Reliability Rides 2017 West Midlands

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At the start of every season a number of local clubs arrange and host reliability rides around the area. These are often around 50-60 miles in length, are unsigned, cost very little and have excellent cake at the end too. Traditionally these rides were the first test of the legs in an event, to see how they were faring at speeds a little quicker than the average Sunday club run. The reliability ride has now morphed into a popular mini-sportive, with a strong mix of riders at all levels taking part.

West Midlands Reliability Rides in 2017

Stratford Cycle Club Reliability Ride
When: 12th February 2017
Where: Home Guard Club, Tiddington, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Start: 10am
Route: Here
2016 Review2014 Review

CC Giro Reliability Ride
When: 12th February
Where: Rosliston Forestry Centre, Rosliston, Derbyshire/East Staffordshire
Start: 10:15am
Route: Here
2016 Review

Bridgnorth CC Reliability Ride
When: 12th February 2017
Where: Clee Cycles, Station Works, Hollybush Road, Bridgnorth
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here (gpx)

Malvern Cycle Sport Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Malvern Victoria Bowling Club, Victoria Park, Malvern Link, Worcestershire
Start: 09:30
Route: NA

Mid Shropshire Wheelers Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Shrewsbury Sports Village, Sundorne Rd, Shrewsbury
Start: 08:30
Route: Here

Royal Sutton Coldfield Reliability Ride
When: 19th February 2017
Where: Town Gate, Sutton Park, West Midlands
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here

Solihull CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Bluebell Cider House, Solihull, West Midlands
Start: 09:00am
Route: Here

Redditch Road and Path CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Mettis Aerospace Sports & Social Club, Cherry Tree Walk, Redditch, Worcestershire
Start: 08:30am
Route: Here
2016 Review

Audlem CC Reliability Ride
When: 26th February 2017
Where: Scout and Guide Hut, Audlem, SE Cheshire
Start: 09:15am
Route: NA

Echelon Cycles 3 Counties Challenge

Bromsgrove Olympic Reliability Ride
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Scout Hut, Kidderminster Road, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
Start: 10:00am
Route: NA

Echelon Cycles Three Counties Challenge
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Echelon Cycles, Pershore, Worcestershire
Start: 09:00am
Route: Here

Stafford Road Club Reliability Ride
When: 5th March 2017
Where: Stafford Rugby Club, Stafford, Staffordshire
Start: 9am
Route: Here

Nova Raiders Reliability Trial
When: 12th March 2017
Where: New Inn, Newport, Shropshire
Start: 09:30am
Route: Here

Wolverhampton Wheelers ’50 in 4′
When: 15th March 2017
Where: Pattingham Village Hall, Pattingham, Shropshire
Start: 08:45am
Route: Here

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Reliability Rides 2017 West Midlands was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

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Redditch CC Reliability Ride – 28th February 2016

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Redditch Road and Path CC Jersey

Another weekend, another reliability ride somewhere across the West Midlands! This time I’d managed to convince both George and Adam to accompany me to lovely Redditch for a 45 mile ride down to the very edge of the Cotswolds and back up again.

Redditch Reliability Ride

Driving down, we managed to find Adam in the car park surprisingly easily, touched base, took the bikes off the car, paid our £4 entry and upon the promise of a track pump, decided to pump up the tyres properly. Getting to Adam’s car it became clear that it had either wandered off or more likely had been left standing proudly to attention in the kitchen back home.

We set off tagged to the back of a group I knew would be quick (with many black and gold clad Sette Dodici riders from the Saturday morning sufferfest), only to immediately drop back at our own pace as we went straight into a decent leg warmer of a climb in the first half a mile. We found ourselves behind 3 or 4 riders as we left Redditch – the only drama being when one of their bottles decided it didn’t want to go for a rider and jumped out of its holder into the road, narrowly avoiding my wheels.

