Author Topic: Intense weekend  (Read 6554 times)

Intense weekend
« on: February 02, 2009, 09:18:32 pm »
Got back a while ago from my jaunt to North Wales. As I mentioned in the Travelodge thread, the 370K journey there was pretty uneventful.

I'd rather hoped to find a pretty young college girl there to massage my numb bits back to life, but for some reason none were interested so I had to rub my own toes.

My thinking behind riding there and back was to both get in some quality miles, and also get a feel for how well I cope with back to back rides - with half an eye on LEL when I need to do this.

Coming home was supposed to be a 400K DIY, but didn't run as smoothly. I had two options for getting back from Bangor to Basingstoke; ride home on Sunday/Monday (with a £9 Travelodge room in Stroud for a couple of hours kip), or take a £9 train journey to London today, followed by a ride home.
I watched the weather forecast, and it didn't seem too bad so set out yesterday - at 11am as I'd had a lie in following a reunion evening.

Immediately after leaving the Travelodge you start climbing up to Llyn Ogwen. The wind was amazingly strong in an againsterly direction. It made some interesting readings on my Edge 705; the grade reading appears to be based on the barometeric sensor, which was going loopy in the wind. I'm sure I wasn't going down a 50% grade as the hill rose above me and I was struggling to keep upright.

I met a couple on the way up, who were having trouble with her bottom bracket coming loose. Unfortunately I didn't have the right tools, but they decided to carry on to Betwys-y-Coed where there is a bike shop. Climbing that hill with a dodgy BB into a massive headwind isn't my idea of fun. I got left behind as I realised I'd lost a front mudguard fastner - I pinched one from a less critical place on the back. Further on and coming down the other side I saw the couple riding back. I'm not sure why - it is pretty much downhill for the next 5 miles to Betwys.

Coming through Glyndyfrdwy there was a double disappointment; nobody at the village hall serving bacon butties like on the Irish Mail, and it suddenly went very dark and started to snow. Out came the waterproofs, and the scene was set for the rest of the ride. Headwinds, intermittent snow, and very, very cold.

Down the A5 to Shrewsbury, then the lumpy road to Bridgnorth - which was incredibly cold. As I left Worcester the snow started again. Tewksbury and Gloucester were quite magical; no cars around (as it was the early hours), and a covering of pristine snow to ride on - though only an inch or two. Apparently they haven't heard of gritters there.

The weather made me quite slow to Stroud, arriving at around 3:15am. Pop to the petrol station to grab some food and a handful of newspapers, the scrape as much snow off the bike as possible before entering the Travelodge. A thick layer of newspaper under the bike successfully kept the carpets in my room clean and dry. I'd initially aimed to leave at 6, but with the lateness of my arrival that wasn't going to happen. Plan B was an alarm at 8, and pretty much straight off.

I got woken at 7:45 this morning with a text from my wife saying there was deep snow at home, and the schools were shut. I decided to abandon trying to ride in time, and just get home. Starting with more sleep and a leisurely breakfast. Then onto the bike for the 130K home.

The ride was variable. Parts were stunningly beautiful. Others were tough - climbing steep hills in driving snow is not the best of fun. It was also bitterly cold with nowhere to comfortably stop for food out of my pack without freezing. Getting in Ampney St Peter I found a bus stop worthy of a Spooner or two; enough room for the bike and myself, solidy built with a long bench well back from the enterance so nicely sheltered. The next two villages had equally nice shelters - though oddly they were all on the side of the road heading towards Cirencester. Maybe nobody takes a bus in the other direction?

From there good time to Wantage and onwards towards Reading.

I'd perhaps have managed it in time, but maybe not without the extra rest. It was definitely tough going, with the weather getting worse as I got towards home and it started to get dark. But I'm here now, not wearing lycra, and fed and watered, so it's not all bad.

Bianchi Boy

  • Cycling is my doctor
  • Is it possible for a ride to be too long?
    • Reading Cycling Club
Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2009, 09:38:39 pm »
Sounds like a hard weekend. I am doing the LEL this year and am trying to plan some longer rides from the Reading area to get my legs ready. It would be good to have company for some of these rides.

