End of the Month

I hadn’t intended to ride this evening. I had already reached my monthly target of 600 miles earlier in the day, but I’ve been out every evening this week, and it just seemed to be a natural post-prandial activity, so at about 10 p.m. I changed into my cycling gear and off I went.

I didn’t feel like trying to go fast. I was full of what is known in our house as “sticky chicken”, an invention of Mrs. Wow’s in which she roasts chicken thighs in honey, garlic and all sorts of other tasty things and serves it with rice and stir-fried veg. So I did the cycling equivalent of an evening stroll.

I headed through Westcliff and to the sea front. I am afraid that there is not a lot of variety to my evening rides. When you live in Southend, unless you are prepared to do upwards of 30 miles, there’s really only one direction to go in: if you want some peace, little traffic and countryside, then it has to be Wakering and Barling. There are several ways of getting there, and my favourite is to cycle the entire length of the sea front and the head out from Shoeburyness to Wakering via Cupid’s Corner.

Tonight the weather was perfect. There was hardly any wind, it was cool but not freezing, and the moon, just past full, was casting a strong shadow. In addition to that, the tide was high, and as I cycled past the flat we rented in Palmerston Road for £7 a week when we were first married in the Glorious Summer of ’76, I thought about those beautiful midnight swims we had when the sun was too hot to go in during the day.

By now my food had settled a little and I was gathering speed, although still not trying to go fast. I had reached the cycle lane on the promenade when suddenly a chap on a mountain bike whizzed past me on the prom. That spurred me on, but I didn’t think I would ever catch him. He shortly returned to the cycle lane and true enough, he was still pulling away. However, we both had to take evasive action as some sort of 4*4 was half blocking the cycle lane ahead, and he kept to the cycle lane and I found myself on the wrong side of the beach huts, thankful that my solidlights were illuminating an area of tarmac that the streetlights could hardly reach.

When I reached the road again, I saw my adversary in the distance, but still riding on the pavement. I kept to the road, on which there was hardly any traffic, and saw him turn down into Gunner’s Park. When I went past the vehicle exit to the park, there he was, a small white gleam approaching from the right, but now behind me. I rode through East Beach again, and now the strength of the moon really made itself apparent. Not only could I make out the bright red button of the bar bag support, but at certain angles I could actually read my computer by moonlight.

I left East Beach and rounded the bend by the military establishment, but as I was going along Peel Avenue, suddenly I detected that there was a cyclist behind me and that he was going faster than I was! I pressed harder on the pedals and glanced over my shoulder – no-one there!

Now I was going along proper unlit rural roads and I relaxed and just enjoyed the ride. The roads were damp with dew, but there was no hint of frost, so I tried riding with my front light off. It was fine – the moon, almost overhead, was providing enough light for me to cycle safely, but I did have the advantage that I had ridden this route probably twice or three times each week for the past eight months or so and I was very familiar with any bumps or holes that I had to avoid. Every time a car came, from either direction, I would turn my lights on again, but that happened less and less as I approached Barling. At one point I reckon I had gone almost two miles with my light off.

Disappointingly, I didn’t see and wildlife of note, but I did hear the piping call of lapwings, and quite pitiful they sounded and it was easy to imagine that they might have been caught by a fox. Once I thought I heard a little owl, but I wasn’t sure and whatever it was that made the noise didn’t repeat it.

I returned home after 19.67 miles, at about a quarter to midnight, and even before my key was in the lock, I could see the dog through the frosted glass of the front door, wagging his welcome, waiting for his late-night walk.

Comparative Pootles

Several people have said to me, the last time on Saturday when I returned to the fold of Manotea after 205km slogging round southern England, that my Thorn Raven is not a suitable bike for Audaxing – it’s just too slow. I had always countered that the sloth was down to my impressive physique and that it was unfair to blame the bike. However, I had a suspicion that with a lighter machine I might well increase my speed a little, so with my Thorn temporarily out of action, until I can be bothered to unbolt the saddle from the Ridgeback at any rate, and with GruB sneaking past me in the Bikejournal stakes, tonight seemed to be a good opportunity to see how I got on. Mrs. Wow’s Dawes Discovery 701 is a lovely light little bike, so I put its saddle up an inch or so, and off I went.

The Dawes is a nice little alloy frame with carbon forks. It’s probably a bit small for me, and certainly I could do with a bit of a longer forward reach, but it’s not ridiculously out of proportion. It has 700c wheels and what I would describe as “summer” tyres – not exactly skinny, but with virtually no tread on them. I wouldn’t like to use them in the wet, and to have tried the Willy Warmer on them, with its damp, pot-holed, compost-laden roads, would have been asking for trouble. However, tonight the roads were dry and there was little wind, so I felt pretty confident that I wouldn’t have any problems.

