Sunday, 23 October 2016

Five Top Tips for Road Cycling on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight offers a lot for a road cyclist. Not only is it blessed with being the sunniest place in Britain (always a good start), it also holds one of the most varied and versatile mixture of roads of perhaps anywhere in the UK. Whether you're looking for a challenging hilly route, with 25% gradients and swooping descents; or you're planning a gentle spin on traffic-free riverside cycle paths - you'll find both in these 235 square miles.

I have been riding a road bike on the Island (amongst many other places) for the last ten years, and in that time I reckon I've covered pretty much every road on offer. I can't say that I've ever once grown tired of the area though - there really are a huge variety of routes to choose from; whilst the constantly changing coastal landscape offers a superb backdrop to any ride.

In the last five years or so, road cycling has really taken off on the Isle of Wight. The Island now hosts several sportive events, as well as the incredibly popular Isle of Wight Randonnee. There's a good reason for that exponential growth; the Isle of Wight is very accessible and welcoming to cyclists.

So how do you go about unlocking the huge potential that the Isle of Wight holds for road cycling?

Once you've made your way there, via the multitude of frequent bike-friendly transport links, it's pretty simple to find a bike friendly B&B, hotel or campsite. Then, it's time to get out and explore!

In this post, I thought I would share five insider tips for getting the most out of a road cycling break on the Isle of Wight…

1. Explore - The Isle of Wight features an extensive network of lanes, cycle paths, and quiet country roads. From the scenic rolling Military Road, to the dead-end lung-busting climbs to radar stations and lighthouses; there is something for everyone. Contact me on Twitter (@timwiggins1) if you’re looking for some tailored route suggestions.

2. Make a café or pub stop - There’s no better feeling than wrapping your hands around a warm mug of coffee or bowl of soup, when you’re mid-way through a winter ride; or slurping down some local Minghella’s Ice Cream in the summer months. There are plenty of great café stops to choose from on the Island, and some great country pubs as well.

To name a few of my favourite pub stops: The Taverners Inn in Godshill, The Buddle Inn in Niton, The Sun Inn at Hulverstone, and The Pointers Inn at Newchurch, will all serve up a great bowl of warming soup in winter.

For coffee and cake lovers: The West Wight Llama Sanctuary, Godshill Old Smithy, End Of The Line Café in Freshwater and Chale Green Stores, will all do you a great cuppa and slice of cake.

3. Ride with friends - Cycling can be a very sociable sport, and it is always great to ride with mates. The Isle of Wight has even more to offer a road cyclist, if you have a riding buddy to share the experience with. They’ll be able to help share the load into that headwind along the Military Road, and take a photo of you when you’ve completed the legendary climb up to The Needles Battery.

4. Prepare for all conditions - The Isle of Wight deserves its reputation for being the ‘Sunniest place in Britain’; often it is raining on the mainland, but when I get to the Island it is bathed in sunshine. That said, it is also an island of exposed coastlines and weather beaten climbs; it is always worth taking some back-up kit with you when you ride here. I ride with a Gore Bike Wear Rescue Jacket in my jersey pocket all year round now; because you can never be too sure when the next Atlantic storm will come rolling in!

5. Also head off-road - Finally, I really recommend also considering some off-road riding. This might seem odd to suggest in a post about road cycling; but if you don’t experience the off-road riding on the Isle of Wight, you’re missing out! The network of bridleways and byways offers quiet, traffic free bliss, with some incredible views! Of course, you might just have to embrace a bit of mud every now and again!

The Isle of Wight is a fantastic place to ride a bike, whatever the season. In the summer months, it provides sun-bathed tarmac, and a whole host of different route types. In the winter months, it is beautifully secluded and quiet; and as long as you wrap up against the elements, you’ll be in for some incredible riding and beautiful winter views.

Whether you are heading over for a day trip or a weeklong getaway; you'll find everything you want from a cycle ride on the Island. Coast roads, quiet lanes, leg burning gradients and easy pedals; this is without doubt still my favourite place to ride a bike in the world.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: Michelin TransWorld Sprint Touring Tyres

Michelin TransWorld Sprint Tyres Review
I was lucky to complete my 'Coasts and Cols' Tour without too many mechanical issues at all. The one problem I did have, was on Day 9: 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' - when both of my tyres developed sidewall explosions!

The Michelin TransWorld Sprint Tyres were what I replaced my blown-out tyres with, thanks to a local French bike shop. The tyres have impressed me greatly, especially considering their low cost; so I thought I would write a quick review/recommendation on the blog.

The Michelin TransWorld Sprint is pitched as a "go-anywhere" touring tyre, from the French brand. It features a grippy semi-slick centre section, with added knobs on the sides, for corning confidence.

Confidence and continued good performance is exactly what these tyres have provided. Whether it was for the remainder of the 'Coasts and Cols' tour, or for subsequent commuting duty back in the UK (they've stayed on the bike); they have provided hassle-free riding, with a fast and safe feel. Recommended!

The Michelin Transworld Sprint Tyres are available at Chain Reaction Cycles (Link)

michelin transworld sprint bike tyres

Friday, 21 October 2016

Weekend Watch: Beulah by Brother Cycles

This is one of the best 'short films' I've seen in a long time.

The edit portrays perfectly the joys of Bikepacking - the exploration, the unexpected, and the adventure. After my recent 'Coasts and Cols' tour, this makes me want to get out exploring again, even more than I already did...