As Team Pedal all live in different parts of the country, it’s not that often that we get to cycle together. Today was one of those lonely days, when I only had myself for motivation to get up and go out on a bike ride this morning.
Most of my lone cycle rides this far have either been: less than 15 miles (so I could fit any necessary snacks in my tiny saddle bag); more than 15 miles in bad weather (more snacks needed for the duration, but needing to wear a jacket due to freezing wind/rain/snow meant I had pockets to put food in). Today is gloriously sunny (no coat necessary) and my plan for a 50 mile route meant the dilemma I had this morning was what to do with the much needed food. Not yet having a cycle jersey (that come with pockets on the back) and having the smallest saddle bag in the world (which needs to hold anything necessary to fix a puncture or a chain breakage) meant I had to improvise somewhat:
I took the bag that normally hold my inflatable camping pillow and secured it around the middle with elastic bands. I was impressed with how well this worked….until I started to eat the food, and found my bananas very squished!
Last night I spent over two hours planning the route. As most of you should now be aware, my navigation skills leave a lot to be desired. I first used the website Runkeeper to plot a route. This is useful because you can place markers and map out exactly where you want to go. Once this route is saved you can then use it to your advantage when your navigation fails whilst out on the bike. Runkeeper has an app you can use on your phone which will record the route you’re on, if you add the saved route as another layer on this map you can see both the route you’re supposed to take and the route you’re actually taking:
This has in the past come in useful, today I only noticed I’d gone the wrong route a long time after I’d done it, as it was all heading in the right direction.
Second I use Google Street View, which I find invaluable when route planning. You can have a look at Street View for any junctions on your route and see landmarks and roadsigns. I find this a lot easier to remember then just to look at a map and remember what towns I need to go to. Although I do seem to be getting better at remembering town names as a few times today I took wrong turnings following signs for villages I know I had to go to (as the map above shows). It took me off the planned route, but I ended up in the right place after all.
After the half-way point I realised my route took me back onto the National Cycle route into Oxford, so I didn’t bother using street view or planning this much, assuming it would be easier to follow signs. I will soon write another blog post about how much I generally dislike following National Cycle Route signs, and today has really added fuel to my dislike. Today saw 20 minutes spent wandering around a busy town, lost and unable to find any route signs; following a path that took me through a busy park (with lots of children and dogs running around so I thought it was safer to get off the bike and walk for 10 minutes; at least an hour on paths so bumpy and unstable that I was worried I might be damaging the bike. I think this added a lot of extra time to the journey that wasn’t really necessary – though I now know some beautiful routes to go for a walk or a non-road bike cycle.
The weather today in Oxfordshire is beautiful, but setting off at 7am meant it was a bit cold and frosty at first. I stubbornly refused to go back for my gloves, despite my hands frosting to the handlebars for the first half an hour, because I knew I wouldn’t need them later. I’m glad I persevered because it turned into a beautiful sunny day.
Today was possibly one of the nicest cycle rides I’ve been on. I wasn’t familiar with the route so I spent a lot of time winding down the country lanes beside open fields muttering “wow….this is so beautiful”. Don’t tell Ryan, but I saw a few nice houses for sale in these villages, enough rooms for the whole family to live together, but perhaps a bit out of our price range!
For my second snack stop I found a nice bench, shaded under a tree, and sat down to eat my jam sandwiches and have a chat with a lovely lady who’d just come from the church fete next door…I think she thought I was crazy when I told her how far I’d cycled (40 miles by that point).
I don’t think the lovely weather and the great views helped me go any quicker, but I was home for lunch and I had a great morning out. Oh, and the detours meant I covered nearly 57 miles..not too bad for a saturday morning.