Just a Ride

With a few days off work over half term I was hoping to get out on the bike a bit. As usual with a family things came up so Wednesday came and went, part of that was laziness though, I couldn’t be bothered heading out in the evening, it was just too much effort to get ready so I missed the pub ride, poor effort really.

On Thursday I had decided I would make my way up to Copdock near Ipswich. I have a ride up there in a couple of weeks and I am considering a 50 km each way trip to bring it up to 200 km total and should still have me back in good time. It was a cracking day when I left home at 11:30 so I put the waterproof in the bag just in case and wore less layers than I have been recently, it was the right choice and the arm warmers did not take long to be stripped back.

The route took me over to Copford and then through the dip and up the hill to West Bergholt. From there I was very much in the country side and passed through some familiar roads from longer Audaxes that start/finish in Manningtree. Zipping down Gun Hill I peeled off through Stratford St Mary and then took the small roads through the back up to Copdock. As I got near Copdock I took a wrong turn and luckily realised my mistake before making the descent which would have involved a climb back up the dual carriageway which is a particularly annoying piece of road heading into the last few miles of the Green and Yellow fields 300.

I got to Copdock with about 45km on the clock so I will need to devise a little deviation somewhere to extend that our a little bit, it shouldn’t be to hard to find an extra 5 km.

As I turned I suddenly realised how I had managed to keep up at about 27 km/h average, the wind was now in my face. Ah well, the thing about fixed gear is that you just have to keep on grinding regardless. I free styled me route home and made several stops when I wasn’t sure how much of a main road I was about to run into, I had intended to head back into Manningtree via the G&Y Fields route but I managed to take the wrong turn so joined up a busy A road much earlier. It wasn’t too bad and I knew the A road would meet back up with the route which it did, just with a much less pleasant way to make progress.

I did stop to fill my bottles and get a picture at St Mary’s Church in Bentley. It was just a bit to pretty with the Snow Drops out the front not to just soak it up for a couple of minutes.

St Mary’s Church, Bentley

I dug in on the way up Cox’s hill in Manningtree and nearly blew a gasket as I got over the steep bit but nothing too bad and I recovered quite quickly, oddly it was the fastest I had ever been up there (still not very impressive!) from where I joined the back lanes and came into Colchester along the Bromley road. A lady in a Fiesta felt the urge to tell me I had been doing 40 mph down a hill as I was just starting to put effort in up the other side, pretty sure her reading was pretty inaccurate but the legs had defo been spinning on the 69′ gear.

I joined the bike path along the river and through the castle park, although slower I just love riding through the park away from the traffic and I stayed on the bike lane all the way across to Shrub End where I rejoined the road to avoid the more muddy sections of the cycle path.

Back home along the main road before peeling off to Layer Marney and a quick diversion along Grove road to save the monotony of Newbridge and Chapel roads.

MEMWNS – The Kings head Tollesbury

After the issues with the commute back from Witham and the truck on the A12 I nearly opted to stay home in the warm. The choice of pub this week being incredibly close to home though swung it in the end.

I was already dressed and only had to change shoes so I headed off from home for Tollesbury just before 8:45 after having had some dinner. It’s under 10k out there so no real distance. I arrived at the pub shortly after 21:00 to find the rest of the guys already there enjoying their first pint.

As per usual for a Wednesday night there was some good chatter mainly based around the Easter Arrow and LEL. There was a solid fixed contingent out and 4 of us left the pub at the same time all riding fixed. I rode back to Tolleshunt D’Arcy with Tom and then did the last couple of KM’s over to Tiptree solo. A nice cold but dry evening to be out, my bike stayed relatively clean!

Another disappointing week mileage wise but I am still in no real panic. Daylight is starting to extend slowly and all we need now is the temps to rise a little, I am really sick of cold, wet and dark this year which I assume I have said already in other posts.

ACME – Knights Templar Compasses and Cross Audax

The last of the ACME Winter series rides for a clean sweep. I had decided not to extend this one to 200 km and just enjoy the ride out with a planned sleep in and then some easy miles on a nice winter route.