If you are doing the KVR I will see you there. My plans at the moment are to have a hard six weeks leading to the BCM. Then a couple of weeks off. Ride hard up to early July then have a couple of gentle weeks before the big event.

If you are planning any similar rides I might consider comming along. ;D

Set a fire for a man and he will be warm for a day, set a man on fire and he is warm for the rest of his life.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2009, 10:03:38 pm »
I think that's probably worth half a TG point. Good going.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2009, 10:39:44 pm »
Tha's a proper ride that is. :thumbsup:

LEE

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2009, 10:46:09 pm »
Proper adventure.  Well done.

Whenever it gets tough and/or miserable I just keep repeating my new Audax Mantra, "It's all good preparation"

(For what?, I'm not exactly sure, but it must br good preparation for something)

mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
    • Didcot Audaxes
Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2009, 10:55:34 pm »
Gulp.

(Isn't Spooner from your parish? There must be something in the water round there.)

p.s. Is this the same Matt from the IsleOWight 200 Sep 2007? Matts are 2-a-penny  ...

...
"It's all good preparation"

(For what?, I'm not exactly sure, but it must br good preparation for something)
For the next time, of course!
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2009, 12:31:32 am »
That's impressive stuff, hats off. Sounds your motivation was bang on the nail.

You'll remember that for quite some time I feel.  :thumbsup:
Garry Broad

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2009, 12:39:26 am »
Chapeau!

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2009, 07:55:09 am »
If you are doing the KVR I will see you there. My plans at the moment are to have a hard six weeks leading to the BCM. Then a couple of weeks off. Ride hard up to early July then have a couple of gentle weeks before the big event.

I hope to be on the KVR, though I've not entered yet. My LEL buildup plan is to ride my bike lots this year (though February won't be as manic as January was).

I'll be doing various bits around the Basingstoke/Reading area as I've got a mate at work who is also doing LEL.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2009, 07:58:07 am »
(Isn't Spooner from your parish?

The next village.

Quote
There must be something in the water round there.)

Yep - the water here is rubbish. When we say "one lump or two" when making someone a cup of tea, we are talking about the water, not sugar.

Quote
p.s. Is this the same Matt from the IsleOWight 200 Sep 2007? Matts are 2-a-penny  ...

Yes - it's entirely your fault I'm here  :)  And I'm still slow up hills.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2009, 07:59:32 am »
You'll remember that for quite some time I feel. 

My thighs will remember that for quite some time, I feel.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2009, 08:25:35 am »
Top write up.  Well done.  I bet you have a satisfied glow now too.

mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
    • Didcot Audaxes
Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2009, 10:47:57 am »
OT: This is going to sound unkind to Matt, but I don't mean it that way;

This highlights a whole new way of riding long perms. The Cheap Rail Ticket Approach; split your journey in 2.

If you're not upto the longer distance, you still get to complete ONE ride. Also, as in this case, if there is ridiculous wind, one leg of your ride should be pretty doable - again you'll bag ONE ride instead of DNFing the whole thing!

Will probably only work on 400+, as you need to start 2nd ride on a different day.

Again, I stress that this obviously wasn't Matt's intention on this occasion!

(i really should be riding my bike instead of concocting crazy schemes ... )
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2009, 11:32:33 am »
OT: This is going to sound unkind to Matt, but I don't mean it that way;

This highlights a whole new way of riding long perms. The Cheap Rail Ticket Approach; split your journey in 2.

I'm not quite sure how that could be taken as unkind? In this case I rode 370K, had a day off (albeit with about 50k of local-ish riding), then had the choice of a 400K return or a train journey. I couldn't have done an 800K DIY as I'd gone to a reunion so had to have a day off in the middle.

Quote
If you're not upto the longer distance, you still get to complete ONE ride. Also, as in this case, if there is ridiculous wind, one leg of your ride should be pretty doable - again you'll bag ONE ride instead of DNFing the whole thing!

Will probably only work on 400+, as you need to start 2nd ride on a different day.


Isn't that the way the end-to-end done as a series of 200K rides works?
But you are right, if absolute point counting matters then it would be possible to split any ride into 200K chunks and ride them back to back. I don't think they even need to start on a different day as long as they don't overlap. I'm not sure that is in the spirit of things :)


Quote
Again, I stress that this obviously wasn't Matt's intention on this occasion!

I know what you mean - and on this ride the whole return was a DNF, even though I rode the distance. This was a personal challenge/extreme utility cycling (I was going there anyway so saved a car journey) type thing that seemed to fit an Audax schedule rather than setting out to do an Audax and finding a route.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2009, 11:40:49 am »
Top ride.  well done.  I am mega impressed.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2009, 12:09:45 pm »
Good work! Long solo rides are very impressive.

This was a personal challenge/extreme utility cycling (I was going there anyway so saved a car journey) type thing that seemed to fit an Audax schedule rather than setting out to do an Audax and finding a route.

I prefer these kinds of DIY rides to a DIY for the sake of RTTY. My DIY 400 down to Cornwall only saves me a 4h train journey (sometimes a flight) but it's a big challenge (as it is sodding hilly). 0/1 so far but I'm due to have another go in May this year and should be a lot better prepared. I'm not annoyed that I DNF'd last year as I still got down to the in-laws for their golf weekend, I just had to do the final 120km by train.

I'm looking at having a week off mid-March as I've got holiday to use up by April and Mrs G is off visiting a friend for 5 days. I'm in the middle of trying to come up with some plans for a good bash out on the bike.

Right now the current insanity thinking is:

Day 1 (evening) Train* to Doncaster stay at Thorne travelodge
Day 2: Up early and then do a DIY 200 to Alston via Coxwold (201.8km by shortest route in Autoroute!) and stay in a B&B.
Day 3: Alston, Eskdalemuir, Dalkeith, Dunbar to push it over 200km. Stay in Dunbar.
Day 4: Train back from Dunbar to London

* The slightly more bonkers version of this involves Day 1 being a DIY 300 up to Thorne from Putney so I do the later stages with more of an idea of what my legs will be feeling like.

The negative points are that the weather could be awful in March (but that's always good training) and I'm not sure I'd see it through with 3 full days of riding on my own and the old "WTF am I doing, why don't I just get the train home" demons.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2009, 12:25:32 pm »
Out of interest MattH, what bike & tyres did you use?

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2009, 12:32:44 pm »
I put new GP4S tyres just before this ride; they gave no worries at all.

The bike is a Thorn Audax MK3, with super heavy resilient Rigida Sputnik rims, SON dynohub & DLumotec lighting. I ended up carrying both my Nelson saddlebag and an Ortlieb rigid pannier; I had to take some stuff with me that was nothing to do with the ride itself, so ended up needing the extra room.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2009, 01:07:18 pm »
Ta.  What size tyre do you run?

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2009, 01:10:23 pm »
700c 28. That's the biggest that will fit my frame (with mudguards), and the smallest that will fit my rims sensibly.

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2009, 01:13:05 pm »
ok, that's all good info I shall add to my mental data banks.

I've been wondering what to shod the bike with next time (hopefully not for a long time as Santa delivered some new tyres).

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2009, 11:24:05 am »
Well done Matt.

Some of that brings to mind last year's Irish Mail 400.  You were going really well then as well.  Keep up the good work.

Me, im really struggling at the moment.  Had a good month during January, but all this damn snow has put a temporary stop to my training and was hoping to ride the BC in May.


vorsprung

  • Opposites Attract
    • Audaxing
Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2009, 12:25:07 pm »
Me, im really struggling at the moment.  Had a good month during January, but all this damn snow has put a temporary stop to my training and was hoping to ride the BC in May.

Don't worry about it, oudles of time until Bryan Chapman kick off
Audaxing Blog follow @vorsprungbike on

Re: Intense weekend
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2009, 12:54:53 pm »
Some of that brings to mind last year's Irish Mail 400.  You were going really well then as well. 

But you only saw me on the easy A5 bits  ;)

Quote
Me, im really struggling at the moment.  Had a good month during January, but all this damn snow has put a temporary stop to my training and was hoping to ride the BC in May.

