Last in the mini series of Dirty Kanzelled experiences is Stu and Scotty’s attempt on the ‘event’, where they took to the Ridgeway to join their team mates and thousands of people over the world doing the same. Here is how Scotty saw the day…
By now, we would be mid way through the MTB season and there would be events of all kinds every weekend, so to just hit pause, has been a very odd feeling. So, when my teammates started talking of this idea, it sounded like a cracking plan, something to aim at, get excited for! Little planning was done on our part, but I suggested heading to the Ridgeway to attempt our 100miles of mainly off road riding. The Ridgeway has a fair few memories for Stu and I, notably an Easter weekend 4 years ago (that could be a whole blog in itself-but lets just say it was a character building day out and also the coldest I’ve EVER been).
We both drove to the start of the Ridgeway in Avebury, parked up on what was a perfect Sunday to go ride a bike! Kit on, bikes out of our vans then a final check of the steeds then it was time to go and get those legs spinning! Our bike set ups consisted of Stu’s trusty old Cannondale touring bike, now made into his ‘gravel’ bike. Those two have been through a lot together, Lands End to John O Groats, PBP, numerous camping trips, Audax rides and now its in its latest guise, the gravel bike. I was on a new (old) ride which I had built up during lockdown and this was its first big test. The bike, a titanium Airbourne Carpe Dieme Cyclocross bike, set up with as big a tyre possible on it and frame bag to keep spares and food in. The frameset was passed on from the dad of one of my childhood cycling buddies, Tom and its just a bloody great piece of kit! Built up so that I can bikepack/gravel ride it, its going to be a lot of fun plus it also has cantilever brakes which I’m still rather fond of.
We set off a tad later than the other guys and from the very start it was warm! We hit the bumpy, chalky trails of the Ridgeway and immediately had big grins on our faces! Within minutes both of us bringing up memories of the infamous trip 4 years ago, with that went laughter (its JUST about ok to laugh about it now, ha!) or the odd shiver at the thought of some of it! Within about an hour we’d realised that we had forgotten quite how undulating the route was but we were in our element and loving every minute! We definitely weren’t alone on the first stretches of the route as they are the easier bits for walkers to get to, so there was plenty of, “hello, may I squeeze past…on your right…” and with that a mixture of people nearly diving into the hedgerows to (maybe slight over) conform to the current social distancing measures and others who…clearly didn’t. The views were pretty constantly amazing, looking out over Wiltshire below in all its glory and we were making pretty good progress even considering the fair headwind but with that, unless sods law stepping in, we would have an easier ride back!
A mixture of wide open bridleways, some gravel, some very chalky and also some rough as hell horse trodden paths for the majority of the journey, then some fast tarmac sections, one of which kind of caught us out as we were flying along chatting (we do a spot of that from time to time) and we sailed straight past pretty much the only 90 degree turn on the route, but, to be fair, it wasn’t that obvious…ask Stu, he’ll agree. Due to missing said sign, we found ourselves off piste and as we didn’t realise for a good few miles and we were shifting, we then had a quick map reading stop then found our way back to where we needed to be! Some lovely Oxfordshire lanes were found and soon enough, back on the trails and with that some pretty mint little tree covered sections that were a fair bit narrower than the early stretches and we were blasting along! Came flying along one section, passing a couple out walking who moved over with big grins on their faces and shouting out “cracking work lads, looking good” followed by ”YES, cantilever brakes too, SO cool”. THAT put a grin on my face and a quick look back, smile and thumbs up and we were on our way. Then soon into another fast wooded section and getting a tad carried away came upon deep tractor tyre ruts going across our path, which I managed to just make it through upright, shouting back to Stu “big rut”…his reply, “S**T” and then he made it through. I looked back at him and we then both realised there was two women sat having a tranquil picnic under the trees watching it all unfold (until we turned up). We all burst out laughing and wished each other a good day and plenty of laughter ensued.
Up next we reached Goring where it was pretty busy with people making use of all this lovely weather and we popped into the Spar shop, filled up on food and drink and sat with our bikes down a side street, in the shade trying to cool the old body down. Then, back to the saddle and onto the the last stretch of the first 50miles of the route and soon enough, we were there and it was in the middle of knowhere and so amazingly quiet and then we had that nice feeling that we were heading home. We picked up the pace again and were really getting going and soon skirting Goring again and then we soon picked up where we should have come out if we’d not gone shooting past the ‘hidden’ corner earlier in the day!
It was amazing how much quieter the ride back was and for large sections, we were the only people on the trail for as far as the eye could see…such an amazing feeling, cruising along with ya best buddy, doing what we love and after the start to the year we’ve all had, it felt mint! Cruising along the ridge in the early evening sunshine, we took a small detour to make our last food and drink stop and headed to the same garage that we stopped at on the Easter trip, filled up with caffeine and food. We then pushed on and were both riding strong and feeling good and as we got ever closer to the end, the sun began to set and the trail got ever quieter…then it was time to stop and watch it actually go down. Not a bad way to sign off May and head into June, then we jumped back on the bikes and rolled down the hill to the vans and reached 101miles as we came to a stop…cracking day in the saddle, one to remember for a long time. Bikes packed away, then onto the road home, that feel of sun kissed skin, tired legs and body, but good tired, ya know the type. Whilst driving back, I got thinking…yep, cannot wait for more of this!! Time to plan more adventures!
That sums up our Dirty Kanzelled series of blogs and what a great bunch of accounts of that sunny day in May all over the country and we cannot wait until we’re all back together in a big bunch doing rides like these…until then, lets makes the best of what we have.