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 

Bike fit

Before LEL I saw lots of folk singing the praises of having a bike fit, and wondered if I should have done that but figured (a) it was a bit late by then, (b) £, and (c) it sounds like it might be bollocks. Well LEL left me with Achillies pain (after a couple of weeks they were ok) and nerve damage in my hands (which took about 6 months to recover from). I’ve also never been quite comfortable with my saddle, feeling like it is the least worst that I’ve tried. So I decided I would have a bike fit before doing any more silly distances. This sort of co-incideded with my birthday, so I was able to put the parental cheque to a specific use.  Of course as soon as I started looking all I could see were comments about bike fitting as being a waste of time.  I’m sure there’s a word for that – seeing what you either want, or don’t want, to see, and not seeing the rest.  Anyway if you think it’s bollocks and/or has been a waste of time, maybe you are lucky enough to be a shape that’s close to the ideal that bike manufacturers adhere to, or you are very experienced and know exactly what you need.  I’m neither of those things.

After consultation with a local fellow LELer I booked myself in for a basic fit with Stephen Jarmuz at Yorkshire Bike Fitting. Stephen is very friendly and put me at ease straight away.  He is interested in the type of riding that YOU are doing and wants to help you be comfortable doing that.  He was entirely non-judgemental about my bike and myself.

My bike is a Hewitt (tourer) and I had a fit as part of buying it. It was my first drop bar bike so when it felt weird I chalked that up to unfamiliarity.  Now I think that the fitting template that is used there was not right for me.  I fitted a shorter stem myself fairly soon after I got the bike, because I felt too stretched out.  Now, after my bike fit, I have an in-line seat post which unstretches me even more.  I also have a new saddle to fit my sit bones and a changed cleat position. So far I’ve done 100 km, and a further 40 km with my new wheels.  It really was like sitting in an old armchair…but one that encouraged me to get out of the saddle and honk up the hills.

Bike after bike fit

(It doesn’t usually come with a spare wheel attached).

40 km to test new wheels

The next big ride is a 400 km and I really shouldn’t be doing that without checking that my new wheels – built by my own (unfair) hand – are not about to turn into Pringles; nor that my new electrics won’t fail or mud guards fall off.  Well none of those things happened, despite being reversed into (at low speed) by a shiny Audi in Poole.  I hope it put a dent in her bumper and scratched the paint, but as it seemed to cause no damage at all to my wheel I suspect not.

View south from the road across Otley Chevin
View south from the road across Otley Chevin

The wheels seem fine.  I’ve gone from the touring rims that the bike came with to Mavic Open Pros, 32 spoke, front a Shimano DH-3N80 dynamo hub and rear a Shimano Deore LX.  Tyres not new, Panaracer Pasela Tour Guard.

Looking south to Wharfedale
Looking south to Wharfedale

It feels really different.  When I got out of the saddle on the hills there was a lot more wobble. I was more worried going over potholes and lumps than usual, but that’s because I made the wheels and so have no reason to be confident in their strength…but if they can cope with being reversed into by a car they are probably ok.  But they did feel faster.  It was an easy ride.  I got up those hills heading home towards Eccup without a problem and found myself doing weird things with my leg muscles going up King Lane. I can’t separate improved fitness (which I probably do have) from bike fit and new components, but the sum of these is comfort and confidence in riding.  That 400 km is something to look forward to rather than dread, and the 600 km is achievable.  I hope so, because it’s now all that remains between me an a Super Randonneur.

bike ride to Otley

40 km at 21 kph or summat like that. On new wheels.

100-odd km ODL ride



I’ve been a member of Outdoor Lads for about 5 years, and I used to do some hill-walking with them, but once I got a bit more serious about cycling it kind of dropped off.  They do more cycling events now and I saw this one which was local and a nice route, so I went along.  For me it was sensible to ride to the start at Ilkley, although I took the minor roads and lumpy route which was slower than calculated (not helped by forgetting to take any water and having to go back home after about 2 minutes).


We started from the station in Ilkley, with a mixture of folk arriving by train or driving.  There were six of us which was a really good number, small enough to stand a chance of name-remembering (although I was the only newbie and several of the others already knew each other).  The first section was familiar, past the golf course and then Bolton Abbey.  It had been raining, albeit lightly, from the minute I left the house, but it was warm and I was in shorts and short-sleeved jersey all day. Waterproof socks and a cap kept me happy.


The planned route was longer but given a slightly delayed start and the weather we cut it short, and Pateley Bridge was our lunch stop and turning point.  I had sworn never to ride through here again after the Way of the Roses, but I couldn’t ride around the Dales for too much longer without a visit.  It was fine, although a little scary on the descent when I saw Dean in front me having a rear wheel skid on a bend.  The section after this was new to me but soon joined up with previously ridden roads…nice to be there in the daylight in some cases.


Downhill to Ilkley and we found an ‘informal’ pub for a pre-departure pint.  As the ride had been shorter than originally planned I was keen to ride home (which made it over 100 km), so in retrospect I should have avoided beer.  As it was I had to stop about a third of the way up Otley Chevin for a wee, a mouthful of water, and my emergency rations (a Boost bar).  After that I was fine.

Bike route in Yorkshire

110 km, av 19.8 km/h (this is interesting because although I could keep up I felt it was faster than I would have gone by myself)