Monday, May 13, 2013

Combe Raiders Swanage Weekend

For the second weekend in a row, I was off to Swanage for a riding trip.  To make a pleasant change, I had the short drive to get to a Combe Raiders ride - fifty-five miles instead of the normal hundred to Taunton.  Arriving early due to the afternoon off work, I quite happily passed time in the local bike discussing bike-packing & my next bike.

The ten others turned up in dribs & drabs; once settled into the dormitory/bunkhouse & John had dinner prepared we headed out for a quick ride before it got dark (after being told not to bring lights, I forgot to pack the small ones from my commuter).  Most of the trails in the area I was familiar with from the SSUK 2013 events of the previous weekend, although we did find a nice little descent off the other side of the golf course.  Up onto that ridge again, I had to walk about twenty metres as the headwind was gusty & it was just too much on a singlespeed.   The downhill off the ridge & back into town was just as good & is even better when someone has opened the gate on the blind corner halfway down.

I think this weekend away had been booked well before this was decided, but somewhere along the way it turned into a bit of a celebration of D's fiftieth birthday - but perhaps that's just what the guys with wives had to use as a reason to get away for a weekend of biking. Either way, there was special Combe Raider cider, whisky that I actually found palatable & a very enjoyable Friday night. Somehow I managed to avoid the rooms with the chronic snorers - snoring stories are much funnier the next morning when it's not you that has been kept awake all night.

It would have been too much to expect two glorious weekends in a row - but Saturday was reasonably nice as we headed out to the lap that John, Rich & I had done last week (except they'd wizened up & brought bikes with gears - I was the only nutter left on a singlespeed).

Near the start of the ride - a pub we didn't go in (well, I had the week before).
"If you've got time to hold gates open - get to the back & ride up with the stragglers."  Up the first climb - Isle of Wight just visible in background.
Rich standing in front of Swanage.
As this was the same ride as I've already detailed last week - just without the two-hundred odd singlespeeders - I'll spare you the details, except I rode everything again. Normally, when riding around those with multitudes-more-gears-than-me I don't mind getting off & walking if I have to; but this time I knew I could ride all of the big hills, so made myself do so - my knees weren't so happy about that. We stopped in Corfe Castle because someone said there was a good bakery there - I had a great pasty & danish again. The climb up to Kingston was a bit easier this time around  & soon enough we were back at the Square & Compass - nice ale & I convinced myself I deserved another pasty. Back into town via Priest's Way & time for ice cream by the seaside.

Come Sunday, we'd done most of the trails of note (or so we'd been told) & were looking for a slightly easier & shorter ride before the respective drives home. Somehow, it fell to me to cobble together a route using two photocopied OS maps; I'm not sure that was the best idea for those looking for a cruisy Sunday ride - after all I was riding a tank of a singlespeed (I still can't believe how heavy it is - that had conveniently escaped my memory before I brought it back from NZ last year) & could not be thought of as taking it easy. Pleasingly for a group of eleven, we only had one mechanical for the weekend - & that was only a puncture on Sunday morning when we weren't pressed for time. Coming off the Priest's Way (this time riding up it) we found ourselves in the middle of a Wiggle sportive for roadies. For the next fifteen minutes we had a great time chasing down those ever-cheerful breed of cyclists that wouldn't even smile or return a greeting as they whizzed past us. I don't think one of them was overly impressed by being tailed by mountain-bikers - although the icing on the cake was when I managed to pass one up a hill.
I think this photo was taken to show the niceness of the countryside - very pleasant to ride through, if not as spectacular as some recent photos.
After we got over the hilarity at being sworn at by irate roadies that couldn't handle knobbly tyres passing them, we found a descent we hadn't done yet. Down the side of a ploughed field, where I was filled with my usual trepidation of riding parallel to barbed wire fencing, we were in between hedgerows and all of a sudden the trail got really rocky & absolute great fun. This was the part of the weekend I most wished I was riding the bike I had in Moab. We joined the main road back into Corfe Castle, joining up with the road contingent before stopping at the bakery again.

More new route took us north of Corfe Castle where we discovered a nicely wooded section filled with bluebells, other flowers & mostly-smooth fun trail. Up & over another ridge & we could see the village of the lunch-pub in the distance.

I had one more nasty surprise on the map - what turned out to be the steepest climb of the weekend.  Unfortunately, we could all see it coming - I was pretty sure that I would be walking up that as it looked like loose boulders at the bottom of a continually high gradient.  To get to it, we had a reasonable climb on the road where we passed more of our road friends again.  I was pleased to clear the whole climb - somehow I negotiated all the rocks before settling down to slowly push the pedals around & get to the top.  From the top of the ridge, we could see the weather closing in - there wasn't much to see from the lookout, so what else to do but head to lunch in Kingston.

We finally got rained on, for the first time of the weekend (not bad going), sitting in the beer garden waiting for a delicious lunch.  The bonus of the beer garden was we (well, D - he who got sworn at) could boo every roadie that went past.  Then the road got slick & they started crashing on the corner in the village & it would have been funny if they had not needed medical attention.  With the rain set in, we took the easy fast route back to our cars in town.

So a great weekend, where the company was the highlight, the riding was good, the food & drink plentiful and I didn't blow my knees apart - well organised John.

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