Microadventuring, mini tours etc

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  • Thanks - quite a few candidates in there.

    Cheers everybody also, I want to do this fairly often so I reckon I just need to crack on and fuck it up a few times. I reckon having a couple of hours ride into work in the morning won't be as bad as I fear, considering being woken by sunlight at sparrow fart

  • I just need to crack on and fuck it up a few times

    This is my plan, went out once and won't be heading back to the same spot in a hurry, but at least now I know

  • Thinking of buying a bivvy. As my tent weighs a ton (compared to a 345g bivvy) and seems silly to cart it around for one night. Only plan to use it once (but will use more if I like it). So don't want to spend much.

    This seems ok and will fit me (I'm 198cm). Any reason I shouldn't get it? Will be used 3-4 nights/year max.

    Also, should probably buy a basha/tarp. Any suggestions?

  • That doesn't look like it has waterproof zips, which means that water would leak in from the side. The material also doesn't look particularly tough, and might let in moisture from underneath if the ground is damp.

  • might let in moisture from underneath if the ground is damp

    But doesn't the 3000mm HH rating mean it won't?

    Might just get a lighter tent then. Currently got a crappy 2/3 man.

    Edit: I think you're right about the waterproof zips. But it does have a large flap which covers the zip. Meaning most water (if from above) won't get near it.

  • I have read about cheaper bivis having a bit of seep at the bottom.

    If you're going to use it with a tarp it should be fine, as it is essentially just a wrap around groundsheet. At least with the zips you can regulate the moisture inside a bit so it doesn't get too humid in the bag.

  • I've got an Alpkit one, super impressed. Wish I'd bought green though to blend in.

    I use a fishing tarp and they're perfect. Cheaper and with the eyelets in useful places. Most often i actually use the tarp on the ground and wrap my bags inside it. Mostly because i've used it fields more than forests.

  • It does look good but doubt I'd use it much to make it worthwhile. Been looking into a smaller lighter tents (as I'd get more use out of one) but struggling to find much that would fit me (6'6").

  • I've got the Alpkit bivvy and tarp setup. It's great and with a fancy carbon fibre pole and a very light weight (and cheap) sleeping bag it comes in at about 1kg for the lot. Would recommend

  • This says its 225cm and probably more in your price range than alpkit https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/bivy-b­ag-p13634.aspx/

  • Thanks. That seems pretty good for the money. Hadn't looked there.

    Plus 10% off on first order (sign up for a mailing list), plus 5% cashback on TopCashBack. Shame they want £4.50 for postage though.

    I've ordered one.

  • Another hostel, another train station. Maybe we're getting too good at this, I thought as I stood freezing in the microclimate of Birmingham New Street's platform 4C. JD was already inbound from the North. N and I were meeting at New Street to catch the 11am to Telford Central. We'd hit our hostel, dump our bags, whip around The Long Mynd and be back for dinner, or something. I had only planned the trip to within an inch of its life as a distraction from the acrid, living hell of having a job. When N finally rolled her Surly onto the train platform it looked sort of tired, a stark contrast to her floral anorak, matching cycling cap and generally enthusiastic demeanour. Once we were on the train she immediately pulled a roll of Gorilla Tape out of her pocket and began taping various parts of the bike back together. The last ride we'd gone on I'd commented that although the Cambridge music scene was pretty dire, her Surly was a noise art installation piece on its own.

    "I'm so sick of this bike." she said, as overpass columns shrouded in scaffolding and plastic wrap crept past the window. Disused warehouses, scrap metal. The sky was dark. It felt like the first day of November instead of the last day of August. Flecks of rain were hitting the window at jaunty angles. The LHT may well have been on its last legs but it wasn't exactly Majorca out there either. As the train pulled into Telford we saw JD leaned up against a barrier with his blacked out Bowmans R, blacked out Rapha gear and blacked out Decathlon SPDs looking like he actually was heading to Majorca. N seemed visibly distressed.

    "I didn't realise this was meant to be a road ride! I would have brought my road bike."

    "I only mentioned it in the group chat a thousand times."

    This was the no-grav tour, a chance for JD to live out his nascent roadie fantasies. He was travelling through the standard male crisis model in reverse. First a steel framed gravel bike, now a knife edge crit racer. He'll probably do the next tour on a track bike with velcro pedal straps. Then he'll probably buy a motorbike.

    It doesn't matter how much lateral stiffness your frame has though, if your tour leader hasn't set his Garmin with his carefully routed route you're not going anywhere, so we ran over a glass panelled bridge, then back the other way, and started winding through the retail parks of Telford, the sky growing darker until it finally burst, leaving us huddled under the awning of a mighty Asda megastore. We made relays inside to obtain last minute snacks and layers. I fiddled with my Garmin and tried to remember how maps worked. The mood was pensive, though the weather forecast had assured us it was just a passing shower it was impossible to shake the feeling of gloom. It felt like this was it, the whole tour in a microcosm, cowering under the suspended belly of an Asda. When my turn came to run inside all I wanted to do was buy a fleece tracksuit and a hot chocolate. I made do with a Snickers and a long sleeve t shirt that it would turn out I didn't need.

