Road Bike Ride – Circumnavigation of Coventry

I'm currently down in Coventry visiting my family. Since my father died a few years back, I've tried to get down to see my mother every 7 or 8 weeks or so. On these visits I was spending up to a week at a time not getting much exercise, and also eating lots of the ‘goodies' that I banish from own home – bread, cheese, cake, biscuits, chocolate etc. As a result I was putting on a couple of pounds each visit. This has been a major contribution to my weight gain over the last couple of years, along with the frequently-mentioned excess beer intake of course. I finally decided to do something about making my family visits more healthy. So, I've been watching what I eat – I've been mainly sticking to the same things that I normally eat, except I did treat myself to bread with my salad this evening rather than my usual baked sweet potato.

To address the lack-of-exercise problem, I now keep a singlespeed road bike here. I was able to get a friend to build it for me out of our combined sets of spare bike parts plus about £25 worth of new bits. Riding it is a nice change from my geared bikes and isn't too much of a problem on the less hilly roads in this area. I've been re-exploring some of the North Warwickshire lanes that I used to ride my boyhood singlespeed bike around. There are a few short, sharp hills and moderately steep longer drags but very few have so far reduced me to walking.

Having covered most of the local lanes over the last 6 months or so, I decided to venture further afield this time so I brought my Etrex GPS down with me plus a laptop with Memory Map installed on it. I was going to plot a decent route for myself last night but I found this route on ‘Bikely'. It was pretty much what I had in mind so I downloaded it and edited it to meet my requirements. That added about 7 km to the total distance.

I'd been monitoring the weather forecasts for this week and decided that today was the best day to do the ride. Sure enough, I was treated to blue skies and sunshine when I got up. There had been a frost overnight and the air temperature was still pretty low this morning so I decided to wait until early afternoon to do the ride.

I was wearing a new pair of cycling shoes and quickly realised that the cleat position on my right shoe was wrong. I've made the mistake of ignoring this kind of thing in the past and ended up regretting it so I rode round the corner to get away from hordes of teenagers from the local comprehensive school and then dismounted to sort the problem out. 10 minutes later I was able to get going again. [PS – it turns out the shoes were tight as well. My feet were feeling pretty numb by the time I got home. It's difficult to stretch non-leather shoes but I'll have to try or I'll only be able to use the shoes for short rides]

The first few kms of the route took me over the local lanes I'd been doing over recent months. I rode up to Corley Moor and dropped down to Corley Rocks – site of many boyhood adventures. There are some small sandstone cliffs there which fascinated me when I was young. I stopped to take some photographs.

Singlespeed bike at Corley rocks

Corley rocks

A few hundred yards later, the roar of traffic reminded me that this area is very different now. The peaceful rolling fields have had an extension to the M6 motorway pushed through them. I took another couple of photos. It wasn't until I reviewed them later that I saw that they clearly showed the lunacy of modern motoring…

This picture was not taken to show drivers risking lives by driving too close together, it just happened to capture several doing just that. Tell me – are they obeying the ‘two second rule'?

Drivers ignoring the 'two second rule'

This one is taken facing the other way. I've accidentally caught a roadside memorial to an accident victim. Just round the corner on the road to Bedworth there was another one… Come on people – let's be careful out there!

Floral tribute

I got through Bedworth without any problems and then on through the villages of Bulkington, Shilton and Brinklow. There wasn't an excessive amount of traffic, but the roads were still busier than I like so I don't think that I'll do that precise route again.

It's much flatter to the east of Coventry than it is to the north so I was making reasonable progress given that conditions were fairly breezy.

As I approached Wolston, I spotted something in the road ahead so I checked over my shoulder and pulled out to avoid the mystery object. It turned out to be a big pile of large, loose sausages! I'd have skidded all over the place if I'd ridden over them. At that moment White Van Man decided to give me a scare by overtaking me at 50+ mph with only inches to spare. I congratulated him on his driving, in ‘the usual manner'…

On then through Ryton-on_Dunsmore, Bubbenhall, to Stoneleigh where I stopped for a few minutes to have a look around. After that it was a draggy climb up over the A46 Warwick bypass to Gibbet Hill.

I passed by the Warwick University campus and noticed how much it has expanded since I used to go and watch bands there about 30 years ago. I also noticed how the sophisticated female students I used to see around the campus seem to have been replaced by teenagers – I'm getting old…

As I slowly climbed up the 1.5 mile drag from Kirby Corner, a group of ‘yoofs' in a hot hatchback shot past me way-too-close and blasted me with their horn. Nice! Nicer still – they looped round and did it again, this time one of them leaning out of a window and screaming into my ear as they passed. Morons…

After passing through Burton Green, I headed for Berkswell. I go through Berkswell station about 16 times a year when travelling to and from the midlands, but I'd never realised that the station is over a mile from the village itself. That can't be very convenient for commuters when the weather is bad. I suppose it would be a case of out with the mobile phone, summon a lift. Either that or drive to the station in the morning and drive back in the evening. A lot of people seem unwilling to walk any distance these days.

Next village was Meriden, which claims to be the traditional centre of England. I made a mistake when plotting my route… I'd realised that the A45 is a busy dual carriageway, but I'd undersestimated how bad it would be to try and cross it. I should have gone over it or under it at Meriden, but instead I climbed up to Pinkett's Booth where I found that the crossing had been closed by an extension to the Armco barrier. I could immediately see why… The traffic flow was heavy, relentless and fast-moving. I dismounted and waited several minutes for a big enough gap in the traffic to be able to run across the first carriageway with my bike. Then I had to do the same again for the second carriageway. I would bet a large sum of money that there were serious or fatal accidents there when the junction was still open.

What a contrast on the other side of the A45! Soon I was back in the little network of lanes that I've been riding recently to the NW of Coventry. I'm very familiar with them now. It didn't take me long to go through Harvest Hill, Hawkes End, and Brownshill Green, and then back to my mother's house in upper Coundon.

It had been a good afternoon out on the bike, 42 miles in all. It felt like further because I'd done it in just one gear and there had been quite a headwind at times. I think that I'll look for quieter roads if I do a similar loop in the future. My favourite part of the loop was the roads I normally do, and I think that there is scope for exploring further afield in that direction.

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