Monday, 11 November 2013

Yealm Rouleurs, old aquaintances and new friends

Quite some time ago I was playing around with maps, looking to see if there was a half-decent route along rural lanes that I could take to avoid cycling on the rather unpleasant and busy A379. The route I found led me up a very nasty little lane, potholed, half overgrown and debris strewn. As a result, I figured it probably wasn't worth the effort.

More recently, I started chatting with another cyclist that was riding home along the same roads in Plymouth that I was following. As you do, I asked him where he was heading and was surprised to hear him say that he was going to Yealmpton. I seldom encounter other cyclists on the rural part of my commute, which heads out that way.

Anyway, discussion soon moved on to the A379, and he told me he takes rural back lanes. He then kindly offered to show me the route he takes, which first heads north-east, to within spitting distance of the A38, before swinging back towards Yealmpton.

The route avoids the nasty lane I'd previously scouted by going further out of the way, and overall added another 2 miles to my commute, though I have to say they were pleasant miles that more than made up for avoiding the A379.

Of course, along those quiet lanes we had more chance to have a chat. He told me about a local-ish group he rides with, called the Yealm Rouleurs.Unbeknown to me, I already knew one other member of the group, through the Plymouth Cycling Campaign.

The Yealm Rouleurs cycle all year round and my cycling companion invited me along. With a big grin on his face, he did explicitly warn me that they were an oddball bunch.

The Saturday before last, I made my way to the designated starting point, only to discover nobody else was there. After a lengthy wait, and just as I decided to simply go cycling on my own, another cyclist appeared. He was soon followed by a few more, and within minutes there were eight of us.

The forecast wasn't good, with wind and rain expected during our ride. As it was an easterly wind, one rather sensible fellow suggested we head West - that way we'd have a tailwind cycling back. Since it was such an eminantly good idea, it was summararily rejected out of hand and we set off for Ermington. Well, to be fair, we were due to meet a few more cyclists at Ermington, so we were always going to be heading that way.

It was a good ride, fast enough not to be boring, yet not so fast that I struggled to keep up. As the newbie to the group, I was determined to hold my pace, but also to avoid being the overly-compettive person trying to be first all the time, and so just stayed roughly in the middle.

We cycled out to Avonwick, then Diptford before heading back via Garra Bridge. Especially Garra Bridge to Modbury were new roads to me and I always enjoy cycling on unfamiliar roads. As a bonus, it just happens to be a gorgeous area to cycle through.

Heading uphill from Garra Bridge a small breakaway group were racing each other to the top. I had no intention of getting into a race and as a result they opened a bit of a gap on me, though a fair few riders were still behind me. Soon enough, after riding directly into a strengthening wind, we descended into Modbury to have coffee in a cafe called the Lazy Cow.

One of the group told me that after several years of sampling coffee from various establishments, they finally and unanimously decided that the Lazy Cow offered the best coffee to be had in these parts.

David, who invited me to join the group, was right - they are a mad bunch, but mad in a good way. Banter flowed freely over rather excellent cups of coffee and soon enough it was time to ride back to Yealmpton. This time the group split up and I rode along with two other riders, following the A379 directly into the wind. We were caught in a fair downpouring of rain, but that didn't last overly long.

We turned off towards Holbeton, specifically to get off the A379 and take back roads to Yealmpton. The other two peeled off, while I continued on for home.

I'm not used to riding in groups as almost all my riding I do by myself. I do enjoy cycling on my own and I guess I will always continue to often ride on my own. Having said that, there are benefits riding with a group and this group in particular consists of a bunch of seriously nice guys.

Will I ride with them again? Oh yes, I most certainly will. They're fast enough to stretch me a bit and I expect a few of them are actually MUCH faster than me. Also, they know the local area far better than what I do and I can discover many new routes by riding with them.
But above all else, they're a barrel of laughs, and who in their right mind would say no to that?