Riders: John Clarke (Ride Leader / Route Planner), Lindsey Clarke, Pete Down, Jenny Down, Karen Cleminson, Matt Lowe, Peter Hanks, Andy Singleton, Lawrence Buckley, Nathan Daffern-Powell, Martin Bagshaw (Assistant Ride Leader / Report Author)
After several weeks of planning and worrying about the weather, the day arrived for our inaugural TVC Gravel ride which had been suggested at the AGM as an addition to our normal scheduled road rides. After a drier than normal February we had a wetter than normal March so excessive mud was a concern, but ride leader John assured us that he’d done the course in far worse, and we’d be fine.
9 riders were at the Cricket Club with a further 2 planning to join us at Blyth so it promised to be a good turn out and, despite the poor weather forecast, it wasn’t raining when we set off although it was a bit windy. Ride Leader John is a seasoned gravel cyclist and picked one of his favourite routes for our first Saturday ride, a 31-mile round trip starting and finishing in Blyth. The only problem was we wanted to start & finish in Tickhill so, after a bit of head scratching, a plan B route was hatched with a 5-mile road ride into Blyth and an off road detour back into Tickhill at the end.
The ride into Blyth was ok but not what people who’d signed up for a gravel ride were expecting. The only saving grace was it was over quite quickly! In Blyth we met Lindsey & Karen as planned to complete our little peloton of 11 riders itching to get off road and get some mud on our tyres. Seven miles after setting off we took a left onto a bridle path into the Foljambe Estate and what, at first sight, seemed quite a muddy field. To be fair to John this was just about as muddy as it got but, at the time it was a bit un-nerving for the gravel rookies among us. Slips and falls on muddy tracks are an ever-present risk on this type of ride, but it was a surprise when the only “off” of the day occurred in the first 100m after leaving the road and saw one of our more experienced gravel riders on his back in a puddle, although diplomacy prevents me from naming names! No damage done, we were soon back on it leaving the muddy field for the made tracks and estate roads of the Foljambe Estate which we enjoyed for the next 6 miles taking in open fields, tree lined avenues, the picturesque hamlet of Scofton and the stately 17th century Osberton Hall all with not so much as a tractor to contend with, lovely.
After sorting the only puncture of the day out, which took longer than anticipated and left the victim vowing to convert to tubeless, we left the serene countryside for the more built up suburbs of Manton and a mile or so through an estate to cross over the A57 on a footbridge and return to the green lanes behind Worksop College to ultimately get into Clumber Park. The forest trails in Clumber are made with shale and gravel so the rain hadn’t turned them into a bog which was a relief and made for a pleasant ride into the heart of the park where we stopped for an obligatory photo on the newly restored bridge over the lake. Thoughts were turning to the café now, but John had other ideas and we headed away from the lake and back into the forest, again on nice tracks, completing a 3 mile loop to bring us to a National Trust pop up café for a coffee and a bun. There was one obstacle before the café, a ford where the river Poulter leaves the park and where the footbridge is closed meaning there was no option but to ride the ford. While the excess rain hadn’t made the tracks as muddy as anticipated, it had swollen the ford and John commented that “it looks a bit deeper than last time!”. Being the ride leader, he was sent first to test the depth and made it through with only slightly soggy feet which seemed a small penalty to pay to get to the café so one by one everyone successfully followed.
Coffee, tea, pasties and cakes consumed it was time to get back on the trails again, leaving Clumber and over more open fields, now bathed in sunshine, to head to Elkesley where we crossed the A1 and picked up familiar quiet lanes towards Ordsall and Babworth . Here we left the familiar lanes for the woods and trails again, this time a bit sandier with the odd deep puddle of standing water to contend with but we were all seasoned off roaders by now and a bit of water wasn’t going to stop us. Famous last words, as a mile later my own personal day took a turn for the worse when I rode into a puddle quite happily and came out the other side minus the jockey wheel cage of my rear derailleur unfortunately finishing my gravel ride for the day ☹
After assessing the damage, it was agreed that the majority of the group would continue the last few off road miles back to Blyth and, ultimately, Tickhill while Pete would stick with me and help splitting the chain, turning the bike into a single speed fixie to limp back on the roads to Tickhill. Jenny also sacrificed the remainder of her gravel ride to head directly back to Tickhill, collect the car and drive back out to pick me up should the temporary repair fail before getting home. According to Strava, everyone else made it back to Tickhill in one piece and looking at the photos and comments on Facebook, all had a brilliant time.
Conclusion is that this gravel riding might catch on and we’ll certainly be planning the next one in a few weeks once I’ve got my bike sorted out 😊
John C for planning a brilliant route with a variety of terrain and scenery.
Pete D for helping me out in my hour of need.
Jenny D for broom wagon duties, coming out to collect me if required.
Everyone else for making the first TVC Gravel Ride a resounding success.