Bikexplore - Bike tours and expeditions near and far for all abilities by experienced tour leaders

John Upton

Welcome to my tour page

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Where am I going in 2022?

Birmingham Canals – Tolkien and more (road & surfaced paths)

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Two loops over two days, based at a central Birmingham hotel. The first loop heads North West past the inspirations for the Two Towers. We then pick up a towpath before going through Sandwell valley up to Sutton Park, then back down through New Hall Valley Park to the Fazeley canal. Heading back to the city centre we go under Spaghetti Junction and on to the final stop of the day at Aston Hall, then carrying along canals under some of the foundations of Birmingham.
The second day sees us heading south along the Worcester canal, pass the University, QE and Chocolate factory. Getting to the countryside we switch to lanes and minor roads, winding down to Earlswood Reservoir for a pub lunch before heading back towards Birmingham. We pick up a cycle track and stop off at Sarehole Mill next to Moseley Bog, further inspirations for Tolkien. Finally, we head back to the city, picking up the Grand Union canal for the last few miles.
Easy: 30 miles each day. For the most part flat, though both days so have some hills, but nothing too long. Café stops mid-morning and mid-afternoon, café or pub lunches. Bags can be left at the hotel from Saturday morning until Sunday evening. Can be ridden on any bike, but a something with fatter tyres would be better as canals do get bumpy. I will be riding a rigid touring bike, or possibly a hardtail mountain bike.

Midlands Castles (road)

A nice excuse to wander through some pleasant countryside, this is a ‘moving on’ two-day loop taking in a handful of castles in easy reach of Birmingham, where we start and finish.
For day one, we head out of Birmingham along the Fazeley Canal for a quick coffee on the outskirts of Birmingham, before taking mainly minor roads to Tamworth, where we will have  lunch and can admire the castle. In the afternoon we head to Ashby de la Zouch, where we can look round the ruins and find more refreshment. It’s then a short stretch to our hotel in Market Bosworth. On day two we head south to the ruins of Astley castle, then on to Kenilworth for lunch near the magnificent castle ruins before heading back to Birmingham.
Medium: 50 miles each day, mainly of rolling countryside. Café stops mid-morning and mid-afternoon, café or pub lunches. Overnight bags will need to be carried. Will be almost totally on well-surfaced roads and paths, so suspension is not required. I will be taking a road bike with 1-inch slick tyres, though I would be equally comfortable on a touring bike.

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Birmingham to Bournemouth (road)

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Heading south from Birmingham we crest the Lickeys, head over the Vale of Evesham and have lunch in or at the foot of the Cotswolds. A steep climb takes us through the hills and picture-postcard villages down to the outskirts of Swindon, where we will stay overnight in basic accommodation on an organic farm. The following day we continue south, pickup up the Avon and following its quiet banks make our way to lunch in Salisbury. We then continue south following the river, go through the edges of the New Forest and finally end up our destination, heading for the train station.
Hard: 80 miles each day, mainly of rolling countryside, some of it steep. Café stops mid-morning and mid-afternoon where time allows, café or pub lunches. Overnight bags will need to be carried. Dormitory-type accommodation with some single rooms available. Will be almost totally on well-surfaced roads. I will be taking a road bike with 1-inch slick tyres, something similar is recommended. Travel light, we won’t be hanging around too much. Possible stop(s) at Avebury stone circles and/or Stone Hedge if time allows.

My experience and style

What to expect

Who am I?
With over 25 year experience, I’ve toured mainly in the UK, typically once a year for 3 to 7 days. Now that the kids are more independent, I am looking to expand my involvement, hence joining Bikexplore. I love thinking up places to go, plotting routes and planning logistics, as much as the adventure itself. I am either planning the next adventure or actually on it.
My tour leading style
To go at a pace that the slowest rider in the group can comfortably manage. I’m happy for smaller groups to go faster if they have the route and a phone, though I like to try to keep groups together, as this is the point of group riding. I love coffee and cake, and cycling is a great excuse to indulge.
The roads I take
I will cycle any and everywhere I can: on and off road, bike-packing, camping and ‘credit card’ touring, self-organised and led, some solo but mainly in groups. I always avoid traffic where practical to do so and try to avoid too many hills. I love rolling countryside, especially woodlands.
The places I stay
Depends on many factors. If I’m bikepacking it will be a hedge or a tent, but generally I favour a nice B&B or budget hotel. If choice is limited or a treat is in order, I may look for a place with a swimming pool.
Where do I go?
Time is precious, so starting or finishing at or near the front door is handy. I don’t mind travelling a few hours, particularly if I can do it by train, which opens up most of England and Wales.
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