Category Archives: Ride Report

Ride Report: The Lakes at Leisure

Words by Debbie Davies    Photos by Debbie Davies and Rafe Aldridge

I have led ladies-only rides for the last four years but this one was going to be my first ‘open’ club ride and, as befits that event, it was preceded by a sleepless night. The MB Swindon Facebook page showed there were three people going (and one of those was me!) so I thought it would be a nice gentle introduction, and ideal for anyone new.

The weather suggested sun most the day and as I set off to the meeting place it was already warming up. I’m happy to say that the ladies’ ride weather appears to be transferable.

Mountain bikers in a car park.

There were cycle helmets visible from the trail as I pedalled towards the car park so someone had turned up; in fact, ten turned up which was lovely but a little unexpected. Everyone signed in and we took a quick group photo before we set off down the track towards the road that links both parks. It’s a shame there is no off road section to cut out the tarmac but we split into two groups to keep everything rolling and were fairly quickly at the first part of the cycle way.

The Thames path had been impassable for a part of the winter with the usual flooding – with some very deep mud sections – so we attacked the area from the opposite side. With a brief warning about the churned up track, we instantly lost one to it.  All well and no damage done, we rode into the nature reserve and whizzed along the gravel path and then out through the kissing gate at the far end with some nifty gate handling skills.

We headed along to the café stop where we took over two picnic benches in the sun. Ladies’ rides usually involve cake; this mixed ride seemed to be a bacon-fest. Rafe demonstrated his ‘flying trivet’. Apparently it wasn’t a standard drone, but it did a good job of photographing us and we spent more time relaxing in the sun as we watched it fly.

Turning out of the café, a short paved section led us back to the old railway line and a straight return back to the Cricklade Sports centre. Those speedy ones amongst us took the front and pushed for a Strava section; the rest of us just chatted in the sun as we pedalled. A slightly longer detour, agreed by everyone to take us off the busier road and via a lovely country lane, took us finally back to the car park.

Many thanks to the four ladies and six gents that joined me on the ride and especially to Sarah for back marking for me.

Ride Report: Savernake Sisters’ Spin

Words & Pictures – Kate Davidson

Riding up through Savernake Forest on Saturday morning through a fairly thick mist, it was with trepidation that I headed on up to Postern Hill Campsite. Winter seems to have lasted forever this year, with endless rain and cold, and parts of the forest were still looking pretty muddy.

However, when I arrived, the sun was trying its hardest to poke through the cloud and when the first ladies Jane, Hazel and Sarah arrived, the campsite was starting to brighten up – and by the time everyone else arrived, we were bathed in warm spring sunshine. Eleven ladies in all turned up (special praise goes to Hazel, Sarah, Debbie, Sharon, Hilda-May and Trudy, all of whom rode from Swindon to Marlborough, Hazel all the way from Lyneham!) – a great turnout and a real boost to me leading my first ride. 

Heading out of the campsite down to the Grand Avenue, we crossed over the Avenue and picked up some lovely, mostly dry singletrack through the woods. Coming out at Amity Drive, we whizzed along the fire road for a mile or so, then had to negotiate our way around a fallen tree and plough through some pretty boggy bridleway leading to the next section of fire road, and then onto a lovely long tarmac track which gave some of the ladies a chance to build up a bit of speed, taking us to the far end of the Grand Avenue.

From here we headed back into the forest to make our way towards the Column. The latter part of this track was particularly soupy, some of us just about managing to get through it, and others simply having to give in to the relentless mud. Footings were lost, feet got muddy, wheels were spinning, and much swearing was heard as we inched our way forwards.

Eventually we emerged at Column Ride, and shortly after stopped for a bite to eat and to admire the beautiful Ailesbury Column, built in the 1760s to celebrate the recovery from illness of King George III. It was here that Sharon was treated to the arresting sight of my bare bottom, after I headed into the woods for a quick wee without noticing her. I did say I’d treat the ladies to new sights on this ride!

