Spokes 2010 Events & Write-ups
2010 Venture ride
28th August to the 13th September
A venture ride indeed!! A fabulous event exporing the mountains of the south east of France.
The 2010 Spokes Venture event had 15 cyclists participating: Jenny and Tony as leaders, Glen, Gareth, Carl, Mike Cranwell, Chris Metcalf, Martin Pingel, Dave Smith, Jim Moon, Sue Neal, Clare Johnson, Paul Stafford, Nigel Jones and John Taylor (Martin Steer unfortunately having to withdraw at the last moment due to injury). Nigel and John's wives, Meg and Pat, provided invaluable assistance and support, especially with the self-catering arrangements when we stayed in the three holiday villages during our tour from the Corbieres to Provence.
The format of the event allowed the flexibility to combine a true challenge with the all the essentials of a good holiday. Distances covered and climbed during 15 days of cycling varied from person to person, with some achieving around 850 miles (including 200 miles carrying panniers), a figure exceeded only by the number of vineyards that we cycled through.
By the end, I think it is fair to say that everyone felt fulfilled in their achievements, be they learning to cycle together as a group, perfecting their domestic skills in the holiday cottages, or merely conquering Mont Ventoux. The event also included a practical course on wine appreciation, impossible to avoid in the region of France that we visited.
The travelling arrangements from the UK worked remarkably smoothly on the outward and return journeys, with 13 of us on the Bike Express Bus, and four people driving down, so that we all met at Homps, our first base for three nights. This is located on the Canal du Midi, between Narbonne (where we commenced our cycling) and Carcassonne, and it proved an excellent centre for exploring the countryside of the Corbieres and Haut Languedoc.
The roads became increasingly hilly and empty as one journeyed from Homps, and the scenery just went on for ever, with the Pyrenees Orientales to the south, and the seemingly endless hills of the Haut Languedoc Natural Park to the north. We had our first taste of the holiday village life-style that is deservedly popular in France, not least due to the very reasonable prices in the local supermarkets that made self-catering and communal meals such an enjoyable experience.
Our next base was Montblanc, a village between Beziers and Montpellier, where we stayed for three nights at a characterful (ie eccentric) chambre d'hotes run by an English family. We arrived slightly ahead of schedule, only to be told that two of the beds had yet to be made. No problem, we thought - until we found out that this was literally true, with the Black & Decker, saw and screw-driver lying on the bedroom floor!
On the way, Martin had suffered in a minor peloton 'pile up', and our hosts were very helpful in ensuring that he obtained prompt medical treatment. Fortunately, although in some pain, he was able to continue with the event; however, he would most certainly have failed the drugs test for the Tour de France. Montblanc provided an excellent centre for fairly easy cycling around the gently undulating countryside, including a visit to the beautiful historic town of Pezenas, and the beaches near Agde and Sete. Several of us took in some local culture with a degustation at the village Caves, situated as it was right next-door to our chambre d'hotes. We continued to Castries, a small town to the north-east of Montpellier, on the hottest day so far: 55 miles, some long but gentle hills, temperature in the 90s. Another holiday village for a two night stay, another long communal evening meal on the patio, courtesy of Meg and Pat. On approaching the town, we noticed what appeared to be a very long Victorian railway viaduct, only to realise that it was actually Roman - an aqueduct, not a viaduct.
One ride the next day visited the Herault Gorge, a truly spectacular route, made much more enjoyable by our decision to tackle it north - south. This was a genuine challenge, with over 80 miles in the hills, navigational difficulties and the heat to overcome. Others explored the Carmargue, a vast nature reserve covering the Rhone delta to the south. The local pizza / wine delivery company provided a sterling service that evening. There followed an easier transfer to Uzes, a perfectly preserved historic town between Nimes and Avignon, where we stayed for three nights at a comfortable hotel. A sequence of dramatic and truly torrential thunder-storms prompted some to take a day off cycling, but the rain was well timed, and no-one actually got soaked. The unforgettable Pont du Gard was visited, the charms of Uzes were explored, and there was still time for some peaceful cycling along the quiet, undulating roads to the north, where the Languedoc vineyards merge into the Cotes-du-Rhone.
Our final base for three nights was the small town of Aubignan, just north of Carpentras in Provence, and our journey saw the hills gently settle into the broad flat valley of the lower Rhone. After crossing the river, we climbed up to the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, an attractive but noisy place in dire need of a by-pass if ever there was one, and had lunch in the square. We arrived at our holiday village in good time to raid the local supermarket, and enjoyed another balmy evening of R& R on the patio.
