Rapha Festive 500 2013

Festive 500 2013_logoThis was my third consecutive Festive 500.  I was looking for a new twist in the string of rides that would form my 500km as I’d be covering pretty much the same ground as in the previous editions.   I decided to try and tell the story of the rides through the camera lens, rather than words.  Looking for photos whilst riding is always a joy and looking for new and interesting shots on very familiar roads is a challenge, which I hope I’ve met.  I tweeted the photos as the Festive 500 progressed via Tumblr for immediacy and also loaded the photos on Instagram.  Here in the blog, I’ve picked what I think are the best shots and added a few more words about my journey  to completing the Festive 500 challenge.  A new personal best mileater annual mileage of 17,039 miles (27,442km) would also be achieved by New Years Eve.

Preparation   Testing the deep-water cycling shoes seemed essential as the forecast was for another wet Festive 500.

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24th December 2013  Off to work was the order of the day for the night before Christmas.  Getting off work early, I took the opportunity to ride the lanes home.  The rain gods did visit and they gave a feeling of déjà vu.

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Festive 500 2012 revisited!

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A wonderful sunset ended the day as Scotti the roadified MTB bagged the first kms towards the Festive 500.

25th December 2013  Was the traditional (for me) Christmas Day 200km permanent brevet from home to Munsley Acre with the Bike Butler for the Marlboro AC Christmas holiday.

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A visitation from a rather too merry Pst….. Fairy, mere kms from home

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A traditional randonneur’s Christmas day lunch!

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A crisp and bright day showed the Cotswolds off beautifully

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Twinkle light at Newent with only a handful of kms to the arrivee and Christmas dinner with the Marlboro AC, my father’s old cycling club.

26th December 2013  Boxing day started off foggy before icy sunshine led to a beautiful day a-wheel with a small Marlboro AC peloton.

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The sun rises over the Malvern Hills

27th December 2013  Time to head home, up and over the Cotwolds and then the Chiltern Hills.   The day started off with heavy rain showers but, by Stow-on-the-Wold, had ‘fined up’.  However the promised tail wind failed to show!

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Stanway looked superb as we grovelled our way to Stow-on-the-Wold

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and a proper lunch at the CTC-approved St Edwards cafe.

28th December 2013  Time for some erandonneuring with Scotti back on duty, having spent the Christmas holiday at Munsley Acre on Zoe C, a flat-bar Condor cyclocrosser.

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29th December 2013  Rain stopped play; a zero km day.

30th December 2012  More Erandonneuring for a few more kms in the bank.

31st December 2013  My last opportunity to collect kms for both the Festive 500 and the mileater diary.

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The perfect sign to farewell 2013 and to greet 2014.

Factiods

Festive Total 705km
By Scotti 237km
By Zoe C 468km
punctures 1
photos taken 18
Audaxes 2
Shopping trailer loads 2

 

Scotti and the Skog

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The Bike Butler wanted to keep his Randonneur Round the Year going, just in case his 205km L’Eroica didn’t pass muster. I simply needed to feed the mileater diary as, due to bad weather and a rather good-looking Italian virus keeping me off the bike, it was getting rather peckish. Work miles simply weren’t enough to meet the diary’s voracious appetite. So it was decided that we’d ride the 100km Emitemmus Desrever as an Extended Calendar Event (ECE). We live roughly 50km from the start, so there and back plus event added up to 200km.

What we hadn’t planned on were the weather gods getting together to produce some really exceptional weather. Casper the Little While Moulton was cleaned and fettled ready to ride. However, given the forecast for big (and I mean BIG) winds and large rain plus the existing mega-skog factor and assorted leaf chutney in the lanes, I decided a change of steed was a must.

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Following a nano-second of thought, the most suitable steed in the stable had to be Scotti the mountain bike. At 14kg (he’s a tiny bit more but doesn’t like to own up), this bike was certainly going to glue itself to the road, no matter the strength of any side winds. 26” wheels shod with a Big Apple rear and a Nimbus Flak Jacket front were going to be surefooted on skoggy and pothole-infested lanes. With the Alfine 11 hub, puddles would have to be lakes before Scotti couldn’t splash through. And the final clincher, the dyno-hub would provide unlimited light for our return, given that the clocks had just gone back and the wind would be in our face. The only worry was; was I up to peddling Scotti for 200km? His longest ride ever was just over 100km, so this would be double-bubble.

