Saturday was a glorious day in East Midlands (Nottinghamshire) anyway. After clearing my office out last week following the new kitchen and big leak, I got on Zwift on Friday. It felt good to be on the bike again, even if it was on the turbo during lunch while working from home.
My wife was planning to see her Aunty and her Dad on Saturday, they live about 30 miles north of us where the wife is from. The plan was to head up after taking the kids to their swimming lesson in the morning.
I sat thinking to myself on Thursday, I wonder if I could cycle there? We have an adjustable bike rack that fits onto the back of almost any car, so it would come back on the back of the Juke with no problem. I was hedging my bets on cycling both ways, the longest ride I’d competed at this point was 20 miles.
With my wife’s support, I planned a route from home to her Aunt’s place. Using a bit of road and a bit of the National Cycle Network, I could get there without any major hills or anything. I plotted the route, checked out some of the turning points using Google Street View and was confident I could do it. I sent the route to my Garmin Friday evening and prepped the bike.
I fitted the mudguards again, not being out since summer meant they weren’t on. I check over my brakes to make sure they were ok and reindexed my rear derailleur (I have to do this every time between the trainer and my wheel as they’re ever so slightly different even though the same model Cassette is used). I prepped my gear ready for the morning and made sure I had a banana and some jelly babies for the route too.
I checked everything in my saddle bag too. I don’t normally do this when cycling around locally, but I wasn’t on a loop home this time. I checked I had a spare inner tube, patches, tyre levers, pump (which ended up in the back of my jersey) and a bit of cash – just in case. I also put my lights onto charge – handy having rechargeable lights.
Saturday morning came and we went swimming as normal with the kids. As we returned home, I double-checked my lights and the rest of the gear packed the night before. I got changed, packed my jersey pockets with my food, the pump and my jacket (just in case it rained). The weather forecast was overcast all day, but no rain. I powered on my GPS while I got my shoes on, then I was ready to go.
The ride itself was great. Cutting through town I managed to get to the other end quicker than some cars. I passed a load of cars queuing in traffic, only for them to pass me 3 miles up the road coming out of town.
Weather was sunny, albeit a little chilly. But once I had got going I soon warmed up and was a good temperature throughout the trip. Coming out of Manfield and heading towards Edwinstowe was beautiful. The sun was bright and the wind dropped to almost nothing, it felt warm, it felt like late spring. But then just as I was enjoying that section of road, it was time to turn off into Sherwood Forest on the National Cycle Network (Route 6).
Turning off the road, I had averaged 14 mph, hitting the trails with the mud and gravel I was averaging 8-10 mph, the difference in the surface made it feel harder to pedal, even on the flats. I powered on heading North along the edge of the forest, before turning right and heading East.
On the track between Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park, I slowed down even more as it got a little hilly. Nothing major, but enough that I had to get off the bike once. Not because I didn’t have the energy or anything, but because the gravel under the tyres was so wet, my back wheel was just sliding with every push of the pedal.
As I entered Clumber Park, I hit 15 miles. My Garmin tells me every time I complete 5 miles and gives me the time it took me to complete the previous 5 miles. As it bleeped I felt bad. I had been going for just over an hour and I thought I’d only done 10 miles. I missed the bleep for 10 miles as I turned off the road earlier on. As I checked the Garmin again I learned I had actually done 15, I felt upbeat. I was aiming for a 2-hour finish and 15 miles at this time kept in around that target.
As I hit the main part of Clumber Park (Still on NCN Route 6) the muddy/gravel trails became Tarmac roads, the speed was now back up again. As I got to the north-west corner of Clumber Park and headed over the A57, the Garmin beeped again for 20 miles. I was now at the point of my further ride to date previously. I was about to smash that and that feeling made me push on harder. I knew most of the remaining route was downhill apart from the one hill not far in front of me.
I headed through the south of Worksop and up to Kilton Hill before cutting across to the A60 before the steepest part of hill hit. I purposely routed myself this way so I didn’t have to face the steepest part of the hills in Worksop.
After coming out the North of town, I headed downhill towards Carlton-in-Lindrick. I was into a final couple of miles now and had just passed the 2-hour mark. The last miles felt the easiest, knowing I was nearing the end. It’s strange how I’d cycled for more than 2 hours, but I was feeling more at ease now than at any point in the route before.
I absolutely loved the ride. Before setting off I was thinking I’d have to call the wife to pick me up at Clumber Park, but while I was there all I thought about was how little distance I had to go to finish the ride. Considering I’ve not been on the bike properly for a while due to things at home, I surprised myself how comfortable I felt finishing this ride. It has left me feeling confident I can finish the Southwell Cycle Tour at the end of the month (all 33 miles of it).