Posted by: lepages | July 24, 2010

The Big Ride!

Well, it started out a few months ago. A good friend, Andy, said ‘How d’you fancy going for a long ride down to Graham’s?’ Graham was a former member of our church (Rutland Road Church) and one time Treasurer (not the reason we were thinking of visiting him!!) His work had taken him away from Bedford, to Amesbury in Wiltshire. ‘Yeah, that sounds great’ was my response. Then there was a little problem of finding a three ways mutually convenient time. A couple of rearrangements later and we had a firm date set for 20th/21st July.

Andy set about planning a route – and mailed me a potential one on gmaps pedometer – unless your internet connection is high and your computer fast – the link’ll take an age to load! (The route was subsequently modified a bit – and this became the aim:- Bedford, Wootton, Upper Shelton, Cranfield, Salford, Across M1, Across A421,
Across level crossing, Aspley guise, Dogleg A4012, Across A5, Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill, Soulbury, B4032, Stewkley, Cublington, Whitchurch, Oving, Across A41, Upper Winchendon, Chearsley,
Long Crendon, Thame – through centre town, Along B4012, A40 before Postcombe, A40 dog leg, Stoke Talmage, Cuxham, Brightwell Baldwin,
Ewelme, Across A4130, Ipsden, Across A4074, Newbury, A4, A343, Under A34, Enbourne, West woodhay, Combe, Linkenholt, Vernham street, Vernham dean, Lower chute, Across A342, Tidworth, Bulford camp, Across A3028, Over A303, Amesbury)

I posted it round to a few friends to see if anyone had a decent Garmin they were willing to lend us. One good cycling buddy did – thanks Mark!! At the same time, I got mails back from a couple of folks saying ‘D’you like hills then??!!’ What was I letting myself in for??!! I certainly found out!!

Monday 19th was spent preparing (well, partly!) Packing bag. Loading up with plenty of cereal bars, packets of energy drink powder etc. (Took far too much of everything!) In evening popped round to Mark to collect the Garmin. Watched a bit of the highlights from the Tour de France with him – what a rat for Schleck to go clear like that, slip his chain and then see Contador whizzing off without him…. Went through the Garmin quickly with Mark – seemed reasonably straightforward – I was to discover over the next 2 days that I should have read a manual and studied it for about 6 hours! Mark had kindly imported the original route for us – helpful we thought. Took the liberty of following through the new route online noting turns and so on to help us if we needed it. Andy wisely brought maps! (useful to have a brain!!) All packed and off to bed – slightly restless night, waiting with eager anticipation for the ride.

Up early Tuesday morning, to see to our birds before Andy turned up around 8am. A few minutes later and we were off. Thought I’d got the Garmin orientated alright. It was only about 15mins in that I realised something wasn’t quite right as some functions weren’t working – discovered after setting up satellite link etc its also wise to press the start button! Data function now working. 🙂 Was never quite sure what was happening with the maps – roads seemed to be straight lines – think with hindsight they may have been latitude/longitude lines – wasn’t until the return journey that I discovered I should have switched the maps on too! Think I said something about brains earlier!!

Anyway, pleasant day. Cloudy to start off, little dampness in air. Not too breezy. Got the Garmin working before Cranfield so interested to see the gradient on Cranfield hill – up to 10% at one point – I was to discover that this is a relatively minor hill – in terms of gradient and length! Following Garmin, my instruction sheet and Andy’s maps we still made some minor ‘route alterations’ – first one was detouring down Bow Brickhill and then looping back on to route again.

Plan was to have an ‘enforced break’ every 60mins for just a couple of minutes for nourishment, wee stops etc. Started off very short… lengthened as the day went on!! As we headed south on fantastic little country rides I started to discover that there was a bit of a headwind – I also started to discover the reason for the comments about ‘liking hills’ – I’ve come to realise that you get short hills, long hills, steep hills and hills that really should be ‘laid low’!

Andy’s instructions didn’t mention a town called Streatley – a lovely town when we came into it! Stopped off to buy some food supplies. Cycled over the River Thames – beautiful, with some lovely locks. He said we’d buy food and then go up the hill and stop for lunch at the top. Little was I to know or be prepared for the hill that lay ahead as we stopped at the traffic lights at the bottom…. Streatley hill is a big hill…. and a steep hill…. 1.8k of climbing and the road sign says….. 20%….. uh oh! Garmin hovered around 20 for most of the way, peaking at 24%, dropping to 17/18 when it eased (!!???) Half way up Andy slipped his chain. Unlike Contador, I did the gallant thing and stopped and waited for him! (Well, it was a good excuse to have a break! But boy, is it hard pushing off on that slope and trying to click your cleats into your pedals!!) It was a pleasure to crash in the sun, feed my face, flopped out on a grassy bank at the top, looking out over the fantastic view for nearly an hour – we didn’t want to arrive too early at Graham’s 😉 What we didn’t estimate for in our calculations was the amount of time spent orientating ourselves on small country roads at junctions which didn’t always have signposts. Neither did we allow for the breeze increasing as a head breeze, or the fact that the last section was pretty much constant up and down hills! I remember coming down one long hill, taking a left turn and going ‘Oh no!’ as I saw what lay ahead of us! That said, we arrived at Graham’s (on a hillside!!) soon after 7pm where I failed to uncleat, and fell off outside his house! What a ……