I had planned to try to get over to Witham for the 09:30 start with a breakfast before hand. Leaving home  just before 08:30 would usually mean that would all work out but these ACME Winter Series rides are very popular and although I got to the Witham ‘Spoons by 09:00 there was queue for food and I decided I would just settle for the 10:00 start instead.

I lot of people went off on the 09:30 start and I was still waiting for my breakfast by that time, the staff at the ‘Spoons coped incredibly well with the demand though and it was not long until my standard breakfast showed up and I was tucking in fueling up for the ride.

Quite a few of the riders extending the 100 to 200 showed up between 09:30 and 10:00 and there was a good bunch of well known faces to get on the road with. We were sent onto the road with the usual Audax type announcement from new(ish) Essex super organiser Huggy explaining where food and drink opportunities lay along the route mainly :-), it is important information on these rides.

Being a winter route we headed out to Maldon on the B roads. I was in a group with Andrew who is a strong and steady fixed rider. He was riding a 73 inch gear to my 69 inches and I soon feel off the group full of geared folk he was efficiently towing a long. The Cadence was just a bit to high for me on the flats although I got back on as it went up hill a little. I was fine with slipping off the back, my days of blowing myself up trying to keep up are largely done on Audaxes and a pretty big gap had opened up but the time we got to Maldon about 1okm into the route.

As I rode past the first ‘info’ control a few people had stopped to note down the answer.  I decided to push on and remember the answer as I couldn’t be bothered taking my gloves off. The ride from Maldon up to Danbury was along the main A414 which is a slightly fixed unfriendly dragging false flat. Andrew had been one of the ones noting down the answer and we shared the front on the way up to Danbury and we also picked up Olaf just as we got to the top of the hill. From there we stuck together down the other side and through the edge of Chelmsford with another drag up to the top of Galleywood.

At Margaretting Huggy was waiting to Stamp our cards, surprisingly for the perceived lack of speed we were actually only 8 minutes after the control opening time, I was happy with this as I felt pretty comfortable and it’s always nice to have time in hand. We carried on with the thought of maybe stopping at the Compasses in Littley Green for some food and drink but knowing it was likely it would be pretty busy there.

The route took us through Writtle where we eneded up doing a 180° turn as we had missed a left turn. As it ended up we could have carried on along the main road which I suspect would have been quicker but my brain was in Garmin Pink Line mode so we took the bike path hrough the back of the church at Writtle. On the way back to the road a lady walked out from a small exit and I almost took her out, it was close and gave me a bit of a fright, no harm done though.

From Writtle we headed out Chignal Road then over to Great Waltham and on to Hartford End where there was another info control. This one was a post box number which I had learned about last summer. I had to stop and write this one down, CM3 363 is too easy to forget while riding a bike. It was at this point that Andrew, Olaf and I split up a bit as I took a bit longer to get gloves back on and head up the road to the compasses, I am sure the road from Hartford End to Littley Green is a little bit steeper and longer each time I ride it!

When I got to the Compasses I opted to just fill up with water and get back on the road. It was somewhere between around 45km to go and I felt fine from a food perspective. There were a lot of the 09:30 starters in the Compasses finishing up their lunch and a couple of pints, it was great to see. I have found that drinking beer on the rides has me feeling bloated and gasping a bit so I try to avoid it for the sake of enjoyment.

From Littley green it was the well known route past ‘The Beetles’ in Great Leighs where I caught up with Dave and Carolyn on the Orange Tandem and had a bit of a chat with them. We got to Fuller street for the next info control, another post box number, but Alan and Andrew were just heading off so I got the number and carried on this time. For some reason CM3 146 seemed easy to keep in my mind, maybe it was the fact I only had one answer to store for now.

I rode with Alan and Andrew over Ranks Green and through White Notely, no one wanted to attempt the Ford, probably a wise idea as it seemed to be running fast and deep. I have been through that one in winter before and it was not one of my smarter moves!

