Off road ride out. Saturday 28th of November.
By Clive Chapman
As it turned out I was the only pedaller, having had a raft of cry offs and excuses from various blokes (far fitter than me) who all decided the grey skies, wind and threat of rain were not that appealing. Ah well, at least it meant I could set off nice and early and get it done rather than waiting around for some notorious lateys.
Having prepped my Marin, well, if you can call dusting it and oiling the chain a prep then that’s what I did. After a 10 year off road break, I set off up the road to the start of the off road part, a path down through Chapman’s Hill Farm (No relation) where I very rapidly rediscovered that rain, leaves, cow shit and tractors do not a good surface make, not helped by yet another rediscovery that the tyres I had fitted were more suited to fire roads in forests during the summer rather than farm tracks in the winter. I just couldn’t get any traction and even with my shocking state of fitness and power I was constantly spinning the rear wheel out on the slimy surface. But much to my happy surprise I had kept my bike handling skills on a very technical descent to the bottom of Clent. Arse over the back of the saddle, cover the brakes, let the bike find its own way, keep your knees soft and scan the track a good way ahead for the best line. Marvelous!
The track from the bottom of Clent.
The payback for a fantastic descent is usually as I recalled correctly a ball breaking climb and my chosen route didn’t disappoint. The slog to the top of the Waseley’s was a granny ring battle that much to my shame and an indication of just how far I’ve got to go, resulted in me spinning the back wheel out on the grassy slope and toppling over. I just couldn’t get any momentum to restart so I finished the climb pushing the bike.
The climb up to the Waseley’s where I had to push. M5 Junc 4 in the background looking south west. The Malverns are just visible in the distance.
I knew the reward for the effort would be the fantastic bit of single track through Waseley Hill’s Country Park, it didn’t let me down, big ring selected, it was an opportunity to put the hammer down through the trees, get a couple of bunny hops over roots in and generally be a hooligan careering in and out of the woods. The beauty being that I was early enough to not have to worry about the Dog walkers that are the general majority inhabitants of the area.
Just before the start of the single track through the Waseley Hills Country Park.
Having traversed the singletrack there was now the descent back down to the bottom of the Waseley’s, mud, ruts and an errant Springer Spaniel all safely negotiated meant one thing. A small bit of road work over the bridge of the A38, then another slog up to the top of the Lickey Hills. Much to my surprise I must have got my second wind, again pedalling in the granny ring I managed to get to the top with out getting off to push. Bonus! Although the surface was a bit more forgiving than the clogged up Clent and Waseley paths and I did manage to keep traction.
The top of the Lickeys, by the monument.
The Lickeys are a mixture of open field, woody singletrack and open fire roads. They are also a major attraction for the outdoor types in the South Birmingham area, so the opportunity to go ballistic on the descents had to be tempered with a respect for the other visitors. So after a drink at the top by the monument, I headed off into the woods, I was taking it pretty steadily because as I predicted it was full of walkers, dogs, horses and other folks all seemingly clad in Berghaus, Helly Hansen and Barbour kit.
Then I had to make a decision, I had reached a T junction in the tracks, turn left for the short way home, turn right for the long way that would inevitably force me into taking in the Barnt Green Reservoir loop. A bit of a no brainer really, right turn it was and a hair raising downhill, round the duck ponds down to the Golf Club taking in some more air over the culverts, I’ve still got it!
Barnt Green Reservoir Chill out spot.
More road work, over the southern part of the Lickeys, then a screaming downhill just calling out for Boardman road bike towards Hopwood and the Barnt Green reservoir loop. My computer said I hit 39.5mph. On a full suss MTB I don’t think that’s too bad!
After the lanes it was a left turn up the bridleway to the reservoir where I stopped for another drink and a general chill out, this was always a good place to stop and have a peruse on “Life the Universe and Everything.” Very enjoyable.
The journey home from there started with “green laning” past the fish pools, the Barnt Green Yacht Club (Very posh) and Cofton Hackett Church. Then the start of my last major climb of the day back up over the Lickeys. It is a bridleway with a very good surface, so middle ring it was and churn away until it was beaten. Out the other side into Cofton Hackett proper, through the Park opposite the MG car plant (What’s left of it) and through Rubery and home.
The climb back over the Lickey’s
All that remained was a thorough degunk of my beloved Marin which had performed a damn sight better than its rider, a good lube and a steamingly hot cup of coffee for me while the shower revved up.
10 miles that became 16 miles, a rediscovery that despite loving my daily road and tow path commute that I’m still very much a MTBer at heart and the knowledge that at the beginning of July I would never have managed that route in a month of Sundays. Fabulous day, ruined only by going to my Rugby Club in the afternoon and watching Cardiff stuff us (Birmingham and Solihull Bees) big style in the British and Irish Cup.
Finally a special thanks to all the bloggers who keep me motivated and “flicked my switch” to get a fat broken 45 year old back out pedalling again and made me start the process from fat to fit. Frank, Joby, James and of course not forgetting the big man himself “Gaz”. Fellers, it is absolutely no exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be doing this stuff without you.