Dales Delight 200k Audax

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The Dales Delight 200k audax packs 4 AAA points into its 125 miles, starting in Lancashire, and running through the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria. ¬†As seems usual with an Andy Corless event it’s full of hills!

I spotted a few regulars at the start, including the usual mad ones who seem to think it’s sensible to ride to and from a 200k 4AAA as clearly it isn’t long enough on its own – hello Peter ūüėČ

The weather was very chilly at the start but clear, with the sun pushing through, and it remained so for the whole day.  A bit of a wind was blowing from NW to SE which made some of the riding a bit tougher than it needed.

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10,705ft ascent

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Once off the A59 the route was absolutely superb. ¬†Hats off to Andy for that – for 20 or 30 mile stretches I didn’t see a car – and the countryside and scenery was superb. ¬†The only problem was the hills! ¬†There were some real beasts. ¬†Buttertubs from the North side (8/10 in the 100 climbs book), Fleet Moss from Hawes (9/10 in the 100 climbs book) and several other bumps like Newby Head to-boot.

I did think I was a reasonable climber but every so often you get put very firmly in your place. ¬†On a climb that was somewhere between 15% and 20% over 3 miles a guy went past me and put about a mile into me. ¬†He went past like I was stood still (I almost was!) but he didn’t seem to be struggling that much, whereas I was weaving about and gasping for breath! ¬†So there’s clearly still work to do for me.¬†On that note, this time last year I’d earned 4.5 AAA points and had done 45,967ft of climbing at the end of March 2011. ¬†This year I’ve earned 10.75 AAA points, and up to the 18th March 2012 I’ve done 72,621ft, and I’ve still got two weeks to go! I guess I need to start working on rate of climb now.

My HR strap was playing up somewhat – seemingly slipping out of position on the big climbs meaning my HR was in the 130’s whilst I was gasping away – so the average HR and calorie total will be off slightly.

Controls were pretty good – I did end up on my backside on the stone floor of one when my cleats slipped – and Andy popped up from time to time taking photos, so I look forward to those!

All in all, a really great day Рvery tough but very rewarding.  Chapeau to Andy.

Ride Stats : 127miles in 8hrs 45mins @ 14.4mph.  10,705ft ascent.  Average HR 144bpm, 7088kcals used

Strava ride here

Perm into the Dales

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Last year I rode my first audax – Spring into the Dales. ¬†It was a great day and really got me interested in the whole audax experience. ¬†Unfortunately this year I was unable to ride it because I’d already committed to riding the Wrynose or Bust sportive. ¬†So I was pleased to learn that the ride could be done as a “permanent” ¬†A perm can be ridden at any time, so I entered and received my brevet and route instructions from Chris Crossland, and then simply rode it today on my own.

I dressed for the weather forecast Рwarmish clothes and expecting rain.  As it was it was really nice, with a brisk breeze, and no rain.

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6432ft of climbing

The route climbs out of Hebden Bridge for several miles and then after a terrific descent takes a few rollercoaster hills before flattening for a while.  I ate at the fantastic Daleman café in Cargrave and then looped back via Keighley before climbing the first big descent and dropping down into Hebden Bridge via the original climb out.

Really enjoyed the ride and another 2.25AAA points towards my total for the year.

Ride stats: 69 miles in 4hrs 53m @ 14.1mph.  6432ft of climbing, average HR 147bpm and 4133kcals energy used

 

Up and Down t’ West Riding #Audax

Ade's Road Cycling BlogAnother Sunday, another brilliant audax, and the end of my training for my London to Brussels ride.

The day didn’t start well. ¬†Anthony was late picking me up, and then we drove past the HQ following the worst sat-nav in the world, which seemed to take us on ever increasing concentric circles away from where we needed to be. ¬†Martin and Martina were both waiting for us, tapping¬†imaginary¬†watches as we pulled into the car park.

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7,463ft of climbing

The route, of course, was hilly!  The first half, heading over from Denshaw towards Holmfirth, was really 4 or 5 longish drags followed by some great descents.  The halfway point was at Squires Tea Room in the Anglers Country Park, where we met members of Calder Clarion and Saddleworth Clarion, as well as a chap from Seamons RC.

