Wednesday 30 October 2013

LEL 2013 Re-visited

Last week, I had my brevet card returned from the London-Edinburgh-London 1400k audax. This was the longest audax event to date that I have ridden. This blog post aims to look back on the event and provide some statistics that my mother just loves.
The picture below was my actual route as tracked by my Garmin 800. As can be seen, I cycled well over 1,400k because I got lost. The actual route was 1,412k but I cyled 1,519k. I had a time limit of 116 hours and 40 minutes to complete the event – it took me 108 hours and 23 minutes. 14 AUK points were awarded for completing this event.
The chart below demonstrates the hilliness of my route. 2.25 AAA points were awarded for completing this endeavour. I climbed more than was required due to my poor navigating.
22% of those that started did not make it to the end within the time limit.
13.6 km/h was the average speed (including all stops) of all finishers.
21.7 km/h was the average speed (including all stops) of the first finisher.
There was a time difference of 51 hours and 11 minutes between first and last finishers.
43% of riders were from the U.K.
6% of those that started were female.
7% of those that finished were female.

(Stats stolen from Arrivee magazine)

Monday 28 October 2013

Crispy, crispy, Benjamin Franklin

This was the week that I cycled the St. Crispin's Day Night Ride'. The ride had nothing at all to do with Benjamin Franklin. However, each time I thought about the ride the words 'I had a dream, crispy, crispy Benjamin Franklin came over' would enter my head. These words reminded me of my buddy Jet and our appreciation of Regina Spektor. Anyways, before the St. Crispins Day Night Ride was cycled I had a few shorter cycle outings during the week.

My first cycle was with Ron. We cycled the classic Deer Route using our ride bikes for a change. This was the first time in a short while that I had been out with Ron. Ron was suffering 'war wounds' from a recent boating accident and had mashed up his knee a little. Hope Ron recovers soon, we have both entered the 'Mr Pickwick's Cymraeg Cyrch' 200k audax which is on November 9th.

I cycled the same route again the following day. This ride was different in a number of ways though. For a start, Ron wasn't with me. I used my mountain bike. Oh, and I cycled in daylight too.

My 3rd outing was another blast of the Deer Route. I decided to use a different bike again, this time I used my single-speed mountain bike. Despite not having a working rear brake, I cycled the off-road 'dirty' version. 

The 4th and last event of the week was the St. Crispin's Day Night Ride. In keeping with all the other events of the week, I cycled using a different bike again. Oh yes, this event was to be cycled using my newly built up single-speed. Big thanks to 'Saint' Chris for building up such a splendid machine.

No, don't get confused, 'Saint' Chris was not St. Crispin. My buddy, Gary 'the cobbler' posted me a comment informing that St. Crispin was the patron saint of shoe makers. The internet (probably) provided the best information relating to St. Crispin - 'Saint Crispin's Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian (also known as Crispinus and Crispianus, though this spelling has fallen out of favour), twins who were martyred c. 286.[1] It is a day most famous for the battles that occurred on it: the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the Battle of Balaklava (Charge of the Light Brigade) during the Crimean War in 1854 and the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Pacific theatre in 1944. The Battle of Agincourt was dramatised by William Shakespeare in Henry Vfeaturing the St. Crispin's Day Speech in which Henry inspired his much outnumbered English forces to fight the French saying "the fewer men, the greater share of honour".
The feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian is 25 October. Although this feast was removed from the Roman Catholic Church's universal liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, the two saints are still commemorated on that day in the most recent edition of the Roman Martyrology.' 
Chris,  Zombie not Saint!
I met my buddy Chris at the start in London. He looked dead already and we hadn't cycled any distance yet. It was fair enough we were tired, this event didn't start (officially) until midnight. We must have started about half an hour later because we faffed a little, let the long queue of cyclists die down (about 400) and ate Chris's home-made bread and jam sandwich. 

Once we started out on our journey it felt great to be riding my new (old) bike. Sadly, the chain was making funny noises and we had to stop to fix problem. Whilst fixing problem, we were over taken by many cyclists and sure enough were in the 'Lantern Rouge' position before too long. After removing chain links and fitting chain links it proved that was not the problem. The problem appeared to be resolved by tightening up the chain tensioner. Woo hoo, all fixed and on we went.

