Seven riders met on Sunday 2nd February to be joined by PeterB later on. This off-road ride was a loop around Northampton taking in the off-road sections through Harlestone Firs, Grange Park and Salcey Forest.
There was a mix of clean, mountain and gravel bikes at the start. James C was the exception as he had already cycled along Brampton Valley Way just to make sure he and his bike were suitably muddy. The rest of us had to wait half a mile or so until we rode across the golf club on a gravel track through the fairways, avoiding the golf balls from some friendly golfers. At the end of this we hit the first stretch of serious mud into Harlestone Firs. Considering it was February the temperature was a balmy 10 degC, however, there had been rain overnight.
The route in general was a series of tracks followed by cycle paths or roads where the bikes briefly shed the mud ready for the next muddy section. Just to prove the worth of tubeless tyres Alan got a puncture on the canal path, stopped to look at a green patch oozing from the tyre, waited 30 seconds and then was off again with no need for a pump, very impressive. On the section through Salcey Forest to Piddington I kept thinking I hope I don’t have a puncture. Quite a messy experience if I had.
The last section to Billing Aquadrome and the coffee stop was on road. Looking at the riders without mudguards it would have been impossible for them to use the café and sit on any of the decent seats. As it was the café inside Billing Aquadrome was in winter mode and only served coffee so we sat outside on the benches, by which time the sun had made a brief appearance.
We didn’t get to Billing until 12:15 so the general consensus was to miss out the last section and head for home as several of us were about to leave the group anyway.
It was an interesting route around Northampton and made a change from riding out on country lanes, not to mention giving the gravel bikes a good test.
Thanks to Phil Letts for devising this route.