Going like the Clappers

I took up the chance of a ride with the Tiptree Velo midweek riders, not convinced it was the best idea but man it was fun.

A loop of Abberton Reservoir and extending down to D’Arcy and back along Tudwick road for a total of 35.5km at an average of 29.6 km/h is SIGNIFICANTLY faster than any riding of recent times for me.

Good to know it is in the legs and after the first 30 minutes I was actually coming good. I was gasping at the back a little but when the hammer had to go down there was still a bit left, looking forward to picking up the pace with that lot on the odd Sunday.

It was also the first outing in a while for the carbon Domane which I have now set up with the fast rolling Panaracer Gravel King 28’s, very nice ride indeed!


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.

Commute – 08/02/2017

After being ill on Monday and Tuesday the commute in went fine, my phone continues to experience issues with picking up a GPS signal on leaving home which is bloody annoying!

On the way home a truck crashing through the bridge barrier onto the A12 meant I had to ride up the bike path to Kelvedon. I then spoke to Catherine who was stuck in traffic so I turned to go back to Witham to meet Alys from her Cheer training. I got back in time to meet her but Catherine also got through the traffic to get there in time. As all 3 girls were present there was not enough room for the bike so I rode home which gave a few bonus KM’s on another quiet week.

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!


MEMWNS – The Railway – Kelvedon

I left work with the intention of taking a train to Shenfield and riding to Kelvedon from there giving me about 40 km in the bank. The trains had different ideas.

On getting to Stratford trains were delayed and the platform was pretty busy. Having the bike with me I was nearly tempted to ride out of town all the way but the delay seemed to be under control and considering I have no idea where i am going and I am not a huge fan of cycling in busy traffic I decided against it. One thing I have learned in the time I have been commuting is when these things happen you are best off just taking the first possible option, in this case it meant a train not stopping at Shenfield.

The first train through was rammed full of people as expected so I just waited for the next one through. Once I was on the train I started thinking about getting off at Chelmsford or Hatfield Peveral and riding from there to Kelvedon. Looking at the time I realised I might just have enough time to make Witham and catch up with the others before they left the meeting point.

I got to Witham about 4 minutes after the meet up time, I figured I would cut through and possibly intercept the bunch but some bad split decisions held me up through Witham and that was out the window. I had looked at the route they were riding so I followed that knowing there was a piece of road where I might get  a glimpse of them. I didn’t so I cut my own route back to the pub.

I was feeling low on energy (having not eaten since lunch) so just slowed down to tourist pace and enjoyed the ride. I figured if I put in 30 km between getting off the train and getting home it would be a nice evening out.

I arrived at the pub just after the main bunch and then the last arrivals came in about 5 minutes later from their respective directions. I was on the OJ as I could feel a bit of a gout attack in my ankle again and decided against giving it anything that could make it flare up. A good chat about all kinds of rubbish and I made my excuses at about 22:45.

I picked up my Brevet card for the Dick Turpins permanent ride this weekend. I suspect it is going to be a slow ride considering how I am feeling on the bike at the moment. I will stick with my plan to do all my winter audaxing on fixed though, might as well make it a challenge!


Commute – 24/01/2017

It was touch and go but I opted to take the bike all the way into London again this morning. As I write this morning bit I am not sure if I will choose to ride the full distance from Shenfield to home today. Too many annoying false flats 🙂

Much warmer this morning, a tiny bit of twinkling frost on the road along the Backwater Valley floor but other than that it was much more relaxed riding. The slowness is starting to worry me, I must stay strong, it will come good at the end of the winter.

I opted to get home a bit quicker tonight. I took a cheeky (before bikes are supposed to be on trains) train tonight which I soon realised did not stop at Witham but went on through to Kelvedon. I jumped off at Hatfield Peveral and took the route through the back up station road into Wickham Bishops and on to home. The roads were starting to ice over which was a bit surprising as I thought it has warmed up a bit today.

Tomorrow is MEMWNS night so one more day with the bike in London this week. I will plan to get off at Shenfield and work my way back to Kelvedon where we are meeting at the Railway Tavern. Must not drink beer until I feel back up to speed, like that is going to work.


Commute – 23/01/2017

On waking and seeing the temperature on my phone at -3 I looked outside to see everything very frozen indeed. My initial thought was, 1 more hour in bed and take the car.

