Category Archives: randonneuring

Back to the Future

The Mistress’s 300km randonnee

Take the AUK time travel capsule back to sometime in the 1990s.  You’ve landed in Majorca on a bicycle training camp.  It is the end of the evening and Rocco Richardson is loitering, chatting up one of the older lady cyclists.  Suddenly this voice booms across the room, ‘Rocco, bed!’    It is Liz Creese and Rocco obediently does as he is bid.  There is a quiet aside, ‘The mistress that is too wifely.’  ‘The Mistress’ is born.

Forward to 1998: in his usual to-the-point gravelly tones, Rocco Richardson (Willesden CC club elder, hardrider and then UK chairman) instructed me that I had to ride Liz’s 300km brevet. Audax UK brevets in those days were small, so the start and finish were at her house in Ruislip.   Apparently, if I was to ride PBP the following year, this was essential.  So, I did as I was told and rode.  It turned out to be a superfast route.  Somewhere along the line, despite still being relatively new to this randonneuring lark, I became ‘ride minder’ to a chap we called ‘Black Socks’. His real name I never discovered (black socks weren’t fashionable then; they were frowned upon when worn with cycling shorts).  The reading of the route sheet was an art you either learnt or didn’t and I did.  Black Socks fell into the latter category, so part of this minding remit was being his human GPS.   Also, back then, it was literally the dark ages as we didn’t have Mag Lights or head torches, let alone GPSs.  The use of GPSs (in the form of the Garmin Etrex) was a long way down the road.  The driver for its adoption was the increasing number of European brevets, beginning with the 2008 Mille Miglia, where the route sheet guaranteed many hours off-route.

On the run into the finish Rocco made an attack, predictably on a big decent. With Liz as ever glued to his back wheel, they escaped less than 50km from the finish.  Giving chase did occur to me but the training from the club elders made ensuring Black Socks got to the finish was my priority.  It also saved me from risking life and limb where the M40 becomes the A40. Rocco’s preferred route to the arrivee was to take this to the Polish War Memorial, given it was the fastest road available.  First 300km brevet in the bag.

Forward a year to 1999.  Again, following the no-quibble instructions from Rocco, I had entered two of each qualifying distance.  The Ruislip Mistresses’ Randonnee was one as it started just a few kilometres from my home.  Plus I had thoroughly enjoyed the ride the previous year.  Enter stage left Jon Jennings (JJ) from the Norwood Paragon.  A world master of winging it and the use of  After a 4-year sabbatical from cycling, JJ had decided that the best way back to riding was to ride PBP.  I mean who needs miles in their legs to qualify and ride a 1200km grande randonnee?  So, using his best little boy lost look, he blagged his way into the 300 so we could ride together.  Another superfast spin around the course and our qualifying 300 was done.  The only blot on the landscape that day was when an exhausted JJ decided the quickest route to recovery was a lay down on Liz’s pearly white fluffy hearth rug.  It seemed reasonable to me, having just done a 12 hour 300.  But for some reason, Liz didn’t appreciate a grubby JJ lying on it.  Who would have thought?  The next time we would see Liz that year would be at the Fougeres control on PBP as part of the Baxter Sporting Tours support crew.

Fast forward to 2020 and the life and times of uncle COVID who, amongst other things, had rather interrupted the AUK calendar.  My Jennings training hadn’t been lost.  I was still completely comfortable with winging it and It therefore didn’t seem unreasonable to finish off an SR in October.  Doesn’t everyone?  I had done this before stoking our tandem.  However, last time I was racing fit and wasn’t being savaged with vasculitis attacking my left leg and adding peripheral nerve pain.  But hey, these are just small details.

Using the old brevet cards (the last edition of the Mistress’ 300 was in 1999), I plotted the route in KOMOOT.  It came out at 289km shortest route, rather than the 307km actually ridden.  Not a surprise as back in the 1990s we were trusted to ride the route we were given.  All the soft mapping, route planning and GPSs that we take for granted didn’t exist then, so people couldn’t check routes that way.  Routes were planned on a paper map using a map measurer to get a rough distance.  Then checked by riding the ride with a Cateye cycle computer to get the actual distance as the route were mandatory.  Against getting lost, we simply packed the relevant pages torn from a road atlas. Sadly, these pages never came with a blinking blue you-are-here dot.

