A touch of spring?

I’ve been out on my bike again this weekend and the weather has been stunningly nice. Yesterday morning, with a frost on the ground and a bit of a breeze, was quite chilling to be out and about in, pedalling around the Cheshire, Staffordshire and Shropshire borderlands. I went in search of hills and found plenty – a bit different from the usual flat(ish) Cheshire Plain.  The last few miles were a bit of a struggle to be fair but well worth it as I found some new routes and some more to be explored over the next few months.

This afternoon, I was out again, despite my legs still feeling tight from yesterday.  It was an even nicer day with a bright sun and almost no wind at all. Spring didn’t seem far away as I headed out, with great tits and song thrushes singing as I peddled off.  Heading down one country lane, there was a mass of circling gulls, being lifted on what must have been one of the first thermals of the year – the dark, bare earth being heated by the weak sun and giving a lightly rising airflow.

On I peddled, and unlike yesterday my feet and hands were keeping warm, the sun warming my black shoes and gloves.  However, as soon as clouds appeared my feelings of spring soon disappeared as the chill started to claw back into my clothes – the brightness no longer taking the edge off the 5 degrees C air temperature.

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A bike for pootling

This week I took delivery of a new steed – a hybrid bike.

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Whilst I do have a mountain bike, it’s no longer fit to ride, so for a long time all my cycling has been on my road bike. However, I fancy having the option to have a change of pace from time to time; rather than racing around the roads, I want the choice to have a more leisurely pootle in the countryside. I also want to do some utility cycling, that is cycling for local journeys rather than sport/leisure cycling and I want a more comfortable bike to take on holiday so I can cycle around new areas rather than driving everywhere. A hybrid bike seems the perfect answer.

Hybrids bridge the gap between speed focussed road bikes and pure off-road mountain bikes. Mine, a Specialized Crosstrail, is closer to a mountain bike than road bike with front suspension, disk brakes and fatter tyres. I made this selection as I wanted to use it both on and off road; being able to take it off road gives me a greater choice of routes and enables me to get away from the circuits I would usually do with my road bike. I particularly want to give towpath cycling a go as there’s quite a good selection close to where I live with the Trent & Mersey, Shropshire Union and Llangollen all within easy reach of home.

Yesterday I gave the new bike a first proper run out and headed into Nantwich and onto the Shropshire Union. I pedalled north until the junction with the Llangollen where I turned west and cycled out to Wrenbury. I then joined the local country lanes, passing through Aston and almost getting into Audlem before heading north and back onto the Shropshire Union to travel back into Nantwich.

Riding along the towpaths certainly gave me some new views to take in and the journey was more relaxing than my usual cycling. The only issues I came across were the lumpiness of some of the paths, which made riding a bit uncomfortable in sections, and walkers getting in the way. I tried to be as courteous as possible, they have right of way after all, and I used the bell each time I approached a group. However, it seems that people have forgotten what a bike bell sounds like and on a few occasions they didn’t connect the sound of a bell to the possibility that a cyclist might be wanting to get past – one couple even thought I was a chicken! It seems that cyclists need to use them more and walkers need to be a little more aware their surroundings.

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I have to say I wasn’t sure cyclists would be welcome on the canals. Cyclists are allowed to use towpaths, most of them are permissive paths rather than rights of ways, and a permit is no longer needed (see Canal & River Trust website) but I got a big range in reactions as I travelled. Some people completely ignored my ‘hello’ as I passed and appeared unhappy that I was there while I had long conversations with others, interested in where I was going.

After yesterday’s first trip, I couldn’t stop myself and went out on the tow paths again today – a shorter route on a different section of canal but just as nice and a bit less lumpy. So far, so good – I can’t wait to see where my new bike takes me next.

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