Saturday, 21 February 2015

Birthday Belles

Fab ladies had a late invitation to join Janet and the Wirral Bicycle Belles to help them celebrate their 5th birthday.  A good turn out of about 20, but only me from our group - but at least we were there!  I had a heck of a head wind heading out, it was also quite cold, but it did stay dry for me which is suprising as the lanes were very wet and rain preceeded me and also fell afterwards.

I met the Belles at The BurleyDam garden centre, despite some main roads it is only 10 miles out so could be a venue for us next year?

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Janet lighting the candles

Orchard cafe at Burleydam

Just about everyone - and look at that blue sky!
I headed home alone, as I wanted to call in on some friends (but they weren't in).  So I made my way back - I cut out a loop and followed the Welsh Road for a mile - not advisable but just useful to save the extra mile and muddy track.

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Saturday, 14 February 2015

50 shades of grey clouds

Another ride on Valentines day!  Our last one was in 2009, when we went to The Eureka cafe for the first time.  25 ladies gathered this morning, and after a little deliberation between routes (Alex and Sue had both produced diverse routes) and cafes (Yvonne's will seat 17 at most after that we are sitting on knees!), we managed to set off.

apologies to the two on the left of this pic - hard to see if we are all in!  My new Selfie Stick!!

Kate led a couple of the slower ladies directly up the Greenway to Shotton - but this ride was not without incident.  Faced with the blue bridge (over A494) Kate claims she did not get lost as such, but just a little unsure of her bearings!  [no photos]

I led a regular paced group out to take in some hills.  Starting off along the Greenway we left at Blacon and crossed at Saltney Ferry Bridge. 

The back road was unfortunately busy due to road closures and this has the effect of making the odd driver  more inpatient.  We left the road to climb up to Mancot...

Waiting for the group at St Davids Park

....and then Hawarden (I very sadly did not have my camera to hand in time to capture the sign outside the hairdressers in Hawarden 'Love is in the Hair' - groan!), before negotiating Ewloe roundabout (actually quite easy - we went anticlockwise using footpath)...

....and then dropping down some superb little lanes and crossing the Wepre Brook.  

Arriving at Yvonnes we met with the first group, and enjoyed 65p mugs of coffee and the largest bacon bap for £2!

Yvonnes van - last visited in April 2009
on a much sunnier day!

Not one of our largest cafes - but fab historical
photos adorn the walls.

It isn't all about the cake!

We headed straight back (bumping into Alex's group - see below) clocking a neat 23 miles.

Corner cafe in Shotton.
Alex took a faster group a longer way around, over to Capenhurst, along route 56 including the seven gates alongside the railway.  They fell foul of a puncture, which although was fixed with no problems, somehow the pump got stuck/wedged onto the wheel and could not be released; so rider, bike and pump had to wait for rescue whilst the rest of the group carried on.  This caused an unfortunate delay and meant they did not make it to Yvonne's in time, as she shuts at 12.  My group met them on route 5, so they were able to turn around and find another cafe in Shotton, The Corner Kitchen.  Another one to add to the list!

23 ladies; 18/23/27.5 miles; 2 cafes; 1 puncture.

Although a day early, this ride is listed as a 'Ride like Billie Day' - please see website for other rides around the country.  

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Cycle Training

I passed my Cycling Proficiency back in 1980, I think it was.  In those days, there was far fewer cars on the roads, less journeys made by car and they did not travel as fast.  The bike training was in the playground, around cones, and up and down.  We learned hand signals - including one for 'slowing down' which I don't think I ever used.  

The training is now called Bikeability (National Cycle Standards), and comes in levels 1-3; 1 being very basic and probably the level I did with CP.  Level 2 takes you around side streets with some talking time, demonstrations and then riding time.  Level 3 is then for the more scary stuff - roundabouts and large junctions.

Today's training is about confidence, road positioning and positive manoeuvres.  It is not just for schoolchildren and young people.  I spent some time with an instructor last year - in 50 yards I had done several things 'wrong'!  We talked over points and walked through some positions in a quiet side junction.  We then rode about a bit, before heading back to Chester (in his van) to stand and discuss roundabouts whilst nervously watching the cars fly around Hoole Roundabout.  Then we rode round it - which was (to be honest) much less scary than looking at it!

Cycle Experience is a company who deliver such training, and have been commissioned by Cheshire West and Chester Council to deliver sessions locally to us, for free.  So I arranged a couple of sessions for the ladies.

Talking to the group



...whilst being watched


more practicing

knowing when to stop and wait

talking through roundabouts

Riding roundabouts

I learned a few pointers, and it is well worth taking part in a course like this.  There may still be some courses on until the end of March 2015, check the Cycle Experience website.

