Words by Chris Macnamara
As a 40-something chubby Scots lad who’s lived in Swindon for the last 27 years, I’ve got the right to say: the town is no oil painting!
However, get literally one mile from its most popular leisure site – Coate Water – and it’s as if you were in a different world.
Every Wednesday night, MBSwindon has an organised semi-urban ride, using the excellent network of cycle paths and trails criss-crossing the town, some paved, some not. Occasionally, we go a little further afield, always returning to the start by around 9.30.
Most recently, John Crocker, with his trusty side kick Jim Harber (they’re a bit like an elderly Batman and Robin), took us on a new and exciting route starting at Covingham, via the afore mentioned Coate Water, across the Curly Wurly Bridge over the M4, and on through what must be one of the most beautiful paved cycle paths that this country has to offer. It’s got a sharp little climb too, so the granny ring (or electric assistance) was required!
We followed Route 45 through Chiseldon, and joined Route 482 towards Marlborough (it’s a reclaimed railway line, 8 miles long, largely mud free, and pretty flat, and always makes me feel like Luke Skywalker, preparing to fire that photon torpedo in that trench on the Death Star… just me?), right by The Farm Shop and cafe (good cake apparently).
The trail was dry and fast, the sun was shining, and with a group of about 10 very mixed ability riders, the scene was set for a good ‘un.
Around a mile down the old railway trail, we turned right onto an old concrete surfaced road, low sun streaming through the gaps in the trees, the group chattering, laughing and shouting at stinging nettles crowding over the trail.
Soon we started climbing. It’s a steep one, going fairly straight, rising sharply between the shooting school and Barbury Castle. Then through a couple of fields on well used trails, and we burst out onto the tarmac road to the Castle, over ¾ of the way up! If you’ve ever ridden to Barbury, you’ll know it usually requires crampons and oxygen. The crew did brilliantly, and we were all still laughing!
We were on the road home now. We spread ourselves out, to take on the lightning fast descent, hedgerows flashing past either side, towards the lower section of the Ridgeway. From there we rolled back towards Chiseldon, and downhill this time through that gorgeous tree-lined cycle path, the curly wurly bridge and back home via Coate.
Nearly 27 miles door to door, but it didn’t feel anything like that.
This was certainly the best club ride I’ve been on, with a great route, great company, fantastic weather, and breathtaking views.
Whatever stage you’re at with mountain biking, you won’t be left behind, or made to feel you’re holding up the group… and I should know! Join us, you’ll love it!
View the route: http://app.strava.com/activities/152411953