Luckily I am too tight to pay the £6 a day in parking too often so I got up and moving. I had prepared the Croix de Fer on Sunday by adding the Rack, putting the Durano Pluses back on and giving the drive train a quick clean and lube so I was ready to go.

The idea of putting the rack on the Croix was that I want to start riding a longer distance on the way home by taking the bike into the city and getting off at an earlier stop on the way home. Probably not the best time to start doing it but my January mileage is woeful so I have to do something.

I layered up and got out there, it was cold, really, really cold. I went carefully down the road until I got to the treated surface where I could go a bit quicker but that did not last long. I would still take the option of the untreated roads over the gritted roads full of people who might not have cleared their windscreens properly.

As I carefully went down the hill into Braxted I could feel a bit of slack in the rear brake lever and this got worse once I was back on the flat. I was struggling on the flat and once I got to the ramp up over the A12 and hardly managed to get up there I knew something was up. The rear brake cable had frozen up due to some water getting inside it and this was stopping the actuating arm returning to it’s usual position, basically I was riding with the brake on. I had this happen before and it’s easy enough to just release it by hand and then use the brake as little as possible. When you have to use it you need to jump off quickly and reset it.

I looked on line and there are a couple of hacks that might assist in fixing this, I will try those out but in all fairness I do not intend on riding in those conditions too often.

So tonight was my first run at the longer commute home. I got off the train at Shenfield and followed my route until I got through to the Boreham side of Chelmsford when I knew where I was. Some familiar parts to to the ride from previous Wednesday night adventures, London Hill into Galleywood being the most ‘memorable’. It’s a nice route and I plan to use it more often to keep the mileage ticking over.

Still feeling incredibly slow and just not quite got the push to crack on. I guess winter, after work and a bit hungry would never lead to peak performance. These rides can be all about doing the miles and forgetting about it. It was nice to ride the gears again after a lot of Fixed riding recently.

Commute Route

True Grit(ted)

I have convinced myself to avoid going out in icy conditions, the problem with that is we are going through a cold spell and that would mean no riding, it was time to crack on with it.

I had intended to ride over to Whites Colne on Saturday to take some pictures of the Kelvedon Oyster riders coming up the hill towards Pebmarsh. When I saw the conditions of the ground and knowing there was a 09:30 start group I decided I would take the car instead, for my safety, you understand!

Anyway, Sunday rolled around and the ground was again very white so I pretty much wrote off the day but the itch to ride soon started. I got a couple of jobs done in the morning and then after considering changing the gear on the Fixie I decided to leave it and ride instead. My plan was to go down to Tolleshunt Knights and then do 2 loops around the roads which I knew would be gritted.

On the first loop I spent a lot of the ride over to Tolleshunt D’Arcy waving to folk riding the Interbike Sportive, not all waved back, some of them looked rather serious. I joined some of what I assume were the 50km route riders on the road from Salcott back to Tolleshunt Knights who were in more of an enjoyment mode.

The hill up Barnhall Road was the most ‘testing’ piece and with the sun out it was getting to be quite nice. At the end of the first lap I stopped and removed the Buff as it was just not required.

The second lap was quieter with not more other bikes. I tried to get up the Barnhall Road hill a bit faster but I kind of paid the price as I got over the steep bit and took took some recovery, damn my lack of fitness!

On the third lap it was getting a bit boring, I took it a bit easier up the hill this time and that meant I had more to give over the top, definitely the smart plan, easy up and put the gas on after that.

I had planned to do about 45 km and decided I couldn’t face another lap of the same so this time at D’Arcy I headed towards Maldon and then took the road over towards Tolleshunt Major. The roads had dried out so I figured I would take the risk. The downhill bit was a bit risky, lots of wet and smooth parts of tarmac which I dodged, just in case they were ice. From Tolleshunt Major I took Tudwick road back over to Tiptree, luckily this was pretty dry, I know that one of the Tiptree Velo riders took a fall on Tudwick road last week and has ended up off the bike for a couple of months so the dry was good.

Anyway, 46.7km done and that means a week of 232.1 and a YTD total of 549.1 km. Not quite what I had hoped for but it is January and every mile counts. With a 200 km to do and some plans for additional miles during this week we might end up with a respectable January total. It’s all about staying safe for me at the moment.

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