I did gather some quotes from the ladies:

"Remember to look behind, look behind and look behind!"

" Do things [when riding] that make people know you are doing things"

" Very, very good [training] - enlightening"

"[the training gave] Confirmation you are doing the right thing, gives you confidence to ride with authority"

"Body language - can be seen by all road users"

"valuable to understand why we do something"

"Good to get some individual feedback [on riding]"

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Girls in the Gales

Janaury, and a happy new year to you all.  Last month was cancelled, so when this month's ride date approached and the weather began to turn windy, with stormy gales, I did wonder if we would be able to ride.  Several people dropped out, including a few leaders; but a stalwart 12 made it to the cafe, and I changed my plans according to the weather.

The original plan had been to go to the Boat Museum in Ellesmere Port; but the direction of the wind would have been across us there and back, so with the aid of a rather groovy weather app I found the prevailing wind direction and speed (and with the help of some facebook friends I worked out which way to head - if it is a NNW wind then we need to head in a NNW direction); so our destination was changed to Eureka cafe, planning to be blown home again.

Feeling windblown already at the start!

We set off along the Greenway - I figured that as it was off road it would build our confidence in the wind, and takes the traffic element out of the equation for handling our bikes.  

It was fine, and easy going. 

We left the Greenway at Blacon, although I was a 'stop' too early so we had to wend through a couple of streets to pick up my route again.

As we were now 'rolling', the wind was not too bad at all.

Gusty on some bends, but with warnings everyone did really well.

We went down a 'private' road past a few farms, I remember this being closed off during the foot and mouth outbreak several years ago.

I did worry a bit (and warned the ladies) that as we climbed the bridge to cross the main road that it may be worse on top as it is more exposed - but it was not bad at all!

At the end of the road we re-grouped for a photo, and then turned along the lane to Woodbank and the main road.

On reaching the main road I did explain how we were going to ride safely along it, as it is fast and can be busy.  

In a short while we all made it safely to the Eureka cafe, which except for two gentlemen was completely deserted!

Another group photo outside the Eureka cafe!
Capenhurst - and a 'pinfold' visible on the left of the picture.
Now, after a short re-trace back up the A550, we again joined the lanes - but this time with a roaring tailwind!!!  Brilliant, and so worth the mornings efforts.  So much so that Collette at one point considered that the wind must have dropped now - but I pointed out that it hadn't at all, and this is because it is behind us.

Following route 56 back meant we had to negotiate the gates - but taking each gate in turn (one person holds as the rest of us go through) smooths the flow of the group. 

Crossing the A41 near Backford/ Mollington
All in all a very pleasant morning, 18 miles and 12 riders.  It was a bit like 'the olden days' of the Fab ladies as there was just the one group!  And what beautiful sunny weather again :-)

Good drying weather!

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Saturday, 13 December 2014

Icy December

Friday night was wet, very wet. I know because my husband and I went to Ikea to buy a wardrobe for my daughter, and the drive back was horrible.  So when I woke to a frosty white-over on Saturday morning I was a little wary of the road conditions.  But the sun was out and it was promising to be a lovely day, so I wrapped up and set out.

At the bottom of my driveway (and it is not a long driveway!) my phone rang - it was Kath from Kinnerton - her and Gill had hit ice on their way in and both come off.  They were OK, but a bit shaken, planning to visit A&E later.  I wished them well and set off - gingerly!

I made it to the cafe (it is 1/3 of a mile from my house, which was why I chose the location, I can always get there).  More ladies turned up - until we had 12.  Someone else had also fallen off on the way - but had made it, albeit with a sore and slowly swelling thumb (turned out to be broken).

I said we will wait until 10:30, let the sun start to warm up.  At 10:15 it rained a very fine misty rain - I thought that is just going to sit on top of the ice and make it even slippier (if there is such a word).  

I phoned the cafe, sorry Caroline we are not going to make it today.  I was also aware through the power of social media that a number of Chester Road club riders had also come off that morning on their various journeys, and two or three of the Tuesday evening riders (who had planned to go to Tilly's at Bunbury and then join us for mulled wine at The Dee Miller) had also slipped.

Hardy riders who made it as far as Kingsway,
also Rosie and Janet who were on the comfy chairs.
A good chance for a chat and a catch up!
People started to head home, it is a shame but for safety sometimes you have to make that call and cancel.  But (apart from January 2010) it is the only one cancelled (and Jan technically was not cancelled as no-one turned up!).

