1st Nov 2008

After recent hilly rides I picked a very flat route for this Saturday ride. But this was wind-training rather than hill-training as there was a bitter and strong NE wind blowing. It was grey and drizzly as I cycled from home via Drayton to the Hanneys. The Hanney Road was extensively covered in mud from tractors, which was slippery in the damp conditions, and with the crosswind it wasn’t the most pleasant stretch. From West Hanney I turned north into the wind and cycled via Lyford and Charney Bassett to join the B4508. This is a very quiet B-road, I barely saw a dozen cars all the way through Hatford, Shellingford, Fernham and Longcot. This was the wind assisted stretch as I was heading southwest.

Of course that meant I had to head into the wind all the way back! Through Uffington and Baulking the weather was thinking about getting worse but it was a lovely stretch with the White Horse on top of its hill in sight all the way on my right. I had to join the A417 for a few hundred metres before turning through Goosey and Denchworth. Soon I was back in West Hanney to repeat the open stretch back to Steventon. With the wind coming from my left threatening to push me into the centre of the road and even more mud on this side of the road I was glad to get that bit done safely. I turned right in Steventon to take in the only hill on the entire route, the short but steepish hill up to Milton Hill which I descended on the A4130 and under the A34 at Milton Interchange. Through Milton and back home.

Shortly after getting back home the heavens opened for a truly miserable afternoon and evening so I got the ride done just in time.

Distance :: 38.03 mi
Time :: 2h31m30s
Average Active Speed :: 15.06 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

26th Oct 2008

As I looked out of the window at 6.30am on the morning the clocks went back it was pouring with rain and the wind was blowing strongly. Did I really want to take my cold and cycle in this? I nearly didn’t but in the end the weather further north was nowhere near as bad and I don’t want to be a fair-weather cyclist!

I met up with my brother around the midpoint between our homes near Warwick services on the M40 at Burton Dassett Hills Country Park. At 8.45am it was wet and bleak on top of the hill but there was brightness to the north where the weather was coming from. We had worked out a route, partly from a route in an old book of cycling on Warwickshire lanes and partly out of my head (and to avoid the bridleway bit which I thought might be muddy!).

The Country Park is right on top of a hill and has a distinctive beacon visible from the M40. In the light rain we zipped down the hill to Northend and along the lanes towards Knightcote. A beautifully smooth and deserted lane (Hambridge Road) took us north. The lane only seems to serve a couple of isolated properties yet is one of the best maintained roads I have ever seen! We reached the outskirts of Bishop’s Itchington and turned the wrong way according to the route but decided to keep going as we could rejoin the route further on. Unfortunately this meant we missed cycling past the Bishops Bowl Lakes so we’re not sure what we missed there.

We cycled through Deppers Bridge and on to Harbury. The squat and spreading church looks interesting with it’s huge flying buttresses and Harbury itself seems a pleasant village as the rain petered out. After Harbury we cycled past Chesterton Windmill isolated on its hilltop and upon it’s stone arches and columns, a most unusual sight. Through Chesterton Green we diverted from the book route along a narrow lane labelled on the 1:25k OS maps as the Warwickshire Feldon Cycle Way. We navigated several cattle grids before the lane crossed the M40 and the rumbling traffic below. Lighthorne has a steep descent down and up again and the village is nestled either side of a narrow valley.

Some lovely cylcing lanes followed, unfenced in places with farm and heathland alongside and we descended into Kineton of which we only saw the very outskirts as we turned back north and through Chadshunt. Most of this road was walled and had some fast traffic but it wasn’t long before we arrived in Gaydon crossed the busy B4100 and onto another well-surfaced and tiny lane (amusingly called Pimple Lane for some reason) which crossed the M40 and took us back to Northend. Only the final steep climb back up to our cars was left. As we got back to the cars there was blue skies about to arrive and my initial fears of getting very wet and cold were unfounded.

It was great to meet up with my brother and see his Bike Friday in action, a complete contrast to my tourer but very capable as his NZ to UK blog attests! I look forward to further rides with him in the future.

Distance :: 23.52 mi
Time :: 1h57m27s
Average Active Speed :: 12.01 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

22nd Oct 2008

Fairly uneventful cycle to and from work in glorious autumnal weather. On the way in I did a 17 mile route via Appleford, Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham, North Moreton, South Morteon and Cholsey. ON the way back I basically reversed the route but removed the loop via Little and Long Wittenham, this is almost 4 miles shorter which is quite surprising. Of course it’s almost dark by the time I get home now so don’t want to spend too long on the roads making the routes longer.

