Friday, 30 September 2011

Audax 230km

Well here is the Garmin data from my first Audax ride. This shows the timed loop from start to finish. I also cycled to the start and home again so covered an extra 12 miles making it 155 miles all told. I did the ride with John who I made contact with via CycleChat and who's done this route a few times before. It made a big difference not having to stop to check navigation and also having someone to cycle with. He was a great motivator.

We stopped a few times for short breaks and to collect receipts in order to prove we had passed set places along the route and at what time. On through Frodsham and Ellesmere Port we went. We also had a stop on the Wirral overlooking Wales as we cycled up the only off road section through Wirral country park - The Wirral Way. This was a lovely bit before we hit the tarmac once more for Birkenhead and the train under the Mersey to Liverpool. I never knew there was a train tunnel there as I suppose the ferry kind of eclipses other forms of river crossing for non-Liverpudlian's. Through Liverpool and north to Formby from where we turned east for Manchester via St Helens.

John and the bikes on the Wirral with Wales in the distance
The weather was lovely on the whole except for a constant head wind on the way back. I was approaching 100 miles and could see my average speed getting slower and slower as my legs grew heavier and heavier. I called to John that he should go on at his own pace and I would complete when I could but he stopped, told me to eat some sugary stuff, drink some water and have a rest for a few minutes. The psychological barrier of 100 miles, the head wind and hitting a sugar low all at the same time were soon overcome as the sugar hit my bloodstream and we set off again.

Coming into the outskirts of Manchester over the Warburton Bridge the light had gone from the sky and my Edelux light came into it's, carving a nice wide path out of the unlit roads and allowing a fair lick of speed to be maintained. As we travelled through Sale and into Trafford, I was tempted to head off home as the route then took me away from my abode south of the city centre and onto the Velodrome. I persevered but it was difficult and made all the worse by a cramp in my right thigh which made actually turning the pedals with any force a real struggle. 

John went ahead for the last couple of miles due to my slow, ponderous and laboured cycling at this point, We met up at the Asda ATM for our last receipt and then bid a quick but heartfelt farewell. I still had 6 miles to cover for home. The wife was waiting and there was bottle of wine to celebrate with. And the next day? Well I felt fine apart from a little weakness in both hands. Not what I expected at all and I certainly could have done it again if I had the time. 

Good start I think!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

First 100+ miler

I did it! 155.4 miles or 250 km. The timed element was over 230 km and the upper limit for this distance is 16 hrs. Managed it in just under 14 hrs. Legs tired and calves doing some strange quivering but otherwise pretty good. More details to follow when I have the energy...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Audacious Cycling

Audacious meaning bold. Now shortened to Audax and the type of cycle ride I am going to attempt tomorrow. Not the most extreme ride anyone has ever done but at around 250 km (155 miles including cycling to and from the start) this will be my longest and boldest ride by far. And while I normally just pootle at my own pace and decide when and where I will finish cycling that day this is a timed event and I must get proof of passage and completion at various points on the way. 

So, I am meeting a fellow Audax rider at 07.00 hrs tomorrow in Manchester and we are going to follow a circular route to Liverpool/Wirral and back to Manchester. He has done this before so I will be very much in his hands. The weather is looking great and the bike is ready. I'll aim for no alcohol this evening and an early night. Quite excited but just a little nervous.

If I can do this within the time limit and not be too knackered I will be well on my way to preparing for LEL 2013. The first physical and pyschological steps will have been taken and everything after will be easier because of that. If I struggle tomorrow I will have to reassess my goal to complete the LEL. I am hopeful it will not be too taxing. I have done rides of 145 km before with camping gear, found it pleasurable and was ready to do it all again the next day but perhaps that will be my upper limit. I suppose only time (and distance) will tell!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Priority Traffic Lanes And Bicycles

I cycle for commuting and fun covering thousands of miles per year. Most of my interactions with traffic are without incident and generally predictable. I have stopped routinely filming my commutes because it became all consuming, made be rather bitter and I don't think it actually achieved much. However, I really cannot stand so called professional drivers - not white van men or mini cab drivers but drivers who have to take a seperate road test to gain a HGV or PSV licence - when they feel they can bully their way on the road. This is an email I sent to First Bus Company in Manchester along with thier reply about such an incident. 

