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Stockport to Stockport via Shrewsbury
25-26th September 2010

As a Clarion rider that has done both, I’ve noticed quite a few differences between the roadies’ two-day club runs and the ones the mountain bikers do. First among which is the fact that the roadies don’t take half as many photos. To my shame and embarrassment, I myself only took about two decent photos on the September club ride to Shrewsbury and back, compared to dozens on the average off-road ride, but the reason for that is simple. While mountain biking is all about different terrains and lots of stopping and starting to tackle technical bits, fix mechanicals or laugh at each other crashing; these road rides are all about rhythm, speed, munching as many miles and seeing as much scenery as possible, which means you seldom get the chance to stop and dig a camera out.

We all agreed that next time we should make more effort on the photography front though – because this was a memorable and far from uneventful weekend and my ramblings alone can’t do it justice.

It was either the last ride of the summer or the first ride of the winter, because either way it was definitely the first leggings and full-finger gloves day of the season. That said, the weather was glorious: clear skies and just the right temperature for all-day riding.

It was clear on arriving at the start that I’d made my first schoolboy error: I have learned that on an autumn ride your credibility as a hardcore roadie is proportionate to the clunkiness of your winter bike. Turning up on my shiny new carbon racer made me look a bit silly, as it’s clear that you’re only the real deal with heavy weight, rattly mudguards or rusty bits. You get bonus points for a fixed gear, as Dunc and Tony did.

Just as well they did, because that meant our little peloton was limited to about 19mph at which point their legs couldn’t spin any faster – good news for those of us hoping not to take too much of a hammering on a 200-mile trip.

The seven of us - L-R: me (Oliver), Maggie, Dunc, Graham, Tony, Geoff and Ric – stuck to the flat for almost the whole trip, enjoying lovely quiet Cheshire lanes straight through Middlewich and Nantwich, only really having to put the hammer down when we found ourselves a couple of miles in the wrong direction from our lunch stop, the enormous truckers’ café at Prees, and had to imitate a team time trial into a headwind up the A41. At least we earned our colossal fry-up.

Despite another slight detour after lunch which had us circling Shrewsbury for about an hour rather than heading straight for it, we arrived there mid-afternoon feeling fresh and hungry again. It’s worth mentioning at this point that despite rumours, we did not start a mass brawl that night in the quiet Shropshire town. Yes it’s true that the hostess of the guest house was not amused at our daring to re-schedule breakfast, and the proprietor of a local curry house took umbrage at our indignation at having to wait two hours to be served our dinner - but contrary to the whispers that have been going round north Cheshire’s bike shops ever since, there were no actual fisticuffs. Anyway, nobody was wearing Stockport colours so we could probably go back and they wouldn’t recognise us.

The town of Shrewsbury was to have its final cruel revenge on us as we left, as Dunc found himself caught short in the hunt for a toilet. The less said about the outcome, the better.

The great thing about being based in Stockport is that wherever we go on our club runs, the way home always seems to be downhill. Day two saw us passing the Prees transport café with the sun still so far in the east that there was no point stopping. Indeed, we made it all the way past Nantwich before we (or at least I) got grumpy and a lunch stop was required. Yesterday we’d been eating fried eggs, bacon and beans with motorcycle gangs, today we were in a rather twee little waterside craft shop eating Paninis and polenta cakes for about four times the price. Never let it be said that these club rides don’t have something for everyone.

It only felt like minutes from Nantwich and we were back in the environs of Manchester Airport and going our separate ways for home. Just as I’d started to congratulate myself on feeling so fresh after a two-dayer, I was reminded by Maggie that if this ride had been about a three on the hardness scale, then the next one will be a ten. I’m not letting that put me off.

Report by Oliver