Cycling in the lockdown

OK, I’ll admit it, I’ve been really slack on the fitness front over the 2018-19 winter with few running and cycling outings, and as a result I have gained a bit of weight. The weight gain may be due to excessive indulgence with the homebrew rather than lack of exercise, but it is time to do something about it.

I now have 4 bikes. My old Raleigh M-Trax is starting to feel its age; it’s front wheel and bottom brackets need replacing, as do the tyres, tubes, brakes, gear changers etc, all of which were going to add up to a pretty penny.

Giant bikes are usually discounted heavily in late August as they announce their new ranges for the coming year so I took a look at the discounted prices. I bought a new Giant Roam 2 hybrid bike in September with a huge discount of over 10% off the new price. Being a hybrid it is comfortable, can be fitted with a rack, mudguards and a bar bag so is ideal for commuting to the shops etc and can be strapped to the back of the ‘van for when we go away.

The new bike, complete with bar bag and rack

Cycling so far this year has been limited to jaunts along the bridleways and small roads to Meon Shore, Lee on the Solent and Alverstoke as I’m reluctant to venture further away as we are all supposed to be in lockdown. I will regain my fitness by treating the 17 1/2 mile trek to Averstoke as a sprint and see if I can average over 16 mph each outing, and then when lockdown is lifted I will venture back out to the “top of Hampshire” and beyond.

First cycle rides of ’18

It’s been a while since I managed to get out for a good blast on the bike, the weather has been wet and windy but finally winter looks like it is behind us so its time to get the bike out of the shed and get those muscles working again.

Rather than use the Defy I decided to service and get out on the CX, which has the wheels and tyres more suited to wet and muddy roads.

Giant TCX-2 in its younger days

For each of my rides so far this year I have chosen to take the usual route to Hedge End, Lower Upham, Owslebury and home via Bishops Waltham. It’s a round-trip of 35 miles or so and gets me up the tail end of the South Downs with its lovely views and nice quiet small roads. The elevation gain over the ride is around 600 metres, there are a few good and exhausting climbs within the first 20 miles or so.

My latest foray out was a disaster. I had made the simplest schoolboy mistake of:

  • Not eating enough lunch before setting off.
  • Took no food with me
  • Took no money with me.

20 miles of so from home I pretty much ran out of energy but kept going. It was getting cold and the light was fading. Cycling the last few miles along the Botley road I started to have problems with my eyesight, I really couldn’t see properly and was feeling very weak.  I had plenty of water with me, but nothing at all to eat. All I could do to keep going was to try and remember what was in the fridge at home and plan a monumental scoff up as soon as I arrived home.

I’d probably consumed around 150 calories for breakfast. When I arrived home, my Garmin indicated that I had burnt over 1800 calories on the ride. I was absolutely starving, my lack of fuel adversely affected my average speed. I was really angry with myself.

Other than that I was quite pleasant for the first hour or so. I spotted a few Buzzards, a woodpecker and plenty of pheasants.

Cycling in the South

You’ve just got to love the South, Hampshire in particular, for its small and fairly quiet roads which can be great for cycling. Its terrain goes from the flat and fairly level Test Valley roads to the lumpy bits in the South Downs which can be quite challenging.

On the 20th May Fiona was booked on a Motorhome manoeuvring course at Sparsholt college near Winchester. I drove the ‘van to the college and then went cycling for the day while Fiona got trained.

My intention was to cover about 50 miles up the Test valley towards Whitchurch and so set off for Stockbridge. The weather was OK to start with but heavy rain was forecast.

It was cold when I set off for Stockbridge and I had a rough idea of the roads I would use. The scenery along the valley is spectacular, The Test river is fed by rainwater running off the chalk downs further north so is very clear and is bursting with fish.

I rode along the A3057 and then took its spur through Chilbolton, heading for Longparish, Whitchurch to Freefolk.

Here is a view along the Test river from the bridge at Wherwell

Still in Wherwell this lovely place overlooks the Test river. It has clearly been re-thatched recently and looks superb.

This nice place was off the main Whithurch to Overton road. I stopped here for a few minutes to watch the trout swimming in the river below

I stopped for a quick look at the 11th century St Nicholas church in Freefolk and had to cross this bridge to get to it. Lovely and tranquil, and again, the river is full of fish.