After our quick pitstop we rode up the charmingly named Lover’s Lane, and down through Durley to the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath. After stopping to look at the beautiful inscribed 19th century and modern replacement stone plaques, carved by Lloyd of Bedwyn, on the east portal of the Bruce Tunnel, we rode along the towpath (in places pretty off-camber which could catch you out) to the Grade I listed Crofton Beam Engines – the oldest working Beam Engines in the world – where we stopped for a well-deserved lunch and a spot of sunbathing. Hilda-May got horizontal; cake, sandwiches, coffee and tea were ordered and after a seemingly endless wait, we eventually got our lunch. 

It would have been easy to stay all afternoon in the sun, but we made our way back and rode up through Crofton Farm, after which came the muddiest part of the ride – huge, deep tractor-wheel sized ruts filled with thick, gloopy water, and the only option was to get off and push. Eventually we made it through and rode on to St Katharine’s, stopping to look at the church, before riding a short way along the road back to the Grand Avenue.

At the start of the Avenue, we turned left onto the Gallops Track, a nice, sweeping piece of old tarmac trail, then turned off at eight walks, riding past the old Christmas tree nursery and arboretum. From here we bounced down a muddy, rooty little chute that spat us out at a grassy clearing, and made our way back to the campsite. 

The blissfully sunny weather helped to make the ride special, but I was thrilled that so many ladies made the effort to attend my first led ride – I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. 

Ladies’ Tracks and Trails Ride

Words and photos by Debbie Davies 

After last month’s somewhat wintery weather for our Ladies ride, I was paying lots of attention to the TV forecasts in the run up to this month’s event. It wasn’t looking too horrible. It said cold but dry with sunny spells. Despite that, I wasn’t expecting a very good turn out as there were so many colds and bugs hitting our riders.

I cycled to our starting point at the Croft Trail car park in plenty of time and waited to see who arrived.  It was lovely to see some of our past riders joining us again – the urban ride has been held every February for the last 3 years and it just seems to work for people when the trails are thick with mud and the days chilly.

By 10am we numbered 8 and were nearly ready to set off when Sharon discovered that her helmet wasn’t where it was supposed to be. A protective bobble hat was donned and a phone call to home to see if the helmet could be delivered to the café stop soon had everything sorted and we were on our way.

We made our way to Lydiard Park and the café via the cycleways and quiet roads around Swindon. We are very lucky to have so many linking routes and each time the urban ride has been done it’s been a challenge to find trails that not everyone knows. I’m pleased to say that, apparently, I managed it again.

Ladies mountain biking

We got to the café to be met by Nigel with the helmet and the amazing Mr Turnip in tow. Mr T is a Bull Terrier with the best ‘feed me I’m starving’ eyes. He helped me with my donut before we set off again. The weather was sufficiently nice that we all had refreshments outside.

We left the café (and Nigel and Mr T) and rejoined the route using the mud free cycle paths until we reached the off road cycle path towards Peatmoor Lake. Trudy and I had ridden this route the week before and it was a bit damp; now it was under water! Riding through it was the only way, so I went through first expecting the others to wait and see how deep it was before getting wet feet. I seems they were all more intrepid than that and followed me through.

We made our way around West Swindon and back onto the Old Town railway track. The mud and puddles came thick and fast at this point, and my bike seemed to be a magnet for all of it.  As we rode down into Old Town and towards Coate Water, the weather was changing and the wind had picked up. The sun had left us and it looked as though it might even snow. Time to push and get home.

Ladies mountain biking

At the exit to the park, we became seven as Mandy left us to take a short cut home. We turned into a headwind and made our way back to Croft Trail via the golf course and straight into more mud. Julie had come on semi-slick tyres and here it proved just a bit too much for them, so walking was the best way at this point. She showed great skills getting back along the bridleway to Croft Trail though, as we picked our way down the well-trampled paths.

We reached the car park, where bikes were loaded hastily into cars and most of the ladies went home to get warm. Three of us stayed chatting in the car park until a hailstorm ended our social and sent us scuttling for our cars and home.

Many thanks to Trudy, Julie, Kerry, Caroline , Mandy, Sharon and Sarah for joining me, and double thanks to Sharon and Sarah for being my back markers for the ride .

Ladies ‘Cake Burner ‘ride – 21st January 2018

Words and photos by Debbie Davies

The Ladies rides have the reputation of always being on the best weather days. This ride bucked the trend well and truly.

