It's the tenth running of the BWC and to celebrate, Brompton had managed to stage this year's version as part of the FreeCycle/Ride London weekend using a 2 kilometre circuit of St James Park. I've not ridden the BWC since 2012 (this is my fourth BWC in total) and I was amazed as just how far Bromptons and Brompton riders have come on. I don't use my Brompton ever so much these days (but when I do, it is invaluable), and was amazed to see how many modifications are now available both from Brompton and third party vendors. There were some very trick machines there with deep section wheels, lots of titanium etc. One Brompton owner had got his Brompton down to 8kg from what I understood!
This was my big goal for the year. And I knew it was going to be much harder than anything I had done previously, I wasn't sure I fully comprehended how much harder. My build up to the 24 has been okay, I'd maybe not got enough miles in (do you ever?), but I was riding generally faster than I've done before.
I wrote early last year about my plans for the coming season - it was a useful exercise for me for me to put down what I thought I might achieve and to put some structure together for the year.
So, whilst we all swim about rather than ride our bikes due to the wettest January on record, I thought I should put my thoughts down on paper.
I have known for some time what my big goals were for the season - and I have 3 things I wish to accomplish:
- Easter Arrow
I have wanted to ride an Easter Arrow for a couple of years. For those that don't know, an arrow is a fairly unusual event in that it is ridden as a team (of 3-5 machines (so it could have 10 (or more!) riders, if tandems/triplets etc. were being used)). The rough concept is to ride as far as possible in that 24 hours (certainly for the competitive teams anyway). Most people will be happy to ride around 400km (you must ride at least 360km).
I've never managed one - we're generally away at easter, last year was my 40th birthday etc. etc.
But, somehow, I have permission to go and ride one this year (a week after our American wedding no less - so I am amazed to get a pass for this!). It seems like a good year to ride it, Easter is fairly late, so the chances of warmer weather are somewhat enhanced (but not guaranteed!).
So, I have a team and we're planning our route. I am looking forward to it.
I think the thing that really appeals is everyone from all over the place, converging in York for breakfast and swapping tales of their rides. The event will be slightly tinged with sadness as the person that organises the Arrow in past years is currently still in a very poorly condition following a horrific collision with a car in August. He has a very long road ahead of him, but, like everyone in the Audax community, I wish him the very best for his recovery.
- The 24hr Time Trial
At some point last year, I decided that this would be a primary target for this year. It is related to Audax, and much of the roots of Audax UK can be traced back to the 24 Hour Fellowship. In years gone by, riding 600km in the 24 was about the only way of qualifying for Paris Brest Paris before AUK was formed.
It is what it says on the tin - ride as far as possible in 24 hours. The race of truth.
No hiding in big bunches, sucking wheels - just you, on your own, riding as far as possible.
The top riders will be riding over 500 miles, which is just mind-boggling. But, most riders will be riding to beat previous distances that they have done or whatever.
Personally, I would like to manage at least 375 miles (600km), as that is a good standard for anyone to reach. If things went very well, it would be amazing to reach 400 miles - but I am currently looking at 375 miles.
It's all so different to Audax, that I do find it hard to get my head around to be honest. 600km - normally that takes me between 35 and 40 hours! All right, I tend to choose the hillier events, and that will include a little bit of sleep.
LEL - first 24 hours, I was hammering along in fast groups, often up at the front - sure, I stopped for a cheeky kip in Thirsk for 2.5 hours, but still, I only rode about 470km and that felt pretty quick.
But here I am talking about riding another 130km in the same time - it's all quite alien to me at the moment.
However, there are some differences - no navigation (marshals at turns etc.), no big saddle bag of stuff, no real stopping and spending a long time off the bike (I will be supported by my (by then) wife and a friend who I think I have roped in, who will hand me up food and water every so often to hopefully make my time off the bike minimal), aero bars on the bike etc.
I am actually taking things reasonably seriously for this - I've been riding with aerobars for a couple of months now to help dial in my position. I really don't want to waste the time of my support crew by not giving this everything I have got and getting a decent distance.
I am looking forward to it, but am under no illusion that it will be the most comfortable 24 hours I have ever had. I expect it will hurt. A lot.
- The Highlands, Glens and Western Isles 1300
Well, I had read about the permanent version of this, and thought it sounded superb. But, luckily for me, Mark Rigby is putting this on as an event this year.
This promises to be a real test of self-sufficiency, as we ride through some exceptionally remote countryside. We have ferries to contend with, very long stretches without food possibilities and we're really on our own. There is one organised stop where Mark has hired a hostel at around 800km - but other than that, we're fending for ourselves. Some people will use hostels and bunkhouses, and some are considering bivvies/tents. It really will be an adventure, and I can not wait.
We will get to see huge chunks of Scotland's most beautiful roads.
I plan to take my time and enjoy this ride - I can't see it being one to blast around as quickly as possible.
I think this is possibly the most audacious event staged in the UK so far, and I think that anyone that completes this will have something to be very proud of.
I have yet to decide how I will tackle it - I think I will look at bunkhouses and carry a light sleeping bag. I may also put a rack on the bike and either have a pannier for food etc., or just bungie dry bags to the rack.
It's going to be amazing!
I am sure other things will happen this season as well. I still plan to attempt our first long ride on the tandem (new tandem by then) as a PBP pre-registration banker - I'd like to do at least a 300, possibly a 400.
Whatever happens, I just hope I have as much fun as I did last season!
I did it! There will not be a full blog report on this ride for a little while. As I was the first British rider to attempt one of these rides, I hope to drum up some interest in tackling these adventures with an article in Arrivée (the AUK quarterly magazine). If that gets published, I will put up a copy here.