“ Exmouth Exodus”- overnight 17th / 18th August 2013

Not many cyclists here in Essex seem to have heard of this event.  I’ve just got back from my fifth one and just love it.  It’s a kind of Dunwich Dynamo with hills; slightly shorter at 102 miles.  The start is in Bristol just before dusk and the finish in Exmouth by the beautiful Exe estuary.

Gathering at Channings Hotel in Bristol before the start


There are three substantial ranges of hills to get over as can be seen in the profile in my Strava record (link below).  The first significant climb, at 30Km, is over the the Mendip Hills, ascending via Burrington Coombe and down the famous Cheddar Gorge as fast as you dare.  Then comes the steepest climb at 100Km, up Blagdon Hill south of Taunton  to get over the Blackdown Hills and lastly after about 154Km, a long climb from Otterton to Woodbury Common.

I have great memories of friendly cyclists, mist in the Somerset levels lit by a silvery moon, sunrise over the Blackdowns and a turqoise blue sea glistening in the early morning sun at Exmouth.  A less great one is riding almost blind down Cheddar Gorge in torrential rain in 2009.  For 2013 we were treated  to about 20 minutes of torrential rain soon after the start and a headwind of varying strength for virtually the whole ride. No silvery moon either but we did arrive in a beautiful sunny Exmouth with stunning views over the Exe estuary at the finish.

Three people known as Wavy-Davy, Baggy and Chuffy (don’t ask me why!) do so much to make it happen and to feed and water the participants, with two tea stops and one feeding station. Top people in my book.  This year the Scouts and Guides of Cheddar ran the first tea stop and did us proud.  Many thanks to them too!


My friend Stuart and my cousin Richard at the Cheddar teastop (very humid atmosphere due to very damp cyclists!)


If you like overnight rides and a bit of a challenge, do give it a go next year.

A useful site for more information is: http://www.exmouthexodus.co.uk/

Here is a link to my Strava record of my ride this year:




Semaine Federale

Got very tanned last week riding the Semaine Federale in and around the beautiful Loire Atlantique grape and wine producing region of France. This feast of cyclotourisme is a quite unique French blend of riding, eating, drinking and celebrating the art of cycling. Attendance was a staggering 9600 taking part in 7 days of organised rides. The routes were graded according to difficulty so you could pick from a menu each day ranging from 45 Km to around 200. I settled for the easier end of the scale, completing 914 Km if my cycle computer is correct. The sheer feat of organisation was amazing. Our group of Brits were billeted, fed and guided throughout. We took in scenic roads and tracks through beautiful villages with optional visits to fantastic chateaux where we tasted wines and took in the surroundings. Feeding points were set up at regular intervals, fully staffed to feed and water all riders and supplemented by local music, dance and general cultural input. Excellent road surfaces, considerate and respectful drivers, wall-to-wall sunshine and huge public support came at no extra cost. Highly recommended!


Adrian LeedsImage

CTC Cycle Champions Essex ride – 10.08.13

I’ve just been out on my second of these popular, free led rides for all abilities.  There are two each week – one leaves at 10am on Thursdays and the other at 2pm on Saturdays. Both rides leave from Riverside Ice and Leisure.

Thursday’s ride took us out towards Writtle College and Newney Green.  Today’s picked up the popular lanes north of the city around Broomfield and the Chignals.  All rides include a short stop for refreshments.  Today’s was The Pig and Whistle http://www.shepherdneame.co.uk/pubs/chelmsford/pig-whistle where we enjoyed a drink out in the garden under the gazebo:

2013-08-10 15.04.41

2013-08-10 15.04.52With the group on the other table (apologies, ladies, I didn’t take your photo this time!) we were a group of about 12 who enjoyed this gentle jaunt through the lanes.  This was our route to the pub, after which we looped round on Mashbury Road, past the cricket field and St. Nicholas Church back towards Chignal Road and the town.

CTC Cycle Champions Ride - 10.08.13

Thanks to the Bikeability-trained leaders who make these rides safe and enjoyable for everyone.  I handed out a few information leaflets about our longer rides on Sundays, and Mark (ride leader) has more for anyone interested.  Whatever the pace and distance, it’s great to see more people enjoying what cycling in groups has to offer.

Ride London Freecycle – 03.08.13

What a fantastic day!  We set off quite early (for us during school summer holidays, anyway) and caught the 8.30am train from Chelmsford.  Station staff were very laid back about taking bikes in carriages and, judging by the train when it rolled in, this was the policy further up the line, as there were bikes next to every set of doors.  We boys parked ours with some others in one carriage:

2013-08-03 08.49.05The girls did nothing to break down class barriers by parking theirs across the First Class carriage!