At the time of writing I’m currently running 7th on the Run.GPS Community Server for strongest calorie burner for October! Also 8th for total distance and total training duration. You can find me on their Hall of Fame.

Distance :: 17.26 mi
Time :: 1h08m18s
Average Active Speed :: 15.16 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 13.41 mi
Time :: 0h53m23s
Average Active Speed :: 15.08 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

18th Oct 2008

Cotswolds last week and the Chilterns this week. This was the toughest training ride I’ve done. Not especially long but there were some ‘serious’ hills on this one. I borrowed the route from Bikely which basically crosses the Chilterns from west to east and back again in a circular route. I didn’t know many of the roads but I knew Watlington Hill was going to be a proper climb. In the end that one wasn’t too bad, it was long and steep but not really a problem.

Anyway, I started in Crowmarsh Gifford and headed north through Benson to Ewelme and Brightwell Baldwin. The route joined the B480 at Cuxham and went through Watlington and up the aforementioned hill, which measures out at 1 in 8 (13%), to Christmas Common. The ride along the ridge was great and crossed the M40 near the large chalk cutting at Stokenchurch Hill. A very short stretch along the wide A40 and back onto minor roads at Junction 7 of the M40. A very fast descent followed through Ibstone down to Fingest. Then another serious climb up Dolesden Lane, this one was quite deceptive as it gradually got steeper and steeper towards the top up a very narrow road in a tiny valley. It was only when I looked back when I got to the top then I got a real sense of how steep it really was, measured from a map the last 200 m are 1 in 6 (16%) and the whole hill averages at 1 in 10 (10%) over about 1 km.

After this it was nice to have a descent back down into the valley I had just climbed out of! The narrow roads took me to Fawley Bottom and another short but very steep climb back up the other side of the valley, only 300 m long but the average gradient is greater than 1 in 5 (20%). Again all the altitude gained was lost almost immediately in a fast descent back down to Lower Assendon, the lowest point on the whole route. I had now basically crossed the Chilterns from Watlington to Henley.

The last really big climb followed, up Bix Hill, again pretty short (less than 1 km) but averaging out at 1 in 7 (14%). This very minor road was a useful bypass to the dual-carriageway alongside which I hadn’t known about before. I was slightly surprised to then join a busy road towards Rotherfield Greys, my legs were getting a bit tired after the hills so it was with a slower pace that I cycled to Highmoor Cross and a short descent followed by the climb up to Stoke Row, I was on autopilot up this 1 in 10 (10%) hill and again looking back from the top showed me the scale of the ascent through the woods. I hardly appreciated the autumn colours. I took a well-earned rest at the Maharajah’s Well before the final few miles back to the car.

These are pretty wooded lanes and I was following the NCN 5 along part of the way down Berins Hill to Well Place. It was all plain sailing from here with the rolling countryside taking me to the final descent down Crowmarsh Hill and back to the Thames Valley.

The route was very pretty, the weather was a bit average, light winds but a couple of light rain showers. My legs knew I had done those hills by the time I got back to the car and this was easily tougher cycling than the previous weeks 60 mile route. I was pleased with the average speed though, on such undulating terrain glad I posted >10 mph, also no getting off and pushing anywhere, I cycled every metre of those hills (although I did rest halfway up a couple!).

Distance :: 38.85 mi
Time :: 2h59m43s
Average Active Speed :: 12.97 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

13th Oct 2008

Should I get straight back on the bike after a 60 miler? I’m glad I did, I did consider not cycling in to work but decided I should as a test of getting up early and getting back on the bike after a long day in the saddle the day before.

I left a little late so didn’t add in too many loops but did go up via Little Wittenham and over the clumps. This is now my favourite route, the road is almost deserted and the views in the twilight are stunning and a good wake me up. I wanted to do exactly the same route home, I’ve not done this for a long time so was interested in reversing all the hills. Which was fun, the views from the clumps in the evening twilight are even better, how could anyone not want to cycle and miss all of this?

Really pleased I cycled as I felt strong, a little saddle sore but overall it was great.

