audax from train stations

Don’t keep to the road 100 km


Is this the UK’s toughest 100 km? It was certainly mine.

This ride isn’t some sort of trick; the route and detailed explanations of the off-road sections were sent to us by organiser Dean, including ‘don’t expect to be able to ride up the incline’. The incline in question is a unpaved, steep track up from Ingleby to the plateau of the North York Moors which was originally a rail track, moving rocks from the quarries up on the moors to the main train line lower down on more sensible terrain. It wasn’t the only bit of rough stuff though; the route also crosses a steep track over Rudland Rigg between Farndale and Bransdale, a forest road around Rievaulx Moor, and a byway over Arden Moor from Hawnby back to civilisation. And we were also warned about the full moon.

The first section was a relatively flat and rural ride to Ingleby, although just to give a taste of things to come we did follow a section of a BOAT which was full of mud and puddles that required some of us to walk around the more unpredictable sections (is this a shallow puddle or will I fall and sink into it?). It also set the weather tone for the day – it was glorious, but difficult. Cold (freezing, literally) but also bright sun which was warm when in it. Combined with steep uphill heat-producing climbs, and steep downhill chill-inducing descents, many layers were needed but they were constantly damp.

Approaching the incline was a forrest track which looked delightful but I felt like I was riding through treacle; I’m still not sure if that was me, the bike, or the imperceptible gradient. The walk up the incline was hard going, and I was even overtaken by another (walking) participant. Once at the top though it is a fantastic ride, around 10 km of fairly flat hard packed track around the top of Farndale to the Lion Inn. I’m not sure of the legality of the few off-road motorbikes that were around, but they passed fairly slowly with plenty of space, so no complaints.

The Lion was pretty busy, but I found a little table next to the bar. I thought I would be delayed waiting for food but they were amazingly efficient, I had hardly sat down before my sandwich appeared. They certainly know what they are doing. This was the last time I saw anyone else on the ride, and to be honest I was pleasantly surprised that I had at least made good enough progress to overlap with them at the halfway (in distance) point.

After a significant descent across Farndale the route once again leaves tarmac to follow a track across Rudland Ridge. This was crazily steep in parts for another BOAT – a quad bike and Landrover came up and I think I would have been unsettled in those.

Once on the top I got to ride a bit, and passed a few walkers. There then followed the descent into Bransdale which Dean had accurately described as ‘the most technical section‘. It wasn’t single track, but it was steep, rough, and eroded so there were muddy sections and big ruts. I had to walk a significant part of it, and have no idea how those on more road type bikes got on.

Once the road was met again near Cockayne progress improved. Here, following the curve around the valley head, a barn owl swooped across the road in front of me to perch just to my left. As I got nearer it moved a few metres ahead, to be repeated several times before the road took me away from its habitat. What a treat. I got to the top of this spur and stopped to put an extra layer on, anticipating the chill of the next descent.

A sharp turn off the road by an interesting stone took me on a wonderful forest track around the north end of Rievaulx Moor. Once again I had to walk up the steeper sections. I disturbed a couple of deer in the trees and was able to see the white rear end of one of them bouncing away into the woods for quite some time.

Tarmac once again met, the next stop and only section of the ride that was familiar was at Hawnby. This control offered a choice of tearoom/shop at the bottom of the hill, or pub at the top. Given my arrival time I assumed the tearoom would be closed (incorrect as it turned out), and I was not about to descend to find out only to have to go back up the hill, so I stopped at the Owl Inn. It’s quite a posh place, even the little dog that came and sat in my seat when I went to the loo was wearing a bowtie, so I felt a little out out of place, sweaty and mud-splattered as I was. The bartender was perfectly welcoming though, and after the ride I learned that they even had a stamp I could have asked for. Orange juice and soda, and salted crisps consumed, I was ready for the final stretch.

The road becomes a BOAT at Arden Hall. I walked up most of this climb. A couple in a car coming the other way (brave move in itself) stopped to ask where I was heading. When I said Northallerton they responded with “that’s a long way”; given that I was 80% done I thought it best not to elaborate. They also warned it would be dark by the time I got there, which had occurred to me.

Once I finally got to the top of the climb I was rewarded with a decent track over the plateaux, solitude, and a full moon rise behind me. Well, we were warned…it was a little eerie but also magical.

