Saturday, September 24, 2005

Ridgeway "Enduro"

At some point, prob'ly during a drunken haze, Lee and Shaun dreamt up the notion that riding the Ridgeway would be a grand goal for 2005. A close look at the route suggested that it would be "do-able" in a day provided that a swift pace was maintained. After all, the tracks are long established, mostly vehicle sized tracks and not nearly as knarly as those we'd earlier ridden in Wales. So it couldn't be that tough ?

The day started before dawn and Sue had kindly volunteered to shadow us in a chase vehicle throughout the day. Fortunately, the weather had been relatively dry for a few wks before hand which boded well for the first half of the ride which is mainly off road. Some forum biker's mentioned that these 40miles alone had taken 10hrs to complete the previous October ! They also indicated that to ride the entire trail in day is best done in the hieght of summer and even then it takes a mamoth effort, gulp. We hit the trail at around 8.30am and were greeted with a sky full of approx 20 hot air balloons which highlights the favourable conditions that morning. The first 10miles or so were fairly slow going as the track is deeply rutted by 4x4's which meant a full pedal stroke had to be carefully timed. We managed to pick up the pace a little for the next 25miles-ish with a mixture of short asphalt blasts and hard packed clay or gravel surfaces. We had a brief snack break at Whitehorse Hill and by our lunch stop in East Illsley at Crown & Horns both riders were defo in need of a break with Shaun's aching back (h/tail didn't soften the often lumpy trail) and Lee fighting off leg cramps.

Revived after some fab nosh both riders stomped back up the hill with revived legs to pick up the trail and thoroughly enjoyed the mostly downhill run to Goring on the Thames for a mandatory photo stop at the halfway point. Rather than taking 10hrs we'd managed to complete this in around 4hrs with the favourable trail conditions.

The next 20miles were cranked out on mainly asphalt back roads with the accumulated distance taking it's toll on Lee the MTBer, whereas Shaun the roadie was just getting into his stride. We ducked off the trail at Britwell Salome and found Sue curled up and pushing the z's which finally broke Lee's spirit, not helped by a recent off after misjudging a gate, so he ducked out after clocking 60miles.

Shaun was underterred (the hero) and after swapping his knobblies for slicks and slapping on his lights off he sped to hammer out the final 20miles or so. Without the MTBer in tow and now on road tyres Shaun managed to increase the average MPH and eventually arrived home, just past the official end to the ridgeway at Ivinghoe Beacon, an hour or so after dark.

Afterwards, hot baths and a few glugs of a suitably alcoholic beverage helped to ease the aching bones.

Trail Head
; Ridgeway start - s/w Avebury, 8am
Stats, Shaun; 88.5 miles, 5,754ft ascending, 11hrs 45mins
Lee; 59.7miles, 3,771ft ascending, 6hrs 46mins

Posse; Shaun (Giant XTC h/tail) Lee (Turner 5Spot)

Injuries; Fairly uneventful although at the end of Lee's stint, misjudging a transition he wiped out.

Mechanicals; Zip, not even a puncture. Hurrah.

Weather; Clear sky but slightly crisp all day.


braydrude said...

Young Farqui's account does pretty well for accuracy so, for me to add anything, I probably have to relay a slightly more roadie-centric view. Overall, I'd say there was a real sense of achievement at more of an enduro-ride than Farqs and I had undertaken in the past. We were also most blessed with the weather, or was that good control-freak planning to pick a time of year when it wouldn't be too soggy, but might just be softening with the early autumn showers?

My more roadie-ish view, and single biggest objection to off-road from experience so far, is not down to the technical stuff in itself, more the fact that more time seems to be spent looking down at the front wheel than enjoying the view. Considering the terrain you're usually riding in, what else would you expect a druid to say? Hello trees, hello sky, and all that stuff, is also what I'm after from a ride.

So, from what may have been slightly drunken shooting the breeze, Farqs and I probably did hit on the idea of the Ridgeway as some meeting of our biking requirements. For the most part, I was able to enjoy the views, particularly on the more open sections west of the Thames, passing all those magnificent Neolithic sites - I could feel the power.

Having said that, you'd need the power for some pretty draining climbs; also, the deep rutting that Farqs mentions meant plenty of concentration, with almost no margin for error on some pretty swift descents in ruts, no room for wobbling on rutted climbs. It was also quite a test to read the track on those chalk ridges, and pick a good line.

Over the Thames, and it was a bit easier for me as I could draw on my longer distance experience; we were 45-miles-plus and I was happy to keep going. A lot of it was pleasant back lanes, with the odd bridleway stretch, so no real aggro from traffic. Once Farqs called it a day after a fine effort on his first "enduro", there was still a really good 6-8 mile bridleway secton with a fast, bumpy descent into Bledlow that he'd have loved. The downside was more traffic after that on the road section of the Lower Icknield Way towards Wendover.

The rollercoaster ride on the road either side of Wendover was probably the hardest section for me, and necessitated a few breaks for cereal bars and water, as respite from some regular and sapping climbs that hit hard at that end of the day, with darkness descending. The quieter road from Aston Clinton on was a nice steady finish, and I was pretty satisfied to have done the near-90 miles in just over 8 hours in the saddle - much better than I'd been expecting.

So, all of this has me summing up where I started off, with a feeling of a testing ride and a real sense of achievement to complete. Well done, Farqs! Adios amigos!

Farqui said...

Ah yes, it brings it all back. The aches. The pains. The good times !

You did well my friend, v.well indeed.

I see that I've still got my work cut out to fully convert you over to the "dark side". The knobblies are strong BrayDrude...