Redditch Reliability Route
Redditch Reliability Route

We found ourselves on top of The Ridgeway, a 3 mile long ridge (unsurprisingly) that stretches south from Redditch with great views for miles around and being slightly downhill in this direction, we were tanking along. We kept that speed up for awhile, tucked out of the wind because our two leaders whose pace we were happy to follow. We eventually went past them at Bidford upon Avon, where I used my local knowledge to tell the story of the tractor that took out the bridge, with the new stone clearly visible.

We took one of my unexplainable least favourite roads, the long straight road into Honeybourne, which always seems to be a headwind no matter the day or direction. I took the front and tried to keep a sensible pace, only forgetting when I saw a couple of riders up ahead which meant my competitive spirit kicked in…plus I’m a terrible pacemaker. We reached the turning around point at Willersey, had a bit of a conflab and then headed back to where we’d come from.

Bidford Bridge
Bidford Bridge

The route was nearly an out and back straight line, but we chose to do the optional loop for a bit of variation (and because I don’t like that aforementioned road). The road to the top of Marcliff was a long long not remotely steep drag, but the headwind made it feel far steeper than it was. Riding with two skinny guys, headwinds are where I have a bigger advantage being able to generate more power to push through them. The average speed began to drop and disappointingly the headwind made the descent back into Bidford rather tame as it made it feel more like flat than a drop.

The other side of the village, Adam began to drop back which was the start of a grind to the finish, as despite the obvious checks, nothing appeared to impede but Adam’s feedback was that all flats had begun to feel like they were uphill and even downhills weren’t offering a respite. Consensus seemed to be that it was rear wheel bearings, a tough one to fix on the road and we toughed it out to get to the finish together. George and I had a bit of a race up the hill into the village of Dunnington, he started off quickly and as I pegged him back, I reckoned he would pop before the top, at which point I would shoot off. Strava says I won by 11 seconds, but we both finished well above the average that day.

Toll House

Heading back up onto the Ridgeway, Adam’s speed really dropped as the effort required to keep his bike turning over started to hit the legs and the power disappeared. We were averaging around 10-12mph at this point with just under ten miles to go to the finish. We stuck together and tried to diagnose whilst riding but the bike was giving no clues, not even loosening off Adam’s back brakes (without him knowing) at a set of traffic lights seemed to help. We got ourselves back through Redditch and enjoyed the swoop back down the starting hill into the rugby club we started from.

Our £4 paid for a cup of tea and some cake at the end, we’d definitely earned some and the cherry sponge thing I had was frankly amazing! A nice ride, the fun of which taken a little bit by some bearings and once again I fell into my old habits of not taking photos again, bah.

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Redditch CC Reliability Ride – 28th February 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

John Perks Birthday Reliability Ride (CC Giro) – 14th February 2016

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CC Giro Logo

This Valentine’s Day, having no other plans to worry about, I headed out to lovely Burton on Trent with Rich (his first event) to do CC Giro’s reliability ride event. 3 events in 3 weeks is a good start to the Liège – Bastogne – Liège preparation – only 2 months left to go! CC Giro are a club from the gap north-east of Birmingham around Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton on Trent, well known for their Pink jerseys (inspired by the Giro d’Italia) and for being the home club of pro rider Dan Martin (of Liège – Bastogne – Liège winning and also crashing on the final corner fame).

John Perks CC Giro Start Rosliston Forestry Centre
Ready for the off…mine on the left, Rich’s on the right.
One £3000+ bike can be seen hiding in the background

Having caught the train up to Burton, we had just enough time to reach the starting point (Rosliston Forestry Centre), stand around for a couple of minutes, take a selfie, watch a man repair a puncture (puncturing before even starting is unlucky) and play guess the price on a Cervelo S2 with Zipp carbon wheels that was resting against the wall (correct answer is somewhere in the region of £3000+). Unfortunately we didn’t have time for a pre-ride coffee but Pret at New Street on the way up had sorted us for that anyhow. It would be nice to be able to ride a corner of the country I’d managed to never ride in up until this event.

