Sunday, 4 August 2013

The quintessential Southern Shandy drinkers XC ride

Not sure what the distance of this little 'Old Skool' XC loop is, but it takes about four to five hours to complete. And to be honest I'm only posting this because I've been asked so many times about it. The ride starts for me from my front door, I just cross the road and I'm already on a bridleway on the Rothchilds land heading towards Woburn. It's just gone 8am and I'm getting hot already. Off the Rothchilds land and into Blue Bell Woods, I descend towards the Grand Union and I get soaked by the early morning dew being thrown up from the close cut grass, wasn't expecting that.
Once across the canal it's a short spin on the road to Rushmere, a fantastic hilly country park and the scene of much cycle way building, including downhill runs. Rushmere is a great stop for coffee, but I'm too early this time.
Nice views overlooking  the park and lake
I'm now heading towards Woburn, and the trails turn from deciduous woodland to coniferous forest. I'm on the Greensand Ridge and the sand is deep and dry and has to be taken at speed just to stay upright. This whole area is one of my favourites. I tear through the Pines, drop down to Woburns 'play area', through the ancient sand pits and out towards Lidlington.
I have a long arrow straight exposed path to ride, it's so firm I'm reminded of my trip to the Arenberg earlier this year - I realise my suspension is locked out!
On the tarmac again and riding past the mahoosive Amazon warehouse. I take advantage of the cycle lanes which oddly just become natural trails once past the huge building. I tear arse down the path praying no one is out for an early stroll. More road, and I can see the next section of off road looming 'Up' in the distance. From Lidlington I climb a nasty loose ascent towards the Millbrook testing ground, it's a bit surreal up here, I'm riding typical English singletrack, but a glance to my left I see what looks like a mini Switzerland that is Millbrook. I have a very steep loose descent that seriously caught me out in pre disc brake days, I don't get it wrong today. It starts to undulate so much I can feel each little climb sapping my strength, riding in the 'granny' I have my nose over the front wheel trying desperately to keep the front wheel planted. I top the last little hill and plummet down towards the site of the latest Center Parcs.
I'm now on the return leg and on another great little sandy trail. This one is shared with proper 4X4 enthusiasts and on a bike it's fast and furious. The key is to stay on the sides of the path, hit the middle and you fall mercy to the deep sand and once in it, it's hard to get out without ending up on your arse. I then exit the sandy forest and continue on field side paths that take me almost back to Woburn.
My next section of trail follows a stream, I'm pretty confident I won't be getting a 'booty' today. I exit the creek and pootle through Woburn Safari park.
As I pass through the park I notice the sign that tells me only 3 deer have been killed this year, that's low IIRC.
I'm back in Woburn woods and I can't avoid the climb or any climbing, I slowly climb up onto the ridge and once on top I know it's all downhill, well mentally anyway. The Brickhills are still standing in my way. At this point I should be almost home, but I noticed two roadies about to take the hilly Brickhill route, and foolishly I decide to chase. I catch them, but they're not proper roadies just sports riders (one day I'll write about my snobbery) oh well it's a few extra miles.
It's shortly after this that I rejoin my outward leg, feeling pretty good and still carrying a bit of fluid I decide to up my pace. I take care as I hoon along as it's getting to Sunday walk time. I exit Rushmere without upsetting a soul and start my ascent of Blue Bell Woods. Passing through here earlier I was soaked by the morning dew, now my arms and legs are glistening with sweat under the afternoon sun.
I exit the woods and roll down the road to my house, job done. Four hours it's taken, come winter that'll be closer to five.
Brambles were a pain today

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