As you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m primarily pedalling to lose weight but with the added benefit of being able to get back out on my mountain bike.
This I was able to do quite a bit recently, pounding my local trails of Clent, Lickey Hills and Waseley Hills. Commuting everyday on my new Giant Defy 2 road bike is just a means to an end – i.e. losing weight and to build fitness for mountain biking.
As I booked a few days off to be with the family over Easter I knew my pedalling would take a back seat due to family stuff. So, after a bit of negotiation with she who must be obeyed, it was agreed that I would be up at my normal commuting time of 5am and I could go out to play as long as I was back no later than 9am for my fatherly/husbandly duties.
This was not a drama for me as I am used to an early start; in fact the best bit of the day for me is the dawn, I absolutely love it. Pedalling down the Bristol Road in Brum at first light, I feel like everything belongs to me – it seems I’m the only person who’s stupid enough to be up and about at that time!
There’s a saying on the Fat Bikers Blog community – going on a ‘micro adventure’ - that really captured my imagination. So I never just go mountain biking anymore, I go on a ‘micro adventure’. I film the ride with my helmet cam and take pictures with my digital camera (although my filming and photography are pretty pants; like my fitness and weight loss, they’re a work in progress).
The first ride I went on over Easter was to the Lickey and Waseley Hills. I did nine miles: I rode over the Waseley Hills and took some good shots, then pedalled over to the Lickeys. After the Waseleys and the slog back up the Lickeys, I had a screaming descent from the top of Beacon Hill down towards the Rose and Crown.
As it was not quite light, my path through the trees was like riding down a chute; very exciting, but not quite as exciting as when I realised I was in fact riding down some steps put in by the wardens to stop path erosion. That concentrated the mind a bit!
The next morning there was a hell of a frost and the sky was crystal clear. I was pedalling at the beginning in the half light whereas yesterday it was darkness. A swift downhill towards Clent then a bit of road work to get towards Walton Hill Clent. The lanes were very quiet and I saw virtually no cars. Then I had a ballbreaking climb up towards the summit of Calcott Hill. Again I had to hike-a-bike! I was rewarded by a fantastic sunrise over the Waseleys as seen from the Clent Hills.
The downhill from there was a rollercoaster ride of large stones, berms, terrible bogs, right-angle turns that came upon you unseen and possible wrong turns into farmyards. This is why I love mountain biking!
Then came another ballbreaking climb up to top of Walton Hill, starting on lanes which eventually ran out in the little hamlet of Walton Pool and turned into the narrowest bridleway I've ever encountered. My shoulders were touching the hedges on either side and it was impossible to pedal (well, impossible for me). So, yep you've guessed it, more hike-a-biking until I reached the top of Walton Hill.
The piccy below is some of the houses at Walton Pool just before the Bridleway.
Once at the top I found the trig point and used my first app on my new IPhone: the compass. There were a lot of paths leading everywhere so I used the compass and, with my OS map, I found the right way down.
Then onto another downhill off the top, a very narrow, rutted singletrack down to the lane towards Romsley. Brilliant! There were a number of berms on it which tested my skill a bit, but me and my Marin were as one. Man and machine in perfect harmony!
Then it was the final lane pedal through Romsley Village, over Romsley Hill and home. Wifey had just cooked the kids a breakfast of honey pancakes when I got in. I indulged too with a steaming hot cup of coffee to finish. A cracking pedal, very tough but what doesn't kill you makes stronger!
In the space of two days I’d done two of my ‘micro adventures’ with pretty much no ill effects, which is huge progress (and with four stones less to pedal uphill it is getting easier). It won’t be long before Snowdonia is beckoning. I know it’ll hurt but the very fact I’m now in a position to even contemplate it is massive and shows what can be achieved with a bit of determination. The Snowdonia ride is a big goal, will I make it this year I wonder? But whether I do make Snowdonia this year or not, the goal of losing weight is making the attempt hellishly good fun!
The Waseley Hills just before dawn looking towards Birmingham
On top of the Waseley Hills
On top of Beacon Hill. View over Rubery village with Frankley Beeches in the distance.
View up the path towards Rubery.
M5 Northbound in the background looking towards the Black Country
Up over the Waseleys again which is pretty much on my doorstep, 5 minutes pedal and you're into the hills.