Tag Archives: mile eater

Autumn Tour 2014 – Old Roads and New (borrowed from the great Jock Wadley)

We, the peloton

  • Me – The Brevet Bird
  • My side kick – the Co-pilot
  • Our trustee steed – Casper the Little White Moulton
  • Guest appearances, the Kit-Kat wrapper & Gollum the GPS

Day 1 – The big tailwind

IMG_1706A late start was cunningly achieved through lack of preparation caused by too many kilometres a-wheel in the preceding weeks. With tracks finally created and loaded onto the Garmin, Casper’s tiny tyres hit the asphalt and started to turn at round about 10am. Our destination was Surfleet, just outside of Spalding and the Ship Inn.

The route was very familiar and at most contained undulations. Sneaking out of the Chilterns back door via Wendover, we then headed to Tingewick via Silverstone. Knowing that lunch opportunities would be thin on the ground, lunch was grabbed at the preferred cafe at Towcester.

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The sun continued to shine and the wind blew from behind. It was a wonderful, almost autumnal day to be out on the bike. Traversing Northampton was its usual painful self. But once we had poppws out the other side into Moulton, the lanes were delightful. Good progress was made and the back of the Kit-Kat wrapper calculation said that despite the late start that arrival at the Ship Inn would be in goodly time.

Spalding seemed to dangle from our grasp for far too long. Then suddenly we zoomed over the Spalding prime sign. Just 10km and we would be at the day’s arrivee.

At 8pm we arrived at the Ship Inn. It turned out to be an excellent choice with a warm welcome, excellent food and a room with a centrally heated washing line located in the bathroom. What more could a super tourist randonneur wish for?  213km

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Day 2 – The Headwinds Start

Our destination was York YHA. We would be traveling mostly on well laid Easter Arrow tramlines with the added frisson of the Lincolnshire Wolds thrown in. Again, not a hilly day if you were counting contour lines, but plenty of Dutch hills created by the rather unkindly headwind that didn’t vanish all day.

The day started in an over relaxed fashion as the back of the Kit-Kat wrapper said we had plenty of time. It lied. Because I thought we had the time, I succumbed to rather too many photo stops, which were on the whole too good to decline. The Co-pilot remonstrated with me that I was stuffing around. I took no notice.

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When we reached Boston, where there was no tea party, I realised that I had made an error on the track. Luckily the Spoons provided the internet power to check what the route should really look like. Thus we headed off to Spilsby, then to Horncastle where it seemed like a good idea to have lunch. This turned out to be quite correct as we didn’t pass any more cafes for the next 130km.

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After lunch we crept up the Lincolnshire wolds as the headwind caused an increase in these gentle climbs. At Brigg, I’d forgotten that we were not travelling just before dawn, so taking the A18 to Scunthorpe wasn’t necessarily the best idea I’d ever had. Scunthorpe at peak hour isn’t a place to endear itself to you. Then it was the switchback lanes following for the most part the River Trent to Goole via Swinefleet.

Goole provide both the highlight and excitement of the day. The swing bridge was in operation. As a child, my dad had waxed lyrical about this bridge as we crossed it in the car most Easters. However, I’d never seen it in action. In the evening sun, approaching dusk it was a pleasure to watch it in action.

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Once the bridge was swung and dropped into place, it was off to Howden and then the bad lands of great flatness to York.

York arrived as per the evil Kit-Kat wrapper’s prediction, late. A cunning plan formed to solve the question of dinner. Pick up take away fish and chips. Simple in the planning, it turned out to be tricky in the executing. After what seemed like ages, but probably wasn’t, fish and chips were purchased and attached to the Carradice.

York YHA had been extended and upgraded since my last visit. It now had a large and welcoming reception area with a bar and plenty of space to eat and relax. Once the fish and chips had been consumed it was time for a shower and bed. I was most pleased to find new bunk beds with individual power points. So there were no dramas charging the various gadgets overnight.  217km

Day 3 – The Lunacy Starts and the Head Wind Continues

I should have known better when I planned the route to Durham, our next stage town. But I was kind of like a kid in a sweet shop. I wanted it all even if it wasn’t god for me. In this case it was going to make the legs hurt. Basically I’d picked places on the basis of revisiting some of my early touring memories and forgetting how the roads between them were going to join up. I’d found 3,000 meters of assent, with it turned out an added bonus headwind.

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The plan was to have lunch in Kirby Stephen as I remembered a great café there. But the wind had been so pesky that I decided that a late elevensees stop was in order. A suitable cafe beckoned in Leycock. The dreaded Kit-Kat wrapper popped its head up and adjusted the truth. The 30km to Kirby Stephen was not going to take us one and a half hours. With the head wind, rain and super gloom it was going to be a good two hours of gutter grovelling. On the upside, once the super gloom disappeared the views didn’t disappoint and the decent into Kirby Stephen was rather pleasurable. That’s where the pleasure of arrival took a temporary halt. Every café was closed, including the one lodged in my memory banks. Desperation set in. Then I spotted a rather odd little shop that promised caike. I hurried in to check. Indeed caike and coffee were on offer. OK, not a perfectly balanced lunch, but hey needs must.

