Wednesday, 13 June 2012

An impromptu adventure

Since borrowing the Sustrans National Cycle Route book from the library the other week, I've been itching to explore some of the routes around where I live.  One of the routes I've been thinking about riding goes from the town before my usual railway station on the way home, along a canal towpath for a few miles before picking up the route of a disused railway line.  Eventually it ends up back on my usual commuting route for the last few miles home.

Well this afternoon I'd had enough of work and desperately needed to blow out a few cobwebs.  So getting off the train a station early, I checked my route on the Sustrans App and started my iPhone cycle computer to check the overall distance ridden.

The first part of the route passed through quiet roads on a couple of housing estates. Out in the lanes near home, I've noticed very clear National Cycle Route signs - proper metal road signs - so I wondered how they would manage this in a more built up area. I needn't have worried though - using large stickers on lamp posts and similar, the route was clearly pointed out negating the need for hasty iPhone map reading!

After a mile or so, the route picked up the tow-path of a canal.  Talk about a change of scenery!  The path was really well made and fine for bikes.  Even given the heavy rain we've had recently there were very few puddles so it was top-gear flat out for the most part.  I really enjoyed the varied bankside scenery along this part of the route.  From open fields to allotments, a boat repair yard and more built-up areas.  I rode the few miles of towpath with a big grin, greeting all and sundry with a smile and even giving the odd shout or whistle under bridges like a ten year-old.  Brilliant!

I've had worse commutes to be honest...
...and busier ones too!

Eventually the signs led from the towpath to what the map shows as a disused railway line.  I was expecting wide, well surfaced loveliness but in truth it was narrow and pretty rough in parts.  As a walking path it would be great (there are signs for walkers too) and a lot of fun could be had there on a mountain bike.  As it was I had to tiptoe through the roughest bits and take care not to lose the bike on the slippier parts.

There were no mountains to climb but a few "streams" to ford
(OK puddles) and this bugger was deep!
This bit was narrower than it looks - really overgrown
and slippery, but mercifully short.
Eventually the path widened into this :-)

However, glad as I was when eventually the path joined the tarmaced lanes again, I enjoyed the whole ride rather a lot.  As cobweb blowing activities go, it was a good one!  Bizarrely though, I found that my bike felt a bit weird once back on the road.  Stopping to check things over revealed that my seat-post had slipped down into the frame an inch or two (making me glad for the umpteenth time that I have a marker pen line showing where it needs to be set.)  A quick readjust and tighten of the quick release sorted it and I was on my way.

At this point, my wife sent a text saying she had to pick up our eldest from school.  So rather than cycle home I decided to make a detour to go and meet them.  It shortened my ride by a mile or two but I was pretty tired and didn't mind too much.  I ended up having done 10.7 miles which would probably have been 13 or so if I'd gone all the way home.  No big deal really.

So, all in all a lovely ride back.  Probably a bit much to do regularly as the rougher, muddier bits slowed me down quite a bit, but as a change from the norm, just what the doctor ordered. :-)

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