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UK Cyclist: Long-distance and leisure cycling in the South-west and elsewhere

To break one's ankle walking to the pub, rather than merrily from it, is especially irritating.  To do so five weeks before Paris-Brest-Paris is more than annoying.  

I do not like the heat.  My favourite weather for cycling is cool and overcast, perhaps with a little light drizzle.  Probably not everyone's cup of tea.  But when the sweat starts running into my eyes I wish for a servant to ride along side me holding a parasol to ward off the sun.  Fat chance!

What is Audax UK coming to?  Is it sinking into middle-aged decay?  Has it lost the spirit of adventure?  Is it true that the days of just having fun riding a bike over silly distances are gone?

Do you remember the days when  riders, armed with nothing more than a set of grid references, a map, and a banana, would set off happily for a weekend's soaking?  Rain-drenched woollen clothing sagged down over knees, cotton-duck saddlebags filled with water, and copper-rivetted leather saddles developed strange groin-numbing ridges.  

 The headline on the BBC website read ‘Buzzard continues cyclist attacks’.
 The article continued:  “The death of a buzzard in Devon last week has failed to halt a spate of attacks on cyclists.
“A buzzard was killed last Wednesday after it dive-bombed a van on the A3072 at Brandis Corner near Holsworthy.
“But over the weekend, three cyclists taking part in an Audax long-distance cycling event were attacked, and one of them even had his hat stolen.

I was relating my experiences of the Edinburgh-London (It is possible to lose a lot of friends that way).  My story had progressed as far as the first night at Carlisle, and the tale of the drenched bed, when I realized that I could not account for Jim.  Memory does play me false on occasion.

 From the Amnesiac AUK.

Mad Jack

So who is the organiser who is so conscientious that he goes round his route before the event with secateurs, a broom, and a brush, clipping the foliage around the signs, and removing gravel and mud from the roads?  Andy Seviour, of course (Mind you, he did not do a very good job on the gravel — there was still a lot of it about).  He told me this while I was drinking his beer and folding his brevet cards the previous evening.  Mandy, his wife, complained that every recent trip out had turned into a route-checking expedition, sometimes until late at night.  

With contributions from various riders.

At the finish, Shawn had a look of quiet satisfaction on his face as he contemplated the list of DNFs.  The fact that he, the organiser, was one of them seemed not to bother him at all.  Pedals and Steve were both nursing painful knees and vowing never to ride fixed again.  The rest of us were sitting round the table, quietly chatting or semi-comatose, according to taste.

Personation in Picardy.  An account of  a Neville Chanin organised ride from Abbeville.

Being invited by Nev on any event is an honour.  So when the call came to ride La Ronde Picarde with Mr Chanin, I replied promptly and affirmatively.  

Chuffy's account of a painful 400k ride (and Elaine's response below).

B2tS is just one of many long rides I’ve failed on over the years. Anything from 200km upwards is always a bit of a dice-roll, sometimes my legs fall off, sometimes it’s my head and it doesn’t take much to knock me off balance. Last year I got to the bloody horrible hill at Oare (190something km) decided I’d had enough and turned to ride back to my parents. Which was lucky, because my lights packed up after Salisbury, just within range of rescue from Mum. I’d have been completely buggered if I’d ridden on, so yay for being a lazy coward.

Towards the latter part of 2014 I started thinking about the next Paris-Brest-Paris, and how to ring the changes. To explain: I had ridden two 90hrs, one on gears and one on fixed, an 84hr and an 80hr, both on gears. I didn't particularly want to repeat myself. So the logical thing would be to ride an 84 on fixed, except that I hadn't ridden anything serious on fixed-wheel for several years, and I was conscious of advancing decrepitude.

The LD line to Le Havre is cheaper than the ferry to Caen, and anyway I had conceived a fondness for the former port since being stranded there four years previously, the ferry leaving rather too precisely on time for Dr V's and my schedule. Preparation is everything, so I'd prepared a gps route to Paris and loaded it into the Garmin. A large roll-top sac strapped to the saddlebag carried the stuff I wouldn't need on the event.

I’d promised myself never again. Twice. So I'm feeling miffed at becoming caught up in the frenzy to the extent of finding myself standing again in a crowd of Paris-Brest hopefuls. And in the rain!

The Good Doctor and I set sail from Portsmouth to Le Havre, this particular sailing chosen for its comparative unpopularity with the audax crowds. However, there were two or three other groups on the boat and it wasn't until after crossing the Seine at Quillebeuf  that we managed to shake the last of them off.

