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Reservoir Challenge Audax rides

After quite a few years lacking motivation I finally got around to becoming an audax ride organiser.

My first set of three are a reset of of Richard Daniel’s Reservoir rides last run in 2015. The 200km Triple Reservoir Challenge, a Double Reservoir Challenge slightly lengthened to make an imperial century at 165km and a 100km Single Reservoir Challenge.

The 200 starts from the Joan Strong Centre, Oundle at 8am Sunday 30th April. The 165km starts at 8:30 and the 100km at 9am on the same day. From Oundle they head down to Graham Water with the longer rides adding in Pitsford Reservoir and for the 200, Rutland Water. All three rides will finish at the George Inn, approximately 2km from the start. There is free car parking at the start, toilets and water for filling bidons. There may also be tea and coffee but no guarantee of that yet!

If you are an experienced audaxer you’ll know the drill but for those who are not these are NOT sportives, they are self sufficient rides with no signage, and no ride backup or support. They are also not races but you have to do the ride in the minimum time allowed, which isn’t fast as long as you don’t take too long over the café stops!

Route sheets and GPX files will be available here approximately 2 weeks before the ride date.

Single Reservoir Challenge route map
Single Reservoir Challenge

They think I’m mad! The story of a 12h Time Trial

To set the scene for this year’s attempt on the Kettering CC club 12 hour record we should go back to last year’s effort.

Last season I was aiming to achieve a BBAR certificate for averaging at least 22mph over 50 miles, 100 miles and 12 hours. My plan was to hit 24mph for the 50, 22mph for the 100 and finish it off with a 20mph 12 hour. Also, as the club record for 12 hours is only 240.7 miles, a successful 12 hour for the BBAR would almost certainly be a club record too.

Having managed a 50 in 2:05:04 (23.99 mph), and a 100 in 4:32:15 (22.04 mph) it was all down to the CC Breckland 12 hours in September on the fast B12/3 course.

Then I realised that my fastest 50 was in a non-BBAR counting event so I only had a 2.09.23 (23.19 mph) which meant that I would need 250 miles in the 12 hour, which to be honest, was not very realistic.

Therefore the focus switched to the club record and 240.7 miles as the target.  To cut a long story short, after 10 hours when I was moved off the fast roads to the finish circuit I had done only 197 miles rather than the 200 I needed. 3 miles may not seem a lot but it meant that I had 43 to go. To do 21.5 mph for the next two hours was not going to be possible as I had only averaged 19.7 mph on faster roads so I lost a bit of motivation and ultimately finished with 231.752 miles.

Based on last year’s experience I set myself a schedule to reach 204 miles after 10 hours which would give me an achievable target of 18 mph for the last two hours on the slower finishing circuit.

The B12/3 course is easy to manage for supporters as both main loops have a common turn so my son Ryan, who was helping again this year, after seeing me start, drove down to the Eccles interchange on the A11 and waited for my first appearance there after 55 miles.

12 hour time trials (and 24s) are different from fixed the distance TTs in that although everyone does the same course, faster riders will do more laps of some of the circuits. This is to keep all the riders close together geographically so that you don’t actually know how many laps you will do as you will get directed from one circuit to the next based on when the fastest riders go through.

The CC Breckland event though is not too complicated as it is only “loop B” that is done a variable number of times (until you reach the finish circuit of course).

Course summary:

Event HQ to the Eccles interchange on the A11; 15 miles

Loop B, A11 towards Norwich and back; 20 miles

Loop A, A11 towards Thetford and back; 20 miles

Repeat loop A another four times; then straight on to loop B and repeat as many times as possible before being diverted to the finish circuit.

Then 9 miles of country lanes until you reach the finish circuit which is essentially an out and back 10 course with the race HQ at one end.

Once on the finish circuit there are timekeepers every mile and you just keep going until the timekeeper calls out that you have finished. Your final distance is calculated based on the times you passed the timekeepers immediately before and after your 12 hours are up so you actually ride a few minutes beyond 12 hours to the next timekeeper to maximise your distance. Of course, if you are me you will always finish as far away from the HQ as possible so you have to ride even further before you can eventually stop!

