Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Clocking up the winter miles...

I'm a lucky man...a really lucky man...because this week I've already been out on my bike with two of my best mates! That's the positive message I'd like everyone to take from this blog, because I'm sorry to say I'm really going to be negative at times today.

My first post Christmas ride made me very happy because it was one I shared with the very special human being that is my youngest son SuperSam. As most parents know, you tend to lose kids a bit at his age. You've gone from being the strongest, cleverest, fix anything ist man in the Universe and suddenly your hero plummets towards zero. Every now and again though you have a day when you're the hero again. Boxing Day was my day!

So we pitched up at Wakerley to what has to be the most quintessentially English behaviour ever. There was lots of family groups doing that bewildered wandering that only the English can achieve and to top everything there was also a group with a barbecue on the go having a game of cricket! We're a most magnificent way!

Sam and I hit the trails. If you haven't been to Wakerley Great Wood it's like a mini Cannock Chase. There's nothing like the downhills of lower cliff but there is still plenty to keep offroaders happy. Sam let me take the lead on each section too, which is great because it means he's confident enough to tackle it on his own. I managed a few Strava PR's as a result!

You can see from the pics that it was a lovely day in the woods. Reports from people who did a road ride on Boxing Day suggest that there was a bitter wind away from the trees! I love this place. It's well built, well maintained and frankly a bargain to use! The only problem is the odd stray walker who doesn't understand the difference between a path and a bike route! Sam had a great ride too. He has set himself the target of working on skills and returning regularly to see if he's getting quicker! You've got to love that kid!

I was hoping to ride on the 27th with C&D Cycles CC but looking out of my window on the morning I saw an abundance of frost. Having fallen twice on ice and broken my bike both times I had no intention of setting out on a road bike. Club mates however took no such precaution and rode their bikes. I'm sorry guys, I know it's your choice but I think you're foolish. How can it ever be worth risking life, limb or expensive bike? I might sound a bit judgmental at this point but I can honestly speak from experience. I was lucky enough a few years back to only lose two 105 rear mech's and hangers in quick succession. Both times my desperation to ride overwhelmed my common sense. I'll say it again...there will always be another day to ride!

So to today. Steve contacted me the night before and suggested we head for the Brampton Valley Way and some off road riding. This seemed like the sensible way to get a cycling fix!

It became quite apparent soon into our ride that the roads were really not safe for road bikes. We set out with the intention of avoiding tarmac as much as possible! Not long into the ride I experienced the first mechanical of the day as my rear mech cable detached itself from the shifter. A quick bit of fiddling and we'd solved the problem...or so it seemed!

Just out of Orton we found a bridlepath we couldn't resist exploring. This was a bit of mistake as he going was so heavy that Steve described it as 'worse than Rocky Hill.' He considered engaging his Granny Ring, I embraced the full spin of my very lowest gear! I say mistake but actually this type of suffering was exactly what we were looking for.

Thankfully we made it onto firmer ground and a more manly gear was engaged. We were playing it by ear though and much as we understood our general direction, frankly we had no clue exactly where we were!

That lack of orientation subsided as we saw the house that was formerly Faxton Church near Lamport. I told Steve the story of the cows chasing me out of the field we were in and then we entered the safety of the woods beyond the reach of livestock.

The next picture alludes to the change of weather we were about to encounter. It had until this stage been a bright and sunny but freezing cold day. We were about to enter the fog!

The next picture really sums it up. The ground was firm but frosty. The air was getting cold and clingy!

Closing on Lamport we found this hillock that grabbed my attention. I have no idea what this structure is and will do some research but it looked like early fortification. I wanted to ride down it but the look of the ditch at the bottom persuaded me that it might not end well.Also Steve pointed out I'd either break my bike or do myself a mischief!

Then we found Frank's Hobbit house!

From there we made our way to the A508 where with lights on we cautiously rode to Hanging Houghton. From the world's poshest village we span down an icy hill to the Brampton Valley Way, BRAIN FREEZE! Going down the hill was the coldest thing I've ever done, every bit of me was frozen and I had a splitting headache. The Brampton Valley Way itself was quite pleasant due to the mud being frozen. Steve then checked his Garmin which said the temperature was -6C!

This next picture proves the point. It's not the fog, my camera lens had frosted over! So it was with some relief that we climbed Merry Tom Lane because uphill warms you up! Unfortunately my gears had stopped working again! When we arrived at Brixworth Country Park I discovered that the cable had now detached at the derailleur end! I managed to fix that but lost my bottom two cogs and was not in the mood for more fiddling to get them back. This bike has been so trouble free that it almost owes me the odd mechanical!  

Steve and I headed into the cafe where the magnificent chap bought me a pot of tea. We also discovered 'Arry the Aphid, Steve's new best mate. He stayed with us for a fair few miles! Because not even tea had warmed us sufficiently we had a look around Pitsford Cycles. Dear Chris and money was spent!

Those cobwebs tell a tale. We set off round Pitsford reservoir with freezing extremities which were not improving anytime soon! We said good morning to as many people as possible and it has to also be said that joggers are far more sensible than cyclists as none were seen! At the causeway car park we'd had enough and just wanted to get home. The ride back to Brixworth was dicey as visibility was low and we were happy to have decent lights. However as we hit the top of the hill the world began to change. Soon after that you would not believe it was the same day as we emerged into bright winter sunshine.

We went to Scaldwell, then Old and up mill lane where the above picture was taken. We looked across those crazy bridle paths that had provided a test earlier and laughed at how silly we are! Then my third problem of the front tyre started losing air. It's been a bit leaky since I went tubeless I was just unsure if the sealant had expired or of it just didn't like the cold!

By Harrington, where we could clearly smell the Warner Edwards gin still in full swing, I decided to put more air in. Its was only a few miles home which was lucky because the top up didn't work! I limped home with a very soft front tyre. Steve headed back to Kettering with his Festive 500 quest still on target! Despite the problems and the cold it was still a great ride in great company. Also being out on big tyres and avoiding roads was clearly the safest approach...maybe some maintenance would have helped!

Back at home I had a really good tinker with gear cables and I got my rear mech absolutely trimmed! I'm quite proud of that because I've always been been pretty useless at fine fettling. The tyre though was having none of it.

With only a couple of days before our trip to Cannock Chase I needed to take action so I hot footed it to C&D Cycles. I purchased some Scwalbe sealant (which is actually Stans,) and I got a camelbak drinks system because I'm fed up of drinking from a crap covered bottle. Amazingly with my club discount my LBS came in cheaper than the big internet providers. Kudos to Andy and Chris for such outstanding service!

I'm really looking forward to my trip to Cannock Chase on Friday. I'll get pics and hopefully some video too!

Happy Pedaling

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