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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

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.

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


La Bataille de Normandie 400

A post on yacf  entitled “le 1000 de St-Germain (9 or 10th of July 2014)” caught my eye back in January. The route looked great, another 20 BPF controls to pick up, and an excellent prep ride for PBP. However it was scheduled to take place in the last week of term so impossible for me. However, while viewing the website of the event I noticed that immediately afterwards there was a 400km brevet, themed on the D-day landings. This was possible, being on the Sunday after term ended. After convincing cycling buddy Carlos to give it a go, we made plans…

Route and profile

Route and profile

We had both done one 300km audax in preparation so felt that the distance was achievable, however we were not sure if we should plan a short 2 hour sleep stop at around midnight. In the end we decided that by minimising the time we stopped at controls we could easily ride through the night and finish in the early hours. I felt that a 1am finish (20 hours) was a good target to aim for, Carlos said he’d be happy to beat 3am. Looking at the profile it seemed that once we had reached Falaise at about 145 miles would be downhill to the coast and then an easy ride past the D-Day landing beaches back to the start!

That was the plan, this was the ride…

We drove down to Portsmouth and parked up in a conveniently placed school car park. We had planned to arrive earlier enough to find a nearby pub to eat before parking up but horrendous traffic around Oxford and on the approach to Winchester delayed us too much so that we arrived in Portsmouth one hour later than planned and bang on when we had arranged with Paul the caretaker to let us in to the car park. After loading up the bikes we pedalled off 2 miles up the A3 to the ferry port.

Sleeping mats bungeed to the bar-bag.

Sleeping mats bungeed to the bar-bag.

We were camping at the start so that meant we had a 15 mile ride from Cherbourg to St Germain de Tournabut carrying too much stuff for bikes with no racks…

The tent was in my small rucsac, and the the two sleeping bags we managed to strap to Carlos' seat post mounted pack.

The tent was in my small rucsac, and the the two sleeping bags (originally dangling from aforementioned rucsac) we managed to strap to Carlos’ seat post mounted pack.


We managed to get on first and secure out bikes in prime positions.

We managed to get on the ferry first and secure out bikes in prime positions.

As I remembered from a previous jaunt, you have a reasonable climb out of Cherbourg, made less pleasant by Carlos leading the way at a pace and out of town on the N13, not actually a motorway but not far off, also adding 5 miles to the ride. Now off route we continued on until we came to the first available exit, which was some distance along the way but by zooming out on my Garmin it was possible to judge a satisfactory back road way to St Germain. Arriving at the event HQ at 9:30pm we were mistaken for early finishers of the 1000km event. We had to pose for photos, shake hands etc, while trying to explain that we had in fact just arrived from Angleterre and where could we put up our tent? Eventually, despite our schoolboy French, we managed to make ourselves understood and we were able to sign in and then led through the village to the President’s garden where we could pitch our tent.

Our tent in the President's garden

Our tent in the President’s garden

I had warned Carlos that the tent was a small one! It was getting on for 11pm by the time we got our heads down so that was 5 hours sleep before the alarms woke us at 4am on the Sunday morning. Having already packed everything needed for the ride, we just had to get dressed, clip on the bar and saddle bags, unlock the bikes, switch on lights and pedal up the la mairie (village hall) which was the event HQ.

Le petit déjeuner dans la mairie.

Le petit déjeuner dans la mairie.

After a quick wash in the loo, insertion of contact lenses and breakfast, it was back outside to make ready.


Cycling at night you have to wear a hi-viz vest

The first 60 minutes was magical, ridden as a group, 32 riders (including one tandem) riding down to Utah beach in the dark through the drizzle. We turned inland at the Utah Beach memorial and soon after the “peleton” began to break up into groups. Carlos and I formed a group of three with a Frenchman and quite soon found ourselves in the lead. Try as I might to get Carlos to take it easy as there was still 235 miles to go, he would insist on going to the front into the wind instead of following wheels, which is how we found ourselves out in front.

Just before Dead Man’s Corner, the tandem came screaming past only to stop suddenly in a layby, I guess for a toilet stop, but that was the last we saw of them, I suspect they abandoned as tandems are usually very fast on the flat, particularly into the wind.

Stéphane (the organiser) took a video as we passed Dead Man’s Corner which I will link to once he uploads it. After 40 miles we arrived at Le Cimetière Militaire Allemand de Marigny. Here we dallied, taking photos, eating biscuits and generally let a whole bunch of riders get ahead of us.


