For various reasons, today was my first “proper” ride since Sleepless in the Saddle. I woke nice and early (about 10) and lounged around for a while planning to head out about 12ish. This would give me plenty of time to complete my planned route and be back in time for the 2pm kick-off for Ireland v England in the final deciding game of the Six Nations.
After hunting down missing tools and keys, emptying the camelbak of out-of-date munchies, tweaking the bike, and generally faffing around, I set the GPS and headed out. The first few miles of the route are road-based climbing, peaking at about 165m (from a start of around 28m), then after a small drop we reach the first of the off-road. Technically this is a footpath, but I’ve been riding it for the last 20 years or so with no problems. Halfway along just as I start the narrow part I wait for a moment to let a couple coming the other way get past, but they are the only people I come across. The path ends in Combe Down village, and a short road route brings me out on the main road ready for Rainbow Woods, riding these woods in the mid to late 1980’s on my road bike was what got me interested in mountain bikes, so they have a sentimental significance. These days they are mostly fenced off after the big gales a few years back, but you can still ride round the outside, and back through the middle, which is what I do. Someone has removed the overhanging branches since I was up here last which is helpful as I lost an arguement with on last summer. Out the back of the woods I head round past Rainbow Woods farm to the Uni (hence this route being names uni-bike). A short road section leads to a bridleway round the edge of the Uni site and out onto the top of the golf course. A quick spin across the top of the golf course brings me to the main point of the ride, the descent through the woods into Bathampton.
Pausing briefly to check the GPS is still working and to lower the seat slightly I head into the woods. The path is nice and firm, but is peppered with roots and small rocks. Nipping round the paths avoiding the trees, everything is good with life again. It’s warm(ish) and sunny with clear blue skys, there is no-one else about, and I’m doing what I enjoy best (thats riding bikes off-road before your imagination runs rampant). Partway along the “official” path, I slip off to the right down the far more interesting, but decidedly un-official singletrack. This is a bit softer under-tyre, much steeper, and much more fun. There is a rooty drop-off at the bottom of the steep descent that I bottle out of, and a errant broken log I have to step over, but other than that it’s a few short minutes of nice singletrack with a good balance (for me) between being technical and being ridable. This brings me out on the old tram route back down to Bathampton which is a nice blast to clear the head and heat up the E4’s. All too soon, the descent is finished, and the fun parts of the ride are now behind me.
The route home involes dropping into Bathampton village and picking up the canal back towards town and home. It’s a bit crowded today so I leave the canal behind just before I reach town and decide to fight with the traffic, eventually reaching home after 11.2 miles, 329 meters (1080 ft) of climbing, and 77 minutes. Details of the route can be found at http://www.onefuckingspeed.com/rides/unibike/.