the Long Distance Cyclists’ Association www.audax.uk.net
Number 112 Spring 2011
The UpperTea 100 and 200. Photos: Tim Wainwright
Alison Newman and Chris Turner
HEADING editorial IN HERE
Spring 2011 In the centre of the magazine you will find a four-page questionnaire, designed by AUK’s Publicity Officer Danial Webb with the aim of getting your thoughts on audaxing and improving AUK. I know plenty of you like to keep your magazines intact, but you should be able to detach the four pages without destroying your magazine. You can photocopy the pages if you prefer. I hope you will support Danial with his project and all returns will be confidential. ■ With PBP in the thoughts of many Auks this year, I have recruited a collection of seasoned PBP veterans to help you with advice and tips. Ideas are wide and varied so you can pick and choose whatever best suits you. I appreciate that the majority of Auks are not going to Paris this year, but the
Contents Correspondence.......................................................... 2 Organisers’ news......................................................... 3 Official news.................................................................... 4 Pat Kenny – A tribute............................................... 5 Featherbeds and bus shelters......................... 6 Dunkery Dash................................................................ 9 Wesley May Super Grimpeur............................ 10 A ride too far?.................................................................12 A grand day out – riding 400k..........................15 Perth-Albany-Perth 1200...................................... 16 Mille Cymru preparation...................................... 22 Riding the Buffalo......................................................24 Our friends from the north................................26 AUK questionnaire.....................................................31 On the anatomy of audacity.............................36 Satmap Active 10 review......................................40 Paris-Brest-Paris – tips and advice..............42 A wee jaunt around Scotland...........................56 Calendar.............................................................................59 The next edition of Arrivée will contain articles held over due to lack of space in this edition, including Cotswold Corker by Steve Poulton, My PBP by Richard Thomas, The Dunkery Dash, and reviews of ‘Any Given Sunday’ DVD, Kojak tyres, clothing from Endura and multi-tools from Carradice. A review of Spa Cycles Audax Ti is also in preparation. Front cover: Colin Weaver and Andrew Register ride the Man of Kent 200 in March. Photo by Lise Taylor-Vebel Next edition of Arrivée is in August. Please send your copy to Tim (address on right) by 20th June
PLEASE MENTION ARRIVEE WHEN REPLYING TO OUR ADVERTISERS
Arrivée Spring 2011
information in the articles should help all long distance riders, so I’m sure you will find something useful for you to fulfill your riding ambitions. ■ I am sad to report the death of photographer Cliff Shakespeare at his home in Tenbury Wells after a long battle with cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. Cliff and his wife Louise were the first photographers to supply Arrivée with a regular supply of quality photos from events including LEL, South Coast 1000, Kidderminster Killer and The Elenith amongst others. His photography helped to lift the standard of Arrivée to its present day status and after I saw his work, he was instrumental in guiding me from a point-and-shoot compact camera user to taking my photography rather more seriously.
Keep your wheels turning.
Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom – the long distance cyclists’ association which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in the UK. AUK membership is open to any cyclist, regardless of club or other affiliation, who is imbued with the spirit of long-distance cycling. Full details in the AUK Handbook. HOW TO CONTACT US Membership Enquiries: Mike Wigley (AUK Membership Secretary), Higher Grange Farm, Millcroft Lane, Delph OL3 5UX. Email: mike.wigley@Audax.uk.net Membership Application Form: www.aukweb.net/memform.phb or Ian Hobbs (New Members), 26 Naseby Road, Belper DE56 0ER. Email: ian.hobbs@Audax.uk.net Membership fees: Renewal: £14 or £56 for five years (price of four). New or lapsed members £19 (inc. £5 enrolment fee) or £61 for five years (price of four). Household member: £5 or £20 for five years (price of four). No enrolment fee for new household members. Life member’s Arrivée £9. ARRIVEE Current Arrivée copies, where available, are £3 (UK), £4 (EEC), £5 (non-EEC). Contact Mike Wigley (address above). Mudguard stickers four for £1. AUK cloth badges £2 (includes UK post. EEC add £1. Non-EEC add £2. Contact Mike Wigley (above). Contributions – articles, info, cartoons, photos, all welcome. Please read the contributors’ advice in the Handbook. Photographic prizes: £20 for six photos published in one edition, provided by a single photographer in digital format. £40 for a cover photo. Contact Linda Johnston <email@example.com>, AUK Financial Secretary, for payment. TO ADVERTISE Advertising Manager: Tim Wainwright, 4a Brambledown Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 0BL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Rates per issue: Full page A4 £268. Half-page landscape or portrait £134. Quarter-page £67. One-sixth page £45. One-twelfth page £23. Payment in advance. Businesses must be recommended by a member. We rely on good faith and Arrivée cannot be held responsible for advertisers’ misrepresentations or failure to supply goods or services. Members’ private sales, wants and events ads: free. PUBLICATIONS MANAGERS February Editor: Sheila Simpson, 33 Hawk Green Road, Marple SK6 7HR Tel: 0161 449 9309 Fax: 0709 237 4245 E-mail: email@example.com May and August Editor: Tim Wainwright, 4a Brambledown Road, Sanderstead, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 0BL. Tel: 020 8657 8179 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org November Editor: Maggie Lewis, 31 Headland Drive, Crosspool, Sheffield S10 5FX. Tel: 0114 266 6730 E-mail: email@example.com Produced by AUK: editing, typesetting, layout, design and scanning by Tim Wainwright. Printed and distributed: Headley Brothers Ltd, Ashford, Kent TN24 8HH. Distribution data from AUK membership team. Views expressed in Arrivée are not necessarily those of the Club. Audax UK Long Distance Cyclists’ Association (Company Limited by Guarantee). Reg. Office: 10 Campion Rise, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9PU. To subscribe to the AUK e-mailing discussion list, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © 2011 Arrivée. Our WWW site: www.audax.uk.net AUK clothing can be purchased directly on-line at: www.impsport.com and click on Audax UK in the left hand panel.
correspondence 24-hour Fellowship
If you can manage a ‘12’ then you should be able to manage a ‘24’. Perhaps with more flexibility than when I was working there is less of a problem. But time restrictions for workers mean a ‘12’ starts at an ungodly time Saturday morning, with not much time to prepare. In contrast, a ‘24’ starts mid-morning, with lots of time for getting ready. At the end, a ‘12’ rider needs to get home ready for a day’s work Monday morning. The ‘24’ rider, on the other hand, has the rest of the day in which to get home and have an early night. My first of nine ‘24s’ was in 1950 (405 miles) and my last was in 1985 (354 miles). My best was 410 miles. I was quite content with my record, until I realised a self-styled ‘Little Old Lady’ did 420 miles. I believe that to be her only ‘race’.
Long distance riding
We have been down this road before. Define ‘Long Distance’? The history of Paris-Brest-Paris claims that the first long distance cycle race was 1891’s 600km Bordeaux-Paris. I believe the first bike race was from Paris to Rouen (or vice-versa) in 1869. The fact there seems to be no evidence of more races before 1891 was, I think, the direct result of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. In the meantime, there was a lot of activity across ‘La Manche’ in Britain. GP Mills and Monty Holbein in particular setting a number of records, Holbein setting a 24-hour record of 300 miles, and five days for LeJog. As a result, when the inaugural Bordeaux-Paris was organised, it was something new to the French, whereas the English riders had been long-distance racing for five years, giving them the edge over their French competition. September 4, 1886 was the date of the first North Road 24. It was a one-day thing in that they started and finished at midnight. They went north up the North Road to Peterborough, Wisbech and Norwich, but the dreadful weather and unpaved roads gave the riders a quagmire to ride in. As a result they ran out time well short of Hatfield with 227 miles. So, was 1891’s Bordeaux-Paris the first long distance race?
I was interested to read Francis Cooke’s article in Arrivée 111 regarding paperless brevets in the UK. Judith Swallow and I took part in an Israeli 200 calendar brevet around the Sea of Galilee in January and it was completely paperless other than, if required, a paper route sheet available on the start line. Entry and acknowledgement was emailed, the
route sheet and gpx track were emailed to entrants beforehand and there was no brevet card at all. Some of the controls could involve receipts but others required photos of specific locations. Photos could be used for all controls, if desired, and were checked at the finish to see if individuals had completed the course. It was very easy to just pull out the digital camera or phone to take shots of specific landmarks or signs around the route. It seems that the Israelis don’t rate info controls at all, not too surprising given the limited info control options at some locations. ACP’s validation numbers are emailed to successful riders afterwards. Any planning or information for and photos, queries or discussion of Israeli brevets takes place on a dedicated forum, in Hebrew of course. Luckily for us, the locals are very happy to use English when we were around. Google Translate does a fairly good job too. Just for interest’s sake: Judith was the first woman to complete an Israeli brevet and it was the first time either of us has ridden a bicycle 200 metres below sea level. The couple of dozen local riders came from all over Israel to do this brevet and all were extremely welcoming and helpful to us. Of the many new friends we made, Lev took us out to dinner in Haifa, Yan hosted us in Jerusalem for a couple of days and Tal (who we knew prior to riding the brevet, of Brommie around PBP, LEL and Mille Miglia fame) gave us a guided tour through Tel Aviv and Jaffa ‘en velo’. Thanks to all the Israeli Audaxers for an unforgettable experience.
(A Small Bit of)
THE GREAT TOUR
A new Audax starting from Seaton in Devon on 31 July, details on-line at bit.ly/TheGreatTourAudax. The events feature 50k and 100k rides. The 100k event attracts two AAA points (1,950m of climbing) and explores the Devon hills and river valleys on the way to the sea at Exmouth. As a finale, both routes take in the very hilly coastal route back to Seaton.
Obituary – Pat Kenny Pat Kenny was struck and killed by a car whilst out cycling. Pat was well known throughout the cycling world and was an avid rider of randonnées. He was born in Poona, India, in 1939 but soon returned to England and spent most of his early years in north Birmingham. He became interested in club cycling after seeing a notice on his church notice board in 1957 and so joined the Birmingham St. Christopher’s Catholic Cycling Club, remaining a member throughout his cycling time. Long distance racing and touring soon became his main interests and during his racing days he rode many 24-hour races and took many road place-to-place records. This was finalised in taking the Land’s End to John o’Groats tricycle record in a time of 2 days 10 hours and 36 minutes. [Previously held by AUK’s Patron David Duffield –Ed.] He also broke nine other national records and 30 Midland records. He still holds 13 of the latter. He was many times a Super Randonneur and was also an Ancien du PBP. Pat also believed in taking his share of other duties in the cycling world. He was an organiser, timekeeper, committee member and observer, along with lots of other more mundane jobs attached to the sport. As well as being a member of Birmingham St Chrisopher’s CCC, he was a member of the CTC, the 24 Hour Fellowship, the 300,000 mile club, the Road Records Association and the Midlands MRRA to name but a few. He was also a keen philatelist. Pat had recorded over 910,00 miles by the end of January and that was the second greatest mileage recorded. He was hoping to reach 1,000,000 within the next few years. He was a big encourager of people to test themselves and when I decided to go for the Pembroke to Great Yarmouth tricycle record he fully backed me and timed the ride. When slowed by heavy traffic during the night at the junction of the A14/A11, Pat jumped out of the following vehicle and ran along the road to give me a drink. He said, ‘Didn’t you see the sign back there saying 40 miles per hour?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well you were only doing 24!’ I cannot remember my reply. All our best wishes go to his wife Hazel and his daughters and their families. Cycling will be poorer for the loss of the gentle and unassuming man.
Two 200km events passing through the Yorkshire Dales this year Tan Hill 200km – Sunday 26 June Start: 08:00 Padiham. Fee: £3. Website: www.tanhill200.co.uk This is a clockwise hilly route beginning with two steep climbs over Padiham Heights and the Nick o’ Pendle, followed by a few gradual ascents through the Forest of Bowland before climbing over the Yorkshire Dales to Tan Hill. The return leg passes through Arkengarthdale, Bishopdale and Wharfedale climbing over such climbs like Kidstones on its return to Lancashire.
Last Chance Dales Dance 200km – Sunday 30 Oct Start: 07:00 Pendleton. Fee: £5 This is a clockwise circuit of the Yorkshire Dales, using mainly B-roads and country lanes. Route crosses over: Newby Head, Buttertubs Pass and Grinton Moor, before returning to Lancashire. Controls at Thwaite: 75km and How Stean Gorge: 133km. Clocks go back one hour at 2am previous night. The delights of Greenhow Hill also await you. Entries on standard AUK entry form to: Andy Corless, 31 Castlerigg Drive, Ightenhill, Burnley, Lancashire BB12 8AT. E-mail: email@example.com Finally, does anybody fancy taking over some of my perms? If so, please get in touch.
Arrivée Spring 2011
organisers’ HEADING INnews HERE
Organisers’ Newsletter Online Entry for Non-Members
Non-members are now able to enter online using the Audax UK online entry system. The subject of the Paypal message sent to the organiser clearly indicates it is from a non member eg: Item no.11-80/nonmem Temp AUK _ Notification of Payment Received from... The rider will need to provide all their contact details when entering and these details will be included in the body of the notification email along with an indication of insurance requirements, eg: if temporary AUK insurance is required rider: nonmem Temp AUK or if they are a member of CTC so are already insured rider: nonmem CTC If you haven’t previously used the AUK online entry system before because your event has a large number of nonmember entries then you may want to consider it. Evidence from organisers who do use it is that accepting online entries both makes the organiser’s life easier and increases the number of entries to your event; as riders are increasingly using it in preference to postal entry.
Start/Finish List Integration
If you’re not already using the Start/ Finish List to send the results of your event to the Validation Team then we strongly recommend that you do. It makes life much easier for the Validation and Recording teams and you’ll get your results published and cards turned round more quickly by using it, and it’s now very easy to use. Even if you maintain your own spreadsheets you can pour the results into the online Finish List with a
few mouse clicks. For those of you already using it, there’s been a couple of significant updates made: The list has now been linked to your online entries. Anyone entering online will be automatically added to the list. The option to download the contents of your start/finish list using the Download Excel Start List option has been updated and now includes rider e-mail addresses (handy for e-mailing your online entrants), and address details for non-members who have entered online. See the Organisers Guidelines for more details on using the Start/Finish Lists and how to submit your results this way.
Event Closing Dates
The Event Planner has featured the ability to set a closing date for some time now, although this didn’t previously put a visible closing date in the Calendar. However, the new website now allows you to display your closing date to potential entrants. You can set your Closing Date using the Main Edit Page of the Event Planner to set the number of days before the event that entries close. So for example – if your event starts on Saturday, and you want to discourage late entries after the Wednesday – set this number to three and the Calendar will display the appropriate date. Once the closing date has passed then the Calendar page will display ‘Entries now closed’ and remove the ‘Enter this Event’ option. If you leave this option at zero then no closing date will be set and the calendar will simply display ‘Entries should arrive at least two weeks before the event’ and the ‘Enter this Event’ option will remain Live until midnight after your event.
Chris Beynon at Beachy Head, Redhill Beach Trip 200 Photo by Billy Weir
Organisers’ News 2012 – Event Registration As you will probably have read in the Winter Arrivée, there is an important new requirement you need to know about if you’re planning to run an event after 1st November 2011. For all events after this date, you will need to pay a registration fee to include each of your events in the Audax UK calendar. The fee is £7 (not the £10 previously advertised). The fee is payable to the Events Team before your event will be published in the calendar. The fee includes the first 20 (black and white) brevet cards for your event. This is now the minimum order quantity. You may order additional cards at the normal cost, but you will not be able to order less than 20. To pay the fee for your events, you need to complete an Event Registration form and send it with your payment (cheques should be made payable to ‘Audax United Kingdom’) to your regional Events Team Delegate. You can find this form in the Event Planner on the Download Orgs’ Docs page, or from the Event Forms link when editing an event. Online payment through PayPal will be available shortly and we will let you know when this is ready. The Audax UK calendar has expanded considerably in recent years, and many of our events are quite small. This means a lot of work for both the Events Team and our Brevet Card Secretary, particularly when organisers with small events and tight margins refine their order repeatedly. The registration fee will reduce the amount of admin the brevet card secretary has to carry out, ensuring a smoother service for everyone. Audax UK feels that this modest registration fee should ensure that organisers are certain that their event is viable, without placing any undue cost on them. If your event regularly attracts less than 20 entries then you may need to increase your entry fees slightly to cover the cost of the minimum order of 20 cards. If you feel that your event might be unable to stand this cost, then you may want to consider organising your event as a group DIY or permanent event. This would give you less administration and more flexibility in deciding on a date and route that suits you and your riders better. John Hamilton, Events Secretary
AAA News AAA website
All AAA News, information about the Audax Altitude Award, and Rolls of Honour for the various AAA awards, can now be found on the AAA website at www.AudaxAltitudeAward.org.uk.
AAA event changes
Dic Penderyn 200km 26 Mar 2011: 3,500m of climbing 3.5 AAA points (new event). Manchester Looplet 170km 10 July 2011: 2,900m of climbing 3 AAA points (new event). Up and Down t’ West Ridin’ 120km 10 July 2011: 2,500m of climbing 2.5 AAA points (new calendar event). (A Small Bit of ) The Great Tour 100km 31 July 2011: 1,950m of climbing, 2 AAA points (new event). Todmorden Loops 100km 13 Mar 2011: 2,850m of climbing, 2.75 AAA points (climbing reassessed). Crwydiad Y Cestyll 111km 18 Sep 2011: 2,200m of climbing, 2.25 AAA points (climbing re-assessed). Long Dark & White Peak (aka Dark Peak/White Peak) 200 perm: 4,380m of climbing 4.5 AAA points (climbing reassessed). Gospel Pass 200 perm: 2,710m total climb, 2,700m AAA climb, 2.75 AAA points (climbing reassessed). YatMon 150 perm: 2,230m of climbing, 2.25 AAA points (new event). OnwAAArds and UpwAAArds
The AAA Man
Arrivée Spring 2011
Just a Minute The committee returned to the usual haunts in Birmingham for a packed meeting to keep the Club more or less on track. Danial has been busy in his new Publicity role having given Cycle Active (a newish magazine for leisure and fitness riders) a list of our Populaire events in the hope they will do a feature on Audax shortly. He has arranged for Rapha, the high-end clothing company to sponsor a team for PBP with some good coverage resulting on the firm’s blog and the riders’ tweets and has also agreed a deal with Evans to sponsor a rider to complete and write up a SR series on their website. He has opened accounts for AUK on Facebook and Twitter, the latter currently proving more popular and adding some 15 new contacts each week. Linda has also been busy with her side of the annual renewals and is welcoming the benefits of internet banking. The website has been behaving itself, according to Pete Coates, coping well with a major update which has been very well received. On-line entry to events is now available to non-members, duly marked as such on start sheets. A couple more enhancements are due to be introduced to the automated brevet card ordering system shortly. Mike has found the renewal season challenging, exacerbated by postal problems still evident after the early winter. Some members have not changed their Standing Orders to reflect the increased subscription (how long ago was that!) and some Life Members have resigned or foregone their copies of Arrivée in view of the price increase. More positively, some members have rejoined after a lapse, though one has caused problems by quoting a previous number (subsequently reissued to another member.) John H is quietly getting used to the system and processes with approximately 600 events in the planner. Lucy McTaggart will be leaving the team at the end of the year to focus on other activities and appeals for a successor have seen little success. He (JH) has concerns about some new organisers’ capabilities; the grades have now been revised and the system due to be reviewed shortly. John W notes that Perms are at a similar level to this stage of last season. Mesh events are waning in popularity as DIYs are waxing, despite occasional forum outbursts and are due for re-assessment to ensure minimum distances are maintained. Although Info Controls can continue to be used on Perm BPs, they will not be allowed on any future BR Perms (existing events using them are unaffected.) Peter M is dealing with his usual glut of pre-PBP queries and after an ACP meeting in Paris now has a stack of PBP brochures. Several ways of distributing them to interested parties were discussed! Arrivée is due to be uploaded to the website imminently though current issues should not be available to non-members. Actual members wishing to read it on-line will still, for the moment, receive physical copies regardless. For LEL 2013 virtually all controls have been agreed, with controllers in place for ten of the 13 locations – only Moffatt currently unstaffed. A controllers’ meeting will have taken place in April in York with a subsequent one due in October 2011. The route is unchanged but detail changes may be needed to accommodate slightly different control locations. A Humber Bridge crossing is a definite feature – hopefully it will have reopened by then – and other possibilities, such as a central London start are under consideration. Progress on the website is progressing spasmodically and will hopefully be available for volunteers to register their interest about the time this issue is delivered. A detailed budget was distributed at the meeting. Many of the supplied figures were necessarily estimates, though with a conservative bias, and on that basis with 800 entrants paying £200 each, a surplus of £25 per entrant is currently predicted to be put aside securely for 2017. On the insurance aspect, a moderately sized quotation has been obtained as specialist cover is regarded as desirable. Equally, since the club’s activities are outside our current insurers’ standard remit, specialist
alternative quotes are to be obtained for comparison purposes. As the short interval between the season’s end (31st October) and the AGM/ Prize giving weekend is causing problems in correctly identifying award recipients, it has been suggested that the end of the season from 2011/12 onwards be brought forward to 30th September. This will obviously result in a single 11-month season, reverting to the full period subsequently. No other changes to the timetable are envisaged. The subject was discussed informally after the last AGM when, as now, there was little opposition, so a proposal is to be made to the next AGM. Event distances were again discussed with little evidence of new arguments, though it was accepted that Google Maps should be the future accepted standard. Event registration fees, another topic continued from the previous meeting, excited vigorous discussion. The reason for such a fee is not to discourage small events (which cause disproportionately large workloads to Board members,) but rather to encourage organisers of these events to increase the size of their fields. Despite events overall in 2010 posting a loss, this is not an attempt to cover costs, and the meeting agreed the charge should stand, but in the reduced amount of £7.00 which would cover a minimum order of 20 Brevet cards. Organisers of larger events will see no overall difference in the charges levied. A sample PBP jersey is due shortly and the validators’ stock of medals is now low. This is good news, as a new design is due to be introduced after PBP. Sue and Keith also suggested a revival of the National 400 event which they offered to organise. Plans are for it to be fully supported, with controls at village halls staffed by local cycling groups. The terrain in that area is ideal for cycling – fixed-friendly, even – and the prospective entry fee is about £20.00. The date for the diary is 16/17th June 2012 and more details for this enticing event will be published once they are available. In the meantime, best wishes for many enjoyable and safe kilometres, now we can pack away the thermals (if not the waterproofs!) and I look forward to meeting as many as possible up the road. As ever, full Minutes will be available from me on receipt of a sae or on the website in due course. Richard
New AUK logo The Audax UK committee has have agreed to look for a new Audax UK logo. As Audax UK’s press secretary, I’d like to give you the opportunity to have a go at designing one, as I know that more than a few of you are rather talented at graphic design. To give everyone a chance, I’ve launched a competition to find a new Audax UK logo. There is no prize, I’m afraid, other than the kudos and the satisfaction of a job well done. Judging will be by the Audax UK committee at its June meeting, who will look to pick a winner from all submissions. However the committee reserve the right to pick no winner, if they decide that there is no worthy successor to the current logo. To help you make a start, here are a few guidelines: • The committee prefer evolution to revolution. Don’t let that stop you though if you’ve got a brilliant idea. • A logo that emphasises Audax UK’s Britishness is likely to win favour. • Your entry doesn’t have to explicitly feature a cyclist or cycling, but if you can incorporate such a feature in a clever way, you’re likely to score bonus points. • A new logo should be able to be used on the Audax UK website, on brevet cards, on letterheads and as an internet forum avatar, as well as on medals, badges or other pieces of merchandise. • It should work well in both colour and monochrome. • The logo should feature the words ‘AUDAX UK’, and might work both on its own and with the strapline ‘THE LONG DISTANCE CYCLING ASSOCIATION.’ Speaking personally, I’m impressed at how some brands are able to emphasise their heritage whilst being resolutely modern. A logo that manages that would get my vote. Deadline for submissions is June 2. If you’ve got an entry, then drop me a line on here for my email address, or email me direct if you already know it. Happy to offer guidance and feedback on any submissions. Good luck! Danial Webb
Arrivée Spring 2011
pat kenny HEADING – a tribute IN HERE
An extraordinary man
Pat was born in Poona, India in 1939, where his father was serving in the British Army. On returning to England Pat spent the formative part of his life at the family home in Kingstanding, North Birmingham. In 1957 he spotted an invitation to join St Christopher’s Catholic Cycling Club on his church notice-board, and he jumped at the chance to pursue his love of cycling along with fellow Catholics from the area. I first met Pat in 1958 and he was already showing promise at time-trialling and road racing, whilst still playing an active role in club activities such as Sunday club runs and touring holidays, sometimes as far away as Switzerland. In his younger years he had a crop of sandy red hair and occasionally a stubborn streak to go with it that drove him on. Pat was probably the first in the club to have a ‘go-faster’ crewcut and it certainly seemed to work for soon he was beating the hour for 25 miles on local Midland courses. Pete Swinden and John Withers, in the early 1960s, took to riding 24-hour races and soon got Pat and myself involved. They also discovered road record breaking at regional and national level, and Pat threw himself into any form of long distance racing from then onwards. He also gained his civil engineering qualifications at technical college around that time and worked with those skills in the construction industry until taking retirement in his late 60s. Pat was a strong Catholic all of his life but never forced his views on others. In his cycling life he was a member of many organisations such as the National Road Records Association, Midland Road Records Association, the Tricycle Association, the 24-Hour Fellowship, Audax UK and the 300,000 Mile Club, being just some of them, but Birmingham St Christopher’s CCC remained his lifelong club. Pat’s membership of these organisations greatly enhanced the quality of them for the advice and support he gave, either as an event organiser, timekeeper, observer, committee member, rider or helper. By the mid-1960s Pat had already organised and driven the support vehicle on Pete Swinden and John Withers’ tandem 1,000 mile record, and a year later Pat set off from Edinburgh on his trike to break his first major National Road Record by reaching London some 20 hours 48 minutes later. Pat carried on towards the South Coast and at the 24 hour point he’d covered 431.5 miles, enough to beat the great John Arnold’s record by three miles. This was the start of Pat’s prolific record breaking career that spanned over 20 years. In that same 20-year period Pat met and married Hazel in 1969 and set up home in Whittington, near Lichfield, and helped bring three daughters into the world, Alison, Helen and Jane. Pat’s job as a civil engineer took him to various locations all over the Midlands and whenever possible he rode to his job, no matter how far it was, sometimes a round trip of 100 miles a day. In the mid 1970s Pat purchased a racing tandem-trike and that was the start of another episode of his record-breaking days. I was lucky enough to be invited along to ride as his ‘stoker’ and share the punishment whilst staring at his back pockets for up to two days, and with Pat’s inspiration, advice, encouragement and indoctrination of self-belief instilled in me, we went on to break more road records at both levels. By the late 1970s Pat’s main aim in cycling was to break the Land’s End to John o’Groats record, possibly on the tandem trike with me, and then maybe follow it up with an attempt on Dave Duffield’s solo trike record, not forgetting that the legendary Albert Crimes had previously held the record before Duffield. Pat was 40 by this time and knew that his ‘End to End’ years were limited. We tried three times in 1979 to break the classic Crimes and Arnold tandem trike ‘End to End’ record, but didn’t quite have the luck with the wind and weather required, to break such an iconic record, which still stands to this day over 55 years later. By 1980 I could see the look of determination and sometimes
Arrivée Spring 2011
Pat receiving an award at the AUK Reunion.
