Itchen to get to the Park

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…

Itchentogettothepark

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!

Brr!

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:

  1. My trainers do not have a good grip on the pedals when they’re wet.
  2. It doesn’t take long for your saddle to get soaked.
  3. My waterproof jacket is not all that waterproof.
  4. Brakes make scary noises in the rain.
  5. Wearing a helmet makes you forget how wet you’re getting.
  6. And most importantly, cycling in the rain is still good fun!

Winsor by Compass

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…

Winsor by Compass

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!

I don’t need to be taken seriously…

…when I have such an awesome bike basket…

That’s right, folks – I pimped my basket with a garland of fake roses that I picked up on eBay. It’s not exactly the best way to prove yourself as a serious cyclist, but frankly, I don’t care. Maybe I’ll make someone happy with my silly flowers – who knows?

Big Bike Celebration

You may remember me posting about the Big Bike Celebration in Southampton at the end of June. Luckily, my bike arrived just in time for me to be able to attend with my friends Rachel and Lorraine, and we had a great day at Weston Shore!

There was plenty to see and do, including a chance to go on some more unusual bicycles, plus plenty of led rides – more on that in another post!

There were loads of stalls, too, and although there weren’t as many selling things as I expected, the Sustrans stall was brilliant, and the guys working there were amazing. They had loads of great maps and information leaflets, and I came away armed with a bagful to go over in the weeks ahead!

This was by far the weirdest contraption I’ve ever seen – a bicycle powered by several people which went up and down the central pathway seemingly all day. I didn’t get a go on it, but it looked like fun!

Even the mayor turned up – he doesn’t look that happy here but I’m sure he was having a good time…

The weather was pretty good – warm but not too hot. As you can see from Lorraine’s picture, above, we did come prepared with coats, but ended up not needing them!

…Although, occasionally the sea breeze got a little bit nippy…

All in all, it was a great first outing for my bike, which proved incredibly comfortable – so much so that my friends are now lusting after a comfy saddle like mine! I have to say, the Allant really is a very comfy bike to sit on.

But obviously, it has its limitations, so you won’t be seeing any stunts like this from me in the near future… (Or ever…)

Here she is…

Last week I got a call – my bike was ready! Hooray! I picked her up from Cycle World, my handy local bike shop – who were very friendly and helpful.

I decided to pick up a basket at the same time – although I really wanted a wicker one, I’ve got a black wire one at the moment. More waterproof! I also had a Cateye computer installed, which counts calories, carbon emissions (…okay), time, distance, etc.

As you can see, I’ve added a girly bow to my Topeak basket – I couldn’t resist…
Saffy in a basket

It matches my Liix bell!

I have to say, she rides like a dream – I couldn’t be happier.

Exciting bike news!

Well, I finally ordered my Trek Allant WSD from the bike shop – very excited! She’ll be in on Friday in time for the Big Bike Celebration on Saturday, and I’m really looking forward to it. I had a test ride yesterday and the saddle is extremely comfortable – although it did have a mark on it. I ended up getting a discount on it because of that, as I figured that the saddle is going to get marked from wear and tear anyway – I guess it gives the bike a bit of character in the meantime.

While I wait for my bike, I’m going to be looking into the somewhat complicated world of anti-theft devices. It seems to me as though there are several steps to this: registering your bike frame, tagging your bike frame, getting insurance, and getting some good locks. My frame is going to be registered at the local bike shop I’m buying the bike from, and I’m also going to register it with the manufacturers as well, but as well as that I’ll be getting it postcoded on Saturday with the local police, and registering it on sites such as Bike Shepherd. Locks and insurance are just as complicated as far as I can see, as you have to make sure your lock is approved by your insurance company, and then in case of theft, report it to the lock company, insurance company and local police, at the same time as gathering evidence of the theft too. It’s really depressing to contemplate my lovely bike being stolen before I’ve even picked it up from the shop, but being prepared is half the battle!