Audax aficionados and regular readers will understand the acronyms. I am riding a 200k every month. February was quickly running out of days so with a dry day forecast in a winter of seemingly continuous storms I submitted my form to Tony – the SW DIY organiser and planned a ‘flat for Dorset’ route around the county starting and finishing at home. I live at the seaside so it’s never flat!
My route was planned to stick to bigger roads to avoid the hazards of closed roads, fallen trees and floods in the aftermath of the recent stormy weather. What could possibly go wrong?
I woke at 04:45 and it was quiet. No wind howling, no rain lashing the windows. Unusual these days, but good news and certainly worth getting up. I left at 05:45 and set off along the Bride Valley to Puncknowle and then joined the B3157 up and over Abbotsbury Hill to Weymouth. It was already getting light but as it was still early and quiet I decided to use roads built to bypass the town rather than go through. I was hassled by a lorry who objected to me riding on the road rather than using the cycle path. The problem partly was that I was going at about 45kph (gently downhill) and he was having difficulty in overtaking me.
The Law states:
“Cycle Routes and Other Facilities. Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.”
So cyclists are free to use whichever bit of the carriageway they consider safest, not only for themselves but other road users. The cycle path in this case was shared with pedestrians so at the speed I was riding it was entirely appropriate for me to be on the road. The lorry was intimidating me by driving close, being noisy with his brakes and beeping. He did eventually get past me and the white van behind him also beeped and was angrily shouting and gesticulating as he passed. I managed to stick to my policy of giving a friendly wave and a smile (but it was touch and go).
The sun was glowing in the east as I left the fury of Weymouth and continued on the A353/A352 to Wool, – more flat and fast .
I then chose to take Cycle route 2 to Wareham. It was a bright sunny morning, with just a gentle breeze. No floods – all was going according to plan. From Wareham I do use the cycle path, where provided, on the A351. It’s newly built, wide, great surface, no pedestrians and the road is fast and busy. It continues on the B3067 where the cycle lane is not worth the paint it is marked with and then down the A350 Hamworthy Road towards Poole. There was a small ’Road Closed’ sign but I decided they couldn’t be serious. They were!
I was able to walk around this OK and continued into Poole and then up the A349 to Wimborne. This was very busy and unpleasant. I won’t go there on a weekday morning again. Things improved considerably after Wimborne and the B3078 up to Cranborne was very pleasant. There was lots of evidence of the recent storms with flooded fields and fallen trees but nothing impeded my progress. The weather was clouding in a bit but as expected from the forecast it was still dry.
The next section from Cranborne is lovely. Wimborne St Giles is very picturesque. There were lots of snowdrops and daffodils in the verges, there were also some sections of very wet, gravelly lanes. It started to drizzle at Gussage All Saints. The hill out of Gussage St Michael had some tree work, so I had to stop and walk – and then walk some more as I couldn’t get going on the hill.
It was 11:00 and I had to admit it was raining. It was still nice and warm though and I was enjoying my ride. The hill down into Long Crichel was very gravely and broken. I came across a Road Closed sign but the flood I could see was pretty feeble and I just walked round it.
Round the corner there was a proper flood covering the road and the field at both sides flooded. I discovered it was too deep to ride through without submerging my bottom bracket and hubs. I didn’t want to go back so I just stayed out of the water on the bank as much as possible and carried my bike through it. I got quite wet!
It was raining properly as I reached the A354 to Blandford and switched my lights back on. As expected the Stour was still out in the fields in many places in the Stour Valley and I stuck to the A357 to Sturminster Newton which was fine. From Lydlinch I followed delightful lanes across to Alweston and then took the A352 to Dorchester. I shall be on this road again on Sunday when I ride the Audax Calendar event, The Primrose Path. This is a 100k ride but with just under 2000m of elevation is not for the faint hearted. Arthur Vince the organiser promises narrow lanes, steep ascents and descents, blind bends, loose surfaces, 1000’s of potholes, mud, surface water and flood debris. There is also likely to be mist on higher ground. Sounds like a fun day out in store!
At Charminster I did a loop around Dorchester as the DIY distance is measured using Google Maps shortest walking distance and to get the route long enough it had to go to West Stafford. It is the route submitted before the ride at the planning stage that is authorised – the distance ridden so long as it is over 200km does not matter but you do have to visit the controls submitted. (Today the distance ridden was 213.8km). At Charminster I had ridden 180km – unsupported and alone and I was quite tired and very wet. Any experienced Audax rider (which I am not) will tell you that a successful ride is as much in the head as in the legs. Audax requires mental toughness. So off I went on my little detour – I actually did a proper detour to the ’West Stafford’ sign just to be correct before heading west again and in the ‘right’ direction.
I had couple of hundred metres on the A35 at Winterbourne Abbas which was enough to tell me there were problems on the road again.
My route was along the Bride Valley to Burton Bradstock. This is normally quiet with slow , considerate local traffic. Today it was mayhem with frustrated drivers from the A35 trying to find a way through. The weather had deteriorated now to rain with low cloud making driving hazardous.pic 3750. From Long Bredy onwards it was quieter and I dredged up my positive head and enjoyed the last few wet miles.
My plan of a dry day on clear roads with no closures, fallen trees or floods didn’t quite work out. However it was a successful first attempt at the February 200k RRTY – unlike January which took 3 attempts. I cycled alone and was completely unsupported. I did not even have an indoor stop and just bought a sandwich from the garage at Shillingstone. (hair shirt!!!)