It turns out that my memories of the route were, shall we say, a little hazy.  With KOMOOT’s assistance, a route that would do the job was created.  It looked OK and met AUK’s current requirements.  It would have been fine had the weather gods not unleashed biblical rain (8 hours worth) and the headwind from hell for a shade under 200km.  Luckily, Dave was riding with me so sharing the work plus Dave deploying the power of swear, we made it around the course but not in 12 hours!  Riding this remastered route made me realise what an excellent route planner Liz was.  Something I don’t think we realised back in the day.  The original route was quick, not too hilly but not too flat.  I can now see where the route should go, so will be revising it in case I should require another trip down memory lane.

Sadly, three of the people in this rando tale are no longer alive: JJ, Rocco and Liz. JJ’s teenage cancer caught up with him just before his 39th birthday.  Rocco and Liz both died of cancer too, with Liz the most recent in 2019.  All three were AUK hardriders.  Liz comes from the pre-digital age of AUK and cycling in general, therefore a lot of AUK members will be unaware of this cycling granny.  Liz as well as being The Mistress, was also known at the Marmite Queen, Granny Creese and Aunty Liz.  She had her peloton of very capable young fit lads who she often rode with, including Paul Whitehead, Robert Fry and Stephen Underwood.  This little peloton would be deployed on long ones such at the Three Capitals perm, as you can never have too many back wheels to sit on!   She was also part of the 1995 ‘Rocco’s rocket’ on PBP when a group of about 6 AUK riders started and finished together. Racing out to Brest, then using hotels on the return.  Most often though, she would be seen riding with Rocco.  If anyone had the temerity to hop onto his back wheel, the squawk would go up from the Mistress ‘Get off, that’s my back wheel!’

And from Robert Fry, former member of the Willesden CC, PBP ancien who now lives in the USA:

My biggest memory of riding with Liz, without a doubt, is the 3 Capitals (London-Cardiff-Edinburgh-London) 1500km permanent we rode together in the Summer of 1992. We spent five long days (as well as the first night) in the saddle, and Liz happily kept pace with me everywhere, except for a few of the climbs. Later in the ride, I picked up her bike and was shocked by just how much gear she was carrying. As everyone knows, successfully completing an event of such distance is almost all mental, and Liz made an ideal riding companion, keeping the mood upbeat and the motivation level high the whole way. You could never feel down for very long when riding with Auntie Lizzie!

Liz rode lots of events, year after year, and we all knew how capable she was, but I was nonetheless highly impressed when she took down my old Audax UK points record, completing an amazing 22,200km of events in 1995. I still remember vividly just how tough all that riding was for me over a full year, even at a very youthful 26. It never ceased to amaze me how she was able to maintain such high levels of energy and athleticism in her 50s, somehow recovering after each ride to do it all again a few days later.

Liz’s AUK palmares is long and impressive; you can find it all in on the AUK’s Hall of Fame and Awards web pages.  Here are what I think are the highlights;

PBP – 1995 and 1991First rider to 300,000km of randonneuring
Three Capitals Permanent7 x 100 points or more in a season
Great Eastern 1,000km10 x Super Randonnee years
Brevet 5,000 and 25,000 awards 

The Brevet Bird

Chasing A Bright Red Patch With The World On It

ISR 6 JS2009 started pretty much like any other year. The usual winter e-mails were exchanged suggesting overseas rides in the sun. I said yes to John Barkman’s idea of Madrid Gijon Madrid (MGM1200); then good friend Nick Dale from Western Australia suggested riding London Edinburgh London (LEL1400) with the WA lads, another yes. Gold Rush 1200 in California had been on the wish list for a long time and it let me meet up with Carol Bell, Hans Dusink and his long suffering wife Linda. The final piece of craziness was seeing Audax Oz’s Sydney Melbourne Alpine (SMA1200) and another entry went in. It was only when booking flights and leave that I noticed the schedule. The first three rides (Gold Rush, LEL and MGM) were within seven weeks starting in July. I then had a break of two months before heading out to SMA. I’d set myself up for an International Super Randonneur 1200 series on three continents in under six months. It seemed kind of crazy but also struck me as an exciting adventure, so having never done anything so silly since riding tandem with Jon Jennings, I hopped on a BA flight to ride #1.