Stats from my cycle computer (those from Garmin messed up – forgot to switch off when we stopped, so avg. speeds etc somewhat up the creek there) Distance 195k, Av. speed 24.2kph, Max. 63.7kph Time cycling 8:03 Calories burned 3885.

After a shower we went out for a welcome meal and some catch up time and rehydration. Took a drive past Stonehenge (Thanks for the welcome meal and the hospitality Graham!)
Back to Graham’s and laid out on the bed soon after 11pm. Slept well till 20 to 6. Got up and had some time to read some scripture and pray before tidying up and breakfast.

Got bike out and discovered my saddle had moved back – perhaps that was the reason my saddle bag had come loose the previous day. Moved it forwards and we set off about 8.15. Much better getting the steep hills out of the way on the start of the ride. Much better doing it with a following breeze too!! 🙂 Its not often I appreciate wind, but I did this day as it was following for most of the journey home!! (Lovely!) Had got the maps working on the Garmin – much better! But of course the route was back to front! Kept bleeping at me and telling me to do u-turns! At our first stop, I discovered in the menu the option to ‘return to start’ – assumed this meant the start of the route – and thought for a while it did as it took us on slightly different roads – a lovely valley road – smooth and fast, but then it started to tell us to turn right up farm tracks….. it was rerouting us back to Amesbury…. where we had started from…. grrrr…. Re routed and back on track and living with continual commands to do a u-turn.

Faster return journey – inspite of the interruptions! Coming fast down a steep hill I caught a sharp stone and punctured – felt rough underneath and when stopped looked down and surprised to see front tyre flat – had thought it was back…. it was!! Punctured on both at same time. Andy replaced front with his spare tube, I replaced back with mine. Couldn’t get my gas cylinder to work. Glad his pump worked alright – much more effective than the one I’d had and abandoned in favour of a gas cylinder I couldn’t get to work…..

Some very fast descents – bit freaky at times – breaking and still clocking over 40mph on the Garmin whilst going round a bend conscious of edge of road and gravel in the centre. We planned to stop at Newbury and get some replacement tubes just in case. Found bike shop easily enough – but my bag broke when I opened it to get my wallet out…. had to wander down main street in Newbury (very nice by the way) until we found a shop selling a suitable bag (very pleased with it) Whilst transferring my worldly goods from one to the other Andy found a Waitrose lady giving away free large cookies – very nice – thanks Andy and thanks Waitrose and Waitrose lady! 🙂 Wish I’d thought to remove bike computer whilst we walked our bikes around Newbury. We had a much faster ride home.

Rang in to our respective families from a stop at Great Brickhill or Little Brickhill (not sure which it was) around 20 past 5. Should be home between 6.30 and 1/4 to 7. The following breeze meant a very fast ride from Cranfield – great to just spin the legs after the efforts on the hills earlier – maintained high 30’s to low 40’s pretty much all the way into Kempston – fantastic.

Biggest problem of day was really early on discovering a major saddle soreness from the previous day, or perhaps it was the not so good shorts! Meant lots of adjusting position in the saddle, or getting out of it on the way. Re the hills – Andy is strong – left me behind on all the real hills – the only times I topped first were where I could see they were short, even if steep rises where I was able to power up them.

Journey back 199.6k (should have done another 400m 😉 ) Av. speed 26.3kph (including walk around Newbury) 64.7kph max, calories 4540 Time 7:35

Beat our families home and awaited their arrival to welcome them home. 😉

Shower, eat and bed. A fantastic couple of days enjoying the wonder of God’s creation. Some fantastic scenic views from the tops of hills at some of our stop off points. Saw a good number of red kites too – beautiful birds – saw a whole family of 8 of them on return journey. Several times, they took off from feeds in the road in front of us. Also delighted to come up close to a deer on two separate occasions.

Do it again, or something like it?
An absolute delight!
Thanks for organising us Andy and getting it off the ground and seeing us through it too.


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