Roland Collicott has been tackling some of the Chilterns’ finest winter reliability rides over the last few weekends:
After our very successful Westerley Winter Warmer, we don’t seem to have had so many people doing the winter reliability rides recently and I was determined to try to get back to some sort of fitness. I went out to do the Hemel Hempstead Hilly 100 km on 5th Feb. It’s got 1000 m of climbing and for me, a nice ride to the start at Hemel, albeit quite hilly. I managed to make a wrong turn on my way to the HQ and ended up arriving as some people were starting, which included the only other Westerley rider, Frank Proud. I didn’t feel confident to keep up a decent pace, so was happy for Frank not to hang around for me.
I set off with the slower group, but they went out a cracking pace and I let them get on with it. I have to admit that I’m not feeling properly fit again… but then I’ve not done any competitive or serious riding for 2½ years. So I was content enough to do my own thing. I caught up with a few people during the ride, but not many. I chatted with a few people, but mostly chose to ride solo. I think I was the last of the 100 km riders to finish and I was pretty knackered. But it had been a great route, with such goodies as Bledlow Ridge and Smalldean Lane. After the latter, the route sheet promised tea and cake, but apparently this hasn’t happened in recent years. I particularly enjoyed a lovely unfenced lane alongside a valley with superb views – I think it was Flowers Bottom Lane, which follows on from Smalldean Lane. I was very happy to get back to the HQ and enjoy a ton of tea, rolls and cake. Then I had the ride home which included the grim Stony Lane, out of the Chess valley. Totally knackered by the time I got home, although it was only just gone 3pm, so not bad for 140 km of hilly riding. Oh, and 50 km commuting the day before.
The next event I did was Sunday 19th February, the Willesden hilly 100 km. Like Westerley’s event, this promised 1200 m of climbing. The Willesden event had previously been run by Willesden member Mike Ellison, a retired teacher who’d run a joint club Quiz with us a few years ago. I was sad to hear that he’d died last year. Ian Oliver stepped up to the plate and, with a new starting point (3 min from my house!) he concocted a new route which was pretty fiendish hill-wise… and pretty.
I knew that Frank and Dave M had entered, but they had to duck out on physio’s advice and following a gruelling Saturday Audax respectively.
Tim was there, but I decided to start in a slower group. This time it worked well, as we had a few Gregarios at the front and other good company including Ian Birch from the Willesden and a couple of my local friends, Piers and Nigel, all starting off at a sensible speed.
I’ve mentioned the hills; it seems a while since I last tackled Kop Hill, but we took it sensibly and although we got strung out we regrouped and survived OK for the next one. By the time we’d got out to Longwick and back via Bledlow Ridge and then up the 1 in 5 of Smalldean Lane, it felt like we were on the way home. However, with 45 km to do, the route went down through Bradenham, and then back out on the A40 towards Stokenchurch before heading south-west uphill to Wheelers’ End and then down to Fingest, this section feeling decidedly like we were going on a homeward stretch on a typical Club ride, but going backwards. OK, then we started heading homewards again, through Skirmett and down towards the Thames valley. But no, we had another detour before the valley: a ride up Colstrope Lane (a new one on me, but past a very picturesque farm and lanes and another 100 m climb to the top from where we continued to pick up the Frieth road, mercifully finally heading downward and homeward via Marlow. Of course, there are a number of ways home from Marlow, but we had to take the route up Quarry Wood Road (zig-zag hill). I normally go over Winter Hill the other way, so was less familiar with riding up this one, but it wasn’t that hard. By now there was just the bunch of three locals and we continued to pick up a punctured straggler at Cookham and a rider who I firstly thought had been knocked off her bike by the A40 at Loudwater, but it turned out she just had a severe stitch. We escorted her through quieter roads through the back of Beaconsfield and all arrived happily back at the HQ for much tea, rolls and cakes.
Of course, it was good company with old friends from the Willesden in charge. Our earlier compatriots had already gone and I’m sure Tim was already home by then. But I had a great ride; it was a fantastic route (possibly as good as ours, but a little too much main roads for my liking, but the organiser is going to re-jig this when he has more time). He’d done a great job in limited time, so I can’t complain.
Not long after I had to spend time under the car to fix a few recent problems and had to take action to avoid cramp in some of those big hill-climbing muscles… ouch!
Anyway, next week will be the West London Mountain Bike Club’s reliability ride starting from Maple Cross, so I think I’ll be up for that and I see that Tim’s already expressed an interest. Drop me a line or shout on the forum if you’d like to come along too!