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My meteo observations had been correct. We would get blown down to Middleton in Teesdale. It was a blast. Initially the wind was reasonably friendly, climbing out of Middleton. Then the wind turned nasty. It attacked us relentlessly from the side. So much so that over Weardale we were blown from gutter to gutter and almost onto the road. A short section of nifty SPD sandal work in the 24” gear was necessary to keep us moving, well enough not to grow moss. The rather lovely touch was the police van that drove pass but didn’t think to check that one small woman pushing a shopping bike was OK. I’ve never been quite so worried on a bike. After making a steep descent that felt more like a climb, we reach Stanhope and a very welcome right turn. Yippee, the wind was at our backs and remained so right up to our arrivee at the Star Inn, Durham.

Some undulations, then some climbing and suddenly we were descending and descending for multiple kilometres. There had to be some catch to this as Doughty’s law says ‘what goes down has to climb up again’, but for the moment we enjoyed a free ride.

The staff at the Star Inn were fantastic. I’d arrived just after kitchen close off time and the chef very kindly accepted my order for vegetarian lasagna, which was superb. All round the stay here was brilliant.  206km

Day 4 – Yet more lunacy and further headwinds

Doughty’s law was correct by virtue of my own cunning planning. To get to the next stage town of Bamburgh, we had to climb the descent of the previous evening. Of course the wind had remained in position, so we were climbing into a headwind plus occasional squally showers. Our reward for this putting up with this was some rather fine rainbows.

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Planning a route on soft mapping means that providing your GPS doesn’t have any emotional meltdowns, you always know you are going to get to the arrivee. However, what you can’t tell is how steep the undulations are. The answer to the rather beautiful back road to Alston was super severe.

As we ground up seemingly never ending steep inclines that we had not asked for on our way to Alston, a close relative of the wind that had inhabited Weardale relentlessly toyed with us. Again, keeping Casper upright and perhaps evening moving forwards was a challenge. The payback was magnificent panoramic views. The decent into Alston was down a series of very steep ‘steps’ which popped out onto the top of the famed cobbled road. I’d always wondered where this road went; it’s nice to have a question answered but not a road to be revisited in a hurry.

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This time memory and 2014 actuality matched. The café that I remembered in Alston was still there and as good as I the memory banks said it was. A swift lunch and we were rolling along with a helpful side wind and more down than up. Of course this arrangement couldn’t last forever.

At Haydon Bridge the crinkles started getting bigger and the head wind came back to pester us enough to be noticeable. Because I remembered it’s rather fine castle from a tour way back when, I put Alnwick on the days itinerary. I hadn’t though realised that a roller coster of lumpy bits would sit between us from Rothbury to Alnwick. Just as we had given up hope of reaching Alnwick, in the twilight it appeared. As we swung past the castle it didn’t disappoint.

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Although in theory the roads from Alnwick to Bamburgh were flat, to tired legs worn down by hills and headwinds it didn’t feel flat. A visit by the man with the hammer didn’t help, but a swift bar of Cadbury’s milk chocolate fixed the situation. Once we turned on to the coast road the speed picked up. Noticing the time on the Garmin, we sprinted across the Bamborough prime time to slide the day in just under the 13 hour mark. Despite Bamburgh being such a small place, locating our hotel was more challenging than expected. Finally tucked up in our hotel room enjoying picnic supper and doing the days write up, we looked back on a very fine day a-wheel. Tomorrow would be the rest day.  204km

Day 5 – Thus to Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne had been a place I had wanted to visit for some time. Galloping past it on Rufus the tandem trike on our 600km brevet earlier in the summer had been the nudge I’d needed to finally go. It didn’t disappoint.

After a leisurely breakfast, we set off into quite lanes and sunshine. Mainly using NCN1 we worked our way from Bamburgh to the causeway that takes you from the mainland to Lindisfarne. The magic of Lindisfarne started as soon as the causeway commenced. I’m not sure the impact in a car would have been the same as a-wheel. The smell of the sea, the squawking of the birds and the rustle of the tall grasses all added to a wow factor experience.

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Lindisfarne is very small, but packed with history. It’s where one of the book of Kells was written and where Saint Aidan set up his mission to convert the local pagans to Christianity. With so many tea shops to chose from, lunch was spread over two cafes. After a relaxing couple of hours it was time to retrace back to the mainland before the tide came in and covered the causeway for multiple hours.

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The plan was to hug the coast up to Berwick upon Tweed using NCN1. However, when NCN1 turned into a goat track, that idea was swiftly abandoned and some off the cuff GPS navigating was deployed. Berwick turned out to be a rather delightful stage town. I’d booked the Youth Hostel, which other than the 4am fire alarm provided an excellent place to stay.  65km

Day 6 – Boarder Raid

Meeting up with my very good friends, Mark and Anne Brazier on the new bridge at Berwick, we spent a wonderful morning riding from England into the Scottish boarders. At Galashiels, Mark and Anne turned around to loop back to Berwick and we headed on to Edinburgh, Linlithgow and then Glasgow.

