Saturday 9 December 2017

The social side of cycling

Once again we had to cancel the December ride.  Although it was not a widespread frost, or snow, there were patches of ice and many of the Welsh ladies, including most of the leaders, had messaged me on facebook over the previous day and evening to say they were not coming.

I have said before that I live very close to the cafe, and this means I can walk there, which was what I told the ladies via social media.  Some people may not get the message, so at least I would be there  to share a coffee and a chat.  I posted for anyone to join me anyway for a coffee and a bacon buttie.

That last idea sparked Sue to come along, she could not resist a bacon buttie, and we were shortly joined by Sheila and Gill - who had actually brought her bike, so Well Done that Woman!  We spent a jolly hour drinking coffee and chatting, talking about parties coming up over the festive period, and life generally outside cycling.  

It started to sleet and generally throw horrible cold weather down whilst we were in the cafe, allowing a moment of reflection that it was indeed the right thing to do on this wintry morning, and after a quick photo by the tree, we set off back our separate ways to busy ourselves with Christmas preparations.

4 ladies, 0 miles :-)

Saturday 11 November 2017

Remembrance day ride

This year our November ride fell on 11th Nov, so there is a little bit of a poppy theme.  It was mentioned at the start, but as we are riding at 11:00, it was going to be hard to pause, and was not possible to get us all together.

We had a marvellous turn out of 34, splitting into 4 groups and with four new friends out for the first time.  

Jane R led a faster group over a few hills via Tattenhall, and they managed to stop by the war memorial in Tattenhall for a minutes reflection.

It is something we have in all our villages, and we cycle past them all the time.  Next time you are out, try to notice the memorials as you pass.

Welna and Linda both took regular steady groups, Welna headed East of the River Dee through Aldford and Churton, which was the return route for Linda and my slower group.

Crossing on the suspension bridge, we also found blue skies and sunshine!

The colours on the photos here in Eccleston have not been touched up, it was full of wonderful autumn colours.  We even had to stop to take a few layers off, although Hayley found a bit much going in her basket on the front of her bike!

As my group were stopping a little more often anyway we did not manage the minute to stop, and I realised it was 11:15 as we came through Pulford - but also mindful we still needed to get to the cafe!

Saturday 14 October 2017

From Oil Refineries to Dairy Farms

A record breaking turn up of 39 women for the October ride, including 9 new faces - about a quarter of today's riders!  So we split comfortably into four groups, and after gathering outside, photo and introductory chat, we set off.

I took my little group along the Greenway to start with, and after a short blip along the A56, we turned towards Thornton Le Moors, and then beyond to Oil Sites Road - as glam as it sounds!  I love the variety we have riding from Chester; flat open marsh land, river and canal sides, lanes, Welsh hills (and a few Cheshire ones!) but also the industrial, and following the pipelines and old railway tracks alongside steam and tall chimneys makes quite a change.

The Boat Museum is also a great reminder of the history of this area, when it was full of industry, and the Manchester Ship Canal running alongside.  The cafe is also a good size, and being recently re-furbished it is nice to check it out.

We bade farewell at the cafe and went our separate ways, my group set off along the canal, which after a short while left behind the industrial and functional parts of Ellesmere port, through an estate and to the back of The Blue Planet Aquarium (even glimpsing Santa's reindeer, no really!).  Then we crossed and entered open fields and farmland, heading back via Stoke and Picton Gorse.  The lanes were muddy, but there are working dairy farms here and the cows have not learnt to wipe their feet!

The great thing about cycling, is the opportunity to either forage in the hedgerows, or sometimes take advantage of autumnal goodies, like these apples sat in a basket on the roadside.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Wet Wet Nets

I'm sorry to say I was away for the September ride - we were going to follow the canal towpath out to Ellesmere Port, but the state of the path is so shocking, we decided to revert back to Nets.  An easy route and flat, as an introduction.

It rained.  A lot.  There were some hardy souls as pictured in facebook (and so below).  Thanks to Sonia, Gill and the gang for turning up, battling the elements and returning. 

An impressive 14 - plus I guess Sonia behind the camera?!

Damp and misty!

Sonia says "Very wet ride to Net's cafe. A brave 14 of us made it through the rain, hail and wind. Just got to get back."

HAIL!  I think that is actually a first!

