I had completely forgotten how great the feeling is when you finally get home after cycling 100 miles. In recent years I’ve had a few decently long rides but it must be DECADES since I last clocked over 100 miles in a day. I remember cycling from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1984 and taking three days to cover the 290 miles; I recall cycling from Gloucester to Tooting, south London which was a little over 100 miles. Both of those were on my heavy BSA 10 speed heap-of-junk.
So a few days ago I decided to crack 100 miles once again and thoroughly enjoyed it, all part of getting ready for my Coast to Coast in a Day. Before I go into the highlights, here is the route:
Overview: I knew roughly where I was heading but as usual I tend to make changes as I go along. First change was being held back by slow traffic getting out of down town Dunstable so I headed up over the Downs, always a splendid thing to do. Next was a blast through Whipsnade and the newly resurfaced road. Even nicer was hitting 40mph on the Bison Hill decent, though I daren’t go any faster with the mid-drop curve.
Next was the big anti-clockwise loop via Ivinghoe, through Winslow to near Buckingham. Carrying on with mostly minor roads past the prisons at Grendon Underwood and cutting underneath Aylesbury on the possible home straight.
Knowing I still had some more miles in me I added a little detour through Aldbury and up Tom’s Hill Road to the Ashridge Estate (love it!) and then down to Piccots End, Potten End. I still needed a few more miles and realised I didn’t have much climbing done so I worked my way to the bottom of Bison Hill and plodded up. Then a few more loopy bits before zooming into Dunstable from the Downs and back home. Bloomin’ brilliant!
Specific pointy bits:
- The first 10 miles always seems to be the hardest for me; a combination of the air temperature and my muscles being cold together with the hassle of cycling through the town’s streets. You see, our residential areas now have a 20mph speed limit which I think is a good thing. The trouble is with car drivers who often cannot handle driving behind a bicycle at 18-22mph as the instinct is always to get in front and overtake. They are then faced with a speed camera and hold back, get frustrated and rev their engines in annoyance.
- Other cyclists: not too many and a nice experience of those who were out. First off was a guy on his 2014 Specialized Allez who past me near Stewkley. “Morning” he said as he inched past and looked cool in his everything-new outfit. I wondered whether he’d seen my review on that bicycle….?
- Next up was the first of two pelotons a few minutes apart. They were really colourful, tightly packed and almost everyone said “Hi, hiya, morning mate”. Moments later there was an almost identical in appearance and style but they appeared to all be arguing with each other, shouting and yelling at each other. I was invisible!
- Within a few minutes I got overtaken by three young women. Heads down on time trial bars but each one said hello to me. It was a great sight in seeing women’s cycling is alive; I had the feeling they were in a team as they were dressed alike.
- The weather was as perfect as it could ever be. Not too hot, not too cold, just right. No wind at all, soft hazy sunshine for most of the day and enough for me to catch the sun a little. Hey I even have the first tan line on my tops of my legs!
- Once I had hit the 70 mile mark I was heading back towards home but I wanted to clock up some more miles, I knew I could reach 100 miles and I knew I hadn’t tackled too many hills so far. So without further ado I went to Aldbury and up Tom’s Hill Road. After touching the edge of Hemel Hempstead and coming back towards home I decided to cut across to the bottom of Bison Hill and crawl my way up. I knew that neither of these ascents would be good times but I nevertheless wanted to do them! These brought the total climbing to 4,471 feet.
- No ride these days would seem complete without whizzing into Dunstable from the Downs and near the bottom I saw Rachel in her car with the open window. I couldn’t resist yelling across the road “100 miles!”
- At a few points during the ride I could feel myself approaching “the wall” but thankfully nothing too hard. I am paying more attention to getting the “on board” fuelling and fluids right and it seems to be paying off. I always used to hit a bit of a wall when running. This used to come at about 25 minutes and last for about 4 or 5 minutes and then I’d naturally pick up the pace again. Just the same with cycling although the timing is different as I guess I’m putting slightly different demands on my body.
Back home I slept well that night. Unsuprisingly I could feel myself reflecting on the challenge ahead of the Coast to Coast and I’m now feeling more confident, I could have managed far more than the 102 miles on this ride but I need to be mindful of the weather conditions (which can have a huge impact) and this ride being relatively flat for the most part.
I had a nice feeling of satisfaction. Just the same as when I had started running and my first 10k, half and then full marathon. Feels good.