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impossible commute?

mitbmitb Posts: 78
edited August 2010 in Commuting general
Ok, not impossible but I am really struggling with this. I live in Reading and work in Marlow. THat's something like 12 miles in the car but last week I rode it. The morning was brilliant, I went up the A4 for about 8 miles then ventured off before the terrifying A404 and got down to the river for the final few miles. That was ok, very slow but a good cool-down.

It all went wrong on the way home, for two reasons- at 8.00am the Thames path is empty but at 5.30 it is chocka and takes ages to basically walk 3 miles. Secondly, and much worse, Marlow is in a valley and I avoided the massive downhill from the morning and went through Henley, which is pretty much uphill all the way. I wanted to cry by the time i got home!

I can't do that return route again, it's torture. does anyone else do this commute? Is there are bearable way out of Marlow and ideally onto the A4 that avoids scaling Everest? I so want to start commuting by bike, once a week to start and then building up, but on Friday's evidence it is not a goer, and that's such a shame!

Posts

  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,973
    if you go along the A4, turn off to Burchetts green, onto Henley Rd, followed by Hurley Rd, onto a small section of the A404 and then turn off onto Bradenham Rd, that should then take you into Marlow.
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    That is better for the way in, thanks gbsahne, but not sure if i can use it going home, the worst bit. Bradenham road is one-way and I could walk up it, but then i'm on the wrong side of the dual carriageway so would need to walk back up to Hurley road, which is also one-way the wrong way going towards Reading so would need a bit more walking!

    That is still preferable to the endless Henley hill route though, just can;t help thinking there is a way that I can ride, mostly, and isn't life threatening when it comes to traffic! The A404 is near-enough a motorway and I'd do a little bit but I'd be very keen to get off as soon as I could.
  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,973
    I hear you, I ride on the A4 from Twyford all the way through to the other side of Theale, and that's bad enough
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    Respect! I did it for the first time on a Friday, in the summer holidays, really early, and it was busy enough. I can imagine just how grim the A4 is on a peaktime Monday! But that is part of the appeal, being able to bypass the endless queueing...think they need to install a ski-lift to get out of Marlow.
  • fnegronifnegroni Posts: 794
    mitb wrote:
    Secondly, and much worse, Marlow is in a valley and I avoided the massive downhill from the morning and went through Henley, which is pretty much uphill all the way. I wanted to cry by the time i got home!

    An alternative could be for you to go through Pinkneys Green, off the A4, onto the A308 and cross the A404 at Bisham towards Marlow.

    I understand your pain though.

    If the alternative routes are too risky or too slow, I recommend you stick with the Henley route (as I understand it, that's the A4155 all the way from Henley to Marlow, correct?)

    With time, and practice, you'll get fitter and that hill will be less overwhelming.

    Also, remember that any speed gain above 15mph buys very little over 12 miles, but requires an exponentially greater amount of energy, due to drag growing with the square of speed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_%28physics%29)

    My commute, less hilly than yours, takes 45 minutes at 16mph av. which means I am literally plodding along and taking all hills very easy. It is only 7 minutes quicker if I bust a lung. IMHO, not worth it unless training for a race or something.
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    It is indeed the A4155, though I try not to think about it! That is sound advice, but it is long and very hilly, this weekly commute is also intended to be the start of a return to cycling, I've ridden a little bit with the kids lately but perhaps a 25 mile round trip with work inbetween is not the gentlest re-introduction.It will get easier. Probably.

    I don’t mind refining the route over the weeks as I do it, just don’t want to be put off completely! That return trip was genuinely one of the least pleasant things I have done in some time, I'm sure we've all had rides like that though. I might try different routes in the car and choose the best, then probably walk up whichever hill I settle on for now and build up til I can ride the whole thing and not die.

    That is fascinating about effort and drag and all that. It's not far enough to make a difference, and the benefits of going mental are just too tiny. I don't drive the car like that because I know it's not worth it, same applies on a bike. Hmmm...
  • fnegronifnegroni Posts: 794
    mitb wrote:
    It will get easier. Probably.

    Definitely.

    Up until about two years ago, due to my asthma, all I limited myself doing was strength training at the gym. I loved cycling in my youth but for some reason (mostly stupidity now I know...) I gave it up.

    Two years ago I decided to take up cycling again. I think I had a couple of failed attempts, when after 5 (five!) miles I would have to stop and my body would literally give up on me. My lung capacity was half of what it is now.

    These days, I commute every day, and go for a club ride on Sundays. I am still quite fresh at the end of the day, taking care of my son at home.

    How did I achieve that? Perseverance and sure, a bit of help from family, and friends. And this forum too!

    I initially commuted with my knobbly MTB to the station and back (5 miles each way). Then I changed to slick tyres, and attempted to commute the full distance twice a week. Eventually sold the car and now I have no alternative: its either the bike or nothing! (even when it snows...)

    Our bodies are amazing machines, but sometime they need to be put though tests in order to get the most out of them.

    If you persevere, you will succeed!
  • PBoPBo Posts: 2,493
    if you play around on mapmyride, or other similar sites, you van plot routes and then see gradients/ascents etc.

    not super accurate, but you can look for the easiest climb.
  • ride_wheneverride_whenever Posts: 13,279
    I've done bits of that when i was commuting from oxford to marlow by bike.

