Thursday, 30 December 2010

Almost the Upper Nidderdale 2 Lakes Figure of Eight

North Nidderdale, Lakes and Ice

(UPDATE: More routes and maps on this later post or just scan for Nidderdale.)

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

This route is almost the same as my summer time route but has, unfortunately, to remove the off road sections. This seems a bit chicken, but actually would completely destroy the fun of the ride and make it a hard mud slog. This would be fine sometimes, but it simply would be just a bit too far for me to do on a slow, winter's day.

Pateley Bridge High Street to Swimming Pool & School. The main high street of Pateley Bridge has a classic Yorkshire Dales look. I've done a more complete view from my last winter visit here. As always a joy to be here, especially as the snow has gone affording a reasonable ride up the valley to take place.

Near Wath to Gouthewaite Water. This is the last little bit before the main section beside Gouthewaite water. The reservoir itself is vaguely famous for being in the opening titles of Emmerdale, Britain's third soap. Today's water is considerably colder than the body shown twice weekly on TV. The ducks are stood on the surface, albeit covered in pools of just defrosted water. Vast cracks stretch across and up the lake as if a playful giant has been tapping their finger in various points across the expanse. And a dull mist hangs over and up the valley, keeping the small amount of warmth in.

Ramsgill. This little hamlet comprises a few small houses, and church, and The Yorke Arms, a Michelin starred restaurant. Yes, I did say, Michelin starred restaurant. I've often wondered what it's doing in the middle of the moorland of the Yorkshire Dales, well past the last town in the valley. The only thing I can come up with is that it's a beautiful little place to be! I have had the good fortune to eat here once, courtesy of my friends. However, the bill is not for the fainthearted.

Into Lofthouse from South. Lofthouse is the last village i the valley floor. There isn't much of the valley left and the next village, Middlesmoor, is perched on a outcrop of the medial moraine between the last two remaining valleys.

After Lofthouse, I turn up a non-public road owned by Yorkshire water which acts as an access road to Scar House Reservoir. It's a perfectly fine unclassified road but may not have permanent public access. The first bit has an water extraction point for the valley below, but luckily has preserved the small waterfall above. A delightful small fall that sets one for the remainder of the route up to the Reservoir.

The route up is just a steady slog gaining around 170m elevation in about 3.8miles. This is only around 2.5%, but it feels a tad more! The rough surface of the road can't help. It's split into a northerly section, then a westerly section with the final half mile to the car park near the reservoir really taking up a lot of the strain.

The mountain tops on either side close in the first section and remnants of old mine workings can be seen on the top and along the valley. Turning the corner to the second section opens out again with the height gained giving access to the mountain tops themselves. Scar House Reservoir looks about as bleak as anything up here, with it's Victorian Dam and cracked ice surface.

In the summer, I happily start up the tracks here and cut back across the moorland to the high village of Middlesmoor. It's an unforgiving track that would clearly destroy bikes of lower standard build. Negotiating rocks as big as coffee mugs whilst hurtling downhill is not for the fainthearted. And not for winter for me. There are sections where if you don't look out, you're suddenly 6 foot above the proper track and with 6 foot to stop before a sheer drop to it.

Downhill from Scar House Reservoir. So winter time means a straight reversal of my previous route. This is no bad thing and allows me the opportunity to do the fastest 3.8 miles I've ever done in this country. (Sorry, the Alpes and the Pyrenees offer much longer and faster rides!) The top mile is the joy and comes in at an average, even at this time of year, of around 30mph. After that it's a steady push all the way down. Although hat this time of year, with legs getting very cold on the descent, it's hard to maintain 25mph.

Ramsgill and Gouthewaite Water. A last section alongside the lake, taking in misty views.

Wath to Pateley Bridge up Silver Hill. And finally the back road to east Pateley, avoiding the climb in the town centre but pulling up some pretty tough ones along the valley side. Silver Hill, the first one I do, is graded as a 14-20% climb. However, that's only half of Silver Hill. The turn to the left at the top of the shown Silver Hill, gets you to the second section. Although it's not graded, I reckon it's 20-25% in places. It's at the edge of my abilities certainly. Well, the hard work is all worth it to see some spectacular views from the roadside of the river below.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Blewbury to a Snowy Churn Knob

A New Year's Whatever

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being up The Chalk Pit for the past 3 days, it was time to look for a new route. And I didn't have to think very hard to remember the more demanding Churb Knob path, passing the delightful Frying Pan Wood.

First a little wander round the village. The Churchyard, Play Close, and further Cob Walls before passing The Red Lion and heading up to the beginning of the path.

Then, the delight of up.

