Team MK C Group to Marston Moretaine.

Hi, I am back and blogging again now, I was also back out on a Team MK club ride this morning, six weeks after my last one before my Spanish sojourn.  The ride to the Forest Centre cafe at Marston Moretaine became a 90km ride for me including my ride to Stony Stratford to the start of the ride.  Its quite a hilly route anyway but it contains two of my least favourite climbs.  The ride up from the Two Locks pub at Stoke Hammond and just seems to go up and up in three stages until you get to Little Brickhill.  Then to round things off on the way back there is the long drag up Marston Hill into Cranfield right after restart after the coffee break.  They both have varying gradients all the way up and I can never seem get a good rhythm going.

Team MK C Group ride to Marston Moretaine
Team MK C Group ride to Marston Moretaine.

I was a bit apprehensive about my condition before the ride, I did a 50km ride on Wednesday and that was my first ride for just over two weeks, the previous one was in Spanish sun.  The notorious Tramuntana wind in Spain put paid to anymore rides out there in the last week or so.  The wind comes down from the mountains and it was around 50mph with frequent gusts up into 80’s!!

Anyway, I survived pretty well today, better than my expectations, especially on those hated climbs.  Talking of which I spent the afternoon in front of the TV watching the pro’s riding up the last mountain stage of the three week Giro d’Italia.  They were fierce.  Todays stage was over five hours and 199km the last 40km of which was more or less “UP” to over 2000 metres of altitude.   Mind you the riders were mostly 40 – 50 years younger than me so I guess everything is relative!  So after the professional final stage tomorrow I get my afternoons back.  I don’t have to cram everything in to the morning to free up the afternoon.  The sofa could probably do with a break as well.

I am hoping to get some photos of the recent trip up on my photography blog just as soon as I have finished editing them and selecting the best for your delight and delectation.

Weather, The Will And The Wherewithal…

Hello.. remember me ?  I am the person that used to write regular blog posts on here.

Those posts have been somewhat missing for the last few weeks and I got out of the habit.  The rides I was doing a month ago were not much to much write about.  I was feeling quite depressed about my stats.  Since my mid winter lay off I couldn’t seem to get back up to a decent average speed.  I wasn’t even feeling fit enough to go on the club rides.  I vowed I would get up to at least a consistent 24kph/15mph average speed before I ventured out with them again as 15/16mph is the recommended average speed for the Team MK C Group.  Albeit that I would probably ride faster with a  group than solo, targets are targets.

The weather around here was a major contributor to my lack of miles.  Very strong winds with even stronger gusts of up to 50kph  and the cold weather didn’t fill me with much enthusiasm to get out.  Because I am pretty much free to go out any day I like I think I was getting too picky about the conditions, always thinking tomorrow would be a better day than the present one and it wasn’t.  Those better days didn’t come along and one blank day led to more and more.  If I had only had weekends available I probably would have made more of an effort.  As I mentioned in a previous post I did however manage to ride the Kennet Valley 100km Audax earlier in the month at a fairly sedate pace, but thats all thats required of them.

Eventually I got my average speed up for a couple rides on my winter bikes.  Normally my rule is not to get the ‘best’ bikes out until the clocks change but at the start of last week I ventured out on the Colnago.  I had been doing some work on it and it needed a test ride.  When I bought it I originally re-equipped it with a Shimano 105 groupset but In my accumulated ‘spare’ parts I recently found I had a Shimano Ultegra front and rear deraillieur mech doing nothing.  I managed to find some Ultegra shifters online and kitted the Colnago out with all the Ultegra parts to match the Felt bike set up.  All the 105 equipment that came off the Colnago then went onto my Specialized winter bike to match the Ribble bike set up.  Much re-cabling and handlebar taping followed as a result.

That accounted for two or three days of my non biking time.  So I now have two ‘winter/audax’ bikes for different occasions and two lightweight ‘best’ bikes.  The Felt carbon fibre bike being slightly lighter than the aluminium Colnago but the Colnago feels just as good and lively when I am riding it.  The Felt hasn’t been out yet this year. I have a few jobs to do on that before it ventures out.

The ensuing necessary test ride on the Colnago before its official scheduled first outing really lifted my spirits and the average speed.  So now I am back up and riding a bit more regularly again.  The strong winds persist and its always a factor when choosing my route but at least its getting a bit warmer and the days are getting longer.  Now we have changed the clocks it makes afternoon rides an option again.  Thats always providing there is no bike racing on TV though.

There has been a steady dribble of televised bike races since February actually, starting with the “Tour Down Under’ then moving to the middle east for some pretty boring racing in the deserts.  Now the european season is well underway and just moved in the northern France/Belgium/Holland area for the Spring Classics.  They are always exciting races to watch with the weather, cobbles, short sharp climbs and enthusiastic crowds and the odd crash or two making for some exciting racing.  There is no complaining about the weather and strong winds from these guys they just get out there and race through it all for 200km or more.  Hard men all of them, competing two or three times a week some of them for five or six hours at a time.  If they crash they just get back on their bikes and carry on.  I won’t mention the highly paid footballers that are always moaning they need a rest if they play two ninety minute games a week or a month out of action if they scratch their leg. Oh dear, I seem to have mentioned them!!!

So, the improving weather, my improving fitness and the inspirational bike racers are rebuilding my enthusiasm again and hopefully I will have more to write about in the future.  Well, I know I will and maybe some nice spring cycling pictures as well.

Not So Bad…

I have actually completed two rides since my last post, thats two rides in four days, a bit of a record by recent standards.  I do feel the fitness coming back slowly, but I am nowhere near where I was just over a month ago, way back in December 2014!  I have done five rides so far this year, but generally too far apart to gain and retain any real benefit from them.  Hopefully things are about to change

On Saturday I opted not to get up early ride over to Stony Stratford for the Team Milton Keynes C1 group ride to Winslow.  There had been some discussion on the Forum on the clubs website for the 24hours previous about whether the ride would go to Stowe or Winslow.  The chosen venue by Friday night was Winslow.  Not feeling quite ready for a full blown club ride I decided to make my own way to Winslow direct from home and meet the group at the cafe.I stayed in bed a bit longer while the roads warmed up and then made my own way over to Winslow, arriving there at about 11:30am so that I would be there when they rolled up.

When I entered Jenny Wrens cafe in Winslow I found the ‘B’ group sitting there.  I joined them for a chat, coffee and a toasted tea cake while I waited for C1 group.  By 12:15 it was obvious they were not coming so I made my own way back.  I had been hoping to able to benefit from the shelter of a group ride for the return to Stony Stratford at least as it had been hard work on the outward leg against the wind.  However It was not to be but I did have the benefit of a tailwind to push me home.  A very welcome push it was too.

It had been long solo ride of about fifty miles but I managed OK and definitely felt better and more encouraged than I had felt on my recent rides.

On Saturday evening I checked the clubs forum page and saw that they had actually had a discussion before the ride and opted to go to Salcey Forest as the roads were suspected of being icy out the other side of Stony Stratford.  I have to say I didn’t notice any ice on my ride but the road was wet and riding into the low sun and the wind was not a pleasant experience.  On my way back though I did notice a car on its side in a ditch as I approached Stony Stratford so maybe it was icy earlier.

Today I did another fifty mile loop from home with Towcester Racecourse being the furthest point.  I had chosen the route to benefit from a tailwind on the return half.  I even managed to get a couple of photographs on the way round.

20150127-IMG_1873

This one is of the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne.  It is home to a nice cafe, where I didn’t stop and a canal museum.  It is also  at the southern end of the Blisworth Tunnel where in the days of horse drawn barges the bargees had to lay on on their backs on the roof of the barges and ‘walk’ along roof of the tunnel to propel the barges with their feet the nearly 3 miles of the tunnel.  The horses meanwhile were walked over the hills to Blisworth to meet up at the other end.

