One of my favourite summer activities is cycling with friends – especially through the New Forest! So, when I saw that there was a local Sky Ride organised for last Sunday, I jumped on the chance to sign up immediately! Sky Rides are an amazing initiative from Sky and British Cycling – local tours supported by ride leaders who lead the group on organised routes through gorgeous cycle paths and roads. Check out the site here.
If you attended the Sky Ride in Southampton yesterday, you might spot yourself in one of these photos – I know I did!
Huge thanks as always go to the Sky Ride team, British Cycling and the local council for organising a really great day!
Skyride Southampton 2011, a set on Flickr.
I hope you all made it out to the Sky Ride in Southampton today! Let me know if you have any photos to share. Here are some of the highlights – as usual, I had to take most of them on the fly, but luckily I didn’t crash into anyone despite the large amount of child-sized missiles on the circuit – bless ’em!
Another weekend, and another great Sky Ride Local! This time we cycled a sort of familiar route, although we started in a new place for me – still within cycling distance though (although we took the car as we had no idea where we were going!). This time the ride took us through Victoria Country Park and up to Hamble – we did a similar thing on our led ride from Weston Shore during the Big Bike Celebration in June.
It chucked it down for our trip to Itchen Valley Country Park, but the weather was glorious at the weekend – and even though I slathered myself in lotion, I still caught the sun a little bit. I decided to wear my ASOS cycling shorts with a skirt over the top – I love wearing skirts, but I always feel self-conscious about them being short, so whenever I cycle I get to wear cycling shorts underneath! This actually means I’m getting to wear my skirts way more than I did before, which is great news for me – shallow, I know! I also refound one of my favourite T-shirts that I bought from GAP years ago – it’s so thin and comfy, great for cycling in the sun.
I also discovered Heidi plaits are great for cycling (thanks, Minx Girl!) as they keep the hair off the back of your neck in a sweaty clump – they also look good with a helmet too.
Wearing my lovely Sawako Furuno helmet again – I wondered if the smaller ventilation holes would give me a hot head, but I’m pleased to report even in the sunshine I was fine! It’s definitely not as cool as a normal aerodynamic helmet, but it doesn’t bother me at all.
Unlike the previous two times I’ve been to a Sky Ride, I actually arrived early this time, and so I was able to laze about and watch everyone else hurriedly pull their bikes off their racks for a change!
The ride was a good mix of trails and roads – I’m still completely terrified of getting a puncture on gravel, but once I actually get one I think I’ll be fine. I really want to be able to take some kind of course in bike maintenance, but I can’t find anything nearby, which is pretty frustrating…
Anyway, I like having a mix of track and road, and the Allant manages to handle both decently. I think my favourite part is cycling down a long residential road, though, with everyone else stretched out in front. Somehow, as we all serenely glide along, it reminds me of clouds, just peacefully moving through the air.
Something about it just feels so effortless and peaceful. Until, of course, you get Omar, flipping me the bird over his shoulder.
He thought taking photos as I was cycling was hilarious. I have to admit, it’s not the safest thing you can do on a bicycle, but I wouldn’t dream of doing it if it was actually dangerous (or there was traffic on the road!). I’d love to get a camera mount for my handlebars, but I think that a set of lights is more pressing than that!
Here’s Rachel and Omar at Victoria Country Park – we stopped to watch a yacht race, but we were more interested in discussing their recent holiday to Cornwall. They got to go to the Eden Project, and a cycle ride that ended with Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop, so I’m insanely jealous!
The brief stop was great, though, and it wasn’t long before we were back on our bikes to head to the final point, which was Hamble.
There was a big group, and the leaders did a great job keeping everyone happy. Once we got to Hamble, we headed back again – it was about 75 mins of cycling all together, with about 30 mins of breaks added in.
We’ll definitely be trying out some of these routes ourselves when the Sky Rides end in August!
