Archive for the ‘ Cycling ’ Category

Audax 2017 – 300k – Aldershot to Norwich

After a trouble free summer of commuting, I felt fit enough for a longer ride. I’ve enjoyed every trip to Norwich, so I thought I’d do it again, but with a couple of modifications. One to make use of the cycle paths through Milton Keynes (which Dave and I enjoyed on the Skegness 600k) and the other to avoid a rubbish section between Huntingdon and St Ives by using another cycle path.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1958664328

Average moving speed was slightly down on the two previous efforts (2013 & 2014), but the total time was similar to within 10 minutes. I think this was down partly to using the cycle paths, but also the fact that I didn’t have a massive tailwind this time.

I have been working on making my Audax kit a little more lightweight. The main changes are: new, smaller TT bars; Brooks Cambium saddle without suspension seatpost and a saddlebag instead of rack and rack top bag.

I prefer the aesthetic of the new stuff:

Old

vs New

Anyway, the ride.

Howling foxes woke me up at 4am, so I decided just to get up, rather than wait for my alarm at 4:45. I was toying with the idea of setting out with shorts and short jersey, but it was pretty cold, so I the end I put a long sleeve top on as well and took full length gloves. I’m glad I did, because out in the countryside the temperature dropped down to 6 degrees! Thus the rather picturesque mist over the fields.

Aldershot was again surprisingly busy at 5:15, but I very quickly got out onto quiet roads and scenic towns. This is Henley on Thames.

I was starting to get tired approaching Milton Keynes and the Cambium was causing mild saddle sores. Taking the cycle paths was a nice break for the legs, but the paths were of variable quality, which didn’t help the sores or the speed. Here I stopped for my first food break in Willen Lakeside Park, where I managed to score an ice cream to supplement my sandwiches.

I decided to pack sandwiches for this ride because there were no McDonalds or Subways along the route. There was the potential of a fish & chip shop in Olney, but I quite like being able to stop in my own time.

The roads from Milton Keynes to Huntingdon quiet and rolling.

But again, I was getting tired and looking forward to the next cycle path section. This was very slow (though nicely surfaced) and involved walking, passing through the picturesque Houghton Mill.

I picked up a very tasty flapjack in the cafe.

After St Ives, I had thought to use the St Ives to Cambridge Busway cycle path. However, it added 10km to the ride and I was worried about time, so I plumped for the A-roads to Ely. In the end they were fairly quiet, wide and smooth, so I made good time without stress.

I was aiming for an early supper at a quiet spot between Ely and Thetford forest, deep in the fens.

After this, I got my head down and managed a solid session to Norwich, with only a short toilet stop. The road through Thetford forest and on to Watton, Hingham and Norwich is really excellent. The wind had definitely turned head on by this point, so this section was hard work, but I got in just as the sun was setting.

Of the new kit, the saddlebag worked as well as the rack top bag. It stayed more secure, but it seemed easier to jumble the contents. The new TT bars seemed just as comfortable while on them, but are narrow enough that I can get my hands on the top of the bars without twisting. The saddle was the only letdown. The saddle sores were only mild, but I was thinking about the saddle, which didn’t happen with the Swift.

The Swift causes me some discomfort in the buttocks when riding really hard (never happening on the 300k), which the Cambium doesn’t and the Cambium is very comfortable over commuting distances. So, I will work on the angle of the Cambium, and maybe even try the suspension seatpost with it.

Beautiful day to be on the road.

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Aldershot – Bristol Cycle Paths

I’ve been wanting to explore long distance cycle paths a little more, rather than just focusing on going as fast as I can. I think it’s driven by cycle commuting for a while now and getting sick of traffic.

I put together a route from Aldershot to Bristol that took in cycle paths from Devizes onward: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1831840976.

The back roads to Devizes were all pretty quiet and there were some lovely views along the way.

I kept pushing on so that I could have lunch knowing the road section was finished. I felt like I was going really slowly, but the moving average of 16mph is a good 100k pace for me. This meant a late lunch at 2pm, but with a nice chance to relax by the canal and savour my sandwiches.

Unfortunately, this brute:

emerged from the reeds on the far side of the canal and started attacking me for my lunch. Fortunately, I got hold of a large stick with which to hold it off while I finished.

I know the Bristol – Bath cycle path well, but I wasn’t sure of the quality of the rest of the route, especially the canal tow paths. In the end they were pretty good, a little bumpy, but consistent and reasonably wide in most places. I’m pretty sure they would be passable with some rain, though some of the brick / slab sections could be treacherous.

I was able to keep my speed well above 10mph, apart from when I passed walkers (which there were alot of). This worked out well as I had been starting to get tired after the road section and the slower pace gave me a chance to recover before the smoother cycle paths.

The Bath Two Tunnels path was really interesting and worth a look. My only problem was that I was wearing sunglasses and didn’t notice that I’d somehow put my light onto full power until I saw a couple of people coming the other way with their hands over their eyes.

The Bristol Bath path was going to be a nice restful run-in, but being commuting time, I got into a race against someone coming up behind. Fortunately, a 5k time trial saw them off.

I arrived in Bristol with my legs feeling pretty fresh. My only ache was my calf muscle, which had cramped in bed in the morning!

Will definitely be doing this route again, though maybe picking another place for lunch!

Norfolk Recumbenting

Gentle ride in the country between Norwich, Dereham and Fakenham.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1764858558

Children Cycling Adventures

A recent family holiday to Devon meant we had easy access to the excellent Tarka Tail. For the first time, the kids were really into the cycling.

First we did a couple of full family rides where the 5 year old gave a good account of himself. I had had the genius idea of giving him the Garmin and he greatly enjoyed calling out the distance, which, being km, built nice and quickly. The plan was to go from Great Torrington to Bideford, however, he wanted to go on to make 10k, so that we’d have 20k total: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555934.

He also did an excellent grind back up the 3% “Tunnel Hill” with his mum. A great stoic expression.

The next day we took the path the other way to the excellent Yarde Orchard cafe. The path this way is much rougher with a big climb: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555949.

The little one was not impressed by the very slow building of the km, but he made it and the descent meant the return journey was less than half the time.

Having met some older kids at the holiday cottages, the big one fancied a crack at Torrington to Barnstable. I warned him it’d take a long time, but he was still game. The first 10k he went like the clappers, then the stopping started to creep in. We stopped for lunch past Instow. I was expecting that he’d want to turn back after lunch, but the sandwiches (and cookies) evidently revived him and we pressed on to Barnstable. We made it and I took the lead on the way back so that the boy could take my wheel. This meant far fewer stops and we completed the 45km in just under 5 hours: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1692555973.

Most importantly, he learned to eat ice creme like a true Audaxer:

The evidently gave him some energy, because we flew up the “Tunnel Hill” and he said “was that it?” at the top!

 

Bad Start to 2017 Cycling

It all seems to have gone wrong at once cycling wise for the first quarter of 2017.

Firstly, there was a spate of punctures. I averaged about one inner tube change every 3 days after managing 2016 with none! In retrospect, I think the rear tyre had worn out as, having changed it, I’ve had no more trouble.

Then there was a strange disc brake malfunction, where the caliper got tangled in the rotor. Not a big deal to fix (new caliper), but a terrible noise on the way into work.

There was also another disc brake problem where the calipers started rubbing on the rotor whatever the adjustment. I called East Street Cycles to boot it in for a look, but the mechanic explained how to correct the problem, so another job done.

In the middle of this, one icy day, I took the old mountain bike to work with ice tyres. Exactly half way through the journey, the chain snapped! I carry spare chain links, but that’s for my normal 10 speed, not the 7 speed on the MTB. Also in retrospect, I think I should have just thrown one of the 10 speed ones in hand hoped for the best, but I thought scooting wouldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t apart from one piece of road (A325 from Farnborough to Frimley) where there was no real pavement.

Having got through all these mechanicals, I was ready for abit of un-troubled cycling. Then without warning something happened in my back. There wasn’t a great deal of pain, but my left leg started spasming like it did in 2015. Unlike in 2015 however, I then lost power and feeling in my left knee. It was a very strange sensation not being able to push my leg downwards. More worryingly, visiting the GP, they told me that because of the lack of pain, it probably meant it wasn’t a trapped nerve, but nerve damage and might well not get better! Not being able to run, cycle or walk up stairs at 37 would be no joke.

Fortunately, the power has been returning slowly. It seems that gentle bike riding loosens up the muscles and helps a little, so I’ve embarked on my own cycle based physiotherapy regimen. Touch wood the improvements will continue. The commute to work today was almost back to normal, so I’m hopeful, though I don’t think I’ll be doing anything “epic” for a while.

Audax 2016 – 200k – Oxford Countryside

For the final ride of my SR series, I thought I would explore Oxfordshire again. A friend of mine (Matt) recently completed Ride London and has been steadily getting into his cycling, so I thought it would be good to get him along for an Audax. Dave also wanted to come along to bookend the SR series.

I almost ended up with no companions as the weather forecasts became more and more dire. However, once I told Dave the ride was “official” he said he had to do it and Matt took it as an opportunity to buy in a ton of wet weather gear. Good thing he did really, because the weather was pretty much as forecast, with continuous drizzle, interspersed with heavy showers. This is the reason that there are very few pictures because the stunning landscapes were continuously shrouded in mist.

The shonky weather meant we “missioned” round the route more than we would have otherwise, so ended up with very good averages and moving averages: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1351766528.

We had an interesting episode approaching Lechlade on Thames, where we spotted a bunch of riders up ahead, clearly in a race of some kind (they were turning at a marshalled “hairpin” to u-turn back down the road). We of course had to race them and managed to pass about 5 of them but were passed by one chap on the TT bars really going for it and for once decided to back it off with 120k to go. While we were among these riders and seeing some coming the other way, we came to the conclusion that they looked rather muscly for cyclists and also seemed to not be wearing enough clothes. I think they were part of a triathlon.

Our only major stops were, of course McDonalds, and the Wellington Farm Shop:

mcdonalds

bikes-2

My only problem was a particularly large pothole, which I hit badly. This shifted my left hood downwards and inwards, which meant the position felt strange and shifting and breaking were more difficult. I was tempted to try to fix it, but not in the poring rain. In the end I decided to live with it and we made it back in just over 9 hours.

victory

Audax 2016 – 300k – Norfolk Circuit

As I like cycling around Norfolk & we were on holiday there, I thought it’d be nice to take in the majority of it on a 300k. https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1324011772

It turned out to be a ride of several parts.

Having woken up at 5:30am and gotten ready, I opened the door to discover that what I had thought was wind in the trees was in fact rain! So, on with the new rain coat and overshoes. The rain persisted all the way to Great Yarmouth, which was a shame as this section was probably the most picturesque. I had a quick stop in Mundesley.

Mundesley

The picture doesn’t really show the rain, but it was sufficient to get into my trunk bag and make the bag containing flapjack soggy!

From Great Yarmouth to Bury St Edmunds was the least pleasant section. It was 50 miles, slogging into a headwind on the A143. Fortunately, it was mostly wide enough that people could pass without trouble, but there were several sections that had been re-sealed with gravel, which made the going even harder and meant that I was occasionally pelted with stones by people coming the other way, not to mention becoming slightly grey from the dust. I had a quick stop for a pasty along this road.

Arriving in Bury St Edmunds was a great relief as this meant I was turning out of the headwind, added to that were the lovely gardens in the town centre, replete with yarn bombing!

Burry St Edmunds

Yarn bomb

The route to Thetford was on nice but busy roads until the awesome section from Elveden to Thetford. This took in the old A11, which has been converted to have large cycle lanes, then a beautifully surfaced cycle path alongside the new A11.

A11 CP2 A11 CP

Of course, this excellent piece of infrastructure vomits you out onto a horrible road into Thetford, but this was bearable, as it was the site of my McDonalds stop!

After lunch I really enjoyed swooping down a section of the new A11 to the next roundabout, downhill with a tailwind!

Thetford to Kings Lyn was un-memorable, though I now know to deffinitely avoid the A10 into Kings Lyn as it was very busy and narrow. Fortunately I had forseen this and planned the route to take a more scenic route into the town. It was busy with rush-hour traffic and I enjoyed blowing away several cycle commuters before stopping for a Subway outside the station (tucking half into my bag for later).

KL

The route around the coast was again very pleasant, including a stop at Wells to eat the other half of my Subway.

Hunstanton Wells

I enjoyed the final run into Plumstead through dark lanes apart from the hordes of bugs that would occasionally attack me!

In the end, I though my moving average was excellent considering the stiff wind. I’m surprised I stopped for 2.5 hours in total. It didn’t feel like that, as I’d been careful not to let any stop drag on and I only really had four sit down stops, which I’m sure were all 15 minutes, apart from the McDonalds. Maybe I should set an alarm, but that might make the ride more of a “mission” than necessary.