July 17, 2012

A Challenge for the Uncompetitive Cyclist - Part 4, A Sleepless Night

A 300km day ride, by Audax standards would appear to be something of a middle distance event, which gives some indication of the madness of long distance cycling. Although I had registered the planned 322km ride to Tavistock with AudaxUK, I was by no means certain that I would be able to complete it within the required 22 hours 22 minutes for it to be officially recorded as an Audax ride. 

The purpose of the trip was a weekend with family in Tavistock and the target was to arrive in time for the wine and curry feast planned for Friday night. I had decided to use the Jamis Aurora for the ride, a wise choice in that the Aurora is a lightweight steel framed tourer but not so wise in that this was a new bike that I hadn't previously taken further than 30 miles. It was prepped for the ride with dyno hub wheel and lighting from my workaday bike and a single small rear pannier for tools and food. I set off at 17:50 on Thursday night and wanting to get away to a good start I braved the A4 through Reading towards Woolhampton where I would take up the B and C roads that would form the rest of the route. The weather was not ideal, heavy rain and a 10 – 15 mph headwind, but the hedgerows and trees lining the minor roads did provide some protection from the worst of it. It was properly dark at 22:00 when I reached my first planned fuel stop which was fish and chips at Pewsey. After this 30 minute meal break in Pewsey's well appointed bus shelter I was away into the darkness heading for my next rest stop at Glastonbury.
Bus Shelter at Pewsey © Copyright Chris Talbot
Over the following 5 hours I had the roads to myself, save for the occasional fox and badger that would leap out in front of me, often perilously close to getting run over. Thankfully my road kill tally remained at zero, though I knew it was probably me who would have come of worse if my nocturnal friends hadn't have been quite so deft. At just over the half way point and at around 04:00 I passed Glastonbury on the A39 and headed for the Golden Arches of the 24hr McDonalds and my second fuel stop. I had thought I might take a nap at this point, but the unnecessarily loud music and bright lights meant this wasn't going to happen; a deliberate ploy by the pesky clown I wager! By the time I left Glastonbury it was daylight, the rain had stopped and my first unplanned foray into a muddy field happened! I had tried to plan the route to avoid such delays but I was just so glad to be wearing my waterproof sandals!
Luckily there was a bridge!

By this stage I was getting a little tired and decided to skip my planned 3rd fuel stop at Tesco’s in Cullompton and press on to Bradninch and refuel with my own supplies in the delightful thatched bus shelter at Bradninch.

Bradninch Bus Shelter © Copyright Sarah Smith

During the ride I came to appreciate the availability of bus shelters; for sure cafes and coffee bars are mostly a more enticing proposition, however they are rare on back roads and after for cycling in the rain for over 15 hours a bedraggled and dirt caked cyclist is perhaps not the most favoured of clientele. The bus stop at Shobrooke in Devon was a superbly appointed example and it was a hard not to get ensconced for a "power nap".

Shobrooke Bus Shelter © Copyright BazzaDarambler
From Shobrooke it was onto Okehampton and the Granite Way that forms part of National Cycle Route 27 that provides a sedate passage around Dartmoor before the final descent into Tavistock. The Aurora had proven itself to be a comfortable and reliable machine and the promise of wine and curry had kept me going when energy levels started to fall. I completed the ride in 22 hours with over 40 minutes to spare within the Audax permitted time over the 300km distance. Time enough for a couple of hours kip before the curry was served!

Final Destination! Westbridge Cottages - Tavistock

Apologies for the lack of my own pictures in this post but for the most part it was dark and raining so many thanks to the bus shelter snappers as credited!

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