Saturday, 15 August 2015

Cheap Bike Prepares for Audax ...

Long rides (very long rides!) for no good reason :-)

Anyway, I'm due to do such a ride on Sunday 23rd August (that's a week after tomorrow).


Of course, I'll be riding "Mermaid".
I only have the one bike at the moment, so that's the one I'll be riding :-)
I've never actually ridden as far as 200km before, so there is certainly an element of challenge to it!

Some folks join organised rides, and ride in a group.
For me, I kind of like my own company, and more importantly, I am working every time a local "organised" ride comes up.
So I am going the "DIY permanent" route.

Choosing the route
I have to submit my route to the organiser in advance (I have already done so!).
My route will be Aylesbury (where I live), Oxford, Rickmansworth, Welwyn Garden City, Leighton Buzzard, Berkhamsted, and back to Aylesbury.
Using the marvel of Google, I am able to calculate the SHORTEST route between the towns I have named.

Route planning for audax with Google Maps.
Using the "walk" option is recommended.
The important point is to get the shortest possible route.
So my route comes in at 208km - just over the 200km mark.
208 kilometres is about 129 miles.
Don't forget that if you are using receipts as "proof" that you have been to a certain town, then make sure there is somewhere that is open when you get there! This makes villages and very small towns a bit "hit and miss" - there might be a bar/"pub" open in the evenings, but not much else, and on minor routes, don't just assume that petrol ("gas") stations will be open 24/7!
Having chosen my route, and had it approved, all I have to do is "ride it and prove it".

For the "proof", I have to collect ATM receipts or shop till receipts (or similar - something woith the location, date and time on it!) from each of my nominated towns.
I'm going to start and finish in the Market Square in Aylesburym because there are at least 4 banks there, all with ATMs in the outside wall, so ay least one of them should be working!
I don't actually have to ride the shortest route, but I get no extra time if I choose a slightly longer route. The distance credited from Aylesbury to Oxford is always credited as 35 kilometres, even if i go down some back lanes and it actually takes me 40km! The rules are designed to eliminate "short-cuts", where a rider could just miss out part of the course, and thus finish more quickly.

There is a time limit, too.
14 hours.
That includes all stops, breaks, repairs, the lot.
So the more you stop, the faster you have to ride the rest of the time ...

Question: how fast do I ride longer distances?
This is a pretty key feature of audax/randonnee riding.
Doesn't matter at all how I rate on a local "Strava" sprint (many of which are 300 to 500 metres long).
What matters is what pace I can maintain for hour after saddle-sore hour.
To give us an ideal of perspective, a "pro" might do the 208km of my course in about 5 hours.
Probably a bit less if they are used to being at the "front" :-)

Am I a "pro"?
I am a slightly overweight chap of 50 with a "regular" job.
My "outdoors" job is more physical than a typical office worker (it involves walking about 7 km (4.5 miles) a day, amongst other things), but it isn't that athletic.
Then there is my age.
There are NO "top level" current pro riders who are anywhere near 50. They all retired years ago.
Even Lance Armstrong, with all his drugs, is 7 years younger than me, and last cheated his way to TdF glory when he was just under 34 years old!

So I'm not getting round in 5 hours then (!)
This year I have done several training rides.
Several of them are in the 100km category.
In each case I am counting "elapsed time", NOT "moving time", because on the audax/randonnee ride that's what is counted!
Moving time is for interest only - the 14hour time limit for my 200km is for total "elapsed time!
So lets have a look at my most recent pair of rides.
138.2km in 8 hrs 26 mins "elapsed time" = 16.4 km/h (10.2 mph)
100.1km in 5 hrs 35 mins "elapsed time" = 17.9 km/h (11.1 mph)

So how realistic are those ride times?
Well, they are both in The Chilterns, and both contain a suitable amount of hills for comparison with the actual ride. No good using a ride on the flat with a tailwind if your audax/randonee is in hilly terrain and is a loop (the wind is VERY unlikely to be behind me all the way!).
Longer rides involve riding slower, and both the rides I mentioned are shorter than the 208km ride I will be doing.
How well do those rides reflect the extra tiredness?
Well, the 138km ride involved getting loss and lots of time looking at the map, so it was hardly at a "performance" pace! I also didn't ride to "exhaustion" or stay out too late because I had to go to work in the morning!
The 100.1 km ride was the day after a 66km ride, so I was already somewhat tired by the time I had started (just like I am going to be on the second "hundred" of the audax/randonnee). Similarly I had work the morning afterwards/
For the "real event, it just so happens that I have a "long weekend". I work a slightly rotating pattern of shifts, so that one weekend in every six I get Saturday, Sunday AND Monday off. Handy, methinks! And that is also why my audax/randonnee ride is timed for the Sunday that it is. I get a whole day before to rest and prepare, and a whole day afterwards to recover and moan about how much my butt hurts from all that time in the saddle!

So lets assume I will be averaging 16.1 km/h (10 mph) for the ride.
Then we have to add maybe 5 minutes for the "proof" in each town. I already know where I will be getting my "proof" in Aylesbury, and that recent 138km ride I mentioned above went not conincidentally to Oxford and Berkhamsted, so I know where I can get my proof there, too! Berkhamsted has SEVEN different banks, all with "external" ATMs, as well as a couple of petrol ("gas") stations and a variety of bars and restaurants, so no worries about getting a "proof" there late on a Sunday afternoon!