The views are worth the effort.

Finally, to release all that potential.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit, Added Anglo-Saxon Walls and Hills

A New Year's Challenge, Part Deux

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After sucessfully negotiating the challenge to video my bike ride yesterday by @russwillis, I thought I'd raise the stakes and add in some further hazards. Again, I do the honour of sharing such an adventure, albeit on the same level as navel gazing. (No, that's not boat spotting.)

Since yesterday, with a degree of ice melting and further passing traffic, the side roads have become a lot more awkward on two wheels. Paths seemed to be the way forward, so my route was carefully planned.

The first section took a gentle route through the village past one of our historic monuments. The thatched Cob wall (appearing at 35 seconds) were partly built in Anglo-Saxon times and are thus over 1000 years old. I do confess that for that period it's like the old "I've 'ad this broom for 20 years, 3 new handles and 4 new brushes" joke. But, they are pretty rare and majestic, and there are several sections in the village.

After the wall, turning up a side road to the pub. Ah, many a happy teenage hour spent in there. Rarely get there now, just one day a year usually: Boxing Day (see Walk).

One last slow corner into Watery Lane. Why, did I choose to come down here? Lethally slippery mud and ice combo with the added attaction of falling off into freezing water. And on a sharp bend! What was I thinking? Then, I clearly lost sight of my marbles and rode across a two-plank wide bridge with very little to stop a slide to either side. Megatastic, not 'arf!

Well, that's where my camera decided it was too cold to work. Having charged the battery so I could get some of the fantastic off-road experience down, the card refused to get any acknowledgement from the machine. What did you miss? Well, quite a bit of fun.

After discovering the joys (and surprising ease) of offroading in the snow yesterday, I thought I'd up the ante. I thought I'd try the hill path to the chalk pit. Having seen the cob walls (and a lot of the cottages) are made of chalk, I'm now going to the place where they dug that chalk out of the ground. This is a haven for adventurous children. I spent many a happy hour (prior to the pub being an interest) performing stupid stunts down the steep sides of this place and up and down the path that goes there. I still venture there now in the summer, but tend to head onwards as it's not that far and coming off a bike brings a lot more bruises and pain than it did aged 10.

The path itself is a bit of a madness. It's just about as steep as you want it both going up and down. As it's in chalk and having had 100s of tons of chalk taken down it, the path is worn into the hillside up to about 10 foot deep. That means for much of the route, visibility is restricted to up and down only. Additionally, as a nice, out of the wind place, it's a great spot for small trees and shrubs to grow. This means the actual path is barely 2 foot across with a lot of scrub around and above. In a couple of places the small path makes it's way up the side of the scar leaving a nice drop into a muddy gully in case of lost footage. Of course, when ending the path and reaching the top of the chalk pit, the view across the Vale of the White Horse is the massive 180 degree view, unfortunately including the "delightful" Didcot Power Station.

Anyway, back to biking in the snow. Needless to say a lot of the path was a case of "push down on pedal, back wheel turns round full cycle, bike goes 1mm further foward, rider topples to left or right ranting mercilessly about the futility of it all". See, told you it was fun!

Actually, it was worth the ride up. I did manage to ride some of it but it was pretty hardpacked by the hundreds of children's feet who'd made the pilgrimage I used to make, with sledges. And also, it was worth seeing the incredulity on a sledging family's face as I made the past the last corner pedalling away in bottom gear!

Getting round the pit really didn't happen in the saddle, but from the top it was onto leather (well, modern plastic, I'm sure) and slide downhill with the brakes full on. Weee! A drop of 20 foot on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other. What could possibly go wrong? Actually it was the straight ahead that went wrong and a nice sideways slide with a flurry of snow as I hurtled towards the sledging family trying to get our of the pit. I dismounted gracefully* and let them have their right of way (* possibly read "shrieking"). The offered me the path for the entirely sane reason that they didn't want me behind them.

The path was a similar joy. A foot off a pedal pretty much all the time with the option of just putting the bike on the side and me ending up sliding down on my feet. The normal dip and tuck around the bushes and ditch that I'm used to down that path replaced with a plough and slip-slide just avoiding* the bushes on either side (* possibly read as "going through").

After that it was back to the normal flat path along crunchy snow until home arrived in view. But with a feeling that a hearty gin might just sort me out for nerves.

From Christmas Eve. I managed to get the camera to work for the trip up and down. Here they are.

The fun of up, including just a bit of walking.

The view is great, even if not sunny.

Then the joy of down. Feet did touch the ground but not entirely in a walking sense.

