Archive for the ‘ Audax ’ Category

Audax 2014 – 200k – Oxford countryside cyclequest

I’m trying to ramp up my Audaxing earlier this year and get some longer distances in before full summer. So, off on a 200km specially designed to avoid country lanes and taking in 3 British Cycle Quest locations.

It was very much a ride of two halves (though not that obvious from the speed graph):

The first 100k or so, I had a nice tailwind and no problems. As you can guess, the second half was straight into the wind and I suffered saddle sores and dehydration!

The water problems were strange. I didn’t feel particularly thirsty for the first half and only drank about a quarter of a bottle of water, then the thirst hit me and I got through the rest of that bottle and the whole of the 1 litre bottle in about 40km. It was the point where I was dreaming of having a cold coke that I passed a petrol station and decided I had to go back to stock up. Good job I did as I drank all the bottle of coke and another bottle of water I bought and still ended up feeling rather thirsty by the time I got home. Must ave been the headwind and heat of the afternoon.

The Cycle Quest took me to some rather nice locations:

Streatley golf course, where, unfortunately, I couldn’t find the answer to the clue and no one there seemed to know anything about signs in the car park.

Streatley golf course

Then Great Coxwell tithe barn:

Great Coxwell

and finally, the monument outside Fawley (as well as some curious horses)

Fawley monument

Fawley horses

If I say so myself, the route was excellent with very few bad roads aside from excessive traffic between Aldershot and the A33 in both directions. The sections that particularly stood out for me were the A417 from Streatley and the A338 to Great Shefford. Both sections were wide, smooth, pretty much deserted and had brilliant scenery. The only problems were a couple of closed bridges that required diversions. The first a daring sprint along the A33 dual carriageway and the second more A4 time trialling. I don’t usually mind dual carriageway riding, but the speeds seemed very high on the A33 and I was glad to get off it despite having a small hard shoulder to ride on. On the return route I though I’d try the same bridge again, hoping that the work had been finished. They hadn’t and I was annoyed that diversion signs only appeared about 100 yards from the bridge. However, I saw some cyclists coming the other way and clambering across, so I thought I’d give it a go. I made it, after much lifting the (rather heavy) bike over railings and pushing it over mounds of rubble with a couple of nettle stings for my trouble.

At this point, about 30km from home, with saddle sores and facing heavy traffic into a headwind I was feeling quite low. However, I got a break and was caught by a roadie at the start of the B3011 near Wellington Country Park. I managed to take his wheel reasonably easily and had a good pull over 10km at a pretty good pace.

Saddle sores are still frustrating me, but with the new saddle etc, they are now in a more manageable place, bang under my sit bones. Hopefully, a slightly thicker short pad will help solve this. I was particularly happy being able to sit on the TT bars for a good 10 minute stretch 160k into the ride.

Still much work to be done before I can think of big distances.

Faithful steed


Audax 2014 – April – Raptobike Attack

The Raptobike has finally been blooded on an Audax distance. I didn’t want to go insane, so a “mere” 100km route.

The speed wasn’t bad, though a touch off what I’ve managed on the race bike. The moving speed is probably the most realistic reflection of the pace because I had a couple of stops that weren’t necessary last time. First was to adjust clothing after a cold start, the second was to take pictures. While the average was similar to previous rides, I did have the satisfaction of burning up about 5 roadies on flat and rolling sections. They would initially try to chase, but would inevitably dwindle to nothing in my mirror. I only caught one up hill, but no one ever caught me, so it can’t have been bad. There were a few hills reaching 15% gradient, which I managed to handle ok.

Putenham Rapto Rapto Putenham 2

My lack of recumbent legs is showing, in that I’ve been crippled for the remainder of the day. Also while the bent was fine for the majority of the ride, there were two weaknesses. A couple of road crossings, I only felt safe getting off and walking across. This was partly because I couldn’t stick my head out the front, like a normal bike to look round the corner and partly because uphill starts are still tricky if not impossible on a slippy surface due to the front wheel drive.

Even in a low gear on greasy tarmac, my initial plant on the pedal caused wheel slip, which meant I lost my speed and had to put my foot down. The front wheel drive didn’t seem to be a problem when actually in motion as as mentioned earlier handled 15% hills. I think it might be a problem if things got much steeper, but then I think my legs couldn’t take anything above 20%.

All in all though a fun ride, hopefully my knees will work again tomorrow!


First Audax of 2014

I was originally going to kick off 2014 with a 200km ride to celebrate not having a cold any longer, but I decided to truncate it to a 150km to better fit around family.

The route was pretty much a straight shot from Aldershot to Bristol, exploring a few more of the roads north of the M4.

This was the first proper test of the Lynskey Sportive Disc (LSD), here posing while I ate lunch.

Sportive Disc

I still don’t like the height of the rear rack (who needs 6″ clearance from the wheel), but it was the only light one I could find that would also mount a light, which is essential because my rack top bag prevents me from using a seatpost mounted one.

I was a little disappointed by the total and moving average (not as good as my 300km last year!), given I had a mild tailwind all the way. The total average wasn’t helped by getting a puncture at 1/3 distance when I didn’t really gain anything by stopping, then having to stop about 4-5 times to put on and take off my rain jacket. The moving average I don’t think was helped by my foolish use of too many country lanes, many in a terrible condition (which also contributed to the puncture I think). The roads between the M3 and Overton, Whitchurch and the A4 and Broad Hinton to the M4 were particularly lousy. However, the section between Marlborough and Broad Hinton was particularly scenic and a pretty good surface. Also, Chipping Sodbury and Yate provided rather welcome cycle lanes and smooth roads. More A4 next time!

By the time I got to Chipping Sodbury, the weather had degenerated to 3 degrees and heavy sleet, a good test of my wet weather set-up. This came through with flying colours: Sealskinz gloves and socks, Specialized rain jacket and Gore “Windstopper Softshell” bib tights.

The bike / Rivet Diablo / Thudbuster  definitely absorbed the bumps better than the Sirrus, but I still had a little saddle soreness, partly from the non-integral  seatpad (old) and perhaps the saddle angle (I had a go on my mum’s bike with no soreness, but getting back on mine the next day was not so pleasant). Still some work to be done.

One thing that was a massive improvement with the LSD was the brakes (which was why I got it). I no longer had to fear building up any speed in the wet, because I could be confident I could actually slow the thing down. I also didn’t end up with aching hands at the bottom of every ugly descent. Disc brakes, yes.

Rivet Diablo vs Brooks Swift comparison

Six months ago, I decided to take the plunge and buy a Brooks, given their reputation for being good over long distances.

I decided to get a Swift. The B17 was recommended for a more upright position, which left the Team Pro, Swift and Swallow. The Swallow seemed too expensive. I contacted Brooks to ask the difference between the other two and they told me that the Swift was preferable for lighter people, so that’s what I got.

Having ridden the Swift for > 500 miles, I still wasn’t getting on with it, though I did like the leather feel. My legs would cramp rides, my buttocks would ache (possibly leading to the cramps) and I had a pain down the side of my leg. I tried many different heights, angles etc, with similar results. For the sake of experiment, I borrowed a friends B17. I found it very comfortable, but too wide for me. I think my thighs would have been chafed over a longer distance by the leather sides flaring out under my weight. With this in mind, I had a look round for something a similar shape to the B17, but narrower.  On the way, I found someone with the same mission as me:

The shortlist became:

  • Brooks Swallow – still too expensive
  • Selle Anatomica – sounded like it would have the same problems as the B17
  • B17 Narrow – score on the narrow front, but I think the flanges on the sides would still squish outwards into my thighs, at least when it got worn
  • Rivet Diablo – similar looking to the Sallow, but cheaper

I liked the Rivet website, because it went from first principles about what saddle to select, unlike some British manufacturers who’s product descriptions are all about how nice they look! I measured my sit bones (which I should have done much sooner and they came out to 110mm, which should have been fine for all the saddles I’ve owned, but would explain the B17 being too wide. Having had trouble with the Brooks, I found the importer of Rivet’s to the UK and asked if I could borrow one. The nice people at Carradice let me have a demo Diablo for 3 weeks, which let me give it a thorough test, including a 100k ride and 200+ miles of commuting. I really liked it and will hopefully be getting one for Christmas :-).

Comparing the saddles, I think I can see why I didn’t get on with the Swift. Diablo is white (not my choice), Swift is black. Remember that the Rivet is a demo model so has a few wear marks, apparently the latest model is also 2cm shorter.

WP_000955 WP_000956 WP_000957

What’s difficult to see from these pictures are the contours of the saddles. To do this, I cut some strips about as wide as my sit bones and wrapped them onto the contours, with the following results.

WP_000960 WP_000962 WP_000966 WP_000967WP_000961 WP_000965

You can see that there is quite a large flat area on the Diablo where my sit bones could rest, then a quick drop off. The Swift starts curving down from a tiny flat area at the back, so that either I had my buttocks on the rivets or I had my sit bones significantly lower than the middle, which I don’t like as my perineum is a little sensitive. This would explain why I always seemed to prefer sitting at the back of the Swift. The top of the Swift also has a significant curve to it, which either exacerbated my perineum trouble if tilted back, or pushed into my buttocks when tilted forwards.

Perhaps with slightly narrower sit bones (or even some suspension), the Brooks would come into it’s own. I do enjoy the freedom my legs have on the Swift and I can’t imagine I’d get any sores in the area where it drops off. The narrower nose of the Swift could be an advantage as well, but I quite like sitting on the TT bars, where a slightly broader nose is nice.

Only time will tell if the Diablo works of 200k+ rides, but initial results are good for commuting and 100km, which bodes well.

Audax 2013 – November – Non-stop Alresford

I almost didn’t make an Audax ride for November. But I’ve managed to squeezed one in at the last moment, mainly as an excuse to test the Rivet saddle I have on load from Carradice (see picture). I couldn’t be bothered to put a new route together, so I just re-did the 100k I’ve enjoyed the most, my trip to Alresford.

I managed the whole thing without stopping for more than a minute and made a decent average speed, despite it being cold and fairly windy.

The saddle performed well, the main thing I noticed was that the edge of the pad appeared to be on my sit bones, unless I pulled them too tight!

Rivet Diablo on bike

Next time I’ll try without a pad I think, I could have done with my “thermo” tights anyway!

Audax 2013 – October (again) – Avebury

Planning a gentle weekend ride with an old cycling friend escalated into a 200k audax to Avebury a standing stone counterpart to Stonehenge.

Cue pictures of bikes with standing stones:

Bike & stone WP_000860

We made good time and had a nice lunch at the Red Lion pub. There were some terrifying crosswinds to contend with on descents and a really strong headwind just at the halfway point before we had lunch. Fortunately Dave took the brunt of the work at this point as I was flagging. The A4 from Avebury to Marlborough was brilliant with a tailwind, I must plan it into more routes because it’s nice and wide so no traffic trouble. This is in contrast to a completely ballsed up pass by an SUV on a blind bend. I could see the traffic coming the other way so had time to brake before they swerved into the space I had been occupying very narrowly missing Dave’s back wheel. They then failed to engage gears when trying to pull away. We kept within a 100 yards for a few minutes showing the futility.

After turning off the A4, we got hit by a short but very intense shower which was like having a hose on us. By the time I stopped and got my coat out of my bag I was soaked!

Disappointingly, suffered with saddle sores despite the radical plan of taking a spare pair of shorts and going through a cycle of padded Lycra, baggy with pad then baggy without pad. So back to the drawing board on that one as none seemed particularly preferable. My right hand also suffered a little with numbness and soreness between thumb and forefinger. I noticed however that the hood is in a slightly different position from the left hand so that could well be the cause. I also suffered psychologically because of an incredibly rattly bike. I checked over the rack bolts on the road and nothing seemed loose, but I reckon I was scaring livestock on some country lanes.

Passed out in the evening and had a long lie in, so these things are clearly still not a breeze. Much easier than my first 200 though.

Audax 2013 – October – Silchester plus

Decided to try to complete my October Audax early while the weather was still nice.

I visited Slichester again, though using more back roads:

The speed was good, though I didn’t feel I stopped that long for lunch, but it eat up 20 minutes! Depressingly, looking back at my February ride over a similar route, I’ve gained 0.1mph after 8-9 months of commuting 100 miles a week! Oh well, at least it saves petrol. I pushed quite hard and my legs are now shattered, so it’s not for lack of effort.

This was also the first long ride for the Brooks (well, at least when not set way too low)

WP_000551 WP_000550


I think it might have been marginally more comfortable than the regular saddle in terms of friction, but was very hard. Not a disaster, but it’ll need more tweaking and I’ll experiment with the old saddle as well.

WP_000552The old saddle was a Selle Italia Prolink.


Audax 2013 – September – Alresford quest

You may notice the lack of any August Audax. It would have been nice to have the complete set, but several holidays with the children intervened and I didn’t want to mess up plans with half days away. Perhaps I’ll do two this month to make up for it…

I embarked on the CTC Cyclequest several years ago and figured that my various Audax rides would be a good way to knock off the clues. The target for this ride was Alresford in Hampshire. I think that makes it about 10 out of 402, this could take time!

The route incorporated some of the Stonehenge 200 as I remember that this took us through alot of nice scenery and seemed to avoid horrifically bumpy lanes that were the bane of my previous ride. The route was indeed excellent, but I’m surprised I didn’t go faster as I felt good all the way round and didn’t have to resort to crawl mode and the elevation gain wasn’t as much as many of the rides I’ve done.

I did indeed make it to Alresford, found the answer (SPOILER ALERT: if you cheat and take the answer from here, you’ll never be able to live with yourself):

CQ Alresford

and got a nice picture of “Black 5” (you learn something from train obsessed children):


Audax 2013 – July – Lumpy South Down Raid

This was the most problematic 100k I’ve done this year.

I tried some “in ear” running headphones, but they were a big disappointment. While they entirely blocked out traffic noise, they seemed to let in wind noise so I still couldn’t hear radio and was oblivious to cars behind me (or round the next corner). I ditched them after 15 minutes feeling they were abit dangerous. Back to normal cheap ones as I can still hear plenty of the traffic and get enough of the radio.

The route was lumpy on the macro and the micro scale. While I didn’t mind the hills, the fact that the road surfaces were generally in a terrible state made any descending a misery as I usually had to have the brake jammed on and got a bruised hand from banging through potholes. It didn’t help that many of these descents were twisty and so shadowed by trees that I really could have done with my light! I seem to have ignored my own “don’t use country lanes apart from for a break” mantra. It also didn’t help that about 1km of my route on the South Downs was unpaved. You can see a bunch of 2.5mph walking in the middle of the speed graph.

I had forgotten to fully charge up my GPS (or backup battery) for the ride, so about 60km in it started to tell me that the battery was low. This was bad a) because I might not get the ride validated and b) because I’d be lost somewhere in Hampshire! Fortunately it hung on until I got to some bits that were easy to navigate and I could switch it off for a while between controls. This does mean that the stats don’t reflect the ridiculous amount of climbing that went on.

On the plus side, I did get to see the sea and the Isle of White:

The sea from downs

and, having not eaten any lunch beforehand, I got to eat a smoky sausage on top of Butser hill

Cycling Sausage

In conclusion, I won’t be doing that route again, or using those headphones, but I will be taking a backup battery & sausage!



Audax 2013 – June – The long one

As part of my Randonneur 1000, I had to complete a 300km ride, which is substantially further than I’ve ever been in a day before (200km, which hurt alot). After 6 months of decent cycle commuting, I thought it was now or never!

And I made it! I had decided on a fairly flat route, so as not to shock the legs too much and had a mild tailwind to ease my passage. You can see from the log: that I managed very good moving average (for me), but stopped rather alot. Mostly this was down to the saddle rubbing, which I am currently trying to remedy with  a Brooks (more to come on that).

I stopped for longer than strictly necessary with my brother in law and his wife (I’m not sure if that makes her my sister in law?), but I was supplied with excellent home made pesto!

Most of the route was good, with little traffic, apart from around Huntingdon. It started misty, turned drizzly, but cleared up in the afternoon, which let me capture this nice scene of the fens:

The fens

The fens

and my Audax setup:

300k setup

300k setup

Something that worked well (that you can just see in a plastic bag strapped to my TT bars) was an external battery for my Garmin GPS. I plugged it in somewhere around 150km and left it. It still had some charge left by the end. When it was plugged in the Garmin’s backlight was on, so taking far more power. I think with judicial use, I could have charged the GPS 3-4 times, which would potentially be more than 40 hours!

Back to some shorter rides now…