I turned back at Laverstoke which was about 26 miles from my start and shortly after leaving Whitchurch the heavens opened so I took refuge under a tree for about 20 minutes. I returned to Stockbridge via Longstock and had to shelter from the rain a couple more times. By now the temperature was dropping fast so by the time I got back to Winchester I was quite cold.

However, I managed to cycle 56 miles during the afternoon but unfortunately I managed to get a puncture right at the end of my ride. Once Fiona had finished her course I was able to take a warm shower in the van and be dressed up clean for the drive home.

Cycling November

November 2nd

We’re into November now and the weather is getting noticably colder. This morning’s ride (Wednesday 2nd Nov) saw the temperature at 9C when I left home, rising only to 11C in the middle of the afternoon, but it was nice and sunny with very little wind, but I still needed fleecy leggings and a merino long sleeve vest under my cycling top.

Today’s ride took me to Hedge End, Durley Church, Lower Upham, Owselbury, Warnford, West then East Meon, Clanfield, Hambledon, World’s End, North Boarhunt, Wickham and then home via Titchfield.

For my first ride in November I managed a round trip of 51.8 miles in  a little over 3 1/2 hours which included stopping to take photos and tip-toeing through the roadworks in Hambledon.

I’ve cycled from Owslebury along the Longwood road many times without noticing the fungal growth on some of the old oaks that line the road. The fungus below seems to have been ‘trimmed’ by passing cars as it has a particularly straight edge.

The colours of autumn at the temperatures of winter. A lovely line of old oaks off Wheeley Down.

Cycling through Clanfield looking for the signs to Hambledon I spotted the Twyford Moors classic car showroom full of really gorgeous old Jaguar XK cars and could not resist a short stop to drool over and photograph their stock.

Another long ride out today. This time to Hedge End, Lower Upham, Owslebury, Warnford, West then East Meon, Clanfield etc, Wickham and home, a total of 51 miles fuelled only by one half of a granola square (but it was Tesco finest). Good fun but it was very cold. My toes became numb after 20 miles and were as white as snow when I finally jumped into the shower. It took me a good hour to warm up and get the feeling back.

November 4th

A short ride today. It was dry when I set off but after about 8 miles the rain started and soaked me on my way home so 15 miles was all I was going to do as the rain settled in for the rest of the day.

November 5th

Another long ride out today. This time to Hedge End, Lower Upham, Owslebury, Warnford, West then East Meon, Clanfield etc, Wickham and home, a total of 51 miles fuelled only by one half of a granola square (but it was Tesco finest). Good fun but it was very cold. My toes became numb after 20 miles and were as white as snow when I finally jumped into the shower. It took me a good hour to warm up and get the feeling back

Cycling October

October was a good month for cycling for me; it was mostly cool and dry without too much wind, and when it was windy the wind was mainly from the north-east to north-west which presented me with a headwind for the first half of each outing and a tailwind when I was tired and heading for home.

At the beginning of the month I decided that I needed to get out more and so set myself the goal of cycling 100 miles each week. This meant either getting out more frequently or going further each time I went out. I chose the latter.

Off the main roads there are some really nice quiet country lanes in Hampshire and up on the South Downs you can see for miles. On just about every ride I undertook this month I saw buzzards, red kites and the occassional kestrel flying overhead.

Just about all of my rides have been up the horrible hill that bisects Owslebury then continues on almost to the A272 before turning off and heading along Wheely Down road. I call these roads ‘the top of Hampshire’ because from up there you can see for miles.

St Andrews church in Owslebury, build in the 14th century, is a nice place to stop for a rest after climbing the hill past Marwell.

From Wheely Down road you can see for miles and you can look down on Hinton Ampner across the fields.

I decided to head for West Meon and beyond, stopping to take a few photos. It was getting late in the day and I was a long way from home so had to press on to get home before dark

I cycled past this beauty in West Meon. It looked like it has been dumped in the hedge.

I stopped in East Meon for a drink of water and a quick look around before heading off in the direction of Clanfield.

I was unsure of how to get home from East Meon and didn’t want to head back to West Meon which would have meant cycling along the busy A32. Instead I eventually found my way back home via Soberton, through Wickham and then home via Titchfield Lane. Good job I’d taken my phone so that I could use Maps to navigate my way through the lanes.

