I spoke to my friend in the Netherlands on Friday afternoon after her week-long tour of her home country that I was dying to hear about. Not a few minutes after that tale, she reeled off her plans to ride 300km+ on Saturday and I became green with envy. I had dampened down this feeling for a couple of weeks since lockdown restrictions eased (rightly or wrongly, I shan’t be arguing that in this blog post), but I knew I had to get out there and do some long-distance cycling again.
I decided to plot a route to my Grandma’s. She lives in Market Bosworth and it’s a place I’ve ridden to before under different guises.
(I’ve hidden her exact location of course and I’ve also changed the starting point so you don’t know exactly where I live!)
I packed my bag hastily the night before but ensuring I had the staple ingredients of a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a bag of Leo the Lions (no M&S Food for a Percy Pig resupply near me!), the remnants of a bag of crisps from a few days earlier and a couple of energy bars. If I needed anything else, I’d have to buy it at one of the many shops en route. I have missed riding long distances and it felt so good to be out pursuing those evasive kilometres.
Miles without stiles
Getting in and out of the Peak is, obviously, very lumpy but I chose the least lumpy way of all: The Tissington Trail. Parsley Hay is about 20km from my house and runs at a steady 2% decline for a further 20km into Ashbourne.
The crunch beneath my tyres, I lapped up an empty, dusty trail and left the Peak District in my wake.
It’s amazing just how quickly the landscape changes from one place to another. The familiar limestone buildings had vanished into red-brick abodes, their walls occasionally adorned with bursts of colour as flowers weaved their way up. Route 68 from Ashbourne is a treat for quiet lanes and quaint villages that I’ll surely revisit when I inevitably divert south again.
No sooner was I off the trail, I was on another. I took a gamble on a route near the village of Etwall which turned out to be amazing. There were plenty of people out and about by this point and I enjoyed wishing them a good morning and a polite “passing on your right” to those enjoying a more chilled out version of my activity.
I called in at Foremark Reservoir for what I’d hoped would be a good cup of coffee to keep me going for the last 30km until Grandma’s but it ended up being instant and was £2 for the privilege. The devil works in wicked ways at the moment, that’s for sure. After accidentally parking next to what I eventually found to be a dog poo bin disguised as a litter bin, I decided to get a shift on before the riff-raff queuing for half a mile up the road shook out their picnic rugs.
Am I a gravel rider now?
My route took an interesting turn from this point onwards. I managed to find a fun-but-in-parts-walkable track after the reservoir and just as I was homing in my Grandma’s finest poached eggs, I hit a green lane, helpfully called Green Lane. Who’d’a thunk it? It was a blast though even if one passerby did ask if I was lost.
Escape and escapability
I have had my new Sonder Colibri Ti for just under 6 months now and the more I ride it, the more capable I feel it is and I am. 30mm tyres and a bomb-proof frame make me feel like I’m riding something invincible and in turns it makes me feel like I can push my boundaries. These accidental tracks I found myself on were fun! I trust the bike more than I trust myself!
After tucking into a couple of burford browns, I bid my Grandma goodbye and she packed me off with a tub of biscuits to eat when I got home and yes, they did make it back in tact.
If I had my time again…
I’ve highlighted a section on the route in blue which I’d try and change next time: the road was quite busy and not very enjoyable, however it passed a lot of shops in case of an on-bike drought or famine. It also included a steep uphill set of traffic lights which changed before I managed to get all the way across (if that doesn’t push you into the red, nothing will). It looks like there are plenty of lanes around those towns, so it shouldn’t be an issue for next time.
A pit stop and water refill in Repton couldn’t go by without an ice lolly too. It was around 3pm – in other words, the hottest time of the day – and I was gasping for something frozen. I took 15 minutes and perched on a wall opposite the Spar shop and tucked in. The smallest of rewards make all the difference during these rides.
I could’ve taken the Etwall path and retraced my steps, and perhaps I would next time but I opted for the more built up route in case I needed yet more resupply opportunities. I didn’t, so lesson learned. On this stretch however, were a group of 4 guys who I quickly overtook as they bimbled along. The lead rider gave a cheery if not slightly condescending “ooh, steady!” as I said hello on their right.
A rather uneventful 45km back home from Ashbourne along the same Tissington Trail ensued, though this time a lot busier than at the opposite end of the day. It was glorious and a great way to welcome the longer days into my legs.
I wasn’t really sure about doing a silly long bike ride until I actually, well, did it. Would I have enough water? Could I find food en route?
And actually, all the crap I read on twitter about everyone being close-passed since lockdown rules had been relaxed had given me a bit of anxiety about the whole thing. I’m not dismissing those experiences by the way, it’s just that it can seem so prevalent when actually I had one idiot my entire 210km ride on Saturday. It’s important to encourage others on to bikes at the same time as ensuring drivers are prosecuted for this behaviour. I think the balance is a bit off-kilter in the twitter world. I digress.
Anyway, I felt really strong and I was having such a great time on my own, wandering the lanes of Derbyshire and Leicestershire (fun fact: despite Bosworth pledging allegiance to Leicestershire, its postal address is actually in Warwickshire). Normal service has resumed!
I can ride a bike for hours again, days perhaps, and it means the world to me. I’ve still got it and I’m going to flaunt it.
Right, where’s my bucket of soapy water and sponge?
Words to the wise
Take everything you need. Not just because you should anyway to minimise contact with others but also because the queues outside every shop and takeaway coffee venue are obscene and I don’t fancy leaving my lovely bike out for the magpies. I packed a sarnie, loads of snacks and a spare (full) water bottle, which served me well alongside the lunch stop and brief shop refuel in Repton.