20150127-IMG_1874

This picture is also of the Grand Union Canal but a few miles further south at Old Wolverton, just north of Milton Keynes.  The only claim to fame I can think of here is that when I first moved to North Buckinghamshire in 1966 I lived about 400 yards from this bridge.  It was in a brand new house that we bought for the princely sum of £3250!! It was before the electrification of the London-Midland main railway line from Euston and also before the announcement of the birth of Milton Keynes.  Due to these announcements we managed to sell the house about five years later for around £10,500 when we moved to Olney, and here I have stayed in a variety of houses ever since.

I ended the ride feeling not so bad as the previous rides so thats a good sign I guess.  I think there will be a few more ‘not feeling so bad’ rides before I progress to the ‘I am feeling better’ rides.

Last Weeks Rides Update…

It turned out to be quite a prolific ride week for me, unusually so by recent standards.  With the previously reported ride on Tuesday I notched up just over 300km last week

Thursday: 80km bike ride

I went for a ride on Thursday last week as it was forecast to be a nice day.  Up until then it hadn’t been good weather at all.  The day started off very misty though as I headed off east towards KImbolton on a northerly loop and swung round at Great Staughton on a southerly loop back. The ride was about 80km. It’s a fairly undulating route with no major climbing involved so I managed to up my recent average ride speeds to a couple of kph higher.

I took this picture just as I started to head back towards home at Gt Staughton, as you can see the mist is still hanging around, the picture isn’t out of focus and I did try some editing to make it look a little less misty than it actually was.

20141120-IMG_1740

By the time I got home the sun had burned the mist off but it was still pretty cold.

Saturday: Team MK ride to  Winslow 110km

The Team MK ride last Saturday was scheduled to be to Upper Stowe near Daventry but there was no leader allocated for the ride and Clive volunteered to to do the lead but opted to go to Winslow instead.  Slightly preferable given my condition because the Upper Stowe route is quite a hilly one with some nasty little climbs in it.  However it was no easy ride because quite a high pace was set.

We stopped at Jenny Wrens cafe in Winslow as Clive had the foresight to book one of the rooms for us there.  So finding a seat would be no problem and they were ready for us.  Sometimes I don’t bother to stop there on this route because of the hassle but I actually needed the break this week so I was ready for the refuelling stop to get me home.

The ride back soon split the group up but I wasn’t dragged into any fast stuff as I had done 20km more then them at that stage because of my ride to the start, I was also facing another 20km to get back home from Stony Stratford.  I just kept at my own steady and comfortable pace, picking up some stragglers from the front group on the way that had overstretched themselves.  Once I reached Stony my average speed was showing almost 26kph but by the time I got home it had dropped to 25.4 😦

Its my turn to lead the group ride this week and we are going to Carlton.  I might need to abbreviate the route a bit as there is a round of the Cyclo Cross World Cup taking place at Milton Keynes Bowl in the afternoon. I will check before the start if anybody is going and what time they need to be back.  Personally I will find the race on the computer somewhere and watch in comfort indoors.

Rendezvous In The Mist..

This weeks Team MK C1 group ride was to the cafe at the ‘Forest of Marston Vale’ at Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire.  I have to say its hardly a forest at the moment with most of trees no more than about three metres high.

Its only a few years old and is situated on reclaimed brickworks land left vacant after the brick working industry disappeared from the area.  The skyline around that area of Bedfordshire used to be a forest of tall smoking chimneys from all the factories in that area.. here is an old picture of one..

Unknown
Brickworks :Wikipedia

In about twenty years I expect it will begin to look a bit more forest like but for now its not living up to its name, at the moment it looks a bit more park like.