#1 Gold Rush Randonnee – 6-10 July 2009


Organiser; Davis Bike Club, California, USA

I can’t remember quite how this ride got on my ‘wish list’, but it did. It runs every four years from Davis to the turnaround at Davis Creek. It does what it says on the tin, travelling through gold rush country in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

At 6pm several groups formed up for the dash through 100km of flat lands to Oroville. There the climbing started and didn’t end until the feared Janesville grade some 888km later. Then it was, as they say, ‘downhill all the way to the finish’ and back onto the flat lands where mosquitoes feasted on us. Rice is grown on land irrigated by dykes; hence the charming mosquitos.

The ride turned out to be a really friendly affair, meeting up with old friends as well as new. I caught up with Mary Crawley and Jeff Bauer on their Co-motion tandem and Bill Olsen who I’d see again on SMA. New friends made during the ride were many, but one that sticks in my mind is Paul ‘the Octopus’ Rozelle, one of three riders on fixed. The plan to ride with Carol fell by the wayside as she dashed off with the lead group, but over the next 24 hours a posse of Hans, John Evans (on fixed) and I formed and the rapid-fire exchange of banter and jokes made the ride a 1200km full of fun. We rode together until 20km from the arrivee where Hans and I managed to mislay John. He’d stopped for a much needed coffee stop and forty winks, not headed down the freeway as we’d feared.

The ride organisation was good; the route fantastic with wonderful scenery, the only disappointment was that my ride jersey got lost in the post. Would I ride this again? Yes.

#2 London Edinburgh London – 26th July to Friday 1st August


Organiser Audax United Kingdom

This was my second edition of LEL, my first was in 2005 but without a 1200km prologue! The WA group set off at 08:30 attired in our new team jerseys. It could have been something about the nice arrows or stripes on the jerseys, or perhaps our convict/ACP number 511501 that made AUKs wary of talking to us! During the ride, Nick and I hooked up with some great groups including bunches from Seattle International Randonneurs and Audax Italia. During the first day of the ride, Nick and I had the pleasure of riding with Rick Blacker from the US and Sophie Matter from France. Both had preceded LEL with the Rocky Mountains 1200. Unbeknown to any of us at the time, we’d meet up again at SMA.

The weather gods put on a spectacular display of rain and wind, but forgot to include sun in the mix. Nick and I became ‘the group’ with John Evans popping in and out as he’d had the cunning idea of booking into a Travel Lodge or two rather than using the accommodation provided by the organisation. Despite the challenges of the weather, bunch banter provided enough entertainment for us to complete the ride with plenty of time in hand.

The ride organisation was ‘interesting’ but the ride held together under difficult circumstances, so thumbs up. I preferred the 2005 route to this one. Would I ride this again? Perhaps

#3 Madrid – Gijon – Madrid – 18th to 22 August


Organiser; Audax Iberia

This was the second MGM. As with the 1st edition, it almost coincided with LEL, but this time they had been a bit more kindly and scheduled it two weeks after LEL rather than finishing 2 days before the start of LEL. I was one of the first three ladies to ride this event, the others being Spain’s Nuria Rodriguez Jurado and Italy’s Rosanna Bandieri. I was also one of a quartet of Brits who’d just completed LEL; the other three being John Barkman, John Evans and Peter Turnbull. John E was at this point, we thought, winning the crazy randonneur prize as he’d sneaked in the Super Brevet Scandinavia 1200 between LEL and MGM. I was unaware that Bill Olsen was on a similar run; his fourth ride was Endless Mountains 1200. However, SMA would prove a bigger obstacle to their attempts to ride 6 1200km+ brevets in the same year.

