Posts Tagged ‘Audax’

BobMMM (1)

The obligatory post cake selfie

There are days when there is nothing better than leaping out of bed ready to take on a lovely ride in the spring sunshine on Gracie the trike. Today was not one of those days. I was feeling tired and lethargic and I wanted to stay in bed. If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d lured Keith to come on the ride with promises of eating his body weight in cake I would have probably stayed in bed for another few hours.

I met Keith in the car park of the leisure centre where we signed on, chatted to all and sundry and indulged in some preliminary cake eating. Keith seemed happy that the early cake quota on this ride had exceeded his expectations.

We left the car park at the head of the pack and instantly found the first obstacle. Men in fluorescent jackets had been busy closing one of the roads in town by erecting all kinds of barriers and signs. The road we had been instructed to take on the route sheet was very closed to traffic, luckily it was not closed to pedestrians. If we were being law abiding citizens, we would have taken the diversion or pushed our bikes along the pavement. It was, however, early on a Sunday morning so we took the most obvious course of action.

Once we were reunited with ridable road we bowled along at a nice rate chatting about the trivia of life. I slowly became aware that we were way out in front. There was no one coming up behind us. This was strange. I’m much more used to people flying by me at this stage as the fast-paced ones disappear up the road never to be seen again. It doesn’t matter how much I like to kid myself that I’m in that group, I’m not and when riding Gracie I never will be. I was certain that someone would come past when the road went vaguely upwards. The extra weight of a Trike and my inability to go up hills almost assures this. It didn’t happen; I was starting to get suspicious now. I wondered if I’d printed of the correct route sheet or maybe I’d missed an instruction. I even wondered if the rest of the field had been wiped out by a stray asteroid.

Reality intruded on my revelry, the left side of Gracie started to feel a bit soggy. I tried to ignore it but it was followed by a little metallic bumpiness. I slowed and someone behind me told me I had a puncture. The tyres on Gracie are quite a tight fit, I bought them for the colour, everything else was a minor consideration. Keith and I spent a strenuous five minutes of so deploying the full range of tools and swear words to prise the tyre from the rim. If we’d had grappling hooks and crowbars we would have used time. Everybody came past us as we cursed and swore. At least that confirmed we were on the right route. Eventually we won the fight and got Gracie reinflated but that didn’t stop me fretting quietly that the tyre was going down, I’m never that confident with my puncture repairs, I’ve had far too many failures.

BobMMM (3)

Eating cake to the memory of Bob

We could have tried to catch up with everybody or we could have continued at a leisurely pace admiring the spring scenery as we passed though the countryside. It was too nice a day to rush so we took the easy and more enjoyable option. Had the pubs been open we would have been very tempted for a spot of refreshment. We passed some very nice looking (but closed) pubs.

I’ve often wondered if two people on two wheels is faster than one person on three wheels, today the answer was trike overtakes tandem. This is a useful bit of knowledge for when I’m playing cycle top trumps.

Somewhere outside of Ditchling Keith started to smell the cake and slowly speeded up. I watched as he slowly got smaller. I wasn’t going to chase him, there would have been no point. I guess that a couple of hours riding alongside a Trike can make someone a little stir crazy. I caught him up at the cemetery that was acting as a control. This was the whole point of the ride, to visit Bob. We ate some cake to his memory.

BobMMM (2)

Bikes hiding behind a hedge so the South Downs don’t see them

Keith confessed that he had never been up the Beacon and as we were crossing the bottom of it, it seemed rude not to. I had no intention of taking Gracie up there; it was not something we relish. Luckily there was a group of Rovers who were going up so he would be in good company. I said I would ride slowly so he would catch me up somewhere on the way back.

I spent the rest of the ride spinning gently through the countryside in a world of my own making waiting for Keith to affect the catch, just like the sprinters teams do to the lone breakaway in the Tour de France. The closer I got to the finish the more convinced I became that Keith and the Rovers were bearing down on me. I was being the plucky breakaway rider soloing home and they were the big teams hunting from another victory. They never caught me and I got the pick of the cake.