Our track meets the Cleveland way, as well as a tarmac route off the moors, at a cross roads. A couple were just leaving by car and we managed a mutually beneficial arrangement through a couple of gates. The roads were dark and very quiet now but I kept getting sight of the moon in my peripheral vision and thinking it was car headlights approaching from behind. I was also tiring and had one final stop not that far out of Northallerton to eat the last few Vimto fried eggs (highly recommended if you ever see them) from my stash.

When I finally reached the scout and guide hut, Dean broke it to me that I was about 5 minutes after the cut-off time. I hadn’t looked at my watch for quite a while but this didn’t come as a huge surprise, given how much walking I had done. I was so happy to have finished, not tempted to head back the way we came after the Lion Inn (described as the point of no return), not to mention enjoying the amazing landscapes and atmospheres that this part of the country has to offer. Fortunately for all concerned the riders on the 200 km (Three Bromptons, a Moulton and a Bickerton – that’s the name of the ride, not the entrants) were still arriving back so I hadn’t caused the fantastic band of helpers to be waiting only for me. These included Kat who had arrived on the same train as me and spent all day cooking and washing up, and Debbie and Colin who’d ridden the 50 km and then promptly rolled their sleeves up and staffed the kitchen. I was fed some excellent cheesy cauliflower soup, although sadly didn’t have room for many of the other splendid things on offer, although managed to sneak some parkin passed my digestive reluctance.

Health annoyances had kept me from cycling much over the last year or so, and it’s been a while since I did much more than my short commute, so I wasn’t as fit as I have managed to be in the past (and that itself wasn’t anything of note). I was riding my usual tourer but with its touring (rather than audax) wheels so it wasn’t the lightest, but having recently tried converting to straight bars it felt quite suitable for this ride. I would have really struggled on drops. It still feels like some sort of achievement to be out of time on a 100 km. What comes after full value? Overdrawn?

103 km, 1523 m ascent, average moving speed 13.7 kph, 10 hours.

The one coast, and COVID


More successful than my last attempt at this one, but I was really struggling and done in by the time I got back to Mytholmroyd for the sleep stop, with no time for sleep, so decided to pack there. Had a bit of a snooze before I left but people deflating and rolling up air beds around me wasnt entirely conducive. Still feeling rough the next day I did a lateral flow test, which explained a lot (I’d had a negative one before the ride).

Realised LEL was not going to happen this year.

375 km

Helping at the Highland Fling featuring 200 and 100 km

28/04/22 – 01/05/22

Train to Skipton to avoid the less pleasant roads before what I should have registered as a DIY 200 km. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the comedy off-road section just after Gargrave, amazed that I didn’t come off.

210 km, 13 hours

The reason for the trip was to help out on the Highland Fling 1000 km at the overnight stop in Caste Douglas in the Gordon Memorial Hall, along with Les and Andy, and run by Windy. Pretty much spent all night making sure there was hot and not-too-soggy pasta at all times. Quite an interesting experience to see the pointy end of the ride (I’m never going to be there otherwise). Photos by Windy and Dean.

First section of the return journey was a detour to visit a proposed section of LEL, which Andy had been telling me about at the control. He had un-recommended it for that because of very bad road surfaces (which it had) and it was indeed rejected before the final route was published. I tool a wrong turn somewhere and didn’t quite go the way intended, but these were new roads for me despite being just outside Lockerbie.

I have long wanted to try following the train line along the Settle – Carlisle route, which I did once I was through Carlisle. Stuck to the rail line as closely as possible but called it a day at Langwathby, which was around the 100 km mark, plus it gets a bit fussy around here and Appleby.

110 km, 21.1 kph average

Durham and Northumberland not quite 200 km


I was ready for a 200 km. Just not this one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing route; beautiful scenery and very quiet roads. But the wages of scenery are hills.

I fixed a puncture in light snow and fading light in my way up Swinhope Head, then descended to Middleton in the dark with a flickering headlight. It’s only about 40 km back to Darlo, but I was done. A stop at the Co-op and phone calls to a few taxi companies, all but one refused to take a bike and that one wouldn’t be available for ages, so I tried one of the hotels/bars in town and was delighted when they found me a room, and also let me leave my bike in the cellar overnight.

