Shrewsbury to Gloucester, with sun, showers and an injured Armadillo | Cycling John O’Groats to Lands End

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It hadn’t stopped raining from the moment I arrived in Shrewsbury, and it was still pouring when I left this morning.

Even the cycle path was flooded.

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I didn’t try to ride that one out.

I made pretty good progress down the A49 and things started brightening up when I was about 10 miles from Ludlow.

I was on schedule and looking forward to a long lunch in the place where the slow food movement was born.

Then 4 miles away all of a sudden the back of the bike suddenly went very squirrelly.

I immediately knew what it was – broken spokes – and I pulled up sharply to assess the damage.

Thankfully on this occasion I was wrong, and it was a flat. The cause of which became apparent as soon as I removed the wheel and saw an enormous chunk of glass embedded in the tyre.

The new tyre I had bought to go with the back wheel in Ayr.

I’m sure I’m not alone in suspecting bike shop staff of engaging in bullshit-ology at times in order to sell more components.

In Ayr I was advised to replace my Kevlar lined continental tyre due to it perishing.

I knew this was a load of cobblers, and was well aware it was just the reflective tape coming away from the sidewall. However I’d been intending to replace it with something more grippy for a while, so I let it pass and bought the tyre.

The guy in the bike shop then had the gall to describe the Specialized Armadillo tyre he sold me as an “upgrade”.

This immediately told me how much he knew, as it’s utter rubbish to suggest that a top of the range continental tyre (the same ones used by the Scottish guy who set the record for cycling round the world) is inferior to the tyre I bought.

He went on to describe the Specialized tyres as the ones they “invest in” as they’re the best.

I had no idea bike tyres are an appreciating asset, and anyway hadn’t he just said they are perishable?

I do however have a pretty keen sense of when I am being told a load of rubbish.

The continental tyre did about 2000 miles with only one puncture, the Specialized one got its first within 300 miles.

Oh well.

I was on the road 20 minutes later and headed into Ludlow and the renowned Green Cafe by the river.

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It was a lovely setting and I took my time and enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip (possibly the subject of a separate blog post at a later date).

I don’t know what they put in the food there, but after lunch I was absolutely flying. The sun was out and I barely noticed the next 15 miles.

I’d only intended to go as far as Hereford this evening, but a rain shower broke a few miles beforehand forcing me to stop and put on waterproofs.

I was right next to a turn-off for Gloucester, and it looked like a more minor (and interesting) country road. It was 32 miles rather than 7, but crucially the skies looked a bit brighter in that direction, so I decided to go for it.

They were 32 great miles of rolling countryside in sunshine. I’d almost forgotten the sun existed.

The hotel I am staying at in Gloucester is a bit weird.

On check in I was offered a cooked breakfast and a continental breakfast for £9.95.

Then they put me in a room with no working plug sockets, before sending a transvestite with the key to another room with no sheets on the bed, before eventually upgrading me to a bigger room.

You know when you go to the toilet on a train and only realise there is no water left after you have put the soap on your hands?

That’s what the shower reminds me of.

I didn’t have the energy to perpetuate the farce by moving again.

There’s a rooftop walkway outside my bedroom window and just before I left a teenager in a shell suit carrying what looked like a dog poo in a plastic bag appeared on it.

It is a perfectly respectable looking hotel, but there is definitely a strong undercurrent of weirdness.

Gloucester’s a reasonable sized place so I thought I’d try and find a sushi restaurant and get something a bit healthier than the usual pub food or Indian to eat.

After walking round for 45 minutes I can confidently say I’d have more luck trying to find a Wetherspoon’s in downtown Riyadh.

It took me that long to find anything that wasn’t a pub or an Indian.

The only thing Gloucester seems to have in abundance are hoodies, and on reflection the hotel sits quite well in its surroundings.

Bike computer stats:

Ride time: 6h 42m
Distance: 79.56 miles
Ave speed: 11.8 mph
Max speed: 33.1 mph

Continue reading …

Index

Preparation

Kitted out and ready to ride

Things you would rather not know about the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness

20 miles with a bloke called Tim, and a slight change of plan

Day 1 – John O’Groats to Inverness

Day 2 – Ness to Nevis and my nemesis rears its head

Day 3 – Fort William to Tarbert with only one brake

Day 4 – Tarbert to Ayr and the battle of Arran

Day 5 – Ayr to Dumfries and tasting defeat in the Forest of Galloway

Day 6 – Dumfries to Windermere and thoughts on cycling earworms

Day 7 – Windermere to Liverpool and the birds-eye of the storm

Day 8 – Liverpool to Shrewsbury and the ferry across the Mersey

Day 9 – Shrewsbury to Gloucester with sun, showers and an injured Armadillo

Day 10 – Gloucester to Bristol and the day I spoke to soon

Day 11 – Bristol to Bath, a day of disused railway lines

Day 12 – Bath to Tiverton and the breakfast hostage

Day 13 – Tiverton to Lostwithiel and fatigue causes forgetfulness

Day 14 – Lostwithiel to Penzance, and the mining trail

Day 15 – Penzance to Lands End (and back again)

Learning to walk again

Ideas for cycling end to end, with the benefit of hindsight

Kit List

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