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Suitably refreshed after some hot food, the return ride encompassed 6 big climbs, and they started getting a bit steeper, and building to a crescendo. ¬†We rode past Emley TV tower and into the rain for a while. ¬†There was an info control in Slaithwaite where Martin and I watched a canal barge going through a lock whilst Martina tried to buy the Co-op’s entire stock of flapjacks. ¬†The climb out of Slaithwaite was pretty tough but that only led to a descent to the bottom of a hill known locally as Penny Hill. ¬†This was really hard work. ¬†The first quarter mile consisted of a 20-25% cobbled section that was wet and slippery. ¬†The next quarter mile must have hit 30% before flattening to mere teens near the end.

The ride back to the HQ was a long, exposed moorland climb over Saddleworth which was okay once I got into a rhythm.

As per usual, great catering at the end from organiser Don Black and a good day had by all.

Ride Stats : 78 miles in 5hrs 48m at 13.4mph average.  7,463ft climbing, average HR 136bpm and 4,315kcals used

Tan Hill 200 Audax

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Setting off from a car park in Padiham, near Burnley, at 8 am, a small group of audaxers headed North out of Lancashire and into the Yorkshire Dales.  In the group was Martin, Anthony and I from North Cheshire Clarion, riding the Tan Hill 200 audax which is a 200km audax with 4 AAA altitude points!  That effectively meant 4000m of climbing Рuncharted territory for all of us, especially over such a distance!

By 8-30am we had already conquered the Nick o’ Pendle and the hills were coming thick and fast. ¬†We moved North through Clitheroe and Slaidburn, skirting the Bowland Forest and then heading North East into the Yorkshire Dales. ¬†A cafe stop in Hawes at a cafe with a fierce East European waitress helped fortify us as we headed for the big climbs up to the heighest points on the ride.

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Martin at the top of a hill

The first was Buttertubs – thankfully up the “easier” southside and the views from 1700ft in the sun were fantastic. ¬†Next up was Tan Hill, which has a steep kick at the start, a long grind, and then a sharp sting in the tail. ¬†A quick stop at the Tan Hill pub and we were off again. ¬†The third climb in this area was the worst – I don’t know what it is called but it was horrible. ¬†A couple of miles long, rising 900ft, it was straight into a headwind which made it feel much, much worse.

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Anthony can't quite get the hang of the right turn signal

Gradually the hills were sapping our strength and the headwind, although slight, was not helping.  We stopped at Bolton Castle tearoom for coffee and some cake  and then a final sting in the tail at 90 miles nearly finished the guys off.  From that point onwards we were hanging in until the end.

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12,071ft of climbing

Overall the route was absolutely fantastic Рwell done to Andy Corless the organiser for a great day.  For the princely sum of £3 we got a great ride, great weather and a goodie-bag at the end that was easily worth way more than the entry fee.  Well done for Martin and Anthony for hanging in too Рa very tough day but enjoyable nonetheless.

Ride stats : 129 miles in 9hrs 29m @ 13.6mph average.  12,071ft climbing, 6,863kcals used

 

 

Hills, hills, hills…

The mind is both a wonderful thing and a terrible thing. ¬†During last weeks Bowland Forest audax my mind had convinced me that I was struggling more on the hills, that I was not as fast and that I was more tired. ¬†One of the advantages of being a data geek like me is that you can actually take a subjective view like that and use some data to analyse it. ¬†So I did. ¬†Up until the end of May last year I did 2,428 miles and 94,659ft of climbing. ¬†Using a not-really-very-scientific-formula, that works out at around 39ft of climb per mile ridden. ¬†The equivalent period this year sees me having done 3,146 miles and 101,729ft of climbing – or around 32ft per mile. ¬†That would tally with me focusing more on quicker rides than hilly rides. ¬†But there’s not much in it – certainly not enough to worry about.

But me being me I decided to do a few hills this weekend.  I warmed up on Saturday with a quick 32 miler including The Rake Рwhich you can find on page 126 of the excellent 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs book by Simon Warren.