Although both loops A and B have a common turn, you didn’t come off the A11 when switching between them so you have to bear that in mind when planning your resupply stops. Each stop wasn’t an actual stop but as I approached Ryan waiting on a slight uphill section at the turn I would throw down my empty bottle and take a full one with two gels taped to it from him as he jogged alongside.

Nutrition is very important in long events. As a rule of thumb, you can only absorb about 90-100 g of carbohydrate per hour. This is as long as you use a mix of glucose and a different simple sugar such as fructose in a 2:1 ratio. So my plan was to ensure that I took on that amount every hour. Last year I found solid food hard to manage so this year it was a gel every 30 minutes and 500 ml of homemade energy drink every hour. I wouldn’t see Ryan until the 55 mile mark though so I carried seven gels from the start, and a full 750 ml of energy drink to see me through on this initial leg.

I reached the A11 after 43 minutes (21.4 mph) so was at this point up on schedule. Now 10 miles with the wind on my back before a 20 mile leg into the 15 mph headwind, if I could reach the far south west turn in good time it would give me confidence for the rest of the day. Loop B is a pig though, concrete slabs and potholes littered about like craters on a WW1 battlefield. On the plus side though we had five laps of loop A and 100 miles of smooth roads to look forward to!

Average speed at the south-west end of the course at 45 miles was 21.5 mph, so well up on schedule. A perfect bottle handover at 55 miles, 15 minutes ahead of expected time so luckily Ryan was just about ready, walking down to the planned feed station, last year we dropped just one bottle in the eight attempts, this year we missed none.

Second lap of loop A was a minute faster than the first even though there was traffic backed up for the Snetterton turn off which meant I had to ride between the two lines of traffic keeping eyes open for cars trying to move lanes at short notice. Shortly after starting lap 3 I hit an empty cat’s-eye and punctured my front wheel. Rather than replace the tube I thought it would be quicker to ring Ryan and for him to drive down with a spare wheel. The spare wheel was one I had put in the car only at the last moment as it was a training wheel rather than a race wheel so was significantly wider. That shouldn’t really have been too much of a problem because the workaround would be just not close in the brake QR. However unlike Shimano, Campag have the QR mechanism on the lever not the calliper, and since I had Aero levers on my bars they didn’t have the QR button on them. There was also not sufficient travel in the cable adjuster so it required the quick application of an allen key to loosen the cable a tad and a full 7 minutes after stopping I was back on my way with a Tour de France style push up the road. Seven minutes was worth two and a bit miles but after 95 miles I was on a 21.0 mph average so I had sufficient in hand for the record to fall. I took advantage of the enforced stop to divest myself of all the empty gel wrappers and fill my aero top tube bag with liquorice allsorts (paying homage to the great Beryl Burton). I was feeling good, although various bits were beginning to hurt, particularly in the saddle area. Heart rate was a little less than last year’s event though I was going faster.

Then disaster #2, not another puncture but far worse mentally; I was waved onto loop B instead of making the turn and another two laps of loop A. I guessed this was due to the traffic issues at Snetterton (which it was), but this meant 5 laps of purgatory rather than the 3 that I had mentally prepared for.

I had to give myself a severe talking to on that next lap as I rattled along avoiding all the holes and another potential blow out. Also the traffic was getting ridiculous, very fast and more close passes than was comfortable. (Note to self, NEVER ride this course again!) I did think of packing at this point purely on safety grounds but at the end of the lap I was on a 20.9mph average so still all to play for. As long as average speed showing on my computer didn’t drop by more than 0.1mph per lap I would hit the finish circuit with an overall average of 20.5mph which would allow me my two hours at 18mph taking into account the time lost due to the puncture. In fact, my average speed for that lap was also 20.9mph so it was looking good even though there was still over six hours to ride!

At the end of the second lap of loop B and the average had dropped to 20.7mph, a 62 minute lap which was a full 5 minutes slower than the previous one. It was around this time that I realised that my saddle sores were no longer hurting, but also I realised that that was because I had subconsciously stopped using the aero position and as soon as I got back down into the tuck it was agony again. The next lap was also 62 minutes and my average speed after 156 miles was now only 20.5mph. Almost eight hours in and I had to stop for another application of ibuprofen gel to the knees, which actually were bearing up surprisingly well. I couldn’t use the aerobars at all by this stage which would account for the slower times and I did yet another 62 minute lap so at least I was consistent.

