Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Brecons Gap Route   4 comments

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Since I decided to give cycling another go I’ve had my eye on what looked like a rather fine round called the Brecons Gap Route. So named as it traverses the gap between Fan y Big and Cribyn in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a good deal tougher in the mountain section than anything I’ve attempted before but the weather was stunning so I figured I could at least give it a go. I set off from Talybont-on-Usk on a gloriously warm sunny day and headed off on the Taff Trail

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The first section was very rough and bouncy. The Taff trail follows the line of an old railway along the valley – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out the first couple of km follow an old bridleway and it was rough going but not too steep and I coped fine

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As it climbed the views began to open out across the Talybont reservoir

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I wandered onto the dam to take a couple of shots. Stunning I thought

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From there its a very long climb up to the pass above the reservoir. Never steep and by now on the old railway line the going was much smoother. They are clearing away the old plantation so the views were superb. Gave me an excuse to stop many times and admire.

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I passed a few people walking but no-one else on a bike. The Beacons Way follows this stretch and it reminds me why I don’t like following pre-ordained long distance routes. There is a superb high level route that would avoid this long endless trudge on foot, a few hundred foot up above on open ground. In fact the Beacons Way actually descends from where that path starts to pick up the Taff Trail and then climbs back up again to meet it a few km later. Why the route chooses to ignore an obvious high level path in favour of a forest trail is beyond me. This trail is ideal for cycling but not for walking. Each to their own I suppose but the D of E groups I saw seemed not to be enjoying the trudge even on this glorious day

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Seeing as this is the age of the selfie, here’s a very rare picture of yours truly enjoying another photo-rest excuse to stop

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From the high point of the road there is a speedy short descent before the trail curves around towards the main part of the Beacons. From here things get a little tougher

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The trail becomes extremely stony and rutted and while not steep was pretty hard work. I’m pleased to say that other than one short section that drops steeply in and out of a stream, I made it all the way to the “gap” (seen in the centre of the photo below) without needing to push or more importantly, falling off

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I have to admit I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’d done 15km and close to 500m of ascent and survived to tell the tale. More than that I really enjoyed it – never thought I’d hear myself say that about mountain biking

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I celebrated with a very lengthy stop to have lunch and a brew, chatting to other cyclists as they passed through (this a popular and well-known mountain bike route)

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The descent from the gap gave me my only problem. The first 500m or so is steep and very rough, more like scree than a path. After a couple of nervous attempts I decided discretion was best and pushed for a few minutes. This section really needs a full on, front and rear suspension bike (mine is just a hard-tail). I managed to negotiate my way down carefully. It was wild and bouncy and my bike was making all kinds of rattling noises but again I was very pleased to make it all the way to the road-head without falling off, albeit very much slower than the madcap people taking the descent at full throttle. It must be a hell of an adrenaline rush but if you came off you’d do yourself a really nasty one

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Once on the road its a very fast and steep descent all the way to valley bottom along peaceful wild-flower be-decked country lanes. A real blast. My route back to the car was along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal. It was superb (and flat!) and gave an excellent last hours wind-down in more peaceful surroundings after the drama of the gap

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The canal has a small aqueduct over the river Usk

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This little bridge just after was picture perfect and I stopped for breather. Nice spot for a picnic I thought. More to follow in a later post

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From there it was an easy cruise along the tow-path. Wild flowers were abundant and the route busy with other cyclists and families enjoying a perfect spring day

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I think TBF would enjoy this part of the ride although definitely not the mountain section! I must fashion a route along the canal and back along the lanes of this quiet corner of the national park

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35km ride in total and a real classic – me, enjoying mountain biking, who’d have thought 🙂

Cycling with the Hardman   18 comments

When I told people about this they were concerned for my welfare. Going cycling with the Hardman is like saying I’m off for a short stroll with John Muir. The Hardman is very serious about his cycling and despite his older years is seriously fit. He’s thin and wiry and in short everything I’m not. This is man who cycled from the coast to the highest road on Tenerife, a relentless unbroken climb of 2400m, in less than 3 hours. I’d agreed to go cycling in the Peak District with him. I sent him several “go easy on me” and “I’m really quite unfit” e-mails in the hope that I might stand a slim chance of returning directly home afterwards rather than via an oxygen tent in a lonely casualty department.

