Since the early 1990s, the real start of Winter riding for me has been the Bournemouth Jubilee's 50m Reliability Trial in November. With the largest turnout of the series, it's not unusual to see well over one hundred riders enjoy the 50-mile course taking in some wonderfully quiet, rural roads around Dorset.
For the last three years, I've missed out on this local gathering due to the Rouleur Classic being on the preceding three days, with the Sunday instead being spent with the family after having been working away in London for a number of nights.
After having crossed paths with the Jubilee club run last weekend near Bloxworth, it gave me an idea to just get out and ride the route anyway, albeit six months later and perhaps more importantly in delightful weather.
If you are new to cycling, you might well be asking...
Reliability Trials are long distance rides, often held during the Winter months, which aim to offer both the rider and machine a testing course.
The Bournemouth Jubilee offer 4 trials in the Winter with the distances gradually increasing from the 50m with 100km, 75m and 100m on offer with a given time limit for completion.
Traditionally, riders were given a route card at the race HQ to test their navigational skills, however, now even the most traditional club will offer the routes on Strava, ridewithgps.com or GPX files to download. Before starting today's ride, I used the ridewithgps.com function to send the anticlockwise route to my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT and the turn-by-turn instructions worked incredibly well throughout the morning.
Reliability Trials tend to be organised on a not-for-profit basis, so the cost will be anywhere from £2 to £5. If you are new to cycling, I'd heartily recommend finding your local club and seeing what they offer, it's a great way to engage with your local club and to find new routes for the rest of the year.
The route of the 50 in 4 (affectionally known as that due to the time limit being 4 hours) has been largely the same since I first rode it all those years ago on a yellow 501 Peugeot with 12 gears.
Using quiet, minor roads, the route is alternated clockwise and anticlockwise, and since I was doing this on my own I opted for the anticlockwise route mainly as it then finishes up two of my favourite local climbs Chequers and Pardy's Hill but more on those later.
The start of the route is from the Merley Community Centre (BH21 1XE), which is very close to Wimborne with Poole only 5 miles away, and after only one and a half miles, you are climbing Rowlands Hill and will soon be leaving the traffic behind.
During the first ten miles, you are treated to quiet country lanes that are also used for local evening time trials, gradually making your way towards seeing Horton's Tower - one of my favourite Dorset landmarks.
Only a few miles later, after having crossed the B3078 near Cranborne, you are greeted with the photogenic Knowlton Church on your right-hand side, today I was greeted with freshly cut grass and the Cowslip starting to flower. It's free to visit and certainly easier by bike as there are only three car park spaces!
The road surface deteriorates around the Gussages, so I'd recommend leaving your deep section wheels/aero bikes at home if you can and opt for something offering a bit more comfort which is why I'm on my Orbea Terra today.
After a mile spent on the sometimes busy Salisbury Road (A354) you turn off back to visit the Tarrants, with the Tarrant Monkton at mile twenty offering a lovely spot to stop and enjoy the ford crossing.
The official halfway point on the route is the Gorge Cafe situated on the left-hand side in East Street, Blandford Forum, but today I have to be back at work, so I glide straight past it in favour of getting on with the highest & longest climb of the ride over with.
After turning right (signposted Winterborne Stickland) the two-mile climb is never easy in a varied ability group especially with such a steep start, but today I can take my time and engage the 25t and 28t sprockets whilst reminiscing about the MTB races that I used to enjoy riding at the Inside Park campsite!
After travelling through the Winterbornes into a nagging headwind (if you fancy some off-route climbing, turn off towards Bulbarrow via Cuckoo Lane in Winterborne Stickland), I was greeted by the famous red fingerpost sign near Bloxworth that looks like it's recently been restored.
With now only ten miles left of the route, it's time for me to enjoy the roads nearer home that I often use on my regular weekend rides with Morden followed by Lytchett Matravers which has the Chequers hill that was once the finish line of an important local road race.
Thankfully crossing the busy Poole Road (A350) and into Corfe Mullen, the village where I grew up is home to a number of riding stables so watch out for horses on the road, it's not long before you are turning right down onto Higher Merley Lane where you only have a couple of miles left.
If you are not a stickler to sticking to the route and are riding a gravel bike, turn left down Ashington Lane (just after 49miles) for a nicer end to the ride.
Despite all the stopping/starting for the photos, I managed to average 16.5mph for the course which isn't too bad for a has-been, riding 38c gravel tyres and a few kilos overweight!
Over the next few months, we'll be adding more local riding blogs, as we quite often get asked by customers who plan on visiting the local area for a holiday where are the best places to ride are.
The following pieces of clothing were worn during my ride. The Guard gilet was removed after I rode from home to the start of the route and I took the arm warmers off as the temperature increased half way around.
Horton's Tower in Horton village, Dorset is a 43m tall folly designed by Humphrey Sturt.
The bright yellow flowers of oilseed rape are a familiar sight in late Spring across the farmland on this route.
Knowlton Church and Earthworks, maintained by English Heritage.
Quiet rural country lanes form the vast majority of the 50 mile route.
One of my favourite ford road crossings at Tarrant Monkton (ST 9449 0902).
At the top of the climb at the entrance of The Inside Park, Blandford Forum.
The Red Post at Botany Bay Farm where the route crosses the busy A31, Nr Bloxworth, Dorset.
Stopping at what was the finish line of the Chequers Road Race, last held in the early 2000's.
Originally published in issue 257 of Procycling Magazine, William Fotheringham looks back at the 1989 Tour de France which was decided by seconds on the Champs-Élysées between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon.
You don't need to spend mega-bucks to be comfortable when cycling indoors - join Andy as he discusses what is the best cycle clothing for indoor training.