My fastest century bike ride

Climbing to a century: Marsworth, Bucks

Climbing to a century: Marsworth, Bucks

On the last day of 2014, I blogged that 2015 would see me riding 100 miles in a day: a cycling century. Yesterday was the day. I repeated my 2005 century route through Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, stopping at Buckingham for lunch.

The cycling guides give helpful and sensible advice on how to prepare for a century. They tell you to build up your stamina with regular long rides. I certainly did a lot of cycling in the three weeks before the big ride, making the most of the long June evenings to get on the bike. But none was more than ten miles…

That lack of long distance experience no doubt contributed to the fatigue I felt as I finished. It also explained my usual failure to eat before feeling hungry, the curse of the ill-prepared long distance cyclist. But I finished strongly, powering at 17mph or more along the A413 from Wendover to Amersham and beyond. (I love quiet roads, but after 85 miles I like to avoid unnecessary hills…)

When I got home, I was delighted to find that I’d completed the century at an average speed of 13.7mph. For me, that’s a miracle: my fastest century. On my first century in 1995, I was pleased to maintain 13mph for the first 75 miles. (I finished at around 12.75mph.) True, this time I had the benefit of a wonderful road bike, my eight month old Specialized Roubaix. In 2005, I was riding my trusty Dawes Super Galaxy with a pannier full of maps and an SLR camera. But I had just got back from a 315 mile cycle tour of the hilly west country.

Here are my reflections of my fourth century.

The lanes south of Buckingham are perfect cycling territory

I was looking forward to heading south from Buckingham. I had fond memories from 2005 of the easy cycling through Chetwode, Stratton Audley and Lawton. Happily, my memory wasn’t playing tricks. I bowled along at an easy 17mph much of the way, eating up the miles. I can’t remember a single car overtaking me. This was a perfect interlude before tackling the hills around Ashendon.

Ludgershall is lovely

Breather at Ludgershall

Breather at Ludgershall

Almost 10 years ago, we started a bike ride from Ludgershall in Buckinghamshire. It’s one of those villages that stretch around common land. Yesterday, I delighted in propping my bike against a bench by the village pond, while I had a rest. I chatted to an angler who was enjoying fishing. The break got me ready for the final 35 miles.

A decent lunch was good for the spirit

Carbo-loading: lunch in Buckingham

Carbo-loading: lunch in Buckingham

The last time I did this century 10 years ago, I made do with a snack lunch from Tesco in Buckingham. This time, I did much better. I found a Prezzo opposite the Old Gaol museum. I relished a pasta meal in the sunshine, bike by my side, as I watched some lively characters enjoying a few pints and greeting their mates loudly outside the Kings Arms on the other side of the road. The only complication was paying the bill on the Prezzo app with PayPal: I could barely see the screen on my iPhone!

My Garmin Edge 800 was brilliant

Two years ago, I moaned about the failure of my Garmin to provide turn by turn directions on my big bike ride from Wales to Buckinghamshire. In truth, it was user error. You have to switch this on for a course you have created. This time, I got it right, and it worked a treat. I created the course in Strava and uploaded it to the Garmin. Next, I made sure turn by turn guidance was on in the settings for that course. It was a godsend, given I wasn’t carrying any maps and relying on Google or Apple Maps was out of the question given the poor data signal. There were a few junctions where the Garmin didn’t tell me what to do, but it soon told me I was off course. Mind, there was one time I was swooping down a hill after some 80 miles when the dreaded off course signal sounded. Fortunately I soon got the course found alert. I was glad I didn’t have to climb back up that hill!

The Topeak TriBag was perfect

This was my first century on a road bike. I carried most of my stuff in my Camelbak Rogue. But I didn’t want to overburden my back, so the day before the ride I bought the Topeak TriBag from Richmond Cycles. What a great product. I kept my energy bars, suncream and tissues in there, for easy access. Highly recommended. I also had a Topeak saddle bag for tubes and more energy bars, plus energy booster packs for the phone and Garmin.

Strava is getting addictive…

Strava has become the hit cycling app. Even I, a very uncompetitive and slow cyclist, have revelled in beating my personal best. (Beating my goal of 3 minutes 15 seconds for the Clay Street climb to Beaconsfield by 12 seconds this week showed I was getting stronger.) As I recounted in the blogpost looking forward to yesterday’s century, I felt a bit of a cheat entering three mile rides in Strava. Finally, I have completed a ride (163km) that more than meets the Strava Gran Fondo 115 challenge. Not sure I’ll pay $120 for the shirt to prove it, mind!

PS; Just in case the Garmin failed me, I tracked the ride on Strava on my iPhone 6 Plus. (I normally upload my rides from Garmin to Strava.) My caution wasn’t justified, but I was very impressed with the iPhone’s battery life. At lunch, after four and a half hours, it was still showing 80% battery remaining. This is the beauty of the Strava/iPhone combination.

Britain’s roads are a disgrace

I knew Britain’s roads were in a state before my latest century. But yesterday showed again how poor road surfaces make cyclists suffer. I had to steer a careful path between potholes and scarred road surfaces. I was lucky that the fast downhills (maximum speed 38mph) were on smooth roads otherwise I’d have come a cropper.

The only positive was that Hertfordshire appears to be resurfacing its roads – even the lanes. The route from near Cholesbury to Tring (Kiln Lane, Marlins Hill and Hastoe Lane) was covered in gravel – slightly disconcerting, but better than potholes!

The Roubaix is a perfect fast, long distance bike

My Roubaix and I take a break, near Mentmore, Bucks

My Roubaix and I take a break, near Mentmore, Bucks

I was suffering by the end of the ride, But that had nothing to do with the bike. The Specialized Roubaix was a lovely bike to ride hour after hour. It was far more comfortable than I expected a road bike to be. I didn’t miss the third chainwheel, as these gears are perfectly spaced. And it was a delight to ride fast. I can’t wait for our next big ride.

3 thoughts on “My fastest century bike ride

  1. Pingback: Cycling Cornwall’s hills | Ertblog

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