Then, the short path home.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit

A New Year's Challenge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being challenged to video my bike ride today by @russwillis, I thought I'd share it with all. A very short but challenging route based on the tricky surface, jumping between lumpy soft slush and rock hard crevatous ice without visible warning, and a complete lack of snow tyres!

Anyway, here's the map. Looks very simple, doesn't it?

Well, here are some videos of me slipping and sliding around until confidence slips in!

First of all up Church Road. The first section, a few corners and people to nod to and assuage them of my good purpose. All at the death defying speed of 5mph. I tell you, modern roller coasters have nothing on me!

Followed by South Street. A few twists and turns to quicken the heart rate, but now it all seemed a bit easy. However, pride comes before a fall. Or in my case, startlement, as a Post Office van skids out of a side track just in front of me! It wasn't as near as it looks though.

Then Berry Lane. A level of mastery starts to pervade my mind. "Ha, I've got this" I thought. Then a group of girls in front slip over without the slightest provocation. Instant karma as my confidence disappears in a flash!

Then, at 1:42 and 1:50 along Westbrook Street, what you all wanted to happen to me. Only I didn't go too far from off the saddle! Of course, I had to put up with the lads early on wanting to pelt me with snowballs. They did have the decency to ask if I minded. And people worry about the youth of today.

Unfortunately, the camera ran out of battery (and I couldn't be bothered) before I got to the completely offroad bit. It looked utterly treacherous, and I did question my sanity. However, once going, it was considerable easier than any of the road sections. The lack of compacted snow meant the underlying surface offered much more grip as the tyre mould sank into the powder. Fantastic! A good speed was achievable. I'm not saying over 10mph of course, but certainly more than the 5mph the road had offered.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Chalford Canal Path

A short route along the Golden Valley near Stroud

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route alongside a very down at heels section of the Thames & Severn Canal.

It's possible to extend the route at both ends but it's not for too much longer and gets a bit rougher.

The canal is part of the Cotswold Canals Restoration Project with this section being led by Stroud District Council. This map seems to show it a little better than we found.


Old Neighbouring, the Chalford Climb

A short route up the side of the Golden Valley near Stroud

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route (on Bikely) up the hill. The climb goes up the side of the Golden Valley from the west end of Chalford. It's dominated by the lower slopes that have a sharp slope. The road, called Old Neighbourhood, twists it's way up. The path, our choice, just goes straight up the side.

A few stills from the video. The first is at the junction with the A419 at hte bottom of the hill. The roadsign on the left warns of a 12% slope, but that's by the road and we're doing the steeper path!

This is a bit beyond halfway along the path. The leaves are starting to get thicker on a slope that's hard to ride when clean. This path starts at an impossible slope and just gets steeper. For the stats freaks, it averages 15.2% (673m-312m=361m distance with 143m-88m=55m gain) with the last 46m going up 10m to give 21.7%.

Finally, out of the top of the path and everything seems easy. Apart from it's still around 7% and drags on for another 1300m.

Yes, this is nothing like climbing the Alpes or Pyrenees, but does rate for the UK.

I did Plateau de Beille in 2007, which is one of the top rated Tour climbs. It’s 1220m up in 15.6km averaging 7.8%. That rates 150 on the widely adopted climb rating scale. On the same scale this climb comes in at 73. This is pretty high given it takes me around 5% of the time of the French ride. And, if you do the path, then shoot back down by road to the bottom and do it again 9 further times (thus taking half the time as Plateau de Beille), the rating is 152!

And finally, the video. It's cut in two places for adjustment stops. At first my gears needed to be checked to get to the very bottom ratio and then the weather changed sufficiently by the top requiring some camera protection.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Cycling Videos

A series of videos of routes in and around Cambridge, Oxfordshire, and other rural places

This series of videos were taken by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade lightweight wooden mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

This blog was put together with a few aims in mind.

  • To encourage cycling, taking town cyclists out into the lovely country around and getting new cyclists on their bikes
  • To show easier ways to handle certain junctions
  • To highlight good and poor road layout and design
  • To highlight good and poor behaviour by (other!) road users

Sometimes I do get on my high horse about some aspects of poor behaviour. I think all I'd like to say is that it's a adenaline buzz usually, caused by feeling very vunerable next to anything between 1 and 10 tons of metal.

I want more people to get out on their bikes to challenge that kind of behaviour. It's been shown that the more bikes on the road leads to less accidents due to more familarity.

I cannot emphasise enough that despite some ranting and rolling, there's nothing better than getting out on your bike and the joys of the cycling and being out in the countryside far, far outweigh the perceived dangers. This blog can help people to find the right way to reduce the sometimes scary moments and good ways of avoiding them completely.