As Vorsprung said, plenty of time before May - especially as you've had the fitness in the last year and done overnight rides so know you are perfectly capable of doing it.

I did almost nothing after Bridge too Far (life got in the way), struggled horribly on the Anfractious 200, DNF'ed the Winter Solstice after 75K (though that was because my lad was having ankle trouble) and only did another 200K ride at the start of January. Fitness comes back very quickly.

Re: Intense weekend revisited
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2010, 04:41:55 pm »
To set the scene again, every year I attend a reunion in Bangor that takes place on the final Saturday of January.  Last year (and the start of this thread) I rode there and back as part of my desire to get fit for LEL and do some long sequential rides - so 370km there on the Friday, take Saturday off, then 400km home. The extra distance home is due to adding in a dog log via Stroud; as I’d be out on the beer on Saturday an early morning start wasn’t going to happen so I wanted to factor in a couple of hours in a £9 Travelodge room rather than ride from midday straight through the night.

Last year was fine going to Bangor, but the return was the weekend when the snow hit and brought the country to a standstill. It had started snowing as I got into the mountains and was continuous until I got to the Travelodge, where I abandoned hope of finishing in time. I had a good sleep and continued home in daylight once the snow ploughs had been out.

Fast forward a year, and I decided to ride up again. I’m lighter, fitter and faster, so expected it to be much easier. Unfortunately things didn’t quite turn out that way.

I left home at 4:30am in the pouring rain. I was making pretty good time, getting to Peartree services (~70km) before the Little Chef opened at 7am. The weather cleared up a bit, though there was rain on and off and it was pretty cold when I stopped in Stratford-Upon-Avon for a quick picnic on the river bank.

Approaching Bridgnorth it started to snow, so as I’d planned a stop there anyway I ducked into a garage for a coffee and snack, somehow managing to lose one of the rubber ear pieces for my headphones in the process. When I left the snow had abated, but my back wheel had started to make an occasional clunking noise. This is a two year old wheel that is due for retirement soon anyway (probably having cover 15,000 miles), but I’d hoped to eke it out until the weather got nicer rather than subject a brand new rim to the grinding paste of winter riding.

A few miles up the road and it was sounding like Windy Miller’s windmill ( <a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/xT_wwuMcA_M&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/xT_wwuMcA_M&rel=1</a> ). I wasn’t sure how long it would last, and certainly didn’t fancy taking it over the mountains in bad weather. I crawled to Shrewsbury and found a mechanic willing to do a wheel bearing service there and then (in Halfords of all places!). I watched him, he did a rather splendid job, cleaning it out, replacing the bearings and taking great care to set it up properly (for the princely sum of £9.99) but I ended up losing about 90 minutes, plus the delay due to riding carefully for the previous 10 miles or so.

Up the road to Oswestry - with snow and very slippery conditions. I had a full meal at the Little Chef and when I left the roads were not as icy - presumably a gritter had been through. Then things turned sour again; flashing signs at the side of the road told me that the A5 was shut just past Corwen. I had no idea if it was road works (where I might be able to get past even if it meant walking) or bad snow. The signed diversion was to go up past Wrexham and along the A55 - swapping a scenic ride through pretty towns and painfully beautiful mountains for a main road hack up horrible dual carriageways with nothing to look at and an extra 20 miles to ride.

I didn’t have a map with me as I know the intended route well, but that doesn't help when you have to work out a big detour and the GPS really doesn’t cope well with planning alternative routes on the bike. The display is simply too small to get a big overview and if you just ask it to get you somewhere it somehow always chooses the most inappropriate routing. I managed to cut off a corner going via Mold, but I wasn’t in the best of moods - especially when I also somehow lost one of the clear lenses for my glasses so had to take them off.

For some reason the drivers on the A55 road were pretty nasty; it was late-ish at night, with an almost empty road, yet I’ve never been honked at so many times -  I wonder if they think the whole road is barred to bikes rather than just certain sections?

The A55 is a fairly benign road hill-wise, but in their wisdom the North Wales planners have decided that bicycles are fine to take hillier roads whilst car drivers have to travel on the flat. Whilst the cars get a nice flat expressway through Colwyn Bay, cyclists are forced off onto the old road which goes over the top of a mountain. Past Conwy, you aren’t allowed through the new tunnels on a bike, so you have to take a convoluted cycle path that includes climbing up steep ramps to foot/cycle path bridges, going over the top of outcroppings where the cars go straight through, and following a lovely surfaced cycle path where the road alonside is flat but the cycle path follows the original contours and incorporates regular 10-15% hills up and down. The worst of these is at the Penmaenmawr end - you drop down a 10% hill to be presented with a pair of chicane barriers as you are supposed to dismount at that point. I wonder how many people have ridden into those if their brakes aren’t 100%.  You then have to climb a long extremely steep hill into the town that I only just made it up using a triple, then another steep bridge to negotiate and a path over the top of the hill that the cars drive through.

I finally arrived at around 4am - not quite 24 hours on the road.



The Return.


Coming back, I was woken up by heavy hail, which turned to snow as I ate breakfast. It had cleared by the time I ready to leave (10:30am), but whilst getting ready one of the zips on my bootees failed setting the scene for another day.

I looked at various options (including following part of the BCM route), but decided to head back via Denbigh. The route is much easier in that direction, you can stay on the road for most of the way and only really have to come off to divert through Conwy and Colywn Bay. By the time I got to Ruthin (75km) I was averaging 29.8km/h - not bad considering that big climb out of Colwyn Bay.

I’d hoped to take the Horseshoe down to Llangollen, but that was closed due to snow. The alternative A road towards Wrexham had a surface that most farm tracks would be ashamed of, and to top it off the snow had started again.

By the time I got to Oswestry I’d pretty much decided that I’d just ride home, rather than aiming for the Travelodge. I figured with luck I’d get there before my wife and kids left for work/school. It was getting dark, and my Smart Superflash was playing up due to getting soaked, even though I’d tried improving the sealing by wrapping it in insulation tape. My rear dynamo light wasn’t working at full efficiency, there was a bad contact in the cabling that I couldn’t fix by the road. Luckily my head torch also has a very good red LED, so that got strapped to my bag.

I didn’t bother stopping at Shrewsbury or Bridgnorth, making Kidderminster my next coffee/food stop at a garage. I had to put my phone under my armpit for a few minutes to warm it up before the battery would work properly. My Ixon IQ front light was starting to be intermittent, again I think due to the cold - but my dynamo front and headtorch rear were holding up giving me plenty of visibility to the rear and letting me see the way reasonably clearly.

On the way out of Kidderminster a WVM (big high sided transit, I think) hit me with his wing mirror, knocking me off and destroying his mirror. He stopped a few hundred yards up the road, then sped off. There was no signwriting on the van and it was too far away in the dark to be able to see the number plate, let alone read it. I picked myself up, luckily the only damage was a hole in the elbow of my jacket and a small hole in the hip of my waterproof trousers. It had been a low speed impact as I’d been going up a fairly steep hill. With over 100 miles still to go, I had no alternative but to jump straight back on and start to ride.

Bridgenorth and Redditch came and went, but the 24 hour garage I’d been aiming for on the road out of Stratford was window service only and surrounded by drunks, so I pushed on. From there to Peartree there were several garages that looked to be open (illuminated pricing signs, brightly lit forecourts), but on closer inspection this turned out to be a tease and they were locked up tight.

At Peartree it was window service only, so no chance of a hot drink or to browse the food, but I did replenish my drinks and get a sandwich.  Once past Oxford it started to hail, then snow. What would normally have been a fast final 15km into Reading turned into crawl as I had no glasses to protect my eyes against the hail impacts.

Most of the roads had a covering of snow, but it was OK for riding on. The only problem was that it was coating the bike and my feet, making them quite cold. I got in around 6am so was there before everyone in the house was due to get up around 7am. Having had the day booked off work, I went to bed for a few hours and am now getting ready to clean the crud off the bike.


Back to back solo 400s in January with only a day between then - will I do it again next year?

Maybe - I'll possibly be thinking about ramping up for PBP  ;)