The first stage was probably the longest. We were cycling, eagerly awaiting cake at the first control. To get to said control we whizzed through London, passing 1,000's of folk out partying (I presume) and looking out for all the pretty iconic land-marks we passed. This was a crazy stage as it was people busy and there was lots of stop-starting at traffic lights. The rain was heavy initially but we didn't care as it was very warm and suitably donned in waterproof gear. We had the usual navigational problems despite both having a GPS unit - we were chatting so much that we paid little attention to the directions. After cycling well over 40k (and passing many a cyclist that was initially ahead of us), we began to wonder if we had missed the control. Hungry we both were and Chris made a list of all the food he had prepared to bring but had forgotten. On this list was pizza, egg, jelly babies and flap-jacks. Grrr! We saw some folk take an obvious diversion (short cut) and then, wow, we had reached the control!
Chris at the first control
The control was a pub like building where they served us 'cake', after stamping our rider passport (much like an audax brevet card). I was thinking carrot cake or sponge cake as I cycled along, but no, this cake was a mince pie and a couple of biscuits. Hmmm. I hid my disappointment from Chris who was well impressed with the organisation. (The organisation was good but didn't compare to the likes of other organised events I had completed). A swift cup of tea was had and then Chris really did get 'top trump' - he ordered us both a pasta bake and yum yum, it was mega delicious. I was expecting a cheese pasty type thing but this was a cheese covered bowl of delight.

On route to the next stop we picked up a straggler. This straggler was a chap called 'Neil'. We informed Neil of our poor navigating but he chose to stick with us all the same. Silly devil, he had joined us and sure enough we were cycling the reverse route to the middle control. We didn't care and it was fun to have Neil join us (prevented me from having to listen to all Chris's guff). We reached the control without too much bother but with plenty of banter.
We were not-so hungry at the control but ate our provided chicken dish up all the same. This control was great for a couple of other reasons. The first because we collected our bottle of wine (kinda the focal point of this bizarre ride) - a 2012 bottle of white plonk. Secondly, we missed an almighty down pour of the heaviest rain.

Leaving the control, we set off as a threesome. Neil had decided he wanted to stick with Chris and I. Much of our conversation was about cycling pursuits and particularly LEJOG. I think Neil had thoughts of completing LEJOG and it would be great if these thoughts became plans. We could have cycled the reverse route again during this stage to make amends of the route we cycled but we didn't. We decided to cycle the correct route - the route we had cycled already. It didn't look overly familiar because it was dark and distance-wise there was little in it. The control (once reached) was the same venue as the first control and we had the same 'cake' only minus mince pie.
Neil and a prized bottle of Crispy wine
I marked my arrival at the control by knocking over and smashing the biggest possible (empty) bottle of wine. Oops, that's what happens when I don't attach my cleat covers. Time to get out of there…

It was fun cycling the last section. We slowly watched the night turn to day and that coincided with my lights losing battery power. At one point we cycled through a lovely park where lots of deer strolled about - some were wearing moose like antlers. Very bizarre. The actual route cycled is presented below.
As can be seen above, the route was essentially flat. A perfect route for the single-speed machine. Chris had a geared bike but he only used 1 gear throughout (save the automatic gear shifting here and there). On the subject of 'automatic gear shifting', that's kinda what Neil had. Neil's bike was equipped with those electronic gear shifters which he said were great. Apparently the battery pack for said shifters would last about 2,000 miles too. The stretch from the last control to the finish was relatively short and Neil had got a second wind during this stage and essentially led (paced) me and Chris to the finish. How awesome to complete a 100 mile event and on a single-speed too!
At the finish, our rider passports were stamped for the final time. To make the event more memorable, we were then photographed with the podium girls. The digital print was not available at time of posting this entry (but will publish once available).

Chris and I packed our bicycles away and then joined Neil (and friend) for breakfast and farewell's. Neil was full of thanks for our support which was nice, but to be fair, Neil was a welcome member and pulled his share too. Am not sure what it is with post event breakfasts but this breakfast was as nasty as usual! Ha!