After 77 miles we hit Avranches and it was time for breakfast at 10am.

A couple of pastries, a fizzy drink, water bottles refilled and off again.

A couple of pastries, a fizzy drink, water bottles refilled and off again.


…but only as far as the Patton Memorial which was just around the corner.


It continued to drizzle for the next stage to Mortain. Here we had intended just to get our cards stamped and push on but as we arrived in town, Carlos clipped the kerb as we stopped to get our bearings and managed to fall off, then the heavens opened. We sought coffee and shelter in the same small bar Robin and I stopped at during our Normandy tour last year. We weren’t the only ones as it seemed to be the only place open in Mortain that day. Soon the bar was full of very wet cyclists, all eating bread and cakes bought from the Boulangerie next door as it was too early for the bar to serve food. Eventually (after 25′) we decided that the rain wasn’t going to let up so out we went and onwards to Falaise.

Château de Falaise, birthplace of William the Conqueror

Château de Falaise, birthplace of William the Conqueror

Falaise was our planned main meal stop after 145 miles, and we arrived there at 4:20pm. By now the rain had abated and we rolled into the home town of William the Bastard in warm sunshine. After a leisurely stop of about an hour we were back on the road for what should have been a mainly downhill 30 mile leg to Pegasus Bridge. Although we had expected that this would be the easiest section, the strong headwind made it seem like the hardest, not too bad though as by sharing the work we still managed 13.7 mph.

Crossing the new Pegasus Bridge (not the original which is now in the museum nearby) at 7:30pm our aim was a light meal here and then non-stop to the finish. On the west side of the bridge are two cafe/bars. On your left is the old Café Gondrée, one of the first houses liberated in Operation Overlord and now run by Madame Gondrée, who was 5 years old on D-Day. This was my preferred option but as we rolled up it was shutting up for the evening so we were left with the new bar across the road to get our cards stamped. This was very busy with what seemed like a coach party of Bits having just arrived. Unfortunately the bar was not doing food (something to do with it being a Sunday in France!) so we survived on a bag of crisps and a coffee, although Carlos did manage to throw is coffee mostly over the floor, the sign of things to come perhaps?

It turns out that the “coach party” of Brits were on a charidee bike ride from Paris to London. They had completed a 75 mile day and were about to tuck into a large pasta based meal, we on the other hand had ridden 175 miles, had another 77 miles to go and had a bag of crisps between us! I did think about cadging some food from them but that would have entailed indulging in polite conversation and we didn’t want to dally for too long here. So after half an hour we were back in the saddle for the last leg.

A key to a successful long ride in the summer is to ensure your water bottles are never empty, so it is always a priority to plan refill stops particularly in France on a Sunday. Even more so late on a Sunday evening. My plan for our next water stop was a campsite in Arromanches I had stayed at the previous year, so I knew exactly where the drinking water tap was. The next control was an unmanned one at Grandcamp-Maisy, which we approached via Omaha Beach including the best bit of riding of the whole day, from Moulins to Vieirville-sur-Mer in the dark with the waves crashing against the sea wall, simply magical!

Grand Camp Maisy

Grandcamp-Maisy PoP

At Grandcamp-Maisy we stopped for POP (proof of passage), which in this case was a photograph next the village sign. Not long this control Carlos started to get sleepy and at one point felt that he actually fell asleep while riding! Luckily I had some Kendal Mint Cake stashed as emergency rations, which seemed to do the trick, as after a few minutes he was off like a rocket with me in his wake. Every so often he would slow and I would feed him more “rocket fuel” and off we go again, all the way to the finish with a brief stop to see the dangling paratrooper stuck on the spire at Sainte-Mere-Eglise.

All the British finishers were presented with a bottle of D-Day commemorative cider.

All the British finishers were presented with a bottle of D-Day commemorative cider.

We arrived at the finish at 3am, just a shade under 22 hours in total, 18h39′ riding time and an average speed of 13.5mph. On completion we were given a bottle of D-Day cider and we hit the food table. 45′ later we got back on our bikes to ride the 500m back to our tent. Just as we settled down to sleep our alarms went off, the ones that we had set to ensure we got to the start on time – we had been awake for exactly 24 hours, almost all of which had been spent in the saddle!



Checking in at the finish

Checking in at the finish

Carlos looking quite fresh.

Carlos eyeing up those two bottles of cider…


Resting my eyes after 252 miles of cycling!

