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Monday, July 25, 2011

Stratford-upon-Avon to Oxford

We set out reasonably early to try and give me as much time as possible to complete what Sustrans described as 61 mile (97.6 km) ride from Stratford-upon-Avon to Oxford along Route 5. I realised along the first segment of the ride that the only thing I had left at home was the camera so no photos on this journey. It was a pity as there were some good opportunities along the ride.

The first part of the ride was along what used to be a railway line. Near the start there was a rail carriage and there was another about half way along. Both had been set up as caf├ęs.

The route passed through Quinton, Ilmington, and Shipston-on-Stour although the path that I took missed the central shopping area. As I neared Banbury, the rolling hills became steeper. The route also went off the road to a trail that was almost over grown. This track skirted the south western boundary of Banbury and was more open as the track went along behind the houses and came to an end at Bodicote. There seemed to be a fayre happening here but the sports ground down the road was empty and had a seat that I could use for a break and lunch. My average speed over this part of the journey was over 20 km per hour.

For the next 20 km involved some fairly step hill climbs. As a consequence the average speed declined and my legs began to ache. I was beginning to wonder whether I would reach my intended objective. After passing through Bloxham and Barford St Michael, the route took to farm tracks through Over Worton. At one point it went through a paddock with a heard of sheep.

The hills reduced over the last part of the journey but the route seemed to do a detour in order to take in another segment of track that boarded on single track in places that took me into Woodstock. After heading down the main road toward Oxford, the route took another detour along the canal leading into Oxford. Although these off road tracks keep you off busy roads, some are difficult to negotiate. On this part of Route 5, it would be difficult to use a recliner trike on many of these off road segments although it would have been possible to take a road based alternative in most places. It also showed the differences in levels of maintenance of the tracks depending on the county through which the track passed.

According to the bike computer, the journey was 95.56 km and took 4 hours 56 minutes and 24 seconds at an average speed of 19.3 km per hour. My maximum speed on one of the down hills was 61 km per hour and this was without pedalling. According to Motion GPS, the maximum down hill and up hill slope was over 10%. This gave me some idea of what the Tour de France riders went through.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Exploring the City Canals

I hadn't intended it to be so long between rides on the National Cycle Network but these last two months have seen major changes. Our house purchase finally went through so we were into house shifting (I caught a cold in the process). My contract at the University of Birmingham came to an end and I went through an interview and appointment process for a Teaching Fellow position at Aston University. On top, the new cycling race season has started and as a commissaire, I have been involved with circuit races at Sundorne circuit near Shrewsbury and at track events at Wolverhampton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Halesowen. Suddenly, I don't seem to have free weekends for cycling.

However, over the last couple of weeks, I have been getting back into cycling as I prepared for my first day at Aston University. On Wednesday last week, I did a trial ride into Aston (25km) then on Sunday I joint friends on the Sky Ride (30km), and finally today, I rode into work at Aston (27km). Although I went in by the recommended route. In Digbeth, it turned onto a canal path to go around to the far side of the university. As a result, I have found canal locks in Birmingham and lots of them. As I didn't have my camera out or the iPhone tracking the journey, I don't have information on the route.

Riding along the short stretch of the Digbeth Branch Canal on the way to work in the morning inspired me into exploring a canal ride round the north of the city coming home. Late last year, I had talked of exploring the many canal paths around Birmingham. Working in the central city is giving me that opportunity.

The Digbeth Branch Canal joins the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal just north of Aston. In the short distance that I travelled along the Digbeth Branch Canal, I discovered more locks and then as I headed toward the junction with the Birmingham Canal Navigations, I passed even more locks and some interesting buildings built on the edge or over the canal. I have decided that I need to explore this area with camera in hand probably on foot.