Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Dean 300 - 29 March

The Dean 300 can be described as a 'Wales and back' ride.  It starts in Oxford (where you'll find oxes), goes west to the Forest of Dean (where you'll find wild pigs), takes you to the half way point at Chepstow (where you'll find Wales), goes to the most southerly point of Marlborough (where you'll find white horses) and then back north to Oxford.

I spent yesterday afternoon audaxifying my bike, which had me thinking about the highlights from previous years:

  • sunrise as we cycle out of Oxford into the country side
  • skylarks and daffodils
  • Cotswolds
  • hearing the wild pigs in the Forest of Dean
  • the chalk horses in Wiltshire - when I'm quick enough to get there in daylight
  • lunch in Chepstow's Aslan's cafe (yes this list is in a random order)
  • Severn Bridge
  • the climb to Somerset monument
  • the magnificent Membury services, only audaxers would note that as a highlight!
In good conditions, this is a fabulous ride showing off some great British countryside.  Weather forecast for next weekend is promising.  I need to be mindful of headwind on way back and the temperature dropping after dark.   Looking forward to it.

Forest of Dean on previous ride.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Steam Ride 200

I was steaming at the end of this ride!  It was very hot, and all day I was wearing the layers I would need after sunset.   But no one complained , we're all on the same train.

What a great theme for a ride: the Steam Ride.   The route touches  on all the steam train venues in the south east: Ruislip, Quainton, Didcot,  Cholsey and Southall.

The Steam Ride 200

Toy and steam trains at Quainton
I dread it and love it at the same time, when I haven't done a 200 for a while.  All was going well till the first control at Quainton.  I was slow, but having fun taking pictures, enjoying the pre-spring country side.  Daffodils are out, and the trees are just about to pop their buds.  Happy days, it's all coming back to me, I do still love cycling.

I must visit Waddeson Manor and grounds

Then the dreaded happened.  My GPS shut down and rebooted with nothing to show.   Back to the olden days with paper route sheet, which, thankfully, I always bring with me as backup.  I rigged up the folded papers with elastic bands, which, thankfully, I always bring with me in a you-never-know-way.

I tried not to worry ahead of the dark section when reading route sheets and navigation becomes more challenging.   I find it challenging enough without darkness, but there is always silver lining.   For example, although I was on the right way to Wallingford on the Hithercroft Road, I started to doubt and retraced.  I went the Church Road way instead.  This takes you over part of the North Wessex Downs.  I was treated to a great 360 view!  I'd recommend Tim to detour that way for the next edition.  There was a local cyclist taking a breather ... or smoking a cigarette.  I stopped for directions.  'Nice view, he?', he said.  'Oh yes, beautiful, it's worth the climb', I replied.  He then gave me directions consistent with going the wrong way.

The guys wouldn't have realised it, but the group of riders in the photo below, gave me great support.  They were upbeat, having fun, very friendly.  Seeing them at controls and on the road on and off boosted my spirits every time.

A big thank you to Michael for riding with me from Chinnor onwards.  I would have got lost ending up back in Oxford if it hadn't been for him.  We arrived back at headquarters just in time for the BRM cut off, which added to the steam effect once inside 'The Water's Edge' pub.

Many thanks to Tim and team of volunteers for setting up this day of steam rides.

Photos are here: MyPhotos

Other thoughts:
  • Cleaning my bike on the Saturday, the chain looked like a scarecrow
  • Brilliant to have another local audax
  • Spotted Chequers this time
  • Controller hats and whistles were a nice touch
  • Big field of riders on multiple events
  • Red kites flying high and low
Thank you to all controllers!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Steam Ride 200 - 9th March

"If you weren't a Steam enthusiast at the beginning of the ride, you're sure to return one."

What a promise!  I hope I'll have enough time to stop and look at the Mallards and Bitterns of this world.  I know those trains because they can sometimes be seen at Southall Train station.  

The route going through Southall makes this my most local audax on the calendar.  It's a brand new event also.  I feel one has to ride ones local randonnee.

The most western control is Oxford and we 'visit' steam venues like Ruislip Lido, Didcot, Buckinghamshire, Southall, Chinnor & Princes Risborough, Cholsey and Wallingford Railway Centres.  

Click on image to see detail of route.

Saturday will be dedicated to pre-audax rituals such as cleaning the bike, breaking something on the bike, getting tape and cable ties out, shopping for audax food, going to bed early which usually results in a disturbed sleep ... but ... it's the ritual.  

Thank you to Tim Sollesse and team for putting on the Steam Ride day.  I'm looking forward to it!