We were, however, reminded of what we were to face the next day, with Mont Ventoux looming over us in the distance, the bleached summit appearing almost like a stellar object, unreachable and unimaginable. Most limited themselves to a few beers and a mere single bottle of wine to accompany their carbohydrate loading at dinner, and we departed on our challenge at the crack of dawn. A steady warm-up climb to Bedouin, followed by a coffee-stop, and we were off on our mission, everyone at their own pace. Over 1,600 vertical metres later, with everyone exuberantly happy at the summit, we took in the amazing panorama, crystal-clear skies giving views across to both the snow-capped Alpine peaks to the north, and the Pyrenees to the south. The descent to Malaucene seemed endless, and following a shopping spree in the superb village bike shop, we enjoyed a celebratory lunch.
Our last full day gave some (you can guess who they are!) the opportunity to cycle Mont Ventoux in the opposite direction, ie the shorter, steeper route to the summit. Others contented themselves with a relaxing tour of the the most prestigious wine villages of the southern Cotes-du-Rhone, followed by chilling-out at the pool in our holiday village. The next day, it was an easy ride to Orange for a long lunch, some sight-seeing of the extensive Roman remains, and a late afternoon departure on the coach.
Coasts and castles and the Reivers
13th to the 18th June
The prospect of an exciting adventure through the north of England into Scotland and back again. A circular route starting at Whitely Bay, winding its way through beautiful northumberland, into Scotland and then back to Whitely Bay using the Reviers route. links here
Mike Hutchinson's 80th birthday weekend in Talgarth
May 29th to the 31st
Beer, bikes and birthdays, a great write up by Glen Dermody
The Brecon weekender always promised to be something special and so it proved to be. Three days of cycling, drinking and eating and all in celebration of Big Mike’s eightieth birthday. Mike’s family and the club had practically taken over the Castle Inn, occupying all but one of the bedrooms, one of the bunkhouses and there was hardly a blade of grass to be had in the camping field.
Meanwhile, down at Keith and Jenny’s, every bed was full and there were five caravans in the garden. To narrate what 40+ people got up to over the weekend would take a book. This is just some of the incidents I happened to record. First to arrive at the campsite was Bernard and his grandson James. In ten minutes they had efficiently unloaded the bikes and unpacked the camping equipment. Fifteen minutes later they were fully loaded and back on the road to Cardiff, having realised that they had forgotten to pack the tent. Ivor was next having caught the train up to Abergavenny and cycled from there, I came in a poor third.
Jenny’s idea was to just go out for a leg-stretching 25 or 30 miles on the Friday afternoon. As we were not going too far Jenny saw no problem in suggesting we stop off in Talybont for a pint at about halfway. Does she not understand the type of person she is dealing with? Although she tried to move us on, the genie was now out of the bottle. Although the majority returned home in an orderly fashion, Stewart, Ivor, Bernard and myself decided it would be a great idea to pub crawl back to Pengenffordd.
James, in an act of grand-filial duty, accompanied us. Several pubs later, and just after a particularly vicious uphill section, Stewart announced that the large mountain on our left should, in fact, be the large mountain on our right and that we had gone the wrong way. Now common sense dictated that we simply head back down the road for a couple of hundred yards and take the correct turning.
Unfortunately, in a group containing the aforementioned quartet, common sense was not greatly in evidence. We felt it would be just as easy to go off road and cut across the side of the mountain. After thirty minutes, numerous swear words and several cuts and bruises we eventually arrived back on tarmac and on route. My apologies go out to James who, at times, must have felt like he had been sucked into a particularly bizarre episode of Last Of The Summer Wine. Friday evening was spent in the pub catching up with everyone who had arrived during the day. Saturday came and so did the rain and the wind. The number of cyclists had swelled from around a dozen on the Friday to well over twenty on the Saturday. During the ride the weather sometimes threatened to improve but never really did.
The one consoling factor was that the traffic was very, very light. People tried to convince me that this was down to good planning although I am firmly of the belief that most modern day cars were incapable of getting up some of the hills we were climbing. It was one of those days where it was only just over 50 miles but seemed like so much more. Still the lunch stop was very pleasant. I would like to give you some brief details of the route but my map disintegrated after about ten minutes and what with the rain on the outside of my glasses and the steam on the inside, I never really saw a road sign all day.
Back to the campsite and after a nice warm shower we all piled into the pub to watch the Ospreys beat Leinster. Things become a bit vague after that, but I do remember laughing a lot.
If Saturday’s ride posed the question about why we bother cycling; then Sunday’s ride provided the perfect answer. The sun shone all day, the route was as flat as you could wish for and the scenery outstanding. I think we went up and down the Golden Valley but I wasn’t really paying attention.
By now our numbers had risen to over 35 and I just went along with the general throng. We also went through Hay-on-Wye twice while the literary festival was on. What an odd mixture of people this book reading seems to attract, I must give it a go some time.