Resting my eyes after 252 miles of cycling!

We finished 11th and 12th in the grand scheme of things. The bunch of riders who we last saw passing us as we stopped for a last bit of Kendal Mint Cake must have gone off course as we some how managed to finish just before they did.

We finished 11th and 12th in the grand scheme of things. The bunch of riders who we last saw passing us as we stopped for a last bit of Kendal Mint Cake must have gone off course as we some how managed to finish just before they did.


We topped the Gorilla Strava club leaderboard that week!

We topped the Gorilla Strava club leaderboard that week!


My first 400km medal.

My first 400km medal.

The completed brevet

The completed brevet

A rather blurry pose outside the Marie (village hall) before we left to ride back the Cherbourg.

A rather blurry pose outside the Mairie (village hall) before we left to ride back the Cherbourg.

Our first proper meal in three days. By God it tasted good!

Arrived in Cherbourg and our first proper meal in three days. By God it tasted good!

Waiting for the ferry back to Blighty.

Waiting for the ferry back to Blighty.

Rutland and Beyond

Rory O'Brien track bike

Rory O’Brien track bike

I entered this last year but was a DNS due to illness. I wasn’t going to enter again this year as I intended only to ride 100km events fixed and this was too hilly to ride fixed. The reason for this was that you only get audax points for events equal or longer than 200km, but you geta  FWC (fixed wheel challenge) point for 100km.

I did end up riding it though, as my friend entered and it was his first audax so I agreed to ride it with him. As it was only 100km, I had to ride fixed to gain any points. It would be hilly, but not too bad as long as I didn’t push it too hard.  Carlos then suggested that we ride out to the start in Leicester. As this was just over 50km, by riding there and back, the extra 100km meant that we could enter what is called an Extended Calendar Event or ECE.  Therefore I now had my month’s 200km ride sorted.

We met opposite the George in Oundle at 5:15am and after some faffing to get my gps sorted out, we set off into a head wind and light rain. We had chosen a 35 mile ride out via Corby and the Langtons. As heavy rain was forecast later on in the morning, I was carrying a complete change of cycling clothes in my saddlebag which I was planning to change into at the start after the rain was forecast to have stopped. In the end the rain held off and I could leave my change of clothes, along with my lights. unused at the start location.

Due to the headwind we didn’t arrive at the start as early as we had hoped and although we could have started on time with the other 100+ riders, we decided to take our time and have a cup of tea and a biscuit or three before setting off again.

The first leg out to Oakham and the first control at the cafe in Whitwell on the north shore of Rutland Water was fast and the hills were OK going up with a nice strong wind on our backs although I struggled spinning my 66″ gear on the downs. Carlos however was recovering from a cold and I suspect that we went out a bit too fast considering. After a longer than anticipated stop at Whitwell for a sausage sandwich, a mug of tea and a rest, we were back on the road, not looking forward to the swing around into the south-westerly wind. A brief respite at Edith Weston as we turned SE lasted 3 miles before we once again turned SW and had a 12 mile slog to the second cafe control at East Carlton.

By now Carlos was struggling and sent me on my way alone as I would find it quite tight time-wise to complete the ECE within the 13.5 hour time limit otherwise. I stopped only long enough to get my card stamped and set off again leaving Carlos to enjoy a relaxed coffee and cake. By now we had been in the saddle for 8 hours and the next two hours were very tough into a strengthening wind. I let out a hollow laugh as I set off a village’s speed sign that thanked me for doing 10mph…

Now back at the Leicester event HQ, I had a mug of tea and a quantity of cake before reclaiming my saddlebag, reattaching my light and setting off again. I had a about 3.5 hours left to complete the ride, so even with aching legs but a favourable wind, I felt confident of making the time limit. The first 5 miles of my ride back to Oundle re-traced the last part of the route so I expected to see Carlos on his way in, I didn’t! In fact he had packed at East Carlton and got a lift home, it was a good effort though, 80 hilly miles in a strong wind when you have just recovered from a cold is good going. In similar circumstances last year I hadn’t even started.

The final leg was actually not too much trouble, achy legs and an increasing noisy BB apart, and I rolled into Oundle at 18:21, with 23 minutes to spare after 136 miles. As a bonus, after sending in my GPS track for validation it appears that the overall ride, with 3,280m of climbing was sufficiently hilly for Audax Altitude Award (AAA) points, and as a double bonus, for hilly events ridden on fixed, you get bonus FWC points equal to the number of AAA points awarded 🙂 All in all, a good days work.


