Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Ride to Swanage

Went to: Romsey, Fordingbridge, Wimborne Minster, Wareham, Swanage, Sandbanks, Bournemouth, Christchurch
Distance: 124 miles
Total time on bike: 8:15
Average speed: 14.9 mph
Total climb height: 700m (take the absolute value with a pinch of salt but about 30% less than the 65 mile Isle of Wight ride)
Link to route on Bike Route Toaster

Over coffee the guys at work and I have been devising various bike routes, some quite unlikely (10 days to Budapest is the least realistic so far) and some definitely do-able. One of the rides that we were hoping to squeeze in this year is to Swanage and back. This is over a 100 miles, known as a Century ride.

But with everyone having busy weekends for the next few weeks and the decline of summer time it looked like it wasn't going to happen :-(

But then work decided to give us 2 days vacation to celebrate the release of our product. The forecast for Thursday (27th August) was good and I'd already planned an approximate route so we decided to "man up" and give it a go, despite a distinct lack of training for some peleton members.

Four of us would be riding:
* Alan Chatt, previous longest ride 65 miles round the IOW, next to no recent practice
* Ed Altenburger, previous longest ride 91 miles on the New Forest sportive, some recent practice but had to bale out with exhaustion on the most recent long ride after 45 miles
* Andy Perry, previous longest ride 40 miles (and just 18 miles before that), but good CV fitness from regular 10k runs
* me, previous longest ride 121 miles, not expecting trouble

Before the ride we figured it would be unlikely that we would all complete the distance but we weren't sure who it would be that'd struggle. But we were sure we'd get to Swanage and there are plenty of railway stations to rescue those in trouble.

We met near Romsey at 08:00. A very nice chap at work (Pete S.) let us use his driveway for cars - Andy drove down from Fleet so he had a particularly early start. I commuted 8 miles to get there. In this post I'll be using elapsed distances from Pete's house. We were on our bikes and rolling at 08:15.

After just 5.5 miles and 22 minutes Andy picked up a puncture in his front wheel. We managed to pinch the replacement tube whilst fitting it so we used the now-patched original tube and were a lot more careful the second time when squeezing the tyre on to the wheel. We were stopped for a total of about 20 minutes.

Setting off again and we were straight in to the New Forest. I was a little surprised to see some fat pigs wallowing at the side of the road. We took the relatively gentle climb through Bramshaw to the ride's quite tame peak elevation of 140 metres.

Then we had 5.5 miles of beautiful open moorsland scenery as we streamed to Fordingbridge in a tight line of wheel to wheel cycling.

At Fordingbridge we stopped to snack and check our route. We noticed that we were virtually outside Perkins bike shop so Andy bought another spare tube - the first spare was pinched right next to the valve so a patch wouldn't be likely to stay on for long.

After 10 minutes or so we were off, enjoying quiet lanes down to Wimborne Minster where we stopped and got food from a bakers - a steak pastie for Ed, Andy and I and Alan had a sandwich. Alan also got some ibuprofen as his knee was getting sore.

On the way to Wimborne Minster we crossed paths with a group of 15 or so cycling pensioners - I'm looking forward to some of that when I retire.

Back on the bikes and we followed some urban roads to Lytchett Minster. Then we crossed the A35 and promptly encountered a massive queue of stop-start traffic on the A351. For about 3 miles we weaved past stationary and creeping traffic. This was enough to put us off our original route which would have taken us further along the A351 to Corfe Castle.

We went through the middle of Wareham which looked quite nice but we didn't stop. To avoid the busy A351 we crossed it and headed into unplanned territory.

Which of course turned out to be hilly. What looked on the map a bit like a hairpin bend near Cocknowle indeed turned out to be a hairpin bend. The road climbed to a local high point (129m elevation according to GPS) and we stopped at the top to admire the view.

From there it was downhill to Corfe Castle. We were treated to a less often seen view of the castle ruins as we descended north-east in to Corfe. We joined the traffic going through/to Corfe and managed to miss our turning that would have let us avoid the rest of the A351. By the time we were sure we'd overshot we were far enough out of town that it seemed more sensible to continue than go back. The traffic was also light past Corfe so it was still a nice road to cycle on.

After another 4 miles or so we started our final descent in to Swanage. It felt great to see the sign welcoming us to Swanage as we were zooming downhill at 30mph. We followed signs for the town centre and eventually stopped when we saw the sea was only 10 metres away. There was a chippie there so we all got chips + buttie or pie. Distance so far: 57.5 miles.

We refilled our water bottles with water and added some electrolyte powder that we'd all got from ZipVit in a great value promotion. Then we headed off towards Studland which involved climbing steadily from sea level to 97m elevation which didn't please Alan.

But then it was downhill and perfectly flat for a couple of miles before we reached the ferry. There was quite a long queue of traffic waiting to board but cyclists had a separate lane. We reached the ferry just as the doors were being closed but the nice man let us on. It cost 80p to travel the few hundred metres to Sandbanks. As we left the island and entered the linkway we passed a gorgeous Ferrari Enzo.

Alan had decided that his knee trouble and the lactic acid burn in his legs were sufficient for him to retire. We checked the iPhone to find railway stations. Bournemouth looked to be about the same distance as Poole so Alan was with us for a bit longer.

We went to the sea front to cycle along the promenade but they ban cycling in the months of July and August. A friendly lifeguard told us that we'd be stopped by people like him all the way along and advised us on an alternate route. Unless you're on the promenade then cycling in the Bournemouth area isn't particularly pleasant (unless anyone knows some good quiet routes?).

We eventually found the station and said goodbye to Alan. He'd done 72 miles which isn't half bad. Andy, Ed and I rode in rush hour traffic through Boscombe and Christchurch before branching off towards Bransgore on lovely quiet roads. I realised that I had turned off the GPS watch on the ferry so I'd missed out 11 miles of our trip, grrr.

By this point the mileage was making itself felt in our bums, especially Andy who hadn't done this distance before and hasn't ever really gotten used to his saddle.

At Thorney Hill we crossed a cattle grid which signaled our re-entry in to the New Forest. The road from Thorney Hill to Burley is perfectly smooth, flat and really open moorland and is a delight to cycle on - definitely one to revisit.

We followed the road out of Burley back to the A35 and then began the climb up the lovely Ornamental Drive, ducking under the A31 before reaching the 130m elevation of Ocknell plain. We must have had a 15mph following wind heading back over the plains as the air felt perfectly still whilst we were doing 20mph.

Then it was nearly all flat/downhill back to Romsey to complete a 110 mile round trip. I then had another 7 miles to get home, arriving home at about 19:20.

All in all a great day. Where next I wonder?