice as many miles as any of my other bikes this year.

Typical Twycross

My knees hadn’t had their customary day off, but the sun was shining and the weather is a bit forbidding for the rest of the week, so I took a long lunch break and did a Twycrosser. Set off at 15:10 so about half the ride was performed in darkness, but I enjoy an occasional run out in the dark, especially with a bit of moonlight. Took a decent head torch. I still haven’t bought an oncoming-motorist-retribution model yet.

A very typical Twycross really – down to Sheepy, across to Bosworth and up through Carlton and Barton. I’d actually only intended to do 15 or 20 but I did 23.62. And that takes me through the 4,000 mile barrier, to 4019 miles.

Because it was a relatively short ride, I lazily didn’t bother with my overshoes and was punished for it; my feet felt like blocks of ice over the last 7 or 8 miles. Thawing out nicely now.

As I returned to the garage, I noticed that another mouse had met its end in there, presumably overnight. Looked mercifully quick. 21-0.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2922122842

Fenn Lanes Backwards

Although it had rained overnight, the roads weren’t really that wet today. And it wasn’t too cold. It was most definitely windy, though.

Since I’m on call again today I didn’t want to venture too far from base. But I wanted to do 47.46 miles, because that would take me to 4,000 miles in 2019. I set off on the Boardman at 10:55, with the vague idea of going south for 10 miles or so, then turning to go up to Melbourne or Ticknall, then back home southward.

That’s not actually what I did, though. I took an indirect route to Bosworth, then from there to Shenton and Sutton Cheney, where I decided to go along Fenn Lanes all the way down and across to Fenny Drayton. From there I went north to Sibson, then Sheepy Magna and back up through Twycross – a sort of reverse Twycross, with an eastward bulge.

I’d picked up a few spots of rain but mostly, the sun was shining. And the wind only really bothered me when going west.

Took the following pic along Ambion Lane between Bosworth and Cheney. I don’t believe I’ve ever been along there before. Certainly I have no memory of passing the Battle of Bosworth visitor’s centre, as I did today. And yet it seems the obvious route from Shenton to Bosworth, and I’m sure I’ve been through Shenton to Bosworth before. Odd. Must have a look through my old tracks.

I went all the way up to Packington, thinking of making my way up to Melbourne from there. I thought I might even end up doing a Fondo. So I turned to pedal up through Coleorton, toward Melbourne. At that point the rain started to come down. It hadn’t been forecast for the afternoon. It didn’t last long to be fair but conditions had gone a bit gloomy by this time. And since it was cold and due to get dark before long, and since I was on call anyway, I decided to call it a day and came home again, through Newbold and back down through Coleorton.

I used my Garmin Instinct to track the ride in ‘Ultratrac’ mode. This is a power-saving mode that records your position at a much lower frequency. I believe it interpolates points using the inbuilt compass. This sort of works – it does record a very rough version of the track, as you can see from this Strava screenshot:

.. but predictably, it does rob you of distance. I knew it was doing this when I reached my ‘2 miles from home’ landmark in Ibstock, and the watch claimed 1.8.

Initially after I uploaded the track, Strava alleged that I’d done 36.93. The Strava distance correction facility modified that to 41.35. In fact though the route planner tells me that I did 42.61 at a minimum, so that’s the figure that’s gone in the spreadsheet.

Ultratrac mode is not that useful to me, really. I might use it in an emergency or maybe to record a long car journey, just to work out the route I’d taken after the fact. But for a really long bike ride, if I ever do one again, I’d use my Foretrex which can be replenished with energy in the form of AAA batteries without interrupting a track.

Still a few miles short of 4000 then. 94 this month, 3995 this year. Would be nice to think there’ll be a dry, mild day for the December Fondo, but I won’t be too bothered if I don’t do that.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2919879353

Amusingly, Strava claims that my average speed for this ride was 18.8mph, and my maximum 43.8mph. I assume the Ultratrac recording method has messed with it somewhat.

I may go out again tomorrow on a long lunch break, the forecast says sunshine and 8 degrees C in the afternoon.

More Twycross

Took a long lunch break and did a Twycross. 25.05 miles; that’s 51 this month.

I wouldn’t say it was mild exactly, but it was on the mild side of cold. It was certainly sunny. The roads were mostly wet though; I assume from thawed frost as I don’t think it’s rained this last day or two. Quite an enjoyable run out.

As you can see from my shadow, I take a 64 inch inside leg. So hard finding jeans to fit.

Back well before sunset. No interesting wildlife of note save a crow (or some sort of corvid anyway) pulling long stringy bits out of a roadkill pheasant. Yuck.