24th Sep 2008

Today was Green Travel to Work day at my place. So if you travelled in a ‘green’ fashion you got a free lunch. I made the effort and I had some time so I lengthened the route. On the way in I went via Appleford, Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham, Sire’s Hill, North Moreton, South Moreton and Cholsey. It was a calm, cool and cloudy morning and was a good cycle. No problems with the ‘hills’ and even the Cholsey Mile (dead straight and flat) wasn’t too bad. Probably the main issue with this route is the off-road section of NCN route 5 to Long Wittenham, it’s potholed and rough and could do with some maintenance.

On the way home I turned towards Aston Upthorpe at South Moreton and went via East Hagbourne, Didcot, Harwell and Milton. This is a much busier route and involves some B-roads and some tricky right turns on to main roads. Not too bad though. There was a fairly stiff NE breeze but it didn’t bother me too much (Benson reported 15 mph NNE wind). Got home in the fading light which was just as well as the batteries on my back light failed.

The nice thing about these routes is I factored in several bail out points, if the weather turned bad or I was short of time I could easily cut off a few miles.

Distance :: 16.25 mi
Time :: 1h06m48s
Average Active Speed :: 14.59 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 16.05 mi
Time :: 1h06m32s
Average Active Speed :: 14.48 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile


20th Sep 2008

Unfortunately Andrew had to work last minute so our planned joint ride didn’t happen. So I looked up some routes in South Oxfordshire and went off on my own. I came across the Wantage Section of the Cycling Touring Club (CTC) and they did a 36 mile route around the Vale of White Horse a few weeks ago so I shamelessly stole that route to see what it was like.

It was a beautiful morning for cycling, sunny, warmish and calm. The Vale of White Horse is stunningly beautiful when you’re doing around 15mph on a bike. I drove to Grove and parked at the recreation ground and set off from there. Down to Wantage and a short stretch along the A417 to East Challow. There is a good surfaced track that runs parallel to the B4507 to Childrey which was a useful find. Then along deserted lanes through Sparsholt and Westcot. At this point I had to join the B4507 for a short stretch to turn towards Uffington, but it was very quiet. Probably the best part of the ride was through Uffington to Shrivenham. Deserted lanes with views to my left up to the White Horse and Uffington castle. Following and crossing the course of the old Wilts & Berks canal as it meanders through the valley. Hopefully we’ll see boats on this again one day.

A fast descent followed by a reasonable climb soon found me in Highworth where there was a street fair, I got off the bike and strolled through the stores of goodies and resisted buying lots of cake! I knew what was coming next, the B4019 to Faringdon is undulating to say the least, I’ve driven it a few times. The first climb wasn’t too bad and I took my first short break halfway up at Coleshill, for a small chocolate bar and some water. I sat outside the church for 10 minutes and then pushed on.

The worst was to come. Badbury Hill with it’s Iron Age hill fort on the top is steep, the sign at the bottom said 8% but I thought that was overly optimistic (the final 150m measured on a map when I got home says it’s more like 14% or 1-in-7 in old money). I got about three-quarters of the way up and I admit I had to push the last 100m, but I didn’t feel too bad about doing that. It was mostly downhill from there then. Past the amazing Great Coxwell barn which is well worth a visit. The A420 crossing between the Coxwells wouldn’t go down in my top 10 of life experiences, it was a wait patiently and then dash across moment. More quiet lanes and villages followed, Fernham, Shellingford, Hatford, Charney Bassett and Denchworth. I had another brief rest stop before Denchworth. And then I was back in Grove for the tedious last mile through the housing estate.

I found it quite difficult to pace myself and frequently found I was going much faster than I intended, but in the end it all went well. A lovely ride.

Distance :: 36.49 mi
Time :: 2h30m52s
Average Active Speed :: 14.51 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

15th Sep 2008

I’m fortunate (in a cycling training sense) to live about 10 miles from work. This gives me a good opportunity to get some rides in during the week. The distance is about right for a decent ride and it’s very flat so I can push myself a little harder than I would on a longer ride.