Saturday 12 August 2017

Local history and hidden artifacts

I try to plan the cafes now based on where we went about four years ago, and where we haven't been for a while.  I had been avoiding Tarporley, as the last time we went (in January 2012) there were only 12 of us, and the cafe is very popular on a Saturday morning, so there was only just space for us.  Now, as our numbers have crept up, I was not so sure; but I had popped in last Sunday on our ride when we passed the cafe, and asked, and they seemed unfazed and able to take 20+ cyclists, saying they had a garden terrace at the back.

It was busy as usual at Kingsway cafe, as we slowly filled the place, and several new faces who had come along following the Wirral contribution to Cycling UK's Festival of Women last month.

I have to select the X-Large picture now to get us all on!  30 :-)
Can you spot the new Chester CTC tops among the throng?
Lacking Mr Rosie (Ken, Rosie's husband) to take our start up group photo, I asked a chap from the new trophy shop to do the honours, and, after assembling, we sent the faster further group off; followed by Linda and Catherine with regular pace, and I brought the third shorter ride out.  Not particularly slow, and following Sonia's route.

We gently headed towards Duddon, then climbed to Willington Corner.  After a short break, where we decided we were actually quite warm after all, we continued.  This road gently climbs and contours to Willington Hall Hotel, where we turn left up to the top of the Sandstone Trail.  Then we really do contour, with lovely views across Chester and the Lower Dee Valley, and to the Welsh hills (and any weather heading our way, in this case we could see rain showers)

I stopped the group to tell them about the Winged Wheel on The Swan Hotel, like the Trip advisor of the 1800's!

The cafe were as welcoming as promised, and offered to let us bring our bikes through the cafe to the garden at the back.  We settled on the raised deck, and the other groups arrived shortly afterwards.  Very speedy service, given that there were 30 of us; and although some items were forgotten - they did not forget or leave us until they were assured we all fully catered for.  Including a spare chocolate which I had mislaid and was sure Welna had eaten!  (I found it under my serviette after all that!)

Anne's photo of the FF group setting off home

Most people set off back as usual, but two stayed back with me to explore the church.  This is the essence of cycle touring; and as I was not leading a group I had the luxury of having a little look around.

Charles Hardy, proprietor at The Old Fire Station Chocolate Shop and Coffee Shop, has written a pamphlet: A Guide to Tarporley and History of Tarporley and Surrounding Areas.  He gave me a copy last week (they are free), and it had inspired me to check out St Helens Parish Church.

However, it is missing information about the Winged Wheel, so I shall send him the link!

Within St Helens, we saw the following:

 The chancel screen has Italian gates,
which were made in the 16th century,
 and brought from Siena
by the Countess of Haddington in 1889
The altar tomb in the chancel to Jane Done,
who died in 1662, Mary Crewe who died in 1690,
and her granddaughter Mary Knightley who died as a child in 1674
A monument to Sir John Crewe who died in 1711,
with his semi-recumbent effigy in a flowing robe
and weeping 
cherubs at his head and feet.
However, the main thing I wanted to see was the Civil War armour, purported to be on display in the church.  We walked all round, whist the organist made his best efforts to play 'Mr Blue Sky' and other unusual songs, repeating himself but appearing to improve slightly.  We could not see the armour.  Luckily, Reverend Georgina appeared, as they were preparing for a wedding, and could direct us to the armour.  Look up, she said, and sure enough, there they were.  There is another helmet in a darker corner. 

Satisfied now that I had proved there was indeed armour there, we set off again.  The little old fire engine was not available to see (in the newest fire station as you leave Tarporley at Birch Heath), so we just had to make do with the downhill 10 miles back to Chester.

30 riders, 34 miles (for me) and 3 pieces of armour.

Thursday 6 July 2017

Further Stronger Faster

Since the ladies inception in 2008, we have evolved as a group, and I hope we welcome all types of rider for leisure rides, including people who are or are becoming more competitive.  The faster further riders still come back, and there are of course the links to other events held by Chester & North Wales CTC.  Through the Facebook community, members also meet together to join rides such as sportives and cyclettas, even if not organised by Cycling UK.

I have also seen a growth in ladies cycling and events generally - not down to me, although I do think Cycling UK were ahead of the bunch with the Five Miles to Fabulous which springboarded the Fab ladies.  We held our first evening event in the Bike Factory (aimed at women) in 2010, and after a couple of these the Bike Factory organised their own, as did other bike shops around the country.  

Trek were the first bike company I am aware held women's evenings, Chris from Trek came in 2014 to talk about women's anatomy, and specifically saddles and shorts (we disagree on bib shorts!).  Rapha started to hold an annual Women's 100, to encourage the international women's cycling community.

