“Why don’t you take up cycling?” asked a friend. “You’ll have much more fun than going to the gym” he said. Who could have imagined what an impact it would have on my life? A massive career change, a Brompton to replace the car, cycle rides through the night to the seaside and a curiosity for all things cycling that knows no bounds.
The combination of increased fitness levels and loss of weight thanks to the I Quit Sugar diet allowed me to sign up for my very first audax. A self-sufficient bike ride along a pre-determined route within a predetermined time allowance and a couple of treasure hunt type questions, to be answered on the way round.
Being self-sufficient means navigation. Over three weeks, thanks to some kind and very patient people, test rides navigated by my Garmin had been successfully achieved. The bike that had not seen the light of day for 10 months was dusted down, additional brakes were fitted by Fitzrovia Cycles and on a Friday afternoon I was heading to Reading.
A little route confusion (not a good start) but once back on track took me to The Madejski Millenium Hotel. Not just bicycle friendly but it has perfected that extraordinary balance between being both very corporate and yet really making you feel that you are home from home. The chef must have more stars than the galaxy.
Looking out of the window at 6am, the crisp white frost on the parked cars looked ominous. Temperature read -1 degree. After a quite spectacular breakfast where I seemed to be eating all my meals in one hit the air outside reached a massive zer0. But, as the man in the hotel said, it was dry.
Out into the day I headed, up and over a series of Brunel type architecture where tyre tracks in the frost were bizarrely reassuring, over the A33 and eventually into a Village Hall. The array of Hi Viz, gloves, cups of tea and warm banter was startling, nearly as startling as having my very own Brevet Card!
The 200km participants had left the building and there was time for a cup of tea with two marvellous peeps from The London Brompton Club before the 100km participants were despatched onto the route.
We were soon ushered out into the cold, on the third attempt at finding my route it fired up and showed me the road ahead. This was it. My longest ride – and the first time I’d worn cleats – in 10 months and we were off. It was, confusingly, a little bit like the end of a Friday Night Ride to the Coast. The sun was up but the miles (km) were not yet in the bag.
The joy of this bike took me by surprise. All day. Every turn of the pedal pushed power into speed and I found myself overtaking some cyclists before being overtaken by others. The advice to find my own pace was being taken seriously and is exactly what I did.
From A roads to country lanes, past fields full of black sheep, others of cockerels, and chickens, chocolate box villages with thatched cottages it was an absolute joy. As back up for the Garmin (should it fail) I had prepared my own route sheet the night before to guide me around the course if needed. I knew there were some roads called hills and decided they would just be long drags. As long as I kept pedalling, that’s all that mattered.
It was all going so well until I reached a roundabout, looked at my Garmin and the map had gone, having been replaced by a ginormous arrow. I stopped and stared at it at which point two people behind me stopped immediately and asked if I was ok. They then showed me how to change the Garmin back to maps. We rode together for a while, chatting about audaxing of course, until I pushed ahead or was it them who pushed ahead. It didn’t matter. Their kindness had been very gratefully received and I hope to see them on another ride soon.
Approximately 2.5hrs from the start, I found myself outside the café in Hungerford where my Brevet Card was stamped. Wow!
The words “Don’t faff” found me leaving pretty sharpish whereupon one of the Brompton peeps arrived saying his partner in crime was really too ill to continue at their agreed speed and had sent him on ahead. Marvellous! Now I had my own audax partner in crime!
The hills after lunch were definitely higher than before, but the views were stunning. The sun was keeping us warm, right up until the headwind of all headwinds tried to blow us off course. This was followed by three hailstorms. Serious beads of ice pounding onto my face and suddenly it was like being in a snow-globe. The A roads were pretty busy, there was some seriously diabolical driving and several were clearly driving too fast, not just for the road conditions but for their ability.
Just outside Hermitage the ominous words Battery Low appeared on my Garmin. It shut down a mile or two later. Keeping the battery charged is going to be my next test.
Up and down we went, vistas across the county to hills in the distance. It may not be terribly de rigeur as I hadn’t seen anyone else with a camera but felt that it was necessary to have a photo stop from time to time.
We managed to complete two more information points for our Brevet card one of which was opposite a café serving delicious food, The Pantry in Yattendon. A re-run of this ride is on the cards (not the Brevet!).
Five and a half hours from the start, we were back at the Village Hut. Elated, truly elated – especially after hearing that our Brompton peeps had completed 52 of the 62 miles despite feeling so ill.
The day was a great introduction to Audaxing. I like it. Thank you peeps – whether you were one of the participants, organisers or volunteers you made it all so enjoyable!
My learning curve pointers are:
- Check the bike before you ride – including deflinting tyres
- Learn how to use the Garmin
- Work out power supply for Garmin
- Remember: Light blue trail is where you’ve been, purple is where you’re heading! (D’oh!)
- Change settings to KM/h at beginning of Audax
- Make notes in case the Garmin fails
- Learn how to use the velcro at the bottom of your overtrousers (Another D’oh!)
- Keep luggage to an absolute minimum
- Keep hankie somewhere readily available to avoid sniffing for 62 miles/100km
- Don’t do too many miles without taking in water
|Posted by The5mile cyclist on March 7, 2016 at 12:50 AM||delete edit comments (7)|