Sunday, June 2, 2013

Isle of Wight day ride

It's been one of those uncommon weekends at home - & more surprisingly, it coincided with some very nice early June weather. With no plans & wanting to see, before next weekend, if I could manage six hours of riding off-road in a day, it was the perfect time to finally head back to the Isle of Wight. This was my fourth visit to the island - strangely, the first in the eighteen months that I've been living just a few miles away across the Solent. On Garmin Connect,I found a rather optimistic looking, for me, almost-ninety kilometre course from an enduro MTB event that ran the week before; of course I could hardly drive to the ferry in Lymington - so that added another thirty-odd kilometres return.

I woke perhaps a little later than I normally do on a Saturday, but was quickly out the door by nine o'clock - I must have just missed a ferry so had to wait about thirty minutes for the next one. By about eleven I was in Yarmouth & it was heaving with some sort of carnival - that should have been predictable considering how packed the ferry was. But all the tasty food stalls couldn't tempt me as I was reckoning on being back to catch a return ferry at about six o'clock. The first bit of the course followed a very flat causeway up alongside the delightfully named Yar - the number of Rs you add is in direct proportion to how piratyrannical you are feeling.

Soon I was climbing through a golf course onto the chalk downs - very nice it was too with great views in all directions (only spoiled by the Calshot power station stack & the Fawley refinery - both pretty close to home). The ride to begin with was mostly bridleways linked by small pieces of road - not the most exciting mountain-biking, but that wasn't what I was really after. It was a very pleasant day out in the sun, with a brisk wind, and unlike the mainland there were very few people about. About two-thirds into the course I started to get a little tired, so the food stops got a little more frequent.

One of the nice things about riding on the island is that you don't have to go very far for the views to change significantly. Also, unlike the Forest, there are hills - which are much more interesting than no hills. On the return from the furtherest point and closing the second & third loops (the course was vaguely a stick to start with, then three loops stacked on top of it) it started to become sealed lanes connected with bridleways - which I was OK with. Luckily I brought about half my normal lunch, as it's more sparsely populated over there and pubs for mid-ride meals were a bit harder to find.

I ate much less on such a ride than I expected I would, so was pleased to stumble over a donkey sanctuary (whoever had heard of such a thing?) down a bridleway that had a small cafe with rather nice cakes in it (the carrot cake was saved for later & won out over the yoghurt & lemon flapjack). Of course, just after that I found a very quaint village with pubs - but I was still on track for six o'clock, so pushed on. All the singlespeeding recently has given more feasible options for getting up hills when one is tired - so that was helpful as there were still a couple of climbs to get up before the long descent back to Yarmouth to roll straight on to a ferry.

Back home by eight o'clock - that was a great outing where I could pace myself as I wanted and after which I was not nearly as sore as I should have been. Looking back through the riding diary, that's the most distance on a single day I've ever put in on a mountain-bike (it was mostly off-road) & the second highest total climbing since I got my GPS two years ago (not even close to Alex's climbfest of summer 2011) . I hope such large rides continue for the next few months every so often, otherwise the RVO will destroy me.

Monument & follies appear in the strangest places in the UK - this wasn't even at the top of a hill.
The problem with such a long route on bridleways is the scores/hundreds of gates one must open & close - this set appearing suddenly out of nowhere were a little more over the top than most.

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