The latest addition to the women's cycling sphere is Specialized, with their 'Further, Stronger, Faster' series.  Held at their concept stores, I was asked in March to have a stand to advise or talk about routes and route planning; the format of the evening was small interactive stands on a variety of topics including nutrition, clothing etc - anything relevant to cycling.  The events continued through the summer, and I was asked to help at the July one - Carl's words were 'would you like to be a guinea pig for the bike fit' (I prefer the term 'model'!).

A good turn out again, met with fizz (or coke/orange/water) and a few nibbles.  Familiar faces and new; and a chance to meet other women who are making their mark in Chester.

Laura is the new 'Specialized' ambassador (I did apply but was not successful - which is fine as I am kinda busy really!).  Laura lives in Staffordshire, and so covers the Stafford, Birmingham and Chester stores.  Expect to hear more from Laura as she is organising local rides for women.

Amanda started with the Fab ladies in June 2012, and completed Breeze training a while ago.  She is re-launching midweek rides - looking to a Friday, and I think she is aiming for the first Friday in the month.

Mark talked a group through a bike fit.

I had a fit before I bought my latest bike in 2014; and so could relate to the fit process.  He started with measuring my feet using a heat sensitive pad, showing your instep and foot arch, and indicating which insole will support your foot more.

There was also a saddle measure, after sitting on a memory foam pad it clearly shows where your 'sit' bones are, and so what size saddle is best.  Glad to see the measure went wider than my derriere; and also that my hardy Brookes Saddle is the correct size for me (good job after 20 years!).

It is an expensive experience, at £220, but lasts about 1 1/2 to 2 hours and  includes a month check up to see how it is working.  You bring your bike and after measuring will adjust your bike or suggest changes that can be made.  It is well worth it to be honest, because it can make such a difference to your comfort and also performance.

Saturday 10 June 2017

Just like old times

With a potential shortage of leaders again, and weather which was a bit wobbly, we had a small turn out for a slightly longer ride to Cotebrook, to the pancake cafe; new to us, but a long standing cyclists favourite.  It was a bit like 'the olden days', when we had just one group setting off from the cafe together; and all was well until we got to the end of the Greenway, and one lady asked to stop to pump up her tyre.

So, as is usual as someone attends to a mechanical, we all stood round chatting - until a plea for help as she could not remove the pump from her valve.  Try as we might, screwing it this way and that, pulling and pushing, but all to no avail.  Fixed firmly.  The only hope to try to break off the small screw bit within the valve, as it seemed to be bent and causing the problem.  We even asked the help of a passing cyclist (a man!) who with a bit of extra brute force pulled it off.

We then - after the photo I forgot to take at the cafe - relocated to Meadow Lea Cafe to be out of the way, and she proceeded to change her tube, as the valve was not going let the air stay in, and it was already deflating.

So it was we had a very late start, but that is OK, it still was not raining and we had time.

Using a combination of the routes Linda and Alex had plotted, but mindful of time, we set off up the A51 (using the pavement, just to be a little safer) and with a small detour on the old road at Stamford Bridge, carried on all the way to Tarvin.  

However, crossing over to enter the village, we were stopped by a lady and gentleman  and a road block.  One lady thought excitedly that the women's tour was coming through, but it was the Tarvin Carnival.  After a polite exchange, the chap re-directed us around a couple of side roads to set us on our way - which was rather fun as there were a few small groups lining the road - and who responded to our cheery wave!

A short climb from Oscroft brought us to Willington Corner, chance for another photo. Unfortunatley, by the time we got to Tarvin the lady with the dodgy tyre had ducked out and called hubby to pick her up, rather than try to soldier on.  So now just 8 of us.

After a short climb near Willington Hall, past the last remnants of a rhododendron bush, we gathered once more, before some lush downhills to Cotebrook.

We parked up round the back, and we were welcomed in to the cafe.  Service was slow but personal, and the food great - some had pancakes (as per the brief) - mine was stacked with bacon and maple syrup!

Natalie shared her photo on facebook - and it is making me hungry all over again!

Eventually, bills all paid, we headed back, heading first to Eaton then through to Tarporley - we are certainly on a downhill run now - all the way back!  (hence no pics!)

As we came in sight of Beeston and the Peckforton range, it was looking decidedly grey and misty, I was worried the weather was coming to meet us, so we headed for Huxley, at which point a few of the faster girls sped off, and the remaining ones continued the downhill theme, crossing the closed Golden Nook Bridge and passing the Waverton Institute, start and finish for tomorrow's Bob Clift Cheshire Cycleway Rides, currently being organised by yours truly.