So, back to my ride.  It was a damp and misty morning so to save getting up too early I elected not to ride to Stony Stratford for the ride start and decided yet again to ride across country and rendezvous with them at the cafe. It was still very misty, lights were definitely required.  I arrived a bit early and got myself a coffee while I waited and waited and waited….  I took this picture just to fill the time.

IMG_1722

After another cup of coffee they still hadn’t arrived so having been there now for about an hour I decided they had maybe gone somewhere else so I got ready and I was just leaving as they arrived.  Apparently they had suffered two punctures in the group on the way.  I was surprised to see some brave souls still wearing shorts at this time of year and in this weather.

I went back into the cafe with them while they had their refreshments and chatted a while then rode back with them as far as Chicheley where I turned off for Olney.  On the way though there was yet another puncture.

That Sound That Tyres Make..

It was too nice a morning to not go for a  bike ride today.  The wind had dropped and the sun was shining, perfect.  I set off to survey part of a route I am planning to do when I next lead the Team Milton Keynes club ride on 29th November.  I hope its not a bad omen but it was a glorious day today, just like the one when I tried out the route for the last ride I led and it poured for the event..

I was happily rolling along contemplating what I would write later in my blog and thinking of all the things good about it.   I think one of the most satisfying sounds in cycling is that noise the tyres make when correctly inflated and on a nice smooth road, rolling along with no other sound to be heard, no wind, no traffic, no rough surfaces, just the ??????? noise of the tyres on the road.  How to describe it? I don’t know, it’s not a whistle, its too low for that.. its not a hum, its too high for that.  With my limited vocabulary I just could not think of a suitable world to describe it but all cyclists will know it, I am open to suggestions..

I headed off east along the rolling road into Bedfordshire towards Harold and Felmersham and up and over the hill towards Pavenham.  This is the start of the climb in Felmersham, glorious in the autumn sunshine.

Felmersham
Felmersham

It wasn’t a hurried ride, more one of taking my time and enjoying everything around me and looking for photo opportunities.  There seemed to be plenty of other cyclists around for a weekday on a  similar mission.  A few of them had their heads down staring at their front wheel though.

I rolled on around the circuit to Pavenham, Oakley and the Stevington.  I went past this photo opportunity in Stevington and rode on for a couple of hundred metres while i decided whether to go back or not.. well I did..

Stevington Village centre.
Stevington village centre, a pub, a phone box and a post box…

I have done that too many times, realised I had just passed a good photo stop and then regretted not going back when I was further down the road.

I carried rolling on round my route through Carlton, Turvey and then home.  Its a good route for a club ride I think.  Fairly unpopulated roads with a decent surface.  I just need the weather to be good this time and all will be well.

Last Saturdays club ride was a good one to Carlton, the cafe with the best cakes I know.  I had an enormous piece of carrot cake which I shouldn’t really as its only about twenty minutes from my home.  I hardly needed the sustenance to get me that far.  Saturdays ride details can be found here..

Todays ride details can be found here…

The Life Of Brian..

Anyone would think I don’t have enough time to keep up with my blog posts the way I keep getting a long gap between them.  However thats not the case, I should have plenty of time , its not like I go to work or anything.  My last post here was on the 12th September.  So what has kept me so busy in all of that time that I couldn’t spare.  Let me give you a bit of an insight into the ‘The Life Of Brian’…

On my return from Devon from where I made my last post I came home to discover a leak onto the kitchen ceiling from the bathroom above.. it transpired that the seal around the bath, which is also the shower, was faulty and needed replacing which is a long and arduous job to remove the old sealant, clean up the tiles regrout and replace with new sealant, a job which is among my least favourite and very time consuming.  Lots of waiting between operations for things to dry or ‘go off’.

Then there was the viewing of the Tour of Spain to finish off on the same weekend that the Tour of Britain completed its journey.  Throughout all of this into the next week the bathroom project continued.  Not to mention the Team MK club ride the same weekend to Winslow.  Unusually for me I stopped for a coffee this time at Winslow which made it a late return home.  Nevertheless I was home in time for the final big climb stage of the Tour of Spain.