I have tri-bars (yes, I'm that fast!) which give me a nice mount position.

I've fashioned a wooden mount for the Canon Ixus camera. It does need the odd tweak to keep the camera steady, although road noise coming up the frame is a problem.

And this is how the screw mounting works.

Recently I've also adjusted the bars to handle maps. The paper create-by-yourself kind. Found it really worked. Cable ties are used to clip keyring mounts for multiple pages. Elastic bands enable a sheet to be rolled up and kept out of the way.

It flaps a bit in the wind, but not enough to be unreadable.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wenhaston, Bramfield, Sibton Green, Warpole, Halesworth

A short route round Coastal Suffolk

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route.

The Route sectioned into Videos.
Wenhaston to Bramfield
- The Street
- Hall Road
- Blackheath Road
- Bramfield Road
- Thorington Road
- Pitman's Grove
- Bridge Street
Bramfield to Sibton Green
- The Street
- Sibton Green
Sibton Green to East Warpole
- (unnamed lane)
- Warpole Road
- (unnamed lane)
East Warpole to Halesworth
- Halesworth Road
- Warpole Road
- London Road
Halesworth to Mells Lane
- London Road
- Bramfield Road
Some of Mells Lane
- Mells Lane
- Heath Road (unvideoed)
- Back Road (unvideoed)

Wenhaston to Bramfield.
A steady section of uphill through Wenhaston leading past the village hall and school and then a nice 25mph descent past The Star pub before turning onto Blackheath Road and past Wootons. The heath has got a couple of small hills just to get the blood pumping before turning left to cross a stream tributary of the river Blyth. This is where cyclists notice the sand, which has been drained by rain water into one place. It's sometimes piled up so high that cycling is really awkward. Then turn up and over the hill (ish) to Bramfield. Alomst a 30mph descent into the village and a turn left onto the main A road.

Bramfield to Sibton Green.
The A144 is possibly the busiest section of this route. Off it quickly and up the hill (ish) to the railway and past Bridge Farm. A steady pace all the way gently up to White Post Farm in Sibton Green.

Sibton Green to East Warpole.
Turning right towards Warpole joins National Cycle Route One! Yep, the middle of nowhere has this main cycle route in it. The route of this cycle-route is best described as "interesting". It's clearly not designed for getting from one point ot another but to swirl around the interesting and quiet places of this area. Hmmm. Anyway, after crossing Warpole Road, a nice downhill section to the B road into Halesworth.

East Warpole to Halesworth.
After joining the B road into Halesworth, the National Cycle Route wanders off to the left to do a nice loop to Cookley Grange before coming back to this route in Halesworth. And, yes, this section of B road is possbiyl also the busiest on this route. It's quickly over and Halesworth looms. The road surface just into town is fantastically smooth, and needs to be as downhill to the Co-op can almost reach 30mph before whipping into the garage for a newspaper.

Halesworth to Mells Lane.
Back out of the Co-op garage and up the hill (ish) out of town. Back onto the A144 to get out of Halesworth. This is where one or two motor vehicles seem to do silly things. Regularly on this section I will get up to, but not exceed, 30mph. Despite being a 30mph limit I've regularly been overtaken, even taking into consideration the turns onto the road adn number of houses close by.

Some of Mells Lane.
And Mells Lane is a nice, back route all the way to Wenhaston. Occasional tractors and locals, and the very odd lorry, as seen towards the end, going to the gravel pit. I managed to run out of camera battery, so didn't get it all.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cambridge, Coton, Madingley, Comberton, Barton, Granchester, Trumpington, Shelford Ride

A short route round west Cambridge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The route in Bikely is here.

Hills Road, Brooklands Avenue, Trumpington Street, Fen Causeway, Queens Road, Cycleway, Adams Road.

Adams Road Cycle Path to Coton.

Coton to Madingley Road A428 Junction.

Madingley Road to Madingley.

Madingley to A428 and Comberton Road.

Comberton Road to Comberton.

Comberton to M11 J12.

M11 J12 to Granchester and Trumpington.

Trumpington to Brooklands Avenue.

New Coe Fen Cyclepath.

Coe Fen Cyclepath and Brooklands Avenue.

Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn, Worsted Street, Magogs, Stapleford, Shelford, Addenbrookes

A short route round south Cambridge

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in some sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Hills Road to Cherry Hinton.

Cherry Hinton to Fulbourn.

Fulbourn to Worsted Street.

Worsted Street to Magogs.

Magogs on A1303.

Magogs to Stapleford.

Stapleford to Shelford.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path BRCA2.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Hills Road.

Hills Road including Railway Bridge.