King Alfred Way Day 1 Report
On the bank holiday weekend for the Queens Jubilee celebrations in June 2022, I decided to cycle the 350km loop of the King Alfred Way.
The route was developed by Cycling UK in 2020 and aimed to take riders on an off-road gravel adventure taking in all the historic sights of the Wessex region. It connects segments of the South Downs Way, Ridgeway and Thames Path to existing bridleways, byways, and quiet country lanes.
No doubt the pandemic was a catalyst here in a way to have an adventure in the UK with no need to fly abroad, and long term they have the hope of attracting international visitors to boost UK tourism.
I opted to ride the route in 3 days starting in Winchester. As a loop it allows you to join wherever you like, which is super helpful in attracting more people and making it easier to plan.
My bike of choice for the trip was my Marin Nicasio+. I prepped for the ride by changing the stock tyres and going for instead the slightly knobbly WTB Resolute 42mm. I bought a new Planet X 9 litre Podsac Saddle bag and for all the other kit required I already had it at home. I will do a full break down of kit in a future post as that is a whole conversation in itself.
I downloaded the GPX route from the Cycling UK website, split it into 3 days, and loaded it from Komoot onto my Wahoo ELEMNT.
I was all ready to go!
I left Winchester at 0800 heading towards Amesbury direction for lunch. It didn’t take long before I was off the tarmac and onto some pretty fun descending single track – which is a nice wake up if any kit isn’t strapped down correctly. I ended up meandering through some lovely tracks interspersed with quaint English villages for the first 20kms. It was truly divine and a great introduction.
As I approached Amesbury there were some tasty climbs with a few tree roots to navigate. Obviously on the other side of these climbs it led to some exciting downhill speed. I stupidly got a little carried away on one of the downhills and thought that I was on my mountain bike and that I wasn’t carrying any kit.
What resulted when I hit a large rock with my front tyre at the end of a fast downhill was the first puncture of the trip after 30 km. This was frustrating so early on, but these things happen and I just had to get on with repairing it.
I wasn’t running tubeless for a number of reasons. Firstly, the wheels I had were not compatible, and secondly when speaking with the staff at my local bike shop they weren’t overly confident or complimentary of converting to tubeless. I did look into this before I left. I would be interested to know other peoples views, and the argument that if I had tubeless this wouldn’t have occurred is a good rationale to start with!
When I repaired the puncture I pumped up to slightly harder than what I had them at, and overall it gave me a much more confident ride without sacrificing on traction or comfort.
They were at 30 psi when I left and I would predict around 40 psi when I pumped them up after the repair. A fail be me was using a website to calculate my psi levels given my weight, tyre width and riding conditions. What I had failed to take into consideration was the weight of my luggage which in total was roughly 10 kg. When I put this into the calculator it actually had my psi at 35.
Anyway, back to the cycle. The tracks towards Amesbury got pretty narrow and overgrown in places. If you weren’t wrestling the nettles you are being tested with some gnarly short technical descents, it really is good stuff.
I had a feed and a rest at Amesbury as they have a great selection of pubs and cafes to pick from. Even though it’s only about 45km to Amesbury it’s a tough ride as there is a fair amount of up and down, and technically not the easiest. Perhaps I was tired after the puncture change – did I mention about that puncture?.......
The route from Amesbury headed to the Salisbury Plains. The tracks now are wider and the views just superb. Navigation at this point is easier as the turns are less frequent the only time I missed them was when I was distracted by the scenery or talking with fellow cyclists I had randomly met up with.