I had a bit more time off this year. So I decided for better or worse to go on a ten day tour, compared to last years five day. Being out on the road for longer could potentially be a bit tiring so when I was route planning I tried to bring the daily mileage down to compensate. And that combined with staying hostels made route planning straight forward. A loop going down to the south coast to Devon then back up through Somerset and returning via Wiltshire.
In terms of bike set up I changed a few things from last year. A touring triple 26/36/46 to make the hills a little easier, bar end shifters to get the gear cables away from the bar bag (the cables cleared in the normal set up but kinked and failed after a couple hundred miles pushed against the bag last trip). I fitted a front rack to provide a bit more support to the bar bag and increase storage and on the back fitted a Bagman support to better stabilise the saddlebag. The set up rolled well on the one and only test ride I got around to giving it, nothing like last minute prep.
So one my first day I had a 40mile run south through the Chilterns along some of my normal riding routes which dropped me into the Thames valley to finish at Streatley. It was a warm day but generally grey and cloudy.
A friend came over to meet me for dinner and we had fish and chips at the Miller of Mansfield in Goring across the river, enjoyed with a pint of Rebellion IPA
The next day started with a bang, a one mile 17% incline out of the valley, not great on cold legs, with an autumnal chill in the air. So even with a 26/27 bottom gear walking was easier. That was the worst of it for the day and the road flowed for 55miles to Salisbury. Through Beech woods
I did suffer one puncture and an old patch failed as well which slowed me down a little. Tired after 57miles I had a nice big plate of pasta at the hostel for dinner with a bottle of local bitter.
As one of the hostels had closed on me I had ended up with a rest day in Salisbury so took some time to sight see, pick up a travel towel and dry bag to extend my storage and a couple more spares from the local bike shop, the forgotten spare straddle cable and an other spare tube after the previous days patch failure. And seeing the state of my hair with out the attention of home comforts I got my hair cut nice and short too. Turned out the barber was a cyclist too so we had a good chat, it was a more than pleasant experience.
With some more free time I went and had a look round the Cathedral
and the sculpture exhibition
From a friends recommendation I went to the Avon Brewery Inn for a steak and a pint of Ringwood bitter that evening.
After my rest day I had a short 35mile ride to Burley. Coming from the north west I passed through the heathland of the new forest where I saw lots of the New Forest Ponies.
Dropping of the high heathland took me back through pine and beech forrest into what you would expect the new forest to look like.
I had a nice afternoon in the hostel reading my book in the shade of some trees chilling out followed by burger and beer.
The next day I was headed to Lulworth cove on the coast and it was a nice sunny day for it as well. Rather than take the direct route via the busy coastal road and Bournemouth I headed inland. My first town of the day was Ringwood, then I went further west to Blandford. At Blanford I stopped in on one of my favourite breweries Badger for a quick half of First Gold.
I was tempted to have a couple but once I hit the hilly coast roads to Lulworth I was glad I’d abstained. I also had to pass some of the military training areas too.
By the time I hit the coast and Lulworth the fog had rolled in of the sea and the temp had dropped too. After a walk down to the harbour (some disappointing fish and chips) I had a couple of nice pints.
I had a schedule the following day, as I was meeting a friend at Dorchester train station. The 17mile ride to Dorchester was straight forward following a national cycle route. My friend arrived with bike and we set off for the rest of the days ride. From Dorchester we rode down to Abbotsbury where we stopped for food, a good Dorset dream tea for me. Climbing/walking out of the town was arduous as it was a long 17% climb up into the fog that was rolling in from the Channel.
We hugged the coast and Chesil beach for an hour or so of top gear descents, followed by bottom gear climbs. After Bridgeport we headed inland for some slightly more rolling countryside before we split just outside Axminster, me for Seaton and my friend for his car at Axminster station and the drive home. By myself again I swung back to the coast along country lanes desccending into Seaton.
After a quick walk down the prom, I dragged myself up and down the last couple of hills to Beer and my evening stop. Hearing some good reports I tried the local fish and chip shop. Now here the fish was obviously fresh and it was a much nicer dinner. Topped of by a nice beer in beer, well deserved after 60 hilly miles.
The next day I headed north to Street in Somerset, via some of the roads next weeks Tour is to take. It will be fun to see guys racing up the hills I was grinding up in my granny ring.
Street is the oldest hostel in England and is in a nice forest south of Glastonbury. It’s reasonably isolated so I was making use of the self catering facilities and a bag of fresh ravioli. Instant porridge was the order of the day in the morning before I hit the road. My first stop was Glastonbury, before picking up the route (in reverse) I’d done previously two years ago to take me to Bath. Climbing over the Mendips was as hard in this direction as the other, with the added bonus this time of gusting crosswinds and rain. A hard wet 45miles in the end.
I’d not stopped at Bath previously as had been on a tight time schedule so I enjoyed mooching about in search of the Hornblower book I was after (having finished the previous book at Street) to no avail.
I left Bath the next day along side the Avon canal, taking the tow path for 30 odd miles. With a bit more rain I got well and truly covered in mud despite mudguards. Still a flat 30 miles was pleasant and the tow path was reasonably well surfaced so I made good time. And coming up to Devizes I passed the engineering feat of Caen Hill Locks, a full 29 locks in a row.
At some point on the rough canal path the brake bridge bracket for the front rack decided enough was enough and snapped it self. The handle bar bag wasn’t particularly putting a lot of weight into the rack so it was an odd failure. The remaining two supports seemed strong so I wasn’t too bothered at my lack of tools or parts to repair it. So after a quick 5 mile run from the canal I was at that nights stop. As a change from Hostels I’d booked a B&B I’d found on the CTC touring site. It was a welcome change. The place was a 17th Century farmhouse, so I was able to stash my bike in the stables and take a modern shower, welcome after the cold wet day. Apres shower I was able to relax in front of the open fire with tea and cake, very civilised. More great food followed that evening and the following morning for breakfast so I was refuelled the next day on my way back to Streatley my first stop.
The days was a cool grey rolling ride through Wiltshire and West Berkshire, but my legs were feeling the weeks riding so even this 45miles was a challenge. I was able though to keep away from all the major towns and pick up some lunch in a village bakery.
So I was back in Streatley again for an evening at the same pub and a nice burger.
I took a slightly different route home to the outward leg just to try some new roads and avoid the steeper hills. Having got home I gave the bike a quick clean oiled the chain, put ten days of dirty washing in the machine and collapsed. In the end I did 450 miles and just over 14,000ft of climbing and survived ten days on the road.