Saturday, 20 December 2014

How riding gets harder when the terrain changes

My commute to work is great. It's 90% off road, along Auckland Way, which is an old railway track that links Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor.

The path is used by runners, cyclists, walkers and even horse riders. It's an extremely popular path and consequently needs to be maintained regularly.

Training load

In November I began to feel that my commute was taking a bit longer than usual and I felt I had to exert myself a bit more. Looking into my heart rate information, that was true - it was becoming harder to ride along the path.

My training load from
Looking at the image above, it is obvious. The grey bars are planned rides and red bars are actual effort on the rides. Each commute is a planned ride of around 35 minutes with an expected average heart rate of 135 beats per minute. Before our honeymoon in September, my rides weren't so hard: the red bars are almost all under the grey bar. After the honeymoon, each ride needed much more effort: the red bars are all above the grey bars.


So why has riding along Auckland Way become harder? There are two sections that are now being resurfaced. This started in October:
The surface is very rough and loose. If you have a mountain bike with nice fat 2" wide tyres and a suspension fork, you'll barely notice it. On a bike with 700c tyres and rigid fork, its a real boneshaker. Going around the stiles (as in the first tweeted image, above) can be tricky. A couple of times I've had my front wheel wash out, so you should take care at these points.

I asked Durham Countryside Volunteers (12th November) about the work that has been carried out so far as I wasn't sure that it was finished or not: It turns out that the work is only half finished. There will be another surface applied in March next year, called Fiberdec. This apparently seals the path and makes it waterproof, preventing the path from washing away. Check the comments on the Facebook post.

In the meantime, Durham County Council have finally erected some signs to let everyone know what the status is.
Inclement weather putting a stop to proceedings - maybe start in the spring/summer next time?

Last thought

All of this extra effort through the winter is going to have benefits in the summer! Just remember to careful in the stiles and enjoy your riding!

Has your riding been affected by any work carried out on your normal routes? How did work out for you? Let's hear it in the comments below.


  1. My commute time has increased by about 6 or 7 minutes (it is 16 miles+ though).

    Partly due to now having to walk though some roadworks where a junction is being remodelled, and partly to sections being covered in leaves, mud and just general slippy mush. I've now also chucked on the studded winter tyres (just in time for the recent mild spell) which has also made everything that little bit slower and harder.

    Come the spring, I like you should be flying

    1. Thanks for reading and your comment!

      The decline in weather can usually be relied upon to make things that bit more difficult.Luckily I don't seem to be affected by roadworks as I'm not on the road much. Since the latest close encounter on the roundabout at South Church I've started riding a section on the pavement, which I don't like doing.

  2. Be good to see this path made into a really viable option for cyclists all year round. The area around Byres Green Station is for me the only real sticking point. I ride on 35mm tyres and they do get bogged down particularly on that stretch past the station to the railway bridge. The work done at west of Bishops Close Farm is a major improvement.

    1. Hi Alan
      I think that area you mention seems to be constantly wet, especially under the bridge. All it takes is a huge downpour and the top surface is washed away very easily and settles at the bottom.


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