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Spokes Cycle Touring Club
Spokes 2009 Events & Write-ups
April 16-23rd 2009
No rain all week! Just lots of sun. sea and San Migel.. oh and a bit of cycling
Write Up by Glen Demody
We returned from Mallorca with no plans to produce any kind of write-up or report on the event. There is a limited amount of entertainment to be had with sequels. The Godfather knew enough to stop after three and don’t get me started on Star Trek Four or Rocky Five!
However, I have become aware that if no account of a trip is published on the website then, for the majority of the club’s members, it is as if the event never took place. This would fail to reflect the fact that a lot of fun was had by a lot of members. Therefore, as my last function as organiser, I will recount those bits of the trip that I can recall.
Speaking of organisation I must mention at this point the real “pig’s ear” I made of this year’s event. The plan was excellent, well-tried and well thought out. However, when it came to the small details, I displayed the concentration levels of a mentally deficient goldfish with Alzheimers disease. Whether this was due to senility, retirement or a lifetime of alcoholic abuse only time will tell. It took a great deal of diplomacy, a large slice of luck and, as Blanche Dubois would say, the “kindness of strangers” to keep the show on the road. I don’t think people realised, as we went over the route instructions on that first morning, how lucky we were to still be working with a map of Mallorca and not one of sh*t creek.
As far as the actual rides went I think they were fairly successful. For those who care about such things we went as far north as Porto Cristo, as far south as the lighthouse at Cap de ses Salines (the most southerly point of the island), as far west as Sa Rapita and as far east as . . . . . ., well Cala D’or where we were staying. For those who did everything it was officially 271 miles; although most people had a day off to hire a car, take a bus into Palma or just laze on the beach.
At this point I need to say a special thank you to my own tour sub-committee, Graham and Ray. They selflessly gave of their time to attend our daily committee meetings which took place in the Music Club opposite the hotel at one o’clock each morning. The pair were able to dispense plenty of advise on Mallorca, the bike club and the world in general; all of which we managed to “put right” every night. They were even able to help me with a few personal issues. As many of you know some of my lifestyle choices leave a lot to be desired, therefore the duo introduced me to the Spanish Beer Diet. Amazingly, it had some success. During the whole week in Mallorca I managed to lose two days.
On the subject of nightlife some mention should be made of Sunday night. After feasting well at the hotel buffet, twelve of the fourteen carried on to our favourite haunt, the Alcatraz Bar. We were missing Martin, who was suffering from the Mallorcan version of the Torremolinos Trots; and Judith, who accompanied him to play the dutiful wife and mop his fevered brow. Judith did admit to me later that she probably overdid the brow mopping somewhat, but she felt it was by far the safest end to be at.
At this point the bar staff, who had been watching and enjoying proceedings, decided to pump up the sound system and distribute a lot of weird and wonderful musical instruments to everyone. The night quickly degenerated into absolute chaos and my memory becomes very vague. I vaguely remember six foot four inch Dave dancing with the four foot ten inch Columbian bar maid. I vaguely remember the girls doing a passable Dancing Queen. I vaguely remember Sue deciding to play a ”football on a stick marrachas type thing” by bouncing it off her head. I also vaguely remember Gareth and myself joining Peter Kay on the Road to Amarillo.
All in all a night never to be forgotten. Unfortunately I am unable to remember most of it.
May 15-17th 2009
An eventful time was had by all in the New Forest weekender organised by Gareth. Moorland and forest along small woodland tracks. With the flint strewn path causing a few headaches! But a great weekend, good company, cycling, beer and grub.
Bristol to Lands End
A five day cycle trek from Bristol to Lands end following the national cycle Network Trail (3)
Event Leader: Ray Robbins
Whats was it all about Ray?
On 18 June nine members Spokes-ctc took on a 5 day cycle trek from Bristol to Lands End. The group followed National Cycle Network trail (3). The route consisted of signposted traffic free trails and minor roads. Sustrans maps used were “The West country way” a beautiful tour that includes many a beach and “The Cornish Way” which includes a tour through the old tin mine areas of Cornwall. In the months leading up to the ride Ray had reconnoitred most of the route-although though some may have thought differently particularly around towns and poorly signposted sections (his words!).
The nine who started from Bristol were Brian Ridgway, Eli Dare, Dave Griffiths, Dave Miles, Ivor Rodway, Jim Moon, Michael Cranwell, Mike Hutchinson and Ray Robins. Our support driver was Roger Hall who carried our luggage from the start at Bristol to the finish at Lands End. Transport to the start was by a combination of two cars, two trains and cycling across Bristol to Bristol Temple Meads. All digs had been pre-booked. Cycles used were a mix of mountain, road and cycle cross bikes.
Day 1 - Bristol to Taunton, 70 miles
Weather overcast. Climbing 3227 ft
Considering the different methods of getting to Bristol Temple Meads everyone did well to get there at more or less 09.00 hrs-our start time every day of the trip.
The day proved to be straightforward and a good one to get under our belts. Apart from a pull out of West Harptree, over and around the Mendip hills, the route was fairly flat.
Key parts of the day
A little tricky getting out of Bristol. But well signposted and flat cycling to Chew Magna (10 miles).Stopped for tea -lovely place.
Good lane cycling to Wells (26) miles. Despite me having “recced” the town previously, messed up working our way through the side streets. It needed Jim’s GPS kit to get us through and out of town. Good lane cycling to Glastonbury for lunch (36 miles)
At Glastonbury our group looked quite normal alongside the mix of weekend hippies, bikers and native Americans doing a war-dance around Ivor! Bear in mind this was the week before the Glastonbury festival.
The ride to Bridgewater ( 57 miles ), taking in the Somerset levels was on quiet, flat lanes running parallel to the A39. Near Bridgewater we had a bit of messing about going under the M5 twice before we got on the canal trail for the final stretch to Taunton. We even had time for a pint in a pub on the outskirts of Bridgewater as the sun broke through.
The last leg of the trip mainly alongside the canal, was uneventful with us arriving in Taunton at 19.00 hrs.
A good day’s solid cycling. Overall terrain and road surfaces good.
Day 2 -Taunton to Barnstaple, 75 miles
Weather overcast. Some wind. Climbing 6341 ft
This day proved to be the hardest day of the trip. We decided to break the cycling day into 3 sections :-
Taunton to Tiverton (27 miles)
Tiverton to Dulverton (43 miles)
Dulverton to Barnstaple ( 75 miles)
We took this decision as the stretch from Dulverton to Barnstaple involved steep pulls and cycling on exposed moorland over Exmoor before we dropped to the valley taking us to the finish.
Day 2: Taunton to Barnstaple-75 miles
Key parts of the day
Again like Day (1) a little tricky getting out of town. But, good lanes took us quite quickly past Wellington and then on to a 10 mile stretch of track cycling alongside the Great Western canal leading to Tiverton where we had lunch.
On the next leg of the journey to Dulverton we were stopped by a camera crew who wanted to interview some of our group. Evidently it was National cycle week and they wanted our thoughts on personal insurance cover for long cycling trips.
In order they interviewed :-
- Dave Griffiths-who took to the microphone like David Hassellorf
- Mike Hutchinson-very comfortable speaking in front of the camera- although he did slip up telling the interviewer that he had cycled LE JOG in 6 days.
- Eli-the only lady cyclist on the trip. Lower profile than the other two. But put herself over well whilst being interviewed
As for the Event Leader, me, I failed a screen test. Although, they did pan a camera over my map. The camera crew said they were from ITV-probably ITV West. I am sure we would have had top-billing on the evening news.
At Dulverton we had a good break and made sure we had enough food and water before we set up two vertiginous hills taking us over Exmoor
There followed steady climbs over open moorland levelling out after we had cycled 5 miles from Dulverton. Unfortunately we had strong winds in our faces for another 10 miles until we started our descent towards the valley leading to Barnstaple
Good fast lane cycling-apart from one very steep “up and downer” took us to the outskirts of Barnstaple. By now we had split into small groups. All of us agreed the last few miles into Barnstaple were a drag. Signs directing us around the houses, through supermarkets and past the train station was not what we wanted at the back-end of a 70+miles day
We all got to our digs after 19.00 hrs-some near to 20.00 hrs.
