This time a year ago I cycled the Wales Velothon. Now whilst it was a great day, the main climb of the day — The Tumble — really threw me. Coming at around 50 miles in I was pretty spent and 3 miles of average gradient of 8.3% really made my legs turn to jelly. In the end I finished the climb but it really threw my confidence in climbing.
One year on, it’s taken some time to get that confidence back; but as good long time football buddy Aidy and I drove down to Portsmouth for our day long assault of the Isle of Wight, the confidence was starting to soar back. Last week’s 50 mile warm up had done wonders and it felt like there was enough in the tank for a round island route that had been on my wish list for some time.
The two of us set off sharpish at 0530 and drove down to Southsea, where we met the ferry that takes you over to Ryde. It’s only a 22 minute journey so just enough time to down a bacon sarnie and a coffee and then it’s down the long, smooth pier and into Ryde.
Did I say smooth? Man, that was the word of the day. The roads on the IoW are incredible. I really mean that. Between us Aidy and I have cycled a lot of varied routes and we concluded that that was consistently the best quality surface we’ve put tyre to. On an 80 mile route that lack of friction really makes a difference. A huge thanks to who ever it is that has their finger on the island’s road surfacing budget.
Turning out of Ryde, we headed clockwise round the island and in the first 2 hours of pedalling squeezed in the toughest segments it would seem. Whilst no climb was that daunting (the highest point being a rather leisurely category 4 climb out of Niton up to just 562 ft) the course was certainly undulating. No flat sections. Up and down, up and down. The muscles constantly stressed. The weather was also on our side — warm but with cover and zero wind. Just perfect.
In and out of various villages it was a great way to see the island and as someone that has never been it was a fantastic way to discover somewhere new. Albeit at an average speed of 15 m.p.h. We hugged the south-west coast for the next hour, and after a couple of testy climbs around Compton and Freshwater Bay, reached The Needles.
I have to be honest and say that after all the effort, The Needles are a little underwhelming. The Twelve Apostles of Victoria they are not! Anyway, we ticked them off the list and cycled back on ourselves by half a mile towards a nice cafe that Aidy had spotted.
And excellent The Piano Cafe was — set metres away from the beautifully thatched St Agnes church. Coke in a bottle always tastes better and after 50 miles it truly can be called the real thing. Sausage sandwich later and we’re off again.
The sun had come out at this point and we were probably guilty of going out a tad too quick. The next planned stop was Cowes some 20 miles away but with plenty of fuel on board and probably the flattest part of the course ahead of us, we made it in great time. At this point we both also started to notice how fantastically considerate the drivers on the island seem to be. Always afforded plenty of space, no one seemed to be ever in a hurry to get anywhere or past us. Island life maybe, but always welcome.
A quick coffee in Cowes — which was awash with sailors gearing up for Cowes Week — and then it was the last 15 miles into Ryde. Certainly the least visually arresting section of the island, but a series of small, drawn out climbs kept us honest. It was only on the very last slow drag into Ryde that the legs went and the lowest gear was desperately sought.
80 miles down, Ryde was a welcome sight, and discounting the hour for lunch our cycle time was approximately 5 hours and 30 mins. Just shy of 6k feet ascended highlights what an undulating, rather than punishing, climb the Isle Of Wight offers but I would thoroughly recommend it for a day’s adventure. The round island route (clockwise and anti) is well sign posted and as mentioned the roads are a joy to cycle. The various lanes are generally quiet and there are plenty of ferry routes on and off of the island to suit anyone.
We cycled onto the waiting ferry and it left one minute later. Our luck — like the rest of the day — was in.