A planned bike ride for the Monday didn’t happen because it was raining so I went to Milton Keynes and bought a new iPhone instead !! as you do..  This of course led to the rest of that day being spent sorting that out and setting it up. Such time as was free after that was spent in the bathroom.. working I hasten to add..

The next day, Tuesday was also spent in the bathroom, more grouting and finally sealant around the edges.  On the Wednesday I went for a ride to check out part of a new route I hope to use on the club ride that I am leading on October 4th to the ‘The Barn’ at Wilstone, near to the Tring reservoirs in Hertfordshire.  Its usually pretty much and out and back ride to there, similarly to ‘The Bluebell’ at Marsworth.  They are only about a mile apart but I think The Barn is miles better.  The route worked out pretty well so I will use it on the coming Saturday.  I wanted to make it more of a loop.

Hoggeston, on the new route..
Hoggeston, on the new route..

The next two days were spent clearing up after my bathroom activities and also in some garden work.  On the Saturday it was time for the Team MK ride to Castle Ashby.  I have to say I find I am doing less moaning about ride discipline lately so standards must be improving with the C1 group.  Well done you.  It was actually a late decision for me to go as at the usual departure time from home it just started raining as i was getting my bike out so I decided not to go.  However, about fifteen minutes later it stopped so I set off in haste to try to intercept them on their route as there was no way I would make it for 9:30.  I knew roughly which way they would be going and I actually got within a mile of the start at Stony Stratford before crossing paths with them.

On the Sunday I was marshalling at the Team MK Road Race and that took up all the morning as I stood at a road junction in the middle of nowhere near Quainton watching them coming around every 40 minutes for 4 times.  It was OK though, I enjoyed it and its good to ‘do your bit’ for the club from time to time.

Marshall Goldsmith !
Marshall Goldsmith !

On Monday I started to paint the back garden fence with green wood stain.  Another daunting task, one of my least favourites, but this time of year is the best time for me.  Its not too hot being outside in the sun and also as its cooler the stain goes on easier and doesn’t dry on impact with the warm wood.  Its 30 meters up and down each side, of fencing panels, mostly four feet high panels but six of them nearer the house are six feet high.  My side of the fence on both sides is the hardest side to do as I have the cross supports on my side, whereas my neighbours just have the plain slats.  I had no choice in the matter though as the fence was there before I was.  I also took a trip to the warehouse for more wood stain.  I only wanted an 8 litre bucket which should have cost £14.99 but the assistant suggested I got two for £16.00.  I hummed and haa’d a bit and said ‘but I only need one I think’ so he suggested I take the  two then bring one back for a refund within 30 days. It sounded like an offer I couldn’t refuse to me at £8.00 instead of nearly £15.00, so I didn’t..

Tuesday was another bike ride day and I went to survey the possibilities of a cafe at Thurleigh in Bedfordshire for future club ride use.  It seemed just fine but my only concern was that it was a 55 miles round trip from Stony Stratford and the club ride guide lines say between 45 – 50 miles for our group.  However its an easy ride and the consensus seems to be that it would be OK after I put the proposal on the forum on the club website.

Thurleigh
Thurleigh
Radwell, homewards from Thurleigh
Radwell, homewards from Thurleigh

Wednesday and Thursday were spent working on the bikes in the garage, changing things around and making up two hybrid bikes for future use from materials I had hanging around.  Thursday was a particularly cold day and I was thinking once again that this was finally the end of summer only to be thwarted again on Friday.  I checked over the Colnago, my chosen steed for Saturdays club ride and the rest of the day was spent on another fence painting session.

Saturday was the club ride to Salcey Forest another reasonably behaved ride and a good group.  The afternoon was spent watching the Women’s World Championship road race on TV.  It included one of the most most spectacular multi bike crashes I have ever seen.  It started with just one girl coming off on the left hand side of the road as she caught the edge of the tarmac.

