I feel like I should do more writing, or at least, some writing. I’m always thinking about it. I find that a lot nowadays with my middle-aged mind. I think more than I do. I have been reading a lot this year and been inspired by various books. I am probably reading more due to the fact that I am unable to go running at the moment. To be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty miserable over the last few days. Plantar Fasciitis in the left foot, a back injury from work, intercostal muscle ache, a strained tricep from climbing and a few niggles in the right knee from an old meniscus tear. Admittedly, I feel I have been overdoing it slightly.
Anyway, I decided to take my mountain bike out of the shed and cycle to Keith in Totton at Perfect cycles once more for some bike maintenance. I have probably spent more money in repairs than I have on the £400 bike that I bought in Cornwall when I was living on an Alpaca farm in 2018.
£26.99 later, the bike wasn’t making horrible noises any more. Don’t ask me what they were, as I know nothing about bikes apart from how to replace an inner tube when a puncture occurs.
I am currently working part-time but clinging to my last days of freedom, as I go full-time after the Easter holidays.
I decided to go for my first proper bike ride of the year and fit in a couple of errands in the process. A man who thinks he can multi-tasks?
I checked the weather forecast and picked the favourable Wednesday over the not so good looking Thursday. I had a plan.. Cycle one of my old marathon/ultra training routes. 20-30 miles should do it. Pop into the bike shop in Lyndhurst and buy a cycle helmet, have a coffee and drop some documentation off to Garmin for HR.
A few checks and I was ready to leave. Water bottle, Coat, hat, gloves, Kindle, Wallet and Mobile phone. I left the house and cycled along the busy Romsey road towards Nursling. While the cars whizzed past, my mind was on the route. Which way would have the least amount of mud? Through the lakes or the farm on the Testway? Which way would be more scenic and have fewer dog walkers?
Ok, the Testway it is. Onto Lee lane and the sun was shining and the Chiff Chaffs were singing away. Hurray, it’s springtime! I always thought Chiff chaffs were all migratory, flying off to West Africa every August but it turns out that a lot of them are residential nowadays. Getting lazier these younger generations. I guess they just choose not to sing in the autumn and winter because of Seasonal depression?
Not to be confused with the not so common Siberian chiff chaffs that arrive sometimes of course.
Anyway, an observation made me realise that when the Chiff Chaffs are singing away at the top of their trees, the Chaffinches sing even louder. I was loving this. Why didn’t I cycle more often? Just the bird song, the sunshine and an otherwise quiet lane. I had a slight diversion due to a floodle. Is that a word? The road was basically underwater and I didn’t want to get wet feet only 4 miles in. 4 miles in, is that all I’ve done? My legs were starting to ache a bit already.
Onto the Testway and over the river test. I stopped to take a photo of the river and my bike in rare working order. Two mallards flew either side of my head over the bridge. A bit like a Red arrow display but not really. How rude of them!
I got back on the bike and pedalled onwards towards Manor farm and that hill. It’s not a big hill but I’m quite unfit on the bike. Amazing how you can have great running fitness but poor bike fitness and vice versa. I managed to prove this when I was cycling everyday on a 1000 mile bike ride but could barely run a 25 minute parkrun due to lack of running miles and anaerobic fitness.
My thoughts were soon diverted when I saw two horses up ahead galloping around. I don’t think they are in a field. I slowed down a bit as I drew nearer. Ah, they are in a field. I carried on when I thought I was going to get bulldozed by a horse.
One of them was in a field and one wasn’t. I’m guessing he jumped the fence and escaped. I got off my bike and walked. The horse galloped right up to me, suddenly halted and just started eating the grass next to me. I just stood there staring at him while he heavily panted away, ripping up the grass. I took a photo and walked on just in case he decided to kill me in a temperamental outburst.
