Tuesday Ride X: of stupidly fast descents, chasing mopeds and a stately home

Tuesday evening came round quickly this week, not least because I had spent much of the week suffering the effects of a debilitating illness, the details of which I will spare my reader, save to say that I lost nearly 4lbs over four days. Considering how awful this summer has been, the weather had remained uncharacteristicly dry so at seven-thirty in the evening I met with John and Bradley at the Bell Inn. The Lemond is starting to play up a little, the rear tyre had gone slightly flat and the bottom bracket was still knocking with every turn of the cranks. This matched Brad’s steed, his bottom bracket was squeaking with each revolution, John’s bike of course was fighting fit. We elected to go towards Longleat with some notion about climbing a hill or descending, I wasn’t sure which. Black Dog Hill had become a bit boring (neither John nor myself fancied watching Brad demolish us on the climb again) so we decided to go via Chapmanslade. There was no way we were going to get away without a climb of some sort, the first major one came just as we were overtaken by a moped. I was on point as it pulled past me, with Brad in hot pursuit. Pretty soon Brad was on his back wheel and the guy was looking behind in panic, trying to shake Brad off to no avail. It wasn’t until we got halfway up the first hill that the stricken scooter managed to pull away and Brad gave up with a laugh. Without the hill I’m convinced Brad could have sat one foot behind him for miles, it gave some indication of Brad’s fitness that the scooter engine was straining so much to put out the same amount of power Brad’s legs were generating as he churned the cranks in the big ring.

The road to Cley Hill was undulating with several short, sharp, shock hills splitting the riders up and giving our legs a going over. I’m finding the hills easier now, I can ride them faster with Brad off the front giving me something to aim at, even when he vanishes round a corner. Soon the mighty slopes of Cley Hill were rising to our left and the shadows were fading into the fast approaching night. We rode on past tiny turnings that promised to lead to places with names like ‘Longhedge’ and ‘Temple’, roads pointing up and roads dropping down. We stuck to the road we knew and took the roundabout up towards Center Parcs, the air filled up with the sharp scent of pine tar and freshly sawn timber as we climbed yet another hill. Soon we were turning into the barrier-controlled entrance to Longleat Safari Park. Now we were in cycle utopia, no cars, tarmac roads, beautiful trees and an amazing view. The distant lights of Frome burned hazily in the last embers of dusk, far to the West we could see the orange glow of Shepton Mallet.

Past a green, weed covered pond that looked like it might contain pike as big as coffins and twice as deep down, either that or some monster carp rolling lazily beneath the surface. My fishy reverie was disturbed by John shouting back “Check your maximum speed now!” before droppping off down the hill. The air accelerated past me with a deafening roar, Brad and John were way out in front but I could barely see through the water streaming from my eyes in the wind. Trying not to lock my arms was difficult as the speed sucked the warmth from my limbs, but the super-smooth tarmac kept the wheels running true, there was no vibration and the speed was incredible. Too late I saw the sharp right and just about managed to scrub some speed off before I shot onto the grass. Now I was riding for two hundred yards in a field as I struggled to point my errant steed back towards the tarmac, thank goodness there were no fences. Back on the road with the speed up, a cattle grid registered as a brief thrumming metallic chord beneath the tyres. The others were waiting in front of Longleat House and we compared maximum speeds. I had managed 46.5mph before coming off the road.

Longleat House at dusk, three cyclists in front

There then followed ten minutes of cycling round carparks, sporadic tannoy announcements that may or may not have been directed at us, and wondering if John actually knew were he was leading us. Past the adventure castle, the minature railway, the butterly house and the famous maze, onto a clearly defined track and yes John did know where he was going thank you very much, this was the way out of the park. More climbing, more descents, winding our way out of the valley and into the next one. Aroma of pub food mingles with stagnant water, orange glow of streetlights. The roads are busy, cars coming too close for comfort, not noticing three cyclists, time to stop and pull on the Hi-Viz Tron jacket in order to go nightwatchman at the back. Now the cars are slowing down, pulling wide as they see me. Onto the frome bypass, John’s rear light is fading but in his backpack he has spare batteries. As soon as he is recharged we head back onto the main road, now Bradley takes off but we don’t worry, we know he’ll wait at The Bell. Five minutes later we’re all grouped together, it’s the end of my ride but John and Brad have to cycle back to Trowbridge.

Next week, Bradley chooses the route – imagine the carnage!

Published in: on August 29, 2007 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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