Saturday, 12 June 2021

Summer Ice creams

One of the effects of a pandemic, is that when you finally do get out, back in a group, you want to stay out, maybe go a little further; but also having not been out sometimes a bit of fitness is lost.  

We are not quite out of Pandemic times, as there is one more unlocking date to go in the Government 'roadmap' (although there may be a delay).  I write this now, for some context when reading back in the future!

So, we had our usual three groups, and the promise of sunny skies.  The morning was quite cloudy but warm (bit of a chill wind mind) but as the day progressed it became better and better.  I know, as I was out in it for what ended up a longer ride than intended.  Partly due to lots of hills, a slower rider than me, two stops and as mentioned increasingly lovely weather.

Helen and Sue led the slower group away first, we are having staggered meet times but there was a bit of overlap as some have not been out since March 2020!

And - Kingsway cafe was open, so maybe next month we can gather for drinks.  We will have to see.

The group amended their cafe destination, as it was planned to be a little further than usual and they instead headed as far as Delamere and the new visitor centre cafe.

Linda and Collette's group, which I joined, were next to leave at 9:45, heading out
to follow the Cheshire Cycleway.  With a few variations.  It ended up being a combination of Linda's planned route and deviations I had in my head, usually involving a track or two.

Alex and Cheryl set off in the faster group, and passed us 

Saturday, 8 May 2021


 Unfortunately May was cancelled due to torrential rain and high winds.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

The Tour of West Cheshire - stage 1

So, restrictions have been lifted slightly, allowing up to fifteen people to exercise together (but you cannot sit together for any refreshments).  Cafes are shut, but many are offering take away, so that is a bonus.  But the rules differ between countries, and as we are bordering Wales some of our ladies do live the other side of the border, so are not allowed to ride with groups of more than two households.

Back to the booking system!

In the meantime, Chester Triathlon Club have set up a series of challenge rides, from April to September.  Calling it the Tour of West Cheshire (ToWC), and using Strava to measure peoples achievements, it is also a fund raiser for Bren Bikes.  Helen had seen it advertised and suggested we could sign up, so a few have done that and we have a 'Fab Ladies' club group entry.  Top three fastest riders qualify, so no pressure on the rest of us for speed, and we can just enjoy the routes.

That was the plan, and two groups did set off to do it.  The sticking part for some, after maybe limited riding in the last few months, was the the route went up Boothsdale, also known as Little Switzerland and sometimes referred to as The German Wall.  Interestingly - did you know The "German Wall" is a retaining wall on the side of the road through Willington Wood. An inscription records that it was built by German POWs in 1946-47.  So Sue offered a shorter flatter alternative to Manley Mere instead.

I staged the start, so that one group left before the next turned up; 15 minutes seemed to work for this.  Kingsway cafe is closed at the moment, and the corner outside the cafe was in shade - I had heard my husband scraping the ice from the car as he left for work, so it was a cold day - but blue skies and sunshine.  To this end I relocated myself (first arrived) to the opposite corner, where there is a much larger pavement and no through foot traffic like there is past the cafe.  And a lovely view of the still blooming daffodils.

Group 1, leaving at 9:30

Sue waiting for her small group 3; no 'start up' photo of group 2.

It was very pleasurable to be back in the lanes, in the sun, with company.  The first ride of the year and appreciated by all.

We picked up the ToWC route in Oscroft, but needed a breather before the main hill, as it is a bit of a pull up to the junction.

So, after a woman in a yellow car drove past shaking her head (as you can see it was such a busy road, so hard for her to pass), we set off up the short but steep in parts road.  But such a lovely deep valley to your right as you climb.  

At the top (everyone waited for me, as we always do in our groups) there was a
field with Alpaca in, quietly grazing the lush Cheshire grass, a nice backdrop to our little group, catching our breath.  

The second group also had a little stop here.

We then had a great descent through to the top of Kelsall - only I had taken off my gloves for the ascent, and it was mighty cold dropping down after that!  At the Farmers Arms in Kelsall we paused and then carried on - but this was where I made my mistake - I turned too soon and so we were inadvertently off route for a couple of lanes. Not a problem for today's ride, but to get my 'points' I will have to ride the route - and the hill - again!  (Darn it!)

But, all roads at least led to the cafe, a new establishment for us, and a chance to stand about distanced from each other and partake in refreshments.

Behind the cafe/ bike workshop grounds lies a field.  Into this field trotted a horse, followed expectantly and exuberantly by 21 very young cows.  They were excited, they were curious, and as soon as the horse wandered to another part of the field, they were hot on his hooves!  

Why the long face?

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Review of January's past

So, the country is now in a full lockdown again, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  If you are reading this in 2021, then you may think 'duh, obvious', but I hope in years to come people will look back and say 'oh yes, I remember that!'

So, this limits us again; a further limit is imposed by the weather, snowy over the border in Wales and just icy here.  Freezing fog in fact.  The following photos (shared via facebook) look more like a weather forecast than a usual ladies ride.

Some people are enjoying snowy walks and activities...

...But too icy for two wheels.

Chester had freezing fog, very icy underfoot...

Manley mere was frozen (so no swimming alternative!)

...but the sun did come out.

Review of the first 7 January's:

10th Jan 2009 - three of us set out in a hard frost; ice on puddles but it was dry and crisp.  Cafe was in Broughton, at the Costa in the retail park.  A very busy place, so we have not returned.

9th Jan 2010 - we had had snow a few days earlier, and although some had
melted on the roads there was some thick ice I encountered.  Needless to say no-one turned up; I had a nice coffee and bacon buttie at the cafe I think and had a go down the greenway.  I forget how I got this photo! 

9th Jan 2011 - snow the day before, but you never can tell; a good turn out, our best January turn out so far with 12 riders.  We went to Tarvin Sands when it was still the Elvis cafe.

14 riders on the 14th Jan 2012, another blue sky sunshiney day where we headed to Tarporley Chocolate shop, and filled it!

12th Jan 2013 and I note we are now restricting groups to the eight plus up to two leaders; we have also instigated the Further Faster group - which I led!  I do not recall the route, but it involved Borras Head and down to Bellis's in Holt.

Not icy or snowy, but night blue skies and sunny either - but a new record of 23 ladies out.

11th Jan 2014, and we sent four groups with a total of nearly 30 riders; no wonder we did not fit in the cafe (although this was also as we met the Wrexham Reivers who had not booked) Some of us had to return to Kingsway cafe as our end point.  Back to having blue skies though!

!0th Jan 2015, very windy indeed.  12 riders after cancelling the Dec ride.  We went to the Eureka cafe, specifically chosen that morning so the wind would blow us back home (which it did!)

A massive group of 37 riders on 9th Jan 2016, four groups on a damp but dry day (if that makes sense!) to Chocks away - a suitably large venue for us all.

2020, the last few times we could ride together before the coronavirus pandemic set in.  We had four groups, and we met up at the Hayrack Cafe in Thornton Le Moors. 

Saturday, 12 December 2020

End of a very limited year

With Christmas approaching, we usually have a festive slant to our December gathering, but for obvious reasons I do not need to mention, we had to scale it down.  Three leaders were available and arrived at Kingsway, but only one rider joined us.  We did not go inside, because we can't, and it was a bit cold for sitting outside this month.  So, we just headed out for a short but sociable meander.

Only a few photos, so I will make them big!

I forgot to do a start up picture, but here we are as we left the Greenway; I showed the ladies the sharing allotment community green thing, which I had come across a few months earlier.  The idea is that local people can plant and harvest this small area, not looking its best in December!

We head out down Sandy Lane to Saighton and Bruera, before heading back towards Hargrave.

My friend had shared on Facebook a festive nativity / advent trail for Hargarve and Huxley.  So we rode through to Hargrave, studying each farm house and establishment for any decorations.  We did spot this one, day 7.

After further searching I called in to my friend, who was trotting around her paddock behind the house.  They had the presentation for today, but will not be up until later (was going to be a projection in the window, so not visible in the day anyway).  Never mind, it was a nice distraction.

We carried on through to Mickle Trafford, and Meadow Lea cafe where I had booked us an outside table, in a marquee.  

Farewell to 2020, here's hoping 2021 will improve through the year and see us back out in normal numbers.  There is a vaccine around the corner, but also possibly more restrictions as we pass through the festive season.

Safe and happy riding everyone!

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Virtual riding

Many years ago, my husband bought me a set of rollers (a thing you balance your bike on in order to ride indoors).  Despite being a very thoughtful present, I knew I would never use it, so back it went.  I prefer to be out, whatever the weather, to see where I am going and where I have been, take photos and interact with my environment.  But I know people like to do short bursts of exercise, it is useful for strength and training, and certainly indoor cycling came into it's own during lockdown.

Guest blog post: Helen

Like my husband, I enjoy outdoor exercise, so it’s never occurred to us get something like an exercise bike or treadmill; when the weather’s too grotty for cycling, we tend to head for the hills on foot.  However, back in March 2020, when it became obvious that COVID19 was going to lead to lockdowns which could last a long time, we decided to get a ‘smart’ exercise bike that could work with digital cycling platforms like Zwift, so that if we had to self-isolate or were otherwise confined to the flat for a long time, we could still keep fit.


That was the plan, and it seemed like a good one.  Naturally, we weren’t the only people to have thought of it by a long shot!  The model of indoor bike we were after was out of stock in March, and April, and May….   and eventually arrived at our flat in August.  Fortunately, the weather was great for outdoor cycling last spring & summer, so we didn’t really miss it, and in the end our new bike, known to its friends as ‘Whizzy’, arrived just in time for the nights to start drawing in.  It’s been a real boon since then, especially recently when the weather’s been cold and the roads icy.


So what is Zwift?


Basically, it’s a computer game that’s controlled by your exercise bike.  The harder you pedal, the faster an image of you, known as your avatar, makes progress along the course.  Game-style graphics show your avatar pedalling along courses which vary from realistic views of real cities and countryside, to fantastical vistas inside imaginary volcanoes and through glass-roofed sea tunnels, the latter being set in the imaginary world of Watopia. 


