For Robbie Big Wheels (my S&S-coupled bike), the South Bucks 200km Chiltern Hills Brevet was to be his first randonnee for the current audax season. His lack of rando kms was partly due to winter (he retires to the comfort of the bike room then) and partly because Casper, a certain little white Moulton had usurped him last year as my favourite bike. As Casper was down at ‘The Hall’ undergoing surgery, this ride was all Robbie’s. And of course the co-pilot was there, providing moral support from inside the Carradice Barley Bag.
To add a little extra twist to the ride, it became part of my utilitare challenge. This challenge had been set by MG, a friend and fellow randonneur in Washington DC, running from 31st January to 16th March. In a nutshell, you needed to ride and provide proof e.g. photos, of rides of 2 miles or more that fulfilled a practical function, like riding to work. However you could only repeat a type of ride twice and have it count, so finding 8 rides that wasn’t the daily commute or grocery shopping was part of the challenge. Riding to and from an event fitted the bill perfectly. It had the added bonus of accumulating some extra miles towards my mile eater diary and long term aim of joining the 300,000 mile club.
The Chiltern Hills event was being run by Terry Lister who, with the help of the ladies of the South Bucks DA, was providing a warm welcome, copious cups of tea and mountains of cake. The last time I rode it had been in 2009 with a different organiser and route. I didn’t realised the route had changed until I started to ride and realised that I would have to tweak my GPX. But once the tweak had been applied, navigating was perfectly smooth with no off route excursions.
The ride was blessed with the most wonderful amounts of sunshine and gentle breezes that never turned into niggling headwinds. The route wound in and out of lots of familiar but favourite Buckinghamshire lanes and hills. Occasionally there was the odd lane and hill such as Leather Lane and Tom’s Hill out of Aldbury that, out of choice, I’d have avoided, but all in all a hilly but very enjoyable route.
For the first 100km, members of the DA manned the controls, which added to the pleasure of the day. The first control was Benson, where Audrey Hughes was controlling along with her little wheeled Brompton steed. Then it was off to Waddesden, passing through the grounds of the Forte French chateau manor house and back to the HQ in Great Kingshill for an excellent lunch prepared by the South Bucks DA ladies. Out again for the second loop, calling in at Billington and Thame. After Thame, it was time to head for the arrivee via a rather large climb aspiring to become a mountain. It cunningly hid itself behind Princes Risborough. After grovelling up the climb, there was ample reward with a descent through Bryants Bottom before the short, sharp and not so flat climb up to the HQ to be welcomed with a well-earned cup of tea and another brilliant spread of food including homemade chilli.
Any thoughts of taking the train home were quickly scuppered as I’d forgotten my rail pass. So out into the dark for the ride home, which luckily was more downhill than up. Arriving back home after what turned out to be a rather pleasant ride in warm and calm conditions, I was able to reflect on a really great day a-wheel enjoyed in the company of friends new and old. Plus of course 267km in the bag (with 2,512m of ascent), nudging me a little closer to the magic 300,000 miles.