Category Archives: Audax

Just Passing Through – with Mega Mileater Steve Abraham

IMG_1998 On Steve Abraham’s journey to 75,065 miles or more, it was time to play away from home and sample some randonneur hospitality.  Chez Brevet Bird was the first stop of many by Steve to numerous AUK homes for a high speed bed, breakfast and evening meal.

The day had been made a bit more challenging for Steve with mega headwinds.  So he needed to forge a cunning plan to accumulate miles but minimise the draining effect of the headwind.  Steve’s rather neat solution was to form a one man circuit race and ride in circles, so getting turn and turnabout headwind and back wind with some sidewind thrown in for free.  Steve’s tenacity and dedication to doing what is needed for the record meant that he spent about nine hours in this lapping pattern.  Then it was time to head off for the dénouement of his ride, arrivee in windy Pinner.

As Steve wanted a route of least resistance that could be ridden at 16mph, I formulated one using a local evening 10 mile TT course plus some routes my Dad had taught me when we first went out cycling together with the Marlboro AC.  Dad’s mantra was always ‘why go up a hill if you can go around it’.  The most cunning part of this was sneaking around a rather fine and very steep hill that lives at Rickmansworth.

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By the time I’d ridden like a girl and fought the headwind and lost, I didn’t quite get to the pre-arranged rendezvous with Steve at Costa, Wendover.  As Steve had my route on his Garmin, it was a simple matter of riding until our paths crossed.  As we were the only ones to be daft enough to be riding bikes at 7:30pm on a Saturday night in winter, it wasn’t difficult to spot Steve’s bike headlights coming towards me and do a U-turn.

With the wind on our backs, Steve assuming the position on his tri-bars and me scurrying on his back wheel, we sped along the A413 to Amersham.  Things slowed down a little bit on the climb out of Amersham as Steve is riding to a very specific heart rate in order to ride as efficiently as he can each and every day.  It was almost time to enjoy the descent to Rickmansworth when I found I had a rear visitation from the Psttt Fairy.  As time is miles, Steve continued solo.

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Once my bike had both tyres with air in them, I recommenced pedalling as fast as I could.  I needed to be back at home to change from route guide to cook.  Arriving home just in time, I was able to have the pre-prepared dinner ready for Steve once he had showered.  Dinner, upload GPS track to Strava and it was, as Zebedee says ‘time for bed’.  As Steve headed for a very hard earned sleep, his cycling kit was fed to the washing machine.  In six hours, it needed to be ready for Steve to wear again.

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All too soon, the sound of the Tour de France could be heard; the alarm had gone off, it was 4am.  Then it was check the weather station, get dressed, have breakfast and then get the pedals turning.  The weather station indicated that it was, for stupid o’clock, quite warm at 3C. However, with the wind again not behind but in front, it was pretty chilly.   The destination was one of Rocco Richardson’s favourite roads, the A4.  With little or no traffic about, we were able to utilise main roads as well as carefully chosen smaller roads andavoid Slough with its never-ending traffic lights.  Riding in the dark when most sensible people are still asleep, it felt like the late Pat Kenny was with us.  Riding at odd times of night and day was one of Pat’s fortes.  I’d never heard anyone else needing to go for a bike ride in the middle of the night to get a glass of water.

After some careful hill avoidance work, we arrived at Maidenhead and the A4.  Steve was to continue on the A4 until it was time to turn and head home with the back wind, and I had a significantly shorter ride back to my home.  Being a mileater, and despite the still very early hour of the morning, I looped around some of my favourite roads.  It was very nice when dawn IMG_2009popped up to meet me and the sun shone.  I arrived home at 10 am with 100km in the bag. Steve was back at his home at 8:30 pm with 299km and another milestone; 2000 miles since New Year’s Day; only 73,065 to go to join Tommy.

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A Mileating Start to 2015 – Steve starts chasing Tommy

Number 1 - One Tear Time TrialI’ve known Steve Abraham for so long now, I can’t really remember a time when his antics both on and off the bike haven’t been a part of my life.  Riding a November 600 with Steve and Ian Hennessey particularly stands out.   Steve’s ability to cover lots of miles, usually on brevets, and to eat large quantities of food is legendary within the Audax UK community.  Steve is putting both of these extra-special talents to take on Tommy Godwin’s long-standing year mileage record of 75,065 miles, set in 1939.

Being an audaxer used to riding his bike at odd hours of the night and not wanting to waste a minute of the 365 days he has to accumulate more miles than Tommy did, Steve started turning the pedals of his Raleigh bicycle at 00:01 on 1st January 2015.