Managed to cycle 242k throughout the course of the week and on 4 different bikes too! Kay O, my single-speed road bike is my current favourite! My yearly distance cycled to date now stands at 10,827k.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Always something

Didn't cycle long or far this week. Is always hard to pedal when 5 night shifts in one week have to be worked and poor SJ and baby were not well either - bless them. Managed to get out on 1 occasion though.

On the day I managed to cycle, I took Queenie, my single speed MTB out for a blast. I cycled locally and took Queenie on and off-road to test the new forks she had been fitted with. The old forks were Rock Shox Judy's that must have been years old and weren't working so well. The new forks were a budget set of Rock Shox forks - XC 30's. Very pleased with these new forks. They felt heavy before they were fitted, but once on, the bike felt great. These XC 30's did a super job of smoothing out everything at the front end and the lock-out button worked a treat. Such an improvement over my Judy's. 
Queenie fitted with her new fancy Rock Shox XC 30's
However, despite the forks working great, the rear brake lever failed. There is 'always something'. Have had a few problems with these budget Promax Hornet disc brakes, though all problems have been with the rear set. Am considering replacing the rear disc brake set (with anything other than Promax Hornet) but will leave the front until it needs replacing. Hmm, suggestions on a post-card please.
Have also entered another event. This event is called the 'St. Crispins Day Night Ride' and is a 100 mile affair to collect and return with a bottle of wine. This will be the furthest I have ever cycled for a bottle of wine! This was one of my buddy's ideas, you know, that dude Chris Hodge. Enough said. Ha! Chris has actually built up 'Kay O', my single speed road bike ready for this adventure.
Kay O, ready to go

Sunday 13 October 2013

BG SR 2, Yatmon 150 and Droitwich-Lechlade 200

This week began with a cycle of the BG SR 2 route. I like this route, consider it nice and relatively fast with a little sting at the tail end. You can see from the profile pic below that the route wasn't too testing, but believe-it-or-not, the last incline was actually a 4th category climb!
BG SR 2 42K
Despite the route above not being too testing, I tested a bunch of new stuff. Chris had removed my old Ultegra cranks and Look Keo pedals from my road bike (with view to adding some of these parts to my single speed project) and replaced same. My new cranks were a more modern version of the aforementioned Ultegra's. The previous cranks had been used heavily since 2009 but remained pretty much problem free - highly rated! These new cranks worked fine, felt smooth and to be honest felt no different to the previous set. My new cranks, however, looked amazing and were way more aesthetically pleasing!
Naff pic of an awesome Shimano Ultegra crankset
My new pedals (Look Keo max 2 carbon) were very similar to the previous ones too. These new ones were essentially the same but a slighly higher model. Wiggle helped explain the difference between the two.

Basically, my new pedals are lighter and have a wider contact area. In use, I noticed no difference at all. I just love Look Keo pedals and remain a big fan.
My final test was my B+M Lumotec light. This was a cheap (around £20) dynamo light that I got from eBay after returning my previous B+M light that I used for LEL. This new light was very basic, it had no special features and only lit when the dynamo was turning. Previous light had day/night sensors, a switch, was twice as bright and charged USB. This light was just okay. I think this light probably makes a better commuter light than a long distance light but for now it will do. I also think I need to tilt the beam somewhat.
My next ride was the Yatmon 150k permanent audax. This was a lovely cycle organised by Steve Poulton and was my first crack at it. Quite a hilly affair, scoring 2.25 AAA points.
2.25 AAA points awarded for this pootle
Started this event from Tewkesbury. Initially was lulled into a false sense of 'whatever-the -word-is', as no hills were encountered for at least the first 25k or so. When the hills did arrive, they were not that bad and certainly didn't compare to the horrors of the Cotswold Corker or Stroud 5 Valleys. The first hills were just before the control in Mitcheldean. I didn't get a POP here - the place was tiny and I found I had left Mitcheldean (whizzing down a sweet descent) before getting a POP. I made sure I got a P.O. stamp from Drybrook, a village next door, and hoped that would suffice!

The route had been lovely, mostly lanesy and this continued pretty much throughout. A very scenic route and from Mitcheldean right through to the Forest of Dean was probably the most spectacular. Just before reaching the Forest of Dean, Goodrich Castle could be spotted in the distance.
Goodrich Castle
Goodrich Castle brought back thoughts of my old buddy Chris Poole(monkey). We visited the forest via MTB on a few occasions and indeed even visited said castle. I wonder if Chris still cycles?!
Christopher Poole from yesteryear
I stopped at Goodrich P.O. and got a stamp for my brevet card. After stamp I headed for Symonds Yat, which I thought was going to kill me. The ascent up Yat Rock Climb was not that difficult at all! It was nice to finally take a road bike here after cycling it so many times on my mountain bike. After a quick visit to the Yat Rock log cabin (POP purposes), I just had to visit the viewing area.
Fantastic roads led away from Symonds Yat and the route cleverly turned back round and enabled me to cycle the other side of the river. So beautifully stunning. Incredible scenery. I remember praising God for his wonderful creation!

Next stop was Monmouth. Had visited Monmouth on a few occasions in the past from cycling other audax events. The choice of shops here was huge. I opted to use the P.O. for my control proof - not the P.O. stamp (couldn't be bothered to join a big line of folk waiting at the counter) but an advice slip from the ATM.

From Monmouth, the route led to Grosmont and then turned back on itself and led away from Grosmont on a parallel road. Very pretty indeed and long quiet country lanes. I think I spotted a stone circle roughly here at the 75k mark - there were definately some standing stones. Should I cycle this route again I will make sure I explore a little more here. Was hoping to get a stamp from Grosmont P.O. but thieves had broken into the P.O. only 2 days back and stolen the stamp (plus other stuff). Without a stamp, I stopped at the cafe next door and just had to order a big ploughman's lunch - just for POP purposes you see...

From Grosmont the route was quite undulating in nature. Before long, I was on familiar terrain and cycled through Hoarwithy to reach Much Marcle which I had cycled several times over in the past but in the opposing direction. A local store provided my POP.

The last section passed through Redmarley before reaching the arrivee in Tewkesbury. Redmarley usually means a bike covered in red mud. No mud covered my cycle on this occasion because it hadn't rained and all the mud was solid. No wet weather this day but boy it was very cold despite the sun shining bright. Quite a windy day it was too. Once in Tewkesbury, I used the P.O. for my final brevet stamp.
Yatmon 150k
The Yatmon proved to be a great day of cycling. Lots of spectacular scenery. Oh, and don't forget the relatively easy 2.25 AAA points.
Another achievement reached by completing the Yatmon 150 event too. I managed to get my 'missing' 150k distance badge and hence complete the set. Every four years, the design of these badges changes and now I have 2 complete sets. Despite cycling so many audax events, there are relatively few 150k events on the calendar (hence it taking me over a season to complete this badge set).
My second complete set of distance badges
Over the weekend I cycled my first calendar event of the 2014 season. This event was the Droitwich-Lechlade 200k audax organised by Gavin Greenhow. It had been a while since I last rode one of Gavin's routes.

As the name suggested, Gavin's audax started in Droitwich. I had not expected many folk to ride this event (as it appeared to have little interest on the YACF website) but 15 or so cyclists had gathered at the start. Despite not being great with names, I recognised a number of faces. Of the faces I could name - Roy, Paul and Trevor were present and so was dear ol' Mary. Gavin, as is usual for him, rode this event too (he was wearing pumps and full on waterproof attire). Most folk at the start were donned with shoe covers - did they know something I didn't?

From the start, things were mostly going great. Most folk were cycling together as a group and good progress was being made. Then disaster struck - the heavens opened. Not to worry, most folk stopped to layer up with water-proof gear. Back on track and then disaster struck again - I had a flat. My flat was menace - I didn't want to replace the tube just now because the rain was so heavy so decided to just inflate the tyre some and continue. The group had left me behind now and following my route sheet was a tad difficult. Luckily a couple of stragglers came past and I followed them. Keeping with them was a tad difficult as I could feel my tyre deflating but I knew it wasn't too long or far to the control. During this time, my buddy Chris phoned and spoke about my (his) single speed project which helped balance the chaos I was in. When I reached the control (a garage in Cheltenham) most folk were there chilling out. By the time I had replaced my tube, the group had long gone.

