Being part of the global sport that is cycling, and with friends based in all corners of the world, I’ve heard so much about how different countries are handling this pandemic and the restrictions they have in place. I feel so lucky that our lockdown has allowed us to still be able to go outside for exercise, keeping the enjoyment and that daily dose of thy sweet mountain air (Thanks for not holding us back on that one Howard!)
I’ve always been pretty biased when it comes to the question of “where is your favourite place to train and ride your bike?” as my answer has always been, straight up “Home! the Isle of Man!” This is then usually followed by the usual “How big actually is it?” and “Do you just ride laps off it for training?’ I respond with my stocked up answer of a size guide to the rock; 50km long, 20km wide, and about 150km around – depending which corners you cut.
I woke up on Saturday morning with an endurance ride on my training plan, and as we were blessed with yet another absolute blue bird day here on our little Isle. I decided to set my route as THE lap, no mental debate to be had.
I set out from my home in Douglas (in the east of the island) keeping the sea on my right, I headed up north; along the lumpy undulating coast road. Down and up through Laxey, then the same up and down, up and down through Lonan and Maughold and into Ramsey. Up North is where the real exploring goes down, riding all the little shore roads off the beaten track, to see the beaches that lie at the end of them.
I’ve loved taking different roads and routes around the north recently, it feels like new territory to me, as you know, being on ‘other side of the mountain’ and all.
With the obvious situation of cafes being closed, it means preparation is needed when it comes to a long ride. This is where the old saying of fail to prepare – prepare to fail comes into real life use. Bringing enough suitable ride food/drink with you is key. Nothing hits like a hunger bonk on those last few miles home when you’re seeing stars & mars bars, potentially turning a great day on its head.
My choice for this ride was a brioche snack stop at the pointy end of the loop, the official term for the Bride Ayres viewpoint.
I’d rate this makeshift cafe stop 9/10, with a tranquil atmosphere, private beach bench and complimentary binoculars (if you’ve misplaced yours up there, then you’ll find them on the bench. Don’t worry I didn’t use them, as you know, there’s a virus going around!). I’m only knocking it down by 1 point, as it was a cafe stop with no cafe or coffee.
After this quick pit stop, view soak up and refuel, I was back to business, cruising down the west coast. Checking in at Peel and then taking on the biggest climb of the route – Dalby (4.5km at 6% average gradient). Conquering that, I was up on to the round table to be treated again to even more panoramic views, perfect to take in while freewheeling down the Sloc for a breather!
The lap down to the bottom of the island also gives you a fair few leg stinging climbs, in particular ‘Mansells climb’ which I try to avoid 100% of the time out riding, but unfortunately, it’s on ‘the lap’ so is unavoidable.
Up to Cregneash yessir, the real Manx neck of the woods. A quick stop to take in the view of the Calf, then I’m on the home straight to complete the lap. With my finish line the freezer at home to demolish some ice lollies -18 degrees translates to ‘tropical’ here.
So there you have it, THE lap. It’s a great way to spend a day and see the picturesque views of the Island. I’d highly recommend anyone who fancies the challenge to give it a go, it’s also just as rewarding when split into stages.
Out riding under the blue skies in my own little bubble I really did switch off and take my mind away from lockdown life and the pandemic that has taken over. Appreciating being healthy and home, on this little rock that really is, Gem of God’s earth!
Stay safe and happy pedalling,