I don't know the outcome and I am going to leave it that. I do hope though that bringing this kind of poor driving to the attention of  appropriate managers will result in the few bad drivers being made to think twice before they behave in such an appalling manner.

My email to the bus company
Dear Sir/Madam

I am a frequent road cyclist and cover about 100 miles per week on numerous roads. Most of my trips are done around Manchester. I have the greatest of respect for the driving of most bus drivers I encounter but I am writing as I wish to very strongly complain about a First bus driver who very nearly caused a serious road traffic collision recently.

I was cycling north along the A56 towards Bury on Friday 16 Sep at about 12.20hrs. I had just entered the priority lane near Gigg Lane and was moving at about 20 mph, wearing a bright red top and in the "Primary" lane position. Weather conditions were dry with good visibility and traffic was moderate in volume. I became aware of a single decker bus passing me very closely - so closely in fact I could have touched the side of the vehicle with no effort. The bus driver had not completed the pass when the vehicle moved towards the kerb forcing me to brake hard and aim for the gutter to avoid a collision.

Obviously I was very shaken by this display of poor driving. The bus continued to move up the lane and stopped at the next passenger halt 150m or so ahead. I decided to challenge the driver about this incident. I cycled passed the bus while it was stationery and stopped in front. I made eye contact with driver and moved to his window. I asked him if he realised how closely he had passed me. His reply amazed and infuriated me.

Rather than apologise and tell me he hadn't seen me or even that he had misjudged the manoeuvre, he proceeded to inform me I had been in "his" lane, had no right to be there and further that I should have been in the pedestrian/cycle shared lane (this runs adjacent to the priority lane for 200 m or so on the pavement). I explained with some vigour I had every right to be in the priority lane as it is a shared bus/taxi/cycle lane and pointed out the pedestrian/cycle lane is not mandatory for cyclists and no road cyclist moving at 20 mph is going to choose to use it over the road. He continued to insist I should not have been "in his way" and that the lane was for "buses only". This is incorrect and there are clear signs at the beginning of the lane stating the lane is for buses, taxis and cyclist between 07.00 - 19.00hrs

It quickly became clear to me the driver had in fact seen me, felt I should not be there and was in his way. I am therefore forced to conclude the closeness of his pass was not an error of judgement but rather a deliberate attempt to force me to a stop or even off my bicycle. This was not just careless driving but a very deliberate and dangerous attempt at intimidation that could have resulted in serious harm or even death. If I had wobbled, hit a pothole or manhole as I was being forced to the gutter I would, without a doubt, have gone under the rear wheels of the vehicle with disastrous consequences.

I expect you to take this further with driver concerned. I have not reported this matter to the Police but may yet do so depending on the actions taken from this point onwards. The bus was a 93...
 And the reply I got today

I write in response to you  recent email regarding the behaviour and driving standards displayed by one of our drivers on our 93 service on the 16 September 2011.

Good customer care is a principle of First and there is no excuse for the behaviour of the type you described, which certainly fall shorts of these standards.

You may be assured that in view of your comments, the driver concerned will be interviewed under the company's disciplinary procedures. If necessary, appropriate action will be taken with a view to avoiding any further instances, such as this. Due to employee confidentiality and the restrictions under the data protection act I am unable to disclose the form of action that will be taken, however it will reflect the seriouness of your complaint.

In closing therefore, I would be grateful if you could accept my sincere apologies for the incident, and my thanks for bringing this matter to my attention. It is through receipt of such information that we are able to monitor the performance of our drivers and seek improvement where necessary.

I hope this incident has not deterred you from travelling with First in the future.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nerves Of Steel!

I have been planning a big family day out on bikes all Summer. There was going to be my sister with her family, my brother and his family, me, the OH and The Golden Child - six adults and six kids all told. Unfortunately it never came to fruition for a variety of scheduling pressures. 