In hindsight, I’m glad I got up this morning, even if my only motivation was to not let a mate down

Man of Kent 200

Posted: March 26, 2017 in Audax, Cycling
Tags: , , , ,
ManofKent (2)

In an ordinary suburban street…

I really didn’t feel like doing this ride. I woke up but failed to get out of bed. I prayed it was raining to give me a legitimate excuse to stay in bed but the prayers didn’t help. Eventually I dragged myself into an upright position and went through the motions. If I hadn’t prepared everything last night I probably would have stayed in bed. The object of my lethargy was the Man of Kent 200 a one hundred and twenty five mile Audax ride around Kent. Last time I’d done this ride on Gracie the Trike but Gracie had been visited by the puncture fairy so I had decided to do this one on two wheels instead. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a long ride on two wheels. It should make a refreshing difference.

I met up with Mark at the start; Mark and I are veterans of many an Audax ride and more importantly we ride at about the same pace. We often put the world back in to shape whilst meandering down country lanes.

The first and longest section of the ride took us from the village hall to a vicarage for breakfast. I would like to think that the ease of the ride was due to my extensive winter training regime but I suspect that it was a lot more to do with the howling tail wind. It pushed us eastward with ease but we knew in the back of our minds that we would be battling it later. There was only one hill of any significance but the wind assisted climb seemed much easier on two wheels than three. After the climb was a long wind assisted descent to the first stop. This is how I always think cycling should be; moving at speed with the minimum of effort.

ManofKent (3)

My bike was at the bottom

The vicarage didn’t disappoint. A bacon sandwich was slapped into my had the moment I walked into the garden. I like that sort of service. The bacon was followed by a croissant and a chocolate biscuit just to make sure that I had all the major food groups covered.

The next section was still with the wind and this made life easy. We made our way quickly to a cup of tea and a large chocolate brownie in a garden centre café. We all knew that this was the end of the eastward journey, things were about to get a lot harder.

ManofKent (4)

Quality carbohydrates

The wind hit us about a mile from the garden centre. Things went from lovely to very Dutch in a matter of minutes. Now was not the time to be cycling alone and struggling with the wind. Now was the time to be in a group, to hang on to a back wheel and take shelter, and to do your fair share on the front battling against then elements. Mark and I teamed up with one other and we battled the wind with grim determination and bloody mindedness. There was no chat, no batter, just gritted teeth and a constant fight. We came to a junction and the other guy dropped off the back, he apologised saying that he couldn’t keep with the pace. This made me feel a little smug and then guilty at feeling smug.

There was a long descent along a beautiful valley near the end of the section; I assume it was a descent because the road tipped downwards. The wind counteracted any advantage here. I assume it was beautiful as one of the other riders told me it was, in the summer, when there is no wind. Today however, I didn’t see much apart from Mark’s back wheel or the road ahead viewed through squinted eyes.

ManofKent (7)

More quality cardohydrates

The next stop was in a station café, out of the wind and surrounded by the comforting smells of mediocre café food. We did wonder whether the small steam trains would take us back to the HQ but apparently the tracks didn’t go in that direction and it would probably be cheating. At least we felt like we had broken the back of this ride and were heading for the finish.

The route changed direction and the effect of the wind lessened. This was a blessed relief after the battle of the last few hours. We trundled along easily to the penultimate check point. Here we joined forces with another group. We were the youngsters in the pack the other four were in their late 60’s and early 70’s. This didn’t diminish their ability to stay on the pace. As we got closer to the HQ the pace increased. It was probably the smell of the tea and the aroma of peaches in ride pudding that did it. As we hit the final stretch it became an out and out race. There was no way that I could have been accused of letting the 67 year old win, he did it all by himself. It was a good sprint to the finish with neither of us giving any quarter.

ManofKent (8)

It wasn’t going our way

Invicta Hilly

Gracie waiting whilst I fill myself with tea

Gracie was being a little petulant today and refused to get out of the car without a struggle. I should have realised that this was a bad sign but as usual I carried on regardless. We had driven here to take part in the Invicta Hilly, the smaller version of the Invicta Grimpeur, The first long ride that Gracie and I did together. The big version consists of two loops, one clockwise and one anti clockwise. The hilly is just one anti clockwise loop. There was a lot of climbing and I remember from last time that it got quite painful by the end. The smaller version was definitely the one for me today.

It all started well, the Hilly participants were waved off at the allotted time and I made my way out the gates near the front of the pack. I was under no illusions that I would be the fastest round. That will never happen with an extra wheel on a hilly route. I was surprised how long it took for the first few to come past. I was well into the first climb before it happened. This made me happy as it suggested that the minimal amount of winter training had paid off.

The first control came at the top of Yorks Hill. I sat there for a while and contemplated the first descent. Descending on a Trike is a stressful experience at the best of times and Yorks Hill is steep and evil. The road surface was rutted and covered in mud. I decided that a screaming plummeting descent was out of the question and went for the timid cautious approach instead. It still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I got to the bottom shaken and stirred but mainly happy to be alive.

I caught up with a group of riders in front and followed them to the foot of the next hill. It turned out that I went to school with one of them. I didn’t recognise him at all but apparently I was still the same, something that I doubt. Catching up and chatting took the sting out of the next hill, we even passed someone who was attempting the ride on a Moulton.

We reached the top of the next descent. This was a lot more benign than the last one. It was on a wide road with a good surface and no bends. This was a good road to drop down with childish glee. I assumed the position and let the plummet commence. Then the wobbles started. Little wobbles at first but rapidly escalating into violet throwing off the Trike type wobbles. The whole of the front of the trike was vibrating wildly. I tried pulling hard on the brakes but that only made the whole thing worse. I started fearing becoming part of the road surface in a sudden and violent way. I brought Gracie back into the fold with a combination of brute force and intermittent braking. I pulled into a layby and cursed loudly. I’d been on the margin between upright and road surface; that is quite frightening.

Climbing the next hill I noticed that the quick release on the front wheel had come loose. I’ve no idea if the wobble had caused it or it had caused the wobble but I was willing to bet that it hadn’t helped the situation. Maybe that was why Gracie was being so petulant this morning. She was obviously offended that I’d not given her the attention she deserved.

www-4

Gracie, waiting outside whilst I filled myself with tea and biscuits

I’ve done this ride many times and it is always cold. Today was no different. The weather forecast wasn’t too promising either, with the prospect of snow later. I used my usual rule of if it’s not raining when I start I’ll do the ride. I’d chosen to do the ride on Gracie the Trike for a number of reasons, chief amoungst them being stability and the ability to carry a lot of spare clothing. I felt that I may be in need of extra layers as the day wore on.

The start was the usual mix of familiar faces, cups of tea and catching up with the news in the small world of Audax. I met mark in the HQ and as is usual we started the ride together. Again we were the epitome of Audax cyclists: one of us on a fixed with mud guards and panniers and the other on a tricycle, chatting our way round a ride and putting the world to rights.

At various points on the first leg we tangled with a sportive that was also running on our lanes. Sometimes they were cycling with us and sometimes they were on the other side of the road. Gracie managed to raise a smile from a lot of them. On one corner curiosity got the better of me an d I asked one of the riders which sportive and what route they were doing. After a little chat we felt that we had sold the benefits of Audax (mainly more cake) over Sportives with the cyclist promising to look us up on the web.

On another corner I overtook three sportive riders, they seemed to think that having an extra wheel was in some way cheating. They were very vocal about that. I almost offered them a turn on Gracie to show them that a Trike is in no way cheating. I didn’t because I think that Gracie should be paid more respect than that. She is, after all, an old lady who is still keeping up and in some cases passing the youngsters.

The original route took us up a steep hill to a control but the organisers had decided that the road was too dangerous for us to pass. They regaled us with tales of snow and slush and slippery conditions. I wasn’t too sad that I didn’t have to struggle up the hill for a tepid cup of tea and then follow it with a hair raising descent. I quite enjoyed my hot tea and cake instead.

www-2

Mark, at the first control using Gracie as a bike stand

Mark and I set off on the next section as the snow started to fall. It was very light snow that didn’t settle. At least it wasn’t rain. Rain would have made the ride miserable. The sprinkling of snow was little enough to be distracting but not annoying. The route passed along the piece of road that persuaded me that Audax was a good thing to do. It is a lovely narrow lane through trees and past a pond. Even now in the depth of winter it had a certain charm. I may have been viewing it through rose tinted spectacles though.

