Archive for the ‘ Audax ’ Category

Plumstead – Holkham Raid via Strada Bianchi

An energetic morning ride to Holkham Hall.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2220889646

It started out fairly cold and I was glad for full length gloves. The first half of the ride was into a mild headwind, but I had chosen small roads, so I had alot of shelter.

As well as the visit to Holkham Hall, I had spotted some Norfolkian strada bianchi on Google streetview and thought it’d be interesting to give it a ride.

The strada bianchi was a little muddy and potholed, but easily passable. It would have been better in summer and could be tricky if there had been more rain. There was an interesting climb, where the gravel seemed really slippery and I was struggling for traction despite the hill being only 5% or so.

Holkham Hall was several miles of good quality traffic free roads with quite a few other cyclists and runners out and about.

The coast road back towards Sheringham was quite busy, but I had a lovely tailwind all the way. A highlight was blowing away two competent looking cyclist on fixies on a hill out of Moreston Quay.

The climb up from the coast was very satisfying, as was being able to see familiar landmarks from miles off in the more rolling country near Plumstead.

I’m tarting to enjoy 70km rides very much. They’re a good challenge, but missing out the final 30k of a 100 where I always end up getting bored!

Parting shot of the Wells – Walsingham miniature railway.

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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.

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!

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.

Audax 2016 – 400k – Naseby & North Norfolk

 

After the 600k ordeal, I though I’d keep up the SR challenge with my longest solo ride to date. I stuck to fairly familiar ground with a route to Norwich via the fens: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1283758359.

I was pleased with my overall and moving average. At this pace, the 600 would have been a much more reasonable 30 hours, leaving 10 hours to sleep! However, it was definitely a ride of parts. The first 100k or so went well and I was on my normal 100k Audax pace! Then I seemed to hit a cliff and the next 100k was a real struggle, I even walked up a hill before Daventry! From about Oakham onwards, at 200k, things went better and I was able to keep a very  constant pace for the rest of the ride. I’m not sure why it went this way. Perhaps a combination of excessive speed early on (though it didn’t feel like it), then a headwind and choppy hills. I turned into a small tailwind at Oakham and thing flattened out, at least into climbs I could do in the middle ring and descents where I didn’t have to use my brakes.

I hadn’t realised Silverstone was less than a 100k from home, so though the masses of pimped up cars passing me was some local show, but then I hit a couple of roundabouts and there is was:

Silverstone

You can just see the huge traffic jam on the other side of the road going into the circuit.

Around Daventry, when I was feeling at my lowest, I was caught and passed by a cycle club. I tried to hang onto their wheels for a little, but I had no hope and they disappeared up the road. About 15 minutes later, I spied them in my mirror again and the same thing happened. This went on for ages with me passing them while they were stopped at shops or taking other routes. Finally, at Naseby, they were all parked outside a village shop and I was running low on water, so I decided to stop as well. We got chatting and they were impressed with my distance, but I was still amazed by their speed over their 150k club run.

Cycle club

Very soon after this, I had a nice break at the Cromwell monument, bag one more Cycle Quest answer!

Naseby

The area around Naseby was very picturesque, but I was really struggling with the hills and rutted roads. This estate road made me feel like I was on a welsh mountain (though not from the gradient).

Sheep

The ride through the Fens was hard, but decently quick, culminating in my second McDonalds at Long Sutton, the site of me and Dave hiding from the rain.

McDonalds

I still really rate McDonalds for Audaxes. There are lots of them, the service is quick, food is high calorie (if not super wholesome) and you can see your bike from inside. Also, I’ve always found the staff to be really friendly.

The North Norfolk coast was predictably pleasant, with some stunning sunset views (in the first of these, over the Wash from Hunstanton, you can just make out the giant wind farm):

The Wash

Sunset

On a small side road, where I stopped for a “break” on the way to Hunstanton, I found some semi-wild chickens, including this fine fellow:

Rooster

There’s not much I’d change with the route or timings. I managed to have quiet roads for most of the ride (not Silverstone), leaving the house at 4am and getting far out into the countryside by the time everyone had woken up. Also, I was tired getting in at midnight, but not in a state of complete collapse as if I’d had to go through the night. Seeing how wide the A17 was, I would also be tempted to follow it further to Kings Lyn as it’d save a few km.

I now get to add a new line to my speed analysis graph:

Audax speed analysis 201608

Audax Speed Analysis

I though I’d do some analysis of how I gain and lose time through an Audax event against the minimum speed (15kph) target.

After tinkering with spreadsheets for a while, I came up with the unit: minutes in hand per km travelled. So a value of 1 after 100km would mean I had 100 minutes in hand, so 1hr 40.

This is useful measure than simply time in hand, because, if I keep a consistent average speed, the line on a graph will be flat the further I go, whereas time in hand would keep increasing.

So here are the plots for all the audaxes I’ve done 300k or over:

Audax speed analysis

I’m not sure what it means, other than how essential it is to build time in hand early on, when you’re quicker as you’re not going to be able to do much later. This is clearly something we suffered from on our failed Wales adventure. We actually lost time more slowly after 200k than the Skegness ride, but had somehow failed to build much of a buffer early on through the fairly benign terrain of Oxfordshire with a tailwind.