The brother in law and I were going to take his two eldest girls for a day out last Saturday on hired tandems but in the event this plan was dashed when he was informed they were in Girl Guide camp that weekend. We were both still free though and fancied doing something a bit different. As I had always wanted to try a tandem we decided to hire just one and did a twenty mile return trip along the Tissington Trail in Derbyshire. It was an experience I never, ever wish to repeat. 

The film shows the outward section which is mainly a gentle uphill pull. At 10 miles it started to rain hard and continuously so we turned round. The combination of: a wet slippy surface, thin tyres, woolly steering, the increased speed and two big blokes made it a quite hair raising journey. Filming was the last thing I wanted to add to the mix so there is no visual record of this part. Anyway, we did get back without coming off but it was nerve wracking trip. I know I'll be sticking to my own bike(s) from now on. Tandem riders must have nerves of steel!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Weight Matters: A Study

A small scale, non randomised or blinded, single centre study of questionable methodology and of no statistical rigor at all on the matter of bike weight and type and the effects on average speed acheived
MiddleAgeCyclist RGN, BSc (Hons), DipHE, ALS(i), EPLS, APLS, TNCC


A recent post by MrC(1) on the subject of using light weight bikes in preference to more practical ones and the authors current desire to lose 15 kg before getting a Carbon Fibre (CF) road bike raised the question -  How much difference does the weight and type of a bike actually make to the average speed attained? 


There has been much effort made by some to reduce the weight of bikes as far as possible in the interest of moving faster(2) but some research suggests bike weight makes no difference to average speeds(3).


It was decided to compare two different bikes over a set course of 15.36 miles. The course includes a large hill climb and fast descent, some straight flat roads with cycleways and a measure of urban, heavily trafficked roads. The two bikes were a Santos Travelmaster touring/commuting bike weighing 18.4 kg in its normal configuration with racks, wheel lock, kick stand and mudguards and a Verenti Rhigos 0.3 CF road bike weighing 9.3 kg. On each ride both bikes carried the same under seat tool bag, the same frame mounted pump and one bottle of water carried in a frame mounted bottle cage. All measurements were done using a Garmin Edge 705 GPS.

While weight is a major difference between the two bikes there are other factors which can also influence performance. These fall into three groups: external factors such as weather and traffic flow; bike factors such as; geometry, gearing, tyre choice and pressure, wheel size and pedals/shoes; and rider factors such as weight, fitness, nutrition, health, clothing and motivation. These factors were either minimised or considered  a difference of bike type and so integral to the results.

To reduce external influences each ride was done in similar weather conditions. Stops were made at the same traffic lights or 'give way' whether or not this was required. This meant a similar amount of deceleration and acceleration was required over each ride. The total length of time stopped was not deemed important but rather the average speed attained while moving. This would therefore minimise any differences in results due to differing traffic flow patterns.

Each bike was optimally set up for one rider (the author). Interestingly this resulted in a similar rider position during the hill climb element while the Rhigos did allow a more head down, streamlined position using the drop bars while descending. Tyre pressures were checked, chains were clean and lubed and the same SPD pedal/shoe combination was used on each bike. Any drag from the SON hub on the Travelmaster was minimised by turning the lights off.

Rider factors were addressed by using the same rider (still the author), wearing the same clothing and riding the course at the same time on each occasion. It was also ensured no alcoholic beverages had been imbibed the night before (honest), the same breakfast and type/level of fluid before each ride had been consumed (two rounds wholemeal toast with a light spreading of butter and Marmite, a large cup of tea and 500 mls water). The rider reported no ill health and was subjectively determined to be well. The motivation of the rider on each ride does demand more detailed discussion however.