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The ride out to the start was perfect. The rain had stopped and the wind was at our backs. The wind-assisted pace meant we arrived somewhat earlier than intended. However, that gave us the chance to enjoy the pre-ride ambience, admire the massed carbon bling and watch the well-oiled machine of Stevenage CTC volunteers ensuring riders were at the start line on time and with their brevet cards in their back pockets.

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Our group E started at 10:20 which was great as it meant we got to start with WilkyBoy, a little-wheeled AUK friend who was riding (as usual) his Brompton. He’d recently completed London Edinburgh London on it. He did a double-take on seeing that my wheels had grown from 20” to 26” (not full sized yet though!). The group sped off into the lanes to the first of three check points. The GPS track was perfect and Scottie, though not the fastest bike on two wheels, weaved through the hazard-filled lanes perfectly and seemed to sneak past quite a bit of carbon bling.

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Lunch at Saffron Walden (2nd check point) was very welcome with great service from the Mocha Café. Onto the final check point of the ride and the promise of WI caik! Would it be in the same league as Cheltenham WI caik? And the answer was ‘yes’. Fuelled by a rather wonderful slice of Victoria sponge, the last 25km to the arrivee into a rather large headwind was almost OK.

A quick cup of coffee and a chat to bhoot (tandem) and RideHard (with his uni-pedalled fixed wheel) and we were a-wheel again for the final 50km home into the headwind. Local knowledge, imparted to me by my Dad when I first stated cycling with the Marlboro AC, was invaluable. With the Bike Butler on fixed for the first time in many years and the weight of Scotti becoming a little bit noticeable, the reasonably flat route home was just what tired legs needed.

The Emitemmus Desrever in either its straight BP format, or as an ECE, is I think aStevenage5 perfect and very worthwhile ride for autumn. The organisation is brilliant and the route hits the spot; hilly enough to be interesting but not so hilly as to be disheartening. Since I first rode this as one of my very early brevets in 1997 as Summer Time Reversed, it has certainly grown but despite the numbers, it never feels manic and the controls/ volunteers always seem to be able to cope with the volume of riders. 

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Through a combination of hours in the saddle and limited Internet access updates on the ride are being made to brevetbird.tumblr.com

Ticket To Ride

TUESDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
The fantastic company of the Moultoneers and a ride to Two Tunnels at Bath led by Dan Farrell was just too irresistible. So instead of Sunday being spent pedalling over to Hay on Wye we had a fantastic day on the Moultoneers ‘long ride’. Back in BoA at 3pm we headed home to Pinner by car to regroup and do some detailed planning which up till then we had rather over looked.

With the help of the Apple, the Internet and a Brompton train assisted ride to buy a train ticket, we now had a bomb proof plan which satisfied me and the Co-pilot. If the going got to tough for us we had a route ready and waiting on the GPS to make our life easier.

We are now ensconced on the Virgin train service to Glasgow, where we will alight at Lancaster. The Co-pilot and I are enjoying the indulgent delights of first class while Casper the Little White Moulton is in the bike room in standard class.

Once at Lancaster, we then ride to Longtown via Shap. The weather has fined up from Momday’s persistent rain, so it should be a great afternoon a-wheel.

Only down side is Postie is injured so we will be riding solo from JoG until we take our Caledonian sleeper home.

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Going in Search of Wild Hairy Haggis

After much studying of 6 stupidly scary GPS tracks, the co-pilot and I decided that the Hummers Tour of all the hills between Lands End and John O Groats wasn’t for us. My legs and his kapok weren’t going to be up to it. Also, we wanted a tour, an adventure; not a boot camp for cyclists’. It took a while to re-invent the wheel, but eventually I managed to do so; having tiny tires in the equation may just have helped. This was declared a result by the co-pilot as not only was he going to get his ride on the Caledonian sleeper (ticket already in our hot sticky hands) but we would also be able to go in search of Nessy as well as wild hairy haggis. So a win, win, win. When and where we were going to be able to purchase a haggis whistle to find the wild and hairy ones was another matter.