Review of 2013

Crossing the Plover Cove dam/causeway in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

Crossing the Plover Cove dam/causeway in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

I started the year with a few cycling themed targets, how did I do?

Cycling targets for 2013:

1. Average 10 mile per day, which will result in 3650 miles for the year, my previous best was 3144 in 1990.
2. Ride up Mont Ventoux, will have to lose at least another 2 stone before that though so a third target is;
3. Get weight down to below 12 st
4. Ride at least one metric century each month (100 km = 62.1 miles).
5. Ride a 200km audax
6. Complete a Randonneur 500 (i.e. completing a 50, 100, 150 and 200km audax ride in one season)
7. Complete a Brevet 500 (i.e. complete 5 x 100km audax BP rides)


1. HIT: Reached target on October 26 and ended year with 4832 miles. With 868 miles being ridden in December, that was my biggest month every recorded, beating the previous best of 815 miles in July 1979.

2. MISS: See #3 below

3. MISS: Expected to lose weight simply by cycling a lot and not counting calories. It didn’t work, I ended up the year at exactly the same weight I started!

4. MISS: After a good start riding 65 miles on 1st January, a combination of illness, business trips abroad and poor weather resulted in only another 2 rides and 65 miles in the first three months of the year.

5. HIT: Rode four 200km audacia – two on fixed, one in Snowdonia (not fixed!) gaining 2.75 Audax Altitude Award (AAA) points in the process.

6. HIT: Once I had done the 200 this was easy to achieve but I did the 150 on fixed too so I could claim an (unofficial) “Fixed Wheel” Randonneur 500.

7. HIT: In fact I achieved the Brevet 1000 award by riding ten 100km events this season, finishing with the Oundle 114.


I cycled more miles this year than ever before since I started in 1978, 36 years ago. I rode on 112 days averaging 43 miles on those days. Of the 4832 miles this year, 1407 were done of fixed, and 924 on my commute which means I rode to work and back 16.5 times.

I rode more than 100 miles on six of those days, with my longest being 136 miles. I had not done a century ride since 1981.

I rode two tours, Lands End to Oundle (B&B), and Normandy (camping). I also managed to cycle in 3 other countries I had not cycled in before, Hong Kong, Spain and China.

Strava Heat Map

Strava Heat Map

From the Strava Heat Map above, it appears the roads I have most often cycled is the Pitsford to Brigstock portion of my commute and the Glapthorn to Oundle road. (Click map for larger version)

Sych it and Sea

sych_it_and_sea_routeI entered the Sych it and Sea (Gwynedd Traverse) 200km Audax one night after a few glasses of wine. My sister in law was visiting and she lives on the route, so as I was idley looking on the website for possible events to enter I mentioned it to her. Great idea she said, “we can laugh at you as you go past..” actually she probably didn’t say that but I entered all the same. Then I thought – hills! I used to like hills, but that was when I was younger and lighter, I still think I am 2 stone heavier than I need to be to enjoy the hills again.

Last time I rode North Wales, I was YH touring and used 44×28 bottom gear but I am sure I didn’t need that going up Llanberis pass. For this event I have just fitted a 24 tooth sprocket to give a bottom gear of 42×24, my research suggests that this should be enough although I may have to walk the 1:6 on the Maentwrog to Rhyd section.


Rutland Ramble

rutland_ramble_2013One of my Audax targets for this year was to ride a 200 km event.

The idea of Audax was first formulated in Italy in 1897. Participants had to swim, run, walk, or cycle a set distance in 14 hours which was approximately the time between sunrise and sunset. The distance to be covered by cycling was 200 kilometres. Therefore although there are shorter distances on the calendar, only 200 km events (or further) are considered “real” Randonnées. By riding an event of at least 200 km you become a ‘Randonneur’.

I had originally planned to ride the Reservoir Triple (starting in Oundle) at the beginning of July but with two speeches to prepare for the following Monday and Tuesday I thought I better not commit too much time over the W/E. Also in opting for the 100km Reservoir Single version I could temp my son to ride with me.

Next local 200 km event was the Rutland Ramble starting in Bedford. After heading west to Blisworth the route goes north to just below Leicester, then east skirting Oundle to Elton before finally turning south back to Bedford. The route bears a passing similarity to the map of France.

Having ridden the Reservoir Single on fixed I decided to up the ante and ride this my first randonnée on fixed also. At the start it became clear I would be the only rider on fixed, although someone did come up to me and say that although they had ridden 100s on fixed they wouldn’t do 200 on one!

