We spent a relaxing weekend in Norfolk, a weekend that was much needed after the hubbub of life lately. As usual we strapped the bikes onto the car in the hope that the wintery weather wouldn't be, well that wintery. And we were in luck. On Saturday we woke to sunshine and forecasts of very little wind, so our tentative plan to cycle to The Fish Shed in Brancaster Staithe, a firm favourite of ours, was on.
It'd been a while since I'd actually pushed my bike over the threshold, but it was only when we got home later that I realised my last bike ride was actually on 28 August. I'm not quite sure how that happened, or how it's been so long. But I'm hoping it won't be as long until my next bike ride, it's definitely worth making time for a cycle or two.
So off on our favourite Route 1 we went. As we were cycling along admiring the berry filled hedgerows I was fully expecting MOH to repeat his prediction of a cold winter, but he didn't. Instead he shared something revolutionary about saddle heights - bear with me. He'd raised his saddle significantly, so that on the down stroke his leg was almost straight, and this he told me, optimised the power he gets from each pedal.
Well that got me thinking. I know I'm not exactly an elite athlete, and MOH is always amused by the love I have for my wicker basket, but I reckoned that I could do with all the help I could get pedal-wise. So I started to check out the straightness of my leg on the down stroke. And the result was it wasn't very straight at all. I can tell you're impressed I could do this and still stay on the bike, me too. When I paid attention I noticed I did seem quite hunched and so decided I'd try it out.
At the next suitable stopping point I pulled over and had MOH raise my saddle as a test. Well it went up by an inch and immediately it was more comfortable to cycle, let alone any of that extra power malarkey. I was instantly sold on this and decided to celebrate by taking some pictures of the countryside.
We headed further along the narrow country lane, slowing occasionally so cars from behind could overtake us. There were ups and downs, or rather downs followed by ups, which are my favourite although it's guesswork to gauge when to start pedalling again on the up, but I'm getting the hang of it. The colour of the bracken was particularly spectacular and there was a whole length of yellow leaved bushes. I'd loved to have stopped and taken a photo, but they were on the downhill before an up and I didn't want to lose momentum.
Our next challenge was to find the right road to take us down into Brancaster Staithe to minimise how far we'd cycle along the A149. We got to the point below and realised we'd missed our turning. So while MOH double checked his route, I took some more photos of the countryside and one of my lovely neon top - it's certainly bright!
While cycling with my saddle in a higher position was good, and I think to get my leg straight it could go higher, the only thing I realised when we stopped is that it makes getting on and off slightly more tricky than before. And that's something that I quickly got the hang of, but it might explain the slightly strange look on my face!
So we turned back to find our road. And when we did I was sure we'd cycled this way once before, but the other way, MOH was less sure. But sure enough we soon found ourselves at Barrow Common, a place we'd discovered for the first time earlier in the year. It's a place that to me, seems unlike the typical North Norfolk landscape and more like the New Forest with its shrubland of gorse.
The views down to the coast were spectacular. There were also many paths, and dog walkers, heading into the common. One day we'll explore this area on foot and now that we know how to get here I think it'd be a great place in summer. I suspect it's a place that not many tourists would know about too. I'll let you know what it's like in the spring/summer when we visit again. So far we've only managed visits in February and November.
The gorse was in flower and it was another chance to park the bike, hop off and take some more shots. The one below is a particular favourite.
The good news was that it was all downhill into Brancaster Staithe - yay! At the bottom we found ourselves next to the Jolly Sailor wondering if it was left or right. We opted for right, correctly and were soon buying fish for tea. We left the shop with two fillets of plaice - which I later turned into a lovely Plaice Florentine with the help of a pasta cheese sauce and a bag of spinach, a dressed crab and a few pickled herrings, all of which went into my lovely shopping basket. It was chilly enough that the fish didn't need packing in ice, even though our next stop was the cafe at Burnham Deepdale where we stopped for a rewarding hot chocolate, with all the trimmings, and bit of carrot cake. Yum.
Remembering we still had to cycle back we didn't linger as we were keen to get back before it was dark. This time we headed up Dalegate Lane - a road we hadn't been up (or down) before, and one I hoped would bring us to the turning into Barrow Common. The only thing was my legs were cold, and I knew there were hills ahead. So for the first time in a very long time I found myself doing those quick, little steps on the spot to warm myself up. The ones I used to avoid doing at netball training, but it was definitely the move to warm me up here.
The hills were cycled up without unscheduled stops, which if I'm honest is a first and we arrived back home in the daylight too. And somehow I'd clocked up a twenty-five miler, after no rides since the end of August. Thankfully nothing ached (and still hasn't) but I really shouldn't leave it so long next time!