Cycle Adventure 2016 – Day 1 – Derby To Stratford

Cycle Adventure 2016 – Day 1 – Derby To Stratford

On Friday 2nd of September, ten months ago (more or less) I set off on my first cycle tour. In many ways, it was building up to the long journey that inspired my Mini-Cycle adventures.

I don’t know why I decided to go – I knew I wanted a holiday in 2016, and toyed with the idea of exploring the bike-loving and museum-filled city of Amsterdam.

But then I remembered an idea I’d had years ago, which I christened internally ‘Home to Home’ where I would cycle from my current home in Derby to my parents home in Hampshire.

I looked on Google Maps and started breaking up the journey in my head…and that was it. Amsterdam was forgotten. The bug had bitten me. I couldn’t shake it. It was time for a cycle tour.

I did a lot of prep for it – and I will be alternating my ‘journey’ blogs with more information about how I packed and planned – but I think its time to tell the story of the journey itself.

Put your helmet on and make sure you’re wearing a Hi-Viz – we’re off!


Cycle Adventure Day 1 – Friday 2nd September – Derby to Stratford

Length: 65 miles  5.5 hours estimated – 8 hours to be safe
Destination: YHA Stratford, Hemmingford House, Alveston, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 7RG

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Mini Cycle Adventure – Chesterfield

Mini Cycle Adventure – Chesterfield

Hey all! Another blast from the past here as I play catch up – this cycle was way back in August 2016, eight months ago – whoosh there goes time right there – and the last I took before my cycle adventure proper, which I swear I’m going to get round to soon!

For those who enjoyed my previous blog about packing for a cycle adventure, there will be another one along in due course.

So, I wanted to visit a good friend from my Uni days whom I had not seen in many years – he actually lives in Sheffield but I had it in my head that he lived in Chesterfield, so suggested we meet up there. Only when we met did I learn my mistake, though thankfully it is roughly equidistant from Derby and Sheffield so it made a fair compromise in the end.




I saw that this was a chance for another mini adventure to get myself ready for the big one in August – it would be the longest I’d done requiring a trip of some 30 miles each way.

Roughly 60 miles in a day – not too bad! I got the map (see below) and prepared to head out.

Date: Sunday 21st August 2016
Length: 54 miles (27 each way)
Time: 6 hours (3 hours each way)
Route: Via A38 and Five Pits Trail

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Packing For A Cycle Adventure 1 – Clothes

Packing For A Cycle Adventure 1 – Clothes

Hi all! It’s been a while, but I’m back.

So, way back in September 2016, I went on my first *real* cycling adventure, a holiday which saw me trek solo from my current home in Derby to my parents’ house in Surrey, via Stratford, Oxford and Newbury (in West Berkshire).

But before I could go, I of course need to pack.

This took several weeks because a) I didn’t have some of the items I needed b) I wasn’t sure what I could and couldn’t carry and c) I am just generally quite bad at getting round to things.

Ah, packing for a cycle tour.
The ultimate conundrum.
You can’t take too much because you’ll be weighed down and won’t make good speed. But you need to take everything because you’ll be on your own and need to prepare for every eventuality. 
I was not being ultra hardcore and camping out – I’m not a fan of camping and I thought it would be a little foolhardy to try on my first long try – and so a lot of the general paraphernalia of tent, cutlery, stove etc. could thankfully be discounted.

But that still left me with lots of decisions to make.
I divided my packing into several areas, like so…

  • Clothing
  • Spongebag
  • Essentials
  • Food and Drink
  • Bike Tools

But what to take in each? Well, now I have been there and back again I can comment on what I took, what I found useful, what I will take next time, and what I wish I’d left at home.

We’ll start on this entry with clothes, because it is one of the hardest areas, mainly because clothes are not optional (as I have been told, officer) and they get very bulky very quickly. Although not heavy, they can take up a lot of space in your luggage, and of course the number and type will depend on the climate so always bear that in mind.

