August 31, 2006

Traditional end–of–summer bike ride

Follow-up to End of the summer? from Secret Plans and Clever Tricks

Not much of a tradition, I grant you; but I did the same thing last year, so it’s a start: Patrick and I headed over to Church Stretton for another after-work bike ride (after-work for him; I had the day off :-) ). We set off from the village of Hope Bowdler at about 7pm, and rode up and over Hope bowdler hill, dropping saddles for the steep and loose descent down the other side, then rode down the green lane that runs from Willstone into Church Stretton.

From Church Stretton we rode up the Carding Mill Valley track, a testpiece climb that starts off quite relaxing, and gets gradually steeper, looser, and slippier the further up you get. 1000 feet of ascent later, we gasped our way over the last steep section in a steady drizzle, both pleased to have done the whole of the climb without dabbing.

A quick spin over the moors took us up to the trig point at Pole Bank, then we started the descent. A few hundred meters bought us to the road, where we spent a short while looking for the rest of the track in what was now fairly dense cloud. We found the trail ( a permissive bridleway that leads over and down the aptly-named Round Hill and back to Little Stretton), put on some extra layers, and headed on down. The only other time I’d done this descent was on the Coiler, and riding my hardtail I found it fairly un-nerving by comparison – especially the front-wheel slides as I skated over wet grass. The steep drops off the side of the path didn’t help either…

Once we’d reached the road, it was getting quite dark, so we stopped to fit lights (a big improvement over last year, when I didn’t have any lights and we ended up finishing the route in semi-darkness). At this point Patrick discovered a substantial amount of play in his headset, probably indicating a busted lower bearing race. However, there was nothing much that we could do about it, so we carried on, with Patrick trying to avoid any un-neccessary front-wheel braking!

Back along the road into Church Stretton, then onto the green lane again to retrace our steps. By the time we’d done the carry up onto the top of Hope Bowdler hill it was properly pitch black, and raining quite a bit. We trundled back down as fast as 10-yard visibility and Patrick’s rapidly-disintegrating headset would allow, finally getting back to the car just after 9pm. It’s noticeable how a bit of darkness can take what would be a fairly ordinary route, and give it a ‘proper epic’ feel. Now that I’ve got a decent set of off-road lights, I’m quite looking forward to the winter…


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