At 176 miles it was with mixed feelings that I was directed off the A11 towards the finishing circuit. At least I wouldn’t have to do yet another lap of the Somme-like Wymondham bypass, but I would have an hour less on the faster roads. My average was now down to 20.2mph so 19.7mph required for the next three and a bit hours, although my schedule assumed 18mph for the finishing circuit maybe it would be more sheltered from the wind and I could pick up the pace and suffer the pain a bit more.

I felt reasonably good on the 11 miles up to the finish circuit but by now my average had dropped to 20.0mph and I could barely hold the bars in any configuration let alone get into a tuck. The base bars on a TT bike are not comfortable to use for hours on end and by this stage I had a lot of pain in my upper arms and shoulders and cramp in the fingers on my right hand.

With over two hours to go I reluctantly decided to call it a day and simply rolled around 2 laps of the finish circuit in order to chalk up 200 miles, which of course was at the far end of the circuit so I still had another 5 miles to go after that! My final total was a very modest 206.360 miles, and I suppose I could have carried on and put another 20-25 miles on that but neither my heart nor my head was prepared to suffer any more.

I would recommend that every time trialist should do a 12h though, they are unlike any other TT (except a 24h which are even more amazing). The applause every rider gets from all the supporters is brilliant, quite a few will take the trouble to learn the riders’ names and cheer you on by name as you pass which is very uplifting. Next year I’ll be back, better prepared and that record WILL fall!

Puch Mistral Royal Force


1986 Columbus SL frame and Shimano 600 equipped.

Waymarked Trails Website

I have just discovered this tool for planning cycle routes in unfamiliar locations. A major plus is the ability to download gpx files!

Waymarked Trails: Routes

Good coverage of UK, Belgium, Holland and a few others, more patchy in most European countries but the major routes such as the North Sea Route and the Danube Cycle path are included.

PBP 2015

Waiting for the start.

Waiting for the start.

05:10 Monday morning and I am waiting with 261 other riders, one of the last waves to depart from the National Velodrome at St Quentin de Evelines on the outskirts of Paris. I turn my lights on and eat a couple of cereal bars and I am ready to go. Then I remember that I need to take the first of today’s course of antibiotics with my cereal bar breakfast. A nearby Frenchman looks at me and with a smile and a wink mutters “ah, dopage!” A tooth infection had manifested itself last week so I have been on antibiotics and painkillers since Thursday, not the best preparation for a 1230km bicycle ride.

The Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) cycle race was first run in 1891 as an advertising vehicle for a French newspaper, such a successful venture that the idea was copied in 1903 by a different newspaper and so created the Tour de France. PBP was run every 10 years and the 1901 winner Maurice Garin also went on to win the inaugural Tour de France. As it fell out of favour with professional cyclists, an amateur class was added, and eventually the professional race ceased with the last attracting only 41 riders in 1951. Now PBP is every 4 years and attracts thousands of long distance cyclists from around the world.

“5,4,3,2,1 allez” and we’re off. The start was awesome, a peleton of 262 riders, lead car, motorcycle outriders, ignoring red lights etc, and even a crash caused by street furniture, which was not serious but I did think that we needed people with little warning flags for an even better TdF feeling! We were soon out in the French countryside and the pack broke up into smaller groups. My strategy was not to go out too hard and try to keep my heart rate below 130 (or 140 uphill), in retrospect I should have been prepared to go harder up the hills as that would have enabled me to stay in faster groups for longer.

In addition to the cheering crowds at the start, all along the route people would wave, cheer and clap as you rode by. Occasionally kids would offer high 5’s, and even in the early hours (e.g. 2am) you would see old folks out giving a cheer as you went through their village. People set up stalls offering water, coffee and snacks. The three I stopped at were all different, one was an unmanned table full of bottled water, another had two young children rush out of their house as I pulled up and offered me a glass of water and filled my water bottles. I also stopped at Levare (285km) to have a coffee and cake from a roadside stall set up by Clara Desmaires and her friends. Clara handed me a slip of paper with her address on it so that I could send her a postcard when I got home, which apparently is the normal “payment” required for this support. There is one man who has been doing this for years, handing out drinks and crêpes beside a large display of postcards received from previous years.