September 2016 was pleasant and mild, with a little rain here and there – an easy temperate weather to pack for, but also a little unpredictable.

Vacuum Bag
Not technically a clothes item of course but very useful – I packed the majority of my clothes into a large vacuum bag on every major journey. There were some clothes I was taking which I knew I wouldn’t need until I got home (smart clothes mainly) so they stayed in there. Because they are fitted with one-way valves, you can suck the air out yourself without the need for a vacuum cleaner, although you will need strong lungs. Two things to bare in mind if you’re thinking of using a vacuum bag – firstly, if you pack your stuff into the bag clumsily and quickly, then it will have very little benefit. Always take care to pack things as neatly as possible, so when the air is removed it takes up a small, efficient space. Second, although the vacuum bag reduced the SPACE clothes take up, it won’t reduce the WEIGHT. If you pack a load of heavy clothes, they will still be heavy, and may make the journey uncomfortable.

I haven’t got any photos of my vacuum bags, but you can find them on eBay.

Pants and Socks

Pictured: Definitely not my sexiest underwear.

Obviously you need these. But the question is…how many? My answer: Three pairs of each, wearing one with two in the packing. Of course, this means that you will need to be scrupulous about washing and drying them (as I hope you would anyway). At most carry four to give yourself a grace period between washes. But remember, the more you pack, the more you will have to wash and dry, and the more dirty underwear you’ll be carrying around if you don’t have a chance.
I’d say the same goes for bras, but I leave it to the individual lady in question 😉

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Mini Cycle Adventure 4 – Beeston Via Trent Lock

Mini Cycle Adventure 4 – Beeston Via Trent Lock

It is very rare that one has a perfect, or even near-perfect, cycle – when the weather, the temperature, the route, the conditions are just right – but I believe I may have had one on this particular day, on this particular journey, from Derby to Beeston alongside the River Trent.

Date: Sunday 7th August 2016
33 miles (16.5 each way)
4 hours (2 hours each way)
 Via Trent Lock

Now, full disclosure: the vast majority of this trip I had already done once, so it was not a wholly explorative experience – back in June I went to see the fabulous burlesque show ‘The Gilded Merkin’ at Nottingham’s Glee Club, and cycled the full 20 miles there and back, braving the return journey in near-darkness, which was highly adventurous and possibly crazy – this time I was familiar with route and able to take some illustrative photographs for y’all!

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Mini Cycle Adventure 3 – Dale Abbey

Mini Cycle Adventure 3 – Dale Abbey

Dale Abbey is one of those places in which an unfeasible amount of history, beauty and interest is wrapped up in an area you could skim a stone across. I had decided a few weeks back to do a trip out there, picking it because it was a relative short (10 mile) cycle and could be done in an evening. As it happened, the evening I’d planned to cycle was booked up and I ended up doing it on a Saturday, but that worked out well because the weather was perfect.


I set off in late afternoon, about 4pm – I’d been very kindly invited to a BBQ-and-birthday-party earlier, which meant that I was well fuelled-up with protein and carbs…and also needing to justify eating them in the first place!

Date: 6th August

Length: 20 mile round trip (10 miles each way)

Time: 1 hour 50 mins (55 minutes each way

Route Out: Via Riverside and Borrowash 

Route Back: Via Spondon and Chaddesden (If you like – I went the same way out and back!)

The route actually took me along the riverside (the river in question being the Derwent), a place I know very well and part of the Route 6 and the Route 54; now those who looked at the map above and read my previous Mini-Cycle Adventure Blog, Kirk Hallam and Spondon, will see that I could have gone via Spondon and simply turned off earlier to get to Dale Abbey.

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The 5 Levels of Cycling

The 5 Levels of Cycling

Hi all!

So, the title of this blog – The Intrepid Cyclist – is a statement of intent rather than fact.

I am not, at the moment, intrepid. Keen, certainly. Willing, absolutely.
But I am not one of those cyclists whom I so admire, those men and women with two bottle brackets and nut-brown calves who can strip down their bikes to components and build them up again by the wayside.

I aspire to be one of them.

In my last week at my old house, before I moved to the Tiny House, on the way to work my route happened to synch up with a platoon of Intrepid Welsh Cyclists (I could tell their nationality before they spoke, each bicycle being adorned with a Y Ddraig Goch on a little pole – I fell into talking with them, and they revealed they were doing a route taking in Manchester to Cardiff route (their next stop was Liecester, so I assume they were on the return journey). I was incredibly impressed, not least because the previous days had been utterly awful, weather wise.

I felt an overpowering urge to tag along with them, instead of doing my usual 20 minute cycle to work – but of course it was not to be.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the ‘levels’ of cycling – I have recently ‘leveled up’ a little, from replacing walking and taxis to replacing bus journies – I am now a ‘level 3’ cyclist. Just a little more grinding and I can start replacing short train journeys with cycling.

In fact, long ones – or one long one a least. Time to reveal my MASTER plan – in about a month, in September, I am planning my first REAL Cycle Adventure, not a Mini (or even a medium!) – heading on a ‘Home to Home’ route, from my home in Derby to my parents’ in Hampshire.

Around 150 miles, with stops overnight in various locales – so I urgently need to up my stamina, my bike-maintenance skills and my kit!

In the meantime I will present to you my thoughts on the 5 Levels of Cycling – in order to make it slightly more interesting than just me rambling, I’ve presented this as a marketing blurb for different cyclists – enjoy!

Intrepid Cyclist LTD – Your One Stop Shop For Cyclists of All Types!
Rover Range™
Do you yearn for the great open spaces, the thrill of the new, the open road?
Then you need one of our new Rover Range™! Unlike the Racer Range™ (built for all speed, all the time) and the Rugged Range™ (kitted out for tough terrain and fancy tricks) our new Rover types are all about exploration and adventure!

1. Débutant


Our budget model designed to suit beginners, the Rover Débutant is a solid all-round A-to-B cyclist. It will stick to pavements and designated cycle paths when at all possible, proceeding at a leisurely pace, not taking on steep inclines or declines, but completely at ease with flats.

Comes with: Pump, lights, helmet, hi-viz vest

NB: Depending on the model, it may not include hand-signalling as standard – be sure to check with your local retailer to avoid disappointment

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Mini Cycle Adventure 2 – Carsington Water

Mini Cycle Adventure 2 – Carsington Water

A few weeks ago a friend of mine brought the existence of Carsington Water, a-reservoir and near-public park operated by Severn Trent Water, to my attention – she said she used it for a leisurely cycle with her other half most weekends, and that it was a thoroughly pleasant place worth a visit.

It stuck in my head as a cycle adventure destination, and so last week I decided (fairly late on, it must be said!) to make good on my inclination and head off there.

I live a little further away than my friend so to get their would require, according to Google Maps, a modest hour and a half journey out and back, allowing me to return before the day was ended.

I packed my lunch (actually my dinner, as I would be out there in the evening) and set out around 3:30pm.

Date: 23rd July 2016
Length: 28.6 mile round trip (14.8 miles each way)
Time:  5 hours (2.5 hours each way)
Route Out: Via Kedleston Road

NB: I do NOT recommend this outward route to novice cyclists. It is far too hilly. Far better do the route below both ways.

Route Back: Via Duffield

I made a rather abortive start, thinking I could make my journey quicker and more pleasant by cutting through Markeaton Park – I was wrong on both counts as, being a sunny Saturday in the UK, the park was heaving with people, but I still got a chance to see some pleasant sights including the apparently permanent climbing area that has been installed, and the newly finished Orangery area…

The glorious Derbyshire countryside was at it’s best, but sadly my luck wasn’t – I had been careful, not wanting to rely on Google Maps and the necessary 4G data connection to support it – to write down the whole journey step-by-step including important roads, on a piece of paper (like some kind of primitive cave man).

Continue reading “Mini Cycle Adventure 2 – Carsington Water”