    Keep at it, possibly not every day so you've got a chance to recover, it will get easier. I promise!
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    Thank you all, you're quite right of course and a bit of determination will make it easier. Mapmyride is cool! But a bit depressing, the ascent is 312ft so far!
    I feel better for doing the commute once though, so if I can just keep trying I'm sure I'll be glad I did.
    Might look into a job that isn't in the bloddy Chilterns though...
  • el_presidenteel_presidente Posts: 1,963
    2 things -

    1) stick at it and the hill WILL get easier

    2) South of the river on the OS map there is a track marked between Temple and Hurley which then allows you to get to the A4130 and the back way into Henley - might be an option?
    <a>road</a>
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    Thanks el_p, looking at the map it was the A4130 that caught me out before, and is in fact one long, long hill. But, do need to look at an OS map because been relying on Google Maps and satnav on my phone so far, I bet there are tracks that aren't shown- I already saw a signpost from the car for a footpath in Burchetts Green that says 'Hurley 1.5 miles', that may or may not be useful but I need to investigate off the beaten track. Or on it. I have got a map at home and should have dug it out by now, got fooled into thinking I knoew the way because I drive it every day.

    I wonder if there are any footpaths through or round Temple Golf Course, that'd be useful and probably quite scenic! I'm not a golfer and I'm sure I'd feel differently if I was, but golf courses always feel like a waste of a brilliant riding spot!
  • gbsahne001gbsahne001 Posts: 1,973
    Be warned. some of the footpaths are just that; I went from Reading along the river to Sonning and then saw a sign that said Henley this direction.

    I went down it and got to just outside of Charvil before giving up, as the path was only about 3 feet across with lots of bumps and uneveness (good fun though) and lots of people walking; meaning that there wasn't room for them and me.
  • PBoPBo Posts: 2,493
    mitb wrote:
    Thank you all, you're quite right of course and a bit of determination will make it easier. Mapmyride is cool! But a bit depressing, the ascent is 312ft so far!
    I feel better for doing the commute once though, so if I can just keep trying I'm sure I'll be glad I did.
    Might look into a job that isn't in the bloddy Chilterns though...

    i find it's the combination of gradient AND ascent that determines the torture. Some people are happy grinding out a long shallow climb, others prefer the odd steep bit to attack, followed by a flatter recovery section.

    I live in sheffield which is pretty hilly for an urban area, and the standard routes i do around town maybe hit 6 % for short spells. But on holiday in Wales last week we went out for a jaunt and the 600ft climb over 4 miles with some stretches 10% were still tough for me (and nearly killed my father in law who cycles a few miles to work every day. ascent about 12ft! 1% max gradient). I managed it because of a few "recovery" plateaus or dips, and by getting out the saddle to attack the steeper bits. My legs might have coped with a steady climb too, but I would have been bored beyond belief......I find it easier to set targets like reaching the bit ahead, where you can see the climb flatten a bit, than just picking an arbitrary target ("that tree there") that is all you can do on a long steady drag. You get a reward - a drop in effort.

    Having my 4 year old on the back of my steel mountain bike didn't help either - talk about resistance training.....
  • vorsprungvorsprung Posts: 1,953
    mitb wrote:
    the ascent is 312ft

    Ne pas passer un pont de chemin de fer
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    Many of the footpaths by the Thames are like that, I know just the ones you’re talking about gbsahne, and unless you go out at dawn in December they are too busy and it's too on-and-off to have much fun. Shame because it's a lovely ride and following the Thames would be a great way to get to work, but it's way too slow and frustrating.

    I know what you mean about reward, Pbo, I used to like doing the odd lungbusting long hill off-road, because there was usually a brilliant descent round the corner, but on these roads it just feels like it goes on forever and any descent is gone in a flash only to be followed by another uphill! Wales is something else, we have relatives in the black mountains and there are some spectacular, and very steep, hills there.

    My other problem is that I feel like I'm going ridiculously slow, when cars can happily do 30 or 40 regardless of incline and I'm creeping up at 3mph with them whizzing by, I feel vulnerable, wobbly and a bit daft.

    But practice, skinny tyres, getting a routine so I don’t have to lug so much stuff etc etc will make it better. Eventually. I hope!
  • mitbmitb Posts: 78
    I crossed several of those on the way vorsprung, so that's clearly not true! Is 312ft not a lot? It sounds and feels like a lot, and that's only the first 4 miles. It's knackering from near-square-one anyway.
  • Lots of people with far more local knowledge than I have on this one.

    Purely as an FYI, you can try web sites like http://www.bikeroutetoaster.com to plan your routes. It uses Google maps but you can turn 'snap to road' off and plot off road routes via 'satellite' view. The good thing is, once you're done you can get get the elevation data and plan around 'Everest'.

    If you can find a route, no matter how tough, stick with it, it gets easier!

    Good luck.
  • vorsprungvorsprung Posts: 1,953
    mitb wrote:
    I crossed several of those on the way vorsprung, so that's clearly not true! Is 312ft not a lot? It sounds and feels like a lot, and that's only the first 4 miles. It's knackering from near-square-one anyway.

    I think what I am saying is that 312 feet... or approx 100 metres is insignificant

    15.5 metres per km is about average for the UK, neither flat or hilly as terrain

    But starting a new commute as a new commuter isn't always easy. The only way is to keep at it. If you can get through this winter you'll have it cracked
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