The following morning was sunny and I had a nice ride back via a much needed cooked breakfast in Barnard Castle.

167 km in who knows how many hours

Pit Ponies 100 km


This is a bit of a different audax, with extended off-road sections. They are mainly old rail trails so not muddy single track (well, there was mud). Consequently there were a variety of bikes in attendance; ‘normal’ audax road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, and a recumbent. I thought about putting my touring wheels back on for the ride, but was too lazy. The UK had been visited by a storm a week or so beforehand, although most of the large debris had been removed, with just one downed tree that we had to walk around/under. This also resulted in a large number of punctures, although I was lucky and escaped a fairy visit (Panaracer Pasela tyres).

The weather couldn’t have been much better; a few spots of rain but not enough to need a waterproof, and cold but just warm enough that there was no ice to worry about (only a small amount of residual snow on one of the off road sections which wasn’t slippery).

The trails might be around 25 – 30 % of the distance (educated guess) but it certainly felt like more than that, being much slower. Some really nice wooded sections which would probably be great at any time of the year, but I really enjoyed the wintery feel.

Definitely possible to consume more calories than used on this ride; there were some very tempting morsels (and nice coffee) at the start, and one control was a chippy (although I opted to go elsewhere, I know I feel crap if I eat too much en route). Then at the finish there was amazingly a three course menu, which again I didn’t manage to sample all of, but the bits of Dean’s cooking and baking I had were splendid.

Three Abbeys – Wigginton Autumn Brevet 100 km


First audax in a long time. I thought it would be straightforward after my tour, with a longest day covering 70 km fully loaded. Well it wasn’t as easy as I thought, I am just not used to spending so many hours on the bike with limited breaks.

Slow, and the last 10 km or so were quite uncomfortable. Must get more practice in.

I’ve done this one before, it’s a nice autumn ride with some lumps but nothing silly. Going on the villages and big houses spotted there is some serious money around here.

A nice accessible start via a train to York, although I managed to get lost in an infinite housing estate in Haxby so started 15 mins late. However for the first time I managed not to get lost in York on the way back, even finding Kat’s house where I was treated to soup.

New Border Raid 600 km….Super Randonneur!



The roads at around 380 km were those I used to pedal in my youth, riding down to swim in the river, and then up what I thought at the time was a hill to get back home, or just going for a bike ride with my siblings, creating legends such as ‘the dog house’ and ‘the dark woods’.  A bit older, but still on the same bike, I commuted to work on the Ayrshire coast and, depending on the weather, enjoyed the views (or not) of Ailsa Craig.  Secondary school was in Dumfries; Duke of Edinburgh expeditions took in Galloway Forest.  There was something special in finally completing a 600 km and an SR series that took in these places.  If I’d been able to tell my often uncomfortable (and certainly much less fit) teenage self that one day I’d be passing through as part of a ride like this I’m sure they would have been astounded.  If only I had bumped into my old PE teacher…

Accommodation at the start and finish was excellent, right on-site and cheap, it was at a college which did some sort of animal husbandry so there were some very noisy peacocks (and possibly other mystery birds that I couldn’t see behind a fence), they were still active when I arrived about 10 pm but fortunately shut up once it got dark. And we had to be up early anyway… There were several bikes in the shared kitchen when I got there but I didn’t meet any of the owners until afterwards.

accommodation, NBR 600 km Kirkley cycles, NBR 600 km Kirkley cycles, NBR 600 km


Kirkley – Dumfries: the Bad Patch

I usually have one, so maybe it’s best to get it out of the way early on. The first bit of an audax is often uncomfortable, ‘warming up’ I suppose even if that does extend to 100 km.  I just wasn’t in the mood really.  It was technically a lovely morning early on as we gathered in Kirkley, and riding along Hadrians Wall should have enthused me more than it did.  I tried to keep an eye on the ditches and occasional bits of actual wall.  You can certainly see why it was built here, with the land dropping away to either side of this straight east-west road.  The world to both sides seemed to be brighter but we were in a bit of a cloudy fug with a headwind.  I don’t imagine it was much fun as a Roman sentry either.

