Tag Archives: moulton

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

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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

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.

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.

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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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2011 Mile Eater Diary Round-up

As ever, when the final tally for the year is totalled, you always wish it was a bit more. However, with a desperate January and February from unforeseen things like flu, complaining that 13,377 miles isn’t enough would be churlish.

Miles a-wheel of course usually equate to great memories and wonderful adventures. Within the 2011 mileage, there are heaps of both and plenty of rides with new and old cycling friends. To pick out one outstanding memory / adventure would be tough. Vying for top spot would be the inaugural Texas Stampede Rando 1200, my first ride on Casper ‘the little white Moulton’ and PBP Audax and PBP Randonneur. The two memories that stand out most are from the PBPs. The first is the unscheduled all night chase on PBP Audax with Dave Minter and  Yves, (a French rider) to get back to the peloton; achieved but with an uncomfortably close margin. The second is my last night of PBP Rando, riding with Edwin Hargreaves (on trike) to Mortagne-au-Perche trying to chase down Jim Hopper (also on trike). Although we failed in this mission, we had a party riding up hill and down, pulling back endless tail lights.

Being lucky enough to ride three international 1200s in one year ensured I met up with lots of old friends from around the world. It also gave me the opportunity to make new friends, including people that I had only ‘met’ via Twitter and blogs, such as the Daily Randonneur tandem team, Mary Gersema (Gypsy Bug) and Edward Felker. Following their escapades in the virtual reality world of the web is even better for knowing the real people.

The mileage year ended with an unforeseen splash, when Dave pointed me in the direction of the Rapha 500 challenge. With the Twitter, blogs and Strava all going, I rapidly got wrapped up in collecting kilometres and would up with a surplice at close of play. However, with the brief to collect photos and write about the week, the whole project was given an added edge that I really enjoyed.

Looking forward to 2012, there is plenty of milestones and targets out there. If the mileage gods smile kindly on me, I should hopefully reach 200,000 this December. I’ve been logging my miles since January 1999, so this will be a magic way point in my quest to become a member of the 300,000 mile club. Hopefully there will also be travel a-wheel with old friends in the UK and overseas and plenty of new friends to be found. There is also the challenge of capturing a whole 12 months a-wheel on ‘digital film’ via Flickr and Instagram, which although started late in 2011, has been a fantastic way of keeping an image diary to go along with the recorded miles.

Casper the little white Moulton’s first kms

Between the wonderful expertise of Dan Farrell and his crew at Moulton building the frame and Dave Minter bolting on the components, Casper is now a complete and rideable machine.  Next step, road testing to put him through his paces and check that nothing vital was going to jump ship during PBP audax and rando.

As with all bikes, there are a few things mechanical that on the work stand are fine but, on the road, needed tweaking.  These were found and resolved on a pleasant 100km ride over to friends.

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Then came the main tests.  Firstly a 200km DIY ride from Oxfordshire, over to the Cotswolds, then through the Chilterns to home.  Then to really check that nothing was going to work loose on the roads of France, a 100km ride using the Sustrans paths of Hertfordshire (route 64), much of it off road.

Casper performed brilliantly throughout the various roads, hills and paths of the first 400km.  He was quick along the flat, descended like a demon, cornered on tramlines and figured he might just be Pantani when going up hills!

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After only a few rides a-wheel, Casper is challenging the beloved Robbie (my Roberts S&S coupled bike) as my favourite stead out of the one or perhaps many I have to choose from.