Conditions tonight were also very similar to last night: little wind, overcast, dry and reasonably mild. I elected to use my Cateye computer rather than Mrs. Wow’s as mine records riding time and that was really the important factor. I had to adjust the wheel circumference setting from 1990mm to 2160mm. My riding position was more upright than I am used to, but even so I felt that I was whizzing along.

I chose exacly the same pootle tonight as I did last night on the Thorn. It’s 16.57 miles of flattish roads, involving one fast downhill section and then, at the end, a gentle uphill back home.

The results were as follows:-

Bike Distance recorded Time Ave speed Top speed
Thorn 16.57 miles 1h 20m 2s 12.42mph 31.1mph
Dawes 16.66 miles 1h 17m 0s 12.98mph <31.1mph

I didn’t record the top speed on tonight’s ride, as I foolishly forgot to reset the computer and the second ride was recorded “on top of” the first, but it was a simple matter to subtract the times and distances. The 31.1 mph from last night’s ride was still the highest speed after tonight’s.

So there it is. 3 minutes and 2 seconds shaved off my speed from the previous evening. I felt more tired at the end of tonight’s ride than I did last night, so I don’t know if that extra speed could have been maintained for a longer ride.

I don’t think these results tell me much. From an Audax point of view, the extra comfort of my featherbed Thorn machine would, I am sure, be worth a tremendous amount over a long day. Even though the Dawes has carbon forks, far more bumps were transmitted through to my hands that with the 26*1.5 tyres and carbon bars which the Thorn boasts. And the worst thing of all – and please take this as a warning – don’t sit on a saddle designed for a female unless you have the necessary physical attributes.

Ow!

Willy Warmer

Well, I enjoyed the ride(s). The first one was a taxi from Maidstone to Chalfont St. Peter because when I arrived at Maidstone East station for the 5.05 to Charing Cross, the station was in total darkness. After about 20 minutes searching about trying locked doors, eventually I saw someone on one of the platforms wielding a torch. It appeared that there had been a power failure.

To make matters even more exciting, the Man with the Lamp soon announced that the 5.05 had been cancelled. There were about 8 people hoping to get that train, and there wasn’t another until 6.30, and that would have made me at least an hour late for the start. All but one of the passengers stood about in a very British way, huffing upwards through our (in some cases imaginary) moustaches in a “what-shall-we-do-now” kind of way, when the other chap, of Asian origin, insisted that the Belamped One should order him a taxi to get him to London. He had to get to work and would lose his job if he didn’t. So everyone else went off by car to London Bridge, whereas I held out for a lift straight to Gerrards Cross. In the end, the taxi driver took me to the Community Centre where I was able to enjoy early morning tea and toast with Charlotte, Vicky and Liz.

Until Hummers arrived…

The ride itself was very pleasant. The weather was as kind as January can be: not too cold, hardly any wind, to begin with at least, and once we were out of the suburbs, through gorgeous countryside. My Red Kite count reached 8, although I am sure I heard the cries of two others I didn’t see. I came across the scene of the accident a few minutes before the helicopter arrived, and I wonder whether The Biggest Fluorescent Jacket Of All made the critical difference, because it seemed that once I appeared, they didn’t take too long at all to find a spot to land. Indeed, I think that when I came through, all the ice had melted. A very unfortunate incident but, as they say, it could have been worse.

I was bearing a few pangs by the time I reached Pangbourne, but the bacon baguette was most welcome. From there, it seemed only a short distance to Hungerford and lamb balti in the excellent company of Mal Volio.

I was aware that I was unlikely to finish in the time. For the first 100k, I just could not get my riding average up beyond 16kph. I felt I needed to keep to more like 18kph in order to give myself time for essential stops, but it was beyond me. After leaving Hungerford, I am sure my speed picked up, but I was amazed that it was as late as 4.42 when we went past Kintbury Church, not least because it was still light.

Bramley came and went, and I thought I had set off an estate agent’s burglar alarm because the moment I leaned my bike against the shop front, so electronic noises began, but it turned out to be the level crossing gates closing.

When I reached Winnersh Sainsbury’s before 7 p.m, I thought there might be an outside chance of making up the time, but getting lost in Maidenhead cost me a good 20 minutes, and when I found Berry Hill, and I was back to 6kph again, I knew that I had lost it. It was so frustrating following correctly a sheet through some 45 miles of unknown dark roads, and then ballsing up when the streetlights appeared.

I actually don’t know what time it was when I reached Gerrard’s Cross station but I phoned the Esteemed Organiser to ask whether there was any point in me going back to base as really all I wanted to do was get a train home, but he persuaded me to return to the Chalfont St. Peter Community Centre as apparently I could still be accredited with something or other even though I was wouldn’t be troubling the Audax Club Parisien with that particular performance. So off I trundled for the last time, handed in my brevet card and Mr Manotea was kind enough to give me and the bike a lift back to Gerrards Cross. I eventually arrived home around 1.30 a.m., some 21h30m after I got up.