Sunday morning was also a World Road Race championship race day, this time the mens.  Starting at about 9:30 UK time and finishing about 3:30pm.. a distance of around 250km.  I didn’t watch all of it, I missed about the first hour but there was plenty to watch, not at all boring.

Today, Monday, I started painting my way back down the other side of the garden and managed three large panels this morning.  This afternoon I have been doing this blog just for you. Tomorrow maybe another bike ride, destination unknown at the moment.  True to form, after months of not leading a club ride, no sooner do I volunteer for one than the weather forecast starts to indicate quite a bit of rain for Saturday.  This was a problem I had when i was leading rides before.. every time it was my turn it seemed to be bad weather.. Rain, Snow, Ice, Fog..  I really thought I would be OK at this time of year but the omens are not good.  I’ll keep you posted..

Tewkesbury 200km Audax Ride

Full of trepidation I rode my first 200km Audax on Saturday.  I was mainly concerned about my ability to ride the distance despite a 145km test ride to Cambridge in the week which went OK.

Click map for Strava details
Click map for Strava details

As I was staying locally it wasn’t too much hassle to make the 08:00am start as it was only half a mile up the road.  We all rode off in a bunch as usual but soon split up according to age and ability as each took its toll.  I started with Geoff from Team MK who, unexpectedly to me, appeared at the start.  It was good to see a friendly face.  Geoff is a veteran of many Audax’s of great length and he said this was his 22nd 200km event this year! and I know he has done more than a few of greater length too.  However, he readily confesses he is not built for speed and just gets around in his own time, climbs are his downfall, that sounds wrong somehow but you know what I mean.

It wasn’t until around the six kilometre mark that I realised I hadn’t started the timer on my Garmin.  I started the navigation bit, but not the timer so that knocked about 6km off the displayed ride total.  This also messed up the the control point stops on the route sheet as they were all about 6km out.  I spent of lot of the time doing mental arithmetic as I went around the circuit.  So the final ride distance shown on Strava is 6km short ..

It was a bit lumpy until the first control point around the 50km mark.  Starting off again from there I joined up with another rider, Ian, from Bristol as I later found out.  We rode together along ‘The Golden Valley’ to the next control point at Hay on Wye, pretty much in silence but co-operated as cyclists do by taking turns on the front as we were fairly equally matched in ability.  It was a reasonably flat road with just a few undulations and it was the same road for about 25km so that made navigation a bit easier.

At the 96km mark at Hay on Wye control point we had the breath and the time for a conversation and Ian asked if it was OK if we rode together for the rest of the ride as his Garmin was playing up so this is what we did.  I had the benefit of the route map on my Garmin and he had a printed control sheet with and a correct distances on his Garmin.

After Hay on Wye the road got a bit lumpier again and it seemed after every Info Control the ride restarted with a climb.  The route out was a loop a few miles south of Hereford and return loop was a few miles north of Hereford.  The halfway point was just about at the third info control at Eardisly at 96km, with a  brief stop to answer a question.  Despite my best intentions of making plenty of refreshment stops I didn’t, just a brief snack from my back pocket usually and off again.  There were two info controls next , where questions needed to be answered, food eaten and drink drunk.

At the 140km control point at Bromyard, ‘Flowerdews Cafe’, we did stop for a rest and a coffee and piece of cake to get us over the final leg.  Just as well because this was quite a tough section coming up that took us over part of the Malvern Hills and down to Worcester.  There was one more info control at 187km, quite close to the finish now. The road had levelled out a bit by now fortunately and just a steady run in to the finish.

The course was completed in about the time I expected, or rather hoped for but it had been a long day overall.  My overall time was 10 hours 24 minutes the actual riding time was 8 hours 41 minutes, so I suppose the stop times at the various controls must have been a bit longer than I though, they were quite leisurely though with a snack of a cereal bar a drink of water and then refilling of water bottles for the next stage.  The longer stop at ‘Flowerdews’ was much needed.  In the end I was about three hours under the maximum allowed time limit for the ride and two hours over the minimum time so I guess thats not bad for an old ‘un.. :o)  and right side of average!