The group had gone and so did the rain! The sun was shining now and I felt like I was cycling a solo permanent event for a while. Gavin's route had been advertised as a 'flat' route. Strange that - I was now cycling up the first (of at least 3) 4th category climbs! A lot of familiar road was cycled all the way to Lechlade, pretty much the half-way point. I chose not to stop at the Black Cat cafe after YACFers complained about it. (I had previously used Black Cat cafe and found it okay). Instead I stopped at Lechlade garden centre which I found pricey. After a quick fuel up, I was off.
Droitwich-Lechlade 200 profile
During this section, I caught a fellow rider (but didn't catch his name) and cycled some very pretty roads with him all the way to Cheltenham. At Cheltenham, we went our separate ways (because both wanted feeding at different stops). After cycling close to Bishops Cleeve, Gavin had caught me and we cycled together for a while - all the way to the next control in fact. At this control, the large group from the start was mostly together again. Was good to see Trevor here because he had punctured not long after me. 

The last stage was ridden together (mostly) as a big group, just breaking up and fragmenting here and there. This stage was horrific as the heavens opened once more and chucked down the rain hard. I was like a drowned rat cycling through rivers. We got to a locked railway crossing which caused some confusion. After a time, a grumpy rail worker came out of an un-lit gate house and allowed us safe passage (school of thought was that perhaps he was asleep). From this point it was just a wet race to the arrivee.
Droitwich-Lechlade 200k
The Droitwich-Lechlade 200 was a top event. Great company and a decent organiser. Feel Gavin's rides should be better supported. The ride finished with a great eat (nicely discounted) with fellow cyclists reflecting on our adventure.

Cycled 3 great rides throughout the course of the week. Total distance was 406k. My total yearly distance now stands at 10,552k and am hopeful more adventures are to be had.

Monday 7 October 2013

First perm of the 2014 audax season

'Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use'. - Charles M. Schulz 

The Audax season is a funny thing. The 2014 season began on 1 October 2013. No more bizarre than Santa Claus and similar paraphernalia being seen in the shops and pubs during this same month, I suppose.

My first ride of this 2014 season was a quick blast around Ron's MTB safari loop. I took Aid's 29er to get a feel for 29er's off-road. Aid's bike faired well, the 29er certainly helped reduce a lot of judder and rolled smoothly over dips, ridges, troughs and the like. As readers may know, I have a 26er. Current school of thought is pushing towards the 27.5ers!

My first perm of the 2014 season was the classic Cotswold Corker 100k event. I have ridden this event so many times now but it remains one of my favourites. It's a hilly affair as the profile below demonstrates.
The Cotswold Corker 100k (AAA 1.75)
The ride (the way I cycled it) started off with a climb - up Cleeve Hill. Then a nice descent took me to the first control in Bishop's Cleeve. From Bishop's Cleeve came the horror of Bushcombe lane!
Bushcombe Lane is the biggest beast during the whole route. The road sign says it is a 25% gradient though other sources say nearer 30%. Once the ascent was conquered, I was treated to a zoomy descent back down Cleeve Hill and back into Winchcombe.

The next biggest hill was encountered almost straight away from leaving Winchcombe and took me up Sudely Hill. Some say this is the toughest hill (on the profile it looks that way) but that was not my experience. The good thing was, once this hill was conquered there was none this severe again.

Next stop was Northleach. I now like to stop at the Black Cat cafe and use this as my control proof. They have a stamp - of a black cat no less!
This was my second stop at the Black Cat cafe. As well as stamping my brevet card, they also stamped my loyalty card. Have no idea how exactly this loyalty card works. On route to said cafe, I passed a couple of cyclists. These cyclists followed me to the cafe and then a whole bunch came inside. The food here was great (I had panini) and the cafe makes a great cycling haven. The collection of cycles outside the shop made a pretty picture.
Bisley was the next stop control. I mostly stop at the Post Office here and have a quick chat. The P.O. provide a stamp for the brevet card too. Just before Bisley, another 'menace hill' was encountered, 'Watery Lane'. The P.O. provides food as if to reward the cyclist for their endeavours!

Lumpy paths lead to Andoversford. This is a nice trek and a un-known stone circle is passed and some topography. Maybe I should name this stone circle myself?!

From Andoversford, only 10k remained until the arrivee. This section started off as a fast descent. A gentle climb was in the middle before an epic descent (past Belas Knapp) led to the finish.

Completed the 100k Cotswold Corker in a time of 5 hours and 50 mins. Bagged myself 1.75 AAA points. Am only 23.25 AAA points away from the new quarter century award! Ha!

Aid rocked up over the weekend to show me his new steed. He had converted his old Voodoo machine into a trusty single speed monster. I just had to jump onto my not-so-trusty single speed 'Queenie' and join him on his debut single speed affair. Strangely, my Judy forks that had previously collapsed were now working fine?! Have decided I am going to sell these forks on eBay and fit my more recently acquired forks anyhow.
Just because single speeding is so much fun, we had to go out on another adventure the following day. Am sure more adventures are to be had on these single speed machines. Better yet, Chris has taken my Focus frame and bits and is hoping to build up my single speed road bike - yay, can't wait!

Have now cycled over 10,000k this year! Wonder what my end of year total will be?! My total distance to date now stands at 10,146k.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

"Work to eat, eat to live, live to bike, bike to work." -- Naomi Bloom

This post records the last few rides up until the end of the 2013 audax season!

First ride of the week was a rendition of Ron's MTB safari.
MTB Safari jolly 19k
Next up was a route I created myself. Pleased to inform that I made the necessary changes to my Cofton Hacket Hack route. Very pleased with this final version as very little main road is now encountered.
Cofton Hacket Hack 51k
My last cycle before the season was out, was the classic Deer route. I cycled this reverse way around with Aid. Such a nice route, Aid has yet to cycle it the usual way round.
The Deer route 29k
So, what about the 2013 audax season? Well, below is a list of all my completed audax rides for that season. The date, points, AAA points and climb (where known) is also recorded.
As can be seen from the list above, I managed to complete 34 different audax events (6x50, 5x100, 18x200, 2x300, 1x400, 1x600 and 1x1400). My total points tally this season was 66 and 20 AAA points.

Different awards are awarded for Brevet series, Randonneur series and AAA awards.

The Brevet series are a bunch of awards to 'encourage the rider to keep going over several years'. I started audax cycling in 2010 and have now obtained my Brevet 4000 award (an award for cycling 20x200k events over any period of time). Have actually cycled 37x200k events to date.
The Randonneur series 'stretch the rider to longer events'. I managed to obtain the Randonneur 500, 1000, 2500 (no badge or medal) and 5000 awards. The Randonneur 5000 award was awarded for riding Randonneur events totalling 5,000k in one season. In addition, I was also awarded my second Randonneur Round the Year (RRtY) award for cycling a minimum of a 200k Randonneur event for 12 consecutive months. My final Randonneur award was my second Super Randonneur award which is 'Audax UK's traditional award for the top 10% of hardened night-riders', where a series of 200, 300, 400 and 600k events had to be completed in one season.
Within the Audax Altitude Awards (AAA), I was very pleased to obtain my first AAA triple award. The AAA triple award is for completing 3 AAA awards over any period of time (ie 60 points). My total AAA points to date is 66. My final AAA award was my first AAARRtY which was an award for cycling a AAA event for 12 consecutive months. Very pleased with my AAARRtY award as I missed out last season by just 1 month!
So what about the 2014 season?! Well, I would love to ride another SR series and complete another RRtY and AAARRtY. In addition to that, I would so love to cycle a team event (an 'arrow') and complete a 1,000k event (to qualify for the Brevet 5000 award). There are also new awards within AAA for the century, half century and quarter century. I might try for a quarter century award where I have to obtain 25 AAA points within the season. 

Happy New Year 2022

Happy New Year folks. I wonder what's in store for 2022,  - something crazy, something new? It's a shame Covid is still here and I&#...