A subconscious bias towards one finding or another - essentially what did the rider/author want the results to show - might well influence how much effort was made on each ride. To counter this it was decided to work at the same aerobic effort as measured by heart rate (HR). While the Garmin Edge does have a wireless monitoring capability, The author does not have the required monitor (yet), so HR was measured using a Polar HR monitor with the wrist display mounted on the handlebar. It was decided to aim for an average HR of 135-140 bpm while pedalling on flat/moderate terrain and not to exceed 155 bpm while ascending the steeper section. While the rider could have worked harder it can be argued this may well have utilised gear ratios on one bike not available on the other so it was considered sensible not to 'bust a gut'.


Detailed data for each ride is available. The Rhigos 0.3 Hill Loop is here (and in the previous post) and the Travelmaster Hill Loop here. Essentially it was found for the same rider in similar conditions using the same aerobic effort a lighter bike allows faster travel than a heavier one. The Rhigos loop was completed at an average of 15.8 mph and the Travelmaster loop at an average of 13.9 mph. A difference of 1.9 mph or 13.6%.


Middle aged, overweight men can maintain a faster mph for the same aerobic effort on a 'light' road bike than on a 'heavy' touring bike, all other things being equal.


If speed rather than practicality is required then a dedicated light weight road bike will make a significant difference (to your wallet).

Future Research

Further, larger and more rigorous research would be useful. The author plans a further study to determine if a heavier bike can be lightened sufficiently to enable a higher average mph to be attained. This will be achieved by stripping the Travelmaster of its front and rear rack, wheel lock and kick stand and fitting 'faster' tyres. The author will then ride the same loop and compare data to the previous loop completed on the Travelmaster.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Verenti Rhigos 0.3: Test Ride

At last the Weather Gods have been kind to me. I got out on the new test bike - a Verenti Rhigos 0.3 (Wiggle own brand) - for some reet good road cycling. It was about time too as I will need to return it soon and I haven't dared take it out in the wet and windy conditions we've had of late.

I did about 25 miles in all. This Garmin Connect data was from a 15 miles loop I am riding to compare bikes. It involves a fair bit of climbing up on the moors above Rochdale and then a fantastic fast decent. It is pretty free flowing with only a few traffic lights so a good comparison can be made of time taken to complete the circuit.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day and the bike is very nice. A tad more comfortable than the Focus Cayo due to better grip tape and a slightly more upright geometry, but only a tad. It is specced with SRAM rival groupset and Verenti own branded products. I haven't used SRAM equipment before and it is slightly different changing gears than Shimano stuff but still worked very well. Very happy using a compact double (50-34) chainset. I was down to the lowest gear on part of the hill climb but could have used something higher if truth be told. Had to stop at some roadworks on the ascent and easily able to get going again in lowest gear. The Askium wheels and Vittoria tyres worked well and the ride and grip were outstanding. The brakes were efficient and easy to get to which is what I want from brakes. The frame has a nice glossy finish while the Cayo was matt. I like gloss as it is easier to wipe clean.

The only negative about the Rhigos? you can have any colour - as long as it's black. I'm going to end up with a monochromatic stable of bikes if i'm not careful!

Oh. And 1130 calories burned according to the Garmin. I don't believe it for one minute but nice to know I can have some fish and chips with bread and butter tonight and not feel guilty.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Better?

For all those not familiar with Orwell's great allegory - Animal Farm - I am happy to misquote. Surely if two wheels are good having more of them must actually be better? And what exactly is a four wheeled, pedal driven bike called? a Quadricycle, Quadracycle, Quadcycle, Quadrucycle, Quadrocycle, Quacycle, Quike or Quad-bike? Answers very welcome.

Clifton Tower, York

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Garmin Edge Test Ride

Not the first use of my new Garmin Edge but first upload to the Garmin Connect site to review details and maps. It's going to be great as logging proof for Audax rides and useful if i miss the route as well. I need to see how long the battery lasts on one charge but for Audax rides my SON hub and Pedalpower+ should mean I will be OK for power without having to jostle for electrical sockets at checkpoints.

This was a just little pootle on some local errands. Lots of stops at traffic lights on a very windy day. The GPS position was not very accurate for first third of a mile of so then must have locked on to more satellites. Great display on the unit although I haven't decided how many data fields I actually need to be able to see on the go yet. Less is sometimes more I think!