Dream Machine - Mean Machine

After spending the night a-wheel, Steve rocked up at 10am to ride his club’s New Year’s Day 10 mile time trial.  Well, every little helps!  Donning a number befitting the winner of the Tour de France, Steve sped (relatively speaking, with 116 miles in his legs) down the North Bucks Road Club course.  Playing with a rather evil headwind and sleepy tiredness, Steve returned to the time keeper half an hour later.  After speaking to the men from the telly, it was time to get pedalling again.  As Nev Chanin used to say, time is miles.

And he's off

Steve departed with a small peloton of AUKs in the direction of Bicester.  One of these being Drew Buck, well-known super-AUK for his exploits on various crazy machines around Paris Brest Paris.   Bunch banter was good with Drew telling us various stories, including the PBP where he and Steve shared a triplet bicycle with Nigel Winter as their middleman.  The persistent headwind was a bit pesky and the appearance of hedges and houses to slow the wind down was much appreciated.

Steve & Drew - Two AUK ledgens

After a night feasting on flapjack, the hunger gods tapped Steve on the shoulder and it was time to head to a source of food.  Cue an early visit to Bicester on top of the one planned at 3pm for a mega feed before heading back to Milton Keynes.  Steve’s encyclopaedic knowledge of food emporiums was deployed and a baby KFC was chosen.  Standing in the queue, Steve enjoyed a brief moment of normal life.  Once replete with chicken (sans tea or coffee, as the machine wasn’t working), it was time for Steve to ride in circles until his next scheduled rendezvous with Bicester’s eateries.   I swung in the opposite direction to meet up with the Bike Butler and then home.

No coffee, no tea - got to be Pepsi then

Score on the One Year Time Trial door for 01/01/2015: 222 miles (358km in new money) – mine was considerably less.

A Grand Day Out – VC 167 AUK National 400 2014

Nat 400 logo v2Friday Tea time. The Co-pilot expressed worry as we pedalled off on DaisyB to meet the Bike Butler to travel up to the AUK National 400km brevet. For captain confidence this was a little unusual. ‘Why’ I asked, ’cause it’s ten years since we’ve done this plus we didn’t have a third wheel in tow back then’. At 10am the following day we would find out if the Co-pilots worries true or just pre event tandem nerves.

Saturday morning dawned fine and sunny. McNasty style my saddle and pedals were installed on the back half of Rufus. The Co-pilot inspected Rufus’ rather wonderful toast rack bag and climbed in declaring that there was even a special pocket for him to sit in. Result. To complete pre brevet preparations Aidan and I took Rufus for a spin around the start car park. All was well, we could keep all three wheels attached to the ground and turn splendid circles in both directions.

At 10am on the dot the AUK peloton of round about 60 riders rolled out of the start and and straight onto a bike path. Rufus squeezed through the width restricters with just enough to spare. Off the bike path and onto the open road. All three wheels spun merrily and we sped off to the first control.

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The first control was at Ripon Spar Gardens. We were greeted by our controllers, Keith and Anne Benton, who have notched up 5 PBPs each. The cafe did us proud with a never ending stream of filled rolls and cakes. It was also our first taste of Yorkshire le Tour fever, with a half knitted bike; I’d never thought of using battenberg cake as pedals! Once we were refuelled it was time to head to the next control at Sedbergh.

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With the sun on our backs and the Bike Butler glued to our rear axle we rode along tour de France roads, which were decorated with tour bunting and yellow bikes of all shapes and sizes. We decided we liked the knitted jersey bunting the best. At the Sedbergh control we were welcomed by Steve’s team, which consisted of Kat, Lindsey, BOABlets #3 & 4 plus Steve’s guide dog. Kat and Lindsey and made and baked a spread of excellent food. Steve’s guide dog gave riders a swift leg wash with his tongue – how many rides do you get that type of service on!

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A-wheel again and our next stop would be Rosley control at 237km and new territory for both Aidan and me as we would then both be on our longest tandem trike ride ever.

The weather forecast had indicated some light rain. However, with a goodly sized group of randonneurs to pester the rain gods decided that they could do better than that and provided multiple hours of good quality medium to heavy rain. Rufus put a splendid show of his own on, as synchronised fountains of rain poured off his back wheels.

The Rosley control was another oasis of fine food and TLC. Bike parking was provided in doors and even Rufus managed to squeeze himself in. Amply repasted, we set off into the rain and dark to make our way to the sleep control at Slaggyford. Nigel, our route maestro provided an excellent night route over to Slaggyford on good quality roads that had a nice lack of technical challenges for those on ‘special’ machines.

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On arrival at Slaggyford, we were in yet another randonneurs four star oasis. Lots of familiar faces greeted us, with Julian checking us in and a whole host of helpers including AUK membership secretary – Mike W, Heather, an outstanding LEL lead controller and Daemon, AUKs very own film maker. Following yet more excellent food, it was decided that the luxury of multiple hours of sleep could be had. We would rise at 4am and depart about 4:30 am. This would allow for the rain to pass over but also that well known lady, Dawn to great us as we rode over Yad Moss.