Along Hadrians Wall, NBR 600 km Along Hadrians Wall, NBR 600 km

This was a long stage at 140 km, a cafe had been highlighted but also sounded like it would be slow which is the last thing a full-valuer like me needs early on, so I plodded on a bit further until I felt really quite crap and stoped for my flapjack.  I had wanted to hold on until Longtown but had a stop there too, at the petrol station which might not be the nicest but I have grown attached to from previous visits.

The rest of the stage was at least flat and now sunny; after Gretna the road was unfamiliar and I had a short period of panic that I’d missed the info control and my 600 km would be invalid…then I remembered that Bankend was near Glencaple which is near Dumfries and so I’d just been expecting it too soon.  It was obvious in the end.

The advised control was St Michaels petrol station but I had planned to go to Morrisons and use the cafe and toilets, then at the last minute I remembered there was a Costa and I really craved a cold coffee/milkshake thing, so weaved through Brooms Road car park to the centre.  I was served by Margaret who was in my youngest sister’s year at primary school and whose family lived around the corner from mine.  I’m sure she didn’t know who I was, I’ve changed a lot more than she has.  I don’t think a chocolate muffin was what I was going to order but it was all a bit weird and the first thing that came out of my mouth. I got my frosty-coffee thing at least so was happy.

Dumfries, NBR 600 km


Dumfries – Newton Stewart: the Queen’s Drive and the quietist A roads

The food and proper sit-down perked me up and the bad patch was over.

Leaving the ‘fries I saw Bob Bialek walking with his bike up past the entrance to Dock Park, towards the petrol station control, so I wondered if he’d missed it and had to go back, although to be going at the same speed as me would be pretty unusual.  I think I heard afterwards that he packed so maybe he was going to the train station.  I don’t know what happened but I think he’d done 1000 km the previous weekend, and obviously ridden to Kirkley from Halifax.  The man is a legend.

I was a little unconfident in some of the route sheet instructions out of town but eventually convinced I was on the right ‘military road’.  I thought this was entirely unfamiliar but passed a house that I remember from visiting on Spring Fling (local art festival) with stone sculptures. Crossing the road at Crocketford was definitely familiar.

I stopped in New Galloway and after going up and down the high street spotted a community shop which actually looked amazing; I just had a can of coke.  Later on at the finish I heard Aiden’s (the org) story of stopping at a garage here in the dark in search for oil for his chain which resulted in ‘controlling’ at Newton Stewart police station.

It was a great ride on to NS, this is an A road and was in good condition but so quiet.  Galloway forest park is a dark sky area and I started thinking about whether this could be incorporated into a night ride.

Clatteringshaws loch


Newton Stewart – Girvan: descent towards the sea and Ailsa Craig

I had had studied the route for this ride more than any before, possibly just because I’d had the time.  I’d looked at each control on google street view and had found the Co-op in Newton Stewart which I headed straight for (it’s not on the route but not far off it). Co-ops are what I always look for. This one had a bike rack in front, and I sat on the pavement for a while with my standard fuel (cheese savoury sandwich).  A bit after I arrived came Leicester Forest man and Bahamas woman, who I would see and occasionally pass regularly for the rest of the ride.

This really was ‘retrace to R sp Girvan 50 km’ (or whatever), just follow another very quiet A road all the way there.

My brain was doing a bit of juggling now, and I was remembering hearing Trembling Bells’ ‘Christ’s entry into Govan’ on radio 6 and getting this a bit muddled with what I was now doing, which was an excellent descent into Girvan (for clarity I was not assuming the position of Christ), complete with views of what I thought was Arran but looking at the map was more likely to be the Campbeltown peninsula, and then Ailsa Craig.


Girvan – Dalrymple: regulars and company

At Girvan Asda (not Tesco as suggested by the routesheet, I was glad I had done my homework as these seemingly minor things can be unreasonably disturbing when totally fucked) a few of us had gathered. Someone spotted an outside tap although there was no indication as to what it dispensed. One chap was keen to head off in company and (much as it is against my usual desires) I was also ready to go, and we ended up riding to Kirkonnel together. I think his name was Martin but then most people’s names were.

Dalrymple is a little place so they may have been surprised by the plague of locusts.


Dalrymple – Kirkconnel: towards Chilli

Arriving in Kirkconnel I was again glad I had spent time swotting over google streetview. We hadn’t been given an exact location or name of the hall, but looking at the main street there seemed only one possibility. I would never have spotted it in the dark without my homework.