If you click on the 'view details' link it is possible to see more info'. Here I have found an error with details on speed. The summary info' gives my maximum speed as 24.3 mph while the graph show a maximum of 30.8 mph. Knowing the route quite well and considering the weather conditions i'm quite sure the lesser speed is the more accurate on this day. I imagine it happened while the new satellites were being acquired. I haven't yet fitted the wheel/cadence sensor so when I do speed/distance should be even more accurate.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Horse Hooves And Bicycle Tyres

I now know what the thingamig for getting stones out of horses hooves can also be used for - glass fragments from cycle tyres.
Not my actual 'Swiss Army Knife'

I took the Travelmaster up to my Sister in Law's place north of Newcastle recently to meet the OH and Golden Child who'd gone up earlier that week. Unfortunately, time and distance meant I had to take the train from Manchester, cycling to and from stations, rather than cycle all the way. Still, my bike was with me for some local cycling and I had a great time. This was when I got to cycle underwater after all.

While there I took advantage of a large garden and dedicated child care facilities (Auntie L and Uncle D) to do some polishing and checking of the bike. Not a huge amount to do but I did deflate the tyres to check some nicks out. I found little glass fragments in almost all of them that could not be seen while the tyres were fully inflated. They hadn't caused me any problems in thousands of miles thanks to the puncture resistant strip but I was glad to remove them anyway. I love Schwalbe touring tyres!

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Audax Advice

I recently announced my intention on CycleChat to attempt the London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) in 2013 - a 1400 km endurance cycle ride over 116 hrs. I received some supportive replies and then Greenbank posted a very helpful one. Thanks Greenbank. I think it's a really useful framework and hope to use it a fair bit. These are my thoughts on it at present (Greenbank's text in blue). 
Picture credit to be added

For someone considering it in 2013 I'd suggest a minimum of:-

a) Start doing Audaxes now (if you're not already doing them). You can dip your toe in with a 100km if you like, everyone starts somewhere. Just start.

I am happy riding 85 miles (136 km) with camping gear at a nice pace. I plan to start with a 200 km ride at the end of September. Will be a more focused kind of riding but the 200 km doesn't faze me.

b) Ideally you'd work up to 200km rides within a few months and keep that going over the winter, there are some lovely winter 200s in the calendar. Don't worry too much if you don't, but you should be happily doing a 200km ride by Feb/March 2012.

See above.

Also don't worry if you finish close to the time limit on a winter ride. I'm near the back of the field usually and took ~13 hours for a winter 200 in the run up to LEL'09. Even at my fastest in the summer I'm still taking at least 10 hours for a 200. For the longer rides I've rarely finished with more than an hour to spare, and minimal sleep.

I hope to complete 200 km in 11 - 13 hrs (you have 13.5 hrs at this distance). I suppose I'll know soon enough.

c) Aim for an SR (200, 300, 400, 600km) in 2012. (an SR is short for Super Randonneur. Anyone completing an Audax of 200 km or over is entitled to call themselves a Randonneur. Someone doing a 200 km, 300, km, 400 km and 600 km events in one calendar year prefix this title with 'Super'. They have completed an SR). 

An SR in 2012 would be perfect, but not absolutely required, preparation. There are plenty of people that didn't do any long distance riding until 6 months before LEL 2009. 

Really? Did they do OK?

However, the more prepared you are the less likely you are to fail.


What you almost might find is that night riding just isn't for you. If you're not fast enough to minimise it then you may find that rides longer than 300km just aren't for you (I know several people who've found this), but give it a few tries before deciding this.

Looking forward to trying the night riding. Have always been a night Owl. Shift work is in my blood!

The SR isn't just physical preparation, it's mental preparation. You need to get to know how you deal with sitting on the bike all day and, sometimes, all night. You need to know how you deal with sleep deprivation. You need to know whether you have the mental strength to keep going rather than just giving up when you reach an inevitable low point. You need to learn how to listen to your body, when it's hungry and needs food (almost always during an Audax), when you're dozy, when you're thirsty, etc. Learning how you deal with stuff never stops, so don't assume a single SR series and you've got it licked.

