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. Continue reading

The joy of June: summer evening cycling

A breather before Clay Street hill to Beaconsfield

A breather before Clay Street hill to Beaconsfield

It’s one of my favourite times of year. It’s light till late, and it’s getting warmer. June is one of my favourite months. It’s perfect for a bike ride after work.

I’ve shaken off the sofa and regained my love of cycling this week. I’ve jumped on the bike on five of the last seven days. True, I’ve set no distance or speed records but I’ve felt better for the fresh air and exercise. My hill climbing is getting better (admittedly from a very low base) and the downhills have been as much fun as ever. I’m starting to dream about bigger cycling challenges – including the promised first century ride since 2005.

Over the hills to Beaconsfield

Over the hills to Beaconsfield

Technology has changed cycling. Strava is the runaway success, mapping your rides and performance and allowing you to compete against others on the same stretch, or segment, of road. It has changed the behaviour of many cyclists, as the Independent reported in 2013. I still like Garmin Connect, Garmin’s answer to Strava, although I wish Garmin would make it easier to upload ride information from my Garmin Edge 800. At present, I have to plug the device into my computer, then manually open Garmin’s separate Garmin Express app to upload data. (Newer devices can, I’m told, upload directly.) You can also share your Garmin data with Strava.

The map above shows one of my favourite rides, a switchback route to Beaconsfield and back. Living in the Chilterns, I’m lucky to have lots of scenic and hilly rides. This is a lovely 10 miler, with a few good but short hills. I couldn’t resist stopping last Wednesday evening to take a photo before tackling Clay Street hill towards Beaconsfield, followed by a delicious swoop down to Beaconsfield new town.

Today, Owen and I rode our new Thorn Raven Twin childback tandem to his cricket class in Gerrards Cross. We recorded our fastest ever ride on the way out: an average of 13.7mph. The tandem is so fast on the flat and downhill. Owen’s friend seven year old friend Freddie was delighted to get a test ride on the tandem. This is a lovely bike: Robin Thorn and Andy Blance have created something special.

Where will I go on my 2015 century? I’m tempted to repeat the lovely 2005 rides to Buckingham and back. But then I also like the idea of reading towards Oxford, with lovely places like Watlington and Chalgrove en route. Perhaps I’ll do both…

2015: time for a cycling century ride

Wiltshire cycling century

My first cycling century, 1995

A year ago, I ended the year by looking back to a cycling achievement: a two wheeled journey from Wales to Buckinghamshire. This New Year’s Eve, I’m looking ahead: to my first cycling century (100 mile bike ride) of the decade.  Continue reading