John Perks (CC Giro) Reliability Ride

Repeating the same mistake as the Stratford ride, we tried to set off, only to see a group waiting to be released so looped round onto the back on that. Rich started receiving comments on his bravery for being the only person out wearing shorts, he was also the only person not with clippy shoes or a club rider. We sat comfortably on the back of this group for 15 miles, when we came to a hill where it all got very messy. As slower people at the front fell backwards, people had to work themselves around them, as a female rider suddenly swept across in front of me I decided I wanted out of this and shot off up the hill overtaking about 20 riders and getting some clear air. Once we were at the top I sat up to wait for Rich who surprisingly wasn’t too far behind – the big group had split into two smaller ones as a result of the hill and a roundabout shortly afterwards the guys on the front pretty much stopped to let people catch up. Rich and I pressed on.

The theory was that we could get a gap and if we started struggling we would be swept up by the group, rather than trying to hang onto the back of it. We’d been spared the headwind in the group but now in the headwind on our own it was tough work. Every now and again we could see the group behind us and the competitive instinct for the breakaway to stay away kicked in, pace was good and Rich was doing well. As we turned out and let the wind push behind us, a difficult section and a steep hill killed Rich’s knee which changed the rest of the ride for us.

Rich Mace John Perks CC Giro Climb
Rich crests the tough climb that killed his knee off…the dogs barking loudly behind me somewhat spoiled the moment.

Speed on the flat wasn’t too bad to begin with but each time the road went upwards, we were slowing right down. Eventually riders began to catch us, one by one, and we managed to jump onto the back of a group of 3 for awhile until a long drag meant they pulled a gap that couldn’t be closed. Eventually on this long straight stretch of road, our original group caught us after being away for 25 miles – I like to think that if the knee had held up then we’d have beaten them back. As it was we were firmly in stubborn resistance mode with Rich determined to finish at any speed. We did make it back, doing the 50 miles in 3 hours and 5 minutes – a respectable time, and I actually took my own photos on this event! Rich has also now bought clippy shoes ready for the next one…

Strava – John Perks Birthday Reliability Ride (CC Giro)

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John Perks Birthday Reliability Ride (CC Giro) – 14th February 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Stratford CC Reliability Ride Review – 7th February 2016

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Stratford CC Cycling Club Logo

After taking a year off last year because of rain, or more likely laziness I made the trip home from Birmingham to take part in my home club Stratford CC reliability ride. I wrote about the same ride in 2014 and whilst it followed exactly the same route, I wasn’t out there freelance as I was again on escort duty after the previous week’s ride in Stourbridge making sure that George made it round the route.

The Stratford CC Reliability Ride

Signing on for the slowest group with a 4 hour estimated time, we reckoned we should be able to come in under that as it was an average of 13.5mph. We tried to set off only to get shouted back by Wedge as we’d managed to completely ignore the group that had been formed ready for the starter’s pistol, we did the right thing and looped round and joined the back. We followed the decent sized group until I accidentally took a turn on the front trying to turn the single file line into a double one – it was into a strong headwind and whilst I thought I was doing a reasonable pace because I had someone still next to me, when I turned around it turned out I’d split the whole thing up and lost George too. So I sat up to wait.

Home Guard Club Stratford CC Reliability Ride
Home Guard Club where we started the ride – looks better inside!

We ended up behind everyone tackling the long 3 part climb up to Broadway Tower from Mickleton by ourselves at a sensible pace. I was giving details about the climbs to George so he knew what to expect and stuck with him all the way up. We ended up seeing a few hi-vis jackets further ahead that we both steadily gained and lost time on the whole way up but never caught. On top of the hill going through Lavender Fields the exposed nature meant that the wind really kicked in and slowed us right down, making each small gradient feel far worse. It was up here that George pointed a sign that said ‘Trail’ and made a move to take the turn before I double checked the Garmin and kept us on the right path. This sign undid a few of the quicker guys behind who did follow it and found themselves at some manner of horse riding event nearby instead.