Here we are at Hillstreet and I am at the hill. Attack! I got great momentum and then I could feel the turn of the pedals getting harder and I was constantly dropping gears with my right hand before I was in the lowest gear and cycling like an octogenarian on a Sunday morning out to get the newspaper. I eventually made it to the top and was breathing like that horse at the bottom of the hill. I didn’t have time to rest though as there was now a van behind me. I pedalled again and after a while, happily pulled over to let him pass and more importantly catch my breath. 6 miles, is that it?
A nice descent down the other side of Hillstreet and onto the dodgy main road where cars only drive at 80 mph. I’m not on this road long though and turn left into another lane. Then right. Up another hill into Loperwood and then into Winsor passing Tatchbury mount.
It was getting so warm now that my coat had to be removed and put into my rucksack. As I stood at the crossroads a van blared its horn aggressively at me. I can be quite short tempered on these bike rides and have been known to transform into an angry madman. They call it road rage I believe. I was just about to swear rather loudly when I realised that I knew who it could be. It was my old mate Mike or his wife Holly. I couldn’t tell which though. Maybe I shouldn’t be on the road without my reading glasses on?
Past the Compass inn, the gluten free and dog friendly pub and onto the main Cadnam road. Another sketchy crossing across the main road and down into Bartley. A right turn and a nice stretch of quiet road leading up to the A337. I nearly got trampled by a herd of deer here once. I was slowly cycling along minding my own business when I heard dogs barking on a farm. The next thing you know, about 15 deer come charging across the road from one side of the woods to the other, I had to slam my brakes on to avoid contact. It was quite exciting at the time.
I always look out for the White stag on this road too. A local lady once showed me videos of it here on her phone. She says he passes through quite a bit. I’m yet to see him though.
Another dice with death as I cross the speedy A337. I hate this crossing, it’s dangerous but worth the risk when you get back into the New forest and location of Shave Wood. Quiet once more. The birdsong continues and a few New Forest ponies grazing nearby. I used to call them horses because they look like horses right? But I’ve been corrected enough times now. I tried to google some information on this subject but the results are very conflicting. One article even suggested that Ponies are a lot more intelligent than horses. They can also have wiry hair and a horses’ can be thinner. Etc.. Etc.. Etc.. I don’t think anyone knows the difference, a bit like spotting a Marsh tit and a Willow tit. It’s only the sound and the environment its in, that gives it its identity.
Should I do London Minstead or just Minstead? I pondered as I rode towards the sign. Then remembered that London Minstead is just a mile uphill extra with more mud. I wanted to look presentable and not covered in too much mud when I dropped my documentation off at Garmin.
I chose wisely and cycled to Football Green. This brought back a funny memory of running here with Kev Willsher. He tried to short cut through the field. I knew better from a past mistake and went around the roadside. That field is always flooded and you can’t always see it. I laughed as he tried to dodge the pools of water but he inevitably got wet feet. Maybe he learned the same lesson as I did.
Into Minstead where a vibrant looking old lady in rainbow colours passed me on her bike smiling away “Beautiful day” she said. “Sure is” I replied with a smile. I wish there were more happy people in the world.
If you didn’t know, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is buried in the Minstead cemetery. Sometimes on his grave there is a Pipe, maybe a looking glass and sadly sometimes someone will leave a Pompey scarf there. If you don’t know who he is, maybe you should do some detective work and Google it.
Anyways, I didn’t bother visiting today. A left turn takes me downhill into Fleetwater. All the times I’ve done this route and didn’t know that this bit was named “Fleetwater”. The sign has always been there though. I lifted my legs as I reached the dip of the hill. There is often water here. I don’t think you can call it a Fjord but it is a small river passing at the bottom of the hill. Then it’s back to pedalling fast and then changing down the gears as my legs struggle with the tension in my pedals as I go uphill again.