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Saturday - 32 miles and 2000ft of climbing

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Can you spot The Rake?

The weather was grey and overcast with wet roads but little or no rain. ¬†The surface of The Rake is broken and difficult at the best of times but it was glistening with the wet, rainbow spectrum of spilt petrol/diesel/oil. ¬†Picking a line was difficult, with my bike wheel spinning on occasion and I reached the top with a higher heart-rate than I expected and feeling it in my legs. ¬†I must have been right, I thought, I’ve not done enough hills. ¬†But on analysis of the data I found that the probable reason was that I had gone up the hill about 1mph faster than my previous two rides on this loop. ¬†That doesn’t sound much but over a mile of climbing including 20%+ gradients it’s enough! ¬†And overall I knocked 5 minutes off my previous best time for the ride.

Today I decided to go north again but heading over to Hebden Bridge – which if you like flat riding would be your version of cycling hell.

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There was a stiff wind this morning and the route took in a mixture of short, sharp climbs, like Widdop, and long gradual climbs, like Cragg Vale.  Something for everyone!

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Sunday - 76 miles and 6,339ft of climbing

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Anyway, my legs felt very heavy today. ¬†My time and average speed wasn’t particularly good. ¬†I’ve noticed some riders who struggle to maintain a pace in a group but post some fantastic averages when out on their own. ¬†I’m the complete opposite. ¬†I need company to motivate me to go faster – on my own I just settle for “comfortable”.

Overall though I’m pleased with the rides, and I think it shows the value of recording data so you can test your subjective thinking and get to the real story.

Ride Stats:

Saturday : 32 miles in 1hr 54m at 16.7mph average.  2,000ft of climbing, 1,591kcals and average HR of 146bpm

Sunday : 76 miles in 5hrs 24m at 14.1mph average. 6,339ft of climbing, 4,167kcals and average HR of 139bpm

 

 

 

Colomba Chemo Classic

Okay I’ll hold my hands up. ¬†I underestimated this ride. ¬†I thought it would be easier than a couple of others I’d completed recently and I was wrong. ¬†More on that later. ¬†The Colomba Chemo Classic is a charity sportive in aid of Cancer Research, starting from Richmond in North Yorkshire. ¬†The very reasonable entry fee of ¬£15 also entitled you to a ¬£15 discount on the fine jerseys the Colomba Cycle Company sell, modelled by me in the inset picture. ¬†These are quality Merino wool jerseys and I would recommend them highly.

So it was a 6am start for me this morning to drive there where I met two other North Cheshire Clarion riders – Andy and Martin. ¬†After last nights gales I was hoping the wind had died down, and it had – it wasn’t gale force but still strong enough to be worrying. ¬†The starting organisation was excellent and we were soon registered and off and running. ¬†Straight into a fierce headwind! ¬†Which lasted for about 30 miles, and then died down as we turned for home and it should have been on our backs!

Parts of the route were quite familiar from the Tan Hill Challenge Audax I did in August, and as usual the Yorkshire Dales never fails to impress with beautiful scenery and relatively quiet roads.  Once the wind had died, the odd shower subsided and the sun started shining.

5655ft of ascent

The wind took an awful lot of energy out of my legs, and I felt sluggish and heavy. ¬†The first big climb started at about 15 miles into the wind. ¬†We hit the summit at 26 miles, including a couple of 8-9% sections and culminating with a final push up a 14% incline. ¬†This was Park Rash the other way round. ¬†Scary moment number 1 came on the descent which included a -21% section into a tight bend. ¬†I seriously thought I wasn’t going to scrub enough speed off and that I’d end up over the barrier. ¬†After what seemed like an age, but was clearly only a few seconds, the Swisstop Green blocks managed to slow me enough to get round. ¬†Scary moment number 2 was losing the back-end on another descent as I tried to scrub speed off. ¬†Thankfully, despite my dad’s moans about my tyres, years of skidding practice as a kid mean I’m quite adept at controlling them.

The first couple of climbs I went up with Andy, but by the end he was putting considerable distance between us on the up bits. ¬†He’s a strong rider but I’m normally a bit closer than I was today. ¬†Martin did himself proud being very close behind and getting up every hill.

Another big 11% climb and then we dropped into the feed station at 40 miles for a welcome respite.  Again, very well organised with plenty of free food and drink.  Straight after this it was climbing again with a 2.5 mile 12% hill.  Descending from that we were faced with 2 direction signs Рlabelled Easy and Hard.  Of course we took the hard one which took us almost immediately up a 16.5% hill.  My new Speedracer Mk2 mudguards sheared off at the front halfway up which was nice.  My legs were stiff with cramp at this point too Рsomething which has never happened to me on a bike before.  One final 12%-er and we descended back into Richmond to the HQ.  Hot and cold food and drinks again free and great organisation meant it was a good finish to a challenging ride.

So to the stats. ¬†Total time out was 5hrs 25m with ride time of 4hrs 39m to give a riding average of 12.9mph for the 60 miles. ¬†5655ft of ascent and ¬†4307 kcals of energy used. ¬†I genuinely thought this ride wouldn’t be as hard as Seasons of Mist or the Macc Monster and I guess the wind had something to do with it.

Colomba HR chart - 156bpm average, 192bpm maximum

Season of Mist HR chart - 140bpm average, 186bpm maximum

Macc Monster HR chart - 148bpm average, 186bpm maximum

You can see the effect the wind and conditions had.  Both SOM and Macc Monster had more climbing (1400ft and 900ft respectively) and were slightly longer and yet my HR was in the red far more today, with both a higher average and a higher maximum.

Scary moment number 3 came when cleaning my bike. ¬†I put the bike on the stand and spun the rear wheel via the crank. ¬†Hitting the brake to stop it I noticed that the brake pushed the wheel off axis and then it stuck against the brake blocks. ¬†It seems when I swapped to my winter wheels I hadn’t quite tightened the QR enough. ¬†I wonder if some of the problem today was a rubbing ¬†brake block at the rear?

My lesson from today is that the NCC social club runs are not providing me with enough of a challenge to even let me stand still. ¬†I feel like I’m going backwards fitness-wise. ¬†So I’m going to have to have a re-think about what rides I attend and when I need to go out on my own for some hard training work. It’s clear I need it again.

On a more positive note, I’ll probably do this again next year and recommend it highly to others. ¬†A good, challenging route, great organisation, a worthy cause and money off a great jersey. ¬†What more could you want?

Season of Mists Audax

A wet and wild Sunday morning early start saw nine North Cheshire Clarion stalwarts gather at the HQ in Hebden Bridge for the Season of Mists audax.  Wet weather gear was the order of the day but unfortunately none of us had the right equipment for the level of rain that was falling!

Gaz forgot his coat and Martin forgot his shoes so one got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days.  We managed to be on time for the start for a change so we set off half a mile before the first climb in Hebden Bridge.  What a climb it was too!  Nearly a mile long and with a gradient peaking at 16.7% it was a fierce climb for cold and already wet legs.  Added to that the last few hundred yards were on wet cobbles!  Horrible!

A mile further on and “lucky” Gaz got a puncture. Jim wasn’t feeling well so decided to go back to the car – not before Martin borrowed his shoes and Gaz had his spare inner tube! ¬†At this point we’d been going half an hour and had done 2.25 miles. ¬†And were all soaking wet.

The roads were very wet Рalmost like streams at some points.  It made going downhill and picking lines very tricky and placed a lot of strain on brakes and brake blocks Рwhich now need changing on my bike.  Even the Garmin started playing up in the rain, refusing to signal turns.  We missed one turn which meant an extra climb back up the hill Рthat was very popular.

Around 28 miles in we had the first cafe stop.  The poor cafe owner was trying to serve and mop up the puddles of water at the same time, but I still managed a nice hot apple pie and custard and a cup of coffee.

I managed to tick off a hill from the 100 Greatest Climbs book – the Nick of Pendle – which was by no means the worst of the day. ¬†Here’s the profiles for the days climbing

6981ft of climbing!!!!