We had a quick photo by the Kindertransport statue outside Liverpool Street:

2013-08-03 09.18.44And we then joined the route as it wound its way by Moorgate.  Even 15 minutes after roads were closed at 9am, the route was filling up fast, but there was plenty of room for everyone to get around.  What an eclectic mix of cyclists – all ages from 4/5-year-olds with stabilisers to a much-publicised 91-year-old great grandmother and her family.  And just about every conceivable type of bike was represented from serious road machines, those very much at home on these roads such as Bromptons, fixies and Boris bikes, hybrids, tourers…and the list goes on.

Several things stood out as we embarked on a lap and a half, about 12 miles in total.  The first was the upbeat, carnival atmosphere, the shared exhilaration of having these roads to ourselves without having to worry about any other road users (except other cyclists!) Another highlight was the unique perspective travelling 10 or 12mph on two wheels gives of the ubiquitous landmarks.  But, above all, the organisation was excellent with enough ride leaders, paramedics and volunteers around to make the event feel safe for all, including the pedestrians, some of whom looked quite bemused, and who were helped to cross in ‘waves’.  It would have been very easy to have overdone the ‘regulations’ but, we massed ranks exercised enough common sense to ensure incidents were kept to an absolute minimum.  And the event seemed, somehow, to capture the imagination, a sort of chain-driven zeitgeist, with photographers and tv cameras dotted around the route.

The whole event (+ the London-Surrey 100-mile sportive on Sunday) was photographed officially and, for those like us who had signed up officially (but also for free) several photos were taken around the route, one of which is free to download for each rider.  So, here is the White family rogues’ gallery, starting with George:

George Ride LondonNext come Sarah and Imogen, who were captured together (just):

Sarah and Imogen Ride LondonAnd lastly, yours truly, looking like I am taking it all a bit seriously:

Phil Ride LondonSo, after a lap and a half, we peeled off at Buckingham Palace and headed for the Green Park Festival Zone for a picnic and a look around.  This, too, was well organised, with secure bike parking using a wristband system.  Here we are queuing up to be tagged:

2013-08-03 10.51.34We had fun trying out bikes from a company whose aim is to make some form of cycling accessible for everyone (Despite everything, I’m looking a bit more cheerful here):


P1000856We then rejoined the route during the early afternoon.  This was the busiest period and was quite ‘stop-start’, especially to begin with down the mall towards Admiralty Arch.  After another enjoyable lap, and with roads due to re-open at 4pm, we left the route for Liverpool Street.  Even this aspect of the day had been thought through, with notices warning of rejoining ‘Live Traffic’.

The weather, of course, helped to make this, and the rest of the weekend, a triumph.  But it takes much more than sunshine.  There’s sponsorship, organisation, endorsement from the professionals who, unlike most of our overpaid footballers, seem to remain refreshingly down-to-earth, as well as the mayor himself.  Say what you like about him, he put his trusty steed where his mouth is on Sunday and admirably completed the 100 miles.  But, above all, this seemed to be a weekend about the will of the people and more and more of us seem to be saying how much we enjoy getting around on two wheels.

Ride Report Sunday 4th August 2013 – Little Walden

A beautiful sunny day only attracted 8 riders to the start with some regulars having been attracted to the Semaine Fédérale in France. What we lacked in French cafés, cheeses and wine we made up for with our lovely Essex countryside and Poppy’s excellent tearoom in Thaxted!

We were very pleased to have Yvonne, a visitor from New Zealand, riding with us for the first time and we hope we will see her again during her stay.

We took the ‘western’ route to Thaxted via Pleshy, Dunmow and Little Easton. In Poppy’s we met up with Rod bringing our numbers up to 9.


Outside Poppy’s Teashop

Some turned for home after elevenses but the rest of us made for Debden, Saffron Walden and Little Walden for lunch at the excellent Crown Inn.

Always looking for something new I had planned to use a BOAT (By-way Open to All Traffic) to cut through from Little Walden to Sewards End. However when we came to it there was some loose stone on it and the vote went against me! So we added about 5 miles to the planned route, going North to Hadstock and back through Ashdon, rejoining my planned route at Radwinter.

We just got to The Blue Egg at Great Bardfield in time before they shut up shop, so that was our tea stop. We returned to Chelmsford having ridden a total of 76 miles.

I hope this works, but here is a link to my Strava record of the ride: