Short and Steady Ride to Sedgefield (3 September 2017)

There was a bit of discussion about Sunday’s Short and Steady Ride with the usual regular leaders such as Angela unavailable. Stuart took the bull by the horns and organised some help. We had a super group with a few ladies cycling with us for the first time and everyone assembled at CLS on a nice sunny early September morning with a southerly, brisk wind. Some of our regulars were doing the Hell of the North sportive from Darlington the same morning and some of the racing people were doing cyclo cross at Hetton. Stuart’s route took us south on the A167 and after the Pity Me roundabout we decided to try the upgraded cycle track. This was going well until Hayleigh punctured outside New College. She replaced the tube in good time (with a little help), and we then passed Neville’s Cross without incident. The group kept nicely together with Stuart and Donna setting a very sensible pace (I’ll talk about pace later), and Mike patrolling from the middle and rear. After the drop across the River Wear at Sunderland Bridge, we turned east off the main road and up the climb to Hett. This is a lovely lane and there was no traffic on it. Having regrouped at the top, being the charming Hett village, we headed towards Metal Bridge and joined the somewhat busier link road between there and Thinford. A clever piece of routing by Stuart saw us take the old road past the Old Mill pub and avoid the busy roundabout at Metal Bridge.

Having skirted past Coxhoe, we then began the main climb before the coffee break, being the climb up the A177 Stockton Road and then turning left towards Garmondsway. This was a challenge for some of our more inexperienced riders but they did brilliantly, and special mention must be made of Keith’s 16-year-old daughter, also Rebecca and Alex. As mentioned, everyone regrouped at the top of this and then descended to near Fishburn. Unfortunately at this stage I had to turn back, leaving the group to continue to the planned stop at Sedgefield. It was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours; I met new and potential members and everyone had a great morning. I was expecting the pace to be under 11-12ph but it was about 13-14mph since people were managing very well in the group. Such techniques as confidence in following a wheel without leaving a large gap come with practice, and changing gears before you hit an incline all come with practice and experience. Hopefully some of the new cyclists will try and keep it going through the winter; one of the benefits of a club is that you get good tips on handling your bike in winter (and cleaning it), as well as mudguard advice and the like!

I would like to comment on Steady rides and people who are slower, for example, going uphill. “We don’t drop anyone” might be the unofficial slogan of our very successful Steady rides, but inevitably the group is going to string out on climbs. If it’s any reassurance to new riders who initially find the going hard, we’ve all been there and done that! Therefore, you will find a group of sympathetic riders waiting for you at the top of the climb. The great advantage of stopping for those who are more practised in hill climbing is that it give everyone a chance for a bit of banter with a group, rather than the rider on your left or right when we’re moving. So, don’t feel bad if you get dropped a few times and the group has waited! Occasionally, there comes a point where someone is really tired and decides they need to go back. No problem – just make sure you tell someone in the group so we’re not worried about you. That also goes for a puncture – don’t be afraid to call out to someone in the group!