From: "Ian Hennessey" 

To: "Randon" <randon@ cycling. org>*

*[Randon is now at]

Subject: Paris-Brest

Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 15:16:37 +0100

I arrived home yesterday after around 1850kms on fixed - 3X more than I've attempted before. 35yr old Claud Butler stood up well, though I think I've destroyed the headset. The back wheel I built the day before leaving also survived - no truing needed. I kept the luggage to a minimum. 2 sets of cycle clothing (wear one, wash one); shirt and shorts + sandals for off the bike; camera; maps; toothbrush and travel-towel; 2 light capes (1 waterproof - not used); and essential tools. The off-bike wear I left at the hotel during the event. Managed, with the aid of an accomplice, to get to the head of the 90hr queue. Joined in the 'road-race' as we set off- thinking "This is stupid/I shall suffer for this/I should have more sense." etc. Passed the courageous fellow on hand-cranks - shame he didn't finish. Caught and passed most of the 'silly' machines, before finally losing contact (thank goodness) with the last of the fast groups.

Words by Anne Learmonth

Shawn Shaw has bowed out of organising his classic Wessex Rides this year. A long and involved tussle in the high court of the AUK committee room has resulted in Shawn calling it a day. I can sympathise. I run a modest 100k grimpeur and find that the necessary risk assessment paperwork plus the yearly search for new information controls detracts from the fun.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of Ray Craig's company as a result of a breakdown of one of the dilapidated ferries running from Dieppe.  He had no lights, and it was very late when we finally hit the UK, so I gave him and his Moulton a lift to Tadley.  A fascinating conversation about the early days of AUK developed, and he told me some of the story of the original Brindisi Seven (For, yes, he was a member of that magnificent bunch).  The details I cannot remember, but there were stirring tales of riding alone through the night, trying to catch the others (Cries of 'They're behind you').  2250km in just over 8 days.

Reuben was born, as far as I am aware, in the village where he lives.  He lived with his parents until they died, and is still in the same house.  He keeps a dog, and, although he is careful about security and always locks up before going out, the dog-flap is quite large enough to admit a human of considerable size.

It was a cold but sunny February morning in the car-park by Chepstow Castle.  A queue of cyclists had formed.  At its head the organisers, Nik and Jen, were handing out brevet cards for the Gospel Pass 150km.  More cyclists were still arriving, others milling about, in conversation or anxious to go.  
There were a few comments about the recycled, year-old route-sheet, but, hey, the entry was only a pound.  

Event report of the 2013 event in the Southwest.

Jamie's photos of the event
and they're off (riders leaving the start)We had 108 entries in total. The weather forecasts during the week before were not inspiring, but nonetheless 88 turned up at the start. Chuffy and Baggy served breakfast , aided by Jamie, Peter, and others.

The first shower began just as the riders left. Late starter, John, arrived and left in the rain.

Link to Barbara's blog.

Our LeJog plan gradually came together over several months, but the day of departure came upon us with a bit of a rush, as suddenly it was the 26th April. At 05:30 we picked up Steve and all his kit and set off for Lands End. With little traffic on the road we made good time and arrived at 08:15. It was blowing hard and very cold but this had not deterred Phil, Maggie and Richard turning out to see us off. We got the bikes loaded up with the panniers, pumped up the tyres and posed for photographs at the famous finger post. The Dorset flag was produced for the first time and it acted as a sail in the strong wind, almost lifting us up.

Read More (external link)

Words: Chuffy Simmonds

I have spent the last two hours staring at the arse of a man with a flashing red biscuit on his saddlebag. It is bitterly cold. The hills are getting longer by the minute. I’ve been circling the drain for 10 of the last 16 hours and have spent almost the entire day praying for a poo. Welcome to the Old Roads 300k, this is my tale.

Long-distance cycling under AUK rules is often (though inaccurately) referred to as audaxing. Mudguards are not required for any of these events. Use whatever bike suits you. If you don't want to follow a routesheet then download the GPS file. You will need to be fit and self-sufficient. Most of these events, especially the longer ones, are hard. You should be an experienced cyclist with both fitness and stamina. There is a minimum speed of 15kph for all the events of 200km and above. Don't worry about the maximum speed of 30kph, you won't get near it. Prepare your bike and yourself carefully for any of these events. If you do all the distances, you become an Exeter Wheelers Super Randonneur.

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