Inside was a wonderful welcome, and some very nice chilli.


Martin (and many of the others arriving around the same time) were stopping off here at the ‘official’ sleep stop (and bag drop location). I had other plans so after eating left alone for a fast straight ride as far as Auldgirth, after which there was a more lumpy section taking me off-route to my childhood home, a bed settee and a few hours sleep. I got into bed about 2.30 am (ahead of schedule) and knew I had to leave by 7 am to be sure of making the next control at Lockerbie truck stop. My parents had wanted to see me before I left so I took them a cup of tea at 6.30 am before raiding the muesli supplies.



Home – Lockerbie – Melrose: a new day

It was a little odd being on these familiar roads in an unfamiliar situation. The morning looked like rain might have been under consideration. I passed Julian (of VC167) on my way to the control, he’s a proper ancient but also an unusual example of someone who is a little slower than me. I wondered if he’d slept at all. The control at Lockerbie Truck Stop was almost bounced as I’d only been going about half an hour. There were quite a few riderless bikes outside. I was a little unsure of the next turn off on the route sheet so decided to stay on the lumpy boring road straight to Moffat. Next stop would be St Mary’s loch, where I made use of the picnic tables outside the cafe. A few motorbikers stopped too and we had a quick chat, one of them admiring my ‘cycology’ cap. I have absolutely no interest in motorbikes but I think in some way we were enjoying the same things.

Scottish Borders sign

I could have taken a main road short cut towards Melrose but I need to be really confident of these things before I go off-route. I hate having to retrace my steps so rarely risk it.  Got to Melrose Co-op around the same time as a few others, again it’s become ‘the’ Melrose control for me so I didn’t bother looking for a cafe, even if that might have been nicer.


Melrose – Kelso – Wooler – Alnwick: the Learning Phase

The road surface out of Melrose was disgraceful.  I hadn’t been to Kelso before and sorry to say I didn’t really see much of it this time, apart from a visit to a huge supermarket to use their toilet and fill my water bottle.  I did buy an apple but they probably made a loss on me.  Leaving I passed a posh car dealership being built…it looks like the place is ‘on the up’ but I’m not sure where the jobs are around here to fund it.

Scottish Borders/Cheviots

By Wooler it was baking hot, which I didn’t really realise until I stopped.  There were a few of us at the Co-op with ice creams, I huddled in the shade of a doorway for a while.  I donated some suncream to a couple of others; for me it needs to be high factor and slathered everywhere, they just wanted a bit for their noses.  There was some discussion about the routesheet instruction to turn left ‘opposite’ the shop, which was not entirely clear. Anyway since those I had been in disussion with left before me I simply waited until they didn’t come back, at which point I decided that was the correct road after all.


Now I had studied this route really well.  But I was entirely unprepared for the stupid hills on this section to Alnwick.  I believe my words on arrival in the town where a couple of others had stopped were “what the fuck was that about?”  It was ‘rolling’, by which I mean it was all either up or down, the downs were never that good and the ups were always of the kind that greet you as a vertical wall of tarmac as you approach.  My brain saw each one and told it where to go.  But somehow my legs were acting independently and kept going again and again. It’s good to know they can do that.


Alnwick – Kirkley: home straight

Quite understandably there isn’t much open in a small north east town on a Sunday afternoon. But I spotted a Costa in Alnwick and secured (in the loosest sense of the word) my bike to a drain pipe outside. One of the others overlapped with me here who was also called Martin.

I don’t recall much about the final stretch, I had already ridden from Morpeth to the Arrivee on Friday evening so while it was familiar it also seemed to drag on. We finished where we started at the cafe at Kirkley cycles, where the proprietors had opened both early and late for us.  Beans on toast with cheese was much appreciated, along with a beer.

This was my aim for the year, an SR.  It seemed a bit of an anticlimax, certainly compared to LEL which I didn’t complete; finishing this was a bit meh from an achievement point of view.  But it was a great route and I’m thinking it might be a good one for qualifying for PBP next year…


Staying at the college was excellent, knowing there was a bed there and being able to leave stuff in the room while we were away took a lot of potential organisational stress away (no doubt merely transferred to the org). I had planned on going to sleep ASAP but ended up on one of the picnic benches outside with a few others helping to minimise the number of bottles of beer that Aiden had to carry back with him tomorrow.  And of course the peacocks were still awake.