Some nasty sharp hills

There is a spike in there at 32% gradient which I’m not sure whether it’s a Garmin/GPS issue or was actually one of the hills. ¬†There are a dozen or so 10%+ hills on there though and at the end of 63 miles it was very, very tough on the legs.

The second stop included some homemade cake which was simply brilliant and at the end, as per usual on these events, the catering was absolutely superb.

The sun finally came out at the end but it was still a great effort by a very damp Clarion team – probably harder than Tour of Britain last week – but special mention to Giles who has gone from trailing in my wake on the hills to leaving me for dead. ¬†I’m told it’s structured training rather than Spanish steak but either way it was an impressive display today.

Ride stats Р63.48 miles in 5hrs 13mins ride time Р12.1mph average.  6981ft of climbing and 4098 kcals used.

Tan Hill Challenge 208km Audax

The North Cheshire Clarion crack Audax team (minus Andy who was busy) were up at stupid o’ clock travelling to Shipton, North of York. ¬†What awaited Anthony and I was a 130 mile audax including the climbs of Buttertubs, Tan Hill and Leyburn Moor!

A prompt (for once) 8am start saw us ride North East towards the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  The first 24 miles were relatively flat but then it gradually started to climb.  We also turned West and into a pretty fierce headwind.  The first stop was at the Border House Tea Rooms in Masham

The carrot cake was mine

Setting off again the headwind was still strong and carried on through to 56 miles, sapping the legs and proving ideal preparation for climbing Buttertubs! ¬†We had passed through some lovely countryside and very smart villages but the scenery going up Buttertubs was absolutely stunning. ¬†The clear air and good weather meant the views went on for mile upon mile, which in part helped take the mind of the steep and relentless climbing! ¬†It lasted about 3 miles, ascended some 1000ft and hit 15% gradients. ¬†The wind was whipping across us now and at the top there is a sheer drop to the side of the road protected only by a high-tensile wire barrier designed for cars – plenty of room for a cyclist to go through it – making it a little bit “exciting!” ¬†The descent down the other side was fast, furious and superb fun, hitting 45mph at its fastest.

Anthony battles up Buttertubs

The clue to the next challenge is in the name of the event – we climbed Tan Hill. ¬†This was a longer climb – 6 miles – but only (!) ascended 750ft. ¬†At its steepest part it was 17% but somehow felt easier than Buttertubs because there were a number of flatter “rest” plateaus on the way up. ¬†It led us to the Tan Hill Inn which is the highest pub in England and seems hugely popular as it was packed. ¬†They also act as a control point so the organisers must have a decent relationship with them, but we were disappointed as the service was really, really poor.

Proof we were there!

We now believed the worse was behind us and we were looking forward to another fast descent Рwhich we got.  So fast that I was contemplating overtaking a car until it pulled out of our way and let us through!

There was one more hill to climb at Leyburn Moor, which turned out to be worse than Tan Hill!  It rose some 800ft over about 4 miles and was just relentless with no break from start to finish.  A horrible little climb.

That put us at 87 miles and thankfully 15 miles of downhill and then flat all the way!  A quick pick-me-up at the Posthorn tea room in Leyburn meant we had 40 miles to go, and we decided to give it everything.  The next 10 miles we completed in 27 minutes, the next after that in 33.  In short we managed to do the final 40 miles in just over 2 hours and then enjoy free tea, sandwiches and cake at the end.  It was 7pm and we had been out 11 hours, although only 8hrs and 36m of that were riding (apparently the first finisher was at 3-20pm!!!!!)  Anyway, we were now officially Randonneurs.

If you haven’t done an Audax, do one. ¬†This event was everything that is excellent about audaxing – a great route, good organisation, superb value for money and really friendly people – including three pensioners we’d met several times around the route and who finished just after us! ¬†Thanks to Mark Antrobus and Clifton Cycling Club for organising.