The were a choice of three target times, 80h, 84h and 90h, and as long as you beat the maximum time for the group you entered you would be “homologated”, i.e. officially deemed to have completed the ride. Typically, 80% will finish OK, with the others not completing the ride or doing so but out of time. Although most entrants opt for the 90h limit, I decided on the 84h, for the sole reason that that group started early Monday morning instead of late Sunday afternoon so I thought that it would make for a better sleep strategy.

It was 21:57 when I pulled into the control at Tinteniac, too early to sleep so after a minimalist 14’ stop I was away again, heading for Loudeac 85km further on. Between these two compulsory controls though, there was an optional sleep/feed facility at Quedillac. I arrived here at 23:35 (389km) and although was not yet feeling sleepy, decided to take my sleep stop here mainly because my legs felt they needed a rest. This turned out to be a mistake because I just wasn’t tired enough to sleep through the background noise and although I was stationary for over three hours, I don’t think I slept for more than about an hour in total.

Back in the saddle and off again at 03:10. It was a clear night and felt much colder than the actual 10C, which in turn was much colder than the forecast 13C minimum. I had decided at the last minute to leave my leg warmers in Paris and ride in shorts through the nights, a big mistake! Arriving at Loudeac an hour before sunrise, I decided on a longer than planned for break so that I could leave as the sun rose. As we were all wearing timing chips, post-race you can check your position at each control. I was 2589th at 220km, 2096th at 363km but had dropped to 3926th at 448km due to my sleep stop. Pushing on further westwards brings me to Carhaix (526km) overtaking more than a thousand riders although I didn’t actually pass them as they had started the day before and were still ahead of me on the road albeit behind me on time.

I stopped for lunch at a bar in Huelgoat, which was much more fun than queuing for “school dinners” at one of the controls. Then we had to face the long uphill slog to Roc Trevezel, with the corresponding drop down into Brest itself. Halfway, 614km done in 35 hours and now lying in 2212nd place. After a short stop at the Brest control it was back over the Roc, which didn’t seem as bad as expected, maybe because we had a little bit of a tailwind, or maybe because we had turned around and now every pedal revolution was one step closer to Paris. By the time I have passed back through Carhaix I had “overtaken” another 423 riders and was hoping to get to Loudeac by 3am to grab a few hours sleep. By this time I had met up with my clubmate Carlos who I had travelled to Paris with but we had not ridden together on the way out, and also Lucy from Cheltenham who we had met at the secret control in Mael-Carhaix. She had started on the Sunday and although had 6 more hours than us to complete the ride was very worried about not making the next control in time so asked if she could ride with us through the night. It was now 1am and both Carlos and Lucy were beginning to fall asleep on their bikes so we thought a power nap at St Nicolas-du-Pelem was called for. After about an hour we were back on our bikes but Lucy was still suffering so in the end said that she would sleep some more on the verge and wished us on our way.

Due to the unscheduled stop and slower than expected night riding, we didn’t get to Loudeac until 05:18 which meant we could only spare an hour to sleep instead of the planned three. Still, with 780km done and 34 hours left to ride the remaining 450km it was looking a done deal.

We left Loudeac at 07:11, stopped at a boulangerie for breakfast and were making good time. But then disaster struck, the slight twinge I had felt in my right Achilles tendon last night was back! Over the next few miles the pain intensity increased, to the extent that I was longing for hills, as I would get some respite on the down. The left tendon also started hurting (so an overuse injury), although never to the level of the right. It took almost 6 hours to ride the 85km to Tinteniac, arriving only 20’ before our deadline. I calculated that I could spare no more than one hour at this control if we were to guarantee getting to the next one in time. So a visit to the medics, who basically just rubbed in a deep heat type cream, and an hour sleep on a bench before hopping back on the bike and hoping that the rest had done some good.

It was clear after just a few kms that it wasn’t any better so I sent Carlos off and returned to Tinteniac to register my abandonment. I had completed 865km in 55h 40’, and had dropped from 1791st place at Carhaix to 2505th at my premature finish line.

Of the 5820 who started, 1198 abandoned and a further 156 finished but out of time.

My modified PBP jersey, Paris-Brest-Tinteniac

My modified PBP jersey, Paris-Brest-Tinteniac

The stats

Stage 1: 138km in 5:29:53 (inc. 0:01:31 stopped time), average speed 25.3km/h, 1261m climbing. AHR=117, MHR=147. Time stopped at Montagne-au-Perche=24′

Stage 2: 80km in 3:20:50 (inc. 0:03:00 stopped time), average speed 24.3km/h, 796m climbing. AHR=120, MHR=145. Time stopped at Villaines-la-Juhel=25′

Stage 3: 89km in 3:49:52 (inc. 0:07:51 stopped time), average in speed 24.0km/h, 904m climbing. AHR=118, MHR=142. Time stopped at Fougeres=45′

Stage 4: 54km in 2:26:30 (inc. 0:00:58 stopped time), average speed 22.3km/h, 289m climbing. AHR=115, MHR=138. Time stopped at Tinteniac=14′

Stage 5: 26.5km in 1:24:08 (inc. 0:00:00 stopped time), average speed 18.9km/h, 412m climbing. AHR=106, MHR=126. Time stopped at Quedillac=3h35′.

Day 2

Stage 6 : 59km in 3:03:15 (inc. 0:00:15 stopped time), average speed 19.4km/h, 573m climbing. AHR=105, MHR=130. Time stopped at Loudeac=55′

Stage 7: 46km in 2:27:58 (inc. 0:02:54 stopped time), average speed 18.8km/h, 637m climbing. AHR=106, MHR=132. Time stopped at St Nicolas-du-Pelem=17′

Stage 8: 33km in 1:25:55 (inc. 0:00:17 stopped time), average speed 23.0km/h, 260m climbing. AHR=107, MHR=127. Time stopped at Carhaix-Plouguer=27′

Stage 9: 89.5km in 4:59:11 (inc. 0:35:47 stopped time, lunch at Huelgoat), average speed 20.4km/h, 839m climbing. AHR=108, MHR=131. Time stopped at Brest=32′

Stage 10: 83.5km in 4:31:04 (inc. 0:11:06 stopped time), average speed 19.3km/h, 1030m climbing. AHR=112, MHR=142. Time stopped at Carhaix-Plouguer=39′

Stage 11: 37km in 2:43:41 (inc. 0:35:49 stopped time for secret control plus 3x short stops of ~3′), average speed 17.2km/h, 310m climbing. AHR=103, MHR=130. Time stopped at St Nicolas-du-Pelem=52′

Stage 12: 46km in 3:14:08 (inc. 0:09:12 stopped time), average speed 15.0km/h, 635m climbing. AHR=105, MHR=132. Time stopped at Loudeac=1h53′

Day 3

Stage 13: 86km in 5:42:18 (inc. 0:50:34 stopped time), average speed 17.6km/h, 783m climbing. AHR=99, MHR=121.

Mersey Roads 24

mersey_roads_24_1The National Championship 24 hour Time Trial hosted by the Mersey Roads Club.

A 24h time trial is the longest standard TT race run in the UK. Unlike most TTs, the 24 (and it’s more popular sibling the 12h), is not based on how quickly you can ride a certain distance, but rather how far you can ride in certain time.

I can’t remember exactly why I entered this race, having never raced anything longer than a 50 mile TT before (and that was over 25 years ago). I suppose it was a combination of having a free weekend, thinking that I need some miles in my legs before my main target this year, the Paris-Brest-Paris, plus the fact that my club, Kettering CC did not currently have a standing record for this distance.

