Bikeabout (edited, with map)

When Mood Music
2012-11-18 16:43:00 pleased Let Robeson SIng – Manic Street Preachers

I’m in Walkabout, an Australian pub on Broad Street, Birmingham. No Tooheys so I’m sipping a very welcome cold Victoria Bitter. My attempt to cycle from the 73-ring circus to the National Indoor Arena has been, ahem, paused by central Birmingham roads. There’s some right turns on dual carriageways in concrete tunnels that I didn’t dare try!

I’ve borrowed my brother’s mountain bike: the gears are great for some of the nasty hills north of Bromsgrove but it lacks Lev Davidovitch’s flat-out speed. (Not that my legs can push Lev to his full potential – yet!), so I’ve done 28 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes. (I’m taking 18 minutes off the time for traffic lights and 5 minutes re-donning my jacket: it was too cold for just a base layer and short-sleeved jacket, after all. Shame, because I’d fancied cycling through deepest Brum showing off my Lifescycle jacket.) Anyway I’m quite pleased with averaging 15 mph on a mountain bike with 26-inch wheels, knobbly tyres and the hardest saddle it’s ever been my misfortune to bruise my arse upon.

There appears to be English Premier League football all over this pub. Why no cricket or rugby or other real sport (i.e. ones that interest an okker)? OK, it’s 16:39 and my VB is finished. I won’t have another, it’s time to remount the mountain bike and see if I can get to the NIA without being flattened!

And in case you’re wondering why I’m going to the NIA, it’s because Elly and my sister are there watching Viennese/Slovenian/Spanish horses doing tricks.

Route map and notes

Here’s the map: I left the 73-ring circus at 1pm, intending to take the A38 from the centre of Worcester to central Birmingham. Thanks to being on a mountain bike, I has happy to take the Sabrina footbridge across the Severn and the muddy track across Pitchcroft. After this, I took the standard road route to Droitwich. I didn’t use the bypass – I’ve done so when cycling from Birmingham to Worcester but that was the downhill direction and I was riding Lev.

My first stop was just after 10 miles, next to the Travelodge north of Droitwich. I then tried cycling wearing just a base layer and my Lifescycle jacket but it was far too cold so I re-donned my full jacket just after the A38/M5 junction (junction 5).

After this, the road unwound beneath me through Bromsgrove. The road rises quite sharply after the Morrisons in Bromsgrove and very sharply in the stretch before re-meeting the M5 at its junction 4. Here, the A38 is renamed Birmingham Road – it too is noticeably uphill, especially the final push up into Rubery.

I stopped to read a text from Elly just after the A38/B4120 junction outside what used to be the Austin Rover factory at Longbridge. My dad worked here for years and this place has quite an emotional pull on me, for all that I hate cars. You can see where I stopped – there’s a break in the cyclemeter map where I forgot to restart tracking.

This part of the A38 is called Bristol Road. It passes through Bournville, Selly Oak, Edgebaston and Highgate before the city centre suddenly appears. Officially the pavements are dual-use, i.e. for pedestrians and cyclists. However, I’m not fond of the opportunity to hit pedestrians, I don’t like jumping up and down kerbs to cross side-streets, I strongly dislike the lack of views down side-streets, and I definitely hate not being able to see the surface I’m using. These pavements were covered in fallen leaves, both obscuring and lubricating the surfaces. Anyway, Bristol Road is a dual carriageway so there is room for bikes and cars to co-exist.

So I did the leapfrog shuffle with a double-decker bus most of the way along Bristol Road – it lost me just before Highgate. Here the road becomes serious – to avoid being sucked into New Street Station, I followed a lane that should have taken me closer to the NIA. Mistake! This lane went underground, underneath Holloway Circus roundabout. Concrete wall to the left of me, fast-moving cars who couldn’t be bothered to give me room to my right. Stick in the middle with a brown vapour trail.

Having re-emerged onto Suffolk Street Queensway (the Queensway is Birmingham’s innermost ring-road), there was a choice of a difficult lane change to follow the A38 uphill and to the right, or to stay in my current lane and go left onto Broad Street. I’m sorry to say I wimped out of the hard manoeuvre and stopped on Broad Street, only 0·2 miles from my destination.

The music that powered me through this was the Manic Street Preacher’s Know your enemy, especially Miss Europa Disco Dancer. Just guess which bit of that I’ve sampled as a ring-tone. (In this performance, James Dean Bradfield is playing bass while Nicky Wire provides the glamorous legs!)

I found myself outside an Australian pub – this is where I started this post. I then went on to the NIA on foot – the lovely door-bots wouldn’t let me to wait for Sue and Elly, despite it being bloody freezing by now, so I found a sit-in chippie and amused the locals with my fumble-fingered attempts to put my thicker tights on over my wild ones.

I got back to the NIA just as Sue and Elly were emerging – they’d had a great time – and we went on to explore Birmingham’s German Christmas market. As I write this I’m currently repleat with Schwartzbrot – a successful day!

By the way, cyclemeter claims 27·97 miles in 2 hours 8 minutes, hence 13·09 mph. However, I was stopped for about 15 minutes for traffic lights and re-clothing, so I’m claiming 28 miles in 1 hour 50 minutes: 15 mph!

As ever, I’m very grateful to the Lifescycle folk for helping me get fit enough to try this. I’m only sorry it was too cold to fly the flag. Long-sleeved Lifescycle winter tops would be very welcome!

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