We departed from Algete, a beautiful town about 20km from central Madrid at 22:00. We were escorted by a combination of motos and mopeds for most of the night, acting as mobile route marshals. For once, Mr Evans had had a light bulb moment and had chosen a bike with gears as opposed to his beloved fixed, which given the amount of climbing we were going to enjoy, was a wise move. However, Pat Hurt hadn’t had the same thought and was riding his fixed Airnimal. Going down long descents in the dark, he looked like a Bugs Bunny cartoon not quite up to speed.

We headed out through a countryside turned the most wonderful shades of terracotta. As John said, we were seeing the visual of Miles Davis’ ‘Sketches of Spain’. The weather gods seemed to be smiling on us, kindly providing a gorgeous daily 40oC of sun on our backs. We rode over a 1240m climb to get us up and over the Picos de Europa, where our world turned from terracotta to green all the way to the turnaround at Gijon, a working port on the Bay of Biscay. However, the weather gods hadn’t ordered 1200km of sun and as we chugged back up the mountain, we rode in a nasty drizzle that had been hassling us for a couple of hours. This didn’t spoil the drama of the narrow road as it twisted and turned through a rocky gorge. However, the drizzle didn’t have our climbing legs and departed a bit before the summit of the climb. After that, thankfully the sunshine re-installed itself right up to the finish.

The motos were fantastic, constantly making sure we were all OK. They were even cheering and handing out Coca Cola at gone midnight on top of the climb from hell, following the control at Ayllon. Basically, if you could find a metre of smooth surface to ride at any given time, you were doing exceptionally well. Following the route was a challenge, as the route sheet was in Spanish with no arrows painted on the road, unlike Gold Rush or Mille Miglia. Ray Robinson’s wife had translated the route sheet into English for Ray who was also riding MGM. John and I were lucky enough to be given a copy, but for whatever reason, there was a crucial instruction missing with less than 100km to go to the arrivee. This led to an off-route excursion that added about 90km to the ride while visiting the hilltop town of Guadalarjara. Once John had figured which way the sun was turning (he usually lives in Australia) in relation to my 10 year old map, we were heading in the right direction again., We pitched up at the arrivee with 1.3 hours to spare. John, Pat, Chris Wilby, Peter Turnbull and I then enjoyed a great festive lunch with most of the Spanish riders.

The ride organisation only provided the basics, but always did it excellently, including their moto team. The event is very ‘Spanish’ with 85% of the peloton being Spaniards. However this contributed to the charm and enjoyment of this ride. Would I ride this again? Yes

#4 Sydney – Melbourne Alpine – 29th November to 1st December


Organisation; Audax Australia

The idea of a straight-out 1200km ride over the Snowy Mountains captured for me the spirit of adventure and randonneuring. What I and various friends didn’t realise was that our spirit of adventure and enthusiasm for randonneuring was going to be tested 110%.

We rolled out from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as one big peloton of about 60 riders plus local route finders at 6:00am, heading for the first night’s stop at Canberra, the nation’s capital. Lots of good friends were in the bunch; Nick Dale, Dave Minter, Bill Olsen, John Evans (on fixie), Sophie Matter and Rick Blacker. The task of getting to Canberra had seemed relatively straightforward and promised a good night’s sleep (in randonneur terms at least). However a full-on headwind installed itself, which remained there for the next 600km with rain thrown in as a special treat. The route and route sheet were both ‘challenging’ which meant that the group that formed after Gunning rolled in just 2 hours before the control closed. After a bite of food and a hint of sleep, we tackled breaking out of Canberra. My groupetto had the good fortune of Peter Heal on his recumbent as a ride guide before he headed to work after a night helping at the control.

Getting to Cabramurra at 1400m in the Snowy Mountains, with the boast of being Australia’s highest town, proved the next challenge. At Cooma, having loitered in a control way too long with Stuart Dowel, Chris Rogers (ride organiser) gave me a bum steer, telling me that Dave, Bill and John were ahead. I launched a 110km time trial, unaware that I was chasing Dave not on his bike, but in a car because the three of them had fallen victim to the ride and were already out. However, my time trial saved my ride, as I got into Cabramurra with an hour in hand before the control closed, near midnight. The subsequent descent and climb had gradients more severe than the Devil’s Staircase in Wales. An added bonus was the darkness and negative temperatures, due to wind chill. Then followed a crazy twisty rollercoaster of descending and climbing, ending at the motel control of Corryong and some well-earned sleep.

