Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A slightly unusual ride

On Sunday I took the chance of cycling out to Yelverton and back again. There's nothing unusual about that - in fact, I do that regularly, yet today's ride was slightly out of the ordinary for several reasons, as I'll explain in a minute.

I would've liked to have gone further, but other, and more important things limited the time I had available, so in total I just did a nice 23 mile ride. Heading off from home, I realised it was a bit breezy, so I cut through Saltram, instead of cycling out on the Embankment as at Saltram there'd be trees to break the wind.

Saltram is a popular destination for families and dog walkers, and I expected a fair few people about. Despite this, I was surprised by the sheer numbers of people, especially dog walkers. In fact, it looked like the entire Plymouth Kennel Club was out in force.

Now here's the thing - on shared paths I don't mind slowing down, or indeed even stopping, especially when there are children about. I also don't expect people to jump out of my way. However, when a bunch of dog walkers stop in the middle of path to have a group chat, it'd be awfully nice if they'd move just slightly aside once they see I have stopped, and heard me politely saying "Excuse me, would you mind if I come past?"

I received such angry stares from that group you'd imagine I kicked all their dogs into the river! And before any dog-lovers start on me, please note I don't go round hurting animals, and as a dog owner and regular dog walker, I do know what it's like to share a path with cyclists. The emphasis is on share, something that this particular group didn't seem to like doing.

Still, it wasn't long before I was through Saltram, past Marsh Mills, and onto the Plym Valley part of Drake's Trail. Especially between Coypool and Cann viaduct, the path is typically very busy over weekends. Sunday it was especially busy, especially given that it wasn't the best of weather, and we're already well into autumn.

Typically the path is far less busy past Cann viaduct, but this wasn't the case. Unusually, I encountered many groups of cyclists out. There were family groups apparently consisting of three generations, and many groups of older people. I've never seen so many distinct groups out on NCN27!

Near Clearbrook, I took the road option, as I typically do, even though that meant riding up a beast of a hill. Around halfway up, while puffing like a steam engine, I passed an older couple who were walking their bikes up the hill. The man said to me, with a cheery smile on his face "I could ride up this hill, but my bicycle's tired!" I'll remember that one for any hills I encounter in future that prove too tiring for my bicycle.

Before long I was in Yelverton, but I didn't stop and simply turned around. I soon passed the same old couple again - this time they were cycling - and in no time at all I was breezing down that same steep hill. There was yet another group of cyclists, including children, who were walking their bikes down the hill as some of the children weren't comfortable riding their bikes down it. Once I could see past the last corner, I let go of the brakes and my speed immediately went up to 29 mph. As a result I had to brake rather sharply to be able to make the turning back onto the traffic-free path, and that's where my front brake cable snapped!

I have cantilever brakes, and it was the little cable that snapped, not the main one. After having overshot the turning, I turned around and got back on the traffic-free path, where I met yet another group of cyclists. By quite some coincidence, one member of that group just had his front brake cable snap, too!

I fiddled with the front brakes, ensuring nothing would catch and suddenly lock my front wheel, then cautiously started cycling home.

At some stage I was doing a mellow 20mph when I was overtaken by a roadie. Up ahead there were more cyclists, including children, and a bit further a few mothers were walking with prams. He didn't slow down but simply blasted through and I couldn't help but think that he is exactly the sort of idiot that gives all cyclists a bad name.

After having cleared the congested bit, I accelerated again, mostly keeping the idiot cyclist in view. I'm inclined to think I might possible have been able to pace him, but without front brakes on a busy path I wasn't about to try, and he gradually disappeared in the distance.

As ever, the path became far more busy once I got near Cann viaduct, and from there to Plymbridge itself I took it slow and steady. I had quite a giggle to myself when I got to the car park at Plymbridge, as I passed the idiot roadie who appeared to be utterly spent, while I made my way to Saltram, via Coypool & Marsh Mills.

Saltram was still extremely busy, and I cycled through quite slowly. Once I got to The Ride I accelerated again, only to pass a really cool trike going the other way. It was an upright trike, not a recumbent one, and it was being pedaled at quite a pace by a friendly lady who seemed to have a prosthetic leg.

And there you have it: my ride was unusual because of the large numbers of older people on bikes, the large number of groups out cycling with children, and because of the trike lady. If Sunday's ride was anything to go by, cycling in Plymouth is certainly booming! Even better - out of hundreds of cyclists out and about, it seems there was only one idiot.