Distance :: 12.29 mi
Time :: 0h51m17s
Average Active Speed :: 14.38 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 12.31 mi
Time :: 0h54m41s
Average Active Speed :: 13.50 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

12th Oct 2008

Longest and hilliest training run to date. Joined my Brother-in-Law for a long ride through the Cotswolds in a big loop around Chipping Norton via Stow-on-the Wold (the highest Costwold town apparently). We started in Middle Barton for an undulating ride through tiny villages (Over Worton, Sandford St Martin, Nether Worton, South Newington, Wigginton and Swerford) to Hook Norton. Beautiful golden houses in the autumn sunshine greeted us. We were mostly riding along tiny lanes and from Hook Norton we had a nice downhill to be taken by surprise by Traitor’s Ford around a corner at the bottom, splash!

More tiny villages (Lower Brailes, Sutton-under-Brailes, Stourton, Cherington, Little Wolford, Great Wolford and Evenlode), wooded lanes and undulations eventually got us to Broadwell and the bottom of the long steep climb into Stow. This was our planned lunch stop at just under 30 mi and where our families were meeting us for lunch. We found a lovely hotel serving Sunday lunch, and even if you’re not supposed to tucked into the generous portions of food.

After a break of about 90 mins it was back on the bikes for the ride back. Starting with the fast descent out of Stow through Maugersbury and on to the B4450 to Bledington. It was here that I took a chance with the route and went along the narrow surfaced road to Foscot. Eventually it turned into a stone track with large puddles but it was only a few hundred metres of off-road cycling that got us back on to the tarmac at Bruern. Pretty villages Milton-under Wychwood and Shipton-under-Wychwood before a mean climb up to Shipton Down, it didn’t look much from the bottom but it was pretty long and steep and slightly unexpected! The downhill stretch was glorious though, down a narrow valley with woods to one side and a stream to the other. This took us down into Swinbrook and our second ford crossing of the day.

Navigating the small lanes became increasingly tricky along the next stretch as there were many of them and neither of us were over familiar with the geography of the area. Frequent map checks were required even with the GPSr pointing the way. But we went through Asthall Leigh and Minster Lovell and then onto even tinier lanes and small hamlets before stopping for a brief rest on Ashford Bridge over the River Evenlode. This preceded the last serious climb into Stonesfield which was nowhere near as bad as I remember from driving. This was followed by a long flat straight to cross the A44 and into Wootton. This village has a short steep drop and over the River Glyme and then a short steep climb back up to the church. I found the last four flat miles fairly dull and the scenery was much less interesting, or maybe I was counting down the miles back. I’m sure the sign that said Middle Barton 4, was very wrong! One last descent and we were back in Middle Barton.

The battery ran out on the PDA after 46 mi but I will have a new solution to this problem soon. Total cycling time was about 5.25 hr. A very beautiful day weather-wise and cycling-wise. Some great scenery and excellent cycling country despite the frequent hills (there is 1000 m of ascent on this route)! A good test and passed with flying colours!

Distance :: 46.44 mi (GPSr track is 61.82 mi)
Time :: 3h43m14s
Average Active Speed :: 12.48 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

6th Oct 2008

Crazy convoluted routes to work FTW! My journey in was probably my maddest yet with two loops adding 8 miles to a direct route. I almost bailed out as well as it took me a few miles to get going in the morning. Out through Appleford and then down the Ladygrove to Didcot, past Tesco on the A4130 before turning right to South Moreton. Then up to North Moreton and across the A4130 to Long Wittenham. Little Wittenham was next with the climb up to the clumps (this is easy now, and much easier than Boars Hill was on Saturday). Fast down back onto Sires Hill and across the A4130 again and through the pretty village of Britwell cum Sotwell and into Wallingford.

Another new route for the way home. I cycled with a colleague as far as Britwell cum Sotwell and then went up Sires Hill, bypassing Wittenham Clumps I reversed the morning’s route as far as South Moreton. Then I cycled to Aston Upthorpe and to East Hagbourne (includes a busy section of the B4016). At East Hagbourne I went to Coscote into Didcot and then along the cycle track alongside the power station road home. I was flying on the way home and despite the drizzle and darkness could have kept going.