HSBC, Berkhamsted
Halifax bank, Berko
Barclays, Berko

Co-op bank, Berko

NatWest bank, Berko

Santander bank, Berko

Last, but not least, Lloyds Bank, Berkhamsted.

So that is 35 minutes to add, to allow me to get 7 (including the start and the finish) quick "proofs" of visiting each of the required towns on the route.
The time schedule now looks like this:
208km divided by 16.1 km/h = 12 hrs 55 minutes
Seven "proofs" = 35 minutes
Total time = 13 hrs 30 minutes.
Spare time for punctures/getting lost = 30 minutes.
Looks like just enough time.
As I have mentioned before I ride on Marathon Plus tyres, so I am rather hoping NOT to get a puncture, but I will be carrying the appropriate tools and a couple of spare tubes just in case, as well as a couple of cans of "tyre repair foam". But like I said, I am not expecting a puncture, and my tires are a LOT tougher than lightweight racing tyres!

Drawing up a schedule
What time does it get light in the mornings, and when does it get dark?
On the day of the ride, Sunday 23rd August, sunrise is officially at 06:00 and sunset is at 20:11.
14 hours 11 minutes of daylight, plus a bit of twilight either side.
Handy for a 14 hr time limit!
Looks like it will be a good idea to start about 6 am then!
So, my first draft at a schedule looks like this:
06:00 Start, and get proof in Aylesbury
06:05 Depart Aylesbury
19:25 Arrive Aylesbury and get proof.
19:30 Finish.
(30 minutes spare)

What about the towns in the middle?
Well, using the wonder of Google again, I can calculate the minimum distances between each of my chosen towns.
Aylesbury - Oxford = 35km
Oxford to Rickmansworth = 62km
Rickmansworth to Welwyn Garden City = 31km
Welwyn Garden City to Leighton Buzzard = 39km
Leighton Buzzard to Berkhamsted = 22km
Berkhamsted to Aylesbury = 19km
Total 208km.

Putting my chosen speed of 16.1km (10 mph) into those distances gives
Aylesbury - Oxford = 2 hrs 10 mins
Oxford to Rickmansworth = 3 hrs 51 mins
Rickmansworth to Welwyn Garden City = 1 hr 56 mins
Welwyn Garden City to Leighton Buzzard = 2 hrs 25 mins
Leighton Buzzard to Berkhamsted = 1 hr 22 minutes
Berkhamsted to Aylesbury = 1 hr 11 minutes
Total riding time 12 hrs 55 minutes (like I calculated before! - always good to check, though, in case one makes a mistake with the calculation!)

So the second draft of my schedule looks like this:
06:00 Arrive at start (Aylesbury Market Square)
06:05 Depart Aylesbury
08:15 Arrive Oxford
08:20 Depart Oxford
12:11 Arrive Rickmansworth
12:16 Depart Rickmansworth
14:12 Arrive Welwyn Garden City
14:17 Depart Welwyn Garden City
16:42 Arrive Leighton Buzzard
16:47 Depart Leighton Buzzard
18:09 Arrive Berkhamsted
18:14 Depart Berkhamsted
19:25 Arrive Aylesbury
19:30 Finish
(still 30 minutes spare!)

But wait - what about eating and going to the restroom?
Surely I'm not going to ride for 13 1/2 hours without stopping!

Well, that has already been factored in.
That's why I chose such a low speed.
That's why I used "elapsed time", not "moving time"!
The 100.1 km ride I mentioned above DID have a restroom stop in it, yet I still averaged quite a bit quicker than the 16.1 km I have set for my speed for the 208km ride.
I have been riding "fully loaded" all season, carrying somewhere in the region of 2 to 4 litres of drink, and well as some "proper" food with me. My kit, including food and about 3 litres of water, weighs in at about 9 kilos (about 20 lbs) - and yet I still completed the Tour de Vale 100km ride in an "officially measured" (we had timing chips in our event numbers!) 5 hrs 22 minutes.
I rode the London to Brighton (this year and last!) with a pair of panniers and a front basket.
I ride in "touring" mode, not in "sprint" mode.
Whereas one might read that two bidons (water bottles) are recommended for audax/randonnee, I have been training with six to eight water bottles (3 to 4 litres of liquid).
I ride heavy, but don't stop much.
I completed the 100km "Tour de Vale" WITHOUT STOPPING (except for road junctions, and a 30 second stop to move more water from my rear pannier to my front basket!)
I completed the 86km "London to Brighton", only stopping for road junctions.
Water stops - they're for folks that didn't bring enough water with them :-)
Rest stops - they're for folks that didn't train enough :-)

In all seriousness, though, I am hoping to pick up enough time to make a stop near Rickmansworth.
There is a large supermarket with nice clean toilets and benches nearby that I can take a rest at.
the supermarket is open from 10am to 4 pm (restricted opening hours because it is a Sunday!), and the "schedule" I have outlined above get's me there about noon.
Just under half way round. So I'll need to be a bit "in front" on the schedule by then!

So that's the basic route and schedule mapped out.
This post is getting a bit long, too, so the next part will be in a separate post!

Update: ride report is now online

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