Still very quiet roads. 12 miles in. My calves ache a bit. I should be in Lyndhurst in 5-6 miles? The wind has picked up a bit now, the sun has gone in and it’s colder. Not cold enough to get my coat, hat and gloves out of my rucksack again though. Left and into Acres Down. Now there are a few other cyclists coming in the opposite direction. The Lycra type cyclists with the posh bikes and garish clothing. Don’t these people have jobs? What are they doing on my roads? Some say Hello and smile, some are way too cool with their airs of arrogance.
Another climb to come at Emery Down. I don’t like it when I see the “Road ahead closed” signs. A couple of cars turn around and retreat. I’m going to see if I can get through as a pedestrian at least. Onto the pavement and up the hill. I reach the apex and see another cyclist pedalling upwards towards me. Good news, I can squeeze through the orange barriers.
They are resurfacing the road. I have to get off my bike and snake around the parked work vans. I slip on the mud but manage to stay upright but during the slip, brambles get entangled around my foot and lacerate the skin. It’s painful but I put on my most manly face as I nod at the workmen who are staring at me. Maybe I can have a cry when I get around the corner? Left turn onto the Christchurch road, up another hill and we hit the horrible one way system of Lyndhurst. Always a pleasure in the summer, especially when the New Forest show is on. I am of course, lying.
Now it is busy. Such a contrast from all the quiet country lanes that I’ve been on. Human life form is abundant and chaotic. I get to the lights and decide to walk with all the pedestrians. Always a lot of tourists in Lyndhurst. I weave my way through while people stare into shop windows and decide on what flavoured ice cream they would like. I make it to the Bike shop at 16 miles.
I lock my bike around the side. I’m not really sure it’s safe there and I don’t feel comfortable sitting inside for a coffee. I decide not to bother and drink some water from my water bottle instead before entering “The Woods Cyclery” shop.
About time I bought a cycle helmet. I looked around a bit before deciding to enquire about helmets and pricing. It kind of reminded me of that scene from the film “The Big Lebowski” when they go to get an urn to scatter the ashes of Donny. “This is our most modestly priced receptacle”. £60 was pretty much the cheapest helmet that they sold. This seemed a lot to a man who only paid £400 for his bike, 5 years ago. I decided to “Give it some thought” and maybe I’ll come back when I have more money.
After sneaking out of the bike shop, I had to wait about 3 minutes to cross the road on the one way system. During this time, a man was tailgating a car in his van and then a car behind that beeped the tailgater. I try not to get irritated by these types of impatient city folk but I couldn’t help yelling “TWATS”. Maybe I just have a mild form of Tourette syndrome. Onto the A35 and the boring cycle path from Lyndhurst to Ashurst passing my friend Adam’s house who didn’t look like he was in.
Into Hounsdown, which I often get confused with Hounslow. My friends frequently think I’m in London.
Onto the Marchwood bypass and into Garmin. I head for reception and hand my stuff over. I realise that I should have probably used a new A4 envelope and not just reused the envelope they gave me. I tried to argue with myself that it was better to reuse and recycle, and this would be a valid point if I hadn’t sellotaped a smaller envelope over the top of the big envelope to cover up the original address that they had written out to me. Oh well, it’s done. She’s probably just going to think I’m a weirdo. No harm done.
Last 4 miles home. I was really tired now and my legs were aching and my bum was sore. Luckily I didn’t choose a 50 miler. I would have been crying in a lay-by somewhere by now. I was also starving so I stopped at Greggs in Totton for a Vegan Sausage, bean and cheese melt. Sadly, the queue was massive and I didn’t want to get my bike nicked. You can see why I’ve had this bike for 5 years right? Because I won’t leave it anywhere outside apart from the climbing gym.
I cycled home and completed 25 miles. I ate lots of food and needed an instant nap. I was properly warn out on a 25 mile bike ride! It was fun and I’m sure my fitness will improve with more cycling miles. Maybe next week I will buy that cycling helmet. In the meantime I am using my woolly hat to keep my brains in there. Sorry I didn't take more photos but I couldn't be bothered. Haha. Thanks for reading.. xx