Another Sunday, another Sky Ride: Itchen to get to the Park. This time, it was just me and Rachel. We braved the terrible weather and wound up doing half of the trip, opting to cycle back from the highlight, Itchen Valley Country Park, to our homes, instead of all the way back to the starting point. Personally, I would have preferred to continue, but it was pouring it down and Rachel didn’t have a jacket! That’s one downside to a mountain bike with no basket or panniers…
Here she is, during a dry spell! Everyone got the Sky Ride bibs again, which helped keep a bit of the rain off…
Anyway, getting a bit ahead of myself here – this was our route! We were five minutes late to the start yet again, this time because we just couldn’t find the area we were supposed to meet at. We cycled around the park and stumbled across by accident in the end – although some others arrived much later than we did!
As usual, there wasn’t any time to take photos during the ride itself, but I managed to take a few at Itchen Valley Country Park. Here, you can see how much it was raining on the day!
We stopped at the cafe and filled up the bike racks…
Rachel and I somehow missed the fact that there was an offroad cycle at the park itself, because we were busy getting ourselves coffee at the time… Still, it gave me a chance to show off my new helmet! More on that in another post…
Neither of us had our locks with us, so we brought our bikes around the back of the cafe and left them in plain sight by the door…
Here’s our friendly cycle group, still sheltering from the rain at the front of the barn!
As usual, the leaders were very friendly and helpful, and made sure everyone was safe and working to a pace they were comfortable with.
As we missed the off-road ride, when the group cycled off, we spent some more time at Itchen Valley exploring. Unfortunately, it turns out that the usual cycle track used at the site had been ruined by some vehicles which had left huge ruts down the centre, so we had to make do with cycling in the fields.
It was quite hilly and bumpy, and the wet grass was pretty challenging to cycle on, but I did all right! Unfortunately, cyclists aren’t allowed on the nature trails at the park – which is fine by me, as I also love walking too.
However, I did think it a bit strange that cycling was considered to be too stressful for the wildlife in the area, but that it was okay to have a brand new Go Ape adventure park installed in the same place!
That’s fine too – because I also love Go Ape and it’s great that there’s one now so close to where I live. Mind you, it’s still expensive – £30 per person.
What would Go Ape be without the obligatory ape statue to pose around?
To the left of the centre of this picture, you can see the zip line for the finale of the Go Ape experience – puts the one that’s already there to shame…
After checking out the Go Ape course, we decided to head on home, but not before one final photo to show off my new helmet!
In my first wet weather cycle, I learned the following things:
- My trainers do not have a good grip on the pedals when they’re wet.
- It doesn’t take long for your saddle to get soaked.
- My waterproof jacket is not all that waterproof.
- Brakes make scary noises in the rain.
- Wearing a helmet makes you forget how wet you’re getting.
- And most importantly, cycling in the rain is still good fun!
Yesterday, I took part in my first Sky Ride Local led ride, which was awesome. What wasn’t so awesome was the stress involved in buying a bike rack for the car, finding out how to install and use the bike rack, and tracking down a false cross bar for my Trek Allant WSD to get it onto the bike rack. We ended up spending a lot more on it than we intended, and then spent the entire journey watching the bikes bounce perilously up and down in the window. And we wound up late (thanks to having to take a last minute trip to town to get said crossbar when my local cycle shop’s offering turned out to be totally unsuitable), which stresses me out more than anything…
This is the route we took, and the ride was called ‘Winsor by Compass’. It was a 14.3 mile course called ‘Ride Steady’, which is a long, yet relaxed, trip.
This was our leader, explaining a bit about the journey and giving us some basic safety rules. Basically, it boiled down to: pay attention!
This is Rachel, kitted out with her Sky Ride tabbard. Her mountain bike had the distinction of having the fattest tyres in the group. There was a real mix of bikes there, from Dutch style bikes (complete with a pink wire basket, which I think you can see above in the group shot!) to racing and mountain bikes.
This is Omar – he bought his bike through the Cycle to Work scheme – something I’d love to do but is not really happening when you work from home!
We travelled on the Test Way for part of the trip. Coming to this from a bit of a walking background I always find it amazing how much ground you can cover on a bike compared to walking. Obvious, I know, but the pace is so much faster and you just get to see so much more! On the other hand, on a trip like this, you don’t get much of a chance to take photos or stop and look at the scenery. Mind you, considering these organised rides are completely free, I’m more than happy to forgo taking endless snaps on my phone!
