John’s Circuit: hills, traffic and the Makka Pakka

Having failed to go out on Thursday with John (he claims Bradley slaughtered him) due to illness, I was eager to get out with him today so at 1700 I cycled through Trowbridge to his house. He was already rolling down the street to meet me so we set off in the direction of Bath. We clipped Bradford on avon by the Leigh Park Hotel, a gentle but determined gradient warmed us up and John warned “This isn’t an easy ride by the way”. Out of Bradford on Avon and towards Sally in the Woods, the road surface was terrible and the traffic appalling. Considering it was Sunday evening there was an astonishing amount on the roads. The thing I hated was when a car would start to overtake, see another car coming the other way, sort of slow down like “I don’t know what to do now” then decide to just accelerate and cut in closer to us, great! “Ah I’m on the wrong side of the road with a car hurtling towards me and I may kill these cyclists I stupidly decided to overtake when I couldn’t even see if the road ahead was clear, I’ll just slow down and have a think for a minute!” Being killed by a moron is not my idea of a noble end. Pop-clunk-GRIND! My anger was immediately diffused by the fact that my chain had come off and jammed. A bit of brute force and an oily pair of hands later we were on our way again.

John comes up the hill

There was just a middle length gradient to the top of Sally-in-the-Woods and I dropped the camera down to ankle height, leaning right over the bike and pointing the camera backwards to get the shot above, I’m quite pleased with it. For more cycling photos see my Flickr page. The descent was great fun, a few switchbacks, some steep sections and with no traffic behind us we were able to position ourselves nicely on the road to take the corners. It wasn’t as steep as I expected, but it was quite a long descent. We crossed the Batheaston bypass and made our way into Bathampton. The traffic was very dense, I saw something tiny and white flash past my wheels on the road, somehow I registered the shape of The Makka Pakka. This extraordinary character can be seen on the cbeebies programme ‘In the Night Garden’, there is a weird amount of symbolism surrounding him. For example, he lives in an earthen barrow (similar to West Kennet Longbarrow) and sleeps with a pile of stones. He calls the forest denizens with his horn, then cleans them with his sponge. There’s something decidedly psychedlic-folk about him and I like him very much. I picked up the tiny figure, he was a bit dirty and dented, but I put him in the hi-viz vest and carried on with the ride.

Makka Pakka found in the road

A hideously sharp left and we were heading down to the toll bridge. Marvellously it’s free for bicycles to cross, to the left was an iron waterwheel turning away sedatley. Our ride over the bridge was ruined only by a cheeser in a range rover who thought he couldn’t be bothered to give us priority as he’s supposed to, and as a result had to drive on the pavement of this historic bridge in order to squeeze past us in his outsized twatmobile. The hill up to the A36 wasn’t as bad as we’d led ourselves to believe, it wasn’t easy though, the final few yards were steep enough to provide a real danger of the bike stalling. We both got up there and continued down the main road back towards the village. It was an undulating ride and it had been a while since we’d ridden it together. Interestingly I think we both found the hill up from Limpley Stoke to be easier this time, showing that the gruelling pace Bradley puts us through on the Tuesday Rides is having some effect in making us fitter. I still run out of breath before I run out of legs though. A nice fast blast down the remainder of the A36 stretch and onto the smooth new tarmac by Woolverton.

I arrived back at the house in time to wash and present the Makka Pakka to the children just as In The Night garden came on the TV. What better way to wind down from a ride than with some gentle, psychedilc dream-garden action?

Published in: on August 20, 2007 at 12:20 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. When I lived in Cali I rode like normal cyclists, in packs and on rural roads. Now I live in NYC and I have a mtn-hybrid that I just chug around on like mary poppins, heads up and eyes forward.

    I miss the competitive esprit de corps part, but I love the urban-decay-outer-borough-sightseeing of Queens and Brooklyn (the stick-’em-up-state).

    Thanks for the peek into your riding.

  2. Thanks for your kind comment. Thanks also for the link to your trackbike piece, I really enjoyed reading it and I had no idea about Hopper’s love of bikes!


  3. There’s something perfect about the lonely man at the velodrome watching the three day races artistically totally blocked.
    Henry Miller, according to the messenger lore of Henry, a guy I rode within the 1980s, claimed that Black Spring, a book of short stories, was all about his reflections while riding through Brooklyn on a fix(-wheeled bicycle).
    I miss riding the more daring bike, but I’ve kids and a career, so I can’t go careering about like when I was in my 20s.
    My kids will grow and I’ll become more daring in my 50s.
    Thanks for looking.
    (And I hate it when auto drivers are indecisive, lurking in your periphery for miles at a time: dithering, neither passing nor falling back.)

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