A view from the top of Soberton Heath which was a strenuous climb.

On the 21st October, Fiona and I cycled up the old disused railway line from Wickham to just outside Warnford. The weather was nice, sunny and no wind, but the temperature was only about 10C. As the track runs for miles through a heavily wooded area it did feel much colder than the 10C that we recorded. About 3 miles from from the end Fiona managed to get herself a rear tyre puncture. Thankfully we had remembered to bring the puncture repair kit along and so were able to fix it.

Between the 5th and 27th October I managed to cycle 337.74 miles (according to Garmin) with an elevation gain of 4,783 metres. I’d seen some really nice places along the way and only got soaked once. I hope to be able to equal or better these figures in November (not the soaking), but that is dependent on the weather and also on me buying some bicycle lights as the evenings are becoming noticeably darker.

Cycling September

Because I’ll be on holiday from the 11th Sept I decided that I wanted to get some extra cycling in before then so I set myself the goal of 100 miles cycling in the preceding week. I planned a route through Warsash, Bursledon, Burridge, Botley, Durley, Lower Upham, Owslebury, along the top of Hampshire to Bishops Waltham and then home via Titchfield. That gives me a round trip of exactly 40 miles.

The weather on Monday was grey but dry and I completed the 40 miles in a little over 2 1/2 hours. I repeated the route again on Wednesday in pretty much the same sort of time. Sadly I couldn’t complete the same route on Friday due to the driving rain, so I cut the route short at Lower Upham. The shortened route covered 25 miles giving me a total of 105 miles for the week and so achieving my goal. Roll on the holidays next week

Mountain biking

I’ve had a lovely old mountain bike for almost 20 years, Fiona bought it for me for my 40th. It’s a Raleigh M-Trax 1000L, which is rather basic by today’s standards with its steel frame, 26″ wheels, 3×7 gear ratios and its lack of suspension, but it is a lightweight, sturdy and comfortable bike. I’d not used it for quite a while as it is rather worn out, but its too good to scrap.

A while ago I fitted it with a new 7 speed cassette and new chain, but its gear changing was still erratic. On closer inspection I found that the rear wheel was completely worn out, the gears wobbled from side to side and the freehub was making grinding noises.

Have you seen the price of new wheels? You can pay £hundreds for new wheels.
I finally bit the bullet and splashed out £38 on a replacement rear wheel. This cured all my gear changing problems and now the bike feels as good as new so I’ll definitely keep it for the time being. I have started using the bike again, but only for the less speed focussed outings as it allows me to follow bridle ways and take the muddier tracks down to the seaside, but it is much heavier than either of my road oriented bikes.

Now, it just needs a new saddle and some decent tyres to complete the refresh, but I’ll wait to see how it goes before spending any more as the bottom bracket is rumbling a bit and that might turn out to be an expense I can do without.

Here is a picture of the bike, which I think looks good despite its age:

Winter Cycling

It’s that time of year to put away my decent road bike to save it from all the salt, gravel and sand deposited on the roads. Its been raining more or less non-stop for the past six weeks or so, and those nice little country roads are now flooded with the run off from the fields which makes progress hazardous on skinny 25mm tyres. I have decided to park the road bike in the garage for the next few weeks and to get the old cyclo-cross bike out of the shed again.

Giant TCX Cyclo-cross bike

The difference between the two bikes is surprising, the road bike is so light with great brakes, the cross with its knobbly tyres feels very heavy and ‘clunky’ by comparison but will help me keep fit throughout the winter without wrecking the road bike.

After a quick blast yesterday, it looks like the old bike needs a new chain and sprockets as its not changing gear nice and cleanly, and those rim brakes really are awful now that I have become used to disc brakes. What a marvellous excuse to buy a new cross/adventure bike next Spring!

Cycling Saturday 2

I’ve owned the bike (Giant Defy Advanced 1) for 6 weeks now and have had it in for its free 6 week service. I have also checked my times and speeds recorded by my Garmin and am really glad to find that my speeds are a fair bit faster than on the old bike. I have found that I am able to climb hills quicker and am less knackered after a couple of hours in the saddle.