Broadway Tower Stratford CC Reliability Ride
Broadway Tower is surprisingly high up

Dropping off the top of the hill, we had the run down into Stow on the Wold which has a couple of nasty kicks and a long drag up into the town. The odd blast of crosswind whilst descending at 35mph+ made for a couple of interesting moments, but it was on this stretch that we were caught by the first of the groups behind and moved out the way to let them blast through. We didn’t spend much time in Stow, instead negotiating the potentially sketchy descent into the village of Broadwell. I’d told George to watch out for the sharp left hand near the bottom and whilst acting as a pilot guide on the way down gave him the signal to slow down as the tricky bend was both tight, wet and covered in gravel – far from safe.

We briefly tagged onto the back of a couple of groups on the next stretch as we were caught by more and more, managing to stay on for a reasonable while with a couple of the Stratford CC guys until a climb coming out of Todenham stretched us out and we never got back on. It was in this group though at we saw something rather unexpected in Great Wolford. Coming up to a junction we came across a man on his own out taking his falcon for a walk. He had the proper bird of prey glove thing (sure I could have googled its actual technical name) and was just stood around like he was waiting for the bus, before greeting us with a cheerful ‘Good Morning!’.
George’s legs were beginning to tire out at this point and I began wildlife spotting pointing out three deer in nearby fields – the final couple of climbs up to Ettington and over Loxley Hill proved hard work. I lent a hand by helping push him over Loxley as we overtook another ride who was also struggling on the hills whose mate had left him.

Looking down the climb from Stow Stratford CC Reliability Ride
Looking down the climb up to Stow on the Wold

We made it back to the finish after 3 hours and 40 minutes, beating our chosen time limit. Post-ride rewards included hot soup followed by cake, a just prize for getting ourselves around the Stratford CC Reliability in one piece.

Strava – Stratford CC Reliability Ride 2016

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Stratford CC Reliability Ride Review – 7th February 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride Review – 31st January 2016

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Stourbridge CC Club Jersey

So, the first event of 2016 and I got to ride it with two of my mates, one very new to cycling and the other looking to start off the year with a long ride. The purpose of the early season ‘reliability ride’ is to test out the legs and see how you’re faring for speed as you complete a shorter but testing route. You’re given a route beforehand but generally it’s not signposted and it’s up to you to go the right way and sort out mechanicals en route.

I’ve seen the Stourbridge CC reliability ride come up the last few years but never quite found the time to do it, this year the plan was to cycle over from central Birmingham with George, meet Adam in Stourbridge, do the ride and then cheat and get the train home. The route was uploaded to the Garmin and we set off in the dark. A gentle ride across the city (and a collection of Adam) and we were at Kingswinford Rugby Club, handing over our money and signing in before having a cup of hot brown for warmth.

Kingswinford Rugby Club
Kingswinford Rugby Club – the start and finish point

Conditions were relatively good, not raining but chilly and quite mucky from the previous day’s rain.
We set off early (the slowest group) in order to give us plenty of time (being George’s first ever club event and Adam’s first in awhile) and ended up following a couple, who seemed to be having an early battle with plenty of orders and assistance required on climbs from the two mile mark. We were meandering along, keeping a steady pace without rushing and it was no surprise when the faster groups who had set off later caught up to us in a big long line and didn’t hang around.

We had a very hairy wet descent into Bridgnorth, I came into the first sharp bend far too quickly and had to try and do the big no-no of cornering whilst still on the brakes, which led to a load of under-steer and a second of panic as I saw the opposite kerb coming up and thinking I wouldn’t make it – luckily I did but I took the next bend at a more respectable speed. I had a bit of fun on the climb out of Bridgnorth, attacking it properly and overtaking a dozen other riders before sitting up at the top and waiting for the guys behind who had been sensible.

