Monday, 24 October 2011

Shifnal Cycling Society 1 The Long Mynd 0

October really has been quite a special month for the Society, and on Sunday it culminated in an assault on one of the great Shropshire landmarks, The Long Mynd. It’s been on my list of un-ticked rides for too long, so with a favourable weather forecast and an empty Sunday morning, its time had come.

Brian on the Mynd

For a variety of reasons this was to be a solo ride, and after a late scare due to a misbehaving Garmin Edge, I was rolling.

The route’s outward leg saw me drop down into the Gorge and then head through Cressage via Buildwas and Leighton. It was on the run from Cressage to Church Stretton that the nagging headwind became most apparent. Riding solo meant that there was no hiding place, and it certainly hampered progress.

Crossing the A49 meant that the real climbing would soon be starting. Rolling through Church Stretton, there was little to warn of what lay ahead.

A right turn and I was onto The Burway, a climb which scores 9/10 in Simon Warren’s(@100climbs) excellent book 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. After a gentle(ish) start the tarmac kicks up hard, and as I passed a 20% sign I was glad of the 29 that lurks on my rear cassette. It’s not used that often, but I was glad to have it now! I’ve ridden a few big climbs over the years, and for sheer steepness this is right up there. I felt like Froome and Wiggins must have done, be it at a much slower speed, on the Angliru at this year’s Vuelta as I struggled to turn the gear. At a couple of points I even adopted the ‘zigzag’ method as I tried to overcome the unrelenting gradient.

The gradient finally began to ease as the road climbed up onto the plateau of the Mynd. The reward for all the climbing being stunning views in every direction. The road continued to undulate as it made it’s way across to the gliding club that sits on top of the hill, and on my way I took a moment to tick another box.

From here it was time for the descent. The warning sign at the top doesn’t really prepare you for what was to follow. A quite ludicrously steep piece of tarmac! Tight, and with a number of blind bends, this is not for the feint hearted, the drop off the side of the road is pretty well sheer.

Consider yourself warned!

Once safely down, it was time to head for home. My plan was to return by a more southerly route, passing through the wonderfully named Ticklerton, before riding back along Wenlock Edge to Much Wenlock. Back on more regular riding territory now, the climbing was beginning to take its toll, and the climb up to Broseley was a struggle. Sutton Bank followed, and I don’t think I’ve ridden as slowly up there for some time.

The last 5km or so were a flat out blast back into Shifnal and as I came over the top of the Wyke the 100km for the day was completed.

Route details below courtesy of the quite excellent Garmin Connect.

A very enjoyable outing all round.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Tour de Shropshire - Ride Report

So after much planning it was finally upon us, Shifnal Cycling Society's inaugural Tour de Shropshire. It was an idea I'd had for a while, a two day tour of some of the best roads the county has to offer. From the rolling hills of the southern part of the county, to the fast and flat north. A ride to showcase the beauty of road cycling in this most under rated part of England.

After a late drop out due to injury, four of us mustered at HQ for the mandatatory pre ride faffage, Johhny 'Rocket' Saunders, Mr Sims, and our one man lead out train, Martyn. Oh and of course, me. I'd even remembered to put my shorts on outside in!

Pre ride espresso(see Rule #56) consumed, it was time to get moving.

Day 1 - Shifnal to Oswestry

Although our destination was Oswestry on the welsh border, our plan was to take the scenic route. Heading for Ludlow, Shropshire's highest peak, Brown Clee Hill, was our initial target. Once we'd dragged ourselves up its eastern flank, we descended towards Ludlow, before turning east and heading for our Lunchtime desination of Craven Arms.

We had lunch in The Craven Arms, and it was soon time to get moving again. Unfortuneately our departure was much to the disappointment of the hen do that had arrived just as we were preparing to leave. It's a good job that Mart had saved the white shorts for day 2!

From Craven Arms we headed up towards Pontesbury, before the long run off the hills and towards our destination for Day 1, The Premier Inn in Oswestry. It was time for Beer. An excellent meal followed, before it was time for some rest.

Full stats, courtesy of Garmin Connect below. Not too shabby all things considered.

Day 2 - Oswestry to Shifnal

After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Oswestry, and we set off along the northern border of Shropshire.

The fast flat roads were too much for Rocket to resist and before long we were strung out struggling to hold his wheel. Ellesmere and Wem passed in a flash, and after a quick stop in Stanton we were back heading back towards the hard earned, and very welcoming Enville Ale in the White Hart.

A further impromtu stop in Edgmond allowed Johhny to adminster some physio to Mr Sims. Although he soon stopped when he realised he's layed on top of his beloved new iPhone 4S!

Lilleshall and then Sheriffhales came and went, and after just a little over 3 hours riding time we arrived at the 'club house' - The White Hart. I don't think the Envill Ale has ever tasted so nice. The perfect ending to a fantastic weekend's cycling.