If I had had to drive to the event and not stayed locally that would have added about another 3 hours plus on to my day.  I do apologise for the lack of photos but as usual I let photo opportunities pass by.  Every time we set off again I would think, I should have taken a photo of that.  But I still repeated the error again at each control.  I was grateful for Ian’s company as on occasions if he got ahead of me I had a target to aim for, if not I would have probably just slowed down.

Conclusion is I did enjoy the ride, even more after I finished it.  Would I do another one? probably but not sure about this year, plus there is the time factor, it is a very long day.  I don’t think I would try any events longer than 200km thats for sure.  200km is the shortest distance you can get points for and getting points give you a target and a reason to ride I suppose.  So far as the shorter Audax’s are concerned I might just as well do my own 100km circuits.  Another thing is that my home area doesn’t seem to have many 200km plus, events so a lot would involve travelling time as as well.  Food for thought anyway.

Team MK C1 Club Ride, Stowe Gardens, 30 Aug 2014

Click on the Map For Detailed Ride Stats
Click on the Map For Detailed Ride Stats

There was quite a large group assembled for the ride by the time of the start and quite a few ‘newbies’, I thought they might have picked the wrong week.  The circuit was going to be longer than usual and one of the tougher rides, especially with the extra miles and climbs Steve put in.  Not really one for newcomers but I volunteered to ride ‘shotgun’ and tidy up at the back. One or two kept tailing off on the climbs, but not so bad considering and they gamely got back on.  My services were not really required but I think its nice to have somebody in sight and waiting.  It was going to be around 40 miles to the cafe, quite a way.

By the time we got to Helmdon I could see the situation was going to be tough for those near the back and hoped I would get a chance at the cross roads to offer to take those that wished on a shorter route as there was an opportunity to take one there. Sure enough I did get the chance and the offer was gratefully accepted by some and we headed directly down the road to Syresham and on to Stowe Gardens via the turning up to Turweston but not stopping there this time.  I think our route was about 28 miles to the cafe.

I have been to Stowe as a motorist and National Trust member but never arrived by bike before. Its a very nice cafe in a modern setting and very reasonably priced as well by comparison with other cafes we visit.  The actual grounds and gardens are enormous but the cafe is set in the reception building as you enter the grounds in some converted old farm buildings.  The entrance to the landscaped gardens is about a half mile walk from the main entrance.

This is a view of Stowe School which is part of the Stowe Gardens Estate
This is a view of Stowe School which is part of the Stowe Gardens Estate

It was a pleasant ride back from there with the benefit of a tail wind most of the way. We all arrived safely and comfortably back at Stony Stratford and after our farewells went our separate ways.

My Garmin seemed to be working just fine after its misdemeanours in the week. I hope to a get a ride in early this week to try out the navigation aspect of it, but I am hopeful its going to be OK for weekend Audax. I do have my old Garmin 605 as back up and also the 500 but the 800 combines the best of both, navigation and full stats.

Audax's And Long Rides Set Up..

OK, I feel about ready to talk about last weekends Audax ride and the Team Milton Keynes club ride now.. I am sufficiently recovered I think to give a rational report.

Firstly the club ride to the Bluebell at Marsworth, this was pretty uneventful which is good, I don’t recall any problems.  We went on a route that isn’t familiar to me but it was OK.. The Bluebell doesn’t have the fasted service in the world or is the cheapest of cafes, I prefer The Barn about a mile up the road but it wasn’t my call.  However it was a nice enough day to be sitting outside in the sunshine.  We set off in the sunshine and I removed my arm warmers, which, needless to say was the signal for the sun to disappear, not to be seen again on the trip.  I dropped off the return ride at Stewkley to cut across to Olney via Woburn Sands and Cranfield, I had the benefit of slight tailwind and also avoided one of my least favourite climbs. the one just after Whaddon. I am not sure what its called but I do have a few suggestions !!

