What’s in a name?

This weekend I took leave of my senses and indulged my curiosity. Since buying the Pilgrims, I’ve been enjoying throwing it around local singletrack and hatched a plan to ride its namesake, the Pilgrims Way – heading out to Canterbury one day and Winchester the next. On expensive, low  spoke count wheels and 28mm road slicks…

The Pilgrims Way has been broken up over time, becoming a mix of roads, single-track and pathways – a perfect ride for a ‘road plus’ bike. I’d no idea when creating the route quite how rough some of the sections would be and assumed 200km+ with plenty of off road would be a perfectly reasonable distance for one day and I could head East on Saturday and West on Sunday.

Hitting the North Downs way atop box, I was grinning ear to ear, bombing down bridleways and generally being a total lout while the paths were quiet. Despite the road slicks, the bike was an absolute delight and turned its hand to gravel, rocks, grass and mud with no loss of composure (although suspension would certainly have made the ride more comfortable).

I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun on a road bike. Time flew and I was convinced I was making good time… only it turned out it was already midday and Canterbury was still quite a way off. Despite picking up a run of top 10s and a KOM, my average off-road speed was only about 22-24kph! It certainly felt a lot faster:

The fun took over and I started getting reckless, pretty much everything attached to the bike rattled loose, I could smell the discs burning and I was convinced it wouldn’t be long until I pushed a bit too hard, lost grip and took a quick lie down in the bushes. It never happened. No matter how hard I pushed, I simply couldn’t make the bike misbehave. It took a massive rock, hit at serious speed, to derail the ride… that horrible hiss and splutter of tubeless trying to cope with a massive gash and the grind of rim on gravel. I really can’t blame the bike, the wheel or the tires – 28mm simply isn’t enough cushioning at that speed and I really shouldn’t have been so complacent.

10 minutes of faffing with latex, a spare inner tube and an overly short valve and I was back on the way, but it was still around 10 miles to Canterbury, nearly 100 home and getting on for late afternoon.Safer to ditch at the nearest train station and take the train of shame home.

I’m not sure what the training value was. The aggressive, bumpy riding did a real number on me, I’d only covered around 120km and I was sore enough I took an impromptu rest day on Sunday. Time to be a bit more sensible and get back to training instead of larking about. That said, pretty sure I’ll be revisiting the Pilgrims Way plan with some more sensible tires after TRC and possibly investing in Bowman’s Footscray for some proper Gnar… still love the road, but can’t deny quite how much fun it was being a yob for the day.



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