In the event he was a very considerate cycling partner, reducing his speed down to “middle aged mortal” level and allowing me and TBF to survive the experience intact 🙂

In truth the route was an easy one. North along the Tissington Trail, south on the High Peak Trail and back along the roads to the start. After an excellent breakfast at a garden centre (I had to wait for it to open, how sad is that at my age) we parked up the stunning village of Tissington ready for the off.

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It was a cracker of a day. A clear blue sky is the perfect day for a visit to the White Peak. The green fields and the white stone walls seems to radiate light and warmth

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The Tissington Trail is a wonderful vantage point (or stretch to be precise) to view it from on a bike as its elevated. More importantly the ascent is barely noticeable, in effect a flat ride. Perfect for us less fit types

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We made easy and swift progress to Parsley Hay where the views were superb and we celebrated with a cuppa. The White Peak was my local hiking/stomping ground around 15 years ago when I lived near Derby and I used to love it. The mix of open grassy fields and deep limestone dales and gorges was always one of my favourite landscapes and its a real shame I don’t get back there often enough

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Such was the quality of the day we headed up to the far end of the trail to see what it was like

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This section was especially fine and the easy cycling in such wonderful surroundings was a joy. There is plan in motion to link the ends of the Tissington, Monsal and High Peak cycle ways. When complete it will be a quite superb 2 day circuit through some of the finest scenery in the UK

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We headed south and back along the High Peak Trail. Another stop for a snack and a cuppa was in order but this section was exposed to the cold wind. We eventually found a really well sheltered spot just after this man-made causeway, itself really rather impressive

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We left the trail at Brassington and had a rather excellent sweeping fast descent down the road. The price to pay was a short steep hill preceded by a ford (which the Hardman disappointingly refused to cycle through). Me and TBF were well chuffed to make it to the top without needing to push although a couple of stops to admire the scenery were required

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The Hardman, being a more serious cycling type has a disturbing tendency to dress like a MAMIL!

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A final lazy roll back down to Tissington finished a memorable ride of 30 miles. I may at some point start to enjoy cycling (don’t tell anyone)

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Best way to finish off a great day and a superb weekend? A family meal at Wagamamas when we got home. Sorted!

From Two Bad Legs to Two New Wheels   6 comments

As I reported in my last post I’ve started having serious problems with my left knee. I’ve had two arthroscopy ops on my right knee which seem to have worked but its time to sort the other one out. An MRI scan is booked for January so I’ll have to take it from there

Even before this problem I’d been thinking about a new bike as I don’t get enough exercise especially of the lung busting sort. The fact that I’m now limited as to when I can hike pressed the need a little harder. I’m also hoping that it will build the muscles in my legs which will help support, strengthen and protect my knees for the longer term (as well as hopefully remove some of the upper body weight they have to carry!) 🙂

So this is my new pride and joy, built to my specifications by the excellent Tom at Bike Workshop in Bristol. Obviously its a Mountain Bike. I’m not a big fan of road cycling but around where I live there is a plentiful supply of forests and easy-ish mountain tracks for me to explore (I’m not or ever will be of the hard-core, steep downhill mountain biker breed). I’ve started to use it whenever I have a spare hour working at home to try and build a bit of fitness but I needed to try something off-road to get me into the swing of things

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The best and easiest local area is the Forest of Dean. I’ve cycled with kids here and I thought I’d try a slightly longer circuit without too much in the way of climbing. It will take me a while to get bike-fit. It was nice circuit of 15 or so miles that took me a few hours due the numerous stops to check where I was. The Forest is maze of tracks

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Now anyone that knows me will tell you I’ve never really been a cycling man. I’ve never quite embraced its particular charms but I have to say I really enjoyed the ride. Far from being a dense expanse of woodland, the Forest of Dean has numerous open and sunny glades and its extremely pleasant. The route I used seemed little known, especially to cyclists despite its popularity in the area. I saw more walkers than cyclists. I really wish I’d taken more photos

I stopped at Mallards Pike lake for a rest, a snack and a cuppa. Its a popular spot and heaving in summer but in late October it was quiet and rather splendid

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I spent a happy half enjoying not sitting on a razor blade!

