Back to the Future

The Mistress’s 300km randonnee

Take the AUK time travel capsule back to sometime in the 1990s.  You’ve landed in Majorca on a bicycle training camp.  It is the end of the evening and Rocco Richardson is loitering, chatting up one of the older lady cyclists.  Suddenly this voice booms across the room, ‘Rocco, bed!’    It is Liz Creese and Rocco obediently does as he is bid.  There is a quiet aside, ‘The mistress that is too wifely.’  ‘The Mistress’ is born.

Forward to 1998: in his usual to-the-point gravelly tones, Rocco Richardson (Willesden CC club elder, hardrider and then UK chairman) instructed me that I had to ride Liz’s 300km brevet. Audax UK brevets in those days were small, so the start and finish were at her house in Ruislip.   Apparently, if I was to ride PBP the following year, this was essential.  So, I did as I was told and rode.  It turned out to be a superfast route.  Somewhere along the line, despite still being relatively new to this randonneuring lark, I became ‘ride minder’ to a chap we called ‘Black Socks’. His real name I never discovered (black socks weren’t fashionable then; they were frowned upon when worn with cycling shorts).  The reading of the route sheet was an art you either learnt or didn’t and I did.  Black Socks fell into the latter category, so part of this minding remit was being his human GPS.   Also, back then, it was literally the dark ages as we didn’t have Mag Lights or head torches, let alone GPSs.  The use of GPSs (in the form of the Garmin Etrex) was a long way down the road.  The driver for its adoption was the increasing number of European brevets, beginning with the 2008 Mille Miglia, where the route sheet guaranteed many hours off-route.

On the run into the finish Rocco made an attack, predictably on a big decent. With Liz as ever glued to his back wheel, they escaped less than 50km from the finish.  Giving chase did occur to me but the training from the club elders made ensuring Black Socks got to the finish was my priority.  It also saved me from risking life and limb where the M40 becomes the A40. Rocco’s preferred route to the arrivee was to take this to the Polish War Memorial, given it was the fastest road available.  First 300km brevet in the bag.

Forward a year to 1999.  Again, following the no-quibble instructions from Rocco, I had entered two of each qualifying distance.  The Ruislip Mistresses’ Randonnee was one as it started just a few kilometres from my home.  Plus I had thoroughly enjoyed the ride the previous year.  Enter stage left Jon Jennings (JJ) from the Norwood Paragon.  A world master of winging it and the use of lastminute.com.  After a 4-year sabbatical from cycling, JJ had decided that the best way back to riding was to ride PBP.  I mean who needs miles in their legs to qualify and ride a 1200km grande randonnee?  So, using his best little boy lost look, he blagged his way into the 300 so we could ride together.  Another superfast spin around the course and our qualifying 300 was done.  The only blot on the landscape that day was when an exhausted JJ decided the quickest route to recovery was a lay down on Liz’s pearly white fluffy hearth rug.  It seemed reasonable to me, having just done a 12 hour 300.  But for some reason, Liz didn’t appreciate a grubby JJ lying on it.  Who would have thought?  The next time we would see Liz that year would be at the Fougeres control on PBP as part of the Baxter Sporting Tours support crew.

Fast forward to 2020 and the life and times of uncle COVID who, amongst other things, had rather interrupted the AUK calendar.  My Jennings training hadn’t been lost.  I was still completely comfortable with winging it and lastminute.com. It therefore didn’t seem unreasonable to finish off an SR in October.  Doesn’t everyone?  I had done this before stoking our tandem.  However, last time I was racing fit and wasn’t being savaged with vasculitis attacking my left leg and adding peripheral nerve pain.  But hey, these are just small details.

Using the old brevet cards (the last edition of the Mistress’ 300 was in 1999), I plotted the route in KOMOOT.  It came out at 289km shortest route, rather than the 307km actually ridden.  Not a surprise as back in the 1990s we were trusted to ride the route we were given.  All the soft mapping, route planning and GPSs that we take for granted didn’t exist then, so people couldn’t check routes that way.  Routes were planned on a paper map using a map measurer to get a rough distance.  Then checked by riding the ride with a Cateye cycle computer to get the actual distance as the route were mandatory.  Against getting lost, we simply packed the relevant pages torn from a road atlas. Sadly, these pages never came with a blinking blue you-are-here dot.

It turns out that my memories of the route were, shall we say, a little hazy.  With KOMOOT’s assistance, a route that would do the job was created.  It looked OK and met AUK’s current requirements.  It would have been fine had the weather gods not unleashed biblical rain (8 hours worth) and the headwind from hell for a shade under 200km.  Luckily, Dave was riding with me so sharing the work plus Dave deploying the power of swear, we made it around the course but not in 12 hours!  Riding this remastered route made me realise what an excellent route planner Liz was.  Something I don’t think we realised back in the day.  The original route was quick, not too hilly but not too flat.  I can now see where the route should go, so will be revising it in case I should require another trip down memory lane.

Sadly, three of the people in this rando tale are no longer alive: JJ, Rocco and Liz. JJ’s teenage cancer caught up with him just before his 39th birthday.  Rocco and Liz both died of cancer too, with Liz the most recent in 2019.  All three were AUK hardriders.  Liz comes from the pre-digital age of AUK and cycling in general, therefore a lot of AUK members will be unaware of this cycling granny.  Liz as well as being The Mistress, was also known at the Marmite Queen, Granny Creese and Aunty Liz.  She had her peloton of very capable young fit lads who she often rode with, including Paul Whitehead, Robert Fry and Stephen Underwood.  This little peloton would be deployed on long ones such at the Three Capitals perm, as you can never have too many back wheels to sit on!   She was also part of the 1995 ‘Rocco’s rocket’ on PBP when a group of about 6 AUK riders started and finished together. Racing out to Brest, then using hotels on the return.  Most often though, she would be seen riding with Rocco.  If anyone had the temerity to hop onto his back wheel, the squawk would go up from the Mistress ‘Get off, that’s my back wheel!’

And from Robert Fry, former member of the Willesden CC, PBP ancien who now lives in the USA:

My biggest memory of riding with Liz, without a doubt, is the 3 Capitals (London-Cardiff-Edinburgh-London) 1500km permanent we rode together in the Summer of 1992. We spent five long days (as well as the first night) in the saddle, and Liz happily kept pace with me everywhere, except for a few of the climbs. Later in the ride, I picked up her bike and was shocked by just how much gear she was carrying. As everyone knows, successfully completing an event of such distance is almost all mental, and Liz made an ideal riding companion, keeping the mood upbeat and the motivation level high the whole way. You could never feel down for very long when riding with Auntie Lizzie!

Liz rode lots of events, year after year, and we all knew how capable she was, but I was nonetheless highly impressed when she took down my old Audax UK points record, completing an amazing 22,200km of events in 1995. I still remember vividly just how tough all that riding was for me over a full year, even at a very youthful 26. It never ceased to amaze me how she was able to maintain such high levels of energy and athleticism in her 50s, somehow recovering after each ride to do it all again a few days later.

Liz’s AUK palmares is long and impressive; you can find it all in on the AUK’s Hall of Fame and Awards web pages.  Here are what I think are the highlights;

PBP – 1995 and 1991First rider to 300,000km of randonneuring
Three Capitals Permanent7 x 100 points or more in a season
Great Eastern 1,000km10 x Super Randonnee years
Brevet 5,000 and 25,000 awards 

The Brevet Bird

Rare diseases, beyond bike riding & Harrison’s Fund

In terms of kilometres covered, my Festive 500 was a total success with 555 km.  A brilliant patch to join my other 9 Festive patches turned up from Harrison’s Fund.  This made me really happy.  However, I didn’t meet my secret target of raising a £/km ridden.  As my fundraising page is still live, I decided to see if I could reach my secret target, but I figured a change in direction was needed.  Bike riding was clearly not going to cut the mustard, but I still wanted something that required my time and skills.

Why continue to pursue fundraising for this small charity?  The competitive side of me relishes a challenge and once started, the drive is to complete, so I have unfinished business.  There is also a big part of me that identifies with the predicament these babies (through to young adults) are in, along with their families.  I have a rare incurable disease, vasculitis.  Unlike my father, who had vasculitis of the lungs, mine won’t kill me.  However, it will and does hover over my life like a dark cloud.  It constantly pursues me.  I can’t get away from hospital appointments and treatment is an inescapable reality of life.  And it’s always in the background that my vasculitis may cause further damage to my nervous system as it has already done a pretty good job on my left leg.  So, if I can support research to help young people such as those with Duchenne disease lead better or longer lives, I want to do that.

I’ve sewed since before I can recall.  My first school memory is of the indignity of having to sew like a ‘baby’ using double thread; I was already adept at using a single thread like an adult.  I reckon I was 5 rising 6 at the time.  Sewing and making things have been in my life way longer than riding a bike.  There have been periods of not sewing or making things when I’ve either been extremely ill or after my late partner Jon Jennings died.  But the need to be creative doesn’t really go away, it sits silently in the background while I do other things, like ride silly amounts of miles. 

Lockdown, with the restrictions it has imposed, has given me more time to do other things as going for long rides is simply not possible.   I’ve had more time for my other passions.  Time for gardening and, with the shorter/ cold days, for sewing.  Before Christmas, I decided to sew masks for family and friends, prompted by a conversation I heard while queuing for a coffee at Osterley Park café.  Two ladies were discussing the merits of the various masks available and said that the shaped cotton ones were best.  I trawled the internet and found a pattern.  I made masks upcycling some good quality close-weave fabric from my stash.  I had some Christmas fabric, so made a few with that for fun and to cheer people up.  Feedback has been that the masks are excellent – they do what they are meant to and are comfortable to wear. They bring some fun and joy with the patterned fabrics I have used, in a world that can be rather gloomy.

So, given I have the time and the materials, I have been beavering away mask-making.  So far, 20 have been produced.  I have another 25 cut out and ready to sew.  All the masks are made of good quality fine weave fabric with ear-friendly elastic and have a pocket to put a filter in, which can be bought on-line.  I am going to make these masks available to buy for £5 each and I will cover the postage to you.  The first 20 go on sale with the publication of this blog.  I have some plain, but mostly patterned.  If you have a particular colour or pattern wish, I will endeavour to fulfil this.

The mechanics for buying your mask(s) are either via my Harrisons Fundraising page or via PayPal .  On the fundraising page, if you click the <make yourself known> button, an e-mail will come to me so I can get in contact with you for your address. .   Alternatively, leave a DM on the twitter account the co-pilot @sunniethehoob and or in the comment box at the bottom of this page and my ‘mask enterprise manager’ will sort you out!

Please note, paying directly to the Harrison’s fund if you are a tax payer raises an extra £1.25 per mask.

Or you can pay if you wish by PayPal

Hand Made Masks

hand made masks raising money for Harrison’s fund

£5.00

Even if fun-patterned masks are not your thing, you have at least learnt that I’m not just about the bike!

The Brevet Bird

A bike isn’t just for brevets

The Art of running errands by bike, or errandonneuring

Christmas has been and gone.  The lights in people’s houses that had kept you energised on the commute home by bike have been packed away.  The fun rides to bring back a Christmas tree by bike trailer have been done.  Endless cold, wet, frosty and perhaps even snowy weather has crept in.  Winter is at its most tedious and seems to be going on for ever.  By February you are questioning if you are going to survive to March with its lengthening days and marginally better weather.  You need something that gives impetus to February and bridges you over to March. Mary G’s errandonneuring challenge is a perfect fit with its format of tasks accomplished by bike and foot.

In effect, the tasks are checkpoints that you can visit no more than twice.  You need to complete 12 tasks. Many tasks can be rolled into one ride, providing your total distance covered for the 12 tasks is at least 30 miles.  As each task is done, a photo is taken and published on social media with the errandonneuring hash tag.

The 2020 errandonneur window opened 1st February and closed 31st March.  Within that window, your errandonnee tasks from a list of 9 catagories needed to be accomplished (duplicates don’t count) in any consecutive 12 day period.

My usual daily commute to work would be ridden.  Two February AUK events were planned.  Plus, the final week in March would be a combined mini tour and randonnee.  Therefore, time for errandonneuring would be tight.

Storm Ciara hit the UK on the weekend of 8th / 9th February, bringing mega winds both days and rain on Sunday.  For some crazy reason, this was the weekend I scheduled a Saturday multi-task day with Scotti my ever-faithful roadified MTB and the Gecko bike trailer.  8 tasks in all completed, a few of which broke the duplicate rule.

Adding rain to the already fiercely blowing wind, riding held little or no appeal on Sunday.  However, a social call to Daisy’s in the Park, my local independent café became essential.  So, on foot I went.  The suck value of the mud on the footpaths through fields and woods made things a tad challenging.

A rather unusual personal task followed.  A visit to Charing Cross Hospital to get my feet ‘set on fire’ with chilli patches as a measure to reduce my vasculitic neuropathic pain.  After three days of my feet being a ball of fire, the pain was reduced to a background hum, so a big improvement.

A rather odd ‘surprise me’ challenge slipped in when Eccles (of the elf behaving badly persuasion) took an unexpected opportunity to buy a Valentine’s card for a puncture fairy he knew!

To round things off, Scotti with the Gecko trailer ticked the ‘you carried what’ task.  Unbelievably another storm had arrived to bring a wind from hell.  The ride out to the local ‘amenities’ site with a fully loaded trailer was totally brutal.  Just for giggles, the wind had a bash on the way back of turning the empty Gecko upside down.  A social stop for a mocha and cake on the return ride was totally essential.

Why ride the errandonnee challenge?  Exchanging your experiences with likeminded folk gives a sense of community, of being one of the many, rather than one of the few. Sharing your errandonneuring tales via blogs and other social media shows what is possible, so hopefully spreading the word that bikes can easily be used for those little around-town tasks, rather than a car.  That running errands on your bike is fun, rewarding and the perfect excuse to go to your local coffee shop and relax.  Also, earning a fabulous patch can never be overlooked!

The footnote to this errandonnee was that Covid Lockdown 1 in the UK came in straight afterwards, in March.  At that point, riding your bike became seen as fashionable, great exercise and perfect for getting around town.  Hopefully, the bike as practical means of transport and good way of running local errands will last beyond the pandemic.

Chasing A Bright Red Patch With The World On It

ISR 6 JS2009 started pretty much like any other year. The usual winter e-mails were exchanged suggesting overseas rides in the sun. I said yes to John Barkman’s idea of Madrid Gijon Madrid (MGM1200); then good friend Nick Dale from Western Australia suggested riding London Edinburgh London (LEL1400) with the WA lads, another yes. Gold Rush 1200 in California had been on the wish list for a long time and it let me meet up with Carol Bell, Hans Dusink and his long suffering wife Linda. The final piece of craziness was seeing Audax Oz’s Sydney Melbourne Alpine (SMA1200) and another entry went in. It was only when booking flights and leave that I noticed the schedule. The first three rides (Gold Rush, LEL and MGM) were within seven weeks starting in July. I then had a break of two months before heading out to SMA. I’d set myself up for an International Super Randonneur 1200 series on three continents in under six months. It seemed kind of crazy but also struck me as an exciting adventure, so having never done anything so silly since riding tandem with Jon Jennings, I hopped on a BA flight to ride #1.

#1 Gold Rush Randonnee – 6-10 July 2009

ISR 3

Organiser; Davis Bike Club, California, USA

I can’t remember quite how this ride got on my ‘wish list’, but it did. It runs every four years from Davis to the turnaround at Davis Creek. It does what it says on the tin, travelling through gold rush country in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

At 6pm several groups formed up for the dash through 100km of flat lands to Oroville. There the climbing started and didn’t end until the feared Janesville grade some 888km later. Then it was, as they say, ‘downhill all the way to the finish’ and back onto the flat lands where mosquitoes feasted on us. Rice is grown on land irrigated by dykes; hence the charming mosquitos.

The ride turned out to be a really friendly affair, meeting up with old friends as well as new. I caught up with Mary Crawley and Jeff Bauer on their Co-motion tandem and Bill Olsen who I’d see again on SMA. New friends made during the ride were many, but one that sticks in my mind is Paul ‘the Octopus’ Rozelle, one of three riders on fixed. The plan to ride with Carol fell by the wayside as she dashed off with the lead group, but over the next 24 hours a posse of Hans, John Evans (on fixed) and I formed and the rapid-fire exchange of banter and jokes made the ride a 1200km full of fun. We rode together until 20km from the arrivee where Hans and I managed to mislay John. He’d stopped for a much needed coffee stop and forty winks, not headed down the freeway as we’d feared.

The ride organisation was good; the route fantastic with wonderful scenery, the only disappointment was that my ride jersey got lost in the post. Would I ride this again? Yes.

#2 London Edinburgh London – 26th July to Friday 1st August

ISR 5

Organiser Audax United Kingdom

This was my second edition of LEL, my first was in 2005 but without a 1200km prologue! The WA group set off at 08:30 attired in our new team jerseys. It could have been something about the nice arrows or stripes on the jerseys, or perhaps our convict/ACP number 511501 that made AUKs wary of talking to us! During the ride, Nick and I hooked up with some great groups including bunches from Seattle International Randonneurs and Audax Italia. During the first day of the ride, Nick and I had the pleasure of riding with Rick Blacker from the US and Sophie Matter from France. Both had preceded LEL with the Rocky Mountains 1200. Unbeknown to any of us at the time, we’d meet up again at SMA.

The weather gods put on a spectacular display of rain and wind, but forgot to include sun in the mix. Nick and I became ‘the group’ with John Evans popping in and out as he’d had the cunning idea of booking into a Travel Lodge or two rather than using the accommodation provided by the organisation. Despite the challenges of the weather, bunch banter provided enough entertainment for us to complete the ride with plenty of time in hand.

The ride organisation was ‘interesting’ but the ride held together under difficult circumstances, so thumbs up. I preferred the 2005 route to this one. Would I ride this again? Perhaps

#3 Madrid – Gijon – Madrid – 18th to 22 August

ISR 2

Organiser; Audax Iberia

This was the second MGM. As with the 1st edition, it almost coincided with LEL, but this time they had been a bit more kindly and scheduled it two weeks after LEL rather than finishing 2 days before the start of LEL. I was one of the first three ladies to ride this event, the others being Spain’s Nuria Rodriguez Jurado and Italy’s Rosanna Bandieri. I was also one of a quartet of Brits who’d just completed LEL; the other three being John Barkman, John Evans and Peter Turnbull. John E was at this point, we thought, winning the crazy randonneur prize as he’d sneaked in the Super Brevet Scandinavia 1200 between LEL and MGM. I was unaware that Bill Olsen was on a similar run; his fourth ride was Endless Mountains 1200. However, SMA would prove a bigger obstacle to their attempts to ride 6 1200km+ brevets in the same year.

We departed from Algete, a beautiful town about 20km from central Madrid at 22:00. We were escorted by a combination of motos and mopeds for most of the night, acting as mobile route marshals. For once, Mr Evans had had a light bulb moment and had chosen a bike with gears as opposed to his beloved fixed, which given the amount of climbing we were going to enjoy, was a wise move. However, Pat Hurt hadn’t had the same thought and was riding his fixed Airnimal. Going down long descents in the dark, he looked like a Bugs Bunny cartoon not quite up to speed.

We headed out through a countryside turned the most wonderful shades of terracotta. As John said, we were seeing the visual of Miles Davis’ ‘Sketches of Spain’. The weather gods seemed to be smiling on us, kindly providing a gorgeous daily 40oC of sun on our backs. We rode over a 1240m climb to get us up and over the Picos de Europa, where our world turned from terracotta to green all the way to the turnaround at Gijon, a working port on the Bay of Biscay. However, the weather gods hadn’t ordered 1200km of sun and as we chugged back up the mountain, we rode in a nasty drizzle that had been hassling us for a couple of hours. This didn’t spoil the drama of the narrow road as it twisted and turned through a rocky gorge. However, the drizzle didn’t have our climbing legs and departed a bit before the summit of the climb. After that, thankfully the sunshine re-installed itself right up to the finish.

The motos were fantastic, constantly making sure we were all OK. They were even cheering and handing out Coca Cola at gone midnight on top of the climb from hell, following the control at Ayllon. Basically, if you could find a metre of smooth surface to ride at any given time, you were doing exceptionally well. Following the route was a challenge, as the route sheet was in Spanish with no arrows painted on the road, unlike Gold Rush or Mille Miglia. Ray Robinson’s wife had translated the route sheet into English for Ray who was also riding MGM. John and I were lucky enough to be given a copy, but for whatever reason, there was a crucial instruction missing with less than 100km to go to the arrivee. This led to an off-route excursion that added about 90km to the ride while visiting the hilltop town of Guadalarjara. Once John had figured which way the sun was turning (he usually lives in Australia) in relation to my 10 year old map, we were heading in the right direction again., We pitched up at the arrivee with 1.3 hours to spare. John, Pat, Chris Wilby, Peter Turnbull and I then enjoyed a great festive lunch with most of the Spanish riders.

The ride organisation only provided the basics, but always did it excellently, including their moto team. The event is very ‘Spanish’ with 85% of the peloton being Spaniards. However this contributed to the charm and enjoyment of this ride. Would I ride this again? Yes

#4 Sydney – Melbourne Alpine – 29th November to 1st December

ISR 1

Organisation; Audax Australia

The idea of a straight-out 1200km ride over the Snowy Mountains captured for me the spirit of adventure and randonneuring. What I and various friends didn’t realise was that our spirit of adventure and enthusiasm for randonneuring was going to be tested 110%.

We rolled out from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge as one big peloton of about 60 riders plus local route finders at 6:00am, heading for the first night’s stop at Canberra, the nation’s capital. Lots of good friends were in the bunch; Nick Dale, Dave Minter, Bill Olsen, John Evans (on fixie), Sophie Matter and Rick Blacker. The task of getting to Canberra had seemed relatively straightforward and promised a good night’s sleep (in randonneur terms at least). However a full-on headwind installed itself, which remained there for the next 600km with rain thrown in as a special treat. The route and route sheet were both ‘challenging’ which meant that the group that formed after Gunning rolled in just 2 hours before the control closed. After a bite of food and a hint of sleep, we tackled breaking out of Canberra. My groupetto had the good fortune of Peter Heal on his recumbent as a ride guide before he headed to work after a night helping at the control.

Getting to Cabramurra at 1400m in the Snowy Mountains, with the boast of being Australia’s highest town, proved the next challenge. At Cooma, having loitered in a control way too long with Stuart Dowel, Chris Rogers (ride organiser) gave me a bum steer, telling me that Dave, Bill and John were ahead. I launched a 110km time trial, unaware that I was chasing Dave not on his bike, but in a car because the three of them had fallen victim to the ride and were already out. However, my time trial saved my ride, as I got into Cabramurra with an hour in hand before the control closed, near midnight. The subsequent descent and climb had gradients more severe than the Devil’s Staircase in Wales. An added bonus was the darkness and negative temperatures, due to wind chill. Then followed a crazy twisty rollercoaster of descending and climbing, ending at the motel control of Corryong and some well-earned sleep.

I passed through the Bellbridge control, again in Mr Evans’ entertaining company. John, like a lot of the riders sans brevet cards, rode to the Melbourne finish just for the fun of it. With the sun out and the wind at our backs, the riding was great. Control cut-off times were no longer an issue and those lucky enough to have brevet cards in their jersey pocket really relaxed and enjoyed the ride.

The last day on the road; 200km from Euroa to Melbourne was brilliant. The weather was warm with a tailwind to gently push you along plus the company of good friends. I rolled into the arrivee with Dave, Bill and John to be greeted by lots of Victorian friends who didn’t ride SMA, but were enjoying a Christmas party that doubled up as the control. It was the perfect way to complete my second ISR 3C.

The ride organisation was excellent, but the route sheet ‘interesting’. This ride suffered one of the greatest DNF rates of all time (virtually 50%), only matched by Endless Mountains 1240km, so a second edition might not be on offer. Would I ride this again? Don’t know.

Final thoughts

A big ‘thank you’ has to go to all the organisers and volunteers that made riding these brevets possible. The rides not only provided me with fantastic challenges, but the opportunity to meet up with long-time international friends, in some cases multiple times and making new friends who I’ve sinceISR 6 had the pleasure of meeting and riding with again. Chasing an ISR award (twice now) has encouraged me to travel to new and wonderful countries that I might have not otherwise gone to and filled the memory banks to overflowing; thumbs up.

Have Komoot, Will Tour

Retrospectively, if I had known what was to happen next, I would have ridden further and to hell with the coffee stops.  But hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Who knew COVID would rewrite my and many of my cycling friends’ worlds?  So, the late-winter almost-spring mini tour with Sarah Chaplin, a friend from Audax Oz, was based around short days, coffee, caik and good food.

The tour had first been discussed over the interweb back in October 2019 just before the start of the Hound Dawg 1200, promoted by the Lone Star Randonneurs.  I had time on my hands lazing in my hotel room, so it was easy to ping messages between Oz and the USA.  This should have given me more than ample time to plan, but I then went out to Oz to ride the Audax Australia 2019 Geelong Flyer 1200 in late November.  Once home, I continued to chase miles through December to break the AUK Women’s mileater record with 22,618 miles in a year.

Texas Hound Dawg

Geelong Flyer

The beginning of 2020 fell into a normal pattern.  Commute to work and then the usual round of early season 200km brevets.  Life was still busy, so planning the mini tour got put on the back burner, only being taken off less than a week before departure.

Looking for inspiration, I turned to the AUK calendar.  By happenstance, one of AUK’s classic brevets, the 150km Gospel Pass, made the perfect tour arrivee.  It is a brevet that I had wanted to ride for a while (I had never ridden the Gospel Pass before) but had not quite got around to doing.  So, I grabbed the opportunity.

The plan was over three days, to take Sarah through classic English lanes and stay at hotels that would either have a fantastic restaurant or be a place of interest.  Looking at Google Maps, some overnight towns jumped out at me – Milton Keynes, Stratford-on-Avon, Hereford, then Chepstow.  Finding suitable hotels was easy using knowledge gained from previous solo UK tours.  I was already familiar with some hotel chains where bikes were welcome plus food would be available.  Hereford would be the exception, but booking.com worked its magic.  These hotels fulfilled the touring cyclist mantra of ride, eat, sleep, repeat.

Now for routes.  My most enjoyable tours had been ones where planning was done on a day-to-day basis driven by things like avoiding bad weather or visiting places of interest that stood out in Lonely Planet travel guides.  With the advent of GPS this got lost, with meticulous planning done in advance from home. I felt that the experience I already had with Komoot might enable the spontaneity of before with the convenience of GPS.  Reading a paper map on the move is not exactly easy. Lo and behold it did.  Having preplanned destinations with hotel bookings allowed me to plan the next day’s route the evening before.  If I did not spot a foot path, there was ample time to re-route on the fly and still be at the hotel with plenty of time before dinner.  Having the stage towns about 100km apart meant I could use Komoot’s touring route planning, rather than road cycling.  The benefit of the touring route is that it does not take a fast direct option, but a leisurely route primarily using lanes.  I had already found that Komoot in touring route had a passion for goat tracks, sheep paths and seriously muddy canal towpaths.  I also like the element of it being a magical mystery tour which is very much like being on a brevet you haven’t ridden before.

Stratford-Upon-Avon

My steed for this adventure was Beryl, a Kinesis Tripster AT.  She handles brilliantly on brevets up to 600km, multiday touring, commuting and rough stuff.  The fat tubeless tyres meant she is fast on the road but surefooted on rough stuff.   Luggage was a Carradice Carradry saddle bag, otherwise known as ‘the ugly’ and a small Apidura top tube bag.  Set up like this, my chattels including the Tweccle   would stay dry, no matter what biblical weather was thrown at us.

Sarah’s bike was her PBP steed, a titanium thoroughbred.  A pair of large Ortlieb pink panniers and rack bag put it into touring mode.

Despite being early March, the weather was typical mixture of dull overcast skies and bright sunny days.  The only rain we had was for an hour or so on the way into Stratford.  This meant that the excellent bikepaths/ tracks that Komoot provided were mostly not too muddy and still ridable.  Only the occasional bridleway was deemed unsuitable and an alternative route found.  The climbs that Komoot chose to get to Hereford were long and, in some places, steep with fabulous views.  I do not think I would have necessarily chosen to go this way, but the scenery made me glad that I did.

Beryl only suffered one mechanical and that was the roads of Herefordshire rattling her rear mudguard to the point that one set of stays departed their fixing.  In good AUK style this problem was swiftly repaired with zip ties, their antenna left waving in the breeze.  Sadly, the puncture fairy was rather persistent with Sarah’s skinny tyres and she had several visitations.

Sarah likes beer.  This is something that the Brits are particularly good at and sadly three days was insufficient time for Sarah to check out as many as she would have liked.  The top lunch must go to Corse Lawn House Bistro.  I have ridden past this more times than I can remember.  Knowing what food delights lie within, I think next time it is going to be a struggle not to stop!

One of the highlights of the ride was meeting my exceptionally good friends, Anne and Mark Brazier, in Ewyas Harold near Hereford, which strangely enough is on the Brevet Cymru 400 route.  The meeting point was a church hall that turned into a coffee house for the morning.  A whole gaggle of Hereford Wheelers had collected, as it was their regular Friday morning meet-up spot.  The usual swapping of stories ensued while tea was guzzled and cake was scoffed.

Given that the following day we would be riding 150km including the Gospel Pass I had considered a longer, flatter way to Monmouth.  Anne and Mark were very keen to ride with us to Monmouth on their way home to Ledbury and it seemed churlish to decline.  Mark’s preferred way was through the hills, a route well known to me but in reverse, again on the Brevet Cymru.  The sun shone and the ride to Monmouth was fantastic.  Mark’s recommendation for lunch was the Spoons, which was OK and provided the opportunity to summon a GF apple crumble from our table using a smart phone app.  Little did we know that eating in a crowded pub was shortly going to be a dim and distant thing of the past.

Monmouth

The final stretch from Monmouth into Chepstow was the old Bryan Chapman 600 route past the ruins of Tintern Abbey, following the River Wye.  You get two countries for the price of one as you briefly dip into England and then back to Wales.  There is some climbing involved but the distraction of the scenery makes the road seem almost flat until the twisty climb out of Tintern up to Chepstow Racecourse.  I have ridden this road so many times in both directions on brevets, but the only time I had stopped was as a child.  I decided it was essential that a stop be made to sample the tea and caik that I was sure I had glimpsed when whizzing through a-wheel.  I spotted a little tea rooms right by the abbey.  Sarah was somewhat impressed by what Henry VIII had left of the abbey but seriously impressed by the gluten-free carrot cake.

Tintern Abbey

My preferred hotel pre-Bryan Chapman, the Castle Inn had no vacancies.  It is always a flying visit and it would have been good to enjoy its hospitality at a more leisurely pace but sadly, no vacancies. I guess too many other riders had realised that its front door opened onto the start of the Gospel Pass brevet.  Via the internet, I found another good hotel that did the job perfectly. The only downside would be that we would have to ride uphill to the hotel after the brevet.  The Bike Butler met us there with Shedman (the car) as I had persuaded him that a hilly 150km in early March was just what he wanted!

Chepstow Castle

The day of the Gospel Pass, the weather was murky with a hint of rain in the air.  Beryl performed perfectly, less so the rider.  We headed out of Chepstow, leaving the castle behind us, over the river and immediately started climbing.  The climb would last for some kilometres enabling a circuitous route to the first control at Monmouth.  The nominated control was rammed so I stopped at Costas.  Then it was over to Abergavenny via the Gospel Pass, taking in a few minor lumpy bits on the way. By the time we reached the Gospel Pass, the rain had gone.  However, some idiot had installed the headwind from hell as we grovelled upwards firmly in the gutter.  As I winched myself to the top, I was looking forward to a rapid decent.  Alas not; spotting the smooth amongst the potholes and gravel was a challenge.  Any silky-smooth stretches on the descent could not have added up to more than a handful of metres.  Of course, Beryl handled this perfectly.

Abergavenny was the final control before the finish at Chepstow.  I was dreaming of the 24-hour petrol station having been a rather regular visitor to this oasis.   Instead, we got the opportunity for some brief time travel in a pub that had somehow got stuck in the ‘70s.  The run into the arrivee would be the oh-so-familiar route to Usk and up and over to Shirenewton.  Nick Peregrine, the original sorely missed organiser of this ride, directed us left into Shirenewton rather than the usual straight on and through some fantastic back lanes to avoid much of the A466.  A final swish down to Chepstow and the ride was complete.  Jen (Nick’s partner), the current organiser, was waiting for us in the Three Tuns.  Digby carefully refuelled, using a method that is remarkably familiar to anyone who knows George Hanna. 

Digby at the Three Tuns

I will certainly be using Komoot for future touring when I want to plan the route on the fly.  The one thing that I would do differently is use my Garmin GPS for this, rather than the Wahoo.  The Wahoo is perfect for brevets where the route is defined, and you really have no intention of going off it.  However, there are occasions with Komoot as route planner, where tweaks may be required while you are riding.  This is a challenge with the black and white map of the Wahoo and its more rigid zoom and the way it marks the route.  With the coloured, easily zoomed map of Garmin and the purple line, it is much easier for me.  A plus with the Wahoo is that you can kill the route without having to stop and save your track.  You simply create a new route on your phone, ping it across and start riding.  Sadly, this is not possible with a Garmin, as you cannot push a route through from your phone with the ride being recorded   It would have been good to have a small tablet to review the route once plotted.  Doing a route on an iPhone screen was a tad challenging.

The Brevet Bird


For the all the photos click HERE to go to FLICKR

Unchained Coffee

Coffeeneuring 2020

The Coffeeneuring challenge is now an annual event for Team Brevet Bird.  Since Digby joined the team in 2019, it is an even bigger must-do as good coffee and excellent cake are seriously important to him.  Coffeeneuring can and does take place all year round. It is very much a part of our bike riding as you can’t beat sitting in a fab coffee shop relaxing with a top-class mocha and an excellent piece of gluten-free cake.  It has also gone international, so a great way of keeping in touch with friends who might ride a long way or perhaps not so far.

The annual coffeeneuring challenge, where you can earn yourself a patch for your saddlebag via your coffeeneuring exploits, takes place in autumn each year.  It’s like a randonneuring brevet where you visit a number of checkpoints but, in this case, drink coffee.  For coffeeneuring, there are effectively seven checkpoints you must visit to complete the challenge. Each checkpoint is validated by taking a photo and sharing it on Twitter, Instagram or the Coffeeneuring Facebook page. As in randonneuring, this happens within a set time limit.    You can also write up your exploits in your blog and share that via various social media platforms.

This year, we set ourselves the challenge that all seven coffee houses would be independent.  Sandwiched between the outer limits of suburban London and the M25, independent coffee houses and good cafes are somewhat thin on the ground.  The locals seem to prefer Costa, Café Nero and the rest.  Therefore, a steely eye was kept out in the run up to this coffeeneuring to find some unvisited local coffee places.  Due to COVID, one turned into a hearing aid shop!

The three highlights of this coffeeneuring were:

The Buntingford Coffee Shop This is usually a bit outside our usual orbit but, as we were riding out to Cambridge for an overnight stay prior to an Audax UK brevet, it was an opportunity too good to miss. As per our last visit excellent coffee, GF cake and friendly helpful staff.

Koho is our top favourite local coffee house.  It serves the world’s best mocha and the GF cake is pretty awesome.  This turned out to be our last sit-and-enjoy visit as shortly afterwards, KoHo was back to COVID safe takeaway coffee.

Rumsey’s is a chocolatier with a coffee shop.  We’d had our eye on this place for a while.   I picked the most amazing November day to visit this during a 100km round-trip ride, again prior to the COVID shutdown of eateries.  Sitting outside, with the sun beating down on us, Digby was blown away a mug of white coffee came with a chunk of chocolate to turn it into a mocha.  To top this out there were a handful of mini chocolate buttons to nibble on. The GF cheesecake was pretty amazing as well.

We also threw in a wild card option with a ’carry your own beverage’.  I work for the NHS and currently this is from my home office, as I am classed as ‘high risk’.  During this coffeeneuring, I was able to spend 3-4 hours per week on site.  To cut down person to person interactions and satisfy the need for tea, I got a thermos flask bidon for the bike.  Thus, I could carry my own hot beverage to work and not futz around in the office kitchen.

Top tip for thermos bidon – providing you swill it round with hot water first, make your beverage directly in it and add the milk last, it keeps liquids hot for many hours.  .

Coffeeneuring ‘brevet’ card:

Control 116 OctBuntingford Coffee Shop
Control 213 OctOserley House coffee shop
Control 325 OctDaisy’s in the Park, Pinner
Control 422 OctMuddy Boots, Rowan Garden centre
Control 528 OctKoHo, Little Chalfont
Control 604 NovRamsey’s, Wendover
Control 710 NovRusty Bike Café, Uxbridge

For the complete Coffeenuring 2020 photos go to FLICKR

Rapha Festive 500 #10, Part II

Team Brevet Bird rides for Harrison’s Fund

To catch up with the story so far click HERE

Day 5

The Evil Coldness

The view out of all windows at Chez Hirondelle confirmed cold.  Cars were thickly covered with frost, as were roof tops.  The birds huddled in big, fat leylandii trees rather than venture out to the bird feeding station to feast on fat blocks, dried mealworm and other delicacies.  There was only one sensible option; to watch the world change from white back to technicolour.

Slowly the frost cleared and the temperature on the weather station rose.  The coming together of these two things was such that I could schedule a post-lunch ride.  Road conditions improved sufficiently to choose Beryl the Kinesis with her almost-skinny fat tyres over Scotti the MTB with fat Big Apple tyres.

I alighted onto one of my regular home office commute circuits.  New Year’s Green lane was surprisingly OK (no slush-puppy corner) but with the ford in full spate.    Keeping to the main road passing through West Hyde and Maples Cross saved sloshing through the streams in the lanes.  I didn’t need to cross the Great Lake of Deadhearn Lane which I feared may have exceeded bottom bracket height, courtesy of Storm Bella.  Then a needless climb to immediately descend into Rickmansworth and back home.

For the whole ride I was in tier 4, with a significant amount of traffic passing me.  The opposite could be said of walkers and cyclists.  As I exited Rickmansworth to Moor Park and home, the number of lycra-clad males on road bikes increased.  More Festive 500-kilometre chasers?

Arriving at Chez Hirondelle, we were so cold that three of the team jumped onto the full-blast radiator to warm up.  Alas, I am not a suitable size for the radiator so a superhot shower for me.

58km for the day, running total 351km

Day 6

Time to go and visit the vampires

My vasculitis check-up was going to be a New Year’s Eve treat.  Therefore, time to visit the Charing Cross Hospital vampires and get a blood test.  The morning was stupidly cold but without frost.  As Charing Cross Hospital is one of the sites I work at, it was auto pilot and alight onto my commuting tramlines at stupid o’clock.   From home to Hammersmith, the temperature didn’t get to 1c.  Tier 4 all the way and traffic was rare as hens teeth.

The next part mainly follows the river to West Middlesex Hospital, the other site.  The highlights of this 12km are the Capability Brown statue, Hammersmith Bridge and a rather good coffee shop, The Coffee Traveller.  From there, I took the roughstuff lane alongside Osterley House and the M4.  It was packed with walkers, dogs and kids on bicycles, but is a moment of escape from grey suburbia.  After this it was the Uxbridge Road, accompanied by motorised traffic with the occasional utility cyclist.

With Uxbridge behind me, I was at a critical decision point – 100km or 80km?  Beryl pointed in the direction of the longer route, so up the lanes to slosh through the streams I went.  There was no alternative to the Great Lake of Deadhearn Lane and it seemed to be peak hour with cars and cyclists in both directions.

The last choice near Chorleywood – straight on at the crossroads to go into Rickmansworth or turn left for bonus kms and extra hills?  The cold plus the call of the teapot were the deciding factors.  Rickmansworth then almost directly home as I couldn’t resist rounding the day up a bit more.

102km for the day, running total 453km

Day 7

Arrivee

The riding window is always pre-defined by necessary things, then reshaped by the weather.  Today, more frost and silly low temperatures but by 10am, I was good to go.  Keeping onto known ice-free roads, I headed for the Ickenham Pump, then over to Uxbridge and Denham again.  Another section of main road and into the lanes for a bit as the temperatures rose.  Again, lots of traffic, not many walkers or utility cyclists but quite a number of MAMILs who looked like Festive 500 folk.

Rolled up to my front door, pressed the Garmin button which whizzed the kilometres to Strava.  A virtual reality patch popped up on my phone and Festive 500 number ten in the bag.

48km for the day, running total 502km

Day 8

Into the freezer

A late start was a double guarantee, thick frost over night plus a telephone consultation.  The pedals didn’t start turning to almost three o’clock, what with lunch and the neurologist running late.

Given the conditions, I decided to trundle round one of my small standard loops from home as I was quite sure it was ice-safe.  Leaving suburbia’s relative warmth i.e. almost 2c and out into the lanes where the temperature rapidly dropped.  It settled under zero, so a touch chilly.  The pond in Harefield confirmed the Garmin’s temperature – covered in ice.

With 42km on the Garmin when I was nearly back, it was way too tempting to go the long way home.  50km is such an attractive number.  The reward was lots of beautifully Christmasly-lit houses.  The reindeer with his mask on was rather good.

53km for the day, running total 555km

Round up

I’m very happy to have bagged Festive 500 number ten.  This was certainly one of the more difficult overall.  Trapped in a reduced playground due to COVID and no coffee shops to warm up in with a good mocha and accompanying GF cake.  Also, my vasculitis currently causes a lot of pain and generally unwell and tired. It increases sensitivity to cold, particularly my feet.  I had to manage my riding time carefully to ensure that I didn’t get too cold.  If I got too cold, the result would be increasingly greater pain.

The challenge of telling the rides’ stories in photos in an area that I know so well was something I really enjoyed.  It makes you look more carefully at scenery you normally take for granted.  Some of the ride routes were based on visiting something that I wished to photograph, such as Ickenham Village Pump on day 7.

The thing I have not been particularly successful with is the fundraising.  Many people believe that this sort of thing is a pushover for me, so the riding lacks the ‘challenge’ that is generally required for fundraising.  The unseen disability is always problematic.  Do you keep quiet and just get on with it or bore the pants off people about it?  For the last three years, I have taken the approach of ‘just get on with it’, which has bitten me on the bum for this fundraising challenge.

Raising funds for a rare disease such as Duchenne, doesn’t resonate with people as say breast cancer.  From a research perspective, it is fantastic that technology such as genome sequencing is readily available and that the cohort for this disease is big enough for meaningful outcomes.  Hopefully finding out how it can be treated isn’t far off.  I understand why sponsorship is low but I take my hat off to Harrison’s Fund for their persistence in such a difficult task.

If you would like to contribute to Harrison’s Fund click HERE

Rapha Festive 500 #10

Team Brevet Bird rides for Harrison’s Fund

The Rapha Festive 500 has been a big part of my Christmas celebrations for the last nine years.  The nominal goal is to ride 500km between Christmas Eve and the close of play on New Year’s Eve.  The real part of the challenge is to document your journey in photos, words or both.  If you reached 500km, a rather wonderful patch was yours.

Every one of the last nine years the ride has been totally different, so the story line for the 500km is never the same.  The first Festive 500, with 200km brevets to Ledbury and then back, was made more memorable for the days being filled with endless rain.  Defeating icy roads with the trike was another memorable year.  This year, the dominant themes are the COVID restrictions and my ongoing struggle with neuropathic vasculitis which makes riding my bike a bit more challenging, due to the amount of pain the nerve damage causes.

Another twist has been added to the journey, a challenge set by the Westerly CC to raise funds for research into Duchenne’s Disease.  It is a disease that affects only male children and most, if not all, do not make it to adulthood.  A tough gig for both the parents and the affected children. Harrison’s Fund has been set up to raise funds for research.  The Harrison’s Fund remit is to find a cure for the disease, rather than provide palliative support and treatment.

As a bike rider who works in NHS cancer research, this was a challenge I could not turn down.

Each day will have a ride diary. There will be photos on my Instagram account.  Plus there the Twitter account run by Team Brevet Bird: Digby, Jock and Timpsie.

To sponsor us in this quest click HERE

Day 1

Crimbo parcel delivery service & a spot of errandonneuring

Twas the day before Christmas.  Due to the everchanging COVID tier system and the restrictions these changes bring, my mother had a Christmas parcel to be delivered almost locally and now needed a courier.  As it wasn’t too far between home and the recipient (as the crow flies(, Mum asked if I could deliver it.  Delivery charge = 2 bags of M&S large chocolate button.

The day was bright and sunny.  Beryl the Kinesis was ready to go.  The parcel fitted into my saddle bag along with two members of Team Brevet Bird, Digby and Jock.  We were all set.  Little did we know that we were carrying a stuffie owl.

After a small urban loop, we headed out into the lanes which were still like riding through shallow riverbeds with the quantity of water and gravel that had accumulated.  Luckily Beryl was shod with was seems to be the perfect tubeless touring tyre, Schwalbe Almotion TLE, which seems to keep the puncture fairy mostly away.  The big flood near Chalfont St Giles (The Great Lake of DeadHern Lane) was now so big and deep, it almost requires a ferry service.  Luckily, with a see-sawing pedal motion, Beryl made it across the lake.  Strangely runners and cyclists were pretty thin on the ground through this section, although family groups of walkers could be spied in the villages.

Thus, I continued pedalling and resisted the best mocha in town as I whizzed past KoHo in Little Chalfont and then a few roller coasters before I grovelled up Ley Hill.  Stopped off briefly at Venus Hill, where I had spent a good hour with my Dad as a teenager trundling around the lanes to find what isn’t really a hill at all.  Then it was mainly downhill to our parcel drop – successfully made. Retrace up, belt down the big hill into Rickmansworth, then home.  We arrived at Chez Hirondelle with 84km on the GPS.

But there were some other errands that needed running.  By doing this by bicicle this would be an errandonnee .  Scotti the MTB was the machine of choice as, with a pair of big Karrimor panniers, all the errands could be done in one hit.  Into Pinner to pick up the M&S order, then to Tesco’s at Pinner Green for the pharmacy and home.  Another 16km on the GPS.

100km for the day, running total 100km

Day 2

Christmas Day and the great coldness

Christmas day was bright but cold.  Frost-covered cars and rooftops.  The weather station confirmed cold.  The planned early start was binned in exchange for a later 10am start.  Dave our bike butler was along for this ride.  With the knowledge that the lanes were so wet that they would have turned into ice rinks, they were immediately no-go areas.  Scotti the MTB was deployed as he has both fat Big Apple tyres and SPD pedals letting me don alpaca socks, Shimano SPD boots plus overshoes. With such foot coverings, my feet stood some chance of not becoming ice blocks. Dave used his anti-ice machine, a trike.

A brisk main road ride ensued, including climbing up to the giddy hights of Chorleywood to immediately descend to Rickmansworth and then home by Moor Park.  Just to round things up, as Dave headed directly for home, I squeezed a small loop in to nudge the ride to the 40km mark.  I still made it home by the auspicious hour in time to be home for Christmas Day’s low key COVID festivities.

43km for the day, running total 142km

Day 3

Boxing Day

Due to excessive faffing, plus weather that wasn’t exactly enticing, a ride kicked off after lunch.  I wasn’t entirely on my own as Digby and Jock were ensconced in the Carradice.  The weather was now warm, i.e., 6c but came with inbuilt dampness.  After a tour of the delights of Uxbridge, a former coaching town when coaches were pulled by horses, I headed for the Oxford Road and passed ‘The Crown & Treaty’ where Oliver Cromwell and King Charles held a meeting to stop the Civil War.  This was a fail. 

Into Denham where Cromwell’s New Model Army tramped through on several occasion and up the riverbed lanes.  Another crossing of the Great Lake of DeadHern Lane.  Easy-peasy with Scotti and his high bottom bracket. Darkness started to descend as I took a dogleg into Little Chalfont and back.  The houses on the outward-bound section had some amazing Christmas lights, making riding in the dark a pleasure.  Then home via the squiggly descent off Chorleywood, through Rickmansworth and home.  During the run into Chez Hirondelle, as I reach suburbia, I passed a number of road cyclists.  Were they too chasing the Festive 500?

65km for the day, running total 209km

Day 4

The day of many lakes

The weather was set fine; sun, blue skies and relatively warm, 6c.  The lanes of Hertfordshire, Dacorum and Buckinghamshire called.  We set off, me on Beryl the Kinesis and Dave on the trike again.  Within 5km of leaving home, the first flood appeared but by using a service road, this one was avoided.  The same couldn’t be said for the 20 or so floods that followed, installed by storm Bella overnight  Deep, long, wide, skinny, all combinations existed.  Some lanes even had floods separated by small sections of road.  Keeping feet dry simply became mission impossible, despite overshoes.

We passed plenty of walkers, but cyclists were very thin on the ground.  Perhaps they didn’t want to get their feet wet and give their bikes the Paris-Roubaix look?  To add to the fun and games, one of Dave’s trike’s rear axles started to make funny and quite disconcerting noises.  Running up to 70ish km, it was time to swing for home.  The lure of lunch, a hot shower and central heating was too much to resist.

84km for the day, running total 293km

View from the Carradice – Errandonnee 2018

From the International Dictionary of Cycle – errandonnee; everyday tasks undertaken by cycle

Every year, Mary G of the hot blog Chasing Mailboxes runs two wonderful challenges to get riders out tto enjoy the everyday simplicity of being a-wheel. They are coffeeneuring in Novemberand errandoneuring in March. Me and the Bird had a ball completing the 2017 coffeeneuring challenge. I’m still debating what I liked most about the coffeeneur – the really brilliant sew-on patch or the excuse to ride and visit 7 coffee shops in 7 weeks, consuming 7 mochas minimum. So participating in the 2018 errandonnee challenge was a no-brainer, staritng 20thMarch and ending 12 days later

Me and her generally run household errands by bike or bike with trailer, so we would be doing something that we enjoy and are adept at. As with anything that ends in ‘-euring’ or ‘-donnee’ there are a few simple rules to make things more interesting. For this, the main rules are 30 miles need to be covered over the course of running 12 errandonnees and you couldn’t score any category more than twice. The categories are;

Personal care

Personal business

You carried what!

Arts & entertainment

Store

Non-store

Social call

Work

Peaceful everyday actions

Wildcard

The Bird commutes by bike to work Monday through to Friday but a trapped nerve causing severe drop foot meant that during the errandonnee window, there was no commute by bike. Despite this, we did enough errandonnees for the challenge;

Personal care Doctors appointment Pharmacy
Personal business Bank
You carried what! Small tree & groceries Garden Centre goodies
Arts & entertainment
Non store Post Office recycling
Social call coffeeneuring
work
Store Health food shop Supermarket
Peaceful everyday actions Ruff stuff in suburbia photography
Wildcard Harrow Civic Amenity Site

Every task used the ever-faithful Scotti withTardis-capacity old Karrimor panniers and the Gecko collapsible trailer.

Peaceful everyday actions – we loved this category.  Running errands by bike helps give a sense of peace, relaxation and wellbeing that other methods of transport don’t. Riding the rough stuff bridleway to the garden centre had the tranquility of the countryside while still in the outer limits of greater London. A moment of peace that most locals don’t get to enjoy while whizzing around in their cars. We are privileged to live in Pinner which dates back to forever  and is a combination of old and newurban living. The opportunity to stop, admire, exhale and capture the historic and natural beauty of the area are always present; opportunities that the Bird always likes to take. The errandonneur let her again celebrate the arrival of spring with clumps of daffodils on the local farm.

Errandonnee distance – 40 miles

20 March 2018 5.0
21 March 2018 15.1
24 March 2018 30.2
27 March 2018 15.5
65.8 km

For the full set of photos click here

View from the #Carradice

#Coffeeneuring 2017 – Mission Accomplished

Coffees one to three had been excellent. Mainly mochas (but that’s what the Bird likes) but we’d also fitted in some GF caik and lot of three-wheeled kilometres. Motivation was therefore high to qualify for one of these rather lovely coffeeneuring patches for the first time. Of course that would leave the BIG question; which of my Carradice bags would have the honour of having it sewn on?

#Coffeeneuring 4

Three wheels again. This time a little spot of errandonneuring in Uxbridge in Middlesex. Despite its now modern appearance, two shopping malls etc. it is very old – dating back to the Saxons and mentioned in the Doomsday book. Uxbridge has been a spot for royalty to stay, a garrison town for Cromwell and an out-of-town staging post for coaches when they were pulled by horses. Click here for more info. 

It all got a bit damp around the edges on the way out, but an enjoyable ride, especially triking down a lumpy, bumpy bridlepath (the Pyghtle) in Denham a small village on the outer limits of Uxbridge. The errandonne was to collect some yarn from the Uxbridge Wool Barons for an afghan currently being crocheted by the Bird. This was successfully accomplished and now time to bag a coffeeneur; one with a difference. We had the delightful company of a coffee plant while the Bird partook of mocha and GF chocolate brownie.

As we had the mega-Carradice for the purpose of carrying yarn, on the way home the Bird just couldn’t resist filling it up with groceries.

Round trip 52km

#Coffeeneuring 5

A complete change of riding pace as we swapped out three wheels for two little wheels that folded for the next couple of coffeeneuring rides. A kind of mini-adventure to the Origami ride (for folding bikes  ) starting from Great Malvern in Worcestershire on Saturday but we’d travel up by train on Friday.

The interweb is a wonderful thing as the Bird pre-booked hotel and trains, which in my books are all good things. The only downside was a day at the office first. As work is such a tedious place, I spent the day in the Carradice Brompton bag until it was time to collect DaisyB (our Brompton) from the cycle shed and head over to Paddington Station. It’s not a bad ride through Paddington bear country and along the Grand Union canal which drops you right by the station. As we hadn’t seen Paddington in the Portobello Road during our ride, we figured we’d check the station. Bingo, there he was, so we took the chance for a coffee with him before boarding our train.

Round trip 44km

#Coffeeneuring 6

A day a-wheel on the Origami ride promised plenty of coffeeneuring opportunities. A leisurely day out on folding bikes (usually with little wheels) where the accent is on decent coffee, honest food, real ale and good company. The Great Malvern ride didn’t disappoint.

Before morning coffee, we hauled ourselves up a rather steep incline from our hotel to chase down CS Lewis and Edward Elgar. Unbeknown to us, Malvern was the inspiration for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe one wintery snowy night when CS Lewis had a beer with JRR Tolkien and George Sayer. So our first port of call with the Unicorn Pub where that beer was supped.  Click here for more info.

Just meters down the road, we checked in with probably Malvern’s favourite son, the composer Edward Elgar. Famed for riding the district on a Sunbeam bicycle, we acquainted Elgar with a more modern steed. Then woosh, down the hill to the railway station to meet the Origami peloton and score a cappuccino for #coffeeneuring 4 before a slow but enjoyable day a-wheel with old and new friends.

Round trip 36km

#Coffeeneuring 7

A mega-errandonnee as our closing coffeeneuring seemed kind of appropriate but there was the extra task of collecting my package residing at Pinner Post Office. The Bird handed the card to the bloke behind the counter.

Post Office postie: “Who’s Timpsie?”

Bird: “He is” pointing and putting me on the counter.

Postie: “Erm, does he have a passport?”

Bird: “No, he’s a world citizen.”

Postie: “Mmm. In that case, can he prove his address?”

Bird duly does so and my parcel appears. Result! A most wonderful wooly cycling hat from my buddy, Mr B.

A couple of other duties in Pinner and then we are a-wheel and heading for coffee and another errandonnee stop. With an off-road excursion (the Harrow area has retained a lot of its very old bridleways), we rolled up to the Wyvale Garden Centre and finally coffee plus wild bird food and spring bulbs. With panniers bulging, we pedalled off home with our 2017 #Coffeeneuring completed.

Round trip 12km

Total #Coffeeneuring kms 363

With some bonus coffee we exceeded the required 7. What’s not to like!

Looking forward to planning #Coffeeneuring 2018 as there’s places we failed to reach this time around plus machines we didn’t ride.