Crosswinds, some accidental off-roading and a terrible SPD-related incident: my first ride with a Garmin 810

Today’s ride started as all/many/some good rides do – with route plotting in bed accompanied by a cup of tea and some fresh sourdough bread with honey.

A little while back Aldi was selling the Garmin 810 for an Aldi-special price. It was just nestled there on the shelf next to the baked beans (or some other similarly random neighbour) and Mike and I couldn’t resist a little purchase. As the sun decided to make a beautiful spring appearance this morning, it seemed like a good day to give the Garmin its first outing. And so it was that I spent an hour in bed plotting a route from a book into my Garmin Connect account.

The Garmin Connect website is really easy to use – you just drop little pins along the route you want to ride and it joins the dots for you. Then, download a desktop app to connect your Garmin unit to your account and transfer the file across. Job’s a good’n.

Our ride took us from our home near Weston-super-Mare out across the Mendips, through some picturesque villages where we ogled the beautiful houses that could maybe one day be ours if only we would stop spending all our money on bikes, and round in a loop that included the descent through Cheddar Gorge.

The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the Garmin was taking care of the directions.

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Somewhere between Winscombe and Shipham, Somerset

Doesn’t it sound idyllic? In truth though, today’s ride was not without its challenges. For a start it was kinda windy; with an average wind speed of around 15mph, but with gusts of over 20mph, my ability to stay relaxed and alert on the bike was put to the test. Much of the ride was pretty exposed, and we did notice that more seasoned road cyclists seemed to be doing our route in reverse, possibly to avoid the oncoming winds that were numbing my ears! I have to admit, there were times when I got pretty scared, as the bike got blown about and cars were in the vicinity. I’m not sure windy weather is my favourite for road biking! (Note: there may have been tears of fear at one point)

Then there was the part of the ride where I’d plotted a bit of a shortcut to avoid having to do a section of nasty main road. We soon learned why the original route did not take the shortcut: it involved a short rocky climb, lots of mud and some rather large puddles. While I managed the whole section without incident, my slick tyres really were not in their element on this section. Oops.

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This counts as road riding, right?

Oh and then there was the really interesting bit – the bit where we were faced with an oncoming hunt. Yes, a horn tooting, mass dog running, horse trotting hunt. On a narrow lane with no passing points. I was scared stiff. In my experience horses are not keen on cyclists – I’ve witnessed horses getting spooked by their two-wheeled counterparts – and when they’re surrounded by a pack of excited dogs, they’re really quite scary. I felt so small on my bike as I tried to pick my way through this oblivious mass of people, horses and hounds.

And then something awful happened. You know how everyone has a tale of that time they forgot to unclip when they were forced to stop suddenly? Yep, that happened to me in the midst of this hunt. There came a point where I really couldn’t get through, where the horses and the dogs and the horn-tooters took over the entire road and there was nowhere for me to go to get out of the way. So I just stopped. I stopped but forgot that I was attached to my bike and I tumbled into the onslaught of paws, although thankfully the hooves steered clear. It was neither graceful nor helpful at that particular juncture, and it was nothing short of terrifying. I would love to say that the people on the hunt showed sympathy and concern, but alas that was not the case – I was ignored and left to pick myself up, brush myself off and get back on with picking my way through the pack. Not fun.

And so it was that I completed my longest road ride to date. At 37 miles it may not seem huge, but considering all of the incidents along the way, I was pretty chuffed. I even survived the long descent through Cheddar Gorge, where my dodgy grip strength was put to the test. Hoorah.

And my thoughts on the Garmin 810? I was really impressed. While it couldn’t help me avoid the hunt or the crosswinds, it did keep me on track, helpfully beeping to alert me to upcoming changes in direction, and recording my ride at the same time. I do think I would prefer to combine it with an OS map, so that I can have a better understanding of where I am in the big picture, but that’s a lesson learnt for next time. I’ll definitely be using it again, hopefully to guide me on some slightly less trauma-filled rides!

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