Both the scenery and the food on this ride just kept surpassing it’s self. The control chefs had brewed perfect porridge accompanied by tinned peaches for breakfast. Before departure, a Blue Peter moment was had as Roger’s blanket was cunningly turned into two chest warmers by Aidan (he did have permission sir!) Suitably refreshed, attired warmly and refuelled it was time to get pedalling again.

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If you want a smooth ride over the Alston pave at the start of the Yad Moss climb, go by tandem trike. Rufus, ably driven by Aiden provided the smoothest passaged I’ve ever had on this climb. Yad Moss didn’t disappoint. As we climbed the clouds lifted and the sun came out providing a panorama of never ending views. The decent down to Middleton in Teesdale was a series of fast straights and swishing curves and sneaky hair pins. Once in Middleton, a swift break for malt loaf was had and we were on our way again. We would cover about 10km of classic London Edinburgh London route, including the wooden bridge, before we branched off to our control.

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Our perception of the next 40km to our final control at Aldbough was that we were in plod mode. However, the GPS track hotly denied this and in fact we were keeping a very respectable pace. On arrival at the control we were greeted by Dick McT. Then that infamous duo of Kat and Lindsey were baking and cooking again along with the brilliantly helpful BOABlets. Freshly made muffins, with our without chocolate perfectly complimented the usual breakfast fare.

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With only 35km left to the arrivee we set off into a day that was warming up very nicely. We caught up with a couple of solos. Each time they were greeted by the Bike Butler to ‘hop on’ which they did, giving Rufus his own petit tail of riders, attached to his rear axel by you know who.

After such a splendid weekend a-wheel it seemed a bit of a shame to end it by turning in to the arrivee. But unfortunately normal like beckoned and it had to be done.

I’d like to thank Nigel and AndyC, who headed up the organising team of VC167 and friends. They provided an excellent route and administration. Another big thank you goes to all the control helpers, with out whom this event wouldn’t have been the first class experience it became for all of the riders. The TLC we received at every control was the icing on the cake. For me it was a real blast from the past, as this was just how National 400s used to be in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The next AUK National 400 is already in planning for 2015, an event that needs to go on the must not be missed list.

Photos on Flickr

Rapha #womens100 – 20th July 2014

Womens 100The offer of sister Rapha patch to join the three #festive500 patches ridden in 2013, 2012 & 2011 was enough to get myself, on Casper the Little White Moulton accompanied by the Co-pilot out for a 100km spin, the minimum qualification distance for this Rapha event. The temptation to bag more kms was averted having recently ridden the Mile Failte 1200km LRM brevet in Ireland, UAF 600km audax brevet to the Galibier and the Cycle Club Montebourg – Saint Germain de Tournebut 1000km ACP brevet in France over the past couple of weeks.

The day was made extra special knowing that my little wheeled friend, Poom CHANGBOONCHOO, of the Thailand Moultoneers would be riding a 100km with other women on tiny tyres in their bid to qualify for the Rapha patch in Thailand.  Other girlfriends were riding on big wheels; Georgina HARPER leading the Cardiff Ajax group and Audax Victoria’s Sarah CHAPLIN down under.  All successfully completed the challenge.

Where to go was the next question, the vote was unanimous, we would go around one of our favourite circuits that would take in old father Thames and a visit to the beeches. The only thing that the Co-pilot instead on was that photos would be taken and would include him doing his poseur thing.

Off we pedalled into a lovely warm day. As the little wheels spun around the sun came out and the sky went from a rather non descriptive grey to blue with fluffy white clouds. With only a slight breeze, the kms rolled by all too quickly. As we rolled up our drive to the bike room, the Garmin confirmed mission accomplished with 111km on the clock.

Womens 100 map

The route

 

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A brief pause to admire Brunel’s handwork at Maidenhead

 

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Not a day to observe this sign!

 

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Enjoying the Beech(s)

 

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The Co-pilot on the Rivet (saddle that is!)

 

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Me and Casper

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. 

Half Wheeling – The 2013 Easter Arrow

The Fleche Velocio was created by Audax Club Parisien and forms part of their Randonneur 5000 award. Other countries introduced local versions to qualify for the same award, Audax Australia’s Opperman All Day Trial, RUSA’s Fleche-USA and AUK’s Easter Arrow. They are all inspired by the origins of ACP as an audax club, rather than the randonneur club that ACP later became. An audax brevet, in the strict sense, is where a group led by a captain rides together over a planned route to a predetermined schedule.