I passed through the Bellbridge control, again in Mr Evans’ entertaining company. John, like a lot of the riders sans brevet cards, rode to the Melbourne finish just for the fun of it. With the sun out and the wind at our backs, the riding was great. Control cut-off times were no longer an issue and those lucky enough to have brevet cards in their jersey pocket really relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

The last day on the road; 200km from Euroa to Melbourne was brilliant. The weather was warm with a tailwind to gently push you along plus the company of good friends. I rolled into the arrivee with Dave, Bill and John to be greeted by lots of Victorian friends who didn’t ride SMA, but were enjoying a Christmas party that doubled up as the control. It was the perfect way to complete my second ISR 3C.

The ride organisation was excellent, but the route sheet ‘interesting’. This ride suffered one of the greatest DNF rates of all time (virtually 50%), only matched by Endless Mountains 1240km, so a second edition might not be on offer. Would I ride this again? Don’t know.

Final thoughts

A big ‘thank you’ has to go to all the organisers and volunteers that made riding these brevets possible. The rides not only provided me with fantastic challenges, but the opportunity to meet up with long-time international friends, in some cases multiple times and making new friends who I’ve sinceISR 6 had the pleasure of meeting and riding with again. Chasing an ISR award (twice now) has encouraged me to travel to new and wonderful countries that I might have not otherwise gone to and filled the memory banks to overflowing; thumbs up.

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



A brief pause to admire Brunel’s handwork at Maidenhead



Not a day to observe this sign!



Enjoying the Beech(s)



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



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.

Festive 500 2013_1

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.

Festive 500 2013_2

Festive 500 2012 revisited!

Festive 500 2013_3

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.

Festive 500 2013_13

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

Festive 500 2013_4

A traditional randonneur’s Christmas day lunch!

Festive 500 2013_5

A crisp and bright day showed the Cotswolds off beautifully

Festive 500 2013_6

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.

Festive 500 2013_7

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!

Festive 500 2013_9

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

Festive 500 2013_14

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.

Festive 500 2013_10

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.

Festive 500 2013_11

The perfect sign to farewell 2013 and to greet 2014.


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


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.

Fleche 3

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.

Fleche 1

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.

Fleche 4

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.

Fleche 5

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.

Fleche 6

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).

Fleche 7

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.

Fleche 8

On The Rivet

The Bike Butler persuaded me to try a Brooks saddle a couple of years back, a ladies Brooks Imperial. Despite my protests that ‘the Swallow backsides are not made to fit a Brooks’, it turned out the female Swallow backside fitted a Brooks perfectly, unlike the male counterpart (my Dad and his Brooks B17 saddle had a large and very permanent falling out).

As and when, the randonneur bikes in my stable have had their Terry saddles switched for the now-beloved Brooks Imperial. Each of the new Imperials quickly became comfortable and being made of cowhide, provided the final bit of custom compensation for my short leg. Riding long randonnees was a delight, until rain came into the equation. The Texas Stampede 1200 killed the first of my Imperials as the cowhide seemed not to cope with some large helpings of Texas rain, despite a rain cover.  The nice comfy little dimples grew as the kilometres increased.  The saddle got downgraded to my Brompton well within a year.  The kilometres of 2 PBPs (Audax and Randonneur) plus some weather hastened the life span of another Imperial that year.  Yet again formerly-little dimples became big fat ones, leading to compromised comfort.  Chatting to other dedicated Brooks users, several seemed to be experiencing similar problems with their modern Brooks saddles as the Bike Butler and me.