[pic needed: The ‘Volcano Flats’ course in Watopia.]


You’re never alone in Zwift; avatars representing all the other people who are pedalling or running along the same Zwift course at the same time as you also appear on your screen.  This means that the same patch of imaginary road on your screen can show riders and runners who are really located all over the world.  (You can tell where they’re from, as a little flag appears near each rider’s name.)


Zwift offers a wide range of courses, a lot of which are very long, steep, or challenging.  However, once you get the hang of searching courses based on total ascent, it’s easy to find shorter and flatter courses that are more enjoyable if (like me) you’re not a racer, and have all the climbing ability of a jellyfish.  One of my favourites so far is one of the ‘London’ courses which starts on the banks of the Thames and includes parts of the Surrey Hills.  For the purposes of Zwift, the boring bits in between have been replaced by an exciting journey through a couple of re-purposed Tube lines, so it’s a much shorter loop than it would be in reality, and also a lot more scenic. 

 [pic needed - London course, with the Surrey hills bolted directly onto the South Bank]


Welna Bowden leads the inaugural
Fab Ladies Zwift ride

Zwift can be used for solo rides, but it also includes options for group rides.  In December, Welna offered to lead an inaugural Fabulous Ladies group ride on Zwift.  I’d never joined a Zwift group ride before, so had no idea what to expect.  I joined Zwift on the Volcano Flats course at more or less the appointed time (it always takes longer than I expect to get set up!) and tried to follow Welna’s instructions to join the group.  Somewhat alarmingly, Zwift promptly whisked my avatar off the road and across a beach, then up a grassy slope, then straight through a solid rock cliff face…. By this point I was definitely starting to wonder what was going on!  Just when I was about to give up, my avatar was dropped unceremoniously back onto the road behind an avatar with a golden arrow over her head, who turned out to be Welna.


We were expecting a third lady – Sharon – to join us, and she did appear briefly, but then disappeared again.  Zwift is like that.  It takes a bit of getting used to, and the game screen itself is seriously lacking in helpful information for beginners. Fortunately, sites and apps such as Zwift Insider, Zwift Companion, and the Zwift Ladies Only Group on Facebook mean that it is possible to find the information you need to make it work how you want it to, eventually.  (Personally I think that’s a sign of some terrible user interface design, but that’s a whole different rant.  J  Given how many new people have joined Zwift during 2020, the developers are probably focused on just keeping everything running for the hoards of new virtual cyclists and runners right now, so I expect to carry on asking beginners questions on the Ladies Only group for a while yet!  And I am getting the hang of it, bit by bit.).


Overall, I would definitely recommend Zwift to any ladies who are fed up of being stuck indoors, or of riding the same local routes over and over again.  It does require some investment of time and money to get the technology set up to suit your individual requirements, and it definitely has its quirks.  However, when the weather’s bad, or life is just too busy to go out riding for real, there’s a lot to be said for having a machine in your garage or back bedroom that can whisk you off to Southern France or an imaginary volcano without stepping outside your house, and give you a workout in the process.  I’m sure we’ll get better at using it to ride together, though physically apart, if we keep practising, so here’s to the next Fabs group ride.  Let’s all meet at the foot of the volcano…..

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Mid lockdown, post covid, solo rides

Another month, another lockdown.  Only this time you cannot ride with a group, only one other person.  And all the cafes have shut, with some doing take out. So, I suggested that we have a 'virtual ride' - anyone riding leaves on the Saturday morning and share photos of the ride on the facebook group.  I was also post Covid; I had started with symptoms end of October, tested positive, and we were 'self isolating' until earlier this week.  However, I had still felt unwell, but today marked the first day i did feel much better.

Typically, after watching autumn sunshine all week from my windows, today was forecast with rain.  Undeterred I set off anyway, just nice to get out.  Damp misty rain as I left Chester via Huntington, slightly heavier but eased as I arrived at Saighton.

Posting on facebook as I went:

Decision time #1, its damp out some misty rain but mild. Bit breezy.
Not out of breath more than usual after having the covids since 28th, coughin' well so maybe this will clear the tubes!

Down to Bruera I think

...but looking at bit black, so will turn left at Bruera, methinks

Mark offering cheese and wine (Spar award winning red!) - a welcome respite in Tattenhall

Sausage buttie from Spar, recommended, and still warm after climb up to Burwardsley (even at my speed)

Sunshine on the dahlias.  Beeston behind the tree

There it be. Who doesn't love Beeston?



Managed a solo Fab Ladies ride around the lanes - not very far but did enjoy it despite the damp 🚴 Even wore my CFL top for the occasion



A lovely damp ride round the lanes for my virtual fab ladies ride this morning. I could see England through the mist! When the sun finally appeared the oak trees were looking gorgeous. Coffee at Cleopatra's on the way home.



Got out for a virtual Fab Ladies ride this morning. Bit damp to start off with, but the rain held off after that, & the scone at Lockgates coffee shop was definitely worth riding there & back for. 🙂