Bridgnorth Climb
The beginning of the Bridgnorth climb I had fun on

We’d found the headwind at this point and the most difficult stretch of the ride, a constantly undulating up and down series of solid climbs and descents that didn’t let up and didn’t give much chance to rest the legs. The average speed started tumbling but with the quick guys long gone all the riders were now struggling, we had a brief altercation with a car who didn’t appreciate some of the more wobbly unstraight hill climbing – cyclists going slowly uphill don’t have the energy for such nonsense. Eventually this hard section finished with us reaching Bewdley and crossing the river Severn.

This is where not knowing the area properly showed, we took a brief re-fuelling stop, tacked onto the back of a small group that passed us, had a tractor come past us on a tiny road and then straight up the steepest hardest part of the ride. The gradient shot up to between 15-20% and the group very quickly blew apart. I caught up to the rider who had made it to the front and had a laugh as Adam let out a loud cry of anguish at the effort behind. Struggling up in the lowest of the low gears at little more than walking pace I made it up using the bike and set to waiting at a crossroads at the top. 4 minutes later the guys appeared – I’ve been reliably informed that they walked/ran up the worst of it and Strava tells us that they weren’t the only ones that day. This effort pretty much killed off Adam’s knee for good, which required some nursing back to the finish.

Stourbridge Reliability Ride Profile
Stourbridge Reliability Ride Profile Map

The knee prevented Adam from going at anything like his usual pace, especially on the climbs where it was having the worst effect. We stuck together and managed to coax it back the final 10 miles as a unit without any serious damage being done and a restorative bacon sandwich as the reward at the finish. Our end time wasn’t amazing which wasn’t surprising all things considered with the injury – 3 hours and 16 minutes to complete the 42.3 mile course. Strava says that we came 101st out of 110 so a confidence boost to the guys that they’re faster than others with plenty left in the tank. A good ride and plenty of extra grub on offer too.

Strava – Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride 2016

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Stourbridge CC Reliability Ride Review – 31st January 2016 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling

Stratford upon Avon Cycling Club Reliability Ride Review – 9th February 2014

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I’ve been riding with the Stratford Cycling Club since June last year, so this was my first go at the Reliability Ride that’s organised to help kick off most people’s seasons.

The idea is to have a social ride and by choosing the most appropriate group, see if you’re up to the level of fitness that you think you’re at. The options were 3 hours, 3.5 hours, 4 hours and 4.5 hours. Aware of who was going in the 3 hour group, I went for the 3.5 hour group knowing I could try and hop onto the 3 hour group if they went past without the fear of getting dropped within the first 10 miles.

As it happened, everything went a bit mental between Long Marston and Mickleton. First the 3 hour group caught up with the 3.5 hour group and those in the same boat as me suddenly shot off to get on the back of them, they had the hammer fully down so people were coasting backwards as people tried to get forward.

Campden Road

This is where I attacked…I wanted to go at my pace.

The 3 hour group and the chasers then came across the 4 hour group and ended up with a large ragged group of riders trying to blast past another large sensible group of riders. On the far side of Mickleton I gave up trying to keep up, aware that I was just about hanging on but would blow up on the hill coming up if I kept it up. I soft pedalled and let a group go past around me, only to then attack out of the group (and be a bit dickish) at the start of the Campden Road hill. A couple went with me and the 5 of us pretty much rode the rest of the course together.

There was a bit of a split on the way up to Dover’s Hill with me and another dropping back from the other 3, it took a mile of Cancellara-ing (see picture) to get back on and I was fairly useless for the next 10 miles, unable to take a turn.

Cancellara Bars

Cancellara on the bars

The road to Stow was a combination of long downhills and long drags back uphill, finishing with another drag into Stow. Here the Banbury rider annoyed the group by solo attacking up the hill and all future rises in the road (eventually he pulled up with cramp on the hill up to Ettington).

The tailwind kicked in after Stow and we caught up with a couple, one young guy who got spat out the back almost straight away and Stratford’s Tom Lane who stayed until near the end at Loxley. This part of the route was nice but uneventful really, we just sped along at a relaxed but quick pace and pretty much just did the miles!

