Archive for May, 2017

The Day I Didn’t Cycle Round the Isle of Wight

Monday, May 1st, 2017

So, as most of you (i.e. those who come here via Facebook) will know, I didn’t achieve all I intended to on the Isle of Wight bike ride yesterday.

The plan was to do the 70 mile version of the Cycle Island Randonee – it’s normally 66 miles but the Cowes floating bridge was out of order yesterday so they had to put a diversion in, making it 70. In the process I would have a good bike ride, do a longer ride than I’d ever done before by some significant margin, and raise shed loads of sponsorship for T’s Vietnam school trip.

The day started as planned with a selfie in the Red Funnel car park, waiting to board the ferry to the Isle of Wight – well obviously the day had really started with getting up and getting dressed, driving to the ferry…you get the picture but I’m trying to avoid un-necessary detail here.

Incidentally all selfies in this post were taken using the selfie stick m’lovely Bridget bought me for Christmas :-)

Once on the ferry, we queued up for our Brevet cards, which we were to get stamped at every checkpoint to prove we’d done it. Don’t ask why I was wearing my bike helmet on the ferry, Red Funnel drivers aren’t that bad – although if I’d been crossing from Portsmouth on Wightlink, which I often used to do for work, it might not have been a bad plan.

Getting off the ferry at Cowes took longer than expected, mainly because the bikes weren’t stacked in the order people were lining up to collect them, but we were eventually off and on our way. The start of the cycle route from Cowes is uphill on a main road, but once past Osborne House we turned off onto a much more minor road and hardly saw any cars for a while. I’d planned to use the 5 miles to the first checkpoint as a warm up, so I spotted two people riding together at a speed a bit below what I normally ride at, and tucked in behind them.

The first checkpoint was on a caravan site just outside Binstead, to be convenient as a starting point for cyclists who’ve come over on the aforementioned ferry from Portsmouth, and after a few homemade sweeties and some homemade electrolyte drink (and the energy gel Jonny gave me :-) ), I was on my way. This was where the story really started: Soon after leaving this checkpoint the hills begin in earnest and I quickly realised I’d underestimated the hills and wasn’t prepared for them, and had to stop for a rest at the top of the first main hill. I wasn’t the only one but that’s not much consolation, and I’d quickly lost contact with my slow moving pace makers. By the time I reached Nettlestone I was glad there was a roadside bench.

From here to the next checkpoint I knew the way pretty well – we came here every year for holidays when I was a teenager and the route actually passes the entry to the campsite where we stayed, before passing down through St Helens and along the Bembridge front, before turning back inland past the windmill and up to the checkpoint.

I haven’t mentioned the wind yet – not the consequence of a Red Funnel bacon sandwich but the meteorological kind. It had been forecast to be blowing a hoolie and indeed it was: what the forecast hadn’t mentioned was that it was one of those magic winds known well to cyclists, which contrive to be a headwind no matter which direction you’re heading. I’m smiling in that picture because I’m indoors for a few minutes!

I’d worked out in advance what times I needed to hit each checkpoint to finish the course before the 6 PM cutoff time, and I left Bembridge ten minutes behind my slowest possible schedule. More hills followed, on pretty narrow country lanes through Brading and to checkpoint three at Alverstone. Even if I hadn’t stopped here at all I’d still have been ten minutes behind, and I knew I still had the worst of the hills to come.

I had coffee and cake and a banana at Alverstone…
You’ll notice that in this picture I’ve put my waterproof on…yes, it had also started raining, although it stopped for a few seconds to allow me to get this picture outside the checkpoint…

Coincidentally (or maybe not), Alverstone is also where you have to decide if you’re going to carry on and do the full 70 miles, or follow a different route for what they call the half-randonee of 35 miles. Normally under these circumstances it would be a no-brainer, but I didn’t want my sponsors to feel I hadn’t given it my best shot: However

  • I was by now twenty minutes behind schedule to finish the full route in the permitted time
  • I still had the two worst hills to come – see the chart above
  • If I diverted to the half-randonee, I would at least get a certificate of completion for something, even if not what I originally set out to do
  • If I was going to divert, this was the best place to do it – any diversion point after this would just involve more un-necessary hills, take me longer to reach Cowes and not achieve any more
  • Even then, I decided to carry on to the actual route divide and decide then – in then end I carried on to the point where I decided (in consultation with a family doing the same thing) that I’d actually missed the dividing point (it’s actually just before the Alverstone checkpoint), but that where we were offered an easy way back to the shorter route.

    From here as far as Newport, the shorter route follows an abandoned railway line, and is therefore…wait for it…FLAT! The going was good, if a little muddy in places, and apart from brief stops where the route crosses a main road, and a slightly longer one to dig out some gravel jammed between my front brake blocks and the wheel rim, I made good progress. And from Newport it was a familiar route back Cowes, and I wasn’t even slightly disheartened to be overtaken by someone who’d been on the same ferry as me in the morning, but had done the full 70 in the time I’d taken to do 35.
    In the end I got a very nice certificate and badge, and I get to keep my checkpoint card

    Then I got on the ferry and had a Red Funnel meal deal…

    …got off the ferry and went home to clean the mud off the bike!

    Thanks to all those who sponsored me – at the time of writing that’s

    • through the JustGiving page Bee, Debbie, Helen, Jane, John, Jonathan, Meri
    • directly cos they don’t have JustGiving access, Jane (different one), John (different one), Joan, Mr Robinson, my Mum and Steve.