There seemed to be more slight ups than downs on this part of the route. I’m a lot slower going up than Mark. I can usually catch up on the downs, providing there are sufficient downs. There weren’t. Mark slowly pulled ahead until he disappeared into the distance. It became clear that I’d be finishing the ride alone.

I learnt at the last control that I wasn’t the last on the road. This raised my mood a little as I felt at times that the entire field had passed me. I was now back on familiar roads, I knew all the lumps and bumps and had mental markers all the way home. I was able to retreat into my little world and try to ignore my legs complaining about being used so much. I was so deep into my world that I almost jumped off the Trike when someone passed me with a jaunty “well done!”

Eventually I pulled into the HQ ready for my bowl of hot soup, a bread roll and almost unlimited cake. The feelings of gloom at my fitness faded fast with each mouthful of cake. I felt I’d done quite well for my first ride out of the year on Gracie.

 

Autumn Tints 100

Posted: October 13, 2016 in Audax, Cycling
Tags: , , , ,

 

I haven’t done a long bike ride for a very long time so I was looking forward to this one with a bit of trepidation. The Autumn Tints starts in Hailsham, heads out east along the coast and then makes a big loop in land via Heathfield and a few lumps to arrive back in Hailsham in time for a bite to eat. It’s one of Dave’s rides and no one ever goes hungry on a Dave ride.

 

In the few moments between getting up and leaving the house I went through the dilemma of what to wear. I’d decided that I would do todays ride on two wheel rather than three. The problem with this is that I have very little carrying capacity for all those other incidentals. After referring to multiple weather forecasts and eventually by sticking my nose out of the door I went with tights and two layers on top. It felt like it was going to be cold.

 

I got to the start in good time and stood around chatting over a cup of tea. A few asked after Gracie the trike but most of the conversation was about the last  seasons rides. I felt a little out of place having not done a long ride for a while. Dave said he would prefer a staggered start as there where a lot of cyclists today. I got away in the first group as I felt that I might be going slowly today. It wasn’t long before I was on my own and heading to the coast. I’ve done this route a few times before so there was very little need to look at the route sheet.

 

The journey across Normans Bay was as stunning as ever, I watched a few people fly kites as I whizzed past. If the wind had been blowing in the other direction it would have been perfect. I carried on into Bexhill and then Hastings where a man in a small car was pumping out reggae music to wake the sleepy town. It was all going well until I hit the first hill. I’m not built to go up hills. My only real option is to grind them out in the low gears. I fully expected a big group of cyclists to pass me but in the end only one came shooting past. No doubt the thin ones were still struggling in the wind,

 

I eventually got to the top of the hill. It was payback time, the descent. There was a time when I wouldn’t even have covered the brakes, I was immortal then. These days I’m on the lookout for cars and truck and no end of movable solid objects. I have no desire to be the filling on a car sandwich. I hit the levels at speed but the hope of speeding across the levels was dashed by the strong headwind. It felt like going uphill. I was glad to turn inland and arrive at the control.

 

The control was laden with goodies and Dave had his famous oven heating up all kinds of treats. To linger was to get fat so after a cup of tea and a few tempting titbits I headed off into the cold. My legs were starting to complain, they had not been asked to peddle for this long for quite a while.

 

The creaking started a few miles from the control. At first I thought it was the chainset, then my attention moved to the wheels. The bike started feeling a bit strange. I had developed a wobble. After mentally going through all the bits that could have come loose I realised that it was the saddle that was wobbling. I carried on to the top of a rise to fix it. It is never worth stopping at the bottom of a hill. The bolts were hanging out. A piece of deft work with a hex key soon fixed it and I was on my way.

 

I started to struggle, there were a series of long straight road that sapped the energy from my legs. My bum had started to complain as well. This is what happens when I don’t cycle for a while, everything below the waist goes soft. I persevered wilth only a mild amount of complaining. I knew what was coming next…

 

Climbing, that was what was next, lots of going up. I was in the low gears for most of it and cursing geography for all of it. The views at the top were wonderful, all the way out to the sea. I would have appreciated them more if I wasn’t a sweaty mess from struggling up the hill. From here it was a lumpy ride into Heathfield. To make it a little more urgent my bladder decided to let it be known that it was full. I was scouting for places but there were people where people shouldn’t be. I was sweating with effort and desperation by the time I got to Heathfield. The public convenience was a little old and decrepit but at that moment it was like a palace. The urgency washed away. All was right with the world.