Loxley Hill

Loxley Hill

Two riders peeled off at Ettington and it was left to three of us to ride to the finish, the only mishap was as I led us down Loxley hill and didn’t see the sharp left hand turn in the village, luckily there was a lane going straight on (which is presumably where I thought I was heading) and I managed to ride down there instead of doing a Tommy Voeckler and going into someone’s driveway.

I ended up getting back at the same time as the Kenilworth Wheelers rider I’d been with since Chipping Campden and a big group that’d been ahead of us the whole way. Tony Kiss was naturally already there, having blitzed everyone and finishing in 2hrs 30.

My time: 2 Hours and 55 Minutes
Position:
Something like joint 20th out of 150ish? (despite appearances, it wasn’t a race!)

http://www.strava.com/activities/112171608

Stratford upon Avon Cycling Club Reliability Ride Review – 2014

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I’ve been riding with the Stratford Cycling Club since June last year, so this was my first go at the Stratford Reliability Ride that’s organised to help kick off most people’s seasons.

The idea is to have a social ride and by choosing the most appropriate group, see if you’re up to the level of fitness that you think you’re at. The options were 3 hours, 3.5 hours, 4 hours and 4.5 hours. Aware of who was going in the 3 hour group, I went for the 3.5 hour group knowing I could try and hop onto the 3 hour group if they went past without the fear of getting dropped within the first 10 miles from Stratford.

As it happened, everything went a bit mental between Long Marston and Mickleton. First the 3 hour group caught up with the 3.5 hour group and those in the same boat as me suddenly shot off to get on the back of them, they had the hammer fully down so people were coasting backwards as people tried to get forward.

Campden Road

This is where I attacked…I wanted to go at my pace.

The 3 hour group and the chasers then came across the 4 hour group and ended up with a large ragged group of riders trying to blast past another large sensible group of riders. On the far side of Mickleton I gave up trying to keep up, aware that I was just about hanging on but would blow up on the hill coming up if I kept it up. I soft pedalled and let a group go past around me, only to then attack out of the group (and be a bit dickish) at the start of the Campden Road hill. A couple went with me and the 5 of us pretty much rode the rest of the course together.

There was a bit of a split on the way up to Dover’s Hill with me and another dropping back from the other 3, it took a mile of Cancellara-ing (see picture) to get back on and I was fairly useless for the next 10 miles, unable to take a turn.

Cancellara Bars

Cancellara on the bars

The road to Stow was a combination of long downhills and long drags back uphill, finishing with another drag into Stow. Here the Banbury rider annoyed the group by solo attacking up the hill and all future rises in the road (eventually he pulled up with cramp on the hill up to Ettington).

Heading back to Stratford

The tailwind kicked in after Stow and we caught up with a couple, one young guy who got spat out the back almost straight away and Stratford’s Tom Lane who stayed until near the end at Loxley. This part of the route was nice but uneventful really, we just sped along at a relaxed but quick pace and pretty much just did the miles!

Loxley Hill

Stratford Reliability Ride Loxley Hill

Two riders peeled off at Ettington and it was left to three of us to ride to Stratford and the finish, the only mishap was as I led us down Loxley hill and didn’t see the sharp left hand turn in the village, luckily there was a lane going straight on (which is presumably where I thought I was heading) and I managed to ride down there instead of doing a Tommy Voeckler and going into someone’s driveway.

I ended up getting back at the same time as the Kenilworth Wheelers rider I’d been with since Chipping Campden and a big group that’d been ahead of us the whole way. Tony Kiss was naturally already there, having blitzed everyone and finishing in 2hrs 30.

Stratford Reliability time: 2 Hours and 55 Minutes
Position:
Something like joint 20th out of 150ish? (despite appearances, it wasn’t a race!)

Strava for Stratford Reliability Ride

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Stratford upon Avon Cycling Club Reliability Ride Review – 2014 was originally published on Me vs. Pro Cycling