Monday 25 February 2013

The Black Cat Lunar Lark Cycle (200k DIY Permanent Audax)

This weeks big event was 'The Black Cat Lunar Lark Cycle', an audax that I had created myself. To be fair, I could have been punished for plagiarism as I stole a whole bunch of controls from the 'Lechlade-on-Thames 200' perm created by Steve Gloster. My route differed in that it started and finished in Studley and added a control in Henley-in-Arden too.

Before I cycled 'The Black Cat Lunar Lark Cycle', I participated in a couple of shorter trips. The first trip was with Ron where we cycled the well known Reed route (the Deer route in reverse). This was a cold night and ice could be seen just starting to form. At one juncture we noticed a white line chalked across the road which looked like a start line and parallel to this was a red and silver chequered post - I wonder if this was illegal car racing or something?!

The second trip was with Aid. I cycled from my abode across country lanes trying to find a lanesy route to Henley. I managed to get 2 miles away from Henley before hitting a main road. The directions to the Henley control on my DIY audax were not yet confirmed. From this main road I cycled to a point on the TROAD route and made my way to Bromsgrove climbing some menace hills (such as Cobley Hill) on the way. Once in Bromsgrove I collected Aid and we cycled to Stratford. We followed parts of the Lechlade-on-Thames perm, as I was trying to memorise the route, but we took an alternate route to Stratford in the end. A stop at Mc Donalds ensued before we decided to return home. A great amount of time was spent trying to find a lanesy way to the Greenway in preparation for my DIY audax but this didn't really materialise. After much randomness we decided to pass Bidford on our return home. The road down to Bidford was great and allowed a smooth quick passage. Again the route home from Bidford (via Wixford and Arrow) was quick and smooth too. A good days ride, despite being very cold and the fact that my front mech went wonky! My front mech ceased to shift properly and even by adjusting the 'adjuster thing' the chain still didn't shift. I figured I would be able to get by without my larger chain ring and I did just that and cycled over a 100k on this adventure.
My bike had been playing up over recent days and Chris said my front mech was bent - he kinda bashed it back into shape and I just hoped it would perform okay for my big event. Aside from the mech issue all else was okay with bike and I even fitted my Lezyne light to the front bars alongside my Ay-Ups.

On Saturday at a little after 9 o'clock, I set off on my DIY audax 'The Black Cat Lunar Lark cycle'. My friends Chris and Ron had joined me on this adventure. Three mouseketeers always ready for adventure! The event started from my abode 'Doo Little', where we all gave Lunar (my daughter) a kiss, hug or stroke before we headed out the door. Outside was very cold (?freezing) but I had taken precautions and was suitably layered up. My head was covered in my lost-but-recently-found Baa Baa hat and buff. My chest was covered with a base layer, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve jersey, shell and my PBP gilet - toasty warm.  Leggings and bib-shorts covered my legs. Feet were kept warm by wearing toe covers on my shoes and 3 pairs of socks - 1 silk, 1 wool and 1 waterproof Sealskinz. My layering might sound excessive but it was in actual fact just enough. We all stopped at the HSBC for first  proof of passage (POP) purposes and then cycled to Henley-in-Arden by following the start of the Deer Route and leaving it for the main road. This was a short, relatively fast section.
A local store provided POP for the Henley control (I purchased chewing gum), though I noticed I had forgotten to take my advice slip from the Studley control. Chris and Ron were using GPS tracking for their POP, so luckily I was able to take (beg) Ron's advice slip for POP from start. Phew! As chance would have it, the road to Stratford (from Henley) was closed to motorised traffic - this allowed us to speed along another main road with little traffic fear. In short time we reached Stratford. A local Shell garage was used for POP purposes.

