Words by Steffan James | Photos by Steffan James & Graham Burgess
The Recovery Ride has become an MB Swindon tradition – a ride between Christmas and New Year to blow away the cobwebs and start to deal with the over-indulgence of the festive season. It was a cold but dry morning as eighteen of us met at the Patriots Arms in Chiseldon.
Graham’s opening move was to lead us up to the top of Liddington Hill, where one rider turned back, feeling unwell. I was pleased to be up on the Ridgeway already, because it meant that we wouldn’t have to go up the Radio Mast climb, my pet hate. Little did I know of Graham’s plan for the day!
At the first opportunity, we dropped back down to the railway line via the Aerodrome descent. From there we followed the path until I saw the line of riders ahead turn left… towards the Radio Mast!
For those unfamiliar with it, the Radio Mast climb is all tarmac, about a kilometre long, averages 10% and reaches 20% in the middle. I’m not sure why I hate it so much – I always make it up – but the second half always gets to me. After the really steep section, you expect to be able to start picking up the pace, but the gradient stays just steep enough to make it hard work right to the top.
Once we’d all caught our breath at the top we set off again, and a couple of riders found that the puddles there were a lot deeper than expected! We rode along to the next junction and took the road descent down into Ogbourne St George, only to start climbing back up onto the Ridgeway again on the Earthline climb!
We stopped at the top for a few minutes for a bit of refuelling before – surprise, surprise! – heading back down to the railway line, this time on the Speed Bumps track.
Graham’s plan was clear by now, so it was no surprise when we took the next turn off the railway line and started climbing again, this time on the climb that, as far as I know, has no name (Cold de Poulton Downs on Strava). There was some comedy awaiting us at the top, where the thick mud left some slipping and sliding their way along gingerly, whilst others resorted to pushing or carrying their bikes.
As we turned right we found ourselves faced with some deep puddles again, and whilst most were content to push their bikes around the obstacles, a foolhardy few decided that the only way to deal with it was by riding straight through!
The final challenge of the day was the descent of Rickety Bridge, before we got back onto the railway line and headed back up towards Chiseldon, where most of us stopped for a drink before heading off home.
It’s quite a while since I’ve been on a weekend Club ride, so it was nice to meet a few new people, and good to finish the year with a pretty challenging ride. My legs were certainly burning by the end! Thanks Graham.