Getting home at midnight was not the plan. 50 miles cross country around the IOW would only take me 6 hours, lets say 7 for lunch and a few stops, so i will be back home before the sun sets.
And so i left home at a relaxing hour (9am) and caught the local train. Two quick changeovers later I arrived at lymington with the ferry awaiting me. Perfect, only 2 hours to get onto the Island from my front door. The day looked good, fresh winds and cloudy blue skies ideal settings for an outdoor adventure.
My route of choice was from the IOW Extremists Club website, over 50miles, 90% off road and designed for the very fittest of riders to complete in one day. Relying totally on one local persons interpretation i set off with a little apprehension holding my 6 pages of route details. Still, a couple of fellow bikers left me with an encouraging antidote. 'Just keep the sea to your right and you'll be back here' Great advice I couldn't get lost.
Down to Freshwater with a nice flat section then onto the golf course and up and up to the ridgeline. Spectacular views. After a double dip of steep downs and steeper ascents passing Brightstone Down. I watched paragliders whilst traversing across farmlands into Shorewell.
The next section blurs until i hit a monster hill taking me up to Hoy's Monument (Crimea War memorial) where I promised myself lunch - a packet of chocolate chip cookies and a lucazade.
After this enjoyable break it was onwards on a ridge to St Catherines Point, again being able to watch paragliders hurl themselves of the steep slopes into the sea. This is the southern most point of the ride and the sea was still to my right.
The going gets hazy for a bit. A highlight was passing some beautiful farmlands and lakes and seeing some llamas come and introduce themselves. Unfortunately this happy moment abruptly ended with yet another hill to contend with. With legs burning I reached another ridgeline - how many hills and ridges does the IOW have this is hard going with a constant stream of never ending hills, something I am not use to in the flats of hampshire. Thinking by now i would be heading back west I found I was on a NE direction and had no sea to see! I had seriously underestimated how long this would take. But there was only one way i was going and i still had plenty of time before dark.
And on it went. Good riding through the American Wood, loads to explore in this area on more less demanding days. A nerve tangling dash across a main road up past the airport through to another great wooded section. Some enjoyable downs only to be hit by another long arduous climb. By which time i had concluded i had a puncture. I had inflated it a couple of times pleading for it to be a very slow one to no avail. Happy to take a break half way up and proceeded to change my tyre. Thankfully i had brought a spare as it saves a ton of time. Back on the hill and breaking into a deep sweat instantly i reached the top to be greeted with a long downhill into Havenstreet.
Then i turned west, finally, heading home. First a slog up into Newport and discovered my tyre had come lose with my inner tube sticking out. A quick fix before a disastrous puncture. Difficult navigation through Newports outer suburbs and back on the Tennyson trail. The instructions say follow for 8km. It should read follow arduous trail uphill all the way for 8 cruel kms. But you do pass some glorious surroundings including Carisbrooke Castle and picturesque farmlands in the crimson evening glow Just when i had enough for the umpteenth time it flattened out and on finding the turning i was treated to a delightful long down through the woods it was fast enough for me to let out a few yells of joy. Damn, another hill going up. Through tiredness any hills now were taken in low gears and took seemingly a lifetime to top out. After praying not to get lost in these woods i enjoyed not only getting on the right path but another much needed adrenaline fueled ride down.
I was on the last page of my instructions and points of interest were gliding past now as i kicked into another gear. Crash. Getting my wheels stuck in a grassy rut i tiredly tried to pull my wheels out only in succeeding in taking them out from under me and down i went mainly on my legs and arms but took a right knock on the head which dazed me for a few minutes (thank god for helmets as it could off been a lot worse otherwise). Taking a few minutes to walk off my pain and fuzziness I pushed on using the adrenaline to get me to the ferry.
Thankfully the way was now easy a couple of lefts and rights and then on the cycle track to arrive in Yarmouth fully satisfied with the days outing. Hmmm, but is that the ferry just leaving. Yep and the next ones in an hour, 9.15pm. Bugger.
A Peroni and a curry sorted out my downbeat attitude in the local pub. Although if i knew what was coming i would of had a few more. First the ferry beer was £3 for a can. Then a 20min wait for the lymington train. A 40min wait for the Southampton train. And a delayed 30min wait for the Chandlers Ford train. A stark contrast to my morning no hassle journey.
Overall a very enjoyable epic ride on the Island. I think next time i would do this over 2 days to be able to take in more of the trails, towns and taverns.
Other thoughts are, it would be great to run this, maybe using a few more of the numerous footpaths available. And wanting to do the South Downs, can i do 65miles on 2 consecutive days? Hopefully I will find out later this year.
Map Route Route info = 53.5mi, Ascent 5560'