New Border Raid route

600 km, 37 hours 30 mins

SR badge

Avalon Sunrise 400 km (DNF)

In Bath

Not a bath, which would be much more appropriate, coated as I am in sweat, sun cream, oil, general road dirt and dead flies. I’m waiting for a train to return me to Taunton so I can cycle up a fuck-off hill (again), to spend a night in my tent before going home tomorrow without a wash or change of clothes (my own fault, I was being minimalist in terms of luggage. This is why we have a sleeping bag liner).

dirty legs

I’ve been pretty impressed by my body today. I had a ‘general discomfort’ moment but after a stop and some food it was fine. My legs could have finished the ride, they just kept going. But I haven’t slept for 36 hours, and while I haven’t been nodding off on the bike instead I’ve been mentally spaced out (had this on BGB), it gets scary and doesn’t feel safe. Perhaps coming to do this ride was a mistake, given the way I’ve been feeling recently and that I’m only a week into this lot of medication. But I thought I was being lazy thinking of not starting, that it would be good to do some hard-core exercise and be outside.  And no matter how much I might hate it at the time, if I complete a ride the sense of achievement is inextinguishable.

Anyway I’m not supposed to be in Bath. I should be ‘next door’ in Bradford-upon-Avon getting a receipt and then setting off on the final stage of this ride, which is 100 km (longest stage on LEL was 97 km iirc and that was the first one when you have all the enthusiasm). I missed the Bradford turning but that only served to make my decision to DNF easier. I’ve done 300 km to here (still in time) but somehow it’s not much of an achievement when you’ve set out to do 400.


The morning after I have a couple of hours to kill in Taunton before my train home.

Clayhidon Church
Clayhidon Church

View from the Half-Moon pub, Clayhidon
View from the Half-Moon pub, Clayhidon

Hearing Sarah describe how she kept going to finish an hour over time put me to shame this morning. I thought yesterday that it had been a mistake to start, but now maybe just a mistake not to finish. Which is better I suppose. Ah well, hopefully I’ve burnt a few of the extra calories I’ve been eating recently, and maintained fitness for the 600 km I’m aiming for to get an SR this year. I should get myself an emergency bivvy bag so I can be more confident about just keeping going, knowing that I can stop as often as I need. This ride could be done as a perm starting wherever appropriate in the morning to align the timings with this one…stop it!

Last night on the ride up to Clayhidon I caught up with Hugo who was walking (I’d had 2 hours rest in Bath, food, and a nap on the train. I’m not sure I’d have made it without walking otherwise). He said he was broken and never doing it again. Now I think about it, I wasn’t thinking that when I was struggling; more sadness that once again I couldn’t keep myself awake enough to do it.  But yeah, I will do ‘it’ again.

A couple of chaps came over to speak to Marcus, Sarah and me while we were packing up this morning, Rob and Sh?, who lived near Chippenham. They’d ostensibly come over to look at my tent and then Rob was asking about my bike. I’m never sure when folk are interested in it if that’s a good thing or not. My Cheviot seems to be a little alien for audax, which makes me want to keep it and do them all on it. Someone in the coffee shop I am currently twiddling my thumbs in has just been explaining to his companion that the bike he wants is described as a “cafe racer”, and now I’ve looked it up the term seems to refer to motorbikes, but I did think that an audax bike may be best described as a “24hr garage racer”.


Campsite at 9.50 pm
Light at 9.50 pm

So after the 22:30 start, when it hadn’t finished getting dark, we had a quick control in Tiverton. Then it was a simple matter of riding up the Exe valley with the sky still not quite black (it never really was), some stars out including a big yellow/orange one near the horizon – a planet? The over-half moon was bright to the west and glistened off the river in places, which was pretty special.

We had a control in someone’s house at 1:45 am – it was the home of the organiser’s mother, with his wife and daughter helping out. I didn’t know that until later, at the time it was just surreal to be parking bikes on someone’s front lawn and sitting in their living room eating flapjacks in the middle of the night. Riding up out of Minehead, after a while I realised that the light in the sky was getting brighter and so must be the first signs of dawn rather than the last glow of the previous day. To my left I thought I could see mist in a valley bellow, but then realised that it could be the sea and the lights beyond it the coast of Wales (it was).

As dawn proper came, I was on flat deserted roads and surrounded by mist. Sun was up by the time I passed Glastonbury but it was still misty and I couldn’t see the Tor until some time later when I was higher up at the edge of the Mendips. There was an amazing moment around Glastonbury riding through the mist which was bright and hazy, and approaching a darker patch suddenly the sun disappeared and I realised it was the shadow of a hill that I couldn’t see at all before.

Chedzoy Church
Chedzoy Church

King's Sedgemoor Drain
King’s Sedgemoor Drain

Fields in the morning sun Misty cobwebs

I missed the Esso garage in Nunny Catch (wins place name of the ride) but felt audax-enough to stop at a shop in Frome for a receipt and knew that it would suffice. I’d been physically uncomfortable leading up to this stop (neck especially) and spent a while eating and having a rest off the bike. Fine after that although I could feel a bit of saddle rub and made sure to put some more conotrane on when facilities permitted.

The Bath-Bristol tunnels were fab – several of us seemed to really enjoy these although I find it hard to explain why, but I’m pleased that I wasn’t alone in my geekiness.

The Severn bridge was both a highlight and marked a turning point, although the cycle path was badly signed and we went around in a bit of a circle; funny to visit Wales for about 15 minutes then leave again. Just over the bridge Sarah and I got mixed into a group ride and one of the leaders said ‘let the audax riders through’ which pretty much made my day (also they pointed us in the direction of Tesco which probably saved a lot more faffing). I didn’t stay long as I’d had a quick petrol station stop about 20 km before and was feeling good, and decided to have a proper stop at Wooton-under-Edge.  Although once I set off that didn’t last long and started to feel tired and spaced out again. Had a good hour in Wooton and ate too much.

Severn Bridge Severn Bridge

Feeling woken and rested by the Wooton stop didn’t last long, it was only 38 km to Bradford but I had to stop in Chipping Soddbury for half an hour before I did something stupid. I still wasn’t nodding off but just felt really out of it, very distant from myself, although still going on autopilot and managing to pedal and change gear as normal. I think the heat was getting to me now as well, it was baking, the sky had been clear since the start of the ride. Enough brain remained to know I wasn’t safe on the road, especially as some of these were A and B roads. Even when I felt more awake later I was taking chances at junctions that I wouldn’t normally.  I had half an hour lying on the grass in a park but didn’t really sleep much. Felt ok enough to continue for a while. Missed a turning for Bradford-upon-Avon where I’d pretty much decided to call it a day, I could have just followed a road sign further on to get there but the road I was on was familiar (the Exe – Buzzard went in the opposite direction) and I knew I could just stay on it to Bath. And then I could find the train station.  I had to wait 2 hours for a train with a bike reservation, although top marks to the station staff (GWR?) for being able to book a space at very short notice.  Then that ride out of Taunton again, up the never-ending hill, to the Half Moon pub.

As I am sitting writing this a bunch of Santas on motorbikes (and a few pillion elves) just rode through the middle of Taunton. In a heatwave in June. I’m pleased I can still tell the difference between sleep-deprived hallucinations and general human weirdness.

Avalon route

305 km, 19 hours 

Not Quite the Spurn Head 400 km (greenfly edition)


Mytholmroyd Community Centre

If certain residents of the Yorkshire village of Moss had reason to peer through their curtains shortly after 2.00 am on a Sunday morning in May, they would have seen four people sheltering from the rain at a bus stop, introducing themselves having already ridden together for several hours, eating, squeezing the water out of their gloves and weeing without bothering to find a bush to hide behind (not necessarily in that order).

Still weather, Spurn Head 400 km

I rode the first part alone, feeling as the rest of us did like a piece of fly paper as we ploughed through the clouds of greenfly.  I’d sort of joined Eddie on the skirting of Hull, but we weren’t quite riding together as such, mostly because I don’t know how to technically, but also because I’m socially incompetent (sometimes that is an overwhelming anxiety but at the moment it’s just uncomfortable).  He was a nice guy and I was touched that he remembered me from my aborted 600 km last year – I recognised him but couldn’t have placed him, but he’d seen me having a minor meltdown and migraine under a tree in Pocklington; I remember someone waving at me and I just shook my head.  We ate together at Spurn Head but didn’t really chat, and I thought he’d already left but when I went to go he was still there, wrestling with leg warmers.