There is a good network of minor roads as well so I can vary the route and make it longer or take in a hill or two if I want. I usually cycle home a different way to the morning. Yesterday I was a bit pushed for time so I went for the quickest routes, unfortunately my GPSr and PDA got disconnected about halfway in so I’m missing part of the log, I did however have to go home after the first couple of miles as I’d forgotten something so the total distance isn’t far off! I was cycling with two reasonably full panniers as well with a change of clothes, shoes etc.

On the way in there is one short sharp climb up to Sire’s Hill and then a long descent. I sometimes vary this by following the NCN route which goes through Long Wittenham, Little Wittenham and past Wittenham Clumps, this is a longer steeper hill.

On the way back I chose the very direct route from Wallingford, through South Moreton to Didcot. This does include one of my hated cycling roads though, the Hithercroft. It’s a narrow, exposed, busy stretch where cars often give you little room and there are frequent potholes that a cyclist needs to avoid. Despite being a minor road it is well used as a rat-run to avoid the A4130 and to get to the A417 near Blewbury. If the wind is up or if it’s raining, it’s also a miserable stretch as there are open fields on both sides with no shelter.

This route is very flat, the only ‘hills’ are crossing the railway bridges!

Distance :: 9.36 mi (GPSr track is 13.91 mi)
Time :: 39m24s
Average Active Speed :: 14.25 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

Distance :: 10.28 mi
Time :: 40m31s
Average Active Speed :: 15.22 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile


14th Sep 2008

First ride on the Ridgeback. I’ve decided only to blog rides from this ride forward, I’ve been doing some training rides on my old hybrid bike over the past few weeks but let’s call yesterday Day One of LEJOG training.

So I’m doing LEJOG with my Brother-in-Law Andrew and his friend Tom at the moment. Andrew and I are both 40 next birthday so maybe this is a classic mid-life crisis thing and you might be right in thinking so! I think my brother, who did the LEJOG with his wife in 2001, maybe tempted to join us. At least for part of the journey, if not the whole thing!

Anyway, back to training ride numero uno. Andrew and I took a fairly easy run through the Vale of White Horse (very flat) from my house through Drayton, Steventon and onto the Hanneys. Turning south through Grove and Wantage we joined the National Cycle Network (NCN) local route 44 towards Didcot. I sometimes wonder if anyone from Sustrans has actually cycled some of these routes, because they are occasionally crazy, making you drop down kerbs and cycle along potholed and dangerous tracks.

Through the beautifully managed villages of Lockinge and Ginge it was a shame it was so foggy as this stretch is lovely and very quiet country lanes. Through the Harwell site (another crazy bit of NCN over a grassy bank) and to the summit of the ride above Upton. A fast descent took us down onto the dismantled Didcot Newbury & Southampton Railway embankment to Didcot. This high embankment has recently been converted into a cycle/footpath and is a pleasure to cycle upon (even if you have to avoid smashed green bottles near Didcot). Through Didcot and joining NCN Route 5 behind the Power Station and home.

Having a good touring bike makes such a difference, the hybrid was hard work over even relatively short distances. Thirty miles on the Ridgeback was a breeze and I could easily have continued.

Distance :: 30.76 mi
Time :: 2h24m36s
Average Active Speed :: 12.75 mph
Run.GPS Training Profile

The Bike

After much umming and arring over make, model and framesize I eventually plumped for a Ridgeback Panorama. Should I play safe and get a Claud Butler or a Dawes, or play the wildcard? This guys blog convinced me the Ridgeback could do it and would be the bike for me. NickTheTrick cycled from Scotland, across the low countries to Denmark and up through Norway on one! It’s early days for my Ridgeback but so far so good as you will see in the training entries to come.

Patrick Taylor has written a nice review of the bike.

Land’s End to John O’ Groats

You may have spied a new category on the left. LEJOG, the classic British cycling tour from the bottom left of Great Britain to the top right. And I’m doing it (hopefully) next spring/summer. Over 1000 miles of cycling in around 18 days. I’ve got the touring bike and I’m now officially in training. Follow my training progress here and when the time comes I will hopefully be able to do daily blogs of progress.