I sat in Coate Water car park, far too early for the agreed meeting time, watching the rain hammer down on my windscreen, driven by the increasing winds. It was going to be foul. I was fully prepared for the wet, having packed suitable jacket and waterproof shorts, waterproof gloves and a helmet liner to keep out the draughts. I did put out a warning on the ride details to makes sure to wear enough as the Ridgeway can be a bit blowy in the winter so looking at the spare clothes in my car I appeared to have heeded the advice.

Sue was as early as me, parked at the other side of the car park. Soon after Trudy arrived and finally Sharon who had run and ridden the day before and for some daft reason thought she needed more exercise.

We rode out from Coate via the motorway bridge and had our first indication of how cold it actually was. The rain was going to be variable throughout the day and at this point it gave us a little respite, enough to reach the byway and the mud. The ride was designed to avoid the worst of the heavy going but this was seriously sloppy, it was going to be a messy one.

We carried on up towards Hackpen Hill battling now icy rain, stinging our faces as it was pushed by a crosswind. We briefly stopped to adjust our Buffs over our noses, highwayman style. It looked so comical in the awful conditions that I had to take a photo of us all. There were comments about whether this was normal behaviour.

The route after Hackpen has a lovely descent into a dip before a climb out towards Fyfield Down. By now the visibility had gone and the usual views were just a memory …it was seriously wet and very cold. It was then we realised we were the only people up there, mountain bikers seem to be a different breed.

We resorted to walking part of the byway as it had turned so slippery, ably demonstrated by Sue who had her front wheel wash out and unceremoniously depositing her in even more water and mud as a result. Fyfield Down is a glorious area, but not this day, we were now all cold with numb fingers …my waterproof gloves leak, and frozen toes. There were the smallest signs of a mutiny in the ranks at this point, with talks of short cuts but the draw of cake was stronger and we pressed on to Marlborough.

The Café had become a sanctuary from the bitter cold, it took us all a few minutes to be able to operate fingers to remove helmets and open purses, to the amusement of a few diners. Finally cake and tea was ordered and we sat warming our hands around hot mugs and slowly defrosted. The café staff were wonderful , they wouldn’t let us mop up as we left and even provided us with latex work gloves so we could put back on our now dripping cycle gloves  more easily . We promised we would go back in the summer, clean and dry and buy more cake.

We made our way home, feeling much happier at the prospect now we had thawed out. The old railway path we were going back along was sheltered from the wind and the rain and I think we actually enjoyed the final leg, chatting most the way. The last 10 miles passed quite quickly now there was no headwind and very soon we were back at Coate car park. Sometimes we chat before we move away, this day we had already said our goodbyes before we even stopped the bike wheels moving and hastily packed up saturated kit and muddy bikes. The lure of a hot bath was very strong.

The ladies of MB Swindon always support their rides and make them special …this one was in a different category, many thanks to Trudy , Sue and Sharon for turning up at all  to ride in that weather and then sticking with it to the end.

 

 

Ladies Christmas FoD gathering

16th December 2017

Words by Debbie Davies

Debbie

Photos by Debbie Davies and friends

A little idea came into my head one day last February. Just before Christmas Kat and I had held a club gathering at the Croft Trail for our club and it occurred to me then it might be fun to do just a Ladies one. The idea kept popping up all through the summer until in August I decided to action that idea. I contacted other Ladies from local Ladies only groups and asked them what they thought, it seemed to be a winning plan. So on it went. From the original 8 ladies I contacted the numbers spread via FB to 17, spreading the word amongst their riders. In September the date went in the calendar. We were now official.

Helen from Dame Forest of Dean group had arranged to have mince pies and mulled wine ready at the end of the ride, Tinsel and club shirts were part of the dress code so we would all know what clubs we were riding with . The ride organisation was gaining momentum and before we knew it we were now being offered lunch too. Ladies just kept adding their name to the event list and my idea of a little social with maybe 20 ladies attending was, all those months ago, was now a staggering 77 ladies.

The week before like great chunks of the country, we had snow. Not masses near Swindon, but that was not the case in the Forest of Dean. They were covered in the stuff, enough that the trail centre had to close for a couple of days. When they were able to open again the trail pixies and Forestry Commission had been hard at work to make the trails usable after all the fallen trees, we were lucky it still looked good to go, the trails were ready. Then came the message that the family trail, that we were using for the morning social, was still impassable due to fallen trees and frozen icy snow blocked tracks. A hasty change of plan took place and along with it some cancellations. The weather was starting to have an impact on another week it seemed.