Spurn Head Spurn Head visitors centre

Mike was also preparing to leave and had parked his bike next to mine, and seemed keen to join us so we made a little trio without really trying to.  We didn’t ride that close together and I think I went out a bit too far in front sometimes, but I was trying to stay with them but also go at my pace. They both had GPS although Mike’s only seemed to be useful for telling him when he’d sailed past a junction that Eddie and I had turned at (and not knowing someone’s name makes it harder to call after them); however I have my suspicions that this may have been if not operator-error then at least operator-can’t-be-arsed-to-pay-attention-when-they-can-just-follow-someone-else.

We stopped way too long at Leven petrol station, I was about ready to go when Mike Wiggly appeared; other Mike had been riding with him further back and decided we should wait and take him with us.  They phoned wives and girlfriends to check in and report on progress.  I didn’t.  Mike W clumsily commented on my rainbow sew-on patch and I clumsily replied.  I asked for two carrier bags with my smoothie/flapjack/eccles cake purchase, and they stayed on until I got back home.

Second socks

Timing was good, better than last time no doubt due to the kind wind.  I remember it being pitch black on arrival at McDonalds then, whereas today there was still some light in the sky.  There was also water falling from it, which had been light enough that I hadn’t bothered with the waterproof but after this it would be needed for warmth too, plus that rain was setting in more permanently.  Mike W decided to stay for another coffee so the remaining three of us reluctantly made a start on this long dark leg. Negotiating Goole we picked up Carl, who had been ahead, but lost confidence in his navigation, and turned back.  It was good riding with others in the dark, the extra lights are helpful (although Mike’s strobe on the front was bit too disco for me).  I liked the flat Kings Causeway section although I think some of the others found it mind-numbing. This ride has an almost constant stream of routesheet instructions, there are hardly any long uninterrupted stretches.  Apart from a couple of junction confirmations with Eddie’s GPS, and one that I missed, I pretty much took the front and did the navigating.  It reminded me a bit of LEL, and the night I rode silently with a group from all over the world, weaving across the road as they either nodded off, forgot which side to ride on, or possibly both.

Mike came off going over a railway line in Thorne which crossed the road at a stupid angle, so we all stoped and Mike W happened to catch us at the same time. He seemed ok but we made him stand still for a little while to make sure he wasn’t going to keel over. A car actually came by just behind us, as he was still lying on the road, and didn’t stop.  Around here I started to wonder how safe this pastime of ours is…it was cold, wet, and dark.  We were in a village and I dare say could have woken up a household if needed, but there was no sign of (awake) life and no shelter.  I thought of the riders doing the Old 240 and where would they be at this time of night?  I don’t know if I could do that ride, I wouldn’t feel safe.

Mike W shot off and the rest of us wound our way on, via that bus shelter in Moss.  I’d stopped there last year too.  I thought we’d been doing a reasonable 20 kph average on the flat but soon the hills started and we slowed right down. Unusually for me I felt I could have gone faster, and found myself slowing to let the others catch up.  But I was glad of their company, not being scared of the shadows this time.

Eventually Woolley Edge services appeared.  By accident rather than design we arrived at 3.50 am which was exactly on my approximate schedule, although again we stayed longer that I’d have liked.  But now there was only 35 km to go, and the dawn to look forward to.  Mike was nodding off but the rest of us seemed ok.  We chatted about bikes and riding.  It was Carl’s first 400 km.  He said my navigation was excellent which I really appreciated.  He and Eddie exchanged numbers on the basis of a potential bar-end shifter sale.

Emley Moor

By the time we set off the sky was already lightening, and a rather nice morning was underway.  Mike and Carl both knew their way round a slightly longer but flatter route via Brighouse, so Eddie and I followed them, Carl and I seeming similarly paced and the other two a little behind (a sort of taking-a-leak time delay which was convenient). I didn’t think we’d manage, but we got back just before 7 am.  There had been a time when I thought 24 hours was possible, but the slow night leg and longer stops prevented that. But it was surprisingly nice to ride with others for once.

Spurn Head route map

410 km, 25.5 hours