Archive for March, 2008

No. 3 – Stevenage – 115 Km (117 with the detour).

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

I didn’t blog much – as there wasn’t much activity. I wasn’t too well during the four day Easter break and I spent my time (mostly) sleeping. The only significant development in between my last ride and now was the receipt of a brand new wheel with a SON dynohub built into it. That was very exciting, but of little use without the light… A few days later I also received the light, the Busch and Muller IQ Fly Senso Plus light, which is reviewed here.

The light is so bright it can easily blind you if you look at it directly, and it illuminates a dark road nearly as good as a car light would do. I am no longer afraid to go on a long ride and get lost in the dark, as nearly happened to me on my last ride.

115Km is quite a distance for me, and I tried to prepare as well as I could. Unfortunately, the BBC weather forecast wasn’t very accurate, and the ‘promised’ showers never materialised. Moreover, not a single drop of rain fell! Within few Km of the start I found myself sweating profusely and I realised I must get ONE of my layers off. The choice was obvious, and I took the sweater off. The problem was that it was bulky and would not fit into any of the compartments that I have on the bike. So I had to improvise, and I happened to have a large number of Velcro pieces. I tied them together, wrapped around the garment and attach the bundle between the two front tubes. I was very pleased with the result, as it did not obstruct my leg movement and it was very secure.

Other than that, the ride was quite good. The weather was, actually, glorious, and I made good progress. I lost my way just once, as a ‘sign posted’ left turn was NOT, in fact, signposted. Luckily, the road ahead became cul-de-sac after just one km, so I could not get lost for too long…

So here is where I went:

the first half (ignore the A and B direction – they were, of course, reversed…)

the second half

The whole thing was well organised, and there were people in the three ‘controls’ on the way, rather than the ‘question type’ control I got used to. I think I was drinking too little water, which I must remember to rectify in my next rides.

That ride was the very first one were I NEARLY got cramps in my legs. The signs were unmistakable, and the protesting muscle was between my legs (not one that I thought was working too hard, but it obviously worked harder that it was used to!). At the end I finished without a problem, had a cold and refreshing diet coke and a bit of a rest and headed home.

My average speed was just 18.5km/hour or thereabout, and I really don’t see how I can ride longer distances when I manage only that speed. It is well within the limits of the AUDAX rules, but a quick calculation shows that for the ‘standard’ 200 km I will be on the road for nearly 12 hours. Gee – that’s a lot of time to be on a saddle… I am hoping (and planning) to get fitter, so perhaps the devil will not look so intimidating.

I remember how apprehensive I was before my first 50 miles ride (London to Brighton), which I managed to finish without any difficulty at all, but I don’t think that the difficulty is ‘linear’, so we’ll see.

I prepared a ‘check list’ for my next rides and I hope that the preparations will not be so time consuming. Next week it is just a Barnet meeting (TUAG – Turn Up And Go), which is really sedate in comparison, and then another AUDAX. This time it’s quite a journey away from home, to a place just after Oxford. Here is the description from the AUDAX web site:

The Harlequin Hack

Northmoor 108 km

A modest excursion into the Cotswold hills followed by a gentle wander through the watery lanes of the upper Thames, the Evenlode and the Windrush.

There is also a 600m climb included for good measure. I am not sure, but i think after today that this is probably quite a lot 🙁

On the plus side, maybe I’ll visit Shani while I am at it???

The certificate:

No. 2 – The second audax ride and the future of light

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I celebrated my second cycling event with audax in style – I got lost three times… The starting point was the aptly named Ugley (at least as far as the weather was concerned). The ‘bungalow’ was nice, warm and friendly, and I came well prepared for the cold and dump weather. Still, the wind was pretty fierce at times and I was working hard to make any progress. I did the (official) 106 Km in about 7 hours. In reality though I probably covered about 120. I don’t know exactly how far I went as I did not have a cycle computer (received one yesterday from Hong Kong – cost me about £4 and can even tell the temperature…). Luckily, I also took the Nuvi GPS with me, and it was invaluable when lost for the first two occasions. The third time, unfortunately, it run out of batteries so I could just look at it and despair.

Although just my second ride, I notice that the ‘cue sheet’ which tells me how to ride (where) is not always accurate – to put it mildly. So about 5 Km from the end, when the sun is clearly wary of keeping up appearances and is about to say goodbye for the naught I was supposed to turn left at the top of the hill to a place called … something. Anyway, I am there (top of the hill), the left turn is obviously there – but no sign whatsoever. Well, my only explanation was that there MUST be another top of the hill somewhere further down (up) the road and I am still to find it. Only after a steep descent it became clear that, in all likelihood, it WAS the right turn. Well, having already covered 110 Km in far from pleasant conditions I was not in the mood to climb back up just to get back on the track. I figured I’ll find my way back. Finally – I did, but I was much more lucky than clever. The moral is to use the GPS ONLY when needed (and not as a distance measuring device) and to activate it ONLY for guidance. Of course – i could take a map too – but maps are for wimps.

Having finished the course with about 15 minutes to spare from the official deadline, I was warmly congratulated by the organisers. I took special pride in finishing this one, as I have seen many riders during the mid-way break telling the organiser that they had enough and they are going to call it a day. I decided that I will keep going regardless of the spreading iciness feeling in my right foot. I put on my overshoes and departed swiftly.

Having experienced a mild panic attack when I lost my way so near the darkness time I have made even greater efforts to get myself decent lights. I decided that I will go for the best, which usually is the most expensive – but not always. I decided to get a new front wheel built with a dynohub. This marvel of technology is a far cry from the ‘bottle’ dynamo I used as a youngster which was quite pathetic – in many ways. The dynohub generates 3W of electricity with any noticeable drag. With the new light technology I am informed that I can get very bright lights indeed. Bright enough to allow me to cycle alone on a remote country side B road with total confidence. So I went for SON see here for some comparison in this article. I then decided to but a new LED system called Busch and Muller IQ Fly Senso Plus light which is described in detail here. Should arrive within few days. Finally, I decided to reduce as much as possible the chances of getting a puncture, and I bout a couple of Marathon Plus tyres reviewed here. So now I really should not need to worry about this messy thing of puncture mending in the middle of the road!

It’s late and I am getting tired. The wind sounds very strong outside and I wonder if I would use the bike tomorrow. We’ll see.

The certificate: