The ‘Low Pressure’ weather system that had battered the west of the UK was moving east and threatening to spoil my day off work. Thankfully we have a reasonably early train from Brough and I took a 25 minute ride to escape the worst of the rain.
Thanks to the quick ride out to Selby, I was able to start my ride in drizzle instead of rain. I took a moment to find my bearings and then headed west on the lanes for Cawood and Tadcaster. It was dark and the light drizzle was soaking my beard and glasses, making seeing where I was going more difficult than usual. I kept reasonably wide of the kerb just in case any of those puddles were disguised potholes, waiting to throw me off my bike.
One of my preparation thoughts had been to consider wearing a rain-cape instead of pairing ‘rainlegs’ with a coat. I wondered if the extra trapped air underneath the cape would also keep me warm – I’m a cheerleader for rain-capes but what put me off today was the luggage capacity I was using. I only had a small Altura bag and yet I’d packed an eclectic mix of cache-batteries, tools, puncture repair kit and warm clothing. The bulkiest of the items was my spare pair of winter gloves; something I’d packed because (in my experience) being able to put cold wet hands into dry warm gloves towards the end of a long ride is a worthwhile luxury. I haven’t yet had the confidence to microwave my sodden gloves at a 24hr petrol station.
As it turned out the weather wasn’t as scary as the soothsayers-of-the-sky* had foretold. As I crossed the newly replaced road-bridge in Tadcaster and the rain stopped altogether, and didn’t return for the rest of the ride; by the outskirts of Wetherby I’d concluded the rain wasn’t coming back and stopped to remove some layers and work out how to carry all the unnecessary clothes around for the rest of the day. (Audax top tip: the 24hr garage in Tadcaster is highly recommended)
The road I’d chosen took me north alongside the A1(M), using the A168. In many places only a wooden fence and strip of trees separated me from the heavy traffic on the motorway, but this wasn’t unpleasant because the trees helped damp-down the noise enough for me to listen to birdsong as I rode along. I continued north for another 30km before calling into the Angel at Topcliffe for a coffee. (Audax top tip: the Angel in Topcliffe is very welcoming and does great coffee.)
The Angel has featured in other Audax events because it is conveniently on the A167 south from Durham, and has been used as the southerly turning point of DIY events in 2016. Now it looks like a convenient northerly turning point for DIY rides in 2017.
It was still fairly early as I left with only 30km to reach Masham – I knew I was going to be too early for a pint of beer at the White Bear.
On a technical note: the built-in battery on my garmin 200 no longer gives me more than 3 hours run-time before giving up the ghost; so I’ve bought a replacement, the garmin touring. I’m not sure if its mapping is adding anything to my cycling experience, but the improved battery life is a bonus. Additionally, the turn-by-turn navigation with a picture of the junction ahead is very helpful – but I was about to discover a problem. On a 210km ride there are a lot of instructions, so if you take a wrong turn and the device decides to reroute, it struggles to carry out all the necessary computing and keep the rider updated with what is happening. I never lost any data, and the device didn’t hang, but from this point on my turn-by-turn navigation was lost. This is part of the fun of testing: in future I may save my longer audaxes divided up in sections, probably between each control point, as this will allow me to load a new route every so often and avoid doing the whole ride without navigation. (Audax top tip: keep a list of controls and a paper map in your saddle bag – know how to find your way without technology.)
The White Bear in Masham was typically welcoming and they’ll light the coal fire in the snug if necessary. Too early for a beer – I had a delicious cold sirloin sandwich with freshly deep-fried chips. The Peculier Old 200 will probably be running again in October 2017 and I hope to be allowed to look after the Masham Control again.
The route from Selby to Tadcaster, to Topcliffe to Masham had been flat – but the hills were now starting for the section south. With more than half the ride ahead of me – about 120km – I settled down to some climbing. There was mist on the hilltops but not sufficient to make my clothes damp. The climb to Grewelthorpe sounded tougher than it was and although my bike and I were heavy with winter plumage, the low touring gears helped me to remain in the saddle and pootle up the inclines. Grewelthorpe’s village sign declared… “Welcome to Grewelthorpe In the New Millennium” – there must be an interesting tale behind that.
Onwards through Nidderdale I cycled, with numerous descents and climbs over every beck and stream. The toughest being Hebden Bank over Hebden Beck just south of Sawley; nothing like the worst of the North Yorkshire Moors, but hard enough to have me climbing out of the saddle in my lowest gear. It was an odd feeling, but I was really enjoying the hard-work these hills were demanding of me.
The sun had broken through the clouds and was now very warm, this felt like the first flush of Spring rather than the last fingers of Winter and I found renewed strength in the sunshine as I gained speed downhill towards Knaresborough and back over the A1. I’d made a few changes since my grim January ride, changes that were intended to keep me feeling better and more enthusiastic while riding. The two most important were:
- to drink plenty of water and not drink fizzy pop or those awful sugary ‘oasis style’ squash drinks – ugh. The sugar rush had made me feel ill in January, but the use of water with a single ‘Zero’ electrolyte tab was helping me a lot. I found myself fully hydrated throughout the ride and the water was a lot easier to get hold of than finding a shop selling sugar-drinks.
- To remember what the maximum time limit was a remind myself that I had plenty of time. Riding at an average of about 22kph was giving me a time buffer and this gave me a huge boost of confidence. Unlike January, when I was anxious about getting cold and being out too long, this February ride was a lot more relaxed.
Keeping hydrated and remembering that you are enjoying yourself are my two top-most top tips for Audaxing. However, both of these were undoubtedly influenced by the warm sun and bright daylight I was cycling along in.
The road flattened out again through Tockwith and Long Marston, with a nice easy ride into York and the famous Micklegate Bar – I was approaching my final control for the day, The Tap at York Station. They usually have a good selection of Porter Ales and some delicious pork pies – but today was not a pork pie day, they’d sold out. So after a pint of #FermentedIsotonicSportsRecoveryDrink (Beer), I was back out for my final section to home.
Having cycled from York to home numerous times, I know that it is approximately 50km and at the tail end of an Audax it is best to allow 2.5 hours but for some reason I thought it was 30km and that I’d be home by 5pm. Silly me. However, the lengthening days meant that I’d made it all the way to North Cave before the sun finally set and only had the last 10km to ride in the dark.
That was a wonderful day out – I felt stronger than I have for a while. I’m delighted with my new navigation tool – the battery lasted for the entire ride without being topped up and despite being asked to do some complex re-routeing. I’m delighted that I’ve remembered I like ‘Zero’ electrolyte drinks and that being hydrated makes a ride easier. I’m very happy with the route – it was great to return to Masham. Finally though, riding in the sunshine! Wow! What a joy. These winter miles feel hard, but ahead is Spring and Summer and the cycling is going to be so much easier then.
*Soothsayers-of-the-sky: Weather forecasters… after all they do read the entrails of the sky when the try to foretell the future.