The Dean – 186 miles

29 03 2010

Last year I started doing seriously long bike rides, mainly because of my need to train for a stupidly long ride during July that I had been conned into riding by a work colleague (thanks Phil!).  Needless to say he did not ride it. Anyway, up until March last year the furthest I had ever ridden on a bike was 146 miles, and it near killed me, so when I rolled up to the start of the 300km (186 miles) Dean Audax event it was with real apprehension. That was my first ride with the big boys of long distance cycling. As it goes, the ride last year went very well, it was a great route and I completed the ride with a fellow fix gear rider in 13 hours. So I had no doubt that I would come back this year to ride it again.

The route takes you from a 6am start in Oxford heading North West into the Cotswold’s to Stow-on-the-Wold then West to Winchcombe and Newent before riding though the glorious Forest of Dean. The ride then takes you briefly into Wales at Chepstow before heading East back over the Severn Bridge to Malmesbury, before dropping South East over the Ridgeway to Marlborough and then back North to Oxford. I love this route as it takes in some of the best scenery in South England.

I’d traveled down to the Oxford by train the night before and used my new YHA membership. Last year I had ridden my fix gear bike, and that had been the plan again this time, but on the Wednesday before the ride my rear rim decided to explode (due to excessive winter wear) so I had to take the Roadrat, my touring and do everything and anything bike. So I had gears to play with this time, but that gave an idea. As I had managed to ride the 186 miles in 13 hours last year without any gears, could I do it this year with gears in 12? Now that is a tall order as it really is a long way, and if you get it wrong and tire too early, it’s a very, very long way to the finish! But hell, it was worth a try.

So off I went, cycling with other riders until about the 40 mile point where a hill split me from the guy (Paul) I had ridden a few events with last year.  It turns out that my winter cycling had paid of as I was able to happily float up the hills. What I did not realise was, apart from a short section later, that was the last time I would really cycle with another rider for the whole day, bugger! I was going well and pulled into Chepstow at about midday just as the heavens opened, yep welcome to Wales. Chepstow was half way, so I’d done 15okm in 6 hours, so I just had another 150km to do in 6 hours to make it back in 12. It could be done as the second part of the ride is flatter and there was a slight tailwind. As soon as the rain eased of I went with a rider from the VC 167 club in North Yorkshire to chase the rain cloud. The VC 167 rider and I soon parted company and I was on my own again, this time chasing a guy I knew to be ahead of me by some 10 mins. And I chased, and chased and chased all the way to Oxford but never caught him. Turns out that he was just the carrot on the stick that I needed, despite being totally knackered toward the end I pushed on to make Oxford and 300km by 6.05pm! Close as damn it to 12 hours, job done!

Hitting the 12 hour mark was a real achievement for me, but it was riding most of that distance alone that was a bigger achievement. Sure it’s tough when you get tired when riding with other people, but the camaraderie will pull you through, when you’re on your own, well.. you’re on your own, and it can really hurt.

I plan to come back next year and do it all again, who knows, maybe with the right weather and wheels I can make 11 hours?

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2 responses

29 03 2010
Tom Baker

Wow, that’s some feat, well done. Reading your cycling posts and tweets makes me feel unfit and inspired in equal proportions!

30 03 2010
jamesrach

Well, the feeling is mutual. After reading your posts and tweets I’m left feeling inspired and at the some time regretting that I do not do more of the things you do!

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