Our numbers of cyclists for Day (3) onwards were reduced to seven. Dave Miles, who had been ill before the ride, had only committed to the first two days cycling. Whilst Eli had come on the ride, also unwell, and following a London to Paris trip she had done the previous week. Both had soldiered on through what had been a tough day for all of us. It was sad for everyone to have them not stay with us for the rest of the trip
Day 3 - Barnstaple to Camelford, 69 miles
Our numbers reduced to seven cyclists and a very hard day behind us we were determined to ride a sub-19.00 hrs day. It was not to be.
We had 20 miles of trail from the start. This section of the route on mainly old railway lines took us along the estuary from Barnstaple through Instow, Bideford, and then inland to Black Torrington. Good cycling on mostly flat terrain.
Weather overcast-some sunshine in the afternoon. Climbing 5983 ft
After a break at Great Torrington (16 miles) we moved on for lunch at Holsworthy (37 miles). On our way to the lunch stop we encountered at least ½ dozen short sharp up-and-down hills. All of which we came upon unexpectedly. In fact we nearly had a pile up on one of them. It was like a very slow version of those crashes you see on “The Tour De France”!
At Holsworthy we settled down for a pub lunch with most of us watching the first Lions v South Africa test rugby match. Little did we know that in a passageway alongside the pub Jim-our resident bike mechanic as well as sat nav expert- had Mike Cranwell’s bike in bits. The verdict-brake disc pads worn and needed replacing. Roger had to take Mike and his bike to Bude and then all the way back to Barnstaple for spare parts
The rest of us after this delay set off in three groups. All having agreed to take the alternative Sustrans route by-passing Bude, Widemouth with its severe hills and cut across country towards Camelford
In my group of three, less than a mile out of town, Ivor’s chain snapped. Ivor expertly turned his bike upside down resting it on handlebars and saddle. This resulted in his tools and sandwiches falling out of his seat bag and rolling away down the lane where we had stopped! To be fair to him he sorted the not straightforward job of fixing his chain quite quickly.
The run from Holsworthy to Camelford contained few hills and had wonderful views inland towards Bodmin Moor and North Cornwall coast. As the afternoon warmed up all cyclists had to ensure we took in enough water. Roger, our support driver, was elsewhere, so we had to fend for ourselves. A reminder to all of us of how difficult the trip would have been without support.
Most of us arrived in Camelford around 19.00 hrs. Dave Griffiths and Mike Hutchinson arrived in the digs a while before us. The problem was that they had no clothes to wear as Roger was still out on the road. It didn’t seem to bother Mike though, strutting around in a bath towel oblivious of admiring glances from two female guests in their late sixties!
A good day’s cycling. Some problems with bikes which slowed us down. But a much easier ride than Day 2
Day 4 - Camelford to Truro, 62 miles
Weather- a mix of light cloud and sunshine. Climbing 6739 ft
This day took us across the Western edge of Bodmin Moor to the town of Bodmin itself and then a criss-cross of lanes to St Austell following the coastline down to Mevagissey and beyond before moving inland to Truro.
The route across Bodmin Moor was well signposted. It needed to be as there were many minor roads/tracks shooting off in different directions. Very good open moorland cycling passing Blisland and picking up the Camel trail to Bodmin (16 miles) for a tea stop.
So far so good-apart from Ivor hitting a post when crossing trails on the outskirts of Bodmin. We left Bodmin in three different group and from discussion later learned that we had arrived in St Austell ( 31 miles)by three different routes! A combination of poor signposting, new alternative routes and impatience meant that the ride from Bodmin was a little frustrating to say the least.
As frustrating was cycling through and around St Austell itself. Like Barnstaple we were directed by signs up back streets on an indirect route which really took us around the houses. The route to Mevagissey (38) miles by contrast was well signposted and straightforward giving us superb coastal views as we neared the Town. It was so nice there we had lunch on the seafront.
The afternoon stretch from Mevagissey to King Harry ferry (58) miles was very good. Signposts were easy to follow and apart from a few climbs on the route running through the villages of Portholland, Portloe and Veryan, terrain was a nice combination of flat and undulating. After crossing the River Fal by way of the ferry, we still had 4 miles to go to our digs on the outskirts of Truro.
Those next few miles were interesting. Three steep downhills -the first one, a dirt track through woods! Each downhill followed by a very steep climb-chevrons all over the place. At Callinick we picked our way on pavements, avoiding very busy roads, to our digs. We arrived at 19.00 hrs. Reflecting on the day, our experiences in and around St Austell were soon forgotten as we had an excellent afternoon’s cycling from Mevagissey to Truro.