We got over toward Bradwell and while I recognised the shortcut through the Quarry I was not quite brave enough to suggest it or take it (others did and it was fine) so we ended up going down to Bradwell and tracking back along the A120 for a short spell, this was not the highlight of the day.

As we were heading up to Pattiswick from the A120 I thought I had picked up a leaf in my tyre. We past the Compasses in Pattiswick and got the answer to our question and I stopped to get rid of the leaf, it was a puncture! As there was still plenty of air in the tyre I opted to ride on for a while but after another 4 km or so it was starting to feel a but too spongy so I stopped to replace the tube.

I had a frustrating few minutes trying to get the levers under the bead to get the tyre off but once that was done it all went smoothly. It took me about 20 minutes in total to replace the tube and get back on the road. The offending object was a lovely little pyramid of glass which I suspect was picked upon the A120. Stopping to change the tube on a driveway made up of predominantly little pieces of flint was also not the best idea and before riding off I went of the road to give the tyres a spin on the soft grass to clean them up. Olaf and Andrew both went past as I was changing the tyre along with Rob and a few other riders.

Once back on the road I made good progress through Coggeshall onto Feering and then over to the last of the Compasses at Great Totham. 4 of us left the pub together all in Single Speed or Fixed to climb up over Mountains Road and then drop down Blue Mills Hill back into Witham and Arrivee for a 15:00 finish. Considering where I was a couple of weeks ago I was more than happy with a 5 hour 100 km ride including a puncture. I never felt I was pushing too hard so I know there is more in the tank. It might be time to consider gearing up again but will wait to see what the weather does in the coming couple of weeks.

That completes the ACME winter series and gives me another Fixed Gear Brevet point.


Dick Turpins Day Out – RRTY #35

After lots of procrastination and putting off rides earlier in January due to ice it came down to the last weekend for me to get a 200 km ride in to keep my RRtY on track. I had lots of thoughts of just ‘sacking it off’ and not bothering.

Luckily, during the planning stages I had asked if anyone else was riding and reasonably last minute I had a message from Deniece, a fellow Audax rider who was also planning to ride. Having messed about with a few plans I settled on riding a winter permanent route staple, Tom Deakins’ Dick Turpins Day Out. I decided that I would start in Sudbury at 07:30 which gave me the option of catching a train to the start and back with only a short ride on the home end.

As it turned out I decided to ride up to Sudbury to the start. I know the route well enough and figured that time in the morning would be quiet enough to enjoy. I left home just before 06:00 with a meeting arranged outside St Peter’s Church in Sudbury at 07:30. Another rider, Raymond would also join us for the first leg over to Dunmow.

We left Sudbury shortly after 07:30. I was happy that we were completing the drag up Ballingdon Hill first thing instead of after about 160 km today, my recent rides had been pretty tough work and I was determined to stick with my plan of all my winter Audaxing to be completed on my fixed gear. Progress was comfortable and the company was great.

We were in Dunmow at 09:30 where we popped into Tom’s place to control and were treated to some tea and toast, it was just what the doctor had ordered and it’s always great to get some TLC from a fellow Audaxer, a Legend even! We stayed for about 30 minutes before heading off again for Saffron Walden.

realising that we were going to be on the main road to Saffron Walden much later than usual I did consider taking the quieter option but in the end I decided the up’s and downs were just not going to be welcome. The main road is not exactly flat but the back road has more steep kicks and I thought the more gentle rollers on the main road were going to agree with me better in the long run. As usual there were several idiots on the road who cut close in corners but I have come to expect it on this piece of road, they obviously have a lot of money for cars but little common sense.

As we got into Saffron Walden I asked Deniece if she was happy with the usual Tesco Garage Forecourt fare, she was not! I was happy with that as the bike shop in Saffron Walden, Bicicletta do hands down the best double espresso’s I have ever tasted, Bitter, Strong and Fruity!

After our coffee we headed out of town and up the hill toward Radwinter. This was the last of the hills that were concerning me during the week and I knew once I was up and over this one all would be fine. Turns out I actually did my fastest trip ever up this hill, but I often go up this with a lot of miles in my legs so it is not a huge surprise.