Most of the ride was along pavement or roads, but we did have a section that was pretty rocky and covered in sharp stones. Someone ended up getting a puncture, which was pretty scary, to be honest! Luckily they had equipment to fix it with them, but I didn’t have anything, so I spent the rest of the stretch worrying about what would happen if I got a puncture too… I really need to get a repair kit!
This was far more typical of the sort of road surface we were traveling on – my bike likes this better, and so do I!
As you can see, I’m still wearing my blue helmet – I haven’t got a replacement for it yet (news on that later, I hope!). The good thing about it is that it is very breezy and doesn’t make my head get all sweaty!
Also, my bike computer decided to stop working yesterday too, which is pretty irritating considering how new it is. I’ll have to take it back to the shop and see if there’s something that can be done about it… In other news, I have a new bag (which you can still buy in the sale here, if you’re interested!). I totally wouldn’t have had a new bag if the bike rack purchase had happened first…
So. my first led Sky Ride Local was a blast, and I can’t wait for Sunday for the next one, which is in Itchen!
If you live in the Southampton area, and you fancy joining in with the very excellent SkyRide this year, make sure you register in advance by going to GoSkyRide.com and signing up. It’s totally free, but you need to make sure you have registered for safety reasons, so that the organisers know how many people are turning up, and can plan accordingly. You will also be issued with a fluorescent yellow safety vest, which you have to wear when cycling on the route.
The event takes place on Sunday 14 August, and starts at 10 am (although last year, I arrived a bit later than that and it wasn’t a problem). If you’re busy on that day but still local to the area, check the link above for some smaller organised rides (also free) which are taking place between now and the end of August. And, if you’re not from round these here parts, you can still be involved in the City SkyRides – check here for more details of your nearest event.
- Sky Ride returns to Southampton (thisishampshire.net)
A lot of my friends have bicycles. In fact, if it wasn’t for Rachel, owner of a delightful Trek mountain bike, I don’t think I would have had anything more than a passing interest in biking at all. Once she bought her bike, it wasn’t long before her twin sister Lorraine, picked one up, and now I have four friends who have bikes. So they decided to plan a trip from Hythe (using the ferry) to Buckler’s Hard and back, a round trip of about ten miles or so (I think it wound up being more like eight in the end!).
After rediscovering my love of cycling last year at the Sky Ride, I wanted to join in, and so I arranged to hire a bike from a shop near the ferry terminal (and a good job I phoned in advance, because they weren’t open on a Sunday, the day I needed it, and the guy had to come in especially for me – what a sport!). He asked me where I was going and I explained the trip – then he asked me if I was cycle fit, because I guess that’s a ways to go if you’re not.. I had no idea if I was, but told him that I cycled on my exercise bike quite a lot and was pretty confident. I think the longest I’ve ever cycled on that thing was 100 minutes, because the counter goes up to 99 and I wanted to see what happened when it ticked over… Anyway, that’s a different story!
I have to say, cycling after a long break feels really intimidating. Even more so if you need to cycle in traffic. Even if you’re a confident driver, as soon as you get on that saddle the roads become roaring death-traps, full of cars ready to mince you into pieces. Luckily, the trip was down relatively quiet country roads, and the only time I got slightly nervous was when I cycled past a foal (giving it wide berth, I have to add!), which got startled by the group and started to gallop along the verge right beside us. I was concerned that it would run in front or bash into one of us, which could have turned into a nasty accident, but luckily it slowed down and stopped after a little bit. Hopefully it learned not to be scared of bikes in the future!
If there’s anything that’s going to get you enthusiastic about cycling, it’s a leisurely trip in the sunshine through some beautiful parts of the countryside near you. You get to see so much more than you would in a car, and have the added bonus of actually exercising whilst doing so – therefore more than earning yourself a slap-up pub meal halfway through. (But maybe not the two servings of ice cream I had both to and from the pub… sigh.)
I was also pleasantly surprised at how fit I was from all my cycling on the exercise bike. Turns out I must have had the resistance turned way up, because cycling up a hill was a pretty familiar feeling for me! Cycling on the flat was like heaven. A couple of my friends were struggling, but I guess the more we go out for trips, the fitter they’ll get – and the more ice cream we can eat! Right?
So, it was this trip that convinced me I really needed to buy a bicycle. The only question was really – which one?