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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Route 5 to Lichfield

For this ride, I declared my intent to ride to Lichfield by route 5 and return by a more direct route. My estimate was a journey of 48km (31 miles) to Lichfield and a return journey of approx 30km (20 miles). In reality the journey had some detours and came to a halt on the return journey after 67.43km in 3 hours 47 minutes 21 seconds according to the bike computer. According to MotionX-GPS the journey was close to five hours but that wouldn't include the pause for lunch and the pause at Lichfield Cathedral. That also didn't include the time figuring out whether it was worth fixing the puncture and then the train journey home. Having left home at 10:24 am, I arrived home at nearly 5:30pm. A long day but well worth the effort.

The ride into central Birmingham was familiar as I follow at least half of it on my regular ride to work and have almost been into the city following it. However, the signs through the city weren't as clear as I had hoped. Signs aren't always exactly at the corner so when I saw a sign turning left, I assumed it was at the next intersection when really it was down a set of steps to follow the Birmingham Canal almost out to the M5.

In the central city the canal is crowded in by buildings. As you move out of the city, uncovers a number of interesting landmarks.
The bridges have their own special character and include a quite spectacular viaduct. Places that I am not sure I would have found following the main roads.

Just prior to leaving the canal, it passed through a tunnel just as I caught and passed a canal boat. At this stage, the day was looking quite promising even if a little chilly.

After passing under and then over the M5, I entered Sandwell Valley Country Park passing Swan Pool with the family bird gathering. After a bit more wondering through the park and beside the M5, I passed under the M5 and then the M6 near their junction.

Some wandering through suburbs of a variety of standards, I arrived in the centre of Walsall. Here, the trail took me around a block so that I passed through the city mall. The run out of Walsall followed a rather nice track before the signage almost confused me as I passed around Brownhills. This became more of a problem when the track was blocked by work on a dam at Chasewater. Here I was forced to do a detour before becoming confused about where the trail went. A side trip and a loop later, I discovered the route through Burntwood and on to Lichfield. By now, there was a misty drizzle making the journey less comfortable forcing me to remove my riding glasses.

Lichfield Cathedral was impressive but with a misty drizzle, I didn't feel like spending a lot of time exploring the area. Taking a guess, at the right direction, I got on to the A5127 and headed toward Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham. Fortunately, the road followed the railway line because at Shenstone Wood End, I had a puncture. Talking to a local, I was directed to the Blake Street Station which was a short walk away. The train went all the way through to Kings Norton Station which meant I didn't have to unload the bike and swap trains at Birmingham New Street.

By shifting the the bell, I was able to mount the iPhone in a better position so that it was more usable during the ride. However, reflection still made it difficult to read as I rode. Also not having my reading glasses during the ride meant reading the maps was difficult. After five hours of tracking my ride, the iPhone battery was flat. For any more rides, I am either going to need a backup phone or an external battery pack for the phone.

I am a little disappointed that I didn't make it back home but 67.43km on my Avanti Montari was a good ride although a little uncomfortable by the end of the ride. The track wasn't suitable for a road bike with broken surfaces in places and and some almost single track off road sections. The full suspension GT iDrive would have given me a smoother ride over these rough portions but I wouldn't need the knobbly tyres. My preferred transport would be a velomobile but they are beyond our current budget.