The next leg took us to our first 'sit down and eat' control in Chipping Camden. We cycled the same roads that Aid and I cycled when we covered the Lechalde perm, (despite Aid and I researching alternatives in the week). Chris and Ron appeared a little concerned that I was in charge of navigating and Chris had even made a back-up GPS track showing shortest distance between all controls. I found their lack of faith quite disturbing. I think Ron became more mis-trusting of myself as the route went by - I told him there were no hills and during this section we climbed a few ascents. I didn't really remember any menace hills when Aid and I cycled here - which backs up a philosophy of mine - that, we as humans tend to remember pleasurable events over painful ones. Pleasure or pain, we reached the control all the same. We stopped at The Bantam Tea rooms (I think) and had the usual audax diet - beans and egg on toast washed down with much tea.
It felt real cold as we left control and it was snowing at times. In fact, it snowed for the majority of the route - sometimes heavy and sometimes wet. It wasn't far into this section until I punctured. Grrr! Why did it have to be me who punctured? I only punctured a week ago! Chris blamed the puncture on what he calls 'gay' tyres - Michelin Pro Race 3's. I replaced tube and replaced the tyre with my Continental Gatorskin (the tyre that I had only taken off last week). Chris and Ron were getting the chills and rather inpatient whilst I fixed my issues. With all fixed we sped along a relatively long section to our mid-way point - The Black Cat! The roads to the control were mostly traffic free, lanesy and offered great views of the country side. A number of properties within the Cotswolds were very pretty indeed and Bourton-on-the-Water was as stunning as ever. Lechlade disappointed me a little as it was not as pretty as I hoped, but at least it was as pretty as I remembered!
The Black Cat Cafe was a great place to stop and get further food. The witch was on vacation it appeared as we we served by polite, friendly staff. My choice of food was a jacket potato with tuna and salad. Delicious! Over our meal we discussed our cold feet. Ron's feet were doing fine. Chris and I weren't fairing so well. My feet were cold but not painfully so. Chris had these hand warmer packets and decided to try them on his feet. Open to research and development myself, I was keen to try these hand feet warmers too. The warmers looked like tea bags and had to be shaken to activate them and then (allegedly) they would stay warm for about 10 hours. Chris stated they had to be placed on top of the toes inside a shoe. These warmers obviously added a little bulk and I found my shoes too tight a fit. I decided to remove my Sealskinz pair of socks and lodge the warmer between my other pairs - this worked well, my toes could feel warmth straight away and I could wriggle my pinkies inside my shoe! Suitably warmed and fed, we left the Black Cat Cafe and headed for Tewkesbury.
Brrr! It was very cold leaving Lechlade. The snow was beating a little harder and I resulted to making strange noises with my mouth (kinda like farting noises) which surprisingly did warm up my cheeks - much to Chris's amusement. My feet however were toasty warm. A few miles into this section soon suitably warmed me up. Nice quiet country lanes took us through pretty Bibury (I felt Lechlade should look more like this) and Withington. Local signs for a long stretch pointed toward a Roman Villa but sadly this villa was not able to be viewed from the roadside. Once past the villa we hit main roads that took us speedily down towards the Bishop's Cleeve (always makes me chuckle) vicinity. By this time it had gotten dark but my Lezyne, Ay-Up and Bone Head combination of lights provided the necessary illuminations to take us swiftly to the Tewkesbury control. Gathered evidence at the Tewkesbury control that perhaps Ron was not suitably layered - he had a hot chocolate, whereas I had a cold chocolate milkshake!

The penultimate control took us to Bromsgrove. Much menace occurred on this stretch of our adventure. Initially things went well and I safely navigated us though Pershore and located the 'easy to miss' road, sign-posted Alcester. Problems occurred when searching for Bradley Green. First off, Ron fell off at the Stock Green junction. Ron seems to fall off quite regularly when out on these adventures but he never injures very seriously. Then my navigation went wonky and I had us all turn left instead of right - this is what happens when friends don't trust one's navigational prowess! My faulty navigation meant we never found Bradley Green or 'Flying Horse Lane', the self same lane I could not find when cycling with Aid but successfully followed on the Snowdrop audax. Grr. I gave up navigating at this juncture and handed said duty over to Ron who used to live around this area. Ron took us through a ford straight away and then led us to Bromsgrove via a route which missed out the menace Hanbury Hill. The Bromsgrove control turned out to be a local store where I purchased junk food (creme eggs and pork pies) for my POP. Ron was eager to leave here ASAP (because he had the chills) so our stop was brief.

The final leg back to Studley was again navigated by Ron. He initially took us cross country along some single-track (I had no idea where we were), followed by some country lanes into Webheath. I was again on familiar ground. We passed Redditch Ecclesial Hall, where I married my dear wife SJ less than a year ago. When SJ and I got married it was a bright sunny day, at this point in time a thin layer of snow was covering most things. After passing the Hall it was pretty much down hill all the way to Studley. To complete our cycling lark, we (aptly) stopped at The Lark in Studley, using this as our arrivee and final control! We had a great days cycling and completed 220k in about 12 and half hours. Chris's ride report can be read by following this link:

I managed to cycle 225 miles in the week which brought my yearly total up to 798 miles. 


  1. Ha ha Jamie, it really was cold! Always pays to check the weather forecast!

  2. The hot chocolate sounded like a good idea.

  3. Yeah, it was a great idea Graeme - Chris and I also took sips from Ron's hot chocolate cup!


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