Shakedown Ride Day 1 – Chipperfield to Ashurst

  • Today’s Distance (miles/km): 91/147
  • Time in saddle: 8h 15
  • Max/min temp (°c): 34°/6°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 4,153/4242
  • Calories used: 6,160
  • Cafe time: 3h 19

The ride sort of started yesterday, with a pre-shakedown try-out (how much preparation can one man do?) on my usual 25-mile round trip commute to teach at Beechwood Park School. Bags were packed as for today’s ride, plus a few books of music, some spare strings and a stick or two of violin bow rosin. I must remember NOT to take any of those things to Nova Scotia with me next month. Anyway, everything worked fine.

Then this morning I awoke ridiculously early, knowing that I’d have an early start anyway, so just got up, ate some porridge and left. 5am is a bit of a personal record for starting a bike ride.

Dawn over the Chess Valley, just a couple of miles from home

I paid a flying visit to Eton, where some rebellious pupil must be hiding a can of orange aerosol paint in their morning suit or under their black gown:

No-one can have their tuck boxes until someone owns up and hands in the orange paint can‘

Then I crossed the River Thames and rode up the hill to Windsor Castle for a reunion with Queen Victoria, who gave this ride her blessing six years ago before I left for Canada. This time I found her to be a lot more stand-offish and unapproachable, but she still waved her big stick at me in a blessing-like way.

Shortly after this I stopped at Legoland for a selfie with the big plastic bricks, but moments after I took this photo two security guards appeared, looking a bit annoyed. They asked me ‘Is everything alright, sir?’ In other words, push off. So I did.

I felt up for a big effort today, so cycled straight past many coffee opportunities, and then regretted it. Once I got into negotiating the mostly horrible routes for getting across the M40, M4 and on to the M3 there were very few chances to stop. Luckily I remembered a lovely cafe in Hartney Witney, which still serves great coffee and does a grand bacon and eggs on toast. The ideal second breakfast stop.

The low point of the day (apart from a few very steep hills I had mysteriously forgotten all about since six years ago) came right outside one of my favourite houses on this route. It’s an amazing old timber and brick cottage down a beautifully peacefully country lane, draped with a stunning mature wisteria.

But never mind all that. As I got back on the bike and set off again, I heard a very unfamiliar, loud ‘ping’. I kept going briefly, thinking ‘that’s a weird sound, I wonder what just fell off or broke?’ There was now also the sound of something banging in the wheels, so I decided to investigate. Low and behold, I discovered two flappy bits of metal that used to be one of my rear wheel spokes. This is the first time a spoke has broken on this bike, which is now seven years old and as you know has crossed Canada, so I should be grateful it happened in such a pleasant spot. Luckily, I carry quite a lot of spare bits and pieces, including a clever little Kevlar spoke repair kit that has never been opened. Thousands and thousands of miles just taking up space, waiting for its day to shine. 45 minutes later, my hands black with grease and sore from all the adjusting and tightening needed, I stood back to admire my temporary new spoke.

Lurking on the old kerb stone in the background, and very nearly forgotten as I packed everything away again, is a very handy metal spoke tool which does not have a silly name at all. It’s called a nipple key. Nothing funny or silly about that.

The weather stayed fine and sunny all day, and England looked about as good as it can. May is just the best month. The cow parsley was everywhere, drooping into the road in places, and I had to pull some of it out of my spokes (don’t mention spokes) this evening at the campsite in the New Forest. The man at the campsite reception said the ponies are really active at the moment because there are so many foals, and mucking about and getting into scrapes.

I didn’t spot any funny signs today (I did actually, but they weren’t funny) so here are two contrasting bike paths, approximately 15 miles apart, which kind of sum up the insane variety of cycling you experience on a long route such as this. Both are officially designated as for bikes:

This a bike path (Winchester, behind the magnificent cathedral)
So is this (Southampton, next to the very very big flyover

The second leg tomorrow takes me to West Dorset, via the seafront at Bournemouth and Poole, which should be fun – see you then.

12 thoughts on “Shakedown Ride Day 1 – Chipperfield to Ashurst

  1. Gorgeous photos and video! (Apart from the flyover). How can a horse be so light on its feet? Hope today is lovely too. Loads of love xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t stop watching that foal! It seemed to start falling over to one side or the other, then catch itself and start running. Then it ran over to its mum and pretended to kick her. What a joker. Today is great so far! Still a chunk of miles to do tho. Xxx


  2. Hi Ben,
    I had such a lovely time traveling with your delightful words and photos. This was a beautiful way to start my day. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fab to see you on the road again Ben, and having gorgeous weather for it. If you have any more try-out rides ahead how about heading to East coast? Always a bed available 🙂 Look forward to the big adventure, what’s the start date?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, that’s a mega ride! And passing by some stunning places. Was it really 34 degrees C?? And the ‘nipple key’ tool reminded me of doing fencing with the RSPB – seems to have one of the richest vocabularies for tool names (monkey strainer, gripple hook, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

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