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The King Alfred Way: A medieval diet program or self-help guide for royalty?

Nope, it’s a cycling tour of southern England, traversing the ancient roads, bye ways and tracks used over millennia from the Stone age through Roman times to Medieval and then modern Britain. It starts and ends in Winchester, home of King Alfred and site of the famous Round Table.

It’s a 330Km circuit, or about 250 miles, if you avoid any navigation errors, entirely off-road and can take anywhere from 24 hours to several days, depending on how hard you want to ride and how much you want to enjoy the scenery and history.

My brother Michael and I did it over 5 days, which required 7-8 hours in the saddle each day, covering about 70-80 km per day. You might think that’s slow, but when you consider the challenges of riding off road in Britain, loaded with overnight gear, it’s not so bad. Hidden behind the tranquil verdant scenes of rolling English countryside are epic 30% grades of flint and gravel, slick chalk downhills, rutted farm tracks otherwise known as “dual cabbageway”, exposed windy sections, and stubborn herds of cows and sheep.

This is an epic adventure and breaks with all my training advice of consistent, moderate volume. But this type of occasional craziness stimulates both the brain and body and makes for a great fun experience. My training consisted of 3-4 rides per week on a road bike, generally up to 2 hours duration, with a few 4 hour rides. My backside and legs held up well on the trip with no aches or pains, but I was absolutely fatigued at the end of each day. The only problem was some stiffness in my right hand from managing all the gear shifting and braking. We stayed at pubs and B&B’s along the way, enjoying some great hospitality. Other riders prefer camping.

For the bike enthusiasts and techies, we did the ride on rented hard tail mountain bikes, with front suspension and disk brakes. We carried minimal overnight gear and a change of clothes. The weather was fantastic, with sunny and dry conditions every day (June 20-24). Despite being no more than 20 miles from civilization at any time, there were long stretches without water or provisions, many of those sleepy English villages lack a store or pub, consisting of just a few houses. We got water from a garden hose on one occasion.

Our favorite historic sites were Old Sarum, Stonehenge, Avebury ring, Frensham ponds, Devils Punchbowl at Hindhead and Butser hill. You can see all these places in the tour guide.


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