Eight riders set out from the Mansfield at 8am to ride over 75 miles on the canal towpath. The route started in Rugeley heading out to Great Haywood, down to Penkridge and headed for Wolverhampton before turning towards Birmingham. From the city centre the route goes out to Minworth and onto the outskirts of Tamworth before heading up to Fradley Junction and finally turning back towards Rugeley.
Starting out the path is well used but once past Great Haywood it is grassy and rutted making riding very uncomfortable, it stays like this almost into Wolverhampton. From here through Birmingham and al the way to Minworth the path is lovely then the final leg back is back on grassy tracks up to Fradley where the path once again well used.
The weather was overcast but warm with the occasional spot of rain which made for a great day out on the bikes. We set off at a steady pace knowing it was going to be a long day in the saddle. The challenge with riding on the towpaths is that it is predominantly flat so there is not much time to free roll, having said that there are no hills to climb as well. But it does mean you spend most of the time sat in the saddle and a few riders ended up with sore behinds after the ride was over.
We rode on a mixture of Gravel and mountain bikes and to be honest both types of bikes are ideal for towpaths. Maybe the mountain bikes faired better on the grassy rutted parts but then the gravel bikes flew along the inner city paths.
There were a few punctures from thorns as there had been a number of the hedges cut recently all round the route. But these were dealt with without any issues. I think Les wins the title for the most punctures in a single repair. Alan counted 3 thorns wedged in his tyre. Which happened just as we entered Brereton.
Our 1st stop was in Wolverhampton where we all got stuck into Breakfast at Mrs Teas. A well earned break at about 11am
From here we rejoined the canal and headed towards Birmingham. The towpath had improved at this point and the pace was picking up.
Rolling into Brum we enjoyed a coffee from Nero just by the Sealife centre. Just time for a group photo before setting off on the homeward bound part of the route.
Those who rode this route last year knew that the next few miles of towpath were slightly downhill and lots of fun, and the others quickly developed smiles as well. A welcome relief on the legs at least for a short while.
The next planned stop was at the Tame Otter near Tamworth for a traditional beer. Can it be called traditional on the 2nd year of doing it? Just before reaching the pub Dave caught a wasp between his lips and was stung on the top lip. By the time we reached the pub he looked like he had Botox on his lip. So he had a medicinal Rum and the obligatory coffee.
After drinks we rode onto Fradley Junction for the final stop and more coffee. This time last year we stopped here because we were all struggling, whereas this year we did not need to stop really which is a sign that the early pacing at the start paid dividends in the end.
The last few miles back into Rugeley were very pleasant. The total time was a little over 10 hours with 6 ½ hours riding time. We averaged 12.1 mph which considering we were not out to race was a nice casual speed.
Just a special mention to Wil who rode with us, his previous biggest ride was 40 miles, a great effort and congratulations on your new biggest ride of over 75 miles.