Last Thursday it was time for another trip out onto the forest paths with the dog – but this time with the rest of the family joining in – that’s my wife, our daughter and numbers two and three sons.
As has become the custom lately, we parked the cars (two needed for five bikes, five people and one dog!) up the road from the Oak Quarry council tip. Front wheels and saddles reattached to everyone’s bikes, I again set the three apps going on my phone (Endomondo, ViewRanger and Strava) and set the GoPro camera to record, and then off we all set.
We headed up into the woods towards Broadwell before skirting the edge of the woods past the entrance to Worcester Lodge, stopping to tighten saddles for both sons, before getting onto the unofficial yellow arrow marked MTB trail that I used on the first “Broadwell To Pedalabikeaway Loop”. It was on the last section of this trail, a few hundred feet prior to the end, that number three son decided to throw himself off his bike into the mud for the first time! Having picked himself and his bike up, and allowing for the girls to catch up we emerged onto the fire road high above the track from Pedalabikeaway to Speech House Road.
Turning left, we soon had to decide whether to take the gentle hillside descent to the back of the cycle centre that the dog and I had used on our last trip or to carry on around the fire road for a while and join onto the final section of the Verderers’ Trail instead.
Vote taken, all surprisingly opting for the Verderers’, off we set along the fire road, with the dog and I picking up a bit of speed for a while at just over 18 miles per hour before slowing again to let the rest catch up!
Once we reached the entrance to the final section of said trail, however, with the daughter complaining that her knees were hurting we had a re-think and decided that it would perhaps make more sense to continue on the fire road around to the Launchpad which would be less demanding than the Verderers’ (number two son wanted to do the Verderers’ regardless, so I promised that I would return with him to do that another day – although he doesn’t fancy any of the uphill sections (!) and who knows if he’ll be able to drag himself away from his computer games for a second trip out anytime soon?!).
Well, so much for that plan. Upon arrival at the Launchpad the younger female decided that she couldn’t possibly go down it and wanted to find yet another alternative route. Following much encouragement and persuasion (and muttered moans from number two son) she agreed to give it a go. The boys would go first, followed by my good lady, then our daughter with me bringing up the rear in case anything happened to her.
Well, if it’s possible to go any slower on a gravity downhill route I would be surprised! As the first small ramps came along it was apparent that – although the instructions are not to pedal on this track to avoid going too fast – she would need to pedal to reach the summit of the ramp!
I stopped for a while to let her get some way ahead before setting off again and catching back up with her in a matter of seconds. My wife was soon in view, at the bottom of the steepest descent on the trail which our daughter would later claim to have been her favourite part!
Once I had caught up with her and the slow-moving-one had joined the pair of us it was decided that they would both exit the Launchpad and carry on down to Pedalabikeaway via the path that runs roughly alongside the Launchpad. That allowed me to finally get going and catch up with the boys at the dog at the bottom of the trail.
Number two son then elected to follow a little of the Freeminers’ Trail at the back of the cycle centre, closely followed by the four-legged runner, then me and finally number three son. The girls headed straight to the overflow car park and around to the café that way.
Number two peeled off as soon as the girls and the car park came into view, leaving the dog and I to finish the final section of the Freeminers’ – with her clearing rock gardens and rooty areas with far more speed and style than I managed to!
Arriving at the other end of the car park and heading to the café it quickly became apparent that son number three hadn’t, as I thought, followed number two and the girls and was still back on the trail somewhere! A quick retracing of steps (again accompanied by the dog) found said son in the area that the Freeminers’ and the car park met exclaiming that he didn’t like the trail – not because it was too hard or anything, but because he’d got left behind. Oops!
All back together, I stopped the apps from recording and then we obtained refreshments from the café and sat in the breeze to consume them. Oddly enough the Strava app can only have paused, whereas Endomondo and ViewRanger stopped, leading to having just one map and set of stats for Strava and two each for the others. Anyway, I digress… The kids then headed over the wooden bridge across New Road to the mini skills section whilst my good lady and I finished our coffees and tried to figure out the best way back to the cars, or at least the way with the least potential for problems for any of our party!
Rested and refreshed we set off for the return journey. Aware that the others were even less in shape than I was in terms of cycling, the decision was made not to use the fire roads to travel back to Broadwell, but instead to head off in the direction of the track to Speech House Road instead.
Then we had to push the bikes up the path running up the side of the hill, eventually emerging on the fire road near where we’d joined it originally on the journey down. In my case that meant pushing my bike up and then going back and relieving first our daughter and the son number three of their bikes and pushing them up as well. To be fair, as is the case with cheaper kids bikes, their bikes are both noticeably heavier than my own is!
Then it was the simple matter of following the fire road around the corner and up the incline to the stacks of logs before passing the back of the council rubbish tip and arriving – hooray! – back at the cars. Dog deposited into the car, I removed saddles and front wheels once more before loading the bikes back into the cars for the journey home.
And so to the stats, for what they’re worth. Endomondo gave a total of 7 miles with a duration of 107 minutes, ViewRanger claimed 6.23 miles in a total time of 106 minutes and Strava recorded 10.7 km (6.65 miles) in a total moving time of 69 minutes (135 minutes total time). Since we got back I’ve managed to figure out how to adjust my Strava app so that in future it should record distance in miles rather than kilometres, which will make future data comparisons more readily apparent. Still no idea which is the most accurate though!
One thing was immediately obvious, however. Despite the various complaints of physical aches and pains and inter-sibling needling that can make family outings such fun(!), the children can be proud of what they managed to achieve after such a long time since they were last in the saddle. Cycling is also a very difficult thing for my wife due to her health issues but she gave everything that she has (and more) to make the outing as successful as possible. The downside of that being that she was in even more pain than usual for the next few days. I’m hoping that I can get the kids (or one or two of them at least) to come out with me and the dog more often, as I’m positive that they would all benefit physically and mentally from the exercise of outdoor activity…