 

I met up with a few others just outside Heathfield. This was good, I had people to chat too but, more importantly, I had people I could follow. They could drag me to the end and my legs would be grateful. I clung on the best I could even though my legs threatened to cramp. It helped that the last bit was mostly downhill. It still seemed like a long time until the end came into site with its promise of yet more hot food

Dialpost

Gracie and friends, Eager to start

A ride in February is always going to be at the mercy of the weather. The forecast was not promising but sometimes the reality is different. The forecast had mentioned rain. It wasn’t raining at the start and this was a bonus. It wasn’t freezing either. I did this ride once in sub-zero conditions and people were complaining about their water bottles freezing. Today was relatively benign by those standards.

We met up for tea and biscuits in the hall before the ride. It was a chance to catch up with a few people and see how many were doing the ride. I was told that nearly 100 had entered so there will be no lack of company out on the road. I’d come along on Grace the Trike, as I’ve not taken Gracie on this ride before. I am slowly becoming aware that more people recognise Gracie than me; it was how Mark knew I was there. Mark and I have trundled around a few Audaxs over the years, so we are used to each other company.

The start was heralded by the beeping of Garmins and Satnavs. We headed off into the lanes of West Sussex. I watched the fast boys disappear up the road and settled down to my usual pace. A few minutes later Mark had caught me up and the banter began. He was riding fixed I was riding a trike, we soon realised that we were probably the epitome of everything Audax. We should have been wearing tweeds and plus fours to round off the look.

Up ahead the lights started flashing for a level crossing, a group had stopped and another was slowing. Just before the train arrived one of their tyres burst dramatically. There was a small explosion and a cloud of dust was ejected from the tyre. Everyone at the crossing was looking suitably shocked and impressed at the same time. This started the theme of the day, passing people repairing punctures. It must have been something to do with the roads.

Mark is an engineer. He works on big machines. He has a very large tool box and an impressive collection of tools. Most of his tools have been found on the roadside. He seems to have the tool spotting gift. One moment he’ll be beside me chatting away, and then he’ll suddenly stop, saying that he’ll catch up. A few minutes later he’ll return with a big smile on his face and some sort of double handed flexi widget extractor sitting in his saddlebag. I never see tools, I have no idea how he does this.

There is one big hill on this route. It coincided with the point when the sleet started to come down. As an incentive there was a control at the very top that was rumoured to be handing out hot tea and cake. It was a reasonably steep hill but Gracie and I had tackled steeper. It was a case of slipping into a low gear and grinding a way up whilst looking enviously at the lighter riders and machines going past. I don’t relish climbing hills like some people; they are just another obstacle to overcome. I was quite happy with the yell of “chapeau!” from the lightly tanned racing whippet on his finely tuned road bike. It made me feel like a real cyclist. The hill seemed to go on for ever and manoeuvres of the odd car on this narrow road to get round the cyclists were amusing. The freezing rain and sleet however wasn’t. The sight of the control and hot drinks was a sight to behold. It was a shame that the tea was tepid.

Now we had got to the top we had to get down again. I’m not sure which is worse, descending on a fixed wheel or descending on a Trike. Either way, both machines can make life pretty uncomfortable for the rider when descending at speed down a narrow, twisty and wet road at speed. The sleet just added to the discomfort. By the time I reached the bottom I could categorically say that my gloves were not waterproof. My feet had been replaced with blocks of ice and I couldn’t feel my hands. It took a long time to get back to normal operating temperature. A least the rain and sleet stopped, this made the ride marginally more pleasant.

There was a gentle climb to the next control. I ambled up in in my usual fashion but I did notice that I was passed by one or two people who had a look of grim determination. We had reached that point in a ride where the end is almost in sight but just a little too far away. I suspect that the grim ones were thinking that if a Trike could do it so could they (this was confirmed in a conversation at the end).