From here the route goes on through Hempstead where we pass Dick Turpins Birth Place, the Bluebell Inn. I took the opportunity to stop for a quick snap after riding by every other time. Not exactly looking fit and with it, but it is winter!

The Bluebell Inn, Hempstead. Dick Turpin’s Birthplace

Not too much further up the road we crossed the River Stour into Suffolk again and followed it’s path along to Long Melford where we headed North through Acton, missing Wally’s Cafe and on to Lavenham where we controlled at the Cock Horse Inn with a pint of Woodfordes Wherry and a cracking bowl of soup.

From here the ride goes through some very pretty lanes, we had some lovely cloud formations and nice blue skies above us along this part of the ride.

Winter Skies near Lavenham

From here it was the usual drag up through Thorpe Morieux which is one of those that I really don’t enjoy on fixed gear as it just feels like you have to work a bit harder than is necessary for the slope you are actually riding up. Through Woolpit and over the A14 followed by the short climb up to Elmswell and then the run into the next control at Walsham Le Willows.

The usual pint at the Six Bells did not happen, it looked very closed. We popped into the Blue Boar over the road and after a slightly awkward exchange I we came out with 2 signed Brevet cards, I just hope the signature is enough to get validated. we were off from Walsham at 15:55 so although not quick it was about right for the conditions.

From Walsham it is a pretty easy 25ish KM to Debenham. I had my heart set on Fish and Chips for that stop as I knew I would be reasonably hungry. It comes at he same time as the usual Sudbury McDonalds stop on this ride. Sure enough I was just starting to crave food as we dropped into Debenham and the Fish and Chip shop was a beacon on the top of the hill. I ordered a small cod and chips and it was marvelous, I suspected I might pay the price on the first drag out of Debenham but it would be worth it. This would fuel me all the way back to Sudbury.

We left Debenham with 44 km to go. I was looking forward to this as my mind would still be preparing for the leg from Sudbury to Dunmow. The wind that usually blows in your face coming out of Debenham was more side on this time which was nice. I got insanely bored along the roman road between Pettaugh and Coddenham but was soon reinvigorated by the short piece of Dual Carriageway (A140) and the round about at the end. I let Deniece take the front on this as she was concerned about us becoming separated at a point where it was much better not to, we got through it just fine.

We stopped briefly under a large tree in Needham Market to take shelt from a heavy shower which was very close to being hail. Once that passed we carried on up the drag out of Needham Market and then around Wattisham Airbase. There is one large dip in the road around the airbase that just takes a bit of effort which I always remember as I get to it. It was fun on fixed gear!

Winter Rain at Needham Market

It wasn’t long until we were descending down into Bildeston, I decided to practice my leg braking a bit on this hill and was surprisingly controlled and did not need the brakes at all and managed to come to a complete stop, the fixed legs are slowly coming on.

After crossing the road in Bildeston there is another short kick up and then all that was left was the blast through Monks Eleigh before swinging off the A road onto the B road through Waldingfield into Sudbury. I remembered that this road was a bit of a roller coaster up to the point where you join the B1071 again and then it was plain sailing back into Sudbury.

I had no time to stop for the traditional McDonalds today, I had decided I would take a train so it was straight down to the Waitrose by the station to get my receipt. A Coronation Chicken sandwich and a bottle of Lucozade purchased and receipt acquired I headed over to the train station to get home. I had considered riding the last 30km home but the couple of hills that stood in my way just put me off. It was getting cold and it was dark, I had completed what I set out to do so why push it. It was the right choice!


The Kelvedon Oyster – Helpers Ride

After my decision not to ride on Saturday due to the risk of ice I pretty much had to go out and put some miles in after a very lazy week. I woke to see rain falling into puddles and the temperature showing as 1 degree, this was going to take some will power.

I spent a bit of time drinking coffee and convincing myself I didn’t really have to go out in this. But I had plenty of time and eventually I got my things together and headed into the garage to make some final preparations before heading off.