I set off with a friend to The Forest of Dean, the early hour still very much swathed in darkness, to make sure I had enough time to organise everything. One of the Ladies had got there even earlier than us, unsure of what the local roads would bring. An hour later, and expecting a considerably reduced gathering, we were set for MB Swindon’s first mass Ladies club event. However, despite the weathers best efforts, we seemed to have amassed 72 Ladies, ready to hit the now amended route of the Verderers trail. With Helen at the helm to keep the pace steady due to some icy trails, we set off. It was an amazing sight to see so many riders winding their way up the trail with tinsel bedecked bikes. Malvern Maidens made a big impact with their Unicorn themed shirts and Unicorn fairy lights. We had Father Christmas, Mother Christmas, several Elves and a great many Father Christmas hats all pedaling their way around the now sun washed trails. The usual photo stops, regrouping pauses and just general chat stops made for a wonderful atmosphere and there was the usual encouragement for those who were new to the trail centre.

2 hours later and with everyone safely back without incident, we made our way to the café and the room set up for our mince pies and mulled wine, hard to miss as the winter spice smell permeated the area as soon as you entered . Pedalabikeaway and the café staff had done us proud. The mulled wine was well received as it was still very cold on the ride despite the winter sun, and the pasta lunch was just the perfect meal to top up energy supplies.

In the afternoon we all set off to do our own thing , some riding other trails with Katy Curd as their guide , others headed for the skills loops and the red trails and some Ladies headed home having made the very big effort to travel from as far as Taunton and Kent.

10 months ago I had this little idea, on the 16th December 72 Ladies made it a reality. Many thanks to all those Ladies who made the day very special, who gave up their time to support other riders , who made the day such a fun and memorable one for me especially , it only ever started as a small thought …Thanks too the Staff of Pedalabikeaway for all their work in making sure we were fed and watered so well .

 

 

 

 

Ride Report: Carry on Rafe

Words and photos by Tom Scott

The weather forecast was bad: yellow wind, loads of rain, snow, hail, forest fires, the works! Rafe could not make it so I stepped in, eager to fit in as many ride leads as possible before my self-imposed sabbatical starts at the end of this year.

In the 24 hours before it was due to start, the ride was on, then kind of off, then on, then almost certainly maybe off, then definitely on.

Then it snowed. Lots of it.

I was so excited that I left the house at 8.30 for a 10 o’clock ride! It started off well – fun, fun, fun! But by the time I got to Croft, I was regretting my decision not to wear my big coat, and my gloves were soaked through.

After a ride round the car park to the pavillion I saw a vision in yellow – Steve had turned up. ‘Yay,’ I thought, ‘I won’t have to go home and have a cup off coffee, a hot bath and some Hobnobs…’ Then Sean phoned to say he was on his way and whilst waiting for his van I spotted Nathan Buck, so we were four.

We set off, and after a mile Sean announced that he had forgotten his phone, so we went back to the trail. We set off again, up towards the Marriott, to Marlborough Road, then joined the Old Town railway track and rode down to John Lewis. It was 11 o’clock by this time!

We then rode back through town, up Commercial Road, Victoria Road, down Marlborough Road and Pipers Way, and back to the trail. That took us three-quarters of an hour!  I was home by 12, freezing and well overdue for a brew. The ride was only 8 miles, but it was a great laugh and I couldn’t have chosen a better three fellas than Nath, Steve and Sean to ride it with!

Ride Report: Barbury Beast

Words by Tom Scott – Photos by Gary Palmer and Richard Ford

This ride had been advertised as the Barbury Beast, with 50 miles of roots, rocks and ruts and 4,000 feet of climbing.

No-one put their name down, so I decided to devise a route which called in at the starting point at the 30 mile mark, and popped a cafe stop in the middle of the first loop.  Hey presto! There were 13 of us at Barbury for the start!

We set off across the castle and down the grassy slope, and ground conditions were okay! Amazing!  Then a quick blast down the gravel and a tarmac slog over to Liddington Hill kept us warm and toasty.