    The rain looked like it had passed so we rode out on the greasy roads, wondering when they'd turn into something vaguely pleasant. I think we got way with only one or two car horns by the time we found a way off the hell a-roads and picked our way through a council estate, and then the vertiginous paths of the Ironbridge Gorge down into the 'birthplace of the industrial revolution'. I wonder how much longer we'll celebrate the beginning of the accelerated destruction of our planet, but maybe it's not quite the time to get on my high horse, considering the horse is a bicycle, and it probably wouldn't have existed without the industrial revolution. We didn't stay long, heading for our first climb with a greater than 10% gradient. JD and I pushed whilst N managed to get up in the saddle. I made a note to never celebrate another decline in my life if it was just going to be followed by this kind of nonsense.

    Our lunch stop was Smoothies in Much Wenlock, outdoor seating, somehow the sun had come out, JD couldn't eat anything there but what else is new. He disappeared to some health food shop or supermarket and came back with gluten free bread rolls whilst N and I munched on sandwiches and soup. The town was sickening. A real nightmare visage of English Gothic architecture. In 2019 it was featured by The Sunday Times as one of the best places to live in the UK, which probably tells you everything you need to know. I hate the countryside, I just like the lanes and the cake.

    There wasn't any cake, but there was lanes a plenty. As someone who has spent most of his cycling life in Cambridgeshire I wasn't sure how I felt about some of the inclines. Up? and then down? Far out. But by the time we got to the hostel my new brake pads were bedded in. We were also about 4 hours later than I'd originally envisaged us turning up. The original plan had been to dump our stuff, then go out and summit the Long Mynd on race weight weight weenie machines, shod of luggage, just one bidon. We lay about in the sun at the stately manor house that was our overnight stop. The views were distant, quiet, people were staying in tents and their was a family SUV with a family SUV's worth of MTBs on the roof rack. We made a call to swap to a different route, climbing Long Mynd tomorrow. All we had to do was switch gpx files to the backup route I had saved.

    The rainbursts, gloomy a roads and steel superstructures of Telford were another lifetime ago as we whipped out through the lanes, packs lightened somewhat (Though I can't say if it was enough to really notice). We weren't climbing Long Mynd but there was definitely some climbs to be had. I began to develop an appreciation for the small ring as we churned up the roads around Wenlock Edge, mostly short sharp climbs, enough time to sweat but no infinite grinds. Though she was the most accomplished climber of all of us N ws feeling the strain, and by the time we had reached the far end of the loop and began making our way back along an undulating, freshly tarmac'd a-road she was noticeably lagging on the climbs. Noticeable because on every other tour she'd leave JD and I behind. She blamed her ankle and a week of good living but the buzzing, clunking noise opera coming from the Surly hadn't dimmed. How much gorilla tape is enough?

    Regardless, we made it back in one piece. Overcome with bravado I managed to ascend the final climb to our lodgings without having to get off and push, which was satisfying because I hadn't managed it when we'd first arrived. I then proceeded to collapse into the YHA reception to order food. Dinner was pizza and chips, cafeteria style, served by our YHA staff who, although accommodating and understanding, didn't quite seem to be on our planet or experience time in the same way as most of us did. It was probably the altitude. When the food finally arrived. I performed my final trick of the evening by making my meal disappear, before stumbling determinedly towards the top bunk.

    It takes a lot to ruin a night's sleep after a day on the bike and a massive carb meal, but the 1000IQ mensa tier cyclists we were sharing a dorm room with managed it. The night before N had pointed them out as a milestone of where cycling was in the zeitgeist right now.

    "Ten years ago they'd have been on the golf course."

    "You can't ride a bike on a golf course though, can you?"

    "I mean they would be playing golf."

    I woke up with my head feeling more sore than my legs. N said she'd strapped her ankle up so tightly she nearly got gangrene. The hostel breakfast was a balm, albeit one served in slow motion. We ate some of the courgette chutney we'd picked up from one of those quaint roadside pay what you want stalls. JD didn't trust the gluten free bread. Where were we going again? Oh yeah up the Long Mynd with all our bags. But first I took us on a nice pointless detour to add an extra couple of K to the route. We retraced our steps and got back on the road for real this time. The sun wasn't quite out but was casting an early morning haze through the clouds. N and I grabbed some apples from another roadside stall (JD can't eat apples) and kept on the gradual ascents, past a few minibus drivers who had 'that look' in their eyes, according to JD:

    "’That look’ is when they're thinking… I want to kill this person… and I could kill this person. It's just SOCIETY that won't let me."

