Tag Archives: Ride log

An Epic ride

It started with a beer, maybe several beers, and the conversation ended up with a discussion about how we (Pete, my riding mate) needed to do something more than ride our local trails. We ride them most weeks and they aren’t much fun. Fields and bridle paths with bits of road to join them up. We have Cannock chase an hour away and we head to a Welsh trail centre or two twice  a year with a bunch of mates.

All good in their own way but nothing EPIC and when you’ve had a few beers doing something epic seems like a good idea.

This was about 18 months ago I think and I’d recently found out that the Grand Union canal that passes very close to my house goes all  the way to London. I’ve ridden the canal occasionally, head towards Birmingham and there is the Hatton Locks cafe and Waterman pub, a bit further Shrewley tunnel and you can do some circular routes. A couple of mates ride the canal regularly but it’s all a bit, well, boring.

But London. That’s a long way, a bit silly to think about riding there. So think about it we did and the plan was hatched.

Let’s ride to London for a beer! On the tow path. On our new rigid singlespeed bikes. The canal is largely flat anyway so how hard can it be ?

The idea brewed for a while and on talking to fellow cyclists we were met with comments about it being very difficult, so in June 2014 we did a test. On the SS’s heading towards London, 90 mins out then turn round and come back. A nice 3 hr ride to see how hard it really was.

The reality ended up being it’s quite hard. We felt broken, arms, hands, legs, back, neck. It all hurt. The canal may be flat but it’s not all maintained and a rigid bike batters your body or makes you work really hard to be out of the saddle a lot.

We did some research. We’d estimated it at 100 miles so I mapped it out in detail on Strava. It came in at 120 miles. 20% more than we’d expected. We found a few people who’d ridden the route over 2 days with a B&B break overnight. Reports talked of long unmaintained sections that were very hard work with it getting easier nearer London. This was the sensible option. So we stuck with our original plan and decided to train for it.

A year passed and we’d done no training. Not singlespeed on canal training. Bugger.

A decision had to be made. “Postpone and train”, “forget it and have a beer locally” or “have a go anyway – how hard can it be?”.

“Have a go anyway – how hard can it be?” won.

Thursday night saw a phonecall to discuss the details of out departure the next Saturday. We sensibly decided to not attempt it on the rigid SS’s but to use full suspension. It’s a long way and we would not doubt have more chance of success if we were less beat up. A departure time of 5.30 was agreed, lights would be needed and the last train home was 10.08 pm.

Departure

My alarm went off at 4am. I went back to sleep. My second alarm went off at 4.30 and I crawled out of bed. Said hello to our new puppy and sorted him out, sorted breakfast and headed out in my riding kit to the garage to to the last minute fettling that seems obligatory before any sort of ride. I’d decided to take my largest Camelbak as it had the largest bladder – 3l and it was full. A waterproof and a few tools plus a dozen or more gels, some Clif bars and a bag of peanuts were inside yet it felt really heavy.

Pete arrived at 5.30 on the dot just as I’d finished my fettling. Nervous words and laughter followed then we headed off to the canal.

The first few miles were on ‘maintained’ tow path and although we’d agreed to aim for a 10mph average we were going along at 16mph or so. We were both having the same thoughts of making good progress while we were fresh and all the dog walkers were in bed. It didn’t take long before we hit countryside where it’s grassy, bumpy and hard going. We thought the recent rain might soften it up but it was fine. We also thought the grass may be long and hard work but it wasn’t.Lovely day

We reached Braunston at around 20 miles and I was starting to feel saddle sore. Not a good feeling with 5 times that still to cover. I wondered if I was going to make it. Pete was also feeling it and I wondered if he would make it.

Proper food just after midday

Proper food just after midday

We stopped every hour for a quick 5 mins to eat, take stock and have a bit of respite from the saddle and around 12 midday and 50ish miles (I think) we decided to stop at the first pub that was open for some food. The sun was out, got an outside table, food came quickly and we were soon back on our way.

From this point on things we started ticking the miles off in 10’s. Getting to 60 was good as every mile meant we were nearer to London than home and were therefore pretty much committed to making it. Hitting 70 sounds like you’re a lot nearer with only 50 ! miles to go. 80 is two thirds of the way there and 90 is almost 100.Taking a short break

Just before 100miles and around 4.30 we decided it was second big stop time for coffee and cake. First option was The Bear on the Barge pub which didn’t have either but given we’d stopped we settled for a pint of Pepsi and a chat. Which raises an interesting point of talking during the ride was quite difficult as you’re usually single file.

By this point it was the longest we’d both ridden and we knew we would make it. Resuming however was very painful and it took a good 5 minutes for the pain to subside and the rhythm to return. The next milestone was 100 miles then the Paddington branch turn. These seemed to take forever and felt like the longest miles we rode all day. When the turn came the end  was 13.5 miles away and we encountered more people, increasingly so as we got nearer the end. All to be expected and actually a welcome relief as people mean getting out of the saddle for yet more relief.

We did it

We did it

The last stop was 5 miles from the end for a quick gel and a bit of pain relief for Pete’s knee. Then a trundle into the Paddington basin and slight disbelief that we’d reached the end and in a time that we hadn’t thought possible. Total elapsed time as just over 12hrs with around 10hrs of ride time and a 12mph average speed.

Photo’s were taken, Facebook updated and we headed to Marylebone. The sports bar and grill is next door with outside tables so we settled ourselves down, ordered some food and drank that well earned beer that was the goal of the ride. We got a train around 7.30 and I was home by 9. I don’t think we stopped smiling on the train.