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When I reached the car, satisfied with my new toy and the exercise it allowed it struck what a relief it was not to finish a day outdoors in pain from either my knee or my foot. Itv was actually quite liberating.

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I never thought I hear myself say this (or read my own typed words) that I’m looking forward to some days out on the bike. I’m going to find it tough going for a few months as I’m not used to aerobic exercise (I find even the most gentle of hills hard work) but I’m hoping to enjoy a different slant to my outdoor fun. In good time I hope it will be good for the longevity of my hiking and my general fitness levels. Bring it on!

Posted November 3, 2016 by surfnslide in Cycling, Forest of Dean

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Pedalling through the Forest of Dean   6 comments

In a bout of foolishness I decided to take the family cycling. Anybody who knows me is aware that I’m not terribly fond of cycling. For a start I don’t much like bikes, they are the work of satan if you ask me, always in constant need of attention and an array of squeaks and squeels no matter how much you try to stop them. I have my kids for that, I don’t need it from mechanical contraptions. I’m not really built for cycling either being short of leg and wide of girth. Despite all this cycling is at least something that I thought we could all take some pleasure from seeing as TJF hates walking.

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Somewhere without any big hills seemed in order and as it was windy some trees would be nice. Forest of Dean fits that particular bill with its family cycleway using some of the old coal mining rail routes.

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

In fact it was rather nice. The sun came out the cycling was easy and we found a nice open sunny glade for a picnic.

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Forest of dean, family cycleway, cycling

All was going well until on the only major downhill section TJS got rather over-excited, went too fast and fell off. He seemed fine until I pointed out a large hole in his trousers only partly covering a nasty graze on his rump. The sight of blood turned him a fetching greyish-white colour and his cycling was over. He walked back while I went and fetched the car.

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Put a bit of damper on the day but it was different and enjoyable in its way but I still prefer my feet to wheels unless those wheels come in groups of four with a enclosed body and roof, aircon and a a stereo 🙂

Me? On a Bike? You must be joking!   9 comments

Most of my friends know that I’m not a huge fan of cycling. As a cheap means of transport when I was too poor to afford a car it did the job. As a means of outdoor fun it just never quite buried itself in my psyche like walking and the rest of my madcap outdoor pursuits. I do own a very dated mountain bike a very sad relic in an age of high-tech machines, but its a rare occasion when I take it out.

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This could be changing however after a rather splendid little jaunt a couple of weeks back which I have to admit I rather enjoyed. When we were walking at Symonds Yat at couple of months back I noticed lots of cyclists on the south side on what must be an old disused railway line along the course of the river Wye. Perfect for the kids I thought so we hoisted all the bikes down there and gave it a shot

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After a reluctant start from my youngest (trying to get past the crowds and the cars at Symonds Yat out her off a bit) and some lunch the kids really got into the swing of it and we picked up a decent pace all the way to Monmouth and back.

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Only about 10 miles in total but seeing as L in particular has never cycled more than up and down our cul-de-sac before I was quite pleased at how well she coped. The weather was kind and stayed dry so it was a very pleasant and very different day out from the usual walks. The Forest of Dean nearby has loads of old disused railway lines from the coal mining days now used as cycleways so hopefully we can get a few more trips in before winter.

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I actually quite like cycling – there, I said it. Just don’t expect any major cycling tours from me!

Video works better than photos so enjoy the little compilation with a tune to remind you that it’s still August and still technically summer…

Posted August 6, 2012 by surfnslide in Cycling, Family Trips

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