For the record, there was a bit of a cyclists convention in A&E that morning but no further injuries noted, and the roads and paths remained icy all day.  The Wrexham girls headed home along the Greenway and also came off - but were not hurt I believe.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

West Cheshire Alps re-visited

Back in 2012 I led an extra ride in preparation for the Spring 50 the following week.  This year I had planned in four extra rides to meet up with other ladies groups; but for one reason and another we never managed any of them.  With the early Nov ride ending up very short, and with today's date already n the diary, I invited people to join me on a re-ride of the West Cheshire Alps route.  10 agreed to come!

We set off in lovely sunshine and blue skies - it was the sort of day that every few miles you have to say 'isn't it a lovely day?!' 

We paused at Huxley to let everyone catch up - there is a sneaky rise on the road that is barely perceptible, but just enough to make you feel tired.

As we waited Wrexham CTC (or Reivers, never sure which group as they are the same people!) came past, to waves and 'hellooo's'.

We carried on to Tarporley, where we had another little pause... 

 ...before continuing around Portal to Eaton, and through to Cotebrook.  

 I carried on past the turning just so we could have a photo by Oulton Mill Pond, or 'Mill Pond' as I think it is actually just called.  

No photos of the hills - lovely views as you climb up from the crossroads at Cotebrook, and into Utkinton and along the sandstone ridge - but hard to capture on a photo - you will just have to come along next time!

We made it to Raina's Greedy Pig in Kelsall after regrouping again at the top of Kelsall and then dropping all the way down into the village.

After Kelsall we follow a fabulous contour so you have lovely views across Chester and Merseyside, and into North Wales, before we split and a couple went home from Delamere.

This time we did not go off road through the forest, it had been quite wet previously so would've been very muddy.

After Delamere I added in a little lane near Norley I had not done, always worth putting a new one in!

We then drop off the Sandstone ridge, and around Dutton/ Acton we also drop off my map (GPS) so it becomes harder to navigate.  Must ask Santa for full mapping of UK.

The route climbs back up again to Kingsley and the lanes above Helsby - a hidden area of undulations and secret valleys, culminating in a fab descent to Manley Common.  Here again a few split, as the light was actually fading, leaving a select few to finish off the ride past Manley and back in Mickle Trafford.

Still a lovely 40 mile route.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

What Rain...?

aaah - did the forecast say rain...oh yes, and wind....heavy rain was that...aah right.

So, clearly undeterred, 22 ladies amassed at Kingsway, with five stalwart leaders ready for anything.  I took the group photo inside for a change - and just in case.... and the 'talky' bit (or safety talk as some may call it).

Gill and Gill set off with eight riders for the further faster, aiming to get back for 11 - but we were late leaving (again), although there was a general 'ah well it's November and the weather does look glum' sort of feeling, and Gill 1 was not sure if they would make it in time.

Today's destination by the way was not just a cafe; Vicky one of our ladies was holding a coffee morning in Waverton, and with a promise of cake and a chance to support her fundraising for an Operation Raleigh venture next year,  we agreed to support her.  But, unlike a cafe, the hall was only booked until 12, so if you are not there you would miss out.

Linda left second with the slow and steady group, while I tried to phone Vicky and tell her there were 25 cyclists heading her way.

I led the final 10, with Mary helping from behind.  We set off in the damp gloom along the cyclepath beside the A41 towards Sainsburys, where we re-grouped by the lights.  "We are taking the first left" I instructed as we waited for the lights to change, and then set off single file. 

By now the rain was starting and we took the first left, and followed the street down to the end, with another left.  But we were missing two - Mary from the back and another.  We waited.  It rained.  Someone turned back to retrace to the main road, but no sign of the missing two.  I came back - it is quite wet now and not really conducive to standing around.  

Finally I phoned Mary, and they had missed the first turning, but were not far away - we arranged to meet by the High School.  

A damp ride through Caldy Valley Nature Park

By now time was really ticking along, it was wet and although it was not far we decided to head straight out to Saighton, hang a left and tootle directly to Waverton.  7 miles!

Anyway, the welcome was warm, the cakes splendid, books to browse (I had to remind Sharon she was on her bike and therefore do not buy too many books!). Extra chairs and tables were set out for us and we had a room to ourselves.  

However, the two Gill's also realised that they would not get back to Waverton in time, so they instead stayed in Tattenhall and visited Alison's Tearooms.  This is the first time we have been to differing establishments, and with so many cafe's to choose from it is good people know where they are, and can alter route or plans and drop in to a nearby cafe.

Gills' group at Alison's

Outside at Alison's

When we came out of the institute hall, the sun was out, and we gathered for a photo before heading back.  Linda's slow and steady group did more miles than us!

Group in Waverton hall - Sharon (far right)
....don't buy too many books!

What rain.......?

Back at Kingsway - in full sunshine!