Distance :: 17.87 mi
Time :: 1h14m15s
Average Active Speed :: 14.44 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 16.27 mi
Time :: 1h08m32s
Average Active Speed :: 14.24 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

4th Oct 2008

My best made up route to date I think. On my own again after our planned ride to my brother’s in Leicestershire was postponed. This route had a nice contrast between the flat cycling in the Vale of White Horse and the wooded hills south of Oxford. Plus some riverside cycling in Abingdon. Despite a keen SW wind I set off westwards to Steventon and the Hanneys before turning north to Southmoor and over the A420 using the handy bridleway bridge discovered last week.

The wind blew me NE to Appleton and Eaton where I headed to Bessels Leigh and across the A420 to Wootton. I then had the climb up Old Boars Hill (which wasn’t too bad) and a long descent through Bayworth, over the A34 and into Radley. There I joined NCN-5 along Thrupp Lane and past the controversial Radley Lakes (currently being filled with flyash from Didcot Power Station). The offroad cycle route joins the old Abingdon branch trackbed and turns into the Abbey Grounds and alongside one of the Thames backwaters. This was another potholed and rough section of offroad NCN, if they want users of road bikes to use these paths then they really need to get someone to maintain them.

Following the NCN route (down a kerb and across a junction with no provision for cycles!) to the old wharf and south out of Abingdon alongside the Thames and down Peep-o-day Lane to Sutton Courtenay. The wind was against me for the last few miles but nothing too bad. Felt pretty strong today, shame the longer cycle was postponed as it was quite a pleasant day.

Distance :: 32.23 mi
Time :: 2h14m09s
Average Active Speed :: 14.41 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

30th Sep 2008

Lycra. I might look like a bit of a tit but boy is it comfy! I acquired some lycra cycling shorts and tights(!) and they are so ace for cycling in. I felt very strong today, it was a shame I had to go to work as I could have kept cycling.

On the way in I kept to the same route as on the 24th except I didn’t do the offroad bit to Long Wittenham but stayed on the B4016 to the bottom of Sire’s Hill. This made it about a mile longer than before. On the way home I made up a new route, turning north from the centre of Wallingford to Shillingford and over the Thames. A short distance on the A4074 before turning on to the old road through Dorchester. I then used the newish cycle path alongside the A415 through Burcot before turning south at Clifton Hampden to Long Wittenham. Then for the second time today I went to Little Wittenham and up the hill to the clumps before turning right and going back up the hill to Sire’s Hill! I was then back on the B4016 through Appleford and home.

Again I had a few technical problems with the PDA crashing on the way in and the GPSr batteries failing just before I got home!

Distance :: 15.32 mi (GPSr track is 17.72 mi)
Time :: 1h01m02s
Average Active Speed :: 15.06 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 16.19 mi (GPSr track is 17.23 mi)
Time :: 1h06m38s
Average Active Speed :: 14.57 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

27th Sep 2008

I joined the Wantage CTC for the first time today on what they describe as an Easy-Rider. It was a fantastic day for cycling, sunny and calm. The pace was much slower than I have been doing and it was very relaxed. It was also somewhat of a mystery tour as I had no idea where we were going! A dozen of us started in Grove and headed north through Denchworth and Charney Bassett towards the A420 at Southmoor. A handy bridleway bridge took us over the main road and east to Fyfield. A tunnel back under the A420 meant we didn’t need to try and cross the traffic at all as we went past Tubney and the golf course at Frilford Heath.

The group then headed towards Abingdon through Gozzard’s Ford, past the Airfield and through Shippon. We went through Abingdon town negotiating the traffic and had an enforced break at the old canal wharf next to the Thames as one of the group fixed a puncture. The plan was to have tea at Chilton garden centre so we turned south and cycled through Drayton and Steventon. This was the only significant hill on the route from Steventon to Milton Hill. We were behind schedule so we stopped at the Q-tea rooms for tea and cake before cutting the route short down Featherbed Lane to the A417.

We cycled west along the A417 past the Hendreds and turned right past Lains Barn. This was a good downhill stretch which took us to the A338 and back to Grove.

The distance covered was a little less than I expected but due to some delays the route was shortened a little to get back in the light. I chatted to a few of the members along the way and everyone seemed very friendly and enjoying the beautiful weather. I might try one of the longer moderate rides next! The GPSr and PDA got disconnected for a short while again.

Distance :: 23.31 mi (GPSr track is 28.18 mi)
Time :: 2h00m17s
Average Active Speed :: 11.63 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile