Mixed Bag

I got up yesterday and it was pouring with rain so I decided to bang out 90 mins on the turbo. 20 mins in I was bored, so I stopped, looked outside, saw the rain had stopped and decided to go out instead. I’d lost my mojo this week. Other than 30 mins on the rack, this was my first ride in a week.

After a quick shower and change, the gravel bike checked and ready I left the house about noon and rode down through town to pickup a path that runs parallel to the railway in Aston Fields and pops me out a couple of hundred metres from the canal. I decided to jump on at the Queens Head pub and taking the gravel towpath up the locks to Tardebigge dodging the puddles. It was overcast and moody. Rain still threatened but so far so good.

Back onto road and I decided to head to Foxlydiate woods. When I used to commute to Redditch I always said to myself to check these out but never did, so now was as good a time as any. Into the car park and I picked up the only path which meandered down a hill and opened up and crossed a stream. I just followed my nose until I popped out on the Bromsgrove Road opposite Pitcher Oak Woods, my next stop. It was a great little cut through with a decent wide offroad trail. Quiet too.

Across the road and into Pitcher Oak Woods and I was on my old CX racing ground. A notorious course locally (not used anymore) that claimed many a broken bike or bone. Probably more suited to MTB than CX in hindsight. I crashed badly there one year really banging my knee which swelled when I rode for more than an hour. Ironically it helped me actually as I trained really hard for an hour at a time which paid off for the rest of the cross season.

After a long drag up to the grassy open centre, a quick descent off the plateau then left up a climb that goes really steep at the end, probably 20-30% at its steepest. I never remember it being that bad! (8th fastest on Strava! check me out!)

I rode through the town centre and picked up the National Cycle Route (NCN) through Arrow Valley Park. It wasn’t as busy as normal, probably due to the earlier rain. Park done I jumped on a segregated path that runs up past the hospital and takes a left skirting housing estates and is a converted railway line. A great little cut-through and a shame it was so short. So far I was doing well on the traffic-free routes.

It was inevitable I had to spend some time on the road so I opted for quiet ones. Next I rode through Sambourne following the NCN to Coughton Court a beautiful National Trust house. The main road is super busy so I pissed the drivers off by using the lights and scooted over and down the side of the property to a ford. The rain made it too deep to ride (circa 1ft ) so I took the bridge and picked up the best bit of gravel in the area. The Arden Way.

The Arden Way offroad route is the perfect gravel road. No gates, dirt, gravel, potholes. It’s pretty broken and a decent climb and push from this side too. I rode it steady and forgot how long it was. Strava tells me I was 10th fastest on the segment @ 5.5 mins long. The legs were saying nice things to me. I popped out onto the road and debated where next. A few years a go I organised a Paris-Roubaix flavour event from my cycle shop that took in the Arden Way. I called it the Amstel Floubaix and down the road are a couple more ‘sectors’ from that ride so I rode there and did the longest one which looped me back round to the ford again.

Back to the main road I crossed and rode up a quieter different lane and eventually picked up a the start of a bridleway through a gate I’d spotted on an OS map recently. I decided to give it a go but I knew straight off it was going to be a bit shit. The field was hard and dry and churned up by horses. Into the woods and I lost my bearings. One part was so bad it was unrideable and I had to walk a 100m or so. I saw one bridleway sign then they stopped so I followed my bearings and a track out of the woods only to be met with a gate smothered in barbed wire. I gingerly hoisted my bike over and carefully climbed the gate and jumped off trying not to snag myself. There was sign perched on the top proclaiming Private Property and trespassers would be prosecuted. No idea where the legal bridleway went but I’d apparently just broken the law lol.

The sun had broken out now and I was nice and warm and contemplating taking my arm warmers off but couldn’t be arsed to stop. Back into Sambourne I climbed up and over Astwood Bank and took some meandering lanes back to Bromsgrove taking in some of the breathtaking scenery and the peace and quiet.

I thought about some more offroad up the canal again but instead I was nearly 3hrs in now so went home via the park for a well earned cold can of coke.

70km mixed terrain done and I was literally dusted, pleased the slow puncture in front tyre had sealed now I’d changed the sealant the day before and removed a huge thorn.

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