Ride Stats : 130.21miles, 8hrs 36m, 5715ft climbing, 15.1mph average, 6650kcals used

50 hilly miles with Pete and Ian

After a week’s enforced rest I’ve been itching to get back in the saddle so on a cold a chilly Sunday morning Pete, Ian and I set off for a 50 mile ride covering a couple of decent climbs. ¬†My knee improved during the week with no twinges although it did feel like it wasn’t quite right still. ¬†So I was a little nervous as we set off. ¬†The route we took went north out through Bury and then up the Rossendale valley through Bacup and up over to Todmorden.

Bacup to Tod was the first real climb. ¬†Quite long and decently steep in places it’s a good place to get your climbing legs! ¬†Or down the other side a long and fast descent into the town of Todmorden where we found a nice cafe called Costermongers, and a nice slice of coffee and walnut cake!

It'd be rude not to...

The wind was quite strong at times and considering it’s May it was freezing as we headed through Hebden Bridge, turning right at Mytholmroyd. ¬†That brought us to the bottom of Cragg Vale and a sign which states “Start of the Longest Continuous Gradient in England – Rises 968 feet over 5.5 miles”. I decided to test my knee at this point so I went up the hill on the big ring and thought I was doing pretty well near the summit at 11.5mph when two young guys steamed past me with a cheery “morning!”

I stopped at the peak to take some pictures of Pete and Ian as they reached the top.

We then descended from the White House at Littleborough down to Hollingworth Lake.  This is a short but fast downhill section Рwith a slight tailwind I hit a top speed of 43.7mph which felt great.  Past the lake and then back through Rochdale, Heywood and finally home.  A total of 50.79 miles, 2683ft of climbing at an average of 14.3mph, burning over 3000kcals.  Ice bath when I got home and some slight saddle adjustments.  Knee is aching now but not really painful like it was last week.  Fingers crossed.

Spring into the Dales – 70 miles

hobby [hob-ee] –noun

an activity or interest pursued for pleasure and not as a main occupation

So reads the dictionary definition of hobby. ¬†The key word there is pleasure! ¬†At the moment my knee hurts and muscles at the back of my legs/backside that I don’t even know the name of (or that I had) are aching pretty full on. ¬†I changed my saddle on Friday and whilst it felt great yesterday I adjusted it “slightly” as I was sliding forward. ¬†Whether it was the over-adjustment too far the other way, or the 5868ft of climbing that has caused my pain, I’d like you all to know that cycling remains my hobby. ¬†I’m pretty sure that makes me a masochist. ¬†Or an idiot. ¬†Or both.

Hills, hills and more hills

Let me draw your attention to some pertinent facts about the profile above. ¬†The ride started and immediately took us up a climb for 4 miles. ¬†The fairly fast descent was welcome but too short before hitting a few more hills. ¬†By the 20 mile mark we’d done 3 decent climbs totalling about 10 miles of “upwards”. ¬†The scenery and the weather at this point was absolutely brilliant. ¬†The first real stop was at the Dalesman’s cafe in Cargrave – a lovely olde worlde cafe and sweet shop. ¬†I was riding with Andy and Anthony from North Cheshire Clarion and we enjoyed cake and coffee as we grabbed a breather.

Dalesman Cafe in Cargrave

Copyright Oliver Dixon / CC BY-SA 2.0

As this ride was an audax we needed to get our Randonneur cards stamped which we duly did.

The next 20 miles, although “lumpy” were relatively flat with some delightful riding skirting round Skipton through North Yorkshire. ¬†Heading back towards the finish through Bronte Country we then hit a mile and a half of 10% climbing which at that point was a real killer. ¬†Struggling over the top the downhill couldn’t come quickly enough but unfortunaetly at the bottom was the start of the final ascent. ¬†This one lasted 10 miles! ¬†The first 5 were fairly benign but it soon turned into a slow grind up the hill which was just head down and push through it.

The descent to the finish was fast and furious – until the traffic stopped to let a fire engine through with full lights and sirens – causing a very panicky emergency stop round a bend from 35mph to 0mph in very short order!

Total time round was 5hrs, 17mins, 9 secs (I ran a “guess the time” competition at work) at an average speed of 13.1mph. ¬†A great buffet at the end helped fill the 4479kcals used up!