From here it was plain sailing on familiar roads to the finish. Mark and I made light work of the final 15km. we knew it was nearly over and that we had plenty of time. What’s more we knew that there was a big bowl of hot soup and a mountain of cake waiting for us. This made the whole endeavour so much more pleasant.

 

HandM1

A tour of the muddy lanes of Sussex

It’s been a while since I’ve been out on Gracie the Trike. Whilst I’ve been off on my travels over Christmas she has been sitting in the shed, clean, shiny and ready for new adventures. I’ve done this ride a few times but never on Gracie, it seemed time to fix that minor oversight.

A ride in January is always going to depend on the weather, despite the rain and cold of the previous week, it was clear but cold on the day. We mentioned this a lot at the start along with views of various forecasts which claimed we were either going to be soaked or sunburnt by the end. The usual faces were among the hoard partaking of tea and goodies at the start. We exchanged pleasantries before getting started on the ride that never seems to go downhill.

I like to have my moment in the front, this is only possible near the start and on the flat before the fast ones sort themselves out and disappear up the road. I take great delight in powering Gracie past all the groups and on to the front of the pack. I like to think that it reminds two wheelers that Trikes aren’t necessarily slow. It all goes wrong on the first climb where I’m reduced to the speed of a sick snail but until that point there is always a big grin on my face.

After a while the pace settled down and I teamed up with Mark for the first section of the ride to Mayfield. At times it felt like the tour of all the mud strewn roads of Sussex. The recent rains had washed muck all over the roads. In places in was hard to tell the difference between a river and the road. It was all character building stuff but I was starting to think that I had enough character building for one day. Mark and I pressed on to the warm oasis that was the first control. It was a small café rammed full of cyclists, I pitied the small group of non-cyclists that sat in the corner. I wouldn’t have liked my quiet Saturday morning coffee interrupted by a mass of Lycra clad cyclists intent on hot drinks and cake.

Hills Mills 3

An oasis of cake and hot chocolate in Mayfield

The next section took in the Ashdown forest and as it’s centre piece, Kitts Hill, locally known as “the wall”. First of all we had to brave a photographer. He was stood at the top of a significant rise. I assume he was there so that we didn’t appear as blurs. The usual dilemma ensued, do I want a photo of me grinning like a lunatic and waving at the camera? This would give the impression that this was a frivolous ride. Alternatively I could go for the serious cyclist pose of grinding it out up the hill. In the end he got the “I’m trying to make it look like I’m not suffering pose”. At least he gave me a little push to help me on my way.

I’ve been up the wall on Gracie once before. I knew the form. Slow and steady was the only way that I can do it. Slow and steady in the lowest gear, trying to ignore the fact that everyone on two wheels was inching past me. I’d like to say that my lack of hill climbing ability is due to the extra wheel and added weight of  my machine. It’s not, I do exactly the same on two wheels. It comes down to my lack of power to get my bulk up a hill. I’d like to think that I’m more of a sprinter than a climber but I can’t sprint very well either.

I love the top of the forest. Trundling along the road, admiring the views and knowing that every route away from here is down is a fantastic feeling. This might be why I overshot the turn. I could blame it on the route being modified since the last time I rode it but in truth I was day dreaming. I careered off the forest with the combination of fear and thrill that only a tricyclist going fast downhill knows to find the reason for the route change. Another hill to struggle up. The uphill on this ride was starting to get silly. This hill came with a photographer as well, so I had to go though the whole deciding which pose to adopt dilemma again. At least he gave me a cheery “go on Trikie” as I passed.

Eventually I got back to the Café in Mayfield. The cold was warded off with a hot chocolate, a large muffin and some banter with the organisers. It seems that I’m becoming know in the local cycling circles as “the barrow man”. It’ll confuse them when I set out on two wheels again!

Hills Mills 2

Gracie waiting patiently outside the cafe whilst I stock up on muffins

The last section of the ride hit the “Sod this for a game of soldiers” point. It usually happens to me near the end when there are more miles than enthusiasm. It usually lifts when I’m within a few miles of the end, when the prospect of not cycling any further outweighs the distance I’ve already travelled. Today was no exception.

The large hot chocolate and tiffin slice in the café at the end of the ride rounded off the day nicely.

HandM3

The route NEVER went downhill