Day 5 -Truro to Lands End, 49 miles
Weather mostly sunny. Climbing 4012 ft
We started from Bristol with nine cyclists. We were now down to six as Mike Cranwell had to visit Truro A+E. Mike had had a problem with one of his eyes the previous day and wisely decided to visit the local hospital. He was given the all-clear, provided with medication, and stalwart that he is, cycled the whole day and caught us up at Lands End.
The cycle route from Truro took us on old mineral tramways, now made into quarry dust based trails and quiet lanes to Cambourne (13 miles) where we had our break. A few miles short of Cambourne Jim had said to me, as we were negotiating our way around a tricky little bridge, that we had been fortunate to have few accidents. At this stage I fell off my bike. Fortunately I had fallen into soft grass. My fellow cyclists were overcome with indifference!
The next stretch of trail (Engine house trail) from Hayle through St Erth and then to Penzance although only eleven miles, effectively took us from the North Cornwall coast to that in the South. All good cycling. The run through Penzance was tight to the coastline on cycle tracks and took us through Newlyn and then Mousehole (38 miles) for lunch. The only thing of note on the last leg was my front derailleur jamming against my rear wheel-a legacy of my fall earlier that day. It was soon fixed though.
The run-in from Mousehole to Lands End was excellent. We had a steep climb out of this fishing village, but were rewarded with mostly flat quiet lanes taking us through St Buryan to Lands End (49 miles) by 16.00 hrs.
It was the first time for many of us to be at Lands End when it wasn’t raining. The sun was shining. The air was clear – beautiful.
A hard but rewarding cycle trip. We were very lucky with the weather. Although most days were overcast there had been no rain. Winds coming from the South West, only gave us problems cycling over Exmoor.
As to navigation, although the route was waymarked by NCN (3) signs, care needed to be taken criss-crossing country lanes. A back-up of OS maps and sat-nav is recommended for this trip. Additionally, when approaching towns, consideration should be given to coming off the trail and taking “Route one” either into towns or around them. I say that after our experiences at Wells, Barnstaple and St Austell. Whilst the majority of the route was well signposted, cyclists need to be alert, flexible and aware of where they are in relation to trails and nearby towns and villages.
This trip was unlike most long-distance rides which are mainly on roads. There were no long spells where you could cycle for say 12 miles and then look out for a sign where you could change direction and cycle for another 8 miles. This ride contained sudden changes of route and cycling surfaces, making it difficult at times for us cyclists to maintain rhythm and remain confident of where we were on the day’s cycling route. That aside, the changes of cycling surface, terrain and contrasting views was a strong part of route’s attraction.
A great help to all of us on the ride was Roger Hall. Not only did he meet us at key points in the day, carry our luggage, support cyclists, he was at hand to sort bike problems and acted as a communication link between all of us. He also took a great deal of weight off me , particularly sorting out rooms (and landladies) at the end of cycling days.
Finally, I must mention the cycling group, and I include Eli and Dave Miles. Their attitude was very good in that they saw the cycling trip as a challenge rather than a test of endurance. There were few moans but we all had a good time. What more could you want from a cycling trip? If anyone has any queries on this note please come direct to Ray..
25th - 26th July
An great time was had by all on the Peak District weekender organised by Stewart, Martin and Jenny. Spectacular scenary and good work out for those summer toned legs (yeah right :o)).
How does Roger do it another fabulous sunny day, wonderful food in a beautiful garden to boot, just right after a challenging ride led by Eli Dare..
22nd - 23rd August
A great event hosted by Mike Hutchinson & Maria Knowles that included not only fab rides and a tour of a cider mill but to top Sunday off homemade cakes by the lovely Ann.
Kennet and Avon canal weekender
A lovely weekender along the canal paths between Reading and Bristol.. Mike and Ann based themselves in the middle at Pewsey a beautiful spot and travelled with Chris, Nigel, John and Juls half way each day. Carn Hill at Devises with its 29 locks was fab, especially the yummy cafe at the top. A great end to the weekender season.
2009 Christmas Do
A few pictures from the afternoon walk here..
A fab couple of days in the Cotwolds organsied by Dave Miles.. a grand job Dave .. the event was throughly enjoyed by everyone!