The Cunning Pan

Our strange adventure; Bradford on Avon (BoA) to John O Groats (JoG) is going to begin with the annual pilgrimage and in our case prologue to The Hall via a 200km spin on Friday 6th September for the Moultoneers summer meet up. We will then loiter; something that we are good at on the Saturday at The Hall, BoA doing all things Moulton. We will then on the Sunday saunter over to the Three Cocks, near Hay on Wye to meet up with Hummers and his merry men. From there we will hopefully, with a few cunning adjustments suffer up to Crianlarich and a bed at the Youth Hotel having overnighted at Warrington and Longtown. Then there will be a parting of the ways as we will be heading over to Inverness for a two night stay and a search for Nessy. The alternative is the Hummers route which is a 733km bike ride with 10,658m of climbing. Then we will take the coast road up to John O Groats where we will be reunited with Hummers and his men for the arrivee.

After that, we will be on Postie’s Magical Mystery tour of Scotland for 4 days with the only known factors being a Travel Lodge in Inverness on Tuesday night and alighting on to the Caledonian Sleeper on Wednesday evening, arriving in London as the birds start tweeting Thursday morning.

We have been inspired by Cycling Europe (Andrew Sykes) and Reggie the Ridgeback with their blogging on their recent two month escapade in Europe. Having used Tumblr on Pedal On UK, we were going to give on the pedal blogging a whirl on our BoA-JoG, which time permitting.

A Grand Day Out – Pedal On UK (London)

The Prologue

PedalOnBlog23In order to start PedalOnUK me, my Condor bike, the Co-pilot, the pannier rack bag combo had to get from work in Isleworth to the pre-ride meet up, meal and overnight stay in down town Stratford (London E20). A micro adventure seemed to be in order. Therefore, I commissioned BikeHub to devise one by giving it the start and finish locations. Once created, it was fed into the faithful Garmin Etrex GPS and we were ready to ride once the home time bell rang at work.

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Given that the plan was to pedal rather then make donations to TfL each end of the Pedal On UK leg, keeping the luggage to a minimum was the order of packing. Various cunning plans were deployed, including leaving the Co-pilots sleeping bag at home. I was swiftly informed that ‘he wouldn’t be able to ride like the Sky boys’ if he couldn’t sleep in his own ‘bag’ the night before a big ride. I informed him that he was an international randonneur so could sleep anywhere, including the Holiday Inn, Stratford.

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For almost 100% of our journey to the inky depths of London, E20 BikeHub provided a delightful route. It saw us threading our way through some of the hidden gems of London, including some brilliant tucked away cobbled mews. We used the London Cycle Network several times and so got to experience bike rush hour, which although a little frenetic is a delight as it consists of bicycles and people of all shapes and sizes. Then, about 5km from our destination; The Holiday Inn Stratford, the joy of riding expired as we alighted onto CS2 otherwise known as the A11. If Dante had written about bike paths, this one would have featured in purgatory. Shortly after CS2 expired without warning we were at journeys end.

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The Stage (Stratford E20 to Cheshunt)

After a good pre ride feast and a nights rest at the Holiday Inn, the London Pedal On UK peloton was ready to ride. Our ride guides would be Saddle Skedaddle. The ride would be short, but with lots packed in. Our first port of call would be to pick up our ‘celebs’ and do one of many official photo shoots. The ride was short and sweet to rendezvous with Dame Kelly Holmes, David Stone (Paralympian road race trikie) Wayne Hemmingway and Lydia Rose Bright, which would provide the perfect back drop of the Olympic stadium to the shots that the Press would be taking.

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Then it was another short spin to Victoria Park for the bike breakfast where Pedal On UK was officially launch by Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans director. Some socialising and ride reporting onto the PedalOnUK blog and it was time Pedal On. The next destination was the unveiling of the South Bermondsey portrait bench. We arrived to the most marvellous carnival atmosphere, despite persistent drizzle. With the portraits of Michael Caine, Phyllis Pearsall (of A-Z fame) and local cycling hero Barry Mason unveiled, it was time to pedal our way through central London via the Rotherhithe ferry which disembarks into the reception at the Hilton hotel Canary Wharf and then to the Paddington portrait benches where our celebs would end their ride.