I started at 1:12 pm on Saturday, one of the early starters at number twelve. It was quite windy but warm and dry until about 3 am when it rained for 5 hours. At 8:40 pm I stopped for sausage and chips (and to gaffer tape a lighting rig to my aero bars) at Prees Island for 15 minutes, then again at approx 2:20 for a 20′ nap. This was earlier than originally planned but I had slowed substantially on the previous 40 mile circuit and also, with an eye on the weather I didn’t want to stop after the rain started. By the time I had awoken, had my legs massaged with vitamin I, eaten a pot noodle and put more clothes on, the total stopped time was 55 minutes (16 miles lost!).

Rice pudding for breakfast

Rice pudding for breakfast

In all, I was stationary for exactly 2 hours, the two stops above, plus a couple of 10 minute stops at 7:20am and 9:10am and a puncture with an hour to go which cost me 14 minutes (4 miles). The remaining 16 minutes of stoppage time was to replace water bottles and pick up eat-on-the-go food every 20 miles or so.

There were 99 riders on the start sheet, of which only 64 finished. The winner was Mike Broadwith in an amazing 537.35 miles, the second best ever distance in a 24, less than 4 miles behind Andrew Wilkinson’s competition record. Like Mike, I was riding my first ever 24 hour TT, but unlike Mike, I am old, fat and slow, so was equally pleased with my 368.33 miles and 40th place. My targets were: #1- Not be last, #2- Ride at least 500km (313 miles), #3- beat my vets standard of 329 miles,, and top target, #4- Beat 350 miles, but as the ride went on and I was ahead of schedule, I upped my target to 600km (373 miles) which had I not punctured, would have been very close. Of course, just by finishing I set a new club record, but I was pleased it a reasonable distance. I think 400 miles should be my target next time.

On the finishing circuit. You ride around this until your 24 hours are up.

On the finishing circuit. You ride around this until your 24 hours are up.

The course was designed around 3 linked circuits, with the faster riders doing more loops of each circuit to keep everyone together(-ish). This meant that although you aren’t allowed to ride with anyone else, you saw lots of riders as you passed them, or they passed you, repeatedly throughout the day. In particular, I remember one old school gent on a trike who insisted on that old traditional greeting of “dig in” all six times I passed him! There were two trike riders, both over 70 years old, and a tandem trike, maybe Helen will be up for this next year…

Support: Although some were riding “unsupported”, most of us had our own support teams. In my case it was my daughter Rachel and her fiancé Kyle. They waited on each circuit, calculated when I would arrive and were there by the roadside to hand me food and replace drinks bottles as required. Only once they weren’t there when I rode up to Espley Island, as I stopped where I expected them to be, one of another rider’s supporters came up to me and asked, “what do you need, water, tea, coffee, porridge?” and on hearing the answer rushed of to an adjacent camper and shortly returned with a mug of tea. Although there were a small number of locations favoured by most support teams, there were the occasional supporters dotted all over the course so you didn’t go far without someone cheering and clapping you through. I wouldn’t have liked to have done this race without support, not only did it make everything easier (and therefore faster), there was a significant psychological boast in knowing that you would see your team in a few miles time, no matter where you were on the course.

Quick stop for fresh drink and a sandwich.

Quick stop for fresh drink and a sandwich.

Nutrition: My strategy was a constant flow of carbs by way of a homemade glucose/fructose based energy drink which I drank in lieu of normal plain water which I would drink on less intensive audax rides. In addition, while Kyle changed my bottles on each stop, Rachel would offer me a choice of either a peanut butter or Nutella sandwich, which I would grab whichever I fancied at the time and eat as I pedalled away. I also carried a few yoghurt snack bars and cheesestrings with me which I consumed occasionally when I felt like it.

WCW 600

68969_10153357305355030_5947625072751466044_n600km is a long, long way! This was my first 600 and for most of the second day I convinced myself that I wouldn’t do another one, ever! In fact I was questioning the point of even doing PBP for which I was fairly confident of qualifying. Now, three days later the never again thoughts have subsided.

My plan was to ride to a max HR of 130 on day 1 and use lighter gears than usual. This worked as my legs have recovered much more quickly than after the LlanfairPG 400.  We did have to push it on day 2 as the section from Chester back to Lilleshall was a lot slower than expected, mainly due to my riding buddy having real issues with staying awake. At one point we stopped on Wembury railway station platform, where we found a shelter out of the rain so that he could power nap.

