16 October 2012

Ride report: The Poor Student 200 (permanent version)

It's well known within the cycling and sports community that if you stop working out for longer than a month, you loose your fitness pretty dramatically. What it was meant to be an easy 200 km ride around the Cotswolds in October, proved to be an slow drag in chilly autumnal conditions.

I have set myself a goal of keeping active throughout the London winter this year. By active, I mean, riding at least one 200 km event every month. I could not find any suitable calendar events (i.e. events organised by AUK with a decent amount of audax riders), and so I decided to sign up for our first permanent event. These are events that you can ride any time of the year, provided you let the organiser know in advance. Similarly to the regular calendar events, proof of passage must be obtained along the way.

Below is the route (courtesy of Mike) we ended up doing, with only three controls: Oxford, Malmesbury, and Chipping Campden. Easy navigation and just over 200 km, with rolling terrain.

Given Lucy had been off the bike for a while, I anticipated an slow ride which will go on through some of the dark evening hours. With that in mind, we set up the bikes for night riding and set the alarm at 5 am. After an hour ride on the train to Oxford, I collected my receipt (Lucy won't be registering her ride) just past 7:50 am and off we went.

Deciding on what clothes to bring out for this ride was a bit difficult. At this time of the year it can be chilly at the start, but then it usually warms up in the central hours, to then plummet back to below 10C. As that was to be the case, we each had at least 4 layers of synthetic materials, plus leg warmers and long finger gloves with liners, just in case. Also, a couple of buffs.

8:30 am, leaving Oxford
The first 10 km or so were an easy pootle out of Oxford. Soon after that we started passing pretty villages and were out in the farmlands. The temperature was surely below 10C, but we warmed up quickly and I was comfortable. We had about 75 km to Malmesbury, another popular town within Audax UK as it is used on rides such as the Dean 300. So far, the route had been very quiet and pancake-flat, yet I noticed that our average speed was not particularly high.

Somewhere near West Swindon we hit a closed road sign. As it usually happens on these rides, we went through it and eventually hit a barrier with a no cyclist no walkers writing on it. Despite the best of our efforts to go through it, we got turned away, having to retrace some 8 km and do a bit of navigation to get back to original route. The GPS came in very handy, with all the roads shown up on the screen, it did not take us more than 30 min to loop back to the planned route. We had lost some valuable minutes here that would mean less time to get back to Oxford later. The only high of this diversion was a very old-looking bike chained on to a fence, showing a 1930s date, and a very old leather saddle.

Malmesbury had its Saturday market on by the time we got there, and with that, plenty of traffic. I find it amusing how people happily get stuck in traffic jams on a Saturday morning, in a random Cotswolds town. Wiggling through traffic I got my receipt and headed off for a quick bite before we carried on. At an English pattiserie we had a difficult time trying to choose between the usual staples: flapjackes, scones, rice cakes, and sandwiches. We wished we were in France/Belgium/Spain and their traditional bakeries here!

Malmesbury Saturday market
After a half an hour rest, we set out North towards Chipping Campden. The second section of the ride promised some Cotswolds hills and nice views. When we hit the 100 km mark we were still in good spirits, but after another 15 km we started to hit the first steep hills. Lucy had to walk a couple of them, and I soon noticed that this wasn't being the best of her days on the bike. After so long off two wheels, she was having a hard time and we still had 80 km to go. The hills came one after another, and despite their relatively short length, they proved challenging at times.

Lucy escaping the threatening clouds in the background

Steep downhill as we crossed the Cotswolds
Our speed had dropped to less than 20 km/h moving average, and I started to worry about making it back to Oxford on time. Also, we needed to eat something proper, so many hours after our early morning breakfast. The scenery was good and the roads still very quiet, most of them following national routes.

Luckily we cleared those clouds in time
Chipping Camden was about 135 km into the ride. After an steep descent into the village, we went past some very posh-looking houses, and soon were looking for a cafĂ© to have a warm meal. Doing this proved difficult, not only because of the ridiculously steep prices (even worse than we experience in London!) but because most of them were not even serving hot food. It was 4:30 pm or so, certainly not a good time for lunch nor dinner in the UK. £5.75 for a cake was also ruled out as an option.

Eventually we had a sit down meal at one of the only two pubs of the village. Lucy got saussage and mash, while I got a simple tomato soup. It was getting cold and rain started to drop over our bikes, but we had the luxury of a fire and some warm food.

Riding into the last 60 km
Shortly after 5:30 pm we set off for the last 70 km of the ride. Lucy felt a bit better, yet her legs were not responding as well as they had been earlier in the year. We made slow progress and had to stop a few times to eat some snacks. The temperatures were still reasonable for this time of the year, yet she felt cold and did not seem to be enjoying the ride very much.

Cannot get any better than this! 6:30 pm, sunset and corn fields
The route got a lot flatter here on, and we even had a bit of a tailwind. Sunset was also fast approaching - my favourite time of the day to ride. Lights were turned on and within half an hour we were back to night riding mode. It was 7:30 pm and we had another 20 km or so to go. Lucy was feeling a bit better, so we pressed on, making it to Peartree services, on the outskirts of Oxford, by 8:30 pm. Still within time, I got my receipt while Lucy pressed on to the station. I rode quickly after Peartree into central Oxford, caught up with Lucy and continued on to the station to obtain my final proof of passage.

At 8:50 pm we had officially completed the ride, nearly 13 hours after we set off in the morning. Shortly afterwards we were heading back to London, after what it had been an enjoyable ride in reasonable autumnal weather.

This completes my October ride, and am now looking into the November options. Lucy had a harder than expected time after all the time she spent off the bike in September. The route was quite flat overall, and fairly quiet. I intend to be back to do this same ride in January, when the actual calendar event takes place. It will surely be a much colder day, but the company will hopefully help me ride a bit faster.

The overall stats were as below:

- Overall km: 210 km
- Overall average: 16.5 km/h
- Moving average: 20.4 km/h
- Max speed: 51.2 km/h
- Time on the bike: 10:32
- Time stopped: 02h 15 min

No comments:

Post a Comment