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At Innerleithen a cafe appeared right on time. We stopped. The most memorable item on the menu was haggis and brie panini. On leaving the cafe we took the most amazing road, quietly climbing through a beautiful glen with a gentle back wind. Then onto the hurly burly of Edinburgh. With time in hand, a well earned afternoon tea stop was taken in a little continental cafe just beyond the town centre.

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After that, the roads got a little unpleasant, but fortunately there was a shared use pavement to decamp onto rather than be squashed by the fast moving traffic on the A9. Then onto Linlithgow. Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scotts within the walls of it’s small palace. It didn’t disappoint, although it would have been nice to have stopped rather than just pass through.

Then came green fields, pleasantly undulating lanes and our final sunset of the IMG_1727tour before heading into the grey of Glasgow. The GPS guided us perfectly to Glasgow Central station and the finish of our tour. From here, following a spot of dinner we would take the sleeper back to London, home and work until the next tour beckoned.  210km

Click here for all the photos on Flickr

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

 

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/

Kilometers Rich; Time Poor

 After last years trials and tribulations caused by a combination of getting sick and unknowingly wearing out my very essential orthotics, it’s been good to feel fit and healthy again. It wasn’t until a month or so ago, that I realised what an impact my soggy and ride weary carbon fibre orthotics had been making. They were the main reason for the back issues that I had suffered in Portugal and Australia. The new springy carbon fibre orthotics that were installed in November, had by May worked their magic. Riding up big hills now didn’t involve extended conversations with granny and the big ring on Casper again became the ring of preference for riding on flat and undulating ground. Riding became a joy again and resulted in lots of kilometres accumulating, but leaving me time poor for activities outside of turning the pedals and going to work. Hence the miles eater diary has been regularly fed but the blog has been on a rather low word diet.

Thus far the planned big rides have all worked out, even if the Israeli 1,000km brevet involved a nail biting finish with only 10 minutes to spare at the arrivee. The campaign to complete the Aigle d’Or has also been successful, with the final 1,900 audax kilometres being bagged in France and an autumn pizza party to look forward to with the Alsace 67 audax group. To keep things balanced, there is a second ACF R5000 award to claim. I’ve also taken Casper to meet the joys of the Welsh mountains on the Bryan Chapman 600 rando (my 9th edition). It was a splendid weekend a-wheel and I’m quite sure we’ll be back.

Next on the menu is London Edinburgh London, which starts Sunday 28th July from Loughton, nr London. This will be my 3rd edition. Through no particular planning each edition has been ridden on a different bike, a Robert’s steel frame then an Enigma titanium frame. For this edition it will be Casper the Little White Moulton. There is no pre-planned schedule for this ride. Like all of my long brevets, I’m using the turn up and see how it goes approach. Riding like this has so far always produced a memorable and unexpected adventure within the structure of a randonnee. Hopefully the one thing missing from this LEL will be ‘weather’, particularly rain or cold, which have graced both previous LELs in unprecedented quantities.

As we speak, Casper the Little White Moulton and the Co-Pilot are poised to commence the next brevet adventure.

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!

Mile Eater Diary – January 2012

After January 2010, it was like getting an extended Christmas present with the perfect winter cycling weather that January 2011 presented. Knowing that the weather gods can give with one hand and then take back as quickly with the other, utilizing the good weather a-wheel was a must.

A first was scored, by riding the calendar version of the Poor Student 200km randonnee event from Oxford. It is a ride that is usually cursed with cold and icy conditions. This edition was positively balmy. The route is simple but effective with intermediate controls at Malmesbury and Chipping Campden. It was a chance to meet up with numerous friends, many chasing the AUK Randonneur Round the Year award. This included from the YACF forum Lycraman, having successfully completed his first in 2010 and RideHard who is aiming to obtain his first.

Unbelievably, the good weather continued and made the Willy Warmer 200km another fine day a-wheel. This is an excellent winter ride mainly on good A and B roads, with not too many secret squirrel info controls, so even in bad years it is usually rideable. The organisation as always was excellent, so a big thumbs up to Paul Stewart from the Willesden.

The weather gods were of course bound to change their minds and retract the good weather. The super freezy elves were let loose on just about the last week in January. A good day meant that its zenith at high noon reached a heady 4C. The only upside to the cold spell was little or no humidity. This translated as little or no risk of ice, so grumbling about the Sahara like conditions created by the spread but unused road salt seemed a little out of order. I closed the month with over double the mileage tally of January 2010, keeping quest to reach 200,000 recorded miles by the close of play this year on target.

In ‘things to look forward to’, my new Alfine 11 speed hub arrived. This is to re-new the rear wheel that I wore out on my Scott MTB in December after many years of faithful service over countless miles. I’m now just waiting on spokes, rims and my tame bike butler to put it all together and I can go out for a test ride.