The police were alerted to a tricyclist riding up a coned-off part of the motorway hard shoulder. They rushed to the site, and stopped Pat. ‘What do you think you are doing?’ asked the police. ‘Well, it’s coned off,’ said Pat. ‘It’s coned off for the road works under the control of the Site Engineer,’ said the police. ‘And I’m the Site Engineer,’ Pat told them, pointing to the theodolyte he had strapped to his trike.
desperation on Pat’s face to tackle that long journey north again and as most of you are probably aware, Pat achieved his dreams and broke the trike ‘End to End’ record by 21 minutes with a new time of two days 10 hours 36 minutes for the 870-mile journey. I am so glad I helped Pat on that journey as it brought ‘closure’ to use a modern word, not only for Pat and Hazel, but also for me. Pat’s victory was also the result of a culmination of support over those last few attempts from Alan Richards, Tony Shardlow, Graham Dayman and Pete Swinden. In the space of 28 years, Pat broke no less that nine national RRA records from 25 miles to the Land’s End to John o’Groat’s record and he still holds the Birmingham to London tandem record with Les Lowe. Out of a total of 30 Midland Road Records ranging from 25 miles to 24 hours that Pat broke, he still holds 13 of them and his tandem partners at both levels included Kath Akoslovski, John Gills, John Read, Harold Harvey and myself. He was a regular RTTC timekeeper and also kept very busy for the RRA, and amongst his many successes were Mick Coupe’s and John Woodburn’s End to Ends in 1982, Jim Hopper’s Pembroke to Great Yarmouth in 1996, my daughter Lynne Taylor’s tandem End to End with Andy Wilkinson in 2000, plus her solo record in 2001, to name but a few. By the mid-90s Pat had accrued a vast mileage, somewhere in the region of 600,000 miles, and was vying on a weekly basis with Les Lowe as to who had got the highest total, but when Les’s health deteriorated Pat was left to ‘plough the lonely furrow’ with only Chris Davies down in the south to catch and overhaul. This eventually became Pat’s lifelong goal (although he wouldn’t admit to it) to be the first cyclist to reach a million miles. Over the last few years he had been a great help to me by allowing me to plunder his record archives for research whilst writing my cycling history books, and his source of knowledge and inspiration has been invaluable. I last saw Pat just after New Year 2011, he had got a bike packed in a bag ready for a flight and holiday in Tunisia with Hazel. I asked Pat whether he had managed to reach his goal of 910,000 miles by the New Year and he said ‘Yes, but by just a whisker’, and he was looking forward to riding in warm sunshine in North Africa. I bade him farewell and wished him a good holiday but wasn’t surprised to find a few days later that the trip had been cancelled due to the political unrest in the country. I’d worked it out that if he kept on riding at roughly the same rate of 20,000 miles a year as he had done almost every year I had known him, then he would probably be the first cyclist to reach the million by the time he was 78. It still sounded an impossible task for a normal fit 72-year-old man to keep turning out over 60 miles a day, 365 days a year, but of course Pat wasn’t just an ordinary man. Sadly just before 2pm on Friday 21st January the hand of fate intervened, and Pat was involved in a fatal collision with a motor vehicle in broad daylight. Words cannot describe how we all felt when we received the tragic news of Pat’s death within hours of it happening. Our thoughts go to his wife Hazel, daughters, Alison, Helen and Jane, their husbands Lee, Drew and John, and grandsons, Jack, Scott and James, and also Pat’s brother John in their very sad loss. God Bless you Pat, and thanks for all you have done for trike riders, road record breakers, time triallists and cyclists everywhere. John Taylor
Photo by Francis Cooke
Pat Kenny 1939–2011
Pat and Pete Gifford on the tandem-trike
All photos by the author
Featherbeds and bus shelters
The Lowestoft–Ardnamurchan 1000 Don Hutchison
’d wanted to ride the Lowestoft– Ardnamurchan Diagonal since reading James Reynolds’ brief but interesting account in Arrivée 62. As I’d never visited, let alone ridden in the fen country of Norfolk and Lincolnshire, the attraction of fresh pastures (together with the novelty of flat roads) kept it on my ‘to do’ list, but the years passed and that’s where it stayed. Don Black and Robert Watson’s more recent accounts piqued my interest briefly, but other things got in the way, as they do if you let them. If I’m honest, actually getting to Lowestoft was what had put me off having a go before now. I didn’t fancy driving there, and thought that the train journey would be a nightmare of missed connections and trains with poor provision for bikes. And so, after a mere 12 years of procrastination, I finally resolved to give it a try, even if I ended up getting there under my own steam. Once he’d received my entry, organiser John Thomson provided reassurance and useful advice to aid me on my journey from England’s most westerly point (near where I live), to the depart at its most easterly point. He even gave me some helpful directions for shortcutting
my way between the railway termini of Paddington and Liverpool Street. All of which came to naught on the day I travelled up to Lowestoft, as I hadn’t realised that Europe’s biggest Gay Pride march was taking place in London the same day! After a great deal of faffing around I managed to find a way through the crush and road closures, just in time to miss my connection to Norwich by five minutes! Luckily, there was another train to Norwich 30 minutes later and the guard didn’t spot, or chose to ignore, the small print ‘this ticket only valid on this train/at this time’ on my ticket. After one final hassle-free change, I reached my B&B on the seafront at 18:30. I soon settled in, and located din-dins at a nearby chippy before getting my head down for a decent night’s shut-eye. The next morning, I set off for the Ness at about 08:30, and soon found an obliging member of the public to sign my brevet card and take a picture or two. As I paused by a streetlamp to send a quick text to the missus, an overhead gull took aim and fired. Its payload of guano missed me by a whisker, and instead christened my front wheel. I took the hint, and got moving. The first 50 miles to Thetford were a mixed bag – flat roads,
but hot with a headwind. An Atlantic storm the previous day had tracked up the west coast missing East Anglia, but the westerly winds were blowing across the fens, with little protection on offer. It was only after Market Deeping that I enjoyed some respite, as the road turned sharply northwards in the direction of Lincoln. I hadn’t planned to use the A15, but the Sunday evening traffic was quiet, so I stayed on this road all the way to Lincoln, reaching there around 23:00. Lincoln looks like a nice place for a visit, but at this time of night it was full of tanked-up adolescents, so I grabbed a control and headed on up the Roman road of Ermine Street into the growing darkness. I reached Goole around daybreak, and there was little sign of life outside of the docks so I took advantage Lowestoft – most easterly town.
Don – ready for the start at Lowestoft.
The objective – Ardnamurchan Point.
Arrivée Spring 2011
HEADING permanent IN HERE of the peace and quiet to rest my eyes for about 30 minutes in a shop doorway, wrapped up in my space blanket. Mindful that ‘time is miles’, I was soon on my way again towards Stamford Bridge, East of York. I took my life in my hands, crossing the horrendously busy A1079 en route to the lumpy lanes near Castle Howard. As I winched my way up one of the many nasty little grinds that constitute the Howardian Hills, I realised too late that a route through York itself would probably have been a better bet. Soon afterwards I encountered my only puncture of the trip, wrecking my rear tyre on a badly potholed descent. Fortunately the rim was undamaged, so my spare folding tyre was pressed into use as far as Thirsk where I managed to buy and fit a replacement. After lunch at Thirsk, I pedalled on through Northallerton and Richmond to Barnard Castle. I stopped here for another feed before heading up through Teesdale to Langdon Beck Youth Hostel for a control stamp and a shower, as by this time I was smelling like a dead badger! To this end, I’d called into Superdrug at Thirsk, and bought some travel-sized shower gel and shampoo. On reaching Langdon Beck, however, I found that the hostel was full of schoolkids, and that child protection regs prohibit dead badgers from taking showers in the presence of children even if they’re nowhere near the shower block at the time … Luckily, the hostel warden was a helpful guy, and rang the farmhouse next door to ask if I could use their shower instead. Of course I could … come right on over – result! Twenty minutes later I emerged in fresh kit, still smelling like a badger, albeit a live one with acceptable personal hygiene. As I strolled down the farm track an angry lapwing rose from its nest to my left, flapping, peeping (and pooping) furiously until I’d left the vicinity. With the light starting to fade on my second night on the road, my thoughts turned to sleeping arrangements as I winched my way out of Teesdale. The long and pantwetting descent over Alston Moor chilled my bones, so I grabbed a sandwich and a drink in the Alston Co-op just before they shut up shop, and donned my night gear. I resolved to bivvy down at around midnight in the first suitable place I could find, and this turned out to be a five-star brick-built bus shelter at a little place called Hallbankgate, near Brampton. It had a tiled roof, thickly glazed windows, timber beams, a stout wooden bench and best of all the open entrance was facing away from the wind. I unrolled the bivi bag, fitted my lightweight sleeping bag inside with my foil survival blanket sandwiched between the two, settled into the cocoon and set the alarm on my mobile for 4:00am. Those four hours passed in a twinkling, and the dawn
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chorus beat my mobile to the punch by a few minutes. The bivi bag had done it’s job – I’d slept like a log and awoke to a cool, sunny dawn. I packed up and headed for Brampton, and on to the border via Longtown and the A7. I know how busy this road can be, but at five in the morning the traffic was light, verging on non-existent. I reached my next control stop at Langholm just before 07:00. At this hour there was little prospect of a proper feed, so I ate some jelly babies and grabbed a can of Irn-Bru from a newsagent before continuing up the B709 to Innerleithen, dreaming of a decent fry-up all the way. I spotted some red squirrels in Castle O’er Forest, one of them lying dead in the road, sadly. Passing on the opportunity of a roadkill breakfast, I continued on my way down the thrilling descent to Mountbenger,
where I noticed that the Gordon Arms Hotel was boarded up – another victim of the recession and cheap supermarket alcohol perhaps? At Innerleithen, I found a control and a café that served an all-day breakfast. ‘Small or large?’, enquired the waitress. ‘Gargantuan’, I replied and proceeded to eat the biggest breakfast they could supply with extra toast. This gave me the oomph to press on over the scenic and beautifully graded Moorfoot Hills south of Edinburgh. The road between Innerleithen and the outskirts of Edinburgh is very quiet (I saw only five cars and a couple of motorbikes in 20 miles) and a feast for the eyes. The views on the way down to ‘Auld Reekie’ were magnificent with Arthur’s Seat and Bass Rock visible in the distance. Getting through Edinburgh was a chore though, and I took more than an hour to battle
Boothferry Bridge, east Yorkshire. (R) Near Castle Howard, in the Howardian Hills.
Teesdale – on the way to Langdon Beck Youth Hostel.
Welcome to Ardnamurchan.
were the toughest roads of the whole trip. They start innocuously enough – rolling along nicely, some little drags and a few nice descents to follow. This soon gives way to the sort of climbs you encounter on Dartmoor – steep and energy sapping. Add in some near gale force headwinds as I approached Ardnamurchan Point itself and it’s no surprise that the last 40 miles took me nearly five hours. When I got to the most westerly traffic lights in mainland UK (it’s a twisty single track road to the lighthouse, with no passing places), I was almost done in. The monstrous rollers coming in off the Atlantic reminded me of the final scenes of Point Break’ when Patrick Swayze opts for certain death instead of a prison cell in the giant waves off Bells Beach. The Lighthouse visitor centre provided me with my final control and a quick sugar boost before I pedalled the few miles back down the road to the Sonachan Hotel (most Westerly Hotel in mainland UK), where I’d booked in for the night. Some garlic bread, a steak with all the trimmings, and apple pie and custard soon vanished along with a pint or three of McEwans Ember. By 9pm, the sleep debt and the miles in my legs were calling me to account, so I left the football fans in the lounge to Germany vs Spain and tottered off to bed. The next morning, I punished the breakfast buffet and followed up with a full Scottish breakfast, black pudding and all. I opted for the scenic route down to my auld white haired mammy’s house, south of Glasgow, and took the ferry from Kilchoan a few miles down the road, to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. From there, it’s just a 20 mile pedal down to Craignure at the other end of the island, and another ferry ride across to Oban. I had to kick my heels here until the next train to Glasgow at 18:10, but I can think of a lot worse places to be, and I spent most of my time sitting in the sunshine and topping up my cyclist’s tan. N
Top: Most westerly traffic lights on the mainland at the Point. Middle: The Esplanade at Oban. Bottom: Lochernhead – a good place to stop for the night.
All photos by the author
my way through the heavy city traffic and numerous road closures before finding my way down to the Forth Road Bridge. Once over the bridge, I stopped in Dunfermline just long enough to grab a quick roll ’n sausage from a café and buy some back pocket supplies for the road ahead. The next section to Crieff passes through the big country of Tayside, and the scenery was epic. Fittingly, I spotted a pair of eagles circling high overhead in the late evening sun, as I descended into the Glen named for these majestic birds. I didn’t linger long in Crieff either – just a quick cashpoint slip control before donning my waterproofs as I encountered the first rain worthy of the name so far. By the time I reached Lochearnhead, it was 9:30pm and the Clachan Cottage Hotel was a welcome sight. I had planned to stop here for a stamp and a quick pint of coke before getting my head down at Crianlarich 16 miles further up the road, but common sense took charge and I decide to stop here for the night instead. I’d built up a decent time buffer, and it would give me the opportunity to dry some kit and dispel the aroma of dead badger for another few hours. An enquiry at the bar confirmed that they had a room available, so I was soon settled in and relaxing in the bath with my soggy kit steaming on the radiators. I set the alarm for 05:30, and breakfasted on complimentary biscuits and coffee before heading out the door at 06:00. My legs soon woke up after a few long drags up Glen Ogle and Glen Dochart, but there are descents to compensate and by 08:00, I’d reached Tyndrum where I stopped to power up with some Red Bull and yogurt-coated raisins. The next stretch takes in my favourite roads – the descent to the Bridge of Orchy, followed by the grind up the hairpin over the Black Mount to Rannoch Moor. Ba Bridge was being rebuilt with traffic lights controlling the passage across a temporary single track replacement, so I took the opportunity to grab a few pictures of the bleak and windswept moor. A strong headwind was being funnelled up Glencoe, and as I pedalled into it. I glanced sideways into the sightless eyes of a deer submerged in a pool of peaty water the colour of Glenmorangie. Buachaille Etive Mor, the Great Shepherd of Glen Etive, guards the entrance to Glen Coe and I zig zagged downhill past his neighbours the Three Sisters on my way to the penultimate control at Ballachulish. Shortly afterwards, I reached the Corran Ferry, which crosses a narrow strait separating Loch Linnhe from Loch Eil, and after a crossing lasting only a few minutes, I finally set foot on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Only 61km to go, but these
Arrivée – Don at Ardnamurchan Point.
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devon HEADING grimpeur IN HERE
Dunkery Dash Geoff Sharpe
he organisers describe the event as a refined form of torture and with a route that goes up to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point on Exmoor and with 1,600 metres of climbing, 1,000 of those metres in the first 50k, this is no ‘DASH’ but more as they described all the way up to the Beacon with some respite on the way back. Over 75 signed on at the start in North Petherton for the climb over the Quantock and Brendon hills. The sun had swept the overnight rain clouds away and with daffodils and primroses giving a splash of colour to the hedgerows this had all the signs of a day to be out on your bike. Up the first climb coming out at the top of the Quantocks by the Travellers Rest pub, should have been called ‘The Cyclists Rest’, there was then a steep descent down Cothelstone hill, 1 in 5 in places and the thought in my mind that I’m going to have to climb this hill on the way back to the finish. Into Bishops Lydeard where I missed the turn into West Street due to the amount of 4 x 4 vehicles congregating in the centre of the village. This is very much a ‘horsey’ area with every other vehicle being a large Land Rover towing a horse box, added to which there was a Point-to-Point meeting up ahead which they all were trying to get to. Got back on route to cross the A358 and pass under the Somerset steam railway bridge to start another climb through rural countryside to come out at the foot of Elworthy Hill. Elworthy Hill is about a mile long and climbs up to nearly 400 metres with sections of 1 in 5. A few of us, including me, are going to be stopping on this one to admire the view, although I managed to stay on the bike all the way up to the top. Coming out of the climb near Raleghs Cross, the route continues in an
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undulating fashion across the top of the Brendon Hills. At least the views over the Bristol Channel to South Wales was beginning to be worth all the effort I was putting in on this event. A steep drop down into Wheddon Cross, seeing riders coming up the hill on their way back to North Petherton, I’ll be coming up here soon as it’s just two miles now of climbing up to the Beacon and then the turn back. Tea and cake available at the control in the car park at the top of the hill, very welcome, but now it’s kind of ‘pay back’ time. After all the climbing to get up here I get a twomile down hill to the cross. Up the hill out of Wheddon Cross and with a bit of a tailwind I’m making good time across the top of the Brendons and a very fast descent down Elworthy Hill. This is followed with rural lanes, generally going down hill all the way back to Bishops Lydeard and to the foot
Top left and bottom: Climbing out of the start at North Petherton. Top right: Climbing (and walking) Elworthy Hill. Solo rider: Author Geoff Sharpe
of Cothelstone Hill, the last climb of the day, and it is quite a climb. I have to admit to walking parts of this but there again nobody was coming by. Coming out at the top and turning just before the Travellers Rest pub its five miles of rural lanes dropping all the way back down into North Petherton. Thanks Keith to you and your team for a memorial ride and if you can arrange the weather to be as good as this again I’m sure we’ll all be back next year. N
Wesley May Super Grimpeur Red Cow meets Chairman Mao on the Black Mountain
was driven to the start by Hazel feeling very pessimistic. Due to the amount of climbing on this event I swapped my Dawes Sport for my old hybrid Dawes bike, which had the easier gears fitted. Unfortunately having had several mechanical mishaps with this machine and nursing an upset stomach myself, I was less than enthusiastic about completing the task ahead. It was uplifting then to arrive at the Bynea Cycle Club to find Dave Harris had the fire on and ample supply of coffee, tea and warm croissants at the ready. I happily consumed my fill of the almond filled ones before we departed. About half a dozen riders made their way from the start on this autumnal morning. The cloudless sky was a lovely sight but it remained chilly as we set off at 8am. I had already prepared myself to keep to a steady pace on this extremely taxing event especially riding the heavier hybrid machine and soon dropped off the main group to ride along with a chap named Stuart on our way to Loughor. Stuart began telling me it was his first audax for several years and that since his last participation he had put on a few stone so he was a bit apprehensive about his fitness level for this event. Having ridden less than a mile with him and feeling pretty awful physically, I assured him he wouldn’t have a problem and urged him to go on as I was struggling already. So within the first 2k I was already feeling washed out, with legs aching and stomach still upset and we hadn’t reached our first climb yet. Having lost sight of those in front through Grovesend I turned right before WaunGron to take on the first hills of the day, climbing towards Felindre. The gears were fine for the climb (28t rear 28t front) but I wasn’t and I would have packed if it hadn’t been for Paul Bright passing me at that moment. Having someone in front to follow was just the incentive to continue. Reaching the first checkpoint at 13k, along with Paul, I got a further boost being greeted by Colin from our local DA. The boost to the confidence quickly evaporated when Colin mentioned this was one of the toughest events on the calendar for this distance. I agreed with
him and said I was feeling the affects already. Leaving ahead of Paul I travelled onward and upward toward Pont Llechart, passing Dave Harris and his camera and headed on down to the climb that would take us to Cwmllynfell. After the initial climb through a treelined lane with several cottages dotted about, I continued my ascent, riding atop the barren landscape till after 7k I descended to the info control at Cwmllynfell, 34k. The next section took me towards Brynamman where I turned right to ascend the infamous Black Mountain. By the time I reached the cattle grid I felt as if I’d climbed the mountain already but I hadn’t even started yet. Now one advantage, or disadvantage, there is to riding up this monster is after climbing a few kilometres the road takes a sharp left turn and from there you can see the rest of the entire climb as the road wiggles its way up and bears right in a giant horseshoe shape circumnavigating the central valley and heading towards the summit. The advantage being you can see how far ahead the rest of the riders are and hence you get a bit of a confidence boost. The disadvantage, as in this particular case, is looking ahead to see no one in sight. My pace had dropped to that of a snail and even some of them were passing me. Also perspiring profusely (layman’s terms – sweating buckets) and feeling quite nauseous, I was sure my eyes were deceiving me. Just ahead I began to make out the shape of a sheep with a red cow standing directly behind it. This I knew couldn’t possibly be true but the closer I came the more realistic it became until that is the sheep started to move away and I realised I’d been staring at a giant boulder painted red in the shape of a cow. It’s then I noticed several other boulders on the climb were painted red. Were these a sign of some kind? Further on I thought I’d found the answer when coming across a young chap with long beard sitting on the kerbside, wearing no socks, reading a little red book. A reincarnated chairman Mao sprang to mind, bringing his thoughts and paint pot to the mountains of South Wales. He never moved a muscle; his
All photos by Dai Harris
Gordon Jones (above) claims three AAA points for this 100k grimpeur
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concentration remained firmly on his reading as I crawled past him. I almost asked him for some inspiration in continuing this dogged climb but alas I didn’t have the breath to speak and so I rode on none the wiser, passing a second Dave Harris with camera before reaching the summit. The views northward from here are breath taking and it was a pity not to be able to descend all the way to Llangadog but the route took me off a side road towards Trapp with an impressive view of Carreg Cennen Castle on its mound in the distance. It was another 9k of sweeping down hills and steep ascents before finally reaching the control point at the castle café including one more encounter with a third Dave Harris and camera. Had I become part of the ‘Matrix’? Mike Wood and a few of the other faster chaps were just on their way but I joined Stuart for a lunchtime snack. Paul soon arrived and the main subject of conversation became the man with the red book. It seems he was a man of different guises as Stuart quoted when passing him, the chap had no shoes and when Paul passed him he was walking but had no book. Maybe he’d just come to see the red cow. He’d be very disappointed! Stuart, who seemed to be handling the ride OK, headed off leaving Paul and myself to recuperate and enjoy the edible delights of the castle café. I continued on alone leaving Paul to finish his soup. Passing through Trapp I continued on, crossing the A483 and heading down a country lane towards Panllyn. By now, even with the revival of lunch, I felt like packing as the nausea came back but that irritation was soon
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Ian Sharpe and John Spooner Yan Fargeot Michael Wood (top right)
‘I went down, smashing my ribcage against the concrete.’
wiped from my memory as I flew down this hill to cross a ford and immediately ascend a hill the other side. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the other side of the ford in the same state that I entered it. What appeared a flat surface under the inch or so depth of water turned out to be a slight slope and I got a close up view as the bike went from under me. ‘Oh no, not again,’ was the cry as I went down, smashing my rib cage against the concrete but fortunately missing my previously damaged hip. Unfortunately my previously damaged elbow took another bashing and the panniers I had on the bike took a drenching as well as one half of the clothes I was wearing. Bedraggled, I pushed the bike up the other side and with the shock wearing off tried to assess the damage. Ribs hurt to breath, elbow swelling again, but not all bad. One pannier had to be drained of water and saturated route map saved. Fortunately all valuables including mobile and money were in the other pannier. I stood back ready to quit but as with all audax riders I’ve met, the word ‘quit’ doesn’t exist and having ridden 61k of the event I was determined to finish. The climb up to the turning for Milo eventually got the better of me and I walked the last 20 metres. For a few moments the will power had gone but soon returned and I continued to Porthyrhyd where I turned left to climb to the last checkpoint. I was hoping to pick up a spare route sheet here as the two I now had were either a soggy mess or just worn out. Unfortunately the chap at this point had no spare sheet and so I rode on to the final control point, CKs store in Pontyberem. There I spread both route sheets out hoping to dry one out and make sense of any legible instructions. Having succeeded in this I continued
turning shortly left to make the gruelling climb up to Llannon. This climb drags on and on (bit like this article) till finally after 5k I turned into Llannon at 90k and began to think I might just make it. Almost missing the country lane turn towards Bryn didn’t help but finally I reached the descent to Bynea and back to the clubhouse where workmen greeted me. No cyclists in site. Workmen were clearing the deserted car park of weeds with noisy edge trimmers and the clubhouse itself was stripped bare of chairs and tables. I stood transfixed. What had happened during the day? Had the club gone bust? Had the current recession finally hit them or was this a wind up and everyone would appear round the corner shouting ‘Fooled you!’ It turned out that the club was getting some TLC and the event HQ was in Dave’s back yard next to the club. A table with various cakes and rolls awaited all weary finishers and a lovely thick home-made soup. Thankfully I was allowed two helpings of this delicious dish. I felt a great sense of achievement after finishing this event and my only regret is not remembering the recipe for the soup. N
A ride too far? Colin Bezant
ast autumn, after 24 years in one accountancy firm I left for the excitement of its main rival. This meant 10 weeks of ‘gardening leave’, being paid not to come into work. What great cycling achievements could be possible? However, I’d used up most of the family goodwill with 10 days in Italy for the Mille Miglia and it was now October and fair weather cycling days were almost over. I managed a few projects, some crazier than others, but each time I was haunted by the idea that it might be the ride too far, either for my wife’s patience, or the one where the winter gremlins finally got me. Here’s how I got on.
One man’s cunning plan is another’s insanity
I fancied the idea of a hill climb. There can’t be anything more different from Audax riding than the short explosive effort required to ride up the steepest hill around as far as possible, but my curiosity was aroused. The CTT handbook showed a time trial on Leith Hill in Surrey in the morning and another on Steyning Bostal in Sussex in the afternoon. A cunning plan came to mind: ride from home to the first climb, race it, ride to the second, race that, and then ride to my caravan in Selsey, which should be exactly 100 miles. It was intended more an excuse for a century ride than a serious attempt at racing. However, as the day approached, the competitive instinct crept in… The first climb was organised by Richmond CC, it was combined with their
‘So I set off one bleak day thinking that this, at last, might be the ride too far.’
club run and 50 of their riders parked themselves on the steepest part of the hill with horns, rattles, and cheers for every rider regardless of style. The ride was not oppressively steep, a maximum of 12 per cent and I just about reached the checkerboard before expiring in a time that turned out to be about 30 per cent slower than the winner’s. Despite the excellent tea they had laid on I couldn’t stop for long. Rain clouds were on the horizon and I wanted to get to Steyning 25 miles away to have lunch before getting soaked. I got there just before the rain penetrated my base layer and nursed tea and a sandwich while it chucked it down outside. Bostal Hill starts with a steepening ramp reaching 17 per cent and then it’s flat for a bit, giving me time for a bit of a recovery. The second steep bit is twice as long as the first and I blew half way up resorting to a grovel. Mike Anton was taking photographs at this point and his gallery looked more like the National Gurning Championships than a hill climb. My gurning was about as dismal as my hill climbing but despite regretting lunch as I collapsed over my handlebars at the top I was still managed a time about 30 per cent slower than the winner. I rolled back to headquarters in preparation for 30-odd miles of headwinds and rain back to my caravan. It had been fun. The pain might have been extreme but it didn’t last for long and the atmosphere was good.
St Albans and back and a hilly time trial
By mid-October the weather was starting to turn. I’d had a plan for a ride from my
home in Basingstoke to St Albans and back for several years and a day with a gentle north-east wind seemed like a good one for a last long ride on the race bike. I wanted to give my legs a good spin before my last race of the season. It was an unremarkable ride save for the observation that it seemed to take me about 80 of the 190km to warm up. Four days later I rode the Goodwood Hilly time trial, four 100m-plus hills plus 250m more climbing on a 27-mile course. It was a very cold but sunny morning. It was probably my favourite ride of the whole year, riding as fast as possible on the challenging lanes around Goodwood Racecourse. My goal was to average more than evens which was achieved with about a minute to spare, an adrenalin charged surge from start to finish.
Cycle touring on Guernsey
OK, this isn’t long distance, but it repaid some of the family debts. Our two children had asynchronous holidays and my wife was wondering what to do. I solved the problem by taking my nine-year-old by train, ferry and bike to Guernsey where we did a little bit of cycling and a little bit of sight-seeing. My son Peter was the real star, managing an ascent of the 10 per cent road out of St Peter Port with panniers. The quiet lanes were ideal for cycling with children, although it was handy to have a map on display in the bar bag; the combination of frequent turns and high granite walls made navigation interesting. A few hills required push assistance but the weather was generally kind and the food great.
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headwinds, hill-climbs and snow As soon as we got back my wife took the two boys up to stay with a friend in the Peak District. I had a church meeting on the Saturday so agreed to ride up the next day and record it as a DIY. It was over-distance (260km) but I didn’t think this would be much of a problem given that I had kept my summer fitness. Whilst in Guernsey I checked the Internet weather forecast – 35kmh northerly winds for Sunday. That could have been epic. It could easily be the ride too far. As it turned out the wind dropped but that brought a new fear. Saturday had been wet, the overnight calm had temperatures dropping to near freezing. I was setting off in the dark and could easily have icy roads to contend with. I set off gingerly for an ATM control at Wallingford and it was only as the sun came up that I could relax. The sheltered hollows were indeed white with frost but it had not quite got cold enough to ice the roads. A sandwich in Banbury was followed by a pleasant ride through the South Midlands (Southam, Cubbington, Stoneleigh) and a relatively quite route through the western part of Coventry before picking up the A423 towards Tamworth. The wind had risen to a steady breeze and the road rose consistently towards Corley. It was just starting to get hard. In order to get the right spacing between controls, some judicious Googling identified that there should be some shops and cafés in Kingsbury, about 12km south of Tamworth. It was one of those places that shuts on Sundays and I had to make do with another stale sandwich from a newsagent. Seven hours into a headwind and no tea!! Progress became harder towards Uttoxeter as the wind increased and cold legs and lack of caffeine sapped at my willpower. Lowering the gear, tucking the head down and counting the miles passed the time. Uttoxeter also looked bereft of cafés, then I spotted my latest lifesaver, a Subway. A foot-long BMT and a pint of coffee later I was ready to continue. To this point there had been no major hills, but 10km north of Uttoxeter the route took me into the Peak District, with climbs in several stages to 400m and then a series of exposed undulations straight into the wind. Along Blakelow there were staggering views in either direction. Sadly the Mermaid Inn is now a property development. It did mark a welcome turning point, the last of the headwind. The half mile to my friend’s place was a joyful sail downhill with the wind.
To the dinner!
I’d set a really tough target for my dinner dart – 500km in 24 hours. Last year I’d ridden 435km with over an hour to spare
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despite having to walk for an hour on unexpected black ice in Lincolnshire. My hope was, with increased fitness, the benefit of experience, and an extra two hours of riding, that 500km was just about possible. My plan was to follow my 2009 route – Banbury–Daventry–Market Harborough–Grantham–Horncastle– Humber Bridge and then to extend via Bridlington and Malton. Ha ha ha! There are plenty of biblical quotations about pride. On the Wednesday Bridlington was cut off by snow; the Thursday-night forecast was for northerly winds and heavy snow showers in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. I emailed Sheila Simpson warning her of possible route alteration because of adverse weather, to which I received an understanding OK. It was cold setting off just after lunch on the Thursday. The wind was light but miserly and persistently in the face. My route to Banbury was the same as on the ride to Staffordshire except that it started in the daylight and ended in darkness. The only good piece of news was checking back home at Banbury and learning that the school at which my wife is a governor had a glowing Ofsted report. Banbury was only required for a stamp; my food stop was further on at the Subway in Daventry. By the time I got there it was already sub-zero and the route ahead was cause for anxiety. I knew that my planned ride across the Humber Bridge was impossible given already fallen snow with more forecast. My aim was now to reach Grantham Services and re-think there. After Daventry I found myself becoming increasingly nervous and tentative on the bends, anticipating the sudden slip of the rear wheel on black ice, the shock of impact, and the horrible sensation of sliding uncontrollably along the ground. My pace became slower not because of fatigue but through the combination of darkness and fear. There are times when it is foolish to continue and this was one of them. Grantham was still three dark skiddy hours away. There were memories of a coffee in a hotel in Market Harborough at midnight on an ill-fated Easter Arrow to York. Inspired by these memories this be came by destination. After a shivering descent into the town I found the appropriately named Angel Hotel, which, unsurprisingly for a November night, had available rooms. Home was very happy to hear that I had stopped for the night. The 500km Dart was abandoned; apart from the fact that half the rest of the route was under snow, I wouldn’t be able to make up lost time. It was also clear, given the current weather and pessimistic forecast that I would be stuck on main roads for the next day. After a couple of beers a plan came to mind. My low-tech approach to navigation helped here, spreading out the torn out pages of a road atlas on the bed
‘Jack Frost hadn’t brushed the landscape, he’d been out there with a fence- painting brush working ice into every nook and cranny.’
The Humber Bridge
and plotting a new route from Melton Mowbray using the A606, A46, A6095, a B road through Ollerton to Retford before using A roads through Thorne to Selby and A19 into York. It would be a main road bash but the best and cheapest way of getting to the AUK Reunion and would just make the 200km required for a Dinner Dart. A big breakfast: cereal, fruit, yoghurt, and a full English, helped insulate against the freezing conditions outside. The hilly B road to Melton on was much better on a full stomach in bright sunshine than it would have been on empty in the dark. Jack Frost hadn’t brushed the landscape he’d been out there with a fence painting brush working ice into every nook and cranny. Fortunately the road had been gritted and bright sunshine showed up the few icy encroachments. It was –3°C although it warmed up to a majestic +4° later in the day. There’s not much of beauty to describe along this route; it was good flat winter miles. I was surprised by two things, firstly how well gritted all the roads were and secondly how gracious the drivers were, especially along the constant roadworks and narrow carriageway of the A46. I think sometimes we forget that despite the antics of a small minority, most drivers are careful most of the time and quite often show genuine courtesy to more vulnerable road users. The Kiwi Café in Retford provided excellent Moussaka just when I needed food, having suffered from headwinds the whole way; this was enough to carry me across the bleak Yorkshire flatlands. The detention centre at Linkinholme must be about the most depressing place I have ever ridden past, at least the dun walls of Dartmoor Prison encase the possibility of a view. It was freezing and dark by the time I reached the York Racecourse Centre. The cycle computer showed 199.5km so I rode to the next roundabout and back to make certain of the
Photo: Mike Anton
Photos: Tim Wainwright
One way into a headwind
Colin riding the Goodwood Hilly time trial
HEADwinds, hill-climbs and snow 200km and the Dinner Dart. That was a total trip of 370km over the two days. I then had the pleasure of Jim Hopper and Edwin Hargreaves explaining how much better three wheels were than two in such conditions. I’ll keep my 12 per cent performance advantage for the 330 frost-free days a year.
I’m going out for a while, I may be some time
It snowed on Friday night and on Saturday I had a gentle ride out to Wetherby with John Thompson. The roads needed care but were not impassable. After an enjoyable dinner I slept, looking forward to the idea of a tailwind back. I’m not sure iPhones are a good idea or not, especially when, as you are contemplating a 200km ride someone informs you that the outside temperature in York was –10°C. I set off towards York centre with Julian Dyson; –6°C was showing on the cycle computer. By the time I reached the outskirts of York it was –8°C, the temperature at which I am informed that salt stops working. There were a few icy patches but careful riding allowed me slow and steady progress in a flat calm, the steam from the cooling towers of Drax riding vertically. The necks of the water bottles froze so I was quite thirsty by the time I reached Retford, even if it was now a balmy –3°C. Although the water bottles still had liquid centres they were encased in a thick insulating blanket of ice. The Kiwi café was closed but across the road was a magical place (I wonder if I dreamt it) that offered a full English breakfast, tea and toast for £3! More A roads took me around the north of Mansfield and then into the southern marches of the Peak District, through Belper and Ashbourne. Here the snow was much thicker and as pristine as if it had just fallen. The temperature had stayed well below freezing all day and preserved every snowflake on every branch in a picture postcard scene. On the ridge roads I could see snow-covered fields and hedgerows stretching for many miles towards the high ground of the Peak District. It was the perfect setting for the end of a remarkable day’s cycling. I just had one more control to find and then complete the short stage of 42km from Ashbourne to Stafford. However, the cold was starting to bite, as was dehydration. My water bottles were now frozen solid. The long descent into Ashbourne in the –4°C dusk was chilling. Fortunately there was a café open, much more plush and expensive than the one it Retford, but providing welcoming sustenance. A pint of orange juice and lemonade quenched the thirst; a large pot of tea and a huge ham and cheese toastie prepared me for the arctic night. On the first descent towards
Uttoxeter I felt the exposed parts of my face start to go numb. The only way to exercise them was some gurning practice (see – hill climb TTs do come in useful for Audax). It was hard to turn the legs but at least there was enough twilight to be confident that the roads were gritted and remained ice-free. The last temperature check was at the junction with the A34 where, in the harsh sodium-light glare I could see that it was –7°C. It is probably the only time in my life that the concrete desert of Stafford Railway station will seem like a welcome sight. I got there 10 minutes before the café closed for some welcome rehydration and an hour’s shivering wait for the last Cross-Country train back to Basingstoke. Was this a ride too far? Exactly the opposite; it had been one of the most challenging rides I’d ever done, concentrating with every pedal stroke on as smooth progress as possible in case the road was slippery. In my view the conditions were marginal for long distance cycling, but excellent gritting work by Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire councils had made it possible. The cardboard-like Windtex jacket and merino base layers had kept my core warm. Sealskinz socks and overshoes had done the same for the feet. But the one investment that had really paid benefits was in the Assos three-layer winter glove system as my hands remained warm throughout.
A last attempt
I’d reached the last week of my gardening leave. There was one last piece of unfinished business for the year. I’d never cycled 100 miles let alone 200km in a December ride. It was midweek and the forecast was for more heavy snow (as it turned out the back roads in Hampshire were skating rinks from that weekend until after Christmas). So I set off one bleak day thinking that this, at last, might be the ride too far. My route took me on familiar roads through Overton, Whitchurch, and Hurstbourne Tarrant into Wiltshire, where I’d found some back-roads across the eastern part of Salisbury Plain to the Avon Valley. It wasn’t a DIY Audax, which gave me freedom to adapt the route as I pleased and put stops where I needed them rather than as artificial turning points. The air was damp and the roads slippery with wet salty mud as the deposits from two weeks of gritting were finally washed off. Salisbury Plain was bleak and I was glad that there was no wind. At one point where the road turned to the right there seemed to be more tracks heading straight on to the practice grounds than following the tarmac; these roads probably see more tanks than bikes. The Avon Valley on a drab December day was paradise after this. I reversed a route I’d used several
‘I set off towards York centre with Julian Dyson; –6°C was showing on the cycle computer. By the time I reached the outskirts of York it was –8°C, the temperature at which I am informed that salt stops working.’
times on the Salisbury 100 (before it was called a Wessex 100 Sportive) and was glad to reach the cathedral city. Having made rapid progress it was time to reward myself with a long café stop. After 355 degrees of the one-way system the cafés appeared; the all day cooked breakfast was more than three times the price of the one in Retford. The Economist publishes a big Mac index looking at the cost of the ubiquitous hamburger across the planet; I’m thinking of establishing a six-item special with tea and toast index to highlight the extraordinary differences in purchasing prices even on our compact island. It did give me a chance to consult the map and plot a course home. The road from Salisbury to Downton was full of bends and switchbacks, kept away from the river by a couple of stately homes. Perversely, it was on the long drag up to the New Forest where I hit my rhythm. Throughout the autumn it seemed to take longer to ‘warm up’. By December I didn’t hit full speed until after 100km. The amber bracken and close-cropped green of the New Forest were an idyllic contrast to sombre Salisbury Plain. I sped along the undulations and rocketed down the descent of its high ground in the general direction of Romsey, reconsidering my route all the time. This ride consisted of little segments of many Audax rides of the past. By following minor roads to Kimbridge I could pass north of Romsey and pick up a familiar route past the Hillier Gardens, Ampsford, Hursley and Otterbourne and pick up fast flat roads to Bishop’s Waltham. By my calculations this should get me 200km and allow me to get home in time. My average speed rose rather than fell, despite the stiff climb out of Bishop’s Waltham, and a quick stop to pull on a rain jacket as the overcast sky developed a leak. I’d ridden back from Alresford in a hurry to meet friends a couple of weeks before whilst the rest of my club stopped at a café. Now I was to reprise the same hurried route on an empty stomach at an early December dusk. The little shop in Preston Candover provided a couple of Twix bars to stave off bonk, a pause to put on the lights, and a final push over Farleigh Wallop to a welcome descent home. A ride too far? My average riding speed was almost 27kph over rolling, slippery roads on a cold day. After a quick shower I cooked tea for my two boys and then dinner for my wife. The next day I went to the gym and at the end of a hard weights session posted my second best ever time for a 5,000m row. I might not have done anything spectacular or exotic during my gardening leave, but I doubt I’ll ever be as fit in December again. N
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A grand day out – riding 400k Richard Marriott
’d already completed a couple of 200k events and a 300k so, I thought, a 400k event would be the natural step up. I had two events to choose from: the Spurn Head 400 (0 metres of climbing) or the ‘Old 240’ (with 6,500 metres of climbing). This being my first ever 400, I made the sensible choice and entered the Old 240. In August, sitting in my French holiday cottage, eating a very nice lunch and studying the route, I really did think that I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. The route starts at Mytholmroyd (just west of Halifax) and traces an enormous loop to just east of Penrith, up to just south of Hadrian’s Wall at Alston, then south-eastward to Scotch Corner then back down to Mytholmroyd. I had 27 hours to complete the ride. En route to Hebden Bridge the afternoon before, West Yorkshire was doused in heavy rain: we were down to 30mph on the motorway and the wipers were on overdrive. It did not bode well. But it had cleared by 4:30am the next morning when I got up and, an hour later, 14 of us set off together for the first mile as a happy but slightly nervous band until the first long climb up over Wadsworth Moor, when we split up. I was the last over the top but this didn’t bother me – this was not a race, and if it were, it was a quadruple marathon. For the next 50k or so I rode and chatted with another rider and but his pace was just a little too slow so gradually I pulled away. Keeping my pace steady and twiddling my legs up the hills to preserve my strength, I headed out into what the Organiser described as ‘majestic Pennine landscapes...where you will need to be resourceful about your victualling and should have complete confidence in your abilities and your bicycle …’ I was on my own and, apart from a few brief encounters with other riders, would be for the next 230km. In many places the scenery is awesome and where it’s not, it is simply beautiful. I made steady progress though the lanes and didn’t have to stop very often to navigate. I began to feel more confident and enjoy myself and when I approached a ford just before the tiny hamlet of Crosby Garret, it didn’t look deep, or fast flowing, or cold. But it was all of these and slippery too. As the water approached my front hub the bike slipped away from me. It was all I could do to hold on to the bike and for a moment, as I struggled to stand upright with my bike, I really did think that it would be swept away. I was soaked from the waist down. But luckily my route instructions and map were still readable as I had kept them in plastic bag. So I wasn’t lost. I set off again, a bit shaken and very wet and reflected on my stupidity (there was a footbridge), my good luck and how the sunshine and breeze made good drying weather. On sportives I would normally pop a few gels and pick up a bit of food at the checkpoints. But on a 400k you can’t live on gels and go-bars – you need food for the soul as well as the body; and you can’t run on the majesty of the landscape. After my dunking in the stream my soul-food sausage sarnies were soaked. So, after climbing to the top of Hartside Fell I sat down in the highest café in England, surrounded by burly bikers, to a meat pie, chips, peas, gravy, fruit crumble and coffee (x2). Then came the long descent into Alston but it dawned on me that I had been cycling nine hours and I wasn’t half- way yet. The route was now heading south-east towards Scotch Corner: I had turned homeward. But the long grind, into a blistering headwind out of Alston up past Burnhope Seat (very well named) at 742m, put an end to my minor celebration. Also, although I didn’t know it, I was heading into what was, for me, the most difficult part of the ride. After a long, downhill stretch, the riding became easy and I made good progress. Despite my progress, the run-in to Scotch Corner felt like it was taking for
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‘As the water approached my front hub the bike slipped away from me. It was all I could do to hold on to the bike.’
ever, and I was behind schedule. I had hoped to get to Scotch Corner with an hour or so of riding time before lighting up, but I would not now arrive until sundown. The landscape had changed from grand, inspiring landscapes to what felt like flat, dull, cultivated farmland and there was little difficulty in the riding to focus my attention on. I was also getting tired and I had been on my own for 190km. In this mental blankness, the prospect of riding all of the last 120k from Scotch Corner in complete darkness on my own was beginning, put simply, to ‘do my head in’. In my mind I played though lots of strategies: taking a room in the hotel and getting up at 3am or just making a quick stop and ploughing on solo before I had chance to think twice. Neither approach eased my anxiety. If I stopped, I might exceed the time limit; if I ploughed on, in that state of mind, I am not sure whether I would have finished. Victoria was, after all, only a mobile phone call away. After a while, I settled that I would wait for an hour at Scotch Corner and see if anyone else turned up. If someone did, I would go with them. If they didn’t, I’d plough on solo. My mood instantly lightened once I’d settled on a plan I felt comfortable with. I had always thought of Scotch Corner as a bit ‘Wild West’ in the North. Of course, with its Travelodge and Moto service station it is nothing of sort. But as I finally rolled into the services it did feel like I had ridden out of the wilderness into what passes ‘in them parts’ for civilisation. Half-an-hour later, while sitting in the Costa Coffee, my eyes lit up as two cyclists walked in like a couple of cowboys into a Wild West saloon. After fuelling up and lighting up and wrapping up warm, we set off on the long, dark drag back to Mytholmroyd. My two compadres were very experienced randonneurs, one had completed London–Edinburgh–London. They were not scared of the dark. So we ticked off the ks at a steady pace. At one point we stopped in the middle of nowhere. Martin rummaged in his saddlebag and put on a latex glove. Puzzled, I watched intently as he put a knob of Vaseline on the end of his finger. He then said ‘I advise you to look away’ as he put his hand down his shorts. I’m sure there’s a trick to learn there but I didn’t feel like asking. We set off again, heading for the last check point at Gargrave, where a wonderful lady with an enormous flask and sandwiches was waiting to check us through at 02:20am. What a star! We had decided to stick together until the very end and the last 40k seemed easy even though we had to climb back over Wadsworth moor. Whilst climbing up to Wadsworth moor at 4am, we were shepherded by a sheep dog for about oneand-a-half kilometres. It ran alongside us, close to our slowly rotating legs. I’ve always been a bit afraid of dogs and it was a bit unnerving. It obviously thought that we were funning looking, mechanised sheep. Chris, who was behind Martin and me, was dropping behind a little so the dog dropped back to shepherd him along a bit quicker. Then ‘F*** OFF!’ rang out of the darkness and the dog disappeared. Chris obviously didn’t like the company either. But the dog came back and ran along next to me again. This time I stopped, turned round, faced it and shouted ‘F*** OFF!’ even louder. The dog finally got the message. Surreal. Was I hallucinating? Finally we rolled back down into Hebden Bridge and then to Mytholmroyd to get some cash out of the cashpoint to prove the date and time of our arrival. I said goodbye to my compadres and we set off in opposite directions – dissolving into the night except for a few, small flashing rear lights. I set off to the B&B back up the road I had just come down. I had passed within a 100 yards of a hot shower and a warm bed, but was I tempted? Not one little bit! N
HEADING IN HERE
Perth-Albany-Perth Western Australia, October 2010 Julian Dyson
All photos by Steve Keeling and Ted Collinson, Audax Australia
couple of months after completing the 1200km Great Southern Randonnee 2008 in Victoria, Australia an e-mail popped up in my in-box from Audax Australia notifying me of the 1200km Perth-Albany-Perth which was to be run in October 2010. I mulled it over for a few months whilst concentrating on L-E-L 2009. Nick Dale, the organiser, and a band of other Aussies (compete with their ‘Convict Tour’ shirts) turned up for L-E-L and got a good soaking so I felt duty bound to return their support for our event by taking another trip Down Under to do another one of their ‘sunshine guaranteed’ rides. My ride plan for 2010 started to take shape and I was soon looking at a fairly challenging summer after a structured build-up. An ‘easy’ warm-weather 1200 would be a nice way to finish off after Mille Cymru (1000km) and HamburgBerlin-Köln-Hamburg (1500km). The week before flying out I was giving the trusty 12-year-old Merlin titanium workhorse a good clean and service when much to my horror I found a crack on the inside of the right hand chainstay where it had been flattened to give increased tyre clearance. Expletives deleted! What to do? Panic! A few deep breaths later and the old 531 frame that the Merlin replaced was recovered
Organised by Nick Dale of Audax Australia, this 1200k event attracted three British riders plus Dave Minter, originally from Australia but now currently living in England. North America was well represented, along with AUK’s globetrotting Spencer Klaassen.
AUK’s Julian Dyson, author of this article, rode the event on fixed wheel.
from the darkest recesses of the shed, unfortunately not all the current kit would fit the old frame and I started rummaging through boxes for front derailleur and cantilever brakes. Once a functioning machine was assembled a test ride was conducted and I came to the conclusion that over the years my riding position has become much lower than the 531 frame would allow and I would not be comfortable on a 1200km ride. Now what? Looking round the stable my eye fell on my fixed wheel commuting iron, complete with tri-bars … was this a good idea? Two 100-mile rides and a 200km brevet had been completed comfortably on it. Nick replied to my email explaining my predicament stating that there were only three of four climbs of any note, none of the particularly long and I would have no problem on fixed. And so it was that I arrived in Perth with a tri-barred fixed wheel and more than the usual pre-ride trepidation. I soon met up with Pete Turnbull at the city centre Youth Hostel where we were both staying for a couple of nights before crossing the Swan River to South Perth and accommodation near the start. The Quest holiday apartment complex was where number of riders had decided to set up base. Aussie AUK Dave (he has a British passport) Minter had not only organised a comfortable billet,
complete with kitchen and washing machine, for the AUK contingent – Judith Swallow, Pete Turnbull and myself, but also arranged bike box and baggage storage for the duration of the event for everybody staying there – thanks Dave.
This was the fourth edition of P-A-P, the first three have basically been out-andback routes but this time it was to be a circular route except for the first/last 70km. Since the vast majority if riders were from ‘out-of-town’ (Perth claims to be one of the most remote cities in the world, so even most Aussies were out-of-towners) a Sunday night gettogether was organised at a South Perth Italian restaurant. The following day a barbeque was set up in the South Perth Foreshore Park for registration, picking up shirts and general socialising. This was also a good opportunity to recce the route from the start. With a 5am start looming an early night was called for but not before another good feed for Dave, Judith, Pete and myself, this time Vietnamese. There seems to be a lot of eating of various international cuisines going on and very little riding, never mind it will soon change.
All too soon the alarm sounded, a quick
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overseas randonnee breakfast (just to top up the tanks) and roll down to the Foreshore Park. A total of 84 riders assembled there, though not all were going for the full 1200km brevet (there was a 1000km option for those who just wanted to log a 1000km for P-B-P pre-registration). Just after 5am we were waved off into the pre-dawn twilight with the lights of the city twinkling across the river to our right. The first 70-odd kilometres almost all the way to Mandurah were on a bike path running down the coast, parallel to the freeway. Wide and traffic-free as the path was it was not completely hazard-free and an unfortunate wheel touch in the bunch brought down Kerri-Ann Smith (Audax Australia’s president) resulting in a nasty hand injury and the end of her P-A-P ride. As the daylight grew so did the number of bike commuters heading north into the city, goodness knows what they thought us coming towards them, but good etiquette was maintained. As with most bike paths this one did occasionally come to an end, jink around a back street and start again. The first control at Mandurah (72km) was soon reached in good time, where handing out sandwiches and a drinks. With the morning sun now shining brightly it was time to slap on the sunscreen and change the lenses in my riding glasses for the darkest possible before scooting off down the water-side boardwalk. Now on proper roads, but very lightly trafficked, the field soon strung out and I found myself alone pedalling into a noticeable headwind coming in off the sea. This leg to the second control at Bunbury was the longest of the whole ride (109km) and with no real place to top up water bottles the organisers arranged a water stop in a lay-by on the long drag down a major highway. After turning off the highway the wind increased, the sky darkened and it started to rain but fortunately it was short-lived. The route sheet directed us over a footbridge that appeared to be closed, but to stop us being put off by the sign it was being marshalled by Henry (Henno) Klaasson, American fixie [and AUK member, ed] Spencer Klaasson’s young son. As I arrived at Bunbury control (182km) Nick Dale was there doing a piece to camera for a local TV channel, I sneaked past and into the beachside café for soup, sandwiches, cake and coffee. With beautiful views out over white sands and sparkling bluegreen sea with breaking surf – it was hard to leave such a serene place … but the ride must go on. On and off a bike path down the coast, over dunes and by highly desirable properties we continued south towards Busselton. A bit more main highway riding was required before cutting back to the coastal road to the Busselton
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Former AUK Champion Pete Turnbull.
‘With beautiful views out over white sands and sparkling blue-green sea with breaking surf – it was hard to leave such a serene place…’
control (239km). The control was a picnic affair just past the pier. The pier had been visible for some time on the approach since it is almost 2km long (originally built to allow railway trucks full of mineral ores to be taken out to waiting ships in the shallow bay). I was now entering unknown territory as far as distance on fixed was concerned but I was feeling great. Not long after leaving Busselton we parted company with the coast and rolled through lush farmland that gradually started to undulate more and more. The light started to fade on the approach to Margaret River and a pause to don reflectives and switch on lights was quite welcome. I missed the right turn onto a side road to the control but soon realised my (up- hill) mistake and backtracked. The Margaret River control (297km) was in the Community Centre where I came across my first packee with whom I commiserated before heading out into the dark. Only 33km to the next control at Alexander Bridge – the lumps were starting to get bigger but it was nice to stand on the pedals and use a few different muscles after all day on the flat. The Alexander Bridge control (333km) in the village hall was a warm haven with a busy kitchen dispensing soup, pasta and apple pie and custard. I resisted
the temptation to bash out a tune on the piano in the corner but since some people were getting some shut-eye here I doubt it would have been appreciated – I can’t actually play the piano to any degree but it did look tempting. A full stomach was needed for the final stage of the first day – 92km to Pemberton. As the temperature dropped so more clothing went on. The earlier undulations had now developed into proper hills and the wind-chill on the down hills had me digging out full finger gloves and a waterproof. Small groups formed, broke and re-formed on these dark, quiet, seemingly endless roads. Fatigue was beginning to make itself felt and the final climb up to the forest camp Pemberton control (425km) had me muttering under my breath. Warmth and food quickly vanquished the fatigue but sleep was needed and I was allocated a bunk in one of the chalets where sleep came quickly. My three-hour alarm call roused me from the arm of Morpheus. Washed, in a change of kit (from a drop bag the organisers transported from sleep control to sleep control) and full of bacon and egg buns I was ready for the second day.
Having climbed up to the control in the small hours it was an easy start downhill
overseas randonnee in the early morning light. I was soon cursing the wind-chill as the low sun was not able to penetrate the forested slopes but I gritted my teeth, not wanting to start faffing about putting on and taking off the waterproof, and kept repeating a mantra of ‘it will
get warm soon’. Soon after the town of Pemberton itself it did start to warm up. Rolling roads past vineyards and pasture made beautiful vistas. The next series of ridges heralded the entry into the Shannon National Park, where the day’s first control (490km) was the camper
‘I was soon cursing the wind-chill as the low sun was not able to penetrate the forested slopes.’
Julian Dyson on a lonely road through the gum trees.
Dave Minter and Judith Swallow.
Pete Turnbull ready to leave Pemberton, Day 2.
van and trailer (that had provided the previous day’s water-stop) in a forest car park. Carbo-loading on noodles and rice pudding whilst relaxing in a camp-chair sounds great until you try to get out of the chair – assistance is welcome, otherwise a sideways roll works quite well. The forest continued over a number of ridges before thinning out and levelling off as the south coast approached (we had just cut across the peninsula in the very south-west corner of Australia). The coast of the Southern Ocean is noticeably different from that of the Indian Ocean and soon the road started to rise and continued to rise, occasionally easing off before rising again – this was getting to be hard work on fixed. Determined not to be beaten and resorting to the fabled ’24-inch gear’, I paused for a breather and realign my brain. Onwards and upwards, over a few false summits and eventually the top was reached – what a reward! A fantastic view out over a large sheltered bay and on along the coast. The next control was at Walpole down by the bay, but first the descent had to be negotiated – not quite as hard as going up but a stop for a breather half way down helped me remain sane. The card stamping at the Walpole control (555km) was beside a small shopping mall with a good bakery café where I replenished my fuel reserves with a huge burger bun and milkshake. A near empty two-litre tub of ice-cream was handed to me by a leaving rider – I think I must have been the third or fourth recipient of it as it was nearly liquid but mixed well with the milkshake. A short snooze on the grass down by the controllers’ van aided digestion before getting back on the bike. Just as I was about to leave a message came through to the control that a rider (‘possibly that English guy in green’) had fallen not far out of town – I told them about it sounded like Pete Turnbull and a car sped off to check things out. When I met up with Pete the following evening he told me ‘yes, it was him’ and ‘no, he hadn’t fallen off’, just sat down at the side of the road when he started to feel a little odd, but all turned out fine. After Walpole the road, pretty much the only road, continued east. The occasional tourist sign for the Dinosaur Valley and tree-top walks looked interesting but will have to wait for another day. The terrain was a not too taxing on the fixed and the beautiful scenery of farms, vineyards and forests made time pass quickly. With the sun setting behind me a couple of small twisting climbs had to be negotiated before descending to the river and the control at Denmark (621km). The control staff at the river-side gazebo were dishing out cake and fruit, and when I asked for a coffee one popped
Arrivée Spring 2011
overseas randonnee over to the back of a pick-up truck that was equipped with a commercial coffee machine – our own mobile ‘Starbucks’, defiantly one up on El Supremo! Sandy Varig, one of the volunteers, was monitoring what was going on in the Twittersphere and showed me a message from John Spooner wishing all the AUKs good luck but she was somewhat puzzled by the ‘Helium Knickers’ reference … Now dark and dressed for night riding it was time to head back out on the road to Albany. Having descended to the river in Denmark there was the inevitable climb out of the other side of town. Not long after cresting the climb, the photographers’ car drew alongside with a hand-held floodlight to capture the night-riding atmosphere in a way that flash photography cannot. It’s difficult to say what sort of countryside we passed through in the dark, but once off the main road the impression was it was somewhat East Anglian. As Albany got near I found myself in a small group and we navigated easily past the harbour and up through the town. However, the final kilometre to the Albany control (679km) zig-zagged and climbed through some back-streets, causing the occasional pause for head scratching and discussion. When we arrived at the Albany Residential College, Nick Dale was outside waiting to greet us and assist in carrying the bikes up the steps and inside. Inside the lights were bright and the welcome warm. The great advantage of rides of this sort of size is that by the half-way point there are not any huge groups all trying to get fed at the same time and Ronnie McInnes dishing out spaghetti bolognaise for me as I approached the servery. Once fed it was time for bed and I was surprised to find that we were all allocated individual rooms (no need for ear-plugs!). A quick shower and so to bed, with a request to be woken at very early hour.
Spencer Klaassen leaving Mandurah.
Rested and dressed in clean clothes it was time to eat again. It being stupid o’clock and with riders still arriving, Ronnie was not set up for breakfast. This did not bother me and I quite happily sat down to another plateful of spaghetti bolognaise. From the Albany control there was just 5km to a check-point at the top of Mt Clarence. Since I was the first to leave and most others would wait for daylight, Wayne Hickman set just ahead of me on his motorbike in order to stamp my card at the top of the hill. At each turn Wayne paused until I got near then sped off to the next turn. As the road turned and climbed steeper and steeper, I felt like calling out to Wayne that he could stop and stamp my card before the top and nobody would be any the wiser, but I persevered. The top
Arrivée Spring 2011
Pete Turnbull on Mandurah boardwalk.
was eventually reached but not before resorting to the 24in (two-foot) gear and Wayne stamped my card at 03:30ish beneath the ANZAC War Memorial. In the daylight there is a fantastic view from the top of Mt Clarence out over Albany and adjacent the bays and inlets but I was sticking to my schedule and had to sacrifice the vista. On the descent Wayne zoomed passed on his motorbike, his card stamping duty done. A bit of tricky navigation across a car-park to pick up a bike path was helped by arrows Wayne had just set out. A few km along the bike path there was a left turn and I was again grateful to find Wayne setting up an arrow pointing back onto proper roads that weaved their way up to the main road east out of Albany. Still dark, the main road was quiet but I did not have to worry about missing the left turn onto the Chester Pass Road, it was a major junction and well signed (I was to learn later that Simon Watt, the Yellow Baron, managed to miss this turn in the daylight and continued for some considerable time before realising his mistake – the rider tracking website was inscribed with the cryptic comment ‘gone exploring’). The Chester Pass Road heads north into the interior and as the darkness slowly lifted it became apparent that the land was getting more
and more arid. By the time it was light enough to read my computer at a glance I realised why I was feeling so cold: it was 2ºC! We had been briefed that we would encounter road-trains on this road and soon after first light the first one roared past. This early in the morning the road-train traffic was all heading north and there was little else on the road, so they generally passed wide. I even started to enjoy them passing since the blast of hot air in their slipstream was brought welcome, if transitory warmth. Along the roadside were scattered the sun-bleached bones of kangaroos and my mind started wonder if this was the fate of the unprepared randonneur in this area. With the hills of the Stirling Ranges on the horizon and burnt out scrub on each side of the road I was glad to see some trees up ahead and a sign for the Moingup Springs campsite where Brian Hughes would be waiting with the mobile control (768km). A fresh road-kill ’roo marked the turn into the campsite where ‘The Man With The Van’ was prominently parked with table and chairs set out ready. The kettle was brought back to the boil for coffee and noodles, followed by rice pudding. Leaning back in the chair I gazed upwards through the trees to an intensely blue, cloudless sky and digested my meal. Before leaving some time was spent faffing about with
overseas randonnee Dave Minter leaving Mandurah.
clothing, sun-screen and water bottles – it was only going to get hotter from here on. Now that Brian knew there would be a stream of riders out on the road, he got on the CB radio and broadcast to the truck drivers to watch out for us. There was a brief ‘hello, goodbye’ with another arriving rider as I departed north up the Chester Pass Road. Soon after the trees of Moingup Springs had been left behind the route turned left off the Chester Pass Road onto the Gnowangerup Road – the ‘ … up’ at the end of the Aboriginal place names does not refer to a gradient but means ‘spring’ or ‘watering place’. After an initial short climb the Gnowangerup road soon became long, hot and boring. Down on the tri-bars and not really having to look too far ahead I was happily pedalling along when something round and black (a foot or so in diameter) on the road caused me to veer quickly to the right. As the object passed under my handlebars I saw the head rise and draw back. Wow, that woke me up, a snake! Australia has something like 20 of the world’s 25 most poisonous snakes and later research identified this critter as a Black Tiger snake which is about number seven on the poisonousness list – best steer clear of them all. Shortly before Gnowangerup I was caught by the rider who had arrived at Moingup just as I was leaving, I mentioned the snake to him – he had seen it but did not realise it was alive (perhaps he had given it more room), I told him it was very much alive when I went by. Hot and sticky we arrived at the Gnowangerup control (830km) in the Roadhouse café. A long, cold milkshake and a burger refreshed me somewhat until I opened the door to leave and was hit by the mid-day temperature again. Refuelled and back on the road again I kept on spinning through fairly featureless farmland. The monotony of the terrain and the heat, not to mention my early start, soon had me feeling a bit sleepy – it was time for a siesta. The occasional roadside tree offered little in the way of shade and I must have gone four or five kilometres before I spotted a turn off in a clump of trees and bushes
where I could lie down in the shade and not be mistaken for road-kill. Before lying down I carefully checked the immediate area for any nasty little critters, it seemed clear and I lay back and closed my eyes. I don’t think I actually fell asleep but after a while I was roused by ants crawling over my legs, so I thought it best to move on. The fields of dusty Merino sheep eventually gave way to fields of yellow flowered canola (a type of oil-seed rape) that were being pollinated by swarms of little black flies. I was wearing a shirt that was predominantly yellow and must have looked quite appealing to the flies as great numbers of them settled on it. The less lucky found themselves stuck in the mixture of sweat and sun-screen on my arms, legs and face. The yellow shirt theory was reinforced when I rolled up at the Katanning control (891km) to find other riders, not wearing yellow, with hardly a fly on them. A couple of slices of pizza and some chips proved a bit too much and I had to abandon half the chips! With a plentiful supply of ice in my water bottles I set off again. The road to Wagin was more of the mind-numbing same but more sheep than canola so fewer flies. A prolonged, post-feed, bad patch had me reduced to a crawl but I was perked up and geed-up on a bit when Peter Turnbull came by and I sat on his wheel for a while. With a good half hour’s riding until Wagin I found my water bottles almost empty but fortunately just then the photographers’ car drew alongside and, after enquiring how things were going, handed out a bottle of water – thanks guys. Looking at the route on Google Earth in the months before the ride I had spotted patches of white in the arid land just south of Wagin – snow capped peaks? Surely not! Zooming in I concluded they were salt pans which was not far from the truth as they turned out to be soda lakes – no place to fill your water bottles. The sun was going down as I approached Wagin and was soon looking for the ‘Giant Ram’. Wagin control (947km) was under the ‘Giant Ram’ according to the route sheet – how big was this beast? Even in the failing light it
could be seen quite easily in the park just off to the side of the road. Sausages were sizzling on a barbeque and lots of people milling about forcing food and drink on new arrivals. Amongst those helping out was Kerri-Ann Smith displaying her battered, splinted and still swollen hand (the result of the crash in the first few kilometres of the ride), relating her story about now being able to say she had had reconstructive surgery in Hollywood (Hollywood being a hospital in Perth). After dressing for night riding and filling pockets with snacks from the table a small group of us set off for the final 50km of the day. The fixed wheel was now beginning to be a bit of a burden or perhaps it was just the distance and general fatigue. The group got strung out and eventually split as the road rose and fell, in and out of a number of river valleys. Peter Turnbull and I stuck together most of the way to Williams, chatting to keep each other awake, even on the climbs. We finally parted company on the final climb up and descent down a dual-carriageway into Williams. The Williams control (1008km) was at the local football club and felt similar to the rugby club control at Thorne on LEL. Ronnie McInnes was now marshalling things in the kitchen here, I can’t remember what delights were served but I do remember having to force myself to eat in a somewhat fatigued state. Shower, clean clothes and a camp-bed followed in quick succession. Sleep came easily, despite having forgotten to get my ear plugs out of my drop-bag, in the hall full of snoring, farting bodies. The next thing I knew my shoulder was being shaken and it was time to face the final 200 odd kilometres. Back in the canteen area, the recently arrived Judith Swallow and Dave Minter were tucking into their supper as I headed for a breakfast of bacon and eggs that were frying on a hot-plate.
For the second day running I set off into the dark at stupid o’clock, but this time with Peter Turnbull for company. Again, the thermometer was right down, but rested and full of bacon and eggs, brisk pedalling soon warmed things up. Slowly the sky lightened behind us and soon we were able to see that we were riding through lush green fields and low rolling hills, quite unlike the terrain we had been through the previous day. We nearly missed the right turn onto the Hotham Valley road as my mental arithmetic in correcting for the slight over-reading on my odometer was not quite up to Carol Vordeman standards. The Hotham Valley road climbed up out of the valley we were in before dropping down into the Hotham Valley itself. On the climb there was an odd, continuous rumbling noise coming from up ahead.
Arrivée Spring 2011
overseas randonnee The hillside was wooded but it did not sound like forestry machinery and it was still early in the morning. Over the top of the ridge the noise got louder until, on the descent, we passed under a big viaduct structure carrying what must have been an enclosed conveyor belt from the adjacent bauxite mine. Peter disappeared ahead on the descent and after I stopped to strip off a layer in the valley bottom I did not expect to see him again until the finish, so it was quite a surprise to find him riding back towards me a few kilometres later. ‘What’s wrong?’ I enquired. ‘I’ve been to the end of the road and there is no sign of the control’. Had we taken the wrong turn and pointlessly climbed over that ridge? The route sheet stated that Brian ‘The Man With The Van’ should be by the side of the road just before the T-junction. Well, there was a sign at the T-junction pointing back up the road we had just come down identifying it as the Hotham Valley road but there was no van! This was a little worrying since it was another 50km until a town where bottles could be topped up and food found – the next control a further 16km further. We were the first out on the road so decided to hang around to see if the van turned up. After a while a few other riders appeared and a brief conference was had. Eventually a phone call managed to get through to the Williams control only to be told Brian had left some time ago. A few time-stamped photos were taken by the signpost and we set off on the road towards Pinjarra. Soon the farmland gave way to forested ridges and I lost contact with Peter. The road through the forest was shaded from the sun as it climbed higher in the sky, which was a somewhat of a relief since I was now carefully rationing my last half bottle of water. The dips and rises in the road began to get progressively bigger, although not as severe as the infamous Hereford-Monmouth road towards the end of the Bryan Chapman 600. After almost 1100km on fixed I was feeling well whacked and finally alighted and pushed to the top of a particularly steep section. Back in the saddle I was relieved to find the forest thinning and the coastal plain opening out below, the downside being the shade decreased and the temperature went up. I was in and through the ‘town’ at 50km before I realised and decided to press on to Pinjarra with only a couple of swigs left in my bottle. Coming off the forest ridge the winding road crossed some railway tracks but since the fixed wheel limits speed on the descents my approach to the tracks was not too fast to cause any problems. The Pinjarra control (1137km) at the Edenvale Herritage Tearooms was a very welcome sight after the mystery of the Hotham Valley! A good supply of sandwiches, cake and fluids revived me
Arrivée Spring 2011
Dave and Judith at top of Mt Clarence.
‘After almost 1100km on fixed I was feeling well whacked and finally alighted and pushed to the top of a particularly steep section.’
along with the thought that the next stop would be the finish. From Pinjarra there was a stretch of busy dual-carriageway before turning onto quieter roads finally leading to the bike path back to Perth. On the ramp up onto the bike path I spotted a small twig with big thorns and gave it a wide berth – try as you might, P******e Fairy, you are not going to catch me out that easily! 200m later I felt the front tyre going soft as the fickle Fairy had the last laugh. Stood still with no cooling airflow and under the mid-day sun, sweat started to pour out of me as I removed the thorn, changed the inner tube and pumped up the tyre. After being passed by two or three riders I realised I was slowing down, and when the unshaded monotony of the bike path brought on fluttering eyelids I knew it was time to stop for a siesta. At the next underpass I stopped in the cool shade for 10 minutes, some 20 minutes later I awoke. The north-bound kilometres on the bike path were noticeably longer than the south-bound ones we had pedalled earlier in the week, but eventually the Perth skyline appeared in the distance and spirits rose even although my target finish time had slipped past. Through the car park, under the flyover, left onto the road by the foreshore, right turn opposite the ferry landing, across the traffic lights and into the South Perth Bowls Club – finish (1220km).
Julian arriving at the final control.
The ever-present Nick Dale was at the desk to take my card in exchange for a fine medal. Only 45 minutes over the target time I had set myself, before I knew I would be riding fixed, it was still the fastest 1200 I’ve ridden. When I asked about happened to the Hotham Valley control he explained that Brian had missed the turn (the one I nearly overshot?) and then got lost! One end of the clubhouse was occupied by riders who, by all the laws of physics and biology, should be totally exhausted
and craving sleep, but were magically revived by chilled bottles of beer (iso-tonics optional) from bowls of ice. After clapping in a few more finishers, including Spencer Klaassen (third out of three finishers for the fixies) I was wondering what to do next when Peter Turnbull appeared in civvies, he had been back to the apartment to wash and change – that seemed like a good idea, so off I pedalled for another 2km. After a good blast under the shower and dressed in non-lycra I headed back to the Bowls Club on foot giving my leg muscles a good stretch on the way. Riders continued to roll in through the afternoon and into the early evening, including Judith Swallow and Dave Minter (completing a 100 per cent AUK finish). With tiredness now catching up on me and only snack food available in the clubhouse I headed off back to the apartment, picking up a pizza on the way.
More than three hours’ sleep but no long lie-in! Judith, Dave and Peter were flying back to London that afternoon and I was leaving in the evening for Manchester, so there were bikes to pack, clothes to wash … but not before breakfast at the café in the local mini-market. The radio was playing Men at Work’s Travelling in a Land Down-Under and the newspaper had a story about the suspension of filming on the new Mad Max film – there is no other country quite like Australia. It is a long way to go for a ride but well worth it for the experience. The spring weather is ideal, they use the right side of the road (ie, the left), the traffic is generally light and they speak English, then there is the wildlife and plants that you will not find anywhere else in the world (OK so there are snakes and a few other critters you have to be aware of ). If you fancy a long-haul trip have a look at www.audax.org.au for their calendar of events or chat to any Aussie you might meet on the roads between Paris and Brest later this year. N
Mille Cymru preparation Jamie Andrews
What the aims are
hen I first heard about the Mille Cymru, I was really excited. More so than I’d been for the last LEL. I love riding around Wales and an event that did this for 1000km just seemed like a great way to spent a few days. After the initial enthusiasm and as the event details appeared I realised that as well as a lot of fun this route was going to be physically demanding and require a certain discipline of actual training. Just ambling round wouldn’t work. Normally on rides the key is to get your mental state okay. Then as long as you can keep the pedals turning it just happens. But there was so much climbing on the Mille Cymru (13,500 metres) that the easier bits would have to be done at a good rate in order to have enough time in hand to get round and sleep. All the ascent meant I had to be able to do
that as fast as possible. So my physical training aim was basically to get faster at climbing. The way to do this is to increase power and reduce weight. I am not good at loosing weight and gaining power is hard work.…
Toby Hopper (left) and Jamie Andrews riding the Mille Cymru.
Commuting is character building but not proper ‘training’
Winter miles count double
But as well as becoming a bit faster uphill for the year I had to keep a good level of basic endurance. I commute every day and this is my ‘base miles’, 30 miles a day Monday to Friday the whole year round. Doing even this relatively short and not particularly fast riding is helpful at maintaining my form for longer rides. And you know what they say, ‘Winter miles count double’. I suppose what this means is that if you can ride 30 miles in winter conditions in the ice, wind and rain then when it is time for events in the summer they will hopefully seem easier. As you may recall, January 2010 was a bit challenging, even for a commute in Devon. I think I missed about 10 days
in total due to ice or deep snow but through most of the winter I kept at it, with the Mille Cymru in mind.
‘Doing more slow miles wasn’t going to make me more powerful. ‘
Winter commuting is great conditioning. But it does not actually make one physically more powerful. As I needed to be able to generate more power to climb the hills faster, I needed to augment the basic 30 miles a day somehow. It did not seem a good idea to lengthen the commute for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t have the time in the morning. The justover-an-hour for the 15 miles there and 15 miles back fitted in fine with the rest of my life. But more time wasn’t available most days. I could make a special case now and then but in general it wouldn’t fit in. Secondly, doing more slow miles wasn’t going to make me more powerful. I was quite fine at doing as many slow miles as needed already. Something else was needed
Arrivée Spring 2011
Photo by Tim Wainwright
Spring plan: Do the commute hills fast
Fortunately, a commute on the Devon– Somerset border is easily adopted to be helpful in a high intensity training plan. I don’t have a power meter. I have a heart rate monitor somewhere in the cupboard. But everyone knows that hills are hard work. So all I have to do is do the uphill parts of my commute at a faster rate and it should be ideal training for increasing my speed on hills. On the commute I firstly climb up the valley I live in. Then I climb up the side of it. Then I climb a bit more on the top of the range of hills between it and Taunton. Finally I bomb down from the top into Taunton. There are three short but sustained climbs in this. The first one I would warm up by taking the speed at just a bit faster than a lazy pace. Let’s call this ‘brisk’. After a short recovery, the second hill I would try to do at full speed. Not all out absolutely 100 per cent but at a speed I thought I could sustain without too much pain all the way up. Another short recovery and the third hill past Wallaces Farm. This one I timed myself up and tried to do at absolutely the maximum effort. So the first two hills were for warming up and the last one was the real training. Initially, my time up this last hill was about three minutes 50 seconds. I was hoping that this timing would give me some kind of insight on if my power was increasing. The return journey on the commute uses a different, flatter road. So on ‘training’ days I would simply ride back as fast as possible, trying to beat my best time for the 15 miles. I was having ‘training’ days two or three times a week, leaving plenty of time for recovery. At the same time after Christmas, I had cut back drastically on snacks and alcohol. I was taking my weight twice a week and it was starting to go down slowly. The problem was that as my weight slowly decreased and my times up the hill past Wallaces Farm got better, I didn’t know if it was the weight or the power or a bit of both. But whatever! I was getting faster for some reason. My time seemed stuck at three minutes 30 seconds at the end of March.
Early season events: Do the usual
I usually do an SR including the Bryan Chapman 600. This is in the middle of May, so before then I would do some other stuff to get me in the mood. This year, I thought as well as the Mille Cymru, I would aim to get the K&SW SR badge. As part of this I had entered the Penzance 300km in early April. Unfortunately this didn’t go too well. I don’t usually pack due to poor weather but in this case I made an exception. So forget the K&SW SR badge. I should have done the Elenith instead. After that
Arrivée Spring 2011
minor set back, I was in for the Brevet Cymru 400km at the start of May. Again, the weather wasn’t so good and I had multiple punctures and I somehow got lost but I did manage to finish in time. I had pretty much stopped the training during commuting as I needed to recover in between events in May. After the Bryan Chapman which had much better weather than the previous two rides I did fit in one session and my time up the timed hill was my fastest to date, 3m 15s. My weight loss programme was going fine, I was 79kg for the Bryan Chapman, having been 85kg at Christmas. In a sense, my physical training programme finished here. It was now just ten weeks until the start of the Mille Cymru. There was no time to do any more training and have that produce physical adaptations before the main event. The adaptations from all the riding I’d done in the previous few months were still going to appear, in due course.
June: Don’t stress
In June I planned to do a test ride for a 400km event and then switch my training on the commute to be longer. The test ride for the 400km went really nicely. The only problem was that my company on the ride, Richie, had to pack with a touch of something nasty after 100km. Apart from that the weather and scenery was great. I hoped that the generally relaxed time I’d had on this 400 would be the way I’d end up riding the Mille Cymru. The improved training on the commute had to involve making it a little bit longer. Because it was now summer and leaving home slightly earlier didn’t feel as difficult, this was possible. The route now involved going up to the top of the range of hills between me and Taunton, then down, then up again, etc, in a loop. The actual hill for the repeat was 190 metres ascent and had a 16 per cent ramp at the top.
‘So this meant riding each day at full effort for three days straight.’
on the commute ‘training’ days to approx 1,500 metres a day and the ‘training’ days were going to be in blocks. Although I didn’t like lengthening the commute, this was just for a limited number of weeks. The increase in total ascent was supposed to be a simulation of the ascent on the event. The average metres ascent per km on the event was about 13m/km. The average on the ride in to work with the hill repeats was similar. The length of the event was 75 hours. I aimed to pretty much use all the time and finish with an hour in hand. So this meant riding each day at full effort for three days straight. So I was doing the last bit of training in three-day blocks. By the end of this my body would be fooled into believing that climbing thousands of metres a day for three days in a row was normal. I also arranged to do another 400km event, a test ride for Matt Chambers’s trip to Wales and back. I favoured doing this distance as this was the length of the longest day on the Mille. That was two weeks before the Mille. I rode normally the week after. The week immediately before the Mille I didn’t ride at all. I took the car to work and took it easy. This was my rest period. While all this was going on the numbers on my bathroom scales were not looking good. I started the Mille weighing 82kg
How the Mille went
The Mille went fine. Most days I finished back at the hall as planned with plenty of time for a good sleep. The exception was the final night, and even then I managed to get the planned hour and an half sleep before leaving for the last 100km or so to the finish, overnight. The weather was fairly good on the whole and I did have a fairly relaxed time of it. I did not pick up any odd stress injuries to my knees or Achilles tendon to bother me afterwards. N
July: taper plan
For the last six weeks before the event I was preparing for the event directly. So I had to try and prepare my long suffering knees for 1,000km of the finest hills of Wales. Of course the last few weeks is far too late to actually grown any extra oxygen-carrying capacity or muscles. But it is fine for a method that Joe Friel calls ‘Supercompensation’. In this training regime the idea is to do too much and not rest properly – to over train – for a short while and then to rest for a longer time than normal. After the over resting there is a period when your body is ready for another bout of over training – it will up your performance for a while. First I needed the overtraining bit. I was going to up the amount of climbing
What didn’t happen My weight loss didn’t work. I assume this was because I am not that good at eating less. In the period from June to early July I thought I had the weight loss under control. I probably ate more as if I was riding a lot when I wasn’t. During the final overtraining phase I guess my body responded to the overload by demanding more/too much food. As it worked out, the extra unplanned few kilograms I was carrying didn’t seem to slow me up at all.
Riding the Buffalo David Matthews
The summit lookout tower of Mount Donna Buang. All photos by the author
ount Buffalo is a mountain plateau in Victoria, Australia some 200k NE of Melbourne (as the crow flies). It is designated as an Alpine Park – one of the oldest in the Australian Alps, being first established in 1898. The 1,725m (5,700ft) mountain, with spectacular granite rock formations above the tree line, gains its name from its resemblance to a buffalo in repose. In addition to its high reputation as a hiking, rock climbing and skiing area, the mountain also plays a significant role in the various editions of the Australian Audax Alpine Classic. The original Alpine Classic was ridden in 1986, based on the ski town of Bright, some 350k by road to the north-east of Melbourne. Six riders started and all finished the hilly 200k route which included the climbs up to Falls Creek and Mount Buffalo before returning to Bright. The event has expanded over the last 15 years to include a series of distances from 250k (The Alpine Classic Extreme (ACE)) to a more reasonable 60k ride over Tawonga Gap to Mount Beauty and back. The small tourist town of Bright struck me as rather like an Australian version of Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of Alp d’Huez, with opportunities for 1000m+ hill climbs all around, as well as some interesting valley rides and big mountain circuits. Temperatures are comparable to the French Alps in July, but with rather
more tree cover to give shade from the burning sun. Other cycling opportunities organised by Audax Australia each January now include a French style ‘Semaine Fédérale’ held during the preceding week and the Alpine Raid which covers the 250k ACE course over two days with an overnight stop in Omeo. Numbers for the Alpine Classic events have now increased from the original six to 2000+ – the biggest event held in Bright all year. My wife and I had flown out to Melbourne in late November to stay with our daughter’s family for an extended Christmas break. December 2010 weather in Melbourne alternated between torrential rain and dry days with temperatures reaching 40°C+. My first outing with local cyclists proved that due to the icy weather in England before we left and the long flight, I was now jet lagged, unacclimatised, unfit and in need of some serious training before arrival in Bright (where, due to my concerns re: acclimatising to the heat, I had opted to ride the 72k Audax up and back down Mount Buffalo). The training regime started well by taking two weeks off with a dose of bronchitis, but I was ready to go by the New Year. My first rides were gentle 85k affairs along the Bay cycle track to St Kilda beach in Melbourne from Altona to the west. Gentle in terms of gradient, but riding against the strong winds off the
‘The small tourist town of Bright struck me as rather like an Australian version of Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of Alp d’Huez.’
Southern Ocean often needed as much effort as long hill climbs. On January 2 I joined in the 70k Amy’s ride from Geelong (site of the 2010 World Championships) along with hundreds of other fellow cyclists. This annual ride commemorates Amy Gillett who was killed some years ago when a deranged driver ploughed through the Australian ladies’ elite squad when out training in Germany. The object of the ride is to promote awareness of road safety for cyclists amongst other drivers, with the message ‘Allow one metre clearance’. In the afternoon we were able to watch the first leg of the four-part Jayco classic crits round a superb circuit based on Geelong beach and Eastern Park. All in all, a great day out in lovely sunshine. My first hilly ride was a circuit from Kinglake, some 100k north of Melbourne. This area suffered greatly in the bush fires of 2008/9 but is gradually returning to normal. My selected ride descended from Kinglake to Glenburn and then returned by means of a long, gradual ascent of 500m+ through Flowerdale back to Kinglake. The pub at Flowerdale where I had lunch is famous for being saved by the locals during the bush fires, to the detriment of their houses. This was a beautiful ride of 76k which caused me some suffering in the heat, but nothing too serious. A few days later I was back in the area to ride from Whittlesea over to St Andrews and then up the long 500m hill to Kinglake before looping back to the start to complete another hilly 76k. The next ride was to be my final test prior to Bright – riding 17k and 1000m+ from Warburton, some 150k NE of Melbourne, up Mount Donna Buang. I drove out to Yarra Junction some 5k from the foot of the climb. This allowed for a short warm up before the relentless ascent up through ranks of beautiful trees to the lookout post at the top. Once there, an exhilarating descent follows back to Warburton and some excellent cafés to reward all that effort. The following week I set off for a fournight stay in Bright at the Alpine Motor Lodge. It is almost impossible to obtain accommodation in Bright at the time of the Audax Alpine Classic in normal circumstances due to the large numbers of cyclists involved. However, there had been a number of cancellations due to riders staying away because of the devastating floods in Queensland, so I was able to stay in the town on this occasion. Following advice from a very helpful guy in the Alpine information centre, my first ride in the area was a car assist to Mount Beauty (which in spite of the name is a small village in a large valley) followed by the ascent up to the ski station at Falls Creek. This is a typical alpine ski road climbing over 1,000m
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London-Edinburgh-London 2013 News Our controls in London and Edinburgh During the winter, the London-Edinburgh-London team have been working hard to hunt down and book venues to use as controls during the event. In particular, we want to make the start and apex controls as good as possible. We visited quite a few places in both cities, and we’re really happy with the venues that we’ve found and booked. Davenant School, in the town of Loughton, will be the start and finish for London Edinburgh London 2013. The school has been in existence since the 17th century, when it was a boys’ school in Whitechapel in central London. It now sits in a much more tranquil setting, close to East London but on a great route north to Edinburgh. Loughton has great transport links, being close to the M11 and M25, and is less then 20km from central London. Loughton also has an underground station on the bikefriendly Central Line, and Chigwell railway station is just a couple of kilometres away. In Scotland, we’ve been really pleased at how helpful Edinburgh Council and its schools have been in finding us a control. In the end we picked Gracemount Academy in south Edinburgh. The school is in a brand new building, with lots of space for us to use. You’ll have no problems finding a place to sleep if you want to rest before heading back to London. It’s situated on the Lasswade Road, about five kilometres from the city centre. Apparently, quite a few riders in 2009 decided to press on into Edinburgh; in 2013 it’ll be even easier for you to do so.
On Mount Buffalo. Looking up through the trees to Falls Creek at the summit.
The London-Edinburgh-London DIY David Matthews at the start of the ride up Mount Buffalo.
in 31k on a good surface – similar to the climb up Mount Buffalo used by my Audax ride on the Sunday. As with Mount Buffalo, the return is back the way you have come. Next day I had a interesting ride along the flat Murray rail trail to the village of Myrtleford, some 30k NW of Bright. On the journey up, I noticed road signs off to Happy Valley and resolved to explore this on my return. Well, the Happy Valley road was well surfaced with sweeping views of the mountains. I eventually turned back at an old shooting hut some 18k from the start, having explored a little of Australia away from a main road. Parrots, rosellas and beautiful blue birds were superb. Car count was three in two hours! Saturday was the official start of the Alpine Classic weekend. A cycling village was erected in the centre of Bright by the river. In the evening we were entertained firstly by a French style musical trio with accordion, guitar and double bass. Then three rather attractive girls gave us their take on ‘Paris by Night’ ending with a spirited can-can. All this before a backdrop boldly proclaiming Paris-BrestParis. They appear to take Audax very
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seriously in Australia! On Sunday morning the various rides set out at staggered times, monitored by timing chips. My 72k ride was last off at 08:00. Initially the road was fairly flat for about 10k before the expected continuous climb up to Dingo Dell 1,400m near the top of Mount Buffalo. The temperature soon heated up to 32°C, which made us all grateful for the two intermediate water stations provided by the organisers. After excellent refreshments at Dingo Dell where I met the youngest, 10-yearold rider, I set off for the long descent back to Bright. I was surprised to find how many riders were still ascending the mountain in spite of my fairly slow ascent towards the back of the 72k field. Then it dawned on me that these were the faster riders from the 200k Audax who had already been to Falls Creek and back. Chapeau to them! Once back in Bright there was a free feed and lots of drinks before I set off back on the long drive to Melbourne and the even longer flight home. Thanks to Audax Australia for laying on such a well managed event – the riding and the entertainment! N
If you’re looking for some summertime riding to train for PBP, or even if you fancy a scenic spin closer to home, you really can’t go wrong with the London-Edinburgh-London DIY. For the bargain price of just £1, you can enjoy some of the best scenery in England and Scotland, as well as helping the London-Edinburgh-London team prepare the route for the next event in 2013. It’s really easy to take part. Along the route are 13 controls, and you can start or finish at any of these. Then you can build your own ride, making it as long or as short as you like by passing through the controls in order. When you ride, simply get proof of passage by obtaining a receipt or stamp at each of the controls, or (better still) with your GPS unit. If you like, we already have a route that you can use. We welcome any feedback you have on the current route, but we’d also like you to try new routes between controls. We won’t have time to try them all, so we’re counting on you to help make the route the best possible. Here’s the best bit though. Everyone who takes part in the London Edinburgh London DIY, and gives us some feedback on the route they took, will be entered into a prize draw. The winner will get a free entry to London Edinburgh London in 2013. For more information, or to organise your DIY, contact John Hamilton. His email address is john@ londonedinburghlondon.com As ever, if you’ve any questions or suggestions, or you’d like to offer to help with the event, then please email the London Edinburgh London team on danial@ londonedinburghlondon.com. Danial Webb AUK’s jersey for Paris-BrestParis – male and female versions, three zip-types plus ladies’ sleeveless ¾-zip. See www. aukweb.net/
Our friends from the north London-Edinburgh-London 2009 Steve Poulton
hatever the event literature, you cannot enjoy/survive a long ride without finetuning the body (mind and physiology) to the rigours of a longlong ride. Thus, I put more thought to my Trike-bound LEL-inclusive season. One LEL and three PBPs already helped my preparation. LEL was planned as a 14-pointer in my Trike record campaign. That as an aside, my preparation included a SR series, with the 600k not too close, to allow recovery. As a build-up, I elected final training to be a 300 and a leisurely 200 to allow some 10 days’ taper/recovery. That also ensured my 3xRRTY ride strategy, to allow for any LEL problems. After the 300 I slept for 11hrs, perhaps aided by only three hours the night before. In the 300, and riding new rear wheels following my car-induced wipeout a week earlier, I stayed with the eight-man pack for 75km and noticed fairly high (for distance cycling) HRM readings. But it was good to be with the group, though
‘To save weight, I fitted my CXP33 32-bladedspoke wheels, last used on PBP.’
many riders take a time to learn to ride with a Trike. After that, I was single to the end, though I met up with the group at the final M4 Control. During the heat of mid-event, I felt rough and underpowered, probably from dehydration. For the final 70km, aided by a backwind, I stormed, in heavy rain, across the Cotswolds, to the Tewkesbury finish. Reassuring for LEL, as I finished in 17 hours for 300k and some 2,400m ascent for the event. A final 200 was my Thames & Avon 200, seventh ride of the year but I could not ride until the Saturday!
In a lazy sort of way, I had entered LEL early and pre-booked all the pre- and post-event YHA comforts. I have such a bad habit of arriving at events short on sleep, not a wise option for LEL (nor PBP for that matter). I later realised my nephew lives only four miles from the start but with a house of three young girls, the YHA was probably a better event sleep. Though, he did oblige for parking.
The final week was mini-hectic. I had changed chainrings and chain and on my last 200, eight days pre-LEL, the middle four rear sprockets suggested they were badly worn. So, stripping the trike rear end, ordering full cassette of eight, axle bearings and reassembly just added tension. To save weight, I fitted my CXP33 32 bladed-spoke wheels, last used on PBP. Then, I bought an AA iGo charger for the GPS and it was then download the tracks, hoping they might work. If all fails, I can leave redundant kit at the Thorne drop, as I had prepared full paper map and laminated route cards. Packed spare batteries, even for my tiny helmet lamp. Having failed for blood doning, I loaded with iron tablets and dark chocolate and probably ate a little more than normal. Cycling was confined to trips into town. Also I put together a sponsor programme to raise some extra funds for Midlands Air Ambulance.
To describe the registration as a smooth and efficient event would be an insult,
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HEADING randonnee IN HERE Danny Hardstone and Xavier Brice.
Riders at Middleton in Teesdale include Gerry Goldsmith, Aidan Hedley and Steve Poulton.
short leg to Middleton Tyas, where it would be great to meet up with Tommy Long, my 2005 LEL companion, now running the Middleton Tyas facility. By the A1, I came across a group, which climbed slowly; ahead, Dave Atkinson of VC167 was moving slowly ahead, so I moved up to join him. We stayed together at a matched pace to Middleton in Teesdale, where we pre-loaded for the climb over Yad Moss. Sharing a good pace is a dream and after Alston, we left together (plus Matheuss (Swede)) to descend to Brampton and move into Scotland. It was well dark by Langholm (2300) and then it struck – the climb to Eskdalemuir. The climb seemed relentlessly steep and never-ending in the dark and wet and I was rather upset when a group from behind came up and interfered with ‘our’ line. Once they had moved ahead, the chase was safer from the back. I believe that was Margaret Philpott walking a stiff climb – apologies for remaining quiet. Eskdalemuir was heaving to bursting and after a mixed meal, despite the Phils’ (Chadwick and Dyson) best organisational efforts, it was blanket and limited corridor space. I later transferred to a canvas bunk for an hour.
All photos by the author
Day 3 Eskdalemuir > Dalkeith (turn) > Longtown
although, eventually, the queues subsided and the main winner was the weather, which encouraged external lazing and standing. But by the end, I had number, event goodies, meal ticket, jersey, polo shirt, room at the YHA and had parked my car at my nephew’s 6km away. The evening meal was excellent with wine and friendly company and it really set us up for a few kms of riding. Anticipation was high.
Day 1 Lee Valley >Thorne
Nobody complains when there is a backwind and the day saw everyone enjoying the joy, with dry and warm weather. The lanes were light of Sunday traffic and Gamlingay, where I arrived alone, a useful refuelling stop. On the flatter land I came across Xavier Brice and Danny Hardstone. Later we passed Arabella Maude but brought her into our group to Thurlby. Nice rolling country through quiet villages, together with a backwind, made for a very enjoyable ride. Approaching Sleaford we towed the Stoke Mandeville team for a while,
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then met up with Paul Stewart on fixed. Arabella entertained with stories of Blue Bear. From Washingborough, the route circuited Lincoln. It stayed wet to Wragby and into the dark. About 40km from Thorne, I heard an unfamiliar tinkling in the back end; changing gear was accompanied by chain jumping and missing, which was later confirmed as a loose inner lock ring. This could have been terminal – I certainly could not risk riding the hilly northern route, though, having staggered to Thorne, I was willing to risk returning south. Come in Danial Webb, whose selfless generosity saw us transferring bits of trike to his big frame Bob Jackson solo.
Day 2 Thorne > Eskdalemuir
I rode the early route with Jordan and found Danial’s Bob Jackson workable with superb Ultegra gears. After a short power nap, I spotted Helen and Jim Gresty relaxing alongside. The weather stayed dry until the final run into Coxwold. I left Coxwold alone for the
The ride to Dalkeith was (literally) a roller coaster, with the tailwind providing an enjoyable daylight ride in magnificent scenery. There were now many returners, so the atmosphere was friendly. Here, the climbs are long and steady with long and fast descents. The hall at Traquair was a real bonus, with, without argument, the best porridge and cake on the ride. I avoided the malt extra! After the climb from Innerleithen, we rounded a final bend in the Moorfoot Hills at 400m to the magnificent views over the Pentland Hills and Firth of Forth. The final descent to Dalkeith was a pure dream. Sonia Crawford’s Dalkeith team was in full swing with young controllers and food activists galore. I chatted (reminisced with) volunteer Brian Saunderson, a stalwart rider on previous early LELs. One of his tasks had been to escort sleepers to the church where folk slept in the pews! I had ridden Eskdalemuir to Traquair with Arabella and here she was, a towel round her hair, relaxing after a shower. The wind was now to be in our face, so I reckoned on helping Arabella. We met up high on the A7; the windhindered ascents were now unfriendly with the descents not so fast. But Traquair came up trumps again for porridge, cake and a power nap. Then, the late afternoon run to Eskdalemuir provided torment with the headwind and some rain coming in. We had plans for Alston, so, after a meal, left Eskdalemuir in the heavy rain and approaching dusk. It was reassuring to
randonnee Walking the cobbled hill through Alston.
Arabella Maude crossing Whorlton Bridge.
Middleton Tyas). Crossing the River Tees at the Whorlton wooden bridge, the river was showing the deep peaty colour of water turbulence. Middleton Tyas was quieter, so the meal was quicker. Before we left after a short nap, the rain had started again and we followed others for a while. The flatter ground was welcome until we hit the North York Moors to Coxwold, quite wet. The rain eased soon after Coxwold and the terrain flattened to bypass York. Route instructions were imprecise, so we ended on the York bypass, where we enjoyed a strange cloud effect in the sunset. We soon picked up the Howden road, quite boring in the dark. In Howden, I was tired and desperate for a coffee. An Indian restaurant could not sell me one, so with a touch of Arabella’s charm, we ended up with two coffees and a chocolate without charge. Approaching Thorne, we joined a few others and trained to the end of the day. Our arrival at Thorne saw the return to restore the trike and repair/improvise the rear cassette. Volunteer (and engineer) Peter Hammond, suggested tie wraps to stop the inner lock nut unscrewing. Two tie wraps later, we had a makeshift solution which seemed to work. Front wheel, saddle, pedals, lights and routeholder transferred – oops, forgot the pump. Then I prepared my sleep gear, blow-up mattress, and sleeping bag and went for a shower. Then to discover my sleeping bag had ‘walked’ (stolen, borrowed did not matter now but a search of all sleep zones and borrowing alternate blanket just wasted sleep time).
Day 5 Thorne > Lee Valley
‘see’ the route, which had appeared so unfriendly as a wet night climb. What I did notice on the descent to the valley, was considerable buffeting, which made bike handling precarious at times, even causing me to slow, where I would normally run a descent (and it was to preserve myself not just Danial’s bike!). What I came to realise later was a severe weather system was having an even more dramatic effect on those still approaching Eskdalemuir. With much descending and a slow ride from Langholm, I was soaked through and cold when we hit Longtown at ‘closing time’. I thought about hypothermia and the prospect of the 53km to Alston. Desperate to warm up, dry and needing a coffee, we opted to enter The Graham Arms. Whilst there, a local, identifying that Alston was a long way off and seeing the weather, offered us floor space. Thank you, Jack.
Day 4 Longtown > Thorne
Away at 0400, with the dawn on the
horizon and the weather dry, Arabella and I were in better spirits on the road to Brampton. Passing a group of several, shortly after, Arabella advised I had a train seven-strong; time for a wee break. When I returned, there was Arabella towing the Continental train – mean lot! Still, the hills to Alston are not far away. It is a long climb but the steady gradient and growing dawn, together with a nibble break in a bus shelter, actually made it enjoyable. In Alston, we performed the traditional ‘cobble walk’ to ride steadily to the virtually empty control. But as Heather Swift reiterated, our overnight Longtown stopover had been a wise move as her over-nighters were now up the road. If we had continued, we would have arrived (hopefully) around 4am! We opted for breakfast, then a one-hour kip to leave by 1000. Yad Moss was the last big obstacle/climb, with a grand descent in prospect. Descending Yad Moss, Margaret Philpotts was clearly having an injured ride (eventually retiring at
A cake to remember Traquair by.
We (me, Arabella, Helen and Danny) left Thorne late (0700?) on a sunny morning (Helen had neck support trouble which slowed her until she was provided with a neck support; she eventually finished). All was to change by Lincoln, when the heavens opened and we were treated to thunder, lightning, rain and hail in rapid succession. It was one of those ‘where is the bus shelter?’ mornings. After Washingborough, the unseasonal storms continued with wet and dry. It dried after Sleaford but came in again whilst we were recovering in Thurlby. The Nene Valley and crossing the high farming plateau to Kimbolton made for a fine evening ride, despite being buzzed by motor bikes using the road as a test track. The sunset approaching Gamlingay brought a cold evening and night but dry and with no wind – perfect for a night ride? Because of my loose cassette, we elected the direct A10. I loaded my energy drink bottle with coffee granules and was able to avoid the overnight catnaps, whilst we plugged south. The dual carriageway set up TT mode in the chill. What a relief to read Cheshunt on the exit signs.
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HEADING randonnee IN HERE To Sum Up
Registration one big queue, YHA OK but local parking poor. Great support from all the controls; this event is too big and route too remote to rely on commercial 24-hour fuel stops. My planned stopovers were maxed out (poor bed spaces) but coped. It was great to see so many familiar faces up and down the route, both riding and at controls. The weather did not support much lying in the grass for a nap. I found the official LEL jersey totally inappropriate, in material, size and zip length for a ride of this duration. For comfort, a full zip is an essential for long rides, especially when you need to undress with bulging pockets. Paying up front for food really worked. You ate well and appropriately
with little need to search for the local shop (not many on this route anyway). How about spaghetti in tomato sauce to replace/complement baked beans? Thank you Melita and AUK for a great event.
To find my sleeping bag (grateful for its return but if the culprit is reading this, think of the selfishness of your actions) had been recovered at Thorne and was there in Lee Valley.
Team AUK (Event and Controls), Danial Webb (great Bob Jackson), Jack (Longtown), Arabella Maude (main ride companion). N
Danial Webb lends his trusty Bob Jackson to Steve.
STATISTICS FROM THE POLAR HRM Day
London 65, Gamlingay 86, Thurlby 66, Washingborough 104, Thorne (15h 41m @ 20.49kph)
Thorne 90, Coxwold 52, Middlleton Tyas 75, Alston 94, Eskdalemuir (17h 23m @ 17.93kph)
Eskdalemuir 45, Traquair 38, Dalkeith 38, Traquair 45, Eskdalemuir 43 Longtown (16h 04m @ 13.0kph)
Longtown 52, Alston 75, Middleton Tyas 52, Coxwold 89, Thorne (17h 50m @ 15.03kph)
Thorne 74, Washingborough 66, Thurlby 86, Gamlingay 65, London (18h 49m @ 15.47kph)
London-Edinburgh-London (85h 47m @ 16.33kph)
So that means 28h 18m spent at controls for sleeping, eating, repairing, etc.
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article Questions starting with ‘why’, as American émigré author Paul Bowles once wryly remarked to a visiting German journalist, cannot be answered intelligently or truthfully. This may be so because any ‘why’ is aimed towards the ultimate question: why is there something rather than nothing? Even so, this should not deter us from asking anyway. Beginnings are inherently unripe and so we may well encounter something rudimentary but it will nonetheless be a commencement that can launch us into matters that may, over time, reward our attention.
ON THE ANATOMY
am a relative beginner in Audax1 cycling, that curious pursuit for, ostensibly, the recklessly bold but not necessarily for those wishing to move with reckless abandon. Skilled administration of resources and tolerating whatever our somatosense systems feed back to us are more important than speed, the ideal of which is to get rid of what is in between. And it is just the in between that I am attempting to get at presently. I will disregard the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘where’ and aim instead for the gap between impulse and action; that is, the gap into which one in the psychoanalytic space seeks to substitute reflection for action. So, my question is quite simply this; why do we engage in long distance cycling? The first and most obvious remark that we can make is that whatever fuels the ‘why’ must be potent enough to keep us motivated for year after year of hard endurance riding. 5 The unconscious is always there, pulling us to where we need to be. For sure, we do not always get what we want but rather what we most require and the expanse between the two can be, as we are all aware, potentially vast. So, in the spirit of Gadamer, my ambition is that this text revolves less around ‘… what we do or what we ought to do, and more about what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing’.2 I am interested in the ‘subterranean’ aspects of our pursuit; concerned more about the nature of the subliminal tug that influences us in this particular context than in the production of a clearly signposted historical record. This means attempting to enter environments that begin to enfeeble our route maps and
by Ulfson Arvidsson
ultimately forces them to fade out to white and therefore I must caution that contrary to any actual Audax event I offer no unambiguous finish here. Rather, I aim for a loose marshalling of thoughts and feelings, something more discursive than tightly reasoned. My thoughts in this article rest on the assumption that the particular zeal with which we engage in Audax cycling correlates neatly with the degree to which it is an activity in which our personal questions are most conveniently formulated, addressed and possibly resolved. I also assume that our route leads inward and describes a relentless descent towards the intolerable; a flirt with what, in the final analysis, we may not be able to bear. After all, only the impossible is truly addictive. This all too human inclination of laying siege to that which is impenetrable has its own particularly seductive economy; desire abhors its own potential satisfaction and seeks therefore merely to reproduce itself.
What’s in a name?
‘We do not, I think, come to most things in life by chance.’
The Latin term chosen to signify us as a group is an alluring one, synonyms to which the most obvious are for instance: audacious, spirited and original, unrestrained by convention or propriety, insolent even. Gradually emerging into mind are the antonyms that have been thrust aside in order that one may live, or at least have a stab at living, a particular kind of life that sticks to a distinctive code. Spineless, weak or timid is what most of us would prefer not to be when faced with danger or adversity and possibly even when immersed in that most challenging
register of reality; the everyday. Audax is a discipline that carries the name of an adjective, an aspect of character, a personal quality or aptitude and not merely a seemingly arbitrary label for an activity as such. No one can be described as being delightfully ‘Badminton’, say, or demurely ‘Nordic Combined’. One may, however, be characterised as ‘audacious’. In addition our organisation’s emblem featuring a heavily stylised bird of prey with powerfully commanding wings extended, conjures associative images of quietly steadfast men and women moving with mettlesome vigour through landscape, bent on forging on through potentially adverse conditions internal and external.
Repetition and becoming
It is my impression that Audax cycling, this self-inflicted leisure with its paradoxically understated overdose aesthetic, is frequently the result of certain ritual and obsession; an obsession, I believe, with particular forms of satisfaction. It is in the nature of obsession to want to get to the root of the image by which one is possessed, something that evokes a sense of an extended search engraved over time by repeated activity. Following Deleuze (1994), for our present purposes radically condensed, we can establish that repetition may be variable, and thus may include difference within itself. Perseveration, on the other hand, is an invariable form of expression, which promotes sameness rather than difference in its mode of presentation. To repeat, then, is to tenaciously invite the eruption of the new even though it may not necessarily feel like that; to
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MY OF AUDACITY repeat successfully is not to repeat. We need to keep in mind, as always in matters internal, that we have to tread with care since those whom we deem to be stuck in monotonous perseveration may themselves feel that they are simply being sensitive to something supremely worthwhile. In any case, matters such as these take their time to unfurl and so they ought; with a touch of good fortune just about a lifetime of meaningful repetition should suffice for most of us. And, of course, time, as a perpetual opening towards the indeterminable, does have a say in all of this; ‘No repetition will ever exhaust the novelty of what comes. Even if one were able to imagine the contents of experience wholly repeated – always the same thing, the same person, the same landscape, the same place and the same text returning – the fact that the present is new would be enough to change everything. Temporalisation itself makes it impossible not to be ingenious in relation to time’.3 Time, then, is the inevitable unfolding of alterity. If, for a minute, we allow ourselves to run with this thought we can state that the passage of time is our unfurling towards an otherness that is a death, that most indeterminate of certainties, which for each and every one of us is absolutely ours but which we can never know. I think that to cycle is to want to arrive at matters central to identity through interesting obliquity, via circuitous routes within given frameworks consisting of route sheet directions, cut off times, distances, minimum and maximum speeds, technology and so on (alongside our own infinitely changeable mental and physical presence, movements in the
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earth’s atmosphere introduce into this framework ceaseless unpredictability). Obliquity, after all, is about finding other ways in, of acquiring an angle that gives adequate purchase and keeps us from waffling feebly on. We may be looking for such oblique discourse, such useful deviation, in order to uncover new routes towards our own uniquely critical puzzles of identity. This is something that needs to be done again and again in order for us to evolve and to sense that the progress of time is felt to be satisfying rather than petrifying. To be alive, then, is a bit like reading a good crime-novel; we chase an absolute narrative conclusion, nevertheless, should the plot unravel too soon we will, most likely, feel short changed. We need just that bittersweet ache of the oblique story line to prevent our descent into cynicism. In this way the plot’s resistance to surrender too easily its secrecy ensures for each and every one of us a sense of moving down our own path to death, a path on which, Freud noted that even ‘the most painful experiences … can yet be felt … as highly enjoyable.’4 Indeed, even though it may ache and smart, we do want our battles to go on. Of course, they sometimes go on so long that we forget the initial cause and become increasingly mired in cultivating a martial spirit that seeks battle for the sake of battle and nothing more. This process of becoming, of moving down our own unique path, entails the ongoing work of mourning the death of possible selves that have been slain by our fidelity to choice. We must be sufficiently audacious, as it were, to come up against our ontological finitude; the fact that we can never be all that we can
be and are therefore always bringing into reality one way of being while an infinite number of other ways are abandoned and left for dead. It goes without saying that not choosing is the ubiquitous preference and so one may drift along like a thing among things. In my work as a psychotherapist I have often sensed how difficult it can be to remain sensitive to the motives that may drive some of us towards withdrawal and make us move back into the murky dreams that tend to cluster around lives merely intended. The foundational structures of such forms of aliveness consist of anachronistic assumptions that tend to treat future events as part of what has already come to pass (something that the ancient Greeks knew as ‘prolepsis’). This is how we come to flood an uncertain future with our present certainties and turn unknown terrain brimming with possibility into uninspired parking lots. A good illustration of this tendency could be observed in ‘Secondlife’, a vast user-created online game which over time, despite being played in a virtual realm potentially free from constraining boundaries, became nothing but a slightly more sexually licentious reproduction of what we all agreed on calling everyday reality. Now, apparently, this virtual realm once heaving with eager avatars is a rather desolate place with only a few scattered groups of jaded diehards stalking the scenes. I imagine by the way that while we are thinking this article together, somewhere out there in some fold of the virtual ether the construction of yet another computer‑ generated facsimile of what we already know is in full swing. As cyclists our advance through
Man of Kent 200 All photos by Lise Taylor-Vebel
Control at The Vicarage
Left: Robert Finn. Right: Clive Bradburn and Trevor Oliver.
any terrain is derived from repeated revolutions – a term signifying radical change but also a return to a point previously occupied – of muscles, tendons and joints, cranks, chain and wheels. Cycling is undeniably cyclical and possibly it is that Audax cyclists are particularly receptive to some of the lessons of Homer’s epic poem? Much like Odysseus, king of Ithaca – drifting across the ocean he is nonetheless always on his way home, to the home the absence of which stokes the hurt that drives him – we tend to return to where we started, at least geographically. Edward Said, in conversation with Daniel Barenboim (2003: 47), says this about Odysseus’s legend; ‘But it’s not just returning – that’s where the fantastic power of the Odyssey is – but returning through one series of adventures after another to which he’s attracted. He could have just come home. But he is also a curious man. It’s not just a matter of leaving home, it’s leaving home and discovering things that attract you as well as threaten you. That’s the point.’. Each man has his hunger for particular kinds of landscape and like Odysseus we also experience the complex ache of nostalgia5 at the thought of our treasured grounds. At this juncture we will do well to keep in mind that at the heart of nostalgia (the impossible return), which, at a glance, temporally addresses former times, lurks a futurity riddled with utopianism, an alluring what-may-yet-be-become quality towards which we project ourselves.… Into the future towards death, towards the possibility of our own impossibility. There, it would seem, is we all are; suspended between a past we cannot get behind, projecting ourselves towards a future we cannot get beyond.
Containment and agency
Left: Some of the Controllers including Ron Lee and Barbara Uttley. Right: Duncan Murray and Bruce Dunbar.
We may translate into psychoanalytic terms our yearning for particular landscapes, haunted as they often are by the experience of nostalgia, as the wish to return to what was. This tropism of turning away from the present is part of our tendency to ‘find ourselves constantly on the alert for the flimsiest evidence on which to build and reconstruct our own old, old story’.6 We may operate under such a retrograde inclination because we have experienced in the past a psychic ordeal, a ‘nameless dread’,7 that is then related to as if always in the future; ‘A catastrophe that has to be avoided at all costs alongside a compulsive need to repeat it’.8 If psychoanalysis can be likened to archaeology, something that Freud was wont to do, an immense dig in which matter becomes disembedded from the matrix, then we are just as likely to unearth evidence of primitive civilisation as primitive catastrophe. So, what is the
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article addictive ‘substance’ that long distance cycling injects into the wet geometry of our minds? Spinney (2006), as cited in Wylie (2007), suggests that one of the vital services that cycling offers to us is the kinetic assemblage of self via bodily performance, technology and landscape. Amidst very early anxieties about psychic fragmentation, anxieties potentially so raw that we may fear losing our ‘spatiotemporal framework’9 and suffer the extinction of the ego, the tendency can become to search for something that structures existence and gives us a sense of being coherent selves. Predictably, psychoanalytic literature abounds with theories about why and how we go about finding such a sense of unity of personality. What I have just stated does not equate to all riders worth their mettle being traumatised individuals; it means rather that the ideas we are working with here operate in degrees and so may bring most of us under their sway. According to Ruskin ‘Modern travelling is not travelling at all; it is merely being sent to a place, and very little different from becoming a parcel.’ Inside an average contemporary car the body’s sense of motion, pressure and friction is muted by a glut of scientifically developed materials. On a bicycle, however, we are exposed to the elements and so, in a gloss on Wylie (2007: 169), one may suggest that cycling, and Audax cycling in particular, demands ‘that the frontiers of one’s body be rigorously established and maintained.’ I read this as an indication of how our skin functions as the first container of the self and that cycling acts to reinforce this bodily envelope. Cycling is about human will embodied when slicing through a consolingly resistant world, with reassuring proprioceptive feedback communicating to each one of us: ‘I’m an agent, I’m autonomous, I’m not falling apart’. We are all familiar with the reassuring aortic beat, that throbbing interiority, when rare chemicals decant somewhere in our endocrine systems and we descend into the depths of somatic rhythm. I maintain that on our long rides we can reach a heightened sense of what I want to call ‘subdermic seclusion’. One patient, whom I shall call Marlow, languorously organised on the couch in his three-quarter bib tights and merino jersey, described this inner process, these epistemologically private moments, with great subtlety: ‘It’s akin to the gradual construction of a Mondrian in reverse, an inching towards lesser degrees of abstraction, towards less distilled versions of reality. That is what is at stake, the crossing of thresholds that open onto unravaged topographies.’. Roland Barthes (1957: 65-66), discussing the theme of seclusion in the works of Jules Verne, writes about
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‘My thoughts in this article rest on the assumption that the particular zeal with which we engage in Audax cycling correlates neatly with the degree to which it is an activity in which our personal questions are most conveniently formulated, addressed and possibly resolved.’
captain Nemo’s notorious vessel, the Nautilus’ as ‘the most desirable of all caves’. He also speaks of ‘a delight in the finite’ and of the joys of enclosing oneself; an action that I believe to be ceaseless for the reason that our skin resembles a Moebius strip10 more than an obvious dividing membrane. That our inside is simultaneously an outside may be the reason why we are so attracted to that which renders minimally ambiguous our experience of what is inside and what is outside. If we pursue this question of insides and outsides and the establishment of useful boundaries it is straightforward to consider that there is nothing like adverse weather to make the guts of a house feel exceptionally snug and secure. I recall some very harsh Swedish winters when this was indeed the case and also how my elder siblings and I used to delight in the severity of further blizzards forecast. In his book The Poetics of Space (1958) Gaston Bachelard writes that ‘A reminder of winter strengthens the happiness of inhabiting. In the reign of the imagination alone, a reminder of winter increases the house’s value as a place to live in.’11 Audax riders’ sense of adversity, our ‘winter’, is made up of, to mention the most obvious aside from inclement weather; the need for sleep, the depletion of convertible energy stores, the build up of nonrecyclable waste chemicals, physical injury, mechanical malfunction and of course, the slipperiest one of the lot, psychological failure. So, for those of us who have carved intricate philosophies out of deprivation there’s nothing quite like the pleasure of denying ourselves a pleasure because the pain that this causes is interpreted by us as a gauge of what we stand to gain, that is; an amplified sense of our value as containers and agents and the attendant arrival of a sense of certainty about being inside ourselves. We seek perhaps a clear measure of the punishment that we are willing to endure in order to determine the strength of the bonding agent that holds us together? How much can I take? To what extent am I a being who has a capacity to contain and gradually transcend difficult and painful mental and physical states? Such questions may well be fuelled by deep ontological anxiety and therefore it requires a measure of audacity, as it were, to pursue one’s own answers. N
1 In the sport of randonneuring or Audax cycling, a brevet or randonnée is an organised longdistance bicycle ride. Cyclists follow a designated but unmarked route (usually 200km to 1400km), passing through check-point controls, and must complete the course within specified time limits. Audax riders do not compete against other cyclists; randonnées are a test of endurance, selfsufficiency and bicycle touring skills. 2 Gadamer. H. G. (1989) Truth and Method. London: Continuum. p.xxvi. 3 Derrida. J. and Ferraris. M. (2001) A Taste For The Secret. Cambridge: Polity Press, p.70. 4 Freud, S. (1920) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol: 18. London: Vintage. 2001. p.17. 5 The word nostalgia uses the word νόστος or nostos, the Greek word for homecoming, along with another Greek root, άλγος or algos, meaning pain or longing. 6 Cleavely, E. (1993) ‘Relationships: interaction, defences and transformation’, in Ruszczynsky, S. (ed.) Psychotherapy with Couples. Theory and Practice at The Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies. London: Karnac. p.68. 7 Bion, W.R. (1962) Learning from Experience, London: Karnac. 1984. pp. 116-117. 8 Cleavely, E. (1993) ‘Relationships: interaction, defences and transformation’, in: Ruszczynsky, S. (ed.) Psychotherapy with Couples. Theory and Practice at The Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies. London: Karnac. p.58. 9 Noel-Smith, K. (2002) ‘Time and Space as Necessary Forms of Thought’, in Free Associations. Vol 9 Part 3 (no. 51): 394-442. 10 Bernet (2000), as cited in Alford (2007, p.67), writes that ‘Skin is thus no ordinary bag, but a twisted surface where the inside is an outside, in the manner of a Moebius strip.’. 11 Bachelard, G. (1958) The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press Books. 1994. p.40.
To be continued in the next issue. If you would like to read Part 2 before then, please look on the AUK website http://www.aukweb. net/resources/arrivee/audacity_ part_two/
Satmap Active 10 review Matthew Haigh
Mounting the unit
Mounting the unit is quite simple; the fitting can be rotated to work on either the bars or stem. It uses a rubberised nylon strap tightened by an Allen key operated ratchet mechanism to give a very stable base for the Active 10. One worry here is that the unit itself ends up
Satmap Active 10
All Satmap photos by the author
PS systems are becoming more popular for Audax riders, either for navigating traditional rides or for logging and validation of the new style GPS DIYs, but the demands that we make upon them don’t fit with the normal uses as envisaged by the manufacturers. Whilst we want navigation, we also need to be able to specify precise routes on a junctionby-junction basis. We need them to mount on bikes, for them to be totally weatherproof, and to be able to run for days on end without access to mains power for a recharge. If you look at the GPSes used by typical Audaxers you’ll see that the most common are Garmin, either the bike specific Edge 605/705/800, or the outdoors Etrex/Vista style units. The Edge units can be well integrated with the bike and have training options including logging cadence and heart rate. With the addition of a Powertap wheel they also log power output. Unfortunately they have sealed-in rechargeable batteries which, whilst good for up to 18 hours (so perfect for road races, sportives and 200k rides), need to have some kind of charger arranged for longer rides. The Etrex/ Vista style units don’t log the heart rate, cadence or power output, but do run off AA batteries that can be changed at the roadside and obtained from anywhere. Whilst I am a regular 705 user (I bought one of the first production units and have used it for events including LEL and Mille Cymru) I’ve been looking at the Satmap Active 10 since launch. I was provided with the bike kit for review; this consists of a very robust Abus Klickfix mount for the bars, a rechargeable battery, a holder for disposable AA lithium cells (lithiums are recommended for their power characteristics), a memory card containing an OS Landranger 1:50k map of the southern part of the UK (which cuts off just above Wales), a car charger and a data cable to connect to the computer.
Comparing the Active 10 with a Garmin 705. sitting very high up in quite an exposed position; by contrast the Garmin 705 (my usual satnav) nestles in a much more protected location against the bars. To compensate for this the Active 10 mount is far more robust than the fairly fragile Edge mounts. The unit is quite rugged in looks, and has large buttons that can be operated whilst wearing long-fingered gloves. In common with most portable devices the operation is a little strange until you get used to it; as there are so many features, the buttons have many uses depending upon where you are in the menu system at that moment in time. The instruction
booklet is not comprehensive, you have to spend some time fiddling with it to understand all of its features and how to navigate between them. Once I’d got the hang of it I could confidently manipulate it whilst on the move.
The Active 10 has a large 3.5 inch display which allows you to get a good view of the surroundings; you can zoom in and out to choose how much to see on screen. Compared to the fairly cramped 705 display, riding with the Active 10 is a real pleasure. Whilst riding in the countryside with the Garmin you usually
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Putting in Audax routes
Putting Audax routes onto the Active 10 really needs external software. There are free downloads for the PC and
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Mac that allow you to load GPX files into the device. Unfortunately, these loaders are needed as the Active 10 has a proprietary file system and does not appear as a simple external drive to your computer – so Linux users will have trouble using it. I’ve successfully loaded GPX files that were generated by my own tracklogs recorded on my 705, and also used those provided by some ride organisers as downloads from the AUK online calendar. You can also plot routes on Satmap’s own subscription-based web service, or use one of the many other free sites (like Bikely) that will allow you draw routes online then download them as GPX files. If you put enough data points on your routes, then you’ll get a line on the display that follows the course of the roads on the map. However, you do need to pay attention to the display; the only warning that you’ve gone off-route comes when you no longer see your coloured line on the moving map. The Active 10 does work far better than the Garmin if you need to do an on the fly route change (such as if there is a major road closure or you need to find a big town for a railway or bike shop). The road atlas style basemap gives you a good overview when you zoom out too far for the OS mapping, and you can easily make decisions on the road. If you try to zoom out to this level on the Garmin you get so much overlapping detail on the screen that you cannot actually see the roads.
So, would I recommend the Active 10? If you do off-road mountain biking, cycle touring or go walking and want a single unit that will do all of these then it is a good choice. The additional level of detail over even the Garmin Topo mapping makes it very worthwhile. For Audax use it is less clear cut. The expense of getting full country maps has to be taken into account, and the lack of routing instructions can make it less easy to use than Garmins for navigation. Being a large unit, it takes a lot of valuable bar space that would be taken by lights, route sheet and computer. I have reservations over the robustness of the battery connectors if regularly removed, as you’d need to do on longer rides. However, all of this needs to be balanced against the excellence of having a scrolling OS map on your bars; even in areas I thought I knew well I was finding interesting things to explore, and it certainly helps to pass the time on long stretches on the road.
The Klickfix mount makes the Active 10 sit proud of the bars.
Battery life is a major concern when using this type of device, especially as the Active 10 backlight needs to be permanently on. I found that the standard rechargeable gave about 14 hours of use – sufficient for a 200 or a reasonably fast 300. It is possible to get a second rechargeable battery, or to use disposable Lithium AA cells (Satmap don’t recommend standard Alkalines or NiMH rechargeables). The current unit has a fairly fiddly and fragile battery connector; I wouldn’t want to regularly change them on the road in the dark in the rain. The manufacturer has said that this is a detail that may change. It should be possible to recharge on the move using an external battery pack, but this would compromise the waterproofing as you’d have to leave a rubber flap open. One irritation on charging is that it isn’t obvious when charging has completed; batteries have to be charged inside the unit, and if you have limited access to power it’s nice to know when one is charged so that you can swap over and start charging another. N
The author riding Mille Cymru.
Photo: Tim Wainwright
see a blank screen with only one or two roads, whereas the Active 10 is showing you it in full glorious OS detail, including settlements, monuments, landmarks and all the other features of OS mapping. It gives you more of a feel for the area that you are travelling through and added significantly to my enjoyment of a pair of solo 400k rides I used to test it. On the downside, I found contour lines difficult to read whilst in motion – and I do have reasonable eyesight. The Active 10 display, whilst clear, does need the backlight on day or night, whereas the Garmin is readable without the backlight in daylight. For night rides there is a red filter mode; this gives the whole display a red tint (electronically, not by putting a physical filter in place), which helps to maintain night vision. The strength of the Active 10 – the OS mapping – is also its weakness. Compared to Garmin maps, they are very expensive if you need full country coverage. This is not unlikely if you take part in 600s or like to travel widely. You can purchase the level of mapping you prefer, with memory cards containing Landranger 1:50K or Explorer 1:25K maps for specific regions or the whole country being available. If you have purchased several smaller map areas, the manufacturers do have a service to combine them onto a single card for you – you cannot do this yourself due to copy protection. As they are Landranger or Explorer maps they do not include road names. If you are navigating through a town and need to execute a ‘3rd L into Church Road’, the Active 10 will show you the roads coming up but not their names. It also doesn’t contain routing information, roads are just more pixels on a rendered map. If you try to plot a route on the unit, the Active 10 shows a direct as-the-crowflies line between where you are and where you want to be. You can refine this by putting in via points at major junctions, but this still leaves straight lines drawn on the display that don’t follow the bends in the road. If you ask a Garmin to get you to a particular address, it will give you turnby-turn navigation as you’d expect in a car-based unit, showing a highlighted line to follow on top of the road, then automatically zooming in with close-up picture of junctions and roundabouts. It has to be said that you have to use caution when using Garmin-generated routes; I’ve had it tell me that the best route home was a meandering set of lanes over 85km, when I could do a straightforward main road bash and be there in 25km.
HEADING IN HERE
Paris-Brest-Paris Advice and tips from riders with over 70 PBPs collectively under their wheels
Clothing and waterproofs
Not much! Had we not had such strong winds and heavy rain would have easily cracked 60hrs.
I wore bib shorts, baselayer, shirt and gilet, two pairs of socks throughout; leg and arm warmers overnight. Carried/ wore overshoes, waterproof, reflective gilet. Anything on my skin was worn in.
What I did wrong last time
Planned for minimal sleep and did not use the ACP dorms – too much snoring (from me). Slept 90mins at Brest, 60mins Carhaix; this was sufficient sleep given pre-ride sleep banking and reduced/no caffeine for four weeks before ride Eating at controls and on the road Never stopped between controls. PBP controls are vast. Always take your bottles into control when you arrive, or lose 10mins/control. I ate sandwiches/ rice, ie grab-and-go food and had pocket food – gel and muesli bars always on board. Bottle contents: 1 x 4:1 carbo protein; 1 x water on the road throughout.
20:00 (earliest possible) start. You get a big tow, and will be well ahead of the queues at controls. To get the most from this start you must 1) Expect three nights of darkness 21:30 to 06:30; 2) Be comfortable group riding at night. If not, pick the 84hr for extra daylight; or 90hrs, for slower paced riding and queue potential.
Tools and spares carried
George Hanna passing the Samye Ling Centre in Eskdalemuir, LEL 2009.
Would you take a camera?
Haven’t done so yet, but may do in 2011, for stills as I don’t want to carry a back up battery.
Bike and lighting system
Carbon bike with strap on-guards. Dinotte LED and two spare rechargeable batteries; back up Cateye LED.
Brand new Conti GP 4000s.
Did you ride to a schedule and how successful was it?
Prepared a schedule, based on times I’d managed on UK rides. Target was <60. Managed 60:25
Two inner tubes, tyre levers, metalbarrelled micro pump; puncture kit, in which were spare allen key bolts, chain link; multi-tool chain breaker; head torch and spare Cateye LED front lamp; 2 LED rear lamps.
Did you have a drop bag?
After a spring/early summer of hilly/wet rides and a summer of turbo training and few road rides, I was fit and raring to go.
One bag drop at 500/800k at Loudeac. Bought a thermal base layer, thicker gloves at Loudeac outbound; delayed swapping into my new, clean, dry clothes until homeward bound. Carried smallest possible seatpost bag, to just fit the above. If it does not fit in the bag you wear it, or have it in your back pocket. Anything more than that you don’t need.
May use GPS this time, as it would be useful to pinpoint the control entrances points when tired; tested HRM and found it wore my skin, so binned the idea.
Were you fit enough on the day?
Find riding companions in similar shape and mindset. Enjoy it and remember, it’s just another bike ride! N
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preparing for paris-brest-paris HEADING IN HERE allen keys, spanners, chain tool, etc. Three inner tubes, one tyre, three drive-side spokes (+ NBT cassette tool), two non-drive-side spokes, two front spokes, gear inner cable, brake inner cable, a few patches and glue, tyre boot (from toothpaste tube), Swiss Army knife. Don’t recall the kitchen sink being in the bag, but it could have been hiding in an empty corner. Oh, and don’t forget your toothbrush.
Photo: Aidan Hedley
Did you have a drop bag?
Not last time – did the ride to and from Le Havre.
Would you take a camera?
I have carried cameras on various rides but tend to forget to use them.
Touring/audax bike or stripped down bike?
Photos: Tim Wainwright
Julian Dyson riding the Mille Cymru, 2010.
What I did wrong last time
Can’t think of any real ‘Arrrgh!’ moments – it being my second time I knew what to expect at Loudeac.
Like so many others I was resigned to kipping at Loudeac (in both directions) – at a table, under a table, across a couple of chairs. Things normally calm down by Mortagne-au-Perche and getting a camp bed and blanket is relatively easy (book a lie-down time on arrival, then go and get something to eat). If the weather if fine, 30/45 minutes siesta mid afternoon does wonders, especially if you are going to be riding until 11:00 or 12:00 o’clock at night.
No beans on toast or sausage and egg buns – stick with pasta, soup and ham baguettes.
Clothing and waterproofs
Nothing special – just what I would normally wear and carry on a typical home 600: under-shirt, short sleeve top, arm warmers, light jacket or gillet, bib-shorts, leg warmers, thin merion wool gloves and rain jacket. If it looks like being really wet then ‘Rain-Legs’ and over-shoes too.
Start time – prefer daytime or evening start, and why?
I’m out to enjoy myself so it’s the 90-hour evening start. To avoid queuing for two or three hours, relax, hang back and watch everybody else leaving then join a short queue and leave at 10:30/11:00.
Tools and spares carried
Topeak ‘Survival Gear’ box with individual
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Touring bike but I’ve never used the granny ring. Tyres were Michelin Krylion Carbon 700 x 25.
Did you ride to a schedule and how successful was it?
I normally do on 1000+km rides but PBP is different. With so many people on the road and going through the controls, unless you are with the Vedettes and have a support van, there is too much unaccountable time and a schedule is going to slip and become a frustrating burden.
I’m a Schmidt fan – still using bulbs last time but now on LEDs.
You don’t need GPS, the route is reasonably well marked (hardly need the route sheet), but beware of riding 20m back in large groups there could be a dozy git chatting away at the front who will lead you all astray. Only use a HRM if you like keeping your own records – if you have never ridden for more than two days on the trot don’t be surprised when the readings start to drop below you norms.
Were you fit enough on the day?
Don’t stop riding once the qualifiers are done but don’t over do it either (an extra 600, then a 400 and a 200 should see you through). Mental fitness is a different matter … my approach is to keep calm and don’t lose your rag.
Getting there – I’ve used the Baxter’s bus (hassle-free and you can use the buses for drop bags at various controls) and also ridden to Paris from the coast (great social fun – though the thought of the ride back can be a bit daunting). This time I’ll have a camper van support … could be Heaven, could be Hell. N
Aidan Hedley and Steve Bateman cross the bridge into Brest.
Aidan Hedley (tandem) Sleeping
First sleep was at Cahaix, controlled at 23:55 – in 2003 we made it to Brest at 02:33 – ‘twas nice and quiet. Next sleep was Tintenac, got in at 00:18. I remember psychedelic hallucinations as I laid down and relaxed. We then rode through in a group to finish at 02:00 on the 24th – that was good…
Ate mainly at controls – early tandem start meant we tended to avoid the crowds.
Evening is fine – love the first night but the earlier start this year is even better.
Tools and spares carried
Multi tool, three tubes, folding tyre, spare Sprags for DT Freewheel, spare connector and cable assembly for Schmidt hub – just in case of broken wires.
Did you have a drop bag?
Yes – unofficially with Mike McGeever (who was with Sporting Tours), he wasn’t around, so we didn’t get it.
Touring/audax bike or stripped down bike?
The Longstaff beast of a tandem (with a Bontrager 24-spoke rear wheel) was suprisingly robust. Front was a 36 on Mavic CPX 33 – broke a 13G spoke. Tyres were GatorSkin 28C – excellent fast tandem tyre.
Schmidt and home-brewed twin LEDs (like a Solidlight but waterproof!).
Nah – get real!
Things Steve and me did right
Carried tube of Conotrane for the backside, highly recommended – apply before and during ride. Met Stue Lee who was great company on his trike. He sat on our wheel on the flat and rode up for a chat on all the hills. Things that went wrong – changing the chain and cassette – we did ride 100ks on the new parts, but on the first night the side-plates pinched in on the chain so it kept skipping. Had to explain in my best Franglais to the mechanic at Fougeres that we only need a chain and not a cassette too, and took the old chain back to Spa Cycles to be told, ‘Yes we have had a few bad ones’. N
preparing for paris-brest-paris
Preparation for Paris-Brest-Paris Part 2 Lucy McTaggart (Level 3 Association of British Cycle Coaches) The usual problem of where to start
You should by now have at least got past the 400km qualifier and be ready for the 600. Some may already have finished their series and hopefully you’ve ironed out a few problems along the way. You should also have in place or at least have some thoughts on how you will get to the start of PBP and accommodation, etc. The aim should be for you to reach the start line in as best a shape as possible so the less stress you have to go through travelling to Paris the better. There are a few options. Many travel with Baxters tours who provide a custom made trip to PBP, booking hotels and providing back up during the event at some controls for riders to collect spare clothes/batteries/wash kit, etc. Others simply take a ferry crossing to France and pootle down over a couple of days aclimatising en route then staying at the chalets/campsite/hotels near the start. This can be very sociable meeting up with other riders on the way down. There are any number of variables between these two but the main thing is to choose the way which suits you best and allows you to arrive relaxed/well rested and ready to start the highlight of the season. If you can get as much sleep as possible in the days leading up to the start you will fare alot better during the sleep deprivation of the event. Try to be fairly organised over packing before you leave. You will have sorted out your own good kit list of what to carry on the bike during your qualifiers so this is what you will need for PBP plus extra changes of clothes, chamois creme, etc, plus civilian clothes for before and after the event. (Remember to do that pre-PBP overhaul on your bike – see Part 1 Arrivée 111, p.14. )
Following your qualifiers there is a significant period of time before PBP actually takes place. Use this time wisely. Keep up some 200/300km rides until a couple of weeks before PBP either calendar events/permanents or just rides. Balance these with shorter rides at a faster pace to bring your comfortable riding pace up to a higher level. The higher the pace that you can comfortably maintain, the easier you will ride in the groups on PBP and the better your body will recover from any harder efforts.
The nearer to PBP you get, gradually taper down to shorter rides but increase the speed. Within the last few weeks have a few flat out efforts between one to five minutes in duration on your shorter rides and try to pick up the pace over the last few miles on longer events. Those going for a fast time on PBP will need to follow a programme of speedwork, gradually increasing in intensity leading up to the event maybe including some local time trials and perhaps the Mersey or Sussex 24hr which will be excellent as part of their preparation. Make sure though to allow enough recovery time between long rides and also between the shorter higher intensity rides. This is often a very underestimated but important part of training. The older we get we can still train just as hard but need a little extra recovery time . As in a piece of music the gaps between the notes define those notes making it something creative, the gaps (rest) between training defines that training and makes it progressive so that you follow an upward spiral to better fitness rather than a downward spiral to overtraining and constant fatigue. Use any little tricks such as when returning from training/finishing an event, the 30 minutes imediately after you finish is a window of opportunity when your body absorbs nutrients much more effectively thus improving recovery greatly so a small carbohydrate/ protein rich snack at this point will pay dividends.
Approaching the start
Once you have arrived safely in St Quentin and settled in to your accommodation, hopefully a day or two before the start, have a couple of spins around the local roads. If possible ride a little of the final stage in reverse. Being familiar with this can help when you are finishing the event in a tired state and a bit disorientated. It will also help you relax and ease the legs out for those travelling by coach, etc. You will have chosen a time for your bike check so make sure your bike is ready for it, ie lights attached securely and working, gears properly indexed, everything secured properly, etc.
The day of the start
Try to have as relaxed a day as possible. If you are on one of the evening starts
Lucy crossing the Severn Bridge.
‘Those going for a fast time on PBP will need to follow a programme of speedwork.’
have a few naps during the day or at least a lie down now and again. You won’t get many of these for a few days so make the most of it. Eat plenty as snacks rather than big meals. Little and often is better and a variety of foods plus plenty of fluids. Have your largest meal at lunchtime to give it plenty of time to digest. Those on the early morning starts can still do the above on the day of the evening starts and go and enjoy the preevent meal, then have an easy evening and hopefully a good sleep before your early wake up call. Choice of start time depends partly how fast you estimate you will get round (be realistic) and partly whether you tend to go better on an early morning start or one later in the day. Make the most of your pre-event meal, whether the official one or your own, as once you pass through into the starting area it can be a long wait before your actual start.
During the event
Finally you will be set off and it will feel good to finally be away and pedalling. The start is always hectic with a lot of adrenalin flowing. Stay tucked in amongst the groups if you can but try not to be absolutely on the limit and gasping plus watch out for bollards, etc, in the road. Settle in and maintain a good pace but within yourself. The distance will pass quickly and within a few hours you will reach the first feed station and then the first proper control. Whatever
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you do drink little and often. Getting dehydrated at this stage will cause big problems later and the reverse if you drink well early on you will be riding strongly later in the event. Use the first feed station to refill bottles, take on some food, sort out any minor problems and generally get yourself comfortable to carry on to the first proper control. You are on your way now. Food during the event is better little and often rather than big meals and whereas on a short event mainly carbohydrate works, for a multi-day event more balanced food is needed so try to eat a variety of foods that you find easy to digest as well as any energy drink/bars. You won’t usually be short of groups to ride with on PBP and if you spend at least some of the time sheltering in the wheels you can save alot of energy. Keep an eye on the riders two or three ahead of the one who’s wheel you are on as this will give you more warning if anyone brakes suddenly and the group slows. Try to stay aware of what’s happening around you to avoid any crashes/erratic riding by tired riders and keep track of where you are. It’s very easy to follow a group off-route, especially at night.
Whereas the time leading up to PBP is a time of preparation, during the event is a time for survival strategies to get you through in as good a shape as possible, whether you are fast or slow. Three areas that can cause havoc and stop you from finishing are the three points of contact you have with your bike, ie hands, feet and backside. If any one or more of these becomes overly sore life can become unbearable so: ● Have a good balanced set up/position on your bike. This will spread the weight evenly and prevent soreness/ loss of sensation in the vital three. ● Good track mitts/good cycling shorts
Below left: El Supremo feeds the Mad Jack Fuller John Seviour Memorial grimpeur. Below right: John Ellis, Kidderminster Killer. Bottom right: Start of the Cheltenham Flyer 200 with organiser Ron Carlton on right.
and chamois creme/well fitting shoes and socks will prevent chaffing. ● Good hygiene. Changes of kit/ washing away built up salt and bacteria will avoid soreness/possible infection. Being mobile on your bike, changing position from time to time and getting out of the saddle every so often allows all three points a break. If you have built up a good regime of stretching exercises over the season doing a few of these now and again during the event just gently will help greatly to ease you back/legs/shoulders, etc, and keep you comfortable on the bike. PBP is a long event but if you treat each stage separately in your mind and for each stage carry out a good maintainable pace, drink and feed effectively, sleep at regular intervals, keep yourself warm/cool as appropriate (sunscreen is vital if the event is hot), don’t waste uneccessary time faffing at controls (as a certain auk often said, ‘Time is miles’). Keep a watch on how your body is faring and fix any problems sooner rather than later, then eventually the last stage and then the finish will come into view and you will feel the elation at the roundabout before the ramp over the finish line and get your final stamp. You’ve made it! Post-event: After managing to find your way back to your accommodation, take care of yourself. Feed well, rehydrate, catch up on sleep and wear a big grin all the way home. As always, if anyone needs more detailed information on any aspect covered you are welcome to contact me at: megajoulesexpenditure@btinternet. com N
Photo: Tim Wainwright
Most of the controls have a fairly similar set up with feeding areas and dormitories. There can sometimes be a lot of queing so you may wish to just get your card stamped and then feed elsewhere at cafés/supermarkets saving time. Before the event make a plan of where you think you will need to sleep based on other long rides you have completed but be prepared to be flexible
‘Three areas that can cause havoc and stop you from finishing are the three points of contact you have with your bike…’
on this if you need too. If you sleep at a control, try to at least have a change to a dry undervest as this will help greatly to stop you getting cold and thus preventing you from sleeping. Have some food before you sleep and a little more before you set off again. While you are sleeping is a good chance for your body to absorb/digest nutrients much better than it can while cycling. If you’ve had any problem with indigestion/nausea a couple of Rennie’s followed by a few hours sleep can work wonders and have you ready to get going again. Just laying down for a while will allow your stomach to relax. When you get back on the road after sleeping, ride yourself in starting steadily until your legs loosen up (don’t panic if everything has seized up a bit). Once you get going carry on your good pattern of drinking/eating little and often. At each control keep an eye on how much time you have in hand and plan the length of your sleep/food stops accordingly.
Arrivée Spring 2011
Photo: Steve Poulton
Photo: Tim Wainwright
Photo: Lucy Rutter
preparing for paris-brest-paris HEADING IN HERE
preparing for paris-brest-paris Dave Minter What I did wrong last time
A surprising number of things. Working stupid-long hours beforehand was probably top of the list, I was seriously sleep-deprived at the start and less fit than preferred. It meant I had to survive on (too-frequent) naps and was bouncing against the 84-hour time limit (eight minuters in hand at Brest!) until Villaines-la-Juhel (return) where I finally caught up on sleep and got shot of a tummy bug. It wasn’t helped by my being chivalrous at Tinteniac. The lady immediately booked the last of the beds for her eight Spanish companions in the queue behind, meaning a cold, fitful nap on the café floor for me. Only getting my new PBP bike just before the start meant that I had adjust my position, tighten bolts and adjust cables several times.
In previous PBPs I’d always slept in checkpoint dormitories (Carhaix outbound, Fougere or TIntineac and Nogent Le Roi return) but in 2007, I napped on control floors (Tinteniac outbound, Carhaix and VLJ return), a bus stop (outbound from Carhaix) and only got a bed at Loudeac (return). A bed is my preference.
Whatever works at the time. In 1999, I survived on pocket food and a few baguettes for a sub-70-hour finish. Since then, I have sit-down meals when I can afford the time and patisseries and pocket food otherwise. In 2003, I kept my pre-PBP resolution to drink vin rouge every day; that made for a fun ride.
The 90-hour start suits me well. The excitement of PBP carries me through the first night at high speed and I enjoy
Tools and spares carried
Preferred tyres Dave Minter in Australia.
Multitool that works on everything on the bike, two tubes, spare tyre (to fit a Moulton), spare gear and brake cable.
Did you have a drop bag?
I had an ACF-arranged drop bag at Loudeac in 2007 which let me swap my dirty clothing for fresh on the return (not enough time on the way out). I carried a complete spare set of clothes (gloves, socks, shorts, jersey) on the bike anyway, along with long-finger gloves, leg warmers and waterproof. In 2003, I carried three days of clothing on the bike; more weight and volume than is ideal. 1999 was similar to 2007 but using the Aussie dropbag in Loudeac both ways. I don’t like riding in the same clothing for days on end or doing the wash-and-wear thing during a brevet.
Do you take a camera?
In ’99, I laughed at a Yank with a waterproof camera zip-tied to the top of his helmet but I wish I had tangible images to bolster my muddled memories. My camera stayed safely in my saddlebag, unused. Since then, I’ve not taken a camera but always regret it. It would have to survive in my back pocket to be used.
Audax bike or stripped down bike?
1999 = S&S-coupled Frezoni with saddlebag; mudguards brought to the start but not used. 2003 = 1965 Moulton Stowaway Duomatic with big rack bag and mudguards. 2007 = brand-new Moulton TSR30 with
John Spooner There are no right and wrong answers to riding PBP. PBP is successfully completed on all sorts of machines with different tyre sizes and saddles, made of carbon fibre, steel and titanium. Some have mudguards, some don’t. Some with drop handlebars, some with flat. Then there’s lighting. Use the longer qualifiers to find out what works for you. Give some consideration to the 84-hour start. There’s less queuing, less night riding, and you don’t have to ride that much quicker. PBP is always rife with rumours. One which always puts in an appearance is that there has been an extension to the time limit. Ignore it. Even if it’s true, you’ve signed up to ride it in 90 hours (or 80 or 84), so for the sake of your self-esteem, do it in that time. And you won’t be disappointed when it turns out to have been false as usual. The routesheet, along with the route arrows, is all you need for navigation. But if you need ballast, use a GPS.
SQR, mudguards and well-appreciated mudflaps. I guess they all count as Audax bikes.
bunch riding. I had hassles with the 84-hour start but I’ve never liked rain. Sitting on wheels without mudflaps isn’t pleasant and most people descend too slowly. The 84-hour start would be enjoyable, given decent weather and the speed to easily stay ahead of the cut.
‘Cyclecomputers always tell me I’m going too slow, so I ditched them and my HRM got binned when I stopped racing.’
Something a bit wider than usual (28 mm or more) that roll well. Paselas are good but they don’t fit Moultons.
Did you ride to a schedule and how successful was it?
I had a sub-72-hour schedule in 1999 but on the third day I was getting bored. Then I hooked up with Gerry Tatrai (twotime solo RAAM winner) whereupon we slowed down a bit and enjoyed the ambiance. In 2003, my only aim was to finish in under 90 hours and had lots of fun with hours to spare. In 2007, I chose the 84-hour start for the first time and finished just inside 80 hours. I’m a big fan of hammering out to Carhaix or Brest and cruising back.
Lighting system you used
Last time, two Cateye LED AA-battery headlights. In 2003, a pair of Hella halogens driven by a LightSpin and a cheap helmet-light. Before that, Cateye Micros powered by a four D-cell battery pack.
Cycle-computers always tell me I’m going too slow, so I ditched them and my HRM got binned when I stopped racing. Recently I’ve been doing long brevets in interesting countries and learned the delights of following GPS tracks, particularly in the dark. One of these days I’ll have to work out how to use a GPS and perhaps even get one.
Were you fit enough on the day?
Yes, I got round PBP but more is better. Being comfortable on the bike is the key to finishing but having the speed to claw back any deficit without killing yourself is very comforting. N PBP can be the experience of a lifetime. Whether it’s a good experience or a bad one will be largely down to yourself. It’s nearly four days of your life, so you might as well enjoy it. Revel in the atmosphere. It has been described as ‘Woodstock on wheels’. See that crowd-control barrier? For once in your life, you are a sporting superstar and the barriers are there to keep the crowds back from you. We may be an island race, but that’s no excuse to be insular. Make friends. Engage in conversation with people of as many different nationalities as you can. Carry a Sharpie and make a note of their entry number so that you can find out afterwards how they got on. Brush off that 30-year-old French O-level (start now). Observe how the atmosphere gets more relaxed as the ride progresses (especially after Brest). Take advantage of the locals offering coffee and crêpes at the side of the road. Take photos. Make sure you thank the volunteers at the controls.
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preparing for paris-brest-paris HEADING IN HERE
I’m not sure that I’m the best person to be giving advice as I tend to make everything up as I go along, utilising the ‘Kelly minimalist planning system’. But then again that may be what many a first-timer needs. Folk tend to worry themselves silly and make too many plans. Certainly last time, my big mistake was to spend masses of time helping others along. It cost me loads of time and when I became sick, I didn’t have time to recover and it was game over. Without being too selfish, you have to remind yourself of the effort and cost it has taken to get to ride PBP and ride your own event. It is essential to get some good sleep. The controls are busy, noisy places though and you must find somewhere quiet. Don’t waste time sitting around chatting when you could be resting. Good time management is really important. I always have a short kip at Brest. It’s something to look forward to and signals to me the half-way point. I always admired Simon Jones’s ability to sleep anywhere at any time. If we stopped for only a short time, Simon would close his eyes and rest. If you stop for a nap en route, do it away from the actual route or you risk being continually woken by wellmeaning folk, checking that you’re OK. Really annoying. Also, don’t sleep on the grass verge by the road anyway. A French rider warned me that you risk being run over doing this. Most controls offer excellent food, perfect for cyclists. The only problem is queuing for the food. The controls get very busy and although they are well organised, it can take some time to get served. If you are in a long queue, try to turn off and rest. Although eating away from a control is frowned down on by the organisers, there may be times when it is better to go up the road and do a spot of shopping or eat in a café. I never eat at the Brest control, preferring just to rest there and eat somewhere on the way back. One of the wonders of the event is the folk at the side of the road offering up food and drink. Well worth accepting their hospitality. Don’t forget to show your gratitude. There will be local people along the route, day and night offering free food and drink. In some villages, there will be more lavish catering facilities for which a small charge will be made. You could actually end up putting on weight en route. Also, some cafés stay open for the duration of the event with plenty of excellent coffee and food on offer. You could even sleep at a couple of these places. The people in Brittany are just so hospitable and think very highly of this
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event. They will make you all feel very special. I have been fortunate in many PBPs to have support from the excellent Willesden CC support team and have been fed and watered by them. I know this is frowned down on by some but it has saved me loads of time that was invested in sleeping. I always have a café stop or two as well just to leave the event behind for a short while.
Ray Kelly riding through East Sussex.
Clothing and waterproofs
I always travel light but take all essentials. I have ridden the entire event in one set of clothes, not ideal but no real problem. I believe that there will be a bag drop this time which should make things easier. Having said that, I always carry all that I need just in case I don’t see my bags again, wherever they are. Bibshorts, thermal undervest, road jersey, track mitts. For the night riding, another thermal vest (long sleeve), this takes up hardly any space but is another layer. Kneewarmers, armwarmers and breathable waterproof jacket finish off my wardrobe. I wear thin socks but often take them off if hot foot sets in and it’s not too cold – allows more room in the shoes. If you use the bag drops, put a full set of clothes including track mitts and socks in each one. Also include bum cream, batteries, clean water bottles and any energy tablets or powder that you use. I carry a razor, mini shower gel and shaving oil on the bike. There’s nothing better than a good wash and shave to brighten you up. Also, a small bottle of sunscreen. Even with support, I have left two complete drop bags with the team. I only use a small saddle pack and it’s absolutely full so I don’t carry a camera. In the pack, I have three spare tubes and tyre levers. Essential tools are allen keys (must fit all bolt sizes on bike), chain tool, chain joining link and a short bit of spare chain, spoke key plus puncture outfit. Spare thermal vest. Silver thermal blanket, batteries, small bum cream and washing/shaving stuff. Toilet paper is a good idea as well. You don’t need to carry every spare under the sun. Most controls have mechanics if needed and the controls tend to be 80km apart. It’s not like you are in the middle of the Sahara.
‘I don’t ride to a schedule. I let my body determine my progress.’
I have always ridden a steel-framed Roberts Audax bike with a triple chainset. I am considering riding a stripped down road bike this year though. This also has a triple chainset. I’ll probably fit some Crud guards though. It poured with rain last time and many folk got caught out being on racing-type machines. My Roberts has Panaracer Extreme Duro 23mm tyres, but my other bike has Michelin Pro Race 3s. I don’t have any
real preference of tyres but tend to fit new ones before the event. In my case it’s the difference between more durable or more responsive tyres. I don’t carry a spare tyre on the bike and this has never been a problem for me. I do carry Park gaiters in case of serious damage though. I use Cateye lights – whatever is their latest and best. I need all the help that I can get and therefore, have never used a hub dynamo. I don’t have any problem with seeing where I am going at night. I’ll probably use my Garmin this year. This is just because I have one. It probably won’t be that useful as the route is extremely well signed. No heart rate monitor though, that would serve no purpose to me. I don’t ride to a schedule. I let my body determine my progress. I have found that setting targets in this event has worked against me as it can be demoralising to be behind on schedule. That’s just me though. I find that I get irritable when in the company of people who keep on about their schedule. It’s a long way and I think that you have to be flexible when planning any proposed progress. There are times when you may be flying and other times when you’re slumped over the handlebars riding at 8mph. Don’t get upset during any bad spells. It’ll soon be better. The more regular riding that you do preevent, the better. I do the qualifiers plus some more 200s. I also try to ride as frequently as possible. Even very short distances help. N Photo: Tim Wainwright
Keep your eyes open for Paris-Brest cake. This was spotted in a travelling French market in London.
Photo: Tim Wainwright
It is my intention to ride a steel frame/ fork Roberts ‘Compact Audax’ bike equipped with a triple chainset used primarily for hilly qualifying rides, though granny gears are not really needed on PBP. Years ago I happily rode 20mm tyres but have long since moved to 25mm tyres as they are much more comfortable, given the shocking state of our roads. The make, as with so much, is down to personal preference. In my experience, Michelin tyres are comfortable, generally grip better in the wet but are more prone to punctures than my now favourite Continental Four Seasons. I have a small racktop bag for spare top, gilet, leg/arm warmers, bonk rations, waterproof and one or two spares but there is no need to take anything else. In fact I take more on a 400k than PBP. You will see many fully supported riders with no more than a pump and spare tube! My aim is to ride 5,000+ miles before the event including a double SR Series, sufficient preparation in the past. For me, the effect of sleep deprivation is more of a concern than a lack of miles. The controls in 2007 included ‘breakfast bar’ facilities with coffee and pastries as well as a canteen offering a good choice of hot cooked food. Soup, omelettes, cooked meats, pasta and mashed potato being favoured. There are many shops and cafés along the way, not forgetting locals handing out coffee, cake and water outside their homes. Be prepared to queue for cooked food especially on the first day, but look at this as an opportunity to enjoy the event and meet others from across the world. Take in the camaraderie, it is something you will remember for a long time afterwards. My advice would be to invest in good quality cycling shorts, thick padded track mitts and battery and/or dynamopowered lights. Don’t forget to factor in dark early mornings as well as night times when considering lighting. Be cautious of any lighting system that relies on rechargeable batteries. Arrive at the stadium in good time before your chosen start time and be prepared to queue. The first few miles are on lit closed roads but all too soon you are on dark country roads. Early on, there are many large, unruly groups including nervous, excited riders; be prepared for erratic, twitchy riders and all manner of things falling off bikes: exciting but scary. You will remember the line of red lights stretching into the distance for a long time. Things calm down after the first feed station at Mortagne-au-Perche. My ‘schedule’ is to ride to Carhaix, arrive by midnight and sleep at the
control. The dormitory facilities are basic, the queuing system chaotic with many tired riders looking for a bed. Take ear plugs and a pair of eye shields; if you’re lucky you will sleep despite the snoring, farting and clipclop of cycling shoes. My aim for the second day would be to ride to Tinténiac, sleep and continue to the finish with options for sleeping at Mortagne-au-Perche or Dreux. You really don’t need a route sheet or GPS device as the route is clearly marked. I will take a small digital camera and look to use a second cycle computer set to kilometres to judge distances between controls. It would, however, be interesting to have a GPS device to download average speed, total climbing, route profile, calorie consumption, etc, after the event for posterity. What you ride and how you ride the event in the end is up to you. One thing for certain is that it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare yourself for what is a long, long ride. Take care during the first hour or so, ride within yourself, don’t be tempted to chase down every passing bunch and don’t spend too long at controls or messing about along the way. It maybe a well written cliché, but don’t look at the event in its entirety, divide it into manageable stages and just concentrate on the next control. It’s surprising how after a short rest and some food you will recover enough to make it to the next control.
Photo: Tim Wainwright
preparing for paris-brest-paris
Matt Chamber (right) riding the Mille Cymru, 2010.
Tom Jackson riding El Supremo’s UpperTea 200 in February.
Matt Chambers As a long-distance novice in 2007 I finished PBP about an hour out of time, but I used the experience to finish 1400k and 1000k rides subsequently. Here’s some things I see through my hindsight goggles: The event is all about sleep if you’re a slower rider. Read all those Steve Abraham articles about it, and make sure you start the ride without any sleep debt. Different riders seem to manage on very different amounts, but it was the one thing that I was short of on the ride. Think about having a schedule. Some people hate them, but I’ve found that I’m more focused if I know roughly where I’ll be at various stages. It also helps keep the days distinct – le retour was a bit of a blur for me in 07. Clothing-wise, whatever got you round a wet-cold 600 should be fine. Don’t assume it will be much warmer than in Britain, fatigue on the third night can make it hard to stay warm. Spare pair of shorts (you can wash-n-dry the ‘other’ pair in five minutes on the road) are a minimum, other spares are probably personal choice. Good hygiene prevents a lot of problems ‘down below’. Lighting isn’t worth fretting about or spending £100s on; the road surfaces are much better than on British routes, little traffic to dazzle you, and there’s almost no steep descending. A cheap headtorch is perfect for spotting the direction arrows. Queueing for food is the biggest delay at controls, particularly outbound, so take every opportunity to use shops/ cafés you pass. Try to carry spare food. We all did it, but anyway: don’t ride flat out on the first night! I was never jealous of riders who had avoided the extra weight of mudguards. Try to finish at least two hours earlier than I did. And enjoy it. N
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preparing for paris-brest-paris HEADING IN HERE Sheila Simpson We have some basic PBP advice in the 2011 AUK Handbook, which I would urge all entrants to read. For the PBP virgin, the most important pre-PBP decision could be:
Choosing your PBP start time
This depends on where you are coming from and what you are aiming for: If you are already cycling regularly each week, have completed a Super Randonneur series previously, and just want to complete PBP, no special training should be necessary, though most riders increase their mileage in PBP year. Otherwise you will need to start building up now for your 200 km. With qualifying rides in the first half of the year, you need to be experienced in riding in poor weather conditions (though avoid extremes, especially ice and snow on a two wheeled machine if you can). Likewise, whilst PBP is not a Grimpeur (super hilly) event, it is not flat throughout and you will need experience of riding in hills. If PBP doesn’t seem hilly on the way out, it will on the way back! If you are not yet an experienced long-distance cyclist then you might want to take professional advice from a cycling coach.
There is a choice of start times
I have ridden in all three groups and found that they all have their advantages and their disadvantages! You will need to consider: 1. Will I be happy just to complete PBP, riding with the Tourists? (sub-90hour ride, starts from 18:30 Sunday 21st August, the most popular start. 2. Am I a hard rider who would like the kudos of riding with Randonneurs? (sub-84-hour ride, starts from 04:45 on Monday 22nd August). 3. Am I a hard riding lifelong cyclist who can ride with the Vedettes? (sub80-hour ride, start 17:00 on Sunday 21st August, no upper speed limit). 4. Am I a top 24-hour time trial rider, hoping to win the race? (that’s the Vedettes too). (Tandems, trikes and recumbents usually start with the Tourists or Randonneurs and are set off before the main field.) If your answer to 1 is YES, you’re aiming to ride with the Tourists: You start by riding through the first night – not what most of the events in the qualifying series will have prepared you for! It is difficult to do a fast time as most people find they have to take time out for a sleep on the second night. Also, you can spend a lot of time queuing in crowded controls (not as bad as it sounds; you might find yourself looking forward to it). But a fast time is not what you’re after. You want that added cushion of the full 90-hour ride (you’re paying for
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90 hours; you want your money’s worth). If your answer to 2 is YES, you’re with the Randonneurs: You set off in the early morning, which sounds OK until you consider that you have to get up, get to the start, have breakfast, sign on, and wait in line before 04:45 – ie you might get some sleep, not as much as at first sight, but just enough to be able to ride through that second PBP night and thus do a fairly fast time. So, during your qualifying rides you need to be thinking about whether you function well with an early start time. This Randonneur field is much smaller than the Tourist so you can move more quickly through controls. Tourists will eventually begin to get in your way but controllers usually spot this and wave you through as priority. If your answer to 3 is YES, you’re with the Vedettes: The group is small (a few hundred) and you can make your way through controls quickly. For the super heroes, the rule of thumb is: it is difficult to do a sub-60 hour time without personal helpers. This is because controls are large and it takes a fair amount of time to navigate between signing in, cafeteria and ablutions. Unless you have proved that you can go for a UK record, by riding a 480-mile or more 24-hour TT, or previously riding a 60-hour unassisted PBP, I would say that your personal helpers just get in the way of the real cyclists. But if you are a top cyclist with a chance of honours then your helpers will be welcome and everyone will celebrate your successes. If that sounds nonsensical, think about this: PBP is three different events rolled into one, different rules apply to different abilities, and different amounts of respect will be given to different riders for different reasons! If your answer to 4 is YES: I’d advise making contact with regular Vedette riders, now. You’ll need allies in that front group! The vedettes usually set off in two groups, with known international stars in the first group, so make sure that our Correspondant, Peter Marshall, knows you are riding and has informed ACP that you are one of our stars!
‘I have ridden in all three groups and found that they all have their advantages and their disadvantages!’
Sheila and Jim Hopper completing their seventh PBP, 2007.
PBP is lanier and hillier too (swings and roundabouts)! You can add an hour to the above times and still have the choice of riding as a Randonneur or a Tourist – but if you can’t do a 34-hour 600, you’re pushing your luck as a Randonneur! You need a sub-10 hour 200, sub20 hour 400, sub-30 hour 600, for a comfortable Vedette ride but you will also need to be capable of that 480-mile 24-hour ride in order to stay with the front group for long! London-Edinburgh-London riders, who have not yet ridden PBP, may need to revise their game plan because, unlike our Super Randonneur series, LEL was not devised to train you for PBP!
Realistic assessment of your riding time
You won’t believe how much time you will lose in controls. As an average or slow rider, at a main control, you could be getting your card stamped in one building, having a sit down meal in another and carrying out ablutions in another. Unbelievably that is usually an hour gone. Make sure that you have footwear in which you can walk safely on slippy floors and stairs. Don’t rely on getting as much sleep as the LEL riders. For three hours’ sleep it’s a good strategy to allow an hour beforehand for your supper and preparation, then sleep, then an hour for breakfast and ride preparation – that’s five hours gone. Personally, I have never stipulated a three-hour alarm time, finding it better to oversleep than be awakened from deep sleep. Most people find that the best five hours to waste is between 0100 and 0600 when they would not be riding at their fastest anyway. Slow riders (and those aiming for a fast time) crash out for the odd 20 minutes in the restaurants or at the roadside. Make sure that you carry a space blanket, or something similar (bin bag), if you plan to sleep at all – just in case the dormitory is full when you get there! The record breakers, of course, don’t sleep. N
How will you know which start time to choose?
By your qualifying rides. If you qualify in the UK (ie not on super-flat routes), you should be able to ride PBP as a Tourist, even if you can only scrape in a 600 at 40 hours. PBP might be painful, and without much sleep, but you have the ability to get there – if you also have the determination and everyone will need that. You need an 11-hour 200, 22-hour 400 and 33-hour 600, for a comfortable PBP with the Randonneurs. This was the early 80s wisdom – we’re riding more lanes and hills in the UK now but
preparing for paris-brest-paris
Any which way Steve Abraham Tim asked me to do an article for Arrivée about how to ride the ParisBrest-Paris, so, for what it’s worth, here is a taste of what I’ve learned from two continuous decades of SRs and four PBPs. I’ll start with the basic, unavoidable facts.
First of all, sleep
As far as sleep goes, the best preparation for the ride is to get as much sleep as you can, at least in the month before the ride, or at the very least, in the week before the ride. Sleep is similar to food, in that you won’t be able to function without enough of it. I’d technically be wrong to tell you that you can bank your sleep so that you have enough to get yourself
through X number of nights without feeling sleepy, but it is a very good way of thinking of it. In actual fact, you deprive yourself of sleep and then pay back your sleep debt when you sleep. If you are doing very well, your sleep debt will be about 15 hours when you wake up in the morning, which will increase all the time you are awake until you sleep again to pay back that sleep debt. Assuming you are awake for 16 hours a day, your 15-hour sleep debt will now be a 21-hour sleep debt. Sleep for eight hours and it will be down to 15 again. A very rough guide is that you need two hours of sleep for each hour you are awake. I say 15 hours is very good, because it accumulates throughout
Photo: Tim Wainwright
‘It’s a very hard thing to judge and even with as much practice as I’ve had, I never get it exactly right all the time.’
Steve Abraham, riding a very wet Mad Jack Fuller–John Seviour Memorial grimpeur, 2011.
your lifetime, almost everyone has a much higher sleep debt. The lower your sleep debt, the easier it will be for you to stay awake. So, as I say, get as much sleep as you can before the ride. If you struggle to sleep and feel wide awake all the time, you probably have a low sleep debt. If you feel tired all the time (especially in the daytime) you probably have a high sleep debt and may not be getting a very good sleep when you do sleep because of something such as sleep apnoea, where you stop breathing while asleep and wake up very briefly, almost certainly, you won’t know you’re doing it. Always try to sleep at the same time of day (or night) and maintain a regular sleeping pattern. When you ride the event itself, unless you’re one of the very fast sub-two-day riders, you will almost certainly need some sleep. The best time is when you are normally asleep. If you’re only intending on a few hours, then try to go as far into the night as you can before you get drowsy. It’s very hard to get right and very easy to think that you’ll get to the next control before you get sleepy. It’s a very hard thing to judge and even with as much practice as I’ve had, I never get it exactly right all the time. I’d say get as much sleep as you can get away with without getting behind the time limit. You begin the ride with no time in hand and all of the distance to go, so if you start the next day with half an hour in hand and have just over half the distance to go, you’re better off than you were at the start. It’s often very tempting to try and get ahead of the game by skimping on sleep, but if you are fast enough, use what time you have for sleep. You’ll go much faster if you’re awake than if you feel dog tired. That’s not to say that if you feel wide awake then you should get going. Taking a midday nap can be a very good plan on PBP too. You’d avoid the midday sun and the midday sleep will help you get much further into the night before you feel sleepy again. There’s less chance of oversleeping in a midday nap too. There’s also the added benefit that most other people will be out on the road, leaving the beds at controls free, so possibly saving time on queuing. You must learn your own sleeping patterns, what times of day you feel sleepy, what times you feel awake and plan your riding time around that. Forget what time of day it is. Have a doze when you feel sleepy, even a 10-minute nap can keep you going for hours if you have a low sleep debt.
There’s lots of advice and so on about diet and what is good and bad to eat. I take very little notice and eat what I like and find that I eat what a lot of people say is the right kind of thing. If you prefer
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preparing for paris-brest-paris HEADING IN HERE to eat one thing instead of another, there must be a reason. My body knows what it needs so I tend to eat pasta, biscuits, bread, fruit and other carbohydrate foods. Sometimes I go for protein, but only if I want it. I’d never tell anyone what is best for them to eat, I say eat what you feel like eating. The experts seem to say avoid meat and alcohol. I have eaten steak and roast pork on a PBP. I’ve even had wine with my breakfast. But this was a very tiny part of my food and drink intake. The wine did cost me about 2mph for the next 30 miles, but hey, it was my birthday and I still finished in plenty of time! Your body will tell you what it needs. There was beer at Brest in 2007 and I’m hoping for the same this time around. That pretty much covers the unavoidable facts. You need to eat and your riding style and usual diet dictate what you should eat. I think that you know what works best for you better than I do. Sleep is inevitable, even if it’s only in preparation. My best tip for riding PBP is to take it easy at the start. There is the very good adage that you race to Brest and tour back to Paris. This is a very good way of riding PBP. But! Even if you’re racing, you need to pace yourself. The hardest thing on PBP is to not start too fast. It starts with speeches from the local royalty. You’re lined up in the street before you start. Crowds cheering, motorbike outriders, a countdown start, fireworks and much celebration. Then they’re off! Ever so easy to get carried away by it all. They’re starting a 1200km ride as if they were riding a club 10 mile TT! It turns to a road race. But look at them at the end of the ride. Not so keen then! Take it easy, enjoy the crowds. The enjoyment will carry you and I bet that anyone who’s never ridden PBP before will look at their computer and be astonished to see that 30 miles have just gone by without them really noticing. It’s not uncommon for people to do their fastest 200k in the first 200k of PBP. Partly because of the lack of controls, which means no stopping, but also the getting caught up in all the excitement. It’s still fun if you take it steady, just much less tiring. It’s not as much fun as going fast at the start, but at least your fun will last for much more of the ride if you’re not tired because you hammered it at the start. Pacing yourself is about the most important thing to do. Taking it easier often means that you feel less inclined to hang around at controls, which saves you much more time than you gain from trying to ride fast. If you’re going to ride fast, do it before you stop for sleep or at the end of the ride, but never at the start. The fastest way to recover is not having anything to recover from. Another thing about riding faster than steady is that it’s a very good way of making you sleepy. Muscle building
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exercise produces sleep-inducing hormones, so if you ride hard all day, even with a low sleep debt, you’ll feel more sleepy during the night. Sure, you’ll have more time for sleep from riding faster, but your sleepiness will be greater than the time you’ll gain for sleep.
Same with the bike. It’s a trade off between comfort and speed. One thing I will say is stick with what you know, where the bike is concerned. Beware the new. Do at least one 200-mile test on your PBP bike, at least before you go, if not in qualifying. Just so you know that it’s reliable and comfortable.
This is really an article of two halves. The first half is pretty much hard fact. This is now the second half, which you will really have to work out for yourself, but I can only point at what I do or have done over the years. Each individual has their own needs, ideas, plans and reasons for riding PBP. Getting your card swiped and sorting out the paperwork is always quick and very efficient on PBP. Food at controls can be different though. Queuing for half an hour isn’t unheard of when it’s busy. It’s generally busier going out and much faster service coming back. You don’t have to use controls though. There are plenty of very good cafés en route. I like to use cafés going out and controls coming back. The food at controls isn’t special. It’s convenient sometimes though. I think it’s best to be flexible and look at what is happening and do what is best for you. I find that the food in local restaurants en route give faster service and better food than most PBP controls for about the same money. On the other hand, if the control is quiet, the controls are still a good place for a feed. As I said earlier about sleep, a midday nap is a good idea if you feel sleepy midday. Never try to sleep if you don’t feel sleepy, you’re wasting all those hormones that help you stay awake. But if you do feel sleepy in the daytime, then it’s a good plan to catch some shut eye while the beds are all free and maybe escape the strength-sapping midday sun (or torrential rainfall if it’s like the last PBP). Lots of people have different ideas about what the best way is to ride PBP. There are the ‘race to Brest, tour to Paris’ and there are the ‘pace yourself all the way’ schools of thought. Some say ride fast and gain sleep time. Others say ride steady and don’t get so tired so you don’t need so much sleep. But therein lies balance between the two. Those that pace themselves still stop for sleep and food. Those that race and like to stop at controls still ride for long periods at a time. You have to find your own pace, your own times of day when you’re fast and awake, slow and steady, or just need to sleep a while. Some like to commit to a buddy and share the experience, others ride alone all the time and others ride with different people at different times, or sometimes ride alone. There is no way better than any other. Each has its own drawbacks and merits.
‘The wine did cost me about 2mph for the next 30 miles, but hey, it was my birthday and I still finished in plenty of time! ’
Steve Abraham hopes to get a group together to ride to the start of PBP. Start at Milton Keynes on Wednesday 17 August. 200k ride to Newhaven for Newhaven-Dieppe ferry. Then two (100k) day rides to Paris, arriving on Friday 19th. Same thing coming home. Two 100k days from PBP to Dieppe, starting on Friday 26th and catching the ferry at Dieppe on Saturday 27th, then home.
You don’t need super-duper lights for PBP, it’s not a technical, twisty route along narrow, wooded, bumpy, hilly lanes like a Wessex SR series, but if you have them and want to use them, then it makes night riding a lot more fun.
