With two different groups trying to organise rides on Sunday 4th of December, it looked like Westerley were starting to get larger numbers of riders interested in club rides now the racing season has finished – even on one of the coldest days of the year!
Roly Collicott and Nic Stevenson let us now how the groups got on
Gradually more people expressed an interest in the ride and we started from Harefield with Shane, Ben, Tim, Nic, Jerry, Chris and me. Shane led a brisk pace through Denham, with a lung-buster up Redhill to Tatling End, through Fulmer, but soon after I faced the inevitable truth that I wasn’t going to hang on, even on a relatively gentle slope out of Burnham Beeches. But we’d had a good start with the fast guys; I’d say it was a very sociable way to start the day and I was going to say that we didn’t chat much, but that’s not really true: not on the hills that much though!
Anyway, as I let the elastic stretch, I had Chris and Jerry as willing companions so we called our goodbyes and carried on with an improvised route that took us through Cookham, up Winter Hill, through Marlow where we stopped for a drink and to admire the plethora of Santas (running for the Rotary Club), then on up to Frieth. It was a glorious, if a bit nippy, day and we sailed down the other side where we might have gone up north to start looping homewards. But I couldn’t resist taking us through to Fingest, which everyone agreed is a very picturesque village, particularly with its distinctive twin-towered church. Well, we continued up through Ibstone and then surprise, surprise, there were the fast group coming the other way. We stopped and chatted for a couple of minutes and then continued out to Stokenchurch.
This was a bit further than I’d originally intended and the ride over Bledlow Ridge seemed a bit painful, so I suggested a bit of a chickening-out route along the A40 to West Wycombe. At least it’s normally fast. But on this occasion we had a bit of a headwind, but we did a good 3-up, with Jerry doing much of the work. Then up through Bradenham (I’d forgotten that hill) and Walter’s Ash to go up Hatches Lane, where my legs turned to jelly. A stop at the sweet shop helped and we went a standard route via Winchmore hill back to Chalfont, leaving Jerry to do the remaining chunk back to Hanwell. Chris and I had done just under 60 miles, while Jerry must have done nearly 80 miles by the time he got back. Thanks guys for a great ride.
Back in the ‘fast group’ my legs weren’t feeling that great, and knowing Shane had a 90 mile route planned for us, I was getting very concious that my Garmin was only reading 45k and it would probably be up to around 180 by the time I got home. We were billed as the fast group, but slow and steady seemed a better tactic for me. After we split we dropped down into Marlow, which meant the first of the long large climbs was on the way – as ever Ben bolted ahead while Shane, Tim and I brought up the rear. I can’t keep up with Ben at the best of times, but today I wasn’t even going to try.
The route seemed to throw climb after climb at us, passing through Christmas Common in the midst of a spate of hills we hit almost the worst traffic of the day as dozens of 4x4s queued at the farm to collect their Christmas trees! Then it was clearer lanes and small roads all the way back to Wycombe, and on into London.
Often setting out how hard a ride was sounds like complaining, and although I genuinely think this was one of the toughest rides I’ve ever done, it was also an absolutel pleasure. Beautiful Chilterns countryside, small villages, all lit up with crisp clear sunshine under perfect blue skies. You couldn’t ask for a nicer winter ride, and exploring some new hills with friends is the best use of a Sunday I can think of.
I’ve recently signed up for a website called Relive.cc which produces short videos of your rides from Strava, so you can see what I enjoyed below: