Happy New Audax Year!

Today is the last day of the 2010 Audax season. Tomorrow is the start of PBP year! Happy New Year to all Audaxers and followers!!

Its been a fantastic year with a few new achievements for me.

First Randonneur Round the Year: ie a 200km ride every month.
First Audax abroad: Brussels Paris Brussels 600.
First DIY abroad: Dieppe to Beitem 200.

Here is the year's summary which makes it all look too easy!

(BPB in June not listed)

The PBP early registration rides lead to another super randonneur award.

Tomorrow it will be PBP year!

Phillips Bike

Third time in a year! A photo of Sarah on a bike. You'd think she cycles more than I do.

Thank you to CyclesOfYesteryear for restoring the bike to fully functional order. Paul is an amazing bike guru. Its just a way of life for him. He doesn't talk brands or trends, he talks bikes and fixing bikes so that people can use them for whatever purpose at whatever budget. As I was leaving with a vintage bike, someone else came in with a top Pinarello. The shop was busy, but Paul still helped me get the bike in the car and tie the back door down. It was an absolute pleasure, nothing is a problem. Even, he even replaced the freewheel on a wheel I had taken in at the same time, no charge.

This is now my local bike shop ... its only 10 miles away as the biker rides.

Can't spot the difference? Good!

FNRttC October 2010 - Whitstable - Update

I used to call it 'the wonderful bit between Faversham and Whitstable'. When Simon Legg referred to it in one of his communications by its proper name 'Graveney Marshes' I got a little curious. Why is it there, how large is the area, why is it so compelling ... So I did some googling and rather than answer my questions, I got completely distracted by a war story.

A German bomber had crash landed on the marshes. September 1940 it was. The men of the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles captured them and took them back for a pint in the pub they were staying at. Oh so British! This battle's 70th anniversary was recently commemorated. Do read the story. The link is at the end or here: Clicky

The pub was The Sportsman. So I had to look that one up of course and found it still in existence, now a Michelin starred establishment. We would have cycled past the building on every Whitstable ride, but I had never taken notice. The pull of breakfast at the Waterfront Cafe is usually too strong at that stage!

This view is the entry page to The Sportsman

Everything about 'The Sportsman' appealed to me, the history, the location, the food .... I had to go and visit. I rang them up a week before the FNRttC and found that unfortunately for me, they are so popular that they are booked up 6-8 weeks in advance. My heart sank, but I pleaded with them: "Its just me, me on my own, I'll sit anywhere, in a corner, at the bar, anywhere ... "

So this is how I came to have oysters again in Whitstable (ok, Seasalter), followed by pork belly and a chocolate mousse sorbet. The wine was good and the Pedro Ximenez Garvey a real treat!

When they found out that I had cycled from London I was treated as 'the special guest' of the day and got truly spoilt. It was wonderful! I had brought a light change of clothes to get me out of lycra, but they said there was no need, anything goes. I met the chef and admired the kitchen garden at the back. I'm certainly going back there, even if its only to sample the Shepherd Neame Late Red.

The journey back to London was dream like. Had a good snooze on the train. I got out of Victoria Station and with fresh energy decided to cycle home. It was like I was doing a 'Lucas Brunelle', speeding along, people could see my 'I'm coming and you're in my way' stare through the eyes in the back of their heads and parted as I got closer. I got home so quickly, my other half hadn't put the coffee on yet!

What about the FNRttC ride itself? Its not always about the ride is it. If I had done that ride on my own, I wouldn't have enjoyed it much. It rained, not too bad, but I did wonder how I ever survived LEL. And I was very tired, taking cat naps every time there was a regroup, and I wondered again how I ever survived LEL. I found it particularly tough this time. I admired the group and especially the newcomers for sticking with it in such good humour. The banter at Andy's and the Waterfront Cafe was fantastic. I got to know a few people a bit better and made some plans for next year which I'm very excited about.

A few more thoughts:
  • Cycling by The Monument
  • Stuart telling me about the Battle of Bannockburn
  • CharlieB's individually wrapped carrot and marmalade cake was gorgeous
  • Having a 'hot' bacon baguette at Andy's
  • A gift from Aperitif which has added to my bottle top collection:
  • Enjoying the post ride Cycle Chat banter, I had no idea so much had happened on that ride!
  • Thanks a million to Simon and his helpers, and the riders, and the cafes
So that is it for this season. I can't make the last Brighton run and the audax season is finished also. What a great year it has been and what a grand finale I experienced last weekend! It moves me what cycling can do for you. But then I do believe that I am 'the Queen of the Tuesday Blues'!

The photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky
Rich P's photos are here: Clicky

Last battle of Britain at Graveney: Clicky

FNRttC October 2010 - Whitstable

Only 4 more sleeps!

On the 26th September, Simon wrote: "I doubt that we'll be oversubscribed, so there's no rush [to register]". 24 hours later there were 60 people on the list. At the last count, there were 113!

Don't people realise that there are hills to climb, that it could be cold, long queues at the Rochester cafe, crosswind by the coast, more queues at the Whitstable cafe then a long journey back to London. And you have to remember also that this is a 'Friday Night Ride', we cycle in the dark, so no scenery to be enjoyed.

What is the fun in all that? Why do people sign up for these things?

Bicycle Film Festival

Really, really enjoyed the Bicycle Film Festival at the Barbican last Saturday.

If you have never heard of Lucas Brunelle, watch this trailer (this is only the trailer!!):

The Anfractuous 200 - Update

Thank you to Manotea, the ride's organiser, for enriching my vocabulary today.

First there is 'anfractuous': full of twists and turns, tortuous. Just a shame that the definition didn't trigger any memories of this being a hard ride.

Then there was 'scoggy' or 'skoggy': in his safety chat, Manotea mentioned a 'scoggy' section, where we should all take care. When asked what it meant, he answered we'd know when we came to it. I believe the word to be a Manotea-ism, to be included into the Oxford dictionary some time not soon.

One of the info controls about the number of dormer windows, also got me thinking I've been misusing the word all this time. But no, I was OK there. Sorry, I can't reveal anymore on this, its the audax etiquette not to 'reveal' info controls ... an etiquette controlled by MattC.

May I add my own Els-ism here? I don't think there is such a word as 'concibel'. I see it as the unit of concentration. If you bundled all the concentration required to complete an audax, you'd get to quite an amount: for packing, for getting to the start, for following the route sheet, for reconciling with the GPS, for cycling in groups, for avoiding potholes, for red lights, for car drivers, for talking... You'd think all this is done on auto-pilot, some of it is, but one moment of distraction, and there you have it. Lost! Where did I get lost? How is it possible! With a perfect routesheet, backed up with a perfect GPS, how is it possible to get lost? Its when you cycle at concibel level 0.

And thank you also to Manotea, for recommending the baked beans at the Waterfront Cafe. I was enjoying that so much, I was thinking of the elimination round of Masterchef. I was hearing Michel Roux' voice: A plate, very well presented. Three pieces of toast uniformly cut into triangles and having the right thickness. Spread evenly with butter which is melting over the perfectly toasted bread. The beans, very tasty with a hint of pepper. This is a dish I would be happy to serve in my restaurant. And then comes Greg Wallace: Salt! Salt, my friend! It doesn't have enough salt ... but I'd happily eat the lot. Only on audaxes can baked beans taste so good!

Breakfast stop

It was very nice to sit outside by the river, for breakfast. It was a very warm day. I was in shorts and short sleeves for most of the day. Just a shame the sun didn't break through. There was a 'scoggy' mist hanging over the countryside all day.

This didn't stop the red kites from appearing though. They were wonderful, and so many of them. The RSPB site will tell you that they have a "mew-like “weoo-weoo-weoo” call which is rapidly repeated". To me they sound like a sheepdog trial with multiple competitions going on at the same time. It was particularly nice to hear them again on the return back into the Chilterns.

Another moment I liked was climbing what happened to be the steepest hill of the day. Male and female pheasants scattered left, right and ahead amongst the lovely woodland. It will now be in my memory as Pheasants Hill, although, Pheasants Hill proper was another mile and a bit away. Tried to look up the climb on Google Maps, but I don't think even the googmobile got up it. Try and Google Colstrope Lane.

The Stanley Spencer Gallery on the corner by the Cookham info control reminded me that I must visit one day.

So here is my reminder for next year: This is a hilly ride. The autumn sunshine can make it absolutely wonderful (2009), scoggy mist, a little less so (2010). However, the woodlands, the Chilterns, the Lambourne, Wantage, Pangbourne area are fantastic to cycle through. Just remember, it is not 'not entirely flat' as stated on the audax site, it is one hill after the other. If I'm exaggerating, its so that by 2011 I at least remember that it is indeed 'anfractuous'.

A few photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky

Barring Mechanicals - Andy Allsopp

There are a few SPOILERS in here! This means, if you are going to read the book, you might not want to read this post.

Don't know why it has taken me so long to pick up Andy's book. I guess LELers are not used to it. You scan the forums and the net for ride reports, because there are always a few goodn's there somewhere. You scan youtube for Damon Peacocks videos, because audaxers know that is what he does. But a book! A book about LEL? No!

So here I am a year later, trying to put LEL 2009 to bed, because the talk is now about PBP 2011. Oh, but what indulgence. I am so pleased I unwittingly had one last LEL treasure to read and thus able re-live LEL.

And I don't know either, why I find so much in this book so funny!

For example, the maps. In particular, the map for LEL Day 2 - Monday. How can a map be funny? Its just a line drawing of a section of England between Thorne and Alston. It is funny because it is so simple! No contours, no shading, no indication of anything happening at all, just a line between Thorne and Alston. And then ... near Alston, a tiny little triangle: Yad Moss! Ha!

Another moment where I was laughing out loud and crying at the same time was in the 'Sanctuary' chapter. Andy describes the Tuesday situation: "The field is wrecked. 20 people have stopped. 33 are missing." Everyone is in survival mode by the time they get to the control. And I could completely identify with Deniece's reaction to the offer of a warm bed: "How far is your house?" Why is that so funny?

"At The Start Line" photo shows Andy with the LongHairedScouser. Hilarious! Just two riders! What is going on? Where is everybody? Then you find out that Andy had left his cycling shoes at home, so had a delayed start whilst his wife went back home to fetch them. Then less than 10 miles in, he has a serious mechanical issue that he would nurse all the way around LEL. You'd think it could only get easier for him after that, but of course it doesn't. Here come Yad Moss and the storm.

What an incredible journey Andy had. He had registered a month earlier than me, in November 2008. By January 2009 I had cycled a 200km audax with 2000m climbing. Andy was happy to finish a 30 mile ride at that time. By May I had completed an audax SR (upto 600km rides), whilst Andy seemed chuffed with his 'five rides over 100 miles', none of which were audaxes.

So how come, with all the adversity Andy had, he still finished 2.5 hours quicker than me?!*!!

Now that is not funny!

A few more thoughts:
  • we were both on a FNRttC in March 2009 in preparation for LEL - Andy's first I think
  • while I was very impressed with the LEL cakes (there were 9 left when I was in Traquair), Andy mentioned 'a LEL cake'
  • Andy's detailed descriptions are very impressive 'down past the mining museum my wife has a bookmark from'
  • most favourite line: "we stand in the rain because we can't remember to go inside!"
  • the journey and the writing style gets you hooked from start to finish
  • the way Andy describes the moment where you hand in your brevet card at the end is also one of my favourites
Very well done, Andy!

FNRttC March 2009
Andy with recumbent

9 Oct - The Anfractuous 200

I did The Anfractuous 200 last year. It had been my first audax calendar event since LEL. I remember it being a lovely autumn ride with excellent scenery. However, my post from last year tells me it was not an easy ride. No 200 is ever easy, really, you should always treat it with respect! Still, I'm hoping for a relaxed day, with time for breaks, chats and photos ...

Profile is below:nfras 2009