The State of British Roads

Are British road surfaces getting worse?  I think so.

As a road cyclist, especially riding a road bike with thin wheels, you have a unique connection with the surface of the road.  Potholes are a real danger, but badly laid surfaces that undulate too much, or crumbling surfaces that feel fine in a car, are equally uncomfortable and have the potential to be hazardous.  Particularly problematic are reinstatements by utility suppliers, which are rarely level, and poorly placed ironwork.  Gutters on bus routes are ususally like an assault course.  I was reminded of this riding down Crag Vale recently.  The surface wasn’t that broken, and it wasn’t that bad.  However, it felt like it had been laid with no foundations, and that the weight of cars and buses had caused it to sink in many places – a series of very close undulations that meant I had to be extremely careful.

I stumbled across this website, potholes.co.uk , which is very car-centric but had some interesting facts on it (if true)

  • The average frequency for a road to be resurfaced in England is 65 years (Wales 81 years)
  • If the budgets were made available (which they won’t be) it would take 11 years to catch up the backlog in England, and 16 years in Wales

These are pretty staggering figures, and we are falling behind every year.  Cycling in France was a revelation, not least because the state of the roads was so much better.

It’s unlikely that the present government will do anything as they are cutting funding in every area, and frankly they don’t care.  The previous government, after so long in power and leaving the greatest peacetime debt in history, should be the ones most ashamed.

All we can do as cyclists is pick our way through the assault courses that many roads have become, and hope that car drivers have the patience and give us the space to allow us to stay safe.  Oh wait…

Jodrell Bank Cyclosportive 80 miles

As part of my training for the end-to-end I’ve entered a couple of cyclosportives as they offer an opportunity to ride some well-thought out routes with organised stops and a bit of challenge.  So today was my first attempt at a sportive.  Apparently it’s a good one to start with as it’s relatively flat (I’ll come onto that shortly) and only (!) 80 miles.  There’s the option to do shorter routes but frankly, I need as much distance as I can get in at the moment.

I’d managed to convince a friend from work, Nigel, to join me on this.  We’d ridden the Manchester 100 together last year and he generally rides faster than me so I have to work hard to stay with him.  This is great for training because when I’m on my own I find it too easy to drop the speed to take a breather so having someone else there means that rarely happens.  So it was with some trepidation that i arrived at Nigel’s house early this morning and we rode the 3.5 miles to the sportive HQ at Woodford community centre.  The place was full of cyclists as you can imagine – thankfully all shapes and sizes so I didn’t feel too intimidated.  There must easily have been a quarter of a million pounds worth of bikes on display!  A short queue saw me registered (rider number 271) and the electronic timing tag fastened to my wrist.  We also got a printed map and a goodie bag containing a water bottle and various energy bars/gels and powders.

Anyway, we got the electronic tags blipped at the start and set off.  I’d already downloaded the route to the Garmin but it was well marked with arrows at all the major junctions.  The route took us out of Woodford and heading initially west in a loop through Mobberley, Ashley, Bucklow Hill, High Legh before turning east at Antrobus.  A note here about the wind.  The wind was blowing from the west to the east (is that a westerly?) and therefore heading west was a struggle even on the flat.  It was hard work to keep 14mph up.  Coming back east was the complete opposite – between 20 and 24mph with relative ease.  The first timing checkpoint then saw us head southwest through Ollerton and Lower Peover to the next timing point at Goostrey,  The course then diverted into a mini-loop around Jodrell Bank.  The views of the satellite station were spectacular from all angles as we drew a big arc around it, and the weather was almost spring-like to the point that I put my sunglasses on!  We continued on through Siddington and Broken Cross and the few cheeky hills on this course appeared as we rose through Prestbury, Bollington and Pott Shrigley.  Once the hills were out of the way the rest was really a cruise back down to Woodford through Poynton and Hazel Grove.  All in all a very nice course – apart from the state of the roads.  The winter has not been kind to the tarmac – it has been absolutely destroyed in places and it’s pretty depressing when you hack up a hill and then can’t enjoy the descent you’ve earned because the roads make it too dangerous.  On that note there was a professional photographer perched on the side of a steep hill so I expect a photo soon of me with an agonised look on my face!

So the 80 miles took 4hrs and 50mins in the saddle (5hrs 20mins including stops) and we recorded an average speed of 16.3mph which I’m pretty pleased with over that distance.  Total climbing was only 1973ft and I used 4644kcalories.  It seemed that we overtook far more people than overtook us but at the end we were in 153rd place out of 273 entries.  I wasn’t last and that was all I was bothered about!

Next one is the Cheshire Cat in 2 weeks time.  I’m not looking forward to that because a) it’s 100 miles b) it’s got Mow Cop on it and that climb nearly did for me a few weeks back and c) I’m doing it on my own.  Apparently there are 2500 riders entered and frankly if I come in the first 2000 I’ll be happy.  Now for a few glasses of wine and a nice meal!