Yesterday was my first ever solo long ride. The plan was to cycle the 78 miles from Dewsbury to Nottingham city centre via Barnsley, Rotherham, Chesterfield and a few more towns along the way. After setting off at 7.30am I was in high spirits, feeling really optimistic about the route ahead despite the persistent rain and grey sky.
I’d mapped my route using Google maps and had deliberately tried to stay on cycle routes for the majority of the ride, with the logic that I’d build up more speed when there was no road traffic involved. Oh, how wrong I could be. The Trans Pennine Trail that ran down the side of Barnsley, The Dearne Valley, was far better suited to mountain biking. The majority of the trail followed the disused Barnsley canal, and the trail can’t have been more than a metre wide, and in some areas it was flanked by barbed wire on one side and a wooden fence on the other. This made my average speed drop drastically. After being so desperate to stick to cycle routes whilst planning my route, I was shocked when I wanted to join back onto the A roads again.
Navigation wise, there were quite a few hiccups. I found it a lot easier on the roads, when I could remember street names and would recognise buildings and landmarks I’d seen on Google street view. However, my biggest mistake was the realisation that although I may be on the right road, granted, those roads go in 2 directions, and I may well be taking the wrong one. I learnt this on Rotherham road. Turns out I was cycling 2 miles in the wrong direction before I stopped and realised . Heading North instead of South it was a nice little 4 mile detour, I fancied the scenic route.
Considering that the previous time I’d been out, with Ryan, I’d still found roundabouts a little daunting and cars entering made me quite on edge…this journey was quite positive. I found that my confidence on the roads was building and I felt very sure of myself when signalling and making sure I was safe. I just kept Ryan’s very good advice in my head the entire time : “Act like a car”. This worked on junctions and at traffic lights, and by keeping a more dominant position amongst the traffic I didn’t feel bullied into the curb. There were, however, a few morons overtaking me at high speed on blind corners on country lanes, but you know morons will be morons.
The first “drama” of the day came in the form of a loose bottle on my first fast downhill descent. I hit 30mph and all of a sudden heard a loud crack. My first thought was that the back wheel had fallen off…but then I was still rolling on down so assumption number 2 was confirmed when I looked down and saw that I was one water bottle down. I pulled over and wandered back up the hill to find my new SIS water bottle laying empty on the side of the road.
I still had 70 odd miles to do with about 100ml of water to guzzle. Only a small dilema obviously, as I would see many shops along the way, but it made me laugh all the same as ryan had told me a similar story that happened to him a while back.
The main drama of the day , which ultimately made me have to cut my route very short, was the draining of my iPhone battery. Mum had persuaded me to leave Google latitude on , so that she could track my progress throughout the day and not have kittens when I didn’t text to update her. This, unfortunately rinsed my battery, even though I turned it off after a couple of hours , realising that was the cause, it was already too late. I couldn’t navigate without the use of my google map app and felt really unsafe riding through woods and secluded roads without the use of phone in an emergency, so I started to worry about what to do .
I was on the trans Pennine trail through Rother Valley national park when my phone died, and although feeling quite uncomfortable I knew i’d find someone to ask for directions to a shop or cafe or something .
I came across the Rother Valley Activity centre, and after speaking to some very helpful people I ended up at the centre’s cafe asking for help. The Lovely staff in the office offered to charge my phone for a short while before they closed, which was a huge relief! So in true Jen style I got myself a cup of tea and some biscuits whilst I waited, and the sun began to shine..so It was a huge shame I wasn’t on my bike to enjoy it.
Rocking up in a high vis vest covered in mud I received a lot of interested questions asking where I’d come from , what my route was, questions about my road bike. One guy asked if I’d been doing bunny hops in swamps….I certainly looked as though I had been.
Half an hour later my phone had 30% battery, enough to ring mum and whinge about my situation and ask what I should do. I really wanted to press on and reach Nottingham but time had gotten away from me and it was getting later and later, and my phone battery was never going to last, especially as the remainder of the route was going to be even more challenging and complex navigation wise.
This is the remainder of my route that I couldn’t do:
So as disappointed and gutted as I was, I decided the wise thing to do was to cycle to a train station and get to Notts by train.
Cycling 54 miles in total, It’s the furthest I’ve gone alone and had to navigate by myself. I found navigating very challenging but at the same time I felt like I was getting the hang of navigating roads as the day progressed. Overall, I’m happy with how it went even though there were ups and downs , but I’m making the most of it and there’s definitelylessons to be learnt.
One thing to note aswell, my stamina and “all day pace” as Ryan calls it were on top form, although I do need to learn when to eat and regain energy as I did flag a couple of times. Concentrating on navigating and reaching the next towns distracted me, so lesson to learn.
Til next weekend and a long ride in Wales with Ryan!
7 weeks to go until the big trip :)