Tag Archives: Audax

The Four Rivers Audax. My first and won’t be the last

So yesterday I rode my first Audax. For those who have not heard of Audax it is a sub culture within a sub culture within a sub culture. By that I mean it seems to attract a very loyal following within people who like long distance cycling which itself is a small group within those who like to ride bikes. It is a kind of a cross between racing and touring over long distances.

A of today I am A ‘Randonneur’ (a person who has completed a recognised 200 kilometre ride).

The Four Rivers ride starts in Wem, Shropshire and heads for every hill it can find. First to the Stiperstones and then to Bwlch y Groes, then leaving Lake Bala with a 6 mile climb that I can’t find a name for (horrible springs to mind). Fortunately it was than “nearly” flat or downhill for the last 60+ km.

For most of the first leg (47km) I was hanging onto a group of about 12 which meant despite the big climb at the end of the section (where we split up with me about halfway in the spread out group). There was free cake and coffee at “The Bog Visitor Centre“. I decided to keep the stop short and so left before most of the rest of the group and in fact got to 95km before anyone overtook me. That was a chap who has done 16 Audax 200km’s since October who loves the hills. He was on a flat barred bike and I was much faster downhill and on the flat but he relentlessly chased me on every climb. He got close many times but eventually easily zoomed past me as I was struggling up the very long gradient that eventually led to the 2nd checkpoint (109km) at Lake Vrynwy (no I have no idea how to pronounce it). At the “Old Barn Cafe” there was a checkpoint (you get your “Brevet” card stamped and a special menu for us. I had a fantastic Pasta Bolognaise with local beef which was just what I needed for £5.

Again I didn’t hang around and caught a Yorkshire man on the flat stretch along the lake, once we started to climb upto Bwlch y Groes. That formed a pattern for the rest of the ride. He was much faster than me on the climbs but on flat or gently rolling terrain my aero wheels and fast tyres gave me a big advantage.

I last climbed Bwlch y Groes from the south fully loaded on my Sabbatical immediately after The Welsh Ride Thing. This route from the East was much less steep and had some downhills within it.

Heading down to Lake Bala (somewhat cautiously due to the wet roads) I had a wonderful moment when I overtook a train (the small steam train that runs alongside the lake). That was just before another checkpoint in the visitor car park at Llangower. There I met up with the Yorkshire man again and enjoyed some juice and fruit cake. He left first but in the rolling terrain to the bottom of the lake I caught and dropped in. However, once the 6 mile climb really kicked in he went past me and disappeared off into the distance.

That climb really hurt and I didn’t feel I recovered from it (as in reduced to a crawl by any adverse slope) until a chocolate brownie, scone and jam and coffee at the last checkpoint. With only 45km to go and the promise of only one small climb I felt confident that I could make it.

Again gently rolling with quite a lot of down helped a lot and just after being past by a group of about 8 pelting along I met and passed the Yorkshire man and another who had passed me on the long climb.

Fortunately, the last climb didn’t destroy me and I saw my average speed climb slowly to 21km by the time I reached the finish in 11 hours 10 mins of elapsed time without overtaking or being overtaken again. That average speed is not particularly meaningful as it includes some of the stops but not all (depending on whether I stopped the garmin or not). For the first time I chose to display average speed instead of current speed on my Garmin as Audax have a cut off speed of 15kph. I actually found that quite relaxing.

Again coffee and cake at the finish. To add icing to the cake Jane arrived to collect me just as I got to the finish.

My impressions of Audax are really positive.

  • They are very well organised. People are clearly very experienced and knowledgeable at putting on these events. Puts many others to shame.
  • Everyone was very friendly and there was no put down for me as a newcomer just a welcome.
  • I was nervous and skeptical about the route sheet as it was very alien to me. But thanks to some advice on facebook I had 4 route sheets laminated and carried the current one on my left arm held on with elastic which worked really well. I am confident that even without my garmin I could have comfortably followed this as long as I had something displaying the distance in km. It also helped keep my focus on the current and short goals rather than worrying about the whole (and I really noticed it on the long 6mile climb because there was a single route card entry of 24km which took me over the climb and down to the next checkpoint without any intermediary goals).
  • While a lower gear would have been nice the bike worked fantastically well. Again my new wheels from The Happy Cog were brilliant. The hydraulic SRAM Rival disc brakes gave supreme confidence on some very steep descents. The Schmidt SON dynamo with B&M Luxos-U front light charged my Garmin on the way round (otherwise there is no way the battery would have lasted long enough).

So this was my longest ride yet at 133.9 miles. It had over 8,700 feet of climbing. My moving average was 14mph and my overall average 12mph. I am a happy bunny 🙂

As usual I carried far too much stuff (all the warnings about being in very remote places without a reliable phone signal meant I went prepared for almost anything – my first aid kit was larger than some riders saddlebag). Too many clothes and too much food meant I could have carried at least 1kg less weight.

On the other hand I started this ride 6kg lighter than I was at the end of February and wow that did make a huge difference. Probably the difference between riding and walking up some of the climbs.

So if you have not tried an Audax I recommend it (they start from 50km and go upto 1440km).

My ride on Strava:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
11:09:18 09:33:19 133.96 14.02 38.70 8,707.35
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Schmidt SON Delux & Edelux, perfect on Bullitt

I have upgraded the front light on my Bullitt Clockwork Cargobike.

I have been using an excellent pair of Lumicycle lights (one Halogen, one LED running off a bottle battery). They are really bright, excellent on unlit roads. But they lack convenience on a transport bike. When you are nipping to the shops or a meeting you need good light but it is a pain if you have to remove the lights off when you park.

Also any lights that need to be re-charged and have a limited runtime are not ideal on a transport bike. The bike needs to be ready to go at all times and remembering to charge the battery or check you have it with you is inconvenient.

So I have upgraded to a front wheel with a dynamo hub. I had the wheel built by St John Street Cycles to a nice Bullitt proof specification with a rim suitable for nice big tyres.

The dynamo hub is a SON Delux with a matching SON EDelux light (only my light is black to match everything else).

Warning: This is not a cheap lighting option. This type of lighting is hard to justify unless:

  • you rely on your bike for everyday use
  • you enter long Audax rides (where you need to ride many hours in the dark)

On the other hand if it can be justified then it is fantastic.

On my Bullitt the light is mounted to the front fork crown (just above the mudguard). This means it is clear of any cargo and the wire is nice and short. However, it does mean the light is quite low which is good for seeing by but less good for being seen. I will probably supplement it with a LED flashing light on the handlebars to be seen by.

Besides the light being available 24×7 it also has another nice feature. The switch has a sensor setting as well as on and off. When set to sensor it comes on automatically when it starts to get dark (comes on nice and early).

In every test I have seen these hub dynamos come out as the most efficient with the least impact on your speed. My first impressions  support this.  I fitted it late last night and today rode into Leicester (dreaded Christmas shopping) and then I have been to Asda this evening.

One thing that immediately impresses is the way the light comes on as you wheel your bike out of storage and then stays on when you stop. Amazing, just a few rotations of the wheel at slow walking pace and there is already light.

The light seems good to ride by. I’ll write more when I have been on some unlit roads but it was fine coming down the unlit cycle path from the Asda car park. Earlier, riding back from Leicester I was following Jane and it lit up the back of her bike very brightly.

There is no noticeable friction and the wheel rolls very smoothly.

I am already enjoying the time saved when I got to Asda and didn’t have to worry about my expensive Lumicycle lights (even less in the future when I get them secured by Infinity3D).

I have been a fan of dynamo lighting for many years but this is by far the best yet. Highly recommended.

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