Sounds more than reasonable.

d) Aim for at least an SR in 2013 in the run up to LEL.

I'll try!

If you can go for hillier rides (with AAA points) then even better. Lots of bits of LEL are flat but the Northern section is quite hilly (but worth it for the scenery). 

I want to organise a DIY Audax (literally a Do It Yourself route) of 300 km over Yad Moss (a high road on the LEL). Will be good to know I have done this section if I actually get there on the LEL itself. Also planning on riding the 200 km Manchester Loop which I believe is quite hilly. 

Obviously, the more you can do in advance the better. Each training ride or each Audax means you'll suffer a little less on LEL itself (and hopefully not 'suffer' at all).

I've got time plus an understanding and supportive wife (are you reading this oh love of my life?). I'll do as much as I can fit around working full time and being an attentive and loving husband and father!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Gaining The Edge

I like gadgets. I love cycling. Combining the two where possible gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure. This is probably a very male thing but I would hate to be sexist and suggest women do not have this compulsion too (although they would need to colour match everything where I am happy with black or plain).

I have: a Cateye wireless trip computer, a SON dynohub with associated high power lights and a Pedalpower+ power converter/battery, a ContourHD bullet cam with RAM mount and I have a GPS. The GPS is a Satmap Active 10. It's a great bit of kit I originally bought for hillwalking but have found very useful at times cycle-touring. It's fun to see where I have been and has been very useful on occasions when I could not place myself on the paper map or, in other words, was a little bit lost (belts and braces me!).
Satmap Active 10
The Satmap uses an electronic version of OS maps so is very familiar and very useful on the hills as it shows all the normal OS features you would expect. Wonderful when the fog comes down and you lose sight of any landmarks (I can use a compass but am no expert). On the bike it does have it's limitations though - mainly its largish physical size and the scale of the OS map. I chose a full UK map at 1:50,000 which I find more than enough to supplement a paper map and compass on a hillwalk.

The problem with this scale when cycling is that it does not give enough detail in built up areas when choosing which street to take. You still use it like a paper map and need to reference points on the map with your environment. Not enough detail means difficulty determining exactly where you are. It does not 'do' the navigation for you like a car based sat-nav but rather shows you where you have been along with your current position and gives a straight line direction to a marked destination. This lack of turn by turn directions has never been a major problem though - there is usually someone to ask after all!

I know dedicated cycle GPS units from the likes of Garmin use vector based maps so can give much more detail at street level and can give turn by turn info' as well but of course they are not very good on a hill with a 2000 ft sheer drop somewhere in the fog. Essentially they show roadways and not landscape. They do combine mapping with cycle computer functions and wireless heart rate monitoring though. They provide a huge amount of information for the cyclist should they choose. Would I like one? Of course. Can I justify it? No. Or so I thought...

I have a roadie cycle buddy called Col. He's a bit of a fanatic, sorry, enthusiastic road cyclist and has been advising me on things to look for in a CF road bike. He works hard and plays hard. He enjoys his cycling, chooses the best gear and makes good use of it too. He's got a top end Pinarello Dogma road bike which he did the Manchester - Blackpool cycle ride on. It took him about 6.5 hrs. That is 6.5 hrs to get to Blackpool and return to Manchester as well! 126 ish miles, average speed somewhere up around 18 mph. On this ride he also used a top end Garmin Edge 705 GPS unit.

The 705 has recently been usurped from it's premium position in the Garmin stable by the Edge 800. This, as Col told me, does all the 705 does but has a touch screen and is a little bit more aerodynamic (I kid you not). I joked "When you upgrade to the 800 i'll take the 705 off your hands for £50.00". He replied "Nice try. RRP £300.00". I thought no more about it. A few weeks later though guess what? That's right. He'd only gone and upgraded!
Garmin Edge 705
He offered me the 705 and I really couldn't turn him down as did feel somehow responsible for his new purchase. We agreed a price for the 705 along with a full UK map and a wireless cadence sensor. A bit more than £50.00 but a lot less than £300.00. Am I happy with it? You betcha. It can give me turn by turn directions and it's more aerodynamic than the Satmap. Just what I need for Audaxing!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cycle Show

Don't forget the Cycle Show 2011 is coming up at the end of September for anyone interested in shiny cycling gear or perhaps is in the market for buying a new bike. Oh, that'll be me then!