The day was further enhanced by being greeted at the morning stop with cakes and drinks, lovingly prepared by wives, girlfriends and whatevers. I don’t want to play favourites but I was particularly taken with a certain fruit cake that was putting me in danger of failing a breathalyser.
I had noticed during the weekend’s rides that although we saw large numbers of sheep in the fields there were very few varieties of other animals to be seen. As we approached the barbecue I suddenly realised why. It appeared that every cow and pig within a twenty mile radius had been slain in order to provide sustenance for the large crowd that had assembled for Mike’s birthday. I, along with Ivor, led multiple raids on the barbecue pit in an attempt to prove that these animals had not given up their lives in vain; but after four visits I had to admit defeat and leave Ivor to battle on alone.
At this point the desserts started appearing from the kitchen. It soon became obvious that while the menfolk of the village had been out slaughtering the oxen, their womenfolk had been baking, baking and then baking some more. After three trips to the dessert table I finally yielded as I could not possibly eat one more mouthful. I thought I felt a comforting warm glow descend over me, but it turned out to be the heat from the candles on Mike’s birthday cake. Well perhaps I could muster just one last effort, it would be impolite not to, wouldn’t it?
Just a few thoughts, well-wishes and messages I would like to pass on;-
Many thanks again to Keith and Jenny for organising the event and throwing open their home to everyone. I would also like to thank everyone else involved in making it such a wonderful weekend.
March 27th to the 28th
A lovely weekender in shropshire based in the little town of Ludlow. There were two days of gentle cycling for the 1st weekender of the year. Event organiser was Dave Miles.
Majorca 2010 aka "THE VOLCANIC ASH HOLIDAY"
April 14th to the 21st
Words by Martin Pingle
BEFORE THE HOLIDAY
Two weeks before we were due to go I get an email from our travel agents indicating that the hotel we had booked had decided not to open until later in the year, presumably because of lack of bookings in these difficult times.
Anyway they offered an alternative which, after a couple of hours looking at other options, I accepted with reservations mainly because it wasn’t near a beach like the original choice.
13 of the 15 of us arrived at the hotel, via our flight from Bristol Airport, without any hiccups and Justin arrived a few hours later because he was on a different flight from Stanstead.
Those on the holiday were Jenny Powell, Keith Richards, George Baugh, Justin Mackie, Gareth and Denise Thomas, Carl Colwill, Dave Smith, Glen Dermody, Julie Williams, Sandra Williams, Tom Jones, Martin Steer, myself and Judith.
The 4 star hotel Es Bolero was in fact a complex called Club Martha which included apartments in 4 storey blocks each with their own balcony and kitchenette. There was then an indoor swimming pool and two outdoor ones, a bar/restaurant, a dining room for breakfast and evening meals, a disco/club room and a large lounge/reception area where they had a bank of computers or you could get WiFi for your own laptop.
It was everything we needed and we soon settled in.
After arriving we all strolled down to the harbour found ourselves a restaurant and had our first of many meals and drinks together. Me and Judith then readily fell asleep in the warm sunshine on the beach and woke up with a start an hour later and an almighty headache and glowing foreheads!!!
We ate out on a number of occasions in various restaurants, all good quality, but not particularly cheap due to the weakness of Sterling. However, the hotel was offering a deal for their evening “all you can eat” buffet at 11 Euros a head so some of us got stuck into that on a few nights.
FIRST FULL DAY
Got a call from Martin Steer early explaining he couldn’t get out of East Midlands airport because of the volcano! Now I thought this is some sort of wind up at first and congratulated Martin on such an original excuse for cocking up his flight!! Well eventually Martin got through to me the full situation and I must admit I was speechless. After a few more phone calls between us Martin sadly decided to bin the whole holiday – a real shame as Martin is such a positive person and great to have in a group (as long as you don’t mind early morning starts!!!) he was missed .
Bikes arrived on time supplied by Hannes of Velosport Mallorca – usual good quality except for a couple of glitches with Gareth’s and my bike, which were sorted very efficiently after one phone call.
First ride was marked down as a leisurely 40km “Coast and Cafés” ride south along the coast including a walk across a beach and several café stops. As happens on this type of holiday the ride morphed into a 68km ride. People were fresh and started to stretch their legs and so we ended up at the most southerly point Cap Des Salines. Me and Dave Smith did a two up time trial, with Jen sat on the back admiring the scenery, trying to catch Justin without any success! That boy is just too fast and next time he will be handicapped by filling his bike tubes with sand!!
THE BIG ONE
After a quick discussion we decided to do the longest ride on our second day on the basis that we still had fresh legs. Judith and Julie were keen to put themselves to the test. It was a ride across the island to the north coast and Alcudia, marked down as 76 miles, but in the end it turned out to be almost 90 miles!