The ride over to the 10am meeting in Kelvedon was a sign of things to come. Wet, Cold and reasonably slow but the slow bit was fine, it was one of those days where it was just going to be about doing the miles and not worrying too much about the weather.

The route took us from Kelvedon through to Coggeshall and Earls Colne. We turned to Whites Colne and then headed up the hill towards Pebmarsh. Although Essex has no really big long hills the Essex Suffolk border area is quite rolling and you spend a lot of time going up and down, I was a bit worried about how I would be after recent rides but I felt OK and we were taking it pretty steadily.

We descended into Bures and made the dash along the B road to the turn off up Mount Bures. Where I often spend time out of the saddle on the longer uphill drags I tried to stay seated and made it pretty much all the way up seated, that felt good as it meant the legs still have something in them after a few weeks of reasonable laziness.

We headed into Colchester via Fordham and Lexden and took the bike path through the majority of Colchester. It was a good route through and I hope the riders on the ride enjoy that bit next week, it is a bit slower than roads but it was traffic free and that means you can just take that bit more time to soak it up (quite literally today!)

From Colchester we headed out to Rowhedge to the ‘Control’ and then onto Fingringhoe and Mersea. We stopped at the Coast Inn for some lunch and a pint which was a welcome break from the bleak rain/mist and cold outside. Gloves, Buff and Hat went in front of the open fire for some drying. We had a bit of time to kill as there was a high tide due so we would not be able to get off the island of about an hour anyway.

The Beef Casserole was fantastic, the pint of the local Mersea Island Brewery Yo Boy was brilliant but when I got back on the bike I remembered why I was not so keen on drinking on these rides anymore, the bloat feeling is just not nice!

We headed off the Island at about 3pm headed for Tollesbury for the first information control and then onto the Heybridge Basin. From here we took the path along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation which was a bit narrow with a lot of water very close but it was not a problem. A dicey ride under a bridge and very soon we were back on the road towards Wickham Bishops.

From here it was all pretty easy, along the road back towards Tiptree and then the drop down to Kelvedon where we stopped at the Railway Tavern for a beer and quick chat before making our own way home.

125 km in cold wet conditions, a substantially better start that last week!

Type 2 Fun to start the Year

After some time off the bike in December it was time to start rebuilding the mileage base and get rid of all the December Excesses. It proved to be a lot tougher than I had thought it would be.

My 200 km ride back in December had started incredibly well but finished out a bit tough. It was the result of reduced mileage and increased everything else. Eating, stress at work, stress at home and general lethargy. Luckily I had decided to hold back on the booze so there was one factor that had not made it even worse. After that ride on the 3rd Dec I backed off the riding even more as December is a busy month for me. I had planned to start getting some miles in again in the week leading up to Christmas but a bad gout attack put an end to that and had me fully off the bike for nearly 2 weeks.

So, after a short spin out on New Years Eve I decided that the 1st January 2017 was going to be the start of my mileage building and would fit in well with the Mileater Challenge that I had been considering for some time. With this being a LEL year I expect I will put in a fair few miles in the build up to that.

I had put a route into the Garmin which I had cobbled together in a hurry on RwGPS on line. I had not checked the route well and I expected that there would be a few cross field excursions included that would require a decision. I was in no rush and was out for a nice day so that was fine by me. I got myself ready and left home at about 11:40am. My intention was to do the full distance with no real stops, just get in and get it done, this was a bit of a stupid thing to aim for at this time of year.

The ridden route with no offroading

The ride started well enough, I had no interest in belting it out and as I was riding 69 inch on fixed I found my nice easy cadence and all felt pretty good. It was a little murky but nice and mild, not bad at all for a January day.

My route took me out through Silver End, Cressing and Braintree on well known roads. From the Bocking end of Braintree I joined a few roads that were less well known, I suspect I have ridden most of them in one direction or the other at some point but it was nice to feel like I was on new roads. Progress was good on the B1053 along the River Pant and then up through Shalford (where I saw the village shop that saved me from a pretty nasty Bonk in 2015) and soon after I left the B road onto smaller lanes.