Brooks new & old

At the recent London Bike Show, the Bike Butler had a long, but not exactly fruitful conversation with Mr Brooks with regard to the issues we were experiencing.  The next port of call was the Carradice stand, where until this year you’d only expect to find bike luggage.  However they are now the UK distributor for Deborah Banks’ Rivet Cycle Works saddles, which had already caught the attention of the Bike Butler on the internet.  After a long chat with Mr Carradice, who had used a Rivet saddle that he was seriously pleased with, plus being able to take a close look at the saddles in the flesh, an order was placed.

upside down

The Rivet Pearl was installed on my audax winter bike.  The first test was a 70km spin.  The Rivet felt little different to a Brooks ladies Imperial even though it is a male saddle.  It didn’t have the instant perfect comfort of a Brooks due to being significantly firmer, but this wasn’t a problem.  The next test was a 200km randonnee.  Again, the Rivet was still noticeably firmer that a Brooks, but that didn’t impede overall comfort.  270km and still no dimples; unlike my Brooks Imperials which after this level of usage were noticeably ‘broken in’.

on the bike
I’m almost sold on the Rivet saddle over my current Brooks.  A few longer rides, such as an Easter Arrow, will decide whether my 3rd LEL will be ridden on the Rivet.

Finally, the blog is up and running again.

After suffering almost total power failure from May onwards in 2012, lots of time has been spent in catch up.

Firstly chasing miles; the 200,000 mile point continued to beckon after some disappointing long rides in 2012. The most frustrating and entertaining event being GSR 1000km, where my cycling orthortics took their own exciting trip to Oz via London, Stansted, Paris, China, Sydney and Melbourne. They finally caught up with me at Port Campbell as the long distance Abandonneurs (me, Paul Cribb, Howard Dove, et al) rolled to the 100km point on our ‘ride to redemption’, the GSR 300km from Port Fairy to the finish. The year ended on 13,108 miles, with the home straight of 100,000 to ride for entry to the 300,000 miles club being passed by the end of February this year.

Moulton Melbourne

Riding was made more challenging last year when my Graves Disease went out of remission. Persisting with a couple of 1000km brevets delayed getting well a tad and proved very frustrating. Completing these rides became impossible; a completely new experience for me. Thankfully, my immune system has decided to play ball again and I’m back in remission.

Riding the Met

100% pedal power was finally restored via my podiatrist kindly sorting new orthotics for me, in exchange for some dosh. It turns out that carbon orthotics have less miles in them than me; apparently they are not designed to do 50,000 miles before replacement. My podiatrist has commanded that my orthotics are MOTed annually so I’ll regularly be pedalling to Muswell Hill, rather than on regardless.


2012 allowed lots of a-wheel photographic opportunities that led to a nine month Flickr upload backlog, now mostly cleared. I’ve enjoyed reliving a kaleidoscope of bike-enabled memories including leading BikeBuddies rides to the Olympics, becoming a Sustrans Active Travel Champion, taking part in several Origami rides and finishing with an aquatic Rapha Festive 500.

London Olympics

The last nut to crack has been uploading some randonnee/ audax ride reports that had collected virtual reality dust in the inner sanctum of the Mac. The following ride reports have finally been added; 2011, the year of the double PBP, chasing an ISR patch in double quick time and riding with the herd around Texas Rando Stampede.

Xmas floods

The Brevet Bird & her faithful sidekick, The Co-pilot.

Mile Eater Diary – March 2012

March started with the weather gods suffering from some kind of delusion. They clearly thought it was April rather than March, so provided nearly two weeks of glorious sunshine and soft kindly breezes. However, in the run up to Easter, someone switched the sun off and it was back to the chilly temperatures of winter, accompanied on occasion with endless grey skies.

The Bike Butler had installed Scottie’s Alfine 11 speed hub and it was time to put this new and exciting technology (to me) to the test. The first spin to collect some groceries showed lots of promise, once you got used to a little more weight at the rear of the bike than with the old dérailleur set up. Working my way through MG’s utilitiare challenge meant that Scottie was called upon to perform more day-to-day tasks, including riding to work and eventually pulling the Gecko trailer fully loaded with groceries. He excelled at it, with his lovely new range of hub gears. Having now ridden him enough kms, Scottie is again a firm favourite for utility tasks, including commuting.