It was a lovely warm day but with a nagging cross wind both ways. All of us went to Petra, where I saw the great Sean Kelly whizz past us still looking as mean and lean as in his racing days. Tom, Sandra, Gareth and Denise went their own way from Petra but still did over 50 miles on bikes that really weren’t suited to long distance road work.We had a lovely lunch on the quayside of Can Picafort whilst watching the thousands of cyclists that literally take over the island in various training camps, rush past.
It was a hard, quite gruelling ride back for all of us but for Judith and Julie it was a ride into the unknown as neither had done this sort of distance before. However, both gritted their teeth and got on with the job in hand and did themselves proud. The last few miles were downhill and downwind and everyone had that glow of satisfaction on their faces as we cruised into the hotel at 7.30pm and a cold beer. An Epic day.
REST OF WEEK
We explored most of the towns in the east section of the island and their respective cafes over the next few days. We also had some climbing up to various monasteries and castles. The highlight was getting up the Puig de Sant Salvador, just outside Felanitx which was a climb of 500+ metres, the views were stunning at the top. The road wound itself around the conical hill zig zagging back and forth at a constant gradient that meant you could sit and get into a good rhythm
Poor Justin, off the front at break neck speed again, missed the turning for the climb and only realised his error some 10km down the road, by which time we were all at the top congratulating ourselves. But undeterred he turned around and rode back up into a stiff headwind and we passed in opposite directions half way down the main climb as we all pretended we were Tour de France riders whizzing around the hairpins on the descent – great fun.
And so the pattern was set for each day – get up, breakfast, start ride between 9.00 and 10.30am depending on inclination (and the organiser!), cycle around 50 miles and have at least one café stop and a lunch stop all in lovely warm weather. Get back, beer, shower, restaurant or hotel meal, few more beers and bed. Mentally it was all very relaxing whilst physically by the end of the week there were some weary bodies but nobody complained as it was much needed after such a long hard winter.
Well the final day came around far too soon and we were all secretly hoping our return flight would be cancelled and we’d be “forced” to stay for another week. Unfortunately the flight went ahead and we all trudged off to the airport with sad looking faces not because we hadn’t enjoyed ourselves but because we wanted more.
There was a slight hiccup with the transfer company who I rang the day before to confirm our booking. They said they wouldn’t be coming to get us as the flights wouldn’t be going out. I tried to explain that it was highly likely the planes would be flying and we needed to be there in case they did otherwise we would loose our flight entitlement, but to no avail. So we had no option than to hire 4 taxis at 65 Euros per taxi to get us to our flight otherwise the consequences would have been serious. We would have had to book and pay for new flight and accommodation for at least a week which was the expected re-book time. I’m now trying to recover the taxi fares from the transfer company but don’t hold your breath!
Volcano ash? What was all the fuss about? And to those people, who we saw on the TV moaning and desperate to get home at any cost, all I can say is get a bit of perspective on life and stop thinking you are indispensable – you are not and you just missed the best excuse in your life time to skip off work for a few days!!
Many thanks to everyone on the trip, you're all very good company and made my life easy but in particular thanks to Jenny and Glen for their support and assistance in getting the trip organised in the first place and keeping it on the rails when it started to go a bit wobbly. And a special thanks to Justin for reminding us all what it used to be like to be young and fit!
I know Spokes have been going to Majorca for quite a few years now but it still remains a relatively cheap, accessible and bike friendly place for a pre-season get together, probably hard to beat.
Hotel – spot on facilities, ideal for us.
Watching Justin disappear into the distance and not see him for hours as he gets lost yet again!!
The bottle of Malt I received at the end of the holiday – thank you to everyone.
The endless meadows of wild flowers in full bloom.
Climb to Puig De Sant Salvador – seeing Judith get to the top thanks to encouragement from Jenny.
Gareth’s hanging Kebab on the final night!
Falling asleep on the beach
Lack of any major dramas or incidents.
Atmosphere – never ceases to amaze me how well we all get on at Spokes events.
Hotel entertainment – you either loved it or hated it!!
All getting back home unscathed except from some sun burn!
24th and 25th July
Everyone enjoyed this so much last year, they want to go back for more paradise in the Peak District. Wonderful scenary, fabulous cycling country. Suitable for any bike. Event organiser Martin Steer with Jenny helping.
Roger and Diane's ab fab BBQ
Everyone enjoyed this so much, from the lovely ride led by Sue Neal, to the ab fab BBQ laid on by chefs Roger and Diane
Cornish coast to coast
August 21st to the 22nd
Another explore of the undulating Cornish landscape.
Upton on Severn weekender
8th -10th October
A lovely (sunny!) weekender to end the season in the beautiful little town of Upton on Severn.