The morning started well, with a brief look at the weather forecast showing very little chance of rain with a stiff South-Westerly breeze, which suited us fine as we were heading North-East.
As I rode to the start on my brand new tyres I was feeling good, then spotted Mr Yeates on the other side of Dorcan Way. A quick bunny hop off the kerb and we were a pair. We became a trio at Covvy shops where Howard “No relation to Elizabeth II” Windsor was just completing his pre-ride faff.
As Graham hadn’t bothered riding to Covvy and we had some spare time, we rode down to his place and then Gary Lee turned up and that made five. On arrival at Fox Hill there was a positive cornucopia of talent, all ready to make the most of the tail wind. So the twelve set off up the Ridgeway.
The going was reasonable apart from a stretch where a tractor / trailer and a digger had made a bit of a mess of the trail, a nice ride through the woods by Waylands Smithy, some sketchy Ridgeway rut riding (reminded us we were alive) some climbs and a bit of Tarmac and we arrived at the caff.
I think that we were all dreading the ride back into the wind, but to be fair it wasn’t too bad apart from a couple of open stretches, and it’s amazing how quickly the miles rolled by and there we were back at Fox Hill, the Dirty Dozen!
Tom Scott will be running his ever-popular Wantage cafe ride on 22nd October.
The ride follows the Ridgeway from Swindon, past the White Horse at Uffington, and on to the outskirts of Wantage, where the group will stop for a cup of tea and a slice of cake to fuel up for the return leg.
There are two distance options for this ride:
40 Mile Option
Meet at Covingham shops at 9.00am.
25 Mile Option
Meet at Foxhill at 10.00am.
There are a couple of climbs en-route, but no technically difficult sections. The 25 mile option would make a good next-step ride for those looking to go beyond the average novice friendly ride.
As always, bring a drink and snack, and any spares you might need.
Tom Scott will be leading this mountain bike ride out towards Wantage on the Ridgeway, and back again via a combination of bridleways and country lanes. Be prepared for a fair bit of climbing.
Is this ride for you? You should be confident that you are fit enough to ride a mountain bike off road for 4 hours or more. You should have the skills to repair your bike in case of mechanical failure.
I arrived in Wantage just before 9.00 to give myself time for an on-the-day registration for the 50km ‘Half Marathon’. This proved a quick and easy process, which left me with plenty of time to return to the car park and get my bike set up, which consisted mainly of putting the front wheel back on after taking it out of the car. All around me in the car park, people seemed to be taking their preparations very seriously – making fine adjustments to their tyre pressures, tightening cables, and so on – so I decided to squeeze my tyres, so that I, too, looked like I knew what I was doing! They were fine.
As I queued for a last minute visit to the portaloos, I met chap in a Swindon Road Club shirt and chatted for a while before heading back to the event village ready for the 10.00 o’clock start. The village was getting pretty packed by now, but I managed to find Tom Scott, Darren Pettit and Andrew Titcombe chatting with a couple of riders from Cotswold Veldrijden, and we were soon joined by Sean Bolton, too.
Unfortunately there was a fifteen minute delay to the start, which made for a lot of hanging around. Finally, the hooter sounded and we were off! Then, a foot later we stopped again, and repeated this pattern for the next five minutes as 700 riders filtered slowly though the ten foot entrance to the field.
The pace picked up once we were on the road – which was closed for us by the police – but once we were off road, there were regular bottlenecks as paths narrowed leading to long lines of riders moving at the same pace and queues waiting to join the line. This carried on for about three miles, before wider trails allowed faster riders to pass and the pack started to thin out. Soon the riders on the ‘Mini Marathon’ turned off to reduce numbers further.
At about 8 miles, we approached what Strava labels as Slug Hill, which reaches 15%. This is one of those climbs which you see long before you reach it, and watching the riders ahead struggle up it – some having to get off and push – puts doubt in your mind about whether you’ll manage it. However, I’ve had a pretty good summer on the bike so far, and was pleasantly surprised that I made it up without any serious difficulty.
A mile or two later, emerging from the woods, I recognised where I was; I’d previously been on a club ride here, led by Rafe, and quick gravel descent later I reached the first feed zone. A minute later, a rider arrived and headed straight for the mechanical support van as his pedal had sheared off.
Over the next few miles, I recognised several sections, including a long singletrack climb where I latched on to the back wheel of the rider in front and imagined myself to be Froome following Porte up Alpe d’Huez (although I didn’t feel the need to put in a quick burst for the summit).
The following sections were a good mix of manageable climbs and some flowing descents, and I found that I was starting to recognise about a dozen riders who were obviously riding at the same pace as me. At about 20 miles, I met Tom, Darren and Andrew sorting out a couple of minor mechanicals. I pressed on, knowing that they’d probably pass me again anyway.
After one more climb and descent, the route started to rise steadily… and kept rising – just at 1 or 2% – for most of the remaining eight or nine miles. I found this pretty draining and had to stop at about 25 miles to stretch out a cramp. A lot of this later section was also out in the open, and the day was getting pretty hot by now (the others later opted for the 75km route instead of the 100 because it got so hot). Over the last few miles I joined a couple of other riders and we kept each other going to the second feed zone, curiously positioned just two or three miles from the end of the 50km route.
After a quick snack, it was a just a short stretch of the Ridgeway and a very fast road descent back into Wantage and the finish line. As I collected my finisher’s T-shirt I bumped into Sean again. Not only had he completed the 75km route faster than I’d done the 50, but he’d also had time for an ice cream!
So then, is it worth paying money (£37 for an on-the-day entry!) to ride in places where you can ride for free any time? I do these very rarely (in fact this is my first proper MTB event, although I have done three sportives on the road) so I don’t mind paying for an occasional ‘treat’ to myself, but it would get pretty expensive to do this regularly. I wasn’t sure about the mass start: I’m not fast, but there were far too many hold ups at the beginning, although it does feel good to ride as part of such a large group. The feed zones and mechanical support are good, I enjoyed riding in some new places without having to think about my route at all, and who doesn’t like attaching a number to the front of their bike like a ‘proper’ rider? So, an expensive day, but a very enjoyable one!
Tom Scott will be leading this non-novice, non-trail centre, non-technical slog. We will start with a lap of Croft Trail, then ride out to Coate, Foxhill, Wantage.
After a cafe break, we’ll ride back to Foxhill, continuing to Liddington, Ogbourne, Barbury, and stop at Avebury for a second break. Then it’s Hackpen, back to Barbury, and down Ladder Lane to return to Croft.
There will be a lot of climbing so bring your best legs. Please ensure you have spare bits for your bike and some rations and water.
If you want to do half the ride that’s fine, we can sort out timings nearer the time.
It was meant to rain! I had been out the previous night doing voluntary work finding homes for countless needy pints of beer, so I decided to drive to Foxhill for the start rather than riding from home.
I arrived to see 14 mountain bikers all togged up and ready for the off. I passed round the ride sheet and tentatively got my trusty Kona (recently rebuilt but not yet test ridden) off the roof, and off we set.
At the very top of the first climb I realised I had left my wallet on the roof of my car, so I advised the group to carry on at a slow pace whilst I went back down the hill, got my wallet and then rode back up to reclaim my position at the front.
The weather was ok, side wind was quite spectacular at times, and we arrived at the White Horse car park for the start of the Novice Friendly ride. Steve was there with his 29er, as well as Phil and two mates from Abingdon way who claimed to have ridden down (it turns out they’d got a lift!). Leaving the car park I suffered a temporary lack of grip and nearly took Jim out!
So now we were 19, and we set up off up White Horse hill, with varying levels of huffing and puffing. After a couple of miles we stopped at a road crossing to wait for the back marker. We waited a bit more followed by a long period of waiting. Banjo went back to have a look and didn’t come back. One of the three Richards went back, came back again, couldn’t see anything… Turns out that our old favourite issue had reared it’s ugly head i.e. Tubeless tyre going down!
Sean, bless him, had tried to blow it up a few times but it didn’t work. His spare tube was no good, but eventually the spare spare tube was fitted and we lost about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, the newbie and Debs had decided to return to Foxhill, and I had sent Graeme on as leader at a steady (yeah, right) pace to the cafe, whilst I went back, by which time, inevitably, Sean and Mark were coming round the bend with the forgotten Banjo.
I then rode like the wind back to the group to let them know, then waited again for the tube changers. We got to the cafe at Wantage and all had food and drink and made merry.
The three reprobates from Abingdon carried on their ride home and we set off back following a short cut which added about a mile on. I had a minor off on the way back which most people found hilarious. The rain held off and everyone agreed it had been a good ride.
Tom Scott will be leading a Ridgeway ride to the east of Swindonia. This will not be a technical ride, just a bit hilly. It is ideal for novices due to the non-technical nature of the route and relaxed pace we’ll be riding at.
There is a charge for parking at the Uffington White Horse National Trust car park so please bring some change (£5 last time we were there). Find the Uffington White Horse at SN7 7UK (OS Grid Ref: SU299863).
There is also an alternative starting point for more experienced riders: we will be meeting at Foxhill at 9 for a 9.15 departure, arriving at White Horse by 10am. This will make it a 40km (25 mile) ride.
To mark the shortest day of the year, MB Swindon is holding a day long ‘Dawn to Dusk’ ride along some of its favourite local routes.
Both rides are novice friendly, and you can decide whether to do a morning, an afternoon or a whole day ride. If you are considering doing both rides, please ensure that you are fit enough and have plenty of supplies of food, drink and spares.
Lights would be useful if you intend to ride part 2 as we may be delayed on the way back, and will be essential if you are riding home afterwards.
Part One: From Dawn…
A Ridgeway ride from Foxhill taking in Barbury Castle. There will be a couple of climbs, but nothing too technical. There will be a café stop at Chiseldon on the way back for morning coffee (and cake)!
Distance: 16 miles (25km)
Terrain/Difficulty: Quite hilly, but nothing too technical
Shops/Pubs/Cafes: Cafe and service station at Chiseldon
Time: Meeting at 07:45 for 08:00 start
Meeting Point: Foxhill, Wanborough
Part Two: …to Dusk
A classic MB Swindon route: Wantage out and back. We’ll have a café stop at the turn around point for afternoon tea (and more cake)! Some hills but nothing too technical.
Distance: 25 miles (40km)
Terrain/Difficulty: Quite hilly, but nothing too technical