For the Easter Arrow, between 3 and 5 machines (a tandem is 1 machine) ride a pre-determined route within 24 hours and at least 3 machines must finish for the brevet to be validated. At least 360km must be ridden in the 24 hours with at least 25km covered in the last 2 hours. Aiming for more than 360km is fine and some teams endeavour to better the best distance for their country.  A team’s brevet distance can vary by 20% up or down on the day, provided at least 360km. The ride can start anywhere but finishes at a predetermined location or ‘concentration’. In the UK, the event finishes in York.

Dave (aka The Bike Butler) pulled together, via YACF, a team of little wheelers starting their Arrow from Hertfordshire. The team went by the name ‘Heroes on the Half-Wheel’ and included Adam (akin) on an Airnimal, Rimas (zigzag) on a single speed Dahon, Dave (LWaB) on a TSR and me (HK) on Casper the little White Moulton. We rolled out of Watford Junction at 10am on Good Friday which, given the challenges that lay ahead, should have really been Bad Friday.

Start photo

Everything started smoothly enough. The wind was kindly over the first 50km to Thame and the sun even shone from time to time.  Out of Thame and swinging right to the next checkpoint at Olney; the wind was in our faces. It would remain thus for virtually all of the ride, blowing at a persistent 13mph.

The first indication that Mr Google Maps, who had assisted in planning our route, wasn’t exactly trustworthy came when we were sent down a brief but Roubaix-like section of Sustrans Route 54. Confidence in Mr Google Maps was restored as his route though Milton Keynes ‘Red Routes’ was not only faultless but quiet and exceedingly pleasant, though a little time-consuming.

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After a swift coffee and supermarket stop, the team rolled out of Olney. Then the challenges started.  Suddenly the Airnimal decided to have a bad rear wheel moment and break a spoke which it cunningly used to break the Campag chain. As none of us had a 10sp connector link, Adam thought his ride was over. Having a former professional mechanic on the team (the Bike Butler) ensured that the wheel was quickly trued and the chain mended; strictly against the manufacturer’s instructions.

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The team was back, half-wheeling their way to the next check point at Spalding via snow-edged lanes and a gourmet dinner stop at Peterborough. Dave decided that spending an hour or so holed up in the toilet would be a good way to rest up. We had thought about sending in a couple of search parties but instead waited for him to emerge, somewhat lighter.

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Leaving Spalding and heading into the Fens, the toughest part of the ride began. To begin with, the only challenge was the bitter temperature, which would freeze everyone’s feed bottles until daylight returned. Then Mr Google Maps decided a bit of midnight frozen bridlepath orienteering was in order. The team took to their feet, pushing the bikes for what seemed like forever until the bridge to cross the dyke appeared; a good 3km later than promised. Thankfully, after the bridge was crossed, the team were able to easily get back on route. Frosted and icy lanes still had to be navigated before the next checkpoint, Gonerby Services.

The team finally made Gonerby at stupid o’clock in the morning with another team already ensconced. It turned out that Mr Ferry’s Reading team had become Arrow abandonneurs and would be proceeding to York by train. Getting the little wheels to York in time was now out of the question but some swift calculations were made on the back of a KitKat wrapper.

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As time is miles, the little wheels tore themselves away from the warmth of the services to head out into the cold, cruel world for a fairly flat but freezing leg to Lincoln. If Lincoln was gained no later than 6am, completing the minimum official distance of 360km by the 24th hour was possible. The real distance on the road would be noticeably more, of course. Legs and little wheels whirred into action again.

The team headed out of Lincoln 24 hour Services just after 6am. The weather gods still had one more delight to share with us. Light snow, which thankfully was pesky but unable to settle.  The next milestone was to make the Scunthorpe checkpoint by 8am (the 22nd hour).  The team kept tired legs turning and, little wheels whizzing, arrived at Scunthorpe after the appointed hour.

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The Airnimal was clearly still unhappy with the world and broke another rear spoke just before Scunthorpe.  Dave swiftly trued the wheel again and the team commenced the last hour and a half of riding which would hopefully give enough time to arrive at Goole for ACP minimum official distance.

The team toiled in the lanes hugging the Trent River with the wind sometimes giving a helping hand from time to time (and about time too), by being on our backs rather than in our face.  We sprinted thorough Swinethorpe, which gave us just enough time to cross the Goole prime sign as the 24th hour struck and 363 official kilometres completed (about 390km in reality).

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After a late breakfast in Goole, it was time to ride the last 40-odd km to York where trains awaited to take the team home. Happily only 1 broken spoke and a couple of snow flurries to cope with during those couple of extra hours.

Arriving in York at 1 o’clock, Rimas, Dave and myself had enough time to exchange some banter with the teams sill in the pub, quaffing ale and downing hard-earned food. It turned out that only about half the teams that had started out the previous day had made it to York. I can’t remember a harder Arrow, even the 2009 one where we had to abandon due to snow wasn’t this tough.

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