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.

London Edinburgh London – Barnard Castle


If I wasn’t going to ride I could at least help those who were. A hot, dry LEL, with additional climbing just north of this control because of a Yad Moss road closure. I didn’t do the entire stint which helped as I was able to pull an all-nighter on the last night, being slightly less knackered than some of the other volunteers. A great time with team Davis and Co.

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

Northallerton 300 285 km


Continuing my form from the attempted 200 km I didn’t quite finish this one, but more as a result of being in a strop than being done in. I will not be riding this again, nor I hate to say anything else by the organiser.

I know that the majority of people use a GPS unit for navigation, but not all of us do neither is it a requirement. It *is* however a requirement that the org provides a route sheet, and IMHO (and I hope that of AUK) it should be of sufficient quality that a rider can follow the route using it alone. This one was more like a series of comments on the GPX file. It wasn’t only me who was struggling with it; BB (an experienced audaxer) who is another GPS-less rider was also having problems but unlike me doesn’t have a smart phone he can use to check a map, so was resorting to knocking on people’s doors to find out where he was.

In addition to this (again this was commented on by others) the info control instructions were not very helpful, e.g. ‘bus stop before bridge’, so you had to get to the bridge and retrace in order to find the right one.

Eventually I realised I had missed a turn to another info control and decided I wasn’t going back to find it, so I texted the org to let them know I would be a DNF, and made my way back to the car I had hired* by the most sensible route. In the last few km in the dark I heard, but did not see, another cyclist singing as they road along in the night.

*Although Northallerton is train-friendly, it isn’t during the hours that are required for a 300 km.

285 km, 22.4 kph average

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

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