As a consequence of the slow overnight section, I calculated that we needed to reduce time at controls to near zero, based on distance left to ride. Carlos couldn’t be convinced by my argument because he was working on control closing times, and I couldn’t put my finger on why he was wrong at the time although I have since worked out it was due to the event being overdistance by 25km. Luckily the tailwind on the long leg 9 took the time pressure away and we were able to finish with an hour to spare.

The volunteers at the controls were amazing. I liked the variety of food available, every control was different. I would have liked to have spent more time at each control and been more sociable but we had somewhere to be…

A link to the video compiled from footage from my Garmin Virb:

Windsor-Chester-Windsor 600km audax ride


Cuba Tour 2011

A link to my write up of our Cuba Tour of 2011 on the Crazy Guy on a Bike website.

Pedal Castro: Tour of Cuba


The 3 Castles Ride from Oundle

3_castles_rideThis 40 mile route passes three local castles and apart from three very short sections on A roads and passing through Thrapston, is all on quiet country lanes.

On leaving Oundle via the south bridge you pass Barnwell country park and Barnwell lock gates on your right. After about 2 miles turn right onto the A605 and then very shortly afterwards turn left towards Barnwell village. You don’t go into the village proper but follow the road ignoring the two right turns. At the second of these you will catch a glimpse of our first castle.

Continue to follow the road turning left at the T-junction (4 miles). From here you descend to the roundabout on the A605 where you turn right (3rd exit) and ride a short distance along the main road until you take the first left to Tansor. An alternative route to Tansor if you are on mountain bikes is to turn right through Ashton before you get to the A605 and, after passing the Chequered Skipper pub and taking the left fork by Murder Cottage, follow the road past the Oundle School rifle range (it now becomes a track). If you take this alternative route then you will need to turn left where the track joins the road, and follow this road across the A 605 and into Tansor via a pair of gates.

As you go through Tansor, with the church on your left, you will see the old rectory, Tansor Court. Follow the road north to Fotheringhay. As you approach Fothringhay, just before the bridge, you will have a very fine view of the church on your left and the remains of our second Castle on the right. This is the Castle where Richard III was born and Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded.

Taking the right turn in the village centre (near the church entrance) you ride up a short hill and take the right turn at the top to descend into Elton. As you pass the Crown pub on your left take the right fork by the Green and then follow the road up a short sharp hill turning left at the T junction towards Peterborough on the old Oundle road. This road goes up a hill and you take the next right into Bullock Road once you get to the bottom on the other side. Go straight over the cross roads, and then left at the first T junction and then right at the next towards Gt Gidding.

In Gt Gidding turn right at the cross roads at the bottom of the hill and then first left to Thurning and continue on this road to Clopton where you turn right at the T junction and then next left towards Titchmarsh. Right at the T-junction and into the village of Titchmarsh. The site of castle number 3 is visible from the road on your left by the old style redpillar post box.

Turn left after passing the church, then follow this road over two roundabouts and down the hill into Thrapston. Straight over another mini roundabout and then turn right after crossing the River Nene into Islip. Ride all the way through Islip and turn right at the T junction with the A6116, taking the first right after about 300m. You can avoid this short stretch of A road by taking the path as the road bends to the left before the T junction. This lane will take you into Aldwincle and turning left at the T junction in the village you simply follow the road all the way back into Oundle.

3 Castles Ride gpx file

Follow the Yellowbrick Road!

OS_map_oundle_mid2_cropSomeone on the yacf forum planted a seed in my head by asking if anyone had ridden all the yellow roads on their local OS map.

As luck would have it I have a 1:50000 OS map centred on Oundle. (You can order OS maps with the location of your choice in the middle.)

Riding every yellow road within 20-30 km of Oundle can’t be too difficult, can it? I will set myself the target to do this within the year, so most I will probably cover in the course of normal riding but this challenge will make me ride roads I perhaps don’t normally ride, particularly on the fringes of my map. Covering all the yellow roads in the three major towns of Corby, Peterborough and Kettering will need some thought though.

I have now scanned my OS map and printed it out (12 sides of A4), so to track my progress I will simply draw on the yellow roads with red pen as I ride them.