The lanes got progressively more muddy and covered in the general ‘skoggy goodness’ that washes out onto these narrow lanes at this time of year. It seemed that any part of road not covered in mud had been used by a horse to make a ‘deposit’, never mind I have good mudguards so it was no issues and it only really meant I had to slow a lot on descents to stay safe.

As I approached Waltham’s Cross I suddenly felt that feeling of the rear tyre losing air. The obligatory bounce on the saddle confirmed it, I had a puncture. I managed to make my way to the top of the hill to an intersection with a handy signpost to lean the bike against. I took the back wheel off and could hear the air leaking out, a flint had cut right through the middle of the tread, that is pretty impressive considering I am on the Durano Plus tyres which in most cases are all but bulletproof. The flint dropped out, I replaced the tube, reseated the tyre and let a CO2 canister loose on it. I was back on the road after 19 minutes, considering my hands were wet and a bit cold while doing the work I was pretty happy with that.

As I was finishing the tyre off another cyclist pulled up to make sure I was OK. He mentioned that he had just come through some heavy rain a short way back and as he said it I felt the first drops falling. I was hopeful it would not set in but by the bottom of the next hill I had to stop again and put on the rain jacket, I could feel it getting colder and had no intention of letting the rain make me feel it even more.

I carried on along the route through Finchingfield, Great Sampford, Radwinter and Seward’s End which was my turning point. The rain had indeed set in and I was glad for the jacket keeping me dry. The uphills were hurting me and I was pretty slow but I was enjoying it nonetheless. My plan had been to avoid dropping down into Saffron Walden to avoid the drag up the hill back out, I was close to changing my mind as I was already feeling that I needed some fuel. A stern talking to from myself and I took the turn into Cole End Lane to take me back over to the Thaxted Road. It was nice to have a few minutes of flat road with the wind more or less behind me, I knew there was more rolling Essex country side coming very soon.

I joined the B road between Saffron Walden and Thaxted and got on with the rolling hills, nothing serious but they just hurt more than they should have today, that’s winter riding I guess, you just get those days. One more up and I was passing through Thaxted, again thinking of stopping for some food and drink and again just carrying on, I start making poor decisions when I get hungry, trying to push things when deep down I know I should not be doing that.

From Thaxted I took the back roads which familiar so I knew what was coming until I took the turn at Great Easton. I was slightly surprised by the ramp up over Great Easton and over the B road towards Lindsell. Just as I topped out on that my route showed a right hand turn, through a closed gate onto private property. I could see a footpath on the map a little further ‘in-field’ but decided it was a no go. I added on a couple of bonus KM’s which took me on to the Dunmow to Bardfield road which is a much used Audax road for Tom Deakin’s rides.

I got to Bran End and had the usual, nearly home feeling for Dunmow before realising I still had a lot more to do. I carried on through Stebbing crossing the A120 up to Felsted and then carried on through Great Leighs, Fuller Street and Terling.

I had called home from near Felsted and had been offered a pick up, it was very tempting and the fact that my gloves were soaked and my hands were freezing after making the call meant i was now having a mental struggle not to stop and call again. In Witham I thought I would stop at the petrol station just before I leave the town and get a mars bar to see me through the last 10 km. I got there and the petrol station was closed, that hurt and I was so close to pulling in hiding from the rain and calling for a rescue. It was 10km to go, 10km that I ride most week day after work, it would be stupid to ring for the rescue now.

I made my way up the hill into Braxted very slowly. I got to the top and finished the last of my water which I had been rationing a bit and knew it was only 15 or so minutes to go. The rest went smoothly and I got home wet, cold, hungry and thirsty but happy all the same.

A classic Essex ride profile

I really need to stop trying to push the distances in winter between food stops and I really need to start carrying some food with me more often. It was only a 100 km ride but in the conditions it felt more like a 200 km and the time it took was much longer than I had expected. Anyway, lessons learned and I am actually happy I battled through it even if it was a bit, stupid.

Mileater Odometer: 111.90

Link to Strava ride: 2017 – Ride 1

Link to Relive: Type 2 Fun!