The first event in March was the South Bucks Chiltern Hills Brevet. Organiser Terry Lister, ensured that he didn’t get caught out under the trades description act with the ride constantly winding up and over the Chiltern Hills for 200km in glorious sunshine. The South Bucks DA did an excellent job of providing tea, cakes and savoury delights for many hungry cyclists on both the 200km and 100km as they passed in and out of the HQ in Great Kingshall.

Then a change of pace with the Man of Kent 200km. It declined to play in the Kentish hills, but instead found, for the most part, flat roads to ride on. The bunch set off in chilly, foggy conditions but donning arm and leg warmers with the hope of better things to come when the sun came out. Alas, this didn’t occur, but the pesky headwind turned into a marvellously helpful tailwind to gently push riders to the arrivee.

The now cold weather followed me and the Bike Butler through the Chunnel and over to Paris for a Union des Audax Francais brevet. This is a group brevet at a scheduled pace of 22.5kph with defined breaks, including lunch, and led by appointed riders. The event started and finished at St Remy Les Chevreuse on the outskirts of Paris and wandered along gently rolling D roads, returning on schedule at 7pm with 200km on the computer.

In things to look forward to, there is Casper the Little White Moulton’s return from his surgery at ‘The Hall’. Plus going over to Queensland, Oz for my first rando Dirt Ride. The Bike Butler and I will also be doing the Beaches and Beyond 1000km rando that Frank Papp created before dying from a collision with a kangaroo whilst training for last year’s PBP.

And last but not least, my Rapha Festive 500 patch arrived. Well worth the effort of putting in the kms over the Christmas period and lots of fun following fellow festive 500 participants on Twitter and Strava. Something to put in the diary for this year.

Mile Eater Diary – February 2012

As January quietly slipped into February the weather gods kept to their commitment to provide temperatures that where akin to those found in a freezer. Not daunted I continued to pedal; hermetically sealed in my club mega windblocker jacket along with plenty of merino wool and windblocker cycle longs. Just as I was approaching the weekly minimum 400km target the weather gods did the dastardly deed and spent a whole Sunday depositing loads of nasty cold white stuff on the ground. I was left looking out of the window admiring the fine whiteness of the outside world for the next 7 days. The only respite came when I was able to sneak 12km down to Sainsbugs and back on the Brompton in between top up snow fall.

Thankfully, the weather gods got fed up with their little game and allowed the weather to fine up and purposeful cycling to recommence. The improvement in the weather was so good that a near perfect day was provided for the Reading Kennett Valley Run 200km randonnee. The peloton contained many of the ‘usual suspects’, including YACF’s Lyrca Man and RideHard in search of their February Randonneur Round the Year award ride. The controls at Hungerford and Bratton were as usual excellent, both cafes happily coping with a mega influx of hungry cyclists. Mick Simmons and his team did a fantastic job at the arrivee providing a warm welcome and a great post ride feast.

The Bike Hub app is great, particularly for navigating around central London. The best bit being that it knows all the cycle paths and cut-troughs that only a local rider would know. However, when it decides to have one of its bad bike Sat Nav days, things get not only interesting but very, very frustrating. Riding the Brompton to my new place of work with the Bike Hub navigating (as and when it felt like it) provided some unexpected but interesting urban adventures. The route is now safely logged in my brain’s navigation SIM card, so no more suffering from the vagaries of Mr Bike Hub. Although, having tried other bike Sat Nav Apps, this is the best one by far and keeps improving all the time.

The Bike Butler sourced and installed the most fantastic pair of pedals onto the Brompton. The Wellgo plug-in pedals allow you the luxury to choose either SPDs or flat pedals but when folding the Brompton, the pedals aren’t in the way as they simply pull out and then plug in when you are ready to ride again. Having thoroughly tested them in and around town, including on Gypsy Bugs Utilitaire challenge, they get big ‘thumbs up’.

In ’ things to look forward to’, the spoke elves finally visited Chez Brevet Bird as February faded into March with the necessary spokes for the Alfine 11 speed hub and it’s rim. So once the bike butler has knitted the spokes with the hub and rim, the first spin on Scotti avec Alfine isn’t too far way. Also, I still need to check out if the ‘Remede du Randonneur’ works that I was recently given!