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

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.