I ache, but not much, and I got on the bathroom scales this morning: 16 stone 13 3/4lb! That’s the first time for almost two decades that I have broken the 17st barrier! I’m off to do another 200 today…

Hopey New Year – 100k AUdax

I don’t quite know what to think of today. Seeing all these lithe young men prancing up hills on their slender machines makes me wonder why the hell I didn’t get involved in this sort of thing years ago. Mind you, I was never a lithe young man.

There is part of me that is definitely disappointed. OK, I’m spoiled as I know Derbyshire pretty well: my wife is a good Stalybridge lass and our preferred option for a route to her parents’ house has normally involved the Snake Pass. We have also done a fair bit of hill walking in the area, and to see the hills today shrouded in mist and, at one point, being sprayed liberally with a load of sheep slurry, some of which was drifting back over the road just for my benefit (actually, I didn’t smell of it when I got back, but the tractor driver didn’t seem to care where it went) made me glad I had been there on glorious summers’ days.

Having said that, I was pleased with the way I rode. Swinscoe Hill was probably the most challenging experience of my cycling life. It never seemed to end. I was concerned about the fact that we were riding on impressive-sounding roads like the A6 and the A52, but to be honest there are unclassified roads in Essex which are busier than these. There were spells of several minutes when nothing at all would disturb my reverie. I got up everything, in my usual grinding manner, but I have been practising “spinning” and it showed today. Before I started, in fact, several weeks ago, I took the route sheet and wrote on it some predicted times at certain junctures. To begin with I was ahead of myself, but a break for a coffee and a sandwich at the Peak Cycle Hire centre used up a lot of my credit, and by the time I turned right for Longnor, I was 10 minutes behind.

There was a point on Swinscoe Hill when I seriously considered turning round and riding straight back to Derby. I had a deadline in the form of the 1907 train out of Sheffield (it was probably 100 years late) and my connection from Hope gave me a scant 3 minutes in which to find platform 8 from platform 2. However, I thought that there was a chance I might get back in time for one an hour earlier.

I did the last quarter of the ride from memory. I couldn’t wear my glasses because of the rain and a fine film of muck all over them, and indeed, even when I stopped for a short while in a pub in Longnor, everything was so wet that my reading glasses were permanently misted up. Ergo, I couldn’t read a map and I couldn’t read the route sheet. I found the ride out of Glutton Bridge nearly as depressing as Swinscoe Hill, but once I was on the A5027, everything became easier. I couldn’t see the road terribly well because, well, the combination of a single B & M Lumotec powered by a Schmidt has been discussed at some length elsewhere on this forum, and I am very glad I have ordered some solidlights. However, this ride has made me question seriously if I ought to be out after dark if there is a threat of rain in the air, particularly on roads I don’t know very well. Too much is left to guesswork.

So, for 15 miles, I could read neither map nor route sheet and I couldn’t see my computer so I didn’t know how far I had gone and I didn’t know the time. Even Tideswell Church was no help, its clock face being designed in such a way to make the hands, if there are any, invisible, but good ACFers will be glad to know that the loos there are still up to the standard that enabled Mrs Wow’s Grandmother to enthuse wildly about them in the 1960s and 70s.

I was hopeful that I could catch the 5.30 something from Hope Station, but when I got Back to Base, I asked what the time was and it was exactly 5.30! That was what I had written on my route sheet as a likely finishing time, but it gave me just 4 minutes to catch the early train. However, splendid Northern folk: I asked the organisers if they knew anyone who had space for a bike and was driving back to Sheffield and there were instant volunteers, who had to drive back to Doncaster. We had a bit of trouble fitting my bike in their car, but it went eventually and I had lots of tiime to get myself sorted out. I was glad I had a spare, dry, top because I got very cold at the station. Luckily the Midland Main Line train had plenty of space and I was able to turn it into My Mobile Laundry as I spread some of my very wet garments out to dry. I arrived home in Southend at about 11.15.

ACFers seen: Chris S of course (don’t worry about leaving me behind – you certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride at my pace), PaulD, Redsnapper & Frenchie. I think there might have been someone else as well, but my apologies to whoever it was – we chatted for quite some time before my pedestrian pace saw everyone disappear over the horizon. Indeed, after Redsnapper & Frenchie overtook me for the first time, a vigorous downhill enabled me to put the Rohloff into a high gear and return the compliment, but it was short-lived.

I wasn’t last to finish! Apparently there were two others still out when I got back. My riding speed was just over 15 kph.