Making A Statement

I picked up Dan, Heinz and Marmite secondhand on eBay the other day. One seller for all three. You really can't tell they are used though. Like new they are. Still looking for my favourite Foska 'Road Tax' top though.

If i'm going lycra it's not going to be as race team wannabee. I just don't have the body to pull it off!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Going The Distance

I'm in a bit of a dilemma. It's not a terrible dilemma but even so I am torn and it is causing me lots to consider.

You see I have gone and committed myself to something I'm not sure I can do but I'm going to have a damn good go at even so. Following a CycleChat (CC) forum on Touring and Expedition cycling, someone I know via CC asked what bikes would be good for an Audax - specifically the London-Edinburgh-London (LEL) in 2013. I had no idea but really fancied the idea of an organised ride of this length at some distant, vague, future point. I checked and found the event runs from 26 July to 2 August 2013 and is a 1400 km event (Audax rides are international hence the metric). I worked out this would be an 850 mile ride over 8 days so a little over 100 miles/day. 

Easy peasy I thought. I comfortably manage 60-85 miles/day when cycle-camping, stop to take photos and video, set up camp, find the nearest pub for the evening and then repeat for 3-7 days. I'm quite sure with two years to prepare and no panniers to carry I could complete 8 consecutive 100+ mile rides. So I said "...can I come too? and the reply came "But of course!!". This was the start of my dilemma although I didn't know it at the time.

Audax riding, also known as Randonneuring, has a long history. It originated in Italy but really took shape in France and it is one of the great things to come from across the channel in my opinion*. The LEL is the flagship event of Audax UK and takes place every four years. It attracts hundred of entrants, or Randonneurs, from a multitude of countries but it is not the only UK event. There are many shorter one over distances of 100 km, 200 km, 300 km, 400 km and 600 km run all through the year. Riders do not compete against each other (at least in theory) but against the clock. They are expected to navigate between checkpoints where they gain a stamp to prove they have passed that way. At these checkpoints may be opportunity for food, water, rest and repair but in between each, the rider is expected to make their own arrangements. They are the Marathons of the cycle world. No sprint finishes nor points for hill climbs, no team tactics or chase vehicles. It is the rider and his or her machine. A test of physical and mental strength, fortitude, planning, resolve and of course mechanical reliability.

The more I read about Audax in general and the LEL in particular the more excited I became. Hand in hand with the stir of excitement that comes with a new challenge though came some worries. Reports of LEL 2009 said riders had 116 hrs to complete the event. That is 116 hrs for; cycling, sleeping, navigating, eating, toileting, mending, washing, dressing, conversing and so on. My new calculations brought me up short. To cover the distance succesfully a participant would need to cover just short of 176 miles per day for over 4.5 days (and that is assuming no wrong turns) and still somehow manage to squeeze in everything else required. 

Had I miscalculated originally? Well, it turns out I had done and big time too. I'd assumed the ride starts on 26 July and finishes 8 days later on the 2 August. Starts are actually staggered and 116 hrs is the total time allowed for any one individual. But this isn't my dilemma. I was already hooked, was planning when I could enter my first 200 km event and how I would kit out the Travelmaster for it. No, my dilemma is much more material than that.

I realised to partake in the LEL the Travelmaster was not the most suitable bike. I'd read up quite a bit by now, including an excellent account from a rider who completed LEL 2009 - ...Barring Mechanicals by Andy Allsop. Cycles for Audax rides need to be comfortable and reliable but also fast. While my touring bike handsomely meets the first two criteria it is not the fastest bike by any stretch of the imagination. An unladen weight of 18 kg and gearing set up for touring with panniers sees to that. As I am going to need every bit of help to complete this longer events a new bike seemed to be required. 