After a leisurely rest of Saturday I had an early start on Sunday to get to Droitwich by around 8:30 for a 9:00am start, about an hour and a half drive.  I was all checked in and ready to go in plenty of time.  My first thoughts on seeing everybody else also preparing was that I had brought the wrong bike.  I had my fully Audax equipped bike and there seemed to be an abundance of Pinarellos and Colnagos and various other lightweight machines.  So i quickly abandoned any thoughts of sitting in among a crowd of other riders for pace and shelter.

True enough right from the start there was a big rush for the front, although its not supposed to be a race, they gradually disappeared ahead of me as we went up the long drag at the start.  I wasn’t going to be tempted to make the effort to stay with them and just kept my own comfortable pace.  A sort of ‘hare and tortoise’ situation I was hoping.  I passed some stragglers from the group ahead and I was also passed by some others making their way forward.  I know my pace by now and kept to it.

I proceeded through ‘info controls’ where there is a question to be answered such as the distance to somewhere or the name of a pub. and also controls in cafes where you have to get your card stamped.  I had already decided that I wouldn’t be stopping for refreshment at the cafes, just get my stamp and press on.  I don’t usually stop when on a similar length solo ride. So along the route were three info controls and two controls for stamping the card.   At the second cafe control I saw a lot of the riders from the front group enjoying a spot of lunch but I wasn’t tempted,  The roads were really tough going, plenty of potholes and the surface in a  lot of cases was a very roughly  tarmac with bit stones set in it, very noisy when you drive over it and very hard for bike riding too for some reason I can’t explain.  All this and the undulating (OK, hilly) terrain made for quite a hard ride.  I did over 1500 metres (5000 feet) of altitude gain on the ride altogether.

I eventually found my way to to the finish and the fast guys still hadn’t caught me up again, I had a few twinges of cramp just on the last climb but not enough to stop.

I got back to the finish, parked my bike, handed in my card for verification and stamping and and was packing my bike away as the ‘hares’ finally caught up with the ‘tortoise’.

So thats the riding done.  On Monday I set about altering my Ribble bike set up as I have another Audax in two weeks and this time its 200km, my first of this distance so I need all the help I can get.   My first move was to remove the handlebar bag and associated bracket, as with a big under the saddle bag on the back for tools and tubes I can get by with my pockets.  The main use of the bag was somewhere to put the route directions to easily see them on the lid as I rode along.  It was also handy to throw stuff in like arm warmers, rain jacket and food, but a luxury I can do without for 200km.  I have invested in a  little perspex clip that will fit on my handlebars and hold a folded route detail sheet that has the control points listed on it along with the route directions.  I have the Garmin for navigation but sometimes a bit of extra info is useful.  I also removed the metal mudguards and fitted some lightweight plastic Crud Road Racer clip on type that I happened to have in my garage.  In lots of Audax’s mudguards are obligatory and these would help to comply but weigh next to nothing.

So I now have some pictures for you.. 🙂

First the bike as it was.. and the handlebar bag I have dispensed with.

Ribble, as was..
Ribble, as was…
Complete set up with transparent map holder on lid.
Complete set up, bag and bracket
The Basic Set-Up.  bag mount and Topeak Bar Extension.
The Basic Set-Up. bag mount and Topeak Bar Extension for lights and Garmin

Next the bike as it is now… with mudguards and the saddle bag.

IMG_1576
Ribble as is now

At least I will be able to see my front wheel now.. :o)

I hope to try and get a long ride of about 150km in before the next Audax, just to test my legs and endurance before the event.  Once I start it there is no going back as I am going to be at the furthest point from the start and actually going back before any fatigue is going to set in on the 200km ride.  I calculate I am going to be riding for about ten hours including stops.  Last weekend I accomplished a total of 219km but over two days..