    "It's why I'll never be full anarcho mate. Once there are no laws, no ANPR, no driving license infrastructure, I can assure you that minibus drivers will be putting us under like hedgehogs."

    My masterful routing came a cropper at the end at the second best descent of the whole route (Number 1 was still to come). We found ourselves stuck behind a line of irate Sunday drivers, being marshalled around by cheerful looking people in hi-vis. They said it was a "Tractor Pull" and I nodded as though I knew what the fuck a Tractor Pull is. Something to do with tractors, I guess, because there was a lot of tractors in the road. The car people must have been livid. Cyclists AND tractors. Literally torture for them. As we alternate between skimming next to the queues of traffic and being overtaken by belching retro monstrosities the sky was darkening, the road was becoming more vertiginous and I was inhaling more diesel smoke than I do in the city. Eventually the clouds burst and we tucked onto a side road behind a hi vis man and his hazard lights as he swapped his TRACTOR PULL signs around. N made small talk whilst I checked Dark Sky. We were heading north, the prevailing wind was from the west. Once this patch of rain blew over us we would have some time to make progress and hopefully outrun the next rainy blob of sadness. The side road was our route and as soon as the rain eased we pushed off straight into what we assumed was, THE CLIMB.

    JD sped off joyously, saying something about ‘type 2 fun’ whilst I diligently closed a gate. It seemed fine, less gnarly than I assumed it was going to be. It seemed like we would definitely make it past the rain cloud. We were cycling on the east slope of some kind of ridgeline, to the right of us it carried on up, covered in ferns, to the left, we could see the rolling hills of Shropshire, which honestly, looked exactly the same as the rolling hills of everywhere else in this country, but they were still nice. Anyway, after about ten seconds of progress I got a puncture through the gash in my tyre that I'd got on our last tour and hadn't got round to patching.

    We pulled to a stop and I set out to do what could be done whilst JD and N lamented my inability to fix my bike before we came out. I think I dropped into some kind of automatic fugue state because it felt like I managed to half yank the tube, quick patch it, press some gorilla tape onto the inside of the slashed bit of tyre, put some gorilla glue onto the gash on the outside of the tyre, tell my friends to fuck off with the banter, reinflate the tyre and even negotiate the rear derailleur in record time. Nevertheless, as soon as I slotted the tyre back into place I heard a sound like an out of tune radio rise up from the low growing shrub all around us, or more accurately, I heard it start to rain. A beat later and it was on us. There didn't seem any point in trying to wait it out, the tree cover was gone. There was just the road ahead of us. We smashed along and down. the ridgeline to the right getting higher and higher, passing a few dwellings and cars with hang gliders strapped to the roof rack, headed the same way we were, but with a more sensible approach to the ascent, though a much stupider approach to the descent.

    The rain had stopped by the time we reached what was the actual start of the climb. JD and N carried on whilst I topped by tyre up and checked it was holding air. It didn't matter, I wasn't going to be riding. The gradient immediately ratcheted up and the sun came out. The view was distant and rolling but we were mostly staring at our top caps as we shoved the bikes upwards. It felt sort of like putting your bike in one of those vertical bike stands. Sensing a fall in my mood I reached for the unopened bag of Colin The Caterpillars (Sour edition) and begin to chew. I mean it wasn't really that bad. I'm sure people have suffered through worse. It did feel somewhat gratifying thot the MTBers who pedalled past us were barely moving faster than our walking pace, but not very gratifying. I chewed more Colins morosely.

    We were up on a plateau with the Long Mynd Hang Glider club and two mountain bikers, though the Garmin said we had a bit further to go before the proper summit, we could essentially see it in the distance, it was just a bit more small ring grinding to get there, swerving the Sunday walkers and Sunday drivers, some of whom were very interested in investigating our instincts for self preservation. The group spread out again, JD at the front, his weight weenie build (bike and body) once again proving superior to N and I's superior cardio conditioning. Also where N's bike had started the tour as a sort of, low key drone ambient act, it now sounded more like a one man brass band type vibe. Also the front v-brake had started popping loose. Which was regrettable when you consider that everything that comes up, must come down, and the descent from Long Mynd into Church Stretton (the 'wrong' way if you're fussy) was a switchback laden single lane road with a view across a valley into what I guess was the Stiperstones ridge. It was a good thing that the road was filled with cars waiting at passing points so that we could descend slowly enough to really take in the views. I would have hated it to be empty enough for me to go racing down, railing corners and braking late. That would have been terrible.

    We made it into Church Stretton, saw last night's lycra clad bladder sipping cycling tormentors standing around outside the Co-op, waved at them and then found our way to another pizza and chips stop in a sunny garden belonging to "The Loft". Highly recommended, though we once again overdid it on the chips and I fumbled my phone through adrenaline shaken fingers and cracked the screen on the floor.