No problem about a new fast steed as I'm looking to get a CF road bike and they are certainly light and fast. Well yes, and they are comfortable (up to a point) and reliable too, but I am contemplating spending 20 hrs a day in the saddle for over 4 days and cycling through whatever the British weather chooses to throw my way. A razor saddle, drop bars, thin high pressure tyres and no mudguards again means this bike is not the one for the LEL. What I need is an Audax bike.

So my dilemma is this. Do I carry on trying out various CF speed machines with a view to getting one in a few months and then work on the OH to persuade her of my need for yet another bike or do I take the sensible approach. The approach that I can't have everything I want and compromise by getting an Audax bike only which, when all said and done, will still be a very nice, fast day touring bike for having fun on?

*The other one being Continental food

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A Bicycle Made For Two

Another thing on The Bucket List (I will have to formalize this list some day) is to ride a tandem. Not because I aspire to owning one but simply because I wonder what it would be like. I'm actually following contributing to a thread on CycleChat at the moment about the attraction of riding a tandem. So, when I saw one the other day locked up in the middle of York I just had to stop and take a closer look. 
Central York
This one is a real quality bit of kit - a Thorn tandem with Rohloff hub and hub lighting no less. And pulling a kiddie trailer as well! Very impressed I was but time (and the OH) would only let me hang about for a couple of minutes so these are the best pics I could get. 

I may actually realise my ambition quite soon as I do have tentative plans for a day out on two hired tandems. However, this is very much in the planning stages at the moment, subject to the agreement of my brother in law and will of course be weather dependant. Wish me luck.

Lurking About

Not cycling related but certainly blog related and something I feel needs to be said for all my fellow bloggers' out there.

Lurkers. Love 'em or hate 'em they are a fact of life, the naval fluff of the net - generally harmless* but serving no discernible purpose. We know you are there. We check our viewing stats and recognise the same IP addresses showing up again and again. Occasionally, you will meet a lurker in the flesh. The crossover from cyberspace to realspace can be a traumatic experience. They will make some comment that gives it away or someone else will tell you they read your blog. Some will be strange, some sad and lonely, some downright creepy but a fair few will just be nice, regular people. I met one of mine today. Luckily she falls very much into the latter category and it wasn't traumatic at all.
Lurkers are variously defined but essentially in the context of t'internet they read things on blogs/forums but never actually contribute anything. I actually like this slightly wider definition best:
A person who is just "there." Nobody really knows why, other than they show up and don't say a word. Possible reasons for this could be:
-They don't know what to say
-They are pretending to have friends
-They are trying to scare you
-They are there just to be seen with you, as if they have some kind of relationship with you.
Urban Dictionary: Lurker
Now, I've nothing personal against lurkers and this particular one is very nice. I know she isn't hanging around my blog pretending to be in some kind of relationship with me or kidding herself that we're best buddies and I'm quite sure she's not trying to scare me so it must be she doesn't know what to say. It's just when you take time to share your thoughts, experiences, feelings and adventures with people on a blog it's nice to get a little feedback every now and then. Not all the time but just on occasion. Consider it a bit like tipping the waiter for a free meal you've just been given!

And if this post doesn't get a reply or two I don't know what will!

*Clinical Review: Umbilical Lint ("BellyButton Fluff")

Friday, 2 September 2011

Travels With A Daughter

This week I have been cycling with my daughter. We went on a return trip from Salford to Radcliffe along part of cycle route 6, through Prestwich Forest Park - an 'Urban Woodland' redeveloped industrial area now with lots of mountain bike trails - before crossing the M60 Motorway onto an old rail line called the Outwood Trail.

I know she has a great time on her tagalong but I don't get to see her face much while we are chatting on the go. I thought I'd use my bullet cam to catch some of her expressions. I liked them so much I made a little film. This shows an (edited) outward section from Prestwich to Radcliffe.