These were  well earned

These were well earned

So that’s it. We weren’t that confident we could make it as it was quite a bit further than either of us had ridden but in the end it felt easier than I expected. We agreed that if we had to we could have done another 2 or 3 hours (so 30-40 miles) if we had to.

For me the biggest point I take from this trip is that we are all capable of things we’re not sure we can do, able to ride distances we don’t think we can and that giving yourself no bail out option means you put up with things you’d normally stop for. Now we need to work out the next epic challenge.

First Sportive

I’ve been riding a road bike for a few years now – I bought the Team Boardman on a works cycle to work scheme (when it was worth doing) and used it for sprint triathlons and quick evening rides in decent weather. I stopped the sprint Tri’s about 18 months ago when they became just too expensive to justify the cost – £50 is a lot for 1hr 20 of event time at most. Any longer events and I’d convince myself I need a TT bike so the Boardman has been used for training.

I’ve been seduced by road riding these past few years – I love the speed, response and handling of the bike plus it’s been a useful change from hacking around the local trails. I went out with a local club on a few rides which were fun, but given that they ride on a Sunday morning which is my only guaranteed ride time at the moment, I’ve not been able to join them as often as I’d like but I do want to get out on the road more this year.

I addressed this ‘road ride when sunny’ approach I’ve had by signing up for the Lupus 50 sportive late last year. You can chose 50km or 50m and, given that one of my usual solo rides is 30 miles, I had in mind to do the 50 miler.

Last weekend I managed to persuade two mates to join me and we all headed over to Rugely after a night of rain and high winds. Pete had a large hangover on top of 4hrs sleep and Chris had never ridden more than 21 miles before. A chat about which distance to do resulted in the unanimous decision that anything less than the 50 miles was wimping out.

The course had been altered due to lots of floods and there were a fair few riders ready and waiting for the 10 am off. The forecast was for sun and a bit of wind, but no rain until we’d finished and the first 5 miles were done at an average of 25mph or so. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that the wind was at our back and we’d pay for it later, The ‘halfway’ feeding stop seemed to be reached very quickly and we all felt rather good – which to be fair we should do as it’s well within what we are all capable off given that our usual rides are 20 miles off road.

The next 30 odd miles (as it turned out) were a lot harder. more standing water meant wet feet, cross headwinds meant little shelter and we all felt it in our legs. At 49 miles I decided not to wait for the other at the top of a rather long hill as I was feeling the cold and we only had a short way to go, so I set off on my own. As it turned out the course was around 55 miles so I had a longer than expected run to the finish. I tried to chase down riders I could see and only passed 2 – the other 3 I saw stayed around the same speed as my legs didn’t have the power.

Pete and Chris made it back shortly after I did, coffee and cake were had, the last few miles were discussed and we were all agreed that we need to do more longer rides like this. We averaged bang on 15mph and climbed 2500ft in 3hrs 37min. Not too shabby for our first 50 mile ride.

It’s 3 days since the ride and I have been surprised at how little my legs have been sore  – I’ll be looking for more local-ish events like this and planning a 50 mile route and maybe more from home.

 

Winter Riding Update

So we’re past the winter solstice, Christmas has been and gone and we’re into a New Year.

I managed a reasonable amount of miles over the festive period and I appear to have shaken off some sort of low level illness that seemed to sap my energy and power that was making rides much harder and less enjoyable.

I managed 6 rides over the break from work, with 3 in the new Year where I felt more like my old self.

The local 20 mile loop, which tends to  be the most ridable, is proving to be a real slog of a ride after all the rain we’ve had. Sodden ground has moved to thick sticky mud meaning drivechain issues and a lot of energy to get around. No such thing as free-wheeling downhill – it requires pushing as hard as you can while trying to stay upright.

I did try a spin out on the canal tow path a couple of times, one was wet and fun the other on Boxing Day provided every man and his Nan out walking and 3 punctures.

I took a day to head to Cannock on the 2nd where I did a lap of Follow the Dog followed by the Monkey Trail. I really enjoy riding them and it’s the first time in ages I’ve visited to ride them solo. Times were on the slow side given the slippy conditions but it was great to get out with hardly anyone else around.

Follow the Dog and Monkey Trail Strava records.

All rides have been on the Yeti as new upgrade parts have arrived and are waiting to be fitted. I’m going to trash the current SLX \ XT bits in the winter mud before I head to Plush Hill Cycles for Al to rebuild it for me. There’s a post in draft about the upgrade which I’ll finish this week.

 

Winter riding update

I’m disappointed.

I’ve not really upped my riding from the usual Sunday morning to include early morning and nights. I want to but I seem to have barely enough time to get all the normal life things done. I feel like I’m putting on some weight as well but I guess winter can do that

Last Sundays ride was a proper winter outing though. Started off dry when I left home, started the tiniest bit of drizzle on the way to meet up. gradually got heavier as the ride went on. The trails were 7/10 on the muddy scale resulting in a couple of dabs through the woods where it got tricky. Pete lost his front wheel and ended up in a ditch. I was covered in mud, soaking wet and a bit cold.

The key to enjoying riding in the mud is to keep up your momentum. At one point I dropped behind Pete on a muddy section after I dabbed and riding at my normal pace wasn’t closing the gap. Dropping a couple of gears and spinning back up to my normal 95 cadence made a dramatic difference. The bike squirmed around with both front and rear sliding but keeping the speed up  and your vision well ahead means it soon recovers. Slight downhill sections become great fun as the bike slithers all over the place and rather than catching up on the path after the section feeling tired, I was on his wheel during the downhill and ended up grinning like a child.

Strava ride log

A great ride – the cold, wet, muddy ones tend to be.