    "It does seem a very 'you' thing to do." N commented.

    "Yes," I agreed. "Expensive and depressing."

    We were somehow, miraculously, ahead of time as we hefted our carb laden torsos out of Church Stretton. We had a cumulative descent with a few bumps into Shrewsbury and the train home. Whilst JD and I were waiting for N and her one man band to catch up with us we ran into a flustered lady on a drop bar spesh with a can of GT85 in the bottle holder.

    "Did you hear that horn going off?" she asked. "It was some man in a caravan having a go, he thought I was holding him up."

    We were confused, a man with a caravan would obviously already have a giant wanger, so why would he see the need to further prove his titanic girth by yelling at a woman on a bike? Very strange. We commiserate with her and she told us she too was heading to Shrewsbury though somehow in the opposite direction. She left us with some vague directions on how we could avoid crushing along the same a road she'd just evacuated, which seemed good to me as I stared down at the pitch black tarmac and 50mph speed limit signs that were incredibly, somehow, being rigorously ignored.

    The GT85 lady's steer proved to be incredibly good, taking us onto another undulating lane, past a couple of OG greybeard riders in matching jerseys chilling at a turning. I felt like we'd been granted a reprieve. I don't know what it is about the final leg of a ride, but I always reach a point where I wouldn't mind the whole thing being over and nothing interests me anymore. The skies were darkening again as we pulled up to a junction which led back onto the A road we'd just avoided. If it hadn't looked inviting before it was less so now that it was about to start raining and the traffic had increased. We took a last minute glance at Google maps to see if there was an alternative and then headed in.

    As I mentioned earlier, I hate the countryside in a lot of respects. I like riding my bike on roads that don't have cars on, I like travelling away from my own normal life but rolling through some of the most conservative parts of the nation isn't that fun for me. None of the things that interest me are found in the countryside, no matter how long the sightlines are. I spend most of my time in nature thinking about how systematically ravaged the geography of this nation is, maybe more so than anywhere on Earth. Anyway, I was quite glad when the a-road turned to a shared use path. I love shared use paths on the outskirts of provincial towns. They're fascinating, and honestly, the ones into Shrewsbury seemed pretty well thought out. At least from the angle we were attacking from. Though we eventually came a cropper of the town’s one way system. It wasn't the kind of place you could casually salmon either, given the pace of the cars heading straight at you.

    Even though we were early, and shops were still open, the temptation to get home and get into bed an hour earlier than expected was sparkling, given N and I both had 5 hours of travel ahead of us. We managed to board the slowest lift of all time, followed by a Transport For Wales train back to Birmingham New Street. JD got off at Wolverhampton. N and I got off at New Street. As we rolled off the train she picked up her rear wheel and span it. It rotated about thrice before coming to a hard stop, rubbing against the rear mudguard.

    "Look!" she said. "I'm so over this bike."

    I guess 130k with your brakes on can really make you hate a bike.

    Route: https://www.komoot.com/tour/91445350

  • Another great write up and photos. And I presume an ironic Supreme sticker on that water bottle.

  • That's not a sticker, that's the 2016 Supreme®/Kleen Kanteen® Classic Bottle.

  • I would have hated it to be empty enough for me to go racing down, railing corners and braking late. That would have been terrible.

    I remember that descent, being part pissed off by the car in front slowing us down, part grateful it was probably keeping us from flying over the edge on one of the hairpins...

  • I googled this to see if it was a real thing...well goodness me.

  • Nice, beautiful words and pictures.

  • Cant reccomended this route enough, really had it all in a tight package.

    Urban sprawl
    Rolling lanes
    Challenging climbs
    Push your bike climbs
    Sweeping speedy descents

    Really recomend if you have friends who are looking to dabble in the idea of multi day road rides, it's short enough so you can achieve with regular fitness, but enough on the route so you feel like you've achieved something bigger than the sum of its parts

    Bela did a fantastic job routing this one for us. Don't tell anyone but I was having a bit of a "what have I done" dropping a good chunk on a dedicated road bike until we done this. His talent for routing really shone through, even when the theme was "none of that bumpy stuff, it's got 25c slicks and no clutch on the rear mech'

  • I chewed more Colins morosely.

    I relate to few phrases as much as this

  • Good few chuckles in that, sounds like a good time

  • push your bike climb is just a climb you gotta get good for :)

  • nice route seems like lots of fun. do you only take the time to ride with your UK friends?

  • I really like this picture.

  • N took it! All credit to her.

  • Great trip report! Despite living just the other side of Wolverhampton, I've not been out to the Shropshire side of things yet; looks like I should make the effort.

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Microadventuring, mini tours etc

Posted by Avatar for M_V @M_V