Up the hill, down the ruts and suddenly we were at the radio mast.  I was intending on going down Snap hill on the road to try and break the Ogbourne land speed record, and come back up Earthline, but a kind soul pointed out that Earthline would be gopping and flying down a road isn’t really mountain biking, so we went down to Whiteshard Bottom instead, did the loop, then down the speedbumps descent to the road and turned left.

We all made it down Rickety Bridge without incident, then took the railway line to Marlborough where we had a cafe stop.  We had a puncture (Steve) and broken mech hanger (Sean) on the way out, so we were behind schedule. For the sake of safety, we had to leave Barbury for the second loop by 2pm at the latest, and having been delayed we did not get to Marlborough until gone 12, so I reluctantly announced that the second loop was cancelled.

Everyone was disappointed, so I added a little bit extra on the way back. We did the long road climb from Marlborough and descended into Rockley, up by the church and round the block to the fun bit.

Then it was up towards 4-mile clump.  When we got to the Ogbourne St Andrew turn off we went right.  Gary Y, Sonny and Fordy were on their last legs and knackered by then so they went straight back. Debbie, Hazel and Sharon kindly agreed to escort them up the hill, they were so worried about the lads.

The remaining Magnificent 7 (Me, Gary P, Gary A, Ian, Sean, Steve and Nathan) then dropped down to the barn, down through Ogbourne and back up the 3 mile slog we know as Smeathe’s Ridge.

In summary, it was a great ride; good weather, fine company and the ground conditions were not too bad, all things considered. Pity we didn’t have time to do the full route, but we will be back in the summer when we have more daylight. This was a good example of a ride where there is a bit of flexibility with the route, some people can miss out a loop, or ride up, or take a short cut. In the end, everyone was happy with what they did, which is the most important thing.

Battle of West Ridge Woods – Ride Report

Thought I’d get there early, to check out the first part of this ride, as the last time I rode it, it was dark and I wasn’t paying attention, Just after 9 I got there and blow me down with a ton of bricks, the Duller brothers and Kevin were already there, fettling with their steeds, keen me thinks.

¼ mile into the ride we stopped for our first photo opportunity, pretty impressive view it is too

This part of the ride I would be winging it, although id ridden it a few times it’s been at night in gopping weather, what could go wrong.

The trail gods were good to us today, the ground was relatively dry, which was handy as this section was a tad off camber and full of roots,   (don’t look at the roots, don’t look at the roots) everybody made it through

Started to head over to North Nibley now, there is some real nice single-track through here, not over technical but you need to concentrate a bit as you can soon come unstuck, riding up toward the monument we went right, this is where the groovy kids have been building all the downhill tracks, I do suffer from all the tracks look the same but luckily I chose a track that didn’t kill us all and was a bit of fun, steep, twisty and bermy (if that’s a word), first climb of the day that made me change colour.

Back on the top we started to head back where we came from but in a slightly different direction, this was planned, honest.

I was amazed how dry the tracks were, especially after the rain we’d had in the previous week

I nearly lost a few in here, but plenty of loud talking bought them back into the flock

This track bought us back to where we parked the vehicles, but the ride wasn’t over, up the road and drop left into a tasty little track, that has seen many a good rider sat on there derriere , so well done all for not taking close inspection of the ground here, although I here Sean preferred to ride down there on his front wheel J, this part of the ride is familiar to those of you who have ridden Heaven of the South before, prone to being a bit muddy, not to bad today though, we got to the part of the trail where it starts to go downhill, it’s a tasty track that goes into a gully with a gate near the bottom ( there used to be two, my crash on a previous ride sorted that one out) I went on to open the gate and catch a few photos

We were now down in Waterly Bottom with stuff on our bikes that didn’t smell like your conventional mud.

Pretty valley this though

We were now heading over to Stinchcombe, to one of my favourite climbs in this area, words can describe it, we got to the bottom of the hill and I told the skinnier members of the group to wait at the crossroad of the tracks, when we got there they had gone straight on, unlucky, a bit of shouting and the racing snakes rejoined the group, off again on this delightful climb all the way up to Stinchcombe golf club, rode round the perimeter of the golf club and made our way over to Breakheart quarry. Small discussion whether we stopped for a break now or did the switch backs up and down and then had our break, we all opted for lunch later, this is a great piece of woodland to ride and fair play to the people that built it and maintain it

Switch back climb done we make our way to the shed in Breakheart quarry, this is a great service to use if you’re up this way, the shed has a log burner, table and chairs, coffee machine and a cool drinks vending machine, just put your 50p in the honesty box.

Rested we make start making our way over too North Nibley, which entails going down a steep gulley which was full of leaves, which makes for interesting riding, we all made it down and made our way over to the last climb of the day, this climb is straight up, dreaming of switch backs I pushed my bike up, at last we had made it back to the monument at North Nibley, a few went up the tower which is worth doing if you haven’t before, some great views over to the severn bridges and beyond

Just a short ride from here through the woods back to the vehicles

Thanks to Michael, Gary, Kevin, Jane, Dave, Kate, Steve, Martin and Sean for making it a great day out

Monmothma

Getting out of Monmouth was the most likely part of our journey where we were going to make a mistake and I didn’t want to miss any turnings early on in the ride. So 18 patient riders had a bit of a stop-start start to the ride until we got off the road and began following the River Wye south towards Redbrook.
A twisty trail that had a distinct footpath feel to it eventually brought us to Redbrook. A small village on the edge of Gloucestershire, and a village we would ride through 3 times today as we would fan out in various directions including across the border into Wales.
From Redbrook we made a steady 200m climb up above Whitebrook towards New Mills. The cool November air that had us wrapping up in Monmouth now seemed like a distant memory as we shed layers after warming ourselves nicely on the climb up.
As you may know this route hadn’t been ridden before by any of us so surprises were in store and our first one was probably the highlight of the ride.  While looking for my planned exit from the top of the woods I found what looked like a fun trail down so decided, after a review of the map, that we should take it.
Pwllplythin Wood delivered a gnarly leaf strewn treat that dropped us almost all of our 200m in a very short distance. We picked up the scent of my original plan and free wheeled the rest of the way back down towards the river and our trail back to Redbrook.
After we had a stop for lunch we lost Gary P. as his rear shock was misbehaving and he’ll be disappointed to hear that he missed plenty more climbing.
After our second visit to Redbrook we climbed towards Offas Dyke and then followed Valley Brook in a large U shape to what can only politely be described as a very muddy second descent back to the village! Yes we got a bit mucky on our second loop and the descent, while it definitely delivered some smiles and laughter it was almost certainly the muddiest track I’ve ridden in a long time.
We were in Redbrook again for our third and final visit and then a fairly stiff climb up Duffields Lane.  Mostly track and solid surface it wasn’t too bad and eventually brought us to a farm at the top, where we sniffed out the bridleway to bring us down to Wysham Lane.  It was fast and fun but the off road section was over a little too quickly and we were soon on tarmac and pedaling back into Monmouth.
After navigating some traffic lights and a subway we found our way back to the start.
The weather had been kind to us and though we were mostly covered in mud, we were pleasantly warm for a ride in mid November.
Thanks for the huge turn out and once again for the riders who put their trust in me to take them to new territory. We definitely found a route that we should revisit in the Summer.

Ladies Barbury Ride – 11th November 2017 – Ride Report

Driving along the A419 through heavy rain, I wasn’t hopeful of anyone being at Barbury;  However Debbie and Sue were already there ready to go.  At this point it was just drizzle but by 10am, the heavy rain I had driven through had reached us.

We cycled across Barbury Castle and soon realised it was going to be pretty muddy out (completely different to 6 days before when I had recced the ride).  By the time we had reached the old railway line, the rain had eased and by about 10.30 it had stopped completely.

We headed up the radio mast climb, stopping at 11 to observe the 2 minutes silence.  It was quite poignant as the guns from the local shoots stopped as well and the sound of bird song filled the air.

We carried on along the old Ridgeway, where it soon became apparent that Sue would be puddle depth scout, and then back down towards the old railway line where we stopped for snacks.

Then it was the final climbs back up to Barbury through mud, long grass and puddles (although there were some puddles even Sue wouldn’t cycle through) and to homemade cakes from Debbie.

Despite the horrible weather at the start of the ride, and the fact we were all plastered in mud at the end, it was a really enjoyable ride out.