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Ride report: Dog and having the balls

Which roads are dangerous? This ride report shows it is not always the ones you expect.

It was New Years Day 2018 and I was desperate to get a new tiles ride on the board as soon as possible, given that December had more-or-less been a wash-out. Unfortunately I need to be back home by about 10am, so a proper decent length ride featuring new squares was going to be an impossibility. I concoted a plan to ride just 28 miles on the western border of my current square in the M3 corridor south-west of Basingstoke. Here’s the ride. We are now sufficiently far away from London (about a 60 mile ride from Trafalgar Square) that things are reasonably rural and it can be quite difficult to get in a square. The ride features three separate “nubbins” (deviations off the main route which you have to double-back on) because there was no option to do anything else.

I hadn’t expected much drama from the first nubbin – a tarmac-ed road – albeit to a dead-end and full of potholes. It wasn’t even a private road acting as a bridleway or footpath, it was genuine public road and is on the route of the Wayfarer’s Walk to boot. So it should be ok to not be “from round these parts”. I was wrong. With my Garmin showing I had reached the new square, I turned in the road outside Breach Farm (just south of Dummer). I heard a woman’s angry shout and then a black dog came rocketing out of the farm’s open driveway. He was as angry as the woman’s shout. Clipped in with only one pedal and at a standing start, the dog had no bother getting alongside my front wheel.  Although he was in a terrible state – barking and snarling like crazy – he decided not to go under the wheel and I was able to pick up speed. Thankfully the dog also decided not to bite – the worst I suffered was when he pounced his front paws against my SealSkin-coated ankles.

I was almost back at the entrance of the nubbin when he finally gave up. I have no idea whether the angry shout of the unseen woman was at me or her dog. It’s the first time I have had a very close encounter with a properly angry and uncontained dog on UK roads. Got the heart racing!

Later on in the ride, I had another square to visit. The night before the ride, I couldn’t decide whether to do it. At first glance it looks like an easy A303Square

With a road running right through it, this should be an easy square?

one – there is a road running right through the middle of it. But this is the A303 (CBRD description). Most UK people will know this road as a major road that goes right past Stonehenge. And the tile is where the A303 is at its most major – in fact in the extreme right of the picture you can see the road turn dark grey – this is Strava Route Planner colouring for a motorway – the road is just about to merge into the M3. It has two carriageways, slip roads, central reservations, the lot. A bigger and faster road than most American Interstates and many of the motorways of Europe. I would not normally ride roads like this. I’m even scared of riding on roads like because I know from driving on it that vehicle speeds are routinely well in excess of 70mph, even in the inside lane. But, but, it’s the only road I can verify as public in the tile, and this tile will soon be the western edge of my square, so another part of me really wants to go there. And I will be there at about 8.30am on New Year’s Day… how busy can it be?

Whilst vacillating back-and-forth whether it is worth riding down this road just to get a tile, I read about this crash just two days before and found this thread from YACF exhorting me not to ride on this road. (YACF contains some hardcore audaxers who generally won’t be told where to ride). I am opposed to the imposition of laws such as mandatory helmets or hi-viz, or banning cycling from particular roads. This does not mean I forgo a helmet myself, or that I will ride any road that I am legally entitled to. What to do, what to do.

In the end I come to a compromise with myself. I will ride the road but not tell my wife, so she can’t tell me how bloody silly I am.

And, to be honest, the ride is fantastic. I spend five minutes riding two miles of silky smooth tarmac. In that time four cars pass me and they all pretty much move entirely into the outside lane – though they are going fast, I don’t feel buffeted or close passed.

So I guess you just can’t tell which road is going to be dangerous.. an empty dead-end or a near-motorway. Have fun riding every tile!

P.s. this ride took my max square to 52×52

3 comments on “Ride report: Dog and having the balls

  1. Ian says:

    Congratulations on reaching that size square.
    I would certainly be reluctant to ride the A303 but choosing to go early on New Year’s Day sounds the best way of minimising traffic. Maybe Xmas Day next year?
    I like the term nubbins! I’ll use that in future.
    Personally I would resort to other human power like mtb or even walking if it meant grabbing a particular tile in a difficult situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. codadelgruppo says:

    What you call a “nubbin” I call a “tile tickler”. Sometimes those little out-n-back deviations hold unexpected pleasures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matt Fletcher says:

      Here’s me thinking of using little roads etc was crazy enough to get tiles, luckily we have loads of off road trails that also cover a lot of tiles round here so not to cover them round Nottingham/Derbyshire.

      Well done anyway dude

      Liked by 1 person

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