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We continued to turn the pedals onto lunch in the Finsbury Park cafe, bagging the Downhills portrait bench on our way. After a fantastic lunch organised by Saddle Skidaddle a leisurely ride was taken via the Lee Valley Park to our arrivee at Cheshunt. Despite his inadequate sleeping arrangements (the rack bag), the Co-pilot’s form had been top notch. The local Sustrans group and Mayor welcomed us with the most marvellous cakes plus the cyclist staple of tea or ‘if you must’ coffee. It was then time to bid our farewells to our follow Pedal On UK peloton members and Saddle Skidaddle tour guides as we each made our way onwards in many different directions.

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 Heading for Home

It was time for BikeHub via our Garmin to show us the way home. All started well as we went up and over the Paul Culley Bridge. At the bottom of the bridge, rather than continue on NCR1 we had to make an awkward turn to take a grassy footpath. There were not dramas in riding this until we came to this kissing gate that would not let cycles pass. By detaching the pannier bag, then hefting the bike over the metal fence we were able to make our right turn onto a metalled road. All went smoothly for less then 2km, where we arrived at a set of big and very shut electric gates upon which was a notice that said ‘phone reception to open’ and gave a number. Not wishing to retrace, we took the phone option. The lady at reception duly released the gates for us and we were on our way. PedalOnBlog210Everything was going smoothly, BikeHub taking us on a quite and pleasant route. That was until a certain psstttt fairy struck. Front wheel inner tube swapped for one that would contain air rather than deflate, we were a-wheel again, arriving home at just gone 8pm after a rather grand day out with Pedal On UK and a 100km offering for the 2013 Mile Eater diary.

Photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/swift_swallow/sets/72157635198866152/

Pedal On UK – A Welcome Change of Pace

Pedal On8Back in 2012, with the Olympics just about on my door step, my preferred involvement was ‘hands on’ rather than buying a ticket and going to watch one of the events. Sustrans provided just the right opportunity, firstly by asking for volunteer Active Travel Champions from within the NHS (my employer) and then asking those volunteers if they would like to support BikeBuddies with their led rides to the Olympic events in London, including the Olympic Park. I volunteered for both as I love using my bike as transport as well as for leisure and formerly for racing. I particularly liked the idea of trying to get more people cycling and walking to work as I’ve personally found it of great benefit to my physical and mental well-being as well as my wallet.

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Leading the rides to various London Olympic sites was a lot of fun and enabled me to meet up with both Sustrans volunteers outside my immediate area and members of the public. The routes we used, particularly to the Olympic Park used quite back roads and Sustrans routes, so were a delight to ride thanks to the careful and meticulous planning / route testing of Lynne from BikeBuddies. It also unexpectedly provided an excellent opportunity to see the Olympics at first hand; the cycling time trial.

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Post 2012 and a change in work location; Charing Cross Hospital to West Middlesex Hospital I continued with being an Active Travel Champion. I’m not too sure if I have made a particularly big impact on people’s travel habits as the NHS is a slow moving organisation that is set in its ways. However, when I do get the chance to encourage people to walk or cycle to work I’m happy to chat and provide encouragement. As a result one colleague is now walking as part of his work travel a couple of times a week.

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Much to my surprise, I was invited to be part of the London Pedal On, which I happily accepted as it sounded like a great event to be involved in. It would also provide a welcome change of pace from the long distance riding that I was already planned, including London Edinburgh London 1400km brevet, which would be ridden just shy of two weeks before Pedal On. The promise of a mini urban adventure mainly on cycle routes clinched the deal.

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An unexpected spin-off of being part of Pedal On is to be asked to be a Ride Reporter for the London leg of the event. I’d been reluctant to ‘do’ the blog, Twitter and Flicker ‘thing’ back in 2012. But with the encouragement of the Bike Butler, it’s something that I’ve come to enjoy. The only problem has been that you can’t write a blog and spend lots of hours a-wheel at the same time. Thankfully the Ride Reporting will be done real-time, so a perfect fit with the riding.

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The London leg of Pedal On UK departs from the Victoria Park (Bonner Gate) on Friday 16th August 2013, 07:00 to 12:00. There are events for members of the public as well as the pre-arranged riding group. If you have time to come along, please do.