Once you’ve qualified, you have about two months until PBP, what to do? I say keep night riding to a minimum to keep your sleep debt down. There are two 24hr time trials before PBP. Riding one (or both if you’re really keen) of those will be good preparation. If not then maybe one more 600k ride, even if it’s a permanent. Other than that, some good solid riding. Weekend tours or even week tours if you have the time. Lots of steady miles, but not losing sleep. Time trialling and other racing would be handy to get your speed up, but I’d still do some good, long all-day rides to keep the miles ticking over. Don’t overdo it, just as many steady miles as you can without tiring yourself out or getting behind with sleep. The steady miles will help you sleep better also. That’s about it really. I could go on about my own tactics that have worked over the years, but that is only what has worked for me personally. We’re all different, have different strengths, weaknesses, dietary habits and sleeping patterns. Different motivations. Different ideas and different things that can keep up our spirits when the ride turns a bit grim. My way of riding is only my way. You have to find your own and you’re in a much better position than I am to find out what works for you, what you like to eat, when it’s best for you to sleep, whether you want to ride alone and slow, in a wheel-sucking group at speed or whatever. Don’t be shy of changing your game plan mid-ride either. I do it all the time. You can’t predict everything that might happen on a ride. All you have to do is try to finish the ride in time. The weather, the way your ride is going, sleeping patterns and available food or facilities can alter a plan. Some like to use schedules, but if you get in front or behind schedule, then it’s no crime to reschedule because it’s not going how you expected. Now never mind reading all this. Get out on your bike, get the miles in and I’ll see you somewhere near Paris sometime in August this year. You can buy me a beer if you like. Hey, it’ll be near my birthday again… N
preparing for paris-brest-paris Tim Wainwright For me, long-distance riding is all about comfort on the bike. It doesn’t matter how fit or fast a rider you are, if you are suffering major discomfort, your speed will reduce and your mental state will rapidly go downhill. PBP brings its own set of problems many of you will not have experienced before. French road surfaces in general are pretty good, far superior to the Third World state of our roads in the UK, but French roads often deteriorate to British standards in small towns and villages. As the event progresses towards the latter stages, your body will be aching, your feet will feel vibration from every little bump in the road, you will be shifting around on the saddle trying to find a position that does not hurt and your hands just add to the pain. Factor in the sleep deprivation and you get one unhappy rider. Hot-foot is a major pain problem; if you suffer with it you will know what I mean. Your neck muscles may get so fatigued they cannot hold your head in position. You will see people riding with their chin resting on their upper chest and others with neck braces or inner tubes tied between their helmets and waist to keep their head up. An old cliché: Prevention is better than cure. For your qualifying rides put into practice everything you can to help your comfort on the bike. If you’ve finished your 400 or 600 with any of the symptoms mentioned, imagine how you will feel after nearly four days in the saddle. You have time to make amendments and make PBP a ride to remember, not just for the pain you rode through. I normally ride on 23 or 25mm tyres, but for long distance comfort, you can’t beat wider ones; you notice the difference in comfort immediately. All right, they may be slightly slower but outright speed is not what you want on PBP. My Roberts audax bike was designed to take 35mm tyres with mudguards and dual pivot Shimano brakes, not cantilevers. For three of my PBPs I used Michelin World Tour 700x35
folders and though they looked heavy, only weighed 330 grams each. The shock absorption and comfort was well worth a slight loss of rolling resistance. Although the Michelins are now not available, fast rolling, lightweight folding tyres worth considering are Panaracer Pasella 32 or 35mm from St John Street Cycles or Spa Cycles, and Schwalbe Marathon Racer 30 or 35mm or Schwalbe Kojak 35mm.
Points of contact
Hands take a battering. It is not unusual to find riders still suffering with hand problems months after PBP. After my first one, I couldn’t hold a cup straight for months. The answer is to heavily pad your bars. I use two layers of gel padding under the bar tape and use padded track mitts. Result: no more numb hands. The constant pressure of feet on the pedals can result in extreme pain. It feels like your feet are on fire, but in actual fact your feet are not hot. Stopping only gives relief until you start riding again. I bought a pair of plastic/fibre Scholl shoe inserts which have a pronounced arch for the foot. They were expensive at about £60, but worth every penny now that I don’t suffer any more. If you get hot foot for the first time, try this tip which stopped my intense pain early into an Easter Arrow. Roll some paper napkins or a cotton handkerchief into a sausage shape and place under your arch. I’ve never found a comfortable longdistance saddle and I’ve tried them all: Brooks (fine up to 200k), plastic ones, gel ones, ones with slots in (the soft and tender parts get squashed into the hole – agony). Currently I’m using a new Rolls San Marco with Ti rails. Without a lot of attention to hygiene, I would soon suffer saddle sores. Quality shorts with a good insert are essential and Gore’s top of the range with elastic inserts are very good. I’ve tried the more expensive Assos but noticed no difference, except to my wallet. I change my shorts every 300k on PBP and apply zinc and castor oil cream to my skin, after either a good wash or cleaning with baby wipes. I’ve recently started using a new product, Chamois Glide, recommended by ultra marathon
That’s me, winching my way up the road to Tregaron on the Elenith 300. Photo: Dave Pountney
‘For your qualifying rides put into practice everything you can to help your comfort on the bike.’
cyclist Ken Bonner from Canada. It is a balm, looks like shaving soap in a plastic case and is applied to either skin or shorts. Can’t say how effective it is as I’ve yet to try it on very long rides, but it could be just what I need for prevention. Available on-line and from major bike shops. If you get to the point where you can’t sit on the saddle any longer, a tube of Lanacane will help relieve the pain. This is an anaesthetic cooling cream and it will deaden the pain for an hour or so, enough to ride pain-free until the effect wears off. Creams such as Sudocrem are OK for grazes, but won’t help with saddle pain. I’ve also used Ibuprofen gel with some success on saddle contact areas, but definitely don’t use if the skin is broken – you will jump up and down on a ten-minute war dance if you do. A vision I can easily recall is when sitting in a roadside café about 100k from the finish, watching rider after rider coasting down the slight slope, either sitting on one buttock, or standing out of the saddle. If your bars are cluttered with lights, computer, GPS and Map-trap I would suggest for PBP only you leave the Maptrap at home. The route is well signed and the only time you might need the routesheet is if you go off-course or to check how far it is to the next control. Just keep it in your back pocket or saddlebag. French routesheets are not like AUK ones, with R at T and SO at X, they are just a list of road numbers, towns and distances to follow. Keep to the golden rule and don’t assume the rider in front knows where he/she is going, make your own decisions where to turn. In 1999, Vedette Richard Hallett (check him out at RCUK <firstname.lastname@example.org> took off from the start at great speed, following a large, fast group for miles into the dark. Eventually they realized they were off-course, the group split into different directions, no one really knowing which way was correct. By the time he was back on route, the leading riders from the Tourists, starting two hours behind, had caught him. N
Left: Murdo MacLeod finished in 2007 with a neck brace. Right: Floor mosaics at Michelin House in Fulham Road, Chelsea.
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To ride the PBP is a personal event and so you must ride to your own programme. Do not make a fixed schedule as this will tie you down, just be flexible and take things as they come. I never make any sleeping arrangements as a stop that is booked could mean that you do not want to sleep then, but some miles up the road you may feel tired and you will have to stop again. Alway carry some food in the bag. Some controls, especially the first one on the return, can be crowded and the toilet facilities cannot be believed; get your card stamped and go to a café along the route instead. There will be plenty of places open both day and night. Do not carry too much clothing. If you get wet you will always dry out. Last time I only swapped my shorts for the return trip. Riders get wet and then ride on to dry their clothes before putting them in the bag, but once they have dried out seldom bother to change as they are now dry. Remember that nothing is going to keep you totally dry, so don’t expect it.
For me I find the last start, in the early morning is the best. At least the ride begins at a time when you are usually getting ready to start the day. The night time start is usually when you are getting ready to go to bed. For this you have to give up some time so you do not have the full 90 hours.
Tools and spares
I only carry the stuff I would on an event over here. Each control has a mechanic and a spares shop so you are really better catered for than on a domestic event.
No bag drop
This is supposed to be a ride testing your ability and self-sufficiency. You are also relying on other people getting their bit right.
I use a touring-style bike; a racing type will probably be stiffer and have no arrangements for mudguards. Both can have uncomfortable results. You can fix your bag and lights properly on a touring bike and this too gives greater mental surety. Bouncing lights and a swaying Jim Hopper’s ‘barrow’ is banned!
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bag are not what you want. Take a bag that is not too small as you do not want everything crammed in so that you cannot find things easily, but do not take a huge one as your gear will become jumbled. Everything in your bag will become mixed up anyway, so you need a bag to be able to turn your rubbish over easily, but not too big. Do not skimp on tyres. Good quality that roll well. I have used many types, so have no preference.
Here’s a collection of cycling- and health-related books which can help you on the road to peak fitness. Simon Doughty’s The Long Distance Cyclists’ Handbook is probably the most informative book you’ll find anywhere for long distance riders and is packed with good ideas. Simon was for many years an AUK member, one of the original ‘Brindisi Seven’, PBP rider and LEL organiser (alongside the late Bernard Mawson), but was sadly mown down by a motorist as he cycled to work in Sheffield. To the best of my knowledge, he is living permanently in a nursing home now. All the books are available from Cordee Ltd at www.cordee.co.uk.
I thought it was a holiday?
Were you fit enough on the day?
I have always been fit enough, but perhaps the year I rode with a broken collar bone, I could have been fitter.
The ‘do nots’
Do not fit a new saddle for the event. Do not wear new shorts. Do not wear new shoes. Do not wear new mitts. Do not use new wheels. Do not experiment with fancy food. Do not rely on anyone but yourself. Everything like this should be proved beforehand.
The ‘do’s’ (for me anyway)
Take a few days getting there, ride out. To arrive at the last minute is not the best preparation. You will have time to get used to the, hopefully, warmer weather, the different food, riding on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and the ambience. Understand the basic words on the road signs and the ‘calls’ in a mixed bunch. Be prepared for different styles of riding. Not all nationalities go at the hills as we tend to do. You will be asked lots of silly questions about your bike, diet, preparation, schedule, clothing, gearing, lighting, etc. In the early part of the ride this can be a bit irritating, but later on, not so. It is not the considered etiquette to thump them, but you can get away with being grumpy or not understanding them. Arrive at least a day before the cycle check and have a ride to cover the last hour or so of the inward route. This could be helpful as you will be tired at the end and a recce will help you to identify landmarks where to turn, etc. Use a drinking bottle with a cap to cover the nozzle. Last time there was plenty of tummy trouble and I feel some of this could have been caused by regular drinking from dirty bottles that had been splashed with roadside unmentionables due to the constant rain. This is the big event for most riders, so, do not skimp on money. After all the trials and tribulations of qualifying, do not ruin everything for a few quid. N
Mad Jack Fuller John Seviour Memorial grimpeur
Photo: Tim Wainwright
Jim Hopper (trike)
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PBP, endurance, and the en Rod Dalitz
eople imagine all kinds of mystique about PBP, but really it is just like another 600 – except double the distance, with huge numbers of cyclists, onlookers, and helpers at controls, and much more excitement, due to the French enthusiasm. For many riders, PBP will be their first ride in France, or even out of their home country. Much advice has been given about the amount of training needed to complete Paris-Brest-Paris, but the character of the training is more important than the number of miles covered on a bike. There are plenty of stories about riders who have done the minimum, for example Alan Pringle, who at one point had completed two PBPs with only one 200km more than the minimum eight qualifiers. I have done more, but only up to 300k more than the qualifiers in any PBP year. That is not to say that anyone can get started in PBP year and expect to succeed without any preparation. To introduce my point of view will take a few words, but I would like to assure you that my words come from many years of reading and thought, and are supported by experience – both my own, and others. Running probably provides a more difficult challenge than cycling, since for one thing it is impossible to coast while running, even on a gentle downhill there is effort, jolting, stress on the muscles and joints. Everyone knows about running, from the television sports even if you don’t do it yourself. Lessons learned from runners largely read across to cycling. I have completed PBP five times, and LEL once; also, I have run 52 races of at least marathon distance, including the 55-mile London to Brighton three times. I think a reasonable guideline is to compare the marathon of 42km to a randonée of 200km, both are roughly the dividing point between ordinary and ultra. So PBP is comparable to running a 100-miler, the West Highland Way Race, or better the Tour de Mont Blanc race. A sprinter may run 100m in 10 seconds. That is hardly time enough to really need to breathe, though you will be breathing heavily at the finish. Your heart will speed up, but it hardly has time to make much difference, all the glycogen and oxygen really has to be there in your leg muscles already.
‘I think a reasonable guideline is to compare the marathon of 42km to a randonée of 200km, both are roughly the dividing point between ordinary and ultra.’
Rod, camping before the start. Below: Control at Villaines le Juhel.
There is no sense in training over shorter distances. A mile needs lots of breathing. Your heart and lungs work as hard as they can. Running a mile needs preparation, like food and drink beforehand, but no one needs to eat or drink during the race. After the race, your legs may feel as if they are on fire, the lactic acid needs to be flushed away, your body demands rest to recover. This is comparable to a short time trial, say five or ten miles on the bike. A half marathon of 13 miles is difficult to run without drinking, especially if it is warm. The running race generally provides drink stations at four, seven, and 10 miles, which for a fast runner is every 15 to 20 minutes. But, no one should need to eat. This is like a fast club run, a couple of hours out, take your drink bottle, maybe a café stop for replenishment. For distances over a marathon, you really do need to replace carbohydrates. Few cyclists would consider riding 200km without feeding! Also, if it is warm and you drink a lot, you really do need to replace electrolytes – that is, mainly salt. The absolute minimum is a good sports energy drink, which should take care of the carbs and the electrolytes, otherwise you may experience cramps. I can positively recommend Succeed electrolyte capsules, they are not much more than ‘Lite salt’ with a pinch of sodium bicarb, but very convenient to carry and take. Look at www. succeedscaps.com/main_scaps.html (no financial interest!) – cheap to order from the USA. Barratt’s Refreshers are a good source of sodium and sugar, genuinely refreshing, but hard to find. In the UK, many people get electrolytes wrong – there is much to learn from athletes from a hot, humid climate. I had to learn for myself what symptoms and feelings tell me I am low on electrolytes, and how important they are. Puffy hands are one sign. Particularly significant is feeling shivery even when the temperature is warm, and nausea. A bowl of soup with plenty of salt fixes a lot, similarly the all-day breakfast – it is good to reflect on the essential components of food: carbohydrates, protein, sugars, electrolytes, fluid. Fats are also important: 10 per cent fat in your diet is good, if your small intestine is low on fat, you will feel nauseous. One of the really good stomach settlers is the plain yoghurt ‘Sucré.’
Now we get into less well-known territory. For events over 24 hours, you need to consider sleep. You may want some mental stimulation, depending on how boring the scenery is, especially at night. A companion to talk to, or a radio or tape player, otherwise the eyes start playing tricks. 400km is, I think, the hardest distance, since you begin to need sleep, but there usually isn’t much time for it. A 600km generally includes a place to put your head down, and there is generally enough spare time to use it. Actually you don’t need a lot of sleep, or even a comfortable bed. Ninety minutes appears optimum, two REM cycles, long enough to get your eyes working properly again. If you are uncomfortable, it is easier to wake! A space blanket is all you need, don’t waste time queuing for a mattress. A small beer may help you to relax! Otherwise, Orangina has the carbonation and all the benefits of fruit juice without sweeteners. Here is one which few people think about. The mechanism which speeds up your pulse, gets your metabolism into top gear, and generally keeps you excited is easy enough: we refer to it as adrenaline, though the proper medical name is ephedrine. There are a set of related chemicals produced by the endocrine system. What happens when you take part in a long event, longer than you have ever done before? For a start, your poor old adrenal gland has to work overtime, pumping out more and more adrenaline, to keep everything else working well. How long can your adrenal gland keep it up? What supplies does it need to do its job? How can you train it? After all, you can’t see it at work, you can’t measure its size, as you can biceps or quads. You really have no way to evaluate how well it is coping, or even of judging what the result of it not coping might be. The real recovery issue after a major challenge such as a 600 or 1200 isn't the muscle damage so much as the fatigue to the endocrine system – manifested by symptoms such as constant tiredness, elevated heart-rate on up-hills, inability to complete interval sessions or long rides, weird eating/sleeping patterns, cuts healing more slowly. I have felt that I had wooden legs, and slowed quickly on hills. You may feel unnaturally greedy, eating anything available. The first time it may take six weeks to recover, after a few times you may take three weeks. But a longer distance will knock you back to six weeks.
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ndocrine system ‘What you don’t need for PBP is high speed or a smart new bike.’
Start as you expect to finish
A good rule of thumb: you can generally do up to double what you are used to, without discovering interesting new ways to suffer. There are many aspects of longer rides which might cause you trouble. Anything which begins to irritate after a certain distance will increase exponentially to become unbearable after double. That includes thirst, blisters, chafing, pressure points, and weather. The PBP qualifiers are a very good way to ramp up, but are not a substitute for building endurance and experience over several years. A point about pacing: start as you expect to finish! It is too easy to burn yourself out. As well as physical toughness, there are a few other angles. I have always been impressed with the Olympic athletes who seem to recover from major accidents and injuries so quickly. Think of Lance Armstrong, after his cancer. I used to joke that the cancer had burned out the part of his brain which felt pain, but the truth is that he learned a lot about motivations – ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever.’ Those guys know what they should be able to do, and are not about to put up with anything less. More important is their determination to overcome any minor obstacle like a broken handlebar stem, or a broken finger. That attitude asks ‘How are we going to overcome this?’ rather than assuming it is a show-stopper. For PBP, try to give your points of contact a rest as often as you can. Swing your arms to relax your shoulders. Stand on the pedals uphill, shift your bum to the side and rest your thigh on the saddle coasting downhill. Even on the flat, you can stand on the pedals for five strokes, then coast, then repeat on the other side, a few times. That can make all the difference, avoiding numbness which may last for months. What you don’t need for PBP is high speed or a smart new bike. I have heard people say a new bike will make it all
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Below: You don’t need a smart new bike to ride PBP.
easy, but they still have to push it with the same old legs. What we do need is knowledge, about our bodies and our minds, but also about the bike and repairing it, and about our equipment. If you ride your qualifiers on the same bike, you build lots of experience with it. You should be able to repair a puncture in the dark in the rain, without forgetting to find and remove the thorn or flake of glass which caused it.You should know that you need a spare light, maybe a Petzl Tikka, to change the blown bulb or the dying batteries in your main light. Perhaps you need a backup light for fast descents, and you need to experiment with setting the beam to pick out the signs (lovely PBP reflective arrows!) and see far enough ahead. You need to be confident in your waterproofs and know to put them on early, before you get damp. Riding PBP you will not have a reliable weather forecast when you leave home, and you will not have anywhere to dry wet clothing. That is why I suffered trench foot in 2007! So you need to face up to the rain and cold, sunshine and sweat, hills and headwinds, not just to practice suffering but to test and improve your equipment, your technique, your mind, and most of all your body. Enjoy. N
Below: Five times finishers Murdo MacLeod and Rod Dalitz.
All photos by the author
I know of no way to build up the endocrine system other than by using it. That is, hitting it fairly hard, for extended periods. However, there seems to be no reason why that should be on the bike, or running, or any other specific exercise – just something demanding. I suspect mountaineering is one of the best activities, because that combines long days of exposure to the weather with unexpected problems.
A wee jaunt round Scotland A 1300 km GPS DIY audax Paul Dytham
During London– Edinburgh–London 2009, three of us (Chris Narborough, Toby Hopper and Paul Dytham) agreed the route would be more interesting if it was entirely in Scotland. Of course, the ‘London’ part of London–Edinburgh– London rather precluded this. So, we thought, why not create our own Scottish DIY? Hence we found ourselves in Stirling on a bank holiday Saturday morning in late May 2010, lining up for 109½ hours of banter, sprinting for control-town signs, black pudding breakfasts and more than a little climbing.
Day 1: Stirling–Helensburgh– Inveraray–Connel–Invergarry 278 km official, 286 km actual
he key to our plan was the recent AUK rule change allowing GPS to be used for ride validation. All three of us had GPS units, taking the worry out of both controlling in the far corners of Scotland and finding our way there. Instead we worried about battery life and rain-induced GPS death. To confirm our doubts, the batteries in Chris’s GPS died within an hour of the start. Receipts were stashed away from as many controls as possible for peace of mind. We immediately found what would be the worst road surface of the ride, just outside Stirling through Glentirranmuir; then one of the steepest climbs, Cardross Road climbing out of Renton. I bagged the first sprint victory of the ride at the Helensburgh sign as Chris and Toby had no idea what I was doing. I doubted I’d win many more once they were informed of the game. We were rained on for a while in Argyll, climbed the Rest and Be Thankful (my old commute for six years) and received comments about our lycra-clad rear ends by a woman on a motorbike at Inveraray. By the time we were heading northwest through the Pass of Brander we
Chris and Paul on the Rest and Be Thankful climb.
had a fine tailwind and were making excellent time. No mechanicals, no low patches, no midges and no real rain. Wait, did I say no midges on the west coast of Scotland? A stop at the village shop in Connel, sheltered from the breeze, gave us an insight into the midge hell we would be enduring if it wasn’t for the wind. Pasties and sandwiches were eaten with haste and we crossed the Connel Bridge heading north. Before Fort William the rain started and the promise of a warmup prompted us into a well-known fast food restaurant. I was a bit miserable, not being a fan of fast food (or heavy rain for that matter), but the meal saw us to our hot-tubequipped B&B at Invergarry without incident. Biscuits and tea were gladly accepted, but strangely none of us opted for a hottub session. Instead, we tumble-dried
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diy randonnee our wet kit, destroying Toby’s sealskinz gloves in the process. Takeaway bacon sandwiches were booked for 5.30 am and day one was declared a success.
All photos by Paul Dytham, Toby Hopper and Chris Narborough
Day 2: Invergarry–Kyle of Lochalsh– Applecross–Kinlochewe–Muir of Ord– Inverness
282 km official, 300 km actual Some light drizzle accompanied our departure and persisted until Kyle. There we found not only a bridge across to Skye, but also some amazing public toilets. Leaving Kyle we rode our first minor roads since Glentirranmuir, cutting the main-road corner to Stromeferry. We were perplexed as to why the road along Loch Carron needed to be a series of 14 per cent rollercoasters whilst the train line alongside remained at sea level. After Lochcarron itself the sun came out whilst we climbed over one of the highlights of the ride: the Bealach Na Ba. The climb was comprehensively ‘won’ by Toby, but we all had an amazing hour. Chris managed a little more excitement than the rest of us descending back to sea level by clipping a pedal during some enthusiastic cornering, but stayed upright. My elevation profile for the day showed the 626m pass but failed to convey just how relentlessly hilly the rest of Applecross peninsula would be. Absolutely destroyed, we stopped at the pub in Sheildaig to recover, only managing to get Guinness, coke and crisps as we were too early for dinner. We carried on through Kinlochewe, up Glen Docherty and on to Muir of Ord before we found any food; just in time for kebabs all round! Revived, we finished the day with a flat 20 km along Beauly Firth through the calm, clear night finishing at a Travelodge in Inverness at 12.30 am.
‘My elevation profile for the day showed the 626m pass but failed to convey just how relentlessly hilly the rest of Applecross peninsula would be.’
Day 4: Inverness–Nairn–Aviemore– Keith–Tomintoul–Braemar
251 km official, 263km actual We treated ourselves to a long lie in after our hilly 316 km the day before, not leaving until 7am. This put us in the rush hour traffic out to Culloden, then on to Nairn, where we enjoyed a bakery breakfast and coffee whilst bemused school kids crossed the street to avoid the strange, hungry-looking cyclists.
Day 3: Inverness–Muir of Ord– Ullapool–Scourie–Lairg–Inverness
307 km official, 316 km actual Day three started at 6.30am but was warm enough for short sleeves almost straight away. We retraced the previous night’s route to Muir of Ord (ice creams instead of kebabs this time) before a long climb up to Loch Glascarnoch dam. A fantastic descent down other side to Ullapool followed, where Toby began to
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show his KOTM credentials to take the uphill town sign win easily. Ten minutes later we were tucking into a full Scottish breakfast, sitting outside on the seafront in glorious sunshine. Continuing north it was endless blue sky, quiet roads and amazing scenery. Our only route-plan regret was we hadn’t included the Lochinver road for time reasons and went direct to Scourie via Ledmore and Kylesku. At Scourie we found a ridiculously well-stocked Spar supermarket, and the iPhone users in our group found they had no signal. We spent a while eating more ice cream before carrying on to our most northerly point on the route (18 miles south of Cape Wrath) at Laxford Bridge. The sun and near 30°C heat was obviously getting to me as the scenery just kept getting better as we headed down Loch Stack and Loch More. Finally we were brought back to more normal audax conditions with a stiff headwind slog for 35 km along Loch Shin to Lairg. Three tired, sweaty randonneurs brought the tone down significantly in the Lairg restaurant, much to the annoyance of the waitress, but we ate enough lasagne to double their profits that evening. Our last stage for the day involved nice quiet roads through Shin Forest and over Bonar Bridge, then the stingin-the-tail climb up to Cadha Mor at dusk. A head-down night ride across the Black Isle brought us in to Inverness for another finish about midnight.
Next we climbed away from coast up to Ferness for possibly the toughest conditions of the ride: high-altitude exposed moorland past Lochindorb against a strong headwind and driving rain. Amazingly, as we dropped into Aviemore the rain ceased, sun came back out. By now we were just nominating one person at each control to buy a three-pack of Magnums regardless of the weather. Whilst enjoying our icy cold energy bars, I learnt my Carradice Barley saddlebag was waterproof from the inside thanks to a split in a can of coke. Before we left we had a Scottish stereotype moment when a pallet of Buckfast fortified wine was offloaded from a delivery truck, amusing Toby in particularly with him being from Buckfastleigh. We turned north-east so the wind was now behind us and had a superb run along Abernethy Forest, through Nethy Bridge, Grantown on Spey and Charlestown (home of Walkers shortbread) to our control at Keith. Another surprise; the wind dropped and our south-west trip up the valley through Dufftown to Tomintoul was flat calm in sunshine. We arrived at Tomintoul at about 7pm, with 50 km and another ride highlight – the Lecht Road – to do before the end of the day at Braemar YH. A phone call to the hostel confirmed Braemar would be 100 per cent closed by the time we arrived, and Chris had been suffering some ankle pain during the last stage, so an hour was spent ‘fortifying’ ourselves in the pub. The Lecht Road was astounding, both the terrain and scenery at dusk, for me eclipsing even the Bealach Na Ba as the highlight of ride. A sheep dashing across the road right in front of Toby as we descended at speed down to Gairnsheil Lodge kept the adrenaline going as the light faded. However, clear skies meant
Right: Chris climbing the Bealach Na Ba.
Below: Toby climbing out of Ullapool.
diy randonnee lights weren’t needed until Balmoral Castle at about 10.30pm for the last 40 minutes to Braemar itself.
Paul descending the Lecht Road.
Day 5: Braemar–Pitlochry–Killin– Comrie–Stirling
191 km official, 195 km actual We had an early start having raided the hostel kitchen for bagels and Marmite, but were still 15 minutes out of time for the Braemar control when we left. We failed to make up much of this time on the significant climb up to the Cairnwell ski centre (665m highest point of the ride) due to creaking knees and a nagging headwind. The mad descent past the Devil’s Elbow after the ski centre brought our average speed back up though and by the time we reached Kinnaird we were feeling ’kin ’ard! Another thoroughly enjoyable descent into Pitlochry and we were tucking into breakfast. There had been some considerable planning involved to try and find a flat ‘victory lap’ route for the final day back to Stirling. This turned out to be a complete success after Pitlochry, with hills and scenery to look at but not to climb. We followed the river Tay then along Loch Tay to Killin. We were starting to feel like the end was close, but were in for more treats yet. A short climb out of Killin led to another mad descent down Glen Ogle to Lochearnhead then 20 km of pan flat tailwind-assisted cruising along Loch Earn to Comrie. The penultimate control meant celebration ice creams; Soleros instead of Magnums! The final climb over to Braco was dispatched without effort, with all three of us attempting to save our legs for the Champs-Elysées-important sprint finish to the Stirling sign … which Chris took from me as Toby didn’t spot the sign. Our final control in Stirling, and the end of our fantastic 4½ day epic, was at 7pm. N
Below: Kyle of Sutherland from Cadha Mor.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather. Nearly 12 months on we still wonder whether we would have been successful if we’d had ‘proper’ Scottish weather. As it turned out, we had an amazing Scottish holiday completed within 1300 km audax time limits.
1,314 km official total. 1,384 km actually ridden. Moving time: 62 hours 20 mins. Total time: 109½ hours. 19 AAA points. Town sign sprint champ: Chris. King of the Mountains: Toby. Calories consumed in the form of beer: Lost count.
More information on our route, elevation profiles, etc, can be found at www.TenCC.co.uk
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Mad Jack Fuller/John Seviour Memorial Ride. Photos: Tim Wainwright
Rob Bullyment, Man of Kent 200. Photo: Lise Taylor-Vebel