Wow … it’s been such a long time since my last post I feel like Rip Van Winkle, or somebody who’s slipped through a spacetime wormhole into the future.
I’ve done two 200 km audaxes since March. Both completed within the cut-off time, but one was very hard, and the other very easy.
The 12 March audax was hard. Nothing to do with the route as I was the weakest link. Everybody knows how important it is to eat on an all day ride in order to maintain energy; the trouble was I didn’t really feel like eating and while I forced some food down during the ride it wasn’t enough and I ran out of energy and had a very hard last 60 km, mostly in the dark. The first 80 km were completed in 3 hours and 10 mins, which may have consumed more energy than normal, leading to my subsequent difficulty. The whole ride was completed in about 11 hours 45 mins, but the last part was such a struggle I didn’t really enjoy it. It didn’t help that the end of the ride was the hilly part! Oh yeah and there was a cold rain falling for the last few km, but I was too far gone to notice it much.
The first part of the ride was lovely though. It was a beautiful route along the Avon Valley cycleway, around the “Rotten Borough” of Old Sarum, then across the edges of Salisbury Plain (NOT flat) to Pewsey where we looped back into Hampshire via Vernham Dean, Alresford, Cheriton, and back to Denmead. One of the really nice things about participating in audax events is that somebody who knows the territory has designed a lovely, fairly traffic-free route through delightful countryside, incorporating nice spots to stop for refreshments … how good is that!
I also found some problems with the set up of my Surly Long Haul Trucker … being in desperate straits I tried adopting a racing crouch to minimise wind resistance, but this didn’t really work with the high setting of the handlebars and I finished the ride with an ache between the shoulder blades (too much weight on the hands).
My second 200 km audax on 2 April was, by way of contrast, a great ride. The route started in Havant, went through delightful countryside to Hartley Wintney in North Hampshire, looped back to Stubbington on the coast, then back to Havant. The sun shone, I enjoyed my food (and had plenty of it), and we adopted the strategy of aiming to finish fairly comfortably within the cutoff time, rather than the ‘fast as possible’ strategy.
I use a Ventus G730 GPS data logger to record my routes, so I always know where I’ve been, even if I don’t always know where I’m going! The gap in the route between Havant and Marden is because I forgot to switch it on!
I also adjusted the saddle of the LHT further back and what a transformation! No more aching shoulders, and the bike felt less cramped. The high handlebars still give a good view of the scenery, which was very pretty on this audax, while allowing a bit more room to tuck out of the wind if necessary. The route was undulating rather than hilly, although the designer had managed to find a 1 in 4 gradient in the first part of the ride, which is quite something in Hampshire. Needless to say the 20″ bottom gear of the LHT made climbing the hill easy. With all the food stops, and some chatting at controls it took me 13 hours to get round, but I felt really strong at the finish and enjoyed a lovely pasta meal when I got back home.
The dividing line between completing a challenging ride and feeling good, and having a hard time is quite a fine one in 200 km cycle rides. It’s a great sense of achievement when the ride goes well; just pacing yourself to match the terrain and the distance is an interesting challenge. I’m now thinking about completing a 300 km ride in June … watch this space.
During the last few weeks I’ve also ridden a number of shorter rides of around 100 km or so, and my LHT has now completed well over 1100 km. It hasn’t really shown any initial problems. There’s an intermittent slight buzzing noise that I think must be coming from one of the front mudguard fixings. I’ll remove the mudguard now it has stopped raining so much to see if the noise disappears. I’m not very impressed by the Tektro Oryx cantilever brakes fitted as original equipment. They work no better than OK requiring a really hard squeeze on the levers. They are nowhere near as effective as the Campagnolo Chorus brakes fitted to my Principia 700 that I’ve also been using recently – these brakes are really powerful and I don’t need to slow down as a precaution in case I really need to make a quick stop. Brixton Cycles say they have a solution to the problem, so I’ll discuss it with them when I take the bike in for its first, free, service. Other than that the bike has been a pleasure to ride. It isn’t a fast bike, but it isn’t slow either; it just rolls along at a reasonably good cruising speed without too much effort required. I’m planning an extended tour on the bike when I’m expecting it to really come into its own niche application (it isn’t really an audax bike, but audax is a good way of putting it through its paces). Might be an idea to upgrade the brakes before I start running down steep hills with a heavy touring load though.