The ride itself was fairly uneventful. I led off from the start and stayed with the front group, led in the main by Ian Gerrard and a couple of VC Norwich guys. This resulted in a reasonably fast start but I was conscious of the distance and hills to come so let them go off up the road after about 30km. After a sticky bun at the first control I bounced the second control at Wistow and cycled a further 15km to the Berwicke Arms at Hallaton for lunch. The Bewicke Arms tea room had been recommended to me by one of my 6th formers who works there part time. Good call Flora!

I was now on local roads so I knew how fixed unfriendly they were. I managed to get up all the hills although a little bit of zig-zagging was required a couple of times, but the downhills were hard and the one down from Seaton to Harringworth was scarily steep!

rutland_ramble_2013_elevationI had been worried than passing this close to home after 150 km may be a problem but I was feeling good and with the hills behind me it didn’t cross my mind to pack. After controlling at the shop in Elton rather than the garden centre cafe I rode a bit with Roger from Icknield RC and then Andy Terry and Emma Jones until I hit a cats eye at speed on a downhill and punctured just after Kimbolton. After a nice 10′ break fixing the flat it was back on the bike for a nice run in to Bedford. The “arrivée” was at the organiser’s house where we enjoyed a very welcome tea.

My knees were a bit sore but overall I felt fine, certainly a 300km should be very doable, but not on fixed unless it’s a flat route!

In numbers:

6 counties passed through (Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Rutland)

29 riders from an entry of 34 started.

Time 09:23:28 Elapsed Time 10:37:29

Stops: 10′ at first control, 40′ at Berwicke Arms, 5-10′ at Elton, 10′ to fix puncture.

Avg Speed 22.2km/h (13.9 mph)

Total distance: 208 km (130 miles)

French Fashion!

2013 London-Edinburgh-LondonRiding the London-Edinburgh-London was Drew Buck (nattily dressed as a 19th century French sailor it seems)  on a 1913 Hirondelle Retro-direct drive bicycle. At first glance, this bike looks like any other standard diamond frame design although obviously pretty old. But look more closely through the rear wheel. There seems to be an extra length of chain running over an extra cog or jockey wheel, what is that?

After a bit of research I discovered that this is a transmission system that enables two different gears to be chosen, simply be pedalling in different directions. By pedalling backwards, a second gear ratio is engaged by a clever use of two independent freewheels affixed to the rear hub.

Retro-directe drive

Retro-direct drive

In this diagram above, by pedalling backwards a lower gear is engaged for climbing hills. Although it was equally possible to have the backwards gear set up as the higher ratio if required. I am not sure which way round Buck had his set up, but considering he had over 1400km to ride I would assume he used the backwards pedalling action for the hills.

Although this was the first time I had ever seen Drew in the flesh, I had heard of him before, as he had a reputation for riding old bikes, commonly with a string of onions hanging from his handlebars. And that stereotypical Frenchman outfit? Apparently (according to wikifashion) after being introduced as the uniform shirt of Breton seamen in 1858, it became more widespread as a working man’s shirt in Brittany and then made into a fashion item by Coco Chanel in her 1917 Nautical Collection.


A DIY by GPS 100km


As I have entered my first 200km audax ride (the Rutland Ramble) next weekend and I am thinking of riding it on fixed wheel, I thought that I should try riding over the hilly section beforehand, to give me a little confidence that fixed is not a stupid idea.

I mapped out the 200km  ride last night and reckoned that the third 50km from Wistow to Elton would be the hilliest. As that is quite close to me, I decided to ride out to Wiston (just south of Leicester) and back as a DIY-by-GPS 100km audax covering the hilliest section of the Rutland Ramble from km96 to km134.

The gear I have installed at the moment is 63″ (48×20), which is on the low side but I am working on improving leg speed and general cadio fitness rather than achieving the best road speed. Quite a good gear for hills, going up that is, currently the worst thing about cycling up a steep hill is knowing that there will be a downhill on the other side! I am comfortable up to 25mph, and can manage 28mph happily as long as I can see the end of the hill. The max top speed in this gear is around 30mph, but for only short periods of time as this equates to almost 180rpm.


Down into Harringworth.

Although the steepest hill today was a 1:7 (one arrow on the OS map), it didn’t have a sign so I only snapped the two gradient signs I did see. I went both up and down all three hills – down was worse!