Stats below. As you can see, the flatter terrain of day 2 made for a significantly quicker ride.

The planning paid off, and the Tour de Shropshire was a resounding success. Everything i'd hoped for, and more.

We're planning on venturing out of the county for our next 'tour'. I'm already working on a suitable route.

Lastly, a big thanks to our other halfs, without whom this event wouldn't have been possible!


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My Search for N+1

Much has been written over the years about the search for the perfect collection of bikes, widely referred to as the n+1 theory.

What's more concerning from a personal viewpoint was the fact that for a while I was of the view that I'd reached a sort of bike owning plateau, and as such n+1 didn't apply to me. I was immune from this all powerful phenomenon.

Of course i was wrong. A report from Eurobike last week started it off, and before I knew it I was scouring the web for more details. It all led to just one conclusion, that the n+1 theory still held.

After (not)much deliberation, I pulled the trigger. It's not due to arrive for a few weeks, but I can rest assured that the golden rule of bike ownership still holds.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Bikes Part 2 - One From the Dark Side!

The focus of the society seems to be very much on the roads at the moment, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the majority of my cycling was of the off road variety. I still venture off road regularly, and when I do I’ve the pleasure of doing so on this beauty.

My Five
 It’s a custom build 2007 Orange 5, in a green normally reserved for 2007 model year Patriots, kitted out with Pace RC40 Fighter Forks, Hope finishing kit, and a full M970 XTR drivetrain. The exchange rate was much healthier back then, and XTR was a fraction of what it would cost today. It replaced my previous FS Mtb, a rather lovely Santa Cruz Superlight. As you can see I’ve a thing for single pivot bikes. The simplicity takes a lot of beating IMHO.

So why an Orange? Aside from the fantastic reviews, to me a large part of the appeal was the fact that this frame was handmade in England, and this also accounts for the Pace forks. The Hope kit was a must, as they make just about the most lovely Mtb hubs & brakes that money can buy. And like Orange, they’re based in England.

It rides as nicely today as the day it was put together. It really is a lovely bike to ride, and I really can’t ever see it being replaced. It has soaked up everything I’ve ever thrown at it, from twisty technical singletrack to Lancastrian Fells, with Welsh Trail centres and Cannock Chase thrown in for good measure.

To my mind, it’s just about the perfect all round Mtb. Every collection should have one……

Monday, 3 October 2011

Hey Diddle Diddle..

Martin, Sean Kelly & Andy
Me and Mart with Shifnal Cycling Socities newest member!

On Sunday the society took part in the Cat and Fiddle Challenge ride organised by Brian Rourke Cycles in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. A 55(ish) mile ride from Brian Rourke's shop in Burslem, up and over the famous Cat & Fiddle pass, before returning via Leek.

Johhny took plenty of pictures on the day and you can view them at his flickr account. And yes that is Sean Kelly in the pic above. A true giant of the sport! You can check out his mightily impressive Palmares here!

So, what of the ride? Well the weather on the day was just about perfect and the turn out was very impressive.

From the start just behind the Rourke HQ, the route took us out of the urban decay of Stoke, and up through Congleton towards Macclesfield. If was on the approach to Macc that we encountered what could have been a ride ending mechanical. Mart punctured, and on closer inspection it turned out that his rear tyre was well past it's best. We tried a desparate attempt to patch it up but it was to no avail. As John tweeted after the event, a picture can be worth a thousand words....

Cat & Fiddle
A (nearly) broken Mart

So we gave the emergency bike repair number a call, and hey presto in a really very short time(although it seemed like an age as we were passed by literally hundreds of fellow riders) a van arrived and produced a new tyre and tube. They then proceeded to fit the new tyre and tube, inflate to the specified pressure, and then take away the rubbish. When asked how much we owed them, the reply was "It's free, just make a donation to the cftrust at the finish. Absolutley awesome service, and an example of how well organised this event was.

Back up and rolling we set off to towards the section of the ride that lends it's name to the event, the Cat & Fiddle pass. Not too steep, but more of a long steady climb, this roads winds its way out from Macclesfield up and over the spine of England. The weather ensured that the views were fantastic throughout, and the number of cyclists on the road meant that you always had someone to chase.

Cat & Fiddle
At the top!
From here it was downhill all the way surely. Er No! A long run off from the Cat and Fiddle, was followed by the undulating road from Buxton to Leek. Never flat, is was either crazy quick descents, or nasty climbs. A tough road for all.

It was then a short sharp return to the Rourke HQ, for tea and cake, all supplied by the Man who gives his name to the event. A big thanks to Brian!
Cat & Fiddle

The boring bits.

My ride stats - 84.6 kms in 3:22:25(riding time) at an average of 25.1km/h. I also managed to hit 69.1km/h on one of the downhill sections coming into Leek. Plenty quick enough for me!

All in all, a great day out.